Here’s NASA’s latest Space to Ground report on Int. Space Station activities during the past week:
Here’s NASA’s latest Space to Ground report on Int. Space Station activities during the past week:
For pointers, so to speak, on what to look for in the night sky this August, check out NASA JPL’s What’s Up for August 2014:
In this show, Amanda Bush talks about the following topics:
01:35 – 03:07 Another Swan visits the Space Station
03:08 – 04:58 A Falcon flies and returns
04:59 – 06:20 A Rehearsal of a new Russian Rocket
06:21 – 07:28 Dry Ice Slides on Mars
07:29 – 10:13 Comets coming and going
Previous Virtual SpaceTV 3D shows are available on the HobbySpace Youtube Channel.
These videos are intended as educational programs and as demonstrations of an experimental technique for generating animated presentations. The show was generated autonomously by software according to a text script. The project is described in the Virtual Producer whitepaper (Release 1.1, Oct.2013, pdf). For further information contact email@example.com.
And a mission control console/desk goes with it : Making Fun: Mission Control Desk - MAKE
Will we one day see paleontologists searching the lunar surface for fossils? Not as silly as it sounds:
Gaston & Sheehan Auctioneers are holding an auction of space memorabilia. It lasts through Thursday, August 07, 2014 and features “Flown Space Collectibles, Autographed Memorabilia, Apollo Film and More!”
Three items related to living in space:
Brief profiles of an impressive set of 12 candidates for the Mars One mission to Mars: Who will represent Massachusetts on Mars? It could be any of these 12 people – masslive.com.
Andrew Rader, 35, just moved to Los Angeles from Lexington, Mass. He was named “Canada’s Greatest Know-It-All” on the Discovery Channel reality show of the same name. He has a PhD in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worked on several Canadian space missions and wrote a book called “Leaving Earth: Why One-Way to Mars Makes Sense.”
(This is a one-way trip. Everyone who wants to go has to be willing to live and die on Mars.)
Rader works for SpaceX as a “mission integrator” planning launches. He said he couldn’t go into any more detail, but he had a lot of insight into what a Mars colony would need to thrive.
“Mars has the potential to be turned into a second Earth in the next thousand years or so,” he said. “It’s the most important thing we can do as a species at the beginning of the 21st century.”
Speleo-biologist Penelope Boston co-founded the Mars Society. She talks in this interview about her participation in the 12 month Mars Arctic 365 Simulation on Devon Island in northern Canada, about her research and adventures in deep caves, about lava tube caves on Mars and the possibility of of subterranean life there, about planetary protection, and a number of other interesting topics: Life on the Subsurface: An Interview with Penelope Boston – BLDGBlog.
The first time I did any serious caving was actually in Lechuguilla Cave. It was completely nuts to make that one’s first wild cave. We trained for about three hours, then we launched into a five-day expedition into Lechuguilla that nearly killed us! Chris McKay came out with a terrible infection. I had a blob of gypsum in my eye and an infection that swelled it shut. I twisted my ankle. I popped a rib. Larry Lemke had a massive migraine. We were not prepared for this. The people taking us in should have known better. But one of them is a USGS guide and a super caving jock, so it didn’t even occur to him—it didn’t occur to him that we were learning instantaneously to operate in a completely alien landscape with totally inadequate skills.
All I knew was that I was beaten to a pulp. I could almost not get across these chasms. I’m a short person. Everybody else was six feet tall. I felt like I was just hanging on long enough so I could get out and live. I’ve been in jams before, including in Antarctica, but that’s all I thought of the whole five days: I just have to live through this.
But, when I got out, I realized that what the other part of my brain had retained was everything I had seen. The bruises faded. My eye stopped being infected. In fact, I got the infection from looking up at the ceiling and having some of those gooey blobs drip down into my eye—but, I was like, “Oh my God. This is biological. I just know it is.” So it was a clue. And, when, I got out, I knew I had to learn how to do this. I wanted to get back in there.
This sort of technology should aid in keeping people breathing in settlements on Mars and elsewhere: Man-made ‘breathing’ leaf is an oxygen factory for space travel – CNET -
Royal College of Art graduate Julian Melchiorri has created the first man-made, biologically functional leaf that takes in carbon dioxide, water, and light and releases oxygen. The leaf consists of chloroplasts — the part of a plant cell where photosynthesis happens — suspended in body made of silk protein.
Mars is covered with many bizarre looking formations. For example, the Univ. of Arizona’s HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this picture of what was apparently once the bottom of a lake: HiRISE | Ancient Lake Sediments in a Crater (ESP0371222165)
Zoom in on the crater floor:
From the HiRise page:
This image shows some interesting fractured materials on the floor of an impact crater in Arabia Terra.
There is a channel entering the crater and exiting it (see CTX image). This channel, along with an unusual deposit on the lowest part of the floor, suggests that there was once an ancient lake that deposited sediments here.
Our enhanced-color sample shows layered deposits, some with polygonal patterns, as might be expected from lake sediments. The fracturing of these deposits might have resulted from the sudden breaching of the crater rim, draining the lake.
Written by: Alfred McEwen (16 July 2014)
An announcement from the BoldlyGo Institute:
With Long History of Working on Astronomical Telescopes, Corning Donates Key
Components of 1.8-Meter Space Telescope Primary Mirror
BoldlyGo Institute Aims to Launch ASTRO-1 by Mid-2020’s
New York, NY (July 29) – The BoldlyGo Institute (BGI) – a new, privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing space science and exploration – and Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW) today announced the charitable donation of the principal components for a 1.8-meter space telescope primary mirror for BGI’s ASTRO-1 space telescope project.
Corning has a long tradition of manufacturing key optical components for ground-based and space-based astronomical telescopes in the United States and around the world, and had previously developed these components that were “abandoned in place” after the NASA program they were originally intended for was cancelled. The estimated value of the equipment is $1.8 million.
“This generous gift marks an important step forward for the BoldlyGo Institute and the ASTRO-1 space telescope project,” said Dr. Jon Morse, chief executive officer of BGI and former Director of Astrophysics at NASA Headquarters. “Corning has made numerous contributions to frontier space science missions, and this donation makes it possible for ASTRO-1 to continue in that great tradition.”
“For more than 160 years, Corning has applied its unparalleled expertise in specialty glass, ceramics, and optical physics to develop products that have transformed scientific research – including window glass for all of NASA’s manned spacecraft missions and the International Space Station. The work of the BoldlyGo Institute and the ASTRO-1 space telescope will continue this critical research for another generation and we are proud to support it,” said Curt Weinstein, vice president and general manager, Advanced Optics, Corning Specialty Materials.
The components donated by Corning will be used to conduct one of two world-class scientific missions unveiled by BoldlyGo in June, the ASTRO-1 space telescope. Scientists will use the ASTRO-1 space telescope to accomplish a wide range of scientific programs impacting topics across space astronomy, including the study of exoplanets orbiting near stars, the structure of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, and cosmology. ASTRO-1 is designed to support goals and objectives described in major scientific, technical and programmatic reports by NASA, the National Research Council, and other science community-based organizations. ASTRO-1 is expected to launch by the mid-2020’s.
“As today’s announcement proves, New York not only has some of the best minds, but we have many of the leading institutions of science ready to help advance our knowledge of the cosmos,” said Congressman Paul Tonko, N.Y. – 20. “Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked to make New York a national leader in STEM education, which is why I was proud to work with the BoldlyGo Institute in the earliest stages prior to their public launch. I want to applaud Corning and the BoldlyGo Institute for developing this partnership, which should help to advance discoveries in space science and ultimately provide our students with a wonderful opportunity to better understand the universe.”
Earlier this month, Corning Incorporated announced the delivery of custom optical components to NASA for use in its OSIRIS-REx mission, the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will visit a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu, launching in 2016 and reaching the asteroid in 2018. After a detailed study, the spacecraft will obtain a sample and return to Earth in 2023.
Corning’s previous contributions to science have enabled seminal discoveries, such as the multitude of planetary systems orbiting distant stars detected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. Corning also produced the Hubble Space Telescope primary mirror and optics for ground-based systems such as the Subaru and the two Gemini eight-meter class telescopes. For ASTRO-1, Corning is donating six ULE® lightweighted core segments, which currently reside at the Corning Plant in Canton, N.Y.
“We are extremely proud to be partnering with Corning, a company with a storied history in space systems and scientific discovery,” added Steve Battel, member of the BoldlyGo Institute Board of Directors and President of Battel Engineering. “They have generously placed these seeds of new discoveries in our hands. Our plan is to move quickly to advance the system design and hardware development for ASTRO-1 with the objective of continuing and enhancing the incredible and unique legacy of the Hubble Space Telescope and other space observatories.”
BGI is fostering a new era of space science based on the idea that a private organization funded by small and large dollar donors can increase the number and variety of space science missions conducted, leading to more data, more discoveries and increased knowledge about the universe and our place in it. As part of their NewSpace Science movement, the BoldlyGo Institute strives to:
BoldlyGo Institute is based in New York and is led by a highly qualified and reputable Board of Directors, comprising space scientists, engineers and explorers, with decades of combined space involvement, including recent senior leadership experience across NASA developing space hardware and flying in space. For more information about our Board, our missions and to support the effort, please go to www.BoldlyGo.org.
The Opportunity rover takes the lead in distance roved off-earth:
NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover, which landed on the Red Planet in 2004, now holds the off-Earth roving distance record after accruing 25 miles (40 kilometers) of driving. The previous record was held by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover.
“Opportunity has driven farther than any other wheeled vehicle on another world,” said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance. But what is really important is not how many miles the rover has racked up, but how much exploration and discovery we have accomplished over that distance.”
A drive of 157 feet (48 meters) on July 27 put Opportunity’s total odometry at 25.01 miles (40.25 kilometers). This month’s driving brought the rover southward along the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover had driven more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) before arriving at Endeavour Crater in 2011, where it has examined outcrops on the crater’s rim containing clay and sulfate-bearing minerals. The sites are yielding evidence of ancient environments with less acidic water than those examined at Opportunity’s landing site.
If the rover can continue to operate the distance of a marathon — 26.2 miles (about 42.2 kilometers) — it will approach the next major investigation site mission scientists have dubbed “Marathon Valley.” Observations from spacecraft orbiting Mars suggest several clay minerals are exposed close together at this valley site, surrounded by steep slopes where the relationships among different layers may be evident.
The Russian Lunokhod 2 rover, a successor to the first Lunokhod mission in 1970, landed on Earth’s moon on Jan. 15, 1973, where it drove about 24.2 miles (39 kilometers) in less than five months, according to calculations recently made using images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) cameras that reveal Lunokhod 2′s tracks.
Irina Karachevtseva at Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography’s Extraterrestrial Laboratory in Russia, Brad Jolliff of Washington University in St. Louis, Tim Parker of JPL, and others, collaborated to verify the map-based methods for computing distances are comparable for Lunokhod-2 and Opportunity.
“The Lunokhod missions still stand as two signature accomplishments of what I think of as the first golden age of planetary exploration, the 1960s and ’70s,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and principal investigator for NASA’s twin Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit. “We’re in a second golden age now, and what we’ve tried to do on Mars with Spirit and Opportunity has been very much inspired by the accomplishments of the Lunokhod team on the moon so many years ago. It has been a real honor to follow in their historical wheel tracks.”
As Opportunity neared the mileage record earlier this year, the rover team chose the name Lunokhod 2 for a crater about 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter on the outer slope of Endeavour’s rim on Mars.
The Mars Exploration Rover Project is one element of NASA’s ongoing and future Mars missions preparing for a human mission to the planet in the 2030s. JPL manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD), in Washington. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages LRO for SMD.
Follow the project on Twitter at: twitter.com/MarsRovers
On Facebook, visit: www.facebook.com/mars.rovers
An image of Lunokhod 2′s tracks, as imaged by NASA’s LRO, is available online at: lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/774
1. Monday, July 28, 2014: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome back JAY BARBREE, NBC News space reporter and author of the new book, Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight.
2. Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 7 PM PDT (10 PM EDT, 9 PM CDT): We welcome back DR.. PAT PATTERSON to discuss the upcoming SmallSat Conference at Utah State in Logan, Utah.
3. Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 11AM-12 PM PDT (2-3PM EDT, 1-2 PM CDT): We welcome back Robert Meurer, Director, Corporate Business Development at ATK, Space Division, Beltsville, MD.
4. Friday, August 1, 2014:, NO LIVE SHOW TODAY, JURY DUTY. I will upload two NewSpace Conference interviews. When you see the program on the website and the blog, it is ready for play.
5. Sunday, August 3,, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PST, (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST). NO SHOW TODAY. I am heading to San Diego for the AIAA Space 2014 Conference.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
Quite possible that someday a comet will pass near earth. (If it is headed into earth, there will be little we can do about it in time unless we have a sophisticated in-space infrastructure in place.)
NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.
The comet’s nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers), shedding material hurtling at about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per second, relative to Mars and Mars-orbiting spacecraft. At that velocity, even the smallest particle — estimated to be about one-fiftieth of an inch (half a millimeter) across — could cause significant damage to a spacecraft.
“Three expert teams have modeled this comet for NASA and provided forecasts for its flyby of Mars,” explained Rich Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “The hazard is not an impact of the comet nucleus, but the trail of debris coming from it. Using constraints provided by Earth-based observations, the modeling results indicate that the hazard is not as great as first anticipated. Mars will be right at the edge of the debris cloud, so it might encounter some of the particles — or it might not.”
During the day’s events, the smallest distance between Siding Spring’s nucleus and Mars will be less than one-tenth the distance of any known previous Earthly comet flyby. The period of greatest risk to orbiting spacecraft will start about 90 minutes later and last about 20 minutes, when Mars will come closest to the center of the widening dust trail from the nucleus.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) made one orbit-adjustment maneuver on July 2 as part of the process of repositioning the spacecraft for the Oct. 19 event. An additional maneuver is planned for Aug. 27. The team operating NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter is planning a similar maneuver on Aug. 5 to put that spacecraft on track to be in the right place at the right time, as well.
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is on its way to the Red Planet and will enter orbit on Sept. 21. The MAVEN team is planning to conduct a precautionary maneuver on Oct. 9, prior to the start of the mission’s main science phase in early November.
In the days before and after the comet’s flyby, NASA will study the comet by taking advantage of how close it comes to Mars. Researchers plan to use several instruments on the Mars orbiters to study the nucleus, the coma surrounding the nucleus, and the tail of Siding Spring, as well as the possible effects on the Martian atmosphere. This particular comet has never before entered the inner solar system, so it will provide a fresh source of clues to our solar system’s earliest days.
MAVEN will study gases coming off the comet’s nucleus into its coma as it is warmed by the sun. MAVEN also will look for effects the comet flyby may have on the planet’s upper atmosphere and observe the comet as it travels through the solar wind.
Odyssey will study thermal and spectral properties of the comet’s coma and tail. MRO will monitor Mars’ atmosphere for possible temperature increases and cloud formation, as well as changes in electron density at high altitudes. The MRO team also plans to study gases in the comet’s coma. Along with other MRO observations, the team anticipates this event will yield detailed views of the comet’s nucleus and potentially reveal its rotation rate and surface features.
Mars’ atmosphere, though much thinner than Earth’s, is thick enough that NASA does not anticipate any hazard to the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers on the planet’s surface, even if dust particles from the comet hit the atmosphere and form into meteors. Rover cameras may be used to observe the comet before the flyby, and to monitor the atmosphere for meteors while the comet’s dust trail is closest to the planet.
Observations from Earth-based and space telescopes provided data used for modeling to make predictions about Siding Spring’s Mars flyby, which were in turn used for planning protective maneuvers. The three modeling teams were headed by researchers at the University of Maryland in College Park, the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and JPL.
For more information about the Mars flyby of comet Siding Spring, visit: mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring/
For more information about NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, visit: www.nasa.gov/mars
This site focuses on online simulation of space orbits including 3D visualization of orbits, ground track and analytical results with given orbital parameters. It is optimized for learning orbital mechanics and analyzing space orbits.
Recent studies find that a large solar eruption in 2012 could have fried vast swaths of electronic systems worldwide if it had impacted the earth:
From the NASA Science article:
Before July 2012, when researchers talked about extreme solar storms their touchstone was the iconic Carrington Event of Sept. 1859, named after English astronomer Richard Carrington who actually saw the instigating flare with his own eyes. In the days that followed his observation, a series of powerful CMEs hit Earth head-on with a potency not felt before or since. Intense geomagnetic storms ignited Northern Lights as far south as Cuba and caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices and thus disabling the ‘Victorian Internet.”
A similar storm today could have a catastrophic effect. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.
“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” says Baker. “The only difference is, it missed.”
Keep an eye on the sun at HobbySpace Sun & Space Weather page.
The activities the past week on the International Space Station are highlighted in the latest Space to Ground report:
Scott Lowther is a space historian who specializes in projects that
on those programs that didn’t fly: the concepts that were too expensive, or politically non-viable, or technically infeasible or just plain unlucky. If you want to read about the P-51 Mustang or the 747, there are many books easily available. But what if you’re interested in the X-20 Dyna Soar or Project Pluto or the Orion nuclear pulse vehicle? Nuclear rockets? Manned missions to Mars? Hypersonic bombers? Vertical takeoff rocket powered suborbital passenger transports? Blended wing body jetliners? I’ve got you covered.
Scott publishes the aerospace history e-magazine Aerospace Projects Review, where he tells “the tales that have been largely forgotten”. He is expert in finding and presenting nearly forgotten and lost reports, blueprints, brochures and the like. In some cases he will create “accurate and detailed diagrams using CAD software. This all requires a whole lot of research, along with sometimes knowing where to go and who to talk to… as well as a lot of time and effort on preparing the information for release”.
For example, one of his recent issues focused on the X-20 Dyna-Soar projects that almost got a reusable spaceplane to orbit in the 1960s. The 128 page issue is packed with detailed blueprints, artists renditions, and text discussion 93 pages of which deal with the X-20′s history and design.
The issue also has articles on the Lockheed CL-295, McDonnell F-4(FVS), US Navy SCAT VTOL and the Republic Aircraft RAC-730 SSTO aerospaceplane. There is also a 49 page addendum with even more resource materials for the article.
Scott talked about his work on The Space Show last year: Scott Lowther, Monday, 12-2-13 0 Thespaceshow’s Blog - Audio (mp3).
You can support Scott Lowther’s aerospace history research by participating in his Patreon site.
The Hubble telescope looks at three gas giants, or “Hot Jupiters”, around distant stars that are similar to our sun and find little sign of water: Surprised scientists come up ‘nearly dry’ in search for water on ‘hot Jupiter’ planets – The Washington Post
Here is the NASA press release:
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the sun — and have come up nearly dry.
The three planets, known as HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away from Earth and were thought to be ideal candidates for detecting water vapor in their atmospheres because of their high temperatures where water turns into a measurable vapor.
These so-called “hot Jupiters” are so close to their star they have temperatures between 1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the planets were found to have only one-tenth to one one-thousandth the amount of water predicted by standard planet-formation theories.
“Our water measurement in one of the planets, HD 209458b, is the highest-precision measurement of any chemical compound in a planet outside our solar system, and we can now say with much greater certainty than ever before that we’ve found water in an exoplanet,” said Nikku Madhusudhan of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, England. “However, the low water abundance we have found so far is quite astonishing.”
Madhusudhan, who led the research, said that this finding presents a major challenge to exoplanet theory. “It basically opens a whole can of worms in planet formation. We expected all these planets to have lots of water in them. We have to revisit planet formation and migration models of giant planets, especially “hot Jupiters,” and investigate how they’re formed.”
He emphasizes that these results may have major implications in the search for water in potentially habitable Earth-sized exoplanets. Instruments on future space telescopes may need to be designed with a higher sensitivity if target planets are drier than predicted. “We should be prepared for much lower water abundances than predicted when looking at super-Earths (rocky planets that are several times the mass of Earth),” Madhusudhan said.
Using near-infrared spectra of the planets observed with Hubble, Madhusudhan and his collaborators estimated the amount of water vapor in each of the planetary atmospheres that explains the data.
The planets were selected because they orbit relatively bright stars that provide enough radiation for an infrared-light spectrum to be taken. Absorption features from the water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere are detected because they are superimposed on the small amount of starlight that glances through the planet’s atmosphere.
Detecting water is almost impossible for transiting planets from the ground because Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of water in it, which contaminates the observation. “We really need the Hubble Space Telescope to make such observations,” said Nicolas Crouzet of the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study.
The currently accepted theory on how giant planets in our solar system formed, known as core accretion, states a planet is formed around the young star in a protoplanetary disk made primarily of hydrogen, helium, and particles of ices and dust composed of other chemical elements. The dust particles stick to each other, eventually forming larger and larger grains. The gravitational forces of the disk draw in these grains and larger particles until a solid core forms. This then leads to runaway accretion of both solids and gas to eventually form a giant planet.
This theory predicts that the proportions of the different elements in the planet are enhanced relative to those in its star, especially oxygen, which is supposed to be the most enhanced. Once the giant planet forms, its atmospheric oxygen is expected to be largely encompassed within water molecules. The very low levels of water vapor found by this research raise a number of questions about the chemical ingredients that lead to planet formation.
“There are so many things we still don’t know about exoplanets, so this opens up a new chapter in understanding how planets and solar systems form,” said Drake Deming of the University of Maryland, who led one of the precursor studies. “The problem is that we are assuming the water to be as abundant as in our own solar system. What our study has shown is that water features could be a lot weaker than our expectations.”
The findings are published July 24 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.
For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble