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Thursday, April 30, 2009
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100 year-old basketball into orbit on STS-125
Chicago Chronicle News Office (Excerpt)
Grunsfeld had borrowed the basketball from the Department of Physical Education and Athletics, with Turner serving as intermediary, so that he could fly it into orbit. He plans to return the basketball personally to the University after the mission, when it will go on display at the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center.
Grunsfeld grew up near the University’s campus on Chicago’s South Side, where Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi oversaw construction of the first nuclear reactor during World War II.
“I was inspired as a young man by the exploits of Enrico Fermi as a scientist and as a mountaineer in the Dolomites, and he became a role model for me,” said Grunsfeld, who studied physics at Chicago.
Before joining NASA in 1992, he had amassed research experience in X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy, high-energy cosmic ray studies and the development of new detectors and instrumentation. Grunsfeld has since used the Hubble Telescope in his own research. As NASA’s chief scientist from 2003 to 2004, Grunsfeld helped develop the President’s Vision for Space Exploration.
Rocky Mount Telegram
The moon is coming to Rocky Mount.
At least a part of it is. A piece of moon rock is one of the features of the NASA Exploration Experience, an interactive traveling exhibit open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 7 — 9 at the Rocky Mount Children’s Museum & Science Center, said Leigh White, the museum’s curator of education.
Visitors will learn about NASA’s ongoing efforts to explore the moon and the rest of the solar system, White said. This exhibit has a simulated visit to a planned lunar outpost, interactive displays and information on the development of NASA vehicles.
“I think it is a good way for folks to learn a little bit more about what NASA does, the potential for space travel and how NASA’s space explorations have already developed things that we use in our everyday life,” White said.
One point of the exhibit is to inform the public about NASA’s efforts to return to the moon for the first time since the 1970s, said Steve Schmidt, the museum’s space science educator.
“The other point of the exhibit is to illustrate some of the spin-off technologies that have been either inspired by or a direct result of NASA’s exploration of space. Examples of that would be medical technology, miniaturization. ... There are examples like that in everyday life that people take for granted,” Schmidt.
NASA personnel will be available to answer questions and discuss the thousands of technologies used on Earth as a result of years of space-based research, Schmidt said.
There also will be a surprise guest speaker from NASA at 7 p.m. May 7 in the museum, Schmidt said. He does not know who it is.
For those who can’t wait until next week to get their fill of outer space, the museum will have Astronomy Day activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Schmidt said.
The event will feature planetarium laser light shows and activities. Volunteers from the Tar River Astronomy Club will help visitors safely view the surface of the sun through filtered telescopes, Schmidt said. Hopefully, people will able to see prominences, which are bumps around the edge of the sun that look like erupting volcanoes, and solar flares, which have detached from the huge disc.
“Those flares or prominences can be larger than the entire Earth,” Schmidt said.
Entry to the NASA exhibit and Astronomy Day is free with paid museum admission.
Museum tickets are $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and children ages 3 to 15 and free for those younger than 2.
For information, call (252) 972-1167.
Along with the NASA visit, the Cummins Planetarium will feature “Astronaut,” narrated by actor Ewan McGregor, which prepares audiences for space travel by examining the hazards faced by humans.
The planetarium’s main feature, “Stars of the Pharaohs,” looks at the special connection ancient Egyptians had with the night sky, which led them to construct the great pyramids.
Admission is $3.50 per person.
HOUSTON (KTRK) - By Kevin Quinn - Students at a Houston-area elementary school had a visitor that could soon be out of this world.
NASA's Lunar Rover stopped by St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal School in Nassau Bay Wednesday to bring the students' studies to life. The pressurized vehicle has a cabin that astronauts could theoretically live in for up to two weeks at a time while conducting research on the moon's surface.
"We really think hard about things being redundant, so that if something breaks another system can take over," NASA's Lucien Junkin told the students.
The rover was a big hit among the kids who especially liked the spacesuit mounted on the vehicle. Designed to let astronauts slip into it quickly, the suit would stop crews from having to endure hours of pressurization first.
"I think this is really cool how NASA can build something like this," said student Ian Graham.
Video Clip & Story HERE.
Congress and the President might one day, even soon, decide to abandon the long-term national goal of setting up a manned station on the Moon, but such a change in policy did not happen, nor was it remotely hinted at, today.
Nothing in Soclese's testimony before a U.S. House committee was inconsistent with present law or NASA policy.
On October 15, 2008 Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2009 NASA budget, and in the language of that legislation (H.R. 6063) was the following, now known as Public Law 110-422.
Reports that NASA, "instead of building a permanent lunar base, may instead send astronauts on short sorties, or excursions," are more than a year overdue.
This language was included in original mark-up language in the House sub-committee when the U.S. House started the ball rolling on the President's budget request for NASA 11 months ago.
Added in committee, passed by both House and Senate and signed by the President, this must be one of the most under-reported stories of 2008, with regard to national space policy.
The United States formally instructed NASA to plan for an eventual Lunar outpost that could remain unmanned, for indeterminate periods of time last year, just as Scolese alluded to in his testimony April 29.
Only writers living outside the context of present long-term space policy could accuse Scolese or NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Doug Cooke, of providing "vague answers" to questions from congressional committee Members.
Further, nothing in this section of NASA's budget (federal law, 42 U.S. Code 17732) was later changed in President Barack Obama's supplemental "stimulus" budget package (Public Law 111-5) signed into law February 5.
The clarifying changes made to NASA's long-term manned exploration strategy last year, eliminating design planning for a permanently manned lunar outpost appears to be one of the most fundamentally under-reported stories of 2008.
For example, almost nowhere will you find the following, which like the sentence above, also appeared in the earliest mark-ups of this year's operating budget for NASA:
(b) DESIGNATION.—The United States portion of the first human-tended outpost established on the surface of the Moon shall be designated the ‘‘Neil A. Armstrong Lunar Outpost’’.
Or the following, understood in context and as context, could explain some of awards NASA made in support of ISS re-supply missions a few weeks later:
(c) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that NASA should make use of commercial services to the maximum extent practicable in support of its lunar outpost activities.
Reporters who want to decypher happenings within NASA should remember, under the law, the agency is very much "a creature of Congress." Presidents come and go, but Congress has the power of the purse, most especially the U.S. House of Representatives, where all spending plans must begin.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
House and Senate leaders have agreed to authorize $2.5 billion to keep the U.S. space shuttle fleet flying through 2011, if such an extension is necessary to complete currently planned missions to the international space station.
Funding to maintain shuttle operations past the current deadline of December 2010 is part of the nonbinding $3.4 trillion budget blueprint passed by the House and Senate on Wednesday. Extra budget authority for the shuttles – which was not requested by the White House or interim leaders of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- is still subject to future House and Senate appropriations bills. But it's the strongest signal yet that lawmakers want to maintain the option of a one-year delay in phasing out the aging shuttle fleet.
The retirement schedule is controversial because it affects thousands of aerospace industry jobs nationwide, and will partly determine the extent of the gap between the last shuttle mission and the first launch of replacement rockets and manned exploration vehicles NASA is now developing. House and Senate budget conferees agreed on "the strategic importance of uninterrupted human access to space" and said the extra $2.5 billion is provided "in anticipation that the funding is needed" to safely "complete the construction and equipping" of the space station.
The additional funding was championed by Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the Democratic chairman of a science subcommittee with authority over NASA programs. Sen. Nelson and his supporters contend that pushing out shuttle retirements would protect the industrial base and avoid undue reliance on Russian launches to reach the space station in the next decade. They also are looking for ways to postpone or cushion layoffs that would add to unemployment rolls in Florida, Texas and elsewhere.
By contrast, NASA officials and some large agency contractors worry the result would be to shift badly-needed funding from shuttle replacement programs that already face big budget, technical and schedule challenges. Some NASA officials and outside advisers, while sticking with the December 2010 retirement deadline, have gone so far as to argue that funneling extra money to the shuttles may sap momentum of work on their replacements, together dubbed the Constellation program. NASA officials fear that further budget cuts to Constellation would endanger financial and public support for it.
NASA officials also recently told Congress they plan to promote development of an alternate manned rocket and vehicle combination – a proposed solution excluding Constellation—by offering industry some of the money the agency is slated to receive from the previously enacted economic stimulus legislation. But to succeed, such an alternate plan requires billions of dollars over the next few years. And at this point, the White House and NASA officials don't seem willing or able to provide that kind of hefty funding to spur industry development of this option
Write to Andy Pasztor at firstname.lastname@example.org
The post-vibration altitude hot fire test sequences mapped the thruster health over its full operating range and proved the capability to exceed 200 lbs. of thrust during steady-state firing, thereby demonstrating an Orion worst-case contingency operation.
"This recent testing mitigates an identified risk and provides additional data against which the Orion crew module engine's analytical models can be validated," said
Under contract with Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion, Aerojet provides propulsion for the crew module as well as all engines aboard the service module. The current Orion crew module flight configuration includes 12 MR-104G engines operating at 160 lbs. of thrust. The MR-104 engine family originally provided in-space propulsion for the Voyager 1 and 2 and Magellan missions. Subsequent MR-104 variants provided propulsion for Landsat and NOAA as well as other U.S. government programs.
The Orion crew exploration vehicle will be the flagship of NASA's Constellation Program, which is comprised of the spacecraft and systems that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station and conduct sustained human exploration of the moon and Mars.
of renovated Russian Soyuz terminal descent
cushioned by rockets and footpads
If accepted, it would be the first time in history that a manned vehicle relied solely on rocket engines for touchdown.
Previous manned missions have landed on Earth using a parachute or, in the case of space shuttles, a pair of wings.
RKK Energia, Russia's prime developer of manned spacecraft, had to examine the feasibility of the rocket-powered landing as a result of conflicting requirements for the project set by the Russian government.
Currently, Russian cosmonauts are carried into orbit on the three-seat Soyuz capsule. Russia is developing the new craft as a replacement to this venerable spacecraft, which has been in service for more than four decades.
The Soyuz does use small solid propellant motors to soften its touchdown, but the ship's parachute plays the main role in providing the vehicle and crew with a safe landing.
New launch site: In 2007, Moscow took the momentous decision to build a new launch site in the nation's far east, hoping to end Russia's dependency on the spaceport in Baikonur, which, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, ended up in the newly independent republic of Kazakhstan.
The new site, which has been dubbed Vostochny, or simply "Eastern", will be located almost as far south as Baikonur - an important orbital mechanics factor which determines the cargo-carrying capacity of rockets.
(Increasing the cargo capacity even more would result from the Russian - ESA partnership calling for a devoted Russian launch facility on the equator at Kourou.)
"This new lunar rover uses a tether on a spool attached to a counterbalance. As the spool rotates, the cable unwinds in a measured and tightly controlled fashion ensuring a gradually increasing, spiral orbit for the rover around the lander as the rover attempts to travel the required 500m distance. Because centripetal force will vary based on the radius of the path traveled by the rover, the rotation speed of the spool must be constantly adjusted to hold the altitude of the rover steady."
The conclusion was apparently reached after analysis of material brought to the surface by the relatively recent Mare Orientalis impact basin event, that of the Inner Rook Mountain ring in particular.
An unknown "NASA scientist" is quoted in the Indian Economic Times saying, "Nearly 40 years after Apollo, no one had directly and unequivocally confirmed the true nature of the lunar highlands. Researchers from the Chandrayaan-1 mission have reported that they now have the final, direct proof."
“The hot liquid, magma, seems to have flowed on to the surface and taken the form of lava. The rocky remains that floated to the top appear to have transformed into the Moon’s highlands or mountains,” an ISRO investigator explains.
The lunar magma ocean hypothesis gained support from Apollo, Earth-based and orbital observations and is thought to explain the Moon's initial state prior to the Nectaris and Imbrium basin-forming impacts.
Under the revised morphology, the more famous Nearside highland peninsula is believed to be a remnant of elevated, near-continental "islands" that may have floated on a global ocean that formed the Moon's first crust, prior to 4.1 billion years ago.
The Farside highlands are another matter. Some explain the whole of these highest elevation on the Modern Moon as an outer rim of a possible mega-impact basin event larger than half the entire Moon and centered near northwestern Mare Tranquillitatis, and subsequently modified by the "smaller" South-Pole Aitken Basin impact event.
Experts from Brown say the new 3M images show the lunar surface in very fine detail. "clear enough that surface coloration can be separated to indicate age of highland and crust. Investigators for the 3M report the entire Inner Rook Mountaina, around Mare Orientale, are of similar material.
“This validates the magma ocean. The huge impact that formed Mare Orientale basin threw up those mountains,” investigators say.
Tallahassee, WEAR ABC-TV 3 A Florida legislative committee, "peeved" at Space Florida spending on an out-of-state lobbying firm, has cut the economic development agency's budget almost in half.
Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) announced a cut of more than $1.8 million in Space Florida's budget during a Wednesday meeting of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations conference committee.
The agency spent nearly $300,000 of its $4 million state allocation last year on lobbyists, including $195,000 to a Pennsylvania firm with ties to Space Florida's president.
The money was paid in two installments, possibly to circumvent a requirement that Space Florida's board of directors approve any contract of $100,000 or more.
To celebrate her 60th birthday, neither a European holiday nor an African safari was exciting enough for Glenys Ambe.
Instead, she's booked to go to space.
Ms Ambe, 53, is the first Australian to buy a ticket on Virgin Galactic - Richard Branson's commercial space travel project - through a travel agent.
"I have always wanted to go up in space," she said. "The only day I wagged school in my whole life was when my father gave me permission ... the day they walked on the moon.
"I never thought [being able to go to space] would happen in my lifetime ... it's a dream and now I've got this dream that's coming true."
The "dream" cost Ms Ambe, who owns two fashion stores in Queensland, $US200,000 ($281,000).
But for those without the money, her experience will be as follows:
At a custom-built spaceport in New Mexico, Ms Ambe will be strapped into her seat on spacecraft SpaceShipTwo, which is attached to a specially-designed jet aircraft carrier.
The aircraft carrier will take off and in 45 minutes rise to 15,000 metres, when it will release the spacecraft.
In an instant, Ms Ambe will endure six G-forces for 90 seconds, as rockets propel the spacecraft vertically through the Earth's atmosphere.
"You are instantly pinned back into your seat, overwhelmed but enthralled by the howl of the rocket motor and eye-watering acceleration," Virgin Galactic says on its website.
The sky, visible through large windows, will quickly change from blue, to mauve, indigo and finally black, and then there will be silence, as the rocket motors are switched off.
At a peak altitude of 110 kilometres, Ms Ambe will now experience weightlessness. She will be free to unbuckle her seatbelt, float about the craft and and view the Earth and outer space from a window.
After four minutes Ms Ambe will return to her seat, and will soon feel the G-forces again as the craft re-enters the atmosphere, and then glides 45 minutes to land at the spaceport again.The entire trip will be about two hours
Under the arrangement, students will spend 3 and 1/2 years at MTSU.
In their last semester, they will take classes at the UTSI campus near Tullahoma. These classes will go toward their undergraduate degree while at the same time count as prerequisite classes at UTSI. (Final approval must come from the Tennessee Board of Regents.)
Since fall 2005, academic officials at both universities began partnering the process to build the flight test engineering program.
The Washington Post
NASA's Congressional supporters appear to have bought some time in their efforts to ease the Space Shuttle program's hard retirement date, as the House and Senate conference agreement on the budget resolution reached this week would fund Shuttle missions beyond September 2010.
The storied Space Shuttle program is set to end at that time to make way for future missions to the Moon and Mars with the Constellation Program. There is wide concern that a hard end date could jeopardize the safety of the eight remaining Shuttle missions and the thousands of government and private-sector jobs tied to NASA. Without FY 2011 funding, NASA would be unable to continue any missions that did not launch in time. Missions regularly miss their scheduled launch dates since last-minute safety checks often reveal issues that merit a delay.
This week's agreement matches President Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget requests for NASA and then forecasts spending $2.5 billion more in FY 2011, which would allow the agency to fly any of the remaining shuttle missions beyond the current deadline.
“This budget is a significant step towards maintaining safety, minimizing the spaceflight gap, and preserving the highly skilled workforce at Kennedy Space Center and throughout Central Florida," Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) said in a statement today. "Kennedy Space Center is an economic engine for our community and I will not stand idly by while these jobs are at risk.”
Despite Kosmas' good cheer, the budget resolution merely provides a blueprint for lawmakers as the appropriations committees budget for fiscal year 2010 and beyond. While the panels generally follow the conference agreement's guidance, there's no guarantee.
Whle some wallet-watching lawmakers may be weary of extending the program, but an extension would save thousands of government jobs in Florida, Texas and elsewhere amid the economic downturn.
All of this is happening despite near-radio silence from the Obama administration on the future of NASA. The president has discussed NASA only once, during a meeting with reporters last month. Observers expect the White House to announce Obama's nominee for NASA administrator in the near future.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
See the title link for the NASM site's details on all these discoveries.
The Moon is not a primordial object; it is an evolved terrestrial planet with internal zoning similar to that of Earth.
The Moon is ancient and still preserves an early history (the first billion years) that must be common to all terrestrial planets.
The youngest Moon rocks are virtually as old as the oldest Earth rocks. The earliest processes and events that probably affected both planetary bodies can now only be found on the Moon.
The Moon and Earth are genetically related and formed from different proportions of a common reservoir of materials.
The Moon is lifeless; it contains no living organisms, fossils, or native organic compounds.
All Moon rocks originated through high-temperature processes with little or no involvement with water. They are roughly divisible into three types: basalts, anorthosites, and breccias.
Early in its history, the Moon was melted to great depths to form a "magma ocean." The lunar highlands contain the remnants of early, low density rocks that floated to the surface of the magma ocean.
The lunar magma ocean was followed by a series of huge asteroid impacts that created basins which were later filled by lava flows.
The Moon is slightly asymmetrical in bulk form, possibly as a consequence of its evolution under Earth's gravitational influence. Its crust is thicker on the far side, while most volcanic basins -- and unusual mass concentrations -- occur on the near side.
The surface of the Moon is covered by a rubble pile of rock fragments and dust, called the lunar regolith, that contains a unique radiation history of the Sun which is of importance to understanding climate changes on Earth.
President Richard M. Nixon personally greets Apollo 11
crew (l-r) Armstrong, Collins & Aldrin; 19 N - 170 W
peering from isolation trailer on recovery carrier.
"The date and details of the retrospective have yet to be worked out. But Sandy Quinn, a spokesman for the Library, says the exhibit will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, which occurred on July 20, 1969 when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and future Laguna Beach resident Buzz Aldrin touched down in the moon’s dry Sea of Tranquility."
Read the Story HERE.
"Despite intense lobbying and marketing efforts, the state's space-development agency has so far been unable to nail down its business case for the launchpad to nowhere which Space Florida promised would "entice a multitude of commercial space companies" to Brevard County, offsetting thousands of expected job losses when the U.S. space shuttle is mothballed next year."
"Among the reasons for the rejections: Space Florida's controversial reputation. The agency has had to fend off accusations that it stole a client's ideas for a space-tourism project and gave them to a competitor. Critics in Tallahassee have also blasted it for what they describe as poor management and business decisions."
"The Governor's Office just completed an investigation of one of the agency's groundbreaking deals — for a space-tourism training program — after the Orlando Sentinel disclosed that a state employee who had worked on the contract resigned to go to work for the clinic that won it. That probe found that the whole endeavor had been tainted by apparent breaches of state ethics laws."
for Obama to name NASA Administrator
As President Barack Obama approaches a much ballyhooed hundred days in office tomorrow, a puzzling leadership hole remains at the top of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. With crucial decisions looming on the phaseout of the space shuttle and a subsequent lengthy inability by the U.S. to rocket astronauts into orbit, Obama has yet to select a replacement for former NASA administrator Michael Griffin.
The lack of presidential action is fueling suspicions by NASA supporters that the new administration is assigning a low priority to future manned exploration of the moon and Mars.
A congressional mandate to delay action on the shuttle’s future expires on Thursday. At that point NASA officials will be free to start the phase-out of the fleet if they so choose. Presidential science adviser John Holdren has said, however, that no decisions will be made on the fate of the shuttle and the development of a replacement vehicle until a new administrator is in place. The U.S. is already facing at least a five-year window in which it will be dependent on Russian vehicles to transport Americans to the International Space Station.
According to NASA’s deputy space shuttle program manager, LeRoy Cain, the longer the agency goes without making those key decisions, the more expensive it will be to continue shuttle operations through the previous planned termination date in 2010.
Former director Griffin recently criticized Obama for not living up to his campaign promise for a robust manned space program. He accused the administration of planning deep cuts in NASA’s budget, a charge denied by a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget. The administration will present a detailed plan for NASA’s proposed $18.7 billion budget to Congress next month.
As NASA prepares to launch a long-planned shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, its lack of a permanent administrator is inexplicable and troubling. If President Obama is serious about his commitment to the future of the American space program, he needs to fill that vacuum without further delay.
Moon is also not to be confused with "New Moon," the PG-13 'tween thriller' and sequel to Twilight, the romantic vampire-opera now in production in British Columbia.
Beginning a North American publicity tour ahead of the full premier, Jones is interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio and can be heard through the embedded player, talking about his new film staring indie perennial Sam Rockwell.
Moon, about an isolated Helium-3 miner at the end of his three-year contract on the Moon is forced to face... himself.
(Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio)
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sept. 30, 2010, is technically the deadline for finishing the last shuttle mission and retiring the fleet.
Feb. 19, 2004, was the deadline for finishing the construction of the International Space Station. But that was before Columbia.
Under intense pressure to keep space station assembly on schedule and within budget, managers harped on that date to the point of installing screensavers on workers' computers counting down the seconds. The message: hurry up, time is running out on your program.
Then, we lost the Columbia astronauts. Investigators blamed the accident in part on schedule pressure, saying it drove people to make bad tradeoffs favoring on-time flights over safety. They wrote, "Most of the shuttle program's concern about Columbia's foam strike were not about the threat it might pose to the vehicle in orbit, but about the threat it might pose to the schedule."
Fast forward to 2009. NASA's shuttle program is again working against the clock. I think managers, engineers and front-line shuttle workers learned the agonizing lessons of Columbia and will not repeat those mistakes on purpose. But, the influence of schedule pressure can be subtle.
In a business demanding perfection, it's the little unnoticed decisions that can add up to a catastrophe. Subtle pressure is there in the form of the 2010 deadline. NASA needs to complete nine more flights to complete the shuttle's mission, which is to finish building and outfitting a space station that can stay in orbit a decade or so.
That's as many as nine missions in about 19 months, or almost six launches per year. Since the return to flight, NASA has flown about three times a year. Even that has required nearly flawless preparation by crews at Kennedy Space Center and some (recent) good luck with the weather.
Nothing is impossible, but flying shuttles every other month or so is as close as it gets. With three orbiters left, stricter safety rules and slim budgets, flying these last missions is going to be difficult enough without the tick-tock of the clock booming in the background. Making matters worse: an exodus of talented people fleeing for more secure jobs.
The Free Lance Star
DURING the first
Before then the business of putting astronauts into space was the exclusive
With surprising ease the private sector has gone from this first flight to the edge of establishing a serious and long-term presence in space. With a flexible and innovative approach to design, the private sector--which now includes several space companies--has managed to develop several new and efficient classes of delivery systems. These are rockets that are strong enough to reach orbit and big enough to carry substantial payloads.
However, space entrepreneurs aren't just building rockets. They are designing and building vehicles that, though intended in the early stages to carry cargo, could rapidly be modified to carry astronauts. With government-built space-delivery systems and vehicles, developments like this normally take far longer.
In 2010, the U.S. will face
NASA is developing its Ares rockets and Orion cargo and crew vehicles, but even on an aggressive development schedule they won't be ready until 2015. Despite the fact that the U.S. funded and--for the most part--built the International Space Station, there will be no way for Americans to get there. Russians can come and go as they please, but the U.S., at least temporarily, is grounded--unless we want to catch a ride with the Russians.
In late 2008, in what can be considered a watershed event, NASA awarded two contracts for Commercial Orbital Transportation Services to supply the International Space Station: to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and to Virginia's Orbital Sciences Corp. The arrangement calls for 20 delivery flights: These two private companies will provide up to 70 percent of America's equipment and supply requirements to the station. The rest will be carried aboard unmanned Russian cargo vehicles.
This represents a major evolution in the philosophical perspective of the space agency. Orbital Sciences Corp. will launch its resupply missions from several locations, including Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore. SpaceX will send its payloads into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX is developing a system to launch a vehicle--called the Dragon--that could easily be modified to carry astronauts, potentially as many as seven of them. The Dragon's maiden flight into orbital trajectory, which will be unmanned, is expected later this year. If the two companies are successful, NASA might be ready to let
The potential for reinvigorating our space program is immense. By turning delivery systems and orbital operations over to the private sector, NASA will have the opportunity to do what it excels at, and that is to explore space. This could be the beginning of an entirely new approach to manned space flight.
David Kerr of Stafford County
(Joel Raupe, hand-held Olympus C-740 63mm-1:3.7 3 sec.)
Mercury was about as high as it gets as an evening star. An hour earlier, immediately after sunset, the Moon in binoculars showed a libration favoring the southeastern limb as the terminator crawled westward over Mare Undarum, mere hours before the Crises circle comes into view.
A companion attributed the orange over-exposure of the sunrise hovering over Mare Marginis to the sodium glow, the high altitude dust and generally anything other than an operator using minimal equipment. Nice of them, but the five-year old Olympus has no sodium line filter, unlike today's cellphone cameras.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
"All this is going to end up in a scandal," Roald Sagdeev told Spectrum. The Phobos mission has become "so politically loaded that people involved will probably be reluctant to admit the true state of affairs until the very last minute," he told the IEEE magazine."
Sometime in May final approval should be given to save two of the five co-orbiting satellites in the successful THEMIS constellation by diverting these to Earth-Moon Lagrange points and eventually into lunar orbit for a 17 month stay.
Needed study of the lunar exosphere and of the Moon's wake within the solar wind and within the magnetotail of Earth will be added to THEMIS exceptional primary mission in a challenging and complex set of orbital manuvers.
ARTEMIS will become a distinct component of THEMIS and its ongoing continuing study of the solar wind and its complex interactions with Earth's magnetosphere, as an expected sharp increase in solar activity as Solar Cycle 24 gets underway, while also gathering a unique and needed dataset in vicinity of the Moon prior to extended human activity.
THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) should be expanded to include ARTEMIS (Acceleration, Reconnection Turbulence and Electrodynamics of Moon's Interaction with the Sun).
In planning for THEMIS at the University of California at Berkeley, principal investigator V. Angelopoulos and his team knew they would have a problem soon after their primary mission was accomplished. If the P1 and P2 satellites in the five probe constellation were not adjusted in their orbits. It was announced March 20 that the THEMIS primary mission had been completed. Each of the five probes remain in excellent health.
Nevertheless, because of their initial orbital configurations, P1 and P2 are eventually headed into extended periods in Earth's shadow, and outside their solar battery's recharging design range. That initial orbital configuration was obviously necessary because the five probes set in motion a vast opportunity to gather data and make new discoveries, documented in at least 30 papers.
The new "ARTEMIS component" of THEMIS will begin an ascent toward the Moon beginning late 2009, and the basic five vehicle mission will be able to continue. As the ARTEMIS component is manuvered through the Earth-Moon Lagrange points, and eventually into lunar orbit, study can begin strongly complementing the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LADEE missions.
The complex orbital manuver will take nearly two years, but will enabling THEMIS to continue it's baseline mission without the loss of two of the five probes. (See diagram, page 29 of the Proposal submitted by the THEMIS team last summer, HERE.)
Road Cleared for ARTEMIS (THEMIS News & Events, February 27, 2009)
On Feb 24, 2009 ARTEMIS passed its mini-Confirmation review at (Goddard Space Flight Center). Therefore, the road has been cleared for the upcoming mission implementation. There will be a delta (pico) review in early May to ensure progress with contingency planning is adequate, but we don't anticipate any problems. Congratulations to the implementation teams at UCB, JPL and GSFC for their outstanding progress to-date!
The essence of the comments of the review board was that the ARTEMIS team has done an outstanding job, especially considering the little (8 months) time that has passed since the Senior Review go-ahead. Of course, it was recognized that there is still a lot of work ahead, but the team yesterday presented a reasonable, viable plan, which conveys confidence they can deliver. Even though this is a challenging project, given the resources and time available, this condition was deemed acceptable considering that the THEMIS probes are already operating well and this is an extended-phase mission. The reviewers have come up with less than a handful of requests for action, which I am certain will strengthen the project, as it moves towards the Orbit Raise Maneuvers in the upcoming summer. Tentatively the ORMs start July 9th.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Right Mission Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell & Bill Anders
(Alberto Martinez - Austin American-Statesman)
The first astronauts to leave Earth orbit and the first to orbit the Moon, the crew of Apollo 8, visited the University of Texas at Austin, April 23.
It was a rare opportunity for Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders to discuss their landmark first manned mission to attain Earth's escape velocity, enter orbit around another gravity well and return to Earth.
Jimmie Collins of the Austin American-Statesman filed an after-the-fact report, Friday, on the reunion of the Apollo 8 crew and "about thirty" members of its ground-support team at the LBJ Library and Museum, part of the yearlong celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 (not yet the "50th" as the American-Statesman headlined on its website) in July 1969.
Apollo 8 orbited the Moon ten times in December 1968, testing design, equipment and theory of manned trans-lunar travel, the first of ten manned missions to the Moon's vicinity, and among these six lunar landings and surface science and sampling missions before the end of 1972.
Captain Lovell, 81, would afterwards, in April 1970, command Apollo 13, and was thus fated to travel to the Moon twice, each time without a landing, was not optimistic,about a return to the Moon soon, Collins writes.
Yet that impact was very real at that particular moment in history, in the minds of many.
The famous earthrise picture taken by Bill Anders has become an icon of the Apollo Era but it also put a previous year of turmoil in immediate perspective.
It had been, Life magazine headlined, "The Incredible Year." 1968 witnessed the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and it was also the most violent year of the Viet Nam War for the United States.
Over the Christmas holidays those Best Wishes addressed to "all of you on the Good Earth...from the crew of Apollo 8," marked by televised images Live from the Moon and featuring the never-before-experienced sight of lunar craters zipping by 100 kilometers below, in grainy black and white CCD images on millions of televisions put many years of cultural upheaval inside a far larger frame of reference.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Orbiting 665 days and having traveled close to 270 million miles, Genesis II has been busy transmitting pressure, temperature and radiation data to the mission operations staff in Las Vegas. We are also conducting long term testing of systems such as lighting, air circulation, and pressure monitoring systems. In addition, the expanded camera configuration has provided over 51,000 images consisting of the inside of the spacecraft, the external micro-meteoroid shielding, and the Earth. New images are downloaded weekly and can be seen HERE.
Genesis II was inserted into the same orbit as Genesis I. However, due to natural orbital decay, Genesis II is currently at a slightly higher altitude. Based on lifetime estimates, Genesis II and Genesis I will be in orbit for many more years. Check out the tracking page to find out when the satellite will be passing over your part of the world.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
"We're at a pivotal point. ... As we move forward in time it becomes more difficult from a funding standpoint because what we're doing is shaping the workforce and shaping the content of work for a completion of the shuttle mission in Sept. 2010. As we get closer and closer to the end it becomes more and more difficult, it requires more and more money to turn that around.
"Since last Fall we have been asked through legislation to maintain the ability to continue and extend the shuttle through "Do Not Preclude" language through April of this year. We are coming to the end of that timeline." - Shuttle program manager LeRoy Cain
Hat Tip to Houston Chronicle's SciGuy Eric Berger
"...there's a definite undercurrent of unease. President Barack Obama has yet to name a new administrator to replace Mike Griffin, nor has he clearly elaborated his vision for the space agency's future.
"That has left current employees and contractors to press ahead with their current plans to end shuttle flights in 2010, and the Constellation program to resume flying astronauts into space by 2015.
"Yet the apparent indecision from Obama, which if nothing else suggests to NASA employees that they rate lower on the President's priorities than choosing a dog, is now causing some significant programmatic problems."
"A recent memo from shuttle program manager John Shannon to shuttle managers and engineers, obtained by CBS News, indicated that if NASA is to stick to its plan to retire the shuttle next year it will need to begin shutting down critical components by this month's end."
"...there are the swirling concerns about delays to the Constellation program, nicely outlined in this Orlando Sentinel story. Because of funding shortfalls NASA may have to delay its program to return to the moon by two years, and there's also concern about making the 2015 launch date to resume flying astronauts to the space station."
"Jeff Hanley, manager of the Constellation Program that is developing the Orion, its Ares I crew launch vehicle and the follow-on lunar vehicles, told Aviation Week on April 22 that the Orion design is within "plus or minus a couple of hundred pounds" of the 21,000-pound maximum for the command module set by a requirement to land safely with only two of the three main parachutes deployed.
"Right now we're studying and really on the verge of deciding that we're going to start with four," Hanley said. "That gives us a common lunar and ISS version, but we've sized the system and have a design for six, so we'll grow our capability as we need it."
"In meetings over the last few weeks at Kennedy Space Center, agency managers have told employees and contractors that they are delaying the first lunar launch of the Ares V rocket -- a cargo hauler slated to be the most powerful rocket ever built -- by two years.
NASA's internal plans had called for Ares V to go to the moon in 2018, though the agency had announced a public goal of 2020. Internal deadlines are used by NASA to keep programs on track and to provide a margin of error for developmental problems.
When the Apollo program was shut down and Congress began funding the Space Shuttle in 1971, Columbia was slated for its first launch in 1976.
But our skepticism is really not based on American ability or on the technological challenge. It is instead based on Congress, which is designed to be nearsighted, with eyes that can't see beyond two years. The whole of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate must account to their voters every two years, and we would not have it any other way.
But NASA was gutted by Congress and the Nixon administration in 1971, and the agency ultimately solved its long-term manned program budgeting problems by enshrining them in an all-but-permanent Space Shuttle, that could be throttled forward or backward but became too beloved to ever consider defunding, its original reason for being and that fact that its cost never matched the original expectations long forgotten.
For the past six years following the harsh lesson of Columbia the limitations of the Shuttle cannot be ignored or "worked around." It is long-past time to move on, and quickly.
In 1971 Congress faced the cost of the remaining Apollo missions and NASA's plans for the years that were to follow and instead were sold the Space Shuttle because of those hoped-for efficiencies and savings.
Without denigrating the twenty-eight years of Shuttle operations it's a good time to remember the fact that time and cost of its development and operation far exceeded what Congress had hoped. It was the same for the Interstate Defense Highway System, originally projected to cost $3 million a mile in 1957, but before its completion in 1990 cost $100 million a mile and often far more.
Dreaming, for a moment, consider: If national commitment were made to return to the Moon by 2014 there would be many saying it couldn't be done.
Many more would know, from experience, that not only could it be done but that it should be done, and further, the United States is still singularly qualified to make it happen.
Sure, it would be expensive. It's going to be expensive regardless. Experience, particularly when comparing the differences between developmental and operational costs of the Shuttle as projected in 1971 when tallied against the cost by 1981, and the cost per mission over over the decades that followed also has shown there are reasons to be cautious and methodical but there are big disadvantages to the slow approach too.
Open-ended time allotments can become a fool's trap. The cost of Constellation is going to similarly grow and long before the first manned launch of Orion, already slipping, as expected, closer and closer to a decade from now and perhaps more.
The haste that led to the Apollo 1 fire and that later crowded out safety ahead of the loss of Challenger in 1986, and the maybe the loss of Columbia six years ago has made us too cautious.
Other lessons, learned from development of new defense programs and spacecraft including the Shuttle seem to have been forgotten.
There are vested interests, "rent-seekers" economists call them, camp followers who make more money in slowing development of certain programs which always seem to double and triple and redouble again before the shaky Roll-Out, and sky-rocket a program's projected development's costs.
It's likely Constellation will cost roughly the same over the long run whether held to a schedule or methodically introduced on an essentially open-ended schedule. We should be looking at those hard-won and expensive lessons, also.
NASA via Rob Coppenger @ FlightGlobal's Hyperbola, following good journalist practice, has posted a correction to reports first headlined by NASASpaceFlight.com. The erroneous conclusion drawn from the Areospace Corporation study was then picked up by Lunar Pioneer Research Group's blog Lunar Networks and has since been withdrawn.
"NASA managers are reviewing an independent analysis," NASA told Hyperbola Wednesday.
Headlines had appeared reporting Areospace Corporation's study concluded that Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) boosters were adequate to support NASA's Constellation, program, "(u)nder evaluation was not accurate," NASA told Coppenger. "The Aerospace report...is not finished."
Lunar Network reported yesterday that a study "by the Aerospace Corporation "conducted at the request of NASA to disprove the viability of an option to switch Orion to an alternative Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) has found both the Atlas V Heavy and Delta IV Heavy are capable of launching Orion on both ISS and Lunar missions."
Lunar Networks, especially on behalf Lunar Pioneer Research Group, regrets the error.
Coppenger recommends a more thorough reading of theAerospace Corporation's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel 2008 annual Report.
"While is says nothing about EELV suitability for launching Orion, " Coppenger writes, "there is one entry that is very interesting. Acting (NASA) administrator Christopher Scolese is quoted as saying, when asked by the (Panel) "what was harder than you expected."
"Designing Ares and Orion to have improved operational characteristics over our Shuttle and EELV system," Scolese is quoted.
Coppenger also recommends reading former NASA Administrator Michale Griffin's answers to the Panel's question picked up in their Annual Report.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Griffin was appointed NASA Administrator by President Bush in 2005 and resigned in December. President Obama has yet to appoint Griffin's successor. He was recently appointed an eminent scholar and professor by the University of Alabama at Huntsville. The accusations were delivered during a speech to a National Space Club Dinner on Friday, April 17.