Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
"Our aerospace industry is the envy of the world, employing 650,000 Americans in high-wage, high-skill jobs. It is one of the few industries that actually enjoys a trade surplus with our foreign competition. Every time NASA accomplishes a great achievement, the interest of our young people in pursuing a career in science and engineering spikes upward. When they graduate from college, not all will end up working in the space program, but many of them will join leading technology companies all over America."
"We believe that America's space exploration program has positively impacted the world perhaps more than any single national endeavor during the last half century. Our space leadership is a projection of this country's technical capability leveraged to foster peaceful cooperation among nations in a politically uncertain world. Each of us has been part of this great space legacy — and continues to be committed to ensuring the safety, vitality, sustainability and excitement of the future space program. U.S. investment in space and technology generates tens of thousands of jobs, stimulates small businesses and entrepreneurship, drives innovation and inspires the next generation of engineers, scientists and explorers so critical to America's future."
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Respected UT geologist Bill Muehlberger showed astronauts the ins and outs of rocks - and even has a lunar momento with his name on it.
Bill Muehlberger has been talkin' rocks to astronauts for 45 years. He's taught geology to Gemini spacewalkers and Apollo moonwalkers, to the space shuttle crews, to the first astronaut classes of the 21st century. He's led geologic field trips to the volcanoes of Hawaii, to the impact craters of Arizona, to the deserts of West Texas — so that space travelers might better know the Earth, and by extension, better imagine the moon.
It is only fitting, therefore, that NASA chose to nickname a moon rock in the man's honor. The rock — "Big Muley" — is a whitish chunk of anorthosite collected by the astronauts of Apollo 16. At just short of 26 pounds, "Big Muley" (aka lunar sample 61016) is the largest and heaviest piece of the moon ever brought back to Earth.
Mars Society: 'Junk cost estimates' delivered to Augustine Committee threaten to sink NASA's human spaceflight plans
The "Augustine Committee" is on deadline to deliver its "recommendations" to the Obama administration, August 31. Though NASA administrators do not expect to see the committee's full report before the end of September, the end of the present federal fiscal year, the committee membership has already hinted that there are no affordable manned spaceflight options within NASA's long-term budget.
The Committee may conclude NASA is $50 billion short, over the next decade and a half, according to some press accounts.
Aerospace Corporation's estimates, however, as to the cost of Ares V or Shuttle C configurations," Zubrin wrote, "have no scientific basis and have clearly been composed to make the case that human space exploration is unaffordable."
"Examining the Aerospace Corp's cost estimates," Zubrin wrote, "they claim an insane development cost of the Ares 5 heavy lift vehicle of $35 billion dollars and assign a development cost of $28 billion for a somewhat lower capacity Shuttle-C type launcher."
"Both of these incredible estimates are about a factor of 7 higher than what is generally believed in the industry to be necessary for the development of such systems," Zubrin wrote.
"In testimony delivered directly to the committee, SpaceX president Elon Musk offered to develop a heavy lift system for $2.5 billion," Zubrin wrote. "Lockheed Martin presentations estimate the cost to develop a heavy lift (150 tons to Low Earth Orbit) launcher at $4 billion."
Zubrin strongly criticises the methodology used by Aerospace Corporation to estimate the continued developmental and, eventually, the operational costs for Ares V, and he also makes his case for Mars as a singular goal of manned spaceflight.
From the LRO Narrow Angle Camera (NAC), Blocky impact crater (1 km diameter) with beautifully preserved impact melt streamers exposing high reflectance material excavated from the subsurface (Max resolution below of interior melt is 0.93 meters per pixel) Imaged on August 4, 2009 at 1452 UTC, Orbit 498, center coordinates Longitude 69.15°Latitude -18.65° Browse Image (M104061987RE.tif) HERE. [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University]
India's first lunar orbiting probe was launched October 22, 2008, and had recently been raised to a 200 km orbit after completing most of its primary mission.
Chandrayaan-1 project director M. Annadurai announced the end of the mission, telling the PTI news agency, "the mission is definitely over. We have lost contact with the spacecraft."
Annadurai said Chandrayaan-1, "has done its job technically...100 per cent. Scientifically also, it has done almost 90 to 95 per cent of its job."
Scientists earlier informed reporters that the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) did not hold much hope of continuing the mission as telemetry began to fail and finally "ended abruptly."
The mission had almost come to an end, nearly as abruptly, one at least two occasions when on-board temperatures rose to their tolerance levels. Lunar exploration has become so "normalized" in the minds of many, it is easy to forget the Moon presents one of the harshest environmental extremes in the solar system.
ISRO sources said "connectivity revival" was unlikely, and without orbital maintenance Chandrayaan-1 would eventually crash into the moon. Low lunar orbit is notoriously unstable because the Moon's gravity is punctuated by both higher and lower than mean concentrations of mass near its irregular surface.
Chandrayaan-1 was incorrectly being described as the "cheapest moon mission ever," though it's $80 million price tag rivaled the "bang per buck" ratio delivered by such missions as Lunar Prospector in 1998, which cost the United States $60 million.
With Chandrayaan and its PSLV-1 booster, ISRO has propelled India into the club of "space-faring nations," including India with the United States and the late Soviet Union, and more recently, the European Union, China and Japan.
Powered by a single solar panel, the Chandrayaan's mission included taking high-resolution pictures of the moon, preparing a three-dimensional atlas of its surface, chemical and mineralogical mapping and searching for the source of the strong hydrogen signal discovered in the 1990's in and around the lunar poles.
Chandrayann hosted 11 payloads - five designed and developed in India, three from the European Space Agency (ESA), one from Bulgaria and two from the United States.
"The spacecraft has completed 312 days in orbit, making over 3,400 orbits around the moon, providing a large volume of data from sophisticated sensors, like its terrain mapping camera, hyper-spectral imager, its moon mineralogy mapper, and so on, meeting nearly all of the scientific objectives of the mission," the ISRO said in its released statement.
Clive R. Neal, Dept. of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences at Notre Dame, announced today that a science workshop, "Lunar Dust, Plasma and Atmosphere: The Next Steps," will be held January 27–29, 2010 at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, of the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The meeting is being organized by the Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies (CCLDAS), a National Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) center. [http://lasp.colorado.edu/ccldas/]
Friday, August 28, 2009
NASA Television will broadcast the briefing live from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Participants in the briefing will include officials from NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). NASA TV also will broadcast live HTV's launch and flight.
The HTV is scheduled to lift off on an H-IIB rocket from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at approximately noon Sept. 10 (about 2 a.m. Sept. 11 Japan time). NASA TV coverage of the launch will begin at 11:45 a.m. The HTV will augment the European Space Agency's Automated Transportation Vehicles and the Russian Progress ships that deliver supplies to the space station.
NASA conducted an HTV readiness review on Aug. 27. The HTV was formally approved for flight and rendezvous. The launch window will be open from Sept. 10-30. In the event of a launch postponement after the H-IIB rocket is fueled, a 72-hour turnaround will be required before the next launch attempt.
As the 16.5-ton cargo craft makes its week-long journey to the space station, flight controllers in Tsukuba, Japan, and at Mission Control in Houston will conduct a number of tests of HTV's rendezvous and navigation systems.
NASA TV coverage of the cargo craft's arrival at the station will begin at 2 p.m. Sept. 17. As the HTV moves within about 40 feet of the orbiting laboratory, space station crew members will capture the craft using the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. The crew then will attach the HTV to an Earth-facing docking port on the station's Harmony connecting module. The robotic maneuvers are set to begin at about 2:50 p.m. Sept. 17.
The HTV will remain attached to the station for about six weeks while supplies are transferred. In addition to interior supplies and equipment, two new experiments carried on the exterior of the HTV will be moved to the Japanese Kibo module's external experiment porch using a combination of maneuvers with the station's Canadarm2 and Kibo's robotic arm.
Longueuil — A fellow astronaut stole her maple cookies, and Julie Payette borrowed the only sweater of Canadian crew mate Bob Thirsk while working last month aboard the chilly space shuttle, 350 kilometres above the Earth.
With behind-the-scenes tidbits and off-world snapshots from her history-making, task-packed 16-day mission to space July 15 to 31, Payette commanded everyone’s attention Friday at the Canadian Space Agency’s headquarters on the South Shore.
It was Payette’s first time back at the mothership of Canada’s space program since the mission, and about 300 CSA employees cheered her as they lined the agency’s modest yet soaring atrium.
“Bravo,” CSA head of operations Benoît Marcotte told Payette. “What a superbly successful mission.”
Payette said she was grateful for the team’s efforts. In space, she took a group photo of the Longueuil workers against a porthole with the Earth seen below.
Payette, 45, served as the flight engineer on the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour, which flew to the International Space Station.
The crew completed the construction of the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module, also known as the space porch, and installed scientific experiments on it.
Payette didn’t do any of the five spacewalks during the mission, but she played a crucial role at the controls of three robotic arms that grappled equipment stowed in shuttle’s payload bay and then handed it off to another robot arm that then placed it in position with spacewalking astronauts assisting.
Asked if she had any close calls during the robotic operations, Payette said yes.
“I can assure you there usually are when you are handing off pieces of equipment that weigh 600 or 700 pounds and you are bringing them within centimetres of a billion-dollar space station.”
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The test has not been rescheduled.
Alliant Techsystems Inc. called off the rocket burn with just 20 seconds left on the countdown clock. Operators cited hydraulic failure.
The Salt Lake Tribune
Promontory - Standing near the 12-foot-diameter nozzle of a giant booster motor, NASA's Alex Priskos conceded he was feeling a few butterflies as he waited for the motor to be test-fired early Thursday afternoon.
Utah's Alliant Techsystems, which is developing the motor for the first stage of NASA's Ares 1 rocket, is scheduled to test fire its first developmental motor at 1 p.m.
"I'm always excited and always feel a few butterflies when a motor is tested," Priskos said. "But this motor is going to work well. We've learned a lot using similar motors to launch the space shuttle."
Although strikingly similar to the four-segment booster motors that for years have been used to propel the space shuttle into orbit, the new booster was built with an additional segment to provide more thrust -- and to allow more weight to be lifted into orbit.
According to NASA's Web site, "the Ares I first stage is a single, five-segment reusable solid-rocket booster derived from the Space Shuttle Program's reusable solid-rocket motor, which burns a specially formulated and shaped solid propellant."
Priskos said the Ares 1 rocket will be much safer for astronauts than the space shuttle it will replace. The Ares 1 is scheduled for its maiden flight in 2015.
Former astronaut Jeff Ashby, who now serves as ATK's vice president of business development, said one of the segments of the test motor was flown on the space shuttle the last time he went into orbit.
"It dropped into the ocean and was recovered," he said. "I get a kick out of thinking about that."
Delayed previously, the first Soyuz to be launched outside Russia, and Russian's first at the equator (affording more launch windows and heavier payloads) will have to wait until at least April 2010.
AFP Moscow has also reported Roscosmos chief Vitaly Dovydov as saying Tuesday that Russia would more than double the number of civilian satellites in orbit by 2015. He said there were currently 50 such satellites in orbit.
"That figure should more than double before 2015," Davydov said.
SETI Institute lectures now on YouTube
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Upon starting an early morning communications pass on Aug. 22, 2009, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission operations team discovered the spacecraft had experienced an anomaly.
According to spacecraft data, the LCROSS Inertial Reference Unit (IRU) experienced a fault. The IRU is a sensor used by the spacecraft's attitude control system (ACS) to measure the orientation of the spacecraft. The anomaly caused the spacecraft ACS to switch to the Star Tracker Assembly for spacecraft rate information and caused the spacecraft's thruster to fire excessively, consuming a substantial amount of fuel. Initial estimates indicate that the spacecraft still contains sufficient fuel to complete the full mission.
LCROSS mission operations declared a 'spacecraft emergency' and were allocated additional communications time on the Deep Space Network. The team conducted procedures to mitigate the problem and were able to restart the IRU and reduce fuel consumption to a nominal level. Automatic operations procedures also were implemented to minimize the possibility of another IRU anomaly from occurring while the spacecraft is out of contact with the ground. Since the re-start, IRU has not experienced any additional problems.
The team continues to actively assess and mitigate the situation and is in contact with the manufacturers of the IRU and star tracker to investigate the root cause of the problems. Mission managers remain optimistic the LCROSS mission can reach its successful conclusion with projected impact at the lunar south pole currently set for 4:30 a.m. PDT on Oct. 9, 2009.
LCROSS is a low-cost, highly risk-tolerant, fast-tracked mission of opportunity that was co-manifest with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Both spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 18, 2009. The main LCROSS mission objective is to confirm the presence of water ice in a permanently shadowed region near a lunar pole.
Undergraduate and graduate student teams enrolled in a U.S. college or university are eligible to enter the inaugural Lunabotics Mining Competition.
Design teams must include:
- One faculty or industry advisor with a college or university affiliation
- Two or more undergraduate or graduate students
Higher Education Project
in partnership with the
National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program
is proud to announce the inaugural
Lunabotics Mining Competition
May 25-28, 2010
Astronaut Hall of Fame
Kennedy Space Center, Florida
LROC Operations Journal
Aboard LRO are two narrow-angle cameras (NACs). Both of the NAC cameras are fixed to the spacecraft, so they can't be moved independently. The only way for LROC to get a geometric stereo pair is to first collect an image looking straight down, and then on the next orbit, have the spacecraft tilt slightly so that the cameras point toward the same location imaged on the previous orbit. This gives us a geometric stereo pair, which consists of one image looking straight down and the other image looking from an angle. The diagram below demonstrates this technique. The off-nadir rolls interfere with the data collection of the other instruments, so LRO’s opportunities to do rolls like this are limited to only a handful of rolls per week, and the number of geometric stereo images collected by LROC will be limited.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
"The operations team for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission has discovered the spacecraft experienced an anomaly, causing it to use up a substantial amount of its fuel. According to spacecraft data, the LCROSS Internal Reference Unit (IRU) experienced a fault. The IRU is a sensor used by the spacecraft's attitude control system (ACS) to determine the orientation and trajectory of the spacecraft. The anomaly caused the spacecraft ACS to switch to the Star Tracker Assembly for spacecraft positional information and caused the spacecraft's thruster to fire excessively, consuming a substantial amount of fuel. Initial estimates, however, indicate that the spacecraft still contains sufficient fuel to complete the full mission."
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera News System
Huntsville Times Aerospace Writer
The American space program has no set goals, faces changing priorities and has axed multi-billion dollar projects every few years.
A few examples: NASA spent $4 billion on an advanced solid rocket motor, but killed the program in 1994. The X-33 space plane concept cost $2 billion and disappeared from the drawing board in 2001. The Aerospike engine cost $1 billion but was also spiked in 2001. The RS-84 engine development project sputtered out in 2004 after $100 million was spent. Plans for the Orbital Space Plane, a shuttle replacement, were permanently docked in 2004 after spending $2 billion.
This drift wastes money and time - resources that may be in short supply for NASA in the future, experts say. Think of it as a multi-billion dollar circle of canceled dreams due to a lack of advanced technology, a retired NASA engineer told The Times last week.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Wall Street Journal
In America's latest space race, a new breed of scrappy entrepreneurs could be facing off against some of the government's largest, long-established aerospace contractors.
The Obama administration is leaning toward outsourcing major components of its space program, such as ferrying cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. The scale and nature of sending this type of work to private contractors, unheard of in the history of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, could help the administration cope with an increasingly dire budget situation and fill crucial gaps in its program.
On-board will be a demonstration flight of JAXA's HTV, it's first, highly anticipated automated orbital supply vehicle. JAXA has set up an English language website to follow the mission.
The upcoming report of the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee will follow closely the options for NASA programs already discussed publicly, and will not march off in any new directions.
The panel is bound by federal open meeting law, and it already has discussed what will be in its report in a series of public meetings (Aerospace DAILY, Aug. 3, 6, 13).
Even so, the panel's report will add detail to its public discussion. NASA staffers on temporary assignment to the panel are hammering out a final report for submission to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, working under an Aug. 31 deadline.
The report will organize the various scenarios already discussed into four or five top-level options - ranging from the current lunar return program to a straight shot at Mars - with a few more previously discussed sub-options based on funding and launch vehicles. Estimates on its final length range from 100 to 200 pages.
Panel Chairman Norm Augustine is scheduled to testify on the group's findings in back-to-back House and Senate hearings Sept. 15-16, but the meat of the text already was briefed to White House science and budget officials on Aug. 14.
Ouyang: Though China's moon exploration project began much later than other countries, it is at the cutting-edge in several aspects and is unique in many ways without excessive expenditures of money.
The Chang'e 1 has successfully achieved four scientific targets. The first was to formulate a two-dimensional as well as a three-dimensional map of the entire moon. We have now formulated a two-dimensional map encompassing the surface of the entire moon without any omissions. It is a high-quality map and is available to anyone in the world.
The Chang'e 1 scanned the moon's surface with three laser beams, measuring the height or altitude of more than 9 million points on the moon. Based on our data, a stereoscopic map will be accomplished before the end of this year.
The second target is to explore the composition of the moon's surface and minerals it contains. Using instruments of remote sensing, the Chang'e 1 has obtained data of the allocation of chemical elements, as well as types of minerals and stones on the surface. We are currently processing the data and working to draw a geological map of the moon.
The third mission is to explore the soil layer on the moon, a pioneering work that has not been done by any other country. The Chang'e 1, using microwave technology, measured the depth of the soil layer across the moon.
One focus of the soil examination is to detect how much helium-3, a crucial element for nuclear fusion, is on the moon. Since the fossil energy on Earth might be exhausted in a century or less, we have to find an alternative energy source. Nuclear fusion would be an important option. There is an abundance of helium-3, perhaps millions of tons on the moon, which could be used to generate energy once the technology matures. The moon might fundamentally change the pattern of energy generation for humans.
Last but not least, the Chang'e 1 was commissioned to probe and record the environment on the moon, such as its electromagnetic features and solar wind, which are crucial for future landings.
Within these four aspects, an enormous amount of data has been collected. Before Chang'e 1, Chinese scientists had to depend on data from foreign countries. Now we have original data. In line with the international convention, Chinese scientists will study the data collected by Chang'e 1 for a year and then release the data to the world.
The Chang'e 1 is the first step in China's moon exploration project. The second step would be landing on the moon, i.e. sending a lunar lander and a lunar rover onto the moon's surface. The third step would be not only landing but also returning part of the landing apparatus with collected samples back to Earth. Only after all these steps are successfully accomplished, will it be possible to carry out a manned moon landing.
Ma Chao: When will Chinese astronauts be able to land on the moon?
Ouyang: This is what many are very eager to know. There are many speculations on when China can achieve this feat. The India media have claimed that China will be able to land its astronauts on the moon in 2024. Michael Griffin, former administrator of NASA, said China will be able to achieve a manned moon landing in 2020. Chinese scientists have many dates, too, such as 2020, 2025 or 2030. However, the State has not announced any specific schedule for the manned moon landing.
Ma Chao: Is there then a schedule for landing the lunar rover?
Ouyang: According to the State's plan, China's lunar rover will be carried by the Chang'e 3 spacecraft to the moon before the end of 2013.
Ma Chao: You have mentioned the significance of moon exploration in relation to future energy supplies for mankind. In addition to this point, what can the exploration contribute to the economic development of China, and how will it affect the lives of ordinary people?
Ouyang: The project will definitely advance our economy. For instance, the US' Project Apollo - which gathered around 400,000 people, about 20,000 firms and more than 200 universities - cost $25.6 billion. But it guided almost all the cutting-edge technologies in the 1960s and 70s, and has created an economic value amounting to 17 times the cost.
Since China's exploration project has just been a few years old, it is still too early to measure the costs and benefits. But it has already helped many Chinese firms improve their product quality. Because the environment on the moon is extremely harsh and volatile, we have set strict criteria for our component suppliers. To meet the criteria, the suppliers had to spend a great deal of effort in research and development (R&D) and consequently improve the quality of their products as well as lower costs.
Another great benefit of the Chang'e 1 is the dissemination of knowledge about the moon and space. It spurs public interest in space exploration, and is a great opportunity to raise the scientific literacy among people.
Ma Chao: Many countries, such as the US, Russia, India, and Japan, are planning to send astronauts to the moon, too. In comparison, where is the position of China in terms of technology?
Ouyang: That is a tricky question, since it is impossible to evaluate exactly how big the gaps are, or to make an exact ranking. To say how many years a country is ahead or behind other countries is not scientific. What we know is that the US and Russia, with their advanced technology and rich experience, are definitely at the first tier. China, India and Japan all have distinguished features and special technological edges.
Actually it is not wise to pay too much attention to who is superior to whom. I hope all countries could succeed in moon exploration and contribute to the understanding of the moon.
Ma Chao: You have created a concept called "harmonious earth-moon relations." Could you please specify this concept?
Ouyang: The moon has been a loyal guard of Earth for billions of years. It has inspired the philosophy, thoughts and aesthetics of mankind for thousands of years. With progress in moon exploration, the moon will become a great treasure to sustain the development of mankind. It will be an ideal transshipment station if people want to explore or even migrate to another planet. In the future, Earth and the moon can develop harmoniously together.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
It's hard to believe that 21st century America cannot replicate 40-year-old technology. A more likely explanation is that our national leaders are more interested in funding domestic initiatives rather than space exploration.
This policy shift would mark a betrayal of the pioneering spirit that has shaped American history since the first European settlers landed on the eastern seaboard more than four centuries ago.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Sinuous rille winding its way across a much larger rille in the heart of the Aristarchus Plateau, From Full Image [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The New American
An article at Wired.com (“Rocket Booster: Let Private Sector help NASA”) keeps a free-market focus on the future of American space exploration: “After leading the way in the human exploration of space for nearly 50 years, the future of U.S. manned space flight is in question. The space shuttle makes its last flight next year. After that, NASA must rely on the Russians to put astronauts in space. Unless the country looks to the private sector.”
With delays in the manned space program that have pushed the development of NASA’s replacement for the shuttle to 2015, the future of the space agency is at a crossroads. One possible direction that could be chosen leads toward the private sector: “So with manned space flight going on hiatus next year and some saying NASA needs a big infusion of cash to continue manned space flight, another option is emerging: NASA could use commercial ventures like SpaceX to deliver cargo and people to the space station.”
The Wall Street Journal
For the first time since the advent of manned space exploration, the U.S. appears ready to outsource to private companies everything from transporting astronauts to ferrying cargo into orbit.
Proposals gaining momentum in Washington call for contractors to build and run competing systems under commercial contracts, according to federal officials, aerospace-industry officials and others familiar with the discussions.
While the Obama administration is still mulling options and hasn't made any final decisions, such a move would represent a major policy shift away from decades of government-run rocket and astronaut-transportation programs such as the current space-shuttle fleet. The White House press office didn't have any immediate comment.
In the face of severe federal budget constraints and a burgeoning commercial-space industry eager to play a larger role in exploring the solar system and perhaps beyond, these people said, a consensus for the new approach seems to be building inside the White House as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Under this scenario, a new breed of contractors would take over many of NASA's current responsibilities, freeing the agency to pursue longer-term, more ambitious goals such as new rocket-propulsion technology and manned missions to Mars.
Brent Gerry LRO News System
"The bright rays of the crater and lack of superimposed impacts is evidence that Necho is a young, fresh crater. Similar to other young impact craters the floor is flooded with massive amounts impact melt. Impact melt is instant lava, lunar rock melted in an instant as the tremendous energy of impact is released.The melt pools in the bottom of the crater,perches on terraces and flows down the flanks. Often times distinct flows can be found that look just like lava flows found on Earth. This portion of the NAC frame (above) shows cracks, 10 to 15 m wide, within the impact melt on the crater floor which formed as the melt cooled and the crater floor was readjusting. Scroll around in the whole image and see how many impact melt features you can find.
Friday, August 21, 2009
The commercial space industry has seen some interesting developments over the past weeks. Statements last week by members of President Obama’s human spaceflight review committee (The Augustine Commission) suggest that commercial providers may be taking a significant role in how NASA accesses low Earth orbit and how missions beyond low Earth orbit use orbiting “gas stations”. At the same time, two commercial space companies, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, have received significant investments from well known funds (more on that below), suggesting that capital markets see a fundable new industry developing.
Some of these developments are reminiscent of the Internet industry in the early 90s. Prior to 1993, the National Science Foundation ran the Internet as an exclusive tool for university and government research (commercial speech was completely banned from the Internet prior to 1991). The NSF then decided to turn over the operation of the Internet to the private sector. Just two years later, Netscape’s IPO set records for first day gains. Despite the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the Internet industry has been one of the largest economic drivers of the last 15 years.
The suggestions coming from the Augustine Commission are somewhat reminiscent of NSF’s decision. By relinquishing its domination of low Earth orbit and partnering with commercial providers for beyond low Earth orbit infrastructure, NASA can better accomplish its exploration goals and foster a whole new industry. While we won’t see a space startup in every garage the way we did with Internet startups, the returns for using and developing space resources can be very interesting.
"A month has already passed since LROC acquired its first images of the Apollo landing sites. In this time the Moon completed one rotation beneath LRO’s orbit, thus providing another set of overflights. Because LRO is not in synch with the lunar day we see the same ground with different lighting – this time the Sun is 24 degrees higher above the horizon providing a clearer view with fewer shadows. Albedo contrasts are greater, and more clearly show soil disturbances from landing, astronaut surface operations, and blast off."
"Apollo 14 Astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell explored the Fra Mauro highlands, which are composed of ejecta from the massive Imbrium impact..."
"During the second EVA, the astronauts performed what is known as a “radial traverse” across the ejecta field and up to the rim of Cone crater. When impact craters form, rocks excavated from the deepest parts of the crater fall near the rim; surface rocks end up away from the crater. Thus, as explorers move up a crater's ejecta blanket, they can sample a complete stratigraphic section of geologic materials providing priceless insights about the composition and nature of the lunar subsurface. Think of an impact crater as a natural roadcut exposing rocks from depth. In this LROC image, you can follow nearly the whole path walked by the two astronauts. The term “radial traverse” does not quite do the crew of Apollo 14 justice. Their journey sounds like a stroll in the park, however the reality is quite the contrary. The hike up Cone crater was quite challenging. For the first time, astronauts traveled out of the sight of their lunar module while hiking uphill over 1400 meters with only a poor map, dragging the tool cart (MET), and wearing their bulky spacesuits. It was an amazing feat that the two astronauts made it to the top of Cone ridge and acquired all their samples. They ended up about 30 meters shy of peering into Cone crater itself, surely a disappointment at the time, but absolutely no reflection on the success of the traverse and the scientific results gleaned after the mission."
Google Lunar X-Prize
As already noted, storing power for the 14 days of darkness each lunar month is a serious problem. It will NOT be dark, for the initial “nearside” camps, because Earthshine is quite bright! The “half Earth” conditions near sunset and sunrise will be about 10 times as bright as a “Full Moon”, with no clouds to reduce the light. “Full Earth” at the middle of the lunar night will be at least 30 times as bright as a conventional “Full Moon” in Earth's clear sky. You won't need lights outside, but you will certainly need them in the habitat!
Since the brightness mentioned is more than 1000 times dimmer than direct sunlight, solar power production is effectively zero. Power will have to be stored. Since all such processes have inefficiencies, it will be good to double my initial Solar Power plan, using 6 kg of thin cells, rather than only 3kg. More than 10KW peak power will be produced, with an ample 3kw Day/Night average. This also provides insurance against solar cell damage and degradation. Battery power storage of course springs to mind, but it is virtually useless, except for short time emergency use! The sun will be down 336 hours each cycle. Very good Lithium Ion cells can hold about 170 Watt Hours per kg mass. But this barely provides ½ watt average power output, per Kilogram, for the 14 days of darkness. A modest 500 Watt average power would require One Ton of lithium cells, even if the full capacity could be tapped each cycle for one hundred cycles (8 year desired life). A much better power storage system is needed.
An interesting possibility would be to store heat in a buried volume of lunar rock. The lunar “crust” has modest thermal conductivity (as shown by the lack of thermal cycling 80 cm below the surface). Heat transfer is even lower under loose regolith fill. The heat could be recaptured when the sun is down with a variety of heat engines. But that will wait for later.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
MEDIA ADVISORY: M09-160
HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT REVIEW COMMITTEE CANCELS MEETING
WASHINGTON -- The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee determined the Aug. 24 contingency meeting announced in the Federal Register is not required. The committee has no plans for any additional public meetings.
For committee information, materials, presentations and biographies, visit:
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After just seven more missions to the International Space Station (ISS), the Space Shuttle will retire without a replacement. Ex-Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, chair of the United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee review, has published his committee’s findings, and NASA’s budgetary future looks bleak. Augustine told PBS “the program really isn’t executable with the money we have.” Augustine has given the “ a dilemma” of accepting the necessary increase in spending or continuing on a path that leads to severely constrained and delayed space exploration.
To find alternatives, NASA has committed $500 million dollars in stimulus funds to help two private firms, Space Exploration Technologies (better known as SpaceX) and Orbital Sciences Corp (NYSE: ORB), deliver cargo to the station, but will only commit $50 million dollars for commercial human transport to the ISS. For perspective, “Fifty million is what it costs for one seat on the (Russian) Soyuz,” according to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.
But Lockheed Martin warns that commercial transit to the ISS would be costly and unsafe. John Stevens, director of business development for human spaceflight at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said “we’re having a hard time affording the Orion program, which is designed to take humans to the station and the Moon, and now they’re talking about starting a commercial program to take humans [to the ISS]…If we can’t afford one program, how can we afford two?”
Bottom line: unless NASA’s budget gets some significant breathing room, the US may lose its edge in manned space exploration.
In results announced today, a huge physics experiment built to detect gravitational waves has yet to find any.
Rather than be disappointed by the null findings, physicists say the results were expected, and in fact help them narrow down possibilities for what the universe was like just after it was born.
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Scientific Collaboration (LIGO) is a set of instruments in Louisiana and Washington built to search for evidence of gravitational waves, which are theoretical ripples in space-time thought to be caused by the acceleration of mass. No one has yet directly detected these waves, though they are predicted by Einstein's theory of General Relativity, and are widely thought to permeate our universe.
In theory, every time mass accelerates - even when you rise up out of your chair - the curvature of space-time changes, and ripples are produced. However, the gravitational waves produced by one person are so small as to be negligible. The waves produced by large masses, though, such as the collision of two black holes or a large supernova explosion, could be large enough to be detected.
LIGO has only been running for a few years - the new results are based on measurements taken between 2005 to 2007 - and it is not yet at its highest level of sensitivity. The fact that this first period of observations did not detect gravitational waves allows researchers to rule out the possibility of waves above a certain amplitude threshold. Simply put, if there were any waves big enough for LIGO to have detected them, it would have. Since it didn't, they aren't likely to exist.
GOHEUNG, South Jeolla Province - Errors in the software related to measuring pressure have led to the halt of the launch of Korea's first space rocket, Naro, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said yesterday.
The automatic sequence, a system that checks valves and sensors in the rocket, detected a drop in pressure in a helium high-pressure tank and halted the liftoff with 7 minutes and 56 seconds remaining in the countdown on Wednesday. The tank operates various valves in the rocket.
The software system erroneously recognized the pressure decrease and there was no problem with the hardware, officials said. It is expected to take one to three days to analyze and rectify the errors.
"The software saw what could not be seen as an error, as an error. It was a problem concerning the software recognition," said Lee Ju-jin, head of the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute.
Vice Science Minister Kim Jung-hyun said that the ministry will do its utmost to launch the rocket within the launch window which extends through to next Wednesday.
"We need time to fix and check the software. A new launch date will be set after all technical issues are addressed," Kim said during a press briefing.
"After Aug. 26, we need to notify the international organizations again of (a new launch date), and then it will take some time. We will try our best to launch the rocket within the launch window."
The two-stage rocket, which is to carry a 100-kilogram experimental satellite into a low earth orbit, was moved yesterday from the launch pad to the assembly complex so workers would address the software issues, officials said.
A New State of Matter
In this week’s Nature Physics an international team, led by Oxford University scientists, report that a short pulse from the FLASH laser ‘knocked out’ a core electron from every aluminium atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure. This turned the aluminium nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation.
'What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,’ said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, one of the authors of the paper. ‘Transparent aluminium is just the start.
Both spacecraft will be in close proximity, approximately 200 km above the lunar surface, and both are equipped with radar instruments. The two instruments will look at the same location from different angles. Chandrayaan's radar will transmit a signal to be reflected off the interior of Erlanger crater and then received by LRO.
Scientists will then compare the signal that bounces straight back to Chandrayaan with the signal from a slightly different angle received by LRO and assemble unique information, particularly about any water ice that may be present inside Erlanger.
Both spacecraft are equipped with a NASA Miniature Radio Frequency (RF) instrument that functions as a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), known as Mini-SAR on Chandrayaan-1 and Mini-RF on LRO.
On August 5 and 6, the Optimizing Science for Exploration Working Group (OSEWG) held a workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston and discussed ways robots and humans could cooperate in future lunar missions.
Experts from the science, exploration, and robotics communities walked through various lunar mission scenarios and offered insights into how each group could support the overall mission objectives while reducing budgets and risk.
The all-star lineup of presenters included Chip Shearer (LEAG), Jim Head (Brown University), Chris Culbert (NASA-JSC), Rob Ambrose (NASA-JSC), Brian Wilcox (NASA-JPL), and David Wettergreen (Carnegie Mellon University). Private industry interests and abilities were represented by one presenter (Chel Stromgren - SAIC) and several conference attendees from aerospace companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Read the review HERE.
New York Times
South Korea canceled the first satellite launching from its own territory on Wednesday only seven minutes before the planned liftoff, attributing the decision to a technical problem.
The terminated mission seemed to avert, for the moment, a new flare-up of tensions with North Korea, which has been condemned internationally for launching its own rockets and has said the United Nations should apply the same punitive standards to the South. South Korea’s aerospace officials told reporters at the Naro Space Center that they had canceled the launching because of a glitch in the in the automatic launching sequence, perhaps as a result of a faulty high-pressure tank. It was unclear why the problem was discovered with only a few minutes before the final countdown.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Over the next year, the LRO, NASA's diligent robotic scout, will collect more information about the moon's surface and environment than any previous mission. It takes a powerful system to send all of this information more than 238,800 miles back to Earth.
A 13-inch-long tube, called a Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier, is making it possible for scientists to receive massive amounts of images and data from the orbiter at an unusually fast rate. It is the first high data rate K-band transmitter to fly on a NASA spacecraft.
With this new amplifier, LRO can transmit 461 gigabytes of data per day. That's more information than you can find in a four-story library. And it transmits this information at a rate of up to 100 megabytes per second. By comparison, typical high-speed internet service provides about 1 to 3 megabytes per second.
L-3 Communications Electron Technologies built the amplifier under the supervision of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The device uses electrodes in a vacuum tube to amplify microwave signals to high power. It's ideal for sending large amounts of data over a long distance because it provides more power and more efficiency than its alternative, the transistor amplifier.
As the orbiter collects information about the moon's geography, climate and environment, the communication system transmits this information to a receiver at a Ka band antenna network at White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. Scientists are using the data to compile high-resolution, 3D maps of the lunar surface.