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+ 0 - 0 | § Lost On The Moon

With LRO, NASA will look for "lost" spacecraft on the moon.

+ 0 - 0 | § 'Once one planet comes down with life, they all get it.'

'Did Earth seed life elsewhere in the Solar System? Impacts on our planet could have sprayed life into space.'

+ 0 - 0 | § Pushing the Internet Into Space

From Wired

+ 0 - 0 | § Record Set for Hottest Temperature on Earth: 3.6 Billion Degrees in Lab

Best part: "They don't know how they did it."

+ 0 - 0 | § Columbia experiment seen as supporting panspermia


+ 0 - 0 | § Round-the-moon rescue?

Satellite stranded by failed booster could be set right by going around the moon.


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31 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Giving It All They've Got

Falcon 1The Falcon 1 rocket that failed last week? If it had been the second flight instead of the first, apparently, Scotty would have been buried at sea instead of in space.

I'd failed to make the connection, but the contract to send the ashes of James Doohan and Mercury 7 astronaut Gordo Cooper into orbit was for the second flight of the Falcon (Turns out this was reported at the time, I just missed it).

The SpaceX team is hoping to fly the second Falcon 1 within six months.

+ 0 - 0 | § NASA Kids' Club

Button reading Play NowI first got involved in the NASA Kids' Club over three years ago. At the time, Kids Club was a project of the Marshall Science Directorate, and it was being transitioned over to Education. I ran the Kids site singlehandedly for months as they worked to figure out exactly what that transition would look like. At the time, the target date for having the new version up and running was September.

As it turned out, the transition ended up being more complicated than anticipated. After studies of what to save and what to ditch from the old site, it was decided to completely start from scratch. My Kids' Club duties became watching the gradual death of the site.

Work began on the new site, but it was clear that it was going to take longer than initially anticipated. Eventually, the deadline became September again, but this time '04 instead of '03. The deadline would remain September, but the four would turn into a five. As completion of the work neared, it was decided to hold off until a major announcement of its launch could be made.

My involvement in the new Kids Club has been semi-limited. I've participated in several ways, from editing to content meetings to providing a very little bit of artwork; but I don't really feel much ownership for any of it besides this maze I drew for the non-Flash version (meaning that next to no one will see it).

That said, while the official announcement is still pending, after years of a lot of work by a lot of people, the NASA Kids Club is now online.

29 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § There's A Giant Black Spot On The Sun Today

EclipseFrom a story about today's eclipse:
Superstition accompanied this eclipse's path, as it has for generations.

One Indian paper advised pregnant women not to go outside during the eclipse to avoid having a blind baby or one with a cleft lip. Food cooked before the eclipse should be thrown out afterward because it will be impure and those who are holding a knife or ax during the eclipse will cut themselves, the Hindustan Times added.

In Turkey's earthquake-prone Tokat province, residents set up tents outside despite assurances from scientists that there was no evidence of any link between eclipses and tremors.

+ 0 - 0 | § Expedition 13

Expedition 13Per NASA:
Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams launch today at 9:30 p.m. EST aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Joining them for several days before returning home with Expedition 12 is Brazil’s first astronaut Marcos Pontes. Live coverage of the launch on NASA TV begins at 8:45 p.m.

28 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § The Answer

DawnI'm not going to say flat-out that I'm too dumb to understand this article; the problem could just be my unwillingness right now to do anything more than skim it. On the flip-side, I really may just be too dumb.

That said, I thought I'd share it for those that might appreciate the following bit:
This unexpected connection with physics has given us a glimpse of the mathematics that might, ultimately, reveal the secret of these enigmatic numbers. At first the link seemed rather tenuous. But the important role played by the number 42 has recently persuaded even the deepest skeptics that the subatomic world might hold the key to one of the greatest unsolved problems in mathematics.

+ 0 - 0 | § A New Day For Dawn

DawnPer Spaceflight Now:
Less than a month after falling victim to budget and technical concerns, the Dawn asteroid explorer was brought back from the grave Monday by a decision to restore funding to the mission and launch the probe by next summer.

NASA announced the reinstatement, a complete reversal of the decision three weeks ago to kill the mission, after an appeal from project officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The objections prompted yet another review of Dawn, which had undergone a series of investigations since October that assessed the state of the mission after various problems and cost overruns came to light.

27 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Failed Falcon

Falcon 1Friday's launch of the first Falcon 1 rocket? Eh, not so much.

After months of delays, the rocket did, indeed, launch. Turns out a bit more delaying wouldn't have been a bad thing.

A few seconds shy of half a minute into flight, a fuel leak caused a fire around the top of the main engine, causing the engine to cut off prematurely. The rocket tumbled into the ocean about 41 seconds after lift-off.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said the company will not give up after Friday's failure. (In fact, he hopes to fly again within six months.) Still, it's a rather inauspicious beginning to the new era of spaceflight. SpaceX has announced a lot of plans for the future, from an orbital crew vehicle to a much more powerful launch booster. But first they gotta get something off the ground.

24 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Take ... Uh... Whatever

Falcon 1UPDATE: Make that today, 3 p.m. CST
SpaceX's Falcon 1 could be an important milestone in ushering in a new era in commercial spaceflight, if it ever gets off the ground. Months after the first attempt, they're ready to try it again. The fourth launch attempt is scheduled for 3 p.m. CST today.

22 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § LBJ And The Helium-Filled Astronaut

CarpenterTo be honest, I thought the idea of President Johnson talking to a helium-filled Scott Carpenter would be kind of a cheap laugh, funny more for the concept than the reality of it, but's it was actually hard listening to it not to laught out loud. Good stuff.

21 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Back Of The Sun

sunspotsRight now, the sun is quiet.

We're at solar minimum this year, the point in the sun's 11-year cycle when activity there is at its lowest. But, even though Solar Max is still five years away, scientists are already looking ahead. All indications are that the 2011 Solar Max will be the worst in over 50 years. And, of course, even if the activity level is lower than it was then, the impact will be far, far greater -- back then there was a grand total of one satellite in orbit, no cell phones, a much smaller power grid, no humans in space, etc. Even if there are fewer flares and CMEs, there's a lot more for them to disrupt.

There's another difference between now and then, though. In 1957, there was exactly zero warning when a solar storm disruption was coming. Now, we have good data on what's going on on the face of the sun, and have a little bit of advance notice when something's coming. And, for Solar Max 2011, we'll have even more notice, thanks to a new technique that allows scientists to know what's going on on the far side of the sun, giving warning of sunspots before they rotate around toward Earth.

By 1959, solar activity was so great that the Aurora Borealis could be seen in Houston. While there will inevitably be some amount of disruption in 2011, hopefully, with enough information, the thing most people will remember about that Solar Max will be the light show.

20 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § 'Drive Or Die' Update

SpiritPer The Pasadena Star News:
A wheel on one of the twin rovers exploring Mars has stopped working, jeopardizing the rover's ability to continue gathering data during the martian winter, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Friday.

The right front wheel of the rover Spirit broke down last week, on the 779th day of the Mars mission, which was only supposed to last 90 days, according to JPL.

Scientists said the wheel's failure will make it harder for the solar-powered robot to get to a slope dubbed McCool Hill, which is necessary for it to catch enough sunshine to keep operating through the coming martian winter.

+ 0 - 0 | § Life After Death

StardustEarlier this year, the Stardust spacecraft completed its mission. After seven years in space, it returned to Earth, dropping off a canister containing samples of comet material and interstellar dust. The canister landed safely on Earth and is being studied, and Stardust, its mission completed, headed off into the void of space for retirement.

Now, though, there is talk of calling upon the services of Stardust once more. Rather than a spacebound decommissioning, there is talk of diverting the spacecraft's course and sending it instead to visit comet Tempel 1, the target of last year's Deep Impact mission.

When the Deep Impact spacecraft collided with Tempel 1, it unleashed an eruption of materials which vented into space during the entire time the imager spacecraft was able to record the effects of the collision. The mission was a success in that it provided unexpected (by some) information about the compositions of comets, but, as a result, it did not produce one thing scientists wanted -- an image of the crater caused by the impact, which was obscured by the material venting into space.

The Stardust overtime mission could provide just that -- by revisiting the comet after the impact, scientists could get a clear picture of its effect.

The proposed mission is currently under review, but sounds like it could be rather cool. And that's what really matters, right?

+ 0 - 0 | § SSME RIP?

SSMEsIt appears that the last vestige of the space shuttle orbiter may be on the way out.

The clock is ticking, of course, for the space shuttle system as a whole -- the last flight is about four and a half years away. But while the STS will stop flying, elements of the system will continue to be used. The solid rocket boosters will be, in modified form, key parts of both the crew and heavy launch systems, while the external tank will serve as the core of the heavy booster. Of the orbiter, however, it appeared in initial information that only one component would survive -- the third part of the STS propulsion system, the space shuttle main engine.

Now, however, it appears that even the SSME may be on the way out. It's already been ditched from use in the crew launch vehicle in favor of the Saturn-era J-2 engine, and now there is discussing of abandoning it from us in the heavy launch system in favor of the RS-68 engine.

So it's entirely possible that, 10 years from, the J-2 engines currently seen only in museums will be flying again, while the SSMEs flying today will be seen only in museums.

Keywords: ares,constellation,nasa,saturn,space,space_shuttle

17 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § 'Drive Or Die'

SpiritPer NASA:
Regarding Spirit’s future agenda of exploration within Gusev crater, "we are now in a ‘drive or die’ situation," Squyres said.
NASA’s Spirit Mars rover has wrapped up exploration of a baffling feature called "Home Plate" but now faces the onset of martian winter while dealing with dropping power levels and fighting a balky right front wheel.

"Our current focus is to drive like hell … and try to get [Spirit] to safe winter havens before the power situation gets really bad," said Steve Squyres, lead Mars Rover Exploration scientist at Cornell University.

14 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchUPDATED 3:19 p.m. Tues.
NASA announced today July 1 to 19, 2006, is the new launch planning window for Space Shuttle Discovery's mission (STS-121). The window gives the agency time to do additional engineering work and analysis to ensure a safe flight for Discovery and its crew.

Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale made the announcement during a news conference from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The decision to target July followed a two-day meeting on the external fuel tank's engine cutoff (ECO) sensors. The sensors indicate whether the tank still has fuel during liftoff. During testing, one of the four ECO sensors had a slightly different reading than is expected. Shuttle officials have decided they will remove and replace all four liquid hydrogen sensors.

13 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Survivor Post-Mortem

Dan BarrycollectSPACE has a great interview with Dan Barry, the astronaut who was voted off of Survivor in last week's episode.

Keywords: collectspace,space,television

+ 0 - 0 | § MRO MOI Update

MROAfter a successful 27-minute main-engine burn on Friday, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is in a near-perfect elliptical orbit around the Red Planet. MRO will now spend time adjusting its orbit and then will go through a period of check-out and calibration of its science instruments before beginning a two-(Earth-)year science mission in November.

On a related note, Google today has launched Google Mars, which, obviously, is kinda like Google Earth or Google Moon, but with Mars. The site is being launched today in honor of the 151st anniversary of astronomer Percival Lowell's birth.

+ 0 - 0 | § Shadow Moon

moon during penumbral eclipseA partial penumbral eclipse of the moon will be visible in the eastern United States around moonrise tomorrow night.

10 March 2006

+ 1 - 0 | § MRO MOI

MROThe Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter begins its orbital insertion burn today at 3:24 p.m. CST. The burn will be completed at 3:51 p.m., while the orbiter is LOS on the far side of Mars, so it won't be known whether the orbital insertion was successful or not until the probe comes back around at 4:16 p.m.

The 27-minute burn is key to the mission -- it's the difference between successfully becoming a Mars orbiter and becoming just another piece of junk littering the Martian spacecraft graveyard. The event will be covered on TV and online via NASA TV.

09 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Otherworldly Water?

CassiniYeah, yeah, we've been through this before, but there are rumors that NASA may announce today that liquid water has been found somewhere other than Earth. The interesting bit is that it's not Mars this time, but Saturn's tiny moon Enceladus, which was also discovered last year to have an atmosphere. Because the moon is so small, it can't hold on to its atmosphere, but rather appears to be continuously generating it.

The water in question is reportedly in the form of sub-surface reservoirs that erupt into geysers. The full details are embargoed until the announcement, and there has been media reports describing it as "a huge announcement" about "possible life in our own solar system." If so, it's almost certainly only in the context of "where we've found water, we've found life," which has been true on Earth. I can't imagine that anybody would be willing to say that life has been confirmed on Enceladus -- I don't think the tools are there to make that sort of find.

Anyway, the announcement is scheduled for 1 p.m. today CST.

08 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Huh

According to ITAR-TASS, a new agreement between Roskosmos and NASA will, among other things, let U.S. astronauts command Soyuz spacecraft. The times they are a-changin'

+ 0 - 0 | § STS-121 Update

STS-121 mission patchTesting has begun on the external tank for the next space shuttle flight, which recently arrived at Kennedy Space Center. Initial tests have revealed a problem with one of the tank's engine cut-off sensors, which were involved in a delay of last year's STS-114 Return to Flight mission. It's not clear yet whether the recently discovered problem will require a fix before launch, in that it may be within nominal specs, but, if it does require action, it could push the launch back beyond the May 10 target date.

06 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § The Flying Car

Transition flying carPer Discovery Channel:
A small, lightweight airplane the size of an SUV could bring into reality those personal transports we've been waiting for.
The Transition's 27-foot wingspan can be collapsed, allowing the plane to be stored in most garages. It's designed to be 18.75 feet long and 6.75 feet high, and drivable on any road.

That gives the pilot the flexibility to land at any number of the 5,000 public-access airports around the country and finish the trip by highway.

+ 0 - 0 | § MRO Approaching

Mars plays a mean defense. The red warrior has overwhelmed nearly two-thirds of all international spacecraft that have sought its mysteries. For NASA's latest encounter with Earth's testy neighbor, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter team will be going into battle armored with discipline, training and experience.

After seven months of flight, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is preparing to attampt to enter orbit around the Red Planet on Friday. I'll be watching this one with particular interest, since this is the spacecraft that I almost got to watch launch back in August -- I was standing at the viewing area at Canaveral when the launch was scrubbed with only minutes left on the clock. (I did see it on television the next morning, for what that's worth.)

MRO is an incredibly complex spacecraft, which promises to send back as much detailed information about Mars as all previous orbiters combined. Here's hoping everything goes as planned on March 10.

+ 0 - 0 | § Blackstar

BlackstarWanna read something funky?

Aviation Week & Space Technology published an article yesterday presenting evidence that not only may the U.S. have worked on developing a secret military orbital spacecraft, but that the system may actually have been operational and flown in space.

The article proposes that the "Blackstar" was a system like a much-souped-up version of the X-15 or SpaceShipOne -- a small spacecraft launched in-air by a larger mothership.

+ 0 - 0 | § The Next Step

SpaceX capsuleEverybody talks about private orbital spaceflight, but nobody does anything about it.

Until now, that is. In the race to be the first to carry a paying passenger on a suborbital spaceflight, some of the contenders have talked about their plans to eventually build orbital vehicles. At this time, none of them even have suborbital capability. There's also been talk about private commercial spaceflight companies providing launch services for NASA. t/Space has some the closest to moving out of the talk phase, but that's about it.

Now, Paypal founder Elon Musk has announced that his SpaceX has been, for the past 18 months, using its own money to fund the secret development of an orbital spacecraft. The company is now asking NASA to help fund a demonstration of the vehicle, with an eye towards the "Dragon" being used to ferry crew and/or cargo to the International Space Station beginning in 2009.

The cynic in me will take the news much more serious when SpaceX finally, after a series of failed attempts, manages to get its Falcon I rocket off the ground. Still, it's exciting news just that more people are working seriously towards making the next step in spaceflight a reality.

+ 0 - 0 | § Creeping Toward The Moon

ShenzhouThe Chinese space juggernaut, which some in the space community have held up as a model of the sort of bold program the U.S. doesn't have and have said will embarass America by beating us back to the moon, has announced that the intrepid pace of one spaceflight every two years is just too much for them, and that Shenzhou VII won't launch until 2008, two and a half years after Shenzhou 6.

Which will faze those who have fallen under the spell of the Chinese space hype machine exactly none at all.

03 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § Chubby Rain

Kit in BowfingerWhen one looks back on the movies over the past decade that were not only entertaining, but also were centered around a strong, factual scientific basis, one should not, as tempting as it might be, forget about Bowfinger.

According to New Scientist, it's been reported that in 2001, 50 tonnes of alien life forms rained down from the clouds over India.

Perhaps this was just some new form of alien love.

+ 0 - 0 | § The Schedule Update

shuttle logoPer Spaceflight Now:
NASA and its international partners unveiled a new space station assembly sequence today, one that takes into account the looming 2010 end of the shuttle program by deferring science operations in favor of construction flights to ensure completion of the orbital outpost.

While not addressed by the assembly sequence, a proposed shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, if approved, would come after the launches of European and Japanese space station modules, sources say.

The new schedule shows the station capable of supporting a crew of six by the 14th flight in the assembly sequence. Two additional flights are listed as contingency missions.

02 March 2006

+ 0 - 0 | § The Schedule Update

shuttle logoDespite earlier reports that NASA was only looking at flying a maximum of two shuttle missions in 2006, shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said this week that if STS-121 flies successfully in May or July, that three shuttle missions could fly this year.

In related news, the modified external tank for STS-121 arrived at KSC yesterday.