Monday, October 31, 2011

Russian mission to Mars’s moon to last 3 years

Mar's moon

The space station which Russia intends to send to one of Mars’s moons, Phobos, will work there for a about year. Its main task is to take samples of Phobos’s soil, which will be later examined by Russian scientists.

It is also planned that the station will deliver the Chinese satellite “Inho-1” to Mars’s orbit.

In total, the mission will last 3 years.

These plans have been revealed by the head of the Lavochkin construction office Maxim Martynov.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

NASA considers 'fuel stops' in space

Nasa Fuel depot
NASA is looking to accelerate plans to send astronauts to distant destinations by considering a proposal to put filling stations in the sky.

The filling stations - NASA calls them propellant depots - would refuel a spacecraft in orbit before it headed out to the moon, an asteroid or eventually Mars. Currently, all of the fuel needed for a mission is carried up with the rocket. The weight of the fuel limits the size of the spacecraft.

Next month, engineers will meet at NASA headquarters in Washington to discuss how propellant depots could be used to reach farther into space and make possible more ambitious missions using the heavy-lift rocket that NASA is planning to build. The discussions grow out of a six-month NASA study of propellant depots, completed in July.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

NASA sets buffers for Apollo moon landing sites

NASA has begun drafting guidelines to protect the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 landing sites, listing them as off-limits, and including ground-travel buffers and no-fly zones to avoid spraying rocket exhaust or dust onto aging, but historic, equipment Robert Kelso, NASA’s director of lunar commercial services at Johnson Space Center in Houston, has taken a hard look at future revisits to the Apollo sites and how to protect U.S. government artifacts on the moon.

Kelso has carved out a set of guidelines intended to safeguard the historic and scientific value of more than three dozen "heritage sites" on the lunar surface.

The report, which was released on July 20, is titled "NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts."
A greater urgency for guidelines has been sparked by the Google Lunar X Prize’s offer of $20 million to any private team that lands a robotic rover on the moon’s surface. An additional $4 million has been offered for any team that snaps pictures of artifacts near or at the Apollo landing sites.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gaddafi's Gone -- All Hail the TNC!

Gaddafi's Gone
The Libyan people have paid a heavy price to bring about this day of euphoria since their uprising began in mid-February. Tens of thousands of Libyans are dead and wounded, or homeless. Most of Libya's cities abutting the Mediterranean between Tripoli and Benghazi have been destroyed. The country is awash in militias, self-anointed revolutionaries, and a population thirsting for justice and a better life in a free society. All tall orders for Libya's triumphant governing Transitional National Council (TNC).

Libya's celebration will be fleeting unless the TNC can transform this popular anti-Gaddafi force into a "pro-Libya" force which marshals the goodwill of all Libyans to prevent an Egyptian-like post Mubarak slide into dissension and instability. And it will be a major test of endurance for Libyans to find the patience to give the TNC's leaders the time they need to turn from war to find a durable path to peace.

I have carefully followed the deliberations of the TNC, and its leadership has done a commendable job allocating responsibilities and tasks to subcommittees composed of very capable individuals in anticipation of this day. What is set forth below is really less my own list of priorities than a summary of what the TNC's goals and objectives will be in the weeks and months to come.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Will China take over the moon?

China Moon
Is China on course to surpass the United States as the world's space superpower and stake a claim on the moon in the next 15 years? Billionaire space executive Robert Bigelow is deeply worried about that scenario — and he says Americans need a "kick in the ass" to respond to the challenge.

Bigelow delivered that kick today at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, N.M. — but the general consensus among experts on China policy is that it's a bit too early to start rattling the sabers.

The founder of the Budget Suites hotel chain and Bigelow Aerospace promised to "cause a stimulation" with his remarks at the ISPCS conference, and delivered on that promise by laying out an argument for China's growing space dominance. He said the trend could conceivably lead to a lunar takeover in the 2022-2026 time frame.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moon Packed with Precious Titanium, NASA Probe Finds

Titanium on Moon
A new map of the moon has uncovered a trove of areas rich in precious titanium ore, with some lunar rocks harboring 10 times as much of the stuff as rocks here on Earth do.

The map, which combined observations in visible and ultraviolet wavelengths, revealed the valuable titanium deposits. These findings could shed light on some of the mysteries of the lunar interior, and could also lay the groundwork for future mining on the moon, researchers said.

"Looking up at the moon, its surface appears painted with shades of grey — at least to the human eye," Mark Robinson, of Arizona State University, said in a statement. "The maria appear reddish in some places and blue in others. Although subtle, these color variations tell us important things about the chemistry and evolution of the lunar surface. They indicate the titanium and iron abundance, as well as the maturity of a lunar soil."

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Phobos-Grunt: The Mission Poster

Phobos Grunt
Russia is marking the upcoming blastoff of their dauntingly complex Phobos-Grunt sample return mission to the Martian moon Phobos with the release of a quite cool looking mission poster – see above. Phobos-Grunt translates as Phobos-Soil and is due to liftoff on or about November 7, 2011 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome atop a Zenit rocket.

The holy grail of Mars exploration has long been a sample return mission. But with severe cutbacks to NASA’s budget that goal is realistically more than a decade away. That’s why Phobos- Grunt is so exciting from a scientific standpoint.

If successful, this audacious probe will retrieve about 200 grams of soil from the diminutive moon Phobos and accomplish the round trip in three years time by August 2014. Scientists speculate that martian dust may coat portions of Phobos and could possibly be mixed in with any returned samples.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

New mystery could rewrite Mars’ history

A geologist at the University at Buffalo has suggested that one of the supposedly best understood and least interesting landscapes on Mars is hiding something that could rewrite the planet’s history.

Tracy Gregg found that decades of assumptions regarding the wide, flat Hesperia Planum are not holding up very well under renewed scrutiny with higher-resolution, more recent spacecraft data.

New mystery could rewrite Mars’ history
After early Mars scientists decided Hesperia Planum looked like a lava-filled plain, no one really revisited the matter and the place was used to exemplify something rather important: The base of a major transitional period in the geologic time scale of Mars, she stated.

But when Gregg and her student Carolyn Roberts started looking at this classic Martian lava plain with modern data sets, they ran into trouble.

“There’s a volcano in Hesperia Planum that not many people pay attention to because it’s very small,” Gregg said.

“As I started looking closer at the broader region — I can’t find any other volcanic vents, any flows. I just kept looking for evidence of lava flows. It’s kind of frustrating. There is nothing like that in the Hesperia Planum.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Early Mars likely warm and wet

Researchers have directly determined the surface temperature of early Mars for the first time, providing evidence that’s consistent with a warmer and wetter Martian past.

By analyzing carbonate minerals in a four-billion-year-old meteorite that originated near the surface of Mars, the scientists determined that the minerals formed at about 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit).

“The thing that’s really cool is that 18 degrees is not particularly cold nor particularly hot,” says Woody Fischer, assistant professor of geobiology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and coauthor of the paper, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It’s kind of a remarkable result.”

Knowing the temperature of Mars is crucial to understanding the planet’s history—its past climate and whether it once had liquid water.

The Mars rovers and orbiting spacecraft have found ancient deltas, rivers, lakebeds, and mineral deposits, suggesting that water did indeed flow. Because Mars now has an average temperature of −63 degrees Celsius, the existence of liquid water in the past means that the climate was much warmer then.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Future of Space Travel Launches at AMNH

Space Travel
The American Museum of Natural History announces Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, a new exhibition that offers a vision of the future of space travel as it boldly examines humanity's next steps in our solar system and beyond. The exhibition features a re-creation of a lunar habitat, a model of a space elevator rising up from the surface of the Moon, one of the world's largest color holograms depicting 1,000 exoplanets, and engaging, immersive simulations. The exhibition celebrates the pioneering accomplishments of both manned and unmanned space missions and considers the critical partnership of robotic spacecraft and astronauts as humanity journeys farther beyond Earth.

Although NASA's final Space Shuttle mission ended this summer, numerous exciting missions are underway or being planned. Beyond Planet Earth envisions a future when humans travel out of low-Earth orbit to explore the next frontier-our Solar System and eventually the Milky Way galaxy. Missions described in the exhibition were once limited to the realm of science fiction, but today are discussed by leading scientists and engineers: mining for rare gasses on the Moon, landing on or deflecting a potentially deadly asteroid, traveling to Mars-and perhaps even establishing colonies there. Using a new augmented reality (AR) app created as a companion to the exhibition Beyond Planet Earth, visitors will also be able to find a Mars-bound spaceship, glimpse a near-Earth asteroid, watch a Mars rover, and more. They can download the app before visiting the exhibition, then look for eleven AR icons sprinkled throughout the show. By using the camera on their iPod touch or iPhone they can activate the icon and unlock animations. Then, visitors can share images by email or post to Facebook and Twitter. A link to a special site will let visitors collect other icons, find out the science behind space technologies, and share photos with friends."

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Russian Space objectives

russian objectives
Russia plans to carry out an unmanned lunar flight before 2050, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency Vladimir Popovkin said. Speaking at a State Duma session, he emphasized that further research will be primarily aimed at exploring planets of the Solar System, particularly Mars and the Moon.

Present-day cosmonautics is on the threshold of a new stage in its development - the exploration of the most remote edges of the universe. A landmark move along this track will be made as early as in autumn this year, says Vladimir Popovkin:

"November will see the launch of the Phobos-Grunt interplanetary automatic research station aimed at delivering samples of the Martian natural satellite's soil to Earth. Yes, we will send a 700-ton spaceship for just 50 grams of soil. Do you realize how difficult it will be to send a human to Mars?"

Over the 11 months of its operation, the spacecraft will reach the Martian orbit alongside a Chinese scientific micro-satellite, undock from the interplanetary station and engage in studying the Red Planet's magnetic field. The next few months will witness a distanced examination of Mars and procedures to choose a landing site for Phobos.

The latter will actually have a number of passengers on board - a collection of microorganisms and insect larva that will come back to Earth to help scientists find out more about the Solar System's ongoing processes. For the time being, Roscosmos is engaged in building the most capacious and comfortable manned spacecraft to replace Soyuz ships, Vladimir Popovkin goes on to say:
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Mars Express Finds Supersaturated Water Vapor in Mars' Atmosphere

Mars Express was able to accomplish what so many other spacecraft have tried and failed by using a SPICAM(2) spectrometer

The search for water on Mars has been ongoing for quite some time now, with Mars rovers like NASA's Spirit and Opportunity being two examples of those who have found clues that point to a once-tropical past on the dusty red planet billions of years ago.

Now, the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has discovered that Mars' atmosphere holds water vapor in a supersaturated state.

Mars Express was able to accomplish what so many other spacecraft have tried and failed by using a SPICAM(2) spectrometer. While other spacecraft have used tools that concentrate only on surface data, which only analyzes the horizontal component of the Martian atmosphere, SPICAM(2) utilizes solar occultation to observe the vertical component of the atmosphere, which is critical for understanding Mars' hydrological cycle. Solar occultation studies light from the Sun in Martian atmosphere during sunrise and sunset.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

NASA ‘Can’ be the Midpoint of Geoengineering

Geoengineering has been in the news in recent weeks after the announcement of Stratospheric Particle Injection Climate Engineering (SPICE) experiment by UK Scientists; Geoengineering also came to further light after recommendations on Climate Remediation Research by the US Bipartisan Policy Center some days ago.

Geoengineering or climate engineering is an artificial procedure directed to correct excesses responsible for Global Warming within the Earth atmosphere. Geoengineering is common for Climate Change fix but may be applied to other procedures like Ozone Layer Repair and more.

Experiments of Geoengineering are ‘very’ workable but issues with Geoengineering are huge like aftereffects and agreements between Nations. These issues however are small compared to challenges Global Warming hold for planet earth in some years from now.

There are a number of geoengineering procedures proposed, some are in forefront of discussions while others are mere hypothesis. Some of the most talked about include mimicking a super volcano by pumping aerosols into the atmosphere for global cooling; installing giant reflectors in orbit to return incident solar energy; using plants in oceans to capture carbon dioxide and spraying sea water in the atmosphere to form clouds

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Turning point for jobs at NASA

Nasa Jobs
The Space Shuttle Atlantis successfully completed its last mission on July 21st of this year, officially ending the thirty-year program. With this came a transitional phase at NASA, one that had been predicted for a long time prior. NASA has spent the last generation with its 1970's shuttle technology, to which its veteran scientists and engineers grew accustomed. With the end of the program, it was feared than many technical employees would either retire or leave to work in private industry for higher salaries.

In a recent hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) expressed serious concern about NASA's future. "If NASA doesn't move out quickly, more and more of our industrial base, skilled engineers and technicians and hard-won capabilities are at risk of withering away," he announced. In addition, Hall was concerned about the future of aerospace if support for new NASA programs is not strong. "Bright young engineers about to enter our workforce will likely look to disciplines other than aerospace."

According to Roger Launius, Senior Curator at the Smithsonian Air and Space Division of Space History and former Chief Historian at NASA, there are two sides to the issue of losing so many experienced engineers. "We have all of this expertise which is walking out the door," said Dr. Launius in an interview with the News-Letter, adding that "we're going to have to rebuild that." At the same time though, these are the engineers "who kept us in low earth orbit for the last 40 years [we need] new perspectives and new ways of doing things," said Launius.

Since the Apollo 17 mission to the moon in 1972, human space flight has been limited to Low Earth Orbit, a region of space defined as between 80 and 200 km above Earth's surface, in which the International Space Station resides.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

NASA Invites Students To Name Moon-Bound Spacecraft

Moon Space Craft
NASA has a class assignment for U.S. students: help the agency give the twin spacecraft headed to orbit around the moon new names.

The naming contest is open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade at schools in the United States. Entries must be submitted by teachers using an online entry form. Length of submissions can range from a short paragraph to a 500-word essay. The entry deadline is Nov. 11.

NASA’s solar-powered Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A and GRAIL-B spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. on Sept. 10 to begin a three-and-a-half-month journey to the moon. GRAIL will create a gravity map of the moon using two spacecraft that orbit at very precise distances. The mission will enable scientists to learn about the moon’s internal structure and composition, and give scientists a better understanding of its origin. Accurate knowledge of the moon’s gravity also could be used to help choose future landing sites.

“A NASA mission to the moon is one of the reasons why I am a scientist today,” said GRAIL Principal Investigator Maria Zuber from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. “My hope is that GRAIL motivates young people today towards careers in science, math and technology. Getting involved with naming our two GRAIL spacecraft could inspire their interest not only in space exploration but in the sciences, and that’s a good thing.”

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Monday, October 03, 2011

NASA Tests a Versatile Habitat for Long-Term Missions

Versatile Habitat
Despite recent cuts to its manned space program, NASA continues to research ways that astronauts might live safely in space during prolonged missions. The agency recently completed tests of a prototype astronaut habitation unit in the rugged, barren, almost-Martian landscape of the Arizona desert. The habitat could be tested in space within a decade, and might one day serve as a home away from home for astronauts on the moon or Mars.

The tests, completed last month, included sending in crews for overnight stays, and running simulations of work that would be done in a single day.

The current prototype housing unit has a hard cylindrical shell, contains four rooms, two outside additions for dust mitigation and hygiene, and an inflatable component that adds a second level for sleeping and relaxing.

The inflatable loft design was part of a university competition called XHab. The researchers explain that a final design could be fully inflated, or could have a small hard shell inside an inflated exterior. Hard shells, while heavier to transport, are better at blocking dangerous radiation from space.

Inflatable space habitats have been a popular idea since the 1970s, but the new project is the most advanced to date. Inflatable units are a typical option because they offer a lot of volume for the weight of materials, so the cost of getting the housing to space is lower.

The team also tested a prototype robot that could explore the surface of Mars and be controlled by an astronaut from inside the habitation.

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Help NASA explore Mars with Mapper. Poke around secret lakes and earn achievements

Mars with Mapper
Hidden Object games suck… right? You’re usually finding things like umbrellas and beach balls. Mapper does not suck. Mapper has you staring at the lakes of British Columbia, looking for things like “dark sediment” and super rare “microbialite.” It’s like Facebook with with less fancy dress and more sci-fi. You could potentially find a sea beast. Or at least end up on a leaderboard.

What’s all this for? NASA are testing strategies to help us explore the moon, mars and asteroids. Do well enough and we’ll be playing Mapper on Mars soon. Potentially.

Mapper is completely free and comes with a set of achievements for you to earn. To play, you just need to sign up at the official site and log in. Then, you can start tagging photos. You don’t get to control where and when the photos are taken, but this is a secret lake we’re talking about, don’t expect too much.

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