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How would you like to see news stories presented?

September 19, 2011 2 comments

I’ve been going back and forth on this for a little while so I figured I’d ask for some feedback…

How would you like to see the news stories presented?

If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to post them. (Comments and suggestions are subject to moderation.)

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Categories: Site News

NASA Releases Commercial Crew Draft RFP, Announces CCDEV2 Optional Milestones

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA unveiled Monday an outline of its acquisition strategy to procure transportation services from private industry to carry U.S. astronauts to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. The agency also announced the addition of optional milestones for the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiative.

“This is a significant step forward in America’s amazing story of space exploration,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “It’s further evidence we are committed to fully implementing our plan — as laid out in the Authorization Act — to outsource our space station transportation so NASA can focus its energy and resources on deep space exploration.”

NASA’s draft request for proposal (RFP) outlines a contract that will be awarded to multiple companies that provide a complete end-to-end design, including spacecraft, launch vehicles, launch services, ground and mission operations and recovery. The Integrated Design Contract (IDC) of up to $1.61 billion will run from July 2012 through April 2014.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-312_CCDEV_Announ.html

Young Clays on Mars Could Have Been Habitable Regions

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Two small depressions on Mars found to be rich in minerals that formed by water could have been places for life relatively recently in the planet’s history, according to a new paper in the journal Geology.

“We discovered locations at Noctis Labyrinthus that show many kinds of minerals that formed by water activity,” said Catherine Weitz, lead author and senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute. “The clays we found, called iron/magnesium (Fe/Mg)-smectites, are much younger at Noctis Labyrinthus relative to those found in the ancient rocks on Mars, which indicates a different water environment in these depressions relative to what was happening elsewhere on Mars.”

Smectites are a specific type of clay mineral that readily expands and contracts with adsorbed water. They contain silica, plus aluminum, iron or magnesium in their structures. They form by the alteration of other silicate minerals in the presence of non-acidic water.

Full Story: http://www.psi.edu/news/press-releases#clays

Origin of Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Remains a Mystery

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Observations from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission indicate the family of asteroids some believed was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs is not likely the culprit, keeping open the case on one of Earth’s greatest mysteries.

While scientists are confident a large asteroid crashed into Earth approximately 65 million years ago, leading to the extinction of dinosaurs and some other life forms on our planet, they do not know exactly where the asteroid came from or how it made its way to Earth. A 2007 study using visible-light data from ground-based telescopes first suggested the remnant of a huge asteroid, known as Baptistina, as a possible suspect.

According to that theory, Baptistina crashed into another asteroid in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter about 160 million years ago. The collision sent shattered pieces as big as mountains flying. One of those pieces was believed to have impacted Earth, causing the dinosaurs’ extinction.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-296

Tests Under Way On The Sunshield For NASA’S Webb Telescope

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA is testing an element of the sunshield that will protect the James Webb Space Telescope’s mirrors and instruments during its mission to observe the most distant objects in the universe.

The sunshield will consist of five tennis court-sized layers to allow the Webb telescope to cool to its cryogenic operating temperature of minus 387.7 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Kelvin).

Testing began early this month at ManTech International Corp.’s Nexolve facility in Huntsville, Ala., using flight-like material for the sunshield, a full-scale test frame and hardware attachments. The test sunshield layer is made of Kapton, a very thin, high-performance plastic with a reflective metallic coating, similar to a Mylar balloon. Each sunshield layer is less than half the thickness of a sheet of paper. It is stitched together like a quilt from more than 52 individual pieces because manufacturers do not make Kapton sheets as big as a tennis court.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-311_Sunshield.html

Undersea Mission to Simulate Visit to Asteroid

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

An international crew of astronauts will venture into the Atlantic Ocean on Oct. 17 to test innovative solutions to engineering challenges during a crewed mission to an asteroid.

NASA astronaut and former International Space Station crew member Shannon Walker will lead the 15th expedition of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO), a13-day undersea mission aboard the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory near Key Largo, Fla.

Aquarius is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and operated by the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-309_NEEMO.html

How Common Are Earth-Moon Planetary Systems?

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: Sebastian Elser, University of Zurich

Credit: Sebastian Elser, University of Zurich

Sebastian Elser, Prof. Ben Moore and Dr. Joachim Stadel of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, in cooperation with Ryuji Morishima of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, tried to estimate how common Earth-Moon planetary systems are. They have found that 1 in 12 Earth-like planets probably hosts a Moon-like satellite. Since the Moon might have played an important role in the history of life on Earth, this estimate is important concerning the search for habitable planets.

Earth’s Moon might have played an important role in the development and evolution of life on Earth. The Moon was formed via a giant impact in which a Mars-size projectile collided with the young Earth. The ejected material accumulated in orbit around our planet and formed the Moon. After its formation, the Moon was much closer to Earth than it is today, which caused high tides several times per day. This may have helped promote the very early evolution of life. In addition, a stable climate of more than a billion years may be essential to guarantee a suitable environment for life. But without its satellite, Earth would suffer chaotic variations of the direction of its spin axis, which would in turn result in dramatic variations of the climate.

Full Story: http://astronews.us/2011-09-16-1700.html