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Archive for November 8, 2011

NASA Proposes Orion Spacecraft Test Flight In 2014

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA plans to add an unmanned flight test of the Orion spacecraft in early 2014 to its contract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems for the multi-purpose crew vehicle’s design, development, test and evaluation. This test supports the new Space Launch System (SLS) that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before, create U.S. jobs, and provide the cornerstone for America’s future human spaceflight efforts.

“President Obama and Congress have laid out an ambitious space exploration plan, and NASA is moving out quickly to implement it,” NASA Associate Administrator for Communications David Weaver said. “This flight test will provide invaluable data to support the deep space exploration missions this nation is embarking upon.”

This Exploration Flight Test, or EFT-1, will fly two orbits to a high-apogee, with a high-energy re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. Orion will make a water landing and be recovered using operations planned for future human exploration missions. The test mission will be launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to acquire critical re-entry flight performance data and demonstrate early integration capabilities that benefit the Orion, SLS, and 21st Century Ground Systems programs. The agency has posted a synopsis explaining its intention on NASA’s procurement website.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/nov/HQ_11-376_EFT.html

Nonterrestrial Artifacts Hard to Pin Down

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Two Pioneer probes left our solar system carrying plaques about humankind, and two Voyager probes will soon join them to gather information about places far out in our galaxy. We can and will send more autonomous probes into outer space, but why have we never found evidence of other civilizations doing the same? A pair of postdoctoral researchers at Penn State, approaching the problem mathematically, shows that we have not looked in enough places to ensure that no extraterrestrial artifacts exist in our solar system.

“The vastness of space, combined with our limited searches to date, implies that any remote unpiloted exploratory probes of extraterrestrial origin would likely remain unnoticed,” report Jacob Haqq-Misra, Rock Ethics Institute, and Ravi Kumar Kopparapu, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, in a paper accepted by Acta Astronautica and posted online on ArXiv.

So far, we have not found any nonterrestrial artifacts in our solar system. The Fermi paradox, originally formulated by Enrico Fermi, asks, if intelligent life is common, why have no technological civilizations been observed. Answers to this question could include life is rare, intelligent cultures inevitably destroy themselves, intelligent beings have not gotten here yet or they are here but not revealing themselves. Even without actual contact, like us, other civilizations could be sending unpiloted probes to quietly peek at our civilization.

Full Story: http://live.psu.edu/story/56240

Watch Mini-Asteroid 2005 YU55 Buzz Earth

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Earth is about to be visited by the largest close-approaching asteroid on record. Known as 2005 YU55, it is about a quarter mile (400 m) across, round, and quite dark. When it comes closest to us, at 6:28 p.m. EST (23:28 Universal Time) on November 8th, it will be 198,000 miles (319,000 km) from Earth’s surface — closer than the Moon’s orbit. Professional astronomers around the world will closely follow the asteroid as it glides across the sky.

Weather permitting, backyard skywatchers also have a chance to spot this interloper. A few hours after passing closest to us, it will peak in brightness at magnitude 11.1, roughly 100 times fainter than the limit of human vision. “The good news,” says Alan MacRobert of Sky & Telescopemagazine, “is that you should be able to spot the asteroid with your telescope if it has an aperture of at least 6 to 8 inches.”

Full Story: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/about/pressreleases/133357483.html

NASA Captures New Images of Large Asteroid Passing Earth

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif. has captured new radar images of Asteroid 2005 YU55 passing close to Earth.

The asteroid will safely fly past our planet slightly closer than the moon’s orbit on Nov. 8. The last time a space rock this large came as close to Earth was in 1976, although astronomers did not know about the flyby at the time. The next known approach of an asteroid this size will be in 2028.

The image was taken on Nov. 7 at 11:45 a.m. PST (2:45 p.m. EST/1945 UTC), when the asteroid was approximately 860,000 miles (1.38 million kilometers) away from Earth. Tracking of the aircraft carrier-sized asteroid began at Goldstone at 9:30 a.m. PDT on Nov. 4 with the 230-foot-wide (70-meter) antenna and lasted about two hours, with an additional four hours of tracking planned each day from Nov. 6 – 10.

Radar observations from the Arecibo Planetary Radar Facility in Puerto Rico will begin Nov. 8, the same day the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at 3:28 p.m. PST (6:28 p.m. EST/1128 UTC).

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/yu55-20111107.html