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NASA And FAA To Discuss Commercial Human Space Transportation National Goals

June 18, 2012 1 comment

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) acting Administrator Michael Huerta will participate in a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EDT Monday, June 18, to discuss advancements in commercial spaceflight.

 

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jun/HQ_M12-114_FAA_MOU_Telecon.html

NASA Releases Workshop Data and Findings on Asteroid 2011 AG5

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Researchers anticipate that asteroid 2011 AG5, discovered in January 2011, will fly safely past and not impact Earth in 2040.

Current findings and analysis data were reported at a May 29 workshop at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., attended by scientists and engineers from around the world. Discussions focused on observations of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).

Observations to date indicate there is a slight chance that AG5 could impact Earth in 2040.  Attendees expressed confidence that in the next four years, analysis of space and ground-based observations will show the likelihood of 2011 AG5 missing Earth to be greater than 99 percent.

Measuring approximately 460 feet (140 meters) in size, the space rock was discovered by the NASA-supported Catalina Sky Survey operated by the University of Arizona in Tucson. Several observatories monitored 2011 AG5 for nine months before it moved too far away and grew too faint to see.

“While there is general consensus there is only a very small chance that we could be dealing with a real impact scenario for this object, we will still be watchful and ready to take further action if additional observations indicate it is warranted,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Several years ago another asteroid, named Apophis, was thought to pose a similar impact threat in 2036. Additional observations taken from 2005 through 2008 enabled NASA scientists to refine their understanding of the asteroid’s path, which showed a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-178

Coverage Set For Next Soyuz Space Station Crew Rotation

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Over the next several weeks, NASA Television will provide coverage of the departure of three crew members from the International Space Station and prelaunch, launch and arrival activities of three new residents.
Coverage will begin Wednesday, June 20, with the first of a series of Video Files of Expedition 32/33 Flight Engineers Suni Williams of NASA, Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Yuri Malenchenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) participating in training and ceremonial activities at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.
On June 29, NASA TV will broadcast a change of command ceremony aboard the orbiting laboratory in which Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos will hand over the reins of command to Gennady Padalka. Padalka, a cosmonaut for Roscosmos, will become the International Space Station’s first three-time commander. When the Soyuz TMA-03M undocks on June 30, Expedition 31 will transition to Expedition 32 under Padalka’s command.
Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit of NASA and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency will depart the station in their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft June 30 for a July 1 landing in Kazakhstan to complete their six-and-a-half-month mission. Two weeks later, July 14 (July 15 in Kazakhstan), Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko will launch to the station in the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The three will arrive at the station July 16 to join Padalka and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba of NASA and Sergei Revin of Roscosmos, who have been aboard the station since mid-May.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jun/HQ_M12-113_Soyuz_Coverage.html

Data From NASA’s Voyager 1 Point to Interstellar Future

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Data  from NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft indicate that the venerable deep-space explorer  has encountered a region in space where the intensity of charged particles from  beyond our solar system has markedly increased. Voyager scientists looking at  this rapid rise draw closer to an inevitable but historic conclusion – that  humanity’s first emissary to interstellar space is on the edge of our solar  system.
“The  laws of physics say that someday Voyager will become the first human-made  object to enter interstellar space, but we still do not know exactly when that  someday will be,” said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at the  California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “The latest data indicate  that we are clearly in a new region where things are changing more quickly. It is  very exciting. We are approaching the solar system’s frontier.”
The  data making the 16-hour-38 minute, 11.1-billion-mile (17.8-billion-kilometer),  journey from Voyager 1 to antennas of NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth detail  the number of charged particles measured by the two High Energy telescopes  aboard the 34-year-old spacecraft. These energetic particles were generated  when stars in our cosmic neighborhood went supernova.
“From  January 2009 to January 2012, there had been a gradual increase of about 25  percent in the amount of galactic cosmic rays Voyager was encountering,”  said Stone. “More recently, we have seen very rapid escalation in that  part of the energy spectrum. Beginning on May 7, the cosmic ray hits have increased  five percent in a week and nine percent in a month.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-177

Chance Alignment Between Galaxies Mimics a Cosmic Collision

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows a rare view of a pair of overlapping galaxies, called NGC 3314. The two galaxies look as if they are colliding, but they are actually separated by tens of millions of light-years, or about ten times the distance between our Milky Way and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. The chance alignment of the two galaxies, as seen from Earth, gives a unique look at the silhouetted spiral arms in the closer face-on spiral, NGC 3314A.
The motion of the two galaxies indicates that they are both relatively undisturbed and that they are moving in markedly different directions. This indicates they are not on any collision course. NGC 3314A’s warped shape is likely due to an encounter with another nearby galaxy, perhaps the large spiral galaxy NGC 3312 (located outside the Hubble image).
Because of the alignment, NGC 3314B’s dust lanes appear lighter than those of NGC 3314A. This is not because that galaxy lacks dust, but rather because its dust lanes are lightened by the bright fog of stars in the foreground. NGC 3314A’s dust, in contrast, is backlit by the stars of NGC 3314B, silhouetting them against the bright background.

Full Story: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/29

First Flight Instrument Delivered for James Webb Telescope

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

The first of four instruments to fly aboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has been delivered to NASA. The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) will allow scientists to study cold and distant objects in greater detail than ever before.
MIRI arrived at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., May 29. It has been undergoing inspection before being integrated into Webb’s science instrument payload known as the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM).
Assembled at and shipped from the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom, MIRI was developed by a consortium of 10 European institutions and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., and delivered by the European Space Agency.MIRI will observe light with wavelengths in the mid-infrared range of 5 microns to 28 microns, which is a longer wavelength than human eyes can detect. It is the only instrument of the four with this particular ability to observe the physical processes occurring in the cosmos.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/miri-delivery.html

Stanford: Orbiting Telescope Sees the Universe’s X-rays

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

A NASA orbiting telescope able to view the cosmos through the lens of hard X-rays has launched, and several members of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, a joint SLAC-Stanford effort, are eager to take in the sights.
NASA’s newest telescope headed for orbit Wednesday, developed with help from researchers from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford’s main campus. Its rocket ignited in the night skies south of Kwajalein Atoll after being dropped from the underbelly of a Lockheed L-1011 plane.
The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) was developed by a team of scientists and engineers under the leadership of Fiona Harrison from the California Institute of Technology. It will use an innovative system of nested X-ray mirrors to open a new window onto the cosmos: the high-energy X-ray window. This is the same range of X-ray wavelengths used to image broken bones and scan luggage. NuSTAR’s mirrors will collect high-energy X-ray photons emitted by cosmic sources, focusing the light into images 10 times sharper and 100 times more sensitive than any previous high-energy X-ray telescope.

Full Story: http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2012/pr-nustar-slac-telescope-061412.html

Cassini Sees Tropical Lakes on Saturn Moon

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has spied long-standing methane lakes, or  puddles, in the “tropics” of Saturn’s moon Titan. One of the tropical lakes appears  to be about half the size of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, with a depth of at least 3  feet (1 meter).
The  result, which is a new analysis of Cassini data, is unexpected because models  had assumed the long-standing bodies of liquid would only exist at the poles.  The findings appear in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.
Where  could the liquid for these lakes come from?  “A likely supplier is an underground aquifer,”  said Caitlin Griffith, the paper’s lead author and a Cassini team associate at  the University of Arizona, Tucson. “In essence, Titan may have oases.”
Understanding  how lakes or wetlands form on Titan helps scientists learn about the moon’s  weather. Like Earth’s hydrological cycle, Titan has a “methane” cycle, with methane  rather than water circulating. In Titan’s atmosphere, ultraviolet light breaks  apart methane, initiating a chain of complicated organic chemical reactions.  But existing models haven’t been able to account for the abundant supply of  methane.
“An  aquifer could explain one of the puzzling questions about the existence of  methane, which is continually depleted,” Griffith said. “Methane is a progenitor  of Titan’s organic chemistry, which likely produces interesting molecules like  amino acids, the building blocks of life.”
Global  circulation models of Titan have theorized that liquid methane in the moon’s  equatorial region evaporates and is carried by wind to the north and south poles,  where cooler temperatures cause methane to condense. When it falls to the  surface, it forms the polar lakes. On Earth, water is similarly transported by  the circulation, yet the oceans also transport water, thereby countering the  atmospheric effects.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-172

Transit of Venus Causes Mass Transit to NASA Ames

June 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Approximately 6,000 astronomy enthusiasts of all ages gathered at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. to view Venus cross in front of, or transit, the sun. People from all around the Bay Area — as well as one dedicated enthusiast who came from Seattle specifically for the transit — were drawn to Ames for its unique educational and viewing opportunities pertaining to the rare celestial event that took place on June 5, 2012, and will not occur again until December 2117.
At the beginning of the program, attendees perused exhibits set up within the visitor center, gleaning information about astronauts and life in space. The vast amount of people interested in learning about the solar event crowded the room to the extent that additional chairs were brought up from storage to accommodate them, and people needed to be counted at the door to prevent the center from exceeding maximum capacity. Once inside, children eagerly poked their heads through astronaut cutouts and walked through a model of the International Space Station interior as their parents snapped photos. Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at Ames, gave a talk about how astronomers are using transit events today to search for other worlds beyond our galaxy. After the talk, attention turned to the live NASA TV feed of the event from atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Videos on the history of Venus and its major contributors, including 17th century German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, were featured in the programming.