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Solar System Ice: Source Of Earth’s Water

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Scientists have long believed that comets and a type of very primitive meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites were the sources of early Earth’s volatile elements — which include hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon — and possibly organic material, too. Understanding where these volatiles came from is crucial for determining the origins of both water and life on the planet. New research led by Carnegie’s Conel Alexander focuses on frozen water that was distributed throughout much of the early solar system, but probably not in the materials that aggregated to initially form Earth.
The evidence for this ice is now preserved in objects like comets and water-bearing carbonaceous chondrites. The team’s findings contradict prevailing theories about the relationship between these two types of bodies and suggest that meteorites, and their parent asteroids, are the most-likely sources of the Earth’s water. Their work is published July 12 by Science Express.
Looking at the ratio of hydrogen to its heavy isotope deuterium in frozen water (H2O), scientists can get an idea of the relative distance from the Sun at which objects containing the water were formed. Objects that formed farther out should generally have higher deuterium content in their ice than objects that formed closer to the Sun, and objects that formed in the same regions should have similar hydrogen isotopic compositions. Therefore, by comparing the deuterium content of water in carbonaceous chondrites to the deuterium content of comets, it is possible to tell if they formed in similar reaches of the solar system.

Full Story: http://carnegiescience.edu/news/solar_system_ice_source_earth%E2%80%99s_water

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Latest Crew Blasts Off For International Space Station

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Three new crew members are on their way to the International Space Station. NASA Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:40 p.m. EDT Saturday, July 14 (8:40 a.m. Baikonur time July 15).
Williams, Malenchenko and Hoshide are scheduled to dock their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft to the Rassvet module of the station at 12:52 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 17. They will join Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Flight Engineers Joe Acaba of NASA and Sergei Revin of Russia, who have been aboard the orbiting laboratory since May 17.
The six crew members will work together for about two months. Acaba, Padalka and Revin are scheduled to return to Earth Sept. 17. Before they depart, Padalka will hand over command of the station and Expedition 33 to Williams. She, Malenchenko and Hoshide will return home in mid-November.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ-12-230_Exp_32-33_Launch.html

NASA Selects Space Launch System Advanced Booster Proposals

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA has selected six proposals to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS). The awardees will develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for SLS, a heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.
“The initial SLS heavy-lift rocket begins with the proven hardware, technology and capabilities we have today and will evolve over time to a more capable launch vehicle through competitive opportunities,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “While the SLS team is making swift progress on the initial configuration and building a solid baseline, we also are looking ahead to enhance and upgrade future configurations of the heavy lift vehicle. We want to build a system that will be upgradable and used for decades.”
Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft, including NASA’s Orion multipurpose vehicle, for crew and cargo missions SLS will enable NASA to meet the president’s goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s. The initial SLS configuration will use two five-segment solid rocket boosters similar to the solid rocket boosters that helped power the space shuttle to orbit. The evolved SLS vehicle will require an advanced booster with significant increase in thrust from any existing U.S. liquid or solid boosters.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ_12-234_SLS_Advanced_Booster_NRA.html

Caltech Researchers Develop Instrument For Exploring The Cosmos And The Quantum World

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have developed a new type of amplifier for boosting electrical signals. The device can be used for everything from studying stars, galaxies, and black holes to exploring the quantum world and developing quantum computers.

“This amplifier will redefine what it is possible to measure,” says Jonas Zmuidzinas, Caltech’s Merle Kingsley Professor of Physics, the chief technologist at JPL, and a member of the research team.

One type of highly sensitive amplifier is a parametric amplifier, which boosts a weak input signal by using a strong signal called the pump signal. As both signals travel through the instrument, the pump signal injects energy into the weak signal, therefore amplifying it.

About 50 years ago, Amnon Yariv, Caltech’s Martin and Eileen Summerfield Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, showed that this type of amplifier produces as little noise as possible: the only noise it must produce is the unavoidable noise caused by the jiggling of atoms and waves according to the laws of quantum mechanics. The problem with many parametric amplifiers and sensitive devices like it, however, is that they can only amplify a narrow frequency range and often have a poor dynamic range.

But the Caltech and JPL researchers say their new amplifier, which is a type of parametric amplifier, combines only the best features of other amplifiers. It operates over a frequency range more than ten times wider than other comparably sensitive amplifiers, can amplify strong signals without distortion, and introduces nearly the lowest amount of unavoidable noise. In principle, the researchers say, design improvements should be able to reduce that noise to the absolute minimum. Versions of the amplifier can be designed to work at frequencies ranging from a few gigahertz to a terahertz (1,000 GHz). For comparison, a gigahertz is about 10 times greater than commercial FM radio signals in the U.S., which range from about 88 to 108 megahertz (1 GHz is 1,000 MHz).

Full Story: http://news.caltech.edu/press_releases/13533

NASA Commercial Partner SpaceX Completes Dragon Design Review

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA partner Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has completed an important design review of the crewed version of its Dragon spacecraft. The concept baseline review presented NASA with the primary and secondary design elements of its Dragon capsule designed to carry astronauts into low Earth orbit, including the International Space Station.
SpaceX is one of several companies working to develop crew transportation capabilities under the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Through CCDev2, NASA is helping the private sector develop and test new spacecraft and rockets with the goal of making commercial human spaceflight services available to commercial and government customers.
In the June 14 review conducted at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., SpaceX provided details about each phase of a potential crewed mission. This included how the company plans to modify its launch pads to support such missions, Dragon’s docking capabilities, the weight and power requirements for the spacecraft, and prospective ground landing sites and techniques. The company also outlined crew living arrangements, such as environmental control and life support equipment, displays and controls.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ_12-233_SpaceX_CBR.html