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Archive for July, 2012

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

NASA Invites Social Media Followers To Kennedy Space Center


NASA invites its social media followers to a two-day NASA Social Aug. 2-3 to celebrate Kennedy Space Center’s 50 years of human spaceflight. NASA Socials are in-person meetings with people who engage with the agency through Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks.

Participants will receive a unique perspective into Kennedy’s 50 years of launching humans and machines into low Earth orbit and to other planets. They will be treated to speakers from Kennedy’s past, present and future, and tour the historical launch pads of NASA’s early days through the present-day facilities that supported the Space Shuttle Program and Kennedy’s transition to the future.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ-M12-130_KSC_NASA_Social.html

NASA 3-D App Gives Public Ability To Experience Robotic Space Travel


A NASA-created application that brings some of the agency’s robotic spacecraft to life in 3-D now is available for free on the iPhone and iPad.

Called Spacecraft 3D, the app uses animation to show how spacecraft can maneuver and manipulate their outside components. Presently, the new app features two NASA missions, the Curiosity rover that will touch down on Mars Aug. 6 at 1:31 a.m. EDT, and the twin GRAIL spacecraft Ebb and Flow currently orbiting the moon.

“With Spacecraft 3D and a mobile device, you can put high definition, three-dimensional models literally into the hands of kids of all ages,” said Stephen Kulczycki, deputy director for communications and education at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ_12-226_NASA_3D_Spacecraft_App.html

NASA Astronaut Mark Polansky Leaves Agency


NASA astronaut Mark Polansky has left the agency. His last day with NASA was June 30.

Polansky is a veteran of three space shuttle missions. He flew as a pilot on the STS-98 mission in 2001 and served as commander for STS-116 in 2006 and STS-127 in 2009. Polansky ends his NASA career with more than 41 days in space.

“Mark is a remarkably talented individual,” said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. “His skills as an aviator coupled with his engineering expertise were a valuable contribution to our team. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ_12-232_Polansky_Leaves_NASA.html

NASA News Conference To Preview August Mars Rover Landing


NASA will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EDT Monday, July 16, to discuss the upcoming August landing of the most advanced robot ever sent to another world. A new public-engagement collaboration based on the mission also will be debuted.

The event for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft will be held in the James E. Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, Washington. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website.

Full Story And Links: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jul/HQ_M12-128_Curiosity_Prelanding.html

Hubble Discovers A Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto

July 12, 2012 1 comment

A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto.

The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system.

The Pluto team is intrigued that such a small planet can have such a complex collection of satellites. The new discovery provides additional clues for unraveling how the Pluto system formed and evolved. The favored theory is that all the moons are relics of a collision between Pluto and another large Kuiper belt object billions of years ago.

Full Story: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/32/full/

Private Foundations Fund New Astronomy Tool


The W. M. Keck Observatory has been awarded two major grants to help build a $4 million laser system as the next leap forward in a technology which already enables ground-based telescopes to exceed the observational power of telescopes in space. The new laser, when installed on the current adaptive optics system on the Keck II telescope, will improve the performance of the system and advance future technology initiatives.

“Ever since Galileo, astronomers have been building bigger telescopes to collect more light to be able to observe more distant objects,” said Peter Wizinowich, who leads the adaptive optics developments at Keck Observatory. “In theory, the larger the telescope the more detail you can see. However, because of the blurring caused by Earth’s atmosphere, a 10-inch or a 10-meter telescope see about the same amount of detail.”

There are two solutions to this problem, Wizinowich said: put a telescope in space or use adaptive optics technology to cancel out the distortions of the atmosphere. W. M. Keck Observatory helped pioneer the astronomical use of adaptive optics in the 1990’s, and now delivers images three to four times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/1.5_million_for_next_generation_laser

Cassini Finds Vortex Forming Over Titan’s South Pole


With its recent excursion out of Saturn’s equatorial plane, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has benefited from a bird’s-eye view of the south pole of the planet’s largest moon where its cameras spied a polar vortex in Titan’s atmosphere. Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Venus and Earth also have polar vortices.

Images captured by Cassini’s imaging team during a flyby on June 27 show the polar vortex, or a mass of swirling gas around the pole in the atmosphere of the moon, as it appears to execute one full rotation in about nine hours — faster than the moon’s rotation period.

Full Story: http://www.ciclops.org/view.php?id=7239

Also: http://www.ciclops.org/view_event/177/Titans_Swirling_South_Polar_Vortex
Also: http://ciclops.org/
Also: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/
Also: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/index.html

Hubble Unmasks Ghost Galaxies


Astronomers have puzzled over why some puny, extremely faint dwarf galaxies spotted in our Milky Way galaxy’s back yard contain so few stars.

These ghost-like galaxies are thought to be some of the tiniest, oldest, and most pristine galaxies in the universe. They have been discovered over the past decade by astronomers using automated computer techniques to search through the images of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. But astronomers needed NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to help solve the mystery of these star-starved galaxies.

Hubble views of three of the small-fry galaxies reveal that their stars share the same birth date. The galaxies all started forming stars more than 13 billion years ago — and then abruptly stopped — all in the first billion years after the universe was born in the big bang.

“These galaxies are all ancient and they’re all the same age, so you know something came down like a guillotine and turned off the star formation at the same time in these galaxies,” said Tom Brown of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., the study’s leader. “The most likely explanation is reionization.”

Full Story: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/26/full/

Also: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/ghost-galaxies.html

Also: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1211/

Astronomy “Hangouts” Featured In New Google Documentary


Using new technology available through Google+ Hangouts, a group of astronomy enthusiasts have been conducting virtual star parties shared by thousands of people around the world. Their efforts were highlighted in a new documentary presented by Google at their annual developer’s conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco on June 27, 2012.

“We’ve been holding Virtual Star Parties every Sunday night, where we pull together live feeds from multiple telescopes around the world and broadcast them into a live Google+ hangout,” said Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today (http://www.universetoday.com/), a popular astronomy and space news website, who instigated the online star parties along with astronomer Dr. Pamela Gay from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and CosmoQuest (http://cosmoquest.org/), a new citizen-science and education project. “We’ve done dozens of them now, showcasing the Moon, the planets, and many deep-sky objects. The response has been overwhelming, as we’ve made it possible for people without telescopes or who have cloudy skies a chance to see the night sky from the comfort of their home.”

Documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Agrdjd0nyFo