NASA's WISE Finds Earth's First Trojan Asteroid

NASA's WISE Finds Earth's First Trojan Asteroid - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"Astronomers studying observations taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission have discovered the first known 'Trojan' asteroid orbiting the sun along with Earth.

Trojans are asteroids that share an orbit with a planet near stable points in front of or behind the planet. Because they constantly lead or follow in the same orbit as the planet, they never can collide with it. In our solar system, Trojans also share orbits with Neptune, Mars and Jupiter. Two of Saturn's moons share orbits with Trojans.

Scientists had predicted Earth should have Trojans, but they have been difficult to find because they are relatively small and appear near the sun from Earth's point of view."

International Space Station to be 'sunk' after 2020

AFP: International Space Station to be 'sunk' after 2020:

"Russia and its partners plan to plunge the International Space Station (ISS) into the ocean at the end of its life cycle after 2020 so as not to leave space junk, its space agency said on Wednesday.
'After it completes its existence, we will be forced to sink the ISS. It cannot be left in orbit, it's too complex, too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish,' said deputy head of Roskosmos space agency Vitaly Davydov."

Outfitting the Next Mars Rover

Outfitting the Next Mars Rover | Magazine:

"A rock-vaporizing laser. Miniaturized chemical analyzers. A flying crane. As NASA prepares to launch the Mars Science Laboratory, a rover that will “follow the water” and pursue potential signs of life on Mars, international teams are tricking it out with a new set of scientific instruments that can analyze data in real time as the rover moves across the surface. Since future NASA funding is up in the air and the rest of the planetary science community is arguing that other targets in the solar system are long overdue, MSL may be the agency’s last chance for several years to get wheels back on the rocky red ground. It’s a $2.5 billion gamble that aims to redefine our understanding of habitability in the universe. So engineers are making sure MSL has the right tools for the job."

French Guiana To Be Newest Soyuz Spaceport

French Guiana To Be Newest Soyuz Spaceport | The Rundown News Blog | PBS NewsHour | PBS:

"America's space shuttles are grounded, but Russia is forging ahead with plans for future spaceflight missions. In addition to launching Soyuz rockets from the usual spaceports in Kazakhstan and Russia, the country will soon add a brand new working launch pad to its arsenal -- located in a jungle in French Guiana, along South America's northern coast.

As soon as this fall, Russian Soyuz rockets are expected to begin launching from the European Space Agency's French Guiana spaceport, where France's Ariane satellite-launching rocket program is headquartered. This will mark the first time that a Soyuz launcher will lift off from a spaceport other than Baikonur in the Kazakhstan grasslands or Plesetsk in northern Russia."

Two NASA Probes Enter Lunar Orbit

NASA - Two NASA Probes Tackle New Mission: Studying The Moon:

"Two small NASA probes that had been used to study space weather now are orbiting the moon to study its interior and surface composition.

The spacecraft, called Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun (ARTEMIS), began their journey away from Earth's orbit in July 2009. The first spacecraft entered lunar orbit on June 27, and the second on July 17.

Engineers used complex orbit maneuvers to relocate the spacecraft to their new locations. The journey required many gravity assists from the moon and Earth and used minimal amounts of fuel.

The probes will now approach the moon's surface to within sixty miles once per orbit. The data will provide scientists with new information about the moon's internal structure for the next seven to 10 years."

NASA and SpaceX Tentatively Agree to Speed Up Test Flight Schedule

NASA and SpaceX Tentatively Agree to Speed Up Test Flight Schedule | Popular Science:

"NASA's space shuttle program may be over, but a new kind of space shuttling is just getting started. Even better, the new, private era of space missions seems to be moving along even faster than expected, as SpaceX and NASA have tentatively agreed to combine the two remaining test missions into one.
Originally, SpaceX's launch to the International Space Station (which would be completed using a Dragon capsule aboard a Falcon 9 rocket) required two test demonstrations: One would include a 'rendezvous' in which SpaceX flies near the ISS, and a second would include an actual docking with the ISS. If that sounds like a real mission and not a 'test demonstration,' you're right: SpaceX would indeed be delivering some sort of 'limited cargo,' according to Spaceflight Now. But it seems as though SpaceX is both ambitious and ahead of schedule, as they asked NASA, which is the public partner of the in-part publicly funded SpaceX, to approve the combining of these two missions into a single one--or, more accurately, to just ditch the first rendezvous-only flight."

Juno Probe Heads to Launch Pad

Juno Probe Heads to Launch Pad | AVIATION WEEK:

"NASA’s Juno, an innovative and ambitious mission intended to resolve some long-standing mysteries about the formation of Jupiter and the Solar System, headed to the launch pad in Florida July 25 in anticipation of launching Aug. 5.

The spacecraft’s five-year trek to Jupiter is scheduled to begin with an 11:34 a.m. EDT liftoff onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41. The rocket, flying in the 551 vehicle configuration with a five-meter faring, five solid-rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage, will propel Juno out as far as the orbit of Mars before the spacecraft cycles back around the Sun for a flyby of Earth in October 2013 and a gravitational boost to Jupiter."

Enceladus rains water onto Saturn

ESA Portal - Enceladus rains water onto Saturn:

"ESA’s Herschel space observatory has shown that water expelled from the moon Enceladus forms a giant torus of water vapour around Saturn. The discovery solves a 14-year mystery by identifying the source of the water in Saturn’s upper atmosphere.

Herschel’s latest results mean that Enceladus is the only moon in the Solar System known to influence the chemical composition of its parent planet.
Enceladus expels around 250 kg of water vapour every second, through a collection of jets from the south polar region known as the Tiger Stripes because of their distinctive surface markings."

NASA Wants to Send Astronauts to Asteroid

The Associated Press: Daunting space task _ send astronauts to asteroid:

"With the space shuttle now history, NASA's next great mission is so audacious, the agency's best minds are wrestling with how to pull it off: Send astronauts to an asteroid in less than 15 years.
The challenges are innumerable. Some old-timers are grousing about it, saying going back to the moon makes more sense. But many NASA brains are thrilled to have such an improbable assignment.
And NASA leaders say civilization may depend on it.
An asteroid is a giant space rock that orbits the sun, like Earth. And someday one might threaten the planet."

SpaceX Station Cargo Mission Planned

SpaceX Station Cargo Mission Planned | AVIATION WEEK:

"With the STS-135 space shuttle supply mission to the International Space Station drawing to a close, agency officials are honing plans for a late November launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon on the first U.S. commercial cargo delivery mission to the orbiting science laboratory, NASA ISS program manager Mike Suffredini says.

Agency and company officials reached agreement on planning dates of Nov. 30 for the launch and Dec. 7 for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the station during a July 15 meeting."

Russia plans to launch unmanned cargo-returning spacecraft to orbit

Russia plans to launch unmanned cargo-returning spacecraft to orbit:

"One of the versions of a new-generation Russian spacecraft to be launched from the Vostochny spaceport in the Amur region will be able to return up to 2 tonnes of cargo from orbit to the Earth, a source from the Russian space rocket industry told Interfax-AVN.

'Possessing an unmanned cargo-returning spacecraft is becoming especially important to Russia with the end of the U.S. space shuttle operations,' the source said."

Nuclear Powered Laser Packing Mars Rover Set to Land at Gale Crater

NASA - NASA'S Next Mars Rover To Land At Gale Crater:

"NASA's next Mars rover will land at the foot of a layered mountain inside the planet's Gale crater.

The plutonium powered car-sized Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, is scheduled to launch late this year and land in August 2012. The target crater spans 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a mountain rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Gale is about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Layering in the mound suggests it is the surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of deposits. The crater is named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale.

'Mars is firmly in our sights,' said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. 'Curiosity not only will return a wealth of important science data, but it will serve as a precursor mission for human exploration to the Red Planet.'

During a prime mission lasting one Martian year -- nearly two Earth years -- researchers will use the rover's tools, including a laser beam, to study whether the landing region had favorable environmental conditions for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life ever existed."

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Beams Back New Vesta Photo

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Beams Back New Photo - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"Dawn took this image during its current orbit of Vesta, traveling from the day side to the night side. The large structure near the south pole that showed up so prominently in previous images is visible in the center of the illuminated surface. Compared to other images, this one shows more of the surface beneath the spacecraft in the shadow of night. Vesta turns on its axis once every five hours and 20 minutes.

Dawn entered orbit around Vesta on July 15, 2011, and will spend a year orbiting the body. After that, the next stop on its itinerary will be an encounter with the dwarf planet Ceres."

NASA's Proud Space Shuttle Program Ends With Atlantis Landing

NASA - NASA's Proud Space Shuttle Program Ends With Atlantis Landing:

"Wrapping up 30 years of unmatched achievements and blazing a trail for the next era of U.S. human spaceflight, NASA's storied Space Shuttle Program came to a 'wheels stop' on Thursday at the conclusion of its 135th mission.

Shuttle Atlantis and its four-astronaut crew glided home for the final time, ending a 13-day journey of more than five million miles with a landing at 5:57 a.m. EDT at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the 26th night landing (20th night and 78th total landings at Kennedy) and the 133rd landing in shuttle history.

'The brave astronauts of STS-135 are emblematic of the shuttle program -- skilled professionals from diverse backgrounds who propelled America to continued leadership in space with the shuttle's many successes,' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. 'This final shuttle flight marks the end of an era, but today, we recommit ourselves to continuing human spaceflight and taking the necessary- and difficult - steps to ensure America's leadership in human spaceflight for years to come.'"

Twisted Tale of our Galaxy's Ring - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Twisted Tale of our Galaxy's Ring - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"New observations from the Herschel Space Observatory show a bizarre, twisted ring of dense gas at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Only a few portions of the ring, which stretches across more than 600 light-years, were known before. Herschel's view reveals the entire ring for the first time, and a strange kink that has astronomers scratching their heads.

'We have looked at this region at the center of the Milky Way many times before in the infrared,' said Alberto Noriega-Crespo of NASA's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. 'But when we looked at the high-resolution images using Herschel's sub-millimeter wavelengths, the presence of a ring is quite clear.'"

Spitzer Sees Spider Web of Stars

Spitzer Sees Spider Web of Stars - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"Those aren't insects trapped in a spider's web -- they're stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, lying between us and another spiral galaxy called IC 342. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope captured this picture in infrared light, revealing the galaxy's bright patterns of dust.

At a distance of about 10 million light-years from Earth, IC 342 is relatively close by galaxy standards. However, our vantage point places it directly behind the disk of our own Milky Way. The intervening dust makes it difficult to see in visible light, but infrared light penetrates this veil easily. While stars in our own galaxy appear as blue/white dots, the blue haze is from IC 342's collective starlight. Red shows the dust structures, which contain clumps of new stars.

The center of the galaxy, where one might look for a spider, is actually home to an enormous burst of star formation. To either side of the center, a small bar of dust and gas is helping to fuel the new stars."

Space Shuttle Scheduled to Return to Earth Thursday


"The final flight of NASA's 30-year-old space shuttle program is scheduled to end on Thursday, July 21, when Atlantis and its STS-135 crew return to Earth. The landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida marks the completion of a 13-day mission to supply the International Space Station for the post-shuttle era.

Thursday's Kennedy landing opportunities are at 5:56 a.m. and 7:32 a.m. EDT. Atlantis' entry flight control team, led by Flight Director Tony Ceccacci, will evaluate weather conditions at the landing site before giving approval to Atlantis to return. If the shuttle is unable to come home Thursday, additional opportunities are available on Friday at Kennedy and at the backup landing site, Edwards Air Force Base in California."

Hubble Discovers a New Moon Around Pluto

Hubble Discovers a New Moon Around Pluto - NASA Science:

"Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a fourth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The tiny, new satellite – temporarily designated P4 -- popped up in a Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet.

The new moon is the smallest discovered around Pluto. It has an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 km). By comparison, Charon, Pluto's largest moon, is 648 miles (1,043 km) across, and the other moons, Nix and Hydra, are in the range of 20 to 70 miles in diameter (32 to 113 km).

'I find it remarkable that Hubble's cameras enabled us to see such a tiny object so clearly from a distance of more than 3 billion miles (5 billion km),' said Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who led this observing program with Hubble."

42 Years Since Apollo 11 Moon Landing

It's been 42 years since mans first lunar landing on July, 20, 1969. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum exhibits many of the artifacts from this mission including the command module Columbia.   For more information follow this link to their Apollo 11 webpage.

Below is a video of the actual landing. It was shot from a camera mounted above Buzz Aldrin's head looking out through his window.

For details of the audio transmission see this transcript which includes added comments explaining what's happening at the time.

NASA's Opportunity Tops 20 Miles of Mars Driving

NASA's Opportunity Tops 20 Miles of Mars Driving - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"More than seven years into what was planned as a three-month mission on Mars, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has driven more than 20 miles, which is more than 50 times the mission's original distance goal.

A drive of 407 feet (124 meters) completed on July 17 took Opportunity past the 20-mile mark (32.2 kilometers). It brought the rover to within a few drives of reaching the rim of Endeavour crater, the rover's team's long-term destination since mid-2008. Endeavour is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter, and its western rim exposes outcrops that record information older than any Opportunity has examined so far. The rover is now about eight-tenths of a mile (about 1.3 kilometers) from the site chosen for arriving at the rim.

'The numbers aren't really as important as the fact that driving so much farther than expected during this mission has put a series of exciting destinations within Opportunity's reach,' said Alfonso Herrera, a rover mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. who has worked on the rover missions since before launch in 2003."

NASA Announcing Landing Site For New Mars Rover

NASA - NASA Announcing Landing Site For New Mars Rover:

"NASA and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will host a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT, Friday, July 22 to announce the selected landing site for the agency's latest Mars rover. The event will be in the museum's Moving Beyond Earth Gallery. NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the event.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), or Curiosity, will land on the surface of Mars in August 2012. Curiosity is being assembled and readied for a November launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Curiosity is about twice as long and more than five times as heavy as any previous Mars rover. The rover will study whether the landing region had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed."

Atlantis Undocks from International Space Station

NASA - Archive:

"At 2:28 a.m. EDT, space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station while the spacecraft were 243 miles above the Pacific, east of Christchurch, New Zealand. Atlantis spent eight days, 15 hours and 21 minutes attached to the orbiting laboratory.

Over the 37 missions devoted to assembling and maintaining the space station, shuttles were docked for 276 days, 11 hours and 23 minutes – almost 40 weeks.

Pilot Doug Hurley now is moving Atlantis to a distance of 600 feet in front of the complex, where he will halt the shuttle for 27 minutes while the space station yaws 90 degrees to present its longitudinal axis to Atlantis. This will provide Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus the opportunity to snap digital pictures of the station from angles the shuttle never has seen before during a fly-around. Hurley will move Atlantis to a point 600 feet above the station, and then behind it. He then will fire Atlantis’ thrusters to move below the station, and at 4:18 a.m. he will perform a final separation burn to depart the vicinity of the station.

With the two spacecraft separated, Atlantis’ crew will focus on preparing for landing at Kennedy Space Center early Thursday morning. The time of landing has changed slightly, to 5:56 a.m. EDT. Ground tracks have been posted here:"

SpaceX chief sets his sights on Mars

Here's a nice interview with SpaceX chief Elon Musk on the end of the Space Shuttle era and where he sees his company heading.

Cosmic Log - SpaceX chief sets his sights on Mars:

"Don't expect to hear any nostalgia about the soon-to-end space shuttle era from Elon Musk, the millionaire founder of Space Exploration Technologies. Musk isn't prone to look to the past, but rather to the future — to a 'new era of spaceflight' that eventually leads to Mars.
SpaceX may be on the Red Planet sooner than you think: When I talked with him in advance of the shuttle Atlantis' last liftoff, the 40-year-old engineer-entrepreneur told me the company's Dragon capsule could take on a robotic mission to Mars as early as 2016. And he's already said it'd be theoretically possible to send humans to Mars in the next 10 to 20 years — bettering NASA's target timeframe of the mid-2030s."

NASA Dawn Spacecraft Returns Close-Up Image of Asteroid Vesta

NASA - NASA Dawn Spacecraft Returns Close-Up Image of Asteroid Vesta:

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The image taken for navigation purposes shows Vesta in greater detail than ever before. When Vesta captured Dawn into its orbit, there were approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between the spacecraft and asteroid. Engineers estimate the orbit capture took place at 10 p.m. PDT Friday, July 15 (1 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 16)."

Does Asteroid Vesta Have a Moon?

Does Asteroid Vesta Have a Moon? - NASA Science

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is closing in on Vesta, and from now until the ion-powered spacecraft goes into orbit in mid-July, every picture of the giant asteroid will be the best one ever taken. What will researchers do with this unprecedented clarity?
"For starters," says Dawn chief engineer Marc Rayman, "we're going to look for an asteroid moon."
You might think of asteroids as isolated bodies tumbling alone through space, but it's entirely possible for these old "loners" to have companions. Indeed, 19-mile-wide Ida, 90-mile-wide Pulcova, 103-mile-wide Kalliope, and 135-mile-wide Eugenia each have a moon. And 175-mile-wide Sylvia has two moons. Measuring 330 miles across, Vesta is much larger than these other examples, so a "Vesta moon" is entirely possible.

NASA Spacecraft to Enter Asteroid's Orbit on July 15

NASA Spacecraft to Enter Asteroid's Orbit on July 15 - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"On July 15, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will begin a prolonged encounter with the asteroid Vesta, making the mission the first to enter orbit around a main-belt asteroid.

The main asteroid belt lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dawn will study Vesta for one year, and observations will help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system's history.

As the spacecraft approaches Vesta, surface details are coming into focus, as seen in a recent image taken from a distance of about 26,000 miles (41,000 kilometers). The image is available at: .

Engineers expect the spacecraft to be captured into orbit at approximately 10 p.m. PDT Friday, July 15 (1 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 16). They expect to hear from the spacecraft and confirm that it performed as planned during a scheduled communications pass that starts at approximately 11:30 p.m. PDT on Saturday, July 16 (2:30 a.m. EDT Sunday, July 17). When Vesta captures Dawn into its orbit, engineers estimate there will be approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between them. At that point, the spacecraft and asteroid will be approximately 117 million miles (188 million kilometers) from Earth"

Cassini Spacecraft Captures Images and Sounds of Big Saturn Storm

Cassini Spacecraft Captures Images and Sounds of Big Saturn Storm

Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft now have the first-ever, up-close details of a Saturn storm that is eight times the surface area of Earth.
On Dec. 5, 2010, Cassini first detected the storm that has been raging ever since. It appears at approximately 35 degrees north latitude on Saturn. Pictures from Cassini's imaging cameras show the storm wrapping around the entire planet covering approximately 1.5 billion square miles (4 billion square kilometers).
The storm is about 500 times larger than the biggest storm previously seen by Cassini during several months from 2009 to 2010. Scientists studied the sounds of the new storm's lightning strikes and analyzed images taken between December 2010 and February 2011. Data from Cassini's radio and plasma wave science instrument showed the lightning flash rate as much as 10 times more frequent than during other storms monitored since Cassini's arrival to Saturn in 2004. The data appear in a paper published this week in the journal Nature.

NASA Selects Nonprofit to Manage Space Station National Lab Research

NASA - NASA Selects Nonprofit to Manage Space Station National Lab Research:

"NASA has selected the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Inc. (CASIS) to develop and manage the U.S. portion of the International Space Station that will be operated as a national laboratory. At the conclusion of successful negotiations, the independent, nonprofit research management organization will help ensure the station’s unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of the U.S. scientific, technological and industrial communities.

'The space station is the centerpiece of NASA's human spaceflight activities, and it is truly a national asset,' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. 'This agreement helps us ensure the station will be available for broad, meaningful and sustained use.'"

Last Spacewalk of Shuttle Era Completed

NASA - Archive:

"Spacewalk Concludes at 3:53 p.m. EDT Tue, 12 Jul 2011 01:27:07 PM PDT

Expedition 28 spacewalkers Mike Fossum and Ron Garan completed a six-hour, 31-minute spacewalk at 3:53 p.m. EDT.

It was the 249th spacewalk by U.S. astronauts, the seventh for Fossum, totaling 48 hours and 32 minutes, and the fourth for Garan, totaling 27 hours and 3 minutes. It was the 160th spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, totaling 1009 hours, 9 minutes, and the 119th spacewalk out of station airlocks."

What took you so long? Mars rover nears end of three year, 11 mile journey to the edge of giant crater

What took you so long? Mars rover nears end of three year, 11 mile journey to the edge of giant crater

Nasa's Opportunity Mars rover is nearing the end of a nearly three year trek across the red planet on the latest part of its marathon exploration mission.
The rover - on Mars since 2004 - is headed for the 14 mile wide Endeavour crater, where NASA scientists hope to explore ancient rocks in their continuing hunt for life on the barren surface.
Opportunity is headed for a place called Spirit point, named in honour of its sister rover which ceased communication and was declared lost May 24.

Post-Shuttle Era: SpaceX Shows Off LC-40 Launch Facilities

Post-Shuttle Era: SpaceX Shows Off LC-40 Launch Facilities - Part 1: The Pad:

"Over a two day period last week, Space Exploration Technologies – better known as SpaceX (News - Alert) – wooed the media gathered at the Kennedy Space Center for the last launch of the space shuttle, STS-135 Atlantis. Several buses full of press got a tour of SpaceX's LC-40 launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, the company's launch control center (LCC), and a look at the flight-proven Dragon space capsule on July 6 and held a reception at the Air Force Space & Missile History Center – right behind its LCC – the following evening."

SpaceX Groundbreaking at Vandenberg Air Force Base Wednesday

SpaceX Groundbreaking at Vandenberg Air Force Base Wednesday | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference: "

In April 2011, SpaceX announced its plans to design, build and launch the Falcon Heavy - the world's largest launch vehicle since the Saturn V moon rocket. The Falcon Heavy should arrive at Vandenberg by the end of 2012 and launch soon thereafter.

On Wednesday, July 13th, 2011, Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the company's newest launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base."

Herschel Helps Solve Mystery of Cosmic Dust Origins

Herschel Helps Solve Mystery of Cosmic Dust Origins - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

New observations from the infrared Herschel Space Observatory reveal that an exploding star expelled the equivalent of between 160,000 and 230,000 Earth masses of fresh dust. This enormous quantity suggests that exploding stars, called supernovae, are the answer to the long-standing puzzle of what supplied our early universe with dust.

"This discovery illustrates the power of tackling a problem in astronomy with different wavelengths of light," said Paul Goldsmith, the NASA Herschel project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who is not a part of the current study. "Herschel's eye for longer-wavelength infrared light has given us new tools for addressing a profound cosmic mystery."

Herschel is led by the European Space Agency with important contributions from NASA.

Cosmic dust is made of various elements, such as carbon, oxygen, iron and other atoms heavier than hydrogen and helium. It is the stuff of which planets and people are made, and it is essential for star formation. Stars like our sun churn out flecks of dust as they age, spawning new generations of stars and their orbiting planets.

Soyuz lacks shuttle's ability to repair space station, warn space experts

Soyuz lacks shuttle's ability to repair space station, warn space experts | Science | The Guardian:

"Russia's looming monopoly over the delivery of crew to the International Space Station is causing disquiet in the US as the last space shuttle prepares for take-off.

Once the shuttle Atlantis – due to launch on Friday – returns to Earth after a 12-day mission, Russia will be solely responsible for sending astronauts to the $100bn station in its Soyuz spacecraft.

Several US astronauts, including the legendary Neil Armstrong, wrote to Nasa administrator Charles Bolden on 30 June warning of an 'unacceptable flight risk' because the Soyuz lacks the airlocks, life support systems and robotic arm that allow the shuttle to act as a base for spacewalks to repair the ISS in the event that a systems failure or accident on board the station makes it uninhabitable."

China Wants to Explore the Moon, Venus and Mars

China wants to explore the Moon, Venus and Mars | TG Daily:

"In light of last week's final NASA space shuttle launch, Beijing is stepping up to the plate with aspirations of exploring the Moon, Venus and Mars.

China plans to send a rover to the moon by 2013 and an astronaut by 2020. As the U.S. slows its space initiatives, many are worried that the Chinese may become the leader in space exploration, knocking the U.S. from its long-held top spot."

NASA Launches New App For Android

NASA Launches New App For Android

NASA has launched the free NASA App for Android (TM), a new application designed for mobile devices that run the open source Android platform.

The NASA App is available for free on Android MarketTM at:

"The NASA App for iPhone and iPad has been a phenomenal success with over five million downloads so far," said Jerry Colen, NASA App project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Making a version of the NASA App for Android has been the number one request from users. We are delighted to fulfill this request and put NASA's amazing content into the hands of millions of Android users around the world."

The NASA App for Android showcases a huge collection of NASA content, including images, videos on-demand, live streaming video from NASA Television, mission information, feature stories and breaking news. Users also can find sighting opportunities for the International Space Station and track the current positions of spacecraft currently orbiting Earth. App users also easily can share NASA content with their friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter or via e-mail.

STS135 Mission Updates

STS-135 Arrives, Crew Begins Work at Station
Sun, 10 Jul 2011 22:04:14 GMT

Space shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station at 11:07 a.m. EDT Sunday with a cargo-carrying module in its payload bay filled with equipment and supplies for the orbiting laboratory. Hatches separating crews were opened at 12:47 p.m. Shuttle crew members, Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim, entered the station moments later to begin their week-plus stay.

Ferguson and Hurley used the shuttle arm to take its 50-foot extension boom from the station’s Canadarm2 operated by station Flight Engineers Ron Garan and Satoshi Furukawa. The station arm had plucked the boom from its stowage position on the shuttle cargo bay sill. The handoff was to prepare to use the boom for any needed shuttle heat shield inspection later this week. Magnus worked with TV setup and Walheim transferred spacewalk gear.

Docking had gone just as planned. Ferguson and the crew of space shuttle Atlantis began their final approach to the station from about eight miles distance with the terminal initiation burn at 8:29 a.m.

About 600 feet below the station, Atlantis did a backflip to enable station crew members to photograph the shuttle’s heat shield. The photos were sent to mission control to be evaluated by experts on the ground to look for any damage.

Flight controllers began monitoring reports from the Department of Defense’s U.S. Strategic Command that a piece of orbital debris may come near the station and shuttle complex about noon on Tuesday. The debris, part of satellite COSMOS 375, is one of more than 500,000 pieces of debris tracked in Earth’s orbit. The team expected updated tracking information following today’s docking to help determine if a maneuver using the shuttle’s thrusters is necessary to avoid the debris.

The crew sleep period is scheduled to begin at 6:59 p.m. Flight Day 4 begins with crew wake up at 2:59 a.m. Monday.

Shuttle Crew Welcomed Aboard Station
Sun, 10 Jul 2011 16:59:13 GMT

At 12:47 p.m. EDT, hatches were opened between the International Space Station and space shuttle Atlantis, beginning the joint phase of the STS-135 mission.

NASA Television will air a Mission Status Briefing with STS-135 Lead Shuttle Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho at 1:30 p.m., or immediately following the standard welcome ceremony between the crews.

At 4 p.m., chairman of the Mission Management Team and Deputy Manager of the Space Shuttle Program LeRoy Cain will hold a news conference on NASA TV.

Atlantis Docks to International Space Station
Sun, 10 Jul 2011 15:10:00 GMT

At 11:07 a.m. EDT, Commander Chris Ferguson guided space shuttle Atlantis into pressurized mating adapter #2 on the International Space Station’s Harmony node. The two spacecraft were flying about 240 miles high, east of New Zealand, at the time they docked.

This was the 12th and final time Atlantis docked to the space station. It was the 46th shuttle docking to a space station, nine to the Russian Mir station and 37 to the International Space Station. Atlantis performed seven of the nine Mir dockings. This was the 86th space shuttle rendezvous operation and the 164th “proximity operation” in the history of the Space Shuttle Program, where a shuttle conducted operations in close proximity to another spacecraft.

The shuttle and station crews will open hatches and hold the traditional welcome ceremony at about 1:19 p.m. Atlantis’ crew of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim will join Expedition 28 Commander Andrey Borisenko and Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov of Russia, Satoshi Furukawa from Japan, and NASA’s Ron Garan and Mike Fossum.

The combined crew of 10 begins more than a week of docked operations, transferring vital supplies and equipment to sustain station operations once the shuttles are retired.

NASA'S Final Space Shuttle Mission Begins With Atlantis' Launch

NASA - NASA'S Final Space Shuttle Mission Begins With Atlantis' Launch

Space shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson and his three crewmates are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 11:29 a.m. EDT Friday. STS-135 is the final mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Program.

"With today's final launch of the space shuttle we turn the page on a remarkable period in America's history in space, while beginning the next chapter in our nation's extraordinary story of exploration," Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Tomorrow's destinations will inspire new generations of explorers, and the shuttle pioneers have made the next chapter of human spaceflight possible."

The STS-135 crew consists of Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. They will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with more than 8,000 pounds of supplies and spare parts to sustain space station operations after the shuttles are retired.

"The shuttle's always going to be a reflection to what a great nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through," Ferguson said shortly before liftoff. "We're not ending the journey today…we're completing a chapter of a journey that will never end."

The mission includes flying the Robotic Refueling Mission, an experiment designed to demonstrate and test the tools, technologies and techniques needed for robotic refueling of satellites in space, even satellites not designed for servicing. The crew also will return with an ammonia pump that recently failed on the station. Engineers want to understand why the pump failed and improve designs for future spacecraft.

Atlantis is on a 12-day mission and scheduled to dock to the station at 11:06 a.m. on Sunday.

NASA's Spacecraft T-Minus One Month to Jupiter Period

NASA's Spacecraft T-Minus One Month to Jupiter Period

NASA's Juno spacecraft is 30 days before its first launch window opens.

"The launch window is the length of time allotted every day for an attempt to launch the spacecraft," said Jan Chodas, Juno project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The launch period is the period of time in days when everything is in the right place to get your mission off to the right start."

For a mission like Juno, getting everything in the right place includes considering the size of the rocket and spacecraft, where our home planet -- and in particular Juno's launch pad -- is pointed at any moment, and its location in space relative to other celestial objects like Juno's final target, Jupiter.

"One month from today, our first launch window opens at 11:34 a.m. EDT (8:34 a.m. PDT) and lasts 69 minutes," said Chodas. "Our primary launch period is 22 days long, and so if weather or other issues come up on Aug. 5, we have 21 more days to get Juno flying. Once we get Juno into space, it's a five-year cruise to Jupiter."

Juno is scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from pad 41-C at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The solar-powered spacecraft will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere and investigate the existence of a solid planetary core.

‪Interview with Ken Bowersox, SpaceX Vice President‬‏

Ken Bowersox, astronaut and VP at Space X speaks about the transition from NASA to private space exploration, and about traveling to Mars and why he's never going there.

Dawn's Ion Engine Unexpectedly Shuts Down

Dawn Team Members Check out Spacecraft

Mission managers for NASA's Dawn spacecraft are studying the spacecraft's ion propulsion system after Dawn experienced a loss of thrust on June 27. Dawn team members were able to trace the episode to an electronic circuit in the spacecraft's digital control and interface unit, a subsystem that houses the circuit and a computer that provides the "brains" to Dawn's ion propulsion system. That circuit appeared to lose an electronic signal. As a result, the valves controlling the flow of xenon fuel did not open properly. Dawn automatically put itself into a more basic configuration known as "safe-communications" mode, where the spacecraft stopped some activities and turned its high-gain antenna to Earth.

Engineers were able to return the spacecraft to a normal configuration and restart the spacecraft's thrusting on June 30 by switching to a second digital control and interface unit with equivalent capabilities. One set of images for navigation purposes was not obtained on June 28 because the spacecraft was in safe-communications mode, and one other set, on July 6, was not obtained to allow the spacecraft to spend the time thrusting. Other sets of navigation images have been and will be acquired as expected. The ion propulsion system is now functioning normally.

"Dawn is still on track to get into orbit around Vesta, and thanks to the flexibility provided by our use of ion propulsion, the time of orbit capture actually will move earlier by a little less than a day," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission manager. "More importantly, the rest of Dawn's schedule is unaffected, and science collection is expected to begin as scheduled in early August."

NASA - NASA Signs Commercial Space Agreement With Sierra Nevada

NASA - NASA Signs Commercial Space Agreement With Sierra Nevada

NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is entering into an agreement with Sierra Nevada Space Systems (SNSS) of Sparks, Nev., to offer technical capabilities from the center's uniquely skilled work force.

The umbrella space act agreement is Kennedy's latest step in its transition from a historically government-only launch complex to a multi-user spaceport. Sierra Nevada also has space act agreements with NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston; NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.; and NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

"We're pleased that our partner Sierra Nevada is going to make use of the deep resources existing at the Kennedy Space Center to enhance its ongoing work," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Sierra Nevada's agreements with Kennedy and other NASA centers demonstrate its commitment to using the full resources of NASA as the agency facilitates commercial cargo and crew capabilities to the International Space Station."

Kennedy will help Sierra Nevada with the ground operations support of its lifting body reusable spacecraft called "Dream Chaser," which resembles a smaller version of the space shuttle orbiter. The spacecraft would carry as many as seven astronauts to the space station.

Gas Giant Spacecraft All Gassed Up

Gas Giant Spacecraft All Gassed Up - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Juno spacecraft completed hydrazine fuel loading, oxidizer loading and final tank pressurizations this week, and now the complete propulsion system is ready for the trip to Jupiter. The spacecraft is currently at the Astrotech processing facility in Titusville, Fla.

Hydrazine is the fuel of choice for most spacecraft because of its stored energy. When the fuel is mixed with the oxidizer, the liquid ignites in the propulsion system's main engine to perform the spacecraft's four large maneuvers. One of these maneuvers includes inserting the spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter in 2016.

With the fueling completion, the spacecraft is 99 percent ready for launch. Once the final thermal blanket closeouts and wet spin tests are complete, the spacecraft will be 100 percent ready for installation onto the Atlas 551 launch vehicle.

Proposed NASA Budget Bill Would Cancel James Webb Space Telescope

The James Web Space Telescope (JWST) was supposed to cost $1.6 billion and launch this year. Now NASA says the telescope can't launch until at least 2018 with a price tag of up to $6.8 billion.

Proposed NASA Budget Bill Would Cancel James Webb Space Telescope

The US House Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee has proposed a NASA spending bill that would put NASA’s budget at pre-2008 levels and cancel the over-budget James Webb Space Telescope. Space News reports that the proposal would cut $1.6 billion from NASA’s current budget, which is nearly $2 billion less than President Obama’s 2012 budget request for NASA, giving the space agency just $16.8 billion to work with.

Is Russia gaining edge in space race as US shuttle bows out

Nasa administrator Charlie Bolden says that after the retirement of the Space Shuttle the US will still be the leader in space exploration. But the perception seems to be changing in the rest of the world. The following is from Sin Chew Daily, a leading Chinese language newspaper in Malaysia.

Russia gains edge in space race as US shuttle bows out

As the United States winds down its shuttle programme in a symbolic twist in a long-running space rivalry, Russia will gain complete control of access to the International Space Station. 
The Russian space agency plays down any triumphalism, but US astronauts will remain dependent on Russia for access to the ISS at least until 2015 and will have to pay for seats in its Soyuz space capsules. 
"We cannot say that we have won the space race, but simply that we have reached the end of a certain stage," the deputy head of the Russian space agency, Vitaly Davydov, said in an interview. 
On July 8, four US astronauts will board the Atlantis shuttle for its last flight, wrapping up a three-decade-long programme in which the United States took turns to ferry supplies and crews to the ISS with Russia's Proton and Soyuz rockets. 
Henceforth, Washington will have to pay $51 million per seat in Russia's space capsules until a new crew vehicle can be built by private companies, which US space agency NASA has estimated could be between 2015 and 2020.

SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Returns to Florida

SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Returns to Florida

On December 8, 2010, SpaceX became the first commercial company in history to launch, fly, land and recover a spacecraft from low Earth orbit. Now through July 10, 2011, that spacecraft, the SpaceX Dragon, will make its first public appearance in Florida since its historic inaugural flight.

SpaceX, in coordination with the Air Force Space and Missile History Center, will host a public viewing of the Dragon capsule through July 10 on the grounds of the History Center, located just outside the South Gate of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).

ESA Portal - 'Dirty hack' restores Cluster mission from near loss

ESA Portal - 'Dirty hack' restores Cluster mission from near loss

Using ingenuity and an unorthodox 'dirty hack', ESA has recovered the four-satellite Cluster mission from near loss. The drama began in March, when a crucial science package stopped responding to commands – one of a mission controller's worst fears.