Soyuz rockets grounded after Progress failure

Soyuz rockets grounded after Progress failure:

"Russia has postponed all upcoming launches by its Soyuz rocket after a Progress spacecraft failed to reach orbit Wednesday, a decision that could delay the next rotation of ISS crew members. Despite Wednesday's launch failure, when an upper stage failure caused the Progress M-12M spacecraft to crash back to Earth in Siberia, preparations had continued for a planned launch Friday of a GLONASS navigation satellite on a Soyuz-Fregat rocket. On Thursday, though, officials formally postponed that launch until some time next month as the investigation into Wednesday's failure continues. That decision is also expected to delay a planned Soyuz launch next month of a crewed Soyuz spacecraft. A source told the Russian news service Interfax that launch would likely be delayed to the second half of October."

International Space Station Could be De-Crewed by November

International Space Station Could be De-Crewed by November:
"NASA’s Space Station Manager Mike Suffredini laid out a fairly bleak picture of how quickly the ISS will have to be de-manned if the anomaly with the Soyuz-family of rockets isn’t figured out soon. The problem is not logistics or supplies; it all hinges on the Soyuz capsules themselves and their limited lifespan. If the anomaly is not figured out soon and the Soyuz rockets aren’t flying by mid-November, the space station will have to be de-crewed and be operated unmanned, remotely from the ground."

Editors Note:  Even if the Space Shuttle was still around, it couldn't help in this situation. As Universe Today notes, it's all about the Soyuz's 200 day orbital lifetime limit.  

Spaceflight Now | Breaking News | Shannon to review options for deep space exploration

Shannon to review options for deep space exploration:

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has asked outgoing space shuttle Program Manager John Shannon to carry out an independent assessment of competing options for eventual manned missions beyond low-Earth orbit, officials say. The review will include extensive input from NASA's international partners to align "our efforts with the international space community," Bolden said in a letter to senior NASA managers."

Russian Progress space freighter lost

BBC News - Russian Progress space freighter lost:

An unmanned freighter launched to the International Space Station (ISS) has been lost.

The Russian space agency said the Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth.

The vessel was carrying three tonnes of supplies for the ISS astronauts.

With the retirement of the US space shuttle, there is now a critical reliance on robotic freighters to keep the station supplied.

But with ample stores currently onboard, the more pressing concern will be the status of the Progress freighter's launch vehicle - the Soyuz-U.

This is very similar to the Soyuz-FG rocket that is used to lift manned capsules to the station.

New Rover Snapshots Capture Endeavour Crater Vistas

New Rover Snapshots Capture Endeavour Crater Vistas - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has captured new images of intriguing Martian terrain from a small crater near the rim of the large Endeavour crater. The rover arrived at the 13-mile-diameter (21-kilometer-diameter) Endeavour on Aug. 9, after a journey of almost three years.

Opportunity is now examining the ejected material from the small crater, named "Odyssey." The rover is approaching a large block of ejecta for investigation with tools on the rover's robotic arm.

NASA Mars Rover Arrives at New Site on Martian Surface

NASA - NASA Mars Rover Arrives at New Site on Martian Surface:

"After a journey of almost three years, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the Red Planet’s Endeavour crater to study rocks never seen before.

On Aug. 9, the golf cart-sized rover relayed its arrival at a location named Spirit Point on the crater’s rim. Opportunity drove approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) after climbing out of the Victoria crater.

“NASA is continuing to write remarkable chapters in our nation’s story of exploration with discoveries on Mars and trips to an array of challenging new destinations,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Opportunity’s findings and data from the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory will play a key role in making possible future human missions to Mars and other places where humans have not yet been.”"

Mars’ northern polar regions in transition

ESA Portal - Mars’ northern polar regions in transition:

"A newly released image from ESA’s Mars Express shows the north pole of Mars during the red planet’s summer solstice. All the carbon dioxide ice has gone, leaving just a bright cap of water ice.

This image was captured by the orbiter’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera on 17 May 2010 and shows part of the northern polar region of Mars during the summer solstice. The solstice is the longest day and the beginning of the summer for the planet’s northern hemisphere.
The ice shield is covered by frozen water and carbon dioxide ice in winter and spring but by this point in the martian year all of the carbon dioxide ice has warmed and evaporated into the planet’s atmosphere."

NASA Mars Rover Approaches Long-Term Goal

NASA Mars Rover Approaches Long-Term Goal - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"The NASA Mars rover Opportunity has gained a view of Endeavour crater from barely more than a football-field's distance away from the rim. The rim of Endeavour has been the mission's long-term goal since mid-2008.

Endeavour offers the setting for plenty of productive work by Opportunity. The crater is 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter -- more than 25 times wider than Victoria crater, an earlier stop that Opportunity examined for two years. Observations by orbiting spacecraft indicate that the ridges along Endeavour's western rim expose rock outcrops older than any Opportunity has seen so far. The selected location for arrival at the rim, 'Spirit Point,' is at the southern tip of one of those ridges, 'Cape York,' on the western side of Endeavour."

NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing On Mars

NASA - NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing On Mars:

"Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.

'NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, 'and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration.'

Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere."

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Launches to Jupiter - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Launches to Jupiter - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:25 a.m. PDT (12:25 p.m. EDT) Friday to begin a five-year journey to Jupiter.

Juno's detailed study of the largest planet in our solar system will help reveal Jupiter's origin and evolution. As the archetype of giant gas planets, Jupiter can help scientists understand the origin of our solar system and learn more about planetary systems around other stars.

'Today, with the launch of the Juno spacecraft, NASA began a journey to yet another new frontier,' NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. 'The future of exploration includes cutting-edge science like this to help us better understand our solar system and an ever-increasing array of challenging destinations.'"

Europe Could Downsize Mars 2016 Mission

Europe Could Downsize Mars 2016 Mission | AVIATION WEEK:

"The European Space Agency (ESA) is considering a plan to scale back or eliminate the entry, descent and landing element of a robotic science mission to Mars in 2016, a cost-saving measure that could bolster a more ambitious joint U.S.-European rover mission to the red planet two years later.

Alvaro Gimenez, ESA’s director of science and robotic exploration, says Europe could save about €120 million ($174 million) if the 19-member space agency immediately abandons development of its ExoMars Entry, Descent and Landing Module (EDL), a testbed designed to demonstrate Europe’s mastery of lander technology. Slated to launch in 2016, EDL is designed to be carried aboard a telecommunications satellite equipped with a methane-sniffing trace-gas sensor and a data relay capability indispensible to a subsequent ExoMars mission planned for 2018."

Dawn Reveals Full Rotation of Vesta

NASA's Dawn mission team has released a close-up video of the Vesta asteroid in full rotation.

The Vesta is the second-largest asteroid in the main asteroid belt, which is located between Mars and Jupiter.

The Dawn spacecraft put itself into the Vesta's orbit last month to conduct a year-long study of the 330-mile-wide asteroid.

"We're finally in orbit around Vesta. And it's everything we hoped it would be,' said mission science chief Christopher Russell of UCLA in USA Today. 'It's really a most exciting small world sitting out in the asteroid belt."

Commercial Crew Development on Track

NASA oversight of CCDev-2 Partners reveals progress milestones |

"NASA’s key Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) drive appears to be progressing to plan, as four companies press on with the development of their manned vehicles, with an aim to transport crews to the International Space Station (ISS) by the middle of this decade – aided by Agency money, whilst allowing for the key oversight from NASA.


With the US now paying for seats on the Russian Soyuz following the retirement of the Space Shuttle, the goal of CCDev-2 is to accelerate the availability of US crew transportation capabilities – both commercial and government – to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) destinations, such as the ISS."

NASA's Jupiter Probe Ready for Launch

NASA's Jupiter Probe Ready for Launch - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

"NASA's Juno spacecraft is getting ready to lift off on Friday, Aug. 5, 2011. On Aug. 4, at about 5 a.m. PDT (8 a.m. EDT), the Jupiter explorer will be rolled some 1,800 feet (about 550 meters) from the 286-foot-tall (87-meter) Vertical Integration Facility, where the Atlas V rocket and Juno were mated, to its launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

'Our next move will be much farther -- about 1,740 million miles [2,800 million kilometers] to Jupiter,' said Jan Chodas, Juno project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. 'The rollout completes Juno's journey on Earth, and now we're excited to be taking our first step into space.'

The launch period for Juno opens Aug. 5 and extends through Aug. 26. The spacecraft is expected to arrive at Jupiter in 2016. For an Aug. 5 liftoff, the launch window opens at 8:34 a.m. PDT (11:34 a.m. EDT) and remains open through 9:43 a.m. PDT (12:43 p.m. EDT)."

Dawn's Dance Into Vesta Orbit

Dawn's Smooth Move - NASA Science:

"When a NASA spacecraft goes into orbit around a new world for the first time, the control room is usually packed to capacity with scientists, engineers, and dignitaries ready to leap and shout when the retro-rockets fire. It's a big, noisy event.
July 15, 2011, was one of those days. NASA's Dawn spacecraft approached Vesta and became the first probe from Earth to orbit a main belt asteroid. Dawn's cameras revealed a desolate world of transcendent beauty, thrilling everyone who worked on the project.
Needless to say, the control room was .... silent?
'Actually it was empty,' says Dawn Chief Engineer Marc Rayman of JPL. 'Dawn entered orbit on a Friday night; I myself was out dancing with my wife and friends.'"

NASA - NASA's Chandra Observatory Images Gas Flowing Toward Black Hole

NASA - NASA's Chandra Observatory Images Gas Flowing Toward Black Hole:

"The flow of hot gas toward a black hole has been clearly imaged for the first time in X-rays. The observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory will help tackle two of the most fundamental problems in modern astrophysics: understanding how black holes grow and how matter behaves in their intense gravity.

The black hole is at the center of a large galaxy known as NGC 3115, which is located about 32 million light years from Earth. A large amount of previous data has shown material falling toward and onto black holes, but none with this clear a signature of hot gas.

By imaging the hot gas at different distances from this supermassive black hole, astronomers have observed a critical threshold where the motion of gas first becomes dominated by the black hole's gravity and falls inward. This distance from the black hole is known as the 'Bondi radius.'"

NASA's Dawn's Spacecraft Views Dark Side of Vesta

NASA - NASA's Dawn's Spacecraft Views Dark Side of Vesta:

"Dawn took this image over Vesta's northern hemisphere after the spacecraft completed its first passage over the dark side of the giant asteroid. It is northern hemisphere winter on Vesta now, so its north pole is in deep shadow.

The Dawn science team is working to determine the significance of the distinct features in this image, which include large grooves or ridges extending for great distances around Vesta.

This image was taken by Dawn's framing camera on July 23, from a distance of 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers)."