Will We Find Oceans On Pluto?

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is speeding towards a rendezvous with Pluto and it moon's in 2015.  Will it find a sub-surface ocean on the dwarf planet?

Will We Find Oceans On Pluto? : Discovery News:
"The recent announcement that there might be lakes just under the comparatively thin circular, bumpy features on the surface of the Jovian moon Europa offers tantalizing evidence that the icy outer bodies of the solar are much more dynamic and interesting than thought.

Equally as amazing are the water geysers on the Saturnian moon Enceladus that were discovered by NASA's Cassini orbiter. They must be fueled by a huge water reservoir under the icy crust.

And, add to this list Titan and Ganymede that also might have subsurface oceans."

NASA decides to build TDRS-M

NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) network allows it maintain unprecedented contact with satellites in low earth orbit.  ISS and other satellites send and recieve their signals up to the geosynchronous orbiting TDRS's, which are in view almost continually, rather than down to ground tracking stations which are in range only briefly.

The importance of this capability is illustrated by Russia's failed Phobos Grunt Mars probe.  The only signal controllers received from it was one orbit after launch as it passed over Russian ground stations.  The critical burns to send it to Mars were to take place over South America, completely out of communication with ground stations. Russia has almost no data on the crafts failure because of a lack of communication.

NASA - NASA Exercises Contract Option For TDRS-M Satellite Decision Will Retain Hundreds Of Jobs:
"NASA has elected to exercise the first of two available contract options for procurement of an additional Tracking Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) from Boeing Satellite Systems, Inc. of El Segundo, Calif. The estimated value of the contract option is $289 million and extends the period of performance through April 2024. Exercising the option will allow Boeing Satellite Systems to retain at least 300 American jobs.

The TDRS-K Program contract, awarded in December 2007, is a fixed-price incentive contract that directs Boeing Satellite Systems to design, develop, fabricate, integrate, test, ship, provide launch support, conduct in-orbit checkout operations and provide sustaining engineering support for two TDRS spacecraft, TDRS-K and TDRS-L. The original contract included options for two additional spacecraft (TDRS-M and TDRS-N). This action exercises the option for TDRS-M. "

'via Blog this'

Apollo 13 Oral History - Glynn S. Lunney

I was 19 years old at the time. I can still remember ABC News reporter Jules Bergman reporting: "The Apollo 13 spacecraft has had a serious power supply malfunction..." Here's a firsthand account of the tense three days that led to the crews rescue.
Glynn S. Lunney Oral History:
"Flight Director Glynn Lunney expected a quiet night on the console as he began his shift on the evening of April 13, 1970. But, soon after, while the Apollo XIII crew performed a routine procedure, an explosion occurred onboard their spacecraft. For the next 14 hours, Lunney says he experienced what he considers to be the best piece of operations work he ever did or could hope to do.

Read his description of how the incident “posed a continuous demand for the best decisions often without hard data and mostly on the basis of judgment, in the face of the most severe in-flight emergency faced thus far in manned space flight.” In this narrative he shares “through one decision, one choice, and one innovation at a time,” the team at Mission Control at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston worked together to bring the Apollo XIII crew safely home."

Hovering on the Horizon the Moon beckons us to return

Photo of the day: The Moon hovering over Earth's horizon, beckoning us to return....

Hovering on the Horizon : Image of the Day:
"The limb of the Earth is a work of beauty and a gift to science. When observed from space, the layers of the atmosphere remind us of the fragility of the cocoon that shelters life. That same view also allows scientists to detect the gases and particles that make up the different layers of our atmosphere. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured a bit of both in this digital photograph from July 31, 2011. They threw in the Moon as an extra gift.
Closest to Earth’s surface, the orange-red glow reveals the troposphere—the lowest, densest layer of atmosphere, and the one we live within. A brown transitional layer marks the upper edge of the troposphere, known as the tropopause. A milky white and gray layer rests above that, likely a slice of the stratosphere with perhaps some noctilucent clouds in the mix. The upper reaches of the atmosphere—the mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere—fade from shades of blue to the blackness of space."

NASA's Grace Helps Monitor U.S. Drought

NASA's Grace Helps Monitor U.S. Drought - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
"The record-breaking drought in Texas that has fueled wildfires, decimated crops and forced cattle sales has also reduced groundwater levels in much of the state to the lowest levels in more than 60 years, according to new national maps produced by NASA using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission. The map are distributed by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The latest groundwater map, released on Nov. 29, shows large patches of maroon over eastern Texas, indicating severely depressed groundwater levels. The maps, publicly available on the Drought Center's website at http://go.unl.edu/mqk , are generated weekly by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., using Grace gravity field data calculated at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the University of Texas Center for Space Research, Austin. "