Vesta Covered In Hydrogen, NASA's 'Dawn' Asteroid Probe Reveals

Vesta Covered In Hydrogen, NASA's 'Dawn' Asteroid Probe Reveals: "The protoplanet Vesta, a large space rock in the solar system's asteroid belt, is covered with a surprising amount of hydrogen, and bits of Vesta may have rained down on Earth in the form of meteorites, NASA's Dawn probe has revealed.

Dawn spent more than a year orbiting Vesta, a behemoth 330-mile-wide (530 kilometers) asteroid that circles the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Earlier this month, on Sept. 5, Dawn took its leave of Vesta to begin trekking to the even-larger space rock Ceres, which is categorized as a dwarf planet."

Curiosity rover touches rock for first time

NASA's rover Curiosity touched a Martian rock with its robotic arm for the first time on Sept. 22, assessing what chemical elements are in the rock called "Jake Matijevic."

After a short drive the preceding day to get within arm's reach of the football-size rock, Curiosity put its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument in contact with the rock during the rover's 46th Martian day, or sol. The APXS is on a turret at the end of the rover's 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm. The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), on the same turret, was used for close-up inspection of the rock. Both instruments were also used on Jake Matijevic on Sol 47 (Sept. 23).

The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, which shoots laser pulses at a target from the top of Curiosity's mast, also assessed what chemical elements are in the rock Jake Matijevic. Using both APXS and ChemCam on this rock provides a cross calibration of the two instruments.

With a final ChemCam laser testing of the rock on Sol 48 (Sept. 24), Curiosity finished its work on Jake Matijevic. The rover departed the same sol, with a drive of about 138 feet (42 meters), its longest yet. Sol 48, in Mars local mean solar time at Gale Crater, ended at 3:09 p.m. Sept. 24, PDT.

Curiosity landed on Mars seven weeks ago to begin a two-year mission using 10 instruments to assess whether a carefully chosen study area inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life

Newfound Alien Planet a Top Contender to Host Life

Newfound Alien Planet a Top Contender to Host Life - Yahoo! News: "A newly discovered alien planet may be one of the top contenders to support life beyond Earth, researchers say.
The newfound world, a "super Earth" called Gliese 163c, lies at the edge of its star's habitable zone — that just-right range of distances where liquid water could exist.
"There are a wide range of structures and compositions that allow Gliese 163c to be a habitable planet," Xavier Bonfils, of France's Joseph Fourier University-Grenoble, told by email.
He went on to caution that several possible uninhabitable combinations exist as well."

SpaceX Dragon to launch Oct. 7 - But why only a 1000 pounds of cargo?

SpaceNewsNow - SpaceX's Dragon capsule is scheduled to launch towards the ISS on October 7.  NASA calls the flight SPX-1, the first scheduled commercial run to the station. It will carry 1000 pounds of cargo to ISS and return 1200 pounds to earth.

Why only 1000 pounds cargo to the station on this run?  SpaceX's contract with NASA calls for it to haul 20 tons of cargo in 12 flights to the ISS. That's about 3400 pounds per flight. So why only 1000 pounds of cargo this flight?

There's speculation that the Falcon 9 booster is under-powered?  Is the amount of cargo constrained by volume rather than weight?  Is it something else?

If you know the answer, why not comment below and clue the rest of us in. 


SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft To Launch Oct. 7 On First Contract Mission To ISS: "A private space capsule's first contracted cargo mission to the International Space Station is slated to launch Oct. 7, NASA officials announced today (Sept. 20).

SpaceX's robotic Dragon spacecraft is set to blast off atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:34 p.m. EDT on Oct. 7 (0034 Oct. 8 GMT). A backup launch opportunity is available the following day, officials said.

The mission will kick off Dragon's first-ever bona fide supply run to the station. California-based SpaceX holds a $1.6 billion NASA contract to make 12 such unmanned flights."

NASA wants to build deep space outpost

Credit - Boeing
The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that NASA wants to build a space station on the far side of the moon. It would support a small part time crew.

This outpost would probably be based on components left over from the International Space Station. It would probably be something about the size and configuration of the ISS's Zvezda Service Module.

The station would be placed near the Earth Moon Lagrange Point 2 (L2) which is on the far side of the moon.  At this point, about 38,000 miles on the far side of the moon, the combined gravitational forces of the Earth and moon allow an object placed there to stay there with very little expenditure of energy.  Since L2 is hidden from view from Earth, the proposed station would probably be placed in a halo orbit around L2, allowing it to always be visible for the Earth.

To us this seems like the logical next step for NASA.

The Orion capsule and SLS rocket will have a place to go.  NASA and it's partners will gain invaluable experience operating in deep space, while close enough to Earth to return home quickly in an emergency.  L2 also allows easy access to the lunar surface.  Crews at the station could operate robotic explorers on the moon, practicing for similar operations from Mars orbit in the future.

All in all a lot better plan than a one off stunt to visit an asteroid.

Orlando Sentinel Article

Curiosity Rover To Get On-The-Go Photo Capability

Curiosity Rover To Get On-The-Go Photo Capability - Government - Mobile & Wireless - Informationweek: "As NASA's Curiosity rover crawls along the surface of Mars, at distances of up to 40 yards per day, its mast-mounted camera scans the surface for rocks of interest. As a next step, the space agency plans to deploy software that makes it easier to target and capture images without stopping along the way.

The software, called Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS), will let the rover look for rocks of a certain size, shape, or brightness. "The idea is, when it's doing a long drive, a scientist can say, 'Oh, if you see this type of rock in the middle of this drive or at the end of the drive, go ahead and take some high-quality, high-resolution images of it before the rover moves past," said Tara Estlin, a senior member of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Artificial Intelligence Group and AEGIS project leader. Earlier this week, Curiosity parked in front of a football-size rock, which it photographed. NASA scientists plan to use the rover's spectrometer to determine the rock's composition."

Space Shuttle Endeavour Lands in Los Angeles

Space Shuttle Endeavour Lands in Los Angeles | Wired Science | "Early Friday afternoon, the Space Shuttle Endeavour landed at Los Angeles International Airport, completing one final flight on its way to a permanent display at the California Science Center.

As the morning began, LAX — the world’s sixth busiest airport — operated with workday efficiency, the roars of passing jets coming in waves. Thousands of passengers were getting an early start on the weekend, boarding flights for Cleveland, Seattle, or, if airplane decals are to be believed, Tahiti.

But by the early afternoon, taxiing aircraft were halted for a few minutes to give a particular VIP (Very Important Plane) a clear shot at the runway. According to Diana Sanchez, a community relations manager for LAX, the shuttle’s arrival caused minimal disruption for normally scheduled commercial traffic. Air-based traffic was required to keep a 30-mile distance, and all activity on the southern runways was halted for a few minutes as Endeavour lumbered by."

Shuttle Endeavour's last flight tomorrow

SCA and Endeavour over Houston - NASA
NASA invites Californians to participate in space shuttle Endeavour's historic flyover of the state Friday, Sept. 21.

The orbiter, atop its 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), is scheduled to fly over northern California and a large area of the Los Angeles basin beginning at about 8:15 a.m. PDT, one hour later than originally planned. NASA, the California Science Center, and the Federal Aviation Administration delayed the start of the flight to increase the probability that fog over the San Francisco area will dissipate before the flyover.

At 8 a.m. PDT, NASA Television will air the departure of Endeavour from Edwards Air Force Base as it begins its California flyover:

The SCA and Endeavour will salute NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and the Edwards Air Force Base area after takeoff with a low flyby northbound to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Any time after 9:30 a.m. PDT, watch for Endeavour from viewing locations that include the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Chabot Space and Science Center, the California State Capitol, Exploratorium, Lawrence Hall of Science and Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Next the aircraft will travel south, making a pass over NASA's Ames Research Center and Vandenberg Air Force Base before heading into the Los Angeles area.

Any time after 11:30 a.m., watch for flyovers of Endeavour passing landmarks such as the California Science Center, Columbia Memorial Space Center, Disneyland, The Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, Malibu Beach, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Queen Mary, Universal Studios and Venice Beach. Endeavour will land about 12:45 p.m., at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) .

During the four-and-a-half hour flight, social media users are encouraged to share their Endeavour sightings using the hashtags #spottheshuttle and #OV105, Endeavour's vehicle designation.

SpaceX Dragon set to make cargo run to ISS in October

A glitch with a Russian spacecraft has helped clear the way for a private capsule's first contracted cargo flight to the International Space Station early next month, NASA officials say.
Russia's Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft 
was originally set to launch three astronauts toward the station on Oct. 15. But the Soyuz's liftoff will be delayed by about a week while technicians install a replacement part to fix a technical issue, Russian space officials announced Sunday.
The window is thus open fairly wide forSpaceX's Dragon capsule 
to blast off in the first two weeks of October.

Protection for Humans on Mars

Protection for Humans on Mars: "For six weeks, the rover Curiosity has been on Mars. NASA also plans to send humans to Mars within the next 20 years. On the flight and during the stay on Moon or Mars, the astronauts have to be protected against long exposure to cosmic radiation that might cause cancer. On behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH tests whether Moon and Mars regolith can be used to build shielding for ground stations.

On Earth, the atmosphere and the magnetic field weaken cosmic rays. But on Moon and Mars they pelt down unhampered. The cosmic radiation can harm astronauts and could cause cancer in the long run as a result of damage in DNA and cells. "

Juno's Two Deep Space Maneuvers are 'Back-To-Back Home Runs'

NASA - Juno's Two Deep Space Maneuvers are 'Back-To-Back Home Runs': "NASA's Juno spacecraft successfully executed a second Deep Space Maneuver, called DSM-2 last Friday, Sept. 14. The 30 minute firing of its main engine refined the Jupiter-bound spacecraft's trajectory, setting the stage for a gravity assist from a flyby of Earth on Oct 9, 2013. Juno will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

The maneuver began at 3:30 p.m. PDT (6:30 p.m. EDT), when the Leros-1b main engine began to fire. The burn ended at 4 p.m. PDT (7 p.m. EDT). Based on telemetry, the Juno project team believes the burn was accurate, changing the spacecraft's velocity by about 867 mph (388 meters a second) while consuming about 829 pounds (376 kilograms) of fuel.

The burn occurred when Juno was more than 298 million miles (480 million kilometers) from Earth.

Space shuttle Endeavour lands in Houston

Space shuttle Endeavour lands in Houston - "The space shuttle Endeavour landed safely Wednesday morning in Houston's Ellington Field, where Texans can get a glimpse of the massive artifact before it embarks on its final journey to California.

Riding piggyback on a modified Boeing 747, the space shuttle arrived at 8:40 a.m. PDT after a five-hour flight from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, NASA officials said.

An extended layover in Houston was cut to one night instead of two. The threat of thunderstorms twice delayed the shuttle's original departure day of Monday. Still, NASA officials said the homecoming will go on as planned."

Arctic Sea Ice Hits Smallest Extent In Satellite Era

NASA - Arctic Sea Ice Hits Smallest Extent In Satellite Era: "Satellite data reveal how the new record low Arctic sea ice extent, from Sept. 16, 2012, compares to the average minimum extent over the past 30 years (in yellow). Sea ice extent maps are derived from data captured by the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer aboard NASA's Nimbus-7 satellite and the Special Sensor Microwave Imager on multiple satellites from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

Dark Energy Survey to scan 300 million galaxies

The Dark Energy Survey's 570-million-pixel camera will scan some 300 million galaxies in the coming five years.
The goal is to discover the nature of dark energy, which is theorised to be responsible for the ever-faster expansion of the Universe.
Its first image, taken 12 September, focussed on the Fornax galaxy cluster.
In time, along with its massive haul of individual galaxies, it will study 100,000 galaxy clusters - the largest stable structures we know of - and 4,000 supernovae, the bright dying throes of stars.

Curiosity Rover Photo Shows Martian Moon Phobos Crossing Sun

Mars Eclipse: Curiosity Rover Photo Shows Martian Moon Phobos Crossing Sun: "NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has snapped stunning shots of a brief partial solar eclipse on the Red Planet, capturing images of the tiny Martian moon Phobos crossing the face of the sun.
Curiosity took the photos of Phobos on Thursday (Sept. 13), roughly five weeks after landing inside the Red Planet's huge Gale Crater on Aug. 5.

The images, taken with Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam), look very different than the solar eclipses on Earth that we're used to. That's because our planet's moon is about 2,160 miles across (3,476 kilometers), big enough to block out the solar disk entirely when Earth, moon and sun are perfectly aligned. Even partial eclipses of the sun by our moon are impressive celestial events. "

Opportunity rover beams back striking photo of mystery spheres

Mars rover beams back striking photo of mystery spheres | World | News | National Post: "Although NASA’s new Curiosity rover is stealing all of the headlines, it’s the long-in-service Opportunity rover that’s snapped one of the most curious photos from the Red Planet.

The rover has encountered a series of spherical outcroppings on the rock that look different from the “blueberries” of iron-rich spherules it photographed when it landed in 2004.

“This is one of the most extraordinary pictures from the whole mission,” said Opportunity’s principal investigator, Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., on NASA’s website. “Kirkwood is chock full of a dense accumulation of these small spherical objects. Of course, we immediately thought of the blueberries, but this is something different. We never have seen such a dense accumulation of spherules in a rock outcrop on Mars.”"

Dawn’s Rear-view Mirror

Dawn’s Rear-view Mirror | Tom’s Astronomy Blog: "This image from NASA’s Dawn mission shows the topography of the northern and southern hemispheres of the giant asteroid Vesta, updated with pictures obtained during Dawn’s last look back. Around the time of Dawn’s departure from Vesta in the late summer of 2012, dawn was beginning to creep over the high northern latitudes, which were dark when Dawn arrived in the summer of 2011.

These color-shaded relief maps show the northern and southern hemispheres of Vesta, derived from images analysis. Colors represent distance relative to Vesta’s center, with lows in violet and highs in red. In the northern hemisphere map on the left, the surface ranges from lows of minus 13.82 miles (22.24 kilometers) to highs of 27.48 miles (44.22 kilometers). "

Expedition 32 crew lands safely

Soyuz capsule safely ferries U.S., Russian crew back from International Space Station - CBS News: "Two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA flight engineer bid their three space station crewmates farewell Sunday, strapped into their Soyuz ferry craft, undocked from the lab complex and fell back to Earth, making a pinpoint landing in Kazakhstan to close out a 125-day voyage.

Descending through a clear blue sky under a large orange-and-white parachute, the charred Soyuz TMA-04M descent module settled to a rocket-assisted touchdown near the town of Arkalyk at 10:53 p.m. Eastern, on Sunday.

The final stages of the descent were carried live on television relayed through the Russian mission control center and NASA's satellite network, showing the last-second firing of the crew's braking rockets and billowing clouds of dust and smoke as the module touched down and the parachute collapsed."

Japanese Freighter Undocks From Space Station

Japanese Freighter Undocks From Space Station | World | RIA Novosti: "A Japanese cargo freighter undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, successfully ending its resupply mission,  a spokesman for Russian Mission Control said.
Kounotori 3, also known as HTV-3, is the third Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle designed to deliver supplies to the orbital station. It arrived at the ISS on July 27, carrying about four metric tons of supplies and equipment.
“The Japanese space freighter undocked from the orbital station at 07:50 p.m. Moscow time [15:50 GMT],” the official said, adding that it will be deorbited and burn down upon reentering the atmosphere on September 14.
The 16.5-ton spacecraft carries waste material from the ISS, including used experiment equipment and used clothes."

Shuttle Endeavour to fly over California landmarks

Shuttle Endeavour to fly over California landmarks, south U.S. - "Endeavour will leave Kennedy Space Center at sunrise Sept. 17, flying over Florida's Space Coast and then over NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. It will fly over Houston, Clear Lake and Galveston in Texas before landing at Ellington Field near NASA's Johnson Space Center and stay there through Sept. 18, the space agency announced.

On Sept. 19 the shuttle will head to Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso for refueling and then conduct low-level flyovers of White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M., before landing about midday at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, where it sometimes landed on its own after space missions.

On the morning of Sept. 20, the plane will conduct low-level flyovers of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, Calif., and yet to be specified landmarks in San Francisco, Sacramento and perhaps other California cities before a low-level flyover of Los Angeles. The plane is expected to land at Los Angeles International Airport at about 11 a.m. Pacific time."

NASA's Voyager 1 on verge of leaving solar system

NASA's Voyager 1 on verge of leaving solar system - CBS News: "Thirty-five years after leaving Earth, Voyager 1 is reaching for the stars.

Sooner or later, the workhorse spacecraft will bid adieu to the solar system and enter a new realm of space — the first time a manmade object will have escaped to the other side.

Perhaps no one on Earth will relish the moment more than 76-year-old Ed Stone, who has toiled on the project from the start.

"We're anxious to get outside and find what's out there," he said.

When NASA's Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 first rocketed out of Earth's grip in 1977, no one knew how long they would live. Now, they are the longest-operating spacecraft in history and the most distant, at billions of miles from Earth but in different directions.

Wednesday marks the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch to Jupiter and Saturn. It is now flitting around the fringes of the solar system, which is enveloped in a giant plasma bubble. This hot and turbulent area is created by a stream of charged particles from the sun."

NASA's Dawn moves on to another asteroid

Credit: Nasa
NASA's Dawn moves on to another asteroid - San Jose Mercury News: "After spending a year gazing at Vesta, NASA's Dawn spacecraft was set to cruise toward the most massive space rock in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter -- a voyage that will take nearly three years.
Firing its ion propulsion thrusters, Dawn had been slowly spiraling away from Vesta for more than a month until it was to pop free from its gravitational grip. Since its antenna was pointed away from Earth during this last maneuver, engineers would not know until Wednesday how it went.
The departure was considered ho-hum compared with other recent missions -- think Curiosity's white-knuckle "seven minutes of terror" dive into Mars' atmosphere.
"It's not a sudden event. There's no whiplash-inducing maneuver. There's no tension, no anxiety," said chief engineer Marc Rayman of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $466 million mission. "It's all very gentle and very graceful."
Launched in 2007, Dawn is on track to become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with two celestial bodies in a bid to learn about the solar system's evolution."

Curiosity sends back latest view of Mars

Curiosity sends back latest view of Mars - Technology & science - Space - - "A new full-circle photo from NASA's Curiosity rover shows the robotic explorer's fresh tracks on Mars as it continues trekking east toward its first science destination.

Curiosity drove roughly 70 feet (21 meters) on Aug. 30, the mission's 21st Martian day, toward a spot called Glenelg. This site, which is located 1,300 feet (400 meters) away from where the rover touched down on Mars last month, is home to three different types of terrain, making it an intriguing science target.
Space news from

Photos from Curiosity's navigation camera were stitched together to create this 360-degree view of the Red Planet. Fresh tracks from the rover's drive last week can also be seen across the sprawling terrain."

Jupiter-bound craft's 2nd maneuver delayed 10 days

Jupiter-bound craft's 2nd maneuver delayed 10 days - News - " NASA says it has postponed a maneuver planned for the Jupiter-bound spacecraft Juno.

The decision comes a week after Juno successfully fired its main engine. The second engine firing was slated for Tuesday but was delayed to Sept. 14.

After the last maneuver, engineers noticed higher-than-expected pressure in the propulsion system and wanted time to check it out.

The back-to-back burns are needed to put the spacecraft on course to fly by Earth next year and use the planet’s gravity to accelerate to the outer solar system.

The space agency says the delay will not affect Juno’s arrival at Jupiter, scheduled for 2016."

Spacewalking astronauts fix station's power system

Spacewalking astronauts fix station's power system | Reuters: "A pair of spacewalking astronauts cleaned, greased and finally coaxed a jammed bolt into position on Wednesday, restoring the International Space Station's power system.

The spacewalk by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide was the second in a week to replace a key part of the station's power system.

The astronauts were able to remove the faulty 220-pound (100-kg) device, known as a main bus switching unit, during a spacewalk last Thursday, but were unable to bolt a replacement into position.

While engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston mulled over repair options, Williams and Hoshide spent the weekend fashioning tools to clean the bolt and its receptacle of metal shavings and other debris believed to be causing the problem."