Monthly Archives October 2013

NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter set to launch on Nov. 18

Ken Kremer www.kenkremer.com for  space-site.com – 15 Oct  2013

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL, USA – MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission) is NASA’s next mission to Mars.   It is scheduled to lift off on Nov. 18, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, Florida on an Atlas V 401 rocket.  The 903 kilogram (2000 pound) probe will arrive at the Red Planet in September 2014 after a 10 month interplanetary voyage.

It is the first spacecraft from Earth devoted to investigating and understanding the upper atmosphere of Mars. The purpose is determining how and why Mars lost virtually all of its atmosphere billions of years ago and what effect that had on the climate.

“MAVENS’s goal is determining the composition of the ancient Martian atmosphere and when it was lost, where did all the water ...

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NASA’s Hubble Sees Comet ISON Intact

A new image of the sunward plunging comet ISON suggests that the comet is intact despite some predictions that the fragile icy nucleus might disintegrate as the sun warms it. The comet will pass closest to the sun on Nov. 28.

In this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image taken on Oct. 9, the comet’s solid nucleus is unresolved because it is so small. If the nucleus broke apart then Hubble would have likely seen evidence for multiple fragments.

Moreover, the coma or head surrounding the comet’s nucleus is symmetric and smooth. This would probably not be the case if clusters of smaller fragments were flying along. What’s more, a polar jet of dust first seen in Hubble images taken in April is no longer visible and may have turned off.

This color composite image was assembled using two filters...

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Water on Mars

Last month NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity measured a high percentage of water in the surface soil of Mars. As the Mars One astronauts will be settling on Mars indefinitely, the availability of enough water at the location of the settlement is essential. For this reason, the exact location will be primarily based on the water content in the soil.

Will the astronauts have enough water, food and oxygen?

Our astronauts will be settling on Mars indefinitely. It’s not feasible to send water, oxygen and food from Earth to the astronauts: they will produce those on Mars.

Water

On Mars, water can be extracted from the soil. The Rover will select the location for the settlement primarily based on the water content in the soil. We expect this to be at a latitude of between 40 and 45 degrees North...

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Galactic bubble

The Galactic bubble

Nestled within the shell around this large bubble is an embryonic star that is already a hefty eight times more massive than our Sun.

This image, by ESA’s Herschel space observatory, was originally presented in the first announcement of scientific results  from the mission in May 2010.

This week Herschel scientists will meet again at ESA’s ESTEC establishment in the Netherlands to present, discuss, and take stock of the scientific breakthroughs of the entire mission at The Universe Explored by Herschel symposium.

The Galactic bubble shown in this image was just one of many surprising results of the mission.

It is about 4300 light-years away and has been blown by a star at its centre...

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GOCE completes mission

GOCE in orbit

After nearly tripling its planned lifetime, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer – GOCE – is nearing its end of mission and will soon reenter our atmosphere.

With a sleek, aerodynamic design responsible for it being dubbed the ‘Ferrari of space’, GOCE has mapped variations in Earth’s gravity with extreme detail. Scientists further exploited these data to create the first global high-resolution map of the boundary between Earth’s crust and mantle – called the Moho – and to detect sound waves from the massive earthquake that hit Japan on 11 March 2011, among other results.

In mid-October, the mission will come to a natural end when it runs out of fuel and the satellite begins its descent towards Earth from a height of about 224 km.

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ESA’s test rover begins exploring Atacama Desert

SAFER rover's first tracks in Atacama Desert

ESA’s test rover has been fitted with scientific instruments  and made its first tracks in the sands of Chile’s Atacama Desert. Meanwhile, team members have explored the area to select a suitable site for testing, flying a drone to produce an aerial map.

This week’s Sample Acquisition Field Experiment with a Rover, or SAFER, field trial is gaining experience in remotely operating a Mars rover prototype equipped with scientific instruments.

ESA has assembled an international industrial team for the trial, which takes place in the Mars-like Atacama, one of the driest places on Earth.

“During the past few days we have been busy preparing for the actual trial,” explains Michel van Winnendael, overseeing the testing for ESA...

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ESA and NASA stumped by cosmic mystery

Malargüe station today

A mystery that has stumped scientists for decades might be one step closer to solution after ESA tracking stations carefully record signals from NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it swings by Earth today.

NASA’s deep-space probe will zip past to within 561 km at 19:21 GMT as it picks up a gravitational speed boost to help it reach Jupiter in 2016.

During the high-speed event, radio signals from the 3225 kg Juno will be carefully recorded by ESA tracking stations in Argentina and Australia.

Engineers hope that the new measurements will unravel the decades-old ‘flyby anomaly’ – an unexplained variation in spacecraft speeds detected during some swingbys.

“We detected the flyby anomaly during Rosetta’s first Earth visit in March 2005,” says Trevor Morley, flight dynamics expert at ESA’s ESOC...

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Dragon lights

Lisboa

The favourite pastime of many astronauts on the International Space Station is gazing at the beauty of their home planet. They often remark that it is difficult to pinpoint cities or other manmade features during daytime as they circle Earth at 28 800 km/h.

Wait until night, however, and the lights in our cities stand out sharply from the blackness of the sea and countryside.

The lights we turn on in our houses at night and the lights we use to illuminate public areas also shine upwards, revealing where humans have settled on our planet. NASA astronaut Don Pettit said that each city shows a characteristic ‘signature’ at night, with motorways and airports clearly marked out.

Here, the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon, is shown with south at the top of the image...

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Cook a comet demo

Cook a comet demo

Yesterday, thousands of visitors to ESA’s technical heart in the Netherlands enjoyed learning more about ESA space missions, including Rosetta – the daring spacecraft that will rendezvous with a comet next year.

Rosetta has been in deep-space hibernation since June 2011 while on the loneliest leg of its 10-year journey through space to its destination: comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

The spacecraft will wake up early next year and rendezvous with its target comet several months later, taking images of its dust–ice nucleus and studying the gases jetting from the surface. It will be the first mission to follow a comet as it moves towards the Sun, watching as its activity changes over time.

In November 2014, Rosetta will deploy its Philae lander to the surface of the comet for an even cl...

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Desert trial for ESA Mars rover

SAFER field test rover

Next week will see ESA’s most ambitious planetary rover test yet. Robotic exploration of a Mars-like desert in South America will be overseen from the UK, providing experience for future missions to the Red Planet.

The rover faces the desolate Atacama Desert in northern Chile, one of the closest terrestrial matches for Mars. Among the driest places on Earth, it lacks any vegetation and its red–brown soil and rocks make it look even more like Mars.

The aim is to build up experience in operating rovers on a planet, which requires a very different way of working from a satellite mission.

For added pressure on the rover’s remote overseers – based at the Satellite Applications Catapult facility in Harwell, UK, next to ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications – eac...

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