RSSAll Entries Tagged With: "NASA"

Watch NASA’s celebrations of the Apollo 11 landing

NASA’s APOLLO 11 CREW landed on the Moon July 20, 1969 (July 21 in Australia). The world watched 45 years ago as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set their lunar module Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility, while crewmate Michael Collins orbited above in the command module Columbia.

The agency is commemorating Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind” through a number of events, as well as on the agency’s website and NASA Television.

Buzz Aldrin stands next the lunar module Eagle on the surface of the Moon, July 1969.

Buzz Aldrin stands next the lunar module Eagle on the surface of the Moon, July 1969.

On July 21 at 12:39pm Monday, Eastern Australian time, (Sunday at 10:39pm, US EDT), which was the time 45 years ago when Armstrong opened the spacecraft hatch to begin the first spacewalk on the Moon, NASA TV will replay the restored footage of Armstrong and Aldrin’s historic steps on the lunar surface.

LIVE COVERAGE OF EVENTS: Watch NASA Television

On Tuesday at 12:15am, Eastern Australian time (Monday, July 21 at 10:15am, US EDT), from the agency’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, NASA TV will air live coverage of the renaming of the centre’s Operations and Checkout Building in honour of Armstrong, who passed away in 2012.

The renaming ceremony will include NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kennedy Centre Director and former space shuttle pilot Robert Cabana, as well as Apollo 11’s remaining crewmembers, Collins and Aldrin, and astronaut Jim Lovell, who was the mission’s back-up commander.

International Space Station NASA astronauts Steve Swanson, who is the current Station commander, and Reid Wiseman, also will take part in the ceremony from their orbiting laboratory 415 kilometres above Earth.

Launch of Apollo 11.

Launch of Apollo 11.

The Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin.

The Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin.

Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon.

Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon.

Kennedy’s Operations and Checkout Building has played a vital role in NASA’s spaceflight history. It was used during the Apollo program to process and test the command, service and lunar modules. Today, the facility is being used to process and assemble NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which the agency will use to send astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s and Mars in the 2030s.

On Friday at 8:00am, Eastern Australian time (Thursday, July 24 at 6:00pm US EDT), which is the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s return to Earth, the agency will host a panel discussion – called NASA’s Next Giant Leap – from the Comic-Con International in San Diego, California.

Moderated by actor Seth Green, the panel will include Aldrin, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green, JPL systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi (the man seen with the unique haircut in mission control during the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars), and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who will talk about Orion and the Space Launch System rocket, which will carry humans on America’s next great adventure in space.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

VIDEO: NASA tests parachutes for Orion spacecraft

NASA IS DEVELOPING A NEW crewed spacecraft called Orion… otherwise known as ‘Apollo on steroids’ because it looks like a bigger version of the spacecraft that took astronauts to the Moon.

Just like the Apollo command module, Orion will carry a heat-shield to protect it during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, and huge parachutes to bring it down to a soft landing.

NASA has been conducting a series of tests to make sure the parachute system will work properly.

The first video shows a test that was conducted last year, where an Orion mock-up was dropped from the back of a military cargo aircraft to see how well its parachutes would work. There are several ‘layers’ of parachutes, each designed to slow the craft down in stages and then help to pull out the bigger parachutes. Towards the end of the test, one of the three main chutes was deliberately cut loose to see how well the system would perform on just the remaining two chutes. See what happened…

Complete success!

The second video shows a more recent test of the system that will release a cover that protects the parachutes. We say release, but it’s more like a blast, as the cover is propelled upwards by small rocket thrusters and into a safety net. Take a look…

Orion is due to start taking US astronauts into orbit toward the end of this decade. But a first test flight into space will be conducted later this year, when an uncrewed test craft will be shot into a high orbit, from which it will then re-enter the atmosphere at great speed to test the heat-shield.

Story by Jonathan Nally. Videos courtesy of NASA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

GALLERY: Solar blast

A CORONAL MASS EJECTION, or CME, has been spotted erupting away from the Sun, in images taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft.

According to the SOHO web site, a CME is a “huge magnetic bubble of plasma that erupts from the Sun’s corona and travels through space at high speed.” Plasma is gas that has been ” heated to sufficiently high temperatures that the atoms ionise”.

When a CME occurs, the plasma shoots out into space and travels through the Solar System. If the timing is right (or wrong, depending on your point of view), a CME can head directly toward Earth.

The first image is a wide field, showing the CME in action on January 14, 2014. The Sun has been blocked out in order to show detail in its outer atmosphere. (The white circle shows the size of the Sun – 1.4 million kilometres, or 870,00 thousand miles, in diameter.) The bright point of light in the top right is the planet Venus. (The white flare on either side of Venus is not real; it is an artifact of the imaging process.)

The second image shows a slightly narrower field, again with the Sun blocked out.

SOHO coronograph image of a CME

A SOHO image of a coronal mass ejection spotted on January 14, 2014. The bright spot in the upper right corner is the planet Venus.

SOHO coronograph image of a CME

Another SOHO view of the January 14, 2014 coronal mass ejection.

SOHO orbits the Sun at a special location between the Sun and the Earth called the L1 Lagrange point. At this location, the gravity of the Sun and Earth balances out, enabling the spacecraft to circle the Sun while always staying on a line between Earth and Sun. It is owned and operated jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency.

Adapted from information issued by NASA and ESA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

2014 astronomy and space calendars

IT’S NOT TOO LATE to grab one of these beautiful 2014 astronomy and space exploration calendars. We’ve selected more than 20 of the best from around the world. From Hubble’s latest images, to planets, deep space nebulae, aurorae (northern and southern lights), and even one from astronauts aboard the space station (a crew that included the pop star of astronomers, Canadian Chris Hadfield). They’re all available right now through the SpaceInfo Shop at www.spaceinfo.com.au/astrocalendars.html

Montage of space calendars

All over these calendars are available now from the SpaceInfo Shop – www.SpaceInfo.com.au

Five new rocky planets discovered

MORE THAN THREE-QUARTERS of the planet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have sizes ranging from that of Earth to that of Neptune, which is nearly four times as big as Earth. Such planets dominate the galactic census but are not represented in our own Solar System. Astronomers don’t know how they form or if they are made of rock, water or gas.

The Kepler team has today reported on four years of ground-based telescope follow-up observations targeting Kepler’s exoplanet systems (ie. planets beyond our Solar System) at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington. These observations confirm the numerous Kepler discoveries are indeed planets and yield mass measurements of these enigmatic worlds that vary between Earth and Neptune in size.

Included in the findings are five new rocky planets ranging in size from ten to eighty percent larger than Earth. Two of the new rocky worlds, dubbed Kepler-99b and Kepler-406b, are both forty percent larger in size than Earth and have a density similar to lead. The planets orbit their host stars in less than five and three days respectively, making these worlds too hot for life as we know it.

Artist's impression of an exoplanet

Astronomers have used ground-based telescopes to do follow-up observations of exoplanets detected by NASA’s Kepler space observatory. They’ve confirmed that many are between the Earth and Neptune in size. (Artist’s impression courtesy of NASA Ames / JPL-Caltech / Tim Pyle.)

Wobbly measurements

A major component of the follow-up observations were Doppler measurements of the planets’ host stars. The team measured the wobble of the host star, caused by the gravitational tug on the star exerted by the orbiting planet. That measured wobble reveals the mass of the planet: the higher the mass of the planet, the greater the gravitational tug on the star and hence the greater the wobble.

“This marvellous avalanche of information about the mini-Neptune planets is telling us about their core-envelope structure, not unlike a peach with its pit and fruit,” said Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy at University of California, Berkeley who led the summary analysis of the high-precision Doppler study. “We now face daunting questions about how these enigmas formed and why our Solar System is devoid of the most populous residents in the galaxy.”

Artist's impression of exoplanets orbiting a red star

Artist’s impression of several exoplanets orbiting a red star. Courtesy ESO.

Using one of the world’s largest ground-based telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, scientists confirmed 41 of the exoplanets discovered by Kepler and determined the masses of 16. With the mass and diameter in-hand, scientists could immediately determine the density of the planets, characterising them as rocky or gaseous, or mixtures of the two.

These density measurements dictate the possible chemical composition of these strange, but ubiquitous planets. The density measurements suggest that those planets smaller than Neptune – or mini-Neptunes – have a rocky core, but the proportions of hydrogen, helium and hydrogen-rich molecules in the envelope surrounding that core vary dramatically, with some having no envelope at all.

One step closer

A complementary technique used to determine mass, and in turn density of a planet, is by measuring the transit timing variations (TTV). Much like the gravitational force of a planet on its star, neighbouring planets can tug on one another causing one planet to accelerate and another planet to decelerate along its orbit.

Ji-Wei Xie of the University of Toronto, used TTV to validate 15 pairs of Kepler planets ranging from Earth-sized to a little larger than Neptune. Xie measured masses of 30 planets thereby adding to the compendium of planetary characteristics for this new class of planets.

“Kepler’s primary objective is to determine the prevalence of planets of varying sizes and orbits. Of particular interest to the search for life is the prevalence of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone,” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Centre. “But the question in the back of our minds is: are all planets the size of Earth rocky? Might some be scaled-down versions of icy Neptunes or steamy water worlds? What fraction are recognisable as kin of our rocky, terrestrial globe?”

Artist's impression of the Kepler space observatory

Artist’s impression of the Kepler space observatory. Courtesy NASA / Wendy Stenzel.

The mass measurements produced by Doppler and TTV hint that a large fraction of planets smaller than 1.5 times the radius of Earth may be comprised of the rocky silicates, iron, nickel and magnesium that are found in the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) here in the Solar System.

Armed with this type of information, scientists will be able to turn the fraction of stars harbouring Earth-sizes planets into the fraction of stars harbouring bona-fide rocky planets. And that’s a step closer to finding a habitable environment beyond the Solar System.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

NASA Mars mission set for launch

A SPACECRAFT that will examine the upper atmosphere of Mars in unprecedented detail is undergoing final preparations for a scheduled launch at 5:28am Sydney time (1:28 p.m. EST Monday, Nov. 18 in the USA) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission will examine specific processes on Mars that led to the loss of much of its atmosphere. Data and analysis could tell planetary scientists the history of climate change on the Red Planet and provide further information on the history of planetary habitability.

“The MAVEN mission is a significant step toward unravelling the planetary puzzle about Mars’ past and present environments,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The knowledge we gain will build on past and current missions examining Mars and will help inform future missions to send humans to Mars.”

Artist's concept of MAVEN

MAVEN (artist’s concept) will arrive at Mars in September 2014 to begin a detailed study of the planet’s atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre.

2.5-tonne spacecraft will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket on a 10-month journey to Mars. After arriving in September 2014, MAVEN will settle into its elliptical science orbit.

Over the course of its one-Earth-year primary mission, MAVEN will observe all of Mars’ latitudes. Orbital altitudes will range from 150 kilometres to more than 6,100 kilometres. During the primary mission, MAVEN will execute five deep dip manoeuvres, descending to an altitude of 125 kilometres, which marks the lower boundary of the planet’s upper atmosphere.

MAVEN will carry three instrument suites. The Particles and Fields Package contains six instruments to characterise the solar wind and the ionosphere of Mars. The Remote Sensing Package will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. And the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer will measure the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere.

More information: MAVEN mission

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

Antares roars into space

Antares Rocket Launches

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it launches from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Sunday, April 21, 2013. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

NASA COMMERCIAL space partner Orbital Sciences Corporation launched its Antares rocket on Sunday from the new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, USA.

The test flight was the first launch from the pad at Wallops and was the first flight of Antares, which delivered the equivalent mass of a spacecraft, a so-called mass simulated payload, into Earth orbit.

The test of the Antares launch system began with the rocket’s rollout and placement on the launch pad April 6, and culminated with the separation of the mass simulator payload from the rocket just minutes after launch.

Here’s the video of the launch – it goes for about 12 minutes:

The completed flight paves the way for a demonstration mission by Orbital to resupply the space station later this year. Antares will launch experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory carried aboard the company’s new Cygnus cargo spacecraft through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

Orbital is building and testing its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. After successful completion of a COTS demonstration mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through a US$1.9 billion NASA contract with the company.

“Today’s successful test marks another significant milestone in NASA’s plan to rely on American companies to launch supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station, bringing this important work back to the United States where it belongs,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Congratulations to Orbital Sciences and the NASA team that worked alongside them for the picture-perfect launch of the Antares rocket. In addition to providing further evidence that our strategic space exploration plan is moving forward, this test also inaugurates America’s newest spaceport capable of launching to the space station, opening up additional opportunities for commercial and government users.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program also is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

Remembering Apollo 5

PRIOR TO THE SUCCESSFUL manned lunar landings of the 1960s-’70s, NASA conducted a series of test flights, both crewed and uncrewed. One of those was the uncrewed Apollo 5 flight, which saw the first test (in Earth orbit) of the lunar module.

Apollo 5 (LM-1/Saturn 204) was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre’s Launch Complex 37 on January 22, 1968. The Lunar Module-1 payload was boosted into Earth orbit by a launch vehicle composed of a Saturn IB first stage and a Saturn S-IVB second stage. The Apollo lunar module’s first flight test was called a complete success. Ascent and descent propulsion systems and the ability to abort a lunar landing and return to orbit were demonstrated.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

Europe/NASA join forces for next step

Artist's concept of the joint Orion/ATV module in Earth orbit

An artist’s impression of the cone-shaped NASA Orion craft attached to the cylindrical European ATV-based service module in Earth orbit. The service module will supply power generated by four solar panel ‘wings’.

  • Europe’s service module to power/supply NASA’s crew module
  • Similar in concept to Apollo’s service and command modules
  • First test flight, a lunar fly-by, set for 2017

NASA’S ORION SPACECRAFT will carry astronauts further into space than ever before using a module based on Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV).

ATV’s distinctive four-wing solar array is recognisable in this concept. The ATV-derived service module, sitting directly below Orion’s crew capsule, will provide propulsion, power, thermal control, as well as supplying water and gas to the astronauts in the habitable module.

The first Orion mission will be an uncrewed lunar fly-by in 2017, returning for a re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 11 kilometres per second – the fastest re-entry ever.

Artist's impression of an Orion/ATV-based craft approaching an asteroid

In this artist’s impression, an Orion crew module and ATV-based service module are attached to further modules and a solar power array as they approach an asteroid. The supplies carried by, and energy generated by, the service module, will enable medium-duration missions to be attempted.

Albert Einstein to launch

This collaboration between ESA and NASA continues the spirit of international cooperation that forms the foundation of the International Space Station.

Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs) have been resupplying the International Space Station since 2008. The fourth in the series, named Albert Einstein, is being readied for launch this year from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The ATV-derived service module, sitting directly below Orion’s crew capsule, will provide propulsion, power, thermal control, as well as supplying water and gas to the astronauts in the habitable module.

Artist's concept of the joint Orion/ATV module

The ATV-based service module will carry the craft’s main propulsion rocket, the nozzle of which can be seen on the right of this artist’s impression.

Critical element for exploration

The ATV performs many functions during missions to the International Space Station. The space freighter reboosts the Station into higher altitudes and can even push the orbital complex out of the way of space debris. While docked, ATV becomes an extra module for the astronauts. Lastly, at the end of its mission it leaves the Space Station with waste materials.

“ATV has proven itself on three flawless missions to the Space Station and this agreement is further confirmation that Europe is building advanced, dependable spacecraft,” said Nico Dettmann, Head of ATV’s production programme.

Thomas Reiter, ESA director of Human Spaceflight and Operations says: “NASA’s decision to co-operate with ESA on their exploration programme with ESA delivering a critical element for the mission is a strong sign of trust and confidence in ESA’s capabilities, for ESA it is an important contribution to human exploration.”

Adapted from information issued by NASA / ESA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…

Space Station to test inflatable module

NASA HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS for an addition to the International Space Station… one that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology.

NASA has awarded a US$17.8 million contract to Bigelow Aerospace to provide a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), which is scheduled to arrive at the space station in 2015 for a two-year technology demonstration.

The BEAM is scheduled to launch aboard the eighth SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the station contracted by NASA, currently planned for 2015.

Following the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying the BEAM to the station, astronauts will use the station’s robotic arm to install the module on the aft port of the Tranquility node.

After the module is berthed to the Tranquility node, the station crew will activate a pressurisation system to expand the structure to its full size using air stored within the packed module.

Garver and Bigelow next to the Bigelow BEAM

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and President and founder of Bigelow Aerospace Robert T. Bigelow, talk while standing next to the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) during a media briefing.

A unique test bed

During the two-year test period, station crewmembers and ground-based engineers will gather performance data on the module, including its structural integrity and leak rate.

An assortment of instruments embedded within module also will provide important insights on its response to the space environment. This includes radiation and temperature changes compared with traditional aluminium modules.

“The International Space Station is a uniquely suited test bed to demonstrate innovative exploration technologies like the BEAM,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“As we venture deeper into space on the path to Mars, habitats that allow for long-duration stays in space will be a critical capability. Using the station’s resources, we’ll learn how humans can work effectively with this technology in space, as we continue to advance our understanding in all aspects for long-duration spaceflight aboard the orbiting laboratory.”

Astronauts periodically will enter the module to gather performance data and perform inspections. Following the test period, the module will be jettisoned from the station, burning up on re-entry.

Adapted from information issued by NASA.

Get SpaceInfo.com.au daily updates by RSS or email! Click the RSS Feed link at the top right-hand corner of this page, and then save the RSS Feed page to your bookmarks. Or, enter your email address (privacy assured) and we’ll send you daily updates. Or follow us on Twitter, @spaceinfo_oz

Like this story? Please share or recommend it…