Archive for October, 2014

China's Yutu Moon rover.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s Yutu Moon rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Feeble but hanging on.

That’s the diagnosis from China regarding the country’s Yutu moon rover.

According to China’s Xinhua news agency, the lunar robot has undergone 11 periods of dormancy with its functions “gradually degrading,” said Yu Dengyun, deputy chief designer of China’s lunar probe mission.

“Yutu has gone through freezing lunar nights under abnormal status, and its functions are gradually degrading,” Yu told Xinhua.

China’s Chang’e 3 mission – a lander and rover – touched down on the lunar surface in mid-December of 2013.

Deployed from the lander, the Yutu rover performed several science duties before control problems struck the robot prior to experiencing a second lunar night of 14 days duration on January 25, 2014.

China space engineers are trying to deduce why the robot ran into problems via ground-based simulations, Yu said. That research is intended to be used in China’s robotic lunar sampling program – scooping up and rocketing back to Earth selected specimens of the Moon.

A new story from me on China’s space program and potential for international cooperation:

China presses forward on its space station work. Credit: CMSE

China presses forward on its space station work.
Credit: CMSE

 

 

 

http://www.space.com/27440-china-space-station-plans.html

Name_Rosetta_mission_s_landing_site_large

ESA and its Rosetta mission partners are inviting you to suggest a name for the site where lander Philae will touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on November 12.

Got a name for the spot that the first soft landing of a human-made object on a comet will occur?

The European Space Agency and its Rosetta mission will deploy on November 12 the Philae lander to touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

The site now has a less than glamorous name: Site J.

Philae’s primary landing site from about 30 kilometers distance. Close-up of the region containing Philae’s primary landing site J, which is located on the ‘head’ of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Philae’s primary landing site from about 30 kilometers distance. Close-up of the region containing Philae’s primary landing site J, which is located on the ‘head’ of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera.
Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

That locale deserves a meaningful and memorable name that captures the significance of the occasion.The rules are simple: any name can be proposed, but it must not be the name of a person. The name must be accompanied by a short description (up to 200 words) explaining why this would make the ideal name for such an historic location.

A jury comprising members of the Philae Steering Committee will select the best name from the entries, and the winning proposer will be invited to follow the landing in person from ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Note: The competition opens today and runs until 23:59 GMT on October 22. The winner will be announced on November 3.

Full rules, terms and conditions can be found at:

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/Name_Rosetta_mission_s_landing_site_competition_rules

Credit: CASC

Credit: CASC

A new story of mine up on Space.com. I’ve tried to piece together an upcoming China mission – little on official details at the moment:

 

China prepares next Moon mission - a test of reentry technology needed for future sample return program. Credit: LuxSpace

China prepares next Moon mission – a test of reentry technology needed for future sample return program.
Credit: LuxSpace

 

 

 

 

 

China Readies Moon Mission for Launch Next Week

http://www.space.com/27422-china-moon-mission-launch-october.html

 

One of many newly-discovered young volcanic deposits on the Moon (4.330°N, 33.750°E), this example is near the crater Maskelyne. The direction of sunlight is from the right and north is up. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

One of many newly-discovered young volcanic deposits on the Moon (4.330°N, 33.750°E), this example is near the crater Maskelyne. The direction of sunlight is from the right and north is up.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The Earth’s own Moon never fails to disappoint.

New data made possible by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has identified many young volcanic deposits.

A new paper, published in Nature Geoscience, presents 70 topographic anomalies, informally called Irregular Mare Patches, or IMPs. Furthermore, most of these occurrences were previously undocumented.

The new discovery has been made by a group of geologists at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and shows that the Moon has seen small, but widespread eruptions of basaltic lava during the last 50 million years. That’s a geologically recent period.

According to co-author Mark Robinson, the principal investigator for the LRO Camera (LROC) on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft:

“Their sharp nature and general lack of impact craters greater than 20 meters in diameter indicate these deposits probably formed in the last 100 million years, perhaps even more recently than 50 million years ago. An amazing result!”

Changing the way we think

Robinson also noted that the images are changing the way we think about the Moon.

“Not only are the IMPs striking landscapes, they also tell us something very important about the thermal evolution of the Moon,” Robinson said on the LROC website.

“The nearside has extensive mare basalt flows covering much of its surface, however we know from analysis of Apollo samples and crater counts that the bulk of lunar volcanism occurred from 3.9 to 3.1 billion years ago, and shut-off sometime around 1billion years ago,” Robinson said. “However the IMPs seemed to have formed significantly after the canonical cessation of lunar mare basalt volcanism indicating the interior of the Moon is perhaps hotter than previously thought.”

Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott deploying heat flow probe. Credit: NASA

Apollo 15 astronaut Dave Scott deploying heat flow probe.
Credit: NASA

Future lunar exploration

Lastly, the IMPs are a fascinating part of the story of lunar volcanism over time, and now they must be considered high priority targets for future exploration, Robinson added.

“A sample return mission from one of these enigmatic deposits would tell us so much about the Moon as a whole. When did these lavas erupt? Is their chemistry different than the basalts returned by the Apollo astronauts? Is it likely that volcanic eruptions may occur at some point in the future? A highly accurate age date for the IMPs would also serve as a much needed calibration point for the lunar cratering chronology,” Robinson said.

Understanding the IMPs is a “crucial improvement” not only for studying and understanding the Moon, but also for Mars and Mercury investigations, Robinson added.

Sarah Braden, a recent SESE graduate, is the lead author; the others are Julie Stopar, Samuel Lawrence, and Mark Robinson (all of SESE) and Carolyn van der Bogert and Harald Hiesinger of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany.

For a sweeping review of the new evidence for young lunar volcanism, go to:

http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/818

The full paper in Nature Geoscience is available here:

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2252.html

 

The shadow knows! China’s Chang’e 3 landing site. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The shadow knows! China’s Chang’e 3 landing site.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) continues to circle the Moon, with the LRO Camera (LROC) team snagging impressive images of the lunar terrain.

Posted by J. Stopar of Arizona State University on October 9, a set of impressive images of China’s Chang’e 3 landing site is now available for your own surveillance.

In December 2013, the one-ton Chinese lander set down in Mare Imbrium near Laplace F crater, then dispatched the Yutu rover.

LROC imaged the China lander and Yutu rover once each month from February to May of this year.

In the May 10, 2014 image, the lander casts a long shadow to the northwest. Yutu’s shadow (located some 55 feet (17 meters) southwest of the lander) can just barely be discerned in this image, and the blast zone around the lander is nearly indistinguishable from its surroundings.

An animated time-series of shadows is also posted – those shadows cast by the lander and rover as they trace the Sun’s position in the sky. The first image of July 15, 2009 was taken before Chang’e 3 arrived on the surface. Between the second and third frames (December 25, 2013 and January 21, 2014, the Yutu rover can be seen in different positions along its traverse.

Also check out a pan and zoom capability that takes you around the Chang’e 3 landing site.

Image of China's Chang'e 3 lunar lander taken by Yutu rover. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Image of China’s Chang’e 3 lunar lander taken by Yutu rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

As LROC continues imaging the landing zone, researchers will be able to assess small changes in the surface around the lander and rover over time.

Yutu Rover wheels across Moon. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Yutu Rover wheels across Moon.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see these unique images credited to NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University go to:

http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/posts/813

and

http://featured-sites.lroc.asu.edu/view_site/45

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

Europe’s Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is nearing a nail-biting moment – when the Philae lander is to be unleashed for a touchdown on the celestial wanderer.

The primary landing site is landing site “J” – a spot that has relatively flat terrain and good solar illumination.

There is a detailed timetable for the descent of Philae.

On October 14, the primary landing site and the schedule will be finally confirmed or a decision made to descend on the backup landing site – landing site “C”.

If a go is given for landing site “J” the lander will undock from the Rosetta spacecraft at 09:35 Central European Time (CET) on November 12 at a distance of approximately 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) from the center of the comet and land on the surface about seven hours later.

The first confirmation of the landing is expected at around 17:00 CET.

The group of boulders in the center of this image reminded scientists of the Giza Necropolis. The largest boulder has therefore been named Cheops.  Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The group of boulders in the center of this image reminded scientists of the Giza Necropolis. The largest boulder has therefore been named Cheops.
Credit:
ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

The landing will be controlled from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Lander Control Center (LCC) in Cologne.

If spacecraft engineers decide to use the backup site, Philae will undock from Rosetta at 14:04 CET on November 12 at a distance of only about 8 miles (12.5 kilometers) from the center of the comet.

In this case, the descent will only take about four hours. A first signal from the surface would be expected at about 18:30 CET.

The signal travel time between Rosetta and Earth is 28 minutes and 20 seconds.

Close-up of the boulder Cheops as it casts a long shadow on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Cheops has a size of approximately 45 meters and is the largest structure within an a group of boulders located on the lower side of the comet’s larger lobe.  Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Close-up of the boulder Cheops as it casts a long shadow on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Cheops has a size of approximately 45 meters and is the largest structure within an a group of boulders located on the lower side of the comet’s larger lobe.
Credit:
ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

“Tension is mounting,” says DLR scientist Stephan Ulamec, Project Manager for the Philae lander in a press statement.

Rosetta is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander is funded by a consortium headed by German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; (DLR), the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), CNES and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

Credit: Martha Sewall/Purestock/Thinkstock/Johns Hopkins University Press

Credit: Martha Sewall/Purestock/Thinkstock/Johns Hopkins University Press

Why Mars – NASA and the Politics of Space Exploration by W. Henry Lambright; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland; $49.95 (hardcover); 2014.

Wondering when humans will set boot on Mars?

Author W. Henry Lambright has written an absorbing and detailed look at the long trail of robotic Mars exploration program from its origins to today. This is an excellent review of the politics and policies behind NASA’s multi-decade quest at exploring the Red Planet, the roles of key individuals and institutions, including a look at triumphs and defeats in reaching Mars.

Lambright tells of the quest for Mars, one that stretches out over decades and involves billions of dollars. The book is up-to-date in that it also includes the big ticket rover now scouting about on Mars – Curiosity – and how it took more than seven minutes of terror to get its wheels down and dirty.

Don’t look to this book to give you the technical needs for sustaining humans on that faraway world. However, this book details what’s needed to mount and give coherence to a multi-mission, big science program. In that light, Lambright’s look at robotic Mars probing suggests a number of lessons learned that might apply to large-scale national endeavors in science and technology.

Why Mars details what’s required to formulate missions, establish priorities, followed by the hard part: “Get the funds to accomplish technical miracles,” Lambright notes in the book’s preface.

Lambright is a professor of public administration, international affairs, and political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. He is also author of Powering Apollo: James E. Webb of NASA and Space Policy in the Twenty-First Century, both published by Johns Hopkins.

The last page of his new book is the kicker: “Robots are there today and will continue to forge a trail,” Lambright writes. “Robots go first as pioneers. Ultimately, men and women will bring life to the Red Planet. Mars calls because we want to know about ourselves,” he concludes.

For more information on this book, go to:

https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/why-mars

Note:

Tune into David Livingston’s The Space Show and listen to Lambright discuss this book. Go to Broadcast 2274 (Special Edition) at:

http://www.thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=2274

 

Credit: Mars One

Credit: Mars One

Those signed up and patiently waiting for your trek to the Red Planet via the Mars One program, you might put on the speed brakes a bit and read a new analysis of the effort by a team of MIT students.

Flagged by Marcia Smith at SpacePolicyOnline.com News, the MIT review paints a picture of the outcome. The appraisal was delivered at the recent International Astronautical Congress held last week in Toronto, Canada.

The MIT study was supported by grants from NASA and the Josephine de Karman Fellowship Trust.

Go to Smith’s “MIT Analysis Paints Bleak Outcome for Mars One Concept” at:

http://www.spacepolicyonline.com/news/mit-analysis-paints-bleak-outcome-for-mars-one-concept?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Spacepolicyonline+%28SpacePolicyOnline+News%29

For the full MIT paper, “AN INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENT OF THE TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY OF THE MARS ONE MISSION PLAN,” go to:

http://web.mit.edu/sydneydo/Public/Mars%20One%20Feasibility%20Analysis%20IAC14.pdf

Additional information on the Mars One mission plan – and likely a response to the MIT assessment at some point — can be found here:

http://www.mars-one.com/

Meanwhile, what do you think?

 

XCOR 1

XCOR Aerospace of Mojave, California reports they are making progress on their Lynx suborbital craft.

The Lynx is a two-seat, piloted space transport vehicle that will take humans and payloads on a half-hour suborbital flight to 100 km (330,000 feet) and then return safely to a landing at the takeoff runway.

XCOR is busy at work on the vessel and has integrated the cockpit to the fuselage on the Lynx spacecraft. With the fuselage, pressure cabin and other segments, XCOR is bonding these structures together and integrating sub-assemblies, such as the landing gear, at its hangar in Mojave.

The Lynx rocket propulsion system continues to be tested on a first generation fuselage used to perform cold-flow and hot fire tests with XCOR’s proprietary rocket propellant piston pump technology.

Credit: XCOR Aerospace

Credit: XCOR Aerospace

In a press statement, XCOR said that they preparing for the final stretch leading up to test flights.

XCOR Aerospace is based in Mojave, California. It is currently creating a research and development center in Midland, Texas, and will be establishing an operational and manufacturing site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the assistance of Space Florida.

The Lynx family of vehicles serves three primary missions: research and scientific missions and private spaceflight in the Lynx Mark I and Lynx Mark II, and micro satellite launch on the Lynx Mark III.

Griffith Observatory Event