Archive for December, 2014

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures and Paramount Pictures

You’ve seen the movie, or it’s on your holiday to-do list.

But just how hard is interstellar flight?

Harold White is Advanced Propulsion Theme Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

In a video, White discusses a couple of advanced propulsion concepts that may one day be useful for crafting an interstellar mission.

White spoke recently at the NASA Ames Research Director’s Colloquium – part of the Center’s 75th anniversary celebration.

Put on your star goggles and take a look at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wokn7crjBbA#t=65

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is lowered gently to the Pacific Ocean under its three massive main parachutes at 11:29 am EST on Dec. 5, 2014. Orion launched on its first test flight at 7:05 am and over the course of two orbits and 4.5 hours, traveled 3,600 miles above Earth to test systems critical to human deep space exploration.  Photo credit: NASA/James Blair

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is lowered gently to the Pacific Ocean under its three massive main parachutes at 11:29 am EST on Dec. 5, 2014. Orion launched on its first test flight at 7:05 am and over the course of two orbits and 4.5 hours, traveled 3,600 miles above Earth to test systems critical to human deep space exploration.
Photo credit: NASA/James Blair

A new video backed by ethereal music shows NASA’s Orion capsule returning from space, through Earth’s atmosphere, and provides viewers a taste of what the vehicle experienced during its Dec. 5 flight test.

The video begins 10 minutes before Orion’s 11:29 a.m. EST splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Peak heating from the friction caused by the atmosphere rubbing against Orion’s heat shield can be seen, and the video goes on to show the deployment of Orion’s parachutes and the craft’s splashdown.

Be onboard Orion at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtWzuZ6WZ8E

Credit: U.S. Air Force

Credit: U.S. Air Force

SpaceNews military space reporter Mike Gruss interviews Gen. John Hyten, who took over as commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command in August.

This 36-minute video, recorded Dec. 16 at the Pentagon, focuses on Hyten’s vision for the service’s space operations.

•How Space Command will approach the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration

•How the Air Force will move forward on a new rocket engine to replace the Russian-made RD-180

•When the service will unveil its next-generation programs and capabilities

•When status of SpaceX’s certification efforts

•How he envisions the Defense Department managing satellite communication capabilities

Go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1-I-_Y1An0

the art of space bookcover

Book Review: The Art of Space – The History of Space Art, From the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era by Ron Miller; Zenith Press/Quarto Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota; $35.00 (hardcover); September 2014.

This is an impressive gathering of artwork, drawn together by Ron Miller, artist extraordinaire. The book is an eye-catching work showing how astronomy and space travel has been represented in a variety of media over the past two centuries.

The book is divided into 5 sections: Planets & Moons, Stars & Galaxies, Spaceships & Space Stations, Space Colonies & Cities; and Aliens. Each section is rich with both artwork, but also an opening text and informative captions.

As Miller notes: “The advent of space exploration enabled some artists to create space paintings of unprecedented accuracy, and it enabled others to abandon realism entirely, leaving them free to explore the impact of space on humanity in other ways.”

That sweep of accuracy to castle in the sky sketches is the fuel that has powered generations to embrace space exploration, the beauty of adventure, and ponder the strangeness of the unfamiliar.

The reader will enjoy some spotlighted space artists of the past and present, from Chesley Bonestell, several astronaut/cosmonaut artists, to the works of Don Davis and Pat Rawlings.

In its concluding pages, The Art of Space has a helpful “Further Resources” page that includes artists’ websites and also where to see space art.

The book includes two nicely written forewords by Carolyn Porco, the Cassini Imaging Team Leader at the Space Science Institute, and Dan Durda, a gifted artist and space scientist at Southwest Research Institute.

As Durda explains: “Art and exploration have been long and intimate partners, each inspiring the other through history as we expanded the frontiers of new lands and pressed the boundaries of human activity with novel technologies.”

You’ll find Miller’s book an excellent read and a visual feast – a volume that is an inspirational bridge between art and exploration.

For more information on this book, go to:

http://www.qbookshop.net/products/214437/9780760346563/The-Art-of-Space.html

Liftoff of India’s next generation booster – GSLV Mk-III. Credit: ISRO

Liftoff of India’s next generation booster – GSLV Mk-III.
Credit: ISRO

India’s next generation booster – GSLV Mk-III – flew successfully on its first experimental flight.

The rocket departed the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota on December 18.

The suborbital shot had a two-fold agenda:

— Test the vehicle performance during its critical atmospheric phase of its flight carrying a non-functional cryogenic upper stage.

— Fly the over four ton (3,775 kg) Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) – to a height of over 75 miles (126 km).

Bobbing in the Bay of Bengal - India's Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) Credit: ISRO

Bobbing in the Bay of Bengal – India’s Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE)
Credit: ISRO

The CARE separated from the upper stage of rocket and re-entered the atmosphere, plopping down in the Bay of Bengal under its parachutes.

The flight lasted about 20 minutes 43 seconds, from lift-off to splashdown.

 

 

 

 

Go to this website to see the impressive test flight:

http://webcast.isro.gov.in/webcast-1.aspx

China's recent robotic circumlunar test flight snapped this image of the Moon with Earth in the distance. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s recent robotic circumlunar test flight snapped this image of the Moon with Earth in the distance.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Even before the first launch of China’s Long March 5, rocket builders in that country are eyeing the Long March 9 – a super-heavy booster reportedly intended to support human missions to the Moon.

Li Tongyu, head of aerospace products at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, is quoted in the State-owned China Daily, that Long March 9 “will mostly be determined by a host of factors, including the government’s space plan and the nation’s overall industrial capability, as well as its engine’s development.”

The Long March 9’s diameter and height, Li said, will be far larger than those of the Long March 5 – and a brand new engine will provide greater thrust.

The China Daily story also carries comments by Li Jinghong, deputy chief designer of the Long March 3A at the academy, stating that estimates show the Long March 5 would have to use four launches to fulfill a manned mission to the moon while the Long March 9 will need only one. In addition, the senior engineer said that manned lunar missions will not be the sole use of the Long March 9, suggesting that other deep-space exploration projects will also need the super-heavy launcher.

Deputy chief designer Li said that the diameter of the Long March 9 should be 8 to 10 meters. Weight of the booster is anticipated to be at least 3,000 metric tons, he said.

An earlier report by China News Service, said that Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, has indicated that the Long March 9 is planned to have a maximum payload of 130 tons and its first launch will take place around 2028.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

Here’s a video that highlights key moments in space exploration, from humanity’s early fascination with stars to recent work in private space tourism.

A Brief History of Space Exploration was shown at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California on November 13, 2014 as part of the kickoff to RAND’s biennial Politics Aside event.

Take a look at:

http://www.rand.org/multimedia/video/2014/11/21/history-space-exploration.html

Bonus viewing:

Matt Miller, columnist, author, and host of the radio program Left, Right and Center moderated a panel, which included Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs; George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic; and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman.

Topics ranged from the future of commercial space exploration and the feasibility of humans visiting Mars, to policy questions such us the militarization of space and the importance of space sustainability.

To drop in on the conversation, go to:

http://www.rand.org/blog/2014/11/space-talk-launches-politics-aside.html

 

 

 

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

Chinese space officials have spotlighted the year-long scientific work of the still operating Chang’e 3 lander.

The spacecraft touched down on the Moon’s surface on December 14, 2013. It carried the Yutu rover that was deployed from the stationary lander to roam freely across the lunar terrain.

The state-owned news agency, the People’s Daily, quotes Cui Yan, chief designer of the Chang’e-3 lunar program at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC).

During its year on the lunar surface, which included 13 dormancies on lunar nights and awakenings on lunar days, the Chang’e 3 lunar lander endured the extreme cold environment and carried out more than 30 radio surveys, Cui says, adding that the lander will continue to carry out additional tasks.

“The Chang’e 3 lander has accomplished all its scheduled tasks in its expected lifetime,” Cui said. “But given its good condition, we plan to conduct further experiments to accumulate more technical experience for China’s deep space exploration.”

August 2013 artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: Northrop Grumman

August 2013 artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope.
Credit: Northrop Grumman

A new study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has taken a look at the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project.

JWST is one of NASA’s most complex and expensive projects, at an anticipated cost of $8.8 billion.

The GAO has found that with just less than 4 years until its planned launch in October 2018, the JWST project reports the effort remains on schedule and budget.

However, the GAO reports, technical challenges with JWST elements and major subsystems have diminished the project’s overall schedule reserve and increased risk.

During the past year, the GAO reports that delays have occurred on every element and major subsystem schedule — especially with the cryocooler — leaving all at risk of negatively impacting the overall project schedule reserve if further delays occur.

JWST_Transformer_poster_lgThe cryocooler chills an infrared light detector on one of JWST’s four scientific instruments.

The GAO report assesses, among other issues, the extent to which (1) technical challenges are impacting the JWST project’s ability to stay on schedule and budget, and (2) budget and cost estimates reflect current information about project risks.

For your own review of the report, go to:

James Webb Space Telescope: Project Facing Increased Schedule Risk with Significant Work Remaining. GAO-15-100, December 15.

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-100

Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667527.pdf

Enhanced color image of a hill in the Candor Colles region of Candor Chasma, Mars. Image is 1 km (0.62 miles) across.  Credit: USGS/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Enhanced color image of a hill in the Candor Colles region of Candor Chasma, Mars. Image is 1 km (0.62 miles) across.
Credit: USGS/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Want to stroll around on the Red Planet?

If so, you may put in your backpack a new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geologic map of Mars, billed as the most detailed representation of the Red Planet to date.

This new map provides geologic and structural information on layered sedimentary rocks at a scale comparable to what a field geologist would see on Earth, including a precise illustration of a portion of the “Grand Canyon of Mars,” or Valles Marineris.

The map provides new targets for continued scientific investigation of past potentially habitable environments on Mars.

The just released USGS geologic and structural map uses the highest-resolution, orbiter-based images currently available for Mars – data from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The area analyzed, called western Candor Chasma, is one of the largest canyons in the Valles Marineris canyon system. The resulting map provides the most detailed information of the geology of Mars at a human scale over a broad area of terrain.

A unique feature of this map is that its resolution, or scale, is sufficiently detailed that USGS cartographic standards used in terrestrial, Earth-based geologic and structural maps were used. And that’s a first for a map of another planet.

The project was funded by the NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program.

It’s available from the USGS for download online at:

http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3309/

Griffith Observatory Event