Archive for October, 2016
The on-going flightlog of China’s latest piloted space mission has made use of an accompanying smallsat to capture images of the Tiangong-2 space lab and Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft.
A wide-angle fisheye camera is free-floating alongside the linked space lab and Shenzhou-11 vehicle.
Field of view
The camera, independently developed by the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), took the first batch of over 300 high-resolution photographs of Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 on Oct. 24, after the accompanying satellite was launched from the Tiangong-2 a day earlier.
Liu Tongyu, optoelectronic expert at CETC, reports via CCTV-Plus that the infrared fisheye camera has offers a large field of view of 180 degrees. It has been successful in monitoring the combined vehicles.
Besides the infrared fisheye camera, there is also a visible light camera installed on the micro-satellite.
Size of a printer
That deployed satellite weighs 104 pounds (47 kilograms) and is the size of a printer. It is able to conduct efficient orbit control, process tasks autonomously and transmit data at high speeds.
Zhong said that judging from the images sent back, the two cameras are working smoothly. At the end of October, the satellite will orbit above Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 and will send back the second batch of photos with the high-resolution camera.
“The images it sent back have shown that the camera’s functions have met the requirements and it is working very well,” Zhong reports. “Next time, when the microsatellite orbits above the spacecraft and space lab, it will take photos again. Then, everyone will see images of the combination with the Earth as the background.”
Medical consulting system
The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft carried two astronauts into space — Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong — on Oct. 17 from northwest China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. After two days circling Earth, the piloted craft docked with Tiangong-2 space lab. They will stay in the space lab for 30 days before returning to Earth.
Chinese medical experts have tested the remote medical consulting system that links the astronauts in the orbiting space lab Tiangong-2 with the ground-based space center.
Diagnosis and prescription
The test was recently conducted at the Chinese PLA (People’s Liberation Army) General Hospital Telemedicine Center where medical experts received the astronauts’ data transmitted via the system and carried out medical checkups and cardiac function examinations. Then they sent the diagnosis and prescription to the astronauts, reports CCTV-Plus.
“Manned space missions that last for more than one or two weeks or even one month will have great physical and mental impact on the astronauts. Therefore they need medical support from the ground,” said Li Wen, deputy director of the gastroenterology department of the Chinese PLA General Hospital.
Jing and Chen have provided data about blood pressure, pulse, respiration and cardiac function to the ground from the orbiting space lab.
“We analyzed the symptoms and offered our diagnosis and treatment plan for them through the interconnected system,” said Zhang Meikui, director of the Chinese PLA General Hospital Telemedicine Center.
It has been reported that some of the six silkworms that have been brought into China’s Tiangong-2 space lab for experiments have begun to spin cocoons.
The silkworm-raising — one of the three experiments designed by Hong Kong middle school students – selected from more than 4,000 ones specially cultivated by scientists, are now put into different boxes separately in the space and fed with pasty mulberry leaves, notes Zhao Danni, an engineer from No. 529 factory of China Academy of Space Technology.
Li Guang, another engineer from No. 529 factory said that people are eagerly looking forward to the experiment results on the way of silkworm’s spinning cocoons and the quality of silks in the micro-gravity environment.
Meanwhile, China is readying its largest carrier rocket, the Long March-5, for its maiden flight in November. The rocket was recently transported to the launch site on Hainan Island.
The carrier rocket was safely moved from the testing plant to the launch site at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in south China’s Hainan Province. Since it arrived at the center in September, the booster has completed all the assembling and testing work as planned, reports CCTV-Plus.
Long March-5 has the largest carrying capacity among China’s carrier rockets. The diameter of its main fuselage measures five meters across.
The rocket makes use of liquefied kerosene and very low-temperature or cryogenic liquefied oxygen and hydrogen as its fuels. Long March-5 is flagged by China as a milestone in the upgrading of China’s carrier rockets.
For a video update on Long March-5 preparations, go to:
For video updates on the role of the Shenzhou-11/Tiangong-2 mission’s use of a micro-satellite, go to:
Now in Sol 1505, the Curiosity rover made a recent drive of over 80 feet (25 meters) farther along on the “Mt. Sharp Ascent Route.”
We started the day with some challenges caused by connectivity issues with team members outside of the U.S,” reports Ryan Anderson, a planetary scientist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. “They were able to get at least one computer connected to JPL, however, so we were able to plan without too much trouble overall.”
The plan for Sol 1503 was straightforward, starting off with a Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) observation and Mastcam documentation of the target “Somesville.”
Anderson said the observations were designed to study how the composition of the bedrock changes across a light-to-dark transition.
“After that, we will drive and then do post-drive imaging, including some extra Mastcam and Navcam coverage,” Anderson adds. On the script is long-distance imagery of Mt. Sharp taken this weekend.
Dates of planned rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.
NASA’s Curiosity rover is now in Sol 1501, carrying out a suite of new Mars exploration tasks.
On Sol 1500, the Mars robot drove nearly 100 feet (30 meters) to the south, crossing into a quadrangle that has been informally named “Bar Harbor,” after Bar Harbor, Maine.
Towns on Earth
“As a reminder, prior to landing we divided up the landing ellipse and nearby areas into square quads (1.5 km on a side), and assigned each quad a name of a town with a population of less than 100,000 people,” explains Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“As Curiosity investigates rock targets within a quad, we assign names to the targets that correspond to geologic formations and features from that town on Earth. After driving through the “Windhoek” quad for quite some time, we are now in the “Bar Harbor” quad, and the naming scheme will follow names from that town,” Edgar adds.
Before Curiosity hit the road, the rover took a Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image of the drill hole, Edgar reports, and observed just how quickly the wind had swept away the fines. Two images were taken one sol apart, showing just how windy a day on Mars can be.
A new plan for Curiosity was slated to begin with Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) observations of “The Bubbles” and “The Bowl” to characterize the local Murray bedrock.
Driving to the south
The rover script then called for acquiring Mastcam mosaics of “Gilmore Peak” and “Long Pond” to assess some possible cross-stratification in the Murray formation.
“After another drive to the south, we’ll acquire post-drive imaging, which includes Navcam and Mastcam drive-direction mosaics (with some additional frames to capture more of the “Gilmore Peak” outcrop), a Navcam mosaic of the ChemCam targetable region, a Mastcam clast survey, and a standard [Mars Descent Imager] (MARDI) image for documentation of the terrain below the rover.
Overnight, Curiosity was on top to carry out a Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin) analysis of the “Sebina” sample, Edgar notes.
Dates of planned rover activities are all subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.
With the upcoming premiere of the global event series “MARS” in November, the National Geographic Channel challenges consumers to see if they have what it takes to join the next wave of interplanetary explorers.
“MARS” hits the streets of the Big Apple – New York City — with a first-of-its-kind immersive activation.
From October 26-29 in NYC, the network will host a free, public “Experience Mars” activation located at the corner of Canal and Varick Street in Lower Manhattan, bringing the high-stakes mission of reaching Mars to life for consumers.
Inside “Experience MARS,” visitors will enter the year 2033, and “recruits” will be challenged to follow in the Martian pioneers’ footsteps as National Geographic seeks to identify the crew for the next spacecraft blasting off to settle the planet.
Onsite visitors can:
- Take part in the first-ever commercial use of a cable robot virtual reality simulator, and experience the thrilling experience of traveling to and landing on Mars
- Experience an authentic Fusion VR Martian surface walk in 38 percent gravity via the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill, where the world’s first and only treadmill using NASA based anti-gravity technology meets the most detailed and accurate Mars VR experience developed with real orbital and rover mission data
- Race to complete seemingly simple tasks against the jarring resistance of working and building a human outpost on the Martian surface
- Scope out scale models of authentic NASA Curiosity, Sojourner, Spirit & Opportunity Mars rovers
- Discover their own astronaut aptitude via mission control rocket landing and surface rover mission digital experiences
- Upon successful completion of all the recruiting tests, the new crew of the next manned mission to Mars will receive a special edition National Geographic “Mars” Magazine with fold-out wall map and a custom Cardboard VR Viewer to continue their digital experience from home.
Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet
With Leonard David and Pascal Lee of the Mars Institute
Author Event: Sunday October 30, 2016 2:00 PM
313 Corte Madera Town Center
Corte Madera, CA 94925
For more information on this book-signing venue, go to:
China’s on-going Shenzhou-11/Tiangong-2 mission has included launch of an “accompanying” satellite.
The 104-pound (47 kilograms) satellite – about the size of a printer — was launched from the Tiangong-2 space lab on Sunday at 7:31 a.m., local Beijing time.
China’s Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization under the Chinese Academy of Sciences reports that the micro satellite is able to conduct efficient orbit control, process tasks autonomously and transmit data at high speeds.
The newly-launched satellite has stronger capabilities compared with an accompanying satellite that was dispatched during the three-person Shenzhou-7 spacecraft mission back in September 2008, according to the center.
At the end of October, the satellite will orbit close to Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 and take photos using its high-resolution camera. The accompanying satellite will also carry out space experiments with Tiangong-2.
The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft carried two astronauts into space on October 17 from northwest China’s Gobi Desert. It docked with Tiangong-2 two days later.
Also on tap for the Shenzhou-11 crew — astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong — a space-Earth quantum key distribution experiment will be conducted by the space travelers and scientists, in an effort to carry out space-to-ground quantum communication.
The two Chinese astronauts currently living in the Tiangong-2 space lab carried out a brain-computer interaction experiment and an in-space plant cultivation experiment last Friday.
In a CCTV-Plus interview, Wang Longji, scientist, Environment Control and Life Support Lab, China Astronaut Research and Training Center explains:
“First, we want to check the water control and nutrition transmission and measurement technologies. Second, we want to check the technologies for sowing seeds, pulling up unnecessary seedlings and looking after plants automatically while in orbit,” Wang said. “Third, we want collect data concerning the volume of oxygen produced by photosynthesis, the harvest yield, and the plants’ nutritional quality and edibility. Fourth, the plant cultivation experiment will bring happiness to the astronauts and improve their working efficiency and moods during their 30-day stay in space.”
According to Yang Liwei, nearly 40 experiments have been arranged for this space voyage, sixteen of which are related to aerospace medicine and four of which concern application practices.
“All the experiments are in preparation for our future space station,” Yang says. “The space lab is built for our experimental needs and for us to accumulate experience. So, according to our arrangements, the tasks will be carried out one by one. The workload is really heavy. As the other experiments are gradually launched, the situation will become more and more complicated and varied for the two astronauts.”
For video views of activities aboard the Shenzhou-11/Tiangong-2 space lab, go to:
Yes…“Mars is hard!” That’s particularly true when you slam into the planet at nearly 200 miles per hour.
Imagery from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) orbiting the Red Planet has spotted the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Schiaparelli lander.
ESA lost contract with the lander mid-way through its descent to the planet’s surface. Imagery suggests that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of 1.2 miles to 2.5 miles (2 to 4 kilometers), probably because the craft’s thrusters cut off early.
It “may have” exploded on contact with the surface since the fuel tanks would have been full, but ESA cautions that these are only preliminary interpretations.
An ESA press release stated: “Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometers, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than [186 miles per hour] 300 kilometers per hour…It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis.”
Upcoming: high-resolution imagery
The MRO image was taken by the orbiter’s low-resolution CTX camera that has been orbiting Mars since 2006. MRO will make another pass over the site this coming week and use its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera to image the area again.
The CTX imagery has a resolution of 6 meters per pixel and shows two new features on the surface compared to an image taken in May. ESA concluded that one feature is Schiaparelli’s 12-meter diameter parachute and the other is from the lander’s impact with the surface.
Fuzzy dark patch
The “fuzzy dark patch” where it impacted the surface is about 1 kilometer away from the parachute. The impact area is 3.3 miles (5.4 kilometers) west of its intended landing point and within the planned landing ellipse.
Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society calculated that Schiaparelli impacted some 34 miles (54 kilometers) away from the NASA Opportunity rover’s current location on the edge of Endeavour crater.
Schiaparelli is part of ESA’s ExoMars program, a cooperative initiative with Russia. There are four spacecraft in the program: the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and Schiaparelli lander, launched together earlier this year, and a Russian lander and European rover that will be launched in 2020 (delayed from 2018).
Schiaparelli’s purpose was to test entry, descent, and landing (EDL) technologies in preparation for the 2020 mission.
At a press conference following the lander mishap, ESA Director General Jan Woerner said he was happy with the mission even if Schiaparelli did not make a survivable landing since its purpose was to test these technologies. It did enter the Mars atmosphere correctly, descend, jettison its heat shield and deploy its parachute.
Something happened right at the time the parachute should have jettisoned. What occurred remains a mystery, but ExoMars Project Manager Don McCoy expressed confidence that after fully analyzing data transmitted from Schiaparelli to TGO during the descent “we will have no doubt” about what transpired.
High-resolution imagery from NASA’s MRO will certainly help in the quest for answers.
Search for methane
Woerner is also enthusiastic about the mission because TGO is in its proper orbit, able to serve as a communications link with the 2020 lander/rover as well as to conduct its scientific mission to study trace gases, especially methane, in the Martian atmosphere that could provide information on whether life ever existed there.
Woerner is optimistic that the ministers of ESA’s member states will similarly see the mission as a success since more money is needed to complete the 2020 portion of the mission, on the order of 300 million Euros.
The United States is the only country to unequivocally make successful landings on Mars.
The Soviet Union sent four landers to Mars in the 1970s (Mars 2, Mars 3, Mars 6 and Mars 7).
Only Mars 3 transmitted a signal back to Earth after landing and it lasted less than 20 seconds.
Britain’s Beagle 2 traveled to Mars along with ESA’s Mars Express orbiter in 2003. Contact was lost before it entered the Martian atmosphere. MRO also located that spacecraft on the surface just last year. It was only partially deployed and unable to communicate back to Earth.
NASA has sent eight landers to Mars, seven successfully: Viking 1, Viking 2, Mars Pathfinder + Sojourner, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, the Phoenix lander, and the Curiosity rover.
One U.S. spacecraft, the Mars Polar Lander, failed probably because of a similar problem as Schiaparelli — early termination of the retrorockets.
Note: This story is based on a report from SpacePolicyOnline.com – used by permission. The original article can be found here at:
Book Tour Update: Mars – Our Future on the Red Planet
Event date: Saturday, October 29, 2016 – 7:30pm
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025
For more information, go to:
Scientists are delighted with the progress of the Curiosity Mars rover, given that the robot has successfully created a new drill hole.
Curiosity is now in Sol 1497.
According to planning reports, Sol 1496 was to start with a Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) passive observation of the dump pile of material from “Quela”, the rover’s previous drill hole.
Sebina – new drill hole
ChemCam also has passive observations of the tailings from the new hole at “Sebina”, followed by active observations using its laser.
Reports Ryan Anderson of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, Curiosity’s Mastcam is perform observations of the tailings and dump pile, plus an image to monitor the sand and dust on the rover deck, and a couple of atmospheric observations.
Also in the 1496 plan, the drill sample from “Sebina” is slated to be dropped off in Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin). The robot’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is to take pictures of the drill hole and the CheMin inlet.
Overnight, CheMin will analyze the sample while the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) analyzes the drill tailings, Anderson adds.
For Sols 1497-1499, the plan calls for a very busy weekend of rover duties.
“We’ve got quite a plan in store for the weekend, with every single instrument doing something, multiple arm activities, and a drive,” Anderson points out. “Curiosity’s battery will be run all the way down to 35 percent which is quite rare,” he adds, “but necessary when there’s a lot to do!”
Sol 1497 is to start off with ChemCam observations of the targets “Okambonde” and “Nokaneng” and supporting images from Curiosity’s Mastcam.
“Next we lift APXS off of the tailings pile it had been analyzing and take some MAHLI images of the print that it left,” Anderson reports. The rover’s MAHLI is also set to take some pictures of the first dump pile from the “Sebina” drill hole and APXS will analyze that dump pile overnight.
Also on Sol 1497, ChemCam has some “sky flats” with Curiosity taking pictures of the sky to serve as a smooth reference image to use when processing Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photos.
On Sol 1498 MAHLI is slated to take pictures of the APXS print left in the Sebina dump pile, the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) UV sensor, and then will take its own sky flats!
ChemCam has a passive observation of the Sebina dump pile, followed by active observations of the dump pile, the drill tailings, and the targets “Coemba” and “Luma Cassao.”
Rover deck shots
Mastcam will provide supporting images for the ChemCam and do some more monitoring of sand and dust on top of the rover deck.
In the morning of Sol 1499, the robot’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite has an engineering test, and Navcam and Mastcam have a bunch of atmospheric observations.
“Later in the day, ChemCam will observe “Nokaneng” again. Originally this observation was going to be on a different target, but it turned out that the rover’s arm was going to be in the way,” Anderson reports.
Mastcam is also to acquire pictures of the “Quela” dump pile, another ChemCam support image of “Nokaneng” and some more atmospheric observations.
“Finally, we’ll do a short drive. Originally the plan was to continue along our traverse toward Mt. Sharp, but the team decided to change the drive a bit to get into position for some imaging next week,” Anderson notes.
Curiosity’s Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) is scheduled to take an image of the surface after the drive. The robot’s Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instruments will continue their normal ongoing data collection.
“Phew! It was a marathon of a planning day,” Anderson concludes, “but it’s good to be getting the most science possible out of our hard-working rover!”
As always dates of projected rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.
Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is announcing the “Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution” initiative, building on a growing wave of private sector interest in miniaturized spacecraft for applications ranging from communications and remote sensing to satellite inspection and repair.
Today, astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly are visiting the White House to talk to the President about developing innovative new space technologies. One critical area for technology development is making satellites more affordable, adaptable, and adept at providing the sorts of real-time information that will help advance knowledge out in space and on Earth.
Among aspects of the new initiative, NASA is to establish a Small Spacecraft Virtual Institute at the space agency’s Ames Research Center in the heart of Silicon Valley early in 2017. The Virtual Institute will provide a “one-stop shop” for technical knowledge in the rapidly burgeoning small spacecraft technology fields.
For more information, go to:
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