Archive for July, 2015

Pluto...and beyond! NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld, left, New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO, second from left, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), second from right, and New Horizons Project Manager Glen Fountain of APL. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Pluto…and beyond! NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld, left, New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO, second from left, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), second from right, and New Horizons Project Manager Glen Fountain of APL.
Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

 

The New Horizons mission to Pluto was a triumph of science…and a feat of project management.

Daniel Terdiman, a San Francisco-based journalist at Fast Company, has written a fascinating article titled:

“How to Plan the Ultimate Long-Term Project, From the Team Who Got Us to Pluto.”

Terdiman explains that planning a project whose culmination is nine years and more than 3 billion miles away “requires rigorous risk assessment, strong leadership, and endless patience.”

How the team ultimately succeeded is detailed in his story at:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3048515/how-to-plan-the-ultimate-long-term-project-from-the-team-who-got-us-to-pluto

Comet boundaries: Anubis and Atum to Hapi and Anuket Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Comet boundaries: Anubis and Atum to Hapi and Anuket
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

 

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko continues to produce striking, up-close data regarding the celestial wanderer.

ESA has issued tell-all images that focus on Apis and Atum regions on the comet.

 

Context imagery show details of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s surface features close to regional boundaries on the comet’s large lobe, and the transition through the neck to the small comet lobe.

Comet_rotation_and_regions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For detailed information, see the blog, “Getting to know Rosetta’s comet: boundary conditions,” at:

http://blogs.esa.int/rosetta/2015/07/15/getting-to-know-rosettas-comet-boundary-conditions/

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft phoned home, surviving its high-speed and close flyby of distant Pluto and its system of moons. Credit: NASA

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft phoned home, surviving its high-speed and close flyby of distant Pluto and its system of moons.
Credit: NASA

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft phoned home to eagerly awaiting Earthlings – giving the “hi-sign” that it survived its high-speed and close flyby of distant Pluto and its system of moons.

At the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, jubilant scientists and engineers breathed a sigh of relief that the data-collecting New Horizons remained in good condition after its Pluto encounter.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden talks to the New Horizons team after they received confirmation from the spacecraft that it had successfully completed the flyby of Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 in the Mission Operations Center (MOC) of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden talks to the New Horizons team after they received confirmation from the spacecraft that it had successfully completed the flyby of Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 in the Mission Operations Center (MOC) of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland.
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

 

 

Word from New Horizons Mission Operations Manager, Alice Bowman, pulsing her team of spacecraft operators, is that the probe is in fine shape, loaded with — and still collecting — science information and photos.

A monitor shows the status of NASA's Deep Space Network as confirmation is received from the New Horizons spacecraft that it has completed the flyby of Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.  Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

A monitor shows the status of NASA’s Deep Space Network as confirmation is received from the New Horizons spacecraft that it has completed the flyby of Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.
Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

 

 

NASA will hold a press conference July 15 to release the latest findings and new imagery from New Horizons at 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The color image has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument that was acquired earlier on July 13. This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the “heart,” which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) are complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the heart’s interior appears remarkably featureless -- possibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes.   Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI

Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The color image has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument that was acquired earlier on July 13. This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the “heart,” which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) are complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the heart’s interior appears remarkably featureless — possibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes.
Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI

Pluto just had its first visitor! Thanks – it’s a great day for discovery and American leadership.
Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The color image has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument that was acquired earlier on July 13. This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the “heart,” which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) are complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the heart’s interior appears remarkably featureless -- possibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes.   Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI

Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The color image has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument that was acquired earlier on July 13. This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the “heart,” which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) are complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the heart’s interior appears remarkably featureless — possibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes.
Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI

 

 

The New Horizons spacecraft has made a historic flyby of Pluto, with the probe making its closest pass at 7:49 a.m. ET on July 14.

The piano-sized robotic spacecraft zoomed by distant Pluto at a distance of 7,750 miles away, zipping by at nearly 31,000 miles per hour.

Members of the New Horizons science team react to seeing the spacecraft's last and sharpest image of Pluto before closest approach later in the day, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Members of the New Horizons science team react to seeing the spacecraft’s last and sharpest image of Pluto before closest approach later in the day, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.
Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

 

 

The flyby for New Horizons capped a mission that started at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan. 19, 2006. Three billion miles later, New Horizons became the first mission from Earth to investigate Pluto and its five moons.

Credit: Bill Ingalls

Credit: Bill Ingalls

Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

 

Out of date stamp! New Horizons team members make the call. Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

Out of date stamp! New Horizons team members make the call.
Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

 

This July 13, 2015, image of Pluto and Charon is presented in false colors to make differences in surface material and features easy to see. It was obtained by the Ralph instrument on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, using three filters to obtain color information, which is exaggerated in the image.   These are not the actual colors of Pluto and Charon, and the apparent distance between the two bodies has been reduced for this side-by-side view.  The image reveals that the bright heart-shaped region of Pluto includes areas that differ in color characteristics. The western lobe, shaped like an ice-cream cone, appears peach color in this image. A mottled area on the right (east) appears bluish.  Even within Pluto's northern polar cap, in the upper part of the image, various shades of yellow-orange indicate subtle compositional differences.     The surface of Charon is viewed using the same exaggerated color. The red on the dark northern polar cap of Charon is attributed to hydrocarbon materials including a class of chemical compounds called tholins. The mottled colors at lower latitudes point to the diversity of terrains on Charon.  This image was captured at 3:38 a.m. EDT on July 13, one day before New Horizon's closest approach to Pluto.   Credit: (NASA/APL/SwRI)

This July 13, 2015, image of Pluto and Charon is presented in false colors to make differences in surface material and features easy to see. It was obtained by the Ralph instrument on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, using three filters to obtain color information, which is exaggerated in the image.
These are not the actual colors of Pluto and Charon, and the apparent distance between the two bodies has been reduced for this side-by-side view.
The image reveals that the bright heart-shaped region of Pluto includes areas that differ in color characteristics. The western lobe, shaped like an ice-cream cone, appears peach color in this image. A mottled area on the right (east) appears bluish. Even within Pluto’s northern polar cap, in the upper part of the image, various shades of yellow-orange indicate subtle compositional differences.
The surface of Charon is viewed using the same exaggerated color. The red on the dark northern polar cap of Charon is attributed to hydrocarbon materials including a class of chemical compounds called tholins. The mottled colors at lower latitudes point to the diversity of terrains on Charon.
This image was captured at 3:38 a.m. EDT on July 13, one day before New Horizon’s closest approach to Pluto.
Credit: (NASA/APL/SwRI)

 

Credit: UK Space Agency

Credit: UK Space Agency

The UK Space Agency has released its National Strategy for Space Environments and Human Spaceflight.

This strategy covers a range of scientific and technical disciplines, giving a picture for activities which use the space environment – from fundamental physics and novel materials to healthcare technologies and space science – and sets out the UK’s vision for human spaceflight.

A public consultation on the Strategy was conducted last year, following which a government response was published and the draft Strategy revised.

landscape-logo-250

Why a UK strategy?

Tim Peake, a former British Army helicopter pilot was selected from thousands of applicants from across Europe to join the ESA astronaut corps in 2009.

Peake’s first mission was announced in May 2013 and he is slated to fly on the International Space Station (ISS) for a six-month mission commencing November 2015

Peake will become the first UK Government-backed British astronaut, the first British astronaut to visit the ISS, and a very visible demonstration of UK ambition for human spaceflight.

Long duration human space travel

As discussed in the strategy document, this upcoming mission to the ISS presents an opportunity to showcase leading UK science and technology and a unique focus to inspire people, especially the young into science.

Credit: UK Space Agency

Credit: UK Space Agency

The intent is that UK experiments will improve our understanding of human health here on Earth, as well as the effects of long duration human space travel.

 

 

 

 

To view the UK National Strategy for Space Environments and Human Spaceflight, go to:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/442462/Space_Environments_and_Human_Spaceflight_Strategyv2.pdf

Nuclear-powered New Horizons reaches Pluto. Credit: NASA/APL

Nuclear-powered New Horizons reaches Pluto.
Credit: NASA/APL

 

 

 

For a steady flow of details from the upcoming historic Pluto flyby, SpaceNews newspaper has created a special site – and the viewing is good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My story centers on Ralph, the New Horizons camera that will bring Pluto into ultra-sharp focus.

Ralph is the Ball Aerospace-built instrument that will study Pluto’s geology, form and structure, and map Pluto’s surface composition and temperature.  Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

Ralph is the Ball Aerospace-built instrument that will study Pluto’s geology, form and structure, and map Pluto’s surface composition and temperature.
Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to:

http://spacenews.com/new-horizons-about-to-bring-an-unknown-world-into-sharp-focus/#sthash.npLeBaKS.dpuf

To keep updated on new discoveries at Pluto, go to New Horizons Mission Central, Special Coverage of Historic Pluto Flyby at:

http://spacenews.com/new-horizons-mission-central-ongoing-coverage-of-historic-pluto-flyby/#sthash.Z7H4pchL.dpuf

Apollo 11 moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin and Leonard David discuss the global future of space exploration at South Dakota book signing. Credit: Barbara David

Apollo 11 moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin and Leonard David discuss the global future of space exploration at South Dakota book signing.
Credit: Barbara David

Thanks to all those that attended the Mission to Mars book tour yesterday, July 11, at Rushmore Mall in Rapid City, South Dakota.

It was a terrific turnout with quite the discussion on the future of America’s space program, past lunar exploration activities, the settlement of Mars, the role of international cooperation, and a variety of other topics from contacting extraterrestrial life to spirituality.

Public turnout for great discussion of the U.S. space program at July 11 event at Rushmore Mall in Rapid City, South Dakota. Credit: Barbara David

Public turnout for great discussion of the U.S. space program at July 11 event at Rushmore Mall in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Credit: Barbara David

 

 

The book signing line was long and snaked its way through the mall. Some 500-plus books of our new soft cover book – Mission to Mars – co-authored by Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin and Leonard David, were signed.

Books, babies, and Buzz at Rushmore Mall in Rapid City, South Dakota. Credit: Barbara David

Books, babies, and Buzz at Rushmore Mall in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Credit: Barbara David

 

 

Again, thanks to everyone that took part in this very memorable event.

Credit: National Geographic

Credit: National Geographic

The Mission to Mars book tour slips into South Dakota!

Join us at the Mount Rushmore Mall in Rapid City on Saturday, July 11th starting at 11:00 a.m. for a Q & A discussion with Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin.

I’ll be joining Buzz to discuss Mars exploration and the future of America’s space program, later signing our book: Mission to Mars, just released in paperback last May.

Buzz Aldrin at Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Credit: Leonard David

Buzz Aldrin at Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Credit: Leonard David

 

 

As warmup to the July 11th book event, the Buzz train visited the fantastic Crazy Horse Memorial – an incredible work in progress – and the historic Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Credit: Leonard David

Credit: Leonard David

Park Ranger with Buzz Aldrin at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Credit: Leonard David

Park Ranger with Buzz Aldrin at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Credit: Leonard David

 

Philae lander. Copyright: ESA/ATG medialab

Philae lander.
Copyright: ESA/ATG medialab

Europe’s Philae lander has relayed science data to the Rosetta orbiter circling Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Measurements taken by the Philae’s COmet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission (CONSERT) instrument were at first shaky, but then remained solid for some 12 minutes.

“This sign of life from Philae proves to us that at least one the lander’s communication units remains operational and receives our commands,” said German Aerospace Center (DLR) engineer Koen Geurts, a member of the lander control team at DLR Cologne.

 

The Lander Control Center (LCC) at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) facility in Cologne is responsible for the commanding and operation of the Philae lander. Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

The Lander Control Center (LCC) at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) facility in Cologne is responsible for the commanding and operation of the Philae lander.
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Mood swings

According to the DLR, the mood had been mixed over the last few days; Philae had not communicated with the team in the DLR Lander Control Center (LCC) since June 24, 2015.

After an initial test command to turn on the power to CONSERT on July 5, 2015, the lander did not respond. Philae’s team began to wonder if the lander had survived on the comet.

There was great excitement when Philae “reported in” on June 13, 2015 after seven months of hibernation, transmitting data about its health.

However, Philae has to communicate with the ground stations through the Rosetta orbiter, which serves as a radio relay to Earth.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Credit: ESA

Philae’s internal temperature of zero degrees Celsius gives the team hope that the lander can charge its batteries. If so, this would make scientific work possible regardless of the “time of day” on the comet.

Puzzlement

Currently, DLR’s lander team is evaluating the data that were received.

“We can already see that the CONSERT instrument was successfully activated by the command we sent on July 9,” explained Geurts.

Even now, Philae is causing the team some puzzlement.

There is no explanation for why the lander has communicated now, but not over the past few days.

The trajectory of the orbiter, for example, has not changed over the last three weeks.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Credit: ESA

However, one thing is certain.

Philae has survived the harsh conditions on the comet and is responding to commands from the DLR Lander Control Center team.

“This is extremely good news for us,” Geurts said.

Thanks to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory a new video has been rolled out.

This compilation of images is based on hazard-avoidance cameras on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity taken between January 2004 and April 2015.

The video shows the rover’s-eye-view of the Martian marathon covering 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) from its landing location.

A map of the rover’s path is on the right.

To watch Opportunity’s view of its marathon on Mars, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=42&v=3b1DxICZbGc

Opportunity's Front Hazcam Sol 4071. Credit: NASA/JPL

Opportunity’s Front Hazcam Sol 4071.
Credit: NASA/JPL

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Opportunity is busily exploring surrounding terrain as evidenced by these new Sol 4071 images.

Microscopic Imager Sol 4071. Credit: NASA/JPL

Microscopic Imager Sol 4071.
Credit: NASA/JPL