Author Topic: Astronomy/space exploration thread  (Read 100464 times)

Offline nixonshead

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #50 on: November 16, 2006, 07:07:11 AM »
Lots of interesting stuff out there today!  ;D

It looks like a mission to a near Earth asteroid is being contemplated as part of Project Constellation (See Space.com: http://www.space.com/news/061116_asteroid_nasa.html)

Quote
NASA is appraising a human mission to a near-Earth asteroid—gauging the scientific merit of the endeavor while testing out spacecraft gear, as well as mastering techniques that could prove useful if a space rock ever took aim for our planet.

Space agency teams are looking into use of Constellation hardware for a human Near-Earth Object (NEO) mission—an effort underway at NASA’s Ames Research. Another study is delving into use of Constellation components to support an automated Mars sample return mission. That study is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

<snip>

“A human mission to a near Earth asteroid would be scientifically worthwhile,” said Chris McKay, deputy scientist in the Constellation science office at the NASA Johnson Space Center. “It could be part of an overall program of understanding these objects. Also, it would be useful, instrumentally, in terms of understanding the threat they pose to the Earth.”


Stationed at NASA’s Ames Research Center located in California’s Silicon Valley, McKay told SPACE.com that work is underway to evaluate the science enabled by sending crews to asteroids, and to judge how best to assure safe and efficient exploration.


Asteroids are relics from early solar system formation, McKay pointed out. “Then there’s the whole, what I call the ‘Bruce Willis factor’…the star in the movie Armageddon…and the ability to send significant assets to an asteroid.”


“There’s a lot of public resonance with this notion that NASA ought to be doing something about killer asteroids…to be able to send serious equipment to an asteroid,” McKay observed. “The public wants us to have mastered the problem of dealing with asteroids. So being able to have astronauts go out there and sort of poke one with a stick would be scientifically valuable as well as demonstrate human capabilities,” he said.

This sound to me like a very good mission to do after a Moon landing but before attempting a journey to Mars.  In terms of delta-v, a NEO mission should actually be easier than landing on the Moon, and it would give NASA experience in long duration interplanetary spaceflight.  The mission would apparently last between 60-90 days, so it would let them work out all the bugs with radiation protection, bone and muscle wasteage, etc, without having to build a large Mars-class booster.  A nice, evolutionary approach to space systems deveopment that gets in a scientifically useful and publically interesting mission at the same time.  A shame they didn't do it with Apollo in the '70s!

In another article, Space.com report that NASA are preparing to announce their overall lunar exploration strategy, whcih should certainly make interesting reading (http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/061115_techwed_moonplans.html).  So far it's looking like it includes lots of plans for using lunar resources - oxygen for re-fueling spacecraft, regolith-based radiation shielding, etc - including some early unmanned test missions.  Sounds good to me!
One slightly worrying thing:

Quote
The NASA lunar architecture unveiling is expected to answer the “why?” of returning to the Moon. Throughout this year, NASA has solicited input regarding the benefits of lunar exploration from academia, the private sector and space agencies from around the world.

Didn't the President have a task force spend 18 months working out the why of it before announcing the VSE in 2004?  It's a bit of a worry if, almost 3 years and a couple of billion dollars in, people still don't know why they should bother!
Bilbo Bagshot: I once punched a guy out for saying that "Hawk the Slayer" was rubbish.
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Bilbo Bagshot: Yeah, thanks. But that's not the point, Tim. The point is I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity, when what I should have said was "Dad, you're right, but let's give Krull a try and we'll discuss it later."

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Darmok

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #51 on: November 16, 2006, 11:28:16 PM »
Interesting—a manned mission to an asteroid would be great! It’s about time we extend ourselves beyond Earth and its satellite!

Incidentally, I’ve been reading the earlier material you posted, and I see your point—I suppose I can’t have my apple pie and eat it too. I just hate the idea of a derelict probe crashing into one of those moons before we get a chance to properly explore it—especially Titan. But you’re probably right that the contamination risk is low.

Offline nixonshead

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #52 on: November 17, 2006, 06:05:53 AM »
No worries, mate.   :)
Bilbo Bagshot: I once punched a guy out for saying that "Hawk the Slayer" was rubbish.
Tim Bisley: Good for you.
Bilbo Bagshot: Yeah, thanks. But that's not the point, Tim. The point is I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity, when what I should have said was "Dad, you're right, but let's give Krull a try and we'll discuss it later."

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Darmok

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #53 on: November 18, 2006, 12:23:15 AM »
The Leonids (meteor shower) peak tomorrow night, for anyone who’s interested. Unfortunately for me, the peak will occur before Leo rises where I live. It looks like the skies will be clear for me tomorrow night, though the low temperature is supposed to be −6°C (21°F) which will be chilly indeed!

Quote from: [url=http://www.space.com/
space.com[/url]]
Viewer's Guide: The 2006 Leonid Meteor Shower

By Joe Rao
SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist
posted: 17 November 2006
06:09 am ET


Mid-November brings us the return of the famous Leonid meteor shower, which has a storied history of producing some of the most sensational meteor displays ever recorded.

These meteors travel along the orbit of periodic comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle and whenever that comet is passing through the inner solar system, the Leonids have a chance to provide us with a dramatic show.  But the most recent passage of the comet to the Sun came back in 1998 and we are now well past the favored time frame when, for several years running, observers in various parts of the world were witnessing very strong, even storm-level Leonid activity.

The most recent Leonid storms occurred in 2001 and 2002.

That's why this weekend, when the Leonids traditionally should be at their most numerous, we normally would expect to see no more than 10 meteors per hour, even with the promise of excellent viewing conditions thanks to a New Moon on the 20th.

Still, for parts of Europe, Africa and eastern North America, a far more prolific Leonid show could be in the offing this year.

(continued)

Quote from: [url=http://www.space.com/
space.com[/url]]
Strong Leonid Meteor Shower Expected This Weekend

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 14 November 2006
02:49 pm ET


The annual Leonid meteor shower could produce a strong outburst this weekend for residents of eastern North America and Western Europe.

A brief surge of activity is expected begin around 11:45 p.m. ET Saturday, Nov. 18. In Europe, that corresponds to early Sunday morning, Nov. 19 at 4:45 GMT. The outburst could last up to two hours.

At the peak, people in these favorable locations could see up to 150 shooting stars per hour, or more than two per minute.

“We expect an outburst of more than 100 Leonids per hour,” said Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. Cooke notes that the shooting stars during this peak period are likely to be faint, however, created by very small meteoroid grains.

Elsewhere people will see the typically enjoyable Leonid display of a few meteors each hour, weather permitting and assuming dark skies away from city lights.

(continued)

Darmok

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #54 on: November 22, 2006, 02:18:33 AM »
All right, well, the Leonids sucked. And in more bad news, hope is pretty much gone for MGS.

Quote from: [url=http://www.space.com/
space.com[/url]]
Mars Global Surveyor Remains Silent, Feared Lost

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 21 November 2006
03:40 pm ET


BOULDER, Colorado – In a high-tech game of celestial hide and seek, a Mars orbiter has tried to image a lost-in-space red planet probe.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been used to attempt locating the space agency’s Mars Global Surveyor (MGS)—all in an effort to discern what caused the spacecraft to fall silent several weeks ago.

But after using several MRO instruments, the true whereabouts of MGS and its overall status are still unknown.



To help in the search for MGS, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was tasked last Friday, and again Monday to try and spot the MGS within a select region of space.

“Our preliminary analysis so far has not yielded any definitive sighting of MGS,” Li said.



A next step is use of the Opportunity Mars rover to listen for a low-power antenna on MGS. Earth controllers will try today and tomorrow to activate an MGS antenna to transmit a signal to Opportunity, now sitting near Victoria Crater within Meridiani Planum.

Whatever the rover picks up—if anything—would be relayed to the Mars Odyssey spacecraft also orbiting the red planet for rebroadcast back to Earth.

Jim Erickson, JPL project manager for MRO said that analysis of all the MRO search imagery is still underway. After studying the results from Opportunity’s listen session for MGS, as well as other assessments, a decision on utilizing the MRO again will be weighed, he told SPACE.com.

“The power could be supported on only one panel. As long as we’re getting enough power the spacecraft is capable of maintaining itself. We have attitude gas, for example, that could keep us in this mode for one or two years. It’s anybody’s guess as to where that stuck panel is pointed…but we feel that there’s a good chance that we’re getting enough power to maintain operations,” [Project Manager Tom] Thorpe told SPACE.com.



The Mars Global Surveyor is an old-timer. In fact, it is the oldest of five NASA spacecraft currently active at the red planet — three orbiting Mars while the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers continue duties on the planet’s surface. Joining in on the exploration is the Mars Express, also circling Mars and is operated by the European Space Agency (ESA).



MGS is a long-lived spacecraft that recently celebrated a decade of space exploration after its launch on November 7, 1996. The robust Mars probe has far surpassed its initial warranty of a full martian year (roughly two Earth years), yielding a wealth of discoveries over a span of time. MGS had its mission extended repeatedly, most recently in October of this year.

In total, the Mars Global Surveyor program has been a $377 million investment in opening up the red planet to intensive exploration.

“While we have not exhausted everything that we could do…we believe that the prospect of recovery of MGS is not looking very good at all,” JPL’s Li explained. “It’s been a good friend…and we are certainly feeling we might be losing a good friend from our family here,” he added.



Offline nixonshead

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #55 on: November 23, 2006, 06:49:16 AM »
Poor MGS  :(  Looks like the Great Mars Goblin was mearly taking a siesta after snacking down Deep Space 2, the Polar Lander and Beagle 2 - MGS was the after-dinner mint it'd been saving for later  ;)

On the brighter side, it looks like the improbably-named Bigelow Aerospace is moving up its test program for inflatable space stations, with Genesis 2 due to launch early next year and the full-scale Sundancer space station to follow in 2009 (space.com: http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/061122_bigelow_sundancer.html)

Quote
The success of Bigelow Aerospace’s Genesis 1 module, which has been operating in orbit since July 12, has put the company well ahead in its plans for bigger and more capable modules that eventually will host visitors in orbit.

“From a technological standpoint, we are years ahead of where we thought we would be at this time…due to the success of Genesis 1,” said Bigelow Aerospace Corporate Counsel, Mike Gold. “At this point, we feel we’re ready to move ahead and tackle what will be the largest challenge to date for Bigelow Aerospace…to develop a habitat that will actually be capable of supporting a crew.”

<snip>

Bigelow Aerospace leader, Robert Bigelow, unveiled more details about his entrepreneurial habitat plans in September, spotlighting a new module project that is dubbed Sundancer.

That craft would offer 180 cubic meters of habitable space, fully-equipped with life support systems, attitude control, on-orbit maneuverability, as well as reboost and de-orbit capability. This larger module—sporting a trio of windows—could support a three-person crew and be on-orbit in a late 2009-2010 time frame, Bigelow reported.

<snip>

In September, Bigelow Aerospace announced a partnership with Lockheed Martin to explore the capability of launching passengers to Bigelow-built commercial space complexes on human-rated Atlas V rockets.

According to George Sowers, Atlas Business Development and Advanced Programs Director, Lockheed Martin is working with Bigelow Aerospace “to evaluate the market of space tourism and research to determine if Atlas could be a part of this potential new market area.”

<snip>

A potential passenger capsule for Bigelow would likely be launched aboard the Atlas V 401 configuration. Demonstrating human-qualified system upgrades could be done by pre-testing those upgrades on commercial or government missions prior to flying the first passengers.

<snip>

Following this initial work, each company will assess the feasibility of going forward with a program to develop a human-qualified Atlas to match the expected demand.

Nice to see someone being pro-active (and technically realistic) in the space market!  My suspicion is that, without a government customer, Lockheed and Bigelow won't be able to afford to develop a human rated Atlas V, and with NASA sticking to The Stick they're unlikely to be much help.  The USAF could perhaps be interested, especially given their recent interest in developing a reusable unmanned launcher for in-space demonstrations (a very strange requirement, which I'm sure isn't the whole story).  Be interesting to see how this develops.  It could tie in with the Vision for Space Exploration quite nicely - how about a Bigelow module as a low-mass habitat for an asteroid mission?
Bilbo Bagshot: I once punched a guy out for saying that "Hawk the Slayer" was rubbish.
Tim Bisley: Good for you.
Bilbo Bagshot: Yeah, thanks. But that's not the point, Tim. The point is I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity, when what I should have said was "Dad, you're right, but let's give Krull a try and we'll discuss it later."

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Darmok

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #56 on: November 23, 2006, 12:52:59 PM »
It’s cool to see so many companies getting involved in space travel—I’m still holding out hope that a trip to Earth orbit will be affordable and safe during my lifetime!

Offline nixonshead

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #57 on: November 24, 2006, 07:25:41 AM »
Here's a nice little piece that explains one difference in approach between the American and Russian space programmes.  From the online blog of Michael Lopez-Algeria, current commander of the Expedition 14 crew of the International Space Station, discussing what they like to eat on board the station (from the NASA website: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition14/journal_lopez-alegria_4.html):

Quote
Another form of food is called “thermo-stabilized,” which, in fewer letters, means canned. They probably call it thermo-stabilized because there aren’t actually any cans involved (plus it sounds more space-like). Instead of cans, the packages are metal foil pouches. If you’ve had the good fortune to sample a military ration (now called MRE, or Meal, Ready to Eat), you are familiar with this packaging. The envelopes are even drab olive green – like camouflage (so the enemy can’t see your food while you’re eating in the dense foliage); not so practical up here but we live with the legacy. Half of our food is provided by NASA, the other half by the Russian Space Agency. RSA thermo-stabilized food doesn’t come in drab olive green metal foil pouches, it comes in cans. They call it “canned food.”

 :D
Bilbo Bagshot: I once punched a guy out for saying that "Hawk the Slayer" was rubbish.
Tim Bisley: Good for you.
Bilbo Bagshot: Yeah, thanks. But that's not the point, Tim. The point is I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity, when what I should have said was "Dad, you're right, but let's give Krull a try and we'll discuss it later."

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Offline Da Vinci

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #58 on: November 30, 2006, 11:50:47 AM »
*bump*  :P
I just came across this beauty (maybe people here saw it before, but it's the first time I saw it)



It's also available in the puny resolution of 18.000x18.000  (:o) at Wikipedia. Think that would be big enough for a desktop? ;D
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Offline Chemahkuu

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #59 on: November 30, 2006, 02:40:15 PM »
Now thats a beautiful image.

Offline Da Vinci

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #60 on: November 30, 2006, 06:09:04 PM »
My thoughs exactly!  ;D
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Offline Razor

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #61 on: December 01, 2006, 02:59:42 AM »
Now thats a beautiful image.

Yep God is a master artist.  I'd say something else but seriously that image says more than I could ever hope to.
“The boat dipped and swayed and sometimes took on water, but it did not sink; the two brothers had waterproofed it well. I do not know where it finally fetched up, if it ever did; perhaps it reached the sea and sails there forever, like a magic boat in a fairytale. All I know is that it was still afloat and still running on the breast of the flood when it passed the incorporated town limits of Derry, Maine, and there it passes out of this tale forever.” ― Stephen King, It"
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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #62 on: December 01, 2006, 03:02:03 AM »
Looks like the bloody wad of snot I blew out of my sinuses earlier.

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #63 on: December 01, 2006, 03:07:27 AM »
Looks like the bloody wad of snot I blew out of my sinuses earlier.

Had a bad case of Snood eh?
“The boat dipped and swayed and sometimes took on water, but it did not sink; the two brothers had waterproofed it well. I do not know where it finally fetched up, if it ever did; perhaps it reached the sea and sails there forever, like a magic boat in a fairytale. All I know is that it was still afloat and still running on the breast of the flood when it passed the incorporated town limits of Derry, Maine, and there it passes out of this tale forever.” ― Stephen King, It"
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Offline Flagg

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #64 on: December 01, 2006, 03:12:33 AM »
Looks like the bloody wad of snot I blew out of my sinuses earlier.

Had a bad case of Snood eh?

That or my bloody sinuses are the font of creation.

Offline Razor

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #65 on: December 01, 2006, 03:19:54 AM »
Oh no, no more you being a supreme being jokes anymore.
“The boat dipped and swayed and sometimes took on water, but it did not sink; the two brothers had waterproofed it well. I do not know where it finally fetched up, if it ever did; perhaps it reached the sea and sails there forever, like a magic boat in a fairytale. All I know is that it was still afloat and still running on the breast of the flood when it passed the incorporated town limits of Derry, Maine, and there it passes out of this tale forever.” ― Stephen King, It"
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Offline Chemahkuu

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #66 on: December 01, 2006, 07:40:45 AM »
Now thats a beautiful image.

Yep God is a master artist.  I'd say something else but seriously that image says more than I could ever hope to.

*cough*Athiest*cough* Its the random projection of gaseous matter without restrictions, having seen plenty of my own chemicals spread through water in laboratory tests (not all of them were meant to...) I know its a natural process.  Beautiful but random.

Offline Razor

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #67 on: December 01, 2006, 04:28:17 PM »
Now thats a beautiful image.

Yep God is a master artist.  I'd say something else but seriously that image says more than I could ever hope to.

*cough*Athiest*cough* Its the random projection of gaseous matter without restrictions, having seen plenty of my own chemicals spread through water in laboratory tests (not all of them were meant to...) I know its a natural process.  Beautiful but random.

Dont worry my God is the flying spaghetti monster.
“The boat dipped and swayed and sometimes took on water, but it did not sink; the two brothers had waterproofed it well. I do not know where it finally fetched up, if it ever did; perhaps it reached the sea and sails there forever, like a magic boat in a fairytale. All I know is that it was still afloat and still running on the breast of the flood when it passed the incorporated town limits of Derry, Maine, and there it passes out of this tale forever.” ― Stephen King, It"
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Offline Chemahkuu

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #68 on: December 02, 2006, 09:03:48 AM »
Fear his Noodly appendage! ;D

Offline Flagg

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #69 on: December 02, 2006, 09:08:18 AM »
Allahu Tortelinni!

Offline Razor

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #70 on: December 03, 2006, 12:39:01 AM »
Fear his Noodly appendage! ;D

Now now my god is a compassionate God.  When I get to heaven I'll have 72 pizzas served by 72 virgins awaiting me  :D.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2006, 12:40:52 AM by Razor »
“The boat dipped and swayed and sometimes took on water, but it did not sink; the two brothers had waterproofed it well. I do not know where it finally fetched up, if it ever did; perhaps it reached the sea and sails there forever, like a magic boat in a fairytale. All I know is that it was still afloat and still running on the breast of the flood when it passed the incorporated town limits of Derry, Maine, and there it passes out of this tale forever.” ― Stephen King, It"
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Offline Chemahkuu

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #71 on: December 03, 2006, 07:26:43 AM »
I hope you made sure it was 72 female virgins...

Offline Manticore

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #72 on: December 03, 2006, 07:50:02 AM »
I hope you made sure it was 72 female virgins...

I'll second that, and also point out 72 female human virgins.

Offline Chemahkuu

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #73 on: December 03, 2006, 07:51:51 AM »
Id settle for other things but yeah better remind him ;)

Offline Manticore

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Re: Astronomy/space exploration thread
« Reply #74 on: December 03, 2006, 07:52:35 AM »
Id settle for other things but yeah better remind him ;)

Eeeeeeeew.