Astronews Daily (2455495)

October 25, 2010 12:12 by scibuff

Top Stories

China Plans Mars Mission – China has drawn up a technical plan for an independent Mars orbiter exploration project, space technology experts said. Based on research conducted by the China Academy of Space Technology, the plan envisions a launch date as early as 2013, Huang Jiangchuan, a scientist with the academy, was quoted by Beijing-based Science and Technology Daily. The Mars probe will be sent to an Earth-Mars transfer orbit first, and then fly about 10 months before entering an elliptical orbit around Mars. The Mars exploration will last one to two years, he said. –Daily Galaxy

LRO/LCROSS’ Discoveries Prove Obama’s Lunar Policy is Flawed – It has been about a year since scientists announced the discovery of water on the moon. On Thursday, Oct. 21 they revealed new data uncovered by NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). -Jason Rhian / America Space

Rethinking Habitability – Astronomers are re-thinking the requirements that need to be met for an exoplanet to be considered ‘habitable.’ A new simulation of the Gliese 581 system is helping astrobiologists refine their search for Earth-like worlds in the Universe. Gleise 581 recently made news because a planet could be orbiting within the system’s habitable zone. -Jon Voisey / Astrobiology Magazine

Life aboard the International Space Station – It’s 10 years since the first crew entered the International Space Station 360 km above the Earth. But what is it like aboard a big tin can traveling at 28,200 km/s? –Ian Sample/Guardian

[more stories]

Videos

NASA's Kennedy Space Center came under attack from the merciless Decepticons this week. However, Optimus Prime and his valiant band of Autobots fended them off, and then stood watch over the space center for the remainder of the week - along with the cast and crew of "Transformers 3, The Dark of the Moon." Although the set was closed - there were some interesting revelations about what one can expect to see in the third installment of the highly-successful film franchise -- including a very special guest star.

  

Photos

Soyuz 24S

Soyuz 24S

Moon in daylight

Moon in daylight

NGC 1806

NGC 1806

Lake Malawi, Great Rift Valley

Lake Malawi, Great Rift Valley

  

Gallery Pick of the Day

San Francisco bay area

San Francisco bay area from the International Space Station - Credit: Douglas H. Wheelock / Expedition 25 / NASA

The photo above is “Pick of the Day” from one of the three galleries: Astronomy Gallery, Space Shuttle Gallery and Space Station Gallery.

Astronews Daily (2455492)

October 21, 2010 20:11 by scibuff

Top Stories

Call for media: reacting to threat of asteroid impacts – How would the world react to the threat of an asteroid impact? The media are invited to meet top-level experts at ESA’s space operations centre in Germany on 29 October to find out more. –ESA

Understanding the Unusual LCROSS Ejecta Plume – LCROSS was an unusual mission, in that it relied on an impact to be able to study a planetary body. Not only was the mission unusual, but so was the ejecta plume produced by slamming a hollow Centaur rocket booster into the Moon. “A normal impact throws debris out more than up, like an inverted lampshade that gets wider and wider as it goes out,” said Pete Schultz, from Brown University and a member of the LCROSS science team. –Nancy Atkinson / Universe Today

NASA Missions Uncover The Moon’s Buried Treasures – Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water molecules on the moon, scientists Thursday revealed new data uncovered by NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO. –NASA/LCROSS

New Cometary Phenomenon Greets Approaching Spacecraft – Recent observations of comet Hartley 2 have scientists scratching their heads, while they anticipate a flyby of the small, icy world on Nov. 4. –NASA/JPL

[more stories]

Videos

Bo Zhou has found a very bright sun-grazing Kreutz-group comet hours before a toasty demise in the Sun's outer atmosphere - Courtesy of SOHO/LASCO C3 consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

  

Photos

Active Region SN1112

Active Region SN1112

Bubble and M52

Bubble and M52

Isla de Margarita, Isla Cubagua, Coche, Sucre

Isla de Margarita, Isla Cubagua, Coche, Sucre

The Bechar Basin of northwest Algeria

The Bechar Basin of northwest Algeria

  

Gallery Pick of the Day

Titan and Rhea

Titan is precisely twice as far from Cassini than Rhea here. As a result, in relative size Rhea appears exactly 2x larger than it actually is, compared to Titan's size. - Credit: NASA/Cassini

The photo above is “Pick of the Day” from one of the three galleries: Astronomy Gallery, Space Shuttle Gallery and Space Station Gallery.

First data from LCROSS impacts

October 9, 2009 15:29 by scibuff

Update: The LRO LAMP instrument (UV spectrometer) has confirmed detection of the ejecta plume and has begun analyzing their data. Also, the LRO Diviner instrument (Imaging Radiometer) has confirmed they have detected the #LCROSS impact crater.

First data from LCROSS impacts are coming in. Athony Colaprete, LCROSS Principal Investigator (NASA Ames), confirmed during NASA/LCROSS press conference that

We saw the impact, we saw the crater, we got spectroscopic data, which is the data we need.

Centaur impact flash detected by the Mid IR camera - Source: NASA TV

Centaur impact flash detected by the Mid IR camera from 600 km above the surface - Source: NASA TV

Centaur impact detected by visible spectrometer - Source: NASA TV

Centaur impact detected by visible spectrometer - Source: NASA TV

Jennifer Heldmann, LCROSS Observation Campaign Lead (NASA Ames), said that there is observation data from over 20 land sites as well as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and other observatories in Earth’s orbit.

Lunar crater Cabeus were taken on October 9, 2009 with the Palomar Observatory's 200-inch (5-meter) Hale Telescope and its Adaptive Optics  - Source: Palomar Observatory/Antonin Bouchez

Lunar crater Cabeus were taken on October 9, 2009 with the Palomar Observatory's 200-inch (5-meter) Hale Telescope and its Adaptive Optics - Source: Palomar Observatory/Antonin Bouchez

The public was somewhat disappointed by not seeing the ejecta plume. Although the scientists have confirmed the impact and seen a crater, there are several explanations for the lack of plumes. One could be simply that the ejecta did not “fly” high enough above the surface to escape the shadows of lunar surface. Alternatively, the ejected material could have been too faint and too spread out to be observable from almost 400,000 km. Nevertheless, Colaprete emphasized that scientific instruments were primarily focused on collecting spectra and that the first look at the data shows signs of ejected material.

LCROSS impacts the Moon

October 9, 2009 11:44 by scibuff

Today at 11:31:19.5 UTC the Centaur upper stage impacted the lunar surface a 2.5km/s ejecting about 350 tonnes of lunar material into the path of the Shepherding Spacecraft which impacted about 4 minutes later at 11:35:38.7 UTC, ending thus the flight part of NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission. In the next few weeks, the impact ejecta will analyzed for the presence of hydrated minerals which would tell researchers if water is there or not.

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 30 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 30 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 20 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 20 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 10 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 10 minutes before Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC at the time of Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC at the time of Centaur impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 1 minute before impact - Source: NASA TV

Moon as viewed from the SSC about 1 minute before impact - Source: NASA TV

Silencing the crazy “Do not bomb the Moon” outcry

October 8, 2009 10:37 by scibuff

Tomorrow, the spaceflight part of NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission will end as the two main components, the Shepherding Spacecraft (S-S/C) and the Centaur upper stage rocket, impact the Cabeus crater located about 100km from the Lunar south pole.

An artist's impression of the LCROSS spacecraft's Centaur stage crashing into the surface of the Moon. The LCROSS spaceraft will observe and record the impact and then it also will crash into the crater - Image Credit: NASA

An artist's impression of the LCROSS spacecraft's Centaur stage crashing into the surface of the Moon. The LCROSS spaceraft will observe and record the impact and then it also will crash into the crater - Image Credit: NASA

Immediately after the LRO/LCROSS launch on June 18, science illiterate members of the blog community started a campaign to stop NASA from “Bombing the Moon”; an act, which, according to them, was in a clear violation of the UN resolution 2222 written in the 1499th plenary meeting on December 19, 1966 – Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. I will not support this insanity by providing links here (just google “NASA Moon bombing”).

The arguments on blogs range from the creation of (up to) 8km deep crater, to the bombing constituting a hostile act against known extraterrestrial civilizations and settlements on the Moon allegedly observed by the crew of Apollo 11 (seriously?). Several magazines and newspapers (the likes of Scientific American, the Examiner and the UK Telegraph – no surprise there) jumped on the bandwagon featuring articles with an unfortunate (but I suspect a rather deliberate) word choice – “Moon bombing”.

Asteroid impact the Moon

Bombing can be defined as detonation (on impact) of an explosive devise producing a chemical action which causes a sudden formation of a great volume of expanded gas. In other words, nothing close to the events which are about to occur near the Moon’s south pole.

Let me assure you: the Moon is hit by space junk on regular basis. It has withstood this bombardment for billions of years and it will prevail for many billions to come. The flash in the sequence below was caused by a meteoroid about 25 cm in diameter traveling at 38 km/s. As such, although much smaller than either the (S-S/C) and the Centaur, the energy released in the impact is comparable with tomorrows impacts because this piece of rock was traveling fifteen times faster than LCROSS.

A meteoroid hits the Moon, May 2, 2006; video-recorded by MSFC engineers Heather McNamara and Danielle Moser.

A meteoroid hits the Moon, May 2, 2006; video-recorded by MSFC engineers Heather McNamara and Danielle Moser.

The Centaur upper stage will impact the lunar surface at around 11:31:20 UTC at -84.675, 311.275 E (in selenographical coordinates). NASA estimates the impact velocity of 2.5 km/s which will excavate more than 350 tonnes of lunar material and create a crater 20m in diameter with a depth of about 4m; in other words, nowhere near the sensational 8km (given the crater size, not even the Hubble Space Telescope will be able to see it under ideal conditions).

Using the nominal impact mass of 2,305kg and the velocity of 2.5km/s the kinetic energy of the spacecraft can be easily calculated as

E=\frac{1}{2}mv^{2}=0.5\times 2,503kg\times \left ( 2,500m\cdot s^{-1} \right )^{2} = 7,203,125,000\ J

E\simeq 7.2\times10^{9}\ J

Since a kiloton of TNT is equivalent to 4.184\times10^{12}\ J, the total energy released in the impact (under ideal conditions) is 0.001\ 72 kiloton of TNT; again, nowhere close to the 2 kiloton of TNT (which equals to 10% of the yield of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima) claimed by some authors. Furthermore, both the S-S/C and Centaur performed a blow-down maneuver to vent any remaining fuel inside the Centaur to help prevent contamination of the impact site and the ejecta material, thus there will be no explosion.

The Shepherding Spacecraft will impact the lunar surface roughly four minutes after the Centaur upper stage, at around 11:35:39 UTC at -84.729, 310.64 E, ejecting about 150 tonnes or material leaving behind a crater 14m wide and 2m deep.

LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur upper stage impact sites - Source: NASA

LCROSS Shepherding Spacecraft and Centaur upper stage impact sites - Source: NASA

As for the last argument, if you truly believe in the conspiracy to cover up the presence of an extraterrestrial civilizations on the Moon, reported in witnessed statements by astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, and in witnessed statements to NSA (National Security Agency) photos and documents regarding an extraterrestrial base on the dark side of the Moon (let’s forget for a second that there is NO such thing as the “dark” side of the Moon), I applaud you for reading this far and let’s just leave it at that…

Moon Defence

LCROSS swings around the moon

June 23, 2009 13:38 by scibuff

Today at 10:30:33 UTC, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) passed the periselene at an altitude of 3200km above the lunar surface. The spacecraft  entered a so-called Lunar Gravity Assist, Lunar Return Orbit (LGALRO) around the Earth, to position it on the path for impact at one of the Moon’s poles. Mission’s final target will be determined about a month before the impact to ensure ideal observing conditions for the LRO, Hubble and ground-based telescopes on Earth.

This swingby was the first test of the Medium Gain Antenna (MGA) to support high science rate. The data handling unit (DHU) and other scientific instruments were powered up for the first time. During the first 30 minutes of the coverage, the spacecraft collected data from three targets on the lunar surface for 5 minutes each (with short slews in between). First, the instruments turned to Mendeleev (Lat 5.7°N,Lon 140.9°E), a large ancient impact basin with uniform floor deposits. The uniformity of Mendeleev provided a good calibration target for onboard down-looking instruments.

The Medeleev crater - Source: NASA LCROSS

The Medeleev crater - Source: NASA LCROSS

At 12:30 UTC the spacecraft started data collection from surface target #2 – the Goddard crater located in the north region of Mare Marginis. The actual target, Goddard C, is a worn iron-rich crater with mare basalt flows mixed with rugged highlands-type material approximately 49km in diameter.

LCROSS collecting data from the Goddard C crater at an altitude of 8713km above the lunar surface - Source: NASA LCROSS

LCROSS collecting data from the Goddard C crater at an altitude of 8713km above the lunar surface - Source: NASA LCROSS

Finally, at around 12:40 UTC, the onboard instruments were pointed at the Giordano Bruno (Lat 35.9°N, 102.8°E) from the altitude of 9351 km above the surface.

After the data collection from surface targets was completed, the LCROSS carried out a series of lunar limb observations, a technique used for alignment.

After the swingby, the LCROSS spacecraft entered approximately 4-month long cruising phase during which it will perform 6 planned trajectory correction manuevers (TCM) and 3 science payload calibrations (SciCal). The last two TCMs are planned for the final targeting phase at T-72 hours and at T-11 hours before the impact on October 9.