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.

Moon Zoo is live!

May 11, 2010 19:30 by scibuff

Moon Zoo is live!

Moon Zoo is a new addition to the Zoo-universe, a collection of citizen science project that started a few years ago with the highly successful Galaxy Zoo. The project invites everyone to explore the lunar surface in unprecedented detail, with the resolution of up to 0.5m., courtesy of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and its two Narrow Angle Cameras.

Moon Zoo asks the participants to classify and measure the shape of features on lunar surface with the main focus on:

  • counting the number of and measuring the size of impact craters
  • categorizing locations of interest such as lava channels, crater chains, lava flooded impact craters,  volcanic eruptive centers, etc.
  • assessing the degree of boulder hazard by comparing boulder density on two images
  • identifying recent changes on lunar surface by comparing LRO and Apollo photographs
  • determining the location of space mission hardware on the Moon (Apollo landers, Luna rovers, European and Chinese probes)

Besides delivering high quality data which will address many questions of lunar science, Moon Zoo is also an excellent tool to promote lunar and space exploration and engage the public in learning about processes involved in scientific discoveries.

Chandrayaan images – Another blow to Moon landing conspiracy theories

September 3, 2009 15:30 by scibuff

Although the Chandrayaan 1 mission by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) ended prematurely when scientists lost contact with the spacecraft on August 28, 2009, the agency claimed it to be a grand success in that it completed its major tasks.

Apart from the primary objectives to prepare a 3D atlas with the resolution of up to 10-5m and chemical and mineralogical mapping of the entire lunar surface, the terrain mapping camera on board the spacecraft has also sent images of the landing site of Apollo 15 and the tracks of land rovers astronauts used to travel on the lunar surface.

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon - Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon - Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Analysis of data from the onboard Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC) and the Hyper Spectral Imager (HySi) revealed disturbances on the the lunar surface show tracks on Lunar Roving Vehicles (LRV) used by astronauts on Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

That’s right, all your Moon landing deniers (read crazy people). Here are photos and data acquired by instruments built by an agency from a different country on board a spacecraft launched into lunar orbit independently of NASA – Chandrayaan 1 also carried NASA instruments but the TMC was built in ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC).

I’m truly curious how Moon hoaxers tackle this one. Meanwhile, the rest of us who live in a real world will no doubt enjoy in awe all other wonders of the universe.

Moon Zoo is coming

August 19, 2009 12:37 by scibuff

Update: I met a lot of interesting people at the Science Online London 2009 conference last Saturday. One of them was Arfon Smith who is the technical lead on Galaxy Zoo. We was kind enough to demonstrate for me the first prototype of the Moon Zoo web interface and let me tell you – even though it is just the first prototype, it was sweet!

Moon Zoo will be another citizen science project, the latest incarnation of the highly successful Galaxy Zoo. The project will use high resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) on NASA’s LRO spacecraft. Moon Zoo will ask the participants to classify and measure the shape of features on lunar surface with the main focus on:

  • counting the number of and measuring the size of impact craters
  • categorizing locations of interest such as lava channels, crater chains, lava flooded impact craters,  volcanic eruptive centers, etc.
  • assessing the degree of boulder hazard by comparing boulder density on two images
  • identifying recent changes on lunar surface by comparing LRO and Apollo photographs
  • determining the location of space mission hardware on the Moon (Apollo landers, Luna rovers, European and Chinese probes)

Besides delivering high quality data which will (hopefully) address many questions of lunar science, Moon Zoo will also be an excellent tool to promote lunar and space exploration and engage the public in learning about processes involved in scientific discoveries. Moon Zoo is expected to be even more popular than Galaxy Zoo, exploiting the media exposure of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the recent NASA’s LRO/LCROSS mission.

Full resolution detail from one of the first LROC NAC images. At this scale and lighting, impact craters dominate the landscape. Two general types of impact craters are readily identifiable. Solitary craters which most likely represent a single impact event, and clusters or chains of small, fresh craters produced by the impact of lunar material excavated by a larger impact. Image width is 1400 meters, north is down - Photo Source: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Full resolution detail from one of the first LROC NAC images. At this scale and lighting, impact craters dominate the landscape. Two general types of impact craters are readily identifiable. Solitary craters which most likely represent a single impact event, and clusters or chains of small, fresh craters produced by the impact of lunar material excavated by a larger impact. Image width is 1400 meters, north is down - Photo Source: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

When the original Galaxy Zoo was launched in summer of 2007, hardly anyone could anticipate the enormous participation and the enthusiasm with which thousands of users meticulously classified millions of galaxies. Because of the immense success of the original project, Galaxy Zoo 2 was created to focus on a detailed classification of 245,609 galaxies selected from millions of classifications available. Galaxy Zoo 2 participants answer the kind of questions the creators of the original Galaxy Zoo project would have asked had they known how large the users base was going to be.

Earlier this month the Zoo project family was extended by Galaxy Zoo Supernovae (currently in a planned off-time to analyze preliminary data). The Supernovae project uses images from the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) taken only hours earlier. The PTF data is fed through an automated pipeline which finds suitable candidates to display to users. Because time (the age of a supernova) is of the essence for this type of research, unlike in Galaxy Zoo 1 and 2, GalaxyZoo Supernovae implemented a priority queue to always display the most recent candidates before showing older data. This system presents a unique opportunity for anyone to discover a never-before-seen supernova.

A supernova found in on of the GalaxyZoo Supernovae candidate assets - Photo Source: GalaxyZoo.org

A supernova found in on of the Galaxy Zoo Supernovae candidate assets - Photo Source: GalaxyZoo.org

Galaxy Zoo project was the first of its kind to use the exceptional power of human brain to recognize patterns and shapes (something that computers “learn” with great difficulties). More importantly, Galaxy Zoo proved that worldwide citizen science projects can provide data analysis comparable in quality to professional astronomers. The large number of independent results by amateurs or enthusiasts has an advantage over a significantly smaller number of results by experts because it allows to quantify uncertainties with ease.

LRO proves the Apollo 11 landing to be real

July 17, 2009 16:35 by scibuff

Today at 16:30 UTC, NASA released the first images of the Apollo landing sites taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). These are actually the first photos of Apollo landing sites with resolution high enough to show the equipment left behind by astronauts on the Lunar surface. Contrary to the ridiculous beliefs of Moon landing deniers, the resolution power of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is nowhere close to being able to accomplish a similar feat.

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle at the Tranquility Base. Image width: 282 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle at the Tranquility Base. Image width: 282 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares. Image width: 538 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 14 lunar module, Antares. Image width: 538 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Labeled photo of the Apollo 14 landing site - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Labeled photo of the Apollo 14 landing site - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon. Image width: 384 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon. Image width: 384 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion. Image width: 256 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion. Image width: 256 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger. Image width: 359 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger. Image width: 359 meters - Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

First of all, let me make clear that I’m not naive to believe that (yet another) piece of irrefutable evidence will change the mind of conspiracy theorists. Those who still believe that NASA pulled of the biggest lie in history matched only by that of organized religion, despite having every single piece of their fantasy debunked innumerous times, are not gonna be stopped by some silly thing called evidence. As Phil Plait has put it in one of his posts:

You could fly a conspiracy theorist to the Moon and show them the equipment lying on the desolate surface, and they’d accuse you of drugging them.

Despite thousands of pictures and hours of video footage made by astronauts themselves and an unconquerable mountain of evidence refuting every single one of their claims, the Moon landing deniers will continue to spread their non-sense with religious zealotry. Similarly, antivaxxers will insist that vaccines cause autism. Creationists will obstinate that the Earth is 6,000 years old, even in a speech about mining Uranium, which, ironically enough, is used in the Uranium-lead scheme of radiometric dating to determine the age of Earth (4.5 billion years). These people live in a fantasy world rivaling that of magic schools boys and a gay headmaster in a fight against an evil soulless orphan supremacist. Their “reality” has nothing in common with an evidence-based world.

To say the truth, these people are not deserving of any respect whatsoever as they have none for the thousands they would call liars, frauds and cowards. They have the audacity to dismiss the heroism of those 24 brave astronauts who flew to the Moon and thus ventured further from the Earth than any man in the history. They would blatantly shrug off the achievement of the 12 extraordinary men, who had the privilege to touch and walk on another world, standing on shoulders of every single man and woman who dedicated their lives to the human space flight. That includes every single cosmonaut who has ever passed beyond the barrier of space, every worker in every mission control center around the world, every scientist who devised an experiment to be conducted in vacuum under zero gravity, every technician and engineer who tirelessly built every component, connected every wire and tested and retested every spacecraft zillion times until they could no longer talk, think or dream of anything else, and most importantly, the crew of Apollo 1, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roget Chaffee, together with Edward Givens (support crew Apollo 7) and Clifton Willians (backup LMP Apollo 9) who were among the 32 astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice in the effort to push the boundaries of what is possible.

To discard this wondrous accomplishment of humanity based on nothing but paranoia, inferiority complex and/or in an attempt to sell a few extra copies of a book or a movie, is against the very nature of being human, i.e. our curiosity to explore the unknown, our perseverance and unwillingness to give up despite odds or doubt and the determination to reach the stars. Fortunately, the view of these (few) individuals is irrelevant because:

Truth needs no defense. Nobody, nobody… can ever take those footsteps I made on the surface of the Moon away from me.

– Eugene A. Cernan (Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, Apollo 17)

This graphic shows the approximate locations of the Apollo moon landing sites - Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

This graphic shows the approximate locations of the Apollo moon landing sites - Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is parked around the Moon

June 23, 2009 11:19 by scibuff

Update 3: At 10:27 UTC Engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt confirmed the spacecraft’s lunar orbit insertion.
Update 2: The LOI burn finished at 10:26:28 UTC.  Four-and-a-half days after leaving Earth NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has reached its capture orbit around the Moon.

Update 1: At 10:08 UTC “Stable capture around the Moon” has been declared on a voice loop from LRO mission control.

Today at 09:47 UTC the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) control engineers executed the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) engine burn lasting about 40 minutes which adjusted the spacecraft’s trajectory to be captured by the lunar gravity and enter a 200 by 3,000 km orbit around the Moon. In the next few days the mission controllers will execute a series of short orbit adjustment burns that will help the spacecraft to reach the planned 30×216 km commissioning orbit.

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LRO orbit animation – Source: NASA