Monday, January 30, 2006

Is Mercury Shrinking?

How was Mercury formed?

Was it the result of a collision?

Why does moondust smell like gunpowder?

It smelled like burnt gunpowder to the Apollo astronauts, but not back on Earth.

Stardust spacecraft is sleeping

The sample return module is on Earth, but the spacecraft is still going. Here is a NASA update.


D.C. Agle (818) 393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown/Merrilee Fellows (202) 358-1726/ (818) 393-0754
NASA Headquarters, Washington

News Release: 2006-016 January 30, 2006

Stardust Mission Status Report
NASA's Stardust spacecraft was placed into hibernation mode yesterday. Stardust successfully returned to Earth samples of a comet via its sample return capsule on Jan. 15. The spacecraft has logged almost seven years of flight.

"We sang our spacecraft to sleep today with a melody of digital ones and zeros," said Tom Duxbury, Stardust project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Stardust has performed flawlessly these last seven years and 2.88 billion miles and deserves a rest for a while, like the rest of the team.”

The "song" was actually a series of commands that was sent up to the spacecraft yesterday, Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. Pacific time (7 p.m. Eastern time). The commands deactivated all but a few essential systems, such as Stardust's solar arrays and receive antenna – which will remain powered on. This long-term hibernation state could allow for almost indefinite (tens of years) out-of-contact operations while maintaining the spacecraft health.

"Placing Stardust in hibernation gives us options to possibly reuse it in the future," said Dr. Tom Morgan, Stardust Program Executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "The mission has already been a great success, but if at all possible we may want to add even more scientific dividends to this remarkable mission's record of achievement."

The Stardust spacecraft is currently in an orbit that travels from a little closer to the Sun than that of the Earth to well beyond the orbit of Mars. It will next fly past Earth on January 14, 2009, at a distance of about 1 million kilometers (621,300 miles).

NASA's Stardust sample return mission successfully concluded its prime mission on Jan. 15, 1006, when its sample return capsule carrying cometary and interstellar particles successfully touched down at 2:10 a.m. Pacific time (3:10 a.m. Mountain time) in the desert salt flats of the Utah Test and Training Range.

Stardust scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston are currently analyzing what could be considered a treasure-trove of cometary and interstellar dust samples that exceeded their grandest expectations. Scientists believe these precious samples will help provide answers to fundamental questions about comets and the origins of the solar system.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Stardust mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, developed and operated the spacecraft.

For information about the Stardust mission on the Web, visit .
For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit .

NASA dropping methane fueled rocket?

Robert Zubrin isn't going to like this:

Astronauts on the Moon by 2017?

A year earlier than previous said:

Space Suite Satellite

Stardust Status update

Most stars are single NOT double!

Don't forget red dwarfs...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Spitzer telescope picture of galaxy center

Space Suite Satellite

Stardust worked well, more on the way

More missions like Stardust are likely:

They claim they can dip down into Mars' atmosphere and pick up dust to return to Earth for much lower cost than other sample return missions.

JPL's info about Mars rovers

2 years and counting (multimedia narrated slide show):

Jan 25, 2006 Spirit status:

Jan 20, 2006 Opportunity status:

Spirit Photos:

Opportunity photos:

Mars Rover IMAX film info

Will be released on Friday Jan 27, 2006


USA Today review of the movie:

***UPDATE 2 ***
Space Review review of the movie:

New planet 5.5 times the size of Earth

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

NASA news release on Mars Rovers

Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

George Deutsch/ Erica Hupp (202) 358-1324/ 1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

News Release: 2006-015 Jan. 24, 2006

Mars Rovers Advance Understanding of the Red Planet

NASA's Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been working overtime to help scientists better understand ancient environmental conditions on the red planet. The rovers are also generating excitement about the exploration of Mars outlined in NASA's Vision for Space Exploration.

The rovers continue to find new variations of bedrock in areas they are exploring on opposite sides of Mars. The geological information they have collected adds evidence about ancient Martian environments that included periods of wet, possibly habitable conditions.

"The extended journeys taken by the two rovers across the surface of Mars has allowed the science community to continue to uncover discoveries that will enable new investigations of the red planet far into the future." said Mary Cleave, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters.

NASA's third mission extension for the rovers lasts through September 2006, if they remain usable that long. During their three-month primary missions, the rovers drove farther and examined more rocks than the prescribed criteria for success.

Opportunity begins its third year on Mars today. It is examining bedrock exposures along a route between "Endurance" and "Victoria" craters. Opportunity found evidence of a long-ago habitat of standing water on Mars.

On Jan. 3, Spirit passed its second anniversary inside the Connecticut-sized Gusev Crater. Initially, Spirit did not find evidence of much water, and hills that might reveal more about Gusev's past were still mere bumps on the horizon. By operating eight times as long as planned, Spirit was able to climb up those hills, examine a wide assortment of rocks and find mineral fingerprints of ancient water.
While showing signs of wear, Spirit and Opportunity are still being used to their maximum remaining capabilities. On Spirit, the teeth of the rover's rock abrasion tool are too worn to grind the surface off any more rocks, but its wire-bristle brush can still remove loose coatings. The tool was designed to uncover three rocks, but it exposed interiors of 15 rocks.
On Opportunity, the steering motor for the front right wheel stopped working eight months ago. A motor at the shoulder joint of the rover's robotic arm shows symptoms of a broken wire in the motor winding. Opportunity can still maneuver with its three other steerable wheels. Its shoulder motor still works when given extra current, and the arm is still useable without that motor.
The rovers are two of five active robotic missions at Mars, which include NASA's Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor and the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiters. The orbiters and surface missions complement each other in many ways. Observations by the rovers provide ground-level understanding for interpreting global observations by the orbiters. In addition to their own science missions, the orbiters relay data from Mars.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Exploration Rover, Odyssey and Global Surveyor projects for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

For information about NASA and other agency exploration programs on the Web, visit:

For images and information about the rovers and their discoveries on the Web, visit:


Monday, January 23, 2006

Interesting shaped crater on Mars


The battle for GPS satellites depends on...

the accuracy of Atomic Clocks

Rivalry will force NASA to continue manned space flight

Or so says this writer:

Helium 3 on the Moon

Should we go to the Moon to mine Helium 3?

Big splat theory of Moon origin needs revision?

Harrison Schmidt (only professional geologist to have walked on the Moon) says that analysis of moonquakes means that the leading theory Moon's origin needs to be revisisted

Pluto mission info from Sky & Telescope Magazine

Book Review: Chasing Hubble's Shadows

What has the Hubble Space Telescope found?

Justifying the return to the Moon

Pluto Mission history

Friday, January 20, 2006

Stardust mission hits "cometdirt"

How about a lottery to raise money to fund space flight?

Crew Exploration Vehicle undergoes overhaul

It has been one year since Huygens landed on Titan

Where did glaciers on Mars come from?

From snow. Deposits of ancient glaciers are found:

MESSENGER talks by laser

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft to Mercury used laser communications to talk to Earth based scientists:

Pluto Colder Than Expected

Earth-bound astronomers taking Pluto's temperature have confirmed suspicions that the planet is colder than it should be. It's thought that the planet's lower temperature is the result of interactions between its icy surface and thin nitrogen atmosphere.

Size of Pluto's Moon Charon

A new study provides the best estimate to date of the diameter and heft of Pluto's moon Charon and suggests the satellite likely has no atmosphere


Is Pluto a planet?

Here is a funny article about why or why not Pluto is a planet:

Instruments on Pluto probe

Here is a picture that shows the different parts of the Pluto probe:

Pluto mission lifts off after days of delay

New Horizon spacecraft gets fast start on nine-year journey.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Close-Up on the Kepler Mission.

Looking for Earth size planets transiting other stars

Shadows on the moon

Astronauts have noticed something strange about shadows on the moon.

Energizer Bunny Rovers on Mars

The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity have exceeded NASA's expectations by such a large margin that 2005 was just more icing on the cake as both rovers continue to return invaluable insights into Mars' past.

Hopping Robots

Microbot Madness: Hopping Toward Planetary Exploration

The success of NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity has scored high points for the wheeled automatons, but another plan may one day have their robotic successors hopping.

Overview of planet visibility in 2006

Pluto Colder Than Expected

Earth-bound astronomers taking Pluto's temperature have confirmed suspicions that the planet is colder than it should be. It's thought that the planet's lower temperature is the result of interactions between its icy surface and thin nitrogen atmosphere


Friday, January 13, 2006

Apollo Pictures on-line

Mars Plane videos

Nuclear Powered Spacecraft

Free flight simulator software

Orbiter software:

Just another Apollo?

Here is a two part article that describes the return to the Moon:

Going (almost) all the way to Mars

How about going to Phobos instead?

Russia's Next Spaceship: Alternative to NASA's CEV

Zubrin comments on vision for space exploration

Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society comments on the Vision for Space Exploration:

Keck Interferometer Virtual Tour

Here is a cool website that lets you look inside the Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

Husband Hill summit panorama on Mars

Asteroid Probe Yields Insight For Planetary Defense

Following roughly two months of notable operations at asteroid Itokawa, Japan's Hayabusa probe is damaged goods. Hindered by thruster and gyroscope breakdowns, the spacecraft is under makeshift attitude control with engineers hoping to finesse the craft onto a homeward-bound trajectory back to Earth.

A Force Field for Astronauts

Scientists are reviving an old but wild idea to protect astronauts from space radiation.

Vision for Space Exploration

Forging a vision: NASA’s Decadal Planning Team and the origins of the Vision for Space Exploration

Back to the Future for NASA in 2005

Describes how NASA has changed since the new administrator (Mike Griffin) took over:

Latest update on the Mars Rovers

They just keep on going...

The Planets in 2006

Here is an overview article of what planets will be visible in 2006:

Christmas Tree Cluster Picture by Spitzer

Here is my favorite star cluster as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope:

For Scientist and Englishwoman, Pluto Mission is Precious

Here is a story about the people behind the Pluto probe:

An Explosion on the Moon

So you thought nothing ever happens on the moon?

Pluto probe set for landmark space odyssey

Update on NASA's New Horizon Pluto mission