Thursday, August 30, 2007

Visit the Saturn V

in Houston:

Diamond Based Space Elevator

Why wait for nanotubes?

Review of Space Policy

Mostly a review of commentary on the Bush Administration's space policy:

Mars Rover Update

Status: (Both rovers are still recovering from the recent dust storm, but things are returning to normal. Opportunity has started driving again and will resume it's journey into Victoria Crater):

Spirit Picture (Spirit has now outlasted Viking 2):

Opportunity Picture (driving):

The Keck's have telescope envy

Of course the Keck's still outnumber this new telescope 2-1.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Saturn has 60 moons

Feature July 19, 2007

Saturn Turns 60

Scientists have recently discovered that the planet Saturn is turning 60 –not years, but moons.

"We detected the 60th moon orbiting Saturn using the Cassini spacecraft's powerful wide-angle camera," said Carl Murray, a Cassini imaging team scientist from Queen Mary, University of London. "I was looking at images of the region near the Saturnian moons Methone and Pallene and something caught my eye."

The newly discovered moon first appeared as a very faint dot in a series of images Cassini took of the Saturnian ring system on May 30 of this year. After the initial detection, Murray and fellow Cassini imaging scientists played interplanetary detective, searching for clues of the new moon in the voluminous library of Cassini images to date.

The Cassini imaging team's legwork paid off. They were able to locate numerous additional detections, spanning from June 2004 to June 2007. "With these new data sets we were able to establish a good orbit for the new moon,” said Murray. "Knowing where the moons are at all times is important to the Cassini mission for several reasons."

One of the most important reasons for Cassini to chronicle these previously unknown space rocks is so the spacecraft itself does not run into them. Another reason is each discovery helps provide a better understanding about how Saturn's ring system and all its billions upon billions of parts work and interact together. Finally, a discovery of a moon is important because with this new knowledge, the Cassini mission planners and science team can plan to perform science experiments during future observations if and when the opportunity presents itself.

What of this new, 60th discovered moon of Saturn? Cassini scientists believe "Frank" (the working name for the moon until another, perhaps, more appropriate one is found) is about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) wide and, like so many of its neighbors, is made mostly of ice and rock. The moon's location in the Saturnian sky is between the orbits of Methone and Pallene. It is the fifth moon discovered by the Cassini imaging team.

"When the Cassini mission launched back in 1997, we knew of only 18 moons orbiting Saturn," said Murray. "Now, between Earth-based telescopes and Cassini we have more than tripled that number – and each and every new discovery adds another piece to the puzzle and becomes another new world to explore."

Murray and his colleagues may get the chance to explore Saturn's 60th moon. The Cassini spacecraft's trajectory will put it within 7,300 miles (11,700 kilometers) in December of 2009.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo.

Related news releases:
+Link to Science and Technology Facilities Council:
+Link to Cassini Imaging Team:

Written by: DC Agle
Media Contact: Carolina Martinez 818-354-9382


Slow Geysers on Charon

Mars's shifty poles

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne wins Ares 1 contract

Spacesuit Design

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Voyager(s)!

News Release: 2007-092 Aug. 20, 2007

Pioneering NASA Spacecraft Mark Thirty Years of Flight

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's two venerable Voyager spacecraft are celebrating three decades of flight as they head toward interstellar space. Their ongoing odysseys mark an unprecedented and historic accomplishment.

Voyager 2 launched on Aug. 20, 1977, and Voyager 1 launched on Sept. 5, 1977. They continue to return information from distances more than three times farther away than Pluto.

"The Voyager mission is a legend in the annals of space exploration. It opened our eyes to the scientific richness of the outer solar system, and it has pioneered the deepest exploration of the sun's domain ever conducted," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. "It's a testament to Voyager's designers, builders and operators that both spacecraft continue to deliver important findings more than 25 years after their primary mission to Jupiter and Saturn concluded."

During their first dozen years of flight, the Voyagers made detailed explorations of Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons, and conducted the first explorations of Uranus and Neptune. The Voyagers returned never-before-seen images and scientific data, making fundamental discoveries about the outer planets and their moons. The spacecraft revealed Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere, which includes dozens of interacting hurricane-like storm systems, and erupting volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io. They also showed waves and fine structure in Saturn's icy rings from the tugs of nearby moons.

For the past 18 years, the twin Voyagers have been probing the sun's outer heliosphere and its boundary with interstellar space. Both Voyagers remain healthy and are returning scientific data 30 years after their launches.

Voyager 1 currently is the farthest human-made object, traveling at a distance from the sun of about 15.5 billion kilometers (9.7 billion miles). Voyager 2 is about 12.5 billion kilometers (7.8 billion miles) from the sun. Originally designed as a four-year mission to Jupiter and Saturn, the Voyager tours were extended because of their successful achievements and a rare planetary alignment. The two-planet mission eventually became a four-planet grand tour. After completing that extended mission, the two spacecraft began the task of exploring the outer heliosphere.

"The Voyager mission has opened up our solar system in a way not possible before the Space Age," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "It revealed our neighbors in the outer solar system and showed us how much there is to learn and how diverse the bodies are that share the solar system with our own planet Earth."

In December 2004, Voyager 1 began crossing the solar system's final frontier. Called the heliosheath, this turbulent area, approximately 14 billion kilometers (8.7 billion miles) from the sun, is where the solar wind slows as it crashes into the thin gas that fills the space between stars. Voyager 2 could reach this boundary later this year, putting both Voyagers on their final leg toward interstellar space.

Each spacecraft carries five fully functioning science instruments that study the solar wind, energetic particles, magnetic fields and radio waves as they cruise through this unexplored region of deep space. The spacecraft are too far from the sun to use solar power. They run on less than 300 watts, the amount of power needed to light up a bright light bulb. Their long-lived radioisotope thermoelectric generators provide the power.

"The continued operation of these spacecraft and the flow of data to the scientists is a testament to the skills and dedication of the small operations team," said Ed Massey, Voyager project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Massey oversees a team of nearly a dozen people in the day-to-day Voyager spacecraft operations.

The Voyagers call home via NASA's Deep Space Network, a system of antennas around the world. The spacecraft are so distant that commands from Earth, traveling at light speed, take 14 hours one-way to reach Voyager 1 and 12 hours to reach Voyager 2. Each Voyager logs approximately 1 million miles per day.

Each of the Voyagers carries a golden record that is a time capsule with greetings, images and sounds from Earth. The records also have directions on how to find Earth if the spacecraft is recovered by something or someone.

NASA's latest outer planet exploration mission is New Horizons, which is now well past Jupiter and headed for a historic exploration of the Pluto system in July 2015.

For a complete listing of Voyager discoveries and mission information, visit the Internet at: and .