Cool NASA Animation Beautifully Details Every Step of Orion’s First Launch!


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Source : universetoday.com

Video Caption: Animation details NASA’s Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission launching on Dec. 4. 2014. Credit: NASA

It’s not Science Fiction! It’s Not Star Trek!

No. It’s a really, really big NASA Mission! It’s Orion!

In fact, it’s the biggest and most important development in US Human Spaceflight since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

Orion is launching soon on its first flight, the pathfinding Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission and sets NASA on the path to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Watch this cool NASA animation beautifully detailing every key step of Orion’s First Launch!

Orion is designed to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Even farther into deep space than NASA’s Apollo moon landing which ended more than four decades ago!

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Orion atop Delta 4 Heavy Booster. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett (Click Image to Download)

We are T-MINUS 4 Days and Counting to the inaugural blastoff of Orion as of today, Sunday, November 30, 2014.

Every aspect of the final processing steps now in progress by engineers and technicians from NASA, rocket provider United Launch Alliance, and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin is proceeding smoothly and marching towards launch.

Orion will lift off on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on its inaugural test flight to space on the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission at 7:05 a.m. EST on December 4, 2014, from Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The two-orbit, four and a half hour Orion EFT-1 flight around Earth will lift the Orion spacecraft and its attached second stage to an orbital altitude of 3,600 miles, about 15 times higher than the International Space Station (ISS) – and farther than any human spacecraft has journeyed in 40 years.

Orion is NASA’s next generation human rated vehicle that will carry America’s astronauts beyond Earth on voyages venturing farther into deep space than ever before – beyond the Moon to Asteroids, Mars, and other destinations in our Solar System.

Europe targets Ariane deal to stay in commercial space race


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  • Meeting on Tuesday expected to agree funding for new rocket
  • Franco-German compromise aims to keep Europe competitive
  • Airbus CEO urges radical shift to counter U.S. rival SpaceX

Weeks after its dramatic coup in landing a probe on a speeding comet, Europe is hoping a last-minute deal to provide funding for the workhorse Ariane rocket will prevent its space ambitions falling back to earth this week.

Anxious to preserve its own access to space, the 20-nation European Space Agency will seek to put aside differences over how to respond to U.S. low-cost rival SpaceX and safeguard thousands of high-tech jobs at ministerial talks on Tuesday.

After two years of wrangling, the outlines of an accord to fund development of a new Ariane 6 satellite launch vehicle appeared to be in place after Germany dropped its insistence on a prior upgrade to the current Ariane 5, officials said.

France is likely in return to back continued European funding for the International Space Station.

“It would be very serious if there is no decision on Dec 2 because Europe would have a competitive delay that it would never manage to reverse,” said Karim Michel Sabbagh, chief executive of Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES.

With the arrival in 2013 of SpaceX, founded by electric car entrepreneur Elon Musk and offering cut-price satellite launches, Ariane needs to lower costs dramatically.

The chief executive of Europe’s largest space contractor Airbus Group, Tom Enders, told Reuters a deal would mark a “new chapter” in the way Europe approaches space.

But he called for a clean break with bureaucratic public-private space industry structures to avoid Europe being “marginalized” by international competition.

“A departure from current ways of working is a precondition for future competitiveness of the European space business”.

Airbus Group, which builds the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, is expected to inaugurate a previously announced joint venture with engine maker Safran on the eve of the talks to help secure Ariane’s future. It will incorporate Arianespace, the launch services firm which operates Europe’s satellite launcher.

CALL FOR REFORM

The new venture is the most serious effort to reorganise Europe’s space industry and is being set up in the hope the one-day ministerial meeting in Luxembourg will back Ariane 6 – ending a compromise two years ago which split potential funding between the upgrade known as Ariane 5ME and an eventual new Ariane 6.

But Europe’s space industry remains heavily influenced by state agencies and industry sources say removing multiple layers of management is key to keeping Europe’s commercial activities competitive.

SpaceX offers launches for around $60 million (50 million euros) compared to 70-90 million euros a shot expected for the Ariane 6 and an average Ariane 5 launch price of 130 million euros ($160 million).

Efficiency comes into play in a cut-throat global commercial market where most companies can only rely on national links when it comes to sensitive defence satellites.

RUSSIA’S ROLE

The European Space Agency, an intergovernmental organisation with 20 member states from across Europe, was founded in 1975 to pool the continent’s finances and brains at a time when the United States and Russia had virtually monopolised space.

But despite Europe’s Ariane capturing 50 percent of the market, a costly system of job distribution and rival design offices has cast a shadow over Europe’s commercial activity even as it basks in scientific success like the Philae comet lander.

Science ministers will also decide on whether the ESA’s participation in the International Space Station will continue beyond 2020, its original shutdown date, and in what way.

The United States earlier this year said it would keep the ISS running until at least 2024, but Russia is looking at going alone and creating its own orbital station. Europe and Russia are also working on a two-mission ExoMars probe shot to Mars.

“(The ISS) shows we can achieve a lot if we all work together and it’s important to highlight that given the tensions building up between Russia and the West,” Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, said.

ESA’s budget for 2014 was about 4.1 billion euros ($5.12 billion), and roughly equates to the price of one cinema ticket each year per each European tax payer.

NASA’s budget is $17.6 billion in 2014. The budget gap has made the achievements of Rosetta appear all the more impressive to many observers, but Europe’s space industry is lobbying for a healthy commercial launch activity to support such projects.

ESA plans also include a mission to orbit one of the icy moons of Jupiter and one going to Mercury.

The Horizon 2000 programme, developed in 1984, transformed Europe into a world leader in many areas, including solar physics, cosmology and X-ray Astronomy, said Ken Pounds, former CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council.

Pounds said he hoped the success of Philae would lead to a virtuous circle “where Europe is proving it can do world-class things, people feel warm about it, and the political class respond to that.”

Source : Reuters

Ripples in Space-Time Could Reveal ‘Strange Stars’


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By looking for ripples in the fabric of space-time, scientists could soon detect “strange stars” — objects made of stuff radically different from the particles that make up ordinary matter, researchers say.

The protons and neutrons that make up the nuclei of atoms are made of more basic particles known as quarks. There are six types, or “flavors,” of quarks: up, down, top, bottom, charm and strange. Each proton or neutron is made of three quarks: Each proton is composed of two up quarks and one down quark, and each neutron is made of two down quarks and one up quark.

In theory, matter can be made with other flavors of quarks as well. Since the 1970s, scientists have suggested that particles of “strange matter” known as strangelets — made of equal numbers of up, down and strange quarks — could exist. In principle, strange matter should be heavier and more stable than normal matter, and might even be capable of converting ordinary matter it comes in contact with into strange matter. However, lab experiments have not yet created any strange matter, so its existence remains uncertain.

Why Are Quark Stars So Strange?

One place strange matter could naturally be created is inside neutron stars, the remnants of stars that died in catastrophic explosions known as supernovas. Neutron stars are typically small, with diameters of about 12 miles (19 kilometers) or so, but are so dense that they weigh as much as the sun. A chunk of a neutron star the size of a sugar cube can weigh as much as 100 million tons.

Under the extraordinary force of this extreme weight, some of the up and down quarks that make up neutron stars could get converted into strange quarks, leading to strange stars made of strange matter, researchers say.

A strange star that occasionally spurts out strange matter could quickly convert a neutron star orbiting it in a binary system into a strange star as well. Prior research suggests that a neutron star that receives a seed of strange matter from a companion strange star could transition to a strange star in just 1 millisecond to 1 second.

Continue reading Ripples in Space-Time Could Reveal ‘Strange Stars’

Philae reveals presence of large amount of water ice on the comet


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A comet seen from close up – the surface looks like rock, but is a mixture of water ice, carbonaceous particles and interesting compounds. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR  (Click Image to Download ) 

The European Space Agency has revealed that the comet – 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko “is not nearly as soft and fluffy as it was believed to be”.

The first results to emerge from the team of the SESAME experiment (Surface Electrical, Seismic and Acoustic Monitoring Experiment) confirm that “the strength of the ice found under a layer of dust on the first landing site is surprisingly high”.

“The mechanical properties of 67P will be derived. SESAME’s two other instruments suggest that cometary activity at this landing site is low, as well as revealing the presence of a large amount of water ice under the lander,” Klaus Seidensticker from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research said.

Source : Times of india , SEN Blog

Lunar Mission One aims to take Moon exploration to new depths


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Another private space exploration venture is under way with the British-led Lunar Mission One announcing plans to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon. Initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the non-profit organization hopes to drill ten times deeper into the lunar surface than has ever previously been attempted and use the borehole to store a giant digital time capsule of human knowledge.

Under development for about eight years, the UK-based Lunar Mission One had its public launching this week at the the Royal Society’s 12th Reinventing Space Conference in London. The effort was founded as Lunar Mission Ltd by former Royal Navy Engineering Officer David Iron, and is partnered with the University College of London and the Open University among others. Its goal is to develop and land a probe at the Lunar South Pole by 2024 as part of an effort to not only gather more knowledge about the Moon, but also to promote public interest in space exploration and develop new means of funding future missions without government support.

Continue reading Lunar Mission One aims to take Moon exploration to new depths

‘Space plane’ readies for launch


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(Click image to Download) The Intermediate experimental Vehicle. Photo: ESA 

Europe’s first-ever “space plane” will be launched on February 11 next year, rocket firm Arianespace says after a three-month delay to fine-tune the flight plan.

The unmanned, car-sized vessel will be sent into low orbit by Europe’s Vega light rocket, on a 100-minute fact-finding flight to inform plans to build a shuttle-like, reusable space vehicle.

Dubbed IXV, for Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, the plane will be boosted from Europe’s space pad in Kourou, French Guiana, and separate from its launcher at an altitude of 320 kilometres.

The European Space Agency website says it will attain an altitude of around 450k kilometres before re-entering the atmosphere at an altitude of 120 kilometres – representative of a return mission from low orbit.

The vessel is expected to collect data on its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases, before plunging into the Pacific Ocean with a parachute.

The initial launch had been scheduled for November 18, but Arianespace in October announced a postponement “to carry out additional flight trajectory analyses”.

“Based on joint work by ESA [the European Space Agency] and CNES [the French space agency], the date for the IXV mission to be launched by Vega has been set for February 11, 2015,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

Developed over five years at a cost of 150 million euros ($225 million), the IXV is the testbed for a reusable vehicle that may one day be able to land on a conventional runway on Earth after a mission to space.

This could be useful for bringing astronauts back from the International Space Station (ISS).

The only craft currently able to ferry astronauts to the ISS and back is Russia’s Soyuz.

Last month saw two major setbacks for the space industry.

On October 28, an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded shortly after launch on what was to be a supply mission to the ISS, followed three days later by the crash of Virgin Galactic tourist space plane SpaceShipTwo on a test flight, killing one of two pilots.

Source : smh

Mystery of the ‘spooky’ pattern in the universe: Scientists find that supermassive black holes are ALIGNED


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A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years. An artist’s impression of the alignment is pictured

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Black holes are one of the strangest objects in the universe, preventing anything from escaping their grip – even light.

Now astronomers have discovered something even more peculiar about these enigmatic objects; they are aligned with each other over distances stretching billions of light-years

The remarkable observations were made by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, which found an eerie alignment between enormous interstellar objects called quasars.

Quasars are galaxies with very active supermassive black holes at their centres. They shine more brightly than all the stars in the rest of their host galaxies put together.

A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over vast distances.

Source : Dailymail

Scientists Discover Why Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Is Red


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We know that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is red. Its color is right there in the name. However, why is it red? A team of NASA scientists recently found out.

Previous theories about the reddish color of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot suggested that the color comes from chemicals beneath Jupiter’s clouds, with certain chemicals forming lower in Jupiter’s atmosphere and then rising to the top of the spot.

However, after studying new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, along with laboratory experiments, scientists think that the red in the Red Spot comes from sunlight hitting chemicals higher up in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.

After studying Cassini’s data, researchers used ultraviolet light to mimic sunlight, and blasted it at two gases known to exist on Jupiter: ammonia and acetylene. The result was a red material that matched Cassini’s observations of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

“Our models suggest most of the Great Red Spot is actually pretty bland in color, beneath the upper cloud layer of reddish material,” says Kevin Baines, a Cassini team scientist. “Under the reddish ‘sunburn’ the clouds are probably whitish or grayish.”

The Great Red Spot is actually a massive storm on the surface of Jupiter. It’s so big that three Earths could easily fit inside it. Discovered in the 1600s, the storm reaches high into Jupiter’s upper atmosphere.

“The Great Red Spot is extremely tall,” Baines says. “It reaches much higher altitudes than clouds elsewhere on Jupiter.”

This high altitude is why the Great Red Spot’s color is so intense: the storm’s winds bring ammonia ice particles into the upper atmosphere, exposing it to more sunlight. Because the storm is spinning, similar to a hurricane, the ammonia particles can’t escape. This creates a constant red color at the top of the storm.

So why is the Great Red Spot’s color so important? Jupiter only has a few elements, with its body mostly formed of hydrogen and helium. By examining the colors on the planet’s surface, scientists can identify those elements and get a better idea of the planet’s chemical composition.

Jupiter displays a variety of similar shades across its surface: oranges, browns and other shades of red. These colors suggest areas with thinner and higher clouds, which lets us see deeper into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

The Great Red Spot, though, stands out as one of Jupiter’s more mysterious features. Jupiter has no land mass, so a storm of that magnitude should have disappeared quickly in such a turbulent atmosphere. However, the Great Red Spot is still there, although recent measurements show that it’s possibly shrinking.

Source : techtime

Philae sleeps, but Rosetta’s not done yet


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Its battery dead, the European lander is lost in a crater somewhere on a huge comet. But the orbiter that brought it there still has plenty of science left to do.

Rosetta

As of Saturday morning, the Philae lander is in a digital coma somewhere on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. But even if the history-making little robot never wakes again, the Rosetta mission and the orbiter of the same name still have a long journey ahead of them.

The plan was for Philae to land at a targeted site on the comet, firing harpoons into the surface of the icy rock to keep itself locked in place for a long trip around the sun. The strong grip was particularly important since a comet this size has only a tiny fraction of the gravity of a place like Earth, leaving little Philae at risk of floating off into space.

But when showtime came, there were problems with Philae’s downward thrusters and with firing the harpoons. The European Space Agency reports that the lander bounced off the surface of the comet twice and eventually landed somewhere else without much access to the sunlight its solar panels need to keep it functioning.

Friday evening, Philae used its remaining energy to upload all its data before going into hibernation mode. There was a time slot early this morning during which, the ESA had reported, communication with the lander was possible, but that time has now come and gone.

Still, Rosetta remains.

Even if Philae stays lost in a comet crater for the next year, the orbiter that traveled almost half a billion miles to get to this point will continue to orbit the comet and its lost lander.

Right now, Rosetta has been pulling out to a 30 kilometer orbit of the comet. It will come closer again early next month to get more details on the comet — some of its flybys will be as close as 8 kilometers to the comet. There’s a whole lot of potential science and data about comets, planets and our solar system packed in that process, building up to the trio’s closest encounter with the sun, next August.

Before that point there may also be better opportunities to rouse Philae.

Continue reading Philae sleeps, but Rosetta’s not done yet

European Space Agency releases first picture from comet surface


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The European Space Agency has released the first picture taken by the Philae landing probe from the surface of a comet after determining that the craft had stabilized following a tension-filled landing.

The photo released Thursday shows a rocky surface with one of the lander’s three feet. Philae became the first spacecraft to land on a comet when it touched down Wednesday on the comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  Harpoons meant to anchor the lander to the surface failed to work properly, causing Philae to bounce twice.

Scientists are still analyzing what effect the two bounces had on the spacecraft and plan to release further details at a news briefing at 8 a.m. EST.

Gerhard Schwehm, a scientist on the Rosetta mission, told The Associated Press on Thursday that it may still be possible to fire the harpoons but in any case the lander is “very healthy.” However, Lander project manager Stephan Ulamec told the BBC that he was wary of making another attempt to fire the harpoons on the grounds that Philae could be thrown back into space.

The BBC reported that ESA scientists are still trying to determine the craft’s precise location on the comet, while engineers say it may have bounced hundreds of feet off the surface on its first landing attempt.

A key question is whether Philae’s drill can be used to extract samples from beneath the surface without pushing the lander into space. Gravity on the comet is 1/100,000th that of Earth, meaning the washing machine-sized lander weighs just 0.04 ounces there.

Philae and Rosetta will use 21 instruments to analyze the comet over the coming months. Scientists hope the $1.62 billion will help them better understand comets and other celestial objects, as well as possibly answer questions about the origins of life on Earth.

Source : fox news