NASA is working with Russia on a new space station


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Astronauts Repairing Space Module

Russia is teaming up with the USA to build ISS 2.0 once the current one’s funding runs out in 2024 — at least according to Russia Today and state news agency TASS. The country’s space agency, Roscosmos threatened in February to use the Russian ISS modules as a platform for a new base of its own after 2024, but now it looks like there will be a followup collaboration.

This time around, both parties are looking for participation from other countries, as well as private industry, and are apparently even eyeing a team-up for potential missions to Mars. Russian news outlets report the announcement came during a news conference Saturday following the launch of a year-long mission (video of the launch and subsequent ISS docking is embedded after the break) to the current International Space Station.

NASA Statement –

We are pleased Roscomos wants to continue full use of the International Space Station through 2024 — a priority of ours — and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that. The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA’s history. We welcome international support for this ambitious undertaking. Today we remain focused on full use of our current science laboratory in orbit and research from the exciting one-year mission astronaut Scott Kelly just began, which will help prepare us for longer duration spaceflight.

Chief Komarov, who was there for the US-Russia year-long ISS mission launch, reportedly said: “We have agreed that Roscosmos and NASA will be working together on the program of a future space station.” In addition to building a new ISS, sources say the agency’s partnership also entail working on a joint Mars mission. In the same event, NASA chief Charles Bolden is quoted saying: “Our area of cooperation will be Mars. We are discussing how best to use the resources, the finance, we are setting time frames and distributing efforts in order to avoid duplication.”

So far NASA hasn’t announced or confirmed anything through its official channels. We’ve contacted the agency for comment and will update this post if we hear anything.

Source : engadget.com

ISS crew lands, brings space-born flies to Earth


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Three crew members of the International Space Station have safely returned to Earth aboard a Soyuz-13M spacecraft, bringing back good memories and results of their 165-day shift in orbit – including a space-born generation of experimental fruit flies.

The spacecraft carrying the commander of the ISS Expedition 41 Russian cosmonaut Maksim Surayev, as well as two flight engineers, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, landed some 80 km from Arkalyk, Kazakhstan.

As part of their mission, the crew completed some 2,640 orbits covering more than 70 million miles and have participated in a number of experiments, including breeding of fruit flies that could potentially shed light on long-term space flight effects on human beings.

Continue reading ISS crew lands, brings space-born flies to Earth

Astonishing image of planet-forming disk from ALMA


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ALMA image of young star HL Tau and its planet-forming disk. Notice the multiple rings and gaps. This means planets are now emerging in the disk, and they are in the process of sweeping their orbits clear of dust and gas. Image via ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Even for most astronomy enthusiasts, it can be tricky sometimes to distinguish between artist’s illustrations and real images, in part because the artist’s illustrations have gotten so good and so plentiful in recent years. And so one question we’re frequently asked: “Is this a real image?” The image at the top of this post may look at first glance like an artist’s illustration. But it’s not. It’s a real image of a planet-forming disk around the infant star, in this case a sunlike star approximately 450 light-years from Earth, known to astronomers as HL Tau. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile has recently been upgraded to obtain such sharp images. Its North American managers at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) say this image is:

… the best image ever of planet formation around an infant star…

It is impressive. It reveals in great detail what astronomers just a few decades ago were only theorizing about, and that is that all stars are believed to form within slow-spinning clouds of gas and dust. As the clouds spin, they flatten out into these disks. Over time, the dust particles in the cloud begin to stick together by a process known as acretion, and that process is what ultimately forms the planets like our Earth, and moons like our moon, plus the asteroids, all of which mostly still move (as they did in the original cloud) in this flat space – this disk-like space – encircling the parent star.

Continue reading Astonishing image of planet-forming disk from ALMA

Asteroids Offer Stepping-Stones to Mars, Expert Says


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Rather than lassoing asteroids, NASA could use the space rocks to prepare for a visit to Mars.

Nearby asteroids are humanity’s ticket to Mars, says a planetary scientist who’s calling for an ambitious survey to map ones that could serve as stepping-stones to the red planet.

NASA sees Mars as its “ultimate human destination” and is making plans for a flyby past, or even a landing on, the red planet sometime after 2030. In preparation for that trip, the space agency plans to retrieve a truck-size asteroid, or a boulder off a bigger one, for astronauts to explore. That project, known as the Asteroid Redirect Mission and scheduled for around 2025, would provide an interim goal for the large Space Launch System (SLS) rockets that NASA hopes will someday carry humans to Mars.

“There is a better way,” writes MIT planetary scientist Richard Binzel Wednesday in the journal Nature. “Thousands of shipping-container-sized and larger asteroids pass almost as close as the Moon each year.”

Hop, Skip, and Jump

Instead of retrieving an asteroid, Binzel suggests mapping the nearly ten million uncharted space rocks more than 33 feet (10 meters) wide that orbit between Earth and Mars. He estimates that ground-based telescopes have located only about 0.1 percent of them so far.

Once they were all located, the space agency could plot a series of missions that would allow astronauts to visit some of them. The trips would be for progressively longer periods, which would build experience and confidence to take on the years-long voyage to Mars itself.

To pull off the asteroid mapping, Binzel says, the space agency, which now has a $17.8-billion budget, would need to launch a roughly $800-million space telescope dedicated to detecting space rocks.

As an added bonus, he points out, the mapping effort would help us detect any asteroids that might be headed for Earth, like the 66-foot-wide (20-meter-wide) one that slammed into central Russia in 2013.

“We have to leave the cradle of Earth sometime,” Binzel says. “Asteroid missions could be a win-win for exploration-and for safety.”

Moonstruck

Unveiled in 2010, NASA’s goal of asteroid retrieval has faced some criticism, mostly from those who would rather see astronauts head back to the moon.

Last May, Congressman Steven Palazzo, a Republican of Mississippi and chairman of the space subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, called the asteroid-retrieval mission a “detour for a Mars mission.”

Supporters of the mission, such as Louis Friedman of the Planetary Society, have countered that learning to retrieve a small asteroid will offer lessons for possible future missions to divert an asteroid headed toward a catastrophic encounter with Earth.

An asteroid-hopping campaign essentially splits the difference, Binzel argues. “Sooner or later we are headed to Mars,” he says. “We have to find positive ways to move us closer.”

Russian Cargo Ship Lifts Off For Space Station


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An unmanned Russian cargo ship successfully lifted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on October 29.

The Progress 57 craft was launched atop a Soyuz rocket at 8:09 a.m. Prague time from the Russian-leased Baikonur facility in Kazakhstan.

“Everything looks good on the Soyuz booster and the Progress resupply ship,” an announcer on the U.S. space agency’s NASA TV said.

The launch came nine hours after a privately operated rocket exploded seconds after liftoff in the United States, causing the loss of cargo ship that was also bound for the ISS.

The explosion of the Antares was the first such accident since NASA turned to private operators to deliver cargo to the station, breaking a Russian monopoly that followed the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.

The Progress is delivering nearly three metric tons of propellant, oxygen, water, and other supplies to the station.