ISRO Mars Orbiter Mission Team Wins Space Pioneer Award


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The men and women behind India’s Mars Mission at ISRO, Bangalore. (Reuters Photo)

ISRO’s Mars Mission team has won the prestigious 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category in recognition of achieving the rare feat in its very first attempt.

The prestigious award given by the National Space Society would be presented to the ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Programme Team during the National Space Society’s 2015 International Space Development Conference to be held in Toronto from May 20-24.

The mission was launched on November 5, 2013 and went into Mars orbit on September 24, 2014.

In a statement, the Society said, this mission has achieved two significant mission firsts. One an Indian spacecraft has gone into orbit around Mars on the very first try (on Sept 24, 2014), which no other country has ever done.

Secondly, the spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis (point at which an orbiting object is farthest away from the body it is orbiting), and has a high resolution camera which is taking full-disk color imagery of Mars.

“Very few full disk images have ever been taken in the past, mostly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is done looking straight down in mapping mode. These images will aid planetary scientists,” the statement said.

The Mars Orbiter programme team located in Bangalore is headed by Dr Mylswamy Annadurai.

The Space Pioneer Award consists of a silvery pewter Moon globe cast by the Baker Art Foundry in Placerville, California, from a sculpture originally created by Don Davis, the well-known space and astronomical artist.

Source : NDTV

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This One Picture Will Make You Realize How Big The Universe Actually Is


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Milky Way Galaxy (Click Image to Download)

We’ve all heard the universe is a very big place, but this image from Alex Grossman really drives that concept home.

The question: How far has humanity’s influence reached?

The very first thing created by humanity that left our tiny planet wasn’t a satellite or space ship, it was the broadcasts from a world obsession with radio. This image shows how far radio broadcasts will have reached in our galaxy, the Milky Way, by the time that technology is 200 years old. Considering we only started broadcasting in 1880, this map actually represents our reach in 2080.

In the vacuum of space radio waves travel at the speed of light, so our entire influence on the universe has now traveled just 135 light years away from Earth (1 “light year” equals the distance light travels in 1 year). That’s right, the tiny blue dot in the image below is how far every single action by humanity has reached. Feel tiny yet?

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How does that compare to our furthest traveling spacecraft? The Voyager 1, which is now traveling almost outside the influence of our Sun, is only about 18 light hours away from the Earth. That’s about 97,000 times smaller than the blue dot in these pictures.

Now for the real kicker.

How many galaxies like our Milky Way are in the entire Universe? No one knows the actual figure because we can’t see to the outside edge (if there is one), but the amount we can see in the observable universe is estimated to be… wait for it…

…more than 170 billion galaxies.

There it is. We are really, really, very, amazingly, incredibly, so, small.
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Milky Way galaxy rendering by Nick Risinger

Source : www.visualnews.com

NASA contracts two firms to work on asteroid mining


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NASA has contracted with two private space firms to prepare for and ultimately execute missions to land on and mine asteroids for valuable resources. The contracts, forged between NASA and both Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, are further evidence of a the kinds of new and interesting partnerships as space exploration increasingly becomes the domain of private industry.
Both companies have been forging plans to launch asteroid-landing probes for months-long stints on near Earth objects — with the aim of extracting valuable resources. Although such expeditions could theoretically return to Earth with valuable minerals, the financial viability of the concept relies on the prospects of supplying other space missions with an extracted assets. That’s where NASA comes in.

With a spate of deep space missions planned in the coming century, NASA would be able to save time and money by supplying some of those missions (including International Space Station expeditions) with vital resources mined from asteroids — water, silicate, carbonaceous minerals and more.

“Deep Space brings commercial insight to NASA’s asteroid planning, because our business is based on supplying what commercial customers in Earth orbit need to operate, as well as serving NASA’s needs for its moon and Mars exploration,” Deep Space CEO Daniel Faber said in a press release earlier this year. “The fuel, water, and metals that we will harvest and process will be sold into both markets, making available industrial quantities of material for expanding space applications and services.”

The fuel it takes to rocket out of the grasp of Earth’s gravity makes launching anything — much less a massive cargo ship — exceptionally expensive. By contrast, asteroids have minuscule centers of gravity, making coming and going from them much less fuel (and cost) intensive.

“Right now it costs $17 million per ton to get anything up to geosynchronous orbit,” David Gump, vice chairman of Deep Space, told The Boston Globe. “If we can beat whatever that price is in 2022, we’ll have a big market.”

“Asteroids hold the resources necessary to enable a sustainable, even indefinite presence in space — for science, commerce and continued prosperity here on Earth,” Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer of Planetary Resources, echoed in a statement released by NASA last week.

As part of Planetary Resources’ ongoing cooperation with NASA’s asteroid exploration efforts, the company will help sort through the near Earth object-finding algorithms being submitted by citizen scientists as part of the agency’s Asteroid Data Hunter challenge.

“By harnessing the public’s interest in space and asteroid detection, we can more quickly identify the potential threats, as well as the opportunities,” Lewicki added.

Following in the wake of European Space Agency’s history-making comet landing, NASA will attempt to land its own spacecraft, the OSIRIS-Rex, on an asteroid named Bennu in September 2016.

Source : upi.com

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

NASA’s “Remastered” View of Europa is the Best Yet


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(Click image to download) This newly-reprocessed color view of Europa was made from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Europa, Jupiter’s sixth-closest moon, has long been a source of fascination and wonder for astronomers. Not only is it unique amongst its Jovian peers for having a smooth, ice-covered surface, but it is believed that warm, ocean waters exist beneath that crust – which also makes it a strong candidate for extra-terrestrial life.

And now, combining a mosaic of color images with modern image processing techniques, NASA has produced a new version of what is perhaps the best view of Europa yet. And it is quite simply the closest approximation to what the human eye would see, and the next best thing to seeing it up close.

The high-resolution color image, which shows the largest portion of the moon’s surface, was made from images taken by NASA’s Galileo probe. Using the Solid-State Imaging (SSI) experiment, the craft captured these images during it’s first and fourteenth orbit through the Jupiter system, in 1995 and 1998 respectively.

The view was previously released as a mosaic with lower resolution and strongly enhanced color (as seen on the JPL’s website). To create this new version, the images were assembled into a realistic color view of the surface that approximates how Europa would appear to the human eye.

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The cracked, icy surface of Europa. The smoothness of the surface has led many scientists to conclude that oceans exist beneath it. Credit: NASA/JPLredit: NASA

Continue reading NASA’s “Remastered” View of Europa is the Best Yet

‘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

NASA Takes Stunning Image of Florida Nighttime Coast


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The lights of Cocoa Beach trace the curved lines of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, an area well known to astronauts. (NASA image)

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Florida in October 2014. The peninsula is highly recognizable even at night, especially when looking roughly north, as our map-trained brains expect.

Illuminated areas give a strong sense of the size of cities. The brightest continuous patch of lights is the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area, the largest urban area in the southeastern U.S. and home to 5.6 million people.

The next largest area is the Tampa Bay region (2.8 million people) on the Gulf Coast of the peninsula. Orlando, located in the middle, has a somewhat smaller footprint (2.3 million). A nearly straight line of cities runs nearly 560 kilometers (350 miles) along the Atlantic coast from Jacksonville, Florida, to Wilmington, North Carolina.

South of Orlando, the center and southern portions of the peninsula are as dark as the Atlantic Ocean, vividly illustrating the almost population-free Everglades wetland.

The lights of Cocoa Beach trace the curved lines of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, an area well known to astronauts. Dim lights of the Florida Keys extend the arc of the Atlantic coast to the corner of the image. The small cluster of lights far offshore is Freeport on Grand Bahama Island (image right). The faint blue areas throughout the image are clouds lit by moonlight.

Source : spacecoastdaily

NASA Plans Manned Mars Mission By 2035


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NASA’s Dr Ellen Stofan has claimed that the space agency is planning missions to Mars in the not too distant future.

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“In a sense it’s our destiny to move beyond this planet and Mars is the logical choice,” said the 53-year-old scientist. She predicts that Mars is likely the site of signs of other evolved life forms, and having a laboratory on the Red Planet would be “critically important” for science.

NASA’s Manned Mars Mission: Significant challenges

Any future Mars mission would be fraught with difficulty, including the threat from high-levels of radiation once astronauts have landed, and Stofan claims NASA are still trying “to figure out how to adequately protect them.”

Another challenge is presented by Mars’ thin atmosphere, which makes landing a colossal spaceship an incredibly difficult proposition. Scientists are still researching a “way of slowing yourself down really rapidly” under such conditions.

NASA’s Manned Mars Mission: Why Mars?

The expense of space exploration has come under fire from those more concerned with earthly problems, but Stofan claims that exploration of our solar system and the other planets contained in it is of great benefit in studying the Earth too.

Concerning a mission to Mars, Stofan claims that scientists would ideally be able to compare processes on Earth with those from other planets, in order to build a greater understanding of our own planet. She compares the work of earth scientists with that of doctors, whose understanding of a disease benefits from a greater number of patients.

Stofan has another riposte for those who claim that we should be concentrating on issues closer to home. “We get amazing technology spinoffs from the work NASA has done,” she claimed, giving examples such as fuel efficient winglets for airplanes to climate change monitoring equipment.

Stofan also weighed in on equality in the workplace, claiming that at NASA she has “had to work four times as hard to be taken half as seriously,” with men making up the vast majority of the workforce. She adds that if humanity wants to undertake new groundbreaking missions such as a Mars landing, we need to maximize our potential by involving the brightest minds from different genders and races, “not just white men.”

If we can effectively harness our potential, Stofan thinks we could see a manned Mars mission within the next 25 years.

Source :valve walk

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

The Tech Executives Running the Commercial Space Race


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Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company is reeling from the loss of SpaceShipTwo, which crashed in California’s Mojave desert on Friday, killing one of its pilots and seriously injuring the other. Branson, a billionaire business mogul whose Virgin group of companies have ranged from music to airlines to mobile phones, founded Virgin Galactic ten years ago with the aim of offering flights to the edge of space for anyone who could pay the $250,000 price tag. The future of Virgin’s commercial suborbital flight program is unclear in the wake of the tragic accident.

The 64-year-old Branson is not the only businessman in the space trade. Historically space and aviation have been a point of fascination for moguls who have made their fortune and want to accomplish something bigger. Eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes, who made his name in the film business in the 1920s and 1930s, fixated on aerospace and aviation and built innovative airplanes and set air-speed flying records. And James Lick, a real estate tycoon, spent a fortune building a state-of-the-art telescope and observatory in 1876 in San Jose, California.

Today, the concept of space travel has proved an irresistible allure for many entrepreneurs who’ve made it in the tech world, and they have been spurred on by NASA’s increasing reliance on private companies to conduct space missions. The industry has been rocked by SpaceShipTwo’s crash coming just days after the explosion of an Orbital Sciences Corp. commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station. But the race for commercial space travel continues. Here’s a look at the major tech titans leading the way:

Elon Musk

The 43-year-old co-founder of PayPal and head of Tesla Motors launched Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in 2002 with the ultimate goal of developing the technology to allow humans to live on other planets. SpaceX, as it is known, designs, makes and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.

In 2012, Nasa hired SpaceX to deliver cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. The company’s spacecraft have since made five trips to the International Space Station and back, including four official resupply missions. The Hawthorne, California company has over 3,000 employees and operates three spacecraft: Dragon, Falcon Heavy and Falcon 8. Its Dragon spacecraft is expected to begin manned missions in the next two to three years.

Jeff Bezos

The 50-year-old co-founder of Amazon Inc. started Blue Origin in Kent, Washington state, in 2000 to develop technology to make human access to space easier. It is currently focused on developing rocket-powered vertical takeoff and landing vehicles for access to the edge of space and beyond. As of 2012 Blue Origin had received $22 million from Nasa.

Its crew and cargo vehicle, called New Shepard, is designed to eventually take tourists to suborbit. Last month, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. that launches unmanned rockets, picked Blue Origin to develop a rocket engine that could eventually replace the Russian rocket engine used in many American unmanned launches.

Paul Allen

The Microsoft Corp. co-founder teamed with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan in 2004 on the experimental SpaceShipOne, which was launched from a special aircraft. It became the first privately financed, manned spacecraft to dash into space and later won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for accomplishing the feat twice in two weeks.

More recently, the 61-year-old’s Stratolaunch Systems, based in Hunstville, Alabama, is developing the world’s biggest plane to help launch cargo and astronauts into space. Called Thunderbolt, it is tentatively scheduled to launch in 2018. Stratolaunch is working with Orbital Sciences and Rutan’s Scaled Composites. SpaceShipTwo was piloted by Scaled Composites, under contract with Virgin Galactic, during this week’s fatal crash.

Jeff Greason

The rocket scientist and former Intel Corp. employee founded XCOR Aerospace in 1989. XCOR also is pursuing space tourism and hopes to conduct flight tests for its Lynx spaceship beginning in 2015. In September, XCOR was partner to the Federal Aviation Administration approving a commercial space launch license for Midland International Airport in Texas, where XCOR operates a research and development center. The 50-employee company is based at Mojave Air and Spaceport in Southern California and has built 13 different rocket engines and built and flown two manned rocket-powered aircraft – the EZ-Rocket and the X-Racer. Greason has served on the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee.

Source : NDTV