Archives

April 2012


New research in the FASEB Journal suggests that the 5-lipoxygenase enzyme mediates microgravity-induced lymphocyte programmed cell death and its inhibition could help astronauts and the elderly.


Data from NASA's Cassini mission reveal Saturn's moon Phoebe has more planet-like qualities than previously thought.

Phoebe's true nature is revealed in startling clarity in this mosaic of two images taken during Cassini's flyby on June 11, 2004. The image shows evidence for the emerging view that Phoebe may be an ice-rich body coated with a thin layer of dark material. Small bright craters in the image are probably fairly young features. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute Larger image


An extraordinary outburst produced by a black hole in a nearby galaxy has provided direct evidence for a population of old, volatile stellar black holes. The discovery, made by astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, provides new insight into the nature of a mysterious class of black holes that can produce as much energy in X-rays as a million suns radiate at all wavelengths.

An extraordinary outburst produced by a black hole in a nearby galaxy has provided direct evidence for a population of old, volatile stellar black holes. The discovery, made by astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, provides new insight into the nature of a mysterious class of black holes that can produce as much energy in X-rays as a million suns radiate at all wavelengths.

A team of scientists representing several international institutions, including Texas A&M University, has succeeded in installing the first of three Antarctic Survey Telescopes (AST3-1) at the Chinese Kunlun Station at Dome Argus, the highest point of the Antarctic Plateau.

A team of scientists representing several international institutions, including Texas A&M University, has succeeded in installing the first of three Antarctic Survey Telescopes (AST3-1) at the Chinese Kunlun Station at Dome Argus, the highest point of the Antarctic Plateau.

This view in the International Space Station's Cupola was photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member during the first of three Canadarm2 Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) Offset Grapple sessions in the onboard training plan for SpaceX-Demo Dragon capture.

This view in the International Space Station's Cupola was photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member during the first of three Canadarm2 Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) Offset Grapple sessions in the onboard training plan for SpaceX-Demo Dragon capture.

Wave clouds near Ile aux Cochons are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member on the International Space Station. This photograph illustrates the formation of wave clouds in the wakea" or downwind sidea"of Ile aux Cochons ("Isle of Pigs") located in the Southern Indian Ocean.

NASA astronaut and Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank officially transferred the helm of the orbiting outpost to Russian cosmonaut, Oleg Kononenko who, along with NASA astronaut Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency, has now begun Expedition 31.

Recent discoveries of planets similar to Earth in size and proximity to the planets' respective suns have sparked scientific and public excitement about the possibility of also finding Earth-like life on those worlds.


While some galaxies are rotund and others are slender disks like our spiral Milky Way, new observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope show that the Sombrero galaxy is both.

While some galaxies are rotund and others are slender disks like our spiral Milky Way, new observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope show that the Sombrero galaxy is both. The galaxy, which is a round elliptical galaxy with a thin disk embedded inside, is one of the first known to exhibit characteristics of the two different types. The findings will lead to a better understanding of galaxy evolution, a topic still poorly understood.


Space shuttle Enterprise, mounted atop a NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), is seen off in the distance behind the Statue of Liberty, Friday, April 27, 2012, in New York. Enterprise was the first shuttle orbiter built for NASA performing test flights in the atmosphere and was incapable of spaceflight.

This image from the Envisat satellite shows the Jurua River snaking through the Amazon rainforest in western Brazil. The Jurua is one of the longest tributaries of the Amazon River, flowing slowly through the half-flooded forest country it traverses in the Amazon Basin.

Along the river's main course are free-standing 'oxbow lakes', formed when a river changes course.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been on the forefront of research into the lives of stars like our sun. At the ends of their lives, these stars run out of nuclear fuel in a phase that is called the preplanetary or protoplanetary nebula stage. This Hubble image of the Egg Nebula shows one of the best views to date of this brief, but dramatic, phase in a star’s life.

Cloud vortices off the Pacific coast of Mexico's Baja California were captured by one of the six expedition 30 crew members aboard the International Space Station as three of their number ready for their return trip to Earth in a few days. The Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez is completely clear of clouds as are the inland parts of Mexico and California pictured. The Salton Sea is visible at the lower right edge. ISS030-E-254259 (22 April 2012) --- high res (1.1 M) low res (67 K)


Switching out a spacecraft maintenance facility is definitely not an easy task. Besides the obvious requirements to contain toxic fuels and provide enough power, there is also the work of deciding what previous structures will be useful to new contractors.

Three members of the Expedition 30 crew undocked from the International Space Station and safely returned to Earth on Friday, wrapping up a five-and-a-half-month mission in space.

Of Interest: This color image of Mercury's limb captures Debussy, a crater 80 km (50 mi.) in diameter, as well as some if its extensive rays. The crater and its rays appear brighter than the surrounding material because the crater is relatively young and the excavated materials have not been substantially darkened by space weathering.

In the International Space Station's Destiny laboratory, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Expedition 30 flight engineer, conducts the first of three sessions on the ROBoT simulator in preparation for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon.

In the International Space Station's Destiny laboratory, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Expedition 30 flight engineer, conducts the first of three sessions on the ROBoT simulator in preparation for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon.


The star cluster NGC 6604 is shown in this new image taken by the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is often overlooked in favour of its more prominent neighbour, the Eagle Nebula (also known as Messier 16), that lies a mere wingspan away.

The star cluster NGC 6604 is shown in this new image taken by the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is often overlooked in favour of its more prominent neighbour, the Eagle Nebula (also known as Messier 16), that lies a mere wingspan away. But the framing of this picture, which places the star cluster in a landscape of surrounding gas and dust clouds, shows what a beautiful object NGC 6604 is in its own right.


Five years of Mars Express gravity mapping data are providing unique insights into what lies beneath the Red Planet's largest volcanoes. The results show that the lava grew denser over time and that the thickness of the planet's rigid outer layers varies across the Tharsis region.

Five years of Mars Express gravity mapping data are providing unique insights into what lies beneath the Red Planet's largest volcanoes. The results show that the lava grew denser over time and that the thickness of the planet's rigid outer layers varies across the Tharsis region.

Warm ocean currents attacking the underside of ice shelves are the dominant cause of recent ice loss from Antarctica, a new study using measurements from NASA's Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) revealed.

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Operations & Checkout (O&C) Facility on April 21. The vehicle traveled more than 1,800 miles from Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver, Colo., where it successfully completed a series of rigorous acoustic, modal and vibration tests that simulated launch and spaceflight environments.

The Orion Ground Test Vehicle arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Operations & Checkout (O&C) Facility on April 21. The vehicle traveled more than 1,800 miles from Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver, Colo., where it successfully completed a series of rigorous acoustic, modal and vibration tests that simulated launch and spaceflight environments.

DARPA Opens International Dialog on Satellite Servicing

"Current satellites are not designed to be serviced in space. When a communication satellite in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) fails 36,000 kilometers above the earth, typically, it is moved into a "graveyard" orbit where it remains indefinitely. Many of the satellites which are obsolete or have failed still have usable antennas, solar arrays and other components which are expected to last much longer than the life of the satellite, but currently there is no way to re-use them."

This is a view of Project Morpheus Tether Test 12 from April 18th, 2012.

This is a view of Project Morpheus Tether Test 12 from April 18th, 2012.

NASA Asks Public to Provide Videos and Photos of Meteor (with photos of fresh finds)

"NASA and the SETI Institute are asking the public for more information to help find amateur photos and video footage of the daylight meteor that illuminated the sky over the Sierra Nevada mountains and created sonic booms that were heard over a wide area at 7:51 a.m. PDT Sunday, April 22, 2012."

Fireball Over California/Nevada: How Big Was It?

"The object was about the size of a minivan, weighed in at around 154,300 pounds (70 metric tons) and at the time of disintegration released energy equivalent to a 5-kiloton explosion."

NASA and the SETI Institute are asking the public for more information to help find amateur photos and video footage of the daylight meteor that illuminated the sky over the Sierra Nevada mountains and created sonic booms that were heard over a wide area at 7:51 a.m. PDT Sunday, April 22, 2012.

NASA NIAC Releases Call For Phase II Visionary Advanced Concepts

"The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is seeking proposals to continue promising studies for which it has supported the first phase. These cutting-edge concepts have the potential to transform future exploration missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building, and operating aerospace systems. "These transformative concepts have the potential to mature into the new capabilities NASA needs for the challenging space missions in its future," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington."


Findings from NASA's Dawn spacecraft reveal new details about the giant asteroid Vesta, including its varied surface composition, sharp temperature changes and clues to its internal structure. The findings were presented today at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria, and will help scientists better understand the early solar system and processes that dominated its formation.

Findings from NASA's Dawn spacecraft reveal new details about the giant asteroid Vesta, including its varied surface composition, sharp temperature changes and clues to its internal structure. The findings were presented today at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria, and will help scientists better understand the early solar system and processes that dominated its formation.

A meteor in the sky above Reno, Nevada on April 22, 2012. Image credit: Lisa Warren Larger image

A bright ball of light traveling east to west was seen over the skies of central/northern California Sunday morning, April 22. The former space rock-turned-flaming-meteor entered Earth's atmosphere around 8 a.m. PDT. Reports of the fireball have come in from as far north as Sacramento, Calif. and as far east as North Las Vegas, Nev.


January 5, 2012

I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me. I am not one of the beautiful; I am not one that by any other name instills flutters in the human heart. I am the kind that makes little boys gag at the dinner table thus being sent to bed without their dessert. I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini - and I am in space.

A zucchini plant is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member on the International Space Station. ISS030-E-175874 (28 Jan. 2012) - high res (1.3 M) low res (61 K)

January 5, 2012

SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Scott Hubbard at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Dr. Hubbard is professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University. He has been engaged in space-related research, as well as program, project and executive management for more than 35 years, including 20 years with NASA, culminating as director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

Our NASA solar scientists Holly, Alex and Phil answer some common questions about the sun, space weather, and how they affect the Earth. This is a two-part series.
Part One addresses:

Saturn's giant moon Titan hides within a thick, smoggy atmosphere that's well-known to scientists as one of the most complex chemical environments in the solar system. It's a productive "factory" cranking out hydrocarbons that rain down on Titan's icy surface, cloaking it in soot and, with a brutally cold surface temperature of around minus 270 degrees Fahrenheit, forming lakes of liquid methane and ethane.


Saturn's giant moon Titan hides within a thick, smoggy atmosphere that's well-known to scientists as one of the most complex chemical environments in the solar system. It's a productive "factory" cranking out hydrocarbons that rain down on Titan's icy surface, cloaking it in soot and, with a brutally cold surface temperature of around minus 270 degrees Fahrenheit, forming lakes of liquid methane and ethane.

SpaceRef had the opportunity for a brief conversation with Chummer Farina at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Mr. Farina is vice-president of policy, external and government relations, communications and public affairs at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Our discussion revolved around the current status of the Canadian Space Agency and some of the milestones being celebrated in 2012 by Canada as a space nation.

In the International Space Station's Destiny laboratory, NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Expedition 30 flight engineer, conducts the first of three sessions on the ROBoT simulator in preparation for the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon. Slated for liftoff on April 30, 2012, at 12:22 (EDT) from the Kennedy Space Center, the goal of Dragon's planned 21-day mission will be to test the unpiloted capsule's ability to rendezvous with the space station. ISS030-E-235581 (11 April 2012) - high res (1.8 M) low res (129 K)


While a recent agreement signed between Canada's and Japan's space agencies is an extension of previous work, a JAXA vice-president noted at the National Space Symposium that the two countries could collaborate on launch opportunities as a result of the memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Partnership Opportunity Document for Edison Small Satellite Technology Demonstration Missions

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA)Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is considering multiple missions on Cubesat-class platforms to conduct technology demonstrations, which advance the technology readiness level (TRL) of these systems. Systems providing novel in-space primary propulsion as well as spacecraft to ground communication and spacecraft to spacecraft communication cross-links for Cubesats are of interest. GSFC teams will be submitting proposals to the Edison Small Satellite Technology Demonstration (Edison) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) in May 2012."

A Washington State University astrobiologist is leading a group of 20 scientists in calling for a mission to Mars with "a strong and comprehensive life detection component." At the heart of their proposal is a small fleet of sensor packages that can punch into the Martian soil and run a range of tests for signs of ancient or existing life.

Scientists working with images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have discovered strange, half-mile-sized objects punching through one of Saturn's rings and leaving glittering trails behind them. The results will be presented tomorrow at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria.


This report describes the results of a study sponsored by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) to investigate the feasibility of identifying, robotically capturing, and returning an entire Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) to the vicinity of the Earth by the middle of the next decade.

A nighttime view of Shanghai is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member on the International Space Station. The city of Shanghai sits along the delta banks of the Yangtze River along the eastern coast of China. The city proper is the world's most populous city (the 2010 census counts 23 million people, including "unregistered" residents).

The trash-filled ISS Progress 46 spacecraft departs from the International Space Station on April 19, 2012. Russian flight controllers will command the Progress 46 for several days of tests, and then send it to burn up in Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. ISS030-E-238823 (19 April 2012) - high res (0.6 M) low res (34 K)

The trash-filled ISS Progress 46 spacecraft departs from the International Space Station on April 19, 2012. Russian flight controllers will command the Progress 46 for several days of tests, and then send it to burn up in Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. ISS030-E-238823 (19 April 2012) - high res (0.6 M) low res (34 K)

To a recording of the "Washington Post March" by the U.S. Marine Corps Band, the highlights of orbiter Discovery's final ferry flight atop NASA 905, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Dulles International Airport outside Washington on April 17, 2012. Includes video of the aircrafts' flyover of the metropolitan D.C. area just prior to landing. (This piece was an element of the "Welcome Discovery" program held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center on April 19 and televised live on NASA TV.)

Last year an internal NASA study that cited the advantages of fuel depots instead of using the Space Launch System emerged from inside NASA. Congress seized on the study - and NASA's Administrator said that internal studies showed that there were no technical or cost advantages. Well, another study completed late last year has emerged from NASA that contradicts that statement.

A conversation with Jim Chilton and John Mulholland of Boeing. Mr. Mulholland is Vice President and Program Manager - Commercial Programs, Space Exploration while Mr. Chilton is Vice President and Program Manager Exploration Launch Systems.


NASA Solicitation: Orbital Debris Mitigation Options for Cubesat Missions

"The objectives of this RFI are: 1) to invite industry to submit information that will allow NASA to assess various design alternatives for orbital debris mitigation options applicable to Cubesat missions in Low Earth Orbit (LEO); 2) to improve NASA's knowledge of industry's capability and viability; and 3) to improve the overall understanding of Cubesat mission designs consistent with NPR 8715.6A, NASA Procedural Requirements for Limiting Orbital Debris, NASA STD 8719.14, Process for Limiting Orbital Debris, and NASA Handbook 8719.14, Handbook for Limiting Orbital Debris."


With the prospect of a weaker domestic market for Canada's space sector companies, foreign markets become all that more important. Which is why this past week many Canadian companies trekked to Colorado Springs, Colorado for the annual National Space Symposium.

SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Wayne Hale at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Mr. Hale is a former NASA space shuttle mission controller, flight director, space shuttle program manager, Deputy Associate Administrator for Strategic Partnerships and currently the Director of Human Spaceflight / International Programs with Special Aerospace Services. Wayne share his thoughts on the current status of the space program, the future and his current work.


Aerodynamic design validated and new understanding of thermal material properties gained Following an extensive seven-month analysis of data collected from the Aug. 11, 2011, second flight of DARPA's Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2), an independent engineering review board (ERB) investigating the cause of a flight anomaly completed its report.

Aerodynamic design validated and new understanding of thermal material properties gained Following an extensive seven-month analysis of data collected from the Aug. 11, 2011, second flight of DARPA's Hypersonic Technology Vehicle

Aerodynamic design validated and new understanding of thermal material properties gained Following an extensive seven-month analysis of data collected from the Aug. 11, 2011, second flight of DARPA's Hypersonic Technology Vehicle

Flying atop NASA's Space Shuttle Carrier (SCA), orbiter Discover traveled from the Kennedy Space Center to its new space at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center outside Washington, D.C. Also, targeting beyond Earth orbit, and more!

SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Leroy Chiao at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Dr. Chiao is a veteran of four flights into space and was the Expedition 10 commander and NASA science officer on his last mission to the International Space Station.

CubeSat-based Science Missions for Geospace and Atmospheric Research, NSF

Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time): May 07, 2012

Synopsis of Program: Lack of essential observations from space is currently a major limiting factor in many areas of geospace and atmospheric research. Recent advances in sensor and spacecraft technologies make it feasible to obtain key measurements from low-cost, small satellite missions. A particularly promising aspect of this development is the prospect for obtaining multi-point observations in space that are critical for addressing many outstanding problems in space and atmospheric sciences. Space-based measurements from small satellites also have great potential to advance discovery and understanding in geospace and atmospheric sciences in many other ways. To take full advantage of these developments, NSF is soliciting research proposals centered on small satellite missions.

The overarching goal of the program is to support the development, construction, launch, operation, and data analysis of small satellite science missions to advance geospace and atmospheric research. Equally important, it will provide essential opportunities to train the next generation of experimental space scientists and aerospace engineers.

To facilitate launch of the satellites as secondary payloads on existing missions, the focus of the program is on CubeSat-based satellites. Launch of the satellites will mainly be through the standardized CubeSat deployment system, the Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD). Launch of the P-PODS will be as auxiliary payloads on DOD, NASA, or commercial launches. This will be arranged after selection and is not part of this solicitation. This solicitation covers proposals for science missions to include satellite development, construction, testing and operation as well as data distribution and scientific analysis.

The International Space Apps Challenge will take place this weekend, April 21-22, 2012. Nearly 2,000 people are registered to attend in 24 cities around the world.

NASA is working with 8 other government agencies and over 100 organizations world wide to host the two-day technology development event. Solutions to over 60 challenges related to open source software, open hardware, citizen science platforms, and data visualization will be worked on throughout the event, including an opportunity to launch your code to space on NASA's phonesat!

The locations include:

NASA's Ultragreen Building Awarded LEED Platinum

"The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced this week that the new ultragreen federal facility, named Sustainability Base, located at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., received the highest level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, LEED Platinum."

AECOM-led Design and Engineering Team Realizes NASA Vision for Sustainability Base on Earth

"An onsite fuel cell, roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels, a geothermal heat pump, passive and low-energy HVAC systems, and intelligent building controls that interact with users are among the building's advanced engineering features."

William McDonough + Partners Celebrates Dedication of Sustainability Base - NASA's First Space Station on Earth

"The NASA Sustainability Base is a highly intelligent and intuitive facility designed to anticipate and react to changes in sunlight, temperature, wind and occupancy. The building will optimize its performance automatically in response to internal and external changes in real time."


The Planetary Society is still worried about the future of American capabilities in planetary science, but is encouraged by an increased level of funding proposed for the fiscal 2013 budget, said executive director Bill Nye.


The importance of space should be expressed in terms beyond everyday applications, according to a panel of science personalities speaking Thursday at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

Innovative Nanosat Will Test Space Software

"How do you test ground-breaking satellite software under real flight conditions? Why not build a satellite? A new design developed by ESA promises new opportunities for European space industry to test software on an actual mission in space. The popular image of a 21st-century satellite includes a sleek design, gossamer solar arrays, ultra-high-tech components and cutting-edge digital electronics. And the onboard software must be the very latest thing, too, right? Wrong. Or, at least, the reality is much more prosaic: software used in satellites today is certainly good, but it rarely runs the latest operating systems, languages or interfaces. "Space software is generally older because it is selected for its proven, rock-solid reliability rather than its use of the latest and newest programming technologies," says Dave Evans, a mission concept engineer at ESOC, ESA's European Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany. "ESA is still using the Packet Utilisation Standard to control our satellites, which was defined in 1994. "Today, the software for terrestrial computers has completely changed. Who else do you know still using software from 1994? Back then, PCs were running Windows 3.1 with 3.5-inch floppy disks."

On April 17, 2012, NASA conducted a test of the Orion crew vehicle's entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle's orbital flight test, Exploration Flight Test-1.

On April 17, 2012, NASA conducted a test of the Orion crew vehicle's entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle's orbital flight test, Exploration Flight Test-1.


On April 17, 2012, NASA conducted a test of the Orion crew vehicle's entry, descent and landing parachutes high above the Arizona desert in preparation for the vehicle's orbital flight test, Exploration Flight Test-1.