These are the first observations received from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft of Mars upper atmosphere. They were taken by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument just eight hours after achieving orbit on Sept. 21, 2014. Credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado/NASA
Just eight hours after the nail-biting arrival of NASA’s MAVEN orbiter at Mars on Sept. 21, the probe has already captured totally unique “real science” that will “never” be possible again, said Prof. Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in an exclusive interview with AmericaSpace.
Why the rush for science?
Continue reading MAVEN Captures First and Totally Unique Science Observations of Mars’ Atmosphere Quickly After Sept. 21 Orbit Insertion: Interview With MAVEN PI Bruce Jakosky
Billionaire and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos unveils new model of the Blue Origin BE-4 liquid fueled rocket engine at a media briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17, 2014. Credit: United Launch Alliance
United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced it is partnering with the highly secretive Blue Origin aerospace company—privately owned by billionaire and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos—to jointly fund the development of a powerful new American rocket engine by Blue Origin that could eventually replace the Russian built engines currently used in the Atlas V rocket and whose future supply is questionable. Competing with SpaceX is another critical goal that cannot be overstated.
Continue reading Amazon.com Billionaire Bezos to Build Powerful New Rocket Engine for United Launch Alliance
All-sky map of interstellar dust from Planck. Blue areas have less dust and red areas have more. The patch of sky observed by BICEP2 is not in one of the less dusty regions. Northern hemisphere is on the left and southern is on the right. Image Credit: ESA
As sometimes happens, the celebrations may have been a bit premature. A new map of interstellar dust in our galaxy has cast doubts on the findings published last March about the discovery of gravitational waves, which would be evidence for left-over radiation signatures from the Big Bang explosion eons ago. It supported the theory that the infant universe went through a period of hyper-accelerated expansion known as inflation.
Continue reading New Dust Map of Galaxy Casts Doubts on Gravitational Waves Discovery
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft, also known as “Mangalyaan” (Hindi for “Mars Craft”), is encapsulated within its payload shroud. Its successful entry into Mars orbit made India the fourth nation, or group of nations, to successfully send a home-grown spacecraft to the Red Planet. Photo Credit: ISRO
India has become the fourth nation, or group of nations, after the United States, Russia, and the member states of the European Space Agency (ESA), to inject a home-grown spacecraft into orbit around Mars. Earlier today (Wednesday, 24 September), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) joyfully announced success as its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)—also known as “Mangalyaan” (Hindi for “Mars Craft”)—completed a 24-minute “burn” of its Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) and eight attitude-control thrusters at 7:41:46 a.m. IST Wednesday (10:11:46 p.m. EDT Tuesday), to allow itself to be captured into an elliptical path around the Red Planet, whose closest point (periapsis) is 262 miles (421.7 km) and farthest point (apoapsis) is 47,841.6 miles (76,993.6 km).
Continue reading India Becomes Fourth Member of ‘Mars Club’ as MOM Enters Orbit Around Red Planet
U.S Rep Filemon Vela, left, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, center, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry break ground at SpaceX’s new commcercial space launch site in south Texas on Sept. 22, 2014. Photo: SpaceX
In the last two weeks SpaceX has accomplished quite a bit, having earned a commercial crew contract to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and having carried out their fourth dedicated ISS resupply mission (mission CRS-4). It was just last month that the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company officially announced their plans to build the world’s first commercial space launch site at Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, Texas, and on Tues., Sept. 22, SpaceX broke ground at the new launch complex during a ceremony to usher in the start of construction for the new commercial launch facility.
Continue reading Texas and SpaceX Break Ground for World’s First Commercial Space Launch Complex
Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman monitor the arrival of the CRS-4 Dragon cargo ship on Tuesday, 23 September. Photo Credit: NASA TV
Five months since one of its kind last arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), another Dragon was captured by the tail earlier today (Tuesday, 23 September), courtesy of Expedition 41 crewmen Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA). Working from the multi-windowed cupola, the two astronauts grappled the cargo vessel with the station’s 57.7-foot-long (17.4-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm at 6:52 a.m. EDT and installed it onto the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the Harmony node. Completion of the two-stage capture and berthing operation was confirmed at 9:21 a.m. EDT. Dragon—which is flying the fourth of 12 dedicated missions (CRS-4) under the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract between SpaceX and NASA—will remain affixed to the ISS for about a month, as its myriad payloads are unloaded.
Continue reading A Dragon Came A’Calling: Fourth Dedicated Cargo Ship Arrives at Space Station
The Soyuz TMA-14M crew (from left) Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Yelena Serova pose before the base of their launch vehicle at Baikonur. The trio will spend 168 days in space, forming the second half of Expedition 41 and the core of Expedition 42. Photo Credit: NASA
Two weeks after the 10 September return to Earth of Soyuz TMA-12M, a new three-member crew is scheduled to launch toward the International Space Station (ISS) to continue its permanent occupancy through March 2015. Liftoff of Soyuz TMA-14M is targeted to occur from Baikonur Cosmodrome’s historic Site 1/5—the same location from which Yuri Gagarin began his historic mission, more than 53 years ago—in Kazakhstan at 2:25 a.m. local time Friday, 26 September (4:25 p.m. EDT Thursday, 25 September). It will deliver Russian cosmonauts Aleksandr Samokutyayev and Yelena Serova, together with U.S. astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore on a six-hour, four-orbit “fast rendezvous” profile to dock with the space-facing (or “zenith”) Poisk module at 8:16 a.m. Baikonur time Friday (10:16 p.m. EDT Thursday). They will join the incumbent Expedition 41 crew of Russian cosmonaut Maksim Surayev, U.S. astronaut Reid Wiseman and Germany’s Alexander Gerst, who have been aboard the ISS since late May.
Continue reading Test Pilot, Veteran Spacewalker, and Female Aerospace Engineer Set for Thursday Launch to Space Station
Loren Shriver gobbles a handful of M&Ms during STS-46, his third and final shuttle mission. Photo Credit: NASA
Almost a quarter-century ago, astronaut Loren Shriver—who turns 70 today (Tuesday, 23 September)—commanded a shuttle mission into the highest orbit ever attained by one of the reusable vehicles. On 24 April 1990, he led the crew of STS-31 to deliver NASA’s scientific showpiece, the $1.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope (HST), into an orbit about 330 miles (530 km) above Earth, and in doing so helped to kick off one of the most remarkable missions of scientific exploration in human history. Yet Shriver’s career was filled with contrasts, from the intense publicity of STS-31 to the utmost secrecy of his first shuttle flight, STS-51C, and from an “All-American” mission for the Department of Defense to a voyage which boasted representatives of three sovereign nations on STS-46.
Continue reading Loren Shriver, Commander of Hubble Deployment Mission, Turns 70 Today
Although 98 percent of its journey to the Red Planet is now behind it, the next two days will be critical for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Image Credit: ISRO
Two days after Sunday’s triumphant arrival of NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), India is drawing closer to its goal of becoming only the fourth nation or group of nations—after the United States, Russia and the member states of the European Space Agency (ESA)—to successfully deliver a home-grown spacecraft to Mars orbit. Its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as “Mangalyaan” (Hindi for “Mars Craft”), is now less than two days from its scheduled entry into orbit around the Red Planet at 7:30 a.m. IST Wednesday, 24 September (10:00 p.m. EDT Tuesday, 23 September). According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the spacecraft was last week more than 134 million miles (215 million km) from Earth and has traveled in excess of 406 million miles (653 million km) on its “heliocentric” path to reach Mars, but as of 15 September was less than 1.6 million miles (2.5 million km) from its destination. With one-way communication delay times now requiring 12.5 minutes to cross the interplanetary gulf, MOM/Mangalyaan has 98 percent and more than 320 days of its epic journey behind it…and yet its most hazardous phase is still ahead of it.
Continue reading Successful Engine Test Sets India’s Mars Orbiter On Course for Wednesday Arrival at Red Planet
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is seen here at center left, following its installation on the S3 Truss on the International Space Station by the crew of the STS-134 space shuttle mission in 2011. The orbiting particle detector has been continuously collecting data ever since, on high-energy cosmic rays. Image Credit: NASA
Some of the biggest cosmic mysteries are shrouded in proverbial darkness. For instance, most of the Universe’s mass is unaccounted for: All of the stuff we can directly observe in the Universe with our telescopes amounts to only 4.6 percent of the latter’s mass content. The rest is just invisible and of a completely unknown nature. Scientists have been trying to figure out the nature of this “missing” cosmic mass for nearly a century, utilising various ground-, aerial-, and space-based instruments, like the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS-02, a particle physics detector which is mounted on the exterior of the International Space Station. Even though a recently published study that was based on new data by the AMS showcases the solid science that is being conducted on the orbiting laboratory, it nevertheless presents no firm evidence for the existence of dark matter yet.
Continue reading Hunting In the Dark: New Results Come From Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on ISS, But No Definite Signs of Dark Matter Yet