Friday, July 31, 2009

(STS-128)Nasa Assigns Crew For His Next Mission to Space Station!

NASA has assigned the crew for space shuttle mission STS-128. The flight will carry science and storage racks to the International Space Station.

Marine Corps Col. Frederick W. "Rick" Sturckow will command space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-128 mission, targeted for launch July 30, 2009. Retired Air Force Col. Kevin A. Ford will serve as the pilot. Mission specialists are NASA astronauts John D. "Danny" Olivas, retired Army Col. Patrick G. Forrester, Jose M. Hernandez and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Christer Fuglesang. The mission will deliver a new station crew member, Nicole Stott, to the complex and return Tim Kopra to Earth. Ford, Hernandez and Stott will be making their first trips to space. Stott and Kopra were previously assigned in February to station missions.

Atlantis will carry a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module filled with science and storage racks to the station. The mission will include two spacewalks to remove and replace a materials processing experiment outside ESA's Columbus module and return an empty ammonia tank assembly.

Sturckow flew as the commander of STS-117 in 2007, and was the pilot of STS-105 in 2001 and STS-88 in 1998. He considers Lakeside, Calif., his hometown. Sturckow has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from California Polytechnic State University. He was selected as an astronaut in 1994.

Ford considers Montpelier, Ind., his hometown. He has a bachelor's in aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame, master's degrees in international relations from Troy State University in Alabama and aerospace engineering from the University of Florida, and a doctorate in astronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000.

Olivas flew as a mission specialist and conducted two spacewalks during STS-117 in 2007. He was raised in El Paso, Texas. Olivas has a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas-El Paso, a master's in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston and a doctorate in mechanical engineering and materials science from Rice University. He was selected as an astronaut in 1998.

Forrester flew as a mission specialist on STS-117 in 2007 and on STS-105 in 2001. He has conducted four spacewalks. He was born in El Paso, Texas. Forrester has a bachelor's in applied sciences and engineering from the U.S. Military Academy and a master's in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the University of Virginia. He was selected as an astronaut in 1996.

Hernandez considers Stockton, Calif., his hometown. He has a bachelor's in electrical engineering from the University of the Pacific and a master's in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California-Santa Barbara. He was selected as an astronaut in 2004.

Fuglesang flew as a mission specialist and conducted three spacewalks on STS-116 in 2006. He was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Fuglesang has a master's in engineering physics from the Royal Institute of Technology and a doctorate in experimental particle physics from the University of Stockholm. He was selected to join the ESA astronaut corps in 1992 and began training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in 1996.

(STS-127)Touchdown for Space Shuttle Endeavour!

Space shuttle Endeavour touched down at 10:48: a.m. EDT at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Commander Mark Polansky is expected to make a brief statement on the runway after the post-landing walk-around of the shuttle. The post-landing news conference is set for approximately 1 p.m. and will air live on NASA Television. The crew’s news conference is set to begin at about 3:15 p.m. The astronauts return to Houston's Ellington Field is tentatively set for about 5 p.m. Saturday.

STS-127 was the 127th space shuttle mission, the 23rd flight for Endeavour and the 29th shuttle visit to the station.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

(STS-127)Shuttle Crew Completes Landing Systems Tests!

The shuttle crew earlier this morning checked out two systems for tomorrow’s landing. The astronauts completed a test of the Reaction Control System steering thrusters that will help control Endeavour’s attitude and speed after the deorbit burn. During that test, one of the jets, F2F, failed. This will not be an issue for landing. The crew also tested the shuttle aerosurfaces and flight control system that will be used once the shuttle enters the atmosphere.

(STS-127)Crew Inspects Shuttle, Begins Preparations for Landing Friday!

Twin satellite deployments and a check of the systems that will control Endeavour’s return home to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, are on tap today as the shuttle leads the International Space Station in orbit.

The crew was awakened at 1:03 a.m. CDT to the sounds of “I Got You Babe,” performed by Sonny and Cher. The song was a special request for Koichi Wakata, the first Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut to serve as a long-duration resident of the station. Wakata spent 133 days as an Expedition 18, 19 and 20 crewmember, and will be returning home after 138 days in space.

Early in the day, STS-127 Commander Mark Polansky and Pilot Doug Hurley will test the thruster jets and aerodynamic control surfaces that will be used to guide Endeavour to a landing planned for 9:48 a.m. Friday. Flight Director Bryan Lunney and the entry team of flight controllers will be in Mission Control to monitor the tests.

Once those checks are complete, the crew will deploy two pairs of small satellites.

The first, called Dual RF Astrodynamic GPS Orbital Navigator Satellite (DRAGONSat), will look at independent rendezvous of spacecraft in orbit using Global Positioning Satellite data. The two satellites, to be ejected from Endeavour’s cargo bay at 7:33 a.m., were designed and built by students at the University of Texas, Austin, and Texas A&M University, College Station.

The second, called Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment-2 (ANDE-2), will be deployed at 12:22 p.m. The ANDE-2 microsatellites will measure the density and composition of the rarified atmosphere 200 miles above the Earth’s surface.

On the space station, the Expedition 20 crew is scheduled to “walk” Canadarm2 away from its current base on the Harmony module to the Mobile Base System on the station’s truss backbone. That will position the arm for a ground-controlled move of the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator from the Destiny Laboratory to the mobile base later in the day. Body mass measurements, housekeeping and research also are planned.

The station crew will go to bed at 4:30 p.m., and the shuttle crew will begin its sleep shift at 5:03 p.m. The next shuttle status report will be issued at the end of the crews’ day, or earlier if events warrant.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Late Heat Shield Inspections for Shuttle!

Space shuttle Endeavour’s crew spent the day inspecting the spacecraft’s heat shield one last time and began early preparations for Friday’s return home to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

With the International Space Station and its six-person crew slipping further and further behind following Wednesday’s undocking, Endeavour’s crew turned its attention to unlimbering the robot arm and boom extension. With its suite of sensitive instruments, the boom was used to scan the wing leading edges and nose cap for any sign of tiny impacts as part of a routine procedure to ensure the orbiter’s outer shield has a clean bill of health for reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

While imagery experts pore over the data sent down during the scan to evaluate the Thermal Protection System’s integrity, shuttle Commander Mark Polansky and the STS-127 crew will focus on packing up the shuttle and checking out its flight control systems and thruster jets Thursday morning.

Mission managers will be briefed on the Damage Assessment Team’s findings Thursday as well, but early indications are there were no impacts that would pose a concern for entry. The formal presentation to the Mission Management Team is set for 11 a.m. CDT.

On orbit, the crew will deploy two small research satellites and set up a special recumbent seat for Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata returning after 138 days in space (133 on the station).

The first half of the crew’s day Thursday will include the support of the entry team in Mission Control lead by Flight Director Bryan Lunney. The team will watch over the checkout of all vehicle systems to ensure they are healthy and ready to support landing of Endeavour after 16 days in space. Landing is scheduled for 9:48 a.m. CDT after 248 orbits of the Earth.

The seven crew members have adjusted their wake/sleep cycles to correspond with landing day activities and will be awakened at 1:03 a.m. CDT Thursday by Mission Control. That’s approximately when the next status report will be issued, or earlier if events warrant.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Space Shuttle Endeavour Undocks from Station!

Space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station at 1:26 p.m. EDT.

The crews of Endeavour and the International Space Station will part company today, with all of the docked mission’s objectives complete.

The shuttle crew was awakened at 2:03 a.m. CDT to the strains of “Proud to Be an American” performed by Lee Greenwood. The song was selected for spacewalker Chris Cassidy, a former Navy SEAL, who now has 18 hours, five minutes of extravehicular activity to his credit over three spacewalks.

Commander Mark Polansky and his team will begin checking out the laser rangefinders and other equipment that will be used to provide precise readings on the distance between the two spacecraft at 6:03 a.m.

The joint crew – the largest ever assembled on one space vehicle – will transfer the last frozen science samples from the station to the shuttle at 9:08 a.m. Then, farewells will commence at 9:23 a.m., and hatches will close at 9:38 a.m.

The Expedition 20 crew on the station will be losing one crew member and gaining another. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Astronaut Koichi Wakata will be returning home on Endeavour after four months as a member of the Expedition 18, 19 and 20 crews. He will do so after providing a thorough handover to the station’s new NASA flight engineer, Tim Kopra, who arrived aboard Endeavour.

The station will be reoriented for undocking by 11:38 a.m., and docking latches will open at 12:26 p.m. allowing Endeavour to drift free. Pilot Doug Hurley will guide Endeavour on a fly-around of the station at a distance of 400 feet, with final separation from the orbiting outpost at 1:41 p.m.

The station’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly is once again working in automatic mode following a software update that was uplinked by Mission Control on Monday. Commander Gennady Padalka and his crew will now turn their attention to preparations for the arrival of the Progress 34 cargo craft at 6:16 a.m. Wednesday.

After completing a fly-around of the space station, shuttle Endeavour will perform a maneuver to separate from the station.

The newly separated crews will begin their sleep periods about 6 p.m.

Monday, July 27, 2009

(STS-127) 5th & Final Crew Completes Spacewalk!

Spacewalkers Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy completed a four hour, 54 minute spacewalk at 12:27 p.m. EDT.

Marshburn and Cassidy secured multi-layer insulation around the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator known as Dextre, split out power channels for two space station Control Moment Gyroscopes, installed video cameras on the front and back of the new Japanese Exposed Facility and performed a number of “get ahead” tasks, including tying down some cables and installing handrails and a portable foot restraint to aid future spacewalkers. The deployment of the Payload Attach System on the Starboard 3 truss was deferred to another spacewalk sometime in the future.

This was the fifth and last planned STS-127 spacewalk, the 130th in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, totaling 810 hours, 36 minutes. It was the 102nd spacewalk out of space station airlocks and the 218th American spacewalk in history. It was the third for both Marshburn and Cassidy, Marshburn totaling 18 hours, 59 minutes and Cassidy 18 hours, five minutes.

This was the second space station assembly mission to conduct five spacewalks. STS-123 also performed five spacewalks in March 2008. The five STS-127 spacewalks totaled 30 hours, 30 minutes. The five STS-123 spacewalks totaled 33 hours, 29 minutes. At 6 p.m.,

NASA Television will air a Mission Status briefing with STS-127 Lead Flight Director Holly Ridings and STS-127 Lead Spacewalk Officer Kieth Johnson.

Expedition 20 Flight Engineers Mike Barratt and Tim Kopra will work on several scientific experiments, and departing station crew member Koichi Wakata will continue handovers with Kopra, the newest station crew member. Flight engineer Bob Thirsk will install brackets that will allow the new C.O.L.B.E.R.T., or the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, to be set up in the station’s Harmony module when it is delivered on the STS-128 shuttle mission.

The station crew is scheduled to begin its sleep period at 5:33 p.m. followed 30 minutes later by the shuttle crew.

The next shuttle status report will be issued at the conclusion of the spacewalk, or earlier if warranted.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fourth ( STS-127 ) Spacewalk Complete!

Mission specialists Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn finished replacing batteries on the International Space Station’s oldest solar arrays during a seven-hour, 12-minute spacewalk – the fourth of five planned during space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-127 mission.

They installed four of six new batteries for the P6 Truss structure, where a pair of solar array wings collects sunlight for power generation. They stored four more of the old batteries onto a cargo carrier for return to Earth. That completed the work with all 12 new and old batteries, which was begun on the mission’s third spacewalk by Cassidy and Mission Specialist Dave Wolf. Higher than expected carbon dioxide levels in Cassidy’s suit limited that spacewalk’s duration, so the remaining battery tasks were deferred until today.

Inside the complex, Tim Kopra choreographed the activities. Mission specialists Koichi Wakata and Julie Payette used Canadarm2 – the station’s robotic arm – to hand the Integrated Cargo Carrier with the old batteries to the shuttle’s arm. Pilot Doug Hurley and Commander Mark Polansky then secured the carrier in Endeavour’s cargo bay at 5:52 p.m. for return home.

This was the fourth of five STS-127 spacewalks, the 129th in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance, totaling 805 hours, 42 minutes. It was the 101st spacewalk conducted out of space station airlocks and the 217th American spacewalk in history. It was the second for Cassidy and Marshburn.

The mission’s final planned spacewalk is Monday, performed by Marshburn and Cassidy together again to work on various tasks around the outside of the station.

The station crew is scheduled to begin its sleep period about 7 p.m., followed 30 minutes by the shuttle crew. Mission Control’s musical wake up is scheduled for 3:33 a.m. Saturday.

The next mission status report will be issued after crew wake, or earlier if warranted.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Today's SpaceWalk - 1st Battery Replaced

At 11:17 a.m. EDT, STS-127 Mission Specialists Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn replaced the first of four batteries they plan to exchange during today’s spacewalk. They just completed releasing the fourth old battery from its location on the space station’s Port 6 truss.

An hour and 35 minutes into the spacewalk, they are on the planned timeline and their spacesuit consumable levels are normal.

STS-127 Mission Specialists Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn will tackle a challenging 7 ½-hour spacewalk today to finish swapping out batteries for the International Space Station’s oldest set of solar arrays. The joint crew of Endeavour and the station was awakened at 4:03 a.m. CDT by Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” offered up for lead spacewalker Dave Wolf.

Endeavour’s spacewalkers are scheduled to float out the Quest airlock hatch at 8:58 a.m. Their outing will be devoted entirely to finishing the work started on the third spacewalk of the mission – removing old batteries from the Port 6 truss structure and transferring new batteries from the Integrated Cargo Carrier on the end of the station’s robotic arm to the empty sockets on the truss.

Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialist Julie Payette will position Canadarm2 near the truss for the spacewalk and, once all of the battery swaps are complete, maneuver the carrier back into Endeavour’s cargo bay. That maneuver will require them to hand off the carrier to the shuttle’s arm for re-berthing by Hurley and Commander Mark Polansky.

The Progress 34 cargo ship launched on time today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:56:56 a.m. (4:56:56 p.m. Baikonur time) to begin its five-day journey to the International Space Station. Less than 9 minutes later, the unpiloted cargo ship reached orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas. Two rendezvous burns of the Progress engines are scheduled today and another burn is planned for tomorrow to fine-tune the Progress’ path to the station.

At the time of launch, the shuttle/station complex and its 13 crew members were flying 218 statute miles over Sapporo, Japan.

Carrying 2 ½ tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station crew, the Progress is scheduled to dock to the aft port of the Zvezda service module at 6:16 a.m. Wednesday, July 29, one day after Endeavour undocks from the outpost.

Expedition 20 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Mike Barratt, Tim Kopra, Roman Romanenko, Bob Thirsk and Frank De Winne will continue to maintain station systems and work with onboard experiments.

The station crew is scheduled to begin its sleep period about 7 p.m., and the shuttle crew at 7:30 p.m.

The next mission status report will be issued at the conclusion of the spacewalk, or earlier if warranted.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dramatic Arctic Ice Thinning - Nasa

Arctic sea ice thinned dramatically between the winters of 2004 and 2008, with thin seasonal ice replacing thick older ice as the dominant type for the first time on record. The new results, based on data from a NASA Earth-orbiting spacecraft, provide further evidence for the rapid, ongoing transformation of the Arctic's ice cover.

Scientists from NASA and the University of Washington in Seattle conducted the most comprehensive survey to date using observations from NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, known as ICESat, to make the first basin-wide estimate of the thickness and volume of the Arctic Ocean's ice cover. Ron Kwok of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., led the research team, which published its findings July 7 in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans.

The Arctic ice cap grows each winter as the sun sets for several months and intense cold ensues. In the summer, wind and ocean currents cause some of the ice naturally to flow out of the Arctic, while much of it melts in place. But not all of the Arctic ice melts each summer; the thicker, older ice is more likely to survive. Seasonal sea ice usually reaches about 2 meters (6 feet) in thickness, while multi-year ice averages 3 meters (9 feet).

Using ICESat measurements, scientists found that overall Arctic sea ice thinned about 0.17 meters (7 inches) a year, for a total of 0.68 meters (2.2 feet) over four winters. The total area covered by the thicker, older "multi-year" ice that has survived one or more summers shrank by 42 percent.

Previously, scientists relied only on measurements of area to determine how much of the Arctic Ocean is covered in ice, but ICESat makes it possible to monitor ice thickness and volume changes over the entire Arctic Ocean for the first time. The results give scientists a better understanding of the regional distribution of ice and provide better insight into what is happening in the Arctic.

"Ice volume allows us to calculate annual ice production and gives us an inventory of the freshwater and total ice mass stored in Arctic sea ice," said Kwok. "Even in years when the overall extent of sea ice remains stable or grows slightly, the thickness and volume of the ice cover is continuing to decline, making the ice more vulnerable to continued shrinkage. Our data will help scientists better understand how fast the volume of Arctic ice is decreasing and how soon we might see a nearly ice-free Arctic in the summer."

In recent years, the amount of ice replaced in the winter has not been sufficient to offset summer ice losses. The result is more open water in summer, which then absorbs more heat, warming the ocean and further melting the ice. Between 2004 and 2008, multi-year ice cover shrank 1.54 million square kilometers (595,000 square miles) -- nearly the size of Alaska's land area.

During the study period, the relative contributions of the two ice types to the total volume of the Arctic's ice cover were reversed. In 2003, 62 percent of the Arctic's total ice volume was stored in multi-year ice, with 38 percent stored in first-year seasonal ice. By 2008, 68 percent of the total ice volume was first-year ice, with 32 percent multi-year ice.

"One of the main things that has been missing from information about what is happening with sea ice is comprehensive data about ice thickness," said Jay Zwally, study co-author and ICESat project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "U.S. Navy submarines provide a long-term, high-resolution record of ice thickness over only parts of the Arctic. The submarine data agree with the ICESat measurements, giving us great confidence in satellites as a way of monitoring thickness across the whole Arctic Basin."

The research team attributes the changes in the overall thickness and volume of Arctic Ocean sea ice to the recent warming and anomalies in patterns of sea ice circulation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

STS-127 Lauch - Coundown Starts

The countdown to liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour on its STS-127 mission began 10 p.m yesterday night. EDT when clocks begin ticking backward from T-43 hours.

Endeavour's seven astronauts arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday afternoon and are making their final preparations for launch, scheduled for July 11 at 7:39 p.m.

"At this point, I'm happy to report we are ready to proceed with the launch countdown," NASA Test Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said Wednesday morning during a countdown status briefing at Kennedy. "We're ready to (fuel) this vehicle on Saturday morning and proceed with our launch on Saturday evening."

Weather is a concern for launch, according to Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters. Due to the threat of thunderstorms, officials believe there is a 40 percent chance weather would cooperate for Saturday's liftoff.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NASA's Fermi Telescope

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, astronomers now are getting their best look at those whirling stellar cinders known as pulsars. In two studies published in the July 2 edition of Science Express, international teams have analyzed gamma-rays from two dozen pulsars, including 16 discovered by Fermi. Fermi is the first spacecraft able to identify pulsars by their gamma-ray emission alone.

A pulsar is the rapidly spinning and highly magnetized core left behind when a massive star explodes. Most of the 1,800 cataloged pulsars were found through their periodic radio emissions. Astronomers believe these pulses are caused by narrow, lighthouse-like radio beams emanating from the pulsar's magnetic poles.

"Fermi has truly unprecedented power for discovering and studying gamma-ray pulsars," said Paul Ray of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. "Since the demise of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory a decade ago, we've wondered about the nature of unidentified gamma-ray sources it detected in our galaxy. These studies from Fermi lift the veil on many of them."

The Vela pulsar, which spins 11 times a second, is the brightest persistent source of gamma rays in the sky. Yet gamma rays -- the most energetic form of light -- are few and far between. Even Fermi's Large Area Telescope sees only about one gamma-ray photon from Vela every two minutes.

"That's about one photon for every thousand Vela rotations," said Marcus Ziegler, a member of the team reporting on the new pulsars at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "From the faintest pulsar we studied, we see only two gamma-ray photons a day."

Radio telescopes on Earth can detect a pulsar easily only if one of the narrow radio beams happens to swing our way. If not, the pulsar can remain hidden.

A pulsar's radio beams represent only a few parts per million of its total power, whereas its gamma rays account for 10 percent or more. Somehow, pulsars are able to accelerate particles to speeds near that of light. These particles emit a broad beam of gamma rays as they arc along curved magnetic field lines.

The new pulsars were discovered as part of a comprehensive search for periodic gamma-ray fluctuations using five months of Fermi Large Area Telescope data and new computational techniques.

"Before launch, some predicted Fermi might uncover a handful of new pulsars during its mission," Ziegler added. "To discover 16 in its first five months of operation is really beyond our wildest dreams."

Like spinning tops, pulsars slow down as they lose energy. Eventually, they spin too slowly to power their characteristic emissions and become undetectable.

But pair a slowed dormant pulsar with a normal star, and a stream of stellar matter from the companion can spill onto the pulsar and increase its spin. At rotation periods between 100 and 1,000 times a second, ancient pulsars can resume the activity of their youth. In the second study, Fermi scientists examined gamma rays from eight of these "born-again" pulsars, all of which were previously discovered at radio wavelengths.

"Before Fermi launched, it wasn't clear that pulsars with millisecond periods could emit gamma rays at all," said Lucas Guillemot at the Center for Nuclear Studies in Gradignan, near Bordeaux, France. "Now we know they do. It's also clear that, despite their differences, both normal and millisecond pulsars share similar mechanisms for emitting gamma rays."

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Orion Spacecraft - Space Station On Virtual Mission

It was a virtually flawless launch, a perfect mission, so far. The ground operations personnel reported early on that all was well; tanking and launch went off almost without a hitch and was only briefly delayed while the ground team verified that a bird strike on the Upper Stage did no damage. Orion is on its way to dock with the International Space Station.

The launch of the first Virtual Mission for NASA’s Constellation Program was an unqualified success. Mission controllers, ground operators and engineers crowded rooms at multiple NASA centers to monitor the launch. The Virtual Missions are the brainchild of Constellation Program Manager, Jeff Hanley. Their purpose is to simulate the mission planning processes and utilize new software designed to reduce mission certification time. The Virtual Missions are lead by Mission Manager Bob Castle and are a tool to verify NASA has the right processes in place to achieve its reduced flight preparation time.

To the observers of the recent mission launch, the behind the scenes work was invisible. Computer screens captured “live” engineering data that looked more like the images seen on a video gaming program. Instead of numbers churning across the monitor screens, the data looked more like video game animations.

IMSim (Integrated Mission Simulation), a networked system of high fidelity “physics” simulations, performed the real time launch and ascent simulation and post insertion burn. The DON (Distributed Observer Network) distributed the IMSim visualizations to remote team members and saved them for playback later. Both tools are part of the Constellation Modeling and Simulation Team (MaST).

So far the first Virtual Mission has produced a nice list of Lessons Learned that will be used to refine mission processes for the real Constellation missions. The list includes mission improvements such as the need to develop a process for management of the water system on returning Orions and the need to access the Service Module for later cargo stowage.

The business side of building rockets and planning and executing a mission to the International Space Station or the moon is not what most people consider when they think of NASA. But, the Virtual Missions show things like schedule changes, cargo distributions and vehicle performance can have a big effect. Too much cargo can lower the vehicle performance. Or a change in that payload might cause a delay, or have a ripple effect downstream on the payload of the next mission. And, almost every change is reflected in how much a mission costs.

Representatives from JSC, MSFC, KSC, Ames and JPL are participating the Virtual Missions. The next Virtual Mission will kick off in November 2009, with its launch scheduled for June 2010.

LRO's First Moon Images


NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has transmitted its first images since reaching the moon on June 23. The spacecraft's two cameras, collectively known as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, were activated June 30. The cameras are working well and have returned images of a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).

As the moon rotates beneath LRO, LROC gradually will build up photographic maps of the lunar surface.

"Our first images were taken along the moon's terminator -- the dividing line between day and night -- making us initially unsure of how they would turn out," said LROC Principal Investigator Mark Robinson of Arizona State University in Tempe. "Because of the deep shadowing, subtle topography is exaggerated, suggesting a craggy and inhospitable surface. In reality, the area is similar to the region where the Apollo 16 astronauts safely explored in 1972. While these are magnificent in their own right, the main message is that LROC is nearly ready to begin its mission."

These images show cratered regions near the moon's Mare Nubium region, as photographed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's LROC instrument. Impact craters feature prominently in both images. Older craters have softened edges, while younger craters appear crisp. Each image shows a region 1,400 meters (0.87 miles) wide, and features as small as 3 meters (9.8 feet) wide can be discerned. The bottoms of both images face lunar north.

The image below shows the location of these two images in relation to each other. The locator image shows an area 3,542 meters (2.2 miles) wide by 14,000 meters (8.7 miles) long. The scene is at the lunar coordinates 34.4 degrees South by 6.0 degrees West.

The image below shows a raw image of the region photographed by one of the LROC cameras. Each band in this "venetian blinds" image is about 90 km (55.9 miles) wide. For comparison, the width of the locator image above is shown here as two white lines.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Do U Know LRO?

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter!

Five Things to Know about LRO

1. LRO is leading NASA’s way back to the moon.

2. The primary objective of LRO is to conduct investigations that prepare for future lunar exploration. Specifically LRO will scout for safe and compelling landing sites, locate potential resources (with special attention to the possibility of water ice) and characterize the effects of prolonged exposure to the lunar radiation environment. In addition to its exploration mission, LRO will also return rich scientific data that will help us to better understand the moon’s topography and composition.

3. Seven scientific instruments outfit LRO. These instruments will return lunar imagery, topography, temperature measurements and more.

4. Launched along with LRO was the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), a partner mission that will search for water ice on the moon.

5. In response to LRO's "Send Your Name to the Moon" initiative, the spacecraft carries a microchip with nearly 1.6 million names submitted by the public.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Break The Ice - Nasa Airborne Radars!

Arctic Trek to 'Break the Ice' on New NASA Airborne Radars!

PASADENA, Calif. Says - NASA will 'break the ice' on a pair of new airborne radars that can help monitor climate change when a team of scientists embarks this week on a two-month expedition to the vast, frigid terrain of Greenland and Iceland.

Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., will depart Dryden Friday, May 1, on a modified NASA Gulfstream III aircraft. In a pod beneath the aircraft's fuselage will be two JPL-developed radars that are flying test beds for evaluating tools and technologies for future space-based radars.

One of the radars, the L-band wavelength Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR, calibrates and supplements satellite data; the other is a proof-of-concept Ka-band wavelength radar called the Glacier and Land Ice Surface Topography Interferometer, or GLISTIN.

Both radars use pulses of microwave energy to produce images of Earth's surface topography and the deformations in it. UAVSAR detects and measures the flow of glaciers and ice sheets, as well as subtle changes caused by earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and other dynamic phenomena. GLISTIN will create high-resolution maps of ice surface topography, key to understanding the stresses that drive changes in glacial regions.

During this expedition, UAVSAR will study the flow of Greenland's and Iceland's glaciers and ice streams, while GLISTIN will map Greenland's icy surface topography. About 250,000 square kilometers (97,000 square miles) of land will be mapped during 110 hours of data collection.

"We hope to better characterize how Arctic ice is changing and how climate change is affecting the Arctic, while gathering data that will be useful for designing future radar satellites," said UAVSAR Principal Investigator Scott Hensley of JPL.

The Gulfstream III flies at an altitude of 12,500 meters (41,000 feet) as UAVSAR collects data over areas of interest. The aircraft then flies over the same areas again, minutes to months later, using precision navigation to fly within 4.6 meters (15 feet) of its original flight path. By comparing the data from multiple passes, scientists can detect very subtle changes in Earth's surface.

L-band Principal Investigator Howard Zebker of Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., and his team will use UAVSAR to collect data on various types of ice. They will measure how deeply the L-band radar penetrates the ice and compare it with similar C- and X-band radar data collected from satellites. Scientists expect the longer wavelengths of the L-band radar to penetrate deeper into the ice than C-band radar, "seeing" ice motions or structures hundreds of meters below the ice surface, rather than only at the surface. By using both wavelengths, scientists hope to obtain a more complete picture of how glaciers and ice streams flow. Zebker's team will also evaluate how sensitive the L-band radar is to changes in the ice surface between observations.

To better predict how glaciers and ice sheets will evolve, scientists need to know what they're doing now, how fast they're changing, what processes drive the changes and how to represent them in models. Accurate measurements of ice sheet elevation derived from laser altimeters (lidars) on aircraft or satellites are critical to these efforts. But high-frequency microwave radars can also do the job, with greater coverage and the ability to operate in a wider range of weather conditions. Until now, however, microwave radars operating at wavelengths longer than those of GLISTIN have penetrated snow and ice more deeply than lidars, making interpretation of their data more complex.

Hurricanes - Five!

Five Things About Hurricanes!

JPL scientist Bjorn Lambrigtsen goes on hurricane watch every June. He is part of a large effort to track hurricanes and understand what powers them. Lambrigtsen specializes in the field of microwave instruments, which fly aboard research planes and spacecraft, penetrating through thick clouds to see the heart of a hurricane. While scientists are adept at predicting where these powerful storms will hit land, there are crucial aspects they still need to wrench from these potentially killer storms.

Here are thoughts and factoids from Lambrigtsen in the field of hurricane research.

1. Pinpointing the moment of birth
Most Atlantic hurricanes start as a collection of thunderstorms off the coast of Africa. These storm clusters move across the Atlantic, ending up in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico or Central America. While only one in 10 of these clusters evolve into hurricanes, scientists do not yet know what triggers this powerful transformation. Pinpointing a hurricane's origin will be a major goal of a joint field campaign in 2010 between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

2. Predicting intensity
Another focus of next year's research campaign will be learning how to better predict a storm's intensity. It is difficult for emergency personnel and the public to gauge storm preparations when they don't know if the storm will be mild or one with tremendous force. NASA's uncrewed Global Hawk will be added to the 2010 research armada. This drone airplane, which can fly for 30 straight hours, will provide an unprecedented long-duration view of hurricanes in action, giving a window into what fuels storm intensity.

3. Deadly force raining down
Think about a hurricane. You imagine high, gusting winds and pounding waves. However, one of the deadliest hurricanes in recent history was one that parked itself over Central America in October 1998 and dumped torrential rain. Even with diminished winds, rain from Hurricane Mitch reached a rate of more than 4 inches per hour. This caused catastrophic floods and landslides throughout the region.

4. Replenishing "spring"
Even though hurricanes can wreak havoc, they also carry out the important task of replenishing the freshwater supply along the Florida and southeastern U.S. coast and Gulf of Mexico. The freshwater deposited is good for the fish and the ecological environment.

5. One size doesn't fit all

Hurricanes come in a huge a variety of sizes. Massive ones can cover the entire Gulf of Mexico (about 1,000 miles across), while others are just as deadly at only 100 miles across. This is a mystery scientists are still trying to unravel.

Arctic Smoke Signals - Nasa(Arctas)

Finding Arctic Smoke Signals Not A Problem For ARCTAS!

A fleet of airplanes outfitted with sensors set out in the spring and summer of 2008 to study pollution in the Arctic atmosphere -- observing pollution from humans in the spring portion and from naturally occurring fires in the summer. Among other goals, the Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS) field campaign sought to piece together a more detailed picture of how widespread forest fires above the Arctic Circle influence the rapid warming taking place at the north pole. Then all the smoke nearly got in the way.

The fire season in the spring turned out to be one of the most active in a long time, with about four times the activity than in recent years. How do researchers, looking for a good baseline on boreal fires’ typical impact in the Arctic, adapt to such a situation? Jim Crawford, manager of NASA’s Tropospheric Chemistry program, said that on one hand the unusual fire season wasn’t ideal for taking measurements of smoke, haze and pollution in the Arctic. But on the other hand, he added, the mission was to observe what was there, and researchers got a rare glimpse at intense fires. At the same time, the data that more than 130 people involved in ARCTAS collected on smoke plumes from these fires was able to corroborate some of what was known about the transport pathways that smoke and haze follow from northern Canada and Siberia. “Without these flights, we wouldn’t even be able to test certain models,” Crawford said. “We found that the models are quite good at modeling transport (of smoke plumes from boreal fires).”

Fire activity in the boreal forests of Canada and Siberia has been increasing in recent years, and many link this increase to climate change and a rapidly warming Arctic. Mean surface temperatures in the Arctic have increase more than two degrees Celsius in the past century, and the trend appears to be continuing. Boreal fires may not only be influenced by that warming, but the “black carbon” emissions created by burning may be settling to snow and ice surfaces in the Arctic, absorbing more heat and expediting ice melt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Amazing NASA Animation