Monday, August 31, 2009

NASA Sets Briefing, TV Coverage of Japan's First Cargo Spacecraft


NASA will hold a news briefing at 12:30 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, Sept. 2, to preview the maiden launch and flight of Japan's unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.

NASA Television will broadcast the briefing live from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Participants in the briefing will include officials from NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). NASA TV also will broadcast live HTV's launch and flight.

The HTV is scheduled to lift off on an H-IIB rocket from JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan at approximately noon Sept. 10 (about 2 a.m. Sept. 11 Japan time). NASA TV coverage of the launch will begin at 11:45 a.m. The HTV will augment the European Space Agency's Automated Transportation Vehicles and the Russian Progress ships that deliver supplies to the space station.

NASA conducted an HTV readiness review on Aug. 27. The HTV was formally approved for flight and rendezvous. The launch window will be open from Sept. 10-30. In the event of a launch postponement after the H-IIB rocket is fueled, a 72-hour turnaround will be required before the next launch attempt.

As the 16.5-ton cargo craft makes its week-long journey to the space station, flight controllers in Tsukuba, Japan, and at Mission Control in Houston will conduct a number of tests of HTV's rendezvous and navigation systems.

NASA TV coverage of the cargo craft's arrival at the station will begin at 2 p.m. Sept. 17. As the HTV moves within about 40 feet of the orbiting laboratory, space station crew members will capture the craft using the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. The crew then will attach the HTV to an Earth-facing docking port on the station's Harmony connecting module. The robotic maneuvers are set to begin at about 2:50 p.m. Sept. 17.

The HTV will remain attached to the station for about six weeks while supplies are transferred. In addition to interior supplies and equipment, two new experiments carried on the exterior of the HTV will be moved to the Japanese Kibo module's external experiment porch using a combination of maneuvers with the station's Canadarm2 and Kibo's robotic arm.

NASA's Latest High-tech Autonomous Robotic Life Forms


Astronomy Picture of the Day


Many stars like our Sun were formed in open clusters. The above pictured open cluster, M25, contains thousands of stars and is about two thousand light years distant. The stars in this cluster all formed together about 90 million years ago. The bright young stars in M25 appear blue. Open clusters, also called galactic clusters, contain fewer and younger stars than globular clusters. Also unlike globular clusters, open clusters are generally confined to the plane of our Galaxy. M25 is visible with binoculars towards the constellation of the Archer ( Sagittarius).

Friday, August 28, 2009

STS-128 Mission : Countdown Resumes!

The countdown for the launch of space shuttle Discovery's STS-128 mission is under way again. The count resumed at 8:34 a.m. EDT at the T-11 hour point with no issues being reported that could affect launch.

The Rotating Service Structure on Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A was rolled away from Discovery this morning at 6:11 a.m.

NASA's Mission Management Team plans to meet at noon to review launch preparations and determine whether teams will continue to march toward a targeted liftoff tonight at 11:59 p.m.

Weather is forecasted to be 60 percent "go" for external tank loading and 60 percent "go" for launch.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mission Managers Team meeting conducted at noon and took important Decision!

The testing of the liquid hydrogen fill and drain valve in shuttle Discovery’s main propulsion system is complete. The valve and its position indicator both operated normally during yesterday’s testing. And all leak checks were within specification.

The evaluation of the low-level hydrogen leak detected in a tail service mast on the mobile launcher platform on Launch Pad 39A following Tuesday's launch scrub is complete, and no leaks were detected.

All the test data will be brought to the mission management team for review at the noon EDT meeting. Mission managers also are scheduled to meet at 2:15 p.m. to give the “Go - No Go” for tanking.

If Discovery gets the “Go”, tanking commentary on NASA TV will begin at 2:45 p.m. and fueling operations will start at approximately 3 p.m. Launch commentary will begin tonight at 7 p.m.

Discovery's seven astronauts are sleeping and will wake up for their launch day preps at 1:30 p.m.

Discovery's Launch Delayed 24 More Hours

It was announced at today's Mission Management Team meeting that the teams need another 24 hours to review data from yesterday's fill and drain test before pressing forward with launch of space shuttle Discovery on its STS-128 mission. Liftoff now is targeted for 11:59 p.m. EDT.

An MMT meeting is tentatively planned for tomorrow at noon with a tanking weather briefing at 2 p.m. NASA TV coverage of fueling Friday will begin at 2:15 p.m. NASA TV coverage of launch will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

STS-128 Mission : Launch Team Targets Aug 28th Launch!

NASA is targeting space shuttle Discovery for a launch attempt Friday morning at 12:22 a.m., mission management team Chairman Mike Moses said. Engineers will evaluate a liquid hydrogen valve that developed problems during tanking operations Tuesday evening. Detailed test data about the valve will be examined before Discovery’s fuel tank is loaded with propellant ahead of Friday morning’s launch attempt.

Friday Morning Forecast: 70 Percent "Go":

The weather outlook for Friday morning's targeted launch of Discovery calls for a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff would be at 12:22 a.m. Meteorologists will watch the conditions carefully throughout the countdown, with the greatest expected concern being for anvil clouds and thunderstorms within 20 nautical miles of the Shuttle Landing Facility. The mission management team will evaluate analysis of a fill-and-drain valve problem before Discovery's massive external tank is loaded with propellant. The valve issue developed during Tuesday's countdown and forced a postponement of the launch of the STS-128 mission.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Discovery's Launch Delayed Due to Weather!

Launch of space shuttle Discovery was postponed early this morning due to lingering thunderstorms in the vicinity of the launch pad. Launch has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 1:10 a.m. EDT.

The mission management team will meet at 3 p.m. today to give the “go- no go” for tanking operations. The current STS-128 launch day weather forecast is 70 percent favorable conditions for tanking and launch. The primary concern is cumulus clouds and showers within 20 nautical miles of the shuttle landing facility at the time of launch.

Launch commentary on NASA TV will begin tonight at 8 p.m.

Launch and Landing

Mission: STS-128
Orbiter: Discovery
Primary Payload: Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, science experiment racks, COLBERT treadmill
Launch Date: Aug. 26
Launch Time: 1:10 a.m. EDT
Launch Pad: 39A
Landing Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Mission Duration: 13 days
Inclination/Altitude: 51.6 degrees/122 nautical miles

STS-128 Launch Timeline :

6:30 am Ascent switch list verification
6:30 am Crew sleep
8:45 am Countdown resumes at the T-11 hour mark
10:45 am Clear Launch Pad
11:35 pm Fuel cell activation
1:00 pm Clear “Launch Danger Area”
1:45 pm Countdown enters 2-hr hold at the T-6 hour mark
2:30 pm Crew wake up
3:00 pm Mission Management Team meets to give go for tanking
3:00 pm Crew breakfast
3:30 pm Crew final medical checks
3:30 pm NASA TV: External Tank fueling coverage
3:45 pm Countdown resumes at T-6 hr mark w/External Tank loading
4:29 pm Liquid Hydrogen Low Level Cutoff (LLCO) sensors go “wet”
4:44 pm Liquid Hydrogen “fast fill” begins
5:59 pm LH2 “topping” begins (gaseous Hydrogen vent valve cycling)
6:45 pm Countdown enters 2∏ -hr hold (T-3 hr mark)
• ET in stable replenish
• Closeout Crew to White Room
• Final Inspection Team (FIT) “walkdown”
7:00 pm Ascent Team on console in Mission Control

8:40 pm Crew receives weather brief from Ascent Team
8:50 pm Crew suits up for launch
9:15 pm Countdown resumes at the T-3 hour mark
9:30 pm Mission Management Team on console
9:20 pm Crew departs Ops & Checkout Building for launch pad 39A
9:50 pm Crew begins to board Discovery
10:15 pm T-38 weather reconnaissance (FCOD Dir. Brent Jett)
10:45 pm Crew communications checks
11:10 pm Discovery’s hatch is closed and latched for launch
11:30 pm Shuttle Training Aircraft weather recon (Jett)
11:35 pm White Room Closeout
11:55 pm Countdown enters a 10-min hold at the T-20 min mark
• Firing Room computer programs verified
• Landing convoy status check
• Abort landing sites checked
• Inertial Measurement Unit preflight alignment verified
• Preps for computer s/w transition to terminal count
12:05 am Countdown resumes at the T-20 minute mark
12:16 am Countdown enters ~45-min. hold at the T-9 min mark
MMT conducts final “Go-No Go” poll for launch
1:01:22 am Countdown resumes at the T-9 minute mark
1:02:52 pm Orbiter Access Arm (OAA) retract
1:04:22 pm Verify Auxiliary Power Units (APU) ready to start
1:04:22 pm Launch window opens
1:05:22 am Auxiliary Power Unit start
1:05:27 am Liquid Oxygen replenish terminate
1:06:22 am Purge Sequence 4 hydraulic test
1:06:22 am Inertial Measurement Units to inertial
1:06:27 am Flight Control Surface profile test
1:06:52 am Main Engine profile test
1:07:27 am LO2 tank pressurization
1:07:32 am Gaseous Oxygen Vent Hood retraction
1:07:47 am Fuel Cells to internal reactants
1:07:52 am Clear caution and warning memory
1:08:22 am Crew closes visors & initiates O2 flow
1:08:25 am Liquid Hydrogen tank pressurization
1:08:42 am Solid Rocket Booster joint heater deactivation
1:09:32 am Discovery to internal power
1:09:51 am Onboard computers take control of countdown (T-31 sec)
1:10:01 am Solid Rocket Booster steering test
1:10:15 am Main Engine start (T-6.6 seconds)
1:10:22 am LAUNCH (ISS 225 miles up, East of Newfoundland)
1:15:22 am Launch window closes
1:18:46 am Main Engine Cutoff (MECO)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hurricane Season 2009: Hurricane Bill (Atlantic)

NASA GOES Project Satellite Movie: Bill Heads North to Canada

Bill lost his tropical characteristics today, August 24, as he's moved past Newfoundland and is tracking east in the North Atlantic Ocean. NASA's GOES Project at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center created a satellite movie of Bill's track up the east coast and into the Canadian Maritimes from August 21 through August 23.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, GOES-12, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration captures images of U.S. East Coast weather continuously. Those images were compiled into a movie from the NASA GOES Project and showed Bill's track from just west of Bermuda northward into the Canadian Maritimes from August 21-23.

On August 24, by 5 a.m. EDT today, Extra-tropical Storm Bill was still packing sustained winds near 70 mph, just under hurricane status. He was located 190 miles northeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada, near 48.6 north and 50.2 west. All watches and warnings for Newfoundland have been discontinued. Bill is now speeding along at 43 mph toward the east-northeast. Estimated minimum central pressure is 980 millibars.

As is typical when storms become extra-tropical, they expand. That's what Bill has done. Bill's tropical storm force winds now extend to 315 miles from the center making him a huge storm. Traffic in the north Atlantic shipping lanes should be aware that Bill is producing a huge area of storm and gale-force winds today and the next two days.

NASA's Aqua Satellite also got a stunning look at Hurricane Bill using infrared imagery. The Infrared imagery acts like a thermometer with tropical cyclones and can measure their cloud top temperatures. The colder the clouds, the higher and more powerful the thunderstorms. AIRS instrument captured the large extent of Bill's clouds on Sunday, August 23 at 12:59 p.m. EDT as he was raining and gusting over Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Canada.

Two deaths in the U.S. were attributed to Bill, and both to the rough surf the storm generated. In Volusia County, Florida at New Smyrna Beach a 54-year-old man died trying to body surf in Bill's dangerous waves. At Acadia National Park, Maine, a 7 year old girl was swept out to sea with a dozen others when tremendous waves battered the coast. Maine Public Safety Department confirmed that the girl was the only one of the twelve that did not survive.

Bill will continue to create dangerous conditions in the North Atlantic for the next couple of days as he heads toward Great Britain.

Space Shuttle Discovery Ready For Flight!

Space shuttle Discovery is in the final stages of preparation before its flight to the International Space Station from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Fueling of Discovery's external tank with 500,000 gallons of super-cold liquid oxygen and hydrogen is scheduled to begin at 4:11 p.m. EDT, depending on weather conditions at the time.

The "topping off" of propellants into the tank will continue until Discovery's liftoff. All systems aboard the shuttle are functioning normally and no issues are being reported.

Weather continues to be 80 percent acceptable for a 1:36 a.m. Tuesday launch.

Coverage of Discovery's liftoff on the STS-128 mission begins Monday at 8:30 p.m. Follow the countdown with NASA's launch blog and live commentary broadcast on NASA TV.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Countdown to Launch Continues Smoothly-STS 128!

Discovery's launch remains on track for 1:36 a.m. EDT Tuesday for its 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

At today's Countdown Status Briefing held at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA Test Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson was pleased to report that all countdown preparations are on schedule and looking forward to a great launch.

"In this business there are few sites as beautiful as a nighttime launch," said Blackwell-Thompson. "And I expect this to be a spectacular site as Discovery roars to life early Tuesday morning and lights up the night sky."

STS-128 Payload Manager Joe Delai applauded the immense amount of work done by a great team to prepare the payload for delivery by Discovery and its crew.

"We're very excited about this mission," said Delai. "We're going to support a six crew capability both from a cargo and storage point of view -- we'll also be bringing up some good science racks so we can keep doing some good work up in space and for us folks here on Earth."

Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters reported that forecast for launch time is holding at 70 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff and fueling. There only a slight concern of possible storms moving into the area before tanking begins.

Keeping to an early-morning launch schedule, Discovery’s crew went to bed at 7 a.m. and will be awakened at 3 p.m. They will undergo standard medical examinations this afternoon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

NASA Launches : Inflatable Heat Shield

A successful NASA flight test has shown that a spacecraft returning to Earth can use an inflatable heat shield to slow and protect itself as it enters the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. This was the first time anyone has successfully flown an inflatable reentry capsule, according to engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center.

The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment, or IRVE, was vacuum-packed into a 15-inch diameter payload "shroud" and launched on a small sounding rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. Nitrogen inflated the 10-foot (3 m) diameter heat shield, made of several layers of silicone-coated industrial fabric, to a mushroom shape in space several minutes after liftoff.

"This was a huge success," said Mary Beth Wusk, IRVE project manager, based at Langley. "IRVE was a small-scale demonstrator. Now that we've proven the concept, we'd like to build more advanced aeroshells capable of handling higher heat rates."

The Black Brant 9 rocket took about four minutes to lift the experiment to an altitude of 131 miles (211 km). Less than a minute later it was released from its cover and started inflating on schedule at 124 miles (199.5 km) up. The inflation of the shield took less than 90 seconds.

"Everything performed well even into the subsonic range where we weren't sure what to expect," said Neil Cheatwood, IRVE principal investigator and chief scientist for the Hypersonics Project of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's Fundamental Aeronautics Program. "The telemetry looks good. The inflatable bladder held up well."

Inflatable heat shields hold promise for future planetary missions, according to researchers. To land more mass on Mars at higher surface elevations, for instance, mission planners need to maximize the drag area of the entry system. The larger the diameter of the aeroshell, the bigger the payload can be.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

NASA Reveals Evolution of Life on Earth!

Humans might not be walking on Earth today if not for the ancient fusing of two microscopic, single-celled organisms called prokaryotes, NASA-funded research has found.

By comparing proteins present in more than 3000 different prokaryotes - a type of single-celled organism without a nucleus -- molecular biologist James A. Lake from the University of California at Los Angeles' Center for Astrobiology showed that two major classes of relatively simple microbes fused together more than 2.5 billion years ago. Lake's research reveals a new pathway for the evolution of life on Earth. These insights are published in the Aug. 20 online edition of the journal Nature.

"Higher life would not have happened without this event," Lake said. "These are very important organisms. At the time these two early prokaryotes were evolving, there was no oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere. Humans could not live. No oxygen-breathing organisms could live."

The genetic machinery and structural organization of these two organisms merged to produce a new class of prokaryotes, called double membrane prokaryotes. As they evolved, members of this double membrane class, called cyanobacteria, became the primary oxygen-producers on the planet, generating enough oxygen to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere and set the stage for the evolution of more complex organisms such as animals and plants.

"This work is a major advance in our understanding of how a group of organisms came to be that learned to harness the sun and then effected the greatest environmental change Earth has ever seen, in this case with beneficial results," said Carl Pilcher, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., which co-funded the study with the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va.

Founded in 1998, the NASA Astrobiology Institute is a partnership between NASA, 14 U.S. teams and six international consortia. The institute's goals are to promote, conduct, and lead interdisciplinary astrobiology research; train a new generation of astrobiology researchers; and share the excitement of astrobiology with learners of all ages.

The institute is part of NASA's Astrobiology Program in Washington. The program supports research into the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life on Earth and the potential for life elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ultimate Long Distance Communication!

Anyone who's vacationed in the mountains or lived on a farm knows that it's hard to get good internet access or a strong cell phone signal in a remote area. Communicating across great distances has always been a challenge. So when NASA engineers designed the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), they knew it would need an extraordinary communications system.

Over the next year, the LRO, NASA's diligent robotic scout, will collect more information about the moon's surface and environment than any previous mission. It takes a powerful system to send all of this information more than 238,800 miles back to Earth.

A 13-inch-long tube, called a Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier, is making it possible for scientists to receive massive amounts of images and data from the orbiter at an unusually fast rate. It is the first high data rate K-band transmitter to fly on a NASA spacecraft.

With this new amplifier, LRO can transmit 461 gigabytes of data per day. That's more information than you can find in a four-story library. And it transmits this information at a rate of up to 100 megabytes per second. By comparison, typical high-speed internet service provides about 1 to 3 megabytes per second.

L-3 Communications Electron Technologies built the amplifier under the supervision of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The device uses electrodes in a vacuum tube to amplify microwave signals to high power. It's ideal for sending large amounts of data over a long distance because it provides more power and more efficiency than its alternative, the transistor amplifier.

As the orbiter collects information about the moon's geography, climate and environment, the communication system transmits this information to a receiver at a Ka band antenna network at White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. Scientists are using the data to compile high-resolution, 3D maps of the lunar surface.

"We're sending back more data than ever, faster and it's nearly real time," said Glenn project manager Todd Peterson.

Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers have been used for other planetary missions, such as Kepler and Cassini, but previous designs were less powerful. According to Rainee Simons, chief of Glenn's Electron and Optoelectronic Device Branch, engineers had to redesign the internal circuitry of the amplifier.

"In order to provide the power and frequency needed to send communications from the vicinity of the moon, it had to be custom designed and handmade," he said.

The orbiter's Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier is also more efficient than previous amplifiers. When it comes to launching satellites, weight means money. The heavier the spacecraft, the more fuel it needs to reach orbit. Because the new amplifier packs more power into a lighter design than previous microwave amplifiers, it's cheaper to fly.

The amplifier underwent vigorous spaceflight testing -- including vibration, thermal vacuum, radiation and electromagnetic interference tests -- to ensure that it could withstand the intense conditions of launch and lunar orbit.

Simons, Peterson and other members of the Glenn team were on standby when LRO entered its final orbit and began transmitting data. They were thrilled to hear that it's working properly, not only because LRO is a vital step toward returning humans to the moon, but also because they believe the new amplifier can improve life on Earth in countless ways.

If used on communication satellites, it could allow for much better tracking, monitoring and control of transoceanic flights and ships traveling beyond the reach of radar.

It also could enable real-time data transfer from future Earth-orbiting satellites. Such satellites are used to track migratory animals, endangered species, icebergs, volcanic eruptions and forest fires, and to aid in search and rescue operations. They're used to study climate change and meteorology as well.

According to Simons, by collecting more timely data about the interaction of our atmosphere, ocean and land, we could save lives and property during severe weather.

"This technology has the potential to create a better world," he said.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Outsized Heat of Sun's Atmosphere!

"Why is the sun's corona so darned hot?" asks James Klimchuk, an astrophysicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center's Solar Physics Laboratory in Greenbelt, Md.

The mystery of why temperatures in the solar corona, the sun's outer atmosphere, soar to several million degrees Kelvin (K) —much hotter than temperatures nearer the sun's surface—has puzzled scientists for decades. New observations made with instruments aboard Japan's Hinode satellite reveal the culprit to be nanoflares.

Nanoflares are small, sudden bursts of heat and energy. "They occur within tiny strands that are bundled together to form a magnetic tube called a coronal loop," says Klimchuk. Coronal loops are the fundamental building blocks of the thin, translucent gas known as the sun's corona.

Scientists previously thought steady heating explained the corona's million degree temperatures. The steady heating model indicates that a coronal loop of a given length and temperature should have a specific density. However, observations showed that coronal loops have much higher density than the steady heating model predicts. Newer models based on nanoflares can explain the observed density. But no direct evidence of the nanoflares existed until now.

Observations from the NASA-funded X-Ray Telescope (XRT) and Extreme-ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) instruments aboard Hinode reveal that ultra-hot plasma is widespread in solar active regions. The XRT measured plasma at 10 million degrees K, and the EIS measured plasma at 5 million degrees K. "These temperatures can only be produced by impulsive energy bursts,"says Klimchuk, who presented the findings on August 6 at the International Astronomical Union General Assembly meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"Coronal loops are bundles of unresolved strands that are heated by storms of nanoflares."

Coronal heating is a dynamic process. The brightness of the observed X-ray and ultraviolet emission is strongly dependent on the density of the coronal plasma. Where there's low density, there isn't much brightness. Where there's high density, there's a lot of brightness. The corona is mostly bright at about 1 million degrees K.

Klimchuk and colleagues constructed a theoretical model to explain how plasma evolves within these coronal tubes and what causes temperatures to skyrocket. "We simulate a burst of heating and see how the corona responds," says Klimchuk. "Then we make predictions about how much emission we should see from plasma of different temperatures."

Klimchuk surmises that when a nanoflare suddenly releases its energy, the plasma in the low-temperature, low-density strands becomes very hot—around 10 million degrees K—very quickly. The density remains low, however, so the emission, or brightness, remains faint. Heat flows from up in the strand, where it's hot, down to the base of the coronal loop, where it's not as hot. This heats up the dense plasma at the loop’s base. Because it is so dense at the base, the temperature only reaches about 1 million degrees K. This dense plasma expands up into the strand. Thus, a coronal loop is a collection of 5-10 million degree K faint strands and 1 million degree K bright strands.

"What we see is 1 million degree K plasma that has received its energy from the heat flowing down from the superhot plasma," says Klimchuk. "For the first time, we have detected this 10 million degree plasma, which can only be produced by the impulsive energy bursts of nanoflares."

The Hinode observations and the scientists' analysis verify that nanoflares are occurring on the sun and that they explain much and perhaps most coronal heating. The observations also confirm "there is some nanoflare activity everywhere" in the sun's active regions, says Klimchuk.

Nanoflares are responsible for changes in the X-ray and ultraviolet (UV) radiation that happen as an active region evolves. X-ray and UV get absorbed by Earth's upper atmosphere, which heats up and expands. Changes in the upper atmosphere can affect the orbits of satellites and space debris by slowing them down, an effect known as "drag." It is important to know the changing orbits so that maneuvers can be made to avoid space collisions. The X-ray and UV also affect the propagation of radio signals and thereby adversely affect communication and navigation systems.

The discovery that nanoflares play an important and perhaps dominant role in coronal heating paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth, our place in the universe.

Monday, August 17, 2009

NASA Managers Set to Meet!

NASA officials will conduct a Flight Readiness Review on Aug.18 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to discuss the preparations for space shuttle Discovery's STS-128 mission to the International Space Station and set a firm date for launch.

On Saturday, 18 plug pulls were completed and passed the bond adhesion test. Foam loss during the last two shuttle launches from one particular ice-frost ramp, or IFR, high up on the liquid oxygen tank led to a detailed examination.

Meanwhile, the STS-128 crew is heading into quarantine today at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to prepare for the upcoming mission reviewing flight documents.

Discovery Readies for Station Resupply Flight

Space shuttle Discovery will carry the Leonardo supply module to the International Space Station during STS-128, along with a new crew member for the station, Nicole Stott.

Commanded by veteran astronaut Rick "C.J." Sturckow, the STS-128 mission crew will deliver refrigerator-sized racks full of equipment, including the COLBERT treadmill, an exercise device named after comedian Stephen Colbert.

Stott will take the place of Tim Kopra, who moved into the station during STS-127. Pilot Kevin Ford and Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester, Jose Hernandez, John "Danny" Olivas and Sweden's Christer Fuglesang round out the crew.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sam Katzoff Turns 100


Sam Katzoff is celebrating his 100th birthday Monday in a cozy three-bedroom apartment, with his oxygen machine, his books, his art and memories. . .. . .of 1936, when he was a newly-minted chemist with a doctorate from Johns Hopkins, looking for a job at a time when more chemists were being laid off than hired.

'Dr. Sam' at home. Credit: Laura Hodges "I saw an advertisement for a junior physicist," Katzoff says, occasionally haltingly, more often in a firm, conversational tone from his chair, alongside an oxygen pump. "I was very good in all of the physics courses I had taken, so it wasn't very far-fetched for me."

He took a test and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' Langley Research Center hired Katzoff, who stayed for four decades, along the way repairing at least one deficiency in his resume.

"I didn't know a thing about flying," Katzoff says. "I didn't know what made a plane fly. But I knew how to study and I learned."

Well enough to develop codes for translating wind tunnel data into actual flying information for the development of many of the planes of World War II. And well enough to span flight from the propeller to the jet engine.

"Since I was largely theoretical, I wasn't out there getting my hands on things," Katzoff said. "I calculated what was wrong with them."

He spanned mathematics from NASA's female calculators to digital computers. And eventually he became the senior staff scientist under then-director Floyd Thompson.

"That meant I could do whatever I pleased," Katzoff said. "People thought the senior scientist had to keep an eye on everything in science, which wasn't true. I was doing my own work. If anybody wanted me to help, they knew where to find me."

He was found often when somebody was writing a technical paper.

"He was the eminence grise," says Dennis Bushnell, Langley's chief scientist. "You cared what he thought. You cared what he said."

You had to, particularly if you wrote.

"He was the kind of person who could look at a paper and tell whether it was a lot of bull," said George Brooks, former structures and materials head at Langley. "If you were writing a paper and were publishing, he would review it and that would help a lot of people in the field to come up with a better way of saying what they were trying to get across."

Says Bushnell: "He was the guy who instituted the clean way to write reports."

The cover of Sam Katzoff's "Clarity in Technical Writing" report, which is available on the NASA Technical Report Server. Credit: NASA
Katzoff eventually turned the method into "Clarity in Technical Reporting," a pamphlet produced at Langley. Through four printings, it was circulated throughout the agency after "Clarity in Technical Reporting" -- according to Melvin Day, head of the Scientific and Technical Information Division at the time -- "began to earn a word-of-mouth reputation as a small classic."

Sue Miller, technical information specialist at Langley's Technical Library, says she continues to get requests for the pamphlet.

In it, Katzoff advises, "The purpose of the report is to present information. You will hardly disagree with this statement; yet many authors seem to subordinate this purpose and quite forget the poor reader when preparing a report. . ."

"Apparently the presumed purpose to present information is frequently forgotten in the author's desire to show his own brilliance, to impress the boss, to impress the secretary, to demolish the rival or to get a raise. Worthy as these objectives may be, the basic objective should be to make the report clear and informative; furthermore, if this objective is attained, the secondary objectives will automatically be attained."

Says Katzoff, simply: "I had a reputation for being able to write English."

He has a wry wit and is ready to teach at any opportunity.

"I traveled with Sam on at least one occasion where we happened to spend a night at a hotel," Brooks says. "That evening, he was teaching me the basic elements of the Old Testament."

Another time, Brooks asked Katzoff about an old Dodge he owned.

"He said, 'Oh, I got it painted,' " Brooks recounts. "I said, 'What color did you get it painted?' He said, 'The family color: Kelly green.' "

When Katzoff retired from NASA, he moved back to his native Baltimore, where a school principal of his acquaintance talked him into teaching sixth-grade youngsters science for one hour a week.

"I didn't know how to say no," he says, then laughs. "I taught. That's why I'm so old. No, I enjoyed it. It was a challenge."

From that classroom, he moved into working with older children in John Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth. Eventually, Katzoff funded scholarships to the center and wrote a book called "Twists and Turns and Tangles in Math and Physics."

"I didn't intend for it to be bought," he says. "I meant for it to be given away to bright kids all over the country. I meant it for bright high school kids on the verge of graduating. I was considering myself when I was graduating. I could have enjoyed that."

Instead, there is a generation shunning math and science.

"I worry about it," he says. "I don't know the answer to that."

He spends his days working on puzzles. "I do Sodoku," he says, smiling. "The ones in the newspaper are the easiest ones I do in a day."

Anyone who visits gets a tour of his "art gallery," conducted by Katzoff, who whips off his oxygen breather and scurries about on his walker, talking about a reproduction of a Picasso, a mosaic -- "from the walls of Babylon," he says -- and a print of flowers in a vase that was once on his wall at Langley.

Nearby are the NACA wings that virtually everyone who worked with the organization -- which was the forerunner of NASA -- has somewhere in their homes.

The stories come from his memories, of friends like Hewitt Phillips, who recently passed away, and of Dick Whitcomb.

But Sam Katzoff left a few memories of his own.

"Sam was good for Langley because he helped people," Brooks says simply.

It's an epitaph that was embellished at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and it lingers at NASA, every time Sue Miller gets a call in the library for a copy of "Clarity in Technical Writing."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

NASA Latest Video


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Formation of Stars


Cepheus B, a molecular cloud located in our Milky Galaxy about 2,400 light years from the Earth, provides an excellent model to determine how stars are formed. This composite image of Cepheus B combines data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

A molecular cloud is a region containing cool interstellar gas and dust left over from the formation of the galaxy and mostly contains molecular hydrogen. The Spitzer data, in red, green and blue shows the molecular cloud (in the bottom part of the image) plus young stars in and around Cepheus B, and the Chandra data in violet shows the young stars in the field.

The Chandra observations allowed the astronomers to pick out young stars within and near Cepheus B, identified by their strong X-ray emission. The Spitzer data showed whether the young stars have a so-called "protoplanetary" disk around them. Such disks only exist in very young systems where planets are still forming, so their presence is an indication of the age of a star system.

The new study suggests that star formation in Cepheus B is mainly triggered by radiation from one bright, massive star (HD 217086) outside the molecular cloud. According to the particular model of triggered star formation that was tested -- called the radiation- driven implosion (RDI) model -- radiation from this massive star drives a compression wave into the cloud triggering star formation in the interior, while evaporating the cloud's outer layers.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nasa Image of the day



Layers of Earth's atmosphere, brightly colored as the sun sets, are featured in this image taken by the STS-127 crew on the Earth-orbiting space shuttle...


Endeavour kicked up dust as it touches down on Runway 15 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to complete the 16-day, 6.5-million mile journey on...

Stars at the Galactic Center

The center of our Milky Way Galaxy is hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes by clouds of obscuring dust and gas. But, in this stunning vista,...

Rollout of STS-128

Rollout of space shuttle Discovery was slow-going due to the onset of lightning in the area of Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida....,...

Opportunity Eyes Block Island

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has eyed an oddly shaped, dark rock, which may be a meteorite and is about 2 feet across, on the surface of the...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nasa Doomsday 2012 Galactic Alignment Information Leaked


Time Flies When You’re Having Fun


Hi. My name is Nicole Passonno Stott. At 46 years old, I’m a mother, I’m a wife, and I’m a NASA astronaut who’s about to make her first space flight. I’m writing this journal to try and share some of my experiences preparing for the flight and then once on orbit I hope there will be some surprising things to share with you about living and working in space.

Like so many things in life, this job has proven for me that time really does fly when you’re having fun. It was a “mere” 9 years ago that I received the exciting news that I had been selected as a member of the NASA Astronaut Class of 2000. I found myself very fortunately with 16 other people that would make up the 18th group of NASA astronauts.

Flying in space is most certainly the goal of any astronaut, but what you have to accept is that no matter how quickly you get assigned to your first space flight you are ultimately going to spend the majority of your time as an astronaut working here on the planet. Fortunately, the work and training is all very cool, and has been filled with challenges and opportunities to experience things that I’m pretty certain wouldn’t have been possible for me otherwise.

The pictures to the right are my year 2000 and year 2009 astronaut portraits. I haven’t changed a bit….☺ The past 9 years have been fun and the time has flown by. Along the way my husband and I have been blessed with a beautiful son, I have visited places around the world that I never imagined I would ever have the chance to see, and we have made some lifelong friends. And now, to top it off, I’m going to have the amazing opportunity to fly in space --- launching this summer on the Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-128, living and working for 4 months as a crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS), and then returning to Earth on the Space Shuttle Atlantis mission STS-129.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NASA's Moon Mapper Beholds Home!

This image of Earth taken from 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the lunar surface was taken by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, one of two NASA instruments onboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. Australia is visible in the lower center of the image. The image is presented as a false-color composite with oceans a dark blue, clouds white, and vegetation an enhanced green. The image data were acquired on July 22, 2009.

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument is a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer designed to provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution. Scientists will use this information to answer questions about the moon's origin and development and the evolution of terrestrial planets in the early solar system. Future astronauts will use it to locate resources, possibly including water, that can support exploration of the moon and beyond.

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper was selected as a Mission of Opportunity through the NASA Discovery Program. Carle Pieters of Brown University, Providence, R.I., is the principal investigator and has oversight of the instrument as a whole, as well as the Moon Mineralogy Mapper Science Team. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., designed and built the Moon Mineralogy Mapper and is home to its project manager, Mary White. JPL manages the program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft was constructed, launched, and is operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Monday, August 3, 2009

21st Century Style - Return To The Moon!

It was an extraordinary feat when Apollo engineers designed a spacecraft to go somewhere no human had ever gone before. Especially when that place was the moon - 240,000 miles from Earth. Now forty years after the first moon landing, NASA has turned its attention back to lunar missions, this time planning to stay longer.

The spacecraft to carry future explorers to the moon, the Orion crew exploration vehicle, looks very similar to the Apollo spacecraft. The crew module borrows the familiar conical shape with a curved heatshield, which has proven to be the optimal shape for missions returning from the moon.

Additionally, Orion and Apollo both use the same heat-resistant thermal material, called AVCOAT, to shield the capsules from heat generated by the 25,000 mile-per-hour atmosphere re-entry from missions to the moon.

However, the Orion crew module is one-third larger than the Apollo command module and the inside will be different. Engineers will incorporate advances in technology into the interior and since the plan for missions to the moon is different, different types of systems are being designed also.

When Apollo astronauts visited the moon, they only stayed for a few days at a time, three astronauts traveled to lunar orbit on Apollo, and then only two descended to the moon’s surface.

When America returns to the moon, four astronauts will ride in Orion to lunar orbit and then all of them will move into the Altair lunar lander to go explore the moon. Orion will operate on its own in lunar orbit, standing by for the return trip to Earth.

Orion will start out supporting week-long missions and then will be able to support up to 210-day missions when astronauts eventually live and work at outposts on the moon.

Being able to operate autonomously in lunar orbit will be a key factor in Orion being able to support longer missions. Its systems will operate automatically, with Mission Control watching from Earth, while the crew explores the moon.

By going to the moon for extended periods of time, astronauts will search for resources and learn how to work safely in a harsh environment -- stepping stones to future exploration. The moon also offers many clues about the time when the planets were formed.

To support longer missions, Orion also will have larger tanks to carry the fuel for course adjustments during the trip and will use advanced solar array technology to collect sunlight for conversion into electricity. Apollo used fuel cell technology (as does the space shuttle), which requires oxygen and hydrogen be carried along for the ride. Using solar arrays saves weight that can be used to enhance safety and launch more cargo.

Orion will have more power, too. It will hold six batteries for power storage and will use a 120V DC power distribution system, compared to Apollo’s three-battery storage and 28V DC system.

Orion’s crew module will feature a streamlined glass cockpit interface for the astronauts, with about ten times fewer switches than Apollo’s roughly 450 switches.