Tag Archives | Space

NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

The first definitive detection of Martian organic chemicals in material on the surface of Mars came from analysis by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover of sample powder from this mudstone target, "Cumberland." Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The first definitive detection of Martian organic chemicals in material on the surface of Mars came from analysis by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover of sample powder from this mudstone target, “Cumberland.” Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

via Nasa from December 16:

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.

“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere.

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15 Ongoing Space Missions You Should Know About

Akatsuki via Nasa.

Akatsuki via Nasa.

via Mental Floss:

Last month, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a robot on a comet. While the exciting news seemed to come out of nowhere, you can be forgiven for sleeping through the initial launch—it happened in 2004. Scientists and engineers at space agencies around the world play very long games. Rosetta traveled 6.4 billion kilometers before rendezvousing with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Even on the starship Enterprise, that’s well over an hour away at warp speed. This raises the question: what else is going on up there? Here are 15 ongoing space missions you might not know about.

1. AKATSUKI

2. JUNO

3. DAWN

4. NEW HORIZONS

5. ROSETTA

6. CASSINI

7. HAYABUSA 2

8. PIONEER 10 & PIONEER 11

9. VOYAGER 1

10. VOYAGER 2

11. KEPLER

12. STEREO

13. MARS ORBITER MISSION

14. VENUS EXPRESS

15. INTERNATIONAL COMET EXPLORER

To read an in-depth overview of each mission, head over to Mental Floss.… Read the rest

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Asteroid Large As Mountain Heading For Earth

Needless to say, if a mountain-sized asteroid slams into the Earth’s atmosphere, it will be devastating to life on our planet. Could the Russian scientist who says he’s spotted the asteroid in question be right? First the news video from the Russian Space Agency (in Russian, sorry):

Report from the Christian Science Monitor:

A Russian astrophysicist says his team has located a huge, mountain-sized asteroid whose orbit crosses the Earth’s every three years.

Even though experts say the giant object, known as 2014 UR116, poses no immediate threat of collision, its unexpected discovery underscores how little is still known about asteroids and their unpredictable orbits.

Vladimir Lipunov, a professor at Moscow State University, announced the find in a short documentary, “Asteroid Attack,” posted on the website of the Russian Space Agency on Sunday. Mr. Lipunov says the asteroid, which he calculates is 370 meters in diameter, could hit the Earth with an explosion 1,000 times greater than the surprise 2013 impact of a bus-sized meteor in Russia.

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Separation of Church and Space?

(photo courtesy of NASA)

(photo courtesy of NASA)

via University of Dayton:

Whether you believe the Philae probe’s landing on a speeding comet is a monumental advance or a colossal waste might depend on your religion, according to a University of Dayton researcher.

Many in the space community see the landing as a critical step in colonizing the solar system, such as NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green who said, “I truly believe that a single-planet species will not survive long. It’s our destiny to move off this planet.” (see CNET article)

Yet Evangelical Protestants are much surer Jesus will return in the next 40 years than that humans will make significant strides in space exploration, according to research by University of Dayton political science assistant professor Joshua Ambrosius.

“Evangelicals have been hesitant to recognize the discoveries of modern science — from evolutionary origins to climate change,” Ambrosius said. “The data show that this overall attitude extends into space.”

Ambrosius used data from the General Social Survey and three Pew surveys to compare knowledge, interest and support for space exploration among Catholics, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Jews, Eastern religions and those with no religion.

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Are we sending aliens the right messages?

Nasa.gov

NASA

via BBC:

Despite decades of sending sounds and pictures into space no aliens have responded. Have we been doing it wrong? Tracey Logan investigates, and discovers some novel attempts to make contact – including the smells of our planet.

Artist Carrie Paterson has long dreamed of beaming messages far out to the emptiness of space. Except her messages would have an extra dimension – smell.

By broadcasting formulae of aromatic chemicals, she says, aliens could reconstruct all sorts of whiffs that help to define life on Earth: animal blood and faeces, sweet floral and citrus scents or benzene to show our global dependence on the car. This way intelligent life forms on distant planets who may not see or hear as we do, says Paterson, could explore us through smell, one of the most primitive and ubiquitous senses of all.

Her idea is only the latest in a list of attempts to hail intelligent life outside of the Solar System.

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European Space Agency Has Attached Probe to Hurtling Comet

Philae’s parting image of Rosetta, taken shortly after separation. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Philae’s parting image of Rosetta, taken shortly after separation. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has achieved a first in space exploration: it has managed to attach a probe to a comet and it’s now going along for the ride. From the ESA’s Rosetta site:

ESA’s Rosetta mission has soft-landed its Philae probe on a comet, the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved.

After a tense wait during the seven-hour descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the signal confirming the successful touchdown arrived on Earth at 16:03 GMT (17:03 CET).

The confirmation was relayed via the Rosetta orbiter to Earth and picked up simultaneously by ESA’s ground station in Malargüe, Argentina and NASA’s station in Madrid, Spain. The signal was immediately confirmed at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, and DLR’s Lander Control Centre in Cologne, both in Germany.

The first data from the lander’s instruments were transmitted to the Philae Science, Operations and Navigation Centre at France’s CNES space agency in Toulouse.

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Asteroids-1 Humans-0: Asteroid Mining Tech Among Casualties of Antares Rocket Explosion

Planetary Resources' Arkyd 3 technology-demonstration spacecraft, which was destroyed when Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket exploded on Oct. 28, 2014. Credit: Planetary Resources

Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 3 technology-demonstration spacecraft, which was destroyed when Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket exploded on Oct. 28, 2014.
Credit: Planetary Resources

via Space.com:

The rocket explosion that destroyed a cargo vessel bound for the International Space Station Tuesday (Oct. 28) also took out an asteroid-mining company’s first spacecraft.

Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket exploded in a huge fireball just seconds after launching from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia Tuesday evening. The crash caused no injuries but destroyed Orbital’s unmanned Cygnus capsule, which was toting 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kilograms) of food, supplies and other gear to the International Space Station for NASA.

Among Cygnus’ cargo was the Arkyd 3 satellite, a tiny technology demonstrator built by asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources. [Orbital Sciences’ Antares Rocket Explosion in Pictures]

The plan was to deploy Arkyd 3 (also known as A3), which measured just 12 by 4 by 4 inches (30 by 10 by 10 centimeters), from the space station into free-flying low-Earth orbit, where it would test out avionics, control and other systems for future asteroid-prospecting spacecraft.

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Building An Elevator To Space

Space elevator structural diagram--corrected for scale+CM+etcNo, it’s not science fiction, reports Gizmodo:

Forget buying a stairway to heaven. Serious people are trying to build an elevator to space.

That’s not a metaphor, and yes, a space elevator sounds like plot point from an Arthur C. Clarke novel. Which makes sense, because it is. It’s a risky but well-considered plan to create a workable transit system between the ground and a set point outside the Earth’s atmosphere. But the space elevator isn’t only a mad-eyed Willy Wonka steampunk daydream. If some indefatigable elevator crusaders have their way, it will be ripped out of the annals of science fiction and safely constructed into reality.

A futuristic plan (that’s over 100 years old)

The idea is futuristic, but it’s also quite old: In 1895, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a rocket scientist in Russia, drew up an early proposal for a space elevator, and the basic concept remains unchanged. Enthusiasm for the endeavor has waxed and waned in the space exploration community over the years, but right now, a few high-profile projects are bringing the outlandish-sounding space elevator into focus again.

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Darpa signs on for Pentagon’s “Space Plane”

DARPA_Logo

DARPA is about to make a reusable spacecraft for the Pentagon. “It would be a spacecraft that most resembles what people see in the movies,” former Air Force command officer Brian Weeden said.

10 launches in as many days, autonomous, carries mid sized satellite payload.

What do you think the payload will be for the Pentagon? Something to win the hearts and minds with? Democracy or Freedom? Nikes? Can’t wait to find out what you think.

via The Daily Caller:

Aerospace and defense contractor Northrop Grumman recently unveiled its concept for the Pentagon’s new space plane, the XS-1 — an unmanned drone-shuttle capable of carrying small and medium-sized satellites into orbit cheaply and autonomously.

“It would be a spacecraft that most resembles what people see in the movies,” former Air Force Space Command Officer Brian Weeden told War is Boring about the concept craft, which is being headed up by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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