Posts Tagged ‘nasa’

Is There Life On Mars?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Там ли жизнь на Марсе

Ambler, PA — Is there life on Mars? There will be, and it will be Earthlings. At least, that is what the crowd at the Wissahickon High School was informed by Stepehen Davis of the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA).

Mr. Davis is the director of the Ares rocket project. In a presentation in front of the FIRST Robotics Team 341 and the general public, he unveiled for the first time computer animation of the Ares I-X test rocket scheduled to take-off this summer.

The Ares I Ares V Rockets

The Ares I Ares V Rockets: Image courtesy NASA

There are three rockets that are part of the project — the Ares I-X test rocket, the Ares I manned rocket, and the Ares V cargo rocket.

The space shuttle program will soon be shutting down. The next manned space flight is not expected to launch for five years when the Ares I is complete. This creates a delicate situation. The United States will be dependent on Russia for transporting American astronauts back and forth to the space station. [Соединенные Штаты будут зависеть от России для транспортировки американских астронавтов туда и обратно к космической станции.] Hopefully, relations will warm through the efforts of new U.S. administration. For instance, what would happen if we have men at the space station and Russia attacks Georgia again? There is no immediate solution to this problem; however, Mr. Davis is confident the politics and budgets can be handled to ensure a smooth transition.

The Ares program is scheduled for the test flight of Ares I-X in 2009, the Ares I manned space flight in 2015, the Ares I and Ares V to the moon in 2020, and a manned flight to Mars by 2030.

The Ares I flight in 2015 will re-establish NASA’s ability to shuttle astronauts to the space station. The Ares I and Ares V flights in 2020 are meant to start a space station on the moon. The flight to Mars is independent.

When asked what happens if the Ares I-X test flight fails, Mr. Davis replied, “It would look bad. It would look worse than it really is. We would still learn a lot.” Would there be another test flight before sending humans up? “No, There will be no other tests.”

A lot is riding on the math, science and engineering abilities of the current NASA staff, as well as, the future generation of engineers in the audience. When asked why we are going back to the moon, Mr. Davis gave a good, long list of reasons. Perhaps the best reason was his personal interest — adventure and exploration. That seemed to be the same factor motivating the youth in attendance. Maybe that is exactly what we need to forge the ingenuity necessary to best serve humankind in the years to come.

NASA: Launch Mishap Ends OCO Mission

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

from NASA

Lift Off

Lift Off

Several minutes into the flight of the Taurus rocket carrying NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory spacecraft, launch managers declared a contingency after the payload fairing failed to separate.

NASA Spots Huge Gamma-ray Blast

Friday, February 20th, 2009

from NASA

Astronomers using NASA’s Swift satellite and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope are seeing frequent blasts from a stellar remnant 30,000 light-years away. The high-energy fireworks arise from a rare type of neutron star known as a soft-gamma-ray repeater. Such objects unpredictably send out a series of X-ray and gamma-ray flares.

“At times, this remarkable object has erupted with more than a hundred flares in as little as 20 minutes,” said Loredana Vetere, who is coordinating the Swift observations at Pennsylvania State University. “The most intense flares emitted more total energy than the sun does in 20 years.”

The object, which has long been known as an X-ray source, lies in the southern constellation Norma. During the past two years, astronomers have identified pulsing radio and X-ray signals from it. The object began a series of modest eruptions on Oct. 3, 2008, then settled down. It roared back to life Jan. 22 with an intense episode.

Because of the recent outbursts, astronomers will classify the object as a soft-gamma-ray repeater — only the sixth known. In 2004, a giant flare from another soft-gamma-ray repeater was so intense it measurably affected Earth’s upper atmosphere from 50,000 light-years away.

Scientists think the source is a spinning neutron star, which is the superdense, city-sized remains of an exploded star. Although only about 12 miles across, a neutron star contains more mass than the sun. The object has been cataloged as SGR J1550-5418.

While neutron stars typically possess intense magnetic fields, a subgroup displays fields 1,000 times stronger. These so-called magnetars have the strongest magnetic fields of any known object in the universe. SGR J1550-5418, which rotates once every 2.07 seconds, holds the record for the fastest-spinning magnetar. Astronomers think magnetars power their flares by tapping into the tremendous energy of their magnetic fields.

“The ability of Fermi’s gamma-ray burst monitor to resolve the fine structure within these events will help us better understand how magnetars unleash their energy,” said Chryssa Kouveliotou, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The object has triggered the instrument more than 95 times since Jan. 22.

Using data from Swift’s X-ray telescope, a team led by Andrea Tiengo of INAF-IASF (Milan, Italy) captured a series of “light echoes” from the object. Images acquired when the latest flaring episode began show what appear to be expanding halos around the source. Multiple rings form as X-rays interact with dust clouds at different distances, with closer clouds producing larger rings. Both the rings and their apparent expansion are an illusion caused by the finite speed of light and the longer path the scattered light must travel.

“X-rays from the brightest bursts scatter off of dust clouds between us and the star,” said Jules Halpern at Columbia University. “As a result, we don’t really know the distance to this object as well as we would like. These images will help us make a more precise measurement and also determine the distance to the dust clouds.”

The Russian KONUS instrument on NASA’s Wind satellite, the joint NASA-Japan Suzaku mission, and the European Space Agency’s INTEGRAL satellite also have detected flares from SGR J1550-5418.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the Swift satellite. It is being operated in collaboration with partners in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and Japan. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics observatory developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.

To see the related images, visit:

For more information about the Swift satellite, visit:

For more information about the Fermi mission, visit:





Dione Has Her Faults (Picture of Saturn’s Moon / NASA)

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009
Dione Saturn's Moon

Dione Saturn's Moon

Saturn’s icy moon Dione has undoubtedly experienced geologic activity since its formation, as evidenced by the tectonic faults and craters on its surface.

To create this enhanced-color view, ultraviolet, green and infrared images were combined into a single black and white picture that isolates and maps regional color differences. This “color map” was then superposed over a clear-filter image. The origin of the color differences is not yet understood, but may be caused by subtle differences in the surface composition or the sizes of grains making up the icy soil.

This view looks toward the leading hemisphere on Dione.

Image Credit:NASA/JPL