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ZNF-2011-09-KEPLER MISSION-WLD PLUS 2 STARS
ZNF-2011-09-LUNAR GRAIL SPACECRAFT
ZNF-MARS CURIOSITY - 2011-11
FORMED IN 1958. PART OF NATIONAL AERONAUTICS & SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA). BASED AT LANGLEY RESEARCH CENTER, LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, VIRGINIA. SEE ALSO (NASA) (ZNA), AND (NASA) (NAS). NON-COMMERCIAL FEDERAL ORGANIZATION, CONDUCTING CALIBRATION, RESEARCH, TEST AND JET AIRPLANE TRANSPORT FLIGHTS FOR SCIENTIFIC PURPOSES.
300 E STREET SW
WASHINGTON DC 20546, USA
SEPTEMBER 2001: 1 F28-1000 (11051), EX-CANADIAN REGIONAL.
November 2007: (NASA) (NAS) Head Michael Griffin told the USA House Science & Technology Committee, that (NASA) will reveal certain results from an $11.3 million survey of approximately 24,000 commercial pilots (FC), that reportedly revealed that near midair collisions and runway incursions occur far more often than (FAA) data indicate. Griffin said it was a "mistake" to withhold the data over fears that it would upset travelers and damage airlines, according to quotes cited by the "Associated Press," and promised that "survey results we can legally release, will be released" around year end. Concern over maintaining survey subjects' anonymity was cited as the reason for the delay.
January 2008: The (NASA) (NAS)/(ZNA)/(ZNF) released some 16,000 pages of data from its 2001 - 2004 National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service survey, in which >25,000 pilots (FC) were asked a range of questions about air safety in the USA and reported much higher rates of midair near misses, runway incursions and engine failures than reported by the (FAA). But (NASA) (NAS)/(ZNA)/(ZNF), which drew strong criticism two months ago for failing to release the results of the $11 million project publicly, insisted that the findings are of questionable value and should not cause the flying public concern. "This research work was not properly peer-reviewed at its inception, and the data that was extracted from the survey, was not properly validated at its conclusion," (NASA) Administrator Michael Griffin said during a conference call with reporters. He noted that the survey "unearthed as many as 4x- as many engine failures as are being otherwise reported [by the (FAA)]" and strongly questioned whether that was possible. Noting that engine failures are "very high profile," he said the survey's finding of vast under-reporting "calls into question the reporting mechanism" rather than the (FAA) figures. Not all data were released, and further study by (NASA) will determine whether additional information will be made public, Griffin said. The USA National Academy of Sciences said it will analyze the data to determine the survey's value.
November 2009: Former (NASA) Administrator Sean O'Keefe leaves to become (CEO) (EADS) (EDS) North America, replacing Ralph Crosby, who now becomes Chairman and will continue to lead (EADS)' pursuit of the (USAF)'s KC-X re-fueling tanker contract.
August 2010: ICAO Code: (Callsign - NASA).
September 2010: The Boeing Company and Space Adventures Ltd have established a memorandum of agreement regarding the marketing of anticipated transportation services to destinations in low Earth orbit (LEO) on Boeing commercial crew spacecraft.
Under this agreement, Space Adventures will market passenger seats on commercial flights aboard the Boeing Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100) spacecraft to (LEO). Potential customers for excess seating capacity include private individuals, companies, non-governmental organizations, and USA federal agencies other than (NASA). Boeing plans to use the CST-100 to provide crew transportation to the International Space Station (ISS) and future commercial (LEO) platforms. By combining our talents, we can better offer safe, affordable transportation to commercial spaceflight customers, said Brewster Shaw VP & General Manager of Boeing's Space Exploration division. To date, all commercial flights for private spaceflight participants to the (ISS) have been contracted by Space Adventures. If (NASA) and the international partners continue to accommodate commercial spaceflight participants on (ISS), this agreement will be in concert with the (NASA) Administrator's stated intent to promote space commerce in low Earth orbit.
Boeing (TBC) and Space Adventures have not yet set a price per seat for spaceflight participants, but will do so when full-scale development is under way. (TBC) continues to advance its design for the CST-100 spacecraft under (NASA)'s Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement. The spacecraft, which can carry 7 people, will be able to fly on multiple launch vehicles and is expected to be operational by 2015. We are excited about the potential to offer flights on Boeing's spacecraft, said Eric Anderson, co-Founder & Chairman of Space Adventures. With our customer experience and Boeing (TBC)'s heritage in human spaceflight, our goal is not only to benefit the individuals who fly to space, but also to help make the resources of space available to the commercial sector by bringing the value from space back to Earth.
Space Adventures has successfully contracted and flown 7 spaceflight participants on 8 missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Space Adventures, headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, is the only company that provides orbital spaceflight opportunities to the world marketplace. The company offers a spectrum of programming that ranges from terrestrial weightless flights to orbital missions, flights to the edge of space, and a historic return to the Moon. Space Adventures' clients have spent >2,000 hours in space, traveling >35 million miles.
December 2010: Boeing (TBC) is introducing a new subscription-based "In-Flight Optimization Services" harnessing (NASA) (NAS) technology and existing equipment to offer airlines fuel savings and increased environmental efficiency. "Direct Routes" and "Wind Updates" are designed to be implemented within current air traffic and airline operating procedures using current communication channels, according to Director Airline Efficiency Services, Mike Lewis. No regulatory changes and little to no new equipment is needed, while no upfront costs are involved, he told Air Transport World (ATW)'s "Eco-Aviation Today." The new suite of products provides live actionable, flight-specific advisories and is available for the full fleet, not just Boeing (TBC) airplanes, and importantly, it works within the current air traffic system and airline procedures.
"Direct Routes" provides up-to-the-minute information to airlines and flight crews, enabling adjustments en route to account for weather and air traffic control (ATC) status. The savings are significant. Initial (TBC) projections show that Direct Routes can save >40,000 minutes of flight time per year for a medium-size USA airline.
The systems are based on (NASA) (NAS)'s "Direct-To" software that was developed in the late 1990s. The program brings together weather, winds, aircraft performance, airline model, the user's business objectives, traffic sequence, flow and airspace constraints and advises the airline operations center of any (ATC)-approvable efficiency opportunities. To increase the likelihood of air traffic controller approval and to keep workload to a minimum, the advisories are pre-checked for traffic conflicts, wind conditions, established airspace constraints and other factors, said Lewis. (TBC) has collaborated with (NASA) (NAS), Continental Airlines (CAL), and Southwest Airlines (SWA) in the development of Direct Routes to ensure operational viability and assess the benefits, and has shared details of the project and its findings with the (FAA).
(TBC)'s other In-Flight Optimization Services offering, "Wind Updates," increases fuel efficiency and improves airplane performance by sending datalink messages directly to the flight deck with real-time, flight-customized wind information. These messages enable the airplane's flight management computer (FMC) to recalculate flight control inputs based on more accurate and precise information, Lewis said. Currently, if flight crews (FC)s obtain wind data prior to departure, that data can be as much as 12 to 20 hours old as a flight approaches its destination. Inaccurate and limited weather data can prevent airplanes from operating at optimum speeds, altitudes and trajectories. Wind Updates delivers a fleet wide solution using existing on board equipment and requiring minimal investment." (TBC) projects potential savings of -100 to -200 lbs or more fuel for the descent portion of a typical single-aisle airplane flight and is conducting operational trials with (KLM) Royal Dutch Airlines and Alaska Airlines (ASA). Both services will be available beginning in 2011.
Boeing (TBC) has won a 1-year, $5.29-million (NASA) (NAS) study contract to study advanced airliner concepts under (NASA)'s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) project. (TBC) joins Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which won parallel (ERA) study contracts in late November to examine airliner concepts for service entry in 2025. The teams will define a preferred system concept for an airplane that can meet (NASA)'s aggressive N+2 environmental targets for commercial airplanes starting development after 2020. N+2 refers to technology appropriate for 2 generations beyond what is currently state-of-the-art.
Compared to a current twin-engine wide body, the N+2 goals include designs that burn -50% less fuel, reduce harmful emissions by -50% and reduce areas affected by objectionable airport noise by -83%. The concept will be capable of cruise speeds around Mach 0.85, a range of up to 7,000 miles and a payload of 50,000 to 100,000 lbs. As part of the contracts, each of the 3 teams will evaluate how its concept will operate within the (FAA)'s NextGen air transportation system. This will include noise profiles, output of nitrous oxide gas and carbon, as well as the ability to fly operational trajectories. The teams also will develop road maps for developing and maturing technology to specific Technology Readiness Levels (TRL), a (TRL) of 6 being considered the right jumping-off point to move into full-scale development. They also will prioritize technologies that must be developed in the Fiscal 2013 to 2015 time frame.
August 2011: Virgin Galactic, the world's 1st commercial spaceline, owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Aabar Investments (PJS), has been selected by (NASA) (NAS) to provide flight opportunities for engineers, technologists and scientific researchers to fly technology payloads into space. This arrangement marks the 1st time that (NASA) has contracted with a commercial partner to provide flights into space on a suborbital spacecraft, and represents another important endorsement of the value of regular commercial space access for a wide range of science and educational applications.
September 2011: (NASA) (ZNF)'s twin lunar Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:08 am (EDT) Saturday September 10 to study the moon in unprecedented detail.
(GRAIL)-A is scheduled to reach the moon on New Year's Eve 2011, while (GRAIL)-B will arrive New Year's Day 2012. The 2 solar-powered spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon to measure its gravity field. (GRAIL) will answer longstanding questions about the moon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.
If there was ever any doubt that Florida'¯s Space Coast would continue to be open for business, that thought was drowned out by the roar of today's (GRAIL) launch, said (NASA) Administrator Charles Bolden. (GRAIL) and many other exciting upcoming missions make clear that (NASA) is taking its next big leap into deep space exploration, and the space industry continues to provide the jobs and workers needed to support this critical effort.
The spacecraft were launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. (GRAIL) mission controllers acquired a signal from (GRAIL)-A at 10:29 am. (GRAIL)-B's signal was 8 minutes later. The telemetry downlinked from both spacecraft indicates they have deployed their solar panels and are operating as expected.
Our (GRAIL) twins have Earth in their rearview mirrors and the moon in their sights, said David Lehman (GRAIL) Project Manager at (NASA)'s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The mission team is ready to test, analyze and fine tune our spacecraft over the next 3-and-a-half months on our journey to lunar orbit.
The straight-line distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 250,000 miles/402,336 km. (NASA)'s Apollo moon crews needed approximately 3 days to cover that distance. However, each spacecraft will take approximately 3.5 months and cover >2.5 million miles/4 million km to arrive. This low-energy trajectory results in the longer travel time. The size of the launch vehicle allows more time for spacecraft check-out and time to update plans for lunar operations. The science collection phase for (GRAIL) is expected to last 82 days.
Since the earliest humans looked skyward, they have been fascinated by the moon, said (GRAIL) Principal Investigator Maria Zuber from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. (GRAIL) will take lunar exploration to a new level, providing an unprecedented characterization of the moon's interior that will advance understanding of how the moon formed and evolved.
(JPL) manages the (GRAIL) mission. It is part of the Discovery Program managed at (NASA)'s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of (NASA)'s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The existence of a world with a double sunset, as portrayed in the film "Star Wars" >30 years ago, is now scientific fact. (NASA)'s Kepler mission has made the 1st unambiguous detection of a circumbinary planet (a planet orbiting 2 stars) 200 light-years from Earth.
Unlike Star Wars' Tatooine, this planet is cold, gaseous and not thought to harbor life, but its discovery demonstrates the diversity of planets in our galaxy. Previous research has hinted at the existence of circumbinary planets, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Kepler detected such a planet, known as Kepler-16b, by observing transits, where the brightness of a parent star dims from the planet crossing in front of it.
This discovery confirms a new class of planetary systems that could harbor life, Kepler principal investigator William Borucki said. Given that most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system, this means the opportunities for life are much broader than if planets form only around single stars. This milestone discovery confirms a theory that scientists have had for decades but could not prove until now.
A research team led by Laurance Doyle of the (SETI) Institute in Mountain View, California, used data from the Kepler space telescope, which measures dips in the brightness of >150,000 stars, to search for transiting planets. Kepler is the 1st (NASA) mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of the orbiting planet.
Scientists detected the new planet in the Kepler-16 system, a pair of orbiting stars that eclipse each other from our vantage point on Earth. When the smaller star partially blocks the larger star, a primary eclipse occurs, and a secondary eclipse occurs when the smaller star is occulted, or completely blocked, by the larger star.
Astronomers further observed that the brightness of the system dipped even when the stars were not eclipsing one another, hinting at a 3rd body. The additional dimming in brightness events, called the tertiary and quaternary eclipses, reappeared at irregular intervals of time, indicating the stars were in different positions in their orbit each time the third body passed. This showed the 3rd body was circling, not just 1, but both stars, in a wide circumbinary orbit.
The gravitational tug on the stars, measured by changes in their eclipse times, was a good indicator of the mass of the 3rd body. Only a very slight gravitational pull was detected, 1 that only could be caused by a small mass. The findings are described in a new study published September 16, in the journal "Science."
Most of what we know about the sizes of stars comes from such eclipsing binary systems, and most of what we know about the size of planets comes from transits, said Doyle, who also is the lead author and a Kepler participating scientist. Kepler-16 combines the best of both worlds, with stellar eclipses and planetary transits in one system.
This discovery confirms that Kepler-16b is an inhospitable, cold world about the size of Saturn and thought to be made up of about half rock and half gas. The parent stars are smaller than our sun. One is 69% the mass of the sun and the other only 20%. Kepler-16b orbits around both stars every 229 days, similar to Venus' 225-day orbit, but lies outside the system's habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface, because the stars are cooler than our sun.
Working in film, we often are tasked with creating something never before seen, said visual effects supervisor John Knoll of Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm Ltd, in San Francisco. However, more often than not, scientific discoveries prove to be more spectacular than anything we dare imagine. There is no doubt these discoveries influence and inspire storytellers. Their very existence serves as cause to dream bigger and open our minds to new possibilities beyond what we think we know.
October 2011: Boeing (TBC) is taking over one of (NASA)'s old space shuttle hangars to build a new capsule that (TBC) hopes will lift astronauts to orbit in 4 or 5 years. >100 Boeing (TBC), (NASA) and state and federal officials gathered in the massive empty hangar (Orbiting Processing Facility No 3) for the announcement of the 1st-of-its-kind agreement allowing a private company to take over the government property.
The aerospace company expects to create 550 high-tech jobs at Kennedy Space Center over the next 4 years, 140 of them by the end of next year. That's <10% of the approximately 6,000 shuttle jobs lost in Florida over the past several years, but Governor Rick Scott and other lawmakers at the ceremony said they expect additional hirings by the commercial space industry.
(NASA) is counting on companies like Boeing (TBC), Space Exploration Technologies Corporation and others to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station in 3 to 5 years. Until then, the space agency will continue to shell out tens of millions of dollars per seat on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The Soyuz is the only way to get astronauts to and from the space station, ever since Atlantis returned from the final shuttle flight in July. A Soyuz rocket failure in August highlighted the risk of relying on just 1 type of craft.
During the hour long ceremony, lawmakers said the commercial industry is America's last hope, anytime soon, for USA astronauts to fly on USA spaceships from USA soil.
The Obama Administration requested $850 million in (NASA)'s 2012 budget for the commercial space effort. The House slashed that to $312 million, but the Senate got it to $500 million, a reasonable figure given the nation's current economic situation, said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat and a one-time space shuttle flier.
Boeing (TBC) expects to start removing shuttle platforms and modifying the hangar to suit its own purposes in the next few months.
John Mulholland VP & Program Manager of Commercial Programs for (TBC), said it will be sad to see all the shuttle equipment go. The shuttle's such an iconic vehicle. These marvelous buildings have a lot of memory, said Mulholland, a former shuttle manager. But you've always got to be looking forward. So while the shuttle is remarkable, we're looking forward to the next phase of space exploration.
(TBC) wants to ferry astronauts not only to the International Space Station (ISS), but to a commercial scientific outpost planned for orbit by Bigelow Aerospace. Each capsule will hold 7 people. A test flight is planned by 2015.
The agreement calls for (TBC) to use the hangar for 15 years, with an option to renew for another 5. Then it will be up to (TBC) to demolish the building, on (NASA)'s get-rid-of list. (TBC) is not paying (NASA) any rent, officials stressed, but rather will cover all operation costs and utilities.
The hangar is 197 feet/60 meters long, 1,650 feet/500 meters wide and 95 feet/30 meters high. It was last used to ready the shuttle Discovery for its final launch earlier this year.
(NASA) wants to turn the space center (long a government-only location) into a multi-user spaceport. Other buildings are also up for grabs. Space Florida, a state agency, is working on more deals.
Tourists, meanwhile, are about to gain entree into areas that were once strictly off limits.
The Vehicle Assembly Building (where fuel tanks and booster rockets were attached to space shuttles) will open its doors to public bus tours for the 1st time since 1978.
Throughout the ceremony, (NASA) officials and others stressed that Kennedy Space Center is not going out of business. Ladies and gentlemen, the dream is alive, Nelson told the crowd.
(NASA) relinquished its shuttle fleet to concentrate on new rockets and spacecraft that will be able to carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. An asteroid is the first stop. Mars is the prize.
November 2011: A rover of "monster truck" proportions zoomed toward Mars on an 8 1/2-month, 354 million-mile journey November 26, the biggest, best equipped robot ever sent to explore another planet.
(NASA)'s 6-wheeled, one-armed wonder, "Curiosity," will reach Mars next summer and use its jackhammer drill, rock-zapping laser machine and other devices to search for evidence that Earth's next-door neighbor might once have been home to the teeniest forms of life.
>13,000 invited guests jammed the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday morning to witness (NASA)'s 1st launch to Mars in 4 years, and the 1st flight of a Martian rover in 8 years. Mars fever gripped the crowd.
(NASA) astrobiologist Pan Conrad, whose carbon compound-seeking instrument is on the rover, wore a bright blue, short-sleeve blouse emblazoned with rockets, planets and the words, "Next stop Mars!" She jumped, cheered and snapped pictures as the Atlas V rocket blasted off. So did Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roger Wiens, a planetary scientist in charge of Curiosity's laser blaster, called ChemCam.
Surrounded by 50 USA and French members of his team, Wiens shouted "Go, Go, Go!" as the rocket soared into a cloudy sky. "It was beautiful," he later observed, just as (NASA) declared the launch a full success.
The 1-ton Curiosity 10 feet long, 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall at its mast, is a mobile, nuclear-powered laboratory holding 10 science instruments that will sample Martian soil and rocks, and with unprecedented skill, analyze them right on the spot. It's as big as a car. But (NASA)'s Mars exploration Program Director calls it "the monster truck of Mars."
"It's an enormous mission. It's equivalent of three missions, frankly, and quite an undertaking," said the ecstatic Program Director Doug McCuistion. "Science fiction is now science fact. We're flying to Mars. We'll get it on the ground and see what we find."
The primary goal of the $2.5 billion mission is to see whether cold, dry, barren Mars might have been hospitable for microbial life once upon a time or might even still be conducive to life now. No actual life detectors are on board; rather, the instruments will hunt for organic compounds.
Curiosity's 7-foot arm has a jackhammer on the end to drill into the Martian red rock, and the 7-foot mast on the rover is topped with high-definition and laser cameras.
With Mars the ultimate goal for astronauts, (NASA) will use Curiosity to measure radiation at the red planet. The rover also has a weather station on board that will provide temperature, wind and humidity readings; a computer software app with daily weather updates is planned. No previous Martian rover has been so sophisticated.
The world has launched more than 3 dozen missions to the ever-alluring Mars, which is more like Earth than the other solar-system planets. Yet fewer than half those quests have succeeded.
Just two weeks ago, a Russian spacecraft ended up stuck in orbit around Earth, rather than en route to the Martian moon Phobos. "Mars really is the Bermuda Triangle of the solar system," said (NASA)'s Colleen Hartman Assistant Associate Administrator for Science. "It's the death planet, and the USA is the only nation in the world that has ever landed and driven robotic explorers on the surface of Mars, and now we're set to do it again."
Curiosity's arrival next August will be particularly hair-raising. In a spacecraft 1st, the rover will be lowered onto the Martian surface via a jet pack and tether system similar to the sky cranes used to lower heavy equipment into remote areas on Earth.
Curiosity is too heavy to use air bags like its much smaller predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity, did in 2004. Besides, this new way should provide for a more accurate landing.
Astronauts will need to make similarly precise landings on Mars 1 day. Curiosity will spend a minimum of 2 years roaming around Gale Crater, chosen from among >50 potential landing sites because it's so rich in minerals. Scientists said if there is any place on Mars that might have been ripe for life, it may well be there.
The rover should go farther and work harder than any previous Mars explorer because of its power source: 10.6 pounds of radioactive plutonium. The nuclear generator was encased in several protective layers in case of a launch accident.
(NASA) expects to put at least 12 miles on the odometer, once the rover sets down on the Martian surface.
McCuistion anticipates being blown away by the never-before-seen vistas. "Those 1st images are going to just be stunning, I believe. It will be like sitting in the bottom of the Grand Canyon," he said at a post-launch news conference.
This is the 3rd astronomical mission to be launched from Cape Canaveral by (NASA) since the retirement of the venerable space shuttle fleet this summer. The Juno probe is en route to Jupiter, and twin spacecraft named Grail will arrive at Earth's moon on New Year's Eve and Day.
Unlike Juno and Grail, Curiosity suffered development programs and came in 2 years late and nearly $1 billion over budget. Scientists involved in the project noted that the money is being spent on Earth, not Mars, and the mission is costing every American about the price of a movie. "I'll leave you to judge for yourself whether or not that's a movie you'd like to see," said California Institute of Technology's John Grotzinger, the Project Scientist. "I know that's 1 I would."
Online check: NASA: http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/
December 2011: A private California company will attempt the first-ever commercial cargo run to the International Space Station in February.
(NASA) announced the news, one year and one day after Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX (SPX), became the 1st private business to launch a capsule into orbit and return it safely to Earth.
On February 7, (SPX) will attempt another orbital flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This time, the unmanned Dragon capsule will fly to the space station and dock with a load of supplies.
(NASA) stressed it is a target date.
"Pending all the final safety reviews and testing, SpaceX (SPX) will send its Dragon spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) in <2 months," said (NASA)'s No 2, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. "So it is the opening of that new commercial cargo delivery era."
(NASA) has turned to industry to help stock the space station now that the space shuttles are retired, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in this startup effort. The station currently is supplied by Russian, European and Japanese vessels.
SpaceX (SPX)'s Dragon capsule will fly within 2 miles of the space station, for a checkout of all its systems. Then it will close in, with station astronauts grabbing the capsule with a robotic arm. The Dragon ultimately will be released for a splashdown in the Pacific. None of the other cargo carriers come back intact; they burn up on re-entry.
If the rendezvous and docking fail, SpaceX (SPX) will try again. That was the original plan: to wait until the 3rd mission to actually hook up with the station and delivery supplies. (SPX) wanted to hurry it up.
None of the supplies on board the Dragon will be one-of-a-kind or crucial, in case of failure.
SpaceX (SPX) run by PayPal co-Founder Elon Musk is 1 of several companies vying for space station visiting privileges. It hopes to step up to astronaut ferry trips in perhaps +3x- years. In the meantime, Americans will be forced to continue buying seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Congress has appropriated $406 million for that effort, considerably less than (NASA)'s requested $850 million.
"It is nevertheless a significant step," Garver said at a space forum in Seattle broadcast on (NASA) TV. She said (NASA) is evaluating whether it can speed up when USA companies "deliver our precious astronauts to and from the space station."
(NASA)'s Kepler mission has confirmed its 1st planet in the habitable zone, the region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface. Kepler also has discovered >1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. 10 of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.
The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4x- the radius of Earth. Scientists don't yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.
Previous research hinted at the existence of near-Earth-size planets in habitable zones, but clear confirmation proved elusive. 2 other small planets orbiting stars smaller and cooler than our sun recently were confirmed on the very edges of the habitable zone, with orbits more closely resembling those of Venus and Mars.
This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth's twin, said Douglas Hudgins Kepler program scientist at (NASA) Headquarters in Washington. Kepler¡¯s results continue to demonstrate the importance of (NASA)'s science missions, which aim to answer some of the biggest questions about our place in the universe.
Kepler discovers planets and planet candidates by measuring dips in the brightness of >150,000 stars to search for planets that cross in front, or transit, the stars. Kepler requires at least 3 transits to verify a signal as a planet.
Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet, said William Borucki Kepler Principal Investigator at (NASA) Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, who led the team that discovered Kepler-22b. The 1st transit was captured just 3 days after we declared the spacecraft operationally ready. We witnessed the defining 3rd transit over the 2010 holiday season.
The Kepler science team uses ground-based telescopes and the Spitzer Space Telescope to review observations on planet candidates the spacecraft finds. The star field that Kepler observes in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra can only be seen from ground-based observatories in spring through early fall. The data from these other observations help determine which candidates can be validated as planets.
Kepler-22b is located 600 light-years away. While the planet is larger than Earth, its orbit of 290 days around a sun-like star resembles that of our world. The planet's host star belongs to the same class as our sun, called G-type, although it is slightly smaller and cooler.
Of the 54 habitable zone planet candidates reported in February 2011, Kepler-22b is the 1st to be confirmed. This milestone will be published in "The Astrophysical Journal."
The Kepler team is hosting its inaugural science conference at Ames December 5 - 9, announcing 1,094 new planet candidate discoveries. Since the last catalog was released in February, the number of planet candidates identified by Kepler has increased by +89% and now totals 2,326. Of these, 207 are approximately Earth-size, 680 are super Earth-size, 1,181 are Neptune-size, 203 are Jupiter-size and 55 are larger than Jupiter.
The findings, based on observations conducted May 2009 to September 2010, show a dramatic increase in the numbers of smaller-size planet candidates.
Kepler observed many large planets in small orbits early in its mission, which were reflected in the February data release. Having had more time to observe 3 transits of planets with longer orbital periods, the new data suggest that planets 1 to 4x- the size of Earth may be abundant in the galaxy.
The number of Earth-size and super Earth-size candidates has increased by >200 and +140% since February, respectively.
There are 48 planet candidates in their star's habitable zone. While this is a decrease from the 54 reported in February, the Kepler team has applied a stricter definition of what constitutes a habitable zone in the new catalog, to account for the warming effect of atmospheres, which would move the zone away from the star, out to longer orbital periods.
The tremendous growth in the number of Earth-size candidates tells us that we're honing in on the planets Kepler was designed to detect: those that are not only Earth-size, but also are potentially habitable,¡± said Natalie Batalha Kepler Deputy Science Team Lead at San Jose State University in California. The more data we collect, the keener our eye for finding the smallest planets out at longer orbital periods.
(NASA)'s twin spacecraft to study the moon from crust to core are nearing their New Year's Eve and New Year's Day main-engine burns to place the duo in lunar orbit.
Named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), the spacecraft are scheduled to be placed in orbit beginning at 1:21 pm (PST) for (GRAIL-A) on December 31, and 2:05 pm PST on January 1 for (GRAIL-B). Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year's celebration, but I expect seeing our 2 spacecraft safely in lunar orbit should give us all the excitement and feeling of euphoria anyone in this line of work would ever need, said David Lehman Project Manager for (GRAIL) at (NASA)'s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
The distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 250,000 miles/402,336 km. (NASA)'s Apollo crews took about 3 days to travel to the moon. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on September 10, 2011, the (GRAIL) spacecraft are taking about 30x- that long and covering >2.5 million miles/4 million km to get there.
This low-energy, long-duration trajectory has given mission planners and controllers more time to assess the spacecraft's health. The path also allowed a vital component of the spacecraft's single science instrument, the Ultra Stable Oscillator, to be continuously powered for several months. This will allow it to reach a stable operating temperature long before it begins making science measurements in lunar orbit.
This mission will rewrite the textbooks on the evolution of the moon, said Maria Zuber (GRAIL) Principal Investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. Our 2 spacecraft are operating so well during their journey that we have performed a full test of our science instrument and confirmed the performance required to meet our science objectives.
As of December 28, (GRAIL-A) is 65,860 miles/106,000 km from the moon and closing at a speed of 745 mph/1,200 kph. (GRAIL-B) is 79,540 miles/128,000 km from the moon and closing at 763 mph/1,228 kph.
During their final approaches to the moon, both orbiters move toward it from the south, flying nearly over the lunar south pole. The lunar orbit insertion burn for (GRAIL-A) will take approximately 40 minutes and change the spacecraft's velocity by about 427 mph/688 kph. (GRAIL-B)'s insertion burn 25 hours later will last about 39 minutes and is expected to change the probe's velocity by 430 mph/691 kph.
The insertion maneuvers will place each orbiter into a near-polar, elliptical orbit with a period of 11.5 hours. Over the following weeks, the (GRAIL) team will execute a series of burns with each spacecraft to reduce their orbital period from 11.5 hours down to just <2 hours. At the start of the science phase in March 2012, the 2 (GRAIL)s will be in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles/55 kilometers.
When science collection begins, the spacecraft will transmit radio signals precisely defining the distance between them as they orbit the moon. As they fly over areas of greater and lesser gravity, caused both by visible features such as mountains and craters and by masses hidden beneath the lunar surface, they will move slightly toward and away from each other. An instrument aboard each spacecraft will measure the changes in their relative velocity very precisely, and scientists will translate this information into a high-resolution map of the Moon's gravitational field. The data will allow mission scientists to understand what goes on below the surface. This information will increase our knowledge of how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds we see today.
(JPL) manages the (GRAIL) mission. (MIT) is home to the mission's Principal Investigator Maria Zuber. The (GRAIL) mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at (NASA)'s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.
January 2012: The Boeing Company (TBC) has begun work on a 4-month (NASA) (NAS) contract to develop a mission concept study for solar electric propulsion technologies. Under the $600,000 firm, fixed-price contract, Boeing (TBC) will evaluate concepts that combine high-power solar arrays with advanced electric thrusters to power spacecraft and payloads to high Earth orbit and deep space destinations.
Boeing (TBC) pioneered the use of electric propulsion, and has developed an approach to integrate compact, lightweight, and highly efficient solar arrays with next-generation electric thrusters in future spacecraft, said Steve Johnston Director Boeing Phantom Works Advanced Space Exploration division. This technology offers weight and cost advantages while enabling increased on-orbit maneuverability for satellites in Earth orbit, and efficient deep space transportation for human exploration and robotic science missions.
Boeing (TBC) is 1 of 5 contractors selected to develop a mission concept to demonstrate solar electric propulsion technologies, capabilities and the infrastructure required to affordably sustain a human presence in space. Phantom Works will conduct the study in Huntington Beach with support from Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems electric power and propulsion experts in El Segundo, California.
China will launch orbiters for lunar soft landing, roving and surveying to implement the 2nd stage of lunar exploration in the next 5 years.
China's lunar probe projects are based on the idea of 3 steps: orbiting, landing and returning, said a white paper China's Space Activities in 2011 issued by the State Council Information Office.
In the third stage, China will start to sample the moon's surface matters and get those samples back to Earth, the paper said.
The country's lunar probe projects have achieved milestone breakthroughs since 2006, with the successful launching of 2 lunar probes, the "Change-1" on October 24, 2007, and "Change-2" on October 1, 2010.
The 1st probe retrieved a great deal of scientific data and a complete map of the moon while the second one created a full higher-resolution map of the moon and a high-definition image of Sinus Iridium.
By the implementation of lunar exploration projects, China will make in-situ analyses, morphological and structural surveys of the lunar surface in landing and roving areas, conduct environmental surveys of the lunar surface and make moon-based astronomical observations.
China will also push forward its exploration of planets, asteroids and the sun of the solar system, according to the white paper.
By using spacecraft, China will study the properties of black holes and physical laws under extreme conditions, explore properties of dark matter particles, and test basic theories of quantum mechanics.
It will also conduct scientific experiments on micro-gravity and space life science, explore and forecast the space environment and study their effects.
February 2012: China will launch the manned Shenzhou-9 spacecraft between June and August this year and achieve space rendezvous and docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module. The new space docking mission will be realized by astronauts manual operation, another chance for China to test its docking technology.
The three crew members of Shenzhou-9 will enter the Tiangong-1 vehicle to live and work there, conducting space science experiments.
The target module Tiangong-1, blasted off on September 29, 2011, went into long-term operation in space awaiting docking attempts of Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 after completing China's 1st space docking mission with the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in early November.
January 2013: After nearly 54 years of service, DC-8 operations in the USA are set to become even rarer with the pending retirement of Air Transport International's (ATI) remaining DC-8 fleet.
(TIN) is withdrawing its last 4 DC-8s from service early this year and replacing them with 757s. Once completed, only 2 DC-8s will be in operation with USA operators: a DC-8-63F with National Airlines (MUA) and a DC-8-72 test bird with (NASA) (NAS).
Interestingly, 4 of the 6 DC-8s still in operation in the USA still have the original (JT3D) engines and not the relatively fuel-efficient and quiet (CFM56)s that many DC-8s were re-engined with in the mid-1980s.
36 DC-8s are left in service worldwide.
September 2014: (NASA) (NAS) agreed to pay Boeing (TBC) $4.2 billion and SpaceX (SPX) $2.6 billion to certify, test and fly their space capsules. The 2 contracts call for at least 2 and as many as 6 missions for a crew of four as well as supplies and scientific experiments, said (NASA)'s Kathy Lueders Commercial Crew Program Manager. The space "taxis" will double as emergency lifeboats at the orbiting outpost.
The hope is that the commercial approach will spur a space-travel industry far larger than just (NASA). Boeing (TBC) for example, has announced a partnership to fly space tourists to the space station.
SEE ATTACHED - - "NAS-2014-09 - SPACE TRAVEL-A/B/C."