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  • Balloon to 125000 ft then back safely to earth. Bull Stratos, a mission to the edge of space, will attempt to transcend human limits that have existed for 50 years. Supported by a team of experts Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend to 120,000 feet in a stratospheric balloon and make a freefall jump rushing toward earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting to the ground. His attempt to dare atmospheric limits holds the potential to provide valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers.Joe's record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960 was during a time when no one knew if a human could survive a jump from the edge of space. Joe was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and had already taken a balloon to 97,000 feet in Project ManHigh and survived a drogue mishap during a jump from 76,400 feet in Excelsior I. The Excelsior III mission was his 33rd parachute jump.Felix Baumgartner successfully jumped from 18 miles / 29 kilometres above the Earth 97,145 feet / 29,610 meters, freefalling as fast as a commercial airliner - 536 miles per hour / 864 kilometres per hour (latest figures sanctioned by USPA and NAA). This jump was a significant achievement in ballooning history but it also proved that safety and recovery systems are functional in preparation for the 120,000 feet attempt.
  • OUCH! engineers are forging ahead on work with an experimental planetary lander after a test vehicle's crash Thursday (Aug. 9), agency officials say.The unmanned Morpheus lander exploded shortly after lifting off Thursday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, putting a premature end to its first-ever free-flight test. But the setback won't put an end to Project Morpheus, officials said.The vehicle is also testing out automated hazard-detection technology, which would use lasers to spot dangerous boulders or craters on the surface of another world. Morpheus could eventually deliver about 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) of payload to the moon, NASA officials say.The hazard-detection system could also be modified to help spacecraft rendezvous with asteroids in deep space, a key priority for NASA. In 2010, President Barack Obama directed the space agency to work toward getting astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025.Evidence for dark matter near the sun"We are 99% confident that there is dark matter near the Sun," says the lead author Silvia Garbari. In fact, if anything, the authors' favoured dark matter density is a little high: they find more dark matter than expected at 90% confidence.There is a 10% chance that this is merely a statistical fluke, but if future data confirms this high value the implications are exciting as Silvia explains: "This could be the first evidence for a "disc" of dark matter in our Galaxy, as recently predicted by theory and numerical simulations of galaxy formation, or it could mean that the dark matter halo of our galaxy is squashed, boosting the local dark matter density."
  • Copenhagen Suborbitals LES/TDS LaunchCredit: Thomas Pedersen/Copenhagen SuborbitalsCopenhagenSuborbitals private spaceflight company tested the Launch Escape System and its Tycho Deep Space capsule on August 12, 2012. The launch took place in the Baltic Sea. source space project? "Our mission is very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space.This is a non-profit suborbital space endeavour founded and led by Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen, based entirely on sponsors, private donators and part time specialists. Since May 2008 we have been working full time to reach our goal of launching ourselves into space and to show the world that human space flight is possible without major government budgets and administration."
  • A NASA spacecraft orbiting the huge asteroid Vesta suffered a glitch last week, but mission controllers say it will not affect plans for its upcoming trip to Ceres, the largest asteroid in the solar system.The malfunction on NASA's Dawn spacecraft occurred during a maneuver on Aug. 8, when one of the probe's reaction wheels that is used to maintain its position in space unexpectedly shut down. Mission controllers discovered the problem during a routine communications dispatch the following day, on Aug. 9, said Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director of the Dawn mission. Dawn spacecraft is currently in the process of leaving Vesta. This page will be unavailable during August vacation.The Where is Dawn Now? simulations will return starting in September. It is on its way to Ceres.Mission ObjectivesThe top level question that the mission addresses is the role of size and water in determining the evolution of the planets. Ceres and Vesta are the right two bodies with which to address this question, as they are the most massive of the protoplanets, baby planets whose growth was interrupted by the formation of Jupiter. Ceres is very primitive and wet while Vesta is evolved and dry. The instrumentation to be flown is complete, flight- proven and similar to that used for Mercury, Mars, the Moon, Eros and comets. The science team consists of leading experts in the investigation of the rocky and icy planets using proven measurement and analysis techniques.
  • Solar Filament half a million miles long.A NASA spacecraft has beamed home a spectacular new view of the sun, a photo that captures a vast tendril of solar plasma reaching across the surface of our nearest star.NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the huge solar filament between Aug. 6 and 8, which rises up above the sun's surface in an arc that stretches across more than 500,000 miles (804,672 kilometers)."Filaments are cooler clouds of solar material that are tethered above the sun's surface by unstable magnetic forces," NASA officials wrote in a photo description.Nasa is predicting major solar storms in 2013. On July 23, 2012, a massive cloud of solar material erupted off the sun's right side, zooming out into space, passing one of NASA's Solar TErrestrialRElations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft along the way. Using the STEREO data, scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. clocked this giant cloud, known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME, as traveling between 1,800 and 2,200 miles per second as it left the sun.
  • researchers used micro-manufacturing technologies to build ion thrusters smaller than a penny that could propel CubeSats in space. Smaller than a milk carton, CubSats are relatively inexpensive and several can be delivered into orbit on a single rocket. From MIT News: Engineering propulsion systems for small satellites could solve the problem of space junk: CubeSats could propel down to lower orbits to burn up, or even act as galactic garbage collectors, pulling retired satellites down to degrade in Earth’s atmosphere. However, traditional propulsion systems have proved too bulky for nano satellites, leaving little space on the vessels for electronics and communication equipment. In contrast, (aeronautics/astronautics professor Paulo) Lozano’s micro thruster design adds little to a satellite’s overall weight. The microchip is composed of several layers of porous metal, the top layer of which is textured with 500 evenly spaced metallic tips. The bottom of the chip contains a small reservoir of liquid — a “liquid plasma” of free-floating ions that is key to the operation of the device.
  • Not a good week for government run US space research.After approximately 15 seconds of flight, the experimental aircraft designed to fly at six times the speed of sound was unable to maintain control during a test run Tuesday and was lost, the Air Force said in a statement.The unmanned X-51A WaveRider was expected to reach Mach 6 after it was dropped by a B-52 bomber off the Southern California coast near Point Mugu, but a faulty control fin compromised the flight."It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the Scramjet engine," Charlie Brink, the X-51A program manager, said in a statement. "All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives."Read more: approximately 15 seconds of flight, the experimental aircraft designed to fly at six times the speed of sound was unable to maintain control during a test run Tuesday and was lost, the Air Force said in a statement.The unmanned X-51A WaveRider was expected to reach Mach 6 after it was dropped by a B-52 bomber off the Southern California coast near Point Mugu, but a faulty control fin compromised the flight."It is unfortunate that a problem with this subsystem caused a termination before we could light the Scramjet engine," Charlie Brink, the X-51A program manager, said in a statement. "All our data showed we had created the right conditions for engine ignition and we were very hopeful to meet our test objectives."
  • NASA's Mars rover Curiosity will spend its first weekend on Mars transitioning to software better suited for tasks ahead, such as driving and using its strong robotic arm. The rover's "brain transplant," which will occur during a series of steps Aug. 10 through Aug. 13, will install a new version of software on both of the rover's redundant main computers.This software for Mars surface operations was uploaded to the rover's memory during the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's flight from Earth."We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission," said Ben Cichy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission."The flight software version Curiosity currently is using was really focused on landing the vehicle. It includes many capabilities we just don't need any more. It gives us basic capabilities for operating the rover on the surface, but we have planned all along to switch over after landing to a version of flight software that is really optimized for surface operations."A key capability in the new version is image processing to check for obstacles. This allows for longer drives by giving the rover more autonomy to identify and avoid potential hazards and drive along a safe path the rover identifies for itself. Other new capabilities facilitate use of the tools at the end of the rover's robotic arm.
  • Color image showing Gale Crater wall. The full size panoramic one is at I recommend you wait until you log from SL as this thing is BIG.
  • ChemCam will address four of the five Mars Science Lab mission objectives: 1) characterize the geology of the landing region, 2) investigate planetary processes relevant to past habitability, 3) assess the biological potential of a target environment, and 4) look for toxic materials. As a remote sensing instrument, ChemCam’s primary objective is to rapidly characterize rocks and soils (Figure 3), and to identify samples of greatest interest for further investigation by contact and analytical laboratory instruments onboard the Curiosity rover.To meet these objectives, the ChemCam science team has designed 12 science and operational investigations:1)      Rapid remote rock identification; quantitative elemental compositions2)      Soil and pebble surveys, average soil composition, maturity, and exotic materials3)      Detection and study of hydrated minerals4)      Rapid remote identification of surface ices5)      Analysis for weathering coatings on rocks6)      Study rock morphologies (RMI imaging)7)      Analysis of samples that are inaccessible to the rover arm8)      Assist arm and drill sampling9)      Remote identification of organic material10)    Check for abundances of beryllium, lead, cadmium, and arsenic well above hazardous levels for humans
  • You may remember that the Mars core is not molten and thus not spinning to generate a global magnetic field. Mars does or did have active plate tectonics though.After nearly forty years of research, scientists have finally proven that plate tectonics exist on Mars. A recently published paper by An Yin in the journal Lithosophere reveals that the origin of VallesMarineris on Mars — the longest trough system in the solar system — was formed by rifting, strike-slip faulting, and subsurface mass removal. Yin's research now shows that Earth's surface is not the only one in the solar system subject to the forces of plate tectonics. Yin, who works out of UCLA, made the discovery by analyzing a hundred satellite images taken from NASA's THEMIS spacecraft. He was able to confirm his discovery by comparing the images to geological examples he had previously uncovered in the Himalayas, Tibet, and California — unique locations in which the Earth's major plates divide. good example is California's Death Valley, an area featuring a series of cliffs that were formed by a fault. Yin was able to compare these structures to a very smooth, flat side of a canyon wall on Mars which he believes could only be generated by a fault. Speaking through a release, Yin noted that, "You don't see these features anywhere else on other planets in our solar system, other than Earth and Mars."Yin's analysis also solves the mystery about how VallesMarineris was formed. It's the longest and deepest system of canyons in our solar system — nearly 2,500 miles long and about nine times longer than the Earth's Grand Canyon. The trough is like a gaping wound on the Red Planet, and given that scientists had previously doubted the presence of tectonic activity on Mars, they were completely stumped about how it got there.
  • Mission to the Van Allen BeltsThere are two electron belts and one proton belt: The proton belt is located from about 500 kilometers above Earth's surface and extends to 13,000 km. This Inner Belt contains protons with energies greater then 10 million volts. Scientists currently think that these protons are trapped cosmic ray particles from outside the solar system, or from the Sun itself possibly during severe solar flares. Here is what this belt looks like if you were to slice in like a watermellon: The low-energy electron belt actually overlaps the volums of space where the proton belt is located in the Inner Belt. The electrons carry between 1 - 5 million volts of energy, on average.  The high-energy electron belt is located further out than the two overlaping inner belts, and in the above figure it is colored purple. Electrons in this Outer Belt carry between 10 to 100 million volts of energy, on average.Here is what the electron belts look like if you could slice them along a line of constant geographic longitude from north to south.  Space physicists don't completely understand where they come from, or how their energies can be so 'astronomical' compared to either the plasmasphere particles or Ring Current particles. Typical 'Belt' particles carry energies between 1 and 100 million volts. The rest of the particles that we can encounter near the earth barely have energies higher than 200,000 volts. This means there is a BIG difference betwen the van Allen Belt particles and the others. It's such a big difference that its like comparing a cat and a dog and asking what their common ancestor might have been. NASA's Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission will send two spacecraft into the harsh environment of our planet's radiation belts. Final preparations have begun for launch on Thursday, Aug. 23, from Florida's Space Coast.The RBSP spacecraft are designed to fly and operate in the heart of the most hazardous regions of near-Earth space to collect crucial data. The data will help researchers develop an understanding of the Van Allen radiation belts, two rings of very high energy electrons and protons that can pose hazards to human and robotic explorers.
  • On July 16, 2012, SpaceX received its first science mission from NASA Launch Services (NLS), to launch the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Jason-3 spacecraft. NASA contracts launch services for science missions, which include launching the agency’s planetary, Earth-observing, exploration and scientific satellites, as well as satellites for other government agencies such as NOAA, into orbit.The Jason-3 spacecraft, the third in a series that follows the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, will precisely measure sea surface height and provide data used around the world for weather, climate and ocean forecasts.
  • Space0818

    1. 1. Space Updates 08 . 19 . 2012
    2. 2. Dawn mission: Keeping the wheels on
    3. 3. Micro-thrusters from MIT
    4. 4. X-51A jet fails: lost in Pacific
    5. 5. Curiousity: Go driving gadget
    6. 6. Chemcam operational
    7. 7. SpaceX to launch NOAA craft