Return to the Moon

The last time man walked on the moon I wasn’t alive. Hopefully I won’t be able to say that for too much longer. Several different nations are gearing up to make manned assaults on the surface of the Moon. Before the people, there is a wave of explorer bots. (The good kind, not the bad spam bots like I regularly war upon.) On September 14, 2007  Japan launched the SELENE mission, which is an imaging mission. On October 24, 2007 the Chinese launched the Chang’e-1 lunar orbiter mission. And in April, India will follow up with its own mission. The next phase, human landings, may begin in 2012 with a Russian manned mission and a NASA manned mission is planned for no later than 2020. I have to admit, I’ll believe it when I see it, but…...

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I’m a space experiment

I’m a space experiment

I’m not sure how I so totally missed this mission. Today I was flipping through the pre-print server and came across a paper titled: Launch of the Space experiment PAMELA. This is a “we launched and are functioning” paper about a 2006 mission to measure cosmic rays. (mission homepage) My first thought was, wow, this explains so much… My second thought was, neat future science. This primarily Italian and Russian collaboration in space exploration was the first satellite designed specifically to look for cosmic rays, including the anti-particles positrons and antiprotons. The cosmic rays they are studying have both local and non-local origins – The Sun produces protons, electrons, positrons, and neutrons while Jupiter flings the...

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Dawn postponed to Monday

Dawn postponed to Monday

DawnYesterday I learned NASA truly is all powerful – They actually postponed Dawn until Monday! Today, however, I was disappointed as I was forced to weed under a hot Sun. Turns out, the only Dawn NASA can delay is the an amusingly monikered mission to the meteors Vesta and Ceres. This little space probe is set to launch Monday afternoon between 3:56pm and 4:25pm EDT in September (thanks Jake!).

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Recycling Stardust (and Deep Impact too)

Recycling Stardust (and Deep Impact too)

StardustWith the big Live Earth concerts planned for around the globe tomorrow, a lot of people are starting to think about recycling. In our quest for a low impact existence, a paperless office within walking distance of home and a diet of local foods seems like a fabulous recipe to reduce our individual carbon foot prints. But how does an organization like NASA, which requires environmentally harmful activities like rocket launches, reduce its atmospheric destruction? By recycling its solar system probes, of course. (image credit: NASA)

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Mars, ho!

Mars, ho!

Phoenix LanderIt’s getting to be that time again: A Mars Launch window is approaching. If you play close attention to space exploration programs you may have noticed that we only fling things at Mars ever two or so years. In 2003, the year of the rovers, NASA launched Spirit and Opportunity and ESA launched Mars Express and Beagle 2 (which died on landing). During the 2005 launch window the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter started to make it’s way to Mars. Now, in 2007, its the Phoenix Landers turn to take on Mars. Sadly, just as Phoenix readies to launch, many Mars fans are watching the rovers Spirit and Opportunity and fearing for their future as dust storms threaten their power supplies. (image credit: Corby Waste / JPL)

People on Earth have been trying to launch things to Mars since 1960. Of the 44 missions listed in wikipedia (yes, I can be just that lazy), only 17 have been complete successes. This failure to land (or orbitally insert) has caused more than a few editorial cartoons and even some random NASA humor as things ranging from a Mars curse to a Galactic Ghoul to aliens of every imagining have been blamed (mostly with tongue in check). The Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, had seemly put the curse thoroughly in NASA’s past. Launched in 2003, these twin 6 wheeled explorers landed on what was expected to be a 90 day mission way back in January of 2004. Now, roughly 1100 days after bounce down, the rovers are still working, but they are seriously struggling for the first time.

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In Search of the Moon

In Search of the Moon

161399main_orion_lander.jpgTonight I decided to whiplash my brain. After a nice dinner with friends, my husband and I settled in to watch TV. In preparation for the holiday weekend, we rented some DVDs, including the turn of the century classic Fight Club. At the end of that violent, twisted, pre-9/11 movie, I decided to break my brain by switching on “The Universe: The Moon,” a violent, straight-forward, current TV show. This latest episode of the History Channel’s television series has a few really scientifically confusing images, but does a really nice job mentioning all the possible ways the Moon could have formed. (Astronomy Cast also covered this topic in this episode.)

At the very end of the episode, they made a brief mention of the current White House’s New Vision for Space Exploration Program. The gist of this plan goes something like this:

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