NASA’s Manned Space Program; Dieing slowly?

NASA’s Manned Space Program; Dieing slowly?

The other day I had one of our first year graduate students ask me what I know about NASA. “I know some people on some of the science missions,” I said, and I asked him why he was asking. Truth be told, he, like so many other bright, athletic minds, wants to be an astronaut. At 22, with a number of nice accomplishments under his belt, he just might have a chance. He’s young enough. By the time he ‘s ready NASA may have manned space flight again. As for the dreamers of my generation? We’re pretty much… Well you know what word goes there. According to NASA, the average age of someone accepted into the astronaut core is 34 (my age). It then typically takes a few months to a year to be selected for a mission (if you ever are...

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The Space Shuttle: A Science Enabler (and random)

The Space Shuttle: A Science Enabler (and random)

Earlier this morning the space Shuttle Discovery landed down in Florida. This particular mission carried the JAXA’s  Japanese Experiment Module (“Kibo” which means hope), to the International Space Station. This new addition to the ISS brings with it new opportunities for both pressured and exposed-to-space experiments. This is the third research module, after Destiny (US, 2001) and Columbus (ESA, 2008). This little module adds significant scientific capacity to the station and also provides Japan with its first foothold in manned space. The next space shuttle launch, currently scheduled for October 2008, will be the final servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope These two missions are of particular note because they are enabling...

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The Space Station,
The Space Shuttle, and
Their Construction Workers

The Space Station, The Space Shuttle, and Their Construction Workers

180042main_image_feature_848_ys_3.jpgOne of the things that NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency have each proven over and over again is that astro/cosmonauts are the best construction workers in and off this world. In my mind, there is only one reason for us to send people into space for non-commercial purposes is to build or repair things.

These belief leaves me with very mixed emotions right now.

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The Sky *was* Falling

On Monday, March 26, a Chilean flight to New Zealand was almost struck by falling bits of space something. The pilot of the flight noted he could see burning up materials both in front and behind the flight. (Information obtained from numerous news sources). Some reports attributed the falling carnage to a Progress M-58 burning up through the atmosphere as it returned from the International Space Station, or at least insinuated as much. In fact, there had been an alert that such a re-entry would be occurring. According to US space officials, however, at the time of the incident the Progress was still attached to the ISS, and no set of calculations can make a Progress be in two places at once. The US Space Surveillance Network had no reports of other re-entering space junk. With all known space junk ruled out, it looks like that airplane was almost almost hit by an asteroid.

That silly little kid in me wishes I had been on that airplane. They could actually hear the fragments burning up.

Should I worry about meteors when I fly? Nope. And doing stats can be fun.

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Reaching into the Low Orbit Frontier

Reaching into the Low Orbit Frontier

One of the great things about working on Astronomy Cast is that sometimes I get to learn about things that I just didn’t fully appreciate in the past. Today I’m preparing for an episode on amateur/community spacecraft. I knew this was something that was going on, but I hadn’t appreciated the sheer diversity of missions that are in the works. In order to try and get my notes straight for today’s episode, I am going to summarize things here so that they are a resource for all of us. I’m sure this will be out of date very quickly, but hopefully it will help you appreciate everything as much as I now do. (image credit: NASA) ARKYD: The actual first public space telescope!  This project raised $1,505,366 with 17,614 backers, exceeding...

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