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SpaceX Dragon V2 pad abort test flight vehicle. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX Dragon V2 test flight vehicle set for May 5, 2015 pad abort test. Credit: SpaceX

As promised, SpaceX is picking up its launch pace in 2015 with a pair of liftoffs from the Florida space coast slated for the next week and a half. They follow closely on the heels of a quartet of successful blastoffs from Cape Canaveral, already accomplished since January.

If all goes well, a commercial satellite launch and a human spaceflight related pad abort test launch for NASA are scheduled for [click to continue…]

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With the discovery of water ice in so many locations in the Solar System, scientists are hopeful in the search for life on other worlds. Guest Morgan Rehnberg returns to Astronomy Cast to explain the best places we should be looking for life.
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Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)

Guests:
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Nicole Gugliucci (cosmoquest.org / @noisyastronomer)
Nancy Atkinson (UniverseToday.com / @Nancy_A)

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Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)
Special Guest: Bas Lansdorp, CEO of Mars One
Guests:
Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg )
Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein)
Alessondra Springmann (@sondy)
Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com)
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The Display & Keyboard (DSKY) mounted in the Main Display Console of the Apollo 13 spacecraft, Odyssey. Note the gimbal lock display in the second row. Credit: NASA/The Apollo Flight Journal

The Display & Keyboard (DSKY) mounted in the Main Display Console of the Apollo 13 spacecraft, Odyssey. Note the gimbal lock display in the second row. Credit: NASA/The Apollo Flight Journal

It was an unlikely case, having an Apollo command ship disabled thousands of miles from Earth. But during the Apollo 9 mission, the crew had actually conducted a test of firing the Lunar Module’s engines while it was docked to the Command Module. It turned out to be fortuitous to have considered such a situation, but Apollo 9 didn’t have to perform the type of maneuvering under the myriad of conditions Apollo 13 faced.

Steering was among the crucial threats for Jim Lovell and his crew. Without the command ship’s thrusters to steer, only the lander’s were available, and flying the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft stack and keeping it on the right trajectory was a huge challenge.
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Am I Being Watched From Space?


Look up, way up. It’s entirely possible that you’re looking right at a satellite, which is watching you right back. What kind of Earth Observation technology is possible?
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This view of the severely damaged Apollo 13 Service Module (SM) was photographed from the Lunar Module/Command Module (LM/CM) following SM jettisoning. As seen here, an entire panel on the SM was blown away by the apparent explosion of oxygen tank number two located in Sector 4 of the SM. Credit: NASA.

This view of the severely damaged Apollo 13 Service Module (SM) was photographed from the Lunar Module/Command Module (LM/CM) following SM jettisoning. As seen here, an entire panel on the SM was blown away by the apparent explosion of oxygen tank number two located in Sector 4 of the SM. Credit: NASA.

The explosion of a liquid oxygen tank in Apollo 13’s Service Module violently propelled debris and a 13-foot (4 meter) outer panel of the SM out into space.

Later, the crew saw the damage when they jettisoned the SM prior to reentering Earth’s atmosphere. Commander Jim Lovell described the scene:

“There’s one whole side of the spacecraft missing!” Lovell radioed to Mission Control. “Right by the high-gain antenna, the whole panel is blown out, almost from the base to the engine.”

The panel was likely blasted outward and rearward, toward the deep space S-Band radio antenna. The antenna was attached to the outer edge of the module’s rear base via a meter-long strut, and was used for both telemetry and voice communications.

NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill feels this hi-gain antenna was surely struck by the panel and/or schrapnel ejected by the oxygen tank explosion.

“That deep space radio communication was maintained during and after the explosion was almost miraculous,” Woodfill said. “Such a blow should have destroyed that hi-gain antenna. Those of us who watched the telemetry display monitors saw only a momentary flickering of the telemetry, but after a few flickers we continued to receive data.”

Woodfill said it was as though a boxer had taken a devastating punch and continued to stand unfazed.
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This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the cluster Westerlund 2 and its surroundings has been released to celebrate Hubble’s 25th year in orbit and a quarter of a century of new discoveries, stunning images and outstanding science. Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team. Click the image for access to larger versions.

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the cluster Westerlund 2 and its surroundings has been released to celebrate Hubble’s 25th year in orbit and a quarter of a century of new discoveries, stunning images and outstanding science. Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team. Click the image for access to larger versions.

Images from space don’t get any prettier than this. A new image from the Hubble Space Telescope was released today to commemorate a quarter century of exploring the Solar System and beyond since the launch of the telescope on April 24, 1990. It shows a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina. NASA describes the new image as a “brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display.”

The Hubble Teams are giving away a few “gifts” to everyone to celebrate this silver anniversary — see below!
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Schematics of the Apollo command module interior. The surge tank was located in the left hand intermediate equipment bay. Credit: NASA.

Schematics of the Apollo command module interior. The surge tank was located in the left hand intermediate equipment bay. Credit: NASA.

Join Universe Today in celebrating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 13 with insights from NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill as we discuss various turning points in the mission.

Within minutes of the accident during the Apollo 13 mission, it became clear that Oxygen Tank 2 in the Service Module had failed. Then Mission Control radioed up procedures and several attempts were made to try to save the remaining oxygen in Tank 1. But the pressure readings continued to fall, and it soon became obvious that Tank 1 was going to fail as well. At that point, both the crew and those in Houston realized the extreme seriousness of the situation.

No oxygen meant the fuel cells would be inoperative, and the fuel cells produced electrical power, water and oxygen – three things vital to the lives of the crew and the life of the spacecraft.

For power in the Command Module, all that was left were the batteries, but they were to be the sole source of power available for reentry. Besides the ambient air in the CM, the only oxygen remaining was contained in a so called ‘surge tank’ and three reserve one pound O2 tanks. These, too, were also mainly reserved for reentry, but they were automatically tapped in emergencies if there any oxygen fluctuations in the system.

In Chris Kraft’s autobiography Flight: My Life in Mission Control, the former flight director and former director of Johnson Space Center cited Gene Kranz’ decision to immediately isolate or seal off the surge tank as being one of the things that made rescuing the crew possible.

Why was it so essential to assure that the spare oxygen surge tank in the CM was protected?
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Carnival of Space #402

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

Carnival of Space. Image by Jason Major.

The tent is up! This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Pamela Hoffman at the Everyday Spacer blog.

Click here to read Carnival of Space #402.
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