Post by: Nancy Atkinson
Artist illustration of the Dawn mission, now cancelled. Image credit: NASA/JPL. Click to enlarge. With the release NASA’s 2007 budget request, it was clear that the productive science programs will be paying the price for the new Vision for Space Exploration, returning humans to the Moon and then sending them on to Mars. Many programs […]
Paul Verhage has some pictures that you’d swear were taken from space. And they were. Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning allows individuals to launch functioning satellites to “near space” at a fraction of the cost of traditional rocket launch vehicles. Paul’s balloons have been as high as 35 km, and the photographs he’s taken are out of this world.
The centerpiece of NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration is the new spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond. Jeff Hanley, appointed as Constellation Program manager in October, discusses the development of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle, the role of the International Space Station, and the path of the ‘Vision.’
The Mars Exploration Rovers have unquestionably been one of NASA’s most exciting and successful missions to date. The projects scientific principal investigator, Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University has written a candid and fascinating new book about the mission. Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet offers an inside look at the journeys the rovers have taken; not only their captivating treks across Mars, but the surprisingly circuitous and difficult route they took from inception to development and launch.
The New Horizons mission to Pluto has been called ?The First Mission to the Last Planet,? and it?s the first mission to venture to a ?new? planet since the Voyager missions nearly 30 years ago. While New Horizons includes proven technology and a superior launch vehicle, it could be considered to be a ?throw-back? mission. Some of the scientific instruments on board are named after characters from the 1950?s television show, ?The Honeymooners,? and the project?s Principal Investigator, Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, says the mission makes him feel like he?s back in the heyday 1960?s or 1970?s of space exploration because this mission is all about exploring planets for the first time.
Since arriving at the Columbia Hills, Spirit, one of the Mars Exploration Rovers, has encountered some mysterious phenomena. The rover?s right front ?arthritic? wheel that plagued Spirit?s 2-mile trek across the plains is now suddenly working perfectly and the once dust-covered solar panels whose power output was cut in half have now been miraculously wiped clean. But the biggest mystery of the Columbia Hills may lie in the angled rock outcrops that Spirit has found in the vicinity of ?Larry?s Lookout? on Husband Hill.
When it comes to using advanced technology, NASA sometimes faces a self-defeating loop: they can’t take the risk of flying new technology in space unless it’s already flown successfully in space. The New Millennium Program circumvents that loop by testing and validating the performance of leading-edge technologies in space so that they can be used in future operational science missions. Examples of upcoming New Millennium missions include advanced solar arrays, fault-tolerant high speed computers, a Nanosat (microsatellite) constellation, and perhaps, a solar sail.
The Hubble Space Telescope has unquestionably shown the benefits of a space-based observatory, but having a telescope far from Earth offers the current conundrum of how to maintain such a facility. Since NASA?s Vision for Space Exploration is seemingly leading humans back to the moon, why not construct an observatory there? A group of scientists from the U.S. and Canada are exploring the option of building a Deep-Field Infrared Observatory in one of the moon?s polar craters. Although not quite a garden spot, this location would provide an excellent site for a very large and very unique spinning liquid mirror telescope.