Posts tagged NASA
NASA Voyager Craft Discover Magnetic ‘Bubbles’ At Solar System’s Edge.
NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft have made a baffling discovery along their journey to the outer limits of the solar system.
Scientists studying the Voyager data noticed what may be giant magnetic bubbles located in the heliosphere, the region of our solar system that separates us from the violent solar winds of interstellar space.
The bubbles, scientists believe, form when the sun’s magnetic field becomes warped at the edge of our solar system.
“The sun’s magnetic field extends all the way to the edge of the solar system,” astronomer Merav Opher of Boston University said in a statement released Thursday. “Because the sun spins, its magnetic field becomes twisted and wrinkled, a bit like a ballerina’s skirt. Far, far away from the sun, where the Voyagers are, the folds of the skirt bunch up.”
What will these bubbles tell us about the way our sun’s magnetic field interacts with interstellar rays entering our solar system? According to CNET, Voyager project scientist Ed Stone told CBS News that this layer of bubbles “might affect how cosmic rays from outside can actually get inside the heliosphere. They have to sort of manage to get across all these bubbles.”
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory launched the Voyager craft 33 years ago on a mission bound for interstellar space.
Space Shuttle Endeavour Makes Historic Final Return to Earth.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Endeavour and its six astronauts returned to Earth on Wednesday, closing out the next-to-last mission in NASA’s 30-year program with a safe middle-of-the-night landing.
Endeavour touched down on the runway a final time under the cover of darkness, just as Atlantis, the last shuttle bound for space, arrived at the launch pad for the grand finale in five weeks.
Commander Mark Kelly – whose wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, remained behind at her rehab center in Houston – brought Endeavour to a stop before hundreds of onlookers that included the four Atlantis astronauts who will take flight in July.
The museum-bound Endeavour, the youngest of the shuttles, logged nearly 123 million miles over 25 spaceflights.
“Your landing ends a vibrant legacy for this amazing vehicle that will long be remembered. Welcome home, Endeavour,” Mission Control told Kelly and his crewmates, who wrapped up U.S. construction at the International Space Station.
“It’s sad to see her land for the last time,” Kelly replied, “but she really has a great legacy.”
A considerably larger crowd gathered a few hours earlier to see Atlantis make its way to the launch pad, the last such trek ever by a shuttle. Thousands of Kennedy Space Center workers and their families lined the route Tuesday night as Atlantis crept out of the mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building a little after sunset, bathed in xenon lights.
“The show pretty much tells itself,” Atlantis’ commander, Christopher Ferguson, said as he waved toward his ship. “We’re going to look upon this final mission as a celebration of all that the space shuttle has accomplished over its 30-year life span.”
Bright lights also illuminated the landing strip for Kelly, who made the 25th night landing out of a total of 134 shuttle flights.
The Endeavour astronauts – all experienced spacemen – departed the 220-mile-high outpost over the weekend. They installed a $2 billion cosmic ray detector, an extension beam and a platform full of spare parts, enough to keep the station operating in the shuttle-less decade ahead.
Their flight lasted 16 days and completed NASA’s role in the space station construction effort that began 12 years ago.
The official tally for Endeavour was 170 crew members, 299 days in space, 4,671 orbits of Earth and 122,883,151 miles.
Kelly was the last astronaut to exit Endeavour. He and his crew posed for pictures and signed autographs on the runway. Astronaut Gregory Chamitoff was so wobbly from weightlessness that he had to be supported by two colleagues.
“It’s great to bring Endeavour back in great shape. It looks like it’s ready to go do another mission,” Kelly said.
As Kelly thanked his crewmates for their flawless performance, co-pilot Gregory Johnson leaned over to shout into the mike, “And our commander, we want to thank him, too.” Johnson and the rest of the crew were openly supportive, over the months, about Kelly’s decision to stick with the flight, despite his wife’s serious injury.
Giffords was shot in the head during a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., in January, but made a remarkable recovery and was able to attend the May 16 launch. The congresswoman did not travel to Florida for the landing because of the inconvenient hour, but Kelly’s two teenage daughters were on hand, along with his twin brother, Scott, who is also an astronaut.
Giffords and Kelly will reunite in Houston on Thursday.
Their flight lasted 16 days and, with a series of four spacewalks, completed NASA’s role in the space station construction effort that began more than 12 years ago. They were the last spacewalks to be conducted by a shuttle crew. One of the spacewalking astronauts, Mike Fincke, set a U.S. career record of 382 days in space.
Endeavour is the second shuttle to be retired. It ultimately will be put at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
Built to replace the destroyed Challenger, Endeavour first soared in 1992 on a satellite-rescue mission that saw a record-setting three spacewalkers grab the wayward craft. Other highlights for the baby of the fleet: the first repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993, to fix its blurred vision, and NASA’s first flight to assemble the space station in 1998.
Atlantis will remain at Kennedy Space Center as a tourist stop, following one last supply run to the space station. Liftoff is set for July 8.
Discovery, the fleet leader, returned from its final voyage in March. Its next stop is a Smithsonian Institution hangar outside Washington.
NASA is leaving the Earth-to-orbit business behind to focus on expeditions to asteroids and Mars. Private companies hope to pick up the slack for cargo and crew hauls to the space station. But it will be a while following Atlantis’ upcoming flight – at least three years, by one business’ estimate – before astronauts ride on American rockets again.
Until then, Americans will continue hitching rides aboard Russian Soyuz capsules at the cost of tens of millions of dollars a seat.
“We’re in the process of transition now, and it’s going to be awkward,” said Atlantis astronaut Rex Walheim. “But we’ll get to the other side and we’ll have new vehicles.
“I really do have to say, though, it’s going to be really hard to beat a vehicle that is so beautiful and majestic as that one is,” he said as Atlantis rolled to the pad behind him. “I mean, how can you beat that? An airplane sitting on the side of a rocket. It’s absolutely stunning.”
NASA Finds Cocaine At Space Center—AGAIN
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is investigating after cocaine was found in a facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Tuesday that 4.2 grams of a white powdery substance was found last week at the NASA facility, though he would not say where.
It tested positive for cocaine.
It’s not the first time cocaine has been found at the space center.
A small amount was discovered in January 2010 in a secure part of a hangar that housed space shuttle Discovery. A spokeswoman from NASA’s Inspector General Office in Washington declined to comment on how that case was resolved.
Shuttle Worker Dies in Fall at Kennedy Space Center.
A contract worker for NASA fell to his death today from a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he was working to prepare space shuttle Endeavour for its final flight next month, NASA said.
The man, identified by NASA this afternoon as James D. Hanover, fell at around 7:40 a.m., NASA said. He worked for United Space Alliance, the primary contractor for the space agency’s shuttle program.
“Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family of Mr. Vanover,” United Space Alliance Chief Executive Officer Virginia Barnes said in a statement, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “Our focus right now is on providing support for the family, and for his coworkers. We are also providing our full support to investigating officials in order to determine the cause of the incident as quickly as possible.”
It was not clear how high up on the approximately 255-foot-high pad he was, or what task he was performing. “It’s all under investigation,” Kennedy spokeswoman Candrea Thomas said.
NASA emergency medical officials were unable to revive the man, NASA said. All work on the pad was canceled for the day while the fall was being investigated. An e-mail sent to United Space Alliance was not immediately returned.
Endeavour is slated to leave on its final mission April 19.
Kepler Spacecraft Finds 2 Planets Sharing Same Orbit.
To date, the telescope on the Kepler spacecraft has detected 1,235 planet candidates, and while Earth-bound telescopes are trying to determine if 54 of those planets may have conditions that could harbor life, one unique planetary system may have been uncovered.
Unique because it’s the first time scientists have discovered what may be two planets sharing the same orbit of their home sun, New Scientist reports.Since planets are so far away and smaller than their host stars, Kepler is only able to “see” the potential planets by measuring any decreases in the brightness of stars, which would be caused by planets passing in front of them.
If this dual-orbiting planet hypothesis gets confirmed, researchers suggest it would lend credence to a theory that our moon was created when a planet-sized object, sharing a similar orbit to Earth’s eons ago, possibly crashed into our home world.”Systems like this are not common, as this is the only one we have seen,” said Jack Lissauer, a space scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
The double-planetary system, dubbed KOI-730, is described in greater detail by Lissauer and his colleagues in the Astrophysical Journal.”About one-third of the 1,200 transiting planet candidates detected in the first four months of Kepler data are members of multiple candidate systems,” the scientists wrote.
“Several considerations strongly suggest that the vast majority of these multi-candidate systems are true planetary systems.”
A big question scientists now wonder about the KOI-730 planets is whether they’re headed for a runaway collision that could result in the formation of a moon.
But, in the galactic scheme of things, these two potential planets will most likely continue their cosmic close dance with each other for at least another 2 million years.