Source: NASA ScienceCasts
Beaded drops of Irish rain rolled of the wing as the Airbus 330 lifted off, destination Orlando International Airport Florida. An unusual blue November 360 sky received the plane as the Sugar Loaf mountain receded below on the horizon. To Bach’s Oboe Concerto (D minor) I watched the wing flex in turbulent air as the journey continued somewhere over the Atlantic. Clumpy clouds echoed lunar landscapes below as I browsed the available in-flight entertainment.
At MCO airport near the Hertz car pick up point I met with my long time friend Jane Houston Jones @jhjones a lovely warm welcome full of joy and smiles. Our hotel was close to Kennedy Space Centre, the heat was most appreciated by me coming from a cold Irish winter. November sunshine instantly set my vitamin D levels on the rise, the Florida sun and my face met at every available moment.
Kennedy Space Centre Day 1 Wednesday 23rd
As I was a foreign national (an alien) I had to get extra official badges from NASA so I could participate in the Tweetup (Friday /Saturday) and have the right to be in very restricted areas at the launch site , accompanied by NASA personal.
At the KSC I wandered in the Rocket Garden and yes I was in the zone, walking down the gantry as if I was going to enter the Apollo capsule for real. Visually there was a riot of textures and shapes that took my eye into future paintings celebrating the power of rockets that leave this planet for other worlds. Christmas trees, Christmas carols and Christmas wreaths around NASA logos in the heat seemed surreal as I explored the attractions of all things space.
One of the most engaging was the Hubble 3D IMAX movie narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, oh boy that was fantastic. It included several images of M16 the pillars of creation in 3D which for me was super. I had being drawing it several times for kids at my @ScienceWeek workshops #STARSAREUS just before I left Ireland. The movie showed me more detail than I’ve ever seen before, now it’s parked in my head forever. The air conditioning was cold in the theatre I could not wait to get back outside to the bright light and cosy heat.
I met and chatted to several Tweetup people on my walk around , we all had pink badges so we were very visible to each other anywhere we went. Beside a full size model of Curiosity I met a lovely couple, the Lanza’s.They had a daughter who had worked on the Chem Cam on MSL. They were very proud of this fact, we engaged in conversation about the incredible adventure ahead of this robot and how important the science will be for future manned missions to Mars. I took instant delight in the wheels of Curiosity, Opportunity and Sojourner, beautiful engineering, visually stunning space architecture, well displayed at Exploration Space.
Jane kindly got me a ticket to the MSL Guest Briefing at 4:30pm, just before that we met Scott Maxwell i.e. @Marsroverdriver Scott drives the Mars rover Opportunity from planet Earth!!! Off planet driving 🙂
At the MSL @MarsCuriosity briefing I was proud to stand for the first time in my life to the singing of the American National Anthem. Excellent NASA speakers outlined the mission, its tasks, goals and mechanisms. Excitement levels climbed as the reality of my visit began to hit home with several days left to the launch.
We enjoyed, no actually enjoyed is too bland a word for the pleasure of eating rock shrimp for dinner that evening at Florida Seafood all washed down with some American beer. Sleep came later to the sound of palm trees blowing in the wind.
@skysketcher follow me on Twitter 🙂
After the recent launch of the first Galileo satellites – an event of paramount political importance for Europe – politicians, policymakers, space agency managers, industrialists, satellite operators and members of civil society gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels on 8–9 November for the 4th Conference on EU Space Policy. (read more)
Take five astronauts and instead of sending them into space take them underground. ESA’s CAVES venture prepares astronauts to work in an international team under real exploration conditions. The latest ‘crew’ has returned after six days in the dark. (read more)
Astronauts’ jobs sometimes weigh heavy on them: crews returning from space briefly endure ‘g-loading’ more than four times Earth normal. Scientists interested in hypergravity need to create it for minutes, days or even weeks at a time. Fortunately, ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge does just that. (read more)
Earlier this month, European scientists linked up with astronauts roaming over the surface of an asteroid. Desert RATS, NASA’s realistic simulation of a future mission, this year included a European dimension for the first time.(read more)
A conceptual illustration shows a lunar robot rover.
Image credit: NASA.
NASA is accepting applications from teams of U.S. and international undergraduate and graduate students for the third annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The event will be at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida May 21-26, 2012.
Participants in the competition will design and build a remote controlled or autonomous robot, which could be used for future exploration on the moon. During the competition, the teams' designs, known as lunabots, will go head-to-head to determine which one can excavate and deposit the most simulated lunar dirt within 10 minutes.
Students must submit applications, including a systems engineering paper and an educational outreach project, by Nov. 30. Registration is limited to one team for each university campus and 10 teams per country.
The competition is designed to engage and retain students in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines critical to NASA's missions.
For information about the competition and to apply online, visit:
Source: NASA Langley Research Center
As NASA closes the chapter on the Space Shuttle Program, a new era of exploration vehicles is beginning to take off.
Testing began this month at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., in the new Hydro Impact Basin to certify the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for water landings. The Orion MPCV will carry astronauts into space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and ensure safe re-entry and landing.
Engineers have dropped a 22,000-pound MPCV mockup into the basin. The test item is similar in size and shape to MPCV, but is more rigid so it can withstand multiple drops. Each test has a different drop velocity to represent the MPCV's possible entry conditions during water landings.
The last of three drop tests to verify the new facility is scheduled for the end of this month.
Testing will resume in September with a slightly modified test article that is more representative of the actual MPCV.
The new Hydro Impact Basin is 115 long, 90 feet wide and 20 feet deep. It is located at the west end of Langley's historic Landing and Impact Research Facility, or Gantry, where Apollo astronauts trained for moon walks.
For images and video of the tests, visit:
To follow the progress of the Orion MPCV on social networking sites,
Wrapping up 30 years of unmatched achievements and blazing a trail for the next era of U.S. human spaceflight, NASA's storied Space Shuttle Program came to a "wheels stop" on Thursday at the conclusion of its 135th mission.
Shuttle Atlantis and its four-astronaut crew glided home for the final time, ending a 13-day journey of more than five million miles with a landing at 5:57 a.m. EDT at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the 25th night landing (19th night and 78th total landings at Kennedy) and the 133rd landing in shuttle history. (read more)
Source: ESA Online Videos
Space Shuttle is perhaps the most complex technological system ever built. In 30 years, it has flown 135 times and helped humankind to dispatch and partially even return many satellites and deep-space probes, to build the International Space Station and to conduct out-of-this-world science. The Shuttle has transported also 24 European astronauts to Earth orbit on 25 missions. This video highlights these flights with European flavour - from STS-9 in 1983 to STS-134 in last May.
The largest digital camera ever built for a space mission has been painstakingly mosaicked together from 106 separate electronic detectors. The resulting “billion-pixel array” will serve as the super-sensitive ‘eye’ of ESA’s Galaxy-mapping Gaia mission. (read more)
German Aerospace Center, DLR, has just developed Justin, an android who will soon be controlled remotely by the astronauts in ESA’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. With this and other intriguing experiments like the Eurobot rover, ESA is paving the way for exploring the Moon and planets with tele-operated robots. (read more)
A spacecraft control flap designed for the super-heated hypersonic fall through Earth’s atmosphere has come through testing in the world’s largest plasma wind tunnel to be ready for its first flight next year.(read more)
Using ingenuity and an unorthodox 'dirty hack', ESA has recovered the four-satellite Cluster mission from near loss. The drama began in March, when a crucial science package stopped responding to commands – one of a mission controller's worst fears. (read more)
Source: NASA Announcement
NASA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) seeking proposals for mission concept studies of a solar electric propulsion system demonstration to test and validate key capabilities and technologies for future exploration missions.
Multiple studies have shown the advantages of using solar electric propulsion to efficiently transport heavy payloads from low Earth orbit to higher orbits. This concept enables the delivery of payloads to low Earth orbit via conventional chemical rockets. The use of solar electric propulsion could then spiral payloads out to higher energy orbits, including Lagrange point one, a potential assembly point in space between Earth and the moon. This approach could facilitate missions to near Earth asteroids and other destinations in deep space. (read announcement)
Source: ESA Space Engineering
BepiColombo, a joint ESA/JAXA mission to Mercury.
Image credit: ESA /JAXA BepiColombo.
For BepiColombo, ESA has had to extend the limits of existing design standards and develop altogether new design concepts as well. How to begin building a spacecraft that needs to endure sunlight 10 times more intense than in Earth orbit, with surfaces hotter than a kitchen hot plate – high enough, in fact, to melt lead?(read more)
Source: ESA News
What has making glass in common with space exploration? The special technology to measure oxygen atoms outside space vehicles is now being used in the glass industry to produce super-efficient energy-saving windows.(read more)