After many setbacks due to weather, the Space Ship Atlantis launched Friday morning. It will be the closing flight in the space shuttle program. It was a difficult moment for many connected with the program. The end of the program will open the door for a new chapter in NASA's investigation of space. Resource for this article - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on its final mission by Newsytype.com.
Successful launch bucks odds
The Atlantis left Friday morning at 10:29 EDT from Cape Canaveral, Fla., after delaying it for many days due to bad climate. The shuttle beat the odds as there was only a 30 percent chance it would occur today. The delay was very slight. The retractable arm on the launch pad had a problem causing a two minute delay to take place. It was not a terrible problem. It brought on no danger.
"This is the start of a sentimental journey into history," a NASA commentator said. "Atlantis is flexing its muscles one final time."
STS-135, the mission, is going to be the last of the 30 year program making it the 33rd trip. The International Space Station is to be restocked with all the equipment and supplies it needs with the 13-day mission. Russian space crafts will be used to get to the space station in the future. Experts predict that commercial ventures will handle the duty in a decade or so.
Humans and programs in space roles
The equipment being taken to space should be able to tell how programs and humans interact in space through experiments. Robots will become more and more essential the further they are in space, NASA believes. One piece of equipment is meant to see if satellites can be refueled by robots in outer space. This piece of equipment is the size of a washing machine.
"What have we learned in robotics in 30 years? This is it. It's all led up to this," said Brian Roberts, a robotics expert at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "We've practiced on the ground, but we need to see how this would work floating around in space. ... We'll learn a lot of what works well and what doesn't work. We're trying to show the capabilities of robots and their abilities to do these tasks."
Try that app out
With Mission STS-135, there will be new technology. An iPhone is going to be brought to the space station. It's going to be used to track experiment outcomes with an app. The app could help with space navigation also.
Other crafts to launch
"This is not the end of human spaceflight," said NASA's Chief Technologist Bobby Braun via Twitter. "It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
There will be a plan for the Dawn spacecraft later this month. The asteroid Vesta will be orbited. Next month, another craft named Juno will lift off. It is going to Jupiter to study how forces work on larger planets in our system. In order to try and choose the size and composition of the core of the moon, the Gravity Recovery and Interior laboratory (GRAIL) mission will launch in Sept.
Seeds from our Three Sisters Ethnobotany garden (10 kernels of Dakota Corn, 10 Magpie Beans, 10 Lakota Squash, and Tobacco) permanent collections will accompany NASA's last space shuttle flight STS-135 on Friday, July 8. These seeds were deaccessioned to take part in an experiment to test the extent of their germination in a microgravity and soilless environment. Our ethnobotany interns will conduct ground control experiments at the Science Museum.
Courtesy Science MuseumMuseum staff are working with John M. Cassanto, President Instrumentation Technology Associates Inc., who designed the cell chambers that will germinate our seeds on NanoRacks carriers aboard the space shuttle. Jim Rock(Dakota astronomer, educator and longtime collaborator at SMM), Scott Shoemaker and Tilly Laskey carefully chose seeds meeting NASA's strict space requirements.
In a note to NASA, Jim Rock said,"these are very old heirloom seed ancestor-relatives, like our dearest mothers and grandmothers who will be flying in your care and company as fellow crew members and specialists."
Courtesy Lockheed Martin/NASAWork on the heat shield and thermal protection backshell of the new Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) ground test article, or GTA, was completed recently in preparation for environmental testing. This image is of the MPCV at the Lockheed Martin Vertical Test Facility in Colorado. The MPCV will undergo rigorous testing to confirm its ability to safely fly astronauts through all the harsh environments of deep space exploration missions.
Courtesy kitchenpantryscientistWhen NASA scientists wanted to study star dust (particles from comets and interstellar dust), they had to find a way to slow down the tiny pieces of matter as they flew through space. By the way, interstellar means “between stars.” NASA’s Stardust spacecraft would encounter star dust traveling 6 times the speed of a rifle bullet! At these speeds, a collision with most materials would shatter, or burn up the space dust they were trying to collect.
In order to solve this problem, the scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California crafted a special “space jello” called Aerogel which could slow space particle down and trap them, undamaged, for study. Aerogel is similar to glass, but is 1000 times less dense. In fact Aerogel is 99.8 percent empty space. Imagine a box of air filled with tiny, tiny glass threads. When space dust hits this jello-like substance, it makes a tiny tunnel in the aerogel that helps scientists find and collect the dust under a powerful microscope. Then they can study the dust to see what it is made of!
I was luckily enough to get a sample of Aerogel from Stephanie Smith, who works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Aerogel looks like light-blue smoke when you hold it in your hand. It is as light as a feather, but it feels solid, dry, and harder than jello when you touch it! You can read more about Aerogel and the Stardust missions by clicking here, on the JPL website! It’s amazing science. They’ve found many interesting elements and chemical compounds in the star dust already. I can’t wait to see what they find next!
Here’s a video of us playing with the Aerogel Stephanie brought to the NASATweetup! (courtesy of MindspaceLTD)
(This blog post was originally posted on the Kitchen Pantry Scientist blog.)
Courtesy Public domain (via Wikipedia)Fifty years ago today, 27 year-old Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first human to be launched into space. On April 12, 1961, Gagarin and the Soviet Vostok-1 spaceship were sent skyward for a 108 minute ride above and around Earth. He made a single orbit around the planet before returning to earth where he received a hero's welcome and became an instant celebrity world-wide. The feat accelerated the so-called Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States. A mere eight years later, US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Unfortunately, Gagarin didn't live to see that day, having died the year before in a crash while test-flying a Soviet MiG jet.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech Yesterday NASA's Stardust spacecraft performed a final burn with its main engines which effectively ended the life of NASA's most traveled comet hunter. Called a "burn to depletion", the procedure will help to answer the question of how much fuel Stardust had left in its tank. While it sounds like running your snow blower until it runs out of gas to store it for the summer, this was an important test as no one has invented an entirely reliable fuel gauge for spacecraft. Part of the process of approximating fuel use is looking at the history of the vehicle's flight and how many times and for how long its rocket motors have fired.
Stardust's burn to depletion is expected to be useful especially because the spacecraft has been proverbially "running on empty" for a long time. Stardust has been in space for over 11 years and has flown past an asteroid (Annefrank), collected particle samples from a comet (Wild 2) and returned them to Earth in a sample return capsule in January 2006. Then, after these primary objectives, it was then re-tasked to perform a flyby of comet Tempel 1, a task it completed last month.
Before the burn to depletion Stardust pointed its antenna at Earth and sent information on the burn as it happened. The command ordering the rockets to fire was sent for 45 minutes, but the burn lasted just 146 seconds. 20 minutes after the engines burned out, Stardust's computer commanded its transmitters to turn off. Without fuel to power the spacecraft's attitude control system, Stardust's solar panels will not remain pointed at the sun. When this occurs, the spacecraft's batteries are expected to drain of power and deplete within hours.
Its a fitting end to a very impressive mission for NASA.
Courtesy NASA/ESA/Garth Illingworth (UCSC)/Rychard Bouwens (UCSC/Leiden University)/HUDF09 TeamThe Hubble Space Telescope has captured what astronomers are claiming is the oldest galaxy in the universe. Here's some of what NASA's Hubble website says about the discovery:
The farthest and one of the very earliest galaxies ever seen in the universe appears as a faint red blob in this ultra-deep–field exposure taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This is the deepest infrared image taken of the universe. Based on the object's color, astronomers believe it is 13.2 billion light-years away.
The dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the Big Bang, only four percent of the universe's current age. It is tiny and considered a building block of today's giant galaxies. Over one hundred such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way galaxy.
Think of that - the light from this object we're seeing now took 13.2 billion years to reach our eyes. That's mind-boggling. We're actually looking back in time. Anyway, the study which appears in the journal Nature, was led by Rychard Bouwens at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, and Garth Illingworth, of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The tiny smudge of light will be further studied and confirmed when the infrared-optimized James Webb Space Telescope is up and running in 2014.
By the way, the Hubble Space Telescope is featured in one of five films at this year's Omnifest playing now through February 17th here at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Take it from me, the images in the film are quite spectacular and worth seeing.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMDThe following is from a listserv I am on that I thought was interesting.
On February 14, NASA's Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel 1) mission will encounter Comet Tempel 1, providing a unique opportunity to measure the dust properties of two separate comets (Wild 2 and Tempel 1) with the same instrument for accurate data comparison. The encounter will also provide a comparison between two observations of a single comet, Tempel 1, taken before and after a single orbital pass around the sun.
NASA's Stardust spacecraft will fly within 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) of Comet Tempel 1 on February 14, 2011, at about 8:36 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
NASA's Deep Impact mission observed Comet Tempel 1 in the summer of 2005, as the comet was inbound toward the Sun on its approximately 5.5-year orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Deep Impact's primary mission was to deliver a special impactor spacecraft into the path of Comet Tempel 1. The spacecraft -- and many ground-based observers -- observed the impact and the ejected material. Scientists were surprised the cloud was composed of a fine, powdery material, not the expected water, ice, and dirt. The spacecraft did find the first evidence of surface ice on the surface of a comet instead of just inside a comet.
The Stardust-NExT mission is a low-cost use of an in-flight spacecraft redirected to a new target. Prior to its tasking for Tempel 1, the Stardust spacecraft successfully flew through the cloud of dust that surrounds the nucleus of comet Wild 2 in Jan. 2004. The particles of cometary material and gathered during this flyby were then returned to Earth aboard a sample return capsule which landed in the Utah desert in January 2006.