wish you happy prosperous new year
Like sugar plum fairies in "The Nutcracker," the moons of Saturn performed a celestial ballet before the eyes of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. New movies frame the moons' silent dance against the majestic sweep of the planet's rings and show as many as four moons gliding around one another.
This natural-color image of Mayon was captured on Dec. 15, 2009, by the Advanced Land Imager on NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. A small plume of ash and steam is blowing west from the summit. Dark-colored lava or debris flows from previous eruptions streak the flanks of the mountain. A ravine on the southeast slope is occupied by a particularly prominent lava or debris flow.
The Phillipine Star said on Dec. 22 that "ashfall blanketed at least three towns in Albay, raising new health fears for thousands already bracing for an eruption that could come at any time ... Health officials warned the tiny particles could cause respiratory problems or skin diseases, and could affect the thousands of people crammed into evacuation centers.
Also on Dec. 22, CNN reported that "tens of thousands of people have already fled their homes. More than 9,000 families -- a total of 44,394 people -- are being housed in evacuation camps after authorities raised the alert status of the country's most active volcano" as "fountains of red-hot lava shot up from the intensifying Mayon volcano."
From inside the station, Expedition 22 Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev monitored the approach of the Russian spacecraft as it docked to the Earth-facing port of the Zarya module.
After completion of leak checks, the hatches between the two vehicles were opened at 7:30 p.m. Williams and Suraev, who arrived at the station Oct. 2 aboard the Soyuz TMA-16, welcomed the new Expedition 22 flight engineers aboard their orbital home for the next five months.
Creamer, 50, is making his first flight into space. Selected as an astronaut in 1998, Creamer was a support astronaut for the Expedition 3 crew and worked with hardware integration and robotics.
Kotov, 44, is making his second spaceflight, having previously served six months aboard the station as an Expedition 15 flight engineer in 2007. Kotov will be a flight engineer for Expedition 22 and assume the duties of Expedition 23 commander when Williams and Suraev depart in March 2010.
Noguchi is making his second spaceflight. He flew on the STS-114 return-to-flight mission of Discovery in 2005 and conducted three spacewalks totaling more than 20 hours.
Williams also recorded some video of the Advanced Plant EXperiments on Orbit - Cambium (APEX-Cambium) experiment. APEX-Cambium uses willow plants flown on the International Space Station to better understand the fundamental processes by which plants produce cellulose and lignin, the two main structural materials found in plant matter. Understanding the role of gravity in wood formation is expected to enable wiser management of forests for carbon sequestration as well as better utilization of trees for wood products. Later, he harvested some of the plant specimens that will be chemically preserved for post-flight analysis.
Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev worked on a replacement of the condensate separation and pumping unit, part of the water reclamation system in the Russian segment of the orbital outpost. He then spent the majority of his afternoon performing maintenance on the station’s smoke detectors.
Additionally, Suraev completed his periodic fitness evaluation using one of the station’s treadmills.
NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, all space station flight engineers, launched in their Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:52 p.m. EST Sunday to begin a two-day journey to the International Space Station.
In addition, the Endeavour astronauts will fly to Kennedy in January to participate in the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test, or TCDT, to familiarize themselves with the hardware and payload they'll be working with while on the mission.
Endeavour and its crew will deliver a third connecting module, the Tranquility node, to the station and a seven-windowed cupola to be used as a control room for robotics. The mission will feature three spacewalks.
The motor operates to keep the crew module on a controlled flight path in the event it needs to jettison and steer away from the Ares I launch vehicle in an emergency, and then it reorients the module for parachute deployment and landing. Together, the eight-proportional valves can exert up to 7,000 pounds of steering force to the vehicle in any direction upon command from the crew module.
Williams worked in the Kibo laboratory troubleshooting the System Laptop Terminal 2. He also performed a routine scrub of the coolant loops on the spacesuits inside the Quest airlock.
Williams also collected water and surface samples from around the station for analysis as part of the SWAB (Surface Water and Air Biocharacterization) experiment. The primary goal of this experiment is to use advanced technologies to better understand the types of organisms that the crew could encounter, identify their sources and assess the potential risks.
Space shuttle Endeavour and its solid rocket boosters will be powered down and prepared for their move, or rollout, to Launch Pad 39A scheduled for early January 2010.
The six STS-130 mission astronauts will carry out a variety of administrative duties this morning at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Commander George Zamka and Pilot Terry Virts also will practice shuttle landing techniques in T-38 jets and NASA's Shuttle Training Aircraft.
Endeavour and its crew will deliver a third connecting module, the Tranquility node, to the station and a seven-windowed cupola to be used as a control room for robotics. The mission will feature three spacewalks.
NASA committed $320M to the WISE project
NEOs with diameters of less than 10m are typically destroyed in the upper atmosphere, but 50m NEOs can cause massive damage like the Tunguska Event in 1908. A 1km sized NEO is projected to strike the Earth every 500,000 years, while NEOs larger than 5km hit every ten million years.
The possibility of global devastation galvanized the U.S. Congress into action in 2005, mandating NASA to detect 90% of the NEOs ranging from 140m and above by 2020. There are an estimated 20,000 asteroids and comets that have orbits close to Earth, and only 6000 of them have been found so far.
The problem is that many asteroids and comets don't reflect a lot of light, making them hard to detect using conventional telescopes. NASA plans to address this with the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which will scan the entire sky in infrared light. Asteroids and comets emit infrared energy, and WISE is not only expected to detect thousands of them, but also provide data on their size, shape, and composition.
WISE is designed to detect the infrared glow of hundreds of millions of objects besides asteroids and comets. It will detect new galaxies, stars, and brown dwarfs, creating a vast catalog of millions of images. These will be used to find new targets for the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, two other observation missions which focus on specific infrared objects for study.
A Delta II rocket boosted WISE into space at 6:09 a.m. PST (9:09 a.m. EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. After a coast phase and second stage re-fire, the spacecraft separated from the vehicle and began sending signals back to Earth by way of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.
With its mission now under way, the 1,485-pound WISE spacecraft will circle Earth over the poles, scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months. The mission will uncover hidden cosmic objects, including the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.
Liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is targeted for February 4, 2010 at 5:52 a.m. EST.
A sort of "honeycomb airbag" created to cushion future astronauts may end up in helicopters to help prevent injuries instead.
Endeavour's side hatch will be closed for Saturday's move from its hangar in Orbiter Processing Facility-2 to the Vehicle Assembly Building. Also, the shuttle's final tire pressurization for flight is set for today.
Meanwhile, the STS-130 astronauts will practice techniques for the mission's first spacewalk in the neutral buoyancy lab near NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The larger, darker bedforms are dunes composed of sand, most likely of fine size. Ripples tend to move slower than dunes. Because of this, over time, ripples get covered with dust, possibly explaining the bright tone visible here. The dunes are dark probably because they are composed of basaltic sand (derived from dark, volcanic rock) that is blown by the wind enough that dust does not sufficiently accumulate to change their color.
This area in Proctor Crater is being monitored by HiRISE to document any changes over time.
- NASA Mission Information
- Launch Information & Countdown clocks
- Sighting Opportunities (Visible Passes for ISS, Shuttle and more)
- Mission Orbit Trackers
- NASA Image of the Day
- Astronomy Picture of the Day
- NASA Videos
- NASA Twitter Feeds/Mission Updates
- Visible sighting opportunities listed for near-earth orbiters (shuttle, ISS, etc), by home location and through search for location
- Richer Mission details and more content
- Enhancements to Videos and Updates panels
- High-resolution image option (configured in device settings)
- Status updates on upcoming launches
- Prevent sleep mode setting for tracking launches (configured in device settings)
100 Years Ago
December 5, 1909: George Taylor made the first manned glider flight in Australia in an aircraft that he designed.
80 Years Ago
December 12, 1929: The Smithsonian Institution presented the Langley Medal to Adm. Richard E. Byrd for his flights over the North and South poles and a posthumous Langley Medal to Charles M. Manly for his pioneering development of radial piston airplane engines.
75 Years Ago
December, 1934: December 23: Sylvanus Albert Reed gave an endowment to the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences (IAS) to be used for an annual award. The Sylvanus Albert Reed Award is given to individuals whose experimental or theoretical investigations have a beneficial influence on the development of practical aeronautics.
60 Years Ago
December 2, 1949: The United States Air Force first fired the Aerobee research rocket (RTV-A-1a) at Holoman Air Force Base.
50 Years Ago
December 10, 1959: U.S. Ambassador Lodge presented a resolution to the Assembly of the United Nations (U.N.) recommending that an international conference on the peaceful uses of outer space be convened within the next year or two. Two days later, the United Nations created a permanent 24-nation committee for this purpose.
45 Years Ago
December 8, 1964: A United Airlines Caravelle made the U.S.A.’s first computer controlled landing at Dulles International Airport.
40 Years Ago
December 17, 1969: The U.S. Air Force closed its 22-year investigation into sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), otherwise known as Project Blue Book.
35 Years Ago
Dec 2, 1974: NASA’s Pioneer 11 spacecraft flew by Jupiter, passing 26,725 miles above Jupiter's cloud top. The spacecraft returned dramatic images of Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot and determined the mass of Jupiter's moon, Callisto.
30 Years Ago
December 16, 1979: The British Airways supersonic transport airplane, Concorde, flew from New York to London in just under three hours at an average speed of 1,172 mph.
25 Years Ago
December 27, 1984: Members of the ANSMET (Antarctic Search for Meteorites) Project discovered meteorite ALH 84001 in the Allen Hills region of Antarctica. ALH 84001 is the famous Mars meteorite that sparked excitement in 1996 about past life on Mars.
20 Years Ago
December 26, 1989: A U.S. patent was awarded for the invention and construction method for the Miniature Traveling Wave Tube (TWT). This technology allowed satellites to carry a greater number of messages in a particular radio frequency signal, and resulted in commercial television applications.
10 Years Ago
December 18, 1999: NASA launched Terra, a weather satellite project undertaken jointly with Japan and Canada, on an Atlas rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The 4,864 kg spacecraft was part of an international program and was intended to enable new research into the ways that Earth's lands, oceans, air, ice, and life function as a total system.
December 9, 2009: NASA will launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) aboard the Delta II 7320 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base between 6:10 – 6:23 a.m. PST. This mission will survey the entire sky in the mid-infrared range, producing over a million images from which hundreds of millions of astronomical objects will be cataloged using far greater sensitivity than any previous mission or program.
The pressure tests confirm the crew compartment holds pressure before a shuttle is moved from its hangar to the Vehicle Assembly Building.
The six STS-130 astronauts wrap up the week rehearsing Cupola relocation techniques today at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of about 50 to 300 feet, ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on NASA's Terra satellite. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and the data products.
The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change.
The calendar contains unique images and highlights historic space exploration milestones and educational facts about the international laboratory. Each month has its own theme and offers a glimpse into topics such as a typical day in the life of a crew member, the staff that supports the station, and the massive dimensions of the orbiting research facility.
The calendar is available for free download at:
"As we enter into our 10th year of human presence on the space station, we celebrate that fact and acknowledge the success of the station as one of the greatest technological, political and engineering accomplishments in human history," said Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini. "I hope people enjoy the calendar and are inspired to learn something new and exciting about NASA and the station throughout the year."
Nearly 100,000 copies of the calendar are being delivered to classrooms in all 50 states through NASA education programs and affiliated education networks.
The 2010 NASA Moon Work engineering design challenge seeks to motivate college students by giving them first-hand experience with the process of developing new technologies. To participate in the contest, students will submit their original design for tools or instruments that can help astronauts live and work on the moon. Top-ranked students will be offered a chance to intern with a team from NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program.
The Exploration Technology Development Program develops new technologies that will enable NASA to conduct future human exploration missions while reducing mission risk and cost. The program is maturing near-term technologies to help enable the first flight of the Orion crew exploration vehicle and developing long-lead technologies needed for possible lunar exploration missions.
Winning Moon Work contestants also will have a chance to attend field tests conducted by the Desert Research and Technology Studies Program, managed by NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program conducts annual tests of new technologies in landscapes that are close analogs of the moon and other harsh space environments.
Students should submit a notice of intent to enter the contest by Dec. 15. Final entries for the Moon Work challenge are due May 15, 2010. All entries must be from students at U.S. colleges or universities. Although non-citizens may be part of a team, only U.S. citizens may win NASA internships or travel awards.
The shuttle's move, also known as rollover, to the Vehicle Assembly Building is scheduled for Dec. 12. Once inside, the Endeavour will be hoisted and then lowered onto the waiting mobile launcher platform where the massive external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters stand ready.
Today, the six STS-130 astronauts are studying flight procedures at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Shuttle Endeavour, with its payload of the Tranquility node and the seven-windowed Cupola module, is targeted to launch Feb. 4, 2010.
Most of the ingredients are hydrogen and helium. These cosmic lightweights fill the first two spots on the famous periodic table of the elements.
Less abundant but more familiar to us are the heavier elements, meaning everything listed on the periodic table after hydrogen and helium. These building blocks, such as iron and other metals, can be found in many of the objects in our daily lives, from teddy bears to teapots.
Recently astronomers used the Suzaku orbiting X-ray observatory, operated jointly by NASA and the Japanese space agency, to discover the largest known reservoir of rare metals in the universe.
Suzaku detected the elements chromium and manganese while observing the central region of the Perseus galaxy cluster. The metallic atoms are part of the hot gas, or "intergalactic medium," that lies between galaxies.
"This is the first detection of chromium and manganese from a cluster," says Takayuki Tamura, an astrophysicist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency who led the Perseus study. "Previously, these metals were detected only from stars in the Milky Way or from other galaxies. This is the first detection in intergalactic space."
The cluster gas is extremely hot, so it emits X-ray energy. Suzaku's instruments split the X-ray energy into its component wavelengths, or spectrum. The spectrum is a chemical fingerprint of the types and amounts of different elements in the gas.
The portion of the cluster within Suzaku's field of view is some 1.4 million light-years across, or roughly one-fifth of the cluster's total width. It contains a staggering amount of metal atoms. The chromium is 30 million times the sun's mass, or 10 trillion times Earth's mass. The manganese reservoir weighs in at about 8 million solar masses.
Exploding stars, or supernovas, forge the heavy elements. The supernovas also create vast outflows, called superwinds. These galactic gusts transport heavy elements into the intergalactic void.
Harvesting the riches of the Perseus Cluster is not possible. But researchers will mine the Suzaku X-ray data for scientific insights.
"By measuring metal abundances, we can understand the chemical history of stars in galaxies, such as the numbers and types of stars that formed and exploded in the past," Tamura says.
The Suzaku study data show it took some 3 billion supernovas to produce the measured amounts of chromium and manganese. And over periods up to billions of years, superwinds carried the metals out of the cluster galaxies and deposited them in intergalactic space.
A complete history of the universe should include an understanding of how, when, and where the heavy elements formed -- the chemical elements essential to life itself. The Suzaku study contributes to a larger ongoing effort to take a chemical census of the cosmos. "It's a part of learning the entire history of chemical element formation in the universe," notes Koji Mukai, who heads the Suzaku Guest Observer program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
With more than 10,000 galaxy clusters known, astronomers have just barely begun their work. "The current Suzaku result cannot answer these big questions immediately," Tamura says, "but it is one of the first steps to understand the chemical history of the universe."
The study appeared in the November 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The website is located at: http://polls.nasa.gov/utilities/sendtospace/jsp/sendName.jsp.
Glory carries two scientific sensors dedicated to understanding the effects of aerosols and the sun's variability on Earth's climate. The Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor will collect information about tiny liquid and solid particles suspended in the atmosphere that absorb or reflect sunlight. The Total Irradiance Monitor will measure the intensity of incoming sunlight which can vary over time.
The NASA and Lockheed Martin team traveled to Germany to witness the first successful aerospace application of two separate manufacturing processes: friction stir welding, a solid-state joining process, and spin forming, a metal working process used to form symmetric parts.
The twin processes were used by MT Aerospace to produce an 18-foot-diameter tank dome using high-strength 2195 aluminum-lithium. The diameter of this development dome matches the tank dimensions of the upper stage of the ARES I launch vehicle under development by NASA, as well as the central stage of the European Ariane V launcher.
"This new manufacturing technology allows us to use a thinner, high-strength alloy that will reduce the weight of future liquid propellant tanks by 25 percent, compared to current tank designs that use a lower-strength aluminum alloy that weighs more," said Louis Lollar, project lead for the Friction Stir Weld Spun Form Dome Project at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
The concave net shape spin forming process, patented by MT Aerospace, drastically simplifies the manufacturing of large tank domes and reduces cost by eliminating manufacturing steps, such as machining and assembly welding, that are required when manufacturing traditional gore panel - a pie-shaped section of the tank dome --construction domes.
"The success of this project is proof positive that when innovation, partnership and expertise are brought together, we can deliver new capabilities at lower cost with greater reliability for NASA and the nation's space program," said Jeb Brewster, project manager of the Friction Stir Welded Spun Formed Dome project at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. "This team has pushed the envelope by using existing commercial materials combined with cutting edge technology. The results provide the potential for a significant improvement over the current processes and materials being used today."
The spherical tank dome was manufactured from a flat plate "blank" made of the 2195 alloy. The blank was constructed by friction stir welding together two commercial off-the-shelf plates in order to produce a large starting blank, reducing the cost of raw materials. The welded plate blank was then spun formed to create the single-piece tank dome.
This is the first time this combination of twin manufacturing processes has been successfully applied to produce a full-scale 2195 aluminum-lithium dome.
"This achievement also demonstrates that international cooperation between the United States and Europe can achieve very promising and concrete results with mutual benefits for future space programs," said Judith Watson, program manager at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. "Lockheed Martin and MT Aerospace have set up a very efficient and effective development team."
Two additional, full-scale development tank domes are scheduled for manufacture and testing in coming months as part of the joint, two-year technology demonstration program.
NASA has invested in the Friction Stir Weld Spun Form Dome Project since 2006, which is managed by the Exploration Technology Development Program for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.
Throughout the next three days, they'll leak test Endeavour's environmental control and life support system. Techs also are testing the space shuttle main engine and aerosurface hydraulics, as well as testing and calibrating the Inertial Measurement Units, or IMUs, which provide navigational information for the shuttle while it's in orbit.
Meanwhile, Endeavour's STS-130 astronauts are practicing an integrated launch simulation today at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
At 11:25 a.m. EST, Flight Director Dana Weigel decided not to awaken the crew based on the latest tracking data on the piece of a Russian Cosmos satellite, estimated to be less than four inches in diameter. Mission Control determined the probability of a collision was so low that there was no need to have the crew make a precautionary move into their Soyuz spacecraft, close hatches and be ready to depart the station.
The debris had been so small that tracking sensors initially had trouble providing reliable information about how close it might come to the station, but best estimates were that the closest approach would be about 1 kilometer away at 1:19 p.m.
Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Max Suraev were informed of the possible close pass before they went to bed at 2:30 a.m. following the departure of crewmates Frank De Winne, Roman Romanenko and Bob Thirsk who returned to Earth aboard their Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft northeast of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan at 2:15 a.m. (1:15 p.m. Kazakhstan time). Williams and Suraev were scheduled to enjoy the first of two full days off Tuesday.
The U.S. Space Command routinely tracks space debris in orbit around the Earth, and reports to NASA any possible “conjunctions” or close passes to the space station.
NASA has a set of long-standing guidelines that are used to assess whether the threat of such a close pass is sufficient to warrant evasive action or precautions to ensure the safety of the crew.
These guidelines essentially draw an imaginary box, known as the “pizza box" because of its flat, rectangular shape, around the space station. This box is about half a mile deep by 15 miles across by 15 miles tall (0.75 x 25 x 25 kilometers). When predictions indicate that the debris will pass close enough for concern and the quality of the tracking data is deemed sufficiently accurate, Mission Control centers in Houston and Moscow work together to develop a prudent course of action.
Sometimes these encounters are known well in advance and there is time to move the station slightly, known as a “debris avoidance maneuver” to keep the debris outside of the box. Other times, the tracking data isn’t precise enough to warrant such a maneuver or the close pass isn’t identified in time to make the maneuver. In those cases, the control centers may agree that the best course of action is to move the crew into the Soyuz spacecraft that are used to transport crew members to and from the station so that they could isolate those spaceships from the station by closing hatches, and then leave the station if the debris were to collide with the station and cause a loss of pressure in the life-supporting module. The Soyuz act as lifeboats for crew members in the event of an emergency.
Mission Control also has the option of taking additional precautions, such as closing hatches between some of the station’s modules, if the likelihood of a collision is great enough.
If the tracking data indicates any extra precautions are needed updates will be provided on the web and NASA TV as appropriate.
Meanwhile, De Winne, Romanenko and Thirsk were met by the Russian Search and Recovery Forces in all-terrain vehicles and were extracted quickly from the upright Soyuz. Russian helicopters normally used for recovery operations were grounded due to low clouds and freezing temperatures.
After being extracted from the Soyuz, the crew was then driven back to Arkalyk to spend the night. On Wednesday (Tuesday night, U.S. time), the crew will helicopter from Arkalyk to Kustanai, and then fly on the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center plane to Chkalovsky Airfield near their training base in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow for reunions with their families and dignitaries and the start of a rehabilitation period. Flight surgeons report that the crew is in excellent shape.
2010 International Space Station Calendar
NASA is offering a 2010 calendar that describes the work being done on the International Space Station and gives information about the crews that have lived there. The calendar contains photographs taken from the space station and highlights historic NASA milestones and fun facts about the international construction project of unprecedented complexity that began in 1998.
Spirit's right-rear wheel stalled again on Sol 2099 (Nov. 28, 2009) during the first step of a two-step extrication maneuver. This stall is different in some characteristics from the stall on Sol 2092 (Nov. 21). The Sol 2099 stall occurred more quickly and the inferred rotor resistance was elevated at the end of the stall. Investigation of past stall events along with these characteristics suggest that this stall might not be result of the terrain, but might be internal to the right-rear wheel actuator. Rover project engineers are developing a series of diagnostics to explore the actuator health and to isolate potential terrain interactions. These diagnostics are not likely to be ready before Wednesday. Plans for future driving will depend on the results of the diagnostic tests.
Before the Sol 2099 drive ended, Spirit completed 1.4 meters of wheel spin and the rover's center moved 0.5 millimeters (0.02 inch) forward, 0.25 millimeters (0.01 inch) to the left and 0.5 millimeters (0.02 inch) downward. Since Spirit began extrication on Sol 2088, the rover has performed 9.5 meters (31 feet) of wheel spin and the rover's center, in total, has moved 16 millimeters (0.63 inch) forward, 10 millimeters (0.39 inch) to the left and 5 millimeters (0.20 inch) downward.
A spring heat wave scorched southeastern Australia in mid-November 2009, pushing the fire danger to the “catastrophic” category in parts of South Australia and New South Wales and to “extreme” in other surrounding areas. Many cities, including Melbourne and Adelaide experienced record-breaking temperatures that continued for many days.
This pair of images illustrates the impact of the heatwave on the land surface temperatures—which are different from the air temperatures reported in the daily weather report—across the continent. Based on observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, the maps show where temperatures from November 9–16 (left) and November 17–24 (right) were warmer or cooler than the average for those same eight-day periods between 2000–2008.
Around Adelaide in South Australia and Melbourne in Victoria, the land surface temperatures were up to 12 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit) above average in mid-November. For Adelaide, the event was the first springtime heatwave since records began in 1887, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The city had temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) for 8 consecutive days. (Five days at those temperatures constitutes a heatwave). Later in the month, some areas experienced heavy rain, which broke the heatwave in some areas, but not all.
According to the weather and climate agency, the heat wave resulted from a combination of factors: gradually rising temperatures across southern Australia, probably as a result of global warming; an El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean; and a high-pressure weather system that stalled out over the Tasman Sea to the southeast, causing hot, dry winds to blow south over continent.
SpaceCube is a next-generation computer system developed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The potentially revolutionary computer system, which provides up to 25 times the processing power of a typical flight processor, will be testing special software techniques that would make the computer more immune to upsets that happen when radioactive particles affect the computer. The SpaceCube was demonstrated during the Hubble Servicing Mission earlier this year.
All three crew members were reported to be in good condition. Due to icy conditions at the landing site, the landing support team recalled its helicopters to their bases in Kustanai and Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. Instead the team arrived in all-terrain vehicles from nearby Arkalyk to extract the Expedition 21 crew members from the Soyuz crew module. Unless weather conditions improve, the crew will make the 50-mile journey back to Arkalyk by land.
Romanenko, De Winne and Thirsk spent 188 days in space, 186 of those aboard the orbiting International Space Station. The three arrived at the station in May as part of Expedition 20, which marked the start of six-person crew operations aboard the station. With their arrival, all five of the international partner agencies – NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – were represented on orbit for the first time.
Romanenko, a cosmonaut with Roscosmos, served as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21. He was selected as a test-cosmonaut candidate of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center Cosmonaut Office in December 1997. The son of veteran Cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, he qualified as a test cosmonaut in November 1999.
De Winne, an ESA astronaut, served as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21 and commander for Expedition 21. He spent nine days aboard the station in 2002 as a member of the Odissea mission arriving on a new spacecraft, the Soyuz TMA-1, then leaving on an older Soyuz TM-34.
Thirsk, a CSA astronaut, served as a flight engineer for Expeditions 20 and 21. In 1996, Thirsk flew as a payload specialist astronaut aboard space shuttle mission STS-78, the Life and Microgravity Spacelab mission.
The three are scheduled to fly back to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia outside Moscow early Tuesday for reunions with their families and for the start of their reorientation to a gravity environment after a half year off the planet.
Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Maxim Suraev remain on the station, comprising the Expedition 22 crew as a two-man contingent for three weeks until the arrival Dec. 23 of Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, NASA’s T.J. Creamer, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who will launch to the station Dec. 20 on the Soyuz TMA-17 craft.
Just before the crew went to bed, Mission Control notified Williams that it is tracking debris from a Russian Cosmos satellite. Little data is available on this object, but its time of closest approach will be 10:19 a.m. EST. Due to the late notification, a Debris Avoidance Maneuver is not possible.
The crew will be awakened at 10 a.m. EST if it needs to take shelter in the Soyuz. Williams and Suraev are slated to sleep most of the day Tuesday in what amounts to a full off-duty day. They will resume a normal work schedule on Wednesday
They're taking samples and filling the nitrogen gas system of the environmental control and life support system for the shuttle. Techs also are conducting tests of the space shuttle main engine and aerosurface hydraulics today. The team finished the brake, anti-skid and nose wheel steering checks yesterday.
Endeavour's STS-130 mission astronauts are conducting a variety of systems training exercises today at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter put itself into a safe standby mode on Saturday, Nov. 28, and the team operating the spacecraft has begun implementing careful steps designed to resume Odyssey's science and relay operations within about a week.
Engineers have diagnosed the cause of the Nov. 28 event as the spacecraft's proper response to a memory error with a known source. The likely cause is an upset in the orbiter's "memory error external bus," as was the case with a similar event in June 2008.
In safe mode over the weekend, Odyssey remained in communication with ground controllers and maintained healthy temperatures and power. To clear the memory error, the team commanded Odyssey today to perform a cold reboot of the orbiter's onboard computer. The spacecraft reported that the reboot had been completed successfully.
"This event is a type we have seen before, so we have a known and tested path to resuming normal operations," said Odyssey Project Manager Philip Varghese of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001. In addition to its own major scientific discoveries and continuing studies of the planet, the Odyssey mission has played important roles in supporting the missions of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity and the Phoenix Mars Lander.
Until Odyssey is available again as a communications relay, Spirit and Opportunity will be operating with direct communications to and from Earth.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages Mars Odyssey for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft.
The fairing will split open like a clamshell about five minutes after launch. The spacecraft will circle Earth over the poles, scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months. The mission will uncover hidden cosmic objects, including the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.