NASA Seeks Hosts for Space Station Interactive Education Events

nasa_space station
NASA is seeking proposals from educators who are looking for a unique way to inspire the next generation of explorers. Formal and informal education organizations can apply to host live interactive education downlinks with astronauts onboard the International Space Station.

Proposals are being accepted for downlink opportunities during space station missions scheduled for March to September 2012. The deadline to submit comprehensive proposals that target a large number of participants is December 21st.

During Expeditions 31 and 32, NASA crew members Don Pettit, Joseph Acaba and Sunita Williams will participate in the 20-minute downlink opportunities. Participants on Earth see and hear the crew members live from space, while the crew hears the questions but does not see the audience.

U.S. educational organizations such as school districts, museums, science centers, national and regional education organizations and local, state and federal government agencies are eligible to participate. NASA provides this opportunity at no charge to the host institution. NASA personnel will work with the organization to help plan the event.

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Spitzer Snaps a Picture of the Coolest of Companions

Spitzer Space Telescope
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has captured a picture of a nearby star and its orbiting companion - whose temperature is like a hot summer day in Arizona.

"We have discovered a new record-holder for the coldest companion imaged outside of the solar system, which is nearly as cold as Earth," said Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and lead author of a pair of papers on the findings in The Astrophysical Journal.

"We believe the object is a brown dwarf, but it could be a gas-giant planet as well."

Based on the infrared light that it emits, the cool object, named WD 0806-661 B, appears to have a temperature in the range of 80 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit (about 27 to 70 degrees Celsius).

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German satellite to fall to Earth this weekend

Germany Falling satellite
Pieces of a retired German satellite hurtling toward the atmosphere may crash to earth this weekend, the German Aerospace Center said Thursday scientists have now honed their initial estimate of when the satellite would hit from a span of four days to either Saturday or Sunday. As it nears, they will eventually be able to estimate impact within a window of about 10 hours.

Parts of the satellite, which is the size of a minivan, will burn up during re-entry but up to 30 fragments weighing a total of 1.87 tons (1.7 metric tons) could crash into the Earth with a speed of up to 280 mph (450 kph).

The satellite orbits the Earth every 90 minutes and scientists can only say that it could hit Earth anywhere along its path, between 53-degrees north and 53-degrees south — a vast swath of territory that includes much of the planet outside the poles.

Scientists are no longer able to communicate with the dead German satellite ROSAT, which was launched in 1990.

ROSAT was used for research on black holes and neutron stars and performed the first all-sky survey of X-ray sources with an imaging telescope.

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Jonathan Kay: Do Gaddafi, bin Laden and Al-Awlaki still think Obama is a wimp?

Obama and Gaddafi
Mitt Romney is described as a GOP “moderate.” Yet when it comes to foreign-policy, he toes the same line as everyone else in the GOP: Barack Obama, he tells us, is undermining American greatness. Obama is ashamed of his country, the story goes. He’s a left-wing weakling, an Ivy League sophisticate steeped in anti-American self-loathing.

In an October 7 speech at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., Romney told a crowd of cadets that “In Barack Obama’s profoundly mistaken view, there is nothing unique about the United States,” and that “I will never, ever apologize for America.” In implicit contra-distinction to Obama, Romney declared his belief that “God did not create this country to be a nation of followers.” Later, he added: “I will not surrender America’s role in the world. This is very simple. If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I am not your president. You have that president today.”

This piffle has become such a prominent component of the Republican attack on Obama — especially since his widely misconstrued 2009 outreach speech to Muslims in Cairo — that many folks just take the truth of it for granted.

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Comet storm rages in alien star system

Icy comets could be bombarding a nearby alien star system in a storm similar to the one thought to have brought water and other life-forming ingredients to Earth several billion years ago, a new study reveals.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope studied a nearby bright star called Eta Corvi, which is located approximately 60 light-years away in the northern sky, and found signs that comets could be pelting the alien system.

The infrared telescope spotted a band of dust around Eta Corvi that strongly matches the chemical makeup of an obliterated giant comet, said Carey Lisse, senior research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and lead author of the new study.

The Eta Corvi system is approximately 1 billion years old, which would place it in the right time period for such a comet storm, the researchers said.

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Not NASA but German Satellite will plunge to Earth shortly

satellite was the primary publication to break the story with this article and this is an update to that. is in consistent contact with officials on the German ROSAT Satellite.

"Wir wissen nicht, wo sie noch landen wird, ebenso wie NASA hat mit UARS, aber wir aktualisieren die Menschen so viel wie wir k├Ânnen," said officials. "Wir sind mit anderen Agenturen, die auf die Beobachtung und Berechnung der ROSAT Umlaufbahn."

When translated into English for us ...

"We do not know where it will land yet, just as NASA did with UARS, but we will update the people as much as we can," said officials. "We are working with other agencies on observing and calculating the ROSAT orbit."

As stated in the primary article at, TWS predicted it would fall this month, not in November. This prediction at was made simply by looking at the solar wind data and calculating a better drag time.

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U.S. Widens Rocket Field

Rocket Field
Pentagon and NASA officials have reached an agreement intended to help small commercial space ventures compete for lucrative business to launch government satellites into space, while reducing costs and loosening the grip of giants Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. on such contracts.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Air Force and the Defense Department's spy-satellite office on Friday announced criteria for allowing privately built rockets to launch future military and civilian payloads.

By adopting a joint approach to evaluate future risks, the agreement aims to weigh cost and rocket reliability against the potential dangers of launch failures destroying satellites.

The most critical payloads, for example, won't be allowed to blast off on new, privately built rockets until those systems have a proven track record of at least several successful launches. Less critical payloads could sit atop new rockets that haven't yet flown and whose performance still needs to be validated, according to documents released by the Air Force.

The first-of-its-kind agreement "is the best balance of ensuring reliable access to space while encouraging competition and innovation," according to Erin Conaton, the Air Force official overseeing space programs. A NASA spokesman said that opening the door to new launch providers is expected to lower costs.

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NASA crew will train for asteroid in the sea

Nasa crew
Sixty feet beneath the waves off the Florida Keys, NASA will, beginning Monday, take some of its first tentative steps toward sending humans to an asteroid.

In addition to building a spacecraft and a booster rocket, the space agency also needs to develop new tools and methods if it is to successfully land astronauts on a large hunk of rock with virtually no gravity.

To that end, a crew of three "aquanauts" and a scientist will begin a 13-day mission Monday on the sea floor near Key Largo, to begin developing the equipment and operations that would be used for an asteroid mission.

"We're not practicing asteroid exploration," said Steve Squyres, the principal scientist behind the Mars Opportunity and Spirit rovers, who is part of the expedition. "What we're going to be doing is taking the first steps toward learning how to do asteroid exploration with humans."

The crew will spend nearly two weeks living inside the school bus-size Aquarius lab in the Conch Reef of the Florida Keys and working outside.

Although the facility is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA has used it 14 times during the last decade as a proxy for space exploration.

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft Spots Asteroid Mountain 3 Times Everest

Dawn Space Craft
NASA has released a new image from its Dawn spacecraft that shows a mountain three times as high as Mount Everest in the south polar region of the asteroid Vesta.

The photo released Monday shows the peak of Vesta's tallest mountain rising nearly 13 miles (22 kilometers) above the average height of its rough surrounding terrain. It also spreads about 112 miles (180 kilometers) at its base.

Dawn is currently orbiting Vesta.

Vesta is the second largest body in the main asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is about 330 miles (529 kilometers) wide. Dawn entered Vesta's orbit in July and will stay there for a year collecting data before moving on to the dwarf planet called Ceres, the largest asteroid in the main belt.

"Vesta is full of surprises, and no more so than in the southern polar region," Paul Schenk, a Dawn participating scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas, said during a press briefing.

"We had indications before arrival that the south polar region was going to be interesting," he said, adding that "Hubble pictures show a dimple there, but at [the space telescope's] resolution it's hard to tell what's going on."

The Vesta mountain is more than twice the height of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, which is the tallest volcano on Earth. Mauna Lao rises 6 miles (9 km) from the Pacific Ocean floor, but most of it is under water.

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NASA offers view of KSC's future

Senior NASA officials today will offer an update Kennedy Space Center's post-shuttle future.

Center Director Bob Cabana and other KSC managers will address several hundred community leaders, business executives, educators, community organizers, and state and local government leaders expected to attend the center's annual Community Leaders Breakfast.

This morning's event is hosted at the Visitor Complex's Debus Conference Facility.

At 11 a.m., Cabana will join NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden for a tour of the 355-foot mobile launcher NASA plans to use for launches of a giant heavy-lift rocket for deep space missions.

Built for the cancelled Constellation program's Ares I rocket, the Apollo-style mobile launch platform and tower is expected to be modified to fit the recently announced Space Launch System.

Cabana and Bolden will discuss the system that NASA says will "take astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home, and provide the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts."

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NASA hands over keys to space shuttle Endeavour

NASA officially signed over the ownership of Endeavour, its youngest space shuttle, to the California Science Center in Los Angeles Tuesday, setting the stage for the retired spaceship's delivery to the museum next year.

Space agency officials handed over Endeavour's title during a ceremony at the science center and plan to deliver the space shuttle in the second half of 2012.

"NASA is pleased to share this wonderful orbiter with the California Science Center to help inspire a new generation of explorers," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "The next chapter in space exploration begins now, and we're standing on the shoulders of the men and women of the shuttle program to reach farther into the solar system."

The California Science Center is one of four institutions across the country selected by Bolden to serve as the permanent home for NASA's space shuttle vehicles. Bolden announced his decision on April 12 of this year, the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch in 1981.

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New View of Vesta Mountain From NASA's Dawn Mission

Dawn Mission
A new image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows a mountain three times as high as Mt. Everest, amidst the topography in the south polar region of the giant asteroid Vesta.

The peak of Vesta's south pole mountain, seen in the center of the image, rises about 13 miles (22 kilometers) above the average height of the surrounding terrain. Another impressive structure is a large scarp, a cliff with a steep slope, on the right side of this image. The scarp bounds part of the south polar depression, and the Dawn team's scientists believe features around its base are probably the result of landslides.

The image is online at: . It was created from a shape model of Vesta, and shows an oblique perspective view of the topography of the south polar region. The image resolution is about 300 meters per pixel, and the vertical scale is 1.5 times that of the horizontal scale.

Dawn entered orbit around Vesta in July. Members of the mission team will discuss what the spacecraft has seen so far during a news conference at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis. Among other things, they'll share their hypotheses on the origins of Vesta's curious craters.

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Tropical system approaching NASA Space Center should be Tropical Storm

Tropical System
Latest radar image out of Melbourne, Florida shows a defined tropical storm nearing the NASA Kennedy Space Center as we speak. NOAA has not named it.

There are times when you question the judgement of another and this would be the time. Observations show wind gusts nearing 60 mph at the NASA Kennedy Space Center right now and radar clearly shows a defined low level circulation.

There is no doubt in my mind this is a Tropical Storm that may be missed by the National Hurricane Center. Latest radar imagery shows a clear surface low signature just 40 miles southeast of the NASA Kennedy Space Center.

Whether they decide to name it or not, this system will cross Central Florida and produce heavy rainfall, thunderstorms, and strong winds through the night.

NASA Cameras Track Meteors, May Improve Astronaut Safety

Astronaut in space
A growing network of NASA cameras is providing dramatic images of meteors as they streak across the night sky, and may eventually protect astronauts in space.

"If you have an object that's picked up by multiple cameras, you can figure out speed, direction and height," said David Dundee, an astronomer at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Ga., which houses one of the cameras on its roof. "You can actually plot the orbit of where these things come from."

The Tellus camera is one of four NASA "all sky" cameras already operational in the Southeast. The space agency is completing a network of 15 cameras east of the Mississippi River, with plans to expand nationwide, to help compute the routes of these objects.

By determining the paths of meteoroids (the term for space debris outside the atmosphere), scientists hope to develop enough advance warning to keep astronauts out of harm's way. Engineers also hope to make spacecraft more resistant to strikes from meteoroids as they learn more about the objects' sizes and speeds.

"The major meteor showers, we pretty much know about," Dundee said. "It's the other minor showers and streams we don't know about, and then the sporadic meteors that are not associated with showers. We're trying to get a handle on what the rate is and from where."

Here on Earth, the atmosphere offers excellent protection against the estimated 100 tons of space dust, gravel and rocks that enter it each day. More than 99 percent of this material burns up completely before getting anywhere near the ground.

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NASA Requiring All Space Cadets to Speak Russian

space cadets
In early November, NASA will seek applicants for its next class of astronaut candidates, hoping to bolster its reserves of brave spacemen -- in the face of a National Research Council report that warned the corps was getting too small.

"For scientists, engineers and other professionals who have always dreamed of experiencing spaceflight, this is an exciting time to join the astronaut corps," said Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

And rocket scientists aren't the only ones who can apply.

A bachelor's degree in engineering, science or math and three years of relevant professional experience are all that's required in order to be considered. Typically, successful applicants have significant qualifications in engineering or science, or extensive experience flying high-performance jet-aircraft, NASA said.

Don't get too excited just yet, however: The space agency won't be seeking hundreds of new astronauts. There will be room for only around 8 to 12, Duane Ross, manager for astronaut candidate training, told

"The number is one of those things you don't decide on until the very end," Ross cautioned, noting that "the number will be small -- last time we picked nine."

This class of astronauts won't necessarily be training as pilots, either, though some will certainly go through such training. The focus will instead be on long-duration missions aboard the International Space Station.

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NASA Supercomputer Tackles Secrets Of Galaxies

nasa super computer
A NASA supercomputer has provided the most realistic simulation of the evolving universe that scientists have produced to date, giving researchers clues to how the cosmos continues to change and grow, according to the space agency.

NASA's Pleiades supercomputer, which is located at the NASA Ames Research Center, used simulation code called Bolshoi to show the distribution of dark matter across a span of one billion light years. Dark matter--a substance with much gravity that doesn't interact with normal matter and cannot be directly observed--comprises about 25% of the universe, and is the subject of much of NASA's work to study the origins and evolution of the universe.

Researchers hope to use the simulation to explain how galaxies and other aspects of the universe were formed and have evolved since the Big Bang, which occurred 13.7 billion years ago and is considered the origin of the universe, according to NASA.

Custom software tools from NASA's data analysis and visualization team produced images and animations that show the formation and evolution of so-called "dark matter halos," which are the basis for the formation of galaxies. These are allowing scientists to analyze the results of the simulation for further research, according to NASA.

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Gaping hole opened in Arctic ozone layer

Arctic Ozone Layer
A huge Arctic ozone hole opened up over the Northern Hemisphere for the first time this year, an international research team reported Sunday.

The hole covered 2 million square kilometres - about twice the size of Ontario - and allowed high levels of harmful ultraviolet radiation to hit large swaths of northern Canada, Europe and Russia this spring, the 29 scientists say.

The discovery of the "unprecedented" hole comes as the Canadian government is moving to reduce staff in what Environment Minister Peter Kent calls the "streamlining" of its ozone monitoring network.

Environment Canada scientist David Tarasick, whose team played a key role in the report published Sunday in the journal Nature, is not allowed to discuss the discovery with the media.

Environment Canada told Postmedia News that an interview with Tarasick "cannot be granted." Tarasick is one of several Environment Canada ozone scientists who have received letters warning of possible "discontinuance of job function" as part of the downsizing underway in the department.

In Sunday's report Tarasick and his colleagues say the "chemical ozone destruction over the Arctic in early 2011 was - for the first time in the observation record - comparable to that in the Antarctic ozone hole."

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NASA Probe Uncovers Decades-Old Mysteries of Mercury

Nasa Mercury
Mercury, the tiny rocky planet closest to the sun, may have a lot common with earth, but a spacecraft sent to the least-explored planet in the system is providing surprising data that has revolutionized the way scientists think about the innermost planet.

New close-up images and data provided by NASA's MESSENGER -- Mercury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging -- spacecraft have revealed an unforeseen class of landforms on the planet closest to the sun.

MESSENGER spacecraft, the first to achieve orbit around Mercury, has found that the planet has a lot of unfathomable lava flows that envelop its northern polar region with no other earth-type volcanoes in view, the U.S. space agency says.

Mercury's exterior portion have slopes just like the hills and valleys on Earth, but those of the smallest planet in the solar system are described as "hollows" to distinguish them from craters.

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