NASA Will Continue U.S. Space Leadership

I respectfully disagree with Homer Hickam's "The Commercial Space Age Has Begun" ( America has been the world leader in space exploration for 50 years, and under the ambitious plan laid out by President Obama and Congress, we will continue to lead for at least the next half-century The president has challenged NASA to accomplish big things—to rendezvous with an asteroid by 2025 and send humans to Mars in the 2030s. These are specific goals toward which NASA is planning and making investments.

Our vision for the future is clear: hand off low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector; develop the technology and vehicles needed to explore deep space, eventually landing a human mission on Mars; and help develop quieter and cleaner airplanes, all while inspiring our young people to out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world.

NASA recently launched the most ambitious mission ever to Mars, the Curiosity rover, to help answer questions about conditions for life beyond Earth. America's love of space exploration and its crucial role in our nation's life and priorities is stronger than ever


Nasa doing research inmany fields

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Chief technologist, System Engineering Directorate, Nasa Langley Research Center, USA, U N Singh on Sunday said that Nasa was America's leading scientific centre for research and exploration in the fields of space science and technology, environmental studies and worldwide geographical changes.

Delivering the keynote lecture on 'Nasa's Future Earth Science Missions for Global Observations' at the Indian Institute of Business Management (IIBM), Singh said that at Nasa, besides space and satellite technology, research is also going on geo-informatics, laser and optical techniques. Research on Earth-related mission was also going on. It would also lead to understanding the disintegration of ozone layer in the environment, he pointed out. He said that through remote sensing, one can carry out research on atmospheric changes and their effects on the earth.

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NASA's Antarctic 2011 IceBridge Campaign Concludes

NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory has completed its 2011 Operation IceBridge science flights over Antarctica, and arrived home at its base in Palmdale, Calif., Nov. 22. The IceBridge flight and science team flew a record 24 science flights during the six-week campaign, recording data from a suite of sophisticated instruments on the thickness and depth of Antarctic ice sheets and glacial movement The aircraft departed its deployment base at Punta Arenas, Chile, Tuesday morning Nov. 22 and after a refueling stop in Santiago, Chile, set course for Los Angeles International Airport for customs clearance. The flying lab continued on to the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, arriving about 8:30 p.m. that evening after almost 15 hours in the air.

A highlight of the IceBridge mission was the discovery during a low-level overflight Oct. 14 of a large crack that had recently begun across the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, a precursor to the separation of an estimated 310-square-mile iceberg into the ocean in the near future. The growth of the estimated 18-mile-long rift was documented on several subsequent flights The final science flights on Nov. 17 and 19 focused on the middle of the Antarctic Peninsula and the George VI Sound on the peninsula's western side.

Mission manager Chris Miller's report on the former noted that clear weather over the eastern side of the peninsula provided "a rare opportunity to collect data over glaciers that are more regularly shrouded in cloud." The mostly clear weather allowed the science team to collect data at low altitudes of only 1,500 feet above ground for almost seven hours out of the more than 11 hours the team was aloft.

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 20 November 2011

All ISS systems continue to function nominally, except those noted previously or below. Sunday. Ahead: Week 1 of Increment 30 (thirty) Today 12(twelve) years ago (1998), the 20-ton FGB "Zarya" (Sunrise), the first module of the ISS, was launched at Baikonur/Kazakhstan on a three-stage Proton. The US-financed "Funktsionalnyi-Grusovoi Blok" was built by KhSC (Khrunichev State Research & Production Space Center) from their original Almaz program under subcontract to Boeing.<<<

Crew Wake/Sleep cycle shift: To accommodate Soyuz 27S undock tomorrow evening at 6:00pm EST, crew wake/sleep cycle changes go into effect, featuring a late turn-in today and tomorrow, plus a free day Tuesday:


* Today (11/20) 1:00am 6:00pm
* Tomorrow (Monday, 11/21) 6:30am 1:00am (11/22)
* Tuesday (11/22) Free Day ~4:30pm
* Wednesday (11/23) 1:00am 4:30pm (regular)

After wakeup, FE-4 Volkov performed the routine inspection of the SM (Service Module) PSS Caution & Warning panel as part of regular Daily Morning Inspection.First thing in Postsleep, prior to eating, drinking & brushing teeth, CDR Fossum, FE-3 Burbank & FE-5 Furukawa today conducted the dry saliva sample collections on the INTEGRATED IMMUNE protocol. Later in the day, Mike, Dan & Satoshi also completed the IMMUNE blood sample draws, with Dan assisting Satoshi as Operator and vice versa, plus Satoshi assisting Mike. Following the blood draws, the full blood tubes were temp stowed in the blood collection kit until tomorrow when they will be packed together with the saliva samples on the Soyuz for return to ground. [INTEGRATED IMMUNE (Validating Procedures for Monitoring Crew member Immune Function) samples & analyzes participant's blood, urine, and saliva before, during and after flight for changes related to functions like bone metabolism, oxidative damage and immune function to develop and validate an immune monitoring strategy consistent with operational flight requirements and constraints.

Budget, Technical Woes Hamper Space Ventures

nasa rocket
Launch delays and shrinking federal budgets threaten NASA's plan to rely on private rockets to ferry astronauts and equipment to the international space station, government and industry officials said the first commercial cargo run to the station has now likely slipped from late this year or in January to as late as April—largely because engineers from one company are laboring over spacecraft-guidance software.

Meanwhile, the House as early as Thursday is expected to cut National Aeronautics and Space Administration funding for the development of privately built and operated systems to blast astronauts into orbit the budget woes and technical delays come as the U.S. makes the transition to using commercial operators to transport crews and cargo after retiring its fleet of space shuttles. The first step is for a pair of U.S. companies to come up with private launchers and spacecraft to haul supplies—but not yet people—to the station.

Closely-held Space Exploration Technologies Corp. aims to do the job with its Dragon capsule atop its 19-story-tall rocket, the Falcon 9. After the first launch of that combination in December 2010, the company predicted cargo deliveries would begin within a few months. The Hawthorne, Calif., company, also known as SpaceX, now has internal estimates it could start deliveries at the earliest in February or March, 2012, the government and industry officials said.

Russian, U.S. crew blast off for space station

Three astronauts blasted off on Monday to restore a full crew to the International Space Station (ISS) after the crash of a Russian cargo spaceship disrupted operations and undermined faith in the Russian space programme the launch at 0414 GMT was the first since NASA ended its 30-year shuttle programme in July, heralding a gap of several years when the 16 nations investing in the $100(One Hundred)-billion space station will rely solely on Russia to ferry crews.

Once safely in orbit, the astronaut trio flashed a thumbs-up signal to onboard cameras and applause broke out at the cavernous Mission Control centre in a northern Moscow suburb monday's mission was delayed from September over safety fears after an unmanned Russian Progress craft taking supplies to astronauts broke up in the atmosphere in one of the worst Russian space mishaps in decades.

Any problem in reaching the ISS could leave the space station empty for the first time in more than a decade when the current three-man crew returns to Earth later this monthfor veteran NASA astronaut Daniel Burbank, it is the first voyage on board a Soyuz spacecraft from Russia's Baikonur launchpad in Kazakhstan, while cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov are making their maiden space voyage.

But the crew shrugged off safety concerns before lift off from a snowbound Baikonur "We don't have any black thoughts. We have faith in our equipment," Shkaplerov said, quoted by Russian news agencies after a cramped two-day journey aboard the Soyuz TMA-22 capsule, the crew will dock with the space station on Nov. 16, overlapping briefly with station commander Mike Fossum of NASA, Japan's Satoshi Furukawa and Russia's Sergei Volkov.

NASA's NPP Satellite Acquires First ATMS Measurements

NPP satellite
The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) on board NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite, NPP, acquired its first measurements on November eight (8), 2011. The image shows the ATMS channel 18 data, which measures water vapor in the lower atmosphere. Tropical Storm Sean is visible in the data, as the patch of blue, in the Atlantic off the coast of the Southeastern United States. The data were processed at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility (NSOF) in Suitland, Md the ATMS is one of five instruments on board the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project, or NPP, that launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on October 28. Since then, NPP has successfully completed all spacecraft commissioning activities and powered on all instruments. In the next few weeks, all instruments will be commissioned and NPP will be sending science data from the four remaining instruments by mid-December.

A passive microwave radiometer, the ATMS instrument can collect data even when it is cloudy. Paired with the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), also aboard NPP, they will produce global sets of high-resolution temperature and moisture profiles that are used for forecasting and studying weather "NPP is rock solid," stated Ken Schwer, NPP project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "The satellite has performed extremely well during the checkout maneuvers and is in the expert hands of the mission operations team at NSOF."

During the commissioning activities, which were completed November 5, the NPP spacecraft subsystems were successfully tested, including command and control, propulsion and communications. NPP spacecraft and instrument data is sent from the spacecraft to the ground station in Svalbard, Norway and then to the NSOF.

NASA spots a New York City-sized iceberg as it breaks off Antarctic glacier

NASA researchers flying low over Antarctica’s vast, frozen landscape recently stumbled across a rare event in progress: the calving of a massive iceberg from one of Antarctica’s largest and fastest-moving glaciers. The scientists, who were taking part in NASA’s “Operation IceBridge,” were able to fly a follow-up mission above the Pine Island Glacier to gather unprecedented airborne measurements of an ongoing iceberg calving event. Typically, scientists can only learn of such events after they take place.

Since 2009, NASA scientists have been flying research aircraft loaded with sophisticated sensing equipment above Antarctic and Arctic ice, providing crucial data on ice sheet dynamics. This data is of great interest to the climate science community, considering the massive sea level rise that would occur if land-based ice sheets were to rapidly melt in coming decades.

Numerous studies have been published in the past several years that have raised alarms about the accelerating pace of ice loss in West Antarctica and Greenland. Operation IceBridge is meant to fill data gaps caused by a lag between two different ice-tracking satellites, thereby keeping data flowing to inform ongoing studies.

According to NASA, the last significant Pine Island Glacier calving event took place in 2001. It’s estimated that this one, an 18-mile long crack in the ice that was first spotted on Oct. 14 by a NASA DC-8 crew, probably began to form back in early October. Pine Island Glacier terminates in the sea, and has an “ice tongue” that juts out into the water. This makes the ice vulnerable to melting due to both rising air and water temperatures, although this calving event may have been a largely natural occurrence.

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Sun comes alive, blasting massive solar flares

solar flares
The sun shot off a flare Thursday afternoon from a region that scientists are calling a "benevolent monster."

Scientists at the federal Space Weather Prediction Center say that area is the most active part of the sun since 2005. It has dozens of sunspots, including one that is the size of 17 Earths. Sunspots are kinks or knots in the sun's magnetic field.

"It's beautiful," said forecaster Jess Whittington. "It's still growing. The size is what blows me away."

Thursday's flare was not aimed at Earth. This active region, however, is now slowly turning toward Earth, and scientists say it will be directly facing Earth in about five days.

That storm region will affect Earth only if it shoots off flares and they hit the planet, which does not always happen with stormy areas, said prediction center space scientist Joe Kunches.

The region will be facing Earth for about two weeks as it rotates, he said.

Solar flares send out bursts of electromagnetic energy that can occasionally disrupt communications and electrical systems.

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Mission puts Mars in the cross hairs

MARS makes head- lines this month with the long-awaited launch of the Mars Science Laboratory mission scheduled for Nov. 25. A mission several years in the making, the MSL has survived technical delays and budget issues to become the most advanced scientific mission NASA has ever sent to Mars after a nine-month cruise through the inner solar system, the MSL will reach Mars in August 2012 and land its 1-ton Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface using a device similar to a sky crane. After its innovative descent, Curiosity will explore the Martian surface for up to two Earth years with a suite of high-tech scientific instruments meant to determine whether Mars has ever been favorable for life. Astronomy courses at online universities can also teach you about planet Mars and its geology.

This past summer, scientists chose Mars' Gale Crater as Curiosity's landing site. Gale Crater contains diverse geologic materials that will give Curiosity a wealth of information to study. However, Curiosity will not be limited to one location on Mars as it will use its six-wheel drive to travel up to 660 feet per day and over obstacles up to 2 feet tall curiosity will be nuclear powered, unlike the previous Mars Exploration Rovers, which were solar powered. This radioactive energy source will supply the constant, reliable power needed for Curiosity's communications, advanced experiments and mobility during its two-year mission.

Curiosity will carry on its mast two digital color cameras that will capture high-definition images and video of the Martian surface with better resolution than any previous mission. The high-def images will definitely attract news media and public attention during the mission although the nine-month journey to Mars seems like a long time, the MSL will be a mission worth the wait. Keep an eye on the sky for the brightening Mars over the next several months as the MSL draws closer to the Red Planet.

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NASA Considers Tractor Beams for Future Rovers

NASA is exploring ways to use tractor beams in future robotic probe missions. The agency has recently awarded a team of engineers $100,000 to study three experimental techniques for trapping small particles with lasers.

Spacecraft flying by comets and asteroids or rovers landing on Mars could use the methods to continuously sample their target.

While such technology has been used in biological and surgical applications for years, there has been little work on using it for remote sensing in space, said Paul Stysley, a NASA engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who leads the group studying the techniques.

The idea of using tractor beams on space missions caught the attention of members of NASA’s Mars rover project.

“At first they thought we were a little crazy, but luckily that group is supportive of crazy ideas,” said Stysley.

Current rover missions use drills, which can take a long time to get a sample. But a future probe could quickly zap rocks with a laser and then use a tractor beam to collect some of the resulting vapor. A beam pointed at the atmosphere could also monitor how gases change in response to day-night cycles on Mars.

Though the three technologies will require further investigation and may take up to a decade to develop for space-based missions, much of the work is already being done here on Earth.

The first technique, optical tweezers, is already common in biology laboratories. This method uses a pair of lasers with beams that travel in opposite directions. Changing the intensity of one beam heats air around trapped particles and can cause them to travel toward a probe, essentially creating an optical conveyor belt. But this technology can only be used when an atmosphere is present, so while it could work on some planets, it won’t work in the vacuum of space.

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Boeing leasing shuttle hangar to build new capsule

Boeing is taking over one of NASA's old space shuttle hangars to build a new capsule that the company hopes will lift astronauts to orbit in four or five years.

More than 100 Boeing, NASA and state and federal officials gathered in the massive empty hangar -- Orbiting Processing Facility No. 3 -- for the announcement of the first-of-its-kind agreement allowing a private company to take over the government property.

The aerospace company expects to create 550 high-tech jobs at Kennedy Space Center over the next four years, 140 of them by the end of next year. That's less than 10 percent of the approximately 6,000 shuttle jobs lost in Florida over the past several years, but Gov. Rick Scott and other lawmakers at the ceremony said they expect additional hirings by the commercial space industry.

NASA is counting on companies like Boeing, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and others to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station in three to five years. Until then, the space agency will continue to shell out tens of millions of dollars per seat on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

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