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Astronaut.com http://astronaut.com Where Science Fiction Meets Reality Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:35:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Why Does The International Space Station Have Such A Weird Shape? http://astronaut.com/why-does-the-international-space-station-have-such-a-weird-shape/ http://astronaut.com/why-does-the-international-space-station-have-such-a-weird-shape/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:19:43 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8861 I feel like a parent that was just told their child is ugly. As an engineer, I look at the ISS and think “of course it looks that way, why would it look different?” Where a fictional spacecraft has the luxury of having its design dictated by style, real spacecraft are constrained by budget, tradeoffs,…

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I feel like a parent that was just told their child is ugly. As an engineer, I look at the ISS and think “of course it looks that way, why would it look different?

Where a fictional spacecraft has the luxury of having its design dictated by style, real spacecraft are constrained by budget, tradeoffs, and practicality. Every feature of the ISS can be explained by those words.

ISS

We don’t yet have the technology to do construction in space, so we have to assemble a large vehicle in space from launch-able components. At the time of the ISS assembly, the two mechanisms for getting a large payload to space were the Space Shuttle Orbiter and the Russian Proton rocket.

Those two sentences explain a lot of the ISS appearance. It had to be assembled from pieces that would fit in the Orbiter payload bay or the payload fairing of a Proton rocket. This dictates a maximum length and diameter for each component. We can therefore expect ISS to be composed largely of cylinders, linked together like sausages.

Those two delivery vehicles dictate other characteristics. The Space Shuttle Orbiter could deliver a completely unpowered cylinder, remove it from the payload bay and attach it using the robotic arm and attach it to the ISS. But, the Russian Proton rocket deposits its payload in low Earth orbit and that payload then has to fly itself to the ISS.

That means each of the Russian modules are self-contained spacecraft. They have to have thrusters and fuel tanks and navigation and communication sensors and antennae. When we look at the Russian modules we see that equipment:

A space station with multiple labs operating at all times needs a lot of electrical power (a few kilowatts). That’s going to require big solar arrays – enough to almost fill a football field. And because the angle to the sun changes as the vehicle orbits the Earth, those solar arrays need to be able to rotate so that they constantly face the sun. That dictates that those solar arrays need to have unobstructed paths – unobstructed not just in their rotation, but unobstructed in their line of sight to the sun. So we mount the solar arrays off to the sides and we keep the profile of the rest of the vehicle low.

Similarly, we need to be able to reject heat to space and thus need to have large radiators. Those radiators need to be able to articulate so that they aren’t in direct sunlight.

To hold those solar arrays we need rigid structures that can handle the twisting torques of the solar array rotation and drag. That’s the big horizontal bar across the vehicle. The trusses are not pressurized modules, but they aren’t wasted space. The trusses are full of equipment like batteries and coolant pumps. The ISS needs to stay powered during night passes, so several very large batteries are needed.

Now that we’ve accepted that our space station is going to be a series of linked cylinders, we might wonder how they would be arranged. It took several years to assemble the ISS. It needed to be a functioning and occupied vehicle during that time. That puts restrictions on where components are put.

We need to have stable attitude control of the stack and we need to have power, data, and consumables connectivity. We need to have unobstructed paths for docking vehicles along the v-bar (velocity vector) and r-bar (orbital radius vector). We need to be able to reach all of the berthing ports with the robotic arm. We can’t block communications antennae. The GPS antennae need a clear path to the satellites.

For example, one might wonder why the European Columbus module and the Japanese Kibomodules stick out to the side instead of being added to the front. The reason is that they were delivered by the Space Shuttle Orbiter and the Orbiter needed to dock to the PMA (Pressurized Mating Adaptor) that is at the front of the ISS.

The ISS is all about function over form. When I watch science fiction, I find myself looking at the smooth, uniform, symmetrical ships and asking myself questions like “How do they reject heat? Where are they getting their electrical power? Where are the communications antennae? How does a docking vehicle avoid pluming? Why did they put the tanks on the inside where they are harder to replace? Why are they using so much more material than needed? Where the heck did they build that thing? And so on.

Every little projection, every little change in color, every change in dimension on the ISS is for a explicit engineering reason.

Here’s an animation showing how it was all put together:

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NASA plans mission to land on asteroid and explore deep space http://astronaut.com/nasa-plans-mission-to-land-on-asteroid-and-explore-deep-space/ http://astronaut.com/nasa-plans-mission-to-land-on-asteroid-and-explore-deep-space/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:35:34 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8857 NASA is aiming to launch a rocket to an asteroid in five years and grab a boulder off of it — a stepping stone and training mission for an eventual trip sending humans to Mars. The space agency Wednesday unveiled details of the $1.25bn plan to launch a solar-powered unmanned spaceship to an asteroid in…

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NASA is aiming to launch a rocket to an asteroid in five years and grab a boulder off of it — a stepping stone and training mission for an eventual trip sending humans to Mars.

The space agency Wednesday unveiled details of the $1.25bn plan to launch a solar-powered unmanned spaceship to an asteroid in December 2020.

A photo shows an asteroid named Itokawa. It is one of the asteroids being considered as a target for a mission in 2020 to land a space craft on its surface and grab a boulder for later inspection. Photograph: AP

A photo shows an asteroid named Itokawa. It is one of the asteroids being considered as a target for a mission in 2020 to land a space craft on its surface and grab a boulder for later inspection. Photograph: AP

The ship would spend about a year circling the large space rock and pluck a 13-foot (4 meter) boulder off its surface using robotic arms. It would have three to five opportunities to grab the rock, said Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s associate administrator.

The smaller rock would be hauled near the moon and parked in orbit around the moon. Using a giant rocket ship and the Orion crew capsule that are still being developed, two astronauts would fly to the smaller rock in 2025 and start exploring. Astronauts aboard Orion would dock with the robotic ship, make spacewalks, climbing around the mini-asteroid to inspect and document, and even grab a piece to return to Earth.

The smaller rock might not even be big enough for the two astronauts to stand on; it would have to fit in the cargo bay of the now-retired space shuttles.

The mission will “demonstrate the capabilities we’re going to need for further future human missions beyond low Earth orbit and then ultimately to Mars,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot also identified the leading target. It’s a 1,300-foot wide space rock discovered in 2008 called 2008 EV5, making it somewhat larger than most of the asteroids that circle the sun near Earth. Two other space rocks are being considered, called Itokawa and Bennu.

NASA managers chose this option over another plan that would lasso or use a giant bag to grab an entire asteroid and haul it near the moon. The selected plan is about $100 million more expense but it was picked by managers in a meeting Tuesday because it would test technologies and techniques “we’re going to need when we go to another planetary body,” Lightfoot said during a telephone press conference. Those include “soft landing” and grabbing technologies, he said.

A few years ago, the administration proposed sending astronauts to an asteroid and landing on it, but later changed that to bringing the asteroid closer to Earth.

The $1.25bn price does not include the larger costs of the rockets launching the spaceships to the asteroid and the smaller boulder.

The entire project called ARM for Asteroid Redirect Mission would also test new spacesuits for deep space, as opposed to Earth orbit, and may even help companies look at the idea of mining asteroids for precious metals, said NASA spokesman David Steitz.

Steitz said by getting closer to the large asteroid, the mission will help with “planetary defense” techniques, learning how to nudge a threatening space rock out of harm’s way.

Scott Pace, space policy director at George Washington University and a NASA associate administrator in the George W. Bush administration, said the concept in some ways makes sense in terms of training, engineering and cost, but “it still leaves the larger questions: What this leads to and why?”

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NASA’s Curiosity finds new ingredient of life on Mars http://astronaut.com/nasas-curiosity-finds-new-ingredient-of-life-on-mars/ http://astronaut.com/nasas-curiosity-finds-new-ingredient-of-life-on-mars/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 11:03:31 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8854 After already finding evidence of water on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered another key element necessary for life on the Red Planet. NASA said Tuesday that the robotic rover has, for the first time, detected nitrogen on the Martian surface. The nitrogen – found in the form of nitric oxide – could be released…

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After already finding evidence of water on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered another key element necessary for life on the Red Planet.

NASA said Tuesday that the robotic rover has, for the first time, detected nitrogen on the Martian surface. The nitrogen – found in the form of nitric oxide – could be released during the natural breakdown of nitrates, which are molecules that contain the type of nitrogen that can be used by living organisms.

Mars Curiosity Rover Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Mars Curiosity Rover Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

The discovery does not mean there is life on Mars.

NASA scientists don’t believe the nitrogen discovered was created by life on Mars. The nitrogen is likely ancient and could have been deposited there by meteorite impacts and lightning.

The discovery provides scientists with another piece of the puzzle suggesting that ancient Mars once was capable of supporting life.

The detection of nitrogen is a milestone for Curiosity, which was sent to Mars for the sole purpose of finding out if the planet was ever capable of supporting life, even in microbial form.

“Finding a biochemically accessible form of nitrogen is more support for the ancient Martian environment at Gale Crater being habitable,” said Jennifer Stern of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement. “Scientists have long thought that nitrates would be produced on Mars from the energy released in meteorite impacts, and the amounts we found agree well with estimates from this process.”

Evidence has begun to pile up about Mars holding key elements, such as oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen, needed to support life as we know it on Earth.

Soon after landing on the Martian surface in August 2012, Curiosity discovered evidence that there had been ancient water flows on the planet’s surface. Scientists suspect that there was once a steady stream of water running about knee deep.

Curiosity, after drilling into Martian rocks, discovered other elements needed for life — carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.

In December, Curiosity detected a spike in methane, another potential sign of life since it can be produced by bacteria or microbes. Scientists reported at the time that if there’s methane on Mars, there could have been – or could be – life there.

Now the discovery of nitrogen can be added to the list.

According to NASA, nitrogen is critical for life on Earth. It’s used in the building blocks of larger and critical molecules, like DNA and RNA, which hold the genetic instructions for life.

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NASA’s Curiosity rover finds fresh signs of ingredients for life on Mars http://astronaut.com/nasas-curiosity-rover-finds-fresh-signs-of-ingredients-for-life-on-mars/ http://astronaut.com/nasas-curiosity-rover-finds-fresh-signs-of-ingredients-for-life-on-mars/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 11:54:05 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8850 Mars‘s life-friendly past just got friendlier. Using samples previously collected by the NASA rover Curiosity, scientists have discovered evidence of nitrates in Martian rock: nitrogen compounds that on Earth are a crucial source of nutrients for living things. The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lend further support to…

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Mars‘s life-friendly past just got friendlier. Using samples previously collected by the NASA rover Curiosity, scientists have discovered evidence of nitrates in Martian rock: nitrogen compounds that on Earth are a crucial source of nutrients for living things.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, shown at the John Klein drill site, has found signs of nitrates, compounds that could have provided essential nutrients to living things, if they ever existed on the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, shown at the John Klein drill site, has found signs of nitrates, compounds that could have provided essential nutrients to living things, if they ever existed on the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lend further support to the idea that the Red Planet, now barren and dry, could once have hosted habitable environments.

Although planetary scientists have been on the hunt for organic carbon – the type of carbon-containing molecules that could be used and produced by living things – nitrogen also plays an essential role in life as we know it, said lead author Jennifer Stern, a planetary geochemist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

For example, nitrogen is a key component of nucleobases that make up RNA and DNA, and of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

“People want to follow the carbon, but in many ways nitrogen is just as important a nutrient for life,” said Stern, a science team member for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, as Curiosity’s mission is formally known. “Life runs on nitrogen as much as it runs on carbon.”

So the scientists examined data from three samples processed by the Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument, which is part of a formidable laboratory in Curiosity’s belly. They looked at samples pulled from three spots near its landing site: aeolian deposits from Rocknest and mudstone deposits from John Klein and Cumberland.

These sites were all visited during a detour from Curiosity’s main mission, which was to drive to Mt. Sharp, the 3-mile-high mound in the middle of Gale Crater whose clay-rich layers looked like an ideal spot to search for signs of past habitable environments. Going off course was a risk, but it paid off; the John Klein and Cumberland mudstones have previously turned up a smorgasbord of chemicals and water-altered minerals that would have made it a potentially prime place for life, if it ever existed on the Red Planet. Now, this fresh analysis of the nitrogen compounds in these rocks further strengthens that idea.

The rock samples were cooked in SAM’s oven and the resulting gases were analyzed. The researchers found a significant amount of nitric oxide, a compound that, before it was cooked, probably came from nitrates, Stern said.

“What we’re detecting is nitric oxide, but we know from lab experiments that when we heat up nitrates, they break down in a predictable way,” Stern said. “And that’s why we think these are nitrates.”

The researchers had to carefully subtract out the amount of contamination that would be coming from the rover itself, to make sure they were not getting a false signal.

When they finished, they were still left with a significant amount of nitrogen – enough to account for 110 to 300 parts per million of nitrate in the Rocknest sample, 70 to 260 parts per million in John Klein and 330 to 1,100 parts per million in Cumberland. That’s comparable to the amount of nitrates you’d get in extremely dry places on Earth, such as the Atacama Desert in South America.

Nitrates are important molecules because it’s easier for living things to access nitrogen and put it to work, Stern said. Nitrogen in the atmosphere is typically made of two nitrogen molecules that are triple-bonded to each other, making it a tough molecule to cut apart. Nitrates consist of a nitrogen linked to three oxygen atoms with only single or double bonds, and are much easier to disassemble.

Most nitrates on Earth are produced by living things, Stern said. But in the case of Mars, the team believes the nitrates were created during a “thermal shock,” such as a lightning strike or an asteroid impact.

Among the next steps, she says, is to see whether whatever process that generated these nitrates is still happening on Mars.

“We’re going to try to understand whether this process is still happening today at all,” Stern said, “or whether this all happened in the past in a different Mars, in a different climate regime, in a different atmosphere.”

 

 

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51-year-old astronaut is planning to reside in the International Space Station for a full year http://astronaut.com/51-year-old-astronaut-is-planning-to-reside-in-the-international-space-station-for-a-full-year/ http://astronaut.com/51-year-old-astronaut-is-planning-to-reside-in-the-international-space-station-for-a-full-year/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:26:37 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8845 IF you get homesick during a weekend away, chances are you would not be suited for the expedition Scott Kelly is about to begin. The 51-year-old astronaut is planning to reside in the International Space Station for a full year — six months more than any other American astronaut has spent beyond Earth’s atmosphere. The…

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IF you get homesick during a weekend away, chances are you would not be suited for the expedition Scott Kelly is about to begin.

The 51-year-old astronaut is planning to reside in the International Space Station for a full year — six months more than any other American astronaut has spent beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Astronaut Scott Kelly is preparing for a year in space. Source: AFP

Astronaut Scott Kelly is preparing for a year in space. Source: AFP

The mission aims to test the physical and psychological strains space exploration places on the human body.

Mr Kelly said he understands the full extent of a prolonged stay in space is still unknown, but want’s to partake in the mission regardless.

“There are risks and I am willing to accept that for what we are going to learn from it,” Kelly told the ABC.

“That’s one of the things that makes it exciting and something I am really happy to be a part of.”

To help measure the changes occurring to Scott’s body during the mission, his twin brother, Mark, also an astronaut, will remain on earth.

“We need to figure out how people are going to live in space for really long periods of time, especially if we want to send somebody to Mars [and] … build a base on the Moon,” Mark Kelly said.

With a roundtrip to Mars taking 18 months, NASA is hopeful this expedition will help determine if such a journey is logistically possible.

 

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SpaceX follows NASA by publishing images without copyright restrictions http://astronaut.com/spacex-follows-nasa-by-publishing-images-without-copyright-restrictions/ http://astronaut.com/spacex-follows-nasa-by-publishing-images-without-copyright-restrictions/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 12:27:35 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8839 After pressure from campaigners, SpaceX has published a first batch of more than 100 photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons license. The decision gives the public the ability to download and remix the images freely (as long as they’re attributed properly) and has been welcomed as a success for both space fans and copyright advocates. Unlike images…

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After pressure from campaigners, SpaceX has published a first batch of more than 100 photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons license. The decision gives the public the ability to download and remix the images freely (as long as they’re attributed properly) and has been welcomed as a success for both space fans and copyright advocates. Unlike images of space published by NASA, SpaceX’s photos do have some rights reserved, meaning they can’t be used for commercial purposes.


In the US, there’s a well-established tradition of copyright-free space images thanks to the work of NASA. Because the space agency is funded by taxpayers, its photographs are deemed “government works” and therefore have “no copyright restrictions on reproduction, derivative works, distribution, performance, or display.”

NASA’S MOST ICONIC IMAGES HAVE STARTED SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND INSPIRED MILLIONS

This means that iconic images such as The Blue MarbleEarthrise, or the Pillars of Creation are free to use in pretty much any scenario. They’ve appeared on T-shirts, in adverts, and been published in books, embedding themselves in our collective conscious as images that are both inspirational and aspirational. And, as Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Parker Higgins notes, they’ve also “formed the basis of major social movements [and] activism campaigns.”

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SpaceX, by comparison, has no obligation to release its images to the public. Speaking to Motherboard about the issue, intellectual property lawyer Andrew Rush said: “Just because they’re operating on behalf of NASA does not necessarily mean the copyright of their images are owned by NASA or the US government. When SpaceX is operating as a NASA contractor, generally any of the copyrightable stuff they create is subject to copyright protections.”

The newly-applied Creative Commons license for SpaceX’s images isn’t the same as putting them into the public domain, but campaigners say it’s a start. “It’d be nice if these photos could appear in Wikipedia or be built upon without any caveats by artists and entrepreneurs,” Higgins told The Atlantic. “But it’s still a good thing that these are going online under clear terms.”

All images credited to SpaceX.

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Will Mars One get off the ground? Here’s why it doesn’t matter if they succeed or not http://astronaut.com/will-mars-one-get-off-the-ground-heres-why-it-doesnt-matter-if-they-succeed-or-not/ http://astronaut.com/will-mars-one-get-off-the-ground-heres-why-it-doesnt-matter-if-they-succeed-or-not/#comments Sat, 21 Mar 2015 12:31:30 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8836 Thursday, March 19, 2015, 8:22 PM - Will Mars One get off the ground? Criticisms of the mission have been flying as of late, and CEO Bas Lansdorp has come out to respond to them, but in the end, it really doesn’t matter whether this one-way trip will ever happen. The Mars One project –…

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Thursday, March 19, 2015, 8:22 PM - Will Mars One get off the ground? Criticisms of the mission have been flying as of late, and CEO Bas Lansdorp has come out to respond to them, but in the end, it really doesn’t matter whether this one-way trip will ever happen.

The Mars One project – the plan to send teams of four people on one-way trips to the Red Planet starting in 2025 – has had more than its fair share of critics ever since the mission was announced in 2013.

Just recently, Dr. Joseph Roche, an astrophysicist at Trinity College’s School of Education in Dublin, spoke out against Mars One on Medium.com. In the article, Roche – who is not on Mars One’s current roster of candidates – leveled several criticisms at the project, saying:

• Mars One had nowhere near the 200,000 applicants original reported,
• Candidates were encouraged to donate a large portion of any fees they collect from speaking about their involvement in Mars One,
• Candidates had ‘bought’ their way into subsequent rounds of the selection process, through donations and purchasing project merchandise, and
• The short video he submitted, the application he filled out, and a “10-minute Skype interview” were not enough to judge his suitability for the program.

The article went on to say that “Mars One has almost no money. Mars One has no contracts with private aerospace suppliers who are building technology for future deep-space missions. Mars One has no TV production partner. Mars One has no publicly known investment partnerships with major brands. Mars One has no plans for a training facility where its candidates would prepare themselves. Mars One’s candidates have been vetted by a single person, in a 10-minute Skype interview.”

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Ancient Supernova ‘Dust Factory’ Found in Galactic Core http://astronaut.com/ancient-supernova-dust-factory-found-in-galactic-core/ http://astronaut.com/ancient-supernova-dust-factory-found-in-galactic-core/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 11:48:04 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8833 Through the use of a monster telescope attached to a modified Boeing 747 jet, astronomers have discovered the dust of an ancient supernova near the center of the Milky Way. This finding is unique in that it was thought the turbulent nature of an expanding supernova explosion should destroy this dust, but its presence provides…

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Through the use of a monster telescope attached to a modified Boeing 747 jet, astronomers have discovered the dust of an ancient supernova near the center of the Milky Way.

This finding is unique in that it was thought the turbulent nature of an expanding supernova explosion should destroy this dust, but its presence provides a fascinating insight as to why many galaxies appear to be dust-rich, adding critical detail to star and planet-formation theories.

Peering into the center of the Milky Way galaxy, in this false color image, contour lines reveal the dusty area of Sagittarius A East — an ancient supernova remnant. NASA/CORNELL

“Dust itself is very important because it’s the stuff that forms stars and planets, like the sun and Earth, respectively, so to know where it comes from is an important question,” said lead author Ryan Lau, a postdoctoral associate for astronomy at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. “Our work strongly reinforces the theory that supernovae are producing the dust seen in galaxies of the early universe.”

It has been long theorized that a key production mechanism for heavy elements in our universe are created by supernovae — the explosions generated as massive stars run out of fuel and die. These detonations are powerful enough to form dust rich in the materials that go on to form further generations of stars and the planets that orbit around them.

But one of the biggest conundrums in galactic evolution is why galaxies are so rich in dust when the supernovae themselves are thought, in theory, to destroy the majority of the dust they create in the turbulent aftermath.

So, using an instrument called FORCAST (the Faint Object Infrared Camera Telescope) on board SOFIA (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), a joint project between NASA, German Aerospace Center and the Universities Space Research Association, the astronomers have gained an invaluable insight to one particular supernova remnant near the center of our galaxy.

SOFIA is an airborne observatory that is able to fly above the majority of the Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of 13.7 kilometers (45,000 ft). The 747-mounted, 2.5 meter diameter infrared telescope occupies a valuable “sweet spot” in infrared astronomy. Ground-based telescopes cannot see the long infrared wavelengths as the atmosphere blocks space emissions from reaching the ground. Also, currently, no space-based instrument can cover the wavelengths that SOFIA can.

So when the observatory zoomed in on Sagittarius A East, a 10,000-year-old supernova remnant near the galactic center, SOFIA had a first look at the infrared light generated by this surprisingly abundant supernova remnant dust.

“There have been no direct observations of any dust surviving the environment of the supernova remnant … until now, and that’s why our observations of an ‘old’ supernova are so important,” said Lau.

Lau’s team’s work has been published in the March 19 edition of Science Express.

 

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Ex-Canadian astronaut Julie Payette says Mars One, the one-way mission to the red planet, is going nowhere http://astronaut.com/ex-canadian-astronaut-julie-payette-says-mars-one-the-one-way-mission-to-the-red-planet-is-going-nowhere/ http://astronaut.com/ex-canadian-astronaut-julie-payette-says-mars-one-the-one-way-mission-to-the-red-planet-is-going-nowhere/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 12:24:18 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8830 MONTREAL — Former Canadian astronaut Julie Payette doesn’t believe the controversial one-way mission to send people to live on Mars will fly. Dutch-based Mars One wants to establish a colony on the red planet by 2025 and six Canadians are among the 100 finalists still in the running. The $6-billion project calls for the use…

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MONTREAL — Former Canadian astronaut Julie Payette doesn’t believe the controversial one-way mission to send people to live on Mars will fly.

Dutch-based Mars One wants to establish a colony on the red planet by 2025 and six Canadians are among the 100 finalists still in the running.

Julie Payette, of the Canadian Space Agency, addresses the media after returning to earth from a successful mission to the International Space Station at Kennedy Space Center July 31, 2009 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Julie Payette, of the Canadian Space Agency, addresses the media after returning to earth from a successful mission to the International Space Station at Kennedy Space Center July 31, 2009 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The $6-billion project calls for the use of existing technology and would be funded through sponsors, private investors and a reality TV show.

But Ms. Payette said Wednesday that “nobody is going anywhere in 10 years.”

“We don’t have the technology to go to Mars, with everything we know today, so I don’t think that a marketing company and a TV-type of selection, is sending anybody anywhere,” she said.

“So, if you meet any of those people, don’t tell them they’re courageous because the only courage they had was to sign up on a website.”

Engineers at Boston-based MIT, who analyzed the feasibility of the mission, have also suggested new technology will be needed to keep humans alive once they get there.

Ms. Payette made her comments during a speech that opened a three-day aerospace symposium at the Montreal headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

ICAO has teamed up with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to discuss emerging space activities and civil aviation.

“We are going to go to space on a commercial basis and it’s at our doors,” Ms. Payette said. “It’s a reality that will become the norm in the next decades.”

The 51-year-old urged those attending the symposium to work together “to make it happen in a safe, careful, efficient and intelligent manner.”

Ms. Payette travelled into space twice — in 1999 and in 2009. She retired from the Canadian Space Agency in July 2013 to become chief operating officer of the Montreal Science Centre.

In his welcoming remarks, ICAO council president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu said aerospace activity, such as tourism and research, is “without doubt the next frontier for aviation and potentially for ICAO.”

Mr. Aliu sees a role for ICAO, the UN agency that regulates civil aviation.

“Ultimately it’s expected that spacecraft will be taking off every day and operating on a point-to-point basis — potentially from urban centres,” he said.

UNOOSA director Simonetta Di Pippo said the symposium’s main objective is to explore regulatory mechanisms and practices in aviation and space transportation.

“It is becoming more and more evident that developments in future aerospace activities will impact on the application and implementation of space law and air law instruments,” she said.

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Houston, we have a lot of problems: is Mars One too good to be true? http://astronaut.com/houston-we-have-a-lot-of-problems-is-mars-one-too-good-to-be-true/ http://astronaut.com/houston-we-have-a-lot-of-problems-is-mars-one-too-good-to-be-true/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 11:35:06 +0000 http://astronaut.com/?p=8827 Age: Going since 2011, but probably best described as nascent. Appearance: Either a crazy, far-fetched story about a mission to Mars; or an actual mission to Mars. Which is the reality? Good question. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard those two words. What are the known facts? Mars One is a non-profit, Dutch-registered company proposing to send up to…

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Age: Going since 2011, but probably best described as nascent.

Appearance: Either a crazy, far-fetched story about a mission to Mars; or an actual mission to Mars.

An artist's impression of the Mars One colony may be as close as we're going to get any time soon.

An artist’s impression of the Mars One colony may be as close as we’re going to get any time soon.

Which is the reality? Good question.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard those two words. What are the known facts? Mars One is a non-profit, Dutch-registered company proposing to send up to 20 people to Mars.

Wow. How do they come back? They don’t come back. They live on Mars, and they die on Mars.

What sort of idiot would sign up for something like that? According to Mars One, 200,000 people applied.

Seriously? Well, perhaps not. According to other sources, only 2,176 applications were received. In any case, they have now been whittled down to 50 men and 50 women who will begin their training this year.

How long will this take, and how much will it cost? According to Mars One, it will cost $6bn (£4.1bn), with the first colonists arriving on the planet in 2025.

And according to other sources? The physicist Gerard ’t Hooft, a one-time consultant to Mars One, says both the budget and the timescale are too small by a factor of 10. A 2009 Nasa project study priced a Mars mission at $100bn.

How do they mean to raise even the $6bn? They were planning to turn the whole thing into a reality TV show, but an Endemol subsidiary has just pulled out of talks. And a recent crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising $440,000 failed to reach its goal.

Any other potential sources? According to one shortlisted applicant, Dr Joseph Roche, would-be candidates are ranked on a points basis, and they can enhance that ranking by buying Mars One merchandise and donating their interview fees.

It doesn’t sound as if anybody is going to Mars any time soon. Even plans for an initial robotic scouting mission – in 2018 – look wildly ambitious. Mars One presently has no contracts with aerospace suppliers to build any hardware. Or training facilities.

Do say: “My cousin was selected to colonise Mars, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

Don’t say: “Why don’t they just fake the entire thing for TV? It worked great with the moon landings.”

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