So many things are happening in humanity’s various Space Programs that I’m forced to do a consolidated review of recent news and pictures.
The European Space Agency’s Mars Express has succesfully deployed its boom radars and will soon start prospecting for ice and minerals beneath the surface of Mars. I have an in-depth article this remarkable spacecraft almost ready to post, sometime next week. Last week I presented some of the amazing high resolution pictures of the “Grand Canyons” of Mars, worth a look.
Here is a new picture of some surface ice nestled in a 22 mile wide impact crater. I believe this is the first picture taken of surface ice on Mars (ice that is not part of the polar ice caps – thanks Victor!).
Ice hockey anyone?
Cosmos 1 Crashes During Liftoff
The big news of the week, the story that garnered the most press coverage at any rate, was the attempted launch of Cosmos 1 aboard a Russian ICBM from a Russian submarine. This solar sail craft was conceived and funded by the widow of Astronomer Carl Sagan, and was funded in part by The Planetary Society.
“A solar sail is a spacecraft without a rocket engine. It is pushed along directly by light particles from the Sun, reflecting off its giant sails. Because it carries no fuel and keeps accelerating over almost unlimited distances, it is the only technology now in existence that can one day take us to the stars.”
Unfortunately, the first stage of the ICBM failed (shut down prematurely) and the missile and Cosmos 1 crashed into the Arctic Ocean.
NASA Appropriations Bill Includes $250 Million for Hubble
Senator Barbara A. Mikulski announced today that the Senate version of the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill includes $250 million for a Hubble servicing mission.
The Senate has also increased the budget for Aeronautics, a part of NASA that was going to lose funding in order to push ahead with NASA’s “Vision For Space Exploration”.
There seems to be a trend building. As Mike Griffin and NASA reassign resources to achieve the primary goal of establishing colonies on the moon and Mars, the Senate rejects the phase-out of equally important science research, Hubble repair, aeronautics development, and the completion of the International Space Station. I’m amazed to see this level of intelligent decision-making come from Washington.
Cornell grad Dan Maas creates Deep Impact animations for NASA
The Deep Impact mission is getting closer by the day, by the hour. On July 4th early in the pre-dawn hours, we will slam an “impactor” probe into the far away comet Tempel 1. And film it from a “fly-by” spacecraft.
Dan Maas has created two fantastic animations to show how he envisions this collision.
Dan Maas spent hours interviewing NASA scientists and engineer to create the best representation of this historic event. With a decent pair of binoculars, or a halfway decent telescope, you too can witness mankind’s first physical exploration of a comet.
UPDATE: Scientists have processed images from Deep Impact and have clearly seen the nucleus of the comet through the vast cloud of dust and gas that surrounds it. The new images provide important information about the mission’s target: the “heart” of comet Tempel 1.
Space Shuttle Discovery Successfully Rolls Back to Launch Pad
What else can I say about this? That I’m already on the edge of my seat? It’s true, and I can’t wait to see the shuttle blast skyward once again. The Return To Flight Mission will visit the ISS in order to deliver food, water and oxygen to replenish the dwindling supplies.
A module with repair parts for the Shuttles heat shielding tiles will also become a permanent item stored on the ISS. Plus the Shuttle will accomplish whatever else is planned… Let us all keep our finger crossed for a safe uneventful mission, and a perfect landing back on Earth.
New Jet Powered Speed Record – NASA’s X43A Goes really really fast!
The Guiness Book Of World Records recognized NASA’s X-43A as the new holder of the jet powered speed record. Back in March, this unmanned Scramjet demonstrated that an air-breathing engine can fly at nearly 10 times the speed of sound.
Preliminary data from the scramjet-powered research vehicle show its revolutionary engine worked successfully at approximately Mach 10, nearly 7000 mph, as it flew at an altitude of approximately 110,000 feet.
(Oh man, I need to weed the garden!)