By Mercedes Kirkel This past week I went on a hike with my good friend, Susan. We chose a trail by the San Francisco Bay that Susan used to frequent but hadn’t been on in a number of years. The weather was beautiful, the wildflowers bursting forth, birds gracing our path, and all seemed […]
Excerpt from cbsnews.com A Russian Progress cargo ship bound for the International Space Station spun out of control Tuesday. Engineers were unable to direct the wayward ship and soon gave up any hope that it would be able to dock t...
After years of silence on all but the most prosaic aspects of the secretive X-37B space plane program, the Defense Department has revealed that the mysterious, truck-sized craft's next mission will host an experimental new thrust system that could greatly improve the shelf life of satellites.
The X-37B program has sent its shuttle-like Orbital Test Vehicle craft into space three times for a total time in orbit of almost four years. What the spacecraft has been doing up there is anybody's guess — its creators have declined to comment except to say that everything is working properly. But a news release this week from the Air Force says in no uncertain terms that the next flight of the X-37B, set to begin next month, will be the platform for testing a Hall thruster.
Hall thrusters combine electricity and a noble gas like xenon to produce a miniscule amount of direct force — weak in comparison with thrusters that use ordinary solid fuel, but at a far lesser cost of fuel. Trading power for fuel efficiency would allow satellites and probes to make course adjustments for much longer, extending their lives and versatility. Spaceflight Now has more details on how the system works.
Of course, this sheds no light on what the last three X-37B missions were — but in light of this new information it seems more likely that it's a test bed for high-tech space experiments, and not an orbital bomber or elite spy satellite. But you never know.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has set up a website at which members of the public can register their votes as to the identify of the strange and unexpected bright spots seen on Ceres by the Dawn probe. Although Dawn will study the spots in much greater detail in the near future, having just assumed its first scientific orbit, in the meantime the nature of spots in anyone’s guess. This author voted for “ice”.
It seems ice is the most popular possibility so far, with 33 percent of the vote. The next most popular choice is “other”, with 28 percent. “Volcano” and “geyser” both have 11 percent, “salt deposit” has nine percent, and “rock” has eight percent.
At about 590 miles in diameter, Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Dawn had imaged Ceres’s surface throughout its approach. Dawn entered orbit of Ceres on March 6, the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. From 2011 to 2012, Dawn also orbited the asteroid Vesta, the second-most massive body in the asteroid belt. Having studied both Vesta and Ceres, Dawn is the first spacecraft in history to orbit two extraterrestrial objects. Dawn’s investigations of Vesta and Ceres will shed light on the early evolution of our solar system; both bodies represent incipient planets, gravitationally perturbed early in their formation.
“The approach imaging campaign has completed successfully by giving us a preliminary, tantalizing view of the world Dawn is about to start exploring in detail. It has allowed us to start asking some new and intriguing questions,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s mission director and chief engineer at the JPL, in a separate NASA statement. View Article Here Read More
Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comKarl Pillemer, a Ph.D. gerontologist at Cornell University, has spent the last several years interviewing hundreds of older Americans to systematically collect their practical wisdom.His first book, 30 Lessons for Livin...
Ceres Excerpt from cnet.com It's a real-life mystery cliffhanger. We've come up with a list of possible reasons a large crater on the biggest object in the asteroid belt looks lit up like a Christmas tree. We could be approachin...