Stardust Memories

A mission well played and an efficient use of taxpayer money too. They wrung every last bit of scientific data out of every last dollar.

Lights go out on NASA’s Stardust comet mission

Fresh off a bonus flyby of comet Tempel 1 in February, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft fired its four main engines for more than two minutes Thursday, draining its fuel tank as managers said goodbye to the well-traveled comet chaser after more than 12 years in space.

With Stardust’s single hydrazine fuel tank emptied, the craft lost its ability to control its orientation and the probe’s solar panels were expected to lose track of the sun, and officials anticipated the mission’s battery charge would be exhausted within hours.

Stardust was also programmed to turn off its radio transmitters about 20 minutes after the burn, just in case it might interfere with some future mission using the same frequency.

NASA announced the last transmission from Stardust was received at 7:33 p.m. EDT (2333 GMT) Thursday. Officials monitored the burn from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and issued commands from the Lockheed Martin Corp. mission support center in Denver.

See also:
NASA and Lockheed Martin Say Goodbye to Historic Stardust Spacecraft
NASA’s Venerable Comet Hunter Wraps Up Mission
NASA’s Stardust: Good to the Last Drop
Inside NASA’s Space Funeral for the Comet-Hunting Stardust Probe
NASA kills off comet hunter
Comet-hunting spacecraft shuts down after 12 years
NASA Retires Comet-Hunter Stardust
NASA’s Stardust set to ‘burn to depletion’
NASA’s stardust empties its tank after 12 years
NASA’s ‘Comet Hunter’ Heads Off Into The ‘Sunset’
Stardust – NASA’s Comet Sample Return Mission
NASA – Stardust
Stardust (spacecraft)

Hopefully they put some type of return address on it.

/maybe, like a note in a bottle, something out there will find Stardust and bring it back home, as long as they’re good aliens that come in peace

Close Encounters Of The Comet Kind

NASA shoots, they score! That’s pretty awesome photography, considering the speeds and distances involved.

NASA’s EPOXI Spacecraft Shoots Images of “Comet Hartley 2″

After a nearly 2.9-billion-mile (4.6-billion-kilometer) voyage, NASA’s EPOXI mission spacecraft has survived its risky rendezvous with comet 103P/Hartley 2 and has beamed back the first close-up images of the comet. This montage of five pictures, for example, shows Hartley 2’s nucleus as the craft was flying toward and under the icy body on Thursday. The images progress in time clockwise, starting at top left.

“Early observations of the comet show that, for the first time, we may be able to connect activity to individual features on the nucleus,” Michael A’Hearn, EPOXI’s principal investigator said in a statement. “We certainly have our hands full. The images are full of great cometary data, and that’s what we hoped for.”. The vessel EPOXI, previously called Deep Impact, traveled 2.9 billion miles into space and captured images 435 miles away from the Hartley 2 comet, which was traveling at a speed of 27,000 miles-per-hour. Scientists say the photos of the icy body will provide them with new and useful information about comets.

See also:
Flight of the Comet
New Super Close-Up Images From Comet Flyby
NASA Spacecraft Photographs Hartley 2 Comet
Recycled Comet-Hunting Spacecraft Is Not Dead Yet
Spacecraft beams back stunning pictures of comet
NASA probe beams in close encounter with comet
NASA Captures Detailed Images of Comet Hartley 2
First images of the Hartley 2 comet
Video shows dramatic EPOXI mission flyby of comet Hartley 2
NASA Spacecraft Reveals Comet Close-Up
First images of comet Hartley 2 captured by NASA
NASA Mission Sends Back Images of Comet Hartley 2
Recycled Comet-Hunting Spacecraft Deep Impact Is Still Alive

Unlike most government spending, which is usually wasteful, it’s nice to see NASA getting the most bang for it’s buck by thinking out of the box and retasking its spacecraft to perform missions that weren’t originally contemplated.

/not only is money for NASA money well spent, but it also creates lots of cutting edge engineering, manufacturing, science, and technology jobs, skills America needs to remain globally competitive

Cosmic Neighborhood Watch, Keeping Us Safe From Extinction Events

NASA Launches Comet-Hunting Space Camera

NASA on Monday successfully launched a space telescope designed to create a highly detailed map of the heavens and spot comets and asteroids that could pose a threat to life on Earth.

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, lifted off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base atop a Delta II rocket at 6:09 a.m. PST.

“”WISE thundered overhead, lighting up the pre-dawn skies,” said William Irace, mission project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif.

“All systems are looking good, and we are on our way to seeing the entire infrared sky better than ever before,” said Irace.

WISE will use an infrared camera to map the cosmos. The mission calls for the unmanned spacecraft to cover the entire sky one-and-a-half times, until its frozen coolant runs out. NASA hopes it will capture everything from near-Earth asteroids to distant galaxies teeming with stars.

“The last time we mapped the whole sky at these particular infrared wavelengths was 26 years ago,” noted UCLA’s Edward Wright, who is principal mission manager.

“Infrared technology has come a long way since then. The old all-sky infrared pictures were like impressionist paintings—now we’ll have images that look like actual photographs,” said Wright.

WISE is designed to provide information about the size, composition, and texture of near-Earth objects such as comets and asteroids.

“We can help protect our Earth by learning more about the diversity of potentially hazardous asteroids and comets,” said Amy Mainzer, deputy project scientist for the mission at JPL.

WISE will also attempt to document the cycle of life in the Universe, as it will capture faraway images of star-hatching galaxies and ravenous, planet-eating black holes.

See also:
WISE Spacecraft Seeks Near Earth Objects, New Stars Using Infrared Wavelengths
NASA launches new mapping spacecraft
Utah-made telescope blasts into space
Infrared Space Telescope Launched From California
NASA launches spacecraft that will map stars, galaxies, asteroids
NASA Craft To Photograph Entire Universe
Nasa sky survey probe blasts off
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer launched
NASA’s WISE (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer) telescope launched
NASA – Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
Delta II Overview
Delta II

/WISE is not only good science, but a good idea for protecting the Earth, well done NASA and JPL

It’s Fallen, But Can It Get Up?

NASA hopes to free Mars rover from ‘sand trap’

After months of tests and analysis, engineers plan to beam commands to NASA’s Spirit Mars rover Monday, kicking off a long-awaited attempt to free the hardy craft from the talcum powder-like soil of a hidden crater that trapped it last April.

“Spirit’s facing the most challenging situation it’s seen yet on the surface of Mars,” Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars exploration program, said Thursday. “We know a lot of people around the world…view Spirit with great affection, exploring the Red Planet along with it, experiencing the excitement, seeing new and exciting vistas, seeing new landscapes, uncovering some incredible new knowledge about our sister planet.

. . .

“I’d like everybody to be hopeful, but I’d also like them to be realistic,” he said. “If Spirit cannot make the great escape from this sand trap, it’s likely that this lonely spot, straddling the edge of this crater, might be where Spirit ends its adventures on Mars.”

. . .

Last April 23, the six-wheel Spirit was slowly rolling backward on the western side of a feature known as “Home Plate,” heading toward the south and a pair of volcanic structures that scientists wanted to examine. The rover was driving backward because its right front wheel stopped working in 2006.

The ground to the south of Spirit looked normal, but as it rolled along, its wheels broke through an upper-crust-like layer of soil and into a softer, unseen material.

“Essentially, the rover was driving on what we call a dirt crust,” said John Callas, the project manager of the Mars exploration rovers at JPL. “It was a hard surface that we broke through, and underneath this material, camouflaged underneath, was this loose, fine material where the rover is challenged right now.”

Scientists later determined that Spirit’s path was straddling the rim of an ancient, 26-foot-wide crater just beneath the surface. The crater was filled in with sulfate sands that formed layers with different compositions.

Initial attempts to drive out in a crablike fashion by turning the front and back wheels in the same direction only made matters worse.

See also:
NASA to try to free stuck Mars rover Spirit
NASA unveils plan to free sand-trapped Mars rover
Engineers desperate to move plucky Mars rover
NASA to power Mars rover out of sand trap
Unsticking Spirit
NASA Unveils Plan To Unstick A Mars Rover
NASA tries to dig out its stranded Mars robot
Spirit Rover Wiggles Her Wheels
Mars Exploration Rover Mission
Spirit rover

Well, this seems to be quite the heroic rescue attempt for a rover that’s already five years past its three month life expectancy. Go NASA!

/what’s really amazing is that Obama hasn’t canceled this project yet, it must be costing quite a bit of money that he could be wasting on pet Democrat social boondoggles like ACORN instead

Dodging Bullets

Surprise Asteroid Makes Near-Miss of Earth

The rock, estimated to be no more than 200 feet wide, zoomed past our planet at an altitude of 40,000 miles at 1:44 p.m. universal time — or 8:44 EST.

Dubbed 2009 DD45, it was discovered only on Friday by Australian astronomers.

Forty thousand miles may sound like a lot, but it’s only about one-seventh of the way to the moon, and less than twice as far out as many telecommunications satellites.

Had 2009 DD45 hit the Earth, it would have exploded on or near the surface with the force of a large nuclear blast — not very reassuring when you consider humanity had only about three days’ notice.

See also:
2009 DD45
Space Rock 2009 DD45 Buzzes Earth
Asteroid 2009 DD45 Just Buzzed by Earth
Asteroid and Comet Collisions with Earth

/it’s just a matter of time