Russian Poison From The Sky

This time, it’s the Russian’s turn to randomly drop a spacecraft to Earth from orbit, only this one is loaded up with ten tons of highly toxic chemicals. When you duck, don’t forget your umbrella.

Toxic Russian Mars Probe Heads Back to Earth

It’s hard to believe that only last week we were getting excited for Russia’s first interplanetary mission in 15 years to launch. By now, we should be happy in the knowledge that the ambitious — and awesome — mission is powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.

The reality is that we are now discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, we are looking at an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario. Phobos-Grunt — correctly written “Fobos-Grunt,” meaning “Phobos-Soil” or “Phobos-Ground” — is fully-laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that’s ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs-in at only three tons.

The majority of the fuel will likely vaporize during reentry, but everyone will be hoping for a splash-down in an ocean (which covers two-thirds of Earth, fortunately), as the wreckage will still be hazardous. There’s also a small quantity of radioactive cobalt-57 in one of the science missions housed in the probe — a fact that will most likely cause a media frenzy.

It is for these reasons that the Russian media is dubbing Phobos-Grunt “Most toxic falling satellite ever.”

See also:
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft Goes AWOL
Russian Mars Probe Will Likely Come Crashing Back to Earth
Toxic Russian Mars Probe Likely Heading Back to Earth
Mood grim over Mars probe faultRussia Running Out Of Time, As Mars Mission Seems Destined To Fail
Report: Russians Believe Martian Moon Probe is ‘Lost’
Source: Russian Space Probe Unlikely to be Saved
Phobos-Grunt Mars probe remains silent in Earth orbit
Now Russians can’t even contact their busted Mars probe
Contact with Russian Mars probe ‘unlikely’ – expert
Failed Russian space mission shows difficulty of exploring Mars
Salvaging Science from Stricken Mars Moon Probe: A Scientist’s View
Phobos-Grunt mission
Fobos-Grunt

Man, the Russians just can’t catch a break. This is their fourth launch failure just this year and now they’re 0 for 18 at Mars missions.

/and we trust the Russians with our U.S. astronauts, it makes me nervous

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It Is Heavy And Obama Can’t Cancel It

Obama may have killed the Constellation program, but he can’t stop SpaceX.

Huge Private Rocket Could Send Astronauts to the Moon or Mars

A massive new private rocket envisioned by the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX could do more than just ferry big satellites and spacecraft into orbit. It could even help return astronauts to the moon, the rocket’s builder says.

SpaceX announced plans to build the huge rocket, called the Falcon Heavy, yesterday (April 5). To make the new booster, SpaceX will upgrade its Falcon 9 rockets with twin strap-on boosters and other systems to make them capable of launching larger payloads into space than any other rocket operating today.

But the Falcon Heavy’s increased power could also be put toward traveling beyond low-Earth orbit and out into the solar system, said SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk during a Tuesday press conference.

See also:
SpaceX Unveils Plans for Falcon Heavy, World’s Largest Rocket
SpaceX announces Falcon Heavy: a low-cost, heavy-lifting, 22-story rocket
SpaceX unveils plans for Falcon heavy lift rocket
Space privateers to launch biggest rocket since 70s
SpaceX preps world’s largest rocket. It’s low cost, too
The Tech Behind the New SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket
SpaceX’s ‘Falcon Heavy’ Most Powerful Private Rocket Ever
SpaceX shoots for ‘next big thing’
SpaceX unveils heavy launcher
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation
SpaceX
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation – Falcon Heavy
Falcon Heavy

If the Falcon Heavy becomes operational and performs as expected, this rocket will be able to lift a heavier payload into space than any other rocket ever built, other than the Saturn V behemoth.

/Wernher von Braun would be proud

You Can’t Go Home Again

Do we really need to put a man on Mars this badly?

Scientists Propose One-Way Mars Spaceflights

Two U.S. scientists have proposed a unique and somewhat controversial solution to the challenges presented by a potential mission to Mars–they suggest making it a one-way trip.

In their article “To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission To Mars,” which has been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Cosmology, authors Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University and Paul Davies of Arizona State University propose that nixing a return flight “would cut the costs several fold but ensure at the same time a continuous commitment to the exploration of Mars in particular and space in general.”

“It would also obviate the need for years of rehabilitation for returning astronauts, which would not be an issue if the astronauts were to remain in the low-gravity environment of Mars,” they added, arguing that equipment from the Constellation project–a scrapped return mission to the moon–could be used to send two spacecraft, each containing two astronauts, a landing unit, and enough supplies to establish an outpost, to Mars.

See also:
To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars
Scientists Propose One-Way Trips to Mars
Mars Exploration Should be Done in a One-Way Trip, 2 Scientists Say
How to make boots on Mars affordable – One way trips
The fastest way to send humans to Mars is to not worry about bringing them back
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, WSU Professor, Proposes One-Way-Trips to Mars
Will the First Mars Explorers Be the First Mars Settlers?
Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars
Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars
Wanted: Pioneers to take a one-way trip to Mars
A One-Way Trip to Mars

In some ways, this plan appears to have some merit, although it just doesn’t seem to fit with America’s history of space exploration, always planning for the safe return of our astronauts.

/I suppose though, if we plan on continuing manned space exploration to ever more distant destinations, eventually the distances and time involved will make a return trip impractical, if not impossible

The Most Powerful Solid Rocket Motor Ever Canceled

You don’t really think that Obama will actually let the most powerful solid-fuel rocket engine ever produced ever become part of the U.S. space program, do you?

Ares I Five-Segment SRB Lights Up

NASA and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) conducted the second test of the fully developed Ares five-segment solid rocket motor, known as Development Motor-2 (DM-2), on Aug. 31 at ATK’s test facility in Promontory, Utah.

With a roar that reverberated across the surrounding countryside and a blowtorch-bright light, the DM-2 came to life on schedule at 9:27 a.m. MDT. The 2-min. 5-sec. test checked out key design elements of the Ares rocket, which the Obama administration wants to cancel in favor of nurturing commercial means of carrying crew and cargo to low Earth orbit.

The firing of the motor was conducted to collect data on 53 different test objectives. Some of the elements tested include the new insulation, the redesigned rocket nozzle and the motor casing’s liner. When activated, the DM-2 produced about 3.6 million lb. of thrust, equaling 22 million hp. The motor was instrumented with 760 sensors to collect performance data.

At T-0, the engine was ignited and the propellant from the nozzle of the DM-2 sent out a jet of flame. The eruption that followed produced a visible shock wave.

See also:
ATK tests solid rocket motor near Promontory
NASA Tests Rocket Engine Formerly Known as Ares
NASA’s Record-Setting Solid Rocket Enjoys Successful Test-Fire
NASA tests new solid rocket motor, but will it have a rocket to use it?
NASA Tests Engine With an Uncertain Future
Big rocket booster in second test
Nasa booster rocket passes test
NASA’s Biggest-Ever Solid Rocket Shakes Utah
NASA’s booster rocket passes test in Utah

Remember, the DM-2 is part of the Constellation program that Obama cut from the NASA budget when he scrapped U.S. plans to send astronauts back to the Moon.

/Obama doesn’t like space exploration, it wastes money he could be spending bailing out all his union buddies or otherwise buying Democrat votes with massive, “spread the wealth around”, social welfare programs

Attack Of The Lobate Scarps

Evil lobate scarps are shrinking the moon, run for your lives!

The Moon Has Shrunk, and May Still Be Contracting

The moon has been shrinking, suggest scientists who spotted relatively young geological features that form when a planetary body cools and contracts.

Called lobate scarps, the features are made when land on one side of a geologic fault line is thrust upward, creating a slanting wall that can be several hundred feet high and several miles long.

“If you were walking up to one of these landforms, you would see basically what looks like a stair-step in the landscape,” said study co-author Thomas Watters of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

“It would be steep in the front on the scarp face itself and then gently sloping on the backside.”

The Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions photographed about 70 lobate scarps near the moon’s equator. (Read the original National Geographic magazine coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.)

But NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter found 14 more scarps in several, widespread locations, suggesting the thrust faults are globally distributed across the moon’s surface. (See some of the first moon pictures from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.)

Watters and colleagues think the scarps formed as the inside of the moon cooled from its original, molten state.

“As the interior cools, it contracts, and the crust of the moon has to adjust to the reduced volume,” Watters said. “That causes this breaking of the crust into these small faults.” Lobate scarps form when the contracting crust puts pressure along the fault planes.

See also:
The Incredible Shrinking Moon
The Moon Is Shrinking
New images indicate moon may be shrinking
Images Show A Shrinking Moon
Over a Billion Years, Scientists Find, the Moon Went Through a Shrinking Phase
The moon is shrinking, a tiny bit
The Moon is shrinking, says astronomers
Center for Earth and Planetary Studies
Center for Earth and Planetary Studies
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Obviously, this Moon shrinkage was caused by anthropogenic global warming on Earth.

/or those damn, racist Tea Party Teabaggers, take your pick

Space Exploration In The Age Of Obama

Now that Obama has canceled the Constellation program and scrapped NASA’s plans to return to the Moon, NASA has been reduced to pretending to explore space, you know, when their not busy fulfilling their new prime directive of reaching out to Muslims.

NASA releases videogame, Moonbase Alpha

NASA has abandoned plans to return to the Moon but videogamers can explore the lunar landscape with a free new online game released by the US space agency.

“Moonbase Alpha” allows players to join an exploration team in a futuristic 3D settlement on the south pole of the Moon.

“In Moonbase Alpha, you assume the exciting role of an astronaut working to further human expansion and research,” NASA said in an explanation of the game.

“Returning from a research expedition, you witness a meteorite impact that cripples the life support capability of the settlement.

“With precious minutes ticking away, you and your team must repair and replace equipment in order to restore the oxygen production to the settlement,” NASA said

To accomplish their mission, players of the “first-person explorer” game use an interactive command center, lunar rover and mobile robotic repair units.

“Proper use and optimal allocation of their available resources are key to the team’s overall success,” NASA said.

NASA said the game is designed to “engage and educate students about agency technologies, job opportunities and the future of space exploration.”

Moonbase Alpha can be played by one or up to six players. NASA said it is a precursor to a planned NASA-based “multiplayer online game project.”

See also:
NASA releases free-to-play online game
New NASA Game Hands Over Keys to Virtual Moonbase
Game review: Virtual lunar life on NASA’s ‘Moonbase’
NASA releases videogame, Moonbase Alpha
NASA goes Lunar with online video game
NASA releases new online videogame about a lunar adventure
NASA Moonbase Alpha Now Available On Steam
Does a moonbase make for a good video game?
Moonbase Alpha Overview
Download Moonbase Alpha from STEAM

NASA, the once great symbol of American science and technology, relegated to making video games and reaching out to Muslims, anything except for the purpose it was created for, space exploration.

/what a shame, how the mighty have fallen

Return Of The Dustbuster From Outer Space

******************************UPDATE******************************

Touchdown, the crowd goes wild!

Space Probe Returns After 7-Year Asteroid Voyage

A Japanese space probe landed in the Australian outback on Monday after a 7-year voyage to an asteroid, lighting up the night sky and bringing what scientists hope is a rock sample, witnesses said.

The Hayabusa probe blazed a spectacular trail as it came in to hit the ground at a blistering speed, ending a journey to the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa that began in 2003.

An Australian defense spokesman told Reuters scientists monitoring the probe’s return had confirmed it had landed and identified its location, but it would not be retrieved until daylight. Only then would it become clear if a capsule thought to contain the precious sample was intact.

See also:
Space probe returns to Earth from trip to asteroid
Japan’s ‘Falcon’ Returns After Seven-Year Asteroid Mission
Probe returns to Earth after asteroid landing
NASA Aircraft Videos Hayabusa Re-Entry
Hayabusa completes fiery return to Earth
Mission Accomplished For Japan’s Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa

/now we just need to find out exactly what, if anything, Hayabusa brought back

******************************END UPDATE******************************

A long time ago, in a country far far away, the Japanese sent a spacecraft . . .

to land on an asteroid that looks like a giant space turd . . .

and bring back some dirt.

Japanese Probe Set to Land in Australian Outback Sunday, Returning First Asteroid Sample to Earth

A Japanese meteor-investigator probe will become a meteor itself when it returns to Earth over the weekend. The Hayabusa probe is screaming toward Earth at asteroid speed,
according to scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Scientists hope it is carrying samples obtained from a 2005 visit to the small asteroid Itokawa.

The probe’s sample-return capsule will separate from the main probe and reenter the atmosphere at 7.58 miles per second early Sunday. Scientists from NASA, the Japanese Space Agency and other organizations are planning to watch its fiery descent to learn more about how objects behave and break up during high-speed reentry.

When Hayabusa (“falcon” in Japanese) reaches an altitude of 190,000 feet, its heat shield will reach temperatures of more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the gas surrounding the capsule will reach 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun, NASA says. It is planned to fall over a large unpopulated area of Australia called the Woomera Prohibited Area.

There’s no guarantee of success — actually, scientists don’t even know if Hayabusa is carrying anything. The craft has been plagued with problems for five years.

It made two touchdowns on Itokawa in 2005 to collect rocks and soil, but apparently failed to fire a metal bullet designed to dislodge the samples. Then, a fuel leak left its chemical propellant tanks empty, so engineers had to use Hayabusa’s ion engines to guide it home. Still, Hayabusa was the first spacecraft to land on a celestial object other than the moon and take off again.

See also:
Japan’s “Falcon” Spacecraft Returns—Asteroid Dust On Board?
Japan’s Asteroid Mission Set For Fiery Re-entry Over Australia
Japan Itokawa asteroid mission set for re-entry
Asteroid spacecraft makes its way back to Earth
Japanese space probe returns home Sunday
Japan asteroid probe to make historic return to Earth
Hayabusa just hours from home
Scientists wait in Outback for Japanese spacecraft
Japan’s ‘Falcon’ Set to Land After Seven-Year Asteroid Mission
Ames Research Center
Ames Research Center
JAXA | Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Hayabusa
Hayabusa

Well, I wish JAXA luck and hope they retrieve lots of asteroid dirt to play with. Otherwise, it’ll be a lot like Geraldo opening Al Capone’s vault.

/let’s all hope Hayabusa didn’t pick up any cosmic hitchhikers like in The Andromeda Strain