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

Splish Splash, Glory Takes A Bath

Apparently, Russia isn’t the only country that can pitch multi-million dollar satellites into the ocean.

NASA’s Glory satellite launch fails

A rocket, standing more than nine stories tall, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base but failed to lift a NASA Earth-observation satellite into orbit and plummeted into the Pacific Ocean. The failed mission cost $424 million, the space agency said.

It is the second consecutive time that NASA has encountered the problem with the Taurus XL rocket built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.

NASA scientists believe the launch on Friday failed because the satellite’s protective cover, which opens like a clamshell, did not separate as expected.

“Obviously, this is a terrific disappointment and we feel bad for letting NASA … down,” said Barron Beneski, an Orbital Sciences spokesman. “People have dedicated years of their lives into this.”

NASA’s Glory satellite was designed to help scientists understand how the sun and particles of matter in the atmosphere called aerosols affect the Earth’s climate. It was also built by Orbital in Virginia.

See also:
Pesky Nose-Cone Problem Downs NASA’s Glory Satellite
NASA’s Glory Satellite Crashes in Pacific; Agency Blames Nose Cone
NASA science satellite lost in $424 million launch failure
NASA’s ‘Glory’ research satellite plunges into the sea
Glory climate satellite fails: information & reactions$424 million satellite mission deemed a failure
NASA research satellite plunges into the sea
Climate-Tracker Satellite Crashes During Launch
New Satellite Crashes Into Ocean After Launch
NASA’s Glory mission fails to reach orbit (photos)
Kentucky satellite lost in rocket failure
Glory (satellite)
Glory Mission
Glory

Gee, you’d think NASA would have figured out what the problem was after the first time it happened. It’s more than embarrassing, not to mention incredibly expensive, to have the exact same failure occur twice in a row.

/oh well, I suppose it could have been worse, at least it wasn’t a human payload

The Sun Is Pissed Off

Run for your lives!

Massive solar flare hits Earth tonight

The biggest solar flare in four years has blasted out from the sun, and is expected to reach Earth late tonight.

The flare, or coronal mass ejection (CME), was emitted on Monday at 8:56pm EST. It’s been categorized as a Class X2.2 flare, the most severe type. It follows one Class M – medium-sized – flare the day before, and several low-grade Class C flares over the preceding week.

The coronal mass ejection associated with the flare is currently traveling about 900 Km/second and is expected to reach Earth’s orbit tonight at about 10pm EST. It’s the biggest flare yet in the current solar cycle.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 193 Angstroms – although the SDO imager was for a moment overwhelmed by the bright flash.

It emanated from Active Region 1158, in the southern hemisphere; this has in the past trailed behind the north in activity but now leads in big flares.

A flare of this size could have noticeable effects on Earth when the cloud of charged particles reaches us. It’s possible that radio transmissions and GPS systems could be knocked out, and power grids could be affected.

See also:
Sun Erupts with Enormous X2 Solar Flare
Solar flare 2011: How a dazzling display can wreak electrical havoc
Here comes the sun: Solar flares make way to Earth
Biggest Solar Flares in 4 Years Heading Toward Earth
Scientists await arrival of solar flares
Planet awaits largest solar flare effects today
Giant Solar Blast Headed for Earth
Solar flares due to hit Earth
Sun has biggest solar flare of the year
Solar flare could light up night sky
Solar flare could cause Northern Lights over New England
Is Class X flash first warning of 2012 solar storm?

So, if your power goes out or your electronics go haywire, you’ll know why, the Earth is getting a solar spanking. And if a solar flare can disrupt the power grid, it kind of makes you wonder what kind of radiation dose humans are taking.

/in any case, don’t forget to duck

Goldilocks And The Five Planets

Book your travel plans early, the closest one is millions of years of travel time away.

NASA finds dozens of planets that might support life

A catalog of possible planets discovered far out in space includes more than 50 candidates that could possibly support life, NASA scientists said Wednesday. If, as expected, most of the planets are confirmed as real, the Kepler mission — now finishing its second year — would nearly triple the number of planets discovered over the last decade and a half.

With 1,235 planetary candidates surrounding a collective 997 stars in an area 500 to 3,000 light-years away, the tally to date provides a wealth of data for scientists to sift through in search of Earth-like planets.

“This is the first step in understanding the possible distribution of life in our galaxy,” said William Borucki, principal investigator for the Kepler mission at NASA Ames Research Center in the Bay Area’s Moffett Field.

He noted that of the candidate planets, 54 reside in the so-called Goldilocks range — in a “just right” distance from its star to be neither too hot nor too cold to permit liquid water and therefore the presence of life as we know it. Five of those 54 are close to Earth’s size.

The space-based Kepler telescope, which circles the sun trailing Earth’s orbit, observes more than 155,000 stars and every half-hour measures the amount of light they give off. If a planet is orbiting a star, it is detectable because it temporarily blocks a bit of light each time it crosses in front of its star.

See also:
5 Earth-sized planets spied in ‘habitable zone’
NASA spots 54 potentially life-friendly planets
NASA spots 54 potentially life-friendly planets
1,235 alien planets out there?
Kepler space telescope is finding a cornucopia of possible planets
NASA reveals more than 1,200 potential planets
Hunt for planets yields surprises
Kepler space telescope spots five Earth-sized planets in our galaxy
NASA Detects Potential ‘Habitable Zone’ Planets
Kepler: Home Page
Kepler (spacecraft)

Well, this is a great scientific achievement, but I’m not sure what practical value there is in it. Okay, so there’s all these possibly habitable planets, so what?

/we’ll never get there to find out for sure.

NASA Has Money To Burn

Hmm, I wonder why Obama hasn’t canceled this yet? He’s pretty much stripped the rest of NASA bare.

Solar Probe Plus to ‘touch, taste, smell’ sun on $180m NASA mission

NASA has outlined details of its mission to send a probe deep into the sun’s atmosphere.

Set to launch by 2018, the Solar Probe Plus will be protected by a carbon-composite heat shield that can withstand temperatures up to 1400C.

About the size of a small car, the probe will get within 6.5 million kilometres of the sun’s surface.

“For the very first time, we’ll be able to touch, taste and smell our sun,” Lika Guhathakurta, Solar Probe Plus program scientist at NASA headquarters, said.

Last year, NASA invited scientists to submit proposals regarding exactly what the probe should do once it gets there.

According to Dick Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington, of the 13 proposals reviewed by NASA, five were chosen “specifically designed to solve two key questions of solar physics – why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system? ”

. . .

NASA has budgeted $US180 million for the mission, but claims the unprecedented analysis will enable it to better understand the sun and improve its ability to predict the severity of solar storms.

See also:
Spacecraft to Fly Into the Sun
NASA Wants to Plunge a Probe Into the Sun
Solar Probe Plus To Plunge Directly Into Sun’s Atmosphere
Solar Probe Plus instruments will brave the sun’s wrath
NASA readies probe for up-close study of sun’s corona
NASA To Launch Spacecraft Into the Sun
SwRI energetic particle instruments selected for Solar Probe Plus mission
Solar Probe Plus: A NASA Mission to Touch the Sun

/so, is it hot enough for you?

The Sun Is Angry

Don’t forget to duck.

Huge blasts of sun’s plasma hurtling toward Earth

A huge mass of magnetically charged material ejected from the sun is racing across space toward our planet, where it is expected to arrive on Tuesday. When it strikes the Earth’s magnetic field, it could produce spectacular auroras.

A blast of violent space weather could hit the Earth tomorrow following two massive explosions on the Sun. NASA astronomers witnessed a huge flare above a giant sunspot the size of our planet and linked to an even larger eruption across the surface of Sun.

Experts estimate a wave of supercharged gas called plasma will reach us this Tuesday when it will buffet the natural magnetic shield protecting Earth. It could trigger spectacular displays of the aurora or northern and southern lights.

The solar outbursts on Sunday August 1 were recorded by several satellites including NASA’s new Solar Dynamics Observatory which watched its shockwave rippling outwards. The flare over the sunspot was swiftly followed by an eruption 250,000 miles (400,000 km) away in a feature called a filament.

UK solar expert Dr Lucie Green, of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, in Surrey, followed the flare-ups using Japan’s orbiting Hinode telescope.

She said last night: “What wonderful fireworks the Sun has been producing! This was a very rare event – not one, but two almost simultaneous eruptions from different locations on the sun were launched toward the Earth.

“These eruptions occur when immense magnetic structures in the solar atmosphere lose their stability and can no longer be held down by the sun’s huge gravitational pull. Just like a coiled spring suddenly being released, they erupt into space.

“It looks like the first eruption was so large that it changed the magnetic fields throughout half the Sun’s visible atmosphere and provided the right conditions for the second eruption. Both eruptions could be Earth-directed but may be travelling at different speeds. This means we have a very good chance of seeing major and prolonged effects, such as the northern lights at low latitudes.”

. . .

Scientists have warned that a really big solar eruption, like the Carrington Event witnessed from Surrey in 1859, could destroy satellites and wreck power and around the globe if it happened today.

Such an event would be the biggest disaster ever to hit mankind, preventing the production of essential supplies including food, water and medicines. Other eruptions have been observed directed towards us but thankfully less severe.

See also:
Coronal Mass Ejection Headed for Earth
Here comes the sun storm
Large solar storm headed our way
Solar plasma aurora storm to hit Earth tomorrow!
Solar Tsunami to Strike Earth Tonight
Solar light show expected tonight
Northern lights may shine in local skies
Solar blast may fire up Northern Lights
Northern lights could be visible from UK as Sun’s ‘solar tsunami’ sweeps towards Earth
Sun storms may bring northern lights farther south
Coronal Mass Ejection on Sun, Effects Can Be Seen in New England

So, enjoy the light show if it’s visible where you’re at and let’s hope we don’t suffer any fried satellites.

/eventually, the sun will destroy life on Earth and the Earth itself, but apparently not today