Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

University of Michigan launches two satellites into space on back of NASA rocket

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

With 30 seconds to go before two satellites they built were due to rocket into space, the 20 students or so gathered early this morning in a University of Michigan lab grew quiet.

There wasn’t a large celebration when the rocket blasted off.

Instead, there was a sense of fulfillment in the lab and an acknowledgment that the work wasn’t over – the satellites would soon be deployed in space and need monitoring.

U-M put two satellites into space this morning – M-Cubed and RAX. They hitched a ride on a NASA rocket and satellite. U-M was one of three universities across the nation to send satellites into space on this rocket.

M-cubed, which about the size of a square tissue box, – 10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm – is designed for taking pictures of Earth. But more importantly, it is also flying a prototype of a specialized computer that private industry is testing for future space flights. RAX, which is about three times the size of M-Cubed, will be conducting a variety of experiments and measurements of the atmosphere.

U-M has a long tradition of being involved in the space program. It currently has one satellite in orbit. It has funding for two more missions.

It’s taken four years to build M-Cubed. Ken Gmerek, now a senior and the project manager, joined the team the second week of his freshmen year.

“I’m excited and a little nervous,” he said about 5:40 a.m. this morning, eight minutes before the launch. “I’m also a little relieved to get to this point. It’s been a long time coming.” (more…)

NASA to Announce Shuttle Retirement Homes Today

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

NASA’s chief Charlie Bolden will be at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday to announce where the space shuttles will spend their retirements.

The 30-year-old shuttle program is ending this summer after two final flights to deliver a Hubble-class science instrument, known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, and a year’s worth of supplies to the International Space Station. Though budget uncertainties have kept NASA from moving forward with a follow-on program, the shutdown of the shuttles remains on track.

Competition to house a retired spaceship has been keen. I’m not a gambler, but the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center is an obvious pick. Why else would Bolden make his announcement here?

The fleet leader, Discovery, which completed its final spaceflight last month, is promised to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which plans to showcase the ship at its Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. In exchange, the Smithsonian will give up its shuttle prototype, called Enterprise.

So the only real question is who gets the third shuttle and who gets the consolation prize, Enterprise? NASA says 21 institutions submitted proposals. They include the visitor center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA’s human space flight hub; New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum; the Museum of Flight in Seattle; and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located outside of Dayton, Ohio. (more…)

Space Shuttle Discovery’s Astronaut Crew Arrives at Florida Launch Site

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The six astronauts who will fly the space shuttle Discovery on its final mission to the International Space Station arrived at NASA’s Florida spaceport today (Feb. 20), four days ahead of their historic launch.

The crewmembers all touched down here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center by about 3:45 p.m. EST (2045 GMT).

Shuttle commander Steve Lindsey, pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Michael Barratt, Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott and Steve Bowen flew into Florida on supersonic T-38 jets from the agency’s training headquarters at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden was on hand to greet the astronauts upon their arrival.

“We’re back here for another attempt at this,” Lindsey told reporters who had gathered for the crew’s arrival. “We’re pretty confident about this one. The external tank problem we’ve been working for the last several months is probably the most difficult, technical challenge we’ve faced in recent years. The team did a great job of coming together, figuring out a very difficult engineering problem, and coming up with a solution that I think gives us a really good tank to go launch with this week.”

Lindsey also spoke about the challenges that have been faced on the crew side – mission specialist Steve Bowen was selected by NASA less than six weeks ago to replace Tim Kopra, who was injured in a bike accident on Jan. 15. (more…)

NASA spacecraft passes the point of closest contact with a comet

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

On Valentine’s Day, as the world was celebrating the message of love, a NASA spacecraft reached the point of closest contact with a comet calculated to be half the size of Manhattan.

The periodic comet, Tempel 1, was discovered by German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel in 1867. In every 5.5 years, the comet completes one orbit around the Sun with its orbital paths lying in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Tempel 1 was previously visited by NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft on July 4, 2005. The current fly-by of the comet by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft is the first time that a comet has been re-visited to look for changes on its surface.

During the encounter phase, the spacecraft will carry out many important milestones which include turning the spacecraft to point its protective shields between it and the anticipated direction from which cometary particles would approach. Another important milestone includes scientific imaging of the comet’s nucleus. (more…)

NASA’s Week of Surprises for Shuttle Crew

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

First the Wife of Endeavour Commander Mark Kelly Is Shot, Then a Crew Member Has Bike Accident

The events of the last two Saturdays have stunned NASA in a way the space agency could never anticipated.

Mark Kelly, Endeavour’s commander for the space shuttle mission in April, found himself on the way to Arizona where his wife, Rep, Gabrielle Giffords, was critically injured in a shooting. Kelly, at his wife’s bedside while she fights for recovery, asked NASA to name a backup commander, Rick Sturckow, for Kelly’s mission.

This past weekend, astronaut Tim Kopra was injured during a bicycle ride. The extent of his injuries has not been released, but they are serious enough to have mission managers scrambling to consider who could take his place on the STS 133 mission, Discovery’s oft-delayed final flight, which is tentatively scheduled to launch next month.

NASA’s choices: Wait for Kopra to heal from his injuries, or replace him on the mission. Kopra has been training for his two spacewalks for well over a year — his mission was originally scheduled to fly in September 2010 and it was once the last space shuttle flight before the fleet was retired.

Astronauts give up anything risky when they start training for a flight — no car racing, no sky diving, no scuba diving, no mountain climbing. Drew Feustel, who flew on the last mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, had to indulge his love for fast cars on the sidelines, watching his sons’ race. Scott Parazynksi climbed Mount Everest only after he retired from the astronaut corps. (more…)

NASA trumpets rocky exoplanet find

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Kepler-10b is ‘planetary missing link’

NASA has announced it’s nailed the first “bone-fide” [sic] rocky exoplanet, which at 1.4 times the diameter of Earth is the smallest such body spotted to date outside our solar system.

As its name suggests, Kepler-10b was identified orbiting star Kepler-10 – at a distance of 560 light years from Earth – by the agency’s habitable planet-seeking Kepler mission.

Between May 2009 and January 2010, the spacecraft identified a list of stars as potential hosts of small planets. Its photometer clocked the miniscule drops in light as a body transited Kepler-10, enabling atronomers to calculate the potential planet’s size, orbital period and distance from the star.

Further work by the WM Keck Observatory 10-meter telescope in Hawaii, specifically measuring “tiny changes in the star’s spectrum, called Doppler shifts, caused by the telltale tug exerted by the orbiting planet on the star”, allowed scientists to announce a confirmed find.

Kepler-10b orbits every 0.84 days, has a mass 4.6 times that of Earth, and a density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimeter, or “similar to that of an iron dumbbell”, as NASA nicely puts it.

grams per cubic centimeter, or “similar to that of an iron dumbbell”, as NASA nicely puts it. (more…)