September 28, 2015

India Launches First Space Observatory (Source: Space Daily)
India successfully launched Monday its first high-tech telescopes into space to study the stars, as New Delhi seeks to take another major step in its ambitious and low-cost space program. A rocket carrying the 150-tonne mini space observatory called Astrosat, along with six foreign satellites, blasted off on schedule from India's main southern spaceport of Sriharikota. (9/28)

Audi Quattro Tech Shoots for the Moon (Source: AutoBlog)
Most automakers seem satisfied building vehicles to drive on the Earth's surface. But not Audi. The German automaker is quite literally shooting for the moon. Called the Audi Lunar Quattro, it forms what promises to be an integral part of one team's campaign for the Google Lunar Xprize. That team calls itself Part-Time Scientists, and is the only German contingent of the 25 that originally entered from around the world and the 15 that are still in the race.

Sponsored and technically assisted by Audi, the Lunar Quattro is a solar-powered moon rover. It packs an adjustable solar panel and a lithium-ion battery powering four individual hub motors – one in each wheel. It can only travel at a theoretical maximum of 2.2 miles per hour, but outright speed isn't the point here. It's been designed to traverse the difficult terrain of the moon's finely dusted and craggy surface.

It'll need to travel at least 500 meters (1,640 feet) and will transmit high-definition video footage from the twin stereoscopic camera on its swiveling head back to Earth. The lunar rover is scheduled to be launched aboard a rocket from Earth to the moon by the end of 2017. (9/27)

Who Will Power America's Amazing New Space Rocket? (Source: Motley Fool)
United Launch Alliance's Atlas V launch vehicle is one of America's biggest rockets. But in just four short years, we'll get a new rocket to send our satellites into space -- and this one won't depend on Russian rocket engines. The new rocket, dubbed "Vulcan" will replace Atlas. Built around one first-stage booster and one second-stage rocket, Vulcan will be "simple," "affordable," and will offer "unprecedented flexibility in a single system."

By 2023, ULA plans to switch out the rocket's Boeing-built Centaur second stage rocket and replace it with an even more powerful "ACES" (Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage) rocket. Additionally, Vulcan will boast anywhere from four to six solid rocket boosters to give it some extra "oomph" at liftoff. All that remains now is to figure out who will build the parts. Click here. (9/28)

Fifth Japanese ISS Cargo Craft Leaves Station (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After five weeks attached to the International Space Station, Japan’s Kounotori (White Stork) 5 cargo ship was unberthed by the station crew on Sept. 28, 2015 and sent on a path that will lead to its destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, Sept. 29. (9/28)

Mexico Counting on ULA Atlas After Proton Failure (Source: Florida Today)
An already frustrating experience turned into a "nightmare" for members of a Mexican government satellite team this May. First, their launch on an International Launch Services Proton rocket was postponed for 16 days while a potential spacecraft flaw was studied.

Then on May 16, they were stunned when the Proton suddenly stopped sending telemetry nine minutes after its blastoff from Kazakhstan. Their nearly $400 million Centenario communications satellite — the second of three making up the $1 billion Mexsat constellation — soon was confirmed lost.

Members of the satellite team that had devoted years to the program, and of the launch team, which was dealing with the latest in a series of Proton failures, cried. "It was a nightmare," said Omar Charfen, the Mexsat program manager with Mexico's Ministry of Communications and Transportation. (9/28)

Liquid Water on Mars (Source: Guardian)
Liquid water runs down canyons and crater walls over the summer months on Mars, according to researchers who say the discovery raises the chances of being home to some form of life. The trickles leave long, dark stains on the Martian terrain that can reach hundreds of meters downhill in the warmer months, before they dry up in the autumn as surface temperatures drop.

Images taken from the Mars orbit show cliffs, and the steep walls of valleys and craters, streaked with summertime flows that in the most active spots combine to form intricate fan-like patterns. Scientists are unsure where the water comes from, but it may rise up from underground ice or salty aquifers, or condense out of the thin Martian atmosphere. (9/28)

Wallops: No Way to Conduct an Investigation (Source: DelMarVa Now)
It was certainly disturbing to hear the findings in a NASA inspector general’s report released in the wake of the Orbital ATK rocket disaster at Wallops Island almost a year ago. For starters, the report cast some doubt on a post-crash investigation, which caused $16 million in damage to the facility.

It appears that Orbital stacked a preliminary investigation board with its own employees — with NASA’s blessing. That’s certainly no way to conduct a study of the incident, especially one with stakes as high as these.  The 33-page inspector general’s report finds much cause for concern with the way Orbital is moving forward — and the way NASA oversees one of its two private space flight contractors.

Moving forward, what is needed are independent, transparent investigations of what goes right and wrong. The stakes are too high to rely on anything less. The future of commercial space flight relies on fair, balanced and unbiased investigations of what goes right and wrong now. (9/25)

Did NASA Just Find Liquid Water on Mars? (Source: CSM)
NASA will announce a "major science finding" about Mars on Monday. A news conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET, and will be broadcast live on NASA Television as well as its website. The space agency’s press release does not specify what the finding is, but the list of participants in the news conference provides some clues.

One of the names is Lujendra Ojha, a Ph.D. candidate in planetary science who co-authored a study published in Science in 2011 claiming the first evidence of what could be liquid briny water on Mars. The source of this water could be below the surface, Mr. Ojha said at the time. (9/27)

Moonstone Taken from Museum (Source: Iceland Review)
A piece of rock from the moon which has been on display in the Exploration Museum in Húsavík, northeast Iceland, has been taken back into the care of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, which owns the stone.

The Institute believes the stone has not been kept under high enough security at the museum, and its value is believed to run into hundreds of millions of krónur. ISK 100,000,000 is equivalent to EUR 696,000 or USD 779,000. (9/27)

Fake Spacesuits in 'The Martian' are Almost as Incredible as Real Ones (Source: Tech Insider)
Astronauts, engineers, and fans have praised the "The Martian," a bestselling sci-fi novel, for its scientific accuracy. So if you're making an equally realistic film adaptation, your spacesuits had better look damn good. Click here. (9/26)

Dream of Humans on Mars Persists Despite Challenges (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Mars or Bust. That's the message, neatly stamped in bold red letters, on a small button pinned to Hum Mandell's khaki shirt. And it's an ethos the sixth-generation Texan has held to for most of his eight decades.

Mandell joined NASA in 1962, near the agency's beginning. His first job seems audacious in hindsight. Although John Glenn had only just completed America's first orbital flight, Mandell joined a team of young engineers to plan a journey to Mars... In 1976. Click here. (9/27)

Stop Taking All the Fun Out of Science, Astronaut Pleads (Source: The Columbian)
Your kid likes science. Despite the subject’s reputation, and the fact that schools treat it like the class where fun goes to die, kids are more excited about science, on average, than math, English and social studies, according to a new report.

“Kids come out of the chute liking science,” NASA astronaut Mae Jemison said. “They ask, ‘How come? Why? What’s this?’ They pick up stuff to examine it. We might not call that science, but it’s discovering the world around us.” Then something happens.

“Once we get them in school, we turn science from discovery and hands-on to something you’re supposed to do through rote memorization,” said Jemison, who was the first African-American woman to travel in space when she flew the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992. Jemison has teamed up with Bayer Corp. to advance science literacy across the United States by emphasizing the importance of hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities in public schools. (9/27)

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