Sonntag, 21. Oktober 2012 - 17:45 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ESA mit Mond-Lander Pole-Star auf Wasser-Suche


Britain on mission to tap Moon water

A mission to land Europe’s first spacecraft on the Moon is to search for water that could be used to help astronauts survive during future manned visits to the lunar surface.

It could be the plot of a science fiction novel: a mission to find water on the moon, paving the way for man to settle on its surface.

But by 2018 a mission which includes British technology hopes to have landed a robot probe on the surface of the Moon to find out if it has ice present under the surface.

Finding ice would upend scientific orthodoxy and the results of previous lunar missions, which suggested that the Moon was dry.

The £500 million voyage, scheduled for 2018, is being planned by the European Space Agency, of which Britain is a leading member.

It will also be man’s first attempt at landing an object on the south pole of the Moon.

Dr Simon Sheridan, a research fellow at the Open University who is part of the team designing instruments for the spacecraft, said: “We want to see if the resources are there to let astronauts live off the land.

“There is evidence of vast deposits of volatile chemicals like water from orbiting missions, but this will be the first ground-based mission to look in a polar region.”

The Lunar Lander, the size of a car and weighing about 1,800lbs, will blast off from Earth by rocket, then detach and descend to the Moon’s surface in a 12-minute flight.

An artificial intelligence system, directing engines and rocket propulsion, will help the craft to avoid craters and boulders as it comes into land at the Moon’s south pole.

At its landing spot, it will bore a few inches into the ground. A key instrument designed by British scientists will analyse the soil and beam the results by radio signal back to Earth.

If Lunar Lander is successful, it would open up the prospect of settling on the Moon.

Water is heavy and expensive to transport into space, so extracting it from the lunar surface would be a major step towards helping people live on the Moon – mirroring the plot of the Tintin cartoon book Explorers on the Moon, published 60 years ago, which portrays it as having caves filled with ice.

Experts have long believed that the Moon’s surface was completely arid. Recent measurements from orbiting spacecraft, however, have suggested that water may exist in the soil, with large deposits at its poles and in the shadows of meteor craters.

Richard Fisackerly, Lunar Lander spacecraft engineer at ESA, added: “We want to target very specific surface sites. We hope to carry out more ambitious missions in the future where we might want to land a sample return vehicle near to another lander.

“As well as testing the technology there is a lot of science to be done. We hope to investigate the environment there, what the properties of the dust are and look for oxygen, hydrogen and even water in the form of ice.”

Lunar exploration has previously been dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union. Only the Americans have put men on the moon, with the last Apollo landing in 1972.

The ESA, based in Paris, has 19 member nations which provide 80 per cent of its funding, with the European Union providing the remaining 20 per cent. Science ministers from the member nations are due to meet later this year to discuss further funding for the mission.

Bérengère Houdou, Lunar Lander project manager at ESA, said: “The primary goal of the mission is to place Europe in a strategic role in the future exploration of the Moon.

“The kind of landing we are trying to do will be much more accurate than what the Russians and Americans tried before. We are aiming for a specific landing site so it will need to navigate itself while avoiding any hazards on the ground.

“We have been doing some tests on the engines in the past month and had some quite positive results already.”

Quelle: ESA


Samstag, 20. Oktober 2012 - 23:00 Uhr

Planet Erde - MODIS-Blick auf Ost-Grönland



Samstag, 20. Oktober 2012 - 19:45 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Cassini 15 Jahre im Orbit bei Saturn



Today, NASA's Cassini spacecraft celebrates 15 years of uninterrupted drive time, earning it a place among the ultimate interplanetary road warriors.
Since launching on Oct. 15, 1997, the spacecraft has logged more than 3.8 billion miles (6.1 billion kilometers) of exploration - enough to circle Earth more than 152,000 times. After flying by Venus twice, Earth, and then Jupiter on its way to Saturn, Cassini pulled into orbit around the ringed planet in 2004 and has been spending its last eight years weaving around Saturn, its glittering rings and intriguing moons.
And, lest it be accused of refusing to write home, Cassini has sent back some 444 gigabytes of scientific data so far, including more than 300,000 images. More than 2,500 reports have been published in scientific journals based on Cassini data, describing the discovery of the plume of water ice and organic particles spewing from the moon Enceladus; the first views of the hydrocarbon-filled lakes of Saturn's largest moon Titan; the atmospheric upheaval from a rare, monstrous storm on Saturn and many other curious phenomena.
"As Cassini conducts the most in-depth survey of a giant planet to date, the spacecraft has been flying the most complex gravity-assisted trajectory ever attempted," said Robert Mitchell, Cassini program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Each flyby of Titan, for example, is like threading the eye of the needle. And we've done it 87 times so far, with accuracies generally within about one mile [1.6 kilometers], and all controlled from Earth about one billion miles [1.5 billion kilometers] away."
The complexity comes in part from the spacecraft lining up visits to more than a dozen of Saturn's 60-plus moons and sometimes swinging up to get views of poles of the planet and moons. Cassini then works its way back to orbiting around Saturn's equator, while staying on track to hit its next targeted flyby. The turn-by-turn directions that mission planners write also have to factor in the gravitational influences of the moons and a limited fuel supply.
"I'm proud to say Cassini has accomplished all of this every year on-budget, with relatively few health issues," Mitchell said. "Cassini is entering middle age, with the associated signs of the passage of years, but it's doing remarkably well and doesn't require any major surgery."
The smooth, white paint of the high-gain antenna probably now feels rough to the touch, and some of the blankets around the body of the spacecraft are probably pitted with tiny holes from micrometeoroids. But Cassini still retains redundancy on its critical engineering systems, and the team expects it to return millions more bytes of scientific data as it continues to sniff, taste, watch and listen to the Saturn system.
And that's a good thing, because Cassini still has a daring, unique mission ahead of it. Spring has only recently begun to creep over the northern hemisphere of Saturn and its moons, so scientists are only beginning to understand the change wrought by the turning of the seasons. No other spacecraft has been able to observe such a transformation at a giant planet.
Starting in November 2016, Cassini will begin a series of orbits that wind it ever closer to Saturn. Those orbits kick off just outside Saturn's F ring, the outermost of the main rings. Then in April 2017, one final close encounter with Titan will put Cassini on a trajectory that will pass by Saturn inside its innermost ring, a whisper away from the top of Saturn's atmosphere. After 22 such close passes, the gravitational perturbation from one final distant Titan encounter will bring Cassini ever closer. On Sept. 15, 2017, after entry into Saturn's atmosphere, the spacecraft will be crushed and vaporized by the pressure and temperature of Saturn's final embrace to protect worlds like Enceladus and Titan, with liquid water oceans under their icy crusts that might harbor conditions for life.



Round and Round Saturn
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been on an epicroad trip, as this graphic of its orbits around the Saturn system shows. This picture traces Cassini's orbits from Saturn orbit insertion, on June 30, 2004 PDT, through the planned end of the mission, on Sept. 15, 2017. Saturn is in the center, with the orbit of its largest moon Titan in red and the orbits of its six other inner satellites in white. 
Cassini's prime mission, completed in 2008, is shown in green. Its first mission extension, which was known as the EquinoxMission and ended in 2010, is shown in orange. The completed orbits of its second mission extension, known as the Solstice Mission, are shown in purple. Orbits after Cassini's 15th anniversary of launch, on Oct. 15, 2012, appear in dark gray. These include orbits that pass inside Saturn's innermost ring, which start in April 2017. 
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Update: 20.10.2012

It’s been fifteen years since Cassini launched to Saturn. A joint program with the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency, the Cassini-Huygens mission left Earth on October 15, 1997. It flew by Venus twice, swung back by Earth, then went onward to Jupiter before settling in around Saturn in 2004; the Huygens probe landed to the surface of Titan in 2005. In all, the spacecraft covered more than 3.8 billion miles on the seven year journey, and has spent the last eight years returning stunning images of, and incredible science from, the ringed planet and its moons. 

It wasn’t a simple path to take. In fact, Cassini’s trip to Saturn was a long and very winding road. And things didn’t get easier for those plotting its route once its arrived at Saturn. “Cassini… has been flying the most complex gravity-assisted trajectory ever attempted,” program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Robert Mitchell said. “Each flyby of Titan, for example, is like threading the eye of the needle. And we’ve done it 87 times so far, with accuracies generally within about one mile, and all controlled from Earth about one billion miles away.”

The trajectory’s ongoing complexity comes largely from Saturn’s busy system. Cassini lines up to visit more than a dozen of Saturn’s 60-plus moons in one pass before working its way back to an orbit around Saturn’s equator. The directions mission planners write also have to factor in the gravitational influences of the moons and the spacecraft’s limited fuel supply.

Even if it’s hard keeping the spacecraft on track to far from home, Cassini doesn’t look like it will run into problems anytime soon. “I’m proud to say Cassini has accomplished all of this every year on-budget, with relatively few health issues,” Mitchell said. “Cassini is entering middle age, with the associated signs of the passage of years, but it’s doing remarkably well and doesn’t require any major surgery.”

So far, Cassini has sent back 444 gigabytes of scientific data and over 300,000 images. Scientists have used this return well. That data has gone into more than 2,500 scientific papers describing some of the most noteworthy discoveries like the plume of water ice and organic particles spewing from the moon Enceladus, the first views of the hydrocarbon-filled lakes of Saturn’s largest moon Titan, and the atmospheric upheaval from a monstrous storm on Saturn.

Saturn and its moons are currently undergoing a change in season – it’s turning into spring – giving Cassini a chance to gather data on seasonal changes. This is the first time a spacecraft has had the opportunity to observer a global change on a giant planet.

The team see no indication that the redundancies on Cassini’s critical engineering systems have failed, so they expect to get millions more bytes of data on the remainder of the mission. And it’s about to get really fun.

In November 2016, Cassini will manoeuver its way closer to Saturn’s outer F ring. Then in April 2017, a close encounter with Titan will nudge Cassini on a trajectory that will take it inside Saturn’s innermost ring. The end of the mission will come that September. After 22 close passes, the planet’s gravity will overtake Cassini, bringing into its atmosphere where it will be crushed by the pressure and temperature.

“Cassini has many more miles to go before it sleeps, and many more questions that we scientists want answered,” said Linda Spilker, a Cassini project scientist at JPL. “In fact, its last orbits may be the most thrilling of all, because we’ll be able to find out what it’s like close in to the planet, with data that cannot be gathered any other way.”

It will be sad to see Cassini go, but it’s going to go out with a scientific bang.


A schematic timeline showing Cassini’s progress over its lifetime. It’s worth looking at this one full scale. Image Credit: NASA


Samstag, 20. Oktober 2012 - 17:54 Uhr

Mars-Chroniken - Cururiosity entdeckt vergangene erdähnlichen Umgebung auf dem Mars


Since its descent onto the Red Planet, the Mars Curiosity rover has made some informative discoveries – and it’s not even at the target location yet.

Purdue alumnus and NASA employee Douglas Adams was involved in the delivery of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, as the parachute cognizant engineer. Adams was responsible for the benign testing, building and delivery of the parachute used during the descent to Mars’ surface.


Although his work with the mission is complete, Adams still actively follows the mission and the spacecraft’s discoveries. The “prime mission,” meaning the span of time the rover was designed to last, is one Martian year, so a little over two Earth years. Today is the 74th Earth day of Curiosity’s “prime mission,” and it has driven just more than three-tenths of a mile.

Adams explained the landing location was set away from the target location – the 5-kilometer Mount Sharp – so it could analyze its surroundings on the way. One of the discoveries thus far indicates water as a past presence on the planet.

“They found rocks that were round, which of course indicates that there was water movement,” Adams said. “It’s the same way you get river rocks on Earth. The rocks were layered, basically compacted into the same kind of thing that you would find here.”

Enthusiast of the Curiosity rover’s mission Jay Melosh, a professor in the College of Science, said these Earth-like characteristics tie Mars much more closely to Earth.

“It appears that Mars was much more similar to conditions on Earth than it is now,” Melosh said. “This is part of the whole investigation of life in the Universe. ... We want to understand how common life is in the Universe.”

The 7-foot tall, 9-foot wide and 10-foot long rover is crawling at a speed of about three-tenths of a mile per hour, making its way to Mount Sharp, where there is evidence of water erosion.

Melosh said the discoveries so far have been exciting and the design objectives have not even been achieved yet.

Adams agreed the most anticipated science is still to come. For instance, the Radiation Assessment Detector, which measures the radiation environment with regards to human habitability, has not yet been used. He said the mission could also be a foreshadowing of a manned mission to the Red Planet.

“In the bigger picture, there is an interest of possibly sending humans to Mars, so this falls under the category of what we call a robotic precursor to a manned flight,” Adams said. “It’s telling us what science a human may want to do when on the surface ... It’s an important step in sending people to Mars.”

Quelle: purdueexponent


Samstag, 20. Oktober 2012 - 17:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - USAF unterbricht Entwicklung von Shuttle-Prototyp nach Budget-Kürzungen


Boeing Reusable Booster System demonstration vehicle. Credit: Boeing artist's concept 

Due to “unexpected funding reductions,” the U.S. Air Force is discontinuing work on a prototype reusable rocket design effort that the U.S. National Research Council recently cited as a key steppingstone to an operational system.

The Air Force had budgeted $250 million through 2019 for the reusable booster system (RBS) Pathfinder program, intended to demonstrate a kerosene-fueled first stage that would fly back to its launch site after completing its mission. The Air Force Research Laboratory in December awarded RSB Pathfinder study contracts worth about $2 million apiece to Andrews Space of Seattle, Boeing Phantom Works of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver.

“Lockheed Martin, Andrews Space, and Boeing recently completed the technical period of the Phase I portion of the Pathfinder program and the contractual period of performance will end in December, 2012,” Ted Theopolous, a spokesman for the laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, said in an emailed response to Space News questions. “Due to unexpected reductions in program funding, [the Air Force Research Laboratory] does not plan to make any future contract awards related to the Pathfinder program.”

In a report released to media Oct. 15 that challenged the economic arguments for an operational RBS system as notionally planned by the Air Force, the National Research Council said the service should develop enabling technologies and concepts independently of whether it proceeds with a full-scale program. These include oxygen-rich staged-combustion hydrocarbon engines; operations of vehicles that return to the launch site; vehicle-health monitoring systems; and adaptive guidance and control, the report said.

The Pathfinder program was intended to demonstrate the return-to-launch-site operations scheme for the vehicle’s first stage.

“To increase the chances for Pathfinder’s success, [the Air Force Research Laboratory] should develop and fly more than one Pathfinder test vehicle design,” the report said. “In addition, competition amongst RBS concepts should be maintained as long as possible to obtain the best system for the next generation of space launch,” the report said.

As envisioned, the RBS features a reusable first stage powered by a liquid-kerosene-fueled engine and an expendable second stage fueled by liquid hydrogen. The vehicle would take off vertically and the first stage would, after releasing the second stage, return to the launch site and land horizontally.

The Air Force has notional plans for a fleet of eight such vehicles at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., according to the report, “Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment.” These plans were devised in response to a June 2011 Air Force Space Command vision document outlining strategies for maintaining U.S. dominance of space and cyberspace, the report said.

According to the Aerospace Corp., the Los Angeles-based not-for-profit company that performs engineering and other analyses in support of U.S. military space programs, developing and operating an eight-vehicle RBS fleet would provide significant long-term cost savings over the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, which today launches the vast majority of U.S. military and intelligence satellites. But the National Research Council, tasked with conducting an independent analysis of the concept, said the business case for pursuing a large-scale RBS program is unclear.

The council’s expert panel questioned the RBS cost estimates, citing numerous uncertainties associated with reusable launch systems. While the estimates were based on industry-standard methodologies, they rely on historical data that do not draw on experience operating reusable launch systems, the report said.

The cost projections also assume the RBS’s first stage would utilize a U.S. variant of Russian hydrocarbon — or kerosene-fueled — engine technology, “but the cost risks associated with development of an operable engine are difficult to capture,” the report said. The first stage of the Atlas 5 rocket, one of two workhorses of the U.S. EELV fleet, is powered by the Russian-built RD-180 main engine, for which a U.S.-based production line was planned but never implemented.

Moreover, the report said, it is not clear what infrastructure would be needed to operate and maintain a fleet of RBSs, and therefore the costs associated with that requirement are uncertain.

The report also noted that the savings attributed to the RBS are based on current EELV program costs and do not account for the possibility of lower-priced competitors entering the market.

Denver-based United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, has a virtual monopoly in the U.S. military market as prime contractor on the EELV program, whose costs have soared well beyond expectations for a variety of reasons. But Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif., is angling for that business with what it says will be lower-cost vehicles, and has several successful launches under its belt. Another company, Stratolaunch Systems of Huntsville, Ala., is developing a system that would launch rockets from an aircraft that incorporates components from a Boeing 747 jetliner.

“Given the significant number of commercial entities pursuing novel approaches to achieve launch capabilities, the future of space lift may look very different from those employed today,” the report said.


Freitag, 19. Oktober 2012 - 17:23 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - Background der Ufologie der drei Großen


Erlösung durch Außerirdische

UFO-Kulte bauen auf ferne Galaxien


Science Fiction und Religion verbindet der Glauben an Phänomene, die nicht unbedingt immer wissenschaftlich erklärt werden können. In Form von UFO-Kulten oder UFO-Religionen finden sie zueinander; teilweise auch mit verheerenden Folgen für Anhänger oder Gläubige.

In der Science-Fiction-Popkultur wimmelt es nur so vor religiösen Andeutungen – beispielsweise in Filmen wie "Star Wars" (1977-2005), "Matrix" (1999) und zuletzt "Prometheus" (2012) von Regisseur Ridley Scott. Umgekehrt spielt auch in der Religion das Universum eine große Rolle. Unabhängig voneinander erwähnen bereits die frühesten Mythen, Sagen und Erzählungen der indogermanischen, asiatischen und amerikanischen Traditionen immer wieder ungewöhnliche Himmelserscheinungen und überirdische Wesen, die in die spirituelle Entwicklung der Menschen eingreifen und sie beeinflussen.

Kosmos und Himmelreich

Eine der ältesten literarischen Werke der Welt, das Gilgameš-Epos der Babylonier, erzählt, wie einer der Hauptcharaktere, Enkidu, von Göttern in den Himmel befördert wird. Für manche war das ein erster Beweis für den Kontakt mit Außerirdischen. Auch in den großen Weltreligionen Hinduismus und Buddhismus wird dem Kosmos eine große Bedeutung zugeschrieben – wie auch immer wieder die Erwähnung des Himmelsreiches im Christentum und im Islam sowie Erzählungen von Begegnungen mit Gott als Beweise für außerirdische Existenzen interpretiert werden.

Die Menschen, die von diesen Begegnungen erzählten, sind das, was wir heute als Propheten bezeichnen. Deswegen sind aber nicht alle Glaubensgemeinschaften, die ihre Schlüsseltexte in Teilen kosmisch-mystisch deuten, UFO-Religionen. Die meisten der sogenannten UFO-Kulte folgen strikten Organisations- und Glaubensprinzipien; ihrer Doktrin nach müssen sie in Kontakt mit Außerirdischen stehen.

Geburtsstunde der UFO-Kulte

Am 24. Juni 1947 sichtete der US-amerikanische Pilot Kenneth Arnold neun unidentifizierbare Flugobjekte im Luftraum über dem amerikanischen Bundesstaat Washington. Er berichtete prompt der Presse davon. Es folgte eine Welle an Meldungen zu Sichtungen und Kontakten mit Außerirdischen, allen voran die berühmteste Meldung eines angeblichen UFO-Absturzes in der Nähe von Roswell, New Mexico.

Während sich Mitglieder der Protowissenschaft "Ufologie" auf die Suche nach fundierten Befunden machten, fühlten sich vor allem Esoteriker berufen, die Deutungshoheit über die Ereignisse zu gewinnen. Innerhalb kürzester Zeit bildeten sich zahlreiche neureligiöse Glaubensbewegungen.

Diese Gruppen sind ausnahmslos um eine zentrale Führer- oder Prophetenfigur formiert. Die Lehre der Scientology-Kirche beruft sich beispielsweise auf Werke des SF-Schriftstellers L. Ron Hubbard. Im Machtzentrum der immer noch existenten Aetherius Society stand der Mystiker George King. Die Raelistische Religion dagegen wird von dem Franzosen Claude Vorilhon geleitet, der sich als spiritueller Führer Raël nennt, nach einer unheimlichen Begegnung der Dritten Art. Heaven's Gate wurde von Marshall Herff Applewhite angeführt, der in seiner Lehre christliche Schriften mit diversen metaphysischen Lehren kombiniert. Und die "Wunderheilerin" Uriella, Führerin der Fiat-Lux-Bewegung, will ihre Anhänger vor dem Ende der Welt in Fliegenden Untertassen retten.

Bis zur heutigen Zeit haben sich etwas mehr als ein Dutzend dieser Kulte gebildet. Laut Dr. Andreas Grünschloß, Professor für Religionswissenschaft an der Universität Göttingen, bewegen sich ihre Mitgliederzahlen zwischen einer Handvoll interessierter Einzelpersonen bis zu "soziologisch greifbaren Gruppen" in der Größenordnung von um die 50.000 Mitgliedern in mehr als 80 Staaten (nach eigenen Angaben) bei der Raelistischen Religion.

Zu Astronautengöttern beten


Landung der ''Astronautengötter''?

Hinter der Idee, dass Menschen und Außerirdische in enger Beziehung zueinander stehen, vor allem auf spiritueller Eben, dominieren drei Erzählungen, so Grünschloß. So besagt die "Astronautengötter-Theorie", dass Aliens Geburtenhelfer der Menschheit waren und maßgeblich an unserer Entwicklung beteiligt sind. Eine zweite Theorie, die Mitglieder der verschiedenen Organisationen als wissenschaftlich unanfechtbar darstellen, lautet, dass sich Aliens in diversen Kontakten mit Menschen über die Zeiten hinweg als religiöse Autoritäten oder als Heilsbringer beweisen. In der dritten grundlegenden Erzählung der sogenannten "ufologischen Eschatologie" heißt es, dass Aliens sowohl für die Apokalypse als auch für den Anbruch einer neuen Welt verantwortlich sind.

Die meisten UFO-Kulte wurden zu Zeiten des Kalten Kriegs gegründet. Kein Zufall: Wie Religionswissenschaftler Michael Blume 2008 in einem Aufsatz schreibt, waren die Atomangriffe auf Japan 1945 ein "Schlüsselereignis auch für die entstehende UFO-Mythologie". Und in diesem Bedrohungs-Szenario, auf das der Kalte Krieg folgte, sehnte man sich nach "Hoffnung, Trost und vertrauenswürdigen Verbündeten".

Einer der größten noch existierenden UFO-Kulte ist die Rael-Bewegung. Ihr "Botschafter", wie sich Claude Vorilhon alias Raël selber nennt, vertritt die These, dass "Wissenschaftler von einem anderen Planeten zur Erde kamen und alle Formen des Lebens schufen, einschließlich des Menschen, nach ihrem eigenen Bild". Für die Raelianer sind demnach in sämtlichen religiösen Texten Verweise auf diese außerirdischen Wissenschaftler versteckt, die unsere primitiven Vorfahren für Gottheiten hielten.

Mit ihrer Theorie der "Astronautengötter" versuchen die Raelianer eine Brücke zwischen Esoterik und fundierter Wissenschaft zu schlagen. Darwin habe mit seiner Evolutionstheorie zwar recht, räumen sie ein – aber die Initialzündung der Evolution muss von einem höheren Wesen ausgegangen sein. Die Ähnlichkeiten zu den Thesen der mächtigen Kreationismus-Bewegung sind verblüffend. Schlagzeilen machen sie auch immer wieder mit der mit ihnen assoziierten Firma Clonaid. Zu den Zielen dieser Firma gehört es nach Eigenaussage unter anderem, Adolf Hitler zu klonen, damit er für seine Taten vor Gericht gestellt werden kann.

Außerirdische Heilsbringer

Während die Raelistische Religion von einem Erstkontakt mit Außerirdischen am Ursprung der Menschheit ausgeht, glaubt die 1955 von George King gegründete Aetherius Society an wiederkehrende Besuche aus dem Weltraum, um den Menschen wieder auf die richtige Bahn zu lenken. Die Organisation machte Ende der 1950er-Jahre auf sich aufmerksam, als Anführer King vor einem Millionenpublikum, vor den Kameras der BBC, demonstrierte, wie er Botschaften aus dem Weltraum empfangen konnte – mittels Yoga-Übungen und Meditation.

Die Lehren Kings basieren weniger auf wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen, sondern vor allem auf einer Mischung aus fernöstlichem Glauben und esoterischen Praktiken. Laut King standen Buddha, Jesus und Shri Krishna ebenfalls in engem Kontakt zu den kosmischen Meistern. In diversen spirituellen Missionen mit Namen wie "Operation Prayer Power", "Operation Sunbeam" und "Operation Space Power" sollten Mitglieder Energien bündeln und in den Kosmos senden. Man schätzt, dass die Organisation weltweit, vor allem in Großbritannien und den USA, nur 3000 Mitglieder hat. Sie wird als "gutartig" eingestuft – wenn auch als etwas verrückt.

Für verrückt erklärt wurde die in den 1970ern gegründete Heaven's-Gate-Sekte – aber eher aus Schrecken vor dem Ausgang der Lehren dieses tödlichen Kults. Für Marshall H. Applewhite, Anführer der Sekte, hatte die Ankunft des Kometen Hale-Bopp 1997 eine tiefere Bedeutung als für die meisten seiner Mitbürger. Während sich viele Menschen an dem kosmischen Naturschauspiel erfreuten, glaubte er, dem Komet folge ein Raumschiff, das nur eine Handvoll Auserwählte mitnehmen würde. Von dort aus würden sie Zeugen des apokalyptischen Jüngsten Gerichts auf der Erde sein, wie in der Bibel in der "Offenbarung des Johannes" beschrieben.

Laut Applewhite könnten die Auserwählten das Raumschiff nur entern, nachdem sie gestorben und wieder auferstanden wären. Um Erlösung zu erlangen, nahmen er und 38 seiner Jünger im März 1997 ein tödliches Gift ein. Auch Applewhite glaubte nicht an Gottheiten per se, sondern dass die Außerirdischen hochentwickelte Wesen seien. Im Gegensatz zu Raël und King aber forderte Applewhite seinen Jüngern komplette Hingabe ab, mit fatalen Folgen.

Kult des Außerirdischen?

Letzten Endes sagen die Visionen, die den neureligiösen Glaubensgemeinschaften zugrunde liegen, mehr über die Menschen aus, die daran glauben, als über das Wesen der Außerirdischen. Deshalb werden die Gemeinschaften als Vehikel für die Hoffnungen und Ängste der Anführer und Mitglieder auch missbraucht. Aber wie heilsbringend, apokalyptisch oder phantastisch die Botschaften der vermeintlichen Aliens auch sein mögen: Am Ende scheint die Faszination vor allem von den Führerpersönlichkeiten auszugehen, die sich im Zentrum dieser Kulte positionieren – also von Menschen.

Oliver Koehler (40) lebt in Berlin und arbeitet als freier Journalist, Texter und Übersetzer.

Quelle; fluter


Freitag, 19. Oktober 2012 - 10:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ISS-Forschung unterstützt Mars-Rover Curiosity


How Space Station Can Help Humans Follow Curiosity to Mars and Beyond

With all of the excitement of the Mars Curiosity landing, many are looking to move from robots to humans for exploration beyond Earth's orbit. Keeping in mind the Seven Minutes of Terror, just imagine the nail-biting moments of putting people into the harsh environment of space far from their home planet. Taking the guess work out of long-duration exploration, however, is one of the benefits of the International Space Station. This orbiting laboratory serves as a test bed for technology and helps researchers understand how to prepare for extended trips in space. 
"The space station is so valuable in this effort because it provides so much of what encompasses a long-duration transit mission, but with the convenience and lower risk of being located in low Earth orbit," said George Nelson, manager of International Space Station Technology Demonstration with NASA. 
Communications is one of the concerns that the space station can assist with, as delays of radio and telemetry information between the crew and mission control increase the further a vehicle gets from the Earth. Current space station operations rely on fast and almost continuous voice, data, command, and telemetry transmissions with controllers on the ground. Mars missions, however, could have up to a 20-minute delay in sending and receiving data. While the timing varies from destination to destination, the approach to preparing for continued operations is the same. 
Astronauts need proven procedures for how to operate independently from mission control. Aboard station, the crew practices countermeasures for delays by operating certain activities with self-enforced lapses in communications. For instance, in the summer of 2012 astronauts successfully performed preventative maintenance on the COLBERT on-orbit treadmill while purposely not speaking with flight controllers. This is a step in the right direction for creating autonomy. 
"The operations community has recently worked to revise many space station crew procedures to eliminate the need for communication with the ground," said Nelson. "We are currently testing some of these revised procedures on station to verify that they can be performed effectively. In addition, we are attempting new procedure formats, uplinked videos for instance, that may be even more effective." 
The Materials International Space Station Experiment, or MISSE, series of investigations also helps with the development of protective materials. These advances may safeguard future vehicles and crew against things like radiation, extreme temperatures, atomic oxygen, and sunlight. The samples fly for set durations of time in direct contact with the space environment, prior to returning to the ground for testing. 
Maintaining a safe living area in space requires technology advances not only for vehicle exteriors, but for inside as well. Researchers and engineers continually look to find better ways to provide a crew with clean, sustainable air and water. For instance, aboard the station the Environmental Control and Life Support System, or ECLSS, advances scientific understanding and design elements to improve future closed-loop life support systems. 
Other benefits of this on-orbit testing include greater efficiency, design improvements to reduce equipment mass, and accelerated technology developments thanks to longer trial periods in microgravity. One new life support technology currently undergoing testing aboard station is the Amine Swingbed. This equipment is designed to remove carbon dioxide from the living space inside the modules of the orbiting laboratory. When humans take in oxygen, they breathe out carbon dioxide, which needs to be scrubbed from the air to ensure continued crew health. This system is more compact and runs on less power than its predecessors. 
"Testing of various life support systems is an ideal use of the space station," said Nelson. "Reliability of these systems on long distance/duration missions is paramount. We can verify design reliability in the microgravity environment by using them on station without any mission or crew risk, since the existing systems are always available." 
The Curiosity of humanity may have reached Mars first, but it is our continued innovations and testing, like those done aboard the space station, that will help people follow the lander to the Red Planet and beyond. 
NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel, STS-134 mission specialist, installs the Materials on International Space Station Experiment – 8, or MISSE-8, hardware. MISSE-8 is a test bed for materials and computing elements attached to the outside of the International Space Station. (NASA)
The Amine Swingbed assembly, shown here, is a life-support technology undergoing testing aboard the International Space Station. (NASA)
Quelle: NASA


Freitag, 19. Oktober 2012 - 09:15 Uhr

Mars-Curiosity-Chroniken - Curiosity-News Sol 69-71


Curiosity's First Three Bites Into Martian Ground
Three bite marks left in the Martian ground by the scoop on the robotic arm of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity are visible in this image taken by the rover's right Navigation Camera during the mission's 69th Martian day, or sol (Oct. 15, 2012). The third scoopful, collected on that sol, left the bite or pit farthest to the right. Each of the three bites is about 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide. 
Of the two bites to the left, the lower one is where Curiosity collected its first scoopful of Martian material, on Sol 61 (Oct. 7, 2012). The upper one is the site of the second scooping, on Sol 66 (Oct. 12, 2012). The location for all of these scoops, and two more planned, is a ripple of windblown dust and sand at a location called "Rocknest." 
The bright circular part of the rover near the bottom center of this image is the observation tray, which is 3 inches (7.8 centimeters) in diameter. 
Mission Status Report
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has ingested its first solid sample into an analytical instrument inside the rover, a capability at the core of the two-year mission.
The rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument is analyzing this sample to determine what minerals it contains.
"We are crossing a significant threshold for this mission by using CheMin on its first sample," said Curiosity's project scientist, John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "This instrument gives us a more definitive mineral-identifying method than ever before used on Mars: X-ray diffraction. Confidently identifying minerals is important because minerals record the environmental conditions under which they form."
The sample is a sieved portion -- about as much material as in a baby aspirin -- from the third scoop collected by Curiosity as a windblown patch of dusty sand called "Rocknest." The rover's robotic arm delivered the sample to CheMin's opened inlet funnel on the rover's deck on Oct. 17.
The previous day, the rover shook the scooped material inside sample-processing chambers to scrub internal surfaces of any residue carried from Earth. One earlier scoopful was also used for cleaning. Additional repetitions of this cleaning method will be used before delivery of a future sample to the rover's other internal analytic instrument, the Sample Analysis at Mars investigation, which studies samples' chemistry.
Various small bits of light-toned material on the ground at Rocknest have affected the rover's activities in the past several days. One piece about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) long was noticed on Oct. 7. The rover team postponed use of the robotic arm for two days while investigating this object, and assessed it to be debris from the spacecraft.
Images taken after Curiosity collected its second scoop of Rocknest material on Oct. 12 showed smaller bits of light-toned material in the hole dug by the scooping action. This led to discarding that scoopful rather than using it to scrub the processing mechanisms. Scientists assess these smaller, bright particles to be native Martian material, not from the spacecraft.
"We plan to learn more both about the spacecraft material and about the smaller, bright particles," said Curiosity Project Manager Richard Cook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. "We will finish determining whether the spacecraft material warrants concern during future operations. The native Mars particles become fodder for the mission's scientific studies."
First Sample Placed on Curiosity's Observation Tray
The robotic arm on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity delivered a sample of Martian soil to the rover's observation tray for the first time during the mission's 70th Martian day, or sol (Oct. 16, 2012). This image taken later that same sol by the rover's left Mast Camera shows the sample on the tray. The tray is 3 inches (7.8 centimeters) in diameter. 
The sample came from the third scoopful of material collected at the "Rocknest" patch of windblown dust and sand. 
Bright Particle in Hole Dug by Scooping of Martian Soil
This image shows part of the small pit or bite created when NASA's Mars rover Curiosity collected its second scoop of Martian soil at a sandy patch called "Rocknest." The bright particle near the center of this image, and similar ones elsewhere in the pit, prompted concern because a small, light-toned shred of debris from the spacecraft had been observed previously nearby (PIA16230). However, the mission's science team assessed the bright particles in this scooped pit to be native Martian material rather than spacecraft debris. 
This image was taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on Curiosity's arm during the 69th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Oct. 15, 2012), about a week after the scoop dug this hole. The view here covers an area of ground about 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) across. 
This image was taken by Mastcam: Right (MAST_RIGHT) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 69 (2012-10-16 00:42:00 UTC) . 
This image was taken by Navcam: Left A (NAV_LEFT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 69 (2012-10-15 23:07:52 UTC) . 
This image was taken by Front Hazcam: Right A (FHAZ_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 69 (2012-10-16 00:06:49 UTC) . 
his image was taken by ChemCam: Remote Micro-Imager (CHEMCAM_RMI) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 70 (2012-10-16 21:10:47 UTC) .
This image was taken by Navcam: Left A (NAV_LEFT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 70 (2012-10-17 02:10:19 UTC) . 
This image was taken by Rear Hazcam: Right A (RHAZ_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 70 (2012-10-16 23:54:19 UTC) . 
This image was taken by Mastcam: Left (MAST_LEFT) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 71 (2012-10-18 04:29:02 UTC) . 
This image was taken by Navcam: Right A (NAV_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 71 (2012-10-18 01:57:51 UTC) . 
This image was taken by ChemCam: Remote Micro-Imager (CHEMCAM_RMI) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 72 (2012-10-19 01:24:04 UTC) . 
Fotos: NASA


Mittwoch, 17. Oktober 2012 - 21:38 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ISS bekommt "Salat-Garten" im nächsten Jahr


With all the prepackaged gardening kits on the market, an exceptionally green thumb isn't necessary to grow your own tasty fresh vegetables here on Earth. The same may hold true for U.S. astronauts living and working aboard the International Space Station when they receive a newly developed Vegetable Production System, called VEGGIE for short, set to launch aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule on NASA's third Commercial Resupply Services mission next year. 
"Our hope is that even though VEGGIE is not a highly complex plant growth apparatus, it will allow the crew to rapidly grow vegetables using a fairly simple nutrient and water delivery approach," said Howard Levine, Ph.D. and chief scientist, NASA's Kennedy Space Center International Space Station Research Office. 
Gioia Massa, a postdoctoral fellow in the Surface Systems Group of Kennedy's Engineering Directorate, has been working with the International Space Station Research Office to validate the VEGGIE hardware here on Earth before it takes flight next year. 
"VEGGIE could be used to produce faster-growing species of plants, such as lettuce or radishes, bok choy or Chinese cabbage, or even bitter leafy greens" Massa said. "Crops like tomatoes, peas or beans in which you'd have to have a flower and set fruit would take a little longer than a 28-day cycle." 
It may not sound like a big deal to us Earthlings who can just run out to our local produce stand or supermarket when we have a hankering for a salad, but when you're living 200 miles above the surface of the planet, truly fresh food only comes a few times a year. 
"When the resupply ships get up there, the fresh produce gets eaten almost immediately," Massa said. 
Weighing in at about 15 pounds and taking up the space of a stove-top microwave oven, the stowable and deployable VEGGIE system was built by Orbital Technologies Corporation, or ORBITEC, in Madison, Wis. The company designed the system to enable low-maintenance experiments, giving astronauts the opportunity to garden recreationally. 
"Based upon anecdotal evidence, crews report that having plants around was very comforting and helped them feel less out of touch with Earth," Massa said. "You could also think of plants as pets. The crew just likes to nurture them." 
In simple terms, the VEGGIE system works like this: Clear Teflon bellows that can be adjusted for plants as they grow are attached to a metal frame housing the system's power and light switches. A rooting pillow made of Teflon-coated Kevlar and Nomex will contain the planting media, such as soil or claylike particles, along with fertilizer pellets. Seeds either will be preloaded in the pillows on Earth or inserted by astronauts in space. To water the plants, crew members will use a reservoir located beneath the pillows and a root mat to effectively add moisture through an automatic wicking process. 
VEGGIE is set to join other plant growth facilities that vary in size and complexity, such as the Lada greenhouse unit and the ABRS, short for Advanced Biological Research System. VEGGIE is the simplest of the three designs, but has the largest surface area for planting and is expected to produce data on a more regular basis. Levine noted that the ability to grow plants in microgravity has really evolved throughout the past decade. 
"What's interesting is that plants breathe, just like humans," Levine said. "Initially, biologists tried to grow plants in sealed compartments but that didn't work because without continuous airflow bringing carbon dioxide and oxygen to plants for respiration, they won't thrive." 
An added benefit of the VEGGIE system is that it requires only about 115 watts to operate, less than half the energy it takes to power a desktop computer and monitor. The blue, red and green light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are bright enough for crops to grow, but energy efficient enough for a place where power is at a premium. 
"We really only need the red and the blue LEDs for good photosynthesis, but we have the option of turning the green LEDs on, which will make the overall light look white, making the plants look green rather than purple," Massa said. 
Once the facility reaches the station, astronauts will unpack it and install it into one of the station's EXPRESS racks. Then, they'll report back to Kennedy's International Space Station Research Office about the setup and work that goes into planting, maintaining and harvesting the crops, as well as the effort that goes into pillow disposal and sanitation. 
Mary Hummerick, a microbiologist at Kennedy, will be awaiting swab samples and frozen plant tissues to return from space so she can analyze them for bacteria and microorganisms that could adversely affect the crew. If those numbers are acceptable, NASA could give the go-ahead for crews to start eating what they grow. 
NASA is looking into other ways to use the VEGGIE facility once its operation is validated on the first flight to the station. 
"You could have bio-behavioral studies on the effect of growing edible plants compared to ornamental plants with flowers, nutritional studies, psychological studies, or you could grow herbs like mint and basil," Massa said. 
The agency recently released a NASA Research Announcement asking for those types of proposals from peer-reviewed researchers to join in with their own VEGGIE experiments. Prospective researchers also will have to detail their plans for involving students in K-12 classrooms and how their experiments would help teach kids about science, technology, math and engineering, or STEM. 
"There's definitely an outreach component to VEGGIE and we're looking at reaching the up-and-coming generation with STEM activities," said Levine. "We're leaving it up to the researchers to propose how to engage and enthuse a significant number of students with their experiments." 
While a successful run of VEGGIE would open innumerable possibilities for future experiments, the near-term goal will be seeing whether the hardware performs as expected on the station come next year. 
Image above: Crops tested in VEGGIE plant pillows include lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, Chinese cabbage and peas. 
Image credit: NASA
mage above: An earlier version of NASA's VEGGIE experiment hardware is tested at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image credit: NASA
Image above: "Outredgeous" red leaf lettuce grows in a VEGGIE plant pillow. 
Image credit: NASA
Quelle: NASA


Mittwoch, 17. Oktober 2012 - 21:26 Uhr

Luftfahrt - Boeing-Supersonic-Flug-Modell im NASA-Windkanal


Supersonic Model Points to Fast Future
If human beings are ever to fly faster than the speed of sound from one side of the country to another, we first have to figure out how to reduce the level of sonic boom generated by supersonic flight. 
Earlier this fall, a subscale model of a potential future low-boom supersonic aircraft designed by The Boeing Company was installed for testing in the supersonic wind tunnel at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. 
This model is a larger of two models used in the test. The model contains a force measurement balance used to capture force measurements (lift, drag). Depending on the type of test and on the tunnel, the model can be oriented any way. Pictured here, the model is actually upside down.
Another smaller model was used to capture measurements of the off-body pressures that create a sonic boom. 
The tests are among those being conducted by NASA and its partners to identify technologies and designs to achieve a level of sonic boom so low that it barely registers on buildings and people below.
Quelle+Image Credit: NASA


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