Sonntag, 18. November 2012 - 16:41 Uhr

Astronomie - Meteoritenfinder Thomas Grau im Deutschlandradio


Beitrag im Deutschlandradio - Kultur

Unterwegs mit dem Meteoritenfinder Thomas Grau


Öde, mit Kratern übersäte Brocken - Millionen Kilometer von der Erde entfernt, der Bauschutt des Universums. Thomas Grau ist Meteoritenfreund und Hobbyastronom. Jedoch ist er einer der wenigen, der davon lebt, europaweit.

Ungeduldig blättert Thomas Grau in einem Bildband: Aufnahmen von Kleinplaneten und Asteroiden. Öde kraterübersäte Brocken - Millionen Kilometer von der Erde entfernt, der Bauschutt des Universums. Jederzeit können Stücke davon als Meteoriten auf die Erde fallen, überall, auch hier - direkt vor dem Fenster von Thomas Graus Arbeitszimmer, im obersten Stockwerk eines Plattenbaus in Bernau.

Aber der Himmel über den Dächern der brandenburgischen Kleinstadt ist an diesem Nachmittag strahlend blau, keine Feuerkugel, kein Donner, kein Meteorit fällt vom Himmel. Nichts, wonach er suchen, und nichts, womit er Geld verdienen könnte. Seit zwei Jahren wartet der hauptberufliche Meteoritenfinder nun schon auf Einnahmen.

Gerhard Richter: "Ich finde diesen Menschen Thomas Grau so faszinierend, weil er einen Beruf ausübt, der so eine unglaubliche Dimension umspannt: Man muss sich vorstellen, da kommen Brocken aus dem Weltall angesaust, stürzen durch die Atmosphäre und fallen irgendwo auf die Erde. Und er geht tatsächlich los, sucht die und hebt die schwarzen, glänzenden Steine aus dem Weltall irgendwann und irgendwo auch auf."

Link zu Reportage als PDF darüber hier :


Sonntag, 18. November 2012 - 16:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ISS-Crew-33 vor Heimkehr am Sonntag


NASA Television to Air Soyuz Landing Coverage Nov. 18
HOUSTON -- NASA Television will provide live coverage as three of the crew members on the International Space Station come back to Earth Sunday, Nov. 18. 
Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA, Flight Engineer Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko will undock their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft from the station, heading for a pre-dawn landing in Kazakhstan, northeast of the remote town of Arkalyk at 7:53 p.m. CST (7:53 a.m. Kazakhstan time on Nov. 19). Their return will wrap up 127 days in space since their launch from Kazakhstan on July 15, including 125 days spent aboard the station. 
At the time of undocking, Expedition 34 formally will begin aboard the station under the command of NASA's Kevin Ford. He and his crewmates, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, will tend to the station as a three-man crew for one month until the arrival of three new crew members in December. They are Tom Marshburn of NASA, Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko. 
NASA Television landing coverage will begin Saturday, Nov. 17, with the change of command ceremony when Williams will transfer the helm of the orbiting laboratory to Ford. Coverage will continue Nov. 18 and 19 with Expedition 33 landing and post-landing activities. 
(All Times Central) 
Saturday, Nov. 17: 
1:15 p.m. -- Expedition 33/34 Change of Command Ceremony 
Sunday, Nov. 18: 
12:45 p.m. -- Farewells and hatch closure (hatch closure scheduled at 1:10 p.m.) 
4:00 p.m. -- Undocking (undocking scheduled at 4:26 p.m.) 
6:30 p.m. -- Deorbit burn and landing (deorbit burn scheduled at 6:58 p.m.; landing scheduled at 7:53 p.m.) 
9:00 p.m. -- Video File of hatch closure, undocking and landing activities 
Expedition 33 will be saying goodbye this weekend when Commander Suni Williams and Flight Engineers Aki Hoshide and Yuri Malenchenko return to Earth in their Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft. The trio will land in Kazakhstan at 8:53 pm. EST Sunday (7:53 a.m. Kazakhstan time on Monday). After they land, Williams, Hoshide and Malenchenko will have spent 127 days in space, 125 days on the station. 
Williams will ceremonially hand over station control to Flight Engineer Kevin Ford on Saturday. Ford will officially become Expedition 34 commander when Williams and her crewmates undock on Sunday. Staying behind with Ford will be Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin. 
Three new Expedition 34 crew members are training on the ground in Star City, Russia, for their Dec. 19 launch to the International Space Station. Flight Engineers Chris Hadfield, Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko conducted Soyuz simulations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center on Monday. 
Williams and her off-going crewmates trained for their departure and descent inside the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft. Home-bound preparations for the trio will be taking place all week. 
Meanwhile, the six-member Expedition 33 crew moved right along Monday with international science, routine maintenance and daily exercise. 
Novitskiy and Tarelkin worked together on the Russian science experiment BAR. The ongoing study seeks to determine the best tools and methods for finding pressure leaks on the space station. 
Update: 16.11.2012
Quelle: NASA
Update: 18.11.2012 Packing for Earth

Now, it is time to start thinking about coming home. Up to this point I haven’t, and sort of denied it. I am still in denial, but I am going through the motions because I don’t want to forget something when the hatch closes … so we are preparing.

Space is just really cool. I love it here, just like most folks who get to come here. It is just so cool how we adapt and become so comfortable up here. You can be standing one moment and with just a little effort, flip upside down and be hanging – “look ma, no hands!” It is just an amazing place to be. Not to mention the view … why would anyone want to leave?

So, you might ask, what do you have to pack? It is a little like the airlines, we do have a baggage limit, but slightly less – only 1.5 kg in the Soyuz. That is like 3.5 lbs., so not much. We all brought that much personal stuff up here, so we know pretty much how much we can take back – essentially the same stuff we brought up comes back down with us in the Soyuz.

We don’t pack our clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. That stuff is all here when we arrive. Even our special shirts and cargo pants are waiting here for us. But this is our personal stuff, so no one else will want it. 

I have worn essentially one pair of pants and one pair of shorts this entire trip. We don’t get “dirty” up here with dirt, but we are working on equipment, and sometimes little stains get on your clothes. Additionally, we don’t do laundry up here – we just get new stuff and throw away the old stuff. We don’t need to change our clothes as much as we do on the ground – not anyone up here to impress, and “smell-o-vision” has not been invented yet. Just kidding.

So, back to packing – I have some stuff, like my Yo-yo, my crew notebook with pictures, my specialty t-shirts I had sent up, my family photo album. It’s funny that your life actually boils down to these little things – really, think about it. Not much more is really important than the people (animals included), places and memories you have!

Last week was busy … and of course it was fun because we are in space! It doesn’t get better than that, even when all your computers don’t work and the toilet gets really broken.

Being high tech, we have tried to go paperless as much as possible on the ISS. This is great, and GREEN, but everything sort of comes to a screeching halt when the computer system, which provides you with all the information about your schedule and activities, dies. This happened bright and early one morning and put a little damper on our activities. 

Luckily enough, all the workout equipment kept on plugging along for the most part, so we were able to buy back a little time by working out for a while, while the computer guys on the ground worked their magic on our systems. It took the better part of the day, with a little help from us, for them to reload the hard drives of two of our main servers. We do the hardware stuff and they can do all the software configurations from the ground. It is interesting to see how vulnerable we are to these types of problems. I know the folks on the ground were scrambling to get all of our systems working again.

The big thing that was not working quite right last week was the toilet. We changed out practically every part in that thing system. The KTO, or solid waste function of our toilet, was working fine. It was just really the urine processing part. We really need to make sure the right balance of urine to chemicals is put into the system to make sure the downstream components, which turn the urine back into drinking water, don’t fail. As a result, the water valves, all plumbing, two sensors and finally the water pump were all changed out. In the meantime – we used the Russian toilet – all six of us using one toilet is rough!

Aki, Yuri and I fit in our Sokol (space) suits and our Soyuz. You know we grow up here so there is always a question about if we will really fit. In space your spine expands so you grow. The cartilage between the vertebrae doesn’t have the pressure of gravity on it, so it expands and hence, you grow. I did notice this when we were getting our suits on. I had to lengthen all the straps to get my head thru the opening. It was a little tight, but all worked out fine.

Another impression I had was wow – that Soyuz is small. It felt big when we flew up here and even roomy. But now, after living in this “grand hotel,” it seems tiny! Actually, after I nestled my way into my seat – you don’t just sit in space, you have to get held down, and that seat is actually like being in the fetal position, so you have to tighten your belts, nestle down, tighten some more, nestled down, until you are all the way in there. It felt pretty good. Of course, your knees are in your chest.

Regardless of these strange sensations, the Soyuz automatically felt like home. We all know what we need to do in there – the training is that good I think – that you don’t really think too much about it. You just know what to do.

Quelle: Suni-Blog



Sonntag, 18. November 2012 - 15:37 Uhr

Planet Erde - GOCE´s Schwerkraft-Karte


GOCE’s second mission improving gravity map

The image on the left shows GOCE’s gravity measurements over northern Europe, acquired from its previous altitude. The image on the right depicts the expected measurements over the same area after the satellite has been lowered by 15 km. An increased signal and improved spatial resolution is evident.


ESA’s GOCE gravity satellite has already delivered the most accurate gravity map of Earth, but its orbit is now being lowered in order to obtain even better results.
The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) has been orbiting Earth since March 2009, reaching its ambitious objective to map our planet’s gravity with unrivalled precision.

Although the planned mission has been completed, the fuel consumption was much lower than anticipated because of the low solar activity over the last two years. This has enabled ESA to extend GOCE’s life, improving the quality of the gravity model.

To be able to measure the strength of Earth’s gravity, the satellite was flying in an extraordinarily low orbit about 255 km high – about 500 km lower than most Earth observation satellites.

Based on a clear preference from the GOCE user community, ESA’s Earth Scientific Advisory Committee recommended lowering the orbit to 235 km starting in August. 

Lowering the orbit increases the accuracy and resolution of GOCE’s measurements, improving our view of smaller ocean dynamics such as eddy currents.

The control team began the manoeuvres in August, lowering GOCE by about 300 m per day.

After coming down by 8.6 km, the satellite’s performance and new environment were assessed. Now, GOCE is again being lowered while continuing its gravity mapping. Finally, it is expected to reach 235 km in February.

As the orbit drops, atmospheric drag increasingly pulls the satellite towards Earth. But GOCE was designed to fly low, the tiny thrust of its ion engine continuously compensating for any drag.

The expected increase in data quality is so high that scientists are calling it GOCE’s ‘second mission.

For us at ESA, GOCE has been a fantastic mission and it continues to surprise us,” said Volker Liebig, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes.

“What the team of ESA engineers is now doing has not been done before and it poses a challenge. But it will also trigger new research in the field of gravity based on the high-resolution data we are expecting.”

The first ‘geoid’ based on GOCE’s gravity measurements was unveiled in June 2010. It is the surface of an ideal global ocean in the absence of tides and currents, shaped only by gravity.

A geoid is a crucial reference for conducting precise measurements of ocean circulation, sea-level change and ice dynamics.

The mission has also been providing new insight into air density and wind in space, and its information was recently used to produce the first global high-resolution map of the boundary between Earth’s crust and mantle.

ESA's GOCE mission has delivered the most accurate model of the 'geoid' ever produced, which will be used to further our understanding of how Earth works.

The colours in the image represent deviations in height (–100 m to +100 m) from an ideal geoid. The blue colours represent low values and the reds/yellows represent high values.

A precise model of Earth's geoid is crucial for deriving accurate measurements of ocean circulation, sea-level change and terrestrial ice dynamics. The geoid is also used as a reference surface from which to map the topographical features on the planet. In addition, a better understanding of variations in the gravity field will lead to a deeper understanding of Earth's interior, such as the physics and dynamics associated with volcanic activity and earthquakes.

Credits: ESA/HPF/DLR

Quelle: NASA


Sonntag, 18. November 2012 - 15:23 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Die Zukunft der Raumfahrt in Europa


Zwei Tage, die über die Zukunft der Raumfahrt in Europa entscheiden: Einige Punkte zur ESA

Nächste Woche wird der künftige Kurs festgelegt, auf dem sich der europäische Raumfahrtsektor bewegen wird, wenn sich die Minister der 20 Mitgliedsstaaten der europäischen Weltraumorganisation ESA in Italien treffen.
Lesen Sie hier, warum die Punkte auf der Agenda für alle Europäer wichtig sind.

Die für die Raumfahrt zuständigen Minister der 20 ESA-Mitgliedstaaten und Kanadas werden sich vom 20 bis 21. November in Neapel treffen, um über die künftigen Raumfahrtprogramme der ESA abzustimmen, welche die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit und das Wachstum Europas zusammen mit dem wissenschaftlichen Fortschritt vorantreiben sollen.

Die Debatte wird sehr umfangreich sein: Die ESA, eine zwischenstaatliche Organisation europäischer Nationen, ist eine der wenigen Agenturen der Welt, die in allen Bereichen des Weltraums aktiv ist: die Erforschung des Weltraums und der Schutz unserer Umwelt, während sie das technische Wissen und die Wettbewerbsfähigkeit unseres Kontinents vorantreibt.

Die europäische Zusammenarbeit im Raumfahrtbereich geht auf die frühen 60er Jahre zurück, als sechs europäische Länder die European Launcher Development Organisation „ELDO“ gründeten. 1962 wurde von diesen und vier weiteren Ländern der Gründungsvertrag der European Space Research Organisation ESRO unterzeichnet.

Nicht einmal 20 Jahre zuvor befanden sich die Nationen dieser Visionäre im Krieg. Diese bittere Erfahrung lehrte sie umso mehr, dass nicht Konkurrenz sondern Zusammenarbeit der beste Weg ist, dem riesigen, unbekannten Territorium des Weltalls zu begegnen.

In der Raumfahrt konnte man viel mehr durch Zusammenarbeit erreichen, als das, was eine einzelne Nation bewerkstelligen konnte.

ELDO konzentrierte sich allein auf Trägersysteme und ESRO auf die Weltraumforschung. Als man sich aber dem großen wirtschaftlichen Potential der Raumfahrt bewusst wurde, war eine größere Organisation notwendig: die Europäische Weltraumorganisation, die 1975 gegründet wurde.  
Raumfahrt als Wirtschaftsfaktor in Europa
In den darauf folgenden Jahren wurde die europäische Raumfahrtindustrie mit einem Jahresumsatz von 6 Milliarden Euro und 35.000 direkt angestellten Fachkräften zu einem weltweiten Marktführer und ist im Bereich der globalen Telekommunikation sowie Trägerraketen ganz vorne mit dabei.

Die Anzahl der Arbeitsplätze in der Raumfahrt in Europa zusammen mit den Jobs in nachgelagerten Branchen ist zehn Mal so hoch. Gleichzeitig sind die europäischen Missionen auf dem Gebiet der Astronomie, Planetenforschung und Geowissenschaften unübertroffen.

All dies geschieht zum durchschnittlichen Preis einer Kinokarte pro Europäer und Jahr. Die Führungsrolle der ESA und die andauernde Unterstützung der Delegationen ihrer Mitgliedsstaaten haben eine Industrie geformt, die auf dem offenen Weltmarkt Aufträge gewinnt.

Die beeindruckenden Einblicke in den Kosmos, die wir den ESA-Missionen verdanken, haben die Vorstellung der Menschen vom Universum und der Erde verändert.


Ob Wettersatelliten oder weltraumgestützte Telekommunikation, Navigation und Umweltüberwachung; die von der ESA entwickelten und aufgebauten Raumfahrtsysteme haben dazu beigetragen, die strategische Unabhängigkeit Europas und unseren gemeinsamen Wohlstand zu stärken.

In unserem neuen Buch The ESA Effect erfahren Sie alles über die Tragweiteder Aktivitäten der ESA auf Europa und die Welt.

Investitionen in die Raumfahrt haben sich als solide Anlage herausgestellt, welche durch einen Multiplikator-Effekt verstärkt wird: Jeder in den Weltraum investierte Euro verdoppelt seinen Wert für die Gesamtwirtschaft um ein Vielfaches. Eine Investition in die Raumfahrt ist eine Investition in Wissen, Innovation und Inspiration. Die Raumfahrt trägt zu Wachstum, Arbeit und Wettbewerb innerhalb vieler Wirtschaftsbereiche bei und ist dabei auch immun gegen Outsourcing.

In einer Zeit, in der Europa die Herausforderung einer sich ständig ändernden Welt meistern muss, sind Innovationen wertvoller denn je.

ESA: Boosting Europe's competitiveness and growth
Bei der Suche nach neuen Wegen, um neue Dinge zu tun, schaffen die Forschungs- und Entwicklungsprogramme der ESA neue Arbeitsplätze, Unternehmen und komplette, hochwertige Industriezweige.

Diese neue, für den Ministerrat erstellten Broschüre vermittelt die Fakten, warum die Raumfahrt für Europa so wichtig ist: ESA: Boosting Europe's competitiveness and growth
Wie kann man am besten einen Aktionsplan für die Raumfahrt erstellen - einem Bereich der unbegrenzten Möglichkeiten? Historisch gesehen wurde die ESA im Rahmen eines sehr europäischen Kompromisses gestaltet, verkörpert im ESA-Übereinkommen.

Die einzige verbindliche Verpflichtung für ESA-Mitgliedsstaaten stellt das Wissenschaftsprogramm der ESA dar, zusammen mit der Finanzierung der Grundlagenforschung, der Technologie und der operationellen Infrastruktur. Die Unterstützung für die übrigen ESA-Programme ist optional. Dies hat sich als bemerkenswert robuste und flexible Organisationsmethode erwiesen, mit der Mitgliedsstaaten nationale Prioritäten gezielt fördern und trotzdem die Früchte der gemeinsamen Arbeit ernten können.
Dieses System schafft die Bedingungen für die verschiedenen Tätigkeitsbereiche der ESA. Die Programmpunkte des Ministerratstreffens sind die folgende Punkte.

  • Navigation
  • Erdbeobachtung
  • Telekommunikation
  • Technologie
  • Wissenschaft
  • Bemannte Raumfaht und Missionsbetrieb
  • Trägersysteme

Quelle: ESA




Samstag, 17. November 2012 - 19:17 Uhr

Mars-Curiosity-Chroniken - Curiosity 100 Tage auf dem MARS


This image was taken by Navcam: Right A (NAV_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 100 (2012-11-16 22:52:42 UTC) .


This image was taken by Navcam: Right A (NAV_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 100 (2012-11-16 22:51:18 UTC) .


This image was taken by Navcam: Right A (NAV_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 100 (2012-11-16 22:51:18 UTC) .


This image was taken by Navcam: Right A (NAV_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 100 (2012-11-16 22:43:34 UTC) .


This image was taken by Navcam: Right A (NAV_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 100 (2012-11-16 22:47:20 UTC) .


This image was taken by Front Hazcam: Right A (FHAZ_RIGHT_A) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 100 (2012-11-16 21:54:16 UTC) .


Fotos: NASA


Samstag, 17. November 2012 - 18:14 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Blick in Space-Shuttle-Trainer


A view from the mid-deck up to the aft end of the flight deck shows the windows on top of the orbiter. This is also where astronauts would escape the flight deck in the event of an emergency.


It’s not named Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavor or Enterprise. But the Full Fuselage Trainer at the Museum of Flight in Seattle is the only full-size artifact of the space shuttle program that visitors can actually go inside and follow in the footsteps of every shuttle astronaut. There will even be limited access to tour the flight deck, complete with its control sticks, countless switches and pilot seats. The well-worn trainer was used by all of the crews who flew aboard the shuttle orbiters since the first flight back in 1981.

Construction started on the wooden structure of the FFT back in 1974, and it remained in Houston as a training device until the final mission last year. It’s 122 feet long, and the tail stands 48 feet above the floor. There’s a replica of the payload bay and the pressurized crew compartments, including the mid-deck, where mission specialists would sit during the flight to and from space, as well as the flight deck. The cargo bay along with a display area in the tail are open to all visitors.

“We’ll have special programs for people to go through the crew compartments, mostly linked to education programs,” said museum spokesman Mike Bush.

Unlike the easy access and open space of the cargo bay, to enter the crew compartments visitors have to duck and squeeze through a relatively small circular hatch where the first thing you’ll pass on your way in is the orbiter toilet. Access to the flight deck above the entrance on the mid-deck is up a short vertical ladder. Shuttle astronauts also used windows at the top of the flight deck for emergency egress training, though visitors won’t be rappelling down the side of the FFT.

For those who can’t get access to the crew compartments, but are curious about the details of space living, another shuttle toilet will be on display next to a Soyuz version in an adjacent display. Other displays in the gallery include various shuttle history along with the actual Soyuz capsule Museum of Flight patron Charles Simonyi flew in on one of his two flights to the International Space Station. There are also interactive, large touchscreens where visitors can learn all about the FFT complete with panoramic pictures of the flight deck and mid-deck areas. There is also a cockpit simulator where visitors can try out their skills trying to land an orbiter.

Unlike the space-going orbiters and the flight test glider Enterprise, the FFT flew only one time in its illustrious history. In several pieces, the trainer was flown from its former home in Houston to its new home at the Museum of Flight in Seattle aboard NASA’s Super Guppy cargo plane.

The trainer fills the main floor of the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight. Because visitors can actually get into the FFT, the museum is confident it will be a much better educational tool than the actual orbiters, which will only be viewable from outside.










Freitag, 16. November 2012 - 22:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Erhält Orion-Kapsel Rotorblätter zur Landung?


An Orion Spacecraft With Helicopter Blades?

Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida have tested out a design that could see the Orion Spacecraft return to earth – using rotor blades. Image Credit: NASA


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – It was one of the rocket designs that appeared during the early days of the space age, a concept that now appears to be given a second life at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It also saw a variant of the concept appear during the early days of the NewSpace movement. What is it? A spacecraft – with rotor blades.

Engineers are currently investigating whether or not spacecraft with rotors like a helicopter could be a viable way to slow spacecraft returning back to Earth. These rotors could potentially be used in place of the parachutes that are used in capsule-based spacecraft.

It is thought that this system could impart the stability and control that helicopters possess onto the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). The system would not be powered; instead it would be moved by the force of the wind moving over the rotors. This process is called auto-rotation and while proven in rotary-wing aircraft, it has never been tried on a returning spacecraft.

Models are being constructed and drop-tested within the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building or “VAB” located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The procedure is a far cry from what the public generally thinks of when they think of a NASA tests.

According to, team members spread out on various levels inside the VAB and dropped a two-pound model from 480 feet up inside the expansive building. Using a helicopter remote control, a team member adjusted the rotor’s pitch, slowing the model several times as it descended to a landing atop a foam stack.

Johnson Space Center Engineer Jeff Hagen attaches a rotor to the top of a model ahead of drop tests inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett


While, at first blush, this might seem a simplistic and unreliable method in which to test the viability of a design, it provides engineers with the basic knowledge of whether-or-not a design is worth pursuing.

If the concept proves sound, it still has a long way to go before it is entrusted with the lives of crew. Future tests could see a test article hoisted into the air via balloon and then released. A further test could see a small capsule would return to Earth using the rotor system from the International Space Station (according to the article on this test flight would use science samples as cargo).

“The purpose of the testing we’re doing here is to study how to get the rotor starting to spin,” said Jeff Hagen, an engineer at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We’re trying to build as much of that story as we can.”

A model prepared for drop tests inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. It is hoped that these tests will prove out the design and lead to further development. Photo Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett


This could possibly lead to spacecraft that could land virtually anywhere. NASA looked at all the different locations where helicopters land today and envisioned spacecraft that were capable of landing in those same areas.

The rotors would only be one component in a broader system. Fins, like those used on bombs and missiles, would also be incorporated into the capsule’s design, they would be deployed to help stabilize the Orion spacecraft, to prevent the capsule from rotating along with the rotor blades.

Rotors might even be used in spent rocket stages. As it stands now, these spent boosters reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. Boosters with rotor blades as part of their design could, potentially, return home and the expensive engines could be salvaged.

“A hundred years ago, there were cameras and there were phones and there were wireless devices to send Morse code and they were all separate technologies on their own,” said Les Boatright, an engineer at Kennedy. “Now you have a telephone that does all three of those things and it’s a merger of technology. Well, this is taking the capsule entry technology and helicopter rotor technology and merging those in an innovative way to make something that didn’t exist before out of two things that did exist before.”

The concept of rotors on spacecraft returning to Earth is nothing new, it has popped up time and again. From concepts in the Apollo era, to actually the test article of the Roton Spacecraft, a rotary wing based design have repeatedly been proposed. Image Credit: NASA


This effort by NASA to test the viability of this system has, as mentioned above, been proposed before. As reported on Vintage Space, this concept was proposed during the Apollo era.

So why were rotors not used on Apollo spacecraft? Time. With the race to the Moon with the Soviets, the system was deemed to have required too much time to develop and NASA went with the simpler parachute system.

The concept bore fruit in the early 1990s when a small company based out of Mojave, Calif., built s spacecraft that employed a rotor. The Rotary Rocket Company built the Roton rocket that would have had tip jets. These would have been used to get the spacecraft through the densest part of the atmosphere, when the air became too thin it would have used a rocket engine the rest of the way to orbit with the rotor serving as an enormous turbopump.

Orion is being developed by NASA along with the space agency’s Space Launch System heavy-lift booster to send astronauts to destinations beyond Earth’s orbit for the first time in overfour decades.

Quelle: NASA


Freitag, 16. November 2012 - 10:45 Uhr

Astronomie - MACS0647-JD - ganz weit weg!


The newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, is very young and only a tiny fraction of the size of our Milky Way. The object is observed 420 million years after the big bang. The inset at left shows a close-up of the young dwarf galaxy. This image is a composite taken with Hubble's WFC 3 and ACS on Oct. 5 and Nov. 29, 2011. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Postman and D. Coe (STScI) and CLASH Team.


The farthest galaxy appears as a diminutive blob that is only a tiny fraction of the size of our Milky Way galaxy. But it offers a peek back into a time when the universe was 3 percent of its present age of 13.7 billion years.The newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, was observed 420 million years after the big bang, the theorized beginning of the universe. Its light has traveled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth.
This find is the latest discovery from a program that uses natural zoom lenses to reveal distant galaxies in the early universe. The Cluster Lensing And Supernova Survey with Hubble (CLASH),an international group led by Marc Postman of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., is using massive galaxy clusters as cosmic telescopes to magnify distant galaxies behind them. This effect is called gravitational lensing.
Along the way, 8 billion years into its journey, light from MACS0647-JD took a detour along multiple paths around the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0647+7015. Without the cluster's magnification powers, astronomers would not have seen this remote galaxy.Because of gravitational lensing, the CLASH research team was able to observe three magnified images of MACS0647-JD with the Hubble telescope. The cluster's gravity boosted the light from the faraway galaxy, making the images appear about eight, seven, and two times brighter than they otherwise would that enabled astronomers to detect the galaxy more efficiently and with greater confidence. 
"This cluster does what no manmade telescope can do," said Postman. "Without the magnification, it would require a Herculean effort to observe this galaxy."
MACS0647-JD is so small it may be in the first steps of forming a larger galaxy. An analysis shows the galaxy is less than 600 light-years wide. Based on observations of somewhat closer galaxies, astronomers estimate that a typical galaxy of a similar age should be about 2,000 light-years wide. For comparison, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy companion to the Milky Way, is 14,000 light-years wide. Our Milky Way is 150,000 light-years across.
"This object may be one of many building blocks of a galaxy,"said the study's lead author, Dan Coe of the Space Telescope Science Institute. "Over the next 13 billion years, it may have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of merging events with other galaxies and galaxy fragments."
The galaxy was observed with 17 filters,spanning near-ultraviolet to near-infrared wavelengths, using Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Coe, a CLASH team member, discovered the galaxy in February while poring over a catalogue of thousands of gravitationally lensed objects found in Hubble observations of 17 clusters in the CLASH survey.But the galaxy appeared only in the two reddest filters. 
"So either MACS0647-JD is a very red object, only shining at red wavelengths, or it is extremely distant and its light has been 'redshifted' to these wavelengths, or some combination of the two," Coe said. "We considered this full range of possibilities."
The CLASH team identified multiple images of eight galaxies lensed by the galaxy cluster. Their positions allowed the team to produce a map of the cluster's mass, which is primarily composed of dark matter. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that makes up the bulk of the universe's mass. "It's like a big puzzle," said Coe. "We have to arrange the mass in the cluster so that it deflects the light of each galaxy to the positions observed." The team's analysis revealed that the cluster's mass distribution produced three lensed images of MACS0647-JD at the positions and relative brightness observed in the Hubble image.
Coe and his collaborators spent months systematically ruling out these other alternative explanations for the object's identity, including red stars, brown dwarfs, and red (old or dusty) galaxies at intermediate distances from Earth. They concluded that a very distant galaxy was the correct explanation.
The paper will appear in the Dec. 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
Redshift is a consequence of the expansion of space over cosmic time. Astronomers study the distant universe in near-infrared light because the expansion of space stretches ultraviolet and visible light from galaxies into infrared wavelengths. Coe estimates MACS0647-JD has a redshift of 11, the highest yet observed.
Images of the galaxy at longer wavelengths obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope played a key role in the analysis. If the object were intrinsically red, it would appear bright in the Spitzer images. Instead, the galaxy barely was detected, if at all, indicating its great distance. The research team plans to use Spitzer to obtain deeper observations of the galaxy, which should yield confident detections as well as estimates of the object's age and dust content.
MACS0647-JD galaxy, however, may be too far away for any current telescope to confirm the distance based on spectroscopy, which spreads out an object's light into thousands of colors. Nevertheless, Coe is confident the fledgling galaxy is the new distance champion based on its unique colors and the research team's extensive analysis. "All three of the lensed galaxy images match fairly well and are in positions you would expect for a galaxy at that remote distance when you look at the predictions from our best lens models for this cluster," Coe said. 
The new distance champion is the second remote galaxy uncovered in the CLASH survey, a multi-wavelength census of 25 hefty galaxy clusters with Hubble's ACS and WFC3. Earlier this year, the CLASH team announced the discovery of a galaxy that existed when the universe was 490 million years old, 70 million years later than the new record-breaking galaxy. So far, the survey has completed observations for 20 of the 25 clusters.
The team hopes to use Hubble to search for more dwarf galaxies at these early epochs. If these infant galaxies are numerous, then they could have provided the energy to burn off the fog of hydrogen that blanketed the universe, a process called re-ionization. Re-ionization ultimately made the universe transparent to light.
Quelle: NASA


Freitag, 16. November 2012 - 10:05 Uhr

Mars-Curiosity-Chroniken - Curiosity-News Sol 98


NASA Rover Providing New Weather and Radiation Data About Mars
Thermal Tides at Mars
This diagram illustrates Mars' "thermal tides," a weather phenomenon responsible for large, daily variations in pressure at the Martian surface. Sunlight heats the surface and atmosphere on the day side of the planet, causing air to expand upwards. At higher levels in the atmosphere, this bulge of air then expands outward, to the sides, in order to equalize the pressure around it, as shown by the red arrows. Air flows out of the bulge, lowering the pressure of air felt at the surface below the bulge. The result is a deeper atmosphere, but one that is less dense and has a lower pressure at the surface, than that on the night side of the planet. As Mars rotates beneath the sun, this bulge moves across the planet each day, from east to west. A fixed observer, such as NASA's Curiosity rover, measures a decrease in pressure during the day, followed by an increase in pressure at night. The precise timing of the increase and decrease are affected by the time it takes the atmosphere to respond to the sunlight, as well as a number of other factors including the shape of the planet's surface and the amount of dust in the atmosphere. 
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ashima Research/SWRI
PASADENA, Calif. -- Observations of wind patterns and natural radiation patterns on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover are helping scientists better understand the environment on the Red Planet's surface. 
Researchers using the car-sized mobile laboratory have identified transient whirlwinds, mapped winds in relation to slopes, tracked daily and seasonal changes in air pressure, and linked rhythmic changes in radiation to daily atmospheric changes. The knowledge being gained about these processes helps scientists interpret evidence about environmental changes on Mars might have led to conditions favorable for life. 
During the first 12 weeks after Curiosity landed in an area named Gale Crater, an international team of researchers analyzed data from more than 20 atmospheric events with at least one characteristic of a whirlwind recorded by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) instrument. Those characteristics can include a brief dip in air pressure, a change in wind direction, a change in wind speed, a rise in air temperature or a dip in ultraviolet light reaching the rover. Two of the events included all five characteristics. 
In many regions of Mars, dust-devil tracks and shadows have been seen from orbit, but those visual clues have not been seen in Gale Crater. One possibility is that vortex whirlwinds arise at Gale without lifting as much dust as they do elsewhere. 
"Dust in the atmosphere has a major role in shaping the climate on Mars," said Manuel de la Torre Juarez of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. He is the investigation scientist for REMS, which Spain provided for the mission. "The dust lifted by dust devils and dust storms warms the atmosphere." 
Dominant wind direction identified by REMS has surprised some researchers who expected slope effects to produce north-south winds. The rover is just north of a mountain called Mount Sharp. If air movement up and down the mountain's slope governed wind direction, dominant winds generally would be north-south. However, east-west winds appear to predominate. The rim of Gale Crater may be a factor. 
"With the crater rim slope to the north and Mount Sharp to the south, we may be seeing more of the wind blowing along the depression in between the two slopes, rather than up and down the slope of Mount Sharp," said Claire Newman, a REMS investigator at Ashima Research in Pasadena. "If we don't see a change in wind patterns as Curiosity heads up the slope of Mount Sharp -- that would be a surprise." 
REMS monitoring of air pressure has tracked both a seasonal increase and a daily rhythm. Neither was unexpected, but the details improve understanding of atmospheric cycles on present-day Mars, which helps with estimating how the cycles may have operated in the past. 
The seasonal increase results from tons of carbon dioxide, which had been frozen into a southern winter ice cap, returning into the atmosphere as southern spring turns to summer. The daily cycle of higher pressure in the morning and lower pressure in the evening results from daytime heating of the atmosphere by the sun. As morning works its way westward around the planet, so does a wave of heat-expanded atmosphere, known as a thermal tide. 
Effects of that atmospheric tide show up in data from Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). This instrument monitors high-energy radiation considered to be a health risk to astronauts and a factor in whether microbes could survive on Mars' surface. 
"We see a definite pattern related to the daily thermal tides of the atmosphere," said RAD principal investigator Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute's Boulder, Colo., branch. "The atmosphere provides a level of shielding, and so charged-particle radiation is less when the atmosphere is thicker. Overall, Mars' atmosphere reduces the radiation dose compared to what we saw during the flight to Mars." 
The overall goal of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is to use 10 instruments on Curiosity to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. 
This image was taken by Mastcam: Left (MAST_LEFT) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 93 (2012-11-09 15:53:01 UTC) . 
Quelle+Foto: NASA


Freitag, 16. November 2012 - 10:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Messenger-Merkur-Daten-Auswertung


Goethe Basin on Mercury
Wrinkle-ridges on the floor of Goethe basin on the surface of Mercury.
The margin Goethe basin. A wrinkle-ridge ring marks the margin of the nearly completely buried basin. Graben are found within two interior ridge rings and throughout the basin fill material.
MESSENGER Finds Unusual Groups of Ridges and Troughs on Mercury
The MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft has discovered assemblages of tectonic landforms unlike any previously found on Mercury or elsewhere in the Solar System. The findings are reported in a paper led by Smithsonian scientist Thomas Watters, “Extension and contraction within volcanically buried impact craters and basins on Mercury,” scheduled for publication in the December issue of the journal Geology.
 The surface of Mercury is covered with deformational landforms that formed by faulting in response to horizontal contraction or shortening as the planet’s interior cooled and surface area shrank, causing blocks of crustal material to be pushed together. Contraction from cooling of Mercury’s interior has been so dominant that extensional landforms caused by fault formation in response to horizontal stretching and pulling apart of crustal material had not been previously documented outside of the interiors of a few large impact basins. The MESSENGER spacecraft, in orbit around Mercury since March of last year, has revealed families of extensional troughs or graben that are encircled by contractional wrinkle ridges arranged in circular rings. The troughs can form complex patterns varying from the outlines of polygons inside the ridge rings to arcs that parallel the bounding ridges.
“The pattern of wrinkle ridges and graben resembles the raised edge and cracks in a pie crust,” said Watters, geologist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “The ‘pie crust’ analogy fits another notable aspect of these collections of tectonic landforms—their association with ‘ghost’ craters.”
Ghost craters are impact craters that have been flooded and buried by lava flows. The thin volcanic deposits overlying the rim of a fully buried impact crater serve to concentrate contractional forces, leading to the formation of a ridge ring that reveals the outline of the buried crater.
“The special arrangement of the wrinkle ridges and graben in many of the ghost craters on Mercury is due to a combination of extensional forces from cooling and contraction of unusually thick lava flow units and contractional forces from cooling and contraction of the planet’s interior,” said Sean Solomon of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, coauthor and principal investigator of the MESSENGER mission.
The eruption and rapid accumulation of very fluid lava flows into thick cooling units on a planet undergoing a high rate of global contraction may be why these systems of tectonic landforms in ghost craters on Mercury have not been seen elsewhere in the Solar System.
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free, but there is a $15 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
Graben in Goethe Basin on Mercury
Extensional graben on the floor of Goethe imapact basin on the surface of Mercury.
Large graben in a ghost crater on the floor of the Goethe impact basin. The extensional troughs or graben are up to 2 km wide in this about 47-km-diameter ghost crater. Circumferentially oriented graben crosscut the bounding ridge ring.
Quelle:National Air and Space Museum News Media Access


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