Friday, September 4, 2015

Expedition 45 Crew Arrives at the International Space Station

An international crew of nine from the U.S.. Russia, Japan, Denmark and Kazakhstan will work together on the orbital laboratory until Sept. 11. Credit: NASA

Soyuz crew members Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos, Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency) and Aidyn Aimbetov of the Kazakh Space Agency joined their Expedition 44 crewmates when the hatches between the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft and the International Space Station officially opened at 6:15 a.m. EDT. Expedition 44 Commander Gennady Padalka of Roscosmos, as well as Flight Engineers Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos, and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) welcomed the new crew members aboard their orbital home, marking the first time since 2013 that nine people have been aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Boeing Names Its Space Capsule

Artist's rendering of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Credit: Boeing

Meet the CST-100 Starliner, the newly unveiled name of Boeing’s commercial crew transportation spacecraft. It's been designed with a focus on automated flight, reliable operation and frequent flights carrying NASA astronauts to the space station. It also may take paying customers to the awe-inspiring heights of low-Earth orbit and the unique sensation of sustained weightlessness. NASA last year awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to each develop systems that will safely and cost effectively transport astronauts to the International Space Station from the United States.

New Horizons Spacecraft begins Intensive Data Downlink Phase

This close-up image of a region near Pluto’s equator captured by New Horizons on July 14 reveals a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3.4 kilometers) above the surface of the dwarf planet. This iconic image of the mountains, informally named Norgay Montes (Norgay Mountains) was captured about 1 ½ hours before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 47,800 miles (77,000 kilometers) from the surface of the icy body. The image easily resolves structures smaller than a mile across. The highest resolution images of Pluto are still to come, with an intense data downlink phase commencing on Sept. 5. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

If you liked the first historic images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, you’ll love what’s to come. Seven weeks after New Horizons sped past the Pluto system to study Pluto and its moons – previously unexplored worlds – the mission team will begin intensive downlinking of the tens of gigabits of data the spacecraft collected and stored on its digital recorders. The process moves into high gear on Saturday, Sept. 5, with the entire downlink taking about one year to complete.

'Hedgehog' Robots Hop, Tumble in Microgravity

While a Mars rover can't operate upside down, the Hedgehog robot can function regardless of which side lands up. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stanford

Hopping, tumbling and flipping over are not typical maneuvers you would expect from a spacecraft exploring other worlds. Traditional Mars rovers, for example, roll around on wheels, and they can't operate upside-down. But on a small body, such as an asteroid or a comet, the low-gravity conditions and rough surfaces make traditional driving all the more hazardous.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hubble Survey Unlocks Clues to Star Birth in Neighboring Galaxy

Star clusters in the Andromeda galaxy. Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Williams, and L.C. Johnson (University of Washington), the PHAT team, and R. Gendler

In a survey of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope images of 2,753 young, blue star clusters in the neighboring Andromeda galaxy (M31), astronomers have found that M31 and our own galaxy have a similar percentage of newborn stars based on mass. By nailing down what percentage of stars have a particular mass within a cluster, or the Initial Mass Function (IMF), scientists can better interpret the light from distant galaxies and understand the formation history of stars in our universe.

Soviet Kosmos-1315 Satellite De-orbits over Pacific

Reentry of Kosmos-1315 captured by Joshua Lambus. Credit: Joshua Lambus

The Kosmos-1315 satellite, which was sent into space in 1981, has ended its ballistic existence, the Russian Defense Ministry told Interfax-AVN on Sept.1 with reference to specialists from the Aerospace Forces' main space monitoring center, which tracked the satellite's operations.

At Saturn, One of These Rings is not like the Others

Of the countless equinoxes Saturn has seen since the birth of the solar system, this one, captured here in a mosaic of light and dark, is the first witnessed up close by an emissary from Earth ... none other than our faithful robotic explorer, Cassini. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

When the sun set on Saturn's rings in August 2009, scientists on NASA's Cassini mission were watching closely. It was the equinox -- one of two times in the Saturnian year when the sun illuminates the planet's enormous ring system edge-on. The event provided an extraordinary opportunity for the orbiting Cassini spacecraft to observe short-lived changes in the rings that reveal details about their nature.