Thursday, February 28, 2013

NASA readies crew-escape motor for Orion test

A critical part of the crew escape system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft is being readied at Kennedy Space Center for a test flight to be launched in September 2014. Made by Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, the 17-foot-long solid rocket motor is a powerful part of the launch abort system that would pull an Orion spacecraft and its astronaut crew away from an exploding rocket. “I guarantee you astronauts will like it. I can say that from experience,” said former NASA astronaut Brian Duffy, vice president of exploration systems for solid rocket motor maker ATK.

Fermi's Motion Produces a Study in Spirograph

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits our planet every 95 minutes, building up increasingly deeper views of the universe with every circuit. Its wide-eyed Large Area Telescope (LAT) sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing the highest-energy form of light -- gamma rays -- from sources across the universe. These range from supermassive black holes billions of light-years away to intriguing objects in our own galaxy, such as X-ray binaries, supernova remnants and pulsars. Now a Fermi scientist has transformed LAT data of a famous pulsar into a mesmerizing movie that visually encapsulates the spacecraft's complex motion.

How to cook a spacecraft

The faint aroma of hot metal filled the surrounding cleanroom as the hatch to ESA’s newest test facility was slid aside, concluding a 23-day ‘bake-out’ of the largest segment of ESA’s mission to Mercury. Ending on the early hours of 14 February, this test ensured ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter – MPO, part of the multi-module BepiColombo mission – was cleaned of potential contaminants in advance of its 2015 mission to the inner Solar System. The bake-out took place at ESA’s technical heart, ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, which includes a dedicated Test Centre equipped to simulate all aspects of the space environment.

Atlas V launch teaches students about science and space

A science field trip to Vandenberg Air Force Base provided 35 students from St. Mary of the Assumption School, in nearby Santa Maria, an opportunity to watch a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blast into orbit carrying a NASA payload Feb. 11. Team Vandenberg launched the Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 just after 10 a.m. It was the sixth Atlas V rocket launched from the base.

NASA's Aquarius Sees Salty Shifts

The colorful images chronicle the seasonal stirrings of our salty world: Pulses of freshwater gush from the Amazon River’s mouth; an invisible seam divides the salty Arabian Sea from the fresher waters of the Bay of Bengal; a large patch of freshwater appears in the eastern tropical Pacific in the winter. These and other changes in ocean salinity patterns are revealed by the first full year of surface salinity data captured by NASA’s Aquarius instrument.

Astrium Looks To Asia For Partner On Earth Observation Satellite

Astrium is speaking to countries outside Europe, including Singapore, about partnering in the development of GO-3S, the company’s new geostationary Earth observation satellite. Astrium sales and marketing director Gregory Pederson says the 10-meter-long, 4.9-ton GO-3S will cover about a one-quarter of the Earth’s surface. It will have a mirror about 4 meters in size that can observe a 100 km by 100 km (60 x 60 mi.) sector, with 3-meter resolution and a picture rate of five images per second.

Stott Space Inc. Aims to Mine Asteroids this Decade

Space may be the final frontier, but that isn’t stopping Stott Space Inc. from making it a frontier accessible to the masses. With the launch of their Indiegogo campaign, Stott Space hopes to find the resources necessary to begin large scale asteroid mining within the decade. “This is not your typical space travel dream,” says Isaac Stott, CEO of Stott Space Inc. “Current goals by existing asteroid mining companies are too small, and we know we can do better. By focusing our efforts on affordable and realistic technology, and allowing for our fellow humans to contribute to the development of this technology, we hope to make space the next destination for mankind.”

White dwarf supernovae are discovered in Virgo Cluster galaxy and in sky area “anonymous”

Light from two massive stars that exploded hundreds of millions of years ago recently reached Earth, and each event was identified as a supernova. A supernova discovered Feb. 6 exploded about 450 million years ago, said Farley Ferrante, a graduate student at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, who made the initial observation. The exploding star is in a relatively empty portion of the sky labeled “anonymous” in the faint constellation Canes Venatici. Home to a handful of galaxies, Canes Venatici is near the constellation Ursa Major, best known for the Big Dipper.

First ‘Space Tourist’ Wants to Send Couple to Mars in 2018

A unique window of opportunity for humankind will open in January 2018, and the Inspiration Mars Foundation intends to seize it, announcing plans to pursue a challenging manned mission to Mars and back. This historic 501-day journey around the Red Planet is made possible by a rare planetary alignment that occurs five years from now. Two professional crew members – one man, one woman – flying as private citizens will embark on what is known as a “fast, free-return” mission, passing within 100 miles of Mars before swinging back and safely returning to Earth. Target launch date is Jan. 5, 2018.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Israel's space industry expanding its horizons

Fourteen heads of space agencies from around the world gathered in Israel recently to reflect on the future of space exploration and consider Israel’s next astronaut. The eighth annual International Ilan Ramon Space Conference in Herzliya — organized by the Fisher Institute, Israel Space Agency and Israel Ministry of Science and Technology — attracted a who’s who of the space community. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden caught the most media glare. Other prominent attendees included Prof. Isaac Ben Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency; Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain of the European Space Agency; Netherlands Space Office Director Dr. Ger Nieuwpoort; Sergei Saveliev, deputy head of ROSCOSMOS, Russian Federation; as well as numerous experts, former astronauts and space-tech engineers.

NASA's NuSTAR Helps Solve Riddle of Black Hole Spin

Two X-ray space observatories, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, have teamed up to measure definitively, for the first time, the spin rate of a black hole with a mass 2 million times that of our sun. The supermassive black hole lies at the dust- and gas-filled heart of a galaxy called NGC 1365, and it is spinning almost as fast as Einstein's theory of gravity will allow. The findings, which appear in a new study in the journal Nature, resolve a long-standing debate about similar measurements in other black holes and will lead to a better understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve.

Satellites are fine, Saral’s solar panels deployed

After the successful launch of the PSLV-C20 from Sriharikota on Monday, all satellites including the Indo-French “Saral” were said to be “doing fine” and all subsequent operations are proceeding normally. “The health of all the seven satellites (placed in a polar sun-synchronous orbit) is good,” Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) sources told Deccan Herald on Tuesday. Most importantly Saral’s solar panels were deployed. It will be the source of energy during the five-year mission life period, sources said. All subsequent operations “are proceeding normally.”

After studying Russian meteor blast, experts get set for the next asteroid

The meteor that blew up over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk 11 days ago has provided a new focus for the effort to establish an international asteroid warning system, one of NASA's top experts on the issue says. Lindley Johnson, the executive for the Near Earth Object Observation Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said that the Feb. 15 impact is certain to become "by far the best-documented meteor and meteorite in history" — but at the time, he and his colleagues could hardly believe it was happening.

Stanford scientist closes in on a mystery that impedes space exploration

New research by Stanford aeronautics and astronautics Assistant Professor Sigrid Close suggests she's on track to solve a mystery that has long bedeviled space exploration: Why do satellites fail? In the popular imagination, satellites are imperiled by impacts from "space junk" – particles of man-made debris the size of a pea (or greater) that litter the Earth's upper atmosphere – or by large meteoroids like the one that recently exploded spectacularly over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Although such impacts are a serious concern, most satellites that have died in space haven't been knocked out by them. Something else has killed them.

Smartphone satellite calls home from final frontier

Soaring 500 miles above Earth, a tiny British satellite built around a commercial smartphone was calling back to Earth on Tuesday, one day after launching from India. But the satellite's biggest test is still to come, when engineers will switch its operating system to the Google Nexus One smartphone at the heart of the 9.4-pound miniature spacecraft. For now, the STRaND 1 satellite is running on a standard computer system. It will next be transitioned to a Linux-based high-speed processor and once engineers are comfortable with the satellite's performance, they will turn over control of the spacecraft to the smartphone computer.

Meteorite’s Powerful Blast Due to ‘Space Collisions’ -Scientist

The powerful blast of a meteorite above the Urals city of Chelyabinsk was probably caused by its previous “space collisions” with other celestial bodies, said Professor Erik Galimov of the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry. Fragments of the meteorite were taken to the institute’s lab on Monday.

NASA sign up US Navy for opening three Orion splashdowns

An agreement has been signed with the United States Navy to provide splashdown recovery support for NASA’s Orion spacecraft through to the crewed Exploration Mission -2 (EM-2). The support will include Navy boat teams and a Landing Platform-Dock (LPD) ship, with two exercises scheduled ahead of the EFT-1 mission. For the 30 year career of the Space Shuttle, NASA astronauts enjoyed landing on a runway – with a fleet of support vehicles rushing to surround the orbiter moments after initial safing tasks were complete. This was a marked improvement on the ocean splashdowns endured during the early days of the space program.

‘Faulty Ukrainian Parts’ Blamed for Zenit Launch Failure

The crash of a Russian Zenit-3SL rocket earlier this month was caused by defective components manufactured in Ukraine, Ivan Kharchenko, first deputy head of the Russian government's military-industrial commission, said on Tuesday. The Zenit-3SL, carrying an Intelsat-27 (IS-27) telecoms satellite, crashed into the Pacific Ocean shortly after launch on February 1, following an emergency shutdown of its first-stage engine. A report presented by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev concluded that “the accident was caused by defective blocks manufactured in Ukraine,” Kharchenko said, adding that “there was nothing wrong with the Russian-made equipment.”

Russian City to Put up Meteorite Monument

The authorities in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk are to erect a monument to commemorate the meteorite that hit the Urals region on February 15, wreaking havoc and injuring hundreds of people. “The meteorite that flew over the Chelyabinsk Region, will be remembered by the residents for a long time. The citizens witnessed a unique global-scale event. That’s why the authorities and proactive citizens were thinking about how to immortalize this interplanetary visit,” the region’s government said in a statement.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Russia meteor's origin tracked down

Astronomers have traced the origin of a meteor that injured about 1,000 people after breaking up over central Russia earlier this month. Using amateur video footage, they were able to plot the meteor's trajectory through Earth's atmosphere and then reconstruct its orbit around the Sun. As the space rock burned up over the city of Chelyabinsk, the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings.

House votes to rename flight center for Neil Armstrong

The House has approved a bill to rename a NASA flight center in California for the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. The measure, which passed on a 394-0 vote, would rename the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center.

Could a Comet Hit Mars in 2014?

A recently discovered comet will make an uncomfortably-close planetary flyby next year — but this time it’s not Earth that’s in the cosmic crosshairs. According to preliminary orbital prediction models, comet C/2013 A1 will buzz Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. The icy interloper is thought to originate from the Oort Cloud — a hypothetical region surrounding the solar system containing countless billions of cometary nuclei that were outcast from the primordial solar system billions of years ago.

Lab Instruments Inside Curiosity Eat Mars Rock Powder

Two compact laboratories inside NASA's Mars rover Curiosity have ingested portions of the first sample of rock powder ever collected from the interior of a rock on Mars. Curiosity science team members will use the laboratories to analyze the rock powder in the coming days and weeks. The rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments received portions of the sample on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23, respectively, and began inspecting the powder.

Falcon 9 rocket fires engines in preflight hold-down test

SpaceX engineers hoisted a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad, filled the launcher with liquid propellant, and fired the booster's nine main engines Monday, crossing off a big item on the rocket's preflight checklist ahead of its planned launch Friday. The Falcon 9 rocket's nine Merlin 1C engines ignited at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT), ramping up to more than 850,000 pounds of thrust and maintaining full power for about two seconds.

Tracking trains with satellite precision

Taking a cue from how ESA controls satellites, Spanish railways now have their own high-tech upgrade to keep travellers abreast of when the next train is going to pull into the station. Drawing on sophisticated software that keeps satellites on track, the system was developed by a group of Elecnor Deimos engineers who had worked extensively on ESA projects. The outcome of this technology transfer is that up-to-date train schedules are now displayed at over 400 Spanish stations.

Capt. Kirk's Vulcan entry wins Pluto moons contest

"Star Trek" fans, rejoice. An online vote to name Pluto's two newest, itty-bitty moons is over. And No. 1 is Vulcan, a name suggested by actor William Shatner, who played Capt. Kirk in the original "Star Trek" TV series. Vulcan snared nearly 200,000 votes among the more than 450,000 cast during the two-week contest, which ended Monday. In second place with nearly 100,000 votes was Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of the underworld. Vulcan was the Roman god of lava and smoke, and the nephew of Pluto. Vulcan was also the home planet of the pointy-eared humanoids in the "Star Trek" shows. Think Mr. Spock.

HTV-3 Abort Caused By Friction With Station Arm

An unplanned abort maneuver performed by the H-II Transfer Vehicle-3 (HTV-3) as it departed the International Space Station (ISS) last September has been traced to friction between the Japanese cargo vessel’s grapple fixture and the space station’s robotic arm, which nudged the vessel off course during release. NASA spokesman Joshua Byerly says the HTV-3 abort was caused by an interaction between the grapple fixture on the vehicle and the Space Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) “due to the relative positions of the HTV and the ISS.” Byerly says the interaction “created rates on the HTV vehicle that indicated the vehicle would leave its designed departure corridor and thus the vehicle initiated a preplanned abort per our joint safety requirements.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

One-Kilo Meteorite Fragment Found

Scientists from Russia's Urals Federal University have discovered a meteorite fragment weighing more than one kilogram (2.2 lbs), the largest found so far from the meteorite strike that hit the Urals region on February 15, University expedition chief Viktor Grokhovsky said on Monday. A total of more than 100 fragments have been found by the expedition along a 50 kilometer (30 mile) trail under the meteorite's flight path, he said.

Bleriot Recaptured

The propeller-shaped white dashes near the bottom of this Cassini spacecraft image reveal the location of a small moonlet embedded in Saturn's A ring. The gravity of this tiny moonlet affects the orbits of nearby ring particles and creates the propeller feature, nicknamed Bleriot by imaging scientists, that Cassini sees. Researchers hope to understand more about the migration of planets during their formation by studying how the orbits of Bleriot and other propeller features observed by Cassini change over time. For more views of Bleriot, see Tracking a Propeller and Propeller Churns the A Ring.

NASA to buy Soyuz seats until mid-2017

Roscosmos and NASA are negotiating a year-long extension of the contract, which assigns Soyuz seats for foreign astronauts traveling to the International Space Station (ISS). "Legal documents with regard to transportation of U.S., European, Japanese and Canadian astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz spaceships will be drafted by late March. The contract will be valid from mid-2016 through mid-2017," Roscosmos manned programs director Alexei Krasnov told Interfax-AVN on Monday.

Detecting Life on Planets that Orbit White Dwarf Stars

A white dwarf is a dead star that slowly cools down until it fades into oblivion. Yet it has been predicted that habitable planets can orbit a white dwarf. If we can somehow detect these planets, would we also be able to spot signs of life? Scientists have created an artificial spectrum showing that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be capable of detecting oxygen and water on an Earth-like planet orbiting a white dwarf.

Startup Developing Weather Hosted Payload

Commercial communications satellites are old news, and commercial remote-sensing satellites make imagery from Cold War reconnaissance satellites look quaint. Commercial cargo vehicles are arriving at the International Space Station, and commercial crew vehicles are on the way. Now a Las Vegas-based startup is taking another step in the direction of expanding human commerce into low Earth orbit—in the form of commercial weather satellites.

India successfully launches Indo-French, 6 foreign satellites

India's Polar rocket PSLV today successfully put into orbit seven satellites in the span of four minutes including a Indo-French oceanographic spacecraft that will study changes in the environment, completing its 22nd consecutive flawless launch. After a textbook launch witnessed by President Pranab Mukherjee, Indian Space Research Organisation's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) placed into orbit in one single mission all the seven spacecraft -- Indo-French oceanographic study satellite 'SARAL' and six foreign mini and micro satellites. The PSLV-C20 rocket blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in clear weather at 6.01 pm at the end of the 59-hour countdown, marking the 103rd mission of ISRO and yet another testimony to India's Space prowess. In 2008, India successfully launched 10 satellites in a single mission, boosting its capabilities in space.

Hexagon and Rings

Saturn's north polar hexagon basks in the Sun's light now that spring has come to the northern hemisphere. Many smaller storms dot the north polar region and Saturn's signature rings, which appear to disappear on account of Saturn's shadow, put in an appearance in the background. The north polar hexagon was first observed by Voyager. To see more of the hexagon, see The Persistent Hexagon and Spring Reveals Saturn's Hexagon Jet Stream.

A New Opportunity for U.S.-Asian Space Cooperation

The satellite export control reforms in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provide an opportunity to further Washington’s strategic interests through cooperation in Asia-Pacific national security space. The NDAA allows the president to propose removing space-related items from the State Department’s Munitions List and administer them under the Department of Commerce’s Control List, as it was from 1996 to 1999. This is especially important because the technology in question is often available throughout the world; denying this fact harms U.S. interests.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bosnia 'meteor' intrigues new generation in wake of Russia strike

A mysterious rock at a quarry in central Bosnia has seen has a spike in visitors in the wake of the meteor explosion over Russia last week. A few years back, workers in a stone quarry in Kostajnica dug out a massive, rusty, egg-shaped rock that locals believe is a meteorite. Quarry owner Dimitrije Tatic said the tale of the falling rock had been passed down from generation to generation in this small Bosnian town. "They believed that it fell off the moon," he said.

Stage set for PSLV launch on Monday

All is set for the launch of Indo-French satellite 'SARAL', aimed at oceanographic studies, and six foreign mini and micro satellites onboard ISRO's workhorse rocket PSLV from the spaceport of Sriharikota in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh tomorrow. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C20 is slated for blast-off at 5.56 PM local time from the first launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, 110 kms from here. President Pranab Mukherjee is expected to witness the event. The 59-hour countdown for the launch, which commenced at 6.56 AM yesterday, was progressing normally, Indian Space Research Organisation sources said today.

Russian Deputy PM Urges UN Response to Asteroid Threat

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Saturday a global system to protect our planet from asteroids and other dangerous space objects should be created under the auspices of the United Nations. “This system should become global and universal in its technical and political sense and is a matter of agreement in the framework of the United Nations,” Rogozin said at the meeting with Russian patriotic organizations.

Russian Meteorite Clean-Up ‘Two-Thirds Complete’

Almost 10,000 windows were mended and 1,500 psychological consultations provided as part of the meteorite hail recovery effort in Russia’s Urals, the country's Emergency Situations Ministry said on Saturday. Emergency services removed more than 160 tons of glass shattered by the shockwave from the meteorite that exploded above Chelyabinsk Region on February 15, the ministry said on its website. The cleanup operation is 65 percent completed, the report said. The operation will be wrapped up by Monday, the ministry said, Vesti FM radio reported on Saturday.

Russia to Aim for 15% of Global Space Market

Russia plans to increase its share of the global space market from the current 10 percent to 15 percent, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview published on Saturday. The plan was first outlined in Russia’s state program for the space industry, published in January. “We want to be not just a leading scientific power, a space researcher country, but also a player on the space service market,” Medvedev said during a trip to Cuba.

Egypt’s President Could Win a Trip to Space, Whether He Wants One or Not

A group of Egyptian activists who reluctantly endorsed Mohamed Morsi in last year’s presidential election, and have been bitterly disappointed by his performance in office, are again urging their fellow citizens to cast a vote for him. This time, however, a victory for Mr. Morsi would send him not to the presidential palace, but into space.

Icy Titan spawns tropical cyclones

With a maximum surface temperature of -180 °C, Saturn's icy moon Titan is no tropical paradise, at least by earthly standards. But it may still have tropical cyclones, and at what sounds like the unlikeliest of places – near its north pole. These mini-hurricanes have never been observed anywhere but Earth. If they exist on Titan, that would add to a growing list of features that the distant moon shares with our planet, from lakes, hills, caves and sand dunes to fog, mist, smoggy haze and rain clouds. Though cyclones - a large family of storms in which winds spiral inward to a low-pressure zone, such as the eye of a hurricane or tornado – have been glimpsed on Mars and Saturn, a tropical cyclone is a special case that is driven by the heat of evaporation from a warm sea. These storms involve a lot of rain as well as gale-force winds, and have not been glimpsed anywhere but Earth.

FBI probe of defense tech allegedly leaked from NASA stonewalled

A four-year FBI investigation into the transfer of classified weapons technology to China and other countries from NASA’s Ames Research Center is being stonewalled by government officials, sources tell Documents obtained by, which summarize these and other allegations and were given to congressional sources last week by a whistle-blower, described how a “secret grand jury” was to be convened in February 2011 to hear testimony from informants in the case, including a senior NASA engineer. But federal prosecutor Gary Fry was removed from the case, which was then transferred from one office in the Northern District of California to another where, according to the documents, “this case now appears to be stalled.”

New home for runaway black hole

The most massive black hole ever measured may be an intergalactic hitchhiker that escaped from one galaxy before getting captured by another. If this scenario, laid out in a paper posted February 18 at, is proven correct, it would be the first time astronomers have definitively spotted a black hole that was expelled from its original galactic home. Computer simulations of galaxy mergers suggest that some supermassive black holes can be nomads: When the galaxies’ central black holes unite, they can emit an enormous surge of energy in one direction. That burst would rocket the newly formed black hole in the opposite direction, the simulations say, often with enough speed to escape the galaxy.

Police Carry Out Searches in Space Firm Fraud Case

Police have conducted searches as part of an investigation into alleged fraud at a satellite communications company, the Interior Ministry's Moscow branch said on Friday, but did not give further details. Former executives of the Gonets company, which is part of the federal Glonass satnav program, are suspected of abuse of office and misusing funds, the ministry said. Investigators suspect former Gonets managers paid over 9.5 million rubles (about $300,000) under contracts that were never implemented, the ministry said.

NASA Selects Launch Services for ICESat-2 Mission

NASA's Launch Services Program at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida has selected United Launch Services, LLC of Englewood, Colo., to provide Delta II launch services for the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat)-2 mission, currently scheduled for July 2016.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Orbital Tests Antares Rocket

NASA commercial partner Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va., successfully conducted an engine test of its Antares rocket Friday, February 22, at the nation's newest launch pad. The company fired dual AJ26 rocket engines for approximately 30 seconds while the first stage of Orbital's Antares rocket was held down on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. The test demonstrated the readiness of the rocket's first stage and launch pad fueling systems to support upcoming test flights.

Comet Will Be Visible from Hawaii in March

Comet PANSTARRS C/2011 L4, discovered by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala in June 2011, is expected to become visible to the naked eye in Hawaii in March. The Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii at Manoa will hold a free comet-viewing event from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 on Magic Island’s picnic area 36, which is near the beach at the ewa end. Stargazing will follow comet viewing.

Record Number of Students Control Space Station Camera

Ever wonder what it's like to control a camera on the International Space Station? More than 30,000 students found out in late January as part of the Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students (EarthKAM) mission. More than 380 school groups from the United States and around the world were involved, setting a participation record. Typically, between 8,000 and 10,000 students take part in a given EarthKAM mission. "The increase in the number of students participating in this space station mission is incredible," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for education. "EarthKAM allows these future scientists and engineers to take an active role in research about the space station, and that truly honors the vision and legacy of Sally Ride."

NASA Deciphering the Mysterious Math of the Solar Wind

Many areas of scientific research -- Earth's weather, ocean currents, the outpouring of magnetic energy from the sun -- require mapping out the large scale features of a complex system and its intricate details simultaneously. Describing such systems accurately, relies on numerous kinds of input, beginning with observations of the system, incorporating mathematical equations to approximate those observations, running computer simulations to attempt to replicate observations, and cycling back through all the steps to refine and improve the models until they jibe with what's seen. Ultimately, the models successfully help scientists describe, and even predict, how the system works.

Isro to launch Mars mission in October

The country's first mission to Mars will be launched in October, a source at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) confirmed to TOI (Times of India). It'll be the culmination of 10 missions planned this year. It'll be launched using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle's (PSLV) XLor extended model rocket from Sriharikota. On reaching the red planet, it'll be inserted into its electrical orbit. The nine-month voyage will study the origin of Mars and gain more information about the planet, the source said. "Methane sensors will be used to predict the possibility of life on the planet," the official added.

Asteroid impact mission targets Didymos

ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission now has a target: asteroid Didymos. The recent Russian meteor and, on the same day, our planet’s close encounter with an even larger chunk of celestial debris underline the need for us to learn more about these high-speed space rocks. For the last two years, ESA has been working with international partners on the mission concept, dubbed AIDA. Last week, research centres each side of the Atlantic agreed the spacecraft would target asteroid Didymos.