You need to upgrade your Flash Player The theme of this blog is not only and obviously space, but in particular “terrestrial worlds”, places that tend to have surfaces on which one could walk or at least attach oneself to. These places sometimes also have other earth-like familiar features such as atmospheres, weather, volcanos, geysers and perhaps, we are finding, even exotic oceans, rivers or lakes that are not necessarily made of familiar materials we are used to here at home. The second theme is imagery. Occasionally I do some retouching of images when needed if an image is incomplete or sometimes “dirty” or noisy. I will attempt to correct image shortcomings based upon other images or well-accepted presumed attributes. When this is done, notes will be offered as to what was added, why and sometimes how it was done. This way no one should ever wonder if something they are looking at is real or photoshop.

Archive for May, 2010

June: Hayabusa Comes Home?

Monday, May 31st, 2010

If you Google “Hayabusa” you will likely find a few articles about a mission plagued by problems and will leave you with the impression that the engineers at JAXA are a bunch of bumbling goons. What you will find less of is the fact that a sample-return mission is just about the most difficult types of missions any organization can attempt. As a matter of fact, only 4 sample-return missions (other than Apollo) have ever been successfully executed in history. Two Lunar missions by the Soviets with Luna 20 and 24 and much later, two American lead missions Genesis and Stardust which collected space dust and cometary particles. It is worth noting also that only two of those missions actually included landing on the surface of another body, grabbing some samples and then returning home. So for JAXA to even attempt such a bold mission without having even 1% the robotic mission experience of the USA and the Russians is all by itself an accomplishment.

So what were the failures? Well, there is a long list of issues including: a Solar Flare that destroyed solar cells aboard the craft, two reaction wheels that control movement failed, two attempts to fire pellets at the surface failed (to kick up the samples into the collection cannister) and finally a whole litany of communication errors, fuel leaks and telemetry issues which put the mission in serious doubt of ever returning to Earth. To make a long story short — the probe did touch-down on the surface of asteroid Itokowa. The first such mission ever intentionally designed to do so (NASA did have an impromptu touch down on 433 Eros in 2000, but that was more a controlled crash). Despite the pellet failures, mission specialists think that the very act of touching down was likely to kick up enough dust to collect some materials in the collection canister. After much wrangling with a seriously debilitated spacecraft they managed to get Hayabusa on make-shift trajectory back to Earth, very much later than planned… but home just the same.

With fingers crossed, the sample package is to parachute down in South Australia on or around June 13th at which point it will be shuttled back to Japan and hopefully they will find something contained within. Even if it is just a few particles, it will still be the only samples of asteroid particles un-altered by the extreme heat of a natural Earth entry (aka: a meteor) and only the 3rd time in history a probe landed on another world and returned a piece of it back to Earth for study. Not bad for the new kids in space.

Pictured at top is a frame from the trailer “Hayabusa Back to Earth” in anticipation of the potentially successful sample-return mission. It appears to be a 3-D render based on actual images returned from the mission. The second is an actual image with the shadow of the spacecraft as it maneuvered to a close encounter with its target. The third image illustrates what touch-down may have been like for Hayabusa. You can see the large amount of theoretical dust kicked up by the thrusters which may be JAXA’s best hope for actually having captured particles in the sample-return canister.

Prometheus Looking Dramatic

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

This is one of the tiny moons of Saturn seen up close around Jan 27, 2010 by Cassini. In case you do not recall, it is the moon responsible for some of the best ring disturbance movies of the mission.

Tethys at the Edge of Titan

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Sort of getting over the whole, “hey, we got two moons in the same frame” thing on the Cassini mission. But this one of Tethys ducking behind Titan’s thick hazy atmosphere kind of looks like a scene from a Star Wars movie.

The Death Star Moon in Great Detail

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Commonly known by most as that “Death Star Moon” — Mimas, is seen here in the some of the finest detail ever (and seen here in sick detail). Flying to within 9,500 kilometers (5,900 miles) of the moon, Cassini captured the infamous Herschel Crater dead center in the still frame. Herschel, a feature which upon its originating impact, likely came close to shattering the tiny moon into another Saturnian ring.

The image itself is a mosaic of several high-resolution images carefully placed together to make a full disc image. The lower right hand corner segment is (sadly) in a much lower resolution than the rest, but I’ll bet you didn’t even notice until I pointed it out and ruined it for you.

Eric Zelinski Redesigns Man and Space

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Eric Zelinski had an unusual inspiration to redesign 4 chapters of a classic educational book; Time Life Science Library’s Man and Space. The edition was first printed in 1964 and contained some very basic info-graphics on various space travel themes of the era. Keep in mind that this is pre-Apollo — so some of the items were conceptually unproven, but based upon generally accepted models of that time.

Seen above is “Ways to Go” which presents 3 different ways that NASA was actually considering for getting a man to the surface of the moon and back. Judging from the upstanding rockets seen in diagram #1 and #2, I think #3 is closer to the method that prevailed.

A diagram of the way back home.

A bit of more general information on the local environment around earth.

See also Eric’s submissions to the t-shirt giant Threadless. Many are space themed and his current submission is “Us Divided” which features a cosmic Earth split in two. It is now available for voting, so why not show some support?