If you think you have seen everything there is to see from The Space Shuttle… think again. Unless you are into the drama of suspense… Skip to around 2 minutes and watch the whole thing. It is incredible. Just a camera mounted to a solid rocket booster from launch to splash down. Seriously gorgeous. Things to watch out for is the separation and the other solid rocket burning out in the distance and the parachutes on splash down.
Archive for the 'Spacecraft' Category
Robotic and human missions of exploration that extended beyond the Earth’s orbit. 23 historic missions in total (with an additional 6 separations) that are recognized for their notable achievements to various celestial bodies in our solar system with targets including the Sun, planets and their moons, comets and asteroids. Nearly every icon represents a specific robotic explorer (or series) with the exception of the Apollo program which continues to be the single human endeavor to ever go beyond the cradle.
If you buy a copy we will donate $5 of every purchase to The Planetary Society. The world’s largest space-interest group dedicated to inspiring the public with the adventure and mystery of space exploration. A non-governmental organization founded in 1980, who among its founders included Carl Sagan, the author of Cosmos.
If you buy a copywith a membership (sorry, US residents only), we will register you as a new member for only an additional $25 (normally $37). See here for what you get as a new member.
Contained within Justinvg’s excellent poster set on flickr are these gorgeous posters celebrating early Soviet triumphs in space. There are 5 total; Sputnik, Sputnik 2, The Luna Program, Vostock and Voskhod. But if you are a fan of Star Wars — don’t miss his fictional travel poster series (which are also included in the same set as these Soviet ones).
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.
Text taken from spaceflight.nasa.gov: Though astronauts and cosmonauts often encounter striking scenes of Earth’s limb, this very unique image, part of a series over Earth’s colorful horizon, has the added feature of a silhouette of the space shuttle Endeavour. The image was photographed by an Expedition 22 crew member prior to STS-130 rendezvous and docking operations with the International Space Station. Docking occurred at 11:06 p.m. (CST) on Feb. 9, 2010. The orbital outpost was at 46.9 south latitude and 80.5 west longitude, over the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern Chile with an altitude of 183 nautical miles when the image was recorded. The orange layer is the troposphere, where all of the weather and clouds which we typically watch and experience are generated and contained. This orange layer gives way to the whitish Stratosphere and then into the Mesosphere. In some frames the black color is part of a window frame rather than the blackness of space.
This is so nice, but I am furious that I didn’t get to design this. This is Information design at it’s best naturally by National Geographic. You can see 50 years of robotic planetary exploration at a glance. It even includes failed missions represented by darker desaturated lines. As far as I can tell the cream colored lines are US and the red ones are Soviet. Interesting to see how many of those lines go dark around Mars.
Now where does one purchase such a thing? Perhaps this month’s issue of NG? Here is the link to it on their site complete with zoom viewer and them some kind samaritan posted a hires version to flickr.
You can also follow the mission in real-time as history played out 40 years ago on twitter. Follow Mission Control, The Spacecraft or The Lunur Excursion Module (Eagle). The Eagle will not have much to say, obviously, until it is actually descending toward the surface of the moon on Monday, but it has just started making some noise on Sunday night.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is up and out. Its mission is similar to that of the Surveyor missions of the early 60’s. You wouldn’t think we would be needing to do this again, but it is looking for safe places for future manned missions to land. The exciting part is that it will also be seeking out any potential for much needed resources like water trapped in permanently shaded areas in the polar regions. Not having to pack your water bottles for a long Lunar mission would be a big plus.
The best part is that LRO will observe LCROSS smash into the moon and make a big mess in October.
If happen to come to own one of these bad boys from the late 60’s early 70’s you are going to need this owners manual. The original owners of these models rarely have this on-hand. If you are in the market, beware of any models from the 13 line since that model had a well-known faulty oxygen tank that is likely to scrub any potential trips to the Lunar surface you may have planned. Get it from Haynes online.
This image taken by Thierry Legault has been making the rounds lately. That bit of a speck seen on the Sun’s lower-right limb is the shuttle on the way to perform it’s current Hubble repair mission. The spacecraft itself can be seen in much greater detail at left and another image of The Shuttle with The Hubble Space Telescope nearby can also be seen on Thierry’s website here.
A quick google search of Thierry’s name reveals that he has been at this sort of thing before. Seen below is the Shuttle and The International Space Station as seen against The Sun in 2006. These transits happen in less than a second to a ground observer, so capturing this fleeting event is no easy task.
Go over and check out the interactive Cassini simulator at saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. Shown above is the simulator’s view of Cassini’s upcoming Enceladus flyby. Scale at this view is not terribly accurate as when you spin the view around — it will seem as if the spacecraft is the same size as the moon. However, it is pretty cool watching the mission in high speed with the labels and orbit trails turned on as seen below.
You will probably have to install a plug-in to use this, but it is quite simple. It should take care of itself for PC users, for MAC users you only need to download the installer and execute the installation from wherever your downloaded files reside. Some platforms may require restarting the browser should the plug-in appear to not be working after installation.
If this isn’t impressive enough for you and you want to go hard-core, try downloading CELESTIA. This is an application based simulator of our galaxy that is supported by a community of users which expand the program’s capabilities by keeping the surface maps of all the planets and moons up to date. There are even mission simulators you can download and ride shotgun along with historic missions such as Voyager and many others. Even more impressive is flying to other star systems where astronomers have discovered exo-planets and discovering that someone has already added a hypothetical model of that new world to the data set. A fair warning is in order — installing this is and then expanding the program through use of the Celestia Motherlode may result in hours worth of unproductive time.
Here is what an Enceladus flyby looks like in Celestia with updated skins. This is an actual screengrab from the application.
Cassini takes a pass at Titan on February 22 (already having made a pass this year on January 5th).
Soon after Titan, Cassini performs a truly unexpected maneuver and flies directly through the plumes of Enceladus on March 12th. This is a somewhat risky task for the probe as the particles it will surely encounter may pose some kind of impact threat to the spacecraft. Mission planners expect the risk to be low as they intend to turn the spacecraft around and let the less delicate side of Cassini bear the brunt of the material and photograph the geysers as it moves away from Enceladus. It should make for some of the most exciting planetary science planned for this year.
Cassini has another go at Titan on March 25.
Yup – you guessed it. Cassini at Titan again on May 12th.
The Phoenix lander arrives at Mars on May 25th and (hopefully) makes good on the failure of the Mars Polar Lander. It will be the first time a probe will attempt a landing on the Martian pole and will conduct a series of experiments looking for the existence of water ice.
You can never have too much of a good thing. Cassini at Titan again on May 28th as well as July 31.
Chandrayaan becomes India’s first planetary probe as it leaves for the moon in Early July (was April).
The extended Cassini mission has made Enceladus a prime target of investigation and the new encounters begin on Aug 11th and comes within 54km of the surface.
Rosetta still on its way for an encounter with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014, will make a close pass at an asteroid named 2867 Steins on Sept 5th at a distance of only 1700 km. Steins is a small asteroid measuring only a few kilometers in size and the craft will be traveling at a relatively slow speed which should allow for some good resolution images to be acquired during the encounter.
Messenger (having just completed the first encounter in 33 years this past week) has another go at Mercury on Oct 6th and flies past more uncharted territory on its way to eventual orbit insertion in 2011.
Two more close flybys of the Saturnian moon Enceladus on Oct 9 and Oct 31. The first at hair-raising distance of 25km and the second around a more reasonable 200km.
In an effort to recognize the International Lunar Decade (and intended manned Lunar missions within 15 years), the United States returns to the moon with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov 3rd. It is expected to begin its scientific goals only 3 days after launch and is expected to look for possible deposits of water ice in permanently shadowed craters near the Lunar poles.
And finally more Titan flybys on Nov 3, Nov 19, Dec 5 and Dec 21.
All this is in addition to the ongoing work of Opportunity and Spirit on the surface of Mars. Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance in orbit around Mars. Cassini’s non-targeted continuing tour of other icy Saturnian moons. And who knows, maybe we will see more than 2 or 3 reports coming from the ever quiet Venus Express mission currently at Venus.
Sadly, some very exciting missions will be quietly traveling en route to their targets and are not expected to be heard from in 08 like the Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt, New Horizons mission to Pluto/Charon, the newly re-targeted Deep Impact mission (now known as Epoxi) as well as Stardust now on its way to a follow-up visit to Tempel 1 the comet that was smacked by Deep Impact in 2005.