Monday, June 29, 2009

Venus and Mars in High Contrast

Monday, June 29, 2009 0 comments

As the nation celebrates another birthday, see the spangled Venus and a dim Mars in July before dawn's early light.

Mars, our neighboring red planet, rises about 3 a.m. in the northeastern sky, followed shortly by a brilliant Venus. Both can be seen high in the east before sunrise in the constellation Taurus, but the differences are striking. Venus, at a negative fourth magnitude, is very bright; Mars is much less so at first magnitude and is even harder to see in light-polluted urban areas. By the end of July, Venus is seen lower in the eastern heavens.

Late night with Jupiter: The largest planet in the solar system rises in the east-southeast about 11 p.m. After midnight you should see it snuggled between the constellations Aquarius and Capricornus. It's a negative second magnitude, very bright and easily seen from the city. By 4 a.m., Jupiter is high in the southwest.

Still loitering in the constellation Leo, see ringed Saturn high in the western sky after sundown. The planet remains visible at first magnitude. By month's end, the planet will be noticeably lower in the west after dusk.

Although it won't be visible in the United States, a total solar eclipse will occur over Asia and the Pacific Ocean -- for 6 minutes and 39 seconds -- on July 22. Eclipse expert Fred Espenak, of the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, offers details at

It's been 40 years since the lunar module Eagle landed on the moon with less than a half-minute of fuel remaining. After landing, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong took his small step for man and giant leap for mankind July 20, 1969. A number of events noted below celebrate the anniversary.

Down-to-Earth Events

-- July 5 -- Astronomer Matthew Burger discusses "Europa: Ice, Oceans and Life?" at the open house at the University of Maryland Observatory, College Park. View the night sky afterward, weather permitting. 9 p.m. 301-405-6555;

-- July 11 and July 25 -- Planets and Messier objects and constellations, oh my! The Astronomical Society of Greenbelt hosts a star party at the observatory at Northway Fields Park in Greenbelt. 9 p.m.

-- July 16 -- Family Day -- "Countdown to the Moon!" -- at the National Air and Space Museum, the Mall. Find out about lunar missions past and future. Meet moon researchers and see 3-D, high-definition images of the moon's surface. 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

read more

Space Station Room With A View 0 comments
The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) is about to get a new "eye-pod." The Tranquility node headed for the space station early in 2010 will feature a viewing dome unlike any other window ever flown in space. The dome, called the Cupola, is literally studded with windows for observing Earth, space, and the marvelous expanse of the ISS itself.

The Cupola, named after the raised observation deck on a railroad caboose, is designed as an observation platform for operations outside the station--e.g., robotics, spacewalks, and docking spacecraft. Computer workstations inside the dome will give astronauts full control over the space station's robotic arm and dexterous manipulator, while the windows offer unparalleled views of these devices in action.

It's also a place where astronauts can unwind.

"Crews tell us that Earth gazing is important to them," says Julie Robinson, the ISS Program Scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "The astronauts work hard up there and are away from their families for a long time. Observing the Earth and the stars helps relax and inspire them."

Until now, space station astronauts have been confined to looking out small portholes or at best the 20-inch window in the US Destiny Laboratory. The Cupola will dramatically expand their view.

"The Cupola's 80-cm diameter circular top window is the largest window ever built for space," says Robinson. "Rather than peering through a little porthole, the Cupola will allow a stunning look at the cosmos and unprecedented panoramic views of Earth. Astronauts will share these views with the world through photographs taken through the windows and posted online."

This could lead to scientific discoveries:

"By photographing oblique views with different sun angles, the astronauts can use the Cupola to give scientists a view of the Earth that is not available from satellites," she adds. Astronaut photographs of Earth have been used to understand Earth processes such as melting of icebergs, noctilucent clouds, dust storms, and the structure of hurricane eyes.

It seems fitting that the space station is getting the Cupola around the time of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo program. Apollo astronauts, like the space station crew, cherished the experience of gazing back at the planet they left behind. Apollo 14 moonwalker Ed Mitchell had this to say:

"Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home."

From the Cupola, it's going to look better than ever.

read more

AT and T reports massive satellite explosion caused by forwarded Michael Jackson jokes 0 comments
AT&T spokesman Clay Bertrand held a press conference in Cape Canaveral, FL to announce the massive explosion of one of their cell phone service's major satellites.

"Preliminary reports show that the satellite-- which, at the time, was traveling over the southern United States--exploded due to the incredible volume of bad Michael Jackson jokes being forwarded through our text messaging service," Bertrand said.

"It is our hope that bringing attention to the destruction of this satellite will encourage our valued customers to stop sending these lame-ass jokes to everyone in their contact list."

Pieces of the satellite were found scattered across an area that stretched the length of the entire southern-most portion of the U.S. It is believed that most of the wreckage burned up while re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, bombing much like the jokes that caused the explosion in the first place.

Bertrand added: "I mean, most of these jokes aren't even funny. And they're basically just a variation on the same Michael Jackson jokes that have been going around for years. That joke about boys' pants being at half-mast? That's just the 'boys' pants being half-off' joke that we all heard back in 1999."

"The lack of originality is startling."

NASA scientists were alarmed when TV spokesperson Billy Mays passed away early today, fearing another explosion was imminent.

AT&T was not as concerned. When pressed for comment, Bertrand noted: "Billy Mays, while an omnipresent TV personality, did not have nearly the visibility that Michael Jackson had. Also, he was not rumored to be a pedophile. Those two factors were the main causes of the Michael Jackson satellite explosion."

read more

Lessons for the future of human space flight 0 comments
As we contemplate the future of the nation’s human space flight program at this critical juncture, I would like share my own thoughts based on almost 40 years of experience working in the space program—from JPL scientist in 1968 to NASA Associate Administrator for the Office of Space Science in 1993–1998, to continuing passionate advocate ever since. I think there are eight high-level lessons learned from past experience.

With both schedule and agency budget fixed, as costs inevitably rise for a technologically challenging development the only alternatives are to compromise system performance or to cannibalize funds from other agency enterprises.

For NASA’s future human space exploration plans to be successful, the agency needs to incorporate some lessons of the past. (credit: NASA)

First, the US needs to develop its next deep space transportation system to go to the Moon and beyond.

We have only this one chance to develop a new post-Shuttle space transportation system; the next won’t come for many decades. The US needs to demonstrate to itself as much as to others that it remains the leader in space exploration and is the partner of choice for international space enterprises. To do that the US must show its clear intention to go beyond where it has been before. Even while reestablishing the capability to do what it did before, the US must have its sights set squarely on going beyond the Moon to deeper space destinations. Establishing this goal will demonstrate that the US intends to remain in front of any nation now considering duplicating what NASA did 40 years ago. Missions to near-Earth asteroids or Sun-Earth libration points can be done before the need to develop lunar landing and support hardware. Any new transportation system should be readily capable of flights to destinations beyond the Moon. The ultimate long-term driver should be to send humans to Mars sometime in the next 50 years and this feature of the original 2004 Vision for Space Exploration needs to be reemphasized.

Second, absent unlimited resources as in the Apollo years, presidentially-imposed completion dates are deadly.

Why? Because NASA will sacrifice everything to meet them. There are only three controllable variables to engineering development: cost, schedule, and performance. With both schedule and agency budget fixed, as costs inevitably rise for a technologically challenging development the only alternatives are to compromise system performance or to cannibalize funds from other agency enterprises. NASA has done both as the funding required to meet the President’s “Moon by 2020” directive has not been forthcoming from the Office of Management and Budget. This deadline must be deleted in favor of direction to proceed at a pace commensurate with available budget.

Third, specification of a particular destination will limit the capability of the transportation system to go to other destinations.

Another result of the President’s “Moon by 2020” direction is NASA’s singular focus on the Moon as a destination. The driving requirements for Constellation are all lunar-derived and only passing attention has been given to requirements for other destinations. Constellation is now a point design for the Moon that will be costly to adapt or rebuild for other destinations beyond. The President should not only delete the deadline from his directive but also the emphasis on the Moon as a destination.

Fourth, cost must be a foremost consideration.

For Apollo cost was no object. This “start building it and the money will come” culture has carried over into Space Shuttle, Space Station, and lingers on in Constellation. NASA seems unable to approach human space flight from a cost-limited perspective. NASA’s strong focus on setting and meeting engineering requirements for Constellation without an equal focus on cost of development and operations is the program’s Achilles Heel. The directive to land on the Moon by 2020 is not achievable given the agency’s current limited out-year budget, costs for Constellation development, and the looming requirement to support the International Space Station beyond 2015. The best approach to lower cost and sustained development is to leverage existing space transportation infrastructure to the maximum.

Fifth, the next generation of deep space human missions should be conducted as an international enterprise.

Space is no longer exclusively a US and Russian playing field; it has become international. Neither is space any longer a singular token for national pride but also now a tool for international diplomacy and cooperation. The US can no longer isolate itself in vainglory, but must embrace new partners towards mutual benefit to enable space exploration enterprises that individual nations including our own would find difficult or impossible to undertake unilaterally. Much of the heavy lifting in establishing precedent for international partnerships has been undertaken by the International Space Station. A significant result is that while the US and Russia could each have separate human space flight programs they don’t: they only have a joint program. The ISS sets the stage for continuing beyond Earth orbit using an expanded ISS partnership as a springboard both in the engineering and political senses.

The nation must show its public that it can do better than repeat what it did 40 years ago.

Sixth, the rationale for the program must be articulated for the public.

A question from the very first public commenter at the Committee’s opening meeting hit the mark. “NASA’s focus is on engineering and vehicles. There has been no explanation of what we are going to do when we get there. What’s the plan and are we going beyond the Moon? You won’t get public interest and sustain it until we know these things.” NASA has proven itself technically competent but publicly impotent in spite of many studies internal and external that have articulated the imperatives for exploring space. Ironically, the administration’s 2004 Vision for Space Exploration did it quite well in very few words. The Committee would serve the nation and its space program well by expressing these imperatives for the public and its representatives in the Congress and the administration.

Seventh, NASA must provide the public with a long deep space exploration plan that includes well-defined milestone accomplishments.

For any long-term exploration enterprise to be sustainable through multiple administrations it must lay out the game plan with a set of specific milestones as did Apollo (although as much on the fly as strategic) so that the public can understand the play-by-play and follow the march to the goal posts. Such a plan is necessary not only for public support but also so that each new administration does not feel the need to reinvent the program. NASA’s space exploration program remains a source of inspiration and future hope for the nation’s young people, especially in trying times that challenge the American Dream. The nation must show its public that it can do better than repeat what it did 40 years ago.

Eighth, robotic exploration must be supported as a means to explore where humans cannot go and to assist humans to go where they can.

NASA’s human and robotic exploration enterprises have evolved as cultures apart. Each is wary of the other and not without reason. The robotic scientific enterprise has always been under threat from the insatiable demands of an inadequately funded human space flight enterprise, while the high performance of robotic missions appears a threat to human space flight exacerbated by the excoriating remarks of scientists who fail to understand the rationale for human space flight. Both enterprises are vital to the agency and vital to each other. Robotic exploration should have equal priority with human exploration and both should have incentives to support the other.

read more

NASA sends into orbit sophisticated weather satellite, meant to track hurricanes and tornadoes 0 comments
A sophisticated new weather satellite rocketed into orbit Saturday, giving forecasters another powerful tool for tracking hurricanes and tornadoes.

An unmanned rocket carrying the nation's latest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite blasted off early Saturday evening, a day late because of thunderstorms. The satellite headed toward a 22,000-mile-high orbit, where it will undergo six months of testing. It will circle Earth as a spare and be called into service when needed.

The GOES satellite network provides continuous weather monitoring for 60 percent of the planet, including the United States. The newer ones also monitor solar flares that can disrupt communications on Earth, and track climate change.

This is the second of the more advanced GOES satellites to be launched, containing sensors capable of providing better location data and higher resolution pictures of storms.

"These are probably about the most sophisticated weather satellites that we actually have on this planet ... off this planet," said Andre Dress, deputy project manager for NASA.

NASA manages the development and launch of GOES satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The one launched Saturday, Goes O, will be renamed GOES 14 once it reaches its proper orbit in 1½ weeks.

The mission cost $499 million, including the cost of the Delta IV rocket.


On the Net:



read more

Obama The next step in space exploration 0 comments
people around the world will celebrate an American triumph. The 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing recalls a period of ingenuity and perseverance that captured the world’s imagination. I was in Houston interviewing with NASA for a spot in the astronaut corps during that phenomenal yet bittersweet moment.

Even as humans touched the lunar surface for the first time, we knew we wouldn’t be doing it much longer. The program was winding down because of budget constraints. The Apollo 11 anniversary this year and the scheduled end of the shuttle program next year evoke many of the same conflicting emotions we felt behind the scenes in 1969. When Apollo missions ended in 1972, thousands of our brightest and most committed became unemployed.

The current plan calls for a several-years-long gap between the end of the shuttle program and the first flight of the Constellation program, NASA’s initiative to return to the moon and beyond. That gap could mean another brain drain as talented, skilled contractors and NASA employees must take their institutional knowledge elsewhere. We were in that situation when we started the shuttle program — training a new, inexperienced workforce. As one of the few people in the world who has piloted a never-before-flown spacecraft, I’m here to tell you — you want experienced engineers and technicians on your team. I also witnessed firsthand the economic devastation of the aerospace industry downturn while working at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the 1970s.

The six-year gap between the Apollo and shuttle programs cost America more than 400,000 jobs. The Space Coast, Houston and other cities that thrived on aerospace were hit especially hard. Once again, we face the prospect of thousands of layoffs and the residual economic blow nationwide. Based on the long-term view of President Obama’s support for America’s space exploration program, my fervent hope is that he will both minimize the gap and build on JFK’s vision, returning America to its greatness as a space-faring nation. The nomination of former astronaut Charles Bolden as NASA administrator is a positive move.

Also, the administration recently announced an independent, comprehensive analysis of the shuttle-to-Constellation plan. The review offers a chance to consider adjustments that could head off the loss of talented personnel and minimize serious economic effects. Critics may question the benefits of a strong space program, but America’s space industry is a critical component of both our economy and our legacy of exploration. Wernher von Braun, who developed the Saturn V rocket that propelled Apollo to the moon, answered the critics of his day with the facts: “The NASA budget is not being spent on the moon. It is being spent right here on Earth. It provides new jobs, new products, new processes, new companies and whole new industries.” The same holds true today. Adequate support of the Constellation program is imperative to minimize the gap, retain expertise and instill enthusiasm for science and technology in a new generation.

Crippen is a former astronaut who served as pilot of the first space shuttle mission (STS-1) and commander of three other space shuttle missions (STS-7, STS-41C, STS-41G). He is a former director of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, former president of Thiokol Propulsion and a current member of the Coalition for Space Exploration Board of Advisers.

read more

The lost NASA tapes: Restoring lunar images after 40 years in the vault 0 comments
The lost NASA tapes: Restoring lunar images after 40 years in the vault

Liquid nitrogen, vegetable steamers, Macintosh workstations and old, refrigerator-size tape drives. These are just some of the tools a new breed of Space Age archeologists is using to sift through the digital debris from the early days of NASA, mining the information in ways unimaginable when it was first gathered four decades ago.

At stake is data that could show Earth's risk of an asteroid strike, shed light on global warming and -- perhaps -- even satisfy those who think the moon landings were a hoax.

The most visible of the archeologists is arguably Dennis Wingo, head of Skycorp Inc., a small aerospace engineering firm in Huntsville, Ala. He's the driving force behind the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, operating out of a decommissioned McDonald's (since dubbed McMoon's) at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. The project's goal is to recover and enhance as many of the original lunar landing images as possible.

Between 1966 and 1967, five unmanned probes were sent into lunar orbit to map possible landing sites within the moon's equatorial regions at one-meter resolution and to map the rest of the surface at a resolution of 40 meters or better, Wingo explains. Those probes, known as Lunar Orbiters, sent back about 1,800 images that modern technology should be able to greatly improve.

The project's great scientific value to NASA is in enabling a comparison between the lunar surface as mapped by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched on June 18, with the lunar surface as it appeared 43 years ago, according to Wingo. The goal is to "get a fix on how many meteor impacts have occurred in the meantime," by cataloging the new craters.

"If we know the changes, we can establish the risk of working on the moon and even determine the small-body asteroid population of the inner solar system," Wingo says. Another valuable contribution: the ability to plot the possible risk to Earth of the impact of an asteroid.

The original black-and-white images were shot on 70mm film that was automatically developed and scanned within the robot spacecraft. The signal from the scanner was sent to Earth and was then displayed as partial frames on a monitor. Each monitor image was then captured with a film camera. These pictures were fit together, and then another picture was taken of the finished mosaic. Each step imposed a certain amount of image degradation.

The resulting Lunar Orbiter images are the basis of a digital lunar atlas. But Wingo figured that if he could process the tapes of the original signals, he could improve the dynamic range of the images by a factor of four, revealing far more surface features.

Although this theory has proved correct, the path has been challenging. Wingo first had to acquire the tapes, then reconstruct drives to read them and finally perform the actual processing.

Next steps

It turns out that the original 2-in. tapes were available. Around 1986, NASA archivist Nancy Evans, who is now retired, was contacted by a federal records center asking what to do with them. Feeling that the data should not be discarded, she persuaded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., to put them into climate-controlled storage.

However, the tapes were useless without compatible tape drives -- in this case, analog Ampex FR-900 reel-to-reel units. Weighing half a ton and resembling refrigerators, the drives were formerly used by the U.S. Air Force to record radar data but have not been manufactured since 1975. "There were probably thousands of them at one time, but as the radar stations refitted with new drives, most [of the old ones] were dumped in the ocean to make coral reefs," Evans says. There are "thousands" of the old drives off Kwajalein -- an atoll that's part of the Marshall Islands -- and Florida, she says.

She finally got a call from an Air Force base that had four of the old drives. She stored them, along with documentation and spare parts, at her home in Sun Valley, Calif., and tried to get funding to restore the tapes. None was forthcoming, so the machines gathered dust for two decades.

By 2006, the tapes -- still in JPL storage -- fell under a new NASA edict that no planetary data should ever be destroyed, Evans explains. However, by then she needed the storage area occupied by the tape drives for the veterinarian practice she and her daughter maintained. In an effort to preserve the drives, she submitted a white paper about the tapes and drives at a Lunar and Planetary Institute conference. After seeing the white paper in a blog post, Wingo contacted her and arranged to have the drives, and later the tapes, transported to Ames in rented trucks.

Then Wingo obtained a grant of $250,000 from NASA to get started. His largely volunteer crew was able to restore two of the drives using pieces from the other two, plus off-the-shelf parts and additional components that had to be custom-made.

"We had to pay big bucks to get the bearings replaced, the motors rebuilt and rubber parts cast. We had to dip the motors in liquid nitrogen to get the bearings off," he recalls.

So far, all the tapes have proved usable. The data is read into a quad-processor Macintosh Pro workstation with 13GB of RAM and 4TB of storage. Data acquisition is done through a PCI Express card from Canadian firm AlazarTech that can read 180 million samples per second, although only 10 million are needed, Wingo says.

After capture, the images are processed with Adobe Photoshop and Igor Pro analysis software from WaveMetrics Inc. But the new plan is to move to a custom application written in C, largely because of its ability to take advantage of Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). With Igor Pro and Photoshop, processing takes an hour for a high-resolution image and 20 minutes for a medium-resolution image. But after the switch to the C program, processing with the Snow Leopard version should be almost immediate, based on the testing that's been conducted, Wingo says.

With an additional $600,000 budget, Wingo hopes to have all the files processed by February, producing a moon atlas with a resolution higher than anything previously seen. Most of this new funding is again from NASA, with about 10% from private donors.

However, Wingo's "deliverable" to NASA is not the images themselves, but the raw data extracted from the tapes. "They would rather have the raw data so that someone even a thousand years from now could do their own processing," he says.

The lost Apollo 11 tapes

The NASA edict against data destruction was issued after the space agency's 2006 admission that it couldn't locate the original tapes of the Apollo 11 live slow-scan TV broadcast from the moon. The agency then initiated a search for the tapes, which remains ongoing, as is the Internet furor the admission generated among conspiracy theorists, who believe the landings were staged.

The data is assumed to be on 1-in. tapes, but, based on period photos, Wingo thinks they should be on 2-in. tapes like the Lunar Orbiter data. He is conducting his own search.

Begging to differ is Richard Nafzger, senior engineer at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who's been working for NASA since 1968 and was involved in television support and voice communications for the Apollo moon missions.

"Despite how old you get, there are certain things you don't forget, and we recorded all slow-scan images on 1-in. tapes that were 15 in. in diameter, and I have spent the last three years tracking them," he says. "I am certain that there was no slow-scan ever recorded on the Ampex 900." The video feed was one of 12 tracks of telemetry that were recorded on each tape, Nafzger explains.

Due to the low wattage of the transmitter on the lunar lander, they had only 500 kHz bandwidth to use for video, as opposed to the 4.5 MHz that was standard at the time for broadcast analog TV. So NASA used a slow-scan, black-and-white transmission at 10 frames per second with 320 lines per screen, Nafzger says. U.S. broadcast TV used 30 frames per second with 525 lines per screen. The conversion was made at each ground site with a device that basically pointed a broadcast TV camera at a special monitor displaying the slow-scan image.

The slow-scan monitor had persistent phosphor to make up for the slower scan rate, and as a result the movement of the astronauts looked ghostly and jerky, he explains. (Later moon landings used a more conventional TV broadcast system.)

The Apollo 11 TV signal was captured at NASA ground stations with 85-foot antennas in Spain, Australia and the Mojave Desert. NASA also borrowed a 210-foot radio astronomy antenna in Australia for the occasion. The signals were converted to broadcast format on-site and sent to Houston for redistribution to the TV networks. Both the slow-scan feed and the broadcast format were recorded on-site in case the live broadcast failed. The converted signals were routed through a single point in Houston so that NASA could cut off the signal if there were an "incident," Nafzger explains.

But that was the least of his worries.

"The night we landed and did the moon walk, that is when I became scared," he recalls. Before that point, there hadn't been as much pressure to broadcast the proceedings in real time. But after the safe landing, "they were saying that they had better be able to see this on TV, and 600 million people were watching. Something as simple as plugging a wrong patch or pushing a wrong button would mean that no one would see it," Nafzger says.

Indeed, the camera had been installed on the lander upside down, Nafzger recalls. The TV technicians heard of this at the last minute and scrambled to install converters at the ground stations. The first few seconds of broadcast were upside down because the operator at the Mojave Desert ground station who understood the converter had left for the day, Nafzger recalls.

If the original tapes could be found, he estimates that they would appear three times clearer than the broadcast images. "Taking the clean data and extracting it in a digital high-definition format would let you go frame-by-frame and remove the noise, smearing, contrast problems and other things that were man-made, mostly by the original conversion. The tapes are worth getting just for that reason -- absolutely," Nafzger says.

He and others have been trying to do just that. But NASA has had at least 220,000 tapes of that variety in storage at some time, of which only about 15 might be the lost Apollo 11 tapes, he notes.

"We have gone through landfills on the tops of mountains. I have looked through rooms the size of two or three football fields, filled with rows of shelves going up 30 feet, and we have looked on every shelf that might contain the right tapes," Nafzger says. Tapes that were suspected of being the right ones were heated for hours in dry vegetable steamers to make sure the oxide was fixed to the substrate before Nafzger's team attempted to read them. Goddard has preserved the necessary 1-in. tape drives, so Nafzger did not have the refurbishing task that Wingo faced.

Nafzger is currently preparing a report on the results of the search and cannot discuss them until NASA releases the report, the date of which is uncertain. "But since I am not running down the street waving a flag and shouting 'Eureka!' you can draw your own conclusions. The big picture is that there is an explanation for everything," he says.

Other tapes

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Karen Person, head of the Renaissance Entertainment & Media Group, is not waiting for Nafzger's results. She says she has acquired one of the original 2-in. NASA recordings of the broadcast video and is using it as the basis of a documentary titled July Moon, which she hopes to have in theaters for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20. The video has been transferred to MPEG-4 format and parts have been enhanced, she says.

"They are about 200% clearer than anything you would have seen, and Walter Cronkite is not talking over them," she says. In fact, she showed clips to Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and, according to her, he said he saw things that he had not previously remembered.

She claims she procured the tapes -- for an amount she would not disclose -- from a man who bought them at a government surplus property auction in 1976 while he was a NASA engineering intern. He reportedly paid $217.77 for a batch of 1,150 assorted tapes.

For his part, Wingo has received a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to locate early Nimbus weather satellite tapes. Data from the satellites, first launched in 1964, was stored on tapes like those used with the Lunar Orbiters.

"Those images would push our knowledge of Arctic and Antarctic ice packs 14 years further into the past,"

read more

More about apocalypse 2012 solar flares 0 comments

The expected maximum solar flares, which astrophysicists have calculated will definitely take place towards to end of 2011-2012, may knock out all electrical and satellite communications. But what will we do without these communications?

Now, never before in known human history has the world been threatened with the possibility of a major nuclear conflict. It happened before on a limited scale in Japan in 1945 and it can happen again, this time involving several nations, especially in this era where fanatical fundamentalists are prepared to kill themselves in the process of killing others and who believe that there is a paradisiacal reward awaiting them!

The flash points could be the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Iranian pledge to annihilate Israel, and the North Korean threat, all of which could also involve Russia and China. Of course, many believe that such a thing will never happen in their lifetime, and so, please don't stop the Carnival. But it is recorded in the Book that they were eating and drinking and taking wives when the Flood came and took them all away, and also that it will be "the fire next time."

This newspaper is not the medium for linking science and religion. On the other hand, my book, The End of this Era A Linkage between Science and Religion, does just that. In fact, when it was launched in Melbourne, Australia in March, the audience was particularly attentive to my talk as it was at a time when Australia's worst ever bush fires laid waste thousands of acres and claimed many lives. It was described as "Hell on Earth."

But "the fire next time" can come from sources other than a nuclear holocaust.

The asteroid belt is a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and may contain over a million objects larger than one kilometre across. They are primordial objects left over from the formation of the solar system following the Big Bang; leftover rocky matter which orbits the sun and which has never successfully coalesced into a planet like ours. They are sometimes nudged by the gravitation pull of nearby planets into orbits that cause them to enter Earth's atmosphere.

Significantly, in ancient and medieval Europe, meteors were described as bright "fire balls," "shooting stars," or "falling stars." As they enter Earth's atmosphere and plummet towards the ground, they become bright streaks of light generating intense heat and usually burn up before they get close enough to Earth. They are then called meteorites. Some are indeed celestial missiles, which are capable of unleashing more power than thousands of nuclear bombs.

It also needs to be appreciated that each day about a billion meteors, captives of gravity, pass into Earth's atmosphere. The vast majority of them are smallish objects that heat up and disintegrate as they enter into the planet's invisible barrier of air, but a few of them are of such magnitude as to change the course of history. Indeed, it is believed that the annihilation of the dinosaurs several million years ago was a result of the impact of an asteroid in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists all over the world are fully aware of this threat. In April 2004 Dr Michael Griffin, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in a testimony to the United States Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, said: "Thank you for giving me this opportunity to comment on the greatest natural threat to the long-term survivability of mankind, an asteroid impact with Earth. The effects of an impact are so catastrophic that it is essential to prepare a defence against such an occurrence. Impacts with diameters greater than one kilometre could result in worldwide damage and a possible elimination of the human race." Apropos this, in April 2004, NASA astronaut Ed Liu told United States scientists that (hopefully) an asteroid deflection mission could be ready for flight by 2015. Some, however, think that by then it may be too late!

The Mayans had a great gift and as far as I am concerned all gifts come from the Creator and it may possibly be a well-planned and purposeful gift to warn mankind. They prophesied that the end of this era (not the end of the world) will be on the winter solstice of December 21, 2012, after which there will be a new era of peace and love when the world will then enter what they called the "fifth cycle," the others having been previously destroyed by cataclysms about 4,000-5,000 years apart. Interestingly, Biblical scholars have calculated that the great Flood of Noah's time would have occurred about 4,353 years ago!

I predict as the months go by, the so-called 2012 apocalypse will probably cause increasing concern and panic, especially as television stations like the History Channel have already produced impressive documentaries about 2012, and I am told that there is soon to be a movie on it. As I wrote last week, scholars normally contribute these myths to the fantasies of ancient poets. But what if the scholars are wrong?

But if this comes to pass, there is another frightening aspect to it. For example, we live in an era when wars and missile exchanges taking place thousands of miles away (like the Iraq War) are televised and can be seen in people's homes. Can you imagine the scene when NASA will be able to televise an incoming asteroid weeks or months in advance?

The Christian Bible says that no one knows the day or the hour except the Father. But nothing is said about the year!

read more

NASA Awards For ISS Three-Year Deal Runs Through At Least 2012 0 comments
NASA has signed a $144 million follow-on contract with ARES Corp. of Burlingame, CA, for International Space Station Program integration and control services.

ARES will provide support for configuration management, data management, information technology, safety and mission assurance, vehicle integrated performance, resource and budget analysis, program schedule development, engineering and technical services, spacecraft integration, international partner integration and strategic analysis planning.

The three-year contract is effective Oct. 1, 2009 through Sept. 30, 2012, and includes two one-year options that could extend the contract through Sept. 30, 2014. If both options are exercised, the total value of the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract would be $180 million.

ARES will perform the work on-site at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, or at nearby offices. Significant subcontractors include Barrios Technology and Booz-Allen Hamilton, both of Houston.

The previous contract was awarded in November 2003, and had a total value of $154 million, including all of the options that were exercised, through Sept. 30, 2009.

read more

Economic Recovery May be in the Stars, Aerospace Experts 0 comments
Space experts fear that, 40 years after putting a man on the moon, the United States is now at risk of losing the modern space race, which could crush the country's chances of becoming the global leader in commercial space development.

Washington, D.C. - infoZine - Scripps Howard Foundation Wire - Heavyweights of both the aerospace industry and government agencies that regulate it spoke about commercial possibilities beyond Earth, as well as the consequences of falling behind in such pursuits, at a panel discussion Thursday. It was held by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Hyatt Regency Washington hotel.

Though the field is largely under the public's radar, insiders see commercial space enterprise as a gold mine of both technological innovation and economic opportunity. Some go so far as to say that investing in space could bail out the troubled American economy.

Jeff Bingham, senior adviser on space and aeronautics of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said NASA has created industries and economic vitality that have continually spun off into the private sector for the past 50 years.

"Everyone in this room knows that," Bingham said. "Why doesn't the American public know that?"

Industry panelists spoke about several low Earth orbit, or LEO, projects their companies have in the works.

While the panelists stressed that the U.S. government will not be the only customer for their finished spacecraft or space stations, many private space programs have a close financial link with NASA. The agency has given multimillion dollar contracts to private companies for its LEO transportation needs.

Max Vozoff, an executive of the space technology start-up SpaceX, said he hopes NASA will concentrate on "pushing the envelope" in space exploration and hand off the more routine LEO transportation jobs to private companies. Such a strategy would free up NASA resources for missions to the moon or Mars, he said.

SpaceX has a spacecraft called Dragon in development that will be able to handle manned missions in 2½ years, Vozoff said. Under a 2006 contract with NASA, Dragon will deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

"There just needs to be a little more faith that commercial can actually execute on this, and we hope to prove that," Vozoff said.

Mike Gold, corporate counsel for Bigelow Aerospace, discussed his company's successful launches of two space station prototypes in 2006 and 2007.

With the possible dismantling of the International Space Station in 2020, a commercial space station could be the only American platform for space tourism and research in microgravity, also called zero gravity.

Bingham described "broad-based research" as the main market for commercial space development in the short term. The absence of gravity is thought to be ideal for studies in several fields, including materials science and cancer and AIDS research.

Bigelow hopes to have a space station in orbit in 2012. More difficult than setting up a space habitat, Gold said, will be getting people there.

NASA plans to retire the Space Shuttle in 2010. Orion, the vehicle at the center of NASA's Constellation project for human spaceflight, is slated for its first manned launch in 2014 at the earliest.

"In the next two years, Russia and China will be the only two nations capable of sending their citizens to orbit," Gold said. "That's an embarrassment to this nation, and an embarrassment to NASA."

Ajay Kothari, who attended the event and is president of Astrox Corp., echoed the panelists' description of the aerospace industry as an up and coming economic powerhouse. His company is designing a hypersonic plane that could travel from the East Coast to Australia in under two hours.

"It's not just about creating 100 more jobs in the next two months," he said of the industry. "The potential is much bigger than that."

The great potential, however, is matched by great obstacles.

Many executives expressed frustration with the protracted and sometimes fruitless process of waiting for Congress to authorize and appropriate funding for NASA contracts.

"NASA is not an attractive customer," said Mike Lounge, a Boeing executive and former NASA astronaut. Lounge described Congress's inability to make multiyear appropriations and the risk of projects being terminated as turn-offs from working with the government, despite its funding capabilities.

His comments recalled NASA's cancellation of a $207 million contract with Rocketplane Kistler in 2007 due to the company's failure to meet financial milestones.

Patti Grace Smith, a former Federal Aviation Administration official, said public perception could be another roadblock for the space industry. She noted that taxpayers generally know little about space aside from high-profile accidents like the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

"In many, many offices when I made rounds on the Hill, I was told, ‘This was not a bread and butter issue. I'm not hearing from my constituents on this,'" she said.

Despite the obstacles, Bingham said he believes there is hope for increased funding for NASA and its contracts to private companies. He described the notion that no new money for NASA exists as "the [Office of Budget Management] Kool-Aid we've all been drinking for eight years."

"NASA will bail out the country if we let it, because where have you had a government activity that has returned more to the economy than it's spent, other than NASA?" Bingham said. "You've seen the numbers - $7 to $9 for every dollar invested."

But industry officials like Gold fear that commercial opportunities will dry up fast if the United States' private space programs fall behind those of foreign companies and governments.

"If America doesn't get it right this time, we're going to be ordering lo mein in microgravity,"

read more

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Students compete to send robot to the moon

Sunday, June 28, 2009 0 comments

Team Omega Envoy finished preparations Saturday to send their prototype lunar rover to the North Pole.

UCF students have created a company dedicated to building and landing a lunar rover in hopes of winning $30 million in prizes from Google. The competition is an effort to have a 90 percent privately-funded group send a robot to the moon to travel 500 meters, collect HD video and panoramic views, and send the first e-mail and text message from the moon.

Senior Ruben Nunez and grad students Jason Dunn and Justin Karl created the team Omega Envoy as part of Earthrise Space Inc., a not-for-profit company they founded with which they entered the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition.

“It’s a big systems engineering project,” Nunez said. “We have our requirements already set for the entire project, from building to launch day.”

The project was planned in collaboration between organizations such as the Florida Space Institute, Embry-Riddle, 4Frontiers and Lippman Law Offices.

Saturday the team prepared their rover to be sent to the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station in the North Pole with 4Frontiers Vice President Joseph E. Palaia. They will be using this time at Devon Island in Nunavut, Canada to test the communication capabilities of the robot.

“I’m going to be up there for the whole month, with a crew of five other people, living in a simulated Mars habitat,” Palaia said, “and so, I offered to bring this up there with me, so they can control this, just as if they were operating their rover on the moon.”

This will allow UCF students to test how well they can control the rover in a terrain similar to those they will encounter in the competition.

The prototype rover was designed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Team at UCF and is the second model to be constructed. The rover was built in two weeks in an effort to take advantage of the rare opportunity the students have been given.

“The rover takes video and remotely feeds it to us, and we can remotely control it from a computer at UCF,” said Eric Travis, a UCF student on the Omega Envoy team.

The complete project has a budget of approximately $40 million. Of that, $20 million has been donated to the team from its various sponsors.

Omega Envoy joined the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition in October of last year, which will be open until Dec. 31, 2012.

Nunez said if a privately funded effort can be proven to work, then other corporations like NASA would be encouraged to hire outside sources to meet more of their mission-related needs.

“We’re going to prove that they’ll work when we send it to the moon,” Nunez said. “Doing this will save them time and money.”

Nunez put this idea into effect by soliciting help from UCF students to handle the various needs of the project. Nunez said this is an interdisciplinary effort, not only employing engineering, but also business, marketing and law students.

Nunez said he had a UCF senior design team spend the year designing the wheels for the final version of the rover, each of which will be individually powered and operated.

The Omega Envoy team is also offering students the chance to name their rover. Those who are interested can visit their Web site at and submit a two-minute video explaining why they chose their name for the rover. The chosen name will be engraved into the final version, which will be sent to the moon.

Nunez, Dunn and Karl have high hopes for Earthrise Space Inc. They are planning to expand the corporation in the future and take on similar projects that allow students hands-on learning in their fields.

“It’s just a start up right now,” Nunez said, “but we are looking to do more projects in the future.”

read more

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rogue knob could ground space shuttle Atlantis

Saturday, June 27, 2009 0 comments

NASA is pondering how to remove a rogue knob which has firmly wedged itself between a window and the dashboard of space shuttle Atlantis - an apparently minor affair which could actually result in a six-month delay in the venerable vehicle's STS-129 mission to the International Space Station, or even see the shuttle grounded for good.

According to, the offending part is "a quick shoe mount knob from a crew work lamp" which was discovered during maintenance work at the shuttle's Orbiter Processing Facility.

The knob is resting between the dashboard panel (pics and full details here) and the window's inner pressure pane and has caused some damage to the glass. Accordingly, it "must be removed to evaluate pane condition before flight", NASA has concluded.

In case you're wondering just how this bothersome piece of metal came to be so firmly entrenched, "changes in pressure for pre-launch to orbit operations, leading to the expansion of the orbiter’s skin, is once again deemed as the root cause".

NASA elaborates: “Crew module [CM] skin expands while in orbit due to 14.7 psi internal pressure; flight deck floor deflection may also contribute to the relative movement between the console’s dash and the CM window area.

“Gap between the dashboard closeout panel and the window may have opened wider while in orbit... Vibration from ferry flight* might have wedged knob further."

NASA has already tried to dislodge the knob by cooling it with dry ice, without success. It's planning to try the same technique coupled to a slight pressurisation of the crew module, with a few fall-back options: Remove the dashboard; cut part of it away; expand the gap between dash and window with an airbag or slice the knob apart with a drill.

All of these have their pros and cons, as explains in greater detail, but the bottom line is that if the damage to the pressure pane proves "unacceptable for flight", NASA is looking at an estimated "up to and over six months" delay in getting Atlantis ready for it next mission.

The "absolute worst case scenario" is that Atlantis would simply be retired, leaving Discovery and Endeavour to complete the ISS missions. This would mean a shuttle launch manifest stretch "deep into 2011".

Atlantis's STS-129 mission, carrying two Express Logistics Carriers to the ISS, is slated for 12 November. Its last flight, STS-132, is pencilled for 14 May 2010, when it ends its career delivering the Integrated Cargo Carrier and Mini Research Module to the orbiting outpost.

Discovery has three dates in its diary: STS-128 (18 August), STS-131 (18 March 2010) and STS-134 (16 September 2010).

Endeavour will bow out following the delayed STS-127 (11 July), STS-130 (4 February 2010) and STS-133 (29 July 2010). NASA's full ISS launch manifest is here. ®

read more

Ufo - 'Scenes from the ISS' shows the world from an astronaut's eyes 0 comments

You may have seen the shots of Russia's Sarychev volcano eruption NASA posted earlier this week. Well, the folks over at the Boston Globe's Big Picture went through the archives of other photos taken from the ISS, and have dug up some gems.

Some of our favorites are down below. The first is probably the wildest: what looks like an instrumentation panel or a blueprint is actually a photo of roads and circular fields in Egypt. There are also breathtaking views of volcanoes, islands, rivers and cities. What better view can you get of this planet of ours than from the International Space Station?

read more

The Exoplanet Sleuth Behind NASA's Kepler Mission 0 comments

Space scientist William "Bill" Borucki is a soft-spoken, pleasant person who grew up in a small town in Wisconsin where he liked to build and launch rockets. He still does, and he convinced NASA to build and launch Kepler, the first spacecraft capable of finding Earth-size planets orbiting other stars.

Bill displays a number of similarities to another mild-mannered Midwesterner, a guy named Clark Kent. As the force behind what many call "NASA's coolest mission," Bill summoned veritable superpowers to get the innovative Kepler mission off the ground. Knowing what he and his team have accomplished, you get the feeling there might be a giant "S" hiding under that unassuming shirt and tie.

While Superman could fly to other worlds with relative ease, he didn't have to navigate the maze of changing requirements, reallocated funding, technical issues, and political challenges that Bill has helped steered the Kepler mission through. Even with X-ray vision, he might not have been able to foresee the obstacles. But he was there to watch his dream come true on March 6 when the Kepler spacecraft took off from Cape Canaveral, faster than a speeding bullet, on its way to search for other habitable worlds.

Bill grew up in Delevan, Wisconsin, a great place for a boy who loved science and building things. He was president of the school's science club - the students liked to reject the teacher's suggestions for projects and pursue their own ideas. "We decided to build a transmitter to contact UFOs," he said, "so I built the ultraviolet transmitter and others built the visible and infrared transmitters and a magnetometer. I don't think any of them worked all that well, but we had a great time. I learned so much trying to build these things. You don't always have to succeed to learn a lot."

Young Bill also belonged to a rocket club, and he got interested in amateur radio and building electronic equipment and antennae. He enjoyed communicating with other people around the world. Bill remembers the very dark night sky and how it lit up with stars during the new moon. He and his friends built telescopes and cameras to photograph the stars. In the summertime, they rode their bicycles to the Yerkes Observatory at nearby Lake Geneva to look through the 40-inch telescope. "Great big things were nice to look at," he said, "but the fun was to build things yourself from your own ideas, because then you understood how they worked."

His parents were not science-oriented but they were encouraging. Bill and his father built everything from a backyard tower to hold his antenna to soapbox derby cars and model airplanes. Bill attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison and he found college to be a wonderful experience. He especially enjoyed meeting people with different ideas.

Bill earned both a B. S. and M. S. in physics, then applied for a job at NASA, the only place he considered. "I wanted to work on spacecraft," he recalled, "and NASA was it." He got offers from both NASA's Ames Research Center in Northern California and Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center in Cleveland. His father advised him to go west, and he's been at Ames ever since. "I've really enjoyed working at NASA. It has always been fascinating," he said. "It's a great way to go through life, attacking worthwhile problems with a good team."

In his early years at Ames, he conducted studies on the radiation environment of entry vehicles. When he found that the existing spectrograph didn't work for the types of extreme tests they were conducting, he designed and built a new one. The results of his investigations were used in the design of the heat shields to protect the Apollo astronauts during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Next he worked in the Theoretical Studies Branch where they studied the atmospheres of Earth and other planets and built theoretical models of the atmosphere to understand how mankind's influence would change it. His group published many papers on how ozone would be affected by nitrogen oxides. "We didn't predict a hole in the ozone layer," he said, "but we did predict that the decrease would be seen first at the poles."

Another area of Bill's research concerned the effects of lightning activity in planetary atmospheres. He conducted a variety of laboratory studies and participated in spacecraft observations to determine the amount and distribution of lightning activity on other planets. He also earned a second M. S. in meteorology.

During this time Bill's interests merged. He focused his knowledge of spectroscopy and photometry and his theoretical studies of planetary atmospheres into thinking about how photometry and spectrometry could be used to find other planets.

These revolutionary ideas resulted in a paper he published in 1984, "The photometric Method of Detecting Other Planetary Systems." The following year he published "Detectability of Extrasolar Planetary Transits." He pursued his ideas with patience and persistence and developed experimental systems to prove the transits method of finding extrasolar planets. In 2000 he proposed a planet-finding mission to NASA, in response to a call for Discovery mission proposals. The Kepler Mission was selected as the 10th Discovery Mission in December 2001.

Kepler encountered many unforeseen and unpredictable delays throughout the various development phases. "We're doing something new that's never been done," he said. "It means there are going to be surprises and difficulties to surmount. We have a wonderful team of people from Ames, JPL, universities, non-profits and other NASA centers. I admire very much the people at NASA Headquarters who supported us through all our difficulties. It's been great working with everyone."

Kepler has 28 co-investigators on the science team and dozens of other collaborators. In Europe a team of over 200 scientists has formed the Kepler Astreroseismic Science Consortium. They will use Kepler data for the first time to see what's going on inside a star - how fast it rotates, how much of the hydrogen has been burned, and the star's density.

Bill's family joined him to witness the launch in Florida. He met his wife in college, and they have 3 daughters and 8 grandkids. "I've been working on this idea for 25 years," he said, "so my kids and grandkids have heard about it since they were born. They were delighted to be at the launch, which was magnificent. The solid rockets looked like sparklers as they fell away from the rocket. It was like the spirit of all the team was being launched into space after dedicating so much time and effort to get it into orbit."

The Kepler Mission has dominated Bill's life in recent times, often 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. He said that seeing Kepler launch and knowing it will answer a very big question - "Are there lots of Earths out there or are we alone?" - is tremendously satisfying and worth the 25 years of effort and sacrifice that's been required. Everyone is very excited about looking at the results and understanding the implications. The first download of science data was received in June and the search for planets has begun.

Bill's advice for students who have an interest in space exploration is to take the core subjects of mathematics, physics, chemistry and engineering. "But you also need to take courses to make sure you can write and speak well," he said. "You will spend a lot of time communicating your ideas and interacting with others to solve problems. If you can't inspire others to work on these ideas with you, you'll never do it by yourself. You really need to speak clearly about your goals and why they're important."

Bill sets a great example for pursuing your dreams, convincing others of their value, and persevering to realize your goals. He looks forward to seeing what questions the next group of young scientists will ask and what answers they will uncover.

Scientists, computer scientists, engineers and educators at the SETI Institute are a part of Bill Borucki's team for the Kepler Mission.

read more

SEDL to help NASA with Web site 0 comments

Austin nonprofit SEDL has received an $80,000, four-year grant to evaluate the development of an educational Web portal called MyMoon: Virtual New Media Environments for Lunar Space Exploration.

The evaluation is funded by the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences-2008 program, which is part of the Education Public Outreach for Earth Space Science division of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration.

The Lunar and Planetary Institute is developing the MyMoon portal to engage 18- to 35-year-olds in lunar science and research. The site, which is set to launch in July, will provide facts about the moon and space, lunar research and mission data, and information about NASA’s plans for lunar exploration and habitation. It will also include media exhibits, downloadable images, news, events and opportunities for the public to interact with lunar scientists and educators.

Over the course of the four-year grant, SEDL will advise NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute so they can better understand their target audiences and how they are using the MyMoon Web site. SEDL will do this by surveying target audiences, testing the site for usability and conducting focus groups.

“It’s a nice change of pace to work with a project targeted to young adults and to examine the community-building process in a social networking environment from the ground up,” said Cheryl Harris, a program associate at SEDL, formerly Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. “Finding ways to do research with a virtual audience and finding out what online features foster good interactions will also be a great learning experience for us.”

read more

Ulysses to end its 18-year space mission 0 comments
Orbiter taught more than expected about sun, its interaction with space

After more than 18 years of dedicated service, the solar orbiter Ulysses is due to end its tenure June 30.

The joint ESA/NASA spacecraft will finally switch off its transmitter, after defying several earlier expectations of its demise.

Ulysses is the first spacecraft to survey the environment in space above and below the poles of the sun in the four dimensions of space and time.

Among a number of groundbreaking results, the mission showed that the sun's magnetic field is carried into the solar system in a more complicated manner than previously believed. Particles expelled by the sun from low latitudes can climb up to high latitudes and vice versa, even unexpectedly finding their way down to planets.

This means that regions of the sun not previously considered as possible sources of hazardous particles for astronauts and satellites must now be taken into account and carefully monitored.

"Ulysses has taught us far more than we ever expected about the sun and the way it interacts with the space surrounding it," said Richard Marsden, ESA's Ulysses project scientist and mission manager. The shutdown of the satellite is a joint decision of the two agencies and comes a year after the mission was expected to end.

A year ago, the satellite's power supply had weakened to the point that it was thought the low temperatures would cause the fuel lines to freeze up, rendering Ulysses uncontrollable. This didn't happen immediately and spacecraft controllers realized that they could keep the fuel warm and circulating by performing a short thruster burn every two hours.

But as Ulysses has moved further from Earth, the communications bit-rate has gone down, and the mission managers decided they could no longer justify the cost of keeping Ulysses in operation.

"We expected the spacecraft to cease functioning much earlier," said Paolo Ferri, head of the Spacecraft Operations Solar and Planetary Missions Division. "Its longevity is a tribute to Ulysses's builders and the people involved in operations over the years. Although it is always hard to take the decision to terminate a mission, we have to accept that the satellite is running out of resources and a controlled switch-off is the best ending."

After shutoff, Ulysses will continue to orbit the sun, becoming in effect a man-made 'comet'.

"Whenever any of us look up in the years to come, Ulysses will be there, silently orbiting our star, which it studied so successfully during its long and active life," said Marsden.

read more

Friday, June 26, 2009

NASA moon bombing violates space law - may cause conflict with lunar ET/UFO civilizations

Friday, June 26, 2009 0 comments
Commentary: The planned October 9, 2009 bombing of the moon by a NASA orbiter that will bomb the moon with a 2-ton kinetic weapon to create a 5 mile wide deep crater as an alleged water-seeking and lunar colonization experiment, is contrary to space law prohibiting environmental modification of celestial bodies. The NASA moon bombing, a component of the LCROSS mission, may also trigger conflict with known extraterrestrial civilizations on the moon as reported on the moon in witnessed statements by U.S. astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, and in witnessed statements to NSA (National Security Agency) photos and documents regarding an extraterrestrial base on the dark side of the moon.

If the true intent of the LCROSS mission moon bombing is a hostile act by NASA against known extraterrestrial civilizations and settlements on the moon, then NASA and by extension the U.S. government are guilty of aggressive war which is the most serious of war crimes under the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Conventions, to which the U.S. is subject. The U.N. Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. has ratified, requires that “ The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.” 98 nations have ratified and 125 nations have signed the U.N. Outer Space Treaty.

NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission

The NASA LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission, which departed on Earth on June 18, 2009. According to one report, “Flying over the moon's southern hemisphere, LCROSS will use its high-precision instruments, as well as close-up images of the terrain gathered by the lunar orbiter, to seek out a crater just shallow enough and dark enough to be a prime bombing target.

“There, acting as what the Ames team calls its "shepherding spacecraft," LCROSS will guide an empty Centaur rocket weighing two tons toward its target. The rocket will crash into the crater at 5,600 mph, creating a new crater - perhaps as large as 5 miles wide. The crash is scheduled to occur Oct. 9.”

The two-ton Centaur rocket qualifies as a space-based kinetic weapon. The reason alleged by NASA for the mission is that “the [LCROSS} probes will map possible landing sites and search for water sources that could be used by a future lunar colony.”

According to NASA, “The Mission Objectives of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) include confirming the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the Moon’s South Pole. The identification of water is very important to the future of human activities on the Moon. LCROSS will excavate the permanently dark floor of one of the Moon’s polar craters with two heavy impactors in 2009 to test the theory that ancient ice lies buried there. The impact will eject material from the crater’s surface to create a plume that specialized instruments will be able to analyze for the presence of water (ice and vapor), hydrocarbons and hydrated materials.”

U.S. astronauts, NASA employees, Soviet scientists, NSA confirm the extraterrestrial presence on the moon

There are confirmed reports of an extraterrestrial presence on the moon, both from U.S. astronauts who have visited the moon, from NASA employees, from Soviet scientists and observers of the NASA moon visits, and from witnessed NSA (National Security Agency) reports on a moon based on the far side of the moon.

One report states that, “In a 2006 television documentary, ‘Apollo 11: The Untold Story,’ Buzz Aldrin admitted for the first time publicly that the astronauts saw UFOs on their trip to the Moon, but they were not allowed to discuss this information on the live audio feed to NASA. He stated that he felt it would have caused a ‘panic.’”

Other research on witnessed corroboration of U.S. astronaut sightings of an extraterrestrial presence on the Moon states, “According to hitherto unconfirmed reports, both Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin saw UFOs shortly after their historic landing on the Moon in Apollo 11 on 21 July 1969. I remember hearing one of the astronauts refer to a "light" in or on a carter during the television transmission, followed by a request from mission control for further information. Nothing more was heard.”

“According to a former NASA employee Otto Binder, unnamed radio hams with their own VHF receiving facilities that bypassed NASA's broadcasting outlets picked up the following exchange:

“NASA: What's there? Mission Control calling Apollo 11...

“Apollo: These ‘Babies’ are huge, Sir! Enormous! OH MY GOD! You wouldn't believe it! I'm telling you there are other spacecraft out there, lined up on the far side of the crater edge! They're on the Moon watching us!

“In 1979, Maurice Chatelain, former chief of NASA Communications Systems confirmed that Armstrong had indeed reported seeing two UFOs on the rim of a crater. ‘The encounter was common knowledge in NASA,’ he revealed, ‘but nobody has talked about it until now.’

“Soviet scientists were allegedly the first to confirm the incident. ‘According to our information, the encounter was reported immediately after the landing of the module,’ said Dr. Vladimir Azhazha, a physicist and Professor of Mathematics at Moscow University. ‘Neil Armstrong relayed the message to Mission Control that two large, mysterious objects were watching them after having landed near the moon module. But his message was never heard by the public-because NASA censored it.’

“According to another Soviet scientist, Dr. Aleksandr Kazantsev, Buzz Aldrin took color movie film of the UFOs from inside the module, and continued filming them after he and Armstrong went outside. Dr. Azhazha claims that the UFOs departed minutes after the astronauts came out on to the lunar surface.

“Maurice Chatelain also confirmed that Apollo 11's radio transmissions were interrupted on several occasions in order to hide the news from the public. Before dismissing Chatelain's sensational claims, it is worth noting his impressive background in the aerospace industry and space program. His first job after moving from France was as an electronics engineer with Convair, specializing in telecommunications, telemetry, and radar. In 1959 he was in charge of an electromagnetic research group, developing new radar and telecommunications systems for Ryan. One of his eleven patents was an automatic flights to the Moon. Later, at North American Aviation, Chatelain was offered the job of designing and building the Apollo communications and data-processing systems.

“Chatelain claims that ‘all Apollo and Gemini flights were followed, both at a distance and sometimes also quite closely, by space vehicles of extraterrestrial origin-flying saucers, or UFOs, if you want to call them by that name. Every time it occurred, the astronauts informed Mission Control, who then ordered absolute silence.’ He goes on to say:

“I think that Walter Schirra aboard Mercury 8 was the first of the astronauts to use the code name 'Santa Claus' to indicate the presence of flying saucers next to space capsules. However, his announcements were barely noticed by the general public.

“It was a little different when James Lovell on board the Apollo 8 command module came out from behind the moon and said for everybody to hear:


“Even though this happened on Christmas Day 1968, many people sensed a hidden meaning in those words."

NASA's Maurice Chatelain, moon whistleblower

NSA photos, documents of an extraterrestrial base on the dark side of the moon

Former USAF U.S. Sgt. Karl Wolfe, a Disclosure Project witness, describes photos, documents of extraterrestrial bases on the dark side of the moon that he witnessed at the NSA (National Security Agency), in the 1960s. One report states that “Sgt Wolfe was working with Tactical Air Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia in 1965. There, he was assigned to the lunar orbital project with the National Security Agency where he met an airman who confided in him that they had discovered bases in the far side of the moon.”

Sgt Wolfe’s Disclosure Project testimony, in which he states that he is willing to testify under oath before the U.S. Congress, can be seen in the video below.

One account states, “The airman told him (Wolfe) that all of the NASA photographs were sent to Langley, where they were enhanced, and eventually made into photographs to be sent to and studied by the different branches of the military. He was also told why security was of the utmost importance at the lab on this particular day-recent enhanced imagery had clearly shown structures on the far side of the Moon. These structures were definitely not created by natural forces-they were made by intelligent beings.

“’We discovered,’ the airman said, ‘a base on the back side of the Moon.’

Wolfe was in no way prepared for what he had just been told. When he airman saw Wolfe nearly shaking in disbelief, he reiterated:

“’Yes, a base on the dark side of the Moon.’

“Although Wolfe had not actually been told that some alien intelligence had made the aforementioned structures, who else could it have been? Although Russia had flown unmanned vessels around to the far side, no landing had been made, and the resources and technology needed to build a station there were far beyond that of Russia at the time. Had they made a landing on the Moon, the entire world would have known about it. And Wolfe knew America was still years from a Moon landing.

“His anxiety reached a new level. He was looking at, and being told about, something that he should not have seen or known about. He was actually afraid of being arrested and a court martial. He only wanted to finish his job, and get out of there, and forget the whole incident. He would finish the repair he was called to do, but he could never forget what he had seen that day at Langley. He would tell not a soul for 30 years.

“His release from the military also required that he not leave the United States for five years. This was a condition of his security status. He also was sworn to not reveal anything he had seen while performing his duties in the military. Wolfe would eventually put a report on what he had seen on video, which is now available on the Internet. There have also been several ex-NASA employees who have come forward telling of their experiences in air brushing structures out of NASA photographs of the Moon.”

NASA’s lunar bombing violates space law and must be stopped

NASA’s use of a 2-ton empty Centaur rocket as a kinetic weapon violates space law in multiple ways and must be stopped, in flight or in lunar orbit, which the LCROSS lunar orbiter reaches on Tuesday June 23, 2009.

The bombing of the moon with a kinetic weapon to create a 5 mile crater is a per se violation of the U.N. Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. has ratified, irrespective of its being designed as part of an experiment related to lunar colonization.

The U.N. Outer Space Treaty (Article III) provides that “States Parties to the Treaty shall carry on activities in the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.”

The Moon Treaty (Agreement Governing The Activities Of States On The Moon And Other Celestial Bodies (1979)) addresses and bans the specific activity bombing of the moon carried out unilaterally by the U.S. The Moon Treaty prohibits disruption of the environment of the Moon. The LCROSS bombing constitutes a disruption of the delicate balance of the lunar ecology. Article 7 of the Moon Treaty states:

Article 7 of the Moon Treaty

“1. In exploring and using the moon, States Parties shall take measures to
prevent the disruption of the existing balance of its environment whether
by introducing adverse changes in that environment, by its harmful
contamination through the introduction of extra-environmental matter or
otherwise. States Parties shall also take measures to avoid harmfully
affecting the environment of the earth through the introduction of
extraterrestrial matter or otherwise.

“2. States Parties shall inform the Secretary-General of the United
Nations of the measures being adopted by them in accordance with
paragraph 1 of this article and shall also, to the maximum extent
feasible, notify him in advance of all placements by them of radio-active
materials on the moon and of the purposes of such placements.

“3. States Parties shall report to other States Parties and to the
Secretary-General concerning areas of the moon having special scientific
interest in order that, without prejudice to the rights of other States
Parties, consideration may be given to the designation of such areas as
international scientific preserves for which special protective
arrangements are to be agreed upon in consultation with the competent
bodies of the United Nations.”

Although the U.S. has not ratified the Moon Treaty, 13 nations have, and it can be construed as a relevant international standard of what constitutes “international law” under the U.N. Outer Space Treaty.

Is NASA’s LCROSS bombing of the moon a camouflaged attack or attempt to impose moon sovereignty by the U.S.?

There is witnessed evidence, through the testimony of UASF SGT Karl Wolfe and through the statements of U.S. astronauts, NASA employees, former Soviet scientists that the U.S., and its agencies NASA and the NSA has had scientific evidence that the moon has extraterrestrial civilizations and present settlements on it for more than 40 years, since the 1960s.

The U.S. has not attempted any public, peaceful diplomacy with the civilizations on the moon. In fact, the U.S. has imposed an embargo on public knowledge that settlements and an extraterrestrial presence exist on the moon.

What is touted as a scientific experiment – the bombing of the moon – may in reality be an attempt to impose de facto U.S. sovereignty on the moon. Article II of the U.N. Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. has signed, states: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

Moreover, the LCROSS bombing of the moon may be an intentional hostile act by the U.S. (which has know the moon is inhabited for at least 40 years by other civilizations), a kind of “shot across the bow” to mark turf against other intelligent civilizations on the moon.

The U.N. Outer Space Treaty prohibits non-peaceful activities on the moon. Article IV states, “The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.”

NASA’s LCROSS bombing of the moon must be stopped, while the lunar orbiter is in orbit, before the bombing occurs on October 9, 2009.

For more info:
Space Preservation Treaty:

read more