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Friday, 17 October 2008

It's a hard knock life for NASA.

This time, don't blame it on the world crisis. It's just the politics of all the recent American administrations for cutting the finances of NASA. Correction, it's the politics of most world government, that use the science only for ideological wars and populsm, but keep the investments in the sector on the minimum. Why? Because the lack of money, means lack of educated people, the lack of educated people mean easy to manipulate people. It means cheap workforce and more money for the angry farmers and the military industry. And everyone is happy.
So, what we have today? First, Hubble is not being nice and keep breaking down messing up the plans for its unhappy existence. Oh, yeah, I love Hubble. I'm just mad they're not working on it enough. It's hard enough to get entire satellite done, you can at least repair it properly!
The second news is about a weird bill standing still on the Senate desk. It looks like some idiot decided US space agency should follow the idiotism of the administrations and its unbelievable relations with Russia. And finally Obama figured that if USA don't have a seat on Suyuz, it should simply forget about its space program.
The this news is a brither. It looks like Opportunity rover is going to have a nice driving on Mars. Cool, right? Just think of the fun to drive on Mars. Too bad missions have a weight limits. Enjoy!

  • Shuttle Mission to Telescope Is Moved to ’09
  • Spending Bill Would Resolve a Pressing NASA Concern
  • Mars Rover Heads to a New Crater

Shuttle Mission to Telescope Is Moved to ’09

Published: September 29, 2008

A problem that struck the Hubble Space Telescope on Saturday will delay the final space shuttle mission to service it, moving the launching from next month to next year, NASA officials said Monday.

A crew of seven astronauts was scheduled to blast off in the shuttle Atlantis on Oct. 14 for an 11-day visit to the telescope, which for 18 years has been beaming cosmic postcards to Earth from its orbital vantage point above the atmosphere.

During five spacewalks, the astronauts were set to install two new instruments and repair the telescope’s best camera and a spectrograph, both of which had electrical failures. They were also scheduled to replace the telescope’s batteries and gyroscopes, among other things.

But on Saturday, a channel on a control system known as the Hubble Control Unit/Science Data Formatter — which helps relay data to the ground — failed, causing the telescope to go into a “safe mode” and cease observations. Hubble’s managers expect that activating a backup channel will restore the telescope to service later this week.

But that will leave the telescope with no backup if the new channel stops working, so NASA would like to have the astronauts replace the failed control unit with a spare from the Goddard Space Flight Center.

In a telephone news conference with reporters on Monday evening, Preston Burch of Goddard, Hubble’s program manager, said the control unit hangs, attached by 10 bolts, on the inside door of a bay that the astronauts can access easily. With luck, it could be exchanged during a two-hour spacewalk, he said. “We think it’s a relatively straightforward activity.”

It is too soon to tell, the mission managers said, whether replacing the control unit will bump another activity from the servicing schedule. The mission’s five spacewalks are tightly packed with activities, but the lead astronaut, John M. Grunsfeld, has been able in training to complete the camera repair in one spacewalk instead of the scheduled two.

“This may be a doable thing, that we can have our cake and eat it too,” Mr. Burch said.

Understanding what went wrong, testing the spare unit, integrating its installation into the mission schedule and training the crew to install it will take several weeks or more, Mr. Burch said.

The Hubble mission cannot be launched until another shuttle, the Discovery, which is scheduled for a Feb. 12 trip to the space station, is ready to serve as the backup rescue shuttle. As a result, the flight will not take place before February 2009. source

Spending Bill Would Resolve a Pressing NASA Concern

Published: September 25, 2008

A little-noticed provision of a stopgap spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday could resolve one of the most pressing issues for the United States space program.

The $630 billion measure, which is known as a continuing resolution, will put off major spending and energy decisions into next year if it is passed by the Senate. It keeps government agencies functioning at current funding levels, and includes additional appropriations for the Pentagon, hurricane relief, veterans health care and other projects.

Among the provisions is one that allows the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to buy seats on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft until 2016. Without it, NASA would have been unable to buy passage aboard the Soyuz after the current Congressional permission to do so expires in 2011.

The Soyuz seats are critical to the space program because NASA plans to wind down the space shuttle program in 2010. The next generation of spacecraft will not be ready until 2015, at the earliest, under current plans. In order to continue reaching the International Space Station during the gap between the end of the old program and the beginning of the new, NASA plans to fly with the Russian space program.

A 2000 law — the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act — prohibits the government from making payments to Russia related to the International Space Station because of Russia’s sale of nuclear materials to Iran. Congress had passed a waiver to the law that allowed NASA to purchase Soyuz seats, but that waiver will expire in 2011. Since Soyuz spacecraft take a full three years to build, NASA needed quick action on a new waiver or risk losing access to the station three years from now when the old waiver expires.

Efforts to secure the new waiver, however, all but stalled after Russia invaded Georgia this year — an act that increased tensions between Russia and the United States. “The leadership hadn’t paid much attention to the issue,” said John Logsdon, an expert on space policy at the National Air and Space Museum.

A letter to Democratic leaders in Congress this week from Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, urged them to pass the waiver and retain access to the station. “Unless we act immediately,” he wrote, “the U.S. will abandon its role in supporting, and benefiting from, missions to this amazing facility.” source

Mars Rover Heads to a New Crater

Published: September 22, 2008

After two years exploring a half-mile-wide crater, NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity is heading for an even wider destination: a crater 13.7 miles wide. (Manhattan, at 13.4 miles long, would fit inside.)

Within the larger crater, named Endeavour, scientists expect that Opportunity would see deeper layers of rock, which would provide more information on the geological past of Mars. But to get there, the rover needs to drive about seven miles southeast. That would match its total driving distance since it landed in January 2004, and NASA warns that Opportunity might not make it.

“It’s a long shot,” said Steven W. Squyres, the principal investigator for Opportunity and its sister rover, Spirit, on the other side on Mars. “We’ve got 12 kilometers on the odometer and another 12 to go to get to this thing.”

At a pace of about 110 yards a day, and allowing time for obstacles, glitches and sightseeing, the trip could take two years. Opportunity has already far outlived its original mission target of three months.

But the journey itself has its own scientific rewards, Dr. Squyres said. In the geology of the region, plains known as Meridiani Planum, the top layers of exposed bedrock, are younger to the south, so the rover will get to see rocks it has not seen before. Also, the plains are strewn with potato-size rocks; examinations of a handful of these show them to be very different from the rocks of Meridiani Planum.

“We think they are pieces of ejecta, things that have been thrown from very distant craters,” Dr. Squyres said. The biggest craters in the area lie to the south. “Those are the most likely source of the cobbles,” Dr. Squyres said.

In its four and a half years on Mars, Opportunity has already explored three craters. By chance, it landed in a small crater. Then it headed to the stadium-size Endurance Crater, followed by the half-mile-wide Victoria Crater. It left Victoria Crater this month.

Meanwhile, the Spirit rover is still sitting still in Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars, conserving energy through the Martian winter. With the lengthening days of spring, Spirit is likely to resume its driving and exploration in a couple of months, Dr. Squyres said. source

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