segunda-feira, 31 de março de 2014
Astronauts to Test 'Touchy-Feely' Wearable Robot Joystick in Space
By Raphael Rosen, Space.com Contributor | March 29, 2014 09:00am ET
This summer, astronauts on the International Space Station will test an innovative wearable joystick that may someday allow humans to remotely control robots on other worlds.
The European Space Agency will launch a super-sensitive joystick, which agency officials described as "touchy-feely" in a project overview, to the space station to help engineers learn better ways to telerobotically operate a robot on a planet's surface. The astronauts will use the joystick and fill out questionnaires on its performance as part of a study on human motor control in long-term weightlessness.
"Future planetary exploration may well see robots on an alien surface being teleoperated by humans in orbit above them — close enough for real-time remote control, without any significant signal lag, to benefit from human resourcefulness without the expense and danger of a manned landing," ESA officials explained in a written.Because the laws of physics dictate that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the joystick apparatus must be attached to a body harness, which in turn is bolted to the inside of the station. If the joystick wasn't secured, moving it would cause the floating astronaut to careen around the room
Like many video games, the joystick will both resist the astronaut's motios
and create forces of its own, simulating the feeling of encountering objects on a moon or planet's surface. By conducting a series of tests, astronauts will help scientists understand how touch feedback feels in microgravity, and what happens to a person's motor control after prolonged periods of weightlessness.
This experiment will be the first time hardware will be put into orbit from METERON (short for Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotic Operations Network), a project operated by several countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, and Russia. METERON researches ways in which astronauts can teleoperate robotic craft from outer space."Getting the hardware to be extremely precise yet incredibly sturdy was the project's main challenge," André Schiele, head of ESA's Telerobotics and Haptics Laboratory, overseeing the experiment, said in a statement. "The resulting system can produce minute forces most people are not sensitive enough to feel, but astronauts could kick it and it will still work and respond correctly."
The joystick will be flown to the station aboard an unmanned Automated Transfer Vehicle, craft that the ESA uses to transport supplies, fuel, and experiments to the space station.
By the time you finish reading this story, you'll be about 1,000 km closer to the planet Mars. Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter. As March gives way to April, the distance between the two planets is shrinking by about 300 km every minute. When the convergence ends in mid-April, the gulf between Earth and Mars will have narrowed to only 92 million km--a small number on the vast scale of the solar system. Astronomers call this event an "opposition of Mars" because Mars and the Sun are on opposite sides of the sky. Mars rises in the east at sunset, and soars almost overhead at midnight, shining burnt-orange almost 10 times brighter than a 1st magnitude star.
Oppositions of Mars happen every 26 months. Of a similar encounter in the 19th century, astronomer Percival Lowell wrote that "[Mars] blazes forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself."
In other words, it's really easy to see.
|Mars, photographed on March 6, 2014, by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley using a 16-inch telescope. Credit: Anthony Wesley|
There are two dates of special significance:
April 8th is the date of opposition, when Mars, Earth, and the sun are arranged in a nearly-straight line.
If the orbits of Mars and Earth were perfectly circular, April 8th would also be the date of closest approach. However, planetary orbits are elliptical--that is, slightly egg-shaped--so the actual date of closest approach doesn't come until almost a week later.
On April 14th, Earth and Mars are at their minimum distance: 92 million km, a 6+ month flight for NASA's speediest rockets. You won't have any trouble finding Mars on this night. The full Moon will be gliding by the Red Planet in the constellation Virgo, providing a can't-miss "landmark" in the midnight sky.
Remarkably, on the same night that Mars is closest to Earth, there will be a total lunar eclipse. The full Moon of April 14-15 will turn as red as the Red Planet itself. A video from Science@NASA has the details.
Although these dates are special, any clear night in April is a good time to look at Mars. It will be easy to see with the unaided eye even from brightly-lit cities. With a modest backyard telescope, you can view the rusty disk of Mars as well as the planet's evaporating north polar cap, which has been tipped toward the sun since Martian summer began in February. Experienced astro-photographers using state-of-the-art digital cameras can tease out even more—for example, dust storms, orographic clouds over Martian volcanoes, and icy fogs in the great Hellas impact basin. The view has been described by some observers as "Hubblesque."
Update: You're now 1000 km closer to Mars.
Mars One on Thursday announced the launch of a simulation project to replicate the future Mars human outpost here on Earth. The construction process of the first simulation outpost will begin soon. The outpost will be used for training selected astronauts and teams. The main purpose of an early version outpost is for potential crew members to gain early experience in the actual environment which will become their home on Mars. “We are very eager to get started constructing actual hardware for our mission that is important for training future Mars One crews and preparing them for their life on Mars. We are going from theory to practice.” said Bas Lansdorp, Mars One co-founder.
Mars One has plans to eventually create multiple simulation outposts in different locations for easier training logistics and diverse realism exposure. The early version outpost will not contain an actual life support system immediately, but will be fitted with such systems later.
Newly added team member Kristian von Bengtson will be leading the outpost project from Denmark. He will also be leading the search for potential construction companies and major sponsors who would like the be a part of this outpost project.
“Finally getting started on the outpost project is incredibly exciting and I am looking forward to replacing images with real life hardware. I think a lot of people are looking forward to opening the hatches of the outpost modules and taking the next step in the mission. I know I am.” Von Bengtson said.
The final location of the first simulation outpost has not yet been decided.
sábado, 29 de março de 2014
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Little Philae is awake! ESA sent a wake-up call to the 100-kg (220-lb) lander riding aboard the Rosetta spacecraft this morning at 06:00 GMT, bringing it out of its nearly 33-month-long slumber and beginning its preparation for its upcoming (and historic) landing on the surface of a comet in November.
Crucial Radar Outage Scrubs US National Security and SpaceX Launches for Several Weeks from Cape Canaveral
by KEN KREMER on MARCH 28, 2014
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – The sudden and unexpected outage of a crucial tracking radar that is mandatory to insure public safety, has forced the scrub of a pair of launches planned for this week from Cape Canaveral, FL, that are vital to US National Security, United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and NASA.
The tracking radar is an absolutely essential asset for the Eastern Range that oversees all launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center on the Florida Space Coast.
The pair of liftoffs for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and SpaceX/NASA had been slated just days apart on March 25 and March 30.
Urgent repairs are in progress.
Both launches have now been postponed for a minimum of 3 weeks, according to a statement I received from the 45th Space Wing of the US Air Force that controls the critical launch control systems, communications, computers and radar elements.
An Atlas V rocket carrying the super secret NROL-67 intelligence gathering spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office and a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo freightor bound for the International Space Station (ISS) were both in the midst of the final stages of intensive pre-launch processing activities this week.
The Eastern range radar was apparently knocked out by a fire on March 24, a short time after the early morning rollout of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral.
“An investigation revealed a tracking radar experienced an electrical short, overheating the unit and rendering it inoperable,” according to today’s explanatory statement from the USAF 45th Space Wing.
“The outage resulted in an inability to meet minimum public safety requirements needed for flight, so the launch was postponed.”
A SpaceX spokesperson likewise confirmed to me that their launch was also on hold.
Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/110758/crucial-radar-outage-scrubs-us-national-security-and-spacex-launches-for-several-weeks-from-cape-canaveral/#ixzz2xMxtZIGP
sexta-feira, 28 de março de 2014
Arianespace and Roscosmos Set to Launch Seven Soyuz Spaceships from Kourou
Russia will deliver seven Soyuz spaceships for the launch from Kourou in French Guiana. The relevant agreement was fixed in a joint programme of Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos and France’s Arianespace, the world-leading supplier of commercial launch services, for 2016-2019, source told Itar-Tass on Tuesday. “In general, the agreement has already been initialled. At present, some details have to be finalized,” the source said.
“The talks have been underway for more than a year and their participants have no intention to abandon the goals they have set. The sides consciously did not mix politics and space research,” the source said, reminding of the situation around Ukraine.
“It is not ruled out that the dates will be corrected,” the source said, adding that initially it was planned to sign the document in April.
The first launch of a Soyuz spacecraft from the Kourou launch site took place in autumn 2011. Four launches are scheduled for 2014. On April 4, a Soyuz-St rocket will take into space Sentinel-1A, an Earth observation satellite, from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana.
quarta-feira, 26 de março de 2014
NASA Hosts Deep Space Network Social Media Event
March 25, 2014
About 50 people from 11 U.S. states will attend a two-day NASA Social, to be held April 1 at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and April 2 at NASA's Deep Space Network complex in Goldstone, Calif.
The attendees, who follow NASA and JPL on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks, will be provided a unique, in-person experience, which they are encouraged to share with others through their favorite social networks. They were selected from nearly 500 people who registered online last month. Participants represent California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
On April 1 at JPL, attendees will be based inside the Space Flights Operations Facility, which is the mission control center of NASA's Deep Space Network. That's where engineers communicate with spacecraft across the solar system. Tour stops will include the Spacecraft Assembly Facility, where hardware for upcoming missions is under construction, and the Mars Yard, where engineering models of NASA's Curiosity rover are tested in a sandy, Mars-like environment.
On April 2, participants will attend the Deep Space Network's 50th anniversary celebration at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex near Barstow in California's Mojave Desert. The tour will include Apollo Valley, site of the historic Apollo antenna; Mars Valley, home of the 70-meter Mars antenna; and the Spacecraft Operations Control Center.
NASA Television will broadcast a portion of the NASA Social on April 1 starting at 9:30 a.m. PDT (12:30 p.m. EDT) at: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv and http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2 .
To join and track the conversation online during the NASA Social, follow the hashtags #NASASocial and #DSN50.
More information about connecting and collaborating with NASA is at: http://www.nasa.gov/connect
More information about the Deep Space Network is at: http://deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov
The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.
Courtney O'Connor 818-354-2274
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
John Yembrick/Jason Townsend 650-604-2065 / 202-358-0359
NASA Headquarters, Washington
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
John Yembrick/Jason Townsend 650-604-2065 / 202-358-0359
NASA Headquarters, Washington
email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Search for Seeds of Black Holes
March 26, 2014
How do you grow a supermassive black hole that is a million to a billion times the mass of our sun? Astronomers do not know the answer, but a new study using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has turned up what might be the cosmic seeds from which a black hole will sprout. The results are helping scientists piece together the evolution of supermassive black holes -- powerful objects that dominate the hearts of all galaxies.
Growing a black hole is not as easy as planting a seed in soil and adding water. The massive objects are dense collections of matter that are literally bottomless pits; anything that falls in will never come out. They come in a range of sizes. The smallest, only a few times greater in mass than our sun, form from exploding stars. The biggest of these dark beasts, billions of times the mass of our sun, grow together with their host galaxies over time, deep in the interiors. But how this process works is an ongoing mystery.
Researchers using WISE addressed this question by looking for black holes in smaller, "dwarf" galaxies. These galaxies have not undergone much change, so they are more pristine than their heavier counterparts. In some ways, they resemble the types of galaxies that might have existed when the universe was young, and thus they offer a glimpse into the nurseries of supermassive black holes.
In this new study, using data of the entire sky taken by WISE in infrared light, up to hundreds of dwarf galaxies have been discovered in which buried black holes may be lurking. Infrared light, the kind that WISE collects, can see through dust, unlike visible light, so it's better able to find the dusty, hidden black holes. The researchers found that the dwarf galaxies' black holes may be about 1,000 to 10,000 times the mass of our sun -- larger than expected for these small galaxies.
"Our findings suggest the original seeds of supermassive black holes are quite massive themselves," said Shobita Satyapal of George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. Satyapal is lead author of a paper published in the March issue of Astrophysical Journal.
Daniel Stern, an astronomer specializing in black holes at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who was not a part of the new study, says the research demonstrates the power of an all-sky survey like WISE to find the rarest black holes. "Though it will take more research to confirm whether the dwarf galaxies are indeed dominated by actively feeding black holes, this is exactly what WISE was designed to do: find interesting objects that stand out from the pack."
The new observations argue against one popular theory of black hole growth, which holds that the objects bulk up in size through galaxy collisions. When our universe was young, galaxies were more likely to crash into others and merge. It is possible the galaxies' black holes merged too, accumulating more mass. In this scenario, supermassive black holes grow in size through a series of galaxy mergers.
The discovery of dwarf galaxy black holes that are bigger than expected suggests that galaxy mergers are not necessary to create big black holes. Dwarf galaxies don't have a history of galactic smash-ups, and yet their black holes are already relatively big.
Instead, supermassive black holes might form very early in the history of the universe. Or, they might grow harmoniously with their host galaxies, feeding off surrounding gas.
"We still don't know how the monstrous black holes that reside in galaxy centers formed," said Satyapal. "But finding big black holes in tiny galaxies shows us that big black holes must somehow have been created in the early universe, before galaxies collided with other galaxies."
Other authors of the study include: N.J. Secrest, W. McAlpine and J.L. Rosenberg of George Mason University; S.L. Ellison of the University of Victoria, Canada; and J. Fischer of the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington.
WISE was put into hibernation upon completing its primary mission in 2011. In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission to assist NASA's efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects. NEOWISE will also characterize previously known asteroids and comets to better understand their sizes and compositions.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages and operates the NEOWISE mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The WISE mission was selected competitively under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah. The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
More information on WISE and NEOWISE can be found online at:
Un equipo internacional de astrónomos descubrió anillos alrededor del Asteroide Chariklo, informó hoy el Observatorio Europeo del Sur (ESO). Se trata del primer asteroide con anillos hallado hasta el presente, convirtiéndose en el único objeto en adición a los planetas gaseosos Júpiter, Saturno, Urano y Neptuno, que tiene anillos a su alrededor.
“El hallazgo fue una sorpresa y anticipamos que los resultados ocasionarán aún más interrogantes y debates”, señalaron los científicos. Preliminarmente se entiende que los anillos pudieron haberse formado como resultado de alguna colisión del asteroide con otra roca espacial.
El astrónomo Felipe Braga-Ribas, del Observatorio Nacional de Río de Janeiro en Brazil dijo que el descubrimiento se hizo mediante observaciones desde telescopios en siete localidades de América del Sur, incluyendo dos telescopios en La Silla, en Chile.
La Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe (SAC) indicó que Chariklo, originalmente descubierto en el año 1997, es un enorme asteroide que mide cerca de 160 millas (258 km) de diámetro y orbita entre Saturno y Urano.
(Ilustración por Observatorio Europeo del Sur)