Google+ SpaceTravelFoundation: 2015

December 10, 2015

Do you think that you can land the Space X Falcon lander ? Go ahead !

Dear reader and followers,

it is super hard to land a rocket on a platform in the middle of an ocean. Elon Musk has had to learn that the hard way, and now, you too can experience the crushing disappointment of trying to land the SpaceX Falcon 9 lander, thanks to a new internet game (completely unaffiliated with SpaceX). The game is simple; choose a level with your space bar, and use the arrow keys to gently guide the rocket onto the tiny floating platform before you run out of fuel. Or hit the ocean. Or hit the platform and explode violently. You could also succeed, but only if you are a secret genius/wizard.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Lander is a fun twist on the classic Lunar Lander game that has you trying to perfectly balance thrust, rotation, descent, and your remaining fuel to safely land a rocket ship back on a floating platform.
Playing it is slightly less stressful than trying to land the real Falcon 9 since you’re not out millions of dollars every time you crash–but only just. If you’re looking for a way to relax and kill some time this afternoon, this isn’t it. But if you want to feel as frustrated as Elon Musk does, definitely give it a shot. 

Due to the hardness to land in the middle of the ocean, Space X change its approach, next time a SpaceX rocket touches down, it will be on solid ground. Actually, After its next launch, SpaceX hopes to fly a Falcon 9 booster back to a landing site on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, making its first attempt to bring a booster down on land rather than on a platform in the ocean.

Play the game here. Good luck!

December 3, 2015

Space X plans to land these rockets at Cape Canaveral instead of on an ocean platform

Dear readers and followers,

Next time a SpaceX rocket touches down, it will be on solid ground. Actually, After its next launch, SpaceX hopes to fly a Falcon 9 booster back to a landing site on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, making its first attempt to bring a booster down on land rather than on a platform in the ocean.

SpaceX has attempted to land a rocket gently before, but those attempts were made on giant floating platforms in the ocean (which just missed). Then, last week, competitor Blue Origin managed to land it's own reusable rocket safely on the ground, amping up the public pressure on SpaceX to successfully land their own rocket.

Since one of their rockets exploded in June, SpaceX has been grounded as they troubleshoot. The company is also upgrading their rockets with new engines that can carry heavier loads.

SpaceX's next launch could happen in the coming week, as early as December 15th 2016, but that remains unconfirmed.

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August 21, 2015

NASA shares its technologies with Hollywood for the movies The Martian

Dear readers and followers,

NASA explained the science behind nine real NASA technologies featured in Ridley Scott’s new film The Martian. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Andy Weir, the upcoming film stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a botanist accidentally left for dead on Mars.

Credit image: Nuevemonos

“The Martian” merges the fictional and factual narratives about Mars, building upon the work NASA and others have done exploring Mars and moving it forward into the 2030s, when NASA astronauts are regularly traveling to Mars and living on the surface to explore. Although the action takes place 20 years in the future, NASA is already developing many of the technologies that appear in the film.

  • The habitat: On the surface of Mars, Watney spends a significant amount of time in the habitation module, called the Hab, his home away from home. Future astronauts who land on Mars will need such a home to avoid spending their Martian sols lying on the dust in a spacesuit.
    At NASA Johnson Space Center, crews train for long-duration deep space missions in the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA). HERA is a self-contained environment that simulates a deep-space habit. The two-story habitat is complete with living quarters, workspaces, a hygiene module and a simulated airlock. Within the module, test subjects conduct operational tasks, complete payload objectives and live together for 14 days (soon planned to increase to up to 60 days), simulating future missions in the isolated environment. Astronauts have recently used the facility to simulate ISS missions. These research analogs provide valuable data in human factors, behavioral health and countermeasures to help further NASA’s understanding on how to conduct deep space operations.

  • The rover: once humans land on the surface of Mars, they must stay there for more than a year, while the planets move into a position that will minimize the length of their trip home. This allows the astronauts plenty of time to conduct experiments and explore the surrounding area, but they won’t want to be limited to how far they can go on foot. Astronauts will have to use robust, reliable and versatile rovers to travel farther. In "The Martian," Watney takes his rover for quite a few spins, and he even has to outfit the vehicle with some unorthodox modifications to help him survive. Here, the rover should be more bigger than Curiosity, the NASA's rover or Yutu the Chinese's rover.
    On Earth today, NASA is working to prepare for every encounter with the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). The MMSEV has been used in NASA’s analog mission projects to help solve problems that the agency is aware of and to reveal some that may be hidden. The technologies are developed to be versatile enough to support missions to an asteroid, Mars, its moons and other missions in the future. NASA’s MMSEV has helped address issues like range, rapid entry/exit and radiation protection. Some versions of the vehicle have six pivoting wheels for maneuverability. In the instance of a flat tire, the vehicle simply lifts up the bad wheel and keeps on rolling.

More technology have been shared, such as: plant farm, water recovery, oxygen generation, Mars spacesuit, ion propulsion, solar panel, ....

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August 19, 2015

Launch of the Japanese supply spaceship to ISS today

Dear readers and followers,

Japan will launch its robotic HTV-5 cargo vessel toward the International Space Station on Wednesday morning, August 19th at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT). You can watch the liftoff live in the window below, courtesy of NASA TV. Coverage begins at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT). If all goes according to plan, HTV-5 will arrive at the space station next Monday morning, August 24th 2015.

The HTV is one of four robotic spacecraft that currently resupply the space station, along with Russia's Progress freighter and the Dragon and Cygnus vehicles, which are built by American companies SpaceX and Orbital ATK, respectively. The HTV, Progress and Cygnus are designed to burn up in Earth's atmosphere at the end of their cargo missions, while Dragon makes a parachute-aided splashdown in the ocean when its time in space is done.

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June 16, 2015

OneWeb selects Airbus to build 900 Internet satellites

Dear readers and followers,

Airbus Defense and Space and OneWeb, a startup backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and wireless tech giant Qualcomm, announced Monday plans to set up a joint venture for the construction of 900 Internet broadcasting satellites for launches beginning in 2018. Each OneWeb satellite will weigh less than 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and will begin launching in 2018. The satellites will fly in orbits about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) above Earth. OneWeb’s constellation will consist of 648 operational satellites. The rest of the spacecraft will be spares on the ground or in orbit.

Credit image: Oneweb

OneWeb’s selection of Airbus comes after a competition among U.S. and European satellite manufacturers to win the lucrative deal to construct the largest fleet of spacecraft ever launched. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Airbus officials said it requires the company to scale up its satellite manufacturing business to complete construction of up to four spacecraft per day.

In a statement, Airbus and OneWeb officials said the European contractor’s experience with assembly line production of airliners will help establish the rapid cadence of satellite integration required to meet OneWeb’s ambitious launch schedule. Airbus and OneWeb said the first 10 satellites will be produced at the Airbus plant in Toulouse, France. The remaining 890 satellites will be assembled at an undisclosed site in the United States.

The companies announced the partnership in conjunction with the Paris Air Show:

- “Combining the innovation and large volume manufacturing techniques from its A350 aircraft production, with a rich history of building extremely reliable high performance space systems, Team Airbus will help us deliver the OneWeb system on time, providing reliable connectivity for our customers,” said Brian Holz, head of space systems at OneWeb. “We look forward to working with Airbus Defense and Space in order to bring to bear the best resources around the globe for achieving affordable Internet access for everyone.”

- “This partnership is a fantastic new chapter in our space story,” said Francois Auque, head of space systems at Airbus Defense and Space. “Teaming with OneWeb with a requirement to produce several small satellites each day has inspired us to develop innovative designs and processes that will dramatically lower the cost in large volumes for high performance space applications.”

Airbus Defense and Space’s core satellite business is in building large one-off communications and Earth imaging spacecraft spacecraft. The company has a base satellite platform, but each production unit is tailored to the needs of its customer.

OneWeb officials said earlier this year the company would place launch contracts after selecting a satellite manufacturer. Launch providers from the United States and Europe, such as a new air-launched rocket under development by Branson’s Virgin Galactic, are thought to be in contention for OneWeb deals. Established by telecom entrepreneur Greg Wyler and based in Britain’s Channel Islands, OneWeb plans to deploy the satellites into 20 orbital planes around Earth for global coverage. The satellite Internet signals will supply private consumers, businesses, schools, and hospitals with broadband connectivity through small ground user terminals, which can connect nearby phones, computers and other devices with the Internet, according to OneWeb. The network will provide more than 10 terabits per second of new capacity to underserved areas around the world and extend the reach of mobile phone networks and Internet service providers, OneWeb officials said.

Before splitting off to launch OneWeb, Wyler founded O3b Networks to beam backhaul broadband services to rural areas. O3b has 12 satellites in orbit today, and telecom companies from Pacific island nations and Africa are among O3b’s initial customers. O3b is backed by Google, HSBC and satellite operator SES. Wyler joined Google from O3b, then left last year to work on OneWeb.

“The constellation is a communications system to bring Internet access to the world,” Wyler said in a promotional video posted on YouTube by Airbus. “The fundamental mission is to enable affordable access to the emerging markets. Just about half the world has limited to no communications at all. It’s a big project, but OneWeb is designed to bring Internet access right to the schools, and right to places in the most rural of environments, high-speed Internet access: 50 megabits per second at 30 milliseconds latency.”

Google confirmed in February a $900 million investment in SpaceX to support innovation in space transportation, reusability and satellite manufacturing. Armed with fresh Google funding, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk in January announced a plan to field a 4,000-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit for global Internet service, with initial operations expected within five years. Musk said SpaceX will build its own satellites at a new manufacturing center in Redmond, Washington, keeping with the company’s penchant for in-house hardware production. Large satellite fleets have met trouble in the past. An 840-satellite constellation named Teledesic went bust in 2002 before its first launch, even with the backing of Bill Gates, cell phone tycoon Craig McCaw and Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

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June 12, 2015

Private space mining company supported by Google founders is ready for an amazing 2015 year

Dear readers and followers,

you might know the company Planetary Resource, formerly known as Arkyd Astronautics, is an American company that was formed in November 2010, and reorganized and renamed in 2012. Their stated goal is to "expand Earth's natural resource base" by developing and deploying the technologies for asteroid mining. Backers includes Google co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, but also other well known people such as James Cameron.

Their co-Founders Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson often refer to this time in history as being “exponential”. This phrase is ringing true with their team this year, as they forge a path towards asteroid prospecting with two launches in 2015 of their technology demonstration spacecraft!

The first of these spacecraft launched successfully into space today. The Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) technology demonstration spacecraft is on board the SpaceX Falcon 9 that is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) as a part of the CRS-6 crew resupply mission.

Once it reaches the ISS, A3R will be brought on board by the astronauts, and be put in a queue for launch from the Kibo air-lock into low-Earth Orbit tentatively in July 2015. A3R will also complete the mission of the first Arkyd 3 that they lost last year in the Antares explosion, by testing the subsystems they’ll need to venture out into the Solar System and prospect for valuable resources on asteroids.

During its 90 day Earth-orbiting mission, it will send back data on the health of its subsystems to their team at their headquarters in Redmond, WA, and complete its mission with a fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere as a result of its natural atmospheric orbital-decay.

They’ve learned so much with A3 and A3R on the way to the launch pad and are extremely excited to continue to learn from its performance in Earth orbit.

Keeping with exponential theme of 2015, the private company is launching a 2nd spacecraft later this year, that will be twice the size and even more capable. In parallel with A3R, Planetary resource has been working on a line of robust Arkyd 6U ScienceCraft that they’ll use not only to test the scientific instruments and deep space technologies at the heart of their asteroid prospecting missions, but to also provide a platform that will allow others to fly their mission with their technology.

Credit image: Planetary Resource

Arkyd 6 (A6), will be the first of these missions to launch, and Planetary resource is contracted with Spaceflight Services, Inc. to launch in a ride share configuration with Formosat-5, currently scheduled in December 2015. Built in compliance with the 6U CubeSat standard and designed to accommodate one of their UV, hyperspectral or MWIR instruments, it is a modular and cost-efficient spacecraft that they are making available for technologists and science investigators to further their own research, whether it be in Earth orbit or deep space. The precision pointing capability, high bandwidth communications, and flexible architecture of their Science-craft provides a robust platform for anyone conducting space research and development, without having to build their own space system.

Planetary resource is composed by a team of scientists and engineers who believe that lowering the barriers to the scientific exploration of space is an important step along the path to expanding humanity’s reach into the Solar System. With their Science-craft program, Planetary Resources is working with their science partners at every step of the discovery process, from proposal to publication, to maximize scientific return.

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June 9, 2015

LDSD flight complete and NASA discussed status of test Mars landing

Dear readers and followers,

last week we announced you that +NASA was ready for its its second flight test of Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator.

This first of three LDSD flights will determine the flying qualities of the test vehicle. As a bonus, the flight plan also includes deployment of two new technologies -- an inflatable device and mammoth parachute. However, those landing technologies are not officially scheduled to be tested until next summer, in two additional LDSD flights.

Yesterday NASA released status report of the test flight. NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project completed its second flight test when the saucer-shaped craft splashed down safely Monday in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. A post-flight media teleconference will be held at 1 p.m. EDT/7a.m., Tuesday, June 9th to review the test.

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at:

Credit image: +NASA 

Two experimental decelerator technologies – a supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator and a supersonic parachute – were tested. The supersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator deployed and inflated. The supersonic parachute also deployed; however, it did not perform as expected. Data were obtained on the performance of both innovative braking technologies, and the teams are beginning to study the data.

June 2, 2015

NASA is ready for its second flight test of Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator

Dear readers and followers,

The second flight test of +NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) is expected today, Tuesday, June 2nd, The flight test is a launch of a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. At launch time, a giant balloon will carry the test vehicle to an altitude of about 36 km. 
Credit image: +NASA 

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April 24, 2015

Ariane 5 ready for Arianespace’s upcoming heavy-lift mission

Dear reader and followers,

Arianespace has delivered another Ariane 5 to the launch zone at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, positioning this workhorse heavy-lift vehicle for tomorrow’s flight with a pair of telecommunications satellites: THOR 7 and SICRAL 2.

The Ariane 5 rolled out yesterday from the Spaceport’s Final Assembly Building to the ELA-3 launch zone, where it is scheduled for liftoff during a launch window that opens on April 24th at 4:38 p.m. local time in French Guiana, or 9:38 Paris time.

Credit image: Ariane Space

For this 78th overall flight of an Ariane 5, the payload lift performance is estimated at 9,850 kg. – which includes a combined total of some 9,000 kg for the two satellites, plus the launcher’s dual-passenger dispenser system and integration hardware.

Riding as the upper passenger in Ariane 5’s payload arrangement is THOR 7, which will be released at approximately 28 minutes into the mission. The spacecraft was built by SSL (Space Systems/Loral) for Telenor Satellite Broadcasting, and will operate from an orbital position of .8 deg. West.

THOR 7 is to serve the maritime sector, delivering high-powered coverage over the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Red Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. Also incorporated in this relay platform is a Ku-band payload for broadcast and television services in Central and Eastern Europe.

SICRAL 2 is a military telecommunications satellite developed in the framework of a turnkey contract that the Italian Defense Ministry and the French DGA armament agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement) have with Thales Alenia Space Italy; while Telespazio is responsible for the launch service. It will be deployed from Ariane 5’s lower passenger position at approximately 34 minutes after liftoff – completing the mission.

After the deployment by Ariane 5, SICRAL 2 – offering a design life of 15 years – will provide strategic and tactical telecommunications links for French and Italian military forces, as well as reserve capacity for other NATO nations.

Tomorrow’s Ariane 5 launch is designated VA222, signifying the 222nd liftoff of an Ariane-series vehicle since 1979. It also will mark Arianespace’s third flight in 2015 with a launcher from its three-member family – following the medium-lift Soyuz mission on March 27 that orbited two European Galileo FOC (Full Operational Capability) navigation satellites, and February 11’s lightweight Vega suborbital flight with Europe’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) spaceplane.

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April 20, 2015

Asteroid size of Statue of Liberty 'on collision course with Earth

Dear readers and followers,

an astronomer has claimed an asteroid the size of the Statue of Liberty is on a collision course with earth. Dr Judit Györgyey-Ries, astronomer at the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory, believes the giant rock could create a huge impact when it reaches earth in around October 2017.

Scientists estimate Asteroid 2012 TC4 is around 40 meters wide and could cause even more chaos than the one which hospitalised more than 1,200 people when it exploded over Russia in February 2013 .

Dr Györgyey-Ries told astronomy website "We could see an airburst maybe broken windows, depending on where it hits.

The giant asteroid narrowly missed earth in October 2012 when it passed 94,800 km away. Detlef Koschny, head of the near-earth object segment at the +European Space Agency, ESA , said: "There is a one in a million chance that it could hit us.

"The size was estimated from the brightness, but we don't know the reflectivity. So it could be smaller or larger, assume from 10 to 40 metres.

"A 40m iron object would go through the atmosphere and make a crater; a 10m rocky object would hardly be noticed."

Shock waves from the Russia airburst smashed windows, rattled buildings, and knocked people off their feet, more than 1,200 of whom attended hospital.

Researchers visiting villages in the area found a region of shock-wave damage extending some 50 miles on either side of the meteor's trajectory path.

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April 13, 2015

SpaceX just released some gorgeous 4K rocket launch footage

Dear readers and followers,

As if watching rockets going to space wasn't already awesome, +SpaceX  just released a two-minute supercut of 4K footage of its Falcon 9 rocket launches. It's got some slow-motion footage, some HDR-style footage, and lots of different angles of a vehicle that is capable of producing a million pounds of thrust. All of it is beautiful, even if it's accompanied by an unnecessarily loud techno track that covers up the thrilling sound of a rocket taking off.

  Credit video: +SpaceX

Coincidentally, SpaceX has another Falcon 9 launch scheduled for today. After the rocket helps deliver cargo to the +International Space Station, the company will once again attempt to land its reusable Falcon 9 on an autonomous drone ship at sea; something it has unsuccessfully tried twice. No pressure. 
Credit image: +SpaceX 

SpaceX intends to build a vertical launch area and control center to support 12 commercial launches per year.

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March 20, 2015

March 20th Eclipse from Warwickshire in UK

Dear reader and follower,

I hope you enjoyed the eclipse this morning, please find this picture taken this morning from Warwickshire, UK, even with the bad weather. 

The eclipse has been also from space by +European Space Agency, ESA using the Proba2 satellite

Credit image: ESA

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March 2, 2015

Military weather spy satellite apparently exploded in orbit

Dear readers and followers,

A 20-year-old military weather satellite apparently exploded in orbit February. 3rd 2015 following what the U.S. Air Force described as a sudden temperature spike. The “catastrophic event” produced 43 pieces of space debris, according to Air Force Space Command, which disclosed the loss of the satellite on February 27th 2015. 

Credit image: US air force

The satellite, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13, was the oldest continuously operational satellite in the DMSP weather constellation. Launched in 1995, DMSP-F13 provided thousands of hours of weather imagery to Air Force and Navy forecasters before transitioning to a backup role in 2006. The Air Force said its sudden loss would have minimal impact. DMSP-F13 flew in a 800 kilometers sun-synchronous polar orbit popular for weather and spy satellites.

“Because this satellite was no longer used by the National Weather Service or the Air Force Weather Agency, the impact of the loss of this satellite is minimal,” the Air Force said. “We anticipate real-time weather data for tactical users will be slightly reduced without this satellite, but its data was not being used for weather forecast modeling.”

The Air Force still has six DMSP satellites in service following the launch last April of DMSP-F19. A seventh satellite, DMSP-F20, was under consideration for a 2016 launch as recently as November.

Air Force Space Command said DMSP-F13’s power subsystem experienced “a sudden spike in temperature” followed by “an unrecoverable loss of attitude control.” As DMSP operators were deciding to “render the vehicle safe” the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, identified a debris field near the satellite. The Air Force said it is continuing to track the debris and will issue conjunction warnings if necessary.

“While the initial response is complete, JSpOC personnel will continue to assess this event to learn more about what happened and what it will mean for users within this orbit,” said Air Force Col. John Giles, the Joint Space Operations Center’s director.

The first public indication of a problem with DMSP-F13 came from T.S. Kelso, a senior research astrodynamicist for Analytical Graphics’ Center for Space Standards and Innovation in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who noted Feb. 25 that there had been “another debris event with 26 new pieces” in addition to five previously cataloged DMSP-F13 objects.

Source: Space news

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February 18, 2015

Mystery haze found on Mars surprises scientists

Dear readers and followers,

Enormous cloud-like plumes reaching 260 kilometers above the surface of Mars have left scientists baffled. This is way beyond Mars’ normal weather, reaching into the exosphere where the atmosphere merges with interplanetary space. None of the conventional explanations for such clouds make sense, neither water or carbon dioxide ice nor dust storms nor auroral light emissions usually hit such heights.

These “mystery clouds” came as a surprise, in particular when considering they were first spotted by a string of amateur astronomers in 2012. After all, an international fleet of five orbiters and two rovers is currently operating on and around Mars, and one may be excused thinking the red planet has little left to hide and its exploration has become routine.

A survey of images from the +Hubble Space Telescope and amateur astronomers revealed massive clouds had been seen on Mars before, but none as prominent as the 2012 observations.

Perhaps these clouds could be aurorae, similar to the northern lights (aurora borealis) here on Earth, or their southern counterpart aurora australis. These displays happen when the Earth’s magnetic field channels charged particles emitted by the Sun towards the poles, where they interact with the atmosphere and emit light.

Mars does not have a global magnetic field, only pockets of magnetization. The mystery clouds were spotted over one of these so-called magnetic anomalies, and auroral lights have been observed there previously.

However, to explain the 2012 observations, an aurora would have had to be 1,000 times brighter than the northern lights. This would require an increased flow of charged particles from the sun, but its activity was not unusually high during the time. Could dust be the culprit? A volcanic eruption or an asteroid impact were among the earliest theories about these clouds’ origin. New eruptions on Mars are plausible, though we’re yet to observe any active volcanoes on the planet. The youngest lava flows reported are a few million to tens of million years old, which is recent in geological terms.

Mars’ thin atmosphere offers little protection against asteroids, and its surface is pockmarked with impact craters. Cameras on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have documented the appearance of hundreds of new craters in the nine years since the spacecraft arrived at Mars.

However, both theories were quickly discarded because they were inconsistent with the behavior of the clouds. Continued observations showed that they disappeared during the Martian daytime, were not visible in the evening, and reappeared each morning for at least ten consecutive days.

This also rules out dust storms, which frequently engulf large areas of the planet’s surface. Furthermore, the wavelength profile of the light reflected by the mystery clouds is a poor match for Martian dust particles. That leaves water or carbon dioxide ice particles, which fit the wavelength profile of the reflected light. Both water and carbon dioxide molecules also occur naturally in the atmosphere at these heights.

However, to form these clouds both substances would need to condense into ice particles. This would require the atmospheric temperature at these heights to drop suddenly by up to 100˚C. We’ve no idea what would cause such a drop, and we’re yet to spot such a massive, localized cold snap.

Sánchez-Lavega and colleagues thus declare that their “explanations defy our current understanding of Mars’ upper atmosphere” and their investigation only partially lifts the shroud surrounding these mysterious clouds.

High altitude clouds are not the only Martian mysteries keeping researchers on their toes. One question driving the exploration of the red planet is whether there has ever been life on Mars. Latest results by NASA’s Curiosity rover reaffirm that the planet provided habitable conditions in its past.

Water is the most important prerequisite for life. One explanation for the ongoing formation of gullies and related features, for example, is liquid water at or near the Martian surface even during the currently prevailing extreme dry and cold conditions. And while there are many possible explanations for the enigmatic whiffs of methane observed on Mars, one of the most exciting is the production by microorganisms living just below the surface.

Part of the fascination of Mars exploration is that it is very much about understanding our own origins and future. As the example of the mystery cloud observations shows, everybody has a chance to participate in unraveling the red planet’s mysteries.


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February 10, 2015

An ancient earth inside Earth? Harvard scientists say YES

Dear readers and followers,

a study presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Sacramento, California, claims that the previously inexplicable isotope ratio from the depths of the Earth may be an “echo” of the ancient Earth that existed before the collision with another celestial body, which is estimated to have led to the formation of the Moon around 4,5 billion years ago.

According to the authors of the study, the ratio may represent a signal from a material that existed prior to the moment of the collision.

Scientists of the +Harvard University led by Associate Professor Sujoy Mukhopadhyay believe that only a portion of the Earth melted as a result of the collision, and that in the depths of our planet’s mantle there still exists a part of the ancient Earth.

Scientists have studied the isotope ratio of noble gases from the depths of the Earth’s mantle and compared it to the isotope ratio of the gases found closer to the surface. They found that the ratio of 3He to 22Ne from the surface layers of the mantle is much higher than the one of its deeper layers.

The analysis of the 129-Xenon and 130-Xenon ratio also confirms the hypothesis suggested by the researchers. Material which has been rendered to the surface from the deep mantle has a lower ratio than the one which is typically located near the surface.

Since the 129-Xenon is produced by the radioactive decay of 129-Iodine, these isotopes indicate thatthe ancient part of mantle was formed during the first 100 million years of the Earth’s evolution. Scientists believe that this theory explains the differences between the isotope ratios of noble gases in different parts of the Earth.

As Professor Mukhopadhyay said: “The geochemistry indicates that there are differences between the noble gas isotope ratios in different parts of the Earth, and these need to be explained. The idea that a very disruptive collision of the Earth with another planet-sized body, the biggest event in Earth’s geological history, did not completely melt and homogenize the Earth challenges some of our notions on planet formation and the energetics of giant impacts. If the theory is proven correct, then we may be seeing echoes of the ancient Earth, from a time before the collision“.

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February 5, 2015

NASA launched a rocket into Northern Lights

Dear readers and followers,

The interaction of the solar wind (issue from the Sun ) and Earth’s atmosphere produces auroras. These northern and southern lights dance across the night sky and have mesmerized and inspired observers for centuries. For scientists, this dance of light also leads to many questions about how space weather affects Earth’s atmosphere. In late January 2015, scientists, in collaboration with NASA, launched a rocket with probes into the northern lights in order to learn more about how they heat the planet’s atmosphere.  

Credit image: +NASA 

The Auroral Spatial Structures Probe (ASSP) was launched at 5:41 a.m. on January 28th 2015, from the Poker Flat Research Range about 50 kilometers north of Fairbanks, Alaska. 

The ASSP carried seven instruments to study the electromagnetic energy that can heat the thermosphere, the second highest layer of the atmosphere, during auroral events. The interaction of waves and particles from the solar wind, Earth’s magnetosphere, and the upper atmosphere can cause “Joule heating.” Essentially, the electrical currents on the edge of space run into a resistant media (the air in the atmosphere) and generate heat in a process similar to that of a toaster coil or electric stove. This heating can expand the atmosphere upward and increase the friction, or drag, on spacecraft and satellites.

The AASP launch occurred just two days after the successful launches of the Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment (M-TeX) and the Mesospheric Inversion-layer Stratified Turbulence (MIST) experiment. Two pairs of instrumented rockets were launched about 30 minutes apart to study how turbulence is formed in the presence of inversion layers in the upper atmosphere. This turbulence causes particles to diffuse between atmospheric layers. The MIST launches included the release of harmless trimethyl aluminum vapor to help researchers trace diffusion at high altitude

“Recent solar storms have resulted in major changes to the composition of the upper atmosphere above 80 kilometers, where enhancements in nitrogen compounds have been found,” said Richard Collins, upper atmospheric researcher from the University of Alaska. “These compounds can be transported into the middle atmosphere where they can contribute to ozone destruction. However, the meteorological conditions do not always allow such transport to occur. Thus, the impact of solar activity on the Earth is not just about how the Sun is a source of energetic particles, but also how the Earth’s meteorological conditions determine the fate of these particles in the atmosphere.”

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January 20, 2015

Google makes a major investment in SpaceX

Dear readers and followers,

last year, we told you, that Web companies such as Google and Facebook from the Silicon Valley ramp up efforts to connect the world to their services, they are increasingly looking to the skies and higher: to the space.
Today, Google is close to investing in rocket maker SpaceX, according to several people familiar with the talks, creating a formidable alliance in Silicon Valley’s accelerating Internet space race.

This way, is not news, At Google, several signs point to satellites. Actually, Previously Google bought drone-maker Titan Aerospace last year and now it's in talks to buy Skybox Imaging, a startup that creates high-resolution satellite images, for $1 billion. 
Moreover, in 2014, Google hired Brian Holz, who was chief technology officer at O3b Networks, which has launched special satellites to try to broadcast signals that would power new Internet service in developing countries around the world. Google had previously made a financial investment in O3b and one of its employees sits on O3b’s board. The startup’s recently-launched satellites faced technical setbacks this year.

Google also recently hired Dave Bettinger, who had spent 18 years at satellite firm VT iDirect, which supplies high speed broadband and other communications to military services and the oil and gas industry, according to people at Google. VT iDirect also suffered some product delays recently.

The purpose of the today deal, which is still in the works, is to support the development of SpaceX satellites that could beam low-cost Internet around the globe to billions who don’t have it.

The price and terms Google and SpaceX are discussing couldn’t be learned although one person familiar with them said Google has agreed to value SpaceX north of $10 billion and that the size of the total round, which includes other investors, is very large.
SpaceX’s investors include Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Valor Equity Partners. The company, which has been developing rockets to lower the cost of space travel, hasn’t raised a primary round of funding in several years.

Source: Forbes

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January 16, 2015

Space launches from planes

Dear readers and followers,

Space launches are used to be captured in picture from the ground, but sometimes, the space launch are immortalized from planes. Enjoy these amazing pictures:

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