Sometimes I complain about the earthly weather, but mostly I like to post about astronomy and space events. Hope you enjoy the articles.
By: Susie77, 1:39 AM GMT on November 27, 2011
Mars Rover Curiosity Takes Off
Nov. 26, 2011: NASA began a historic voyage to
Mars with the Nov. 26 launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, which
carries a car-sized rover named Curiosity. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:02 a.m. EST
(7:02 a.m. PST).
"We are very excited about sending the world's most advanced
scientific laboratory to Mars," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
"MSL will tell us critical things we need to know about Mars, and while
it advances science, we'll be working on the capabilities for a human
mission to the Red Planet and to other destinations where we've never
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars
Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft, including the new rover, Curiosity,
lifted off on time on the first opportunity at 10:02 a.m. EST on Nov.
The mission will pioneer precision landing technology and a
sky-crane touchdown to place Curiosity near the foot of a mountain
inside Gale Crater
on Aug. 6, 2012. During a nearly two-year prime mission after landing,
the rover will investigate whether the region has ever offered
conditions favorable for microbial life, including the chemical
ingredients for life.
"The launch vehicle has given us a great injection into our
trajectory, and we're on our way to Mars," said Mars Science Laboratory
Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif. "The spacecraft is in communication, thermally stable
and power positive."
The Atlas V initially lofted the spacecraft into Earth orbit and
then, with a second burst from the vehicle's upper stage, pushed it out
of Earth orbit into a 352-million-mile (567-million-kilometer) journey
"Our first trajectory correction maneuver will be in about two
weeks," Theisinger said. "We'll do instrument checkouts in the next
several weeks and continue with thorough preparations for the landing on
Mars and operations on the surface."
An artist's concept of NASA's biggest-ever Mars rover Curiosity examining a rock on the Red Planet. [larger image].
Curiosity's ambitious science goals are among the mission's many
differences from earlier Mars rovers. It will use a drill and scoop at
the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock
interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical
laboratory instruments inside the rover. Curiosity carries 10 science
instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the
science-instrument payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a
laser-firing instrument for checking the elemental composition of rocks
from a distance, and an X-ray diffraction instrument for definitive
identification of minerals in powdered samples.
To haul and wield its science payload, Curiosity is twice as long
and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. Because of its one-ton
mass, Curiosity is too heavy to employ airbags to cushion its landing
as previous Mars rovers could. Part of the Mars Science Laboratory
spacecraft is a rocket-powered descent stage that will lower the rover
on tethers as the rocket engines control the speed of descent.
The mission's landing site offers Curiosity access for driving to
layers of the mountain inside Gale Crater. Observations from orbit have
identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a
Precision landing maneuvers as the spacecraft flies through the
Martian atmosphere before opening its parachute make Gale a safe target
for the first time. This innovation shrinks the target area to less than
one-fourth the size of earlier Mars landing targets. Without it, rough
terrain at the edges of Curiosity's target would make the site
The innovations for landing a heavier spacecraft with greater
precision are steps in technology development for human Mars missions.
In addition, Curiosity carries an instrument for monitoring the natural
radiation environment on Mars, important information for designing human
Mars missions that protect astronauts' health.
Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA
By: Susie77, 11:55 PM GMT on November 21, 2011
Lightning sprites on Jupiter, Saturn and Venus
Lightning sprites on alien worlds. Cool!
Only a few decades ago, scientists discovered the existence of
lightning “sprites” 30 to 55 miles (50 to 90 kilometers) above the
surface of the Earth. The sprites are offshoots of electrical
discharges created during lightning storms. They’re a valuable window
into the composition of our world’s atmosphere. Today, researchers at
Tel Aviv University (TAU) said that sprites are not a phenomenon
specific to our planet Earth. They’re also found on Jupiter, Saturn and