Space & Planetary Science: November 2006 Archives

NASA Scientists Find Primordial Organic Matter in Tagish Lake Meteorite

"Organic matter in meteorites is a subject of intense interest because this material formed at the dawn of the Solar System and may have seeded the early Earth with the building blocks of life. The Tagish Lake meteorite is especially valuable for this work because much of it was collected immediately after its fall over Canada in 2000 and has been maintained in a frozen state, minimizing terrestrial contamination. The collection and curation of the meteorite samples preserved its pristine state."

Outspoken: Mike Griffin on the NASA budget," Nature

"Deep cuts to NASA astrobiology - Griffin: "I did think astrobiology was less important than traditional space science. It had less intrinsic subject matter to it, and was less advanced."

Statement by Baruch S. Blumberg at the Opening of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe

"The President's Vision for Space Exploration requires astrobiology as a major, if not principle, science support. The National Research Council report, An Assessment of Balance in NASA's Science Programs, and NASA's Advisory Council noted that astrobiology informs many of NASA's missions and has a powerful appeal to students."

HiRISE Team Begins Releasing a Flood of Mars Images

"The University of Arizona-based team that operates the high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in conjunction with NASA, is releasing the first of what will be a non-stop flood of incredibly detailed Mars images taken during the spacecraft's two-year primary science mission. The High Resolution Science Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera took almost 100 images during the first two weeks of its main science mission, which began Nov. 7. ... HiRISE began a new imaging cycle last week (Nov. 19) and begins another next week (Dec. 3). Over the next couple of weeks, the camera is targeting "all the easy-to-find hardware on Mars," McEwen said. That includes NASA's rover Spirit, the Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers, and Mars Pathfinder."

A space dilemma: extend missions or start afresh?, Nature

"Possible extensions are not mentioned in the initial mission planning stages, so designing missions to last longer than planned is an easy way for mission scientists to buy into future budgets. There's also the public-relations value in terms of public image, it is better to say a mission will last for five years and then extend its life, than to say it will last for ten years and lose it after nine. The latter scenario would be seen as a failure, says Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator. She sees no problem with deliberately underestimating the life of a spacecraft. By the time a mission is ready to be extended, the big pots of money have already been spent on it, she says."

Lunar Astronomy

Astronomers Discuss Moon Opportunities, AP

"While some have criticized the limited amount of time available for research on space missions, Grunsfeld said about 18 percent is usually available for research. While that may seem like very little time, it is comparable to limitations faced by researchers in other harsh environments, such as the Antarctic, he said."

New Horizons Gets First Glimpse of Pluto

"New Horizons, Not Quite to Jupiter, Makes First Pluto Sighting The New Horizons team got a faint glimpse of the mission's distant, main planetary target when one of the spacecraft's telescopic cameras spotted Pluto for the first time.
The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took the pictures during an optical navigation test on Sept. 21-24, and stored them on the spacecraft's data recorder until their recent transmission back to Earth."

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor May Be at Mission's End

"NASA's Mars Global Surveyor has likely finished its operating career. The spacecraft has served the longest and been the most productive of any mission ever sent to the red planet."

Space Science Cuts Persist

Campaign Update: Congressional Inaction Leaves Science Still Devastated, Planetary Society

"Congress is back to work in what is known as a lame-duck session. (This means Congress members are still serving after the November election but before the start of new terms, which will begin in January.) As I described in my last update, Congress still has not acted on many government budget items, including NASA's fiscal year 2007 budget."

NASA Provides Mars Global Surveyor Update

"NASA will hold a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST, Tuesday, Nov. 21, to discuss the status and science accomplishments of the Mars Global Surveyor. The 10-year old spacecraft is the oldest of five NASA spacecraft currently active at the red planet."

Editor's note: "currently active"? That's news. The last time I checked, NASA had been unable to communicate with the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft for several weeks.

MGS - Asleep or Lost?

Mars orbiter silent, Astronomy

"NASA enlisted its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in the search for the silent probe. Late Wednesday, MRO attempted to capture a low-resolution image of MGS to help determine its position. Tomorrow MRO will attempt this maneuver again, this time using its high-resolution camera."

NASA Loses Contact With Mars Global Surveyor

"Engineers are striving to restore full communications with NASA's Mars Global Surveyor on the 10th anniversary of the spacecraft's Nov. 7, 1996, launch. On Nov. 2, one orbit after commands were sent for a routine maneuver to move the solar panels, the spacecraft reported that the motor moving one of the arrays had experienced errors. Onboard software responded as programmed, switching the spacecraft to a backup motor controller, then to a backup circuitry connection."

NASA struggles to contact lost Mars probe, New Scientist

"If communication cannot be restored soon, NASA may try to diagnose the problem by having another spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, take pictures of MGS."

Wednesday's Mercury Transit

Mercury transit foreshadows future planet hunt

"The Mercury transit will take place on 8 November from 11:12 a.m. - 4:10 p.m. PST (2:12 p.m. - 7:10 p.m. EST). Portions of event will be visible from the Pacific, the Americas, eastern Asia, Australia, and New Zealand."

- GONG network to broadcast the transit of Mercury on Nov. 8, 2006
- Upcoming Mercury/Sun Transit Whets the Appetite for MESSENGER Discoveries
- Mercury Transit Hawaiian Style Webcast November 8

Today's Bad Science Lesson

Back to the moon, The Courier-Journal

"With the cost of gas hovering between $2 and $3 a gallon and the oil supply declining, scientists at NASA have discovered a potential new energy source -- helium-3. When combined with water, the element creates energy."

Space Science Update

Remarks by Shana Dale at AAS/AIAA Seminar on the Importance of International Collaboration in Space Exploration

"NASA simply cannot afford every mission that every astronomer would like us to do as soon as they would like us to do it. With significantly under-estimated costs for the James Webb Space Telescope, additional costs for the next Hubble Servicing Mission and continuation of the SOFIA program, we decided the best course was to turn the Space Interferometry Mission and Terrestrial Planet-Finding missions into technology development efforts for the time being."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from November 2006.

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