Space & Planetary Science: December 2010 Archives

Movies From Mars

Movies: A Martian Sunset and a Solar Transit by Phobos

"A new Mars movie clip gives us a rover's-eye view of a bluish Martian sunset, while another clip shows the silhouette of the moon Phobos passing in front of the sun. America's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, carefully guided by researchers with an artistic sense, has recorded images used in the simulated movies."

NASA's Odyssey Spacecraft Sets Exploration Record at Mars

"NASA's Mars Odyssey, which launched in 2001, will break the record Wednesday for longest-serving spacecraft at the Red Planet. The probe begins its 3,340th day in Martian orbit at 5:55 p.m. PST (8:55 p.m. PST) on Wednesday to break the record set by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, which orbited Mars from 1997 to 2006."

NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter Passes Longevity Record

"A Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has worked longer at Mars than any other spacecraft in history."

NASA's Voyager 1 Sees Solar Wind Decline En Route To Interstellar Space

"The 33-year odyssey of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind. Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 10.8 billion miles from the sun, Voyager 1 has crossed into an area where the velocity of the hot ionized gas, or plasma, emanating directly outward from the sun has slowed to zero. Scientists suspect the solar wind has been turned sideways by the pressure from the interstellar wind in the region between stars."

- @Voyager2 Sister ship Voyager1 is 16 hrs 07 mins 24 secs of light-travel time from Earth
- @Voyager2 Adjusting my sun sensor bias to better point my High Gain Antenna at Earth: AACS:AC7SSB 3+000 SS BIAS CONTROL PITCH
- @Voyager2 I am currently 13 hrs 08 mins 04 secs of light-travel time from Earth

Japan probe overshoots Venus, headed toward sun, CNBC

"The probe, called Akatsuki, which means dawn, reached Venus on Tuesday and fired its engines in an attempt to reach an elliptical orbit. But mission officials said they briefly lost contact after that and determined Wednesday that Akatsuki's engines did not fire long enough to attain the proper orbiting position.... "Unfortunately, it did not attain an orbit," said JAXA's Hitoshi Soeno. "But it appears to be functioning and we may be able to try again when it passes by Venus six years from now."

The Wrong Stuff: NASA Dismisses Arsenic Critique Because Critical Priest Not Standing on Altar, Wired

"What he fails to see or refuses to acknowledge is that Rosie Redfield is a peer, and her blog is peer review. NASA has bungled its presentation of this paper from start to finish. It makes worse by trying to dismiss critiques this way. This is the wrong stuff."

NASA's arsenic microbe science slammed, CBC News

"When NASA spokesman Dwayne Brown was asked about public criticisms of the paper in the blogosphere, he noted that the article was peer-reviewed and published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals. He added that Wolfe-Simon will not be responding to individual criticisms, as the agency doesn't feel it is appropriate to debate the science using the media and bloggers. Instead, it believes that should be done in scientific publications."

Microbe gets toxic response, Nature

"The big problem, however, is that the authors have shown that the organism takes up arsenic, but they "haven't unambiguously identified any arsenic-containing organic compounds", says Roger Summons, a biogeochemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "And it's not difficult to do," he adds, noting that the team could have directly confirmed or disproved the presence of arsenic in the DNA or RNA using targeted mass spectrometry."

The Right Place for Scientific Debate?, Columbia Journalism Review

"First there was the wild speculation about the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Then came widespread, sometimes misguided, coverage of the real news: discovery of a bacterium than can substitute arsenic for phosphorus, one six elements considered essential for life (which may, perhaps, expand the scope of humanity's search for life beyond this planet). Now comes the third installment in the commotion-filled saga: widespread criticism of the paper detailing the discovery, published last Thursday in Science, and an apparent snubbing of the media by the paper's authors and NASA (which helped fund the research), who rebuffed journalists' requests for a response to the criticism."

Arsenic-associated bacteria (NASA's claims), Rosie Redfield

"NASA's shameful analysis of the alleged bacteria in the Mars meteorite made me very suspicious of their microbiology, an attitude that's only strengthened by my reading of this paper. Basically, it doesn't present ANY convincing evidence that arsenic has been incorporated into DNA (or any other biological molecule)."


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