Space & Planetary Science: November 2011 Archives

NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Had Planetary Protection Slip-Up, Space.com

"The issue involves a set of drill bits carried by the Curiosity rover, which launched Nov. 26 to Mars. When project developers made an internal decision not to send the equipment through a final ultra-cleanliness step, it marked a deviation from the planetary protection plans scripted for the Mars Science Laboratory mission."

Is Something Wrong With the Drill on MSL?, earlier post

"The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, including the Curiosity rover and the rock-sampling drill on the rover, has passed all functional testing, and final preparations for launch on Nov. 25 are on schedule."

MSL Is On Its Way To Mars

An United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft was launched 10:02 a.m. EST. First stage and second operations were nominal. Spacecraft is in coast phase until second engine burn to send it on its way to Mars.

Watch Launch Live on NASA TV

More MSL information

ESA station unable to establish new link with Phobos-Grunt

"After establishing contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt Mars mission earlier this week, ESA's tracking station in Australia received no signal from the spacecraft last night. ESA engineers are investigating the cause in close collaboration with Russian mission controllers. Despite listening intently during four scheduled communication passes during the night of 24-25 November, ESA's 15 m-diameter dish antenna at Perth, Australia, did not receive any signals."

ESA station keeps contact with Russian Mars mission Phobos-Grunt, ESA

"Following the first successful contact on Tuesday, ESA's tracking station in Australia again established two-way communication with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft on 23 November. The data received from the spacecraft have been sent to the Russian mission control centre for analysis. Telemetry typically includes information on the status and health of a spacecraft's systems. "The signals received from Phobos-Grunt were much stronger than those initially received on 22 November, in part due to having better knowledge of the spacecraft's orbital position."

ESA tracking station receives signal from Russia's Phobos Mars mission, ESA

"On Tuesday, 22 November at 20:25 UT, ESA's tracking station at Perth, Australia, established contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft. This was the first signal received on Earth since the Mars mission was launched on 8 November. ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia to determine how best to maintain communications with the spacecraft."

John Grunsfeld - New SMD AA?

Astronaut tipped to lead NASA science division, Nature

"John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist and astronaut who fixed the Hubble Space Telescope, has been chosen to lead NASA's science mission directorate, according to several sources with knowledge of the selection. Grunsfeld is currently deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which operates Hubble. He would replace Ed Weiler, who resigned his post as NASA associate administrator in September."

Keith's note: Click here or on the image and you will see why John is the perfect choice for SMD AA.

According to NASA PAO: "The launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) has been delayed one day to allow time for the team to remove and replace a flight termination system battery. The launch is rescheduled for Saturday, Nov. 26 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The one hour and 43 minute launch window opens at 10:02 a.m. EST."

Keith's 18 Nov 12:25 pm EST update: NASA PAO just provided the following response: "The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, including the Curiosity rover and the rock-sampling drill on the rover, has passed all functional testing, and final preparations for launch on Nov. 25 are on schedule. Testing indicates that the rover can meet all of its mission success criteria. Experiments continue on engineering models of the rover's sampling system, including the hammering drill, to refine understanding of the best ways to use the system once Curiosity is on Mars. Continued testing on Earth will study which aspects of the drill performance will degrade during the mission and how to exercise operational workarounds. An example is that the percussion mechanism in the rotary-percussion drill can develop electrical shorts after prolonged use (beyond that required for mission success). The drill will be used in rotary-only mode on some rocks to prolong availability of hammering. The potential also exists for material to come off the drill bit as it wears and to complicate analysis of the powdered sample. In both cases, workarounds exist including the use of rotary-only drilling, replacing the bit, and using the scoop to provide soil samples directly to the analytic laboratory."

Earlier posts below.

Conferees OK $17.8 Billion For NASA, Aviation Week

"I have had the opportunity to engage in conversation with individuals in the Office of Management and Budget [OMB]," said Steven Squyres of Cornell University, the Mars expert who headed up the planetary science decadal survey at the National Academy of Sciences, when asked if OMB is willing to commit to a joint Mars program with ESA. "In those conversations I have been told the administration is not ready to make such a commitment." Pressed by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Squyres said Sally Ericsson, OMB program associate director for natural resources, energy, and science, told him of the White House's unwillingness to commit to the deal tentatively struck between NASA and ESA in 2009. Ericsson declined an invitation to testify before the House Science subcommittee on space and aeronautics."

Will Tight Budgets Sink NASA Flagships?, Science (subscription required for full access)

"One big question that needs to be answered relatively soon is where NASA will find the money to complete the Webb telescope by 2018, provided Congress does not terminate the project. NASA officials have declared the $8.7 billion instrument an agency-wide priority and would like to take half of the addition $2 billion needed over the next 5 years from within the Science Mission Directorate. (The rest would come from other parts of the $18.5 billion agency.) That plan is causing consternation among researchers outside astrophysics, who say that it is unfair for the planetary, earth science, and heliophysics programs to support an over-budget astronomy mission. "JWST has been held up as the most important thing to be done, at all cost," says Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. "But it is not scientifically responsible to undermine other programs to cover JWST."

Russia's Mars Mission May Be In Trouble, Discovery News

"We had a difficult night," Russian space agency head Vladimir Popovkin told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, RussianSpaceWeb.com reports. "We could not locate the spacecraft for a very long time. Now we know its coordinates."

Russian Mars mission halted by glitch in low Earth orbit, SpaceflightNow

"A subsequent story in Novosti late Tuesday night said such a problem could be due to software or hardware issues. If it was a software glitch, the odds of recovery are good, while a hardware anomaly could have more dire consequences for the mission, the report said."

NASA Acknowledges James Webb Telescope Costs Will Delay Other Science Missions, Space News

"In the report, NASA also acknowledged for the first time that building and operating the long-delayed flagship telescope for five years will now cost $8.835 billion, or about $100 million more than the agency conceded in August."

This tweet is just one example of a long string of lobbying tweets: "All Webb Telescope #science supporters,new ACTION ALERT on my web page. Senate & House to conference in <10 days; http://bit.ly/qvBITx #JWST"

Keith's note: So, this officially-branded AURA twitter account is utilized by AURA personnel during work hours to lobby for projects of clear interest to AURA and .... who pays their salary to do this lobbying? Hmmm ... where does their funding come from? Either NASA or NSF.

New Radar Image: Asteroid 2005 YU55 Approaches Close Earth Flyby

"This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was obtained on Nov. 7, 2011, at 11:45 a.m. PST (2:45 p.m. EST/1945 UTC), when the space rock was at 3.6 lunar distances, which is about 860,000 miles, or 1.38 million kilometers, from Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech."

The Highest Resolution Image of the Sun's Surface Ever Obtained in Visible Light

"The 1.6-meter aperture New Solar Telescope (NST) at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), has captured the highest resolution image of the surface of the sun ever obtained in visible light. The image was acquired with adaptive optics."

Budget pressures squeeze the dreams of Mars explorers, Washington Post

"At a White House meeting during the last week of October, administration officials "were clearly not very keen on signing up" for unmanned Mars missions in 2016 and 2018, said Daniel Britt, who attended the meeting as head of the planetary science division of the American Astronomical Society. ... White House officials said no decision to kill the Mars program has been made. The administration is deliberating how to mete out NASA's uncertain budget, said Rick Weiss, a spokesman for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy."

NASA Funding Added to Must-pass Minibus, Space News

"NASA funding is among the differences House and Senate conferees must resolve before the two chambers can give final approval to the so-called minibus the week of Nov. 14. House appropriators voted this summer to fund NASA at $16.8 billion -- about $1.6 billion below this year's level -- and recommended canceling the overbudget James Webb Space Telescope. The Senate bill, in contrast, would fund NASA at $17.9 billion and include additional money for Webb."

Senate Passes Budget With Full Funding for James Webb Space Telescope

"The Senate today passed its Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) 2012 Appropriations Bill, which includes full funding for the embattled James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble successor that will be run largely out of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STscI) in Baltimore."

NASA Acknowledges JWST Replan Will Delay Science Missions, Space News

"Saving the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) -- an infrared deep space observatory now expected to cost $8.8 billion -- means that some other NASA science missions slated for launch after 2015 will have to be delayed, the U.S. space agency acknowledged in a report delivered to Congress in late October. NASA, however, did not say in the report which missions might be delayed."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from November 2011.

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