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Old March 1st, 2010, 10:53 PM   #1
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The Big Space Exploration Thread


I'm sure there are many people who are interested in exploration of the Solar System. With NASA running so many awesome missions: Opportunity and Spirit rovers, Cassini–Huygens interplanetary exploration, New Horizons (can't wait till 2015!), Constellation (if Obama doesn't screw it up entirely) etc. we have lots to discuss.

Please, no conspiracy crap in this thread. Let's keep it scientific as well as post awesome pictures. News from space agencies all over the world are welcome as well.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 11:06 PM   #2
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Old March 1st, 2010, 11:09 PM   #3
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That's exactly the kind of posts I'd like to avoid here. This is about human exploration of the Solar System. Besides, Obama is endangering just the Constellation mission, everything else will go ahead as planned.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 11:15 PM   #4
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Just a bit further from halfway to Pluto!
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Old March 1st, 2010, 11:22 PM   #5
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NEW HORIZONS

One of the most exciting ongoing missions. It's a robotic spacecraft that is currently flying at the speed of 16.26 km PER SECOND to Pluto, the outermost planet of the Solar System, which has never been studied, we don't even have a single decent picture of Pluto to-date. It's going to study Pluto and three of its moons: Hydra, Nix and Charon. Once this mission is completed it will most likely go on to study outer Kuiper Belt Objects!

It was launched in 2006 and will reach Pluto on July 14, 2015. It has already done a lot of fascinating science along its way.

Original short trailer
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Old March 1st, 2010, 11:38 PM   #6
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I just hate to see the Shuttle go. I know times have moved on and shuttles are outdated, but the new rockets don't look nearly as cool as the shuttles did (purely an aesthetic pov, obviously NASA chose they did for economical and practical reasons).

Otherwise, I really hope we'll achieve some sort of FTL travel (ha), since it's not going to be easy traveling significantly faster than we do now without going FTL.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 11:49 PM   #7
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There are plenty of Shuttle replacement concepts developed around the world though. Ukraine is developing an unmanned spacecraft to launch stuff into space, it will cut costs down by 90% in comparison to the shuttle. But that's like 15-20 years away.

[img]http://i47.************/2z6z0ux.jpg[/img]
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Old March 1st, 2010, 11:59 PM   #8
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Mars exploration rovers footage and every kind of piece of information can be found here
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/mer/daily.cfm
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 04:20 AM   #9
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This Tuesday (in a few hours, literally) the closest ever exploration of Rhea will occur!

Cassini-Huygens is one of the most fascinating spacecraft explorations happening right now. It's a mission that will probably last altogether for 20 years. It was launched in 1997 and has given us some of the (and often THE) best glimpses into other worlds, such as Titan.



Cassini will fly towards Rhea examining it on a path of collision and will make an abrupt turn when it's just 100 km away from the surface.

So expect some awesome pictures in a few days.

-------------------------------------------------------

This is just a bonus, amazing picture by Cassini of Enceladus (one of the places where life possibly exists) and Saturn (the big body). Notice plumes of water ice spewing out of Enceladus. In the future we will take samples of them looking for evidence of life that may exist in the ocean under the surface.


Detailed view
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 03:05 PM   #10
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Ice deposits found at Moon's pole

Here is an interesting article:

Ice deposits found at Moon's pole



A radar experiment aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar spacecraft has identified thick deposits of water-ice near the Moon's north pole.

The US space agency's (Nasa) Mini-Sar experiment found more than 40 small craters containing water-ice.

But other compounds - such as hydrocarbons - are mixed up in lunar ice, according to new results from another Moon mission called LCROSS.

The findings were presented at a major planetary science conference in Texas.

The craters with ice range from 2km to 15km (one to nine miles) in diameter; how much there is depends on its thickness in each crater. But Nasa says the ice must be at least a couple of metres thick to give the signature seen by Chandrayaan-1.

Dr Paul Spudis, from the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, estimated there was at least 600 million metric tonnes of water-ice held within these impact craters.

The equivalent amount, expressed as rocket fuel, would be enough to launch one space shuttle per day for 2,200 years, he told journalists at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

What all these craters have in common are large areas of their interiors that never see sunlight.

Extreme cold

Temperatures in some of these permanently darkened craters can drop as low as 25 Kelvin (-248C; -415F) - colder than the surface of Pluto - allowing water-ice to remain stable.

"It is mostly pure water-ice," said Dr Spudis. "It could be under a few tens of centimetres of dry regolith (lunar soil)."

This protective layer of soil could prevent blocks of pure ice from vaporising even in some areas which are exposed to sunlight, he explained.


To Read More Visit Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8544635.stm
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 03:50 PM   #11
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good idea for a thread. im always interested in space but never find the information I crave. that Ukrainian shuttle looks futuristic
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 03:58 PM   #12
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Does anyone know where I can get blu-ray (or HD dvd/HD) movies of astronomy stuff?


Actually, does anyone KNOW of any space documentaries in HD? :P
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 03:58 PM   #13
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It may still never happen, just an early conceptual planning stage now.

You can find a lot of info at www.nasa.gov but I'll try to update the most interesting and important news here.
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 04:29 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VelesHomais View Post
In the future we will take samples of them looking for evidence of life that may exist in the ocean under the surface.
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 05:26 PM   #15
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The Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula, the result of a supernova noted by Earth-bound chroniclers in 1054 A.D., is filled with mysterious filaments that are are not only tremendously complex, but appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and a higher speed than expected from a free explosion. The Crab Nebula spans about 10 light-years. In the nebula's very center lies a pulsar: a neutron star as massive as the Sun but with only the size of a small town. The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second.

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Old March 2nd, 2010, 05:44 PM   #16
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Top 5 Bets for Extraterrestrial Life in the Solar System





1. Enceladus
The sixth-largest moon of Saturn has been called the most promising bet for life thanks to its welcoming temperature and the likely presence of water and simple organic molecules. The surface of the icy moon is thought to be about 99 percent water ice, with a good chance of liquid water beneath. Observations from the Cassini probe’s 2005 flyby of Enceladus suggest the presence of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen — organic molecules thought to be necessary to develop life. And the moon seems to have a boiling core of molten rock that could heat the world to the toasty temperatures needed to give rise to life.



2. Europa
Jupiter’s moon Europa also seems a possible stomping ground for E.T. due to its potential water and volcanic activity. Though the surface seems to be frozen, many suspect that buried underneath is an ocean of liquid water. Volcanic activity on the moon could provide life-supporting heat, as well as important chemicals needed by living organisms. Microbial life could potentially survive near hydrothermal vents on Europa, as it does on Earth.



3. Mars
As far as planets go, by far the front-runner for life is our next-door neighbor, Mars. The red planet is the most Earth-like of solar system planets, with a comparatively similar size and temperature range as our own planet. Large bodies of water ice lie on Mars’ poles, and there’s a reasonable chance of liquid water beneath the surface. The puny atmosphere on the planet is not strong enough to shield the planet against lethal solar radiation, though microbes could potentially exist beneath the surface. Evidence also suggests that Mars may have been even more habitable in the past. Geologic features imply that liquid water once flowed across the surface, and volcanic activity, now dead, once flourished, recycling chemicals and minerals between the surface and the interior.



4. Titan
Saturn’s largest moon looks suspiciously like it might have hosted life, because its thick atmosphere is rich in compounds that often mark the presence of living organisms. For instance, Titan’s air is filled with methane, which is usually destroyed by sunlight. On Earth, life constantly replenishes methane, so it might similarly be responsible for the methane on Titan. Titan is rather cold, however, and if liquid water exists, it must be deep beneath the frozen surface. P.S. but it does have liquid surface rivers and huge lakes made up of liquid methane.



5. Io
Jupiter’s moon Io is one of the few solar system moons to support an atmosphere, and it contains complex chemicals promising for life. Volcanism on the moon also makes it warmer than many others — another good sign. Io is still a long shot, though, because its location inside Jupiter’s magnetic field means it is constantly being pelted with lethal radiation. Its violent surface also seems inhospitable, with temperatures often too cold to support life, as well as molten hot spots that are equally deadly.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/01/et-life/
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 05:55 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VelesHomais View Post
The Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula, the result of a supernova noted by Earth-bound chroniclers in 1054 A.D., is filled with mysterious filaments that are are not only tremendously complex, but appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and a higher speed than expected from a free explosion. The Crab Nebula spans about 10 light-years. In the nebula's very center lies a pulsar: a neutron star as massive as the Sun but with only the size of a small town. The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second.

Spectacular!!!

Very nice thread! I used to watch this documentary called The Universe before. It is quite well made and quite informative! anyone else see it?
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 06:06 PM   #18
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Yes, it was aired on the Science Channel
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 07:23 PM   #19
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Spirit's Journey to the Center of Mars



Mars rover Spirit has tenaciously swept, scraped, and squeezed secrets from the forbidding surface of Mars for 6 years. Now at an impasse, up to its belly in sand, it has struggled to tilt its solar panels toward the sun and collect just enough power to survive the perilously cold Martian winter. If Spirit can make it through to spring, the feisty robot will prove it's still in the game—by solving the mysteries of the Martian core.

Parked for a winter


"In this case, it's a good thing Spirit is immobile," says principal investigator Steve Squyres. "We can track its radio signal to determine its motion through space."

Mars is rotating around its own axis and orbiting the Sun. With the rover stationary, the radio's only motion will be the motion of Mars. Because the scientists already know the specifics of the red planet's orbit, they'll be able to use Spirit's radio signal to hone in on how the planet spins around its own axis.

"Mars wobbles, or precesses, as it spins," says Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We'll measure that wobble by looking at the Doppler shift of Spirit's radio signal."

"Mars completes an entire wobble only once every 170,000 years," he continues. "So we'll be measuring a very tiny motion—looking at minute changes. But these miniscule numbers speak volumes about Mars' core."

First, it will help scientists figure out if the core is solid or liquid. There are clues that it was molten at some time in the ancient past. A molten core is a fluid that moves and conducts electricity, so it sets up a powerful magnetic field. Researchers see remnants of that field today but are unsure how much of the core, if any, is still molten.

"If Mars' core is solid through and through, the nature of the wobble will be subtly different from the wobble if the core is liquid," says Squyres.

Spin a hard-boiled egg and then spin a raw egg. You'll see a distinct difference in the way they rotate.

Spirit's radio signals will also reveal the precise speed of Mars' wobble. That, in turn, will help the researchers calculate the planet's moment of inertia, or MOI.

The moment of inertia of a spinning object—in this case, a planet—is a number that describes how easy or how hard it is to change the spin. "The MOI affects the speed at which the axis of Mars wobbles, so the wobble speed indirectly tells us the MOI," says Banerdt.

They'll add the MOI to what they already know about Mars—its size and mass. "Combining these three things with our understanding of how iron and rock behave inside a planet will allow us to set limits on the size and density of the Martian core. And the density will tell us what elements must be mixed with iron to make up the core."

"This research has implications that reverberate through all kinds of basic questions about the formation of the solar system and its planets. I have to tip my hat to Spirit. It keeps coming up with new tricks."

But first the rover has to survive the long, hard winter. Baseball great Rogers Hornsby summed it up: "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."

Make that Martian spring.
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2....htm?list46156
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 07:32 PM   #20
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Looks like Phoenix is officially dead, it did not survive the winter. Well, it's still there but it's not operational.

Mars Odyssey Still Hears Nothing From Phoenix



NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander showed no sign during February that it has revived itself after the northern Mars winter. NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter will check again in early April.

The solar-powered Phoenix lander operated for two months longer than its planned three-month mission in the Martian arctic in 2008. It was not designed to withstand winter conditions. However, in case the return of abundant springtime sunlight to the site does revive Phoenix, Odyssey is conducting three periods of listening for a transmission that Phoenix is programmed to send if it is able. The second listening period, with 60 overflights of the Phoenix site from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26, produced the same result as the first listening period in January: no signal heard.
http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/news...ews&NewsID=977

Phoenix revolutionized our understanding of Martian weather, found frozen water, recorded snowfall and a lot more. These findings will be crucial for when humans begin to colonize Mars before its terraformation.
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