Friday Links

Down To Earth

Space Shuttles everywhere! space-worthy and otherwise! If you’re a space fan you’ve probably already been following all the stories and seeing all the pictures from Discovery flying to the Smithsonian and Dulles and trading places with Enterprise. So I won’t bore you with what you already know. Instead, I’ll link to some cool photos, and remind you that Enterprise will be leaving Dulles on its own ferry flight to New York City this coming Monday! I imagine the scene will look very much like this photo below, from 1983 – yes that’s Enterprise! (UPDATE: NASA has delayed the Monday ferry flight due to bad weather forecasts)

Here’s Discovery and Enterprise doing their roll-past at Dulles.

This sunrise pic may be one of the best of Discovery leaving Florida. Below was my view of Discovery as she taxied for take-off in Florida on the 17th.

On Thursday, April 19th, Discovery came to her final wheel stop in the hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Museum.

Friday is the last day of International Dark Sky Week! I’m sad to say that we don’t have very dark skies here in Houston. That’s why I think the “GLOBE at night” project is pretty cool! This webapp has people around the world evaluate the darkness of their skies – in a common test – to create a large database of light pollution. This got me thinking and there’s a bright light outside my apartment that I may be talking to the city about sometime soon…

In honor of IDSW, here’s a view of the dark skies I grew up with from Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

For those of you who live with dark skies, check out the Lyrid meteor shower this weekend.

Could the famous F-1 engine that powered the first stage of the Saturn V be the core workhorse of the new SLS as well?

In Orbit

Another great blog post from Expedition 30 astronaut Andre Kuipers. This time he answers some questions from readers. I never would have thought of a glass of ice water as something astronauts miss. Interesting!

Not to be outdone, Don Pettit writes about the “flashes” that astronauts on the ISS see due to cosmic rays. Don says that when the ISS flies over the SAA (South Atlantic Anomay) the cosmic ray flashes “will increase from one or two every 10 minutes to several per minute.” Wow!

This week Progress 46 undocked from ISS and Progress 47 will be arriving on Sunday. Then Soyuz 28 will be leaving next week with astronauts Burbank, Ivanishin, and Shkaplerov, thus ending the marathon Expedition 30!

Unmanned Russian Progress undocked from #ISS today. Next one on way soon. With equipment, supplies & fresh fruit.. http://t.co/ENKNMXcO
@astro_andre
André Kuipers

This photo from Andre Kuipers is a bit like some strange modern art.

Weightlessness can sometimes be problematic... http://t.co/zj6esRwx
@astro_andre
André Kuipers

Around the Solar System

Scientists are now confident that the “Pioneer Anomaly” (the unexpected acceleration of the Pioneer spacecraft as they left the solar system) has been solved. Unfortunately the answer is mundane – unexpected thermal radiation from one side of the spacecraft more than another.

The Cassini spacecraft had a close fly-by of Enceladus this past week.

The Messenger spacecraft used the last of its oxidizer for its main thruster to lower itself into a new orbit around Mercury – it is now at a 10,000 km altitude instead of 15,000 km.

English translation Russian news sites are reporting that Roscosmos wants to try again for their failed Phobos-Grunt mission that crashed to Earth earlier this year. Good luck.

Out There

Debra Fischer of Yale is heading up a research project to look for habitable worlds in the Alpha Centauri system using her new CHIRON spectrometer. The Planetary Society, of which I am a member, is running a campaign to help her team fund the many nights of observing time they need at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. I donated some of my own money, and you should too if it excites you! You can listen to Debra Fischer on The Planetary Society’s weekly podcast here.

This is definitely out there – the spacey blogosphere has been full of speculation about the meaning of this press release regarding a new space venture involving Peter Diamandis, the Google Founders, and James Cameron. Everybody thinks they are going to start an asteroid mining company – which I would be in full support of – but I’m just going to wait until we actually heard from them on April 24th.

April 20, 2012 8:00 am

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