Weekly Links

Down to Earth

Earlier this month, the White House released their proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2014. Which includes an allocation of $17.7 billion for NASA. Much has been said about the budget already – but the focuses seem to be on the $200 million cut from planetary science and the proposal to start planning an asteroid retrieval mission. Yes, you read that right, the idea is that NASA will send a robotic mission to find a worthy asteroid to drag back to cislunar space (that’s fancy space talk for bringing it as close to Earth as the moon). This may be the direction, focus, and “mission” that many have been saying was lacking from NASA’s portfolio since the cancellation of Constellation and the Space Shuttle. It is far too early to know what will come of it, at least until the mission starts being paid for in 2014. Personally, I think the idea makes sense and is exciting… more thoughts on this in a later post.

In truly down to Earth news, the ambitious Thirty Meter Telescope project received a permit to begin construction atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They project plans to begin construction in early 2014. the Thirty Meter Telescope (or TMT) will have almost 10 times the light gathering area of the Keck telescopes, also on Mauna Kea. TMT is going to be an amazing tool for astronomers. It should be able to look “further back in time” and see aspects of the beginning of the universe as well as be an awesome exoplanet finding tool, among many other science applications.

The Navy has announced they will be naming a new research vessel after Sally Ride (first American woman in space).

Virgin Galactic has been busy doing glide flights of SpaceShipTwo, getting ready for their first powered flight this year. In their most recent flight last week, the engine had a “cold flow” test – they flowed some propellant through the engine but did not ignite it.

Boston.com’s “The Big Picture” blog has a nice photo essay of two different Mars analog missions going on here on Earth.

In Orbit

After a planned launch this past Tuesday was delayed, today Orbital Sciences is going to attempt the maiden flight of the Antares rocket, which is planned to take the Cygnus freighter on resupply flights to the ISS. The launch is planned for 5 PM Eastern today (Saturday, April 20). If you read this in time, you can follow along at Spaceflight Now’s mission status center.

Around the Solar System

The Mars rover Curiosity went into hibernation starting on April 4 for the “solar conjunction”. This is the period when Mars is behind the sun as seen from Earth, making it difficult to communicate with probes at the red planet.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/MarsCuriosity/status/319943342018404352″]

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to spot the fresh craters left by the GRAIL missions two probes that crashed into the moon last year (on purpose).

Some Mars enthusiasts from Russia have been scouring Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images to look for the lost Mars 3 lander that the USSR sent to Mars in 1971. They seem to have found it!

Mars 3 components found on Mars

Out There

NASA has announced two new missions in the agencies Astrophysics Explorer Program. Two space telescopes, TESS and NICER, are being developed for launch later this decade. TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Sattelite) is somewhat of a successor to Kepler, and will be an Earth-orbiting satellite that hunts for exoplanets. NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) will be attached to the International Space Station and will look at x-ray wavelengths from neutron stars.

April 20, 2013 12:52 pm

2 Responses to “Weekly Links”

  • Jacob says:

    Oooooh! The thirty meter telescope sounds awesome!

  • Ben H. says:

    Jacob,
    I have been salivating about the prospect of TMT for a decade (that’s how long they’ve been working on design, maybe longer). Awesome project. You should read more about it on wikipedia and their website.

    – Ben

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