ISS Cupola

ISS043E249148 (05/23/2015) — As the day begins on the International Space Station the cupola, the 360 degree view port’s inner lights shine brightly while the sun begins its rise slowly on the Earth below. The cupola is a panoramic control tower for the station with windows through which operations on the outside of the station can be observed and guided. Through the robotics workstation, astronauts are able to control the space station’s robotic arm, which helps with the attachment and assembly of various station elements, very much like the operator of a building crane. Spacewalking activities can also be observed from the Cupola along with visiting spacecraft and external areas of the station.

Venus Cloud Tops Viewed by Hubble

This is a NASA /ESA Hubble Space Telescope ultraviolet-light image of the planet Venus, taken on January 24 1995, when Venus was at a distance of 114 million kilometers) from Earth. Venus is covered with clouds made of sulfuric acid, rather than the water-vapor clouds found on Earth. These clouds permanently shroud Venus’ volcanic surface.

This is a NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope ultraviolet-light image of theplanet Venus, taken on January 24 1995, when Venus was at a distance of 70.6 million miles (113.6 million kilometres) from Earth.

Venus is covered with clouds made of sulfuric acid, rather than thewater-vapor clouds found on Earth. These clouds permanently shroudVenus’ volcanic surface, which has been radar mapped by spacecraft and from Earth-based telescope.

Credit: L. Esposito (University of Colorado, Boulder), and NASA/ESA

NASA’s Europa Mission Begins with Selection of Science Instruments














NASA patch / NASA - Galileo Mission patch.

May 26, 2015

Color image of Europa seen by Galileo spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA has selected nine science instruments for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

NASA’s Galileo mission yielded strong evidence that Europa, about the size of Earth’s moon, has an ocean beneath a frozen crust of unknown thickness. If proven to exist, this global ocean could have more than twice as much water as Earth. With abundant salt water, a rocky sea floor, and the energy and chemistry provided by tidal heating, Europa could be the best place in the solar system to look for present day life beyond our home planet.


Image above: Bizarre features on Europa’s icy surface suggest a warm interior. This view of the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa was obtained by NASA’s Galileo mission, and shows a color image set within a larger mosaic of low-resolution monochrome images. Galileo was able to survey only a small fraction of Europa’s surface in color at high resolution; a future mission would include a high-resolution imaging capability to capture a much larger part of the moon’s surface. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

“Europa has tantalized us with its enigmatic icy surface and evidence of a vast ocean, following the amazing data from 11 flybys of the Galileo spacecraft over a decade ago and recent Hubble observations suggesting plumes of water shooting out from the moon,“ said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We’re excited about the potential of this new mission and these instruments to unravel the mysteries of Europa in our quest to find evidence of life beyond Earth.”

NASA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request includes $30 million to formulate a mission to Europa. The mission would send a solar-powered spacecraft into a long, looping orbit around the gas giant Jupiter to perform repeated close flybys of Europa over a three-year period. In total, the mission would perform 45 flybys at altitudes ranging from 16 miles to 1,700 miles (25 kilometers to 2,700 kilometers).


Image above: Artist’s rendering of possible Europa mission spacecraft. This artist’s rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The payload of selected science instruments includes cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface and determine its composition. An ice penetrating radar will determine the thickness of the moon’s icy shell and search for subsurface lakes similar to those beneath Antarctica. The mission also will carry a magnetometer to measure strength and direction of the moon’s magnetic field, which will allow scientists to determine the depth and salinity of its ocean.

A thermal instrument will scour Europa’s frozen surface in search of recent eruptions of warmer water, while additional instruments will search for evidence of water and tiny particles in the moon’s thin atmosphere. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observed water vapor above the south polar region of Europa in 2012, providing the first strong evidence of water plumes. If the plumes’ existence is confirmed – and they’re linked to a subsurface ocean – it will help scientists investigate the chemical makeup of Europa’s potentially habitable environment while minimizing the need to drill through layers of ice.

Last year, NASA invited researchers to submit proposals for instruments to study Europa. Thirty-three were reviewed and, of those, nine were selected for a mission that will launch in the 2020s.

“This is a giant step in our search for oases that could support life in our own celestial backyard,” said Curt Niebur, Europa program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We’re confident that this versatile set of science instruments will produce exciting discoveries on a much-anticipated mission.”

The NASA selectees are:

Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding (PIMS) – principal investigator Dr. Joseph Westlake of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Maryland. This instrument works in conjunction with a magnetometer and is key to determining Europa’s ice shell thickness, ocean depth, and salinity by correcting the magnetic induction signal for plasma currents around Europa.

Interior Characterization of Europa using Magnetometry (ICEMAG) – principal investigator Dr. Carol Raymond of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California. This magnetometer will measure the magnetic field near Europa and – in conjunction with the PIMS instrument – infer the location, thickness and salinity of Europa’s subsurface ocean using multi-frequency electromagnetic sounding.

Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE) – principal investigator Dr. Diana Blaney of JPL. This instrument will probe the composition of Europa, identifying and mapping the distributions of organics, salts, acid hydrates, water ice phases, and other materials to determine the habitability of Europa’s ocean.

Europa Imaging System (EIS) – principal investigator Dr. Elizabeth Turtle of APL. The wide and narrow angle cameras on this instrument will map most of Europa at 50 meter (164 foot) resolution, and will provide images of areas of Europa’s surface at up to 100 times higher resolution.

Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface (REASON) – principal investigator Dr. Donald Blankenship of the University of Texas, Austin. This dual-frequency ice penetrating radar instrument is designed to characterize and sound Europa’s icy crust from the near-surface to the ocean, revealing the hidden structure of Europa’s ice shell and potential water within.

Europa Thermal Emission Imaging System (E-THEMIS) – principal investigator Dr. Philip Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe. This “heat detector” will provide high spatial resolution, multi-spectral thermal imaging of Europa to help detect active sites, such as potential vents erupting plumes of water into space.

MAss SPectrometer for Planetary EXploration/Europa (MASPEX) – principal investigator Dr. Jack (Hunter) Waite of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), San Antonio. This instrument will determine the composition of the surface and subsurface ocean by measuring Europa’s extremely tenuous atmosphere and any surface material ejected into space.

Ultraviolet Spectrograph/Europa (UVS) – principal investigator Dr. Kurt Retherford of SwRI. This instrument will adopt the same technique used by the Hubble Space Telescope to detect the likely presence of water plumes erupting from Europa’s surface. UVS will be able to detect small plumes and will provide valuable data about the composition and dynamics of the moon’s rarefied atmosphere.

SUrface Dust Mass Analyzer (SUDA) – principal investigator Dr. Sascha Kempf of the University of Colorado, Boulder. This instrument will measure the composition of small, solid particles ejected from Europa, providing the opportunity to directly sample the surface and potential plumes on low-altitude flybys.

Separate from the selectees listed above, the SPace Environmental and Composition Investigation near the Europan Surface (SPECIES) instrument has been chosen for further technology development. Led by principal investigator Dr. Mehdi Benna at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, this combined neutral mass spectrometer and gas chromatograph will be developed for other mission opportunities.  

Europa’s Jupiter-Facing Hemisphere. Image Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
This 12-frame mosaic provides the highest resolution view ever obtained of the side of Jupiter’s moon Europa that faces the giant planet. It was obtained on Nov. 25, 1999 by the camera onboard the Galileo spacecraft, a past NASA mission to Jupiter and its moons which ended in 2003. NASA will announce today, Tuesday, May 26, the selection of science instruments for a mission to Europa, to investigate whether it could harbor conditions suitable for life. The Europa mission would conduct repeated close flybys of the small moon during a three-year period.

Numerous linear features in the center of this mosaic and toward the poles may have formed in response to tides strong enough to fracture Europa’s icy surface. Some of these features extend for over 1,500 kilometers (900 miles). Darker regions near the equator on the eastern (right) and western (left) limb may be vast areas of chaotic terrain. Bright white spots near the western limb are the ejecta blankets of young impact craters.


Image above: This artist’s rendering shows the Galileo orbiter arriving at Jupiter on Dec. 7, 1995. Image Credit: NASA.

North is to the top of the picture and the sun illuminates the surface from the left. The image, centered at 0 latitude and 10 longitude, covers an area approximately 2,500 by 3,000 kilometers. The finest details that can discerned in this picture are about 2 kilometers across (about 1,550 by 1,860 miles). The images were taken by Galileo’s camera when the spacecraft was 94,000 kilometers (58,000 miles) from Europa.

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system and the universe.

Related links:

The images were taken by Galileo’s camera: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA02528

For more information about Galileo mission, visit: http://science.nasa.gov/missions/galileo/

For more information about Europa, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/europanews

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Felicia Chou/Laurie Cantillo/Sarah Loff.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch
Full article

2

crescent earth, photographed by goes-15, may 2015.

one photo each day 18th-27th may at noon utc (8am in havana).

some geographical context:

florida is, of course, part of the united states. yucatan is part of mexico. the island of hispaniola is divided between haiti in the west and the dominican republic to the east. 

image credit: noaa/nasa. animation: ageofdestruction.

Air Force Certifies SpaceX

SpaceX has won its bid for certification from the Air Force.

Since 2006 the United Launch Alliance (a merging of Boeing and Lockheed Martin) has had a monopoly on launches from the U.S. Air Force. This is a $70 billion market. 

Now I don’t care much for the potential for SpaceX to contribute to military capacities but the implications for the launch market are huge.

The monopoly the ULA had contributed largely to a stranglehold that kept access to space expensive and inefficient. SpaceX has been the largest catalyst of change for this and their newfound ability to bid for Air Force contracts means that the ULA is no longer safe in their production of expensive rockets that largely rely on Russian parts.

The ULA is also one of the largest launch providers for NASA and this has implications for those launches too.

The ULA is now subject to Darwinian “survival of the fittest” sort of natural selection. To survive they can no longer rely entirely on government subsidies.

What’s my point? The cost of access to space is about to start dropping dramatically. Thank SpaceX…

(Image credit: SpaceX)