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7 new stories for 2011/07/13

XCOR Lynx Slated to Fly New Suborbital Telescope

Artist rendering of the XCOR Lynx outfitted with the Atsa Suborbital Observatory. Credit: XCOR

Commercial space company XCOR Aerospace has signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Planetary Science Institute, laying the groundwork for flying a human-operated telescope on board XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft. The Atsa Suborbital Observatory is a specially designed telescope for use in suborbital space vehicles, and when used with commercial suborbital vehicles, PSI says it will provide low-cost space-based observations above the contaminating atmosphere of Earth, while avoiding some operational constraints of satellite telescope systems.

“The XCOR vehicle design and capabilities work well for hosting the kind of observing facility we are developing,” said PSI Senior Scientist Faith Vilas, the Atsa Project Scientist.
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© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Atsa Suborbital Observatory, Lynx, Planetary Science Institute, XCOR

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Zubrin Claims VASIMR is a Hoax

Artist rendering of the VASIMR powered spacecraft heading to Mars. Credit: Ad Astra

A next-generation plasma rocket being developed by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz called the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) has been touted as a way to get astronauts to Mars in weeks rather than months, as well as an innovative, cheap way to re-boost the International Space Station. But in a biting commentary posted on Space News and the Mars Society website, “Mars Direct” advocate Robert Zubrin calls VASIMR a “hoax” saying the engine “is neither revolutionary nor particularly promising. Rather, it is just another addition to the family of electric thrusters, which convert electric power to jet thrust, but are markedly inferior to the ones we already have,” adding, “There is thus no basis whatsoever for believing in the feasibility of Chang Diaz’s fantasy power system.”
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© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Franklin Chang Diaz, Mars, plasma rockets, Robert Zubrin, Space Station, VASIMR

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Infographic: Powering the Space Shuttle

How much energy does it take get the space shuttle launched, into orbit, and back to Earth again? This infographic provides facts, stats and data on the soon-to-be-retired space shuttles.

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© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | 3 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: NASA, Space Flight, Space Shuttle

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3-D Atlantis in Flight

A 3-D view of Atlantis during the RBAR pitch maneuver while approaching the space station. Credit: NASA, 3-D by Nathanial Burton-Bradford. Click for larger view on Flickr.

Time to grab your 3-D glasses (the red/cyan kind, please) and see a couple of 3-D views of Atlantis during her final flight. Above, she’s doing the belly flip, the RBAR pitch maneuver while approaching the station, and 3-D wizard Nathanial Burton-Bradford has 3-D-ified the view. Below is a 3-D look at Atlantis’ launch. Thanks to Nathanial for sharing his images with Universe Today. See his Flickr page for more!

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© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Space Flight, Space Shuttle, space shuttle atlantis, STS-135

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Hubble’s New Views of Neptune

Four images of Neptune taken a few hours apart by the Hubble Space Telescope on June 25-26, 2011. Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

To celebrate the first complete orbit of the planet Neptue since its discovery in 1846, the Hubble Space Telescope took a series of images with the Wide Field Camera 3, showing the different faces of the planet as it rotates on its axis. The images were take on June 25-26, 2011.

Even with a telescope as powerful as Hubble, the planet still appears fairly small, but some details are visible. While its blue color is the most distinctive feature, the turbulent conditions in the planet’s atmosphere also show up. Neptune’s thick atmosphere is largely made up of hydrogen and helium and is thought to host the Solar System’s most furious storms, with winds of up to 2000 km/h.

See more about Neptune and these images from ESA’s Hubble page (including access to wallpaper-sized images) and tead more about Neptune’s discovery and anniversary in our article by Tammy Plotner.


© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | 2 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Hubble, Neptune

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Recent Sun Activity: Plasma Fountains, Sun-Grazing Comet

Interesting activity captured on the Sun early today (July 12, 2011) showing an active region on the Sun’s Eastern limb. Plasma was hurled very high above the stellar surface, but didn’t have the needed escape velocity and most of the plasma “rained” back down in a fountain. The video shows the activity in different wavelengths.

See below for more views, including the first time a sun-grazing comet was seen disintegrating over the Sun’s surface.

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© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | 4 comments | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), sun

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Watch Live: Final Spacewalk of Space Shuttle Program



Live Video streaming by Ustream

The final spacewalk of the shuttle era is taking place today, beginning at 8:22 a.m. EDT (12:22 UTC). You can watch it live on the viewer above. This is the 160th spacewalk supporting assembly and maintenance of the space station and the 249th EVA conducted by U.S. astronauts. The two spacwalkers are actually from the ISS crew, Expedition 28’s Mike Fossum and Ron Garan, but are being assisted by the shuttle crew. Shuttle Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus will operate the station’s 58-foot-long robotic arm to maneuver the spacewalkers around during the spacewalk.
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© nancy for Universe Today, 2011. | Permalink | No comment | Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: Space Shuttle, Space Station, Spacewalks (EVA)

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