SEARCH

Entries in Space (20)

Wednesday
Nov142012

Google Reaches for the Stars, Takes You to Outer Space in Your Browser

Google(NEW YORK) -- You ready to space out? Literally? Google’s got just the trick, and no, it’s not another Doodle.

The company’s creative lab has put together a new project called 100,000 Stars. Dubbed an “experiment,” the search-engine giant has plotted 100,000 stars in an interactive map of outer space. Using imagery and data from NASA, the European Space Agency and other sources together with the Chrome browser’s support for advanced web technologies (HTML 5, WebGL and CSS3D), the team was able to put together a beautiful site, which lets you pan and zoom around the stars closest to the sun. Zoom in on the stars, and you will see their names and more from Wikipedia, including just how hot it is with a color index map.

Of course, Google decided to focus only on 100,000 stars, not the billions out there. “As you explore this experiment, we hope you share our wonder for how large the galaxy really is. It’s incredible to think that this mist of 100,000 measurable stars is a tiny fraction of the sextillions of stars in the broader universe,” Google’s Aaron Koblin said in a post on the company’s Chrome blog.

The imagery is really stunning, but Google emphasizes that it’s an artist’s rendition. It shouldn’t be seen as a scientific document, and the music by Sam Hulick, who composed tracks for video games, makes that pretty obvious.

With that, we’ll let you get out of here and go check it out yourselves here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep262012

Air Force Mystery Space Plane Set for Next Secret Mission

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. military’s mysterious X-37B space plane is headed back into the great beyond to do whatever it does up there.

The X-37B is slated for its third launch in October, the Air Force said, but like its two orbital predecessors, the mission of the unmanned spacecraft remains shrouded in secrecy.  The exact timing of the October spaceflight, dubbed Orbital Test Vechicle-3 or OTV-3, is also tentative.

“We are on track for the launch of the X-37B to occur next month, but the exact date of the launch is dependent on a number of factors, including range conditions and weather,” Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. John Dorrian told ABC News. 

The 29-foot-long vehicle is set to launch aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from the Florida station of Cape Canaveral.

The pioneer voyage of the X-37B, called OTV-1, began in April of 2010 and lasted 225 days, eventually landing in December of the same year at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  The second orbit, OTV-2, touched down on the same base this past June following a record-breaking 469-day travel.

“For this third launch, while the vehicle is the same… we are considering landing it at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida instead of the previous base,” said Dorrian.  “We are looking to save money and make use of previous investments and infrastructure already available.”

The mission for this small shuttle-like machine, developed by the U.S. Air Force and based on NASA’s original X-37 design, remains largely classified.  The secrecy surrounding the program, which is overseen by the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, has attracted international attention from nations like China, who have speculated a more aggressive intent.

“Industry analysts said the spacecraft could be a precursor to an orbiting weapon, capable of dropping bombs or disabling enemy satellites as it circles the globe,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency wrote in June after OTV-2 concluded its mission.

Since the 2010 maiden flight, U.S. officials have continuously assured the world that the mission of the OTV series is non-nefarious “testing.”  For instance, the coming October mission will focus on testing the vehicle’s capabilities as well the cost-effectiveness of the aircraft, Air Force spokesperson Maj. Tracy Bunko told SPACE.com, which first reported on the new mission.

“One of the most promising aspects of the X-37B is it enables us to examine a payload system or technology in the environment in which it will perform its mission and inspect them when we bring them back to Earth,” Bunko said.  “Returning an experiment via the X-37B OTV enables detailed inspection and significantly better learning than can be achieved by remote telemetry alone.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug132012

Obama Calls Mars Rover Team, Considers Mohawk

File photo. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The team behind NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover received a congratulatory call from the president today. Phoning into the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Obama told the technicians and administrators he “could not be more excited” about what they have been up to.

“Somebody asked me the other day whether you had already found Martians,” the president said. “I said we have to give you a little bit of time but we know you’re all hard at work and getting some well deserved rest after a successful landing. I just wanted to call and say congratulations to the entire Mars Science Laboratory team and really all of JPL.”

Obama would later tell those NASA employees, “If in fact you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away.”

Several hundred NASA employees crammed a mission control center to hear the call. The president said their dedication had, “captured the attention, imagination of millions of people. Not just across our country, but people all around the world.”

Curiosity touched down on the red planet during the early hours of Aug. 6, executing what may be regarded as the most complex robotic landing ever successfully attempted in space. In what NASA had previously dubbed as “seven minutes of terror,” a complicated series of parachutes, rocket boosters, and a new “sky crane,” lowered the Mini Cooper-sized rover into the rust-colored soil.

Of 40 spacecraft sent to Mars from the U.S., Russia, Japan, and European Union, 26 have failed.

Obama said their “mind boggling” success in the operation — and its future scientific payoff — “embodies the American spirit.”

“Curiosity is going to be telling us things that we did not know before, and laying the ground work for an even more audacious effort in the future and that is a human mission to the red planet.”

The president thanked the team leaders present for the call, but had a special shout out for flight director Bobak Ferdowsi, whose Mohawk hairdo turned him into an internet celebrity this week when he was spotted by viewers of the landing.

“In the past I thought about getting a Mohawk myself,” the president joked. “My team keeps on discouraging me. Now that he’s received marriage proposals and thousands of new Twitter followers I think I may go back to my team and see if it makes sense.”

The president attempted to remind listeners of his administration’s dedication to math and science education, hoping it would inspire more young people to take up the pursuit of knowledge.

“We’re fortunate to be part of a society that can reach the outer planets; explore frontiers that were only imagined by our ancestors. So it’s inspiring to all of us.”

The president made the call from aboard Air Force One as he flew between Chicago and Omaha, Neb., on a campaign trip.

President Obama wasn’t the only candidate to praise the Mars mission today. Addressing supporters in Florida, Mitt Romney said, “We just landed on Mars and took a good look at what’s going on there.”

“And I know the Chinese are planning on going to the moon and I hope they have a good experience doing that,” he said. “And I hope they stop in and take a look at our flag that was put there 43 years ago!”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug102012

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks Sunday

Perseids composite, seen Aug. 12-13, 2011. Concentric circles are star trails. (NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office)(NEW YORK) -- Go outside in the wee hours of Sunday morning and if the night sky is clear, you might see exquisite showers. The Perseid meteor shower of 2012 is expected to peak Sunday between midnight and dawn, and if you're in a good, dark place, you might see more than 60 meteors -- shooting stars -- per hour.

Every year at this time, the Earth passes through the orbit of a comet called Swift-Tuttle, and we see meteors streaking across the night sky as pieces of debris from the comet -- most no larger than grains of sand -- enter the earth's atmosphere and burn up.

Although the comet is far away now, in an elliptical orbit that brings it close to the sun once every 133 years, rock and ice from it have spread out along its path. The comet itself will probably be pretty good to see if you can hang on until July 2126, but in the meantime, like clockwork, it gives us an annual meteor shower in mid-August.

This is a good year to look. There is a crescent moon that will rise in the east Sunday around 2 a.m., but it should not be bright enough to interfere with seeing in other parts of the sky. The weather is another matter; the forecast, especially for the eastern United States, is not promising.

Be alert; most meteors streak by in a second or less, sometimes in clusters. To see them well, find a nice, dark place with no street lights and as few trees as possible, and look up. You may be happiest in a lawn chair or a sleeping bag. Coffee and bug spray might be helpful, too. The streaks could appear anywhere in the sky, although they'll generally appear to come from the constellation Perseus, in the northeastern sky, after midnight.

In general, there are more shooting stars in the morning hours because that's the side of the Earth that faces forward as we orbit the sun, so it's less shielded. While the shower actually peaks early Sunday, Perseid meteors are often spotted several nights before and after.

The Perseid usually lets you see one or two shooting stars a minute, but only if you have dark, clear skies, and happen to be looking in the right direction.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul242012

Skydiver to Jump from Edge of Space Wednesday

Red Bull(ROSWELL, N.M.) -- It seems appropriate that Roswell, ground zero for UFO hunters, is hosting the mission to the edge of space because the sight of daredevil Felix Baumgartner diving back to Earth from 90 thousand feet will certainly spark new UFO conspiracy theories.

Baumgartner will go from zero to perhaps 509 mph in 30 seconds when he jumps from his space capsule. An attempt was scrubbed Tuesday morning because of high winds; another try could be made Wednesday.

He hit 365 mph when he jumped from 71,000 feet in March -- and he is expected to go supersonic in August when he dives from 120 thousand feet. That's zero to 690 mph in 25 seconds -- a human body breaking the sound barrier without an airplane. Most people go to the edge of space or beyond in a rocket. Baumgartner is going up in a capsule carried aloft by a huge helium balloon.

"The pressure is huge, and we not only have to endure but excel," he said. "We're excellently prepared, but it's never going to be a fun day, I'm risking my life, after all."

Red Bull is financing this daredevil skydive from space. The mission is named Stratos. Five years of planning by a team of experts, many volunteering their services, went into the jump, which is set to break several records in one breathtaking plunge back to Earth, including:

  • First person to break the sound barrier outside of an aircraft.
  • Record for freefall from the highest altitude
  • Longest freefall time; five minutes 35 seconds approximately.
  • Highest manned balloon flight.

This daredevil dive from near space is not a first. The Austrian Baumgartner will be breaking a 52-year-old record if he succeeds, and he wisely recruited the man who set the record, the legendary Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, for advice.

On Aug. 16, 1960, Kittinger jumped from a balloon at an altitude of 102,900 feet -- and fell for almost five minutes before opening a parachute to slow his descent at 18,000 feet. He made history for the highest balloon ascent, the highest parachute jump, and the fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.

"Somebody will beat them someday, but when they do it, they'll be doing it to beat a record," Kittinger said in a 2008 interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl. "We didn't make those records at the time just for that purpose"

He now says he is happy to cede his record to Baumgartner -- but joked, "I told him if he changes his mind, I am ready to take over for him."

Weather is critical because the massive balloon is fragile and tears easily; it can't launch with winds in excess of 4 mph or under heavy cloud cover.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul232012

Sally Ride, First American Woman in Space, Dead at 61

MPI/Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died Monday at the age of 61, ABC News has confirmed.

The former NASA astronaut waged a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer before passing "peacefully" on Monday, according to a statement released by Sally Ride Science.

"Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment and love.  Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless," the statement said.

In 1983 and again in 1984, Ride flew as a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger, conducting experiments, operating the shuttle's robot arm -- and breaking through a very high-altitude glass ceiling.

Describing the historic June 18, 1983, launch of Challenger’s STS-7 mission from the Kennedy Space Center, ABC News Radio correspondent Vic Ratner proclaimed at the time, “Space is no longer an all male enterprise; the five astronauts on board today include the first American woman to fly in space, Sally Ride.”

President Obama on Monday said he and first lady Michelle Obama "were deeply saddened" to hear of Ride's passing, hailing her a “national hero and a powerful role model.”

“She inspired  generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools," the president said in a statement released by the White House on Monday.  "Sally’s life showed us  that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sally’s family and friends.”

Watch More News Videos at ABC
2012 Presidential Election
Entertainment & Celebrity News

"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America’s space program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Monday. "The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."

Born on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, Ride studied physics at Stanford University, earning a Ph.D. in 1978. By then she had already been selected as one of NASA's first six woman astronaut candidates. The agency was gearing up for its new shuttle program, and said it wanted to expand its astronaut corps, which in its early years had been mostly limited to test pilots.

Watch More News Videos at ABC
2012 Presidential Election
Entertainment & Celebrity News

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul232012

Skydiver Set for Record-Breaking Jump from Edge of Space

Red Bull(ROSWELL, New Mexico) -- It seems appropriate that Roswell, ground zero for UFO hunters, is hosting the mission to the edge of space -- because the sight of daredevil Felix Baumgartner diving back to Earth from 90,000 feet will certainly spark new UFO conspiracy theories.

Baumgartner will go from zero to perhaps 509 mph in 30 seconds when he steps out of his space capsule Tuesday morning. He hit 365 mph when he jumped from 71,000 feet in March -- and he will go supersonic in August when he dives from 120,000 feet. That's zero to 690 mph in 25 seconds -- a human body breaking the sound barrier without an airplane. Most people go to the edge of space or beyond in a rocket -- Baumgartner is going up in a capsule carried aloft by a huge helium balloon.

Most of us would never willingly step out of an airplane to skydive from 3,000 feet. So you have to wonder why Felix Baumgartner does this. He knows the risks and says he accepts the danger. He canceled an attempt Monday morning because of high winds.

Weather is critical because the massive balloon is fragile and tears easily; it can't launch with winds in excess of 4 mph or under heavy cloud cover. Meteorologist Don Day also needs to consider where winds will push Baumgartner when he lands -- preferably not in the mountains west of the launch site.

"The pressure is huge, and we not only have to endure but excel," he said. "We're excellently prepared, but it's never going to be a fun day, I'm risking my life, after all."

Red Bull is financing this daredevil skydive from space, dubbed Stratos. Five years of planning by a team of experts, many volunteering their services, to break several records in one breathtaking plunge back to Earth:

  • First person to break the sound barrier outside of an aircraft.
  • Record for freefall from the highest altitude.
  • Longest freefall time -- expected five minutes 35 seconds.
  • Highest manned balloon flight.

This daredevil dive from near space is not a first. The Austrian Baumgartner will be breaking a 52-year-old record, and he wisely recruited the man who set the record, the legendary Col. Joe Kittinger, for advice. On Aug. 16, 1960, Kittinger jumped from a balloon at an altitude of 102,900 feet -- and fell for almost five minutes before opening a parachute to slow his descent at 18,000 feet. He made history for the highest balloon ascent, the highest parachute jump and the fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.

"Somebody will beat them someday, but when they do it, they'll be doing it to beat a record," Kittinger said in a 2008 interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl. "We didn't make those records at the time just for that purpose."

He now says he is happy to cede his record to Baumgartner -- but joked, "I told him if he changes his mind, I am ready to take over for him."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun192012

Mickey Mouse ‘Found’ on Planet Mercury

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington(HOUSTON) -- If Mickey Mouse were to be found in outer space an obvious place to look would be Pluto. But new photos from NASA have found a near identical rendering of the iconic Disney character on the planet Mercury.

The face and big ears are not Mickey’s, however, but just three overlapping craters in Mercury’s southern hemisphere.

The look-alike picture was snapped by NASA’s Messenger spacecraft probing the planet to collect images when the sun is near the horizon.  Images taken at that time help mapmakers see the planet’s small-scale surface features because of the long shadows that are created.

“The shadowing helps define the striking ‘Mickey Mouse’ resemblance, created by the accumulation of craters over Mercury’s long geologic history,” says NASA in the photo description on Flickr.

The crater configuration is on the planet’s south side, near a crater called Magritte, the space agency reports.

Messenger launched in March of last year as the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.  The spacecraft received a yearlong extension of its mission in order to acquire another 80,000 or so images of the planet on top of the 88,746 images it’s already collected.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May182012

SpaceX Launch: Falcon Rocket to Carry 308 Cremated Remains

File photo. Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- When SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rocket it will secretly be carrying celebrities.

Actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series, died in 2005. His ashes will be on board this mission -- as will those of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and 306 other people. If you have the money, Celestis, a space services company, will send your loved one's ashes up to orbit Earth.

Sound familiar? This is the second time around for Celestis and Space X; the companies tried to launch Doohan and Cooper and 206 others back in August 2008. When SpaceX launched the remains on its Falcon1 rocket, the rocket never made it to space. When the rocket failed to get to orbit, neither did the cremated remains, or, for that matter, some small satellites sent by NASA and the Department of Defense.

The satellites were lost, but Celestis has a performance guarantee, which means it holds some ashes back just in case something goes wrong.

The Falcon 9 is currently counting down to a launch on Saturday morning at 4:55 a.m. EDT.

SpaceX is a private company under contract to NASA to take cargo to the orbiting outpost, and Saturday's planned launch is a test to prove to NASA that it can fulfill its performance promises. The space agency has spent just under $300 million to fund SpaceX under COTS, the Commercial Orbital Transportation System.

SpaceX picked up the early development costs for its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule, hoping eventually to score a $1.6 billion dollar contract for regular cargo runs to the space station. One day, it says, it hopes to carry astronauts.

But SpaceX is in business to make money, and if they can pick up cargo on the side, it makes sense financially. The ashes of 308 souls add up to about $1 million-- though 208 of them are make-goods from the previous failed mission.

So in addition to the 1,014 pounds of food and supplies headed to the six astronauts on the space station, there are the spirits of 308 people.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar082012

Solar Storm Fizzles: ‘Not a Terribly Strong Event’

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The geomagnetic storm that forecasters predicted could reach “strong” G-3 intensity is currently only a “minor” G-1 event, with minimal effects expected on Earth.

“This is not a terribly strong event,” said physicist and NOAA space weather scientist Joseph Kunches.

“We did estimate where the pitch was going and when it was going over the plate, but we missed the spin on the ball,” said Kunches, using a baseball analogy.

A G-1 or “minor” storm is at the bottom of a scale that goes up to G-5, or “extreme.”

A G-1 storm is capable of producing weak fluctuations in the power gridm but generally has minor impacts on satellites orbiting the Earth. GPS and radio communications can have intermittent problems, and the northern lights might be seen as far south as Michigan and Maine.

The storm — which was born from a massive solar flare that erupted Tuesday — is still passing Earth, and could potentially still reach G-2 or G-3 levels before it fades sometime Friday, Kunches said.

“We really worry about crying wolf,” said Kunches. “In any forecasting activity, you have to seriously consider the false alarm rate and the cry wolf rate so you don’t erode your credibility.”

Forecasters at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center say there is still potential for trouble over the next few days. The sunspot region known as AR 1429 that that unleashed the latest geomagnetic storm is still active, and aimed toward Earth.

“A further eruption could be very problematic,” Kunches said. “We could go through the same drill that we’re going through right now. Probably through the weekend it’s in a prime location and then it becomes less problematic through the next week.”

The impact from geomagnetic storms can be serious. Fall 2003 saw an intense period of solar activity that included two “extreme” G-5 storms. Transformer problems caused blackouts in Europe. Astronauts on the International Space Station were told to take cover. Deep space missions like the Mars Odyssey developed problems and had to be rebooted, while Japan’s $640 million ADEOS-2 was a total loss.

“Airlines took unprecedented actions in their high latitude routes to avoid the high radiation levels and communication blackout areas. Rerouted flights cost airlines $10,000 to $100,000 per flight,” according to a NOAA report.

A 1989 solar storm knocked out power to 6 million people in Canada’s Quebec Province and affected power utilities in a few U.S. states.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio