Zothecula writes: A manned Soyuz spacecraft set a record for traveling to the International Space Station (ISS), arriving six hours after launch instead of the usual two days. Soyuz 34 lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, March 28 at 4:43 p.m. EDT (08:43 GMT) and docked with the ISS at 10: 28 PM EDT (03:28 GMT). It was able to catch up and match trajectories with the ISS in only four orbits using new techniques previously tested in ISS rendezvouses with Russian unmanned Progress cargo ships.
Zothecula writes: We haven't heard anything from NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft since its launch in February, but the satellite is now ready to start sending its first images back home. The first batch of photos are part of a three-month testing period, and show the meeting of the Great Plains with the Front Ranges of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and Colorado. Viewed from space, it's already a pretty spectacular scene, but the images from the LDCM managed to enhance it even further.
Zothecula writes: Has Voyager 1 left the Solar System? Is it officially the first spacecraft to reach interstellar space? It depends on whom you ask. NASA says no, but W.R. Webber of the New Mexico State University Department of Astronomy and F.B. McDonald of the University of Maryland Institute of Physical Science and Technology say yes. They contend that the unmanned, nuclear-powered probe left the Solar System on August 25, 2012 at a distance of 121.7 AU (18.2 billion km) from the Sun when its instruments on board detected a major shift in cosmic ray intensity.
Zothecula writes: The race to build a manned research station on the moon has been slowly picking up steam in recent years, with several developed nations actively studying a variety of construction methods. In just the past few months, the European Space Agency revealed a design involving 3D-printed structures and the Russian Federal Space Agency announced plans for a moon base by 2037. Now international design agency, Architecture Et Cetera (A-ETC), has thrown its hat into the ring with a proposal for SinterHab, a moon base consisting of bubble-like compartments coated in a protective layer of melted lunar dust.
Zothecula writes: The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite was launched on March 17, 2009, as the first of a series of Earth Explorer satellites. Its mission is to capture high-resolution gravity measurements and produce an accurate gravity map – or geoid – of Earth. To increase the resolution of its measurements, GOCE was put into an unusually low orbit, which has also helped it to become the first satellite to sense sound waves from an earthquake from space.
Zothecula writes: The Japanese communication robot destined to join the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this summer recently underwent some zero gravity testing. The Kibo Robot Project, organized by Dentsu Inc. in response to a proposal made by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, unveiled the final design of its diminutive humanoid robot and its Earthbound counterpart.
Zothecula writes: The University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) are set to launch the world’s first smartphone-based satellite. Built around a Google Nexus One smartphone running on the Android operating system, the STRaND-1 (Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstrator) satellite will also be the U.K.’s first CubeSat to go into space.
Zothecula writes: Recently we've seen preliminary asteroid mining plans from Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, but what about NASA? The government agency would like to do some excavating on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids, too — but it isn't in it for the profit. NASA wants to clear the way for construction projects and mine materials for use by astronauts, and is developing a teleoperated robot called the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR, pronounced "razor") to get the job done.
Zothecula writes: NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have begun practicing satellite refueling in space on a test bed outside the International Space Station (ISS). In a series of tests that started on January 14 and are scheduled to continue until the 25th, the two space agencies are using the Robotic Refueling Module (RRM) and Canada’s Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, or Dextre, robot to carry out simulated refueling operations. The purpose of these tests is to develop refueling methods aimed at extending the life of satellites and reducing the amount of space debris orbiting the Earth.
Zothecula writes: The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) is planning to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the Moon in 2015, a first step toward the ambitious long-term plan to establish a robotic base on the surface of our largest satellite. The spacecraft, called Luna-Glob ("Moon globe"), will be followed by two more orbiters and two rovers that will study the lunar soil locally and collect samples of rocks and dust, bringing them back to Earth for analysis.
Zothecula writes: To paraphrase an old saying, if the astronaut can’t go to the asteroid, then the asteroid must come to the astronaut. In a study released by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, researchers outlined a mission to tow an asteroid into lunar orbit by 2025 using ion propulsion and a really big bag. The idea is to bring an asteroid close to Earth for easy study and visits by astronauts without the hazards and expense of a deep space mission.
Zothecula writes: China has now joined the very select group of countries to have succeeded in carrying out an interplanetary probe mission. According to reports from China's official news agency Xinhua, the Chang'E 2 probe passed a mere 3.2 km (2 miles) from the near-Earth asteroid Toutatis at 8:30:09 GMT on December 13, making it the closest asteroid flyby to date... and resulting in some remarkable photographs.
Zothecula writes: Researchers at Washington State University have successfully 3D printed basic shapes with simulated moon rock, offering the first glimpse of a future in which off world explorers or colonists may be able to fabricate parts and components composed of lunar or Martian surface matter.
Zothecula writes: Astronomers have found what is likely to be a planet that is not gravitationally bound to any star. The rogue planet, called CFBDSIR2149, is around 100 light years from our solar system, making it the closest free-floating planetary mass yet discovered. Its relative proximity, coupled with the lack of a bright star in its vicinity, has allowed researchers to study its atmosphere in great detail, which should help provide a better understanding of exoplanets that do orbit stars.
Zothecula writes: NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has completed its first soil analysis of the Red Planet. The unmanned explorer used an advanced, miniaturized X-ray diffraction instrument that is part of the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) of its internal laboratory. The soil, collected at a site designated “Rocknest” in Gale Crater, reveals that Martian soil is a weathered volcanic type similar to soils found in the Hawaiian Islands.