Fortunately, the Obama administration has proposed a game-changing solution that uses private industry to more cost-effectively take on the more mundane aspects of human transportation to low-Earth orbit, freeing up needed funds to send astronauts to explore deep space.The administration’s wise commercialization approach echoes an immensely successful path taken by NASA in the past. Consider: At the dawn of the Space Age, all satellites were built and launched by governments. But early on, communications satellites were encouraged to go commercial. The result: a $100 billion-plus spinoff industry that employs thousands of workers to build the satellites, their ground stations, launchers and associated command and control infrastructure. It also launches more satellites annually than any other form of spaceflight. The money saved frees NASA to do other things with its resources.
Against the awesome backdrop of the sun, they are at first little more than specks. Look a little closer, however, and you can make out the outline of solar panels, and next to it a dart-shaped silhouette.
This extraordinary image shows the Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with the International Space Station in front of the sun. It was taken by astro-photographer Thierry Legault who, had he blinked at the crucial moment, would have missed it.
For despite detailed planning and even travelling from France to Spain to take the image, the actual event was visible for just 0.54 of a second because of the speed of the two spacecraft.
The 48-year-old Frenchman travelled to Madrid so he would be in the ideal location to watch the transit of the two spacecraft. This placed him in the centre of a five-mile wide visibility band that stretched across Spain, southern France and Northern Italy.
(AP) — Landing a man on the moon was a towering achievement. Now the president has given NASA an even harder job, one with a certain Hollywood quality: sending astronauts to an asteroid, a giant speeding rock, just 15 years from now.
Space experts say such a voyage could take several months longer than a journey to the moon and entail far greater dangers.
Vast pockets of water ice numbering in the millions of tons have been discovered at the north pole of the moon, opening up another region of the lunar surface for potential exploration by astronauts and unmanned probes, NASA announced Monday.
A NASA radar instrument on an Indian moon probe found evidence of at least 600 million metric tons of water ice spread out on the bottom of craters at the lunar north pole. It is yet another supply of lunar water ice, a vital resource that could be mined to produce oxygen or rocket fuel to support a future moon base, NASA officials said.
When astronomers began spotting planets around distant stars in the mid-1990s, they were baffled. Many of these early discoveries involved worlds as big as Jupiter, or even bigger — but they orbit their stars so tightly that their “years” were just days long. Nobody could imagine how a Jupiter or anything like it could form in such a hostile location, where the radiation of the parent star would have pushed the light gas — which makes up most of such a planet’s mass — out to the farthest reaches of the solar system before it could ever coalesce.
Reporting from Brasilia, Brazil — Brazil’s planned reentry into the satellite business next year is more than an effort to join an exclusive club and become a global player. It’s part of a far-reaching defense plan to ward off potential plunderers of its immense natural resources, officials say.
“In the coming era of scarcity, we’re going to have to defend what we’ve got with our claws, our feet and our weapons,” said a consultant to the Defense Ministry who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak. “The challenges could come from neighbors, they could come from the U.S., they could come from China — all allies now, but potential competitors in the future.”
It happens only once in a blue moon — and scientists say a blue moon is exactly what we’ll see in the skies this New Year’s Eve.
Don’t expect an azure glow over our lunar satellite, however. The term “blue moon” simply refers to the second full moon in a calendar month, something that hasn’t happened on a New Year’s Eve for nearly 20 years, NASA says.
This year provided plenty of cosmic eye-openers for astronomers and casual stargazers alike. Neighborhood planets such as Mercury and Jupiter received makeovers in both a scientific and literal sense. The discovery of water on the moon and Mars provided clues to the past, not to mention hints for the future of space exploration. And a class of newly-detected “Super-Earth” planets around alien stars may ultimately prove more habitable than Earth. Here are the stories that stood out:
Read more SPACE.com — 9 Astronomy Milestones in 2009.
Sun-like stars have for the first time been found to harbour super-Earths – rocky planets larger than Earth but smaller than ice giants like Neptune.
Unlike stars previously known to harbour super-Earths, both of the stars discovered are similar to the Sun in size, age and other properties – for the first time suggesting that low-mass planets may be common around nearby stars.
Uranus spins on an axis almost parallel with the plane of the solar system, rather than perpendicular to it – though why it does this nobody knows. One theory is that the tilt is the result of a collision with an Earth-sized object, but this “hasn’t succeeded in explaining much of anything”, says Ignacio Mosqueira of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Why, for example, are the orbits of Uranus’s 27 known moons not also tilted?