NASA in the new
for the future of American and outer space? Next
to last flight of Space
Shuttle...cellphone pix story.
MOVIES MADE ON THIS 1998
Remember MAD magazine back page
item on this sort of report? Video by NASAgovVideo
There were some
bad movies, too, on this. Sun acted between 4am
and 8am to destroy or break up this comet, we think...but wait, the
NYTIMES said it's alive!
Comet ISON, Presumed Dead, Shows New Life
By KENNETH CHANG, NYTIMES
November 29, 2013
Astronomers are marveling at the death and apparent resurrection of a
comet that dove close to the sun on Thanksgiving.
Comet ISON passed within a million miles of the sun’s surface at 1:37
p.m. Eastern time on Thursday — by which time observers had already
glumly concluded that the comet had disintegrated and vaporized.
NASA posted on Twitter, “It’s likely it didn’t survive.”
ISON, which spent several billion years at the frigid edge of the solar
system before starting a long journey toward the sun, had been billed
as a possible “comet of the century.” Its demise seemed to be an
anticlimactic ending to the story.
But “then it appears again,” said Karl Battams, an astrophysicist at
the Naval Research Laboratory who has been observing the comet from
Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. “We see something come out.”
Images taken by spacecraft showed an increasingly bright point at the
head of the comet. Dr. Battams said that current data could not offer a
definitive answer, but it appeared Friday that part of ISON’s nucleus
was still holding together.
“It’s definitely maybe alive,” Dr. Battams said. “There’s a strong
definite chance it might be, may be alive.”
Additional observations by spacecraft and ground-based telescopes could
provide a clearer picture over the next few days. The Hubble Space
Telescope should be able to take a close look in a couple of weeks.
On his Twitter account, Dr. Battams mused, “So, umm ... did I mention
that comets are like cats??”
Comet ISON may have survived its brush with the sun.
Even more uncertain is whether there will be much to see in the night
sky in early December, when ISON is to pass through Earth’s
neighborhood. (One thing is certain, astronomers say: There is no
possibility that it will strike Earth.)
The apparent resurrection raised the question: if ISON is not dead, why
did it disappear during its close approach to the sun?
“At this point, we don’t have an answer to that,” said C. Alex Young,
associate director for science in the heliophysics division at NASA’s
Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
The tale has gathered a wide following on the Internet, with Dr.
Battams juggling media interviews and Twitter postings while also
trying to digest the stream of data.
“We’ve got spotlights on us, literally,” he said in an interview,
adding that he had slept only a couple of hours. “It’s a lot of
pressure because at present we have a lot more questions than answers.
But it’s fabulous. It’s an amazing event we’re witnessing.”
On Thursday, Dr. Battams and Dr. Young answered questions in a
NASA-organized chat room on Google as ISON neared the sun.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft sent back an image that
was expected to show the comet within the corona. It showed nothing,
but it was possible the comet was not close enough yet. “We thought
maybe we wouldn’t see something right away,” Dr. Young said.
Half an hour later, another image came back, again with no sign of ISON.
“We didn’t see anything — nothing — and we expected we would see at
least a little bit,” Dr. Young said.
A much smaller comet last year had given an impressive show, and
scientists expected that even if ISON started falling apart, there
would still be big pieces left for the observatory to detect.
“We were extremely let down by the lack of a show,” Dr. Young said.
But a couple of hours later, another NASA spacecraft spotted something
emerging from the other side of the sun. At first it seemed to be
nothing more than debris from the comet’s tail. Dr. Young left for home
thinking the day had been a bust.
As he was driving, he heard his cellphone buzzing as text messages
poured in. He pulled over to take a look at the data. More images were
showing indications of a surviving nucleus. He headed to a diner that
was closed for Thanksgiving but whose Wi-Fi network was on. “I pulled
out my laptop to see what I could see,” he said.
The news that reports of ISON’s death were premature ricocheted around
Twitter. Richard Branson, the British billionaire who founded the
constellation of Virgin companies, posted on Friday: “Our sun melts
most of comet #ISON. A little survives to fly on.”
Scientists hope that observations of ISON will also provide information
about the early solar system when ISON formed.
By now, comet experts are cautious about saying what they expect to
ISON, Dr. Battams said, “is taking every opportunity to do everything
we didn’t expect it to do.”
Scientists: Sun-grazing comet likely broke
Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2013 8:45 pm
STOCKHOLM -- Once billed as the comet of the century, Comet ISON
apparently was no match for the sun. Scientists said images from
spacecraft showed the comet approaching for a slingshot around the sun
on Thursday, but just a trail of dust coming out on the other end.
"It does seem like Comet ISON probably hasn't survived this journey,"
U.S. Navy solar researcher Karl Battams said in a Google+ hangout.
Phil Plait, an astronomer who runs the "Bad Astronomy" blog, agreed,
saying "I don't think the comet made it."
Still, he said, it wouldn't be all bad news if the 4.5-billion-year-old
space rock broke up into pieces, because astronomers might be able to
study them and learn more about comets.
"This is a time capsule looking back at the birth of the solar system,"
The comet was two-thirds of a mile wide as it got within 1 million
miles (1.6 million kilometers) of the sun, which in space terms
basically means grazing it. NASA solar physicist Alex Young said
would take a few hours to confirm ISON's demise, but admitted things
were not looking good.
He said the comet had been expected to show up in images from the Solar
Dynamics Observatory spacecraft at around noon eastern time (1700 GMT),
but almost four hours later there was "no sign of it whatsoever."
"Maybe over the last couple of days it's been breaking up," Young told
The Associated Press. "The nucleus could have been gone a day or so
Images from other spacecraft showed a light streak continuing past the
sun, but Young said that was most likely a trail of dust continuing in
the comet's trajectory.
"The comet itself is definitely gone, but it looks like there is a
trail of debris," he said.
Comet ISON was first spotted by a Russian telescope in September last
year. Some sky gazers speculated early on that it might become
comet of the century because of its brightness, although expectations
dimmed as it got closer to the sun. Made up of loosely packed ice
dirt, it was essentially a dirty snowball from the Oort cloud, an area
of comets and debris on the fringes of the solar system. Two
ago, a smaller comet, Lovejoy, grazed the sun and survived, but fell
apart a couple of days later.
"That's why we expected that maybe this one would make it because it
was 10 times the size," Young said.
It may be a while before there's a sun-grazer of the same size, he said.
"They are pretty rare," Young said. "So we might not see one maybe even
in our lifetime."
Comet ISON headed our way
November 28, 2013 | 4:35am
A comet that left the outer edge of the solar system more
than 5.5 million years ago will pass close by the sun on Thursday,
becoming visible in Earth’s skies in the next week or two — if it
“There are three possibilities when this comet rounds the sun,” Donald
Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in an interview posted
on NASA’s website.
“It could be tough enough to survive the passage of the sun and be a
fairly bright, naked-eye object,” he said.
The second possibility is that the sun’s gravity could rip the comet
apart, creating several big chunks.
“As long as there are pieces there, we’ll see something,” Carey Lisse,
senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
in Laurel, Md., told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.
The third option: If the comet is very weak, it could break up into a
cloud of dust and be a complete bust for viewing.
“This comet is giving us quite a ride. It’s going to be hard to predict
exactly what’s going on,” Lisse said. “As a betting man, I think it’s
not going to survive solar passage,” he added.
Comet ISON, as the object is known, was due to pass just 730,000 miles
from the surface of the sun at 1:37 p.m. EST/1837 GMT on Thursday.
At that distance, the comet will reach temperatures approaching 5,000
degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to vaporize not just ices in the
comet’s body, but dust and rock as well.
“While it may seem incredible that anything can survive this inferno,
the rate at which ISON will likely lose mass is relatively small
compared to the actual size of the comet’s nucleus,” Lowell Observatory
astronomer Matthew Knight said in a NASA interview.
Scientists estimate that ISON needs to be about 219 yards to survive
its close encounter with the sun. The most recent measurements indicate
the comet is more than twice that size, and perhaps as big as .75 miles.
It helps that ISON will not be staying in the solar furnace for long.
When it zips around the sun, it will be moving at about 217 miles per
second (349 km per second.)
The comet was discovered last year by two amateur astronomers using
Russia’s International Scientific Optical Network, or ISON.
It was extraordinarily bright at the time, considering its great
distance beyond Jupiter’s orbit, raising the prospect of a truly cosmic
spectacle as it approached the sun.
Heat from the sun causes ices in a comet’s body to vaporize, creating
bright distinctive tails and fuzzy looking, glowing bodies. The closer
comets come to the sun, the brighter they shine, depending on how much
ice they contain.
Comets are believed to be frozen remains left over from the formation
of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago.
The family of comets that ISON is from resides in the Oort Cloud, which
is located about 10,000 times farther away from the sun than Earth,
halfway to the next star.
Occasionally, an Oort Cloud comet is gravitationally nudged out of the
cloud by a passing star and into a flight path that millions of years
later brings it into the inner solar system. Computer models show ISON
is a first-time visitor.
“You need comets in order to build the planets and this comet has been
in deep freeze in the Oort Cloud for the last 4.5 billion years,” Lisse
“Comet ISON is a relic. It’s a dinosaur bone of solar system
formation,” he said.
Oort Cloud comets have passed by Earth before, and sun-grazing comets
are common. Comet ISON, however, is unique.
“We have never seen a comet like this, a comet that is both dynamically
new from the Oort Cloud and in a sun-grazing orbit,” said
astrophysicist Karl Battams, with the Naval Research Laboratory in
“It has been behaving strangely,” Battams said, noting recent flares
and changes in brightness that could be signs the comet is fragmenting.
CT native, UConn grad rockets into space
Thursday, November 7, 2013 by:Jim Shay
Waterbury native and UConn grad Rick Mastracchio returned to space this
Mastracchio was among the crew on board a a rocket carrying the Olympic
flame that successfully blasted off Thursday from earth ahead of the
Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
The 53-year-old Mastracchio is a veteran of three spaceflights.
Mastracchio flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-106, STS-118, and
STS-131 and has logged nearly 40 days in space, including six EVAs
totaling 38 hours and 30 minutes.
NASA Live TV showed the rocket, emblazoned with the pale blue Sochi
2014 logo, launching from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome on a
clear morning in Kazakhstan.
Connecticut native and UConn grad Rick Mastracchio returned to space
Connecticut native and UConn grad Rick Mastracchio returned to space
The torch will make its way to the International Space Station before
being taken into space itself — making it the Olympic flame’s first
spacewalk in history.
Russia’s Mikhail Tyurin, NASA’s Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan
beamed at the crowd as they carried the lit torch aboard the Soyuz
For safety reasons, the torch will not burn when it’s onboard the space
outpost. Lighting it would consume precious oxygen and pose a threat to
the crew. The crew will carry the unlit torch around the station’s
numerous modules before taking it out on a spacewalk.
The Olympic torch has flown into space once before — in 1996 aboard the
U.S. space shuttle Atlantis for the Atlanta Summer Olympics — but will
be taken outside the spacecraft for the first time in history.
The torch will remain in space for five days. Russian cosmonauts Oleg
Kotov and Sergei Ryazanskiy, who are currently manning the
International Space Station, will take the flame for a spacewalk on
Saturday, before it is returned to earth by three astronauts on Monday.
The torch will be used to light the Olympic flame at Sochi’s stadium on
Feb. 7, marking the start of the 2014 Winter Games that run until Feb.
Mastracchio is carrying a “travel bug,” a device used to mark the
location of a hidden cache or container. On the space station, it will
serve as a tool for students and enthusiasts to track the astronaut who
is bringing it to space.
“We are going to bring up a geocache travel bug, which is basically
just a small dog tag,” NASA flight engineer Rick Mastracchio said in a
televised media interview. “The kids are going to follow it online and
I’ll answer questions while I’m on orbit with them. It gives them a
reason to follow the mission and learn about NASA.”
BIO: Born February 11, 1960 in Waterbury, Connecticut.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Crosby High School, Waterbury, Connecticut,
in 1978; received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical
Engineering/Computer Science from the University of Connecticut in
1982, a Master of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1987, and a Master of Science
Degree in Physical Science from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in
Faster Than the Speed of Light?
By DANNY HAKIM, NYTIMES
July 22, 2013
HOUSTON — Beyond the security gate at the Johnson Space Center’s
1960s-era campus here, inside a two-story glass and concrete building
with winding corridors, there is a floating laboratory.
Harold G. White, a physicist and advanced propulsion engineer at NASA,
beckoned toward a table full of equipment there on a recent afternoon:
a laser, a camera, some small mirrors, a ring made of ceramic
capacitors and a few other objects.
He and other NASA engineers have been designing and redesigning these
instruments, with the goal of using them to slightly warp the
trajectory of a photon, changing the distance it travels in a certain
area, and then observing the change with a device called an
interferometer. So sensitive is their measuring equipment that it was
picking up myriad earthly vibrations, including people walking nearby.
So they recently moved into this lab, which floats atop a system of
underground pneumatic piers, freeing it from seismic disturbances.
The team is trying to determine whether faster-than-light travel — warp
drive — might someday be possible.
Warp drive. Like on “Star Trek.”
“Space has been expanding since the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago,”
said Dr. White, 43, who runs the research project. “And we know that
when you look at some of the cosmology models, there were early periods
of the universe where there was explosive inflation, where two points
would’ve went receding away from each other at very rapid speeds.”
“Nature can do it,” he said. “So the question is, can we do it?”
Einstein famously postulated that, as Dr. White put it, “thou shalt not
exceed the speed of light,” essentially setting a galactic speed limit.
But in 1994, a Mexican physicist, Miguel Alcubierre, theorized that
faster-than-light speeds were possible in a way that did not contradict
Einstein, though Dr. Alcubierre did not suggest anyone could actually
construct the engine that could accomplish that.
His theory involved harnessing the expansion and contraction of space
itself. Under Dr. Alcubierre’s hypothesis, a ship still couldn’t exceed
light speed in a local region of space. But a theoretical propulsion
system he sketched out manipulated space-time by generating a so-called
“warp bubble” that would expand space on one side of a spacecraft and
contract it on another.
“In this way, the spaceship will be pushed away from the Earth and
pulled towards a distant star by space-time itself,” Dr. Alcubierre
wrote. Dr. White has likened it to stepping onto a moving walkway at an
But Dr. Alcubierre’s paper was purely theoretical, and suggested
insurmountable hurdles. Among other things, it depended on large
amounts of a little understood or observed type of “exotic matter” that
violates typical physical laws.
Dr. White believes that advances he and others have made render warp
speed less implausible. Among other things, he has redesigned the
theoretical warp-traveling spacecraft — and in particular a ring around
it that is key to its propulsion system — in a way that he believes
will greatly reduce the energy requirements.
He is quick to offer up his own caveats, however, saying his warp
research is akin to a university science project that is just trying to
prove that a microscopic warp bubble can be detected in a lab. ”We’re
not bolting this to a spacecraft,” he said of the warp technology.
Dr. White was an engineer with a background in the aerospace industry
when he came to NASA in 2000, starting his career at the agency by
operating the arms of space shuttles. He got his doctorate in physics
from Rice University in 2008, and now works on a range of projects
aimed at taking NASA beyond the fiery rockets that have long
characterized space travel.
For NASA, Dr. White’s warp speed experiments represent a rounding error
in its budget, with about $50,000 spent on equipment in an agency that
spends nearly $18 billion annually. The agency is far more focused on
more achievable projects — building the next generation Orion series
spacecraft, working on the International Space Station and preparing
for a planned future mission to capture an asteroid.
But it has made internal resources available for the project and freed
up other engineers to assist Dr. White. It has also restored the
pneumatic system in the laboratory Dr. White is using, to allow it to
float. The lab was once used to test equipment for Apollo missions and
has control panels underneath it that look like they belong in a
fallout shelter that time forgot.
Steve Stich, the deputy director of engineering at the Johnson Space
Center, said, “You always have to be looking towards the future.” He
held up his iPhone.
“Forty years ago, this was ‘Star Trek,’ Captain Kirk talking on a
communicator whenever he wanted to,” he said. “But today it exists
because people made the battery technology that allows this device to
exist, worked on the software technology, worked on the computational
technology, the touch screen.”
Theoretically, a warp drive could cut the travel time between stars
from tens of thousands of years to weeks or months. But we should
probably not book reservations anytime soon.
“My personal opinion is that the idea is crazy for now,” said Edwin F.
Taylor, a former editor of The American Journal of Physics and senior
research scientist at M.I.T. “Check with me in a hundred years.”
But Richard Obousy, a physicist who is president of Icarus
Interstellar, a nonprofit group composed of volunteers collaborating on
starship design, said “it is not airy-fairy, pie in the sky.”
“We tend to overestimate what we can do on short time scales, but I
think we massively underestimate what we can do on longer time scales,”
he said of the work of Dr. White, who is a friend and Icarus
Dr. White likened his experiments to the early stages of the Manhattan
Project, which were aimed at creating a very small nuclear reaction
merely as proof that it could be done.
“They tried to go through and demonstrate a nuclear reactor and
generate half a watt,” he said. “That’s not something you’re going to
market. Nobody’s going to buy that. It’s just making sure they
understood the physics and science.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson, the well-known astrophysicist at the American
Museum of Natural History, said some leap beyond our current technology
would be needed to make interstellar travel feasible.
“Routine travel among the stars is impossible without new discoveries
regarding the fabric of space and time, or capability to manipulate it
for our needs,” he said, adding, “By my read, the idea of a functioning
warp drive remains far-fetched, but the real take-away is that people
are thinking about it — reminding us all that the urge to explore
continues to run deep in our species.”
Still, one of the most dubious is Dr. Alcubierre himself. He listed a
number of concerns, starting with the vast amounts of exotic matter
that would be needed.
“The warp drive on this ground alone is impossible,” he said.
And he posed a more fundamental question: How would you turn it on?
“At speeds larger than the speed of light, the front of the warp bubble
cannot be reached by any signal from within the ship,” he said. “This
does not just mean we can’t turn it off; it is much worse. It means we
can’t even turn it on in the first place.”
Dr. White, who has never spoken to Dr. Alcubierre, said “I appreciate
his thoughts. I don’t know whether I agree with all of his
observations, based on some work I’ve done.”
“He and I could certainly debate for a very long time,” he added.
6 December 2012 Last updated at 00:37 ET
Suomi satellite pictures Earth in black
By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News, San Francisco
This spectacular night-time view of Earth is called Black Marble.
It has been assembled from a series of cloud-free images acquired by
one of the most capable satellites in the sky today - the Suomi
The platform was launched by the US last year, principally to deliver
critical meteorological data. The Black Marble dataset shows off
one of Suomi's key innovations: the low-light sensitivity of its VIIRS
instrument.VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) can
discern a range of phenomena of interest to weather forecasters -
cloud, snow, fog, etc - even when the satellite is on the dark side of
Most of the time, all VIIRS needs to do its work is some illumination
from the Moon. But if that is not available, the instrument can still
detect features down below just from the nocturnal glow of the
And, of course, just as this Black Marble rendition demonstrates, VIIRS
is also very good at capturing the lights of our cities. The new
imagery was unveiled here at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall
Meeting, the largest annual gathering of Earth scientists. Data
from Suomi - a joint Nasa and National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) satellite - is certain to become a mainstay of
future presentations at this conference.
VIIRS' trick is its special day-night band. Unlike a camera that
captures a whole picture in one exposure, the day-night band produces
an image by repeatedly scanning a scene and resolving it as millions of
individual pixels. The system then reviews the amount of light in
each pixel. If it is very bright, a low-gain mode prevents the pixel
from oversaturating; if the pixel is very dark, the signal is amplified.
US Air Force satellites have pushed the development of low-light
sensors for decades but Nasa/Noaa representatives at the AGU meeting
said VIIRS had taken the capability to a new level. One of the
instrument's most important observations of late was to watch Hurricane
Sandy as it made landfall over the US in October.
Suomi was launched as the NPP (National Polar-orbiting Operational
Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project) satellite.
It was subsequently renamed in honour of the pioneering Earth
observation scientist Verner E Suomi. The two-tonne, $1.5bn
(£0.9bn) spacecraft circles the globe, pole to pole, at an
altitude just over 800km.
Its five instruments are tasked with monitoring a huge range of land,
ocean, and atmospheric phenomena - from the temperature and humidity of
the air, to the spread of algal blooms in the ocean; and from the
amount of sunlight bouncing off clouds to the extent of Arctic ice.
New York Post has story and pictures. Watched
live on the internet
It's official: Felix Baumgartner, daredevil
skydiver, broke sound barrier
New Haven Register
By The Associated Press
Monday, October 15, 2012
ROSWELL, N.M. — In a giant leap from more than 24 miles up, a daredevil
skydiver shattered the sound barrier Sunday while making the highest
jump ever — a tumbling, death-defying plunge from a balloon to a safe
landing in the New Mexico desert...read full story from Reuters or AP here.
August 6, 2012
In this photo provided by NASA's JPL, this is one of the first images
taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of
Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, PDT. It was taken with a "fisheye" wide-angle
lens on the left "eye" of a stereo pair of Hazard-Avoidance cameras on
the left-rear side of the rover. The image is one-half of full
resolution. The clear dust cover that protected the camera during
landing has been sprung open. Part of the spring that released the dust
cover can be seen at the bottom right, near the rover's wheel. On the
top left, part of the rover's power supply is visible. Some dust
appears on the lens even with the dust cover off. The cameras are
looking directly into the sun, so the top of the image is saturated.
The lines across the top are an artifact called "blooming" that occurs
in the camera's detector because of the saturation. As planned, the
rover's early engineering images are lower resolution. Larger color
images from other cameras are expected later in the week when the
rover's mast, carrying high-resolution cameras, is deployed. (AP
Giant Nasa rover launches to Mars
Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent, BBC News
26 November 2011 Last updated at 11:01 ET
Nasa has launched the most capable machine ever built to land on
Mars. The one-tonne rover, tucked inside a capsule, left Florida
on an Atlas 5 rocket at 10:02 local time (15:02 GMT).
Nicknamed Curiosity, the rover will take eight and a half months to
cross the vast distance to its destination. If it can land safely
next August, the robot will then scour Martian soils and rocks for any
signs that current or past environments on the planet could have
supported microbial life. The Atlas flight lasted almost
three-quarters of an hour. By the time the encapsulated rover was
ejected a path to the Red Planet, it was moving at 10km/s.
Nasa was expecting a first communication from the cruising spacecraft
about an hour after lift-off. Engineers can then tell if all the
systems came through the stresses of launch in good shape. The
rover - also known as the Mars Science laboratory (MSL) - is due to
arrive at the Red Planet on the morning of 6 August 2012, GMT.
It is being aimed at a deep equatorial depression called Gale Crater,
which contains a central mountain that rises some 5km above the plain
The crater was chosen as the landing site because satellite imagery has
suggested that surface conditions at some point in time may have been
benign enough to sustain micro-organisms. This included pictures of
sediments at the base of the peak that were clearly laid down in the
presence of abundant water.
MSL is equipped with 10 sophisticated instruments to study the rocks,
soils and atmosphere in Gale Crater.
The $2.5bn (£1.6bn) mission is funded for an initial two Earth
years of operations, but MSL-Curiosity has a plutonium battery and so
should have ample power to keep rolling for more than a decade. It is
likely the mechanisms on the rover will wear out long before its energy
The odds are...pretty
someone, somewhere will find the satellite or a bit of it.
NASA Unveils Giant New
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
September 14, 2011
WASHINGTON (AP) — The design for NASA's newest behemoth of a rocket
harkens back to the giant workhorse liquid rockets that propelled men
to the moon. But this time the destinations will be much farther and
the rocket even more powerful.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and several members of Congress
joined Wednesday in unveiling the Obama administration's much-delayed
general plans for its rocket design, called the Space Launch System.
The multibillion-dollar program will carry astronauts in a capsule on
top and start test launching from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in six years.
"This is a great day for NASA, I think, for NASA and the nation,"
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., called it "a monster rocket." He said the
holdup in presenting the design was so all the details would be in
order, before the program was presented and defended by the
"Will it be tough times going forward? Of course it is," Nelson told
journalists. "We are in an era in which we have to do more with less —
all across the board — and the competition for the available dollars
will be fierce. But what we have here now are the realistic costs that
have been scrubbed by an outside, independent third party."
Nelson puts the cost of the program at about $18 billion over the next
five years — or $3 billion a year. Some estimates, however, are closer
to $35 billion.
The size, shape and heavier reliance on liquid fuel as opposed to solid
rocket boosters is much closer to Apollo than the recently retired
space shuttles, which were winged, reusable ships that sat on top of a
giant liquid fuel tank, with twin solid rocket boosters providing most
of the power. It's also a shift in emphasis from the moon-based,
solid-rocket-oriented plans proposed by the George W. Bush
"It's back to the future with a reliable liquid technology," said
Stanford University professor Scott Hubbard, a former NASA senior
manager who was on the board that investigated the 2003 space shuttle
NASA figures it will be building and launching about one rocket a year
for about 15 years or more in the 2020s and 2030s, according to senior
administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity
because the announcement was not yet made. The idea is to launch its
first unmanned test flight in 2017 with the first crew flying in 2021
and astronauts heading to a nearby asteroid in 2025, the officials
said. From there, NASA hopes to send the rocket and astronauts to Mars
— at first just to circle, but then later landing on the Red Planet —
in the 2030s.
At first the rockets will be able to carry into space 77 tons to 110
tons of payload, which would include the six-person Orion Multi-Purpose
Crew Vehicle capsule and more. Eventually it will be able to carry 143
tons into space, maybe even 165 tons, the officials said. By
comparison, the long-dormant Saturn V booster that sent men to the moon
was able to lift 130 tons.
The plans dwarf the rumbling liftoff power of the space shuttle, which
could haul just 27 tons. The biggest current unmanned rocket can carry
about 25 tons.
The size plans elicited an amazed "good grief" from Hubbard, who said
it would limit how often they could be built or launched. Unlike the
reusable shuttle, these rockets are mostly one-and-done, with new ones
built for every launch.
Some of the design elements, the deadline and the requirement for such
a rocket were dictated by Congress.
While the recently retired space shuttle's main engines were fueled by
liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, it was primarily powered into orbit
by solid rockets. Solid rocket boosters were designed to be cheaper,
but a booster flaw caused the fatal space shuttle Challenger accident
in 1986. The biggest drawback was that solid rockets can't be stopped
once they are lit; liquid ones can.
The new plan is to use a giant rocket powered by liquid hydrogen and
liquid oxygen. Apollo, Gemini and Mercury flew into space on liquid
rockets, and liquids fuel most of the world's unmanned commercial
rockets. Russia's Soyuz rocket is liquid fueled too.
During its initial test flights the rocket will use five solid rocket
boosters designed for the shuttle strapped on its outside and will have
shuttle main engines powering it on the inside. But soon after that the
solid rocket boosters will be replaced with new boosters that should
have new technology and may be either liquid or solid, the officials
NASA figures it will spend about $3 billion a year on the plan,
officials said. The key financial part of this arrangement is that NASA
hopes to save money by turning over the launching of astronauts to the
International Space Station, which orbits the Earth, to private
companies and just rent spaces for astronauts like a giant taxi
service. NASA would then spend the money on leaving Earth's orbit and
the Earth-moon system.
Hubbard worries that NASA has a history of spending way more than
initially proposed — the space shuttle cost about twice what it was
supposed to — and this new rocket system will drain money from other
Space weather could wreak havoc in gagdet-driven world
by Kerry Sheridan Kerry Sheridan
19 February 2011
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Earth just dodged a solar bullet.
But it won't be the last. Experts say a geomagnetic storm, sparked by a
massive solar eruption similar to the one that flared toward the Earth
on Tuesday, is bound to strike again, and the next one could wreak more
havoc than the world has ever seen.
Modern society is increasingly vulnerable to space weather because of
our dependence on satellite systems for synchronizing computers,
navigational systems, telecommunications networks and other electronic
A potent solar storm could disrupt these technologies, scorch
satellites, crash stock markets and cause months-long power outages,
experts said Saturday at the American Association for the Advancement
of Science's annual meeting.
The situation will only get more dire because the solar cycle is
heading into a period of more intense activity in the coming 11 years.
"This is not a matter of if, it is simply a matter of when and how
big," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
administrator Jane Lubchenco.
"The last time we had a maximum in the solar cycle, about 10 years ago,
the world was a very different place. Cell phones are now ubiquitous;
they were certainly around (before) but we didn't rely on them for so
many different things.
"Many things that we take for granted today are so much more prone to
the process of space weather than was the case in the last solar
maximum," she continued.
The experts admitted that currently, little that can be done to predict
such a storm, much less shield the world's electrical grid by doing
anything other than shutting off power to some of the vulnerable areas
until the danger passes.
"Please don't panic," said Stephan Lechner, director of the European
Commission Joint Research Center. "Overreaction will make the situation
The root of the world's vulnerability in the modern age is due to
global positioning systems, or GPS devices, that provide navigational
help but also serve as time synchronizers for computer networks and
"GPS helped and created a new dependency," said Lechner, noting that
the technology's influence extends to aerospace and defense, digital
broadcast, financial services and government agencies.
In Europe alone, there are 200 separate telecommunication operators and
"nothing is standardized," he said.
"We are far from understanding all the implications here."
World governments are rushing to develop strategies for cooperation and
information sharing ahead of the next anticipated storm, though
forecasters admit they are not sure when that may occur.
"Actually, we cannot tell if there is going to be a big storm six
months from now, but we can tell when conditions are ripe for a storm
to take place," said the European Space Agency's Juha-Pekka Luntama.
On Tuesday at 0156 GMT, the strongest solar eruption since 2006 sent a
torrent of charged plasma particles hurtling toward the Earth at a
speed of 560 miles (900 kilometers) per second.
The force of the Class X flash, the most powerful of all solar events,
lit up auroras and disrupted some radio communications, but the effects
were largely confined to northern latitudes.
"Actually it turned out that we were well protected this time. The
magnetic fields were aligned parallel so not much happened," said
"In another case, things might have been different."
Voyager is approaching the edge of the bubble of
charged particles the Sun has thrown out into space
13 December 2010 Last updated at 23:43 ET
Voyager near Solar System's
By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News, San
Voyager 1, the most distant spacecraft
from Earth, has reached a new milestone in its quest to leave the Solar
Now 17.4bn km (10.8bn miles) from home, the veteran probe has detected
a distinct change in the flow of particles that surround it.
particles, which emanate from the Sun, are no longer travelling
outwards but are moving sideways. It means Voyager must be very
to making the jump to interstellar space - the space between the stars.
Edward Stone, the Voyager project scientist, lauded the explorer and
the fascinating science it continues to return 33 years after launch.
"When Voyager was launched, the space age itself was only 20 years old,
so there was no basis to know that spacecraft could last so long," he
told BBC News.
"We had no idea how far we would have to travel to get outside the
Solar System. We now know that in roughly five years, we should be
outside for the first time."
Dr Stone was speaking here at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall
Meeting, the largest gathering of Earth scientists in the world.
Voyager 1 was launched on 5 September 1977, and its sister spacecraft,
Voyager 2, on 20 August 1977. The Nasa probes' initial goal was
survey the outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, a task
completed in 1989.
They were then despatched towards deep space, in the general direction
of the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. Sustained by their
power packs, the probes' instruments continue to function well and
return data to Earth, although the vast distance between them and Earth
means a radio message now has a travel time of about 16 hours.
newly reported observation comes from Voyager 1's Low-Energy Charged
Particle Instrument, which has been monitoring the velocity of the
This stream of charged particles forms a bubble around our Solar System
known as the heliosphere. The wind travels at "supersonic" speed until
it crosses a shockwave called the termination shock. At this
the wind then slows dramatically and heats up in a region termed the
heliosheath. Voyager has determined the velocity of the wind at its
location has now slowed to zero.
"We have gotten to the point where the wind from the Sun, which until
now has always had an outward motion, is no longer moving outward; it
is only moving sideways so that it can end up going down the tail of
the heliosphere, which is a comet-shaped-like object," said Dr Stone,
who is based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena,
This phenomenon is a consequence of the wind pushing up against the
matter coming from other stars. The boundary between the two is the
"official" edge of the Solar System - the heliopause. Once Voyager
crosses over, it will be in interstellar space.
First hints that Voyager had encountered something new came in June.
Several months of further data were required to confirm the observation.
"When I realized that we were getting solid zeroes, I was amazed," said
Rob Decker, a Voyager Low-Energy Charged Particle Instrument
co-investigator from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
"Here was Voyager, a spacecraft that has been a workhorse for 33 years,
showing us something completely new again."
Voyager is racing on towards the heliopause at 17km/s. Dr Stone expects
the cross-over to occur within the next few years.
22 November 2010 Last updated at 06:04 ET, I-BBC
'Eavesdropper' satellite rides huge rocket from Florida
Delta-4 Heavy (Pat Corkery/United
Launch Alliance) It is only the fourth time the giant rocket has flown
The US National Reconnaissance Office has launched what is reputed to
be the largest satellite ever sent into space.
The spacecraft was put into orbit on a Delta-4 Heavy rocket from Cape
Canaveral Air Force station on Sunday.
The NRO gave no details about the payload but it is understood the
satellite will be used to eavesdrop on enemy communications.
For comparison, the largest commercial satellite ever launched was the
seven-tonne Terrestar-1 telecoms spacecraft.
It had an 18m antenna-reflector to relay phone and data traffic.
US websites have speculated that the mesh antenna on the new NROL-32
satellite would exceed this, and could even be substantially bigger
than the 22m-diamater structure orbited last week on another commercial
platform called Skyterra-1.
The Delta-4 Heavy rocket, the largest unmanned American launch vehicle,
lifted off at 1758 local time (2258 GMT).
It is only the fourth time the giant booster has flown since its maiden
outing in 2004.
The rocket features three core boosters strapped side by side. Each has
a Rocketdyne-built RS-68 engine, which burns a tonne of propellant
every second and produces 2,900 kiloNewtons (650,000lbs force) of
thrust at lift-off.
The Apollo Moon rockets, by comparison, could produce more than three
times the thrust of the Delta.
The Delta-4 heavy can put up to 13 tonnes in a geostationary transfer
orbit (GTO). It does not operate in the commercial market.
"This doesn't say anything
about the question of whether or not life
has existed on Mars” Chris McKay Nasa's Ames Research Center
The soil of the Atacama desert shown above left is believed to
resemble that of Mars; Viking lander on
Mars (r). The Vikings probed the Martian
soil back in 1976 - we thought the Vikings discovered America.
Mars may not be lifeless, say
By Katia Moskvitch Science reporter, BBC News
6 September 2010 Last updated at 08:18 ET
Carbon-rich organic molecules, which serve as the building blocks of
life, may be present on Mars after all, say scientists - challenging a
widely-held notion of the Red Planet as barren.
When Nasa's two Viking landers picked up and examined samples of
Martian soil in 1976, scientists found no evidence for carbon-rich
molecules or biology. But after the Phoenix Mars Lander
chlorine-containing chemical perchlorate in the planet's "arctic"
region in 2008, scientists decided to re-visit the issue.
They travelled to the Atacama Desert in Chile, where conditions are
believed to be similar to those on Mars.
After mixing the soil with perchlorate and heating it, they found that
the gases produced were carbon dioxide and traces of chloromethane and
dichloromethane - just like the gases released by the chemical
reactions after the Viking landers heated the Martian soil more than
three decades ago.
They also found that chemical reactions effectively destroyed all
organic compounds in the soil.
"Our results suggest that not only organics, but also perchlorate, may
have been present in the soil at both Viking landing sites," said the
study's lead author, Rafael Navarro-González of the National
University of Mexico, Mexico City.
But despite the excitement about the finding, the researchers warn it
is too early to conclude that the Red Planet has ever had life.
"This doesn't say anything about the question of whether or not life
has existed on Mars, but it could make a big difference in how we look
for evidence to answer that question," said Chris McKay of Nasa's Ames
Research Center, California.
He explained that organics can come from either biological and non-bio
sources - many meteorites that have fallen on Earth have organic
Perchlorate, an ion of chlorine and oxygen, could have been present on
Mars for billions of years and only manifest itself when heated,
destroying all the organics in the soil.
The Atacama desert, Chile
When scientists originally examined the data from the Viking probes,
they interpreted the chlorine-containing organic compounds as
contaminants from cleaning fluids carried on the spacecraft.
It is not yet clear whether the organic molecules are indigenous to the
Red Planet or have been brought by meteorites.
This will be one of the goals of upcoming missions to Mars. In 2011,
Nasa is planning to kick off its Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission,
with the Curiosity rover designed to search for organic material on the
Private Rocket Has Successful First Flight
By KENNETH CHANG, NYTIMES
June 4, 2010
The maiden flight of a privately-developed rocket that may eventually
carry NASA astronauts to space took off Friday afternoon and reached
orbit in what appeared to be an almost flawless flight.
The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, SpaceX for short,
launched the 154-foot, 735,000-pound Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, heading eastward over the
Atlantic. The nine first-stage engines ignited at 2:45 p.m. Eastern
time. After burning for three minutes, the first stage dropped off into
the ocean while the second-stage engine burned about six minutes to
place a capsule into orbit.
The launching was pushed back almost four hours after the countdown hit
a few snags, including a delay to fix a glitch in the rocket’s
self-destruct system and a last-second abort at 1:30 p.m. because of
engine readings outside the acceptable range. SpaceX engineers reset
the systems and resumed the countdown before the launching window
closed at 3 p.m.
The success is a major boon to those supporting President Obama’s
proposal to turn the launching of astronauts over to private companies.
A spectacular failure would have provided abundant ammunition to
opponents who call that approach too risky. Debate over the future of
NASA’s human spaceflight program will continue through the summer as
the Obama administration and Congress try to arrive at a compromise.
Within a few months, SpaceX plans to launch a second Falcon 9 to
demonstrate to NASA its capabilities before it gets the go-ahead to
take cargo and supplies to the International Space Station.
That flight will include a full version of the Dragon capsule, which
can hold cargo and astronauts; Friday’s maiden flight held a mock-up of
the capsule, aiming it for a circular orbit 155 miles from Earth. The
engines appeared to all fire properly, but the second stage started a
slow spin near the end of the ascent into orbit.
Flights carrying cargo to the space station are scheduled to begin next
year. SpaceX has said it can build a version for astronauts in three
years once it has a contract.
SHUTTLE PROGRAM WINDING DOWN AFTER 30 YEARS...
FROM NASA WEBSITE (NEXT TO LAST SHUTTLE MISSION):
No pun intended, this program has had it's ups and downs. One highlight
was example of Dr.
Sally Ride, at the time an inspiration to women. Retired from
Woman's plane photos of space shuttle go viral
By MATT SEDENSKY, Associated Press
Wed May 18, 2011 9:36 am ET
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Groggy from a late night watching the Yankees,
frigid from a chilled airplane cabin, Stefanie Gordon stirred to action
after the pilot's announcement. Lifting her iPhone to the plane's
window, she captured an otherworldly image that rocketed around the
globe as fast as her subject: Space shuttle Endeavour soaring from a
bank of clouds, its towering plume of white smoke lighting the azure
She had never imagined the response her airborne image — capturing the
last launch of Endeavour and the next-to-last space shuttle flight —
would ignite. The images and video have been viewed hundreds of
thousands of times on Twitter alone, landed on network newscasts and
been published in newspapers worldwide.
In turn, they've made a photographic celebrity of sorts of the
unemployed 33-year-old from Hoboken, N.J.
"It just blew up," she said of the attention.
Gordon caught an early Delta flight from New York to West Palm Beach on
Monday to visit her parents and had a whole row to herself, never
imagining the history she would record.
She stretched out and took a nap. Then she awoke shortly before the
pilot announced the descent had begun and a sighting of the shuttle was
possible. She had forgotten Endeavour was even taking off at 8:56 a.m.
EDT, but readied her iPhone just in case.
Then, the pilot came on again, alerting passengers the shuttle was in
"Everybody ran over to the east side of the plane," Gordon said
Tuesday, "and all of a sudden there it was in the clouds."
All told, she shot 12 seconds of footage of the shuttle arcing on its
simple stream of smoke into space. She also shot three still
The plane landed minutes later in West Palm Beach and while she was
waiting at the luggage carousel, at 9:31 a.m., she began uploading to
Twitter. As she waited for her father to pick her up, she realized her
work was making a splash.
"My phone just started going crazy," she said.
Among those who reached out to Gordon was Anne Farrar, a photo editor
at The Washington Post, who saw the images after they were posted by a
friend on Facebook. She said she'd never seen anything quite like this
view of a shuttle launch before.
"It was just a really imaginative way to bring it to our readers,"
Farrar said. "It's almost like an underwater view."
Endeavour is on a 16-day trip — the second to last space shuttle
flight. Its main mission is to attach to the space station a $2 billion
The Associated Press contacted Gordon through Facebook and purchased
the images. The AP often obtains photos from eye witnesses, called
As for Gordon, she lost her job at as a meeting planner at a nonprofit
organization last month. If the exposure from her pictures helps land
her dream job of working in the sports field on special events and
promotions, she said, it would all be worth it. Or if someone thinks
her photographic eye qualifies her for a permanent job shooting video
or photos, she wouldn't turn that down either.
For now, she's basking in the afterglow of her launch shots and hoping
for some rest once the media frenzy passes.
"Laying by the pool would be really nice," she said.
Space shuttle Discovery, crew of
7 back on Earth
By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer
20 April 2010
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Shuttle Discovery and its astronauts
returned safely to Earth on Tuesday after making a rare flyover of
America's heartland to wrap up their 15-day, 6 million-mile journey to
the International Space Station.
The touchdown was delayed by rain and fog that dissipated as the sun
rose, allowing Mission Control to take advantage of the morning's
second landing opportunity.
Discovery swooped through a hazy sky before landing on the Kennedy
Space Center runway. NASA briefly considered bringing the shuttle in to
the opposite end of the strip because of puffy clouds, but the glare
from the sun was too great and flight controllers stuck to the original
In the end, commander Alan Poindexter made what appeared to be a smooth
touchdown, a day late because of rain.
"Welcome home," Mission Control said, radioing congratulations on the
"It was a great mission. We enjoyed it," Poindexter said. "And we're
glad that the International Space Station is stocked up again."
NASA had promised a spectacular show, weather permitting, for early
risers in Helena, Mont., and all the way along Discovery's flight path
through the Midwest and Southeast.
With the space shuttle program winding down, there weren't expected to
be any more continental flyovers.
This was, in fact, Discovery's next-to-last flight. Only one more
mission remains for NASA's oldest surviving shuttle. As soon as it's
removed from the runway, it will be prepped for the final shuttle
flight, scheduled for September.
Discovery zoomed over the North Pacific on its way home before crossing
into North America over Vancouver, British Columbia. Then it headed
toward the southeast, flying over northeastern Washington, Helena,
Mont.; Wyoming; southwestern Nebraska; northeastern Colorado;
southwestern Kansas; Oklahoma; Arkansas; Mississippi; Alabama; Georgia
and finally Florida east of Gainesville.
NASA had anticipated the sonic booms might be heard as far north as
Kansas. There were no immediate reports.
Before the shuttle began its descent, Mission Control described to the
astronauts the route they would be taking to Cape Canaveral. "Sounds
like a great ground track," Poindexter observed.
It was the first time since 2007 that a space shuttle descended over so
much of the United States.
NASA typically prefers bringing a shuttle home from the southwest, up
over the South Pacific, Central America and the Gulf of Mexico. That
way, there's minimal flying over heavily populated areas. In 2003,
space shuttle Columbia shattered over Texas during re-entry, but no one
on the ground was injured by the falling wreckage.
NASA wanted to maximize the crew's work time in orbit, while minimizing
fatigue. That resulted in this North American crossing.
Before leaving the space station Saturday, Poindexter and his crew
dropped off tons of supplies and equipment. The main delivery was a
tank full of ammonia coolant, which took three spacewalks to hook up.
A nitrogen pressure valve refused to open after the tank was installed,
and for a day, NASA considered sending the shuttle astronauts out on a
fourth spacewalk to fix the problem. But engineers concluded it was not
an emergency and that the space station crew or future shuttle fliers
could deal with it.
History, meanwhile, was made with the presence of four women in space:
three on the shuttle and one at the station.
Discovery returned with a couple tons of trash and discarded space
station equipment. Most of that was jammed into a cargo carrier that
rocketed away aboard the shuttle back on April 5. The carrier will be
re-outfitted and fly back up on Discovery in September, and be
installed permanently at the orbiting outpost.
Only three shuttle missions remain for NASA before the fleet is retired
this fall after nearly 30 years of operation. Atlantis will carry up a
small Russian lab and other equipment next month.
The same bad weather that prevented Discovery from returning home
Monday also stalled Atlantis' trip to the launch pad. The three-mile
move from the hangar has been rescheduled for Tuesday night. Liftoff is
targeted for May 14.
shuttle Atlantis, 7 astronauts back on Earth
By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer
Nov 27, 10:01 AM EST
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Space shuttle Atlantis and
its seven astronauts returned to Earth with a smooth touchdown Friday
to end an 11-day flight that resupplied the International Space
Station. With bright sunlight glinting off it, the shuttle
swooped through a clear sky and landed on the runway right on time.
Mission Control said no one could remember such welcoming conditions;
there were no clouds in sight for Atlantis' midmorning arrival, and the
temperature was in the 50s.
"Couldn't have picked a clearer day," commander Charles Hobaugh said.
Mission Control congratulated him on a "picture perfect" landing.
It was an especially sweet homecoming for two of the crew.
Astronaut Nicole Stott was away for three months, living at the space
station. Fellow crew member Randolph Bresnik's baby daughter was born
"Everybody, welcome back to Earth, especially you, Nicole," Mission
Hobaugh and his crew spent a week stockpiling the space station. They
delivered big spare parts and performed three spacewalks to install
equipment and carry out maintenance. The pumps, gyroscopes and
storage tanks should keep the outpost in business for another five to
10 years, long after Atlantis and the two other shuttles are
retired. Stott was feeling the full effects of gravity for the
first time since she rocketed to the space station at the end of
August. Her mission lasted 91 days.
She said all week that she couldn't wait to see her husband and
7-year-old son, who were at Kennedy Space Center for the landing. She
also was looking forward to some pizza and icy cola. Bresnik had
even bigger plans: to hold his infant daughter for the first
time. Abigail Mae Bresnik was born Saturday night, right after
her father took his first spacewalk. But he'll have to wait until
Saturday to see her. Bresnik's wife, Rebecca, stayed home in Houston
with Abigail and 3-year-old big brother Wyatt.
Atlantis - which brought back broken equipment from the space station's
water-recycling system - logged 4.5 million miles and circled Earth 171
This was Atlantis' next-to-last mission. Only five shuttle flights
remain, all to the space station next year. Station construction will
essentially end at that point, so NASA used the trip to send up as many
hefty spare parts as possible. None of the other visiting spacecraft -
from Russia, Japan and Europe - can carry so much in a single
load. Atlantis, which delivered nearly 15 tons of gear, left the
space station 86 percent complete.
NASA's next shuttle flight is in February. Endeavour will deliver a
full-fledged module to the space station, complete with a cupola for
prime Earth gazing with a domed chamber that has seven windows.
The five remaining space station residents, meanwhile, may have to
dodge a piece of space junk this weekend.
NASA said Friday that flight controllers were monitoring a large piece
of an old Delta rocket that could pass within an uncomfortably close
six miles of the outpost Saturday afternoon. The rocket was used to
launch NASA's Stardust spacecraft in 1999 to gather comet dust samples.
A decision on whether to move the space station to avoid a possible hit
was expected later Friday.
Atlantis Lifts Off for 11-Day Mission
By WILLIAM HARWOOD
November 17, 2009
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The shuttle
Atlantis vaulted into orbit Monday and set off after the International
Space Station, carrying 15 tons of spare parts and equipment as a hedge
against failures after the shuttle fleet is retired next year.
“We’re looking for the long-term outfitting of station,” said the
shuttle commander, Col. Charles O. Hobaugh of the Marines.
With Colonel Hobaugh and Capt. Barry E. Wilmore, a Navy pilot, at the
controls, Atlantis’s twin solid-fuel boosters ignited with a blast of
fire at 2:28 p.m., Eastern time, instantly pushing the winged
spacecraft away from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
Wheeling about to line up on a northeasterly trajectory, Atlantis
accelerated through a partly cloudy sky, on course for a docking with
the space station around noon Wednesday.
Joining Colonel Hobaugh and Captain Wilmore for the 11-day mission were
Capt. Michael J. Foreman, a retired Navy officer; Lt. Col. Randolph J.
Bresnik of the Marines; Leland D. Melvin, an expert in materials
testing (and a former pro football draft pick); and Dr. Robert L.
Satcher Jr., an orthopedic surgeon with a doctorate in chemical
It will be the first shuttle flight for Captain Wilmore, Dr. Satcher
and Colonel Bresnik, whose wife is scheduled to deliver the couple’s
second child, a girl, during the mission.
The primary goal of the 129th shuttle flight is to deliver critical
spares to the space station that are too large to be launched on the
European, Japanese and Russian cargo ships that will be used to support
the outpost after the shuttle is retired next year.
Mounted on twin pallets in Atlantis’s payload bay are two spare
gyroscopes, used to control the space station’s orientation in space, a
high-pressure oxygen tank for the lab’s airlock, and a spare pump
module, ammonia coolant and nitrogen that will be needed at some point
by the station’s cooling system.
Other components include a spare mechanical hand-like appendage for the
station’s robot arm, a power cable spool used by the arm’s mobile
transporter, a solar array battery charge-discharge unit and a device
designed to prevent electrical arcing that could pose a threat to
The Atlantis astronauts also plan to bring a space station flight
engineer, Nicole P. Stott back to Earth after three months in orbit.
This will be the last shuttle mission to carry a crew member to or from
the space station. Until a shuttle replacement starts flying in five to
seven years, American, European, Canadian and Japanese astronauts will
ride Russian Soyuz capsules to the station, paying $50 million per seat.
If all goes well, the Atlantis astronauts will celebrate Thanksgiving
in space and land back at the Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 27.
BY JUPITER, ANOTHER SHUTTLE SAFELY HOME (C), ANOTHER ABOUT TO
A large impact mark on Jupiter’s south polar region (l) captured on
Monday by NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. (R) Note arrow upper
and biwwions of kilometers away...
3 February 2012 Last updated at 04:35 ET
Hubble snaps stunning barred
spiral galaxy image
The Hubble space telescope has captured an image of a
"barred spiral" galaxy that could help us better understand our own
Most of the known spiral galaxies fall into this "barred" category -
which are defined by the pronounced bar structure across their centres.
The presence of this structure may be an indication of a galaxy's age.
Two-thirds of nearby, younger galaxies have the bar, while only a fifth
of older, more distant spirals have it.
The new picture also continues the Hubble space telescope's long
heritage of striking astronomical images.
In the upper left of the image is a cluster showing recent star
formation that is just visible to Hubble's cameras.
But it is a bright source in X-ray light; astronomers believe that this
IXO-5 X-ray source is actually a "binary" system comprising a star and
a black hole in mutual orbit.
By WILLIAM HARWOOD
August 1, 2009
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The shuttle Endeavour closed out a
grueling 16-day space station assembly mission with a smooth Florida
landing on Friday, bringing Japan’s first long-duration astronaut back
to Earth after four and one-half months in orbit.
Approaching from the south after a high-speed computer-orchestrated
descent, the mission commander, Mark Polansky, took over manual control
50,000 feet above the Florida spaceport, banked to line up on runway 15
and guided the 110-ton shuttle to a picture-perfect touchdown at 10:48
a.m. Eastern time.
“Welcome home. Congratulations on a superb mission from beginning to
end,” astronaut Alan Poindexter radioed from mission control in
Houston. “Very well done.”
“Well, thanks to you and the whole team,” Mr. Polansky replied. “That’s
what it’s all about. We’re happy to be home.”
Mr. Polansky and his shuttle crewmates — Marine Col. Douglas Hurley,
the pilot; the Canadian flight engineer, Julie Payette; Dr. David Wolf;
Dr. Thomas Marshburn; and Navy Cmdr. Christopher Cassidy — left Army
Col. Timothy Kopra behind on the space station and brought Koichi
Wakata back to Earth in his place.
Representing the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Mr. Wakata was
launched to the station aboard the shuttle Discovery last March. His
stay at the lab complex was extended by a month when Endeavour’s
launching was delayed from June 13 to July 15 by technical problems and
He made the trip back to Earth resting on his back, in a recumbent seat
on Endeavour’s lower deck, to ease the transition back to gravity.
Asked what he was looking forward to the most after reunions with
family and friends, he listed fresh sushi, cold noodles and a visit to
hot springs back home.
During a departure ceremony before Endeavour’s undocking from the
station on Tuesday, the station commander — Gennady Padalka, a Russian
cosmonaut — offered rare praise and “a special thanks to Koichi-san.”
“He’s very dedicated and a very, very good flight engineer,” Mr.
Padalka said. “As crew commander, I want to say we could rely on him in
Among his scientific duties and routine maintenance chores, Mr. Wakata
also tested bacteria-killing, water-absorbing Japanese underwear
designed to be worn in space for weeks at a time.
“I wore them for about a month, and my station crew members never
complained!” he said Thursday. “So I think the experiment went fine.”
Swapping out station crew members was just one of the goals of
Dr. Wolf, Dr. Marshburn and Commander Cassidy, a Navy SEAL, staged five
spacewalks, attaching an experiment platform to Japan’s Kibo lab
module, replacing aging solar array batteries and storing critical
The astronauts also re-wired two of the station’s stabilizing
gyroscopes, installed television cameras needed for the docking of a
Japanese cargo ship in September, and deployed a jammed spare-parts
mounting mechanism on the station’s main truss.
Only seven more shuttle flights remain before the fleet is retired next
year, and NASA is launching as many spare parts to the station as
possible to protect against future failures when smaller cargo ships
may not be able to accommodate large components.
With Endeavour safely home, NASA will turn its attention to readying
the shuttle Discovery for launch around Aug. 25 on a mission to deliver
more supplies and equipment to the space station along with Colonel
Kopra’s replacement, Nicole Stott.
Engineers are still assessing what caused an unusual amount of foam
insulation to fall from the central section of Endeavour’s external
tank during launch on July 15. Testing indicated that Discovery’s tank
is in good shape, but additional checks were ordered on Thursday.
Assuming no problems are found, Discovery will be hauled to launch pad
39A on Monday.
Atlantis mission landing at top, (California desert); take-off
in Florida; comment by Hubble "chief repairman" below...
Storms Force Space Shuttle to Land in
By DENNIS OVERBYE
May 25, 2009
As Odysseus learned, getting home can be the hardest part of any
journey. Seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis finally
made it home Sunday after a voyage of more than 5 million miles.
After skirting bad weather at its home port in Florida for two and a
half days, the Atlantis materialized out of a blue sky over the
California desert like a stubby-winged white dove. Trailing its
trademark twin sonic booms and roping at 260 feet per second, it
touched the Earth at Edwards Air Force Base at 11:39 am.
The safe return brought a successful end a 13-day mission to overhaul
the Hubble Space Telescope one last time.
“It was a thrill from start to finish,” the pilot, Commander Scott
Altman, said upon rolling to a stop on the runway. “We took a great
ride. It took a whole team across the country to pull it off.”
NASA would have preferred to land Atlantis at its home port at Kennedy
because it takes a week or more and $1.8 million to get the shuttle
back to Florida, flying piggyback on a special 747, leaving workers a
week behind in preparing it for its next flight in August. But
thunderstorms were threatening the landing area on Friday and Saturday.
Because the weather was fine in California and Atlantis had plenty of
provisions, the mission controllers kept going around, hoping to get a
break in Florida.
On Sunday, presaging the wild re-entry to come, the astronauts were
awakened to the sound of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”
After one more attempt to land in Florida, the flight director, Norm
Knight, and his team decided to bring Atlantis down in California.
Atlantis fired its engines to drop out of orbit at 10:24 am. “Atlantis
is a good ship,” Commander Altman reported back to Houston. The shuttle
re-entered the atmosphere about 400,000 feet over the Pacific about 40
The Atlantis blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on
May 11 and snatched the veteran telescope from the sky on May 13. In
spacewalks on five succeeding days, the astronauts swapped out the
telescope’s batteries, gyroscopes and an ailing data computer,
installed two new scientific instruments and repaired two others that
were not designed to be worked on in space.
Hubble was returned to its rightful place in the heavens last Tuesday.
The telescope, which had two working instruments a month ago, now has
five, counting an infrared camera that needs defrosting. NASA said that
it should keep beaming down its iconic cosmic postcards and other
astronomical measurements for another five to ten years.
In an interview in space a few days ago, Commander Altman said the
mission “highlighted the ability of humans to work in space alongside
But that ability at least as science is concerned, it about to come to
an end. The touchdown marked the beginning of the end — at least for
now — of a dream that has motivated the American space program for the
last four decades and helped sell the concept of the space shuttle:
namely, that astronauts could service scientific instruments in space,
riding up to orbit in a kind of space truck and launch satellites by
just tossing them over the side, and then pluck them back in for repair
That dream started to die when Challenger exploded in 1986, killing
seven astronauts, delaying the launch of Hubble for four years. NASA
shifted most of its satellite launches to unmanned rockets. Hubble was
launched, in 1990, the first of four so-called Great Observatories, but
it wound up being the only one built to be serviceable by astronauts.
Hubble was visited five times by astronauts and is now, depending on
which measurement is used, 30 to 70 times more powerful as a scientific
instrument than it has ever been.
The whole observatory has cost $9.6 billion, according to NASA
accounting, which includes the cost of six shuttle launches. Hubble
will wind up in the ocean after its batteries and gyros eventually die.
The shuttles are scheduled to be retired next year, and NASA has been
pressing ahead with a new fleet of spacecraft called Constellation,
intended to return humans to the Moon. But President Obama has asked
for a review of the program.
John Grunsfeld, an astronaut who has made eight spacewalks to work on
Hubble over the years, said from the Atlantis that going to low Earth
orbit, where the space telescope lives and where the space shuttle can
reach, has been fun. But he added: “It’s time to leave low Earth orbit,
go out and explore the cosmos. It’s a great solar system and it’s time
for humans to start going out.”
Sends Shuttle to California
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 11:37 a.m. ET
May 24, 2009
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP)
-- Space Shuttle Atlantis and its crew of seven streaked toward
California on Sunday to wind up their exalted Hubble Space Telescope
repair mission, after stormy weather in Florida prevented a return to
NASA's home base.
Mission Control waited as long as
possible, hoping the weather would improve at Florida's Kennedy Space
Center before finally giving up and directing commander Scott Altman
and his crew to the backup landing site in the Mojave Desert.
Conditions there were ideal.
''We could not get comfortable with
the KSC weather,'' Mission Control said, referring to Kennedy.
''Copy that, we're going to
Edwards,'' Altman replied.
NASA passed up Sunday's first
landing opportunity at Kennedy because of storm clouds offshore. The
astronauts took an extra swing around the world as flight controllers
kept watch over the increasingly overcast sky. When told of the
pristine conditions awaiting him at Edwards Air Force Base, Altman
said, ''A beautiful day in the desert.''
Minutes later, Altman and his
co-pilot fired the braking rockets and set Atlantis on its hourlong
After 13 days in orbit, many of them
tending to Hubble, Altman and his crew were anxious to get back on the
ground. They were supposed to return to Earth on Friday, but NASA opted
to keep the astronauts circling the world in case the bad weather from
a massive low-pressure system eased up.
NASA loses at least a week of work
and close to $2 million in ferry costs by landing in California. And
the astronauts will have to wait another day to be reunited with their
families, who were in Florida.
Atlantis' astronauts left behind a
refurbished Hubble that scientists say is better than ever and should
keep churning out pictures of the universe for another five to 10
years. They carried out five spacewalks to give the 19-year-old
observatory new science instruments, pointing devices and batteries,
and fix a pair of broken instruments, something never before attempted.
Stuck bolts and other difficulties made much of the work harder than
The $1 billion overhaul was the last
for Hubble and, thanks to the crew's valiant effort, won praise from
President Barack Obama and members of Congress. But with space shuttles
retiring next year, no more astronauts will visit the telescope, and
NASA expects to steer it into the Pacific sometime in the early 2020s.
As a souvenir for the masses, the
astronauts were bringing back the old wide-field camera they pulled
out, so it can be put on display at the Smithsonian Institution. The
replacement camera and other new instruments will enable Hubble to peer
deeper into the universe, to within 500 million to 600 million years of
It will take almost all summer for
scientists to check out all the new telescope systems. NASA expects to
release the first picture in early September.
This mission almost didn't happen.
It was canceled in 2004, a year after the Columbia tragedy, because of
the dangers of flying into a 350-mile-high orbit that did not offer any
shelter in case Atlantis suffered damage from launch debris or space
junk. The public protest was intense, and NASA reinstated the flight
after developing a rescue plan and shuttle repair kits.
Shuttle Endeavour was on standby for
a possible rescue mission until late last week, after inspections found
Atlantis' thermal shielding to be solid for re-entry. Endeavour now
will be prepped for a June flight to the international space station.
Shuttle Lifts Off for
Final Trip to
By DENNIS OVERBYE
May 12, 2009
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Seven
astronauts blasted off for one last dance with the Hubble Space
Telescope on Monday.
The space shuttle Atlantis,
commanded by Scott D. Altman, bolted through the sky on a pillar of
smoke and fire just after 2 p.m. Monday. Atlantis is carrying 22,000
pounds of custom-designed tools, replacement parts and new instruments
to slice and dice starlight as well as the hearts of scientists and
stargazers everywhere. It is rushing toward a Wednesday rendezvous with
the telescope, which happened to be floating about 350 miles directly
above Cape Canaveral at launching time.
If all goes well, in five spacewalks
starting Thursday morning, the crew members will revamp and refresh the
telescope, which has dazzled the public and the science community with
its iconic cosmic postcards. Then they will say goodbye on behalf of
humanity forever. Sometime in the middle of the next decade, the Hubble
will run out of juice, and it will eventually be crashed into the ocean.
Besides Commander Altman, the crew
includes Gregory C. Johnson, as pilot, and John M. Grunsfeld, Michael
J. Massimino, Michael T. Good, Andrew J. Fuestel and K. Megan McArthur,
as mission specialists.
The Atlantis astronauts will spend
Tuesday examining the shuttle with cameras looking for any dings or
nicks or holes caused by flying debris during the launching. The
shuttle Columbia was doomed in 2003 because a hunk of insulating foam
broke off the external fuel tank and damaged the tiles that protected
the spacecraft from the searing heat of re-entering the atmosphere.
The astronauts carry a tool kit for
fixing small holes or cracks in the fragile tiles. If there is
something they cannot fix, they will hunker down and await the shuttle
Endeavour, which is sitting on another launching pad, ready to blast
off with a four-man crew and retrieve the Atlantis astronauts from
“The sad thing is if we get to orbit
and see something bad and get waved off and don’t get to fix Hubble,”
Dr. Grunsfeld said. “That would be the saddest.”
Among other things, Endeavour would
have to bring a spacesuit for Commander Altman, who takes an
extra-large that is not stocked on Atlantis. The two most experienced
spacewalkers on Atlantis, Dr. Grunsfeld and Dr. Massimino, would then
escort their shipmates along a rope to the Endeavour in a two-day dance
of swapping spacesuits that would include a sleepover for Dr. Grunsfeld
on the Endeavour.
Because of changes to the design of
the fuel tank that make it less likely to sustain major damage during
launching, the bigger risk this time around comes from micrometeoroids
and space junk, which is more prevalent at Hubble’s altitude and orbit
than at the lower space station. There is about a 1 in 229 chance of a
catastrophic collision, so the astronauts will take another close look
at their craft at the end of the mission.
The flight comes as NASA is once
again at a crossroads. The agency lacks a permanent administrator;
Christopher Scolese has been acting administrator since Michael D.
Griffin stepped down in January, and the White House is said to have
been having trouble finding a candidate who can pass various forms of
The agency has begun laying off
workers as part of the decision to retire the shuttles next year. Last
week, President Obama ordered a review of the agency’s long-heralded
plan to return humans to the Moon and of the Constellation spacecraft
that are to succeed the shuttle.
So if it is the beginning of the
last act for the Hubble, the flight Monday also marks the beginning of
the end for the space shuttle, whose greatest legacy might very well be
the role it played in the repair and maintenance of the Hubble, what
Commander Altman recently called “an incredible example of how humans
and machines can work together.”
Dr. Grunsfeld, who has earned the
sobriquet of “Hubble repairman” for his previous exploits in space with
the telescope, said: “The only reason Hubble works is because we have a
space shuttle. And of all things we do, I think Hubble is probably the
best thing we use it for.”
As Mario Livio, an astronomer at the
Space Telescope Science Institute, put it, “It’s not just a telescope,
it’s the people’s telescope.”
Atlantis is scheduled to rendezvous
with the Hubble on Wednesday, latch it down in the shuttle cargo bay
and take a good look at it with the robot arm and cameras. The
engineers say they will not be surprised to find flapping insulation
blankets or micrometeorite hits.
After all, it’s been seven years.
NASA hits the Moon with help of
Northrop develops $79 million
spacecraft to help government find lunar water
By Christopher Hinton, MarketWatch
Oct. 9, 2009, 9:39 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- NASA on Friday
morning slammed a missile into
the Moon's surface in the hope the debris kicked up from the impact
would reveal water vapor, an important resource for astronauts on any
future missions to the lunar surface.
But the engineering behind the spacecraft that carried and
kinetic missile wasn't built by any government agency, but by Northrop
Grumman Corp., as the nation's space agency looks more toward private
business for its equipment and support services.
The LCROSS spacecraft built by Northrop Grumman.
In a news release from Northrop , the Los Angeles-based
company said the LCROSS spacecraft, shorthand for the Lunar Crater
Observation and Sensing Satellite, was built on a tight budget over the
course of 29 months for a total mission cost of just $79 million.
LCROSS uses a standard structure, off-the-shelf commercial
flight-proven payload instruments that helped to keep the mission cost
low, according to Northrop.
"The success of this mission is a tribute to the tremendous
skills and partnership between Northrop Grumman and NASA Ames Research
Center," said Steve Hixson, vice president of the company's advanced
concepts-space and directed energy systems business.
LCROSS launched a two-ton missile that hit the moon's surface
the speed of a bullet at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern time. NASA is now
analyzing the debris from the impact.
In August, a group of astrophysicists, astronauts, former
industry executives and Air Force generals said the U.S. should rely
more on private industry for its equipment because of severe budget
cuts in the agency.
Private business is more likely to get more value for each
dollar spent on future missions, as it can execute more cost-effective
planning and adopt more rapidly new technology, according to the Review
of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee.
First Female Astronaut From
Blasts Into Space
By DAVID BARBOZA and KEVIN DREW, NYTIMES
June 16, 2012
SHANGHAI — China’s Shenzhou-9 spacecraft blasted off at 6:37 p.m.
Saturday from a remote desert in western China, sending a crew of
three, including the country’s first female astronaut, into space.
The Chinese astronauts are expected to complete the country’s first
manned space docking mission, an important step in Beijing’s ambitious
plan to build a space station by 2020.
The successful launch, powered by a Long March 2F rocket, was shown
live on state television Saturday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch
Center in the Gobi Desert in western China.
The crew is expected to spend up to 20 days in space and dock with the
orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, a kind of miniature space
station, which China launched in September 2011. The crew will conduct
experiments and live for a time in the space module.
China has spent billions of dollars in the last decade to build a space
program to compete with the United States and Russia and plans to
eventually put a man on the moon, perhaps by 2016.
The country sent its first man into space in 2003, and a Chinese
astronaut did a spacewalk in 2008. The manned docking would be
considered a milestone for China’s space program and the third major
step in developing a space program. China completed a docking by remote
control in November when the Shenzhou 8 capsule coupled with the
Tiangong 1 orbital module, an event that was broadcast live on national
television and observed by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao from the control
center in Beijing.
Saturday’s launch included China’s first female astronaut, a
33-year-old air force pilot named Liu Yang.
“This is an important leap forward for China’s manned space program,”
Wu Bangguo, the nation’s top legislator, said speaking to the three
astronauts before they took flight Saturday.
The mission is China’s first manned spaceflight since September 2008.
The goal, analysts say, is to dock with the space lab as practice for
future dockings with the space station that China plans to build. One
crew member will remain aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft as a
precautionary measure while the others enter the Tiangong 1 orbital
While the mission itself is not unusual, analysts said it extends
China’s remarkable pace in developing its space program.
“It is the speed with which China is ticking off these boxes in
developing their program that is interesting,” the president of the
George C. Marshall Institute, Jeff Kueter, said.
In the days leading up to Saturday’s launch, Chinese media ran several
profiles of Ms. Liu, The state-run Xinhua news service reported that
she is from central China’s Henan Province and now lives in Beijing
with her husband. She will be in charge of medical experiments during
the mission, Xinhua said.
The Soviet Union sent the first woman into space in 1963. The first
American woman in space was Sally Ride, in 1983. According to China’s
state-run news media, the selection process even determined that
China’s first woman in space must be married, with a natural born
Beijing announced a five-year plan for space exploration in December
that included a space lab and collecting samples from the moon by 2016.
The government has previously vowed to reach the moon and establish a
manned space station by 2020.
The plan, released by the State Council, China’s cabinet, shows how
Beijing intends to draw on its military and civilian resources to reach
the goals. The People’s Liberation Army drives China’s space program,
and civilian institutions such as universities and laboratories are
subject to the military’S efforts.
China is considered a leader in the business of launching satellites,
but analysts say the country is still years behind the United States.
The Chinese government has relied on its aerospace engineers and spent
billions of dollars in recent years to build its program.
David Barboza reported from Shanghai,
and Kevin Drew from Hong Kong.
U P E R C OL L I D E R N E W
S H E A D Q U A R T E R S
Check out the news here,
including video of BBC reporter bicycling around in it.
Higgs and Englert Are
Prize in Physics
By DENNIS OVERBYE, NYTIMES
October 8, 2013
Two theoretical physicists who suggested that an invisible ocean of
energy suffusing space is responsible for the mass and diversity of the
particles in the universe won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday.
They are Peter Higgs, 84, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland,
and François Englert, 80, of the University Libre de Bruxelles
The theory, elucidated in 1964, sent physicists on a generation-long
search for a telltale particle known as the Higgs boson, or the God
particle. The chase culminated in July 2012 with the discovery of the
Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, in Switzerland.
They will split a prize of $1.2 million, to be awarded in Stockholm
The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences hailed the prize as “the
discovery for the discovery of the mechanism that contributes to
understanding the origin of the mass of subatomic particles.”
Scientists find new
particle, probably the Higgs
Chris Wickham and Rosalba O'Brien | Reuters
4 July 2012
GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists at Europe's CERN research center
have found a new subatomic particle that could be the Higgs boson, the
basic building block of the universe.
"We have indeed discovered a particle consistent with the Higgs boson,"
John Womersley, head of a British public research body, told
journalists and scientists in London on Wednesday.
"These results mark a significant breakthrough in our understanding of
the fundamental laws that govern the universe."
Joe Incandela, spokesman for one of the two teams hunting for the Higgs
particle told an audience at CERN near Geneva: "This is a preliminary
result, but we think it's very strong and very solid."
CERN's director general Rolph Heuer said: "As a layman, I would say I
think we have it."
Addressing the scientists assembled in the CERN auditorium, Heuer
asked: "Would you agree?" They burst into applause.
Peter Higgs, the 83-year-old British physicist who proposed the
existence of the Higgs boson in the 1960s, was at CERN to welcome the
news. Clearly overwhelmed, his eyes brimming, he told the symposium:
"It is an incredible thing that it has happened in my lifetime."
The Higgs theory explains how particles clumped together to form stars,
planets and life itself. Without the Higgs particle, the
particles that make up the universe would have remained like a soup,
the theory goes. It is the last undiscovered piece of the
Standard Model that describes the fundamental make-up of the universe.
The model is for physicists what the theory of evolution is for
What scientists do not yet know from the latest findings is whether the
particle they have discovered is the Higgs boson as described by the
Standard Model. It could also be a variant of the Higgs idea or an
entirely new subatomic particle that could force a rethink on the
fundamental structure of matter. The last two possibilities are,
in scientific terms, the most exciting.
Packed audiences of particle physicists, journalists, students and even
politicians filled conference rooms in Geneva and London to hear the
announcement. Despite the excitement, physicists cautioned that
there was still much to learn.
"We still much we don't know about particles - this is only the
beginning of a new journey. We have closed one chapter and opened
another," Peter Knight of Britain's Institute of Physics told Reuters.
Oliver Buchmueller, a senior physicist on one of the research teams,
told Reuters: "If I were a betting man, I would bet that it is the
"But we can't yet say that definitely yet. It is very much a smoking
duck that walks and quacks like the Higgs. But we now have to open it
up and look inside before we can say that it is indeed the Higgs."
Higgs called it a great achievement for the Large Hadron Collider, the
27-km (17-mile) long particle accelerator built in a tunnel underneath
the French-Swiss border where experiments to search for the Higgs boson
have taken place.
In a statement, he added: "I never expected this to happen in my
lifetime and shall be asking my family to put some champagne in the
atom smasher sets collision record
Alexander G. Higgins ASSOCIATED PRESS
Originally published 08:42 a.m., March 30, 2010, updated
08:58 a.m., March 30, 2010
GENEVA (AP) -- The world's largest atom smasher set a record for
high-energy collisions on Tuesday by crashing proton beams into each
other at three times more force than ever before.
In a milestone in the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider's ambitious bid
to reveal details about theoretical particles and microforces,
scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN,
collided the beams and took measurements at a combined energy level of
7 trillion electron volts.
The collisions herald a new era for researchers working on the machine
in a 17-mile tunnel below the Swiss-French border at Geneva.
"That's it! They've had a collision," said Oliver Buchmueller from
Imperial College in London as people closely watched monitors.
In a control room, scientists erupted with applause when the first
successful collisions were confirmed. Their colleagues from around the
world were tuning in by remote links to witness the new record, which
surpasses the 2.36 TeV CERN recorded last year.
Dubbed the world's largest scientific experiment, scientists hope the
machine can approach on a tiny scale what happened in the first split
seconds after the Big Bang, which they theorize was the creation of the
universe some 14 billion years ago.
The extra energy in Geneva is expected to reveal even more about the
unanswered questions of particle physics, such as the existence of
antimatter and the search for the Higgs boson, a hypothetical particle
that scientists theorize gives mass to other particles and thus to
other objects and creatures in the universe.
Tuesday's initial attempts at collisions were unsuccessful because
problems developed with the beams, said scientists working on the
massive machine. That meant that the protons had to be "dumped" from
the collider and new beams had to be injected.
The atmosphere at CERN was tense, considering the collider's launch
with great fanfare on Sept. 10, 2008. Nine days later, the project was
sidetracked when a badly soldered electrical splice overheated, causing
extensive damage to the massive magnets and other parts of the collider
some 300 feet below ground.
It cost $40 million to repair and improve the machine. Since its
restart in November 2009, the collider has performed almost flawlessly
and given scientists valuable data. It quickly eclipsed the next
largest accelerator, the Tevatron at Fermilab near Chicago.
Two beams of protons began 10 days ago to speed at high energy in
opposite directions around the tunnel, the coldest place in the
universe, at a couple of degrees above absolute zero. CERN used
powerful superconducting magnets to force the two beams to cross,
creating collisions and showers of particles.
"Experiments are collecting their first physics data -- historic moment
here!" a scientist tweeted on CERN's official Twitter account.
"Nature does it all the time with cosmic rays (and with higher energy)
but this is the first time this is done in Laboratory!" said another
When collisions become routine, the beams will be packed with hundreds
of billions of protons, but the particles are so tiny that few will
collide at each crossing.
The experiments will come over the objections of some people who fear
they could eventually imperil Earth by creating micro black holes --
subatomic versions of collapsed stars whose gravity is so strong they
can suck in planets and other stars.
CERN and many scientists dismiss any threat to Earth or people on it,
saying that any such holes would be so weak that they would vanish
almost instantly without causing any damage.
Bivek Sharma, a professor at the University of California at San Diego,
said the images of the first crashed proton beams were beautiful.
"It's taken us 25 years to build," he said. "This is what it's for.
Finally the baby is delivered. Now it has to grow."
AP writer Frank Jordans contributed
to this report.
smasher takes a break
Dec 18, 9:24 AM EST
GENEVA (AP) -- Operators of the world's
largest atom smasher say they have shut down the machine until February
to prepare for an expected groundbreaking research program.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research said Friday the break is
necessary to increase the levels of the energy used to smash protons
into each other.
The new collisions are expected to shatter the subatomic particles into
even smaller fragments that could reveal secrets of matter and the
Among the goals are studying suspected phenomena such as dark matter,
antimatter and ultimately what happened in the first split seconds
after the creation of the universe.
Many scientists theorize the universe occurred as a massive explosion
known as the Big Bang 14 billion years ago.
© 2009 The Associated Press.
Collider Sets Record, and Europe
By DENNIS OVERBYE
It’s all very fine to worry about the value of the dollar. But what
about the value of the proton?
Late Tuesday night, tiny spitfires of energy blossoming under the
countryside outside Geneva heralded the arrival of a new European
particle collider as the biggest, baddest physics machine in the world.
Scientists said that the new Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile loop
underneath the Swiss-French border, had accelerated protons to energies
of 1.2 trillion electron volts apiece and then crashed them together,
eclipsing a record for collisions held by an American machine, the
Tevatron, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois.
Officials at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, which
built the collider, said that the collisions lasted just a few minutes
as a byproduct of testing, and that the Champagne was still on ice in
Geneva. But in conjunction with other recent successes, those tiny
fireballs displaced American physicists as the leaders in the art of
banging subatomic particles together to see what nature is made of.
The collider first boosted protons to the new energy record of 1.2
trillion electron volts on Nov. 29, and CERN hopes to be having
sustained collisions at that energy within a week. In the future, as
the collider ramps up to 7 trillion electron volts, the dateline for
physics discoveries will be Geneva, Switzerland, not Batavia, Ill., the
home of Fermilab.
That future, physicists say, includes not just the sheen of announcing
exotic particles and strange dimensions, but the ancillary rewards of
increased technological competence and innovation that spring from the
pursuit of esoteric knowledge. The World Wide Web, lest anyone forget,
was invented by particle physicists at CERN. Detectors developed for
physics experiments are now used in medical devices like PET scans, and
it was the industrial scale production of superconducting magnets for
the Tevatron that made commercial magnetic resonance imagers possible,
said Young-Kee Kim, deputy director of Fermilab.
“Particle accelerators and detectors (initially with the bold and
innovative ideas and technologies) have touched our lives in many ways
and I have no doubt that this will continue,” she wrote in an e-mail
Those spinoffs now will invigorate the careers and labs of Europe, not
the United States, pointed out Steven Weinberg, a physicist at the
University of Texas in Austin, who won the Nobel Prize for work that
will be tested in the new collider. Americans will work at CERN, but
not as leaders, he said in an e-mail interview.
“There is also a depressing symbolism,” he added, “in the fact that the
hottest new results in fundamental physics will for decades not be
coming from our country.”
This moment has been inevitable ever since the fall of 1993, when
Congress canceled a behemoth project in Texas known as the
Superconducting SuperCollider, after estimated costs rose to $11
billion. That accelerator, designed at 54 miles and 20 trillion
electron volts, would have been working by now and would have had an
even greater reach for new physics than Europe’s machine. American
physicists have reacted to the L.H.C. with a mixture of excitement,
good sportsmanship and wistfulness.
The United States has not exactly been shut out of the action at the
new collider, as Dr. Kim pointed out. It contributed $531 million to
the project, and about 1,700 of the 10,000 scientists who work on the
giant particle detectors in the collider tunnel are Americans, the
largest of any national group (Italians are next).
Thanks in part to delays with the CERN collider and other problems that
will keep it from performing up to snuff for the next couple of years,
she said, Fermilab’s Tevatron is still in the lead in the hunt for one
of the collider’s main quarries, the Higgs boson, a particle that is
thought to imbue other particles with mass.
In the meantime, Fermilab is investing $53 million from the federal
stimulus package in a “Project X” to make more intense proton beams,
which in turn could be used to make beams of the strange ghostlike
particles called neutrinos. The lab is also going into cosmology. Other
physics labs, like Brookhaven on Long Island and the Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center, or SLAC, have converted their accelerators into
powerful X-ray sources, which can be used to plumb the properties and
structures of molecules in work that led to this year’s Nobel Prize in
For CERN, the Fermilab-topping collisions will be only the end of the
beginning of a 15-year, $10 billion quest to recreate laws and
particles that prevailed just after the Big Bang, when the universe was
less than a trillionth of a second old.
Particle colliders get their magic from Einstein’s equation of mass and
energy. The more energy that these machines can pack into their little
fireballs, in effect the farther back in time they can go, and the
smaller and smaller things they can see.
The first modern accelerator, the cyclotron built by Ernest Lawrence at
the University of California, Berkeley, in 1932, was a foot in diameter
and boosted protons to just 1.25 million electron volts.
CERN, a 20-nation consortium, grew from the ashes of World War II and
has provided a template for other pan-European organizations like the
European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory. With a
budget and dues set by treaty, CERN enjoys a long-term stability that
is the envy of American labs. For decades, CERN and Fermilab
leapfrogged each other building bigger and bigger machines, but the
game ended when the supercollider was canceled.
Despite the lack of competition, CERN’s collider has not had a
bump-free ride. In 2007 the housing around one magnet exploded during a
pressure test, necessitating the removal and redesign of nine 80-foot
magnet assemblies. In September 2008, the junction between two magnets
vaporized, shutting down the project for a year.
Testing revealed that the collider is riddled with thousands of
defective electrical joints and dozens of underperforming magnets that
will keep it from reaching its full potential until an overhaul
scheduled for 2011. When it starts doing real physics after the
holidays, the collider will be running at half power.
The collider was designed to investigate what happens at energies and
temperatures so high that the reigning theory of particle physics
called the Standard Model breaks down. In effect, the new machine’s job
is to “break” the Standard Model and give physicists a glimpse of
something deeper and more profound.
The future of particle physics depends on whether the Large Hadron
Collider finds anything.
If it yields nothing, in the words of CERN physicist, John Ellis, it
would mean that theorists have been talking rubbish for the last 35
years. Actually, he used a stronger word.
CERN: Big Bang machines sets power record
By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer
November 30, 2009
GENEVA – The world's largest atom smasher broke the record for proton
acceleration Monday, sending beams of the particles at 1.18 trillion
electron volts around the massive machine.
The Large Hadron Collider eclipsed the previous high of 0.98 1 TeV held
by Fermilab, outside Chicago, since 2001, the European Organization for
Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, said. The latest success,
which came early in the morning, is part of the preparation to reach
even higher levels of energy for significant experiments next year on
the make-up of matter and the universe. It comes on top of a
rapid series of operating advances for the $10 billion machine, which
underwent extensive repairs and improvements after it collapsed during
the opening phase last year.
CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer said early advances in the machine
located in a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel under the Swiss-French
border have been "fantastic."
"However, we are continuing to take it step by step, and there is still
a lot to do before we start physics in 2010," Heuer said in a
statement. "I'm keeping my champagne on ice until then."
The organization hopes the next major step will be to collide the
proton beams at about 1.2 TeV before Christmas for an initial look at
the tiny particles and what forces might be created. Ultimately,
scientists want to create conditions like those 1 trillionth to 2
trillionths of a second after the Big Bang — which scientists think
marked the creation of the universe billions of years ago.
Physicists also hope the collider will help them see and understand
other suspected phenomena, such as dark matter, antimatter and
The level reached Monday isn't significantly higher than what Fermilab
has been doing, and real advances are not expected until the LHC raises
each beam to 3.5 TeV during the first half of next year. CERN
said one of the two small beams of protons first broke the energy level
Sunday evening when it was accelerated from the initial operating
energy of 450 billion electron volts late Sunday evening.
"Three hours later both LHC beams were successfully accelerated to 1.18
TeV," shortly after midnight, the organization said.
Beams were colliding last week at low energy, to make sure the machine
was working properly. But they have yet to be smashed together at
higher intensity. Steve Myers, CERN's research and technology
director, said he had been at CERN when it switched on the last major
particle accelerator, the Large Electron-Positron collider that
operated from 1989-2000.
"I thought that was a great machine to operate, but this is something
else," he said. "What took us days or weeks with LEP, we're doing in
hours with the LHC. So far, it all augurs well for a great research
CERN said operators will continue preparing the 2,000 superconducting
magnets and other parts so that the energy can be increased safely.
Attempts to make new discoveries at the LHC are scheduled for the first
quarter of 2010, at a collision energy of 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam).
The electron volt is an extremely small measure used in particle
physics. One TeV is about the energy of the motion of a flying
mosquito, but it becomes signficant in the submicroscopic collisions of
The energy is concentrated in the hairline beams of particles that whiz
around the accelerator at near the speed of light. Although apparently
small to the outsider, CERN uses a great amount of electricity and
powerful equipment to raise the energy of the beam.
The speed can increase only slightly when the accelerator steps up the
power, but that raises the force with which the protons will collide,
revealing more insight into what makes them up. It may take
several years before the LHC can make the discovery of the elusive
Higgs boson, the particle or field that theoretically gives mass to
other particles. That is widely expected to deserve the Nobel Prize for
The LHC operates at nearly absolute zero temperature, colder than outer
space, which allows the superconducting magnets to guide the protons
most efficiently. Physicists have used smaller, room-temperature
colliders for decades to study the atom. They once thought protons and
neutrons were the smallest components of the atom's nucleus, but the
colliders showed that they are made of quarks and gluons and that there
are other forces and particles.
More than 8,000 physicists from labs around the world also have work
planned for the Large Hadron Collider. The organization is run by its
20 European member nations, with support from other countries,
including observers from Japan, India, Russia and the United States,
which have made big contributions.
Quick restart of Big Bang machine stuns
By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS, Associated Press Writer
Nov. 21, 2009
GENEVA – Scientists moved Saturday to prepare the world's largest atom
smasher for exploring the depths of matter after successfully
restarting the $10 billion machine following more than a year of
The nuclear physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider were
surprised that they could so quickly get beams of protons whizzing near
the speed of light during the restart late Friday, said James Gillies,
spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
The machine was heavily damaged by a simple electrical fault in
September last year.
Some scientists had gone home early Friday and had to be called back as
the project jumped ahead, Gillies said.
At a meeting early Saturday "they basically had to tear up the first
few pages of their PowerPoint presentation which had outlined the
procedures that they were planning to follow," he said. "That was all
wrapped up by midnight. They are going through the paces really very
The European Organization for Nuclear Research has taken the restart of
the collider step by step to avoid further setbacks as it moves toward
new scientific experiments — probably starting in January — regarding
the makeup of matter and the universe.
CERN, as it is known, had hoped by 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) Saturday to get
the beams to travel the 27-kilometer (17-mile) circular tunnel under
the Swiss-French border, but things went so well Friday evening that
they had achieved the operation seven hours earlier.
Praise from scientists around the world was quick. "First beam through
the Atlas!" whooped an Internet message from Adam Yurkewicz, an
American scientist working on the massive Atlas detector on the machine.
"I congratulate the scientists and engineers that have worked to get
the LHC back up and running," said Dennis Kovar of the U.S. Department
of Energy, which participates in the project.
"The LHC is a machine unprecedented in size, in complexity, and in the
scope of the international collaboration that has built it over the
last 15 years," said Kovar.
The next step, possibly later Saturday, was to decide whether to
collide beams in the detectors to get necessary measuring data or to
try using the machine to accelerate the protons to higher energy than
any machine has ever reached, said Gillies.
In the meantime CERN is using about 2,000 superconducting magnets —
some of them 15 meters (50 feet) long — to improve control of the beams
of billions of protons so they will remain tightly bunched and stay
clear of sensitive equipment.
Gillies said the scientists are being very conservative.
"They're leaving a lot of time so that the guys who are operating the
machine are under no pressure whatsoever to tick off the boxes and move
forward," he said.
Officials said Friday evening's progress was an important step on the
road toward scientific discoveries at the LHC, which are expected in
"We've still got some way to go before physics can begin, but with this
milestone we're well on the way," CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said.
With great fanfare, CERN circulated its first beams Sept. 10, 2008. But
the machine was sidetracked nine days later when a badly soldered
electrical splice overheated and set off a chain of damage to the
magnets and other parts of the collider.
Steve Myers, CERN's director for accelerators, said the improvements
since then have made the LHC a far better understood machine than it
was a year ago.
The LHC is expected soon to be running with more energy the world's
current most powerful accelerator, the Tevatron at Fermilab near
Chicago. It is supposed to keep ramping up to seven times the energy of
Fermilab in coming years.
This will allow the collisions between protons to give insights into
dark matter and what gives mass to other particles, and to show what
matter was in the microseconds of rapid cooling after the Big Bang that
many scientists theorize marked the creation of the universe billions
of years ago.
When the machine is fully operational, the magnets will control the
beams of protons and send them in opposite directions through two
parallel tubes the size of fire hoses. In rooms as large as cathedrals
300 feet (100 meters) below the ground the magnets will force them into
huge detectors to record what happens.
The LHC operates at nearly absolute zero temperature, colder than outer
space, which allows the superconducting magnets to guide the protons
Physicists have used smaller, room-temperature colliders for decades to
study the atom. They once thought protons and neutrons were the
smallest components of the atom's nucleus, but the colliders showed
that they are made of quarks and gluons and that there are other forces
and particles. And scientists still have other questions about
antimatter, dark matter and supersymmetry they want to answer with
CERN's new collider.
The Superconducting Super Collider being built in Texas would have been
bigger than the LHC, but in 1993 the U.S. Congress canceled it after
costs soared and questions were raised about its scientific value
Gillies said the LHC should be ramped up to 3.5 trillion electron volts
some time next year, which will be 3 1/2 times as powerful as Fermilab.
The two laboratories are friendly rivals, working on equipment and
But each would be delighted to make the discovery of the elusive Higgs
boson, the particle or field that theoretically gives mass to other
particles. That is widely expected to deserve the Nobel Prize for
More than 8,000 physicists from other labs around the world also have
work planned for the LHC. The organization is run by its 20 European
member nations, with support from other countries, including observers
Japan, India, Russia and the U.S. that have made big contributions.
Great photo - on the I-BBC, a
14-second video didn't capture the moment as well as this!
Beams Are on Track at Collider
By DENNIS OVERBYE
Physicists returned to their future
on Friday. About 10 p.m. outside Geneva, scientists at CERN, the
European Center for Nuclear Research, succeeded in sending beams of
protons clockwise around the 17-mile underground magnetic racetrack
known as the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest and most
expensive physics experiment.
For physicists, the event was a
milestone on the way back from disaster and the resumption of a
15-year, $9 billion quest to investigate laws and forces that prevailed
when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old.
The collider was designed to
accelerate protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts apiece
and smash them together in tiny fireballs in an effort to replicate and
study the conditions of the Big Bang.
The first time protons circled the
collider, on Sept. 10, 2008, the event was celebrated with Champagne
and midnight pajama parties around the world. But the festivities were
cut short a few days later when an electrical connection between a pair
of the collider’s giant superconducting electromagnets vaporized.
Subsequent work revealed that the
machine was riddled with thousands of connections unable to handle the
high currents required to run the collider at its intended energy.
Physicists and engineers have spent
the past year testing and making repairs. While they have not replaced
all the faulty connections, they have patched things up enough to allow
the collider to run at less than full speed.
Calling the past year’s work a
“Herculean effort,” CERN’s director for accelerators, Steve Myers, said
the engineers had learned from painful experience and understood the
collider far better than they had before.
CERN’s director, Rolf Heuer, said in
a statement, “It’s great to see beam circulating in the LHC again,” but
he and others cautioned that there was a long way to go before the
collider started producing the physics it was designed for.
When the collider begins to do real
physics next year, it will run at half its original design energy, with
protons of 3.5 trillion electron volts. The energy will be increased
gradually during the year, but it could be years, physicists say,
before the machine reaches its full potential.
Thousands of the troublesome
junctions will have to be rebuilt during a yearlong shutdown in 2011,
and engineers have to figure out why several dozen of the
superconducting magnets seem to have lost their ability to operate at
The delay has given new life to the
collider’s main rival, the Tevatron at the Fermi National Accelerator
Laboratory in Illinois.
If all goes well, CERN says, the
protons will start colliding at low energies in about a week.
Those first collisions will occur at
the so-called injection energy of 450 billion electron volts. The
machine will then quickly step up to 1.1 trillion electron volts, which
is just above the energy of the Tevatron.
CERN is hoping to achieve that
landmark as a symbolic Christmas present before a short holiday
updated at 16:14 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009
The giant Atlas detector will search for hints
of the elusive Higgs boson particle
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) could restart
as early as this weekend after more than a year of repairs.
have avoided giving an exact date for sending beams of protons around
the 27km (17 mile) circular tunnel which houses the collider.
LHC was first switched on in 2008, but had to be shut down when a
faulty electrical connection caused one tonne of helium to leak into
The vast machine is located 100m below the French-Swiss
by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern), the LHC will
recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang.
Two beams of
protons will be fired around the tunnel. These beams will travel in
opposite directions around the main "ring" at close to the speed of
At allotted points around the tunnel, the proton beams will
cross paths, smashing into one another with enormous energy.
hope to see new particles in the debris of these collisions, revealing
fundamental new insights into the nature of the cosmos.
But the first beams to circulate around the collider will be
injected at a low energy of about 450 billion electron volts.
the restart, engineers are determined to take things one step at a
time, and officials are not setting hard and fast deadlines.
Once the collider is circulating two beams in opposite
directions, engineers will attempt low-intensity collisions.
This will provide scientists with data they can use for
After this, the beams' energy will be increased so that the
first high-energy collisions can take place.
These will mark the real beginning of the LHC's research
Giant Particle Collider Struggles
By DENNIS OVERBYE
August 4, 2009
The biggest, most expensive physics machine in the world is riddled
with thousands of bad electrical connections.
Many of the magnets meant to whiz high-energy subatomic particles
around a 17-mile underground racetrack have mysteriously lost their
ability to operate at high energies.
Some physicists are deserting the European project, at least
temporarily, to work at a smaller, rival machine across the ocean.
After 15 years and $9 billion, and a showy “switch-on” ceremony last
September, the Large Hadron Collider, the giant particle accelerator
outside Geneva, has to yet collide any particles at all.
This week, scientists and engineers at the European Center for Nuclear
Research, or CERN, are to announce how and when their machine will
start running this winter.
That will be a Champagne moment. But scientists say it could be years,
if ever, before the collider runs at full strength, stretching out the
time it should take to achieve the collider’s main goals, like
producing a particle known as the Higgs boson thought to be responsible
for imbuing other elementary particles with mass, or identifying the
dark matter that astronomers say makes up 25 percent of the cosmos.
The energy shortfall could also limit the collider’s ability to test
more exotic ideas, like the existence of extra dimensions beyond the
three of space and one of time that characterize life.
“The fact is, it’s likely to take a while to get the results we really
want,” said Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist who is an architect of
the extra-dimension theory.
The collider was built to accelerate protons to energies of seven
trillion electron volts and smash them together in search of particles
and forces that reigned earlier than the first trillionth of a second
of time, but the machine could run as low as four trillion electron
volts for its first year. Upgrades would come a year or two later.
Physicists on both sides of the Atlantic say they are confident that
the European machine will produce groundbreaking science — eventually —
and quickly catch up to an American rival, even at the lower energy.
All big accelerators have gone through painful beginnings.
“These are baby problems,” said Peter Limon, a physicist at the Fermi
National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., who helped build the
But some physicists admit to being impatient. “I’ve waited 15 years,”
said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a leading particle theorist at the Institute
for Advanced Study in Princeton. “I want it to get up running. We can’t
tolerate another disaster. It has to run smoothly from now.”
The delays are hardest on younger scientists, who may need data to
complete a thesis or work toward tenure. Slowing a recent physics brain
drain from the United States to Europe, some have gone to work at
Fermilab, where the rival Tevatron accelerator has been smashing
together protons and antiprotons for the last decade.
Colliders get their oomph from Einstein’s equivalence of mass and
energy, both expressed in the currency of electron volts. The CERN
collider was designed to investigate what happens at energies and
distances where the reigning theory, known as the Standard Model,
breaks down and gives nonsense answers.
The collider’s own prodigious energies are in some way its worst enemy.
At full strength, the energy stored in its superconducting magnets
would equal that of an Airbus A380 flying at 450 miles an hour, and the
proton beam itself could pierce 100 feet of solid copper.
In order to carry enough current, the collider’s magnets are cooled by
liquid helium to a temperature of 1.9 degrees above absolute zero, at
which point the niobium-titanium cables in them lose all electrical
resistance and become superconducting.
Any perturbation, however, such as a bad soldering job on a splice, can
cause resistance and heat the cable and cause it to lose its
superconductivity in what physicists call a “quench.” Which is what
happened on Sept. 19, when the junction between two magnets vaporized
in a shower of sparks, soot and liberated helium.
Technicians have spent most of the last year cleaning up and inspecting
thousands of splices in the collider. About 5,000 will have to be
redone, Steve Myers, head of CERN’s accelerator division, said in an
The exploding splices have diverted engineers’ attention from the
mystery of the underperforming magnets. Before the superconducting
magnets are installed, engineers “train” each one by ramping up its
electrical current until the magnet fails, or “quenches.” Thus the
magnet gradually grows comfortable with higher and higher current.
All of the magnets for the collider were trained to an energy above
seven trillion electron volts before being installed, Dr. Myers said,
but when engineers tried to take one of the rings’ eight sectors to a
higher energy last year, some magnets unexpectedly failed.
In an e-mail exchange, Lucio Rossi, head of magnets for CERN, said that
49 magnets had lost their training in the sectors tested and that it
was impossible to estimate how many in the entire collider had gone
bad. He said the magnets in question had all met specifications and
that the problem might stem from having sat outside for a year before
they could be installed.
Retraining magnets is costly and time consuming, experts say, and it
might not be worth the wait to get all the way to the original target
energy. “It looks like we can get to 6.5 relatively easily,” Dr. Myers
said, but seven trillion electron volts would require “a lot of
Many physicists say they would be perfectly happy if the collider never
got above five trillion electron volts. If that were the case, said Joe
Lykken, a Fermilab theorist who is on one of the CERN collider teams,
“It’s not the end of the world. I am not pessimistic at all.”
For the immediate future, however, physicists are not even going to get
that. Dr. Myers said he thought the splices as they are could handle 4
trillion electron volts.
“We could be doing physics at the end of November,” he said in July,
before new vacuum leaks pushed the schedule back a few additional weeks.
“It’s not the design energy of the machine, but it’s 4 times higher
than the Tevatron,” he said.
Pauline Gagnon, an Indiana University physicist who works at CERN, said
she would happily take that energy level. “The public pays for this,”
she said in an e-mail message, “and we need to start delivering.”
New Earth-Size Blot on Jupiter, Found By an Amateur
By Robert Mackey, NASA/JPL, via Associated Press
July 21, 2009, 8:59 am
NASA has confirmed the discovery of a new hole the size of the Earth in
Jupiter’s atmosphere, apparently showing that the planet was hit by
something large in recent days. The impact mark was first spotted on
Monday morning by an amateur astronomer in Australia, who then drew the
attention of scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the dark
mark on Jupiter’s south polar region.
The apparent impact comes almost exactly 15 years after a comet named
Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck Jupiter, “sending up blazing fireballs and
churning the Jovian atmosphere into dark storms, one of them as large
as Earth,” as The New York Times reported on July 19, 1994.
Images of the impact mark, as seen through a NASA telescope in Hawaii,
were posted on the space agency’s Web site on Monday with this
Following up on a tip by an
amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley of Australia, that a new dark “scar”
had suddenly appeared on Jupiter, this morning between 3 and 9 a.m. PDT
(6 a.m. and noon EDT) scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif., using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility at the
summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, gathered evidence indicating an impact.
New infrared images show the likely impact point was near the
south polar region, with a visibly dark “scar” and bright upwelling
particles in the upper atmosphere detected in near-infrared wavelengths.
Glenn Orton, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said “It
could be the impact of a comet, but we don’t know for sure yet.”
Mr. Orton told New Scientist magazine that the planet could have been
hit by a block of ice or a comet that was too faint for astronomers to
detect before the impact. Leigh Fletcher, an astronomer at the Jet
Propulsion Lab told the magazine the impact scar “is about the size of
In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the amateur
astronomer, Anthony Wesley, a 44-year-old computer programmer from a
village north of Canberra, made the discovery “using his backyard
14.5-inch reflecting telescope.” The Herald explained: “Wesley, who has
been keen on astronomy since he was a child, said telescopes and other
astronomy equipment were so inexpensive now that the hobby had become a
viable pastime for just about anybody. His own equipment cost about
Mr. Wesley recorded the discovery of the impact mark, and posted
several of the first images he took of it, in an observation report he
I came back to the scope at
about 12:40am I noticed a dark spot rotating into view in Jupiters
south polar region started to get curious. When first seen close to the
limb (and in poor conditions) it was only a vaguely dark spot, I thouht
likely to be just a normal dark polar storm. However as it rotated
further into view, and the conditions improved I suddenly realised that
it wasn’t just dark, it was black in all channels, meaning it was truly
a black spot.
My next thought was that it must be either a dark moon (like
Callisto) or a moon shadow, but it was in the wrong place and the wrong
size. Also I’d noticed it was moving too slow to be a moon or shadow.
As far as I could see it was rotating in sync with a nearby white oval
storm that I was very familiar with - this could only mean that the
back feature was at the cloud level and not a projected shadow from a
moon. I started to get excited.
It took another 15 minutes to really believe that I was seeing
something new - I’d imaged that exact region only 2 days earlier and
checking back to that image showed no sign of any anomalous black spot.
Now I was caught between a rock and a hard place - I wanted to
keep imaging but also I was aware of the importance of alerting others
to this possible new event. Could it actually be an impact mark on
Jupiter? I had no real idea, and the odds on that happening were so
small as to be laughable, but I was really struggling to see any other
possibility given the location of the mark. If it really was an impact
mark then I had to start telling people, and quickly.
The Guardian reports that Mr. Wesley, who “spends about 20 hours
a week on his passion of watching and photographing Jupiter,” almost
missed making the discovery because he interrupted his work late on
Sunday night to watch sports on television. Mr. Wesley told The
I was imaging Jupiter until about midnight and seriously thought
about packing up and going back to the house to watch the golf and the
cricket. In the end I decided to just take a break and I went back to
the house to watch Tom Watson almost make history.
I came back down half an hour later and I could see this black
mark had turned into view.
In another interview, Mr. Wesley told the Sydney Morning Herald that
spotting the impact mark on Jupiter made him glad the huge planet is in
Earth’s neighborhood: “If anything like that had hit the Earth it would
have been curtains for us, so we can feel very happy that Jupiter is
doing its vacuum-cleaner job and hoovering up all these large pieces
before they come for us.”
Near-Earth asteroid 2012 LZ1 (l) and
2012DA14 (r) debris
About the size of a city
block, is seen as a circular white dot...and then there is here the
debris might have come from -
“Asteroid 2012 DA14."
Hubble Spots Strange Asteroid With 6 Tails of Dust
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — This is one strange asteroid.
The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a six-tailed asteroid in the
asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Scientists say
they've never seen anything like it. Incredibly, the comet-like tails
change shape as the asteroid sheds dust. The streams have occurred over
A research team led by the University of California, Los Angeles,
believes the asteroid, designated P/2013 P5, is rotating so much that
its surface is flying apart. It's believed to be a fragment of a larger
asteroid damaged in a collision 200 million years ago.
Scientists using the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii spotted the
asteroid in August. Hubble picked out all the tails in September.
The discovery is described in this week's issue of Astrophysical
Hazardous asteroids may be more numerous
than previously thought; Research predicts asteroid collisions 10
times more often than thought
By JOEL ACHENBACH The Washington Post
published Nov 7, 2013
There are scads of building-size, potentially hazardous asteroids
lurking in Earth's immediate neighborhood, and they may be colliding
with the planet 10 times more often than scientists previously have
believed, according to a new study published Wednesday that examined
the airburst and crash of a 25 million-pound asteroid earlier this year
near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.
Three studies released Wednesday, two in the journal Nature and one in
the journal Science, have provided the most detailed description and
analysis of the dramatic event on the morning of Feb. 15.
Scientists now estimate the diameter of the object at nearly 20 meters,
about 65 feet. Undetected, the rock came out of the glare of the sun
and hit the atmosphere at 43,000 miles per hour.
As it descended through the atmosphere, it broke into fragments,
creating a series of explosions with the combined energy of about 500
kilotons of TNT - 30 times more powerful than the atom bomb that
destroyed Hiroshima in 1945, although the energy in this case was
spread out over a much broader area.
The shock wave blew out windows in half the buildings in Chelyabinsk.
It knocked people off their feet; dozens were sunburned by the flash,
which at its peak was 30 times brighter than the sun. About 1,200
people were hurt, most by broken and flying glass, but no one was
One chunk the size of love seat landed in frozen Chebarkul Lake,
leaving a circular hole, as if shot with a bullet from space. That
fragment, which weighed about 1,900 pounds, was retrieved months later,
breaking into several pieces in the process. Thousands of smaller
pieces also have been recovered.
The scientific investigation relied to a great degree on video imagery
obtained by "dashcams," the cameras Russian drivers often use to
document car crashes and potentially abusive law enforcement.
Scientists visited 10 locations where footage had been recorded by
stationary cameras, and used landmarks to create a map of the
asteroid's trajectory. The shock wave damage propagated perpendicularly
to the path of the rock.
"It's incredible how well-documented all this is," said Peter
Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer at the SETI Institute and a co-author
of the paper in Science.
Taken together, the new information on Chelyabinsk does not suggest
that the sky is falling (no one has ever been killed by an asteroid in
all of recorded human history). But it may shift the overall risk
profile of asteroids, making Chelyabinsk-size events look more probable.
That's the conclusion of Peter Brown, a professor at Western University
in London, Ontario, who re-examined decades of data compiled by
scientific and military sensors. The scientific orthodoxy said that a
Chelyabinsk-size event ought to happen every 140 years or so, but Brown
saw several such events in the historical record.
Famously, a large object exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia
in 1908. But there have been less-heralded impacts, including one on
Aug. 3, 1963, when an asteroid created a powerful airburst off the
coast of South Africa.
"Any one of these taken separately I think you can dismiss as a
one-off. But now when we look at it as a whole, over a hundred years,
we see these large impactors more frequently than we would expect,"
said Brown, whose paper appeared in Nature.
Most rocks that size have yet to be identified, and it would be
difficult and expensive to find them and calculate their trajectories,
Brown said. But this could boost efforts already underway to create
early-warning systems for Chelyabinsk-class impactors that are just a
few days away, he said.
The paper in Science hypothesized that the Chelyabinsk asteroid is a
piece of "rubble" from a larger body that had been broken apart by
tidal forces from an earlier near-Earth encounter.
"The rest of that rubble could still be part of the near-Earth object
population," the authors wrote.
By GAIL COLLINS, NYTIMES
August 21, 2013
So, which would you rather do: Capture an asteroid or go back to the
This is one of the many interesting issues facing Congress that we
probably will not have time to debate once Congress actually comes back
next month. Then it’ll be nothing but Obamacare and government
shutdowns and the occasional discussion about whether Senator Ted Cruz
has managed to dispose of his recently discovered dual Canadian
Which I am personally looking forward to a lot. But today let’s
consider the American space program.
Space exploration is one of the extremely few areas in which there is a
lot of bipartisan agreement in Washington. For instance, both parties
believe that the United States should be trying to get to Mars.
Eventually. Nobody thinks this will happen anytime soon — partly
because the technology is so challenging and partly because Congress
keeps cutting the space budget. So far, NASA has not shown any interest
in the tactic being used by a Dutch company that hopes to establish a
Martian colony in about 10 years, with money that would come in part
from producing a reality series, somewhere along the lines of “Big
Brother" or perhaps “Real Housewives of the Red Planet.”
The third point of wide bipartisan agreement is that nobody wants their
constituents to be clobbered by an asteroid. Really, this is a
priority. The Obama administration is currently promoting an “asteroid
grand challenge,” in which we’re invited “to find all asteroid threats
to human populations” and figure out what to do about them.
And — this is good news, people — we’ve already pinpointed about 95
percent of all the rocks in the solar system that are of planet-mashing
I know that you are now instantly focusing on the remaining 5 percent,
as well as the multitudinous smaller fellows that are capable of taking
out Massachusetts or Paris — or your local shopping center. Everybody
is in favor of finding them too, particularly since one grazed Russia
earlier this year, causing the House Science Committee to hold a
special Threats From Space meeting.
Even members of Congress who pooh-pooh the peril of global warming
believe in the danger of global asteroid-exploding. I am thinking about
Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who heads — yes! — the House
Science Committee. And Sen. Ted Cruz, the top-ranking Republican on the
Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, who demanded that we “do what
needs to be done” to prevent an asteroid from hitting the earth and
smashing into a major American city. Or a Canadian one.
Despite all this cheerleading, there hasn’t been all that much money
spent on the mission. Discover magazine estimated that over the past 15
years, the United States had spent less money on asteroid detection
“than the production budget of the 1998 asteroid movie ‘Armageddon.’ ”
In which Ben Affleck won Liv Tyler but the earth lost Shanghai, much of
New York and Bruce Willis. But we were talking about capturing
The question is what NASA should do during the really, really long
pre-Mars interlude. The White House wants to send an unmanned
spacecraft to capture a smallish asteroid, tow it back and put it into
orbit around the moon, where we could send astronauts to study it. This
would most definitely help us in the race to develop the best “capture
bag,” and there’s pretty wide agreement we would acquire some other
useful technology as well.
“This would be the first time humans have, in some sense, rearranged
the solar system for their own purposes. So that’s exciting,” said
Prof. Tom Prince, director of the Keck Institute for Space Studies at
the California Institute of Technology.
Not as far as the House of Representatives is concerned. The Science
Committee recently voted to cut all the money for asteroid capture and
invest it instead in a new moon landing. There were several objections
to the Obama plan, the main one being that it was kind of boring.
“Costly and uninspiring,” sniffed Chairman Smith.
The White House position was that if you wanted to talk about boring,
look at a moon landing. “Going back to the moon, something we have done
six times, just does not seem to us worth the investment,” said Lori
Garver, NASA deputy administrator, in a phone interview.
And anyway, what about protecting the earth from a killer asteroid? I
believe I speak for all of us when I say that space exploration is
good, but not being hit by a large hunk of galactic rock is even better.
The House Republicans could have a point. The asteroid that NASA wants
to capture would be way smaller than Killer Visitor dimensions.
Although it does seem a little peculiar that they’re calling for a
dramatic moon-colony initiative at the same time they’re cutting the
It’s also conceivable that the Science Committee doesn’t like the Obama
plan because it’s the Obama plan. This has been known to happen in the
House. Perhaps we should be grateful it hasn’t voted to cancel the
asteroid-capturing program 40 times.
Meteorite Fragments Are Said to Rain Down
By ELLEN BARRY and ANDREW E. KRAMER
MOSCOW — Bright objects, apparently debris from a meteorite, streaked
through the sky in western Siberia early on Friday, accompanied by a
boom that damaged buildings across a vast area of territory. Around 500
people were reported to have been injured, most from breaking glass.
Emergency officials had reported no deaths by Friday afternoon but said
that 14 people had been hospitalized.
Russian experts believe the blast was caused by a 10-ton meteor known
as a bolide, which created a powerful shock wave when it reached the
Earth’s atmosphere, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a
statement. Scientists believe the bolide exploded and evaporated at a
height of around 20 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface, but that
small fragments may have reached the ground, the statement said.
The governor of the Chelyabinsk district reported that a search team
had found an impact crater on the outskirts of a city about 50 miles
west of Chelyabinsk. An official from the Interior Ministry told the
Russian news agency Interfax that three large pieces of meteorite
debris had been retrieved in the area and that 10,000 police officers
are searching for more.
A small asteroid, known as 2012 DA14, is expected to pass close to
Earth later on Friday, NASA reported on its Web site. Aleksandr Y.
Dudorov, a physicist at Chelyabinsk State University, said it was
possible that the meteorite may have been flying alongside the asteroid.
“What we witnessed today may have been the precursor of that asteroid,”
said Mr. Dudorov in a telephone interview. Video clips from the city of
Chelyabinsk showed an early morning sky illuminated by a brilliant
flash, followed by the sound of breaking glass and multiple car alarms.
Meteorites typically cause sonic booms as they enter the Earth’s
atmosphere. On Friday, the force was powerful enough to shatter dishes
and televisions in people’s homes.
“I saw a flash in the window, turned toward it and saw a burning cloud,
which was surrounded by smoke and was going downward — it reminded me
of what you see after an explosion,” said Maria Polyakova, 25, head of
reception at the Park-City Hotel in Chelyabinsk, which is 950 miles
east of Moscow. A video made outside a building in Chelyabinsk captured
the astonished voices of witnesses who were uncertain what it was they
had just seen.
“Maybe it was a rocket,” said one man, who rushed outside onto the
street along with his co-workers when the object hit, far out of sight.
A man named Artyom, who spoke to the Moscow FM radio station, said the
explosion was enormous.
“I was sitting at work and the windows lit up and it was as if the
whole city was illuminated, and I looked out and saw a huge streak in
the sky and it was like that for two or three minutes and then I heard
these noises, like claps,” he said. “And then all the dogs started
He said that there was a blast that caused balconies to shake and
windows to shatter. He said he did not believe it was a meteorite. “We
are waiting for a second piece, that is what people are talking about
now,” the man said.
The object was visible from the city of Nizhniy Tagil, around 220 miles
north of Chelyabinsk, where so many people called an emergency
assistance number that it stopped working, the Novy Region news service
The government response on Friday was huge. Seven airplanes were
deployed to search for places where meteorites might have fallen and
more than 20,000 people dispatched to comb the area on foot, according
to the Ministry of Emergency Situations. There were also 28 sites
designated to monitor radiation. No unusual readings had been detected,
the ministry reported.
The area around Chelyabinsk is also home to “dozens of defense
factories, including nuclear factories and those involved in production
of thermonuclear weapons,” said Vladimir Lipunov, an astrophysicist at
the Shternberg State Astronomy Institute.
“No one needs to be told what the Urals is,” Mr. Lipunov told the NTV
television station. “A second hit in the same area is unlikely and
everything could have been much, much worse.”
Siberia stretches the length of Asia, and there is a history of meteor
and asteroid showers there. In 1908 a powerful explosion was reported
near the Tunguska River in central Siberia, its impact so great that
trees were flattened for 25 miles around. Generations of scientists
have studied that event, analyzing particles that were driven into the
Earth’s surface as far away as the South Pole. A study published in the
1980s concluded the object weighed a million tons.
In the United States, NASA alluded to the Tunguska incident when it
said that it was watching closely an asteroid 150 feet in diameter
expected to whiz past Earth on Friday at a distance of around 17,200
miles, the closest for many decades.
In a statement on its Web site, NASA said on Friday that there was no
risk that the asteroid, 2012 DA14, would collide with Earth. But it
would pass within “the belt of satellites in geostationary orbit, which
is 22,200 miles above Earth’s surface.”
The asteroid is set to pass Earth at around 2:25 p.m. Eastern time,
NASA said. “At the time of closest approach, the asteroid will be over
the eastern Indian Ocean, off Sumatra,” the agency said.
“Asteroid 2012 DA14 will not impact Earth, but if another asteroid of a
size similar to that of 2012 DA14 were to impact Earth, it would
release approximately 2.5 megatons of energy in the atmosphere and
would be expected to cause regional devastation,” NASA said. The
asteroid will not be visible to the naked eye, the agency added.
Referring to the “Tunguska Event,” NASA said the impact of an asteroid
just smaller than 2012 DA14 “is believed to have flattened about 825
square miles of forest in and around the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in
what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia.”
Surprise! Big Asteroid That Flew
Larger Than Thought
22 June 2012
A massive asteroid that
zipped by Earth last week is actually twice as large as scientists
originally thought, new radar images of the behemoth space rock reveal.
Asteroid 2012 LZ1 sailed within 3.3 million miles (5.3 million
kilometers) of Earth at its closest approach on June 14. Since that
distance is roughly 14 times the distance between Earth and the moon,
the oblong-shaped asteroid 2012 LZ1never posed a threat of colliding
with our planet.
But the flyby did allow astronomers to train the planetary radar system
at the Arecibo Observatory, a huge radio telescope in Puerto Rico, on
asteroid 2012 LZ1 and find that its size was seriously underestimated.
Initially, 2012 LZ1 was thought to be about the size of a city block,
but based on its brightness as it cruised by the planet, scientists now
say the asteroid's true size is twice that, measuring about 0.6 miles
(1 kilometer) across at its widest part. [Video: Asteroid 2012 LZ1
Flies by Earth]
"This object turned out to be quite a bit bigger than we expected,
which shows how important radar observations can be, because we're
still learning a lot about the population of asteroids," said research
team member Ellen Howell, of the Arecibo Observatory, in a statement.
Such a massive object would likely have serious global consequences if
it hit Earth, the researchers said. But the radar measurements showed
that the object does not have any chance of hitting Earth for at least
the next 750 years, they added.
"The sensitivity of our radar has permitted us to measure this
asteroid's properties and determine that it will not impact the Earth
at least in the next 750 years," said Mike Nolan, director of planetary
radar sciences at the Arecibo Observatory.
Scientists at the Arecibo Observatory observed the asteroid on June 19
to map its orbit more precisely, and to determine its size, rotation
rate and shape.
The newfound asteroid was first seen on June 10 at the Siding Spring
Observatory in Australia. Since the near-Earth object was detected less
than a week before it flew past the planet, astronomers only had rough
calculations of the asteroid's measurements at the time.
When 2012 LZ1 was first spotted, it was classified as a potentially
hazardous object because its preliminary orbit brings it relatively
close to Earth — with 20 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
Since 2012 LZ1 flew past outside the orbit of the moon, it could not be
seen by amateur astronomers through backyard telescopes. But, several
scientists trained larger telescope eyes on the space rock as it soared
The Slooh Space Camera, which broadcasts live views from telescopes
around the world, also streamed footage of asteroid 2012 LZ1's flyby
from a telescope in the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa.
Researchers have long been keen to protect the planet from collisions
with space rocks. Over the course of its 4.5 billion-year history,
Earth has been pelted by asteroids repeatedly, in some cases wiping out
large percentages of life on the planet.
To gauge the impact threat, NASA astronomers and scientists around the
world regularly monitor the night sky for large, near-Earth asteroids
that could pose hazards to the planet.
in near-miss with Earth
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: 03/04/2009 08:40:55 AM EST
PASADENA, Calif. -- An asteroid
about the size of one that blasted Siberia a century ago just buzzed by
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
reported that the asteroid zoomed past Monday morning.
The asteroid named 2009 DD45 was
about 48,800 miles from Earth. That is just twice the height of some
telecommunications satellites and about one-fifth of the distance to
The space ball measured between 69
feet and 154 feet in diameter. The Planetary Society said that made it
the same size as an asteroid that exploded over Siberia in 1908 and
leveled more than 800 square miles of forest.
Most people probably didn't notice
the cosmic close call. The asteroid was spotted only two days ago and
at its closest point passed over the Pacific Ocean near Tahiti.
New NASA Administrator
Next Leader Arriving at Time of Transition
By KENNETH CHANG
More than 100 days into his
presidency, Barack Obama has yet to name the person he wants to lead
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In this delay Mr.
Obama has company: President George W. Bush did not decide on his
choice, Sean O’Keefe, until November of his first year in office.
But NASA is on the cusp of a
once-in-a-generation transition, winding down space shuttle flights and
construction of the International Space Station before ramping up
ambitions for a return to the moon and an eventual trip to Mars.
Since Michael D. Griffin stepped
down as NASA administrator in January, Christopher Scolese, a longtime
NASA official, has served in the role on an interim basis. A new NASA
boss, however, will arrive at the agency too late to take part in
several important decisions. Mr. Scolese and other NASA officials are
in the middle of putting together the agency’s 2010 budget, which may
be unveiled as soon as this week. They are also grappling with the
impending retirement of the nation’s space shuttles.
On Thursday, a Congressionally
mandated prohibition that would have prevented NASA from taking any
steps that might prevent additional shuttle flights after 2010 expired.
NASA announced the first major round of layoffs among shuttle
contractors — about 160 workers — and up to 900 jobs will be eliminated
by the end of the fiscal year in September as the agency moves forward
on the assumption that there will be, at most, nine flights left.
The new administrator will also step
into a contentious debate over whether development of the next
generation of rockets, known as the Constellation program, has gone
awry with technical problems or whether it is struggling just because
it has received less financing than originally promised.
Constellation managers decided last
month to trim the capacity of the new crew capsule, at least initially,
from six astronauts to four. The program had been developing two
versions — a six-seater for the space station and Mars and a
four-seater for lunar missions — and managers say the larger one is not
needed for now.
They are considering other major
changes in the development of the Ares I, the first of the
Constellation rockets, including eliminating one of the test flights to
improve the chances of keeping to the schedule of launching the first
astronauts in March 2015.
The delay in naming a top
administrator has revived speculation that NASA and space exploration
are low priorities for Mr. Obama.
An early Obama campaign document in
2007 proposed delaying the Constellation rockets by five years to pay
for an education initiative. Mr. Obama later stated that he favored the
current goal, devised in the aftermath of the loss of the space shuttle
Columbia in 2003, to return to the moon by 2020.
On the Senate floor last month,
Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who is one NASA’s primary
Congressional champions, said he considered Mr. Obama a strong
supporter of NASA. But Mr. Nelson expressed frustration at the lack of
a nominee for the top agency job.
“NASA is adrift,” he said, “because
it doesn’t have a vigorous leader, appointed by the Obama
administration, to take charge; someone who understands space flight,
who understands management, who understands aeronautics.”
Scott Pace, a former NASA official
and director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington
University, said he had “not much” concern about the delay, noting that
many positions in other parts of the federal government also remain
“You have a career person who’s
there who’s extremely competent,” Dr. Pace said of Mr. Scolese.
Dr. Pace said that naming an
administrator was not urgent, because the Obama administration appeared
to agree with the post-Columbia vision for space exploration set forth
by the Bush administration that received bipartisan support in
Congress. “There’s not as if there’s a policy uncertainty,” he said.
In a speech to the National Academy
of Sciences last week, Mr. Obama made several references to NASA and
the exploration of space. But the references were all nostalgic.
“You know, the average age in NASA’s
mission control during the Apollo 17 mission was just 26,” Mr. Obama
said, referring to the last human visit to the moon 37 years ago. “I
know that young people today are just as ready to tackle the grand
challenges of this century.”
Space exploration was not among Mr.
Obama’s present-day grand challenges. Other than a quick mention of
NASA’s role in climate research, Mr. Obama did not talk about what he
wanted the space agency to accomplish. He said he would seek to double
the budgets for the National Science Foundation, the Department of
Energy’s Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and
Technology. He did not promise more money for NASA.
In a speech last month to the
National Space Club, Dr. Griffin, the former administrator, said the
Constellation program had received $12 billion less than originally
proposed by the Bush administration and that after a slight increase
this year, the budget will go down by $3.5 billion over the next four
“Funding for lunar return in the
Constellation program was already less than $4 billion in the years
prior to 2015,” Dr. Griffin said. “This was to be allocated to early
work on the Ares 5 heavy-lifter, and the Altair lunar lander. With only
a half-billion dollars now available, this work cannot be done.”
What NASA will do once it gets back
to the Moon may also change. In testimony to a House appropriations
subcommittee, Mr. Scolese said the agency might scale back plans for a
The new administrator will face the
difficult task of juggling the work force, both within NASA and at its
contractors, as shuttle workers are laid off before new jobs emerge in
the Constellation program. The administrator may also revisit the
long-debated question of whether NASA’s mission could be better
accomplished through more robotic spacecraft like the highly successful
Mars rovers rather than much more expensive human space flight.
Among the robotic missions, there is
a question of looking up at the planets and distant universe versus
looking down at Earth. Mr. Obama’s budget outline in February proposed
a greater emphasis on Earth science.
Satellite Will Track Carbon
By KENNETH CHANG
February 23, 2009
Thirty billion tons of carbon dioxide waft into the air from the
burning of fossil fuels each year. About half of the 30 billion tons
stays in the air. The other half disappears. Where it all goes, nobody
With the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, a NASA satellite scheduled to be
launched Tuesday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California,
scientists hope to better understand the comings and goings of carbon
dioxide, the key greenhouse gas driving the current warming of the
The new data could help improve climate models and improve the
understanding of the “carbon sinks” like oceans and forests that
currently absorb much of the carbon dioxide.
Year-to-year variations — in some years, all of the excess carbon
dioxide disappears; in some years, all of it stays in the air —
indicate that some of the sinks might fill up and spill some of the
absorbed carbon dioxide back into the air.
“Something out there is changing dramatically,” said David Crisp, a
scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,
and the principal investigator of the mission. Humans account for
only 2 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions — natural
sources like the decay of dead plants account for the other 98 percent
— but that is enough to tip the balance.
Before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago,
carbon dioxide levels were at about 280 parts per million. Today, the
level is 387 parts per million and projected to rise sharply in the
Scientists have good estimates how much carbon dioxide is released by
the burning of fossil fuels, but other human influences like clearing
of forests and the harvesting of crops “affect CO2 in ways we don’t
understand,” Dr. Crisp said.
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory will measure carbon dioxide levels by
using an instrument with three spectrometers to analyze light reflected
off Earth. Carbon dioxide absorbs certain wavelengths of light,
particularly in the near infrared, and by measuring how dim those parts
of the spectrum are, the observatory can determine how many carbon
dioxide molecules the light has passed through.
At the same time, the instrument will make a similar measurement for
oxygen. Combining the two measurements gives the concentration of
carbon dioxide in the air. Because carbon dioxide mixes quickly with
the other gases in air, the measurements will have to pick out small
variations, expected to be less than 5 percent. Dr. Crisp said
the spacecraft will be able to pick out emissions from a power plant or
from along highways. More difficult will be picking out the carbon
sinks, which tend to be spread out over large areas. Scientists know
that the oceans are by far the largest sinks, but the absorbing powers
of forests, for example, is still uncertain. Shifting winds further
complicate the analysis.
Liftoff is set for 1:51 a.m. Pacific Time. The satellite will rise into
orbit aboard a Taurus XL rocket to 400 miles above the surface. Then,
over the next several weeks, it will be nudged upward into a
438-mile-high polar orbit, where it will take its place among a series
of Earth-watching satellites known as the “A-Train.”
Several months of calibration will follow, validating the spacecraft’s
observations with measurements on the ground.
“It’s a brand new kind of science measurement,” Dr. Crisp said. “It’s
going to take us a while to get the measurement right.”
The spacecraft and the Taurus rocket were both built by Orbital
Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., which will operate the spacecraft.
Debris Spews Into Space After
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
February 12, 2009
For decades, space experts have warned of orbits around the planet
growing so crowded that two satellites might one day slam into one
another, producing swarms of treacherous debris.
It happened Tuesday. And the whirling fragments could pose a threat to
the International Space Station, orbiting 215 miles up with three
astronauts on board, though officials said the risk was now small.
“This is a first, unfortunately,” Nicholas L. Johnson, chief scientist
for orbital debris at the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, said of the collision.
It happened some 490 miles above northern Siberia, at around noon
Eastern time. Two communications satellites — one Russian, one American
— cracked up in silent destruction. In the aftermath, military radars
on the ground tracked large amounts of debris going into higher and
“Nothing to this extent” has ever happened before, Mr. Johnson said.
“We’ve had three other accidental collisions between what we call
catalog objects, but they were all much smaller than this,” the objects
always very small and moderate in size.
The communication satellites, he added, “are two relatively big
The American satellite was an Iridium, one of a constellation of 66
spacecraft. Liz DeCastro, corporate communications director of Iridium
Satellite, based in Bethesda, Md., said that the satellite weighed
about 1,200 pounds and that its body was more than 12 feet long, not
including large solar arrays.
In a statement, the company said that it had “lost an operational
satellite” on Tuesday, apparently after it collided with “a
nonoperational” Russian satellite.
“Although this event has minimal impact on Iridium’s service,” the
statement added, “the company is taking immediate action to address the
loss.” The company’s hand-held phones can be used anywhere around the
globe to give users voice and data communications.
Mr. Johnson said the Russian satellite was presumably nonfunctional.
Officials at the Russian Embassy in Washington could not be reached for
Mr. Johnson said the United States military’s tracking radars had yet
to determine the number of detectable fragments. “It’s going to take a
while,” he said. “It’s very, very difficult to discriminate all those
objects when they’re really close together. And so over the next couple
of days we’ll have a much better understanding.”
At a minimum, Mr. Johnson added, “I think we’re talking many, many
dozens, if not hundreds.”
The debris could threaten the space station and its astronaut crew, he
“There are actually debris from this event which we believe are going
through space station altitude already,” he said. The risk to the
station, Mr. Johnson added, “is going to be very, very small.” In the
worst case, he said, “We’ll just dodge them if we have to. It’s the
small things you can’t see that are the ones that can do you harm.”
In Houston, International Space Station controllers have often adjusted
its orbit to get out of the way of speeding space debris, which can
move so incredibly fast that even small pieces pack a destructive
John Yembrick, a NASA spokesman in Washington, said the agency now
judged the risk of collision with the speeding fragments to be “very
small.” The threat, he added, is defined and acceptable.
Mr. Johnson, who works at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said the
new swarms of whirling debris might also eventually pose a threat to
other satellites in an orbital chain reaction.
“What we’re doing now is trying to quantify that risk,” he said.
“That’s a work in progress. It’s only been 24 hours. We put first
things first,” meaning the station and preparing for the next shuttle
William Harwood contributed reporting.
Pheonix has landed (Memorial Day, 2008). What has it found out so
USA land Phoeonix
rover on Mars - searches for water...from the look of this photo, there
IS water there - GROUNDWATER! Phoenix landed in the blue ice-rich
area (top left of map), near Mars' north pole
Link here to NASA webpage on Mars
This is the route of Mars rover...or else it is AAA's most
direct "trip tik"
From the I-BBC - below right is the EU
NASA also has other
programs, including assistance on International Space Station.
CT native on latest Shuttle
crew! Atlantis 2006.
Daniel C. Burbank (CAPTAIN, USCG)
PERSONAL DATA: Born July 27, 1961 in Manchester, Connecticut, but
considers Tolland, Connecticut, to be his hometown. Married. Two
children. Enjoys running, skiing, hiking, sailing, amateur astronomy,
playing guitar. His parents, Dan and Joan Burbank, reside in Tolland,
Connecticut. His sister, Suzanne Burbank, resides in Fort Myers,
EDUCATION: Graduated from Tolland High School, Tolland, Connecticut, in
1979; received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering
from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1985, and a master of science
degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical
University in 1990.
ORGANIZATIONS: National Space Society; Order of Daedalians; U.S. Coast
Guard Pterodactyls; U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association.
AWARDS: NASA Space Flight Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Air
Medal, Coast Guard Commendation Medals (2), Coast Guard Achievement
Medal, Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbons (2),
Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendations (3), National Defense
Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, and various other service
SPECIAL HONORS: Awarded the Orville Wright Achievement Award and
honorary membership in the Order of Daedalians as the top naval flight
training graduate during the period January 1 to June 30, 1988. Awarded
Texas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Achievement
Award as the top Coast Guard graduate of flight training for the year
EXPERIENCE: Burbank received his commission from the U.S. Coast Guard
Academy in May 1985, and was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter
Gallatin (WHEC 721) as Deck Watch Officer and Law Enforcement/Boarding
Officer. In January 1987, he reported to naval flight training at
Pensacola, Florida, and graduated in February 1988. Burbank was then
assigned to Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina,
where he became an Aircraft Commander in the HH-3F Pelican and then an
Aircraft Commander/Instructor Pilot in the HH-60J Jayhawk. While at
Elizabeth City, he completed training in Aviation
Maintenance/Administration in preparation for assignment as an
Aeronautical Engineering Officer. He also earned a master’s degree in
aeronautical science. In July 1992, Burbank was assigned to Coast Guard
Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as the Rotary Wing Engineering
Officer and HH-60J Aircraft Commander/Instructor Pilot. In May 1995, he
was assigned to Coast Guard Air Station Sitka, Alaska, as the
Aeronautical Engineering Officer and HH-60J Aircraft Commander.
Burbank has logged over 3,500 flight hours, primarily in Coast Guard
helicopters, and has flown more than 1,800 missions including over 300
search and rescue missions.
NASA EXPERIENCE: Selected by NASA in April 1996, Burbank reported to
the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. After completing two years of
training and evaluation, Burbank worked technical issues for the
Astronaut Office Operations Planning Branch, and the International
Space Station, and served as CAPCOM (spacecraft communicator) for both
Shuttle and Space Station. He was also a member of the Space Shuttle
Cockpit Avionics Upgrade design team. Twice flown, he served as a
mission specialist on STS-106 and STS-115 and has logged over 23 days
in space, and 7 hours and 11 minutes in one EVA.
SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE: STS-106 Atlantis (September 8-20, 2000).
During the 12-day mission, the crew successfully prepared the
International Space Station for the arrival of the first permanent
crew. The five astronauts and two cosmonauts delivered more than 6,600
pounds of supplies and installed batteries, power converters, oxygen
generation equipment and a treadmill on the Space Station. Two
crewmembers performed a space walk in order to connect power, data and
communications cables to the newly arrived Zvesda Service Module and
the Space Station. STS-106 orbited the Earth 185 times, and covered 4.9
million miles in 11 days, 19 hours, and 10 minutes.
STS-115 Atlantis (September 9-21, 2006) successfully restarted assembly
of the International Space Station. During the 12-day mission the crew
delivered and installed the massive P3/P4 truss, and two sets of solar
arrays that will eventually provide one quarter of the station’s power.
The crew also performed unprecedented robotic work using the Shuttle’s
arm. With the help of a fellow crew member, Burbank made one spacewalk
(EVA) that completed truss installation, enabled the solar arrays to be
deployed and prepared an important radiator for later activation. They
also installed a signal processor and transponder that transmits voice
and data to the ground and performed other tasks to upgrade and protect
the station’s systems.
NASA Global Hawk Continues
Expansion in Preparation for Environmental Research Missions as Part of
the 2010 GloPac Campaign
Press Release Source: Northrop Grumman Corp.
Monday January 18, 2010, 8:00 am
SAN DIEGO, Jan. 18, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC
- News) announced today that the NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft
system (UAS) has completed 10.4 hours for pilot training and flight
characterization in preparation for the Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac)
Campaign set to start this spring. Five flawless flights have been
completed since the first flight of Air Vehicle Six (AV-6) on 23
October. Prior to this, the aircraft had not flown in more than 6 1/2
A photo accompanying this release is available at:
Currently, AV-6 is being modified to carry eleven different earth
science sensors in preparation for the GloPac Campaign. Missions will
be based from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force
Base and be conducted over remote areas of the Pacific and Arctic.
Initial flights to test these sensors will begin in March.
AV-6 is one of two Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration Global
Hawk aircraft that were transferred from the U.S. Air Force to NASA
Dryden. Both are being operated under the Space Act Agreement signed in
2008 that allows NASA and Northrop Grumman to share the aircraft for
various operations. NOAA is also partnered with NASA to provide
appropriate payloads for environmental science missions. The second
aircraft, AV-1, is being readied for flight later this year.
As part of the program, Northrop Grumman designed a new UAS mission
control center that is married to a payload station and housed in the
Global Hawk Operations Center (GHOC) located at Edwards Air Force Base.
A distributed set of workstations are configured with specific
functionality to initiate, monitor and track aircraft operations, as
well as to collect and distribute data from various onboard sensors.
The payload workstations are configured to manage numerous scientific
payloads simultaneously which will be vital during the GloPac Campaign.
The GloPac Campaign provides a unique opportunity to extend operator
evaluation of the control system, which is at the heart of the GHOC.
Analyzing the multi-function architecture during operations will
further the understanding and development of mission management and
control systems for various heterogeneous UAS. Lessons learned on
training and mission execution will be considered for inclusion in
future programs where government customers are looking for
interoperability and commonality to meet mission management
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose
120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions
in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and
technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.
Scott Carpenter, Mercury Astronaut Who
Orbited Earth, Dies at 88
By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, NYTIMES
October 10, 2013
M. Scott Carpenter, whose flight into space in 1962 as the second
American to orbit the Earth was marred by technical glitches and ended
with the nation waiting anxiously to see if he had survived a landing
far from the target site, died on Thursday in Denver. He was 88 and one
of the last two surviving astronauts of America’s original space
program, Project Mercury.
His wife, Patty Carpenter, announced the death, but no cause was given.
He had entered hospice care recently after having a stroke.
His death leaves John H. Glenn Jr., who flew the first orbital mission
on Feb. 20, 1962, and later became a United States senator from Ohio,
as the last survivor of the Mercury 7.
When Lieutenant Commander Carpenter splashed down off Puerto Rico in
his Aurora 7 capsule on May 24, 1962, after a harrowing mission, he had
fulfilled a dream.
“I volunteered for a number of reasons,” he wrote in “We Seven,” a book
of reflections by the original astronauts published in 1962. “One of
these, quite frankly, was that I thought this was a chance for
immortality. Pioneering in space was something I would willingly give
my life for.”
For almost an hour after his capsule hit the Caribbean, there were
fears that he had, in fact, perished. He was 250 miles from his
intended landing point after making three orbits in a nearly five-hour
flight. Although radar and radio signals indicated that his capsule had
survived re-entry, it was not immediately clear that he was safe.
A Navy search plane finally spotted him in a bright orange life raft.
He remained in it for three hours, accompanied by two frogmen dropped
to assist him, before he was picked up by a helicopter and taken to the
aircraft carrier Intrepid.
The uncertainty over his fate was only one problem with the flight. The
equipment controlling the capsule’s attitude (the way it was pointed)
had gone awry; moreover, he fired his re-entry rockets three seconds
late, and they did not carry the anticipated thrust. He also fell
behind on his many tasks during the flight’s final moments, and his
fuel ran low when he inadvertently left two control systems on at the
Some NASA officials found fault with his performance.
“He was completely ignoring our request to check his instruments,”
Christopher Kraft, the flight director, wrote in his memoir “Flight: My
Life in Mission Control” (2001). “I swore an oath that Scott Carpenter
would never again fly in space. He didn’t.”
Mr. Carpenter was the fourth American astronaut in space. Alan B.
Shepard Jr. and Virgil I. Grissom flew the first two Mercury flights,
and then Mr. Glenn orbited the Earth. Mr. Carpenter was the fourth man
to go into orbit. Two Russians in addition to Mr. Glenn had preceded
Malcolm Scott Carpenter was born on May 1, 1925, in Boulder, Colo. His
family moved to the New York City region when his father, Marion, got a
job there as a research chemist. His mother, Florence, contracted
tuberculosis when Scott was a child, and she took him with her when she
returned to Boulder to be treated at a sanitarium. The marriage broke
up, and Scott was guided by his maternal grandfather, Victor Noxon, who
owned and edited a Boulder newspaper. He grew fond of a rugged outdoor
life and became enthralled by the prospect of flying.
Mr. Carpenter became a naval aviation cadet in 1943, attending Colorado
College, but World War II ended before he could obtain his wings. He
entered the University of Colorado afterward but left school without a
degree and received a Navy commission in 1949.
He flew patrol planes in the Pacific during the Korean War, then
trained as a test pilot, and in April 1959 he was among the seven
military pilots chosen as the Mercury astronauts, the beginning of
America’s quest to carry out President John F. Kennedy’s goal to put a
man on the Moon.
Mr. Carpenter was the only original astronaut without a college degree,
but he was highly accomplished in communications and navigation in
addition to his flying skills. He was also in outstanding physical
condition, exceeding several NASA performance standards.
He was Mr. Glenn’s backup for his epic orbital flight, and became his
Capsule Communicator (CapCom), or radio link, famously exclaiming,
“Godspeed, John Glenn,” as Mr. Glenn’s Friendship 7 achieved liftoff.
But Donald K. Slaton was scheduled to be the next astronaut in orbit.
When Mr. Slaton was grounded because of a heart irregularity,
Lieutenant Commander Carpenter got the flight.
His mission called for greater pilot involvement than Mr. Glenn’s, and
with photographic tasks to perform and science experiments to oversee,
he seemed to be having a grand time, though the cabin became
uncomfortably warm. But serious trouble arose when the equipment
controlling the way the capsule was facing malfunctioned, requiring him
to determine the capsule’s proper attitude visually.
“The last 30 minutes of the flight, in retrospect, were a dicey time,”
he recalled in his memoir “For Spacious Skies” (2002), written with his
daughter Kris Stoever. “At the time, I didn’t see it that way. First, I
was trained to avoid any intellectual comprehension of disaster —
dwelling on a potential danger, or imagining what might happen. I was
also too busy with the tasks at hand.”
Splashing down 250 miles from the nearest recovery ship, he got out of
his capsule through a top hatch, then inflated his raft and waited to
be picked up.
Finally, the voice of mission control, Shorty Powers, announced, “An
aircraft in the landing area has sighted the capsule and a life raft
with a gentleman by the name of Carpenter riding in it.”
President Kennedy greeted Lieutenant Commander Carpenter and his family
at the White House in June 1962 after the Carpenters had been hailed at
parades in Denver and Boulder and honored at City Hall in New York. A
few days after Mr. Carpenter’s mission, the University of Colorado gave
him a long-delayed degree in aeronautical engineering at its
commencement, citing his “unique experience with heat transfer during
his re-entry.” He had missed out on his degree by not completing a
course in heat transfer as a senior in 1949.
But the issue of the flight’s brush with disaster lingered. A NASA
inquiry determined that because of a 25-degree error in the capsule’s
alignment, the retro rockets had fired at an angle that caused a
shallower than normal descent. That accounted for 175 miles of the
overshoot, with the remaining 75 miles caused by the late firing of the
rockets and their failure to provide the expected thrust.
Mr. Kraft, the flight director, had been angry that Mr. Slaton was
denied the mission because of his heart problem, and he was furious at
Lieutenant Commander Carpenter, feeling that he had not paid sufficient
attention to instructions from the ground.
Mr. Carpenter’s prospect of obtaining another NASA mission was ended by
a motorbike injury that led to his leaving NASA in 1967.
In a 2001 letter to The New York Times in response to a review of Mr.
Kraft’s book, Mr. Carpenter wrote that “the system failures I
encountered during the flight would have resulted in loss of the
capsule and total mission failure had a man not been aboard.”
“My postflight debriefings and reports,” he added, “led, in turn, to
important changes in capsule design and flight plans.”
In his book “The Right Stuff” (1979), which told how the original
astronauts reflected the coolness-under-pressure ethos of the test
pilot, Tom Wolfe wrote that Mr. Kraft’s criticism fueled NASA
engineers’ simmering resentment of the astronauts’ status as
pop-culture heroes. The way Mr. Wolfe saw it, word spread within NASA
that Mr. Carpenter had panicked, the worst sin imaginable in what Mr.
Wolfe called the brotherhood of the right stuff.
Mr. Wolfe rejected that notion. “One might argue that Carpenter had
mishandled the re-entry, but to accuse him of panic made no sense in
light of the telemetered data concerning his heart rate and his
respiratory rate,” he wrote.
Mr. Carpenter also carved a legacy as a pioneer in the ocean’s depths.
He was the only astronaut to become an aquanaut, spending a month
living and working on the ocean floor, at a depth of 205 feet, in the
Sealab project off San Diego in the summer of 1965. When he returned to
NASA, he helped develop underwater training to prepare for space walks.
He returned to the Sealab program, but a thigh injury resulting from
his diving work kept him from exploring the ocean floor again.
He retired from the Navy in 1969 with the rank of commander, pursued
oceanographic and environmental activities and wrote two novels
involving underwater adventures.
Mr. Carpenter’s first three marriages ended in divorce. Besides his
wife, Patty, Mr. Carpenter is survived by his sons Jay, Matthew,
Nicholas and Zachary; his daughters Kristen Stoever and Candace; a
granddaughter, and five stepgrandchildren. Two of his sons, Timothy and
Scott, died before him.
Mr. Glenn, the last Mercury 7 survivor who went on to become a United
States senator from Ohio, is 92. Mr. Grissom died in 1967 in an Apollo
spacecraft fire during a launching-pad test. Mr. Slaton died in 1993;
Mr. Shepard, the first American in space, died in 1998; L. Gordon
Cooper Jr. died in 2004; and Walter M. Schirra Jr. died in 2007.
Among his many projects, Mr. Carpenter joined with fellow astronauts of
the original Mercury 7 to create the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation,
aiding science and engineering students. In 2006, he returned to the
University of Colorado to present a scholarship to a student studying
He used the occasion to reflect on the thrill he experienced. Space
flights had become “old hat,” he said, but his ardor for space travel
“The flight experience itself is incredible,” The Rocky Mountain News
quoted him as saying. “It’s addictive. It’s transcendent. It is a view
of the grand plan of all things that is simply unforgettable.”
Mr. Carpenter attended ceremonial events in his final years, when he
was reunited with fellow astronauts.
He joined with President George W. Bush and Buzz Aldrin, the second man
to walk on the Moon, on Veterans Day 2008 in a ceremony on a Hudson
River pier aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, formerly the
ship whose helicopter had plucked him to safety.
Mr. Carpenter was on hand at Cape Canaveral with Mr. Glenn and veterans
of the Project Mercury support teams at events a few days before the
50th anniversary of Mr. Glenn’s pioneering orbital flight.
Both had expressed hopes that America’s space program would be revived.
“John, thank you for your heroic effort and all of you for your heroic
effort,” Mr. Carpenter told the gathering. “But we stand here waiting
to be outdone.”
John L. Dorman contributed reporting.