Polar expedition

In a few days, a three-man scientific expedition called Pole Track is to embark upon a gruelling 1000 km trek across the frozen Arctic to collect valuable data for climate-change research. Throughout the demanding two-month expedition, the team will also take thousands of snow depth measurements in support of ESA’s CryoSat mission.

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Scientists using observations from NASA’s Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) satellite detected flashes of gamma ray energy in Earth’s upper atmosphere in greater detail than ever before.

RHESSI is part of NASA?s Sun-Earth Connection program. It was designed to study X-rays and gamma rays from solar flares. However, RHESSI’s detectors pick up gamma rays from a variety of sources.

A team of researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UC-SC), University of California, Berkeley (UC-Berkeley), and the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada, reported new findings about these bursts of energy, called terrestrial gamma ray flashes (TGFs).
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NASA engineers continue to acquire data on how insulating foam debris behaves when shed from the Space Shuttle’s external fuel tank during launch. NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is conducting a series of flight tests of the debris, known as divots, as part of the Return to Flight team effort.

The Lifting Insulating Foam Trajectory (LIFT) flight test series at Dryden is using the research center’s F-15B jet Research Testbed aircraft to test divots at speeds up to approximately twice the speed of sound (Mach 2).
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Culminating more than four years of processing data, NASA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) have completed Earth’s most extensive global topographic map.

The data, extensive enough to fill the U.S. Library of Congress, was gathered during the Space Shuttle Endeavour Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) in February 2000.

The digital elevation maps encompass 80 percent of Earth’s landmass. They reveal for the first time large, detailed swaths of Earth’s topography previously obscured by persistent cloudiness. The data will benefit scientists, engineers, government agencies and the public with an ever-growing array of uses.
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P3E satellite design

AMSAT-DL reviews P3E satellite design: An international team gathered in Marburg, Germany, in late January to review progress on the Phase 3 Express (P3E) Amateur Radio satellite–essentially a scaled-down and less-complex version of the now-defunct AO-40.

The meeting focused on the design of the integrated housekeeping unit (IHU-3) computer and the “CAN-Do interface.” AMSAT-NA is a partner in the P3E high-altitude, elliptical-orbit satellite, a prelude to the ambitious Mars-orbiting P5A spacecraft, and AMSAT-NA

President Rick Hambly, W2GPS, was among those attending the gathering January 26-30. Being developed under AMSAT-DL leadership, P3E will provide a test bench for technology under development for the subsequent Mars mission. Launch is planned sometime before the end of 2006. The P3E satellite will offer both analog and digital communication on VHF through microwave.

There’s more information on P3E and P5A on the AMSAT-DL Web site


Ariane 5 tech turns on the lights

Soon we may be able to fill the bath, turn the lights on and play our favourite CD without moving from our chair or pressing a button. Technology, developed by ESA for European spacecraft, is now being used to create small sensors that can make any flat surface ­ walls, windows or tables ­ interactive.

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News reports on February 16, 2005, that NASA scientists from Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., have found strong evidence that life may exist on Mars are incorrect.

NASA does not have any observational data from any current Mars missions that supports this claim. The work by the scientists mentioned in the reports cannot be used to directly infer anything about life on Mars, but may help formulate the strategy for how to search for martian life. Their research concerns extreme environments on Earth as analogs of possible environments on Mars. No research paper has been submitted by them to any scientific journal asserting martian life.

For more information about NASA’s Mars programs on the Web, visit:



Scientists detected a flash of light from across the Galaxy so powerful; it bounced off the moon and lit up the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The flash was brighter than anything ever detected from beyond our Solar System, and it lasted over a tenth of a second.

NASA and European satellites and many radio telescopes detected the flash and its aftermath on December 27, 2004.

NASA’s Swift satellite and the National Science Foundation-funded Very Large Array (VLA) were two of many observatories that observed the event arising from neutron star SGR 1806-20. It is a unique neutron star called a magnetar, about 50,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius.
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The International Space Station crew is preparing for the arrival of fresh supplies aboard a Russian cargo ship. The seventeenth Progress to go to the Station is set to launch on Feb. 28 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It will dock with the orbiting laboratory March 2.

Expedition 10 Commander and NASA Station Science Officer Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov are in the fifth month of a six month stay in orbit. The Progress cargo spacecraft attached to the Station will be undocked, reenter the atmosphere and burn up on Feb. 27.
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