UNDERSEA LAB

NASA is sending three astronauts and a Cincinnati doctor to test new space medicine concepts and extravehicular techniques in a unique underwater laboratory off the Florida coast.

NASA astronaut Lee Morin leads the crew on an 18-day undersea mission Oct. 3 to 20 aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Aquarius Underwater Laboratory.

Astronauts Nicole Stott and Ron Garan, and Dr. Tim Broderick of the University of Cincinnati, round out the crew. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is a backup crew member and Canadian physician-astronaut Dave Williams is a science investigator. Jim Buckley and Joe Marsh of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington will provide engineering support.

Long-distance health care, like tele-monitoring and tele-robotic surgery, could be keys to maintaining the wellness of spacefarers and responding to medical emergencies on the International Space Station, the moon or Mars. Techniques will be tested on a patient simulator during the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project.
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DESERT “RATS”

Meaningful exploration in the hostile environs of the moon and Mars will depend on mobility. Tough, dependable equipment will be needed to get there, work there and get back safely.

NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (RATS) “torment” some of the latest vehicles and gear in the harsh world of Arizona’s high desert. Their job is to better understand just what it takes to be mobile in a rough, unforgiving environment.

The eighth consecutive season for Desert RATS includes several firsts: the first simultaneous desert trials of two space-suited explorers; first desert trials of a new crew operations utility rover; and the first trial of a system to recharge air tanks while in use. The tests run Sept. 6 to 15 at remote field-sites outside Flagstaff, Ariz.
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ENCELADUS TIGER STRIPES

The Cassini spacecraft discovered the long, cracked features dubbed “tiger stripes” on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus are very young. They are between 10 and 1,000 years old.

These findings support previous results showing the moon’s southern pole is active. The pole had episodes of geologic activity as recently as 10 years ago. These cracked features are approximately 80 miles long, spaced about 25 miles apart and run roughly parallel to each another.

The cracks act like vents. They spew vapor and fine ice water particles that have become ice crystals. This crystallization process can help scientists pin down the age of the features.

“There appears to be a continual supply of fresh, crystalline ice at the tiger stripes, which could have been very recently resurfaced,” said Dr. Bonnie Buratti. She is a team member of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. “Enceladus is constantly evolving and getting a makeover,” she added.
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MARS ORBITER

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) successfully tested its main engines by making a successful trajectory adjustment for reaching the red planet on March 10, 2006.

The spacecraft fired all six main thrusters for 15 seconds on Saturday. The engine burn followed a 30-second burn of six smaller thrusters, which settled propellant in the craft’s fuel tank for smoother flow. The spacecraft’s orientation was adjusted prior to the burns to point the engines in the proper direction for the maneuver. The MRO returned to the regular cruise-phase attitude after the trajectory adjustment.

“This maneuver accomplished two goals at once,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Deputy Mission Manager Dan Johnston of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. “It adjusted our trajectory toward our Mars target point, and it gave us a valuable checkout of the orbit-insertion engines.” The target point is 395 kilometers (245 miles) above the surface of Mars.

Initial analysis of navigational data indicates this first flight path correction successfully changed the spacecraft’s velocity by the intended 7.8 meters per second (17.4 mph). MRO’s velocity relative to the sun is 32,856 meters per second (73,497 mph).
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South Polar ozone hole

This season’s Antarctic ozone hole has swollen to an area of ten million square kilometres from mid-August – approximately the same size as Europe and still expanding. It is expected to reach maximum extent during September, and ESA satellites are vital for monitoring its development.

Full story:

http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEM712A5QCE_environment_0.html

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NASA HONORS HIGH FLYING SPACE PIONEERS

NASA awarded astronaut wings to three 1960’s-era test pilots. The pilots were never recognized for going beyond the atmosphere and into space flying the X-15 experimental aircraft.

Retired NASA pilot Bill Dana, and family members representing agency deceased pilots John McKay and Joseph Walker, received the civilian astronaut wings. The wings acknowledged the fact the pilots flew the X-15 at altitudes of 50 miles or higher.

The men were honored in a ceremony at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., site of their achievements. Dana was philosophical about it; “NASA pilots didn’t wear wings anyway, and the concept of winning special wings was probably more crucial to a military pilot’s career ladder,” he explained.
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WEATHER FORECASTING ADVANCEMENT

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today outlined research that has helped to improve the accuracy of medium-range weather forecasts in the Northern Hemisphere.

NASA and NOAA scientists at the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation (JCSDA) in Camp Springs, Md., came up with procedures to improve forecasting accuracy. The scientists worked with experimental data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

They found incorporating AIRS data into numerical weather prediction models improves the accuracy range of experimental six-day Northern Hemisphere weather forecasts by up to six hours, a four percent increase. AIRS is a high-spectral resolution infrared instrument that takes 3-D pictures of atmospheric temperatures, water vapor and trace gases.
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Launch of OICETS

The Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite (OICETS) and the Innovative Technology Demonstration Experiment Satellite (INDEX), were launched at 6:10 a.m. on August 24, 2005, (Japan Standard Time, JST) by a Dnepr Launch Vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Dnepr Launch Vehicle flew normally, and JAXA confirmed that the OICETS and the INDEX were separated at 6:25:10 a.m. and 6:25:14 a.m. (JST), and were injected into their scheduled orbits based on information from the ISC Kosmotras.

JAXAfs Kiruna Overseas Mobile Tracking Station started receiving signals from the OICETS at 7:39 a.m. (JST), and through those signals, deployment of the solar array paddles was confirmed.

The nickname of the OICETS is the “Kirari”, and that of the INDEX will be announced after its status is confirmed.

We would like to express our appreciation for cooperation and support from all related personnel and organizations that helped contribute to this successful launch.

The Dnepr Launch vehicle is a converted liquid-fuelled SS-18 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Management of the Dnepr program is carried out by ISC Kosmotras (Russia and Ukraine.) All four launches carried out by the Dnepr have been successful.