The Chinese Chang’e 2 spacecraft has been used in a follow-up mission to take close up images of the near Earth object asteroid, Toutalis (4179) at an altitude of only 3.2km. The flyby took place at 0830 GMT. Chang’E 2 was originally launched on 1 October 2010 and was used to make close up images of the lunar surface, have entered lunar orbit five days later.
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While the joint NASA/DLR mission, GRACE (Gravity-Recovery And Climate Experiment) has been a resounding success since its 2002 launch, a follow on mission called, rather unimaginatively, GRACE Follow-On, is now being planned. To that end Astrium of Germany (part of EADS) has now been awarded the construction contract in November by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory – the centre managing the mission. The launch of the spacecraft is to take place in August 2017. The spacecraft, weighing in at 590kg each at launch, willl be equipped with a laser ranging system and will have a minimum design life of five years,
A new Centre for the Study of Existential Risk has been opened at Cambridge University by the Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees, who has previously written at length on threats posed to mankind and the rest of the world in his book Our Final Century which he wrote in 2003 The “usual suspects” include nuclear war, an asteroid hitting the Earth, and biological risks e.g. naturally occuring or man-made pandemic diseases. There is one other to add to these three horsemen of hte apocolypse: artificial intelligence which can control war machines and robots.
Germany gets Ariane 5 ME upgrade in exchange for cancelled Moonlander while UK gains chance of getting its astronauts to the Moon and even Mars one day (Updated)
The German Research Agency, the DLR, gave up pushing for a Moonlander spacecraft to be included in Euroopean Space Agency’s (ESA) budget proposals currently being discussed at ministerial meeting being held in Naples, Italy. Germany admitted that it could not gain financing from other nations for the circa 500 million euro project which it had championed. While some jested that this would at least stop the Germans from putting a towel on board to book all the sunbeds on the Moon, in fact Germany was “boxing-clever” by letting the under-supported Moonlander project die in order to get what it wanted on other programmes. Specifically, Germany had been pushing for the Mid-life Evolution (ME) upgrade programme to the Ariane 5 launch vehicle against French opposition who, as they noted the competitive threat of the SpaceX Falcon 9 series, wanted instead to start with development of a low-cost follow-on to Ariane 5, a modular expendable rocket called Ariane 6.
History: Solar/geomagnetic storm which knocked out Telesat Anik E-1 and E-2 in 1994 was caused by “Coronal Hole”
On 20th January 1994 a major solar/geogmagnetic event knocked out satellites and partially shut down the power grid in Canada. The satellites most seriously affected were the Telesat Anik E-1 and E-2 communications satellites which were knocked out for a time after failure in their momentum wheel control systems after Electrostatic Discharge (ESD). The website Canada.com reports from the journal Space Weather that a team of scientists from Natural Resources Canada have now found the cause of the storm. Specifically, by examination of images taken by the Japanese Yohkoh Soft X-ray Telescope a “coronal hole” was discovered as having formed which allowed charged particles to be spewed out towards the Earth.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that the GOES 13 meterological satellite has now been recovered to service. The spacecraft, which had suffered a failure to its temperature and humidity sounder and multi-spectral imager on 23 September was returned to service as the official “Goes-East” satellite 1444 GMT on 18 October. In doing so, GOES 13 retakes this role from GOES 14 which took over when GOES 13 fell out of service. GOES 13 was repaired using an outgassing technique to prvent the lubricant-related vibration in the sounder’s filter wheel. GOES 14 will be retained as a back up to GOES 13.
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), GOES 14 was brought in to replace GOES 13 as the operational GOES East satellite on 24/09/2012 after the GOES 13′s failed at 1126 GMT on 23 September and the multi-spectral imager failed at 2122 GMT on 23 September.
The NASA spacecraft, Dawn, escaped the gravity of the asteroid Vesta at 0626 GMT on 5 September where it has spent the last year studying the asteroid and is now headed towards the largest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres, where it is expected to arrive in 2015.
NASA has released a mosaic combines six images — two each of red, green and blue spectral filters — to create this natural color view of the large moon Titan orbiting the planet Saturn. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on May 6, 2012, at a distance of approximately 483,000 miles (778,000 kilometers) from Titan. The rings of saturn have cast a shadow on the planet. The bluish hue is thought due to the intensity of ultraviolet light and the haze it produces. This changes according with the seasons for each hemisphere..
Not much to see here apart from the heat shield flying off and the ground approaching, but JPL has provided this stop-motion video of frames from the last 2.5mins of flight – the best glimpse of what it would have looked like to ride on Curiosity…http://1.usa.gov/QAGMNmSee also my full report on yesterday’s landing.
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