Arthur C. Clarke: Mars Has the
Mars has a case of the munchies. That is, the red
planet is spotted with vegetation with some sort of life
feasting on the foliage. So says Arthur Clarke, the
noted sci-fi writer and space visionary, making the
claim during a recent conference on the space elevator.
Clarke was keynote speaker at the 2nd annual
international conference on the space elevator, held in
Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sir Arthur beamed into the
gathering by satellite link on September 13.
When asked what destination he'd like to travel to
via the space elevator, Clarke said he was "ready and
willing" to journey over to the red planet.
"Mars is the obvious place," Clarke said. "I'm now
quite convinced that Mars is infested with life. Mars
orbiter photographs show huge areas of vegetation. I
don't think there's any doubt anymore on that. And where
there's vegetation, they'll be something nibbling on
it," he said.
Just as the audience was chewing on Clarke's Mars
life view, he added yet another bit of speculative
advice - this time on cold fusion.
"It's not cold. It's not fusion. It may be tepid
fission or something," Clarke said. "Don't laugh…but
there's something going on there. A number of reputable
groups have succeeded in generating small amounts of
energy that, apparently, are not easy to account for. So
I think there's something there."
-- Leonard David
Evidence of Spinning Black Holes
Astronomers studying stellar and supermassive black
holes may have a barometer to tell whether their targets
are spinning like tops or just sitting pretty.
Using measurements collected by NASA's Chandra X-ray
Observatory and European Space Agency's XMM-Newton
Observatory, researchers determined that emissions from
iron atoms in gas clouds swirling around a black hole
might indicate spin.
Stellar black holes are former stars that have
collapsed in on themselves, reaching masses of up to 20
times that of the Sun. Supermassive black holes can
contain billions of solar masses.
According to Chandra researchers, iron atoms produce
distinctive X-ray signals as they circle a stellar black
hole. These emissions can shift down to lower energy
levels as they are affected by intense gravity - the
closer the atoms are the black hole, the lower their
apparent energy levels. But their orbits depend on the
curvature of space around the black hole. Spinning black
holes drag space around them as they go, allowing
orbiting material to crowd in closer than their
For example, the most recent Chandra observations of
Cygnus X-1, the first black hole discovered, recorded
X-ray signals from iron atoms that did not appear
affected by the hole's gravity. They also seemed to
emanate from no closer than 100 miles (161 kilometers)
to Cygnus X-1. Meanwhile, XMM-Newton data from the black
hole XTE J1650-500 show more lower-energy X-rays emitted
deep within the object's gravity well, down to 20 miles
(32 kilometers) from its event horizon, suggesting it's
Chandra data from another spinning stellar black
hole, called GX 339-4, show gas clouds streaming away
from it at speeds of 300,000 miles (482,803 kilometers)
an hour. The finding is reminiscent of gas clouds around
supermassive black holes, whose spinning has been seen
in past studies.
"Discovering the high degree of correspondence
between stellar and supermassive black holes is a real
breakthrough," said Jon Miller of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. Miller discussed the results
of recent Chandra and XMM-Newton studies during a press
conference in Huntsville, Alabama. "Because stellar
black holes are smaller, everything happens about a
million times faster, so they can be used as a test-bed
for theories of how spinning black holes affect the
space and matter around them."
-- Tariq Malik
Launch Campaign to Raise Money for Columbia
WASHINGTON -- A campaign to
raise $1 million for each of the Space Shuttle Columbia
families was kicked off here Tuesday.
A portion of the funds raised
over that amount will help to memorialize the STS-107
mission and crew.
On hand at the National Press
Club to announce the creation of the Columbia Shuttle
Memorial Trust was NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe and
former astronaut Guy Bluford.
“The crew of STS-107
dedicated themselves to pursuing scientific challenges,
on behalf of those of us here on Earth,” O’Keefe said.
“This initiative, supported by a dynamic combination of
leaders from Hollywood and the space industry, will
undoubtedly yield great benefit for the families of
these honorable men and women. I applaud this effort by
entertainment and business to pay tribute to the
Columbia shuttle crew who gave their lives to serve us
The chairman of the memorial
trust, IMAX executive Richard Gelfond, said a gala fund
raiser will be held at the Smithsonian Air & Space
Museum in February, following the dedication of a
memorial to the Columbia crew at Arlington National
Lockheed Martin Corp.,
Bethesda, Md., contributed the first $1 million to the
The trust also is encouraging
donations of all amounts from the public. Donations may
be made by visiting www.columbia7trust.org or calling 1-877-99SPACE.
-- Brian Berger
UC Berkeley Payload
on Korean Satellite
An ultraviolet telescope
designed and built in a collaboration between University
of California, Berkeley, and South Korean scientists is
scheduled for a Sept. 26 launch from Russia as the main
payload of South Korea's first scientific
According to UC Berkeley
astrophysicist Jerry Edelstein, the primary payload,
called Spectroscopy of Plasma Evolution from
Astrophysical Radiation (SPEAR), will capture the first
far ultraviolet pictures of hot and glowing gas in the
Milky Way galaxy, providing clues to the course of the
SPEAR will measure the glow
over the whole sky from gas between the stars that has
been heated by supernova blast waves, blazing hot stars
and colliding interstellar clouds.
The experiment will fly
aboard the Korean STSAT-1 (Space and Technology
Satellite 1), which will carry other experiments to
measure energetic particles bombarding the Earth's
atmosphere and causing auroras. SPEAR also will work in
conjunction with these experiments by looking downward
to capture the auroral ultraviolet emissions.
New Image of Comet Halley in
The famed comet Halley last
appeared in the skies above Earth in 1986. It has since
fled to the outer solar system. Now astronomers looking
for other objects in the deep freeze made the distant
comet observation ever.
Halley is 2.5 billion miles
(4.1 billion kilometers) away and approaching the
orbital path of Neptune on its elongated loop around the
Sun. A new picture was taken with the European Southern
Observatory's Very Large Telescope facility in Chile.
Comets are made of dirt,
rock, dust and ice from various chemicals, including
water. When nearer the Sun, surface material boils off
and reflects sunlight to create the characteristic heads
and tails. Technically, the process is called
Being so far from the Sun,
Halley is cold and inactive, a visual vestige of its
Halley returns to the inner
solar system every 76 years or so. It has now completed
four-fifths of the outward movement on its current
roundtrip. The motion is slowing down, according to ESO
astronomers. It will reach a turning point in December
2023, and begin heading back toward the Sun.
Halley next visits the inner
solar system in 2062. [More Comet News]
-- Robert Roy Britt
Moons Count Grows around
Neptune and Uranus
A newfound Moon of Neptune orbits farther from its planet than any
satellite ever discovered. It is the 12th known moon of
Neptune and was announced earlier this month by the
International Astronomical Union.
A separate investigation yielded discovery around
The moon is about 24 miles wide (38 kilometers) and
was discovered by a team led by University of Hawaii
astronomer David Jewitt and including Scott Sheppard and
Jan Kleyna. It gains the temporary designation S/2003
The satellite takes 26 years to orbit the planet.
Earth's moon goes around in less than a month. Saturn,
by comparison, requires 29.4 years to orbit the Sun;
Neptune's path around the central star lasts 164 years.
The moon is, on average, about 50 million miles (80
million kilometers) from Neptune.
The object was first detected in 2001. The new data
leading to a firm discovery was collected by the 27-foot
(8.2-meter) Subaru telescope at Mauna Kea in Hawaii. It
was confirmed by another research team led by Matthew
Holman, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Earlier this year, Holman's team
announced three new Neptunian moons, the first seen since
Meanwhile, Hubble Space Telescope observations
confirmed suggestions from 1999 of another moon around
Uranus. It is, at most, about 25 (40 kilometers) miles
in diameter and brings the Saturnian satellite count to
This has been a banner year for moon hunters.
Technology has improved to the point that they are
finding smaller and smaller moons around the giant
planets at ever-faster rates, leading to speculation that new terms may be needed for what some
writers already refer to as moonlets.
-- Robert Roy Britt
Mirror Decision for James Webb Space
A major step in the building of the James Webb Space
Telescope (JWST) has been made - the selection of a
beryllium-based mirror technology for the telescope's
21.3-feet (6.5-meter) primary mirror.
NASA announced on September 10 the selection of
beryllium as the material of choice for 18
hexagonal-shaped mirror segments. A competitive material
was also considered -- ultra low-expansion glass -- but
was not chosen.
Lead JWST contractor, Northrop Grumman, made the
recommendation relying on advice from a panel of experts
representing the contractor team, NASA and the science
Mirror production will begin within the next few
The JWST is now scheduled for launch in August 2011.
The super-powerful primary mirror will be 2.5 times the
diameter of Hubble's mirror yet weigh only one-third as
much. JWST will be orders of magnitude more sensitive
than ground-based infrared telescopes.
-- Leonard David
Future Weather Satellite Accidentally
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A new weather satellite being
prepared for launch in 2008 was accidentally dropped
last Saturday at its California factory and it's unclear
to what extent the spacecraft is damaged, officials
The Lockheed Martin-built NOAA-N Prime spacecraft is
to be launched into polar orbit over Earth for the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NASA
handles the procurement and launch services for
The 14-foot spacecraft was about three feet off the
ground when it slipped from a ground handling fixture
that was being turned from a vertical to a horizontal
position. The area was secured as the investigation
began almost immediately.
"NASA and NOAA are understandably concerned about
this accident, because the NOAA-N Prime spacecraft is
vital to the continuity of the polar-orbiting
environmental satellite program," said NOAA
administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.
"We are waiting for an assessment of the damage from
the investigation teams. We will have a better idea of
the extent of the impact on our satellite programs when
the results are available."
Space Station Partners Practice Emergency
The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reports that
Russia, the United States and Canadian specialists will
participate in four-day exercise drills to
rescue an International Space Station (ISS) crew in an
emergency following a splash-down of the descent
The exercises, which begin today and take place
in Russia at Gelendzhik in the Krasnodar
Territory, are code-named SAREX-ISS-'03,
a spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry's
Federal department for aerospace search and rescue
operations, told the news service.
All three countries have participated
in joint rescue training for the last decade to
prepare for the possibility for an emergency
following the splashdown of a descent
module. The Black Sea is
considered one possible splashdown site
for an ISS escape module.
The exercises will be held in three stages. Each
includes an ISS evacuation, crew assistance and rescue
and delivery of the escape module to land.
According to ITAR-TASS, the new Russian
amphibian plane BE-200, Russia's Black Sea Fleet,
and KA-27 and MI-8 helicopters will be used as technical
rescue vehicles during the exercises.
What? Only Three? Lack of Space Rocks
Questions Comet Theory
PHILADELPHIA -- Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space
Telescope have discovered three of the faintest and
smallest objects ever detected beyond Neptune. Each lump
of ice and rock is roughly the size of Philadelphia and
orbits just beyond Neptune and Pluto, where they may
have rested since the formation of the solar system 4.5
billion years ago. The objects reside in a ring-shaped
region called the Kuiper Belt, which houses a swarm of
icy rocks that are leftover building blocks, or
"planetesimals," from the solar system's creation.
The results of the search were announced by a group
led by Gary Bernstein of the University of Pennsylvania
at a meeting of NASA's Division of Planetary
Sciences in Monterey, Calif.
The study's big surprise is that so few Kuiper Belt
members were discovered. With Hubble's exquisite
resolution, Bernstein and his co-workers expected to
find at least 60 Kuiper Belt members as small as 10
miles in diameter -- but only three were discovered.
"Discovering many fewer Kuiper Belt Objects than was
predicted makes it difficult to understand how so many
comets appear near Earth since many comets were thought
to originate in the Kuiper Belt," said Bernstein,
associate professor of physics and astronomy at Penn.
"This is a sign that perhaps the smaller planetesimals
have been shattered into dust by colliding with each
other over the past few billion years."
Bernstein and his colleagues used Hubble to look for
planetesimals that are much smaller and fainter than can
be seen from ground-based telescopes. Hubble's Advanced
Camera for Surveys was pointed at a region in the
constellation Virgo over a 15-day period in January and
February. A bank of 10 computers on the ground worked
for six months searching for faint moving spots in the
The three small objects the astronomers spotted -
given the prosaic names 2003 BF91, 2003 BG91 and 2003
BH91 - range in size from 15 to 28 miles and are the
smallest objects ever found beyond Neptune. At their
current locations, these objects are a billion times
fainter than the dimmest objects visible to the naked
eye. But an icy body of this size that escapes the
Kuiper Belt to wander near the sun can become visible
from Earth as a comet as the wandering body starts to
evaporate and form a surrounding cloud.
Tropical Storm Ready to Drench Florida Launch
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Central Florida is bracing
for wet weather from Tropical Storm Henri but the
disturbance isn't raising any eyebrows at the Kennedy
Space Center or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Although Florida's Space Coast is under a flood watch
through Saturday afternoon, the most severe weather
associated with the storm is expected to pass north of
the Cape far enough that no major precautions are in
"We're not going to put any special preparations in
place here," said KSC spokesman George Diller. "We're
definitely going to get wet but not enough to cause us
to do anything here."
Lockheed Martin has a Titan 4B out at pad 40 being
readied for a launch Monday night or Tuesday morning, as
well as an Atlas 3 stacked at pad 36B for a scheduled
But conditions are nowhere near serious enough to
warrant moving the rockets off their launch pads. It
would take a major hurricane threatening a direct strike
to do that.
NASA's three orbiters are in their hangars at KSC so
are safe from any inclement weather. The Cape's Delta 2
launch pads are empty right now. Atlas 5 rockets do not
roll out until a few hours before liftoff.
At 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) the center of Tropical Storm
Henri was about 105 miles (169 kilometers)
west-northwest of St. Petersburg, Fla. Maximum winds are
about 45 mph (72 kph) and the storm is moving
east-northeast at 8 mph (13 kph).
Fate of Pluto Mission in Senate's Hands
In an ongoing battle for funding of a mission to
Pluto, the non-profit Planetary Society this week issued
a plea to its members to write Congress and request the
mission's budget not be trimmed. Time is short, the
As reported by SPACE.com in
July, NASA's New
Horizon's mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt is in
jeopardy after a surprise House vote cut $55 million
from NASA's $130 million New Frontiers budget for 2004.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to take
the matter up Thursday.
Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in
Boulder, Colo., directs New Horizons for NASA.
"If the New Frontiers cut isn't reversed, it'll delay
the arrival of New Horizons at Pluto by four to five
years, adding flight time, risk and cost, and it will
delay the start of the second New Frontiers mission by
at least a year," Stern said via e-mail from a
conference in California. "It'll be a serious blow to
one of NASA's crown jewels -- it's planetary
Funding for New Horizons began modestly in 2002 and
in February its financial future seemed secure. The recently proposed budget cut
came as a shock to Stern and others who've fought for
the mission for years.
An internal mission analysis document obtained by
SPACE.com states that the funding cut could
jeopardize the Pluto mission entirely, wasting the
roughly $140 million already spent in planning and early
construction. If fully funded, the craft would launch in
2006 and arrive in 2015. [Pluto mission overview]
The Planetary Society's plea is online here.
-- Robert Roy Britt
Life on Europa, if it Exists, Might Ride
A new study of Jupiter's moon Europa suggests that
intriguing ice domes on the surface might be formed by
blobs of ice from the interior of the frozen shell that
were are pushed upward by thermal upwelling from warmer
If so, then the study has implications for
Europa is covered by a thick crust of ice. The moon
is heated from within by strong tidal stretching and
squeezing created by the immense gravity of Jupiter, and
evidence is strong that there is a liquid ocean
underneath. Scientists see Europa as a potential haven
for microbes, though no evidence exists for past or
Life requires liquid water. If anything does exist
below the surface crust, which is several miles thick,
it would be nearly impossible to detect with present
"We think it now is possible that any present or past
life or even just the chemistry of the ocean may be
lifted to the surface, forming these domes," said Robert
Pappalardo of the University of Colorado at Boulder. "It
essentially would be like an elevator ride for
The research was presented at the annual Division of
Planetary Sciences meeting this week in Monterey,
-- Robert Roy Britt
September 2Asteroid Given Slight Odds of Hitting Earth in
A newfound asteroid has a
1-in-909,000 chance of hitting Earth in the year 2014
based on limited observations of its current path,
astronomers said over the weekend. Those odds are likely
to evaporate as more is learned about the object's
In all similar cases in the
past, the chances of a large rock hitting the planet
have been reduced to zero when more data was collected.
Meanwhile, astronomers gave asteroid 2003 QQ47 a rating
of 1 on the Torino hazard scale, meaning it merits "careful
monitoring." The scale runs from zero to 10 and only
objects rated 8 and above -- none ever have been --
represent certain collisions.
Asteroid 2003 QQ47 is about
three-quarters of a mile wide (1.2 kilometers), large
enough to cause widespread regional catastrophe and even
global damage were it to impact Earth. Most researchers
believe large impacts in Earth's history have
contributed to severe climate change and even the
elimination of some plant and animal species.
The newly discovered rock is
classified as a Near Earth Object (NEO). Its orbit was
calculated based on 51 observations over seven days. It
was discovered Aug. 24 by the Lincoln Near Earth
Asteroid Research Program (LINEAR), in Socorro, New
"As additional observations
are made over the coming months, and the uncertainties
decrease, asteroid 2003 QQ47 is likely to drop down the
Torino scale," said Kevin Yates, project manager for the
UK NEO Information Center.
A press release by the NEO
Information Center has contributed to headlines about
2003 QQ47 in media around the world this morning.
Similar scenarios in the past have fueled public concern
and even fear prior to an object being determined
harmless. [More Asteroid News]
-- Robert Roy Britt
20th Anniversary of First African-American in
When NASA's Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off on
Aug. 30, 1983, one crewmember chuckled with excitement
all the way into space, and he made history along the
Twenty years later, Guion S. "Guy" Bluford's memories
of his historic flight (STS-8) are just as vivid as they
were on that summer night. It was the first Space
Shuttle launch and landing at night and the first time
an African-American flew into space.
"It was around midnight and it was raining," Bluford
recalls today. "We came down the elevator, heading to
'the bird,' what we called the Shuttle, and all these
people were standing there cheering us on. When the
clock counted down and we took off, I just laughed, it
was so much fun," he said.
Though his achievement instantly thrust him into the
spotlight as a role model for young African-Americans,
Bluford says his goal was never to be the first
African-American in space. "I recognized the importance
of it, but I didn't want to be a distraction for my
crew," he said. "We were all contributing to history and
to our continued exploration of space."
Instead, Bluford says his goal was "to make others
feel comfortable" with African-Americans in space.
"I felt I had to do the best job I could for people
like the Tuskegee Airmen, who paved the way for me, but
also to give other people the opportunity to follow in
my footsteps," Bluford said. The Tuskegee Airmen made
history as the first black flying squadron in World War
NASA Awards Chandra X-Ray Observatory
NASA has awarded a contract to the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., to
provide science and operational support for the Chandra
X-ray Observatory, one of the world's most powerful
tools to better understand the structure and evolution
of the universe.
The contract will have a period of performance from
August 31, 2003, through July 31, 2010, with an
estimated value of $373 million. It is a follow-on
contract to the existing contract with Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory that has provided science and
operations support to the Observatory since its launch
in July 1999. At launch, the intended mission life was
As a result of Chandra's success, NASA extended the
mission from five to 10 years. The value of the original
contract was $289 million. The follow-on contract with
the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory will continue
through the 10-year mission. The contract type is cost
reimbursement with no fee.
The contract covers mission operations and data
analysis, which includes the observatory operations,
science data processing and the general and guaranteed
time observer (astronomer) support. The observatory
operations tasks include monitoring the health and
status of the observatory and developing and up linking
the observation sequences during Chandra's communication
The science data processing tasks include the
competitive selection, planning, and coordination of
science observations with the general observers and
processing and delivery of the resulting scientific
data. There are approximately 200 to 250 observing
proposals selected annually out of about 800 submitted,
with a total amount of observing time of about 20
If Earth Fell Over, Life Could Survive
"Present Earth is one of the most uninhabitable
planets that we have simulated," says Penn State's
Darren Williams. And that bodes well for the search for
life, a new study claims.
Williams and a colleague wondered whether organisms
might have a fighting chance on tilted worlds. Most
scientists assume Earth-sized planets exist around other
stars, but they could be wildly different places.
Earth's rotational axis is tilted 23.5 degrees.
Williams' team fed a computer with general climate
models and a variety of tilts, from zero to 85 degrees.
In some scenarios, carbon dioxide levels were pumped up
to 10 times what's in Earth's atmosphere today. The
scientists also forced all land masses to huddle
together in other setups, and they even shrunk the
amount of land on a hypothetical planet.
Among the results: Tilts up to about 54 degrees
caused global temperatures to rise. But beyond a
54-degree tilt, temperatures declined. The only planets
colder than today's Earth were those with no tilt.
Problem worlds? "Planets with either large polar
supercontinents or small inventories of water," Williams
reports in the International Journal of
The big question: Would we want to live on any of the
tilted worlds? Depends on how much you like to swim.
"Provided the life does not occupy continental
surfaces plagued seasonally by the highest temperature,
these planets could support more advanced life," the
scientists say. "While such worlds exhibit climates that
are very different from Earth's, many will still be
suitable for both simple and advanced forms of
-- Robert Roy Britt
Amateur Photos of Mars
With Mars just days away from
its closest approach to
Earth in recorded
history, a lot of folks wonder what they can see and
what sort of telescope might be needed.
Becky Ramotowski of San
Antonio, Texas helps answer the questions. She made the
photo below overnight and sent it early Saturday
morning. Ramotowski used an 80mm (3.2-inch) refractor telescope with a 5mm eyepiece. She simply
hand-held her Nikon digital camera up to the eyepiece of
"This image is proof that you
don't need a lot of aperture to see some features," she
said. "And it is possible to get pleasing results with a
The white area at the bottom is
Mars' southern polar ice cap, a frozen concoction of dry
ice (carbon dioxide) and water ice. Hints of some of
Mars' dark surface markings are also visible. Smaller
telescopes will reveal Mars as a disk instead of a point
of light, but likely will make it difficult to spot
"I encourage everyone to try
taking digital images of Mars since it is so close, and
the image would make a nice memento of this historic
time," she said.
If you don't already own a
telescope, doing this could prove difficult, since Mars
mania has caused telescopes to be in short
supply at many
stores. In that event, scope out this list of Mars-related observing
events and borrow someone else's big eyes.
those who have a telescope stuffed away in a closet
are tips on how to make the most of it. Photography
tips are here.
Or check out our Complete
Mars Viewer's Guide.
To see Mars in greater detail
-- as it rotates -- visit SPACE.com's home page Monday
morning, Aug. 25, for remarkable, animated Image of the
-- Robert Roy Britt
Rocketeers Buy Used
Russian Space Suit on Ebay
rocketeers continue to make progress in their bid to
snare the $10 million X Prize, which will be awarded to
the first team that succeeds in building and flying a
passenger-carrying suborbital space ship.
For the project, the group
recently purchased a used Russian space suit on Ebay.
"Our plan has always been to
have a pressurized cabin, but an extra layer of safety
is probably justified if we can get this working without
too much trouble," reports John Carmack, head of
Armadillo Aerospace, based in Mesquite,
All dressed up.
Along with the space suit, a
communications helmet that fits inside the suit and
gloves were also provided.
"The Russian that sold them
to us also tossed in a few Buran heat shield tiles for
free," Carmack added. The Russian Buran was a space
shuttle-like vehicle that was mothballed after an
unpiloted test flight in 1988.
On close inspection, the
space suit came complete with a few holes. Other than
needing patches here and there, the outfit reportedly
looks in good shape. Armadillo officials are fabricating
adapters to couple the suit with the X Prize space
ship's life support system.
Astronaut Jim Reilly Thanks Naval Diving Team
for Assisting in Columbia Investigation
NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) astronaut Jim Reilly recently
presided over an awards ceremony for Mobile Diving and
Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2. The ceremony, held at Naval
Amphibious Base, Little Creek, recognized Sailors for
their search efforts of space shuttle Columbia STS
"NASA is grateful for your help," Reilly said to the
group of Sailors. He went on to tell them how he plans
to take a part of the command with him, long after the
ceremony ends. "On my next mission to space, I will be
taking a MDSU challenge coin with me."
While re-entering earth's atmosphere Feb. 1, Columbia
broke apart, leaving a debris trail over 220 miles long
that started in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and ended in
western Louisiana. Several witnesses, who were fishing
nearby the morning of the crash, reported hearing debris
hit the water of the Toledo Bend Reservoir, which spans
60 miles long and four miles across.
Directly following the tragic Columbia Space Shuttle
explosion, MDSU-2 responded to a request from NASA for
search operations and wreckage recovery. A team of 63
military personnel, including active and Reserve divers,
Supervisor of Salvage, Supervisor of Diving, and several
other Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) personnel,
worked with local and national civilian organizations to
complete the search project despite adverse conditions.
Space-Based Chandra Observatory to Look Down on
The whole point of putting a telescope in space is to
eliminate the interference of the Earth's atmosphere on
But this fall, researchers with the space-based
Chandra X-ray Observatory plan to point down instead of
up, hoping to see x-ray emissions from Earth.
These planetary emissions occur when the Sun's x-rays
strike atoms in the ground or atmosphere, which then
absorbs and reemits the radiation. Chandra has detected
x-ray flashes from Venus, Mars and even the Moon, where
the x-rays collide with the lunar surface.
Chandra astronomers plan to pay special attention to
the Earth's polar regions during the 10-day study in
case it has an auroral x-ray hot spot like that seen at
the north pole of Jupiter. The Jovian hotspot is caused
by heavy ions that strip atmospheric molecules of
electrons as they enter the atmosphere, researchers
Ariane 5 Launch with Europe's First Moon Mission
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A
piggyback science mission to send Europe's first probe
to the Moon will have to wait three to four more weeks
to make the trip because of a problem with another
satellite to be carried on the same Ariane
The European Space Agency's
Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology
(SMART-1) is designed to circle the Moon and use onboard
X-ray cameras to map the body in an attempt to determine the Moon's origin. The small probe
also will demonstrate such advanced
technology as ion
propulsion and laser communications.
SMART-1 is flying as a
secondary payload on an Ariane 5G rocket, which was most
recently scheduled to be launched from the Guiana Space
Center in South America on Sept. 3. At this time last
year the mission was scheduled to fly in April
The primary goal of the
Ariane 5 mission, Arianespace's Flight 162, is to loft
into orbit the Indian Space Research Organization's
Insat 3E and Eutelsat's e-Bird communications
Problems discovered in the
factory with components similar to those already
installed on the Insat 3E is prompting this delay, which
will give engineers time to re-test some of the parts of
the satellite to make sure they are properly
Heat-Seeking Bug Extends Extreme Nature of
All critters known to science
would fry in the searing water that emerges from a
sea-floor vent studied by Derek Lovley and his
colleagues. Except for Strain 121.
Lovley's team at the
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found the
as-yet-unnamed microbe unexpectedly thriving in the
scorching conditions. The discovery adds to a long and
growing list of simplistic creatures that live in
exotic, harsh environments and which suggest that life,
by no means fragile, might exist on other planets that
at first glance don't look very hospitable.
Strain 121 was collected by a
robotic submarine from the Pacific Ocean's Juan de Fuca
Ridge, a deep dark place where black smokers of
volcanically heated water and chemicals build
microbe-rich chimneys as tall as a four-story building.
The neighborhood is called Faulty Towers. All the
microbes there survive harsh conditions, but none are so
hardy as the newfound archaea, a primitive single-celled
organism similar to bacteria.
Strain 121 thrives in water
that is 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 degrees Celsius).
The previous heat-seeking king could tolerate nothing
above 235 F (113 C). In a kitchen at sea level, water
boils at 212 F (100 C).
"The upper temperature limit
for life is a key parameter for delimiting when and
where life might have evolved on a hot, early Earth; the
depth to which life exists in the Earth's subsurface;
and the potential for life in hot, extraterrestrial
environments," the researchers write in the Aug. 15
issue of the journal Science. [More Wild Life in
More about the bug is
available from the National Science
-- Robert Roy Britt
something from last week? Astronotes Archive