Monday, October 26, 2009

50 YA- Luna 3 Pics released

Luna 3 probe

On October 26, 1959, the Soviet Union released a series of pictures taken by the Lunik 3 (Luna 3) probe. The significance of these pictures is that they were the first to show the far side of the moon, previously unseen by man. Launched on October 4, the picture sequence of 29 frames was taken on the 6th and 7th. Once the probe left the moon, on a return towards the Earth, the Russian scientists attempted to transmit the pictures on the 8th but encountered difficulties. Only about 17 poor pictures were able to be transmitted by the 18th of October. These pictures were publicly released on the 26th.

The Undiscovered Country... the Far Side...

Communications with the probe were ended on the 22nd. It is estimated that the probe made several orbital passes of the Earth, but never really achieved a stable orbit and probably burned up in Earth's atmosphere sometime between 1960-1962.

Soviet Commemorative Stamp

One thing I love about the Russians is that they loved their space achievements. The Russians loved to commemorate everything with stamps, and this was a great one.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Orionid Meteor Shower Under Way

Meteor crosses star trails in a time-lapse photo

As Earth crosses the path that Halley's comet makes around the sun, we encounter the dust and ice grains left behind. These particles hit the Earth's upper atmosphere and quickly heat up from the friction with air molecules. Since the particles are usually small, these reactions appear as swift flashes of light leaving a trail of hot ionized gas.

The best time to see these meteors is at about 3 am as the Earth positions your viewing point directly into the dust trail. Reports indicate about 25 meteors per hour on the average. You never know when a brighter fireball may appear (a larger bit of dust!) Look in the direction of the constellation of Orion, which gives this shower its name.

The shower will peak on Wednesday night. Previous years have seen an average of 60 meteors per hour. Check for all sorts of good stuff on this shower, including pictures, sounds and more!

---------- Bunker Alert -------

Here at the Bunker we expect to be safe from the bombardment released by the Halley mothership. According to the evil plans of the Comet Realm, comets which miss the Earth completely (and there are many) turn into orbital bombers and release their matter, hoping to get us through whatever means necessary. The poor planning of the Realm engineers means that most of the bombardment particles are too small to last even to the ground. However, take proper precautions and avoid annihilation by specks of outer space rocks!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ares-1X Rollout

Ares-1X on the way; Launch control center in foreground

At about 11:39 pm MDT Monday, NASA began the rollout of the Ares-1X test rocket from the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). Securely mounted on the giant crawler, the system will slowly roll over to Pad 39B which has been undergoing modifications for use with the new launch system.

View from High Bay 3 inside the VAB; catwalk is 16th floor

While listening to the NASA TV announcer, I believe I heard him say the rocket weighs in at about 16,000,000 pounds. Not sure if he meant rocket and crawler together. The crawler and base carefully adjust enormous hydraulic systems to keep the base level and cause minimum vibration to the rocket assembly. It's expected that even as tightly clamped as possible, the top of the rocket may move as much as a foot, while the base may adjust up to 6 inches.

SRM first stage has 4 segments; Actual Ares will have 5

For comparison, keep in mind that the VAB was built tall enough so that the giant of them all, the Saturn V, could just barely make it through the doorway with the launch tower attached to the base. Looking at the picture above, you can tell that the Ares=1X is almost as tall as the old Saturn V!

Rear view of Crawler from VAB High Bay

The crawler is moving along slowly, working up to its expected speed of 8/10 of a mile per hour. In the photo above, look carefully for the man walking beside one of the crawler tracks for a size comparison. Ahead of the crawler, a huge water truck is wetting down the gravel roadbed with great sprays of water to keep dust down and settle the gravel.

The capsule at top is a "boilerplate" model, which means it has the same dimensions as the eventual capsule but has no equipment inside other than telemetry sensors. This test rocket has 4 segments in its solid rocket motor first stage, which have participated in various shuttle missions going back to the late 80's.

I just heard that the actual weight of the rocket stack is 11,067,000 pounds. The order has been given to begin closure of the VAB door segments. Next stop: Pad 39B, which at one time saw the launch of Apollo 10. Pad39B is usually kept as a backup readiness pad for human spaceflight. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

50 YA: Explorer VII Launch

Explorer VII Satellite

On October 13, 1959 NASA successfully launched the Explorer VII satellite on a modified Juno II rocket. It was the last in a series of space probes planned during the International Geophysical Year. It would seek to understand the radiation and cosmic rays found in Earth orbit. The information gathered by the probe would lead toward the connection between solar eruptions and geomagnetic storms.

Expedition 20 Returns

Michael Barratt is feeling the G's now.

Officially, Expedition 20 has ended and Expedition 21 is now in charge of the ISS. Commander Gennady Padalka, Flight Engineer Barratt, and tourist Guy Laliberte have landed in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz re-entry capsule. Having spent a half of one year off of the planet, the cosmonaut and astronaut have adjustments to make to gravity. Laliberte performed a special multimedia presentation while on board the ISS, beamed to nations around the world. He had been one of the recent visitors to the ISS, having arrived with the latest of the Expedition 21 crew on Soyuz TMA-16.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Comet War: NASA tests new weapon

Artist view of LCROSS stage separation

At 5:30 am MDT, Terran Space Forces tested a new weapon in the Interplanetary War against the evil Comet Realm. The spent Centaur stage of the LCROSS system impacted into a crater near the Moon's south pole, followed a few minutes later by the crash of the observation probe that accompanied it. NASA telescopes and observers around the world are scanning the area to analyze the debris cloud. Of course, most of us slept through it, unaware of the bold stroke mankind prepares in its effort to thwart the enemy's plans.

Speculation abounds over the mission of the LCROSS system.

A leading critic of the administration has panned the effort as a mega-dollar boondoggle. "We already know how to smash things. Our military should at least have tried this years before against one of the enemy's impactors. All we've proven is we know we can hit the side of a barn."

Target: Cabeus Crater

Some speculate, however, that this was more than a test. NASA has speculated for some time that there could be deposits of water ice located at the moon's poles were there are permanent crater shadows. So far, only Dr. Bernhard of the Asteroid War Institute has ever put forth the idea that the enemy had actually established a hidden outpost on the Moon. If true, this mission would be Earth's fist counterattack against an enemy that has been at war with Earth since before recorded history.

Apollo 14 third stage impact site

The development of this mission stems from the accidental bounty of information gathered from the Apollo program. After seismic sensors were placed by the astronauts of Apollo 12, the third stage of Apollo 14 crashed into a desolate empty plain on the Moon's surface. Sensor data led NASA engineers to believe that a fast moving empty stage could cause sever devastation to a region around the impact site, even without an explosive warhead.

Of course, there are still doubters out there. This reporter has even heard a relatively unknown theory that this was a mere science experiment designed to look for traces of water in the resultant debris cloud. Here at the Space Rubble Command Bunker, we'll place that one right with the Flat Moon believers.

; )

Sunday, October 4, 2009

50 YA- Little Joe Launch

Preparing Little Joe for its Little Launch

Fifty years ago today NASA launched another successful flight of the Little Joe system. This launch was from Wallops Island, Virginia. The system was designed to test flight characteristics of the Mercury program capsule and escape system. With onboard systems, engineers were able to measure the stresses of high acceleration on the structures. Although we often think of only the advances in the spacecraft engineering, there were also tremendous improvements in NASA's telemetry programs.

Blast Off! NASA plays with model rockets ; )