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Nasa to put man on asteroid by 2020s

News4u - News Desk : WASHINGTON: Nasa is reportedly training a team of astronauts for a mission to land on an asteroid by the end of the next decade.

The US space agency is training the astronauts to land on an asteroid to explore its surface, search for minerals and even learn the skills they may need to destroy it should one pose a threat to the Earth, ‘The Daily Telegraph’ reported.

Nasa plans to send the team to make contact with an asteroid up to three million miles away by the late 2020s; it would take them far beyond the current limit of the Moon, which is 239,000 miles from Earth.

Travelling at around 50,000 miles per hour around the Sun with almost non-existent gravity due to their small size, landing safely on these space rocks will present a significant challenge.

But, Major Tim Peake, a British astronaut with the European Space Agency, who is also being trained for the asteroid mission, said: “With the technology we have available and are developing today, an asteroid mission of up to a year is definitely achievable .” He added: “Asteroids are interesting on a number of different levels. Nasa is focused on the science you can achieve as asteroids are essentially a historical record of billions of years of universe where we can take samples from.

“These objects are also coming extremely close to Earth all the time, but we rarely hear about it. With enough warning we would probably send a robotic mission to deflect an asteroid, but if something is spotted late… we may have to look at manned missions to deflect it.

“That is when the skills we are learning about how to work on an asteroid could be useful.”

In fact, Nasa hopes to launch an unmanned spacecraft that will use a robotic arm to collect samples from an asteroid by 2016 before sending a manned mission by the late 2020s. A manned mission will aim to rendezvous with an asteroid up to three million miles from the Earth, taking around a year to make the entire round trip.

The astronauts could stay on the asteroid for up to 30 days. According to Nasa officials, such missions to asteroids could help test technology for future human missions to other planets including Mars. Nasa hopes that such missions will provide new scientific information about the early universe while also providing valuable information for ways of defending Earth from collisions with asteroids.PTI

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NASA to clear space junk with gas puffs

News4u-News Desk- LONDON: NASA hopes to sweep away more than half a million pieces of space junk, adrift in the skies, with a radical solution.

It is looking at new technology developed byUniversity of Michigan, where ‘pulses’ of gas will be fired into the path of debris, increasing the ‘drag’ on orbiting junk and practically sucking them downwards.

Pieces of space junk travel at speeds up to eight km per second, fast enough to damage a satellite or a spacecraft. There’s also a danger of ‘cascading collisions’, where space debris impact with one another creating more, smaller pieces of space junk.

Debris belts have already made many orbits unusable. The pulses themselves would leave no trace - and the new method also leaves no solid material in orbit, the Daily Mail reported.

The satellite will ‘grab’ lumps of orbiting debris and throw them back into Earth’s atmosphere, where they will burn up on re-entry.

The proposed new system would be known as the Space Debris Elimination (SpaDE) system - and would aim to remove debris from orbit by firing focused pulses of atmospheric gases into the path of targeted debris.IANS

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NASA releases first video of moon’s ‘dark side’

LONDON: NASA has sent back its first footage of the ‘dark’ side of the moon, the one that is not visible from the Earth.The footage shows a journey from the north to the south pole of the moon, revealing huge craters caused by asteroid and comet impacts billions of years ago, the Daily Mail reported.

“It’s very rugged and covered with impact craters from asteroids that hit the moon’s surface,” said Maria Zuber, Nasa’s principal investigator on Grail.

In the video, the North Pole of the Moon can be seen at the top of the screen as the spacecraft flies toward the lunar South Pole.

The side explored shows the moon being ‘tidally locked’ to Earth, so one side always faces away from us.

It’s the first video from the two probes - named ‘Ebb’ and ‘Flow’ - but several others will be sent back.

One of the biggest features spotted on the lower third of the Moon in the video is the Mare Orientale, a 560 mile-wide impact basin that straddles both the Moon’s near and far side.

Near the bottom of the screen, the video shows the 93-mile-wide Drygalski crater - recognisable from the unique star-shaped formation in the middle.

The two probes will carry on orbiting the moon in tight formation to measure its gravity and map its little-understood interior.ANI

NASA releases first video of moon's 'dark side'

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NASA scientist shows how to slow global warming

News4u - News Desk : WASHINGTON: Key steps on pollution control would slow down global warming by 0.5 degree Celsius, increase crop yields by 135 million tonnes and prevent thousands of premature deaths every year in India, Nepal and Bangladesh by 2050, reveals a study. 


The 14 steps, highlighted by NASA scientist Drew Shindell, are the outcome of an analysis of 400 control measures by an international team, based on technologies evaluated by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.

“We’ve shown that implementing specific practical emissions reductions chosen to maximize climate benefits would also have important win-win benefits for human health and agriculture,” said Shindell, scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS),New York City.

The steps, if implemented would curb the release of either black carbon or methane, pollutants that exacerbate climate change and damage human or plant health either directly or by leading to ozone formation, the journal Science reported.

India, Bangladesh and Nepal would see the biggest reductions in premature deaths. The study estimates that globally between 700,000 and 4.7 million premature deaths could be prevented each year.

Countries in Asia and the Middle East would see the biggest health and agricultural gains from emissions reductions, said a university statement.

Shindell and his team concluded that these control measures would provide the greatest protection against global warming to Russia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan - countries with large areas of snow or ice cover.

Iran, Pakistan and Jordan would experience improvement in agricultural production, and the southern Asia and the Sahel region of Africa would see beneficial changes to precipitation patterns.

The scientists used computer models developed at GISS and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, to model the impact of emissions reductions.IANS


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Dead satellite fell in south Pacific, not Canada: NASA

News4u – News Desk : WASHINGTON: The dead NASA satellite fell into what might be the ideal spot part of the south Pacific Ocean about as far from large land masses as you can get, US space officials have said.

New US Air Force calculations put the 6-ton satellite’s death plunge early Saturday thousands of kilometres from northwestern North America, where there were reports of sightings.

Instead, it plunged into areas where remote islands dot a vast ocean.

NASA says those new calculations show the 20-year-old satellite entered Earth’s atmosphere generally above American Samoa.

But falling debris as it broke apart did not start hitting the water for another 480 kilometres to the northeast, southwest of Christmas Island.

Experts believe about two dozen metal pieces from the bus-sized satellite fell over a 800-kilometre span.

“It’s a relatively uninhabited portion of the world, very remote,” NASA orbital debris scientist Mark Matney said. “This is certainly a good spot in terms of risk.”

Scientists who track space junk could not be happier with the result.

“That’s the way it should be. I think that’s perfect,” said Bill Ailor, director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies at the Aerospace Corp. ”It’s just as good as it gets.” AP

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Astronauts make ‘last’ spacewalk of NASA shuttle era

News4u - News Desk : FLORIDA: Astronauts making the last spacewalk of NASA’s space shuttle era on Tuesday retrieved a broken pump from the International Space Station and installed a fill-er-up experiment for a robot.

The space station’s two-armed robot Dextre won’t tackle the $22.6 million playset _ a fancy Fisher-Price toy as one astronaut describes it _ until long after Atlantis departs and the shuttle program ends.

But perhaps more than anything else on this final journey by a shuttle, the robotic demo illustrates the possibilities ahead for NASA: satellite-refueling stations in space run by robots.

In a departure from previous shuttle visits, the spacewalking job fell to space station astronauts Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan Jr., who teamed up for three spacewalks in 2008. The four-person Atlantis crew is the smallest in decades, and so the lone spacewalk of the mission was handed over to the full-time station residents.

It was the 160th spacewalk in the 12{-year life of the orbiting outpost, and the last one planned for Americans for nearly a year.

Fossum and Garan paused to admire the view 245 miles (394 kilometers) below _ the Kennedy Space Center _ before heading to a storage platform holding the old, broken pump.

“Hello Kennedy, beautiful launch,” Fossum called out. Atlantis departed Kennedy on Friday on the very last shuttle launch.

They completed the two major chores _ the pump removal and robotic test hookup _ inside of 3{ hours.

The ammonia coolant pump stopped working last July and, for more than two weeks, left the space station with only half its cooling capability. Space station residents had to perform three emergency spacewalks last summer to replace the pump and restore full cooling to all the on-board equipment.

NASA wants the pump brought back to Earth so engineers can figure out why it failed to help them keep the on-board station pumps running. The space station is intended to operate until at least 2020.

Garan gripped the pump as the space station’s robot arm maneuvered him over to Atlantis. The pump was anchored onto a platform in the shuttle’s payload bay, ready for next week’s ride home.

As they turned their attention to the robotic experiment, the spacewalkers thanked all the thousands of people who worked on the shuttle. “It is really beautiful,” Garan said.

The robotic workbench _ which the astronauts attached to a shelf on Dextre’s base _ consists of a 3{-foot (0.91-meter) box holding four customized tools, including a wire cutter and a safety cap removal device, as well as an assortment of knobs, caps, valves and a half gallon of ethanol.

Dextre _ a hulking metal robot with 11-foot (3.35-meter) arms _ will release locks on the tools in August but won’t try out the workbench until January.

The designers of the experiment _ based at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland _ envision robots one day using these methods to fill the fuel tanks of satellites orbiting as high as 22,300 miles (35,890 kilometers). That would keep the spacecraft operating longer, instead of becoming expensive pieces of space junk. What’s more, spacecraft bound for distant worlds could fill up after launch, thereby flying more payloads because of the savings in fuel weight.

While the spacewalk unfolded, the majority of the eight astronauts inside worked to unload the nearly 5 tons of supplies that were delivered in a giant cargo carrier by Atlantis. It represents a year’s worth of food, clothes and other housekeeping items, to tide the crew over in case commercial rocket makers fall behind in their own cargo runs. The first such haul is supposed to take place by year’s end.

Until now, the shuttle has hoisted the bulk of supplies to the space station. Cargo runs by Russia, Japan and Europe will continue.

NASA is turning to private enterprise in the post-shuttle period, so it can meet the White House goal of sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars the decade after that.

The 13-day flight by Atlantis is the last for the 30-year shuttle program. Atlantis is due to return July 21 to Kennedy, where it will go on display at a tourist center. AP


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Picture-perfect liftoff for Endeavour

News4u-News Desk-

NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour had a picture-perfect liftoff on Monday from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre on the next-to-last flight of the shuttle era before heading to retirement at a Los Angeles museum.

 

Endeavour roared off the launch pad at 8:56 a.m. ET carrying a six-member crew to the International Space Station (ISS).

Endeavour is the baby of NASA’s shuttle fleet.

It was built to replace the Challenger, lost in a 1986 launch accident.

Endeavour first flew in 1992 it ended its first mission 19 years ago on Monday.

The shuttle has flown 116.4 million miles in 24 previous flights.

The shuttle’s liftoff was watched by more than the usual number of physicists.

That’s because Endeavour is carrying up a USD 2 billion particle physics detector known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS).

The AMS will be mounted onto the ISS, where it will collect cosmic rays charged particles that zoom through space for a decade.

The equipment was designed to search for primordial antimatter created during the Big Bang, and the mysterious dark matter that makes up much of our universe.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pushed for more than 16 years to make the project happen, raising money to build it with the help of hundreds of researchers in more than a dozen countries.

Ting said no one knows what the AMS might discover.

“I mean, if you find what you predicted, it’s not interesting,” he said in an April interview.

“The interesting thing is to destroy the current idea, to find something new.”

NASA is retiring its three remaining space shuttles after 30 years to concentrate on interplanetary travel.

The space agency wants to hand over the business of getting crews and cargo to the space station to private companies.

At least one company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said it can get astronauts to the space station within three years of getting NASA approval.

One final mission remains by Atlantis in July.

 

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NASA servers vulnerable to attack: Audit

News4u-News Desk- WASHINGTON: NASA’s inspector general warned that computer servers used by the US space agency to control spacecraft were vulnerable to cyber attack through the Internet.

“We found that computer servers on NASA’s agency-wide mission network had high-risk vulnerabilities that were exploitable from the Internet,” NASA inspector general Paul Martin said in an audit of NASA’s network security.

“Specifically, six computer servers associated with IT assets that control spacecraft and contain critical data had vulnerabilities that would allow a remote attacker to take control of or render them unavailable,” the report said.

It said a cyber attacker who managed to penetrate the network could use compromised computers to exploit other weaknesses and “severely degrade or cripple NASA’s operations.”

The inspector general’s audit of NASA’s computer security found “network servers that revealed encryption keys, encrypted passwords, and user account information to potential attackers.

“These data are sensitive and provide attackers additional ways to gain unauthorized access to NASA networks,” the report said.

The inspector general warned that “until NASA addresses these critical deficiencies and improves its IT security practices, the agency is vulnerable to computer incidents that could have a severe to catastrophic effect on agency assets, operations, and personnel.”

The inspector general performed the audit after NASA experienced a number of cyber intrusions that the report said resulted in the “theft of export-controlled and other sensitive data from its mission computer networks.”

The inspector general cited a May 2009 incident in which cyber criminals infected a computer system that supports one of NASA’s mission networks.

“Due to the inadequate security configurations on the system, the infection caused the computer system to make over 3,000 unauthorized connections to domestic and international InternetProtocol (IP) addresses including addresses in China, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and Estonia,” the report said.

It said that in January 2009, cybercriminals stole 22 gigabytes of export-restricted data from a Jet Propulsion Laboratory computer system.

The inspector general recommended that NASA immediately act to mitigate risks on Internet-accessible computers on its mission networks and carry out an agency-wide IT security risk assessment. afp

 

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Ex-Florida professor convicted in $3m fraud case

News4u-News Desk- GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA: A former University of Florida nuclear engineering professor and his wife have been convicted of defrauding more than $3 million from NASA and other federal agencies.

A federal jury in Gainesville on Friday returned guilty verdicts against 61-year-old Samim Anghaie and his wife, 56-year-old Sousan, after a three-week trial.

Both were convicted of conspiracy and multiple counts of wire fraud _ 28 for the husband and 26 for the wife. Samim Anghaie, a native of Iran, also was convicted on a false document count.

His wife is president of a high-tech engineering research and development company. No sentencing date was immediately set. Each fraud count has a maximum penalty of 20 years.AP

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NASA begins countdown for Discovery’s final ride

News4u-News Desk- CAPE CANAVERAL (FLORIDA): After a four-month grounding of the space shuttle fleet, NASA’s countdown clocks started ticking again for Discovery’s final ride into orbit.

Discovery is scheduled to blast off Thursday afternoon to the International Space Station. Forecasters put the odds of good weather at 80 per cent.

When NASA tried to launch Discovery in early November with supplies and a humanoid robot for the space station, the countdown never got past the fuelling phase. A hydrogen gas leak halted everything, then a more insidious problem cropped up: cracks in the external fuel tank.

The shuttle team went into overdrive to fix all the cracks in the metal struts, located on the central portion of the tank, and to reinforce the rest of the area. The problem increased the risk of broken insulating foam, the very issue that doomed Columbia in 2003.

“Discovery has been a really remarkable vehicle for us,” NASA test director Jeff Spaulding told reporters yesterday.

“She still has a few more miles to go before she sleeps, though. She’s taken us on many amazing journeys throughout the years, and we expect this flight to be no different than any of those.”

Commander Steven Lindsey and his crew expressed gratitude for the unprecedented repairs. After arriving at Kennedy Space Centre over the weekend, Lindsey called the cracking problem “probably one of the most difficult, technical challenges we’ve faced in recent years.”

The other challenge for the six-person crew, he noted, was the loss of the mission’s lead spacewalker. Astronaut Timothy Kopra was replaced last month after he was hurt in a bicycle crash. Stephen Bowen, an experienced spacewalker, took over. “I’ve got big shoes to fill,” Bowen said Sunday.

Because of the delay, Discovery has spent more time awaiting liftoff in the Vehicle Assembly Building and at the pad than all but one other shuttle mission.

Columbia set the record at 183 days in 1990. If Discovery soars Thursday, it will come in at 170 days. AP

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