1. crookedindifference:

    NASA Ion Thruster Achieves World-Record 5+ Years of Operation

    A NASA advanced ion propulsion engine has successfully operated for more than 48,000 hours, or 5 and a half years, making it the longest test duration of any type of space propulsion system demonstration project ever.

    The thruster was developed under NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Glenn manufactured the test engine’s core ionization chamber. Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif., designed and built the ion acceleration assembly.

    The 7-kilowatt class thruster could be used in a wide range of science missions, including deep space missions identified in NASA’s Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

    “The NEXT thruster operated for more than 48,000 hours,” said Michael J. Patterson, principal investigator for NEXT at Glenn. “We will voluntarily terminate this test at the end of this month, with the thruster fully operational. Life and performance have exceeded the requirements for any anticipated science mission.”

    The NEXT engine is a type of solar electric propulsion in which thruster systems use the electricity generated by the spacecraft’s solar panel to accelerate the xenon propellant to speeds of up to 90,000 mph. This provides a dramatic improvement in performance compared to conventional chemical rocket engines.

    During the endurance test performed in a high vacuum test chamber at Glenn, the engine consumed about 1,918 pounds (870 kilograms) of xenon propellant, providing an amount of total impulse that would take more than 22,000 (10,000 kilograms) of conventional rocket propellant for comparable applications.

    (via itsfullofstars)

     

  2. kqedscience:

    Extreme Voting: How Astronauts Cast Ballots from Space

    Call it the ultimate absentee ballot. NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station have the option of voting in [today’s] presidential election from orbit, hundreds of miles above their nearest polling location.

    Astronauts residing on the orbiting lab receive a digital version of their ballot, which is beamed up by Mission Control at the agency’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. Filled-out ballots find their way back down to Earth along the same path.”

    (via theatlantic)

     

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  4. theatlanticvideo:

    The Newsreel of Joseph Kittinger’s 19.5-Mile Jump From Space

    In 1960, Joseph Kittinger’s daring leap from 102,800 feet above Earth setting records that remained unbroken for decades. Skydiver Felix Baumgartner plans to break it on October 9, 2012, live streaming the event from a Red Bull-sponsored site. With just a fraction of the technology at Baumgartner’s disposal, however, Kittinger’s Project Excelsior dive set records for longest jump and fastest speed of a human through the atmosphere. Now, Kittinger is helping Baumgartner in his pursuit of a new record. 

    (via theatlantic)

     

  5. theatlantic:

    In Focus: Endeavour’s Last Flight

    On Friday, NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour landed in Los Angeles, California, after completing its final flight, a cross-country farewell journey with flyovers and stops in Texas, Arizona, and several locations in California. Endeavour completed its last space voyage in June of 2011, and has since been undergoing a decommissioning process in Florida, preparing to be delivered to the California Science Center. Now that the shuttle is in Los Angeles, it will undergo a few weeks of preparation before being carefully towed through city streets to its new home. Collected here are a few snapshots of Endeavour’s farewell flight. (Bonus: The last four images are 3D anaglyph images, for those with a pair of red/cyan glasses handy.)

    See more. [Images: NASA, AP, Getty Images]

     

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  7. wolframalpha:

    Telstar 1 launched 50 years ago today beginning the era of transatlantic TV. It’s still in orbit! Wolfram|Alpha can tell you where it is right now

    (via itsfullofstars)

     

  8. When the Lights Go Down in the City: DC’s Massive Power Outage From Space

    Nearly a week after a massive storm swept across the DC region, there are still 30,000 people in the DC metro area without power. That number, big as it may be, is way down from its high-water mark, when nearly a million in the storm’s immediate wake. At the time, the magnitude of the damage was so great the power outage was visible from space. In the two pictures below, you can easily see the increased darkness — particularly in the city’s suburbs, where power lines run above ground and are therefore more vulnerable to a storm’s power.

    [Top: Before; Bottom: After]

    Both pictures come from the Suomi NPP satellite, a joint project of NASA and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

     


  9. The phone call came like a bolt out of the blue, so to speak, in January 2011. On the other end of the line was someone from the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the nation’s fleet of spy satellites. They had some spare, unused “hardware” to get rid of. Was NASA interested?

    So when John Grunsfeld, the physicist and former astronaut, walked into his office a year later to start his new job as NASA’s associate administrator for space science, he discovered that his potential armada was a bit bigger than he knew.

    Sitting in a room in upstate New York were two telescopes the same size as the famed Hubble Space Telescope, but built to point down at the Earth, instead of up at the heavens.

    NASA, struggling to get human space exploration moving again, had spent the previous year trying to figure out how good these telescopes were and what, if anything, they could be used for. Working with a small band of astronomers for the past couple of months, Dr. Grunsfeld, famous as the Hubble telescope’s in-orbit repairman, has now come up with a plan, which was presented to the public on Monday at a meeting at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

    It is to turn one of the telescopes loose on the cosmos, pointing in its rightful direction, outward, to investigate the mysterious dark energy that is speeding up the universe’s expansion.

    If the plan succeeds — and Congress, the Office of Management and Budget and the Academy of Sciences have yet to sign on — it could shave hundreds of millions of dollars and several years off a quest that many scientists say is the most fundamental of our time and that NASA had said it could not undertake until 2024 at the earliest.

     

  10. theatlantic:

    Remembering the Nazi Scientist Who Built the Rockets for Apollo

    Few figures in the history of technology provoke a reaction as quickly as Wernher von Braun. The rocket scientist was a card-carrying Nazi who built the world’s first ballistic missile with slave labor from concentration camps. As the war wound down, he surrendered to the Americans and took his rocket-building team and talents to the United States. Eventually, he became a leader in the American space program, building the rocket (the Saturn V) that carried Apollo 11 to the moon. Today would have been his 100th birthday. He died in 1977.

    Roger Launius, a senior curator in the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum, wrote a nuanced evaluation of the man’s life.

    Wernher von Braun was a stunningly successful advocate for space exploration and has appropriately been celebrated for those efforts. But because he was also willing to build a ballistic missile for Hitler’s Germany, with all of connotations that implied in the devastation and terror of World War II, many of his ideals have also been appropriately questioned. For some he was a visionary who foresaw the potential of human spaceflight, but for others he was little more than an arms merchant who developed brutal weapons of mass destruction. In reality, he seems to have been something of both.

     

  11. theatlantic:

    Picture of the Day: Snowfall Across Italy, From Space

    The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’a Aqua satellite captured this picture of Italy last week, shortly after recent snowstorms had blanketed much of the country. The Aqua satellite has been in orbit since 2002, collecting information about all aspects of the Earth’s water cycle, including evaporation, clouds, soil moisture, and fluctuations in sea and land ice cover.

    See more. [Image: NASA]

     

  12. theatlantic:

    Project Icarus: Laying the Plans for Interstellar Travel

    Andreas Tziolas is drafting a blueprint for a mission to a nearby star. Here, he discusses how we’ll get there — and why we try.

    Read more

     

  13. newshour:

    Researchers have discovered a monster black hole that is possibly the biggest found to date, weighing as much as 21 billion times the mass of our sun. 

    (Photo credit: An artist’s conception of stars moving in the central regions of a giant elliptical galaxy that harbors a supermassive black hole. Image by Gemini Observatory/AURA artwork by Lynette Cook)

     

  14. spacetimecontinumm:

    Terrformation of Mars: A New Look

    We look at Mars now as a forgotten Red Planet that almost seems barren and life-less judging from our available images and study of it. But study shows Mars was once as ecologically prosperous as our own Earth. But what happened to all of its waters? Better yet why is it so dry and lacking any plants? Once the abundance of oxygen left and the waters froze over or dried off the planet became what it is today. But what if we can in a way reactivate’ Mars? Welcome to Mars, Terraformed’.

    (via fuckyeahspacedotcom)

     

  15. (via chaosroad)