Daily Archives: September 14, 2011

Views from the Solar System (3)

                                                                                                                                        
SPACE WATCH

Orbital Sunrise
NASA – On Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011, International Space Station astronaut Ron Garan used a high definition camera to film one of the sixteen sunrises astronauts see each day. This image shows the rising sun as the station flew along a path between Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Night Flight
Space shuttle Challenger’s third flight was the first to have its beginnings in darkness, as NASA’s eighth space shuttle launch lit up the Florida sky at 2:32 a.m. EDT, Aug. 30, 1983. The STS-8 crew consisted of Commander Richard Truly, pilot Daniel Brandenstein, and mission specialists Dale Gardner, Guy Bluford and William Thornton.

On Jan. 28, 1986, Challenger and its crew were lost when a booster engine failed, causing the shuttle to break apart just 73 seconds after launch.

Viking Lander Model
NASA’s Viking Project found a place in history when it became the first U.S. mission to land a spacecraft successfully on the surface of Mars. Two identical spacecraft, each consisting of a lander and an orbiter, were built. Each orbiter-lander pair flew together and entered Mars orbit; the landers then separated and descended to the planet’s surface. Viking 2 launched 36 years ago today on Sept. 9, 1975. This photo shows a test version of the landers in the original “Mars Yard” built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1975.

The Viking 2 lander settled down at Utopia Planitia on Sept. 3, 1976, while the Viking 1 Lander touched down on the western slope of Chryse Planitia (the Plains of Gold) on July 20, 1976.

Besides taking photographs and collecting other science data on the Red Planet’s surface, the two landers conducted three biology experiments designed to look for possible signs of life. These experiments discovered unexpected and enigmatic chemical activity in the Martian soil, but provided no clear evidence for the presence of living microorganisms in soil near the landing sites. According to scientists, Mars is self-sterilizing. They believe the combination of solar ultraviolet radiation that saturates the surface, the extreme dryness of the soil and the oxidizing nature of the soil chemistry prevent the formation of living organisms in the Martian soil.

Although the Viking mission was planned to continue for 90 days after landing, each orbiter and lander operated far beyond its design lifetime. Viking Orbiter 1 functioned until July 25, 1978, while Viking Orbiter 2 continued for four years and 1,489 orbits of Mars, concluding its mission Aug. 7, 1980. Because of the variations in available sunlight, both landers were powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators — devices that create electricity from heat given off by the natural decay of plutonium. That power source allowed long-term science investigations that otherwise would not have been possible. The last data from Viking Lander 2 arrived at Earth on April 11, 1980. Viking Lander 1 made its final transmission to Earth Nov. 11, 1982. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

The Moon’s North Pole
The Earth’s moon has been an endless source of fascination for humanity for thousands of years. When at last Apollo 11 landed on the moon’s surface in 1969, the crew found a desolate, lifeless orb, but one which still fascinates scientist and non-scientist alike.

This image of the moon’s north polar region was taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC. One of the primary scientific objectives of LROC is to identify regions of permanent shadow and near-permanent illumination. Since the start of the mission, LROC has acquired thousands of Wide Angle Camera images approaching the north pole. From these images, scientists produced this mosaic, which is composed of 983 images taken over a one month period during northern summer. This mosaic shows the pole when it is best illuminated, regions that are in shadow are candidates for permanent shadow. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

… And on the 2,690th Martian Day
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take this picture showing a light-toned rock, nicknamed Tisdale 2, on its 2,690th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Aug. 18, 2011). The rock is about 12 inches (30 centimeters) tall.

In subsequent sols, the rover used tools on its robotic arm to examine Tisdale 2. That rock and others on the ground beyond it were apparently ejected by the impact that excavated a 66-foot-wide (20-meter-wide) crater, called Odyssey, which is nearby to the left of this scene. Odyssey and these rocks are on a low ridge called Cape York, which is a segment of the western rim of Endeavour crater. Part of Opportunity’s array of photovoltaic cells is visible in the foreground. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Tropical Storm Katia
Katia was a tropical storm gathering energy over the Atlantic Ocean when one of the Expedition 28 crew took this photo on Aug. 31, 2011, from aboard the International Space Station. The picture, taken with a 12-mm focal length, was captured at 14:09:01 GMT. Later in the day Katia was upgraded to hurricane status. Two Russian spacecraft — a Progress and a Soyuz –can be seen parked at the orbital outpost on the left side of the frame.

Irene Makes Landfall Over New York
This GOES-13 satellite image is of Hurricane Irene just 28 minutes before the storm made landfall in New York City. The image shows Irene’s huge cloud cover blanketing New England, New York and over Toronto, Canada. Shadows in Irene’s clouds indicate the bands of thunderstorms that surrounded the storm. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Wireless data plans put spotlight on FCC billing protection

By Cecilia Kang – As wireless companies introduce new, and sometimes confusing, service plans, expect pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to better protect consumers from false and misleading billing practices, analysts say. All major carriers — with the exception of Sprint Nextel — have revamped their smartphone wireless Internet plans and done away with all-you-can-eat flat rates. Most have gone to tiered systems that ask consumers to pick plans based on how much data they consume each month. more> http://twurl.nl/1mmm22

AT&T/T-Mobile Merger: Let’s Call It What It Is, Part II

By Leo Wrobel – As we understand the terms of the agreement, if the merger doesn’t occur, AT&T has to pay a breakup fee of $3 billion in cash, as well as making other concessions to Deutsche Telekom worth an additional $3 billion, making the total breakup cost some $6 billion. That’s real money, even to AT&T, and such a breakup would strengthen one of its main competitors. AT&T management won’t surrender unless they see that the fight is hopeless.

Antitrust cases take years—sometimes even decades—to be resolved. (The last one, filed in 1974, ended in 1984 with the breakup of AT&T.) AT&T makes plans for the very long term, knowing that it can outlast most opponents. more> http://twurl.nl/hp8wlb

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Video: Our Prius Plug-In Test Drive

By Charles Murray – Prius is half hybrid and half electric. It differs from other plug-in vehicles in that it employs a relatively small battery. At 5.2kWh, the Prius has a battery capacity that’s about one third that of the Chevy Volt’s 16kWh and about one fifth that of the Nissan Leaf’s 24kWh.

The upside, though, is big. Yes, the range is just 13 miles, but the smaller-battery strategy has efficiency written all over it. Smaller means less mass, which translates into greater fuel economy. That’s particularly important when the driver has exceeded the 13-mile range and the depleted battery is basically dead weight. more> http://twurl.nl/1sv6qu [VIDEO 3:05]

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The euro crisis comes to a head

By Felix Salmon – Spiegel has an excellent, long, and detailed article about the tension at the heart of the euro crisis — the one between Greece and Germany. Europe has thrown $150 billion at Greece to date and has nothing to show for it except for a temporarily averted sovereign default.

We’re at an inflection point, in Europe, and all the signs are pointing to more chaos and uncertainty. The last crisis brought Europe and the world together, at least briefly. This one is tearing Europe apart. The unity that we saw at the G20 summit in London in 2009 is nowhere to be seen. more> http://twurl.nl/zs5za1

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CONGRESS WATCH Stop and Remember September 11, US Senate [VIDEO 1:36]

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