Friday, August 24, 2012

Curiosity's first driving destination and other space and astronomy news

After skipping last week, it's time to post another installment of the previous week's space and astronomy news. Of course, the top story is Curiosity.

NASA Televison on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Where Will Curiosity Go First?

Curiosity is safe on Mars and ready to roll. In this video from Science@NASA, project scientist John Grotzinger discusses where the rover might go first.
JPL answered that question later the same day.

NASA Curiosity Team Pinpoints Site for First Drive
August 17, 2012
PASADENA, Calif. -- The scientists and engineers of NASA's Curiosity rover mission have selected the first driving destination for their one-ton, six-wheeled mobile Mars laboratory. The target area, named Glenelg, is a natural intersection of three kinds of terrain. The choice was described by Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology during a media teleconference on Aug. 17.

"With such a great landing spot in Gale Crater, we literally had every degree of the compass to choose from for our first drive," Grotzinger said. "We had a bunch of strong contenders. It is the kind of dilemma planetary scientists dream of, but you can only go one place for the first drilling for a rock sample on Mars. That first drilling will be a huge moment in the history of Mars exploration."

The trek to Glenelg will send the rover 1,300 feet (400 meters) east-southeast of its landing site. One of the three types of terrain intersecting at Glenelg is layered bedrock, which is attractive as the first drilling target.
More space and astronomy stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Curiosity's first destination edition) on Daily Kos over the jump.

NASA Television on YouTube: President Praises Curiosity Team on This Week @NASA

Phoning from aboard Air Force One, President Obama congratulated the Mars Science Laboratory team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for its successful landing of the Curiosity rover on the Red Planet. Also, sun's decadal survey; Orion testing; and more!
There's even more about Curiosity.

JPL: Orbiter Views NASA's New Mars Rover in Color
August 14, 2012
PASADENA, Calif. -- The first color image taken from orbit showing NASA's rover Curiosity on Mars includes details of the layered bedrock on the floor of Gale Crater that the rover is beginning to investigate.

Operators of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter added the color view to earlier observations of Curiosity descending on its parachute, and one day after landing.

"The rover appears as double bright spot plus shadows from this perspective, looking at its shadowed side, set in the middle of the blast pattern from the descent stage," said HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "This image was acquired from an angle looking 30 degrees westward of straight down. We plan to get one in a few days looking more directly down, showing the rover in more detail and completing a stereo pair."
Daily Kos had two diaries featuring news from Mars as well.

This week in science: Ich bin ein Martian
by DarkSyde

The Transplutonium Element Curium Found On Mars
by NNadir

And now, the rest of the space news from deep space to Earth orbit.

University of Arizona: UA Astronomers Help Identify Biggest, Brightest Galaxy Cluster
The discovery may confirm a long-held theory about the birth of stars at the core of galaxy clusters.
By Jennifer Chu, MIT, and Daniel Stolte, UA University Communications
August 16, 2012
University of Arizona astronomers have helped identify the brightest and most rapidly star-forming galaxy cluster to date, as part of a multi-institution team led by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The cluster lies 7 billion light years away and dwarfs most known clusters, churning out a dazzling 740 new stars per year in its center. The Phoenix cluster, named after the constellation in which it resides, is among the most massive and most luminous in the universe.

As vast as the Milky Way may seem, our sprawling galaxy is but a speck next to the largest structures in the universe: galaxy clusters – collections of hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity. At the heart of most galaxy clusters sit massive old galaxies, within which only a few new stars are born each year.
JPL: Dawn Engineers Assess Reaction Wheel
UPDATE (posted at 5:30 p.m. PDT on Aug. 15, 2012): The Dawn flight team returned the spacecraft to its normal mode of operations on Tuesday, Aug. 14, and is revising the Vesta departure plan. Ion thrusting will resume on Friday, Aug. 17, and escape from Vesta is now expected to occur on Sept. 5. All of Dawn's reaction wheels remain powered off. The spacecraft will continue to use its attitude control thrusters for spacecraft pointing from now through the journey to Ceres. Arrival at Ceres is still expected to occur early in 2015. The reaction wheels will be exercised periodically during cruise. The Dawn team is identifying opportunities to do more troubleshooting on the wheel that developed excessive friction last week.
There was a diary about Ceres, Dawn's next target, on Daily Kos.

Getting to Know Your Solar System (18): Ceres
by Troubadour

Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech Advances Potential Commercial Space Flight System
August 14, 2012
Last spring private industry successfully sent a spacecraft carrying cargo to the International Space Station. Now the race is on to see which company will be the first to make commercial human spaceflight a reality.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) is one of three companies that will receive hundreds of millions of dollars to further develop its commercial human spacecraft system, NASA announced earlier this month.

SNC has turned to Georgia Tech for expertise on how to ensure the smoothest possible re-entry for its spacecraft, the Dream Chaser, which is reminiscent of NASA’s space shuttle.
Finally, a fun video for fans of Curiosity and NASA.

NASA Television on YouTube: We're NASA and We Know It (Mars Curiosity) Satire


And that's it for last week's space and astronomy news!

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