researchers prepare for a cosmic encounter
European Space Agency (ESA) reports on April 21, 2009:
International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defence Conference is being
held in Granada, Spain, on 27–30 April. Among the
topics under discussion will be preparations for the near-Earth flyby of
asteroid Apophis in 2029.
marks an important anniversary in the history of scientific research: Galileo's
first astronomical use of the telescope, four centuries ago. It has also set the
scene for new efforts in planning for future discoveries. On 13 April 2029 –
twenty years from now – the Earth flyby of asteroid Apophis may become a
significant milestone in our understanding of Earth's closest neighbours, the Near-Earth
Objects (NEOs). World experts on the subject will discuss how best to prepare
for the flyby at a conference that starts next week
At the first International
Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Planetary Defence Conference, specialists in
astrometry, orbital dynamics, physical characterisation of asteroids and
comets, aerothermodynamics, and impact modelling will join spacecraft mission
designers, risk analysts, systems engineers and policy-makers to debate
asteroid impacts as a topic for interdisciplinary research and as a threat to
The meeting, which is
supported by ESA, will be the first of its kind organised in Europe
as an IAA event. The conference is co-sponsored by major space agencies,
research institutes and industry
Making plans ahead of
To make the most of the
opportunity presented by the Apophis flyby, it is important that by the time it
occurs our research capabilities are at their best, with even more students in
universities developing studies concerning NEOs. For this reason, linked to the
conference, ESA has organised a contest. The objective is to allow young
researchers to propose and present their work and, together with
well-recognised experts in the field, explore new aspects of asteroid science
Even if asteroid Apophis –
a mountain of rock 270 m across, weighing about 20 million tonnes – is not a
real danger, it is quite representative of a type of object that presents a
serious impact threat. The threat is a combination of their size and huge
kinetic energy, and their frequent close approaches to our planet – at
intervals of some hundreds to thousands of years, on average. For this reason,
the conference will use the visit of Apophis as a catalyst for applied research
in asteroid studies.
"It is an attractive
subject for many researchers, as in the studies about these objects – and on
the space missions related to them – many leading-edge scientific and technical
fields are combined," said Andrés Gálvez, ESA' General Studies Programme
manager and a member of the conference organising committee. "Finding new
solutions or shedding light on the unknowns relating to NEOs demands a great
deal of creativity; studying how to avoid a possible catastrophe on a planetary
scale is a particularly compelling challenge," remarked Gálvez.
The new ESA Space
Situational Awareness (SSA) initiative will be also presented at the IAA
Planetary Defence Conference. "The risk that a Near-Earth Object hits us
is low – but when it does, it may do a lot of damage. A NEO impact is the only
natural threat which we have the technical capability to mitigate – so we
should prepare for it," says Detlef Koschny, working in ESA's SSA
August 10, 2008
Sorry for all who expected some mind-breaking news in July.
No, I haven't been on Mars, on Venus neither. Had friends here to show them around. Soon I'll give you more information about beautiful und horrible planet Venus
July 06, 2008 "Watch out, Mars! We'll come"
NASA and ESA representatives will meet in Paris these days to discuss the next step in the exploration of planet Mars. "Exploration is continuing at a steady space and future missions will integrate scientific payloads and technologies that will eventually serve the ultimate goal of carrying out a manned mission on Mars," ESA's President J. J. Dordain announced. "I will fight these intruders!" one could have heard the God Mars saying.
Read more about Mars and Eros in "Samantha on Mars"!
July 4, 2008 God Mars in Triumph
"Since there is no way to access the probability of another short circuit occurring, we are taking the most conservative approach, and treating the next sample ... as possibly our last", the NASA Phoenix mission chief scientist Peter Smith of the University of Arizona at Tuscon, said in a statement two days ago.
And the god Mars called his son Eros. Triumphantly he said: "See, son! Again, I succeeded in preventing these instruments from Earth to disclose my secrets."
Read more about Mars and Eros in "Samantha on Mars"! June 26, 2008
Scientists acknowledge Samantha's Story
"An asteroid of the size of Alaska slammed into Mars 4.4 billion years ago, creating a 70,000 trillion-kiloton blast that forever deformed the Rad Planet," says planetary scientist Francis Nimmo of the University of California-Santa Cruz, lead author of one of the studies in today's Nature journal. Thus he approves what Sammy told the god Mars when she visited the Red Planet. She said (check the story 'Samantha on Planet Mars'):
<"I talked about impacts of meteors on planet Mars. The power of an impact could be so great that the crust on the opposite side of the impact rose and thus was lifted. Sometimes the evalation could have been so great that the liquid interior could rise up to the top of the evalation." Mars had listened to Samantha's story about the texture of his planet. Tough he didn't understand all of it he became proud about the interest people have in his planet. "Didn't you say, son, nothing is worth here to draw Samantha's attention?" he asked his son Eros. "And now you learn about wonderful devastations that had happened here. Imagine this gorgeous scenery of and astroid's impact," Mars shouted. "A volcano comes into existence on the other side of my planet! A cleft opens as if a huge machete had hit the planet to make a wound gaping wide! And then, the depression fills with superhot magma from the interiour core! Too bad that all this happened before my time.">
If you, dear reader, are impressed about Samantha's knowledge about planet Mars, please read what she will unveil about planet Venus soon!
June 10, 2008
Phoenix supported by ESA
Landing on Mars seems to be one of the most difficult tasks any spacecraft can undertake. In the past, efforts to explain 23 failed landings have sometimes been hampered by a lack of datafrom atmospheric entry, descent, and landing phase. Less difficult it is for author Fritz Reichert in his story Samantha on Planet Mars. Go to Samantha on Mars
Phoenix sent pictures after a successful landing
Signals from Phoenix Mars Lander recorded by ESA's Mars Express orbiting the planet Mars were successfully received at ESA's Space Center in Darmstadt, Gemany. ESA congratrulated Nasa's colleagus on the hugely successful landing. "The Mars Express team welcomes a new friend in the neighborhood," daid Paolo Ferri, Head of the Solar and Planetary Mission Division at Darmstadt, Germany.
May 21, 2008
Brown Dwarf Star?
Two new exoplanets and an unknown object are the latest findings of the COROT mission.
COROT was launched atop the Soyus from the Baikanour cosmodrome on December 27, 2006. The spaceship is on an almost circular polar orbit between 527 and 552 miles above Earth’s surface to hunt planets orbiting other stars.
The new two planets are gas giants similar to planet Jupiter. But these giants are very close to their parent stars.
The third object COROT just discovered has a mass of about 20 times the mass of planet Jupiter. This mass isn’t great enough to start fusion in its core. Celestial bodies of this size cannot be seen, but these hypothetical objects have received a name: they are called Brown Dwarf Stars.
In my book “Dangerous Voyage to Alpha Centauri” the master unit of the spaceship C1 gave the following information to its occupant, Tim Turner:
“Radar has discovered a dark body approximately 5 percent the mass of Earth’s sun; it attracts the C1; our trajectory is directed to it; we have no energy to steer away from our present course; the light this massive object emits is in the far infrared; a human eye cannot see it.”
“Planet X,” Tim thought, “the planet of death. Its existence was only a theory, but here it is! Here is the little sister of our sun!”
Read in my book what happened to poor Tim Turner in his spaceship!
May 21, 2008
Watch the ISS above your home town
Spaceflight enthusiasts are in for a treat for the next few days as the International Space Station will be clearly visible in the night sky above North America from May 21 to 23. Highlighted in almost constant sunshine, the ISS will pass over from two to four times per night during this period. It is not very common to get such a clear view of the ISS across North America. Anyone who is interested in watching this spectacle can go to the ESA website in order to find out exactly when the ISS will be flying overhead your specific region.
April 25, 2008
ISS being pushed
ESA's Jules Verne ATV was used for the first time early this morning to raise the orbit of ISS. A 740-second burn of ATV's main engine lifted the altitude of the 280 tonne station by about 3 miles to a height of 214 miles above Earth's surface.
More re-boosts are scheduled for May 31, June 12, July 8, and August 6.
April 17, 2008
Water Ice below the surface of Mars
ESA's Mars Express radar sounder, Marsis, has looked beneath the martian surface and opened up the third dimension for planetary observation. The technique's success is prompting scientists to think of all the other places in the Solar System where they would like to use radar sounders, such as Jupiter's moon Europa. This moon is completely covered with frozen water. It is believed that beneath this icy crust liquid water would exist. Thus Marsis could also unveil Europa.
It is for sure, that a camera can only map a planet's surface. To retrieve information about the underground realm, planetary scientists in the past would have thought it necessary to land on the surface and start digging.
Marsis is built to map the distribution of liquid and solid water in the zupper portions of martian crust. If reservoirs of water are detected, it will help us to understand the hydrological, geoplogical, climatic, and possibly biological evolution of Mars.
"We have demonstrated that the polar caps at Mars are mostly water ice, and produced an inventory so we know exactly how much water there is," says Roberto Oresei, Marsis Deputy Principal Investigator from Italy.
In my book Dangerous Voyage to Alpha Centauri Tim Turner detected a planet. He check the surface of this planet and whats below. But his radar didn't work.
"The mighty ionosphere of this planet prevents any radio contact with the ET's It also explains why I cannot make out the surface of this planet with radfar. It gets reflected from the ionosphere as if hitting a mirror," he said.
April 15, 2008:
Cassini's Mission Extended
The operations of the Cassini spacecraft have been extended by two more years. The historic mission's stunning discoveries and images have been revolutionized our knowledge of Saturn and its moons. Originally Cassini's mission was scheduled to end in July 2008. Cassini's observations of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, have given scientists a glimpse of what Earth might have been like before life evolved. They now believe Titan possesses many parallels to Earth including lakes, rivers, channels, dunes, rain, snow, clouds, mountains and possibly volcanoes.
"When we designed the original tour, we really didn't know what we would find, espercially at Titan," said Dennis Matson, the JPL Cassini project scientist. "This extended tour is responding to these new discoveries and giving us a chance to look for more.
Unlike Earth, Titan's lakes, rivers and rain are composed of methane and ethane, and temperatures reach about -300 F. Although Titan's dense atmosphere limits viewing its surface, Cassini's high-resolution radar coverage and imaging by the infrared spectrometer have given scientists a better look.
April 7, 2008:
ATV has docked at Zvedza four days ago on April 3
you might wonder why I have missed to describe the complete docking process of Jules Verne ATV to the ISS. Here's the simple explanation: I moved my home. Whenever you moved, you know from the thousand things you need 999 are at hand, the last one is missing, somewhere it might be. Sorry for the delay. But soon I will continue my newsletters.
March 19, 2008:
Jules Verne ATV reaches 'parking' orbit
Jules Verne, Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle, has reached a parking position about 1.400 miles ahead of the ISS. Jules Verne will wait for the completion of Endeavour Space Shuttle mission before proceeding with the first of two rendevous demonstrations of docking to the ISS.
Only two boosts late last night took the ATV to its parking orbit at the same orbital altitude as the ISS. In the course of this manoevre ATV passed just 21 miles underneath the International Space Station.
Three smaller boosts in the course of the morning were used to adjust the spacecraft's orbit, with Jule Verne ATV finally arriving at the parking position.
Jules Verne will remain in the parking orbit until March 27. The spacecraft will then be taken to a position ready to perform the two rendevous demonstrations set for March 29 and 31.
Jule Verne is scheduled to dock with the ISS on April 3.
March 6, 2008:
Traffic Jam in Space
The lift-off of an Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) for the International Space Station is scheduled by the European Space Agency for March 8.
But NASA's space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to lift-off for the ISS two days later an March 11.
On the other hand Russia's Progress M-63 is already docked with the ISS since February 7 for two months until April 7.
As only two vessels can dock with the ISS at the same time, ESA's ATV has to wait.
Unmanned ATVs will start for the ISS from French space center at Kourou in French Guayana. This is the first ATV constructed in Europe and it will transport up to 10 tons of freight. The French named it after the sf-writer Jules Verne. When it will arrive close to the ISS it will stay in a 'holiday' orbit in secure distance below the ISS. There it will undergo some manouevres to demonstrate its cababilities.
Around March 18, it will leave this orbit and enter a 'loitering' orbit, about 1300 miles in front of the ISS. From this position Jules Verne could detect space trash or micro-meteorites that could hit the ISS. Thus an ATV could help to avoid collisions in future.
After space-shuttle Endeacour has finished delivering Japan's Kibo science module and Canada's new Special Purpose Manipulator and has undocked on March 24, Jules Verne will undergo two 'demo' rendevous with ISS an March 29 and 31.
If all goes well, Jules Verne will dock at the ISS on April 3 and start to deliver its payload. Then it will be filled with trash the crew of the ISS has produced. Thereafter it will undock an burn in the Earth's atmosphere.
February 20, 2008:
The world was happy watching space shuttle Atlantis return after a most successful mission at the ISS.
There have been serious doubts about its safe return:
- Will the insulatation protect the crew from heat at the re-entry into Earth's atmosphere?
- Would debris from our military satellite hit the space shuttle?
What's the story about the spy-satellite? It went out of control in December 2006 and was due to enter the atmosphere in the narrow time-window of the return of Atlantis.
Well, we know now, everything went well. Atlantis touched ground in Florida some few hours before the satellite disintegrated.
But more than this. Our military had a great idea: "Let's play Star Wars,' they said. "Let's try to destroy our spy satellite as if it were an intercontinental missile of one of these rogue states aimed at our country."
The problem was, we had never tried to destroy an incoming intercontinental missile, because there was none coming in. The order came to USS Lake Erie cruising in the Northern Pacific Ocean to modify one of its tactical Standard Missile-3 and fire it to our incoming spy-satellite before it would enter the atmosphere and glow as a wishing star.
"But don't don't use nuclear weapons. According the treaty of 1967 we promised not to use nukes in space," it was said.
This meant to aim at a tiny van orbiting Earth at a speed of about 16.000 miles per hour, hit the tank of that van-large spy-satellite and disperse its dangerous load of hydrazine.
What shall I tell you? The crew aboard the USS Lake Erie made it.
We're proud of you guys! You proved that we can successfully fight Star Wars.
February 11, 2008:
Space Sickness hit Astronaut
Space shattle Atlantis carried Hans Schlegel (56) to the ISS to install ESA's module Columbus to the International Space Station. Hans got sick from space sickness and US Stanley Love did the job.
What's space sickness?
350 million years ago animals started to conquer Earth's land surface. Living on solid ground meant, they would need stranger bones and muscles.
Swimming in the ocean or lying in a bath-tub you feel weightless. The pull of Earth's gravity is balanced by the buoyancy of the water. You have lost your weight - as long as you are in the water. But you recognize that you still weigh as much as before when you stand on solid ground again. On solid ground our muscles are strong enough to lift our heads above ground and our bones are so strong that we cannot be squeezed like a lemon by Earth's gravity.
The ISS orbits Earth just about 210 miles above sea-level. Up there Earth's pull is only little less than on ground. Do you remember when riding a caroussel there was a constant force that drove you to the outside of rotation? Orbiting Earth the pull from Earth is in perfect balance with the force caused by orbiting our home planet. That's why people in the ISS feel weightless, with other words: they live in zero-g.
All astronauts entering a spaceship which is orbiting Earth have problems to adopt to weightlessness. Some have more, some less difficulties. They suffer from headaches to vertigo and from nausea, some even from prolonged vomitting. After 3 days their bodies have adapted to zero-g and space sickness is gone.
Hans Schlegel recovered already after one day and could work outside the ISS for almost eight hours the next day.
More about living in zero-g soon
February 7, 2008:
Space Shuttle Atlantis took its Chance
There was a hole in the clouds above Kennedy Space Center at 2:46 ET. Atlantis took its chance. Atlantis Commander Stephen Frick was right when he said: "Looks like today gauges are working great."
Troublesome gauges in the fuel tank foiled two tries of lift-offs in December. These gauges warn that the fuel level is dropping into danger zone. If the fuel level falls below and the shuttle engines are not shut down, the engines could rip apart the spaceship.
As cargo Atlantis is carrying Europe's Columbus module to the ISS. Columbus is Europe's scientific lab waiting to be sent to ISS since 2002. The officials of the European Space Agency are happy that the time of delay is over. With Columbus attached to ISS European Scientists will be allowed to work independently from NASA and the Russian Agency in the ISS.
It will be followed in March, when an Ariqane 5 launcher will lift 'Jule Verne' to the ISS. 'Jules Verne' is a freighter, the first of a series of Automatic Transfer Vehicles.
January 30, 2008:
It took NASA more than two weeks to inform the public about its mission to Mercury. So far, the innermost planet Mercury is the least well known planet of our solar system. Only less than the half of its surface had been closely seen 30 years ago by NASA's Mariner 10.
Why did it take NASA so long, to inform the public, what Messenger revealed after its alomost four year long flight? Why this secret-mongering? Was there another blow-out?
Well, today NASA published some news. We were informed about the Caloris Planitia. The great news is that this basin doesn't measure 800 miles but 960 miles in diameter. Great! That really is something.
If YOU want to learn more about this planet, read the story about twelve-year old Samantha visiting planet Mercury. Click here: On Mercury - A Story
January 29, 2008:
Did you notice the fly-by?
Probably we all didn't see the asteroid 2007 TU24 when it dashed past Earth as close as lunar distance. The size of it was up to 2.000 feet which means, it could have destroyed our civilization if this vagabond would have hit Earth.
As its name says, it was first seen in October 2007. Even if it would have been seen before, no one knew how to divert it successfully from its course if it had the name Earth on it for a final impact.
"People worry about terrorism, with good reason," author William Burrow wrote, "but there are bigger threats."
And certainly a bigger threat is the pending danger we ought to have from a killer asteroid from space.
In a few hours from now on, exactly at 8:04 PM Middle European Time on January 14,2008, NASA's spacecraft Messenger will fly by at the Sun's closest planet, at Mercury.
"So, what?" you might say. "NASA's Mariner 10 took some photos in 1974 and 1975. What's so exiting, when Messenger re-visits the innermost planet?"
Indeed, we know all planets and our spacecrafts have orbited even the outermost planet, but not the innermost one, not Mercury. In 1974 and 1975 Mariner explored from Mercury only less than 50 % of the planet's surface. In fact, the innermost planet is the only one, we haven't surveyed yet completely.
"Why that? Why is it so difficult to orbit Mercury? Just fire away a probe from earth and let it approch Mercury. You even do not need any energy. Our Sun will attract the probe due to his gravitational power. Why this delay of 30 years?"
When you throw something out of your speeding car (what you should not do) you would notice, that it will not fall down right where you dropped it. It will rather fly a little space with the car before friction against the air will reduce its speed and make it touch the ground. Our Earth is orbiting the sun with 18 miles per second. And as there is no air in space to reduce the speed of the spacecraft you fired away, it weill rather fly and fly and fly with us around the sun and would never come close to Mercury.
To reach Mercury we rather have to reduce the probe's speed. This means, we need lots of energy to fly to Mercury.
Another problem is the sun's enormous gravitational force on our spacecraft when it has arrived the innermost planet Mercury. At the outer planets this force doesn't play such a dominant role as it does in the sun's vicinity.
"Can't we explore the planet Mercury with telescopes from earth?"
Of course, we did so. Other than planet Venus Mercury doesn't have an atmosphere. Some hydrogen, helium, and sodium atoms form its exospere which doesn't prevent us from locking at craters and curiously long stretching walls. Temperatures around 800 F at daytime and minus 270 F at night do not invite to settle on Mercury. That's all our telescopes could have found so far.
But we want to know, why its crust of silicon is rather thin and why Mercury has a huge core of iron.
We also are eager to find out, why there is no volcanism on Mercury, though a rather strong magnetic field seems to exist.
"I see, you have unanswered questions, and I have to pay with my taxes to answer them. Have you ever thought to save money and use Hubble Space Telescope to survey Mercury?"
Hubble cannot turn its mirror towards Mercury. This planet is so close to our sun that inevitably sun rays would hit the mirror and destroy the sensitive interior of its telescope which was constructed to make very faint light visible.
In your question I notice some doubt about the money spent to learn about Mercury's iron core. Look! Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are the inner planets of our solar system. About 4,3 billion years ago they formed from more or less the same material. And still Mars is cold and not suitable for life, earth is brimful of life, Venus is hot as hell and Mercury isn't a place to live on.
Why these differences? Is our good old earth threatened to become as cold as Mars, or as hot as Venus, or as inhospitable as Mercury. We just have to know the reasons, why these four planets are so different. Maybe we can do something to keep our planet as friendly and hospitable for life as it still is.
The radar experiment works because every time a radar wave crosses the boundary between different substances, it generates an echo that the orbiter detects. "We have demonstrated that the polar capsat Mars are mostly water ice, and produced an inventory
In my next newsletter you can read more about Mercury
and read my storyabout
Sammy, the little girl that met the Greek god Mercury