Posts tagged news conference

Happy Holidays from orbit17.com – All the best to you and yours :)

Geminid shower in California

Geminid meteor pierces the night sky over California’s Mojave Desert Credit: Wally Pacholka, TWAN

Like a silver spear cast from the heavens, the bright streak of a Geminid meteor pierces the night sky over California’s Mojave Desert during the annual meteor shower’s 2009 peak.

Geminids are slower than other shooting stars and are known to make beautiful long arcs across the sky. This could be because they’re born of debris from a dormant comet and so are made mostly of hard, sun-baked rock that takes longer to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, experts suggest.

Geminid Meteor Shower: Rising Star

The Geminids have been historically overlooked, simply because of their timing so close to the busy holiday season and during frigid winter nights, astronomers say.

But that’s beginning to change, thanks to the Geminids’ rising intensity over the past few decades.

In fact, for many astronomers, the December meteors have now dethroned the more popular August Perseid meteor shower as the shooting star event of the year.

“It may come as a surprise to many, but the Geminids are currently richer and are brighter on average,” said Anthony Cook, astronomy observer at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

Why the sudden illumination?

Earth is plowing deeper every year into an ancient stream of rocky debris left behind by a mysterious 3.1-mile-wide (5-kilometer-wide) object that orbits the inner solar system, he said.

When Earth’s atmosphere crosses paths with that debris cloud, the rocks are superheated and burn out—and new Geminids are born.

Geminids’ Mystery Parent

The Geminid meteors all appear to be chips off a mysterious rocky object called 3200 Phaethon.

Other meteor showers come from material shed by melting comets—which are massive chunks of dirty ice and rock—as they pass close to the sun. (See asteroid and comet pictures.)

But no one knows for sure whether the Geminids’ parent object, first identified in 1983, is an asteroid or the core of an ancient comet that simply sputtered out.

Recent observations of Phaethon, though, suggest it’s a nearly dormant comet, and the Geminids’ parent is now officially classified as such by NASA.

The research revealed that Phaethon is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun, according to NASA.

The shooting stars’ rocky, hard exterior—as well as the fact that they, unprotected by ice, get baked by the sun—may help explain why Geminids are slower and last longer in the sky than other shooting stars, said Peter Brown, a meteor expert at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

“They have the ability to penetrate deeper into Earth’s atmosphere,” Brown said, “and burn up at much lower altitudes than meteors associated with the Perseids and Leonids.”

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Astronauts Get Two Christmases in Space – Seasons Greetings from Orbit 17!

Each year, the crew gets to choose when to hold their official holiday feast, during which they gather to share special delicacies beyond the scope of their normal daily rations.

Christmas comes twice to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station this year as the multi-nation crew celebrates the traditional Dec. 25 holiday as well as Russian Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7.

Current station commander Jeff Williams of NASA is leading a crew of five, including Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Oleg Kotov, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, and American spaceflyer Timothy “T.J.” Creamer.

Kotov, Noguchi and Creamer arrived just recently, docking at the station aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft on Tuesday.

“We’re privileged this time of year to be in this unique place looking back at our planet,” Williams said in a video beamed down from the orbiting outpost. “It’s a time for us to be thinking about our family and friends… It’s also a time to look forward to the future year, finishing the assembly of the International Space Station.”

The rest here…

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Obama Gives NASA Bigger Budget, Backs New Rocket, Cancels Ares 1

Ares Shuttle comparisons

President Barack Obama will ask Congress next year to fund a new heavy-lift launcher to take humans to the moon, asteroids, and the moons of Mars, ScienceInsider has learned. The president chose the new direction for the U.S. human space flight program Wednesday at a White House meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, according to officials familiar with the discussion. NASA would receive an additional $1 billion in 2011 both to get the new launcher on track and to bolster the agency’s fleet of robotic Earth-monitoring spacecraft.

The current NASA plan for human exploration is built around the $3.5 billion Constellation program, which would provide a way to get humans to the space station and beyond. But its initial launcher, Ares 1, has faced a string of cost and technical problems, and it was excluded from several options for future space flight put forth earlier this year by an outside panel chaired by retired aerospace executive Norman Augustine. Although that panel suggested a $3 billion boost to NASA’s $18.7-billion-a-year budget in order to take a firm next step in human space flight, Obama’s support for a $1 billion bump next year represents a major coup for the agency given the ballooning deficit and the continuing recession. And NASA just won a $1 billion boost from Congress for 2010 in a bill signed by the president.

Continue reading the report here…

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NASA, Google offer more precise emissions tracking

COPENHAGEN — The question is a potential deal-killer: If nations ever agree to slash greenhouse gas emissions, how will the world know if they live up to their pledges?

The answer is in space, experts say — both outer space and cyberspace.

NASA, the wonder agency of the 1960s, and Google, the go-to company of the early 21st Century, are trying to give the world the ability to monitor both the carbon dioxide pollution and the levels of forest destruction that contribute to global warming.

“Just having the thing flying around there imaging would just about make everybody act differently,” said professor Steve Pacala, director of the Princeton Environmental Institute. “The idea that you could pull a fast one would be different.”

Google, meanwhile, has rolled out a new program call Earth Engine which essentially is a massive storehouse for satellite and other data that forest countries will be able to access for free by the time of the next U.N. climate conference in Mexico next year.

Deforestation is the biggest climate change culprit in much of the developing world, and industrial countries plan to pay billions of dollars to poor countries to stop deforestation. The Google system could help everyone keep track of what forests are saved.

The rest of the news article here…

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NASA maps Mercury, plans for 2011 orbit extravaganza

NASA’s Mercury planet exploration team this week said they have created critical tool for the first orbital observations of the planet – a global map of Mercury that will help scientists pinpoint craters, faults, and other features that will be essential for the space agency’s extensive 2011 mission.

That’s when NASA’s satellite MESSENGER (The Mercury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, or MESSENGER) will become the first spacecraft to actually orbit Mercury — about 730 times — beaming back pictures and never-before-available pictures and information on the planet. To get into its proper orbit, MESSENGER has taken the scenic route through the solar system, including one flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and three flybys of Mercury.

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Britain is to set up a dedicated agency to direct its space policy

Esa spacecraft

Having a national agency will not change the relationship with Esa

The new organisation is expected to have a budget and will represent the UK in all its dealings with international partners.

The announcement, made by the Science Minister Lord Drayson, follows a 12-week consultation held with academia, industry and government departments.

Britain spends about £270m a year on space, most of it via its membership of the European Space Agency (Esa).

But it also has a highly successful industry which currently contributes some £6.5bn a year to the UK economy.

“We have a real success story in our space research and space industry, and we need to make sure we make the most of it,” Lord Drayson told BBC News.

The rest here…

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NASA launches $4.5 billion dollar information technology consolidation project

NASA Brian Dunbar

NASA’s Brian Dunbar says the agency transferred nearly 1.4 petabytes of data from its Web sites in 2008.

NASA kicked off a grand plan on Dec. 4 to transform the way it manages information technology by issuing the first of five contracts totaling $4.5 billion that it plans to release during the next few months.

According to procurement documents for the Web Enterprises Services and Technology contract, NASA will buy services to create, maintain and manage public Web sites, primarily the agency’s main site, nasa.gov. The agency also plans to purchase other Web services, including content management, search engines, and collaborative tools such as blogs and wikis.

The WEST contract is one of five pacts that make up the Infrastructure Integration Program (I3P), which NASA will use to consolidate the IT work now performed under more than 20 contracts agencywide. Deborah Diaz, formerly deputy chief information officer at the Patent and Trademark Office, oversees I3P.

The rest of the article can be found here…

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The Totalities of Copenhagen

‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Is it not obvious that the vision of apocalypse as it was revealed to Saint John of Patmos was, in fact, global warming?

Here’s a partial rundown of some of the ills seriously attributed to climate change: prostitution in the Philippines (along with greater rates of HIV infection); higher suicide rates in Italy; the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” battle in Somalia; an increase in strokes and heart disease in China; wars in the Middle East; a larger pool of potential recruits to terrorism; harm to indigenous peoples and “biocultural diversity.”

All this, of course, on top of the Maldives sinking under the waves, millions of climate refugees, a half-dozen Katrina-type events every year and so on and on—a long parade of horrors animating the policy ambitions of the politicians, scientists, climate mandarins and entrepreneurs now gathered at a U.N. summit in Copenhagen. Never mind that none of these scenarios has any basis in some kind of observable reality (sea levels around the Maldives have been stable for decades), or that the chain of causation linking climate change to sundry disasters is usually of a meaningless six-degrees-of-separation variety.

Still, the really interesting question is less about the facts than it is about the psychology. Last week, I suggested that funding flows had much to do with climate alarmism. But deeper things are at work as well.

Full article here…

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Earth much more sensitive to global warming than thought

Factory smoke global warming cause

Factory smoke Photo: MARTIN POPE

A new study suggests bigger cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions may be needed to prevent drastic long term climate change.

The evidence was obtained by scientists looking back three million years to the Pliocene epoch, when global temperatures were 5.4F (3C) to 9F (5C) higher than they are today.

They found that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere at the time should not have produced such a warm world.

Climate models used to predict modern levels of man-made global warming, temperatures in the mid-Pliocene should have been lower.

The findings suggest the Earth’s temperature may be 30 per cent to 50 per cent more sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide than experts have assumed.

The discrepancy can be explained by long term changes in vegetation and ice cover.

Ice reflects solar radiation back into space and therefore helps to prevent the Earth heating up. When ice melts and disappears this “albedo” effect is lessened, contributing to a rise in temperature.

Vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide but also keeps the Earth warm by preventing heat reflection.

The scientists compared temperature reconstructions from sediments in the ocean floor with a global climate simulation model which aimed to map climate three million years ago.

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New NASA Sky Mapper heads to launch pad

NASA’s new asteroid-hunting spacecraft will roll out to the pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Friday in preparation for launch next month.

The spacecraft is due to launch Dec. 9 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket.

Known as the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the spacecraft will spend the next 10 months circling the Earth over the poles, scanning the complete sky at infrared wavelengths to uncover hidden cosmic objects, including cool stars, dark asteroids and luminous galaxies.

“You can kind of think of it as the Google Map of the universe,” said Amy Mainzer, NASA’s deputy project scientist for WISE, explaining that the instrument will take repeated exposures of the same swath of sky, creating overlapping images as the telescope progresses through its sky scan. The stars and galaxies will appear fixed on the sky in each exposure, but asteroids will move over short amounts of time.

“WISE is going to be finding about 100,000 new asteroids in the main asteroid belt,” Mainzer said during a Nov. 17 news conference at NASA headquarters here. “And we expect it’s going to find several hundred new asteroids that get close to Earth orbits. These are asteroids and comets whose orbits take them close to Earth’s orbit.”

Read the rest of the article at www.space.com

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