Space shuttle Atlantis rocketed into orbit Monday with six astronauts and a full load of spare parts for the International Space Station.
The supply run should keep the space station humming for years to come, and the shuttle astronauts in space through Thanksgiving.
Atlantis shot into a partly cloudy afternoon sky, to the delight of about 100 Twittering space enthusiasts who won front-row seats. It was NASA’s first launch “tweetup,” and the invitees splashed news — mostly tweeting “wow” about the liftoff — over countless cellphones and computers.
One of the best annual meteor showers will peak in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, and for some skywatchers the show could be quite impressive.
The best seats are in Asia, but North American observers should be treated to an above average performance of the Leonid meteor shower, weather permitting. The trick for all observers is to head outside in the wee hours of the morning – between 1 a.m. and dawn – regardless where you live.
The Leonids put on a solid show every year, if skies are clear and moonlight does not interfere. This year the moon is near its new phase, and not a factor. For anyone in the Northern Hemisphere with dark skies, away from urban and suburban lighting, the show should be worth getting up early to see.
Track the exciting countdown to the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 mission beginning at 9:30 a.m. EST on Nov. 16. Liftoff is scheduled for 2:28 p.m. Blogger Steve Siceloff will deliver live updates from the Firing Room inside the Launch Control Center as the clocks tick backward to launch.
Spacecraft that crashed into the moon last month kicked up a relatively small plume. But scientists have confirmed the debris contained water — 25 gallons of it — making lunar exploration exciting again.
The lunar dud for space enthusiasts has become a watershed event for NASA.
Experts have long suspected there was water on the moon. So the thrilling discovery announced Friday sent a ripple of hope for a future astronaut outpost in a place that has always seemed barren and inhospitable.
“We found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount,” Anthony Colaprete, lead scientist for the mission, told reporters as he held up a white water bucket for emphasis.
He said the 25 gallons of water the lunar crash kicked up was only what scientists could see from the plumes of the impact.
NASA Announces Discovery Of Lunar Ice Field Nov 13 2009
Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator from NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California:
Scientists have long suspected that permanently shadowed craters at the south pole of the moon could be cold enough to sustain water frozen at the surface and have been analyzing a mile-high plume of debris kicked up by the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite.
(Water has already been detected on the moon by a NASA-built instrument on board India’s now defunct Chandrayaan-1 probe and other spacecraft, though it was in very small amounts and bound to the dirt and dust of the lunar surface)
NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 for extended missions on the lunar surface.
Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn’t find just a little bit, we found a significant amount
Scientists have found “significant” amounts of water in a crater at the moon’s south pole, a major discovery that will dramatically revise the characterization of the moon as a dead world and likely make it a more attractive destination for future human space missions.
“The moon is alive,” declared Anthony Colaprete, the chief scientist for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission.
That mission used a rocket Oct. 9 to punch a hole about 100 feet across in the moon’s surface, then measured about 25 gallons of water in the form of vapor and ice. While that’s not even enough to swim in, it could indicate sufficient water in permanently shaded craters at the poles for future astronauts to live off the land.
The new Russian Mini-Research Module 2, also known as Poisk, docked to the space-facing port of the Zvezda service module of the International Space Station on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 10:41 a.m. EST. It began its trip to the station when it was launched aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 10.
Poisk is a Russian term that translates to search, seek and explore. It will provide an additional docking port for visiting Russian spacecraft and will serve as an extra airlock for spacewalkers wearing Russian Orlan spacesuits.
Poisk joined a Russian Progress resupply vehicle and two Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station.
NASA cleared the space shuttle Atlantis to launch toward the International Space Station Monday on a delivery mission.
Atlantis is set to lift off at 2:28 p.m. EST (1928 GMT) on Nov. 16 at from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. to carry six astronauts and two cases of large spare parts to the station.
The weather outlook is optimistic for Monday, with a 90 percent chance of clear skies predicted.
“Overall Monday is looking good so hopefully we’ll go off on Monday,” weather officer Kathy Winters said during a Saturday briefing.
An Atlas V unmanned rocket slated to launch from the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Saturday stood down at the last minute for crews to investigate a power glitch. The cancellation frees up the schedule for Atlantis to proceed as planned, and Atlas managers will aim to try again to launch after Atlantis lifts off.
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are aiming to cooperate on all manner of robotic orbiters, landers and exploration devices for a future trip to Mars.
Specifically, NASA and ESA recently agreed to consider the establishment of a new joint initiative to define and implement their scientific, programmatic, and technological goals for the exploration of Mars. The program would focus on several launch opportunities with landers and orbiters conducting astrobiological, geological, geophysical, climatological, and other high-priority investigations and aiming at returning samples from Mars in the mid-2020s.