• 2010 nasa special
    a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses Earth's southern Hemisphere. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow crosses the South Pacific Ocean where it makes no landfall except for Mangaia (Cook Islands) and Easter Island (Isla de Pascua).

NASA discovers new black hole in Milky Way

NASA's Swift satellite has found evidence of the presence of a previously unknown stellar-mass black hole in our Milky Way galaxy.
Named Swift J1745-26 after the coordinates of its sky position, the nova is located a few degrees from the centre of our galaxy towards the constellation Sagittarius,

NASA Releases Interactive Space Communications Mobile Game App

Moffett Field, California - Just in time for World Space Week, NASA has released a new mobile application that challenges gamers to take on the role of a space communications network manager and puts them in charge of building a communications network to support scientific missions.

The educational application, "Space Communications and Navigation: NetworKing," was developed at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., for the iPad and iPhone. NetworKing provides an interactive, 3-D experience with an insider's perspective into how mission controllers and scientists communicate with spacecraft and satellites using the space, deep space and near Earth networks.

"This game introduces the complex world of space communications to gamers," said Barbara Adde, policy and strategic communications director for the Space Communications and Navigation Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It gives players the opportunity to enjoy a challenging game while absorbing the basic concepts of space communications. The game provides an engaging way to increase interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and opens minds to potential careers in these fields."

NetworKing allows players to build increasingly large and complex communication networks to support client satellites conducting scientific missions. Players who upgrade their communication networks can acquire more complex clients, such as the International Space Station and NASA's Hubble and Kepler space telescopes.

By providing insight into the complex world of communications between astronauts, mission controllers, scientists and satellites in real mission scenarios, the game is not only challenging, but also entertaining.

In addition to the mobile application, NetworKing also is available free on the NASA 3-D Resources website. Players can access the game on their web browsers or it can be downloaded and run on PC or Macintosh operating systems.

For links to download the app, download the game or play in a web browser, visit:

SpaceX good for NASA, not firm

A private rocket successfully sent a capsule full of cargo zipping toward the International Space Station in a first of its kind delivery for NASA, but couldn't deliver on job No. 2: putting a commercial satellite into the correct orbit. 

One of nine engines on Space X company's Falcon 9 rocket failed Sunday 79 seconds after launch because of a pressure loss. The engine didn't explode, but it did start a series of events that meant another company's private satellite is not in the place it is needed. 

The main mission for the Falcon launch _ delivering half a ton of science and food supplies toward the space station _ is still on track with a docking of the cargo-laden Dragon capsule scheduled for Wednesday. SpaceX on Monday said the ship's flight computer calculated a new path to the station for the capsule. It is the first of a dozen supply runs under a mega-contract with NASA. 

“Falcon 9 did exactly what it was designed to do,'' the California based SpaceX said. “Like the Saturn V, which experienced engine loss on two flights, Falcon 9 is designed to handle an engine out situation and still complete its mission.''
But not all of its mission. 

The original plan was for Falcon to fire its second stage engines after Dragon left and then deploy an industrial communications satellite into orbit for Orbcomm of Dulles, Virginia.
Because this is a new resupply ship for the space station, NASA and its international partners had set detailed safety rules in advance for Falcon, even though the engine failure was far from the station. And those rules prevent SpaceX from firing its second stage engines, Orbcomm said in a statement.
... contd.

Socializing Science With Smartphones in Space

One may think that participation with the International Space Station would be restricted to an exclusive club of high ranking officials and agencies. In actuality, students, teachers and commercial companies have also been taking advantage of the station's unique environment for years. One of those commercial companies, Houston-based Odyssey Space Research, plans to bring the experience to the rest of us via our mobile devices!

International Space Station National Laboratory partner NanoRacks LLC has a collaboration with Odyssey and Apple. This relationship enabled Odyssey to send two iPhone 4's to the space station as part of the STS-135 mission on July 8, 2011. These phones are just like the ones you can find at the store, but with certain alterations to meet NASA flight certification standards. It took less than a year to make the necessary changes and launch the devices to the station.

The iPhone 4 was selected for its mix of features, according to Odyssey CEO Brian Rishikof. "It had a three-axis gyro, and accelerometer, a high resolution camera and screen, and the means to manipulate the image. We had done some projects in the past that used all those features, but of course it was big, dedicated equipment and suddenly here it is in this small little package," said Rishikof.

The smartphones use the same software as their Earth counterparts and Odyssey used standard tools to develop a new app called SpaceLab for iOS, which will enable the planned research aboard the station. The app is also available for people to download to their own devices.

These devices are part of an investigation called NanoRacks Smartphone, which looks at how the phones will operate in space. The hope is to use the compact hardware in future research studies and to augment crew performance and productivity in operational activities. Currently there are four separate experiments that will run on the smartphones via SpaceLab for iOS.

The first study is Limb Tracker, a navigation experiment using photos of the Earth and image overlay manipulation to match the horizon to an arc to give an estimate of altitude and off-axis angles. Next is the Sensor Calibration or Sensor Cal experiment, which uses reference photos and the three-axis gyro and accelerometer for calibration to improve measurement accuracy. The State Acquisition or State Acq experiment also uses photos, but this time to estimate spacecraft orbital parameters. After the first three investigations are complete, the Lifecycle Flight Instrumentation or LFI experiment will operate to track the impact of radiation on the phones. To do this, the devices will monitor radiation-induced single bit upsets, which are unintended changes in memory location values.

One of the other goals in sending the phones to the space station is to engage the public. The SpaceLab for iOS app for users on the ground is identical to the software that was downloaded onto the space devices prior to launch. 

According to Rishikof, there is a setting in the application that indicates if the equipment is in microgravity or not. The software operates differently to accommodate the presence of gravity. "There are 200 million devices that run the operating system and could potentially run the application," said Rishikof. "Which means there are 200 million users out there that could get a sense of what it does; a sense of what an experiment in space might look like; a sense of participation."

The investigation is planned to run on the space station in the fall of 2011. The phones are not intended to have the same leisure appeal as they do on Earth, however, given the lack of iTunes, games and Internet or roaming connectivity. "People have asked me if we were loading games on the phones for the crew. No, we did not want them to be distracted, though certainly it would have been fun!" said Rishikof.

Once the investigation completes, the smartphones will return to Earth at the next opportunity. Scientists will then analyze the stored data to better understand how the devices can be used for future research on the space station and how the phones react to the space environment.

Rishikof hopes to be able to share some of the space data with SpaceLab for iOS app users, as well. "We do not have a monopoly on good ideas and hope users will suggest new and compelling things to add," commented Rishikof. "It is not a game, there's no leveling or challenges, the objective is to get data. It really just provides a way to see what's going on and while we don’t expect tons of downloads, we do expect a lot of interest. This would create an unusual opportunity for the entire world to get a look at some space data and explore it on their handheld device."

The NanoRacks Smartphone investigation is not the only phone-related study to launch to the space station with STS-135. The Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites or SPHERES, which has been aboard station since 2006, will also use smartphones to enhance the satellites' capabilities. While the two studies use different hardware, the overall capabilities of these smartphones offer bigger returns for research using a smaller package.

by Jessica Nimon
International Space Station Program Science Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity Begins Study of Martian Crater

Opportunity at work examining 'Tisdale 2,' 

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its front hazard-avoidance camera to take this picture showing the rover's arm extended toward a light-toned rock, "Tisdale 2," during the 2,695th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Aug. 23, 2011). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Approaching 'Tisdale 2' Rock on Rim of Endeavour Crater, Sol 2690 

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take this picture showing a light-toned rock, "Tisdale 2," during the 2,690th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Aug. 18, 2011). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
PASADENA, Calif. -- The initial work of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity at its new location on Mars shows surface compositional differences from anything the robot has studied in its first 7.5 years of exploration. 

Opportunity arrived three weeks ago at the rim of a 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater named Endeavour. The first rock it examined is flat-topped and about the size of a footstool. It was apparently excavated by an impact that dug a crater the size of a tennis court into the crater's rim. The rock was informally named "Tisdale 2." 

"This is different from any rock ever seen on Mars," said Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "It has a composition similar to some volcanic rocks, but there's much more zinc and bromine than we've typically seen. We are getting confirmation that reaching Endeavour really has given us the equivalent of a second landing site for Opportunity." 

The diversity of fragments in Tisdale 2 could be a prelude to other minerals Opportunity might find at Endeavour. In the past two weeks, researchers have used an instrument on the rover's robotic arm to identify elements at several spots on Tisdale 2. Scientists have also examined the rock using the rover's microscopic imager and multiple filters of its panoramic camera. 

Observations by Mars orbiters suggest that rock exposures on Endeavor's rim date from early in Martian history and include clay minerals that form in less-acidic wet conditions, possibly more favorable for life. Discontinuous ridges are all that remains of the ancient crater's rim. The ridge at the section of the rim where Opportunity arrived is named "Cape York." A gap between Cape York and the next rim fragment to the south is called "Botany Bay." 

"On the final traverses to Cape York, we saw ragged outcrops at Botany Bay unlike anything Opportunity has seen so far, and a bench around the edge of Cape York looks like sedimentary rock that's been cut and filled with veins of material possibly delivered by water," said Ray Arvidson, the rover's deputy principal investigator at Washington University in St. Louis. "We made an explicit decision to examine ancient rocks of Cape York first." 

The science team selected Endeavor as Opportunity's long-term destination after the rover climbed out of Victoria crater three years ago this week. The mission spent two years studying Victoria, which is about one twenty-fifth as wide as Endeavor. Layers of bedrock exposed at Victoria and other locations Opportunity has visited share a sulfate-rich composition linked to an ancient era when acidic water was present. Opportunity drove about 13 miles (21 kilometers) from Victoria to reach Endeavor. It has driven 20.8 miles (33.5 kilometers) since landing on Mars. 

"We have a very senior rover in good health for having already worked 30 times longer than planned," said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "However, at any time, we could lose a critical component on an essential rover system, and the mission would be over. Or, we might still be using this rover's capabilities beneficially for years. There are miles of exciting geology to explore at Endeavour crater." 

Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed three-month prime missions in April 2004 and continued working for years of extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit ended communications in March 2010. 

"This is like having a brand new landing site for our veteran rover," said Dave Lavery, program executive for NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It is a remarkable bonus that comes from being able to rove on Mars with well-built hardware that lasts." 

NASA will launch its next-generation Mars rover, Curiosity, between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. It will land on Mars in August 2012. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more about Opportunity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html . You can also follow the mission on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/marsrovers .
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Ophir Chasma

Ophir Chasma, Mars 

During its examination of Mars, the Viking 1 spacecraft returned images of Valles Marineris, a huge canyon system 5,000 km, or about 3,106 miles, long, whose connected chasma or valleys may have formed from a combination of erosional collapse and structural activity. This synthetic oblique view shows Ophir Chasma, the northern most one of the connected valleys of Valles Marineris. For scale, the large impact crater in lower right corner is about 18.5 miles, or 30 km, wide.

Ophir Chasma is a large west-northwest-trending trough about 62 miles, or 100 km, wide. The Chasma is bordered by high-walled cliffs, most likely faults, that show spur-and-gully morphology and smooth sections. The walls have been dissected by landslides forming reentrants. The volume of the landslide debris is more than 1,000 times greater than that from the May 18, 1980, debris avalanche from Mount St. Helens. The longitudinal grooves seen in the foreground are thought to be due to differential shear and lateral spreading at high velocities.

Discovering New Orbits with Kids in Micro-g

Cady Coleman and Ron Garan measure the orbiting radius of a water droplet 

Cady Coleman and Ron Garan measure the orbiting radius of a water droplet as it circles a piece of statically charged rubber tubing on the International Space Station. (NASA)

An example of water 'bending' towards a static charge created by a balloon 

An example of water 'bending' towards a static charge created by a balloon.
(Image credit: ©Faith Fashion & Photos LLC)

Even simple scientific experiments can yield amazing results and add to the collective knowledge of the research community. Take the winning proposal for the most recent round of the Kids in Micro-g competition, for example, which was designed by two 5th grade girls from Chabad Hebrew Academy in San Diego. Conducted in April 2011 on the International Space Station, this study, called "Attracting Water Drops," looked at static attraction in microgravity to reveal an exciting new understanding of physics in space.

Kids in Micro-g was a hands-on design challenge and part of NASA's Teaching from Space education program. Six finalists were selected in the 2011 Kids in Micro-g competition, earning the chance to have their proposed studies performed on the space station. The Attracting Water Drops experiment involved rubbing a piece of rubber tubing with a pair of nylon shorts to create a static charge. Then astronauts released a droplet of water close by and watched to see what happened.

Marilyn Sniffen, advanced placement science coordinator with Chabad Hebrew Academy, found out about the Kids in Micro-g competition while researching new challenges for her students online. Having previously participated with her classes in other NASA education challenges, she was aware of NASA as a resource to help foster a love of science in students. "I asked my current students if they would like to participate," said Sniffen. "There was no hesitation, as they immediately wanted to check out the list of supplies available for the physics tests that could be done aboard the space station."

Students did their own companion study in the classroom to gain results for the investigation under the force of gravity here on Earth. They observed that a piece of charged rubber tubing held near a stream of running water caused the flow of water to bend toward the tubing. Students learned that the action of rubbing the tubing with nylon transferred negatively charged electrons to the tubing, creating a negative static charge. Since opposite charges attract to each other, and water molecules have a polarity with a positive end, the negatively charged tubing held near the water caused the positive end of the water to draw towards the tubing.

Astronauts Cady Coleman and Ron Garan performed the Attracting Water Droplets experiment aboard the station on April 23, 2011. You can view a video of the investigation being performed here . Their objective was to study the electrostatic interaction of the charged rubber tubing and water drops in microgravity. Students anticipated a greater attraction of the water droplet to the electrostatic charge than found on Earth. "Their hypothesis was that the results in space would be dramatically different than on Earth," commented Sniffen. "This is because the force of gravity on the water was greater than the force attraction to the static charge on the tube."

In addition to successfully proving the hypothesis, however, students and crew members were astonished to see the water droplet actually orbit the charged piece of tubing. "Look at that!" exclaimed Cady Coleman during the experiment on the space station. "It is going around our tubing. You would think it would keep sailing; in microgravity it would keep sailing, but it is coming back to our tubing and around."

Sniffen echoed Coleman's surprise, as she detailed the student's expectations for the water droplets in space. "The students predicted that in micro-g, the drop would be free floating and that it could be 'pulled' around by the charged rubber tube without it falling to the ground. The actual experiment on the station showed they were able to pull the drop around in the air, but it also revealed a surprise we didn't predict. The droplet of water actually orbited the tube at about 6 cm! So our hypothesis was supported, but we learned something entirely new in the process. The kids were amazed, as were we!" said Sniffen.

The school plans to repeat the Earth-bound portion of the experiment while showing the video of the study done on the space station to allow more students to share in the science next school year. "This kind of collaboration is really important for our students as they so often feel that what they are learning in school has no real connection to everyday life," comments Sniffen. "This program has allowed our students to make connections with real science and scientists, real discovery, and other students. It has inspired analytical thinking, creativity and communication for all our students."