January 2006

Lasers and Deep Space Communications

January 20, 2006

All but lost in the recent news of the Stardust sample return and New Horizons launch, the Messenger spacecraft continues on its journey to Mercury. And significant science has already occurred, particularly the laser link set up across a record 24 million kilometers (15 million miles) between the spacecraft and Earth. Laser communications with spacecraft […]

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A News Conference and a Launch

January 19, 2006

This is shaping up to be a busy day, starting with good news from the Stardust mission. Having opened the sample return capsule at Johnson Space Center in Houston, the science team found that the sample tray held numerous particles captured not only from comet Wild 2 but interstellar particles collected during the missions’ seven […]

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A Wish for New Horizons

January 18, 2006

Yesterday’s brief and unplanned exercise in ‘liveblogging’ was caused by an odd discovery: the only way for this observer to track the New Horizons launch was through the Internet. With over 200 channels available through cable television, I found that channel surfing through all of them yielded not one with live NASA coverage. Now ponder […]

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New Horizons Launch Aborted

January 17, 2006

Centauri Dreams is not conceived as a streaming news site, but the NASA servers are slammed, so I’ll update as needed until we get New Horizons off the ground. Update times are GMT (subtract 5 for EST). Update: 2022 Launch abort, with at least a 24-hour turnaround. Launch now scheduled for tomorrow at 1816 GMT […]

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New Studies of Dark Matter

January 17, 2006

Catching up on news from the recently concluded American Astronomical Society meeting, I want to be sure to mention RAVE — the Radial Velocity Experiment — which is an all-sky spectroscopic survey of as many as a million stars passing near the Sun. Observations of stars in other galaxies show that only dark matter can […]

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Of Missions and Deep Time

January 16, 2006

The successful return of the Stardust samples offers a chance to study cometary materials up close, surely deepening our understanding of the origins of the Solar System. But it also serves as a reminder of the time frames in which deep space missions must be flown. At that, Stardust has been a relatively swift mission, […]

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Stardust Update

January 15, 2006

The return capsule from the Stardust probe landed successfully in the Utah desert at 1012 GMT. More on Monday; for now, this BBC story contains the details, and provides video of the landing. From the story: “‘I’m very confident we will have samples in there that are the first returned from beyond the Moon,’ former […]

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Stardust Just Hours from Earth

January 14, 2006

The Stardust spacecraft crossed the Moon’s orbit at 1730 GMT on Saturday and will close the distance to Earth in sixteen and a half hours (an indication of how fast the vehicle is moving). The craft performed a final burn for course adjustment before passing the Moon’s orbit. Approaching the Earth, it will deploy its […]

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New Instrument Should Speed Exoplanet Hunt

January 13, 2006

Busy times. Centauri Dreams has three new Acta Astronautica papers waiting for review, but Stardust is about to return with cometary dust (and, we hope, interstellar materials), and, of course, New Horizons is just four days from liftoff. Add to that the usual flurry of news from the just concluded American Astronomical Society meeting and […]

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A Boost for Ion Propulsion

January 12, 2006

The European space agency is ramping up expectations for its Dual-Stage 4-Grid (DS4G) ion thruster. Using a concept developed by UK propulsion theorist David Fearn, the agency’s test model, designed and built by a team from Australian National University, is said to be ten times more fuel efficient than the ion engine used on the […]

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