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Cassini Orbiter’s Shootout is “Grande Finale”

Blaze of Glory or Grande Finale

Scientists decided to give the space orbiter, Cassini, a final shootout in a blaze of glory as it ends its paparazzi- styled swing through Saturn’s rings. Usually a space mission with a camera doesn’t have any “grande finale” and tends to phase out slowly due to a failure in the battery life or an unforeseen system break down.

Cassini final photos

Cassini Orbiter Swings into its final photo shoot through Saturn’s rings

In this case since its launch in 1997, Cassini has served its purpose of sending back thousands of high-quality photos and avoided crashing into any ring debris. It’s a good track record that offered scientists much more than they expected. Remember Voyager? It was doomed to a short life and it’s still talking to Earth as it rides the solar winds and leaves our Solar System!

NASA scientists held their breath each time Cassini flashed through a spin around the rings of Saturn. This time — going  for the “Grand finale”– as its being called, the spacecraft will purposely dive through the debris rings of Saturn to capture as many photos before hurtling to the planet’s surface.

Retrograding 22 Times

It’s flight path includes 22 swings in and out of the rings as it retrogrades down to the planet. As long as it keeps flashing photos, it will afford a better view of the ring debris as well as the closest view of an alien surface of Saturn. No probe has really done this before.

Saturn rings of debris

Rings of Saturn is Cassini’s final camera shoot

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) used the Deep Space Network at Goldstone CA, (one of a group of satellite dishes communicating with distant objects in space) to pick up Cassini’s far-off signal. As it dove through the gap, Cassini came within 3,000 km of Saturn’s cloud tops and within about 300 km of the innermost visible edge of the rings.

“No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA.

Blazing a Trail

graphic rendering of rings

Artist rendering of Cassini’s camera view

“In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare,” Green added.

Browse the latest, unprocessed images beamed back from Saturn by the Cassini orbiter. It has returned thousands of great images. here’s one of better collections. https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/2993/close-views-show-saturns-rings-in-unprecedented-detail/

By May 2nd, the first of these close-ups of rock, ice chunks, and other space trash caught in the belt of spinning gases, should give us the best results yet. Watch the news.

Finale in September

While we wait and hope the camera aboard Cassini has a safe flight, I can image a handful of scientists holding their breaths as each await the September delivery of its last photo download to California’s JPL facility in Pasadena.

Rusty LaGrange

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Our Space Trash Tracked by New Technology

Trash in Space.

Space garbage

We think our trash will never come back to bother  us.

We are silly humans to think that all of our experimental and derelict space equipment will just disappear into the vastness of space. We created space garbage — things that are littering up our pristine space.

Trash in space doesn’t leave the orbit — it just accumulates. And it’s been doing that for decades. So it’s no surprise when the science news arrived that we had found more trash than we expected. Our ability to see and track space debris is better than ever now — thanks to advances in tracking with Interplanetary Radar technology pioneered by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. So the first thing we did was become shocked at the amounts of it cluttering our skies.

Sometimes a bit of debris will fall back to Earth and we see it burn up. But tracking it was never on our list of things to do until it became a problem. The photo taken of our eminent growing problem (above) is from Science World Report.

It’s almost embarrassing. But there’s good news, too.

Our optical telescopes couldn’t see these small distant ones due to the bright glare of the Moon. So this new method successfully located a NASA spacecraft “Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter” (LRO) orbiting the Moon. Another one of them was still active but “lost.” Back in 2009, an Indian Space Research Organization’s “Chandrayaan-1” was spinning around the Moon on a polar obit.

Goldstone Complex near Bartow CA

NASA’s Goldstone Antenna sends radar beam for tracking space trash

JPL’s team of scientists used NASA’s 70-meter  — that’s 230 foot — antenna at Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex north of Barstow, CA, to send out a powerful microwave beam aimed at the Moon. They found the Chandrayaan-1. Those radar echoes bounced back to and received by the 100- meter  — that’s 330 foot — Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

Math Does Count

FOund lunar orbit of spacecraft

Indian’s first spacecraft was lost since 2009

Although it’s very tricky, the team used data from the return signal to estimate its velocity and distance to update the orbital predictions. They in turn tracked the signals to verify that the predicted track was correct.

Follow up observations over the next few months were done with Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico — which has the most powerful astronomical radar system on Earth. Doing all this tracking and sharing resulted in a possible new capability. Working together, these super large radar antennas at Goldstone, Green Bank, and Arecibo proved that they could detect and track small spacecraft in lunar orbit.

The Lost & Found Department

This might come in handy for implementing a future robotic and human mission back to the Moon. Hazard assessments and encountering a potential navigation issue far into our future is another possibility.

So basically, space junk and new radar technology just forced us into a lunar recycling program on the biggest scale yet! Now, to clean up the garbage, we need the biggest trash bag ever inflated — and a twist tie to go with it.

–Rusty LaGrange

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Goldstone Hosts Employee Family Day

Deep Space Family Day

Capturing signals from Deep Space is an interesting concept. Traveling out to Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex north of Barstow is an adventure.

Deep Space Complex, Goldstone CA

A sunset like none other through Goldstone Dish

Families whose fathers or mothers work out at Goldstone get to share the adventure with the next generation of rocket scientists? – we can only hope.

Space suits

Museum holds early space suits

Everyone wants to stare at the behemoth 70 meter dish — dish just isn’t the right word for the gigantic signal collector  — one of the largest in the world!

Goldstone Entertainment

All Ages

All Ages get to see Goldstone

Columbus Day, being a day off for most school children, was the perfect day to visit the canyons full of giant satellite dishes, roam through the Museum, and get free lunch.

martial arts

Guiterrez Martial Arts students demonstrate the floor routines

 

 

 

 

 

Martial Arts students

Martial Arts students

 

 

 

For entertainment, Goldstone admin and staff hosted Gutierrez Martial Arts students, who presented their floor exercises and routines; offered a close-up look at Ft. Irwin’s fire engine and police cruisers; and, held a Halloween costume parade for prizes.

Carpooling to see the sights

Families carpooled to the 70 meter dish

Tours

Interested in a tour of the complex with your family, civic group, or club? Just go to : www.gdscc.nasa.gov and look for the tour info or call Contact: Leslie Cunkelman
(760) 255-8688 or email directly to  gdscc.tours@jpl.nasa.gov

space suits

SUITS — past space trips

Rusty LaGrange

connect with me at www.RustyLaGrange.com

 

 

Chasing Radio Signals Through High Deserts

Why NASA Looks for High Deserts?

Part III

Space scientists studying around the nation need uninterrupted air and land areas to work in. Signals coming from deep in outer space are so weak that we need to bump up the strength so we can listen and capture the radio waves that planets and stars emit. Then we have to trap the signals so they can be sent to places like Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) in California to be studied.

Dishes move on rails

A series of small dishes capture condensed signals

We often go to High Desert expanses like St. Augustin Plains in New Mexico, Mojave Desert in California, and Eastern Oregon’s high plains to receive the clearest and strongest signals. We need a noiseless and fairly high plain without too much interference.

In this Part III look at high deserts, we can say that St. Augustin Plains is remote and clear enough to try new studies. It sits about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico and about 20 miles west of Magdalena. The Very Large Array (VLA) is a series of small satellite dishes running on a closed system of rails on the ground in a specific pattern. With many small dishes working together, a stronger concentrated signal can be captured. https://public.nrao.edu/tours/visitvla

many dishes are better than one

Dishes move to one target signal in space

The flexibility of a rail system also allows the pattern on the ground to adjust to new studies. You can take your family to see the public tours most of the year, watch the system working, the souvenir shop, and other historical displays.

At St. Augustin Plains wild antelope still roam the plains. They don’t seem to care if people get out of their vehicles to take photos. Here you can learn more about radio astronomy and the role the Very Large Array (VLA) and other NRAO telescopes play in current research.

What is Radio Astronomy?

 We see the world around us, because our eyes detect visible light, a type of electromagnetic radiation. Objects on Earth and in space also emit other types of EM radiation that cannot be seen by the human eye, such as radio waves. The full range of all radiating EM waves is called the electromagnetic spectrum.

Radio astronomy is the study of celestial objects that give off radio waves. With radio astronomy, we study astronomical phenomena that are often invisible or hidden in other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Radio Astronomy Reveals the Hidden Universe.
Since radio waves penetrate dust, we use radio astronomy techniques to study regions that cannot be seen in visible light, such as the dust-shrouded, busy center of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Radio waves also allow us to trace the location, density, and motion of the hydrogen gas that constitutes three-fourths of the ordinary matter in the Universe.

Partnerships: How We Study Earth From Space

The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA. http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/DSCOVR/

The satellite was launched in February and recently reached its planned orbit at the first Lagrange point or L1, about one million miles from Earth toward the sun. It’s from that unique vantage point that the EPIC instrument is acquiring science quality images of the entire sunlit face of Earth.

Nation’s first operational satellite in deep space reaches final orbit

June 8, 2015 — More than 100 days after it launched, NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has reached its orbit position about one million miles from Earth.

Earth From DSCOVR

First Full Spectrum View of Earth

Data from EPIC will be used to measure ozone and aerosol levels in Earth’s atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth. NASA will use this radiometry data for a number of Earth science applications, including dust and volcanic ash maps of the entire planet.

In addition to space weather instruments, DSCOVR carries a second NASA sensor — the National Institute of Science and Technology Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR). http://www.nasa.gov/earth Data from the NASA science instruments will be processed at the agency’s DSCOVR Science Operations Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This data will be archived and distributed by the Atmospheric Science Data Center at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

So without the wide array of remote high deserts, NASA wouldn’t be able to gather as much data from space, use it to understand radio waves that give us measurements to study, or the ability to share the data with our technical scientists here and around the world.

Rusty

Just What Are Those Astronaut Dudes Doing, Anyway?

Part II: A Viewpoint  of Deep Space From our High Desert

As we enter 2016, and sit smugly in front of our big screen TVs enjoying the latest “spinoff” of a comedy show, have you ever wondered how the Earthly industries that create the things around us actually happened to be in our homes?

Have you ever thought about what goes into the items you buy? Did NASA ever spinoff its own stuff? Have you ever wondered “What are those astronaut dudes doing up there anyway?”

Wonder no more. After years of taking a backseat to modern inventions from deep space labs affecting our daily lives, NASA has finally taken an Open and Shared attitude. Tooting its own horn…

What New Inventions and Adaptations From Space Are We Using Today?

Our world has changed by the giant steps of technology since the first man-flights began. Next time you actually remember to get out of your recliner and go stare at the night sky for the current fly-by of the International Space Station, you might think of these:

VEGGIE-GROWING IN SPACE 

Space food

Photos of the Ground Zinnias’ Harvesting inside the SSPF

 

Zinnia plants from the Veggie ground control experiment at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida were harvested Feb. 11 in the same way that crew member Scott Kelly  harvested the zinnias grown in the Veggie system aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 14—Valentine’s Day.

LAND MINE REMOVAL

Rather than blowing things up in war-torn countries and causing huge holes in the ground, The Demining Device flare uses a battery-triggered electric match to ignite and neutralize land mines in the field without detonation. The flare uses solid rocket fuel to burn a hole in the mine’s case and burn away the explosive contents so the mine can be disarmed without hazard. (Spinoff 2000)

FIREFIGHTING GEAR

Firefighting equipment widely used throughout the United States is based on a NASA development that coupled Agency design expertise with lightweight materials developed for the U.S. Space Program. A project that linked NASA and the National Bureau of Standards resulted in a lightweight breathing system including face mask, frame, harness, and air bottle, using an aluminum composite material developed by NASA for use on rocket casings. (Spinoff 1976)

TEMPER FOAM MATTRESSES

As the result of a program designed to develop a padding concept to improve crash protection for airplane passengers, Ames Research Center developed a foam material with unusual properties. The material is widely used and commonly known as temper foam or “memory foam.” (Spinoff 1996, 2008)

NEW MARKETS SPUR OUR ECONOMY

Astronaut in Space

More people are signing up for Astronaut School than in many years

Space exploration has created new markets and new technologies that have spurred our economy and changed our lives in many ways. This year, NASA unveiled two new complementary interactive Web features, NASA City and NASA @ Home, available at www.nasa.gov/city. The new features highlight how space pervades our lives, invisible yet critical to so many aspects of our daily activities and well-being.

HERE’S SOME OTHER SPACE-TECH ITEMS:

Did you know that many of the things we use today weer first developed by the space lab techs and experiments that became our life-improvements?

Enriched Baby Food, Portable Cordless Vacuums, Harnessing Solar Energy, Refrigerated Internet-Connected Wall Ovens, Improved Radial Tires, Anti-Icing Systems, and Infrared Ear Thermometers, just to name a few.

Did you know that there were 136 Space Shuttle flights where they developed ways to deal with space problems that we never heard of? Those travels also helped scientists in the International Space Station to learn how to transport men and supplies efficiently.

We don’t use shuttles anymore due to other countries taking on the task of moving men and cargo to the International Space Station – we’re looking at Mars, as you know, but the problems of long-term travel in space is a whole other matter.

As we gear up for living on a Mars environment, we are using the Moon to get answers faster. More on that in Part III.

To learn more you can go to :

https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/tech_benefits.html

Rusty LaGrange

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