In the small hours of tomorrow morning, NASA’s LCROSS spacecraft will crash land on the moon. The craft will be deliberately hard-landed in two sections providing data about the composition of the lunar surface. NASA TV will provide live coverage and you can find out more on the Spaceweather site.
The New Curiosity Shop has just launched a new kind of course. A mix between a science course and a history course, The Story Of Apollo will take learners back to the cold war era to examine the cultural factors and the engineering that made possible the US moon missions and the eventual landing of men on the Moon in 1969.
Astronomy tutor, Mark Toner said, “It is nice to branch out into another field that is of interest to me. Now the events which inspired me as a child are the stuff of history. I hope that I can transmit some of my enthusiasm to the students who take this new course.”
The Story Of Apollo is live now, and you can investigate it on the NCS web site.
NASA has announced the names of the researchers who will start the Lunar Science Institute. The seven scientists will head research teams in a number of areas of lunar science, all directed towards making the best use of future lunar exploration. While the engineering work on a new manned spacecraft system is under review, possibly forcing NASA to fall back on existing technology such as Atlas, the creation of a Science Institute is probably a more convincing step in showing the commitment of the US to a return to the Moon.
Carle Pieters of Brown University will head a group investigating the Moon in the context of the early development of Earth, Venus, Mercury and Mars. The scientific and exploration potential of the lunar poles will be investigated by a team led by Ben Bussey of Johns Hopkins University. David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute will be looking at how impacts were important in the formation of the Moon. The lunar environment will be investigated by William Farrell, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. William Bottke, Southwest Research Institute, will lead the team researching the history of impacts on the Moon. Jack Burns, University of Colorado, will head a group with the interesting goal of exploring the cosmos from the Moon. Finally, Mihaly Horanyi, also of University of Colorado, will take charge of the Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies.
Spacecraft watchers have found a new object to track as it orbits the Earth. Edward Light saw an orbiting tool bag using 10×50 binoculars as it sailed over his backyard in Lakewood, New Jersey, after sunset on November 22nd. The toolbag had been dropped during a spacewalk by shuttle astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and has proved to be a surprisingly bright orbiting object despite its small size. You can find out more about the flying toolbag on NASA’s Spaceweather site.
Meanwhile, European leaders are meeting to discuss the goals of Europe’s activities in space. More from the BBC…
Progressive space folk band Arbelos is offering its Christmas single for free on the band’s website. Song writer Mark Toner explains that, while the song is a typical fun Christmas song, it also draws attention to the fortieth anniversary of Apollo 8′s historic Moon mission and asks questions about what the world did with all the promise of better things that was raised in those days. The song is entitled “We’re Going To The Moon For Christmas” and carries a hopeful message in our troubled times.
Jane Chidwick, wife of keyboard player Noel Chidwick, suggested that a Christmas song would be a good opportunity to do some good in the world and the single is offered for a free download, but with an invitation to pay whatever the listener considers it is worth to UNICEF. The band hope that UNICEF will do very well out of this arrangement and that the musicians will build up some positive Christmas spirit for themselves in the process. More from the Arbelos website….
Just before 1am this morning (BST), NASA’s Phoenix lander successfully landed in the Arctic region of Mars. High on the list of exploration targets for Phoenix is the search for frozen water.
The photograph shows Phoenix parachuting down to its landing site and was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which was overhead at the time.
Today, the people of Sri Lanka honoured the late Sir Arthur C Clarke who had made their country his home since 1956. Sir Arthur died on Wednesday, aged 90 and, today he lay in state at his home in Colombo while Sri Lankans from all walks of life came to pay their respects.
Sir Arthur was one of the twentieth century’s greatest contributors to science fiction and was hugely influential on many of today’s writers. He also published papers on aerospace engineering and was the first to describe the use of geostationary orbits for communications satellites.
More from Associated Press…
The US Navy’s first attempt to hit malfunctioning spy satellite USA 193 with a missile could come on Wednesday night during the lunar eclipse. This is based on an air traffic advisory warning pilots to steer clear of a patch of Pacific Ocean near Hawaii just when USA 193 is due to pass overhead. Until the satellite is shot down, it remains visible to casual sky watchers during evening passes over US and Canadian towns and cities; experienced observers say the decaying satellite is sometimes as bright as the stars of Orion, making it an easy target for unaided eyes and off-the-shelf digital cameras. Details, photos and more information are available at http://spaceweather.com.
You can also track the satellite for yourself at the Heaven’s Above site. Go to the site at http://www.heavens-above.com/ and you will find full instructions. You need to find where you are on the Earth either by picking your city from the database or by clicking on a map. Then you select the satellite that you want to track. There is a huge database, including USA 193, the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope. Once the settings are applied, you can find when the satellite will be visible to you and where to look.