Archive for the ‘James Webb Space Telescope’ Category

There goes the neighborhood: What will the Webb Telescope reveal about our solar system?

Astronomer Heidi Hammel talks about how the Webb Telescope can be used to study our solar system.

Astronomer Heidi Hammel talks about how the Webb Telescope can be used to study our solar system.

The James Webb Space Telescope will look far back in cosmic time to study the origins of the universe.  But that doesn’t mean the observatory will turn a blind eye to the planets. Yesterday, at a conference at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore,  noted planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel gave us a quick tour of the solar system from Webb’s (future) point of view.

UPDATE: A webcast video of Hammel’s talk is now available on the STScI website.

The conference, Frontier Science Opportunities with the James Webb Space Telescope (June 6-8), is all about what Webb can and will do once it makes it into space. It’ll be a while: As Matt Mountain, director of STSciI, mentioned in his opening remarks to the conference, Webb won’t see the cold of space, some 1 million miles from Earth, until at least 2017.

Hammel is known to be a great speaker, and she didn’t disappoint. First she took Mercury, Venus, and Earth out of the lineup. Her Powerpoint slides?

Mercury? No.

Venus? No.

Earth? No.

Webb’s orbit and the size and shape of its sunshield leave these planets in an “exclusion zone” hidden from the observatory’s view. (Its planned orbital perch is a point called L2, opposite from Earth with respect to the sun.) Ok, fine. What about Mars?

Yes. According to a March 9, 2010 White Paper about Webb and the solar system, the observatory could measure a number of important things in Mars’ atmosphere, like dust and carbon dioxide gas, that affect its climate.

Hammel speculated that Webb’s infrared eyes could help solve the mysterious nature of methane releases observed on Mars. Where does the methane come from? Webb might help us figure it out.

Jupiter? Saturn? Yes, yes. There is much Webb could learn about the atmospheres of these giant gas planets — which are, by the way, the best nearby examples we have of the scores of giant gaseous exoplanets being discovered in other solar systems.

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon? Yes. Webb could add a decade of observations of Titan’s surface and atmosphere to the work of the Cassini orbiter, and during a time in Titan’s seasonal cycle not yet explored in the infrared band, according to the White Paper.

Uranus and Neptune? An enthusiastic thumbs up from Hammel to the idea of studying these cool, distant bodies with the Webb’s infrared camera and spectrographs. She cited several scientific puzzles that Webb might help solve, including shifts in the wavelengths of light emitted by Uranus as the planet rotates and Neptune’s inexplicably warm polar region.

In general, Hammel said, “Neptune’s atmosphere is so dynamic, and little is known.” Anything Webb contributes will be helpful.

Last but not least, the region beyond Neptune, realm of Pluto and the other icy dwarf planets, is also fair game for Webb.  As the White Paper explains:

“Beyond Neptune, a class of cold, large bodies that include Pluto, Triton and Eris exhibits surface deposits of nitrogen, methane, and other molecules that are poorly observed from the ground, but for which JWST might provide spectral mapping at high sensitivity and spatial resolution difficult to match with the current generation of ground-based observatories.”

And comets, too. At least comets slow enough for Webb to track.

There has been much public hand wringing lately over growth in the Webb budget and slips in the launch date. But in the scientific community, two generations eagerly await the lofting of the giant Webb observatory into orbit. Many of them are up at STScI today sharing their plans.

“There’s a lot of great science that’s going to come out of this and I’m really looking forward to it,” Hammel said. “There is a wide range of interesting planetary phenomena observable by JWST, especially in the outer solar system.”

This NASA video goes into detail about planet studies — here and elsewhere in the universe — and the James Webb Space Telescope:

OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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That Was the Week that Was, March 7-11, 2011. . . Coolest Goddard People, Science, & Media PLUS Best of the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

March 11, 2011 2 comments

photo of isim on goddard centrifuge

A big chunk of the Webb Telescope goes out for a spin: This week a web feature story came out about ongoing testing of the metal cage that will hold the various scientific instrument on the Webb Telescope – the heir to the Hubble Space Telescope now under construction here at Goddard and elsewhere in NASA.

Webb will undergo significant shaking when it is launched on the large Ariane V rocket. To be sure the telescope’s “chassis” is ready for this “bumpy road,” the ISIM is subjected to some extreme testing.  During the testing process, the ISIM is spun and shaken while many measurements are taken. Afterwards, engineers compare the measurements with their models of the ISIM. If there are discrepancies, then the engineers track down why, and make corrections.

That centrifuge is a pretty impressive piece of hardware, let me tell you. Months ago, I got a chance to film a preliminary spin-up test of the giant centrifuge. This thing, at full throttle, can spin about once every two seconds. The test I saw was a lot tamer than that, spinning at roughly 2 rpm. Check it out:

The centrifuge room is pretty noisy, and the equipment is massive — on the order of a half-million pounds. And so it starts out slow. But gradually it picks up speed. At very high speed, it’s way too dangerous to be in the room. (The engineers work in a separate control room during actual tests.) If even a small bit of hardware were to fly off the centrifuge, it could cause a serious injury. My friend Jay Friedlander (the cameraman) and I were very grateful to the engineers for letting us witness an actual spin-up of the centrifuge — an uncommon site at Goddard.

Here comes the sun on the Goddard Flickr channel: The Goddard Flickr channel was all aglow this week with images of the sun, courtesy of NASA’s solar observing fleet. A web feature by one of Goddard’s newest solar scribes, Karen Fox, announced the 400-year anniversary of the first scientific publication about sunspots. Goddard’s Flickr photomistress, Rebecca Roth, obliged with an entire set of spectacular sun imagery. Here is my favorite, a super-high-resolution image of a sunspot by the Hinode spacecraft. Go to the Flickr set to see the rest.

hinode spacecraft image of sunspot

OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.



Hubble hits the Red Limit. Next up: Webb Telescope

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

hubble space telescope in orbit
The day had to come, and we all knew it. Hubble Space Telescope has been squinting for years, and now it’s reached the limit of its power to see back to the earliest epochs of cosmic time. As in Cosmic Time, or the amount of time elapsed since the Big Bang.

Today, a team of scientists made this exciting announcement:

SANTA CRUZ, CA–Astronomers studying ultra-deep imaging data from the Hubble Space Telescope have found what may be the most distant galaxy ever seen, about 13.2 billion light-years away. The study pushed the limits of Hubble’s capabilities, extending its reach back to about 480 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was just 4 percent of its current age.

A story on Bad Astronomy explains the details, as does a NASA press release and one from the University of California, Santa Cruz. And the First Galaxies website provides even deeper scientific background in plain English.

As light from a distant galaxy speeds toward us, it gets stretched, or “redshifted,” by the expansion of space itself. Astronomers measure redshift with a quantity called “z.” The paper in Nature reports a redshift of z=10. 3. The first galaxies probably formed 200 to 300 million years post-Big Bang, which is more z’s than Hubble can deliver. To get to that redshift, Hubble would need instruments that can see even redder — more redshifted — light than it can now. So, in short, Hubble is at the “red limit” of what it can see.

I asked Jason Tumlinson, a galaxy researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute to explain:

“My opinion is that we’re very near the limits of what HST can do in terms of pushing back the redshift frontier, and in fact have been operating at HST’s limits for several years. Everything depends on the performance of the cameras, and the major upgrade provided by the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in 2009 has made a big difference.”

The upgraded WFC3 was installed on Hubble during the final servicing mission in May 2009.

I asked Amber Straughn, a Goddard astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory and a member of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) team, to explain why Hubble has reached the “red limit” of its seeing ability:

“The short answer is, at z~10, we are AT the limit of HST’s ability to look back in time. The reason for this is simply due to HST’s wavelength coverage. The light from these very distant galaxies is very, very red — and HST’s (Wide Field Camera 3) filters cut off at around 1.7 microns. . . .That’s the ‘red limit’ of HST.”

See Dr. Straughn talk to a TV reporter about the Webb Telescope.

Another issue, Tumlinson says, is the amount of Hubble telescope time available. The light-sensing detectors on Hubble contribute a certain amount of electronic “noise” that can swamp the signal from whatever you happen to be observing. To overcome this, astronomers have to schedule enough “Hubble time” to make sure the signal from the astronomical target is sufficiently stronger than the background noise – sort of like the way you have to raise your voice to be heard in a noisy room.

Tumlinson explains:

“The detector itself adds noise to the measurement — called readout noise, generally — which is an important factor in setting the faintest observable source. Of course, HST users could go deeper and push further with longer observations so that they collect more source counts relative to this noise term, but only so much time is available. “

NASA and the scientific community saw Hubble’s red limit coming. So they invented the James Webb Space Telescope. With its huge collecting mirror — 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter — and ultrasensitive infrared detectors, Webb can see longer, redder wavelengths of light, and “redder” translates to “more distant.”

Tumlinson explains:

“Discovering galaxies at high redshift is one of the top reasons NASA is building JWST. Being much larger and optimized for this sort of work, Webb should make z ~ 10 detections routine, and could push the frontier to z = 12, 15, or even higher.”

Z=15 is around 275 million years after the Big Bang — the sweet spot for observing the first stars and galaxies forming. Stay tuned!

OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Chillaxing in deep space with the James Webb Space Telescope: Stay frosty, little mercury cadmium telluride infrared detector chip!

September 14, 2010 2 comments

webb art
With a 6.5 meter diameter mirror, the James Webb Space Telescope will operate at a temperature of only 35 degrees above absolute zero in a deep space orbit.

Imagine you are a mercury cadmium telluride infrared detector chip, chillaxing in deep space nearly a million miles from Earth.

(OK, I know it’s a stretch, but give it a try.)

You are riding on the James Webb Space Telescope, the most high-tech space observatory ever attempted. But in the end, mission success rides on you, little infrared photon detector chip! You are the retinas of this great observatory. It sees only as well as YOU see.

So you are sitting there, peering out at the darkness, waiting for a photon from the dawn of the universe to pierce your semiconductor crystal matrix and knock an electron out of its comfy valence shell and into the conduction band. This generates the faintest of electric currents. This means data: the stuff of astronomical discoveries.

But 12 times an hour, the humming of electrons in your crystal guts is an illusion, a lie. Infrared telescope scientists call it dark current.

I learned about dark current at a recent colloquium here at Goddard. Three heavy hitters in the Webb Telescope project gave an update on the fabrication and testing of this multi-billion dollar space telescope.

Mark Clampin, the Webb Telescope project scientist, brought us up to speed on the observatory as a whole. He mentioned that 17 percent of Webb’s “flight mass” — the stuff that will blast into space on a giant Arianne launch vehicle — is now built. That represents about a billion dollars in gear.

Randy Kimble also spoke. He is the Webb mission’s Integration & Test Project Scientist. He gave us a progress report on the telescope’s instruments. And it was all good news: The flight versions of the instruments — again, the ones that will actually go into space — will begin arriving at Goddard next summer to be shaken, frozen, and irradiated during a series of grueling tests.

But the first speaker — the one who introduced “dark current” to my vocabulary — was John Mather. He gave a concise summary of the observatory’s science mission.

At one point, he bragged up Webb’s detectors. These are the chips, like the CCD in your digital camera, that turn infrared photons from farthest cosmos into trickley little electric currents and, ultimately, astronomical data.

(You may recall that John C. Mather shared the 2006 the Nobel Prize in Physics with George F. Smoot for their discoveries related to the microwave background glow from the Big Bang, using the COBE satellite.)

The detectors are kept cold by a combination of the ambient chill of deep space and a lot of clever engineering to block the sun’s rays and isolate the instruments from 220 watts of heat radiating from the telescope’s on-board electronics. Mather bragged that Webb’s infrared detectors have “dark currents measured in a few electrons per hour per pixel.”

Huh? Dark what? The phrase “dark current” and the idea of measuring single electrons per hour set off my cool-o-meter.

As the colloquium ended, I hurried to the head of the room hoping to grab Mather’s attention before someone else got to him. “The statistic you mentioned about dark currents. Can you explain?”

He said that each pixel of each detector spontaneously generates about a dozen electrons per hour — that’s the dark current — simply staring off into empty space. Hence the term: dark current. A perfect detector would produce nothing, just total silence, unless an actual infrared photon came in and bonked one of its atoms.

But, hey, 12 electrons per hour is pretty dark! And out of that darkness, we hope, will come the data to illuminate our understanding of the birth of the first stars, the evolution of galaxies, and the nature of planetary systems around other stars.

OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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That Was The Week That Was, August 22-27, 2010. . . A Digest of Goddard People, Science, & Media, PLUS Historical Tidbits and Our Best Stuff in the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

SUNDAY AUGUST 22: Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles and other classics, was born this day 100 years ago in Waukegan, Illinois.

The rockets came like drums, beating in the night. The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke. And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with nails so they resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them into their swift hands as they hammered up frame cottages and scuttled over roofs with shingles to blot out the eerie stars, and fit green shades to pull against the night.

MONDAY AUGUST 23: The MODIS Image of the Day shows a plankton bloom off Greenland.

Planet pulverizers: A research team including Goddard’s Marc Kuchner finds evidence of planet-destroying collisions in another star system!

Dog days of summer: On What On Earth, bloggers Patrick Lynch and Adam Voiland of NASA’s Earth Science News Team discuss the warm and erratic summer weather.

Better luck next time: On this day in 1961, Ranger 1 launched. When the experimental satellite separated from its Agena booster stage it went into a low Earth orbit and began tumbling. The satellite re-entered Earth’s atmosphere a week later, on August 30, 1961

Awesomely: Featured in Blueshift’s Weekly Awesomeness Round Up: solar sail, sunspots, special shuttle launch, space colonies, and other highlights in space science and astronomy.

satellite image of hurricane katrina

TUESDAY AUGUST 24: Goddard marks the 5-year anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe:  The Scientific Visualization Studio provides a satellite-eye view of the tempest. See a Katrina Flickr gallery by Public Affairs photo maven Rebecca Roth. Meanwhile, gogblog asks Goddard researcher Siegfried Schubert how supercomputers are improving hurricane forecasting. And Discovery News blogger Michael Reilly comments on the Goddard satellite visualization about Katrina.

This year’s model: Here’s how to build a life-size mock-up of the James Webb Space Telescope.

photo of launch of spitzer space telescopeWEDNESDAY AUGUST 25: Satellite imagery featured today: dust storms in Afghanistan and Pakistan and how satellites can help archeologists preserve hidden cultural treasures.

Koji says: Take a tour of the international observatory on the island of La Palma with NASA Blueshift blogger Koji Mukai.

Hail to the chief. . . of the Goddard Astrochemistry Laboratory, Jason Dworkin, in a new video profile.

Go Spitzer! On this day in 2003, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) launched into orbit. One of the quartet of NASA Great Observatories, SIRTF was renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope and continues to push the frontiers of space-based astronomy.

robonaut_202THURSDAY AUGUST 26: Earth Observatory spotlights satellite view of fires raging in South America.

FRIDAY AUGUST 27: On this day in 1962, Mariner 2 left for Venus, to become the first spaceship from Earth to visit another planet.

Space rocks: NASA and U2 released a commemorative video highlighting a year’s worth of collaboration in space and on the Irish rock band’s 360 Degree tour.

I, Robonaut! NASA’s humanoid astronaut buddy is being prepared for its history making launch to the International Space Station on STS-133.

OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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Goddard's gotchu! Milky J and the Jimmy Fallon posse come to town and talk NASA scientists into gnawing on ribs and rapping

August 3, 2010 10 comments

Here’s a guest post by Rob Garner, a writer and member of the crack Goddard web team. —gogblog

Goddard hosted a special guest last month, and you just may have seen him on television last night talking about it!

The name “Bashir Salahuddin” may not ring any bells with you (nope, it’s not the doctor from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), but fans of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” will recognize him as “Milky J,” whose “Hubble Gotchu!” sketches have showcased the famous telescope’s magnificent images.

What’s that you say? You haven’t seen the clips? Then enjoy the sampling below!

After the videos aired Lynn Chandler gave the Jimmy Fallon crew a call. Lynn works here at Goddard as the public affairs officer for the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s successor to the Hubble.

When the full-size Webb model traveled to New York at the beginning of June, she suggested Bashir meet up there with NASA’s first civil servant Nobel Prize laureate Dr. John Mather to discuss Hubble and Webb, of which Dr. Mather happens to be the senior project scientist. The visit there went so well that Bashir (as Milky J) decided to take a trip to Goddard’s Greenbelt, Md., campus.

The video resulting from that trip in late July aired last night — but in case you missed it …

Brent Bos poses with Milky J's letters, now flavored with tangy rib sauce. (Image by Maggie Masetti)

Brent Bos poses with Milky J's letters, now flavored with tangy rib sauce. (Image by Maggie Masetti)

Let it not be said that NASA folks lack a sense of humor! Milky J’s Hubble fanaticism may be mostly just for laughs, but Bashir, who also writes for “Late Night,” has a genuine interest in space science. “Hubble Gotchu!” carries that science to new audiences, which is one reason why we loved helping put this video together.

And putting it together took a mountain of effort, both from the Goddard family and from the “Late Night” team. On our end, weeks of preparations and permissions went into making sure Bashir could film in all the “cool” spots. (Lynn and Mike McClare, Goddard’s Hubble and Webb video producer extraordinaire, deserve some serious high-fives for getting that all taken care of.)

Some of the “Late Night” crew, headed by director Michael Blieden, took the train down from New York on July 21 to scope Goddard for places to shoot. Andy Freeberg, a Goddard producer who helped guide the team, said they were just blown away by all the stuff going on here.

Milky J poses in his homemade spacesuit. (Image by Maggie Masetti)

Milky J poses in his homemade spacesuit. (Image by Maggie Masetti)

The morning of the 22nd came, and the rest of the crew arrived for a full day of shooting. The schedule was jam-packed, moving from the testing chambers to the NASA Communications center (Nascom), to the clean room, to the Goddard TV studio. Goddard never seems quite as big as it does when you’re lugging video equipment on a hot day!

The Jimmy Fallon crew was a pleasure to work with. Despite the fast-paced schedule Bashir, Michael and the rest of the team took the time to chat with the Goddard spectators who stopped by to see what was going on. Bashir is soft-spoken in comparison to his Milky J alter ego, and a true professional; he had all his dialogue memorized ahead of time.

Filming became a special treat for a school tour group that happened to meander by as the team shot in Nascom. They likely thought it strange that a telescope operator could be such a messy eater. Optical Physicist and “rib-eater” Brent Bos deserves special praise for that performance.

Brent had just completed media training the day before — and slathering on barbecue sauce before the big interview was definitely not one of the topics covered! Brent managed to keep the sauce confined to his face and fingers through multiple takes, a miraculous feat, as any rib fan knows. (The ribs appeared courtesy of Lynn Chandler’s kitchen.)

Milky J interviewed Paul Geithner, Webb’s observatory manager, at the end of the day. (Image by Andy Freeberg)

Milky J interviewed Paul Geithner, Webb’s observatory manager, at the end of the day. (Image by Andy Freeberg)

As Milky J would put it, “Whatever celestial images you need, Hubble gotchu!” When it comes to Hubble and James Webb, Goddard gotchu, too.

(Thanks to Webb blogger Maggie Masetti for filling in some of the details of the day!)

PS! If you want to learn more about superheated exoplanet HD 209458b, take a look at NASA’s Hubble website.

***ALSO make sure to check out Maggie Masetti’s blog post about the Hubble Gotchu Guy visit on NASA Blueshift. It has more great backstage photos.
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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That Was The Week That Was: June 21-25. . . A Digest of Goddard Science and People In The Media This Week, Historical NASA Milestones, and FREE Stuff

June 25, 2010 6 comments
Is there an echo in here?

Is there an echo in here?

On Monday June 21, “The Case of the Mylar Mystery” debuted on the History Detectives program. The detectives came to Goddard in January to figure out whether a scrap of silvery Mylar was could be traced back to Goddard’s Echo II satelloon project. . . . Well, gogblog won’t ruin it for you by revealing the answer, but you can download the transcript if you don’t have time to watch the show.

Lagrange points_152On Wednesday June 23, the Goddard Public Affairs Office (PAO) posted a mission update feature, ‘L2’ Will be the James Webb Space Telescope’s Home in Space. The orbital sweet spot is called L2 and it sits about 930,000 miles from Earth, where the gravitational tugs of the sun and Earth balance out . . . . .Why the way-out waystation? For one thing, the gravitational stalemate means it takes minimal energy to make the ‘scope stay put at L2. Also, the frigid temperature out there keeps Webb’s sensitive instruments frosty and sharp.  And L2 offers an unobstructed view of the cosmos.


The lunar farside

Also on Wednesday, Goddard PAO’s Andrew Freeberg chilled out on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s first birthday at the moon with Ten Cool Things Seen in the First Year of LRO. And the winning contestants are 1) the coldest place in the solar system ever measured, 2) astronaut footprints, 3) a near miss with Cone Crater, 4) a lost Soviet rover, 5) the lunar farside, 6) a bevy of boulders, 7) mountains, 08) rilles, 9) pits, and 10) frigid polar craters. Andy’s fine review features lots of blogolicious moon images.


Goddard Astronomy Club president Cornelis Dutoit keeps an eye on the sun as relentless shimmering waves of solar energy melt the faces off of everyone else attending Celebrate Goddard 2010.

On Thursday June 24, “Celebrate Goddard” took over the grassy mall near the main gate, spotlighting “the diverse skills and individual differences that have made our legacy of success possible.” Atta boy, Goddard! You go, major NASA center for research in astronomy, earth, and space science! Lookin’ sharp, kid! . . . . . The day featured exhibits by Goddard scientists, organizations, and clubs; a Center talent show; and the first-ever Celebrate Goddard parade, featuring the  DuVal High Marching Tigers. . . . . The weather: hot enough to melt your face off, with heat index up to 104 degrees.

Earth from the moon, LRO-style . . .Also on Thursday, NASA released a near-full disk image of Earth snapped by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team created it by assembling multiple scans captured by LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera. The image was originally posted on the Arizona State University LROC featured image site by Mark Robinson, LROC’s Principle Investigator.

***UPDATE: Friday June 25, 4:22 pm . . . NASA released another LRO image: Goddard Crater, located along the Moon’s eastern limb and named after the namesake of our beloved Center, pioneering rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945). The LOLA instrument that captured the image was built here.

Astronaut Sally K. Ride

Astronaut Sally K. Ride

Thursday marked 27 years since the space shuttle missionSTS-7, June 18-24, 1983 — that carried astrophysicist Sally K. Ride into space and into history as the first American woman in orbit. . . . . But the anniversary is bittersweet: STS-7 was a flight of the Challenger, which was lost with all hands about three years later, January 28, 1986. Two female astronauts died that day: Judith Resnik and Christa McAuliffe.

On June 25, 1997, the Russian resupply vessel Progress collided with the science module Spektor on the Mir space station while attempting to dock. The blow punctured and decompressed Spektor, and knocked out its solar panels. . . . . The two cosmonauts and one American astronaut (Michael Foale) on Mir were not harmed. . . . . The Russian space agency refused to abandon ship, and kept Mir alive until it could be repaired. Foale stayed aboard, too. . . . . Watch the animated recreation of this near-catastrophe on YouTube to get a sense of just how bad it was — and how lucky the astro/cosmonauts were to make it through alive!

On June 26, 1978, NASA launched Seasat-A, the first satellite to make global observations of Earth’s oceans. The satellite carried the first spaceborne synthetic aperture radar. After 105 days of returning data, Seasat was crippled by an electrical fault. . . . . Now here is a blogolicious Seasat-A science fact: While not anticipated by the satellite’s designers, Seasat-A was actually able to detect the waves of SUBMERGED submarines!

remembering giants_202FREE STUFF
Gogblog loves space tech, and here is a massive dose of it for like-minded technophiles. Remembering the Giants: Apollo Rocket Propulsion Development, Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 45 (NASA SP-2009-4545), edited by Steven C. Fisher and Shamim A. Rahman. . . . . This monograph is the proceedings from a series of lectures on Apollo propulsion development hosted by NASA’s Stennis Space Center. . . . . Request a copy of this monograph by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the NASA History Division, Room CO72, NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20546. Or just download a PDF of the report.

Gogblog gratefully credits the NASA History Division website as the source of the historical tidbits this week.

OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.

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