sábado, 26 de maio de 2007
Na sequência do triste caso de Lisa Nowak, que temos vindo a acompanhar neste blog, a NASA dispensou agora Bill Oefelein.
Apesar de não concordar com este tipo de decisão - afinal o que é da vida pessoal de cada um é de sua exclusiva responsabilidade, mesmo que se cometam ilegalidades - o facto é que após se ter decidido despedir Lisa Nowak, seria algo polémico, no mínimo, manter Bill Oefellein no quadro de astronautas da NASA.
O julgamento de Lisa Nowak continua marcado para Setembro.
Fonte: Orlando Sentinel
SCANDAL AT NASA
Boyfriend in Lisa Nowak astronaut love triangle ousted from NASA
Bill Oefelein's space career is ended by fallout from love triangle
Sentinel Staff Writer
May 26, 2007
NASA is cutting ties with Bill Oefelein, the astronaut at the center of a love triangle that turned violent earlier this year.
The space agency announced Friday that Oefelein, an experienced test pilot and fighter pilot for the Navy, will be sent back to the military effective June 1.
Oefelein has admitted to being romantically involved with former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who is facing felony charges of attacking Oefelein's girlfriend in Orlando in February. Nowak, a Navy captain, already has been released from the astronaut corps and is working at a base in Texas.
A NASA spokesman would not discuss the end of Oefelein's space career, saying only that it is time for him to return to the Navy.
"The Navy and NASA mutually agreed to end his detail" with NASA, agency spokesman Jim Rostohar said at Johnson Space Center in Houston. "NASA determined his detail was no longer necessary."
Oefelein, 42, flew on shuttle Discovery in December and has been working at various technical assignments at JSC in recent months, Rostohar said.
His private life was dragged into public view after Nowak was accused of stalking and pepper-spraying Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman on Feb. 5 in a parking lot at Orlando International Airport. Shipman is stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County.
According to investigators, Oefelein had ended a romantic relationship with Nowak, who claims that she was only trying to talk with Shipman.
Nowak, whose trial is set for September, faces a possible life sentence on charges of attempted kidnapping and burglary with an assault. Military experts say Nowak and Oefelein also could be court-martialed on a charge of "conduct unbecoming an officer." Nowak is separated, and Oefelein is divorced.
A Navy spokesman would not say Friday where Oefelein, who holds the rank of commander, would be reporting to duty next week. Lt. Cmdr. Doug Gabos said the details still are being worked out. He would not comment on any disciplinary action that Oefelein might face.
"His case will be reviewed by his new commander, but we're not going to speculate on any possible outcome of his case," Gabos said.
A native of Alaska, Oefelein earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State University. He joined the Navy and earned his wings as a naval aviator in 1990. His early assignments included overseas deployments to the Persian Gulf as a fighter pilot.
After attending TOPGUN, the Navy Fighter Weapons School, Oefelein graduated in 1995 from the Navy's test-pilot school at Patuxent River, Md., where he later taught. In 1998, he was working as a strike-operations officer for a carrier wing in Virginia when he got the call telling him that he had been selected to join NASA's astronaut corps.
"A lot of folks who do that test-pilot work also went on to fly space shuttles," Oefelein said in an interview before his space voyage. ". . . at that point, it just seemed natural for me to go to the next phase and try to fly space shuttles."
During his 12-day mission in space, Oefelein and six crewmates helped rewire the electrical system aboard the international space station.
Mas hoje viu algo de completamente diferente. Algo estranho. Não, não é a 'cara' de Marte, é algo ainda mais surpreendente, porque é real. Você acaba de ver um enorme buraco na superfície! Não uma cratera, um BURACO! Um enorme buraco negro!
Pousa os seus binóculos de alta potência e dirige-se para o telescópio de maior resolução que tem a bordo. Tão poderoso que permite ver detalhes de apenas 25 centímetros na superfície!
E tenta espreitar lá para dentro!
E que vê?
Nada. Rigorosamente nada!
Como é possível? A atmosfera do planeta é suficientemente densa e poeirenta para permitir difundir alguns raios da luz solar para o interior do que quer que seja, a uma distância razoável.
a permitir ver o máximo de detalhes no interior.
Mas este buraco não mostra detalhes. Não tem paredes. Não se vê o fundo. É como se uma casca de um ovo vazio tivesse sido perfurada por um alfinete!
Decide de imediato que tem de comunicar a sua descoberta à Terra, e descer à superfície para melhor examinar este fenómeno!
Este é o cenário real que recentemente foi descoberto em Marte. A camera THEMIS, do Mars Odissey, descobriu vários 'buracos' deste tipo, absolutamente negros. Um grupo de cientistas que analisou as imagens afirma tratar-se de entradas para cavernas gigantescas, imediatamente abaixo da superfície de Marte. Após terem localizado 7 buracos semelhantes, orientaram a camera de alta resolução do Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a HiRISE, capaz da fenomenal resolução de 25 centímetros em cada píxel, para esses buracos. E o que viram foi simplesmente... nada. Apenas umas finas paredes que deslizam abruptamente para um abismo de profundidade incalculável! Um abismo absolutamente negro.
Neste momento os cientistas estão a fazer cálculos, tendo por base a luminosidade solar e a sensibilidade das cameras THEMIS e HiRISE, por forma a saber qual será a profundidade mínima que cada um destes buracos deverá ter para que nada seja visível cá de fora. Estou extremamente curioso por saber!
Talvez um dia enviemos robots devidamente equipados para penetrar nestes novos mistérios de Marte. Talvez um dia espeleólogos humanos explorem estas cavernas.
Mas por agora, temos de esperar, e continuar a estudar à distância as maravilhas de Marte.
Fonte: Planetary Society
quinta-feira, 24 de maio de 2007
Clique para aumentar.
O DVD já montado na Phoenix.
Clique para aumentar.
Este tipo de campanhas têm servido para ajudar a NASA a divulgar as suas missões de exploração do Sistema Solar.
Foi nesse dia que perdemos o contacto com os ocupantes da base lunar Alfa, na altura comandada pelo comandante Koenig.
20 anos depois, incrivelmente, recebemos uma mensagem que parece ser proveniente da base lunar Alfa, nos confins do Espaço. Parece que houve sobreviventes, e quem nos fala parece ser a oficial Sandra Benes.
Para a posteridade, aqui fica a gravação dessa comunicação histórica.
Esta série, hoje uma série de culto, fez história nos finais dos anos 70, e definiu os gostos de uma geração. Dezenas de milhares de miúdos paravam à frente dos televisores - na altura ainda a preto e branco - para assistir às aventuras da tripulação da Base Lunar Alfa. Vale a pena recordar.
terça-feira, 22 de maio de 2007
quarta-feira, 16 de maio de 2007
Depois de ter passado alguns meses dentro do VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) a beneficiar de reparações, depois de uma tempestade de granizo ter danificado o tanque externo e algumas 'telhas' de protecção do Shuttle, o Atlantis foi de novo deslocado para a torre de lançamento. A viagem, de apenas cinco quilómetros e meio, demora cerca de sete horas.
O lançamento da missão STS 117 não deverá ocorrer antes de 8 de Junho. Uma decisão final será tomada no final deste mês.
terça-feira, 15 de maio de 2007
A sonda Galileo desempenhou uma missão histórica em órbita de Júpiter durante 14 anos, antes de se despenhar contra o planeta gigante.
Fonte: Astronomy Picture of the Day
Não deve ser preciso pensar muito para pensar porque é que ir à retrete em órbita não será uma coisa própriamente agradável. Para já não há gravidade, o que faz com que as 'coisas' não caiam por si... a menos que sejam... aspiradas :P
Depois, pelos mesmo motivo, não se pode usar água como autoclismo... Aggghhh! Tem de se usar jactos de ar! E geralmente ficam bocados de fora, que têm de ser limpos com toalhetes!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!
Até há um treino, com uma camera de vídeo e um alvo, que os astronautas fazem para acertarem mesmo no... sítio, e ficar o menos possível de fora. Porque se ficar de fora, tem de se limpar com os tais toalhetes....... E quanto menos se tiver de meter as mãos na... porcaria, melhor!
Ninguém disse que ser astronauta era só vantagens!
Aqui está um artigo que nos fala deste aspecto menos agradável, mas vital, das viagens no espaço.
Actualização 26 de Fevereiro de 2008 - veja também este artigo
It's all to do with air flow. On earth, in the West at least, your standard toilet is a water-flush affair, that takes waste and washes it down a pipe.
Instead, on the shuttle, urine and faeces are carried away by rapid flow of air.
The unisex toilet resembles a conventional loo, but with straps over the feet and bars over the thighs to make sure that the astronauts don't drift off mid-go. The seat is designed so the astronaut's bottom can be perfectly flush to make a good seal.
The good news for fans of convenience is that, on the shuttle at least, urinating standing up is possible. A funnel-on-a-hose contraption is included so that astronauts - both male and female - can urinate standing up. Or sitting down if they prefer. They just attach it to the toilet using a pivoting bracket.
Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada have said such recycling will be key to tackling any future mission to Mars in order to feed the astronauts.
The air used in the space shuttle's toilet system has to be filtered to get rid of the smell and bacteria before it is returned to the living area.
On the International Space Station, the fundamental principle is similar. The fan-powered air-flow toilet system stores waste. Urine is sucked up and stored in 20 litre containers which are dumped into the Progress resupply craft. The ship is later ejected into the atmosphere, where it burns up.
Space toilets have come a long way. In the book The Right Stuff and its film adaptation, an astronaut on an early mission feels the need to urinate during a massively delayed take-off. With no facilities provided - and no adult nappies, as used today during take-off and landing - he is eventually allowed to urinate in his suit, causing his sensors to go haywire.
And Prince Philip is among good company in wondering how astronauts attend to their bodily functions.
A spokesman for Nasa confirms it is a question much asked by children and journalists alike.
quinta-feira, 10 de maio de 2007
Muito resumidamente é o que o/a impede de ver o céu à noite desta forma!
Há duas coisas que fazem com que de noite já não vejamos as estrelas, sobretudo se vivermos perto de grandes cidades como Lisboa. A poluição atmosférica, maior nestas zonas, e a iluminação nocturna. As luzes da cidade são reflectidas na atmosfera pela camada de poluição e humidade, fazendo com que o céu fique claro - tão claro que só as estrelas e planetas mais brilhantes se podem ver.
As soluções para este problema, que não afecta só os astrónomos, mas também qualquer pai ou mãe que queira mostrar as estreals aos filhos, passam pelo controlo da poluição atmosférica - que pelo que parece só será possível no médio/longo prazo - e pela adopção de sistemas de iluminação nocturna que não 'desperdicem' luz enviando-a directamente para cima. Uma possível solução será a adopção de reflectores na parte superior dos candeeiros, por exemplo. Claro que isso limitará as opções de design, mas creio que as estrelas são mais bonitas que a vaidade de qualquer designer... E os designers hão de concordar comigo.
Para sensibilizar as pessoas para este problema, que se agrava lenta e gradualmente, e propôr possíveis soluções, foi criada a International Dark-Sky Association, a cujo site sugiro uma visita.
Link: International Dark-Sky Association
quarta-feira, 9 de maio de 2007
Está disponível aqui.
Também acrescentei este link à lista de links, visível na barra do lado direito deste blog. Aproveito para convidar todos os leitores deste blog a consultarem a lista de links, que tenho actualizado recentemente, e que liga a dezenas de sites de enorme interesse.
segunda-feira, 7 de maio de 2007
De especial interesse para os fãs das teorias da conspiração será a abertura do arquivo do Roswell Britânico, um caso de 1980 que ocorreu na floresta de Rendlesham, no Suffolk.
Mas duvido que encontrem alguma coisa. Todas as evidências já foram há muito destruídas :)
Fonte: The Guardian
MoD opens its files on UFO sightings to public
Thursday May 3, 2007
The Ministry of Defence plans to open its "X-Files" on UFO sightings to the public for the first time. Officials have not yet decided on a date for the release of the reports, which date back to 1967, but it is hoped to be within weeks.
The move follows the decision by the French national space agency to release its UFO files in March, the first official body in the world to do so.
UFO buffs will be keen to find out what officials knew about some of the UK's most famous sightings and whether any action was taken. One celebrated event - at Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, in 1980 - has been dubbed "Britain's Roswell" after the UFO incident in the US in 1947. At Rendlesham there were several witness reports of a UFO apparently landing. The released files should support or discount claims that radiation was detected at the site after the event.
David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and author of Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy, said opening the MoD's files would make it harder to sustain the idea that evidence for the existence of aliens has been suppressed. "The more of this stuff that they put on their website or put in the national archives, the less it will cost the taxpayer, because at the moment people are writing in about individual incidents and they are having respond," said Dr Clarke, referring to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents due for release are witness reports of apparent UFO sightings, many by civil pilots and military personnel. Most were simply collected and filed by a small, secret unit within defence intelligence called DI55. A few are thought to have been investigated further by the military, but the details have never been made public. There are 24 files due for release, each containing 200-300 reports of sightings, plus internal MoD briefings and correspondence.
sábado, 5 de maio de 2007
sexta-feira, 4 de maio de 2007
Quando Schirra voou era preciso ser realmente especial. Estes homens eram geralmente pilotos - por vezes até pilotos de ensaios - no pico das suas aptidões físicas e psíquicas, e eram submetidos a um treino rigorosíssimo e extremamente exigente. O qual apenas alguns ultrapassavam. Schirra foi um deles.
Fica aqui a minha humilde homenagem a um grande herói dos nossos dias.
Mercury 7 astronaut Wally Schirra dies at 84
He trained at NASA Langley, and a Hampton bridge bears his name.
BY KIM O'BRIEN ROOT
May 4, 2007
Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr., one of the last of the original Mercury astronauts, died Thursday at the age of 84.
Capt. Schirra was one of the seven men selected for America's first space program in 1959. As one of the "Mercury Seven," he trained in the early 1960s at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton with astronauts such as John Glenn, Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Alan Shepard.
A New Jersey native, Capt. Schirra died of a heart attack in a hospital in California, where he had lived since 1984.
All seven Mercury astronauts are honored in Hampton - they have bridges named after them. Capt. Schirra's name adorns a bridge on Aberdeen Road that crosses Newmarket Creek between Briarfield Road and Mercury Boulevard.
Capt. Schirra, a former Navy test pilot, was the only man to fly on NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. He was the fifth American in space and the third to orbit the Earth in 1962.
As commander of the first crew to fly into space aboard an Apollo capsule - the 11-day Apollo 7 flight in 1968, Capt. Schirra laid the groundwork for the mission that put two men on the moon on July 20, 1969.
"His record as a pioneering space pilot shows the real stuff of which he was made," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a news release. "We who have inherited today's space program will always be in his debt."
Of the original seven astronauts, only two - Glenn and Scott Carpenter - are still alive.
Thursday, Carpenter recalled Capt. Schirra as a fine aviator and a practical joker - he reportedly smuggled a corned beef sandwich on his Gemini flight.
Bill Scallion, perhaps the only Langley staff member who can recall the Mercury astronaut's work there, remembered Capt. Schirra as a personable guy who was smart, friendly, and loved a good game of poker.
Capt. Schirra, Grissom and astronaut "Deke" Slayton lived in the Stoneybrook area of Newport News from 1959 to 1962 while training at Langley.
Scallion, who is 83 and still works as an engineer at Langley, worked on simulation missions with the astronauts for about seven months, before they moved from the Hampton center to one in Houston.
When the program would travel to Cape Canaveral in Florida for training, most of the astronauts would fly down on fighter jets, Scallion recalled. But not Capt. Schirra. He and Slayton would fly on a charter plane with the engineers and play poker.
"They were some wild games," Scallion said. "It was really a fun time. They would hardly start the engine before we started playing poker."
Capt. Schirra retired from the Navy and from NASA in 1969 and became a commentator with CBS News, working the Apollo 11 mission with Walter Cronkite. In 1984, he moved to the San Diego suburb of Rancho Santa Fe, serving on corporate boards and as an independent consultant.
Scallion said Thursday that working with the original astronauts was "one of the greatest times I ever had."
"Those people were pioneering," he said. "I'm sad to see Wally go."
Fonte: Daily Press
NASA pioneer Wally Schirra, 84, dies
Astronaut's flights helped lead to moonshot
May 4, 2007
Walter Schirra, the only man to fly all three of NASA's first-generation spaceships, died Thursday from a heart attack in La Jolla, Calif. He was 84.
Schirra's death leaves only two of America's first astronauts, known as the Mercury Seven, still living. The survivors are John Glenn, 85, and Scott Carpenter, 82.
A highly skilled pilot and ebullient practical joker, Schirra commanded the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft in a span of only six years. Schirra, best known as Wally, never set foot on the moon, but his flights were crucial steppingstones in an era when rockets regularly blew up and outer space was an unexplored frontier.
The lives of the Mercury Seven and the space program's early days were chronicled in the book and movie "The Right Stuff." Schirra and the others "were the epitome of the right stuff," said space historian Roger Launius of the National Air and Space Museum. "He was one of the originals."
A native of Hackensack, N.J., Schirra graduated from the Naval Academy and served as a Navy test pilot. That qualified him for the astronaut corps, made up in the early 1960s of military test pilots because of their flying skills and familiarity with danger.
Schirra "had the test-pilot's can-do spirit, and he was willing to sign up for the risks," said Eugene Kranz, a legendary NASA flight director who helped run Schirra's missions.
Schirra became the fifth American in space when, riding in the tiny Mercury capsule, he circled the Earth six times. His textbook-perfect flight helped restore NASA's confidence in the astronaut corps, which took a beating after a troubled Mercury flight by Carpenter four months earlier.
Schirra's 1965 Gemini mission included the first close approach by two U.S. spacecraft, a necessary prelude to the Apollo missions that landed humans on the moon. His flight in 1968, which put the Apollo through a trial run, gave NASA the confidence to send humans to orbit the moon, allowing the U.S. to beat the Soviet Union to lunar orbit.
That Apollo flight was also historic for the bad relations between the astronauts and Mission Control. Plagued by an ambitious to-do list and a bad cold, Schirra snapped at flight controllers and refused to follow some instructions. "I have had it up to here today," he told Mission Control near the end of his flight.
Even in a man known for candor, that level of testiness was unusual.
After leaving NASA, Schirra worked for CBS, appearing with anchor Walter Cronkite as a commentator on the space program. As the first human to suffer a head cold in space, Schirra also became a pitchman for cold remedy Actifed.
Fonte: Spokesman Review
quinta-feira, 3 de maio de 2007
Novos documentos, resultantes de entrevistas com os outros membros da tripulação desta missão, no âmbito da investigação do caso da agressão a Colleen Shipman, revelam pormenores até agora desconhecidos da personalidade da astronauta.
Aparentemente, Lisa Nowak não 'jogava em equipa' durante a missão, chegando mesmo a recusar tarefas para as quais não tivesse sido treinada. Isto ter-lhe-á custado a nomeação para uma segunda missão no Space Shuttle, que foi para a sua colega (da mesma missão) Stephanie Wilson (à esquerda, em baixo, na foto), o que terá afectado profundamente a astronauta. Ainda mais, pelos vistos.
Outros comentários dos colegas, que podem ser lidos nos documentos (pode aceder a todos os documentos a partir do site do Orlando Sentinel) têm mais a ver com características mais pessoais da astronauta, e que pessoalmente não vejo que peso possam ter no processo.
Uma leitura interessante, pelo menos, para quem se interessa por este mundo dos astronautas, embora haja documentos que pessoalmente ache que não devessem ser trazidos a público, como certos emails e cartas...
Link: Orlando Sentinel - Cobertura detalhada do caso Lisa Nowak
Fonte: Air Force Times
Papers show tension between Nowak, astronauts
By Traci Watson - USA Today
Posted : Wednesday May 2, 2007 10:10:15 EDT
Many NASA staffers knew or heard rumors that Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak was having an affair with a fellow astronaut, long before allegations that she attacked a rival for Cmdr. William Oefelein’s affections, according to documents released Tuesday by the Florida state attorney’s office.
Included in the 124 pages of documents are interviews by NASA’s Office of Inspector General and the Naval Criminal Investigative Services. They detail the low opinion other astronauts had of Nowak and how unhappy she was about not getting a spot on a shuttle mission in October. Nowak allegedly attacked Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman the following February.
NASA has no rules against relationships between astronauts. The Navy forbids adultery by officers. Both were married to other people during their relationship.
Police say Nowak drove 950 miles from her home in Houston to Orlando to confront Shipman, Oefelein’s girlfriend. Nowak pleaded not guilty to attempted kidnapping, burglary with assault and battery. The trial is scheduled for September. Nowak is no longer an astronaut. The Navy has assigned her to duties in a training division in Corpus Christi, Texas. The military will review Nowak’s status after her civil trial is over, spokeswoman Cmdr. Lydia Robertson said.
The new documents include summaries of interviews with astronauts from Nowak’s shuttle mission in July and Oefelein’s flight in December. Astronauts and others on the space agency’s staff told Navy and NASA investigators of seeing Nowak and Oefelein together in unusual settings. Astronaut Michael Fossum described seeing his crewmate Nowak and Oefelein together at the Kennedy Space Center crew residence, normally occupied only by the crew of upcoming missions.
The relationship didn’t affect their work, Fossum said, so he never mentioned anything to anyone.
In 2005, Nowak told two shuttle crewmates she could not fly home to Houston with them from Kennedy in central Florida because she had business nearby, Fossum told investigators. Fossum discovered by looking at flight records that Nowak flew to Key West with Oefelein.
Court documents also indicate Oefelein and Nowak often asked support personnel to juggle complicated schedules so that they could train together, even though they were not assigned to the same crew.
Days before her arrest in February, Nowak asked a scheduler to arrange scuba training and all-day flight practice with Oefelein for her, the investigative summary said. Nowak also was persistent in trying to get the schedule of Oefelein and his crew after they returned from their mission.
Crewmates painted a slightly less flattering picture of Nowak than previously known.
Colleagues told police that Nowak, a quiet, smiling woman in public appearances, could bristle and treat people she worked with poorly. Astronauts who flew with her in space last year said she performed her own tasks flawlessly but was not a team player and was unwilling to help others.
Fossum and Mark Kelly, both of whom flew with Nowak in 2006, said Nowak was disappointed she didn’t get a seat on a shuttle mission scheduled to launch this fall. Crewmate Stephanie Wilson got the spot instead, the astronauts said.
“Nowak was upset that she was not chosen for the job because it was probably her last opportunity for spaceflight,” according to the interview with Fossum.
Kelly blamed Nowak’s failure to get a spot on the flight on her personality. Kelly said “she was not very helpful on their space mission and never went out of her way to help other crewmembers,” the investigators’ report said. Fossum said Nowak could be “‘prickly’ about things, even contentious,” and “weak from a teamwork aspect,” the report summary said.
Trent Hebert, manager of flight crew operations, told investigators a colleague complained about Nowak’s behavior during a public appearance in 2006. She refused to open a drawer to get a pen to sign autographs and then physically blocked a colleague from opening the drawer to get her a pen.
Astronauts also said she refused to give out her cell phone number to her fellow astronauts on last July’s space shuttle mission to the international space station.
Oefelein told investigators that Nowak had two cell phones — one that she paid for and another that Oefelein had given her and paid the monthly bill for service.
The day after Oefelein returned to Earth from the international space station in December, one of his cell phone numbers dialed the other a dozen times and sent seven text messages.
The phone records given to the investigators don’t distinguish which number belonged to whom, since both numbers were paid for by Oefelein.
None of the NASA personnel interviewed in the new documents said they had any inkling Nowak planned to go to Florida to confront Shipman. Kelly and Fossum expressed surprise, not because of the alleged attack, but because Nowak was “notoriously bad at navigating to her destination in a car,” the documents said.
In January, Oefelein told Nowak he wanted to date Shipman exclusively. Oefelein, 42, delivered the news around the time Nowak, 43, separated from her husband. Oefelein and his wife divorced in 2005, about a year after he got involved with Nowak.
Associated Press writer Mike Schneider and Florida Today writer John Kelly contributed to this story.
Este acidente não afecta a próxima missão do Shuttle, mas poderá afectar missões em Outubro e Dezembro.
Ainda por cima é a segunda vez que isto acontece numa semana! Será mau-olhado? :)
Shuttle booster segment cars derailed; NASA assesses impact on downstream missions
A train pulling eight space shuttle booster segments, each loaded with solid propellant and each in its own enclosed car, derailed in Alabama today, knocking the locomotives and at least one segment car on its side. Five to six people on the train reportedly were injured, two seriously. Engineers with booster-builder ATK Thiokol were on the way to the scene to assess the condition of the motor segments, the first step in ultimately determining whether they are safe to fly.
The same train suffered a minor, unrelated derailment last Friday in Kansas, officials said, but today's incident was much more serious. Even so, a NASA spokesman said the rubbery propellant in the booster segments does not easily ignite and there was little risk of fire or explosion.
The space shuttle uses two solid-fuel boosters and three hydrogen-fueled main engines to push the orbiter into space. Each booster is made up of four fuel segments that are shipped loaded, one segment per enclosed rail car, to the Kennedy Space Center from Thiokol's Utah manufacturing facility. Once in Florida, the segments are inspected and bolted together. After two boosters are "stacked" on a mobile launch platform, an external tank is attached and then a shuttle.
The boosters are the largest solid-fuel rockets ever flown and the first ever used for manned space flight. Each four-segment "SRB" generates 2.6 million pounds of thrust and weighs 1.3 million pounds. The SRBs provide the initial thrust to get the shuttle off the launch pad and only operate for two minutes before exhausting their propellant, detaching from the shuttle and parachuting into the ocean for recovery and eventual reuse.
The eight segments involved in today's derailment are slated for use by the shuttle Discovery in October for mission STS-120 and by the Atlantis in December for mission STS-122. The goal of STS-120 is to deliver a new connecting module to the international space station that will permit the attachment of Europe's Columbus research module during STS-122.
NASA officials say it's too soon to tell what impact, if any, today's derailment might have on either mission. But several NASA officials said they were optimistic the shuttle flights in question can stay on schedule even if one or more booster segments must be replaced.
Fonte: Email da CBS Space News
quarta-feira, 2 de maio de 2007
Já perdi há muito a esperança de algum dia ver astronautas a caminhar em Marte. Daqui a 30 anos terei, se fôr vivo, 70 anos... Com a história de atrasos que o programa espacial norte-americano tem tido nas últimas décadas, acho que terei muita sorte se voltar a ver homens na Lua, quanto mais em Marte...
Por acaso os primeiros homens na Lua são uma das minhas primeiras recordações! Serão uma das últimas?
A NASA fez agora um estudo em que levanta questões muito pertinentes sobre eventuais ocorrências em missões de muito longa duração, como uma missão a Marte, que poderá chegar a durar 3 anos. Questões como doenças graves, terminais ou mesmo mortes.
Incrivelmente não fazem menção de uma questão a meu ver muito mais melindrosa e até potencialmente perigosa - a questão do sexo no espaço. Missões de 3 anos com homens e mulheres à mistura, acham mesmo que não vai acontecer nada? Há que prevenir até eventuais problemas decorrentes de conflitos relativos a estas questões! Já pensaram num assassinato no espaço? Pois não é assim tão incrível, se pensarmos nos acontecimentos recentes com a infeliz astronauta Lisa Nowak.
On Trip to Mars, NASA Must Rethink Death
By MIKE SCHNEIDER
Associated Press Writer
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- How do you get rid of the body of a dead astronaut on a three-year mission to Mars and back?
When should the plug be pulled on a critically ill astronaut who is using up precious oxygen and endangering the rest of the crew? Should NASA employ DNA testing to weed out astronauts who might get a disease on a long flight?
With NASA planning to land on Mars 30 years from now, and with the recent discovery of the most "Earth-like" planet ever seen outside the solar system, the space agency has begun to ponder some of the thorny practical and ethical questions posed by deep space exploration.
Some of these who-gets-thrown-from-the-lifeboat questions are outlined in a NASA document on crew health obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request.
NASA doctors and scientists, with help from outside bioethicists and medical experts, hope to answer many of these questions over the next several years.
"As you can imagine, it's a thing that people aren't really comfortable talking about," said Dr. Richard Williams, NASA's chief health and medical officer. "We're trying to develop the ethical framework to equip commanders and mission managers to make some of those difficult decisions should they arrive in the future."
One topic that is evidently too hot to handle: How do you cope with sexual desire among healthy young men and women during a mission years long?
Sex is not mentioned in the document and has long been almost a taboo topic at NASA. Williams said the question of sex in space is not a matter of crew health but a behavioral issue that will have to be taken up by others at NASA.
The agency will have to address the matter sooner or later, said Paul Root Wolpe, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who has advised NASA since 2001.
"There is a decision that is going to have to be made about mixed-sex crews, and there is going to be a lot of debate about it," he said.
The document does spell out some health policies in detail, such as how much radiation astronauts can be exposed to from space travel (No more radiation than the amount that would increase the risk of cancer by 3 percent over the astronaut's career) and the number of hours crew members should work each week (No more than 48 hours).
But on other topics - such as steps for disposing of the dead and cutting off an astronaut's medical care if he or she cannot survive - the document merely says these are issues for which NASA needs a policy.
"There may come a time in which a significant risk of death has to be weighed against mission success," Wolpe said. "The idea that we will always choose a person's well-being over mission success, it sounds good, but it doesn't really turn out to be necessarily the way decisions always will be made."
For now, astronauts and cosmonauts who become critically sick or injured at the international space station - something that has never happened - can leave the orbiting outpost 220 miles above Earth and return home within hours aboard a Russian Soyuz space vehicle.
That wouldn't be possible if a life-and-death situation were to arise on a voyage to Mars, where the nearest hospital is millions of mile away.
Moreover, Mars-bound astronauts will not always be able to rely on instructions from Mission Control, since it would take nearly a half-hour for a question to be asked and an answer to come back via radio.
Astronauts going to the moon and Mars for long periods of time must contend with the basic health risks from space travel, multiplied many times over: radiation, the loss of muscle and bone, and the psychological challenges of isolation.
NASA will consider whether astronauts must undergo preventive surgery, such as an appendectomy, to head off medical emergencies during a mission, and whether astronauts should be required to sign living wills with end-of-life instructions.
The space agency also must decide whether to set age restrictions on the crew, and whether astronauts of reproductive age should be required to bank sperm or eggs because of the risk of genetic mutations from radiation exposure during long trips.
Already, NASA is considering genetic screening in choosing crews on the long-duration missions. That is now prohibited.
"Genetic screening must be approached with caution ... because of limiting employment and career opportunities based on use of genetic information," Williams said.
NASA's three major tragedies resulting in 17 deaths - Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia - were caused by technical rather than medical problems. NASA never has had to abort a mission because of health problems, though the Soviet Union had three such episodes.
Some believe the U.S. space agency has not adequately prepared for the possibility of death during a mission.
"I don't think they've been great at dealing with this type of thing in the past," said former astronaut Story Musgrave, a six-time space shuttle flier who has a medical degree. "But it's very nice that they're considering it now."