quinta-feira, 20 de dezembro de 2007

Mãe de astronauta a bordo da ISS falece em acidente de viação.

A mãe de um dos astronautas actualmente a bordo da Estação Espacial Internacional ISS, Dan Tani, faleceu ontem num acidente de viação.

Se a missão do Space Shuttle tivesse sido lançada como previsto, no início deste mês, Tani estaria já na Terra, mas assim terá de esperar pelo lançamento, que será em Janeiro, na melhor das hipóteses. Não há forma de o fazer regressar antes.

Uma situação difícil e inédita para um astronauta da NASA.

Fonte: Email da CBS Space News

Tani's mother killed in car-train collision

Space station astronaut Dan Tani's 90-year-old mother, Rose, was killed today when her car was struck by a train in Lombard, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, police said.

In a statement, the Lombard Police Department said a preliminary investigation showed Rose Tani went around a school bus that was stopped at a railroad crossing, "going past the downed crossing gate at which time the westbound train struck the passenger side of the vehicle."

She was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital where she was pronounced dead, police said.

Launched to the international space station aboard the shuttle Discovery Oct. 23, Dan Tani was originally scheduled to return to Earth this week aboard the shuttle Atlantis. Liftoff originally was planned for Dec. 6, which would have resulted in a landing today. But Atlantis was grounded twice by suspect fuel sensors and the flight is now on hold until Jan. 10 at the earliest.

Tani and his two station crewmates - Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko - can return to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule in a life-threatening emergency, but that is not an option for the death of a friend or family member.

"This is something we consider," former astronaut Jim Voss told CBS Radio. "NASA understands there is a possibility of things like this happening while someone is on orbit. And they actually get the crew member's permission to either tell them or not tell them when something happens like this."

Most astronauts, Voss said, choose to be informed.

"It's particularly difficult to have a loss like that when you're in orbit because you're kind of helpless, you can't do anything, you can't be there to be with the family, you feel very, very isolated," Voss said. "And I think for Dan, this will be just a very, very difficult thing because of the closeness of the family member and not being able to return.

"Even in the military, when people are very isolated and far away, they make every effort possible when there's a death in the family to return the service member to be back with their family. And that probably is not a possibility in this case. You just can't do that. It's something you just have to endure."

Tani has trained with Whitson and Malenchenko for years and Voss said the closeness of the crew will be a comfort.

"And of course, NASA will offer any assistance that they can," he said. "They have flight surgeons who have worked very closely with the crew and know them extremely well and they're trained to assist in cases like this. ... It'll just be a very hard time for him for a while on orbit."

Tani's father, Henry N. Tani, is deceased, according to Dan Tani's NASA biography. Rose Tani lived in Lombard. During World War 2, Tani's parents and a brother were forced to leave their home and move to a California internment camp. They were U.S. citizens, but like 100,000 other Japanese-Americans, they had no choice.

In an interview with CBS radio station WBBM-AM before Tani's launch aboard Atlantis, Rose said she was proud of her son, adding "he was lucky to be picked as an astronaut."

terça-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2007

Senador Norte Americano propõe prolongar o programa Space Shuttle para além de 2010.

Para tal propõe um aumento de 10 biliões de dólares ao orçamento da NASA, o que permitirá, na sua opinião, realizar mais algumas (5 ou 6) missões do Shuttle, e evitar o recurso da NASA a naves russas, até às naves Orion estarem operacionais, por volta de 2015. No entanto, o administrador da NASA afirma que esse volume de fundos é irrealista para o número de missões que seriam necessárias, além de reafirmar o risco que é voar com o Shuttle para além de 2010.

É a minha opinião, porém, que o risco existirá sempre, e missões deste tipo serão sempre extremamente caras, mesmo com as futuras naves Orion. Acho que a NASA está a fazer um trabalho satisfatório no controlo dos riscos inerentes à operação do Shuttle, e deveria considerar sériamente esta possibilidade.

Fonte: MSNBC

Lawmaker wants space shuttle extension
Weldon proposes $10 billion to keep ships flying past 2010
By Irene Klotz
updated 7:55 p.m. ET Dec. 17, 2007

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The United States should keep flying the space shuttles past their 2010 retirement date to avoid depending on Russia to fly astronauts to the international space station, a Florida congressman said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, a Republican whose Florida district includes NASA's Kennedy Space Center, proposed extending the shuttles’ lifetime to close the gap until their replacement ships, called Orion, are ready for their first manned flights in 2015.

His proposal, which would cost about $10 billion, would have the shuttles make six or seven additional flights between 2010 and 2013 and speed up development of the Orion ships to be ready by then.

A second proposal would keep the shuttles flying until 2015 and leave Orion’s schedule alone.

“This is an issue of priorities,” said Weldon, who announced his plan at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center on Monday.

The board investigating the 2003 Columbia accident recommended that the shuttle fleet be retired in 2010 unless the fleet was completely recertified, a process that NASA said would be too time-consuming and expensive to attempt.

President George W. Bush accepted the recommendation and ordered the shuttles’ retirement. He also directed NASA to complete construction of the space station and develop new spaceships and rockets that could travel to the station as well as to the moon and other destinations in the solar system as part of a program called Constellation.

“The 2010 date was really an arbitrary date that was really picked more by OMB [the U.S. Office of Management and Budget] than NASA,” said Weldon spokesman Jeremy Steffens.

“The risk [of flying the shuttle] does not increase overnight. Obviously there’s risk, and NASA is doing its best to mitigate it. The risk is worth the goals we set out,” Steffens said.

As the shuttles’ 2010 retirement nears, NASA planned on getting exemptions to a congressional ban that prohibits purchases of Russian Soyuz rockets. The ban was imposed to curb the spread of nuclear weapons technology to Iran, which Russia is accused of helping.

Steffens said that paying the Russians to ferry U.S. astronauts back and forth may not be a viable option either.

NASA hopes that U.S. commercial launch vehicles may be developed to transport cargo and perhaps eventually astronauts to the station.

Congress already rejected a proposed $1 billion boost to NASA’s 2008 budget to keep Orion’s development on schedule.

NASA says, however, it is unsafe, expensive and counterproductive to keep flying the shuttle past 2010.

“Flying the space shuttle past 2010 would carry significant risks, particularly to our efforts to build and purchase new transportation systems that are less complex, less expensive to operate, and better suited to serving both [the space station] and exploration missions to the moon, Mars and beyond,” NASA administrator Michael Griffin told a congressional oversight committee last month.

Griffin said it would cost $2.5 billion to $4 billion per year to keep the shuttles flying past 2010.

sábado, 15 de dezembro de 2007

Space Shuttle Atlantis atacado por aranha gigantesca!

Pelo menos era o que parecia na NASA TV! Uma aranhita andou por momentos na objectiva de uma das cameras que irá cobrir o lançamento da próxima missão do Atlantis, adiada para 10 de Janeiro, na melhor das hipóteses, devido a vários problemas nos sensores de combustível do grande tanque externo.

sexta-feira, 14 de dezembro de 2007

NASA divulga mais emails sobre o caso de Lisa Nowak

Já há algum tempo que não tínhamos notícias da astronauta Lisa Nowak, cujo julgamento continua marcado para o primeiro trimestre de 2008.

A NASA divulgou agora, de forma bastante discreta, um conjunto de cerca de 200 páginas de emails entre Bill Oefelein, Lisa Nowak e Colleen Shipman.

Fonte: ABC News

NASA Releases Documents, E-mails in Nowak Case

Arrested Ex-Astronaut Was on Good Terms With Boyfriend Days Before Her Arrest


Dec. 13, 2007 - Newly released e-mails between former NASA astronauts Lisa Nowak and Bill Oefelein indicate Nowak may have been unaware that she had competition for Oefelein's affections until a few days before she confronted the other women in a Florida airport parking lot. Following the encounter Nowak was arrested and later dismissed by NASA.

The documents, which NASA posted online quietly overnight, were released 10 months after ABC News requested them under the Freedom of Information Act. NASA released e-mails between Nowak and Oefelein since 2004 and e-mails written by Oefelein to his girlfriend, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman. Messages that NASA deemed to be of a personal nature were excluded.

Nowak was arrested in February after allegedly confronting Shipman in Florida. Police documents say Nowak stalked Shipman at the Orlando airport and tried to get into her car, then attacked her with pepper spray. Shipman was able to drive away, and report the attack to police, who tracked down Nowak nearby and arrested her. Police didn't know until much later that she was an astronaut.

Nowak is charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary with assault which can be punishable by life in prison.

As late as Jan. 25, just a couple of weeks before Nowak's arrest on Feb. 8 in Florida, Nowak and Oefelein were still exchanging friendly e-mails and chatting about training, working out and going on bike rides together. There is no hint that she is aware of his relationship with Shipman, a woman he had met three months before while training for his shuttle mission.

In the e-mails, Oefelein asked Nowak's advice about what shirts to order for his space shuttle flight. He asked what did she think about the food he ordered to take into space during his shuttle mission? There is a lengthy discussion about whole wheat tortillas and granola bars, plus personal appearances at baseball games.

The e-mails between Nowak and Oefelein are neither romantic nor suggestive. They do portray a friendly, but on the surface, professional relationship.

When discussing a happy-hour party to celebrate a shuttle mission, Oefelein e-mailed Nowak on Wednesday Jan. 3, 2007 to ask, "Are you going to this?"

"Only if u r [sic]," she replies.

A week later, Jan. 31, Oefelein e-mailed Shipman about a junket to Alaska, his home state. The tone was more romantic.

"They want your size for the arctic gear for the snow machine outing. I think I can figure that out ... sexy and athletic," Oefelein wrote. ABC News also requested information from NASA on the space agency's policy for granting leave to its employees. And the documents they gave ABC News apparently show the agency did not have a policy about what to do if an astronaut was arrested.

NASA's leave policy covers sick leave, family responsibilities, military duty and jury duty. The policy does not contain a word about what to do if an astronaut is arrested and charged with a felony.

A month after Nowak's arrest, she was terminated as an astronaut by NASA. Months later, her former boyfriend, Oefelein was also let go. Nowak is now working on flight software for the Navy, and keeping a very low profile. She is still scheduled to go to trial in April, 2008.

The documents also detail some of NASA's response to the February attack. The day Nowak was arrested; Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats briefed reporters on NASA's budget, but said nothing about the arrest of one of their astronauts, earlier in the day.

Behind the scenes, the NASA press office was scrambling to figure out what to do. Astronaut Steve Lindsey, who commanded Nowak's shuttle flight, flew to Orlando to see what he could do, along with shuttle pilot Chris Ferguson. Lindsey escorted Nowak back to Houston after she was released on bond.

"Steve, you are handling an incredibly difficult task very extremely well," Michael Coats wrote in an e-mail, also released by NASA "Let us know whatever you need. Thank you for a job well done."

It was important to many in the astronaut corps who wanted to make sure that one of their own was not abandoned, while they struggled to understand what happened to Lisa Nowak. Ten months later, despite the release of hundreds of pages of evidence, videotapes, photos and cell phone records, there are still more questions than answers.

During the legal proceedings since Nowak's arrest, Oefelein has made it a point to appear by Shipman's side. Nowak has been bolstered by a devoted circle of family and friends.

In the two weeks between chatty e-mails and the incident in the Orlando parking lot, Nowak separated from her husband, and discovered that she would not be assigned to a shuttle mission. The job went to someone else when colleagues said Nowak was "not a team player," according to documents released by the courts earlier this year.

Nowak has spoken publicly only once, outside the courtroom following a hearing.

"The past six months have been very difficult for me, my family, and others close to me," Nowak said. "I know that it must have been very hard for Colleen Shipman, and I would like her to know how very sorry I am about having frightened her in any way and the subsequent public harassment that has besieged all of us."

Nowak won a huge legal victory earlier this year week when Judge Marc Lubet granted motions to suppress her 72-page statement to police the night she was arrested and to toss out the evidence seized from her car.

The evidence seized from Nowak's BMW in a motel parking lot included maps to alleged victim Colleen Shipman's home, e-mails between Shipman and Oefelein, large garbage bags, latex gloves and some used diapers.

Nowak's defense team repeatedly denies she ever wore diapers to avoid stopping during her drive from Houston, but the detective who took her statement said Nowak told him she had done so.

Despite the suppression of her statement, authorities still have evidence against Nowak. At the time, she carried a duffel bag with a steel mallet, a buck knife, a BB gun resembling a 9mm handgun, gloves and six feet of rubber tubing.

Imagem detalhada de um dos 'buracos' em Marte

Clique para aumentar.
Já falei destes buracos aqui e aqui. Esta nova imagem é muito mais detalhada e mostra bastantes detalhes no interior do 'buraco'.

Parece tratar-se de uma entrada para uma gruta, do lado direito, mas pode ser apenas um efeito da sombra.

Como este 'buraco' está localizado num lado de um vulcão, é possível que tenha sido criado quando um túnel de magma abateu.

Fonte: Bad Astronomy (ver nº 9)