sexta-feira, 28 de novembro de 2008

O momento em que se perdeu um saco de ferramentas em órbita

Foi mesmo um daqueles acidentes que só acontecem porque as pessoas estão habituadas a porem coisas de lado e elas não fugirem. Infelizmente, no Espaço, é diferente. Heide Piper, astronauta da missão STS 126, neste momento ainda em órbita, teve de limpar o interior de um saco de equipamento, por ter escapado óleo de uma ou mais das pistolas que seriam utilizadas para lubrificar um dos painéis solares da Estação Espacial Internacional ISS. Ao fazê-lo teve de tirar momentaneamente um saco de ferramentas desse saco maior, e o saco escapou. Vê-se perfeitamente o momento em que a astronauta ainda tenta agarrar o saco, sem sucesso.

As ferramentas foram avaliadas em cerca de 100.000 dólares.

segunda-feira, 24 de novembro de 2008

Buran, o Space Shuttle Soviético

Fez há dias 20 anos que se realizou o único vôo de uma máquina absolutamente revolucionária, o Space Shuttle soviético 'Buran'.

Em certos aspectos era - e é ainda - superior ao seu equivalente americano. Nomeadamente era capaz de vôos não tripulados, era capaz de transportar mais 5 toneladas de carga, por virtude de não ter os foguetes principais na nave, e podia ser lançado e aterrar em condições mais adversas que o Space Shuttle. Adicionalmente, o seu foguetão podia ser usado para transportar outras cargas que não o Buran.

Só vantagens, com 7 anos de atraso em relação ao programa americano, e ficamos com a idéia de que se desperdiçou muito génio.

Fonte: BBC

Buran - the Soviet 'space shuttle'

By Anatoly Zak

Buran (AFP)
Despite its looks, Buran was not a facsimile of the US shuttle

Some 20 years ago, on 30 September 1988, many readers of the Pravda newspaper - the official mouthpiece of the Soviet communist party - could not believe their eyes.

Published somewhat inconspicuously on the second page, there was a photo depicting the familiar shape of the US space shuttle, but with Soviet insignia on its wings.

Finally, years of rumours about a Soviet "copy" of the shuttle had been confirmed.

However, the official Soviet press was quick to point out that despite its superficial resemblance to the US counterpart, the Russian shuttle, dubbed Buran or "snowstorm", was better and more capable.

Within days, the new ship got a chance to prove it.

On November 15, 1988, as snowy clouds and winds were swirling around Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the Buran orbiter, attached to its giant Energia rocket, thundered into the gloomy early morning sky.

" They obliterated this crowning achievement of the Soviet space programme "
Three hours and two orbits later, the 100-tonne bird glided back to a flawless landing just a few miles from its launch pad.

Despite the kind of strong winds that would rule out any launch or landing attempt by the US space shuttle, Buran touched down just 3m off the runway centreline.

And this planet-wide ballet was performed with its "pilots" safely on the ground.

Born of paranoia

Buran's pioneering mission was the culmination of an effort by more than 600 Soviet institutions which, since 1976, had secretly laboured on this largest of Soviet space projects.

Upon the spacecraft's triumphant landing, the Soviet newspapers promised a new era in space exploration. Few could predict at the time that it would be Buran's only mission.

Unlike Nasa, Soviet developers never had any grand illusions about replacing traditional rockets with a reusable space truck.

Instead, the Soviet shuttle was conceived primarily as a "symmetrical response" to the perceived military threat from America's winged orbiters.

Buran site
A fully assembled Energia rocket with the first flown Buran orbiter, in 2002

Years after a sceptical Pentagon had given up on the shuttle, even as a delivery truck for spy satellites, the Russian officials continued whispering to journalists that the US orbiter had a secret capability - to make an undetected "dive" into the Earth's atmosphere and suddenly glide over Moscow dropping nuclear bombs.

Never mind that such a scenario was not supported by physics or by common sense.

Energia-Buran's chief architect, Valentin Glushko, hardly tried to educate warmongers at the Politburo about the questionable merits of the re-usable orbiter as a weapon.

Glushko was one of the first generation of Soviet rocket pioneers, who were experimenting in the 1930s under the tutelage of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky - one of the "fathers" of spaceflight. Like many of his contemporaries, he had little interest in designing weapons.

He did dream, however, about building a permanent base on the surface of the Moon.

Unfortunately, after losing the Moon race to America in 1969, Soviet leaders had little appetite for another deep-space adventure.

Launch pad
The launch and test facility where the Energia rocket first took off in 1987

Still, Glushko probably hoped to exploit Cold War paranoia about the threat of the US shuttle as an opportunity to lay a detour road to the Moon, and possibly even to Mars.

Glushko carefully steered the Soviet shuttle project away from being a carbon copy of the American design, which could not be easily modified.

Instead, he proposed a winged orbiter along with a fully functional rocket which could carry any cargo - including lunar landers, orbital tugs and even pieces of a Martian expeditionary complex.

In the end, Kremlin bosses had committed to the monumental expense of money and human talent with only vague hopes that real tasks for the grandiose vehicle would emerge as it came online.

Instead, after long delays and cost overruns, the Buran appeared on the scene in the last act of the Cold War and amid a crumbling Soviet economy.

The Berlin Wall had come down just a year after its first flight, and the Soviet Defence Ministry was suddenly more preoccupied with resettling thousands of troops returning from Eastern Europe than with servicing orbital anti-missile platforms and deploying killer satellites in space.

Energia site
The first stage of the Energia rocket inside Building 112 in Baikonur

The collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 sealed the fate of the Energia-Buran system.

There was a flicker of hope for Buran's giant booster - Energia - when Russia joined the effort to build the International Space Station (ISS).

Still unfinished today, after a decade of efforts and dozens of assembly flights, the ISS could have been hauled into orbit by only a few Energia boosters, had international partners adopted it into the program, say the rocket's proponents.

In the mid-1990s, a flight-ready Buran orbiter, which made the historic trip in 1988, had been mounted on the back of a fully assembled Energia rocket at Baikonur's Building 112.

This eye-popping display became a popular stop for journalists and foreign tourists, who periodically "invaded" Baikonur for high-profile launches.

To the untrained eye, the gargantuan rocket and its orbiter looked all but ready for a rollout to the launch pad.

Last resting place

In 2001, this spectacle, combined with the optimistic and mis-translated comments of a Russian guide, had such a profound effect on one Western reporter that he filed a story claiming that the Energia-Buran programme was about to be re-started.

The article proved that a decade after its demise, the Buran had already become a legend.

However, if one looked closely in Building 112 it was possible to see water dripping from the high ceiling on a rainy day and accumulating on the floor, under the dead torsos of Energia rockets.

The keeper of the facility, who showed reporters around the building, said that he could hardly find money to send repair men to patch up the giant roof.

Interior of N-1 hangar at Baikonur
Rescue workers search the devastated hangar at Baikonur

Eventually, a repair team, believed to include eight people, did make it to the roof, climbing on top of Building 112 on May 12, 2002.

According to eyewitnesses, at about 0920 local time, the entire structure shook violently, as if hit by an earthquake, and enormous pieces of debris plunged dozens of metres to the ground below.

They obliterated this crowning achievement of the Soviet space programme.

But the Energia-Buran programme did leave a lasting legacy.

The cavernous launch facilities at Baikonur and a state-of-the-art mission control centre in Korolev have continued serving the Russian space programme and its international partners.

The rocket technology developed for Energia-Buran has been put to use in other launchers.

A mighty RD-170 engine, originally developed for the first stage of Energia, today powers the Ukrainian Zenit rocket.

This engine's scaled-down descendants - the RD-180 and RD-190 - have been adopted for the US Atlas booster and Russia's next-generation Angara rockets.

While the US space shuttle will soon share the fate of the Buran orbiter - as a museum exhibit - emerging plans for lunar exploration have revived concepts of super-heavy rockets, on both sides of the Atlantic.

If they are ever built, their creators will have to re-trace the path once made by Valentin Glushko and his colleagues.

Espectacular! Camera de carro da polícia canadiana filma queda de meteoro!

Astrónomos estão neste momento a tentar encontrar restos do meteoro.

sábado, 15 de novembro de 2008

Vídeos amadores do lançamento do Space Shuttle

E de acordo com a tradição, aqui vão alguns vídeos amadores do lançamento desta madrugada. Um deles é feito por um miúdo! :)

Nossa Senhora! Caramba! :D

Oxalá o Presidente Eleito dos EUA, Barack Obama, tenha a oportunidade de constatar o apoio popular a estas missões!

Deve ser uma festa do caraças ver um lançamento destes! Especialmente a uma hora acessível, como este foi - nos EUA eram 5 para as 8 da noite! Lindo!

Lançamento nocturno do Space Shuttle Endeavour - STS 126

Faltavam 5 minutos para a uma da manhã em Lisboa quando um Sol artificial se ergueu do Centro Espacial Kennedy, em Merrit Island, na Flórida. Tratava-se do Space Shuttle Endeavour, em mais uma missão para expandir as capacidades da Estação Espacial Internacional (ISS). O vídeo abaixo mostra toda a sequência da contagem decrescente nos últimos 9 minutos, a partir da tradicional 'despedida' do director de vôo e do comandante do Space Shuttle, até à entrada em órbita. Visto tratar-se de um lançamento nocturno, a fase mais espetacular é mesmo nos primeiros segundos de vôo.

quinta-feira, 13 de novembro de 2008

Tudo a postos para o lançamento do Space Shuttle amanhã, perto da meia-noite.

O Space Shuttle Endeavour, uma das naves espaciais mais fantásticas alguma vez concebidas, será lançado amanhã, por volta da meia-noite e 55, hora de Lisboa. Tudo está a correr bem com a contagem decrescente, a única incógnita é o tempo, já que uma frente fria se está aproximar do Centro Espacial Kennedy. Os meteorologistas consideram haver 60% de possibilidades de condições favoráveis ao lançamento. Estaremos atentos! :)

Fonte: NASA SpaceFlight

STS-126 launch countdown begins - Atlantis heads back to OPF-1

November 11th, 2008 by Chris Bergin

The three day launch countdown for STS-126 has begun, marking the start of S0007 operations - which will hopefully conclude with the launch of Endeavour at 7:55pm local time on Friday. Meanwhile, Atlantis has been towed back to her Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1), as a result of the rescheduling of STS-125.

Endeavour is issue free, following the confirmation that the Integrated Display Processing (CRT2 MEDS 1553) problem has been cleared for flight.

“CRT 2 troubleshooting update: No additional troubleshooting is planned prior to launch. The plan is to fly as-is and defer any further troubleshooting to next flow,” noted the latest flow report on L2.

“The problem is not expected to impact flight ops since it only occurs at MDU power up, and MDU operation has not been affected. Currently, there are no Cat I constraints, and 34 Cat II constraints.”

The only concern at present is the weather that is expected in the local area around launch time, although this remains favorable. Should there be a delay to the November 14 launch date several mission options may come into play, relating to the arrival of the Russian Progress resupply vehicle (31P) - which is due to launch to the ISS later this month.

“The MMT (Mission Management Team) Prebrief was conducted (with) the discussion focused on potential decisions that may be required during the mission,” noted the latest MOD 8th Floor memo.

“The Progress 31P loiter plan allows STS-126 to launch as late as 11/21 and still allow one day between nominal undock and 31P docking. Use of the FD4 (Flight Day 4)pane on “two-pane” days was discussed. There is only FD3 capability on the nominal launch day of November 14 so this discussion only comes into play for a launch delay.

“If launch is scrubbed, the current plan is to use the FD4 pane if required to get off the pad on November 15th. ISS may request a one day mission extension if required to accomplish important sampling activities to support go/no-go decisions for six person crew. This decision could come as late as FD10 depending on how the mission is progressing.

“The focused inspection decision timeline is slightly unique for this mission since some locations on the starboard wingtip cannot be inspected after the MPLM is installed due to insufficient clearance with the SRMS/OBSS (Shuttle Remote Manipulator System/Orbiter Boom Sensor System).

“The focused inspection meeting will be conducted at 10 pm on Sunday, 11/16, (assuming launch on 11/14) to determine whether there are any focused inspection requirements in the starboard wingtip area which would necessitate delaying MPLM installation until after the focused inspection is completed.”

An additional note related to the sensors on the Wing Leading Edge - known as the WLE IDS (Impact Detection System) which has registered a number of hits to the wing on orbit - though most aren’t actual impacts. This is due to the sensitivity of the system, which has since been refined.

“The Orbiter project also reviewed their new screening criteria for Wing Leading Edge sensor indications, which will reduce the number of false positives.”

Endeavour’s crew, led by Commander Chris Ferguson, also arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, following a T-38 ride from their home base in Houston.

Meanwhiile, Atlantis - now having to wait until at least May, 09, for an opportunity to fly on the flagship mission of servicing Hubble - has completed de-stack operations from her ET-127 stack, for a return to the home comforts of OPF-1.

Following demate operations over the past few days, Atlantis was lifted over into the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), in preparation for being towed back to OPF-1 - as opposed to being placed on the OTS (Orbiter Transporter System).

Engineers lowered Atlantis’ landing gear via a ground control unit - which is also used in the OPF to raise and lower the gear for checkouts and final retraction, via an interface box in the cabin which plugs into the gear control system. This is connected via a long cable through an open panel in the hatch.

Atlantis was spotted back in OPF-1 at 23:30.

Uma Homenagem à Phoenix Mars Lander

01010100 01110010 01101001 01110101 01101101 01110000 01101000 <3

Depois de uma missão de enorme sucesso, a Phoenix Mars Lander deixou recentemente de emitir sinais para a Terra, tal como era previsto, com o início do Inverno Marciano. Como o Sol já não incide sobre os painéis solares da Phoenix, esta foi perdendo potência até que se tornou impossível continuar a operar. Há uma esperança, muito ténue, de que volte a funcionar no fim do Inverno Marciano. Mas isto não está previsto, deveremos considerar esta missão terminada, e de enorme sucesso! Parabéns à NASA e ao Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)!

Fonte: Wired

Mars Phoenix Lander Runs Out of Juice
By Alexis Madrigal Email
November 10, 2008

The phenomenally popular Mars Phoenix Lander mission has officially come to an end.

Originally slated for a mere 90 days near the Martian north pole, clever NASA power engineers kept the Lander doing science for nearly two months beyond that goal. But now mission officials are certain: The lander has run out of power for its internal heater and is presumed to be frozen on the arctic plain.

"At this time, we're pretty convinced that the vehicle is no longer available for us to use," said Barry Goldstein, Phoenix project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We're ceasing operations and declaring an end to mission operations at this point."

As late as last week, the team was still trying to eke a few more experiments out of the robotic lander, even as the declining amount of solar energy in the pole area made their task more difficult.

The mission's legacy, however, will not be defined by its longevity so much as by its problem-light successes and legions of fans. Driven by a clever social media strategy that built a huge Twitter following, the NASA mission struck a chord with space lovers, who watched with rapt attention as the lander made a picture-perfect landing and proceeded to become the first human spacecraft to "taste" Martian water.

"If we're successful, this mission will be remembered for being the first to do direct analysis of ice or water on the surface of Mars," predicted NASA's Mike Gross, who engineered the mission's scientific instrumentation, back in May.

Indeed, Phoenix primary investigator, Peter Smith, led off his eulogy for the Lander noting that his team discovered ice, before recounting the mission's success measuring Martian weather and finding perchlorate, a known energy source for some microbes on Earth.

"It's been a great mission, a highlight of my life," Smith said.

It will take months to analyze the 25,000 photographs and the data from the dozens of experiments that the Lander conducted over the last several months, but the mission is already seen as a major success for relatively cheap robotic missions. At $480 million, the Phoenix lander cost about as much as a single Shuttle mission.

In fact, the mission's biggest failure — not finding evidence of life — doesn't have much to do with the execution of the mission so much as the Red Planet itself.

"We've seen nutrients and energy sources," Smith said. "That leads to the question: Is this a habitable zone?"

But, just like the mission, Smith left the ultimate question of extraterrestrial life unanswered, saying just that his team needed time to go back to their labs and examine the data from the mission in greater detail.

@MarsPhoenix, the lively voice of the lander, sent her last message six minutes ago.

"01010100 01110010 01101001 01110101 01101101 01110000 01101000 <3,">

That's binary for "Triumph," and the herald of a new digital-savvy era for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.