Archive for March 2006

SpaceX’s first rocket launch fails

SpaceX launches — and loses — first rocket – Space News –

After four years of work, three launch delays and $100 million in dot-com cash, SpaceX’s Falcon 1 rocket rose from its Pacific launch pad on Friday, but was lost moments later.

Space enthusiasts around the world had looked forward to what SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies, billed as the world’s first all-new orbital launch vehicle in more than a decade.

The two-stage, partially reusable rocket ascended from a launch complex on Omelek Island in Kwajalein Atoll, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as thousands watched via a Webcast. But moments after its fiery rise from the pad, the Webcast signal was lost. Then, SpaceX reported that the rocket and its satellite were destroyed during the ascent

“We did lose the vehicle,” Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s vice president for business development, told reporters from SpaceX’s headquarters in El Segundo, Calif. Shotwell could not provide details about the cause of the launch failure, but a brief shot from a camera mounted on the rocket itself showed a whirl of flame around the rocket’s bottom just before contact was lost.

“Clearly this is a setback,” Shotwell said, “but we’re in this for the long haul.”

What a setback, atop of all the other setbacks leading up to this failure. I was really looking forward to their success, but it aint over for them yet. Besides, someone has to get Scotty’s ashes into space. 😉

See article for some insight.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sends test images – Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sends test images

The views from MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera, which has called the most powerful camera ever sent to Red Planet, reached Earth early Friday.

“The quality of the images is fantastic!” HiRISE principal investigator Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona, told “This demonstrates that both the HiRISE camera and the spacecraft pointing performed superbly.”

MRO launched on Aug. 12 of last year. It reached Mars and began orbiting the red planet on March 10.

The orbiter is hauling an array of science instruments, including a radar device designed to probe the subsurface of Mars for layers of ice, rock and, perhaps, liquid water that might be accessible from the surface.

See article for more detial and small sample images of the surface.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in position – Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter ready for action

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is in great shape after its arrival at the planet on March 10. It is now being readied to produce its first images of Mars this week — using the most powerful telescope camera ever sent to another planet

The University of Arizona’s super-powerful High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera is scheduled to relay first test shots of Mars on March 23 to the HiRISE Operations Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Check out this neat graphic: Aerobraking Into Martian Orbit

Ancient sarcophagus unearthed in Cyprus – Ancient sarcophagus unearthed in Cyprus

“The style of the decoration is unique, not so much from an artistic point of view, but for the subject and the colors used,” said Pavlos Flourentzos, director of the island’s antiquities department.

Only two similar sarcophagi have ever been discovered in Cyprus before. One is housed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the other in the British Museum in London, but their colors are more faded, Flourentzos said.

Flourentzos said the coffin — painted in red, black and blue on a white background — dated to 500 B.C., when Greek cultural influence was gaining a firm hold on the eastern Mediterranean island. Pottery discovered in the tomb is expected to provide a precise date.

Check out the article link for more, couple small pics there too.

Mars rover Spirit ‘gets a flat’ – One of Mars rover’s wheels stops working

Engineers were considering whether the electrical motor’s brushes — contacts that deliver power to the rotating part of the motor — have lost contact.

Spirit is trying to reach a position where it can get as much sunlight as possible during winter. But while the point of minimum sunshine is more than 100 days away, there already is only enough to power about one hour of driving on flat ground per day, JPL said.

Spirit’s new wheel problem occurred this week during the rover’s 779th Martian day.

Not bad though considering the original mission length for the Mars rovers were only 90 days. There’s still Opportunity.

Big Bang unfolded in the blink of an eye – Big Bang unfolded in the blink of an eye

The lastest WMAP results are in, inflation theory seems to be a bit further comfirmed, but pretty much just a reinteration of what has been stated previously, which I still find exciting that we’re on to something.. even if its a very tiny something. And now a large snip of the article:

IIn its latest results, the WMAP team analyzed the polarization of that radiation, basically the amount of glare put off by the universe’s initial super-fast expansion. The glare observed by WMAP indicates how much room electrons had to bounce off each other in the early universe, providing a measure of scale for the infant cosmos.

“The observations are spectacular and the conclusions are stunning,” said physicist Brian Greene of Columbia University.

• The findings indicate that the universe is vastly larger than the sphere — 13.7 billion light years in radius — that can be observed from Earth.

• Normal matter, the stuff of people and planets, is only about 4% of the combined matter and energy in the universe. Dark matter, invisible and exotic physical particles, and dark energy, a gravity-defying force behind the continuing expansion of the universe, makes up the rest.

• Stars first appeared 400 million years after the universe’s origin, a bit later than the team’s 2003 estimate but still remarkably early.

“In our lifetime, our whole conception of the universe has changed,” says physicist Max Tegmark of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The next step for cosmic microwave researchers will be to observe gravitational waves in the early universe, the signature prediction of inflation that will be considered proof of that theory.

WMAP “is telling us that the universe is vastly bigger than we ever imagined — so big that we no longer have any reason to believe that our tiny patch of it is representative of the whole thing,”

Quantum computer solves problem, without running

Quantum computer solves problem, without running

By combining quantum computation and quantum interrogation, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found an exotic way of determining an answer to an algorithm – without ever running the algorithm.

Very interesting, I think I comprehend, but too tired from work to elaborate, check out the article, its cool, and short. In fact, here’s another excerpt:

Sometimes called interaction-free measurement, quantum interrogation is a technique that makes use of wave-particle duality (in this case, of photons) to search a region of space without actually entering that region of space.

Utilizing two coupled optical interferometers, nested within a third, Kwiat’s team succeeded in counterfactually searching a four-element database using Grover’s quantum search algorithm. “By placing our photon in a quantum superposition of running and not running the search algorithm, we obtained information about the answer even when the photon did not run the search algorithm,” said graduate student Onur Hosten, lead author of the Nature paper. “We also showed theoretically how to obtain the answer without ever running the algorithm, by using a ‘chained Zeno’ effect.”

Double helix spotted in space – Cosmic ‘DNA’: Double helix spotted in space

The DNA nebula is about 80 light-years long. It’s about 300 light-years from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The nebula is nearly perpendicular to the black hole, moving out of the galaxy at a quick clip — about 620 miles per second (1,000 kilometers per second).

Magnetic field lines at the galactic center are about 1,000 times stronger than on Earth. They run perpendicular to the black hole, but parallel through the nebula. Scientists think that twisting of these lines is what causes the double helix shape

Saturn moon spurts icy plume – Saturn moon spurts icy plume

Detected last year by the Cassini probe orbiting Saturn, the plume opens up the possibility that icy moons considered uninhabitable may actually harbor water, and life, says mission scientist Torrance Johnson of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“We cannot discount the possibility that Enceladus might be life’s distant outpost,” says planetary scientist Jeffrey Kargel of the University of Arizona in Tucson, in a commentary accompanying nine plume studies in today’s Science journal. The plume, which jets from the southern pole, indicates that an ocean is hidden under the moon’s frozen crust, study authors say.

Cassini spotted the geyser last year on close flybys of the 311-mile-wide moon. The $3.26 billion international mission arrived at Saturn in 2004.

Any life on frozen Enceladus would likely be primitive, Kargel says. The next Cassini flyby of the moon in 2008 will take it within 220 miles of the surface.

Human Genes Still Evolving

Slashdot | Human Genes Still Evolving

MediumFormat writes “The New York Times is running an article that discusses the continuing evolution of human genes. From the article: ‘The genes that show this evolutionary change include some responsible for the senses of taste and smell, digestion, bone structure, skin color and brain function.’ Darwin Awards aside, what made people think that evolution stopped with the modern era?” – What a shock! Galaxies caught colliding – What a shock! Galaxies caught colliding

A cosmic pileup

Stephen’s Quintet is a cluster of five galaxies located about 300 million light-years away in the constellation Pegasus. For decades, astronomers using optical telescopes have known that galaxies in the cluster had experienced encounters in the past and that some were colliding even now.

But it wasn’t until they used Spitzer’s Infrared Spectrograph on the galaxy cluster that they could make out the details of what was happening.

They discovered that one of the galaxies, called NGC7318b, is currently falling toward three of the others at a very high speed and generating a giant shock wave, or “bow shock,” in front of it. A bow shock is akin to the ripple raised by a boat’s bow as it moves through the water.

Huge crater found in Egypt – Huge crater carved by space rock found in Egypt

Scientists have discovered a huge crater in the Sahara desert, the largest one ever found there.

The crater is about 19 miles (31 kilometers) wide, more than twice as big as the next largest Saharan crater known. It utterly dwarfs Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is about three-fourths of a mile (1.2 kilometers) in diameter.

In fact, the newfound crater, in Egypt, was likely carved by a space rock that was itself roughly 0.75 miles wide in an event that would have been quite a shock, destroying everything for hundreds of miles. For comparison, the Chicxulub crater left by a dinosaur-killing asteroid 65 million years ago is estimated to be 100 to 150 miles (160 to 240 kilometers) wide.

The crater was discovered in satellite images by Boston University researchers Farouk El-Baz and Eman Ghoneim.