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2004 Space News

December, 2004

NASA takes major step in return to space.

New rocket fuel tank is key to Spring launch of Discovery.
NASA engineers this week are shipping an improved rocket fuel tank that has been refitted to avoid the falling debris that caused the destruction of Columbia and the death of seven astronauts. NASA plans a May or June launch of space shuttle Discovery. The space shuttle fleet has been grounded since the Columbia accident as NASA scrambled to make changes in hardware, procedures and personnel to comply with recommendations from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. 

Full Story  AP_12/29/04

Clawing back demand for satellites.

In a flat market, where does the global rocket industry go?
It has been a rocky few years for the companies that launch the world's satellites, and it has been an especially testing time for the dominant commercial player, Arianespace.  Full Story   BBC_12/26/04

Russia to charge U.S. for carrying astronaauts to the International Space Station

US shuttles remain grounded following the fatal accident last year when the Columbia shuttle burned up on re-entry. The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, operates with a budget much smaller than its US counterpart, Nasa, and is facing financial hardship. Roskosmos has single-handedly serviced the International Space Station since the suspension of the US shuttle programme last year, sending two manned and five cargo spaceships to the station this year alone.  Full Story  BBC News_ 12/29/04

Asteroid risk in 2029 sparks ‘yellow alert’
Feeling Lucky?  Odds set at 1 in 45

The chances of a devastating asteroid strike in the year 2029 were raised to an unprecedented 1 in 45 as of Saturday, but the perceived risk is likely to be eliminated as astronomers get more detail about the object's orbit. Asteroid 2004 MN4 is thought to be about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long. That's not large enough to create a mass-extinction event, like the one that scientists say contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But if the asteroid hit the wrong place at the wrong time, it could cause a giant tsunami wave or deliver a nuclear-scale blast. 

Full Story  MSNBC _12/26/04

Russian cargo ship docks at space station
A U.S-Russian crew got some belated Christmas turkey and vital supplies Sunday when an unmanned cargo ship docked at the international space station, ending a shortage that had alarmed officials at home and forced astronauts to ration supplies. 

Full Story  AP_12/27/04

Cassini releases Huygens probe of Titan, Saturn's largest moon
Huygens will take three weeks to reach the smog-shrouded satellite of Saturn and then will have just a few hours to collect data before its batteries die. The jackpot prize will be to get pictures back from the surface.  Full Story  BBC News_ 12/25/04

Iowans to see rare planet alignment
Three planets will align over the weekend, giving Iowans a glimpse at something they haven't seen for at least 100 years.
Mercury, Mars and Venus will be able to be seen in the southeastern part of the sky before sunrise from Saturday through Wednesday.  Full Story  AP_12/24/04

Cassini to launch probe to Saturn moon
The Cassini spacecraft hurtled through space on a Christmas Eve mission to release a probe that will plunge through the smoggy atmosphere of Saturn's mysterious moon Titan. The probe, named Huygens, is equipped with instruments to sample the chemistry of Titan's thick, hydrocarbon-laced atmosphere and reveal whether the moon's surface really has lakes or seas of liquid methane and ethane, as scientists have theorized. 

Full Story  AP_12/24/04

Boeing rocket's maiden voyage fails
A new heavy-duty Boeing rocket designed to haul super-sized military satellites into space failed during a test flight to put a dummy satellite into its intended orbit. Boeing said the failure was apparently caused by a shorter-than-planned firing of the Delta 4 Heavy rocket's three main engines. The Air Force paid Boeing $140 million to conduct the test rather than risk the loss of an expensive military satellite on the inaugural launch.  Full Story  AP_ 12/22/04

Spacecraft sees infant galaxies in aging universe

Billions of years after a galactic "baby boom," a NASA spacecraft has detected dozens of newborn galaxies in Earth's part of the universe. The unexpected cosmic infants were discovered with the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, known as Galex. The closest of them may be a mere billion light-years from Earth, about 9 billion light-years closer than the baby galaxies scientists had observed previously.  Full Story  Reuters_12/21/04

North Carolina researchers to study plants, space
Four North Carolina State University researchers have been asked by NASA to determine how greens ultimately can be grown on the red planet. The space agency selected biologists at N.C. State's Kenan Institute to design experiments for the International Space Station that test how plants adapt to life in space or on another planet.   Full Story AP_12/20/04

Shuttle loss not only low point in NASA history, but a "cathartic moment" that led to agency reform and a broader U.S. space policy: Sean O'Keefe

O'Keefe, who is stepping down as head of NASA to be chancellor of the main campus of Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, told reporters at a news conference that the agency could probably have settled for the minimum requirements of the board that investigated the Columbia disaster. Instead, Mr. O'Keefe said, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration chose to meet the full objectives, including deep changes in the way it does business.  Full Story  New York Times 12/18/04_ (logon required)

NASA's Deep Impact comet mission to launch Jan. 12, 2005
The purpose of the mission is to crash a projectile into Comet Tempel 1, peeling away its outer skin in order to look inside. The audacious Deep Impact mission will arrive at Comet Tempel 1 six months after its 12 January launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. A mothership will eject the 360kg projectile, called an "impactor", directly into the path of Tempel 1. The projectile will hit the comet on 4 July.  Full Story  BBC News_ 12/15/04

NASA chief Sean O'Keefe plans to resign, possibly to become chancellor of Louisiana State University

O'Keefe's whose tenure has been shadowed by the Feb. 1, 2003 Columbia disaster and he could leave NASA before the expected May or June liftoff of the first shuttles to launch since the Columbia accident, said an official, speaking on condition of anonymity. O'Keefe was expected to have discussions at the White House on Monday and could visit the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, campus on Wednesday.  Full Story  Reuters_ 12/12/04

NASA seeks methods to repair shuttles in flight

The U.S. space agency hopes techniques that enable the crew to repair damages in flight will be ready for the shuttle's planned May 2005 return to space. Closer in-flight inspections and repairs -- once thought impossible -- could prevent a repeat of the February, 2003, accident in which Columbia broke apart as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, killing the seven astronauts aboard.  Full Story  Reuters_ 12/6/04

November, 2004

Super rocket aims for January

Lifting more for less
Europe's "super-rocket", the Ariane 5-ECA, will be back in action in January 2005, says its operator Arianespace. The launch will be the vehicle's first since its maiden flight ended in an explosive failure in December 2002. The qualification flight was originally scheduled for November, but was then put back after a review highlighted a number of outstanding technical issues. The ECA is important to the European launch industry because it can lift multiple payloads at reduced cost. Full Story  _BBC 11/30/04

Mission cleared for Titan plunge
An atmosphere not unlike Earth's billions of years ago

The Huygens probe is on target and all set for its encounter with Titan, the mysterious large moon of Saturn. The 2.7m-wide robot lab has passed its final systems check-out and scientists have confirmed the rendezvous can go ahead on 14 January as planned. Huygens has spent the past seven years riding on the Cassini spacecraft, which arrived at the ringed planet in July. Mission cleared for Titan plunge .  Prof John Zarnecki, of Britain's Open University, said "If we go to Titan we hope to see many of the chemical processes(in the atmosphere) that happened on Earth four billion years ago and which led, ultimately, to the conditions in which life was able to develop." 

Full Story  _ BBC   12/3/04

Moon dance on Saturn's canvas
The blue streaks are caused by scattering of light in Saturn's cloud-free upper atmosphere
The Cassini space probe has captured an incredible image of Saturn's tiny moon Mimas, suspended against the colourful backdrop of the ringed planet. The image shows Mimas against Saturn's northern hemisphere and the planet's rings (in beige) running across the lower half of the picture. Mimas has been dubbed the "Death Star" because it resembles the moon-sized space station in the Star Wars films.

Full Story  BBC _  11/30/04

Head of China's space agency to visit NASA chief

The Dec. 2 meeting with Chinese National Space Agency Administrator Laiyan Sun had been under discussion for months, said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. One expert said it could mean increased cooperation between the two countries.  Full Story  Reuters_ 11/23/04

First European spacecraft enters lunar orbit

The European Space Agency's SMART-1 spacecraft will make the first comprehensive inventory of key chemical elements in the lunar surface and investigate the theory that the moon was formed following the collision of a smaller planet with Earth, 4.5 billion years ago. SMART-1 has also been the test flight for a new solar-electric propulsion technology, a kind of solar-powered thruster that is ten times more efficient than the usual chemical systems employed when traveling in space.  Full Story  Reuters_ 11/16/04

Russian solar space sail craft to launch in March
The world's first spacecraft to use a solar sail for propulsion is set to be launched from a submerged Russian submarine on 1 March next year. Cosmos-1 has been built by space advocacy group The Planetary Society, reportedly for less than $4 million, and will deploy eight triangular sail blades once it is in space. The US, European, Japanese and Russian space agencies also have solar sail programmes in the offing.  Full Story  BBC News_ 11/10/04

European spacecraft Smart 1 arrives at Moon's gateway

Reaching the region beyond which the probe is tugged more strongly by lunar gravity than by the Earth's is of symbolic importance, said Dr. Bernard Foing, chief scientist at the European Space Agency. Eventually it will reach a stable elliptical orbit and begin its scientific investigations in January 2005. Smart 1 carries an X-ray spectrometer called D-CIXS which will comprehensively map chemical elements on the Moon's surface. This will help scientists test theories of its birth and evolution.  Full Story  BBC News_ 11/12/04

Boeing and Northrop Grumman look to team up to build manned spacecraft to Moon, Mars and possibly beyond

The firms will work together to compete to build Nasa's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) which was announced by President Bush in his "Moon to Mars" speech this year. It is likely to be based on the module and capsule concept used by NASA's Apollo and Gemini missions. Boeing gave the BBC News website an exclusive look at new artwork of a potential design for the CEV.  Full Story  BBC News_ 11/10/04

Historical Note:

On this date in 1957, Russia sent the first living creature into space, a female dog that rode into history on Sputnik II  Full Story  BBC News_ 11/3/04

As the veil on Titan is lifted, 'what we see is very alien'

With its abundance of hydrocarbons, the sky and surface of Titan would be dangerously flammable, like a petroleum refinery primed to erupt in fire, if there were any free oxygen there. Over the next four years, the $3.2 billion Cassini mission is to make 44 more flybys of Titan. On Dec. 24, the spacecraft is to release the smaller Huygens craft, built and operated by the European Space Agency. It enters Titan's atmosphere on Jan. 14 and parachutes to the surface, collecting data and taking pictures all the way.  Full Story  New York Times_ 11/2/04  (logon required)

China aims for five-day orbit in 2005
China's second manned space flight, Shenzhou VI, will carry two astronauts into space. China's first manned mission, Shenzhou V, launched into space in October 2003, carried one astronaut and lasted just over 21 hours. On the next mission, astronauts will enter and live in the orbital module of the spacecraft to do scientific experiments. BBC News_ 11/1/04

October, 2004

NASA to resume space shuttle missions in May or June

Seven astronauts died in 2003 when Columbia broke up on re-entry. All shuttle missions were suspended pending investigation of the accident. Improvements also were made to the orbiter and its fuel tank system. Plans to resume the launches in March were put back after hurricanes in July and August hit east Florida, where the Kennedy Space Center is located.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/30/04

'Utterly spectacular' views of Saturn's moon Titan arrive from Cassini spacecraft

Piercing Titan's thick atmosphere for the first time, the much-anticipated fly-by revealed the brilliant white surface of a continent-sized landmass that scientists quickly named Xanadu. Next to it lay an undefined dark mass that some scientists speculated could be a hydrocarbon slush, along with wispy clouds at the south polar region.  Full Story  Los Angeles Times_ 10/27/04 (logon required)

NASA's space mission Swift to hunt for the secret of cosmic blasts

Gamma-ray bursts can release as much energy in a few minutes as the Sun emits in its 10-billion-year lifetime. Yet what causes these mighty blasts is still unknown. The $250 million probe, whose launch in Florida was delayed by hurricanes, could lift off on 11 November at the earliest.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/25/04

Cassini-Huygens closes in on Saturn's moon Titan

Attempts to view Titan's icy surface have so far been frustrated by a thick, orange haze that shrouds the moon. But today's pass should be close enough for Cassini's instruments to penetrate the satellite's dense smog.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/26/04

Faulty switches blamed for crash of Genesis with samples from the Sun

The capsule was returning samples of charged atoms blown off the Sun when it crashed last month in Utah. Nevertheless, painstaking work in a cleanroom rescued sufficient numbers of the solar atoms that scientists feel confident they can complete the Genesis mission - to understand the original chemical composition of the Solar System.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/17/04

New space crew docks with International Space Station

The Soyuz craft carrying cosmonauts Salizhan Sharipov and Yuri Shargin and US astronaut Leroy Chiao arrived at 0416GMT, one minute ahead of schedule. The three will spend 10 days working alongside the outgoing ISS crew, who will return to Earth with Shargin. Chiao and Sharipov will then be left to spend the next six months on the ISS.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/16/04

U.S.-Russian space crew blasts off on two-day flight to the International Space Station

Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov and NASA's Leroy Chiao will replace Russian Gennady Padalka and American Michael Fincke who have manned the ISS since April. The craft is due to dock with the space station at 8:25 a.m. Moscow time Saturday.  Full Story  Reuters_ 10/14/04

Expedition 10, the next crew to live on the International Space Station (ISS), set to launch today from Kazakhstan

US astronaut Leroy Chiao and Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov will leave the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a Soyuz rocket and arrive Friday at the orbiting platform, where they will work on handover tasks with the outgoing Expedition 9 crew for 10 days. Chiao and Sharipov will then be left alone on the ISS for six months.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/13/04

NASA says space shuttle loses March-April window

The Discovery orbiter was due to launch in March or April on a mission to the International Space Station - the first flight since the Columbia disaster. But Nasa says the hurricanes that hit Florida and other south-eastern US states delayed work schedules.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/4/04

September, 2004

Technical problems again delay Russian space launch

The Soyuz, carrying a new crew to man the International Space Station, had been scheduled to lift off from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Oct. 11, after an initial postponement because of problems with the docking system. A Russian space agency spokesman said the new launch date had not been set and did not elaborate on the technical hitch.  Full Story  Reuters_ 9/28/04

NASA says Jeanne caused more delays

Hurricane Jeanne caused minimal damage to NASA's spaceport, but put space shuttle workers even further behind in their effort to resume launches early next spring.  Full Story  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 9/27/04

NASA scientists begin examination of Genesis solar wind samples

The particles were collected by the spacecraft Genesis, which crashed earlier this month in the Utah desert when its parachutes failed to open on landing. The examination of the pizza-shaped collector trays embedded with ions from a three-year study of solar winds will show whether the 200-mph impact on Sept. 8 ruined what scientists hoped would be a fossil record of the Sun, NASA officials said. The three-foot-wide collector trays, which were sent to researchers at University of California, Berkeley, once sat in the lid of the Genesis spacecraft's science canister and were exposed to solar winds for two years. The mission cost $264 million.  Full Story  Reuters_ 9/24/04

Russia plans International Space Station launch Oct. 11

The blast-off in a Soyuz spacecraft from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan will send up a replacement crew for Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and NASA astronaut Michael Fincke, who have manned the orbital platform since April.  Full Story  Reuters_ 9/22/04

NASA awards Northrop Grumman $400 million contract to co-design nuclear-powered Jupiter space probe

The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (Jimo) is part of an ambitious mission to explore the three planet-sized Jovian moons Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. which are thought to harbour oceans of probable water beneath an icy crust. Jimo would be the first Nasa mission using nuclear electric propulsion. Northrop Grumman will work with a US government team to complete a preliminary design for the spacecraft. Northrop beat Boeing and Lockheed Martin to take the contract. Launch is officially scheduled for 2011, but there are signs this could slip to 2015.  Full Story  BBC News_ 9/21/04

BBC Interview: Vint Cerf, father of the Internet, on creating an Internet in space

The project started around the spring time of 1998. "We are not too many years away from having a kind of two-planet internet in operation."  Full Story  BBC News_ 9/19/04

Human body clocks 'hinder' space exploration

Whilst the human body is used to a 24-hour cycle, the day on Mars is an extra 39 minutes long, which could prove difficult for humans to adapt to. Researchers at the Imperial College London, UK, are working in conjunction with the US National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) and have been investigating the impact space travel has on human sleep behaviour.  Full Story  BBC News_ 9/18/04

Largest window built for use is space will be astronauts a spectacular view from the International Space Station

The 80cm-wide window is one of seven fitted to an observation dome called Cupola, which will be attached to the ISS in January 2009. Cupola has six trapezoid-shaped side windows around the large, circular one. The new dome is designed to allow astronauts to control the robotic arm on the outside of the space station.  Full Story  BBC News_ 9/14/04

Broken Genesis capsule holds "good data" - NASA

After peering inside NASA's broken Genesis capsule with flashlights and mirrors, scientists said the craft's unexpected crash landing left solar material intact and most scientific objectives within reach. The $264 million mission was designed to collect charged solar particles on delicate wafer-like plates and return them to Earth for examination.  Full Story  Reuters_ 9/10/04

Scientists pry apart a mangled Genesis space capsule in hopes of salvaging its precious cargo of solar atoms

A day after the saucer-shaped probe crashed in the Utah desert, NASA's broken capsule was taken to a laboratory at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground, where scientists used tweezers to pick through the wreckage.  Full Story  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 9/9/04

UK scientists using the Cassini probe find a new ring around Saturn and one, possibly two, new objects orbiting the planet

The discoveries are in the planet's contorted F-ring region. The ring of new material seems to be associated with Saturn's moon Atlas.  Full Story BBC News_ 9/9/04

Genesis space capsule crashes in Utah desert

The space capsule returning solar particles to Earth crashed after its parachute failed to open, but scientists were hoping that the star dust inside might have been saved. A Hollywood stunt pilot was supposed to snag the Genesis capsule as it floated toward Earth on a parachute at the end of its three-year mission. The spacecraft collected ions that had been blown by solar winds on wafers of silicon, diamond, sapphire, gold and other materials in what scientists described as a "fossil record" of the Sun. Scientists hoped the materials would yield insights about the early formation of planets and the dawn of the solar system. Full Story  Reuters_ 9/8/04

Noah's Ark plan from Europe's top Moon man

The European Space Agency's chief scientist, Dr Bernard Foing, says the Moon should be a repository for the DNA of every single species of plant and animal in case the Earth is destroyed by an asteroid or nuclear holocaust. Speaking exclusively to BBC News at the British Association Science Festival, Dr Foing said he is concerned that if the Earth were destroyed, there would be little or nothing left of the rich diversity of life on the planet.  Full Story  BBC News_ 9/7/04

Genesis probe returns to Earth today with particles blown off the Sun

Genesis, which left Earth in 2001, will eject a capsule that will enter Earth's atmosphere at 40,000km/h (24,000mph) before slowing, with the help of a parachute, to fall over the Utah desert. Hollywood stunt pilots are waiting to snatch the parachute in mid-air to prevent the capsule hitting the ground. Scientists hope the particles of solar wind can tell them about the evolution of the Sun and the planets.  Full Story  BBC News_ 9/7/04

China showcases space program; marketers are close behind
China, a rising space power, provided a rare look into its top-secret launch center this week promoting the military-funded project as a lure for foreign investment and a key to the nation's growing prosperity. Jiuquan space center is a blue-ribbon brand name just waiting to be marketed far and wide.  Full Story _Space.com 9/1/04

Tiny space rocks help settle astronomical debate
A pair of miniscule meteorite grains has helped astronomers settle a long-running debate on the origins of space dust belched out by dying stars.  Full Story _ Space.com 9/2/04

Virtual humans proposed as space travelers
An extra crewmember aboard any spaceship heading outward. won't require food, oxygen or water, nor even need to buckle up for safety. The tag-along traveler could, however, be a lifesaver in terms of getting the expedition to and from a celestial destination.  Virtual humans are proposed for future space travel.  And if dispatching virtual humans from Earth doesn’t turn on your thrusters, think about this. It’s likely that extraterrestrial civilizations might send surrogate entities our way instead of propelling their delicate, soft-shell selves across interstellar mileage.   Full Story _ Space.com 9/1/04

Astronomers swiftly end speculation of deep-space radio signal from ET
It was reported on the internet that the signal had been found using the Seti@home screensaver that uses computer downtime to analyse sky data from telescopes. But researchers connected with the project told BBC News Online that no contact with extraterrestrials had been made. "It's all hype and noise," said its chief scientist, Dr. Dan Wertheimer. "We have nothing that is unusual. It's all out of proportion." For six years, the Seti@home project has used a downloadable screensaver on millions of computers around the world to sift through data for anything unusual. Full Story  BBC News_ 9/2/04

Space probe may be most efficient way to find alien life: Researchers
Until now, it was generally believed that the best way to find ET is to look for a radio signal from them as such signals can travel vast distances. But an analysis by US researchers published in the journal Nature suggests that sending a probe into space would be more efficient.  Full Story  BBC News_ 9/1/04

Genesis probe returns to Earth next week with a sample of the solar wind, particles from the Sun
It is the first return of material to be retrieved from beyond the Moon. On 8 September, the drama will unfold over the skies of central Utah, over the US Air Force's test and training range, when the spacecraft's sample-return capsule will be snagged by helicopter. Full Story BBC News_ 9/1/04

Liquid oxygen fuel leak forces one-day delay in launch  of Lockheed Matin Atlas 2 U.S. spy satellite
The two-stage rocket carries a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. It was to be the 63rd and final flight of the Atlas 2 series of rockets. The model is being superseded by the Atlas 5, a more versatile rocket that can be launched in light, medium or heavy payload configurations and was designed to be cheaper and easier to launch.  Full Story  Reuters_ 8/28/04

China launches mapping and surveying satellite
The satellite was orbiting normally after being launched atop a Long March 2C rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northern province of Gansu, Xinhua said. It will return to earth in several days. Last month, China launched a probe as part of a program with Europe aimed at improving monitoring of magnetic storms and other space hazards.  Full Story  Reuters_ 8/29/04

Helicopter Stunt Pilots to Snag Stardust for NASA
NASA has recruited two Hollywood helicopter stunt pilots for an especially tricky maneuver -- snagging a capsule full of stardust as it parachutes back to Earth next month. The mid-air retrieval 4,000 feet above the Utah desert on Sept. 8 is the planned climax to the space agency's $264 million Genesis mission, which began three years ago with the launch of a space probe to collect tiny charged particles called ions blown toward Earth from the sun.  Full Story  Reuters_8/19/04

Five new moons for planet Neptune
Five new satellites - and one candidate moon - have been discovered orbiting the giant planet Neptune, bringing its tally of moons to 13. The tiny outer satellites are probably captured asteroids, astronomers say.  Full Story  BBC News_8/18/04

Cassini-Huygens finds two new Saturn moons, bringing total to 33

The moons are about 3km (2 miles) and 4km (2.5 miles) across and located 194,000km (120,000 miles) and 211,000 km (131,000 miles) from Saturn's centre. They are provisionally named S/2004 S1 and S/2004 S2 though one of the new moons may have been spotted before in a single image from the Voyager probe. Full Story  BBC News_ 8/17/04

Nasa to get massive supercomputer to get shuttle missions back in action

Project Columbia will mean Nasa's computing power will be ramped up by 10 times to do complex simulations. It will be one of the world's biggest Linux-based supercomputers. The new supercomputer will help the agency model flight missions, climate research, and aerospace engineering.  Full Story  BBC News_ 8/6/04

Our solar system may be unique after all--Astronomers

Despite the discovery of at least 120 other systems with planets, astronomers said, all the others have big, gassy planets circling too close to their stars to allow them to be anything like Earth or its fellow planets, British and U.S.-based researchers said. If that is the case, Earth-like planets will be very rare, the astronomers write in the latest issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.  Full Story  Reuters_ 8/4/04

Mercury Messenger spacecraft blasts off on seven-year journey

It is the first US mission to Mercury for more than 30 years. After arriving in 2011, the probe will orbit Mercury for a year to explore its atmosphere, composition and structure.  Full Story   BBC News_ 8/3/04

Mercury probe launch delayed by weather
The launch of the Mercury Messenger probe, which will conduct a detailed investigation of the first planet from the Sun, has a 13-day window in which to launch its seven-year journey. After arriving in 2011 the probe will orbit Mercury for a year to explore its atmosphere, composition and structure.  Full Story  BBC News_ 8/2/04

July, 2004

Crater on Moon linked to rock found on Earth
The rock left the Moon no more than 340,000 years ago, carved out of the Imbrium Basin -- the right eye of the "Man in the Moon" -- by an asteroid impact. Lured by gravity, the fist-sized object arrived on Earth sometime within the past 9,700 years. The July 30 issue of the journal Science reports the smooth black meteorite, about the size of a fist, was found protruding from the parched surface of a desert in Oman in 2002 by Edwin Gnos of Bern University in Switzerland and two other geologists.  Full Story  Space.com_ 7/29/04

China scouting its high schools for the country's first woman in space, but ...

China's first manned spacecraft blasted off in October last year, and preparations are underway for a second launch next year. The spacewomen search follows lobbying by the All China Women's Federation. But it might not be the giant leap for gender equality they had been hoping for. Earlier reports have already laid out the division of labour clearly, saying the first female astronaut would be allowed to do research work while the spacecraft would actually be piloted by a male colleague. Full Story  BBC News_ 7/28/04

Sunspot grows to 20 times size of Earth

The amorphous mix of spots, together called Number 652, has been rotating across the Sun and growing for several days and has the potential to unleash a major solar storm. The Sun's last bout of intense storminess occurred last fall, when a string of 10 major flares over two weeks knocked out satellites, damaged others, and forced the FAA to reroute airlines away from exposed polar routes. No one can say if this sunspot group will let loose with a major storm, but it has the characteristics of a potentially big event.  Full Story  Space.com_ 7/23/04  

More astronauts approved for work inside the International Space Station
Nations involved in the Space Station also look at ways to accelerate the launching of Japanese and European research modules. The heads of the space agencies from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States endorsed an American plan to complete the station by the end of the decade and depend on Russian crew capsules to maintain the larger staff.  Full Story  New York Times_ 7/24/04 (logon required)

NASA meets two more recommendations
An oversight panel said Thursday that NASA has met two more recommendations that are required for the space agency to return to flight.  The task force gave conditional approval to NASA's response to two return-to-flight recommendations, one requiring digital photography for critical shuttle systems to augment engineering drawings and create a robust database. The other requires a standard definition for debris discovered during shuttle flight preparations.  The approvals bring to five the number of Columbia Accident Investigation Board recommendations that NASA has successfully met; 10 remain before Discovery can take off on the first post-Columbia flight.   Full Story   AP_7/22/04

Cassini takes image of Saturn's rings
The international Cassini spacecraft sent back a natural-color image of Saturn showing the planet's rings are shades of pink, gray and a bit of brown, scientists announced Thursday. The rings are mostly ice, which is white if it is pure. Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory believe the different colors reflect the presence of other materials, such as rock or carbon compounds. Cassini is the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn. The $3.3 billion mission is a joint project of NASA and the European and Italian space agencies.  Full Story    AP _7/22/04

NASA makes first showing at Farnborough International Air Show in first step into the business side of space exploration

Major global aerospace and military contractors show their wares at Farnborough and Craig E. Steidle, NASA's associate administrator and the head of a 50-member agency delegation, was out drumming up global business partners to help it pursue new missions to the moon and Mars.  Full Story  New York Times_ 7/21/04 (logon required)

US House of Representatives panel backs space budget cuts

The proposed cuts could limit President Bush's plans for manned missions to the Moon and Mars. The move came on the 35th anniversary of the day that Neil Armstrong took man's first steps on the Moon.  Full Story  BBC News_ 7/20/04

New Cassini images of Saturn's two-faced moon Iapetus: Clues to why the moon has a dark hemisphere and another that is bright, scientists say
Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory say one theory is that the dark side is being coated by particles ejected from Saturn's tiny moon Phoebe. Another theory is that the material comes from within the moon, an idea supported by observation of material on crater floors. The $3.3 billion mission is a joint project of NASA and the European and Italian space agencies.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 7/16/04

Stephen Hawking says he was wrong about black holes
The world-famous physicist revises his 30-year-old claim that black holes destroy everything that falls into them. Instead, he says, they continue to emit radiation for extended periods, and eventually open up to reveal the information within them.  Full Story  BBC News_ 7/15/04

New planet discovered in Orion constellation
Astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting a star in the constellation Orion -- without ever actually seeing it. The planet, called HD 37605b, is a gas giant at least 2.8 times the mass of Jupiter. HD 37605b zips around its star -- HD 37605, near the bright star Betelgeuse -- once every 54 days.  Full Story _CNN 7/9/04

Fastest space storm reaches solar system edge
The first of an unprecedented series of powerful solar storms that punished Earth late in 2003 is now at the edge of the solar system, some 8 billion miles away, poised to move beyond the farthest manmade object in the cosmos.
Scientists have monitored all the storms' progress with a fleet of spacecraft arrayed between Earth and the near the edge of the solar system. The storms remained strong while clear out at the giant planets and beyond. One disrupted the magnetic fields of both Jupiter and Saturn.  Full Story _ MSNBC 7/11/04

China aims for the Moon in three years
China plans unmanned missions from 2007 to orbit and land on the Moon, and to build a Chinese space station. These and other space goals were outlined by Sun Laiyan, chief administrator at the China National Space Administration (CNSA), in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC.  Full Story  BBC News_ 7/7/04

Brazil plans to launch first rocket by 2006
The program was dealt a huge blow in August 2003 when its VLS rocket and launching platform exploded in a fiery ball at the space agency's Alcantara launch center. The accident killed 21 space agency employees. A government report blamed poor maintenance for a series of mechanical failures that led to the explosion.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 7/6/04

Cassini pierces Titan's veil of smog, clouds
The Cassini spacecraft pierced the haze enveloping Titan, Saturn's largest moon, to reveal surface details that already have shattered theories about its composition, scientists said. Scientists will get a better shot at Titan in October, when Cassini descends to 750 miles to snap close-ups of the moon, whose atmosphere and soil resemble those of primordial Earth and may contain the building blocks of life. Scientists had believed bright patches on Titan's surface seen in earlier observations were pure water ice.  Full Story  Reuters_ 7/4/04

Cassini-Huygens returns the first close-up images of Saturn's rings
Many of the images show ripple-like features in the rings called density waves which arise from differences in the packing of ring particles. The pictures also show a phenomenon known as a bending wave; a spiral warping effect in the ring plane.  Full Story  BBC News_ 7/2/04

June, 2004

Cassini probe caps two decades of work by scientists in 18 nations and enters orbit around Saturn
Mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory erupted in cheers shortly before 9 p.m. when a radio signal indicated Cassini had been captured by Saturn. Scientists hope the $3.3 billion mission will provide important clues about how the planets formed. Saturn, the sixth planet from the sun and the second-largest, intrigues scientists because it is like a model of the early solar system, when the sun was surrounded by a disk of gas and dust.  Full Story  AP/MSNBC_ 6/30/04

Spacewalking astronauts zip through critical repairs to the International Space Station
Russian Gennady Padalka and American Michael Fincke made quick work of what had been a scheduled six-hour mission, completing their repair about one hour ahead of schedule, NASA said.  Full Story  Reuters_ 6/30/04

International Space Station astronauts start ambitious spacewalk to make repairs
Russian Gennady Padalka and American Michael Fincke ventured from the air lock at 5:19 p.m. EDT Wednesday on a planned six-hour job to restore power to one of four large gyroscopes that keep the 200-tonstation stable in flight, with its arrays of solar-power panels always aimed at the sun. Last Thursday, less than two minutes after Fincke departed the air lock, the space walk was called off when a backup valve stuck on Fincke's primary oxygen tank.  Full Story  Reuters_ 6/30/04

Cassini spacecraft begins four-year voyage around Saturn this week

Two decades and $3.3 billion in the making, the international exploration of Saturn begins when Cassini slips through a gap in Saturn's shimmering rings and arcs into orbit. After a seven-year, 2.2 billion-mile journey, the Cassini spacecraft will fire its engine Wednesday night to slow down, allowing itself to be captured by Saturn's gravity. The maneuver will inaugurate a four-year, 76-orbit tour of the giant planet and some of its 31 known moons, including huge Titan.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 6/28/04

U.S.-Russian space walk rescheduled for July 1

Russian ground control said Michael Fincke and Gennady Padalka would leave the International Space Station at 1:40 a.m. Moscow time on July 1 (2140 GMT, June 30) for a six-hour walk to conduct a repair job on the outside of the vessel. The repair was called off last Thursday a quarter an hour after it started after Fincke's oxygen supply appeared to be leaking into space. NASA said later the problem was a faulty switch. The pair have to replace a switch that has disabled one of four large gyroscopes that keep the 200-ton station stable in flight and its solar-power arrays pointed toward the sun.  Full Story  Reuters/CNN_ 6/28/04

Elevator to the stars: The technology is almost here, Big issues are politics and money
Scientist Bradley C. Edwards, head of the space elevator project at the Institute for Scientific Research in Fairmont, West Virginia, predicts an initial version could be operating in 15 years at a cost of $10 billion. Edwards' institute is holding the third annual conference on space elevators in Washington starting today. Full Story  AP/CNN_ 6/27/04

Shortest spacewalk in U.S. history ended by a stuck switch -NASA
The abrupt abort of an ambitious spacewalk from the International Space Station wasn't caused by a dangerous oxygen leak, NASA said. American astronaut Michael Fincke, making his first spacewalk on Thursday, was outside the airlock for less than two minutes before Russian ground controllers ordered him to return, along with Russian colleague Gennady Padalka. NASA said an auxiliary switch for feeding oxygen to the Russian suit had been stuck in an "on" position, even though an indicator showed it was "off." Full Story  Reuters_ 6/25/04

A week after a presidential commission called for changes at NASA, the agency’s administrator, Sean O"Keefe, announces a restructuring
The changes take effect Aug. 1, and O’Keefe said that over the next several weeks he will visit NASA offices to discuss them. In its report, issued last week, the president’s commission on implementing a new space vision said NASA needs to transform itself into a leaner, more focused agency. The change creates several so-called mission directorates, including Aeronautics, Science, Exploration systems and Space operations. Full Story  AP/MSNBC_ 6/24/04

International space station repairs called off after oxygen glitch
Two astronauts who stepped out of the international space station for an unusually risky spacewalk were quickly ordered back in when Mission Control spotted a pressure drop in one of the men’s oxygen tanks. NASA stressed that the spacemen were never in any danger. The repair spacewalk, to replace a fizzled circuit breaker, was put off until June 29 at the earliest.  Full Story  AP/MSNBC_ 6/24/04

European Space Agency awards contract to UK firm for one of the most ambitious space missions ever flown
The Lisa Pathfinder will demonstrate technologies that will be necessary to detect gravitational waves in space. Being able to see these "ripples in the fabric of space-time" should allow scientists to probe the Universe to within one second of the Big Bang. It should launch in 2008. The contract to build Lisa Pathfinder was won by EADS-Astrium in Stevenage, UK.  Full Story  BBC News_ 6/24/04

International space station's next spacewalk today fraught with risk
An odd mishmash of Russian and U.S. gear and extra-stiff gloves never intended for the type of repair they hoped to accomplish will be used as the prolonged grounding of the Space Shuttle has NASA taking bigger chances -- and more of them -- even bending its own safety rules to keep the space station running with a two-man crew. Astronaut Mike Fincke and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka say they're raring to go out and replace a fizzled circuit breaker.  Full Story  AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/24/04

Saturn's moon Phoebe 'a frozen time capsule': NASA

Images snapped by NASA's Cassini spacecraft show that Phoebe is not an asteroid but a 4.5-billion-year-old primordial body from the solar system's outer reaches, scientists said. The images of Phoebe's pitted surface gave scientists their first close look at a planetesimal, small bodies from an area at the fringe of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt that may have provided the building blocks of the Milky Way. High-definition photographs as well as spectrographic and thermal images taken during Cassini's June 11 fly-by revealed that Phoebe likely is made up of ice, rock and carbon compounds similar to those seen in Pluto and Neptune's moon, Triton.  Full Story  Reuters_ 6/23/04

Astronomers hear 'birth cry' of the cosmos: Big Bang was really Little Whisper

Sounds of the early Universe show it was born not with a bang but a quiet whisper that became a dull roar. Mark Whittle of the University of Virginia has analysed the so-called background radiation that was born 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Over the first million years the music of the cosmos changed from a bright major chord to a sombre minor one. The Big Bang would have taken place in complete silence but as the Universe expanded sound waves would have been able to grow.  Full Story  BBC News_ 6/23/04

U.S., India discuss space cooperation after years of United States' sanctions following New Delhi's 1998 nuclear tests

India hopes a five-day conference between the two nations in the southern technology hub of Bangalore will lead to a lifting of all restrictions on U.S. high-tech exports to its space agency.

India also wants access to the latest U.S. technology and to take part in joint space missions. The United States is keen to use Indian space technology such as remote sensing -- India plans to launch 40 satellites capable of collecting images of the Earth from space by 2008 -- and also to step up exports of parts for rockets, satellites and other equipment.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 6/21/04

Comet Wild 2 (pronounced "Vilt 2") unlike anything known
The comet, examined in a close flyby in January by NASA's Stardust spacecraft, has towering protrusions and steep-walled craters that seem to defy gravity. More than a dozen jets of material shoot out from its insides. Dust swirls around the comet in unexpectedly dense pockets. Comets are thought to represent the composition of the outer solar system in its primordial state. They're loaded with frozen water and other ices, plus organic materials and silicates, or rock. Many theorists believe comets delivered the water and other pre-biotic ingredients that led to life on Earth.  Full Story  Space.com_ 6/17/04

White House receives President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond report recommending central role for private sector
It calls for a slimmed-down space agency that contracts many of the space roles it once pioneered to private enterprise and streamline its own operations. The 60-page report, "A Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover," made its sweeping recommendations following five months of hearings from thousands of people including space luminaries, science fiction writers and citizens. The nine-member commission said commercialization of space should become "the primary focus" of the country's new space exploration vision.  Full Story  CNN.com_ 6/16/04

NASA's Cassini spacecraft's closest ever images of Saturn's Moon Phoebe disclose heavily cratered surface that has astronomers debating the tiny satellite's origins
Though it is too early to say, researchers believe closer inspection of the pictures of Phoebe could confirm Phoebean is an object captured from the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy bodies beyond Neptune.  Full Story  Space.com_ 6/13/04

Moon-to-Mars Commission recommends major changes at NASA
A commission chartered by U.S. President George W. Bush to advise him on implementing a broad new space exploration vision is recommending streamlining the NASA bureaucracy, relying more heavily on the private sector, and maintaining more oversight of the nation’s space program at the White House. The 60-page report outlines the organizational changes the commission says NASA needs to make if it is to achieve the space exploration goals laid out by Bush in January. Those goals include returning humans to the moon by 2020 in preparation for eventual human expeditions to Mars.  Full Story  Space.com_ 6/10/04

Cassini spacecraft takes a peek at Phoebe and then bears down on Saturn after 7-year trip
Nearly seven years after it left Earth, Cassini, an internationally built craft named for an early day astronomer, is on schedule to enter orbit June 30 after it dashes through a gap in Saturn's shimmering rings. Scientists hope its findings will reveal new secrets about the evolution of our solar system. The $3.3 billion, U.S.-European spacecraft, which also carries a probe to explore the moon Titan, was launched in October 1997.  Full Story AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/11/04

Cassini space probe flies by Phoebe today: The dark moon of Saturn is an odd-ball
Cassini will capture data on Phoebe on its way to a four-year orbital mission around the ringed planet. Phoebe is dark, possibly from carbon, has frozen water and orbits Saturn in the opposite direction from most of the planet's other 31 moons. The Cassini mission is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Full Story  Reuters_ 6/10/04

First Venus transit of Sun in more than 100 years dazzles world astronomers and stargazers
Until 1:19 a.m. EDT June 8, no living person had viewed the rare phenomenon first seen by British astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks in 1639. From Sydney to the pyramids and western Europe, people armed for the occasion with pinhole cameras and special dark glasses gathered for the celestial show. Venus appeared as a small black dot on the lower edge of the Sun at the start of a transit that ended about six hours later.  Full Story  Reuters_ 6/8/04

China spells out multi-phase robotic plans to study the Moon through 2017
One of China’s top lunar scientists, Ouyang Ziyuan, speaking before the 12th conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said China has a three-step plan for lunar exploration.  Full Story  Space.com_ 6/7/04

Meteorite Lights Up U.S. Pacific Northwest Sky
A meteorite streaked across the clear skies above Washington state and the Canadian province of British Columbia early on Thursday, callers and astronomers reported, with some reporting sonic booms and a bright flash. "A natural phenomenon and not a piece of reentering space debris," say officials.   Full Story   Reuters_6/3/04

Venus to Cross the Sun in Celestial Spectacular June 8
Early prediction of recurring event by a self-educated astronomer in the 1600s is on a par with Nobel Prize discoveries. "Horrocks got it dead right"

Amateur astronomers and the general public throughout Europe and most of Asia and Africa will have the chance to observe the phenomenon, the first for 122 years, on June 8.  Full Story Reuters_6/2/04

Planet Earth dims then brightens

'Earthshine' and the dark side of the Moon figure in global warming trends
A study of sunlight bounced between the Earth and the Moon shows that during the 80s and 90s the Earth reflected less of our star's light out into space but the trend seems to have been reversed during the past three years. The effect must be taken into account in estimates of future global warming, they report in the journal Science.  Full Story  Reuters_ 6/3/04

Cassini space craft positions for orbit of Saturn
The short pressurised engine burn was the first carried out in five years and simulates a firing that is still needed to make the probe circle the planet. The joint venture between the US and Europe is expected to enter the ringed planet's orbit on July 1. The manoeuvre also places Cassini on course for a fly-by of the little studied Saturnian moon Phoebe.  Full Story  BBC News_ 6/1/04

Astronomers size up the Universe: It's a lot bigger than they knew
The Universe is at least 156 billion light-years wide, say astronomers, not just 27.4 billion. The new estimate comes from data obtained by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMap) which has been studying the Cosmic Background Radiation- often called the echo of the Big Bang. According to Neil Cornish of Montana State University, US, and colleagues writing in the journal Physics Review Letters, the distance covered by the light in the early Universe gets increased by its overall expansion. According to the researchers the latest work provides no evidence that the Universe is finite and no evidence that it is infinite either.  Full Story  BBC News_ 5/28/04

Venus clouds 'might harbour life'
Microbes could survive and reproduce, US scientists have concluded in a report in the journal Astrobiology, floating in the thick, cloudy atmosphere, protected by a sunscreen of sulphur compounds. Scientists have submitted a proposal for a Nasa space mission to sample the clouds and attempt to return any presumed Venusians to Earth.  Full Story BBC News 5/25/04

Origins revealed: Sun and earth born amid chaos
A new twist on an emerging theory says the Sun was born amid massive, short-lived stars that sculpted our solar system with intense radiation and violent explosions that may have affected the origin of life. The fresh analysis pulls together several lines of evidence suggesting that the Sun did not form in isolation, as astronomers once thought. Instead, it emerged from the edge of a cloud of chaos, according to a paper in the May 21 issue of the journal Science.  Full Story  Space.com_ 5/20/04

Universe billion years older than was thought
Measurements made in an underground laboratory by Italian and German scientists suggest an atomic reaction that produces energy inside stars is slower than was believed. It means that estimates of stellar lifetimes are too short. A readjustment gives the Universe an age of 14.7 instead of 13.7 billion years. The results are to be published in the journal Physics Review Letters.  Full Story  BBC News_ 5/20/04

China shelves plan for astronauts on moon
China plans to build its own manned space station by around 2020 but cancels plans to put a man on the moon for financial reasons.

Full Story  CNN/Reuters_ 5/18/04

Amateur unmanned rocket launched into space from the Nevada desert - a first for a privately-built vehicle
The Civilian Space eXploration Team's 6.5m (21ft) GoFast rocket exceeded an altitude of 100km, the official boundary of space - in about three minutes. The rocket and the payload came down on separate parachutes. Full Story  BBC News_ 5/18/04

NASA researchers say space radiation a top concern for future manned missions
Among the potential risks of prolonged space radiation exposure are: detrimental effects to the central nervous system, tissues of the heart, eyes and digestive track, as well as the hazard of acute radiation sickness if an astronaut were caught in solar flare while on the lunar surface or an extravehicular activity.  Full Story  Space.com_ 5/17/04

Ecliptic's RocketCam onboard video systems integral to Scaled Composite's private suborbital venture
Scaled's engineers and pilots rely on the various camera views -- live
during the flights and recorded for post-flight assessment -- for enhancing
situational awareness, monitoring progress during each flight and for
post-flight lessons learned.  Full Story  Press Release_ 5/13/04

Historic first: Hubble Space Telescope sees 'planet' orbiting another star
Astronomers are being cautious, saying they require more data to be sure it really is a planet and not a background object caught in the same field of view. Confirmation will come if follow-up observations can show the planet and the star moving together through space.  Full Story  BBC News_ 5/12/04

X-Prize 'will be won this year'
The $10 million race to be the first private company to put a craft into space twice in two weeks, will be won in about 5 months, believe its organisers. A total of 26 teams are competing to place a three-person spaceship on a suborbital trajectory--reaching an altitude of 100 km--twice in two weeks. SpaceShipOne, an entry by aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan, is considered to be the favourite.  Full Story  BBC News_ 5/11/04

Europe's unmanned space shuttle prototype glided to a successful landing in Sweden
The EADS Phoenix, a German-designed prototype of the future European Shuttle, was dropped from a helicopter at an altitude of 7,900 feet (2,400 meters). Guided by GPS satellites, the shuttle “landed perfectly” on the test runway after a 90-second flight, said Johanna Bergstroem-Roos, of the North European Aerospace Test Range in Kiruna, 770 miles (1,230 kilometers) north of the capital, Stockholm. The Phoenix shuttle, along with the Ariane 5 rocket, represents the European Space Agency’s hope for sending astronauts into space, but a full-size version won’t be ready for more than a decade.  Full Story AP/MSNBC_ 5/8/04

Scientists confront 'weird life' on other worlds
A study arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council (NRC), has pulled together a task group of specialists to tackle the issue of alternative life forms -- a.k.a. "weird life". Overall, the goal is singling out research avenues that will appraise the likelihood of "non-terran" life and the potential cost needed to find it. From this will come a recommendation "whether the likelihood of finding non-terran life is sufficiently low that NASA should ignore its possibility, or sufficiently high that it should pursue it," according to a study document.  Full Story  Space.com_ 5/7/04

NASA plans contests to develop space technology and hopefully recapture the spirit of the early space effort
The June 15-16 workshop in Washington will focus on drawing up NASA's first batch of "Centennial Challenges" — government-funded competitions that would encourage non-governmental teams to develop technologies vital to NASA's exploration initiative. The scheme is modeled after this spring's DARPA Grand Challenge for autonomous ground vehicles, and the X Prize for private passenger rockets. Some say the Centennial Challenges are NASA's best hope for recapturing the spirit of the early space effort.  Full Story  MSNBC_ 5/7/04

Space groups, industry promote moon, Mars mission
Thirteen advocacy groups, industry associations and space policy organizations announced their support for President Bush's vision to send astronauts to the moon and Mars. The show of unity was unusual in a field where scientists and industry officials have often clashed over space mission priorities such as equipment types and destination points. The move reflected concern about the need to promote a revitalized U.S. space program, the groups said.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 5/7/04

Cassini-Huygens probe sights Saturn's largest moon, Titan
The first images of the object, which is believed to support oily lakes and seas, pick out broad features previously seen by Earth telescopes. Over the next two months, the cameras on Cassini will take progressively more detailed pictures of a surface that is shrouded by a very thick atmosphere. In January, the Huygens probe will be released and plunge down on to Titan - perhaps to splash down in a sea.  Full Story  BBC News_ 5/8/04

Europe tests space shuttle prototype today
The launch of a German-designed unmanned prototype for a reusable European Shuttle will be conducted in Sweden's far north. The EADS Phoenix will be carried to an altitude of 7,920 feet (2,400 meters) by a heavy-duty helicopter and then dropped so it can glide to earth for a landing. The Phoenix, along with the Ariane 5, represents Europe's hope for sending astronauts into space in the coming years.  Full Story  AP/MSNBC_ 5/6/04

NASA names first training team chosen since the Columbia disaster
The astronaut class of 2004 will be trained to carry out the next phase of space exploration -- to the space station, the moon and perhaps even Mars. The space agency announced the 11-member team during Space Day celebrations at the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia.  Full Story  CNN_ 5/6/04

Space exploration needs support on Earth
The commission that will advise President Bush next month on how best to implement his new space exploration vision said sending astronauts to the moon and Mars is a glorious endeavor, but needs down-to-Earth justification to sustain public support. "We have to start by asking a very fundamental question: Why are we bothering at all?" said Carly Fiorina, chairwoman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 5/5/04

April, 2004

Soyuz Spacecraft Lands 'Safely'
A "soft landing" near the city of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan's steppes returns three astronauts.  American astronaut Michael Fincke and Russia's Gennady Padalka remain behind to man the space station.  Full Story BBC News_4/29/04

Saturn Probe Gets Full-Frame View of Rings
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is closing in on July 1 rendezvous with planet.  The probe is so close to Saturn that in its most recent image, released Thursday, the planet and rings fill the full frame.  Full Story  Space.Com_ 4/29/04

Lunar Eclipse May 4 For Asia, Australia and Europe
A total eclipse of the Moon will occur on Tuesday, May 4 the third such event within a span of less than a year’s time. The sky show is reserved primarily for those living in the Eastern Hemisphere, however. North America will miss out on the entire show, as the Moon will be below the horizon during midday and afternoon hours. Weather permitting, some Europeans will have a chance to see the very end of the event. The very best viewing region for viewing this eclipse will fall over across western Asia, much of the Indian Ocean and the eastern two-thirds of Africa. The next total lunar eclipse will occur on the night of October 28-29 and will favor most of the Americas, as well as western portions of Europe and Africa.  Full Story  Space.com_  4/28/04

Minor gas leak on the Russian Soyuz craft, which is docked on the International Space Station, does not endanger the return to earth Friday of three astronauts, Russian space officials say
A mission control spokesman said the leak of helium, used to pump pressurized fuel into the engine of the rocket, had been discovered several months ago.   Full Story  Reuters_ 4/28/04

NASA’s space exploration vision is stalling in the U.S. House of Representatives

Key lawmakers say Congress has neither the details nor the dollars needed to fully support U.S. President George W. Bush’s 2005 budget request for the agency. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the House appropriations panel that holds the U.S. space agency’s purse strings warned NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe during an April 21 budget hearing that they are unwilling to sign off on NASA’s new exploration-driven agenda without more details and debate. Full Story  SPACE.com_ 4/27/04

NASA's next Mars Science Laboratory: New Rover, new science equipment
The space agency released an "Announcement of Opportunity" that calls for science gear and related ideas that could wind up onboard the Mars Science Laboratory -- or MSL, for short. The overall MSL science objective is to explore and quantitatively assess a local region on the Mars surface as a potential habitat for life, past or present. Full Story  SPACE.com_ 4/27/04

Scientists say a new lunar mineral has been found in a meteorite from the Moon that crashed to Earth in 2000
The mineral is called hapkeite after the scientist Bruce Hapke who predicted the existence of the iron and silicon compound on the Moon 30 years ago. Scientists think it could be a common ingredient of the lunar surface.  Full Story  BBC News_ 4/26/04

International Space Station gyroscope fails; Spacewalk needed
The gyroscope problem stemmed from an underlying failure in a circuit breaker on one of the external girders on the station, said space station manager Mike Suffredini. Full Story  Reuters_ 4/22/04

Soyuz spacecraft delivers a new three-man crew to the International Space Station
The crew are American Michael Fincke, Russian Gennady Padalka and Andre Kuipers of the Netherlands. It is the third Russian manned mission to the ISS since US shuttle flights were halted in the wake of the Columbia disaster on 1 February 2003.  Full Story  BBC News_ 4/21/04

NASA turns down Russia's suggestion for a yearlong space mission beginning later this year

Instead, crews will continue to make the standard six-month duty tour until space shuttle flights resume, presumably next year.  Full Story  MSNBC_ 4/19/04

Three-man Soyuz replacement crew on way to International Space Station
A Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut are scheduled spend the next six months on the orbital outpost. A third passenger, Dutch flight engineer André Kuipers, 45, will remain for nine days to perform a series of commercial experiments and return to Earth with the outgoing station crew.  Full Story  CNN_ 4/19/04

Space crews must stay longer to save money, Russia says
Russia has had the financial burden of being the sole lifeline to the ISS since the United States withdrew its shuttles last year. Extending mission times would free up places for space tourists -- who pay $20 million a go.  Full Story  Reuters_ 4/17/04

Separate teams announce discoveries of three planets outside our solar system, including one that is more than three times farther away than the previous record holder
Researchers expect in coming years to make actual direct observations of extrasolar planets, using a new generation of space-based observatories. For now, all of the planets found outside our solar system have been detected by indirect means.  Full Story  Space.com_ 4/15/04

Astronomers' computer models support existence of elusive medium-sized black holes
The simulations fit observations made by Nasa's Chandra X-ray space telescope of the galaxy M82, the journal Nature reports.  Full Story  BBC News_ 4/15/04

NASA starts three-year program to change its culture
It's prompted by a new survey that found the space agency still sometimes fails to follow through on safety concerns, more than a year after the Columbia accident.  Full Story  Reuters_ 4/13/04

Space station Expedition 9 crew OK-ed for April 18 launch
After a thorough review of both the International Space Station and the Soyuz spacecraft used to ferry astronauts to and from the station, NASA officials said Friday systems are go for the launch of veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and NASA astronaut Michael Fincke.  Full Story  Space.com_ 4/9/04

China, Europe pursue closer space ties
European and Chinese government officials agreed to create a joint steering group to oversee cooperation in space projects including satellite navigation, telecommunications, Earth observation and space exploration, the European Union’s executive commission announced. Chinese-European space cooperation already includes joint work on commercial telecommunications satellites for China using European technology, and joint development of science satellites. China also is expected to play a part in Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation project, although a specific role has yet to be decided.  Full Story  Space.com_ 4/7/04

French President Jacques Chirac is first western leader to visit Russia's top secret Titov space control center
Russia's cash-strapped space program has worked closely with the European Space Agency in recent years, launching ESA satellites and carrying ESA astronauts on research missions to the International Space Station. Full Story  AP/CNN_ 4/5/04

BBC Q&A: Going back to the Moon
Dr Paul Spudis is a scientist who has spent a large part of his career studying the Moon. Now, he sits on the US presidential commission that will direct a new space exploration programme - to go back to the lunar surface, on to Mars and beyond. He told us how he thought the future would develop.   Full Story  BBC News_ 4/5/04

British scientists propose mini-spacecraft to explore Mars' mysterious moons, Phobos and Deimos
The satellites, which are thought to be captured asteroids, have never received a direct mission - although passing US probes have taken images of them.  Full Story  BBC News 4/2/04

March, 2004

China aims for 'Immortality' with lunar probe plan
China has earmarked $170 million for a lunar probe it intends to launch by the end of 2007, as the country extends its plans to conquer space after putting a man in orbit for the first time last year.  Full story  3/26/04

Nasa considers asteroid impact alert plan
The US space agency Nasa is clarifying the procedure for telling the President if the Earth is in danger of being hit by a newly discovered asteroid. It follows the discovery on 13 January of a possibly dangerous object - 2004 AS1 - which for just a few hours had some observers worried it would hit us.  Full story  BBC News 3/23/04

Report: China to launch moon rover in 2012
The vehicle's main purpose would be to provide information on where to set up a base on the moon.  Full story  AP/CNN 3/22/04

NASA finds brake flaw could have doomed another shuttle
NASA has discovered a potentially disastrous mistake made more than 20 years ago on the space shuttle Discovery and plans to replace key parts on all three of its shuttles, the space agency said on Monday.  Full story  Reuters 3/22/04

Is the aerospace industry ready for Mars?
Consolidation has sharply reduced competition, and with it, critics say, the creative clash of ideas that helps produce great technological leaps. But, others reply, more than contracts or politics, space flight is about wonder.  Full story  New York Times 3/21/04

New 6-seater spacecraft to replace Russian Soyuz
Unlike the Soyuz, which can only be used once, the Clipper will be reusable and capable of making up to 25 flights. And it's more spacious. Full story AP/CNN 3/20/04

UK aims to create the world's largest scale model of the Solar System

Spaced Out, as it is called, will be constructed across the UK, and be supported by a dedicated website. The scale of 1 to 15 million reduces the distance between the Earth and the Sun to about 16km (10 miles). Full story BBC News 3/20/04

NASA cancels X-43C and RS-84 technology development programs
NASA has started canceling technology development programs that don't fit the needs of the new space initiative, including a hypersonic flight program and a new reusable engine. Full story Spacetoday.net 3/19/04

100-foot asteroid flies by Earth
Such encounters are believed to occur at the rate of one every two years and have simply not been detected before.  Full story  AP/CNN 3/19/04

An asteroid today will pass closer to Earth than ever recorded

The flyby is at 5:08 p.m. EST (2208 GMT). The planet is not at risk, NASA scientists said.  Full story  space.com 3/18/04

Space race titan William H. Pickering dead at 93
Pickering was a central figure in the early U.S. space race who as director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory played a key role in launching America's first satellite into orbit.  Full story  Reuters 3/16/04

Leadership blamed in Brazil space disaster
Poor funding and lax management contributed to the accidental explosion of a rocket that killed 21 engineers and technicians three days before launch last year, a report on the disaster said Tuesday.  Full story  AP/MSNBC 3/16/04

Space tourism firm scouts locations for spaceport
A company that has sent paying tourists to the International Space Station said on Tuesday it was scouting locations for a spaceport to send travelers on suborbital flights.  Full story  Reuters/CNN 3/16/04 

Anxiety at NASA after Russian space chief replaced
The pre-election shakeup of the Russian government extended into space last week, with Russian President Vladimir Putin appointing Col. Gen. Anatoly Perminov to head a streamlined space agency. The surprise move has NASA officials privately expressing concern, worried about the impact on U.S.-Russian space relations, already under strain due to the grounding of the U.S. space shuttle fleet.  Full story  MSNBC 3/14/04

Space billboards: Inventor patents device for advertising from space: Saturn, your ad here
Orion, the Big Dipper and Andromeda could be joined in the heavens by ads for soft drinks and cigarettes if a Russian inventor's device catches on. "Space commercials could embrace huge areas and a colossal number of consumers," he said. "This would literally be intercontinental coverage."  Full story  AP/CNN.com  3/11/04

Mitsubishi electric seals solar panel contract with Alcatel Space

Agreement on a multi-million euro contract for the supply of solar array panels was reached between Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (President and CEO: Tamotsu Nomakuchi) and Alcatel Space (Chairman and CEO: Pascale Sourisse). Over the course of the four-year contract, Mitsubishi Electric will supply the solar array panels for Alcatel Space's Spacebus 1.

Full story    Press Release 3/4/04

Lockheed Martin Forms New Space Exploration Organization
Lockheed Martin has formed a new organization to manage the Corporation's efforts in support of NASA's space exploration initiative.  The organization, which will be called Space Exploration, will be led by John C. Karas and be headquartered in Denver, Colo., as part of the Space Systems Company. Full story Press Release 2/23/04

First-Known Double Pulsar Opens Up New Astrophysics

An international team of scientists from the UK, Australia, Italy and the USA have announced in today's issue of the journal Science Express (8th January 2004) the first discovery of a double pulsar system.  Full story   Press Release 1/8/04

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