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Monday, July 16, 2012

Mr. Daymont Bring You Space News and Views

Solar Flare Alert!

Danger? Danger?!?

Do you still have your special eclipse glasses from the June eclipse and Venus transit events? You might be able to see a large sunspot complex on the lower half of the solar disk. Designated AR1520, this large sunspot group erupted a large CME event (Coronal Mass Ejection) on July 12. This large amount of solar matter is expected to impact the Earth orbit on Saturday, July 14 at about 3:17 AM Eastern time (1:17 am Mountain time). The eruption is already bathing the Earth in a pulse of UV rays and radio signals from stations in the arctic circle noticed disruptions. However, no severe incidents to our lives are to be expected, though there may be beautiful Northern Lights. Thank goodness for the magnetic field.
SHIELDS UP! A blast of solar energy is approaching the Earth! Of course most of us will be hunkered down in our beds, as this event will occur in the wee hours after midnight. I will be safely ensconced in the SpaceRubble Command Bunker, but will be tuning in to news on the solar event on the Internet. 

Don't forget to look up information about this event on http://www.spaceweather.com/. 

Expedition 32: Second crew prepares for launch

Soyuz Rocket on the pad at Baikonur.

Currently, Expedition 32 on the ISS consists of Commander Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, cosmonaut Sergei Revin, and astronaut Joe Acaba. Their expedition started when Expedition 31 undocked from the ISS and landed on Earth on July 1st. Tomorrow, on Saturday July 14, the second part of the Expedition 32 crew will board their Soyuz rocket (TMA-05M) and blast off to join their team members on ISS.
TMA-05M crew training for rendezvous and docking.

The reinforcements include Soyuz commander cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide, and NASA astronaut Suni Williams. They are expected to dock on July 17.

50 Years Ago: Titan-2 Test Launches

Titan-2 ICBM test launch from silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

On July 11 and 12, 1962, the US Air Force made the second and third successful launches of the Titan-2 rocket. This second version of the Titan rocket could carry twice the payload of the Titan-1, and used a storable version of liquid propellants that would enable it to be fueled long before actual launch, making its readiness easier. While the initial version of the rocket carried the largest of the American nuclear warheads, this rocket would become an essential piece of the NASA program of space exploration, launching both satellites and astronauts into space.

50 Years Ago: Deke gets Reassigned

Donald K. "Deke" Slayton. NASA portrait.

Back on July 11, 1962, the Mercury Seven astronaut lineup got a shake-up. Major Deke Slayton (USAF) was re-assigned to take over new operational and planning responsibilities for the astronaut program. He had originally been scheduled to fly the second orbital mission, but Scott Carpenter had flown that mission instead. NASA Doctors had declared Deke was suffering from "Atrial Fibrilation" of the heart. As one astronaut put it, "Don't all our hearts fibrilate?" There was much grief among the astronauts at this decision, but NASA feared such a condition could lead to a medical emergency while in space away from medical help. Deke was a realist, and understood that he could still be of use to NASA. He would eventually resign from the Air Force in 1862, and take up full time administrative work as the head of the astronaut program. He would work extensively with astronaut training programs, detail their schedules and also the flight rotation for missions. And he would never give up on his desire to go into space.
Original Mercury Seven. Slayton is front row, second from left.

Deke was quite a pilot. He had flown B-25 bomber missions over Europe in World War 2, and later flew A-26 missions over the Pacific. His postwar college schooling got him a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, and he became a test pilot for the Air Force, flying the "Century" series of fighter-bombers. His heart condition grounded him from flying.

50 Years Ago: TELSTAR-1 and the New Age of Communications

NASA art of TELSTAR-1 in space.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of a great leap forward in world communications, the launch of TELSTAR-1 from Cape Canaveral on July 10, 1962. TELSTAR-1 was not the first communications satellite; that was ECHO-1A sent up on May 13, 1960. But ECHO was a reflective-passive device; signals were bounced, or reflected, off the spherical surface and received on Earth beyond the horizon. TELSTAR broke new ground. To begin with, TELSTAR was the first privately sponsored space launch effort. The satellite was built at Bell Telephone Laboratories, and included transponders which relayed television or telephone channels back to the ground, another first. Third, the launch was the 10th successful blast-off of the Thor-Delta rocket system. Other Thor-Delta launches had included ECHO-1, TIROS weather satellites, EXPLORERs 10 and 12, ARIEL-1, and OSO-1.
A TELSTAR satellite under construction.

Weighing about 170 pounds, TELSTAR was powered by small solar panels which generated about 14 watts of energy. It would eventually transmit the first public television and telephone signals (including the first Fax!) and would also transmit the first transAtlantic television signal.
Thor-Delta rocket.

TELSTAR-1 was sent into space from Launch Complex 17, pad B, on a Thor-Delta rocket. Its orbit was elliptical, or egg-shaped, and the satellite circled the Earth every 2 hours and 37 minutes. It continued in operation until February the next year, but TELSTAR-1 still orbits the Earth to this day. The end of TELSTAR-1 was premature, because it was exposed to higher amounts of radiation than it normally would have encountered from the Van Allen radiation belt. The day before its launch, the US Air Force had launched a nuclear weapon into space to test the effects of the blast on potential enemy rockets. Further space nuclear tests, including a Soviet explosion in October 1962, eventually degraded the electronics.
To realize the significance of this launch, you only have to think of how many times each day you call someone cross-country, watch television on your satellite channels, or receive the Internet on your computer. Yes, a lot of towers and cables are involved locally, but the transmission of channels and frequencies to those localities is done through satellite communications. Also consider how much of our nation's defense depends upon secure transmission of coded signals to our troops and installations around the world. And it all started 50 Years Ago. We live in a world our ancestors barely dreamed about.

UPDATE: NASA History Office noted the anniversary today on its Twitter account (@NASAhistory) and provided this link to a wonderful short news film from the day which shows TELSTAR's construction, launch,and the first images transmitted. Wonderful little film, thanks, NASA!
http://ia600401.us.archive.org/27/items/1962-07-12_A_Day_in_History/1962-07-12_A_Day_in_History_512kb.mp4
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