NASA’s Curiosity Almost Ready to Journey to Mars

NASA scientists and engineers preparing Curiosity for her journey to Mars

NASA images

One of the latest envoys of the human journey to the beginning of space and time, the Mars rover Curiosity

Astronomy News – The human journey to the beginning of space and time will get a detailed view of Mars using the Mast Camera on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, once the spacecraft lands on the surface of Mars, sometime around August 2012, according to the latest estimates by NASA astronomers. Space travel is by necessity extremely well planned and every detail must be worked out to a set time table if Curiosity is to accomplish its mission. All aspects of the mission parameters must be analysed and reanalysed to ensure everything works as expected and the mission sticks to the timetable set by engineers and scientists working to get the spacecraft ready to journey to Mars, sometime between November 25 and December 18, 2011. The Mast Camera on Curiosity is in fact two digital color cameras riding high on the mast, each capable of recording high-definition video at about 8 frames per second, and taking and storing thousands of full-color images of the Red Planet in an eight-gigabyte flash memory. Once they combine the information taken by both cameras scientists and engineers will get detailed 3-D images of Mars as good as or better than any taken before.

This sensor head will play a key role in the mission success of Curiosity

 

Curiosity  will conduct chemical tests of the soil and rocks of Mars

NASA’s Mars Rover will also have onboard a “chemical element reader” to measure the different chemical ingredients making up the soil and rocks of Mars. This particular instrument, along with nine others on board the spacecraft will be looking at the present and past ability habitability of a specific spot on the Red Planet. The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument viewed here was designed by physics professor Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. This instrument uses alpha particles, or helium nuclei, and X-rays to bombard the Martian soil or a rock, which will cause the target to emit its own characteristic alpha particles and X-ray radiation. This emitted radiation will be detected by an X-ray detector inside the sensor head, which will be analysed by Mars scientists to see which elements are within the soil or rock. The exact identification of the elements that make up the Martian soil and rocks will help planet scientists determine the building blocks of the Martian crust, and any possible weathering of the soil or rock since it was formed.

Check out NASA’s Curiosity here

The Mars Science Laboratory is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MarsCuriosity and on Twitter @marscuriosity . A full listing of JPL social media accounts is at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/social .

Check out my newest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

 

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Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope and gravitational lensing to look at MACS 0647-JD

The Decades of the Hubble Space Telescope

The grand old guy is still the king of the telescopes

The development of the Hubble Space Telescope marked the beginning of a new age of the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Astronomy News – The history of human science and astronomy is ripe with stories of defining moments that opened new avenues of thought and belief in a universe humans had never experienced or dreamed of, before. The moment humans first looked upward into a sky they could neither understand nor comprehended, the history of stargazing and astronomy was written. The story of the first images humanity glimpsed through the instruments of the Hubble Space Telescope is just one defining moment that has opened roads of thought and belief astronomers and scientists had never dreamed before. The 20 years since these first Hubble images has defined a period of human history that will be remembered for astronomy milestones that opened never-before-seen parts of the universe to humans and showed us glimpses of things we never dared imagine. The recent refurbishing of the Hubble Space Telescope has allowed astronomers to look even further back in space and time to the beginning of the universe and along with the James Webb Space Telescope will soon take humanity on a journey to the beginning of space and time.

Hubble has allowed astronomers to determine many things about the universe

The launch of the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit around planet Earth on April 24, 1990, marked a moment in human history as pivotal as the moment Galileo first looked through his telescope at the world he had never seen before. During about 110,000 orbits the Hubble Space Telescope has helped about 4,000 astronomers from around the world takes over 570,000 images of about 30,000 celestial objects that have helped astronomers ask questions that will help define the future of human space studies for centuries to come. The information and data collected by the studies astronomers have conducted of the universe with the Hubble Space Telescope has also provided content for about 8,700 scientific papers and 648 journal articles, opened windows giving humans a view of parts of the universe we have dreamed of seeing, and the latest astronomy and science books.

The early universe was likely a place unlike anything we can picture

The Hubble Space Telescope has allowed the human journey to the beginning of space and time to travel closer and closer to the Big Bang

To date, the Hubble Space Telescope has shown us a view of the most distance celestial object we have viewed so far, about 13.2 billion years in the past. This view is about 150 million years further back in space and time than any previous view humans have seen of the universe. At this time in the lifespan of the universe, astronomers believe the universe was only about 500 million years old and the echoes of the big bang could still be heard.

The Hubble Space Telescope has also helped astronomers determine a number of different things about the universe, like the presence of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, planet-forming processes at work in the universe, and the presence of the first organic molecule scientists have found outside our solar system.

The James Webb Space Telescope will take the human journey to the beginning of space and time back to the time when it all began

The next twenty years of human space discovery will see the James Webb Space Telescope take up the torch-of-discovery the Hubble Space Telescope has carried for the past two decades. The grand old boy will still take astronomers on journeys of discovery for years to come, and show us views of reality that will open our eyes to the wonder of it all. The James Webb Space Telescope has yet to be launched into space and until this happens the Hubble Space Telescope is still the baddest telescope in the solar system.

Check out the newest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

13.2 billion years ago the universe was a totally different place

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Mankind’s Next Great Step into the Cosmos

The James Webb Space Telescope Takes Mankind to the Edge of Infinity

The James Webb Space Telescope Journeys to the Beginning of Space and Time

The study of astronomy takes astronomers to places undreamed of in human consciousness

Astronomy News – Mankind’s Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time is about to voyage into unknown areas of the universe in search of answers to questions that were in the minds of the first-star gazers. Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe or is life abundant? Plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit in 2014, or earlier in 2015, are still on target, and this telescope will allow mankind to delve into regions of the universe and look for answers to these questions and more technical questions. The largest telescope ever constructed by mankind, the James Webb Space Telescope is slowly beginning to take shape in three NASA space centers around the United States.

A combined effort between the Canadian space agencies, NASA, and the European Space Agency, the James Webb Space Telescope is designed to allow us to view the universe in ways never before experienced by humankind. Once launched into space the James Webb Space Telescope will maneuver into position orbiting the second Lagrange point of the Earth-Sol system, L2. This position in the solar system is just one of five locations where the gravitational pull of the Earth is equal to Sol’s. At this remote location a service call by astronauts is definitely out of the question and budget limits of the program. The James Webb Space Telescope simply must work upon arriving on station at L2, without the possibility of servicing by astronauts.

The absolute need for the James Webb Telescope to operate without a hitch upon arriving on station, and the facts learned during the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, has convinced the designers and engineers working on the James Webb Space Telescope that a new testing program is needed to ensure every component in the James Webb Telescope works as designed, before being launched into orbit. Over in the gigantic thermal-vacuum test chamber of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas technicians are currently preparing to begin tests designed to test the entire optical train of the James Webb Space Telescope. They want to ensure the optical system of the telescope operates as a single unit in a vacuum and at the correct operating temperature for optimum performance of the optical systems. In January, engineers started testing six of the primary mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope, to ensure everything is as it should be. By the end of 2014 engineers should be nearing completion of the James Webb Space Telescope’s 18 mirror segments, and all flight instrumentation should be tested and ready to go.

These mirror segments are currently undergoing testing by NASA technicians

The James Webb Space Telescope will take mankind on the next leg of the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Once on location at L2, the James Webb Space Telescope will fully deploy its 18 hexagonal, gold-coated mirror segments to form a primary mirror with an effective diameter of 6.6 meters (259 inches). This is a full 6 times the light-collecting area of the Hubble Space Telescope, but the designers and engineers have also added systems driven by software that will analysis the incoming image, and allow astronomers to fine tune the view by controlling the mirrors overall shape.

Out orbiting L2, the James Webb Space Telescope will be far from problematic heat sources, and with a tennis-court sized sunshade shielding the telescope from Sol, the heat-sensitive instrumentation of the telescope will cool passively in the cold darkness of space and time, to the required operating temperature of -388 degrees Fahrenheit (-233 Celsius).

Astronomers believe the first stars created after the Big Bang possessed as much as 100 times Sol’s current mass, shine millions of times brighter than Sol, but only lived a few million years, before exploding in the first supernovae. The James Webb Space Telescope will be capable of allowing mankind to Journey to within about 180 million years after the Big Bang if astronomers are correct, and possibly view the first moments of the universe in space terms. Astronomers will also use the James Webb Space Telescope to view celestial objects that have been exciting the human imagination since they were first discovered in the time of the first-star gazers. Astronomers are currently preparing for the beginning of the era of the James Webb Space Telescope. They’ll soon be proposing all kinds of Journeys to the Beginning of Space and Time that will hopefully provide a few answers to these questions that have been exciting mankind since the first time a human looked upward into the night sky.

Thousands of people have contributed to the designing, engineering and eventual launch into orbit of the James Webb Space Telescope

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