Sonntag, 3. März 2013 - 20:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - ISRO will mehr Satelliten starten in diesem Jahr


ISRO plans to push more satellites this year

Mars Orbiter Mission launch slated for October

The coming year’s Rs.5,615-crore outlay for the Department of Space has no new or big-ticket projects even as it levels the allocation exactly with what was earmarked originally for 2012-13.

The prestigious Mars Orbiter Mission — floated some two years back and slated for October this year — looks the fanciest, while the launch vehicles continue to get their proud slice of the pie.

This year, apart from the Mars project estimated at Rs.450 crore, the space agency wants to push its first navigational satellite (NSS), the dedicated GSAT-7 spacecraft (costing Rs. 462 crore with launcher) for the Navy; and the four-tonne advanced communications satellite ACTS or GSAT-11, a senior Indian Space Research Organisation official told The Hindu.

The ACTS will be the heaviest satellite to be built to date by ISRO.

The advanced Geo-Imaging Satellite GISAT to be put in the medium Earth orbit is on the to-do list.

The completion of the GSLV rocket with its indigenous cryogenic engine and GSLV Mark-III — its big brother version for lifting 4-tonne satellites — remain priorities, the official said. Mk-III is slated for the first trial in the second half of this year without the cryo-stage.

These two, along with the semi-cryogenic programme, get about Rs. 420 crore.

Non-Plan provision

Last year’s outlay is now revised to Rs.5,615 crore from Rs.3,880 crore.

This year, DoS gets a non-Plan provision of Rs.1,177 crore.

An upgraded PSLV rocket will lift the 1,300-kg Mars spacecraft to the longest space haul that India has ever travelled — after the 4-lakh-km Chandrayaan-1 mission of 2008.

An outlay of Rs.167.5 crore has been set apart for the Mars mission in the budget.

In the absence of the GSLV to lift communications satellites above 2,000 kg, three procured or foreign launches have been factored in for the ACTS, GSAT 15 and 16.

Chandrayaan-2 and the human flight plan, which get relatively small outlays, have been put on the backburner for now, the official said.

Quelle: The Hindu


Sonntag, 3. März 2013 - 17:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - SpaceX-2-Dragon-Kapsel erfolgreicher Flug und Andocken an ISS


SpaceX's Dragon capsule will attempt to berth at the International Space early Sunday, a day later than planned after overcoming thruster system issues.

Space station crew members Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn plan to grapple the dragon with a 58-foot robotic arm at 6:01 a.m. EST.

If successful, the capsule will be pulled into a docking port on the station's Harmony node later in the morning.

Loaded with a ton of food, supplies, science experiments and hardware, the Dragon lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 10:10 a.m. Friday.

After reaching orbit about 10 minutes later, SpaceX engineers discovered a blockage line or stuck valve in a pressurization was preventing three of the spacecraft's four thruster pods from being activated.

By late afternoon, the problem had been cleared up, but the Dragon had missed its chance to approach the station Saturday morning.

Today, ISS managers unanimously agreed that the Dragon's propulsion system is operating normally and the spacecraft and station are ready for the rendezvous.

If the berthing goes as planned, the Dragon would still be expected to depart the station March 25 despite arriving a day late.

Live NASA TV coverage of the Dragon's approach and capture begins at 3 a.m. Sunday, with berthing coverage to follow at 7:30 a.m.

The resupply mission is the second of 12 under a $1.6 billion NASA contract. Dragon capsules visited the station successfully twice last year, once under the contract and once on a demonstration flight.

Quelle: Florida Today


With its propulsion system working flawlessly, a SpaceX cargo ship loaded with supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station was cleared by NASA Saturday to press ahead for a day-late capture by the lab complex early Sunday.

NASA space station managers and their SpaceX counterparts met Saturday to assess the Dragon capsule's performance following launch Friday and concluded all systems were "go" for a replanned rendezvous and capture by the station's robot arm Sunday at 6:31 a.m. EST (GMT-5).

"The station's Mission Management Team unanimously agreed that Dragon’s propulsion system is operating normally along with its other systems and ready to support the rendezvous," NASA said in a web update.

SpaceX mission patch for the company's second operational space station resupply mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

The original flight plan called for capture and berthing Saturday morning, but mission managers were forced to replan the approach after SpaceX flight controllers ran into problems with the capsule's maneuvering thrusters.

Just after the Dragon capsule separated from its Falcon 9 rocket Friday, telemetry showed that three of four sets of thrusters were off line due to problems pressurizing oxidizer propellant tanks. As a result, the spacecraft could not be properly oriented for normal communications and battery charging once its two solar arrays were deployed.

After reviewing telemetry, SpaceX flight controllers concluded the problem likely was the result of blockage in a pressurization line somewhere in the system. By cycling other valves and "pressure hammering" the lines, whatever was causing the problem eventually went away and all four oxidizer tanks were successfully pressurized.

A series of rocket firings verified the thrusters were healthy and commands were uplinked to carry out a critical maneuver to raise the low point of the Dragon's orbit.

Since then, the Dragon, flying six miles below the space station, passed ahead and looped up to a point well above the lab complex. At the higher altitude, the Dragon's velocity was slightly less than the station's, causing it to drop back behind the outpost.

Rocket firings later this evening were planned to drop the Dragon behind and below the station where it will start its final approach early Sunday.

"SpaceX officials reported to the multinational management team that all of Dragon's systems are operating as planned," NASA reported in its update. "SpaceX said it has high confidence there will be no repeat of the thruster problem during rendezvous, including its capability to perform an abort, should that be required."

If all goes well, the cargo ship will reach a point about 30 feet from the lab shortly after 6 a.m. At that point, Expedition 34 commander Kevin Ford, operating the station's robot arm from a robotics work station in the multi-window Cupola compartment, will lock on to a grapple fixture around 6:31 a.m. to complete the extended rendezvous.

During the first two dockings of Dragon capsules last May and October, the station crew manually operated the arm to maneuver the supply craft to berthing at the Earth-facing port of the forward Harmony module.

But this time around, ground controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston will take over, sending commands to remotely operate the arm through berthing to demonstrate their ability to carry out complex arm procedures and to give the astronauts a bit of a break during a very busy day.

The Dragon capsule is packed with some 2,300 pounds of equipment and provisions, including 178 pounds of crew supplies; 300 pounds of space station hardware, including replacement components for the lab's carbon dioxide removal system; and more than 700 pounds of science gear, including a pair of Glacier freezers and experiment components.

A spacewalk equipment handling fixture called a grapple bar is mounted in the Dragon capsule's unpressurized trunk section. The station's robot arm, again operated by flight controllers in Houston, will be used a few days after berthing to extract the grapple bar assembly and stow it on the station's exterior for future use.

After unloading the capsule, Ford and his crewmates will re-pack it with 1.5 tons of no-longer needed gear, components that need refurbishment or failure analysis and experiment samples that are needed by scientists back on Earth.

The return manifest includes 209 pounds of crew equipment; 1,455 pounds of science gear, including a Glacier freezer and cold bags loaded with experiment samples; and 884 pounds of space station hardware.

The Dragon will be detached from the station March 25, setting up a fiery re-entry and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Los Angeles.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule is the only space station cargo craft designed to bring cargo back to Earth, a critical capability that was lost when NASA's space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

The manned Russian Soyuz spacecraft that carry three-person crews to and from the space station can only bring back a few hundred pounds of cargo. All other station vehicles -- unmanned Russian Progress supply ships and European and Japanese cargo craft -- burn up during re-entry.

Quelle: CBS


Dragon Berthing Process Under Way

Sun, 03 Mar 2013 01:03:22 PM GMT+0100

The International Space Station Expedition 34 crew successfully captured the SpaceX Dragon capsule with the station’s robotic arm at 5:31 a.m. EST. Dragon is scheduled to be berthed to space station at approximately 9:40 am EST.

Quelle: NASA


Dragon cargo ship captured by station arm

After recovering from thruster problems and flying a near-perfect rendezvous, a SpaceX cargo ship pulled up to the International Space Station early Sunday and stood by while commander Kevin Ford, wielding the lab's robot arm, locked onto a grapple fixture to secure the spacecraft for berthing.

Operating the Canadian-built arm from a robotics work station in the multi-window Cupola compartment, Ford grappled the Dragon cargo ship at 5:31 a.m. EST (GMT-5), an hour earlier than expected, as the two spacecraft passed 253 miles above northern Ukraine.

After a flawless rendezvous, a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule was captured by the International Space Station's robot arm early Sunday, bringing more than a ton of supplies and equipment to the outpost. (Credit: NASA TV)

Flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston congratulated the crew for "a brilliant capture."

"Let me just say congratulations to the SpaceX and Dragon team in Houston and in California," Ford replied. "As they say, it's not where you start but where you finish that counts, and you guys really finished this one on the mark. You're aboard, and we've got a lot of science to bring aboard and get done."

Capture came a day later than originally planned because of problems pressurizing rocket thruster propellant tanks shortly after the ship reached orbit Friday.

But SpaceX flight controllers at company headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., were able to coax the system into normal operation and while the root cause of the problem is not yet known, the thrusters worked normally throughout the replanned rendezvous.

Making the company's third space station visit -- the second fully operational flight under a $1.6 billion commercial contract with NASA -- the Dragon capsule is loaded with some 2,300 pounds of supplies, spare parts and science gear.

The manifest includes 178 pounds of crew provisions, including food and clothing; 300 pounds of space station hardware, including replacement components for the lab's carbon dioxide removal system; and more than 700 pounds of science gear, including a pair of Glacier freezers and experiment components.

During the first two dockings of Dragon capsules last May and October, the station crew attached the cargo ship to the station, manually operating the arm to maneuver the spacecraft to the Earth-facing port of the forward Harmony module.

But this time around, ground controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston planned to take over, sending commands to remotely operate the arm through berthing to demonstrate their ability to carry out complex arm procedures and to give the astronauts a bit of a break during a busy day.

The same procedures will be used later in the week when ground controllers use the arm to pull a spacewalk equipment handling fixture from the Dragon's unpressurized trunk section. The fixture will be mounted on the station's exterior for use during a future spacewalk.

The Dragon is the only space station cargo craft now in operation that can bring equipment and experiment samples back to Earth, a critical capability that was lost when NASA's space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

As the crew unpacks the capsule's pressurized compartment, they will re-load the spacecraft with about 1.5 tons of no-longer needed gear, components that need refurbishment or failure analysis and experiment samples that are needed by scientists back on Earth.

If all goes well, the astronauts will use the robot arm to detach the capsule March 25, setting the stage for a fiery re-entry and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean southwest of Los Angeles.



Frams: NASA-TV



Samstag, 2. März 2013 - 17:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Japan sendet Roboter zur ISS, um mit JAXA Astronaut zu plaudern


Japanese robot to go into space to chat with JAXA astronaut

A humanoid robot that can chat in Japanese will go where no communication robot has gone before: outer space.

"Kirobo" was jointly developed by Toyota Motor Corp., Dentsu Inc., the University of Tokyo and venture firm Robo Garage Co.

The 34-centimeter tall humanoid robot will be launched aboard a rocket this summer and released at the International Space Station--a first for a communication robot--where it is expected to be used in communication experiments with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata.

The 49-year-old JAXA veteran will become the first Japanese commander of the ISS after he begins his mission later this year.

Members of the Kibo Robot Project said the little robot can recognize sounds and words and make gestures.

Kirobo can also utter words by remote control and comes with a camera that recognizes faces and records data.

Kirobo's engineers said they hope the project will lead to a wider use of similar robots on Earth by learning from the experiences of the experiments in space, a harsher environment than our blue-green planet.

Kirobo follows Robonaut 2, a humanoid robotic torso developed by NASA and General Motors Co. that visited the ISS in 2011 to assist astronauts in various physical tasks.

Quelle: JAXA


Samstag, 2. März 2013 - 09:00 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Falcon-9 Start mit SpaceX-Dragon-2-Kapsel














Quelle: NASA


Update: 1.03.2013




Update: Frams vom Start von Falcon-9 mit SpaceX-2-Dragon-Kapsel / NASA-TV 







SpaceX has confirmed its Falcon 9 rocket lifted off as planned and experienced a nominal flight. After Dragon achieved orbit, the spacecraft experienced an issue with a propellant valve. One thruster pod is running. The company is trying to bring up the remaining three. Dragon's solar arrays deployed. Once SpaceX gets at least two pods running, it will begin a series of burns to get to the space station.



Update: 1.03.2013 / 22.30 MEZ

UPDATES: SpaceX launch nominal, but Dragon capsule encounters problems


A SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a Dragon capsule into orbit, but an anomaly with three of the four thruster pods on the capsule threatened to end the mission abruptly. Two thruster pods are now operating successfully, with the other two planned to follow shortly. 

The Falcon 9's 1 March liftoff from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, went according to plan, but an anomaly was noted shortly after the Dragon separated from the second stage. The live feed from SpaceX and NASA both cut off immediately after the announcement.

One has to be careful about assessing root cause too early," says SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. "It looks like there was potentially some blockage in the oxidizer pressurization, and it looks like we’ve been able to free that blockage, or maybe a stuck valve, and we’ve been able to free that up by cycling the valves and essentially pressure-hammering the valves to free that up.

 The four thruster pods contain 18 Super Draco thrusters, which are crucial to guiding the capsule towards the International Space Station, where it is scheduled to deliver supplies. Three of the four pods must be operating in order to approach the ISS with sufficient safety margins, says NASA. Should the two remaining thrusters come online, the earliest docking opportunity is on 3 March.

"There's no debris or fluid or gas leakage that we're aware of, all systems appear to be intact and functioning quite well at this point," says Musk. "Hopefully things keep going in that direction."

Several thruster burns are planned to raise the perigee, or lowest point of orbit, as well as position the communications antenna and put the spacecraft on an approach trajectory to the ISS.


SpaceX: Dragon's Four Thruster Pods Online
Fri, 01 Mar 2013 10:04:57 PM GMT+0100

SpaceX says all four of Dragon's four thruster pods are now online. Dragon is not expected to berth at the International Space Station tomorrow as planned. NASA and SpaceX are assessing the next steps and berthing opportunities.

Quelle: NASA

Update: 2.03.2013

SpaceX Says Cargo Mission to Space Station Back Online

The engines on a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. unmanned spacecraft are working again after a post-launch glitch that will delay a cargo delivery to the International Space Station by at least a day.

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of the Hawthorne, California-based company known as SpaceX, announced the engine problem in a Twitter posting about a half hour after today’s 10:10 a.m. launch of the Dragon craft from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Three of the four groups of engines known as thrusters didn’t initially activate. After the ship orbited in space for about five hours, SpaceX was able to turn on a second set and regain control, Musk said. The rest were activated later, he said.

“It looks like we’re going to be back on track here,” Musk said during a press conference organized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The ship was supposed to link up with the station tomorrow. That rendezvous was delayed until March 3 at the earliest, said Michael Suffredini, NASA’s program manager for the space station.

The agency requires at least three sets of thrusters on the craft to be working to connect with the space station, Suffredini said.

Fuel Valve

Musk said a preliminary review suggests the malfunction may have stemmed from a blocked or stuck fuel valve. He announced that the engines were coming back online about 3 p.m. East Coast time in a Twitter posting.

“Pods 1 and 4 now online and thrusters engaged,” he tweeted. “Dragon transitioned from free drift to active control. Yes!!”

James Oberg, a space consultant in Dickinson, Texas, and a former mission-control specialist for NASA, described the malfunction as a “routine contingency” and one “that all good flight-control teams prepare for.”

With one set of engines, the supply craft still managed to successfully deploy its solar arrays, which supply electrical power.

The craft was launched from a Falcon rocket. It is carrying more than 1,200 pounds of scientific experiments, food and other cargo. It’s scheduled to return March 25 with more than 2,300 pounds of equipment.

The mission is the company’s second regular cargo delivery and third trip to the space station. SpaceX completed its first resupply mission in October following a test flight in May. The company has a $1.6 billion contract with the NASA for at least a dozen resupply flights.

NASA is relying on SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. (ORB), based in Dulles, Virginia, to help resupply the station after retiring its shuttle fleet in 2011. The agency depends on Russia to carry astronauts to space at about $63 million per seat.

Quelle: USAF






Freitag, 1. März 2013 - 12:42 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Van Allen Probes (formerly known as the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP))haben dritten Strahlungsgürtel um die Erde entdeckt.


Van Allen Probes Discover a New Radiation Belt

Earth's radiation belts were one of the first discoveries of the Space Age. A new finding published in today's issue of Science shows that we still have much to learn about them.  NASA's twin Van Allen Probes, launched just last August, have revealed a previously unknown third radiation belt around Earth.
"Even 55 years after their discovery, Earth's radiation belts still are capable of surprising us," said Nicky Fox, Van Allen Probes deputy project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics  Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "We thought we knew the radiation belts, but we don't."
Previous observations of the Van Allen belts dating back to the late 1950s have documented two distinct regions of trapped radiation surrounding our planet, known as the inner and outer radiation belts. Particle sensors aboard the twin Van Allen Probes quickly revealed to scientists the existence of a transient, third radiation belt.  Scientists observed the third belt for four weeks before a powerful interplanetary shock wave from the sun annihilated it.
Each of the two Van Allen Probes carries an identical set of five instrument suites that allow scientists to gather data on the belts in unprecedented detail. Key data for this discovery came from the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) instrument, part of the probes' Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma Suite (ECT).
"This is the first time we have had such high-resolution instruments look at time, space and energy together in the outer belt," says Daniel Baker, lead author of the study and REPT instrument lead at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "Previous observations of the outer radiation belt resolved it as a single blurry element. When we turned REPT on just two days after launch, we clearly saw the new belt and a [gap] between it and the outer belt."
Back in the 1950s when the radiation belts were discovered, they had little effect on ordinary people. Today the radiation belts are crucial to our high-tech society.  Hundreds of satellites used for everything from weather prediction to GPS to television routinely skim the belts, subjecting themselves to energetic particles that can damage solar panels and short-circuit sensitive electronics.  During geomagnetic storms when the belts are swollen by solar activity, whole fleets of satellites can be engulfed, imperiling the technological underpinnings of daily life on the planet below. The Van Allen Probes directly address these down-to-Earth problems
"The fantastic new capabilities and advances in technology in the Van  Allen Probes allow scientists to see in unprecedented detail how the radiation belts are populated with charged particles, what causes them to change, and how they affect the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere," says John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science in Washington DC.
After most NASA science spacecraft launches, researchers wait patiently for months as instruments on board are turned on one at a time, slowly ramped up to full power, and tested to make sure they work at full capacity. It's a rite of passage for any new satellite in space, and such a schedule was in place for the Van Allen Probes when they launched on Aug. 30, 2012, to study two giant belts of radiation that surround Earth.
But a group of scientists on the mission made a case for changing the plan. They asked that the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) be turned on early – just three days after launch -- in order that its observations would overlap with another mission called SAMPEX (Solar, Anomalous, and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer), that was soon going to de-orbit and re-enter Earth's atmosphere.
It was a lucky decision. Shortly before REPT turned on, solar activity on the sun had sent energy toward Earth that caused the radiation belts to swell. The REPT instrument worked well from the moment it was turned on Sep. 1. It made observations of these new particles trapped in the belts, recording their high energies, and the belts' increased size.
Then something happened no one had ever seen before: the particles settled into a new configuration, showing an extra, third belt extending out into space. Within mere days of launch, the Van Allen Probes showed scientists something that would require rewriting textbooks.
"By the fifth day REPT was on, we could plot out our observations and watch the formation of a third radiation belt," says Shri Kanekal, the deputy mission scientist for the Van Allen Probes at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and a coauthor of a paper on these results. "We started wondering if there was something wrong with our instruments. We checked everything, but there was nothing wrong with them. The third belt persisted beautifully, day after day, week after week, for four weeks."
The scientists published their results in a paper in the journal Science on Feb. 28, 2013. Incorporating this new configuration into their models of the radiation belts offers scientists new clues to what causes the changing shapes of the belts – a region that can sometimes swell dramatically in response to incoming energy from the sun, impacting satellites and spacecraft or pose potential threats to manned space flight.
The radiation belts, or Van Allen belts, were discovered with the very first launches of satellites in 1958 by James Van Allen. Subsequent missions have observed parts of the belts – including SAMPEX, which observed the belts from below – but what causes such dynamic variation in the belts has remained something of a mystery. Indeed, seemingly similar storms from the sun have at times caused completely different effects in the belts, or have sometimes led to no change at all.
The Van Allen Probes consist of two identical spacecraft with a mission to map out this region with exquisite detail, cataloguing a wide range of energies and particles, and tracking the zoo of magnetic waves that pulse through the area, sometimes kicking particles up to such frenzied speeds that they escape the belts altogether.
"We've had a long run of data from missions like SAMPEX," says Daniel Baker, who is the principal investigator for REPT at the University of Colorado in Boulder and first author on the Science paper. "But we've never been in the very throat of the accelerator operating a few hundred miles above our head, speeding these particles up to incredible velocities."
Two giant swaths of radiation, known as the Van Allen Belts, surrounding Earth were discovered in 1958. In 2012, observations from the Van Allen Probes showed that a third belt can sometimes appear. The radiation is shown here in yellow, with green representing the spaces between the belts. Credit: NASA/Van Allen Probes/Goddard Space Flight Center
In its first six months in orbit, the instruments on the Van Allen Probes have worked exceptionally well and scientists are excited about a flood of observations coming in with unprecedented clarity. This is the first time scientists have been able to gather such a complete set of data about the belts, with the added bonus of watching from two separate spacecraft that can better show how events sweep across the area.
Spotting something new in space such as the third radiation belt has more implications than the simple knowledge that a third belt is possible. In a region of space that remains so mysterious, any observations that link certain causes to certain effects adds another piece of information to the puzzle.
Baker likes to compare the radiation belts to the particle storage rings in a particle physics accelerator. In accelerators, magnetic fields are used to hold the particles orbiting in a circle, while energy waves are used to buffet the particles up to ever faster speeds. In such accelerators, everything must be carefully tuned to the size and shape of that ring, and the characteristics of those particles. The Van Allen Belts depend on similar fine-tuning. Given that scientists see the rings only in certain places and at certain times, they can narrow down just which particles and waves must be causing that geometry. Every new set of observations helps narrow the field even further. 
"We can offer these new observations to the theorists who model what's going on in the belts," says Kanekal. "Nature presents us with this event – it's there, it's a fact, you can't argue with it -- and now we have to explain why it's the case. Why did the third belt persist for four weeks? Why does it change? All of this information teaches us more about space."
On Aug. 31, 2012, a giant prominence on the sun erupted, sending out particles and a shock wave that traveled near Earth. This event may have been one of the causes of a third radiation belt that appeared around Earth a few days later, a phenomenon that was observed for the very first time by the newly-launched Van Allen Probes. This image of the prominence before it erupted was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Scientists already have theories about just what kind of waves sweep out particles in the "slot" region between the first two belts. Now they must devise models to find which waves have the right characteristics to sweep out particles in the new slot region as well. Another tantalizing observation to explore lies in tracking the causes of the slot region back even further: on Aug. 31, 2012, a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere erupted out into space. Baker says that this might have caused the shock wave that led to the formation of the third ring a few days later. In addition, the new belt was virtually annihilated four weeks after it appeared by another powerful interplanetary shock wave from the sun. Being able to watch such an event in action provides even more material for theories about the Van Allen belts.
Despite the 55 years since the radiation belts were first discovered, there is much left to investigate and explain, and within just a few days of launch the Van Allen Probes showed that the belts are still capable of surprises.
"I consider ourselves very fortunate," says Baker. "By turning on our instruments when we did, taking great pride in our engineers and having confidence that the instruments would work immediately and having the cooperation of the sun to drive the system the way it did – it was an extraordinary opportunity. It validates the importance of this mission and how important it is to revisit the Van Allen Belts with new eyes."
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) built and operates the twin Van Allen Probes. The Van Allen Probes comprise the second mission in NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The program is managed by NASA Goddard.
Quelle: NASA


Freitag, 1. März 2013 - 09:40 Uhr

Astronomie - 18-Kilo Meteorit in der Antarktis gefunden Fund eines Gesteinsbrockens dieser Größe selbst für Geologen unerwartet


Ein internationales Forscherteam hat in der Antarktis den größten Meteoriten seit 25 Jahren gefunden. Der Gesteinsbrocken lag im Nansen Eisfeld in der Ostantarktis - ein schwarzer Klumpen, der noch aus 50 Metern sichtbar war, wie die Polarforscher berichten. Das sei ungewöhnlich, weil sonst in der Südpolregion vorwiegend sehr kleine Meteoriten gefunden werden. Woher er stammt, soll nun durch Laboruntersuchungen ermittelt werden. 
"Dieser Meteorit war ein sehr unerwarteter Fund für uns - nicht nur wegen seines Gewichts, sondern auch, weil so große Meteoriten normalerweise nicht in der Antarktis gefunden werden", erklärt Vinciane Debaille von der Université Libre de Bruxelles. Pro Jahr finde man rund tausend Meteoriten, die weniger als 100 Gramm wiegen und vielleicht hundert, die bis zu einem Kilogramm wiegen. Ein 18 Kilo-Brocken sei da schon die Ausnahme, so die Forscherin.
Relikt aus der kosmischen Vergangenheit
Entdeckt haben die Forscher den Meteoriten bei einer Expedition in Rahmen des SAMBA-Projekts. Dieses richtet jedes Jahr eine Expedition aus mit dem Ziel, so viele Himmelsbrocken wie möglich zu bergen. "Wir erforschen Meteoriten, um besser zu verstehen, wie sich das Sonnensystem bildete und entwickelte und wie die Erde zu einem so einzigartigen Planeten in unserem System wurde", erklärt Debaille. Denn die in unserem Sonnensystem herumfliegenden Asteroiden und Kometen gelten als Relikte aus der Frühzeit unserer kosmischen Nachbarschaft und damit als wertvolle Zeugen der Vergangenheit. 
Auf dem Rest unsers Planeten gehen die Gesteins- und Metallbrocken schnell verloren: Sie werden von Pflanzen überwuchert, zerfallen durch Erosion oder verschwinden im Untergrund. Deshalb sind die gewaltigen Eisflächen der Antarktis ein idealer Sammelplatz. "Auf dem hellen Eis und Schnee kann man die dunklen Flecken gut erkennen", so die Geologin. Besonders viele Funde wurden auf dem Nansen-Eisfeld gemacht, einer ebene Fläche in der Ostantarktis, die die Forscher von der belgischen Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Forschungsstation aus anfuhren.
Keinen passenden Beutel dabei
"Es war fast ein bisschen peinlich: Weil wir einen so großen Fund nicht erwartet haben, hatten wir keinen ausreichend großen Probenbeutel mit dabei", erzählt Debaille. Mit bloßen Händen oder Handschuhen fasse man üblicherweise einen Meteorite nicht an, um ihn nicht zu kontaminieren. Glücklicherweise konnten japanische Kollegen mit einem passenden Beutel aushelfen, so dass die Forscher ihren Fund bergen konnten.
Erste Untersuchungen zeigten, dass der 18 Kilogramm schwere Brocken ein normaler Chondrit ist - ein Gesteinsmeteorit mit zahlreichen Einschlüssen aus Silikaten. Zu diesem Typ gehören rund 86 Prozent aller auf der Erde gefundenen Meteoriten. Seine äußere Schicht, die während des Fluges durch die Erdatmosphäre entsteht, war größtenteils abgetragen. "Bei dieser Passage heizt sich der Meteorit auf und seine Außenhülle schmilzt. Kühlt er dann wieder ab, härtet sie wieder aus und bildet eine schwarz-bräunliche Deckschicht", erklären die Forscher. Deshalb kann man normalerweise nicht genau erkennen, um was für eine Meteoritensorte es sich handelt. Doch beim neuen Fund war diese Außenhülle erodiert, so dass sie auch ohne Anschnitte auf seinen Typ schließen konnten. 
Auftauen in der Vakuumkammer
Der bisher gefrorene Meteorit wird nun in ein Speziallabor in Japan gebracht, wo er unter kontrollierten Bedingungen langsam aufgetaut wird. "Wir entfrosten ihn in einem Vakuum, damit das Eis direkt verdampft und so kein Wasser in das Gestein einsickern kann", erklärt Debaille. Erst dann können Geologen genauere Untersuchungen zu seiner Zusammensetzung machen und daraus auf sein Alter und möglicherweise seine Herkunft schließen.
Neben dem 18-Kilo-Brocken haben die Forscher während ihrer fünfwöchigen Expedition noch 425 kleinere Meteoriten entdeckt - insgesamt 75 Kilogramm kosmisches Material. Mindestens zwei von diesen Funden stamme höchstwahrscheinlich vom Asteroiden Vesta, einer vom Mars, berichten sie. Erkennbar ist dies durch Messungen der spektralen Signatur des Gesteins, der Zusammensetzung des von ihm zurückgeworfenen Lichts. "Wir haben schon während er Expedition einige sogenannte Ecurite entdeckt, sie sind eher weißlich und damit leicht von anderen Meteoriten zu unterschieden", erklärt Debaille. Sie seien eher selten und gelten als Bruchstücke von Vesta und ähnlichen Asteroiden.
Quelle: scinexx


Freitag, 1. März 2013 - 09:30 Uhr

Astronomie - Ein Meteorit namens "Trebbin" Einschlag in die GPG Blumenstadt ist 25 Jahre her


REBBIN - Als Gudrun Giller vor zwei Wochen die Bilder vom Meteoritenschauer über Russland im Fernsehen sah, kamen die Erinnerungen in ihr hoch. „Das hatten wir doch auch schon mal“, dachte sie sich. Vor genau 25 Jahren, am 1. März 1988, krachte ein Meteorit in ein Gewächshaus am Rande Trebbins. „Der kam aus heiterem Himmel“, erzählt Monika Ochotzki vom Heimatverein. Das Ausmaß der Zerstörung war zum Glück wesentlich geringer als am 15. Februar im Uralgebiet. In Trebbin gingen lediglich ein Fenster und zahlreiche Blumentöpfe zu Bruch.
In einem prall gefüllten Aktenordner hat die Vorsitzende des Heimatvereins Artikel, Protokolle und Briefe abgeheftet, die sich mit dem außerirdischen Steinbrocken beschäftigen. Im Vereinstresor lagern außerdem drei Splitter des Meteoriten. Die Kieselstein großen Bruchstücke hatte Willi Zühlke, der vor 25 Jahren bei der Suche nach dem Meteoriten half, dem Heimatverein überlassen. Der Apfelgroße Hauptstein ist in die Sammlung des Naturkundemuseums in Berlin eingegangen.
Der Einschlag hatte damals für großen Wirbel in der Region gesorgt. Kurz nachdem der Weltraum-Brocken eine Scheibe durchschlagen hatte, dachten die Mitarbeiter der GPG noch an einen Jungenstreich. Doch auf der angrenzenden Wiese wurden wenig später die Bruchstücke des Weltall-Brockens aufgelesen. Das vormals knapp 1,3 Kilo schwere Geschoss war in 16 große und unzählige Einzelsplitter zerbrochen. Der damalige Vorsitzende der GPG an den Rat des Kreises: „Der Fund wurde nur bemerkt, weil er durch den Aufprall auf den Gewächshausbinden hörbare Geräusche hervorrief und eine Lokalisierung der Fundstelle erfolgte.“
Das Interesse am Meteoriten, der den Namen „Trebbin“ erhielt, war groß. Mitarbeiter des Potsdamer Instituts für Physik der Erde eilten in die Clauertstadt, die Presse berichtete über die Landesgrenzen hinweg, russische Medien schrieben über den sensationellen Fund, wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen wurden angestellt. Dabei kam heraus, dass es sich bei „Trebbin“ um einen Mineralmeteoriten aus Silizium, Magnesium, Eisen und Spurenelementen handelte. Er war mehrere Millionen Jahre im Weltall unterwegs, bevor er auf die Erde traf.
Quelle: Märkische-Allgemeine


Donnerstag, 28. Februar 2013 - 22:16 Uhr

Astronomie - Geburt eines Riesenplaneten? Protoplaneten-Kandidat im stellaren Mutterleib entdeckt


Astronomen haben mit dem Very Large Telescope der ESO wahrscheinlich zum ersten Mal einen Planeten direkt beobachte, der noch in die dicke Scheibe aus Gas und Staub eingebettet ist, aus der er sich gerade bildet. Sollte sich diese Entdeckung bestätigen, wird sie unser Verständnis der Planetenentstehung deutlich vertiefen und es den Astronomen ermöglichen, momentan verfolgte theoretische Ansätze durch direkte Beobachtungen zu überprüfen.
Ein internationales Team unter der Leitung von Sascha Quanz von der ETH Zürich in der Schweiz hat die Gas- und Staubscheibe um den jungen Stern HD 100546 untersucht, der sich mit einer Entfernung von nur 335 Lichtjahren in relativer Nachbarschaft zu unserem Sonnensystem befindet. Die Forscher waren überrascht, als sie Anzeichen für einen Planeten fanden, der sich – eingebettet in die Materiescheibe um den jungen Stern – noch im Entstehungsprozess befindet. Dieser mögliche Planet wäre ein Gasriese, ähnlich dem Jupiter in unserem Sonnensystem.
„Planetenentstehung war bisher ein Forschungsgebiet, in dem hauptsächlich mittels Computersimulationen gearbeitet wurde”, berichtet Sascha Quanz. „Wenn unsere Entdeckung wirklich ein Planet im Entstehungsstadium ist, dann versetzt das die Wissenschaft zum ersten Mal in die Lage, Entstehung und Wechselwirkung eines Planeten mit seiner Geburtsumgebung in einer sehr frühen Phase empirisch zu untersuchen.”
Das System von HD 100546 ist gut untersucht, da man schon länger einen weiteren Riesenplaneten mit dem sechsfachen Abstand der Erde zur Sonne um den Stern vermutet. Der neu entdeckte Planet befindet sich in den äußeren Bereichen des Systems, nochmals etwa zehnmal weiter vom Zentralstern entfernt [1].
Der mögliche neue Planet im HD 100546-System wurde unter Anwendung neuartiger Analysemethoden als schwacher Lichtfleck entdeckt - mit der adaptiven Optik NACO am Very Large Telescope der ESO. Die Beobachtungen wurden mit dem Koronografen von NACO durchgeführt, der im nahinfraroten Spektralbereich arbeitet und das gleißend helle Licht des Sterns ausblenden kann, das ansonsten an der Position des Protoplaneten-Kandidaten noch immer alles überstrahlen würde [2].
Laut bisher gängigen Modellvorstellungen wachsen Riesenplaneten, indem sie einen Teil des Gases und Staubes einfangen, das bei der Bildung des Zentralsterns übrigbleibt [3]. In der neuen Aufnahme der Scheibe um HD 100546 haben die Astronomen Belege für diese Hypothese gefunden. Nahe am Protoplaneten hat man in der Staubscheibe Strukturen entdeckt, die auf Wechselwirkungen zwischen dem Planeten und der Scheibe zurückgehen könnten. Außerdem scheint der Protoplanet seine Umgebung durch seinen Entstehungsprozess aufzuheizen.
Adam Amara, ein weiteres Teammitglied, ist geradezu enthusiastisch in Anbetracht der Entdeckung: „Die Erforschung von Exoplaneten ist ein extrem spannender Teilbereich der modernen Astronomie, und direkte Abbildungen von Exoplaneten sind ein völlig neues Feld, das von jüngsten Fortschritten in der Instrumentierung und Datenanalyse besonders profitiert. Für unsere Studie haben wir Analysemethoden verwendet, die eigentlich für die Kosmologie entwickelt wurden. Fruchtbarer Austausch zwischen verschiedenen astronomischen Disziplinen kann also zu außergewöhnlichen Fortschritten führen.”
Obwohl die Existenz des Protoplaneten die wahrscheinlichste Erklärung für die Daten ist, werden weitere Untersuchungen nötig sein, um die Entdeckung zweifelsfrei zu bestätigen und andere Szenarien auszuschließen. Das beobachtete Helligkeitssignal könnte anstatt von einem Planeten auch von einem Hintergrundobjekt des HD 100546-Systems stammen, auch wenn dies sehr unwahrscheinlich ist. Ebenso könnte es sich statt um einen Protoplaneten um einen bereits vollständig ausgebildeten Planeten handeln, der aus einer ursprünglichen Umlaufbahn herausgeschleudert wurde, die sich näher am Zentralstern befunden hat. Sollte sich aber bestätigen, dass es sich bei dem neu entdeckten Objekt um einen Planeten handelt der sich – eingebettet in die Materiescheibe um den jungen Stern – noch im Entstehungsprozess befindet, dann wäre damit ein einzigartiges Laboratorium für die Erforschung der Bildung eines Planetensystems gefunden.
[1] Der Protoplaneten-Kandidat umkreist seinen Zentralstern in etwa dem 70-fachen Abstand der Erde zur Sonne. In unserem Sonnensystem bewegen sich einige Zwergplaneten in den Außenbereichen Sonnensystems, zum Beispiel Eris und Makemake, in ähnlich großer Entfernung um die Sonne. Kontrovers daran ist, dass diese Art von Umlaufbahn für einen Riesenplaneten nicht gut mit den gängigen Theorien der Planetenentstehung verträglich ist. Ob sich der Planet während seines gesamten bisherigen Entstehungsprozesses auf dieser Umlaufbahn befunden hat oder ob er von weiter innen nach außen gewandert ist, ist bisher nicht geklärt.
[2] Das Wissenschaftlerteam verwendete eine sogenannte apodisierte Phasenplatte, die den Kontrast des Bildes nahe des Zentralsterns erhöht.
[3] Da sich die Planeten des Sonnensystems schon vor mehreren Milliarden Jahren gebildet haben, können Astronomen ihren Entstehungsprozess natürlich nicht mehr direkt beobachten. Dennoch wurden die theoretischen Modelle zur Entstehung von Planetensystemen viele Jahre lang stark von den Beobachtungsbefunden in unserem Sonnensystem beeinflusst, da schlicht keine anderen Planetensysteme bekannt waren. Seit aber 1995 der erste Exoplanet um einen anderen Stern als die Sonne entdeckt wurde, ist es gelungen, hunderte weitere Planetensysteme zu finden. Dadurch ergeben sich völlig neue Möglichkeiten, die Planetenentstehung zu untersuchen. Bisher jedoch wurde noch nie ein Planet entdeckt, der sich im Prozess der Entstehung und noch eingebettet in die Materiescheibe um seinen jungen Zentralstern befindet.
Diese Zusammenstellung zeigt Aufnahmen vom NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (links) und vom NACO-System am Very Large Telescope der ESO (rechts) des Gases und Staubes um den jungen Stern HD 100546.Die Hubble-Aufnahme im sichtbaren Licht zeigt die äußere Gas- und Staubscheibe um den Stern, während das neue VLT-Bild einen Ausschnitt der Scheibe mit einem Protoplaneten-Kandidaten zeigt. Beide Bilder wurden mit einem speziellen Koronografen aufgenommen, der das gleißend helle Licht des Sterns unterdrückt. Die Position des Sterns ist jeweils mit einem roten Kreuz markiert.
Dieses Bild wurde mit dem NACO-System am Very Large Telescope der ESO aufgenommen und zeigt einen Protoplaneten-Kandidaten in der Gas- und Staubscheibe um den jungen Stern HD 100546. Das Bild wurde mit einem speziellen Koronografen aufgenommen, der das gleißend helle Licht des Sterns unterdrückt und so die Region um den Protoplaneten detailliert sichtbar macht. Der hellste Bereich des Bildes ist der Protoplaneten-Kandidat. Die dunkle Scheibe unten im Bild verdeckt den Zentralstern des Systems.
Diese Aufnahme vom NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope zeigt den Staub in den äußeren Bereichen des HD 100546-Systems im sichtbaren Licht. Die Position des neuentdeckten Protoplaneten ist markiert.
Der innere Teil des Bildes wird von Artefakten des gleißend hellen Zentralsterns dominiert.
Diese Aufsuchkarte zeigt die Position des jungen Sterns HD 100546 im südlichen Sternbild Musca (die Fliege). Eingezeichnet sind die meisten der unter guten Bedingungen mit bloßem Auge sichtbaren Sterne. Der Stern HD 100546 ist von einem Staubring umgeben, in dem sich offenbar zur Zeit ein Planet bildet. Der Stern selbst ist etwas zu lichtschwach um mit bloßem Auge sichtbar zu sein, kann jedoch leicht mit einem Feldstecher beobachtet werden. Die Planeten und der Staubring in dem System sind jedoch mit kleinen Teleskopen nicht zu erkennen.
Übersichtsaufnahme der Himmelsregion um den jungen Stern HD 100546 im südlichen Sternbild Musca (die Fliege), erstellt aus Daten des Digitized Sky Survey 2. Die von den hellen Sternen im Bild ausgehenden Strahlen und farbigen Halos sind Artefakte der Teleskopoptik und des fotografischen Prozesses.
Quelle: ESO


Donnerstag, 28. Februar 2013 - 12:10 Uhr

Raumfahrt - China sendet im Sommer nächste Astronauten zu Tiangong-1


China to launch new manned spacecraft
BEIJING,-- China's new spacecraft will be launched sometime between June and August, a spokesperson for the office of the country's space manned program said in a statement released Thursday.
Three Chinese astronauts will board the Shenzhou-10, which is expected to dock with the orbiting lab module Tiangong-1, according to the statement.
The Tiangong-1 was sent into space in September 2011. It later docked with the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft in November 2011, and with the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft in June 2012.
After years of testing, the new mission will mark the first formal application of the manned space transportation system, the statement said.
The objectives of the new mission include further assessing the performance of the docking system, the combination's capabilities in supporting life and work, and the abilities of astronauts on the job, according to plans.
Research on astronauts' abilities to adapt to the environment in the space module will also be conducted, in addition to tests on repairing orbiting spacecraft and other key technologies necessary for developing a space station.
China plans to build its own space station around 2020.
During the mission, astronauts will also give science lectures to teenage spectators back on Earth, the statement said.
The statement also offered information on ongoing preparations for the mission: general assembly has been completed on the Shenzhou-10, and the spacecraft is currently being tested; all tests have been completed on its carrier rocket, a modified model of the Long March-2F; astronauts are being trained according to plan; and the Tiangong-1 is in good condition.
Quelle: China Weekly


Donnerstag, 28. Februar 2013 - 09:45 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Start von SpaceX-Dragon-Kapsel zur ISS am 1.03.2013



NASA and SpaceX today confirmed plans for a March 1 launch of the company’s next International Space Station resupply mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
A Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule are scheduled to blast off at 10:10 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 40.
If all stays on schedule, the Dragon would berth at the station the next day, delivering about 1,200 pounds of supplies.
The spacecraft would stay for about three weeks before returning to Earth March 25 for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.
The Dragon is expected to bring home 2,300 pounds of equipment and experiments.
SpaceX remains on track to launch its next International Space Station resupply mission two weeks from today, NASA confirmed Thursday.
A Falcon 9 rocket and an unmanned Dragon capsule are scheduled to blast off at 10:10 a.m. March 1 from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The confirmation came after NASA and its international partners met to verify that the station and its six-person crew were ready for the Dragon’s arrival, and that SpaceX also was ready for the mission.
“All parties were ‘go,’ ” said Josh Byerly, a NASA spokesman at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The flight will be SpaceX’s second of 12 under a $1.6 billion NASA resupply contract, following a successful first operational flight last October.
It would be the third flight to the station by a Dragon, including a demonstration flight last May.
The Dragon will be packed with about 1,200 pounds of food, supplies and science experiments on the way up.
On March 2, station commander Kevin Ford and flight engineer Tom Marshburn plan to snare the Dragon with a robotic arm and berth it to the outpost’s Harmony node roughly 250 miles above Earth.
The Dragon is expected to remain there until March 25, if everything stays on schedule.
The visit’s duration is partly determined by an experiment flying up and down that must spend 24 days inside a station glove box.
The Dragon plans to return home with about 2,300 pounds of equipment and science samples, again splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Baja peninsula.
The launch is the first by a Falcon 9 since Oct. 7 when one of that rocket’s nine first-stage engines shut down early.
The Dragon reached its intended orbit despite the problem, but a secondary communications satellite did not.
SpaceX and NASA have not released formal results from the engine investigation, but officials have said they are satisfied the problem has been studied thoroughly and is not a concern for the upcoming launch.
Quelle: NASA
Update: 19.02.2013
Image above: The Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, Dragon spacecraft stands inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Teams had just installed the spacecraft's solar array fairings. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Quelle: NASA
 Update: 24.02.2013
NASA Coverage Set for March 1 SpaceX Mission to Space Station
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The second SpaceX mission to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract is scheduled to launch Friday, March 1, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA Television coverage begins at 8:30 a.m. EST.

The company's Falcon 9 rocket carrying its Dragon cargo capsule will lift off at 10:10 a.m. If needed, a backup launch opportunity is available on March 2 with launch time at 9:47 a.m. and NASA TV coverage beginning at 8 a.m.

The mission is the second of 12 SpaceX flights contracted by NASA to resupply the space station. It will mark the third trip by a Dragon capsule to the orbiting laboratory, following a demonstration flight in May 2012 and the first resupply mission in October 2012.

The capsule will be filled with more than 1,200 pounds of scientific experiments and cargo. It will remain attached to the space station's Harmony module for more than three weeks. The Dragon capsule will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California on March 25, returning more than 2,300 pounds of experiment samples and equipment, which will be recovered for examination by scientists and engineers.

In advance of the launch, NASA will host a briefing on NASA's human deep space exploration progress at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On Thursday, Feb. 28, NASA will host a mission science briefing at 1 p.m. and a prelaunch news conference at 3 p.m. All three briefings will be carried live on NASA TV and the agency's website.
Update: 26.02.2013
The early forecast is excellent for SpaceX’s planned Friday morning launch of an International Space Station resupply mission.
There’s a 90 percent chance of favorable conditions for a 10:10 a.m. liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Gusty winds could pose a problem, but are expected to remain within acceptable levels.
If the launch slips to Saturday, the forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather for a 9:47 a.m. blastoff, with a chance for strong winds and thick clouds.
The mission is SpaceX’s second of 12 planned under a $1.6 billion station resupply contract.
On Monday afternoon, the company performed what it called a successful test-firing of the Falcon 9’s first-stage engines on the launch pad. Engineers are reviewing the data.
A Launch Readiness Review is planned Wednesday.
Update: 27.02.2013
Dragon Spacecraft Processing
Inside the processing hangar used by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, workers lift a solar array fairing prior to installation on the company's Dragon spacecraft. The spacecraft will launch on the upcoming SpaceX 2 mission. 
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Update: 28.02.2013


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