Thursday, September 12, 2013

NASA confirms Voyager 1 has left the solar system

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- In what NASA calls a historic moment, the space agency announced on Thursday that the first human-made object has officially left our solar system and crossed into interstellar space.

NASA scientists who continue to track the 36 year-old planetary space probe Voyager 1, discovered that new transmissions from the craft indicate it left the "solar bubble" in August 2012.

However, Voyager is still under trace influences of our Sun.

"No one has been to interstellar space before, and it's like traveling with guidebooks that are incomplete," Voyager project scientist Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said. "Still, uncertainty is part of exploration. We wouldn't go exploring if we knew exactly what we'd find."

Due to the craft's age and older technology, Voyager cannot tell NASA exactly where it is nor does it have an operating plasma sensor to detect recent output from the Sun's Heliosphere.

Instead, scientists used a powerful burst of solar wind from the Sun which occurred in March 2012. Thirteen months later, the the solar burst eventually reached Voyager and the craft detected that it was forty times denser. They compared this data with a similar solar wave during 2012.

"Now that we have new, key data we believe this is mankind's historic leap into interstellar space," Stone explained. "The Voyager team needed time to analyze those observations and make sense of them. But we can now answer the question we've all been asking, 'Are we there yet?' Yes, we are."

Monday, September 09, 2013

Space station trio set to return to earth Tuesday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Three of six crew members living aboard the International Space Station are poised to undock and return to earth on Tuesday after 168 days in space.

Outgoing Expedition 36 space station commander Pavel Vinogradov handed over command of the orbiting outpost to fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin on Monday in preparation for his crew's planned departure.

Russians Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin and American Chris Cassidy, who arrived aboard the space station on March 28, are due to board their Soyuz TMA-08M craft at about 4:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday in preparation for the craft's hatch closure at 4:20 p.m.

They will leave behind Yurchikhin, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano who will stay aboard the space station until their departure in November.

Cassidy, along with Luca, performed two spacewalks during his stay to prepare the orbiting outpost for an upcoming Russian research module this December.

Based on the Russian timeline, the Soyuz spacecraft will undock from the Poisk docking port at 7:35 p.m., and slowly back straight out to a distance a few hundred feet out before circling around the station and departing.

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