Saturday, February 27, 2016

Scott Kelly prepares for homecoming after year in space

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly reflected on his past year living aboard the International Space Station on Thursday as he and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko prepare to wrap up their historic space flight next week.

Kelly and Kornienko are packing up their Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft for their journey back to Earth on Tuesday (EST), and preparing their bodies and their minds for the adjustment back to gravity. No American before has spent one year in space, and Kelly's mission will offer NASA the answers for how humans will survive during a long duration mission to Mars.

During a final news conference from inside the orbiting laboratory 255 miles above, Kelly provided inside details of his experiences and insight into his health. Kelly, who will handover his command of the space station to American Tim Kopra on Monday, said on Thursday that flying in space is a privilege in a harsh environment.

"The space station here is a magical place it's a incredible science facility we have... I have been here nearly a year and you don't feel perfectly normal (here)," Kelly began as he spoke inside the Destiny Laboratory module. "It's not exactly uncomfortable but it's a harsh environment, for instance having no running water and then the fact that everything floats makes your daily life just difficult."

With that said, the Orange, N.J. native stated that "I could go another 100 days. I could go another year if he had to -- if it made sense -- however I look forward to getting home next week," Kelly said. He adds that he feels his flight is "another of many stepping stones to us landing on Mars sometime in our future."

Monday, February 15, 2016

ASTRO-H space observatory poised for launch from Japan

An international space observatory designed to perform astronomical observations of the universe using several advanced X-ray telescopes is poised to lift-off on Wednesday from its seaside launch site near southern Japan.

The ASTRO-H observatory will investigate the make up of the universe, including long standing questions, 'how do black holes develop and how are galaxy clusters created?'. The spacecraft will will look deep into space to learn the evolution and structure of the universe.

Designed and built by an international collaboration led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, over 70 institutions contributed to the ASTRO-H observatory in the U.S., Canada and Europe. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the European Space Agency will collaborate by using a few of the four ASTRO-H x-ray instruments.

"ASTRO-H is capable of observing X-ray sources, like galaxy clusters and neutron stars, more than 10 times fainter than its predecessor, Suzaku, which operated (until) 2015," NASA spokesperson Francis Reddy said. "To achieve this, ASTRO-H uses four co-aligned focusing X-ray telescopes and a suite of cutting-edge instruments that provide simultaneous coverage across the observatory's entire energy range."

The X-ray images from ASTRO-H are expected to be more dynamic than the visible light photographs from past space based observatories. JAXA scientists have confirmed that one X-ray photon has between 10,000 to 100,000 times the energy of optical photons.

"We see X-rays from sources throughout the universe, wherever the particles in matter reach sufficiently high energies," Goddard's X-ray Astrophysics Laboratory chief and ASTRO-H project scientist Robert Petre said. "These energies arise in a variety of settings including stellar explosions, extreme magnetic fields or strong gravity; and X-rays let us probe aspects of these phenomena that are inaccessible by instruments observing at other wavelengths."

copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.