Twitter: Phoenix Mars Lander Refutes White House Report

A Twitter statement from Phoenix (Twitter screenshot)
Right from the robot's mouth - Phoenix disagrees with reports (Twitter screenshot)

So the plot thickens… Ever since the primary source for the “Phoenix Affair” hit the blogosphere, it spread like a rampaging virus (with the help of the Universe Today and Astroengine.com, ehem). In the early hours of this morning, it was Aviation Week who broke the news that they had been in contact with an unnamed source, leading to the implication that Phoenix had discovered something and the NASA team had set off to Washington for an audience with the President’s Science Advisor. Having waited the whole day for a Phoenix/NASA response to this news, I’ve been frustrated with the lack of weekend activity at Mars HQ. That is until now. Right from the robot’s mouth, Phoenix has disputed the White House claims. On the Phoenix Twitter feed, the perky little robot exclaimed: “Reports claiming there was a White House briefing are also untrue and incorrect,” (from MarsPhoenix).
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SpaceX Falcon 1 Suffers “Anomaly” During Ascent, Assumed Lost

Falcon 1 launch in 2007 (SpaceX)
Falcon 1 launch in 2007 (SpaceX)

Sad news. In a surprise announcement today, SpaceX revealed they had opened a window for their Falcon 1 to launch. Unfortunately, 140 seconds into the ascent, Falcon 1 suffered an undisclosed anomaly and the live video feed was cut. According to one comment left on the article I was updating over at the Universe Today to cover this historic event, the rocket suffered a “roll oscillation” (thank you Steve) shortly before contact was lost. Due to a poor video stream in my location, I did not witness this. Immediately after the screen went blank; the SpaceX commentators (Max Vozoff and Emily Shanklin, obviously upset) reported that Falcon 1 had suffered an “anomaly.” Looking at the most recent launch update, the rocket had reached 35 km in altitude and had attained an ascent velocity of 1050 m/s. The video feed was cut soon after T+140 seconds and after the short message by Max, the feed was pulled off-air and the credits rolled. A sad day for SpaceX and commercial spaceflight…
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Phoenix has Found Something More Compelling than Water: President Bush Informed

The Mars vista as seen by Phoenix (NASA/JPL/UA)
The Mars vista as seen by Phoenix (NASA/JPL/UA)

On Thursday, NASA held a press conference to announce that the recent TEGA experiment on board Phoenix had confirmed the presence of water in the Martian soil. Whist exciting, Phoenix scientists were expecting that result. However, behind the scenes, something else was being discussed and it had little to do with melting water…
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Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo Sees First Light

Branson and Rutan inspace Eve at the Mojave Air and Space Port (Virgin Galactic)
Branson and Rutan inspect Eve at the Mojave Air and Space Port (Virgin Galactic)

The new addition to the Virgin Galactic family has been rolled out during an early morning ceremony in the middle of the Californian Mojave Desert. Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan proudly showed off “Eve,” the first of two WhiteKnightTwo mother ships that will fly up to four times a day. This is a big moment for Branson and Rutan as it brings their dreams of space tourism to a new reality…
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New Russian-European Manned Space Vehicle Announced

Russian firm RKK Energia's new manned space vehicle (RKK Energia)
Russian firm RKK Energia's new manned space vehicle (RKK Energia)

NASA’s Constellation Program may be faltering, but the next Russia/ESA manned space vehicle set to replace the reliable Soyuz vehicle has been unveiled in the UK. It is designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and it has a unique soft-landing thruster mechanism that will make re-entry a little less dramatic. The new design has been designed by Russian manufacturer RKK Energia and a first look at the 4-6 man capsule was showcased at the annual Farnborough Air Show in the UK last week. ESA has been discussing the collaboration with the Russian space agency Roscosmos on the Crew Space Transportation System (CSTS) since 2006 and now it seems that this vehicle may rival the Orion/Ares system being developed by NASA. What’s more, the CSTS is designed to transport a crew of four to the Moon…
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The International Space Station as the International Space Ship? Why Not?

Could the ISS be modified to travel to Mars? Credit: NASA/Ian O'Neill
Could the ISS be modified to travel to Mars? Credit: NASA/Ian O'Neill

Now this is a cool idea: Strap rockets and a steering system to the International Space Station and send it to the Moon. Is this an insane plan? Up till yesterday I would have said yes, in fact before yesterday I hadn’t thought of the idea. Then I read the Washington Post online and find a science writer has been giving this a lot of thought. What’s more it kinda makes sense! So why isn’t this an option in NASA’s mind? And what’s the point anyway?
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How Long Would it Take to Travel to Proxima Centauri?

Project Orion - Using nuclear explosions as pulsed propulsion (NASA)

This is one of those articles I’ve been meaning to write for a long time: How long would the interstellar transit be from Earth to the nearest star (and no, I don’t mean the Sun)? It turns out that there is no practical way, using today’s available technology that we can travel to Proxima Centauri (a red dwarf star, 4.33 light years from the Solar System). This is a shame as there are so many stars and so many exoplanets to explore, which space enthusiast wouldn’t want to envisage interstellar space travel? However, there may be help at hand, using modern technology and materials; we might be able to mount a manned expedition to Proxima lasting a little under a century…
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Daily Roundup: Astrium Spacecraft Mass Production, Saturn’s Rings and Quantum Communications

Astriums new concept for space tourism. Image credit: Astrium/Marc Newson. Source: BBC

It looks like things are really beginning to develop for the space tourism era. European rocket manufacturer Astrium has announced plans to develop the next generation of small space planes capable of sending 5 people into space. This design is different from the rest as it will take-off and land conventionally and will use jets for atmospheric flight but blast into space with a powerful oxygen-methane rocket. The promo video is also pretty exciting, documenting the two hour flight by means of a simulation…
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Daily Roundup: Universe Today Article

Just the one article this time for the Universe Today. Todays article covers a recent US satellite mission carrying out some cool experiments in space. This orbiting mini-lab is carrying out tests on a new nanotech sensor that is sensitive to poisons in air (useful for spaceships, protecting astronauts), and possibly even more interesting, experiments on a new electrochromic film that could be wrapped around spaceships to keep them warm or cool them down. The wonders never cease…

Snippet: Space Debris is Becoming a Serious Problem, but Google Earth is Watching

Space junk as plotted in the Google Earth software.

Every time a rocket launches, a spaceship orbits, an astronaut drops some trash or the US blows up a satellite, debris is created. Space debris (a.k.a. space junk) is a nasty side-effect of our push into space, but it isn’t a recent phenomenon. Even the early Gemini missions in the sixties did it, as does the ultra-efficient International Space Station – bits of spacesuits, cameras, nuts, bolts and tools are accidentally (and deliberately) dropped into the vacuum. But it’s only a bit of litter right? Wrong. That’s a hyper-velocity rifle shot, and it’s coming to a spaceship very soon, if we don’t take action now…
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