Monday, January 30, 2006

SciTech Watch: Space Enthusiast Resources

As a long-time space enthusiast (yes I did feign illness to stay home from school to watch one of the Apollo launches on TV) trying to find news and information about space flight and exploration can be tough. The mainstream media only seems to mention space exploration when there is a big event (like the stardust capsule return) or a problem (Shuttle Discovery’s loose tile gap fillers). You wouldn’t realize that there are eight (8) space missions going on right this minute.

Before we get into the specifics of current missions here are some general links to get great space-oriented news and information:

NASA’s Official Web Site The main portal into all of NASA’s sites. Sub-sites are organized by center (JPL, Goddard, etc) and by mission (Mars Rovers, Hubble, etc) is a privately owned and operated company co-founded by Marc Boucher and Keith Cowing in the summer of 1999 and is based out of Reston, Virginia and with offices in Vancouver, Canada. SpaceRef's 17 news and reference web sites are designed to allow both the novice and specialist alike to explore outer space and Earth observation. SpaceRef also offers RSS feeds of seven major space news areas.

The Space News Blog focuses mainly on robotic space exploration with stories are based on press releases.

NASA offers both audio and video podcasts providing news and information for download to your portable media device. Now you can get your Space fix without being at your computer.

NASA TV offers streaming video of NASA’s television channel straight to your computer. Its great for watching special events like shuttle launches and ISS space walks. Be aware that there are a limited number of connections so you may not be able to get connected during really popular events.

NASA Press Release Mailing List will email you instructions on how to add your email address to the mailing list that receives all of NASA’s press releases. Its a great source of scheduling information on NASA TV events including all types of launches, spacewalks, etc.

Here’s a brief list of some of the on-going space missions and resources to help you learn more and track their progress:International Space Station (ISS) Orbiting 200 miles above the earth ISS has been continuously manned since November of 2000. NASA issues regular status reports on what’s going on on ISS, what events are upcoming, etc. You can get the press releases either from the NASA mailing list or from the SpaceRef web site.

The Cassini mission is an unmanned probe orbiting Saturn and has been in orbit around Saturn since June 30th of 2004. The Cassini project issues a weekly status report that arrives from the Jet Propulsion Lab.

Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity robotic rover geology labs arrived on Mars in early 2003 for a 90 day stay. At this time, two years later both rovers are still going strong. SpaceRef publishes status reports on both rovers. The status reports do not seem to come out a regular intervals, though.

Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 aboard a the space shuttle Columbia. The school bus-sized satellite has been upgraded three times and produces spectacular pictures and a wealth of astronomical data about our universe. You can sign up for mailing lists for status reports on Hubble. Hubble’s picture archive is housed at the Space Telescope Institute and are available on-line.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) The MRO is nearing arrival into Martian orbit. MRO will monitor Martian weather, search for water and hydrothermal activity and study Mars’s polar ice caps. MRO will enter orbit around Mars on March 10th, 2006. NASA TV will televise the events in the JPL control room as the craft enters Mars orbit.

New Horizons Mission to Pluto will be the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moon, Charon. Launched January 19th, 2006 the New Horizons probe will arrive at Pluto in July of 2015. Mission updates are currently available at the New Horizon’s web site.

Space Shuttle is currently grounded as NASA works through issues surrounding foam loss from the external tanks during launch. You can get status reports on shuttle work from NASA’s press release mailing list or from the SpaceRef web site.

Mars Global Surveyor arrived at Mars in September 1997. SpaceRef and JPL publish photos MGS has taken. Including one of other Mars probes in orbit and on Mars!

These items represent only part of the trove on information available on the Internet on Space Exploration. Spend a little quality time with your favorite search engine and your sure to turn up even more.

Zimmerman's Law of Complaints: Nobody notices when things go right.

No comments:

Post a Comment