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Ex-astronaut’s advice to child: ‘Study Russian’

Ex-astronaut’s advice to child: ‘Study Russian’

The Discovery shuttle flew for the last time Tuesday, beginning in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on the back of a 747, looping around the monuments in Washington D.C., and landing in Virginia, where it will ultimately be transferred to the Udvar-Hazy annex of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

In Washington, onlookers left buildings and stood on rooftops to watch the shuttle and its escort circle the city.

NASA retired the shuttle program last month with Discovery’s final space flight, and as P.J. O’Rourke recently wrote, the state of the U.S. program is unclear:

But the U.S. space program is short of machinery, muddled about goals, and low in morale. The space shuttle has been retired. Thousands of NASA employees and contractors lost their jobs. We have no way to get a man into space except by asking Vladimir Putin, “Mother Russia, May I?”

The Bush-era Constellation program, with its moon and Mars capabilities, was canceled. Neil Armstrong called the decision “devastating.” The Augustine Commission, an Obama administration panel of scientists, retired astronauts, and aerospace experts chaired by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, judged Constellation to be hopelessly behind schedule, underfunded, and over budget. I’m glad they didn’t judge me.

The new Space Launch System or SLS, the heavy launch vehicle that will replace Constellation’s Ares I and Ares V rockets, won’t be ready for a manned flight until at least 2021. Where the SLS will go is, as it were, up in the air. Lunar orbit? Asteroid? Lagrange point? (A Lagrange point is the place between two gravitational bodies where an object is held stationary in perfect equilibrium.) What if Jack Kennedy had declared we were going to put a man on a Lagrange point by the end of the decade? The nation would have been inspired to watch ballet in a suburb of Chicago.

In 2011, China launched more rockets into orbit than the U.S.—the first time ever, according to Gizmodo. Though the U.S. retains advantages in funding, the Chinese launched 19 rockets last year, while the U.S. launched 18; both were eclipsed by Russia, which sent 31 rockets into space.

When asked for advice Tuesday, former Discovery astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher told a boy watching the shuttle, “Study Russian.”

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Russia to finally send man to the Moon

Russia to finally send man to the Moon

By Tom Parfitt, Moscow

A spacecraft will “conduct a demonstrative manned circumlunar test flight with the subsequent landing of cosmonauts on [the Moon’s] surface and their return to Earth” by 2030, according to a leaked strategy document from Russia’s space agency, Roskosmos.

Moscow has periodically announced ambitious plans for space exploration in recent years, but this is the first time a firm deadline has been set for a manned lunar mission.

Russia won the first round of the space race when it launched the first man to orbit the Earth, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin Jr, however, fulfilled John F Kennedy’s promise to reach the Moon by the end of the decade, landing there on July 20, 1969, with Nasa’s Apollo 11. The Soviet Union subsequently cancelled its lunar programmes.

Plans to send cosmonauts to the Moon could help revive Russia’s space programme after a troubled period. A series of satellites crashed last year and in January the Mars probe, Fobos Grunt, fell to Earth after a faulty launch two months earlier. Last week, Roskosmos suffered another humiliation after reports that the head of the agency, Vladimir Popovkin, had sustained head injuries after an alleged brawl at work.

Yury Karash, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, said that prestige would not be restored with a symbolic flight to the Moon. “Back in the 1960s the Soviet Union was competing head-to-head with the United States,” he said.
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“But it is hard to find a better way to hurt Russian prestige and emphasise Russian technological backwardness than by sending cosmonauts to the Moon around 2030, 60 years after Apollo.”

Mr Karash said resources would be better spent on funding a manned flight to Mars, which would stimulate science because of the demand for new technology to serve a 450-day round trip to the Red Planet.

The Soviet Union had two Moon programmes which it closed in the 1970s after the success of Apollo 11. The US knew about them, but their existence was not admitted publicly until 1990.

In the post-Soviet era, Russia has co-operated with other countries on Mir and the International Space Station (ISS). It currently shoulders the burden of shuttling supplies to the ISS in Soyuz capsules. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister and president-elect, wants to restore Russia’s space programme to its former glory.

Speaking last year on the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight, he said: “Russia should not limit itself to the role of an international space ferryman.”

Mr Putin said piloted space missions should be revived by 2018, when the first flights are expected from Vostochny, a $13.5?billion (£8.6?billion) spaceport being built in Russia’s far east.

The Soviet Union, the United States and China are the only countries so far to have launched manned space flights. India’s space agency declared in 2010 that it wanted to launch a human mission to the Moon by 2020, and scientists have indicated that China could do the same by 2025.

Barack Obama, the US president, said in 2010 that he hoped to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s, but he cut funding for robotic missions to the planet last month. He also cancelled George W Bush’s plan to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020.

Scientists believe that precious metals and Helium-3, a rare isotope that has potential for power generation, could be extracted from the Moon’s surface. Roskosmos has also suggested that a base built on the Moon could be used as a launch pad for a flight to Mars.

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In Space
Yuri Gagarin prepares for lift-off in April 1961
Russia’s space programme
A brilliant aurora borealis display is seen over a road near Yellowknife, North West Territories, Canada
Aurora borealis displays
The northern lights or aurora borealis fill the sky above Soldotna, Alaska, early on March 7, 2012,. The display lasted much of the night. Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are predicting an active aurora again tonight.
Northern lights shine in Solar storm
The sun erupts with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle in this NASA handout photo taken on March 6, 2012
Huge solar flare to hit Earth
A mysterious, slow-moving bright light appeared in the night sky above northern Britain on Saturday, trailing bewilderment and wonder in its wake.
Meteor filmed burning across UK sky

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Moon No-Fly Zone?

No-fly zones will come into effect on the moon for the very first time by the end of this month! Why, even buffer zones that spacecraft may have to avoid will come into existence. The reason: avoiding any spraying of rocket exhaust or dust onto certain historical sites and artifacts on the moon.

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The historical sites are of course the Apollo landing sites and artifacts present on the moon. And the “recommendations” are for preserving and protecting these historical sites. There are currently more than three dozen historical sites that preserve the more than four-decade-old remains.

“Apollo 11 and 17 sites [will] remain off-limits, with ground-travel buffers of 75 metres and 225 metres from each respective lunar lander,”
states the July 20 guidelines of NASA. Science journal had obtained the guidelines.



No legal binding

According to Science, by the end of this month NASA is expected to come up with a set of “recommendations” for spacecraft and astronauts visiting the “U.S. government property on the moon.” Of course, these recommendations will not be legally binding as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty makes it clear that the lunar surface has no owner.

Despite the lack of ownership, NASA is hopeful that other countries will respect the U.S. sentiments. Incidentally, the restriction list contains more than the historical sites. For instance, the list includes studying discarded food and abandoned astronaut feces.

Study of bacteria

Though these restrictions may appear preposterous, there are clear scientific compulsions to collect and study them. For example, studying the discarded food will reveal the viability of bacteria on the moon and, if present, how they have mutated and survived after years of exposure to solar radiation.

It is worthwhile to remember that all scientific experiments conducted on board during space travel are of a few days duration and pale in comparison with decades of constant exposure to several stressful lunar conditions/environment.

Similarly, there are other scientific compulsions to study the artefacts left behind on the moon. For instance, any metallic objects would reveal how these materials have degraded after prolonged exposure to solar radiation and other peculiar conditions prevailing on the moon.

What prompted the space agency to act was the Google Lunar X prize for those landing a robot that moves 500 metres and sends images from the moon. Precise landing near the Apollo sites would get them more money.

Very recently, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) captured the sharpest images ever taken from space of the Apollo 12, 14 and 17 landing sites. The paths made when the astronauts explored the lunar surface have been very clearly captured by the images.

According to NASA, at the Apollo 17 site, the tracks laid down by the lunar rover are clearly visible, along with the last foot trails left on the Moon. The images also show where the astronauts placed some of the scientific instruments that provided the first insights into the Moon’s environment and interior.

PECAN: It does make you wonder if the stated purpose is genuine. After all. Some say we have never been to the moon. Some question the REAL reason the space shuttle program was discontinued? And some…some…..don’t think at all.

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