Carnival of Space 261

1. Centauri Dreams asks whether a white dwarf star could sustain planets with life, after reading an intriguing new study that makes the case for an 8-billion year habitable ‘window.’

2. Nextbigfuture – The HiRISE camera is onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) photographed the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory which contained the Curiosty Rover.

3. Urban Astronomer – The world’s largest Cherenkov telescope, at the HESS observatory in Namibia, saw its first light last week.

4. Cheap Astronomy presents Part 2 of Alan Kerlin’s podcast interview with Dr Brian Boyle about the Square Kilometer Array.

5. Weirdwarp has an article on the new Mars science lab which will hopefully be deposited on Mars. This will happen on August 5 but there is something else happening on the same day….

6. Chandra X-ray Observatory site – Over fifty years ago, a supernova was discovered in M83, a spiral galaxy about 15 million light years from Earth.

7. Collectspace – Soon after NASA’s Curiosity rover lands and becomes the hottest set of wheels on Mars, it will debut as the latest Hot Wheels to land on toy store shelves. Mattel, makers of the die-cast line of Hot Wheels cars, is ready to release the car-size Curiosity in 1:64 scale.

8. Yahoo news – The accepted model about what formed the Earth’s moon is that billions of years ago a rogue planet, about the size of Mars, hit the Earth, the resulting impact then creating the material that eventually formed the moon,

9. A new white paper released by TASC, a company that provides engineering and other services to the military, the intelligence community, and other government agencies, NASA is vital to the national security of the United States.

10. Examiner – Having concluded a series of tethered tests at the Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston, the Morpheus vertical takeoff and landing prototype had been taken to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to undergo its first free flight tests.

11. Nextbigfuture – Mars Science Laboratory represents the first use of a “soft-landing” technique employed at Mars. The sheer mass of Mars Science Laboratory prevents engineers from using the familiar airbags to deliver their rover safely to the martian surface. As rovers become more capable and carry more instruments, they become larger. So, in order to accommodate this advanced mission, engineers designed a sky-crane method that will lower the rover to the surface. The Mars science lab mission landing will be in 3.5 days. (5:31 am UTC August 6, 2012).

12. Yahoo news – A story in the state Chinese news agency Xinhua announced that the third Chinese probe to the moon will be launched in the second half of 2013. The probe, designated Chang’e 3, will land on the moon.

13. Nextbigfuture – The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program announced its 2012 awards.18 new phase I projects and 10 phase 2 projects. One of the phase 2 projects is direct energy from nuclear fusion for propulsion. John Slough could have an experiment in 2012 with a net gain in fusion energy of 1.6. It will be an imploding liner experiment. For space propulsion he is targeting a 200 times gain in energy output from what is input. Mission profiles are for 30 day or 90 day missions to Mars with over 5000 ISP

14. Nextbigfuture – Experimental data obtained in June 2012 on Ad Astra’s VX-200 high power VASIMR engine prototype showed an improvement in efficiency at intermediate values of specific impulse (Isp) below the 5000 sec optimal point demonstrated in late 2010. A new optimized performance model that shows approximately a 10% improvement in engine efficiency over a wide Isp range. Short for Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, VASIMR® works with plasma, an electrically charged gas that can be heated to extreme temperatures by radio waves and controlled and guided by strong magnetic fields. VASIMR can be 10-30 times more efficient with fuel than a chemical rocket. VASIMR has 15 to 200 times more thrust than current ion engines.

15. In an interview conducted by USA Today on the eve of what is hopefully the successful soft landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity, NASA administrator Charles Bolden’s thoughts turned to a future manned mission to Mars.

16. Astroblogger – In the evening sky, Mars, Saturn and the bright star SPica form a triangle. But what will Earth look like from Curiosity’s landing site on Mars?

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