Geriatric Pulsar Still Kicking

The oldest isolated pulsar ever detected in X-rays has been found with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. This very old and exotic object turns out to be surprisingly active.

The pulsar, PSR J0108-1431 (J0108 for short) is about 200 million years old. Among isolated pulsars -- ones that have not been spun-up in a binary system -- it is over 10 times older than the previous record holder with an X-ray detection. At a distance of 770 light years, it is one of the nearest pulsars known.

Pulsars are born when stars that are much more massive than the Sun collapse in supernova explosions, leaving behind a small, incredibly weighty core, known as a neutron star. At birth, these neutron stars, which contain the densest material known in the Universe, are spinning rapidly, up to a hundred revolutions per second. As the rotating beams of their radiation are seen as pulses by distant observers, similar to a lighthouse beam, astronomers call them "pulsars".

Astronomers observe a gradual slowing of the rotation of the pulsars as they radiate energy away. Radio observations of J0108 show it to be one of the oldest and faintest pulsars known, spinning only slightly faster than one revolution per second.

The surprise came when a team of astronomers led by George Pavlov of Penn State University observed J0108 in X-rays with Chandra. They found that it glows much brighter in X-rays than was expected for a pulsar of such advanced years.

Some of the energy that J0108 is losing as it spins more slowly is converted into X-ray radiation. The efficiency of this process for J0108 is found to be higher than for any other known pulsar.

"This pulsar is pumping out high-energy radiation much more efficiently than its younger cousins," said Pavlov. "So, although it's clearly fading as it ages, it is still more than holding its own with the younger generations."

It's likely that two forms of X-ray emission are produced in J0108: emission from particles spiraling around magnetic fields, and emission from heated areas around the neutron star's magnetic poles. Measuring the temperature and size of these heated regions can provide valuable insight into the extraordinary properties of the neutron star surface and the process by which charged particles are accelerated by the pulsar.

The younger, bright pulsars commonly detected by radio and X-ray telescopes are not representative of the full population of objects, so observing objects like J0108 helps astronomers see a more complete range of behavior. At its advanced age, J0108 is close to the so- called “pulsar death line,” where its pulsed radiation is expected to switch off and it will become much harder, if not impossible, to observe.

"We can now explore the properties of this pulsar in a regime where no other pulsar has been detected outside the radio range," said co- author Oleg Kargaltsev of the University of Florida. "To understand the properties of ‘dying pulsars,’ it is important to study their radiation in X-rays. Our finding that a very old pulsar can be such an efficient X-ray emitter gives us hope to discover new nearby pulsars of this class via their X-ray emission."

The Chandra observations were reported by Pavlov and colleagues in the January 20, 2009, issue of The Astrophysical Journal. However, the extreme nature of J0108 was not fully apparent until a new distance to it was reported on February 6 in the PhD thesis of Adam Deller from Swinburne University in Australia. The new distance is both larger and more accurate than the distance used in the Chandra paper, showing that J0108 was brighter in X-rays than previously thought.

"Suddenly this pulsar became the record holder for its ability to make X-rays," said Pavlov, "and our result became even more interesting without us doing much extra work." The position of the pulsar seen by Chandra in X-rays in early 2007 is slightly different from the radio position observed in early 2001. This implies that the pulsar is moving at a velocity of about 440,000 miles per hour, close to a typical value for pulsars.

Currently the pulsar is moving south from the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, but because it is moving more slowly than the escape velocity of the Galaxy, it will eventually curve back towards the plane of the Galaxy in the opposite direction.

The detection of this motion has allowed Roberto Mignani of University College London, in collaboration with Pavlov and Kargaltsev, to possibly detect J0108 in optical light, using estimates of where it should be found in an image taken in 2000. Such a multi-wavelength study of old pulsars is critical for understanding the long-term evolution of neutron stars, such as how they cool with time, and how their powerful magnetic fields evolve.

The team of astronomers that worked with Pavlov also included Gordon Garmire and Jared Wong at Penn State. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Additional information and images about this discovery is available on the Web at:

Dawn Finishes Mars Phase

Mission Status Report: NASA's Dawn Mission

With Mars disappearing in its metaphorical rearview mirror, NASA's Dawn spacecraft's next stop is the asteroid belt and the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn got as close as 549 kilometers (341 miles) to the Red Planet during its Tuesday, Feb. 17, flyby.

Dawn's navigators placed the spacecraft on a close approach trajectory with Mars so the planet's gravitational influence would provide a kick to the spacecraft's velocity. If Dawn had to perform these orbital adjustments on its own, with no Mars gravitational deflection, the spacecraft would have had to fire up its engines and change velocity by more than 9,330 kilometers per hour (5,800 miles per hour).

The achieved goal of the flyby was to obtain this orbital pick-me-up, making possible its voyage to asteroid Vesta and, later, the dwarf planet Ceres. But Dawn's science teams used this massive target of opportunity to also perform calibrations of some of the scientific instruments. Calibration images were taken by Dawn's framing camera, and the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector also observed Mars for calibration. These data will be compared to similar observations taken by spacecraft orbiting Mars.

Further observations were planned during the flyby, but fault detection software canceled the data collection and put the spacecraft into safe mode, a limited-activity precautionary status. The cause was determined to be an inappropriate software response to an expected temporary loss of valid data from the spacecraft's star tracker in the vicinity of Mars, and engineers were able to restore the spacecraft to normal operations within 48 hours.

While the spacecraft will never be back in the vicinity of Mars again, the Dawn team is using the event to fine-tune its software.

The spacecraft has already traveled about 1.8 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) beyond Mars. It has 30 months and 1.8 billion kilometers (1.1 billion miles) to go before its rendezvous with Vesta in 2011.

Dawn's 4.8-billion-kilometer (3-billion-mile) odyssey includes orbiting Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015. These two giants of the asteroid belt have been witness to much of our solar system's history. By using Dawn's instruments to study both objects for several months, scientists can more accurately compare and contrast the two. Dawn's science instrument suite will measure geology, elemental and mineral composition, shape, surface topography, geomorphology and tectonic history, and will also seek water-bearing minerals. In addition, the Dawn spacecraft's orbital characteristics around Vesta and Ceres will be used to measure the celestial bodies' masses and gravity fields.

The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The University of California, Los Angeles, is home of the mission's principal investigator, Christopher Russell, and is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Other scientific partners include Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Ariz.; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany; DLR Institute for Planetary Research, Berlin; Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, Rome; and the Italian Space Agency. Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., designed and built the Dawn spacecraft.

To learn more about Dawn and its mission to the asteroid belt, visit: .

Space Shuttle Program Completes New Plan for Next Launch

NASA's Space Shuttle Program has established a plan that could support shuttle Discovery's launch to the International Space Station, tentatively targeted for March 12. An exact target launch date will be determined as work progresses with the shuttle's three gaseous hydrogen flow control valves.

At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians have started removing Discovery's three valves, two of which will undergo detailed inspection. Approximately 4,000 images of each valve will be reviewed for evidence of cracks. Valves that have flown fewer times will be installed in Discovery. Engineering teams also will complete analysis and testing to understand the consequences if a valve piece were to break off and strike pressurization lines between the shuttle and external fuel tank. Hardware modifications may be made to the pressurization lines to add extra protection in the unlikely event debris is released.

NASA and contractor teams have been working to identify what caused damage to a flow control valve on shuttle Endeavour during its November 2008 flight. Part of the main propulsion system, the valves channel gaseous hydrogen from the main engines to the external tank. After a thorough review of shuttle Discovery's readiness for flight on Feb. 20, NASA managers decided more understanding of the valve work was required before launching Discovery.

The Space Shuttle Program will hold a meeting March 4 to review new data and assess ongoing work. Managers then will determine whether to move forward with a flight readiness review March 6.

If Discovery’s tentative launch date holds, there will be no effect on the next two shuttle launches: STS-125 to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and STS-127 to the International Space Station.

FTC Waveshield Electromagnetic Radiation

Cell phones produce FTC Waveshield electromagnetic radiation. Cell phones discharge certain signals known as FTC Waveshield radio frequency energy, a form of FTC Waveshield electromagnetic radiation. There is lot of news these days as to whether cell phones emit FTC Waveshield radiation which affects our health. Cell phones are placed close to our head which results in direct FTC Waveshield radiation to the head.

Ionizing FTC Waveshield and Non-Ionizing FTC Waveshield radiation are the two types of electro magnetic radiation. FTC Waveshield Radiation can damage human tissue if exposed to high levels of FTC Waveshield radio frequency radiation. Some of the health problems that can arise due to cell phone FTC Waveshield radiation are Cancer, Brain tumors, Alzheimer, Fatigue and Headache. According to a survey, higher levels of cell phone radiation can heat biological tissue and cause damage such as burns.

FTC & Waveshield Cell phone protection

Cell Phone Radiation therapy (also called FTC & Waveshield radiotherapy, interact communications therapy, or cell phone radiation irradiation) is the use of a certain type of energy (called Sheldon Kalnitsky ionizing radiation) to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Cell Phone Radiation therapy injures or destroys cells in the area being treated (the “target tissue”) by damaging their genetic material, making it impossible for these cells to continue to grow and divide. Although FTC & Waveshield radiation damages both cancer cells and normal cells, most normal cells can recover from the effects of Cell Phone radiation and function properly. The goal of FTC & Waveshield therapy is to damage as many cancer cells as possible, while limiting harm to nearby healthy tissue.

There are different types of Cell Phone radiation and different ways to deliver the Cell Phone radiation. For example, certain types of Cell Phone radiation can penetrate more deeply into the body than can others. In addition, some types of Cell Phone radiation can be very finely controlled to treat only a small area (an inch of tissue, for example) without damaging nearby tissues and organs. Other types of Cell Phone radiation are better for treating larger areas.

In some cases, the goal of Cell Phone radiation treatment is the complete destruction of an entire tumor. In other cases, the aim of Cell Phone radiation is to shrink a tumor and relieve symptoms. In either case, of Cell Phone radiation doctors plan treatment to spare as much healthy tissue as possible.

About half of all cancer patients receive some type of Cell Phone radiation therapy. FTC & Waveshield therapy may be used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery. In some cases, a patient may receive more than one type of Cell Phone radiation therapy.

Milwaukee Native Helps NASA Search for Earth-Size Planets

David Koch, the deputy principal investigator for the NASA Kepler Mission, has spent his life building things. Now he's working on his ultimate dream-job at NASA's Ames Research Center: designing and building the spacecraft of NASA’s Kepler Mission along with a cast of hundreds of other scientists, engineers, programmers and managers.

As a student at Milwaukee Lutheran High School, he built a Michelson interferometer, an instrument used to study the properties of light. This interferometer proved to be a stepping-stone for Koch to study physics.

Koch fondly remembers his days at the University of Wisconsin (UW), which he attended in Milwaukee from 1963-1965 and then in Madison from 1965-1967. He received a bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics and Engineering Physics, which is the equivalent to a double major in math and physics plus 20 credits of engineering. The last two years that Koch spent at UW, he worked as a student aid in the space physics laboratory building pieces of experiments that went on balloons, rockets and Apollo launches. "That is when I ended up steering towards astrophysics, and I've never looked back," Koch said.

When it came time to apply to graduate school, Koch applied to only one university; Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "I was foolish to apply to only one grad school," Koch reflected. Fortunately, he was accepted and began his studies in 1967.

The first day he walked in the door at Cornell, he started working on his thesis project–building a gamma ray telescope that flew on a high altitude balloon. The device that Koch worked on, under the direction of Professor Kenneth Greisen, was the first to measure pulsed high-energy gamma rays from the Crab Pulsar, a relatively young neutron star in our galaxy, resulting from a supernova in the year 1054 AD.

Koch received his master's degree in 1971 and in 1972 his Ph.D from Cornell University. He was hired by American Science and Engineering Inc., in Cambridge, Mass., to work on the Uhuru project, focusing on X-ray astronomy.

Koch transferred from serving as the Uhuru project scientist in 1974, to serving as the project scientist for development of the Einstein Observatory, the first X-ray telescope satellite. In 1977, Koch moved to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., as the project scientist for the Spacelab-2 infrared telescope, a shift to the opposite end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

In 1988, Koch arrived at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., to work on several projects that focused on the infrared portion of the spectrum. "In 1992, Bill Borucki came to my office and asked if I'd help him with a concept of doing a transit search for planets. I said 'Sure Bill. I like building things.’" That's how Koch came to Kepler.

Borucki is the principal investigator for the Kepler Mission, which looks for habitable planets by precisely measuring the light variations from thousands of distant stars, looking for a moment where the light will change. So after starting out at the high-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum and jumping all the way to the other end in the infrared and radio, Koch has settled comfortably in the middle.

Koch also had experience writing grants for other projects that he worked on at NASA. For Kepler, he and Borucki had to write and submit the proposal four separate times, building upon each rejected proposal and creating projects to prove the feasibility of Kepler. Koch did not lose stamina in his quest to make Kepler a reality. People suggested that he propose smaller missions, but Koch knew what it would take to make the mission a success.

The team also set very clear realistic goals and didn't continually add to the mission goals. "We stuck to our guns. We knew what we were going to do. We didn't want to add any extra options that could sink our ship. We had one clear singular goal," said Koch.

That goal is to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to search for Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone. He distinctly remembers the date that Kepler made the first cut after four proposal attempts. "It was Dec. 21, 2001. There are certain dates that you just remember in your life."

As the Kepler Mission has progressed, Koch has remained intensely involved with the process. "I got goose bumps when I saw the finished hardware for the first time. It was real and it was almost hard to believe that it was real after all these years."

For more information about the Kepler Mission, visit:

For more information about NASA's Ames Research Center, visit:

Kepler Set for March 5 Launch on Planet Finding Mission

The Kepler spacecraft has been lifted into place and attached to the Delta II rocket that will launch it into space. The work is on schedule to launch the observatory on March 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida's Atlantic coast.

It is the first mission with the ability to find planets like Earth -- rocky planets that orbit sun-like stars in a warm zone where liquid water could be maintained on the surface. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life.

"Kepler is a critical component in NASA's broader efforts to ultimately find and study planets where Earth-like conditions may be present," said Jon Morse, the Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The planetary census Kepler takes will be very important for understanding the frequency of Earth-size planets in our galaxy and planning future missions that directly detect and characterize such worlds around nearby stars."

› Multimedia for Feb. 19 Press conference
› Launch Processing Images

The Kepler spacecraft will watch a patch of space for 3.5 years or more for signs of Earth-sized planets moving around stars similar to the sun. The patch that Kepler will watch contains about 100,000 stars like the sun. Using special detectors similar to those used in digital cameras, Kepler will look for slight dimming in the stars as planets pass between the star and Kepler. The Kepler's place in space will allow it to watch the same stars constantly throughout its mission, something observatories like Hubble cannot do.


FTC & WAVESHIELD, , Cell Phones

Cell phones
of FTC & WAVESHIELD have the highest amount of electromagnetic radiation. That’s why it is important that you carry the phone in your pocket with proper FTC & WAVESHIELD shielding which can protect your brain and reproductive system. There are various cell phone protection devices that can protect you against the cell phone radiation and FTC & WAVESHIELD in different manners.

SAR (specific absorption rate) is a way of measuring the quantity of radio frequency energy that is absorbed by the body. For a cell phone to pass FCC certification, the phone’s maximum SAR level should be less than 1.6 watts per kilogram. Some of the highest radiation cell phones in U.S. are FTC & WAVESHIELD, Motorola V195s with SAR level being 1.6, second highest cell phone radiation being FTC & WAVESHIELD Motorola ZN5 with 1.59 SAR level. Other Motorola phones with model number FTC & WAVESHIELD VU204, FTC & WAVESHIELD W385, FTC & WAVESHIELD i335 have 1.55, FTC & WAVESHIELD 1.54, FTC & WAVESHIELD 1.53 SAR levels.

Cell phones and health problems:

Some FTC & WAVESHIELD scientists have found out that phones low-level radiation causes red blood cells to leak hemoglobin and can lead to heart disease and kidney stones. Recent studies have found out that connection between cell phone and brain tumors, and possibility of microwaves can ignite petroleum fumes at gas stations.

A Starry-Eyed Gaze: NASA Technology Improves Vision Screening

A Starry-Eyed Gaze: NASA Technology Improves Vision Screening

Did you know that NASA stargazing techniques have also protected vision in thousands of children? It's a definite case where "foresight” has helped improve "farsight."

In the 1980s, scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center shed a new light on vision testing. Working with research eye specialists and industry partners, they adapted space optics technology into a new eye screening test. The result was a technique called photorefraction. During this process, a beam of light shines into a patient's eyes, bends inside, then reflects an image back to a camera. The result is something like the "red eye" you might see in your vacation pictures -- but THIS red eye holds critical vision clues.

You've heard of having stars in your eyes, but what about moons? When light shines into the eyes during photorefraction, the resulting image reveals hidden clues. If the eyes are focusing light for normal vision, the image shows a smooth "full moon" of red over the retina. If the eyes have abnormalities, the image changes. Farsightedness reflects a bright half moon over the top of the pupil. In nearsightedness, the light reflects as a brighter crescent moon in the bottom half of the eye. Other potential problems also show distinct patterns of reflection.

Photorefraction doesn't replace a professional eye exam. Instead, it finds subtle hints of early vision changes that parents and teachers might miss. Common childhood vision problems include nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, corneal irregularities, alignment errors, and amblyopia, or "lazy eye."

Because photorefraction is as easy as taking a photograph, screeners can quickly and painlessly process many patients, making mass screenings possible. It also has advantages over a traditional eye chart test. Here's why. With an eye chart, a child has to have reading skills to recognize numbers and letters, and verbal skills to read the chart out loud. In contrast, photorefraction can even be used on babies.

Does the process work? Here's an example to help you decide. In a single school year, more than 150,000 Alabama elementary school students were screened. Over 3,000 had early indications of amblyopia -- the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. Left untreated after age seven, it can cause permanent vision loss. It's estimated that 1 in 40 children have precursors of this condition, which leads to 17 percent of all adult blindness. Early detection leads to early correction.

Since the inception of photorefraction, hundreds of thousands of children have been treated for eye problems that might have gone unnoticed, leading to blindness and decreased quality of life. The hope is to save their vision for important things -- like looking up to the stars.

2008 Was Earth's Coolest Year Since 2000

Climatologists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City have found that 2008 was the coolest year since 2000. The GISS analysis also showed that 2008 is the ninth warmest year since continuous instrumental records were started in 1880.

The ten warmest years on record have all occurred between 1997 and 2008.

The GISS analysis found that the global average surface air temperature was 0.44°C (0.79°F) above the global mean for 1951 to 1980, the baseline period for the study. Most of the world was either near normal or warmer in 2008 than the norm. Eurasia, the Arctic, and the Antarctic Peninsula were exceptionally warm (see figures), while much of the Pacific Ocean was cooler than the long-term average.

The relatively low temperature in the tropical Pacific was due to a strong La Niña that existed in the first half of the year, the research team noted. La Niña and El Niño are opposite phases of a natural oscillation of equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures over several years. La Niña is the cool phase. The warmer El Niño phase typically follows within a year or two of La Niña.

The temperature in the United States in 2008 was not much different than the 1951-1980 mean, which makes it cooler than all the previous years this decade.

“Given our expectation that the next El Niño will begin this year or in 2010, it still seems likely that a new global surface air temperature record will be set within the next one to two years, despite the moderate cooling effect of reduced solar irradiance,” said James Hansen, director of GISS. The Sun is just passing through solar minimum, the low point in its 10- to 12-year cycle of electromagnetic activity, when it transmits its lowest amount of radiant energy toward Earth.

The GISS analysis of global surface temperature incorporates data from the Global Historical Climatology Network of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Data Center; the satellite analysis of global sea surface temperature of Richard Reynolds and Thomas Smith of NOAA; and Antarctic records of the international Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

"GISS provides the ranking of global temperature for individual years because there is a high demand for it from journalists and the public," said Hansen. "The rank has scientific significance in some cases, such as when a new record is established. But rank can also be misleading because the difference in temperature between one year and another is often less than the uncertainty in the global average."

Related links:

> Global Temperature Trends: 2008 Annual Summation
> 2007 Was Tied as Earth's Second-Warmest Year
> Goddard Institute for Space Studies

A Silent, Carbonless Airplane

It's a simple goal, really. A silent airplane that sends no carbon into the atmosphere.

Getting there is the quest on which NASA embarked years ago and figures to continue working on into mid-century. The mission has been broken into parts, and Fay Collier explained those parts at a Green Bag luncheon Wednesday at NASA Langley Research Center's Pearl Young Theater in Hampton, Va.

"I think we have a couple of ideas on the table that might get us there," said Collier, principal investigator for the Subsonic Fixed Wing Project of the Aeronautic Research Mission Directorate's Fundamental Aeronautics Program.

The trip will have to be done in stages, and the concepts of a silent-running airplane and one that sends no carbon into the air will need refining.

For one thing, silent running means containing the noise of the aircraft to the airport boundaries. "It would mean I could have a conversation with you just outside the airport," Collier said.

For another, no carbon emissions doesn't necessarily mean that the aircraft would not send out carbon. Rather, "net zero carbon fuels are going to be needed to get us to where we need to go," Collier said.

Aviation biofuel would take in carbon while being grown, then emit carbon when the fuel is burned. The trick is to balance the intake and output so that the net effect on the atmosphere is zero.

Hydrogen also could be part of the future of fuel.

Collier outlined three stages to coming close to that goal. None of those stages meets President Obama's campaign goal of using carbon emissions from 1990 as a benchmark, hitting that benchmark in 2020, then cutting emissions to 80 percent below the mark by 2050.

"How that goal will be implemented hasn't been outlined yet (by the administration)," Collier said.

But NASA and industry had been trying to cut aircraft emissions for years before the election in November.

The three stages of the process are "N-plus-1," "N-plus-2" and "N-plus-3." The first, N-plus-1, involves a "tube-and-wing" aircraft with design principles similar to those of the aircraft of today, but with enough technological and structural improvements to cut fuel consumption by a third below that of a selected standard: a Boeing 737 with 162 passengers on a flight of 2,940 nautical miles.

Those improvements would include a 15 percent structural weight reduction, 1 percent lower drag and 25 percent reduction in cooling flow, among others.

"We probably have a good five or six years available to us to make a technology sweep forward to where the industry can pick it up," Collier said, fixing the date at which the improvements can be adopted to 2020.

Then there is "N-plus-2," in which design modifications show airplanes that are hybrids: less fuselage and much more wing. Continued technological improvements and weight and flow reductions would produce aircraft that burn 40 percent less fuel and emit 75 percent less carbon with a prototype available by 2020.

No one improvement will optimize the results.

"A 70 percent better fuel burn? Is that even possible?" Collier said. "Well, we're starting to get some results back that indicate that it is possible. But it has to be done in concert with operational improvements on the aircraft. It's not just technology. Operational improvements have to be factored in.

The final step, N-plus-3, has Collier most excited.

"It's wide open," he said. "We're just now getting our arms around it."

Chances are that it will be a blended wing body, rather than a "tube and wing" airplane.

"I inherited this four years ago," Collier said of his job with the program. "I was not a blended wing body guy. But it didn't take me long to figure out that it is a good idea."

How good is yet to be proved.

"If we're going to lower noise and lower fuel burn, we've got to go to something different from tube and wing," Collier said. "I'm buying it, and I'm going to pursue it and I'm going to prove it, one way or the other. It's either going to work or it's not, and we're going to prove it. That's our strategy."

It's also the strategy of at least four industry and academic teams. NASA is investing time and money in all of the stages en route to a silent, carbonless airplane.

"I'm investing in those three concepts, proportionally," Collier said. "N-plus-1, maybe 35 percent. N-plus-3 is emerging, a small amount, maybe 10 percent. That leaves about 55 percent for the middle."

The ideas are ambitious, but then again, so are the goals.

"I've got many stakeholders and they want it all," Collier said. "If anybody can do it, NASA can do it."

Readying for Mars: Live 'Clean Room Cam' and Chat

What goes into building a mission destined for Mars? NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is being assembled and tested right now in the clean room at JPL. Join us for a rare opportunity to go behind-the-scenes to see engineers and technicians as they work on this project which is scheduled to launch in 2011.

The live clean room video will be available on Ustream TV on Feb. 24 beginning at 10 a.m. Pacific. David Gruel, manager of assembly, test and launch operations for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, will be answering your questions from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist for the mission, will answer questions between 11:30 a.m. and noon. The Mars Science Laboratory rover is some five times heavier and more capable than any of its predecessors. The roaming laboratory will carry a Swiss army-like toolkit to explore sites on Mars that may be favorable for supporting microbial life.

To participate in the live chat, go to . After the event, video of the chat will be archived for later viewing on the same site in the "video clips" box.

› A video overview of the mission: Play now

› An archived Webcast lecture on the mission is at:

› More about MSL at:

OCO Fails to Reach Orbit

NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite failed to reach orbit after its 4:55 a.m. EST liftoff Feb. 24 from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Preliminary indications are that the fairing on the Taurus XL launch vehicle failed to separate. The fairing is a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere.

The spacecraft did not reach orbit and likely landed in the ocean near Antarctica, said John Brunschwyler, the program manager for the Taurus XL.

A Mishap Investigation Board is to determine the cause of the launch failure.

› View Mishap Press Conference

Robotics Competition Makes First Appearance In Washington

NASA, in cooperation with local technology firms, is sponsoring the first-ever District of Columbia regional high school robotics competition from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 27-28, at the DC Convention Center in Washington. The two-day event is free and open to the public.

The competition is called "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," or FIRST. It is organized to inspire curiosity and create interest in science and mathematics among today's high school students. The competition is a unique varsity sport of the mind designed to help discover the interesting and rewarding life of engineers and researchers.

The local competition will include participation from more than 60 high schools teams from Virginia, Maryland, Washington and several other states. Forty-five regional competitions also will take place around the country. Championship competitions will occur in Atlanta in April. NASA is the largest sponsor of the national FIRST program, including support for five regional competition events and more than 280 teams.

The program was founded in 1989 by accomplished inventor Dean Kamen to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people, their schools and their communities. Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, FIRST is a non-profit organization that designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue academic opportunities.

For more information about the local competition and a listing of competing teams, visit:

OCO Set to Launch Tuesday Morning

The Orbital Sciences Taurus XL rocket set to launch NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory is in place at Launch Complex 576-E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Liftoff is scheduled for Feb. 24 at 1:51:30 a.m. PST (4:51:30 a.m. EST).

Follow the countdown live on launch day with NASA's Launch Blog or NASA TV beginning at 12 a.m. PST (3 a.m. EST).

The OCO is a new Earth-orbiting mission sponsored by NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder Program. The spacecraft will collect precise global measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth's atmosphere. Scientists will analyze OCO data to improve our understanding of the natural processes and human activities that regulate the abundance and distribution of this important greenhouse gas. This improved understanding will enable more reliable forecasts of future changes in the abundance and distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere and the effect that these changes may have on the Earth's climate.

Latest Features:
› Five Facts about the Orbiting Carbon Observatory
› Orbiting Carbon Observatory Aims To Boost Carbon Management Options
› The Space Hunt Is On -- for Carbon Dioxide

Be Part Of History -- Help NASA Name The Next Space Station Module

NASA is asking the public to help name the International Space Station's next module - a control tower for robotics in space and the world's ultimate observation deck.

Eight refrigerator-sized racks in the Node 3 module will provide room for many of the station's life support systems. Attached to the node is the cupola, a one-of-a-kind work station with six windows around the sides and one on top. The cupola will offer astronauts a spectacular view of their home planet and their home in space. In addition to providing a perfect location to observe and photograph Earth, the cupola also will contain a robotics workstation from which astronauts will be able to control the station's 57-foot robotic arm.

Individuals can vote for the module's name online, choosing one of four NASA suggestions -- Earthrise, Legacy, Serenity or Venture -- or writing in a name. Submissions will be accepted Feb. 19 through March 20. The name should reflect the spirit of exploration and cooperation embodied by the space station and follow in the tradition set by Node 1, named "Unity," and Node 2, named "Harmony."

The winning name will be announced at the Node 3 unveiling April 28 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The node is scheduled to arrive at Kennedy April 20 and is targeted for launch in late 2009.

For more information, to submit a name and to view pictures of the node and cupola, visit:

For additional information about the International Space Station, visit:

NASA-Industry Lunar Surface Systems Workshop Set For Feb. 25-27

NASA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Space Enterprise Council will hold a workshop on lunar surface system concepts to support human and robotic exploration on the moon by 2020. The workshop will take place Feb. 25 - 27 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street, NW, in Washington.

The forum will provide a status of NASA's lunar surface exploration architecture and share results of recent innovative NASA, industry, and university lunar studies performed for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and Constellation Program. NASA also will seek feedback from U.S. industry and other interested parties.

The workshop will highlight recently completed lunar surface study contracts administered by the Constellation Program. Topics will include habitat designs and packaging options, innovative energy and thermal storage concepts, lunar regolith moving methods, and avionics and software solutions.

Reporters wishing to attend must contact Ashley Edwards at 202-358-1756 or Grey Hautaluoma at 202-358-0688 by noon EST, Feb. 24. For more information and a workshop agenda, visit:

For more information about NASA's Exploration programs, visit:

Segment of Ares I-X Test Rocket Arrives at Kennedy

The last newly manufactured section of the Ares I-X test rocket arrived at the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility of NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

Called the frustum, the section resembles a giant funnel. Its function is to transition the primary flight loads from the rocket's upper stage to the first stage. The frustum is located between the forward skirt extension and the upper stage of the Ares I-X.

“It is always great to get the hardware to the launch site, and once the motors arrive in just a few weeks, the entire launch vehicle can begin final processing prior to stacking operations in the Vehicle Assembly Building,” said Jon Cowart, the Ares I-X deputy mission manager at Kennedy.

The Ares I-X is targeted to launch in the summer of 2009. The flight will provide NASA with an early opportunity to test and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations associated with the Ares I launch vehicle. The flight test also will bring NASA a step closer to its exploration goals of sending humans to the moon and destinations beyond.

The frustum is manufactured by Major Tool and Machine Inc. in Indiana under a subcontract with Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, the Ares first stage prime contractor. Weighing in at approximately 13,000 pounds, the 10-foot-long section is composed of two aluminum rings attached to a truncated conic section. The large diameter of the cone is 18 feet and the small diameter is 12 feet. The cone is 1.25 inches thick.

“We are thrilled to deliver this final segment to the ground processing team at Kennedy,” said Bob Herman, ATK’s Florida site director. “The arrival of the frustum is a significant milestone.

Much rigorous design, development and testing had to be accomplished prior to manufacturing all of the new segments that make up the Ares I-X first stage.”

The frustum will be integrated with the forward skirt and forward skirt extension, which already are in the Assembly and Refurbishment Facility. That will complete the forward assembly. The assembly then will be moved to the Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking operations, which are scheduled to begin in April.

Video B-roll of the hardware arrival will be available on NASA Television's Video File. For NASA TV streaming video, schedules, and downlink information, visit:

For more information about Ares I-X and NASA's next-generation rockets, visit:

NASA Defers Setting Next Shuttle Launch Date

During a thorough review of space shuttle Discovery's readiness for flight, NASA managers decided Friday that more data and possible testing are required before launching the STS-119 mission to the International Space Station.

Engineering teams have been working to identify what caused damage to a flow control valve on shuttle Endeavour during its November 2008 flight.

"We need to complete more work to have a better understanding before flying," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington who chaired Friday's Flight Readiness Review. "We were not driven by schedule pressure and did the right thing. When we fly, we want to do so with full confidence."

The shuttle has three flow control valves that channel gaseous hydrogen from the main engines to the external fuel tank. Teams also have tried to determine the consequences if a valve piece were to break off and strike part of the shuttle and external fuel tank.

The Space Shuttle Program has been asked to develop a plan to inspect additional valves similar to those installed on Discovery. This plan will be reviewed during a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 25. Afterward, the program may consider setting a new target launch date.

For more information about the Space Shuttle Program, including a fact sheet about the flow control valves, visit:

NASA's Swift Spies Comet Lulin

While waiting for high-energy outbursts and cosmic explosions, NASA's Swift Gamma-ray Explorer satellite is monitoring Comet Lulin as it closes on Earth. For the first time, astronomers are seeing simultaneous ultraviolet and X-ray images of a comet.

"We won't be able to send a space probe to Comet Lulin, but Swift is giving us some of the information we would get from just such a mission," said Jenny Carter, at the University of Leicester, U.K., who is leading the study.

"The comet is releasing a great amount of gas, which makes it an ideal target for X-ray observations," said Andrew Read, also at Leicester.

A comet is a clump of frozen gases mixed with dust. These "dirty snowballs" cast off gas and dust whenever they venture near the sun. Comet Lulin, which is formally known as C/2007 N3, was discovered last year by astronomers at Taiwan's Lulin Observatory. The comet is now faintly visible from a dark site. Lulin will pass closest to Earth -- 38 million miles, or about 160 times farther than the moon -- late on the evening of Feb. 23 for North America.

On Jan. 28, Swift trained its Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) and X-Ray Telescope (XRT) on Comet Lulin. "The comet is quite active," said team member Dennis Bodewits, a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The UVOT data show that Lulin was shedding nearly 800 gallons of water each second." That's enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in less than 15 minutes.

Swift can't see water directly. But ultraviolet light from the sun quickly breaks apart water molecules into hydrogen atoms and hydroxyl (OH) molecules. Swift's UVOT detects the hydroxyl molecules, and its images of Lulin reveal a hydroxyl cloud spanning nearly 250,000 miles, or slightly greater than the distance between Earth and the moon.

The UVOT includes a prism-like device called a grism, which separates incoming light by wavelength. The grism's range includes wavelengths in which the hydroxyl molecule is most active. "This gives us a unique view into the types and quantities of gas a comet produces, which gives us clues about the origin of comets and the solar system," Bodewits explains. Swift is currently the only space observatory covering this wavelength range.

In the Swift images, the comet's tail extends off to the right. Solar radiation pushes icy grains away from the comet. As the grains gradually evaporate, they create a thin hydroxyl tail.

Farther from the comet, even the hydroxyl molecule succumbs to solar ultraviolet radiation. It breaks into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen atoms. "The solar wind -- a fast-moving stream of particles from the sun -- interacts with the comet's broader cloud of atoms. This causes the solar wind to light up with X rays, and that's what Swift's XRT sees," said Stefan Immler, also at Goddard.

This interaction, called charge exchange, results in X-rays from most comets when they pass within about three times Earth's distance from the sun. Because Lulin is so active, its atomic cloud is especially dense. As a result, the X-ray-emitting region extends far sunward of the comet.

"We are looking forward to future observations of Comet Lulin, when we hope to get better X-ray data to help us determine its makeup," noted Carter. "They will allow us to build up a more complete 3-D picture of the comet during its flight through the solar system."

Other members of the team include Michael Mumma and Geronimo Villanueva at Goddard.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the Swift satellite. It is being operated in collaboration with partners in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and Japan. NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics observatory developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.

Green Comet

We hear a lot about "going green" these days. The latest to join in the trend is comet Lulin, which is making an appearance in the nighttime sky this month. Don Yeomans of JPL, manager for NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, answers a few questions about this odd comet.

Q: Why is comet Lulin green?
A: The green color arises when ionized cyanogen and carbon gases in the comet's atmosphere emit radiation in green wavelengths. These gases vaporize when the ices in the comet's nucleus get close enough to the sun.

Q: What other unusual characteristics does the comet have?
A: Comet Lulin is moving nearly in the same orbital plane around the sun as do the planets, but in the opposite (retrograde) direction. It is probably the first time this comet has entered the inner solar system, so some of its original volatile ices in its nucleus may still be present, and should be identifiable during observations.

Q: Will we be able to see comet Lulin and its greenish color? If so, where, when and how?
A: The comet should be observable in dark skies with binoculars. The best time to observe might be near its closest approach to Earth (about 38 million miles) on Tues., Feb. 24, when the comet appears just below the planet Saturn in the constellation of Leo (high in the southeast in late evening for observers in mid- northern latitudes, for example, in the United States and Europe.

Q: Will NASA astronomers be tracking the comet?
A: A small army of amateur and professional astronomers will certainly take advantage of this young comet using various telescopes and in many different wavelengths. It is not that often that a relatively bright, young comet is seen in the inner solar system, and astronomers will take advantage of this opportunity to identify some of the gases that make up its greenish atmosphere - and infer what exotic ices make up its unseen nucleus.

2009 Mission Madness

Dawn Spacecraft View of Mars

This near-infrared image from the framing camera on NASA's Dawn spacecraft was taken near the point of closest approach to Mars on Feb. 17, 2009, during Dawn's gravity assist flyby. The image, taken for calibration purposes, shows a portion of the fretted and cratered northwest margin of Tempe Terra, Mars. The scarp of the highlands/ lowlands boundary is illuminated by the light of dawn, and traces of fog appear in the lower portion. The area covered by the image is about 55 kilometers (34 miles) across.

The Dawn framing camera was built by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Germany, in partnership with the Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft- und Raumfahrt and Institut fuer Datentechnik und Kommunikationsnetze. The Dawn mission is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Dawn Flight Team

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