NASA on selling spree of its shuttle launch platforms

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is selling three huge mobile platforms that were used to launch the Apollo moon missions along with its space shuttle to private firms adding to the list of historic facilities and equipment it wants the private industry to take over and that includes the shuttle launch pad and its landing runway. NASA is considering competing bids for the sale of shuttle launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center. The huge steel structures measuring 7.6 meters high (25ft) 49 by 41 meters on top were used to move spacecraft from rocket assembly hangers at the Kennedy Space Center to the launch pad on crawler tracks.

These structures were originally built in 1967 for the Apollo moon mission’s Saturn rockets that were then modified for the space shuttles that flew from 1981 to 2011.The space agency informed that it wants private space company to take them over or it may have to sell them for recycling. NASA is also interested in other users for the mobile launch platforms, that served as bases to stack and assemble the shuttle and then transport it to launch pad. The platforms provided power and other umbilical connections and had open section for flames and rocket exhaust to pass through. NASA is already assessing the bids for a shuttle launch pad from two competing firms backed by internet billionaires.

The Kennedy Space Center launch pad has attracted competing bids from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and chief executive of electric car company Tesla. NASA is also turning over the shuttle’s runway to Space Florida that plans to make it available to commercial companies including XCOR Aerospace, which is developing a two person suborbital spaceship called Lynx that takes off and lands like an aeroplane. The other potential customer is Stratolaunch Systems –an orbital space vehicle backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

NASA launches new X-ray telescope

NASA has launched a brand new X-ray telescope called NuStar which will be launched on a two year mission on Wednesday 13th June 2012 from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific to scan the Milky Way. The United States space agency’s latest x-ray telescope will be boosted into orbit to begin the two year mission to search for black holes and other hard-to-see celestial objects.

The telescope was launched by a rocket which was released from a carrier aircraft that took off from the remote pacific island of Kwajalein Atoll. The telescope which is the size of a refrigerator then separated from the rocket according to the plan and unfurled its solar panels as it orbited at a distance of 350 miles (563 kilometers) above the earth. NASA chose to air-launch the mission as its cheaper when compared to rocketing off from a launch pad. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array focuses high-energy X-rays to see through dust and gas in search of super massive black holes in the center of galaxies and remnants of exploded stars or other celestial bodies. Black holes are invisible, however, the surrounding region emits X-rays and NuStar will map them in addition to observing the previously known ones. By exploring new parts of the universe scientists hope to better understand how galaxies form and evolve. NuStar will also search the remnants of ancient supernovae and if it’s lucky enough to be pointed in the right place at the right time then catch a glimpse of a star’s death throes. Scientists are expecting sharp images of the mission as NuStar is more sensitive then previous telescopes that have looked in this part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Stepping into space

The most recent update in man’s quest of reaching out for space is the landing of ‘Dragon’ in the Pacific Ocean from where it is to be recovered shortly. Now most of us have absolutely no knowledge about ‘Dragon’. Dragon is a reusable spacecraft manufactured by a private space transportation company known as SpaceX based in Hawthorne, California. This spacecraft has made history by becoming the world’s first vehicle to have successfully attached to the international space station and this will in the long-term open up new avenues for SpaceX as well as encourage other companies and manufacturers to come up to compete in building such spacecraft’s. There are a lot of companies who are trying to build spacecraft which will facilitate man in transporting cargo into space.These vehicles based on their purpose are being called space taxis.

NASA challenges kids and teachers to build apps

NASA is a power house of information with variously collecting images of lunar craters, spectrum analysis of stars and galaxies that are far out in space, rocket telemetry and much much more. It uses a very small percentage of this data for its programs and has now come up with the innovative idea of allowing the general public access to all of this data so that they may use it to code software applications that are inventive and new.

NASA is working in conjunction with Top Coder, which is an online development competitions community, to make the NASA Tournament Lab which is a coding platform that allows students and teachers to compete with each other and program apps using NASA data winning prizes for their efforts.

TopCoder is a 400000 member strong community of coders who compete with each other to win prizes and also employment opportunities. Since its inception in 2001 it has presented its members with coding challenges that may be won based on speed and accuracy. Working with NASA they are throwing down the gauntlet and offering two prizes. One if for students between 13 and 18 years old, to design the “Ultimate app” allowing them to freely explore their imaginations and come with something unique; the other is for Educators and has an end use in mind, which is to design an app that will use NASA data in the class room.

Aliens on the Horizon?

Aliens on the HorizonThe Solar Heliospheric Observatory or (SOHO) that was launched in 1995 to study the Sun, in a joint endeavor by NASA and the European Space Agency has been at pains lately to explain what some observers feel are UFO’s very close to the sun.

SOHO was supposed to have lasted only about 2 years, but is still active nearly 20 years on, sending back images of the surface of the sun that are today helping scientists predict solar flares and other solar weather activity so as to prepare and forewarn people on Earth for any radiation that comes our way. Such as the Solar activity that took place a few months ago sparking beautiful aurora borealis sightings and warnings about radio outages.

A lot of sun related information is easily accessible to the public on the SOHO website; this includes images that have been constructed from the observations sent back by the instruments onboard the observatory. This kind of content is also available at the Solar Dynamic Observatory which is a NASA undertaking.

NASA Hacked into 13 Times Last Year

NASA has admitted to have been hacked into at least 13 times over the last year. In these major security lapses, hackers have gotten information on various critical projects and employee details putting National Security in jeopardy.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration in a recent report “NASA Cyber security: An Examination of the Agency’s Information Security” revealed the disconcerting information. Close to 47 attempts were made by hackers across the world, of which 13 were successful and were major breaches. The agency highlighted an instance where a group of Chinese hackers got into NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). JPL is key part of NASA’s active spaces activities that include missions to Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The hackers had full functionality within the system. They could have modified, copied or deleted sensitive files. They also had capability to add or remove user accounts to gain access to critical JPL systems. They could have uploaded high-end malware applications or hacking tools that could keep track of user credentials and compromise NASA’s other functionalities. They were also equally clever enough to modify system logs to conceal their digital footprint.

 

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