Washington -- The U.S. and European space agencies Thursday said they will officially end the Ulysses spacecraft's mission July 1 after more than 17 years of joint operation.
Ulysses, which has studied the sun and its effect on surrounding space for nearly four times its expected lifespan, will cease to function because of a decline in power produced by its on-board generators.
"There will never be another mission like Ulysses," said Ed Massey, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ulysses project manager. "This legendary spacecraft has served us extraordinarily well and it has certainly lived up to its mythical namesake's reputation."
Ulysses was launched aboard space shuttle Discovery on Oct. 6, 1990. It was carried into a low-Earth orbit and then propelled towards Jupiter by a combination of solid fuel motors. As it flew by Jupiter on Feb. 8, 1992, the giant planet's gravity sent the spacecraft into a final orbit around the sun.
Pasadena, Calif -- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to launch its OSTM/Jason 2 satellite on June 20 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The Ocean Surface Topography Mission on the Jason 2 spacecraft is to be aboard a Delta II rocket that will lift off during a 12:46 a.m. to 12:55 a.m. PDT launch window. NASA said the satellite will be placed into an 830-mile-high orbit at an inclination of 66 degrees after separating from the Delta II 55 minutes after liftoff.
The satellite is designed to transmit ocean surface height data that will be used in evaluating and forecasting climate change and improving weather forecasts. The results also are expected to help forecasters better predict hurricane intensity.
The mission is an international collaboration between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the French space agency and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.
Sergey Brin, co-founder of the search-engine powerhouse Google, has expressed his willingness to visit space, and for the purpose he has paid $5 million to Space Adventures Ltd., the world's leading space experiences company, to reserve a seat on a future flight.
Tucson -- The U.S. space agency said its Phoenix Mars Lander has filled its first oven with Martian soil.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists said the spacecraft's Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA, has eight tiny ovens to bake the soil to assess its volatile ingredients, such as water.
The lander's robotic arm delivered a partial scoopful of clumpy soil to the number 4 oven on TEGA last Friday -- 12 days after the spacecraft landed.
A screen covers each of TEGA's eight ovens to prevent larger bits of soil from clogging the narrow port to each oven. The oven was shaken Friday, Sunday and Monday to allow small particles into it.
"There's something very unusual about this soil, from a place on Mars we've never been before," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona-Tucson. "We're interested in learning what sort of chemical and mineral activity has caused the particles to clump and stick together."
Cape Canaveral, Fla -- The U.S. space agency's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST, lifted off at 12:05 p.m. EDT Wednesday and went into orbit around the Earth.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration satellite separated from its Delta II launch rocket at 1:20 p.m. EDT and 12 minutes later both of GLAST's solar arrays were deployed about 300 miles above the Earth.
"The entire GLAST team is elated the observatory is now on-orbit and all systems continue to operate as planned," said GLAST Program Manager Kevin Grady of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
NASA's newest space telescope, launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will begin transmitting initial instrument data within the next month, officials said.
Cape Canaveral, Fla. -- The U.S. space agency's newest satellite -- the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST -- lifted off at 12:05 p.m. EDT Wednesday from Florida.
The Kennedy Space Center launch had been postponed several times during the past two weeks while technicians worked to resolve various technical issues. But during a Monday launch readiness review, National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists, engineers, technicians and officials, declared the project "ready to go."
NASA said GLAST will orbit the Earth at a distance of approximately 300 nautical miles, with an inclination of approximately 25.6 degrees to the equator, surveying the universe's electromagnetic spectrum from 20 million electron volts to more than 300 billion electron volts, the upper end of which is a relatively unexplored area.
Houston -- U.S. space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station Wednesday at 7:42 a.m. EDT, ending a nearly nine-day visit to the orbital outpost.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's STS-124 crew arrived at the station June 2, delivering the Japanese Pressurized Module -- the second pressurized component of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory.
In addition, NASA said the STS-124 astronauts delivered Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff, who replaced Garrett Reisman, now a mission specialist returning to Earth aboard Discovery.
The crew performed three spacewalks while at the station.
Discovery moved a slight distance from the space station and conducted a more than four-hour examination of the shuttle's wings and nose to determine whether any damage occurred during lift off from the Kennedy Space Center.
Cape Canaveral, Fla. -- The U.S. space agency has unveiled a vertical test stand that will be used this summer to support its Constellation program.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Alliant Techsystems said the stand will be used to test the full-scale abort motor. The launch abort system is designed to pull the crew module away from the Ares I launch vehicle in the event of a launch pad emergency or during the first 300,000 feet after launch.
"We're breaking new ground with the development of this critical motor, which must have sufficient thrust to leave the vehicle quickly and get the crew to safety," said Ted Kublin, lead engineer for the abort motor. "The launch abort system is one of the most vital components of the Orion spacecraft, requiring innovative engineering to ensure success."
Pasadena, Calif. -- The U.S. space agency says the Phoenix Mars Lander will use its robotic arm to sprinkle Martian soil on a rotating wheel so as to better view it.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration says the spacecraft will sprinkle a spoonful of Martian soil on the wheel so it will rotate the sample into place for viewing by the spacecraft's optical microscope.
On Tuesday's schedule was a set of atmosphere observations in coordination with overhead passes of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The experiments allow instruments on Phoenix and on the orbiter to examine the same column of atmosphere simultaneously from above and below.
Phoenix Monday tested delivering Martian soil by sprinkling it rather than dumping it. NASA said the positive result prompted researchers not only to proceed with plans for soil delivery to the microscope, but also to plan on sprinkling a sample in the near future into one of the eight ovens of an instrument that bakes and sniffs samples,
Paris -- The European Space Agency says it is starting a program that offers university students the chance to fly experiments in microgravity.
The program -- called "Fly Your Thesis! -- An Astronaut Experience" -- allows European students to participate in a series of parabolic flights on an Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft.
Each team of students must design a scientific experiment to be performed in
microgravity as part of a Masters, Ph.D. or research program, the ESA said.
About 20 teams will be selected to present their projects to a review board during a dedicated workshop to be held at the ESA's European Space Technology and Research Center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
After the workshop, three or four teams will be selected to further develop and accompany their experiments on the aircraft for three flights of 30 parabolas -- experiencing about 20 seconds of microgravity during each parabola.
Sydney -- Australian astronomers using the European Space Agency's orbiting X-ray observatory XMM-Newton have rediscovered an ignored supernova.
Astronomers Bryan Gaensler and Anant Tanna of the University of Sydney said the object is one of the youngest and brightest supernova remnants in the Milky Way -- the corpse of a star that exploded approximately 1,000 years ago.
The expanding cloud of debris supernovas leave behind usually appears as an expanding bubble or ring. But when astronomers took their first high-resolution radio images of the object known as G350.1-0.3 during the 1980s, they saw an irregular knot of gases. So they classified it as a probable background galaxy and forgot about it.
"G350.1-0.3 is indeed the debris of an exploded star despite its misshapen configuration," said Gaensler and Tanna. "In fact, it turns out to be one of the youngest and brightest supernova remnants in the Milky Way."
Cape Canaveral, Fla. -- The U.S. space agency said all is ready for the often delayed launch of its GLAST spacecraft from Cape Canaveral aboard a Delta II rocket.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope is to lift off during a window that extends from 11:45 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. EDT Wednesday. The launch had been postponed several times due to unresolved technical problems.
Workers at the launch pad loaded the hypergolic propellants into the Delta II rocket's second stage last weekend. On Wednesday they are to begin loading the liquid oxygen part of the fuel, marking the start of the final phase of the launch countdown at 10:15 a.m. EDT, NASA said.
The mission is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed by NASA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and with academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.
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