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pyromaniac

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India has endorsed an ambitious £1.7bn plan to launch its first astronauts into space by 2015, a move seen by many as an attempt to catch up with its bigger neighbour, China, in an emerging Asian space race.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) proposes to put two people into orbit 171 miles above the Earth for seven days – a plan that has been endorsed by the country's top economic policymaking body, the Planning Commission.

"Isro has done an expert job and it needs to be supported," said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission. The Human Space Flight project is to have two phases: an unmanned flight launched in 2013-2014 and a manned mission the following year.

The Indian cabinet still has to approve the plan but S Satish, a spokesman for Isro, said the support of the Planning Commission "was a major step forward".

If the country succeeded, it would become only the fourth – after the US, Russia and China – to send a man into space. But India is not the only Asian country in the new space race – Iran recently announced that it will attempt a manned space flight by 2021.

There is little doubt about India's sense of purpose. Earlier this month, Isro's chairman, Madhavan Nair, unveiled blueprints at an international aeronautical show in Bangalore for the three-tonne space capsule, which would have enough room for a three-person crew.

India is also setting up a training centre for astronauts in the south of the country – and demonstrated it could launch and recover a space capsule that splashed down in the Bay of Bengal in January 2007.

The new mission will not be entirely homegrown. Moscow will help to build the astronaut capsule and select and train the astronauts. An Indian astronaut will also get a "trial run" abroad a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2013. They will be the second Indian in space after Rakesh Sharma, who was part of a joint space programme between India and Russia in 1984.

Analysts have also warned India that it would need to initiate a review of its space programmes, which are primarily civilian in nature, given "the military character and military functions" of China's space programme. Richard Fischer Jr, a senior fellow at Washington's International Assessment and Strategy Centre, told an audience last week in Delhi that India needed to develop new technologies to counter China's growing space power.

The decision to send astronauts into space follows the successful launch last October of India's first unmanned lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, which signalled entry into an elite club of nations that have reached the moon. However, some experts have criticised the move, saying space agencies in wealthier parts of the world have eschewed putting man into space.

Gopal Raj, author of Reach for the Stars, a book about the country's rocket programme, said: "This smacks of Isro looking to keep up with China. It's becoming a national prestige issue. I am not sure what you get from astronauts in space. Even the Europeans, who are much richer, have not got manned space flight programmes."

However, Isro says such talk underestimates India's final goals. "We are not doing this because of China [which launched astronauts into space in 2003]. We want to get beyond the moon, which we see as just an intermediate base in the future. For this, you need humans; robots will not be enough."

Others have warned that Isro's budget is expanding at a time when the country faces both an economic slowdown and widespread poverty. An estimated 40% of the world's severely malnourished children live in India, and more than 800 million people live on half a dollar a day in the country.

Isro's budget last week was boosted by 27% to 44.6bn rupees (£611m) – excluding the £1.7bn cost of the manned spacecraft programme.

"India has major issues regarding education, health [and] rural sanitation, and these struggle to get funds," said the columnist Praful Bidwai. "Yet here we are, funding a giant national ego trip when people do not have latrines. It's monstrous ... If the aim is to promote science, why not invest in climate change technologies?"


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/23/india-space-astronauts
 

nitesh

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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/...-adds-Rs95cr-to-kitty/articleshow/4178933.cms

Manned space flight: Govt adds Rs95cr to kitty
24 Feb 2009, 0314 hrs IST, Srinivas Laxman, TNN


MUMBAI: Apart from the Planning Commission approval to ISRO's Rs 12,400-crore manned space flight programme scheduled for liftoff in 2015 from Sriharikota, the Centre has hiked the pre-project funding for the mission by about Rs 40 crore this year, indicating its keenness to back the project.

ISRO chief spokesperson S Satish told TOI on Monday that the government has earmarked Rs 95 crore this year towards pre-project funding activity, which essentially involves initiating more studies relating to a human space flight.

Last year, the figure was Rs 50 crore. "We are awaiting formal Cabinet approval. It is possible that Cabinet will seek more clarifications before we get the final go-ahead," Satish said.

In Delhi, MoS in PMO Prithviraj Chavan said several aspects of the mission would have to be examined to ensure that the project was viable. "Planning Commission has approved it but the Cabinet is still to clear it," he said. The cost of the mission, at Rs 12,400 crore -- roughly the initial spending on NREGA -- has to be factored in before the government gives a green signal even though, as the pre-project funding indicates, it is interested.

The programme is perhaps the most ambitious one during the 11th five year plan after Chandrayaan-1. Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) director K Radhakrishnan told TOI that the mission will lift off with the three-stage Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-Mk2 version). "This rocket will be slightly reconfigured and human rated. Preliminary work has already been initiated," he said.

The GSLV-Mk2 will have an indigenous cryogenic engine and this rocket's maiden flight is slated to take place sometime this year. The current GSLVs are powered with the Russian-made cryogenic engine.

The flight plan envisages the manned vehicle with a two-man crew orbiting in the low earth orbit (LEO) for seven days. The LEO extends up to 2,000 km. There has been change in the flight plan as Satish said that originally it was to operate at an altitude of 400 km. "This has been lowered to 275 km because it will permit a heavier mass to fly and the crew compartment itself will be made more comfortable," he said. Some 16 minutes after lift off, the manned compartment will be injected into orbit.

Satish said that after the seven-day mission is completed, there will be a sea landing of the manned compartment. As precursor to this, ISRO launched the Space Capsule Recovery experiment on January 10, 2007 and successfully recovered it in the Bay of Bengal on January 22, 2007.
 

Triton

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Good news; I hope everything will work as per the plans and schedule; We need to go a long way before we could master the space exploration and I have very little doubts on ISRO & its scientists.
 

Triton

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Kepler Telescope to Scout for Alien Worlds

Kepler Telescope to Scout for Alien Worlds

Astronomers scanning for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth will soon have a new tool at their disposal -- NASA's Kepler telescope.

Though intended to find Earth-like worlds orbiting other stars, the telescope's data will be analyzed to determine if any of its targets cast unnaturally shaped shadows into Kepler's eye.

Kepler is designed to detect changes in a star's brightness as small as about 10 parts per million. In the process of collecting photons, however, the shape of any transiting objects would be revealed as well.
I am sure Kepler is going to add lots of data to the existing part of search for alien worlds and Earth like planets; This is one mission many of us are waiting for a long time to kick off. Lets hope for the best from Kepler the Hunter

Related links:

Kepler's official website

Kepler Mission
 

Triton

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Counting on Kepler
NASA's Kepler spacecraft will soon begin a journey to search for worlds that could potentially host life.
Kepler Attached To Rocket
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.
 
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http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/NASA_readies_first_mission_seeking_Earth-like_planets_999.html

NASA readies first mission seeking Earth-like planets

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 20, 2009
NASA is preparing to launch next month the Kepler spacecraft
with a new space telescope that for the first time will be capable of detecting Earth-like planets outside our solar system, project managers said.

Kepler is scheduled for launch atop a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida, on March 5 at 10:48 pm (0348 GMT, March 6).

It will be the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours, at just the right distance and temperature for life-sustaining water to exist.

"Kepler will push back the boundaries of the unknown in our patch of the Milky Way galaxy. And its discoveries may fundamentally alter humanity's view of itself," Jon Morse, astrophysics division director at the US space agency's Washington headquarters, told a press conference Thursday.

"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," he added.

Equipped with the largest camera ever launched into space -- a 95-megapixel array of charged couple devices, known as CCDs -- the Kepler telescope is able to detect the faint, periodic dimming of stars that planets cause as they pass by.

At a cost of close to 600 million dollars, the Kepler mission will last three years and examine more than 100,000 sun-like stars in the regions of the Swan and Lyre constellations in the Milky Way.

William Borucki, Kepler's principal investigator based at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, said the project was about finding places where conditions are perfect for sustaining life.

"What we're interested in finding are planets that are not too hot and not to cold, but just right," he said.

"We're looking for planets where the temperature is just about right for liquid water on the surface of the planet."

The telescope, set to stare at a single patch of sky throughout its mission, can watch for the stars that are affected by planets.

"Earth-size planets in habitable zones would theoretically take about a year to complete one orbit," so Kepler's three-year lifespan enables the project to confirm a planet's presence by observing its subtle impact on the star it orbits, NASA said in a statement.

"If we find that many, it certainly will mean that life may well be common throughout our galaxy, that there is an opportunity for life to have a place to evolve," noted Borucki.

"If none or only a few of these planets are found, it might suggest that habitable planets like Earth are very rare and Earth may be a lonely outpost for life," he said.
 

kriish

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see it is a easy plan, ISRO now has scientific knowledge and human resources it can achieve anything it want to, one the re entry part is difficult then if the astronaut want to venture outside of the capsule then it is a little bit of challenge. then for the argument about poverty, all the rockets are made in India, men and materiel are from India, it is financed by Indian rupee which is printed by Reserve bank of India, one can criticize lack of focus on the poor, if ISRO is taking up many projects then there is going to be thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities which in turn only be good for the country.
 
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our IT infrastructure,educated workforce,and nuclear technology will guarantee our place as a space power without a doubt.
 

Triton

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Space Talk

China`s lunar probe Chang`e-1 impacts moon

BEIJING, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Chang'e-1, China's first lunar probe, impacted the moon at 4:13 p.m. Beijing Time (0813 GMT) Sunday, said sources with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The satellite ended its 16-month mission Sunday when it hit the lunar surface at 1.50 degrees south latitude and 52.36 degrees east longitude.

Chang'e-1 began to reduce its speed at 3:36 p.m. Beijing Time (0736 GMT) under remote control by two observation and control stations in east China's Qingdao and northwest China's Kashi.

This was the first phase of China's three-stage moon mission, which will lead to a landing and launch of a rover vehicle around 2012.

Chang'e-1 was launched into space on Oct. 24, 2007, and sent the first full map of the moon's surface back to China one month later.

A dozen performance tests were carried out while Chang'e-1 was in orbit to find out its orbit adjustment capability.

The planned impact was designed to accumulate experience for landing of China's second lunar probe.

"The second phase of the space program aims at soft landing, and the preparation is currently in progress", said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the country's lunar probe program.

In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and bring back mineral samples for scientific research in 2017.

"Chang'e" is named after a legendary Chinese moon goddess.

Wu noted the success in the mission of Chang'e-1 had realized the dream of the whole nation and pushed forward the development of science and technology. It also proved China was capable of exploring the outer space, he added.

China is the third nation, after the U.S. and Russia, to launch people into space after Yang Liwei was put into orbit aboard the spaceship Shenzhou-5 on October 15, 2003. Another three astronauts were sent into space in Shenzhou-7 and carried out the country's first space walk in September of last year.
Related Links

China's lunar probe ends mission

China's first lunar probe ends mission

Spacecraft crashes into the moon

I hope they will release some of the pictures & data of this particular event.
 

Triton

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And this rover would the their next big mission to Moon

http://g.imageshack.us/img134/13718516.jpg/1/

Chinese scientists have shown off a prototype Moon rover that could lead to the country's first unmanned mission to the lunar surface in 2012.

The 1.5m (5ft) high, 200kg (440lbs) rover should transmit video in real time, dig into and analyse soil, and produce 3D images of the lunar surface.

Engineers have unveiled a prototype at the Shanghai institute where work on the six-wheeled vehicle is underway.

Rival rovers are being developed at institutes in Beijing and elsewhere.

It is not clear when the successful candidate will be selected.

Engineers at the Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute have created a specialised laboratory that mimics the lunar surface for their rover.

Unlike the solar-rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used by the US space agency's (Nasa) Mars rovers, the Chinese model will eventually run on a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Such devices convert heat from a radioactive source into electricity.

"We want to make it better than the early US and Russian rovers," Luo Jian, director of the institute, was quoted as saying.

With an average speed of 100m (328ft) per hour, it can negotiate inclines and has automatic sensors to prevent it from crashing into other objects, China Daily reported.

China is working on a three-stage plan for exploration of the Earth's Moon, which includes sending a lunar orbiter called Chang'e-1 some time this year.

This will be followed by a soft landing in 2012 and the return of lunar samples in another five years.

The US has outlined its vision for the exploration of the Moon, which will involve returning humans to the lunar surface by 2020.
 

A.V.

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World Space News.

new and updates for the world of space.all articles here.
 

Triton

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Three Galaxies Locked In Gravitational Tug-of-war

About 100 million light-years away, in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish), three galaxies are playing a game of gravitational give-and-take that might ultimately lead to their merger into one enormous entity.

A new image from the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope allows astronomers to view the movement of gases from galaxy to galaxy, revealing the intricate interplay among them.

The three pictured galaxies — NGC 7173 (middle left), NCG 7174 (middle right) and NGC 7176 (lower right) — are part of the Hickson Compact Group 90, named after astronomer Paul Hickson, who first catalogued these small clusters of galaxies in the 1980s. NGC 7173 and NGC 7176 appear to be smooth, normal elliptical galaxies without much gas and dust.

In stark contrast, NGC 7174 is a mangled spiral galaxy, barely clinging to independent existence as it is ripped apart by its close neighbours. The strong tidal interaction surging through the galaxies has dragged a significant number of stars away from their home galaxies. These stars are now spread out, forming a tenuous luminous component in the galaxy group.

Ultimately, astronomers believe that the stars in NGC 7174 will be redistributed into a giant 'island universe', tens to hundreds of times as massive as our own Milky Way.


The three pictured galaxies -- NGC 7173 (middle left), NCG 7174 (middle right) and NGC 7176 (lower right) -- are part of the Hickson Compact Group 90, named after astronomer Paul Hickson, who first catalogued these small clusters of galaxies in the 1980s. NGC 7173 and NGC 7176 appear to be smooth, normal elliptical galaxies without much gas and dust. In stark contrast, NGC 7174 is a mangled spiral galaxy, barely clinging to independent existence as it is ripped apart by its close neighbours. The strong tidal interaction surging through the galaxies has dragged a significant number of stars away from their home galaxies. These stars are now spread out, forming a tenuous luminous component in the galaxy group. (Credit: NASA, ESA and R. Sharples (University of Durham, U.K.))
 

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Kepler Will Launch on Friday

If the newest NASA launch succeeds, we could see the new Kepler Space Telescope up and running by the end of the week, mission officials have announced. After being pushed back by a day, due to concerns over the safety of the mission, the lift-off procedure has been scheduled for Friday, when the Delta II booster carrying the new telescope will leave the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and head for the orbit. This is one of those missions that has the potential to change our understanding of the Universe around us.

“Kepler will push back the boundaries of the unknown in our patch of the Milky Way galaxy, and its discoveries may fundamentally alter humanity's view of itself,” the director of NASA's Astrophysics Division, Jon Morse, shares from its headquarters in Washington, DC.
Read complete article here
 
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Finding Earth's Twin Is No Easy Task

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Finding_Earth_Twin_Is_No_Easy_Task_999.html

Finding Earth's Twin Is No Easy Task

By Henry Bortman
for Astrobiology Magazine
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Mar 04, 2009
Does our galaxy contain twins of Earth: rocky planets, orbiting sun-like stars at comfortable distances, capable of supporting life? That is the million-dollar question for exoplanet hunters. NASA is about to launch an orbiting telescope designed to find an answer. Its name is Kepler.

Kepler, scheduled for launch on March 6, 2009, will observe a field of 100,000 stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the sky, searching for planets by looking for their transits. A transit occurs when a planet passes in front of the star it orbits, causing the star's brightness to dim temporarily.

The amount of dimming that occurs indicates the planet's size; the bigger the planet, the more starlight is blocked. The frequency of the transits reveals the planet's orbital period and distance from its star; closer-in planets have shorter-period orbits, so transits occur more frequently.

If viewed from the proper vantage point in space, Earth would appear to transit the sun once each year, dimming the sun's brightness by about one-hundredth of one percent. (No, that's not a typo.) Transits like these are what the Kepler mission is most interested in detecting.

"Kepler is designed to find hundreds of Earth-sized planets, if such planets are common around stars," says Bill Borucki, a space scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and the science principle investigator for the Kepler mission.

Most of the Earth-sized worlds it finds, however, will orbit too close to their stars, and therefore be too hot, for life as we know it. But Kepler could find as many as 50 Earth-sized planets in Earth-like orbits. "If we find that many, this certainly will mean that life may well be common throughout our galaxy," Borucki says.

That's if Earths are common. They may not be. But that, too, Borucki says, "will be [a] profound discovery. It will mean that Earths must be very rare; we may be the only extant life in our universe." And what's worse: "It'd mean there would be no Star Trek."

Even if there are plenty of Earth twins out there, Kepler won't find them until near the end of its three-and-a-half-year mission.

"The big, massive, hot Jupiters, as they're called, are going to roll off the Kepler assembly line" first, says Debra Fischer, a planet-hunter and assistant professor at California's San Francisco State University.

Next will come Neptune-sized worlds, and even rocky planets like Earth, but close in, with orbits much smaller than Earth's. Closer-in planets will reveal themselves first because they will transit more frequently.

To feel confident that they have detected a candidate planet, the Kepler team needs to see three transits, three identical dips in a star's brightness, timed at precise, regular intervals. For planets orbiting close-in, three transits could occur within the first month of Kepler's operation.

For a planet in an Earth-like orbit, though, it will take the full length of the mission, three to three-and-a-half years, to see the requisite three transits. "We're not going to be able to tell you very quickly whether or not there are Earths. We're going to have to wait until we see these three transits," Borucki says.

And that's only the first step, because there will be false positives: dips in a star's brightness that look like transits but are actually caused by something else.

Noisy stars, for example. The sun is a fairly quiet star, its brightness doesn't vary much, but others stars are quite noisy. If a star is too noisy, if its brightness fluctuates constantly, the Kepler team may not be able to extract the dimming signal caused by a transit from the background variations. It would be like trying to hear someone whisper in Grand Central Station during rush hour.

An Earth-twin world, when it transits, produces a very small signal, barely a whisper. To detect an Earth twin, says Jim Fanson, Kepler's project manager, "we have to be able to measure the brightness change of stars down in the 20 parts per million level. It's akin to measuring a flea as it creeps across the headlight of an automobile at night."

Starspots can also cause problems. A starspot, a dark region on a star's surface, will cause the star's light to dim as the spot rotates into view. So a starspot can look like a transit. But a starspot's signal - how quickly the dimming occurs once it begins, and how long the dimming lasts - has a different profile than that of a transit.

"It takes a considerable amount of time for starspots to rotate into view and then out of view," says Jon Jenkins, Kepler co-investigator for data analysis. Transits happen more quickly. Part of the job of the software developed by Jenkins and his colleagues will be to distinguish between the two.

A binary star, a star system in which one star circles the other, can also produce a dimming effect that looks like a planetary transit. At least half of the stars in our galaxy are part of a binary or multiple-star system, so the Kepler team will have to weed out these false positives, as well.

That weeding will be done through follow-up studies using the radial-velocity planet-hunting technique. A planet exerts a gravitational tug on a star as it orbits, causing the star to wobble. This wobbling induces slight changes in the wavelength, or color, of the star's light.

The larger the planet, the larger the wobble; the larger the wobble, the greater the wavelength change; the greater the wavelength change, the easier it is to detect.

In a binary system, the object tugging on the target star is another star; its gravitational pull is huge, far larger than that of any planet. This is what will make it easy for radial-velocity measurements to tell a transiting planet from a binary star.

Indeed, all of the candidate planets found by Kepler will be subject to confirmation through radial-velocity studies. Until these follow-up studies are done, the Kepler team plans to hold off on announcing its discoveries. These announcements are expected to come in annual batches, near the beginning of the year, with the first batch announced in 2010.

Kepler will collect data continuously and send it back to Earth once a month, but according to Bill Koch, deputy PI for Kepler, for the follow-up studies, "there's an observing season." The region of the sky where Kepler will be pointed is overhead during the summer. "So we'll take data continuously, but only during the summer can you do the follow-up observations." And then it will take a while to process the data.

There's a catch, though: radial-velocity measurements will work for confirming planets larger than Earth, or Earth-sized planets that orbit close-in to their stars, but they aren't sensitive enough to detect Earth-sized planets in one-year orbits. "The radial velocity people cannot detect those. If they could, we wouldn't be flying this mission," says Koch.

Does that mean the Kepler team won't really be able to make unambiguous detections of Earth? That depends on how much you like to quibble. Once larger, closer-in planets are confirmed, Kepler's planet-finding capability will be validated.

That will boost the astronomy community's confidence in its methodology. And quiet stars will make for more confident detections than noisy ones. In addition, the Kepler mission may be extended to as long as six years, enabling Kepler to see not three, but five or six transits for each Earth-twin candidate it finds. As each additional transit occurs on schedule, the likelihood will increase that a planet is responsible.

But there is still one astronomical phenomenon that could confound Kepler's data analysts: a background eclipsing binary. Imagine that in the nearby background of a target star there is a faint binary pair, one star periodically eclipsing the other.

As an eclipse occurs, the output of the binary pair dims. But the binary is so close to the target star that when the background eclipse occurs, it looks to Kepler like the target star is dimming. In other words, it looks like a planetary transit. And it happens on a regular schedule.

If the eclipsing binary appears far enough away from the target star, software filters will be able to tease it out and reject it. But if it appears extremely close to the target star, just on its edge, it may prove impossible to identify.

Koch isn't overly concerned about this problem, because it's likely to occur only rarely. "If we find dozens of Earth-like planets, then we'll be less reticent at releasing the findings because we know that only a very small fraction of those might be contaminated by this phenomenon," he says.

But if Kepler finds only one or two Earth-twin candidates, it will be hard to know for certain whether it has found planets or background eclipsing binaries.

Koch is confident the problem will get sorted out eventually. "Even if Kepler isn't directly able to confirm its discoveries in all cases, and even if we don't have a space mission flying that's capable of making these measurements now, inevitably in the future we'll be able to detect all the false positives" that Kepler finds.

"But," he adds optimistically, "our intent is not to have any.
 

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NASA's Kepler Planet Hunter Blasts Into Night Sky

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler, rocketed into space Friday night on a historic voyage to track down other Earths in a faraway patch of the Milky Way galaxy.

It's the first mission capable of answering the age-old question: Are other worlds like ours out there?

Kepler spacecraft, named after the German 17th century astrophysicist, set off on its unprecedented mission at 10:49 p.m., thundering into a clear sky embellished by a waxing moon.
Read Complete article here

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NASA launches telescope to seek Earth-like planets
 

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While I love science and the prospect of discovery, this is nothing but a publicity stunt.

Waste of resources in a failing economy in my opinion. But hey, it was foolish acts that created the world. =D
 

Triton

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While I love science and the prospect of discovery, this is nothing but a publicity stunt.

Waste of resources in a failing economy in my opinion. But hey, it was foolish acts that created the world. =D
It ain't a stunt ST; This was planned a long time back; Can you imagine a world where we have information about thousands of planets similar to our Earth? That would change the whole concept of the Humans. This mission is so important and I am sure this will unfold many surprises.
 
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Indian Militarization of space

http://www.indiandefencereview.com/2008/09/militarization-of-space.html

Use of ‘outer space’ (also referred as ‘space’) to fight wars is not a new idea. Rockets reaching high into the atmosphere was talked about since World War II. The investments made by the Nazi’s towards development of such rockets are well known. In the 1960s, the erstwhile USSR had an orbital weapon called a “killer satellite”. However, this weapon had some problems with its guidance system which led to failure of the entire project. The Soviets also had an orbital weapon known as the FOBS (Fractional Orbit Bombardment System). The concept was to place a hydrogen bomb in low earth orbit (LEO) for quick launch against a ground target if need arose. The system was secretly tested from 1966 to 1970, and the Soviet government revealed that it had 18 FOBS launchers in their inventory at Tyaratam.

Space was used for nuclear testing during the 1950s and early 1960s. Subsequently, atomic testing in space was banned by the Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963). However, underground testing continued till 1980 with France and China being the last to carry out such tests. Space was important for Ronald Regan’s Strategic Defence Initiative (which subsequently became famous as “Star Wars”) during the eighties. Today, space is an inseparable part of the US missile shield plan. This article attempts to address the issues related to space and security against the backdrop of Chinese ASAT test in January this year.

bio-weapons.jpg The politico-military events during the last two or three decades indicates that the world is witnessing a new paradigm of security. The end of the Cold War, environmental degradation, increasing menace of terrorism, and rise in fundamentalism have raised new threats to global security which are asymmetric in nature. At the same time, technology is playing a major role for the modernisation of the armed forces across the world. This has highlighted the revolution in military affairs (RMA) for the modern day defence discourse.

There is an increasing awareness that in the years to come the world will witness another transformation in the conduct of war; its scope will be decided by the emerging RMA, which is significantly governed by space technologies. At the same time space technologies, which essentially covers a wide spectrum of technologies ranging from asteroid mining to rocket science to satellite operations to navigation to telemetry to reentry to artificial intelligence is a specialized field and very few nations possess it. Naturally, those possessing it have an asymmetric advantage over others in these capabilities.

Remote Sensing, Aerial Photography, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Navigation, Broadcasting and Communication, and Scientific Experimentation are civilian uses of space technologies. However, the dual use nature of these technologies help nation-states to exploit them for military purposes. As well over the last few decades the ‘space haves’ have successfully used space technologies in military conflicts. The 1991 Gulf War, NATO intervention in Kosovo, the post 9/11 US involvement in Afghanistan and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq - have seen the use of Space Technologies with success. During these wars, the military use of space provided inputs for weather monitoring, communication, navigation and intelligence gathering.

Currently, most military operational requirements are driven by technology. Military leadership understand the importance of Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence, Reconnaissance, Surveillance (C4ISR) systems. These C4ISR strategies and policies are being developed and are based on various transformative principles that include space technology for purposes like telecommunications, military information networking, electronic intelligence gathering, photographic reconnaissance etc.

During the 1991 Gulf War, the US had demonstrated, among other things, what can happen when a nation that does not enjoy the benefits of space exploitation wages a war against one that has it. In that conflict, the US enjoyed a virtual monopoly on space-based surveillance, communications, and navigation support. The US with its network of highly capable electro-optical and radar imaging satellites were able to determine exactly where to attack with which munitions, while avoiding enemy troop concentrations, thereby reducing casualties. Similarly, during the Kosovo conflict, Afghanistan campaign and the 2003 invasion of Iraq the overall concept of the US operations was dependent on the information received from space-based systems.

Particularly, since the 1991 Gulf War, the world has seen the usage of space technologies, mainly by the US and allied forces, for various military purposes. In all these conflicts the US had an asymmetric advantage over their enemy in the area of space technologies. In recent conflicts the US forces have used GPS guided weapons like JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). So they used their space assets for providing navigational support to their weapon delivery platforms but also to the weapons themselves. All these uses of space technologies for war waging fall into the category of the militarization of space.

In peacetime, nation-states use their space assets for intelligence gathering and communication purposes. Therefore the use of space assets for military purposes is not a new notion; what is new is that the capability to jam or destroy other state’s operational space assets. There is a subtle difference between ‘militarisation of space’ and ‘weaponisation of space’. Militarisation of space essentially occurs by using various space assets for purposes of information gathering or helping the military to undertake land, air and sea battles. But, the weaponisation of space signifies getting into the act of destroying of space assets of other states, either by using ground based or space based weapons. Also, the arming of satellites with weapons that would be used against ground targets could get included. Besides, the weapons used to attack missiles traveling through space could also be termed space weapons.

Now, it seems that a new era of fighting wars in space is likely to commence. On 11 January 2007, China successfully carried out an anti-satellite (ASAT) test. For this purpose they had targeted their own aging weather satellite FY-1C. The type of weapon used for this kill was KKV or kinetic kill vehicle. This is a non-explosive weapon, which was fired with the help of a ballistic missile in space. This weapon hit the satellite and it was fragmented due to impact. The Chinese ASAT test has added more debris to space which could put other satellites out of action in any collision with them. This test has questioned the world’s earlier belief that space would never become a battleground in future.

Actually, this is not the first time that such an act was undertaken. In 1959 and 1968 the US and the erstwhile USSR had tested anti-satellite systems. The late sixties was a period when ‘weaponisation of space’ was a much debated isue. The last ASAT test before this recent Chinese adventurism was carried out during the mid-eighties by the US. However, subsequently, the consequences of weaponising space were understood, and the superpowers realised that such tests would cause huge amounts of space debris which could harm their own satellites. So, an unwritten understanding was reached that states would not attempt to “conquer” this last bastion. But, the latest Chinese ASAT test indicates that this ‘space reality’ may change. Such tests would boost the desire of space powers to engage in one-upmanship.

However, the Chinese test cannot alone cannot be held responsible for creating ripples in the global space architecture. Over the years, the US has always taken an entirely divergent stand on matters relating to space security. Now it seems the Bush administration wants to enhance this asymmetry by placing offensive and defensive weapons into outer space. The January 2001, Donald Rumsfeld led Space Commission, had recommended that the military should “ensure that the President will have the option to deploy weapons in space”. In fact, Rumsfeld expressed the opinion that “space could be the next Pearl Harbour for the US”. In 2002, after examining this report, President Bush withdrew from the 30-year-old Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) with Russia, which had banned the placement of space-based weapons.
 

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