Space & Astronomy News…

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Space Shuttle Crew Enter Zarya

Mission Specialists Susan Helms and Yury Usachev entered the International Space Station on Monday. They found the station clean, comfortable and generally in good condition.

Ahead of schedule, the astronauts replaced the batteries, chargers and installed three fire extinguishers. Commander Jim Halsell will start to correct ISS’s orbit, using Atlantis’ small steering jets.

See my shuttle page for more details

For those wishing to track the shuttle’s orbit during the mission, the Keplerian orbital elements (NASA 2- line format) can be found on my Keplers page.

Astronauts Complete Space Walk

Astronauts James Voss and Jeff Williams completed the fifth space walk in the construction of the International Space Station. During the space walk they accomplished all of their tasks. The next major event will be the entry into the space station Monday night. They will also begin the battery transfer into Zarya.

Mars Polar Lander Design Flaw Causes Crash?

NASA has said that a flaw in the design of the Mars Polar Lander could have caused its engines to shut down early while the spacecraft was descending to the surface. This is one of several possibilities under consideration by NASA as to why they have not been able to make contact with the spacecraft since Dec. 3.

According to Sam Thurman, the lander’s flight operations manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the problem has been identified with the design of the lander, and is one of several possible causes of the loss of of the spacecraft Two review boards are examining the various failure scenarios and the implications for future Mars missions.

Because no data was returned during the lander’s descent, the cause of the failure may never be known.

Other scenarios include the possibility that the spacecraft landed on the steep side of a canyon and toppled over; the descent thrust was uneven; or its radios failed.

The latest scenario suggests jarring during descent may have triggered an early engine shutdown, thus causing it to crash into the surface.

Polar Lander’s failure has followed the embarrassing loss of its companion orbiting spacecraft, the Mars Climate Orbiter. Engineers discovered that a failure to convert English measurements into metric units caused the orbiter to burn up in the atmosphere as it was beginning to circle the planet Sept. 23.

Shuttle Docking with ISS
Astronauts check air quality inside Unity Module.

Astronauts attach the Strela crane to ISS

Mars Polar Lander
Mars Polar Lander on Martian Surface
- An Artist’s Impression -
Astronomers Find “Lost” Asteroid

Asteroid 719 Albert has been re-acquired by astronomers at the Minor Planet Centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was last seen in 1911 by Johann Palisa of the Imperial Observatory in Vienna.

Albert orbits the Sun at 300 million miles every 4.28 years, and comes closest to the Earth every 30 years. It last came closest in 1911, 1941, 1971 and will come closest again in 2001.

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