CSExtra – Wednesday, August 22, 2012
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Wednesday’s CSExtra offers the latest reporting and commentary on space related activities from around the world. On Mars, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover prepares for a short first drive. Steering, robot arm check outs go well. In Europe, a joint French German study favors upgrades to the Ariane V launcher. China looks to an X-ray telescope for black hole studies. Two essays re-visit Pluto’s dwarf planet status and India’s plans for a low cost Mars mission. Distant Neptune nears opposition.
1. From Space.com: NASA’s Curiosity rover is prepared for its first short drive on Mars since touching down in Gale Crater on Aug.6. Motion is expected on Wednesday. http://www.space.com/17211-mars-rover-first-drive-wednesday.html
A. From CBS News: Curiosity will attempt a 10-foot first drive. The drive follows successful check outs of the rover’s steering system and robot arm. A broken wind sensor will not have a mission impact, according to engineers on Tuesday. http://www.cbsnews.com/network/news/space/home/spacenews/files/082112_msl_update.html
B. From the Washington Post: Curiosity’s mission is awakening a global interest in space exploration, writes columnist Vivek Wadhwa. But he finds the push from a government agency lacking. The real push for space exploration is coming from the commercial sector, he writes. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-innovations/why-nasas-insight-is-too-little-too-late/2012/08/21/ecc939f8-ebb6-11e1-a80b-9f898562d010_story.html
2. From Space News: A joint French-German study backs an upgrade to the Ariane 5 over a new Ariane 6 as the European commercial launch vehicle of choice. However, wider deliberations await, possibly producing a consensus in late November. http://www.spacenews.com/launch/120821-study-backs-ariane5-upgrade.html
3. From Xinhuanet of China: China’s space plans include an X-ray telescope for the study of black holes, a top Chinese astronomer informs the International Astronomical Union in Beijing on Tuesday. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2012-08/21/c_131799182.htm
A. From Xinhuanet of China: “We will make larger investments in basic research and ensure their execution, as well as provide long-term and stable support for scientists,” Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping tells those at the opening of the IAU annual conference in Beijing, the first IAU gathering of its kind to be hosted by China. Also, physicist Charles Bennett, of Johns Hopkins University, is recognized for his research on the cosmic microwave background radiation. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/sci/2012-08/21/c_131799184.htm
4. From The Space Review: Two essays from this week’s edition look at the ongoing debate over Pluto’s status in the hierarchy of planetary bodies and India’s plans for a Mars mission.
A. In “Dwarf planet, dwarf controversy” TSR editor Jeff Foust re-visits a meeting of the International Astronomical Union’s General Assembly a half dozen years ago. During the deliberations, Pluto was re-classified as a “Dwarf Planet.” Debate over the decision lingers. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2140/1
B. “In India announces a Mars mission,” Ajey Lele examines the early August announcement from India that it will launch an orbiter to Mars in November 2013. “The forte of India’s entire space program is its cost effectiveness,” writes Lele, who notes the Mars price tag is about $90 million. The orbiter will carry instruments to study the terrain and climate conditions. Lele works for a New Delhi think tank, the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2139/1
5. From Astronomy Now: A primer on distant Neptune, the blue ice giant planet, with a ring system and 13 moons. Neptune comes into opposition on Aug. 24, or the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. One trip around the sun takes 165 years. http://www.astronomynow.com/news/n1208/21neptune/
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