Discovery's final space trip begins

NASA launched the Space Shuttle Discovery on its last journey into space today. Six crew members commanded by NASA astronaut and Air Force officer Steven W. Lindsey, will stay in space 10 days and 19 hours and land at the Kennedy Space Center on 7 March 2011 at approximately 16:50 UTC. Discovery will spend two days heading toward its rendezvous with the International Space Station. On the second day of the flight, the crew will perform the standard scan of the shuttle’s thermal protection system using the orbiter boom sensor system attached to the end of Discovery’s robotic arm. On the third day of the flight, Discovery will approach and dock with the space station.

The mission will transport the Permanent Multipurpose Module Leonardo and the third of four ExPRESS Logistics Carriers (ELC4) to the ISS. The Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) is a large, reusable pressurized element, carried in the space shuttle’s cargo bay, originally used to ferry cargo back and forth to the station. For STS-133, the PMM, known as Leonardo, was modified to become a permanent module attached to the International Space Station. Once in orbit, the PMM will offer 70 additional cubic meters of pressurized volume for storage and for scientific use. The module is carried in the cargo bay of Discovery and will be connected to the Unity node on the station.

Almost 200 people from 15 countries have visited the International Space Station, but so far the orbiting complex has only ever had human crew members – until now. Robonaut 2, the latest generation of the Robonaut astronaut helpers, is set to launch to the space station aboard space shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 mission. It will be the first humanoid robot in space, and although its primary job for now is teaching engineers how dexterous robots behave in space, the hope is that through upgrades and advancements, it could one day venture outside the station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform scientific work.

Discovery was NASA’s third space shuttle orbiter to join the fleet at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Discovery also is known inside the space agency by its designation Orbiter Vehicle-103, or OV-103. Construction of Discovery began on Aug. 27, 1979 and was completed four years later. Discovery rolled out of the assembly plant building in Palmdale, California, October 1983 and was first launched Aug. 30, 1984 (STS-41D).

Discovery flew its maiden voyage on Aug. 30, 1984, on the STS-41D mission. Later missions included NASA’s return to flight after the loss of Challenger (September 1988) and Columbia (July 2005), launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990, the final Shuttle/Mir docking mission in June 1998 and Senator John Glenn’s shuttle flight in October 1998.

When first flown, Discovery became the third operational orbiter, and it currently is the oldest orbiter in service. It was named after two historic, Earth-bound exploring ships of the past. One was a vessel used by Henry Hudson in the early 1600s to explore the Hudson Bay and search for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The other was one of two ships used by the British explorer James Cook in the 1770s. Cook’s voyages in the South Pacific led to the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. Another of his ships was the Endeavour, the namesake of NASA’s newest shuttle.

After STS-133 Discovery will be the first space shuttle to retire from NASA’s fleet, having flown in space 39 times – more than any other shuttle.

News and Photo Credit : NASA

ഐ.ഐ.എസ്.ഇ.ആറിന്‍റെ ശാസ്ത്ര ക്വിസ് 26ന് തിരുവനന്തപുരത്ത്.

തിരുവനന്തപുരം: ഇന്ത്യന്‍ ഇന്‍സ്റ്റിട്യൂട്ട് ഓഫ് സയന്‍സ് എജ്യൂക്കേഷന്‍ ആന്‍ഡ് റിസര്‍ച്ചിന്‍റെ ശാസ്ത്രക്വിസ് മത്സരം ഫിബ്രവരി 26ന് ഇന്‍സ്റ്റിട്യൂട്ടില്‍  വച്ചു   നടക്കും.

ദേശീയ ശാസ്ത്രദിനമായ ഫിബ്രവരി 26-നോടനുബന്ധിച്ച് ഒന്‍പതാം ക്ലാസ് വിദ്യാര്‍ഥികള്‍ക്കുവേണ്ടിയാണ് മത്സരം. ഓരോ സ്‌കൂളിലെയും രണ്ട് കുട്ടികള്‍ക്ക് പങ്കെടുക്കാം. പ്രവേശനഫീസില്ല. വിജയികള്‍ക്ക് ക്യാഷ് അവാര്‍ഡ് നല്‍കും.

താത്പര്യമുള്ള സ്‌കൂളുകള്‍ വിദ്യാര്‍ഥികളുടെ പേരുള്‍പ്പെടെ എന്ന ഇ-മെയില്‍ വിലാസത്തില്‍ അപേക്ഷിച്ച് രജിസ്റ്റര്‍ ചെയ്യണം. അവസാനതീയതി ഫിബ്രവരി 22. വിവരങ്ങള്‍  ഇവിടെ :

ഫോണ്‍: 0471 - 2599400.

Lecture on Extra Solar Planets

Prof. K.Pappootty,Director to Institute of Encyclopaedia Publications and preident to AASTRO Kerala was the featured speaker at Science and Technology Museum,Thiruvananthapuram for the public talk organised by AASTRO on Feb 3rd.This lecture was a part of its monthly public lecture series.

He went through planet formation hypotheses, methods to detect planets around other stars and the present status of explorations on extrasolar planets.AASTRO members,students and public were present for the talk.

The monthly lectures on first thursday evening of every month are free and open to the public.For more updates one can contact the organisers.Ph : 9846608238.Events will be informed in this website too.

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope Discovers New Solar System 2,000 Light Years from Earth

NASA's Kepler space telescope, launched almost two years ago in an Earth trailing Solar Orbit, has detected an entire solar system around a star similar to the Sun designated Kepler-11 about two thousand light years from Earth.

Five of the planets, ranging from 2.3 to 13.5 times the mass of the Earth, are orbiting Kepler-11 in a tight orbit that has a period of only about fifty days, closer to the their star than Mercury is to the Sun. The sixth planet is larger and farther out with an orbital period of 118 days and has a mass yet to be determined.

The Kepler space telescope's mission is to find Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, which would be about the same size and mass as the Earth with an orbit around a star similar to the Sun in the "zone of habitability", far enough out to not be too warm, but not so far as to be too cold. While Kepler has beenracking up discovers of extrsolar planets, it has yet to discover another Earth. The discovery at Kepler-11 comes close and is, in itself, scientifically significant.

The Kepler detects planets by measuring the slight decrease in a star's brightness when a planet transits in front. The size is determined by the amount of decrease. The orbital period is determined by the time between transits.

Usually when a new planet is discovered, its mass is measured with Doppler spectroscopy which determines the amount of star's wobble that the gravitational pull of the planet causes. But Kepler-11 is too far away and the planets too small to use this method. Instead scientists measured the variations of the orbital periods caused by gravitational interactions among the planets.

Most new planets that have been discovered orbiting other stars have been gas giants, some of them much larger than Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, and mostly just one planet per star. The Kepler-11 discovery is remarkable in the number, size, and orbits of the newly discovered planets. Though none of Kepler-11's world could sustain life (at least as we know it) the discovery will allow scientists to study the interactions of a multi planet solar system, other than our own, for the first time in history.

The Kepler-11 discovery, while remarkable, is still short of the hoped filled detection of an Earth-like world orbiting another star. When that happens, whether it is on the Kepler mission or by some other means, the perception of humankind's role in the universe will change. Other Earth-like planets have been a staple of science fiction for many decades and scientists, simply by the law of averages, believe that other Earths exist. But the confirmation of one would be the most significant scientific discovery of this century so far.

CREDIT : Mark Whittington,Yahoo Contributors Network

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals