Current Event Reports
In this section we report on important space-related events that occurred during the time we were researching and building this Web site. These events include launches of shuttle launches, Mars rovers, new parts of the ISS, and more. They are reported in chronological order (from earliest to most recent).
August 4, 2007: Phoenix Mars Rover
The Phoenix Mars rover is a rover designed to go up to Mars and collect data from the ice water that is beneath a couple of meters of soil. It will also take samples of the soil. It was launched August 4, 2007 and is supposed to land in May, 2008. When it lands on Mars it will have to use its thrusters to gently land. It will land in the northern region.
Barry Goldstein, the project manager, and his team have worked on this for four years. If everything goes as planned, it will be the first successful landing of this method since the Viking 1 and 2 probes. The soil and ice samples will see whether the ice has melted in the recent past and if the tilt of Mars’ axis has changed from 10 degrees to 40 degrees over 50,000 years.
Source: Phoenix lander blasts off to Mars. Accessed Sept. 30, 2007 at space.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn12422&print=true
August 8, 2007:STS-118
STS-118 was a shuttle mission to the ISS (International Space Station). The shuttle used was Endeavour. It lifted off on August 8th 2007. It was launched from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. It was Endeavour’s first flight since STS-113 in November 2002. STS-113 was the last flight before the loss of Columbia on STS-107. STS-118's objective was to bring two new modules to the ISS. It had some problems with its heat protection tiles, but the mission was successful.
September 2007: India's Space Mission
Public domain (link).
India is planning a manned space mission and an unmanned moon mission. Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization Madhavan Nair says that a manned moon mission is not possible at the moment because it requires a very, very powerful rocket. Nair says that if everything goes right, they will have a man orbiting the Earth in eight years. India has been able to launch many Indian-made satellites and has become the fifth country to enter a commercial satellite launch market. Nair says, “The unmanned moon mission in April next year will cost 3.8 billion rupees.”
September, 2007: Opportunity, Mars Rover
Opportunity, a Mars rover, finally reached its first stop in Victoria crater. It parked 40 feet below the crater lip at a 25 degree angle. That’s the steepest angle Opportunity has ever been at. It parked in front of a layer of shiny bedrock. It is expected to stay in place for at least a week to explore the rock. Spirit, another Mars rover, is currently exploring a plateau called Homeplate for evidence of a volcano.
Spirit and Opportunity are two Mars rovers that landed on opposite sides of Mars. They were designed to go 600 yards and last three months. They have been working for the past three years and have each gone about three miles.
October 25, 2007: Shuttle Discovery Launch
On October 25, 2007, the U.S. space shuttle Discovery, which was piloted by Pamela Melroy, docked onto the International Space Station (ISS). The Discovery was delivering the Harmony to the ISS so other space crafts can enter the station. The Harmony is a long cylinder that will allow crafts to dock easily to the ISS. Another reason the shuttle was launched was to move a large main solar panel to a different place in the station. During this docking, five space walks took place before the end of the visit on November 4, 2007. Before the journey back, the shuttle’s heat shield was checked because of a groundless concern that part of it had disintegrated at takeoff. Despite the concern the Discovery returned safely home to Earth.
February 7, 2008: Atlantis Launch
Space shuttle Atlantis safely launched at 2:45 p.m. on Thursday February 7, 2008, at the Kennedy space center. . Atlantis had been delayed for two months because of fuel gauge problems. Atlantis had a gift from Europe to the International Space Station: a science lab called Columbus. Columbus took 23 years to make and is the European Space Agency’s biggest contribution to the space lab. Columbus cost $1.2 billion to make. Columbus is a research lab designed to research agriculture and industry in space. The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s government-sponsored space agency. Its members includeFrance, England, Germany, Wales, and other European countries.
Febuary 21, 2008: Satellite Destruction
On Wednesday the 21st of February 2008 the U.S. military shot down a U.S. spy satellite. The missile that shot down the satellite was fired from a Navy ship. The satellite was shot down because it contained toxic propellant. If this satellite had not been shot by the missile, it would have fallen to Earth in early March. The military had to shoot the satellite’s fuel tank because if the fuel tank remained intact as the satellite fell to Earth, anyone who came in contact with the fuel could have been injured or killed because the fuel contained hydrazine.
Russian officials said that the true goal of the satellite shoot down was to test anti-satellite weapons. U.S. officials denied this. In 2007, the Chinese shot down a satellite. Now that the U.S. and China have both tested “anti-satellite” technology, Russia may be tempted to do the same. These U.S. and Chinese actions have raised fears of a new race for weapons in space.
March 9, 2008: European Cargo Space Ship Begins Maiden Voyage
Named after the French reporter Jules Verne, this new unmanned cargo-ship began its maiden voyage on March 9, 2008. It is carrying fresh food, clothing, and vital supplies for the International Space Station. This is its first flight. After a six-month stay at the ISS, the cargo ship will be sent back into Earth's atmosphere for disposal. The cargo ship is about the size of a double-decker London bus. ESA officals are going to launch five more such cargo ships at 18-month intervals. The Jules Verne is the biggest cargo ship of its time.
March 11, 2008: Japan's New Space Project
Caption.Courtesy of Shigenobu AOKI (link).
Japan has only gone into space once, and it’s about to go in again. Japan is going to launch a small storage space into space for the ISS. Astronaut Takao Doi and his team of six are going to the station on shuttle Endeavor on March 11, 2008. The team will stay there for sixteen days. This is the longest construction mission in history for the ISS. They will install the module on top of the ISS’s Harmony connecting node, deliver the Dextre maintenance robot for the Canadian Space Agency and change out one member of the laboratories crew.
Dextre, the two armed robot that Japan is delivering, is a giant. They will have to put it together over 16 days. This mission is the longest in history for the ISS and will include 5 space walks. This is also the most walks in a single mission. Three of the space walks will have Dextre in them. Dextre has 11-foot arms and is 12 feet high. He will fly on the shuttle in pieces and be assembled on the space station. Dextre costs 200 million dollars and was created by the Canadian Space Agency.