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Venus Near the Moon [image]

Here's an image from the Astronomy Picture of the Day showing the Moon and Venus.

"The two brightest objects in the night sky appeared to go right past each other last week. On the night of May 19, Earth's Moon and the planet Venus were visible in the same part of the sky, and at closest approach were less than one degree apart.

NASA to build new stand to test Ares rocket engines

A concept drawing of the J-2X rocket engine. Credits: NASA

[08.05.2007 - NASA Press Release]
NASA will test one of the rocket engines it is developing for its new launch vehicles at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The agency will build a new test stand at Stennis for the J-2X engine. The engine will power the upper stages of NASA's Ares I and Ares V rockets.

Stennis already is home to Apollo-era test stands that have served the nation's space program through the shuttle era. The newly proposed structure will be the first large test stand built at the center since the 1960s. Unlike the older structures, the new 300-foot-tall, open-frame design will allow engineers to simulate conditions at different altitudes.

NASA Awards Heat Shield Material Contracts for Orion Spacecraft

Thermal protection system (TPS) material coupon undergoing test at 1000 W/cm^2. Credits: NASA

[04.05.2007 - NASA Press Release]
NASA has selected The Boeing Company, Huntington Beach, Calif., and Textron Systems, Wilmington, Mass., to develop alternate heat shield materials for the Orion crew exploration spacecraft.

The two contracts for Alternate Block 2 Thermal Protection System
(TPS) Materials and Heat Shield Systems Advanced Development will support development and testing of three alternative heat shield materials, designs and manufacturing processes. Under the contracts, the companies will work to ensure the technologies are mature enough to become viable backups if there are difficulties with the primary material.

NASA's Centennial Challenge to Excavate Moon Dirt Set for May 12

Artist impression of a regolith exavator. Credits: NASA

[04.05.2007 - NASA Press Release]
On Saturday, May 12, teams from around the nation will compete for a total of $250,000 from NASA for an autonomously operating system to excavate simulated "lunar regolith," or the moon's soil. The Regolith Excavation Challenge, one of NASA's seven Centennial Challenges, will take place at the Santa Maria Fairpark, Santa Maria, Calif. The competition on May 12 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

NASA rejects Russian Moon cooperation

The Apollo-Soyuz mission patch. Credits: NASA

BBC reports that the US has rejected a Moscow proposal that the two countries join forces to explore the Moon. "We were ready to co-operate, but for unknown reasons, the United States have said they will undertake this programme themselves," Anatoly Perminov said.

US space agency NASA has said it plans to start work on a base on the Moon when astronauts return there in 2020. NASA has not commented on Mr Perminov's statement, reported by Interfax news. NASA and Russia's federal space agency Roskosmos have experience of working together on the International Space Station (ISS).

Science vs. Exploration: A Piggyback Solution?

Lunex honorary board member Harrison Schmitt on the surface of the Moon. Credits: NASA

[Astrobiology Magazine - 29.03.2007]
Which is a better investment, science or exploration? The question is almost as old as the space program itself, and answering it won’t get any easier as humans move toward establishing a lunar base. But could science be an inevitable outgrowth of exploration? The exploration needed to occupy the moon will give us plenty of opportunities for basic lunar science. As the drive to explore and colonize the moon switches into high gear, some scientists worry that funding exploration could drain resources away from pure science.

LCROSS passes major review

LCROSS heading towards the Moon. Credits: NASA

NASA's unmanned Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, known as LCROSS, achieved a key milestone recently when NASA officials approved critical elements of a moon impact mission scheduled to launch in October 2008. It will search for water and other materials that astronauts could use at a future lunar outpost.

NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the mission, valued at $79 million, excluding launch costs. The mission will help NASA gain a new foothold on the moon and prepare for new journeys to Mars and beyond.

NASA Unveils Global Exploration Strategy and Lunar Architecture

Earth-rise seen from Apollo 8. Credits: NASA.

[NASA Press Release] HOUSTON – NASA on Monday unveiled the initial elements of the Global Exploration Strategy and a proposed U.S. lunar architecture, two critical tools for achieving the nation's vision of returning humans to the moon.

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale, who is guiding the long-term strategy development effort among 14 of the world's space agencies, said, "This strategy will enable interested nations to leverage their capabilities and financial and technical contributions, making optimum use of globally available knowledge and resources to help energize a coordinated effort that will propel us into this new age of discovery and exploration."

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