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02/25/2021 – Ephemeris – Moon Dust, bad stuff

February 25, 2021 Leave a comment

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, February 25th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 6:25, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:24. The Moon, 2 days before full, will set at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

One of the big problems that will have to be solved before the Artemis program sets up a permanent base on the Moon is what to do about lunar soil or Moon dust. That stuff gets into everything. The Apollo astronauts said it smelled like gunpowder. Unlike beach sand the particles aren’t rounded, but angular, being produced by rocks being hit by meteoroids large and micro over the eons by space weathering. With no atmosphere small particles can even weld themselves together. Though no studies have been done, any brought into the habitat would do damage to the lungs, like that to miners on Earth. Moon dust has compromised the seals on the containers of soil the Apollo crews brought back from the Moon.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Lunar soil

Lunar soil sample. Credit Larry Taylor U of TN Knoxville from https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20090026015/downloads/20090026015.pdf

02/18/2021 – Ephemeris – The Perseverance Rover will land on Mars this afternoon

February 18, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, February 18th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 37 minutes, setting at 6:15, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:36. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 1:30 tomorrow morning.

Later this afternoon the Perseverance Rover will land in Jezero crater on Mars. NASA will have a live Internet feed from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory starting at 2:15 pm EST (19:15 UTC). Atmospheric entry will be at 3:48 pm EST (20:48 UTC), landing at 3:55 pm EST (20:55 UTC). This is Earth received time. The events actually happened 11 minutes 22 seconds earlier on Mars. Though cameras on the spacecraft will be recording the landing activity it will not be sent to Earth in real time due to the weak signal during entry. The spacecraft will be sending tones only for specific events during what is called EDL, Entry, Descent and Landing or “Seven Minutes of Terror”. If all goes well the first images will be taken and sent of its surroundings. And in the next weeks we’ll get an actual replay sent back of the landing with color and sound. It will be so cool!

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Links

NASA on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nasa

NASA TV: https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/#public

Entry, Descent and Landing

Graphic of the Entry, Descent and Landing of the Perseverance Rover. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Perseverance drilling for sample

Perseverance drilling for a sample in Jezero crater. Artist drawing – NASA/JPL

02/16/2021 – Ephemeris – Perseverance lands on Mars in two days

February 16, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Fat Tuesday, Tuesday, February 16th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 32 minutes, setting at 6:13, and it will rise tomorrow at 7:39. The Moon, 3 days before first quarter, will set at 11:24 this evening.

In two days, Thursday afternoon, the Perseverance Rover will land on the planet Mars in a crater call Jezero. It’s mission to actually look for evidence of past life, fill specimen tubes to be cached for later pickup and returned to earth by a future mission, presumably by the end of the decade. It is also bringing a helicopter drone named Ingenuity to check out the feasibility of using future aircraft in Mars rarefied atmosphere. The vehicle, including the back shell and descent stage sports 23 cameras. Even Ingenuity has 2 cameras. That shouldn’t be a big deal today. Heck, my smartphone has 5 cameras, each with lots more megapixels than the digital camera I bought 15 years ago. Only two days to go to landing.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Entry, Descent and Landing

Graphic of the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) of the Perseverance Rover. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Link to the Mars 2020 Perseverance Landing Press Kit

01/21/2021 -Ephemeris – The Perseverance rover is less than a month from landing on Mars

January 21, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, January 21st. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 24 minutes, setting at 5:36, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:11. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 2:40 tomorrow morning.

The Mars Perseverance Rover is approaching the Red Planet. In a bit less than a month, on February 18th it will plunge into the martian atmosphere to land near an ancient river delta in the 28 mile (45 kilometer) wide crater Jezero. The dramatic entry-descent-and-landing or EDL is what the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, that built and manages the rover, calls Seven Minutes of Terror due to the complexity of the landing process and the fact that they will be bystanders at that point. By the time they receive confirmation that the encapsulated rover has hit the top of the martian atmosphere it would have already landed, or crashed on the martian surface. It will take over 11 minutes for signals to reach us from Mars that day.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Ancient delta flowing into

Delta of ancient river that flowed into a lake in the Jezero crater. This is a false color imaging highlighting mineral types. Credit NASA.

Mars Endurance Rover's planned landing ellipse

Mars Perseverance Rover’s planned landing ellipse partially overlapping the dried up river delta. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Mars 2020 Rover "Endurance"

Mars 2020 Rover “Perseverance” destined for the martian crater Jezero.

01/19/2021 – Ephemeris – The Moon is a pretty straight up orb

January 19, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, January 19th. Today the Sun will be up for 9 hours and 20 minutes, setting at 5:33, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:13. The Moon, 1 day before first quarter, will set at 12:36 tomorrow morning.

The Earth has an axial tilt to its orbit of the Sun of 23 ½ degrees. So the Earth has seasons, the cycle of which last one orbit of the Sun, or one year. Our Moon on the other hand has a 5 ½ degree axial tilt to its orbit of the Earth, but more importantly for future moon colonists, has only a degree and a half tilt compared to the Earth’s own orbit of the Sun. So there are spots at the north and south poles that never get the Sun’s heat or light. The Moon’s south polar region is more rugged with more and smaller craters than the north, so has collected, over the eons, what seems to be a great amount of water ice that is cold enough to be stable in the vacuum of space. That makes it an ideal place to build a sustainable lunar base.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Map of water at the Moon's poles

The Moon’s south pole area on the left and north pole on the right. The cyan color shows shadowed areas where ice is located. Credit NASA

10/26/2020 – Ephemeris – Why does everyone want to go to the Moon’s south pole?

October 26, 2020 Comments off

This is Bob Moler with Ephemeris for Monday, October 26th. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 26 minutes, setting at 6:39, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:14. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 4:01 tomorrow morning.

Why are the United States and other countries interested in the south pole of the Moon? Two reasons: Water and power. The Moon’s axial tilt to the Earth’s orbit is only a degree and a half. And I’ve seen a mountain peak at the south pole of the Moon sticking out in sunlight in a telescope on a crescent moon, with black all around it. While most of the Moon gets two weeks of daylight and another two of night, that peak is probably always in sunlight. And on the Moon there’s no atmosphere to diminish the strength of the Sun when its low in the sky. And there’s the floors of craters that have never seen the Sun where water ice and other volatile compounds from comets have collected over the eons.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

South pole ice

The south pole of the Moon where the presence of water ice is detected by the absorption of neutrons by the hydrogen atoms in the ice. Credit NASA/GSFC/SVS/Roscosmos.

 

10/23/2020 – Ephemeris – What is a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit?

October 23, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, October 23rd. Today the Sun will be up for 10 hours and 34 minutes, setting at 6:44, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:10. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 12:46 tomorrow morning.

When the astronauts of the Artemis program head for a landing on the Moon is as little as four years from now they will meet their lunar landing craft or Lunar Gateway space station with landing craft docked to it before they descend to the Moon. The orbit of the gateway and/or lander is an odd one. It’s called a near rectilinear halo orbit. And uses the motion and gravitational interaction of the Moon and Earth to create an orbit of the Moon which is nearly face-on to the Earth. The vehicles will never pass behind the Moon. The orbit will pass 1,900 miles (3,000 km) above the Moon’s north pole and out to 43,000 miles (70,000 km) above the south pole. It’s called a halo orbit, because as seen from the Earth it appears to trace a halo around the Moon.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

NASA CAPSTONE pathfinder for gateway orbit

NASA CAPSTONE* pathfinder for gateway orbit is to be launched next year by Rocket Lab to prove out the near rectilinear orbit for the Lunar Gateway. The orbit will always be more or less face on to the Earth, so it and the lunar lander will be always be in contact with the Earth. Credit Advanced Space via Spaceflight Now.

* Yes, CAPSTONE is an acronym: Cislunarˆ Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment. Aren’t you glad you asked?

ˆ Cislunar: The volume of space between the Earth and Moon’s orbit.

Lunar Gateway NASA

An artist’s rendition of the Lunar Gateway with the Orion spacecraft docked to it. Credit NASA.

For more information

https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/09/26/nasa-to-fly-cubesat-pathfinder-for-gateway-in-unique-lunar-orbit/

https://www.space.com/nasa-capstone-cubesat-moon-gateway.html

 

07/30/2020 – Ephemeris – This morning is the first opportunity to launch the Perseverance Rover to Mars

July 30, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Thursday, July 30th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 42 minutes, setting at 9:10, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:28. The Moon, 3 days past first quarter, will set at 3:11 tomorrow morning.

This morning is the scheduled launch of the Mars 2020 Rover named Perseverance. The launch will have or had launched at 7:50 am. Or the whole thing was scrubbed for today. I can’t tell, I recorded this last Sunday night. To hit a spot on Mars less than six miles in diameter after a six and a half month coasting flight is quite a fete. Mars is not only moving in orbit of the Sun, but also rotating. The aeroshell the rover is packed in must hit the Mars atmosphere in the right place, and the right time despite the light time from Mars of 11 minutes, 22 seconds. It will take 6 minutes, 50 seconds for the rover to land after it hits the top of Mars’ atmosphere. So it will have landed one way or another before we get the signal that it hit the atmosphere.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Atlas V with Mars 2020 Rover aboard on launch pad

Atlas V with Mars 2020 Rover aboard on launch pad. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit: United Launch Alliance (ULA).

07/28/2020 – Ephemeris – The Mars Endurance Rover may launch to Mars on Thursday

July 28, 2020 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Tuesday, July 28th. Today the Sun will be up for 14 hours and 47 minutes, setting at 9:12, and it will rise tomorrow at 6:26. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 1:49 tomorrow morning.

This Thursday at 7:50 am is the first opportunity to launch the Mars 2020 or Perseverance Rover to Mars to arrive on February 18th 2021. The rover will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5/Centaur rocket with 4 solid boosters. To send a payload to Mars one must launch within a specific window of time called a launch period. This was originally from July17 to August 11th. Some issues with testing caused a delay to July 30th. The launch period was extended to August 15th. Miss that and it’s a wait of 26 months until Earth and Mars are in the same relative position to try again. The landing area or ellipse is less than 6 miles long on the long axis and partially overlaps an ancient dried river delta that flowed into Jezero crater.

The event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

Artist's concept of the Mars 2020 Rover launch

An artist’s concept of the Mars 2020 Rover launch. The rocket is an Atlas V with 4 solid boosters and a Centaur upper stage. Credit NASA.

 

12/05/2019 – Ephemeris – Artemis the new Moon program

December 5, 2019 Comments off

Ephemeris for Thursday, December 5th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 58 minutes, setting at 5:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:05. The Moon, 1 day past first quarter, will set at 2:01 tomorrow morning. | NASA has a new program to return to the Moon, perhaps to stay. The program is called Artemis, named after the Greek god Apollo’s twin sister. NASA is building a massive rocket called the Space Launch System, or SLS, and the Orion

, which I’m sure will guarantee European astronauts a ride. This is not going to be an Apollo type one rocket up and back. There will be a space station called the Lunar Gateway of International partners that will orbit the Moon. There the crew of the Orion Spacecraft will transfer to a Lunar Lander for the trip to and from the surface of the Moon. It’s a heavy push to accomplish by 2024.

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.

Addendum

The Block 1b vrsion of the Space Launch System (SLS) which uses elongated Space Shuttle boosters and a core stage with 4 Space Shuttle main engines for the first stage. Credit NASA.

Orion MPC

Cone-shaped Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle with a European Service Module. Credit NASA.

Lunar Gateway

Lunar Gateway supplied by the same partners that built the International Space Station. It will orbit the Moon, Credit NASA.

Lunar Lander

Lunar Lander. This vehicle has not been designed yet. This is Blue Origin’s Ascent Module on top of a yet to be designed propulsion module. Credit Blue Origin.