Space and astronomy digest: May 2010
Artist's impression of Akatsuki in orbit around Venus. Image: Akihiro Ikeshita / JAXA.
SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: MAY 2010
Royal Astronomical Society Press Release
Ref: RAS PN 10/38
Date: 30th April 2010
For immediate release
SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: MAY 2010 (RAS PN 10/38)
This release summarises some of the astronomy and space science events taking place during May, particularly those with UK involvement. It is not intended to be fully comprehensive and dates and times may be subject to change.
8TH MAY: LAUNCH OF FALCON 9 COMMERCIAL ROCKET, CAPE CANAVERAL
The Falcon 9 commercial launch vehicle, built by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is set to make its test launch on 8th May, when it will blast off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Founded in 2002, SpaceX uses vehicles like Falcon 9 to offer a commercial route for satellites and (eventually) crewed spacecraft to be placed into Earth orbit.
11TH MAY: RAS LUNCHTIME LECTURE: LANDING ON TITAN: RAS, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON
At 1300 BST on 11th May, Professor John Zarnecki of the Open University will give the latest RAS lunchtime public lecture. He will discuss the Huygens probe which successful landed on Saturn’s moon Titan in January 2005. Professor Zarnecki designed the 'Surface Science Package' that collected over 3.5 hours of data from the distant moon. In his lecture, he will describe the probe, its landing and the resulting extraordinary science that followed.
RAS lunchtime lectures
Dr Robert Massey
14TH MAY: RAS SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING: ASTROBIOLOGY ON THE MOON
On the 14th May, astronomers and space scientists will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society for a special meeting to discuss astrobiology on the Moon.
Although our natural satellite has almost certainly never supported any life of its own, future lunar exploration will reveal much of astrobiological interest. As the Earth's closest celestial neighbour it retains a unique record of the inner Solar System environment under which life evolved here. The Moon can also provide knowledge essential for the long-term exploration of space, including information on the survival of microorganisms, plants and humans in space and the spread of microbial contaminants in extreme planetary conditions. The delegates at this meeting will address these different aspects of lunar astrobiology in the context of future lunar exploration.
Bona fide members of the media who wish to attend this meeting should present their credentials at the registration desk of the RAS for free admission.
Dr Robert Massey
14TH MAY: LAUNCH OF SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS TO INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)
The launch window for the Space Shuttle Atlantis opens on 14th May. The 12-day mission, STS-132, will see Atlantis launch from the Kennedy Space Center and carry six astronauts, a research module, batteries and other equipment to the ISS. During the time Atlantis is docked with the Space Station, astronauts will carry out three spacewalks.
This mission is planned to be the last time that Atlantis will travel into space. The crew includes the British-born astronaut Dr Piers Sellers, who will be making his third spaceflight.
Tel: +1 202 358 1100
17TH MAY: LAUNCH OF AKATSUKI MISSION TO VENUS
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s Akatsuki mission is set to launch at 2244 BST on 17th May (0644 on the morning of 18th May in Japan). The probe will take off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan atop an H-IIA rocket. Akatsuki will travel to Venus, entering orbit around the planet in December 2010 after which it will study the planet for two years. Carrying several cameras and a radio science experiment, the mission will image the Venusian surface with an infrared camera and attempt to confirm or refute the presence of lightning and active volcanoes.
JAXA Public Affairs Dept
Tel: +81 3 6266 6400
Fax: +81 3 6266 6910
JAXA Akatsuki countdown
MAY’S NIGHT SKY
Information on stars, planets, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena is available from the British Astronomical Association (BAA) website: http://www.britastro.org
NOTES FOR EDITORS
THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS: www.ras.org.uk), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.