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RAS PN05/33: MAY SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST

Last Updated on Monday, 30 January 2006 10:47
Published on Friday, 29 April 2005 00:00
This release contains a summary of some significant astronomical and space events that will be taking place during May 2005. It has been written in order to assist the media in planning and researching future stories related to space science and astronomy, particularly those with UK involvement. It is not intended to be fully comprehensive. Dates and times may be subject to change.

4 MAY: EUROPE'S PLANS FOR MAN IN SPACE - EUROPE AND THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION AS THE SPACE SHUTTLE RETURNS TO ORBIT.

On Wednesday 4 May, Robert Chesson, Head of the Operations Management Division in ESA‘s Directorate of Human Spaceflight will give a lecture on Europe’s Future Plans For Human Spaceflight. The lecture will take place at the Royal Aeronautical Society, 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ, starting at 18:00.

Chesson will provide the latest news from Cape Canaveral as the critical STS-114 launch approaches (see below). He will also discuss the impact of the Columbia accident on Europe’s International Space Station plans, as well as ESA's future Aurora Exploration Programme, currently in its preparatory phase.




13 MAY: ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING -
THE ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION OF LIFE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM

10:30-13:30
in the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1.

Astrobiology is a field of growing and interdisciplinary interest, encompassing research into extremophiles (organisms that survive in extremely hostile environments), searches for life on other planets, meteorites, new techniques for finding life, and experiments both in the laboratory and in space.

The meeting will address current research in astrobiology, with a particular emphasis concerning the influence of life on planetary atmospheres and relevant signatures that can be detected externally as indicators of life. The programme will include discussions of future missions, including potential UK involvement in ESA’s Aurora exploration programme and the Darwin space telescope that will be capable of detecting Earth-sized exoplanets. Also included are papers on techniques to detect life on other worlds and the prospects for life on other worlds (including comets).


Section I: General Astrobiology


10:30 Dr. Max Wallis and Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe (Cardiff Univ.)
Subcrustal lakes for cometary biology


10:45 Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe et al (Cardiff Univ.)
Studies of Stratospheric particles of presumed cometary origin

11:00 Dr. Victoria Pearson (Open Univ.)
Organic synthesis and processing in carbonaceous chondrites

Section II: Methods for In-situ Detection of Life on Mars


11:15 Prof. Howell Edwards (Bradford Univ.)
Laser Raman Detection of Biomolecules on Mars


11:35 Dr. Alex Ellery (Surrey Univ.)
Aurora Programme Opportunities for Robotic Astrobiology


11:55 Prof. Colin Pillinger (Open Univ.)
Detecting Life on Mars: the Beagle Way for the ESA Aurora Mission in 2011


Section III: Life and Exoplanets.


12:15 Prof. Barrie Jones et al (Open Univ.)
Prospects for habitable "Earths" in known exoplanetary systems


12:35 Prof. Glenn White (Univ. of Kent)
Darwin space telescope


12:55 Prof. Hugh Jones (Univ. of Hertfordshire)
Exoplanet atmospheres


CONTACTS:





13 MAY: ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY OPEN (MONTHLY A&G) MEETING
16:00–18:00 in the Lecture Theatre of the Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1.

Among the distinguished speakers will be Prof. Jerry Ostriker, one of the world‘s leading authorities on theoretical astrophysics and cosmology. The programme is as follows:


“Conflict in the cosmos” - Fred Hoyle's life in science
Dr. Simon Mitton (St Edmund's College, Cambridge)


“The solar coronal heating problem: why has it not yet been solved?” - a review of past and present approaches to solving the enigma of the Sun's hot corona.
Dr. Clare Parnell (St. Andrews)


“Our best chance for life on Mars: an equatorial frozen sea.”
Dr. John Murray (OU)


“Hot gas in galaxies and clusters”
Prof. Jerry Ostriker (Princeton & IoA, Cambridge)



22 MAY TO 3 JUNE: LAUNCH WINDOW FOR STS-114, THE FIRST SHUTTLE MISSION SINCE THE COLUMBIA DISASTER

The 114th Space Shuttle flight will be the first Shuttle flight since the loss of Columbia on 1 February 2003. The so-called Shuttle Return to Flight (RTF) mission is scheduled for lift-off during a window lasting from 22 May to 3 June. In response to the recommendations of the accident investigation board, major changes have been incorporated into the Shuttle Discovery for the mission, including a redesigned External Tank, new sensors and a boom that will allow astronauts to inspect the Shuttle for any potential damage.

The seven-member Discovery crew, commanded by Air Force Col. Eileen M. Collins, will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) primarily to test and evaluate new safety inspection and repair techniques. STS-114 is classified as Logistics Flight 1. Station-related activities include delivery of supplies and replacement of one of the Station’s Control Moment Gyroscopes (CMGs). STS-114 will also carry the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module and the External Stowage Platform-2.

The crew is scheduled to conduct at least three spacewalks while at the ISS. The first of these will demonstrate techniques for repairing the Shuttle's Thermal Protection System. During the second, the spacewalkers will replace the failed gyroscope. On the third, they will install the External Stowage Platform.




31 MAY: LAUNCH OF COSMOS 1, THE WORLD’S FIRST SOLAR SAIL SPACECRAFT

Cosmos 1, the world’s first solar sail spacecraft, is currently scheduled for launch on 31 May. When fully deployed, it will comprise 8 triangular sails, each 15 m (50 feet) in length, configured like spokes around a central spacecraft. The sails will be deployed by inflatable tubes once the spacecraft is in orbit. The spacecraft will be launched from a submerged Russian submarine in the Barents Sea. It will be carried into orbit on board a Volna rocket - a converted ICBM left over from the old Soviet arsenal.

Cosmos 1 will orbit the Earth at an altitude of over 800 km (500 ml). It will gradually raise its orbit by solar sailing - using the pressure of photons (light particles) from the Sun upon its luminous sails. The spacecraft is being built in Russia by NPO Lavochkin under contract to The Planetary Society. Cosmos Studios is the project's sole sponsor. The mission will demonstrate the feasibility of solar sail flight, hopefully opening the way to interplanetary travel and someday - sailing to the stars.

A solar sail is a spacecraft without an engine - it is pushed along directly by light particles from the Sun, reflecting off giant mirror-like sails. Because it carries no fuel and keeps accelerating over almost unlimited distances, it is the only technology now in existence that can one day take us to the stars.