Thursday, June 5, 2008

BepiColombo Update

After receiving information that certain rumours hit the internet (translated version here) about serious problems affecting the BepiColombo mission, envolving increasing costs and, serious enough, according to an anonymous source to endanger the mission to the point of cancellation, I have contacted Dr. Johannes Benkhoff, in order to know the facts from BepiColombo Project Scientist himself.

And what had Dr. Benkhoff to tell to spacEurope readers? According to the Project Scientist, who was not able to read these rumours, made himself available to list some facts:

During the development and the thoroughly study of the mission with respect to available technology's which can survive the harsh environment around Mercury, the team encountered a strong mass increase of the spacecraft. Currently the mission is above the capabilities of the Soyuz fregat launcher. Therefore, in Benkhoff's words, a solution needs to be found, this goes through two possibilities that are currently under discussion: Decrease of the mass by allowing more risks or looking for another more powerful launcher which has the draw back of more costs.

The Project Scientist informed spacEurope that a "Tiger Team" is, now, investigating both options. The work of the Tiger Team has not finished yet.

We hope to return soon with more details.

Dr. Benkhoff just informed spacEurope that the Tiger Team will work until the PDR (Preliminary Design Review). This Review is foreseen to be finished before the end of the year. The Project Scientist expects an official announcement of any changes to the mission (possible new launcher, revised mission profile, etc.) within the next couple of months.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Home for spacEurope?

While on Mars the time is to dig, here on Earth I am digging for time...

Updates have not been as regular as I whish them to be but I think that this is happening for a good reason.
But not all is I made mention to yesterday, Barry Goldstein, Phoenix Project Manager, will be soon at spacEurope for another Live Q&A and Stuart Atkinson will deliver us a new, and promising interview with Mark Lemmon, Phoenix Co-Investigator, SSI Lead, Dust Cycles, Texas A&M University.

Stay alert!

In the meanwhile here is why (besides the extra amount of work I'm dealing with...) spacEurope has been a bit rusty...
I have been, during the days of life of this blog, comparing spacEurope to a home, to a place where everyone is welcomed, where everyone has a role.
Brick by brick, step by step.
Some of you know, others don’t, that I am a pilgrim, in the sense that I, literally, walk the paths of this planet in search for answers and, more important in my perspective, posing new questions.
Call it a personal q’n’a if you wish…
In the course of those walks I feel privileged to have crossed my journey with other humans and their experiences which always taught me something, at least to be aware that my reality isn’t the world’s omphalo…
In the course of those walks I have met people that have dedicated their lives to those who, like me, assume this walking way of knowing our world as a very important aspect of our existence.
That was something I have been thinking for a long time. To host.
To build a house of knowledge, a place where people could share perspectives, a place to speak, listen, see and learn.
A place where one would bring what could and take what needed.

I’ve been investing some money, and the return of that investment will permit me to pass from a virtual place into a wood and stone one in the year of 2009.

The objective? To welcome you, reader, and all those with the will to learn that might land in a inner, hidden, peaceful corner of Portugal.

Ideas regarding the structure of the place are still finding their way, still getting acquainted, but the main issue will be that this house for the Homo Viator would have basically the same structure as this blog you are visiting, non profitable.
Taking a look into the future things would work in a way that solidarity assumes a very important role.
People would express their will to visit, there would be places for 20/30 people, we could even organize thematic workshops there…
Since there would be no money involved, the idea was to each one bringing something that would become part of this house of friends with knowledge as quest.
A book, a bottle of wine, an idea, something from back home…
Something that would make of this place a home where everyone visiting would feel as it own.
Although I have posted a picture
in a previous post, the location is not yet decided, that is why other candidates make their appearance as the one below…

Just imagine that patio in a hot summer night filled with people around a table in a conversation until the rise of the sun…Although both this estates (and others…) please me a lot, they are for sale now and I doubt that it will be available within a year, and more area is required to permit that what I intend to do become a reality, with lots of space to satisfy the objectives of those arriving, and this can vary, if someone comes with the spirit of gathering around a table discussing, perfect! If someone needs a place where it can be on its own, to study, to work in a peaceful environment, to think…perfect!
Whatever is your goal, your search, your dream...hope to see you there one year from now!
Until then, I'll try to give keep you inform about the latest developments.


Rui Borges
Sintra Portugal
spacEurope Editor

Monday, June 2, 2008

Phoenix Special > Can this be it?

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Max Planck Institute

Can this be it?...

According to Uwe Keller, Robotic Arm Camera lead scientist from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, what we see in this image of "Snow Queen" is in agreement with the notion that it may be ice, and the team suspect that they will see the same thing in the digging area.

On a e-mail received by spacEurope yesterday, our dear Barry Goldstein, Phoenix Project Manager, told us that the science team thinks indeed that this is ice and indicated that "once we complete the fix for the TEGA (shortly) we will be able to validate that it is water ice."

When will we have more answers about it? Goldstein answers:

"As I right this (Sunday), the downlink for yesterday should be coming. We should have touched the surface with the arm. If all goes well. Monday would be the earliest."

In fact, Phoenix already did touched the soil, More...for the first time, it reached out and touched the Martian ground on Saturday, May 31.

Phoenix's Robotic Arm scoop left an impression that resembles a footprint at a place provisionally named Yeti in the King of Hearts target zone, away from the area that eventually will be sampled for evaluation:

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Oh...remember the great Live Q&A we had with Barry before the Phoenix Landing?...Take your time but get ready...

He'll be back...Barry told us that, as soon as things calm down a bit, he would be happy to return here and do another bloging session with spacEurope readers.

In Barry's words, our support is greatly appreciated at JPL, and I'll add, let's make them appreciate it even more...what do you say?

Things are really moving in a really special and interesting path there, at the martian arctic...