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(NAPSI)—Good news for anyone who has ever wondered how astronomers track objects like comets or what it would be like to study an asteroid belt up close. The new Great Balls of Fire interactive exhibit at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex lets you do that and much more, while discovering the risks that asteroids, comets and meteorites present to the planet. The exhibit explores how to keep track of near-Earth objects while examining the effects of possible impacts. It includes the Asteroid Encounter experience that lets you climb aboard a “spaceship” and blast off to the asteroid belt and Jupiter while compiling data about asteroids and comets. You can also explore what would happen if one of these celestial bodies were to hit close to home, determine Science Fact or Science Fiction of Hollywood movie clips and take part in many other activities. While at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, you can also see the historic Atlantis spacecraft, a Saturn V moon rocket, IMAX 3-D space films, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and tour Kennedy Space Center itself. Further facts and fun can be found at (855) 378-0167 and www.KennedySpaceCenter.com. You may even win a bit of space all your own. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Astronomy magazine have partnered to host the Great Balls of Fire Sweepstakes, giving away a 9.6-pound authentic meteorite collectible and a space adventure trip for four to the Visitor Complex. You can enter the sweepstakes online at www.astronomy.com/KennedySweeps until midnight on Nov. 30.
Faster than a speeding bullet comes the comet Siding Spring, which will have the attention of UA scientists as it passes Mars on Oct. 19.
The OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission team invites the public to submit short statements and images about solar system exploration – today and in the future – to fly aboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launching in 2016.
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(NAPSI)—Space Shuttle astronauts and American heroes Shannon Lucid and Jerry Ross recently joined the ranks of legendary space pioneers Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, Sally Ride and John Young with their induction into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame during a moving ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Lucid is the only American woman to serve aboard the Russian Space Station Mir, and Ross is the first human to complete seven space shuttle missions. The setting for the induction, underneath the Atlantis orbiter in the new Space Shuttle AtlantisSM attraction at the Visitor Complex, was fitting because Atlantis carried Lucid to Mir for her historic 188 days on the space station in 1996, and five of Ross' seven flights were on Atlantis. The Astronaut Hall of Fame, part of the popular Visitor Complex, features fascinating and historic spacecraft from the U.S. Space Program and the world's largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia.
Six University of Arizona engineering, math and biology students are getting set to turn somersaults in the name of research.
The students are members of the UA Microgravity Research Team, which is one of 18 U.S. undergraduate teams chosen to participate in NASA's 2014 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. Acrobatics aside, their mission is to explore the effects of weightlessness on organic polymer synthesis.
Polymers are large molecules composed of many repeated subunits, called monomers. Naturally occurring examples include starch, cellulose and rubber. Synthetic polymers are used in a wide variety of products, ranging from replacement heart valves to sports helmets.
The team's research will lay the groundwork for onboard production of polymers for spacecraft repair, the fabrication of insulation for spacesuits, and materials production on long missions.
The UA Microgravity Research Team is at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for a visit that began May 30 and ends Saturday.
The highlight of the week will be a flight on NASA's Low-G Flight Research aircraft. This plane – called G-Force One – flies researchers and their experiments through a series of parabolic flight patterns in a weightless environment, topping out at 34,000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico.
After descending from the apex of a parabola, leveling out and beginning another ascent, humans and their gear are pinned to the floor by double the gravitational force humans experience on the Earth's surface. As the plane pushes over the top of the parabola, weightlessness takes over – the technical term is microgravity – and it's research time.
Microgravity aboard G-Force One lasts about 25 seconds, which calls for very efficient experimentation.
"All we have to do is flip a switch," said aerospace engineering student Ruben Adkins, founder of the Microgravity Research Team. The switch activates a heat gun aimed at test tubes full of organic liquid whose molecules have a structure based on chains of six carbon atoms. Gasoline molecules, by comparison, have chains of eight carbon atoms. The heat initiates the polymerization process and turns the liquid six-carbon monomers into a solid foam polymer made up of carbon chains thousands of atoms long.
The UA team's experiments are expected to address as yet unanswered questions. For example, is tensile strength improved in polymers that are fabricated in microgravity? What happens to density? Thermal resistance? Impact strength? The team has already conducted experiments on Earth to determine the properties of the foam polymer created at normal gravity. When the students return, they will conduct the same experiments on the foam created under microgravity aboard G-Force One and compare results to see how different gravities affect the polymer's properties.
"We're working in an area that hasn't been quantified before," Adkins said.
The plane is expected to fly as many as 35 parabolas, and the UA team had 26 tests planned.
When they're not working, they'll enjoy a G-Force One tradition: weightless playtime.
The gleeful somersaults, back flips and walks across the ceiling of the cabin last for only a few seconds. Then it's back to the padded floor for another descent and ascent.
The steep ascents and descents – with weightless interludes – can wreak havoc on the digestive system. Hence the plane's nickname: the Vomit Comet. All passenger flight suits have an airsickness bag tucked into the breast pocket. Unlucky users get belted into a seat for the remainder of the flight.
After their time aboard G-Force One, the Microgravity Research Team will analyze data and prepare a report. They're also planning educational outreach programs for Arizona schools.
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More than 25 years ago, an abandoned NASA spacecraft fulfilled its mission, fell silent and has since been hurtling around the sun, somewhere between the orbits of Earth and Mars. Now, a University of Arizona engineering student is trying to wake it up.
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NASA has given the OSIRIS-REx mission, led by the University of Arizona, the go-ahead to begin building the spacecraft, flight instruments, ground system and launch support facilities. OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission slated to send a spacecraft to a near-earth asteroid and collect samples.
(NAPSI)—Visitors welcomed the iconic spacecraft Atlantis to its new home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida last year. The attraction was the most significant addition to the Visitor Complex in recent years, bolstering attendance to this unique destination, known for its mix as part museum, science center and theme park. Guests can see the historic Atlantis spacecraft as only astronauts have—with payload bay doors open and robotic arm extended, as if it has just undocked from the International Space Station (ISS). The immersive experience invites the curious to “be the astronaut” with never-before-seen, technologically sophisticated multimedia presentations and more than 60 interactive, touch-screen experiences and high-tech simulators that bring to life the passion of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program, as well as the magnitude of the engineering marvel. The top-of-the-line audiovisual and show systems, seldom-seen NASA images and footage, and reality-based astronaut training simulations combine to create a “goose bumps” experience. The exhibit also highlights the astounding achievements made possible by the shuttle, most notably the ISS and the deployment and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope.
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The University of Arizona's undefeated men's basketball team has been ranked No. 1 in the country for five consecutive weeks.
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(CNN) -- Astronaut Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit Earth, died Thursday, NASA said. He was 88.
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1. PASSENGER PLANE ESCORTED BY FIGHTER JETS IN U.K. A Manchester-bound commercial flight from Pakistan was diverted by two British fighter jets near London after two passengers reportedly got in a loud argument with the crew. Despite initial reports that the incident might have been terror-related, officials later said that it was only a criminal offense. [The Guardian] ………………………………………………………………………………