2014 In Space: 11 Major Achievements - InformationWeek

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12/8/2014
08:36 AM
David F Carr
David F Carr
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2014 In Space: 11 Major Achievements

Comets and capsules grabbed top headlines, but robots racked up some firsts, the commercialization of space saw advances and setbacks, and the US prepared to resume manned space launches.
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Planetary disks on Hubble's backup tapes
While new space observatories are returning exciting results, the venerable Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, continues to perform. Even observations from years ago are turning up previously unknown information. In April, NASA announced that a forensic analysis of old images had turned up two planetary disks, the orbiting clouds of gas and dust that gather where planets are being formed.
That was something scientists were hoping to find when they first pointed Hubble at those stars between 1999 and 2006, after being tipped off from observations from another space telescope in the 1980s. No disks were detected at the time, but when the pictures were run through newer image processing software, including algorithms originally designed for facial recognition, researchers were able to unequivocally see the disks and even determine their shapes, according to NASA.

(Above: Enhanced Hubble images and illustrations of the corresponding planetary disks they represent)

Planetary disks on Hubble's backup tapes
While new space observatories are returning exciting results, the venerable Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, continues to perform. Even observations from years ago are turning up previously unknown information. In April, NASA announced that a forensic analysis of old images had turned up two planetary disks, the orbiting clouds of gas and dust that gather where planets are being formed.

That was something scientists were hoping to find when they first pointed Hubble at those stars between 1999 and 2006, after being tipped off from observations from another space telescope in the 1980s. No disks were detected at the time, but when the pictures were run through newer image processing software, including algorithms originally designed for facial recognition, researchers were able to unequivocally see the disks and even determine their shapes, according to NASA.

(Above: Enhanced Hubble images and illustrations of the corresponding planetary disks they represent)

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D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
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12/8/2014 | 9:43:57 AM
NASA's return to space
I know it was only a 4.5 hour flight -- shy of the achievements of John Glenn's Friendship 7 back in 1962 -- but I was heartened to see the Orion launch last week, which marked the return of NASA to the launch business and, soon, manned space flight. Catch this launch video on YouTube. It's only seven minutes, but watching it makes me feel like a kid again watching Apollo missions.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
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12/8/2014 | 3:13:00 PM
Re: NASA's return to space
From an information tech point of view, an automated flight is the ultimate shakedown for the spaceship's software and revamped flight computer, including guiding the craft through a reentry without burning up and deploying the parachutes at the right time to bring it in for splashdown.
jamiek111
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jamiek111,
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12/10/2014 | 4:00:16 AM
Minor correction
Hi David,

Great article - one minor correction:

On #9, Virgin Galactic's craft is not designed to reach orbit.  It gets going a few thousand miles an hour and flies a parabola out of and back into the atmosphere - passengers would get a few minutes of float time.  To reach orbit, it would have to reach roughly 17,000 miles an hour.

On #7, for what it's worth, SpaceX flew a 3d printed engine part in January of this year.

 

Regards,

  James
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