December 12-18, 2011 / Vol 30, No 50 / Hawai`i Island, USA

Arianespace to Launch Pleiades 1 Earth Observation Satellite in 2nd Soyuz Mission from French Guiana

On December 16, Arianespace will launch its 2nd mission from Kourou, French Guiana with the legendary, medium-lift Soyuz vehicle. The primary payload for the mission is the Pleiades 1 Earth observation satellite, which was built by EADS Astrium for the French CNES space agency. Pleiades 1 will provide military and civilian users with 50-cm resolution optical satellite imagery at a coverage swath width of 20km. The compact, hexagonally-shaped spacecraft will operate from a 700-km orbit. Four French DGA defense ministry ELISA electronic intelligence demonstrators, and a Chile SSOT Earth observation platform will also be launched on the mission. Both SSOT and the ELISA spacecraft use the Myriade microsatellite platform developed under French CNES leadership, which weighs less than 200 kg and offers low-cost access to space. Soyuz joined the heavy-lift Ariane 5 at the French Guiana spaceport with its successful October 21 launch. The lightweight Vega will complete the Arianespace’s launcher family in 2012. (Image Credit: Arianespace, EADS Astrium)

New Cosmodome Advancing Canada Space Education, Exploration with Virtual Exhibits

A newly revamped Cosmodome will launch its brand new virtual space exploration experience on December 15 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The US$10.5M project paid for by the Quebec Government and the Ville de Laval, took nearly 2 years to complete and will feature 3 60-minute interactive space missions geared to be educational and stimulating. Visitors can participate in any of 3 missions of their choice which include reliving the Apollo 11 voyage to the Moon, a perilous journey to Mars and a conquest of our Solar System and beyond. The Cosmodome also includes 17 new engaging modules for visitors and new updates to its existing exhibits. The Cosmodome is recognized as 1 of 5 metropolitan tourism facilities in Greater Montreal and the only museum dedicated to advancing space exploration in Canada. Executive Director Sylvain Belair (TL) hopes to double the attendance in 2012 with a goal of more than 150,000 visitors. Other programs held by the Cosmodome including Space Camp, workshops and various educational and public events. (Image Credit: Cosmodome, spacemart.com)


= All times for terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for international terrestrial events in local time unless noted.

= All times for space events, and…

= All times for international space / astro events in Hawaii Standard Time unless noted. Add 10 hours to obtain UT (‘Universal Time;’ Greenwich, England).


Weekly Planet Watch – Morning Planets: Mercury (ESE), Mars (S), Saturn (SE) / Evening Planets: Venus (SW), Jupiter (SE).


MONDAY

Dec 12 — International Space Station, LEO: E-30 crew members focus on science experiments, hardware tests and maintenance duties while making preparations for the arrival of 3 more crew members next week.

Dec 12 — NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Lunar Orbit: LRO continues to function nominally in its 50±15 km near-circular orbit as it makes digital elevation and terrain maps that will be a fundamental reference for future human exploration.

Dec 12 — Mars Rover Opportunity, Red Planet: NASA scientists continue to study imagery from Martian rover Opportunity after it discovered a mineral vein that was almost certainly deposited by water billions of years ago.

Dec 12-14 — The National Academies, Irvine CA: ‘Meeting: Assessment of the US Air Force’s Astrodynamic Standards.’

Dec 12-15 — Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative, United Nations Environment Program, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: ‘1st Eye on Earth Summit.’

Dec 12 — Asteroid 6735 Madhatter: Closest Approach To Earth (1.001 AU).


Continued from…

Dec 10 — Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral FL: ‘Astronaut Encounter: Space Shuttle Astronaut Don Thomas,’ half-hour, interactive Q&A-oriented program aims to inspire children and adults alike to strive for excellence; through Dec 16.

Dec 11 — University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil: ‘Sao Paulo Advanced School of Astrobiology: Making Connections;’ Dec 20.


TUESDAY

Dec 13 — Langley Research Center, Hampton VA: Reporters invited to view test version of the Orion crew capsule taking its final splash of the year at the Hydro Impact Basin of NASA’s Langley Research Center between 15:00-16:00 EST.

Dec 13-14 — Intech Science Center and Planetarium, Winchester, United Kingdom: ‘Space Lecture Series: The Star of Bethlehem,’ Robin Catchpole.

Dec 13 — Moon: 5.0° N Jupiter; 09:00.

Dec 13 — Geminids Meteor Shower Peak: Appearing to radiate from constellation Gemini, this final major meteor shower of the year usually produces over 50 meteors per hour. Unfortunately it will be obscured by a waning gibbous Moon.


WEDNESDAY

Dec 14 — The SETI Institute, Mountain View CA: Colloquium Series Lecture: ‘Resonances and the Angular Momentum of the Earth-Moon System,’ Matija Cuk.

Dec 14 — The British Interplanetary Society, London, United Kingdom: ‘Lecture: Planetary Science,’ Sheila Kanani.

Dec 14-16 — Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Nanyang, Singapore: ‘5th Asian Space Conference.’

Dec 14-16 — Indian Association for General Relativity and Gravitation, Goa, India: ‘7th International Conference on Gravitation and Cosmology.’


THURSDAY

Dec 15 — Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville AL: ‘NASA MSFC Industry Day,’ event to share latest information on an upcoming research announcement for the Space Launch System’s advanced booster at 09:00 CST.

Dec 15 — The Cosmodome, Laval, Quebec, Canada: ‘Cosmodome Reopening,’ space-themed facility to reopen following a $US10.5M facelift.

Dec 15 — Moon: 2.8° S of Pleiades; 16:00.


FRIDAY

NET Dec 16 — Arianespace, Launch Soyuz / Pleiades 1, Kourou, French Guiana: An Arianespace Soyuz rocket set to launch 2nd mission from the Guiana Space Center in South America.

Dec 16 — Space Center Houston, Houston TX:Lunch With an Astronaut,’ Leroy Chiao.

Dec 16 — Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston TX:Lecture: Exploring Earth Fossil Aquifers Using Martian Sounding Radars – Implication for Understanding Deserts Paleoclimate and Hydrological Cycle,’ Essam Heggy.

Dec 16-17 — Jet Propulsion Laboratory, UC Berkeley Center for Science Education, Pasadena CA:Calendar in the Sky.’

Dec 16 — Moon: 5.8° N of Aldebaran; 14:00.

Dec 16 — Asteroid 2011 WU4: Near-Earth Flyby (0.084 AU).


SATURDAY

Dec 17-18 — Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral FL: ‘Astronaut Encounter: Space Shuttle Astronaut Sam Durrance,’ half-hour, interactive Q&A-oriented program aims to inspire children and adults alike to strive for excellence.

Dec 17 — Cassini OTM-303, Saturn Orbit: Spacecraft conducts Orbital Trim Maneuver #303 today.


SUNDAY

Dec 18 — Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland CA: ‘Ask Jeeves Planetarium Shows,’ featuring ‘Astronaut,’ ‘Secret of the Rocket,’ ‘Tales of the Mayan Sky,’ and ‘2 Small Pieces of Glass.’