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NASA spacecraft captures hurricane the size of Australia on video

A massive hurricane at Saturn’s north pole is coming into sharper focus than ever before thanks to new close-up imagery and video released today by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The storm, which has cloud speeds up to 330 miles per hour and an eye that’s 1,250 miles wide — about 20 times the size of an average hurricane eye on Earth, or about half the size of Australia — has been active for an indeterminate number of years, according to NASA. “We are still analyzing the other images to figure out the larger extent of the storm,” says Kunio Sayanagi, an assistant professor of planetary science at Hampton University affiliated with the mission.

But it was hidden from view until 2009, when winter ended at Saturn’s north pole and sunlight streamed into the region. Even then, NASA’s unmanned Cassini spacecraft had to wait until November 2012 to move into position to capture these images. The one at the top of this article is a false color representing different cloud elevations: red corresponds to low clouds and green to high ones. Scientists hope that by studying how this hurricane exists using just the small amounts of water vapor present on Saturn, they can better understand how hurricanes form here on Earth. In the mean time, NASA is releasing the visuals for the public to enjoy. Check out other views here at NASA’s Cassini website.

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Tags: size of Australia, hurricane eye, Kunio Sayanagi, jet propulsion laboratory <BR/>

First look: NASA astronauts test out US spacecraft design

HOUSTON—There is a new space race on! Three American companies trying to be the next the take US Astronauts to space from U.S. soil in a US spacecraft.

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It’s been a while since we have seen an American astronaut in an American spacecraft, even if it is just for testing.

“Feels good in there. It is good to get in a new vehicle,” said Serita Aunon, one of the new class of NASA Astronauts.

The CST-100 is Boeing’s entry into the new space race, commercial companies head-to-head for just one contract to fly.

Former NASA Astronaut Chris Ferguson is now heading up the Boeing Company’s effort.

“We have a strategy to win and I would like to think next summer we will come out ahead,” he said.

It is called the CST-100,  a capsule that will ride on top of any number of rockets but first a Atlas-5.

Boeing is competing with Space X and Orbital Sciences to be the one returning Americans to space.

“Two years? It is not on the front page anymore, but that does not mean that we do not have people hard at work doing things,” Ferguson said.

Like any spacecraft just getting in can be an exercise and it is a tight fit, but bigger than the current ride to the International Space Station.

The Russian Soyuz can only hold three flyers, not comfortably, and Boeing says the CST-100 could hold much more.

Boeing says the idea will be room for five astronauts and cargo in the CST-100 which would be able to fly on top of a number of different types of rockets.

The astronauts getting in first are positive.

“The fact that it will be an American vehicle and that it will be launching from American soil. That is what I like about it,” he said.

So who has the edge? Serita Aunon isn’t sure.

“Hard to compare. This is the first one I have been in,” he said.

The Astronaut corps is starting from scratch too.


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Tags: chris ferguson, Serita Aunon, American spacecraft, nasa astronauts <BR/>