Archive for April, 2014

NASA mooncraft may have crashed into rim of the far side crater, Sundmam V. Upper center in image.  Credit: USGS

NASA mooncraft may have crashed into rim of the far side crater, Sundmam V. Upper center in image.
Credit: USGS

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) moon orbiter may have indeed struck the rim of the far side crater, Sundmam V.

That’s the preliminary word from NASA Ames Research Center scientists that developed and operated LADEE.

However, the final resting spot for LADEE remains speculative. Specialists in orbit determination are now busy sifting through the last tracking data to refine the possible resting place for the purposely destroyed LADEE.

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).  Credit: NASA/Ames

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).
Credit: NASA/Ames

Likely to be the final nail in the coffin is NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and its super-powerful Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). The hope is that LROC will spot the LADEE impact site.

Credit: Space Telescope Science Institute

Credit:
Space Telescope Science Institute

The American public expects that the coming half-century will be a period of weighty scientific change, as inventions that were once confined to the realm of science fiction come into common usage.

The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center in partnership with Smithsonian magazine, asking Americans about a wide range of potential scientific developments: from near-term advances like robotics and bioengineering, to more “futuristic” possibilities like teleportation or space colonization.

According to Aaron Smith, Senior Researcher at the Pew Research Center, compared with custom organs and computer produced art, the public has less confidence that the two common science fiction tropes of teleportation and colonization of other planets will come to pass.

Space colonies

Here are a few space-related items, among a wide range of observations noted in the survey:

— Two in five Americans (39%) think that teleportation will be possible within the next 50 years, while slightly fewer — 33% — expect to live in a world in which humans have long-term colonies on other planets.

— Young adults are especially likely to view space colonization as a long-term eventuality: 43% of 18-29 year olds see this happening in the next half-century, compared with about a quarter of those over age 50.

— On the other hand, high-income Americans are pessimistic about the prospects of space colonization: just 20% of those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more think this is a realistic prediction.

Getting from place to place

Those surveyed were asked to describe in their own words the futuristic inventions they themselves would like to own.

The public offered three common themes: 1) travel improvements like flying cars and bikes, or even personal spacecrafts; 2) time travel; and 3) health improvements that extend human longevity or cure major diseases.

Based on their responses, many Americans are looking forward to a future in which getting from place to place is easier, more comfortable, or more adventuresome than it is today.

— A total of 19% of Americans would like to own a travel-related invention of some kind, including: a flying car or flying bike (6%),

— Personal spacecraft (4%),

— Self-driving car (3%),

— Teleportation device (3%),

— Jet pack (1%),

— Hover car or hover board (1%).

Survey details

The survey was conducted February 13-18, 2014 by landline and cell phones among 1,001 adults.

The survey examined a number of potential future developments in the field of science and technology…some just over the horizon, others more speculative in nature.

For more information, go to Pew Research Center, April, 2014, “U.S. Views of Technology and the Future” available at:

http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/17/us-views-of-technology-and-the-future/

 

 moon

A new story from me up today on SPACE.com:

NASA Moon Probe Will Bite the Lunar Dust Soon: What It Taught Us
By Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist
April 17, 2014 07:00am ET

http://www.space.com/25529-nasa-moon-dust-probe-death-science.html

Red Planet Mars - home for future greenhouses? Credit: NASA/JPL

Red Planet Mars – home for future greenhouses?
Credit: NASA/JPL

Vegetables for a Red Planet?

That is the prognosis of a study by plant ecologist Wieger Wamelink of Wageningen UR – a university and research center in The Netherlands that focuses specifically on the theme “healthy food and living environment.”

The soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food crops, Wamelink reports, and he is convinced that a complete food cultivation system for Mars is achievable within a decade.

The soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food crops.  Credit: Wageningen UR

The soil on Mars may be suitable for cultivating food crops.
Credit: Wageningen UR

In a unique pilot experiment, the plant ecologist tested the growth of 14 plant varieties on artificial Mars soil over 50 days. Making use of NASA-composed soil based on the volcanic soil of Hawaii, to his surprise, the plants grew well. Some even blossomed.

“I had expected the germination process to work, but I thought the plants would die due to a lack of nutrients,” Wamelink explains. The soil analysis showed that Mars soil contains more nutrients than expected. In addition to phosphorus and iron oxides, the scientist found nitrogen, an essential plant nutrient.

Controlled cultivation

Leo Marcelis of Wageningen University is an advisor to the ‘Mars One’ project and one of Wamelink’s colleagues. He is looking into cultivation systems that should make growing vegetables on Mars possible.

“As it is impossible to take everything from Earth, we will need to produce food if we want to go into space. This requires knowledge on cultivation systems that function well in Mars conditions,” says Marcelis in a university press statement.

On Mars, plants would be cultivated in enclosed plant growth facilities – possibly equipped with LED lamps. But which color is best for plant growth and where would the electricity come from?

“In addition to controlled cultivation systems, complete recycling will also be essential on Mars,” Marcelis adds.

Research into the cultivation of plants in difficult conditions is not only relevant to future inhabitants of Mars, but also to those who wish to remain on our blue planet Earth.

Work is underway to study food cultivation system for Mars. Credit: Wageningen UR

Work is underway to study food cultivation system for Mars.
Credit: Wageningen UR

Mars-Earth connection

Wamelink said that Mars soil consists of volcanic rock. “If we learn to bring it into cultivation, we can use the knowledge to cultivate crops on difficult soils here on Earth.”

Insights into a more effective recycling of water, gas and nutrients and the closing of cycles are also possible. The development of high-tech automated and optimized cultivation systems, sensors that continuously monitor the needs of plants, and plant cultivation in low light conditions are also an important spin-off of the project.

Wamelink said that knowledge of complete controllable cultivation systems, plant varieties related to soils, food security, and entomology for bee pollination are research areas in which the university is already engaged.

“So if we are asked to develop cultivation systems for Mars, we can make a flying start,” Wamelink said.

China’s Tiangong-1 is now in an extended application phase – including use for Earth remote sensing.  Credit: CMSE

China’s Tiangong-1 is now in an extended application phase – including use for Earth remote sensing.
Credit: CMSE

China’s Tiangong-1 “target spacecraft” used for the country’s human spaceflight program is now in an extended application phase – including use for Earth remote sensing.

Tiangong-1 is churning out “hyperspectral” imaging products, collecting information from across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Launched on September 29, 2011, Tiangong-1 — meaning “Heavenly Palace 1″ — is China’s first space station and has been used for three rendezvous and docking missions: Shenzhou 8, 9 and 10.

After its use for a successful docking involving Shenzhou 10, Tiangong-1 entered the in-orbit operation management phase on June 27, 2013. Since then, now for over two-and-a-half years, Tiangong-1 has undergone switches in its flying mode, orbit maintenance maneuvers, and other activities.

Tiangong-1 is churning out “hyperspectral” imaging products, collecting information from across the electromagnetic spectrum. Credit: Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Tiangong-1 is churning out “hyperspectral” imaging products, collecting information from across the electromagnetic spectrum.
Credit: Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Application benefits

According to the China Manned Space Engineering (CMSE) Office the still-orbiting module is outfitted with payloads such as Earth observation instrumentation and space environment detectors.

“Tiangong-1 has obtained a great deal of application and science data, which is valuable in mineral resources investigation, ocean and forest application, hydrologic and ecological environment monitoring, land use, urban thermal environment monitoring and emergency disaster control. Remarkable application benefits have been achieved,” the CMSE has stated.

For example, Tiangong-1 provided timely hyperspectral observation data during China’s Yuyao flood disaster last year and image data during a devastating Australia forest fire.

Commercial agents

The weight of Tiangong-1 is about 8 tons, and its main body is a short and thick cylinder, with a docking port on its front and rear ends. The two-modules are an experiment module and resource module.

As authorized by the China Manned Space Agency, and the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the processing and distribution of Tiangong-1 application data is underway. It provides public users with data in Grade-1 and Grade-2, free of charge.

Commercial agents of Tiangong-1 application data are providing paid data service for domestic and international commercial users.

China is expected to continue its forward progress in space station development by lofting the Tiangong-2 space lab next year, sharpening its space skills to further the building of a larger space station in 2020.

Tiangong-2 space lab undergoes testing for expected launch next year. Credit: CASC, SpaceChina.com

Tiangong-2 space lab undergoes testing for expected launch next year.
Credit: CASC, SpaceChina.com

NASA workers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wearing clean room “bunny suits,” prepare the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) technology test article for shipment later this month to Hawaii.  Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA workers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wearing clean room “bunny suits,” prepare the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) technology test article for shipment later this month to Hawaii.
Credit: NASA/JPL

If larger and larger payloads – including human habitats – are to set down safely on Mars, new atmospheric reentry technologies to brake in the thin air of the Red Planet are required.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is deep into cutting-edge and crosscutting demonstration flights of hardware to land hefty payloads on the Red Planet.

The work is being done under NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) technology demonstration project.

Last week some of the LDSD work was showcased at JPL. That hardware is headed for a first flight into near-space this June, launched from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.

In addition to the testing in Hawaii, a rocket sled test series has been led by JPL and conducted at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.

 Saucer-shaped

The LDSD equipment has taken on the looks of a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle.

These new drag devices are one of the first steps on the technology path to potentially landing humans, habitats, and their return rockets safely on Mars.

A rocket sled test series has been led by JPL and conducted at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake. Credit: NASA/JPL

A rocket sled test series has been led by JPL and conducted at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Furthermore, LDSD work will also allow access to much more of the planet’s surface by enabling landings at higher-altitude sites.

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is developing to create the new knowledge and capabilities necessary to enable our future missions to an asteroid, Mars and beyond. The directorate is committed to developing the critical technologies required to enable future exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit.

NOTE: Take a look at this video on NASA’s LDSD efforts, at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h1NtQJ59kM

Hardware is headed for a first flight into near-space this June, launched from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. Credit: NASA/JPL

Hardware is headed for a first flight into near-space this June, launched from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.
Credit: NASA/JPL

 

NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) Courtesy: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) Courtesy: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is taking shape.

This return sample mission to asteroid Bennu is to launch in the fall of 2016. The spacecraft will then rendezvous with the space rock in 2018. Following a year of reconnaissance of the object, OSIRIS-REx will snag a sample of the asteroid — at least 2 ounces (60 grams) — and return the material to Earth for scientists to study in 2023.

A successful Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for OSIRIS-REx was held April 1-9 at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton, Colorado – the firm that is building the spacecraft.

The upshot of the review is that the green light has been given to begin building the spacecraft, flight instruments and ground system.

 

Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for OSIRIS-REx was held April 1-9 at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton, Colorado. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for OSIRIS-REx was held April 1-9 at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton, Colorado. Credit: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. The University of Arizona leads the effort and provides the camera system and science processing and operations center.

OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by the Marshall Spaceflight Center.

OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. mission sent to a near-Earth asteroid to collect and return samples.

The initiative brings together the best of NASA’s science, technology and human exploration efforts to achieve President Obama’s goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025.

Credit: Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation

Credit: Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation

It had to happen.

After you have plunked down the cash to achieve escape velocity, there’s nothing like a “Drinkbot” to mix your drink in microgravity and dispense the cocktail.

For one, you’ve earned it after that nail-biting liftoff.

That’s the plan according to the Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation, slated to make its first public appearance at the Los Angeles edition of the Yuri’s Night World Space Party. Furthermore, the corporation has it’s “shake out” underneath the space shuttle Endeavor on April 11th, 2014.

The “system” incorporates a mechanized “Drinkbot” that mixes liquids in weightlessness and dispenses the cocktail into the Zero Gravity Cocktail Glass.

Moreover, the first prototype models have been 3D printed, the cocktail recipe is currently being designed, and the “Drinkbot” is under construction, according to Samuel Coniglio, the group’s visionary designer.

Courtesy: Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation

Courtesy: Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation

Mainstream reality

“The Zero Gravity Cocktail Project is an attempt to bridge the gap between the space tourism vision and mainstream reality,” says Coniglio, an admitted “retro-futurist.”

“By creating a fun object that appeals to many people,” Coniglio said, “we hope to show that space tourism is not an abstract concept but a stepping stone for improving the way people live, work, and play beyond planet Earth.”

The Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation is creating the first true cocktail made in zero gravity and recognizes that the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project has “down to Earth” value as well, which will be aggressively pursued through multiple branding and marketing strategies.

Flagship project

The Zero Gravity Cocktail Project is going to be the flagship project for the Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation, added the group’s co-founder and bar industry entrepreneur, Russell Davis. Davis is a celebrity mixologist who is creating the cocktail and is on a TV show called Bar Rescue on SPIKE TV. He has won numerous awards and was chosen #1 Bartender in the USA by Bartender Magazine.

Also onboard the group is Hollywood special effects designer and fabricator Brent Heyning, CFO for the Space Frontier Foundation and space entrepreneur Paul Fuller, and award-winning roboticist and toy designer Nick Donaldson.

“With over two years of hard work, the team recognizes that there is a need for the space tourists’ to have practical applications in zero gravity that are based upon enjoyment and functionality, Davis emphasized.

“We plan on filling that niche, with the first being the cocktail, the vessel, and the ability to mix in space,” Davis said in a press statement. The Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation is a boutique concept, design, and branding company that develops stylish products for off-world use while connecting Earth brands to space.

For more information, add ice, and go to:

http://www.cosmiclifestyle.com/

Credit: UC Santa Cruz

Credit: UC Santa Cruz

Let the games begin!

A new online educational resource allows the user to build their own planetary system, putting planets into orbit around a star and racking up points until they add a planet that destabilizes the whole system.

The game is an offshoot of the open-source software package – Systemic Console — astronomers use to find planets beyond our solar system, called exoplanets.

The release of “Super Planet Crash” is a brain-buster idea, primarily masterminded by Greg Laughlin, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California Santa Cruz and Stefano Meschiari, now a W. J. McDonald Postdoctoral astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin.

Most visceral level

“Systemic Console is open-source software that we’ve made available for other scientists to use. But we also wanted to create a portal for students and teachers so that anyone can use it,” Laughlin said.

“For the online version, Stefano tuned the software to make it more accessible, and then he went even further with Super Planet Crash,” Laughlin said, “which makes the ideas behind planetary systems accessible at the most visceral level,” according to a UC Santa Cruz press release.

The result?

It doesn’t take long for a player to understand the physics of orbital dynamics.

Meschiari said he is keen on simulating the evolution of protoplanetary disks, the characterization of extrasolar planets, as well as citizen science-driven projects.

Support for the development of the core scientific routines underlying the Systemic Console was provided by an National Science Foundation CAREER Award to Laughlin.

To play Super Planet Crash, go to:

www.stefanom.org/spc

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

The most comprehensive satellite-gleaned view of land-surface conditions from coast to coast in the conterminous United States is an eye-opener!

Just issued by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), this latest look-see shows land-surface conditions from coast to coast, showcasing the extent of land cover types from forests to urban areas.

The National Land Cover Database (NLCD 2011) is being made available to the public by the USGS and partners. It divides the lower 48 states into 9 billion geographic cells.

This informative database spotlights land cover and is based on Landsat satellite imagery taken in 2011.

Sweeping, yet amazingly precise

Land cover is broadly defined as the biophysical pattern of natural vegetation, agriculture, and urban areas. It is shaped by both natural processes and human influences.

Collected in repeated five-year cycles, NLCD data is used by resource managers and decision-makers to conduct ecosystem studies, determine spatial patterns of biodiversity, trace indications of climate change, and develop best practices in land management.

“America’s land and waters face unprecedented challenges from natural disasters, climate change, development pressures, and population growth,” said Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. “The digital view that the National Land Cover Dataset affords us is sweeping, yet amazingly precise. It is one of the most important tools, for the Department of the Interior or any other land or water manager, in fostering an impartial perspective of landscape dynamics.”

Carefully calibrated

According to the USGS, the carefully calibrated data enables managers of public and private lands, urban planners, agricultural experts, and scientists with many different interests (for instance, climate, invasive species or hydrogeography) to identify critical characteristics of the land and patterns of land cover change, informing a variety of investigations from monitoring forests to modeling water runoff in urban areas.

Additionally, NLCD editions from 2001 to 2011 have been integrated to provide a 10-year land cover change comparison for our nation at five year intervals.

Critical information

Having a decade of change information readily available for any location enables users to better understand the trajectory of land cover change patterns and provides specialists with critical information to advance the understanding of land cover change processes.

NLCD 2011 products will be also released for Alaska later this year.

For more information on this new product — and to download NLCD data free of charge, go to:

http://www.mrlc.gov/

Griffith Observatory Event