Archive for March, 2015

Navcam: Left B Sol 930 on 2015 03 19   Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Navcam: Left B Sol 930 on 2015 03 19
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity rover has wheeled itself into an area of great interest.

A deserved up-close inspection is now underway of an area of possible vein fracture fills – fractures filled with minerals that precipitated from solution.

More data on this location is in the offing…but stay tuned for a better appreciation of these features.

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile. the robot is taking a series of close-up images of the site.

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI),March 19, 2015, Sol 930  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI),March 19, 2015, Sol 930
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

Credit: Erica Burrell Design/Wheeler Historical Museum

Credit: Erica Burrell Design/Wheeler Historical Museum

The Wheeler Historical Museum in Wheeler, Texas is set to unveil a statue dedicated to Apollo 12 moonwalker, Alan Bean.

Bean became the fourth man to set foot on the Moon in November 1969. He explored the desolate landscape of the Ocean of Storms. His Apollo adventure was followed by being commander of Skylab Mission II in 1973, spending 59 days in Earth orbit.

Alan Bean resigned from NASA in 1981 to devote all of his time and energy to painting, capturing his experiences on the Moon.

Courtesy: Wheeler Historical Museum

Courtesy: Wheeler Historical Museum

As a Wheeler, Texas legendary artist and astronaut, Bean spoke at a St. Patrick’s Day Banquet in Shamrock, Texas on March 13th, then a day later was Marshall of the 69th Annual St. Patrick’s Parade. That same day the Wheeler Historical Museum honored his presence with a reception and dedication of the Alan Bean statue: “Tiptoeing on the Ocean of Storms.”

The American Legion building which is located on U.S. Hwy 83, along the northern edge of the city of Wheeler, Texas, has been preserved and rehabilitated to house the Wheeler Historical Museum.

Credit: Wheeler Historical Museum

Credit: Wheeler Historical Museum

 

“The new statue in Wheeler, the Johnson Space Center, and SpaceX’s announcement that it is building a launch facility in Brownsville bodes well for space tourism in Texas,” observes Stew Magnuson, author of the enlightening book, The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down U.S. Route 83.

“U.S. Highway 83 as it passes through Wheeler is named Alan Bean Boulevard,” Magnuson told Inside Outer Space.

Swift Hill Productions traveled to Houston, Texas to interview Alan L. Bean. In this promo Bean talks about his birth in Wheeler, Texas and the importance of the future.

Go to this video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlSH7BbwSEI

Alan Bean at Wheeler Museum festivities. Credit: Erica Burrell Design/Wheeler Historical Museum

Alan Bean at Wheeler Museum festivities.
Credit: Erica Burrell Design/Wheeler Historical Museum

Credit for Hubble Image: NASA, ESA, K. Kuntz (JHU), F. Bresolin (University of Hawaii), J. Trauger (Jet Propulsion Lab), J. Mould (NOAO), Y.-H. Chu (University of Illinois, Urbana), and STScI

Credit for Hubble Image: NASA, ESA, K. Kuntz (JHU), F. Bresolin (University of Hawaii), J. Trauger (Jet Propulsion Lab), J. Mould (NOAO), Y.-H. Chu (University of Illinois, Urbana), and STScI

It is called NIROSETI for near-infrared optical SETI.

This new instrument can record levels of light over time so that patterns can be analyzed and assessed for potential signs of other civilizations.

For more than five decades, scientists have been on the lookout for radio signals from other starfolk. But instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light have only recently become available.

NIROSETI has been installed at the University of California’s Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose and saw “first light” on March 15 – but months of fine-tuning are ahead.

The Nickel 1-meter telescope at Lick Observatory is where NIROSETI has been deployed.

Shelley Wright, an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of California, ‘San Diego, led the development of NIROSETI while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Altruism in the universe

Infrared light penetrates farther through gas and dust than visible light. So this new search will extend to stars thousands rather than merely hundreds of light years away.

NIROSETI could uncover new information about the physical universe as well – as well as help shape an answer to some big questions: Are we alone? Just how crowded is it out there?

The group making the NIROSETI campaign possible also includes SETI pioneer Frank Drake of the SETI Institute and UC Santa Cruz who serves as a senior advisor to both past and future projects and is an active observer at the telescope.

Regarding use of NIROSETI there is one downside, Drake observes. “The extraterrestrials would need to be transmitting their signals in our direction,” Drake said in a Univ. of Calif. San Diego press statement, although he sees a positive side to that limitation.

“If we get a signal from someone who’s aiming for us, it could mean there’s altruism in the universe. I like that idea. If they want to be friendly, that’s who we will find,” Drake adds.

Funding for the project comes from the financial support of Bill and Susan Bloomfield.

Credit: NASA/JPL

Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is taking a look at intriguing, eye-catching features on the Red Planet.

This image was taken by Navcam: Right B (NAV_RIGHT_B) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 926 (2015-03-15 15:04:51 UTC).   Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Navcam: Right B (NAV_RIGHT_B) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 926 (2015-03-15 15:04:51 UTC).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Images relayed to date suggest they are vein fracture fills – fractures filled with minerals that precipitated from solution, according to Mars researcher, James Rice.

Curiosity was launched in November 2011, landing on Mars in August 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This image was taken by Mastcam: Left (MAST_LEFT) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 926 (2015-03-15 15:15:19 UTC).   Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This image was taken by Mastcam: Left (MAST_LEFT) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 926 (2015-03-15 15:15:19 UTC).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This image was taken by Mastcam: Right (MAST_RIGHT) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 926 (2015-03-15 15:10:56 UTC).   Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This image was taken by Mastcam: Right (MAST_RIGHT) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 926 (2015-03-15 15:10:56 UTC).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The Earhart crater, a previously unknown lunar crater, is outlined in the magenta dash circle. A team of researchers at Purdue University found the crater through an analysis of data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission. The team provisionally named the crater Earhart, after the famous aviator Amelia Earhart. (Purdue University image/courtesy of Rohan Sood)

The Earhart crater, a previously unknown lunar crater, is outlined in the magenta dash circle. A team of researchers at Purdue University found the crater through an analysis of data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory mission. The team provisionally named the crater Earhart, after the famous aviator Amelia Earhart. (Purdue University image/courtesy of Rohan Sood)

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – You would think the battered Moon doesn’t need one more crater.

But thanks to data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, a massive crater has been found, provisionally named the crater Earhart after the famous aviator Amelia Earhart.

A team from Purdue University has been testing a new technique that sharpens the GRAIL data to see smaller-scale features, like ridges and valleys. Diving into the data, they noticed an unusual circular feature, said Rohan Sood, a graduate student in Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics who worked on the project.

Note: Go to the aeronautics and astronautics master’s program homepage (the department with which Mr. Sood is affiliated: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ProEd/programs/masters-degrees/aeronautics-astronautics

Sood presented the findings being held here March 16-20, here at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Zooming in

The crater discovered is 124-miles wide.

“The feature turned out to be the rim of an ancient crater, but it was so big we did not even recognize it as that at first,” Sood said. “We were zoomed in on one little piece of it. We first tried to model it as a small crater, but we had to go bigger and bigger and bigger to match what the data was telling us.”

More discoveries ahead?

The Purdue group plans to extend the search to the entire Moon to reveal other buried craters and small-scale features beneath the surface.

That search could uncover underground tunnels formed by lava flows — called lava tubes – that have been proposed as a possible shelter for human habitats on the Moon.

Crater Earhart is the provisional name as names of planetary features must be submitted and approved by The International Astronomical Union.

Famous aviator Amelia Earhart.

Famous aviator Amelia Earhart.

Notable alumni at Purdue include astronauts Neil Armstrong, Gus Grissom, and Eugene Cernan.Earhart was a Purdue career counselor and adviser to the Department of Aeronautics from 1935-1937.

Purdue is also home to the world’s largest compilation of Earhart-related papers, memorabilia and artifacts.

The collection includes documents related to Earhart’s 1932 solo Atlantic flight, her second and fatal attempt at a world flight in 1937, and items related to her time at Purdue.

 

 

NASA's Asteroid Data Hunter contest series was part of NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge, which is focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them. Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter contest series was part of NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, which is focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them.
Image Credit: NASA

A software application based on an algorithm created by a NASA challenge has the potential to increase the number of new asteroid discoveries by citizen scientists and amateur astronomers.

If you want to take part in the search to help protect Earth from threatening asteroid impacts an application is now available that enables everyone, everywhere, to help solve this global challenge.

The desktop software application was developed by NASA in partnership with Planetary Resources, Inc., of Redmond, Washington. The application is based on an Asteroid Data Hunter-derived algorithm that analyzes images for potential asteroids.

To download the app and join the hunt for asteroids, go to:

http://www.topcoder.com/asteroids/#

 

This image was taken by Curiosity’s Mastcam: Left camera on Sol 924, March 13, 2015.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This image was taken by Curiosity’s Mastcam: Left camera on Sol 924, March 13, 2015.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Rover is trekking on a path toward higher layers of Mount Sharp, a route that takes it first through a valley called “Artist’s Drive,” heading southwestward from Pahrump Hills.

Curiosity’s drill has used a combination of rotary and percussion action to collect samples from six rock targets since the rover landed inside Gale Crater in 2012.

This image was taken by Navcam: Right B onboard the robot on Sol 924, March 13th.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Navcam: Right B onboard the robot on Sol 924, March 13th.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The first sampled rock, “John Klein,” in the Yellowknife Bay area near the landing site, provided evidence for meeting the mission’s primary science goal.

Analysis of that sample showed that early Mars offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including the key elemental ingredients for life and a chemical energy source such as used by some microbes on Earth.

This area at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars includes a pale outcrop, called "Pahrump Hills," that NASA's Curiosity Mars rover investigated from September 2014 to March 2015, and the "Artist's Drive" route toward higher layers of the mountain. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

This area at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars includes a pale outcrop, called “Pahrump Hills,” that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover investigated from September 2014 to March 2015, and the “Artist’s Drive” route toward higher layers of the mountain. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

In the layers of lower Mount Sharp, the mission is pursuing evidence about how early Mars environments evolved from wetter to drier conditions.

 

William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, and Jason Crusan, director of the agency's advanced exploration systems division, view the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module at Bigelow’s facility in Las Vegas on March 12. Image Credit: Stephanie Schierholz

William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, and Jason Crusan, director of the agency’s advanced exploration systems division, view the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module at Bigelow’s facility in Las Vegas on March 12.
Image Credit: Stephanie Schierholz

In a March 12 news briefing, NASA and Bigelow Aerospace detailed future use of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM.

NASA officials viewed the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module at Bigelow’s facility in Las Vegas prior to its sendoff to Florida for launch later this year aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster.

In its packed configuration tucked aboard SpaceX’s Dragon resupply spacecraft, BEAM will measure approximately 8 feet in diameter.

Once BEAM is attached to the International Space Station’s Tranquility Node, onboard crew members will perform initial systems checks before deploying the habitat.

How will it perform?

During the BEAM’s minimum two-year test period, crews will routinely enter the BEAM. In addition, the module will be assessed as to its performance to help inform designs for future habitat systems.

The expandable habitat will be monitored as to its adaption to the thermal environment of space, reaction to radiation, as well as micrometeroids and orbital debris strikes.

Once BEAM is deployed it will add an additional 565 cubic feet of volume — about the size of a large family camping tent — that is accessible space by astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Credit: ESA - AOES Medialab

Credit: ESA – AOES Medialab

The European Space Agency is on the lookout for private partnerships to explore the Moon and Mars.

ESA has issued a Call for Ideas to assess how companies could join forces with then in establishing “novel” partnerships.

“Private-sector partners are welcome to join ESA in its space exploration strategy. Join us to explore beyond Earth’s horizon by sharing knowledge, capabilities, risks and benefits,” an ESA statement explains.

Initiatives from outside Europe are welcomed as long as they support the ESA strategic plan and global cooperation goals for space exploration.

Sound business plan

“The scope of the Call is very broad: anybody with a sound business plan that has synergy with what ESA does to explore space is welcome to share their ideas,” said Bernhard Hufenbach, Head of ESA’s Strategic Planning Office.

Examples of partnership ideas include:

— Developing software to control robots in space and on Earth;

— Researching drilling techniques on Earth and the Moon;

— Manufacturing lightweight but low-maintenance health and safety equipment for astronauts and emergency workers;

— demonstrating technology in space;

— Creating documentaries or video games promoting European space exploration.

To get the ball rolling

Do you have a commercial idea that fits these general examples or even more exciting proposals?

Submit a letter of interest by April 3 to get the ball rolling.

The full details of this call for ideas titled Space Exploration as a Driver for Growth and Competitiveness: Opportunities for the Private Sector can be found here:

http://esamultimedia.esa.int/docs/hso/ESA_CFI_Space_Exploration_as_a_Driver_for_Growth_and_Competitiveness.pdf

Also, take a look at this informative document at:

http://esamultimedia.esa.int/multimedia/publications/ESA_Space_Exploration_Strategy/

Senator Ted Cruz Credit: Office of Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz
Credit: Office of Ted Cruz

Earlier today U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, held a hearing with NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden in the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee to examine the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget request for NASA.

“As we begin the process of putting a roadmap together for the future of NASA there is one vital question that this committee should examine,” Cruz said in opening remarks. “Should NASA focus primarily inwards or outwards beyond lower-Earth orbit?”

Earth science: compromising NASA?

Cruz said that since the end of the last administration, lawmakers have seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds that have been allocated to the Earth Science program at the expense of and compared to Exploration and Space Operations, Planetary Science, Heliophysics and Astrophysics “which I believe are all rooted in exploration and should be central to the core mission of NASA,” Cruz said.

Credit: Earth's atmosphere and Moon as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Credit: Earth’s atmosphere and Moon as seen from the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA

Sen. Cruz said he remains concerned that the priority of Earth science is compromising NASA’s space exploration, and he concluded, “You have spent a great deal of time at this hearing defending the importance of Earth science, defending the importance of weather observation. I think everyone would agree with that….”

“It’s not that Earth sciences are not valuable,” Cruz advised Bolden, “but in the last six years, there has been a disproportionate increase. We’ve seen Earth sciences increase 41 percent, and we’ve seen exploration and space operation – what should be the core mission, what NASA exists to do – decrease 7.6 percent.”

What makes NASA special?

Credit: Senator Ted Cruz

Credit: Senator Ted Cruz

 

In the opinion of Cruz, his view is that is Earth science budgeting is disproportionate, “and it is not consistent with the reason so many talented young scientists have joined NASA, and so it’s my hope that this committee will work in a bipartisan manner to help refocus those priorities where they should be, to get back to the hard sciences, to get back to space, to focus on what makes NASA special.”

Cruz said that he is hopeful that the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee “will move forward with a NASA re-authorization, and that in that process we will continue this discussion of getting back to the core priorities of NASA.”

Watch Sen. Cruz’s opening statement and the exchanges with NASA’s Bolden here:

http://youtu.be/LeONSQTpTDM

http://youtu.be/8A6q6eGM_Aw

http://youtu.be/ptg2bIcwaCk

Hearing resources

To view the hearing — Examining the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – held on March 12, go to:

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings&ContentRecord_id=4ccea8c1-af33-4439-ba02-075de42c9946&ContentType_id=14f995b9-dfa5-407a-9d35-56cc7152a7ed&Group_id=a06730c4-d875-4fde-97db-9e2be611840e

Here is the formal testimony of Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator of NASA before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Go to:

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=25169216-f43d-4b03-bc35-aaf587ba4d84

 

Griffith Observatory Event