Archive for April, 2015

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According to the producers of “Planetary” – opening in select theaters on April 22 (Global Earth Day) – “we are in the midst of a global crisis of perspective. We have forgotten the undeniable truth that everything is connected.”

The nearly hour-and-a-half documentary film is yet another wakeup call – “a cross continental, cinematic journey, that explores our cosmic origins and our future as a species,” according to a press statement.

Perspective shift

Planetary is a poetic and humbling reminder that it’s time to shift our perspective. Planetary asks us to rethink who we really are, to reconsider our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world around us – to remember that: we are ‘planetary.’”

Guy Reid is the film’s director/producer that specializes in eastern philosophy, ecology and sustainable development.

Check out this film clip at:

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/planetary/121840700

Overview effect

Interestingly, the group’s first short film, Overview, documents astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the “Overview Effect.”

Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

Go to this preview at:

https://vimeo.com/55073825#at=0

For more information on these films and the group’s related activities, go to:

http://weareplanetary.com/

PHOTO 4 LUNAR OUTPOST

 

 

A human return to the Moon – why and how best to utilize this resource-rich celestial body.

I sat down with a leading expert on the Moon, resulting in a just posted story.

He's got the whole Moon in his hands. Credit: Paul Spudis

He’s got the whole Moon in his hands.
Credit: Paul Spudis

Next human destination beyond low Earth orbit - back to the Moon? Credit: NASA/ISS

Next human destination beyond low Earth orbit – back to the Moon?
Credit: NASA/ISS

 

Going Back to the Moon: Q&A with Planetary Scientist Paul Spudis
by Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist
April 21, 2015 07:03am ET

Go to:

http://www.space.com/29158-manned-moon-exploration-paul-spudis-interview.html

 

 

Credit: National Geographic

Credit: National Geographic

 

 

This new volume is coming to a book store near you!

New in paperback from National Geographic is Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration by celebrated Gemini 12 astronaut, Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and space journalist Leonard David.

Buzz Aldrin and Leonard David stand in front of Apollo 11 spaceship at National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Eric Long/NASM

Buzz Aldrin and Leonard David stand in front of Apollo 11 spaceship at National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit: Eric Long/NASM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This updated book goes on sale May 5, 2015 – a historic date that marks the 54th anniversary of the first U.S. human spaceflight. On May 5, 1961, astronaut Alan Shepard made a suborbital flight aboard Freedom 7 as part of Project Mercury.

May 5, 1961 liftoff of Alan Shepard on suborbital flight - kick-starting America's human spaceflight program. Credit: NASA

May 5, 1961 liftoff of Alan Shepard on suborbital flight – kick-starting America’s human spaceflight program.
Credit: NASA

 

 

Aldrin argues passionately for pushing our boundaries of knowledge and exploration of our solar system and presents his “unified space vision.” He discusses the history of space flight, including a reflective, not nostalgic, look at the people, technologies and steps that were taken to accomplish America’s Apollo moon landings, and he plots a course of future exploration.

 

 

 

 

 

BUZZ ALDRIN GET YOUR ASS TO MARS

 

Important Issues

Mission to Mars spotlights some of the most important issues facing our nation’s space program today, such as:

— Why a second race to the moon is a dead end and a waste of precious resources.

— The blossoming of space tourism, and why public space travel by private citizens is critical as it makes space more familiar.

— Why there is high value on the political and collaborative front by letting partners such as China and India tie into the International Space Station.

— How best to establish a unified international effort to explore and utilize the moon, a partnership involving commercial enterprise and other nationwide building upon the Apollo mission.

For more information on this new book release, go to:

http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/15/mission-to-mars-my-vision-for-space-exploration-paperback/

 

Opportunity Mars rover uses its instrumented robot arm to investigate surface. Front Hazcam, Sol 3993. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Opportunity Mars rover uses its instrumented robot arm to investigate surface.
Front Hazcam, Sol 3993.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

While the Curiosity mega-rover patrols its site, not to be forgotten is NASA’s old-timer Mars robot, Opportunity.

It continues its exploratory work on the west rim of Endeavour Crater near the entrance of “Marathon Valley,” an assumed location for abundant clay minerals.

 

 

 

 

The robot has been using its robotic arm to collect Microscopic Imager (MI) photos, as well as utilize its Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Close-up work! Opportunity uses its Microscopic Imager on Sol 3993 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/U.S. Geological Survey

Close-up work! Opportunity uses its Microscopic Imager on Sol 3993
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/U.S. Geological Survey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opportunity has implemented a supplementary way of collected additional battery data and has also been acquiring some atmospheric opacity measurements to support NASA’s next Mars lander – Insight — set to depart Earth in March 2016, landing on the Red Planet in September 2016.

Pre-launch photo of Opportunity. Credit: NASA/KSC

Pre-launch photo of Opportunity.
Credit: NASA/KSC

 

 

Launched on July 07, 2003, Opportunity bounced its way to full Mars stop on January 25, 2004.

 

 

 

 

Opportunity’s total odometry now reads over 26 miles (42 kilometers).

Opportunity is at Sol 3995 – and its sols past “warranty” is 3905!

Opportunity's exploration route. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Opportunity’s exploration route.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The image is from ‘Hidden Valley’ in Gale Crater on Mars. Very fine-grained sediments, which slowly fell down through the water, were deposited right at the bottom of the crater lake. The sediment plates at the bottom are level, so everything indicates that the entire Gale Crater may have been a large lake.  Credit: NASA/JPL, MSSS

The image is from ‘Hidden Valley’ in Gale Crater on Mars. Very fine-grained sediments, which slowly fell down through the water, were deposited right at the bottom of the crater lake. The sediment plates at the bottom are level, so everything indicates that the entire Gale Crater may have been a large lake.
Credit: NASA/JPL, MSSS

A research team has published some intriguing work in Nature Geoscience regarding transient liquid water and water activity at Gale crater on Mars – the exploration zone of NASA’s Curiosity rover.

Led by F. Javier Martín-Torres of the Instituto Andaluz de Ciencias de la Tierra in Granada, Spain, the group analyzed the relative humidity, air temperature and ground temperature data from the Curiosity rover at Gale crater.

They report the observations support the formation of night-time transient liquid brines in the uppermost 5 centimeters of the subsurface that then evaporate after sunrise. There is an active exchange of water at the atmosphere/soil interface.

Consequences for Mars life

What’s that mean for microorganisms on Mars?

The team explains that the water activity and temperature are probably too low to support terrestrial organisms.

While liquid water has now been found, it is not likely that life will be found on Mars. The Red Planet it is too dry, too cold and the cosmic radiation is so powerful that it penetrates at least one meter into the surface and kills all life…at least life as we know it on Earth, adds team member, Morten Bo Madsen, associate professor and head of the Mars Group at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen in an Institute press statement.

Perchlorates are widespread on the surface of Mars, the research team explains, “and we expect that liquid brines are abundant beyond equatorial regions where atmospheric humidity is higher and temperatures are lower.”

Corrosive interaction

In supplemental research published online April 13, 2015 in Nature Geoscience, the scientists point out that — given the strong oxidative character of perchlorate ions and their by-products — their presence could cause “corrosive interaction” of brines with spacecraft materials.

Indeed, Curiosity wheels show significant damage at Gale crater. That damage may be compared with corrosion in aluminum by different salts, the researchers suggest.

The anodized protection of the aluminum wheels may protect just the upper few nanometer layers of the wheels, but the abrasion may wear out the external protecting layer and expose the internal aluminum to corrosion.

Curiosity wheel damage after 500 sols of surface operations at Gale crater may be compared with corrosion in aluminum by different salts.  Credit: NASA/JPl via New York Times

Curiosity wheel damage after 500 sols of surface operations at Gale crater may be compared with corrosion in aluminum by different salts.
Credit: NASA/JPl via New York Times

Curiosity’s ChemCam remote microscopic-imager has taken images of a damaged area of the rover’s middle right-wheel. According to a team of researchers, the image shows not only a large crack in the wheel but also a pattern of distributed sub-millimeter sized blisters in the vertical wall of the T-print of the wheels which cannot be attributed to rock scratching. They suggest corrosive interaction of brines with spacecraft materials may be at work.  ChemCam images of a hole in the middle right wheel. Credit: Panorama by The New York Times

Curiosity’s ChemCam remote microscopic-imager has taken images of a damaged area of the rover’s middle right-wheel. According to a team of researchers, the image shows not only a large crack in the wheel but also a pattern of distributed sub-millimeter sized blisters in the vertical wall of the T-print of the wheels which cannot be attributed to rock scratching. They suggest corrosive interaction of brines with spacecraft materials may be at work.
ChemCam images of a hole in the middle right wheel.
Credit: Panorama by The New York Times

 

“The presence of chloride and perchlorate anions in brines may add stress to the aluminum wheels through pitting corrosion of this or other future Martian exploration platforms,” the research team concludes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For detailed information on this work and supplemental information, go to:

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2412.html

This image was taken by Curiosity's Mastcam: Left (MAST_LEFT) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 957 (2015-04-16). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This image was taken by Curiosity’s Mastcam: Left (MAST_LEFT) onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 957 (2015-04-16).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

Latest looks at Curiosity’s Mars scenary – including inspection of the rover’s wheels that are under stress due to the Red Planet’s rocky surface.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm, on April 17, 2015, Sol 958 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on April 17, 2015, Sol 958 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm, on April 17, 2015, Sol 958. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity acquired this image using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, on April 17, 2015, Sol 958.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Altai Optical Laser Center (AOLC) near Savvushka, Russia. Credit: V.P. Aleshin, E.A. Grishin, V.D. Shargorodsky, D.D. Novgorodtsev

Altai Optical Laser Center (AOLC) near Savvushka, Russia.
Credit: V.P. Aleshin, E.A. Grishin, V.D. Shargorodsky, D.D. Novgorodtsev

A team of Russian researchers are using the Altai Optical Laser Center (AOLC) near Savvushka, Russia to image from the ground various spacecraft.

The intent of their work is to help solve problems in space surveillance. They report that the use of adaptive optics at AOLC allows the analysis of spacecraft that run into emergency situations.

A paper authored by the Russian team is circulating in satellite-watcher circles. That paper contains a revealing look at one of their observational targets: the U.S. spysat, the Lacrosse 5.

Ground up look at U.S. spysat, Lacrosse 5. Credit: Altai Optical Laser Center/V.P. Aleshin, E.A. Grishin, V.D. Shargorodsky, D.D. Novgorodtsev

Ground up look at U.S. spysat, Lacrosse 5.
Credit: Altai Optical Laser Center/V.P. Aleshin, E.A. Grishin, V.D. Shargorodsky, D.D. Novgorodtsev

That National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite was lofted on April 30, 2005.

Lacrosse spacecraft were equipped with synthetic aperture radar as its prime look-see instrument, permitting day/night imaging of select targets.

It appears that Lacrosse 5 has a planar radar antenna, unlike the dish antennas of earlier Lacrosses, notes satellite watcher, Allen Thomson, who recently posted the Russian paper.

While once a hush-hush satellite, the NRO declassified the existence of the Lacrosse satellite constellation in 2008.

The Russian document also includes an analysis of the emergency with the Russian Mars-bound Phobos-Grunt probe that went awry shortly after launch in November 2011. It fell back to Earth in January 2012.

For a read of “Altay Optic-Laser Center Capability to Satellites Emergencies Estimation,” go to:

http://aero.tamu.edu/sites/default/files/images/Alfriend/S4%203%20Aleshin.pdf

nasa-logo

NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. Credit: NASA

NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
Credit: NASA

Members of the House Subcommittee on Space on Thursday, April 16 discussed fiscal year 2016 budget priorities with NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. at a hearing on the Obama administration’s budget request for the space agency.

 

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.): “NASA is at a crossroads. Unfortunately, the last six years featured drastic change with the cancellation of Constellation and uncertain direction with the president’s ever-changing asteroid initiative. Congress has been consistent in its guidance to NASA that it develop a long-term sustainable exploration strategy that is evolvable and flexible based on an uncertain budget environment. Recent announcements from NASA indicate that the agency is heeding that direction by working towards an architecture that can weather the storms of change that accompany new administrations. Administrator Bolden and his leadership team have a tough job.”

Destination Mars: Outbound Orion spacecraft Credit: Lockheed Martin

Destination Mars: Outbound Orion spacecraft
Credit: Lockheed Martin

Although President Obama’s FY16 budget request of $18.53 billion includes an increase of $519 million over FY15 appropriated levels, no plans have been proposed to pay for or offset the increase. And despite overall increases, the president’s proposal underfunds the Space Launch System and Orion programs, both necessary for deep-space missions to Mars. The budget proposal would cut these human spaceflight programs by nearly $400 million.

Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith: “While there are some areas of agreement between the Committee and the administration in this budget, the president’s request regrettably changes agreed-upon national priorities. The Obama administration seems to have forgotten NASA’s priorities – and the main one is space exploration. There is a lack of balance in the overall science account request. Congressional guidance and the decadal surveys advocate for a balanced portfolio of science activities. Unfortunately, the president’s request does not adhere to that recommendation by the space experts. One of the most glaring examples is the disproportionate increase in the Earth Science Division that it receives at the expense of other science divisions and human and robotic space exploration.

“There are 13 other agencies involved in climate change research, but only one that is responsible for space exploration. The administration continues to starve NASA’s exploration programs to fund a partisan environmental agenda. NASA simply deserves better.”

In the last eight years, the Obama administration has increased funding for the Earth Science Division by more than 63 percent, while consistently cutting funding for human space exploration programs.

Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Credit: NASA

Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).
Credit: NASA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hearing resources 

An Overview of the Budget Proposal for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for Fiscal Year 2016 is available at:

http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-114-SY16-20150416-SD001.pdf

— To read the April 16, 2015 Statement of Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator of NASA before the Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space and Technology U.S House of Representatives, go to:

http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-114-SY16-WState-CBolden-20150416.pdf

— To watch an archived webcast of the hearing, go to:

http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-space-hearing-overview-budget-proposal-national-aeronautics-and-space

This image was taken by Curiosity's Navcam: Right B on Sol 956 (2015-04-15).     Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Curiosity’s Navcam: Right B on Sol 956 (2015-04-15).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is wheeling its way westward through a valley called “Artist’s Drive.”

In the 12 months following its August 2012 landing, Curiosity has found evidence for ancient streambeds and a lakebed environment more than 3 billion years ago that offered conditions favorable for microbial life.

This image was taken by Navcam: Left B onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 957 (2015-04-16) Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Navcam: Left B onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 957 (2015-04-16)
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

The rover is now examining a layered mountain inside Gale Crater for evidence about how ancient environmental conditions evolved.

This image was taken by Navcam: Right B onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 956 (2015-04-15) Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image was taken by Navcam: Right B onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 956 (2015-04-15)
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

International Space Station to serve as recycling site. Credit: NASA

International Space Station to serve as recycling site.
Credit: NASA

 

NASA has funded a novel recycling system for the International Space Station (ISS) and future deep-space human expeditions.

The “Positrusion recycler” will convert plastic waste into high-quality 3D printer filament for use in making tools, replacement parts, and satellite components onboard the ISS.

NASA has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Program award to Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) of Bothell, Washington to develop the device.

TUI’s patent-pending Positrusion system will process plastic into very high-quality filament for 3D printers.

TUI’s patent-pending Positrusion system will process plastic into very high-quality filament for 3D printers. Credit: Tethers Unlimited, Inc.

TUI’s patent-pending Positrusion system will process plastic into very high-quality filament for 3D printers.
Credit: Tethers Unlimited, Inc.

“We designed the Positrusion recycler to be as safe and simple to operate as a microwave oven, and we believe a consumer version of this machine will be ideal for recycling household and office waste,” says Jeffrey Slostad, TUI’s Chief Engineer in a press statement.

Long-term goal

According to Rob Hoyt, TUI’s CEO and Chief Scientist: “Our long-term goal is to create the capability to construct the habitats, spacecraft, and other infrastructure necessary for exploration and settlement of the solar system using raw material launched from Earth as well as resources available in the space environment.”

Hoyt said that the role of “additive manufacturing” can make possible 3D-printed radiation shielding and structural multi-layer insulation. TUI is also looking at a host of other technologies to fabricate key satellite components such as antennas and solar arrays.

Take a look at TUI’s visionary ideas by going to:

www.tethers.com

Griffith Observatory Event