Archive for July, 2015

Credit: TED Books/Simon & Schuster

Credit: TED Books/Simon & Schuster

There are two new and invaluable books on Mars, both of them ideal for those ready to settle down on the Red Planet:

How We’ll Live on Mars by Stephen Petranek

The International Mars Research Station – An exciting new plan to create a permanent human presence on Mars authored by Shaun Mark Moss.

 

Stephen Petranek is a career writer spanning some 40 years of publishing on science, nature, technology and politics.

How We’ll Live on Mars is a blend of those themes, nicely packaged in a nine chapter book that is well-written and researched – it’s a sheer delight to read.

TED Books is under the Simon & Schuster brand name, with this volume containing a mid-section of stunning color images.

For those still edgy about trekking to Mars, you’ll find this book comforting. The author tackles a number of “big questions” such as radiation factors and the microgravity effects of space travel on the human body – and adapting to Mars’ low gravity.

In the book, there’s a healthy dose of Elon Musk’s campaign to send humans to Mars. In addition, you’ll find some interesting discussion of terraforming the Red Planet to make Mars in Earth’s image.

This book is a unique blend of observations, bracketing the author’s view that within twenty years, humans will live on Mars.

“When the first humans set foot on Mars, the moment will be more significant in terms of technology, philosophy, history, and exploration than any that have come before it…we will no longer be a one-planet species.”

For ordering information, go to:

http://books.simonandschuster.com/How-Well-Live-on-Mars/Stephen-Petranek/TED-Books/9781476784762

To read about Petranek’s TED Talk about colonizing Mars, go to:

http://blog.ted.com/2015/03/17/its-time-to-colonize-mars-stephen-petranek-speaks-at-ted2015

Credit: CreateSpace

Credit: CreateSpace

 

Shaun Moss is an Australian computer scientist and also director of Mars Society Australia. He makes the case that settling Mars and becoming a multi-planetary species will be one of the most important steps in human evolution.

Within its 300 pages, The International Mars Research Station is alive with technical detail.

As Moss notes, the book is an exercise in aerospace engineering. The volume is loaded with creative ideas all adding up to blueprinting a near-term affordable and achievable way to send multiple international crews to Mars – and return them home safe and sound.

What I found appealing is Moss calling attention to the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule designs, as well as the use of expandable modules by Bigelow Aerospace.

The attention to detail – from crafting international partnerships and food production to using local Martian resources and space suit requirements – makes this book a true treasure. While being a technical tour-de-force of ideas, Moss paints a clear picture of the needed pieces to send crews to Mars and sustain a human presence there.

Moss has done an impressive amount of research for this book. Even the most seasoned Mars architect will find this volume a very useful and informative resource.

For book ordering information, go to:

https://www.createspace.com/5345885

For a Slashdot.org article on Moss and this how-to-do-it book, go to:

http://science.slashdot.org/story/15/07/22/1925258/interviews-shaun-moss-answers-your-questions-about-mars-and-space-exploration

Credit: International Space Business Council 2015

Credit: International Space Business Council 2015

This just issued space careers book shows how to find an out-of-this-world job.

“Space Careers” (International Space Business Council, 2015), by Leonard David and Scott Sacknoff, contains detailed information about the many career paths in the space industry — far beyond “astronaut.”

The book is aimed at high school, college and graduate students, or people looking for jobs in the industry, and the idea is to give accurate, up-to-date information on the careers that are out there beyond just astronaut (but it gives tips on how to become an astronaut, too).

To read the full review by Sarah Lewin, Staff Writer at SPACE.com, go to:

http://www.space.com/30024-space-careers-book.html

Credit: Breakthrough Initiatives

Credit: Breakthrough Initiatives

It is being billed as “the most powerful, comprehensive, and intensive scientific search ever” to look for signs of intelligent life in the Universe.

The international endeavor is known as the Breakthrough Listen, and effort to scan the nearest million stars in our own Galaxy and stars in 100 other galaxies for the telltale radio signature of an advanced civilization.

The Breakthrough Listen initiative was announced this week at the Royal Society in London. Internet investor Yuri Milner is backing the 10 year enterprise to the tune of $100 million.

Yuri Milner announces Breakthrough Life in the Universe Initiatives, joined by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, Cosmologist and astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees, Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute Frank Drake, Creative Director of the Interstellar Message, NASA Voyager Ann Druyan and Professor of Astronomy, University of California Geoff Marcy. The press conference was held at The Royal Society on July 20, 2015 in London, England. Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Breakthrough Initiatives

Yuri Milner announces Breakthrough Life in the Universe Initiatives, joined by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, Cosmologist and astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees, Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute Frank Drake, Creative Director of the Interstellar Message, NASA Voyager Ann Druyan and Professor of Astronomy, University of California Geoff Marcy. The press conference was held at The Royal Society on July 20, 2015 in London, England.
Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Breakthrough Initiatives

Multi-disciplinary search

This decade-long, multi-disciplinary search effort will harness the world’s largest telescopes to mine data from the nearest million stars, Milky Way and a hundred galaxies.

The initiative was announced by Milner on July 20 in London at The Royal Society – the 46th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.

Milner was joined by several experts, including physicist Stephen Hawking, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, SETI research pioneer Frank Drake, UC Berkeley astronomy professor Geoff Marcy and postdoctoral fellow Andrew Siemion, as well as the former head of NASA Ames Research Center and now Breakthrough Prize Foundation chairman, Pete Worden.

Participating organizations

Contracts have been signed with participating organizations that will given a listen for ET.

For example, the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) will join in the search, receiving roughly $2 million per year for 5 years. The 100-meter GBT is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, located in West Virginia.

Green Bank Telescope (GBT) will join in the search, receiving roughly $2 million per year for 5 years. The 100-meter GBT is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, located in West Virginia. Credit: NSF

Green Bank Telescope (GBT) will join in the search, receiving roughly $2 million per year for 5 years. The 100-meter GBT is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope, located in West Virginia.
Credit: NSF

In addition to the GBT, the Parkes Telescope in Australia will also be involved in the ET search endeavor.

In tandem with the radio searching, the Automated Planet Finder Telescope at Lick Observatory in California will undertake the world’s deepest and broadest search for optical laser transmissions from extraterrestrial intelligence.

What’s the message?

As part of the new venture, a “Breakthrough Message” was also detailed, an international competition to create digital messages that represent humanity and planet Earth. The pool of prizes will total $1,000,000.

While details on the competition are to be announced at a later date, this particular initiative is not a commitment to send messages.

“It’s a way to learn about the potential languages of interstellar communication and to spur global discussion on the ethical and philosophical issues surrounding communication with intelligent life beyond Earth,” notes the Breakthrough Listen website.

SETI@home

Breakthrough Listen will also be joining and supporting SETI@home, the University of California, Berkeley distributed computing platform. It involves nine million volunteers around the world donating their spare computing power to search astronomical data for signs of life. Collectively, they constitute one of the largest supercomputers in the world.

The Breakthrough Listen team will use and develop the most powerful software for sifting and searching through the flood of data. All software will be open source.

Both the software and the hardware used in the Breakthrough Listen project will be compatible with other telescopes around the world. That makes it possible for others to join the search for intelligent life.

As well as using the Breakthrough Listen software, scientists and members of the public will be able to add to it, developing their own applications to analyze the data.

Looking for the "Wow" factor. (L-R) Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking, Cosmologist and astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees and Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute Frank Drake attend a press conference on the Breakthrough Life in the Universe Initiatives. Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/2015 Getty Images for Breakthrough Initiatives

Looking for the “Wow” factor. (L-R) Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking, Cosmologist and astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees and Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute Frank Drake attend a press conference on the Breakthrough Life in the Universe Initiatives.
Credit: Stuart C. Wilson/2015 Getty Images for Breakthrough Initiatives

More sensitive searches

For the Breakthrough Listen program, UC Berkeley will build high-speed digital electronics and high-bandwidth signal processing instruments to gather and analyze the radio and optical data collected by the telescopes, and will train the next generation of SETI scientists,

According to Dan Werthimer, one of the leaders of the effort, and also a co-founder and chief scientist of the SETI@home project, he predicts that this dedicated telescope time will make SETI searches 50 times more sensitive than today and cover 10 times more sky.

New signal processors will be able to analyze five times the number of radio wavelengths 100 times faster, Werthimer adds.

Groundwork for the future

“Even if we don’t detect a signal from advanced life beyond Earth,” said Andrew Siemion, Director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, “the detection limits obtained by the Breakthrough Listen searches will be the most rigorous ever achieved, and the technology developed will lay the groundwork for SETI searches for many decades to come.”

Meanwhile, today NASA announced that the Kepler spacecraft mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”

To view a video of the press conference, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxdP470sLRg

For more information on the Breakthrough Initiatives, go to:

http://www.breakthroughinitiatives.org/

Credit: AURA

Credit: AURA

Before the James Webb Space Telescope flies, enterprising astronomers are already proposing a High-Def spotter scope – a “super Hubble.”

The High-Definition Space Telescope (HDST) would view the universe with five times greater sharpness than Hubble can achieve, and as much as 100 times more sensitivity than Hubble to extraordinarily faint starlight.

Given those super-power attributes, the HDST could look for signs of life on an estimated several dozen Earth-like planets in our stellar neighborhood. It could provide the first observational evidence for life beyond Earth.

Those are among the views expressed in a new study issued by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), based in Washington, D.C.

Notional look at the design of a High-Definition Space Telescope (HDST). Credit: AURA

Notional look at the design of a High-Definition Space Telescope (HDST).
Credit: AURA

Giant aperture

AURA spearheaded the study of space-based options for ultraviolet (UV) and optical astronomy in the era following the James Webb Space Telescope’s mission, planned for launch in 2018.

Though the new report does not address a specific design for the HDST, its mirror would have to be at least 12 meters (39 feet) across to conduct a robust survey of nearby habitable planets.

To do so would require combining up to 54 mirror segments to form a giant aperture. The construction of the JSWT’s 18-mirror mosaic provides an important engineering pathway, the report notes, to demonstrating proof-of-concept for the HDST type of space observatory architecture.

Credit: AURA

Credit: AURA

Envisioned for the 2030s

“Though such a telescope is envisioned for the 2030s, it is not too early to start planning the science needs and technological requirements,” explains an AURA press statement.

The HDST would be located at the Sun-Earth Lagrange 2 point, a gravitationally stable “parking lot” in space located 1 million miles from Earth. It would house a suite of instruments — cameras, spectrographs, and a coronagraph — for blocking out a star’s blinding glare so that any dim, accompanying planets can be directly imaged.

HDST folded within an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) or Space Launch System-1 shroud. Credit: AURA

HDST folded within an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) or Space Launch System-1 shroud.
Credit: AURA

The construction of HDST would be modular so that astronauts or robots, could swap out instruments and other subsystems. “As with Hubble, this would ensure an operational lifetime spanning decades,” the AURA statement adds.

To access the full AURA report, go to:

http://www.hdstvision.org

 

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 July 16, 2015, Sol 1046 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission. 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 July 16, 2015, Sol 1046 of the Mars Science Laboratory Mission.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has completed a wheel inspection, producing some striking images of growing damage on one of its wheels.

A Sol 1046 campaign of wheel imaging completed nominally, and the rover is a little over one-meter from its previous location.

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) inspection of wheel wear on Curiosity rover, taken on July 16, 2015, Sol 1046. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) inspection of wheel wear on Curiosity rover, taken on July 16, 2015, Sol 1046.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

According to Ken Herkenhoff of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, the Sol 1048 plan includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of “Pinto,” “Palomino,” and “Burnt Point” plus a Navcam search for clouds toward the north.

Upcoming is use of Curiosity’s arm, deployed for drill testing in preparation for the next drill activity.

Science teams are interested in sampling bright rocks east of the rover, but the Elk and Lamoose targets are not suitable for drilling.

Herkenhoff explains that on Sol 1049 the plan is to drive toward a nearby bright outcrop of what looks like the same material.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

“We’re hoping that we will be able to sample that material with the drill,” Herkenhoff adds.

Sol 1050 planning involves use of the rover’s Mastcam, Navcam, and ChemCam to observe the Sun and sky to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, search for clouds, and look for changes in atmospheric chemistry.

Curiosity landed on Mars in early August of 2012.

Lounging around L1: DSCOVR spacecraft has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away, as seen on July 6, 2015. Credit: NASA

Lounging around L1: DSCOVR spacecraft has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away, as seen on July 6, 2015.
Credit: NASA

 

 

 

On June 7, 2015 the Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, made it to its final destination when it entered orbit around the Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L1), some 1.5 million kilometers sunward of the Earth.

Credit: NESDIS/NOAA

Credit: NESDIS/NOAA

 

A NASA camera on DSCOVR has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away, as seen on July 6, 2015. The scientific camera used is NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) aboard the spacecraft.

 

DSCOVR-Logo_NOAA_NASA_USAF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an informative story on DSCOVR and the future use of Lagrange points by Buzz Aldrin, published on NASA’s web site:

https://blogs.nasa.gov/leadership/2015/07/20/dscovrs-first-light-on-the-future/

Credit: ShareSpace

Credit: ShareSpace

 

My wife Barbara and I had an incredible weekend with Buzz Aldrin at the ShareSpace Foundation Launch Gala, Celebrating Apollo 11, on July 18, 2015 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

Met with Buzz and actor John Travolta, along with legendary musician Roger McGuinn of The Byrds.

Roger McGuinn and Leonard David. Credit: Camilla McGuinn

Roger McGuinn and Leonard David.
Credit: Camilla McGuinn

McGuinn is a space cadet from the word go as evidenced by his co-authored song C.T.A. – 102 that captured potential contact with alien life, as well as Mr. Spaceman.

Woke up this morning with light in my eyes

And then realized it was still dark outside

It was a light coming down from the sky

I don’t know who or why

Must be those strangers that come every night

Those saucer shaped lights put people uptight

Leave blue green footprints that glow in the dark

I hope they get home alright

Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Won’t you please take me along

I won’t do anything wrong

Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Won’t you please take me along for a ride

Woke up this morning, I was feeling quite weird

Had flies in my beard, my toothpaste was smeared

Over my window, they’d written my name

Said, “So long, we’ll see you again”

Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Won’t you please take me along

I won’t do anything wrong

Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Won’t you please take me along for a ride

STEAM power

Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation is a nonprofit organization intended to ignite children’s passion for science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).

By delivering hands-on activities, inspirational messages and Innovation Kits, SSF is encouraging young people to develop a lifelong, life-changing love for, and potentially a career in STEAM.

Leonard David at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Jay Passerby

Leonard David at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.
Credit: Jay Passerby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a video of Aldrin and Travolta in full dance mode, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o90KiD5rJ70

 

Salute to Apollo-Soyuz

Today is the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing back in 1969, a moment in space and time in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon.

In addition, take a look at this op-ed from Buzz in TIME, making note of the Apollo Soyuz 40th Anniversary and the future of space cooperation with other nations.

Go to: http://time.com/3962777/buzz-aldrin-apollo-soyuz-space/

 

Credit: Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center

Credit: Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center

 

A new booster for commercial launch has been announced by International Launch Services (ILS) – Russia’s Angara 1.2 launcher.

The Angara 1.2 vehicle will be available for launch in 2017.

Launches will be conducted from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia.

According to ILS, given the availability of the Angara booster, augmented with the heavy-lift Proton vehicle, the company “now has capability to launch the entire range of satellite masses with both vehicles serving the market.”

Credit: Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center

Credit: Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center

The Proton and Angara vehicles are manufactured by Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center, the majority owner of ILS.

ILS possesses the exclusive rights to market the Angara vehicle to commercial customers.

The Angara family of launchers will support virtually all spacecraft to all orbits, altitudes and inclinations for the low-, medium-, and heavy-lift spacecraft market.

The Angara 1.2 launch vehicle can lift 3 metric tons to low Earth orbit and was successfully flight demonstrated on July 9, 2014 from the Plesetsk launch site.

Credit: Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center

Credit: Khrunichev State Research and Space Production Center

The first flight of Angara 5, the heavy-lift variant, was conducted on December 23, 2014. The next Angara 5 flight is planned for 2016 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

The Angara 5 will be available for geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) missions in the 2021 timeframe, according to ILS, following completion of the Vostochny Cosmodrome launch site, located on the east coast of Russia.

Angara 5 liftoff Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense

Angara 5 liftoff
Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense

 

Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) surveyed the scene as evidenced by this July 5, 2015, Sol 1035 photo. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) surveyed the scene as evidenced by this July 5, 2015, Sol 1035 photo.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover completed a drive of 28-feet (8.5 meters) on Sol 1044. That drive left the machinery in a relatively flat and smooth area that is suitable for imaging of the wheels.

 

 

 

“Wheel imaging is done periodically to assess wear, and it’s time to acquire new data,” reports Ken Herkenhoff of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. A Sol 1046 inspection is using the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm, and other cameras.

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 July 16, 2015, Sol 1046. 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 July 16, 2015, Sol 1046.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Up-close Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image from Sol 1032. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Up-close Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) image from Sol 1032.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After the wheel imaging is complete, the usual post-drive images will be acquired, along with additional Navcam stereo images of an outcrop and a Mastcam observation of the Sun.

A nearby outcrop called “Mustang” was selected for ChemCam and Mastcam observations.

On Sol 1047, among Curiosity camera duties, is a search for dust devils, Herkenhoff adds.

New Horizons image of Pluto’s equator released today shows a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

New Horizons image of Pluto’s equator released today shows a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body.
Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

Images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during the close flyby of Pluto and its moons have begun to filter from the spacecraft back to Earth.

New close-up imagery of a region near Pluto’s equator released today reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. The mountains are probably composed of Pluto’s water-ice “bedrock.”

In addition, stunning new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers).

New details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon show it with a swath of cliffs and troughs stretches about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers). Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

New details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon show it with a swath of cliffs and troughs stretches about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers).
Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

A swath of cliffs and troughs stretches about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) suggest that there is widespread fracturing of Charon’s crust, likely a result of internal processes. Also spotted, a canyon estimated to be 4 to 6 miles (7 to 9 kilometers) deep.

Mission scientists are surprised by the apparent lack of craters on Charon.

Launched in 2006, New Horizons traveled more than three billion miles over nine-and-a-half years to reach the Pluto system.

Stay tuned for a Friday briefing from NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. that promises to reveal more imagery and data from the July 14 flyby of Pluto and its moons by the New Horizons spacecraft.

This annotated view of a portion of Pluto’s Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), named for Earth’s first artificial satellite, shows an array of enigmatic features.  The surface appears to be divided into irregularly shaped segments that are ringed by narrow troughs, some of which contain darker materials. Features that appear to be groups of mounds and fields of small pits are also visible.  This image was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers). Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible. The blocky appearance of some features is due to compression of the image.  Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This annotated view of a portion of Pluto’s Sputnik Planum (Sputnik Plain), named for Earth’s first artificial satellite, shows an array of enigmatic features.
The surface appears to be divided into irregularly shaped segments that are ringed by narrow troughs, some of which contain darker materials. Features that appear to be groups of mounds and fields of small pits are also visible.
This image was acquired by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14 from a distance of 48,000 miles (77,000 kilometers). Features as small as a half-mile (1 kilometer) across are visible. The blocky appearance of some features is due to compression of the image.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Griffith Observatory Event