Archive for March, 2014

Credit: MIT Press

Credit: MIT Press

Marketing the Moon – The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program by David Meerman Scott & Richard Jurek; MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.; $39.95 (hard cover); Feb. 2014.

This is an absolutely marvelous and exceptional read!

The authors, both marketing sages, have written a captivating book that delves into the promotion and public relations campaigns to advance the Apollo program.

In the book’s foreword, former Apollo 17 moonwalker, Eugene Cernan, sets the stage for the book, calling it “a story of the challenges and ultimate success of marketing one of the greatest achievements in American – and world – history.”

What’s so valuable about this book is its retro-fire into history to provide guidance and instruction – as the authors note, a “case study” – for modern-day practitioners. And given the present and perplexing state of astronautics in the United States, this book makes for required bedside reading for today’s spin doctors of space.

From early space-themed television shows, the magnificent Collier’s magazine space series to the Sputnik scare, Life magazine and TV broadcasts of Apollo 11 and other shoot-for-the-Moon missions – the book is a must read…and a must remember tale. It plowed up many of my own space history roots…a time, in my view, when “Tomorrowland” really stood for something.

The contents include looks at NASA brand journalism, the astronauts as celebrities, and what the authors describe as “an unprecedented public relations partnership between NASA and industry.”

The book carries an impressive number of pictures (over 200 color illustrations and 25 black and white illustrations). Each section is sprinkled with great references.

The book’s closing chapter is “So, Where to Now, Columbus?” and closes off with a note that “in essence, the visionaries of the digital generation were also the Apollo generation.”

You’ll find this volume to be a wonderful read, written by two individuals that clearly care about what the past should tells us about pushing forward.

By the way, Scott is obviously a space cadet of the first order. He is thought to be the only person in the world with a lunar module decent engine thrust chamber in his living room. Co-author Jurek is a lifelong space enthusiast and a collector of historic space artifacts, with the world’s largest collection of $2 bills that have flown in space.

A couple of quirky notes to add: The book’s first inside image that spills over two pages is from Japan’s KAGUYA lunar orbiter that relayed HDTV images via NHK (Japan’s national public broadcasting organization) to produce a “Full Earth Rise” sequence. Lastly, the book is printed and bound in China.

Perhaps both are subtle reminders that other nations may well be filling the vacuum void left by those that marketed the Moon on behalf of America.

For more information on this book, go to:

Also, give a listen to a special podcast, an MIT press interview with David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek.

Go to:

EPISODE 60 (MAR. ’14): David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek


Promotional artwork for the 2012 Humans in Space Youth Art Competition. Credit: Humans in Space Art

Promotional artwork for the 2012 Humans in Space Youth Art Competition.
Credit: Humans in Space Art

May is the target time for a novel effort by the Humans in Space Youth Art Competition.

A “moon bounce performance” is slated using artwork in collaboration with visual artist, Daniela DePaulis, and the Dwingeloo Radio Telescope in The Netherlands.

OPTICKS is a live radio transmission performance between the Earth and the Moon during which images are sent to the Moon and back as radio signals.

“From the art end, we are all set and have what we need,” said Jancy C. McPhee, Director of the Humans in Space Youth Art Competition at the NASA Johnson Space Center. Selected paintings will be bounced off the Moon.

The date for bouncing the artwork off the Moon will depend on ensuring that the radio telescope is working properly and on schedule, “as with any ‘science’ experiment,” she said.

Future of space

The international Humans in Space Youth Art Competition encourages youth to “Be Inspired, Creative and Heard” and is dedicated to inspiring the world about space via a global dialogue on the future of space.

The 2012-2013 competition invited young people from 10 to18 years of age to submit visual, literary, musical and video artwork expressing their vision. The winning artwork is woven into displays and performances designed to relay the youth artists’ messages to other young people and adults around the world.

The main 2012 partners in the Humans in Space Youth Art Competition were NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and Mission X, an international educational challenge focused on fitness and nutrition that encourages students to “train like an astronaut.”

Dwingeloo radio telescope in The Netherlands. Credit: ASTRON - Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy

Dwingeloo radio telescope in The Netherlands.
Credit: ASTRON – Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy

Reflect on this

The OPTIKS project has been realized by artist de Paulis in collaboration with Jan van Muijlwijk and the CAMRAS radio amateurs association based at the Dwingeloo radio telescope in The Netherlands.

OPTICKS employs a technology called Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) or Moonbounce, developed shortly after World War II by the U.S. military as a form of reliable radio communication.

The long and short of the idea: EME uses the Moon as a natural reflector for radio signals. When the radio signals hit the Moon’s surface they are scattered in all directions so that only a small percentage of the original signals is reflected back on Earth.

Newton inspired

The title OPTICKS is inspired by Sir Isaac Newton, an English physicist and mathematician that, among other scientific inquiries, developed theories on light spectrum, reflection and refraction.

For the OPTICKS work, colors composing an image, converted into radio signals, are bounced off the Moon (reflected and refracted) by its surface during each live performance.

The project has been performed internationally, both in art festivals and science outreach events, including Global Astronomy Month 2011 and 2012.


Promotional artwork for the 2012 Humans in Space Youth Art Competition melded two renderings: The background piece, called “Industrializing Space,” was done by Jessica Sun, 15 years old, United States. She was awarded: 2nd Overall Visual Art Age 14-18.

In the foreground, the young man conducting the orchestra overlain on top of the painting is from the 2010 Humans in Space Youth Art Competition. He is shown conducting the Clear Lake High School orchestra playing his winning music composition for an assembled audience at the Opening Ceremony of the International Academy of Astronautics’ Humans in Space Symposium in Houston, April 2011. His name is James Tabata, age 16 (back in 2010), United States, 1st place overall, music, age 14–17.

Want more information?


For more information on the Humans in Space Youth Art Competition, go to:


Tabata’s musical artwork is visible here, as played during a live Houston performance:


More information on OPTICKS and Visual Moonbounce can be found at:

Artist’s impression of the Rosetta spacecraft at its destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The picture is not to scale; the spacecraft's solar arrays have a span of 32 meters; the diameter of the nucleus is about four kilometers.  Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab.

Artist’s impression of the Rosetta spacecraft at its destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The picture is not to scale; the spacecraft’s solar arrays have a span of 32 meters; the diameter of the nucleus is about four kilometers.
Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab.

It’s alive!

The Philae comet lander has been successfully reactivated and broke its planned radio silence by sending data to Earth on March 28.

Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft — with the Philae lander on board — has been making its way through space since March 2004 to investigate Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

What exactly is to be expected on arrival in August 2014 and Philae’s landing in November 2014 is still not known.

More than two and a half years – this is how long the Philae lander has been hibernating while travelling through space, according to a German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) press statement.

The lander will be deployed onto 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko while the Rosetta spacecraft orbits the comet. The comet has an average diameter of about four kilometers and is shaped like a giant potato. The comet rotates about its axis once every 12.6 hours.

Harpoons and ice screws

The orbiter and lander will be the first to witness a comet’s “awakening” as it approaches the Sun first hand – and warms up the celestial wanderer.

 Once Rosetta is in orbit around the comet, the search will begin for a suitable landing site for Philae. The selected site must allow a safe landing, but at the same time provide a location that the scientists find exciting to study.

Philae is prepared to deal with the various surface materials it might encounter – harpoons and ice screws will be used to anchor the lander to the landing site before it begins taking measurements.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is responsible for this international mission with contributions from its member states and NASA, including major participation by Germany.

X-37 space plane.  Credit: USAF/Boeing

X-37 space plane.
Credit: USAF/Boeing

US Air Force’s Secretive X-37B Space Plane Shatters Orbital Endurance Record By
Leonard David,’s Space Insider Columnist March 27, 2014 11:44am ET
Group shot...China's Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Group shot…China’s Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu rover.
Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

I asked Yong-Chun Zheng, an associate researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, to provide an update on the overall health of the Chang’e 3 moon lander and the Yutu rover.

 Both mooncraft are soon to enter their next celestial slumber. On the Moon, there are roughly 14 days of sunlight/14 days of ultra-cold night.

In part, here is Yong-Chun’s response to me via e-mail:

Self-awakened hardware

Since the soft landing of China’s Chang’e 3 mission upon the lunar surface on Dec. 14, 2013, the Yutu (Jade rabbit) rover has experienced three lunar day cycles.

 On March 14, the ground station received telemetry signals from the Yutu rover. It indicated that the rover was self- awakened successfully and entered into its fourth lunar day on the Moon, Yong-Chun said.

Two days earlier, the Chang’e 3 lander entered into the model of long-term management. The lander was also self- awakened into its fourth lunar day.

In the previous three lunar days, the lander operated normally. The science instruments on the lander, such as the lunar-based telescope, the topographic camera, the extreme-ultraviolet camera, and the lunar dust detector have completed the planned detection and measurements.

These instruments have generated a lot of science data and engineering data. As expected, the lander will work for one year on the Moon, Yong-Chun said.

Driving electronics

As previously reported by Ye Peijia, chief scientist with the Chang’e 3 lunar probe mission, the rover has suffered a problem in its driving electronics section.

“The rover cannot move again,” Yong-Chun said. In addition to that, the solar wings of the Yutu rover cannot be folded to keep the inside of the robot warm during lunar night. All other functions of the rover are working properly, he said.

Yong-Chun said that the Yutu rover has experienced very low temperatures during the last three lunar nights. According the designed procedures, the rover has entered into the mode of long-term management.

Meanwhile, Yutu’s panoramic camera and its ground penetrating radar “are working normally,” Yong-Chun reported.

Solid foundation

“The rover was designed to walk several miles. Actually, it walked only about one hundred meters on the Moon, Yong-Chun said. That being the case, “it influenced the achievements of the science goals of the rover.”

However, the Chang’e 3 lander and the Yutu rover have achieved their engineering tasks successfully.

“They got a lot of engineering data and science data,” Yong-Chun said. The experience of soft landing and driving a rover on the Moon, he concluded, provided a solid foundation for future lunar surface missions.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

NASA has released its 2014 Strategic Plan, with the space agency’s Office of Strategy Formulation identified as the responsible office.

“Our long-term goal is to send humans to Mars. Over the next two decades, we will develop and demonstrate the technologies and capabilities needed to send humans to explore the red planet and safely return them to Earth,” explains NASA chief, Charles Bolden, in the opening pages of the document.

“One of the steps toward this goal is a proposed mission to find, capture, redirect a near-Earth asteroid safely into the Earth-Moon system, and then send astronauts to explore it. This mission will allow us to further develop new technologies and test mechanisms and techniques for human operations in deep space, as well as help us understand potential future threats to human populations posed by asteroids,” Bolden explains.

For access to the entire document, go to:


Want your own glimpse of Apollo 11’s grab and go samples from the Moon, in all 48 pounds (22 kilograms) of rock and soil specimens?

This collection has been created through collaboration between The Open University in the United Kingdom and the NASA curation facility.

You can now examine Apollo 11 thin sections using the Open University’s Virtual Microscope.

The Virtual Microscope for Earth Sciences Project aims to make a step change in the teaching of Earth Sciences by broadening access to rock collections that are currently held in museums, universities and other institutions around the world.

moons_flyer_image3_blurred“Higher” education – shoot for the Moon

The intention of this unique effort is to engage and excite students in schools or higher education, and anyone interested in materials that make up the Earth’s surface.

Furthermore, the virtual microscope allows users to examine and explore minerals and microscopic features of rocks, helping them to develop classification and identification skills without the need for high-cost microscopes and thin section preparation facilities.

The Apollo 11 collection includes coarse-grained rocks from the lunar highlands, samples of basalt lava flows and samples of regolith (the layer of dust that covers the surface of the Moon).

Visit the Apollo 11 collection at:

NOTE: The collection of moon rocks drawn from all the missions can be found at:

Moons – a visual feast

Also, check out “Moons” a new course from The Open University that started on the FutureLearn platform on Monday, March 17th.

The requirements: “An interest in learning about the moons of our Solar System and the methods used to understand them. Prior knowledge of astronomy is not expected.”

This course is suitable for anyone with an interest in geology, astronomy or planets and does not require any previous experience of studying these subjects.

The course covers many aspects of the moons of the Solar System.

Go to:

Mast Camera (Mastcam) (MSSS-MALIN) image for Sol 574. Credit: JPL/MSSS-Malin

Mast Camera (Mastcam) (MSSS-MALIN) image for Sol 574. Credit: JPL/MSSS-Malin

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has reached areas where orbital images had piqued researchers’ interest in patches of ground with striations all oriented in a similar direction.

Here’s a sampling to whet your own curiosity that you may find of interest.

Mast Camera (Mastcam) (MSSS-MALIN) images for Sol 574. Credit: JPL/MSSS-MALIN

Mast Camera (Mastcam) (MSSS-MALIN) images for Sol 574. Credit: JPL/MSSS-MALIN


Starshade to look for exoplanets.  Credit: NASA/JPL

Starshade to look for exoplanets.
Credit: NASA/JPL







Made in the Shade Idea: Imaging Exoplanets

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project.  Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project.
Credit: ESA

Later this year, it’ll be a hot time for increasing Europe’s knowledge base for future reentry missions.  

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project is to tackle the basic European needs for reentry from low Earth orbit.

IXV’s launch, using Europe’s new Vega light launcher, is scheduled for October 2014.

Flight profile

Here’s the blistering ballistic background:

The IXV will separate from the Vega booster at an altitude of 320 kilometers, continuing to travel upwards to 412 kilometers. It will then begin its reentry, during which experimental data will be collected by the spacecraft’s complete instrument suite.

IXV’s speed during atmospheric reentry will reach approximately 7.7 kilometers a second at an altitude of 120 kilometers. That’s a typical profile for reentry from low Earth orbit – for example, from the space station’s orbit.

The mission will last approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Following the parachute descent phase, it will culminate with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The spacecraft will be recovered by a specially equipped ship.

Advanced aerodynamics

The IXV demonstrator features advanced aerodynamics due to its lifting body design, which also maximizes maneuverability.

The craft is fitted with a sophisticated guidance, navigation and control system that uses automated control surfaces during the atmospheric reentry phase, plus a heat shield to withstand the searing heat of reentry.

The demonstration vehicle has been developed by Thales Alenia Space and is now completing integration at Thales Alenia Space’s clean rooms in Turin.

Flight hardware for Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project. Credit: Thales Alenia Space

Flight hardware for Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project. Credit: Thales Alenia Space

Next-generation systems

The vehicle will be delivered to ESA’s ESTEC center in the Netherlands, where it will undergo final testing before being shipped to the launch site at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. 

The Italian Space Agency is a key player in the project, also providing technical assistance and contributions to both the ground segment and mission control.

“The design and construction of this technology demonstrator clearly establishes Thales Alenia Space as the European benchmark in space transport and reentry systems,” said Luigi Maria Quaglino, Senior Vice President for Exploration and Science at Thales Alenia Space. “It also paves the way for further developments leading to next-generation systems,” he added in a Thales Alenia Space press release.

NOTE: For more information on the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project, go to this video: