In the next few weeks, NASA will present President Obama with options for the near-term future of human spaceflight. A manned flight to Mars is one possibility. But if we do send astronauts to Mars, do we really need to bring them home again?
Orbital skydives to follow inflatable heatshield success? "NASA has announced a successful live test of a prototype inflatable heat shield for re-entry to a planet's atmosphere. The blow-up shield could have important implications for future missions to Mars - and also, perhaps, for the nascent field of orbital spacesuit skydiving."
In 2004, the Stardust mission passed through the tail of comet 81P/Wild (aka Wild 2); in 2006, that captured comet dust was returned to Earth. Now, researchers have found glycine, one of the amino acids in proteins, in that cometary material. [more inside]
Neil Armstrong was a test pilot before he was an astronaut. He had his pilot's license before he had his driver's license. But even he had some trouble getting used to that darned Lunar Excursion Module (LEM). [more inside]
Astronaut Michael Collins – "I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified façade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment. The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied."
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned its first images of the Apollo moon landing sites. The spacecraft’s onboard camera photographed Lunar Module descent stages at five of the six Apollo sites—11, 14, 15, 16, and 17. The Apollo 12 site will be photographed in coming weeks. [more inside]
We Chose the Moon: The JFK Library and Museum has just launched this interactive web experience using archival audio, video, photos, and recorded transmissions to re-create, in real time, the July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
Ultra-High Bypass (UHB) or "propfan" jet engines received attention in the late eighties as an economical and greener alternative to currrent GTF and ATF jet technologies. Adoption was partially prevented by industry fears that the external propellers would being seen as a step backwards. Evidently, General Electric and NASA are reinvesting in the technology.
The most complete terrain map of the Earth's surface has been published. It covers 99% of the planet using ASTER satellite imagery. You can download the map and some cool images from NASA's page.
Space Shuttle launch aborts. Approximately six minutes of on-pad post-ignition pre-liftoff aborts in a single YouTube link.
Inspired by its 10th anniversary, the Earth Observatory has pulled together a special series of NASA satellite images documenting how the world has changed. From these images, Wired Science has made 5 videos, presenting convenient time-lapse views of the world changing (mainly) because of human actions. Watch the urbanization of Dubai, specifically the growth of Palm Jumeirah. See the Aral Sea dry up - once the fourth largest lake, down to 10 percent of its original size (marked by the thin black line in the video) by 2007. View the clearing the Amazon, as observed from above the state of Rondônia in western Brazil. Behold the return of Mesopotamia's Wetlands, now in the process of being restored from near total destruction under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Witness the impact of drought on Southern Utah's Lake Powell, where water level dropped from 20 million to 8 million acre-feet from 2000 to 2005.
Back in 2002, 4 interns pulled off an unusual heist: they stole a quarter tonne of moon rocks under NASA's nose, which reads like a surreal pulp. [via jwz] [more inside]
There has been a lot of speculation lately about NASA's future plans for manned spaceflight, especially in light of the Obama government's review of Project Constellation, the Apollo-esque Orion capsule, and the effectiveness (or not) of the Ares rockets. More about this here, here, and here. [more inside]
At the mostly abandoned Moffett Field in an abandoned McDonald's, digital archeologists attempt to restore, recover and archive abandoned high resolution imagery and data from previous manned Moon missions, using an abandoned Ampex 2" tape drive found in a chicken coop - the last working machine in the world, restored by the last man alive capable of rebuilding the heads. This is likely only part of their weird story.
Nasa is using friction stir welding to build its new space craft. No blowtorch, no solder, no sparks, no smoke, no ozone and no radiation. Instead, it uses friction to heat materials and then "stir" them together at a molecular level.
Once dubbed the Picture of the Century, the first Earthrise, photographed in 1966 by NASA's Lunar Orbiter 1, presented "a stunning juxtaposition of planet and moon that no earthling had ever seen before." After initially inspiring awe, the original image was almost destroyed. In the mad rush of the space race, the pictures and data from early missions were warehoused and forgotten. Many at NASA believed that the original high-resolution images, stored on fragile tapes that could only be read by obsolete equipment, would be nearly impossible to retrieve, but one woman was determined to see them restored. Via.
NASA Interim Problem Report 119V-0080: The bat that went up with the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Tonight NASA is scheduled to launch the Kepler Mission (named after planetary legislator Johannes Kepler) with the goal of finding Earth size planets in orbit around stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the sky. Over the next 3 and a half years it will maintain a nearly unblinking gaze on the approximately 100 thousand stars in the region. NASA expects it to find about 50 Earth size planets, as well as hundreds that are larger. You can watch the launch live on NASA TV. [more inside]
via whedonesque.com: Vote for the name of node 3 of the ISS. Apparently Joss needs our help. "After Serenity made it to space last year, NASA want to know what to name part of the space station, and Serenity is on the list." [more inside]
"They ran into each other. Nothing has the right of way up there. We don't have an air traffic controller in space. There is no universal way of knowing what's coming in your direction." An unprecedented collision of two orbiting satellites yesterday highlights the increasing threat of space junk.
Science & technology funding has an enormous long term impact on the economy, a fact that has not escaped China. Yet, Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have proposed cutting all National Science Foundation and Department of Energy Office of Science funding from the Senate American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, along with almost all other proposed funding of the sciences and technological development, as a part of a $77.9B reduction effort. Why? Well, you'll notice that Nebraska & Maine don't contribute much to science & technology in the United States, nor win many grants, and hence no bacon for Nelson and Collins. [more inside]
"Money" is a completely AWESOME music video of a track by N.A.S.A. (North America South America), a DJ collective featuring Squeak E. Clean and DJ Zegon plus many famous guest artists, including, on this track alone, David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, & Z-Trip. (Other tracks by N.A.S.A. feature the likes of Tom Waits, M.I.A., Gift of Gab and Kool Keith.) The video features the artwork of Shepard Fairey, who has been discussed previously here. The video was directed by Paul Griswold and Syd Garon (who also did this great video for DJ Qbert and this one for Dan the Automator, which features some nice Gilliamesque touches.)
A British tabloid claims that NASA will today announce the probable presence of life on Mars. Planetary and atmospheric scientists from NASA's Mars program will address a press conference at 2PM EST, apparently about concentrated methane
plumesthat bloom and dissipate [pdf]. There was a false alarm about a similar briefing a few months ago; is this the real deal?
Spacesuits ll LunarRover ll NavigationComputer ll LunarModule ll SaturnV First aired on Discovery channel as part of Space Week, Moon Machines tells the story of the over 400,000 engineers and technicians that made it possible for us to go to the moon. Lots of gorgeous Nasa archival footage throughout.
NASA releases the Columbia shuttle disaster report. Space shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry in 2003 as a result of damage sustained to its thermal protection system. This report details the possible lethal incidents and the investigation board's recommendations based on their findings. [more inside]
Rethinking Earthrise. On the 40th anniversary of the NASA's Apollo 8 mission [caution: weird JFK animation], which answered Stewart Brand's epochal, LSD-inspired question "Why haven't we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?" with an unforgettable image of a seemingly fragile and isolated blue planet, Nature editor Oliver Morton -- author of a new book on photosynthesis called Eating the Sun -- disputes the notion that the Earth is fragile and isolated. "The fragility is an illusion," he writes. "The planet Earth is a remarkably robust thing, and this strength flows from its ancient and intimate connection to the cosmos beyond. To see the photo this way does not undermine its environmental relevance -- but it does recast it."
Forty Years Ago Today The first humans to leave earth orbit, Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William A. Anders, and their Christmas message. [more inside]
Has man really set foot on the moon? There have certainly been a lot of claims that the whole Apollo missions were one giant hoax. Adam and Jamie at Mythbusters examine the claims of the Hoax Believers one by one. Did they use a wire rig or slow down the film to simulate the 1/6 moon gravity? What would it look like in real 1/6 G? Would a footprint in the lunar regolith have maintained it's shape even if there was no moisture to keep the material together? Why was the flag waving so much if there was no wind on the moon? Why are the shadows on the moon not parallel if they are coming from a single light source? Why can we see the astronauts when they are in shadows if there isn't a second light source? To finish it all off they shoot a laser at the moon to see if the reflector they supposedly left there is actually there.
At a cost of $20,000 a pound (google search prices vary). You have to wonder how much this cost. Poor Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper dropped her tool bag But don't worry, NASA tracks NEOs. And then there is the missing spider. Lastly, throwing in a gratuitous link to APOD (because it's cool and I can't wait to see the tool bag show up).
Former Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey wants to bring sports to space. He calls it Space Sportilization
Messenger has just made another flyover of Mercury, revealing hidden features. Watch the animation to see the blue volcanoes.
From grainy stills to gorgeous high-resolution portraits, from intimate pairings to stark contrasts, and from old standbys to little-known surprises, The Planetary Society's Earth galleries offer a rich collection of stunning photography and video footage of our world as seen from both planetary spacecraft and geostationary satellites. It is a vista that has inspired many a deep thought in the lucky few that have seen it firsthand [previously]. Oh, and the rest of the Solar System is pretty neat, too.
Japan is showing renewed interest as another contender in the race to build the world's first space elevator. Japanese scientists believe they can complete the project with an optimistic trillion yen budget, and are sponsoring an international conference (no English) this November to draw up a timetable. [more inside]
Mysterious New 'Dark Flow' Discovered in Space. "As if the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy weren't vexing enough, another baffling cosmic puzzle has been discovered. Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can't be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon 'dark flow.' The stuff that's pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude." [more inside]
The Autonomous NanoTechnology Swarm (ANTS) "...is a generic mission architecture consisting of miniaturized, autonomous, self-similar, reconfigurable, addressable components forming structures. The components/structures have wide spatial distribution and multi-level organization. This ‘swarm’ behavior is inspired by the success of social insect colonies...." ANTS may one day teem through the solar system.... (last two links large QT files) [more inside]
"We have water," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. "We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted."
Brewster Khale over at Internet Archive just announced they are working with NASA to make available the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA's vast collection of photographs, historic film and video at nasaimages.org. It combines for the first time 21 major NASA imagery collections into a single, searchable online resource.
NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft has photographed Earth from 31 million miles away. NASA has woven the images together, creating a video of Earth as the moon orbits around it. Videos: 1 | 2 [.mov]. [more inside]
30 Incredible Abstract Satellite Images of Earth "From 400 miles away, the earth transforms into abstract art. The global landscape is impressionist, cubist and pointillist." Nice NASA images from 2000, downloadable as wallpaper.
How space toilets work. They've come a long way. They sure don't look like the one in my house. What happens when they break? NPR explains the logistics of the repair process. Oh thank heavens, it's working again.
Assemble a rocket from main engine to payload fairing. Rocket Science 101 shows the basic parts of the launch vehicle, how they are configured, and how they work together to launch a NASA spacecraft. More Friday Flash Fun.
Before developing exotic space propulsion systems like the ion engines on deep space probes, he developed guidance systems for Nazi Germany's ballistic missile, the V2. As Dr. Werner von Braun's Chief Scientist, he was one of the brilliant minds that founded the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and sent astronauts to the moon atop MSFC's Saturn V rocket. Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, one of the last surviving rocket scientists extracted from Nazi Germany in Operation Paperclip, died today at 94.