The making of Andrew Weir’s best-seller, The Martian into a movie by the director Ridley Scott is well underway. Here are some snapshots from the movie set. Matt Damon stars as NASA astronaut Mark Watney who struggles to survive on the Red Planet after his expedition believes he has been killed by a sudden dust storm and leaves him behind when they evacuate.
The Dawn probe is getting closer to the giant asteroid (or dwarf planet depending on your classification preference) and taking better images of those odd bright spots on the surface:
[ Update: Lots more Ceres images with Emily Lakdawalla‘s commentary: Tons of fun with the latest Ceres image releases from Dawn – The Planetary Society.]
NASA’s Dawn mission captured a sequence of images, taken for navigation purposes, of dwarf planet Ceres on May 16, 2015. The image showcases the group of the brightest spots on Ceres, which continue to mystify scientists. It was taken from a distance of 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) and has a resolution of 2,250 feet (700 meters) per pixel.
“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission from the University of California, Los Angeles, said recently.
Dawn arrived at Ceres on March 6, marking the first time a spacecraft has orbited a dwarf planet. Previously, the spacecraft explored giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012. Dawn has the distinction of being the only spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial targets.
The spacecraft has been using its ion propulsion system to maneuver to its second mapping orbit at Ceres, which it will reach on June 6. The spacecraft will remain at a distance of 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) from the dwarf planet until June 30. Afterward, it will make its way to lower orbits.
Dawn’s mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of acknowledgements, visit: dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission
For more information about the Dawn mission, visit: dawn.jpl.nasa.gov
NASA JPL has set up a site where you can vote on what you think is creating the shiny spots: What’s the spot on World Ceres.
SpaceX recently carried out a pad abort test with a Dragon Crew module at Cape Canaveral. Here is a video from a camera on board the Dragon:
Here is a view from a distance from the pad:
Here’s the latest episode of NASA’s weekly Space To Ground report on activities related to the International Space Station:
Here’s a video of the departure of the SpaceX Dragon on Thursday from the ISS:
The National Space Society ‘s annual conference started today in Toronto, Canada – ISDC 2015 (International Space Development Conference 2015). The event lasts through Sunday and includes multiple presentation tracks: Schedule.
Check out comments from the meeting: #ISDC2015 hashtag on Twitter
The Atlas V launch mentioned earlier went off well on Wednesday:
The X-37B and the ten CubeSats secondary payloads were deployed, including the Planetary Society’s LightSail and it began transmitting its status:
- Liftoff! LightSail Sails into Space aboard Atlas V Rocket – The Planetary Society
- LightSail Sends First Data Back to Earth – The Planetary Society
Today it continues to look in good shape –
- LightSail Update: All Systems Nominal – The Planetary Society
- Jason Davis on Twitter: #LightSail update: all systems remain nominal. 53 beacon packets have been received thus far, trends look good.”
You can follow developments with the LightSail at Mission Control Center | The Planetary Society.
Deployment of the solar sail is currently set for June 17th.
A SpaceUp event is a space unconference
where participants decide the topics, schedule, and structure of the event. Unconferences have been held about technology, science, transit, and even cupcakes, but this is the first one focused on space exploration.
SpaceUp is your unconference
Everyone who attends SpaceUp is encouraged to give a talk, moderate a panel, or start a discussion. Sessions are proposed and scheduled on the day they’re given, which means the usual “hallway conversations” turn into full-fledged topics.
Since the first SpaceUp in San Diego in 2010, there have been dozens of SpaceUp events around the world. See the list of past and future SpaceUp events here: SpaceUp Near You – SpaceUp
To encourage the organization of even more SpaceUp meetings, the SpaceUp Foundation has been formed to provide advice and some initial funding to help organizers get an event off the ground.
The SpaceUp Foundation is holding a crowdfunding campaign to support five events this year: Sci-Five: 5 New SpaceUps for 2015 by SpaceUp Foundation — Kickstarter
A new finding from the ESO (European Southern Observatory):
Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have captured the most detailed image ever taken of the Medusa Nebula. As the star at the heart of this nebula made its transition into retirement, it shed its outer layers into space, forming this colourful cloud. The image foreshadows the final fate of the Sun, which will eventually also become an object of this kind.
ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has captured the most detailed image ever taken of the Medusa Nebula (also known Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274). As the star at the heart of this nebula made its final transition into retirement, it shed its outer layers into space, forming this colourful cloud. The image foreshadows the final fate of the Sun, which will eventually also become an object of this kind. Credit ESO.
This beautiful planetary nebula is named after a dreadful creature from Greek mythology — the Gorgon Medusa. It is also known as Sharpless 2-274 and is located in the constellation of Gemini (The Twins). The Medusa Nebula spans approximately four light-years and lies at a distance of about 1500 light-years. Despite its size it is extremely dim and hard to observe.
Medusa was a hideous creature with snakes in place of hair. These snakes are represented by the serpentine filaments of glowing gas in this nebula. The red glow from hydrogen and the fainter green emission from oxygen gas extends well beyond this frame, forming a crescent shape in the sky. The ejection of mass from stars at this stage of their evolution is often intermittent, which can result in fascinating structures within planetary nebulae.
For tens of thousands of years the stellar cores of planetary nebulae are surrounded by these spectacularly colourful clouds of gas . Over a further few thousand years the gas slowly disperses into its surroundings. This is the last phase in the transformation of stars like the Sun before ending their active lives as white dwarfs. The planetary nebula stage in the life of a star is a tiny fraction of its total life span — just as the time a child takes to blow a soap bubble and see it drift away is a brief instant compared to a full human life span.
Harsh ultraviolet radiation from the very hot star at the core of the nebula causes atoms in the outward-moving gas to lose their electrons, leaving behind ionised gas. The characteristic colours of this glowing gas can be used to identify objects. In particular, the presence of the green glow from doubly ionised oxygen ([O III]) is used as a tool for spotting planetary nebulae. By applying appropriate filters, astronomers can isolate the radiation from the glowing gas and make the dim nebulae appear more pronounced against a darker background.
When the green [O III] emission from nebulae was first observed, astronomers thought they had discovered a new element that they dubbed nebulium. They later realised that it was simply a rare wavelength of radiation  from an ionised form of the familiar element oxygen.
The nebula is also referred to as Abell 21 (more formally PN A66 21), after the American astronomer George O. Abell, who discovered this object in 1955. For some time scientists debated whether the cloud could be the remnant of a supernova explosion. In the 1970s, however, researchers were able to measure the movement and other properties of the material in the cloud and clearly identify it as a planetary nebula .
This image uses data from the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph (FORS) instrument attached to the VLT, which were acquired as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme .
A solar sail prototype called the LightSail, built by the Planetary Society, will be one of secondary payloads on an Atlas V rocket set to be launched on Wednesday. The primary payload is one of the US Air Force’s reusble X-37B spaceplanes. The sail is packed into a tiny CubeSat. The sail unfurls from the CubeSat as shown in this Vine:
The LighSail CubeSat will be deployed with 9 other CubeSats. Here is a factsheet about the cubesats on the rocket: Atlas V AFSPC-5ULTRASat CubeSat descriptions (pdf). It includes this nicely made graphic showing how the cubesats are installed and deployed from the Atlas V‘s Centaur upper stage:
Her are some recent posts from the Planetary Society about the project and the launch:
- In Pictures: LightSail’s Rocket Rolls to the Launch Pad
- Timeline: LightSail’s First Day in Space
- What Images Will We Get Back from the LightSail Test Mission?
To watch the launch, which will happen during windows 11:05-11:15 a.m. and 12:42-12:52 p.m. EDT, you can watch the webcasts at:
This prototype will not actually achieve any acceleration from the solar light pressure. The orbit will be so low that the drag from the residual atmosphere will overwhelm the tiny force of solar light. This flight is only to test the deployment mechanism and other systems.
A second LightSail to be flown as a secondary on a launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy in 2016 should reach a high enough altitude where the residual atmosphere will be insignificant and light pressure will be able to move the sail.
To support this project, the Planetary Society has a Kickstarter underway at LightSail: A Revolutionary Solar Sailing Spacecraft by Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society — Kickstarter.
The target was $200,000 but they have already reached nearly $600,000 with 37 days to go. So they are shooting for a million dollars and several stretch goals.
NASA announces the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge:
NASA and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, known as America Makes, are holding a new $2.25 million competition to design and build a 3-D printed habitat for deep space exploration, including the agency’s journey to Mars.
The multi-phase 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge, part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, is designed to advance the additive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond.
Shelter is among the most basic and crucial human needs, but packing enough materials and equipment to build a habitat on a distant planet would take up valuable cargo space that could be used for other life-sustaining provisions. The ability to manufacture a habitat using indigenous materials, combined with material that would otherwise be waste from the spacecraft, would be invaluable.
The first phase of the competition, announced Saturday at the Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, runs through Sept. 27. This phase, a design competition, calls on participants to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts that take advantage of the unique capabilities 3-D printing offers. The top 30 submissions will be judged and a prize purse of $50,000 will be awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.
“The future possibilities for 3-D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration,” said Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges program manager. “This challenge definitely raises the bar from what we are currently capable of, and we are excited to see what the maker community does with it.”
The second phase of the competition is divided into two levels. The Structural Member Competition (Level 1) focuses on the fabrication technologies needed to manufacture structural components from a combination of indigenous materials and recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. The On-Site Habitat Competition (Level 2) challenges competitors to fabricate full-scale habitats using indigenous materials or indigenous materials combined with recyclables. Both levels open for registration Sept. 26, and each carries a $1.1 million prize.
Winning concepts and products will help NASA build the technical expertise to send habitat-manufacturing machines to distant destinations, such as Mars, to build shelters for the human explorers who follow. On Earth, these capabilities may be used one day to construct affordable housing in remote locations with limited access to conventional building materials.
“America Makes is honored to be a partner in this potentially revolutionary competition,” said Ralph Resnick, founding director of America Makes. “We believe that 3D printing/Additive Manufacturing has the power to fundamentally change the way people approach design and construction for habitats, both on earth and off, and we are excitedly awaiting submissions from all types of competitors.”
America Makes is a public/private partnership of organizations focused on accelerating the capabilities and adoption of additive manufacturing technology.
The Centennial Challenges Program is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington.
- May 16, 2015: Registration Opens
- July 15, 2015: Deadline To Submit Registration Package
- August 3, 2015: Deadline to Submit Design Entry
- September 26 & 27: NYC Maker Faire
Here’s a recent drone view of Tesla Motors‘ giant Gigafactory battery plant under construction in Nevada.
[ Update: Elon says this is just a fraction of the ultimate size of the facility – Elon Musk on Twitter:
This is not the full Gigafactory, it is just the pilot plant (1/4 size)
Another of Elon Musk’s concepts is being moved forward by Hyperloop Technologies Inc, which will begin building a five mile (8 km) long Hyperloop test track in 2016: Hyperloop Glides toward Reality in California – Navigant Research.
Elon has also proposed a test track in Texas.
Gregory Cecil has released his first book, Classroom Laboratory at the Edge of Space: Introducing the Mini-Cube Program.
A book written for secondary public and private school STEM instructors, home schooling, and undergraduate STEM courses of study explaining how to set up their own student focused “space program” utilizing the Mini-Cube Program. With this STEM Project Based Learning Activity, students can have the unique, affordable, and challenging opportunity to send experiments via high altitude balloon to an altitude of 100,000 feet (20 miles or 32 km), commonly known as the “edge of space.”
Utilizing the scientific method, team work, research, and communicating in writing the results and applications for peer review, students will participate in the full cycle of an actual experiment from the original question to the published results and conduct true science at the edge of space.
It is currently available in Kindle format and he says a print copy will be released in a few weeks.
1. Monday, May18,, 2015: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT; 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome DR. JOHN LEARNED to discuss fast radio bursts and neutrinos. This program is co-hosted with Dr. John Jurist.
2. Tuesday, May 19, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back DR. ELIGAR SADEH on public/private partnerships..
3. Friday, May 22, 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): DR. PAL BREKKE joins us again. Dr. Brekke is a noted solar scientist.
4. Sunday, May 24, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): We welcome back CHRIS STONE on national security space and more.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The High Altitude Student Payload (HASP) is a high altitude balloon system
designed to carry up to twelve student payloads to an altitude of about 36 kilometers with flight durations of 15 to 20 hours using a small volume, zero pressure balloon. It is anticipated that the payloads carried by HASP will be designed and built by students and will be used to flight-test compact satellites or prototypes and to fly other small experiments.
A launch of a HASP payload in 2013:
The program, sponsored by NASA and the Louisiana Space Consortium, seeks
to foster student excitement in an aerospace career path and to help address workforce development issues in this area. HASP plans to provide a “space test platform” to encourage student research and stimulate the development of student satellite payloads and other space-engineering products. By getting the students involved with every aspect of the program HASP hopes to fill the gap between and student built sounding balloons and satellites, while also enhancing the technical skills and research abilities of the students.
One experiment on a flight in 2014 measured very low frequency sound waves, referred to as infrasound, at high altitudes for the first time in decades: Eerie ‘X-Files’ Sounds Recorded From the Edge of Space – Discovery News
Here is a sampling of what they recorded:
Here’s the caption to the video:
Infrasound recorded on a high altitude balloon during the 2014 HASP flight. The balloon floated at approximately 22 miles above sea level for 5.6 hours, travelling about 450 miles in the process. The research was featured in articles on Live Science and the Huffington Post as well as featured on the BBC and National Public Radio.
The sound has been sped up 100 times in order to bring it into the audible range. The original clip featured in the media was sped up by 1000x (see the video “Infrasound in the Stratosphere II), and thus had less audible detail.
My friend Joan Horvath, The 3D Printing Evangelist, has a new book out co-authored with Rich Cameron titled, The New Shop Class: Getting Started with 3D Printing, Arduino, and Wearable Tech –
The New Shop Class connects the worlds of the maker and hacker with that of the scientist and engineer. If you are a parent or educator or a budding maker yourself, and you feel overwhelmed with all of the possible technologies, this book will get you started with clear discussions of what open source technologies like 3D printers, Arduinos, robots and wearable tech can really do in the right hands. Written by real “rocket scientist” Joan Horvath, author of Mastering 3D Printing, and 3D printing expert Rich Cameron (AKA whosawhatsis), The New Shop Class is a friendly, down-to-earth chat about how hands-on making things can lead to a science career.
More about Joan’s earlier book Mastering 3D Printing
Mastering 3D Printing shows you how to get the most out of your printer, including how to design models, choose materials, work with different printers, and integrate 3D printing with traditional prototyping to make techniques like sand casting more efficient.
You’ve printed key chains. You’ve printed simple toys. Now you’re ready to innovate with your 3D printer to start a business or teach and inspire others.
Joan Horvath has been an educator, engineer, author, and startup 3D printing company team member. She shows you all of the technical details you need to know to go beyond simple model printing to make your 3D printer work for you as a prototyping device, a teaching tool, or a business machine.
Follow the latest news from Joan at
The latest live TMRO.tv show is now available in the achive: Crowdfunding your next space project – TMRO –
This week we talk to SpaceUP Foundation CEO Chris Radcliff and COO Jesse Clark about their new Kickstarter campaign to fund 5 SpaceUP unconferences. We also chat about what it will take for YOU to start your own Kickstarter campaign for that nifty space idea you have but need funds to make in to a reality. You can view the “How to ruin a Kickstarter” blog post we talked about here: http://globalspin.com/2013/06/how-to-ruin-a-kickstarter/
In Space News:
Proton Launch and Issues
SpaceX gets certified to launch NASA science missions
Brightman steps down from station flight
Russia delays ISS crew rotation flights
US House bill cuts more commercial crew funding
TMRO Space Pods are crowd funded shows. If you like this episode consider contributing to help us to continue to improve. Head over to http://www.patreon.com/spacepod for information, goals and reward levels. Don’t forget to check out our weekly live show campaign as well over at http://www.patreon.com/tmro
Every so often, a blog or e-zine posts a set of Chesley Bonestell‘s wonderful space paintings. Here is good collection posted today: The Beautiful Art That Helped Inspire Space Travel – io9.
Find lots of space art and links to galleries and artists in the HobbySpace Space Art resources.