A message from the Challenger Center for Space Science Education:
Crew’s Legacy Lives On in Thriving STEM Education Organization
WASHINGTON (January 26, 2015) – Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center) and its network of 44 Centers around the globe will honor the crew of the Challenger Shuttle by observing the 29th anniversary of the accident on Wednesday, January 28. The nonprofit STEM education organization was formed in 1986 as a living tribute to the crew and works to strengthen students’ interest and knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
Challenger Center will accompany Challenger family members, June Scobee Rodgers and Dr. Chuck Resnik and his family, to NASA‘s Day of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday. NASA’s Day of Remembrance was created in the wake of the Columbia tragedy to honor those who gave their lives in the cause of exploration and discovery. The date commemorates the astronauts who died in the Columbia, Challenger and Apollo I accidents as well as the other NASA pilots and employees who lost their lives in the pursuit of exploration.
- February 1, 2003 is the anniversary of the Columbia Accident, and the loss of the STS-107 crew; Rick Husband, Willy McCool, Mike Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon.
- January 28, 1986 is the anniversary of the Challenger Explosion and the loss of STS-51L astronauts; Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Gregory Jervis and Christa McAuliffe.
- January 27, 1967 is the anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire, which took the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.
Challenger Learning Centers around the globe will recognize the anniversary through special events, programs, and discussions with their local students and communities.
“It is hard to believe that we lost our beloved Challenger crew 29 years ago. They had such grand plans to teach and inspire kids around the globe,” said Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, founding chair, Challenger Center, and widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee. “As family members, we knew that from that tragedy we had to create triumph, and continue the work of our loved ones. It is awe inspiring to watch Challenger Center continue to flourish and keep our loved one’s legacies alive.”
Nearly 30 years after the tragedy, Challenger Center continues to grow and be recognized for its successes. In 2014, Challenger Center opened its first newly designed Center since the organization’s founding. Challenger Learning Center at the Scobee Education Center, San Antonio College is a state-of-the-art Center that has quickly become Challenger Center’s flagship facility. Last year, the organization also opened a Center in Reno, Nevada, marking the first location in the state. Challenger Learning Centers in Schenectady, NY and Lockport, NY are scheduled to open later this year.
In addition to expanding its brick and mortar footprint, Challenger Center began work on a new project funded through a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The research and development grant will assist in the creation of a program that will deliver Challenger Center missions directly into the classroom, helping to reach students who do not have access to a Challenger Learning Center.
“Challenger Center is inspiring today’s students to see their full potential and follow a path that leads to a career in the STEM industry, helping us build a stronger society,” said Dr. Lance Bush, president and CEO, Challenger Center. “Never before has this mission been so critical. Just as the Challenger crew demonstrated a true commitment to being innovators in both their work and personal lives, we work to inspire that desire and passion for innovation in our Challenger Center students.”
About Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center)
As a leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, Challenger Center and its international network of Challenger Learning Centers use space simulations to engage students in dynamic, hands-on opportunities. These experiences strengthen knowledge in STEM subjects and inspire students to pursue careers in these important fields. Centers reach hundreds of thousands of students and tens of thousands of teachers each year. Founded in 1986, Challenger Center was created to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51-L: Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith. Learn more about Challenger Center at www.challenger.organd connect with us on facebook.com/challengerctr, twitter.com/challengerctr and youtube.com/ccsse.
Here’s a SETI Institute seminar by Jens Biele of the German space agency (DLR) in which he talks about the ESA Rosetta/Philae landing on Comet 67P/C-G: The Rosetta Lander (PHILAE) mission: landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – SETI Institute
Here is the caption to the video:
The Rosetta Lander (PHILAE) mission: landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
The Rosetta Lander, Philae, landed on 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014. Before this could happen, a landing site had to be selected within just 2 months, based on data from the Rosetta Orbiter instruments and analyses on flight dynamics and illumination profiles. Philae was programmed to perform a First Scientific Sequence, immediately following touch down, and then enter its long term science mode.
The paper will report on the actual landing and the very first results. The landing was successful, though the operational sequences had to be modified ad hoc: Philae did not anchor upon first touchdown at 15:34:06 UTC but rebounded at least once, finally settling – fully operating all the while – at a place not ideal for long-term science. A wealth of science data has been received.
Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.
The asteroid I mentioned yesterday that was to fly past earth turned out to have an unusual feature:
Scientists working with NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86. The images show the asteroid, which made its closest approach today (Jan. 26, 2015) at 8:19 a.m. PST (11:19 a.m. EST) at a distance of about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon), has its own small moon.
The 20 individual images used in the movie were generated from data collected at Goldstone on Jan. 26, 2015. They show the primary body is approximately 1,100 feet (325 meters) across and has a small moon approximately 230 feet (70 meters) across. In the near-Earth population, about 16 percent of asteroids that are about 655 feet (200 meters) or larger are a binary (the primary asteroid with a smaller asteroid moon orbiting it) or even triple systems (two moons). The resolution on the radar images is 13 feet (4 meters) per pixel.
The trajectory of asteroid 2004 BL86 is well understood. Monday’s flyby was the closest approach the asteroid will make to Earth for at least the next two centuries. It is also the closest a known asteroid this size will come to Earth until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past our planet in 2027.
Asteroid 2004 BL86 was discovered on Jan. 30, 2004, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.
Radar is a powerful technique for studying an asteroid’s size, shape, rotation state, surface features and surface roughness, and for improving the calculation of asteroid orbits. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than if radar observations weren’t available.
NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the U.S. has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects (NEOs). To date, U.S. assets have discovered over 98 percent of the known NEOs.
In addition to the resources NASA puts into understanding asteroids, it also partners with other U.S. government agencies, university-based astronomers, and space science institutes across the country, often with grants, interagency transfers and other contracts from NASA, and also with international space agencies and institutions that are working to track and better understand these objects.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, manages and funds the search, study and monitoring of asteroids and comets whose orbits periodically bring them close to Earth. JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
In 2016, NASA will launch a robotic probe to one of the most potentially hazardous of the known NEOs. The OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid (101955) Bennu will be a pathfinder for future spacecraft designed to perform reconnaissance on any newly discovered threatening objects. Aside from monitoring potential threats, the study of asteroids and comets enables a valuable opportunity to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the source of water on Earth, and even the origin of organic molecules that led to the development of life.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
NASA also continues to advance the journey to Mars through progress on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which will test a number of new capabilities needed for future human expeditions to deep space, including to Mars. This includes advanced Solar Electric Propulsion — an efficient way to move heavy cargo using solar power, which could help pre-position cargo for future human missions to the Red Planet. As part of ARM, a robotic spacecraft will rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid and redirect an asteroid mass to a stable orbit around the moon. Astronauts will explore the asteroid mass in the 2020’s, helping test modern spaceflight capabilities like new spacesuits and sample return techniques. Astronauts at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston have already begun to practice the capabilities needed for the mission.
and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/asteroidwatch
More information about asteroid radar research is at: echo.jpl.nasa.gov/
More information about the Deep Space Network is at: deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/dsn
For more information about the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:
1. Monday, Jan. 26, 2015: 2:00-3:30PM PST (5:00-& 6:30 PM EST, 4:00-5:30 PM CST): We welcome JPL’s DR. MARC RAYMAN, the chief engineer and mission director for Dawn, the first spacecraft ever targeted to orbit two extraterrestrial destinations, the giant protoplanet Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres.
2. Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): We welcome back JOHN POWELL OF JP Aerospace.
3. Friday, Jan. 30, 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PST (12:30-2 PM EST; 11:30-1 PM CST): We welcome DR. EDGAR BERING to discuss the Mars Rover Contest for Middle and Elementary School students to be held at the University of Houston on Jan. 31, 2015. Professor Bering is the founder of this event.
4. Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST): We welcome back DR. DOUG PLATA, a physician from Southern California, who will be discussing concepts regarding an initial lunar base. He will be taking a solutions-based approach while addressing the various challenges inherent in such a project.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
I posted previously about SpaceTraveller, a “solar system simulator and space mission visualizer program” under development by BINARY SPACE, which provides the Satellite Tracking Tool here and with whom I work to make the Virtual SpaceTV 3D animated news reports. That post included a video demonstrating a simulation of the Rosetta spacecraft as it maneuvered near Comet 67P/C-G.
Here is a new video showing a SpaceTraveller simulation of the famous ‘Seven Minutes of Terror’ as the Mars Science Laboratory (i.e. the Curiosity rover) made its atmospheric entry, descent, and landing on Mars on August 6, 2012.
The trajectory, orientation and rotation data is derived from MSL’s sensors (with a certain time granularity). Trajectories for other objects than MSL (when not body-fixed to it) are approximate only (implemented manually).
For further info on SpaceTraveller, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
An asteroid half a kilometer in diameter will pass near earth on Monday: Giant asteroid is about to give Earth a close call – Sen.com
Here is the original NASA JPL story:
(See GIF animation clip)
This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86, which will come
no closer than about three times the distance from Earth to the moon
on Jan. 26, 2015. Due to its orbit around the sun, the asteroid is
currently only visible by astronomers with large telescopes who are
located in the southern hemisphere. But by Jan. 26, the space rock’s
changing position will make it visible to those in the northern hemisphere.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
An asteroid, designated 2004 BL86, will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon on January 26. From its reflected brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about a third of a mile (0.5 kilometers) in size. The flyby of 2004 BL86 will be the closest by any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027.
At the time of its closest approach on January 26, the asteroid will be approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth.
“Monday, January 26 will be the closest asteroid 2004 BL86 will get to Earth for at least the next 200 years,” said Don Yeomans, who is retiring as manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, after 16 years in the position. “And while it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more.”
One way NASA scientists plan to learn more about 2004 BL86 is to observe it with microwaves (http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2006-00a ). NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will attempt to acquire science data and radar-generated images of the asteroid during the days surrounding its closest approach to Earth.
“When we get our radar data back the day after the flyby, we will have the first detailed images,” said radar astronomer Lance Benner of JPL, the principal investigator for the Goldstone radar observations of the asteroid. “At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises.”
Asteroid 2004 BL86 was initially discovered on Jan. 30, 2004 by a telescope of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.
The asteroid is expected to be observable to amateur astronomers with small telescopes and strong binoculars.
“I may grab my favorite binoculars and give it a shot myself,” said Yeomans. “Asteroids are something special. Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water, but in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources. They will also become the fueling stops for humanity as we continue to explore our solar system. There is something about asteroids that makes me want to look up.”
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office is experiencing its first transition in leadership since it was formed almost 17 years ago. On Jan. 9, after a 39-year-long career at JPL, Yeomans retired. Paul Chodas, a long-time member of Yeomans’ team at JPL, has been designated as the new manager.
NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets using both ground- and space-based telescopes. Elements of the Near-Earth Object Program, often referred to as “Spaceguard,” discover these objects, characterize a subset of them and identify their close approaches to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.
JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is at: www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch.
To get updates on passing space rocks, follow: twitter.com/asteroidwatch
Back in December I posted about the DreamUP! program created by NanoRacks and FISE ( Foundation for International Space Education), which aims to send STEM projects to the International Space Station.
Chicks in Space is the first team attempting to raise the $15k needed to get an experiment to the station:
Chicks in Space is a group of high school girls who hope to advance space science. We have grown up working on NASA challenges and have had the opportunity to participate in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation – a program aimed at development of innovative ideas. We have created the Garden of ETON – or Extra Terrestrial Organic Nutrition.
This is a hydroponic garden developed to function under conditions of microgravity. It has always been our dream to have an experiment on NASA’s International Space Station. We hope to be able to have the opportunity to launch a reconfigured Garden of ETON – NanoETON – on NanoRacks LLC on NASA’s International Space Station. NanRacks LLC is a company that helps projects like ours get through NASA’s safety and review processes.
When we are not working on space related projects we enjoy golfing and hanging out with our family.
They have raised about a third of the funding needed to Send the Garden of ETON to Space.
I posted here about the Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival, which took place last weekend. Here is a report on the winning films:
The Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival returned to New York City for its third annual event from January 15-18, 2015 and has culminated in yet another successful season. With events at three distinguished locations including The Cervantes Institute, Tribeca Cinemas and The Producer’s Club, the festival has announced of award winners in recognition for achievement in filmmaking.
The honorable list includes Mark Netter’s Nightmare Code (2014) for Best Philip K. Dick Feature, Matt Duggan’s Inverse (2014) for Best Science Fiction Feature, Kathleen Behun’s 21 Days (2014) for Best Supernatural Feature, MacGregor and Bruno Zacarías’ Similo (2014) for Best Latino, African American and Other People of Color Short and Matt Owen’s Turn On (2013) for Best Science Fiction Short.
The festival, which recently received massive attention from NBC New York/COZI TV’s News 4 New York at 7, The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Time Out New York and Metro New York continues to which celebrates the cinematic style inspired by Philip K. Dick is grateful for any support as the team continues to offer the very best in science fiction film, culture and excitement.
Here’s the trailer for Nightmare Code, which won the Best Philip K. Dick Feature award:
And here is the trailer for Inverse, which won the Best Science Fiction Feature award:
Update: Here is an announcement with the full list of award winners:
(New York City, N.Y.) January 18, 2015 – The Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival ascended into glory in its third year honoring the literary world’s most nuanced and visionary author, Philip K. Dick. As the city’s hottest ticket from January 15-18, 2015, the festival screened at three locations including The Cervantes Institute, Tribeca Cinemas and The Producer’s Club and culminated in award recognition for achievement in filmmaking by the creative individuals who are leaders in the most daring cornerstone of the movie industry. With its largest yet slate of innovative features and shorts, the sold out event brought festival-goers on an unforgettable ride to the best science fiction cinema has to offer.
The festival itself has received high-profile praise in recent days including founder and programming director Daniel Abella’s guest appearance on NBC New York/COZI TV’s News 4 New York at 7 as he was interviewed by anchor Roseanne Colletti. The televised segment preceded flattering editorial pieces in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Time Out New York and Metro New York, all of which called fans to the festival’s mission in bringing forth the best in science fiction and beyond in the footsteps of its namesake. With energy at an all-time high and vigorously growing by the minute a sentiment by Abella in his television appearance remains wholeheartedly true — that this festival “will leave you smiling.”
List of Award Winners:
- BEST PHILIP K. DICK FEATURE
- Mark Netter’s Nightmare Code (2014)
- BEST SCIENCE FICTION DRAMATIC FEATURE
- Matt Duggan’s Inverse (2014)
- BEST SUPERNATURAL FEATURE
- Kathleen Behun’s 21 Days (2014)
- BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARY / SINGULARITY AND BEYOND
- Christopher Garetano’s Montauk Chronicles (2014)
- BEST DOCUMENTARY
- Jacob Akira Okada’s Painting The Way To The Moon (2013)
- BEST PHILIP K. DICK SHORT – AUDIENCE AWARD
- Etienne Gravrand’s The Fischer Case (2014)
- BEST LATINO, AFRICAN AMERICAN AND OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR SHORT
- MacGregor and Bruno Zacarías’ Similo (2014)
- BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT
- Mat Owen’s Turn On (2013)
- BEST HORROR / SUPERNATURAL SHORT
- Andy Green’s Vomica (2014)
- BEST WEB SERIES
- Aldo Romero’s The Disappeared (2014)
- BEST TRAILER
- Eric Norcross’s The Spaceship (2014)
The Opportunity rover reaches a high point and a distance record on the anniversary of its landing on Mars 11 years ago.
Here is a press release about the milestone:
A panorama from one of the highest elevations that NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached in its 11 years on Mars includes the U.S. flag at the summit.
The view is from the top of “Cape Tribulation,” a raised section of the rim of Endeavour Crater. The panorama spans the interior of the 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater and extends to the rim of another crater on the horizon.
Opportunity has driven 25.9 miles (41.7 kilometers) since it landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 25, 2004 (Universal Time, which was Jan. 24, PST). That is farther than any other off-Earth surface vehicle has driven. The rover’s work on Mars was initially planned for three months. During that prime mission and for more than a decade of bonus performance in extended missions, Opportunity has returned compelling evidence about wet environments on ancient Mars.
Opportunity has been exploring Endeavour’s western rim since 2011. From a low segment of the rim that it crossed in mid-2013, called “Botany Bay,” it climbed about 440 feet (about 135 meters) in elevation to reach the top of Cape Tribulation. That’s about 80 percent the height of the Washington Monument.
The U.S. flag is printed on the aluminum cable guard of the rover’s rock abrasion tool, which is used for grinding away weathered rock surfaces to expose fresh interior material for examination. The flag is intended as a memorial to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. The aluminum was recovered from the site of the Twin Towers in the weeks following the attacks. Workers at Honeybee Robotics in lower Manhattan, less than a mile from World Trade Center, were making the rock abrasion tool for Opportunity and NASA’s twin Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit, in September 2001.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about Opportunity and Spirit, visit: www.nasa.gov/rovers and marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov
The latest report on activities aboard the Int. Space Station:
is a game where the players create and manage their own space program. Build spacecraft, fly them, and try to help the Kerbals to fulfill their ultimate mission of conquering space.
Although inhabited by comic Kerbal characters, the underlying physics of the rockets and spacecraft is very realistic and accurate. (See the recent TMRO interview with Scott Manley who has created numerous tutorial videos for KSP.)
They just posted their 35th program. Here it is on mp3:
- Oh, Eve. You cruel temptress! It’s our progress in the game.
- Your letters and the latest Kerbal news in this week’s Mission Briefing
- Is the Moon a star? Yes, someone on TV is actually confused about that!
All episodes available at kerbalpodcast.libsyn.com
Links mentioned in this episode:
Northstar needs help with a mod:
Is the Moon a planet?
Phil Plait’s Introduction to Astronomy
A team at the University of Rochester has created a new laser etching technique that makes metal surfaces amazingly water repellent:
Scientists at the University of Rochester have used lasers to transform metals into extremely water repellent, or super-hydrophobic, materials without the need for temporary coatings.
Super-hydrophobic materials are desirable for a number of applications such as rust prevention, anti-icing, or even in sanitation uses. However, as Rochester’s Chunlei Guo explains, most current hydrophobic materials rely on chemical coatings.
In a paper published today in the Journal of Applied Physics, Guo and his colleague at the University’s Institute of Optics, Anatoliy Vorobyev, describe a powerful and precise laser-patterning technique that creates an intricate pattern of micro- and nanoscale structures to give the metals their new properties. This work builds on earlier research by the team in which they used a similar laser-patterning technique that turned metals black. Guo states that using this technique they can create multifunctional surfaces that are not only super-hydrophobic but also highly-absorbent optically.
Guo adds that one of the big advantages of his team’s process is that “the structures created by our laser on the metals are intrinsically part of the material surface.” That means they won’t rub off. And it is these patterns that make the metals repel water.
“The material is so strongly water-repellent, the water actually gets bounced off. Then it lands on the surface again, gets bounced off again, and then it will just roll off from the surface,” said Guo, professor of optics in the University’s Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. That whole process takes less than a second.
The materials Guo has created are much more slippery than Teflon—a common hydrophobic material that often coats nonstick frying pans. Unlike Guo’s laser-treated metals, the Teflon kitchen tools are not super-hydrophobic. The difference is that to make water to roll-off a Teflon coated material, you need to tilt the surface to nearly a 70-degree angle before the water begins to slide off. You can make water roll off Guo’s metals by tilting them less than five degrees.
As the water bounces off the super-hydrophobic surfaces, it also collects dust particles and takes them along for the ride. To test this self-cleaning property, Guo and his team took ordinary dust from a vacuum cleaner and dumped it onto the treated surface. Roughly half of the dust particles were removed with just three drops of water. It took only a dozen drops to leave the surface spotless. Better yet, it remains completely dry.
Guo is excited by potential applications of super-hydrophobic materials in developing countries. It is this potential that has piqued the interest of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has supported the work.
“In these regions, collecting rain water is vital and using super-hydrophobic materials could increase the efficiency without the need to use large funnels with high-pitched angles to prevent water from sticking to the surface,” says Guo. “A second application could be creating latrines that are cleaner and healthier to use.”
Latrines are a challenge to keep clean in places with little water. By incorporating super-hydrophobic materials, a latrine could remain clean without the need for water flushing.
But challenges still remain to be addressed before these applications can become a reality, Guo states. It currently takes an hour to pattern a 1 inch by 1 inch metal sample, and scaling up this process would be necessary before it can be deployed in developing countries. The researchers are also looking into ways of applying the technique to other, non-metal materials.
Guo and Vorobyev use extremely powerful, but ultra-short, laser pulses to change the surface of the metals. A femtosecond laser pulse lasts on the order of a quadrillionth of a second but reaches a peak power equivalent to that of the entire power grid of North America during its short burst.
Guo is keen to stress that this same technique can give rise to multifunctional metals. Metals are naturally excellent reflectors of light. That’s why they appear to have a shiny luster. Turning them black can therefore make them very efficient at absorbing light. The combination of light-absorbing properties with making metals water repellent could lead to more efficient solar absorbers – solar absorbers that don’t rust and do not need much cleaning.
Guo’s team had previously blasted materials with the lasers and turned them hydrophilic, meaning they attract water. In fact, the materials were so hydrophilic that putting them in contact with a drop of water made water run “uphill.”
Guo’s team is now planning on focusing on increasing the speed of patterning the surfaces with the laser, as well as studying how to expand this technique to other materials such as semiconductors or dielectrics, opening up the possibility of water repellent electronics.
Funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
The article, “Multifunctional surfaces produced by femtosecond laser pulses,” was published in the Journal of Applied Physics on January 20, 2015 (DOI: 10.1063/1.4905616). It can be accessed at: http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/journal/jap/117/3/10.1063/1.4905616
Professor Chunlei Guo has developed a technique that uses lasers to render materials hydrophobic, illustrated in this image of a water droplet bouncing off a treated sample. Photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester
J. Michael Straczynski, creator and chief writer of the Babylon 5 series, has been chosen to write the scripts for the Spike TV serialization of Kim Stanley Robinson‘s famous Mars trilogy books : ‘Babylon 5′ Creator J. Michael Straczynski To Write Spike TV Project ‘Red Mars’ – Deadline.
The books lay out a scenario for Mars settlement in a realistic, hard sci-fi approach. The primary plot conflict is the battle between those who want to terraform Mars into a place safe for humans to live without protective gear and those who want Mars to remain unchanged.
The ESA Rosetta project has released some impressive high-resolution images of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko: Comet close-ups – ESA.
Comet from 8 km
A section of the smaller of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s
two lobes as seen through Rosetta’s narrow-angle camera from
a distance of about 8 km to the surface on 14 October 2014. The
resolution is 15 cm/pixel. The image is featured on the cover of
23 January 2014 issue of the journal Science.
Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team
22 January 2015 : Rosetta is revealing its host comet as having a remarkable array of surface features and with many processes contributing to its activity, painting a complex picture of its evolution.
In a special edition of the journal Science, initial results are presented from seven of Rosetta’s 11 science instruments based on measurements made during the approach to and soon after arriving at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in August 2014.
The familiar shape of the dual-lobed comet has now had many of its vital statistics measured: the small lobe measures 2.6 × 2.3 × 1.8 km and the large lobe 4.1 × 3.3 × 1.8 km. The total volume of the comet is 21.4 km3 and the Radio Science Instrument has measured its mass to be 10 billion tonnes, yielding a density of 470 kg/m3.
By assuming an overall composition dominated by water ice and dust with a density of 1500–2000 kg/m3, the Rosetta scientists show that the comet has a very high porosity of 70–80%, with the interior structure likely comprising weakly bonded ice-dust clumps with small void spaces between them.
The OSIRIS scientific camera, has imaged some 70% of the surface to date: the remaining unseen area lies in the southern hemisphere that has not yet been fully illuminated since Rosetta’s arrival.
The scientists have so far identified 19 regions separated by distinct boundaries and, following the ancient Egyptian theme of the Rosetta mission, these regions are named for Egyptian deities, and are grouped according to the type of terrain dominant within.
Five basic – but diverse – categories of terrain type have been determined: dust-covered; brittle materials with pits and circular structures; large-scale depressions; smooth terrains; and exposed more consolidated (‘rock-like’) surfaces.
Much of the northern hemisphere is covered in dust. As the comet is heated, ice turns directly into gas that escapes to form the atmosphere or coma. Dust is dragged along with the gas at slower speeds, and particles that are not travelling fast enough to overcome the weak gravity fall back to the surface instead.
Some sources of discrete jets of activity have also been identified. While a significant proportion of activity emanates from the smooth neck region, jets have also been spotted rising from pits.
The gases that escape from the surface have also been seen to play an important role in transporting dust across the surface, producing dune-like ripples, and boulders with ‘wind-tails’ – the boulders act as natural obstacles to the direction of the gas flow, creating streaks of material ‘downwind’ of them.
The dusty covering of the comet may be several metres thick in places and measurements of the surface and subsurface temperature by the Microwave Instrument on the Rosetta Orbiter, or MIRO, suggest that the dust plays a key role in insulating the comet interior, helping to protect the ices thought to exist below the surface.
Small patches of ice may also be present on the surface. At scales of 15–25 m, Rosetta’s Visible, InfraRed and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, or VIRTIS, finds the surface to be compositionally very homogenous and dominated by dust and carbon-rich molecules, but largely devoid of ice. But smaller, bright areas seen in images are likely to be ice-rich. Typically, they are associated with exposed surfaces or debris piles where collapse of weaker material has occurred, uncovering fresher material.
On larger scales, many of the exposed cliff walls are covered in randomly oriented fractures. Their formation is linked to the rapid heating–cooling cycles that are experienced over the course of the comet’s 12.4-hour day and over its 6.5-year elliptical orbit around the Sun. One prominent and intriguing feature is a 500 m-long crack seen roughly parallel to the neck between the two lobes, although it is not yet known if it results from stresses in this region.
Some very steep regions of the exposed cliff faces are textured on scales of roughly 3 m with features that have been nicknamed ‘goosebumps’. Their origin is yet to be explained, but their characteristic size may yield clues as to the processes at work when the comet formed.
And on the very largest scale, the origin of the comet’s overall double-lobed shape remains a mystery. The two parts seem very similar compositionally, potentially favouring the erosion of a larger, single body. But the current data cannot yet rule out the alternative scenario: two separate comets formed in the same part of the Solar System and then merged together at a later date.
This key question will be studied further over the coming year as Rosetta accompanies the comet around the Sun.
How to grow an atmosphere
Their closest approach to the Sun occurs on 13 August at a distance of 186 million kilometres, between the orbits of Earth and Mars. As the comet continues to move closer to the Sun, an important focus for Rosetta’s instruments is to monitor the development of the comet’s activity, in terms of the amount and composition of gas and dust emitted by the nucleus to form the coma.
Images from the scientific and navigation cameras have shown an increase in the amount of dust flowing away from the comet over the past six months, and MIRO showed a general rise in the comet’s global water vapour production rate, from 0.3 litres per second in early June 2014 to 1.2 litres per second by late August. MIRO also found that a substantial portion of the water seen during this phase originated from the comet’s neck.
Water is accompanied by other outgassing species, including carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. The Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis, ROSINA, is finding large fluctuations in the composition of the coma, representing daily and perhaps seasonal variations in the major outgassing species. Water is typically the dominant outgassing molecule, but not always.
By combining measurements from MIRO, ROSINA and GIADA (Rosetta’s Grain Impact Analyzer and Dust Accumulator) taken between July and September, the Rosetta scientists have made a first estimate of the comet’s dust-to-gas ratio, with around four times as much mass in dust being emitted than in gas, averaged over the sunlit nucleus surface.
However, this value is expected to change once the comet warms up further and ice grains – rather than pure dust grains – are ejected from the surface.
GIADA has also been tracking the movement of dust grains around the comet, and, together with images from OSIRIS, two distinct populations of dust grains have been identified. One set is outflowing and is detected close to the spacecraft, while the other family is orbiting the comet no closer than 130 km from the spacecraft.
It is thought that the more distant grains are left over from the comet’s last closest approach to the Sun. As the comet moved away from the Sun, the gas flow from the comet decreased and was no longer able to perturb the bound orbits. But as the gas production rate increases again over the coming months, it is expected that this bound cloud will dissipate. However, Rosetta will only be able to confirm this when it is further away from the comet again – it is currently in a 30 km orbit.
As the gas–dust coma continues to grow, interactions with charged particles of the solar wind and with the Sun’s ultraviolet light will lead to the development of the comet’s ionosphere and, eventually, its magnetosphere. The Rosetta Plasma Consortium, or RPC, instruments have been studying the gradual evolution of these components close to the comet.
“Rosetta is essentially living with the comet as it moves towards the Sun along its orbit, learning how its behaviour changes on a daily basis and, over longer timescales, how its activity increases, how its surface may evolve, and how it interacts with the solar wind,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.
“We have already learned a lot in the few months we have been alongside the comet, but as more and more data are collected and analysed from this close study of the comet we hope to answer many key questions about its origin and evolution.”
The Copenhagen Suborbitals private rocket development organization had an open house earlier this month:
Get out your red-blue glasses and check out this cool collection of 3D images of features on the Moon: The Moon, In Depth – The Planetary Society.
Click for larger version.
Find out more about the LRO here.
NASA is selling space gold: GOLD PLATES, 6,015.5 GRAMS – General Services Administration
Robert Pearlman explains how the gold came to fly in space: Digging for space history in surplus sale of NASA-flown gold – collectSPACE.