The NASA JPL “What’s Up for April 2015″ reports on an upcoming total lunar eclipse and the Lyrid meteor shower:
The NASA JPL “What’s Up for April 2015″ reports on an upcoming total lunar eclipse and the Lyrid meteor shower:
The annual Space Access Society conference has long been my favorite space event. Hope to see you at this year’s gathering in Phoenix:
Space Access Society‘s next annual conference on the business, technology, and politics of radically cheaper access to space will feature a cross-section of the growing cheap access community, talking about what’s going on now and what will be happening next, in a fast-paced intensive informal atmosphere, single-track throughout so you don’t have to miss anything.
Confirmed launch-project & space-hardware presenters so far: Altius Space Machines, CubeCab, DARPA ALASA, Exos Aerospace, Frontier Astronautics, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express, Tethers Unlimited, XCOR Aerospace, XL Space Systems, plus sessions on what you’ll need to know to start your own space venture (rocket development safety, 3d printing hype & reality, complex-systems mission-assurance, government regulations, investment climate, NASA Ames and JSC commercial cooperation opportunities), reports on high-end student & amateur projects, talks by famous space writers/bloggers (Jeff Foust, Clark Lindsey, Doug Messier, Rand Simberg, Henry Spencer), and multiple sessions plus a special guest program segment about now that cheap orbital access is near, how do we start affordably taking the next big steps outwards to the Moon, Mars, and beyond?
Space Access conferences have been described as “Hackers” for rocket people, with better content than others costing many times more, two-and-a-half days of total immersion in making the future happen. This year’s edition, SA’15, is just a month away – register for the conference, get those airline tickets booked while they’re still cheap, reserve your room while our hotel still hasn’t filled up, and be there!
For the latest full conference info & agenda, see our SA’15 Info page.
Dark matter appears to be even weirder than previously thought.
Using observations from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have found that dark matter does not slow down when colliding with itself, meaning it interacts with itself less than previously thought. Researchers say this finding narrows down the options for what this mysterious substance might be.
Dark matter is an invisible matter that makes up most of the mass of the universe. Because dark matter does not reflect, absorb or emit light, it can only be traced indirectly by, such as by measuring how it warps space through gravitational lensing, during which the light from a distant source is magnified and distorted by the gravity of dark matter.
To learn more about dark matter and test such theories, researchers study it in a way similar to experiments on visible matter — by watching what happens when it bumps into other objects. In this case, the colliding objects under observation are galaxy clusters.
Researchers used Hubble and Chandra to observe these space collisions. Specifically, Hubble was used to map the distribution of stars and dark matter after a collision, which was traced through its gravitational lensing effect on background light. Chandra was used to detect the X-ray emission from colliding gas clouds. The results are published in the March 27 edition of the journal Science.
“Dark matter is an enigma we have long sought to unravel,” said John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “With the combined capabilities of these great observatories, both in extended mission, we are ever closer to understanding this cosmic phenomenon.”
Galaxy clusters are made of three main ingredients: galaxies, gas clouds, and dark matter. During collisions, the gas clouds surrounding galaxies crash into each other and slow down or stop. The galaxies are much less affected by the drag from the gas and, because of the huge gaps between the stars within them, do not slow each other down.
“We know how gas and stars react to these cosmic crashes and where they emerge from the wreckage. Comparing how dark matter behaves can help us to narrow down what it actually is,” said the study’s lead author David Harvey of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
Harvey and his team studied 72 large cluster collisions. The collisions happened at different times and were viewed from different angles — some from the side, and others head-on.
The team found that, like the galaxies, the dark matter continued straight through the violent collisions without slowing down much. This means dark matter does not interact with visible particles and flies by other dark matter with much less interaction than previously thought. Had the dark matter dragged against other dark matter, the distribution of galaxies would have shifted.
“A previous study had seen similar behavior in the Bullet Cluster,” said team member Richard Massey of Durham University in the United Kingdom. “But it’s difficult to interpret what you’re seeing if you have just one example. Each collision takes hundreds of millions of years, so in a human lifetime we only get to see one freeze-frame from a single camera angle. Now that we have studied so many more collisions, we can start to piece together the full movie and better understand what is going on.”
With this discovery, the team has successfully narrowed down the properties of dark matter. Particle physics theorists now have a smaller set of unknowns to work around when building their models.
“It is unclear how much we expect dark matter to interact with itself because dark matter already is going against everything we know,” said Harvey. “We know from previous observations that it must interact with itself reasonably weakly.”
Dark matter may have rich and complex properties, and there are still several other types of interactions to study. These latest results rule out interactions that create a strong frictional force, causing dark matter to slow down during collisions.
The team also will study other possible interactions, such as dark matter particles bouncing off each other like billiard balls and causing dark matter particles to be ejected from the clouds by collisions or for dark matter blobs to change shape. The team also is looking to study collisions involving individual galaxies, which are much more common.
“There are still several viable candidates for dark matter, so the game is not over. But we are getting nearer to an answer,” said Harvey. “These astronomically large particle colliders are finally letting us glimpse the dark world all around us, but just out of reach.”
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.
For images and more information about the Hubble Space Telescope, visit: hubble
For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: mission_pages/chandra/main
1. Monday, March 30, 2015: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT; 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome TONY MILLIGAN to the program to discuss his new book Nobody Owns the Moon: The Ethics of Space Exploitation. Mr. Milligan is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK and specializes in ethics.
2. Tuesday, March 31,, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome back BRUCE DAMER to the show to discuss new architectures for sustainable spaceflight plus Human NEO missions, asteroids, planetary missions. Bruce was last a guest on the show July 9, 2013.
3. Friday, April 3, 2015; 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): We welcome back JIM KERVALA, Chief Operating Officer, Shackleton Energy Company. Jim will be providing us with updates on the Shackleton project for the Moon.
4. Sunday, April 5, 2015: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): Because today is Easter there will be no Space Show today.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The latest TMRO show starts off with an interview with Samuel Coniglio the COO and Visionary of Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation. (I recently pointed here to their Kickstarter to raise funding for development of a microgravity cocktail glass.)
At a recent GPU Technology Conference, Elon Musk talked about the automating of automobiles:
Mars may not be a living place with rolling waters and swaying trees but it’s not static either. This report shows how the winds move
The landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars left this mark on the
surface as seen by the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter. (Large image)
Spacecraft that land in dusty areas of Mars create dark blast zone patterns where bright dust is blown away by the landing. Monitoring with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows these dark patterns fade over time in a surprising way. Four sequences of images span two-and-a-half years beginning in the week after the August 2012 landing of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover inside Gale Crater.
The first series shows a repeating sequence of seven images of the scar where the Mars Science Laboratory’s descent stage hit the ground. The descent stage, or “sky crane,” had lowered Curiosity onto the ground and then flown approximately 2,100 feet (650 meters) away and impacted the ground. The fading of the dark blast zone resembles what has been observed at other Mars landing sites, presumably because bright dust is settling on the surface and masking the blast zones. Scientists thought they could model this fading and predict how long it would take for the patterns to disappear entirely. However, the most recent image, taken in February 2015, shows that this blast zone is not fading as quickly as expected, and may even be darkening. This indicates that understanding is still incomplete about processes that move dust around on the Martian surface.
Figure 1 (Large version)
Figure 1 is a sequence showing the spacecraft’s back shell and parachute. Wind causes changes in the shape of the parachute as well as fading of the dark zone visible around the back shell in initial frames.
Figure 2 (Large version)
The Figure 2 sequence shows where the rover itself landed. Curiosity disappears after the first two of the seven frames because it drove away. Its wheel tracks heading generally east (toward the left) can be seen in subsequent frames, and they also fade over time.
Figure 3 (Large version)
Figure 3 is a five-frame sequence of the location where the spacecraft’s heat shield hit the ground.
The images in these sequences have not been adjusted for differences in viewing angle or lighting conditions. Without such image processing, some features on the ground appear to shift slightly from frame to frame.
The first image in each of the four sequences is from HiRISE observation ESP_028335_1755, taken on Aug. 12, 2012, six days after Curiosity’s landing. A different product from this observation, mapping where various hardware hit the ground, is at pia16001. Additional image products from this observation are available at http://www.uahirise.org/ESP_028335_1755.
Subsequent images in these sequences are from HiRISE observations ESP_028401_1755, on Aug. 17, 2012; ESP_030313_1755, on Jan. 13, 2013; ESP_034572_1755, on Dec. 11, 2013;ESP_036128_1755, from April 2014; ESP_037117_1755, from June 27, 2014; andESP_036128_1755, from February 2015. The two observations in 2014 did not include the heat shield location.
HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Crowd-funding seems to be more than a fad. While many projects don’t meet their fund-raising goals, there continue to be some campaigns that meet or even greatly exceed their goals.
For example, I posted a few times about the Chicks in Space campaign by three high school students to fund an experiment on the Int. Space Station. They have now met their goal of $15,000. The Chicks Are Going To NASA’s International Space Station – NanoRacks -
Houston, TX- March 27, 2015—NanoRacks and DreamUp are happy to announce that the Chicks In Space, the Company’s first student crowd-sourced payload, has raised the required $15,000 to send their payload ‘The Garden of ETON’ to the International Space Station (ISS) via NanoRacks’ Dream-Up educational program.
The Chicks In Space are three sisters, MaryAnn, Lillith, and Adia Buwala, from Tennessee who have always dreamt of researching in space. The young women have completed many NASA challenges, created an after school club for space research, and recently converted their centrifuge plant growth chamber for ISS research. The Chicks’ experiment “The Garden of ETON (Extraterrestrial Organic Nutrition)” is a hydroponic garden developed to function under conditions of microgravity in hopes to learn the best way to grow a renewable food source for long-term space travel.
Here’s a new video from the young ladies:
Another crowd-funding campaign I posted about was to support the antennaFILMS documentary about Burt Rutan and his latest aircraft design: Looking Up, Way Up! The Burt Rutan Story by antennaFILMS – Scott B / Sandy Guthrie — Kickstarter
The goal was $80,000 and they raised $106,689.
I expect that crowd-funding is here to stay. There will always be cool projects that people will want to help make happen.
This week’s episode of NASA’s Space to Ground report on activity related to the Int. Space Station:
Thus far continual incremental improvements and mass-production have been more effective in driving lithium-ion battery performance up and prices down rather than dramatic breakthroughs:
This process may plateau, of course, and then leaps in technology like solid state batteries will be needed to make further progress towards lowering battery costs.
(Chicago, IL) March 26, 2015- Chicagoland Boy Scouts and Explorers will soon design and build research projects for a chance to have their experiment flown to the International Space Station.
This incredible opportunity is the result of a newly formed partnership between the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS); and local Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and Exploring programs.
CASIS and the BSA Pathways to Adventure Council will launch the Space Station National Design Challenge student research competition in Chicago this spring in an effort to spark interest and innovation in young men and women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
While the partnership is new, the BSA has a historic connection to the space program. In fact, 11 of the 12 astronauts who walked on the moon were Scouts. Additionally, former astronaut and CASIS President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson is a proud Eagle Scout.
“The Boy Scouts of America has created leaders for more than 100 years and our youth must now take the lead in STEM,” said Nancy Elder, Director for Strategic and Corporate Alliances for Pathway to Adventure Council. “Scouting has long embraced STEM by providing young people with real-world hands-on learning experiences ranging from cleaning habitats in national parks to programming robots. The partnership with CASIS will engage our youth and volunteers in a unique and cutting-edge experience by adding their research projects to the final frontier: space.”
The U.S. National Lab’s microgravity environment offers researchers the exclusive opportunity to conduct experiments in a setting free from the effects of gravity present on Earth. Since systems act differently in this microgravity environment, researchers are able to gather valuable insight that can help advance their work on Earth.
Space Station National Design Challenge participants will work in teams of 10-20 young men and women to conceptualize and execute their experiments, which must fit into miniature labs about half the size of a shoebox. Along with aspiring engineers and scientists, teams will include members with interests in graphic arts, drafting, moviemaking, programming and many other fields. CASIS and its industry partners will facilitate technical workshops and provide support to each team.
CASIS will then select three winning experiments to be flown to the International Space Station in the summer of 2016.
“Inspiring the next generation of explorers is at the heart of the CASIS mission,” said CASIS Director of Operations and Education Ken Shields. “This partnership exemplifies a concerted effort by both organizations to engage and energize students about STEM through an authentic learning experience that leverages the International Space Station.”
To learn more about the contest, including upcoming information sessions and how to submit a proposal, please visit: http://www.iss-casis.org/Opportunities/Solicitations/RFANationalDesignChallenge2015.aspx
The Story Time From Space program was born when NASA astronaut Alvin Drew read the story “Max Goes to the Moon” by Jeffery Bennett on the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011. The goal of the organization is to create a collection of videos of stories read from space plus science demonstrations and combine them all with free educational materials. The first set of five Max stories have been sent to the ISS.
The organization has opened a crowd-funding campaign for the project at Science & Stories on the Space Station – Indiegogo
At Story Time From Space, our goal is to use the magic and wonder of space to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and literacy learning in K-12 education programs all over the world. We are raising $55,000 to fund science demonstration equipment that will be sent to the International Space Station early this summer. We will use the hardware to produce nine fun videos showcasing the role of gravity in basic science principles. Once edited these demonstrations will join the story book readings read on orbit and then integrated with accompanying curriculum. All these videos the story book readings and science demonstrations will be available at little or no cost to schools, science centers and families everywhere.
With real astronauts performing this accurate science in an orbiting laboratory 240 miles above Earth, the Story Time From Space team hopes to bring compelling, meaningful lessons in STEM to students and educators everywhere. Together, we can turn the space station into the world’s coolest classroom to improve STEM learning and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, inventors and explorers!
Here is a video from TMRO about the Story Time from Space project:
And here is the video on the Story Time From Space Indiegogo site:
Here is Al Drew reading Max Goes to the Moon from the Shuttle Discovery in space in 2011:
And here is astronaut Mike Hopkins on the Int Space Station reading Max Goes to the International Space Station:
The latest report from the European Southern Observatory (ESO):
The best observations so far of the dusty gas cloud G2 confirm that it made its closest approach to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way in May 2014 and has survived the experience. The new result from ESO’s Very Large Telescope shows that the object appears not to have been significantly stretched and that it is very compact. It is most likely to be a young star with a massive core that is still accreting material. The black hole itself has not yet shown any increase in activity.
This composite image shows the motion of the dusty cloud G2 as it closes in on, and then passes, the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
These new observations with ESO’s VLT have shown that the cloud appears to have survived its close encounter with the black hole and remains a compact object that is not significantly extended.
The blobs have been colourised to show the motion of the cloud, red indicated that the object is receding and blue approaching. The cross marks the position of the supermassive black hole.
Credit: ESO/A. Eckart
A supermassive black hole with a mass four million times that of the Sun lies at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy. It is orbited by a small group of bright stars and, in addition, an enigmatic dusty cloud, known as G2, has been tracked on its fall towards the black hole over the last few years. Closest approach, known as peribothron, was predicted to be in May 2014.
The great tidal forces in this region of very strong gravity were expected to tear the cloud apart and disperse it along its orbit. Some of this material would feed the black hole and lead to sudden flaring and other evidence of the monster enjoying a rare meal. To study these unique events, the region at the galactic centre has been very carefully observed over the last few years by many teams using large telescopes around the world.
A team led by Andreas Eckart (University of Cologne, Germany) has observed the region using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT)  over many years, including new observations during the critical period from February to September 2014, just before and after the peribothron event in May 2014. These new observations are consistent with earlier ones made using the Keck Telescope on Hawaii .
The images of infrared light coming from glowing hydrogen show that the cloud was compact both before and after its closest approach, as it swung around the black hole.
As well as providing very sharp images, the SINFONI instrument on the VLT also splits the light into its component infrared colours and hence allows the velocity of the cloud to be estimated . Before closest approach, the cloud was found to be travelling away from the Earth at about ten million kilometres/hour and, after swinging around the black hole, it was measured to be approaching the Earth at about twelve million kilometres/hour.
Florian Peissker, a PhD student at the University of Cologne in Germany, who did much of the observing, says: “Being at the telescope and seeing the data arriving in real time was a fascinating experience,” and Monica Valencia-S., a post-doctoral researcher also at the University of Cologne, who then worked on the challenging data processing adds: “It was amazing to see that the glow from the dusty cloud stayed compact before and after the close approach to the black hole.”
Although earlier observations had suggested that the G2 object was being stretched, the new observations did not show evidence that the cloud had become significantly smeared out, either by becoming visibly extended, or by showing a larger spread of velocities.
In addition to the observations with the SINFONI instrument the team has also made a long series of measurements of the polarisation of the light coming from the supermassive black hole region using the NACO instrument on the VLT. These, the best such observations so far, reveal that the behaviour of the material being accreted onto the black hole is very stable, and — so far — has not been disrupted by the arrival of material from the G2 cloud.
The resilience of the dusty cloud to the extreme gravitational tidal effects so close to the black hole strongly suggest that it surrounds a dense object with a massive core, rather than being a free-floating cloud. This is also supported by the lack, so far, of evidence that the central monster is being fed with material, which would lead to flaring and increased activity.
Andreas Eckart sums up the new results: “We looked at all the recent data and in particular the period in 2014 when the closest approach to the black hole took place. We cannot confirm any significant stretching of the source. It certainly does not behave like a coreless dust cloud. We think it must be a dust-shrouded young star.”
The Hubble Space Telescope was placed into orbit by the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. To celebrate this 25th anniversary, the National Geographic
features “Hubble’s Greatest Hits” in the new April issue. Hubble’s imaging team lead Zolt Levay has curated his top 10 celestial views of all time for the feature. The also shares the fascinating photo coloration process that help Levay and his team create Hubble’s stunning images. And writer Timothy Ferris shares background on the program in the related article.
Find more amazing images in this gallery as well.
The Opportunity rover reaches yet another milestone:
(Click for large image)
This illustration depicts some highlights along the route as NASA’s Mars
Exploration Rover Opportunity drove as far as a marathon race during the
first 11 years and two months after its January 2004 landing in Eagle
Crater. The vehicle surpassed marathon distance of 26.219 miles (42.195 km)
with a drive completed on March 24, 2015, during the 3,968th Martian day,
or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars. For this map, north is on the left.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./USGS/Arizona State Univ.
There was no tape draped across a finish line, but NASA is celebrating a win. The agency’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon Tuesday — 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers) – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.
“This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world,” said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “A first time happens only once.”
The rover team at JPL plans a marathon-length relay run at the laboratory next week to celebrate.
(Click for large image)
This map shows the southward path driven by Opportunity from late
December 2014 until it passed marathon distance on March 24, 2015,
during the 3,968th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work
on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
The long-lived rover surpassed the marathon mark during a drive of 153 feet (46.5 meters). Last year, Opportunity became the long-distance champion of all off-Earth vehicles when it topped the previous record set by the former Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 moon rover.
“This mission isn’t about setting distance records, of course; it’s about making scientific discoveries on Mars and inspiring future explorers to achieve even more,” said Steve Squyres, Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool.”
Opportunity’s original three-month prime mission in 2004 yielded evidence of environments with liquid water soaking the ground and flowing on planet’s surface. As the rover continued to operate far beyond expectations for its lifespan, scientists chose the rim of Endeavour Crater as a long-term destination. Since 2011, examinations of Endeavour’s rim have provided information about ancient wet conditions less acidic, and more favorable for microbial life, than the environment that left clues found earlier in the mission.
(Click for large image)
This map shows the rover’s entire traverse from landing to that point.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS
JPL manages the Mars rover projects for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Mars Exploration Rover Project, NASA’s newer Curiosity Mars rover, and three active NASA Mars orbiters are part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, which seeks to characterize and understand Mars as a dynamic system, including its present and past environment, climate cycles, geology and biological potential. In parallel, NASA is developing the human spaceflight capabilities needed for its journey to Mars.
For more information about Opportunity, visit www.nasa.gov/rovers
The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, underway since 2008, is crowd-funding the completion of the processing of images of the Moon taken by five early unmanned lunar missions and recovered from magnetic tape: Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Last Mile – Indiegogo
Between further NASA funding and $62k raised by crowd funding in 2013 we have completed the process of digitizing almost 1500 tapes, the entire tape library from lunar orbiter. This has created tens of terabytes of data, and over 1700 images. Each medium resolution image is broken into 28 strips or framelets. Each high resolution image is made from 98 framelets. Each framelet is a file. We have over 107,000 of these files.
Our task is to complete the processing of these files and publish them to the NASA website where they will be free for everyone to enjoy. We are also doing the paperwork to get the raw data and images to the National Space Science Data Center. We had estimated the cost to NASA to complete this at about $400,000 dollars, of which they provided $300k after we finished the work from the 2013 crowd funded effort. We originally thought that we were only going to get Lunar Orbiter II and III, but because of our previous crowd funded effort, we were able to leverage the additional $300k. That puts us at about $100k short of what we needed to finish, and that is what we are asking you, the crowd funding community to help us with. This gets us our very last mile to finish everything. To see what we have done so far, here is our gallery at NASA Ames Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute web site: sservi.nasa.gov/LOIRP/loirp_gallery/
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft gets closer each day to Pluto and the fly-by on July 14th. The New Horizons mission, the SETI Institute and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) have opened a public participation program in which you offer an addition to a list of names that will be used for features on Pluto and its moon Charon.
The SETI Institute has opened the Our Pluto website where you can submit your suggested names : Public Asked to Help Name Features on Pluto – SETI Institute.
[ Update: Here’s a Google Hangout discussion with SETI Institute scientist Mark Showalter and New Horizons mission member Cathy Olkin about the Our Pluto program:
The deadline for the name submissions is April 7, 2015.
Here is a statement today from the IAU that lays out the boundaries for what names will be accepted.:
In partnership with NASA’s New Horizons mission and the SETI Institute, the IAU is endorsing a campaign that will allow the public to participate in naming newly discovered features on Pluto and its satellites. It is expected that many new features will be discovered in the upcoming flyby of Pluto and will be available for naming. The public is invited to suggest names within the designated IAU themes for these celestial bodies.
Pluto retains a unique position in the hearts and minds of many. Pluto is a remote and enigmatic world that resides at the edge of the Solar System, in a region known as the Kuiper Belt, where it is one among many similar dwarf planets, although Pluto remains the largest discovered to date.
On 14 July 2015, NASA’s New Horizons probe will fly past Pluto, offering the first close-up look at this small, distant world and its largest satellite, Charon. These denizens of the outer Solar System will, at long last, be transformed from mysterious, hazy bodies into worlds with distinct features.
In celebration of this historic occasion, the IAU is proud to endorse a campaign that will allow members of the public to participate in naming newly imaged and identified features on the surfaces of Pluto and its natural satellites.
You are invited to visit the website ourpluto.seti.org, where you can vote for the names that you think should be used to identify the most prominent features on both Pluto and Charon. You can also suggest additional names. These must be associated with a set of accepted themes set out by the IAU’s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN) related to mythology and the literature and history of exploration:
Please note, however, that votes for other themes will not be taken into account, incl. the following, since these themes have already been used on Mercury, Venus and Mars:
The campaign ends on 7 April 2015, after which the New Horizons team will sort through the names and submit their recommendations to the IAU. The IAU will have the final decision on how the names are used.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka are heading to the International Space Station this Friday on a Soyuz spacecraft: One-Year Crew Set for Launch to Space Station; NASA TV to Air Live Coverage – NASA
While all previous astronaut tours on the station have been limited to less than six months, Kelly and Kornienko will spend a year aboard the space station. The goal of the One Year Crew program is to study the effects on the human body that could occur on a long space trip in microgravity to Mars and to find ways to ameliorate or prevent negative effects.
One particularly interest aspect of this experiment will be the comparison of Scott with his twin brother and former astronaut Mark Kelly, who will remain on the ground: NASA Launches New Research, Seeks the Subtle in Parallel Ways – NASA
Last year Chris Jones wrote an extensive preview of the mission in an Esquire Magazine article called Away. Jones will post periodic updates on the mission in the coming year. Here is his first posting: Away: Five Days To Launch
Here’s a NASA video about the twins study: