Here’s the latest “This week @ NASA” video report:
And here is another cool video of Saturn’s hexagon polar storm:
Here’s the latest “This week @ NASA” video report:
And here is another cool video of Saturn’s hexagon polar storm:
With help from NASA, four student-built CubeSat research satellites launched into space Friday from the California coast as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.
The CubeSats were included as auxiliary payloads aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, Calif., at 11:14 p.m. PST Dec. 5 (2:14 a.m. EST Dec. 6) carrying the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-39 satellite. The CubeSats, are a part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite (ElaNa) mission, NASA’s fifth ElaNa mission launch into space. The miniature satellites deployed from their protective cases into Earth orbit about three hours after liftoff.
The teams responsible for the satellites are beginning to receive signals as the CubeSats come online. Although it could take several days for full confirmation, all of the spacecraft appear to be doing well in their new home in low-Earth orbit.
“This was another great moment for the ELaNa mission and the CubeSat community,” said Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division, which oversees the CubeSat Launch Initiative. “With each successful mission, we are demonstrating that frequent access to space provides a great opportunity for NASA to gain engineering results at a low cost while affording students real-world exposure to spaceflight.”
The CubeSats were prepared by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and students at Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York; Montana State University in Bozeman; and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites measure about 4 inches on each side, have a volume of about 1 quart and weigh less than 3 pounds. CubeSat research addresses science, exploration, technology development, education or space missions.
ELaNa missions, conducted under NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, give students, teachers and faculty hands-on experience developing flight hardware by providing access to a low-cost avenue for research. Since its inception in 2010, the CubeSat Launch Initiative has selected more than 90 CubeSats from primarily educational and government institutions around the United States. NASA chose these miniature satellites from respondents to public announcements for the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. NASA will announce another call for proposals in August.
For additional information about NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cubesat
Today’s selection of space policy/politics related links:
The Chinese Chang’e 3 lunar lander and rover spacecraft has gone into orbit around the Moon. It is expected to land on December 14th.
This animation shows how the rover leaves the lander and explores the lunar surface:
Below is a photo provided by Anthony Galván of the launch last night of a spysat on a ULA Atlas V 501 rocket from Vandenberg AFB in California: Atlas Launch Report | Government spy satellite rockets into space on Atlas 5 – Spaceflight Now
© Anthony Galván III. Photo taken from Goleta, CA. 104 second time exposure
shows the rocket heading down range in a southwest direction.
Kristian von Bengtson of Copenhagen Suborbitals describes progress on building the TDS80 capsule that they plan to launch next summer ona HEAT2X rocket: Visual Guide – the Making of DIY Space Capsule TDS80 – Wired Science
The article includes lots of diagrams and pictures, e.g.
Today’s selection of space policy/politics related links:
Here’s a video of yesterday’s House hearing on astrobiology:
On December 4, 2013, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing titled, “Astrobiology: Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond.”
Invited witnesses were:
Dr. Mary Voytek
Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, Planetary Science Division
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Dr. Sara Seager
Class of 1941 Professor of Physics and Planetary Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Steven Dick
Baruch S. Blumberg Chair of Astrobiology, John W. Kluge Center
Library of Congress
The event was webcast live and is in the public domain.
Visit our web site at www.spaceksc.com. We’re on Twitter at @SpaceKSCBlog.
The organization SpaceSoc seeks to promote A Realistic Space Settlement Future. The group is sponsoring a panel discussion at the upcoming Dupont Summit event in D.C. : How can Mars human space settlement advocacy be better? Get YOUR view INCLUDED at a Dec 6 Wash, DC conference. – SpaceSoc
3:00 – 3:50 pmChair: Rahmin Bender, Policy Studies OrganizationSpaceSoc’s Public Campaign to Take Humans to MarsTom E. Diffenbach, SpaceSocAnmol Singh, SpaceSoc
Lifeboat Foundation’s Response to NASA’s Asteroid Initiative Public Engagement RequestKevin Berry, Legendary Projects
How can Mars human space settlement advocacy be better? That’s a question you can answer as part of SpaceSoc’s Mars4U roundtable at the Dupont Summit – also live online – on Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy on Dec 6 in Washington, DC, USA. The Dupont Summit is an annual conference of the Policy Studies Organization (PSO), an affiliate of the American Political Science Association and International Political Science Association. PSO bridges political research with political practice.
More about the panel session: SpaceSoc’s Public Campaign to Take Humans to Mars (pdf)
Short of radical terraforming, the hellish surface of Venus is no place for settlements. However, floating habitats atop its dense atmosphere might one day be possible. Jon Goff writes about one plan (JBIS paper – PDF) for the first human mission to Venus : Random Thoughts: Inspiration Venus? – Selenian Boondocks.
Perhaps this technology will be suitable for making telescopes large enough to resolve exoplanets:
MOIRE program creates first-ever images using lightweight membrane optics,
which could help redefine how we build, launch and use orbital telescopes
The capability of orbital telescopes to see wide swaths of the earth at a time has made them indispensable for key national security responsibilities such as weather forecasting, reconnaissance and disaster response. Even as telescope design has advanced, however, one aspect has remained constant since Galileo: using glass for lenses and mirrors, also known as optics. High-resolution imagery traditionally has required large-diameter glass mirrors, which are thick, heavy, difficult to make and expensive. As the need for higher-resolution orbital imagery expands, glass mirrors are fast approaching the point where they will be too large, heavy and costly for even the largest of today’s rockets to carry to orbit.
DARPA’s Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE) program seeks to address these challenges. MOIRE aims to create technologies that would enable future high-resolution orbital telescopes to provide real-time video and images of the Earth from Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO)—roughly 22,000 miles above the planet’s surface. Size and cost constraints have so far prevented placing large-scale imaging satellites in GEO, so MOIRE is developing technologies that would make orbital telescopes much lighter, more transportable and more cost-effective.
Currently in its second and final phase, the program recently successfully demonstrated a ground-based prototype that incorporated several critical technologies, including new lightweight polymer membrane optics to replace glass mirrors. Membrane optics traditionally have been too inefficient to use in telescope optics. MOIRE has achieved a technological first for membrane optics by nearly doubling their efficiency, from 30 percent to 55 percent. The improved efficiency enabled MOIRE to take the first images ever with membrane optics.
While the membrane is less efficient than glass, which is nearly 90 percent efficient, its much lighter weight enables creating larger lenses that more than make up the difference. The membrane is also substantially lighter than glass. Based on the performance of the prototype, a new system incorporating MOIRE optics would come in at roughly one-seventh the weight of a traditional system of the same resolution and mass. As a proof of concept, the MOIRE prototype validates membrane optics as a viable technology for orbital telescopes.
“Membrane optics could enable us to fit much larger, higher-resolution telescopes in smaller and lighter packages,” said Lt. Col. Larry Gunn, DARPA program manager. “In that respect, we’re ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ that traditional materials impose on optics design. We’re hoping our research could also help greatly reduce overall costs and enable more timely deployment using smaller, less expensive launch vehicles.”
Instead of reflecting light with mirrors or refracting it with lenses, MOIRE’s membrane optics diffract light. Roughly the thickness of household plastic wrap, each membrane serves as a Fresnel lens—it is etched with circular concentric grooves like microscopically thin tree rings, with the grooves hundreds of microns across at the center down to only 4 microns at the outside edge. The diffractive pattern focuses light on a sensor that the satellite translates into an image.
MOIRE technology houses the membranes in thin metal “petals” that would launch in a tightly packed configuration roughly 20 feet in diameter. Upon reaching its destination orbit, a satellite would then unfold the petals to create the full-size multi-lens optics. The envisioned diameter of 20 meters (about 68 feet) would be the largest telescope optics ever made and dwarf the glass mirrors contained in the world’s most famous telescopes.
From GEO, it is believed, a satellite using MOIRE optics could see approximately 40 percent of the earth’s surface at once. The satellite would be able to focus on a 10 km-by-10 km area at 1-meter resolution, and provide real-time video at 1 frame per second.
Ball Aerospace and Technologies Company and the U.S. Air Force Academy are the prime contractors for Phase 2 of the MOIRE program.
Over the past couple of years I’ve shown here a number of the time-lapse videos of imagery of the earth as seen from the International Space Station. Here is a big collection of such videos, accompanied by lots of adjectives struggling mightily to describe what is displayed: The Best, Most Stunning, Jaw-Dropping Space Station Time-Lapses of All Time, Ever – Rebecca J. Rosen/The Atlantic.
An example of those time-lapse videos:
New imagery from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn shows more of its beautiful and sometimes bizarre features: NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Obtains Best Views of Saturn Hexagon – NASA
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn’s north pole.
This is the first hexagon movie of its kind, using color filters, and the first to show a complete view of the top of Saturn down to about 70 degrees latitude. Spanning about 20,000 miles (30,000 kilometers) across, the hexagon is a wavy jet stream of 200-mile-per-hour winds (about 322 kilometers per hour) with a massive, rotating storm at the center. There is no weather feature exactly, consistently like this anywhere else in the solar system.
“The hexagon is just a current of air, and weather features out there that share similarities to this are notoriously turbulent and unstable,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades — and who knows — maybe centuries.”
Weather patterns on Earth are interrupted when they encounter friction from landforms or ice caps. Scientists suspect the stability of the hexagon has something to do with the lack of solid landforms on Saturn, which is essentially a giant ball of gas.
Here’s a NASA JPL Google Hangout in which several planetary scientists discuss the latest images and findings from Cassini:
Update: A PBS News Hour interview with Carolyn Porco, a leader of the Cassini imaging group, about the mission and the latest results:
A selection of space policy/politics links:
Challenger Center Partners with Virgin Galactic and Galactic Unite for Google+ Hangout
Virgin Galactic and Challenger Learning Center Students Fly to the Moon and Discuss Importance of STEM Education
WASHINGTON (December 3, 2013) – Today, Challenger Center, the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education organization, hosted a Google+ Hangout with representatives from Virgin Galactic and Galactic Unite and several hundred students at Challenger Learning Centers around the country.
Hosted at the Columbia Memorial Space Center’s Challenger Learning Center, the hangout included students at the Challenger Learning Center of Louisville, KY, Challenger Learning Center of New Mexico – Unser Discovery Campus; Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee; and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Challenger STEM Learning Center.
“Today’s event was a perfect opportunity to give Challenger Learning Center students the chance to connect their classroom lessons and Challenger Center missions to the real world,” said Kathleen Meehan Coop, vice president of education, Challenger Center. “We are constantly finding new ways to excite students about STEM, and this was an exceptional opportunity. It was great to watch the students energized and engaged with the Virgin Galactic team.”
Throughout the hour long event, students learned more about Virgin Galactic’s efforts to become the world’s first commercial spaceline, what it is like to build and work on future space vehicles, and why STEM subjects are vital for future success. A recording of the event can be viewed at www.challenger.org/galactichangout.
“We are so excited to share our passion for space exploration with the next generation and to inspire them to write the next chapter of space history,” said George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic.
Several students at each of the Challenger Learning Center locations had the opportunity to ask the Virgin Galactic team questions. At the conclusion of the virtual event, the Virgin Galactic team participated in Challenger Center’s simulated “Return to the Moon” mission with the students in Downey, Calif.
Challenger Center is embarking on a renewed effort to reach even more students and help equip them for future success. In early 2014, the organization is launching revolutionary software and missions that will further improve its education offering. In addition, within the next two years, six new communities will open a Challenger Learning Center. Included in this expansion is the creation of a National STEM Innovation Center in Washington, DC.
About Challenger Center
Using space exploration as a theme and simulation as a vehicle, Challenger Center and its international network of more than 40 Challenger Learning Centers create positive educational experiences that raise students’ expectations of success, foster long-term interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and inspire students to pursue studies and careers in these areas. Challenger Center’s network of Challenger Learning Centers across the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Korea reach more than 400,000 students each year through simulated space missions and educational programs and engage more than 40,000 educators through missions, teacher workshops, and other programs. Founded in 1986, Challenger Center for Space Science Education was created to honor the seven astronauts of shuttle flight STS-51-L: Commander Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith. To learn more about Challenger Center visit www.challenger.org.
About Galactic Unite
Virgin Galactic and its Future Astronaut customers have teamed up with Virgin Unite, the nonprofit foundation of the Virgin Group, to make a difference in this new age of commercial space travel. Based on the fact that future generations will have opportunities to see the world as never before, Galactic Unite embraces the idea that new advances in science and technology have the potential to unlock answers to global challenges and change the world for the better. Galactic Unite is investing to help future generations make the most of these new advances in three ways: education, entrepreneurship and inspiration. By working together, the future astronauts of Galactic Unite will leverage their knowledge, their resources and their experience to make a positive impact on the world of tomorrow.
About Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. To date, the company has accepted nearly $80 million in deposits from approximately 640 individuals, approximately 10% more than the total number of people who have ever gone to space. The new spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic’s vehicle fleet by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the $10 million Ansari X Prize as the world’s first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic’s new vehicles, which will be manufactured by The Spaceship Company in Mojave, CA, share much of the same basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent scientific research payload, on suborbital space flights. The vehicles will allow an out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience with astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space for tourist astronauts and a unique microgravity platform for researchers. The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test flight program is well under way, leading to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
There are several plans currently being promoted by non-government groups for getting humans to and on Mars. Here is a list with brief outlines of four such plans along with a list of reasons for going to Mars in the first place: The Many Plans for Mars (Issue #25) – Mars Society Education Forum.
The Mars Society and a dozen other space activist groups are planning a Space Exploration Alliance Legislative Blitz on February 23rd-25th in Washington, D.C They welcome your participation : Get Involved in Mars/Space Advocacy, Participate in 2014 SEA Legislative Blitz – The Mars Society.
The 2014 Legislative Blitz comes at a time when our space program is at a crossroads, both in terms of funding and direction. The voices of the space advocacy community must be heard now as perhaps never before. The 2014 Legislative Blitz will call upon Congress to ensure that our nation’s space program is a compelling national priority.
Come join space advocates from around the country to let Congress know that there is strong constituent support for an ambitious space program. You will find this experience to be exciting and rewarding. There will be an information/training session on Sunday, February 23rd, with materials for meetings on Monday, February 24th and Tuesday, February 25th.
This event will not be successful without your help. Please JOIN US from February 23-25, 2014, so that YOUR voice can be heard. See you in Washington, D.C.
Last Sunday space law expert Michael Listner was on the program: Michael Listner, Sunday, 12-1-13 – Thespaceshow’s Blog.
And last Friday, space historian Roger Launius talked about his new book on the Shuttle program: Dr. Roger Launius, Friday, 11-29-13 – Thespaceshow’s Blog
On the most recent Hotel Mars segment of the John Batchelor Show, Mars advocate Robert Zubrin discussed manned missions to Mars with Russian participation: John Batchelor Hotel Mars, Wednesday, 11-27-13 – Thespaceshow’s Blog
Some of today’s space policy/politics items:
A NASA Goddard animation showing how Mars may have evolved:
Billions of years ago when the Red Planet was young, it appears to have had a thick atmosphere that was warm enough to support oceans of liquid water – a critical ingredient for life. The animation shows how the surface of Mars might have appeared during this ancient clement period, beginning with a flyover of a Martian lake. The artist’s concept is based on evidence that Mars was once very different. Rapidly moving clouds suggest the passage of time, and the shift from a warm and wet to a cold and dry climate is shown as the animation progresses. The lakes dry up, while the atmosphere gradually transitions from Earthlike blue skies to the dusty pink and tan hues seen on Mars today.
I’ll add this bonus link about O’Neill in-space habitat colonies: What will it take to set up colonies in space? – Bbc.
Check out these two holiday season advent calendars. They both will display a beautiful new space picture for each day till Christmas:
First day of The Atlantic calendar:
The Mars Color Camera for India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, also known as Mangalyaan,
captures an image of Africa, Arabia, India and other parts of Asia on Nov. 19
during its Earth-orbiting phase, from an altitude of
almost 43,500 miles (70,000 kilometers).
The documentary Sepideh (Break of Dawn) is about a young woman in Iran seeking to becom an astronaut : Iranian woman’s dreams about space travel take shape in Danish documentary – Payvand Iran News
Danish filmmaker Berit Madsen has directed a documentary about Sepideh Hushyar, a young Iranian woman who dares to plan for her future as an astronaut. The documentary entitled Sepideh (Break of Dawn) was screened at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) on Monday. It was filmed by Iranian cameraman Mohammadreza Jahanpanah.
Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American who dreamed of going to space as a youngster in Iran and did in fact find a way to go to space, appears in the film.
The NPR All Things Considered Sunday show included an interview with musician and composer Ben Allison about his latest album, which was influenced by space sci-fi of the 1970s: