NASA held its latest NASA Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday and Saturday:
NASA today declared the winners of the first NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, held April 11-12 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. Student racers from the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology in Reno, Nev., claimed first place in the high school division; the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao Team 2 won the top prize in the college division.
They raced to victory against 70 high school, college and university teams from 19 states, Puerto Rico, Germany, India, Mexico and Russia. All told, more than 500 students — drivers, engineers and mechanics, plus team advisers and “cheering sections” — took part in the competition.
The winning teams posted the fastest vehicle assembly and race times in their divisions, with the fewest on-course penalties. The team from the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology finished the half-mile course in 3 minutes, 37 seconds. The University of Puerto Rico at Humacao Team 2 finished in 4 minutes, 9 seconds. In addition to the winning trophy, first-place teams received a cash prize of $3,000, courtesy of The Boeing Co. of Huntsville.
Finishing in second place in the high school division was Team 2 from the Vocational High School Teodoro Aguilar Mora in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. In third place was the International Space Education Institute team from Moscow, Russia. Southern Illinois University Carbondale Team 2 won second place in the college division and Team 1 from the school finished in third place. (For a complete list of additional awards for design, most improved and spirit, see below.)
Organized by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and building on two decades of competitive student innovation in the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race (held in the “Rocket City” from 1994-2013), the new event challenges students to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered roving vehicles, solving technical problems along the way just like NASA engineers must do.
Those NASA engineers are paying attention: Students’ most innovative vehicle and hardware designs could help inform NASA’s own development of rovers and other space transportation systems for future exploration missions across the solar system.
Just as importantly, the experience is designed to provide the future workforce to realize those new missions, inspiring students to pursue careers in the technical “STEM” fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — so crucial to the agency’s endeavors.
The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge is sponsored by the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, and organized by the Marshall Center’s Academic Affairs Office. Major corporate sponsors for the race are The Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Aerojet Rocketdyne, Jacobs Engineering ESSSA Group, and Northrop Grumman Corp., all with operations in Huntsville.
Full replays of the race will be available in coming days on the Marshall Center’s official UStream site, where Marshall Center media personnel and television crews provided continuous, streaming coverage of the event: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc
For more information about the race, visit: www.nasa.gov/roverchallenge
For information about other NASA education programs, visit: http://education.nasa.gov
Continue to list of award winners.
ANS 103 Weekly AMSAT Bulletin – April 12, 2014:
* March/April 2014 AMSAT Journal is Ready
* NASA, SpaceX Officials Continue Preparations for 14 April Launch
* KickSat CubeSat to Deploy Smallest Earth-Orbiting Satellites
* AMSAT at the Dayton Hamvention – 2nd call for volunteers
* N8PK appears with students in YouTube video
* ISS HamTV moves to 2369 MHz
* FUNcube/AO-73 Transponder plans for the future
* Upcoming AMSAT Events
* ARISS News
* Satellite Shorts From All Over
More AMSAT/student sat news:
- The Age of the Nanosatellite - Descriptions and videos for several small satellite projects
- HI-SEAS Project Inaugural Ham Radio Event Will Commemorate Gagarin’s Space Flight – ARRL
- NASA Centennial Challenges Program – Cubesat.org
More space policy/politics related links:
- Russian engines on US rockets:
- NASA human spaceflight:
- Other issues:
* Dr. Clay Moltz, Friday, 4-11-14 – Thespaceshow’s Blog - Dr. Moltz talked about his new book, Crowded Orbits: Conflict and Cooperation in Space,
Dr. Moltz told us why he wrote the book which was to address orbital crowding, possible conflict in space and to bring these issues and others to the attention of the general public as space impacts everyone everyday. A major topic for our discussion was space debris. Using this field as an example, Dr. Moltz made a very strong case for rules of the road, space traffic control issues, and responsible behavior by both governments and the private sector. We talked about entrepreneurs and private groups resisting a more regulated environment and he made the case for the need for cooperation to avoid conflicts.
The Canadian General Fusion project, whose investors include Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame, is aiming to start building a working prototype of their innovative fusion power system this year:
- How a Canadian fusion reactor could revolutionize the energy sector – canadianbusiness.com - “For years no one took them seriously. Now it looks like their idea is just crazy enough to work“
- General Fusion’s new CEO is ready for a fusion breakthrough – canadianbusiness.com.
On their website it says,
In the next phase of development, General Fusion will be constructing a full scale prototype system. The prototype will be designed for single pulse testing, demonstrating full net energy gain on each pulse, a world first.
Here’s a video showing a schematic of their design:
The Planetary Society opens a new contest to provide a cool name for the orbital gymnastics the Cassini spacecraft will do in the final phase of its mission at Saturn : Help name the last phase of the Cassini mission! – The Planetary Society
The name “proximal orbits” is a Vulcan-sounding phrase, all logic and science. But getting this science is going to take navigational bravery of which Captain Kirk would be proud. To help the public understand just how cool this part of the mission is going to be, the Cassini team is asking the public to learn about Cassini’s final phase and then weigh in on a name for the final phase that has more punch to it. You can either cast a vote for one of the team’s suggestions, or write in your own.
Meanwhile, the Mars Society selects a winner of its poster contest:
The Mars Society is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2014 Mars Society Poster Contest is Scott Porter, a Ph.D. student studying architecture at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Each participant (12 in total) in this year’s competition was required to submit a poster design that best represented the theme – ‘Blazing the Path to Mars’ – for the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention, to be held August 7-10 in League City, Texas (just outside Houston).
In addition, the Mars Society would like to express its appreciation to the second and third place winners – Jamie Polancic and Miguel Cooper (respectively). The organization would also like to recognize two additional artists for honorable mention – Katarina Eriksson Marka and Joseph Sweeney.
To view the winning poster as a PDF document, please click here.
The Black Knight TRANSFORMER is a “transformer” style vehicle from Advanced Tactics, Inc. that combines a roadable truck with a multi-copter suite of rotors to achieve vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) and horizontal flight. This week it left the ground and achieved a stable hover: The Advanced Tactics Black Knight Transformer Successfully Completes First Flights – Advanced Tactics, Inc.
The vehicle is concept
was spurred by several things: the growing popularity and acceptance of “multicopter” aircraft, the military’s need for a low-cost platform for casualty evacuation and cargo resupply missions, and our passion for developing game-changing military and civilian vehicle technology. The aircraft is designed specifically for autonomous casualty evacuation and unmanned cargo resupply missions. Its unmanned capabilities keep pilots out of harm’s way during dangerous missions while a pilot-optional capability allows it to be flown like a conventional helicopter. Advanced Tactics began work on the AT Black Knight Transformer in 2010 with funding from the United States Congress. In 2012, Advanced Tactics began work on the AT Panther Transformer, a similar vehicle designed specifically for Special Operations missions. It is a low-cost vehicle that carries two passengers and their gear, is transportable in a CV-22 Osprey cargo hold, and is operable with minimal training. Advanced Tactics is also currently developing a modular, cargo carrying aircraft capable of delivering up to 3,500 lb payloads in a detachable cargo pod. The AT Transformer technology is scalable and reconfigurable.
The Black Knight Transformer is larger than a Ford F350 crew cab truck,
shown for scale. The engines are stowed against the side of the vehicle
in driving configuration.[High Resolution]
It can be transformed into multiple configurations:
The AT Transformer design is highly modular for rapid repair and reconfiguration. For instance, each of the propulsion subsystems can be replaced in the field by two people and the mission package can be rapidly reconfigured from casualty evacuation to cargo resupply. Additionally, the modular automobile portion of the vehicle can be removed for additional payload capacity or replaced with a boat hull or an amphibious hull for water operations.
The latest issue of MAKE magazine has an article about JP Aerospace and their PongSats program: Flight of the Space-Grazing Ping Pong Balls – MAKE
Don’t forget the JPA crowdfunding campaign to fund the flight of 2000 PongSats for school kids this fall: 2000 Student Projects to the Edge of Space by John Powell — Kickstarter.
The OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission has gotten the green flag to begin building the hardware in preparation for launch in the fall of 2016. It will reach the asteroid Bennu in 2016 and return a sample from its surface in 2023.
Here is a press release from NASA about OSIRS-REx project:
preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu.
NASA’s team that will conduct the first U.S. mission to collect samples from an asteroid has been given the go-ahead to begin building the spacecraft, flight instruments and ground system, and launch support facilities.
This determination was made Wednesday after a successful Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) for NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). The CDR was held at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton, Colo., April 1-9. An independent review board, comprised of experts from NASA and several external organizations, met to review the system design.
“This is the final step for a NASA mission to go from paper to product,” said Gordon Johnston, OSIRIS-REx program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. “This confirms that the final design is ready to start the build-up towards launch.”
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2016, rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of it to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft carries five instruments that will remotely evaluate the surface of Bennu. After more than a year of asteroid reconnaissance, the spacecraft will collect samples of at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and return them to Earth for scientists to study.
“Successfully passing mission CDR is a major accomplishment, but the hard part is still in front of us — building, integrating and testing the flight system in support of a tight planetary launch window,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Key mission objectives focus on finding answers to basic questions about the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made life possible on Earth. The mission will also aid NASA’s asteroid initiative and support the agency’s efforts to understand the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects and characterize those suitable for future asteroid exploration missions. The initiative brings together the best of NASA’s science, technology and human exploration efforts to achieve President Obama’s goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025.
“The OSIRIS-REx team has consistently demonstrated its ability to present a comprehensive mission design that meets all requirements within the resources provided by NASA,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator from the University of Arizona, Tucson. “Mission CDR was no exception. This is a great team. I know we will build a flight and ground system that is up to the challenges of this ambitious mission.”
In January, NASA invited people around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip aboard the spacecraft. After submitting their name, participants are able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission. The campaign is open until September 30, 2014.
Goddard Space Flight Center 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 the agency’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The University of Arizona leads OSIRIS-REx and provides the camera system and science processing and operations center.
To participate in “Messages to Bennu,” go to: http://planetary.org/bennu
Here’s a NASA video giving a lighthearted overview of the OSIRIS-REx sample mission:
The latest presentation to the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) study group is now posted in the FISO Working Group Presentations Archive. Both slides (pptx) and audio (mp3) are available for the talk, Evaluating International Collaboration for Human Exploration Beyond LEO by Emanuele Capparelli, Skolkovo Inst. & Natasha Bosanac , Purdue Univ. – April 9, 2014
But the rover did not arrive at the crater, or even reach the lander. It stopped as it was getting close to the lander, apparently because the electronics associated with moving its wheels and solar panels, so probably an important central control unit, failed at that point. I don’t know when it stopped, but the map shown at LPSC is instructive. It shows the daily stops between drives (the rover was only operated when in direct contact with China, for at most half a day at a time), and counting them suggests the fault occurred in the middle part of the day, possibly due to excessive heating which might have been exacerbated by dust buildup on the rover body. But this is conjecture, as I don’t know that each stop occupied only one day.
At any rate, it soon became apparent that the rover could neither move nor fold itself up to protect against the cold of the night. Enormous efforts were made to overcome this, to no avail. As night approached the problem was made public, most memorably by the rover’s Twitter alter-ego itself. Meanwhile the lander continued operating, and I’ll come back to that later. Sunset, and possibly the end of Yutu’s short life, came on 25 January. After a seemingly interminable wait the sun rose again, and a few days later on 12 February both lander and rover woke up. Yutu was more robust than expected. All its instruments, even the fragile cameras, were fine, but it couldn’t move. I don’t know if the lack of movement extends to the robotic arm with the APXS. The instruments may work, but future science would be very limited if the NIR spectrometer and the ground-penetrating radar are limited to always making the same observation.
NASA’s latest Space to Ground report on ISS activities of the past week:
Yet more space policy/politics related links:
- SpaceX, a somewhat critical look – IEET - SpaceX is important because they are currently the leader in dramatically lowering the cost of access to space. This will greatly benefit all space endeavours whether they involve scientific exploration or “exploitation” of resources.
- Defense Launch:
- NASA policies
- NASA-Russia Cooperation: What You Need To Know – SpacePolicyOnline
- NASA Wallops: NASA cuts most ties with Russia, ripples felt in Virginia – dailypress.com
- NASA is cutting ties with Russia. But it’s not that simple – Washington Post
- Is the US-Russian space partnership spiraling out of control? – All Voices
- Global space:
Lefse Records will release the album Space Project on April 18th. It is a collection of songs by 14 different artists who were challenged to use sounds transmitted from the Voyager spacecraft as inspiration for their songs:
Last Thanksgiving, Matt Halverson, who runs the Portland-based label Lefse Records, was talking with his brother in law, Exogenesis President and Chief Scientist Sean Anklam, who described a trove of recordings the NASA-launched Voyager space probes had made in the outer solar system. Halverson, the Walter White to Anklam’s Hank Schrader, was overtaken by an idea: to commission imaginative artists to create songs and soundscapes out of the Voyager recordings. The interest among musicians—including , Spiritualized, Beach House, The Antlers, Mutual Benefit, Blues Control and others—was overwhelming. Lefse will release the resulting album, entitled Space Project, on April 19, Record Store Day. It will be available on vinyl, CD, and as a 7” box set.
The audio tracks that form the raw material for Space Project were recorded by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes that NASA launched in 1977 and still uses to study the outer solar system. The satellites carry numerous instruments fine-tuned to record in different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The “sounds” recorded by the Voyager probes aren’t sounds in the conventional sense; rather, they are electromagnetic radiation fluctuations in the magnetosphere of the planets, moons and large asteroids the Voyager probes traveled near. Each celestial body is composed of different elements, has its own size and mass, and therefore sounds unique.
A Porcelain Raft: “Giove”
B The Antlers: “Jupiter”
A Mutual Benefit: “Terraform”
B Anna Meredith: “Miranda”
A The Spiritualized Mississippi Space Program: “Always Together With You (The Bridge Song)”
B The Holydrug Couple: “Amphitrites Lost”
A Youth Lagoon: “Worms”
B Blues Control: “Blues Danube”
A Beach House: “Saturn Song”
B Zomes: “Moonlet”
A Absolutely Free: “EARTH I”
B Jesu: “Song of Earth”
A Benoit & Sergio: “Long Neglected Words”
B Larry Gus: “Sphere of Io (For Georg Cantor)”
For Canadian readers, the music can be heard now at First Play: The Space Project CBC Music.
Find lots of links to resources for “space sounds” and music inspired by them in the HobbySpace Natural Space Music section.
Update April.17.14: Another article plus two songs from the album in this posting.
The upcoming SpaceX Dragon cargo mission to the Int. Space Station will include a miniature veggie garden:
A plant growth chamber bound for the International Space Station inside the Dragon capsule on the SpaceX-3 resupply mission may help expand in-orbit food production capabilities in more ways than one, and offer astronauts something they don’t take for granted, fresh food.
flight pillow. The bellows of the hardware have been lowered to better
observe the plants. A small temperature and relative humidity data logger
is placed between the pillows small white box, central.
NASA’s Veg-01 experiment will be used to study the in-orbit function and performance of a new expandable plant growth facility called Veggie and its plant “pillows.” The investigation will focus on the growth and development of “Outredgeous” lettuce seedlings in the spaceflight environment.
“Veggie will provide a new resource for U.S. astronauts and researchers as we begin to develop the capabilities of growing fresh produce and other large plants on the space station,” said Gioia Massa, NASA payload scientist for Veggie. “Determining food safety is one of our primary goals for this validation test.”
Veggie is a low-cost plant growth chamber that uses a flat-panel light bank that includes red, blue and green LEDs for plant growth and crew observation. Veggie’s unique design is collapsible for transport and storage and expandable up to a foot and a half as plants grow inside it.
“The internal growing area is 11.5 inches wide by 14.5 inches deep, making it the largest plant growth chamber for space to date,” Massa said.
pillow. U.S. astronauts living and working aboard the International Space Station
are going to receive a newly developed Vegetable Production System Veggie.
Orbital Sciences Corp. (ORBITEC) in Madison, Wis., developed Veggie through a Small Business Innovative Research Program. NASA and ORBITEC engineers and collaborators at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida worked to get the unit’s hardware flight-certified for use on the space station.
Because real estate on the station is limited, some adjustments to the growth chamber were made to accommodate space requirements. At Kennedy’s Space Life Sciences Laboratory, a crop of lettuce and radishes was grown in the prototype test unit. Seedlings were placed in the Veggie root-mat pillows, and their growth was monitored for health, size, amount of water used, and the microorganisms that grew on them.
“I am thrilled to be a member of the Veggie and Veg-01 team and proud of all the work we have done to prepare for flight,” Massa said. “Our team is very excited to see the hardware in use on the space station.”
Veggie flight pillow. It will launch aboard SpaceX’s Dragon capsule on NASA’s
third Commercial Resupply Services mission targeted to launch April 14
from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Image Credit: NASA/Bryan Onate
As NASA moves toward long-duration exploration missions, Massa hopes that Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption. It also could be used by astronauts for recreational gardening activities during long-duration space missions. The system may have implications for improving growth and biomass production on Earth, thus benefiting the average citizen.
For the future, Massa said she is looking forward to seeing all sorts of “neat payloads” in the Veggie unit and expanding its capability as NASA learns more about the food safety of crops grown in microgravity.
A new selection of space policy/politics related links:
- A Four-Point Plan for ESA by Stephen Ashworth, – Astronautical Evolution 101, 1 April 2014
- Congressional hearings, NASA budget, etc:
- Leroy Chiao:
- Global space:
- French Debris-mitigation Law Could Pose Issue for Arianespace – SpaceNews.com
- Europe’s New Satellite Narrowly Avoided A Collision with Space Junk – io9
- Successful Launch of “Ofek 10″ Observation Satellite – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI Ltd.)
- SpaceIL wants to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon and it might just pull it off – PandoDaily
* John Batchelor Show Hotel Mars with Marcia Smith, Wednesday, 4-9-14 – Thespaceshow’s Blog - Marcia Smith of www.spacepolicyonline.com talked about US-Russia space relations and other issues.
* Robert (Bob) Zimmerman, Tuesday, 4-8-14 | Thespaceshow’s Blog - Bob (BehindTheBlack.com) and David talk about a wide range of space news and policy issues.
10 April 2014 Beautiful streamlined islands and narrow gorges were carved by fast-flowing water pounding through a small, plateau region near the southeastern margin of the vast Vallis Marineris canyon system.
Images captured on 7 December 2013 by ESA’s Mars Express show the central portion of Osuga Valles, which has a total length of 164 km. It is some 170 km south of Eos Chaos, which lies in the far eastern section of Valles Marineris.
Osuga Valles is an outflow channel that emanates from a region of chaotic terrain at the edge of Eos Chaos to the west (top in the main images). Such landscape is dominated by randomly oriented and heavily eroded blocks of terrain. Another example is seen at the bottom of this scene, filling the 2.5 km-deep depression into which Osuga Valles empties.
Catastrophic flooding is thought to have created the heavily eroded Osuga Valles and the features within it. Streamlines around the islands in the valley indicate that the direction of flow was towards the northeast (bottom right in the main colour, topographic and 3D images shown here) and sets of parallel, narrow grooves on the floor of the channel suggest that the water was fast flowing.
Differences in elevation within the feature, along with the presence and cross-cutting relationships of channels carved onto the islands, suggest that Osuga Valles experienced several episodes of flooding. The perspective view, which is oriented with the direction of the water flow towards the top of the image, shows the details of the grooved valley floor and the channels carved into the islands more clearly.
Close to the northern-most (far right) part of the channel in the main images, two large irregular-shaped blocks appear to have broken away from the surrounding terrain, but do not seem to have experienced as much erosion as the rounded islands.
The floodwater eventually emptied into the deep depression of chaotic terrain at the bottom of the main images, but it is not yet known whether the water drained away into the subsurface or formed a temporary lake.
As part of NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator program, an unusual test of a Mars parachute design was carried out that involved creating a “wind tunnel” with, among other things, a helicopter, a winch, and a rocket sled.
A Russian Progress cargo craft was launched today on a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station. It will take a fast route such that it arrives there this afternoon. Here’s a video of the launch:
[ Update: Here is a video of the rendezvous and docking of the Progress freighter with the ISS:
Lots of spaceships are coming and going at the ISS:
An express cargo delivery is on its way to the International Space Station. Nearly 3 tons of food, fuel and gear to replenish Expedition 39 launched aboard an ISS Progress 55 resupply craft at 11:26 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Russian space freighter will orbit Earth just four times before docking to the Pirs docking compartment at 5:20 p.m.
The 55P will occupy the same docking port left open when another Progress, the 54P, departed Monday morning filled with trash after a two-month stay. It is orbiting Earth for several days of orbital engineering tests before finally reentering the atmosphere for a fiery disposal.
There will be four vehicles docked at the orbital laboratory after the 55P arrives. Currently, there are two Soyuz vehicles and an ISS Progress 53 parked at the station. The Soyuz TMA-11M is docked to the Rassvet docking compartment and the Soyuz TMA-12M is docked to the Poisk docking compartment. The 53P space freighter is docked to the aft end of the Zvezda service module.
A fifth cargo vehicle is being readied for its mission to the space station next week. SpaceX will launch its third Dragon commercial cargo craft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket Monday April 14 at 4:58 p.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
When the Dragon arrives for its rendezvous with the station two days later it will be captured by the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, for a berthing to the Harmony node. The Dragon is the first space station resupply vehicle with return capability, safely delivering science research for analysis and gear for inspection, for retrieval off the coast of California.
Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus commercial resupply ship aboard an Antares rocket is lined up to follow the SpaceX Dragon when it leaves in mid-May. Scheduled for a May 6 launch, its approach and rendezvous profile will be similar to the Dragon. It will also be captured by the Canadarm2 for a berthing to Harmony. However, after it’s unberthing and release from the station’s robotic arm it will deorbit over the Pacific Ocean for a destructive reentry just like a Progress spacecraft.
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