Sci-Tech: A new video from Elon Musk’s “The Boring Company”

Elon Musk believes that greater use of tunnels would provide a major reduction in urban traffic congestion. He has formed “The Boring Company” to investigate improvements in the design of giant tunnel drilling machines that would allow them to drill several times faster than current systems. At SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California they have been experimenting with a boring machine they bought and are using it to dig a tunnel under a road between the company facility and a parking area.

The Boring Company** today posted a video of a simulation showing how an extensive tunnel network might work in a future urban setting:

* * Don’t know if this is a real company or just a fun name for a temporary working group.

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Video: “Space to Ground” ISS report – Apr.28.2017

This week’s Space to Ground report from NASA on news about the International Space Station:

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For the kids, check out the International Space Station Activity Book (pdf).

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A video about a miniature DNA sequencer used by NASA on the ISS:

Thanks to work on the International Space Station, sequencing DNA is simple enough to do in your car…or whatever vehicle you drive. With the next generation of DNA research ready to get underway, NASA’s Dan Huot has a carpool conversation with the researchers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston about their work and watches as they sequence DNA in a portable handheld unit.

Read up on the latest DNA research in space at: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/st…

Video: Cassini flies between Saturn and its rings for first time

The Cassini spacecraft survived its first pass through the gap between Saturn and its rings:

NASA Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and Its Rings 

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is back in contact with Earth after its successful first-ever dive through the narrow gap between the planet Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017. The spacecraft is in the process of beaming back science and engineering data collected during its passage, via NASA’s Deep Space Network Goldstone Complex in California’s Mojave Desert. The DSN acquired Cassini’s signal at 11:56 p.m. PDT on April 26, 2017 (2:56 a.m. EDT on April 27) and data began flowing at 12:01 a.m. PDT (3:01 a.m. EDT) on April 27.

“In the grandest tradition of exploration, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has once again blazed a trail, showing us new wonders and demonstrating where our curiosity can take us if we dare,”

said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

This unprocessed image shows features in Saturn’s atmosphere from closer than ever before. The view was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its first Grand Finale dive past the planet on April 26, 2017. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

As it dove through the gap, Cassini came within about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) of Saturn’s cloud tops (where the air pressure is 1 bar — comparable to the atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level) and within about 200 miles (300 kilometers) of the innermost visible edge of the rings.

While mission managers were confident Cassini would pass through the gap successfully, they took extra precautions with this first dive, as the region had never been explored.

“No spacecraft has ever been this close to Saturn before. We could only rely on predictions, based on our experience with Saturn’s other rings, of what we thought this gap between the rings and Saturn would be like,” said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “I am delighted to report that Cassini shot through the gap just as we planned and has come out the other side in excellent shape.”

The gap between the rings and the top of Saturn’s atmosphere is about 1,500 miles (2,000 kilometers) wide. The best models for the region suggested that if there were ring particles in the area where Cassini crossed the ring plane, they would be tiny, on the scale of smoke particles. The spacecraft zipped through this region at speeds of about 77,000 mph (124,000 kph) relative to the planet, so small particles hitting a sensitive area could potentially have disabled the spacecraft.

This unprocessed image shows features in Saturn’s atmosphere from closer than ever before. The view was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its first Grand Finale dive past the planet on April 26, 2017. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

As a protective measure, the spacecraft used its large, dish-shaped high-gain antenna (13 feet or 4 meters across) as a shield, orienting it in the direction of oncoming ring particles. This meant that the spacecraft was out of contact with Earth during the ring-plane crossing, which took place at 2 a.m. PDT (5 a.m. EDT) on April 26. Cassini was programmed to collect science data while close to the planet and turn toward Earth to make contact about 20 hours after the crossing.

Cassini’s next dive through the gap is scheduled for May 2.

This unprocessed image shows features in Saturn’s atmosphere from closer than ever before. The view was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its first Grand Finale dive past the planet on April 26, 2017. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Launched in 1997, Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004. Following its last close flyby of the large moon Titan on April 21 PDT (April 22 EDT), Cassini began what mission planners are calling its “Grand Finale.” During this final chapter, Cassini loops Saturn approximately once per week, making a total of 22 dives between the rings and the planet. Data from this first dive will help engineers understand if and how they will need to protect the spacecraft on its future ring-plane crossings. The spacecraft is on a trajectory that will eventually plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere — and end Cassini’s mission — on Sept. 15, 2017.

More information about Cassini’s Grand Finale, including images and video, is available at:

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

More information about Cassini is at:

Int. Space Development Conf. (ISDC 2017) in St. Louis, May 25-29

The annual conference of the National Space Society will be held this year in St. Louis, Missouri over May 25-29:

The International Space Development Conference (ISDC® 2017)  is where people from all around the world connect and share the latest breakthroughs in space exploration, development and settlement.

ISDC® 2017 is the perfect place for space leaders, astronauts, enthusiasts and the next generation of experts to meet.

ISDC® attracts men and women of all ages; each bringing unique skills and backgrounds such as: aerospace industry leaders and startups, space exploration pioneers, academic thought leaders, and space supporters – all united by a common goal; to discuss the latest discoveries and projects on space development.

Here are lists of the Speakers and Programs.

SPACE Canada & the NSS select semi-finalists in student Space Solar Power competition

An announcement from SPACE Canada and the National Space Society:

SPACE Canada and National Space Society
Announce Semi-Finalists Selection in
First Annual International Space Solar Power Student Competition

(Washington DC, April 25, 2017) SPACE Canada and the National Space Society (NSS), working with the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Power Committee, the Global Space Solar Power Working Group (GSSP-WG) of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), have organized a new annual faculty-advised, student-conducted international research and engineering research/paper competition on the topic of Space Solar Power.

“Space solar power is the concept of harvesting solar energy in space, 24-7 and delivering it safely and economically via wireless power transmission to markets on Earth. This exciting new student competition will encourage the involvement of young engineers and scientists in this important field of energy and space research,”

said John Mankins, NSS Director and coordinator of the International SSP student Competition.

The International Space Solar Power Student Project Competition

The purpose of this new annual competition is to engender new, meaningful and credible student research projects in the broad field of Space Solar Power, and to support the presentation of the best of the various projects by students in an international forum.

“The projects proposed and the breadth of students participating is tremendously gratifying,”

said George Dietrich, President of SPACE Canada and sponsor of the competition.

During 2017, the first year of this new competition, 16 projects were proposed from 5 different countries (including China, the US, Japan, the Netherlands, and India) and involving some 14 academic institutions, 8 faculty advisors and 49 graduate and undergraduate students. From the submitted proposals, 7 have been selected as semi-finalists and have been invited to present (with support from SPACE Canada) at the upcoming NSS International Space Development Conference®, ISDC® 2017 (May 25-29) in St. Louis, Missouri USA during the Space Solar Power Track. NSS invites the public to attend this conference to view the presentations and see who wins.

The semi-finalist teams include students from the following institutions: Dalian University of Technology (China), Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands), Hampton University (USA), Harbin Institute of Technology (China), Hosei University (Japan), Indiana University (USA), Kitawato University (Japan), Princeton University (USA), Purdue University / Indianapolis (USA), Shizuoka University (Japan), The Graduate University of Advanced Studies (Japan), Tokai University (Japan), Tokyo University of Science (Japan), University of Colorado / Boulder (USA), and the University of Maryland (Baltimore County and College Park Campuses, USA).

Following their presentations at the ISDC 2017® Conference, winning teams will be invited (with travel support) to present technical papers summarizing their research at the Space Power Symposium at the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2017) during 25-29 September in Adelaide, Australia.

About SPACE Canada: SPACE Canada is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Canada; the purpose of which is promotion of international dialogue on, and understanding of the topic of Space Solar Power. To learn more, visit the SPACE Canada Website (www.spacecanada.org) .
About the National Space Society (NSS): NSS is an independent nonprofit educational membership organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space, with over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The Society publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. NSS thanks their ISDC 2016 Galaxy Sponsor, the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust. To learn more, visit www.nss.org.

Everyone can participate in space