This week’s episode of NASA”s Space to Ground report on activities on the Int. Space Station:
This week’s episode of NASA”s Space to Ground report on activities on the Int. Space Station:
I’ve had a posts here and here recently about the Zero Gravity Cocktail Glass from Cosmic Lifestyle. Here is an interesting NASA video with Dr. Mark Weislogel of Portland State University about the development of these types of beverage holders, as well as pipes and other fluid flow hardware, that use capillary forces to provide easier and more practical use in weightlessness:
NASA Commentator Brandi Dean talks with Dr. Mark Weislogel of Portland State University about a new experiment on the International Space Station to test a drinking cup that will work in weightlessness. The Capillary Beverage experiment applies recent findings about capillary flows and surface tension and their impact on fluids in microgravity to design containers that mimic the role of gravity and should provide station crew members with the ability to actually drink water or coffee or other beverages rather than sucking them out of beverage bags with straws, as they do now.
In February I posted a video interview with Mars One candidate Leila Zucker’. The interview was made by Melissa Balan and colleagues at Senior Post as the first in their series of “Life on Mars” interviews.
The video below shows an interview with long time space advocate Bob Werb, a co-founder of The Space Frontier Foundation. The SFF is a non-profit organization that pushes for the development and settlement of space.
This is part two of an on-going exploration of mankind’s fascination with Mars. In upcoming episodes, we’ll continue to examine current initiatives to build human settlements on the red planet.
Wonderful new images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Rosetta “ESA’s comet chaser” have been released in the past week or so:
The comet’s activity has been significantly increasing over the last weeks and months. As the comet moves closer to the Sun along its orbit, its nucleus gets warmer and warmer. Frozen gases sublimate from its surface, carrying dust particles with it and enshrouding the nucleus in a dense coma. With only four months to go until perihelion – the closest point to the Sun – this process is well underway, with pronounced dust jets seen at all times on the comet’s day side.
Rosetta’s OSIRIS wide-angle camera captures the moment a jet bursts
into action. The first image was captured at 07:13 CET on 12 March
2015, the second two minutes later.
Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team
The two images released today show the remarkable onset of such a jet for the first time. They were taken on 12 March from a distance of 75 kilometres. In the first image, obtained at 07:13 CET, several rays of dust jets frame the upper, illuminated side of the comet. The dark underside shows no such features. Two minutes later, the picture has changed: a spectacular new jet has emerged on the dark side, hurtling dust into space and displaying a clearly discernable fine structure.
“This was a chance discovery,” says OSIRIS principal investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany. “No one has ever witnessed the wake-up of a dust jet before. It is impossible to plan such an image.”
Today’s CometWatch entry is a single frame NAVCAM image obtained on 15 April, from a distance of 170 km from the centre of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. At this distance, the resolution is 14.5 m/pixel; the image has been cropped to 11.4 km (the original frame, provided at the end of the post, measures 14.8 km across).
Today’s CometWatch entry is another single frame NAVCAM image taken on 15 April, almost four hours after the one that was published last Friday. The new picture was obtained at about 165 km from the centre of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where the resolution of NAVCAM is 14 m/pixel. The image has been cropped and measures 10.4 km (the original frame, provided at the end of the post, measures 14.4 km across).
The image [below] was captured on 15 April 2015 by Rosetta’s Navigation camera from a distance of 162 km from the comet centre. The resolution is 14 m/pixel and the image measures 14 km across. It has been processed to bring out the incredible detail of the comet’s activity streaming away from the nucleus.
The previous two CometWatch entries were also acquired on 15 April and today’s image fits into the sequence nicely, captured just before midday spacecraft time, a little over two hours after Monday’s entry.
Under the viewing conditions at this time, the comet appears largely in shadow, with the ‘underside’ of the comet’s large lobe beautifully silhouetted against the background glow of activity that surrounds the nucleus.
* Rosetta update: Two close flybys of an increasingly active comet – The Planetary Society – Emily Lakdawalla gives a tour of the new images.
In the two months since I last checked up on the Rosetta mission, the comet has heated up, displaying more and more jet activity. Perihelion is now only four months away, and the pictures are just getting more and more dramatic with time.
More Space Pod short video reports from TMRO.tv:
* Mousetronauts and Growing Seeds in Microgravity – Space Pod 04/22/15 – “Lisa Stojanovski discusses the different experiments that will performed on mice at the International Space Station as well as plant growth experiments.”
* India’s Human Spaceflight Program – Space Pod 04/21/15 – “Michael Clark talks about India’s human spaceflight program and the rockets that will enable them.”
* Living in the Galactic ‘Burbs – Space Pod 04/20/15 – “Ariel Waldman chats about our home in the Milky Way galaxy and displays her #spacehipster pride in explaining why the Spitzer Space Telescope is awesome.”
A new report from ESO (European Southern Observatory):
First Exoplanet Visible Light Spectrum
New technique paints promising picture for future
Astronomers using the HARPS planet-hunting machine at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile have made the first-ever direct detection of the spectrum of visible light reflected off an exoplanet. These observations also revealed new properties of this famous object, the first exoplanet ever discovered around a normal star: 51 Pegasi b. The result promises an exciting future for this technique, particularly with the advent of next generation instruments, such as ESPRESSO, on the VLT, and future telescopes, such as the E-ELT.
This artist’s view shows the hot Jupiter exoplanet 51 Pegasi b, sometimes referred to as Bellerophon, which orbits a star about 50 light-years from Earth in the northern constellation of Pegasus (The Winged Horse). This was the first exoplanet around a normal star to be found in 1995. Twenty years later this object was also the first exoplanet to be be directly detected spectroscopically in visible light. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)
The exoplanet 51 Pegasi b  lies some 50 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Pegasus. It was discovered in 1995 and will forever be remembered as the first confirmed exoplanet to be found orbiting an ordinary star like the Sun . It is also regarded as the archetypal hot Jupiter — a class of planets now known to be relatively commonplace, which are similar in size and mass to Jupiter, but orbit much closer to their parent stars.
Since that landmark discovery, more than 1900 exoplanets in 1200 planetary systems have been confirmed, but, in the year of the twentieth anniversary of its discovery, 51 Pegasi b returns to the ring once more to provide another advance in exoplanet studies.
The team that made this new detection was led by Jorge Martins from the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA) and the Universidade do Porto, Portugal, who is currently a PhD student at ESO in Chile. They used the HARPS instrument on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Currently, the most widely used method to examine an exoplanet’s atmosphere is to observe the host star’s spectrum as it is filtered through the planet’s atmosphere during transit — a technique known as transmission spectroscopy. An alternative approach is to observe the system when the star passes in front of the planet, which primarily provides information about the exoplanet’s temperature.
The new technique does not depend on finding a planetary transit, and so can potentially be used to study many more exoplanets. It allows the planetary spectrum to be directly detected in visible light, which means that different characteristics of the planet that are inaccessible to other techniques can be inferred.
The host star’s spectrum is used as a template to guide a search for a similar signature of light that is expected to be reflected off the planet as it describes its orbit. This is an exceedingly difficult task as planets are incredibly dim in comparison to their dazzling parent stars.
The signal from the planet is also easily swamped by other tiny effects and sources of noise . In the face of such adversity, the success of the technique when applied to the HARPS data collected on 51 Pegasi b provides an extremely valuable proof of concept.
Jorge Martins explains: “This type of detection technique is of great scientific importance, as it allows us to measure the planet’s real mass and orbital inclination, which is essential to more fully understand the system. It also allows us to estimate the planet’s reflectivity, or albedo, which can be used to infer the composition of both the planet’s surface and atmosphere.”
51 Pegasi b was found to have a mass about half that of Jupiter’s and an orbit with an inclination of about nine degrees to the direction to the Earth . The planet also seems to be larger than Jupiter in diameter and to be highly reflective. These are typical properties for a hot Jupiter that is very close to its parent star and exposed to intense starlight.
HARPS was essential to the team’s work, but the fact that the result was obtained using the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, which has a limited range of application with this technique, is exciting news for astronomers. Existing equipment like this will be surpassed by much more advanced instruments on larger telescopes, such as ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the future European Extremely Large Telescope .
“We are now eagerly awaiting first light of the ESPRESSO spectrograph on the VLT so that we can do more detailed studies of this and other planetary systems,” concludes Nuno Santos, of the IA and Universidade do Porto, who is a co-author of the new paper.
Check out this marvelous little musical comedy created by Esteban Gast: Found and Lost: The Story of Pluto –
Esteban says the work is “based off Mike Brown’s Why I Killed Pluto“. Brown responds here.
the intersections of government, entrepreneurs, and citizen scientists in space commercialization across the U.S.
The project recently opened a crowd-funding campaign to complete at least 9 more episodes: The Private Space Webseries by Tamir ElSahy — Kickstarter –
Three initial episodes are available at LifeAssembled Studios – YouTube. The first “features an interview with California State Sen. Steve Knight, the lead author of California’s Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act“.
The Dawn spacecraft shot past Ceres a month or so and has not been able to see the sunlight side of the dwarf planet until recently as it moves back towards a close orbit around it. It can now see the bright spots that it say on the approach to Ceres:
April 20, 2015—The two brightest spots on dwarf planet Ceres, which have fascinated scientists for months, are back in view in the newest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images on April 14 and 15 from a vantage point 14,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) above Ceres’ north pole.
An animation and still image are available here: www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA19064
The images show the brightest spot and its companion clearly standing out against their darker surroundings, but their composition and sources are still unknown. Scientists also see other interesting features, including heavy cratering. As Dawn gets closer to Ceres, surface features will continue to emerge at increasingly better resolution.
Dawn has now finished delivering the images that have helped mission planners maneuver the spacecraft to its first science orbit and prepare for subsequent observations. All of the approach operations have executed flawlessly and kept Dawn on course and on schedule. Beginning April 23, Dawn will spend about three weeks in a near-circular orbit around Ceres, taking observations from 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the surface. On May 9, Dawn will begin to make its way to lower orbits to improve the view and provide higher-resolution observations.
“The approach imaging campaign has completed successfully by giving us a preliminary, tantalizing view of the world Dawn is about to start exploring in detail. It has allowed us to start asking some new and intriguing questions,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s mission director and chief engineer, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
On March 6, Dawn became the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet, and the first to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. Scientists will be comparing Ceres to giant asteroid Vesta, which Dawn studied from 2011 to 2012, in order to gain insights about the formation of our solar system. Both Vesta and Ceres, located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, were on their way to becoming planets before their development was interrupted.
Dawn’s mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of acknowledgements, visit dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/
1. Monday, April 20, 2015: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT; 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome DR. DONALD RAPP to discuss the use of indigenous resources on Mars to reduce the cost of a human mission to Mars and Climate Change from the perspective of those who do not start out with preconceived belief systems, but examine the data (which are fragmentary and noisy) honestly.
2. Tuesday, April 21,, 2015:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome Thomas Marotta who as a space advocate attended this year’s March Storm. Tom will report on the event.
WEBINAR AND SPECIAL TIME: 4. Sunday, April 26, 2015: 1-3 PM PDT (4-6 PM EDT, 3-5PM CDT): We welcome DR. JOHN JURIST to this listener requested webinar on selecting the right rocket, engine, and fuel for a mission. Dr. Jurist will explain how this is done, the type of trades and issues to consider. Dr. Jurist will have supporting documents for us which I will upload to The Space Show blog on Saturday before the webinar. You can listen to the webinar with audio only as you can any Space Show program. You can watch the webinar on our Space Show UStream site, www.ustream.tv/channel/the-space-show. The video will be archived on our Space Show Vimeo site.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
NASA held its Rover Challenge event in Huntsville, Alabama this weekend: The 2015 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge Rolls to a Start – NASA
This competitive international design challenge boasts 95 registered university/college and high school teams, hailing from 18 states, Puerto Rico and from as far away as Mexico, Germany, India and Russia. Each team has spent months designing, building and testing their rovers, all for this moment…to roll into the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to defend their crowns or usurp the hierarchy of previous winners.
Rover Challenge requires student teams to design, construct, test and race human-powered rovers through an obstacle course simulating terrain potentially found on distant planets, asteroids or moons. Teams race against the clock to finish the course with the fastest times, vying for prizes in competitive divisions. The event concludes with an awards ceremony where corporate sponsors will present awards for best design, rookie team and other awards and accomplishments.
The nearly three-quarter-mile-long obstacle course will have teams racing and maneuvering in, through and around full-size exhibits of rockets, space vehicles and extra-terrestrial terrain on display at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center– the official visitor center of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
And a video from Reuters:
A new batch of Space Pod reports from TMRO.tv:
* Neutrinos are Awesome – Space Pod 04/13/15
* The New Vulcan Rocket – Space Pod 04/14/15
* 3D printing in space and the student built Vulcan-1 Engine – Space Pod 04/15/15
* SpaceX Launches CRS-6 with a Bang – Space Pod 04/16/15
Three PhD student researchers in engineering at the University of Leuven (Belgium) founded SpaceBillboard.com. Their plan is to sell squares on a grid on the side on the side of a small CubeSat spacecraft where companies can place ads or logos and individuals can put personal messages.
SpaceBillboard sells advertisement space on a billboard that will be launched into space on board of a satellite. This will be the first advertisement platform ever to pass the boundary of space. The revenues of this project will be used to sponsor space research at the University of Leuven. But this is not just charity. This unique story will go around the world as well.
The money raised from the billboards will go for space research:
SpaceBillboard supports innovative space research. More precisely, we want to support research on CubeSats. The first CubeSats were developed as student projects in universities, but by now, space agencies such as NASA and ESA have recognized their potential. But what makes them so special?
Bonhams auction house in New York City will hold a “Space History Sale” of space collectibles and memorabilia on Tuesday, April 1st: Bonhams sale offers items that have been to the moon and back – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Astronaut Kenneth Bowersox’s spacesuit used during his ride to earth from the Int. Space Station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2003:
Rare meteorites are also available:
Here is the StarTalk Episode Guide. His first show will include an interview with George Takei of Star Trek fame. In this clip, Tyson talks about Star Trek:
Here is this week’s Space to Ground report on activities related to the Int. Space Station:
An update on the Curiosity rover:
› Curiosity has passed the mission’s 10-kilometer mark as it heads for its next science destination, called “Logan Pass”
› The rover is approaching a corrugated geological unit that overlies the layers examined by Curiosity
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is continuing science observations while on the move this month. On April 16, the mission passed 10 kilometers (6.214 miles) of total driving since its 2012 landing, including about a fifth of a mile (310 meters) so far this month.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Navigation Camera (Navcam) to capture this scene toward the west just after completing a drive that took the mission’s total driving distance past 10 kilometers (6.214 miles).
The drive on April 16, 2015, during the 957th Martian day, or sol of Curiosity’s work on Mars covered 208 feet (63.5 meters). It advanced the rover westward through a sandy-floored valley. The valley is on the rover’s route toward a higher site on Mount Sharp than sites it has investigated previously.
The rover is trekking through a series of shallow valleys between the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop, which it investigated for six months, and the next science destination, “Logan Pass,” which is still about 200 yards, or meters, ahead toward the southwest.
“We’ve not only been making tracks, but also making important observations to characterize rocks we’re passing, and some farther to the south at selected viewpoints,” said John Grant of the National Air and Space Museum, Washington. Grant is a Curiosity science team member who has been the team’s long-term planner in recent days.
A drive of 208 feet (63.5 meters) during the mission’s 957th Martian day, early Thursday, took Curiosity past a cumulative 10 kilometers of total Martian ground-distance covered. This is based on mapped distance covered by each drive; by wheel odometery, the rover reached 10 kilometers last week, but the mapped tally is considered a more precise measure of distance covered, excluding wheel slippage.
A green star marks the location of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover after a drive on the mission’s 957th Martian day, or sol, (April 16, 2015). The map covers an area about 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) wide.
Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012. The drive on Sol 957 brought the mission’s total driving distance past the 10-kilometer mark (6.214 miles). The rover is passing through a series of shallow valleys on a path from the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop, which it investigated for six months, toward its next science destination, called “Logan Pass.”
The rover’s traverse line enters this map at the location Curiosity reached in mid-July 2014.
The base map uses imagery from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Curiosity is examining the lower slopes of a layered mountain, Mount Sharp, to investigate how the region’s ancient environment evolved from lakes and rivers to much drier conditions. Sites at Pahrump Hills exposed the mountain’s basal geological layer, named the Murray formation. Nearby, high-standing buttes are examples of terrain called the Washboard unit, from its corrugated appearance as seen from orbit.
“The trough we’re driving through is bounded by exposures of the Washboard unit, with gaps at some places that allow us to see farther south to higher exposures of it,” Grant said. “At Logan Pass, we hope to investigate the relationship between the Murray formation and the Washboard unit, to help us understand the ancient depositional setting and how environmental conditions were changing. The observations we’re making now help establish the context for what we’ll see there.”
“The rover’s mobility has been crucial, because that’s what allows us to get to the best sites to investigate,” Grant said. “The ability to get to different sections of the rock record builds more confidence in your interpretation of each section.”
From observations made by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, topographically ridged terrain that has beenategorized as the Washboard unit has been mapped at many locations around Mount Sharp — on the south flank of the mountain as well as the northern flank Curiosity is climbing — and on the surrounding plains.
“Understanding the Washboard unit and what processes formed it could put what we’ve been studying into a wider context,” Grant said.
Curiosity spent much of its first 12 months on Mars investigating locations close to its landing site north of Mount Sharp. Findings during that period included evidence for ancient rivers and a lakebed environment that offered conditions favorable for microbial life, if Mars has ever hosted life. After leaving the landing vicinity, Curiosity drove to reach Mount Sharp, with a few extended stops at science waypoints along the route before arriving in September 2014.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about Curiosity, visit:
You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:
The Dawn spacecraft is moving towards the sunlight side of Ceres and has begun taking images again:
This animation shows the north pole of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by the Dawn spacecraft on April 10, 2015. Dawn was at a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) when its framing camera took these images. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA (See larger image here.)
April 16, 2015—After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken on April 10 from a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers), and they represent the highest-resolution views of Ceres to date.
An animated sequence of these images, and a still, at: www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2015-133
Subsequent images of Ceres will show surface features at increasingly better resolution.
Dawn arrived at Ceres on March 6, marking the first time a spacecraft has orbited a dwarf planet. Previously, the spacecraft explored giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012. Dawn has the distinction of being the only spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial targets.
Ceres, with an average diameter of about 590 miles (950 kilometers), is the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn has been using its ion propulsion system to maneuver to its first science orbit at Ceres, which it will reach on April 23. The spacecraft will remain at a distance of 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) from the dwarf planet until May 9. Afterward, it will make its way to lower orbits.
Dawn’s mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of acknowledgements, visit: dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission