Space policy roundup – May.23.14

Space policy/politics related links:



Thurs 5/22/14 Hr 4 | John Batchelor Show – Bob Zimmerman (2nd guest) reports on latest space news and policy issues

Living and Working on Mars—A Conversation at the International Space Development Conference – The Planetary Society – Weekly Planetary Radio report includes an update from Bill Nye on NASA budget

Citizen science and “the makers, the scientists, the hobbyists”

This article gives an overview of the range and scope of activities that fall under the Citizen Science rubric: The Weird, Wild World of Citizen Science Is Already Here – Opinion/WIRED

Citizen Science is a somewhat vague term. It can mean hands-on research by amateur investigators or it can mean helping professional scientists sift through large data sets for rare items of interest.

There’s power in this diffuse definition, though, as long as new interpretations are welcomed and encouraged. By inviting and inspiring people to ask their own questions, citizen science can become much more than a way of measuring bird populations. From the drone-wielding conservationists in South Africa to the makeshift biolabs in Brooklyn, a widening circle of participants are wearing the amateur badge with honor. And all of these groups–the makers, the scientists, the hobbyists–are converging to create a new model for discovery. In other words, the maker movement and the traditional science world are on a collision course.

Meteor shower expected to light up the sky tonight over North America

There’s a good chance, but no guarantee, of a strong meteor shower tonight over North America. The May Camelopardalids come from the dust debris trail of the periodic comet 209P/LINEAR, a little known and not very bright comet discovered in 2004 that orbits the sun every 5.1 years. According to Sky & Telescope:

What’s got dynamicists excited, however, is that Earth might might plow right through relatively dense strands of debris shed by the comet long ago. This should create a strong burst of “shooting stars” on May 24th.

Several predictions suggest you might see anywhere from 100 to 200 meteors per hour from a dark location free of light pollution. That means you could perhaps see one or two meteors per minute. Some (but not all) dynamicists think there’s even an outside chance that the celestial spectacle could briefly become a meteor “storm,” with more than 1,000 arriving per hour! (But it’s also possible that the display might be weak, with just a few dozen meteors visible per hour even in a dark sky.)

The meteor shower should peak around 3 am EDT. If you don’t have a clear sky, you can watch online at Slooh.

More at:

Map showing where the expected May Camelopardalid meteor shower will be visible during the peak time on May 24, 2014, 6:00-8:00 UTC.
Map showing where the expected May Camelopardalid
meteor shower will be visible during the peak time
on May 24, 6:00-8:00 UTC.
Image Credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Large new crater spotted on Mars

An announcement from NASA JPL:

NASA Mars Weathercam Helps Find Big New Crater

Researchers have discovered on the Red Planet the largest fresh meteor-impact crater ever firmly documented with before-and-after images. The images were captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The crater spans half the length of a football field and first appeared in March 2012. The impact that created it likely was preceded by an explosion in the Martian sky caused by intense friction between an incoming asteroid and the planet’s atmosphere. This series of events can be likened to the meteor blast that shattered windows in Chelyabinsk, Russia, last year. The air burst and ground impact darkened an area of the Martian surface about 5 miles (8 kilometers) across.

Best-Ever Pinning Down When a Space Rock Hit Mars
Best-Ever Pinning Down When a Space Rock Hit Mars

The darkened spot appears in images taken by the orbiter’s weather-monitoring camera, the Mars Color Imager (MARCI). Images of the site from MARCI and from the two telescopic cameras on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are at:

Large, Fresh Crater Surrounded by Smaller Craters
Large, Fresh Crater Surrounded by Smaller Craters

Since the orbiter began its systematic observation of Mars in 2006, scientist Bruce Cantor has examined MARCI’s daily global coverage, looking for evidence of dust storms and other observable weather events in the images. Cantor is this camera’s deputy principal investigator at Malin Space Science Systems, the San Diego company that built and operates MARCI and the orbiter’s telescopic Context Camera (CTX). Through his careful review of the images, he helps operators of NASA’s solar-powered Mars rover, Opportunity, plan for weather events that may diminish the rover’s energy. He also posts weekly Mars weather reports.


Before-and-After Views Confirm Fresh Craters
Before-and-After Views Confirm Fresh Craters
Fresh Mars Crater Confirmed Within Impact Scar
Fresh Mars Crater Confirmed Within Impact Scar