I've been lucky enough to attend a few NASA Social events, where I've been able to meet up with other space enthusiasts at NASA buildings such as NASA Headquarters in DC, Goddard Flight Center in MD and Mission Control in Houston. Check out Susan Bell's awesome presentation recap of her NASA Social experience using Prezi!
Below are my tweets and photos from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum's Time and Navigation exhibit which opens Friday, April 12th. The exhibit features navigation the evolution of navigation technology from the sea, to the air, to space, and now in our smartphones. Yesterday's preview has more detail. Check out the photos below!
The Smithsonian National Air and Space museum is unveiling a new exhibit entitled Time & Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting From Here to There. The exhibit will focus on navigators - the folks that served as the back seat drivers for many famous pilots, drivers, captains, and others. Exhibits from famous names such as sea Captain Charles Wilkes and pilot Charles Lindbergh will be featured, as well as Mariner 10, the first spacecraft to reach Mercury.
An excerpt from the Smithsonian blog reads as follows:
Today, the navigator as a crew member has largely disappeared from most commercial and military long-distance operations, replaced by microprocessors in the form of GPS and inertial navigation systems, but from the 1930s to the 1980s, the navigator was an essential crewmember on many long-distance commercial and military flights.
The exhibit will open to the public on Friday, April 12th - make sure to check it out next time you're in DC!
TED (Technology, Education, Design) is a nonprofit dedicated to spreading ideas. TED is known for attracting amazing speakers to deliver short but impactful speeches on various subjects. There have been a few great ones regarding science - check them out below! They will motivate you to be the best that you can, in 5 - 15 minutes!
Almost all new phones have touch screens instead of physical buttons - the following talk by Katherine Kuchenbecker of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) covers the technology behind these screens, and how it can be driven forward.
The final TED talk is by Elon Musk, who is one of the most fascinating innovators around. He developed the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft that's currently running resupply trips to the International Space Station (ISS). While he's bored with that, he's doing small things like founding PayPal or designing fully electric performance cars under his Tesla Motors company. Whew!
The shot above is the from the Solar and Helioshperic Observatory (SOHO), a joint collaboration by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the Sun. I know, you may be thinking that somehow there is a huge observatory in the SOHO neighborhood of New York, but no, this is actually in space! SOHO recently captured a fantastic video of Venus, Mars, and Uranus all crowding into to the same picture with the sun.
The coronal mass ejection on the picture are giant bubbles of gas and magnetic fields which are ejected from the sun. Mars will be so close to these fields during April that it will limit the contact that we have with the Curiosity rover that is currently digging its way around the red planet.
Check out the below infographic for information on how we've managed to reduce the time it takes to get to the International Space Station from two days to six hours! This has been used on automated missions but never for manned spaceflight until today. Just imagine if you could reduce your work commute by the same 1/8 ratio - an hour commute would become 7.5 minutes!
The Soyuz capsule is a very tiny and cramped spacecraft, so the less time in it, the better for the astronauts. It can only fly autonomously in orbit for only about four days total, so the faster rendezvous frees up more fuel, oxygen and other supplies for possible use in an emergency. More importantly, this saves a ton of money for the space program since there is less time needed at Mission Control in Houston to monitor the launch.
Keep in mind, the Earth itself is moving, and the ISS is moving in orbit around the Earth at about 5 miles a second. From the moment the Soyuz capsule launches, everything is in a different place, so we are aiming for a moving target.
Dragon spacecraft, by private company SpaceX, has successfully left the
International Space Station and splashed down for landing in the ocean! These missions will continue for the next few
years and eventually manned space flight will return to US soil. Check out this panorama of the inside of the craft!
NASA indicates that the following experiments were returned to earth:
- Investigations included among the returned cargo could aid in food production during future long-duration space missions and enhance crop production on Earth. Others could help in the development of more efficient solar cells, detergents and semiconductor-based electronics.
- Among the returned investigations was the Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures (CSLM-3) experiment, which also launched to space aboard this Dragon. CLSM-3 studies how crystals known as dendrites form as a metal alloy becomes solid. The research could help engineers develop stronger materials for use in automobile, aircraft and spacecraft parts.
- Dragon also is returning several human research samples that will help scientists continue to examine how the human body reacts to long-term spaceflight. The results will have implications for future space exploration and direct benefits here on Earth.
I'm in Houston, and I'll be reporting live from another one of my favorite events - NASA social! As usual, I'll be tweeting from @ShareefJackson using the #NASASocial hashtag - check it out! I'll bring the latest news even though I'm surrounded by the wonders of Whataburgers and various BBQ places. I even drove past a place named Hot Biscuit ... hmmm ...
I'll also get a behind the scenes view of Johnson Space Center, including Mission Control and the Robonaut lab. There are autonomous robots that help NASA with many tasks, including one on the space station itself!
Mission Control is where they coordinate flights once they have been launched, and of course we all know "Houston, We Have A Problem"
I didn't get a chance to attend the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference, but NASA went all out by providing a life size model of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This telescope will eventually replace the aging Hubble telescope in the latter half of this decade, and will bring us even more cool pictures of our universe! Four stories tall and the size of a tennis court - check it out!
The SpaceX Dragon launch on Friday had a few issues - namely, the solar panels that power the spacecraft did not deploy as planned due to an oxidizer tank malfunction. After the geniuses at NASA and Space X banged their heads together, they were able to get back on track and dock with the International Space Station (ISS) early Sunday morning.
The good old USA has decided to enact legislation that no one wanted to enact. In awesome doomsday terms, it's known as the sequester. It doesn't really make sense to me - but apparently our government couldn't decide whether to focus budget cuts on entitlement programs or revenues, so they just decided to cut everything! Unfortunately, that everything includes science and tech.
One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the former director of the National Institute of Health. He states that the sequester will set back medical science for a generation. He answers one common defense of the sequester, which is that scientists can just go work for private industry.
That’s ridiculous. That’s the most ridiculous, caveman statement I’ve ever heard. That’s not the way science works. Science works with bright young people who are attracted to science. David Baltimore had the Nobel prize at 35 for a discovery at 27. Today he wouldn’t even get a grant from NIH. The average age for grant recipients is 38 or 39. Research is an investment, it’s not an expense.
Research institutions will get less money, which means less research being done. Charles Bolden of NASA has outlined how the cuts will affect the U.S. space program with a loss of $51 million, which includes delaying and/or canceling several projects that will lead to the return of manned spaceflight.
My hope is that we get our house in order and squash all of the politics and beef between the House and the Senate. Until we do, our country will continue to suffer.
Details on the Feb 15th meteor that exploded above Chelyabinsk in Russia are in. Why didn't we see it? It flew in from the direction of the sun, where our telescopes couldn't see it until it was too late. The meteor lasted about 30 seconds within our atmosphere before it exploded with the force of about 20 nuclear bombs.
Check out the video below from ScienceCasts for more details. If you can't see the video below, please click here.
One of my favorite YouTube series, Minute Physics, just released a fascinating video on the size of the universe. It boils down to this: we can observe a certain amount of the universe from Earth. When we observe stuff that's really far away, the light takes so long to travel to our eyes that by the time we see it, it's already moved far, far away. Earth within this huge observable universe (95 billion light years) is about the same scale as a teeny tiny virus is within our solar system. We are a TINY part of the universe.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I spent Wednesday in downtown DC at the latest NASA Social event. The main part of the event was televised, and I've embedded the video below. It includes a Q&A session with astronaut Don Petit dealing with the process of turning urine into drinkable water (or "yesterday's coffee into today's coffee" as he put it". The coolest part has to be when we were able to speak directly to astronauts, including social media maven Chris Hadfield, that are currently in orbit inside of the International Space Station. Skip to 1:29:00 to see yours truly asking a question about engineering safety to Dr. Tara Ruttley!
I live tweeted the event and the details of the lectures - please see below!.
I'm currently on an Amtrak train headed for DC for my first NASA social meeting at NASA headquarters. I'm joining a bunch of fellow space enthusiasts meeting with astronaut Don Petit and joining a Q&A with NASA astronauts Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield aboard the space station. Finally, we'll speak with the Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate and experts discussing science aboard the orbiting laboratory.
While the rest of the world was worried about an asteroid that had no chance of colliding with the Earth, a meteor actually entered the atmosphere above Russia. Thank god it did not impact the ground, but the sonic boom still did plenty of damage. Most of the damage was due to shattered glass that injured over a thousand people. Since light travels much faster than sound (think about thunder and lightning), people saw the meteor streaking through the air and were shocked when the massive sonic boom came later, shattering windows and causing alarms to trip. That's what we know.
But before we knew this, we had no idea if there would be more injuries, or even fatalities. Yet people still flooded social networks with their "cool" and "amazing" photos and memes. I won't link to any here.
I am strongly against posting images of something that we don't yet know the outcome of. I noticed the same thing - people posting images of things with offensive captions and memes - even dwhen we knew of massive fatalities. This occurred during other natural disasters such as the Haiti earthquake, the Indian Ocean tusnami, Hurricane Katrina.
I realize that we are living in a real time news world, but I think we should at least give some time when the damage assessments are out before pictures are shared.
For further reading, New Scientist has a great post on the basics of asteroids, meteroids, meteors, and meteorites.
President Obama highlighted science in this week's State of the Union, and he also answered questions during a Google+ hangout today. Talk about taking science and technology to a new level!
One part of his speech caught my attention:
"Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race."
The height of the Space Race was the goal to land a man on the moon in the 60s. That's five decades ago! It's a shame that we haven't reached that level of R&D. It doesn't necessarily have to be for one solid goal as it was for the space race, but we do need to invest in our own infrastructure to build the next generation of scientists This covers everything from schools to neighborhoods to making college affordable.
Obama also referenced this during his Google+ hangout when he was asked if his daughters take interest in science. He spoke about how they need the encouragement from the system - parents, schools, other students - so that they know that they can achieve. Increased levels of investment can make sure that this will happen.
And of course, the President is doing this while talking live ... over the interwebs ... to regular citizens ... tech overload.
The Landsat 8 satellite launched from the Vandenberg Airforce Base in California on Feb 11th. Over the past 40 years, the Landsat program has provided imagery for public and private use. This newest satellite provides a more accurate way to capture data - imagine using a pushbroom to slowly push dirt along the floor as opposed to constantly sweeping from side to side. For more detail on the mission and technical details, please click here.
Most importantly, Landsat data is used for various public and private means. The data is used for things such as urbanization, deforestation, climate change and the carbon footprint,. Most people have interacted with the data via the satellite filter on Google Maps, which almost everyone does when they are zooming in on the house they grew up in just to eek out that last bit of childhood.
I was able to watch the launch with a bunch of fellow space enthusiasts at the NASA Goddard Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. We ate hilariously bad food, attacked the gift store, and most importantly talked to the scientists on the Landsat team about the launch. For my coverage of the 40th anniversary of the Landsat program during the summer of 2012, please click here.
On Feb 9th, 1995, Dr. Bernard Harris Jr. became the first African American to perform a space walk (EVA for extra vehicular activity). A space walk essentially consists of leaving the confines of a spacecraft while in space. You may have seen astronauts moving around the outside of a spacecraft to make repairs and make other observations.
From Dr. Harris's bio, "he enjoys flying, sailing, skiing, running, scuba diving, art and music." Talk about well rounded, considering that he also holds degrees in medicine and bio medical science. Some people are just awesome. He's also a member of my fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Dr. Harris founded the Harris Foundation with the mission "to invest in community-based initiatives to support education, health and wealth". Check a video from the foundation below - if you can't see it, click here.
City Town Info has created a nice infographic concerning women in science. While some numbers regarding income and representation may be bleak, there is positive news - more and more young women are becoming interested in science careers. The challenge is keeping this interest fresh by keeping science interesting throughout the crucial elementary and high school years. We need to make sure that scientists are shown as role models, such as those that I posted about at the end of last year.