Monday, May 31, 2010

NASA Space Shuttle Enterprise: National Air and Space Museum

On display.

Space Shuttle Enterprise, a test craft that never launched into space, sits in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The museum has already been promised one of the three remaining orbiters to put on display. (Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Muse)

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, has a Web site complete with digital plans on where it would house the shuttle, estimated costs and letters of support.So does Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The Air And Space Museum & Planetarium in Tulsa, Okla., has architectural renderings of a new building to house the spaceship and a slick "Land the Shuttle" campaign and Web site.

The approach at Kennedy Space Center, inarguably the nexus of the space shuttle program, is decidedly more low key and that, has gotten the attention of some community and tourism leaders.

If a retired shuttle orbiter is displayed in the county, it would most likely be somewhere within the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Bill Moore, COO of the company that manages the visitor center, said Delaware North has submitted its proposal to NASA.

NASA Astronaut Soichi to return from ISS to Earth

Soichi Noguchi's pictures from space have used Twitter service  Twitpic to capture a range of images
Soichi Noguchi's pictures from space have used Twitter service Twitpic to capture a range of images

The astronaut who has been tweeting pictures of the Earth from space is set to return to land this week, marking the end of an extraordinary gallery that has included pictures of the Space Shuttle Atlantis as well as a host of images of the Earth itself.

Soichi Noguchi, a Japanese astronaut currently staying on the International Space Station, first began using the twitpic service when Nasa introduced a new way for crew-members to access the web from space. Previously, astronauts had been using services such as Twitter by emailing messages to mission control and then having somebody repost them to the site manually.

Since the new connection was installed, however, the flight engineer has uploaded more than 600 photographs of areas around the globe, as well as pictures of the station and shuttle. Recently these have included images of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Moscow by night, the Moon, his colleagues and Mount Ararat as well as more artistic images.

Earlier this year, Nasa also held a live Q&A with astronauts answering questions about their life orbiting the Earth. It is likely that other astronauts will continue to Twitter from the space station, however – Astro_Soichi currently has over 244,000 followers.

OpenWays makes your smartphone a hotel room key -- Engadget

OpenWays makes your smartphone a hotel room key, provides a different kind of 'unlock' -- Engadget

ESA New Hubble Telescope Site: Spacetelescope.org


www.spacetelescope.org

Small Near-Earth Object Probably A Rocket Part


Graphic depicting the trajectory of near-Earth object 2010 KQ. Image credit: NASA/JPL.

For a larger version of this image please go here.


Scientists at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have determined that a small object that safely passed Earth on May 21 is more than likely an upper-stage of a rocket that carried a spacecraft on an interplanetary trajectory.

"The orbit of this object is very similar to that of the Earth, and one would not expect an object to remain in this type of orbit for very long," said Paul Chodas, a scientist at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Observations by astronomer S.J. Bus, using the NASA-sponsored Infrared Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, indicate that 2010 KQ's spectral characteristics do not match any of the known asteroid types, and the object's absolute magnitude (28.9) suggests it is only a few meters in size.

2010 KQ was discovered by astronomer Richard Kowalski at the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey in the mountains just north of Tucson, Ariz., on May 16. Five days later, it made its closest approach to Earth at a distance just beyond the moon's orbit. The object is departing Earth's neighborhood but will be returning in 2036.

"At present, there is a 6 percent probability that 2010 KQ will enter our atmosphere over a 30-year period starting in 2036," said Chodas.

'First Light' As SOFIA Completes Observation Flight

The German-American Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, completed an important milestone by achieving 'first light' when it performed its first observations during the night between 25 and 26 May 2010.

SOFIA is the only airborne observatory in the world, operated jointly by NASA and the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). The observatory carried out observations of astronomical objects at infrared wavelengths in flight.

First Light
The modified Boeing 747SP houses a 2.7-metre reflecting telescope built in Germany under DLR management. The aircraft took off at 21:45 local time from its home base, the NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California.

During a eight-hour flight that reached 11,000 metres in altitude, the 18-person crew of scientists, engineers and technicians tested the telescope's performance to its limits and took the first infrared images of test objects in the night sky.

The crowning achievement of the night: scientists recorded images of the Messier 82 (M82) galaxy and of Jupiter, at wavelengths unobservable by ground- or space-based telescopes.

The composite image of Jupiter shows heat pouring out of the planet's interior through holes in its clouds. In the infrared image of M82, it is possible to look through the galaxy's interstellar dust clouds to show several 'starburst' knots in which stars are forming by the tens of thousands.

Indian Rockets To Soon Use Atmospheric Oxygen As Fuel

Indian Rockets To Soon Use Atmospheric Oxygen As Fuel

In an attempt to make its rockets lighter and carry heavier satellites, the Indian space agency is planning to flight test by the end of this year its own air-breathing engine that will use atmospheric oxygen as fuel.

Air-breathing engines use atmospheric oxygen and burn it with the stored on-board fuel to generate the onward thrust.

Conventional rockets carry both oxygen and chemical fuel on board.

"We will be doing a series of ground tests of the air breathing engine soon. We are planning an actual launch of a sounding rocket - ATV D02 - powered by such an engine by the end of this year," an official of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The rocket will fly from Sriharikota, India's rocket port located around 80 km from here.

In March, ISRO flew an advanced technology vehicle D01 (ATV-D01) weighing three tonnes from Sriharikota.

ATV-D01, the heaviest sounding rocket developed by ISRO, carried a passive scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) engine combustor module as a test bed for demonstration of air breathing propulsion technology.

A scramjet consists of a tube through which inlet air is compressed by the high speed of the vehicle, a chamber where fuel is combusted, and a nozzle through which the exhaust jet leaves at higher speed than the inlet air.

Jet engines use a compressor to squeeze air into the engine, then spray fuel into the compressed air and ignite it to produce thrust by funnelling it through the back.

The advantage of air breathing engine is that it makes the rocket lighter - as oxygen is not carried - enabling it to carry heavier satellites.

Further, it reduces the cost of launch and will help make ISRO a very cost competitive player in the global satellite launch industry.

However, as air breathing engine systems can operate only during the atmospheric phase of flight, they will have to be adapted along with the conventional chemical rockets.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Proposal To Go Where No NASA Logo Has Gone Before

A Proposal To Go Where No NASA Logo Has Gone Before


base-for-nasa_blackonwhite
The proposal for NASA’s new logo.

If you could redesign any brand, which would it be? This was the question asked recently by Viewpoint magazine, The Future Laboratory’s bi-annual magazine about trends, brands, futures, and market strategies.

What company or organisation is doing super-cool, interesting, worthwhile things, and is completely undersold by its logo or brand? NASA.

meatball
NASA’s aptly nicknamed meatball logo

The first thing we see in NASA’s previous logos is that perennial truth that what may look futuristic today will look passe tomorrow and of course tomorrow comes faster today than it did yesterday.

You also want to avoid anything that would be too techy—NASA isn’t about technology; it’s about using technology as a vehicle for doing and going and discovering.

So they went with a fairly neutral typeface that won’t look immediately dated but would de-emphasize the name in the logo to create more of a symbol that would be universally understood.

If you eclipse the name with a giant sphere, which could be Earth or any other planet, you don’t get rid of the “meatball” entirely, you just don’t see it.

base-for-nasa_whiteonblackbase-for-nasa_whiteonplanet

The logo can appear on plain backgrounds or over imagery. (all photos courtesy NASA)

This idea that Earth is just another planet is re-enforced in the tagline. “THERE” implies that our home is bigger than just Earth—space is no longer there, it’s here.

We also like the fact that “THERE” contains the entire journey in a single word. Of course NASA is an American agency, but it wants to downplay the nationalistic side of it and sidestep the flag-planting mentality.

So the “US” in the tagline isn’t “U.S.”; it’s all of us, everyone on Earth. It’s getting back to the idea of NASA taking giant steps for mankind and the World is going along for the ride.

base-for-nasa_window2base-for-nasa_window3

The logo can also work as a window the places NASA goes and the things it does.

Research finds surgery outperforms drug therapy in treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia

Research finds surgery outperforms drug therapy in treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia — Science Blog

A 17-year-long community study looking at symptoms of enlarged prostate in over 2,000 men age 40 to 79 years suggests that surgery for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) offers more relief from incontinence and obstruction symptoms than treatment from drug-based therapy, according to a new study by researchers at Mayo Clinic. The researchers presented their results today at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association.

Overall, results show:

* Urinary incontinence was a common condition, coexisting with BPH/lower urinary tract symptoms.
* In the community setting, patients with the highest symptom scores were most likely to receive surgical intervention.
* Symptoms stabilised and did not get worse after treatment of all kinds.
* Patients who underwent transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) had the greatest decrease in both symptoms and incontinence compared to other treatment groups. Pre-TURP the incontinence rate was 64.5 percent and post-TURP it was 41.9 percent.

Significance
The findings provide large-sample, long-term data comparing the effectiveness of medical versus surgical treatments in a large, general population, as compared to small, select clinical populations of men. “Our data fills a gap in the research record that can be used by physicians and patients to evaluate management options,” says Amy Krambeck, M.D., Mayo Clinic urologist and lead study investigator. “Because it’s a large community-based study of more than 2,100 men, it includes the entire broad range of male health. This suggests the results are stronger in terms of being generalised and applied to other men.”

Background
BPH and lower urinary tract symptoms, such as frequent urge to urinate or leakage, are common. By age 60, an estimated 50 percent of all men suffer from enlarged prostate symptoms; by age 90, about 80 percent do. Multiple treatments exist but data comparing drug therapy to surgery are lacking, making clinical decisions vulnerable to subjective factors.

About the Study
From 1990 through 2007, the study enrolled 2,184 healthy men, age 40-79, living in Olmsted County, Minn., All participants completed surveys every other year about their urinary symptoms and the treatments they received. From this information, the investigators examined urinary problems and incontinence before and after different types of treatment.

Results showed that of the 2,184 men:

* 1,574 (72%) received no treatment for BPH symptoms.
* 307 (14%) took alpha adrenergic receptor blockers (α-ARs).
* 195 (9%) took the medication 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors (ARIs).
* 23 (1%) received surgical laser vaporization.
* 85 (4%) received surgical transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP).

Comments Dr. Krambeck: “After intervention, the greatest improvement in symptom score was seen in the TURP group, followed by laser vaporisation, then the drugs, 5 alpha reductase inhibitors and alpha adrenergic receptor blockers.

Only the surgical TURP group reported a decrease in incontinence – pre-TURP the incontinence rate was 64.5 percent and post-TURP it was 41.9 percent.”

This reduction in incontinence rates is significant when compared to the increase in reported incontinence in the patients receiving both forms of medical therapy and no change in symptoms for patients receiving laser vaporization.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

SOFIA Airborne telescope: Makes its first observations - New Scientist

Airborne telescope makes its first observations - space - 28 May 2010 - New Scientist
SOFIA snapped this composite infrared image of Jupiter (right)   during its first flight as a working observatory. The white stripe shows   a region of relatively transparent clouds that reveal the planet's  warm  interior (Image: NASA)

SOFIA snapped this composite infrared image of Jupiter (right) during its first flight as a working observatory. The white stripe shows a region of relatively transparent clouds that reveal the planet's warm interior (Image: NASA)

1 more image

A jet with a large telescope built into its side has snapped its first in-flight images of the night sky. The flight begins a new phase for the infrared observatory, called SOFIA, which was once in danger of cancellation due to cost overruns.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a Boeing 747 jet that has been modified to carry a 2.5-metre telescope provided by the German Space Agency. The observatory is designed to fly at an altitude of about 12 kilometres.

That altitude is above more than 99 per cent of the atmosphere's water vapour, which obscures the sky at infrared wavelengths. That means SOFIA will receive roughly 80 per cent of the infrared light that hits orbiting space telescopes. It can be used to study phenomena such as star and planet formation in the Milky Way.

The telescope took off on Wednesday from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California, for its first in-flight night observations. Images taken during the six-hour flight are sharp enough for the telescope to perform "front-line astronomical research", SOFIA project scientist Pam Marcum said in a statement.

SOFIA, which cost more than $1 billion to develop, was nearly cancelled due to delays and cost overruns. NASA decided to restore funding to the project in 2006, after criticism from astronomers and a technical review that said the project faced no insurmountable challenges.

NASA aims to fly SOFIA several times a week for about 20 years.

Friday, May 28, 2010

NASA Space Shuttle Discovery Video



Three minutes of time lapse video distills six weeks of footage showing the Space Shuttle Discovery getting ready for launch. It moves you from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the launching pad, and everywhere in between. Air & Space has more details on the whole shebang. Props to Joshua for sending this video our way.

Glass Microbiology: Luke Jerram

Click on the picture to see the full slideshow of glass Microbiology.

These transparent glass sculptures were created to contemplate the global impact of each disease and to consider how the artificial colouring of scientific imagery affects our understanding of phenomena.

Jerram is exploring the tension between the artworks' beauty, what they represent and their impact on humanity.

The question of pseudo-colouring in biomedicine and its use for science communicative purposes, is a vast and complex subject. If some images are coloured for scientific purposes, and others altered simply for aesthetic reasons, how can a viewer tell the difference?

How many people believe viruses are brightly coloured? Are there any colour conventions and what kind of ‘presence’ do pseudocoloured images have that ‘naturally’ coloured specimens don’t? See these examples of HIV imagery. How does the choice of different colours affect their reception?

In response to these questions, Jerram has created a series of transparent, three dimensional sculptures. Photographs of these artworks are being distributed to act as alternative representations of each virus.

Ironically in 2007 photographer David Sayer won an award from the Institute of Medical Imaging for the artificially coloured image he took of Jerrams HIV sculpture.

The sculptures were designed in consultation with virologists from the University of Bristol using a combination of different scientific photographs and models. They were made in collaboration with glassblowers Kim George, Brian Jones and Norman Veitch.

Jerram said,
"It's great to be exploring the edges of scientific understanding and visualisation of a virus. Scientists aren't able to answer many of the questions I ask them, such as how the RNA is exactly fitted within the Capsid? At the moment, camera technology can't answer these questions either. I'm also pushing the boundaries of glassblowing. Some of my designs simply can't be created in glass. Some are simply too fragile and gravity would cause them to collapse under their own weight. So there's a very careful balancing act that needs to take place, between exploring current scientific knowledge and the limitations of glassblowing techniques." ...........Read longer interview with Jerram

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shuttles for sale: Less than 130 million miles, new paint


Shuttles for sale: Less than 130 million miles, new paint - CNN.com

In the market for a new ride? For a mere $28.8 million you can own one of NASA’s recently retired shuttles. The spacecrafts each have less than 130 million miles on them, and come with a crisp white paint job.

Of course, since one of these bad boys likely won’t fit in your garage, museums might have a better chance of nabbing one.

Even if you were ready to plunk down nearly $30 million, chances are your garage can't fit a space shuttle next to the lawn mower. But there are a few places willing to pay the price. And for the most part, they've got the space, too.

When the shuttle Atlantis touches down Wednesday morning (weather permitting), the orbiter will become the first of the three remaining shuttles to officially retire. By the end of the year, Discovery and Endeavour will follow.

The question is: Where will they retire to?

NASA STEREO, SOHO Spacecraft Catch Comet Diving Into Sun

Solar physicists at the University of California, Berkeley, have tracked a comet through the low solar atmosphere, deeper into the sun than ever before, before it presumably evaporated in the 100,000-degree heat.

Using instruments aboard NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft, four post-doctoral fellows at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory were able to track the comet as it approached the sun and estimate an approximate time and place of impact.

STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory), launched in 2006, consists of identical spacecraft orbiting the sun, one ahead of Earth and one behind Earth, providing a stereo view of the sun.

The researchers then looked at data from the ground-based Mauna Loa Solar Observatory in Hawaii, and found images in the predicted spot of what appears to be a comet approaching the edge of the sun from behind the solar disk.

"We believe this is the first time a comet has been tracked in 3-D space this low down in the solar corona," said Claire Raftery, a post-doctoral fellow newly arrived at UC Berkeley from Dublin's Trinity College.

The team will present its data and images during a 5:30-6:30 p.m. poster session on Monday, May 24, at the Miami, Fla., meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Sungrazing comets, composed of dust, rock and ice, are seldom tracked close to the sun because their brightness is overwhelmed by the solar disk. This comet apparently survived the heat of the corona and disappeared in the chromosphere, evaporating in the 100,000-degree (Kelvin) heat.

Raftery and her colleagues, Juan Carlos Martinez-Oliveros, Samuel Krucker and Pascal Saint-Hilaire, concluded that the comet was probably one of the Kreutz family of comets, a swarm of Trojan or Greek comets ejected from their orbit in 2004 by Jupiter, and that it made its first and only loop around the sun. The swarm probably resulted from the disintegration of a larger comet.

US Air Force tests hypersonic UAV

The US Air Force on Wednesday test launched a hypersonic cruise missile, with the vehicle accelerating to Mach 6 before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, officials said.

The Air Force said the test flight of the X-15A Waverider lasted more than 200 seconds, the longest ever hypersonic flight powered by scramjet propulsion. The previous record was 12 seconds in a NASA X-43 vehicle.

"We are ecstatic to have accomplished most of our test points on the X-51A's very first hypersonic mission," Charlie Brink, program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

"We equate this leap in engine technology as equivalent to the post-World War Two jump from propeller-driven aircraft to jet engines," he said.

But about 200 seconds into the flight, "a vehicle anomaly occurred and the flight was terminated," the Air Force said in a statement.

"Engineers are busily examining the data to identify the cause of the problem," it said.

The Waverider was launched from Edwards Air Force Base in California, then carried under the wing of a B-52 aircraft before being released at an altitude of 50,000 feet off the Pacific coast.

A solid rocket booster then propelled the vehicle to about a speed of about Mach 4.8, before the X-51's special scramjet engine ignited.

The Waverider, built by Boeing and Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, reached an altitude of 70,000 feet and a top speed of Mach 6, the Air Force said.

Hypersonic flight begins at Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

NASA: Phoenix Mars Lander crushed by ice

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has ended operations after repeated attempts to contact the spacecraft were unsuccessful. A new image transmitted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows signs of severe ice damage to the lander's solar panels.

"The Phoenix spacecraft succeeded in its investigations and exceeded its planned lifetime," said Fuk Li, manager of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Although its work is finished, analysis of information from Phoenix's science activities will continue for some time to come." Phoenix has returned a wealth of data for astrobiologists studying the potential for past or present life on Mars.

Last week, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter flew over the Phoenix landing site 61 times during a final attempt to communicate with the lander. No transmission from the lander was detected. Phoenix also did not communicate during 150 flights in three earlier listening campaigns this year.

Japan Draws Plans To Build Research Centre On Moon

Japan Draws Plans To Build Research Centre On Moon

Japan is developing a program to build a scientific research base on the moon, Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Wednesday. The Japanese government plans to invest some 200 billion yen ($2.2 bln) on lunar research up to 2020, and will include robots operating on the moon's surface, according to the news agency.

Japan's strategy for exploring the moon's surface will be carried out in two phases. The first phase of sending a mobile robot to the moon is to be completed by 2015. The robot is to send video images of the surface as well as conduct seismographic research on the moon's composition.

The following five years, according to the program, the Japanese plan to build a scientific research center on the moon's South Pole in order to study the surface within a 100-kilometer radius. The station will be able to produce its own electricity and take surface samples. Some samples will then be sent back to Earth for further study.

Lunar projects were actively discussed under former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso's government and former U.S. President George Bush's administration. However, Barack Obama's administration has put more emphasis on exploring Mars. Under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's administration, Japan will continue its lunar research projects.

Japan is striving to secure its position on the moon before China and India, who are also interested in lunar research, are able to complete their programs.

NASA Multimedia Video of Gulf Oil Disaster



Two NASA satellites are capturing images of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began April 20, 2010, with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. This series of images shows a space-based view of the burning oil rig and the ensuing spill through May 24. The images come from the MODIS instruments aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites.

Increasing BPA levels in urine associated with worsening male sexual function

Increasing BPA levels in urine associated with worsening male sexual function

Increasing Bisphenol-A levels in urine are associated with worsening male sexual function, according to a Kaiser Permanente study appearing online in the Journal of Andrology.

Increasing urine BPA level is associated with decreased sexual desire, more difficulty having an erection, lower ejaculation strength and lower level of overall satisfaction with sex life, researchers said. The five-year study examined 427 workers in factories in China, comparing workers in BPA manufacturing facilities with a control group of workers in factories where no BPA was present.

BPA is an ingredient in manufacturing polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins and is now contained in a wide variety of consumer products from baby bottles, plastic containers, and the resin lining of cans for food and beverages, to dental sealants. People can be exposed to BPA by using BPA-containing products.

In a previous related study, Kaiser Permanente researchers measured BPA exposure based on work history and environmental BPA exposure in the workplace (http://xnet.kp.org/newscenter/pressreleases/nat/2009/111109bpa.html). This new study measured urine BPA among participants and examined the correlation between their urine BPA level and their reported problems of sexual dysfunction.

"This is the first human study to show that high urine BPA is associated with lower male sexual function," said study lead author De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. "Also, even among men exposed to BPA from only environmental sources (no occupational exposure and with average BPA level lower than the average observed in the American population), there were indications of an increased risk of sexual dysfunction."

He explained that although the estimates in the environmentally exposed group were not statistically significant due to small sample size, this finding may enhance the understanding of the BPA effect in human populations with low-dose environmental exposure and have important public health implications.

The researchers observed a dose-response association between increasing urine BPA level and declining male sexual function. The observed negative association was consistent across all categories measuring male sexual dysfunction.

This study is the second part of Kaiser Permanente's ongoing research to look at BPA's reproductive effect in humans. Both studies are the first to look at BPA's reproductive effect in humans. The adverse effect of BPA on the male reproductive system previously had been examined in animal studies only.

ESA Earth Observation Ground Stations


Serco Operate ESA Earth Observation Ground Stations

Serco Europe of Brussels, Belgium, will operate and maintain Earth observation satellite data-reception ground facilities for the European Space Agency (ESA) under a contract valued at 35 million euros ($43 million) over three years, Serco announced May 26.

Under the contract, Serco and a consortium including Logica and Infoterra will operate payload-data ground systems for ESA’s Earth observation satellites including Envisat, Cryosat and Goce, as well as satellites owned by third parties to which ESA has access, including Japan’s Alos spacecraft.

The contract will begin in August and will include the Sentinel series of satellites ESA is building with the European Commission under a broad Earth observation program called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security.

Half of the work will be performed at Serco’s British and Italian facilities, with the rest done at ESA’s Esrin Earth observation division in Frascati, Italy.

Cassini checking in on Saturn - The Big Picture

Cassini checking in on Saturn - The Big Picture

In this view captured by Cassini on its closest-ever flyby of Saturn's moon Mimas, large Herschel Crater - 130 km (80 mi) wide - dominates the scene.

Cassini came within about 9,500 km (5,900 mi) of Mimas on Feb. 13, 2010. (NASA/JPL/SSI)

A closer view of a feature on Enceladus called Baghdad Sulcus, one of four "tiger stripes" that cross Enceladus' south pole, seen on November 21, 2009.

Cassini was targeting the area to examine plume sources, the scale is approximately 30m (100ft) per pixel. (NASA/JPL)

Saturn's moon Rhea looms near its sibling moon Epimetheus in this Cassini image with the planet and its rings in the background. The two moons aren't actually close to each other.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.2 million km (746,000 mi) from Rhea and 1.6 million km (994,000 mi) from Epimetheus.

The image was taken on March 24, 2010. Image scale is 7 km (5 mi) per pixel on Rhea and 10 km (6 mi) per pixel on Epimetheus. (NASA/JPL/SSI)


Click on the picture or on this link to view more Cassini images

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NASA Earth Observations: Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico

Oil Slick in the Gulf of Mexico : Natural Hazards

On May 24, 2010, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this false-color, high-resolution view of the very tip of the Mississippi River Delta.

Ribbons and patches of oil that have leaked from the Deepwater Horizon well offshore are silver against the light blue color of the adjacent water. Vegetation is red.

In the sunglint region of a satellite image—where the mirror-like reflection of the Sun gets blurred into a wide, bright strip—any differences in the texture of the water surface are enhanced.

Oil smoothes the water, making it a better “mirror.” Oil-covered waters are very bright in this image, but, depending on the viewing conditions (time of day, satellite viewing angle, slick location), oil-covered water may look darker rather than brighter.

The relative brightness of the oil from place to place is not necessarily an indication of the amount of oil. Any oil located near the precise spot where the Sun’s reflection would appear if the surface of the Gulf were perfectly smooth and calm is going to look very bright in these images.

The cause of the dark patch of water in the upper left quadrant of the image is unknown. It may indicate the use of chemical dispersants, skimmers, or booms, or it may be the result of natural differences in turbidity, salinity, or organic matter in the coastal waters.

NASA Shuttle Atlantis: Final Landing

For Shuttle Atlantis, Final Landing

Gliding into retirement after 32 missions covering 120 million miles, the shuttle Atlantis dropped out of orbit and returned to Earth on Wednesday, wrapping up a storied 25-year career with a near-flawless space station assembly mission.

Space Shuttle Atlantis approached the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday for a landing after its final mission.

Taking over manual control 50,000 feet above the Florida spaceport, Capt. Kenneth T. Ham of the Navy, the commander, guided the 105-ton space plane through a sweeping right overhead turn before a steep descent to Runway 33.

Just shy of the runway threshold, Captain Ham pulled the shuttle’s nose up, Cmdr. Dominic A. Antonelli of the Navy, the pilot, deployed the ship’s landing gear and Atlantis swooped to a picture-perfect touchdown at 8:48 a.m. Eastern time.

“Houston, Atlantis, we have wheels stopped,” Captain Ham radioed a few moments later as the shuttle coasted to a stop on the runway centerline.

“For you and your crew, that was a suiting end to an incredible mission. I’m sure the station crew members hated to see you leave, but we’re glad to have you back,” Marine Col. Charles Hobaugh replied from mission control in Houston.

The astronauts, including Captain Ham; Commander Antonelli; Michael T. Good, a flight engineer and retired Air Force colonel; Garrett E. Reisman; Piers J. Sellers; and Capt. Stephen G. Bowen of the Navy, planned to doff their pressure suits and join NASA managers and engineers on the runway for a walk-around inspection before returning to crew quarters.

During a busy week docked to the International Space Station, the astronauts installed a Russian research module, delivered several tons of supplies and carried out three spacewalks to install a backup Ku-band antenna, an equipment mounting platform and six new solar array batteries.

It was the final planned mission for Atlantis as NASA phases out the shuttle program after three decades and more than 130 flights. Only two more missions are planned, a flight by Discovery in September or October and a final flight by Endeavour late this year or early next.

But Atlantis, along with a final set of solid-fuel boosters and NASA’s last external tank, will be processed for launch on a possible rescue mission in case of any major problems that might prevent Endeavour’s crew from making a safe re-entry.

While there are no official plans to actually launch Atlantis, NASA managers are seeking permission from the Obama administration to send the shuttle back up on one final space station resupply mission. Using a crew of four, NASA could avoid the need for a shuttle rescue vehicle, relying on the space station for safe haven and Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the crew’s eventual return to Earth if a major problem stranded Atlantis in space.

A decision is expected later this summer.

ESA Cryosat-2 launch as you never saw it before - HD version from Roscosmos


Click on the picture to play the HD video

ESA Herschel Image: Luminous Infrared Galaxies

Thousands of galaxies crowd into this Herschel image of the distant Universe. Each dot is an entire galaxy containing billions of stars.

For more than a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strangely bright galaxies in the distant Universe.

These ‘luminous infrared galaxies’ appear to be creating stars at such phenomenal rates that they defy conventional theories of galaxy formation.

Now ESA’s Herschel infrared space observatory, with its ability for very sensitive mapping over wide areas, has seen thousands of these galaxies and pinpointed their locations, showing for the first time that they are packing themselves closely together, forming large clusters of galaxies by the force of their mutual gravity.

The mottled effect in the image gives away this clustering. All the indications are that these galaxies are busy crashing into one another, and forming large quantities of stars as a result of these violent encounters.

This image is part of the Herschel Multi-tiered Extragalactic Survey (HerMES) Key Project, which studies the evolution of galaxies in the distant, ancient Universe. The project uses the SPIRE (Spectral and Photometric Imaging REceiver) instrument on Herschel and has been surveying large areas of the sky, currently totalling 15 square degrees, or around 60 times the apparent size of the Full Moon.

This particular image was taken in a region of space called the Lockman hole, which allows a clear line of sight out into the distant Universe. This ‘hole’ is located in the familiar northern constellation of Ursa Major, The Great Bear.

The galaxies seen in this image are all in the distant Universe and appear as they did 10–12 billion years ago. They are colour coded in blue, green, and red to represent the three wavebands used for Herschel’s observation. Those appearing in white have equal intensity in all three bands and are the ones forming the most stars. The galaxies shown in red are likely to be the most distant, appearing as they did around 12 billion years ago.

HerMES will continue to collect more images, over larger areas of the sky in order to build up a more complete picture of how galaxies have evolved and interacted over the past 12 billion years.

ESA & SPIRE Consortium & HerMES consortia - Follow the link to the ESA Herschel image site - OSHI

Manta ray 16ft wide

A diver swims in the shadow of a 16-feet wide manta ray.

Diver and professional photographer Franco Banfi snapped this in the water off the coast of the Socorro and San Benedicto Islands in the Pacific Ocean

Picture: FRANCO BANFI / SOLENT

NASA: WISE Image of Heart and Soul Nebula

An image released by NASA shows the Heart and Soul nebulae in an infrared mosaic from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

Located about 6,000 light-years from Earth, the Heart and Soul nebulae form a vast star-forming complex that makes up part of the Perseus spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy.

The nebula to the left is the Heart, designated IC 1805 and named after its resemblance to a human heart. To the right is the Soul nebula, also known as the Embryo nebula, or IC 1848

Picture: AFP / NASA

NASA: Image of Planet Being Consumed by it's Sun

A NASA artist's impression shows that the hottest known planet in the Milky Way galaxy may also be its shortest-lived world.

The doomed planet is being eaten by its parent star, according to observations made by a new instrument on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). The planet may only have another 10 million years left before it is completely devoured.

The planet, called WASP-12b, is so close to its sunlike star that it is superheated to nearly 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit and stretched into a football shape by enormous tidal forces.

The atmosphere has ballooned to nearly three times Jupiter's radius and is spilling material onto the star. The planet is 40 percent more massive than Jupiter. "We see a huge cloud of material around the planet, which is escaping and will be captured by the star.

We have identified chemical elements never before seen on planets outside our own solar system," says team leader Carole Haswell of The Open University

Picture: NASA / OU / AFP

Clouds and Stars over Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador



Explanation: What's happening above the Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador? Quite a bit, from the looks of the above one-night, time-lapse movie, taken earlier this month. The majestic volcano is first seen through breaks in fast moving clouds as the movie begins.

Soon the clouds have dissipated and a sky filled with stars seems to rotate about the snow-peaked volcano's peak. The band of our Milky Way Galaxy, the dark Coal Sack nebula, and the Southern Cross can all be seen overhead.

Satellites steak by from several directions. Soon thin clouds roll by and seem to make the brightest stars sparkle. On the volcano (starting at about 1:13 of the movie), the lights of climbers flash.

Near the end of the movie, a bright airplane passes over the peak with a residual trail seen drifting away.

1st Scottish Space Systems Symposium - University of Strathclyde

1st Scottish Space Systems Symposium - University of Strathclyde

Scotland is emerging as an international centre for a range of disruptive new space technologies. While this growing industrial and academic capability is recognised in sectors of the space industry, the profile of this capability needs to be raised in Scotland. In addition, the potential of Scotland to continue to grow in the space sector needs to be unlocked by developing a strong sense of community and reaching out to industry and university groups who do not yet recognise the opportunities space can provide.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Decommissioning the NASA Space Shuttle program should be postponed indefinitely


A Symbol: An in-space ballerina and hypersonic flying marvel, the Space Shuttle Orbiter is almost impossible for others to duplicate and continues to generate international admiration and respect for U.S. technical capabilities.

Full Potential Not Yet Realised: The multi-functional Orbiter has performed "as designed" on all assignments including reentry and a key role in the International Space Station (ISS) assembly. Like any new manned system, as crews and engineers become more familiar (like a helicopter) performance "in the box" improves and extending-the-box opportunities are identified. So far the Orbiter has operated generally within the box.

Too Young For Retirement: Each remaining Orbiter has many missions and years of life remaining. The Orbiter was designed for a one hundred mission life with a factor of four (i.e. 400 flight potential). It has experienced low flight rates and has not been structurally overloaded (maximum loads occur during the boost phase and high wind shear situations have been avoided through pre-flight meteorological observations) and receives a complete examination and any necessary refurbishment between each flight.

The System is Safe for Continued Man Flights: No critical failures have originated from within the triply redundant Orbiter itself but like any spacecraft designed for light-weight, it is vulnerable to abuse (e.g. SRB O rings, ET insulation debris); these are now known and addressable problems.

The Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME)s were a principal safety concern through the development years but their flight record has been excellent and it may be that the integrity of recovered, refurbished rocket engines is as good as or even better than new ones. Some rocket engine incipient failures may lie undetected in ocean graves.

Real Usability Through "Landing With Dignity": Turnaround man hours are costly for the Orbiter, not the least demanding being the heat shield preparation and changes are continually being made to improve the situation. Even so, this relatively light-weight, first generation radiant heat shield is itself reusable and obviates having to pay for a new vehicle and other ancillary costs such as ocean recovery for every flight. Note: In depth reviews of "flown" Apollo command modules concluded that second flights of the hardware would be too costly at that time.

New Space Initiatives Depend On The Orbiter For Identification and Pursuit: The on-orbit assembly option for a deep space manned system became more viable upon completion of the International Space Station (ISS) using the Orbiter. An "Orbiter" segment of a deep space system would be used in assembly activities, on-orbit transfers, tug functions and most importantly for the crew Earth-to-orbit and orbit-to-Earth transfer.

Reliance on an Orbiter for re-entry would eliminate configuration constraints on size and shape and the weight of items such as parachutes, heat shields and landing impact structure and the energy needed to transport this otherwise useless added weight throughout the entire deep space mission.

This approach essentially would trade-off these advantages against the development of an additional propulsion module for return from deep space to high/low Earth orbit. The present Orbiter would be a key mechanism in the early development of such an on-orbit assembled system.

The Shuttle Continues to Be An Intriguing Candidate For "Commercialisation": The system is presently operational. Its payload-to-orbit delivery and other capabilities are well documented. Its risks are known and assessable for payload insurance and crew-safety considerations and industrial elements are already doing much of the work in many areas.

Bailing, leasing and/or other type of agreement for use of government equipment (Orbiters, pads, control centers, etc.) is probably feasible in some arrangement. Needed is an industry, NASA-government, Congressional meeting of the minds on all related elements including government flight requirements, (e.g. ISS servicing) and commercial pricing policies.

If such a government hand-off to industry could be affected it would, of course, keep the Shuttle Program available for another decade or two should presently unforeseen government needs arise (even today it would be most helpful to have Apollo supply and rescue vehicles that serviced Skylab available for use on the ISS).

U. S. Taxpayers Have Not Yet Realised Their Full Return-on-Investment (ROI) From the Shuttle System:

+ It really works; it is not just a briefing chart promise.

+ It has much life remaining and could be the key to the identification and development of new systems.

+ It is man-rated and safe--probably as safe as any manned system will be-no others will get over one hundred flights down the learning curve.

+ The infrastructure is in place and operational and has provided industry through extensive, hands-on participation with the depth of training necessary to assume total system accountability.

+ To replace the Orbiter capabilities will take decades and billions.

Decommissioning the Space Shuttle should be postponed indefinitely.

NASA Fixes Bug On Voyager 2

NASA Fixes Bug On Voyager 2

NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft has resumed sending science data from deep space after engineers fixed a bug that had garbled the information it was sending back to Earth, a leading project scientist said on Monday.
"The science data format is working," Edward Stone told RIA Novosti.

The science data coming from Voyager 2 had been unintelligible since April, but last week engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California figured out what was causing the problem - one bit in the memory of the computer that formats the data to transmit it to Earth had flipped from a zero to a one - and reset the system.

After three days of monitoring the engineering data to ensure the fix was successful, the command to restart science data transmission was sent to the spacecraft on Saturday. It takes nearly 13 hours for a radio signal traveling at the speed of light to reach the spacecraft from Earth, and another 13 hours to receive an answer, so scientists began receiving the science data on Sunday.

However, the data gathered while the system was not working has been lost.

"During the last month, the spacecraft was transmitting engineering data, but there is no capability for on-board storage of the 160 bps cruise science data," Stone said.

Stone said that the scientists would not know whether there was a transient event even when they analyzed the Voyager 2 data, but they would be able to see if there was a significant change compared with before the data outage.

"However, there has been little solar activity over the last several years, so it is unlikely there were any significant transients," he added.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft is a twin of Voyager 1. It has been operating through the Solar System since August 20, 1977.

First, Voyager 2 was exploring Jupiter and Saturn, later it flew to explore Uranus and Neptune and then it headed into interstellar space.

Monday, May 24, 2010

MISR Provides Unique Views Of Gulf Oil Slick

MISR Provides Unique Views Of Gulf Oil Slick


These unique images of the Deepwater Horizon oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico were obtained by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft on May 17, 2010, at around 16:40 UTC (11:40 a.m. CDT).

The top panel is a false-color image created by combining data from the red band of the 26-degree forward-viewing camera (where the oil appears dark) with the blue and green bands of the nadir (vertical-viewing) camera (where the oil appears bright).

The result causes the oil spill to stand out dramatically in shades of cyan, while other features like clouds and land appear close to their natural color. The Mississippi River Delta is visible in the upper left portion of the image.

The red symbol represents the former location of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. The image dimensions are 346 by 258 kilometers (215 by 160 miles), and north is toward the top of the image.

The white arrow in the right-center of the image points to a plume of smoke, most likely from a controlled burn of oil collected on the surface. Controlled burns of oil began in early May to attempt to remove oil from the open water.

The plume appears as a dark streak against the brighter reflection of sunlight off the ocean surface. The lower two panels are enlarged images of the area around the smoke plume acquired by MISR's 46-degree forward-viewing and 46-degree backward-viewing cameras.

At these viewing angles and under the viewing conditions on this date, the smoke particles appear bright and sunglint from the ocean surface is much weaker. The views at the two different angles cover the same physical
area of 42 by 30 kilometers (26 by 19 miles).

The clouds in the lower right quadrant of these panels appear to shift in position, due to the different camera view angles. However, a bright point to the south of the plume does not show such a shift, and is likely a boat observing the controlled burn. The apparent shift in position of the smoke plume itself places its altitude at about 560 meters (1,840 feet) above the surface.

Clear New View O A Classic Spiral

Clear New View O A Classic Spiral

ESO is releasing a beautiful image of the nearby galaxy Messier 83 taken by the HAWK-I instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The picture shows the galaxy in infrared light and demonstrates the impressive power of the camera to create one of the sharpest and most detailed pictures of Messier 83 ever taken from the ground.

The galaxy Messier 83 (eso0825) is located about 15 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (the Sea Serpent). It spans over 40 000 light-years, only 40 percent the size of the Milky Way, but in many ways is quite similar to our home galaxy, both in its spiral shape and the presence of a bar of stars across its centre. Messier 83 is famous among astronomers for its many supernovae: vast explosions that end the lives of some stars.

Over the last century, six supernovae have been observed in Messier 83 - a record number that is matched by only one other galaxy. Even without supernovae, Messier 83 is one of the brightest nearby galaxies, visible using just binoculars.

Messier 83 has been observed in the infrared part of the spectrum using HAWK-I [1], a powerful camera on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). When viewed in infrared light most of the obscuring dust that hides much of Messier 83 becomes transparent. The brightly lit gas around hot young stars in the spiral arms is also less prominent in infrared pictures.

Atlantis heads back to Earth on final mission


Atlantis heads back to Earth on final mission

The space shuttle Atlantis undocked Sunday from the International Space Station (ISS) and headed back to Earth to complete its final mission after successfully delivering tons of supplies.

The shuttle uncoupled from the orbiting space laboratory at 11:22 am (1522 GMT) after its six-member crew unloaded the last equipment, which included a crucial communications antenna, power storage batteries and a radiator.

The biggest single element was the five-ton Rassvet research module, or MRM-1, which will provide additional storage space and a new docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft.

The Rassvet -- "Dawn" in Russian -- was permanently attached to the bottom of the space station's Zarya module. It carries important hardware on its exterior including a radiator, airlock and a European robotic arm.

Astronauts completed the 12-day mission's final spacewalk on Friday, plugging a new ammonia jumper cable into the station, transferring a grapple fixture from the shuttle to the station and reconfiguring some tools.

The trip back to Earth caps the 25-year career of one of NASA's iconic spacecraft. The shuttle, which has logged some 115 million miles (185 million kilometers), is due back in Florida Wednesday at 8:44 am (1244 GMT).

Only two more shuttle launches remain -- one in September for Discovery and the final blast off for Endeavour in November -- before the curtain falls on this era of human spaceflight.

The United States will then have to rely on Russia to take astronauts to the station aboard three-seater Soyuz spacecraft until a new fleet of commercial "space taxis" is operational.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tata Motors to introduce Air Car – Is it the next big thing? | Auto, automakers, cars

Tata Motors to introduce Air Car – Is it the next big thing? | Auto, automakers, cars

Tata Motors is taking giant strides and making history for itself. First the Landrover-Jaguar deal, then the world’s cheapest car and now it is also set to introduce the car that runs on air, compressed air to be specific.

Air Car

With fuel prices touching nearly $150 per barrel, it is about time we heard some breakthrough !

India’s largest automaker Tata Motors is set to start producing the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine’s pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.  Â

The Air Car, called the MiniCAT could cost around Rs. 3,50,000 ($ 8177) in India and would have a range of around 300 km between refuels.

The cost of a refill would be about Rs. 85 ($ 2). Tata motors also plans to launch the world’s cheapest car, Tata Nano priced famously at One lakh rupees by October.

The MiniCAT which is a simple, light urban car, with a tubular chassis that is glued not welded and a body of fiberglass powered by compressed air. Microcontrollers are used in every device in the car, so one tiny radio transmitter sends instructions to the lights, indicators etc.

There are no keys – just an access card which can be read by the car from your pocket. According to the designers, it costs less than 50 rupees per 100Km (about a tenth that of a petrol car). Its mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car (200 to 300 km or 10 hours of driving), a factor which makes a perfect choice in cities where the 80% of motorists drive at less than 60Km. The car has a top speed of 105 kmph. Refilling the car will, once the market develops, take place at adapted petrol stations to administer compressed air. In two or three minutes, and at a cost of approximately 100 rupees, the car will be ready to go another 200-300 kilometers.

As a viable alternative, the car carries a small compressor which can be connected to the mains (220V or 380V) and refill the tank in 3-4 hours. Due to the absence of combustion and, consequently, of residues, changing the oil (1 litre of vegetable oil) is necessary only every 50,000Km.] The temperature of the clean air expelled by the exhaust pipe is between 0-15 degrees below zero, which makes it suitable for use by the internal air conditioning system with no need for gases or loss of power.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

NASA Astronaut Soichi Images: Uluru, Australia

Uluru, Australia photographed by NASA astronaut Soichi from the ISS.

Uluru is not only an ancient sacred site for the indigenous people of Australia but it is also protected as a World heritage site for humanity.

NASA Astronaut Soichi Images: Mount Ararat, Turkey

Beautiful Mount Ararat, Turkey. 5,137m. Reputedly one of the sites where Moah's Ark foundered after the great flood in the Bible.

NASA Astronaut Soichi Images: Ponte Vacos da Gama bridge, Lisbon

Ponte Vasco da Gama, near Lisbon, Portugal. The longest bridge in Europe.

NASA Shuttle Atlantis: The Final mission

Moon, aurora, Kibo, and Atlantis. Atlantis will undock from ISS sunday afternoon for the grand "finale" landing.



The Earth seen like a Diamond Ring... Sun and Earth. A picture taken by astronaut Soichi through the ESA Cupola on the ISS.

LHC Towards higher intensities - CERN Bulletin

Towards higher intensities - CERN Bulletin

Over the past 2 weeks, commissioning of the machine protection system has advanced significantly, opening up the possibility of higher intensity collisions at 3.5 TeV. The intensity has been increased from 2 bunches of 1010 protons to 6 bunches of 2x1010 protons. Luminosities of 6x1028 cm-2s-1 have been achieved at the start of fills, a factor of 60 higher than those provided for the first collisions on 30 March.

The recent increase in LHC luminosity as recorded by the experiments.

(Graph courtesy of the experiments and M. Ferro-Luzzi)

To increase the luminosity further, the commissioning crews are now trying to push up the intensity of the individual proton bunches.

After the successful injection of nominal intensity bunches containing 1.1x1011 protons, collisions were subsequently achieved at 450 GeV with these intensities.

However, half-way through the first ramping of these nominal intensity bunches to 3.5 TeV on 15 May, a beam instability was observed, leading to partial beam loss.

Work is now under way to understand, control and cure this instability by using longer bunches and by powering the special correction magnets (octupoles).

Using bowling balls as tracker Balls - CERN Bulletin

The bowling balls - CERN Bulletin

This will be of interest to youngsters as a history lesson and it will be the recollection of a distant memory for us old grey hairs. It's a great example as to how some of the technology developed, back in the 60's, in the days when a mouse was simply a) an irritating rodent that ate your lunch, b) something for biologists and chemists to experiment on, or c) a boon companion for lonely geeks who spent too many long winter nights in the science lab.

40 years ago, the web, Wikipedia and Google did not exist. Communications were minimal and this meant that the sharing of information was very slow, unreliable and based on published papers. It was much more difficult to know what everyone was working on and whether other people in other parts of the world, or even in the same laboratory, were facing the same problems or developing the same tools or solutions as you.

At that time, Bent Stumpe was an electronics engineer, newly recruited to work on developments for the SPS Central Control room. One of the things his supervisor asked him to build as soon as possible was a device to control a pointer on a screen, also called a tracker ball.

The heart of the device was the 'ball' that the user would move his hand over, while the cursor followed the corresponding movements on the screen. “We needed very round, well balanced and smoothly moving balls and after much thought and discussion, we thought that bowling balls best met these requirements”, recollects Bent Stumpe.

Read the full article by following the link here

Symphony of Science - 'The Unbroken Thread' (ft. Attenborough, Goodall, ...

International Biodiversity Day (century)

The economic case for global action to stop the destruction of the natural world is even more powerful than the argument for tackling climate change, a major report for the United Nations will declare this summer.

The Stern report on climate change, which was prepared for the UK Treasury and published in 2007, famously claimed that the cost of limiting climate change would be around 1%-2% of annual global wealth, but the longer-term economic benefits would be 5-20 times that figure.

The UN's biodiversity report – dubbed the Stern for Nature – is expected to say that the value of saving "natural goods and services", such as pollination, medicines, fertile soils, clean air and water, will be even higher – between 10 and 100 times the cost of saving the habitats and species which provide them.

To mark the UN's International Day for Biological Diversity tomorrow, hundreds of British companies, charities and other organisations have backed an open letter from the Natural History Museum's director Michael Dixon warning that "the diversity of life, so crucial to our security, health, wealth and wellbeing is being eroded".

The UN report's authors go further with their warning on biodiversity, by saying if the goods and services provided by the natural world are not valued and factored into the global economic system, the environment will become more fragile and less resilient to shocks, risking human lives, livelihoods and the global economy.

Symphony of Science: We can do Science

Symphony of Science - 'We Are All Connected' (ft. Sagan, Feynman, deGras...

Carl Sagan - 'A Glorious Dawn' ft Stephen Hawking (Symphony of Science)

Polluted by profit: Johann Hari on the real Climategate - Climate Change, Environment

Polluted by profit: Johann Hari on the real Climategate - Climate Change, Environment - The Independent

Why did America's leading environmental groups jet to Copenhagen to lobby for policies that will lead to the faster death of the rainforests – and runaway global warming? Why are their staff dismissing the only real solutions to climate change as "unworkable" and "unrealistic"? Why are they clambering into corporate "partnerships" with BP, which is responsible for the worst oil spill in living memory?

At first glance, these questions will seem bizarre. Groups such as Conservation International (CI) and the Nature Conservancy (TNC) are among the most trusted "brands" in the world, pledged to protect and defend nature.

Yet as we confront the biggest ecological crisis in human history, many of the green organisations meant to be leading the fight are busy shovelling up hard cash from the world's worst polluters – and simultaneously burying science-based environmentalism.

In the middle of a swirl of bogus climate scandals trumped up by deniers, here is the real Climategate, waiting to be exposed.

Read the full article by following the link

Friday, May 21, 2010

ESA SMOS Mission Video



SMOS will provide global information on surface soil moisture every three days within an accuracy of 4% at a spatial resolution of 50 km. This is comparable to being able to detect one teaspoonful of water mixed into a handful of soil.

Credits: ESA /AOES Medialab

ESA's SMOS water mission goes live - images

ESA - SMOS - ESA's SMOS water mission goes live - images

The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission makes global observations of soil moisture over Earth’s landmasses and salinity over the oceans.

Variations in soil moisture and ocean salinity are a consequence of the continuous exchange of water between the oceans, the atmosphere and the land – Earth’s water cycle.

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

Personalised Medicine: Check your DNA at the door

Personalized Medicine: Check your DNA at the door - SmartPlanet

College kids survive on a diet of beer and pizza, but personalized medicine might soon change that. This summer, UC - Berkeley wants 5,500 new students to participate in a DNA experiment: The students will be required to return a swab of their cheek cells, so they can find out if they have the genes to metabolize folate, lactose, and alcohol.

Ideally, the students who lack the genes will modify their behavior accordingly. They would eat more green vegetables, avoid milk products (and prepare to explain to everyone and their mother why they now drink soy milk), and hold back on the drinking. This seems like a wonderful idea, but freshmen at a party might not really care if they don’t have the genes to metabolize alcohol.

I definitely would have benefited from this test, as I found out after college I could not digest milk and only had one of the genes to metabolize alcohol (which I totally blame on my Asian heritage).

The Berkeley experiment seems pretty innocent:
The idea is not to identify potentially dangerous genes in students’ samples, but to point out traits that can be managed through behavior, said Jasper Rine, a professor of genetics, genomics and development. “We want to get people to appreciate that there are things you can do that enhance your health based on the genes you have,” he said. “There are concrete, actionable, specific steps that do enhance quality of life. This is the message of the post-genomic era.” [USA Today]

The results will remain anonymous - the students can check their genes by entering a barcode given to them. There’s been some push back as people worry that the university is forcing people to test the “unproven technology”.

When the consumer testing companies claim to interpret people’s risk of developing common diseases, critics worry about the misuse of information. When Walgreens announced that it would sell Pathway Genomics at its drug stores, it attracted the FDA’s attention (in a bad way). I couldn’t really see someone coming in to buy a soda and chips pick up a genetic test on a whim anyway.

Levitating glass bead proves Einstein wrong - physics-math - 20 May 2010 - New Scientist

Levitating glass bead proves Einstein wrong - physics-math - 20 May 2010 - New Scientist

The velocity of a microscopic bead has been measured for the first time, contradicting a century-old claim by Albert Einstein. The same technology used to make the measurement may eventually be used to force such beads to exhibit quantum mechanical behaviour that is normally seen in subatomic objects.

Microscopic particles in liquid or gas undergo Brownian motion – jittery, random movements that are the result of countless collisions with neighbouring molecules.

Albert Einstein studied this motion, and in 1907, he predicted that a microscopic particle's kinetic energy – and thus the square of its velocity – should be proportional to the temperature of its surroundings.

But directly testing this idea, which is called the equipartition theorem, is difficult to do for Brownian particles. That's because the many collisions experienced by the particle cause it to change speed and direction extremely quickly.

Trapped by light
If the position of a particle can be measured rapidly enough, it might be possible to measure its velocity before collisions knock it off course. But Einstein predicted the short time scales between collisions would render the measurements "impossible".

Now a team led by Mark Raizen of the University of Texas at Austin has found a way to do it – at least in air. The density of air is lower than water, so collisions are less frequent and microscopic particles change direction on longer time scales.

To measure the velocity, the team used two laser beams to trap a dust-sized, 3-micrometre-wide glass bead in mid-air. By measuring how much the laser light was deflected by the glass bead as it moved around, the team could make multiple measurements of a particle's position before collisions caused it to veer off course. These position measurements enabled them to obtain a measure of the velocity every 5 microseconds and directly demonstrate that the equipartition theorem holds.

Arianespace’s Ariane 5 mission: ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2 satellite payloads

Arianespace’s Ariane 5 mission with the ASTRA 3B and COMSATBw-2 satellite payloads is on track for a liftoff tomorrow evening, following the heavy-lift vehicle’s rollout to the launch zone at the Spaceport in French Guiana this morning.

Riding atop its mobile launch table, Ariane 5 emerged from the Final Assembly Building under a sunny French Guiana sky and was transferred to the launch pad to be secured in place.

This flight will mark another of Arianespace’s missions with a mixed civilian/military payload, as ASTRA 3B is to provide direct-to-home (DTH) services, plus public and private satellite communications for SES ASTRA; while COMSATBw-2 will serve as a secure relay spacecraft for the delivery of key telecommunications capacity to Germany’s armed forces.

Lift performance for the Ariane 5 ECA will be more than 9,110 kg., including approximately 7,970 kg. for the two spacecraft passengers, plus the mass of the vehicle’s dual-passenger dispenser system and satellite integration hardware.

ASTRA 3B is riding in the upper position of the launcher’s payload “stack” and will be deployed at just under 28 minutes into the flight, with COMSATBw-2 located below it in the SYLDA 5 dispenser for a separation at 33 minutes after liftoff.

Australian scientists find Timor Sea meteorite crater

Australian scientists find Timor Sea meteorite crater

Australian scientists have discovered a crater deep beneath the Timor Sea made during a heavy meteor storm which may have altered the Earth's climate, the lead researcher said Thursday.

Australian National University archaeologist Andrew Glikson said seismic activity led experts to the Mount Ashmore 1B site, and a study of fragments showed a large meteorite hit just before the Earth's temperatures plunged.

"The identification of microstructural and chemical features in drill fragments taken from the Mount Ashmore drill hole revealed evidence of a significant impact," Glikson said, adding it was at least 50 kilometres (31 miles) wide and about 35 million years old.

A meteorite 100 kilometres wide hit Siberia at the same time, along with an 85 km one in Chesapeake Bay, off the US coast of Virginia, followed by a large field of molten rock fragments over northeast America, he said.

"This defined a major impact cluster across the planet," said Glikson.

Glikson said the findings, published in the latest issue of the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, could suggest a link between the impacts and a sharp fall in global temperatures which preceded the formation of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Japan rocket blasts off with 'space yacht' and Venus probe


Japan rocket blasts off with 'space yacht' and Venus probe

A Japanese rocket blasted off early Friday and successfully released a Venus probe and a kite-shaped "space yacht" designed to float through the cosmos using only the power of the sun.

The launch vehicle, the H-IIA rocket, took off from the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan on schedule at 6:58 am (Thursday 2158 GMT), three days after its original launch was postponed by bad weather.

Live footage on the website of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) showed the rocket disappear into the sky.

The rocket released all of its six satellites within an hour, a JAXA spokesman said.

"All of the six satellites -- Akatsuki, Ikaros and four others developed by universities -- they were released successfully," he told AFP, adding that further details will be released later.

The rocket carried with it the experimental "Ikaros" -- an acronym for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation
of the Sun -- designed to be propelled by the pressure of sunlight particles.

Similar to an ocean yacht pushed by wind, the device has a square, ultra-thin and flexible sail, measuring 14 by 14 metres (46 by 46 feet), that will be driven through space as it is pelted by solar particles.

The sail, only a fraction of the thickness of a human hair, is also partly coated with thin-film solar cells to generate electricity.

The name of the spacecraft alludes to Icarus, the figure from Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun. The space yacht, however, is headed in the direction of Venus.

Ikaros, which cost 1.5 billion yen (16 million dollars) to develop, will be the first use of the propellant-free technology in deep space, although it has been tested in orbit around the Earth before.