Tag: NASA

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday. More

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An Extra Credit Question

 

Years ago, I was beginning as a student teacher in a middle school in Westchester County, New York. It was exam week for the kids, and since I was new in town, I was given the task of coming up with an extra credit question for the 8th grade American History class. It was about 11:30 a.m, almost lunchtime.

I came up with this: “Who is Christa McAuliffe?”

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The New Horizons will flyby Ultima Thule in three days. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is set to fly by a distant “worldlet” 4 billion miles from the Sun in just six days, on New Year’s Day 2019. The target, officially designated 2014 MU69, was nicknamed “Ultima Thule,” a Latin phrase meaning “a place beyond the […]

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Here’s the headline that caught my eye: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/695338/nasa-sperm-space-iss-elon-musk-space-x-falcon-9-astronauts More

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Houston the launch was successful, the reentry was rough: A California driver escaped a dangerous crash early Sunday morning after apparently hitting a divider at such a high speed that it launched the car into the second story of a nearby building. More

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Mars Society Telecon: Support Jim Bridenstine’s NASA Nomination

 

The Mars Society is calling on all Americans to urge their members of Congress to support the nomination of Jim Bridenstine as the next NASA administrator. A telecon to coordinate the campaign will be held today (Wednesday, September 20) at 8:30 pm EDT (5:30 pm PDT).

Those interested in participating in the Mars Society telecon can call in at (563) 999-2090 and offer passcode 438709# when prompted on their phone or visit our website’s telecon page a few minutes in advance of the starting time.

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NASA Discovers 7 Planets That Could Support Life

 

Sick of news, politics, and that chatty co-worker who eats a garlic bagel every morning? A new life awaits you in the off-worlds! On Wednesday, NASA announced that they have found seven new Earth-sized planets. The best part? They’re just down the street, astronomically speaking.

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One Small Step for Crew, One Giant Leap for Crewkind

 

I should write a technical post on the emerging post-Shuttle age of manned space flight, but I’ll leave that for Rand Simberg, James Gawron(?), John Walker, and the others who are more knowledgeable. Instead, I’m going to bring up a NASA language peeve: The tendency to misrepresent the meaning of “man” and “manned.”

NASA, depending as it does on public relations, has probably always been a PC kind of place, at least in the public face it puts on. There is a great Bloom County cartoon satirizing the tendency to promote “firsts” in space by race, sex, and ethnicity. Those of you old enough to remember the Apollo days or earlier will no doubt recall discussions of “manned spaceflight.” But since at least the 1990s, and I suspect the 1980s, the term “manned” has been suppressed in NASA use in favor of the clunkier “human spaceflight.” Today, that inelegant phrase is increasingly replaced by the unfortunate-sounding “crewed.”

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Eugene Cernan, RIP

 

We got sad news Monday that legendary astronaut Eugene Cernan has died. Cernan was the commander of Apollo 17, which flew in December 1972. And as the last member of the mission to reboard the lunar module Challenger, Cernan was the last human to walk on the Moon.

Apollo 17 wasn’t Cernan’s first trip to the moon either. He was also on board Apollo 10, which didn’t land, but descended within eight nautical miles of the surface. Before NASA, Cernan was a naval aviator, flying FJ-4 Furys and A-4 Skyhawks. He retired from the Navy in 1976 with the rank of Captain.

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Juno Joins Jupiter

 

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Artist’s concept of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Last night, NASA’s Juno probe successfully performed the necessary braking maneuver to put it in orbit around Jupiter. Juno was launched back in the summer of 2011 and has traveled 1.7 billion miles (including a flyby of Earth to pick up speed) to get to Jupiter.

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Saturday Night Science: Humans to Mars

 

“Humans to Mars” by David S. F. PortreeEver since people began to think seriously about the prospects for space travel, visionaries have looked beyond the near-term prospects — flights into Earth orbit, space stations, and even journeys to the Moon — and toward the red planet: Mars. Unlike Venus, eternally shrouded by clouds, or the other planets which were too hot or cold to sustain life as we know it, Mars, about half the size of the Earth, had an atmosphere, a day just a little longer than the Earth’s, seasons, and polar caps which grew and shrank with the seasons. There were no oceans, but water from the polar caps might sustain life on the surface, and there are dark markings that appeared to change during the martian year. Some people interpreted this as plant life that flourished as polar caps melted in the spring and receded as they grew in the fall.

In an age where we have high-resolution imagery of the entire martian globe — obtained from orbiting spacecraft, telescopes orbiting Earth, and ground-based telescopes with advanced electronic instrumentation — it is often difficult to remember just how little was known about Mars in the 1950s, when people first started to think about how we might go there. Mars is the next planet outward from the Sun, so its distance and apparent size vary substantially depending upon its relative position to Earth in their respective orbits. About every two years, Earth “laps” Mars and it is closest (“at opposition”) and most easily observed. But because the orbit of Mars is elliptic, its distance varies from one opposition to the next, and it is only every 15 to 17 years that a near-simultaneous opposition and perihelion render Mars most accessible to Earth-based observation.

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Sunday. When it appears, I post the previous week’s review on Ricochet.  More

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JFK’s Deadline for Apollo

 

One of the most famous speeches given by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was at Rice University on September 12, 1962, where he said “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” How was such a deadline determined given the enormous complexity of such an endeavor?

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It was bad enough when BHO changed NASA’s mission from space exploration to Muslim outreach: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/07/14/nasa-outreach-program-confirmed-despite-white-house-denial-rep-says.html More

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Government Invests Modest Funds to Protect Vital Public Good!

 

shutterstock_297359225For all the beauties to be found in Nature — and there are many — there are horrors aplenty. To take one of the more obvious examples, our own planet is subject to marvelously beneficent conditions that have allowed life to form and flourish, eventually giving rise to a sentient species whose members are able to contemplate their own existence, create civilization, and adjust their behavior not only by instinct, but also (within limitations) by intent. Every so often, however, a mountain-sized space rock slams into us at incredible speed. Depending on the mass, speed, and trajectory of said rock, the damage may be local, regional or — in rare cases — civilizational.

For the overwhelming majority of its history, humanity has had no way to predict such an event, let alone prevent one from happening. In just the past few decades, however, both of those abilities have come within the grasp of our most advanced cultures and — remarkably — at fairly modest cost. And while most of the worst likely troublemakers have been identified, a few big ones are likely still out there undetected, as well as a great many moderate ones.

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Christmas Greetings from the Moon

 

The first manned mission to the moon, Apollo 8, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968. On that evening 47 years ago, the astronauts — Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders — held a live broadcast from above the moon’s surface, in which they showed images of the Earth and moon as seen from their tiny spacecraft. They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis and wished a Merry Christmas to all the people on “the good Earth.”

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Outward Bound

 
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Photo Credit: Blue Origin

The past couple of weeks have seen some notable developments in spaceflight. Not all of them were necessarily good, but they were useful. If for no other reason, they serve to clarify the government vs. private viewpoints.

First, we had Blue Origin’s successful all-up test of its New Shepard tourist spacecraft. Which, you may have heard, stuck the landing. From space. It’s a big deal, no matter how much Elon Musk tried to pooh-pooh it.

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A colleague at one of the NASA research centers sent me a news item on their Diversity Day. The article was for internal consumption only so I hesitate to post it here, but I think it’s fair to quote some excerpts with my comments. I noted there were several microaggressions in the Diversity Day news […]

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Alright, Rico-scientists, I turn this over to you for further explanation and evaluation. From IFL Science: The latest news regarding the EM Drive, which produces a thrust seemingly from nowhere, comes from Paul March, one of the principal investigators on the EM Drive, and was published on the NASA Spaceflight forum. The post is in reply to an […]

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