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Events and Life Science and nature

Generational differences in our Space Age

First All Women Spacewalk At The ISS

NASA streamed a milestone in Human spaceflight yesterday: an all women spacewalk at the International Space Station. Although it wasn’t exactly a thrilling ride (I’m pretty sure that when it comes to working in Earth orbit, “thrilling” isn’t what you want), it was still momentous in that both astronauts doing the spacewalk were women.

iss061e006501 (Oct. 15, 2019) --- NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they will use on their first spacewalk together. The Expedition 61 flight engineers are holding the pistol grip tools they will use to swap out a failed power controller, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit, that regulates the charge to batteries that collect and distribute power to the International Space Station.
Upcoming spacewalking duo Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, courtesy of NASA on Flickr

Generational gap

Watching the stream on TV left me with the sense that how we and our kids view these events is very much a generational thing:

Parents who grew up with rare televised Space stuff: “Hey kids, check out these astronauts working in space, right now! Wow! And this time they’re all women, wow!”

Kids who grew up with on demand streams of constant Space stuff: “Oh, ok … 🙄” <back to their gaming device>

Parents: 😲


About the spacewalk

If you’re interested in the mission (and likely older than 20-something), take a look at the NASA blog post about the mission:

Two NASA astronauts switched their spacesuits to battery power this morning at 7:38 a.m. EDT. Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are venturing out into the vacuum of space to replace a failed power controller, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The BCDU regulates the charge to the batteries that collect and distribute solar power to the orbiting lab’s systems.

Female Duo Ventures Outside Station for Historic Spacewalk – Space Station

The video stream ran to almost eight hours, but it’s definitely watching, at least in part (this is the sort of video you may just have on in the background):

Categories
Science and nature Travel and places

Thank you for the wonderful Opportunity to visit Mars

This last week saw the official end of the Opportunity rover’s mission on Mars. NASA was unable to coax it back to life after signalling it for about eight months. This remarkable rover continued exploring Mars long after it’s original 90 day mission.

Drive along with the NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover and hear the voices of scientists and engineers behind the mission. Designed to run for 90 days, the exploration spanned more than 15 years from 2004 to 2019. Along the way, it discovered definitive proof of liquid water on ancient Mars and set the off-world driving record. For more information on the Mars Exploration Rovers and all of NASA’s Mars missions, visit mars.nasa.gov.

There is a wealth of imagery, and other information available on the mission site that document Opportunity’s journey across part of Mars’ surface. I love this image of Opportunity’s tracks in the Martian sand:

Here’s a terrific video that provides context for the featured image I’ve added to this post:

Overhead and on-the-ground views of the 25-mile journey NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover has made since landing in 2004 – Courtesy of NASA

Another terrific resource (there’s so much available, I’m just picking items at random at this point), is this overview of the Opportunity and Spirit missions (Opportunity’s sibling, Spirit, went dormant several years ago):

This infographic highlights NASA’s twin robot geologists, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity. The rovers landed on the Red Planet in 2004, in search of answers about the history of water on Mars. Spirit concluded its mission in 2010. Opportunity last communicated with Earth on June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover’s location on Mars.
Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

The wonderful xkcd published a tribute to Opportunity that really captures the impact Opportunity, Spirit, and the other rovers have on Humanity – they take us on voyages of discovery on other worlds!

These rovers take us along for the ride. All we need to do, is look out the window now and then.

Categories
Politics and government Science and nature

Grainy Moon photos were a ruse!

Those grainy Moon photos the public saw back in the early days of NASA’s Moon missions were a ruse!

No, not that ruse. Humans really went to the Moon. The ruse is that NASA actually captured much higher resolution images, but didn’t disclose them publicly because they didn’t want the Soviets to know how good their imaging technology was at the time.

According to World of Indie

Fifty years ago, 5 unmanned lunar orbiters circled the moon, taking extremely high resolution photos of the surface. They were trying to find the perfect landing site for the Apollo missions. They would be good enough to blow up to 40 x 54ft images that the astronauts would walk across looking for the great spot. After their use, the images were locked away from the public until after the bulk of the moon landings, as at the time they would have revealed the superior technology of the USA’s spy satellite cameras, which the orbiters cameras were designed from. The main worry was the USSR gaining valuable information about landing sites that the US wanted to use. In 1971 many of the images were released, but nowhere near to their potential quality, and mainly to an academic audience as public interest in the moon had waned. Up until 2008 most of the reported images from the project were the 1966 versions that were grainy and lower quality.

McMoon: How the Earliest Images of the Moon Were so Much Better than we Realised

Instead, they were able to capture pretty high resolution images, like this one:

An Earthrise over the moon’s horizon, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on August 24th 1966. Credit NASA/LOIRP (via World of Indie)

The story of how this was done, and the later effort to recover these images from storage, is fascinating:

It involves setting up shop in an abandoned McDonalds, and using a variety of old, and new tools to digitise this incredible archive.

You can find the catalogue here: Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project online data volumes (here’s a direct link to the .png collection). The images are pretty big!

Of course we also have some pretty impressive, high resolution imagery from more recent Lunar missions such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, too:

Via Kottke.org

Categories
Film Science and nature

Voyager 2 enters interstellar space and all I can think about are Klingons

Last week we learned that Voyager 2 had followed in its sibling’s metaphorical footsteps, and entered interstellar space. According to Ars Technica:

On Monday, NASA announced that one of its longest-running experiments has started a new phase. Five years after Voyager 1 reached interstellar space, its sibling, Voyager 2, has joined it there. While the Oort Cloud of icy bodies extends well beyond the probes’ current locations, they’ve gone past the point where the charged particles of the solar wind dominate space. Instead, their current environment is dominated by cosmic rays ejected by other stars.

Ars Technica

When I read this news, I immediately thought about a scene in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier*, in which a Klingon Bird of Prey de-cloaks, and destroys one of the Voyager probes:

*Thanks to Ken Gagne for reminding me which movie this was!

If you’re not familiar with the Voyager probes, definitely take a look at NASA’s mini-site with information, and multimedia about these two historic probes, and trailblazers.

These infographics, alone, are awesome!

Categories
Science and nature

The sound of wind on Mars

NASA’s InSight probe has heard the sound of wind on Mars. Just think about that for a moment: the sound of wind on Mars!

Listen to Martian wind blow across NASA’s InSight lander. The spacecraft’s seismometer and air pressure sensor picked up vibrations from 10-15 mph (16-24 kph) winds as they blew across Mars’ Elysium Planitia on Dec. 1, 2018.

I played this for our kids this morning. Our son seemed to be impressed, although our daughter’s response was something along the lines of: “Meh, it sounds like wind … 🙄”. Kids!

If you’re curious about the InSight mission, the Oatmeal has a terrific explainer of the InSight mission that may work well for kids too:

The Oatmeal explainer of the NASA InSight mission

You can also find loads of images, and other information about the mission on NASA’s InSight homepage. NASA makes so much content available about their missions, they’re one of the reasons the Internet is so amazing!

Another great resource is the mission’s Twitter profile:

Categories
Events and Life Science and nature

How Humans first walked on the Moon in Apollo 11

Vox has a terrific video that explains how the Apollo 11 mission worked, and how the astronauts that took part in the mission made their way to the Moon and back.

If you’re into old footage of historical events like this, also be sure to check out the CBS coverage of the lunar landing (also courtesy of NASA):

Categories
Science and nature

Our home on a cloudy day in May 1969

May 18, 1969 - Apollo 10 View of the Earth
A view of Earth from 36,000 nautical miles away as photographed from the Apollo 10 spacecraft during its trans-lunar journey toward the moon. While the Yucatan Peninsula is obscured by clouds, nearly all of Mexico north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec can be clearly delineated. Image Credit: NASA

One of the many things I like about having a Chromecast is seeing images like this beautiful photograph of our home planet on a cloudy day in May 1969, courtesy of NASA’s Image of the Day initiative.

Source: NASA

Categories
Science and nature Television

One of the coolest Star Trek-reality crossovers ever

STS-54

I came across this photo in the NASA on The Commons profile on Flickr and it is awesome. Here is the caption for the photo that explains what is happening here:

The STS-54 crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour (OV-105) in their official “gag” photo costumed as the bridge crew of Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets Star Ship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) as depicted in the movie “Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan”. The photo was taken on the Star Trek Adventure set of Universal Studios California theme park in Los Angeles, California while the crew was on a west coast training/public relations swing to TRW Corporation in Redondo Beach, CA during the Summer of 1992. TRW was the manufacturer of the STS-54 mission’s primary payload, a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-F or TDRS 6). From Left to right: Greg Harbaugh (MS2/Engineering Officer), Mario “Spock” Runco Jr. (MS1/1st Officer/Science Officer), John Casper (CDR/Captain), Susan Helms (MS3/Communications Officer), Don McMonagle (PLT/Navigation-Helm Officer).

I love that Commander Mario Runco Jr actually looks like a Vulcan. He is even a scientist.