Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Fireball Seen in Skies Over New Zealand

Posted by Alan at 10:15 AM on April 2, 2012

Eyewitness reports have been pouring in about sightings of a meteor in the skies above New Zealand.  The fireball passed over large population areas like Wellington and Christchurch giving the opportunity for anyone with a camera handy to grab shots.  The pictures have been piling up at the WeatherWatch site for the kiwi nation.  One eyewitness reported seeing an “object the size of a helicopter on fire.”  Others across the island nation have submitted reports about seeing the object, which seems to have been visible across a large portion of the country.

The meteor was likely a lone incident as the earth is not currently passing through any showers right now, although the Lyrids is coming up in about three weeks.  The meteor probably burned up in earth’s atmosphere as there are no reports of an impact.  If more information comes in I will add an update to this post.  I have also sent a message to the “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait to see if he has additional insight.

Picture Credit: Channel 3 News via Web Pro News

 

Teen Sends Lego Space Shuttle Into Space

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:04 AM on March 20, 2012

An eighteen year old named Raul Oaida, who is from Romania, is a big fan of NASA’s Space Shuttle program. When he learned that the program had ended, he decided to see if he could manage to launch a replica of the Space Shuttle, made out of Legos, into the upper atmosphere of Earth. Surprisingly, he managed to actually succeed at doing it!

Who doesn’t love Legos? I have several fond memories of building things out of Legos with my younger brothers. We managed to put together some creative and interesting things with the little colorful blocks, but nothing that compares to what Raul Oaida created.

The teen used LinkedIn to make contact. with Steve Sammartino, a venture capitalist from Melbourne, Australia. Raul Oaida was looking for an investor who could help him to finance his project.

The two eventually ended up talking on Skype, where Raul Oaida kept asking questions of Steve Sammartino. The result was that the venture capitalist became inspired by how earnest, and excited, the teenager was about this project. He agreed to manage the funding aspects that were necessary in order to make the project happen.

Raul Oaida put together a small model of a Space Shuttle that was made from Lego bricks that he glued together. The glue was to help the little plastic blocks to stay connected so that the model would survive the 124mph atmospheric winds it would be exposed to during its flight. The Lego Space Shuttle had a large weather balloon attached to it. There also was a styrofoam box that contained a camera and some tracking equipment attached to the model.

The launch of the Lego Space Shuttle happened on December 31, 2011. It took place in Germany, in part because it seems that Romania has laws that do not allow people to just go ahead and launch things into space whenever they want to. The Lego Space Shuttle ascended to 130,000 feet. An impressive video was taken during the launch, which can be viewed on YouTube. I highly recommend you check it out!

Image: Space Shuttle Flying Left on White Stock Photo by BigStock

NASA Delays Rockets – Releases Moon Videos

Posted by JenThorpe at 2:37 AM on March 15, 2012

NASA has decided to delay the launch of the five unmanned rockets that it planned on shooting into the sky on March 14, 2012. The rockets were part of the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) project. The purpose of the project is to gather more information about the process that is responsible for the high-altitude jet stream that exists 60 to 65 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The reason for the delay is because there was an internal radio frequency interference problem with one of the payloads on the rockets. NASA scientists are going to look into this problem, study the weather reports, and select another night for the launch of the rockets.

There is potential that the launch will happen at night on Friday, March 16, 2012. That would be the first night within the window of time that they can select for a new launch. The window stretches to April 3, 2012. It remains to be seen exactly when the “five rockets in five minutes” launch will actually happen. So, pay attention to news from NASA, and keep watching the skies.

In the meantime, you can check out two brand new videos of the moon that NASA released on March 14, 2012. The team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, which is in Greenbelt, Maryland, released these two amazing videos of the moon now for a very interesting reason. It is because the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has now been in orbit for 1,000 days.

The LRO is a robotic scout that is orbiting the moon on a low 50 km polar mapping orbit. The purpose of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is to create a detailed, 3D map of the moon, to identify areas on the moon that would be a safe landing site, and to locate potential resources that are located on the moon. It also is going to gather information about the radiation that is present in the environment.

One of the videos is called Evolution of the Moon. The moon did not always look like it does today. The video shows you when the craters and other features were formed, and what happened that caused their creation. Obviously, this is done with animation, but that doesn’t detract from how awesome the video is.

The other video is called A Narrated Tour of the Moon. This video shows you incredibly clear, sharp, images of the moon, as a narrator describes the significance of what you are seeing. It includes views of Orientale Basin, Shackleton crater, South Pole – Aitken Basin, Tycho crater, Aristarchus Plateau, Mare Serenitatis, Compton-Belkovic volcano, Jackson crater and Tsiolkovsky crater. The video footage was filmed by the LRO.

Image: The Moon by BigStock.

Where to See a Retired Space Shuttle

Posted by JenThorpe at 1:35 AM on March 12, 2012

NASA ended the Space Shuttle Program in July of 2011, when the Space Shuttle Atlantis made its return trip to Earth. The program lasted for 30 years, and had a total of 135 missions. There will not be any more opportunities for you to watch the launch of a Space Shuttle. However, it is still possible for you to take a look at a retired Space Shuttle.

What can you do with a Space Shuttle that will never go on another mission into outer space? You put it on public display! NASA has been making the necessary logistic arrangements in order to get some of the retired Space Shuttles to locations where people can go and see them.

The Space Shuttle Discovery will be moved to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. NASA will officially make the transfer of the Discovery into the Smithsonian’s collection on April 19, 2012.

Discovery made a total of 39 missions, which makes it the most-flown of all the Space Shuttles. It traveled 148,221,675 miles in space, spanned 5,830 orbits of Earth, and was in space for a total of 365 days. This is the shuttle that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, and it was also the shuttle that went on the second mission to service and repair it.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour will be moved to the California Science Center in Los Angeles in the latter part of 2012. The Endeavour completed 25 missions. It traveled 122,883,151 miles in space, spanned 4,671 orbits of Earth, and was in space for a total of 229 days. This is the shuttle that went on the first mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis will be at the Kennedy Space Center. The exhibit will be open sometime in 2013. It will be located in the Shuttle Plaza at the main Visitor Complex. Again, this is the Space Shuttle that made the very last return mission home before the program ended. It completed a total of 33 missions. The Atlantis traveled 125,935,769 miles in space, spanned 4,848 orbits of Earth, and was in space for a total of 306 days. Its very last mission was to bring supplies to the International Space Station.

The Space Shuttle Enterprise will be at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum in New York City. The Space Shuttle Enterprise was the first full scale prototype of the Space Shuttles, and it never ended up making it into space. It was named after the USS Enterprise NCC-1701.

Image: Space Shuttle Flying Over Earth by BigStock

DeLorme inReach Two-Way Satellite Communicator

Posted by Andrew at 12:23 PM on January 29, 2012

DeLorme LogoAndy talks to Jim from DeLorme about the new inReach two-way satellite communicator, perfect for those really out of the way places.

The DeLorme inReach is a tracking and communication device that uses a satellite radio link to transmit text and GPS location data, rather than the mobile phone network. Owners can communicate via text message from anywhere on the planet, not just those areas with mobile phone coverage, and it’s ideal for hikers and extreme sports enthusiasts who might have an emergency far from a phone signal (or simply want to reassure family that they’re ok.)

The inReach has two modes of operation, one where you use the control unit directly, the other where an Android smartphone app talks to the control unit via Bluetooth. The app is needed for two-way text messaging, mainly as the control unit doesn’t have a keyboard, but there is a dedicated SOS button on the control unit for emergencies. Other smartphones may be supported later.

The inReach costs $250 and a monthly subscription is required for service priced at $9.95 per month. The units are available now.

The inReach is impact-resistant, waterproof, floats and weighs 8oz. Battery life is 60 hours on a pair of lithium AAs. Overall, it’s an ideal emergency backup device but please note, gadgets like this are not a substitute for proper planning, preparation and equipment. Always tell someone your plan and expected return time.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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ViaSat exede 12 Mb/s Satellite Broadband Pricing

Posted by Andrew at 1:30 AM on January 10, 2012

ViaSat LogoIn a follow up to our earlier story on ViaSat and NRTC, ViaSat have announced their new 12 Mb/s satellite broadband service, exede. The high speed service will launch on 16 January beginning at $50 per month, offering 12 Mb/s down and 3 Mb/s up, using the new ViaSat-1 satellite.

The exede service will be welcomed by rural communities that have been unable to get high speed Internet connections because of the lack of infrastructure and the distances involved. Satellite broadband overcomes these issues to offer a “feels like fiber” experience.

With our new exede broadband service, customers across the United States will have a way to get exceptional speed whether they live in a city, suburbs or a more rural area,” said Tom Moore, senior VP of ViaSat.  “Our new exede service speeds make us very competitive with both wireless home broadband service as well as legacy DSL and many cable services.

The exede residential broadband packages all feature the same high speed but with higher data allowances at each price point. 

exede12 Services

Up to 12 Mbps downloads
and up to 3 Mbps uploads

Data Allowance (monthly)

7.5 GB

15 GB

25 GB

Package Price (monthly)

$49.99

$79.99

$129.99

Overall, this looks like a great new service for people who were poorly served in the past, but users will have to watch out for those data limits.

NRTC Offers ViaSat Satellite Broadband

Posted by Andrew at 10:52 AM on January 5, 2012

ViaSat LogoThe National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative has partnered with ViaSat to offer NRTC members faster 12 Mb/s satellite broadband through ViaSat’s WildBlue service. The NRTC represents the telecommunications and information technology interests of around 1500 rural utilities and affiliates in 48 US states.

The new ViaSat-1 high-capacity Ka-band spot beam satellite was launched back in October and includes coverage over North America and Hawaii, enabling a variety of new, high-speed broadband services for WildBlue in the U.S., Xplornet in Canada, and JetBlue Airways on its domestic U.S. fleet. Capable of 140 Gb/s, this one single satellite has more capacity that all of the other North American satellites put together.

NRTC’s electric and telephone members were the first distributors of WildBlue service, and they remain committed to ensuring that rural Americans have access to robust broadband,” said Tim Bryan, NRTC CEO.  “The enhanced satellite broadband service will make significant contributions to the communities we serve, so we are very happy to continue our relationship with ViaSat and offer the new service.”

Pricing wasn’t announced, but current WildBlue customers pay between $50 and $80 per month depending on service.  Outside of ViaSat-1′s coverage area, the NRTC will also offer 5 Mb/s broadband service through a range of delivery mechanisms. Based on figures from WildBlue, between 10 and 20 million American households are unable to get broadband through DSL or cable and for them, fast satellite broadband at a reasonable price will be warmly welcomed.

Todd and his team will try to get a demo of the satellite service at next week’s CES.

Curiosity Is On It’s Way To Mars

Posted by Alan at 11:43 AM on November 27, 2011

The big one we have all been waiting for is on it’s way.  The Mars Science Laboratory, better known as the Curiosity rover, lifted off yesterday from Florida and began it’s 8 and half month journey to the red planet.  Curiosity carries with it the hopes and dreams of, not just a lot of scientists and NASA engineers, but also a lot of average Americans who can only dream of this trip and what can be discovered there.

Carried into space on an Atlas 5 rocket, Curiosity, a rover the size of a car, will touch down in the Gale Crater and begin it’s systematic experiments in search of the building blocks of life on Mars.  Gale Crater is described by Universe Today as “one of the most scientifically interesting locations on the Red Planet because it exhibits exposures of clay minerals that formed in the presence of neutral liquid water that could be conducive to the genesis of life.”

The launch yesterday went off without a hitch and the rover is now on it’s way to the red planet.  Before you get too excited, Curiosity won’t discover life (if any), but only find if the necessary conditions are present.  Finding actual life will have to wait for the next mission.  As with all things this complicated, expensive, and time-consuming the scale of time is much greater than we all would like it to be.

You can watch a video of yesterday’s launch below.

The Modern Space Race

Posted by Andrew at 8:21 AM on September 15, 2011

The Institute of Engineering and Technology’s monthly magazine always has plenty of tech articles and this month is no exception with a look at the different approaches to space flight being adopted by the US and Russia in Gateway to the Stars.

In the US, privateers are pushing forwards with the new Spaceport America in New Mexico, while the Russians continue with the Soviet-era Baikonur Cosmodrome. The pictures of the new spaceport under construction and Virgin Galactic craft contrast sharply with the utility of Baikonur. Obviously the sites are aiming at different markets, one consumer-led into sub-oribital flight, the other for ballistic launches, typically satellites and cargo runs to the ISS.

Picture courtesy of Virgin Galactic. The new spaceport terminal is the building under construction in the foreground.

The article also has some great trivia. Did you know that the nearest settlement to Spaceport America is called “Truth or Consequences” or that Baikonur Cosmodrome is actually 300 km from Baykonur so as to mislead the West? Or that the launch countdown to zero can be credited to Fritz Lang’s 1929 film “The Woman in the Moon”?

Great ISS and Meteor Video

Posted by Alan at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2011

One of my favorite web sites, Universe Today, has linked up a video that really captured my imagination.  The video, captured by Bryan Stewart and posted to Vimeo, shows the International Space Station (ISS) passing overhead during the recent Perseid Meteor Shower.

The video is 1:06 in length and was filmed in Texas at 6:25am on August 10, 2011.  In addition to some great videography, it also features a soundtrack that is Carl Sagan set to music.  What more could you ask for?!

If you have never seen the ISS pass over, it’s a steady, non-blinking white light that moves fairly quickly across the sky.  Not meteor-fast, but you will only have 1-2 minutes of viewing time to follow it from one horizon to the other.

If you want to find out if/when it will be viewable in your area, I recommend the Heaven’s Above website.  You will to need to enter the coordinates of your location, but once you have it set up you can bookmark it with your coordinates and you will not need to ever enter them again.  In addition to the ISS, it also gives information on such passes as Iridium Satellites.

The video is posted below.  Enjoy.

ISS pass with perseid meteor from Bryan Stewart on Vimeo.