NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is in the process of being returned to full activity after undergoing a precautionary stand-down during the July 4th weekend. Its mission has been extended.
The rover put itself into safe mode on July 2, 2016, and engineers are working to determine what caused it to do that. While in safe mode, the rover ceased most of its activities, with the exception of keeping itself healthy and following a prescribed sequence for resuming communications.
The engineers have determined, based on preliminary information, that an unexpected mismatch between the rover’s camera software and data-processing software in the main computer, could potentially be the reason why the rover went into safe mode.
The Curiosity Mars Rover was launched on November 6, 2011. It landed on Mars on August 6, 2012, and is still there. The goal of its mission is to determine if Mars was ever able to support microbial life.
NASA has approved an additional two-year extension of the Curiosity rover’s mission. That mission will begin on October 1, 2016. The Mars Science Laboratory developed and operates Curiosity. That team will be working on the near-term steps towards having Curiosity resume full activities, which begins with a request for more diagnostic information from the rover.
Mission Juno was launched on August 5, 2011. It arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Google created a special Google Doodle about it called “Juno reaches Jupiter!” Not all Google Doodles are animated, but this one is.
The Juno spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida about five years ago. The principal goal of Mission Juno is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter.
Some of the things Juno will do include:
* Investigate the existence of a solid planetary core
* Map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field
* Measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere
* Observe Jupiter’s auroras
Juno reached Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Over the next few months, Juno’s mission and science teams will perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, final calibration of science instruments, and some science collection. Their official science collection phase will begin in October.
NASA released a video of Juno’s approach to Jupiter:
The Juno spacecraft also carries three Lego minifigs. One represents the Roman god Jupiter, who holds a lightning bolt. Another represents Juno, (Jupiter’s wife). She is holding a magnifying glass as a sign for searching for truth. The third minifig represents Galileo Galliei, who holds a telescope. Each of these three special Lego minifigs is made out of aluminum (which can endure the extreme conditions of space).
Supersonic (traveling faster than the speed of sound) flight has been possible for about 70 years. The auditory results of cracking the sound barrier are sometimes heard (and felt) in the form of sonic booms. But what does it look like when an object reaches Mach 1? Often, aircraft are photographed with a visible plume of moisture erupting around them when they reach supersonic speeds. But that’s just part of the picture, as NASA observed with a recent photographic experiment.
NASA used an unlikely process to capture images of supersonic shockwaves created by an Air Force T-38C test plane. Researchers employed a 150-year old technique called schlieren photography. Wikipedia describes this style of photography as:
…a visual process that is used to photograph the flow of fluids of varying density. Invented by the German physicist August Toepler in 1864 to study supersonic motion, it is widely used in aeronautical engineering to photograph the flow of air around objects.
Having access to plenty of modern technology and techniques, NASA used an updated version of this technique called background oriented schlieren (BOS):
First, researchers obtain an image of a speckled background pattern. Next, they collect a series of images of an object in supersonic flow in front of the same pattern. Shock waves are deduced from distortions of the background pattern resulting from the change in refractive index due to density gradients. This method requires very simple optics and a variety of background patterns, including natural ones, may be used. The complexity with this method is in the image processing and not the hardware or positioning, thus making BOS an attractive candidate for obtaining high-spatial-resolution imaging of shock waves in flight.
Detailed explanations of the project (and a few more images) are available at the link above.
NASA has been branching out on social media. It has two verified Twitter accounts. One is @NASA and the other is for the International Space Station @Space_Station. You can also find Twitter accounts for several astronauts. NASA has recently created some Tumblr blogs.
The main NASA Tumblr blog is called NASA. It says “Explore the universe and discover our home planet with the official NASA Tumblr.” At the time I am writing this, the NASA Tumblr blog has a video about the first veggies grown, harvested, and eaten in space at the top of its blog.
There is also a Curiosity Rover Tumblr. The description says “Roving Mars for science. Blogging it for you. Official NASA mission Tumblr”. It has images taken by the Mars Rover (including a selfie). This Tumblr blog also has information about Mars and a link to the recent Curiosity Rover Reddit AMA.
NASA has a third Tumblr blog called Astronaut Peggy Whitson. It has photos and information about the NASA Village. The description says “It takes a NASA Village … to train an astronaut.” This Tumblr blog will follow Peggy Whitson as she trains for a six-month mission on the International Space Station.
Conspiracy theorists are running wild about a new web site that is purportedly from NASA. The web site in question is titled “NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet. This announcement will be released to the media on November 13th, 2013. It will be a day to remember and One for the history books. Spread the word to your family & friends and sign up to stay updated! – See more at: Remember the 13th and sports a logo from the space agency along with a rather cryptic message.
“NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet. This announcement will be released to the media on November 13th, 2013. It will be a day to remember and One for the history books. Spread the word to your family & friends and sign up to stay updated!”
There is also a countdown clock running on the site, currently at 41 days. Nothing more is revealed and there is nothing about the page which gives any sort of hints.
Its all very clever, but also likely a marketing ploy for something and not an actual NASA news conference. Other than the logo, which anyone can slap onto a website, there is nothing to suggest any of this is anything more than a clever marketing campaign for a product, movie or TV show.
I will leave the question up to all of you. What do you think this is? Legitimate news coming from the space agency? Has Curiosity discovered something? Or is it, as I am leaning towards, very good marketing hype?
Author’s Note: I am half afraid to write about any web video after yesterday’s embarrassment! However, given that this one comes from NASA I will trust it is real. With that said, if the world does end I guess at least nobody will be around to laugh about me looking stupid!
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s move on to the big subject of today — the supposed end of the world tomorrow. Yes, an era of the Mayan calendar does in fact come to an end on December 21, 2012. Although, much as our calendar ends every December 31st, it is only a turning of the page. Honestly, if the Mayans were such great prognosticators then why did they not see those Spanish ships coming? If you can’t predict your own doom then how can you predict that of the world?
NASA has had to spend way too much time and energy dealing with this myth and debunking the crackpots that seem to abound on the internet. Conspiracy theories surrounding tomorrow have taken all sorts of shapes, none of which I will waste the time and effort to even make fun of.
Below is NASA’s latest, and hopefully final, crack at this. This one was brought to my attention by the folks over at Universe Today who specialize in truth and science and who I highly recommend you follow in your RSS reader of choice.
NASA Johnson Style is an educational parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style, produced by the students of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It’s brilliant and deserves as much attention as the original. I’m sure this will be all over the web in a few hours, combining great visuals and intelligent parody with the hottest hit of 2012.
I won’t try to write a eulogy or a tribute. I will leave that up to people who know more than me, but I did want to take a moment to post a tribute of some sort to the man who inspired a whole new generation of explorers. Without Neil Armstrong so many things we take for granted now may never have happened. He had the courage to take that “first step”, in more ways than just the obvious one.
Received the news late this afternoon that my Grandfather on my dads side of the family had passed away. While expected still has hit me like a ton of bricks. I am luckier than most as I had all of my grandparents up to a few short years ago. All lived into their 90’s and went out on their own terms which is all one can hope for at the end of a long fruitful life. On my past show we where close to the end as my Grandfather was reaching up and calling out my Dad’s name. So I know that my Dad was waiting for him and that he is in a better place. I will likely be heading to Michigan either Wednesday to Thursday so if there is a show it will be from Michigan..
Congratulations to Melisa Strayer she is out last listener appreciation month winner. Congrats to all of the winners this month, and a big thank you to all of you that participated in the contests.
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Earlier this month our favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, went before Congress to plead his case for NASA. In recent years the budget for NASA has been slashed mercilessly by the folks down in Washington DC, all many of whom have little to no clue about science and technology.
Tyson makes his case by pointing out the obvious ties between NASA and everyday technology, much of which has stemmed from NASA and military technology. He eloquently talks of the lack of science education and new engineers and scientists in today’s United States and points out that many of today’s aging generation of scientists got their start and motivation during the 50’s and 60’s space race.
The full eight minute video has been posted to YouTube and can also be seen below. If you aren’t familiar with Tyson, he is the head of the Hayden Planetarium at New York’s Museum of Natural History and is also the host of NOVA on PBS. If you agree with his arguments then contact your local representative and make your voice heard now before it’s too late.