Tag Archives: space

Neil deGrasse Tyson Testifies to Congress on Behalf of NASA



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.


GNC-2012-03-26 #753 Privacy Soapbox Time!



Feeling a 100% better and it is time to have a serious discussion about privacy and actions in the internet and public space. Looking for your feedback in a big way on these issues. Lots of great tech stories to share with you tonight as well.

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Teen Sends Lego Space Shuttle Into Space



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


An Incredibly Clear View of Ireland From Space



Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and NASA’s Earth Observatory website is celebrating by selecting a remarkably clear view of Ireland as its Image of the Day.

It is easy to see why Ireland is called “The Emerald Isle”. Several different shades of green, from a drab, olive green color, to the brightest Kelly green, cover the entire island. This is a true-color image, so what you are seeing is the intense green vegetation, which is mostly made of grassland, that covers nearly the entire country.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this image is the lack of cloud cover. According to the Irish Meteorological Service, the sky over Ireland is entirely cloudy more than 50% of the time. Fog is common. This cloud-free image of the country is an incredibly rare view to have captured.

The image was taken on October 11, 2010. It was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) that is located on NASA’s Aqua satellite. This satellite was launched on May 4, 2002, which made it the first to be launched in a group of satellites called the Afternoon Constellation, (or the A-Train). Aqua has six Earth-observing instruments on board.

The Aqua mission is part of the Earth Observing System (EOS). It is a coordinated series of polar-orbiting and low inclination satellites. Each satellite is doing a long-term global observation of the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans. The Aqua satellite has been gathering information about the Earth’s water cycle, soil moisture, sea ice, land ice, snow cover on the land and the ice, radiative energy fluxes, aerosols, vegetation cover on the land, phytoplankton and dissolved organic matter in the ocean, and temperatures of the air, land, and water on Earth.

The MODIS is an instrument that is on the Aqua satellite. You can think of it as the camera that took the beautiful view of Ireland. The MODIS and the Aqua satellite pass South to North over the equator in the afternoon. They view the entire surface of the Earth every one to two days.

I highly recommend that you take a moment, step away from your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and check out the Image of the Day that is on the Earth Observatory website. You will never see a more clear, green, beautiful view of Ireland than this one. It will take your breath away.

Image: Kennedy Space Center (nasa) by BigStock


NASA Delays Rockets – Releases Moon Videos



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.


Five Rockets in Five Minutes



If you live on the East coast of the United States, be sure to watch the skies tonight. NASA will be launching five rockets in five minutes from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on March 14, 2012. The launches will take place late at night.

Each rocket will release a chemical tracer that will create a milky-white tracer cloud that will glow. The glowing clouds will be visible to people who are on the ground, looking up at the sky, from South Carolina through New Jersey. All of these rockets are suborbital.

These unmanned rockets are part of the Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment (ATREX) mission. The purpose of launching the rockets is to study the high-altitude jet stream that is located 60 to 65 miles above the surface of the earth. The winds in this upper jet stream can have speeds of 200 to 300 mph. This is the same region where electrical turbulence often occurs. Those electrical currents can adversely affect radio communications, and communications with satellites.

Two of the five rockets that will be launched have instrumented payloads. They are carrying equipment that will measure the pressure and temperature in the atmosphere. The measurements will be taken when the wind speed is at its height.

One of the rockets that will be launched is Terrier Oriole rocket. This is a two-stage rocket that uses a Terrier first stage booster and then uses an Oriole rocket motor for the second stage of its propulsion. The rocket has four fins that are placed in order to provide stability.

Two of the rockets are Terrier-Improved Orions. These are a two-stage spin stabilized rocket system. It uses either a Terrier MK 12 Mod 1 or a MK70 for the first stage. It uses an improved Orion motor for the second stage.

The remaining two rockets are Terrier-Improved Malemutes. These are high-performance, two-stage rockets that are used for payloads that weigh less than 400 pounds. The first stage booster for this rocket is a Terrier MK 12 Mod 1. The second stage propulsion unit is a Thiokol Malemute TU-758 rocket motor that has been specifically designed for high-altitude research rocket applications.

I find it interesting that NASA selected March 14 to do this launch. March 14, or 3-14, is Pi Day, obviously, because Pi = 3.1415926535….

Those who live on the East coast can end their Pi Day celebrations by gazing up into the night sky, and watching for the glowing cloud produced by the rockets. It will make Pi Day of 2012 that much more memorable!

Image: Kennedy Space Center (nasa) by BigStock


Where to See a Retired Space Shuttle



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