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NASA Hack Space: November 2009


"Dennis Wingo: I thought this was interesting and since I am always looking for spares for our LOIRP FR-900's I check it out on eBay. ... When I looked I was pretty certain that these were boards from our FR-900 machines. It had the right part numbers, so I called Ken Zin at home the night before Thanksgiving and asked him to verify, which he did and noted that these are newer version boards of the ones that we have!! So I bid on them and won them today." [More at MoonViews]

From Texas Instruments (available soon for $49.00): eZ430-Chronos Wireless Watch Development Tool (915 MHz US Version): "The eZ430-Chronos is a highly integrated, wireless development system based for the CC430 in a sports watch. It may be used as a reference platform for watch systems, a personal display for personal area networks, or as a wireless sensor node for remote data collection. Based on the CC430F6137 <1 GHz RF SoC, the eZ430-Chronos is a complete CC430-based development system contained in a watch. This tool features a 96 segment LCD display and provides an integrated pressure sensor and 3-axis accelerometer for motion sensitive control. The integrated wireless feature allows the Chronos to act as a central hub for nearby wireless sensors such as pedometers and heart rate monitors. The eZ430-Chronos offers temperature and battery voltage measurement and is complete with a USB-based CC1111 wireless interface to a PC. The eZ430-Chronos watch may be disassembled to be reprogrammed with a custom application and includes an eZ430 USB programming interface." [More at Ti]

Blue Origin has selected three unmanned research payloads to fly on the New Shepard suborbital vehicle as a part of Phase 1 of the New Shepard Research Flight Demonstration Program. These payloads were selected from an excellent field of submitted proposals.

The three investigations selected are:

* Three-Dimensional Critical Wetting Experiment in Microgravity. The principal investigator of this effort is Dr. Stephen Collicott, of Purdue University.

* Microgravity Experiment on Dust Environments in Astrophysics (MEDEA). The principal investigator of this effort is Dr. Joshua Colwell, of the University of Central Florida.

* Effective lnterfacial Tension lnduced Convection (EITIC). The principal investigator of this effort is Dr. John Pojman, of Louisiana State University.

These flights are planned to begin in the coming years to demonstrate the integration and operation of scientific experiments into the New Shepard system.

More information on Blue Origin, the New Shepard program, and its research and education applications can be found at www.blueorigin.com. Further inquiries should be directed to Dr. Alan Stern, Blue Origin's advisor for Research and Education Mission applications: astern@blueorigin.com.

Further information at http://www.blueorigin.com/nsresearch.html

Augmented reality, coming soon to a Coke can near you , DVICE

"Now that the super-animated almost-real movie Avatar is about to roll out (in theaters 12/18/09), here come the advertisers with spectacular new types of techno-toys to accompany the flick. For instance, if you hold a tricky Coke Zero can up to your webcam, it sprouts a controllable helicopter. Click the frame above to see a video of that. Hey, this looks like fun. This augmented reality (AR) juju will, be plastered on 140 million bottle-shaped cans, some 30 million fridge packs, as well as bags, bottles, popcorn bags and fountain drink cups. You'll also be able to pick up a card at McDonald's that you hold in front of your webcam, and when you go to an Avatar-branded website, out pops an animation that looks like a real mechanical toy. There will be playable games associated with these controllable 3D animations, offered as bonuses with Big Macs and Happy Meals at the Micky-D fast feeder."

Keith's note: The education and public outreach potential for NASA and all of its stuff is blatantly apparent to me. Imagine putting these things out such that anyone with a computer and a webcam can have NASA stuff jump out and do its thing with all that cool goodness. For all intents and purposes, this "juju" is printed. It is that simple. Imagine having a 3D ISS to play with ... or every spacecraft NASA is designing, new extrasolar planets ... For that matter, imagine the potential for design reviews where components can be sent out for examination - printed using 3d hololithography ... astronaut CAT scans and doppler ultrasound readings from orbit - or Mars.

Avatar Director James Cameron was on the NASA Advisory Council for a while ...

Keith's note: "Avatar", a film by former NASA Advisory Committee member James Cameron, will debut across the planet on 18 December. Widely hailed as "ground breaking" the film may well push the boundaries of what can be portrayed on the big screen. The film centers around humans mining precious materials on a world in the Alpha Centauri star system - and the inevitable conflict that arises with the local (sentient) inhabitants. The film delves into a wide range of issues that intersect with what NASA's Astrobiology Institute and Exobiology Programs have looked into in one way or another.

Unparalleled simulations of an extrasolar planet with a whole new ecology - but it would seem that NASA is not really interested in this film.

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC2010)

Abstract Deadline: November 12, 2009, 5:00 p.m. CST.

"A new generation of space vehicles capable of economically delivering payloads and researchers is coming on line beginning in 2010. These vehicles will revolutionize space access by providing frequent, low-cost access to space. Fields that will potentially benefit include atmospheric science, solar physics, microgravity science, planetary science, space life science, space physics, and education and public outreach (EPO). NSRC2010 will provide a forum to learn about the research and EPO capabilities of these new systems, along with their experiment and EPO integration processes, and to provide input on vehicle design requirements for science and education. The meeting will be held from 18-20 February 2010 in Boulder, Colorado."

ESA's 'Fly Your Thesis!' programme made its successful debut during ESA's 51st Parabolic Flight Campaign, held 25 October to 5 November. Four student teams from five European countries took advantage of this new educational initiative to conduct microgravity experiments on the Airbus A300 'Zero G' aircraft.

'Fly Your Thesis!' was introduced by ESA's Education Office in close coordination with ESA's Directorate of Human Spaceflight in 2008. It provides students with a unique opportunity to perform scientific experiments in microgravity as part of their Masters or PhD theses. The first participants were chosen in January 2009, after a rigorous selection process.

Jing Li, a physical scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., along with other researchers working under the Cell-All program in the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, developed a proof of concept of new technology that would bring compact, low-cost, low-power, high-speed nanosensor-based chemical sensing capabilities to cell phones.

The device Li developed is about the size of a postage stamp and is designed to be plugged in to an iPhone to collect, process and transmit sensor data. The new device is able to detect and identify low concentrations of airborne ammonia, chlorine gas and methane. The device senses chemicals in the air using a "sample jet" and a multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip, which consists of 16 nanosensors, and sends detection data to another phone or a computer via telephone communication network or Wi-Fi.

More information and high resolution photos here.

NASA ESMD: Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) was developed by the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) specifically to create a constellation of new capabilities, supporting technologies and foundational research that enables sustained and affordable human and robotic exploration. This competition is one of many projects designed to contribute to our Nation's efforts in achieving excellence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Join NASA's mission to bring us to the moon, Mars and beyond by submitting a research paper on one of the four ESMD topics listed below. Your research may be used as the solution to current NASA challenges.

More information

Far From a Lab? Turn a Cellphone Into a Microscope, NY Times

"... an engineer, using software that he developed and about $10 worth of off-the-shelf hardware, has adapted cellphones to substitute for microscopes. "We convert cellphones into devices that diagnose diseases," said Aydogan Ozcan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and member of the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, who created the devices. He has formed a company, Microskia, to commercialize the technology. The adapted phones may be used for screening in places far from hospitals, technicians or diagnostic laboratories, Dr. Ozcan said."

By chance I was in Omaha this week when the news was announced that the X-38 was going on display in the Strategic Air & Space Museum there. What an interesting and out of the way place to display this remarkable device. My work schedule didn't allow me the luxury of a visit to the museum, but then I've seen the X-38 up close before.

Disclaimer: I was a member of an independent review team for the X-38 development for a short period of time.

"Usually I write about ham radio. But looking at communication devices of the future from the past, I thought it would be fun to have a Star Trek: The Original Series Bluetooth communicator for a cellphone. I worked with Dave Clausen to hack one together from a toy Star Trek communicator, a Bluetooth module, and a microcontroller. Following are the directions and program to make your own. And of course a video to show how the Star Trek Bluetooth Communicator works."

More at Make:

ESA's Education Office has awarded a contract to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd of the UK to manage the development and testing of the first European student mission to the Moon. Launch is expected in 2013-2014.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has been selected as the prime contractor for the European Student Moon Orbiter (ESMO) project. The final signature of the contract took place on 4 November 2009. The mission involves delivering a spacecraft to lunar orbit, followed by 6 months of operations that include mapping of the lunar surface and studying our nearest neighbour.

NASA is accepting applications from students at U.S. colleges and universities who want to send their experiments to the edge of space on a high-flying scientific balloon.

The annual NASA project provides near space access for 12 undergraduate and graduate student experiments to be carried by a NASA high-altitude research balloon. The flights typically last 15 to 20 hours and reach an altitude of 23 miles. Experiments may include compact satellites or prototypes.

The experiments are flown aboard the High Altitude Student Platform, or HASP, a balloon-born instrument stack launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility's remote site in Fort Sumner, N.M. The goals of the project are to provide a space test platform to encourage student research and stimulate the development of student satellite payloads and other space-engineering products.

NASA JSC Solicitation: Hardware and Software Supporting the Maker Project

* Background - The Crew and Thermal Systems Division, EVA Tools Branch (EC7) at the Johnson Space Center seeks to acquire contract support for a software/hardware development project for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. The project supported is entitled "MAKER" and is pursuing an advanced manufacturing concept being developed and evaluated for deployment in future space exploration architectures requiring manufacturing capability in the spaceflight/mission environment. The specific need to be addressed by replies to this effort is for control software and interface hardware for a capable of operating a kinematically unique 3 axis robotic arm subsystem within the MAKER system. The implementation of this software/hardware solution is currently limited to a laboratory environment at the Johnson Space Center, and does not require "Enterprise Resource Planning" (ERP) level implementation.

"Welcome to AcademyApp.com. Here students can apply to the NASA Academy at Ames, Glenn, Goddard, and Marshall with a single application. An applicant for Research Associate with the NASA Academy must:

* have a demonstrated interest in space
* have a previous internship or project experience
* be a junior, senior, or first or second year graduate student in Fall 2010
* be in high academic standing (GPA of 3.0 or greater)
* be a US citizen (Note: The NASA Academy at Ames will also consider applicants from Canada.)"

Getting developing world data with Android and Open Data Kit, Ars Technica

"In the developed world, getting real-time data can be a simple matter: simply carry whatever sensor is required, get the data, and then plug into the local network--you're set. Things aren't so simple in the developing world, where there may not even be a power source available, much less specialized hardware or a network. To help field workers obtain the information they need and integrate it into a data collection system, computer science researchers at the University of Washington have developed the Open Data Kit, which includes server software for aggregation and management, developer tools to create forms, and client software that runs on the Android platform."

NASA JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog: Challenge Everything

"There is an interesting experiment happening at the Johnson Space Center. The basic question being addressed by this experiment is "what would happen if we could tap into the expertise of the 15,000 employees at JSC to solve any one of the difficult challenges that we are wrestling with?" Actually the experiment is also tapping the expertise at the other NASA Centers. The idea was a brainchild of the JSC Vision 2028 team and the Center Director's, Inclusion and Innovation council engagement teams. Called Project Blue Moon, it is a six month pilot to create an open collaboration environment across the NASA Community."

In previous work, two platforms have been developed for testing computer-vision algorithms for robotic planetary exploration (McGuire et al. 2004b,2005; Bartolo et al. 2007). The wearable-computer platform has been tested at geological and astrobiological field sites in Spain (Rivas Vaciamadrid and Riba de Santiuste), and the phone-camera has been tested at a geological field site in Malta.

In this work, we (i) apply a Hopfield neural-network algorithm for novelty detection based upon color, (ii) integrate a field-capable digital microscope on the wearable computer platform, (iii) test this novelty detection with the digital microscope at Rivas Vaciamadrid, (iv) develop a Bluetooth communication mode for the phone-camera platform, in order to allow access to a mobile processing computer at the field sites, and (v) test the novelty detection on the Bluetooth-enabled phone-camera connected to a netbook computer at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.