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NASA Hack Space: May 2010


"We took 40 year old data tapes, tape drives that had been in a garage for 30 years, found elderly engineers, and reverse-engineered ancient technology to provide enhanced imagery from the five Lunar Orbiter missions in a fashion - and resolution - inconceivable at the time that the missions were conducted."

Not Quite Rocket Science: 2 Week Underwear, Wall Street Journal

"Underwear you can wear up to two weeks at a time without having to worry about the smell? Andy Jordan's Tech Diary looks into the technological feat, how it works, and who is using the underwear. Yes, there's a smell test."

Keith's note: The video focuses on underwear that can be worn for prolonged periods of time without risk of odor, disease, etc. An anti-microbial barrier in the fabric of the underwear kills odor-causing microorganisms. My 2 cent's worth about NASA spinoffs is at the end of the video. Having been a climber and participated in a number of expeditions to utterly remote and harsh locations for long periods of time (Devon Island, Everest Base Camp) let me tell you, advances such as this are of critical importance. The relevance to expeditions to other worlds is obvious. Not only is life more pleasant (a big deal when you are far away and under lots of risk and stress) but if you can wear clothing longer you cut down on the energy costs of cleaning garments and the logistics (and upmass) of providing additional new garments. This special underwear has already been tested on ISS.


"Keith Cowing talks about the kind of hacks made famous by the Apollo 13 mission, instances where the crew had to improvise using materials at hand. He discusses the following: Skylab Rescue - the umbrella used to replace solar insulation and boating tools bought at a local marina; Syncom Rescue - tools made out of plastic and duct tape; Apollo 13 CO2 removal, use of LEM engine, etc.; Apollo lunar rover fender repair; STS-120 EVA solar panel repair, and ISS camera tracker made from a power tool. Cowing also talks about some of his own projects including the greenhouse he designed and built on Devon Island (and some serious hacks) near the North Pole. Currently, he's working in partnership with NASA Ames to restore a 1960's era Titan I ICBM & convert it for educational use."

23 May Update from Keith and Dennis: If you were at our presentation today at Make Faire and are interested in this Titan 1 project please leave your information in the comment field below. We will save this information in order to be able to contact you - but we won't publish it online. Thanks!

Dreaming of space, grounded in town, Times of India

"Six talented students from the Somalwar Nikalas and Ramdaspeth branches and three college students from city who have brought laurels to city by making it to the prestigious 'space settlement design contest' organised annually by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unfortunately would not be able to visit Chicago, USA, for making presentations in the absence of sponsors. The contest is from May 25 to 31. The students and their parents have not given hope and are looking for corporate as well as state support. It is for the second consecutive year that Somalwar students have been selected for the contest organised by NASA's Ames Space Research Centre and National Space Society."

Keith's note: While we're all fighting with one another about space policy, NASA continues to remain an astonishingly powerful motivator around the world. What is it that they understand about what NASA does that we ignore - or have forgotten?

More than 37 years after humans last walked on the moon, planetary scientists are inviting members of the public to return to the lunar surface as "virtual astronauts" to help answer important scientific questions. No spacesuit or rocket ship is required - all visitors need to do is go to www.moonzoo.org and be among the first to see the lunar surface in unprecedented detail. New high-resolution images, taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), offer exciting clues to unveil or reveal the history of the moon and our solar system.

Shown is the one-inch wide by three-inch long Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array that contains 388,000 probes that are used to detect viruses and bacteria. Photos by Jacqueline McBride/LLNL. Click to enlarge.

Law enforcement authorities seeking to detect bioterrorism attacks, doctors diagnosing diseases and regulatory agencies checking product safety may find a new ally in a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) detection technology.

The advance, known as the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA), could enable law enforcement, medical professionals and others to detect within 24 hours any virus or bacteria that has been sequenced and included among the array's probes.

Developed between October 2007 and February 2008, the LLMDA detects viruses and bacteria with the use of 388,000 probes that fit in a checkerboard pattern in the middle of a one-inch wide, three-inch long glass slide.

Editor's note: the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar Hazy Center has a Titan 1 first stage propulsion system on display. I visited it today and took some photos. Several components are missing from our first stage and this should help us identify what they are. Oh yes, that is Space Shuttle Enterprise in the background. In the film "Star Trek First Contact", the first warpship "Phoenix" is launched on a Titan II ICBM and intercepts the starship Enterprise ... just a coincidence, I guess.

More photos below - click on images to enlarge.

James Cameron and NASA team up to shoot Mars in 3D, DVICE

"James Cameron got plenty of experience creating an alien world in Avatar. Now the 3D pioneer is looking to test his might with the real deal, Mars, though still in three dimensions. Cameron met with NASA administrator Charles Bolden to pitch the idea of including a 3D camera on the space agency's next generation rover, Curiosity, set to launch toward the red planet next year. "He actually was really open to the idea," Cameron told the Pasadena Star News. "Our first meeting went very well." Beyond the scientific value the detailed images could possess, Cameron may also use the footage in a documentary on Mars in the future."

Avatar Director Helps NASA With Mars Cameras, Information Week

"NASA is getting help from Hollywood director James Cameron to build 3D cameras for the next Mars rover, Curiosity. The space agency abandoned plans to build cameras with the capability for the rover in 2007 due to budgetary concerns. That prompted the director " known for blockbuster films Avatar and Titanic-- to step in and personally petitioned the agency to build the cameras, according to NASA. The agency this month said it has delivered the last two of four science cameras -- called Mastcams -- for the rover without 3D capability."

Open source is NASA's next frontier, FCW

"The challenges to government's adoption and participation in open-source communities is often thought to be a simpe culture clash, but in reality it goes deeper than that, accordning to NASA's newly-appointed chief technology officer. "The issues that we need to tackle are not only cuture, but beyond culture," said Chris Kemp, formerly chief information officer at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "And I think we need new policy and support from the administration and Congress to help us tackle" them."

NASA Names Chief Technology Officer for IT

"NASA Chief Information Officer Linda Cureton announced Chris C. Kemp as the first NASA Chief Technology Officer, or CTO, for Information Technology, a new position established to lead IT innovation at the space agency."

SpaceTECH has an Titan 1 that they use for training purposes at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Images can be found here. Another photo can be found here.

What is most probably this same Titan 1 set up as an exhibit in Cocoa Beach, FL. Click on image to enlarge

This Rubik's Cube solver was designed and programmed using an ARM Powered Android Motorola Droid mobile phone, a LEGO Mindstorms NXT and lots of yellow LEGO technic pieces! Come and see the Speedcuber at ESCsv2010 http://esc-sv09.techinsightsevents.com/. The Android App running on the DROID uses the phones camera to take pictures of each face of the cube and sends the solution to the LEGO NXT controller via Bluetooth.

As is the case with any operational weapons system, Titan launch crews were required to stay proficient on the operation of their hardware. And the hardware itself had to periodically checked.

Titan 1 61-4492 was no different.

47 years ago, on 27 May 1963, Titan 61-4492 was put through a countdown exercise at Larson AFB for crew training purposes. The rocket was fueled and taken through the standard countdown sequence until a short time before launch would normally occur. In this case, the countdown progressed for 17 minutes.

The following memo (a "U-86 report") was issued to report the event.

Titan 1 Second Stage in Hangar U. USAF photo issued on 5 August 1958 by the Air Force Missile Test Center, Patrick AFB, FL. Click on image to enlarge.

More Photos below

Joel Powell, author of "Go For Launch: An Illustrated History of Cape Canaveral," sent this note regarding an image taken on 22 October 1977: "Keith: Art LeBrun and myself have followed your efforts to restore Titan 4492 at Ames with fascination (I understand that you were very impressed with Art's photos of 4492 and the Atlas from 40 years ago). Let me add an air of mystery to the story. I found the attached 'tourist' photo off 4492 and an Atlas at Ames through a Yahoo image search (Image source)."

There is another Titan 1, in similar condition to our rocket, #61-4497 (our rocket is #61-4492), located on the grounds of the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy, Illinois. The image above is from a Google Maps image. You can see a close up photo of the rocket here.