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NASA Hack Space: June 2010


The Pacific Star Project recently launched a balloon with several digital cameras bought on eBay that were controlled by a hacked script and packaged inside a homemade insulated payload container. The cameras made it to an altitude of 24 miles where they took some amazing photos.

The X PRIZE Foundation, the world leader in incentive prizes to drive innovation, and LEGO Group, one of the world's leading manufacturers of play materials for children, has announced the twenty finalists for MoonBots, a global educational contest. Using LEGO bricks and MINDSTORMS components, the challenge requires teams of students to create simulated lunar rovers similar to those competing for Google Lunar X PRIZE, a competition that will award $30 million to privately funded teams that explore the surface of the Moon with innovative robots. More than two hundred teams from sixteen nations registered for MoonBots and completed the requirements of the first phase of the competition, which required both in-depth research about lunar exploration as well as the use of Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software to mock up a lunar robot.

NASA is challenging college students to design concepts for inflatable habitat lofts for the next generation of space explorers. The winning concepts may be applied to the exploration habitats of the future.

The X-Hab Academic Innovation Competition is a university-level challenge designed to encourage further studies in spaceflight-related engineering and architecture disciplines. This design competition requires undergraduate students to explore NASA's work to develop space habitats, while also helping the agency gather new and innovative ideas to complement its current research and development.

NASA: California middle school students using the camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter have found lava tubes with one pit that appears to be a skylight to a cave. The students in science teacher Dennis Mitchell's class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., were examining Martian lava tubes as their project in the Mars Student Imaging Program offered by NASA and Arizona State University. Students in this program develop a geological question, then target a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image that helps answer the question. Mars Odyssey has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2001, returning data and images of the Martian surface and providing relay communications service for the twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. See full story

NASA is seeking private and corporate sponsors for the Centennial Challenges, a program of incentive prizes designed for the "citizen inventor" that generates creative solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation. NASA is looking for companies, organizations or individuals interested in sponsoring the non-profit allied organizations that manage the prize competitions.

Since 2005, NASA has conducted 19 competitions in six challenge areas and awarded $4.5 million to 13 different teams. Each of the challenges is managed by non-profit organizations in partnership with NASA.

NASA provides prize purses for the challenges but not the funds to conduct the competitions. A group of allied organizations conducts and manages the competitions, typically raising additional funds through partnerships with private and corporate sponsors.

Potential sponsors can be for-profit companies and corporations, universities and other non-profit or educational organizations, professional or public organizations, and individuals. Those interested in discussing sponsorship opportunities should respond to a Request for Information at: http://prod.nais.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/eps/synopsis.cgi?acqid=141911

Allied organizations generally seek sponsorships of all monetary sizes and in-kind contributions while providing public recognition to competition sponsors. Arrangements for competition sponsorships will be negotiated directly between the allied organizations and the sponsors and may include naming rights for significant contributors.

Centennial Challenge events typically include public audiences and are televised or broadcast over the Internet via streaming video. The competitions provide high-visibility opportunities for public outreach and education. There are three on-going Centennial Challenges, with several new challenges expected to be announced this year.

For additional information on the program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/challenges

Developer's dream: Androids...in space!, Crave

"Why? Well, because. Also, he is concerned that U.S. space exploration might not be progressing apace. His parents and grandparents got to witness an astronaut land on the moon, while Pier, 25, worries that he will have to wait until 2035 to see a man step on an extraterrestrial surface (Mars, according to plans laid out by President Obama). So while Piers waits for middle age, he wants to try shipping the first smartphone into the stratosphere as a symbol of his belief in the importance of the space race. Preferably, that phone will be his HTC Evo 4. "Great phone," he says. "I think it's meant for something greater."

University students and professors from across the country and Puerto Rico will converge on NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia this month to learn how to build small experiments that can be launched on sounding rockets. This is part of a week-long workshop, known as RockOn!, that begins June 19.

The 80 workshop participants will build standardized experiments that will fly on a NASA Terrier-Orion suborbital sounding rocket set to launch between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. EDT on June 24. The 35-foot-tall rocket is expected to fly to an altitude of 75 miles. After launch and payload recovery, the participants will conduct preliminary data analysis and discuss their results.

In addition to the 7 workshop-built experiments, 11 custom-built, self-contained experiments also will fly on the rocket inside a payload canister known as RockSat. The latter experiments were developed at ten universities that previously had participated in a RockOn! workshop.

"Open source hardware hobbyists now have a chipset to play with that's comparable to the powerful processors found in smartphones such as the Nexus One or HTC Incredible. Texas Instruments has released a new version of its low-power, single-board computer called BeagleBoard-xM. It's based on the same 1-GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor that drives the most sophisticated smartphones today. That gives it far more processing power than the leading open-source microcontroller platform, Arduino, which many hobbyists currently use to create robots, sensors, toys and other DIY devices. The BeagleBoard-xM has multimedia features similar to the processor seen in the Palm Pre and Motorola Droid, and includes on-board ethernet, five USB 2.0 ports and 512 MB of memory." Read More at Gadgetlab

"What do NASA techies do with their spare time? They make rock-n-roll videos. Not the big-hair, booty-shaking, smoke-and-fire kind. They help make rock videos that would make their daytime colleagues proud or jealous, or both. The rock band OK Go prides itself on creative visual expressions of their music, and they wanted an extra dose of gee-whiz fun for their new song "This Too Shall Pass." In the winter of 2010, the group enlisted the help of Syyn Labs -- a self-described "group of creative engineers who twist together art and technology." The Syyn Labs fraternity included (or ensnared) four staff members from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

More at NASA Blogs