NASA Hack Space: November 2010

On December 4 and 5, in over twenty locations around the world, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, NASA and The World Bank will host the third Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK), their progressive initiative that brings together volunteer software developers and experts in disaster risk management for a weekend-long "hackathon" to create software solutions that can help mitigate or respond to disasters around the world and help save lives.

While Apple plays cat-and-mouse games with iPhone jailbreakers, Microsoft is playing a far friendlier game with Xbox Kinect hackers. Two Microsoft employees went on the radio Friday and said nobody was going to get in trouble for making open source drivers for Xbox Kinect. In fact, they said, Microsoft was "inspired" by how fans and hobbyists were adapting its camera. More at Wired

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology, today announced NASA has awarded a five-year agreement to FIRST to provide support for hand-on robotics competition events to address the critical shortage in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields that the nation is facing. The multi-year cooperative agreement, worth up to $20 million, was granted by NASA through the year 2014.

The Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project invites students from high school grades through graduate school to research and design a large passenger aircraft that is less noisy, less harmful to the environment, and more fuel-efficient than current models. The competition has two divisions: High School and College/University. Teams or individuals may enter. At the college level, inter-institutional partnerships are permitted and interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged.

High school participants must be enrolled in an accredited high school, secondary school or home school. For the high school division, the deadline for papers is March 15, 2011.

NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace have launched a new planetary rover engineering competition called the Exploration Robo-Ops Student Challenge. This competition challenges university teams to design and build a planetary rover. Teams will then demonstrate their rover's capability to perform a series of competitive tasks at the Rock Yard of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston in May 2011.

Student teams at graduate and undergraduate levels are eligible to compete. Teams must submit a Project Plan Proposal by Dec. 15, 2010. The project plans will be reviewed, and up to ten qualifying teams will be announced no later than Dec. 23, 2010.

NASA's Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, launched at 7:25 p.m. CST Friday aboard a Minotaur IV rocket from Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska. FASTSAT is a unique platform that can carry multiple small payloads to low-Earth orbit creating opportunities for researchers to conduct low-cost scientific and technology research on an autonomous satellite in space.

NASA is preparing to fly a small satellite about the size of a loaf of bread that could help answer astrobiologys fundamental questions about the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. The nanosatellite, known as Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses, or O/OREOS, is a secondary payload aboard a U.S. Air Force four-stage Minotaur IV rocket planned for launch on Nov. 19, 2010.

Turning Retired Military Jets into Next-Gen Nano-Satellite Launchers, Popular Science

"The idea is to make space launches affordable to commercial and academic ventures that can't afford the high costs associated with piggybacking on a NASA mission or launching a single-use rocket. With small satellites constructed by universities or other institutions expected to increase dramatically over the next decade, the need exists for a service that can get them into space for less than $10,000 (the average cost associated with building and launching a CubeSat has ranged from $50,000 to $150,000 in the past)."

Nanosatellites Take Off, Forbes

"The average American consumer might not yet realize the purpose of launching his own personal box of silicon and aluminum into space, admits Andrew Kalman. In fact, Kalman isn't quite sure of it himself. Then again, the 46-year-old Stanford professor points out, a few decades ago no one quite saw the point of putting a box of chips and software--the personal computer--into American homes. Since Kalman's firm, Pumpkin Inc., entered the satellite business ten years ago, the four-person San Francisco company has become the world's top supplier of "CubeSat" kits--collections of components for building 2-pound, 4-inch-tall Rubik's cubes of hardware ready to be launched into Earth's orbit. Those $7,500 packages have made Kalman the closest thing the space industry has to a Henry Ford as he works to put a pint-size unmanned spacecraft in every garage in America."

Few NASA projects in recent years have captured the public's attention like the Mars rovers. Now researchers are hoping the chance to design a future rover may capture university students' interest.

NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace or NIA in Hampton, Va., have launched a new planetary rover engineering competition called Exploration Robo-Ops Student Challenge. University teams are eligible to win as much as $10,000 for designing and building a planetary rover, then demonstrating its capability to perform a series of tasks at the NASA Johnson Space Center's Rock Yard in Houston, Texas.

"NASA is excited to sponsor this competition that lets us see students' creative solutions to real engineering problems," Pat Troutman, Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts-Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) sponsor at NASA's Langley Research Center. "This challenge gives NASA the benefit of student innovation in robotic operations, but it also gives the students a chance to excite the public and others about their mission." Graduate and undergraduate engineering teams with a faculty advisor are eligible to compete. Teams are required to submit a project plan proposal by Dec. 15. Up to 10 qualifying teams to be announced Dec. 23 will move on to the building phase of the competition. Those teams' rovers will then compete against one another at the 2011 RASC-AL Robo-Ops Forum in May next year.

Eyes on the Solar System" is a 3-D environment full of real NASA mission data. Explore the cosmos from your computer. Hop on an asteroid. Fly with NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft. See the entire solar system moving in real time. It's up to you. You control space and time. Visit Eyes on the Solar System

A Space Act Agreement signed between NASA's Remote Sensing Earth Science Teacher Program (RSESTeP) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) will allow certified Earth science teachers nationwide to continue to bring NASA Remote Sensing resources into their classrooms.

RSESTeP, located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, provides science teachers the opportunity to expose students in 4th through 12th grades to NASA cutting edge resources and technologies. Members of the AMA can now partner with local schools to fly NASA remote sensing payloads, collecting Earth science data needed to complete classroom projects.

Team Phoenicia and TechShop, are going to host a Nanosatellite Launcher Challenge Seminar on November 6th, 2010 at TechShop, Menlo Park at 1 PM. Organizations that will be presenting include NASA Centennial Challenge Program, FAA, New Mexico Spaceport Authority, Team Phoenicia, Friends of Amateur Rocketry, and some of the SF Bay Area teams. The draft rules for the Challenge are planned to be presented and feedback is expected. The scope of this seminar is to promote the challenge in the the SF Bay Area, explore how the different organizations, including Team Phoenicia, can help teams, and will be a working session. While the seminar is open to the public, registration is advised.

Saturday, 11/6/2010
1:00 PM to 8:00 PM
TechShop Menlo Park

More information

NASA's "Kids in Micro-g" challenge is accepting proposals from students in fifth through eighth grades to design a classroom experiment that also can be performed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Proposals are due by Dec. 8.

The experiments should examine the effect of weightlessness on various subjects: liquids, solids, the law of physics and humans. The experiments are expected to have observably different results in microgravity than in the classroom. The apparatus for the experiments must be constructed using materials from a special tool kit aboard the station. The kit contains items commonly found in classrooms for science experiments. The experiments must take 30 minutes or less to set up, run and take down.

The Real World Design Challenge is an annual competition that provides students in grades 9-12 the opportunity to work on real-world engineering challenges in a team environment. Student teams are asked to address a challenge that confronts our nation's leading industries. Students use professional engineering software to develop solutions and generate presentations that convincingly demonstrate the value of their solutions. The RWDC provides students with opportunities to apply the lessons of the classroom to the technical problems that are being faced in the workplace. The deadline for team registration is Nov. 19, 2010. Solutions must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2011. For more information about the challenge, visit Questions about the Real World Design Challenge should be directed to

A closed-loop recycling system is an important component to exploring space. Join host Kathy Kaiser-Holscott from the Central Operation of Resources for Educators and presenter Jay Garland from NASA's Kennedy Space Center for an hour-long, free webcast on Nov. 10, 2010, at 4 p.m. EST. This webcast will focus on the Waste Limitation Management and Recycling Design Challenge for students in grades 5-8. Learn how to help NASA prepare for future exploration by designing a simulated system to reuse water in space. For more information and to view the webcast, visit If you have any questions about the webcast, please mail them to Renee Elias at

NASA will hold a media teleconference at 10:30 a.m. PST on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010 to discuss the Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses, O/OREOS and Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT -- scheduled to launch Nov. 19, 2010 on a Minotaur IV launch vehicle from the Alaska Aerospace Corporations Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

The goal of the O/OREOS mission is to demonstrate the capability to conduct low-cost astrobiology science experiments on autonomous nanosatellites in space. Scientists will apply the knowledge they gain from O/OREOS to plan future experiments in the space environment to study how exposure to space changes organic molecules and biology. These experiments will help answer astrobiologys fundamental questions about the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the universe.

A LEGO space shuttle headed to orbit helps mark the Tuesday signing of a Space Act Agreement between NASA and The LEGO Group to spark children's interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

To commemorate the beginning of this partnership, the small LEGO shuttle will launch with the crew of the space shuttle Discovery on its STS-133 mission, targeted to launch Wednesday, Nov. 3, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The partnership marks the beginning of a three-year agreement that will use the inspiration of NASA's space exploration missions and the appeal of the popular LEGO bricks to spur children's interest in STEM. The theme of the partnership is "Building and Exploring Our Future."

The LEGO Group will release four NASA-inspired products in their LEGO CITY line next year. The space-themed products will vary in terms of complexity, engaging audiences from young children to adult LEGO fans. Each product release will contain NASA-inspired education materials.