Archives

NASA Hack Space: February 2011


At the commencement of the 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) being held in Orlando, Florida, XCOR Aerospace announced its initial team of suborbital payload integration specialists who will begin taking orders and facilitating experiment development and integration for commercial, educational and government suborbital research missions aboard XCOR's Lynx reusable suborbital launch vehicle. Capable of up to four flights per day, the Lynx is expected to provide three to four minutes of micro-gravity and/or exposure to the harsh environment of space and the opportunity to investigate largely unknown regions of our upper atmosphere critical to environmental studies.

Make sure watch in HD! More Robonaut-1 mission video and imagery will be released in conjunction with a presentation at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference being held in Orlando 28 Februrary to 2 March.

Co-sponsored by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, this mission is one in a series of flights conducted by Quest for Stars, a California-based non-profit educational organization that uses off-the-shelf hardware and a little ingenuity to allow students to place experiments at the edge of space at exceptionally low cost.

Quest for Stars and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education have now joined together to promote the use of these low cost delivery systems. This mission will be the first of what is hoped to be many future collaborations.

- First Photos: Shuttle Discovery's Trail Into Space As Seen from Over 70,000 Feet in a Balloon
- Robonaut-1 Balloon Mission Live Video and Mission Updates
- Challenger Center and Quest For Stars Chase Attempt to Photograph Discovery At The Edge of Space

Co-sponsored by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, this mission is one in a series of flights conducted by Quest for Stars, a California-based non-profit educational organization that uses off-the-shelf hardware and a little ingenuity to allow students to place experiments at the edge of space at exceptionally low cost. More information

This photo was taken from an an altitude of over 70,000 feet (still being determined exactly) at 5:20 pm EST on 24 February 2011. The camera used was the lowest resolution camera on board the Robonaut-1 balloon - a Motorola Droid X smartphone. You can see the plume left by Space Shuttle Discovery as it headed into space. We will be releasing more images of greater resolution and HD video very soon. Co-sponsored by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, this mission is one in a series of flights conducted by Quest for Stars, a California-based non-profit educational organization that uses off-the-shelf hardware and a little ingenuity to allow students to place experiments at the edge of space at exceptionally low cost.More information

Robonaut-1 Balloon Mission Live Video and Mission Updates

"If all goes according to plan a balloon with a student-oriented payload will photograph Space Shuttle Discovery as it climbs into space from an altitude of 100,000 feet. There will also be live streaming video from the balloon itself during the mission - sent back by two regular smartphones running Google's Android operating system. Co-sponsored by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, this mission is one in a series of flights conducted by Quest for Stars, a California-based non-profit educational organization that uses off-the-shelf hardware and a little ingenuity to allow students to place experiments at the edge of space at exceptionally low cost. Quest for Stars and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education have now joined together to promote the use of these low cost delivery systems. This mission will be the first of what is hoped to be many future collaborations." More information

Here on Earth, the process of boiling is used for tasks ranging from cooking and heating to power generation. In space exploration, boiling may also be used for power generation and other applications, but because boiling works differently in a zero-gravity environment, it is difficult to design hardware that will not overheat or cause other problems.

Fans of NASA will have an opportunity to watch the final liftoff of Space Shuttle Discovery in a unique "social viewing" environment available through Sony Computer Entertainment America's PlayStation(R)Home for PlayStation(R)3 computer entertainment system.

A live stream of the launch of the Discovery will be shown on the new NASA TV Channel of the Sunset Yacht, a premium personal space from LOOT, Sony DADC's interactive entertainment development team. The launch of Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled for February 24th at 4:50 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

A citizen science project running for over 100 years reached a key milestone this month when an amateur astronomer contributed the 20 millionth observation of a variable star on February 19, 2011. A variable star changes in brightness over time. Records of these changes can be used to uncover the astrophysical processes within evolving star systems. With a database going back over a century, variable star astronomers have access to a data source unparalleled in astronomy.

"Are smartphones so smart they can operate a spacecraft? NASA wants to find out. The space agency has for months been conducting tests to see if smartphones can survive by literally sending them to the edge of space. NASA last week conducted the most recent of these tests, sending an Android phone up nearly 100,000 feet on a balloon. Last August, it was a Google Nexus One phone on a rocket. "The cell phone industry has invested billions of dollars in these phones. They've packed a lot of capability into a really small volume," said Chris Boshuizen, a senior systems engineer at Logyx, a California-based technology firm. The power of today's smartphones rival those of many desktops and even exceed that of many satellites, said Boshuizen, which allows them to cheaply transmit photos and data. Phones running the Google Android OS have gigahertz processors, half a gigabyte of RAM, and accelerometers and magnetometers to measure gravity and direction." More at Fox News.

The Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) will be held February 28 - March 2, 2011, at The University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida. A new generation of space vehicles capable of economically delivering payloads and researchers is coming on line. These vehicles will revolutionize space access by providing frequent, low-cost access to space and the capability to carry research and education crew members. They will also carry experiments for technology demonstrations, for scientist in-the-loop research, and for educational/public outreach demonstrations. More info.

The NASA Minority Innovation Challenges Institute, also known as MICI, is offering free interactive video sessions which guide undergraduate and graduate students through the step-by-step process of applying for a NASA internship. Applications are due March 1, 2011. The video sessions also provide information about scholarships, fellowships, and other NASA opportunities. More info.

The First Undergraduate Planetary Science Research Conference will be held on Sunday, March 6, 2011 from 9:00 am to 5:00pm, in association with the 2011 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), The Woodlands, TX. Undergraduate students currently conducting research in planetary sciences, astrobiology and lunar sciences are eligible. More info.

NASA is inviting its Twitter followers to a daylong event revolving around the sun and Earth's relationship. NASA will randomly select 100 registrants to participate in the Sun-Earth Day Tweetup March 19 at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Registration opens at noon EST on Tuesday, Feb. 22, and closes at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24. More info.

Students and satellites go together like NASA and space. NASA's Launch Services Program is partnering with universities to launch small satellites called CubeSats as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, mission. Nicknamed CubeSats, because of their shape, they were built by college teams from Montana State University, the University of Colorado and Kentucky Space, a consortium of state universities.

Join NASA's Digital Learning Network for a webcast on Feb. 22, 2011, from 1-2 p.m. EST, to meet the teams as they describe their experiences and to learn more about the project and how you can get involved in launching satellites with NASA. For more information about this webcast, visit http://dln.nasa.gov/dlnapp/webcast/webcast.do. If you have any questions about this webcast, please contact Christopher Blair at Christopher.E.Blair@nasa.gov.

For the first time, NASA is offering teachers from across the country an opportunity usually reserved for researchers -- the chance to design a science experiment and then test it aboard a microgravity research plane. Proposals should be submitted to NASA's Teaching From Space office by March 14. For more information about the program, send an e-mail to: jsc-rgeducator@mail.nasa.gov.

Only days before the NASA Stardust spacecraft beamed home comet photos long awaited by astronomers, other researchers revealed the factors that motivated citizens to volunteer without pay to examine more than a million images of space dust captured by the spacecraft's predecessor.

The team of researchers headed by Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) Assistant Professor of Technology Management Oded Nov reported citizen astronomers were best motivated to spend unpaid hours looking for microscopic stardust particles by the project's objectives, the fun they experienced and the reaction they expected from their friends and family. Some of those motivations varied significantly from other crowd-sourced projects.

The iConference 2011, held February 8 - 11, 2011 in Seattle, chose "Dusting for Science: Motivation and Participation of Digital Citizen Science Volunteers" for its Best Paper Award. Co-authors are Nov, Ofer Arazy of the University of Alberta School of Business and David Anderson of Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). A few days after the conference closed, on February 14, the second Stardust spacecraft beamed home its comet images. Meanwhile, thousands of volunteers have been sifting for years through 1.6 million series of digital images in search of interstellar dust captured by the predecessor Stardust spacecraft. That daunting volunteer project, called Stardust@home and headed by UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory Associate Director Andrew Westphal, was studied by Nov and his colleagues.

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 8, 2011) - Officials with The Conrad Foundation today announced 27 high school teams will compete in the finals for the 2011 Spirit of Innovation Awards. The annual competition, presented by Lockheed Martin Corporation, challenges students to solve real-world problems by creating science and technology based products that can be introduced to the marketplace.

This year's competition challenges students to develop new ideas in the areas of aerospace exploration, clean energy and cyber security. The finalist teams in each category include:

"The new app accepts voice input for 15 languages, and--just like the web app--you can translate a word or phrase into one of more than 50 languages. For voice input, just press the microphone icon next to the text box and say what you want to translate. You can also listen to your translations spoken out loud in one of 23 different languages. This feature uses the same new speech synthesizer voices as the desktop version of Google Translate we introduced last month." More

NASA has selected 20 small satellites to fly as auxiliary cargo aboard rockets planned to launch in 2011 and 2012. The proposed CubeSats come from a high school in Virginia, universities across the country, NASA field centers and Department of Defense organizations. CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart and weigh 2.2 pounds or less.

NASA will host about 100 registered people to go "behind-the scenes" and learn about planetary discoveries announced last week by the Kepler mission and science flights conducted by NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft. The event will kick off at the NASA Ames Exploration Center at 10 a.m. PST Friday, Feb. 11, at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. The Tweetup will feature several speakers, including Kepler Deputy Science Team Lead Natalie Batalha, SOFIA Project Scientist Pamela Marcum and David Morrison, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe.

Scott Kelly, Paolo Nespoli, and Cady Coleman perform a variety of routine maintenance tasks inside the International Space Station.

More

Educators from around the world will converge in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 25-27, 2011 at the 23rd Annual T3(TM) International Conference to explore the latest innovations in mathematics and science education and technology used in teaching. The T3 - Teachers Teaching with Technology(TM) - International Conference hosted by Texas Instruments (TI), includes more than 500 sessions that cover mathematics, science and teaching methods using technology. Sessions also cover other subject areas educators say are critical to their success. More than 1,600 educators are expected to attend the conference, which is being held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

NASA has signed an agreement with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) of Worcester, Mass., to manage the Sample Return Robot Challenge, one of the agency's new Centennial Challenges prize competitions. The challenge will demonstrate how a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from varied terrain without human control. This challenge has a prize purse of $1.5 million. The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies.

"Add diagnosing soft-tissue injuries to online banking, e-mail, video games and thousands of other applications available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. The Food and Drug Administration ushered in the era of mobile diagnostic radiology Friday, approving software for viewing images and making medical diagnoses from MRIs and CT, PET and SPECT scans on several of Apple Inc.'s popular hand-held devices. The FDA reviewed image quality and checked studies with radiologists under variable lighting conditions and determined that the Apple devices running Mobile MIM software offered clear enough images for diagnostic interpretation." More at the Los Angleles Times

Image: MIM Software

"Garver toured the facilities of Sierra Nevada Corporation, a company with wide involvement in developing technologies for space exploration. The company's Dream Chaser vehicle is under development with support from NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Program to provide crew transportation to and from low Earth orbit." More

"NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver visited Las Vegas today to meet with Nevada entrepreneurs and discuss innovations in space exploration and technology development critical to America's future in space. Garver toured the facilities of Bigelow Aerospace, a company that has been developing expandable space habitats. NASA is evaluating Bigelow's concept for an expandable module for the International Space Station. If approved, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, could be launched to the station using a commercial cargo flight and robotically attached to the orbiting laboratory." More

Leland D. Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator for Education: "As an astronaut, I have a deep connection to the honor and legacy that the Challenger Center for Space Education represents. A theme is evident in both the Challenger Center's mission and the President's Day of Remembrance remarks: triumph from tragedy. These words exemplify the resilience, purpose, and optimism that led to the creation of the Challenger Centers. The Challenger Centers and NASA also have similar values in terms of education, and these goals align with my own personal commitment." More

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station this spring will conduct six experiments designed by middle school students from across the country. The winning proposals of the "Kids in Micro-g" Challenge are from California, Idaho, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington state. In its second year, the program offers students in fifth through eighth grades an opportunity to design experiments or simple demonstrations for testing both in the classroom and in the station's microgravity environment.

Teaching From Space, a NASA Education office, in partnership with the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program announces the opportunity for educators across the country to conduct research in a unique reduced-gravity environment. For the first time, this incredible opportunity is open to any current K-12 classroom teacher in the United States. Participants must also be U.S. citizens.

This experience will enable selected educator teams to propose, design and fabricate a reduced-gravity experiment and subsequently test and evaluate their experiment aboard a microgravity aircraft. This aircraft flies approximately 30 roller-coaster-like climbs and dips to produce periods of micro- and hyper-gravity, ranging from 0 g's to 2 g's.

Educator teams interested in testing an experiment in this unique environment need to submit a proposal no later than March 14, 2011. For more information, check out http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov/tfs or send an e-mail to jsc-rgeducator@nasa.gov.

In the constellation of Ophiuchus, above the disk of our Milky Way Galaxy, there lurks a stellar corpse spinning 30 times per second -- an exotic star known as a radio pulsar. This object was unknown until it was discovered last week by three high school students. These students are part of the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) project, run by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, WV, and West Virginia University (WVU). More

II. DESCRIPTION OF OPPORTUNITY

A. National and Agency-Wide Priorities

President Obama announced NASA's Strategic Plan that NASA leads scientific and technological advances in aeronautics and space for a Nation on the frontier of discovery. He makes clear that this vision must guide our mission to drive advances in science, technology, and exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality, and stewardship of the Earth.