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NASA Hack Space: March 2011


Keith's note: This photo was taken during the STS-133 mission. Shuttle and ISS crew members pose with a printout of one of the photos taken of the Discovery's ascent into space by the Robonaut-1 balloon flown by Quest for Stars in collaboration with the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Larger view.

- Video: Robonaut-1: Time Lapse View: Entire flight from Liftfoff to Touchdown
- Educational Balloon Provides Space Shuttle Launch Images and Video From Over 110,000 feet
- First Photos: Shuttle Discovery's Trail Into Space As Seen from Over 70,000 Feet in a Balloon


What: On April 1, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville will host a 40th anniversary celebration of the first use of the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the moon. The gala event honors the men and women who designed, tested, built and piloted the original lunar rovers -- many of whom are expected to take part in the celebration. Members of the news media are invited to attend.

"Work has stopped on an alternative version of the instrument, with a pair of zoom-lens cameras, which would have provided additional capabilities for improved three-dimensional video. The installed Mastcam on the Mars Science Laboratory mission's Curiosity rover uses two fixed-focal-length cameras: a telephoto for one eye and wider angle for the other. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built the Mastcam and was funded by NASA last year to see whether a zoom version could be developed in time for testing on Curiosity." More.

Engineering students from around the world will be flocking to Berchtesgaden amid the Bavarian Alps in July for ESA's navigation summer school. It's a picturesque choice, but also a practical one: the only place in the world where Galileo is already fully realised.

A new full-length episode of PBS Design Squad Nation is now available online. In this episode, engineers Judy and Adam invite Felipe -- an accomplished 15-year-old pilot from Miami, Fla. -- to compete in the 2010 Red Bull Flugtag competition. Together, they team up with NASA to design and build a human-powered flying machine. With their NASA-inspired glider design, Team One Giant Leap soars off a 30-foot high deck, impressing the judges with distance and style.

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLYzD4ukQ4s
Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w7zluiYt2Q

For more information and to find more Design Squad Nation videos and resources, visit http://pbskids.org/designsquad/.

"After eight weeks of exercises and classroom activities, 4000 children from more than 25 cities worldwide are about to conclude their 'Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut' challenge that promotes healthy nutrition and regular exercise. Acrobatic space somersaults and climbing martian mountains are some of the fun activities - inspired by astronaut training - performed by children and teachers from Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom and the USA. This has helped pupils aged 8-12 years to understand the importance of staying fit for astronauts and children alike, in space as on Earth." More.

Two satellites designed and constructed by students at the Cockrell School of Engineering successfully separated in space March 22, completing the most crucial goal of the mission since its Nov. 19 launch and making them the first student-developed mission in the world in which satellites orbit and communicate with each other in real-time.

GLOBE at Night encourages citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of the night sky. During 2 weeks of moonless evenings, children and adults match the appearance of a constellation (Leo in the northern hemisphere and Crux or Leo in the southern hemisphere) with 7 star charts of progressively fainter stars found at http://www.globeatnight.org. Participants then submit their choice of star chart online with their date, time and location to help create a light pollution map worldwide.

The GLOBE at Night 2011 campaign dates are March 22-April 4, 2011, (for the Northern Hemisphere) and March 24-April 6, 2011, (for the Southern Hemisphere). Over 60,000 measurements have been contributed from more than 100 countries over the last 5 years of two-week campaigns.

This year children and adults can submit their measurements in real-time if they have a smart phone or tablet. To do this, use the web application at http://www.globeatnight.org/webapp/. With smart phones and tablets, the location, date and time are put in automatically. And if you do not have a smart phone or tablet, there are user-friendly tools on the GLOBE at Night report page to find latitude and longitude.

Through GLOBE at Night, students, teachers, parents and community members are amassing a data set from which they can explore the nature of light pollution locally and across the globe. Make a difference and join the GLOBE at Night efforts in 2011. Activity packets, one-page flyers and postcards advertising the campaign are available at http://www.globeatnight.org.

Please email any questions about GLOBE at Night to Connie Walker at cwalker@noao.edu.

NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., has won two agency awards: the 2010 Government Invention of the Year Award and the 2010 Commercial Invention of the Year Award. Ames received the Government Invention Award for developing the Future ATM (Air Traffic Management) Concepts Evaluation Tool, or FACET, software that creates simulations for managing air traffic scenarios.

NASA senior officials led a high-voltage education forum Tuesday in New York City to mentor and encourage young people, especially girls, to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies and careers. New York middle school and high school students from the Women's Academy of Excellence; the Promise Academy; the New York City Housing Authority; and the General D. Chappie James Middle School of Science attended the event at the Stephen Weiss Studio in Greenwich Village.

NASA has selected four high school teams as finalists in the 2011 Balloonsat High Altitude Flight competition. The winning teams' experiments will be launched on a NASA helium weather balloon between May 18 and 20. Because balloon flights are weather-contingent, the exact flight day will be announced that week. The weather balloon will be sent into the stratosphere, a near-space environment at an altitude of approximately 100,000 feet. The selected high school teams and their experiments are:

During a Friday ceremony in Brooklyn, N.Y., NASA and Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade arts and crafts, announced the winners of "Space Craft," a contest that received more than 600 entries. Contestants entered an original handmade item or work of art inspired by NASA programs, such as the space shuttle, human spaceflight, aeronautics, science and exploration of the universe. Colleen and Eric Whiteley from Brooklyn received the Grand Prize for Best of Show for their detailed design of the Northstar Table. The table features a North Star design that, when pressed, opens a hidden drawer.

A GEOScan workshop in Annapolis, Md. next month will bring together representatives from the geosciences community to form plans for a potential global Earth-observation network in space, using hosted payloads on Iridium's next-generation satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) will host this event under sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF). This GEOScan program is a grass-roots initiative to host an integrated array of scientific sensor suites as small payloads (up to 4 kilograms), known as "SensorPODs," on Iridium NEXT.

The X PRIZE Foundation today announced the appointment of James Cameron to its Board of Trustees. Cameron joins a world-class Board of Trustees that includes a growing list of entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers such as Dean Kamen, inventor, CEO, DEKA; Dr. J. Craig Venter, CEO, Synthetic Genomics; Elon Musk, CEO, Tesla and CEO, SpaceX; Ray Kurzweil, futurist and author; Anousheh Ansari, first female private space explorer; Larry Page, CEO & co-founder, Google; and Arianna Huffington, President and Editor in Chief, Huffington Post Media Group. The Board actively participates by advising on where large incentive competitions (X PRIZEs and X CHALLENGEs) can drive radical breakthroughs to help address humanity's grand challenges.

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A few hours before a gigantic bubble of electrified gas and charged particles erupted from the Sun, NASA officially released the new Space Weather App making images and other data almost immediately available to users. "The timing was perfect," said Antti Pulkkinen, a scientist at the Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The multi-agency organization researches and develops models to help scientists better forecast space weather.

"Whether or not you remember the winter of 2011 as unusually cold or snowy, an adventurous team of experts will remember its intense heat, as they searched for microbial life between sand dunes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were searching for simple life forms that also may exist on other planets. The United States team consisted of teachers Mike Wing and Lucinda Land, NASA space scientists Chris McKay and Jon Rask, and education specialist Matthew Reyes. Together, they embarked on a high adventure desert expedition from Feb. 18 - Mar. 4 with UAE students and teachers as part of a NASA education program, called Spaceward Bound. Developed at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., Spaceward Bound's mission is to train the next generation of space explorers. Led by the U.S. team, local students and teachers from the Emirates were given real planetary research experience using remote, extreme environments in the UAE deserts as analogs for Mars and Saturn's moon, Titan." More

ESA: Four teams of university students will develop and perform experiments in hypergravity during ESA's second 'Spin Your Thesis!' campaign. The students will use the Large Diameter Centrifuge facility at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Experts from ESA's Education Office, ESA's Technical Directorate and the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA) finally selected four teams.

We are now accepting applications to the NAI-sponsored Astrobiology Research Focus Group Workshop: an intensive three-day training workshop for early career astrobiologists. The goal of this workshop is to build collaborative proposal writing & research skills in the next generation of astrobiology scientists. Through the course of the workshop, participants create an original proposal on a topic relevant to the current state of astrobiology research, which must be presented to a body of peers. Participants are encouraged to use the workshop as a forum for exploring creative and original research topics.

"Deciding to leave NASA has not been easy, and is something I've been struggling with for the past few months. About a month ago, I mentioned to one of my mentors that "it's a very difficult time to be an entrepreneur at NASA." She responded "is it ever a good time to be an entrepreneur at NASA?" Reflecting on this, I realized that most of my accomplishments at NASA were not at Headquarters, but out in the field where I could roll up my sleeves and work on projects and get stuff done. Whereas I thought I had the best of both worlds being a Headquarters employee stationed in Silicon Valley, I actually had the worst of both worlds... no influence when I can't be in all of those meetings at NASA HQ, with no mandate to manage projects at Ames. As budgets kept getting cut and continuing resolutions from Congress continued to make funding unavailable, I realized my mistake: I was an entrepreneur chained in the kryptonite of bureaucracy - with almost no start-up capital. So, today, I am announcing that I am leaving the place I dreamed of working as a kid to find a garage in Palo Alto to do what I love." More

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center ("GSFC") is looking to enter into a non-funded Space Act Agreement partnership for the development of a climate simulation system referred to hereafter as the "Climate@Home(TM) project." The Climate@Home(TM) project will build a virtual climate simulation supercomputer with contributions from citizens for both their idle computing cycles and local knowledge about climate change. The Climate@Home(TM) effort will be a major step towards developing a new quantitative system for prioritizing and designing a climate simulation system. It will spur a closer relationship between the climate science hypothesis (a climate model) and the design of the simulation system used to test that hypothesis. Additionally, it will allow for prior assessment of measurements against specific accuracy, coverage and biases we will be able to constrain within model parameterizations. The Climate@Home(TM) project will also contribute to the national and international effort to better understand climate change, prepare citizens for climate change, and support regional to global climate related policy and decision making. More

NASA will host a summit about open source software development on March 29-30 at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT on both days. NASA's first Open Source Summit will bring together engineers, policy makers and members of the open source community. Participants will discuss the challenges within the existing open source policy framework and propose modifications to facilitate NASA's development, release and use of software.

Poster presented at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by N. G. Moss, T. M. Harper, M. B. Motta, A. D. Epps

"While some candidate craters were observed that appeared in LROC data but not in Lunar Orbiter data, these were all very near the edge of discernable feature size and are almost certainly explained by various differences between the images (e.g. sun angle or viewing geometry). While our initial search did not find any discernable new cratering, we have shown that data from the original analog Lunar Orbiter tapes, as recovered by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery project, possesses the characteristics necessary to discern new craters at reasonably small sizes. If the entire Lunar Orbiter data set was recovered in this manner it may be possible for future researchers to apply automated methods to detect changes with much better chances of success." More

Poster presented at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by A. Epps, M. Sandler

"The goal of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is to digitize and archive the magnetic tape records generated by the five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft in the mid-1960s. The readout scanners utilized onboard the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft employed a phosphor-covered anode bombarded by an electron beam to focus a spot of light on 70mm film developed onboard the spacecraft. This light was modulated by the density of the image and read by a photomultiplier tube. Each individual pass of this scanning procedure across the 70mm film produced a thin strip of a larger image, referred to as a "framelet". The product of the spacecraft's readout system was a video waveform that was modulated and transmitted to three DSIF stations and recorded onto 2-inch magnetic tape via Ampex FR-900 data recorders. This document discusses the process by which these video signals were converted into digital images." More

"To enable Voyager 1's Low Energy Charged Particle instrument to gather these data, the spacecraft performed a maneuver on March 7 that it hadn't done for 21 years, except in a preparatory test last month. Voyager engineers performed a test roll and hold on Feb. 2 for two hours, 15 minutes. When data from Voyager 1 were received on Earth some 16 hours later, the mission team verified the test was successful and the spacecraft had no problem in reorienting itself and locking back onto its guide star, Alpha Centauri." More

"The Northrop Grumman Foundation announced today that the Foundation is accepting teacher applications for the 2011 Weightless Flights of Discovery program, a unique professional development initiative that places teachers on microgravity flights to test Newton's Laws of Motion and energize students during their formative middle school years. The announcement was made during the National Science Teachers Association's (NSTA) National Conference on Science Education, held in San Francisco this week." More

NASA Opportunity Notice to Participate in its Centennial Challenges Program as an Allied Organization

"Through this Opportunity Notice NASA seeks to select an Allied Organization for the Nano-Satellite Launcher prize competition to be conducted under the Centennial Challenges Program of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. NASA provides the monetary prize purse (which can be supplemented by outside organizations) but no funding for the conduct of the competition itself. Allied Organizations must administer the Challenges with their own funding or they must acquire the funding needed to administer the Challenges through agreements with sponsoring organizations or through other means. Sponsoring organizations are those entities that team with an Allied Organization to augment the prize purse, provide funding for administrative expenses and/or provide in-kind support through separate agreements with the Allied Organization."

NASA IPP Solicitation: Opportunity Notice for Potential Centennial Challenges Sponsors

"Through this Opportunity Notice (NOTICE), NASA seeks to identify potential Sponsoring Organizations who may be interested in partnering with Allied Organizations to support prize competitions conducted under Centennial Challenges program (http://www.nasa.gov/challenges ) of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C."

Image: Astronaut Scott Parazynski in May 2009 using a Jaz spectroradiometer from Ocean Optics at Everest Base Camp to measure solar irradiance [See "Using a Tricorder on Mount Everest"]

"A five-time astronaut, [Scott] Parazynski said he's especially eager to tackle projects in the fields of minimally invasive surgery and nanomedicine, with its potential to use targeted drugs to destroy tumors and plaques in arteries. Some inspiration, he admits, comes from Star Trek. "I'm hoping to leverage my background to create the next generation of minimally invasive surgery and diagnostic tools," Parazynski said. "As a physician growing up and watching Star Trek, we all wanted a medical tricorder. So one of the things I'd love to do is think big and push the envelope on what is possible." For those who don't grok Spock, a "tricorder "is a fictional device that can scan a person and immediately diagnose a disease or injury." More at Ultimate Clear Lake

Game development firm McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds recently announced the launch of the new NASA Space Terminology Deck, an add-on deck designed for use with the popular language game You've been Sentenced!

After McNeill Designs signed a Space Act Agreement with The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the firm produced the new deck in conjunction with NASA's Education Department. Together, the two chose words that reflected the rich history and future of NASA and space exploration. As an added learning tool, word definitions, individuals' bios, and term definitions can now be found on the NASA websites, so that children and parents can learn about space exploration and NASA together.

U.S. high school students are invited to participate in NASA's Interdisciplinary National Science Program Incorporating Research Experience, or INSPIRE, through an online learning community. INSPIRE is designed to encourage students in ninth through 12th grades to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Applications are being accepted through June 30. NASA will make selections for the program in September. The selected students and their parents will participate in an online learning community with opportunities to interact with peers, NASA engineers and scientists. The online community also provides appropriate grade level educational activities, discussion boards and chat rooms for participants to gain exposure to careers and opportunities available at NASA.

"Rise to the edge of space, freefall for 50,000 feet, fly through clouds, and land gently in bushes"

Educational Balloon Provides Space Shuttle Launch Images and Video From Over 110,000 feet

"A balloon with a student-oriented payload shot high resolution photos and video from an altitude of over 110,000 feet of Space Shuttle Discovery as it climbed into space.These images and video were released today as part of a mission report provided by Quest for Stars representative Bobby Russell at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) at the University of Central Florida."

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, mission is sponsoring a series of workshops for educators of students in grades 6-12. These workshops will focus on lunar science, exploration and how our understanding of the moon is evolving with the new data from current and recent lunar missions.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has allowed scientists to measure the coldest known place in the solar system, map the surface of the moon in unprecedented detail and accuracy, find evidence of recent lunar geologic activity, characterize the radiation environment around the moon and its potential effects on future lunar explorers and much, much more!

Dale Dougherty: "I'm excited to announce the launch of the first NASA Make Challenge: Experimental Science Kits for Space. Last year, I met with Lynn Harper and Daniel Rasky of the Space Portal at NASA Ames to talk about ideas for a DIY space issue of Make, which became Make Volume 24. In that same conversation, we talked about the role that makers could play in space exploration. I recall Lynn saying that we needed "not hundreds of experiments going into space but hundreds of thousands of experiments." There is so much we don't know; so much we could learn, she added, if we simply had more experiments testing what happens in microgravity. The Space Portal team recognized that makers were an untapped resource, ready and willing to take on that kind of challenge. Makers just needed an open door." More

NASA has announced the winners of the 2010 NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Award. The contest encouraged students to produce short, creative videos about their favorite technology from NASA's Spinoff 2009 Publication. NASA collaborated with Hasbro using the correlation between the popular TRANSFORMERS brand, featuring its leader OPTIMUS PRIME, and spinoffs from NASA technologies created for aeronautics and space missions used here on Earth. The goal was to help students understand how NASA technology 'transforms' into things used daily.

Keith's note: This is a much longer version of the previously released video - with music. If at all possible watch this at 720p resolution. As the payload slowly rotates you will see Discovery's vapor trail at the Earth's limb. The payload (with camera) swings to the west (where the sun is) and then swings back to the east, past Discovery's vapor trail, around to the west again and then continues to rotate to the east toward the fading vapor trail.

Educational Balloon Provides Space Shuttle Launch Images and Video From Over 110,000 feet

"Last week a balloon with a student-oriented payload shot high resolution photos and video from an altitude of over 110,000 feet of Space Shuttle Discovery as it climbed into space.These images and video were released today as part of a mission report provided by Quest for Stars representative Bobby Russell at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) at the University of Central Florida."

"The Game Changing Technology Division (GCT), within NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) is soliciting executive summaries, white papers, and proposals for research and development (R&D) for technology that is innovative and unique and promises to enable revolutionary (game-changing) improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of our country's space capability. Novel (unique) capabilities are sought in any of the NASA Space Technology Grand Challenges or the NASA draft Space Technology Roadmaps." More

"This NRA solicits multiple studies, each of which will investigate an architecture, mission, or system concept that has the potential to change the possible in aeronautics or space. NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is part of the Office of Chief Technologist (OCT). Concepts proposed for NIAC Phase I studies must be innovative and visionary, technically substantiated, and very early in development (10+ years out; Technology Readiness Level 1, 2, or early 3). Focused technology maturation and incremental improvement are explicitly not of interest in this program. Finally, while NIAC encourages great leaps and accepts the accompanying risk, all proposals must be technically credible, based on sound scientific principles." More

If you can, watch this video in HD (select the 720p option). As the payload slowly rotates you will see Discovery's vapor trail at the Earth's limb - twice. The payload (with camera) first swings to the west and then reverses and swings back to the east, past Discovery's vapor trial, around to the west again, and then continues to rotate to the east toward the vapor trail again.

Last week a balloon with a student-oriented payload shot high resolution photos and video from an altitude of over 110,000 feet of Space Shuttle Discovery as it climbed into space.These images and video were released today as part of a mission report provided by Quest for Stars representative Bobby Russell at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) at the University of Central Florida. More information on this conference can be found at http://nsrc.swri.org