NASA Hack Space: September 2011

Fifth Annual Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation Challenge

"Today, Nancy Conrad, founder and chairman of the Conrad Foundation, officially launched the 2011-2012 Spirit of Innovation Challenge to encourage students to create technologies and products that solve global issues. For the past four years, the Innovation competition has helped transform the way science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is being embraced by high school students."

Lockheed Martin renews support for the Spirit of Innovation Challenge

"Lockheed Martin believes the competitive success of our nation depends on an innovative and technically adept workforce that understands the value of collaborating to solve 21st century challenges," said Dr. Ray O. Johnson, Lockheed Martin senior vice president and chief technology officer"

NASA Scientist Unveils New Chemical Detection Technology

"This new technology can enhance both personal and public safety by utilizing a common device, such as a cell phone, to detect hazardous chemicals," said Stephen Dennis, technical director of S&T's Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency. "Our goal is to create a lightweight, cost-effective, power-efficient resource for widespread public use."

Proton-based transistor could let machines communicate with living things, University of Washington

"Human devices, from light bulbs to iPods, send information using electrons. Human bodies and all other living things, on the other hand, send signals and perform work using ions or protons. Materials scientists at the University of Washington have built a novel transistor that uses protons, creating a key piece for devices that can communicate directly with living things. The study is published online this week in the interdisciplinary journal Nature Communications."

Think about this: imagine having this human/machine technology as a sensor system for crew health - this could be a quantum leap beyond the stick-on electrodes that have been used for half a century. It would certainly make it easier for Tricorders and sickbay to check up on the crew. It could also allow a more seamless interface between humans and remotely operated robotic arms, rovers, and other mechanical systems. Add in Wifi and ...

Think about this: imagine having this gene chip technology aboard on long duration spaceflight as a diagnostic tool for crew health, for characterizing environmental microbial contamination, and to assay crop health within life support systems. Add a WiFi, WiMAX, or Bluetooth link and Tricorders could get quick updates.

White House Boosts Translational Medicine, Drug Chip Project, Science Insider

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins's controversial plan to launch a new center for translational biomedical research got a boost today in a White House announcement on science initiatives. NIH also rolled out an early project for the planned center, promising up to $140 million over 5 years to develop a chip for predicting drug toxicity

PSU in Space: Experiments underway on the International Space Station

"The goal of this series of experiments is to test how fluid in specially shaped conduits behaves in zero gravity. The scientists on Earth - at PSU and at the University of Bremen - are manipulating the fluid movement to see at what point bubbles form. Formation of bubbles decreases fuel efficiency, and is particular to zero-gravity situations. Fuel tanks on spacecraft are designed in a way that minimizes this occurrence, but these experiments may shed light on how tanks might be designed smaller - a logistical advantage in sending any kind of craft into space, according to Bob Green, one of the NASA scientists working temporarily at PSU."

Nigeria's New Satellite Demonstrates Stunning High Resolution Capability

"The first high resolution satellite imagery is today released from NigeriaSat-2, as engineers from the Nigerian space agency (NASRDA) and the satellite's manufacturer Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) continue in the successful commissioning of the new satellite from NASRDA's headquarters in Abuja. Testing of all the systems on-board the satellite has been successfully completed, and calibration of the imaging payloads is ongoing with outstanding results already being produced."

Radar Calibration CubeSat developed by undergraduate and graduate students of the Small-Satellite Program at the University of Hawaii.

Exploring Space with Chip-sized Satellites, IEEE SPectrum

"Gravity may be woven into the very fabric of space-time, but some objects seem nearly immune to its pull. Scale something down to the size of a dust particle and you'll find it can stay aloft almost indefinitely, dancing in midair on thermal currents. With matter that size, the force of air striking the surface of the particle outmatches gravity's effect on its tiny mass. This behavior is more than just a curiosity: It could have profound implications for space exploration. Spacecraft have been getting bigger and bigger for decades, ballooning in size to carry ever more impressive equipment, from the Herschel Space Observatory's 3.5-meter telescope to the Cassini probe's 11-meter magnetometer boom. But if we can reverse that trend and instead build the tiniest spacecraft possible, we can create entirely new ways to study the solar system and beyond."

Real participatory exploration: NASA's bed rest analog study (Interview with @Pillownaut),

"Heather Archuletta, also known as Pillownaut, is just a "regular joe" (in her own words) who realized that everyone could contribute to NASA's exploration mission in a substantive way and decided to go for it and join the bed rest study. She continues to tell the story of her experience and increase the awesome all over the country, getting people excited about space and exploration."

Intern with the NASA Open Government Initiative,

"Are you a college student looking to make a difference in your world...and beyond? Do you love the idea of using technology make government more collaborative, participatory, and transparent? Does your childhood dream of someday working for NASA still live on? If you've answered yes to the above questions, and you'll be spending your 2012 spring semester in either Washington, DC, or Houston, TX, then read on! The NASA Open Government Initiative is looking for innovative minds to join our team for one-semester internships at NASA Headquarters and NASA Johnson Space Center."

International Astronautical Congress Virtual Forums

"Here is a really great opportunity to attend 5 sessions of the International Astronautical Congress without having to travel to Cape Town! From October 3-7th, the Young Professionals Programme Committee is co-hosting 5 Virtual Forums with sponsorship from INSYEN, and ATDL, Inc. The session dates and times are as follows. To register just go to the registration link located under the forum you are interested in."

New Citizen Science Project: Pavilion Lake Research Project

"Interested in helping scientists pinpoint where to look for signs of life on Mars? Now you can, with an exciting new citizen science website called MAPPER ( that was launched in conjunction with the Pavilion Lake Research Project's 2011 field season. The Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP,, which is supported by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, has been investigating the underwater environment of Pavilion and Kelly Lake in British Columbia, Canada with DeepWorker submersible vehicles (Nuytco Ltd, since 2008. Now with MAPPER, you can work side-by-side with NASA scientists to explore the bottom of these lakes from the perspective of a DeepWorker pilot."

Drexel University's experiment, Characterizing the Performance of the CubeSat Deployable Boom in Microgravity has been selected to participate in NASA's 2011 Grant Us Space Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. This flight will take place in Houston. The flight week the team participated in was July 7-16, 2011.

SPACE brings Project 'Paridhi' on Equinox Day

"Starting on 23rd September on the Autumnal Equinox Day, Project 'Paridhi' initially will span across all the Asian countries in this Equinox. There will be a participation from India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Russia. The observation base will be extended to the whole globe by Winter Solstice in December 2011. This project is a showcase for proving that science can be best learnt by doing. On this day, SPACE has invited school students to witness the Autumn Equinox as it is one of the best occasions for all of us to celebrate this wonderful phenomenon using the ancient instruments at Jantar Mantar."

According to the iTunes store: Intelsat is the leading provider of fixed satellite services worldwide. Intelsat supplies video, data and voice connectivity for leading media and communications companies, Internet Service Providers and government organizations. Intelsat's terrestrial network of eight teleports and 28,000 miles of fiber complements a satellite fleet of over 50 satellites.

The Intelsat app provides:
- Satellite coverage maps for the entire Intelsat fleet, searchable by region, orbital location, or alphabetically.
- EIRP contours within graphical maps
- Key satellite parameters
- Email and wireless print capabilities
- Add satellites to your Favorites
- Worldwide Sales, Teleport and Operations Center contact information

Download the free app at the iTunes store

Rocketry Winners Come to Washington, John Easum via OSTP

"Last week Michael Gerritsen, Colt McNally, Landon Fisher, and I visited Washington, DC as ambassadors for the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC).  We spoke on Capitol Hill on September 14th and met with leaders in the Obama Administration, including his science and technology advisor Dr. John Holdren, Administrator of NASA Charlie Bolden, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Our team of four competed in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, which is a nation-wide contest where students in 7th through 12th grades design, build, and fly a rocket to reach specific parameters while competing for over $60,000 in scholarships and prizes."

The Sounds Of NASA Available For Download

"Historic and interesting sounds and sound bites from NASA space missions are available for download as ringtones or on your computer for events, errors, alarms and notifications. The public now can hear the roar of a space shuttle launch or Neil Armstrong's, "One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind," every time they get a phone call. A new NASA web page now has a collection of more than 35 different sounds, each approximately 20 seconds."

Live Video Chat: Active Response Gravity Offload System, or ARGOS

"NASA Explorer Schools invites students in grades 9-12 from across the U.S. and Departments of Defense and State schools to participate in a special live video web chat with Larry Dungan, project manager and electrical engineer designer for the Active Response Gravity Offload System. Dungan will answer student questions about ARGOS, a computer-controlled overhead crane system that allows a human test subject to move in a simulated reduced-gravity environment, such as the moon, Mars or space."

Engineering Design Challenge: Thermal Protection System Web Seminar

"As part of a series of electronic professional development experiences for educators, the NASA Explorer Schools project and the National Science Teachers Association are hosting a 90-minute live professional development Web seminar for educators on Sept. 28, 2011, at 6:30 p.m. EDT. Learn about the science of heat transfer and heat dissipation related to NASA vehicles, and receive an introduction to the associated engineering design challenge, Thermal Protection System. Students are challenged to design a thermal protection system and test it using a propane torch."

The International Space University provides graduate-level training to the future leaders of the emerging global space community. This year the summer program took place in Graz, Austria and this video shows a summary of the activities that took place.

Think about this: If you visit the Galaxy JPN YouTube channel sponsored by Samsung Mobile Japan's Space Balloon Project you'll see a large number of videos shot aboard a high altitude balloon. A small astronaut action figure is holding up a smartphone and people's text messages and images appear on the phone's screen while the Earth's surface passes far below. The organizers claim that more than 380,000 people saw this live stream from space.

NASA 2012 Lunabotics Competition Open For Registration

"NASA is accepting applications from teams of U.S. and international undergraduate and graduate students for the third annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The event will be at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida May 21-26, 2012. Participants in the competition will design and build a remote controlled or autonomous robot, which could be used for future exploration on the moon. During the competition, the teams' designs, known as lunabots, will go head-to-head to determine which one can excavate and deposit the most simulated lunar dirt within 10 minutes."

NASA, VASC to Help Local Boy Scouts Earn New Robotics Merit Badges

"NASA and the BSA developed the badge because of the wide-reaching impact of robotics and its role in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM careers. The badge is now part of the BSA's new curriculum emphasizing STEM activities and will help young men develop critical skills relevant and needed in today's competitive world. The new merit badge is one of 31 STEM-related merit badges. Scouts will have access to engineering software and work with professional mentors worldwide to earn the badge."

Student Plant Experiment Takes Root on International Space Station and In Classrooms, NSBRI

"A unique science project designed to sow the excitement of scientific discovery in students is sprouting this week aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The Plants in Space project will allow students and teachers to examine root growth in microgravity and compare the results with those from plants used in their own ground-based experiments. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) is funding the project, which began Tuesday when ISS astronauts planted Brassica rapa (Wisconsin Fast Plants(R)) seeds during the first of four scheduled five-day trials. A free, downloadable teacher's guide provides information about the project and the equipment needed by educators and students to design and conduct experiments in their classrooms."

Planet Hunters: The First Two Planet Candidates Identified by the Public using the Kepler Public Archive Data

"Planet Hunters is a new citizen science project, designed to engage the public in an exoplanet search using NASA Kepler public release data. In the first month after launch, users identified two new planet candidates which survived our checks for false- positives. The follow-up effort included analysis of Keck HIRES spectra of the host stars, analysis of pixel centroid offsets in the Kepler data and adaptive optics imaging at Keck using NIRC2."

From the Comfort of Home, Web Users May Have Found New Planets, Yale University

"These three candidates might have gone undetected without Planet Hunters and its citizen scientists," said Meg Schwamb, a Yale researcher and Planet Hunters co-founder. "Obviously Planet Hunters doesn't replace the analysis being done by the Kepler team. But it has proven itself to be a valuable tool in the search for other worlds."

Think about this: One would think that with this announcement - one that comes on the heels of the Tatooine discovery last week - that the Kepler team would be working overtime on a way to throw more of its data out - sooner - such that they can harness the crowd-sourced power of interested citizens motivated to make a contribution to the discovery of worlds circling other stars. Not only does this help in times of limited budgets, it allows the citizenry a chance to truly participate in their space agency's exploration of the universe - and therein transform that formerly distant, lofty activity into a personal one. When things get personal, people tend to want to stand up and fight for those things.

NASA and the Cleantech Open Partner in Robotics Challenge

"NASA has selected The Cleantech Open of Redwood, Calif., to manage the agency's Night Rover Challenge that will culminate in a competition in fall 2012. The event is a new Centennial Challenges prize competition seeking revolutionary energy storage technologies for future space robotic rover missions. NASA is offering a prize purse of $1.5 million to challenge winners. The Night Rover Challenge is to demonstrate solar energy collection and storage systems suitable for rovers to operate through several cycles of daylight and darkness."

Building the Tools for Astrobiology's Future, NAI

"The NASA Astrobiology program has selected eight new projects for funding under the Astrobiology Science and Technology for Instrument Development Program (ASTID). The ASTID program is an essential component in furthering NASA's astrobiology goals, and provides funding for new instruments that can be used in space missions as well as Earth-based research projects. ASTID projects turn novel concepts into laboratory instruments that will open new areas of study and the development of astrobiology mission concepts and payloads for future missions."

Iowa State chemists help astronauts make sure their drinking water is clean

"Lipert said the testing technology can also be a useful tool in many earthbound applications, including forensics tests for drugs, environmental tests for heavy metals and water quality tests for pesticides or herbicides. "This is a very flexible platform," he said. "You just have to work out the chemistry for each substance you're analyzing."

Think about this: There are a myriad of applications on Earth for technologies such as this. Clean, safe, drinking water is an issue for over a billion people. Imagine a cheap version of this technology applied to water quality issues in developing and third world nations.

Liquid Robotics Announces Pacific Crossing (PacX) Grand Challenge to Worldwide Science Community

"Liquid Robotics invites scientists to embark on a grand challenge journey with us as we cross the Pacific on a voyage of scientific discovery," said Ed Lu, chief of innovative applications at Liquid Robotics. "These Wave Gliders are much like small 'spacecraft' that open up new opportunities for robotic exploration. I challenge all scientists who are interested in advancing ocean exploration to take advantage of this unique opportunity. What scientific questions can we address with this new and unique data set?"

Think about this: There are proposed missions wherein spacecraft would be sent to Titan and place a vehicle on hydrocarbon lakes which they would then explore in a fashion similar to Wave Glider. Other concepts would send cryobots to tunnel through the icy crust of Europa, Enceladus, and other worlds and then explore the oceans that may exist beneath the surface. It is not at all surprising that former astronaut Ed Lu has joined Liquid Robotics to work on this project. NASA knows a lot about rovers and landers - but not a lot about sailing or diving vessels. Imagine what NASA could learn about operating vehicles that swim on alien worlds if they were to participate in this project.

Disney, Fox and James Cameron to Bring AVATAR to Life at Disney Parks

"AVATAR created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we'll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before. With two new AVATAR films currently in development, we'll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore," said James Cameron. "I'm chomping at the bit to start work with Disney's legendary Imagineers to bring our AVATAR universe to life. Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear, and touch the world of AVATAR with an unprecedented sense of reality."

Think about this: NASA and Disney have had multiple collaborations in the past. One of the most recent was with the film "Wall-e". James Cameron is a former NASA Advisory Council member and made an astrobiology-themed theatrial release in 2005 "Aliens of the Deep" (with Disney) which featured young NASA astrobiologists diving in submersibles. In the 1980s EPCOT and NASA KSC worked together on a variety of closed life support system concepts. Perhaps NASA could become a partner in this Avatar theme park effort effort and provide astrobiology advisors to this new venture so as to allow visitors to understand what it would take to find Pandora (a habitable moon circling a gas giant planet that circles another star), travel to it, and then explore the alien ecosystem that thrives on such a world. By coincidence the DARPA 100 Year Starship Conference is being held in Orlando in 2 weeks. Alas, NASA PAO is downplaying NASA's participation in this conference.

NASA and Cafe Hosting Green Flight Challenge

"NASA's Centennial Challenges Program is providing $1.65 million in prize money to the winners of the competition. The purse is the largest aviation prize ever offered and attracted 13 teams, led by American innovators. Five of those teams successfully completed their aircraft and flight qualification requirements and will compete for the prize purse. The teams will fly their electric, biofueled and hybrid powered aircraft, to prove they have the most fuel efficient, small aircraft in the world."

QinetiQ North America and NASA Advance Space Travel with First Forward Osmosis Experiments in Microgravity

"QinetiQ North America announced today the results of another successful experiment completed on board the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) in July 2011. The experiment, the first of its kind in microgravity, tested the novel application in space of a technology modeled on a biological process used by cells on Earth to recover water from their environment. Already engineered for use in applications ranging from desalination plants to treating non-potable water for backpackers, forward osmosis is the natural diffusion of water through a semi-permeable membrane."

NASA Announces International Space Apps Competition

"NASA is announcing the International Space Apps Competition to support the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which President Barack Obama announced Tuesday. The challenge will culminate with a two-day event next year that will provide an opportunity for government to use the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of citizen explorers to help address global challenges. During the event, NASA representatives and officials from international space agencies will gather with scientists and citizens to use publicly-released scientific data to create solutions for issues, such as weather impact on the global economy and depletion of ocean resources."

Gamers solve molecular puzzle that baffled scientists, MSNBC

"Video-game players have solved a molecular puzzle that stumped scientists for years, and those scientists say the accomplishment could point the way to crowdsourced cures for AIDS and other diseases. The feat, which was accomplished using a collaborative online game called Foldit, is also one giant leap for citizen science — a burgeoning field that enlists Internet users to look for alien planets, decipher ancient texts and do other scientific tasks that sheer computer power can't accomplish as easily."

Crystal structure of a monomeric retroviral protease solved by protein folding game players, Nature Sturctural & Molecular Biology


Think about this: Several Space Shuttle Middeck experiments used gene chips to see which genes were turned on and off during exposure to microgravity. These experiments are rather straightforward to do and can be done on the ISS. Why not take this data and put it online in a fashion similar Foldit and allow crowdsourced assistance to look into what these gene changes mean and how tissues and organisms respond? FYI DARPA, NSF, and Microsoft supported this Foldit research project.

New 3D app lets you imagine living inside an orbital space habitat, io9

"What would it be like to live inside an orbital space colony? A new online app lets you glimpse the possibilities. Created by author Joan Slonczewski to tie in with her new novel The Highest Frontier, Frontera 3D takes you inside a rotating cylindrical colony, similar to the O'Neill cylinders envisioned in the 1970s by NASA artist Don Davis."

Frontera 3D -- Tour the Space Habitat of The Highest Frontier, Kenyon College

Think about this:NASA's original space colony studies were (creatively) funded in the 1970s. Forty years later, what can advances in technology in the intervening four decades - and changes in collective strategic and cultural thinking - bring to this idea that just won't go away - one that could lead to humans becoming a species capable of existence independent of living on a planetary surface. You now, spacefaring, and all that. Thoughts?

Space Colonies - A CoEvolution Book, September 1977

"The book is organized into three sections - Vision, Debate, and Space. The Vision is Gerard O'Neill's domain - progressing from broad propaganda to technical details to anecdotes. The Debate section is probably the most unique to this book since no one else has published the highly intelligent attacks that have been stung into life by the Space Colony idea. And the third section - Space - is natural history, accounts from people such as astronaut Schweickart and space scien tist Sagan and politician Brown. Finishing, if you please, on a note of reality. By the way, "co-evolution" is a term of recent coinage, co-conceived by biologists Paul Ehrlich and Peter Raven to explain something terribly obvious but not before formally recognized about living organisms. They spend most of their adaptive effort getting along with other life which is likewise busily competing, cooperating, and avoiding at them. Life co-evolves with life. That includes us. So as you study your work, your yard, your watershed, your bio-community and human community, your weather, your access to tools, your night sky, and your prospects in Space, be aware that they are studying you."

Undersea Cable Could Revolutionize Oceanography - Experts say Ocean observatory will be transformative, VOA

"This past April, there was a big volcanic eruption in America’s Pacific Northwest. If you missed it, you're not alone. It happened under the ocean off the northern Oregon coast. Since then, several research ships have sent unmanned submersibles down into the undersea crater to videotape lava flows and spewing vents. In a few years, you should be able to watch such events live on the Internet 24/7. Thanks to a new underwater fiber optic cable, a new worldwide ocean observatory now under construction that could revolutionize our understanding of the deep sea environment."

Think about this: Imagine a similar network on the Moon or Mars - or a world with subsurface oceans such as Enceladus, Europa, or maybe Ceres - a network that uses in situ resources (Silicon, etc.) to manufacture the fiber optic cable. Imagine if NASA took data coming in from all of its missions, skipped the bad habit of compartmentalization, and put it all online - in one place - for all to see - and use.

Hunt for Apollo’s lost dog Snoopy, Skymania

"Astronomers are teaming up with schools to use robotic telescopes over the internet to scan the night sky and find the spacecraft. The telescopes, part of the Faulkes Telescope Project run by Glamorgan University, are in Hawaii and Australia meaning schools can look with them during normal lesson times in the UK."

The Challenge Is On: Robot Prize Competition Registration Opens

"NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Mass., are seeking teams to compete in a robot technology demonstration competition with a potential $1.5 million prize. During the Sample Return Robot Challenge, teams will compete to demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies. Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth."

NASA Centennial Challenges 2012 Sample Return Robot Challenge, NASA IPP

Students Build Planet-hunting Miniature Satellite

"Most college finals end up in a stack on a professor's desk. For one group of MIT students, however, their three-semester long project has a slightly different destination - outer space. The final in this case is an exoplanet-finding "CubeSat" - a small, rectangular satellite that's about as long as a skateboard and as heavy as a bowling ball. Over the course of three semesters, MIT students have developed parts of the mission from initial concepts to functioning hardware, aiming for launch in 2012."

My references are various, from Chris Ware for his extraordinary layout and (sometimes abstract) images, Hans Richter, Len Lye, Stanley Kubrick or Godfrey Reggio (with his qatsi trilogy). I must also quote the speech of JFK ( watch?v=6z1DidldxUo )

During the season of gift-giving, many youngsters may have had toy rocket ships on their wish-lists. In this eye-to-eye interview, we learn how one boy didnt send a letter to the North Pole to get a rocket, rather to the NIH to fund a rocket. We talked to Terence Boylan, who with his friend Bruce Cook, asked for an NIH grant back in April of 1957. Since Terences father was a physician and medical researcher at the University of Buffalo, the nine-year-old thought NIH was the place to go for money. Dr. Ernest Allen received Terences letter, and helped reward the youngsters request with ten dollars.

NASA Announces Two Game-Changing Space Technology Projects

"NASA's Game Changing Technology Development program uses a rolling selection process to mature new, potentially transformative technologies from low to moderate technology readiness levels -- from the edge of reality to a test article ready for the rigors of the lab," said Space Technology Director Michael Gazarik at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These two new projects are just the beginning. Space Technology is making investments in critical technology areas that will enable NASA's future missions, while benefiting the American aerospace community."

"What's Next?" in space exploration - Coalition for Space Exploration announces video contest

"During this historic time of change within the space industry, the Coalition for Space Exploration (Coalition) wants to hear from the American public about what they envision for the future of space exploration. The Coalition is launching a contest based on a simple question, "What's Next?" Participants are encouraged to share their ideas for the future direction of America's space program in a video. The creator of the winning video entry wins an iPad2."

In the 21st Century, How Do You Show What You Know?, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

"... the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC and Mozilla today announced a $2 million Digital Media and Learning Competition for leading organizations, learning and assessment specialists, designers and technologists to create and test badges and badge systems. The competition will explore ways digital badges can be used to help people learn; demonstrate their skills and knowledge; unlock job, educational and civic opportunities; and open new pipelines to talent. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and high-level business, technology, civic engagement, philanthropic and other leaders participated in the announcement at the Hirshhorn Museum this morning."

Thirty Educators from California and Nevada Are Set to Defy Gravity in Los Angeles

"As Part of The Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights Of Discovery Program to Inspire and Prepare Kids for Careers in Math and Science Stops in Los Angeles, Calif., on Sept. 26 The Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery teacher training program provides educators with first-hand experience in the application of math, science and engineering principles aboard microgravity flights, during which they will conduct experiments that test Newton's Laws of Motion. Teachers will bring their experiences and in-flight video back to the classroom to incorporate into lesson plans to help motivate and prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers."

- Weightless Over Cleveland: Floating Teachers, earlier post
- Returning to Weightlessness, earlier post

Excalibur Almaz to showcase flown spacecraft to area students

"Excalibur Almaz USA (EA USA), a commercial aerospace company working to provide cargo and human transportation services, will showcase its space flown Reusable Return Vehicle (RRV) to area students on September 23 beginning at 8:30 a.m.T he RRV is one of the elements in EA USA's family of space systems that will serve as the transport vehicle to and from the EA Salyut-type space stations on orbit."

N-prize: the world's smallest space programme

"The N-Prize has been described as 'the world's smallest space programme'. Launched in 2008, the N-Prize sets the near-impossible challenge of launching and tracking a tiny orbital satellite on a shoestring budget. "It's NASA for nuts," says its founder Dr. Paul H. Dear from Cambridge University. The N-Prize is meant to do for spaceflight what Steve Wozniak did for home computers when he built the first Apple in his garage. Enthusiasts around the world are about to prove that spaceflight doesn't have to be rocket-science, and that you don't need a billion dollar budget to launch a satellite, if only a tiny one."

NASA Centennial Challenges 2012 Sample Return Robot Challenge, NASA IPP

"Autonomous robot rovers will seek out samples and return them to a designated point in a set time period. Samples will be randomly placed throughout the roving area. They may be placed close to obstacles, both movable and immovable. Robots will be required to navigate over unknown terrain, around obstacles, and in varied lighting conditions to identify, retrieve, and return these samples. Winners will be determined based on the number of samples returned to the designated collection point as well as the value assigned to the samples."

NASA To Announce Kepler Discovery At Media Briefing

"NASA will host a news briefing at 11 a.m. PDT, Thursday, Sept. 15, to announce a new discovery by the Kepler mission. The briefing will be held in the Syvertson auditorium, building N-201, at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. ... A representative from Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a division of Lucasfilm Ltd., will join a panel of scientists to discuss the discovery. "

Keith's note: Lucasfilm, eh? Hmm, wonder what they have found, do you? stay tuned.

Written Testimony by Nancy Conrad, Founder and Chairman, Conrad Foundation

"The Conrad Foundation's Spirit of Innovation Awards (SOIA) presents high school student participants with a very broad challenge: create an innovative product that can be used to address a real-world problem with a real-world solution which can ultimately be viable in the commercial marketplace. The competition is free of charge to students in the United States and is also open at no cost to international students. These students are given a blank slate within several major categories that can include clean energy, aerospace exploration, and health and nutrition. But they're not just asked to complete a science project: they are required to conduct research to determine their creation's potential market impact and develop a full business plan."

- House Hearing: STEM in Action: Inspiring the Science and Engineering Workforce of Tomorrow
- Live hearing 10 am -12 pm EDT

NASA Seeks Undergraduates To Fly Research In Microgravity

"NASA is offering undergraduate students the opportunity to test an experiment in microgravity as part of the agency's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. The program is accepting proposals for two different flight experiences in 2012. Teams interested in conducting student-driven research should submit a letter of intent by Sept. 14. This step is optional, but serves as an introductory notice that a team plans to submit a proposal for the competition. Proposals for student-driven experiments are due Oct. 26, and selected teams will be announced Dec. 7. The actual flight experience will take place in June 2012."

UK Smartphone CubeSat STRaND-1, AMSAT-UK

"STRaND-1 will carry an Android Smartphone and plans to use data rates of 9k6 or 19k2 bps for the AX.25 packet radio downlink. A software-based speech synthesiser will be included to pay homage to the UOSAT family of satellites. The 3U CubeSat measures 30 by 10 by 10 cm and weighs 4 kg. Unlike previous CubeSats it will feature full 3-axis control with the attitude an orbit control system comprising a nano-magnetorquer, nano-reaction wheels, GPS receiver, 8 pulse plasma thrusters and a butane thruster. STRaND stands for Surrey Training, Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration and the programme is intended to be a long-term arrangement between the space company SSTL and academic researchers at the Surrey Space Centre (SSC), with STRaND-1 the first of a long line of STRaND nanosatellites. The SSTL employees involved with the STRaND programme are volunteers. It is a condition of the programme that volunteers from SSTL and SSC use their own, free time for STRaND activities (such as lunches and breaks). The project has no budget for staff so is entirely dependant on volunteers."

See Smartphone Satellite,

Cubesats Tapped For Orbital Networks, Aviation Week

"If scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) get their way, in a few years there may be networked clusters of dozens or even hundreds of small, cheap, easily replaceable satellites working together in place of the large, expensive and difficult-to-replace birds now in orbit."

Amateur Astronomers Contribute Observations of the Brightest Supernova in 20 Years

"Skywatchers in the northern hemisphere are being treated to a rare, bright supernova in a nearby galaxy, and observers worldwide have the opportunity to contribute scientific data to our study of this object. This supernova, named SN 2011fe, exploded in the nearby spiral galaxy Messier 101 some time on August 24, 2011, and quickly became bright enough for backyard astronomers to observe with modest-sized telescopes. The supernova belongs to the class of objects called "Type Ia supernovae" that are caused by the explosion of a white dwarf in a binary star system."

Moon Express Hires NASA-mentored FIRST Robotics Champions to Develop Lunar Robots

"Moon Express, a Google Lunar X PRIZE contender, announced today that it has established the "Moon Express Robotics Lab for Innovation" (MERLIN) and has hired a team of the nations' brightest engineering students who became international superstars through the FIRST Robotics Competition. MERLIN will develop robotic technology supporting the company's lunar exploration missions under the leadership of Marco Chacin, a graduate of the International Space University who holds a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and developed robotic solutions for the JAXA/ISAS "Hayabusa" asteroid sample return missions."

Ready To Go - Pumpkin NanoLabs, Nanoracks

"We have been working around the clock to not only create proposals for NASA's SBIR 2011, but to answer questions and work with other companies that are submitting proposals based on NanoRacks' facilities and standards. It's been a strange experience. Multiple times over the past couple of weeks, Mike Johnson and his team have found themselves helping companies understand our system and our weak points. Why are we helping other companies? The hope is that we are on the cusp of having an "ecosystem" of multiple products designed to leverage services for customers using our facilities."

"Prospero was the first UK satellite to be launched on a UK launch vehicle; it would also be the last. Ministers had cancelled the rocket project in the run up to the flight. However, as the Black Arrow was ready, the programme team decided to go-ahead anyway. Prospero was blasted into orbit from the remote Woomera base in the Australian desert. It turns out, the satellite is still up there. Carrying a series of experiments to investigate the effects of the space environment, the satellite operated successfully until 1973 and was contacted annually until 1996. Now, a team led by PhD student Roger Duthie from University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey is hoping to re-establish communications in time for the satellite's 40th anniversary. "First, we have to re-engineer the ground segment from knowledge lost, then test the communications to see if it's still alive," Duthie told the Space Boffins podcast." More at the BBC

According to Wikipedia "As of 2006, radio transmissions from Prospero could still be heard on 137.560 MHz,[4] although it had officially been deactivated in 1996, when the UK's Defence Research Establishment decommissioned their satellite tracking station at Lasham, Hampshire. It is in a low Earth orbit, and is not expected to decay for about 100 years."

T-Systems will award the prize for its Cloud Computing Challenge to the best GMES application or service idea that will make use of the IaaS cloud computing service model. IaaS involves the provision of processing power, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources to the user, who can then deploy and run operating systems, applications, and many other types of software. IaaS in particular can provide flexible and efficient resources for processing, storing, and distributing GMES services, as ESA scientists and others have shown in pilot projects. More

The pool of candidates for the NAI/APS 2011 competition was the largest we have ever experienced. Typically six to seven selections are made annually, however for 2011 twelve young investigators were selected for the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology.

Congratulations go to:

Note: At the end of the video you can see the immense printout of the famous "Earthrise" picture taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966 as retrieved by the LOIRP (Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project) being hung inside the Hover Test Facility where our friends at MoonExpress are testing their spacecraft.

"In this prequel to the Moon Express Lander Development webisodes, company co-founder & CEO Bob Richards narrates an overview of his Phoenix Mars Lander experience and the very different challenges of landing on the Moon. For the first time, Bob gives a public peak inside the project and the Hover Test Facility located a the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, California."

Clyde Space is working with the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh on a feasibility study into high resolution Earth observation from a 3U CubeSat. The system in this video has a performance estimated at less than 1m resolution from a 400km orbit. Source: ClydeSpace

This is the first test of a stored energy deployment system of a dragsail, or aerobrake, for CubeSats. The objective is to provide a reliable means of de-orbiting CubeSats and other small satellites at end of mission by increasing the effect of atmospheric drag on the spacecraft. The dragsail uses stored mechanical energy and therefore does not rely on power from the spacecraft to activate. Caution: includes laughter... Source: ClydeSpace

Researchers at Northwestern University have created a new kind of cloaking material that can render objects invisible in the terahertz range. Though this design can't translate into an invisibility cloak for the visible spectrum, it could have implications in diagnostics, security, and communication. The cloak, designed by Cheng Sun, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, uses microfabricated gradient-index materials to manipulate the reflection and refraction of light. More

Researchers from Louisiana Tech University will be floating high above the Gulf of Mexico this month to conduct zero-gravity testing of an experimental DNA analysis instrument developed at Tech that could benefit future NASA astronauts. Dr. Niel Crews, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Collin Tranter, a graduate student with the Institute for Micromanufacturing (IfM) say the instrument could be used to monitor the health of astronauts exposed to cosmic radiation beyond Earth's protective atmosphere. More

NASA is giving the public the power to journey through the solar system using a new interactive Web-based tool. The "Eyes on the Solar System" interface combines video game technology and NASA data to create an environment for users to ride along with agency spacecraft and explore the cosmos. Screen graphics and information such as planet locations and spacecraft maneuvers use actual space mission data. Point of view can be switched from faraway to close-up to right "on board" spacecraft. Location, motion and appearance are based on predicted and reconstructed mission data. Dozens of controls on a series of pop-up menus allow users to fully customize what they see, and video and audio tutorials explain how to use the tool's many options. Users may choose from 2-D or 3-D modes, with the latter simply requiring a pair of red-cyan glasses to see. "Eyes on the Solar System" and an introduction video are available at:

Launch into the new school year with a new Do-It-Yourself Podcast topic module: Rocket Science. NASA Launch Vehicle Systems Analyst (rocket scientist) Tristan Curry provides expert sound bites for students to build podcast episodes about the laws of physics that govern building and launching rockets. Education specialist Fred Kepner explains the stability of a rocket and how to achieve it.

Whether you're building a film canister rocket or a launch vehicle to travel beyond Earth, the science behind rockets is the same. The topic module includes 33 video clips with Curry, Kepner, historical footage of rockets and shuttle launches, and animations. Sixteen audio clips also are included in the module. Students may download these NASA multimedia materials and integrate them into their own recordings and narration to create a podcast.

Other DIY Podcast topic modules are:

-- Fitness.
-- Lab Safety.
-- Newton's Laws.
-- Robots.
-- Solar Arrays.
-- Spacesuits.
-- Sports Demo.

Students can build their own multimedia projects, while teachers meet national education standards. A companion blog offers tips and suggestions for incorporating the DIY Podcast into the classroom. To learn more and to start building podcasts, visit