NASA Hack Space: December 2012

"Due to an initially aggressive schedule that resulted from a delayed launch of the 2013 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts - Academic Linkage, or RASC-AL, Lunar Wheel Design Challenge, the new deadline to submit project plans has been extended to Sunday, Jan. 19, 2013, at midnight EST."

"Astronomers using Europe's Herschel Space Observatory are asking the public to help find holes in the dust clouds that are threaded through our galaxy. By looking at the images from Herschel, combined with those from NASA's Spitzer satellite, members of the public are invited to join the science effort by helping to distinguish between dense clumps of cold dust and holes in the dusty clouds that are threaded through our galaxy. Dust clouds don't come in simple shapes, and so the process of distinguishing between dark clouds and holes is incredibly difficult to do. Luckily, the ideal tool is at hand: the human eye. The problem proved more complex than the team had anticipated. "The problem is that clouds of interstellar dust don't come in handy easy-to-recognize shapes", Derek explained. "The images are too messy for computers to analyze, and there are too many for us to go through ourselves". This is where the Zooniverse comes in, with its community of citizen scientists poised ready to help out. The new images are part of the Milky Way Project, which launched 2 years ago and, through the efforts of over 40,000 volunteers, has already created astronomy's largest catalogue of star-forming bubbles, as well as a plethora of nearby star clusters, distant galaxies and more. The Milky Way Project volunteers are excellent at measuring and mapping our galaxy." More

"The FIRST Robotics Competition kickoff marks the beginning of the season for high school students from across the nation to design and build robots to compete in an annual tournament against a field of competitors. FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an international, mentor-based student program that builds science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills for high school students by combining the excitement of sports with the rigors of science and technology. Over 100 local students, teachers and volunteers are scheduled to attend Cleveland's kickoff at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Cuyahoga Community College Unified Technologies Center, located at 2415 Woodland Ave, in. Cleveland. NASA, the largest sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition, will broadcast the kickoff nationwide on NASA Television from Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester." More

"Science Bob and 30 other teachers launched 2,000 ping pong balls in zero gravity as part of Northrup Grumman Foundation's Weightless Flights of Discovery program. Also joining us was Kerry Sanders of the Today Show. Weightless flight is accomplished by flying in parabolas in reserved airspace aboard a modified 727 aircraft. Each weightless experience lasts about 30 seconds. Learn more about Science Bob at"

"The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is releasing this Undergraduate Student Instrument Project (USIP) Educational Flight Opportunity (EFO) to solicit U.S. university proposals to develop an Earth or space science payload that will fly on a NASA suborbital vehicle, such as a sounding rocket, balloon, aircraft, or commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle. SMD designed USIP to promote interest and proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and to develop careers in the STEM related fields through offering NASA's unique suborbital research platforms for student educational flight opportunities. This EFO is intended to provide multidiscipline undergraduate student teams an exciting hands-on project, while at the same time promoting the technical and project management skills necessary to train the country's future science and technology leaders." More

"One man's kitchen sink valve is another rocket man's missing component. A D.I.Y. spaceflight project can start with a good rummage at your local plumbing or hardware store. With everyday, off-the-shelf products, the guys behind Copenhagen Suborbitals found cheaper solutions to expensive, complex systems. "Instead of trying to invent our own valve for instance, why not buy one that's been produced maybe a million times," explained Kristian. He said they used a hair dryer in one of the first rocket tests in order to prevent one of the valves from freezing up. Copenhagen Suborbitals doesn't operate within limits but rather works around edges. Money and technology are hard to come by, sure, but limitations can often be a blessing in disguise. Instead of shelling out money they didn't have in order to rent an expensive centrifuge at a NASA research center, the Copenhagen guys went to their local amusement park, the legendary Tivoli Gardens, and turned up the levels on a mechanical ride in order to test a g-force threshold for the eventual launch of their spaceship." More at Popular Science

"The 2012 NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Video Contest registration deadline has been extended until Jan. 10, 2013. Students who wish to participate in the contest must register by Jan. 10 and upload their video submissions by Jan. 31, 2013. The NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Video Contest is held each year to show students that NASA technologies developed for applications in space can be modified for use in many products they use daily, improving the quality of their lives. The contest is based on Hasbro's popular TRANSFORMERS character OPTIMUS PRIME. Each video submission allows students the opportunity to describe their favorite story from the most current edition of NASA's annual Spinoff publication. This year's contest will feature stories from the 2011 edition of Spinoff." More

"Doubts still hang over the military utility of small satellites, holding back progress on low-cost, quick-reaction systems that could be launched at short notice to fill gaps in space coverage. To prove their viability, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has begun a program to demonstrate that small satellites produced and launched on demand can provide imagery on request directly to individual soldiers. Darpa's goal is to show that a constellation of 24 satellites, each weighing less than 100 lb., can be launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) at a fraction of the cost of acquiring additional unmanned aircraft to provide the same imagery. Raytheon has received the first contract under the Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements (SeeMe) program. The $1.5 million contract is for the nine-month first phase to design a small imaging satellite. Darpa says other contracts will be awarded as well. Darpa's Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (Alasa) program is developing the booster to launch the SeeMe satellites quickly and affordably. Alasa is to be air-launched at short notice from a tactical fighter or business jet with minimal modification to the aircraft." More at Aviation Week

"University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor Nikolaus Correll likes to think in multiples. If one robot can accomplish a singular task, think how much more could be accomplished if you had hundreds of them.Correll and his computer science research team, including research associate Dustin Reishus and professional research assistant Nick Farrow, have developed a basic robotic building block, which he hopes to reproduce in large quantities to develop increasingly complex systems. Recently the team created a swarm of 20 robots, each the size of a pingpong ball, which they call "droplets." When the droplets swarm together, Correll said, they form a "liquid that thinks." To accelerate the pace of innovation, he has created a lab where students can explore and develop new applications of robotics with basic, inexpensive tools." More (with video)

"A new program is giving middle-school-aged youth the chance to take remote control of a large, research-grade radio telescope and expand their cosmic explorations beyond what the eye can see. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory's (NRAO) 20-meter-diameter telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, is joining a global network of telescopes bringing the excitement of hands-on research to young people via 4-H, the nation's largest youth development organization. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, will provide some 1,400 4-H youth with access to robotically-operated, research-grade telescopes. They will use the telescopes to survey galaxies, track asteroids, monitor variable stars, and learn first-hand how scientific research is done. The telescopes are part of a world-wide network called Skynet. In addition to the NRAO 20-meter radio telescope, the network also includes a 24-inch optical telescope at the University of North Carolina's Morehead Observatory; the 41-inch reflecting telescope at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin; six telescopes in Chile; and six more under construction in Chile and Australia." More

"Imagine landing on the moon or Mars, putting rocks through a 3-D printer and making something useful - like a needed wrench or replacement part. "It sounds like science fiction, but now it's really possible," says Amit Bandyopadhyay, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University."

"The UK Space Agency will be running a Cubesat Community Workshop in January. Registration for the workshop is now open. This is a free event and is open to all, hosted by the Open University, Milton Keynes, on 22 January 2013. Please note that space is limited and places will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis. The event will be an opportunity for the UK Space Agency to provide the cubesat community with an update on its pilot cubesat mission UKube-1, due for launch in early 2013, and to discuss the overall philosophy and timing for the proposed UKube-2 programme. Attendees will have the opportunity to provide input on the future direction of a proposed rolling national programme of cubesat missions. Parallel breakout sessions will be held as detailed in the downloadable programme. These themes have been selected in response to the common issues raised by members of the community." More

"Astronomers at the University of Utah and elsewhere are seeking volunteers to explore the galaxy next door, Andromeda. The newly launched Andromeda Project will use people power to examine thousands of Hubble Space Telescope images of the galaxy to identify star clusters that hold clues to the evolution of galaxies. "We want to get people excited about participating. We're hoping for thousands of volunteers," says Anil Seth, an organizer of the Andromeda Project and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah. "I love looking through these amazing Hubble Space Telescope images of Andromeda, the closest big spiral galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy," he adds. "The Andromeda Project will give lots of people the opportunity to share in that amazement." "Star clusters are groups of hundreds to millions of stars that formed from gas at the same time so all the stars have the same age," Seth says. A goal of the Andromeda Project "is to study the history of the galaxy, and these clusters play an important role." More