Images of the lunar surface from the Apollo 17 mission

In December of 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the Moon in the Taurus-Littrow valley, while colleague Ronald Evans orbited overhead.

The image shows Schmitt on the left with the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater, near the spot where geologist Schmitt discovered orange lunar soil. The Apollo 17 crew returned with 110 kilograms of rock and soil samples, more than was returned from any of the other lunar landing sites. Now forty years later, Cernan and Schmitt are still the last to walk on the Moon.

Continue reading Images of the lunar surface from the Apollo 17 mission

China launches it’s first female ‘taikonaut’ into space

Saturday’s launch of a piloted space capsule known as Shenzhou-9 marks China’s breakthrough into the exclusive club once made up only of the United States and Russia.

One of the three astronauts in the capsule is a woman, 33-year-old Liu Yang, the first Chinese woman in space.

Shenzhou-9 was launched at 6:37 p.m (local time) against a vivid blue sky from the Jiuquan space station at the edge of the Gobi Desert. Televised nationally, the launch prompted a round of applause in the command center as the capsule separated from its carrier rocket and entered orbit.

The trickiest part of the mission will come when the capsule docks with the Tiangong 1 space module, a prototype of a space station about the size of a school bus, which is orbiting about 213 miles above Earth.

Learn more, including how the U.S. Congress has banned China from the International Space Station…so they’re building their own:

L.A. Times: China launches rocket carrying its first female astronaut

Continue reading China launches it’s first female ‘taikonaut’ into space

Local tribe of Chumash Native Americans goes all-in on sustainability

In perfect step with the wisdom and heritage of their ancestors — who lived in relative harmony with nature for thousands of prosperous years — the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians is turning its 130-acre reservation into a trailblazing example of sustainability in action.

During the past five years, with very little fanfare or recognition from the outside community, the Chumash people (as they are better known these days) have greened up every corner of their land, from the very public casino all the way down to their individual homes. With so many solar panels, biofuels, drought-tolerant plants, and creek-restoration projects underway — not to mention practical training for tribal members and loads of money being allocated to the cause — the Chumash efforts are not only at the forefront of what anyone else is doing in Santa Barbara County; they appear to be leading the state in this sort of development, as well.

“They are an actual vision of what can be achieved, and that is something the environmental movement needs. … It’s amazing and inspiring.”

And better yet, to hear the tribe tell it, they are just getting started.

Keep readingThe Sustainable Chumash

Continue reading Local tribe of Chumash Native Americans goes all-in on sustainability

Voyager I – about to leave our Solar System

Last week, in the corners of the Internet devoted to outer space, things started to get a little, well, hot. Voyager 1, the man-made object farthest away from Earth, was encountering a sharp uptick in the number of a certain kind of energetic particles around it. Had the spacecraft become the first human creation to “officially” leave the solar system?

It’s hard to overstate how wild an accomplishment this would be: A machine, built here on Earth by the brain- and handiwork of humans, has sailed from Florida, out of Earth’s orbit, beyond Mars, beyond the gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn, and may now have left the heliosphere — tiny dot in the universe beholden to our sun. Had it really happened? How would we know?

We’re not quite there yet, Voyager’s project scientist and former head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Edward Stone, told me. The spacecraft is on its way out — “it’s leaving the solar system” — but we don’t know how far it has to go or what that transition to interstellar space will look like.

 

Keep readingGet Ready, Because Voyager I Is *This Close* to Leaving Our Solar System

Continue reading Voyager I – about to leave our Solar System

Epic Photos: best of the solar eclipse

Image from space, thanks to the joint JAXA/NASA Hinode mission.

 

Shadows cast by a tree created multiple pinholes, all of which projected images of the eclipse on the ground.

Continue reading Epic Photos: best of the solar eclipse

Jet travels more than 13,000 mph (Mach 20) thanks to sleek aerodynamic systems

It’s amazing that this Hypersonic jet was able to travel more than 13,000 mph with heats of over 3,500 degrees.

During flight it experienced shockwaves, 100 times more powerful than expected, which caused it to spin. It then righted itself and flew for twice as long before technicians finally aborted the mission.

The full story:

In August the Pentagon’s research arm, known as DARPA, carried out a test flight of an experimental aircraft capable of traveling at 20 times the speed of sound.

The arrowhead-shaped unmanned aircraft, dubbed Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, into the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere…then glided above the Pacific at 20 times the speed of sound, or Mach 20.

The plan was for the Falcon to speed westward for about 30 minutes before plunging into the ocean near Kwajalein Atoll, about 4,000 miles from Vandenberg.

But it was ended about nine minutes into flight for unknown reasons. The launch had received worldwide attention and much fanfare, but officials didn’t provide much information on why the launch failed.

via LA Times

 

Then last week, DARPA said in a statement:

The flight successfully demonstrated stable aerodynamically-controlled flight at speeds up to Mach 20 for nearly three minutes. Approximately nine minutes into the test flight, the vehicle experienced a series of shocks culminating in an anomaly, which prompted the autonomous flight safety system to use the vehicle’s aerodynamic systems to make a controlled descent and splashdown into the ocean.

“The initial shockwave disturbances experienced during second flight, from which the vehicle was able to recover and continue controlled flight, exceeded by more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand,” said DARPA Acting Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel. “That’s a major validation that we’re advancing our understanding of aerodynamic control for hypersonic flight.”

…larger than anticipated portions of the vehicle’s skin peeled from the aerostructure. The resulting gaps created strong, impulsive shock waves around the vehicle as it travelled nearly 13,000 miles per hour, causing the vehicle to roll abruptly. Based on knowledge gained from the first flight in 2010 and incorporated into the second flight, the vehicle’s aerodynamic stability allowed it to right itself successfully after several shockwave-induced rolls. Eventually, however, the severity of the continued disturbances finally exceeded the vehicle’s ability to recover.

via DARPA

Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2)

 

NASA’s latest Mars probe, Curiosity, a nuclear robot with science fiction abilities

Tomorrow morning NASA will launch a Mars Probe, MSL Curiosity, into space for an eight month space journey and then a one year trek across the surface of the planet.

A brief description of the probe:

A new robotic mission to Mars, carrying 10 highly sophisticated instruments to seek the basic chemicals of life in the planet’s ancient rocks, is standing on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, ready to lift off Saturday morning aboard an Atlas V rocket on a 350 million-mile journey.

The six-wheeled rover named Curiosity is headed for the flanks of a Martian mountain that exists inside a crater where layers of sedimentary rock may hold evidence of what the planet was like a billion or more years ago: warmer, probably; wetter, most probably; and an abode for living organisms – just maybe.

Curiosity’s tools will drill into the mountain’s layered rocks and zap them with a laser so spectrometers can analyze the powdery particles to determine their composition.

Via SFGate

There’s more to the story than lasers and spectral analysis, including a return to nuclear powered robots, this one has a core of plutonium. Not to mention that Curiosity looks like Johnny Five’s bigger, geekier older brother, but that’s not what fascinates me.

It’s the science fiction that does. Two key elements of this mission remind me directly of Star Wars. The first is the Sky Crane that uses rocket thrusters to lower the robot to the surface of Mars.

Continue reading NASA’s latest Mars probe, Curiosity, a nuclear robot with science fiction abilities

NASA's latest Mars probe, Curiosity, a nuclear robot with science fiction abilities

Tomorrow morning NASA will launch a Mars Probe, MSL Curiosity, into space for an eight month space journey and then a one year trek across the surface of the planet.

A brief description of the probe:

A new robotic mission to Mars, carrying 10 highly sophisticated instruments to seek the basic chemicals of life in the planet’s ancient rocks, is standing on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, ready to lift off Saturday morning aboard an Atlas V rocket on a 350 million-mile journey.

The six-wheeled rover named Curiosity is headed for the flanks of a Martian mountain that exists inside a crater where layers of sedimentary rock may hold evidence of what the planet was like a billion or more years ago: warmer, probably; wetter, most probably; and an abode for living organisms – just maybe.

Curiosity’s tools will drill into the mountain’s layered rocks and zap them with a laser so spectrometers can analyze the powdery particles to determine their composition.

Via SFGate

There’s more to the story than lasers and spectral analysis, including a return to nuclear powered robots, this one has a core of plutonium. Not to mention that Curiosity looks like Johnny Five’s bigger, geekier older brother, but that’s not what fascinates me.

It’s the science fiction that does. Two key elements of this mission remind me directly of Star Wars. The first is the Sky Crane that uses rocket thrusters to lower the robot to the surface of Mars.

Continue reading NASA's latest Mars probe, Curiosity, a nuclear robot with science fiction abilities