The NASA Ames Research Center is known for establishing innovative partnerships and Pete Worden, the former Air Force general who serves as the Center’s director, is known as a maverick. Still, the latest joint venture to come to light has caught even some longtime NASA observers by surprise.
Under supervision from NASA Ames, inmates working in the machine shop at California’s San Quentin State Prison are building Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers (PPODs), the standard mechanism used to mount tiny satellites called cubesats on a variety of launch vehicles and then, at the appropriate time, fling them into orbit.
Worden got the idea for the partnership with San Quentinwhile he was at a party, talking to the spouse of a NASA employee who happened to work as a guard on the prison’s death row. When the guard mentioned the prison’s critical need to establish innovative education and training programs, Worden, a former University of Arizona professor, said, “How about building small satellites?”
Time lapse movie recorded in the TWiT studio in Petaluma, CA using a 3rd generation iPad mounted to a Losmandy StarLapse motor with a Makayama mount with wide-angle lens. The time-lapse was captured using iStopMotion for the iPad by Boinx Software.
Special thanks to Oliver at Boinx for coming up with the idea, and to Leo Laporte and the entire TWiT crew for their hospitality. Movie by Derrick Story.
April 13, 2012 – Europe’s highest active volcano, Italy’s Mount Etna, erupted again this week. The eruption, which spewed blood-red molten lava and grey and white ash into the air, is the 24th in a series that started in January 2011.
A decade ago the volcano was at it again, this time more serious. Several thousands residents were forced to evacuate. Tom Pfeiffer was there, 800 meters away in February 2000, during one of the eruptions and described it for us.
After a few minutes, the first red spots began dancing above the crater, rising and falling back into it. The explosions grew stronger, first slowly, then with breathtaking speed, throwing bombs more than 1,000 meters above the rim. Soon the volcanic cone surrounding the crater was covered with glowing rocks. At the same time, a fountain of lava started to rise from a fracture on the flank of the cone. Several other fountains rose from the crater and formed a roaring, golden curtain that illuminated the scene like daylight. Some larger lava bombs crashed into the snow not far from us, but we felt secure in our viewing position. The fountain was nearly vertical, and a strong wind carried the mass of glowing lapilli and ash gently away from us.
In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach Mount Everest’s summit. According to National Geographic “the expedition had climbers carrying loads approaching 44 pounds apiece. Today, ultralight gear cuts significant weight from a climber’s load—often half the weight, or less, of Hillary’s pack load.”
Here are the high-tech pieces that Hilaree O’Neill, a 39-year old ski-mountaineer, will carry as she treks up the same path as Hillary and Norgay did 59 years ago.
The North Face – Prophet 52 Backpack
Black Diamond Half Dome Helmet
Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe
Smith Optics’ I/O Interchangeable Polarized Goggles
Scarpa’s Phantom 8000 boots
Black Diamond’s Sabretooth crampons
Tiny handheld radios & cellphone
The article also goes on to compares today’s technology to what Edmund Hillary used.
The ice axe:
1953: Made by Claudius Simond in Chamonix, France, Hillary’s ice axe was constructed of forged steel with a European ash wood handle.
2012: Weighing just 12 ounces, the Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe (above) has a hollow aluminum shaft and a stainless steel head. It measures 20 inches in hand—about a foot shorter than Hillary’s.