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  • richardmitnick 1:27 pm on May 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Shrinking Moon May Be Generating Moonquakes", Four seismometers were placed on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts during the Apollo 11 12 14 15 and 16 missions., NASA, The Apollo 11 seismometer operated only for three weeks but the four remaining recorded 28 shallow moonquakes., The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has imaged over 3500 fault scarps., The Moon is shrinking as its interior cools getting more than about 150 feet (50 meters) skinnier over the last several hundred million years., The Moon is still tectonically active., The quakes ranged from about 2 to around 5 on the Richter scale., Tracks are evidence of a recent quake because they should be erased relatively quickly.   

    From NASA: “Shrinking Moon May Be Generating Moonquakes” 

    NASA image
    From NASA

    May 13, 2019

    Bill Steigerwald
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-286-8955
    william.a.steigerwald@nasa.gov

    Nancy Jones
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-286-0039
    nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov

    The Moon is shrinking as its interior cools, getting more than about 150 feet (50 meters) skinnier over the last several hundred million years. Just as a grape wrinkles as it shrinks down to a raisin, the Moon gets wrinkles as it shrinks. Unlike the flexible skin on a grape, the Moon’s surface crust is brittle, so it breaks as the Moon shrinks, forming “thrust faults” where one section of crust is pushed up over a neighboring part.

    “Our analysis gives the first evidence that these faults are still active and likely producing moonquakes today as the Moon continues to gradually cool and shrink,” said Thomas Watters, senior scientist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. “Some of these quakes can be fairly strong, around five on the Richter scale.”


    This visualization of Lee Lincoln scarp is created from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographs and elevation mapping. The scarp is a low ridge or step about 80 meters high and running north-south through the western end of the Taurus-Littrow valley, the site of the Apollo 17 Moon landing. The scarp marks the location of a relatively young, low-angle thrust fault. The land west of the fault was forced up and over the eastern side as the lunar crust contracted. In a May 2019 paper published in Nature Geoscience [link is below], Thomas Watters and his coauthors provide evidence that this fault and others like it are still active and producing moonquakes today.
    Credits: NASA/Goddard/SVS/Ernie Wright

    These fault scarps resemble small stair-step shaped cliffs when seen from the lunar surface, typically tens of yards (meters) high and extending for a few miles (several kilometers). Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt had to zig-zag their lunar rover up and over the cliff face of the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp during the Apollo 17 mission that landed in the Taurus-Littrow valley in 1972.

    2
    This is a view of the Taurus-Littrow valley taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The valley was explored in 1972 by the Apollo 17 mission astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt. They had to zig-zag their lunar rover up and over the cliff face of the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp that cuts across this valley. Credits: [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

    Watters is lead author of a study that analyzed data from four seismometers placed on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts using an algorithm, or mathematical program, developed to pinpoint quake locations detected by a sparse seismic network. The algorithm gave a better estimate of moonquake locations. Seismometers are instruments that measure the shaking produced by quakes, recording the arrival time and strength of various quake waves to get a location estimate, called an epicenter. The study was published May 13 in Nature Geoscience.

    Astronauts placed the instruments on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, and 16 missions. The Apollo 11 seismometer operated only for three weeks, but the four remaining recorded 28 shallow moonquakes – the type expected to be produced by these faults – from 1969 to 1977. The quakes ranged from about 2 to around 5 on the Richter scale.

    Using the revised location estimates from the new algorithm, the team found that eight of the 28 shallow quakes were within 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) of faults visible in lunar images. This is close enough to tentatively attribute the quakes to the faults, since modeling by the team shows that this is the distance over which strong shaking is expected to occur, given the size of these fault scarps. Additionally, the new analysis found that six of the eight quakes happened when the Moon was at or near its apogee, the farthest point from Earth in its orbit. This is where additional tidal stress from Earth’s gravity causes a peak in the total stress, making slip-events along these faults more likely.

    3
    This prominent lunar lobate thrust fault scarp is one of thousands discovered in Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) images. The fault scarp or cliff is like a stair-step in the lunar landscape (left-pointing white arrows) formed when the near-surface crust is pushed together, breaks, and is thrust upward along a fault as the Moon contracts. Boulder fields, patches of relatively high bright soil or regolith, are found on the scarp face and back scarp terrain (high side of the scarp, right-pointing arrows). Image LROC NAC frame M190844037LR. Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/Smithsonian

    “We think it’s very likely that these eight quakes were produced by faults slipping as stress built up when the lunar crust was compressed by global contraction and tidal forces, indicating that the Apollo seismometers recorded the shrinking Moon and the Moon is still tectonically active,” said Watters. The researchers ran 10,000 simulations to calculate the chance of a coincidence producing that many quakes near the faults at the time of greatest stress. They found it is less than 4 percent. Additionally, while other events, such as meteoroid impacts, can produce quakes, they produce a different seismic signature than quakes made by fault slip events.

    Other evidence that these faults are active comes from highly detailed images of the Moon by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.

    NASA/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

    The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has imaged over 3,500 of the fault scarps. Some of these images show landslides or boulders at the bottom of relatively bright patches on the slopes of fault scarps or nearby terrain. Weathering from solar and space radiation gradually darkens material on the lunar surface, so brighter areas indicate regions that are freshly exposed to space, as expected if a recent moonquake sent material sliding down a cliff. Examples of fresh boulder fields are found on the slopes of a fault scarp in the Vitello cluster and examples of possible bright features are associated with faults that occur near craters Gemma Frisius C and Mouchez L. Other LROC fault images show tracks from boulder falls, which would be expected if the fault slipped and the resulting quake sent boulders rolling down the cliff slope. These tracks are evidence of a recent quake because they should be erased relatively quickly, in geologic time scales, by the constant rain of micrometeoroid impacts on the Moon. Boulder tracks near faults in Schrödinger basin have been attributed to recent boulder falls induced by seismic shaking.

    4
    The Taurus-Littrow valley is the location of the Apollo 17 landing site (asterisk). Cutting across the valley, just above the landing site, is the Lee-Lincoln fault scarp. Movement on the fault was the likely source of numerous moonquakes that triggered events in the valley. 1) Large landslides on of slopes of South Massif draped relatively bright rocks and dust (regolith) on and over the Lee-Lincoln scarp. 2) Boulders rolled down the slopes of North Massif leaving tracks or narrow troughs in the regolith on the slopes of North Massif. 3) Landslides on southeastern slopes of the Sculptured Hills. Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/Smithsonian

    Additionally, one of the revised moonquake epicenters is just 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the Lee-Lincoln scarp traversed by the Apollo 17 astronauts. The astronauts also examined boulders and boulder tracks on the slope of North Massif near the landing site. A large landslide on South Massif that covered the southern segment of the Lee-Lincoln scarp is further evidence of possible moonquakes generated by fault slip events.

    “It’s really remarkable to see how data from nearly 50 years ago and from the LRO mission has been combined to advance our understanding of the Moon while suggesting where future missions intent on studying the Moon’s interior processes should go,” said LRO Project Scientist John Keller of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    Since LRO has been photographing the lunar surface since 2009, the team would like to compare pictures of specific fault regions from different times to see if there is any evidence of recent moonquake activity. Additionally, “Establishing a new network of seismometers on the lunar surface should be a priority for human exploration of the Moon, both to learn more about the Moon’s interior and to determine how much of a hazard moonquakes present,” said co-author Renee Weber, a planetary seismologist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

    The Moon isn’t the only world in our solar system experiencing some shrinkage with age. Mercury has enormous thrust faults — up to about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) long and over a mile (3 kilometers) high — that are significantly larger relative to its size than those on the Moon, indicating it shrank much more than the Moon. Since rocky worlds expand when they heat up and contract as they cool, Mercury’s large faults reveal that is was likely hot enough to be completely molten after its formation. Scientists trying to reconstruct the Moon’s origin wonder whether the same happened to the Moon, or if instead it was only partially molten, perhaps with a magma ocean over a more slowly heating deep interior. The relatively small size of the Moon’s fault scarps is in line with the more subtle contraction expected from a partially molten scenario.

    NASA will send the first woman, and next man, to the Moon by 2024. These American astronauts will take a human landing system from the Gateway in lunar orbit, and land on the lunar South Pole. The agency will establish sustainable missions by 2028, then we’ll take what we learn on the Moon, and go to Mars.

    This research was funded by NASA’s LRO project, with additional support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. LRO is managed by NASA Goddard for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The LROC is managed at Arizona State University in Tempe.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:28 pm on March 19, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA   

    From BBC: “US detects huge meteor explosion” 

    BBC
    From BBC

    18 March 2019
    Paul Rincon

    A huge fireball exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere in December, according to NASA.

    1
    Artwork: The fireball was the kind of event expected to happen only two to three times per century. Getty Images

    The blast was the second largest of its kind in 30 years, and the biggest since the fireball over Chelyabinsk in Russia six years ago.

    But it went largely unnoticed until now because it blew up over the Bering Sea, off Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

    The space rock exploded with 10 times the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

    Lindley Johnson, planetary defence officer at NASA, told BBC News a fireball this big is only expected about two or three times every 100 years.

    What do we know?

    At about noon local time on 18 December, the asteroid barrelled through the atmosphere at a speed of 32km/s (20 miles per second) , on a steep trajectory of seven degrees.

    Measuring several metres in size, the space rock exploded 25.6km above the Earth’s surface, with an impact energy of 173 kilotons.

    “That was 40% the energy release of Chelyabinsk, but it was over the Bering Sea so it didn’t have the same type of effect or show up in the news,” said Kelly Fast, near-Earth objects observations programme manager at Nasa.

    “That’s another thing we have in our defence, there’s plenty of water on the planet.”

    Dr Fast was discussing the event here at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, near Houston, Texas.

    Military satellites picked up the blast last year; NASA was notified of the event by the US Air Force.

    Dr Johnson said the fireball came in over an area not too far from routes used by commercial planes flying between North America and Asia. So researchers have been checking with airlines to see if there were any reported sightings of the event.

    2

    What’s the significance?

    In 2005, Congress tasked NASA with finding 90% of near-Earth asteroids of 140m (460ft) in size or larger by 2020. Space rocks of this size are so-called “problems without passports” because they are expected to affect whole regions if they collide with Earth. But scientists estimate it will take them another 30 years to fulfill this congressional directive.

    NASA NEOCAM

    Once an incoming object is identified, NASA has had some notable success at calculating where on Earth the impact will occur, based on a precise determination of its orbit.

    In June 2018, the small 3m (10ft) asteroid 2018 LA was discovered by a ground-based observatory in Arizona eight hours before impact. The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) then made a precision determination of its orbit, which was used to calculate a probable impact location.


    This showed the rock was likely to hit southern Africa.

    Just as the calculation suggested, a fireball was recorded over Botswana by security camera footage on a farm. Fragments of the object were later found in the area.

    4
    Japan’s Himawari satellite captures the fireball’s steep descent. Himawari/JMA/@simon_sat

    How can monitoring be improved?

    The latest event over the Bering Sea shows that larger objects can collide with us without warning, underlining the need for enhanced monitoring.

    A more robust network would be dependent not only on ground telescopes, but space-based observatories also.

    A mission concept in development would see a telescope called NeoCam launched to a gravitational balance point in space, where it would discover and characterise potentially hazardous asteroids larger than 140m.

    Dr Amy Mainzer, chief scientist on NeoCam at JPL, said: “The idea is really to get as close as possible to reaching that 90% goal of finding the 140m and larger near-Earth asteroids given to Nasa by Congress.

    She said that if the mission did not launch, projections suggested it would “take us many decades to get there with the existing suite of ground-based surveys”.

    Dr Mainzer added: “But if you have an IR-based (infrared) telescope, it goes a lot faster.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 9:37 am on February 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Hachimoji" DNA (from the Japanese "hachi" meaning "eight" and "moji" meaning "letter", A more effective search for life beyond Earth” said Mary Voytek senior scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Headquarters, A new synthetic DNA molecule dubbed hachimoji DNA, NASA, There could be an alternative to DNA-based life as we know it on Earth – a genetic system for life that may be possible on other worlds., This work expands our understanding of the types of molecules that might store information in extraterrestrial life on alien worlds   

    From NASA via Manu Garcia: “NASA-Funded Research Creates DNA-like Molecule to Aid Search for Alien Life” 


    From Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.

    NASA image
    From NASA

    Feb. 21, 2019

    Dwayne Brown
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    Elizabeth Landau
    Headquarters, Washington
    818-359-3241
    elizabeth.r.landau@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    This illustration shows the structure of a new synthetic DNA molecule, dubbed hachimoji DNA, which uses the four informational ingredients of regular DNA (green, red, blue, yellow) in addition to four new ones (cyan, pink, purple, orange). Credits: Indiana University School of Medicine

    In a research breakthrough funded by NASA, scientists have synthesized a molecular system that, like DNA, can store and transmit information. This unprecedented feat suggests there could be an alternative to DNA-based life, as we know it on Earth – a genetic system for life that may be possible on other worlds.

    This new molecular system, which is not a new life form, suggests scientists looking for life beyond Earth may need to rethink what they are looking for. The research appears in Thursday’s edition of Science Magazine.

    DNA is a complex molecule that stores and transmits genetic information, is passed from parent to offspring in all living organisms on Earth, and its components include four key ingredients called nucleotides – all standard for life as we know it. But, what about life on other worlds?

    “Life detection is an increasingly important goal of NASA’s planetary science missions, and this new work will help us to develop effective instruments and experiments that will expand the scope of what we look for,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

    One way to imagine the kinds of foreign structures found on other worlds is to try to create something foreign on Earth. A team of researchers, led by Steven Benner at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Alachua, Florida, successfully achieved the fabrication of a new informational molecular system that is like DNA, except in one key area: The new molecule has eight informational ingredients instead of four.

    The synthetic DNA includes the four nucleotides present in Earth life – adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine – but also four others that mimic the structures of the informational ingredients in regular DNA. The result is a double-helix structure that can store and transfer information.

    Benner’s team, which collaborated with laboratories at the University of Texas in Austin, Indiana University Medical School in Indianapolis, and DNA Software in Ann Arbor, Michigan, dubbed their creation “hachimoji” DNA (from the Japanese “hachi,” meaning “eight,” and “moji,” meaning “letter”). Hachimoji DNA meets all the structural requirements that allow our DNA to store, transmit and evolve information in living systems.

    “By carefully analyzing the roles of shape, size and structure in hachimoji DNA, this work expands our understanding of the types of molecules that might store information in extraterrestrial life on alien worlds,” said Benner.

    Scientists have much more to do on the question of what other genetic systems could serve as the foundation for life, and where such exotic organisms could be found. However, this study opens the door to further research on ways life could structure itself in environments that we consider inhospitable, but which might be teeming with forms of life we haven’t yet imagined.

    “Incorporating a broader understanding of what is possible in our instrument design and mission concepts will result in a more inclusive and, therefore, more effective search for life beyond Earth,” said Mary Voytek, senior scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Headquarters.

    One of NASA’s goals is to search for life on other planets like Mars, where there was once flowing water and a thick atmosphere, or moons of the outer solar system like Europa and Enceladus, where vast water oceans churn under thick layers of ice. What if life on those worlds doesn’t use our DNA? How could we recognize it? This new DNA may be the key to answering these questions and many more.

    This work also interests those interested in information as part of life.

    “The discovery that DNA with eight nucleotide letters is suitable for storing and transmitting information is a breakthrough in our knowledge of the range of possibilities necessary for life,” said Andrew Serazin, president of Templeton World Charity Foundation in Nassau, The Bahamas, which also supported this work. “This makes a major contribution to the quest supported by Templeton World Charity Foundation to understand the fundamental role that information plays in both physics and biology.”

    This research was supported by NASA’s Astrobiology Program through the Exobiology Program. To learn more about NASA’s Astrobiology Program, visit

    https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:59 pm on January 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Food and Drug Administration, Here’s how the record-breaking government shutdown is disrupting science, Indian Health Service, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Parks Service, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, , National Weather Service, , U.S. Geological Survey   

    From Science News: “Here’s how the record-breaking government shutdown is disrupting science” 

    From Science News

    January 12, 2019
    Laurel Hamers

    The shutdown is forcing scientists to cancel presentations and halt research.

    1
    TEMPORARY WORKAROUND For now, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory based in Charlottesville, Va., shown here closed during a 2013 government shutdown, is still open, funded by money left over from 2018. But if the current shutdown doesn’t end soon, it may be forced to close again. Emily Barney/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    As the partial federal government shutdown enters its fourth week — on January 12 becoming the longest in U.S. history — scientists are increasingly feeling the impact. Thousands of federal workers who handle food safety and public health are furloughed. Countless projects researching everything from climate change to pest control to hurricane prediction are on hold.

    Among government agencies hit by the partial shutdown are the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, where nearly all employees are on leave. Additionally, 40 percent of the Food and Drug Administration’s 14,000 workers are furloughed, as are most employees of the National Parks Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation, responsible for doling out nearly $8 billion in research funds each year, has stopped awarding grants and has canceled review panels with outside scientists that are part of the process. In 2018, NSF gave out $42 million in grants from January 1 through January 8, but this year, nothing has been funded so far, Benjamin Corb of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology noted in a statement January 8. Such stalled funding is leading to a backlog that could slow down approvals long beyond the shutdown. Here are some of the consequences of delaying government research, and how some scientists are trying to cope.

    Public safety

    Both the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remain funded and operational. Flu surveillance is still being funded through the CDC. Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs are also safe.

    But other agencies working to protect public health have scaled back operations. The Indian Health Service, which funds care for Native Americans, is in limbo. Health clinic employees are working without pay, while some grants and programs are on hold.

    The USDA is still inspecting meat, dairy and poultry products. But routine FDA inspections of produce are suspended, increasing the possibility of a foodborne illness outbreak. Given that worry, the agency hopes to resume inspections of high-risk facilities prone to outbreaks, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the Washington Post.

    2
    PRODUCE PROBLEMS During the shutdown, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t been carrying out routine inspections of produce, upping the risk for a foodborne illness outbreak. Caroline Attwood/Unsplash

    Weather forecasts have become less accurate, with the National Weather Service’s key prediction tool not working correctly and no one around to fix it, the Washington Post also reported, citing Suru Saha of the National Weather Service’s Environmental Modeling Center in College Park, Md.

    Meanwhile, work to improve hurricane models by adding the latest in physics and data isn’t happening, forecaster Eric Blake at the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center in Miami told Scientific American.

    Environment damage

    EPA employees policing industry compliance with laws restricting air and water pollution are on leave, and work to clean up Superfund sites, areas of extreme environmental contamination, is suspended. That means any research into the potential health or environmental effects of new contaminants is on hold.

    3
    POLLUTION UNPATROLLED The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials who hold companies accountable for complying with pollution regulations, as well as those who work on Superfund sites like the Gowanus Canal in New York (shown here), aren’t working right now. nicolecioe/iStock.com

    National parks are also in disarray, with few rangers to control crowds or enforce sanitation rules or regulations against environmental damage. Visitors wanting to drive off-road through the California desert cut down protected Joshua trees to clear a path in Joshua Tree National Park, park superintendent David Smith told National Parks Traveler. It can take years for desert soils and slow-growing Joshua trees to recover from such damage.

    4
    PARK PLUNDERED National parks have remained open during the partial shutdown. But with only a few rangers on duty, visitors have caused long-term damage to some, such as Joshua Tree National Park in California, where trees have been cut down for off-roading. Frank DeBonis/iStock.com

    Information access

    Scientists aren’t able to gather data from government websites that are not being updated or are now offline. That’s hurt climate scientist Angeline Pendergrass’ work building computer models at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, to predict how climate change will impact rainfall patterns.

    Pendergrass normally verifies her calculations against precipitation records housed in the Global Historical Climatology Network, which logs global temperature and rainfall measurements. But while those data are still being collected automatically, the data aren’t available as usual through NOAA. Pendergrass’ project was stalled for days until she found a workaround to access the data in a different way.

    “I worry a lot about missing observations” from monitoring equipment malfunctions, Pendergrass says, which could mess up her research.

    Her concerns are well-founded. About 10 percent of contributing U.S. weather stations appear to be offline, lead scientist Robert Rohde at Berkeley Earth, an independent group for scientific analysis based in Berkeley, Calif., tweeted. And data from “a large number of foreign stations are also not being merged into the archive,” he wrote.

    Animals in USDA facilities are still being cared for, but scientists can’t collect data or do experiments. Interruptions in animal research involving steps being taken at certain times — like cows that need to be bred at a certain age — can set researchers back months or even years.

    Scientific collaboration

    During the shutdown, federal scientists can’t attend scientific meetings — important arenas for sharing new research. Already, government scientists have missed key conferences on astronomy, biology, weather and agricultural science.

    More than 10 percent of planned participants at the American Astronomical Society meeting that just wrapped up on January 10 in Seattle had to cancel presentations, AAS spokesman Rick Fienberg says. Some were able to ask coauthors to take their place; astrophysicist Jane Rigby at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center was not one of them.

    Rigby had to abandon her planned talks about the James Webb Space Telescope because nobody outside of the U.S. space agency had the expertise to cover for her. “This is the Super Bowl of astronomy, and we’re not allowed to play,” she says. “It’s not even like we’re benched. We’re not even allowed in the stadium.”

    Hundreds of USDA employees have also pulled out of the San Diego meeting of the International Plant & Animal Genome that starts January 12, says conference co-organizer Alison Van Eenennaam, an agricultural genomicist at the University of California, Davis.

    Because future research priorities are decided at such conferences, she says, the cancelations “will have implications for the whole year’s research.”

    One of Van Eenennaam’s graduate students relies on a USDA computer server to run a simulation program for research that’s needed to complete her degree. She isn’t allowed to access it right now, so the planned updates to make the program more suitable to the project’s needs also aren’t happening.

    “She’s stuck,” Van Eenennaam says.

    Timely research

    Some scientists can ride out any funding delays. But for those working on projects that are time sensitive, the halt in funding approvals threatens to throw off an entire year of work.

    Physiologist Hannah Carey is still waiting for this year’s money to come in for her research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on ground squirrel hibernation. Because hibernating animals endure extreme changes in body temperature and heart rate, studying how they cope could help scientists understand how human bodies deal with trauma or extreme conditions.

    5
    GOING DORMANT Hannah Carey of the University of Wisconsin–Madison studies hibernation in ground squirrels. But because of the shutdown, her grant money for the year hasn’t arrived yet. Rob Streiffer

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 1:49 pm on January 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA, ,   

    From Sky & Telescope: “NASA Renews Interest in SETI” 

    SKY&Telescope bloc

    From Sky & Telescope

    January 4, 2019
    David Grinspoon

    After a long hiatus, the space agency gets back into the SETI game.

    In July I wrote about innovative approaches for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). In that column I lamented the fact that NASA support for this field dried up in the 1990s and had not returned, even though astrobiology has since flourished. Many of us felt that the bureaucratically maintained distinction between astrobiology and SETI did not make intellectual sense, and we longed for SETI to be let in from the cold.

    Sometimes wishes come true.

    As that column went to press I received an email asking if I would help organize a workshop on “technosignatures.” The sponsor? NASA. That got my attention. The purpose was to explore how to best use NASA resources in a renewed search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Apparently, Congress’s new federal budget mandated that NASA spend $10 million “to search for technosignatures, such as radio transmissions, in order to meet the NASA objective to search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.” Wow!

    The workshop, which took place in September, was highly stimulating, and given the renewed government interest in SETI, the mood was bright and optimistic. Along with evaluation of historical and current searches, there was an openness to new ideas born of a kind of humility. We can’t really second-guess the properties or motivations of technological aliens, so we have to cast a wide net. In addition to “traditional” SETI searches for radio signals or laser pulses, we must be alert to more passive signs of technological entities that might not be trying to get in touch with anyone. These include possible artifacts beyond or within our own solar system, or planetary atmospheres altered or engineered by industrial activities.

    Attendees made an effort to stick to the prosaic questions: What observing programs can we ramp up in the next few years using NASA’s current or expected assets and instruments? How can NASA best collaborate with private partners such as the SETI Institute and Breakthrough Listen?

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft)

    Breakthrough Listen Project

    1

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA


    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia


    SKA Meerkat telescope, 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA

    But with SETI it’s hard to avoid deep philosophical musings. Some talks at the workshop delved into abstract but necessary puzzles about the properties and behavior of distant, advanced civilizations — even about what we mean by “advanced” and “civilization.” SETI has always combined solid engineering, daring speculation, and profound questioning.

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    This admixture didn’t always sit well with some. At the first international SETI conference in Byurakan, Soviet Armenia in 1971, organizers Carl Sagan and Iosif Shklovsky welcomed historians, philosophers, linguists, and social scientists along with the scientists. At the time, one young Soviet astrophysicist asked that the humanities be left out, stating he didn’t want to listen to “windbags.” A leading American physicist exclaimed, “To hell with philosophy! I came here to learn about observations and instruments . . .”

    This historical tension seemed absent from September’s workshop. Although our prime directive was to guide NASA in the use of its assets to search for technosignatures, there was respectful discussion of the more esoteric and humanistic questions that are naturally evoked, and a recognition that a mature SETI program going forward will involve more than just telescopes and computer models. Out of this will come new calls for proposals to NASA, and then a new era of federally funded SETI research. May it be long and fruitful.

    See the full article here .

    NASA might also consider aiding SETI@home, a BOINC project from the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley processing data from The Arecibo Observatory


    SETI@home, a BOINC project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley



    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft).

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    Sky & Telescope magazine, founded in 1941 by Charles A. Federer Jr. and Helen Spence Federer, has the largest, most experienced staff of any astronomy magazine in the world. Its editors are virtually all amateur or professional astronomers, and every one has built a telescope, written a book, done original research, developed a new product, or otherwise distinguished him or herself.

    Sky & Telescope magazine, now in its eighth decade, came about because of some happy accidents. Its earliest known ancestor was a four-page bulletin called The Amateur Astronomer, which was begun in 1929 by the Amateur Astronomers Association in New York City. Then, in 1935, the American Museum of Natural History opened its Hayden Planetarium and began to issue a monthly bulletin that became a full-size magazine called The Sky within a year. Under the editorship of Hans Christian Adamson, The Sky featured large illustrations and articles from astronomers all over the globe. It immediately absorbed The Amateur Astronomer.

    Despite initial success, by 1939 the planetarium found itself unable to continue financial support of The Sky. Charles A. Federer, who would become the dominant force behind Sky & Telescope, was then working as a lecturer at the planetarium. He was asked to take over publishing The Sky. Federer agreed and started an independent publishing corporation in New York.

    “Our first issue came out in January 1940,” he noted. “We dropped from 32 to 24 pages, used cheaper quality paper…but editorially we further defined the departments and tried to squeeze as much information as possible between the covers.” Federer was The Sky’s editor, and his wife, Helen, served as managing editor. In that January 1940 issue, they stated their goal: “We shall try to make the magazine meet the needs of amateur astronomy, so that amateur astronomers will come to regard it as essential to their pursuit, and professionals to consider it a worthwhile medium in which to bring their work before the public.”

     
  • richardmitnick 11:37 am on December 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Advances like those made by Hubble are possible only through sustained publicly-funded research, Arthur “Art” Code, , , , , Lyman Spitzer, NASA, OAO-2, , Space Astronomy Laboratory at UW–Madison,   

    From Scientific American: “The World’s First Space Telescope” 

    Scientific American

    From Scientific American

    December 7, 2018
    James Lattis

    50 years ago, astronomers launched the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, whose descendants include the Hubble, Spitzer and James Webb telescopes.

    In July 1958, an astronomer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison named Arthur “Art” Code received a telegram from the fledgling Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The agency wanted to know what he and his colleagues would do if given the opportunity to launch into Earth’s orbit an instrument weighing up to 100 pounds.

    Code, newly-minted director of the University’s Washburn Observatory, had something in mind. His department was already well known for pioneering a technique for measuring the light emitted by celestial objects, called photoelectric photometry, and Code had joined the university with the intent of adapting it to the burgeoning field of space astronomy.

    He founded the Space Astronomy Laboratory at UW–Madison and, with his colleagues, proposed to launch a small telescope equipped with a photoelectric photometer, designed to measure the ultraviolet (UV) energy output of stars—a task impossible from Earth’s surface. Fifty years ago, on December 7, 1968, that idea culminated in NASA’s launch of the first successful space-based observatory: the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, or OAO-2.

    NASA U Wisconsin Orbiting Astronomical Observatory OAO-2

    With it was born the era of America’s Great Observatories, bearing the Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra and Compton space telescopes, a time during which our understanding of the universe repeatedly deepened and transformed.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    NASA/Chandra X-ray Telescope

    NASA Compton Gamma Ray Observatory

    Today, dwindling political appetite and lean funding threaten our progress. Contemporary projects like the James Webb Space Telescope flounder, and federal budgets omit promising projects like the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    NASA WFIRST

    In celebrating the half century since OAO-2’s launch, we are reminded that major scientific achievements like it become part of the public trust, and to make good on the public trust, we must repay our debt to history by investing in our future. Advances like those made by Hubble are possible only through sustained, publicly-funded research.

    These first investments originated in the late 1950s, during the space race between the U.S. the USSR. They led to economic gains in the private sector, technological and scientific innovations, and the birth of new fields of exploration.

    Astronomer Lyman Spitzer, considered the father of the Hubble Space Telescope, first posited the idea of space-based observing seriously in a 1946 RAND Corporation study. By leaving Earth’s atmosphere, he argued, astronomers could point telescopes at and follow nearly anything in the sky, from comets to galaxy clusters, and measure light in a broader range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

    When Code pitched Wisconsin’s idea to the Space Board, the result was NASA funding to create part of the scientific payload for OAO. The agency went to work planning a spacecraft that could support these astronomical instruments. The Cook Electric Company in Chicago and Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in New York won contracts to help pull it off.

    The payload, named the Wisconsin Experiment Package (WEP), bundled five telescopes equipped with photoelectric photometers and two scanning spectrophotometers, all with UV capabilities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a package of X-ray and gamma detectors.

    Scientists and engineers had to make the instruments on OAO both programmable and capable of operating autonomously between ground contacts. Because repairs were impossible once in orbit, they designed redundant systems and operating modes. Scientists also had to innovate systems for handling complex observations, transmitting data to Earth digitally (still a novelty in those days), and for processing data before they landed in the hands of astronomers.

    The first effort, OAO-1, suffered a fatal power failure after launch in 1966, and the scientific instruments were never turned on. But NASA reinvested, and OAO-2 launched with a new WEP from Wisconsin, and this time a complementary instrument from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, called Celescope, that used television camera technology to produce images of celestial objects emitting UV light. Expected to operate just one year, OAO-2 continued to make observations for four years.

    Numerous “guest” astronomers received access to the instruments during the extended mission. Such collaborations ultimately led to the creation of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which Code helped organize as acting director in 1981.

    And the data yielded many scientific firsts, including a modern understanding of stellar physics, surprise insights into stellar explosions called novae, and exploration of a comet that had far-reaching implications for theories of planet formation and evolution.

    To be responsible beneficiaries of such insights, we must remember that just as we are yesterday’s future, the firsts of tomorrow depend on today. We honor that public trust only by continuing to fund James Webb, WFIRST, and other projects not yet conceived.

    In the forward of a 1971 volume publishing OAO-2’s scientific results, NASA’s Chief of Astronomy Nancy G. Roman wrote: “The performance of this satellite has completely vindicated the early planners and has rewarded … the entire astronomical community with many exciting new discoveries and much important data to aid in the unravelling of the secrets of the stars.”

    Let’s keep unraveling these stellar secrets.

    See the full article here .


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    Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 160 years.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:03 am on November 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A billionaire’s plan to search for life on Enceladus, , , , , Breakthrough Starshot Foundation, , , NASA,   

    From EarthSky: “A billionaire’s plan to search for life on Enceladus” 

    1

    From EarthSky

    November 27, 2018
    Paul Scott Anderson

    Russian entrepreneur and physicist Yuri Milner wants to send a probe back to Saturn’s ocean moon Enceladus, to search for evidence of life there. NASA wants to help him.

    1
    Illustration showing plumes on Saturnian moon Enceladus. Illustration: NASA /JPL-Caltech

    Saturn’s moon Enceladus is very small – only about 310 miles (500 kilometers) across – but it may hold clues to one of the biggest mysteries of all time – are we alone? Beneath the icy crust lies a global salty ocean, not too different from Earth’s oceans. Could that ocean contain life of some kind? That is a question that many scientists – and the public alike – would like to find an answer for. Enceladus, however, is very far away and planetary missions are expensive – but there may be an ideal solution.

    Billionaire entrepreneur and physicist Yuri Milner wants to send a private mission back to this intriguing world, and NASA wants to help him. This incredible idea was first reported in New Scientist on November 8, 2018 (please note this article is behind a paywall). It was then reported by Gizmodo the same day.

    “It looks like NASA will offer billionaire entrepreneur and physicist Yuri Milner help on the first private deep-space mission: a journey designed to detect life, if it exists, on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, according to documents acquired by New Scientist.

    New Scientist’s Mark Harris reports:

    Agreements signed by NASA and Milner’s non-profit Breakthrough Starshot Foundation in September show that the organisations are working on scientific, technical and financial plans for the ambitious mission. NASA has committed over $70,000 to help produce a concept study for a flyby mission. The funds won’t be paid to Breakthrough but represent the agency’s own staffing costs on the project.

    The teams will be working in the project plan and concepts through next year, New Scientist reports.”

    3
    Enceladus is a very small moon, but it has a global ocean beneath its icy crust. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Breakthrough Initiatives, part of Milner’s non-profit Breakthrough Starshot Foundation, would lead and pay for the mission, with consultation from NASA. The board of Breakthrough Initiatives includes billionaires Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg, and the late physicist Stephen Hawking. Breakthrough Initiatives has been studying various mission concepts for space exploration, including a solar sail to nearby stars, advancing the technology to discover other Earth-like planets and sending out a direct message, similar to the previous Arecibo message, specifically to try and catch the attention of aliens.

    Solar sail. Breakthrough Starshot image. Credit: Breakthrough Starshot

    This radio message was transmitted toward the globular cluster M13 using the Arecibo telescope in 1974. Image Credit Arne Nordmann (norro) Wikipedia


    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft).

    Enceladus has become a prime target in the search for extraterrestrial life in our solar system, since its subsurface ocean is thought to be quite similar to oceans on Earth, thanks to data from the Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn from 2004 until September of last year.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

    Scientists already know it is salty and there is evidence for geothermal activity on the ocean floor, such as “smoker” volcanic vents on the bottom of oceans on Earth. Such geothermal vents – at least on Earth – are oases for a wide variety of ocean life despite the darkness and cold temperatures away from the vents.

    Cassini also investigated the plumes of Enceladus – huge “geysers” of water vapor erupting through cracks in the surface at the south pole of Enceladus. Cassini flew right through some of them, analyzing their composition, and found they contain water vapor, ice particles, complex organic molecules and salts. Cassini wasn’t capable of finding life directly, but it did find valuable clues and hints that there may well be something alive in that alien ocean, even if only microbes.

    Earlier this year, New Scientist also reported that there may already be some tentative evidence for microbes in Enceladus’s ocean [Nature Communications]. Cassini detected traces of methane in the water vapor plumes, and when scientists tested computer models of conditions in the ocean, they found that microbes that emit methane after combining hydrogen and carbon dioxide – called methanogens – could easily survive there. According to Chris McKay at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California:

    “This [team] has taken the first step to showing experimentally that methanogens can indeed live in the conditions expected on Enceladus.”

    The scientists found that the microbes were able to thrive at temperatures and pressures likely found in Enceladus’s oceans, ranging from 0 to 90 degrees Celsius, and up to 50 Earth atmospheres. They also found that olivine minerals, thought to exist in the moon’s core, could be chemically broken down to produce enough hydrogen for methanogens to thrive.

    4
    Another proposed return mission to Enceladus is the Enceladus Life Finder (ELF), which would orbit Saturn and make repeated passes through the plumes – like Cassini, but with updated instruments. Image via Jonathan Lunine.

    Another proposed return mission to Enceladus is the Enceladus Life Finder (ELF), which would orbit Saturn and make repeated passes through the plumes – like Cassini, but with updated instruments that could even test whether any amino acids found have predominately left or right-handed structures. (Life on Earth predominately creates left-handed forms, and scientists think that life elsewhere will also favor one form over the other instead of a random mixture as would occur from abiotic chemistry.)

    Cassini wasn’t designed to detect life directly, but on a future mission – such as the one proposed – a mass spectrometer would be able to detect carbon isotope ratios unique to living organisms, as well as other potential “biomarkers” of methanogens, including lipids and hydrocarbons.

    Bottom line: Scientists are eager to return to Enceladus to learn more about its intriguing subsurface ocean. The new plan by billionaire Yuri Milner, with NASA’s assistance, may be the best bet to go back and see if anything is swimming in those mysterious alien waters.

    See the full article here .


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    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
    • stewarthoughblog 10:52 pm on November 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      This substantiates the maxim that intelligence can only be coincidently related to financial possession. Even considering that science can be expected to pursue the investigation of a wide array of physical phenomenon, wasting $billions on speculation of the possibility of life on remote bodies is nonsensical considering that there is virtually a total absence of any evidence of naturalist creation of life on Earth. Projection of any conditions on Enceladus of conditions similar to primordial Earth is pure faith, not based on scientific evidence.

      But, it is true that anyone can spend their money (peaceably) on what they want to

      Like

      • richardmitnick 2:08 pm on November 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply

        I totally agree with your assessment of this proposed project. But, of course, it is Milner’s money. The real problem beyond is that we cannot squelch even the wildest quests in hopes for new science. Science never sleeps. The best example of this is that when our Congress in 1993 killed the Superconducting super collider, we left the door wide open for Europe via CERN to build its substitute, the LHC and High Energy Physics simply moved to Europe.

        Like

  • richardmitnick 10:20 am on September 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA, NASA Is Taking a New Look at Searching for Life Beyond Earth,   

    From NASA: “NASA Is Taking a New Look at Searching for Life Beyond Earth” 

    NASA image
    From NASA

    Sept. 25, 2018
    Editor: Tricia Talbert

    1
    A zoom into the Hubble Space Telescope photograph of an enormous, balloon-like bubble being blown into space by a super-hot, massive star. Astronomers trained the iconic telescope on this colorful feature, called the Bubble Nebula, or NGC 7635. Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), F. Summers, G. Bacon, Z. Levay, and L. Frattare (Viz 3D Team, STScI)

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    The explosion of knowledge of planets orbiting other stars, called exoplanets, and the results of decades of research on signatures of life – what scientists call biosignatures – have encouraged NASA to address, in a scientifically rigorous way, whether humanity is alone. Beyond searching for evidence of just microbial life, NASA now is exploring ways to search for life advanced enough to create technology.

    Technosignatures are signs or signals, which if observed, would allow us to infer the existence of technological life elsewhere in the universe. The best known technosignature are radio signals, but there are many others that have not been explored fully.

    In April 2018, new interest arose in Congress for NASA to begin supporting the scientific search for technosignatures as part of the agency’s search for life. As part of that effort, the agency is hosting the NASA Technosignatures Workshop in Houston on Sept. 26-28, 2018, with the purpose of assessing the current state of the field, the most promising avenues of research in technosignatures and where investments could be made to advance the science. A major goal is to identify how NASA could best support this endeavor through partnerships with private and philanthropic organizations.

    To view the workshop online, visit: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/asteroid-initiative-idea-synthesis—3

    On Thursday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. EDT, several of the workshop’s speakers will be answering questions in a Reddit AMA.

    What are Technosignatures?

    The term technosignatures has a broader meaning than the historically used “search for extraterrestrial intelligence,” or SETI, which has generally been limited to communication signals. Technosignatures like radio or laser emissions, signs of massive structures or an atmosphere full of pollutants could imply intelligence.

    In recent decades, the private and philanthropic sectors have carried out this research. They have used such methods as searching for patterns in low-band radio frequencies using radio telescopes.

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft)

    Breakthrough Listen Project

    1

    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA



    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA


    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky Expanded Very Large Array, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

    Indeed, humanity’s own radio and television broadcasts have been drifting into space for a number of years. NASA’s SETI program was ended in 1993 after Congress, operating under a budget deficit and decreased political support, cancelled funding for a high-resolution microwave survey of the skies [SETI funding by governmental departments have not disappeared. Private funding has also supported SETI.

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    SETI has just embarked on a new project, Laser SETI, which is funded.]

    Since then, NASA’s efforts have been directed towards furthering our fundamental understanding of life itself, its origins and the habitability of other bodies in our solar system and galaxy.

    History of the Search for Technological Life

    Efforts to detect technologically advanced life predates the space age as early 20th century radio pioneers first foresaw the possibility of interplanetary communication. Theoretical work postulating the possibility of carrying signals on radio and microwave bands across vast distances in the galaxy with little interference led to first “listening” experiments in the 1960s.


    SETI@home, a BOINC project originated in the Space Science Lab at UC Berkeley

    Thanks to NASA’s Kepler mission’s discovery of thousands of planets beyond our solar system,including some with key similarities to Earth, it’s now possible to not just imagine the science fiction of finding life on other worlds, but to one day scientifically prove life exists beyond our solar system.

    As NASA’s 2015 Astrobiology Strategy states: “Complex life may evolve into cognitive systems that can employ technology in ways that may be observable. Nobody knows the probability, but we know that it is not zero.” As we consider the environments of other planets, “technosignatures” could be included in the possible interpretations of data we get from other worlds.

    Debate about the probability of finding signals of advanced life varies widely. In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake created a formula estimating the number of potential intelligent civilizations in the galaxy, called the Drake equation, and calculated an answer of 10,000.

    Frank Drake, no image credit


    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute

    Most of the variables in the equation continue to be rough estimates, subject to uncertainties. Another famous speculation on the subject called the Fermi Paradox, posited by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, asserted that if another intelligent life form was indeed out there, we would have met it by now.

    NASA’s SETI work began with a 1971 proposal by biomedical researcher John Billingham at NASA’s Ames Research Center for a 1,000-dish array of 100-meter telescopes that could pick up television and radio signals from other stars. “Project Cyclops” was not funded, but in 1976, Ames established a SETI branch to continue research in this area. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) also began SETI work.

    In 1988, NASA Headquarters in Washington formally endorsed the SETI program leading to development of the High Resolution Microwave Survey. Announced on Columbus Day in 1992 – 500 years after Columbus landed in North America – this 10-year, $100 million project included a targeted search of stars led by Ames using the 300-meter radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and an all-sky survey led by JPL using its Deep Space Network dish.


    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft)

    NASA Deep Space Network dish, Goldstone, CA, USA

    The program lasted only a year before political opposition eliminated the project and effectively ended NASA’s research efforts in SETI.

    Why Start Looking at Technosignatures Now?

    Fueled by the discovery that our galaxy is teeming with planets, interest in detecting signs of technologically-advanced life is again bubbling up. Kepler’s discovery in 2015 of irregular fluctuations in brightness in what came to be known as Tabby’s Star led to speculation of an alien megastructure, though scientists have since concluded that a dust cloud is the likely cause. However, Tabby’s Star has demonstrated the potential usefulness of looking for anomalies in data collected from space, as signs of technologically-advanced life may appear as aberrations from the norm.

    Scientists caution that we will need more than an unexplained signal to definitively prove the existence of technological life. For example, there can be a lot of radio frequency interference from Earth-based sources.

    NASA will continue assessing promising current efforts of research in technosignatures and investigating where investments could be made to advance the science. Although we have yet to find signs of extraterrestrial life, NASA is amplifying exploring the solar system and beyond to help humanity answer whether we are alone in the universe.

    From studying water on Mars, probing promising “oceans worlds” such as Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus, to looking for biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets, NASA’s science missions are working together with a goal to find unmistakable signs of life beyond Earth. And perhaps that life could indeed be more technologically advanced than our own.

    Fascinating.

    See the full article here .

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    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:05 am on May 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AA-2 launch abort system (LAS), NASA,   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “AA-2 – NASA’s JSC Getting Orion Simulator Ready for Key Test” 

    1

    Spaceflight Insider

    April 30, 2018
    Philip Sloss

    1
    Crew module simulator for AA-2 test at JSC, April 26. The blue tape covers pressure sensors installed for the test. Credit: Philip Sloss for NSF/L2.

    NASA is getting the hardware ready for an important test next year of the launch abort system (LAS) that Orion spacecraft will use during launch on missions to the Moon in the 2020s. At the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, a crew module simulator is being outfitted with equipment to turn it into a short-duration, high-speed flying laboratory by the end of the year, and then be connected to the rest of the test vehicle that is planned for launch in April, 2019.

    The Orion LAS is designed to instantly pull the crew module away from its launch vehicle in extreme emergency situations that might occur before or during launch. The highly instrumented crew module simulator will be connected to a flight version of the Orion LAS and a Peacekeeper missile being modified to be the booster for the Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) test.

    The booster will take the vehicle up to a carefully chosen abort condition, where the LAS will fire to pull the top of the stack away. The LAS will then flip the crew module simulator around so it is in the right attitude for a real spacecraft to deploy parachutes for a soft landing before separating from the simulator. The simulator is not equipped with parachutes, but it will continue collecting and transmitting data until ocean impact less than three minutes after liftoff.

    Crew Module Simulator Preparations

    The structure of the crew module simulator was constructed at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia before being transported to JSC in March. A little less than two months after arriving in Houston, JSC held a media day on April 26 to talk about work there to get ready for the test next year.

    The AA-2 team at JSC is adding only the required test equipment inside and outside the simulator to command the dynamic parts of the test, while simultaneously collecting all of the desired test data and transmitting and recording it.

    “There’s not a whole lot in there right now,” Jennifer Devolites, AA-2 crew module deputy manager for NASA, said. “We don’t have crew systems, we don’t have life support systems, but we have all the avionics and power, all the wiring and harnessing that has to be installed, all the instrumentation.”

    “You can see some blue tape on the outside, those are protections where we have pressure sensors installed,” she added. “We’ve only done about half of the sensors that need to go on the vehicle, all that gets installed.”

    To save money it was decided to use a crew module simulator for this test rather than launch a more flight-like crew module, such as the one that flew on Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). The LAS itself, which is fully active and fully exercised in the test, is a production unit. “The separation mechanisms, all of that is production [equipment],” Devolites also noted.

    As with the simulator, the test avionics are not flight units. “Basically all the powered systems inside are different from the mainline Orion,” Devolites explained. “We were able to use a lot of commercial, off-the-shelf [systems since] we’re not going to space. And so we were able save a lot of money by using mostly off-the-shelf components for a lot of that equipment rather than going with spaceflight-qualified systems that are used on the mainline Orion.”

    “The only piece of the software that’s the same is the guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) for the LAS,” she continued. “We wanted that to be the same, because that re-orientation is a critical part of the flight test. So we take that and then we’ve got it embedded in a different software environment.”

    “The LAS has the computers to control the abort motor and the attitude control motor firings, but we send the commands, and so we actually send the steering commands to the LAS from our vehicle,” she noted.

    After all the test equipment has been installed and connected, they’ll make it sure it’s working. “We do powered-on testing, and we’ll actually do closed-loop, hardware-in-the-loop testing out here,” Devolites said. “We have one of the LAS attitude control motor controllers here from Lockheed Martin that we use in our testing, so we can go all the way closed loop with it. So we’ll do testing here, we’ll do mission simulations.”

    Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for Orion.

    After the instrumentation and avionics are installed and tested, Devolites said they will measure the mass properties of the simulator, such as weight and center of gravity (cg), again. “It’s our X-cg fixture,” she noted. “We…put the vehicle on it [and] rotate it over 90 degrees to get the X-cg, it’s going to be very exciting.” The simulator will mimic the production Orion’s mass and center of gravity.

    2
    Crew module simulator in the X-cg fixture at Langley, February 2018. The simulator will be put in the fixture again after it is outfitted at JSC to re-measure its mass properties. Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman

    The fully outfitted crew module simulator will then be transported from JSC to the Plum Brook Station facility near the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “We’re doing acoustic characterization at Plum Brook, but it’s really from the model perspective, right?” Devolites said. “So they can characterize the acoustic environment before we fly — that way they can match it to the actual flight results and compare their models. That’s really for anchoring the models.”

    While the crew module simulator is at Plum Brook, Devolites noted that the JSC team will receive the separation ring from Langley and outfit that for the test before the crew module simulator returns to Houston to be mated to the ring. “So we’ll do that here, integrate them together, and ship it all to the Cape, hopefully by December,” she said. The separation ring sits between the crew module and booster to quickly disconnect them when the abort is initiated.

    Once at the launch site, the vehicle elements will be connected for integrated systems testing. “We’ll do testing with the LAS before it gets stacked,” Devolites explained. “We do what’s called soft-mate testing. We’ll electrically connect it [and] check out all the interfaces between the systems. We also do soft-mate testing with the booster — electrically make sure everything works.”

    “We just keep doing incremental, integrated tests up until launch,” she added. The test is scheduled for April, 2019.

    AA-2 Overview

    The AA-2 test is the second and last planned abort test for Orion. The first test was Pad Abort-1 (PA-1) in 2010, which tested an early version of the LAS in an abort starting at rest on the ground. At the time, Orion was still a part of a Constellation program that was being shut down ahead of proposed cancellation; the plans in Constellation included a longer test series.

    After the Orion program was rescoped following its cancellation along with all of Constellation, the AA-2 test was the only in-flight “ascent abort” test brought forward and the program had to pick a single abort condition to test.

    “In the Constellation program we did have more in-flight abort tests planned and what we did was we picked apart that in-flight profile more,” NASA Orion Program Manager Mark Kirasich said. “I’ll give you a ‘for example.’ When you abort at a very high altitude there’s less atmosphere, so there’s not as much aerodynamic force on the vehicle. So you have to control your attitude differently, [in that example] it’s more of a reaction control system thruster test as opposed to where we’re right in the thick of the atmosphere it’s really the [LAS] attitude control motor that we’re testing, the dynamics in that.”

    3
    Image from a video of an Orion abort simulation produced by the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division at Ames Research Center. Colored plumes indicate high pressure (red) and low pressure (blue). Credit: NASA/Ames/Timothy Sandstrom.

    “So we spread the test points around and…right now the point that we’re doing on AA-2 is the combination where we get…kind of a smorgasbord of the most-challenging conditions,” he explained. “Perhaps not the hundredth-percentile of every one of the five or six key parameters but 98 percent at most of them. And that’s why we picked the test conditions that we did.”

    Kirasich noted that the abort condition for this test will stress the ability of the LAS to maintain control of the aborting vehicle more than the ability of the LAS to get away from the booster. “The harder part is to control, because the aerodynamics are pushing you all over the place under those circumstances,” he explained.

    The data collected in the test will help to validate existing computer models, which will be used to simulate test cases throughout an envelope of possible abort conditions.

    The test will launch from Launch Complex 46 (LC-46) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida. An Orbital ATK SR 118 rocket motor is the booster for the test. Its original purpose was as the first stage of the Peacekeeper Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The Peacekeeper program was deactivated in 2002 and today the motors in the inventory are used for commercial purposes such as space launches.

    The abort will be triggered when the vehicle is traveling at approximately Mach 1.3 at an altitude of around 31,000 feet. After liftoff, the booster takes the vehicle up to the abort condition and then signals the crew module.

    “The booster is responsible for getting us to the abort condition and then based on the signal to us to say “we’re here,” we execute the abort and perform the rest of the flight after that,” Devolites explained. “It’s over Mach 1, and it’s a high dynamic pressure, and it’s a combination of angle of attack and a couple of other parameters.”

    The LAS has three different motors that fire at different points in the test: the abort motor and the attitude control motor (ACM) are built by Orbital ATK and would only be used in an abort case, and the jettison motor. Aerojet Rocketdyne makes the jettison motor, which is used on every mission to separate the LAS from Orion.

    The Orion crew module and the LAS elements make up the launch abort vehicle (LAV) that separates from the test booster in flight. The three motors make up the launch abort tower; other elements of the LAS include a fairing assembly that covers the crew module and a Motor Adaptor Truss Assembly (MATA) that structurally connects the LAS with the CM.

    4
    Diagram of AA-2 test vehicle, left. Diagram of Orion LAS, right. Credit: NASA

    When the abort is initiated, the abort motor instantly generates about 400,000 pounds of thrust at ignition, putting loads on the abort vehicle of twelve to thirteen g’s to get away from the booster, while the ACM also fires to steer the vehicle away and put it in a good attitude. The abort motor fires for about five seconds with the thrust tailing off quickly while the ACM maintains control of the vehicle.

    The ACM then reorients the vehicle for separation events and for the crew module parachute deployment sequence. The LAS is then separated from the crew module with the jettison motor.

    The LAS can be used for aborts while the spacecraft is still on the pad and during launch up to altitudes of 300,000 feet. During a nominal SLS crew launch, the jettison motor will fire to separate the LAS from the CM and the rest of the launch vehicle about three and a half minutes after liftoff.

    During the AA-2 test, the crew module is collecting all of the data from the sensors inside and outside. “Primarily it’s a lot of pressure sensors, a lot of accelerometers, a lot of thermocouples to measure that whole aerothermal environment,” Devolites noted. “There’s of course all the on-board flight instrumentation for the systems — we get all of that data telemetered down.”

    The data is being transmitted from the crew module for local ground stations to receive and record. “We have no uplink or command capability,” she said. “We would like to watch the whole thing as it happens during flight but we really just need to get all the data down.”

    Devolites said they are looking at using four ground stations for the test: “A couple of them will be able to give us real-time data and a couple of them are going to be just recording the data that we can retrieve later.”

    For redundancy, the crew module is also recording all the data on-board. “We think we’ll have comm all the way down and get the telemetry, but just in case we’ve got the backup data recorders,” she added.

    “At the point at which the LAS jettisons, you’ve got a plume and even during abort you’ve got a plume,” she said. “We think that’s not going to be a problem [for telemetry]. You also have an orientation at various points in time away from the ground tracking stations, and so for full coverage, that’s why we’ve also got ejectable data recorders.”

    The crew module will impact the water without being slowed down and is expected to sink, so the AA-2 team is using another off-the-shelf system in order to recover the recorders.

    5
    Image from NASA animation of the AA-2 test. Credit: NASA.

    “The deployment system we’re using is ALE-47, which is a military/Air Force chaff deployment system,” Devolites explained. “It’s an ejection system for fighter aircraft for the chaff or the flares and so we said that’s perfect, we just need an ejection capability to get the data recorders out. We’re using that system and [the recorders] are just built very robust, so they can just eject and drop in the water and then survive.”

    There are twelve recorders grouped in two sets of six located at the top of the crew module simulator on opposite sides under the simulated forward bay cover. After the jettison motor fires to pull the LAS away from the crew module, the simulator will free fall to the water.

    “The recorders start getting ejected about twenty seconds after LAS has jettisoned,” she noted. “We wanted to continue collecting data during free fall and not just immediately start ejecting. They eject in pairs and we eject every ten seconds so that way we get more and more data as we get down.”

    The recorders are designed to float and they have beacons to expedite locating them for recovery. “We only need one to give us everything up through twenty seconds after LAS jettison, but we keep ejecting basically as long as we can,” she added. “Those are redundant as well so you get a pair — one from each side on each ejection.”

    From liftoff to water impact, the test is expected to last less than three minutes.

    See the full article here .

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    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:00 am on February 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Kubik on Space Station, Life science experiments in weightlessness, NASA   

    From ESA: “Kubik on Space Station” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    07/02/2018

    1
    NASA

    A miniaturised laboratory inside the orbital laboratory that is ESA’s Columbus module, this 40 cm cube has been one of its quiet scientific triumphs.

    Kubik – from the Russian for cube – has been working aboard the International Space Station since before Columbus’ arrival in February 2008.

    “Kubik hosts a wide range of life science experiments in weightlessness with minimal crew involvement,” explains Jutta Krause of the payload development team. “Research teams prepare their experiments and make use of existing or custom-built ‘experiment units’, which are each about the size of a box of pocket tissues.

    “Once slotted into Kubik by an astronaut, they are automatically activated through internal electrical connections, running autonomously on a programmed timeline until they are finally retrieved for return to Earth.

    “At the centre of the temperature-controlled Kubik is a centrifuge to simulate gravity, so double experiments can be run with one unit in microgravity plus an Earth-gravity control or intermediate gravity level – giving researchers insight into whether any results they observe might be related to weightlessness or some other environmental factor, such as space radiation.”

    The challenge for researchers is to miniaturise their experiments to fit within the confines of these compact units, adds team member Janine Liedtke: “We aim to refurbish experiment units as much as possible, so in some cases teams can adapt a previously flown unit, or else we can tailor new units to their needs.

    “Why fly biological samples in weightlessness? Because we know many biological systems are partially gravity-dependent, so by ‘taking away’ gravity researchers can gain broader insight into how they work.

    “To give an idea, Kubik has over the years hosted samples of bacteria, fungi, human white blood cells and stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cords, plant seedlings, and swimming tadpoles. A pending payload is designed to examine how microbial biofilms interact with rock surfaces across different gravity levels, from weightlessness to Mars and Earth gravity.”

    Experiment times are limited because the samples are biological – part of the work is carefully planning the mission scenario. Even the hours needed for the ascent and descent of the experiment unit to and from Columbus are carefully accounted for, to ensure that they are back again within a couple of weeks of launch, depending on the sensitivity of the samples.

    “We’ve been using the Soyuz, and now the SpaceX Dragon,” adds Jutta. “Typically, when one vehicle goes up another one comes down. This ensures that experiments can be up- and downloaded rapidly.

    “A fixative is often added to an experiment at its conclusion, so researchers get to examine it as it was in microgravity. Additionally, units can be refrigerated during their return trip.”

    Twelve experiments from ESA and national space agencies have so far been run in Kubik, with ESA planning seven more by the end of this decade. The facility is due to be upgraded with new electronics, to offer more features and keep it fully operational into its second decade.

    Contact Jutta.Krause@esa.int for more information.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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