Space & Planetary Science: March 2013 Archives

NASA Asteroid Capture Mission: First Real Step in Utilizing Extraterrestrial Resources

"NASA is about to get a chance to try something totally new: instead of just visting or landing on things in space, it is going to go grab something huge and bring it back to Earth. Details will be formally announced on 10 April 2013 when the new budget is rolled out. The fact that we are now capable of going out and grabbing an asteroid and moving it to a place that we have chosen signals the first major step in the utilization of extraterrestrial resources by human civilization. We are embarking on the rearrangement of our solar system to better suit human needs. That's a paradigm shift folks."

The Eighth International Conference on Mars Postponed Until 2014

"The impacts of sequestration on the Federal budget have led to new travel policies that severely constrain the participation of NASA center employees, including JPL, and other government employees (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey) in scientific conferences, including the planned 8th International Mars Conference set for July 15-19 on the Caltech campus. The current fiscal environment is sufficiently restrictive that we, the organizers of the conference, have decided to delay the meeting for one year, holding it instead in June/July of 2014."

AGU: Voyager 1 has left the solar system, sudden changes in cosmic rays indicate

"In the GRL article, the authors state: "It appears that [Voyager 1] has exited the main solar modulation region, revealing [hydrogen] and [helium] spectra characteristic of those to be expected in the local interstellar medium." However, Webber notes, scientists are continuing to debate whether Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space or entered a separate, undefined region beyond the solar system."

NASA Voyager Status Update on Voyager 1 Location

"It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space."

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project: how you can help save historic space data, Boing Boing

"The LOIRP team managed to obtain original tape drives from the 1960s (covered in dust in a farmer's barn) and a full set of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes (threatened with erasure) containing all images sent back to Earth by the five spacecraft between 1966-67. None of this had been functional or usable since the late 1960s. From the onset the project has been run on a shoestring budget. The LOIRP effort is housed in an abandoned McDonalds burger joint at Moffett Field, California (also known as "McMoons"). The LOIRP folks used spare parts bought on eBay, discarded government equipment, new hardware reverse-engineered from math equations in 50 year old documentation, modern laptops, the expertise of retired engineers and scientists, and the dedication of young students."

What Do Star Trek and Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Have in Common?

"As you will recall Kirk, Spock and McCoy go back in time to the 1930s. At one point Spock has to hack his 23rdcentury tricorder with early 20th century electronics to get data off of it. In our case, we used early 21st century electronics to hack mid 20th century electronics to gain access to 45 year old data."

The Floor of Copernicus

Copernicus Crater Mosaic, NASA Lunar Science Institute

"This mosaic of the floor of crater Copernicus was created by combining the following 24 high resolution images taken by Lunar Orbiter V on 16 August 1967. By comparing old images of the Moon to recent images, LOIRP offers a time machine of sorts, whereby changes in the lunar surface over the past half century can be identified. LOIRP has also done original science by comparing their highest resolution images with the latest high resolution lunar images to look for changes that could indicate quakes, meteor impacts, or volcanism. But more work remains to be done."

Keith's note: Please Support Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at RocketHub

Curiosity Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars

"An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. "A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Seeks Public Support To Retrieve Apollo Era Moon Images

"The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is seeking support from the public as it continues its efforts to recover and enhance Moon images from the 1960s using modern technology. The LOIRP was started with funding by several volunteers in 2008. The original volunteer effort was followed by financial support from NASA which has now been exhausted. Five Lunar Orbiter missions were sent to the Moon between 1966-67 to map the lunar surface to help select landing sites for Apollo human missions.

The LOIRP managed to obtain original tape drives from the 1960s (covered in dust in a farmer's barn) and a full set of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes (threatened with erasure) containing all images sent back to Earth by the five spacecraft. None of this had been functional or usable since the late 1960s. From the onset the LOIRP has been run on a shoestring budget. Housed in an abandoned McDonalds restaurant at Moffett Field, California, the LOIRP team used spare parts bought on eBay, developed new hardware reverse-engineered from math equations in original documentation, modern laptops, the expertise of retired engineers and scientists, and the dedication of young students."

House of Representatives Honors Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, Congressional Record

"As with the Lunar Orbiter's images themselves, the efforts of those who have devoted themselves to this project should not go unnoticed or unrecorded. Although space exploration is a vast, complicated enterprise, it ultimately relies on individuals who have the vision and imagination to move us forward. The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project is an example of that kind of vision and imagination, and those who have contributed to the Project and to preceding efforts surely deserve our gratitude."

Keith's note: A number of us have been donating time and money to this project since 2008. Thanks to your generosity, the LOIRP has already raised enough to order a tape drive head to be refurbished. Please support the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at RocketHub as our team works to finish this project.

MSL Enters Safe Mode

Mars Curiosity Rover Enters Safe Mode

"The ground team for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has switched the rover to a redundant onboard computer in response to a memory issue on the computer that had been active. The intentional swap at about 2:30 a.m. PST today (Thursday, Feb. 28) put the rover, as anticipated, into a minimal-activity precautionary status called "safe mode." The team is shifting the rover from safe mode to operational status over the next few days and is troubleshooting the condition that affected operations yesterday. The condition is related to a glitch in flash memory linked to the other, now-inactive, computer."

"We are looking for people to help us complete the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP). We call this technoarchaeology - mining the past to support science in the future. Between 1966 and 1967, NASA sent five Lunar Orbiter missions to the Moon. Their mission was to photograph the lunar surface to help identify future Apollo mission landing sites. The spacecraft carried 70mm photographic film which was developed automatically in lunar orbit aboard the spacecraft. The developed film was then scanned with a light beam and this modulated a signal which was sent back to Earth." More at RocketHub


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from March 2013.

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