Space & Planetary Science: December 2018 Archives

Pale Blue Dot 2.0?

Media Briefings, Online Coverage of Ultima Thule Flyby

"NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is on track to perform the farthest flyby in history, when it zips past a Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule -- more than four billion miles from Earth -- at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1. Flyby activities are taking place at the home of New Horizons operations, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. A schedule of events, set for broadcast and streaming on NASA TV and social media channels, is below."

The Most Famous Person To Die In 2018, According To Data Science, Huffington Post

"What this graph doesn't tell us, however, is who specifically was the most famous person to die in 2018. To calculate this, we need a means to measure an individual's level of fame. And this is where we can borrow a trick from Google. The search engine ranks results by counting the number of pages linking into a given page - the theory being that the more pages linking there, the more authoritative it is. And using this Wikipedia data, we can do something similar: We can count the number of other Wikipedia pages linking to the dead person. The bigger the number, the bigger the impact that person had on our world."

"10 - Paul Spudis - Aug. 29 - Scientist - 1502"

Paul Spudis, earlier post

Nancy Grace Roman

Nancy Grace Roman, astronomer celebrated as 'mother' of Hubble, dies at 93, Washington Post

"Undeterred by the barriers to women in the sciences, Dr. Roman found a professional home at NASA. Even there, she recalled in an interview years later, she felt compelled to use the honorific "Dr." "Otherwise," she said, "I could not get past the secretaries." After joining the fledgling space agency in 1959, Dr. Roman became the first chief of astronomy at NASA headquarters, a role that made her one of the agency's first female executives. She remained in that position for nearly two decades before her retirement in 1979."

- NASA Administrator's Statement Regarding Nancy Grace Roman
- Nancy Roman, Wikipedia

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2018/dsn.stats.jpg

Keith's 9:30 am ET note: Apparently the NASA Deep Space Network Now website only operates with human intervention - NASA civil servant intervention, to be specific. If you visit the site now it is online but it does not show any activity on the DSN. There is a clock in the upper former that shows that it is updating. Obviously the DSN is still talking to spacecraft such as New Horizons during the government shutdown. But the software that talks to the DSN and makes the squiggly lines appear over the antenna icons can only operate while a civil servant is doing something. But wait: the DSN itself and the DSN Now website are run by JPL which is part of Caltech - not NASA. Why has JPL shut down the data feed to the DSN now website? Are they trying to make a point or is the set up so fragile that lack of a civil servant makes it break? I'd ask JPL PAO but they do not respond to media inquiries these days. But someone will post a snarky explanation on Twitter, I'm certain. Larger image.

Keith's 12:22 pm update: It is working again - for now.

OSIRIS-REx Arrives at Bennu

OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Arrives at Asteroid Bennu

"The spacecraft executed a maneuver that transitioned it from flying toward Bennu to operating around the asteroid. Now, at about 11.8 miles (19 kilometers) from Bennu's Sun-facing surface, OSIRIS-REx will begin a preliminary survey of the asteroid. The spacecraft will commence flyovers of Bennu's north pole, equatorial region, and south pole, getting as close as nearly 4 miles (7 kilometers) above Bennu during each flyover."

It Takes Humans AND Robots

So what's the big deal about Mars InSight?, Sean O'Keefe, OpEd, The Hill

"The late, great courageous explorer Neil Armstrong once described his experience listening to a team of lunar scientists debate whether the Apollo 11 mission would result in a one-way trip to the Moon. The fear was the legs of the lunar lander module Eagle would be subject to a magnetic reaction such that significant volumes of lunar dust would adhere to the lander's legs adding so much weight that Eagle would be incapable of taking off to rejoin the command module Columbia circling the Moon and make the trip back to Earth safely. After several days of witnessing the endless debate, Armstrong told the lunar experts that he'd let them know how it turned out when he got back. The upshot of that story was that we knew only a fraction of what we wanted to know before accelerating the Apollo program more than 50 years ago."

Keith's 30 Nov note: People make honest mistakes on social media. I get that. But its hard to take the JPL science communicators very seriously when they make errors like this and then do nothing to fix them. I and others have pointed this out to JPL. Three days later and the incorrect tweet is still up. Either they do not care or they do not pay attention to detail. Its also becoming obvious that a lot of people who tweet for NASA have no real background on previous NASA missions. As such thousands of people have now liked an official NASA tweet that has several errors - one of them factually incorrect and totally germane to the point that JPL was trying to make i.e. "energy generated by a rover or lander on Mars". Keith's 3 Dec update: JPL finally took their incorrect went down after letting it misinform people for 3 days. Here is what it looked like:
http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/power.tweet.jpg

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