Tag Archives | NASA

NASA Wants To Give The Moon A Moon

Why on earth would NASA want to give the Moon its own moon? Wired reports:

It sounds almost like a late ’90s sci-fi flick: NASA sends a spacecraft to an asteroid, plucks a boulder off its surface with a robotic claw, and brings it back in orbit around the moon. Then, brave astronaut heroes go and study the space rock up close—and bring samples back to Earth.

Except it’s not a movie: That’s the real-life idea for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which NASA announced today. Other than simply being an awesome space version of the claw arcade game (you know you really wanted that stuffed Pikachu), the mission will let NASA test technology and practice techniques needed for going to Mars.

The mission, which will cost up to $1.25 billion, is slated to launch in December 2020. It will take about two years to reach the asteroid (the most likely candidate is a quarter-mile-wide rock called 2008 EV5).

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NASA’s Curiosity rover finds fresh signs of ingredients for life on Mars

Curiosity Rover at the John Klein drill site where some of the samples were taken. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Rover at the John Klein drill site where some of the samples were taken. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Amina Khan via Phys.org:

Mars’s life-friendly past just got friendlier. Using samples previously collected by the NASA rover Curiosity, scientists have discovered evidence of nitrates in Martian rock: nitrogen compounds that on Earth are a crucial source of nutrients for living things.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lend further support to the idea that the Red Planet, now barren and dry, could once have hosted habitable environments.

Although planetary scientists have been on the hunt for organic carbon – the type of carbon-containing molecules that could be used and produced by living things – nitrogen also plays an essential role in life as we know it, said lead author Jennifer Stern, a planetary geochemist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

For example, nitrogen is a key component of nucleobases that make up RNA and DNA, and of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

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NASA Ames reproduces the building blocks of life in laboratory

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. Credit: NASA/ Dominic Hart

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory.

Credit: NASA/ Dominic Hart

Via Science Daily:

NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces these essential ingredients of life.

Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the central structure for uracil, cytosine, and thymine, which are all three part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). RNA and DNA are central to protein synthesis, but also have many other roles.

“We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine, and thymine, all three components of RNA and DNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space,” said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.

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NASA Live Stream Cuts Out After Alleged Alien UFO Sighting

Well, what do you make of this, skeptics? From the Houston Chronicle via Seattlepi.com:

UFO watchers are looking for anyone who might have been tracking NASA’s live feed of the International Space Station on Jan. 6.

According to Disclose.tv, veteran UFO hunter Toby Lundh spotted what he determined was an unidentified flying object just outside the space station as he was monitoring the live feed on his laptop.

In a text-message conversation with Blake at Disclose.tv, Lundh said he was sending a couple screen shots he took from the live feed before it was interrupted after 10 to 15 seconds.

According to Lundh’s text messages, he has found through persistent viewing that there are “always some UFOs showing up.” Likewise, he said, NASA always cuts the feed when a UFO gets close to the station…

[continues at the Houston Chronicle via Seattlepi.com]

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Fear of a Black Planet 25 Years Later

Fear_of_a_Black_Planet

This year is the 25th anniversary of the release of the Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet. The ambitious concept album followed-up on the success of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. That album’s socio-political observations found the band comparing that record to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On, but the musical ambitions of Planet put the band in mind of making a masterpiece — this was their Sgt. Pepper’s. I’m posting all the music below, but first, here’s the Futuristically Ancient site, explaining the collection’s iconic cover art…

…here is a post about the album cover for Public Enemy’s 1990 album, Fear of a Black Planet. The original album artwork was designed by NASA illustrator, B.E. Johnson, who is still known today for his space art. While the album is a commentary on dangerous results of white supremacy, both the tracks and the apocalyptic cover are a reminder of how fragile our world and all the things in it, including our steadfast beliefs, are.

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NASA’s Travel Posters for Their “Exoplanet Travel Series”

via PlanetQuest:

Via NASA NASA/JPL-Caltech

Via NASA/JPL-Caltech

Relax on Kepler-16b – Where your shadow always has company

December 15, 2014

Like Luke Skywalker’s planet “Tatooine” in Star Wars, Kepler-16b orbits a pair of stars. Depicted here as a terrestrial planet, Kepler-16b might also be a gas giant like Saturn. Prospects for life on this unusual world aren’t good, as it has a temperature similar to that of dry ice. But the discovery indicates that the movie’s iconic double-sunset is anything but science fiction.

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Ted Cruz, Longtime Foe Of NASA And Science, Will Oversee NASA And Science In New Congress

Via The Huffington Post:

Following the ratification of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committtee last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was named chair of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, where he will oversee NASA and science programs.

Appointed Jan. 8, Cruz is expected to be confirmed to the new role by the end of the month as one of many changes to the new Republican-controlled Congress. But the Republican senator’s words and actions during his time in office have painted him to be a far cry from an advocate for the sciences, leaving many concerned about the future of space and science funding.

Cruz’s infamous hours-long speech in September 2013 led to a 16-day government shutdown barring 97 percent of NASA employees from appearing for work. Interns to the agency were temporarily displaced when the NASA-provided housing was closed during the shutdown, and many have said the agency suffered lasting damage due to the freeze.

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The Billionaires’ Space Club Is About Ego, Not Exploration

Apollo 8 Reentry (photo via NASA)

Apollo 8 Reentry (photo via NASA)

via Slate:

It’s an old trick. Multimillionaires regularly try to spin acts of crass ego gratification as selfless philanthropy, no matter how obviously self-serving. They jump out of balloons at the edge of the atmosphere, take submarines to the bottom of the ocean, or shoot endangered animals on safari, all in the name of science and exploration. The more recent trend is billionaires making fleets of rocket ships for private space exploration. What makes this one different is that the public actually seems to buy the farce. Space buffs everywhere are acting as if everyone in the world will somehow be enriched when Lady Gaga is finally able to sip pink Cristal in zero gravity. Call it the trickle-down theory of space exploration: Somehow, building a luxury-liner suborbital rocket ship for the amusement of the ultrarich, ultrafamous, and ultrabored will be a great victory for all of humanity.

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NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

The first definitive detection of Martian organic chemicals in material on the surface of Mars came from analysis by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover of sample powder from this mudstone target, "Cumberland." Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The first definitive detection of Martian organic chemicals in material on the surface of Mars came from analysis by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover of sample powder from this mudstone target, “Cumberland.” Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

via Nasa from December 16:

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.

“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere.

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