Tag Archives | NASA

What if the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster never happened?

STS-51-L crew: (front row) Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair; (back row) Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik.

STS-51-L crew: (front row) Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair; (back row) Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik.

For people of a certain age, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster is one of those events where one remembers where they were and what they were doing, not unlike JFK’s assassination or the morning of September 11, 2001.

It was the worst space program disaster since Apollo 1, resulting in the deaths of all astronauts aboard the Challenger. Or so we have been led to believe.

The official details of the disaster are fairly straight forward, as the Wikipedia entry attests:

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986, when the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099) (mission STS-51-L) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, which included five NASA astronauts and two payload specialists. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida at 11:38 EST (16:38 UTC).

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Hubble Space Telescope’s chief scientist on what it took to get the project off the ground

Hubble in orbit. NASA

Hubble in orbit. NASA

C Robert O’Dell, Vanderbilt University

Iconic images of astronomical pillars of gas and dust, views of galaxies soon after they were formed, an accelerating universe driven by Dark Energy… “give us more!” say the public and the taxpayers. The Hubble Space Telescope is undoubtedly one of the most popular science projects today. It was not always thus.

Laying the groundwork

With its origins dating back to a time when almost all astronomers used photographic plates to record images at ground-based telescopes, the idea of an ambitious and expensive observatory in space was not a popular one.

Palomar Observatory, firmly rooted to the ground. Tylerfinvold

The most influential astronomers of the 1960s thought it better to spend the money on 15 copies of the 200-inch giant on Palomar Mountain, rather than gamble all on a single telescope in space that was not as large.

Nevertheless, NASA held out the Hubble as a long-term goal.… Read the rest

Continue Reading

NASA’s Chief Scientist Certain We’ll Find Alien Life in 10-20 Years

The cynic in me says NASA has probably already found evidence of alien life but it will take 10 to 20 years to persuade the US Government to let them reveal it… Popular Science reports on the surprisingly forthright statement from Ellen Stofan, NASA’s Chief Scientist:

NASA is certain: We’re not alone in this universe.

Speaking at a public panel on Tuesday in Washington D.C., NASA scientists discussed the likelihood of finding organic life in our solar system. Given the surprising number of oceans residing throughout our celestial home, they say “it’s definitely not an if, it’s a when.”

640px-Messier51_sRGB

“I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years,” Ellen Stofan, NASA’s Chief Scientist, said at the panel.

Of course, the space agency isn’t talking about deadly xenomorphs or intelligent beings that can take on the personas of hot teenagers.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Mars has belts of glaciers consisting of frozen water

Mars distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes – between the blue lines, in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as the surface of the ground, but radar measurements show that there are glaciers composed of frozen water underneath the dust. (Credit: Mars Digital Image Model, NASA/Nanna Karlsson)

Mars distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes – between the blue lines, in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as the surface of the ground, but radar measurements show that there are glaciers composed of frozen water underneath the dust.
(Credit: Mars Digital Image Model, NASA/Nanna Karlsson)

via Niels Bohr Institute:

Mars has distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as surface of the ground, but radar measurements show that underneath the dust there are glaciers composed of frozen water. New studies have now calculated the size of the glaciers and thus the amount of water in the glaciers. It is the equivalent of all of Mars being covered by more than one meter of ice.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

The NASA Team Keeping Tabs on Intergalactic Death Rays

Intergalactic death rays are just so sexy deadly… BBC Future reports on the NASA team trying to help us avoid gamma ray bursts:

You do not want to get in the way of a gamma ray burst.

Gamma Decay.svg

Illustration of an emission of a gamma ray (γ) from an atomic nucleus

 

“They’re the most luminous, high energy explosions that have happened since the Big Bang,” says Neil Gehrels, principal investigator at Nasa for the Swift mission. “It’s like a beam of gamma radiation that’s flying through the Universe.”

What would happen if one of these cosmic death rays of high frequency electromagnetic waves hit the Earth?

“For a planet 1000 light years away, it would destroy the ozone layer. If it was just 100 light years away it could blow the atmosphere off,” says Gehrels matter-of-factly.

“The chances of that happening to the Earth is fairly small, about once in a billion years,” he adds.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

Climate change deniers & their dark money sugar daddies

Republished with permission from occupy.com/actout

On this week’s episode, we shine a light on the dark money funded climate change deniers; the bible thumpers and snowball throwers who think their lack of science knowledge excuses them from listening to 97% of scientists! We debunk their shallow bullshit “arguments” and give you the tools to fight these nut bags and save the planet!

Click here for the full episode
Follow us on @ActOutOnOccupy
Facebook.com/ActOutOnOccupy
occupy.com/actout

Read the rest

Continue Reading

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).

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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.

Read the rest
Continue Reading

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]

Read the rest

Continue Reading