Tired of the bragging it hears from the IT vendors, NASA is using its rockets to launch colored clouds.
“Rocket launches are spectacular, “wow” events that most of us don’t get to see with our own eyes. But between 7 and 9 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 7, residents in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States may get a glimpse of NASA”s next suborbital launch from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Approximately six minutes after launch, the sounding rocket will deploy four sub-payloads containing mixtures of barium and strontium will be released, creating a cloud that is blue-green and red in color.
Residents from Long Island, New York, 235 miles north of the launch site, to Morehead City, North Carolina, 232 miles south, 165 miles west in Charlottesville, Virginia -- and everyone in between -- could get a glimpse of the colorful evening launch.”
The movie, The Martian, is a testament to fierce human determination to survive, and it is also a tribute to human ingenuity. I predict it will be good for NASA and for STEM broadly.
Mark Watney, the Matt Damon character, describes his predicament
“I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty- one days. If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.”
But he does not crawl under a rock and die, he innovates and then some as the movie vividly shows.
The characters are science polymaths as one explains
“Everyone has multiple roles. I’m the doctor, the biologist, and the EVA specialist. Commander Lewis is our geologist. Johanssen is the sysop and reactor tech. Martinez pilots the MDV and MAV. “
Ridley Scott, the director, is no stranger to space and science fiction with credits like Alien and Promotheus. This movie weaves in the Jet Propulsion Lab, NASA locations in Houston and Cape Canaveral, and from the Chinese space agency – and celebrates astrodynamicists, botanists and a variety of other STEM careers.
The movie is adapted from a book which in itself is a tribute to crowdsourcing of STEM disciplines. In 2009, Andy Weir
“started posting the story chapter by chapter on his personal blog where anyone could read it for free. The early version of his self-published book attracted a lot of science-minded readers, and they offered feedback. Weir is a (software engineer and) space nerd, but he says chemistry is not his area of expertise. "Chemists actually pointed out some problems in early drafts," Weir said.”
NASA is basking in the PR from the movie. In a blog post they say
The Martian movie is set 20 years in the future, but here at NASA we are already developing many of the technologies that appear in the film. The movie takes the work we’re doing and extends it into fiction set in the 2030s, when NASA astronauts are regularly traveling to Mars and living on the surface. Here are a few ways The Martian movie compares to what we’re really doing on our journey to Mars.
Go enjoy the thrilling movie. Even more so, thank it for the next generation of STEM enthusiasts it will encourage.
Fired from a jet plane, the LauncherOne rocket lifts satellites weighing as much as 500 pounds into orbit for about $10 million per launch, much less than the $50 million to $60 million most of its competitors charge.
Milner’s initiative (the announcement date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing) is actually two initiatives. The first, Breakthrough Listen, will use most of the $100 million he’s making available to enlist some of the world’s most powerful radio telescopes to scan the cosmos for regular or repeating signals that could have no natural explanation–and therefore must be a beacon of some kind. The second, dubbed Breakthrough Message, is a contest that will offer a $1 million prize to the person or people who develop the best message earthlings can send back.
Orbital Insight Inc. founder Crawford says he wants to create the “macroscope” that will alter the world as microscopes did centuries ago.
The Palo Alto, California, company uses advanced image processing and algorithms to track national and global trends. One product estimates sales at 60 U.S. retail and restaurant chains. Others generate a global poverty map and predict illegal deforestation by watching for road construction and other signs of logging.
Customers include hedge funds, banks, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and Fortune 500 companies — “anyone who needs to understand the world at scale to make decisions,” said Crawford, who led the team that created the daily activity planners for NASA’s Mars rovers.
These images are a composite of oil storage facilities around the globe. Crude is stored in massive tanks whose capacity can be estimated from the shadows they cast. How much is stored can be gauged from the shadows on the interior lids, which move up and down based on the amount of oil in the tank.
WorldWide Telescope was designed with rich interactivity in mind. Guided Tours, which are especially popular among educators and astronomy enthusiasts, offer scripted paths through the 3D environment, enabling users to view and create media-rich interactive stories about anything from star formation to the discovery of the large-scale structure of the universe.
On July 14, more than a quarter-century later, his dream will finally be fulfilled. Around noon on that date, after a nine-year, 3 billion-mile journey, NASA’s 1,000-lb., grand-piano-size, $700 million New Horizons probe will streak past tiny Pluto at a blistering 31,000 m.p.h. The spacecraft is so remote now that radio communications–traveling at the speed of light–require a nearly nine-hour round-trip. Ultimately, New Horizons will come to within just 6,000 miles of the icy world, furiously snapping pictures and recording data on the temperature, structure and composition of Pluto, its five known moons and anything else that might be there–more moons, perhaps, or a system of rings.
But it’s Pluto that’s the real prize. The little world has intrigued astronomers since it was first discovered more than 85 years ago. Until Pluto showed up, all the outer planets were known to be gas giants. What was this pip-squeak doing out there all alone? What was it made of? Why did it even exist?
I spent a couple of hours at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The highlight was the IMAX, 3D documentary Journey to Space. It is impressive how in less than an hour they brought out highlights from the Apollo moon shots, the Space Shuttle/International Space Station/Hubble telescope era and the next phase of Orion rockets and the goal to reach Mars.
These have been stepping stones for each others – how the inflexibility of the Apollo generation space suits is helping design the next-gen, how Apollo era rockets are guiding design of the much more powerful Orion rockets, how long term stays on the ISS are helping plan for physical and mental health on the much longer Mars shot, how the innovative Bigelow expandable Kevlar type space module and solar arrays will facilitate the long journey, the robotics like the Rover which will precede humans, the audacious attempt to redirect an asteroid into a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts can explore it and return with samples.
And then you walk out and see the exhibits of the Mars Rover and the Apollo lunar module and various rockets and like me you likely get goosebumps. A manned Mars shot is likely in the next two decades – and I mean a round trip.
Most of the armchair aliens shared a demographic, the young-man Marsophile: guys with tattoos across their necks and arms, goatees and mustaches, variations on the Weird Al look. But there were also older women in the room, and kids too young to drive. What brought them together was an abiding belief in Lansdorp’s central message, that humans should be expanding onto other planets, and they should do so now. A few years ago, President Obama announced that the U.S. would put astronauts in orbit around Mars by the mid-2030s, but budget cuts and sequestration have slowed the project down, if not killed it outright. Even if NASA gets the mission back on track, the agency has said it will only send humans to Mars if it can also bring them back—a maddening bit of bureaucratic circumspection for the crowd assembled in Washington, D.C. “The technology to get you back from Mars simply doesn’t exist,” Lansdorp said, stirring up his audience, and it may not exist even 20 years from now. “We need to do this with the stuff that we have today, and the only way we can do that is by going there to stay.”