This new global view and animation of Earth’s city lights is a composite
assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite. The data was
acquired over nine days in April 2012 and 13 days in October 2012. It
took 312 orbits to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth's land
surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue
Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet.
Spectacular NASA pictures of the Alluvial Fan in China below and many other aspects of Earth’s beauty available as a free PDF or an iPad app (with enhanced features) or for purchase in print ($ 44 in US)
"Earth as Art" features images from the Landsat 5 and 7, Terra, Aqua, and Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellites. All are among a fleet of U.S. environmental satellites used for scientific research and applied purposes. Instruments on these satellites measure light outside of the visible range. The images produced from these data reveal features and patterns not always visible to the naked eye. The Terra, Aqua, and EO-1 satellites are managed by NASA. Landsat satellites are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The iPad version of "Earth as Art" allows users to zoom into the book's 75 satellite images and access additional information on selected features and the satellites used.”
Felix Baumgartner’s amazing dive took a lot more than a few Red Bulls (the sponsor). Plenty of technology as these excerpts from ExtremeTech show:
“Even getting high enough to make the record jump is a technical challenge. 128,000 feet (over 39,000 meters) is several times higher than the altitudes frequented by commercial jets. It even surpasses world altitude record of 123,520 feet for jet aircraft. So getting there isn’t simply a matter of hitching a ride on a plane. Baumgartner used a specially-designed balloon ( helium-filled Stratos balloon that took three hours to get to the height) with a spaceship-sized capsule suspended underneath to make his ascent.”
“During the ascent, the sphere is pressurized to 8 psi, about the same pressure as the atmosphere at 16,000 feet above sea level. Much like a race car cockpit, the sphere is surrounded by a cage of chromium-molybdenum (chromoly steel) tubing. An outer insulated shell of fiberglass helps protect the capsule from the -70 degree Fahrenheit (-56.7C) temperatures. An aluminum honeycomb at the bottom of the capsule protects the sphere during landing. Additional, one-time-use crush pads of cell-paper honeycomb can withstand up to 8Gs on impact.”
“Baumgartner’s suit is essentially a highly-ruggedized spacesuit. Eight pounds of composite materials provide him with a 3 psi environment for his entire trip down, and protects him from the extreme temperatures he’ll experience. He doesn’t need to try to breathe 3 psi air, as the suit provides him with pure oxygen. A main and reserve chute are of course essential equipment for Baumgartner. They are only designed to be deployed up to about 172 mph (277 kph), so Baumgartner needs to slow down, by entering the thicker atmosphere closer to earth after about five minutes of free fall, before safely pulling his rip cord. There is a fail-safe which could have deployed the main chute if he had been moving at more than 115 feet (35 meters) per second at 2,000 feet (610 meters) or less altitude. Fifteen more minutes of floating down on his parachute got Baumgartner safely on the ground.”
Nothing ghoulish here about one of the Shuttle accidents.
Our tour guide today on a visit to NASA Kennedy Space Center (courtesy of Software AG) was Norm Thagard. Besides flying 4 Shuttle missions in 1983, 1985,1989 and 1992, he teased us to guess how he could have flown a “half” mission.
He flew on a Soyuz flight to the Mir Space Station in 1995, and flew back on the shuttle Atlantis in 1995. Norm was full of fascinating episodes from his space travels and from his years at NASA and with the Russians.
In addition, we got some nice bonuses – a visit into the massive 52 storey Vehicle Assembly Building, to the outside of launch pad 39A which shows the scars from the acoustic waves and super heated water jets from countless Apollo and Shuttle flights (in photo), and to the simulator where you experience the noise, the vibrations and Gs of a shuttle takeoff.
I live just 3 hours from the Center and have been here countless times. But this trip introduced me to so many new (to me) aspects of the space program, that I promised myself to come back at least once a year. Even with the Shuttle program retired and the next-gen Orion still years away, if you find yourself with a few extra hours on your next visit to Orlando, it is well worth a visit.
“That Musk feels no shame dismissing the efforts of vastly larger competitors would not surprise his friends and colleagues, who describe him as Steve Jobs, John D. Rockefeller, and Howard Hughes rolled into one. “He’s a throwback to when people were doing less incrementalist things,” says Peter Thiel, the tech investor who co-founded PayPal with Musk. “The companies he’s started are executing against a vision measured not in years but in decades.” Bruce Leak, a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur who once worked with Musk at a video game company, says, “He has that Bill Gates energy where his foot bounces and he’s wiggling just because he’s so smart.” Jon Favreau, a friend and the director of the Iron Man movies, has called Musk the basis for his version of comic book hero Tony Stark, the playboy inventor who builds a flying weaponized suit.”
While Endeavour is the star as it travels the West to its retirement home in Los Angeles, the 2 747s which ferried the shuttles from landing bases to Florida have played an amazing role in the NASA program.
“Features that distinguish the two SCAs from standard 747 jetliners are:
Three struts with associated interior structural strengthening protrude from the top of the fuselage (two aft, one forward) on which the orbiter is attached.
Two additional vertical stabilizers, one on each end of the standard horizontal stabilizer, to enhance directional stability.
Removal of all interior furnishings and equipment aft of the forward No. 1 doors.
Instrumentation used by SCA flight crews and engineers to monitor orbiter electrical loads during the ferry flights and also during pre- and post-ferry flight operations.
NASA 905 was the first SCA. It was obtained from American Airlines in 1974. Shortly after acceptance by NASA, the SCA flew a series of wake vortex research flights at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., in a study to seek ways of reducing turbulence produced by large aircraft. Pilots flying as much as several miles behind large aircraft have encountered wake turbulence that has caused control problems. The NASA study helped the Federal Aviation Administration modify flight procedures for commercial aircraft during airport approaches and departures. Following the wake vortex studies, NASA 905 was modified by Boeing to its present SCA configuration.”
Photo Credit Space.com of a Shuttle being piggybacked on a SCA
Mr. Heverly leads a team of 16 drivers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory here. Together, they are responsible for steering a six-wheeled, plutonium-powered rover called Curiosity across the Red Planet’s Gale Crater. Equipped with futuristic tools like a laser that can vaporize rock, the 2,000-pound robot arrived on Mars on Aug. 6, and Mr. Heverly took the wheel — or computer keyboard, actually — on Aug. 22. “Driving” a rover might be a misleading term. There is no joystick or accelerator, for a start. Mr. Heverly and his teammates tell the vehicle where to go next by entering hundreds of computer commands. Also, the driving is not done in real time: during the Martian night, the team plans where to send Curiosity next and sends instructions via radio transmission as the Mars day begins.
But it was the group’s esprit de corps that left the lasting impression. A spoof video, “We’re NASA and We Know It” recorded to the beat of the song “Sexy and I Know It,” now has 2.4 million views on YouTube. Mr. Ferdowsi, now known online as Mohawk Guy, has 53,000 Twitter followers, up from a couple of hundred before the mission.
The job can be grueling. For at least the first three months of Curiosity’s multiyear exploration, the drivers will be living and working on Mars time. The Martian day, called a Sol, is longer than a day on Earth by 39 minutes and 35 seconds, which adds up quickly; morning on Earth becomes night on Mars within a couple of weeks. For the drivers, keeping this schedule is like moving two time zones to the west every three days, tossing them into a perpetual state of jet lag.
Just as computing moved from mainframes to PCs in the 70s, satellites are moving from country/large enterprise privilege to smaller business and even individual use, thanks to the advent of private space. From BusinessWeek
"The rise of private space companies such as SpaceX and Interorbital Systems, which will blast Antunes’s hardware into space, has made satellites affordable for the DIY set. Interorbital Systems, for example, sells an $8,000 TubeSat kit (in photo, which wieghs a mere 1.65 lb), which is literally a satellite in a can. This little device comes with enough hardware to capture videos, send e-mail from space, and conduct experiments around temperature, pressure, and radiation.
Antunes has built a CubeSat, which is basically a few motherboards arranged in a cube. He’s spent about $15,000 on the computing hardware and sensors. “I’ve made a few mistakes along the way that have raised the budget,” says Antunes, who by the way was the Maryland Science Center’s Science Person of the Month in May 2007."