John has had some very notable, interesting, even spectacular guests on his Background Mode Podcast recently. Here’s a recap.
NASA is aiming for a manned SpaceX mission in the first quarter of 2020. NASA chief Jim Bridenstine made the announcement Thursday, Reuters reported.
The pronouncement of a revised time frame signaled NASA believes SpaceX is getting the Crew Dragon project back on track following an explosion during a ground test in April and technical challenges with its re-entry parachute system. Bridenstine said successful development of the capsule was key to achieving NASA’s top priority – the resumed “launching of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil” for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. The NASA administrator spoke to reporters at the end of a visit to the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, just outside Los Angeles, where chief executive Elon Musk led him on a tour of the sprawling manufacturing plant.
Power comes in so many forms! Apple Card is Power. Cool Stuff Found is Power. Quick Tips are Power. NASA has power. Wi-Fi has power. YOU have the power, too. After all, you can press play and listen to John F. Braun and Dave Hamilton talk through all of this and more. Seems like a good idea!
Mission control at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, TX was the central hub for mission operations in the Apollo era. NBC has a nice video news piece on how it’s been perfectly restored, now a museum, just as it was 50 years ago. Right down to the ash trays and slide rules. Image and source credit: NBC News.
Darren Beyer is a former NASA Space Shuttle engineer at Kennedy Space Center who worked on launching and recovering more than a dozen missions. He also conducted astronaut training and had the honor of working onboard every Space Shuttle orbiter except Challenger. In late 1998, he left NASA to become an author.
The result was the Anghazi series of novels, Casimir Bridge, released in 2016 to rave reviews thanks largely to his commitment to putting the science back in science fiction. The second installment, Pathogen Protocol was released in October, 2018. In this second show with Darren, we continue our previous discussion: Back to the Moon first or off to Mars first? With robot companions? Industrializing the Moon. Plus: Darren’s approach to the third novel in the Anghazi series and an explanation of how his characters achieve interstellar travel.
Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet.
“From now until Sept. 30, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here:”
Early this month, the NASA InSight probe detected seismic events on Mars for the first time. Wired has a feature on how the Mars scientists achieved this staggering feat.
It took NASA’s InSight probe two long months of listening before it detected the first faint rumblings from the red planet. On April 6, the probe’s seismometer registered what was later confirmed as the first ever marsquake detected by human instruments. But measuring the rumblings of a planet that – at its closest – remains almost 34 million miles away, requires an almost unimaginable amount of patience. Twice a day, a team in Switzerland receives seismic data from the InSight probe, where they perform an initial analysis.
NASA GLOBE Observer invites you to make observations about the Earth around you. Observations you collect and submit with this app are used by scientists to validate, interpret, and understand satellite data collected by NASA from space. The current version includes two capabilities. GLOBE Clouds allows observers to make regular observations of the Earth’s cloud cover and compare it to NASA satellite observations. GLOBE Mosquito Habitat Mapper allows users to locate mosquito habitats, observe and identify mosquito larvae, and reduce the potential threat of mosquito borne disease. Recently NASA added a new addition: Globe Trees. App Store: Free
John has had some very interesting and inspiring guests on his Background Mode podcast recently. Here are a few in case you missed them.
NASA’s Mars rovers are amazing and so very cool, which is why it’s awesome the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released open source plans so you can build your own. The plans show you how to build a scaled down version of the Curiosity rover with off the shelf parts. You’ll need a Raspberry Pi for the rover’s brain, some mechanical skills, and a lot of spare time. JPL says you should plan on spending at least 200 hours on the project, plus the parts will cost about US$2,500. It’s worth it because in the end you’ll have your own rover and you can modify it any way you like.
A new study based on astronauts Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly—identical twins—found that space travel can alter DNA, at least the way we’re doing space travel now. The study found that 7% of Scott Kelly’s DNA did not return to normal after a one-year mission in space. Gizmodo noted that the change is epigenetic in nature, rather than simply genetic. It’s the way Mr. Kelly’s genes are expressed, not the genes themselves, otherwise he would now be a new species. Important semantics aside, the changes were thought to be caused by “oxygen-deprivation stress, increased inflammation, and dramatic nutrient shifts that affect gene expression,” according to CNN. It’s important to both understand and solve these kinds of issues when it comes to prolonged space flight, travel to Mars, and other space-related activities, and the Kellys being part of this study will pay untold dividends towards that understanding. The video below on the topic is from NBC.
A psychological test once used by NASA on astronauts calculates Tim Cook as “Advisor.” It’s called the Process Communication Model, and it categorizes people under six categories: Advisors, Connectors, Doers, Dreamers, Originals, and Organizers. According to one website, Advisors make up 10% of the population, and curiously this trait skews 75% male. Tim Cook is well known for his careful, articulate way of speaking in interviews and keynotes, and when you look at Advisor traits, it makes sense. Or, it could be a cognitive bias. You see, I personally find this whole thing a bit concerning. Online personality tests are fun to take, but they definitely aren’t valid medical advice. That requires seeing a therapist. So it’s easy to cast yourself as one personality or another by comparing and contrasting traits you think you have, versus the traits that the personality has. However, unless Mr. Cook has seen a psychologist, the news that Tim is this trait is probably bunk. But I still think it’s Cool Stuff.
LEGO is celebrating women’s contributions to modern science and space flight with a new set called Women of NASA. The kit was designed by science writer and editor Maia Weinstock, and chosen from LEGO’s Ideas fan-submitted projects. It includes Margaret Hamilton and Apollo Guidance Computer code books, Nancy Grace Roman and the Hubble space telescope, along with Sally Ride and Mae Jemison and the Space Shuttle Challenger. The vital role women play in scientific discovery and space flight is horribly underrepresented so it was awesome seeing this kit get the thumbs up in the Ideas program, and now get an official launch date. Woman of NASA includes 231 pieces and will be available on November 1st for US$24.99.
There’s a solar eclipse that’ll cut a path across Mexico and the eastern United States coming on April 8th, 2024 and there’s a good chance the glasses you bought for this year’s eclipse will still work even if they have an expiration date.
Once the moon is completely between the earth and sun, you’ll only have about 2.5 minutes or less to take a photograph. If you have a tripod, go ahead and use it.
The rings of Saturn are about 10 meters thick. Yet they light up the solar system with wonder and awe. In this NASA image, the Earth is seen from the Cassini spacecraft through a gap in the rings of Saturn. It’s an encore of the famous Pale Blue Dot image of Earth seen from 6 billion km away back in 1990. In this new image, if you look closely, Earth’s moon is also visible. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson might say, this one photo provides a substantial cosmic perspective. We are tiny. We are alone. This is the only home we have.
Every year since 2014, NASA has published a software catalog, On Wednesday NASA released a software catalog with over 1,000 free code samples. The free code is divided into 15 categories like robotics, aeronautics, climate simulators, biological sensors and guidance systems. Although the code is free, some restrictions may apply. For some, any U.S. citizen can apply to use it. Others can only be used by other federal agencies. And there is even some open-source code in the catalog. Open-source code can be directly downloaded, but most others require you to create an account, or in some cases sign a government contract or a usage agreement. If you’re in the sciences or like to tinker at home, be sure to check out this year’s NASA catalog.
NASA’s Apollo 11 space capsule “Columbia” took astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to lunar orbit and safely back home in July 1969. The fiftieth anniversary of that trip is coming up soon, so the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is going to put the 13,600 pound capsule on display in four major U.S. cities starting late this year and continuing into 2019. This article at NPR has the story, the cities and the dates. (Image credit: Smithsonian.)
NASA’s Juno probe spent five years traveling to Jupiter, and on July 4th it safely arrived and slid into orbit. That means we’ll have loads of new information about the gas giant soon, and thanks to our iPhones and iPads, we can stay on top of the latest discoveries. The Mac Observer put together a few apps for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch so you can find out more about the mission, get the latest Juno news, and learn about Jupiter and the Juno probe, too.