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.