Bill Nye urges Trump to recommit to the U.S. Space Program

Bill Nye and The Planetary Society released a direct appeal to the Trump administration, asking that the government continue to focus on Mars and support commercial space industry. Trump proposed a reduction in the NASA budget. Read the rest

Astronaut unknowingly brought souvenir flags to the moon and now you can buy one

When Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott hopped across the lunar surface in 1971, he was carrying a pouch of tiny US flags in his spacesuit. The stash of flags was such a secret that Scott didn't even know they were there at the time. Now one of the souvenir flags, the pouch, and the bracket where it was attached are up for auction. The flag is estimated to go for $15,000 and the bracket/pouch for $30,000, but I definitely think you need both lots. From Collect Space:

"This [hidden pouch] was apparently unknown to anybody else until the (Portable Life Support System's Oxygen Purge System where the pouch was stowed were) disassembled after the mission by some other member of the CSD (Crew Systems Division) and the flag package was discovered," wrote Scott.

The identity of the original CSD member who hid the flags, or the person who found them afterward, is unknown...

Scott was presented with some of the flags and the 7.5 by 4 inch (19 by 10 cm) bracket as mementos of his flight by his management at the same meeting where he was told of their existence. A law passed in 2012 reaffirmed Apollo-era astronauts' title to the items they retained as souvenirs of their missions...

The hidden flags were not the only secret souvenirs on the Apollo 15 mission. Scott and his two crew mates also took postmarked envelopes, a memorial statue, and timepieces that NASA later labeled as unauthorized. The hidden flags were not associated with those items, though.

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Mimas in Saturnlight

Today's Astronomy picture of the day is Saturn's moon, Mimas, bathed in light from both the planet and the sun. The image has had the darker side brightened somewhat; click through for the unenhanced original.

Explanation: Peering from the shadows, the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Mimas lies in near darkness alongside a dramatic sunlit crescent. The mosaic was captured near the Cassini spacecraft's final close approach on January 30, 2017. Cassini's camera was pointed in a nearly sunward direction only 45,000 kilometers from Mimas. The result is one of the highest resolution views of the icy, crater-pocked, 400 kilometer diameter moon. ... Other Cassini images of Mimas include the small moon's large and ominous Herschel Crater.

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Lego announces "Women of NASA" minifigs

Last year, MIT News editor Maya Weinstock submitted her Women of NASA minifigures design to LEGO Ideas. LEGO has just approved the idea and laster this year or early 2018 will release an official minifig set of these five inspiring women in science:

Margaret Hamilton, computer scientist: While working at MIT under contract with NASA in the 1960s, Hamilton developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo missions to the moon. She is known for popularizing the modern concept of software.

Katherine Johnson, mathematician and space scientist: A longtime NASA researcher, Johnson is best known for calculating and verifying trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo programs — including the Apollo 11 mission that first landed humans on the moon.

Sally Ride, astronaut, physicist, and educator: A physicist by training, Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983. After retiring as a NASA astronaut, she founded an educational company focusing on encouraging children — especially girls — to pursue the sciences.

Nancy Grace Roman, astronomer: One of the first female executives at NASA, Roman is known to many as the "Mother of Hubble" for her role in planning the Hubble Space Telescope. She also developed NASA's astronomy research program.

Mae Jemison, astronaut, physician, and entrepreneur: Trained as a medical doctor, Jemison became the first African-American woman in space in 1992. After retiring from NASA, Jemison established a company that develops new technologies and encourages students in the sciences.

(via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone

Sidd Bikkannavar, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), still doesn't know why he was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and compelled under duress to give agent's the access PIN to his NASA-owned mobile phone.

From The Verge:

Seemingly, Bikkannavar’s reentry into the country should not have raised any flags. Not only is he a natural-born US citizen, but he’s also enrolled in Global Entry — a program through CBP that allows individuals who have undergone background checks to have expedited entry into the country. He hasn’t visited the countries listed in the immigration ban and he has worked at JPL — a major center at a US federal agency — for 10 years. There, he works on “wavefront sensing and control,” a type of optics technology that will be used on the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

...

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. “I was cautiously telling him I wasn’t allowed to give it out, because I didn’t want to seem like I was not cooperating,” says Bikkannavar. “I told him I’m not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access.

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Idaho's massive checkerboard forest seen from the Space Station

An astronaut on the International Space Station snapped this striking photo last month of forest land adjacent to the Priest River in northern Idaho. From NASA:

The squares in this landscape checkerboard appear to be the result of forest management. Similar patterns originated in the 1800s, when alternate parcels of land were granted by the U.S. government to railroads such as the Northern Pacific. Many parcels in the Pacific Northwest were later sold off and harvested for timber.

The land shown here is now managed for wildlife and for timber harvesting. The white patches reflect areas with younger, smaller trees, where winter snow cover shows up brightly to the astronauts. Dark green-brown squares are parcels of denser, intact forest. The checkerboard is used as a method of maintaining the sustainability of forested tracts while still enabling a harvest of trees.

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Stunning image of Saturn's moon Mimas

A breathtaking photo of Saturn's moon Mimas taken this week by NASA's Cassini space probe.

You may recall, that another photo (below) of Mimas raised concerns that it isn't actually a moon but rather the Death Star.

(Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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Boeing's new spacesuit is far out

Boeing revealed its new sleek and chic spacesuit designed for astronauts aboard the Boeing/Bigelow CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Launched on Atlas V rockets the Starliner capsule will shuttle commercial crew members to and from the International Space Station and other low-Earth orbit locales. From Boeing:

The Starliner spacesuit provides greater pressurized mobility and is about 40 percent lighter than previous suits. Its innovative layers will keep astronauts cooler as well. The touchscreen-friendly gloves allow astronauts to interact with the capsule’s tablets while the boots are breathable and slip resistant. Zippers in the torso area will make it easier for astronauts to comfortably transition from sitting to standing. In addition to protecting astronauts during launch and the return to Earth, the suit also helps connect astronauts to ground and space crews through the communications headset within the helmet. The suit’s hood-like soft helmet sports a wide polycarbonate visor to give Starliner passengers better peripheral vision throughout their ride to and from space.

Video from Boeing:

Photo from Boeing:

Photo from NASA/Cory Huston:

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In honor of Hidden Figures, meet the contemporary black women contributing to NASA’s success

The wonderful new movie Hidden Figures (based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly) tells the story of three black women who were crucial to the success of NASA’s Apollo missions in the 1960s. And now NASA is celebrating the many black women who play a crucial role in the space program today. In a series of videos, women like systems engineer Julie Williams-Byrd, project manager Antja Chambers, and astronaut Jeanette Epps discuss their work with NASA and how the women of Hidden Figures inspired them.

You can learn more on NASA’s “From Hidden Figures To Modern Figures” page and you can see all of the “NASA’s Modern Figures” videos on YouTube. Read the rest

Check out Adam Savage's far-out replica of an Apollo spacesuit

When most people commission a bespoke suit, they pay attention to the stitching and drape of the fabric. For MythBuster Adam Savage's latest custom tailoring job, he had some more esoteric details in mind. Here he is on Tested giving a tour of his Apollo A7L spacesuit replica, fashioned by Ryan Nagata. (Tested)

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Astronaut Eugene Cernan, last man to walk on the moon, has died at 82

"We leave as we came, and, God willing, we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind." These were the last words Eugene Cernan said upon leaving the surface of our moon, at the end of Apollo 17.

Cernan (shown below at the beginning of EVA 3) was the last man to walk on the moon. He died Monday, Jan. 16, surrounded by his family.

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That's no moon...

NASA claims this image taken by the Cassini probe depicts Saturn's moon Mimas with the distinctive Herschel Crater, but we know better. From NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute:

Named after the icy moon's discoverer, astronomer William Herschel, the crater stretches 86 miles (139 kilometers) wide -- almost one-third of the diameter of Mimas (246 miles or 396 kilometers) itself...

This view looks toward the anti-Saturn hemisphere of Mimas. North on Mimas is up and rotated 21 degrees to the left. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 22, 2016 using a combination of spectral filters which preferentially admits wavelengths of ultraviolet light centered at 338 nanometers.

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John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, hospitalized in declining health at 95

John Glenn, a war hero and the first American to orbit planet Earth, has been hospitalized in Ohio for over a week.

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NASA's Space Poop Challenge

NASA issued a public $30,000 bounty "for fecal, urine, and menstrual management systems to be used in the crew’s launch and entry suits over a continuous duration of up to 144 hours." From the competition brief:

Current space suits are worn for launch and entry activities and in-space activities to protect the crew from any unforeseen circumstances that the space environment can cause. A crew member could find themselves in this suit for up to 10 hours at a time nominally for launch or landing, or up to 6 days if something catastrophic happens while in space.

The old standby solution consisted of diapers, in case astronauts needed to relieve themselves. However, the diaper is only a very temporary solution, and doesn’t provide a healthy/protective option longer than one day.

What's needed is a system inside a space suit that collects human waste for up to 144 hours and routes it away from the body, without the use of hands. The system has to operate in the conditions of space - where solids, fluids, and gases float around in microgravity (what most of us think of as "zero gravity") and don't necessarily mix or act the way they would on earth. This system will help keep astronauts alive and healthy over 6 days, or 144 hrs.

Space Poop Challenge (HeroX) Read the rest

Float through the space station in this fisheye POV

Crank it to 4K and go full-screen to feel as if you're floating through the International Space Station. It's cool to think about how quaint this technology will look someday, like a wooden sailing ship, but for now, it's still mind-blowingly cool. Read the rest

NASA Curiosity Mars Rover Checks Odd-looking Iron Meteorite

On Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover zapped a globular, golf-ball-size object with a laser, and the signal it got back confirmed it was an iron-nickel meteorite fallen from the Red Planet's sky.

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Great moments in space history: farting on the moon

YouTuber Barb Ackue (get it?) was kind enough to upload an important moment in US history: Commander John Young complaining about flatulence while Apollo 16 was on the lunar surface. After working through some technical issues, Young says: Read the rest

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