And if you’re interested in looking back, here’s an archive to all the past Carnivals of Space. If you’ve got a space-related blog, you should really join the carnival. Just email an entry to [email protected], and the next host will link to it. It will help get awareness out there about your writing, help you meet others in the space community – and community is what blogging is all about. And if you really want to help out, sign up to be a host. Send an email to the above address.
Sunday was a big day in space, and astronaut Chris Hadfield captured the excitement in photos, and shared them via Twitter. “What a day!” Hadfield tweeted. “Reached & grabbed a Dragon, berthed her to Station & opened the hatch to find fresh fruit, notes from friends, and peanut butter.”
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft overcame a problem with its thrusters after reaching orbit on Friday, and on Sunday Dragon successfully approached the Station, where it was captured by Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford and crewmate Tom Marshburn using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Dragon was grappled at 5:31 a.m. EST, and was berthed to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module at approximately 8:56 a.m. EST on March 3.
See more photos below. The image captions are Hadfield’s Tweets.
In this video, Hadfield provides a tour of the Robotic Workstation where the crew commanded Canadarm2 to capture and dock the Dragon:
NASA’s Earth Observatory website has decided to join in on the bracketology fever that overtakes many US citizens during the month of March … but with science and not basketball. Instead of March Madness, it’s EARTH MADNESS! From March 4 through April 5, Earth Observatory fans can vote for their favorite images of the year. There are thirty-two images vying for the title, but only one can be the winner. This will be a head-to-head competition, whittling the total from 32 to 16 to 8 to 4 to 2 in a tournament of remote sensing science. The competition will be stiff in the four brackets — Earth at Night, Events, Data, and True-Color — so it is up to you to separate the winners from the losers. Check back each week to vote in the next round and help choose a winner.
Print a copy of the bracket, fill it out, and get that workplace pool going. Come back every Monday to vote and watch the results.
There are some moments in an astrophotographer’s life that you just have to step back and say thanks for the view. “Thanks clear sky,” said Zhang Hong when he posted this image on Google+.
This almost looks like a shower of stars raining down. Just gorgeous.
Here are the specs on his equipment: Nikon D800, Aperture: f/2.8, Focal length: 14.mm, exposure time:25.9 seconds, ISO-4000, -0.7 exposure compensation, spot metering, no flash, equatorial mount.
Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.
Two amazing images from the Cassini spacecraft today: We know how brightly Venus shines in our own night sky; now here’s visual proof it shines brightly even in the skies above Saturn. In one image it shines so brightly that it is even visible looking through Saturn’s rings! But in this absolutely stunning shot, above, Venus appears as a morning star, just off the edge of the planet. From Cassini, you’re looking directly above the edge of Saturn’s G ring to see the white dot, which is Venus. Lower down, Saturn’s E ring makes an appearance, looking blue thanks to the scattering properties of the dust that comprises the ring. (A bright spot near the E ring is a distant star, the Cassini CICLOPS team says.)
This beautiful image was taken on January 4, 2013.
On average, Venus and Saturn are about 1,321,200,000 km (820,955,619 mi or 8.83 astronomical units) apart, so that’s a nice, long distance shot! Venus is brighter in Saturn’s skies than Earth is, however, because Venus is covered in thick sulfuric acid clouds, making it very bright.
And here’s the other great shot, showing Saturn and its rings in true color:
Venus is the white dot, just above and to the right of the image center. Again, its amazing that it shines through the rings.
This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 17 degrees below the ring plane, and was taken in visible light (and it is a true-color image) with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Nov. 10, 2012.
In an email about these images, Cassini imaging team lead Carolyn Porco said that even though Venus reaches nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius) and has a surface pressure 100 times that of Earth’s, Venus is considered a twin of our planet because of their similar sizes, masses, rocky compositions and close orbits.
And so, she pointed out, “Think about Venus the next time you find yourself reveling in the thriving flora, balmy breezes, and temperate climate of a lovely day on Earth, and remember: you could be somewhere else!”
What would it be like to step in an ordinary room and feel a gentle, computer-generated jungle breeze, with trees swaying nearby that you could touch?
AMD, a micro processor manufacturer, is trying to figure that out. The company has been doing a conference circuit in recent weeks promoting its research in heterogeneous system architecture, which is essentially a method to bind parallel computing processes together for greater efficiency.
The “holy grail” of these efforts, according to AMD’s Phil Rogers, would be building something like the holodeck — the computer deck on Star Trek (notably in The Next Generation) where characters would play immersive games. They could dial up a mystery novel, for example, then find themselves in a seedy bar with virtual-yet-real-looking holograms in 1940s-style clothing.
Rogers, a corporate fellow at AMD, has spent years working in 3-D technologies. It’s only recently that the company felt comfortable enough to speculate about the holodeck, he says. Other entities are also working on holodeck-like technologies, such as Microsoft and Stony Brook University, so perhaps that helped.
AMD believes it could be only 10 to 15 years before a holodeck becomes real. What would it take to get there?
A better-than-Imax video experience. We hope you’ve had the experience of sitting back in a domed Imax theatre and watching the shuttle launch in Hubble 3-D. Yet despite the awesome wrap-around view, it doesn’t feel like reality. A holodeck would need 360-degree fidelity. It would need to understand that objects get closer when you step towards them, and further when you step away. Perspective must tilt as you move your head. “You inevitably have to combine multiple video feeds to do that and stitch them together seamlessly,” Rogers said.
The highest-fidelity audio ever. You know those people who swear that records produce better music than MP3s? “People are very much more fussy about video than audio,” Rogers points out. To make the holodeck feel real, the audio not only has to be immersive, but also directional and able to change as the person moves. The latest in surround-sound technologies doesn’t even close to that, he said.
The sensation of touch. Sure, Captain Jean-Luc Picard can slug a virtual villain in the head, but it wouldn’t have that same oomph unless Picard could feel his hand making contact with the other guy. “We still need to develop the tactile feedback, as somebody in a holodeck interacts with an object and another person they need to touch, and they need to feel that they touched,” Rogers said. “The most likely way that we’d do that is with targeted air jets, and transducers that haven’t been developed yet.”
Efficient memory allocation. While the blue screen of death in three dimensions would be rather epic, that’s not what holodeck designers want. The best way to keep the holodeck humming will be sharing memory between the central processing unit and the graphics processing unit, Rogers said. We’ve already made strides in this direction. Still, millions of parallel processes will have to happen simultaneously, so there’s quite a ways to go.
Lots of processing power. It will take mega computer juice to sync up the images, audio and other features that make the holodeck real. Remember that line in the movie Apollo 13when Tom Hanks refers to the impressive computer “in a single room”? It’s laughable now when glancing at an iPhone, but we face a similar challenge now with holodecks. “The problem is it would take racks and racks of mainframe-like computers,” points out Rogers. A holodeck can’t be commercially available until the components fit to a small rack and draw small amounts of power.
Find paying customers. Naturally, a holodeck won’t happen without a captive market. We’ve had at least one petition asking the White House to build the Enterprise, but looks like that won’t happen anytime soon. Luckily for humanity, AMD has a backup. The firm believes business conference calls could really use a boost from holodeck-like technologies. Instead of having a talking head and a standard PowerPoint presentation, imagine how much more interesting the report would look if said person could, say, grab a virtual model of the solar system and spin it before your eyes.
Target the open-source community. For those people who want to channel their inner Wesley Crusher, AMD plans to leave at least some of the holodeck architecture open to amateur programmers. It’s hard to predict what computer languages will take hold at that time, but it would be the equivalent of letting somebody with C++ or Java experience into the hardware. Perhaps it will let you set your phasers to … whatever you choose.
On March 1st 2013, President Obama awoke hoards of Star Trek and Star Wars fans when during a press conference he (purposely?) fused a Jedi Mind Trick and Vulcan Mind Meld into a: Jedi Mind Meld. According to White House transcripts, President Obama was responding to CNN’s Jessica Yellin’s remark that he should have the leadership to force Congress to accept a deal to avert the damaging sequester. President Obama replied to her by first stating that he was not a dictator, and second that he would not use a Jedi Mind Meld to coerce Congress into accepting a deal.
For those who are unaware, a Vulcan Mind Meld and Jedi Mind Trick are indeed different. Two videos are posted below that shed light on that difference. The first video features Spock performing a Vulcan Mind Meld (Star Trek), and the second involves Obi-Wan Kenobi inacting a Jedi Mind Trick (Star Wars).
Although the pundits initially believed that the President’s mixing of terms was a mistake, experts in some quarters now believe that by using a Jedi Mind Meld President Obama could simulatenously ascertain both his foes’ true intentions and coerce them into accepting a deal. The President may have likewise been contemplating how Congress could be spurred into action, and perhaps thought as a last resort he’d recruit Star Trek and Star Wars fans worldwide to pressure Congress. Toward that end the White House released the following image via their Twitter feed, and also launched the website http://www.wh.gov/jedimindmeld/:
However, Leonard Nimoy (Spock) has weighed into ‘Meld-gate’, and advised President Obama to forget about Jedi Mind Tricks altogether since, “Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress. Live Long and Prosper.“
President Obama isn’t the only politician who happens to be an avid Star Trek fan. King Abdullah II of Jordan was lucky enough to make a cameo on Star Trek Voyager. Will President Obama be making a cameo in the new Star Trek film “Into the Darkness” directed by J. J. Abrams? Incidentally, Abrams will likewise be directing the new Star Wars: Episode VII movie. Perhaps the President is on to something?
A newly found asteroid will pass just inside the orbit of the Moon, with its closest approach on March 4, 2013 at 07:35 UTC. Named 2013 EC, the asteroid is about the size of the space rock that exploded over Russia two and a half weeks ago, somewhere between 10-17 meters wide. The asteroid that sparked the Russian meteor is estimated to have been about 17 meters wide when it entered Earth’s atmosphere.
2013 EC was discovered by the Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona on March 2. There is no chance this asteroid will hit Earth.
2013 EC will come within 396,000 kilometers from Earth, (246,000 miles, or around 1.0 lunar distances, 0.0026 AU.
The Moon’s distance from the Earth varies between 363,104 km (225,622 miles) at perigee (closest) and 406,696 km (252,088 miles) at apogee (most distant point).
Gianluca Masi from the Virtual Telescope Project had a live view of the asteroid when it was about twice the distance of the Moon, and a replay of that webcast is available below. (Views of the asteroid start at about 31:00 in the video.)
“That we are finding all these asteroids recently does not mean that we are being visited by more asteroids,” Masi said during the webcast, “just that our ability to detect them has gotten so much better. Our technology has improved a lot over the past decades.”
Kennedy Space Center – After overcoming a frightening thruster failure that could have spelled rapid doom on the heels of a breathtakingly beautiful launch, the privately developed Dragon spacecraft successfully berthed at the International Space Station (ISS) a short while ago, at 8:56 a.m. EST Sunday morning, March 3, 2013 – thereby establishing an indispensable American Lifeline to the massive orbiting lab complex.
Hearts sank and hopes rose in the span of a few troubling hours following Friday’s (Mar. 1) flawless launch of the Dragon cargo resupply capsule atop the 15 story tall Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and the initial failure of the life giving solar arrays to deploy and failure of the maneuvering thrusters to fire.
“Congrats to the @NASA/@SpaceX team. Great work getting #Dragon to the #ISS…our foothold for future exploration!” tweeted NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.
“The vehicle’s beautiful, space is beautiful, and the Canadarm2 is beautiful too”, said station commander Kevin Ford during the operation.
The capsule pluck from free space came one day, 19 hours and 22 minutes after the mission’s launch.
Ground controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston then commanded the arm to install Dragon onto the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module – see schematic.
Originally, Dragon capture was slated only about 20 hours after launch. But that all went out the window following the serious post-launch anomalies that sent SpaceX engineers desperately scrambling to save the flight from a catastrophic finale.
The $133 million mission dubbed CRS-2 is only the 2nd contracted commercial resupply mission ever to berth at the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. The contract is worth $1.6 Billion for at least a dozen resupply flights.
Following the forced retirement of NASA’s space shuttle orbiters in July 2011, American was left with zero capability to launch either cargo or astronauts to the primarily American ISS. NASA astronauts are 100% reliant on Russian Soyuz capsules for launch to the ISS.
Both the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft were designed and built by SpaceX Corporation based in Hawthorne, Calif., and are entirely American built.
The Falcon 9/Dragon commercial system restores America’s unmanned cargo resupply capability. But the time gap will be at least 3 to 5 years before American’s can again launch to the ISS aboard American rockets from American soil.
And continuing, relentless cuts to NASA’s budget are significantly increasing that human spaceflight gap and consequently forces more payments to Russia.
“Today we marked another milestone in our aggressive efforts to make sure American companies are launching resupply missions from U.S. shores,” said NASA Admisistrator Charles Bolden in a NASA statement.
“Our NASA-SpaceX team completed another successful berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo module to the International Space Station (ISS) following its near flawless launch on the Falcon-9 booster out of Cape Canaveral, Florida Friday morning. Launching rockets is difficult, and while the team faced some technical challenges after Dragon separation from the launch vehicle, they called upon their thorough knowledge of their systems to successfully troubleshoot and fully recover all vehicle capabilities. Dragon is now once again safely berthed to the station.”
“I was pleased to watch the launch from SpaceX’s facility in Hawthorne, CA, and I want to congratulate the SpaceX and NASA teams, who are working side by side to ensure America continues to lead the world in space.”
“Unfortunately, all of this progress could be jeopardized with the sequestration ordered by law to be signed by the President Friday evening. The sequester could further delay the restarting of human space launches from U.S. soil, push back our next generation space vehicles, hold up development of new space technologies, and jeopardize our space-based, Earth observing capabilities,” said Bolden.
Dragon is loaded with about 1,268 pounds (575 kilograms) of vital supplies and provisions to support the ongoing science research by the resident six man crew, including more than a ton of vital supplies, science gear, research experiments, spare parts, food, water and clothing.
NASA says that despite the one-day docking delay, the Dragon unberthing will still be the same day as originally planned on March 25 – followed by a parachute assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.
Dragon will spend 22 days docked to the ISS. The station crew will soon open the hatch and unload all the up mass cargo and research supplies. Then they will pack the Dragon with about 2,668 pounds (1,210 kilograms) of science samples from human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations, and education activities for return to Earth.
Dragon is the only spacecraft in the world today capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth.
NASA hopes the first Antares/Cygnus demonstration test flight from NASA’s Wallops Island Facility in Virginia will follow in April. Cygnus cargo transport is one way – to orbit only.
“SpaceX is proud to execute this important work for NASA, and we’re thrilled to bring this capability back to the United States,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX.
“Today’s launch continues SpaceX’s long-term partnership with NASA to provide reliable, safe transport of cargo to and from the station, enabling beneficial research and advancements in technology and research.”
The SpaceX CRS-3 flight is slated to blast off in September 2013.
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft has arrived at the International Space Station! After overcoming a problem with its thrusters after reaching orbit on on Friday, today, Dragon successfully approached the Station, where it was captured by Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford and crewmate Tom Marshburn using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Dragon was grappled at 5:31 a.m. EST, and was berthed to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module at approximately 8:56 a.m. EST on March 3.
Below, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield snapped a photo of Dragon as it approached the station over sub-Saharan Africa. “A surreal juxtaposition,” Hadfied said via Twitter.