Tag Archives: NASA

NASA forgets how to talk to their own satellite

Photo by:  pamelainob
Photo by: pamelainob

In a case that painfully illustrates the way that accelerating technology can some times seem to move too fast, NASA has lost the ability to talk to one of its satellites.

ISEE-3/ICE, as the satellite in question is called, was launched in 1978, and became the first satellite to successfully flying through a comet’s tail.

Now, more than 30 years later, it is finally coming close to Earth again. On board the ISEE-3/ICE is equipment that would allow us to contact it. Sadly, there is a problem. The ISEE-3/ICE uses old-style transmitters, and NASA got rid of their last ones in 1999.

Want to mine the Moon? NASA now accepting applications

Photo by: Dave Young
Photo by: Dave Young

Anyone who thought the Klondike gold rush was a bit far afield is not going to be interested in the latest news from NASA.

The american space organisation is finished the first stage of a bidding round for private companies who are interested in working with them on the project which aim is mining the Moon.

The Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program – a name that can, with a bit of heavy-handed manipulation, be turned into the acronym CATALYST – will use robot to mine the Moon for valuable resources like helium 3 and rare earth metals.

Of course, mining is something that usually takes place on the territory of sovereign states, and exploration of areas that don’t legally belong to anyone usually causes a lot of consternation – just think of Antarctica.

Mining the Moon is definitely going to take some new legal langauge….and we journalists are going to be left wondering is you can call mining on the Moon without proper laws for a Wild West-like scenario…or whether a mining station on the Moon can be a boom town without any Oxygen present at all….

To boldly grow – NASA plans plantgrowing on the Moon

NASA is nothing if not ambitious. And that definitely goes for their latest idea: growing plants on the Moon.

Now this is an idea that catches the imagination – just think how high a sunflower could grown at the Moon’s low gravity. And for the more illegally minded horticulturists – imagine how far from the authorities your crops would be 🙂

“They will try to grow arabidopsis (a word my spell checker wanted to change to archbishops..admittedly a more Monty Pythonesque idea, but probably not what NASA are looking to do), basil, sunflowers, and turnips in coffee-can-sized aluminium cylinders that will serve as plant habitats,” according to this piece in Forbes.

The idea is to test the viability of growing food on another planetary body, as well as conducting valuable research that might in future make it easier to grow produce in inhospitable parts of our own planet.

NASA crashes something and gets to cheer about it

NASA scientists recently had the novel experience of getting to crash a piece of multi-million dollar equipment – and then cheer about the fact that they had just crashes a multi-million dollar piece of equipment.

The precious piece of equipment was a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter, and the purpose of the crash was to test the helicopter’s crashworthiness – a word that I would guess usually leaves NASA scientists with nervous ticks.

GROVER goes to Greeland to look at ice

Photo: NASA

NASA have sent GROVER on an autonomous mission to Greenland to look at ice sheet that covers more or less all of the massive island.

GROVER is short for ‘Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research’. In simple terms it’s a solar-powered robot car equipped with powerful radar-equipment. The idea is that GROVER will drive around and measure how thick the ice sheet is in various spots. Over time, the data collected will give scientists a clearer picture of the ebbs and flows in the ice sheet, and through that a better understanding on how global warming is affecting the interior of Greenland.

GROVER is currently ambling around Greenland on a trial run.

I haven’t read too much about this project, but I have to admit that the idea of using a solar-powered robot in a region where the sun more or less disappears for six months at a time strikes me as odd….

NASA trailer crowdfunded for new Star Trek movie

NASA is taking a jump from science fact into the realm of science fiction through a trailer which will be shown in theatres across the US in connection with the new Star Trek film, Star Trek: Into the Darkness.

NASA’s trailer is called ‘We are the Explorers’ and it showcases the space agency’s history and the latest developments in spacecraft technology.

The trailer is going to be 30 seconds long – it’s based on a video NASA released last year.

Although the footage comes from NASA, the trailer is actually the brainchild of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) of America, and the money for it has come through crowdfunding. It took AIA just five days to raise the $33,000 needed.

So now there’s even more reason to be excited about the new Star Trek movie!

Here’s the clip released by NASA last year:

2014 US budget to include $100 million worth of asteroids?

According to several media, the 2014 US budget is likely to include a $100 million post for a NASA project exploring the possibility of mining asteroids.

The basic idea goes something like this: a robot carrying a propulsion unit and a capture bag is sent to an asteroid. The ideal candidate weighs around 500 tonnes and have an orbit that brings it close to Earth. The robot then uses the propulsion unit to maneuver the asteroid into an orbit around the Moon, leaving it perfectly placed for astronaut prospectors to come and take a closer look.

All of this is scheduled to take place some time around 2025 and a mission like the one described above is budgeted to cost around $2.65 billion.

Asteroids are thought to carry large deposits of valuable and rare metals, which is the rationale behind (potentially) roping them in.

It’s either that or buy them off China. And it might be a hint of how USA feels about buying them off China…

The Moon flag still stands

Sceptics might argue that NASA spent the 60’s and 70’s playing dart on an epic scale and that’s how the US flag ended up on the Moon. Reality would be better if they were right. But they’re not.

According to this article on the BBC, the flag left by astronauts during the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon’s surface is still right where they put it in the first place.

Sceptics can take a bit of strength form the fact that it was a NASA satellite that flew past the original landing site for man’s first mission to the Moon and saw the flag was still standing.

NASA projects shows where the forest is going

A new project from NASA uses satellites to show the effects of forest fires and deforestation across the entire planet. And if you like forests, or might just be a little worried about the potential harmful effect of sprusing an entire planet, you will probably find the study’s results more than a little depressing.

NASA says parts of the Moon are ‘historic sites’

Parts of our Moon should be treated like National Heritage sites, according to NASA.

The American space agency said that any potential future Moon explorers should stay away from the lunar landing sites from earlier Apollo missions. NASA said the sites should be treated like historic sites.

They even came up with a set of guidelines regarding how the sites should be treated.

Of course, having a custodian on site to enforce the rules might prove just a little bit costly….