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News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: phys.org

Two new instruments are scheduled to make their way to the station Feb. 18 on the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III instrument will monitor the condition of the ozone layer, which covers an area in the stratosphere 10 to 30 miles above Earth and protects the planet from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. Its predecessors, SAGE I and SAGE II, which were mounted to satellites, helped scientists understand the causes and effects of the Antarctic ozone hole. The Montreal Protocol of 1987 led to an eventual ban on ozone-destroying gases and to the ozone layer's recovery; SAGE III, designed to operate for no less than three years, will allow scientists to continue monitoring its recovery. The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS), first launched as an instrument on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission in 1997, records the time, energy output and location of lightning events around the world, day and night. From its perch on the ISS, the new LIS will improve coverage of lightning events over the oceans and also in the northern hemisphere during its summer months. Because lightning is both a factor and a gauge for a number of atmospheric processes, NASA as well as other agencies will use the new LIS lightning data for many applications, from weather forecasting to climate modeling and air quality studies. While SAGE III and LIS are the latest Earth science instruments slated for operation aboard the ISS, they or not the first or the last. For two years, beginning in September 2014, the Rapid Scatterometer, or RapidScat, collected near-real-time data on ocean wind speed and direction. The instrument was designed as a low-cost replacement for the Quick Scatterometer, or QuikScat satellite, which experienced an age-related failure in 2009. In addition to addressing such questions as how changing winds affect sea surface temperatures during an El Niño season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy relied on RapidScat data for improved tracking of marine weather, leading to more optimal ship routing and hazard avoidance. The Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS) was mounted to the exterior of the space station in Jan. 2015 and is in the midst of a three-year mission to measure aerosols, such as dust plumes, wildfires and volcanic ash, around the world. Built to demonstrate a low-cost, streamlined approach to ISS science payloads, the laser instrument is providing data for air quality studies, climate models and hazard warning capabilities. Over the next several years, NASA is planning to send to the space station several more instruments trained toward Earth. Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) will measure total solar irradiance and spectral solar irradiance, or the total solar radiation at the top of Earth's atmosphere and the spectral distribution of that solar radiation, respectively. The data are critical for climate modeling and atmospheric studies. TSIS-1 will continue the work of NASA's Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment satellite, which has been taking those measurements since 2003. NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program is supporting the following instruments that are currently in development. The program is managed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) instrument will monitor carbon dioxide distribution around the globe. Assembled with spare parts from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite, OCO-3 will provide insights into the greenhouse gas's role as it relates to growing urban areas and changes in fossil fuel combustion. The instrument will also measure the "glow" from growing plants (solar-induced fluorescence). Homing in on tropical and temperate forests is the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI). The lidar instrument will provide the first high-resolution observations of forest vertical structure in an effort to answer how much carbon is stored in these ecosystems and also what impacts deforestation and reforestation have on habitat diversity, the global carbon cycle and climate change. The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment (ECOSTRESS) will also focus on vegetation by providing high-frequency, high-resolution measurements of plant temperature and plant water use. Among the data's numerous uses will be to indicate regions of plant heat and water stress and also improve drought forecasting for the benefit of farmers and water managers. Researchers will also use ECOSTRESS in concert with other data to calculate water use efficiency among plants and identify drought-resistant species and varieties. Also on the horizon is the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder comprising two instruments for measuring solar irradiance: a reflected solar spectrometer and an infrared spectrometer. CLARREO will collect highly accurate climate records to test climate projections in order to improve models.


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The number of instruments on the International Space Station dedicated to observing Earth to increase our understanding of our home planet continues to grow. Two new instruments are scheduled to make their way to the station Feb. 18 on the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) III instrument will monitor the condition of the ozone layer, which covers an area in the stratosphere 10 to 30 miles above Earth and protects the planet from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. Its predecessors, SAGE I and SAGE II, which were mounted to satellites, helped scientists understand the causes and effects of the Antarctic ozone hole. The Montreal Protocol of 1987 led to an eventual ban on ozone-destroying gases and to the ozone layer's recovery; SAGE III, designed to operate for no less than three years, will allow scientists to continue monitoring its recovery. The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS), first launched as an instrument on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission in 1997, records the time, energy output and location of lightning events around the world, day and night. From its perch on the ISS, the new LIS will improve coverage of lightning events over the oceans and also in the northern hemisphere during its summer months. Because lightning is both a factor and a gauge for a number of atmospheric processes, NASA as well as other agencies will use the new LIS lightning data for many applications, from weather forecasting to climate modeling and air quality studies. While SAGE III and LIS are the latest Earth science instruments slated for operation aboard the ISS, they or not the first or the last. For two years, beginning in September 2014, the Rapid Scatterometer, or RapidScat, collected near-real-time data on ocean wind speed and direction. The instrument was designed as a low-cost replacement for the Quick Scatterometer, or QuikScat satellite, which experienced an age-related failure in 2009. In addition to addressing such questions as how changing winds affect sea surface temperatures during an El Niño season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy relied on RapidScat data for improved tracking of marine weather, leading to more optimal ship routing and hazard avoidance. The Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS) was mounted to the exterior of the space station in Jan. 2015 and is in the midst of a three-year mission to measure aerosols, such as dust plumes, wildfires and volcanic ash, around the world. Built to demonstrate a low-cost, streamlined approach to ISS science payloads, the laser instrument is providing data for air quality studies, climate models and hazard warning capabilities. Over the next several years, NASA is planning to send to the space station several more instruments trained toward Earth. Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) will measure total solar irradiance and spectral solar irradiance, or the total solar radiation at the top of Earth's atmosphere and the spectral distribution of that solar radiation, respectively. The data are critical for climate modeling and atmospheric studies. TSIS-1 will continue the work of NASA's Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment satellite, which has been taking those measurements since 2003. NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program is supporting the following instruments that are currently in development. The program is managed by NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) instrument will monitor carbon dioxide distribution around the globe. Assembled with spare parts from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite, OCO-3 will provide insights into the greenhouse gas's role as it relates to growing urban areas and changes in fossil fuel combustion. The instrument will also measure the "glow" from growing plants (solar-induced fluorescence). Homing in on tropical and temperate forests is the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI). The lidar instrument will provide the first high-resolution observations of forest vertical structure in an effort to answer how much carbon is stored in these ecosystems and also what impacts deforestation and reforestation have on habitat diversity, the global carbon cycle and climate change. The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment (ECOSTRESS) will also focus on vegetation by providing high-frequency, high-resolution measurements of plant temperature and plant water use. Among the data's numerous uses will be to indicate regions of plant heat and water stress and also improve drought forecasting for the benefit of farmers and water managers. Researchers will also use ECOSTRESS in concert with other data to calculate water use efficiency among plants and identify drought-resistant species and varieties. Also on the horizon is the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder comprising two instruments for measuring solar irradiance: a reflected solar spectrometer and an infrared spectrometer. CLARREO will collect highly accurate climate records to test climate projections in order to improve models. NASA collects data from space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. For more information about NASA's Earth science programs, visit: Keep up with the International Space Station at:


ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports on the White House reaction to the House Republicans' plan and obstacles the bill may face before it could become law. Protesters marched in front of the White House on the day Trump signed a revised travel ban that removes Iraq from the list of banned majority-Muslim countries and removes the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams analyzes the legality of President Trump's revised executive order and the potential legal challenges it could face. The White House says Trump has likely not spoken with FBI Director James Comey, who reportedly asked the Justice Department to knock down Trump's Twitter claims that former President Obama ordered wiretapping on him. The U.S. response came as North Korea state media said recent missile tests ordered by North Korea's Kim Jong Un were "practice" for hitting U.S. military bases in the region. Trump's tweets accusing former President Obama of ordering wiretapping on him at Trump Tower came after similar reports aired on Fox News, alt-right site Breitbart News and conservative host Mark Levin's talk show. Newsmax Media CEO Chris Ruddy tells "GMA" what he believes prompted Trump to tweet allegations that former President Obama had ordered a wiretap on him. "Missing Richard Simmons" was started by Simmons' former friend Dan Taberski after Simmons disappeared from the public eye on Feb. 15, 2014. Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA research mathematicians portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film "Hidden Figures," received a standing ovation at the Academy Awards on Sunday. Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA research mathematicians portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film "Hidden Figures," received a standing ovation at the Academy Awards on Sunday. Johnson, portrayed in the movie by Taraji P. Henson, worked for NASA as a research mathematician for more than 30 years, according to NASA's website. Appearing at the Dolby Theatre, Johnson, now 98 years old, thanked the crowd for their support. Johnson was instrumental in Alan Shepard's journey to become the first American in space and in John Glenn's mission to become the first American to orbit the Earth. She, along with the other women of color in the program, dealt with segregation in Jim Crow-era Virginia where NASA's Langley Research Center was located. Johnson didn't anticipate the success she would find at NASA, telling the Los Angeles Times that she "did what we were asked to do to the best of the ability." "I was just excited to have challenging work to do and smart people to work with," she said. Johnson has said she approves of her portrayal in the film. "Go see 'Hidden Figures,' and take a young person," she told the Los Angeles Times last month when asked how to get more women and people of color involved in STEM careers. "It will give a more positive outlook on what is possible if you work hard, do your best and are prepared."


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.newscientist.com

ASSESSING the part women have played in the development of science is not easy. Historians must navigate by the documents available to them. Often, the best preserved information is financial. So inattentive writers tend to underestimate the contributions of women who achieved recognition from their peers while they were financially dependent on their families, like neurologist Cecilia Vogt or marine biologist Jeanne Villepreux-Power. But if even intellectual celebrities get forgotten, is it any wonder that we forget the women whose contributions are hard to assess for other reasons? Roles and titles evolve, and some jobs that appear mundane to us were not so back then. Once upon a time, “computers” were human, and often female; but these women weren’t drudges. Two recent biographical histories explore the careers of the women who made modern astronomy and space science possible. Theirs were not easy lives by today’s standards, but they were not without light and shade, rewards and recognition. “One calculator was a maid. She went on to discover 10 new stars and classify more than 10,000 stars” Dava Sobel’s The Glass Universe starts in Harvard College Observatory, where Edward Pickering was just 30 years old when he became director in 1877. He was fond of saying that “a magnifying glass will show more in the photograph than a powerful telescope will show in the sky”. It was an outlook that left a legacy of half a million photographic plates and some seminal discoveries. Sobel describes each of these slices as “a little piece of heaven”, 8 inches by 10 inches, which together constituted a universe captured on glass. Men might have taken the photographs, but it was a remarkable and talented group of “computers” who analysed and decoded the information they contained. Pickering, a champion of the new field of photometry, wanted to establish a stellar brightness scale based on observations of stars whose brightness varies over time. Two widowed heiresses, Catherine Wolfe Bruce and Anna Palmer Draper, provided the funds. Draper in particular wanted a catalogue of stellar spectra as a tribute to her husband, an accomplished stellar photographer. Initially, female relatives of male observatory workers were employed as computers, but soon recruits included graduates from the fledgling women’s colleges. One remarkable calculator came from far humbler origins, however: Williamina Fleming was a maid hired by Pickering’s wife. Fleming’s natural abilities were quickly recognised. She went on to discover 10 stars, some 300 stars with variable brightness, and to classify more than 10,000 stars using a system that she devised herself. In 1899, she was appointed Harvard’s curator of astronomical photographs. Two years later, Annie Jump Cannon became the first woman allowed to operate the telescopes at the observatory, and she developed the system of stellar classification that is still used today: O, B, A, F, G, K, M. Generations of students have learned to memorise the disorderly string of letters using the unfortunate phrase: “Oh, Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me”. In 1912, Henrietta Swan Leavitt discovered a pattern in the brightness of a group of pulsing stars called the Cepheid variables. This was an integral part of Edwin Hubble’s discovery that the Milky Way wasn’t the only galaxy, and that the universe was expanding. Some members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences wanted to nominate Leavitt for the 1926 Nobel prize only to discover that she had died in 1921. A Nobel prize really should have gone to English-born Cecilia Payne in 1925, for her discovery that hydrogen was the most abundant constituent of stars. It at least earned her the first PhD in astronomy that Harvard awarded to a woman, and in 1956 she was the first female to get a full professorship at the university. “Human computers no longer measured stars, but helped calculate the path to the moon” On 5 October 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first orbital satellite. By then, computers no longer simply took the measure of the stars, but were mathematicians, helping to calculate the path to the moon. Margot Lee Shetterly’s father was a NASA scientist for 40 years and worked at the Langley Research Center in Virginia. He told his daughter stories of the black female computers who did calculations for engineers while segregated from their white colleagues. Young Shetterly “knew so many African Americans working in science, math and engineering that I thought that’s just what black folks did”. Hidden Figures tells their story. It’s an engaging read, and a film adaptation is already on general release in the US. Shetterly weaves together the personal and professional stories of a group of extraordinary women into an account of how they overcame race and gender barriers, while helping to win the space race. “Mississippiitis” looms large – a term coined by The Chicago Defender newspaper at the time to capture the “disease of segregation, violence and oppression that plagued America like a chronic bout of consumption” and which was, for some, the reason the country had fallen behind the Soviets. Shetterly celebrates the skills, achievements and tenacity of women like Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson as they helped launch rockets and humans into space. In 1953, Vaughan was at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the precursor of NASA, heading a department of black female computers. They were joined by Katherine Johnson, the woman who helped put John Glenn into orbit and mapped the trajectory for Apollo 11’s moon landing, among other firsts. There’s an easy moral here: that Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” will only loom larger in our imaginations once we appreciate all the people – men and women – who got him there. The Glass Universe: The hidden history of the women who took the measure of the stars by Dava Sobel, 4th Estate Hidden Figures: The American dream and the untold story of the African-American women who helped win the space race by Margot Lee Shetterly, HarperCollins This article appeared in print under the headline “The women who figured a way to space”


News Article | March 4, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

A new passenger jet that can fly at supersonic speeds without the distinctive but earsplitting sonic "boom" generated when these superfast planes travel faster than the speed of sound is one step closer to getting in the air. NASA has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to come up with a preliminary design for the supersonic jet. The company will receive $20 million over 17 months to come up with a preliminary design, according to NASA. The Lockheed team includes individuals from GE Aviation and Tri Models Inc., acting as subcontractors, the agency said. NASA envisions a "low boom" aircraft that emits a supersonic "heartbeat," or a soft thump, rather than startlingly noisy sonic booms, when it breaks the sound barrier. At the end of its contract, Lockheed will be expected to outline the proposed jet's baseline requirements and design in order to meet NASA's expectations for the agency's Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) program. [Supersonic! The 10 Fastest Military Airplanes] After a demonstration version of the jet is built, the vehicle will undergo analytical and wind-tunnel tests, according to NASA. "Developing, building and flight testing a quiet supersonic X-plane is the next logical step in our path to enabling the industry's decision to open supersonic travel for the flying public," Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said in a statement. Once the jet is ready for flight tests, NASA will conduct low-boom flight demonstrations to gauge the public's response to quieter supersonic planes. The actual design and construction of the QueSST jet will be awarded under a future contract, NASA officials said. The loud booms generated by supersonic aircraft prompted the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to ban overland flights by these aircraft in 1973. NASA, however, said in a previous statement that it is working with the FAA to change those regulations. [Image Gallery: Breaking the Sound Barrier] "We are working with other agencies across the world to support development of new noise certification for supersonic flight, so instead of being prohibited, it would be allowed over land and sea," Alexandra Loubeau, an acoustics engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, said in a statement released in late 2015. The QueSST jet is the first in a series of X-planes that will receive funding in NASA's fiscal 2017 budget, as a part of the agency's New Aviation Horizons initiative. The initiative aims to make future aircraft safer, "greener" and more efficient, using metrics such as fuel use, emissions and noise to judge their performance. The first flights under NASA's New Aviation Horizons initiative are expected to begin around 2020, depending on funding, the agency said. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


News Article | January 30, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

The results of high-altitude radiation studied by NASA scientists are out, and they reflected the effects of cosmic radiation on the Earth's atmosphere. Unlike radiation protection when on the ground, cruising through the atmosphere of the stratosphere exposes to a damaging effect on humans and machines. The results of the study are expected to improve radiation monitoring for supporting pilots and aviation industry crew so that frequent flyers, including passengers, can be protected from potentially high-radiation environments. The results of the study were published in the Space Weather Journal. The Radiation Dosimetry Experiment (RaD-X) of NASA was launched in September 2015 in New Mexico, and it took high-altitude measurements to assess the movement of cosmic radiation through Earth's atmosphere. The mission undertook measurements of altitudes up to 120,000 feet above Earth. Even while cruising at 36,000 feet high above clouds and in sheer emptiness, an aircraft still has cosmic rays of high-energy sweeping down from outer space and hitting the molecules in the atmosphere, triggering "particle decays." "The measurements, for the first time, were taken at seven different altitudes, where the physics of dosimetry is very different," said Chris Mertens, principal investigator of the mission at Hampton's Langley Research Center of NASA. In terms of origin, cosmic radiation comes beyond the solar system, though the sun also emits high-energy particles during solar storms. The cosmic rays are normally blocked by the huge magnetic barrier exerted by the magnetosphere, preventing the radiation from reaching the Earth. However, such particles still breach magnetosphere and hit molecules of oxygen and nitrogen, causing them to decay into different particles through electromagnetic cascades. It has been observed that decay of particles is intense at an altitude of 60,000 feet, where a cluster of radiation particles called Pfotzer maximum is created. Radiation is measured by its quantity in the atmosphere and the basis it inflicts on tissues. The second is known as the "dose equivalent," which used in assessing health risks. Together, the high-energy particles and decay particles pose serious health threats to humans, including DNA rupture and release of free radicals that upset cellular functions. The study assessed the dose equivalent rate at different altitudes and noticed a hike at the higher atmospheres irrespective of the size of the Pfotzer maximum. Given the hazard faced by aircrew and astronauts in terms of exposure to higher radiation levels compared to the peers at the ground, monitoring of cosmic radiation levels is a high priority. The RaD-X data will be useful in taking the existing weather models to the next level, especially the Nowcast of Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety. For commercial air pilots, improved radiation monitoring is a boon, as advance alerts can help them in navigating the aircraft suitably. During the NASA mission, instruments such as the Teledyne TID detector and RaySure detector were also tested with an intent to install them on commercial flights in the future. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.techrepublic.com

After 30 years at NASA, Mark Moore is making an interesting career move: Joining Uber to develop autonomous, flying cars. Moore, former advanced aircraft engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center, is now the director of engineering for aviation at Uber Elevate. The initiative, outlined in a white paper in October 2016, is an ambitious plan to bring short-range air taxis into cities. It has the potential to "radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes." Moore had written his own white paper in 2010, on the subject of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircrafts—which piqued Uber's attention. Uber Elevate hopes to create flying cars that it will deploy from "vertiports" throughout a city, delivering commuters home from their city offices. The range of the vehicles would be between 50-100 miles, and they could be recharged. Moore told Bloomberg News that he sees these aircraft as becoming a reality in one to three years, although he sees human pilots remaining at the helm in the immediate future. There are some major hurdles to overcome in the development of flying cars, including certification, battery life, safety, and air traffic control. Even after these issues have been solved, the cost, emissions, training, and infrastructure will also make the reality of these vehicles difficult to achieve—and these are all issues that Uber is attempting to address. Uber Elevate isn't the only program to address autonomous transport. Google co-founder Larry Page has invested heavily in this area, with his startups Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk. Airbus has the Vahana project, hoping to launch in 2021. And roughly a dozen other companies are working on prototypes in this space. Sanjiv Singh is a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University and editor in chief of the Journal of Field Robotics. As CEO and co-founder of Near Earth Autonomy, he's working in this area as well. Singh knows Moore, who he says "has a broad view of the technologies needed for implementing Uber's vision," and "will be a great asset" to the company. SEE: Our autonomous future: How driverless cars will be the first robots we learn to trust (TechRepublic) Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, said she does not think the move will give Uber "any competitive advantage." And since Uber isn't developing the core technology itself, she sees its role, mostly, as a "cheerleader...but that is an important role!" Cummings said that she would be more impressed by seeing Uber hire Administrator Michael Huerta from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). "He would be the person I would want to hire," she said. There is no question that Uber is making a statement by investing in driverless aircraft. The tech giant has become a big player in the driverless space, when, in September 2016, it brought driverless cars to the public with its Pittsburgh fleet. And it recently has been pushing the boundaries of the law, butting heads with California regulators, who called its driverless fleet in San Francisco "illegal" just a week after launch, forcing Uber to bring its test fleet to Arizona instead. The newest announcement seems to place Uber, at least in the public eye, as a key innovator in transportation. "These tech companies are determined to make self-driving cars seem boring by comparison!" said Bryant Walker Smith, associate professor at the University of South Carolina and an expert in the legal implications of autonomous driving. "We're at the beginning of this technological curve, where companies are competing for public attention before they've figured out their role in this potential market."


News Article | January 2, 2017
Site: www.huffingtonpost.com

NASA has released a daring new concept for a building that could someday house astronauts on Mars, as the space agency continues push toward its goal of sending humans to the red planet by the 2030s. Dubbed the “Mars Ice Home,” the structure would rely on a protective coating of ice drawn from the surface of the planet. According to NASA, the low-tech building would both protect astronauts from Mars’ harmful cosmic radiation and be almost infinitely scalable. Researchers recently said that Mars holds massive reserves of ice frozen beneath its surface, almost as much as in Lake Superior. That’s why scientists turned to the material when envisioning a future home for Mars residents. “After a day dedicated to identifying needs, goals and constraints we rapidly assessed many crazy, out of the box ideas and finally converged on the current Ice Home design, which provides a sound engineering solution,” Kevin Vipavetz, the facilitator of a design session at NASA’s Langley Research Center that produced the idea in partnership with Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office, said in a press release. The design is just one in a series of potential concepts for structures on Mars, but the idea has several major boons. The building’s structure would be lightweight, able to be deployed using robots and filled with water before any humans arrive, NASA said. The water stored in the building could also be used to craft rocket fuel. NASA is actively working toward a manned mission to Mars. It plans to send another rover to the planet in 2020 to follow up on the work by the Curiosity, and aims to start a series of missions in 2018 near the moon to test human capacity for life off Earth. While the ice home is a novel idea, there are no guarantees what design the space agency will ultimately use on the planet. The dome already has some major drawbacks, namely that it’d take more than a year to fill with ice. But that timeline doesn’t seem to worry the principal investigator on the project, Kevin Kempton of the Langley Research Center, who said the dome’s design would make it feel “like you’re in a home and not a cave.” “After months of travel in space, when you first arrive at Mars and your new home is ready for you to move in, it will be a great day,” he said in a press release.


News Article | February 9, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

NASA recently marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy, where the module of the spacecraft caught fire and killed astronauts Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee. The three crewmen were working on a launch pad test inside the space capsule at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Jan. 27, 1967 when disaster hit and changed the face of U.S. spaceflight and research forever. What was supposed to be a routine rehearsal and run-through of emergency procedures became a fatal tragedy. In an interview at NASA Langley Research Center, space historian and author Andrew Chaikin said that the fire in the capsule came out of nowhere. Chaikin, the author of several books and articles, recently spoke before employees of NASA Langley. A weird odor emerged from the three astronauts’ oxygen store, and there was a continuing communications problem between the crew in the command module and NASA experts in the nearby “block house.” In audio recordings, Grissom was heard saying that there was a fire in the capsule. About 15 seconds afterward, another voice — this time Chaffee’s — called it a “bad fire.” What followed was an unintelligible call for help until the radio finally went silent, recalled Chaikin in a Daily Press report. It only took seconds for the flash fire to suffocate the crew and rage into a full-blown tragedy that nearly doomed the U.S. space program. What saved the program, according to Chaikin, were the nation’s Cold War with the Soviet Union, as well as the late President John F. Kennedy’s desire to land an American on the moon by the decade’s end. “[T]he recovery is one of the most incredible episodes in the history of space exploration and in the history of human endeavor,” said the historian, citing that disagreements still did occur within NASA and its contractors, but that they kept their eyes on the prize. The fire’s root cause was almost a no-brainer: a spark that took place inside a sealed module that is filled with highly flammable, very pressured, pure oxygen. Underneath the obvious, however, was what Chaikin dubbed a “stovepipe” mindset in the space agency, where some individuals either ignored or dismissed dissenting opinions from others. He said such stovepipes should be torn down, and that NASA personnel should think like a walker on the high wire. "If you were physically on the high wire, you'd never lose your edge, because you know, 'One false move and I'm dead,'” Chaikin said, warning against complacency and the lack of self-doubt in such “extraordinary” missions. He added that this very mindset also factored in the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, where contrasting voices on the dangers of failing O-rings and dislodged pieces of foam insulation were left unheard. Chaikin believes that the thinking over at NASA has changed since those unfortunate events, but fear that people could be falling back into bad habits. There were 19 full years nearly to the day of the Apollo 1 fire when the Challenger tragedy happened, and then the Columbia accident occurred 17 years afterward. It’s about listening to those with a different opinion and ensuring nothing is taken for granted, Chaikin said. NASA Langley has debuted a traveling exhibit to mark the research center’s 100th anniversary. The exhibit features an interactive look through the center’s century of science, aeronautics, and space feats, interesting pieces of history housed in a specially designed 18-wheeler. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


News Article | February 24, 2017
Site: www.newscientist.com

WELCOME to the most unpleasant room at NASA. The sonic boom simulator at Langley Research Center in Virginia may have a comfortable sofa and a soft rug, but the sound system is vicious. A hundred speakers and subwoofers hidden in the walls can shake the floor and rattle your eardrums as they blast out the thunderous noise of a plane breaking the sound barrier. NASA uses the room to understand how annoying sonic booms are. Life is full of irritating noise, from the drilling of roadworks to your partner’s snoring. Where do the bangs and rumbles produced by a supersonic aircraft rank? You might think we already know the answer. After all, fighter jets have been zipping around faster than sound for decades, making a noise like two quick-fire rifle shots. The same goes for Concorde: the famously graceful supersonic airliner produced booms powerful enough to crack windows. But it has been more than 40 years since Concorde’s first flight, and engineers at NASA and elsewhere now have some nifty ideas for making booms less shocking. If they can do enough to muffle the din – and prove it doesn’t annoy anyone – then perhaps supersonic air travel can be reborn. “Airliners have been stuck at the same speeds since the 1960s,” says Peter Coen, head of the NASA research team on the case. His goal is to quietly speed things up. Concorde was a technological marvel. Aerodynamicists still drool over the curves of its wings and engine inlets. It didn’t just break the sound barrier; it smashed it, with

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