Down to Earth
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new book Space Chronicles is out. I already wrote a dedicated post about him this week. I would recommend listening to his interview on NPR’s Science Friday and watching this video of his testimony before Congress earlier this week (Thanks to @failedprotostar for helping me locate the video)!
The Canadian Space Agency is facing a potential 14% budget cut.
There was a Space Shuttle shuffle at KSC today. Atlantis and Discovery traded places as Discovery is prepped for an April flight to the Smithsonian in Dulles. There will be an official welcome ceremony for Discovery at Dulles on April 19 with a small VIP tweetup (if that’s the right way to describe it). I would love to be there but won’t be able to make it.
Astronaut Mike Massimino talks with Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle about his new position with the Rice University Space Institute. He spends a minute discussing his cameo on the Big Bang Theory, which was funny but too short.
NASA has decided that the first Orion capsule test flight in 2014 will be launched by a Delta IV Heavy rocket.
I have quite a few things to post regarding ISS Flight Engineer Don Pettit. He has been an awesome ambassador of the space program during Expedition 30 and has done some unorthodox PR that I hope is getting ISS some extra attention.
First, I have to link to Pettit’s series of educational science videos. When he was on ISS in during Expedition 6 he called his videos “Saturday Morning Science”. This time around they are “Science Off The Sphere” (although I have heard him still call them Saturday Morning Science on the space-to-ground loops). His latest involves thin film physics in zero-g.
Don was also the first ever Expedition crew member to be “flashed” successfully from the Earth. No, not that kind of flash! My blog is strictly safe for work! A club out of San Antonio arranged with Don Pettit over email to flash him with a laser and some spotlights on a pre-decided orbit this past Sunday. Here’s the picture Don took of the laser light.
I think they should have gone with green instead…
In unorthodox space news, NASA has partnered with iPhone game developer Rovio to promote Angry Birds Space which will use zero-g environments with “gravity fields” to simulate real physics. Here is Don Pettit in what must be the first video game commercial filmed in space.
Some other good stuff from Don’s blog (I guess I shouldn’t expect less). He writes about aerogel storage bags used by NASA to keep things warm in Antarctica or cold on ISS. He also writes about how the ISS ECLSS (ie, life support system) is an engineering experiment – today’s coffee is tomorrow’s coffee.
Okay, so with all my Don Pettit news out of the way, here are some other things going on with ISS.
The launch date of the European Space Agency’s ATV3 has slipped to later this month. The new launch date is March 23 with docking to ISS about a week later. Original launch date was March 9th.
The engineering test that is the “Robotic Refueling Mission” has been going well this week on ISS.
Around the Solar System
Nearly every space blog on the internet wrote about the high resolution picture of a Martian dust devil in action taken by the HiRISE camera on MRO from February 16th. It’s a stunning picture, but I like that Ryan from The Martian Chronicles reminds us this is far from a one-of-a-kind shot. Check out this set of images from the Spirit rover.
It seems this week’s solar storm may have knocked out Venus Express’ star trackers. Obviously not good for that mission.
Two Near-Earth Objects have garnered a lot of attention this week. 2011 AG5 and 2012 DA14 are both NEOs worth watching, but only 2011 AG5 is on the Minor Planet Center’s list of PHAs (potentially hazardous asteroids). As always, Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has the best coverage of all potential doomsdays. Go read his post on 2012 DA14 and then his post on 2011 AG5. And here is a brilliant animation of 2012 DA14 on closest approach next February (also via BAblog).
I fully support Don Yeomans, Rusty Schweickart, and the B612 Foundation who feel that we need to seriously start funding case studies into how to deflect PHAs now, and at the federal or international level. I wish I could go to Austin for SXSW this week to see this panel discussion!
Because it’s cool
Check out the lights of Dubai taken by the ISS Expedition 30 crew. It’s pretty until you think about all the energy wasted on light pollution.
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been returning newer, higher resolution images of the Apollo landing sites from the new low mapping orbit. Several sites were imaged but I’ve linked to the Apollo 15 image since I just finished reading Falling to Earth by Apollo 15 CMP Al Worden. These images are much higher quality than Worden even saw from his CM during the mission.
LEGO shuttle launched into space (okay, near-space)! – via Universe Today
Here is one of my favorite shots of the multiple planet conjunction this past week – from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The fun’s not over yet though. Jupiter and Venus will have their conjunction in the sky next week.
This new DARPA robot is pretty freaking awesome (or scary?) – via SciGuy
But it still has nothing on AMEE from Red Planet