November 2014 Archives

LittleBits Used To Build Space Robotic Arm

"There were plenty of engineering-themed toys on view at this weekend's Toy and Game Fair in Chicago, but none of them came close to NASA's contribution in terms of sheer cred. On hand at the fair were NASA reps who demonstrated a mechanism built from the agency's new LittleBits kit. First announced in April, LittleBits' Space Kit was actually developed in tandem with NASA's Innovative Projects Office. As NASA reps told me this weekend, the office is developing several toys and games aimed at getting kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), including a multi-player game that pairs kids to solve problems and launch missions."

More: NASA Built a Grappling Claw With Just Household Objects and LittleBits

Space Kit, Littlebits

1964 NASA Citizen Science: Looking for Moon Rocks in Iowa

"4-H groups were soon cratering their neighborhoods and farmers tilling their fields in search of otherworldly harvest. The project surely marks the only official liaison between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Pottawattamie County, Iowa's Agricultural Extension; the latter reported being "swamped with samples worthy of a geological museum." A mountain of would-be moon material was submitted for testing at NASA's Ames Research Center in California. Promising specimens were crushed, examined by microscope and spectrograph, then probed for evidence of the superheating and cosmic-ray activity characteristic of exposure to space and atmospheric entry to Earth. Yet the project's final harvest, including smokestack clinkers (bits of residue blasted aloft during burning or smelting) and even fossils, produced nothing extraterrestrial. So the effort, after running just short of a year, ended in March 1965, with each sample returned to its sender, along with a letter of thanks."

More: Searching for Moon Rocks in Iowa, Air & Space

NASA is looking for ways to reduce astronauts' exposure to Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) while on long duration deep space missions. Currently, exposure to GCR limits mission duration to approximately 150 days while a mission to Mars would take 500 days, thus any further meaningful human exploration missions of space depends on finding a solution to this problem. Indeed, even travelling to Mars requires a solution to this Challenge. This is an Ideation Challenge with a guaranteed award for at least one submitted solution. AWARD: $12,000 USD DEADLINE: 12/15/14 More

Registration for NASA 2015 History of Winter Program Workshop

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Office of Education and Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory invite you to participate in the upcoming 2015 History of Winter professional development "teacher-as-scientist" workshop. This week of training, to be held February 15-21, 2015 in Lake Placid, NY, places teachers in the role of scientists, working side-by-side with professional scientists and technologists from NASA, the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, and partner universities. Click here to learn more about the workshop and download the registration form. Interested applicants should apply no later than December 31, 2014. NASA History of Winter Program

Student's Innovative DIY Microscope

Expensive tests for measuring everything from sperm motility to cancer diagnosis have just been made hundreds of thousands of pounds cheaper by a PhD student from Brunel University London who hacked his own microscope. Adam Lynch, from the university's College of Health and Life Sciences, created his own inverted microscope by adapting a cheap instrument he bought online to save himself time and money. The tool is used to measure cell motility - how fast cells move from one place to another - but the high-quality equipment, used to automatically test multiple samples, can stretch to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Now Adam has a cut-price version for a study to understand if a snail's immune system responds to chemical pollutants present in the water, which might influence the levels of transmission of Schistosome parasites from snails to humans.

NASA Opens Cube Quest Challenge

Registration now is open for NASA's Cube Quest Challenge, the agency's first in-space competition that offers the agency's largest-ever prize purse. Competitors have a shot at a share of $5 million in prize money and an opportunity to participate in space exploration and technology development, to include a chance at flying their very own CubeSat to the moon and beyond as secondary payload on the first integrated flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. "NASA's Cube Quest Challenge will engage teams in the development of the new technologies that will advance the state of the art of CubeSats and demonstrate their capabilities as viable deep space explorers," said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Prize competitions like this engage the general public and directly contribute to NASA's goals while serving as a tool for open innovation."


MilkyWay@home is a volunteer computing project that allows people from every country in the world to volunteer their otherwise idle processors to Milky Way research. Currently, more than 25,000 people (150,000 since November 9, 2007) contribute about half a PetaFLOPS of computing power to our project. We currently run two types of applications: one application fits the spatial density profile of tidal streams using statistical photometric parallax, and the other application finds the N-body simulation parameters that produce tidal streams that best match the measured density profile of known tidal streams.

2015 NASA High-Altitude Student Platform Opportunity

NASA is accepting applications from students at U.S. colleges and universities who want to send experiments to the edge of space on a high-flying scientific balloon. The annual NASA project provides near-space access for 12 undergraduate and graduate student experiments to be carried by a NASA high-altitude research balloon. The flights typically last 15 to 20 hours and reach an altitude of 23 miles. Experiments may include compact satellites or prototypes. The experiments are flown aboard the High-Altitude Student Platform, or HASP, a balloon-born instrument stack launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility's remote site in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The goals of the project are to provide a space test platform to encourage student research and stimulate the development of student satellite payloads and other space-engineering products.

SOFIA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador Program

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is a 747SP aircraft carrying a 2.5 meter-diameter telescope. The SOFIA project is now accepting applications for the Cycle 3 -- 2015 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors, or AAA, program. The AAA program is an exciting and unique opportunity for teams of two educators to receive online astronomy instruction and a trip to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in California to participate in two SOFIA science flights. The science flights offer educators interaction with astronomers, engineers and technicians aboard the aircraft and a view to the collaboration that leads to astronomical data collection and the research papers that follow.

2014-2015 NASA Goddard OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Challenge

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is launching the 2014-2015 TRANSFORMERS OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Challenge, hosted by the Innovative Technology Partnerships Office. The purpose of the challenge is to raise awareness of NASA's Technology Transfer Program and to inspire interest in all NASA missions, programs and projects. This year the scope of the contest is being expanded to include two challenges. In the first challenge, students in grades 3-12 are asked to submit a video describing their favorite NASA Goddard spinoff. In a new twist, participants in this year′s contest must also use the engineering design process to develop and propose a new spinoff application of their own for the technology. Spinoffs are technologies originally created for space and modified into everyday products used on Earth. Examples include memory foam, invisible braces and scratch-resistant lenses for eyeglasses.

NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowships Program

The NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Program, or NESSF, is soliciting applications from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of individuals pursuing master's or doctoral degrees in earth and space sciences, or related disciplines, for the 2015-2016 academic year. The purpose of NESSF is to ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines needed to achieve NASA's scientific goals. Awards resulting from the competitive selection will be training grants to the respective universities, with the advisor serving as the principal investigator. The financial support for the NESSF program comes from the Science Mission Directorate's four science divisions: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Planetary Science and Astrophysics.

Education Opportunities in NASA STEM Proposals Sought

NASA's Office of Education is accepting new proposals under the Education Opportunities in NASA STEM, or EONS, 2014 NASA Research Announcement for the Minority University Research and Education Program, or MUREP, Institutional Research Opportunity, or MIRO appendix. This effort was previously titled as the NASA University Research Centers Project, and has now been consolidated into the MUREP Program within the NASA Office of Education.

Through the EONS omnibus solicitation, the opportunity MIRO has been released. Through MIRO awards, NASA aims to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM literacy and to enhance and sustain the capability of minority serving institutions to perform NASA-related research and education, which directly support NASA's four mission directorates -- Aeronautics Research, Human Exploration and Space Operations, Science, and Space Technology.

NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge Has New Ways To Participate

Ten new projects are providing opportunities for the public to participate in NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge, which accelerates the agency's asteroid initiative work through innovative partnerships and collaborations. Through a Space Act Agreement since April, NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge partner SpaceGAMBIT developed ways to connect the Maker community with NASA's asteroid work, including educational programs and tools to help astronomers and citizen scientists. Makers are creative people with a drive to answer questions and find new ways to do things.

NASA Selects Student Teams for High-Powered Rocket Challenge

NASA has selected eight teams from middle and high schools across the country to participate in the 2014-2015 NASA Student Launch Challenge, April 7-12, organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Student Launch Challenge engages students in a research-based, experiential exploration activity. Teams participating in the challenge must design, build and launch a reusable rocket, with a scientific or engineering payload, capable of reaching an altitude of one mile. Eligible teams pre-qualified by successfully completing the NASA Advanced Rocketry Workshop, and either the 2012-2013 Student Launch Challenge, Team America Rocketry Challenge, or 2014 Rockets for Schools competition.

NASA APPEL Virtual Project Management Challenge

On December 2, 2014, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST, the Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL) will host a Virtual Project Management Challenge entitled APPEL--Technical Workforce Development. We invite you to join us for this online event to learn more about the different ways in which APPEL supports the development of NASA's project managers and systems engineers. Over the course of the Virtual Project Management Challenge, Roger Forsgren, APPEL Director, Stephen Angelillo, APPEL Deputy Director, and Donna Wilson, Curriculum Manager, will discuss what APPEL does to help ensure NASA's project management and systems engineering communities have the skills and knowledge they need to advance mission success at NASA. If you are interested in attending the event, you can click here to learn more about APPEL's Virtual Project Management Challenge or to RSVP.

13-Year-Old Girl Plans to Be First Astronaut to Walk on Mars

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen's Field Reports: Lake Untersee, Antarctica

Dale Andersen is helping organize Space College. He is currently in Antarctica at Lake Undersee doing astrobiology research. You can read more about Dale here. You can read his previous status reports here and below.

15 November 2014

On The Road to Lake Untersee: We are completely packed up now, using the Everest tracked vehicle, pulling two sleds behind it. The first sled has most of our gear, the second has fuel additional cargo, and a cabin in which three of our team will make the traverse. Klemens, Vladimir and Allyson will ride out on the sled, Yukiko, Wayne and I will will drive the snowmobiles. Packing was a bit of a challenge since we had a little more science gear this year, but once both sleds were brought down, it all worked out perfectly with room to spare. I will send some pics later when I get back, and maybe after we get settled in at Untersee, I will try to upload a small one via the Iridium.

Satellite solution provider Yazmi today announced a new e-learning scheme using the first satellite-enabled tablet, called Odyssey(TM), and Newtec's multicast technology to deliver content via satellite to rural, remote and low income regions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The end-to-end content delivery system aims to improve performance outcomes for students and teachers in areas where there is weak computing and Internet infrastructure. The first pilots of the technology are taking place in India (with 30,000 licenses) and the sub-Saharan region in Africa, with the latest trials in two schools in South Africa, in Rietkol, in Mpumalanga Province, and at Heathfield, in Western Cape.

NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, are seeking teams to compete in a robot technology demonstration competition with a potential $1.5 million prize purse. During the Sample Return Robot Challenge, teams will compete to demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies. Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth.

Future Engineers 3-D Printing in Space: Design a Space Tool Challenge

NASA, in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation, has issued a series of Future Engineers 3-D Space Challenges for students focused on solving real-world space exploration problems. Students will become the creators and innovators of tomorrow by using 3-D modeling software to submit their designs. Multiple prizes are available, but the grand prize winner will have the opportunity for his or her design to be printed on the first 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station while watching from NASA′s Payload Operations Center with the mission control team.

NASA Opens Registration for 2015 Exploration Rover Challenge

NASA has opened team registration for the 2015 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. Organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the event will be held April 16-18, 2015, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, also in Huntsville.

The challenge engages high school, college and university students in hands-on, experiential learning activities, while also testing potential technologies needed for future deep space exploration. Both U.S. and international teams may register to participate. For U.S. teams, registration closes Feb. 6, 2015. Registration for international teams closes Jan. 9, 2015.

The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, in partnership with NanoRacks LLC, announce an authentic science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, opportunity for school districts across the U.S. and space station partner nations. The newest flight opportunity, Mission 8 to the International Space Station, or ISS, gives students across a community the ability to design and propose real experiments to fly in low-Earth orbit on the ISS. This opportunity is part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, or SSEP.

Each participating community will receive a real microgravity research minilaboratory capable of supporting a single microgravity experiment and all launch services to fly the minilab to the space station in fall 2015 and return it to Earth.

2015 NASA High-Altitude Student Platform Opportunity

NASA is accepting applications from students at U.S. colleges and universities who want to send experiments to the edge of space on a high-flying scientific balloon. The annual NASA project provides near-space access for 12 undergraduate and graduate student experiments to be carried by a NASA high-altitude research balloon. The flights typically last 15 to 20 hours and reach an altitude of 23 miles. Experiments may include compact satellites or prototypes.

The experiments are flown aboard the High-Altitude Student Platform, or HASP, a balloon-born instrument stack launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility's remote site in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The goals of the project are to provide a space test platform to encourage student research and stimulate the development of student satellite payloads and other space-engineering products.

Teams Announced for NASA 2015 Robotics Operations Competition

Eight universities have advanced to the next round of "RASC-AL Robo-Ops," a planetary rover robotics engineering competition sponsored by NASA and organized by the National Institute of Aerospace. The teams selected are California State University Long Beach, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; San Jose State University in California; University of Buffalo in New York; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Utah, Salt Lake City; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg; and West Virginia University, Morgantown.

The 5th Annual Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts - Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Exploration Robo-Ops is an engineering design competition sponsored by NASA's Human Exploration Operations and Missions Directorate and led by Pat Troutman with the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

An App For Citizen Scientists to Measure Night Sky Brightness

"The app lets citizen scientists like you measure how bright the night sky is, by seeing which stars you are able to see. The more faint stars you can see, the more natural your sky is. Your results are then shared with the GLOBE at Night project, and will be used to track how the night sky is changing in response to widespread adoption of LED lights."

More at Loss of the Night

In winter time, when nights become longer and darker, stargazing can be a fantastic experience and family activity. But in urban areas, the stars disappear behind the skyglow caused by waste light that shines up into the sky. This light pollution is not only a problem for astronomy. Scientists from the interdisciplinary project "Loss of the Night" study how it affects health, society, and the environment. In order to measure how skyglow is changing, they have developed an app for smartphones, which allows citizen scientists to count the number of visible stars in the night sky. The app, originally only available for Android, has now been expanded to support Apple's iOS."

More at Counting stars 2.0

The 2014 Humans in Space Art Video Challenge

Join NASA's International Space Station Program and Humans in Space Art in a journey of exploration. Interested college students and early career professionals worldwide are invited to influence the future of life on Earth and human space exploration. Individuals and teams should submit a three minute video capturing their visions of "How will space, science and technology benefit humanity?" Video artwork may be any style. Younger participants may submit a video, but artwork from artists of all ages will be judged together. The individual or team that creates the first place overall video will be awarded $5000 by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), and winning artwork will be given worldwide visibility and flown in orbit on the International Space Station. Entries are due November 15, 2014. Visit and select "Challenge" for details.

NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowships

The NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) provides opportunities for scientists and engineers to conduct research largely of their own choosing, yet compatible with the research opportunities posted on the NPP Web site. Selected by a competitive peer-review process, NPP Fellows complete one- to three-year Fellowship appointments that advance NASA's missions in earth science, heliophysics, planetary science, astrophysics, space bioscience, aeronautics and engineering, human exploration and space operations, and astrobiology.

Archaeology, Anthropology, and Interstellar Communication

NASA Book by Douglas A. Vakoch: "Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence.

These scholars are grappling with some of the enormous challenges that will face humanity if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected. By drawing on issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology, we can be much better prepared for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come."

- Kindle readers: MOBI [2.8 MB]

- All other eBook readers: EPUB [3.8 MB]

- Fixed layout: PDF [1.7 MB]

NASA Text: Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars

"[Held in 2004] The NASA History Division is pleased to present the record of a unique meeting on risk and exploration held under the auspices of the NASA Administrator, Sean O'Keefe, at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, from September 26-29, 2004.

The meeting was the brainchild of Keith Cowing and astronaut John Grunsfeld, NASA's chief scientist at the time. Its goals, stated in the letter of invitation published herein, were precipitated by the ongoing dialogue on risk and exploration in the wake of the Columbia Shuttle accident, the Hubble Space Telescope servicing question, and, in a broader sense, by the many NASA programs that inevitably involve a balance between risk and forward-looking exploration.

The meeting, extraordinarily broad in scope and participant experience, offers insights on why we explore, how to balance risk and exploration, how different groups define and perceive risk differently, and the importance of exploration to a creative society.."

Download the symposium proceedings from NASA (free PDF)

Looking At The Space Economy of Today - and Tomorrow

"The global space sector is a high-technology niche with a complex ecosystem, which employed at least 900 000 persons around the world in 2013, including public administrations (space agencies, space departments in civil and defence-related organisations), the space manufacturing industry (building rockets, satellites, ground systems); direct suppliers to this industry (components), and the wider space services sector (mainly commercial satellite telecommunications). But these estimates do not take into account universities and research institutions, which also play a key role in R&D, as receivers of public contracts and initiators of much of the space sector's innovation."

"Globalisation is affecting the space economy at different levels. In the 1980s, only a handful of countries had the capacity to build and launch a satellite. Many more countries and corporate players across a wide range of industrial sectors are now engaged in spacerelated activities, a trend that is expected to strengthen in the coming years. Supply chains for the development and operation of space systems are also increasingly evolving at the international level, even if the space sector remains heavily influenced and shaped by strategic and security considerations. Many space technologies are dual use, i.e. employed for both civilian and military programmes, which tends to constrain international trade in space products. Nonetheless, as evidenced by recent OECD research on global value chains, product and service supply chains for space systems are internationalising at a rapid pace. While the mode of interaction between space actors may vary (e.g. in-kind co-operation among space agencies, contracting out to foreign suppliers, industrial offset programmes), the trend towards globalisation is having an impact right across the space economy - from R&D and design, to manufacturing and services."

You can read or download a copy of OECD's new report "The Space Economy at a Glance 2014" (in 24 languages) here

Interstellar Lesson Plans Now Online

"Great art pushes our thinking in new directions. Robert J. Goddard became fascinated with space flight after reading War of the Worlds. Martin Cooper's ideas for the cell phone were inspired by Captain Kirk's Star Trek communicator.

Starting on November 5, the new film INTERSTELLAR from director Christopher Nolan will spark the imaginations of millions of future scientists. That's why Google Play for Education is teaming up with Paramount Pictures and Google Certified Teachers to help middle and high school classrooms explore the mathematical, scientific, and literary concepts discussed in the film.

Schools can plan field trips now to see INTERSTELLAR, with group tickets available for screenings starting as early as November 3. When the film is released on November 5, we'll introduce an INTERSTELLAR webpage for educators containing lesson plans related to the movie (tied to educational standards, of course)."

More at Google for Education

Thinking of "Interstellar": And the Children Shall Reach Out

Keith Cowing - First posted Friday, May 20, 2005: Every now and again even the most cynical of us stumble across something so simple - and yet profound - as to take one's breath away - and remind us of why we are so captivated with space exploration's broader ramifications.

What Happens When Politics Controls Textbook Content

From "Interstellar": This is what happens when politics drives textbook content and robs children of a future of exploration.

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