January 2017 Archives

NASA's Global Reach

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/IMG_5388.m.jpgUnderstanding NASA's Global Reach, SpaceRef

A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? Worden is currently in Chile to announce that Breakthrough Initiatives has teamed with the European Southern Observatory to use the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to observe Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is the destination of Breakthrough Starshot Initiative. Enhancements will be made to the VLT to allow it to detect small, potentially habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system and possibly other star systems. So why is a boy wearing a NASA t-shirt in the Atacama region of Chile? Worden did not know. I have a theory. In 2010 NASA was instrumental in rescuing 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped in the San José copper mine. The mine is located near Copiapó, Chile. Parnal Observatory, where the VLT is located is 411 Km north of Copiapó a town with a population of 200,000. La Serena, the town where this photo was taken, is located 349 km south of Copiapó and also has a population of over 200,000. These locations are all connected by the same road (Route 5). I would have to assume that NASA remains a very popular entity in the region after the mine rescue - popular enough that its logo is something that children want to wear. When I was in Nepal in 2009 I was constantly amazed to see street vendors in remote villages selling t-shirts and DVDs featuring American wrestlers and recording artists. Branding is pervasive and utterly global these days. In Chile it would seem that NASA is iconic and cool .

Electronic Textbook for Introductory Astronomy

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2013/potw1320a.jpgA Free, Electronic Textbook for Introductory Astronomy

A new introductory textbook called Astronomy has just been published by OpenStax, a national, non-profit project to develop high-quality, introductory textbooks that are free to students. The publisher is located at Rice University and supported by several major foundations (including the Gates and Hewlett Foundations.) They have already done over 20 free textbooks in other fields, used by hundreds of thousands of students around the country. Senior authors for the new non-technical astronomy text are Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College), David Morrison (NASA Ames Research Ctr.), and Sidney Wolff (National Optical Astronomy Observatory), who have had many years of experience writing texts and educational materials. The project had the help of over 75 astronomers and astronomy educators, to make sure that the text is up-to-date, authoritative, and educationally sound. None of the authors receive one penny of royalties. The book is free to students in the electronic version, and can be custom printed on demand - at cost. Even more interesting, the book is open source, which means professors can use it as is, or develop their own electronic version of it, selecting only the sections they teach and adding course-specific curriculum materials. The textbook is now available for review and adoption.

Online Course on Human Spaceflight

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/Christer_Fuglesang.jpgESA Astronaut Christer Fuglesang Will Teach Online Course on Human Spaceflight, SpaceRef

Christer Fuglesang, a veteran of five spacewalks and a professor of particle physics, will present a five-week online course on human spaceflight beginning on 23 January. The course is available to all to follow on aspects of human spaceflight such as the environmental, medical and technical challenges of space travel, offering a broad overview of spaceflight from research to social and political aspects and looking to the future."Enrol now if you are curious about spaceflight or want a better understanding of the subject." The course is offered for free online with weekly tests and a final exam. A certified diploma is available if you pass the tests for a fee. The course is offered by the Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology in collaboration with ESA.

Astrobiology Primer v2.0 Released

The long awaited second edition of the Astrobiology Primer is now published in the journal Astrobiology. This version is an update of the Primer originally published in 2006, written by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to provide a comprehensive introduction to the field. Redone from scratch, the 2016 version contains updated content that addresses the definition of life in scientific research, the origins of planets and planetary systems, the evolution and interactions of life on Earth, habitability on worlds beyond Earth, the search for life, and the overall implications of the research. The Primer is intended to be a resource for early-career scientists, especially graduate students, who are new to astrobiology. Download

NASA Awards Grants to Inspire Mars Generation

NASA Awards Grants to Inspire Mars Generation of Explorers, Scientists

NASA is awarding approximately $3 million in grants to three informal education organizations to help inspire the next generation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies and careers as the agency progresses on its Journey to Mars. The selected projects will create a new Mars exploration exhibit, offer educator professional development on space science topics and engineering technology, pilot Mars-themed lesson plans in regional school districts, expand regional afterschool and summer camp opportunities, and develop community programs related to space exploration. "Museums and out-of-school time providers are in a unique position to provide STEM engagement through hands-on experiences," said Roosevelt Johnson, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Office of Education in Washington. "NASA supports experiences that engage with STEM topics in personally meaningful ways." The proposals were selected through a peer-review process for NASA's Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitor Centers Plus Other Opportunities. In June, NASA announced the first nine proposals selected from the 73 applications received through this opportunity. The newly-selected projects range in value from approximately $600,000 to $1.25 million. Organizations will implement their proposals over the next one to five years, depending on their project.

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