Category Archives: NASA

NASA’s Space Tourism Posters

“Imagination is our window into the future. As you mark the passing of this year with these imaginative destinations, remember that you are the architects of the future. What we make and do will have a profound significance for generations to come. The impact of your efforts go beyond 2020, or even 2050. They will be felt for centuries to come. Be bold in your vision of what tomorrow can be, advance the edge of possibility, and let’s work together to make it come true.”

–  NASA JPL Director Charles Elachi

Visual strategists Joby Harris at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, asked Seattle design firm Invisible Creature if they were interested in creating ‘travel posters’ for NASA last autumn, it was a bit of a dream come true job for Don Clark, who started Invisible Creature with his brother Ryan Clark in 2006. “We, of course, were ecstatic, just because our grandfather was an illustrator at NASA for 30 years, and so this is kind of our first NASA project.” The 3 commissioned pieces are part of JPL’s Visions Of The Future 2016 Calendar – an internal gift to JPL and NASA staff, as well as scientists, engineers, government and university staff. The artwork for each month will also be released as a free downloadable poster at the NASA JPL site soon, but all 3 three by Invisible Creature are shown below and are available to purchase from here.

The Grand Tour: NASA’s Voyager mission took advantage of a once-every-175-year alignment of the outer planets for a grand tour of the solar system. The twin spacecraft revealed stunning details about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – using each planet’s gravity to send them on to the next destination. Voyager set the stage for such ambitious orbiter missions as Galileo to Jupiter and Cassini to Saturn. Today both Voyager spacecraft continue to return valuable science from the far reaches of our solar system.

Mars: NASA’s Mars Exploration Program seeks to understand whether Mars was, is, or can be a habitable world. Missions like Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, among many others, have provided important information in understanding of the habitability of Mars. This poster imagines a future day when we have achieved our vision of human exploration of Mars and takes a nostalgic look back at the great imagined milestones of Mars exploration that will someday be celebrated as “historic sites.”

Enceladus: The discovery of Enceladus’ icy jets and their role in creating Saturn’s E-ring is one of the top findings of the Cassini mission to Saturn. Further Cassini mission discoveries revealed strong evidence of a global ocean and the first signs of potential hydrothermal activity beyond Earth – making this tiny Saturnian moon one of the leading locations in the search for possible life beyond Earth.

Advertisements

Name in Space

NASA has been doing something so collaborative and unique in inviting people to have their names etched into microchips aboard various spacecraft heading to Space, the first one to launch is onboard a gigantic United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. This is the Orion Mission’s first flight test for The Journey to Mars programme, and the first mission since Apollo to carry a spacecraft “built for humans” to go the furthest in space in over 40 years, and the first time NASA’s next-generation spacecraft is tested against the challenges of space, and the first operational test of a heat shield strong enough to protect against 4,000-degree temperatures.

But what makes this mission so special for a NASA Geek like me, is I’m on it, I registered, got accepted, got the certificate, got etched into that microchip above, and got the…sadly no T-Shirt just yet 😉

Messages to Bennu

The next one my ‘Name in Space’ is heading to is an asteroid…and then back to Earth. The Asteroid Bennu mission launches in 2016 onboard the agency’s robotic mission Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft.

Part of the ‘Messages to Bennu!’ microchip will travel for more than two years at the 1,760 ft (500 metre) wide asteroid. The spacecraft will collect a sample of Bennu’s surface and return it to Earth in a sample return capsule. One microchip will be brought back to Earth. Another copy will remain in outer space long after the sample has landed.

Jason Dworkin, mission project scientist at Nasa, said
‘It is exciting to consider the possibility that some of the people who register to send their names to Bennu could one day be a part of the team that analyses the samples from the asteroid 10 years from now,’

The Journey to Mars

Of the two missions that I’ve got my Name in Space on, this one excites me the most, for its not since the Apollo missions have the NASA engineers and designers had to build the unknown, and some solutions they don’t even know how to figure out just yet.

This first flight test of Orion will have the expected splashdown under billowing parachutes into the Pacific Ocean, but this mission will also test many of the riskiest events Orion will see when it sends astronauts to an asteroid and onward toward Mars in the future.

NASA’s Comments on the Mission

“Orion is the exploration spacecraft for NASA, and paired with the Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket it will allow us to explore the solar system,” said Mark Geyer, program manager of Orion, which is based at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

While the Delta IV Heavy will send Orion on its flight test, SLS will launch the spacecraft on future missions.

The flight test also is a marker for NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida transformation into a multi-user spaceport. The transformation kicked off in 2010 and has made steady progress. This flight represents the center’s ability to produce a spacecraft and launch configuration that works well using aspects of the new model for processing and launch.

“The team is enthused, it’s good to go flying,” said Bob Cabana, director of Kennedy. “It’s not just Orion and SLS, you have to tie it all together. It’s Orion, it’s SLS and its commercial crew. It’s all of that.”

NASA’s Orion program has arrived at a fulcrum point that will tell its designers and builders how it stacks up technically. It also will show that NASA is ready to take the next step on its journey into deep space – and ultimately to Mars.

So even though Orion is poised for a mere 4 1/2-hour, two-orbit mission without anyone on board, the cone-shaped craft needs to perform its roster of tasks well, including an all-important descent through Earth’s atmosphere and splashdown. 

“Really, we’re going to test the riskiest parts of the mission,” Geyer said. “Ascent, entry and things like fairing separations, Launch Abort System jettison, the parachutes plus the navigation and guidance – all those things are going to be tested. Plus we’ll fly into deep space and test the radiation effects on those systems.”

The flight test begins at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A 2-hour, 39-minute launch window opens at 7:05 a.m. EST so the launch and recovery of the spacecraft after splashdown can both take place in daylight. Orion will lift off on the strength of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy, currently the largest rocket in America’s inventory. The three RS-68 engines will produce about two million pounds of thrust at liftoff, enough to push the 1.63 million pounds of spacecraft, rocket and cryogenic fuel straight up off the launch pad and into orbit.

The boosters on either side of the rocket will fall away about four minutes into the ascent. The center booster with the second stage and Orion on top continues on for about 90 seconds more before its fuel is burned up and it separates to fall back to Earth. From there the second stage will lift Orion while the structural support fairings around the simulated service module fall away, followed closely by the launch abort system. 

At 17 minutes, 39 seconds following liftoff, the Orion and second stage will be in an initial orbit of 115 miles by 552 miles. The second stage will ignite again two hours into the flight to send Orion through the Van Allen radiation belts and to a peak altitude of 3,609 miles, some 15 times higher than the space station. This is going to be a key point in the test flight as instruments inside Orion record the radiation doses inside the cabin – critical data for mission planners considering the best way to safely send astronauts into deep space in the future. Orion’s cameras will be turned off during its passes through the belts to protect them.

Three hours, 23 minutes into flight, the Orion crew module will fly on its own following separation from its service module and the Delta IV Heavy second stage. The spacecraft will be aimed at Earth’s atmosphere and it will be up to Orion’s onboard computers to set the spacecraft in the right position so its base heat shield can bear the brunt of the intense reentry heat. 

Hitting the atmosphere at 20,000 mph four hours and 13 minutes after launch, Orion will encounter about 80 percent of the heat it would endure during a return from lunar orbit with astronauts aboard. Ground controllers will lose contact with Orion for 2 1/2 minutes during re-entry when the spacecraft is surrounded by plasma. They should regain communications with the craft just before the forward bay cover is jettisoned in a process that will begin the parachute deployment. After about four hours, 23 minutes, Orion will be bobbing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California as recovery forces move in.

Teams from NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program based at Kennedy will work with U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin personnel to bring the spacecraft into the well deck of the USS Anchorage, an amphibious ship with a protective enclosure that will allow Orion to basically float onboard without having to be lifted by a crane. A second ship, the USNS Salvor, also will be on hand as a backup.

Many aspects of the mission point to a future as ambitious as any time in NASA’s 50-plus-year history.

With lessons learned from Orion’s flight test, NASA can improve the spacecraft’s design while building the first Space Launch System rocket, a heavy booster with enough power to send the next Orion around the moon for Exploration Mission-1. Following that, astronauts are gearing up to fly Orion on the second SLS rocket on a mission that will return humans to deep space for the first time in more than 40 years. These adventures will set NASA up for a future human missions to an asteroid and even on the journey to Mars.

“To be able to even think about going to an asteroid and to be able to think about this kind of exploration, that’s very exciting,” Cabana said. “I think there’s a genuine, positive atmosphere, and I don’t think it’s confined to just Kennedy. You go across all the NASA centers and I think the team is really excited about the future.”

And while all that work is happening on the ground, astronauts on the International Space Station will continue the groundbreaking research that is already adding to humanity’s understanding of everything from long-duration spaceflight to the continued experimentation on products and processes that improve life on Earth.

Pumpkin Sun

It seem NASA’s  Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the perfect Pareidolia Sun just in time for Halloween with this jack-o’-lantern  style Pumpkin Sun.

Active regions on the sun combined to look something like a jack-o-lantern’s face on Oct. 8, 2014. The active regions appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy — markers of

…NASA’s technical jargon..

an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. This image blends together two sets of wavelengths at 171 and 193 Angstroms, typically colorized in gold and yellow, to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.

All images ©NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center 2014

Wave at Saturn

[UPDATED]
I Waved at Saturn and got the Certificate to prove it via NASA

_______________________________________________________

I wasn’t originally going to blog about this because so many others will be doing exactly the same, but its the historical connections and significance this image will convey, it’s based on one of my ‘all time’ favourite photographs, which is not something of great visual merit, but it’s the back story and what those few blue pixels in that image represent, I am of course referring to the famous Pale Blue Dot image taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles) from Earth, as part of the solar system Family Portrait series of images. The late and still inspiring Carl Sagan commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space.

Now NASA Cassini space is about to do the same and take Pale Blue Dot II on Fri 10:27PM at 22:27 BST… this will be The Day the Earth Smiled and Waved at Saturn

Below is the location of Saturn in the Leeds sky at the precise time Cassini will take this historical photograph…don’t forget to wave 🙂

When you look at that shiny white planet in the Western sky, think back to what Carl Sagan said of that historical day back in 1990 when the original Pale Blue Dot photography was taken.

A Vision of the Human Future in Space

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturing, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: 

SolSysSim6_final_642x361

What NASA has to say on the subject:

One of the most exciting Cassini events in 2013 will be the unusual opportunity on July 19 to image the whole Saturn system as it is backlit by the sun. With Saturn covering the harsh light of the sun, we will be gathering unique ring science and also catching a glimpse of our very own home planet.

The main science goal for the mosaic we are making of the Saturn system is to look at the more diffuse rings that encircle Saturn and check for change over time. A previous mosaic of the Saturn system Cassini made in 2006 revealed that the dusty E ring, which is fed by the water-ice plume of the moon Enceladus, had unexpectedly large variations in brightness and color around its orbit. We’ll want to see how that looks seven Earth years and a Saturnian season later, giving us clues to the forces at work in the Saturn system. We’ll do this analysis by collecting data from our visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, composite infrared mapping spectrometer and ultraviolet imaging spectrograph in addition to the imaging cameras.

But one of the best parts of the mosaic we’re making on July 19 is that we’ll be able to take a picture of Earth – and all of you — from about 898 million miles (1.44 billion kilometers) away. The Earth will appear to be just a pixel, but you can see in this simulated close-up what parts of it will be illuminated.

Opportunities to image Earth from the outer solar system are few and far between and special care must be taken so we don’t blind our cameras by looking in the direction of the sun, where Earth is. There have been only two images of Earth from the outer solar system in all the time humankind has been venturing out into space. The first and most distant was one was taken 23 years ago by NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft from 4 billion miles (6 billion kilometers away), showing Earth as a pale blue dot . The other opportunity was Cassini’s image in 2006 from 926 million miles (1.49 billion kilometers).