Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

′Deep Space Gateway′ planned by Russia and US

October 2, 2017

Click to enlarage.  Source: Popular Mechanics

Despite geopolitical conflicts, the United States and the Russian Federation are still working together on  space exploration, as this news item indicates.

Work on a joint US-Russia space station orbiting the Moon is to begin in the mid 2020s. The base is intended to serve as a launching point for manned missions to Mars.Deep Space Gateway (NASA)

The station would be serviced by craft such as the Orion space vessel.

The US and Russia on Wednesday [Sept. 27] announced plans to cooperatively build the first lunar space station.

Roscosmos and NASA, Russia and America’s space agencies, said they had signed a cooperation agreement at an astronautical congress in Adelaide.

The agreement brings Russia onboard to the Deep Space Gateway project announced by NASA earlier this year, which aims to send humans to Mars via a lunar station.

The proposed station would serve as a base for lunar exploration for humans and robots, and as a stopover for spacecraft. 

While the Deep Space Gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space (between Earth and the Moon) as the next step for advancing human space exploration,” said Robert Lightfoot, acting administrator at NASA headquarters in Washington.  [snip]

Roscosmos and NASA have already agreed on standards for a docking unit of the future station,” the Russian space agency said.

“Taking into account the country’s extensive experience in developing docking units, the station’s future elements — as well as standards for life-support systems — will be created using Russian designs.”

Source: DW

The International Space Station is a joint project of the USA and Russia, and many of the spacecraft visits to the ISS are launched from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

I hope this new project bears fruit.  It shows that the United States and the Russian Federation have more to gain through cooperation than ramping up a new Cold War.


The world at night

September 27, 2015


Source: Louder Than Words via Random Fandom.

I hope the lights stay on.

World’s groundwater reservoirs running dry

July 15, 2015

Double click to enlarge.

The following is a NASA press release.

About one third of Earth’s largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption, despite having little accurate data about how much water remains in them, according to two new studies led by the University of California, Irvine (UCI), using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites.

This means that significant segments of Earth’s population are consuming groundwater quickly without knowing when it might run out, the researchers conclude.  The findings are published … in Water Resources Research.

“Available physical and chemical measurements are simply insufficient,” said UCI professor and principal investigator Jay Famiglietti, who is also the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.  “Given how quickly we are consuming the world’s groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left.”

The studies are the first to comprehensively characterize global groundwater losses with data from space, using readings generated by NASA’s twin GRACE satellites.  GRACE measures dips and bumps in Earth’s gravity, which are affected by the mass of water. In the first paper, researchers found that 13 of the planet’s 37 largest aquifers studied between 2003 and 2013 were being depleted while receiving little to no recharge.


View of a living Earth

November 3, 2014

Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

This video from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio is a simulation of the development of a typhoon off the coast of China during seven days in 2005.

I could do without the corny musical score and sound effects, but I do agree with the video makers that the Earth, with its ecology of topsoil, waters, atmosphere and web of living organisms, is more like a living thing itself than it is like anything else.

The Gaia hypothesis is a metaphor, not a fact, but it is a good metaphor.   The Earth is more like a living thing than it is like an economic system subject to cost-benefit analysis, or a cybernetic feedback system that can be reprogrammed, or any of the other metaphors that blind us to our world’s inter-connectedness.

Looking at the sun

April 28, 2013

The video shows three years of time lapse photos of the Sun, taken at the rate of two a day by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, at a time in the solar flare cycle when flare activity is at its height.

In this video, the Sun looks like it is alive.  But the apparent pulsation is due to variations in the position of the SDO as it orbits the Earth while the Earth orbits the Sun.  Each of the flickers is a solar flare discharging orders of magnitude more energy than all the atomic bomb explosions in history.

Click on NASA – Three Years of SDO Images for background.

Hat tip to

A storm on the face of the sun

March 3, 2013

About a minute into this video, you see a little image of the earth drawn to scale, which is dwarfed by the immensity of the solar flare.   It shows the vastness, the beauty and the wonder of the universe.   But I won’t say the power and size of the solar flare makes me feel insignificant as a human being, because we on our little blue marble of a planet have consciousness and intelligence, which the solar flare does not.   As the 17th century Catholic philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote—

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed.  The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him.  A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him.  But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this.

All our dignity then, consists in thought.  By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill.  Let us endeavor then, to think well; this is the principle of morality

Global warming: A search for the causes

September 13, 2012

A proud moment: Curiosity rover lands on Mars

August 7, 2012

Night before last NASA’s Curiosity rover made a successful landing on Mars.  It was a great achievement, one that makes me feel proud to be an American, and proud to be a human being.  Here’s USA Today’s account of what was involved in making the landing a success.

Curiosity, a roving laboratory the size of a compact car, landed right on target late Sunday after an eight-month, 352-million-mile journey. It parked its six wheels about four miles from its ultimate science destination — Mount Sharp, rising from the floor of Gale Crater near the equator.

Extraordinary efforts were needed for the landing because the rover weighs one ton, and the thin Martian atmosphere offers little friction to slow down a spacecraft. Curiosity had to go from 13,000 mph to zero in seven minutes, unfurling a parachute, then firing rockets to brake. In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered it to the ground at 2 mph.


See where spacecraft from Earth have landed on Mars, in this infographic.


I can’t help but reflect that everybody involved did their jobs without the need for bonuses or other financial incentives.  I wish that all American institutions reflected this level of dedication and competence.

Click on Space and NASA News: Universe and Deep Space Information and NASA Mars Science Laboratory, the Next Mars Rover for more.

Hat tip to Ken MacLeod’s The Early Days of a Better Nation for the video and graphic.


Deep space and deep time

July 23, 2011

Knowledge of the past is an antidote for discouragement with the present.  When I stop and reflect, I realize that, on a day-to-day basis, the world was as threatening a place during the periods of history we consider great as they are now.

We remember Periclean Athens not for imperialism and slavery, but for Sophocles and Socrates.  We remember Elizabethan England not for its cruel executions and religious persecutions, but for Shakespeare.

What about our own society will be remembered when Goldman Sachs and the “war on terror” are forgotten?

Maybe this.

Click on Contrary Brin for David Brin’s web log.

NASA Skylab rule

February 20, 2011

Don’t do it if you can’t keep it up.