How the Crisis in the Ukraine Affects Space Science.

I normally do get involved with politics, but this is a special case.  Without a reasonable resolution to the situation in the Ukraine, space could be adversely affected.

If the trouble between Russia and the rest of the world doesn’t work itself out soon, there could be dire consequences for the International Space Station.

Without a viable transport to the ISS, we and the other nations that have an interest in the space station rely on Russia to get personnel back and forth.

Although there are alternative supply transports, the only way that scientists and other crew member, Russia is currently the only human space taxi available.  Without the Soyuz spacecraft, the ISS is effectively dead.

Although the crisis in the Ukraine has had its dramatic moment, I believe (and hope) that it stabilizes quickly.  However, this should give all the other ISS member countries pause to think about alternative transportation to and from the station.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Space And Time (lapse)

There is a very interesting time lapse movie here that shows the Earth from the ISS.

International_Space_Station_after_undocking

Although looking at it, the images seem to be real time, given the fact that the ISS orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes.

I haven’t found out all the astronaut(s) took the images other than Don Pettit who is in the last image.  I do know that the images came from Expeditions 29, 30 and 31.  It would be interesting to find out what equipment they used.

I am currently doing a long term time-lapse of my back yard.  That may seem a little simple, but my back yard overlooks Pasadena and I can see Mt. Wilson clearly.  This time of year is especially nice due to the weather (yes, sometimes in winter we get some weather here).  But the clouds at sunrise and sunset make spectacular viewing.  I just wish I had 4 cameras with at least 100 degree coverage that I could mount on my roof facing to the compass points.

I’ll post the video once I have it completed.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Happy Birthday ISS.

November 20th marked the date that the first part of the International Space Station was sent into orbit.

The Russian Zarya module was the first piece of the puzzle launched in 1998.

The rest of the station was built required more than 40 assembly flights.  Not to mention all the supplies that need to still be ferried for the people manning the station.

The station was complete (well mostly) by 2010.  It just seems like there has always been an ISS, but the station isn’t much older than cell phones (modern ones, not the brick that passed as mobile phones).

Considering that the partnership agreement to build the ISS was signed on January 29, 1998, it is pretty impressive that this first, massive undertaking by cooperating governments got moving so quickly and has lasted this entire time.

I just goes to show that great things can happen when we all work together.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Cloudy With A Chance Of Science For Kepler-7b

The data collected from the Kepler spacecraft is still producing spectacular results even after the spacecraft can no longer function in its exo-planet hunt.

 

One of the first five exo-planets discovered was Kepler-7b.  Which was confirmed in a rather short 33.5 day period after it was declared a candidate.

 

Now, thanks to the data Kepler collected a team from the University of Bern, we have maps of the clouds swirling around a planet around a star over 2,000 light years away in the constellation Lyra.

 

So why Kepler-7b?  It orbits its host star every five days at a distance of approximately 0.06 AU (closer than Mercury).  But it is one unusual property of Kepler-7b, that caught the eye of exo-climatologists.  Kepler-7b reflects about 50% of the visible light hitting its atmosphere.

Using Kepler data, the team measured the amount of reflected starlight for the entire orbit of Kepler-7b around its star to produce a “phase curve”.  This is similar to how the shapes of asteroids are determined using light curves.  The phase curve as transformed into a crude map (with only east-west information) of the reflectivity on Kepler-7b. The results implied the existence of clouds.  There was sufficient data to even determine the size of particles in the clouds.

Of course, not everyone sees a silver lining concerning these clouds.  Kevin Heng a team member involved in all three studies regarding the clouds around exo-planets said:  “Clouds are a nuisance, because they hinder us from performing a unique interpretation of an exoplanet atmosphere.”

Of course, since he is really interested in finding signs of life on these exo-planets, I can understand his frustration.  I feel the same way when I am trying to observe the night sky and clouds come rolling in to block my view.  So all Kevin really needs to do is invent a cloud filter that can see through the obstructions.  I’d buy one!

P.S. While doing research for this post, I came across an amazing resource for those of you interested in exo-planes.  You can find all the information known about all the exo-planets discovered so far at the Open Exoplanet Catalogue.  They even have animated orbital plots of the stars and the planets that orbit them.  Also exoplanet apps for the tablet of your choice.  Very nicely done.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Space Pizza.

No delivery needed, and its not DiGiorno.  NASA has unveiled plans to print pizza in space.  That right, printed pizza.

The RepRap self-replicating printer 'Mendel". (Credit: CharlesC under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).

I have probably mentioned once or twice on this blog how I love 3D printing.  3D printing has been in the news a lot lately when someone figured out that you could print a functioning plastic gun that would pass through security. Not the best use of the technology, but predictable.

A much better use has been chocolate (and other extrudable materials) for making fantastic food.

Picking up on this theme, NASA has awarded a $125,000 grant to the Systems & Materials Research Cooperation to design a 3D printer capable of printing a pizza from 30-year shelf stable foodstuffs.  SMRC built a basic food printer from a 3D chocolate printer to win the grant.  The design is based on an open-source RepRap 3D printer (shown above).  The 3D printer would “build-up” a pizza serving by first layering out the dough onto a heated plate then adding tomato sauce and toppings.  Mmmmmm….Pizza.

So instead of plastic containers of food, members of the International Space Station will be dinning on pizza in 2014.  There are a few problems to solve, such as zero g printing, but the upside is huge.

The ISS and other long term missions would only need to carry quantities of food material and have dinner printed.  Sort of like a poor mans replicator.

beermug

Now if they could only print beer, everything would be perfect!

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Windows booted from the ISS.

Most of you know that I am an advocate for FOSS  (free and open source software).  Not that I begrudge anyone from making money, because you can still make money from FOSS, just ask Google, Apple, Yahoo, Netflix, Red Hat, Intel….yada, yada, yada.  Even Microsoft has products that use FOSS and even has FOSS projects of their own.

It seems that NASA has decided to drop Windows from the laptops on the International Space Station (ISS) in favor of Linux.

Keith Chuvala, a United Space Alliance contractor, manager of the Space Operations Computing (SpOC) for NASA, and leader of the ISS’s Laptops and Network Integration Teams, recently explained that NASA had decided to move to Linux for the ISS’s PCs. “We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable — one that would give us in-house control. So if we needed to patch, adjust, or adapt, we could.”

It appears that when you are in space, you might need to look at the source code to make changes during an event, just as Curiosity and its recent stray radiation problem.

Scientific Linux Logo.

ISS astronauts will be using computers running the well-tested and reliable Debian 6 version of Linux. Earlier, some of the on-board computers had been using Scientific Linux, a Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) clone.

I have been working on getting Scientific Linux (with some modifications) to run my observatory, mount and cameras.  I hope to have a presentation ready soon so that people with limited budgets can take astrophotos without having to invest thousands of dollars in software, like I have done over the years.

Linux has been used on the ISS ever since its launch and at NASA ground operations almost since the day it was created, it was not used much on PCs in space.

robonaut

Linux is also running Robonaut (R2), the first humanoid robot in space. R2 is meant to carry out tasks too dangerous or tedious for astronauts.