Friday, October 4, 2013

NASA – “You can’t shut down awesome”

NASA – “You can’t shut down awesome” 

In a concise yet well worded tweet from the sarcastic alter ego of our endearing Mars rover – Curiosity, the bitter-sweet truth prevailed. In a message from Voyager 2 as the spacecraft continued out of our solar system, :”Farewell Humans, sort it out yourselves.” And in a tweet the other day, a lonely day with 97% of NASA ordered to stay home , the “Mohawk Man” at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted “Happy 55th”. Yes, the agency celebrated its 55thin relative obscurity. No one to light the candles much less blow them out. 

NASA’s MAVEN – Shutdown threatens launch but preparations prevail 

Originally planning to write a series on the cool things NASA is doing/has done/will do, then changing to a shutdown effects (hope there isn’t an asteroid coming this way as 3% staying on have a lot of sky to watch!) But instead, am feeling lifted up by NASA’s continuing to prepare for the launch of Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission. Work on the orbiter was paused on Tuesday when the government shut down, but Thursday NASA won approval to resume preparations. 

What makes MAVEN so special? Glad you asked. First the launch window is limited. On one hand there’s the capture of Mars at a point where it is too far from earth. This would result in MAVEN not having enough fuel to make the trip. Wait until the next loop in 26 months? After all it’s an orbit! if the launch occurs now MAVEN will arrive at a time where the Sun is at solar maximum and would be able to view its effect on the atmosphere of Mars. If it occurs 26 months from now; Solar minimum.   The mission of MAVEN – in case you were wondering IS studying the Sun’s impact on the Mars upper atmosphere. 

BASED on NASA &  ESA data, Scientists discover Mar’s crater may actually be Super-Volcano; 

Originally thought to be an impact crater on Mars, ‘Eden Patera’, is now believed to be a volcanic caldera: a basin formed by a volcano. Data that was obtained from NASA’s Mars Odyssey, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, & the ESA’a Mars Express orbiter has been examined by scientists.

Why is this important? A super-volcano, just one can seriously affect the atmosphere – debris spread so far and remaining so long that it alters the global temperature for years. Light could be unable to make it through to maintain whatever form of life existed then. That is just one. Many would do the same thing but on a much larger scale and could very well have changed the evolution of Mars. 

NASA gives Kepler a new lease on life

Following the sad news that after two failed reaction wheels Keppler was no longer fit for duty NASA decided not to give up. Crippled in many ways, the Keppler Space Telescope is capable of so much more than its original mission – which if any is checking was expected to cease in 2010. There is a patch of sky that she looks out onto near the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra. This little patch of the sky contains more than 100,000 stars and Kepler would catch the flickers of the stars in this forest of lights due to planets passing in front. But alasa, those days are gone

But what Kepler can contribute is assisting stellar scientists in learning how large stars evolve.  Catching an occurrence such as a “Starquake” requires long observation over a larger timescale than telescopes on Earth are able to do due to the constant interruption by the Sun. Also there is that sleep thing that humans need. But a larger star when experience this change oscillates and likely is still within the capabilities of Kepler.

Kepler is turning out to be some return on investment as yet again her life continues..

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