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13 July 2009

Review: Moon

Last night I went to see “Moon“, starring Sam Rockwell.  It was excellent, both as a fascinating sci-fi story and for its relatively accurate science. The premise is that, in the near future, the moon is being mined for Helium-3 to fuel fusion power plants back on Earth. Sam Bell (played by Rockwell) is an astronaut just finishing up a 3-year stint on an isolated mining base on the far …


4 July 2009

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter: at the Moon and Returning Data!

I was completely delinquent about reporting this due to the craziness that was my June, but the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched on June 18 and has arrived at the moon and is already returning data. As a Mars scientist that is amazing to me. If it were a Mars probe, there would be ~7 months between launch and orbital insertion, but with the moon, it only takes a few days. …


4 May 2009

Fly me to the moon

My adviser Jim Bell has a guest post up over at the Planetary Society blog about the upcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission. LRO will be able to take pictures of the lunar surface at 50 centimeters per pixel, and will return 20 Terabytes of data! That’s more than 100 times more data than any other planetary mission! So, go take a look at what Jim thinks that sort of data …


22 April 2009

The Ares Launch Vehicles: How We're Going Back to the Moon

I just came across this excellent video describing the Ares rockets that will be replacing the shuttle and taking us back to the moon (and possibly to near-Earth asteroids and Mars). I can’t seem to get it to embed, but here’s the link, and a blurb: “Imagine a rocket the size of a small skyscraper. Now imagine shooting it into the air with so much force that it goes from …


14 April 2009

Where the Moon Rocks Live

This month, I am working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and I have to say, it’s a pretty cool place to work. Every morning I ride my bike past the pair of NASA T-38 jets that mark the entrance to Space Center Houston (the touristy part of JSC). I ride through the security checkpoint and on my left are a handful of rockets from the early days of …


11 April 2009

Moon Trailer

This looks surprisingly good, although a bit too similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey:


30 March 2009

Awesome Moon Photo

Remember how I mentioned the other day that NASA and ASU are in the process of digitizing all the old Apollo photos? Well, apparently there’s an effort to restore the lunar images from other early missions too! Check this bad boy out. This is an oblique view of Copernicus crater, taken in 1966 by Lunar Orbiter 1. This image drives home the point that the moon is really a world, …


16 March 2009

More about LROC

I posted the other day about visiting the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter Camera control room and being very impressed by the mission, the instrument, the control room and of course the folks running everything. Well, Dr. Sam Lawrence, a member of the LROC team, got wind of my post, and sent me some more great info! First of all is a nice virtual tour of the control center that also talks …


14 March 2009

Greetings from Phoenix!

Arizona, not the lander on Mars. After a hectic week of tying up loose ends and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I now have my proster done for the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and am in Phoenix for the Planetary Surface Processes field trip, led by my adviser Jim Bell. Today was mostly travel, but we did have a chance this afternoon to stop …


27 February 2009

A Glimpse at NASA's future…

…Or at least at the future budget. The fiscal year 2010 budget summary was released by the White House yesterday, and there was a little bit of info about NASA. First and foremost, NASA is getting some more money! A total of $2.4 billion, counting the stimulus also. That in and of itself is refreshing. But also very interesting is how NASA’s budget is divvied up, and what that means …


25 February 2009

A Tidally Locked Earth

A while ago, I posted about an interesting abstract and poster at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference discussion the possibility that tidally locked exoplanets might still be habitable. Well, apparently the new Discovery series entitled “The World Without…” is doing an episode about what would happen if the Earth stopped rotating. One of their associate producers contacted me after reading my blog post about tidally locked exoplanets and asked …


7 February 2009

OpEd: Beyond the Moon

My adviser and Planetary Society President Jim Bell, and founder of the Space Science and Exploration Consulting Group Doug Stetson have an OpEd in the February 3 issue of Space News discussing the Planetary Society’s Roadmap for Space Exploration. The OpEd is a nice summary, though I encourage you to look at the full Roadmap PDF too.


14 January 2009

What the Ares V Rocket Could Do for Astronomy

The Ares V rocket is being designed to launch the next crewed mission to the moon. The idea is that the Ares V would do the heavy lifting, bringing the lunar orbiter and lander up to Earth orbit, where they would meet up with the astronauts who would launch on the smaller Ares I. Then the whole package would head to the moon. It’s a cool plan for getting back …


13 November 2008

Beyond the Moon

Today the Planetary Society released a “roadmap” for space exploration, detailing what the Society thinks NASA’s priorities and programs should look like in the near future. It is the product of input from the public as well as closed-door meetings of space exploration experts. I encourage you to take a look at the pdf. The plan outlined in the “Beyond the Moon” document is well thought out and feasible, and …


2 November 2008

Obama on Space

Ian O’Neill over at AstroEngine has a really excellent post about the upcoming election and what effect it might have on NASA’s future. I encourage you to go check it out. The post ends with this video. I know that this is pandering to florida voters, but I really really hope that it isn’t just vote pandering: (Note: I had issues embedding the video, so click the picture and it …


1 November 2008

Mercury in Color

Check out this true color and exaggerated color view of Mercury, taken by MESSENGER during the recent flyby! In one of my classes on Thursday, we were speculating about why Mercury craters seem to have such long rays on the fresh craters. Our conclusion was that it’s probably just the higher gravity. Mercury is small but very dense, so it’s surface gravity is greater than the moon’s. So with equivalent …


26 October 2008

The Science of Chandrayaan: Part 2

Last time I described the Indian-made instruments on the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. But the mission is a huge international collaboration, and there are six more instruments to talk about made by countries around the world. Let’s take a look: An X-ray image of the moon. Chandrayaan-1 X-Ray Spectrometer (C1XS) – “Wait a second!” I hear you saying. “Didn’t you talk about an x-ray spectrometer last time?” Well, yes, but x-rays have …


23 October 2008

The Science of Chandrayaan

By now you’ve probably heard that India successfully launched its first moon mission yesterday (Oct. 22, 2008). But what will it do at the moon? Let’s take a look at the scientific payload and find out! This will be a 2-part post, starting with the five instruments made by the Indian space agency (ISRO), followed by six more made by countries around the world. Most of my information comes from …


24 September 2008

Low-Gravity Volcanoes

During my series of posts about volcanoes last month, a reader emailed me and asked what the effect of lower gravity would be on martian volcanoes, and I thought it was such a good question that I decided to answer it here! Most of my answer is based on a (rather large) review paper by Wilson and Head that is available here. One of the first effects of low gravity …


23 July 2008

Cadavers, Rockets and GPS

Here’s a riddle: What do dead bodies, awesome rockets, and GPS have in common? They are all being used in NASA’s return to the moon. Universe today has three interesting posts with all the details. First, I’ll get to the question that I know you’re asking: What the heck does NASA want with dead bodies? Well, they are in the process of testing the Crew Exploration Vehicle, and deciding how …