Tag Archives: NASA

Point Nemo – The Spacecraft Graveyard

In the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, there’s a location called “Point Nemo”. It’s not a place that humans live – in fact, there is no land there – not an island, not even a small rock. It is actually the remotest place from any human civilization you can find on Earth. It lies at least 2,688 km (1,670 mi) from the nearest land. It is also called “Oceanic pole of inaccessibility”.Notes 1

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Earth can be a model for detecting vegetation on exoplanets

Back in December 1990, during its flyby of Earth, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which studied the planet Jupiter and its moons, as well as several other Solar System bodies, pointed its instruments towards Earth, at the urging of Carl Sagan. And, it has found evidence of life on our planet. This can be a key to detect vegetation on exoplanets – which is a key to a possible intelligent extraterrestrial life.

In a paper published on Nature, researchers wrote “The Galileo spacecraft found evidence of abundant gaseous oxygen, a widely distributed surface pigment with a sharp absorption edge in the red part of the visible spectrum, and atmospheric methane in extreme thermodynamic disequilibrium. Together, these are strongly suggestive of life on Earth.”

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5 Surprising Facts about Mars

For eons, skywatchers have been fascinated by the pale red dot that not only unpredictably moves backward in the night sky but also shines a compelling blood-red. Its color, indeed, is one of the first features we notice about Mars. It seizes our attention, and its compelling ambiguity has evoked a deep visceral reaction from the nomad in ancient savannas to modern astronomers. The ancient astronomer may be satisfied to know that, in fact, Mars is literally blood-red: the same chemical reaction that occurs in the iron in Mars’ soil is the same is the same chemical reaction that occurs in the hemoglobin molecule. Mars, is, quite literally, blood red. Even with our cutting-edge technology and science, Mars still bewitches and amazes us as seen with these five surprising facts about Mars.

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How NASA Reinvented The Wheel

On August 6, 2012, at 05:17 UTC, NASA has successfully landed a Mini-Cooper-sized rover, Curiosity, on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars. The 900-kg rover (899 kg, to be exact, which is 1,982 lbs) is equipped with six 50 cm (20 in) diameter wheels in a rocker-bogie suspension. Notes 1 For the first time in the history of the space exploration, the suspension system also served as landing gear for the vehicle, unlike its smaller predecessors.

Curiosity “soft-landed”  (wheels down) on the surface of Mars. But, even it’s called “soft-landing”, the touchdown speed was 0.6739m/s vertical and 0.044m/s horizontal, which could damage the wheels. Plus, while the rover is moving, the wheels should withstand the substantial damage through the rough Martian surface. That’s why the wheels of the Curiosity rover have been one of the biggest technical difficulties encountered on the mission. Notes 2

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What causes the phases of the moon?

Despite we always see the same side of the Moon, it still looks a little different every night. Sometimes we see only a thin crescent, sometimes a half-moon, sometimes a full moon, and other times in-between. Sometimes even the Moon seems to disappear entirely. These “shapes” called lunar phases or phases of the Moon. A lunar phase is the shape of the directly sunlit portion of the Moon as viewed from Earth.

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Video: NASA Balloon Mission Captures Rare Electric Blue Clouds

An amazing video: a recent NASA long-duration balloon mission observed a thin group of seasonal electric blue clouds which are known as noctilucent clouds or polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs). Forming 50 miles (80 km) above polar regions in summer they are Earth’s uppermost clouds and only visible around twilight. PMCs are composed of ice crystals that glow bright blue or white when reflecting sunlight.

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Kessler Syndrome: Space junk can end space exploration, and destroy modern way life

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first human-made object to orbit Earth. This event marks the beginning of humanity’s space exploration history. After that, humanity went to the moon, astronauts and cosmonauts performed countless spacewalks, and since the arrival of Expedition 1 on November 2, 2000, the International Space Station station has been continuously occupied. To date, this is the longest continuous human presence in space, having surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 days held by Mir. But maybe even more important, we launched thousands of artificial satellites into the Earth’s orbit. These artificial satellites shape our modern life: weather forecasts, broadcasting, communication and GPS are just a few examples. But, there’s a side effect: just like here on the Earth, we are slowly filling the most important part just above us, with junk.  And this junk can end space exploration, and destroy our modern way life. This (very possible) scenario known as the Kessler Syndrome, proposed by the American astrophysicist and former NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978.

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Why it’s only science that can answer all the big questions

Science has proved itself to be a reliable way to approach all kinds of questions about the physical world. As a scientist, I am led to wonder whether its ability to provide understanding is unlimited. Can it in fact answer all the great questions, the ‘big questions of being’, that occur to us?

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