Stories tagged nasa


WISE take off: WISE launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
WISE take off: WISE launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.Courtesy Bill Hartenstein/United Launch Alliance
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Maria, CA yesterday morning. WISE will scan the sky in infrared light, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing 1.5 million images, one every 11 seconds. The 10 month mission will create images of 99% of the sky with infrared image detectors that are significantly more sensitive to infrared sky features than the sky surveys of previous major infrared space survey telescopes. WISE Deputy Project Scientist Amy Mainzer says the mission will provide what she calls a "Google map to the universe."

VY Canis Majoris v. our Sun: No contest.
VY Canis Majoris v. our Sun: No contest.Courtesy Public domain
If you’re like me, you’re fretting about what to buy your significant other this coming holiday season. Let it go. We have bigger problems. There’s a humongous star in the constellation Canis Major that’s in its final death throes and could go supernova at any time. VY Canis Majoris, as it is referenced, is the largest star known to science, and is so huge, if it were placed in the center of our Solar System, it would encompass all the space between our Sun and the orbit of the planet Saturn (see diagram). But don’t worry, the unstable red hypergiant is nearly 5000 light-years away, and is being monitored closely (in far-infrared and submillimeter portions of the light spectrum) by the European Space Agency's new space telescope Herschel. Read more here about what's actually going on.

More about the Herschel space observatory



LaserMotive wins $900,000 power beaming space elevator prize

An 11-pound contraption built by LaserMotive of Kent, Wash., successfully climbed up a kilometer high cable suspended from a helicopter in 4 minutes 2 seconds. This qualified them for $900,000. If they had done it in 3 minutes the prize would have been 1.1 million dollars. In four years of the power-beaming competition, LaserMotive is the only competitor to qualify for a cash prize.

Contests are getting the job done

Million dollar prizes are motivating research and development in areas that probably wouldn’t be done otherwise, said Andrew Petro, manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program. Many of these challenges have just finished.

Learn more about other Centennial challenges

Winner in Contest Involving Space Elevator New York Times

The Mythbusters are taking on moon landing conspiracy theorists. And, y'know, if the Mythbusters say it's all true, that's good enough for me.


Walking onto the Moon
Walking onto the MoonCourtesy NASA

July 20, 1969

I was in college when humankind first stepped on the moon. We bought large glossy photos of the event and hung them on our dorm room wall. Monday, July 20, 2009 is going to be a day to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of stepping on the moon.

Events in celebration of the Apollo 11 anniversary

NASA has a web page of Apollo 40th Anniversary Events and Activities. has a great video showing Apollo 11 events. If your computer and internet are state of the art, here is a cool 360 interactive view of being on the moon.. has links to photos, videos, and audios, and TV broadcasts celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing.

We will go to the Moon again soon

I know a lot of you were not even born when this happened but don't worry. We are going to figure out how to do it again, soon!


All eyes on penguin poop: Hey guys, don't worry where you poop. No one's gonna see where you've done it, especially any prying eyes from out in space.
All eyes on penguin poop: Hey guys, don't worry where you poop. No one's gonna see where you've done it, especially any prying eyes from out in space.Courtesy NASA
It might not be a good day for emperor penguins. That daily activity that we all do – the elimination of our solid waste – is letting the cat out of the bag on the migration patterns of Antarctica's largest birds.

Researchers using NASA satellite photos to look at their bases in Antarctica found something odd with the photos: large red streaks in otherwise colorless sea ice areas. Causing the strange coloration is emperor penguin poop. It's a huge discovery among the penguin researching crowd as they've had a hard time locating the breeding grounds of these penguins.

Here's the full report.

Since the emperors spend several months on the ice during their winter breeding season, the poop accumulates so much that it can be seen from space. And it's no ordinary poop. It's high in salt and high in odor, making it very undesirable to be around for humans. One researcher said he's lost a dozen pair of boots to salt damage caused by the penguin poop.

From the vantage point of space, scientists have been able to pinpoint 38 emperor penguin breeding areas, including the appearance of 10 new breeding site and disappearance of six old sites from the previous land-based mapping effort. All in all, it's good news for the emperor penguin population, which was thought to be in crisis because of diminishing ice surfaces around the edges of Antarctica.

Still skeptical about this? Here's a video report that shows what we're talking about here.


Pure, delicious water: Drink up!
Pure, delicious water: Drink up!Courtesy viking_79
Raise a glass of cool, clear water for our girls and boys in space.

After the removal of a “sticky check valve” in the Urine Processing Assembly on Monday, astronauts on the International Space Station have finally been given a “go” to drink “recycled” water. Wondering, no doubt, what exactly made that valve so sticky, our brave orbiting scientists can now sit back and hesitantly sip tepid, musty water from pouches not entirely unlike catheter bags.

That’s how I like to imagine it, anyway. I suspect, however, that most things on the space station are pretty fancy, and that any water recycling system they’d have up there would do a pretty good job of removing the subtle flavors of urine, sweat, and exhaled moisture (all of which are processed by the system). Hopefully it chills the end product a little bit too. There’s nothing like drinking something the temperature of spit for making you feel like you’re drinking spit.

The technology has been a long time coming. The system was only installed late last year, but it has been the dream of mankind for generations that we might somehow find a way to reuse what we so wastefully flush away (“yellow gold,” we call it). Especially in space. If we ever want to take extended trips in space (and we do—even going to Mars would take months and months), water and waste recycling systems are going to be essential. These brave, thirsty astronauts are finally taking a bold step toward that wonderful future.


Drinking our waste to our health: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station toasted their first sips of water converted from urine they've expelled during their time in the station.
Drinking our waste to our health: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station toasted their first sips of water converted from urine they've expelled during their time in the station.Courtesy NASA
As we approach the start of the summer cool beverage season, here's an exotic drink you might want to try. Yesterday astronauts on the International Space Station raised their glasses in a special toast to the newest accessory on board their space craft. This device converts their urine, sweat and spit into drinkable water.

And you thought the hardest part of being an astronaut was going to be feeling the G-forces for blast-off and re-entry.

Converting body fluid wastes into water is an essential efficiency for long distance space missions to locations like Mars and beyond. And even with at the space station, the device reduces the amount of water that needs to be transported from Earth by 65 percent.

Six seems to be the operative number with this new contraption. A crew of six on the space station creates enough urine to convert into six gallons of water in six hours. Currently, ISS crews are limited to three people because of limited water supply. Now the station will be able to handle up to six crew members at a time.

The new device directs water from the station's toilet to a special tank where the fluid is boiled, separating the water contents from the urine brine.

Want to learn more? Here are some links about this new space travel technology:

NASA coverage of the new water system
USA Today
Past Buzz coverage on space urine-to-water conversion


Abandoned McDonald's serves restored lunar photos
Abandoned McDonald's serves restored lunar photosCourtesy jervetson

Historic NASA photos recovered from 40 year old data tapes

When NASA archivist, Nancy Evans, was asked what to do with a 10x20x6 ft pile of data tapes weighing 24 tons she was told that they normally would be destroyed.

"Do not destroy those tapes," Evans commanded.

Only copy of moon photo data nearly scrapped

The 70mm tapes held irreplaceable, extremely high-resolution images of the moon taken during the 1960s by NASA's Lunar Orbiters. Altogether, nearly 2,000 frames were photographed by the five missions. An on-board darkroom developed the lunar images and prepared them for transmission back to Earth. The tapes which can only be read by a $330,000 FR-900 Ampex magnetic tape reader, ended up being stored in an abandoned McDonalds.

Team of volunteers does what NASA wouldn't

A team consisted of Nancy Evans, Dennis Wingo, Keith Cowing of NASA Watch and Ken Zim who had experience of repairing video equipment began a task that NASA said would cost 6 million dollars.

Only one person alive knew how to retrieve the data

Twenty years earlier, Nancy Evans had scrounged the only 4 remaining FR-900 tape drives, each 7 feet tall and weighing nearly a ton, and stored them in her garage. None of them worked. Ken Zim was only one person on Earth who could still refurbish these tape units.

They did it in two years

Now, two years later the team is proudly releasing the first of 2000 photos which have twice the resolution and four times the dynamic range of any previously seen. Click on this link to see the famous "Earth rise seen from the Moon".

Learn more about how technological archeology was used to recover historic moon photos from the 60s

The full details of this sage can be found in the links below. I think you will enjoy reading more. I sure did.


The COLBERT: Official patch for "COLBERT," the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill.
The COLBERT: Official patch for "COLBERT," the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill.Courtesy NASA
NASA finally figured out what to do about the Space Station node-naming fiasco that mdr wrote about.

Apollo 11 landed on the moon at the Sea of Tranquility 40 years ago this July. We selected 'Tranquility' because it ties it to exploration and the moon, and symbolizes the spirit of international cooperation embodied by the space station. - Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations