Showing posts with label NASA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NASA. Show all posts

NASA Discovers 300-foot Rift on Antarctic Ice Shelf

Last week I posted a article about how climate change was causing the collapse of ice sheets in Antarctic, and today we have another sobering story to share. It seems that NASA has found a massive rift on the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the frozen continent which will eventually cause a massive chunk of ice – the size of state of Delaware – to break off and fall into the ocean.

The crack, which measures 300 feet (91 meters) across, was discovered on November 10 as NASA researchers were making a flyover of the region as part of a survey of the shifting ice in Antarctica. This is the eighth consecutive year that the so called "IceBridge" team has traveled to the bottom of the world to measure the impact of climate change on the Larsen Ice Shelf, and their findings were startling even to them. The crack extends for more than 70 miles (112 km) and is a third of a mile (.5 km) deep.

The massive rift doesn't go entirely across the ice shelf – at least not yet. But once it does, the chunk of ice will collapse, sending it into the ocean. For the researchers studying the changing area, this isn't a matter of "if" this will happen, but "when." It seems to be only a matter of time at this point, particularly since the crack has only continued to get wider and longer since the survey was there last year.

As mentioned in the article I posted last week, the collapse of the ice shelf itself won't lead to increased sea levels since they are already displaying massive amounts of water. But the removal of this ridge will clear the way for other sheets of ice on the Antarctic continent to flow into the Southern Ocean, which will cause water levels to rise globally. In this case, a sheet of ice roughly the size of Scotland is behind the Larsen C Ice Shelf. That entire section of ice will then become vulnerable and start melting into the sea.

This section of Antarctica has seen both air and water temperatures rise in recent years, which is of course having an impact on the ice there. The alarming thing in these photos isn't necessarily the size of the rift, but how quickly it is growing. Climate change seems to be out-pacing some of the predictions and models that we've seen in the past, at least in this area of the world. What that means for the future remains to be seen, but it is sobering to say the least.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Evacuated From the South Pole

The legendary Buzz Aldrin is reportedly resting comfortably and recovering in a New Zealand hospital today after being evacuated from the South Pole yesterday for medical reasons. The 86-year old former astronaut and second man to walk on the moon, had been visiting Antarctica as a tourist when he took ill.

Aldrin was traveling with White Desert luxury tours and had hoped to visit the South Pole research station while in the Antarctic. Fortunately, he did make it to 90ºS before he became ill. Doctors say that he began collecting fluid in his lungs, which prompted the evacuation. While he is being kept in the hospital for observation, he is said to be doing fine and should have a full recovery.

Despite his age, Aldrin continues to be very active, and is a tireless advocate for exploration – particularly in space. He has been a major supporter of plans to go to Mars, and has spoken frequently about the importance of continuing to push boundaries beyond our own planet. He recently visited NASA for the unveiling of a new astronaut exhibit at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, before he left for Cape Town, South Africa to join the White Desert tour.

On November 28, Buzz and the rest of the group he was traveling with set out for the frozen continent on an itinerary that was expected to last about a week. But Aldrin took ill during the journey, with his condition getting worse as he reached the Pole. Once there, the decision was made to evacuate the moonwalker, and a specially equipped LC-130 aircraft was dispatched to fly him back to the coast where he caught another flight to New Zealand where he is now recovering.

I've always been a big admirer of Buzz Aldrin. Sure, Neil Armstrong got all the credit for being the first man to walk on the moon, but Buzz was only a couple of steps behind him. On top of that, Armstrong retreated from public life, seldom making appearances in his later years before passing away in 2012. But Buzz has always been a larger than life figure who isn't afraid to speak his mind or tell you his thoughts on any subject. He has used his position in the public eye to promote science and education, and has remained a staunch supporter of exploration in all its forms. Even now, at the age of 86, when most people are looking to slow down, he's still traveling to remote places on our planet. I hope that when I reach his age, I'm still half as active and vital as he is.

Get well soon Buzz. We're not ready to say goodbye to you for a very long time yet.

Video: The Last Steps - Man's Final Journey to the Moon

We all know who the first man to walk on the moon was, but do you know who was last to take steps on Earth's closest celestial neighbor? That would be Gene Cernan, who was a part of the Apollo 17 mission. Cernan was joined by Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt on that historic journey, and this video tells their story. The three-man crew launched on December 7, 1972 and were the last explorers to leave Earth orbit and go to the moon. It was the end of an era, and we have yet to repeat anything like it in space. This is a wonderful short film about that mission and what it was like to travel through space four decades ago.

The Last Steps | A Really Great Big Story from Great Big Story on Vimeo.

Video: Take a Stunning Tour of the International Space Station

Most of us will never see the inside of the International Space Station. It just isn't in the cards. Thankfully, we have amazing videos like this one, which take us on a grand tour of that orbital apartment for astronauts. In this clip, you'll slowly drift through one of the most impressive feats of engineering ever created, and you'll get a first hand look at the various modules the make up the ISS. Set to some very tranquil music, this tour is relaxing to watch, so sit back, get comfortable, set the video to "full scree" and enjoy.

Elon Musk Unveils Ambitious Plans to Colonize Mars

Yesterday was an interesting day for those of us who dream about space travel. Thats because Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled his plans for the future, which include sending humans to Mars within a decade and establishing a colony on the Red Planet before the end of the century.

Musk took the stage at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico to share his vision of where SpaceX – and manned space travel – is headed in the years to come. It was an ambitious one to say the least.

Getting to Mars will involve a multi-stage rocket not unlike the Falcon 9 that Space X is currently using, although much larger in size. A second stage booster will help catapult the so called "interplanetary module" – which could carry as many as 100 people – out of orbit and on towards its eventual destination on Mars. Other booster rockets could also be placed in orbit for future use, allowing the module to refuel and make multiple journeys throughout the solar system. For Musk, Mars isn't the only place he sees humans eventually heading.

For the visionary billionaire this isn't just some frivolous ego project. He sees the potential future of the human race on the line. He said the human race now faces two different paths. “One is that we stay on Earth forever and then there will be an inevitable extinction event. The alternative is to become a spacefaring civilization, and a multi-planetary species.”

Musk says that he believes manned mission to Mars could begin as early as 2022, which is sooner than his previous estimates had indicated. SpaceX is dedicated towards building and testing the rockets and other technology that will allow that to happen, but he admits there are some big obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is cost. Musk says he estimates that it will currently cost about $10 billion per person for a manned flight to Earth's neighbor. Where the funding will come from to pay for such a journey remains a bit of a mystery.

SpaceX has made significant inroads in the commercial space industry, but it hasn't come without setbacks. The company has seen its reusable rockets crash miserably in some of its tests, and a recent explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida has left some wondering about the reliability of its equipment. Still, the technical team has been able to stick the landing of the rocket with more regularity in recent months, and the company is working out the problems that caused the malfunction that destroyed a $100 million satellite that was in its cargo hold.

As someone who would love to have the opportunity to travel in space, Musk's plans sound very exciting. I'm glad someone – anyone – is pushing forward with a space program in a time when NASA seems hamstrung by budget issues and societal pressures to stay grounded on Earth. But sending a crew to Mars in just six years sounds awfully optimistic to me, especially when you consider SpaceX hasn't had a manned launch of any kind just yet. I'd love to be proven wrong, and I would be the last person to bet against Elon Musk, but I believe we are a lot further away from going to Mars than this plan would indicate.

That said, I'm ready to sign up when Elon calls.

Video: The Earth in Ultra High Definition

This is another short, but oh-so sweet, video that has to be seen to be believed. It was shot from the International Space Station using an ultra-high def video camera. The result is some stunning shots of our planet captured at 4k resolutions. The Earth never looked so good.

Video: The View From Space - An Astronaut's Perspective

Yesterday I posted a story about how NASA is now accepting applications for the next class of astronaut candidates. In case you needed some incentive as to why this is such an enticing job, we have this video to offer as visual proof. It was creating using footage of our planet that was captured from the International Space Station. As you'll see, the shots are simply incredible, giving us a perspective of our home that few of us ever get the chance to see. The clip is also narrated by astronauts who have served aboard the ISS, sharing their perspective on what it is like to look out the window and see the Pale Blue Dot from orbit.

The View From Space: An Astronaut's Perspective from The Royal Institution on Vimeo.

NASA is Now Accepting Applications for Astronauts!

Have you always dreamed of becoming an astronaut? Do you see traveling through space  as the ultimate adventure? Well, today just might be your lucky day, because for the first time in more than four years, NASA has begun taking applications for prospective astronauts to join the U.S. space program, potentially making a lifelong dream come true for a few lucky people.

You can read the full job description – and start the application process – by clicking here. As you can imagine, there is a lot of interesting information to be found there. For instance, did you know that the salary range for an astronaut candidate is between $66,026.00 and $144,566.00 per year? And of course, the "openings" for this position are in Houston, Texas, which may be viewed as a downside of this job. Still, if accepted you could be in line to go into space and potentially live aboard the International Space Station or take part in another manned mission at some point.

The application indicates that there are now more manned spacecraft in development in the U.S. than at any other time in history. In fact, astronaut candidates could travel not just on the ISS, but two commercially developed spacecraft, as well as NASA's very own Orion deep-space exploration vehicle which could one day take us to Mars.

Obviously the competition for the few astronaut positions that are open will be tough, and the vast majority of us have no chance. But, you never know what kind of people NASA will be looking for to take part in the next phase of manned space flight. Those with backgrounds in science will obviously be best suited for the job, but those with experience in technology, aviation, exercise physiology, and nursing are also encouraged to apply.

There is a lot more to the job description and application process, so if you're interested, I'd encourage you to read more about the requirements. Even if you know you're not bound for space, it still makes for an interesting read.

The International Space Station Celebrates 15 Years of Exploration

Earlier this week the International Space Station (ISS), celebrated an important milestone. It was 15 years ago to the day that the orbiting science lab first went into operation, launching a new era of exploration and cooperation in space. Up until the ISS, space was just another place for the Cold War to continue, and the U.S. and Russia to square off against one another. But the space station was a place that was built to welcome everyone, and as a result five different space agencies have contributed to its construction and maintenance, and astronauts from 17 different nations have spent time aboard the station.

Construction of the ISS began back in 1998, with various stages being launched into orbit, or delivered there directly by the NASA's Space Shuttle. When it was completed, it became the largest man-made object in orbit, and it can often be spotted with the naked eye from the ground.

The ISS officially opened for business on November 2, 2000. That was when it was manned for the first time. Since than, it has been continuously occupied by scientists, researchers, and explorers, with a wide array of experiments taking place within its confines.

In an age when many people wonder why we spend any money on space exploration at all, the ISS has been a resounding success, not only for its scientific breakthroughs, but its demonstration of international cooperation as well. I am one of those people who supports NASA and future ventures into space whole heartedly, and see the space station as a launching pad of things to come. Hopefully that means an eventual return to the moon, and than on to Mars as well.

Human beings are natural explorers at heart, and while there are still plenty of things to discover right here on our home planet, the stars beckon as well. One day we'll go there, and we'll look back on these first 15 years of the ISS as a small – but important – stepping stone towards leaving Earth behind and setting out to explore new worlds. That might not happen in my lifetime, but it is comforting to know that future explorers will continue the legacy that we've set down for them.

So, with 15 years of service already complete, I salute the ISS and the men and women who have made it possible Here's to many more years of scientific advances and exploration.

Video: Astronaut Takes a GoPro on a Spacewalk

Over the years we've seen the tiny and ubiquitous GoPro camera go just about everywhere. But in this video it takes us some place we have seldom seen in the past. Astronaut Terry Virts wore a GoPro camera when he went for a spacewalk, and as you can imagine the video he captured was pretty spectacular. Take a peek at what it is like to step outside the International Space Station, and go to work 250 miles above the Earth. I'm sure the view was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

Video: Stunning Views of Earth From the International Space Station

The International Space Station whizzes by 258 miles (416 km) above us, giving the lucky crew onboard unprecedented views of our planet. Some of those views are captured in this fascinating video, which shares what it is like to view the Earth from orbit. As you can imagine, it is quite a sight, and this "Blue Marble" continues to be a source of beauty and life for us all. This is a great way to end the week. I hope you enjoy these three minutes of shots from space.

Stunning Views of Earth From Space from The New York Times - Video on Vimeo.

Video: We Are Capable Of Greatness

This video combines excellent footage of the first test flight of the new Orion Spacecraft with narration provided by the late-great Carl Sagan. His words of inspiration express why man should continue to explore the stars, where he – and many people – believe our future will lie. Orion is the next step in that process, and while it is still several years away from going into service, we as a species are continuing to forge ahead as explorers, even in the 21st century.

Humans Explore: We Are Capable of Greatness from Space City Films, Inc. on Vimeo.

Video: What An Astronaut Sees From Space

Talk about amazing views! This video features some slick timelapse images captured from the International Space Station, with some great footage of what or planet looks like from orbit. It is filled with beautiful imagery of the Earth, from a perspective that few of us will ever get the opportunity to see for ourselves.

Thanks to the Adventure Journal for sharing this.

Astronaut - A journey to space from Guillaume JUIN on Vimeo.

Infographic: NASA - Spinning Off Since 1962

I don't often post infographics here on The Adventure Blog, but I found this one to be particularly interesting, and worth sharing. I'm a big proponent of space exploration of course, and it always pains me when I hear people ask why we're "wasting so much money" on space when we have so many problems to take care of here at home. This inforgraphic takes a look at the technology that has come out of the space program over the years, much of which has had a direct impact on our daily lives. NASA develops a lot of things, that later go on to make our lives safer and better. So, while we explore what lies beyond our planet, we are also in turn making things better here too. This makes me wonder, why aren't we spending more money on our space program?


NASA Creates "Impossible Engine" That Could Open The Door For Interplanetary Exploration

There was big news in the area of space exploration last week when NASA announced that it had tested a theoretical engine, known as the EmDrive, that could open up the door for interplanetary exploration. This new propulsion system, which is still in its very early stages of development, doesn't use any type of traditional fuel to power an engine. Instead, it uses directed microwaves to create thrust, although scientists still aren't exactly sure how – or even why – the EmDrive works.

This new type of engine is the brain child of a man named Guido Fetta, who calls his creation the Cannae Drive. Fetta, who is not a theoretical physicist, and only holds a degree in Chemical Engineering, has been pitching the idea for a few years, but saw many scientists dismiss his work out of hand, as it seems to defy the laws of physics. But teams of scientists in both China and Argentina have been able to replicate his work, which seems to violate the rules of conservation of momentum.

What makes the Cannae Drive and EmDrive so special is that the lack of need for traditional fuels greatly cuts down on the weight of the engine, and the craft that it will power. It also means that without the worry of running out of fuel, the drive could greatly cut down on the amount of time that it will take to travel through space. For instance, under traditional rocket systems that we use now, it would take roughly six months or more to travel to Mars. But with a propulsion system such as this one, that same journey could be reduced to just a few weeks.

Obviously there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we will see the EmDrive actually implemented, but this preliminary work looks very promising. The systems that NASA developed are on an incredibly small scale, and even though they shouldn't work, they have been able to produce small amounts of thrust. Further research into this discovery will need to be made, and scaling the engine up to a useful, efficient, size will take likely take years. But still, this is a major step forward to solving one of our problems with long distance space travel, and a huge leap towards the potential for exploring our solar system, and beyond.