Space Solar Power Satellite UPDATE

Space Solar Power Crowd Bets on Obama

"Advocates of using satellites to beam solar power from space to Earth hope U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign promise to develop alternative energy sources will help resurrect NASA's interest in the technology.

NASA has been without an official space solar power program since 2002, although a coalition of government and private industry volunteers has kept alive visions of demonstrating how the United States might one day draw energy from the sun and transmit it to Earth via microwave beams."

From Yahoo! News Space.com


Space Tech of the Week....none

Sorry, no space tech of the week this week, but I promise it will be back starting next Monday.

In the mean time enjoy this great NASA ad:

and NASA's new lunar architecture (a little out of date, but you'll get the idea)


International Year of Astronomy 2009

Website of the International Year of Astronomy

Space Tech of the Week: AXEL Rover

What is it?: "The Axel rover system is a family of platforms aimed at providing versatile mobility for scientific access and human-oriented exploration of planetary surfaces in the solar system."
"NASA refers to a robot like the Axel rover as a 'tethered marsupial rover' because it would spend most of its time attached to a larger vehicle until it is needed. "

"A primary goal of the Axel system design is minimal complexity. Therefore, the basic Axel rover uses a symmetrical design, with only three actuators to control its wheels and a trailing link. The link serves several purposes: it provides a reaction lever arm against wheel thrust, it adjusts the rover's pitch for pointing its stereo cameras, and it provides redundancy if one of the wheel actuators fails. Using only three actuators, this rover is capable of following arbitrary paths, turning-in-place, and operating upside-down or right-side-up."

"The Axel rover prototype is built like a yo-yo; its tether is wrapped around its central axle. The other end of the tether would be attached to a larger, conventional rover robot, like the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars. "
"When Spirit, for example, encounters a crater, it cannot descend and explore. However, the Axel can; it lets gravity pull down, whirling the rover around. It uses its arm to gather samples; its stereoscopic cameras gather visual details. When it has finished its duties, it can wind itself back up to the top, to be stored again for later use."

JPL Robotics: AXEL
Yahoo! News


Space Tech of the Week: Pancam and Gigapan

What is it?: NASA technology developed to take pictures on Mars used to take the 1,474 megapixel panoramic photo of President Obama’s inauguration .

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Cornell University designed a special high-resolution camera for the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The camera (Pancam) was designed so that scientists on Earth could take panoramic pictures in very high resolution. The camera was able to tilt 180 degrees and rotate 360 degrees. Special software then stitched individual 1-megapixel images together into a high-resolution panorama. This allowed geologists to see the Martian landscape as if they were there on the ground. If they saw something interesting in the distance they then were able to zoom in and take a closer look.

After its successful application on Mars Pancam’s technology was then taken by employees from NASA’s Ames Research Center, Carnegie Mellon University, and Charmed Labs LLC to produce the Earth based Gigapan camera which was used for the inauguration photo.

Gigapan has also been used to create photographic overlays for Google Earth of areas affected by natural disasters (such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake). This allows relief workers to pinpoint areas in need of assistance.

Source: Science @ NASA


Kennedy's New Frontier Speech

Still relevant today 48 years later...

"...I stand here tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind us, the pioneers gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build our new West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, nor the prisoners of their own price tags. They were determined to make the new world strong and free -- an example to the world, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from within and without.

Some would say that those struggles are all over, that all the horizons have been explored, that all the battles have been won, that there is no longer an American frontier. But I trust that no one in this assemblage would agree with that sentiment; for the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won; and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier... the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats.

The New Frontier is here whether we seek it or not.

Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink from that new frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric

That is the choice our nation must make -- a choice that lies between the public interest and private comfort, between national greatness and national decline, between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of "normalcy," between dedication or mediocrity.

All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we shall do. And we cannot fail that trust. And we cannot fail to try..."

--John F. Kennedy 1960

Spoken at the 1960 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles


International Space Race continues...

Iran claims first launch of its own satellite
From Yahoo! News / Associated Press:
"Iran has successfully sent its first domestically made satellite into orbit, the country's president announced Tuesday, claiming a significant step in an ambitious space program that has worried many international observers."


Space Tech of the Week: The James Webb Space Telescope

What is it?: The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is NASA's next orbiting observatory and the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. A tennis court-sized telescope orbiting far beyond Earth's moon (1 million miles from the Earth), Webb will detect infrared radiation and be capable of seeing in that wavelength as well as Hubble sees in visible light. JWST is a NASA-led international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

This telescope is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2013 by an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana. Infrared vision is vital to our understanding of the universe. The furthest objects we can detect are seen in infrared light, cooler objects that would otherwise be invisible emit infrared, and infrared light pierces clouds of dust, allowing us to see into their depths.

JWST will have a large mirror, 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court. Both the mirror and sunshade won't fit onto the rocket fully open, so both will fold up and open only once JWST is in outer space.

The JWST's primary scientific mission has four main components:
  • to search for light from the first stars and galaxies which formed in the Universe after the Big Bang,
  • to study the formation and evolution of galaxies,
  • to understand the formation of stars and planetary systems, and
  • to study planetary systems and the origins of life.

JWST will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. JWST will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System. JWST's instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.

Webb Telescope Site
NASA Webb Telescope Site
Wikipedia Page


This Day in Space History: Columbia Disaster

February 1, 2003

"On the morning of February 1, 2003, the shuttle re-entered the atmosphere after a 16-day scientific mission. NASA lost radio contact at about 0900 EST, only minutes before the expected 0916 landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Video recordings show the craft breaking up in flames over Texas, at an altitude of approximately 39 miles (63 km) and a speed of 12,500 mph (5.6 km/s)."

Wikipedia Article