How to Watch NASA’s Ionosphere Cloud Experiment

If you’re on the east coast and see some odd-colored clouds in the sky, it’s probably science’s fault.

NASA, America’s second-coolest space agency, is testing a new “ampoule ejection system” in its rockets with a set of vapor-generating canisters to form artificially colored clouds used in studying the ionosphere. The launch will occur in Virginia between 9:04 and 9:19 p.m. from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

The canisters will deploy between 4 and 5.5 minutes after launch forming blue-green and red artificial clouds. These clouds, or vapor tracers, allow scientists on the ground to…

Humans May Have Accidentally Created a Radiation Shield Around Earth

NASA spends a lot of time researching the Earth and its surrounding space environment. One particular feature of interest are the Van Allen belts, so much so that NASA built special probes to study them! They’ve now discovered a protective bubble they believe has been generated by human transmissions in the VLF range.

VLF transmissions cover the 3-30 kHz range, and thus bandwidth is highly limited. VLF hardware is primarily used to communicate with submarines, often to remind them that, yes, everything is still fine and there’s no need to launch the nukes yet. It’s also used for navigation and broadcasting time signals.

It seems that this…

These Bright Streaks Are Evidence of Massive Tornadoes on Mars

Bright streaks radiate from the Sante Fe Crater on Mars.
Bright streaks radiate from the Sante Fe Crater on Mars.

Peter Schultz likes to go on “tours of Mars” in his spare time. The Brown University geologist scans random images of the red planet from NASA satellites and looks for interesting surface features that may be worth more study. It was on one of these tours that Schultz noticed bright streaks radiating from an impact crater. They seem to extend farther than rest of the impact debris, and because they are so bright in the infrared image, he figured that they represent bare rock. Something had swept away the Martian soil after the collision. Schultz decided to look closer.

Working with graduate student Stephanie Quintana, he got a clue from experiments…

Want to Help NASA Make a FabLab in Space?

Ever dreamt of designing a makerspace for astronauts to use? NASA is accepting prototypes and applications from the public to put a makerspace aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Many people do not realize that the public can interact with, and more specifically work with NASA. The agency releases public calls for proposals and prototypes all the time. Anyone, including small businesses and individuals, can submit designs for consideration.

International Space Station astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore holds a science sample container that took two hours to make in December 2014. The container was the first object to be printed with two parts: a lid and a cup. Photo is courtesy of NASA

This time, NASA specifically wants a FabLab, or makerspace, on the International Space Station. They are not planning on…

NASA Langley Celebrates 100 Years of Innovation at Hampton Roads Mini Maker Faire

Hampton, Virginia, is home to the oldest NASA/NACA field center, NASA Langley Research Center. Established in 1917 by decree of President Woodrow Wilson, just 14 years after the Wright brothers’ historic flight, NASA Langley, which was named after aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. And what better way to commemorate a center known for so much innovation than by hosting the Hampton Roads Mini Maker Faire, collectively organized by folks from NASA Langley, the City of Hampton, and 757 Makerspace. The Faire takes place for one day only, this Saturday, May 6, at the Hampton Roads Convention Center, and is free to attend.

We spoke with NASA Langley’s Nancy Holloway, one of the co-organizers, to learn more. Holloway has been with NASA for 35 years, is currently the head of the Fabrication Technology Development Branch, is responsible for establishing the innovation fabrication “iFab” and personal fabrication “pFab” labs, and holds six U.S. patents related to sensors and advanced materials technologies. Inspiring!

1. How will the 100th anniversary of NASA Langley be reflected at the Faire?
In many forms including:

Welcoming Ceremony: We have a special “Welcoming Ceremony” that features Ed Healy, NASA Langley Engineering Director/Leadership; Donnie Tuck, the Mayor of the City of Hampton; and Beau Turner, producer of the Faire and owner of the 757 Makerspace. Healy and Mayor Tuck will share in their remarks comments about NASA Langley and the Centennial. They’ll discuss how making has been a part of the past, present, and future of NASA Langley Research Center and the Hampton Roads community.

Layout: The layout of the event is such that the makers are placed into groups of planetary clusters.

Center Stage: Throughout the day, NASA images and short videos will be played on the large center stage monitor in between talks/presentations.

Centennial Trailer: We’ll have the NASA Centennial trailer at the event. Visitors can walk through the inside and learn about the past, present, and future of Langley Research Center. We’ll even have an employee in an astronaut outfit walking around and taking photos and selfies with participants. We’ll also have a special photo booth called “Postcards from Space,” where people can take a photo with a special space background and print out a card. We’ll also have a large blow-up astronaut in the lobby of the Convention Center, along with large banners including a Langley Centennial and NASA banner. NASA banner flags will adorn the the outside area.

Langley Centennial Bags: Participants will receive a NASA Langley Centennial bag to keep the items they make while at the Faire.

And of course, NASA makers. Here are a few:

NASA Makers

Mars Habitat in VR
The Advanced Concepts Laboratory, NASA Langley’s digital studio, has worked with NASA engineers to create a Mars habitat in VR. You are able to walk around inside of the habitat and interact with objects. You get to be the first astronaut living on Mars!

Stratospheric Aerosol Gas Experiment (SAGE) III Virtual Reality Demo
SAGE III is a laser science instrument built and tested at NASA Langley and launched this past February 2017. It’s now attached to the International Space Station and is taking data of Earth’s atmosphere. In celebration of the successful launch of SAGE III’s instrument payload, users get to experience this state-of-the-art instrument in 3D virtual reality using the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2.

Game-Changing Robonaut R2 and Sphero Robotic Challenge Course
Learn what NASA is doing in the field of robotics and meet the agency’s first humanoid robot R2. Visitors will interact with and drive Sphero robots around an obstacle course. Visitors will also learn what NASA is doing in the field of robotics and meet the agency’s first humanoid robot Robonaut 2, or R2.

Mars Village Playscape
Children can make a number of NASA-related creations from recycled materials, including building a Mars Village from cardboard and recycled materials, fabricating Mars rovers from cardboard and powering them with balloons, creating NASA jetpacks from recycled plastic bottles and duct tape, and making astronaut helmets from card stock.

Vertical Wind Tunnel for Maker Experiments
Come check out an interactive exhibit where makers of all ages can use common materials to create their own model of a spacecraft to land on another planet and then test what they build in a vertical wind tunnel.

Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication (EBF3)
NASA Langley’s large-scale metal “3D printing” process, Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication, is being developed to build rocket nozzles, aircraft parts, wind tunnel models, and manufacture parts in space! See how these parts…

NASA’s Stunning Before & After Shots Reveal the Power of Humanity and Nature

NASA has this really awesome series of before and after satellite photographs that they call “Images of Change.”

The images are phenomenal, but unfortunately they’re not really good news.

In fact, the full title of the series is, “Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: Images of Change.”

The gist is that they compare photos from before and after a natural or man-made disaster, such as this before photo of Ashland, Kansas taken on March 1, 2017:

Now, here’s an image of Ashland, Kansas after a wildfire taken 16 days later:

Here’s Fort McMurray near Alberta, Canada in 2015 before:

And after the 2016 wildfires that burned some 600,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,400 structures:

Here’s another set from Fort McMurray before and during the wildfires:

How about when nature does the opposite and pours too much water?

Here’s a shot of the Mississippi River near Vicksburgh on March 4, 2016.

And here’s that same area after the river flooded some 16 days later:

NASA has been collecting these images for decades, so they can also give you a quick illustration of long term changes.

For instance,…

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Makes History As It Prepares For The End [Infographic]

The Brooklyn Startup Bringing Eyewear Manufacturing Back To America

On April 26th, 2017, over 700 million miles away, a small spacecraft made history by plunging between Saturn and its rings. After 2 decades in space and 13 years in orbit around Saturn, this craft has been able to take the most detailed pictures of Saturn in the history of mankind. The craft’s name is Cassini and its time is almost up.

Cassini was launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. There it began its mission by photographing Titan. It launched the Huygens Probe down to the surface of…

The Tradition of the NASA Wake-Up Call

NASA began the tradition of playing music to wake up astronauts in 1965. Since you don’t have the normal sunrise and sunset in orbit, it was considered important to regulate astronauts’ sleep time to coordinate with each other and with Mission Control. The very first musical wake-up call was a parody of “Hello Dolly,” with lyrics re-written for the mission, sung by Jack Jones. From that time until 2011, the NASA wake-up call has been a surprise for the astronauts, and often a meaningful selection.

No one really knows why a “Hello Dolly” parody was the first wake-up call, but NASA Chief Historian Bill Barry told PRI that it may have simply been…

Cassini’s ring dive offers first close-up of Saturn’s cloud tops

Saturn's atmosphere
FIRST LOOK NASA’s Cassini spacecraft snapped these closest-ever views of Saturn’s atmosphere on April 26. The images show filamentary and cumulus clouds, along with a good view of the planet’s giant hurricane (middle).

Cassini has beamed back stunning images from the spacecraft’s daring dive between Saturn and its rings.

The first closeup pictures of the planet’s atmosphere reveal peculiar threadlike clouds and puffy cumulus ones, plus the giant hurricane first spotted on Saturn in 2008 (SN: 11/8/08, p. 9). Released April 27, the images of Saturn’s cloud tops are a “big step forward” for understanding the planet’s atmosphere, says Cassini imaging team member Andy Ingersoll, an atmospheric scientist at Caltech.

“I was pretty struck by…

NASA Is Developing an Inflatable Greenhouse to Use on Mars

image credit: University of Arizona

When astronauts finally make it to Mars, they’ll need something to eat. And while NASA is working on shelf-stable rations for those eventual missions, astronauts will ideally be able to grow their own plants while exploring other worlds. That’s where the University of Arizona’s inflatable greenhouse comes in, designboom reports.

The University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center is helping the space agency develop a closed-loop system that can provide astronauts with food, clean the air, and recycle waste and water in alien environments. This “bioregenerative life support system” uses plants and LEDs to recreate what’s essentially a miniature Earth environment, according to designboom.

The Lunar Greenhouse prototype is an 18-foot-long, 7-foot-wide cylinder that is designed to take the carbon dioxide that astronauts breathe out and turn it into oxygen through plant photosynthesis. Astronauts would introduce…