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nasa

Blogging on EARTH: Webb Space Telescope ensnared in political drama

Perhaps you have heard of the psychological principle of entrapment. In college, a friend of mine once described it to me while we stood in a seemingly endless line in one of the dining halls. As I recall, the essence of it is that the more money, time or effort you invest in some venture waiting for a return — a sandwich in my case — the harder it is to simply let it go or give up hope, regardless of how unfavorable the potential cost-benefit ratio is.

13 Jul 2011

Hazardous Living: Atlantis' final countdown

As the space shuttle Atlantis prepared for liftoff for the final time this morning, I was humming Europe’s 1986 hit “Final Countdown” in my office. As the countdown proceeded, I got chills. When Atlantis lifted off, I got a little teary-eyed. Watching NASA TV for the next hour, I couldn’t help but wonder what will become of all the people involved in the space shuttle program — mission control, the engineers, the astronauts. It’s hard not to think of this as the end of the U.S. space program. But as we’re assured by NASA, it most certainly is not.

08 Jul 2011

Down to Earth With: Evan Thomas

At age 16, Evan Thomas made a list of 100 life goals — his bucket list. At only 27 years old, he’s done pretty well so far: Graduate college with a degree in aerospace engineering — check. Get a doctorate by age 25 — almost (missed by 11 days). Work for NASA — check. Start a business, help people, travel the world — check, check, check. Get a private pilot license — check. Climb the world’s tallest mountains — in process.
 
02 May 2011

Hazardous Living: Discovery's emotional final voyage

Today, at 4:53 p.m. ET, the space shuttle Discovery launched for the last time. When it returns to Earth in 11 days, the shuttle will be retired.

24 Feb 2011

A memoir: A decade-plus of tracking lunar larceny

In the back alleys of the world’s capitals and in the ballrooms of presidential palaces exists a black market that preys on the imagination of some and the greed of others. These black-market items were neither carved nor painted; in fact, they are not of this Earth. They traveled 400,000 kilometers via six Apollo missions and three unmanned Soviet missions to and from the moon.

22 Feb 2011

2012 budget requests a mixed bag for science

The Obama administration emphasized scientific innovation and education in its fiscal year 2012 budget requests. On Monday, the president’s science advisor, John Holdren, summarized the requests across the different agencies as part of a “tough-love” strategy outlined in the president’s State of the Union speech in January to “win the future.”

17 Feb 2011

Opening up space travel to everyone

Jason Marsh is done waiting around for someone else to transport him into space.

Marsh, a system administrator near Washington, D.C., is preparing to launch a new website for his Open Space Movement (OSM — currently here), a nonprofit project that aims to be a platform for developing and funding aerospace technology — and will be open to anyone who wants to join in. 

31 Aug 2010

Map reveals height of the world's forests

Satellite maps can show everything from city blocks to inaccessible mountain peaks from the comfort of our living rooms. Now, they can show us yet another dimension of the natural world: the heights of the world’s forests.

Michael Lefsky, an expert in remote sensing from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, used NASA satellites to compile a map that displays the height of all the world’s forest canopies. “The goal [of the research] was two-fold: to create a map that would allow us to map above-ground biomass, and simply to show that it can be done,” Lefsky says.

27 Jul 2010

Bids in space: When should we outsource government science?

Government research and development has its limits: Time, money and bureaucracy can all hamper the timely progress of research. As a result, many federal agencies are looking to private companies to help drive new innovation and keep costs down — but it’s never that simple. Two current hot-button topics — returning humans to space and geoengineering — highlight a range of issues related to how private and public investment in science can coexist. This month, we focus on NASA.

30 Jun 2010

Hubble's pics of Pluto: Dark orange and charcoal-black

Blogging on EARTH

Today NASA released new Hubble images of dwarf planet Pluto — and far from being just an icy colorless rock, the images show a mottled, dynamic, orangey-black world that changes color with the seasons (on Pluto, the change of seasons lasts 248 Earth years — and although on Earth the seasons change due to the axial tilt of the planet, Pluto's eccentric, non-circular orbit plays a big role in its seasonal variations).

04 Feb 2010

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