Remote Sensing, 1961 and today

Today, NASA, geospatial scientists, and people from around the world celebrate the first time that we saw Earth, in a now familiar view, from space. Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., the first American in space, took the famous photo from the Freedom 7 Mercury capsule on May 5, 1961.  The Space Fellowship website and community discuss “The Pioneering Mercury Astronauts Launched America’s Future” . The Kennedy Space Center Historical Archive of Manned Space Flights gives a detailed mission objective for the Freedom 7  from May 5th. If you want to relive the moment, Extreme Tech provides a live video feed of Earth from Space, as part of the  High Definition Earth Viewing experiment.

The Federation of American Scientists has an information rich remote sensing tutorial that states, “Before entering this Overview, ponder this slogan: REMOTE SENSING is the BACKBONE of the SPACE PROGRAM”.   The backbone of modern remote sensing might well be education, innovation, and experimentation – Alan B. Shepard said that , “The first plane ride was in a homemade glider my buddy and I built. Unfortunately we didn’t get more than four feet off the ground, because it crashed.”   Educators, citizen scientists, and hobbyists of all types are creating hands-on remote sensing and unmanned vehicle education that will inspire the next generation. 

The Geospatial Community and Public Interest Declassification Board

The National Archives Blog, Transforming Classification: Blog of the Public Interest Declassification Board recently asked different listservs –  “What records should the US Government prioritize for declassification?” They took suggestions from historians and the public in five categories:  older records (25+ years), newer records (less than 25 years old), records relating to nuclear weapons policies (also called “FRD information”), records of general interest, and  records from the various US Presidential Libraries. Continue reading “The Geospatial Community and Public Interest Declassification Board”

Geospatial Gif Party: Now with NASA LEGO

I like visiting the blog, i09: We come from THE FUTURE,  for my daily dose of fun science and science fiction news. This headline, “Here’s the first look at Lego’s official Curiosity Rover Model” is how I found out about the cool Lego model created by an actual NASA Mechanical Engineer who worked on parts for the Curiosity Rover. It’s suitably accurate enough to use in any classroom because space engineers are serious about accuracy  for spacecraft and LEGO spacecraft. What caught my eye was a reply post that started, “Hey, I work with the New Horizons team (Pluto 2015!), and we’re pretty jealous of the Curiosity and Hayabusa sets, so we asked one of our Lego-obsessed scientist friends to make a model of the New Horizons Spacecraft for us and submit it to Cuusoo too!” and asks readers to register at and support their LEGO New Horizons Model. Within that comment section were more discussions about the accuracy of the LEGO model and its remote sensing technology like, “The star trackers need to be a piece, or pair of pieces, with the telescopes pointing at 90 degrees relative to each other”.  It’s this attention to scientific accuracy and detail that makes i09 a fun site to visit.  Continue reading “Geospatial Gif Party: Now with NASA LEGO”

Voyager 1 Has Left The Solar System….. Probably. Maybe. We Think

Honestly it’s like the space scientist equivalent of watching Lindsey Lohan.  Has it left?  When did it leave?  Is it still here?  Is it long gone?  I can’t stop obsessing about this news.  It appears Voyager 1 left the solar system quit some time ago (around April), IF plasma density is to be believed.  The heart of the problem is plasma density isn’t constant.  Quite understandably plasma is hotter nearer the sun, which means it is less dense.  Therefore the calculations were all wrong and Voyager 1 is outta here already.  Or maybe.  Who knows?  I don’t completely understand it, to be honest.

All I know is that I simply can NOT get enough of this story.  This is great, nail biting science going on here.  It’s like assessing the effects of the no strikes touch down rule in the NHL (or some such controversial sports rule analogy that I neither know anything about nor understand).

Moon’s Gravity Mapped To The Micron

Gizmodo has a really cool article about NASA’s attempts to map the moon’s odd gravity down to the micron. Two orbiters around the moon are part of the GRAIL program have been tasked with measuring the moon’s micro gravity in an attempt to understand the moon’s interior structure. The two orbiters have been collecting data since New Year’s day, 2012, so they’re about to hit their one year mark (and thus potentially get to sign up for medical insurance 🙂 …. is this thing on?) One of the neater aspects of this program is that the orbiters are fitted with remote cameras. Middle school kids actually get to control the cameras remotely for science projects at school. It’s all part of NASA’s MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students). Man, I wish there had been stuff like this when I was in middle school….

Today’s College Freshman and the Geospatial World

Beloit College has released their 2012 list of things that new college freshman have known their whole lives, besides making some of us feel very old, it gives a good overview of the geospatial world today. According to the list, today’s freshman class was generally born in 1990, which would put them in the 1990-1999 GIS history timeline created by the GIS Timeline team at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis.   The geospatial elements on the list are a mixture of funny and humbling : 3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego, 4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available, 43. Personal privacy has always been threatened, 51. Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born, and 54. The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.

The Mindset List has been compiled by authors, Ron Nief, Emeritus Director of Public Affairs at Beloit College and Tom McBride, Keefer Professor of the Humanities at Beloit College since 1998 to “reflect the world view of entering first year students” born in 1980. They provide suggestions on how the 2016 Mindset List can be used to start conversations and dialogues with students.  In case you were wondering, the class of 2016 have always lived in cyberspace so to them working in the cloud is the natural progression of the technology they have always known.

What File Compression Is The Curiosity Rover Using?

It’s fair to say we over at VerySpatial are big space nerds. And it’s fair to say we’re also pretty big remote sensing nerds. When the guys over at BoingBoing got to ask any question they wanted, they asked a pretty cool one about file compression (scroll down to see the answer). Sending images from Mars and back takes a bit of work and time, which means file compression has to be used. But we all know that we want as loss less file compression as possible, so what’s NASA to do? They turned to a custom implementation that uses a wavelet approach similar to Jpeg 2000. The difference in their compression is that it’s less computationally intensive, which means lower powered CPUs (both in computing and energy needs) can be used to create the compressed images. Pretty cool, huh?

A fond farewell to Shuttle Discovery

This morning Space Shuttle Discovery left Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its way to its new home at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and it got a great sendoff in Florida, with tons of pictures out there on the Internet for those who couldn’t be there. When Discover got to Washington, its piggyback carrier plane did a flyby of the city, a cool and touching tribute and welcome. Definitely check out NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Facebook page and the usual social media suspects for images.

  • Image courtesy of NASA
  • 40th anniversary of the announcement of the space shuttle program

    This great image of US President Nixon and NASA Administrator Dr. James Fletcher shared today by NASA marks the 40th anniversary – January 5, 1972 – of the announcement by President Nixon of the start of the Space Shuttle program, and the beginning of 40 amazing years of innovation and achievement, as well as tragedy in the loss of Challenger and Columbia and their crews.

    Image courtesy of NASA