Conserving the Night Sky

Is your portion of the night sky polluted by artificial light?  Check out this really slick Google Map interface I found on the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) web site .  For over 22 years, the IDA has been advocating to keep our night sky clean of light pollution.  Their reasons go beyond astronomy purposes and have provided resources for legislation that would both reduce night sky lighting and provide very large amounts of energy savings to the global economy.

Find A Dark Spot Tonight
Click on the image to go directly to map viewer

Data for the map comes from the NGDC, where you can find some links to more interactive maps and other imagery services.

 

Search For Life on Mars

Ok, not Mars. Not just yet, at least. Researchers have created really cool science project called MAPPER. The idea is to leverage citizen scientists to comb through data and find signs of life on far away planets. For now, they have tapped into a couple of DeepWorker bots currently exploring the depths of two lakes in Canada. It’s more or less a groundwork (or more like underwater groundwork, I guess) project to lay down the foundations for a system that could be used on other planets. The system uses a cool web interface that should be immediately recognizable to anyone who plays games. Taking a clue from modern gaming, the scientists have built in social media and achievements. Let’s be honest – who DOESN’T want to unlock the ‘Found Life On Other Planet’ achievement?

Via Gizmodo

Happy Anniversary Apollo Program!

Today (July 20th) marks the 42nd anniversary of landing the first man on the moon. I think most people are fairly familiar with the amount of engineering work it took to get three men to the moon (and two landing on it). What many of us might be a little less aware of is exactly how much training all the astronauts did to prepare. You’d expect them to do all sorts of stuff with the equipment and collecting samples, but did you know they got jungle survival training in case the return module landed in the jungle? Or that they had to go to geology field camp to learn about geology? Weird Magazine online has a pretty cool photo collection detailing some of the training exercises they all practiced. I think we have to owe no small amount of the success of each of these missions to the clearly extensive training each of these men received in preparation.

Here’s hoping today’s anniversary will spur further space exploration!

NASA’s Messenger gives us the first ever image from orbit above Mercury

NASA’s Messenger (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) spacecraft is already sending us amazing imagery of the surface of Mercury as it orbits the planet on a mission to obtain information about Mercury and what it’s made of. This image, released by NASA yesterday, is the first image of Mercury taken from orbit:

Messenger is the first man-made satellite to orbit Mercury, although Mariner 10 sent back images during a flyby in the mid-1970s. Check out NASA’s Messenger mission page for lots more information and images as the mission progresses.

Via Gizmodo

Welcome Home, Discovery, and Thanks for the Memories…

We’ve had more space posts than usual in the last week or so, but I wanted to give a shoutout to the Space Shuttle Discovery and its crew, for the safe landing and the successful completion of its final mission. I’m one of over 80,000 viewers watching the post-landing video stream on NASA TV over at uStream, and I think that the approaching end of the shuttle program has really reminded everyone of its amazing achievements over the past 30 years.

To Space and Beyond

Several recent requests for proposals (RFPs) by NASA go along with this weeks theme. They are NASA’s 2011 Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) goals and most of them are spatially related. They include not only Earth surface observations and Earth systems modeling but data analysis and research related to space and MARS missions. According to the ROSES RFP, the NASA Strategic Plan is being revised. Some of these revisions are in keeping with what you hear from other agencies to meet the challenges of climate and environmental change but others are the stuff of kid’s (and adults) dreams. NASA wants to “understand the Sun and its interactions with the Earth and the solar system” is a given but how about search for Earth-like planets and the potential for life elsewhere. NASA is ready to go where no man has gone before and that is definantly a geo-spatial goal worth pursuing.

Shuttle Discovery set for its final launch today

It’s the beginning of the end of an era for NASA’s shuttle program, as Discovery is set for its final launch at 4:50pm EST today, with Endeavor’s final mission currently scheduled for April, and Atlantis’ possibly the summer. I have always been a huge fan of the shuttle program, and can remember when I got special permission to get out of class and go to the school library to watch the very first shuttle, Columbia, launch on its maiden voyage.

The shuttle program accomplished so many milestones, and there have been reports that the shuttle fleet may be sold for private use after their missions for NASA and the US government are complete. Other private initiatives for space flight are pretty exciting as well, so hopefully we will see more amazing innovations in the next few years.

To commemorate Discovery’s last mission and the shuttle program, CNN put together this great compilation of 132 seconds of shuttle launches – enjoy!

Cheese! In! Space!

I love anything space travel related.  I love Monty Python.  And anyone who’s seen me should find it self evident that I love cheese.  This little news item about cheese in space naturally caught my eye and had to be passed on to our good readers.  This week’s podcast features a news item concerning the recent wonderful accomplishment of SpaceX and their successful launch and return of a payload into space.  What was that payload, you might ask?  One wheel of cheese.  Why a wheel of cheese?  Because of Monty Python’s famous (and delightfully hilarious) The Cheese Shop sketch.  Space Travel + Cheese + Monty Python = EPIC WIN!