Astronaut’s-Eye View of NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Re-entry
New video recorded during NASA’s Orion return through Earth’s atmosphere provides viewers a taste of what the vehicle endured as it returned through Earth’s atmosphere during its Dec. 5 flight test.
The video begins 10 minutes before Orion’s 11:29 a.m. EST splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, just as the spacecraft was beginning to experience Earth’s atmosphere. Peak heating from the friction caused by the atmosphere rubbing against Orion’s heat shield comes less than two minutes later, and the footage shows the plasma created by the interaction change from white to yellow to lavender to magenta as the temperature increases. The video goes on to show the deployment of Orion’s parachutes and the final splash as it touches down.
From NPR Science Friday… why your beverage (beer especially) is less likely to spill if it’s foamy!
Just saw Interstellar last night (yea, I know, a bit behind the times…), and while I can’t debunk or validate the science as accurately as Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye (as shown in previous posts), I have a few fact-checking comments of my own. Am I wrong? Do you have additional facts that need to be checked? Feel free to comment!
1. Matthew McConaughey refers to distances in both meters AND feet throughout the space travel. The systems of measurement have gotten standardized (pick one, and stick to it), and the last time they got mixed up was devastating (and costly) for NASA. Pretty sure they learned from their mistake by now…
2. The astronauts are traveling distances that are lightyears away from our galaxy… yet they can receive video messages immediately- or at least, in a quick time span? How fast are those video messages traveling, faster than the speed of light? Because that is NOT possible. Unless the space ship isn’t moving, those videos should not be able to catch up to the ship.
3. Earth is in the middle of a food shortage crisis, so many of the people must resort to growing crops, especially corn, to sustain the planet. Yet Matthew McConaughey and John Lithgow are always drinking beer on the porch. WHERE is this beer coming from? It seems wasteful for a starving earth to expend energy and farming resources on growing grains to make beer.
A fun activity for kids, parents, and really people of all ages! On Christmas eve, hit up the NORAD website and track Santa as he delivers gifts around the world! I used to do this as a kid… and not gonna lie, I still check this website out every Christmas eve!
NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has been tracking Santa every Christmas since 1958 using state of the art technology:
HOW WE TRACK SANTA
It all starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada’s North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season. The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America.
These satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit (that’s a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth) at 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced – enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with no problem.
The third system we use is the SantaCam. We began using it in 1998 – the year we put our Santa Tracking program on the Internet. NORAD SantaCams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many places around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year – on 24 December. We turn the cameras on about one hour before Santa enters a country then switch them off after we capture images of him and the Reindeer. We immediately download the images onto our web site for people around the world to see. SantaCams produce both video and still images.
The last system we use is the NORAD jet fighter. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying the CF-18, take off out of Newfoundland and welcome Santa to North America. Then at numerous locations in Canada other CF-18 fighter pilots escort Santa. While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Even though Santa flies faster than any jet fighter (Santa actually slows down for us to escort him), all of these systems together provide NORAD with a very good continuous picture of his whereabouts.
The site also addresses common questions you may have about tracking Santa:
WHAT ROUTE DOES SANTA TRAVEL?
Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable. NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him!
HOW CAN SANTA TRAVEL THE WORLD WITHIN 24 HOURS?
NORAD intelligence reports indicate that Santa does not experience time the way we do. His trip seems to take 24 hours to us, but to Santa it might last days, weeks or even months. Santa would not want to rush the important job of delivering presents to children and spreading joy to everyone, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions within his own time-space continuum.
DOES NORAD HAVE ANY STATISTICS ON SANTA’S SLEIGH?
NORAD can confirm that Santa’s sleigh is a versatile, all weather, multi-purpose, vertical short-take-off and landing vehicle. It is capable of traveling vast distances without refueling and is deployed, as far as we know, only on December 24th (and sometimes briefly for a test flight about a month before Christmas).
SLEIGH TECHNICAL DATA
|Designer & Builder||K. Kringle & Elves, Inc.|
|Probable First Flight||Dec. 24, 343 A.D.|
|Home Base||North Pole|
|Length||75 cc (candy canes) / 150 lp (lollipops)|
|Width||40 cc / 80 lp|
|Height||55 cc / 110 lp|
|Note: Length, width and height are without reindeer|
|Weight at takeoff||75,000 gd (gumdrops)|
|Passenger weight at takeoff||Santa Claus 260 pounds|
|Weight of gifts at takeoff||60,000 tons|
|Weight at landing||80,000 gd (ice & snow accumulation)|
|Passenger weight at landing||1,260 pounds|
|Propulsion||Nine (9) rp (reindeer power)|
|Armament||Antlers (purely defensive)|
|Fuel||Hay, oats and carrots (for reindeer)|
|Climbing speed||One “T” (Twinkle of an eye)|
|Max speed||Faster than starlight|
To seek common ground on life’s big questions, we need science literacy
Science isn’t important only to scientists or those who profess an interest in it. Whether you find fascinating every new discovery reported or you stopped taking science in school as soon as you could, a base level understanding is crucial for modern citizens to ground their engagement in the national conversation about science-related issues.
We need to look no further than the Ebola crisis to appreciate the importance of science literacy. A recently elected senator has linked sealing the US-Mexican border with keeping Ebola out of the US, even though the disease is nonexistent in Mexico. Four out of 10 Americans believe there will be a large scale Ebola epidemic here, even though there have been just four cases in the US and only one fatality. Flu, on the other hand, which killed over 100 children here last winter, barely registers in the public consciousness.
Increasingly we must grapple with highly-charged and politicized science-based issues ranging from infectious diseases and human cloning to reproductive choices and climate change. Yet many – perhaps even the majority – of Americans aren’t sufficiently scientifically literate to make sense of these complicated issues. For instance, on one recent survey of public attitudes and understanding of science and technology, Americans barely got a passing grade, answering only 5.8 out of 9 factual knowledge questions correctly.
Without a solid understanding of the underlying science and its implications for our daily lives, we can neither respond intelligently on a personal level nor hold our public officials accountable for sound policy decisions. Moreover, we risk falling prey to the tremendous power of fear and partisan political rhetoric. By grounding our understanding of issues in knowledge, we can gain the confidence to participate in the science conversation in a thoughtful way. Science literacy is a path to that knowledge.
What’s needed to be scientifically literate?
Science literacy is a foundational knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes. For example, scientifically literate people should know that science is reproducible, evidence-based information that is fact and not opinion. They should have a working knowledge of the basic terminology needed to interpret the processes and outcomes of science. With this vocabulary in hand, they can engage in the critical thinking needed to apply healthy skepticism and to discern the grey areas and uncertainties inherent in science-based information.
As a stem cell scientist, I have spent my life tackling elusive questions such as “what is personhood” or “when does life begin.” Recently, my interest has shifted to helping the public engage in open-minded discussions about these types of questions.
The goal isn’t to move public opinion towards one side or another of the stem cell or any other debate, but rather to create a forum in which all sides are armed with basic scientific knowledge and have a legitimate voice in the conversation.
How to get literate
I teach a freshman seminar class at Tufts University called “Science and the Human Experience” that is largely populated with students whose interests are in the humanities and social sciences. The curriculum encourages these not-necessarily-science-lovers to explore the ways science affects their everyday lives. We talk about stem cells and abortion, right-to-die and drug treatment. We question when does life begin? What can our genome tell us? How do we experience pain? What does it mean to grow old? Students confront the emotional and personal consequences of science and its relationship to their lives.
Grappling with these issues is empowering. One student understood, for the first time, that her personal investment in science was connected to a loved one’s struggle with addiction. Another freshman planning on an English major discovered that she was, to her own surprise, “just as capable as anyone else of understanding and applying scientific material to my life.” Students uncover their own, personal rationales for engaging in these issues and then, most importantly, ask themselves, “Why does this matter to me?” They report that to learn the value of science, and to engage deeply in it, is to learn what it means to be human.
While knowledge is fundamental to addressing civic, science-based questions, our beliefs and values play an equally important role. As Yale law professor Dan Kahan, who studies science and civic engagement, says “What people ‘believe’ about global warming doesn’t reflect what they know; it expresses who they are.” In fact, understanding the science is perhaps the easier part of the equation. The greater struggle is for people with diverse views on science-related issues to wrestle with these conflicting values. This is a messy but necessary part of a healthy civic dialogue. Therefore, any program to increase science literacy must equally embrace the goals of promoting a respectful, civic conversation that will work towards shared understanding.
Informed citizens = productive dialogue
So what’s a responsible citizen to do? First, become sufficiently science literate to understand the nuances of the important science-based issues of our day. Next, be prepared to engage in difficult conversations with fellow citizens with different opinions so that dialogue is valued over doctrine, as we work together to balance self-interest with compassion.
If everyone comes to the table with a base level of information and a willingness to listen to each other’s concerns, we can replace the polarization of our current public discourse with productive public problem solving. We can then approach each other with a genuine curiosity to build a science conversation that is enlivened by a search for mutual understanding regardless of a position held on an issue. We need not hold the same beliefs or values to find common ground on the important science-based issues that face us today and will only become more urgent in the years ahead.
From NOAA/NASA, check out these satellite images of holiday lights around the world!
Around many major U.S. cities, nighttime lights shine 20 to 50 percent brighter during Christmas and New Year’s when compared to light output during the rest of the year, as seen in the satellite data. In some Middle Eastern cities, nighttime lights shine more than 50 percent brighter during Ramadan, compared to the rest of the year.
NASA and Messenger scientists (from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution for Science) want your help naming 5 craters on Mercury! See the press release here! The entry form is here, open until January 15th!! Check out info on the 5 craters here![tweet https://twitter.com/MESSENGER2011/status/544583515963396096]
According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in 1919, all new craters must be named after an artist, composer, or writer who was famous for more than 50 years and has been dead for more than three years. See the current list of named Mercury craters.
The name should not have any political, religious, or military significance. It is also essential that there be no other features in the Solar System with the same name, she said. For example, Ansel Adams is not eligible because there is a feature on the Moon with the name Adams (even though it was not named for Ansel). Participants can check their ideas against the list of named Solar System features and enter the name in the “Search by Feature Name” box in the upper-right corner.