Tag Archives: NASA

NASA Star Vista

ASU engages with NASA’s Solar Research Institute

Arizona State University Foundation Professor Kip Hodges is co-investigator and ASU principal investigator for a node of the new NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). SSERVI brings nine teams of researchers from NASA laboratories, universities, research institutions, and commercial enterprises together in a collaborative virtual setting to focus on questions concerning planetary science and human space exploration in the inner Solar System.

Through Hodges participation, ASU is affiliated with “Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration” team that is led by Jennifer Heldmann of NASA’s Ames Research Center. Other nodes of the virtual institute are based at Brown University, the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, the Lunar and Planetary Institute (Houston, Texas), NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, the Southwest Research Institute (Boulder, Colo.), Stony Brook University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Colorado. All together, the new virtual institute embraces the research of nearly 200 scientists nationwide, providing them with a total of roughly $12 million per year over the next five years.

“I’m very pleased that, through Jen’s leadership, the NASA Ames node was selected to be an inaugural part of SSERVI”, said Hodges. “I think we have assembled a great team of researchers that cross the boundaries between planetary science and the engineering and implementation of new technologies to enhance our ability to do science on other worlds.”

In addition to researchers from the Ames Research Center and ASU, the NASA Ames team includes participants from: the BAER Institute; the Canadian Space Agency; Cornell University; Evergreen Valley College; Honeybee Robotics; Idaho State University; the Korean Institute of Geoscience & Mineral Resources; Los Gatos Research; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Purdue University; the SETI Institute; Studio 98; the University of Toronto; the University of Western Ontario; Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering; and NASA’s Goddard, Johnson, Kennedy, and Marshall Space Flight Centers.

The NASA Ames team will focus on the development of innovative strategies for scientific research on asteroids, the Moon, and the moons of Mars – as well as on samples returned from those bodies – through studies of planetary analog sites on Earth. Hodges notes that it is important to establish best practices for human and robotic exploration of space prior to the launch of real missions so that we can maximize the quality and quantity of science that can be done at our exploration targets.

“By studying geologic features on Earth that are similar to those we will encounter on other bodies, we better prepare ourselves for future explorations.” The NASA Ames node will be conducting such studies on volcanic landscapes in Idaho and at meteorite impact craters in northern Canada.

Hodges was recruited for participation in SSERVI as a consequence of his research group’s work on determining the ages of impact events on Earth and the Moon.

“On coming to ASU in 2006, it was one of my goals to establish a world-class center for noble gas geochronology and geochemistry in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Thanks to investments by ASU, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, the laboratory my research group has worked hard to put together enables some very creative work, including our pioneering use of laser microprobe technologies for dating impact events”, Hodges says.

Recent work of this kind has focused on a variety of terrestrial impact sites and on lunar impact rocks brought back during the Apollo 16 and 17 missions. Many members of Hodges’ research group – research scientists Mathijs van Soest and Jo Anne Wartho, postdoctoral associates Marc Biren, Frances Cooper, and John Weirich, and graduate students Cameron Mercer and Kelsey Young – have contributed to building the laboratory’s reputation as a leading facility for impact dating.

“Our participation in the work of the NASA Ames node of SSERVI permits us to expand our work on terrestrial impact sites in a way that will feed forward into future studies of samples returned from exploration targets like near-Earth asteroids, our Moon and the moons of nearby planets, or Mars. We are excited to be part of such a great effort, and look forward to helping NASA write the next chapter in the history of space exploration,” states Hodges.

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Bringing Farms to Arizona Cities

Green living innovator Greg Peterson has an idea of bringing 10,000 urban farms into big cities of Arizona.

By creating farms closer to homes in large cities, fresh foods are more readily available to help create a healthier way of living.

Peterson, contributing writer for Phoenix Magazine and Edible Phoenix, began gardening 35 years ago when he realized the importance of growing your own food.

“Stress, environmental toxins, and lack of nutrition contribute to disease. We can control the quality of the food were eating,” Peterson said. The diagnosis of a tremor causing one of Peterson’s hands to shake “spun” him into learning more about health.

Peterson’s idea of the Urban Farm began after he transformed his backyard into an entirely edible landscape with over 70 fruit trees, three solar applications, and recycled building materials. The site is open to the public and offers tours and classes on how to garden and farm.

Most of the food bought at major grocery store chains travels an average of 1500 miles before it reaches shelves to be purchased, Peterson explains. This means that fruits and vegetables have to be picked before they are ready, leaving people with a limited amount of nutrients in their diets.

Restaurants located in bigger cities are beginning to garden and farm on site of their locations. Pizzeria Bianco and The Parlor, both located in Phoenix, have fresh menu items by growing their ingredients on the restaurant’s property.

Fruits and vegetables are more power packed with nutrients when they are grown and sold closer to homes in urban areas because they don’t have to be picked so far ahead of time for long destinations. Food is healthier for people when it doesn’t have to travel as far.

The hot, sunny weather in Arizona sometimes makes it difficult to maintain a garden or farm, let alone do this in bigger city areas of the state. Tim Blank, a man who works directly with the Department of Energy and NASA, has created a product called the “Tower Garden” to grow fresh food in any environment.

The “Tower Garden” is an environmentally friendly product that uses 90 percent less water in growing plants. Ongoing drought problems in the state of Arizona makes conserving water an important issue.

Nutrition educator and Tower Garden owner, Ellen Stecker, grows tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and cilantro with the product on her property at home.

Tower Gardens are so popular, that they have been featured on ABC news, CNN, and the New York Times. This invention is an important tool that helps bring gardening closer to homes in the city.

With his idea of creating 10,000 urban farms in Phoenix, Peterson says that the Tower Garden inspires healthy living.

NASA Geek Chic

Geek chic: Mohawks in, pocket protectors out

Known to the Twitterverse and the president of the United States as “Mohawk Guy” of the Mars mission, Bobak Ferdowsi could be the changing public face of NASA and all of geekdom.

Ferdowsi, whose shaved scalp also features star shapes, is a flight director for the Mars rover Curiosity — a mission that captured the nation’s imagination with its odds-defying, acrobatic landing.

And Mohawk Guy isn’t the only star. There’s also former rock ‘n’ roller Adam Steltzner, sometimes called “Elvis Guy” because of his pompadour and sideburns.

Steltzner directed the daring landing of the rover and appears in a NASA movie trailer describing why the Aug. 5 Mars landing involved “seven minutes of terror.” The movie, posted on YouTube, became a hit.

“You guys are a little cooler than you used to be,” President Barack Obama said in a Monday congratulatory phone call to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Given Ferdowsi’s success, Obama, a “Star Trek” fan, joked about the Mohawk and suggested he might try it: “I think that I’m going to go back to my team and see if it makes sense.”

Mohawk Guy’s Twitter followers have soared to more than 50,000. Over the weekend, he and the 49-year-old Steltzner appeared on NPR’s game show, “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” He’s been doing Google+ hangouts. And, oh yes, he’s gotten marriage proposals.

Strange hairstyles are a tradition for the 32-year-old Ferdowsi, who once donned a cut that was supposed to resemble a rocket plume — red, orange and gold.

Ferdowsi couldn’t be reached for comment, but he tweeted late Monday: “So incredible to have the POTUS call work today & thank the team! Still can’t believe (at) BarackObama called me mohawk guy! ”

Last week, in a Los Angeles Times interview, he acknowledged his haircut might be “a little bit of a shock” to some. He said most people think of the serious, button-downed Apollo 13 NASA. .

But he noted that in 1967, engineers at his workplace, Jet Propulsion Lab, or JPL, wore Spock ears for the launch of a Venus-bound spacecraft. In fact, the California operation is more like the Berkeley of NASA.

In the unmanned world of space robotics, engineers are just as detail obsessed as Mission Control in Houston. But JPL doesn’t handle life-and-death astronaut missions, and more risks can be taken. Such as the remarkable landing system of Mars Curiosity that featured a giant parachute, retrorockets and the gentle controlled lowering of the one-ton rover with cables.

It was all run by Steltzner, who twice got F’s in high school math, initially skipped college to play music and enjoys making his own jam.

The JPL missions are run in a creative conclave nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles and managed by the California Institute of Technology for NASA. JPL prides itself on its university-like atmosphere. Some engineers come to work in Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Others sport hippie hairstyles.

“The button-down white shirts and ties were always in Houston; they were not here,” said Gentry Lee, who is chief engineer for planetary flight systems at JPL and is one of Ferdowsi’s bosses.

“The people who have been flying robotic missions have always been about substance and not about appearances,” Lee said. But he said most people who don’t know NASA didn’t know that until now.

“Geeks have hit pop culture,” said Ken Denmead, editor and publisher of geekdad.com. “I think more than any other single event in the last five or 10 years, this (Mars landing) has put a face on science and engineering that really gets future generations excited.

“People like Bobak and the whole crew on the Curiosity landing just shatter that (pocket protector) mode and that’s wonderful,” Denmead, a San Francisco civil engineer, said in a phone interview.

With hit television shows celebrating geeks, like “The Big Bang Theory,” science-lover Obama in the White House, and especially regular people using more technology in their daily lives, Denmead sees what he calls “normals” becoming more geek-like. And geeks are becoming more social thanks to Twitter and Facebook.

“The communications barriers have come down between the geeks and the normals if you want,” Denmead said. “The differences have faded away.”

Recycled Water in Space

Recycled Water — On A Journey From Space And Back To Earth

There’s What in My Water?

“Green” technology is constantly evolving and, consequently, so is my knowledge of it. Ever since I embarked on the journey of learning more about sustainability, nothing ceases to amaze me. Maybe some of the things I write about are old news to those more educated on the topic, but I’m sure there are many individuals such as myself who are taking this one day at a time.

In that vein, I stumbled upon a technology that NASA uses to solve the problem of not having a sufficient water supply for its astronauts in space. Hauling water to space is difficult and expensive, so instead NASA utilizes a special device that recycles astronauts’ sweat and urine (yes, urine) into drinking water.

The wastewater enters a processing machine where it goes through six steps of cleansing, including adding iodine to kill microbes. The water is boiled off, vapor collected and brine from urine removed. Add a dash of water from air condensation, filter, and voilà, recycled drinking water is born!

As space exploration evolved it became obvious the technology would be vital to the long-term success of NASA missions.

There's What in my Water?The recycling system was brought up to the International Space Station last November by the space shuttle Endeavour. However, only recently were the astronauts actually able to test the fruits of their “labor.” The project, Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), also doubled the living capacity of the space station from three people to six.

Another plus? A portion of ECLSS has been adapted to Earth and is already helping rural villages in northern Iraq, the Dominican Republic and Pakistan generate clean drinking water.

One company at the forefront of this water treatment technology is Water Security Corporation. The company has taken the technology originally developed for NASA and commercialized it to make it accessible to those who need it most.

An interesting tidbit the company includes on its Web site is how similar the situations are between NASA and rural villages in developing nations in terms of having a sufficient water supply. Like the astronauts on the space station, residents in these villages must recycle everything they have. With the help of this technology, the villagers can treat what they DO have in order to keep the water supply constant without having to rely on the whims of others.

People in the developed world take for granted the basic things we are lucky enough to have on a day-to-day basis. This reminded me to truly make an attempt to not be wasteful and conserve our limited resources.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the astronauts say the water tastes just fine. :-)

www.watseco.com
science.nasa.gov