Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Quick Lakers Update...Sort of

So online reports this morning have stated that 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard has been traded to the Toronto Raptors from the San Antonio exchange for Toronto's 4-time NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan going to Texas. Assuming that Kawhi Leonard keeps true to his word and joins the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent in summer 2019 (or before the trade deadline next February?), the Spurs clearly emerged as the winners of this deal. And Toronto? Have fun watching your newly-acquired one-year (or less?) rental potentially phoning it in during the 2018-'19 NBA season! Again, this is assuming that Leonard doesn't change his mind and decide to stay with the Raptors after next year. (Considering the fact that Kawhi wanted to move back to his home city of Los Angeles, and San Antonio decided to send him to a team that's over 2,500 miles from L.A. and located out of country instead, I don't see this as likely. Hopefully.) I'm lookin' at you, Paul George... For those of you non-NBA folks reading this, Google the reference.

Happy Hump Day!

Could Kawhi Leonard join forces with LeBron James on the L.A. Lakers as soon as February, 2019? We'll see. Guess who I cropped out of this pic...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A New Look for AIR FORCE ONE?

Donald Trump's version of Air Force One? This satirical artwork isn't so far-fetched.
Alex Gonzalez

So according to this article in The Washington Post, Donald Trump wants to give the next version of Air Force One a makeover. He wants to give the next presidential jet a red, white and blue color theme. Just as an FYI, the Russian flag—like America's Old Glory—is also red, white and blue.

The Russian flag.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

TESS Update: The Spacecraft's Search for New Alien Worlds Should Begin by Month's End...

An artist's concept of NASA's TESS satellite searching for exoplanets in deep space.

NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Continues Testing Prior to First Observations (News Release - July 11)

After a successful launch on April 18, 2018, NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is currently undergoing a series of commissioning tests before it begins searching for planets. The TESS team has reported that the spacecraft and cameras are in good health, and the spacecraft has successfully reached its final science orbit. The team continues to conduct tests in order to optimize spacecraft performance with a goal of beginning science at the end of July.

Every new mission goes through a commissioning period of testing and adjustments before beginning science operations. This serves to test how the spacecraft and its instruments are performing and determines whether any changes need to be made before the mission starts observations.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

Source: NASA.Gov


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Images of the Day: Israel's Lunar Lander...

An image of SpaceIL's lunar lander at its assembly facility in Israel.

Just thought I'd share these photos and artwork depicting the SpaceIL lunar lander...which is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this December, and touch down on the surface of the Moon on February 13, 2019. Instead of taking a direct route to the Moon and do a standard orbit insertion maneuver using a lengthy engine burn, the SpaceIL lander will settle into Earth's orbit, and gradually raise its orbit (using smaller thruster burns) until it takes the spacecraft near the lunar surface...where it will make its landing attempt. Israel's spacecraft was one of many participants to compete for the Google Lunar XPrize that began almost a decade ago. The XPrize competition ended last March without awarding any winners (the participants were originally supposed to send a spacecraft to the Moon by 2014 to win the grand prize of $20 million USD, but that date was extended to this year after 2014 turned out to be an unfeasible launch date for the competitors), but that didn't stop the Israeli team from continuing the project and being only 5 months away from making this mission a reality.

As shown in the tweet above, I sent a message to SpaceIL mentioning that it would be awesome if it allowed folks around the world to submit their names via the Web to fly aboard the lander when it heads to the Moon. SpaceIL liked my tweet, but didn't respond to my suggestion. However, it did have a previous PR campaign where SpaceIL announced that anyone who took a photo with a model of its lander at Ben Gurion Airport (in Israel) would have it placed aboard the spacecraft if the person posted the pic on Facebook and Instagram with the #SpaceIL hashtag included. Lucky airport patrons! If someone at SpaceIL is reading this Blog entry: You still have two to three months (technically it's about five months, but those last two months would be spent on prepping the lander for launch at the SpaceX facility in Florida) to make a quick "Send Your Name to the Moon's Surface" campaign to happen online! Happy Hump Day.

Another image of SpaceIL's lunar lander at its assembly facility in Israel.

A computer-generated image of SpaceIL's lunar lander approaching the surface of the Moon.

An artist's concept of SpaceIL's lunar lander approaching the surface of the Moon.An artist's concept of SpaceIL's lunar lander approaching the surface of the Moon.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Welcome to Los Angeles, LeBron! The King Is Officially a Laker...

LeBron James officially became a Los Angeles Laker on July 9, 2018.

Lakers Sign LeBron James (Press Release)

EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles Lakers have signed forward LeBron James, it was announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

“Today is a great day for the Lakers organization and Lakers fans all over the world to welcome LeBron James, a three-time NBA Champion and four-time NBA MVP,” said Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “LeBron is special. He is the best player in the world. He loves to compete and is an awesome leader who is about winning and making sure that his teammates are successful. The Lakers players are excited to have a teammate who has been to nine NBA Finals. It’s a huge step closer to returning the Lakers to the playoffs and to the NBA Finals.”

James played in all 82 games last season, tallying a team-high 27.5 points (third in the NBA), a career-high-tying 8.6 rebounds and a career-high 9.1 assists (second in the NBA), while shooting 54.2 percent from the field. He finished the season with a league-high 2,251 total points scored and became the first player in NBA history to accumulate at least 30,000 career points, 8,000 rebounds and 8,000 assists. In addition, the 15-year NBA veteran currently holds the longest-ever double-digit scoring streak at 873 games.

“This is a historic moment for the Lakers, and we could not feel more grateful and honored,” Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka said. “When LeBron James – a perennial NBA MVP and champion who is playing at the most astonishing levels of his career – chooses to join the Lakers, it serves as the ultimate validation for what we are building here. However, we all know that the work is not yet done. We will continue forward and do all that is necessary to achieve our shared obsession of bringing banner No. 17 to the world’s best fans – Lakers Nation.”

A four-time NBA MVP (2009, ’10, ’12, ’13), James has played in 1,143 career regular season games (1,142 starts) for Cleveland and Miami, holding averages of 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. With one of the most storied careers in NBA history, he currently ranks seventh in total points scored (31,038), 11th in all-time assists (8,208) and 16th in career steals (1,865).

James, a three-time NBA Champion and three-time Finals MVP, has made nine trips to the NBA Finals, playing in 239 career playoff games with averages of 28.9 points (.491 FG%), 8.9 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 block in 42.0 minutes. He is the only player in NBA history to play more than 10,000 postseason minutes and is the league’s all-time leader in total playoff points (6,911) and steals (419), also ranking third in assists (1,687) and sixth in rebounds (2,212).

The Akron, OH, native has been named an NBA All-Star in each of the last 14 seasons, earning First Team All-NBA honors on 12 occasions, including the last 11 consecutive seasons. The 2003-04 Rookie of the Year is a five-time First Team All-Defensive Team member, a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist for Team USA (2008, ’12) and the 2016-17 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award winner.

In 2004, LeBron started the LeBron James Family Foundation that now serves more than 1,300 Akron-area students and their families with the programs, support and mentors they need for success in school and beyond. Turning its attention to the life-changing power of education with its “I PROMISE” program in 2011, LJFF has committed four-year college scholarships to all of its eligible students and also provides a program for parents to earn their high school GED’s. In July of 2018, all of his Foundation’s interventions and research-based incentives – along with its “We Are Family” philosophy – will be implemented into a brand new public school, the I PROMISE School, dedicated to giving Akron’s most challenged students and their families the resources and wraparound supports needed on the path to a better future.



LeBron James officially became a Los Angeles Laker on July 9, 2018.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

A Major Milestone for the Parker Solar Probe as It Gears Up for Launch on August 4...

Engineers are about to install the Parker Solar Probe's heat shield inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida...on June 27, 2018.
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

Cutting-Edge Heat Shield Installed on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe (News Release - July 5)

The launch of Parker Solar Probe, the mission that will get closer to the Sun than any human-made object has ever gone, is quickly approaching, and on June 27, 2018, Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield — called the Thermal Protection System, or TPS — was installed on the spacecraft.

A mission 60 years in the making, Parker Solar Probe will make a historic journey to the Sun’s corona, a region of the solar atmosphere. With the help of its revolutionary heat shield, now permanently attached to the spacecraft in preparation for its August 2018 launch, the spacecraft’s orbit will carry it to within 4 million miles of the Sun's fiercely hot surface, where it will collect unprecedented data about the inner workings of the corona.

The eight-foot-diameter heat shield will safeguard everything within its umbra, the shadow it casts on the spacecraft. At Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The heat shield is made of two panels of superheated carbon-carbon composite sandwiching a lightweight 4.5-inch-thick carbon foam core. The Sun-facing side of the heat shield is also sprayed with a specially formulated white coating to reflect as much of the Sun’s energy away from the spacecraft as possible.

The heat shield itself weighs only about 160 pounds — here on Earth, the foam core is 97 percent air. Because Parker Solar Probe travels so fast — 430,000 miles per hour at its closest approach to the Sun, fast enough to travel from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in about one second — the shield and spacecraft have to be light to achieve the needed orbit.

The reinstallation of the Thermal Protection System — which was briefly attached to the spacecraft during testing at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, in fall 2017 — marks the first time in months that Parker Solar Probe has been fully integrated. The heat shield and spacecraft underwent testing and evaluation separately at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before shipping out to Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, in April 2018. With the recent reunification, Parker Solar Probe inches closer to launch and toward the Sun.

Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program, or LWS, to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by Goddard for the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory manages the Parker Solar Probe mission for NASA. APL designed and built the spacecraft and will also operate it.

Source: NASA.Gov


Engineers install the Parker Solar Probe's heat shield inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida...on June 27, 2018.
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Photos of the Day: An F-15 Flies Above Orange County, CA...

An F-15 Eagle flies over a BBQ party that I attended in Stanton, California...on July 4, 2018.

Happy Fifth of July, everyone! Just thought I'd share these pics and video of an F-15 Eagle that flew over a BBQ party I attended in Stanton, California yesterday. The U.S. Air Force fighter jet most likely came from Joint Forces Training Base—which is based in Los Alamitos several miles away. Such a cool sight... Though it would've been much cooler if it was an F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning II that created noise above Orange County! It's all good. Hope all of my fellow Yanks reading this had a fun and safe Fourth of July!

An F-15 Eagle flies over a BBQ party that I attended in Stanton, California...on July 4, 2018.

An F-15 Eagle flies over a BBQ party that I attended in Stanton, California...on July 4, 2018.

An F-15 Eagle flies over a BBQ party that I attended in Stanton, California...on July 4, 2018.

An F-15 Eagle flies over a BBQ party that I attended in Stanton, California...on July 4, 2018.

An F-15 Eagle flies over a BBQ party that I attended in Stanton, California...on July 4, 2018.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

NASA's Dawn Mission Enters the Endgame...

An animated GIF depicting NASA's Dawn spacecraft moving through deep space on the thrust of its ion engine.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Dawn's Engines Complete Firing, Science Continues (News Release - June 28)

Mission controllers have turned off the industrious ion engines on NASA's Dawn spacecraft for the last time and do not expect to turn them back on again, if everything goes as planned for the rest of Dawn's mission in orbit around Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt. Engineers led by Dawn Project Manager Marc Rayman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, drew this conclusion on Tuesday, June 26, after analyzing data from Dawn's last thrusting session on Thursday, June 21, and verifying plans for the rest of the mission. Mission managers expect Dawn to continue gathering science data and transmitting it to Earth for another few months.

Dawn turned on its innovative ion engines for the first time on Oct. 6, 2007. That technology has allowed Dawn to become the first mission to orbit two solar system destinations outside of the Earth-Moon system -- first Vesta and then Ceres - and to do groundbreaking science at these two bodies. During more than a decade in space, Dawn's ion engines have set records for total firing time of 5.87 years and total effective velocity change by a spacecraft of 25,700 mph (41,360 kph). Because of the nature of orbital motion, that is not Dawn's actual velocity. Spacecraft slow down relative to the Sun as they go outward in the solar system, Rayman explained. Read more about orbital velocity here.

"Dawn's remarkable ion engines have taken us on an exciting extraterrestrial expedition that would have been impossible without them," said Rayman. "The engines are healthy and ready in case we ever need them again, but they have taken Dawn exactly where we want it to be. We will remember the engines and their cool blue glow with fondness and gratitude."

Dawn launched on Sept. 27, 2007.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory


A close-up image of Ceres' surface that was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from an altitude of 21 miles (34 kilometers)...on June 22, 2018.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA

Sunday, July 01, 2018


Amazing fan art of LeBron James in the purple and gold.

Earlier today, it was revealed that LeBron James agreed to a 4-year, $153-million deal to play with the Los Angeles Lakers (which will most likely be made official this Friday...when NBA free agents can begin signing new contracts)—after spending four years with the Cleveland Cavaliers and winning the 2016 championship with them. While the Golden State Warriors (who swept the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals last month) will still be the favorite to win their fourth championship next season, LeBron's presence on the Lakers instantly brings the team back to the greatness of Kobe-Shaq and Kobe-Pau before him. Lakers fans (including Yours Truly) haven't felt this type of excitement for five years (despite the brief additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to the team during that time). If the Lakers manage to get Kawhi Leonard traded to them from the San Antonio Spurs sometime this summer, then the 2018-'19 NBA regular season will definitely be a joy to watch as the Lakers bring Showtime back to STAPLES Center.

LeBron James will soon be in the company of Laker legends.

Congrats on a job well done, Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Jeanie Buss! You guys are awesome. And to Paul George (who could've been part of a Lakers super team next season): Have fun playing in Oklahoma and losing in the first round of the playoffs again, you punkass bitch. Happy Sunday!

Kyrie Irving vs. LeBron James: Will the Celtic-Laker rivalry renew itself in the coming years?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

"'Oumuamua" Update: New Signs That the Interstellar Interloper May Have Been a Comet...

An artist's concept of 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) traveling through deep space.
European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser

Our Solar System's First Known Interstellar Object Gets Unexpected Speed Boost (News Release - June 27)

Using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories, an international team of scientists has confirmed 'Oumuamua (oh-MOO-ah-MOO-ah), the first known interstellar object to travel through our solar system, got an unexpected boost in speed and shift in trajectory as it passed through the inner solar system last year.

"Our high-precision measurements of 'Oumuamua's position revealed that there was something affecting its motion other than the gravitational forces of the Sun and planets," said Marco Micheli of ESA's (European Space Agency) Space Situational Awareness Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre in Frascati, Italy, and lead author of a paper describing the team's findings.

Analyzing the trajectory of the interstellar visitor, co-author Davide Farnocchia of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, found that the speed boost was consistent with the behavior of a comet.

"This additional subtle force on 'Oumuamua likely is caused by jets of gaseous material expelled from its surface," said Farnocchia. "This same kind of outgassing affects the motion of many comets in our solar system."

Comets normally eject large amounts of dust and gas when warmed by the Sun. But according to team scientist Olivier Hainaut of the European Southern Observatory, "There were no visible signs of outgassing from 'Oumuamua, so these forces were not expected."

The team estimates that 'Oumuamua's outgassing may have produced a very small amount of dust particles -- enough to give the object a little kick in speed, but not enough to be detected.

Karen Meech, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy and co-author of the study, speculated that small dust grains, present on the surface of most comets, eroded away during 'Oumuamua's long journey through interstellar space.

"The more we study 'Oumuamua, the more exciting it gets," Meech said. "I'm amazed at how much we have learned from a short, intense observing campaign. I can hardly wait for the next interstellar object!"

'Oumuamua, less than half a mile in length, now is farther away from our Sun than Jupiter and traveling away from the Sun at about 70,000 mph as it heads toward the outskirts of the solar system. In only another four years, it will pass Neptune's orbit on its way back into interstellar space.

Because 'Oumuamua is the first interstellar object ever observed in our solar system, researchers caution that it's difficult to draw general conclusions about this newly-discovered class of celestial bodies. However, observations point to the possibility that other star systems regularly eject small comet-like objects, and there should be more of them drifting among the stars. Future ground- and space-based surveys could detect more of these interstellar vagabonds, providing a larger sample for scientists to analyze.

The international team of astronomers used observations from Hubble, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, and the Gemini South Telescope and European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile.

The paper with the team's findings appears in the June 27 issue of the journal Nature.

JPL hosts CNEOS for the agency's Near-Earth Object Observations Program, an element of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the agency's Science Mission Directorate. Hubble is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages Hubble. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory