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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Photo of the Day: Bringing Home WONDER WOMAN...

Earlier today, I went to the CVS Pharmacy inside the local Target store to receive my annual flu shot (which I've been getting since 2012...thank you very much, Coccidioidomycosis). This time around though, folks who got their shots at Target received a $5 coupon as a reward. So guess what I used my coupon for? Heh, rhetorical question. Instead of spending almost $20 (which includes tax) for the Wonder Woman DVD at Target, I paid less than $15 (which includes tax) for it. Not bad considering the fact that Wonder Woman may be the only installment of the DC Cinematic Universe that I'll own on home video (unless I get the DVDs for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel as Christmas gifts or something). Then again, Wonder Woman 2 does come out in theaters on December 13, 2019. However, that's exactly one week before Star Wars: Episode IX bows in cinemas nationwide. Yikes.

We'll have to wait to see how Justice League turns out this November—even though none other than the amazing Joss Whedon of The Avengers is completing post-production on that highly-anticipated film. Carry on.

The WONDER WOMAN DVD that I bought at the local Target store.

Friday, September 15, 2017

CASSINI IS NO MORE...

An image of the ocean-bearing moon Enceladus disappearing behind Saturn...as seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on September 13, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Space Science Institute

More than 13 years ago, I sat at my computer watching NASA TV coverage of Cassini as it entered orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004. It only made sense to be on my computer again [after waking up at 4:30 AM (Pacific Daylight Time) today] to watch NASA TV coverage of Cassini as it ended its historic mission at Saturn (at 3:32 AM, PDT) as well...

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Ends Its Historic Exploration of Saturn (Press Release)

A thrilling epoch in the exploration of our solar system came to a close today, as NASA's Cassini spacecraft made a fateful plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, ending its 13-year tour of the ringed planet.

"This is the final chapter of an amazing mission, but it’s also a new beginning,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Cassini’s discovery of ocean worlds at Titan and Enceladus changed everything, shaking our views to the core about surprising places to search for potential life beyond Earth."

Telemetry received during the plunge indicates that, as expected, Cassini entered Saturn's atmosphere with its thrusters firing to maintain stability, as it sent back a unique final set of science observations. Loss of contact with the Cassini spacecraft occurred at 7:55 AM EDT (4:55 AM PDT), with the signal received by NASA's Deep Space Network antenna complex in Canberra, Australia.

"It's a bittersweet, but fond, farewell to a mission that leaves behind an incredible wealth of discoveries that have changed our view of Saturn and our solar system, and will continue to shape future missions and research," said Michael Watkins, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which manages the Cassini mission for the agency. JPL also designed, developed and assembled the spacecraft.

Cassini's plunge brings to a close a series of 22 weekly "Grand Finale" dives between Saturn and its rings, a feat never before attempted by any spacecraft.

"The Cassini operations team did an absolutely stellar job guiding the spacecraft to its noble end," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. "From designing the trajectory seven years ago, to navigating through the 22 nail-biting plunges between Saturn and its rings, this is a crack shot group of scientists and engineers that scripted a fitting end to a great mission. What a way to go. Truly a blaze of glory."

As planned, data from eight of Cassini's science instruments was beamed back to Earth. Mission scientists will examine the spacecraft's final observations in the coming weeks for new insights about Saturn, including hints about the planet's formation and evolution, and processes occurring in its atmosphere.

"Things never will be quite the same for those of us on the Cassini team now that the spacecraft is no longer flying," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL. "But, we take comfort knowing that every time we look up at Saturn in the night sky, part of Cassini will be there, too."

Cassini launched in 1997 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and arrived at Saturn in 2004. NASA extended its mission twice – first for two years, and then for seven more. The second mission extension provided dozens of flybys of the planet's icy moons, using the spacecraft's remaining rocket propellant along the way. Cassini finished its tour of the Saturn system with its Grand Finale, capped by Friday's intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn's moons – particularly Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity – remain pristine for future exploration.

While the Cassini spacecraft is gone, its enormous collection of data about Saturn – the giant planet, its magnetosphere, rings and moons – will continue to yield new discoveries for decades to come.

"Cassini may be gone, but its scientific bounty will keep us occupied for many years,” Spilker said. “We've only scratched the surface of what we can learn from the mountain of data it has sent back over its lifetime."

An online toolkit with information and resources for Cassini's Grand Finale is available at:

https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/grandfinale

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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A computer graphic showing the Cassini spacecraft approaching Saturn's atmosphere in real-time...on September 15, 2017.
NASA TV

Another computer graphic showing NASA's Deep Space Network antenna in Canberra, Australia, communicating with the Cassini probe for the final time...on September 15, 2017.
NASA TV

A 1988 art concept of the Mariner Mark II spacecraft...which would later evolve into the Cassini probe.
NASA / JPL

Aboard Cassini was this DVD that bore the signatures of 616,420 people...including mine (presumably).
NASA

Former Cassini-Huygens mission team members Charley Kohlhase (left) and Richard Spehalski pose with the DVD at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...prior to Cassini's launch on October 15, 1997.
NASA

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Images of the Day: The 2028 Summer Olympic Games Are Officially Coming to Los Angeles!

The official logo for the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

A few hours ago, the International Olympic Committee officially announced in Lima, Peru that the 2028 Summer Olympic Games (a.k.a. the Games of the 34th Olympiad) will be heading to Los Angeles...while the 2024 Games (which mark the 33rd Olympiad) will be hosted in Paris. L.A. originally intended to bring the Games back to American soil in '24, but ultimately deferred to the French capital. The 2024 Olympics will mark 100 years since the multi-sporting event was last played in France (the 1924 Games were the 8th Olympiad), while the 2028 Olympics will take place 32 years after the 1996 Olympic Games (the 26th Olympiad) in Atlanta—the last U.S. city to host this event.

On a different note, the 2028 Games will also mark 20 years since swimming legend Michael Phelps started his quest to becoming the greatest Olympian of all-time by winning 8 gold medals during the 2008 Games (the 29th Olympiad) in Beijing. Oh, and Kobe Bryant helped LeBron James lead the U.S. men's basketball team to a gold medal that same year after the Kobe-less team earned a "measly" bronze medal during the 2004 Olympics (the 28th Olympiad) in Greece. It's obviously too early to say, but we'll see how the Dream Team plays 11 years from now...since LeBron will no doubt join Kobe as retired NBA legends by then.

Anyways, I can't wait for the Summer Olympics to return to the City of Angels! Here are some art concepts depicting proposed sporting venues throughout SoCal for the 2028 Games...courtesy of the LA2028 Facebook page. Happy Hump Day.

The Honda Center is the proposed venue for volleyball during the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
The Honda Center in Anaheim - Volleyball

The Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, future home of the Rams and Chargers, is the proposed venue for paralympic archery in 2028.
The Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park - Paralympic Archery

Lake Perris in Riverside County (where I went skydiving in 2006) is the proposed venue for rowing and the canoe sprint during the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
Lake Perris in Riverside County - Rowing and Canoe Sprint

The Rose Bowl in Pasadena is the proposed venue for the soccer finals during the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
The Rose Bowl in Pasadena - Soccer Finals

Santa Monica Pier is the proposed venue for beach volleyball during the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
The Santa Monica Pier - Beach Volleyball

STAPLES Center is the proposed venue for wheelchair basketball during the 2028 Paralympic Games.
STAPLES Center in Downtown Los Angeles - Wheelchair Basketball

The Forum in Inglewood is the proposed venue for gymnastics during the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
The Forum in Inglewood - Gymnastics

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

#8 and #24: The Black Mamba's Jerseys Will Be Immortalized!

Kobe Bryant's two jersey numbers, 8 and 24, will be retired by the Los Angeles Lakers at STAPLES Center on December 18, 2017.

Lakers to Retire Kobe Bryant's Jerseys (Press Release)

EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant's jersey numbers 8 and 24 in a halftime ceremony to be held on December 18 when the Lakers host the Golden State Warriors at the STAPLES Center, it was announced today.

"As a kid growing up in Italy, I always dreamed of my jersey hanging in the Lakers rafters, but I certainly never imagined two of them," said Bryant. "The Lakers have bestowed a huge honor on me and I'm grateful for the fans' enthusiasm around this game."

Bryant will become the 10th player in Los Angeles Lakers history to earn this distinction, joining Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Earvin "Magic" Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul- Jabbar (33), Shaquille O'Neal (34), James Worthy (42), Jerry West (44) and Jamaal Wilkes (52).

"Kobe's jerseys are taking their rightful home next to the greatest Lakers of all time," said Lakers CEO and Controlling Owner Jeanie Buss. "There was never any doubt this day would come, the only question was when. Once again, Lakers fans will celebrate our hero, and once again, our foes will envy the legendary Kobe Bryant."

"This honor is very well deserved," said Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin "Magic" Johnson. "Kobe was one of the greatest Lakers and NBA players of all-time and he's definitely on my Mount Rushmore. I look forward to seeing BOTH of his jerseys be retired and celebrating this special day with Kobe and his family."

"Kobe's impact on this franchise is immeasurable," said General Manager Rob Pelinka. "Kobe carried the torch for the Lakers for 20 seasons, keeping the franchise at the forefront of the NBA following the ‘Showtime' Era. Beyond the championship banners and individual accolades, Kobe's ‘Mamba Mentality' is something the Lakers will always try to emulate. It alone daily inspires all of us to strive for greatness. Kobe's loyalty and dedication to his craft make him one of the most iconic superstars in sports history. The full impact he has on this game and on future generations will not be fully recognized for a long, long time."

The 18-time All-Star retired as the first player in NBA history to play at least 20 seasons with a single franchise, capping off his illustrious career with a 60-point performance vs. Utah on April 13, 2016. Bryant helped lead the Lakers to five NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010), earning Finals MVP honors in 2009 and 2010. Voted the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2008, Bryant earned First Team All- NBA honors 11 times and was a member of the All-Defensive First Team on nine occasions.

Bryant sits as the Lakers all-time leader in regular season games played (1,346), points (33,643), three-pointers made (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws made (8,378), while owning franchise playoff records for games played (220), points (5,640), three-pointers made (292) and free throws made (1,320).

Source: Lakers.com

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Kobe Bryant was an NBA champion from 2000 to 2002, as well as 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Cassini Mission's Friday Finale Is Officially Set...

An artist's concept of NASA's Cassini spacecraft making one last flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on September 11, 2017.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Cassini Makes its 'Goodbye Kiss' Flyby of Titan (News Release)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is headed toward its Sept. 15 plunge into Saturn, following a final, distant flyby of the planet's giant moon Titan.

The spacecraft made its closest approach to Titan today at 12:04 p.m. PDT (3:04 p.m. EDT), at an altitude of 73,974 miles (119,049 kilometers) above the moon's surface. The spacecraft is scheduled to make contact with Earth on Sept. 12 at about 6:19 p.m. PDT (9:19 p.m. EDT). Images and other science data taken during the encounter are expected to begin streaming to Earth soon after. Navigators will analyze the spacecraft's trajectory following this downlink to confirm that Cassini is precisely on course to dive into Saturn at the planned time, location and altitude.

This distant encounter is referred to informally as "the goodbye kiss" by mission engineers, because it provides a gravitational nudge that sends the spacecraft toward its dramatic ending in Saturn's upper atmosphere. The geometry of the flyby causes Cassini to slow down slightly in its orbit around Saturn. This lowers the altitude of its flight over the planet so that the spacecraft goes too deep into Saturn's atmosphere to survive, because friction with the atmosphere will cause Cassini to burn up.

Cassini has made hundreds of passes over Titan during its 13-year tour of the Saturn system -- including 127 precisely targeted encounters -- some at close range and some, like this one, more distant.

"Cassini has been in a long-term relationship with Titan, with a new rendezvous nearly every month for more than a decade," said Cassini Project Manager Earl Maize at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "This final encounter is something of a bittersweet goodbye, but as it has done throughout the mission, Titan's gravity is once again sending Cassini where we need it to go."

Cassini is ending its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet to ensure Saturn's moons -- in particular Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and signs of hydrothermal activity -- remain pristine for future exploration. The spacecraft's fateful dive is the final beat in the mission's Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives (begun in late April) through the gap between Saturn and its rings. No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

An online toolkit of information and resources about Cassini's Grand Finale and final plunge into Saturn is available at:

https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/grandfinale

The Cassini spacecraft was launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. During its time there, Cassini has made numerous dramatic discoveries, including a global ocean with indications of hydrothermal activity within the icy moon Enceladus, and liquid methane seas on another moon, Titan.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, September 07, 2017

New Horizons Update #2: Pluto's Terrain Gets an Official Set of Names...

An infographic of Pluto with names denoting various geological features on its surface.
NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI / Ross Beyer

Pluto Features Given First Official Names (News Release)

It’s official: Pluto’s “heart” now bears the name of pioneering American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930. And a crater on Pluto is now officially named after Venetia Burney, the British schoolgirl who in 1930 suggested the name “Pluto,” Roman god of the underworld, for Tombaugh’s newly-discovered planet.

Tombaugh Regio and Burney crater are among the first set of official Pluto feature names approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the internationally recognized authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features.

These and other names were proposed by NASA’s New Horizons team following the first reconnaissance of Pluto and its moons by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. The New Horizons science team had been using these and other place names informally to describe the many regions, mountain ranges, plains, valleys and craters discovered during the first close-up look at the surfaces of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.

A total of 14 Pluto place names have now been made official by the IAU; many more will soon be proposed to the IAU, both on Pluto and on its moons. “The approved designations honor many people and space missions who paved the way for the historic exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the farthest worlds ever explored,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

“We’re very excited to approve names recognizing people of significance to Pluto and the pursuit of exploration as well as the mythology of the underworld. These names highlight the importance of pushing to the frontiers of discovery,” said Rita Schulz, chair of the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature. “We appreciate the contribution of the general public in the form of their naming suggestions and the New Horizons team for proposing these names to us.”

Stern applauded the work of the New Horizons Nomenclature Working Group, which along with Stern included science team members Mark Showalter -- the group’s chairman and liaison to the IAU -- Ross Beyer, Will Grundy, William McKinnon, Jeff Moore, Cathy Olkin, Paul Schenk and Amanda Zangari.

The team gathered many ideas during the “Our Pluto” online naming campaign in 2015. Following on Venetia Burney’s original suggestion, several place names on Pluto come from underworld mythology. “I’m delighted that most of the approved names were originally recommended by members of the public,” said Showalter, of the SETI Institute, Mountain View, California.

The approved Pluto surface feature names are listed below. The names pay homage to the underworld mythology, pioneering space missions, historic pioneers who crossed new horizons in exploration, and scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

Tombaugh Regio honors Clyde Tombaugh (1906–1997), the U.S. astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930 from Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

Burney crater honors Venetia Burney (1918-2009), who as an 11-year-old schoolgirl suggested the name "Pluto" for Clyde Tombaugh’s newly discovered planet. Later in life she taught mathematics and economics.

Sputnik Planitia is a large plain named for Sputnik 1, the first space satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.

Tenzing Montes and Hillary Montes are mountain ranges honoring Tenzing Norgay (1914–1986) and Sir Edmund Hillary (1919–2008), the Indian/Nepali Sherpa and New Zealand mountaineer were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest and return safely.

Al-Idrisi Montes honors Ash-Sharif al-Idrisi (1100–1165/66), a noted Arab mapmaker and geographer whose landmark work of medieval geography is sometimes translated as "The Pleasure of Him Who Longs to Cross the Horizons.”

Djanggawul Fossae defines a network of long, narrow depressions named for the Djanggawuls, three ancestral beings in indigenous Australian mythology who traveled between the island of the dead and Australia, creating the landscape and filling it with vegetation.

Sleipnir Fossa is named for the powerful, eight-legged horse of Norse mythology that carried the god Odin into the underworld.

Virgil Fossae honors Virgil, one of the greatest Roman poets and Dante's fictional guide through hell and purgatory in the Divine Comedy.

Adlivun Cavus is a deep depression named for Adlivun, the underworld in Inuit mythology.

Hayabusa Terra is a large land mass saluting the Japanese spacecraft and mission (2003-2010) that performed the first asteroid sample return.

Voyager Terra honors the pair of NASA spacecraft, launched in 1977, that performed the first "grand tour" of all four giant planets. The Voyager spacecraft are now probing the boundary between the Sun and interstellar space.

Tartarus Dorsa is a ridge named for Tartarus, the deepest, darkest pit of the underworld in Greek mythology.

Elliot crater recognizes James Elliot (1943-2011), an MIT researcher who pioneered the use of stellar occultations to study the solar system – leading to discoveries such as the rings of Uranus and the first detection of Pluto's thin atmosphere.

The New Horizons spacecraft – built and operated at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, with a payload and science investigation led by SwRI -- is speeding toward its next flyby, this one with the ancient Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, a billion miles beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019.

Source: NASA.Gov

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

New Horizons Update: Only 481 Days Till the 2014 MU69 Flyby...

An artist's concept of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flying past the binary objects that may comprise 2014 MU69...on January 1, 2019.
Carlos Hernandez

New Horizons Files Flight Plan for 2019 Flyby (News Release)

NASA’s New Horizons mission has set the distance for its New Year’s Day 2019 flyby of Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, aiming to come three times closer to MU69 than it famously flew past Pluto in 2015.

That milestone will mark the farthest planetary encounter in history – some one billion miles (1.5 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto and more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. If all goes as planned, New Horizons will come to within just 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) of MU69 at closest approach, peering down on it from celestial north. The alternate plan, to be employed in certain contingency situations such as the discovery of debris near MU69, would take New Horizons within 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers)— still closer than the 7,800-mile (12,500-kilometer) flyby distance to Pluto.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this encore performance from New Horizons,” said NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green at Headquarters in Washington. “This mission keeps pushing the limits of what’s possible, and I’m looking forward to the images and data of the most distant object any spacecraft has ever explored.”

If the closer approach is executed, the highest-resolution camera on New Horizons, the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) should be able to spot details as small as 230 feet (70 meters) across, for example, compared to nearly 600 feet (183 meters) on Pluto.

“We’re planning to fly closer to MU69 than Pluto to get even higher resolution imagery and other datasets,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado. “The science should be spectacular.”

The team weighed numerous factors in making its choice, said science team member and flyby planning lead John Spencer, also of SwRI. “The considerations included what is known about MU69’s size, shape and the likelihood of hazards near it, the challenges of navigating close to MU69 while obtaining sharp and well-exposed images, and other spacecraft resources and capabilities,” he said.

Using all seven onboard science instruments, New Horizons will obtain extensive geological, geophysical, compositional, and other data on MU69; it will also search for an atmosphere and moons.

“Reaching 2014 MU69, and seeing it as an actual new world, will be another historic exploration achievement,” said Helene Winters, the New Horizons project manager from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “We are truly going where no one has gone before. Our whole team is excited about the challenges and opportunities of a voyage to this faraway frontier.”

Source: NASA.Gov

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Another POTUS Fail: A U.S. Senator's Response To Trump Kicking 'Dreamers' Out Of This Country...

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris held a DACA Roundtable with Dreamers at the Downtown UCLA Labor Center last week.

Just as an FYI, Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat - California) should also run for President in 2020. Just sayin'.

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Senator Harris Statement on Trump's Decision to End DACA (Press Release)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and co-sponsor of the DREAM Act and the Agricultural Worker Program Act, released the following statement:

"DACA recipients make our nation strong and represent the best of America. The President's decision undermines our nation’s values and is a cruel betrayal to the more than 800,000 young people, including more than 200,000 Californians, who have only ever known the United States of America as their home.

"Dreamers are Americans in every way except a piece of paper. With this decision, President Trump is telling classmates of our children they don't belong, employees of
Fortune 100 companies they aren't welcome, and saying to those who serve in our military and run small businesses that they should leave. These young people deserve better than that. They came out of the shadows and submitted every detail of their personal lives to prove that they were lawful, productive members of our society. By turning his back on our young Dreamers and their families, President Trump has once again sided with division and hate.

"The consequences of this decision will be devastating. It will split up families, force young people back to countries they never knew, and cost our economy billions of dollars. It is heartless.

“Now more than ever, it is time we roll up our sleeves and stand with these young people who contribute to our community and our economy. Republicans in Congress must immediately allow a vote on the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill we introduced again this summer. We are better than this.”

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The ONE EARTH MESSAGE: Support Its Kickstarter Campaign!

Support the ONE EARTH MESSAGE on Kickstarter!
Click above to visit the One Earth Message Kickstarter site

Just thought I'd end this month by sharing the Kickstarter campaign link for the One Earth Message (OEM)...which aims to send a digital time capsule (akin to the Golden Records that have been flying on both Voyager probes for 40 years now) to the New Horizons spacecraft in 2020. Jon Lomberg, who was responsible for creating the Golden Records, is the architect behind this project. After New Horizons flies past its next target (Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69) on January 1, 2019, it will take at least another year for the spacecraft to transmit all of the data from that flyby back to Earth. Once every bit of the KBO info has been relayed to our home planet, the data recorders on New Horizons will be erased...thus clearing up space for something such as OEM to be installed in the robotic probe's computer.

An artist's concept of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flying past 2014 MU69.
NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute

The campaign started last week...and ends on September 29, so donate now! The goal for this project is to make at least $72,000, but its Kickstarter campaign still has ways to go to reach it. If Mr. Lomberg or any other person on the OEM team is reading this, they need to add more rewards to the Kickstarter page to make this goal more attainable. OEM won't reach its $72,000 target based on $1 pledges ($5 should've been the lowest amount provided instead), and there should be a pledge amount between the $2,500 and $10,000 rewards to increase the chances of someone donating a large sum to this campaign (a pledge for $5,000 seems like the right amount to add). It would be awesome if there was a person or two (preferably five...the total number of $10,000 pledges that can be made to this project) to donate $10,000 each to OEM, but I wouldn't wait on that to happen! Prove me wrong, everyone.

The ONE EARTH MESSAGE would only take up space on a single microchip in New Horizon's computer.

So anyways folks, donate to the One Earth Message now! I keep repeating that because I totally want to see this project become a reality! Should the Kickstarter campaign succeed, then 2018 will be spent on developing the OEM website where people can suggest (or submit) what Earth-representative photo, message, etc. should be included with this digital time capsule. And sometime in 2019—should NASA hopefully approve the final product that Mr. Lomberg and his team churns out—the OEM will be tested and converted into the format necessary for a Deep Space Network radio antenna to transmit billions of miles to New Horizons in 2020. But all of this won't be possible without your help, folks, so donate now!

Help send a digital time capsule to the New Horizons spacecraft by supporting the ONE EARTH MESSAGE on Kickstarter!

PS: Your name will also be included in the One Earth Message if you donate to its Kickstarter campaign, so donate now! Thanks.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

T-Minus 18 Days Till Cassini Meets Its Fate...

An artist's concept of NASA's Cassini spacecraft approaching the inner gap between Saturn and its rings...as Cassini concludes the 'Grand Finale' of its 13-year-long mission at the ringed planet.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Saturn Plunge Nears for Cassini Spacecraft (Press Release)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is 18 days from its mission-ending dive into the atmosphere of Saturn. Its fateful plunge on Sept. 15 is a foregone conclusion -- an April 22 gravitational kick from Saturn's moon Titan placed the two-and-a-half ton vehicle on its path for impending destruction. Yet several mission milestones have to occur over the coming two-plus weeks to prepare the vehicle for one last burst of trailblazing science.

"The Cassini mission has been packed full of scientific firsts, and our unique planetary revelations will continue to the very end of the mission as Cassini becomes Saturn's first planetary probe, sampling Saturn's atmosphere up until the last second," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We'll be sending data in near real time as we rush headlong into the atmosphere -- it's truly a first-of-its-kind event at Saturn."

The spacecraft is expected to lose radio contact with Earth within about one to two minutes after beginning its descent into Saturn's upper atmosphere. But on the way down, before contact is lost, eight of Cassini's 12 science instruments will be operating. In particular, the spacecraft's ion and neutral mass spectrometer (INMS), which will be directly sampling the atmosphere's composition, potentially returning insights into the giant planet's formation and evolution. On the day before the plunge, other Cassini instruments will make detailed, high-resolution observations of Saturn's auroras, temperature, and the vortices at the planet's poles. Cassini's imaging camera will be off during this final descent, having taken a last look at the Saturn system the previous day (Sept. 14).

In its final week, Cassini will pass several milestones en route to its science-rich Saturn plunge. (Times below are predicted and may change slightly; see https://go.nasa.gov/2wbaCBT for updated times.)

Sept. 9 -- Cassini will make the last of 22 passes between Saturn itself and its rings. Closest approach is 1,044 miles (1,680 kilometers) above the cloud tops.

Sept. 11 -- Cassini will make a distant flyby of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Even though the spacecraft will be at 73,974 miles (119,049 kilometers) away, the gravitational influence of the moon will slow down the spacecraft slightly as it speeds past. A few days later, instead of passing through the outermost fringes of Saturn's atmosphere, Cassini will dive in too deep to survive the friction and heating.

Sept. 14 -- Cassini's imaging cameras take their last look around the Saturn system, sending back pictures of moons Titan and Enceladus, the hexagon-shaped jet stream around the planet's north pole, and features in the rings.

Sept. 14 (5:45 p.m. EDT / 2:45 p.m. PDT) -- Cassini turns its antenna to point at Earth, begins a communications link that will continue until end of mission, and sends back its final images and other data collected along the way.

Sept. 15 (4:37 a.m. EDT / 1:37 a.m. PDT) -- The "final plunge" begins. The spacecraft starts a 5-minute roll to position INMS for optimal sampling of the atmosphere, transmitting data in near real time from now to end of mission.

Sept. 15 (7:53 a.m. EDT / 4:53 a.m. PDT) -- Cassini enters Saturn's atmosphere. Its thrusters fire at 10 percent of their capacity to maintain directional stability, enabling the spacecraft's high-gain antenna to remain pointed at Earth and allowing continued transmission of data.

Sept. 15 (7:54 a.m. EDT / 4:54 a.m. PDT) -- Cassini's thrusters are at 100 percent of capacity. Atmospheric forces overwhelm the thrusters' capacity to maintain control of the spacecraft's orientation, and the high-gain antenna loses its lock on Earth. At this moment, expected to occur about 940 miles (1,510 kilometers) above Saturn's cloud tops, communication from the spacecraft will cease, and Cassini's mission of exploration will have concluded. The spacecraft will break up like a meteor moments later.

As Cassini completes its 13-year tour of Saturn, its Grand Finale -- which began in April -- and final plunge are just the last beat. Following a four-year primary mission and a two-year extension, NASA approved an ambitious plan to extend Cassini's service by an additional seven years. Called the Cassini Solstice Mission, the extension saw Cassini perform dozens more flybys of Saturn's moons as the spacecraft observed seasonal changes in the atmospheres of Saturn and Titan. From the outset, the planned endgame for the Solstice Mission was to expend all of Cassini's maneuvering propellant exploring, then eventually arriving in the ultra-close Grand Finale orbits, ending with safe disposal of the spacecraft in Saturn's atmosphere.

"The end of Cassini's mission will be a poignant moment, but a fitting and very necessary completion of an astonishing journey," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "The Grand Finale represents the culmination of a seven-year plan to use the spacecraft's remaining resources in the most scientifically productive way possible. By safely disposing of the spacecraft in Saturn's atmosphere, we avoid any possibility Cassini could impact one of Saturn's moons somewhere down the road, keeping them pristine for future exploration."

Since its launch in 1997, the findings of the Cassini mission have revolutionized our understanding of Saturn, its complex rings, the amazing assortment of moons and the planet's dynamic magnetic environment. The most distant planetary orbiter ever launched, Cassini started making astonishing discoveries immediately upon arrival and continues today. Icy jets shoot from the tiny moon Enceladus, providing samples of an underground ocean with evidence of hydrothermal activity. Titan's hydrocarbon lakes and seas are dominated by liquid ethane and methane, and complex pre-biotic chemicals form in the atmosphere and rain to the surface. Three-dimensional structures tower above Saturn's rings, and a giant Saturn storm circled the entire planet for most of a year. Cassini's findings at Saturn have also buttressed scientists' understanding of processes involved in the formation of planets.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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