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Thursday, December 27, 2012

A self-portrait of Curiosity's replica rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...taken with an engineering model of Curiosity's robotic arm camera.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS

Curiosity Update... I recently stumbled upon the interesting photo (above) taken of Curiosity's replica (known as the Vehicle System Test Bed rover) inside the In Situ Instrument Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. The pic was taken using an engineering model of the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera employed on the actual rover. Located at the tip of Curiosity's 7-foot-long robotic arm, MAHLI's movements were first rehearsed on the engineering model to ensure that the arm would not be visible in the official self-portrait achieved on the Red Planet. As seen with the image below, JPL engineers did a terrific job positioning MAHLI in ways that gave the impression that Curiosity was indeed photographed by a separate source. One wonders when the day will come where a separate source (RE: an astronaut) will actually stand before Curiosity and photograph the one-ton, nuclear-powered laboratory in person...

A self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, taken with a camera on her robotic arm on October 31, 2012.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The USS Iowa's bow as seen from its bridge.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! Just thought I'd get y'all in the holiday and museum-going mood by posting these neat photos of the USS Iowa adorned in Christmas lights in San Pedro. I wonder just how fearful the Japanese would've been if the Battleship of Presidents approached their various island beachheads looking this way in World War II? Their laughter probably would've come to a quick end once the 16-inch shells began raining down on 'em... Anyways, to check out more pics of the USS Iowa celebrating the birth of Jeebus, visit the Pacific Battleship Center's Facebook page. Carry on.

The USS Iowa as seen from the Pacific Battleship Center's parking lot.

Three of the USS Iowa's forward 16-inch guns are adorned in Christmas lights.

The guns located near the USS Iowa's stern are raised in firing position...even though they'll never fire 16-inch shells again.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012... Doomsday is a bust, but if there's one last thing that we should be freaked out with in terms of the Mayans, it's how uncanny their ability was to predict how hip-hop artists would look in the present day. That is all. (One of my friends posted this on Facebook last Friday, FYI.)

I can think of a couple of rappers who should be sacrificed to the Mayan gods. Just being facetious.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Long Beach State.

Go Beach! Just thought I'd share this interesting article regarding safety at my college alma mater, Cal State Long Beach, that was published last month. Nice to know that CSULB is near the top of the list in regards to on-campus security around the United States; all my school needs now is a friggin' football team.

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CSULB Ranked 7th Most Secure in Nation (November 30)

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) has been recognized as the seventh "most secure" university/college in the nation by Security Magazine in its 2012 "Security 500" rankings, which were released in the publication's November issue.

Only 22 universities and colleges from across the country were recognized in this year's rankings in the category of Education (University), and CSULB was the only four-year California institution to be recognized.

The top three ranking schools included the University of Pennsylvania, University of Florida and Drexel University. Meanwhile, CSULB ranked ahead the likes of Ohio State, University of South Carolina and Duke University. At No. 10, the Yosemite Community College District was the other California school ranked.

"That Security Magazine has once again recognized Cal State Long Beach as one of the nation's safest large university campuses points to how this campus has focused on the security of our students and other campus members as a top priority," said CSULB President F. King Alexander. "Students and their parents, as well as our faculty, staff and community visitors, can be assured that no measure that secures this campus has been overlooked. The commitment of our excellent University Police Department and the ongoing awareness of our entire campus community is obvious as we continue to be recognized for the safety of our university."

Security Magazine's rankings are broken down into "18 vertical markets" or business sectors, enabling similar organizations to compare programs. Among the metrics collected this year in producing the rankings were security spending per person (those the organization protects), the number of security officers/employees, and the facilities used by the security officers.

The purpose of the "Security 500," according to magazine's officials, is to create a reliable database to measure an organization compared to others and create a benchmarking program among security organizations. The results enable these groups to know where they stand as a basis of an on-going peer review process.

"The safety of our students, faculty and staff will continue to be of paramount importance and a priority for the Cal State Long Beach Police Department," said CSULB Police Chief Fernando Solorzano. "This institution of higher learning represents some of the brightest and academically talented students in our state, and we are proud to provide the highest levels of service and safety for our campus community."

Among the more recent enhancements that have added to the CSULB Police Department's ability to keep the campus safe include a camera system that gives the department the ability to monitor activities across the campus grounds and facilities and assists in its crime prevention efforts. The department also oversees an emergency communications system that can alert the entire campus community in the event of an emergency.

"Our police department will continue to provide a safe, secure and meaningful learning environment. We will accomplish this by partnering with our community, using advanced technologies and investing in our highly skilled personnel," Solorzano added. "We are proud that CSULB has received this recognition as being one of the safest universities in the nation, and we will strive to improve and build on our successes to provide the safe environment that we have come to expect on this campus."

Security Magazine is the premier security and safety resource for a wide variety of industries and environments.

Written by Rick Gloady - LongBeachcomber.com

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Me (with the purple lei) and my classmates after our commencement ceremony at CSULB in May of 2004.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Photo of the Day... Looks like Sasha and/or Malia needs to come to their dad's rescue. Or maybe Bo, the First Dog, does.

President Obama pretends to face the wrath of Spidey, on December 19, 2012.
Pete Souza / The White House

Monday, December 17, 2012

An artist's concept of the Ebb and Flow spacecraft, which comprised NASA's GRAIL mission, in lunar orbit.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MIT

Farewell, GRAIL...

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NASA's GRAIL Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team.

Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon's north pole. The formation-flying duo hit the lunar surface as planned at 2:28:51 p.m. PST (5:28:51 p.m. EST) and 2:29:21 p.m. PST (5:29:21 p.m. EST) at a speed of 3,760 mph (1.7 kilometers per second). The location of the Sally K. Ride Impact Site is on the southern face of an approximately 1.5-mile-tall (2.5-kilometer) mountain near a crater named Goldschmidt.

"Sally was all about getting the job done, whether it be in exploring space, inspiring the next generation, or helping make the GRAIL mission the resounding success it is today," said GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. "As we complete our lunar mission, we are proud we can honor Sally Ride's contributions by naming this corner of the moon after her."

The impact marked a successful end to the GRAIL mission, which was NASA's first planetary mission to carry cameras fully dedicated to education and public outreach. Ride, who died in July after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, led GRAIL's MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students) Program through her company, Sally Ride Science, in San Diego.

Along with its primary science instrument, each spacecraft carried a MoonKAM camera that took more than 115,000 total images of the lunar surface. Imaging targets were proposed by middle school students from across the country and the resulting images returned for them to study. The names of the spacecraft were selected by Ride and the mission team from student submissions in a nationwide contest.

"Sally Ride worked tirelessly throughout her life to remind all of us, especially girls, to keep questioning and learning," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. "Today her passion for making students part of NASA's science is honored by naming the impact site for her."

Fifty minutes prior to impact, the spacecraft fired their engines until the propellant was depleted. The maneuver was designed to determine precisely the amount of fuel remaining in the tanks. This will help NASA engineers validate computer models to improve predictions of fuel needs for future missions.

"Ebb fired its engines for 4 minutes 3 seconds, and Flow fired its for 5 minutes 7 seconds," said GRAIL project manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It was one final important set of data from a mission that was filled with great science and engineering data."

The mission team deduced that much of the material aboard each spacecraft was broken up in the energy released during the impacts. Most of what remained probably is buried in shallow craters. The craters' size may be determined when NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter returns images of the area in several weeks.

Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow had been orbiting the moon since Jan. 1, 2012. The probes intentionally were sent into the lunar surface because they did not have sufficient altitude or fuel to continue science operations. Their successful prime and extended science missions generated the highest-resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The map will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved.

"We will miss our lunar twins, but the scientists tell me it will take years to analyze all the great data they got, and that is why we came to the moon in the first place," Lehman said. "So long, Ebb and Flow, and we thank you." JPL manages the GRAIL mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. GRAIL is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Sally Ride... America's first female astronaut.
NASA

Friday, December 14, 2012

A night view of the Western Hemisphere of Earth as seen by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, taken around December 5, 2012.
NASA Earth Observatory and NOAA National Geophysical Data Center

Putting our world in perspective... A little over a week ago, these two amazing images were released online that showed the night side of Earth as seen on both sides of the globe. Beautiful photos... In the wake of today's tragic shootings in Newton, Connecticut, it seems so unfortunate that a planet that looks so serene from hundreds of miles up in space can be so violent and heartless down on the surface. My condolences to the families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School this morning.

A night view of the Eastern Hemisphere of Earth as seen by the Suomi NPP satellite, taken around December 5, 2012.
NASA Earth Observatory and NOAA National Geophysical Data Center

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An Atlas V rocket carrying the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-3) is launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on December 11, 2012.
United Launch Alliance

The X-37B lifts off once more... At 10:03 AM, Pacific Standard Time yesterday, an Atlas V rocket carrying the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a 9-month-plus journey in space. This is the third time since April of 2010 that the U.S. Air Force placed the OTV on a top secret mission in low-Earth orbit. In fact, this is the very same spacecraft (OTV-1) that completed a nearly 225-day flight above our planet two years ago. I would've posted an entry about this yesterday, but seeing as how today is 12/12/12 (even though the date isn't spelled out that way on this and all my other journal entries), just thought I'd wait 24 hours so I could blog on this somewhat meaningful day. That is all.

At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41, the payload fairing carrying OTV-3 is about to be mated with the Atlas V rocket inside the Vertical Integration Facility.
United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V rocket carrying OTV-3 rolls out to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on December 10, 2012.
United Launch Alliance

The Atlas V rocket carrying OTV-3 is launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on December 11, 2012.
United Launch Alliance

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A photo I took of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's new statue outside of STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, on December 7, 2012.

Lakers Update... Before I visited The Dark Knight Legend exhibit last Friday, I stopped by STAPLES Center [which is right across the street from Nokia Plaza, where the Batman exhibit is held (till this Friday, December 14)—for those of you who've never been to L.A. Live before] to check out the new Kareem Abdul-Jabbar statue that was recently unveiled outside of the arena. I wonder how long it will take for Kobe Bryant to get immortalized in bronze at STAPLES' Star Plaza (where the statues of Kareem, Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, Oscar De La Hoya and Wayne Gretzky are located)...despite the fact the Lakers (even though Pau Gasol and Steve Nash are currently sidelined due to injuries) are playing like absolute crap right now.

Do you notice the irony in this picture? Friggin' Clippers.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Several costumes from THE DARK KNIGHT Trilogy on display at L.A. Live, on December 7, 2012.

Photos of the Day... Just thought I'd share these pics that I took at a Batman exhibit in downtown Los Angeles earlier today. The exhibit not only featured costumes and props from The Dark Knight Trilogy, but also showcased Batmobiles from the seven current Batman films as well as the 1960s Batman TV show. To view additional pics, plus get info on where to go to visit this exhibit in person (before it concludes next Friday, December 14), go to my Film Notes section.

The Tumbler from BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT on display at L.A. Live, on December 7, 2012.

Posing with the Bane outfit worn by Tom Hardy in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, on December 7, 2012.

Posing with the Batmobile from Tim Burton's 1989 BATMAN film, on December 7, 2012.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012



Curiosity's Successor... Quit bangin' your head against the wall, Ashton Kutcher! I'm sure those mosquito nets are making their way to Africa...

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NASA Announces Robust Multi-Year Mars Program; New Rover to Close Out Decade of New Missions (Press Release - December 4)

WASHINGTON -- Building on the success of Curiosity's Red Planet landing, NASA has announced plans for a robust multi-year Mars program, including a new robotic science rover set to launch in 2020. This announcement affirms the agency's commitment to a bold exploration program that meets our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives.

"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."

The planned portfolio includes the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers; two NASA spacecraft and contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars; the 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere; the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars; and participation in ESA's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.

The plan to design and build a new Mars robotic science rover with a launch in 2020 comes only months after the agency announced InSight, which will launch in 2016, bringing a total of seven NASA missions operating or being planned to study and explore our Earth-like neighbor.

The 2020 mission will constitute another step toward being responsive to high-priority science goals and the president's challenge of sending humans to Mars orbit in the 2030s.

The future rover development and design will be based on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) architecture that successfully carried the Curiosity rover to the Martian surface this summer. This will ensure mission costs and risks are as low as possible, while still delivering a highly capable rover with a proven landing system. The mission will constitute a vital component of a broad portfolio of Mars exploration missions in development for the coming decade.

The mission will advance the science priorities of the National Research Council's 2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey and responds to the findings of the Mars Program Planning Group established earlier this year to assist NASA in restructuring its Mars Exploration Program.

"The challenge to restructure the Mars Exploration Program has turned from the seven minutes of terror for the Curiosity landing to the start of seven years of innovation," NASA's associate administrator for science, and astronaut John Grunsfeld said. "This mission concept fits within the current and projected Mars exploration budget, builds on the exciting discoveries of Curiosity, and takes advantage of a favorable launch opportunity."

The specific payload and science instruments for the 2020 mission will be openly competed, following the Science Mission Directorate's established processes for instrument selection. This process will begin with the establishment of a science definition team that will be tasked to outline the scientific objectives for the mission.

This mission fits within the five-year budget plan in the president's Fiscal Year 2013 budget request, and is contingent on future appropriations.

Plans also will include opportunities for infusing new capabilities developed through investments by NASA's Space Technology Program, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, and contributions from international partners.

Source: NASA.Gov

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A self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, taken with a camera on her robotic arm on October 31, 2012.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

An art concept of the Voyager 1 spacecraft.
NASA

Voyager Update... FYI, the "magnetic highway" sounds like something that would be featured in a movie like say, Tron. Or randomly brought up in a conversation by Sheldon Cooper on the hit CBS TV show The Big Bang Theory. Just sayin'.

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NASA Voyager 1 Encounters New Region in Deep Space (Press Release - December 3)

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a new region at the far reaches of our solar system that scientists feel is the final area the spacecraft has to cross before reaching interstellar space.

Scientists refer to this new region as a magnetic highway for charged particles because our sun's magnetic field lines are connected to interstellar magnetic field lines. This connection allows lower-energy charged particles that originate from inside our heliosphere -- or the bubble of charged particles the sun blows around itself -- to zoom out and allows higher-energy particles from outside to stream in. Before entering this region, the charged particles bounced around in all directions, as if trapped on local roads inside the heliosphere.

The Voyager team infers this region is still inside our solar bubble because the direction of the magnetic field lines has not changed. The direction of these magnetic field lines is predicted to change when Voyager breaks through to interstellar space. The new results were described at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on Monday.

"Although Voyager 1 still is inside the sun's environment, we now can taste what it's like on the outside because the particles are zipping in and out on this magnetic highway," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "We believe this is the last leg of our journey to interstellar space. Our best guess is it's likely just a few months to a couple years away. The new region isn't what we expected, but we've come to expect the unexpected from Voyager."

Since December 2004, when Voyager 1 crossed a point in space called the termination shock, the spacecraft has been exploring the heliosphere's outer layer, called the heliosheath. In this region, the stream of charged particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, abruptly slowed down from supersonic speeds and became turbulent. Voyager 1's environment was consistent for about five and a half years. The spacecraft then detected that the outward speed of the solar wind slowed to zero.

The intensity of the magnetic field also began to increase at that time.

Voyager data from two onboard instruments that measure charged particles showed the spacecraft first entered this magnetic highway region on July 28, 2012. The region ebbed away and flowed toward Voyager 1 several times. The spacecraft entered the region again Aug. 25 and the environment has been stable since.

"If we were judging by the charged particle data alone, I would have thought we were outside the heliosphere," said Stamatios Krimigis, principal investigator of the low-energy charged particle instrument, based at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. "But we need to look at what all the instruments are telling us and only time will tell whether our interpretations about this frontier are correct."

Spacecraft data revealed the magnetic field became stronger each time Voyager entered the highway region; however, the direction of the magnetic field lines did not change.

"We are in a magnetic region unlike any we've been in before -- about 10 times more intense than before the termination shock -- but the magnetic field data show no indication we're in interstellar space," said Leonard Burlaga, a Voyager magnetometer team member based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The magnetic field data turned out to be the key to pinpointing when we crossed the termination shock. And we expect these data will tell us when we first reach interstellar space."

Voyager 1 and 2 were launched 16 days apart in 1977. At least one of the spacecraft has visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 1 is the most distant human-made object, about 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) away from the sun. The signal from Voyager 1 takes approximately 17 hours to travel to Earth. Voyager 2, the longest continuously operated spacecraft, is about 9 billion miles (15 billion kilometers) away from our sun. While Voyager 2 has seen changes similar to those seen by Voyager 1, the changes are much more gradual. Scientists do not think Voyager 2 has reached the magnetic highway.

The Voyager spacecraft were built and continue to be operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The Voyager missions are a part of NASA's Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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An art concept showing the Voyager 1 spacecraft flying through a region of space known as the 'magnetic highway.'
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Sunday, December 02, 2012

David Beckham hoists up the MLS Cup trophy after the Los Angeles Galaxy defeats the Houston Dynamo, 3-1, at The Home Depot Center...on December 1, 2012.
ISI Photos / Don Feria

Props to the Los Angeles Galaxy for winning a second straight Major League Soccer championship yesterday! With David Beckham ending his MLS career on a grand note, one wonders if his buddy Kobe Bryant will follow suit by winning one more NBA title before his playing days with the Lakers are over...perhaps as early as two years from now. Hmm. To post something uplifting again, at least the Galaxy joins the Kings in handing L.A. another professional sports championship this year. Though it remains to be seen (to sound pessimistic again) when Jonathan Quick and company will be able to begin defending their Stanley Cup title. Friggin' National Hockey League lockout. (The NBA is more popular worldwide than the MLS and NHL, FYI. That's why I didn't elaborate on what the NBA stands for.)

I guess the Kings will get to spend extra time with the Cup and pose it in pictures with new L.A. icons such as space shuttle Endeavour (below). And the USS Iowa...if the Kings ever make the effort to bring their trophy to the San Pedro naval exhibit.

The Stanley Cup trophy is displayed near space shuttle Endeavour inside the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center...on November 30, 2012.
Newton Yee - Los Angeles Kings / California Science Center