MAIN / INDEX / GAMES / JOURNAL ENTRIES & UPDATES / ASK PARMAN! / VIDEOS / FRIENDS' GALLERY / GALLERY 2 / FAVORITES / FICTION / DRAWINGS / LINKS / AUTOGRAPHS / FILM NOTES / NAME IN SPACE / HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT BLOG / CREDITS


Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Final Post of 2016...

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone! Just thought I'd mark the final day of this equally memorable and tumultuous year by sharing this screengrab that I found on Facebook two days ago. The person who posted this is either a seasoned troll or a flat-out moron. If it's the latter, then that would be the saddest thing in the world. Of course, Donald Trump is now president (and this person probably voted for him), so expect more ignorant crap like this to pop up on the Web as we ring in the New Year. And that dreaded event (Inauguration Day...on January 20) gets closer. Politically, 2017 looks to be as much a shit-fest as 2016 was... Bummer.

Anyways, have fun and stay safe tonight, folks! Carry on.

The person who posted this on Facebook is either a troll or a Trump supporter. Or both.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

A Christmas light exhibition at the City Blessing Church in Walnut, CA.

Just thought I'd celebrate the holiday by posting these photos that I took at an Indonesian church located only a few blocks from my house. What better to mark the birth of Jeebus than by having a cool light exhibition that racks up the electricity bill during the winter? Happy Xmas!

The Christmas light exhibition at the City Blessing Church in Walnut, CA.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Shaq To Be Immortalized By The Lakers Next Spring...

A composite image depicting Shaquille O'Neal's statue outside of STAPLES Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Lakers.com

Shaquille O'Neal Statue to be Unveiled At STAPLES Center (Press Release - December 20)

A bronze statue of legendary Los Angeles Lakers and NBA Hall of Fame player Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal will be unveiled in Star Plaza at STAPLES Center prior to the Lakers game on March 24, 2017.

As a tribute to the larger-than-life Laker great, whose career with the organization produced three NBA Championships, the Los Angeles Lakers, STAPLES Center, and AEG organizations commissioned the creation of a 1,200 pound, nine-foot bronze statue of the NBA Hall of Fame member. O’Neal’s statue will be connected to STAPLES Center, suspended 10 feet above the ground, at Star Plaza.

O’Neal was a member of the Lakers from 1996-2004, leading the team to three consecutive NBA Championships from 2000-2002, winning the NBA Finals MVP award each time. A seven-time All-Star for the Purple & Gold, O’Neal was also named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2000.

The statue, created by renowned sculptors/artists Julie Rotblatt Amrany and Omri Amrany, will join other iconic sculptures of celebrated sports superstars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wayne Gretzky, Chick Hearn, Oscar De La Hoya, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Jerry West. Abdul-Jabbar’s statue (dedicated November 16, 2012), Johnson’s statue (dedicated February 11, 2004), Hearn’s statue (dedicated April 20, 2010), and West’s statue (dedicated February 17, 2011) were also created by Julie Rotblatt Amrany and Omri Amrany.

The ceremony, which is open free to the public, will be highlighted by speeches from Shaquille O’Neal, his teammates, colleagues and friends from his unprecedented career, and will conclude with a spectacular unveiling of the statue.

WHEN

Friday, March 24, 2017
5:00pm - Ceremony Begins
6:05pm (approximately) - Unveiling

WHERE

The ceremony will take place at the permanent location of the statue: Star Plaza at STAPLES Center (Just west of Figueroa Street & Chick Hearn Court intersection)

Source: Lakers.com

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Photo of the Day: A Snowy Day in Hawaii...

In honor of today being the first day of winter, just thought I'd share this pic that one of my brothers texted me during his trip to Hawaii last night. He's currently chillin' on the Big Island, and was able to venture up to the summit of Mauna Kea (despite the threat of road closures due to heavy snow on both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa near the city of Hilo) even though only the visitor center was open. All I can say is...I'm jealous! I'd plan my own trip to Hawaii (the Big Island, that is) to see the Keck Observatory in person, if not for the fact that I'm saving my money to return to Kennedy Space Center in 2018. It's during the summer of that year that I'll hopefully see NASA's Space Launch System rocket on the pad (assuming a certain billionaire-turned-U.S. president doesn't cancel it)—in preparation for its maiden flight, Exploration Mission 1. Happy Winter Solstice!

A photo that my brother took at Mauna Kea Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii...on December 20, 2016.
V. T. Par

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

ERG Update #2: Japan's "Arase" Spacecraft Is Now Headed to the Van Allen Radiation Belts!

An Epsilon-2 rocket carrying Japan's ERG satellite (now known as 'Arase') launches from Uchinoura Space Center at the southern tip of the country on December 20, 2016.
JAXA

Onboard the Arase spacecraft are two aluminum plates bearing the names of people who submitted their monikers online earlier this year...including Yours Truly! Presumably.

****

Success of Epsilon-2 Launch with ERG Aboard (Press Release)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully launched the second Epsilon Launch Vehicle with Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) aboard at 8:00 p.m. on December 20, 2016 (JST) from the Uchinoura Space Center. The launch vehicle flew as planned, and at approximately 13 minutes and 27 seconds after liftoff, the separation of ERG was confirmed.

The weather at the time of the launch was fine, the wind speed was 0.7 meters/second, from the SSE, and the temperature was 17.0 degrees Celsius.

Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

****

The Arase spacecraft on display to the media several months before its launch on December 20, 2016.
JAXA

An illustration showing the location of the two aluminum plates bearing the names of people (including Yours Truly) aboard the Arase spacecraft.
JAXA

The 'passport' that I received for submitting my name to fly aboard the Arase spacecraft.
JAXA

Monday, December 19, 2016

Europe Will Move Forward With Building The ExoMars Rover Despite Schiaparelli's Setback...

An artist's concept of the European Space Agency's ExoMars 2020 rover.
ESA

ExoMars 2020 Thales Alenia Space Signs Contract with ESA to Complete Activities for the 2020 Mission to Search for Life on the Red Planet (Press Release - December 16)

Rome, December 16, 2016 – Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales and Leonardo-Finmeccanica, announced today that it has signed the final contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to complete activities concerning the ExoMars 2020 mission.

The signing ceremony took place in Ottagona hall at the Roman Museum of the Baths of Diocletian during the opening of an exhibition on Mars organized by the Italian space agency ASI in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural and Artistic Heritage. Attending the ceremony were David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration, Roberto Battiston, President of ASI, Mauro Moretti, CEO and General Manager of Leonardo-Finmeccanica SpA, and Donato Amoroso, CEO of Thales Alenia Space Italy and Deputy CEO of Thales Alenia Space.

Following recent decision by the ESA Ministerial Council to approve additional funding needed to pursue ExoMars programme, this last tranche of the industrial contract awarded to Thales Alenia Space, prime contractor, marks a key step forward to carry out final work for the ExoMars 2020 mission. ExoMars is a joint program between ESA, the Russian space agency Roscosmos and ASI, with NASA also playing a major role.

As in 2016, the second ExoMars mission will also be led by ESA and Roscosmos, who will be taking a more extensive role than on the previous mission. The ExoMars 2020 spacecraft comprises a Carrier Module (CM), a Descent Module (DM) and a 300-kg rover, carried by a Landing Platform (LP) and capable of exploring the planet’s surface for 218 Martian days, or about 230 Earth days.

Thales Alenia Space Italy is responsible for the entire design phase of both ExoMars missions and is leading an European industrial consortium. For the 2016 mission, it produced the EDM Schiaparelli entry and descent module, plus the Trace Gas Orbiter, now in orbit around Mars and already taking scientific readings of the Martian atmosphere. On the 2020 mission, the company will take charge of the design of the entire system, final inspection, the development of the CM navigation and guidance system and the DM entry, descent and landing system, the rover, including the creation of the Analytical Laboratory Drawer (ALD) as well as supplying basic parts of the DM, including the radar altimeter. Thales Alenia Space will be strongly supported in particular by OHB in charge to develop the CM as well as several instruments of the rover, itself provided by Airbus Defense and Space UK.

“ExoMars is a cornerstone of ESA’s exploration programme. Using its miniaturised life search laboratory and advanced robotic technology, the ExoMars 2020 mission will explore the red planet in search of new evidence to answer questions that have long fascinated humanity. Following the renewed support demonstrated by ESA member states in the ESA council at Ministerial Level on 1 and 2 December, this new contract allows us to complete the flight models of the European elements and keeps us on track for a July 2020 launch,” says David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration.

“The steadfastness and tenacity of both the European and Italian space agencies has reassured all program partners, and enabled us to continue our production work so we can go ahead with this new and very complex mission,” said Donato Amoroso, Deputy CEO of Thales Alenia Space.

The 2020 mission is now at an advanced development stage, leading up to the system Critical Design Review (CDR) by the end of 2017. Parts of the DM will be delivered in early 2018, followed by the CM and the Rover, so that the spacecraft can be integrated for a launch currently scheduled for the window between July 25 and August 13, 2020.

For the 2020 mission, ALTEC – Aerospace Logistics Technology Engineering, a Thales Alenia Space Italy and ASI company – will also be responsible for the design, development and maintenance of the ROCC (Rover Operation Control Center) and for controlling the rover on the Martian surface.

The chronology of the 2020 mission can be summarized as follows: entry into the Martian atmosphere and the subsequent descent and landing of the Descent Module and its Rover, weighing approximately 2 metric tons, drawing on the experience gained with the EDM during the 2016 mission; the arrival of a landing platform and egress of the rover; exploration by the rover of a vast area of Mars, with geological/scientific sampling of both the planet’s surface and subsoil, by taking and analyzing soil samples to a depth of 2 meters; search for present or past forms of life in the soil samples that will be processed on the spacecraft; geochemical and atmospheric studies of the surface and underground environments.

Source: Thales Alenia Space

Sunday, December 18, 2016

ERG Update: T-Minus 2 Days Till Lift-Off...

Japan's Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) satellite is scheduled to launch at 8:00 PM on December 20, 2016 (Japan Standard Time).
JAXA

Time of Launch of Epsilon-2 with ERG on Board (Press Release)

JAXA, National Research and Development Agency (or Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) announces the time of launch of the second Epsilon Launch Vehicle with Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) aboard as follows:

Launch Date: December 20, 2016 (JST)

Time of Launch: 8:00:00 p.m. (Japan Standard Time, JST)

Launch Window: 8:00 p.m. through 9:00 p.m. (JST)

Source: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

****

Japan's ERG satellite is scheduled to launch at 8:00 PM on December 20, 2016 (JST).
JAXA

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dawn Update: Ice on a Dwarf Planet...

Images of asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres...with hydrogen data (shaded in red) taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft overlaid on both celestial bodies.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA / PSI

Where is the Ice on Ceres? New NASA Dawn Findings (News Release)

At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy. Images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft have revealed a dark, heavily cratered world whose brightest area is made of highly reflective salts -- not ice. But newly published studies from Dawn scientists show two distinct lines of evidence for ice at or near the surface of the dwarf planet. Researchers are presenting these findings at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

"These studies support the idea that ice separated from rock early in Ceres' history, forming an ice-rich crustal layer, and that ice has remained near the surface over the history of the solar system," said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Water ice on other planetary bodies is important because it is an essential ingredient for life as we know it. "By finding bodies that were water-rich in the distant past, we can discover clues as to where life may have existed in the early solar system," Raymond said.

Ice is everywhere on Ceres

Ceres' uppermost surface is rich in hydrogen, with higher concentrations at mid-to-high latitudes -- consistent with broad expanses of water ice, according to a new study in the journal Science.

"On Ceres, ice is not just localized to a few craters. It's everywhere, and nearer to the surface with higher latitudes," said Thomas Prettyman, principal investigator of Dawn's gamma ray and neutron detector (GRaND), based at the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.

Researchers used the GRaND instrument to determine the concentrations of hydrogen, iron and potassium in the uppermost yard (or meter) of Ceres. GRaND measures the number and energy of gamma rays and neutrons emanating from Ceres. Neutrons are produced as galactic cosmic rays interact with Ceres' surface. Some neutrons get absorbed into the surface, while others escape. Since hydrogen slows down neutrons, it is associated with fewer neutrons escaping. On Ceres, hydrogen is likely to be in the form of frozen water (which is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom).

Rather than a solid ice layer, there is likely to be a porous mixture of rocky materials in which ice fills the pores, researchers found. The GRaND data show that the mixture is about 10 percent ice by weight.

"These results confirm predictions made nearly three decades ago that ice can survive for billions of years just beneath the surface of Ceres," Prettyman said. "The evidence strengthens the case for the presence of near-surface water ice on other main belt asteroids."

Clues to Ceres' inner life

Concentrations of iron, hydrogen, potassium and carbon provide further evidence that the top layer of material covering Ceres was altered by liquid water in Ceres' interior. Scientists theorize that the decay of radioactive elements within Ceres produced heat that drove this alteration process, separating Ceres into a rocky interior and icy outer shell. Separation of ice and rock would lead to differences in the chemical composition of Ceres' surface and interior.

Because meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites were also altered by water, scientists are interested in comparing them to Ceres. These meteorites probably come from bodies that were smaller than Ceres, but had limited fluid flow, so they may provide clues to Ceres' interior history. The Science study shows that Ceres has more hydrogen and less iron than these meteorites, perhaps because denser particles sunk while brine-rich materials rose to the surface. Alternatively, Ceres or its components may have formed in a different region of the solar system than the meteorites.

Ice in permanent shadow

A second study, led by Thomas Platz of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen, Germany, and published in the journal Nature Astronomy, focused on craters that are persistently in shadow in Ceres' northern hemisphere. Scientists closely examined hundreds of cold, dark craters called "cold traps" -- at less than minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit (110 Kelvin), they are so chilly that very little of the ice turns into vapor in the course of a billion years. Researchers found deposits of bright material in 10 of these craters. In one crater that is partially sunlit, Dawn's infrared mapping spectrometer confirmed the presence of ice.

This suggests that water ice can be stored in cold, dark craters on Ceres. Ice in cold traps has previously been spotted on Mercury and, in a few cases, on the moon. All of these bodies have small tilts with respect to their axes of rotation, so their poles are extremely cold and peppered with persistently shadowed craters. Scientists believe impacting bodies may have delivered ice to Mercury and the moon. The origins of Ceres' ice in cold traps are more mysterious, however.

"We are interested in how this ice got there and how it managed to last so long," said co-author Norbert Schorghofer of the University of Hawaii. "It could have come from Ceres' ice-rich crust, or it could have been delivered from space."

Regardless of its origin, water molecules on Ceres have the ability to hop around from warmer regions to the poles. A tenuous water atmosphere has been suggested by previous research, including the Herschel Space Observatory's observations of water vapor at Ceres in 2012-13. Water molecules that leave the surface would fall back onto Ceres, and could land in cold traps. With every hop there is a chance the molecule is lost to space, but a fraction of them ends up in the cold traps, where they accumulate.

'Bright spots' get names

Ceres' brightest area, in the northern-hemisphere crater Occator, does not shine because of ice, but rather because of highly reflective salts. A new video (shown at the bottom of this entry) produced by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin simulates the experience of flying around this crater and exploring its topography. Occator's central bright region, which includes a dome with fractures, has recently been named Cerealia Facula. The crater's cluster of less reflective spots to the east of center is called Vinalia Faculae.

"The unique interior of Occator may have formed in a combination of processes that we are currently investigating," said Ralf Jaumann, planetary scientist and Dawn co-investigator at DLR. "The impact that created the crater could have triggered the upwelling of liquid from inside Ceres, which left behind the salts."

Dawn's next steps

Dawn began its extended mission phase in July, and is currently flying in an elliptical orbit more than 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) from Ceres. During the primary mission, Dawn orbited and accomplished all of its original objectives at Ceres and protoplanet Vesta, which the spacecraft visited from July 2011 to September 2012.

Dawn's mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

****

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Curiosity Update: An Awesome New Discovery by the Mars Rover...

An animated GIF depicting the same location at Gale Crater at two points in time: now and billions of years ago.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Mars Rock-Ingredient Stew Seen as Plus for Habitability (News Release)

NASA's Curiosity rover is climbing a layered Martian mountain and finding evidence of how ancient lakes and wet underground environments changed, billions of years ago, creating more diverse chemical environments that affected their favorability for microbial life.

Hematite, clay minerals and boron are among the ingredients found to be more abundant in layers farther uphill, compared with lower, older layers examined earlier in the mission. Scientists are discussing what these and other variations tell about conditions under which sediments were initially deposited, and about how groundwater moving later through the accumulated layers altered and transported ingredients.

Effects of this groundwater movement are most evident in mineral veins. The veins formed where cracks in the layers were filled with chemicals that had been dissolved in groundwater. The water with its dissolved contents also interacted with the rock matrix surrounding the veins, altering the chemistry both in the rock and in the water.

"There is so much variability in the composition at different elevations, we've hit a jackpot," said John Grotzinger, of Caltech in Pasadena, California. He and other members of Curiosity's science team presented an update about the mission Tuesday, Dec. 13, in San Francisco during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. As the rover examines higher, younger layers, researchers are impressed by the complexity of the lake environments when clay-bearing sediments were being deposited, and also the complexity of the groundwater interactions after the sediments were buried.

'Chemical Reactor'

"A sedimentary basin such as this is a chemical reactor," Grotzinger said. "Elements get rearranged. New minerals form and old ones dissolve. Electrons get redistributed. On Earth, these reactions support life."

Whether Martian life has ever existed is still unknown. No compelling evidence for it has been found. When Curiosity landed in Mars' Gale Crater in 2012, the mission's main goal was to determine whether the area ever offered an environment favorable for microbes.

The crater's main appeal for scientists is geological layering exposed in the lower portion of its central mound, Mount Sharp. These exposures offer access to rocks that hold a record of environmental conditions from many stages of early Martian history, each layer younger than the one beneath it. The mission succeeded in its first year, finding that an ancient Martian lake environment had all the key chemical ingredients needed for life, plus chemical energy available for life. Now, the rover is climbing lower on Mount Sharp to investigate how ancient environmental conditions changed over time.

"We are well into the layers that were the main reason Gale Crater was chosen as the landing site," said Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist Joy Crisp of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California. "We are now using a strategy of drilling samples at regular intervals as the rover climbs Mount Sharp. Earlier we chose drilling targets based on each site's special characteristics. Now that we're driving continuously through the thick basal layer of the mountain, a series of drill holes will build a complete picture."

Four recent drilling sites, from "Oudam" this past June through "Sebina" in October, are each spaced about 80 feet (about 25 meters) apart in elevation. This uphill pattern allows the science team to sample progressively younger layers that reveal Mount Sharp's ancient environmental history.

Changing Environments

One clue to changing ancient conditions is the mineral hematite. It has replaced less-oxidized magnetite as the dominant iron oxide in rocks Curiosity has drilled recently, compared with the site where Curiosity first found lakebed sediments. "Both samples are mudstone deposited at the bottom of a lake, but the hematite may suggest warmer conditions, or more interaction between the atmosphere and the sediments," said Thomas Bristow of NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. He helps operate the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) laboratory instrument inside the rover, which identifies minerals in collected samples.

Chemical reactivity occurs on a gradient of chemical ingredients' strength at donating or receiving electrons. Transfer of electrons due to this gradient can provide energy for life. An increase in hematite relative to magnetite indicates an environmental change in the direction of tugging electrons more strongly, causing a greater degree of oxidation in iron.

Another ingredient increasing in recent measurements by Curiosity is the element boron, which the rover's laser-shooting Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument has been detecting within mineral veins that are mainly calcium sulfate. "No prior mission has detected boron on Mars," said Patrick Gasda of the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico. "We're seeing a sharp increase in boron in vein targets inspected in the past several months." The instrument is quite sensitive; even at the increased level, boron makes up only about one-tenth of one percent of the rock composition.

'Dynamic System'

Boron is famously associated with arid sites where much water has evaporated away -- think of the borax that mule teams once hauled from Death Valley. However, environmental implications of the minor amount of boron found by Curiosity are less straightforward than for the increase in hematite.

Scientists are considering at least two possibilities for the source of boron that groundwater left in the veins. Perhaps evaporation of a lake formed a boron-containing deposit in an overlying layer, not yet reached by Curiosity, then water later re-dissolved the boron and carried it down through a fracture network into older layers, where it accumulated along with fracture-filling vein minerals. Or perhaps changes in the chemistry of clay-bearing deposits, such as evidenced by the increased hematite, affected how groundwater picked up and dropped off boron within the local sediments.

"Variations in these minerals and elements indicate a dynamic system," Grotzinger said. "They interact with groundwater as well as surface water. The water influences the chemistry of the clays, but the composition of the water also changes. We are seeing chemical complexity indicating a long, interactive history with the water. The more complicated the chemistry is, the better it is for habitability. The boron, hematite and clay minerals underline the mobility of elements and electrons, and that is good for life."

Curiosity is part of NASA's ongoing Mars research and preparation for a human mission to Mars in the 2030s. Caltech manages JPL, and JPL manages the Curiosity mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Many Benefits of America's Space Program...

NASA technology made devices such as smartphones possible.
NASA / JPL

NASA Technology is all Around You (News Release)

Next time you share an amazing GoPro video with a friend, consider that NASA made that technology possible.

The image sensors that would later be used in GoPros -- and in all modern digital cameras, including those in cell phones -- were first developed in the early 1990s at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Those rudimentary sensor arrays used less power and were easier to mass produce than the standard methods of the time, helping to kickstart an entire industry.

Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor technology, which grew out of NASA's efforts during that time to create "faster, better, cheaper" spacecraft, is just one of many tech transfer examples in the 2017 issue of Spinoff. This annual publication highlights how space technology has been adopted by commercial industries, leading to benefits for people on Earth.

This year's Spinoff includes several unique success stories from JPL and other NASA centers.

Digital imaging made wingsuit videos possible

In the 1980s, spacecraft imaging was done using charge coupled device (CCD) technology, which was integral to founding the digital camera industry. CCD acts as a kind of "bucket brigade," passing along a light-generated charge from pixel to pixel in a microchip's array. When the charge reaches the end of the array, it gets amplified and recorded.

A JPL engineer named Eric Fossum thought there was a better way. CMOS technology, which had changed microprocessors, allowed each pixel to also serve as a charge amplifier, using less energy and making each pixel more sensitive.

Major companies like Kodak and AT&T Bell Labs eventually licensed the technology. Fossum, along with several JPL colleagues, founded a company called Photobit to develop it further. By the end of the decade, CMOS sensors had become the standard in the digital camera industry.

GoPro would later leverage the unique, low-power capabilities of CMOS to make cameras even smaller. That allowed video to be shot from the front of surfboards, the tops of helmets, and just about any place else you can imagine.

"It was a great example of a truly disruptive technology," said Sandor Barna, now vice president of core technologies at GoPro and a former employee at Photobit.

Making dental X-rays safer and cheaper

CMOS imaging was also incorporated into dental X-rays by David Schick of Schick Technologies in Long Island City, New York. The high sensitivity of CMOS sensors meant lower doses of radiation were required per X-ray. There was also no need to develop film, making turnaround quicker and eliminating the need to handle the toxic chemicals used in film development.

The fact that CMOS sensor chips could be made smaller led to the development of X-ray sensors that could fit directly inside the patient's mouth.

Increasing crop yield with self-driving tractors

Farmers have been using self-driving tractors for more than a decade, largely due to a partnership between JPL and John Deere. Combining highly accurate, real-time GPS data with sensors on these tractors has led to "precision agriculture" -- using location data to determine how much of a harvest is coming from each part of a field. The result is lower costs to farmers and increased crop yields for each harvest.

Uncorrected GPS can be off by up to 30 feet due to data errors and other factors. By combining satellite and sensor data (which tracks things like soil moisture), accuracy increased to within four inches.

Though John Deere now operates its own precision guidance system, its early partnership with JPL helped the industry eliminate wasted seed, fertilizer and pesticide, while decreasing the amount of time it takes to harvest a field.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Super Force...

A former astronaut-turned-futuristic vigilante fires lasers at hapless criminals in SUPER FORCE.

In a tradition that started six years ago today, here's another Blog entry devoted to a TV show that I enjoyed watching when I was a wee middle schooler. It was a futuristic cop series called Super Force...which aired on KTLA (Channel 5 here in Los Angeles) and lasted only two seasons, from 1990 to 1992. Super Force is about a former NASA astronaut (Zachary Stone, played by Ken Olandt) who—after returning from a trip to Mars—becomes a police officer when he finds out that his brother is (supposedly) murdered. This man enlists the help of a scientist (F.X. Spinner, portrayed by Larry B. Scott) who develops an advanced armored suit that Stone wears as he finds the people who he thought killed his sibling (who I recall revealed himself to still be alive in the Season One finale...and having his own Super Force suit to boot). Not only does Stone wear armor that can create its own force field and shoot lasers from a Boba Fett-type headpiece that lowers into place over his Master Chief-type helmet's visor, but he also drives a badass motorcycle while doing so.



It's too bad that Super Force didn't last long on television. I remember drawing the suit and motorcycle so many times during its first season (when I was in 5th grade). I've been browsing online, but unfortunately, this show isn't officially on DVD. I found one webpage that sells a DVD (which a couple of other fans apparently bought) with the series burned on it, but I don't know if I should dish out cash for this disc and hope that the video quality will actually be decent. The seller is currently selling it for $24 (with shipping included), so we'll see. I've squandered my money on worse things...

So to sum things up: Super Force is awesome! Don't be surprised to see an artwork that I drew of this cool Halo/Star Wars-y vigilante on this Blog in the near future. Happy First Day of December!

Ken Olandt played Zachary Stone, a former astronaut-turned-futuristic vigilante in SUPER FORCE.

A promo pic of SUPER FORCE and his awesome motorcycle.

The awesome HALO/STAR WARS-y helmet of SUPER FORCE.

The prototype armor initially worn by Zachary Stone on SUPER FORCE.

The final armor worn by Zachary Stone on SUPER FORCE.