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Friday, November 10, 2017

Norway Gets Its First Set of Joint Strike Fighters...

One of the first three Norwegian F-35 fighter jets to be stationed at the country's Ørland Air Base lands on November 3, 2017.
Torbjørn Kjosvold / Norwegian Armed Forces

The F-35 Aircraft Marks the Start of a New Era for the Norwegian Armed Forces (Press Release)

"The F-35 remains crucial to the continued modernization of our Armed Forces and our ability to preserve Norwegian and allied security and interests." The Government marked the procurement with a ceremony at Ørland Air Base November 10th. "Today, we are marking an important milestone in the development of Norway’s defence capabilities: The arrival in Norway of the first F-35 Lightning II jets," says Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

"We mark the start of a new era for the Norwegian Armed Forces. The new combat aircraft will be a key factor in deterring any attack on Norway, as well as ensuring that we meet our obligations to the NATO alliance. The F-35 remains crucial to the continued modernization of our Armed Forces and our ability to preserve Norwegian and allied security and interests," says Minister of Defence Frank Bakke-Jensen.

The F-35 is a 5th generation multi-role combat aircraft. It is a key procurement that ensures stronger and more relevant Norwegian Armed Forces in the future. The F-35 provides the Norwegian Armed Forces with a significantly strengthened strategic capability, in terms of sensors, weapons and survivability. This helps ensure that Norway is able to present any future opponent with a credible threshold against military aggression or coercion.

"We live in a more and more uncertain world. NATO is undertaking the biggest strengthening of our collective defences in decades. The Norwegian F-35 aircraft are an important contribution to this modernization and make the world’s strongest Alliance even stronger," says NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"The F-35 is a lot more than simply an F-16 replacement. It adds a wide range of capabilities to our Armed Forces that Norway have never had before. The F-35 is not just a new fighter. It is a completely new weapons system.

"Norway’s participation in this programme enhances our ability to cooperate with other NATO countries, and at the same time gives us additional capabilities that we could never have acquired on our own. This illustrates the value of the Alliance we are a part of. It also shows that we are shouldering our share of the responsibility for ensuring that NATO has modern and effective capabilities," says Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Source: Norwegian Ministry of Defence

Monday, November 06, 2017

New Horizons Update: Help Give Its 2019 Kuiper Belt Target a Nickname! (I Prefer "Mjölnir" or "Camalor"...)

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

Help Nickname New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target (News Release)

NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt is looking for your ideas on what to informally name its next flyby destination, a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) past Pluto.

On New Year’s Day 2019, the New Horizons spacecraft will fly past a small, frozen world in the Kuiper Belt, at the outer edge of our solar system. The target Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) currently goes by the official designation "(486958) 2014 MU69." NASA and the New Horizons team are asking the public for help in giving “MU69” a nickname to use for this exploration target.

“New Horizons made history two years ago with the first close-up look at Pluto, and is now on course for the farthest planetary encounter in the history of spaceflight,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We’re pleased to bring the public along on this exciting mission of discovery.”

After the flyby, NASA and the New Horizons project plan to choose a formal name to submit to the International Astronomical Union, based in part on whether MU69 is found to be a single body, a binary pair, or perhaps a system of multiple objects. The chosen nickname will be used in the interim.

“New Horizons has always been about pure exploration, shedding light on new worlds like we’ve never seen before,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Our close encounter with MU69 adds another chapter to this mission’s remarkable story. We’re excited for the public to help us pick a nickname for our target that captures the excitement of the flyby and awe and inspiration of exploring this new and record-distant body in space.”

The naming campaign is hosted by the SETI Institute of Mountain View, California, and led by Mark Showalter, an institute fellow and member of the New Horizons science team. The website includes names currently under consideration; site visitors can vote for their favorites or nominate names they think should be added to the ballot. “The campaign is open to everyone,” Showalter said. “We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the perfect, inspiring name for MU69.”

The campaign will close at 3 p.m. EST/noon PST on Dec. 1. NASA and the New Horizons team will review the top vote-getters and announce their selection in early January.

Telescopic observations of MU69, which is more than 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth, hint at the Kuiper Belt Object being either a binary orbiting pair or a contact (stuck together) pair of nearly like-sized bodies – meaning the team might actually need two or more temporary tags for its target.

“Many Kuiper Belt Objects have had informal names at first, before a formal name was proposed. After the flyby, once we know a lot more about this intriguing world, we and NASA will work with the International Astronomical Union to assign a formal name to MU69,” Showalter said. “Until then, we’re excited to bring people into the mission and share in what will be an amazing flyby on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019!”

To submit your suggested names and to vote for your favorites, go to:

http://frontierworlds.seti.org

Source: NASA.Gov

Friday, November 03, 2017

SOLAR PROBE PLUS Update: The Spacecraft Continues Marching on Towards Its Summer 2018 Launch to the Sun...

Engineers watch as NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft undergoes vibration testing inside a clean room at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Ed Whitman

Parker Solar Probe Completes Launch Simulation Vibration Testing (News Release)

To ensure that NASA's Parker Solar Probe will be able to withstand the physical stresses of launch, engineers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory – where the probe was designed and is being integrated and tested – used a special device called a shaker table to simulate the forces of being hurled into space. The spacecraft successfully passed vibration testing, or "vibe," as the engineers call it, in late October.

"Our vibration testing uses our 40,000-pound force shaker to simulate many of the dynamic events that occur during launch and powered flight," said APL's Dave Persons, Parker Solar Probe lead structural engineer. "By safely simulating that process here in the clean room, we're able to fully monitor the spacecraft and make sure it's cleared for flight. During the test, we actively monitored over 300 channels of data."

During and after launch aboard a Delta IV Heavy—the world's largest launch vehicle—from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in summer 2018, Parker Solar Probe will undergo immense shaking and vibration. These Earth-bound tests are designed to make sure all of the systems and instruments on the spacecraft are up to those stresses.

"The predicted responses for major loading events – derived from studying and analyzing how payloads like spacecraft that are attached to the launch vehicle behave – establishes just how much force and vibration that Parker Solar Probe will be subjected to," said Shelly Conkey of APL, Parker Solar Probe structural analyst. "We load that information into our simulation, and the shaker table subjects the probe to that force and vibration. This testing lets us know that the probe is adequately designed to survive launch, and is ready to move on to further environmental testing, which we'll continue at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center."

The Parker Solar Probe spacecraft will explore the Sun's outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars. The resulting data will also improve forecasts of major eruptions on the Sun and subsequent space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space. The mission is named for Eugene N. Parker, whose profound insights into solar physics and processes have guided the discipline.

Source: Parker Solar Probe Website

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An artist's concept of NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the Sun.
JHU / APL

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Better Luck Next Year, Dodgers...

The Houston Astros celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, in Game 7 of the World Series...on November 1, 2017.
Matt Slocum / Associated Press

A note to the Los Angeles Doyers: If you need motivation to return to the Fall Classic next year, look no further than to the 2015 Kansas City Royals. The Royals lost to the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series, only to return the following year and defeat the New York Mets in five games. But if the Dodgers do make it back to the championship round in late 2018, here's a bit of advice: DO NOT start a World Series game with Yu Darvish at the pitching mound (assuming that he'll still be part of the team next April). Even if he wasn't bothered by the racist gesture of the Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel in Game 3 (which he clearly was), Darvish would've still faltered like he did in the first few innings of Game 7 tonight. Asians don't generally do well in high-pressure situations (otherwise, I would be sleeping right now before I wake up for that 9-to-5 fast-paced corporate office job tomorrow, as opposed to being a freelance blogger and photographer who took the week off from my freelance background acting job due to medical reasons—and hoping that there would've been a Dodgers parade to attend in downtown L.A. this Friday), particularly in American professional sports. It didn't help that the Dodgers started an Asian during the most important game of the American pastime!

Anyways, congrats to the Astros. Like the New Orleans Saints—who won the Super Bowl almost five years after their city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005—Justin Verlander and Co. had the city of Houston rally behind them two months after it was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. What a great way to lift up the spirits of those who went through this devastating natural disaster. And speaking of Verlander, not only is he now a World Series champ, but he's set to marry supermodel Kate Upton in Italy this weekend. I despise him more than Gurriel... I kid. I despise him as much as I do that Cuban (insert any insult here). Carry on.

Supermodel Kate Upton and her fiancé/Astros pitcher Justin Verlander share a moment after Houston won the World Series at Dodgers Stadium...on November 1, 2017.
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images, 2017 Getty Images