Saturday, July 06, 2019

The Brow Has Officially Joined the Lake Show! (PS: Screw You, Kawhi...)

Anthony Davis officially became a Los Angeles Laker on July 6, 2019.

Lakers Acquire Anthony Davis (Press Release)

The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, the draft rights to De'Andre Hunter, two first round picks, a first-round pick swap right and cash. As part of the trade, the Lakers also sent Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, Moritz Wagner and a future second round draft pick to the Wizards, who in return, sent cash consideration to the Pelicans.

"Anthony Davis is arguably the most dominant all-around young player in today's NBA," said Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. "Anthony represents everything we stand for, with his unwavering commitment to excellence as both a person and athlete. This is a historic moment for the Lakers franchise, and we couldn't be more proud to have him."

A three-time All-NBA First Team honoree (2015, ‘17, ‘18), six-time NBA All-Star and one-time Olympic Gold Medalist for Team USA (2012), Davis has averaged 23.7 points (.517 FG%), 10.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals over his seven-year career in the NBA.

Last season, Davis played and started in 56 games for New Orleans, averaging 25.9 points (.517 FG%), 12.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals in 33.0 minutes. A three-time league-leader in blocks, Davis was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team in 2018, while earning Second Team honors in 2015 and 2017. Additionally, he has been voted Western Conference Player of the Month twice, coming in back-to-back months in February and March of 2018, and has earned the league’s Player of the Week award on five occasions. In 2017, he was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA All-Star Game after scoring a record 52 points in the game.

Originally from Chicago, IL, Davis was selected first overall in the 2012 NBA Draft and went on to earn First Team All-Rookie honors after totaling 20 double-doubles with averages of 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.2 steals and 1.0 assist per game.

In his lone season at Kentucky, Davis was voted as the consensus National Player of the Year and a First Team All-American after leading the Wildcats to the 2012 NCAA Championship. The NABC and SEC Defensive Player of the Year was also SEC Player of the Year, tallying 14.2 points (.623 FG%), 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 blocks, 1.4 steals and 1.3 assists in 40 games.

Source: Lakers.com

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The 2019-'20 team roster for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Photos of the Day: A Boat Trip Off the Coast of Dana Point, CA...

A snapshot of two dolphins swimming through the water off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

Just thought I'd end this month with these photos—taken with my Nikon D3300 camera—that I shot during a whale-watching trip I went on almost three weeks ago (on June 11). I didn't see any whales on this excursion (though other folks on my boat say that they spotted the tail fin of a whale protruding from the water several miles away), but I did take lots of images of a pod of dolphins that surrounded my boat as it made its way out to sea. And before the boat returned to its dock at Dana Point harbor in Orange County, CA, the captain parked the vessel near a buoy where a couple of sea lions and a lone sea gull were resting on during that warm spring day. Of course, I didn't really need to tell you this when you could've just checked out all of the pics in this Blog entry!

A sea lion gazes at my camera while sitting on a buoy anchored off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

Will I go whale-watching again, you ask? Definitely! Though I'll probably wait till October 4 (my birthday) to head back to Orange County. To paraphrase Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) from the 1992 movie Wayne's World: "I will take whale photos with my DSLR camera... Oh yes, I will." Yep, that was cheesy. Happy Sunday!

A snapshot of a dolphin off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

A snapshot of two dolphins (with the dorsal fin of a third dolphin visible near the left side of this photo) swimming off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

A snapshot of a couple of dolphins swimming off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

A snapshot of a dolphin off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

A group of sea lions and a lone sea gull rest atop a buoy anchored off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

A group of sea lions rest atop a buoy anchored off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

A sea lion pup swims near the base of a buoy anchored off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

A sea lion sleeps atop a buoy anchored off the coast of Dana Point, California...on June 11, 2019.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Photo of the Day: The Mars 2020 Rover Gets a New Limb!

Engineers install the robotic arm on the Mars 2020 rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...on June 21, 2019.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Mars 2020 Rover's 7-Foot-Long Robotic Arm Installed (News Release)

In this image, taken on June 21, 2019, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, install the main robotic arm on the Mars 2020 rover. (A smaller arm to handle Mars samples will be installed inside the rover as well.) The main arm includes five electrical motors and five joints (known as the shoulder azimuth joint, shoulder elevation joint, elbow joint, wrist joint and turret joint). Measuring 7 feet (2.1 meters) long, the arm will allow the rover to work as a human geologist would: by holding and using science tools with its turret, which is essentially its "hand."

"You have to give a hand to our rover arm installation team," said Ryan van Schilifgaarde, a support engineer at JPL for Mars 2020 assembly. "They made an extremely intricate operation look easy. We're looking forward to more of the same when the arm will receive its turret in the next few weeks."

The rover's turret will include high-definition cameras, science instruments, and a percussive drill and coring mechanism. Those tools will be used to analyze and collect samples of Martian rock and soil, which will be cached on the surface for return to Earth by a future mission.

Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July of 2020. It will land at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. We will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare to send astronauts to Mars.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

If you want to send your name to Mars with NASA's 2020 mission, you can do so until Sept. 30, 2019. Add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here:

https://go.nasa.gov/Mars2020Pass

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dragonfly Is Officially Heading to Titan!

An artist's concept of the Dragonfly rotorcraft on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.
Johns Hopkins APL

NASA Selects Flying Mission to Study Titan for Origins, Signs of Life (Press Release)

NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet. During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years. Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.

“With the Dragonfly mission, NASA will once again do what no one else can do,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Visiting this mysterious ocean world could revolutionize what we know about life in the universe. This cutting-edge mission would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago, but we’re now ready for Dragonfly’s amazing flight.”

Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years’ worth of Cassini data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets. It will first land at the equatorial “Shangri-La” dune fields, which are terrestrially similar to the linear dunes in Namibia in southern Africa and offer a diverse sampling location. Dragonfly will explore this region in short flights, building up to a series of longer “leapfrog” flights of up to 5 miles (8 kilometers), stopping along the way to take samples from compelling areas with diverse geography. It will finally reach the Selk impact crater, where there is evidence of past liquid water, organics – the complex molecules that contain carbon, combined with hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen – and energy, which together make up the recipe for life. The lander will eventually fly more than 108 miles (175 kilometers) – nearly double the distance traveled to date by all the Mars rovers combined.

“Titan is unlike any other place in the solar system, and Dragonfly is like no other mission,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for Science at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “It’s remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn’s largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment. Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach us about the origin of life itself.”

Titan has a nitrogen-based atmosphere like Earth. Unlike Earth, Titan has clouds and rain of methane. Other organics are formed in the atmosphere and fall like light snow. The moon’s weather and surface processes have combined complex organics, energy, and water similar to those that may have sparked life on our planet.

Titan is larger than the planet Mercury and is the second largest moon in our solar system. As it orbits Saturn, it is about 886 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away from the Sun, about 10 times farther than Earth. Because it is so far from the Sun, its surface temperature is around -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius). Its surface pressure is also 50 percent higher than Earth’s.

Dragonfly was selected as part of the agency’s New Frontiers program, which includes the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, Juno to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx to the asteroid Bennu. Dragonfly is led by Principal Investigator Elizabeth Turtle, who is based at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. New Frontiers supports missions that have been identified as top solar system exploration priorities by the planetary community. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.

“The New Frontiers program has transformed our understanding of the solar system, uncovering the inner structure and composition of Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, discovering the icy secrets of Pluto’s landscape, revealing mysterious objects in the Kuiper belt, and exploring a near-Earth asteroid for the building blocks of life,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Now we can add Titan to the list of enigmatic worlds NASA will explore.”

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An artist's concept of the Dragonfly rotorcraft flying above the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.
Johns Hopkins APL


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

LightSail 2 Finally Reaches for the Cosmos...

Carrying 24 satellites (including The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft) as part of the U.S. Air Force's STP-2 mission, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida...on June 25, 2019 (Eastern Time).
SpaceX

The Planetary Society Celebrates Launch of LightSail 2 (Press Release)

Bill Nye, CEO: "We are democratizing space."

Cape Canaveral, FL (June 25, 2019) LightSail 2 is officially in space! The Planetary Society's solar sail CubeSat lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on 25 June at 02:30 EDT (06:30 UTC). The late-night launch came courtesy of SpaceX's triple-booster Falcon Heavy rocket, which was carrying 24 spacecraft for the U.S. Air Force's STP-2 mission.

Launch was originally scheduled to occur at 23:30 EDT on 24 June (03:30 UTC on 25 June). SpaceX delayed the liftoff time by 3 hours to complete additional ground system checkouts.

During its ride to orbit, LightSail 2 was tucked safely inside its Prox-1 carrier spacecraft. The Falcon Heavy upper stage's payload stack released Prox-1 about an hour and 20 minutes after liftoff, at an altitude of roughly 720 kilometers. Prox-1 will house LightSail 2 for 1 week, allowing time for other vehicles released into the same orbit to drift apart so each can be identified individually. LightSail 2 deployment is set for 2 July.

"After that spectacular nighttime launch, the flight team is ready to operate the LightSail 2 spacecraft," said LightSail 2 project manager David Spencer. "We will be listening for the radio signal in a week, following the release of LightSail 2 from Prox-1."

Bruce Betts, Planetary Society chief scientist and LightSail 2 program manager, added, "After years of hard work we are ecstatic with the launch and looking forward to doing some solar sailing."

In a video message to Planetary Society members, CEO Bill Nye, said, "The SpaceX Falcon Heavy took our spacecraft up and on orbit, thanks to you. Thank you all so much. We are advancing space science and exploration. We are democratizing space. We are innovating."

About 500 Planetary Society members and supporters were on hand at the Kennedy Space Center Apollo-Saturn V Center to watch their crowdfunded spacecraft take flight. Sound from the Falcon Heavy's 27 engines rumbled through the viewing area, as the rocket blazed high into the sky before starting its arc out over the Atlantic Ocean. Both of the rocket's side boosters flew back to Cape Canaveral for upright landings, creating sonic booms that delighted the raucous crowd.

SpaceX's live feed from mission control in Hawthorne, California followed the rocket's center booster as it attempted to land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You. The booster’s exhaust plume briefly appeared on camera before apparently crashing into the ocean. The landing was not a requirement for mission success.

Meanwhile, the upper stage blasted on to its first stop, an orbit roughly 865 by 300 kilometers above Earth. There, it deployed several CubeSats and a small satellite before lighting its engine again and flying to a circular orbit of about 720 kilometers. Prox-1 was the first spacecraft off the rocket there.

LightSail 2 team members will soon converge at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California, where the spacecraft’s mission control is located. Once LightSail 2 is released from Prox-1 on 2 July, the team will spend several days checking out the CubeSat’s systems before commanding its dual-sided solar panels to deploy. Following that, the spacecraft's solar sails will be deployed, roughly 2 weeks in total from launch day.

Source: The Planetary Society

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The Falcon Heavy rocket's two side boosters are about to touch down on their respective landing zones at Cape Canaveral, Florida...on June 25, 2019 (Eastern Time).
SpaceX

A mini-DVD bearing the names of over 23,300 Kickstarter backers (including me) is visible on the LightSail 2 spacecraft...near the left side of this image.
The Planetary Society

My certificate for supporting the LightSail 2 mission through Kickstarter.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Just Some Random Political News for Today...

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the 'Baghdad Bob' of the Trump regime. Google that name if you're unfamiliar with it.

So it was announced earlier today that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be resigning from her job as White House Press Secretary by the end of this month. On one hand, good riddance! On the other hand, it's unfortunate...since I will no longer be able to use the meme above on any of my posts on Twitter starting in July. Farewell, Sanders— You will forever be known by smart, non-MAGA folks as the 'Baghdad Bob' of the Trump regime. Google that name if you're unfamiliar with it.


Oh, and in other news, the bombing of those two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman today is nothing more than a false flag. Google 'Gulf of Tonkin' to know why. Also, Trump lied in the tweet below about the length of time that Sarah Sanders served in the White House. The Dotard has been in the Oval Office for a little over two years (unfortunately), so how can the woman whose brother murders dogs serve in the White House for 3 1/2 years as mentioned below? Unless, of course, Trump was also including the time that Sanders spent on his presidential campaign in 2016. Is this another "The Moon is part of Mars" Twitter flub by the stable genius? Google that term if you don't know what I'm talking about. That is all.


EDIT (9:39 PM, PDT): The Toronto Raptors are the 2019 NBA Champions! No Kevin Durant, no Klay Thompson (towards the end of tonight's game)... Keep your heads up, Warriors.

Now head to the Lakers, Kawhi Leonard! Fat chance.

The Toronto Raptors are the 2019 NBA Champions!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Blog Entry About Protecting Your Heart While on the Road... Please Read!

Live a healthy lifestyle and keep your heart happy!

This could save my life one day and maybe yours too... If you are my age and have had a good life then you may want to skim this.

Please pause for 2 minutes and read this:

1.) Let’s say it’s 7:25 PM and you’re going home (alone of course) after an unusually hard day on the job.

2.) You’re really tired, upset and frustrated.

3.) Suddenly, you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to drag out into your arm and up in to your jaw. You are only about 5 kilometers from the hospital nearest your home.

4.) Unfortunately, you don’t know if you’ll be able to make it that far.

5.) You have been trained in CPR, but the guy who taught the course did not tell you how to perform it on yourself.

6.) HOW TO SURVIVE A HEART ATTACK WHEN ALONE? Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack without help, the person whose heart is beating improperly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.

7.) However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest. A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let-up until help arrives, or until the heart is felt to be beating normally again.

8.) Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital.

9.) Tell as many other people as possible about this. It could save their lives!

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Photo and Video of the Day: Get to da (Mars) Choppa!

An image of the Mars Helicopter flight model...taken inside a cleanroom at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California on February 14, 2019.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

NASA's Mars Helicopter Testing Enters Final Phase (News Release)

NASA's Mars Helicopter flight demonstration project has passed a number of key tests with flying colors. In 2021, the small, autonomous helicopter will be the first vehicle in history to attempt to establish the viability of heavier-than-air vehicles flying on another planet.

"Nobody's built a Mars Helicopter before, so we are continuously entering new territory," said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. "Our flight model - the actual vehicle that will travel to Mars - has recently passed several important tests."

Back in January 2019 the team operated the flight model in a simulated Martian environment. Then the helicopter was moved to Lockheed Martin Space in Denver for compatibility testing with the Mars Helicopter Delivery System, which will hold the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) spacecraft against the belly of the Mars 2020 rover during launch and interplanetary cruise before deploying it onto the surface of Mars after landing.

As a technology demonstrator, the Mars Helicopter carries no science instruments. Its purpose is to confirm that powered flight in the tenuous Martian atmosphere (which has 1% the density of Earth's) is possible and that it can be controlled from Earth over large interplanetary distances. But the helicopter also carries a camera capable of providing high-resolution color images to further demonstrate the vehicle's potential for documenting the Red Planet.

Future Mars missions could enlist second-generation helicopters to add an aerial dimension to their explorations. They could investigate previously unvisited or difficult-to-reach destinations such as cliffs, caves and deep craters, act as scouts for human crews or carry small payloads from one location to another. But before any of that happens, a test vehicle has to prove it is possible.

In Denver, the Mars Helicopter and its delivery system were checked to make sure that the electrical connections and mechanisms that linked the flight vehicle with its cradle fit snuggly. Then, while still mated, the duo endured the sorts of vibrations they will experience during launch and in-flight operations. The thermal vacuum portion of the testing introduced them to the kinds of extreme temperatures (down to -200 degrees Fahrenheit, or -129 degrees Celsius) that they will encounter in space and on Mars and that could cause components to malfunction or fail.

The Mars Helicopter returned to JPL on May 11, 2019, for further testing and finishing touches. Among the highlights: A new solar panel that will power the helicopter has been installed, and the vehicle's rotor blades have been spun up to ensure that the more than 1,500 individual pieces of carbon fiber, flight-grade aluminum, silicon, copper, foil and aerogel continue to work as a cohesive unit. Of course, there's more testing to come.

"We expect to complete our final tests and refinements and deliver the helicopter to the High Bay 1 clean room for integration with the rover sometime this summer," said Aung, "but we will never really be done with testing the helicopter until we fly at Mars."

The Mars Helicopter will launch with the Mars 2020 rover on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July 2020 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. When it lands in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, the rover will also be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration with the ability to accurately retarget its point of touchdown during the landing sequence.

The 2020 rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers. In another first, scientists will use the instruments aboard the rover to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes, and leave them on the planet's surface for potential return to Earth on a future Mars mission.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover and Mars Helicopter for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.

If you want to send your name to Mars with NASA's 2020 mission you can do so until Sept. 30, 2019. Add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here:

https://go.nasa.gov/Mars2020Pass

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

InSight Update: Engineers Devise a Way to Salvage the Mars Lander's Heat Probe Experiment...

During a test at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, a replica of the InSight Mars lander's robotic arm is used to press against the soil near a replica of the mole for the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

InSight's Team Tries New Strategy to Help the 'Mole' (News Release)

Scientists and engineers have a new plan for getting NASA InSight's heat probe, also known as the "mole," digging again on Mars. Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the mole is a self-hammering spike designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and record temperature.

But the mole hasn't been able to dig deeper than about 12 inches (30 centimeters) below the Martian surface since Feb. 28, 2019. The device's support structure blocks the lander's cameras from viewing the mole, so the team plans to use InSight's robotic arm to lift the structure out of the way. Depending on what they see, the team might use InSight's robotic arm to help the mole further later this summer.

HP3 is one of InSight's several experiments, all of which are designed to give scientists their first look at the deep interior of the Red Planet. InSight also includes a seismometer that recently recorded its first marsquake on April 6, 2019, followed by its largest seismic signal to date at 7:23 p.m. PDT (10:23 EDT) on May 22, 2019 — what is believed to be a marsquake of magnitude 3.0.

For the last several months, testing and analysis have been conducted at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the InSight mission, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which provided HP3, to understand what is preventing the mole from digging. Team members now believe the most likely cause is an unexpected lack of friction in the soil around InSight — something very different from soil seen on other parts of Mars. The mole is designed so that loose soil flows around it, adding friction that works against its recoil, allowing it to dig. Without enough friction, it will bounce in place.

"Engineers at JPL and DLR have been working hard to assess the problem," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division. "Moving the support structure will help them gather more information and try at least one possible solution."

The lifting sequence will begin in late June, with the arm grasping the support structure (InSight conducted some test movements recently). Over the course of a week, the arm will lift the structure in three steps, taking images and returning them so that engineers can make sure the mole isn't being pulled out of the ground while the structure is moved. If removed from the soil, the mole can't go back in.

The procedure is not without risk. However, mission managers have determined that these next steps are necessary to get the instrument working again.

"Moving the support structure will give the team a better idea of what's happening. But it could also let us test a possible solution," said HP3 Principal Investigator Tilman Spohn of DLR. "We plan to use InSight's robotic arm to press on the ground. Our calculations have shown this should add friction to the soil near the mole."

A Q & A with team members about the mole and the effort to save it is at: https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8444/common-questions-about-insights-mole/?site=insight

JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'├ëtudes Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain's Centro de Astrobiolog├şa (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Mars 2020 Update: Expect 3D Images from America's Next Red Planet Rover, Starting in 2021...

Engineers work on the Mastcam-Z camera, located on the Mars 2020 rover's remote sensing mast, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...on May 23, 2019.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

NASA's Mars 2020 Gets HD Eyes (News Release - May 31)

One of the first operations the Mars 2020 rover will perform after touching down on the Red Planet's Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, will be to raise its remote sensing mast (RSM), which carries important optics and instrumentation.

In this picture - taken on May 23, 2019, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility's High Bay 1 clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California - engineers re-install the cover to the RSM head after integration of two Mastcam-Z high-definition cameras. Visible below the red lens cover is the left Mastcam-Z camera (with the "Remove Before Flight" labels); support equipment blocks the right Mastcam-Z from view. The RSM and its twin cameras will be installed on the rover's deck the week of June 3, 2019.

Mastcam-Z is a multispectral, stereoscopic imaging instrument that will enhance the Mars 2020 rover's driving and core-sampling capabilities. It will also enable science team members to observe textural, mineralogical, structural and morphologic details in rocks and sediment at any location within the rover's field of view, helping them piece together the planet's geologic history.

"Mastcam-Z will be the first Mars color camera that can zoom, enabling 3D images at unprecedented resolution," said Mastcam-Z Principal Investigator Jim Bell of Arizona State University in Tempe. "With a resolution of three-hundredths of an inch [0.8 millimeters] in front of the rover and less than one-and-a-half inches [38 millimeters] from over 330 feet [100 meters] away - Mastcam-Z images will play a key role in selecting the best possible samples to return from Jezero Crater."

Mastcam Z's capabilities are not the only firsts of the mission. Mars 2020 will be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration with the ability to accurately retarget its point of touchdown during the landing sequence. And the rover carries a sample-caching system that will collect Martian rock and soil samples and store them on the planet's surface for retrieval and return to Earth by subsequent missions.

Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July of 2020.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

If you want to send your name to Mars with NASA's 2020 mission, you can do so from now until Sept. 30, 2019. Add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here:

https://go.nasa.gov/Mars2020Pass

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Friday, May 31, 2019

Photos of the Day: Explore JPL...

The Mars 2020 rover's aeroshell is on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

Just thought I'd end this month with these photos that I took at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL) annual open house near Pasadena, California on May 18. This marked the third time this year that I visited JPL (the first time being for a public tour back in February, and the second time being for a NASA Social event held in March), so there's really nothing new to share here. (But continue reading, anyway!) Obviously, you have the flight hardware for the Mars 2020 rover on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SAF), you have a glimpse of "The Center of the Universe" inside the Space Flight Operations Facility, you have cool snapshots of full-size replicas of the Curiosity and Mars Exploration Rovers in the main courtyard, and you have interesting exhibits pertaining to NASA's search for more (and potentially habitable) exoplanets. Actually, that last one is new to me!

Inside the Space Flight Operations Facility, a.k.a. 'The Center of the Universe,' at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

I'm thinking about going back to JPL later this year (to check out the Mars 2020 rover one last time before it's shipped to its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida next January or February), but this might be the last time for a while that I visit this cool NASA field center. By the time the next Explore JPL is held next May or June, the Mars 2020 spacecraft will already be on the other side of the country—getting prepped for its July launch to the Red Planet aboard an Atlas V rocket. JPL might be building a neat science instrument or a spacecraft that I haven't heard of at the SAF once Mars 2020 is gone, but I'd rather return to see another high-profile interplanetary space probe undergo construction near the city of Pasadena. That robotic probe I have in mind is none other than the Europa Clipper! But we'll see if the Clipper is even built at JPL, and its launch won't be till 2023 (and the rocket that will send it to Jupiter hasn't been selected yet)...so there are still ways to go before assembly officially begins on this Jovian explorer. Happy Friday.

Mars 2020 flight hardware on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

The Mars 2020 rover's cruise stage is on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

The Mars 2020 rover itself is on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A miniature model of the InSight Mars lander is on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A full-size replica of the Mars Cube One spacecraft is on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A full-size replica of the Curiosity Mars rover is on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A full-size replica of the Mars Exploration Rover is on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A snapshot of an exoplanet exhibit at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Mars 2020 Update: Send Your Name to the Red Planet Aboard America's Next Robotic Rover!

My certificate for NASA's Mars 2020 mission.

NASA Invites Public to Submit Names to Fly Aboard Next Mars Rover (Press Release)

Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — etched on microchips — to the Red Planet with NASA's Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.

The rover, a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms), will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet's climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

"As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. "It’s an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”

The opportunity to send your name to Mars comes with a souvenir boarding pass and "frequent flyer" points. This is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA's journey from the Moon to Mars. Miles (or kilometers) are awarded for each "flight," with corresponding digital mission patches available for download. More than 2 million names flew on NASA's InSight mission to Mars, giving each "flyer" about 300 million frequent flyer miles (nearly 500 million frequent flyer kilometers).

From now until Sept. 30, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here:

https://go.nasa.gov/Mars2020Pass

The Microdevices Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California, will use an electron beam to etch the submitted names onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be inscribed on a single dime-size microchip. The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.

NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. As another step toward that goal, NASA is returning American astronauts to the Moon in 2024. Government, industry and international partners will join NASA in a global effort to build and test the systems needed for human missions to Mars and beyond.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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An artist's concept of NASA's Mars 2020 rover studying the surface of the Red Planet.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New Horizons Update: The First Data From the Ultima Thule Flyby Has Been Published in Print Media...

An image of Ultima Thule, which was taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on January 1, 2019 (Eastern Time), on the cover of SCIENCE magazine.
AAAS / Science

NASA’s New Horizons Team Publishes First Kuiper Belt Flyby Science Results (News Release - May 16)

Most distant object ever explored presents mysteries of its formation.

NASA’s New Horizons mission team has published the first profile of the farthest world ever explored, a planetary building block and Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69.

Analyzing just the first sets of data gathered during the New Horizons spacecraft’s New Year’s 2019 flyby of MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule) the mission team quickly discovered an object far more complex than expected. The team publishes the first peer-reviewed scientific results and interpretations – just four months after the flyby – in the May 17 issue of the journal Science.

In addition to being the farthest exploration of an object in history – four billion miles from Earth – the flyby of Ultima Thule was also the first investigation by any space mission of a well-preserved planetesimal, an ancient relic from the era of planet formation.

The initial data summarized in Science reveal much about the object’s development, geology and composition. It’s a contact binary, with two distinctly differently shaped lobes. At about 22 miles (36 kilometers) long, Ultima Thule consists of a large, strangely flat lobe (nicknamed "Ultima") connected to a smaller, somewhat rounder lobe (nicknamed "Thule"), at a juncture nicknamed “the neck.” How the two lobes got their unusual shape is an unanticipated mystery that likely relates to how they formed billions of years ago.

The lobes likely once orbited each other, like many so-called binary worlds in the Kuiper Belt, until some process brought them together in what scientists have shown to be a "gentle" merger. For that to happen, much of the binary’s orbital momentum must have dissipated for the objects to come together, but scientists don't yet know whether that was due to aerodynamic forces from gas in the ancient solar nebula, or if Ultima and Thule ejected other lobes that formed with them to dissipate energy and shrink their orbit. The alignment of the axes of Ultima and Thule indicates that before the merger the two lobes must have become tidally locked, meaning that the same sides always faced each other as they orbited around the same point.

“We’re looking into the well-preserved remnants of the ancient past,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “There is no doubt that the discoveries made about Ultima Thule are going to advance theories of solar system formation.”

As the Science paper reports, New Horizons researchers are also investigating a range of surface features on Ultima Thule, such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits on Ultima Thule. The largest depression is a 5-mile-wide (8-kilometer-wide) feature the team has nicknamed Maryland crater – which likely formed from an impact. Some smaller pits on the Kuiper Belt object, however, may have been created by material falling into underground spaces, or due to exotic ices going from a solid to a gas (called sublimation) and leaving pits in its place.

In color and composition, Ultima Thule resembles many other objects found in its area of the Kuiper Belt. It’s very red – redder even than much larger, 1,500-mile (2,400-kilometer) wide Pluto, which New Horizons explored at the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt in 2015 – and is in fact the reddest outer solar system object ever visited by spacecraft; its reddish hue is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface New Horizons scientists found evidence for methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface – a mixture very different from most icy objects explored previously by spacecraft.

Data transmission from the flyby continues, and will go on until the late summer 2020. In the meantime, New Horizons continues to carry out new observations of additional Kuiper Belt objects it passes in the distance. These additional KBOs are too distant to reveal discoveries like those on MU69, but the team can measure aspects such as the object’s brightness. New Horizons also continues to map the charged-particle radiation and dust environment in the Kuiper Belt.

The New Horizons spacecraft is now 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth, operating normally and speeding deeper into the Kuiper Belt at nearly 33,000 miles (53,000 kilometers) per hour.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The MSFC Planetary Management Office provides the NASA oversight for the New Horizons. Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, directs the mission via Principal Investigator Stern, and leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Source: NASA.Gov

Friday, May 17, 2019

Photos of the Day: Highlights from THE BIG BANG THEORY's Series Finale...

The final shot of THE BIG BANG THEORY after being on the air for 12 years.

Just thought I'd share these official production stills from last night's 1-hour series finale for The Big Bang Theory. If you watched the finale, or at least read my previous Blog entry, then you'd why these pics are so significant. Happy Friday!

Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) watch as Penny (Kaley Cuoco) arrives on their apartment's floor...via the elevator that was broken for 12 years on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) tend to their kids Halley and Michael on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and his date Sarah Michelle Gellar watch as Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon, off-screen, are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Sheldon watches as Amy gives her acceptance speech after winning the Nobel Prize in Physics on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Leonard and Penny share a moment while discussing Penny's pregnancy on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Farewell, THE BIG BANG THEORY!

A screenshot from THE BIG BANG THEORY - Episode 9.4: 'The 2003 Approximation' (Original Air Date: October 12, 2015).

After 12 seasons, The Big Bang Theory is no more. Here are my notes on tonight's 1-hour series finale: The apartment's elevator is working again! Leonard (Johnny Galecki) got to bitch-slap Sheldon (Jim Parsons)—for the second time in 12 years, I believe! We finally got to meet the adorable kids of Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch)! Raj (Kunal Nayyar) went from dating Lucy (Kate Micucci), Emily (Laura Spencer) and Claire (Alessandra Torresani) to attending Amy (Mayim Bialik, who I met two years ago today) and Sheldon's Nobel Prize ceremony with none other than Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar! And lastly, Leonard and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) will finally have a kid who's both "smart and beautiful!" What a cool way to end 12 years of geeky hilarity. You heard me, haters.

On the downside, we'll never meet Raj's four other siblings, Bernadette's siblings, Penny's sister and Leonard's siblings... Oh well.

On the plus side again, it was a pleasure to work twice (as a background actor) on The Big Bang Theory! It should've been three times, but I was an hour late in answering a text message from the casting agency booking extras on a Season 12 episode that filmed in Burbank (at Warner Bros. Studio) on February 12. Oh well again. The screenshot at the top of this Blog entry is from Episode 9.4: "The 2003 Approximation," and the image below is from Episode 10.6: "The Fetal Kick Catalyst." I'm holding that blue plastic bag...which contained several comic books worth over a thousand dollars. Bazinga on that last part! Carry on.

A screenshot from THE BIG BANG THEORY - Episode 10.6: 'The Fetal Kick Catalyst' (Original Air Date: October 27, 2016).

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Final Resting Place for Israel's First Moon Lander Is Spotted from Lunar Orbit...

An image of the crash site of Israel's Beresheet lunar lander...taken on April 22, 2019.
NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Beresheet Impact Site Spotted (News Release)

The photo above shows the landing site of the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft on a region of the Moon called Sea of Serenity, or Mare Serenitatis in Latin. On April 11, 2019, SpaceIL, a non-profit organization, attempted to land its spacecraft in this ancient volcanic field on the nearside of the Moon. After a smooth initial descent, Beresheet made a hard landing on the surface.

As soon as its orbit placed NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) over the landing site on April 22, 2019, LRO imaged Beresheet’s impact site. The LRO Camera (LROC) consists of three imagers: a seven-color Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and two black-and-white Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) mounted on the LRO, which has been studying the Moon from orbit for a decade. NAC captured the Beresheet impact photo.

Unprocessed and processed versions of the image showing the crash site of Israel's Beresheet lunar lander...taken on April 22, 2019.
NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

LROC took this image from 56 miles (90 kilometers) above the surface. The cameras captured a dark smudge, about 10 meters wide, that indicates the point of impact. The dark tone suggests a surface roughened by the hard landing, which is less reflective than a clean, smooth surface.

From so far away, LROC could not detect whether Beresheet formed a surface crater upon impact. It’s possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos. Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach (around 8.4 degrees relative to the surface), light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet’s speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).

The light halo around the smudge could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet’s descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective.

There are many clues that we’re actually looking at a man-made crater instead of a meteoroid-caused one. This is an important consideration, since the Moon, having no atmosphere, is constantly bombarded by space rocks that leave craters.

Most importantly, we knew the coordinates of the landing site within a few miles thanks to radio tracking of Beresheet, and we have 11 “before” images of the area, spanning a decade, and three “after” images. In all of these images, including one taken 16 days before the landing, we saw only one new feature of the size Beresheet would have created.

Existing mathematical models helped us estimate the size and shape of the crater that would have formed if an object of Beresheet’s mass and velocity struck the surface. We also referenced craters created by similar-size spacecraft (GRAIL, LADEE, Ranger) that have struck the Moon at about the same speed, and we saw that the white tail stretching from the landing halo towards the south is a shape that’s consistent with Beresheet’s southward descent trajectory and angle of approach.

For the before image below, we used a photo from December 16, 2016. This is because the lighting conditions that day, based on the angle at which the Sun would have illuminated the Moon at that particular time in its orbit, were the most similar to the April 22 image. Because LRO was beyond the horizon during Beresheet’s descent and landing, it couldn’t capture a photo until its orbit brought it nearby 11 days later. LRO passes over the lunar poles with each revolution. Meanwhile, the Moon rotates on its axis below the spacecraft, allowing LRO to pass over every part of the Moon twice a month (once during lunar night and once during lunar day). LROC may take more images of the landing site when it passes the same area again on May 19.

Efforts are ongoing to bounce laser pulses from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, also on board LRO, to measure the return from the Laser Retroreflector Array of small corner cube mirrors. This instrument was provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and was installed on the top deck of the Beresheet spacecraft. Attempts are ongoing to examine if the retroreflector may have survived the impact.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An animated GIF showing before and after images (taken on December 16, 2016 and April 22, 2019, respectively) of the crash site of Israel's Beresheet lunar lander.
NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Monday, May 13, 2019

Happy TMI Monday!

Here's a random personal tidbit: I never learned how to swim. I think it stems from the fact that I almost drowned in a river when I was very young. I recall that it was one of my aunts who pulled me out of the water after I was submerged for a few seconds, though I don't remember why my family was at this river in the first place.

So yea— I'm able to go skydiving five times (as of last October), but you'd have to put me in a life jacket if you want me anywhere near the deep end of a backyard swimming pool... Carry on.

PS: TMI = Too Much Information. In case you're wonderin'. #CaptainObvious

My tandem instructor and I exit the aircraft 13,000 feet above the city of Oceanside in California...on October 4, 2018.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Lake Show Has a New Head Coach...

Frank Vogel is the new head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers.

It's been announced today that Frank Vogel, who used to be the head coach for the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic, will now be the head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers after Luke Walton left the team a few days after the NBA regular season ended last month. Jason Kidd—who won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011—will be the assistant coach.

My take on today's Lake Show development? I haven't been this excited since Rudy Tomjanovich, Mike Brown and Mike D'Antoni coached the team!

In case you're scratching your head trying to decipher if I'm being sarcastic in the previous sentence or not, notice how I didn't include Pat Riley and Phil Jackson (and even Mike Dunleavy Sr.) in the group above. Happy Mother's Day weekend!

And Go Milwaukee Bucks! #FearTheDeer

Friday, May 10, 2019

Mars 2020 Update: The Rover's "Heart" Is Installed...

Engineers are about to install the motor controller assembly inside the Mars 2020 rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...on April 29, 2019.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Rover Getting Set to Motor (News Release - May 9)

Engineers and technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, integrate the rover motor controller assembly (RMCA) into the Mars 2020 rover's body. The RMCA is the electrical heart of the rover's mobility and motion systems, commanding and regulating the movement of the motors in the rover's wheels, robotic arms, mast, drill and sample-handling functions.

The image was taken on April 29, 2019, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility's High Bay 1 clean room at JPL.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory