Sunday, August 26, 2012

R.I.P. Neil Armstrong and other space and astronomy news

As you can tell from the title of my diary at Daily Kos, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Neil Armstrong R.I.P. edition), the top story today is that of Neil Armstrong's passing. This marks both the loss of a great American, but also another sign of the acting out of the great science fiction tragedy of losing the capability of manned space flight. Since the Apollo program, no human has ventured beyond low Earth orbit. That's 40 years.

Mind you, I'm sure the Chinese will land on the Moon by the end of this decade, so humanity won't have lost the ability, but the U.S. is not racing to get back there before they do. Here's to hoping that the U.S. doesn't repeat the 21st Century version of the Chinese mistake of sending treasure ships to Africa, then abandoning their exploring and the open ocean technology that made it possible. It took the Chinese 500 years to recover from that misjudgment.

But enough of what this event means to me. Time to celebrate the life of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon. The tribute begins with the featured story from the Washington Post accompanied by a video from CNN.

Neil Armstrong, first man to step on the moon, dies at 82
By Paul Duggan, Updated: Saturday, August 25, 4:00 PM
Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who marked an epochal achievement in exploration with “one small step” from the Apollo 11 lunar module on July 20, 1969, becoming the first person to walk on the moon, died Aug. 25 in the Cincinnati area. He was 82.

His family announced the death in a statement and attributed it to “complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.”

A taciturn engineer and test pilot who was never at ease with his fame, Mr. Armstrong was among the most heroized Americans of the 1960s Cold War space race. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he is noted for saying as he stepped on the moon.
Armstrong, first man on the moon, dies

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died, his family said Saturday. He was 82.
The video CNN posted immediately before the above on their YouTube Channel was Four legendary astronauts are awarded the Congressional G....

Astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin are presented the Congressional Gold Medal.
Although CNN posted this video today, this ceremony took place on November 16, 2011, according to the Associated Press via the Miami Herald. on YouTube also joined in with Neil Armstrong's 'One Small Step' That Changed The World | Video.

When Apollo 11 touched down on the Lunar surface the whole world stopped. Relive the moment when humanity took its giant leap forward.
Finally, at least three diarists on Daily Kos chimed in, beginning with Breaking: Neil Armstrong Has Passed Away (Updated X4) by Diogenes2008, followed by Neil Armstrong, August 5 1930-August 25 2012 by caul, and finally If We Could Land a Man on the Moon... by jpmassar. Those were just the ones that posted before Midnight. I haven't checked for more recent ones.

Before I move on the the rest of the space and astronomy news, a moment of silence, please.

NASA Television on YouTube: Curiosity's First Drive on This Week @NASA

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has made its first footprints on Mars. Curiosity completed a short drive during which rover drivers at The Jet Propulsion Laboratory commanded Curiosity to move forward, perform a series of turns and move in reverse. The six-wheeled one-ton rover traveled roughly 20 feet from the spot where it made its landing in early August. Meanwhile the Curiosity science team has named the landing site after the late Ray Bradbury, an influential author and a huge proponent of Mars exploration. Bradbury, who passed away earlier this year, would have been 92 on the day of the announcement. Also, NASA has selected a new mission, set to launch in 2016, that will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars, Engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center are testing early scale models of NASA's Space Launch System, The Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle undergoes its first vertical drop test and more! on YouTube: hubble Telescope's Hidden Treasures Revealed | Video

Astronomer Joe Liske (aka Dr J) presents the winners of the Hidden Treasures image processing competition, a 2012 contest that challenged the public to find spectacular Hubble Space Telescope images that were never released. See the results here. on YouTube: 2299 Alien Planets Orbiting One Sun? | Video

That's what the Harvard mind of Alex Parker devised when he put together an animation of most of the Kepler Space Telescope's planet candidates orbiting one star. Distance from each planets actual host star and relative speed is preserved.
Daily Kos: Getting to Know Your Solar System (19): Jupiter (Vol. 1)
by Troubadour on YouTube: What's Inside Mars? NASA's InSight Mission Will Probe Deep | Video

Launching in 2016 and based on the successful Phoenix lander, NASA's next Mars mission will look for clues to the formation of the red planet and its rocky siblings. Why, for example, does Mars exhibit little or no plate tectonics?
Daily Kos: What Curiosity Can Do, Part 2.
by LeftOfYou

NPR: Telescope Innovator Shines His Genius On New Fields
by Joe Palca
August 23, 2012
You may not be familiar with the name Roger Angel, but if there were ever a scientist with a creative streak a mile wide, it would be he.
Angel runs the mirror lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I dropped by in January as Angel and his colleagues were about to cast one of their enormous mirrors 25-feet across. The process Angel invented solves a problem that had confounded telescope makers: how to make a mirror that big out of a solid block of glass.

Angel solved the problem with a design the creates a piece of glass with a hollow, honeycomb interior. The process involves loading glass onto a honeycomb-shaped mold in a giant rotating furnace. When the temperature reaches 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit - a point known as high fire - the glass melts and slumps into the mold.
Daily Kos: Women in Science: Maria Mitchell 1818-1889
by Desert Scientist

That's a wrap for this past week's space and astronomy news.

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