Thursday, April 4, 2013

Space and astronomy news: Satan Sandwich edition #1

It's time to follow up on my promise in SciShow on sequestration's effects on science to spread the word for NASA. I'll begin with the story from I used to headline Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Petition to reverse NASA sequester cuts) on Daily Kos.

Petition Asks White House to Reverse NASA Outreach Sequester Cuts by Mike Wall, Senior Writer Date: 28 March 2013 Time: 05:30 AM ET
A new online petition asks the White House to repeal budget cuts that have spurred NASA to suspend many of its education and public-outreach efforts.

The petition was created on Friday (March 22), the same day that NASA issued two internal memos outlining how outreach activities are being scaled back as a result of sequestration, the set of across-the-board federal cuts that took effect March 1. The memos began circulating outside the agency Friday as well.

"The sequester's recent cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] programs must not be allowed," the petition states. "These cuts would end the many programs NASA has for educating the children of our society, as well as many other forms of public outreach held by NASA."
The petition is at the White House "We the People" site here.

As for the legality/constitutionality/effectiveness of this petition, I have various answers. First, while Congress holds the power of the purse, so the President by himself can do very little to reverse all the effects of the sequester, the President can propose budgets, so this petition might influence the next one to come out of the White House. Second, it can be used as tool for the White House to prod Congress. Third, it can be used as a campaign issue. Finally, it will at least get an official response from the White House. It will certainly be more serious than the one they gave to the Death Star petition. A successful petition will not be completely useless, even if it doesn't get quite the response the signers hope for. Besides, it beats a bake sale for NASA.

Follow over the jump for more of last week's space and astronomy news.

NASA Television on YouTube: All Aboard for Cassidy and Crewmates on This Week @NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy and his Expedition 35/36 crewmates, Soyuz Commander Pavel Vinogradov, and Russian Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin, are now safely aboard the International Space Station, where they'll conduct scientific research through the summer. Also, Dragon's back; Heatshield Hits Beantown; Stir Welding for SLS; Cassini Hot Spots; Hangout En Espanol; and more!
Discovery News on YouTube: Voyager 1: Where To Next?

Has Voyager 1 left the solar system or not? Scientists seem to have a new answer every other day. And for that matter, where will the historic space probe go once it exists our solar system? Trace looks the skies, and more importantly to science to find out. on YouTube: Comet ISON's Path Through The Inner Solar System | Video

The comet ISON is making what astronomers believe is its first trip through the inner solar system, taking a sweltering pass by the sun (making ISON a 'sungrazing' comet) and then back past Earth in December. NASA Spacecraft Snaps New Photo of Potential 'Comet of the Century'
by Tariq Malik, Managing Editor
Date: 29 March 2013 Time: 04:20 PM ET
A NASA spacecraft scanning for the most powerful explosions in the universe has captured a photo of Comet ISON, an icy wanderer that could potentially dazzle stargazers when it swings close to the sun later this year.

NASA's Swift satellite, which is typically used to track intense gamma-ray bursts from distant stars, photographed Comet ISON on Jan. 30, with the space agency unveiling the photo today (March 29). By tracking the comet over the last two months, Swift has allowed astronomers to learn new details about how large the comet is and how fast it is spewing out gas and dust.

"Comet ISON has the potential to be among the brightest comets of the last 50 years, which gives us a rare opportunity to observe its changes in great detail and over an extended period," said Lead Investigator Dennis Bodewits, an astronomer with University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP) who helped obtain the new image. Saturn's Rings and Moons are Solar System Antiques
Date: 29 March 2013 Time: 07:00 AM ET
The dazzling rings of Saturn and its moons are likely more than 4 billion years old - the cosmic remnants of the solar system's birth, scientists say.

The finding comes after a new study of observations from NASA's Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn, which suggests that the planet's rings and moons formed at the same time as the rest of the solar system's planetary bodies soon after the sun sparked into life. Since Saturn's rings and moons formed from the same planetary nebula of gas and dust around the early sun that led to the solar system's other planets, they are a time capsule of sorts for astronomers, the researchers said.

"Studying the Saturnian system helps us understand the chemical and physical evolution of our entire solar system," Cassini scientist Gianrico Filacchione, of Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, said in a statement. "We know now that understanding this evolution requires not just studying a single moon or ring, but piecing together the relationships intertwining these bodies." Earth's Moon and Huge Asteroid Vesta Share Violent History
by Elizabeth Howell, Contributor
Date: 29 March 2013 Time: 02:27 PM ET
The same population of space rocks that battered Earth's moon during the early days of the solar system also slammed the huge asteroid Vesta, scientists say.

While the cosmic bombardment - which occurred when Jupiter and Saturn shifted orbits - has been known for a while, this is the first time scientists found evidence of it on Vesta, one of the biggest asteroids in the solar system.

NASA Apollo astronauts collected evidence of the bombardment on the moon during the lunar landing missions of the 1960s and 1970s. On Earth, erosion washed away most of the evidence of the violent chapter during the solar system's formation, researchers said. Is NASA Seeking $100 Million for Wild Asteroid Capture Mission?
by Tariq Malik, Managing Editor
Date: 29 March 2013 Time: 10:37 AM ET
NASA's budget request for the 2014 fiscal year may include plans for an ambitious mission to send a robotic probe into deep space, capture an asteroid and haul it back within the reach of astronaut explorers, according to a press report.

The space agency is apparently including a request for $100 million in its 2014 budget request to help fund the audacious asteroid capture mission, according to an Aviation Week report.

The asteroid- retrieval mission was first proposed last year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. That study, released last April, revolved around an Asteroid Capture and Return mission that would snag a 25-foot wide (7 meters) space rock and place it in high lunar orbit by 2025 — the deadline set by the Obama administration for NASA's human mission to an asteroid.
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Collision Course? A Comet Heads for Mars

A comet is heading for Mars, and there is a chance that it might hit the Red Planet in October 2014. An impact wouldn't necessarily mean the end of NASA's Mars program. But it would transform the program along with Mars itself.
For more on the comet grazing Mars, read Mars vs. Comet in 2014: Scientists Prepare for Red Planet Sky Show at via LiveScience: Caltech Challenges Students to Plan Manned Mission to Mars Moon
by Mike Wall, Senior Writer
Date: 26 March 2013 Time: 01:34 PM ET
Humanity's quest to send astronauts to Mars may get a boost from a student design competition being held this week.

The Caltech Space Challenge, which runs from Monday through Friday (March 25-29) at the university's campus in Pasadena, asks two teams of students from around the world to design a manned mission to Phobos or Deimos, Mars' two tiny moons.

"This is a technical feat that, by necessity, will spark innovation the world over," Nick Parziale, a PhD student in aeronautics at Caltech and leader of one of the teams, said in a statement. "We hope the Caltech Space Challenge serves as a reminder that these incredibly difficult problems are tractable, and that these passionate and dedicated students are just the women and men for the job." Buzz Aldrin's Vision for Mars Exploration Detailed in New Book Staff
Date: 29 March 2013 Time: 01:02 PM ET
Pioneering astronaut Buzz Aldrin made history as the second man to walk on the moon in 1969, just after Neil Armstrong during the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. More than four decades later, he wants NASA to set its sights on more ambitious destinations, far beyond the moon. Aldrin's target: Mars.

In his upcoming book, "Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration" (National Geographic Books), Buzz Aldrin argues that NASA should strive to put humans on the Red Planet by the mid-2030s and he lays out a plan for how to make it happen. Green Meteorite May Be from Mercury, a First
by Miriam Kramer, Staff Writer
Date: 28 March 2013 Time: 03:19 PM ET
Scientists may have discovered the first meteorite from Mercury.

The green rock found in Morocco last year may be the first known visitor from the solar system's innermost planet, according to meteorite scientist Anthony Irving, who unveiled the new findings this month at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. The study suggests that a space rock called NWA 7325 came from Mercury, and not an asteroid or Mars.

NWA 7325 is actually a group of 35 meteorite samples discovered in 2012 in Morocco. They are ancient, with Irving and his team dating the rocks to an age of about 4.56 billion years.
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Don't Let This Happen to Your Planet

Life as we know it doesn't thrive on planets without ozone layers. A new instrument slated for launch to the ISS will monitor Earth's protective ozone shell with greater depth and precision than ever before.
OurAmazingPlanet via Grand Canyon View From Space Reveals Jaw-Dropping Scenery
Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Date: 28 March 2013 Time: 05:46 PM ET
A jagged scar etched in copper-colored rocks, the Colorado River's channel curls through one of the world's most scenic landscapes.

Draining seven states and two countries, the river is one of the Southwest's most important water sources. One of its major reservoirs, Lake Powell, can be seen from space in a photo snapped March 12 by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. Artist Shepard Fairey Designs Space Mission Patch
by Robert Z. Pearlman, Editor
Date: 28 March 2013 Time: 12:24 PM ET
A celebrated street artist has turned his attention spaceward, designing a mission patch for the first set of sponsored experiments to be sent to the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station.

Graphic illustrator Shepard Fairey, perhaps best known for his stylized "HOPE" poster of Barack Obama from the 2008 presidential campaign, but also recognized for his work through the movement OBEY, was recruited by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to create an emblem to represent ARK1, the organization's first set of investigations flying under the increment name Advancing Research Knowledge 1.

"The idea of doing something that is actually going to go into space and be part of exploring new technology that is unknown, I think that even just tangentially, is an amazing thing to be connected to," Fairey said in a video statement released by CASIS and the design agency Fiction. "I was really excited to be invited to be part of this project."
And that's it for last week's news.

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