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This morning we are waking up to the news that NASA's Kepler Space Telescope may have just came to an early end of mission due to a faulty piece of orientation hardware. The fault falls within one of the wheels that stabilize and help keep the spacecraft pointed in the right direction.
When Kepler needs to be repositioned or stabilized for image capturing, three wheels are spun up to take advantage of centripetal force. Kepler needs three of its wheels running at all times to ensure a stable orientation. On Wednesday NASA officials announced that one of those three wheels had stopped functioning, which put the telescope into "safe mode."
Unfortunately, unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, Kepler is far away from our reach and was not designed to be serviceable. Plus, with the shuttle program long gone, it's not like we would have a way to get to it anyway. "Kepler's not in a place where I can go up and rescue it, or any other astronaut," said John Grunsfeld, the head of science at NASA, and the man who is famous for repairing the Hubble.
No longer do Navy drones have to be land-based. The United States Navy has officially tested the X-47B on an aircraft carrier and it is the first unmanned aircraft to be launched from an aircraft carrier. Even cooler, the X-47B was launched from the aircraft carrier using the steam-powered catapult.
To be fair, the system was piloted by a person located on the aircraft carrier. After taking off, the drone was piloted to a runway on land for landing. With this first test successfully completed, the X-47B will now have its automatic navigation and landing tested.
The US Office of Naval Research has successfully flown a drone for two entire days using a tank filled with liquid hydrogen. The previous experiment used a hydrogen fuel cell as its power source, flying for a then record time of 26 hours.
The new test used a cryogenic storage tank filled with liquid hydrogen, flying for 48 hours, breaking the previous record by nearly an entire day. We should expect this technology to continue to impress, just give it a few more years.
Yesterday, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) discovered an ammonia leak in a coolant loop that cools the power system attached to one of the large solar arrays on the ISS. NASA officials say that the crew of six is in no danger and that this leak will most likely result in the array being shut down until the leak is fixed.
This same system has had leaks before, in 2007 a leak in the same spot was discovered, but was much smaller then and was such that it did not warrant an immediate repair. It was so small that the system was recharged with just eight pounds of ammonia in 2011 during a visit from the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Last November, an attempt to repair the leak was made during spacewalks made by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Japanese space flyer Akihiko Hoshide. The fix was only temporary though and now it has reared its ugly head again.
"It is a serious situation, but between crew and experts on the ground, it appears to have been stabilized. Tomorrow we find out for certain," space station commander Chris Hadfield of Canada wrote Thursday via Twitter, where he posts updates as @Cmdr_Hadfield.
This morning Google and Time released the culmination of a project in which they teamed up with NASA and the US Geological Survey to produce a historical perspective on how Earth has changed over the past 30 years.
The project takes satellite imagery produced by the LandSat program and stitches them together removing clouds and haze to produce animated GIF images of how a region has changed over the past three decades. The Time.com hosted site features a handful of pre-chosen sites such as the Amazon Rainforest, Las Vegas, Dubai, Mendenhall Glacier and the Oil Sands fields in Russia.
The project consists of literally millions of individual images taken by the LandSat satellites that have been orbiting Earth at an altitude of over 400 miles since the 1970's. The project began in 2009 when Google began working with the USGS to make the entire archive of LandSat imagery available to the public.
NASA has decided to get rid of their Windows-powered notebooks on the International Space Station (ISS) and replace with them with Linux-powered counterparts. On top of this, the first humanoid robot in space, R2, is powered by Linux.
Keith Chuvala, who has quite a mouthful of titles, is a United Space Alliance contractor, manager of the Space Operations Computing (SpOC) for NASA, and leader of the ISS's Laptops and Network Integration Teams, recently explained that NASA decided to move away from Windows, and in to the arms of Linux for the ISS's PCs. He said:
We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable - one that would give us in-house control. So if we needed to patch, adjust, or adapt, we could.
I know I'm not the only one on the TweakTown staff that loves space. I also believe many of our readers happen to be space fans following Curiosity's journey on Mars. We now have three stunning panoramic images stitched together from over 60 raw images taken by the rover. These panoramas allow a wider field of view so you can get a better sense of where Curiosity is working.
Ken Kremer, creator of the panoramas:
I chose these scenes because they vividly tell the story of what NASA seeks to accomplish with Curiosity in the search for signs of life on Mars as well as tell the science story of the entire mission at a glance - one panorama is worth a thousand words, so to speak.
The images are stunning and really give a good idea of what the red planet's horizon looks like. In two of the three panoramas, Mount Sharp rises majestically in the background. This was done on purpose, according to Kremer, because it's "a dramatic backdrop as well as being the rover's ultimate destination."
Maybe these pictures will help encourage people to sign up to live in the Mars Colony.
The Solar Impulse is a plane powered completely by the sun. Its wings, which are the size of a Boeing 747's, are covered in solar panels which generate and store electricity in batteries so the plane can fly 24/7 without ever needing to stop to refuel. The plane is currently on a journey across the United States, with the first leg being from Mountain View, CA to Phoenix, AZ.
The first leg of the journey will take about 20 hours to complete due to the plane being rather slow moving. In fact, the plane only moves at around 40 MPH. You can track the Solar Impulse on its journey via the live stream and site set up by the creators. The stream shows a Google Earth view of the terrain below the plane, while the site has current speed, direction, temperature, engine settings, and battery status.
Happy Friday, everyone! Time to get your geek on. Google has released a new "Explorer Story" video in which a physics teacher heads 500 feet underground to tour the Large Hadron Collider, all the while teaching to a physics class thousands of miles away. How awesome!
The video really speaks for itself. But just in case it doesn't, Andrew Vanden Heuvel, the star of the video, has authored a blog post with his thoughts and experiences. I know that I can't wait to buy my own pair of Google Glass.
The video you are about to see was not created in CGI, nor does it use any of Hollywood's video trickery. Scientists at IBM's Almaden Research Lab in San Jose, CA, have figured out a way to precisely move and manipulate individual atoms in very precise ways. So precise, in fact, that they were able to film the world's smallest video using nothing but the building blocks of all matter.
When it comes to the things I love, the video above is about as high on the list as it gets. The simple fact that we have the technology to now take an individual atom and place it anywhere in space that we want is simply astounding, when you consider the fact that less than 100 years ago we had no idea that atoms even existed. To get a scale of what is going on here, each dot has been magnified about 100,000,000 times.
The video was made by using a scanning tunneling microscope that weighs as much as a full sized truck and operates at -268 degrees Celsius. The positioning of the atoms was achieved by moving a very tiny needle across the surface of a piece of copper the size of a postage stamp with a height from the surface of just one nanometer.