Daily Archives: August 27, 2012

OK, Now they’re just playing around with the hardware…

Today, NASA did something never before done, and well, not all that impressive.

Charles Bolden of NASA spoke some words into a microscope, and this voice stream was sent to the Curiosity Rover on Mars, which then sent it back. Hey, I just spent the last 15 minutes swapping monitors around on my computers, and those monitors had cables that had been secured with cable ties and that ran through conduits and stuff. I’m thinking what I did was harder.

According to NASA, Bolden said:

The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet. Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future.

Later, some other guy said, on Earth and to other Earthlings:

“With this voice, another small step is taken in extending human presence beyond Earth, and the experience of exploring remote worlds is brought a little closer to us all,” said Dave Lavery, NASA Curiosity program executive. “As Curiosity continues its mission, we hope these words will be an inspiration to someone alive today who will become the first to stand upon the surface of Mars. And like the great Neil Armstrong, they will speak aloud of that next giant leap in human exploration.”

The pingback from Bolden was played at a press conference (“live”) while neat pictures from Mars were shown.

The telephoto images beamed back to Earth show a scene of eroded knobs and gulches on a mountainside, with geological layering clearly exposed. The new views were taken by the 100-millimeter telephoto lens and the 34-milllimeter wide angle lens of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument. Mastcam has photographed the lower slope of the nearby mountain called Mount Sharp.

A little Skype, a little Webcam…

Onto more serious matters, some actual science was reported at the press conference.

…the rover team reported the results of a test on Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which can measure the composition of samples of atmosphere, powdered rock or soil. The amount of air from Earth’s atmosphere remaining in the instrument after Curiosity’s launch was more than expected, so a difference in pressure on either side of tiny pumps led SAM operators to stop pumping out the remaining Earth air as a precaution. The pumps subsequently worked, and a chemical analysis was completed on a sample of Earth air.

“As a test of the instrument, the results are beautiful confirmation of the sensitivities for identifying the gases present,” said SAM principal investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “We’re happy with this test and we’re looking forward to the next run in a few days when we can get Mars data.”

Here’s a video of the Voice from Outer Space and the pictures they showed:

And, as long as we are showing videos, here are Bolden’s remarks regarding the passing of Neil Armstrong.

Isaac will be a hurricane by the time you read this….

…. prolly. At the moment, Isaac has all the pieces in place; winds are high enough, pressure at the center is low enough, and all that. But, the storm is not organized with an eye and nicely formed bands. I imagine that the folks in the Hurricane Prediction Center are annoyed. I suspect they will declare Isaac a Hurricane within a few hours.

There are two big news items to know about. First, Isaac is physically large and wet, and will cause many inches of rain to fall on places that will then flood severely. Second, the center line of the hurricane’s track may go right over New Orleans, which means that the “right punch” of the storm will pass over Lake Pontchatrain. This significantly increases the potential severity of flooding.

New Orleans is shutting down. Fights are now being cancelled at the airport, evacuations have been going on for a while, the flood gates at various levies are being shut as I write this. City and state officials are confident that the levy system is up to snuff and there will be no breaking or breaching of these flood-stopping structures.

Just because Isaac’s center seems to be bearing down on NOLA does not mean that other places are not in trouble. If I was Mississippi, I’d be worried.

So far I’ve not seen any reporters falling into the Landfall Fallacy, but on the other hand, I’ve not been watching the news much. Huxley and I have been busy with other things. Let me know if you see any examples!

New Creation Science Attraction, and I say, "go for it!"

I am looking forward to the construction of the meatspace version of the currently on-line only “Creation Science Hall of Fame” on vacant land on Interstate 75 between the Creation Museum and the Ark Park.

Someday this section of Northern Kentucky will be a veritable Miracle Mile of Creationism Related Facilities. It is about this time this industry got some competition. We know that the Invisible Hand of the Free Market is like god and makes everything better. What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s the story from the Courier-Journal

Hat Tip: Joe

Isaac: Good news and bad news

The good news, if you see Hurricanes as bad, is that Isaac did not turn into a hurricane over night and is having trouble getting its act together. This has caused estimates of the hurricane’s maximum strength at the time of land fall to be reduced. Isaac will be a serious storm when it plows into the southern US coast but it will not be an Ivan, Katrina or Andrew.

The bad news is that the predicted track has moved even farther west, so the forward right quadrant, the “Right Punch” of the hurricane, may very well hit New Orleans at a very bad angle and position.