Cassini: The Grand Finale

“1:55 a.m. PDT

Cassini engineers have received the signal that Cassini has started a five-minute roll to point the instrument that will sample Saturn’s atmosphere (INMS) into the optimal direction, facing the direction of the oncoming gases. Along with this roll, the spacecraft is reconfiguring its systems for real-time data transmission at a rate of 27 kilobits per second (3.4 kilobytes per second). Final, real-time relay of data starts immediately after. That relay marks the beginning of Cassini’s final plunge.”

Not long now before Cassini plunges into Saturn. It’s sending data back as fast as it can, at a speed comparable to a modem used by many in the late nineties!

Absolutely amazing.

Check out the NASA live stream for commentary.

Eclipse 2017 in Ireland

A tiny portion of the August 21st solar eclipse will be visible from Ireland as seen in this NASA web app that shows you the track of the Moon’s shadow across the Earth.

It’ll probably be cloudy anyway but don’t look unless you have special glasses. I doubt most people will notice anything, it might get slightly dimmer around 8pm local time for a few minutes. Wait for the photos from the US to show up on social media. 🙂

The Orion Launch

The Orion test vehicle launched this morning without a hitch on top of a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Orion

If you’re wondering what the test is about, or what all the fuss is about, watch this video by Scott Manley as he recreates the test in Kerbal Space Program and explains some of the aims of the test and of the Orion program.

Video footage of the real mission was already uploaded to Youtube and here’s one version I found.

Interesting bits happen at:

  • 5:10 – Separation of the port and starboard boosters.
  • 6:57 – Stage separation.
  • 7:10 – Service module fairing jettison (and launch abort system jettison, but that’s off-camera)

    Watch Scott’s video first as you’ll recognise the same events happening “in real life” on the NASA video.

NASA + Google = SPHERES

This is quite amazing. Google and NASA are working on robots that will float around the International Space Station helping astronauts or perform maintenance activities independently on station. I love the zero G test of the SPHERE in the video. It looked like a lot of fun!

I found this video on Johnny Chung Lee’s blog post. I remember I started following after he blogged about hacking the Wii motion controller a few years ago. Now into space? Great!

Since the summer of 2013, the Project Tango team has been working closely with a team at the NASA Ames Research Center. The goal: to integrate a Project Tango prototype onto a robotic platform, called SPHERES, that flies inside the International Space Station. The SPHERES program aims to develop zero-gravity autonomous platforms that could act as robotic assistants for astronauts or perform maintenance activities independently on station. The 3D-tracking and mapping capabilities of Project Tango would allow SPHERES to reconstruct a 3D-map of the space station and, for the first time in history, enable autonomous navigation of a floating robotic platform 230 miles above the surface of the earth.

Project Tango and SPHERES are scheduled to be launched into orbit this summer. The future is awesome.

Spacelog: Apollo 13

From the Apollo 13 Spacelog transcript. Good thing nobody had to get out and push. (via)

Jack Swigert (CMP): Okay, Joe. I’ll tell you, I’m just trying to figure out where we are here.
…..
Joe Kerwin (CAPCOM): Roger, Jack. We see that. Of course, there’s a lot of cloudcover and you see it more clearly than we do, but it does look like the Earth, not the Moon.

Filed under travel because, well, you can’t travel much further than the moon and back. Right?

They're twittering the Mars landing

I had completely forgotten about Phoenix, the mission to land a robotic craft at the North Pole of Mars. I was reminded by tehnosailor who twittered about the @marsphoenix Twitter account.
Follow that account to hear the latest news from the team in Nasa! They’ve also linked to related movies and pages about the mission. I’m watching the one about the last 7 minutes now. Exciting stuff. Good luck guys!

2,913 followers right now. I wonder how many more they’ll have by the time of the landing?

I think this must rate as the coolest use of Twitter, ever!