• 2010 nasa special
    a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses Earth's southern Hemisphere. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow crosses the South Pacific Ocean where it makes no landfall except for Mangaia (Cook Islands) and Easter Island (Isla de Pascua).

NASA: Quake Shifted Earth's Axis, Shortened Day

(March 1) -- Apart from claiming the lives of hundreds of people and wreaking enormous property damage, Chile's massive earthquake has likely altered the distribution of the Earth's overall mass, scientists from NASA say.

As a result, the length of a day is now a little shorter than it was before Saturday's magnitude 8.8 earthquake.

"The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds [millionths of a second]," Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Bloomberg. "The axis about which the Earth's mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds [about 8 centimeters or 3 inches]."

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The speed that the Earth rotates also increased slightly in 2004 following the earthquake that struck the off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. That 9.1 earthquake shortened the length of an Earth day by 6.8 microseconds, scientists say.

The reason is that sudden changes in the dimensions of the Earth's tectonic plates, like those experienced in the earthquakes in Chile and Indonesia, can alter the velocity.

David Kerridge, the head of Earth hazards and systems at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, likened the change in rotation speed to what happens when a figure skater draws her arms in close to her body while spinning. "As she pulls her arms in," Kerridge told Bloomberg, "she gets faster and faster. It's the same idea with the Earth going around: If you change the distribution of mass, the rotation rate changes."

Chilean Quake Likely Shifted Earth’s Axis, NASA Scientist Says

March 1 (Bloomberg) -- The earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile on Feb. 27 probably shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the day, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist said.

Earthquakes can involve shifting hundreds of kilometers of rock by several meters, changing the distribution of mass on the planet. This affects the Earth’s rotation, said Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who uses a computer model to calculate the effects.

“The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second),” Gross, said today in an e-mailed reply to questions. “The axis about which the Earth’s mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches).”

The changes can be modeled, though they’re difficult to physically detect given their small size, Gross said. Some changes may be more obvious, and islands may have shifted, according to Andreas Rietbrock, a professor of Earth Sciences at the U.K.’s Liverpool University who has studied the area impacted, though not since the latest temblor.

Santa Maria Island off the coast near Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, may have been raised 2 meters (6 feet) as a result of the latest quake, Rietbrock said today in a telephone interview. He said the rocks there show evidence pointing to past earthquakes shifting the island upward in the past.

‘Ice-Skater Effect’

“It’s what we call the ice-skater effect,” David Kerridge, head of Earth hazards and systems at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, said today in a telephone interview. “As the ice skater puts when she’s going around in a circle, and she pulls her arms in, she gets faster and faster. It’s the same idea with the Earth going around if you change the distribution of mass, the rotation rate changes.”

Rietbrock said he hasn’t been able to get in touch with seismologists in Concepcion to discuss the quake, which registered 8.8 on the Richter scale.

“What definitely the earthquake has done is made the Earth ring like a bell,” Rietbrock said.

The magnitude 9.1 Sumatran in 2004 that generated an Indian Ocean tsunami shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds and shifted the axis by about 2.3 milliarcseconds, Gross said.

The changes happen on the day and then carry on “forever,” Benjamin Fong Chao, dean of Earth Sciences of the National Central University in Taiwan, said in an e-mail.

“This small contribution is buried in larger changes due to other causes, such as atmospheric mass moving around on Earth,” Chao said.

NASA radar on Chandrayaan-I detects ice deposits on moon

Scientists have detected more than 40 ice-filled craters in the moon's North Pole using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-I.

NASA's Mini-SAR instrument, lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 2 to 15 km in diameter.

The finding would give future missions a new target to further explore and exploit, a NASA statement said, adding it is estimated that there could be at least 600 million metric tons of water ice in the craters.

"The emerging picture from the multiple measurements and resulting data of the instruments on lunar missions indicates that water creation, migration, deposition and retention are occurring on the moon," Paul Spudis, principal investigator of the Mini-SAR experiment at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, said yesterday.

NASA's Space Shuttle Program Successfully Conducts Final Motor Test in Utah

Final test firing of reusable solid rocket motor FSM-17 on Feb. 25 in Promontory, UtahNASA's Space Shuttle Program conducted the final test firing of a reusable solid rocket motor Feb. 25 in Promontory, Utah.

The flight support motor, or FSM-17, burned for approximately 123 seconds -- the same time each reusable solid rocket motor burns during an actual space shuttle launch. Preliminary indications show all test objectives were met. After final test data are analyzed, results for each objective will be published in a NASA report.

ATK Launch Systems, a unit of Alliant Techsystems Inc., in Promontory, north of Salt Lake City, manufactures and tests the solid rocket motors.

The test -- the 52nd conducted for NASA by ATK – marks the closure of a test program that has spanned more than three decades. The first test was in July 1977. The ATK-built motors have successfully launched the space shuttle into orbit 129 times.

Flight Support Motor-17, the final solid rocket ground test motor of the Space Shuttle program"Today's test was a great deal more than the successful conclusion to a series of highly successful NASA/ATK-sponsored static tests that began more than three decades ago," said David Beaman, Reusable Solid Rocket Booster project manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The project, part of the Space Shuttle Propulsion Office, is responsible for motor design, development, manufacturing, assembly, testing and flight performance.

"These tests have built a base of engineering knowledge that continued engineering development of the reusable solid rocket motor system and the continued safe and successful launch of space shuttles," Beaman said. "They have provided an engineering model and lessons learned for additional applications in future launch systems."
Mist surrounds Flight Support Motor-17 prior to a successful test on Feb. 25 in Promontory, Utah
The final test was conducted to ensure the safe flight of the four remaining space shuttle missions. A total of 43 design objectives were measured through 258 instrument channels during the two-minute static firing. The flight motor tested represents motors that will be used for all remaining space shuttle launches.

The space shuttle's reusable solid rocket motor is the largest solid rocket motor ever flown, the only one rated for human flight and the first designed for reuse. Each shuttle launch requires the boost of two reusable solid rocket motors to lift the 4.5-million-pound shuttle vehicle.

Smoke curls into the Utah skies as FSM-17 completes its successful test firingDuring space shuttle flights, solid rocket motors provide 80 percent of the thrust during the first two minutes of flight. Each motor, the primary component of the shuttle's twin solid rocket boosters, generates an average thrust of 2.6 million pounds and is just over 126 feet long and 12 feet in diameter.

For more information about the Space Shuttle Program, visit:


Mars Odyssey and Phoenix Mars Lander Missions Status Report

Stages in the seasonal disappearance of surface ice from the ground around the Phoenix Mars Lander
NASA's Mars Odyssey began a second campaign Monday to check on whether the Phoenix Mars Lander has revived itself after the northern Martian winter. The orbiter received no signal from the lander during the first 10 overflights of this campaign.

Odyssey will listen for Phoenix during 50 additional overflights, through Feb. 26, during the current campaign.

Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25, 2008, and operated successfully in the Martian arctic for about two months longer than its planned three-month mission. Operations ended when waning sunlight left the solar-powered craft with insufficient energy to keep working. The season at the Phoenix landing site is now mid-springtime, with the sun above the horizon for roughly 22 hours each Martian day. That is comparable to the illumination that Phoenix experienced a few weeks after completing its three-month primary mission.

Phoenix was not designed to withstand the extremely low temperatures and the ice load of the Martian arctic winter. In the extremely unlikely event that the lander has survived the winter and has achieved a stable energy state, it would operate in a mode where it periodically awakens and transmits a signal to any orbiter in view.

A third campaign to check on whether Phoenix has revived itself is scheduled for April 5-9, when the sun will be continuously above the Martian horizon at the Phoenix site.

Mars Odyssey is managed for NASA's Science Mission Directorate by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and made the spacecraft. The successful Phoenix mission was led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin. International contributions came from the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark; the Max Planck Institute in Germany; the Finnish Meteorological Institute; and Imperial College, London.

Former NASA Ames Employee Wants Energy to Bloom Throughout the World

K.R. Sridhar holds the fuel cell technology that is equivalent to 25 watts of powerK.R. Sridhar used to spend his time as a researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., looking at the sky and dreaming of ways to sustain life on Mars. Now, CEO of Bloom Energy, Sridhar heads a company that just unveiled new technology that could make energy cleaner, cheaper, more reliable and accessible to everyone in the world.

The journey from NASA to Bloom Energy started with Sridhar and a small team of university researchers working to build a fuel cell powered module to go to Mars. When their NASA project ended, the team left academic life, opened a research and development office in NASA Research Park, and began working to commercialize the fuel cell technology with a new company, ION America, which became Bloom Energy.

"NASA is a tremendous environment for encouraging innovation - it's all about solving problems that are seemingly unsolvable. After realizing that we could make oxygen on Mars, making electrons on Earth seemed far less daunting. We're grateful to NASA for giving us a challenge with serendipitous impact for mankind," said Sridhar.

Bloom Energy servers at eBay. Each server is the equivalent size of one parking spotInvented over a century ago, fuel cells have been used in practically every NASA mission since the 1960s. However, they have not gained widespread acceptance because of their inherently high cost. Traditional fuel cell technology used precious metals but this technology uses sand. Sand is inexpensive, which Sridhar asserts makes the Bloom Energy technology affordable and easy to mass produce.

As more people consume more energy, Sridhar became aware that the world was heading in the wrong direction. “We would be handing our children and their children a broken planet," ventured Sridhar. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and do nothing." Sridhar believed that conservation alone was not enough and that there was a “calling to our generation to find a different way to create energy."

"To make clean reliable energy affordable for everyone in the world," is the mission of Bloom Energy. "One in three humans lives without power," Sridhar asserted. "Energy demand exceeds supply. Global population is growing quickly." Keeping these three facts in mind, Sridhar is working to bring energy to parts of the world that don’t have power.

On Feb. 24, 2010, Bloom Energy held a press conference at the eBay town hall in San Jose, Calif. “This is a day that I have been looking forward to for a long time,” Sridhar commented. Representatives from companies that were early adapters attended, including Larry Page from Google, Inc., Bill Simon from Walmart, Brian Kelly from The Coca-Cola Company, and John Donahoe of eBay, Inc.

Former secretary of state, Colin Powell, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar, California governor, also attended the event. “This technology is an excellent example of the wave of green innovation washing over the state of California,” said Schwarzeneggar. "He [Sridhar] is someone shaping the future of energy not just for California but for the world."

"History Detectives" Investigate the Case of the Mylar Mystery

Debbie Thomas and There is a mystery afoot at Goddard - the case of the mylar mystery to be exact. On January 11, 2010, "History Detective" Tukufu Zuberi, from the PBS show "The History Detectives," came to Goddard to investigate a mystery. "The History Detectives" show asks viewers to submit unusual objects or clues with a possible historical interest and then selects one as the basis of investigating an historical mystery.

NASA's first communication satellite, Echo, was a giant mylar balloonIn our case, Zuberi had one clue, a small, unassuming, silver sample of mylar with pink residue on one side. The mystery to be solved was whether or not this bit of mylar was from Goddard’s Echo II satelloon project. Satelloons are a combination of satellites and balloons which were constructed out of bright, metallic mylar for increased visibility.

During the early 1960’s, Goddard launched the Echo I and Echo II satelloon projects. The Echo projects were instrumental in letting the world see that the U.S. was a major force in the space race not very far behind Russia. Among the many contributions of the Echo programs are the first voice communication via satellite which was made by none other than then President Eisenhower and the first coast-to-coast telephone call using a satellite. In addition, the Echo programs resulted in advances in atmospheric density, solar pressure, gossamer structures, solar sailing, and transmitting videos via satellites.

Debbie Thomas cuts the sample to be tested during a visit from PBS's History DetectivesHistory Detective Zuberi turned to retired NASA engineer and self-professed Echo satelloon historian Ron Muller for help in solving the mylar mystery. He received additional assistance in the form of testing from four members of Goddard’s Materials Engineering Branch including Michael Viens, Alejandro Montoya, Debbie Thomas, and Marjorie Sovinski.

So, what did History Detective Zuberi and his Goddard colleagues determine? Was the silver bit of mylar from our Echo II satelloon project? For the answers to these and other questions regarding the case of the mylar mystery, stay tuned to watch a future episode of "The History Detectives" airing on PBS in the summer of 2010.

NASA Announces Partnership with Texas Instruments

TI Education Manager and Master Instructors pose for a picture before touring the mission control centers at NASA Johnson Space CenterNASA and Texas Instruments (TI) announced a new partnership between TI and NASA's Human Research Program Education Outreach (HRPEO) project at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference held in Austin, Texas, earlier this year.

The kick-off event for the partnership between HRPEO and TI was a workshop held by HRPEO personnel at Johnson Space Center (JSC). The focus of this collaboration is to develop and implement new, supplementary educational content using real-world NASA applications and the excitement of space exploration to enhance the latest technology and expertise that is uniquely TI.

TI and HRPEO team members in Apollo Mission Control Center with Flight ControllerAfter being inspired by a special tour of the Mission Control Centers for the space shuttle, ISS and Apollo programs, the T³ instructors were tasked with creating new versions of the HRPEO Exploring Space Through Math and Math and Science @ Work problems, incorporating the latest TI technology. HRPEO content from this collaboration will be posted on the TI Activities Exchange, a popular feature of the TI website where teachers can find activities posted by subject for their classrooms.

The T³ instructors and HRPEO project leads will make presentations at the T³ International Conference in Atlanta in March. While attending they will continue collaborating on new problems and planning a week-long summer content development effort at JSC this June.

The professional development division of TI, called "Teachers Teaching with Technology™" or T³ for short, has a rich history of providing high-quality professional development for teachers who want to integrate educational technology into their curricula. These instructors give presentations to math and science teachers nationwide using the TI technology. This national exposure will help HRPEO broaden the reach of the projects as well as effect students through T³ Instructors.

The Group receives instruction on Apollo Mission Control Center from Flight ControllerThe HRPEO project, Exploring Space Through Math, focuses on Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II and Precalculus, while the Math and Science @ Work project focuses on AP courses in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Calculus and Statistics. These projects provide supplemental educational materials designed to help students understand real-world applications of these courses. This type of education is referred to as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM.

Also of note, TI has a new handheld technology called the TI-Nspire. The T³ Instructors are creating Nspire versions of the existing problems. Since many schools have graphing calculators (TI-84’s or older versions) in their classrooms and some schools have the newer Nspire handhelds, both versions will be implemented. This will provide a wider audience for these high school STEM materials.

To find out more, visit:
› http://humanresearch.jsc.nasa.gov/education.asp
› http://www.education.ti.com

NASA Announces 2010 Carl Sagan Fellows

The Sagan Fellowship, named after the late Carl Sagan, is one of three fellowships that represent a new theme-based approachNASA has selected seven scientists as recipients of Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowships in exoplanet exploration for 2010. The Sagan Fellowships support outstanding recent postdoctoral scientists in conducting independent research broadly related to the science goals of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program. That program's primary goal is to discover and characterize planetary systems and Earth-like planets around other stars.

"The Sagan Fellowship identifies and supports the most promising young scholars who are passionate about the scientific search for and study of planets beyond our solar system," said Charles Beichman, executive director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "These young scientists combine interest in the fields of astronomy, astrobiology or geophysics with expertise in theory, observation, or state-of-the-art instrumentation. They are following a trail blazed by Carl Sagan -- after whom the fellowship program is named -- that may one day lead to the discovery of life on worlds other than Earth."

The program, created in 2008, awards selected postdoctoral scientists with stipends of approximately $62,500 for up to three years, plus an annual research budget of $16,000. Topics range from techniques for detecting the glow of a dim planet in the blinding glare of its host star, to searching for the crucial ingredients of life in other planetary systems.

In addition to the Sagan Fellowships, NASA has two other astrophysics theme-based fellowship programs: the Einstein Fellowship Program, which supports research into the physics of the cosmos; and the Hubble Fellowship Program, which supports research into cosmic origins.

The 2010 Sagan Fellows are:

--Diana Valencia, who will work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, to study the internal structure, composition and physical evolution of super-Earths.

--Emily Rauscher, who will work at the University of Arizona, Tucson, to investigate the atmospheric conditions necessary to achieve large-scale variability in hot Jupiters. A hot Jupiter is a planet roughly the size of Jupiter that orbits very close to its parent star.

--Lucas Cieza, who will work at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, to study the disks of gas and dust around young stars where there is evidence of planets being formed.

--Ivan Ramirez, who will work at the Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, Calif., to develop new methods for finding planets based on chemical analyses of their stars.

--Jacob Bean, who will work at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., to carry out a sensitive search for planets around the smallest stars by carefully measuring the stellar wobble produced by the planet.

--Laurent Pueyo, who will work at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., to use adaptive optics observations to directly image planets around other stars.

--Aaron Boley, who will attend the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., to study the formation of gas giant planets, particularly the formation and heating of large solids in the initial stages of planet-building.

A full description of the 2010 fellows and their projects, and other information about these programs is available at:

http://nexsci.caltech.edu/sagan/2010postdocRecipients.shtml .

More information about NASA's Astrophysics Division is at:

http://nasascience.nasa.gov/astrophysics .

The Sagan Fellowship Program is administered by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute as part of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.

Giving Teachers the Tools to Inspire

Teachers found themselves on the other side of the desk this week as they played the part of student, participating in workshops and learning how to get students psyched about science during the second annual NASA STEM Educators Workshop series in Charlotte, N.C.

The three-day free workshop held at the IBM Center consisted of 40 sessions that offered elementary, middle and high school teachers creative and hands-on ways to incorporate NASA content into their classrooms.

For elementary teacher Nancy Brooks from Kannapolis, N.C., it didn't take long to find something that would spark her students' interest.

During a workshop Brooks learned how to make an end effector, which in robotics is the device at the end of a robot arm.

"It only took two Styrofoam cups, string, tape, and a little bit of practice," said Brooks who planned on having her students complete the same project the very next day.

"There are so many resources and activities here that I can take back with me and use to motivate my students to dig a little deeper," she continued.

Dynae Fullwood, aerospace education specialist from NASA's Langley Research Center, said the workshops are specifically designed to give teachers tangible resources for immediate use in the classrooms.

"We know teachers face an everyday challenge to make concepts exciting and interesting for students," Fullwood said.

In the hands-on lab elementary and middle school teachers examined robots and did their best to follow the instructions of their teacher Taunya Sweet, a traveling education specialist for NASA's Aerospace Education Services Project (AESP).

Similar to students, the teachers were anxious to get started and play with their robot.

"Don't touch them," cautioned Sweet. "I know these robots are interesting, but wait until after we observe them to turn them on."

In another classroom, teachers in the video conferencing lab listened as Karen Ricks from NASA Langley's Digital Learning Network discussed "Traveling to Space" over a live digital feed. Just down the hall, NASA exhibits encouraged teachers to make Post Cards from space and find their "space weight."

Tracie Hall, an elementary school teacher from North Carolina, and Garrison Hall, a middle school teacher from South Carolina, work together to program a robot during a workshopThe sessions culminated with a guest appearance from Astronaut Leland Melvin, who only the day before gave an inspiring speech to hundreds of middle school students at the CIAA Education Day, about "living your dreams."

Melvin, who got his start in fiber optic sensors at NASA Langley and went on to become an astronaut with two missions under his belt, appealed to the teachers as a fellow educator himself.

As the co-manager of NASA's Educator Astronaut Program, Melvin travels across the country engaging students and teachers in the excitement of space exploration. He also came from a family of educators. Both of his parents were teachers.

"My dad, the educator, was my role model, my inspiration," he said.

He encouraged teachers to find their own inspiration and to continue inspire and be role models for the next generation.

"We need to keep the kids excited about STEM subjects," he said to a round of applause.

Melvin stressed the importance education played in his life even when he was on track to play football in NFL.

"I always had a back-up plan," Melvin said. "And that plan was education."

A pulled hamstring thwarted Melvin's dreams of playing for the Dallas Cowboys, but his enrollment in graduate school at the University of Virginia kept him on track to realize his dreams, which turned to be helping others find theirs.

Centennial Challenges 2009 Prizewinners Recognition Ceremony

2009 Award WinnersNASA Admimistrator Charlie Bolden along with senior NASA officials Doug Comstock and Andy Petro, acknowledges winners and organizers of NASA’s 2009 Centennial Challenges. The award ceremony was held at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

The multi-year competitions address a range of technical challenges that support NASA's missions in aeronautics and space with a goal of encouraging novel solutions from non-traditional sources. In 2009, NASA awarded a total of 3.65 million dollars to eight winning teams in four competitions. The partner organizations that conducted the competitions are: California Space Education and Workforce Institute (Regolith Excavation), X Prize Foundation (Lunar Lander), Spaceward Foundation (Power Beaming and Strong Tether), Volanz Aerospace Inc. (Astronaut Glove) and Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation (Green Flight). NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program manages the Centennial Challenges.

For more information on Centennial Challenges, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/challenges