ols 751 through 753 this week promise some exciting new imagery from Curiosity. Already published to the Google Earth archive is the latest telemetry from Sol 752 (taken yesterday) which will be used to create a further upload (I’m separating the presentations into two files for this event; one called 752a, the other, 752b). These will illustrate further a detailed look at the geography of the region now being called simply ‘the Amargosa Valley’.
According to Curiosity Rover scientist Lauren Edgar:
“A short ~30 m drive on Sol 753 should put Curiosity in a good position at the Pahrump Hills. Sol 754 will consist of 2 hours of untargeted remote sensing, including ChemCam calibration activities to prepare for the Pahrump investigation, and a Navcam movie to monitor the atmosphere.”
Edgar promises further science mission plans for the Pahrump Hills region and beyond will be known very soon.
esterday, we again saw numerous spending questions about the value behind #Curiosity and other endeavours by #NASA concerning space exploration. These were prevalent amongst the media’s questions during a Curiosity Update event sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (#JPL).
Earlier this month, similar frustration could be heard reverberating from the Mars Society’s Dr. Robert Zubrin, who (ensconced atop his pulpit at NASA’s Ames Research Centre) aggressively critiqued the high-profile US department for vacillating on its exploration objectives throughout the solar system. Zubrin and others see an inefficient, navel-gazing, visionless bureaucracy requiring a refocusing of goals and research to end years of wasted money and energy spent on justifying bad programs. Instead, what seems to be happening is the very same political institutions responsible for funding US space exploration are simply cutting an inefficient image-conscious government department without addressing the real problem behind invested dollars being well-spent.
In the meantime, corporate America (and commercial interests elsewhere) have begun to step into the sacred ground once reserved for NASA. Cancellation of the Constellation project happened in tandem with the government refocusing its spending on backing commercial exploration, no doubt because of NASA’s inability to get the job done soon enough to put America first in a second emerging space race. But NASA still has missions all over the solar system to manage and maintain — and its not clear where the money will come from if the larger issues affecting it aren’t addressed.
In the end, maybe a few heads have to roll. And there will be consequences; but the only alternative is continuing to stand idly by and watch an organization that once led humanity to the surface of the moon fade from relevance entirely.
he CBC article begins “Do you believe”? That’s a good question, say some critics of the report — which have been downplaying the report since its publication earlier this month (August 2014) on major Canadian news networks (via Canadian Press, which authored the original article). Even the report’s author, Chris Rutkowski, was reported as saying his group’s work doesn’t provide absolute proof about the existence of extra-terrestrials. Then again, how could it? Even if beings from other worlds were a part of our daily-lives the report is weak on methodology, heavy on adjectives and absent use beyond a talisman around which advocacy groups can rally.
New report compiles 25 years of UFO sightings in Canada
— CTV News (Video)
As one who’s had this issue close to his heart all his life (out of interest in the exploration of environs beyond our own planet), I find little of interest for me other than the story of how the data was determined. What initially caught my eye was the apparent sudden drop in the number of UFO sightings — a fact corroborated online to some degree, anecdotally. (Perhaps this is one of the reasons the report’s data reflects a drop?) But there’s no definition listed in the report for what the differences are between a “explained sighting”, “probable sighting”, “insufficient evidence”, or “unexplained”. The report’s grammar seems to imply these definitions exist somewhere and are well-known; but there’s no terms of reference, footnotes or other citations of whom or what defines these beyond the group’s own apparently subjective (and unpublished/unreferenced) definitions.
And boy is it particularly interesting to see the talking heads of our modern media lap this stuff up and talk about it as if it was the latest press release from NASA! A local radio station here in Ottawa (CFRA) actually had a segment devoted to so-called experts at one point debating the causes of the report’s monolithic and sudden drop in UFO sightings between 2012 and 2013. The data itself was taken for granted, without so much as a breath questioning its validity.
According to Ed Barker, (Ret.) former Producer of the Manitoba Planetarium, who in his career spent years as the lead UFOlogist at the centre, says these kinds of spikes and dips in sightings data occur frequently. “These variances in the data occur all the time”, says Barker, and one can’t get too excited about a single year-anomaly. Certainly, CFRA’s analysis, citing the emergence of smart phone technology somehow making sightings less likely suddenly in 2012-13 seemed, to me, to be a theory without either scientific analysis or subjective arguments in support. (Smart phones have been around considerably longer without any reflected impact on the trends cited in the report or anecdotally in reports I could find online.)
The Canadian Government hasn’t been particularly helpful in recent years, with virtually all money to even tracking airborne phenomena evaporating. Nowadays, if a person makes a sighting report to police — say the RCMP — they actually end up simply forwarding it to Rutkowski’s group. Even were such referrals to non-profit civilian groups the normal practice only part of the time, surely the public’s expectation would be that there’d be a few pennies to rub together in the annual budget to keep programs tracking such data afloat.
One could even think it begs the question: why would the Canadian government leave it to a group making unscientific, anecdotal publications to track such data? Unless perhaps….that it made criticism of the whole UFO phenomenon itself so easy. Now, questions to the government on the subject of UFOs become less-palatable for any reputable journalist.
…if you believe.
SL, or (simply) the “Curiosity Rover” is being watched differently today than yesterday thanks to a new tool: Google Earth. The premiere GIS technology offering from Google is now helping NASA’s JPL answer questions about what the latest rover on the red planet is up to by displaying information about the path the rover has taken, its projected path, where it has stopped, when, for how long and it has been up to while otherwise seemingly halted. Thus the tool is serving not only as a tracking tool, but a news platform about curiosity.
There needs to be (for now) user-led updates to a file hosted on “The Ross Report”; the personal blog of The AppRefactory Inc. President, but there’s always room for improvement.
To find out more, visit the dedicated blog page for the project here and keep checking back for updates, every Martian Sol!
lthough headed for a low, but not the usual “record low” year of ice loss, NASA has now been able to assemble the available evidence and state definitively that our tiny, blue planet is in the final stages of losing the northern arctic ice cap completely. A video released on Space.com this morning shows Dr. Thomas Wagner of NASA HQ, Washington, DC discussion various aspects of the NASA’s ARISE mission and the means by which the supporting data was acquired.
The report is of serious concern, of course. But I find it pretty remarkable just how incredibly fast the artic ice cap has, first, disintegrated and then virtually melted away. The only good news in the piece was that the shrinkage this year isn’t a record low….but that doesn’t mean the overall trend (being year-over-year record loss) has terminally halted. My guess would be that it could be an indicator things might have started to slow down slightly — but it’s too little, too late as far as the arctic ice cap is concerned.
Next, I suspect we’ll be hearing about he subarctic cap disappearing completely. And…I now wonder if any of it will be left by 2020!
Infographic showing how the Kepler space telescope could continue searching for planets despite two busted reaction wheels. Credit: NASA Ames/W Stenzel (Read more…)
epler may be getting set for a resurrection of its planet-finding mission in other star systems, according to Universe Today. The space telescope whose primary mission to was catalogue planets around stars in our galaxy, visible in a particular part of the night sky was abruptly cut short this past summer when two of the wheels responsible for orienting the satellite failed, leaving its attitude control system crippled along with its primary mission. These technical issues have also left Kepler vulnerable to budget cuts in the forthcoming 2014 budget debate which has already been the subject of a high-stakes game of political brinksmanship between U.S. lawmakers who decide how much money NASA and, ultimately, Kepler get.
A view of Kepler’s search area as seen from Earth. Credit: Carter Roberts / Eastbay Astronomical Society
Of course, while Kepler and other planet-finding missions continue with their discoveries (even if hobbled by issues of one kind or another), one question often asked about them is “where are they?” I use a program called “Celestia” to get my answer to that question and over the past couple of years have acquired quite a bit of data pertaining to these “exoplanets” (as they’re called) and other astronomical phenomena whose coordinates and other data can be input into the application to generate a celestial map.
If you’re interested in using the data I’ve got , you can download the library from one of two sources:
- data in its original form can be individually added to tailor your copy of Celestia (which can itself be downloaded for free online) by visiting http://www.celestiamotherlode.com,
- or you can use an eMule client and use these links to access my own personal library (when my eMule client is running):
(It’s not always guaranteed I’ll keep my exoplanet archives hosted, but at least you’ll know where to look.)
Updates to this article to follow…
o you ever get the feeling that the Government (either of Canada or the United States) might not be totally forthcoming on the question “has Earth been visited by an alien civilization yet?” Well a recent event off Canada’s Atlantic coast (Newfoundland) gives some cause for you being suspicious, if it makes any difference to you.
After reading this, I checked some statistics and learned that a full 93% of respondents to one CBC poll indicated that they were sure aliens existed elsewhere in the universe and, of those, another 70%+ were confident Earth had already been visited. (Interestingly, Stanton Friedman; a Canadian nuclear physicist who’s been on something of a UFO information crusade for the past 40+ years also made the point in a recent interview that most people believe they are in the minority believing in the existence of aliens and encounters here on Earth.)
With the recent acknowledgement of the U.S. concerning the existence of Area 51 and the discovery of planets smaller than Earth in star systems less than 500 light years away from this world — I’m starting to think a larger announcement might not be too far off in the future. At least now there’s some reason to feel confident governments will come clean with what they know; not because of any sudden resurgence of faith in democracy by politicians or bureaucrats previously hell-bent on secrecy…but simply because they’ll have no choice.