Wednesday, October 24, 2007

China's 1st lunar probe Chang'e-1 blasts off

Congrats to China on entering the lunar fray with the successful launch of their first lunar orbiter!

According to the Chinese English-language news, the orbiter is slated to develop "a three-dimensional survey of the Moon's surface", to analyze "the abundance and distribution of elements on lunar surface", to characterize the lunar regolith and the "powdery soil layer on the surface", and to explore the "circumstance between the Earth and the Moon."

This is supposed to be just China's first step in lunar exploration. A lunar lander or rover is slated for about 2012, and they are working towards sending humans in a time frame similar to our own. In fact, NASA's administrator Mike Griffin made headlines recently when he commented that they may beat us there. China though (at least officially) claims that this is not a race: "China will not embark on any lunar probe competition 'in any form with any country' and will 'share the results of its moon exploration with the whole world' in its pursuit of a policy of peaceful use of airspace, said a chief commander of the country's first lunar satellite project."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

New Paintings

I finished three new paintings this week (well, 5 if you count the triptych as 3 separate ones, but that's not really fair). Here are the new ones, if you'd like to see more, check out my website.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

NASA night at DPS

There is a great rundown of NASA night at the DPS (Division of Planetary Sciences) meeting up at the Planetary Society's Blog. Emily provides lots of insights into the new SMD crew at NASA headquarters; sounds like things have really turned around in the relationship between the community and HQ since Alan Stern took over.

This made me laugh today...

NASA announces plans to bring Wi-Fi to its Headquarters by 2017

I do enjoy the Onion, and I like that JSC is considered "NASA's Headquarters." Do you think the folks at HQs were ticked off by that? Of course, NASA will never make the 2017 goal - too many security issues. Just kidding, I do believe that our building has wi-fi, although the security is iron-clad such that I don't think that anybody can actually access it, but that's not the point right?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

NASA to form Lunar Science Institute

According to NASAwatch, Alan Stern announced at the DPS (Division for Planetary Sciences) meeting yesterday that NASA plans to create a NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) patterned on the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).

The initial selection would be of 4 to 5 lead teams at a cost of $1-2 million each, and like the NAI, the NSLI would be managed by NASA Ames Research Center.

This is pretty exciting news, and in conjunction with the new LASER (Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research) R&A program and last year's LSSO (Lunar Sortie Science Opportunities) program, the participating scientist program for LRO, not to mention an increase in lunar-related grants through several of NASA's other R&A lines (PGG, Cosmochem, PIDDP), the lunar community is sitting pretty good right now.

Which is important, and well timed, because a large percentage of the lunar community hail from the Apollo era, and frankly are approaching, or have already reached, retirement age. By the time we get back to the Moon in (theoretically) 2018, they will be gone and we will be in desperate need of a few good lunar scientists. Now, scientists don't just sprout out of nowhere, it takes a good 10 years of training (grad school plus postdocs) to produce a decent scientist, so by priming the system now with a small investment in R&A, NASA is actually showing some forethought and is right on schedule to maintain a viable lunar community for the next era of exploration. Way to go NASA (or, rather, Alan Stern), it's nice to see someone thinking beyond the next election cycle.