NASA has teamed up with LEGO to blast the above three custom minifigs to Jupiter via an Atlas V rocket! There’s so much about this idea that excites the little kid in me. The three aluminum individuals going along for the ride are the goddess Juno (namesake of this NASA Jupiter probe project), bearing an outsized magnifying glass; Jupiter himself, with lightning bolts; and Galileo, with telescope and globe, who isn’t a god but made followers of one kind of angry back in the day when he started noticing and thinking about the moons circling the distant planet.
If these weren’t cast in metal, I’d like to think all three would be wearing the classic LEGO Space logo suit.
Scientists have been debating for years whether ice volcanoes, also called cryovolcanoes, exist on ice-rich moons, and if they do, what their characteristics are. The working definition assumes some kind of subterranean geological activity warms the cold environment enough to melt part of the satellite’s interior and sends slushy ice or other materials through an opening in the surface.
Saturn’s moon Enceladus transiting in front of its larger moon Rhea, as seen from a couple million miles away by the Cassini spacecraft, in photographs that span about one minute’s worth of time. That we can know to point cameras at this kind of event and get images this nice is a bit of a wonder to me.
NASA plans to send a hot-air-balloon type probe to Saturn’s moon, the only other known body in our solar system to have liquid “seas” on the surface. In order to keep the balloon from crashing into any rocky outcroppings, the team at the JPL has designed an oxygen-burning “rapid buoyancy modulation system” that’s pretty clever:
The lack of any free oxygen in the ice-moon’s air means that the patio gas oceans, clouds etc won’t normally catch fire. Thus NASA’s plan for Titanian hot-air ballooning would reverse the situation on Earth: Rather than burning a stream of patio-gas using oxygen in the air, the moon balloons will burn a stream of oxygen using methane from the surrounding clouds.
NASA has launched (pardon the sorta pun) a new website for kids called Be a Martian, with various games that allow them to rack up points and earn badges as they learn about the red planet. The interesting twist? The games are actually crowdsourced work, real data sorting through the aligning of map images taken by Mars Odyssey explorer with elevation images from the Mars Global Surveyor project. Kids play a game, NASA gets useful data that’s otherwise hard to get computationally. The Register has a good writeup of the project.
The final footage from the Japanese JAXA KAGUYA/Selene moon probe’s telemetry camera before it crashed to the surface (as planned). There’s something poignant about these last bits of video – after the years of engineering, planning, and information-gathering, it’s got to be hard not to personify the things. See also my favorite science/UI video of all time: final telemetry from the NASA Huygens probe.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Haynes (maker of popular do-it-yourself auto repair manuals) has published an “owner’s manual” for the various craft involved in the Apollo 11 mission. Includes information on the Saturn V rocket, the Command/Service module (the part that astronaut Michael Collins was stuck in while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin got to go play on the moon), and the Lunar module. If you want to get me something retroactively for my 10th birthday, I think this would be it. (Via El Reg)