John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, November 16, 2011.
At a ceremony in Washington on Wednesday, John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins were awarded Congressional Gold Medals for their work advancing human spaceflight.
Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor awarded in the United States. It is given to people who have performed some outstanding duty or deed benefiting the security, prosperity or interest of the United States.
Glenn, Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins were among the pioneers of human spaceflight. They took enormous risks in the interest of the exploration of an extremely hostile and unknown environment.
NASA has been very confident for about a decade that there is a huge ocean on Europa, according to NASA program scientist Curt Niebur. But the ocean is capped by an ice crust and no one was sure about its thickness. Europa is relatively large among the dozens of moons of Jupiter.
Some scientists thought it was a mile or two thick, but most scientists thought it was several miles thick. A thick crust would be bad news for life because it would mean the ocean could never splash up on Europa’s shores to interact with possible sources of food needed to sustain life.
New research announced Wednesday indicates the crust is thick, but it also shows that there are lakes above the oceans and that they are churning. This is key, because it means possible life forms in Europa’s oceans could make it the surface via the lakes to find food.
"One opinion in the scientific community has been, 'If the ice shell is thick, that's bad for biology — that it might mean the surface isn't communicating with the underlying ocean,' " according to Britney Schmidt, a postdoctoral fellow at The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics and the lead author of a new study published in the journal Nature.
"Now we see evidence that even though the ice shell is thick, it can mix vigorously. That could make Europa and its ocean more habitable," she said in a statement.
This is fantastic news for scientists hoping find signs of life on Europa, said Niebur.
The lakes are estimated to be 2 to 3 miles below the crust, while the oceans are estimated to be 30 miles down, Niebur said. “It’s a missing link to understanding to whether it (Europa) could support life.”
Scientists are basing their findings, in part, on what they learned from images taken by the old Galileo spacecraft, which was launched in 1989 to gather data and images from Jupiter and its moons. (It crashed into Jupiter in 2003). Those pictures show round bumps called chaos terrains. Based on the way ice moves around on Earth, the researchers developed a model to explain the bumps.
The only way to confirm the model would be to fly a spacecraft to Europa to investigate. A mission is on the drawing board, but NASA hasn’t approved anything yet, according to Niebur.
The first moon landing was one of the nation’s most historic must-see events. An estimated 600 million people around the world tuned in to see Apollo 11 touch down on the moon. Today, the astronauts who flew to the moon are making a rare joint appearance to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, along with former senator and astronaut John Glenn. You’ve no doubt seen the moon landing footage. Now go behind the scenes and learn more about what it took to get Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon.
Cutting edge – The computer on the lunar module had 36k of memory—that’s less than a calculator holds now. Check out the giant technological leaps we’ve made since that historic trip.
A group called the Institute for the Future - what a name, right? – is smart enough to know that it can't actually predict what will happen in 2021. But the group can use our existing knowledge of science to pose interesting "what-if?" questions about where advances in science and technology will take us in the next 10 years, which really is an eternity when it comes to these topics.
That's the real point behind the group's new super-visual report, called "The Future of Science: 2011," (PDF) which you can see above and view in more detail on the IFTF website (you have to really zoom in to read all of it). This may sound like it's coming out of a cheesy "Star Trek" episode, but by questioning what the future can be, we can help shape what it will be, the group says.
The origin of the asteroid Lutetia may have been solved, scientists say, and the new information could help them understand how Earth was formed.
Lutetia, a 62-mile-wide space rock resembling a giant dented potato, currently resides in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists used to think objects found in the asteroid belt were born there, but Lutetia looks different.