One aquatic worm's foul-smelling fodder
April 30th, 2012
12:37 PM ET

One aquatic worm's foul-smelling fodder

Its meals are poisonous and stink to high heaven, but when you’re a 2-centimeter-long worm living in the Mediterranean Sea, beggars can’t exactly be choosers.

Dubbed olavius algarvensis, the aquatic animal lives in sediment off the coast of Italy and relies on noxious gases like carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide – the latter of which reeks of rotten eggs – for sustenance. Both gases can be deadly to humans.

Weirder still is that the wriggly little invertebrate lacks a mouth and stomach entirely.

“Olavius algarvensis has completely reduced its digestive system. Instead, it relies for all its nutrition on symbiotic bacteria, which live under the outer body wall of the worm,” said Manuel Kleiner, a Ph.D. student and researcher at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology.

Chemosynthetic bacteria under its skin produce nourishment by absorbing the gases in the water and converting them into energy via a process similar to photosynthesis.
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Testing the Webb Telescope
April 30th, 2012
10:20 AM ET

Testing the Webb Telescope

"Several critical items related to NASA's next-generation James Webb Space Telescope currently are being tested in the thermal vacuum test chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

This image shows the Optical Telescope Element Simulator, or OSIM, wrapped in a silver blanket on a platform, being lowered into the Space Environment Simulator vacuum chamber via crane to be tested to withstand the cold temperatures of space."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
April 30th, 2012
09:25 AM ET

Elon Musk on 60 Minutes

To mark SpaceX's launch to the International Space Station, we thought we'd repost this interview with Elon Musk, founder, CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, on 60 Minutes.


Filed under: Voices
Space shuttle Enterprise flies again
NASA flew the space shuttle Enterprise from Washington to New York.
April 27th, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Space shuttle Enterprise flies again

The space shuttle Enterprise landed Friday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Enterprise swooped across the New York City skyline, mounted atop a 747 jumbo jet.

The shuttle took off from Virginia's Dulles International Airport, with a flight plan that included fly-bys of the Statue of Liberty and other Gotham landmarks. It is ultimately bound for it's new home at the city's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The space agency said it will put the shuttle on a barge in a few weeks and float it up the Hudson River to its final home.

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Filed under: On Earth
Welcome home, Expedition 30!
Soyuz TMA-22 lands in Kazakhstan at 7:45 am EDT, April 27, 2012.
April 27th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

Welcome home, Expedition 30!

At 7:45 EDT today, the Soyuz TMA-22 craft landed in Kazakhstan, bringing home from the International Space Station three members of the Expedition 30 crew: Commander Dan Burbank, Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin and Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov.

Expedition 30 ran a series of science experiments studying how the human body adapts to weightlessness, and which materials are best for space exploration, among other topics. Expedition 30 also completed a spacewalk and welcomed resupply ships to the ISS.

Onboard station, Expedition 31 officially began with the undocking of the Soyuz craft at 4:18 am EDT. The three men still in flight, Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers, will be joined by Flight Engineers Gennady Padalka, Joe Acaba and Sergei Revin in mid-May.

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Filed under: In Space • News
Shuttle Enterprise has a 'Star Trek' legacy
“Star Trek” cast members attend the rollout of the space shuttle Enterprise in Palmdale, California, on September 17, 1976.
April 27th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Shuttle Enterprise has a 'Star Trek' legacy


Listen to the podcast above to learn more.

When the Enterprise exhibit opens at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, "Star Trek" fans will be among the first people in line to see the historic space shuttle. Trekkies – fans of the television series and movies – share a special bond with the prototype for NASA’s first reusable manned spacecraft. The Enterprise got its name thanks, in part, to their efforts.

The first space shuttle was originally supposed to be called the Constitution. But in 1976, President Gerald Ford received tens of thousands of letters from "Star Trek" fans. The science fiction buffs saw the shuttle as the realization of their dream world. They wanted it renamed Enterprise.

“Suddenly, the stuff we were seeing on television, every week, every night on "Star Trek," was becoming a reality,” Frank Gruber said. His home in suburban Lincoln Park, New Jersey, is a shrine to "Star Trek." Models of the starship Enterprise and other fictional spacecraft from the TV shows and movies hang from the ceiling. The walls are covered with photos of Gruber posing with "Star Trek" cast members.

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Study looks at how farming conquered ancient Europe
Researchers excavate skeletal remains from Europe's Stone Age.
April 26th, 2012
02:00 PM ET

Study looks at how farming conquered ancient Europe

One of the outstanding mysteries of human history is how agriculture spread across Europe, replacing the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Did farmers migrate, bringing a culture of plant and animal domestication that took over? Or did local hunter-gatherer groups merely adopt ideas about those practices?

A new study in the journal Science provides new insights. Researchers suggest that farmers and hunter-gatherers were genetically distinct groups that intermingled after the migration of the agriculturally savvy people.

"These results are important because they are using ancient DNA, extracted from skeletal remains, rather than sampling living populations and making assumptions about the past," British archaeologist Colin Renfrew, who was not involved in the study, said in an e-mail.

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Filed under: Human ancestors • On Earth
Orion Ground Test Vehicle Arrives at Kennedy
April 26th, 2012
10:09 AM ET

Orion Ground Test Vehicle Arrives at Kennedy

"The Orion Ground Test Vehicle arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Operations & Checkout (O&C) Facility on April 21. The vehicle traveled more than 1,800 miles from Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver, Colo., where it successfully completed a series of rigorous acoustic, modal and vibration tests that simulated launch and spaceflight environments.

The ground test vehicle will now be used for pathfinding operations at the O&C in preparation for the Orion spaceflight test vehicle's arrival this summer. The spaceflight vehicle is currently being fabricated at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, La., and is slated for NASA's Exploration Flight Test, or EFT-1, in 2014."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
NASA: Meteor over California and Nevada was size of minivan
Sunday's fireball is seen in photo taken in Reno, Nevada.
April 25th, 2012
11:32 AM ET

NASA: Meteor over California and Nevada was size of minivan

What would your Honda Odyssey or Dodge Grand Caravan look like falling to the Earth from space?

Probably a lot like the picture above.

The picture taken in Reno, Nevada, on Sunday morning shows a meteor the size of a minivan plunging through the Earth's atmosphere, according to Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Of course, this would have been one heavy minivan. Cooke said it weighed about 154,300 pounds. Your minivan probably weighs in at about 4,000 pounds.

It was that size and weight that made the fireball visible in the daylight, according to NASA scientists. It was seen from Sacramento, California, in the north to Las Vegas in the south.

"Most meteors you see in the night's sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand and their trail lasts all of a second or two," NASA's Don Yeomans said in a press release. "Fireballs you can see relatively easily in the daytime and are many times that size."

Even then, count yourself lucky if you got to see it, said Yeomans, of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"An event of this size might happen about once a year," he said. "But most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area, so getting to see one is something special."

The meteor disintegrated before hitting the ground, releasing the energy of a five-kiloton explosion in the process, according to the NASA release.

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Filed under: News
Docents volunteer their passion at the National Air & Space Museum
Visitors tour the National Air and Space Museum in Washington led by a docent.
April 24th, 2012
12:28 PM ET

Docents volunteer their passion at the National Air & Space Museum

Have you ever taken a tour at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington or its sister facility, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center? Perhaps you heard fascinating stories about the artifacts on display, or had your questions answered by a knowledgeable and engaging docent.

If you have, you've benefited from those individuals' passion for aviation and space, and their willingness to complete extensive training in order to volunteer their time for you, the visitor. (And if you haven't, I encourage you to take a tour!)

The Air and Space Museum's docent program takes all kinds, from 30-year-old nurses to World War II veterans, who successfully apply to the program and complete a training program.

Margy Natalie, the Docent Program Coordinator for the Udvar-Hazy Center, explained the 11-week education, calling it "an extensive course in aviation and space history taught in the classroom by the curators at the National Air and Space Museum ... some of the world's leading experts in their fields."

Don Stout, a current docent candidate, says, "You learn everything-and-then-some as far as the details ... from eight in the morning every Saturday to about five o'clock at night."
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