Archive for March, 2016

Mixed Reality’ Technology Brings Mars to Earth

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

What might it look like if you were walking around on Mars? A group of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, has been working on methods to take this question from the realm of imagination to the mind-bending domain of mixed reality.

As a result, NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to offer the public a guided tour of an area of Mars with astronaut Buzz Aldrin this summer in “Destination: Mars,” an interactive exhibit using the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset. “Mixed reality” means that virtual elements are merged with the user’s actual environment, creating a world in which real and virtual objects can interact.

The “Destination: Mars” exhibit will open at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida this summer. Guests will “visit” several sites on Mars, reconstructed using real imagery from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, which has been exploring the Red Planet since August 2012. Buzz Aldrin, an Apollo 11 astronaut who walked on the moon in 1969, will serve as “holographic tour guide” on the journey. Curiosity Mars rover driver Erisa Hines of JPL will also appear holographically, leading participants to places on Mars where scientists have made exciting discoveries and explaining what we have learned about the planet.

“This experience lets the public explore Mars in an entirely new way. To walk through the exact landscape that Curiosity is roving across puts its achievements and discoveries into beautiful context,” said Doug Ellison, visualization producer at JPL.

“Destination: Mars” is an adaptation of OnSight, a Mars rover mission operations tool co-developed by Microsoft and JPL. A pilot group of scientists uses OnSight in their work supporting the Curiosity Mars rover’s operations.

“We’re excited to give the public a chance to see Mars using cutting-edge technologies that help scientists plan Curiosity’s activities on Mars today,” said Jeff Norris, project manager for OnSight and “Destination: Mars” at JPL. “While freely exploring the terrain, participants learn about processes that have shaped this alien world.”

Abigail Fraeman, a Curiosity science team member at JPL, uses OnSight to make recommendations about where the rover should drive and which features to study in more detail. Recently OnSight helped her and a colleague identify the transition point between two Martian rock formations, which they would like to study in further detail.

“OnSight makes the whole process of analyzing the data feel a lot more natural to me,” Fraeman said. “It really gives me the sense that I’m in the field when I put it on. Thinking about Martian geology is a lot more intuitive when I can stand in the scene and walk around the way I would if I were in the field.”

By utilizing the same technologies and datasets as OnSight, “Destination: Mars” offers participants a glimpse of Mars as seen by mission scientists.

JPL is also developing mixed reality applications in support of astronauts on the International Space Station and engineers responsible for the design and assembly of spacecraft. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who recently returned from his historic “Year in Space” activities, used one of these applications to make the first Skype call from space to mission control in February 2016.

“By connecting astronauts to experts on the ground, mixed reality could be transformational for scientific and engineering efforts in space,” Norris said.

“As we prepare to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, the public will now be able to preview the experience the astronauts will have as they walk and study the Martian surface,” said Dave Lavery, program executive for Solar System Exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Read the Original Article at NASA.gov

Buzz Aldrin opens Comic Con event with tales from the moon

Friday, March 25th, 2016


SALT LAKE CITY — Buzz Aldrin’s life has been all about timing.

Spending time flying with his father when he was young.

Timing in history that turned his U.S. Air Force service into combat experience as a fighter pilot in the Korean War.

While earning a doctorate from MIT, writing his thesis about perfect timing to intercept with an orbiting spacecraft that would gain the attention of a newly formed NASA.

Timing that bumped the moon landing mission up to his three-man Apollo 11 team.

And now, using his time to advocate for a manned mission to Mars.

“If space was the next frontier, I wanted to be part of it,” Aldrin said Thursday, speaking to a cheering crowd at Salt Lake Comic Con’s FanX event.

Buzz Aldrin, a personal hero of Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Bryan Brandenburg, joined the convention’s increasingly creative lineup for the event, running through Saturday at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Aldrin took time Thursday to meet with reporters at a kickoff news conference, sign books for fans, and speak to a crowd that included Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Dressed in a hand-me-down space suit that he got from his older brothers, 8-year-old Isaac Wilson stood on his toes to hand Aldrin a copy of his book to sign. The St. George boy came to FanX with his mother and two brothers to see Aldrin.

“He’s the most famous astronaut in the world,” Isaac said after a brief conversation with Aldrin, showing off the autograph in his new book.

During his presentation, Aldrin showed photos from the day he walked on the moon, reminiscing about the stories behind them. He recalled the first words that came to his mind as he stepped out of the lunar module and looked across the moon’s dusty landscape: magnificent desolation.

“It was not a good place to set up housekeeping,” Aldrin joked, drawing a laugh.

The astronaut took time to praise the more than 400,000 people who worked to make the groundbreaking mission possible, right down to the seamstresses who sewed his space suit.

“The world welcomed us back as heroes,” Aldrin said. “But we knew they were cheering, not just for three guys, but for what we represented. That as a nation and a world we had accomplished the impossible. The true value of Apollo is the innovation and teamwork that overcame the many obstacles to reach the moon.”

Life after the moon was challenging, Aldrin admitted, as uncertainty about what to do next led to depression and alcoholism. In time he asked for help, he said, a decision that brought his life back under control and moved him to continue studying what he loved: space travel.

Aldrin concluded with his admonition to keep humanity’s space research moving forward, an effort he says will bring scientific and technological advances that will benefit the world.

At 86, Aldrin said he doesn’t believe he will live to see the world’s first walk on Mars, but he hopes his theory about cycling pathways for space travel will lay the groundwork to make it possible.

“Humanity needs to push forward, beyond current limits, just like we did in 1969,” Aldrin appealed, bringing the crowd to its feet. “Apollo was a story of people at their very best. We started with a dream and we did the impossible. I know, because I’m living proof that the impossible can be achieved, and it can be done again. Let’s go for it!”

Aldrin has authored a book titled “Mission to Mars,” as well as a children’s book with the same message, which he said he hopes will inspire the next generation to propel the space program forward.

Buzz Aldrin has some ideas for the next president for NASA’s space exploration

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

As the Obama presidency begins to wind down and the frenzy surrounding the selection of his replacement rises to a crescendo, the question of what impact the change of administration will have on NASA and the space program will have has arisen. Wired cautioned on Monday that next year will not be the occasion for another, disruptive change of course, with the Journey to Mars ripped out and a new plan instituted after a lengthy deliberation. The caution has a point though one could point out that 2010, when Obama assassinated the Constellation program in the middle of the night, was not the time for that sort of thing anyway.

Wired offers an out to staying the course by pointing out that the path is not well defined.

“Those guidelines leave plenty of room for the next administration to put its mark on America’s human space exploration program—without ripping it up at the roots. NASA’s Journey to Mars report provides a flexible, three-phase concept for progress. The first phase, which includes Scott Kelly’s year-long mission on the ISS, tests the capabilities necessary for deep space exploration in low-Earth orbit. Next comes the ‘Proving Ground’ phase, in which astronauts will learn how to live and work in the deep space around the Moon. Finally, the “Earth Independent” phase will culminate in a human voyage to Mars.

“But NASA has yet to fill in the blanks when it comes to the Proving Ground phase. Beyond initial plans for a controversial asteroid redirect mission, there’s a gap between immediate human spaceflight plans—the ISS and the commercial crew program—and the United States’ long-term objective of sending humans to Mars. By making more concrete and detailed plans for the Proving Ground phase, the next administration can keep America’s human space exploration program on track and make progress toward Mars at the same time.”

Funny that the 10 or 15-year gap got mentioned. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon and a passionate advocate for going to Mars, has some ideas along those lines. “Aldrin and other experts believe Nasa is overlooking an important part of space exploration: a permanent, manned base on the moon that would prepare us for the mission to Mars.”

Aldrin is just reflecting what diverse organizations such as the European Space Agency, MIT, and a think tank called Next Gen Space have been saying. The path to the Journey to Mars goes through the moon. The moon would not only be a practice ground for Mars but also would be a source of rocket fuel for voyages into deep space to destinations such as Mars. Mars expeditions would become a lot simpler and, even given the investment in the moon, cheaper in the long run.

The next president could, therefore, make a speech, sign an executive order, or whatever and order NASA to add the moon to its milestones on the way to Mars. He or she will have to find a way to avoid the fate that two previous return to the moon efforts suffered. A new book by this writer, Why is it so Hard to Go Back to the Moon? has some ideas along those lines.

Read the Original Article at the Examiner

Buzz Aldrin Space Institute co-hosting Leaders Engaging Globally

Friday, March 18th, 2016

The Buzz Aldrin Space Institute will be co-hosting Leaders Engaging Globally Speakers Series on Friday, April 22 at 1:30PM at Florida Tech – Harris Commons Room 244.

SPEAKER SERIES
LEADERS ENGAGING GLOBALLY

Dr. Kanas is an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. For over 35 years, he con-ducted research on people under stress. He has over 200 professional publications and is the recipient of the Dr. J. Elliott Royer Award for academic psychiatry. Since 1970, he has studied and written about psychological and interpersonal issues affecting people living and working in space. For over 15 years, he was a NASA-funded principal investigator, doing psychological research with astronauts and cosmonauts. He is a member and former trustee of the International Academy of Astronauts. Together with Dietrich Manzey, he is the co-author of the book Space Psychology and Psychiatry (2nd ed.), which was given the 2004 International Academy of Astronautics Life Science Book Award. In 1999, Dr. Kanas received the Aerospace Medical Association Raymond F. Longacre Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in the Psychological and Psychiatric Aspects of Aerospace Medicine. In 2008, he received the International Academy of Astronautics Life Science Award. He continues to write and serve as a consultant to NASA on the psychosocial aspects of human space travel. He published another book on space psychology in 2015 enti-tled Humans in Space: The Psychological Hurdles.

Culture and Space

Dr. Nick Kanas will provide insights regarding culture and space. Cultural and language differences among crew members and mission control personnel can impact on long duration space missions. Three aspects of culture may play a role: national, occupational, and organizational. These will be discussed, and data from on-orbit space missions will be presented to illustrate their relevance. By understanding the importance of culture, we can better plan for future multinational long duration space missions, such as an expedition to Mars.

Buzz Aldrin takes on Dick Vitale in March Madness bracket battle

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Space legend Buzz Aldrin is pitting is pitting his NCAA bracket-picking skills against famed basketball commentator Dick Vitale.

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The second man on the moon will be using his experience in space to help predict the unpredictable in the Allstate March Mayhem Challenge. Aldrin will announce his picks at the Space Center Houston Tuesday ahead of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship tournament.

“Statistically speaking, you have a better chance of becoming an astronaut than picking a perfect bracket,” Aldrin told FoxNews.com.

Related: NASA wants to send your art to an asteroid

However, Aldrin says that he’s an expert at identifying the best resources available, or as it’s known in space exploration, ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization).

Although this is Aldrin’s first-ever bracket, he is applying careful statistical analysis to his picks. “I am using past history … and probabilities here and there – sometimes it’s called an educated guess,” he said. “I think it’s going to work out real well because what we need is some kind of consistency with occasional surprise – you need to know when to throw in the unusual.”

The Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut may also use Allstate’s Mayhem Bracket Predictor tool to help him beat Vitale’s picks, he added.

Related: Engine used on penultimate space shuttle flight relit for new NASA rocket

“My bracket is going to turn out just as good as Dick’s, a little bit better maybe,” he said.

Vitale, the famously high-energy ESPN analyst, has taken on a variety of challengers in previous March Mayhem Challenges, such as weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, Georgia Aquarium’s sports-predicting dolphins and Joel, the Fort Worth Herd’s 1,795-pound longhorn. The broadcaster is undefeated against the animal prognosticators.

This year, however, is sports vs. science, with the MIT-educated former astronaut posing a tough challenge for the man known affectionately as Dickie V.

Related: Year in space astronaut hangs up his spacesuit, retires

“Buzz Aldrin, man, he’s out of this world, baby! Talk about a guy who knows how to elevate his game no matter the task; I have my hands full for sure, and hopefully I can keep Mr. Aldrin grounded,” Vitale said, in a statement. “I’ve had some close calls with past challengers, but let the record speak for itself; this is one bracket battle I won’t lose.”

Vitale has already made his picks, choosing Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Michigan State to reach the Final Four in Houston on April 2. He expects the Sooners and Spartans to contest the National Championship game, with Michigan State cutting down the nets on April 4.

Regardless of who wins the bracket duel, Allstate will make a donation to the Space Center Houston on behalf of Aldrin and the V Foundation for cancer research on behalf of Vitale.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers