NASA Makes Contact with Missing Spacecraft After Nearly 2 Years of Silence

space-newsNASA made contact with one of its missing spacecraft Sunday night, over 22 months after researchers lost communication. The long-lost spacecraft, known as STEREO-B, is one half of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory mission.

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

The other half of the mission involves spacecraft STEREO-A. Both probes were launched in October 2006, tasked with studying the sun from different vantage points and reporting back to Earth. The mission was only scheduled to last two years, but the STEREOs have lasted longer than expected. STEREO-A has continued to operate on its mission to study the sun.

After a massive search, contact was reestablished on Aug. 21, 2016 – nearly two years after losing communication on Oct. 1, 2014. NASA’s Deep Space Network, or DSN, established a lock on the STEREO-B downlink carrier at 6:27 p.m.

Credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

What happened to STEREO-B? According to NASA, the two STEREOs slowly drifted away from Earth as they orbited the sun, one ahead and one behind our home planet. This gave scientists awesome views of the sun’s far side – allowing us for the first time to see the whole sun at once!

Unfortunately, the same slow drift that gave NASA incredible images also pulled each spacecraft to the other side of the sun from Earth. This lead to a three-month period where communication was impossible due to the sun’s interference.

The STEREO spacecraft were designed with a command loss timer, an automatic reset button that restarts the spacecraft after 72 hours without contact. The hard reset happened as expected, 72 hours and 20 minutes after operators stopped communications with the spacecraft. After the reset, STEREO-B was supposed to power itself back on, but it gave barely a glimmer and faded into darkness.

bear waving

Finding STEREO-B is just half the battle. Now researchers must conduct a slew of tests to decide if the craft is healthy and fully-functioning. They must assess the spacecraft’s subsystems and instruments to determine if it’s recoverable. Hope to hear from you soon, STEREO-B! 🛰


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NASA Makes Contact with Missing Spacecraft After Nearly 2 Years of Silence

First-Ever Shark Sonogram Reveals 20 Jaws Full of Sharp Teeth

KS_LOGOs2_UnderwaterCan you imagine? Congratulations – you’re having SHARKS! You’re looking at the first ever shark ultrasound. Scientists were shocked to discover the shark, who they named “Emily,” was really pregnant.

shark sonogram

The 12.5 foot tiger shark was found with 20 well-formed thrashing pups – which incidentally comes with 20 tiny jaws of razor sharp teeth! Scientists estimate the shark pups to be about 40 to 45 centimeters (15 to 18 inches) long. That delivery sounds delightful.

James Sulikowski, of the University of New England, along with collaborators from the University of Miami conducted the sonogram in the Bahamas. Their ultrasound is groundbreaking because, not only is it uncharted territory, it could also change how researchers study pregnant sharks. Shark wombs used to be cut open in order to be studied, which ultimately killed the mother.

This creepily adorable video is part of Discovery’s Shark Week. Check it out below:


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First-Ever Shark Sonogram Reveals 20 Jaws Full of Sharp Teeth

San Diego Zoo Welcomes Adorable Koala and Rare Baby Lemur

nature-science

The San Diego Zoo’s Australian Outback has a new resident – koala mom Cambee gave birth to an adorable little joey! She actually gave birth last November, but the little one only recently emerged from her mom’s pouch. Talk about a cute backpack. 🐹

san diego zoo koala

“It is always fun when we get to work with koala joeys and watch their personalities develop,” said Lacy Pearson, San Diego Zoo keeper. “At this age, she has not shown us her personality yet, but she is doing great, and has already started to eat eucalyptus leaves.”

The San Diego Zoo has the largest breeding colony of Queensland koalas and the most successful koala breeding program outside of Australia. Zoo officials say the tiny baby koala just had her first check-up and doesn’t have a name yet, so stay tuned.

Can’t make it to the zoo to visit the koalas? No problem! Watch the koalas live here.

Fun Fact: Koala joeys eat their mother’s poop in order to obtain the bacteria koalas need in their gut to digest eucalyptus leaves.


Cambee’s joey isn’t the only cute baby at the San Diego Zoo right now
 they are also looking after a little red ruffed lemur who currently tips the scale at 9.2 oz. Keepers named him Ony, which means river in Malagasy.

san diego lemur baby

Ony was born on May 18, 2016. This is the first baby for red ruffed lemur Morticia. Keepers are stoked because it has been 13 years since the last red ruffed lemur was born at the zoo.

These striking red and black creatures are among the largest in the lemur family – and also the loudest. Sadly, the IUCN Red List states that the red ruffed lemur is critically endangered. Logging, burning of habitat, cyclones, mining, hunting, and the illegal pet trade are primary threats. This is why every new birth is such an exciting event.

You can’t visit the lemurs at this time. You can look forward to seeing the red ruffed family, and the rest of the zoo’s amazing lemurs, when Africa Rocks opens in summer 2017.

Fun Fact: The San Diego Zoo has a successful history of breeding red ruffed lemurs; in fact, they’ve had over 100 born since 1965. They attribute this success to the Primate Propagation Center, a facility specifically designed for breeding lemurs.

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Boston Dynamics’ Latest Atlas Humanoid Robot Fights Bullying and the Snow

KS TechnologyI always get a little giddy when Boston Dynamics is in the news, because it usually means I get to watch video of drunken robots. The Alphabet-owned robot company released a video this week of the latest version of Atlas – the super cool humanoid robot.

In the video you see the new and improved Atlas stomp around in the snow, complete simple chores, pick itself up off the ground, open doors, and oh yeah… get bullied by a human! 😯 Scroll down and check out the footage for yourself.

boston-dynamics-atlas-bully

The next generation Atlas is smaller than the last version, more powerful, and much more agile. In its last iteration, Atlas was tethered to an external power source. This version is battery powered, roughly 5’9″ and weighs 180 pounds. Watch it pick up boxes like a pro.

boston-dynamics

Also impressive? Atlas’ new ability to recover from a fall. Watch the robot get shoved in the back, fall to the ground, and pick itself back up. What a champ.

boston-dynamics

It looks like bullying in the year 2016 just got a little more interesting. Boston Dynamics worked hard to make a human-like robot that can navigate tough terrain, recover from stumbles, and pick up boxes – just to bring in a human to knock the boxes out of its cold metal hands.

All joking aside, the hockey stick exercise you see in the video was done to gauge the robot’s responsiveness. A quick, sudden impact like that can be really hard to recover from – but not for Atlas!

boston-dynamics

This isn’t the first time Boston Dynamics has decided to torment its creations. They released a video in February 2015 of their four-legged robot named Spot – where they repeatedly kick the robot to try and throw off its balance. You even feel bad for the little guy.

I’m just saying, don’t be surprised if this common mistreatment of robots comes back to bite us in the ass. Enjoy the new version of Atlas below. đŸ€– #endrobotbullying

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Space Photos: NASA’s Hubble Turns the Universe into Eye Candy

space-newsHow incredible is this photo?? This galaxy is the universe’s version of a hot mess. Roughly a quarter of galaxies don’t take on any recognizable shape; they are known as irregular galaxies. Most galaxies rock a crazy spiral or elliptical structure – but not NGC 5408, which is located about 16 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur).

hubble-nasa
Known as irregular galaxies, this group includes NGC 5408, the galaxy that has been snapped here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

The photo above was taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Launched in 1990, Hubble has traveled over 3 billion miles around Earth, made 1.2 million observations, and snapped pics of locations more than 13.4 billion light years from our planet. I’ve collected a few amazing photos taken by Hubble. Enjoy! ✹

 

 

 

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Highlights from Astronaut Scott Kelly’s Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ – The Answers May Surprise You!

space-newsCan you imagine spending an entire year in space? I can’t. But I have been obsessing about NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s mission to spend one year aboard the International Space Station. He made it past the 300 day mark last week. He also has a twin undergoing some of the same tests on Earth to evaluate the effects of living in space on the human body. Trippy!

He has revolutionized space social media with his incredible Instagram and Twitter game. I love his brutal honesty and constant amazement. And, just to add to his cool factor, Kelly just conducted a facisnating Reddit AMA. Reddit got to ask Commander Scott Kelly a bunch of fun questions. I’ve selected the highlights and pasted them below!

Scott Kelly Instagram
Credit: Instagram @stationcdrkelly

“I am getting smarter every day I am here.” – Scott Kelly

Why do you always have your arms folded?

Your arms don’t hang by your side in space like they do on Earth because there is no gravity. It feels awkward to have them floating in front of me. It is just more comfortable to have them folded. I don’t even have them floating in my sleep, I put them in my sleeping bag.

Simon (5yrs): Could a rogue spaceship sneak up on the space station without you being aware, and dock?

Simon, Maybe an alien spaceship with a cloaking device. But not your normal spaceship, no. Unless it had a cloaking device, which doesn’t exist, the U.S. Air Force would see it coming.

How are you doing this AMA? Are you directly typing it from a laptop on the ISS, or are is it being dictated?

I am talking to you live, but someone else is typing this in.

What do you suppose the chances are of us getting to mars any time soon?

Depends on your definition of soon. If we wanted to devote the appropriate resources to go to Mars, we could do it.

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin" on lower Mount Sharp. Credit: NASA
This low-angle self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called “Buckskin” on lower Mount Sharp. Credit: NASA

Being up in space for an entire year is a LONG time. Have you noticed any effects on your body from weightlessness?

Good question. Yeah, there are a lot of changes that happen. Some of them you can’t see, cause it’s your eyes! Probably too many changes to go into detail here. I think my rehab plan is the same as if I were here for 6 months, but I’m not positive.

Could you tell us something unusual about being in space that many people don’t think about? (My personal favorite. EW! 😆)

The calluses on your feet in space will eventually fall off. So, the bottoms of your feet become very soft like newborn baby feet. But the top of my feet develop rough alligator skin because I use the top of my feet to get around here on space station when using foot rails.

Do you stretch when you wake up in the morning from your space sleep? Is stretching just a waking up thing or does gravity make people want to stretch?

My muscles and joints are a whole lot better up here than with gravity. It’s almost like you are in a bed rest. There is no pressure or pain. I do stretch before I exercise because my muscles aren’t stretched out, they are somewhat dormant.

Hi, I’m a Kindergarten Teacher. My students and I have been following you since you went up last year. My past and present students are curious; what kind of things do you do for fun?

I read, write and do arithmetic like a Kindergartner (just kidding). But I do read, take photos of the Earth and play with my food.

Credit: Instagram @stationcdrkelly - "Good morning aurora and the Pacific Northwest!"
Credit: Instagram @stationcdrkelly – “Good morning aurora and the Pacific Northwest!”

Can you describe your sleep cycle over the last 300 days in space? Always a solid 8 hours? Did you ever get strangely tired or have you consistently felt well rested? Bonus Question: When sleeping, is your dream world mostly in zero-G?

I am not a great sleeper. I don’t think I have ever slept 8 hours straight in the last 20 years. I wind up waking up a couple of times. My dreams are sometimes space dreams and sometimes Earth dreams. And they are crazy.

Today is your 302nd consecutive day aboard ISS, if you could go back and give yourself advice on day 1, what would you say?

The advice I would give myself on day 1 would be pack lighter!

what happens when you sneeze or blow your nose in space? Does it stay on your face like tears?

I just sneezed twice coming into my crew quarters. And I do what I do on Earth and cover my mouth with my hand. If I didn’t do that, it’s possible the sneeze could be found floating in another module. I generally don’t sneeze into open air on Earth or here in space.

What’s the creepiest thing you’ve encountered while on the job?

Generally it has to do with the toilet. Recently I had to clean up a gallon-sized ball of urine mixed with acid. The acid is added to the urine so the urine doesn’t damage the machinery that moves it through the system. It keeps it from clogging up the system.

Greeting from earth mr.scott straight outta compton whats up?

Straight outta space. I want to see that movie, that’s what’s up.

straight-outta-compton-square

Mr. Kelly, what is the largest misconception about space/space travel that society holds onto?

I think a lot of people think that because we give the appearance that this is easy that it is easy. I don’t think people have an appreciation for the work that it takes to pull these missions off, like humans living on the space station continuously for 15 years. It is a huge army of hard working people to make it happen.

What ONE thing will you forever do differently after your safe return home?

I will appreciate nature more.

What will be the first thing you eat once you’re back on Earth?

The first thing I will eat will probably be a piece of fruit (or a cucumber) the Russian nurse hands me as soon as I am pulled out of the space capsule and begin initial health checks.

Now that you are able to count down the days to come home in March, what will you miss most about the Space Station daily life?

The challenge of living here. It’s not easy and I have always liked to do things that are hard.

I am Adam. I am 5 years old. How far away are you from earth?

I am 250 miles above the Earth, and I’m going very fast.

Hello Captain Kelly, I would like to ask, does the ISS have any particular smell?

Smells vary depending on what segment you are in. Sometimes it has an antiseptic smell. Sometimes it has an odor that smells like garbage. But the smell of space when you open the hatch smells like burning metal to me.

What is your favorite part of Earth to see from space?

My favorite spot on Earth to see from space is probably the Bahamas. The brilliant and varied colors of the blue water and contrast from here is pretty spectacular.

Credit: Instagram @stationcdrkelly
Credit: Instagram @stationcdrkelly – “A splash of Earth art over the Bahamas!”

What is your favorite space-related movie? What is your favorite non-space related movie?

I really enjoyed the Martian. I was able to watch it here aboard the space station. The Godfather.

Captain Kelly, I have been hearing about the deorbiting of the ISS in the next ten years. What is your view on how the ISS hardware/modules have been aging?

It seems like the inside of the space station has very good material condition. The outside looks a little aged. As far as maintaining it versus deorbiting it, it just depends what our priorities are. I think it would be great to keep it going forever, but of course everything has costs.


What would YOU ask someone who has spent the last 300 days in space? 🚀

Highlights from Astronaut Scott Kelly’s Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ – The Answers May Surprise You!

Navy Funds Rutgers Cool Drone That Flies AND Swims!

KS TechnologyEngineers at Rutgers University have developed a drone that can swim and fly – and the Office of Naval Research wants in! According to Rutgers, the Navy has agreed to fund the development of the special air-and-water craft.

flying-swimming-drone
Image: courtesy Javier Diez & Rutgers University

This one-of-a-kind vehicle could speed search and rescue, monitor oil spills, and defuse underwater mine threats. According to Javier Diez, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the Navy told him they had never seen anything like it. Its called it the ‘Naviator.’

It must be pretty cool, because the Navy dropped $618,000 on it! CLICK BELOW to watch a video of the busy drone in action, posted to YouTube by Marco Maia.

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Titanosaur is One of the Largest Dinosaurs Ever: Giant Model Takes Over Museum in NYC

nature-science

It’s times like this that I really miss living in New York City. The American Museum of Natural History is one of my favorite places on the planet. Why is that? Because they build GIGANTIC dinosaur models that barely fit in the museum’s halls. Today the AMNH unveiled another must-see exhibit: a cast of a 122-foot-long dinosaur. Meet the titanosaur!

Titanosaur-Dinosaur
©AMNH/D.Finnin

The giant dino cast is so big its 39-foot neck protrudes through the doorway towards the elevator doors. To put its size into perspective – at a total of 122 feet, the titanosaur is 30 feet longer than a blue whale! This species of dinosaur is so new the paleontologists who discovered it haven’t named it yet. All we know is that it belongs to a group known as titanosaurs, and it is one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered.

Scientists believe this species of titanosaur lived in the forests of today’s Patagonia about 100 to 95 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period, and weighed in at a whopping 70 tons! Its massive bones are filled with air pockets, so they are relatively light. It’s the only way a land animal could get so big.

The giant herbivore’s remains were excavated in the Patagonian desert region of Argentina by a team from the Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio led by JosĂ© Luis Carballido and Diego Pol. According to Scientific American, After 18 months of excavations, the researchers uncovered 223 fossilized bones from six individual titanosaur dinosaurs, including an 8-foot-tall femur, or thighbone. Judging by the image below, it looks like the excavation team was super excited about their discovery.

A team member is dwarfed by a bone of the gigantic dinosaur excavated in Patagonia. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Alejandro Otero
A team member is dwarfed by a bone of the gigantic dinosaur excavated in Patagonia. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Alejandro Otero

How on Earth did they make that gigantic cast? The AMNH flew down to Argentina and took 3D scans of all the bones in the field as well as in the lab, so they had the skeleton completely digitized. They used that data to carve bones out of giant slabs of foam. They molded all of the carved elements and cast the bones out of fiber glass. The cast was then painted and mounted. Neat stuff.

©AMNH/D.FINNIN
©AMNH/D.FINNIN

If you plan on visiting this incredible exhibit you have a little time. The titanosaur will be on display at the AMNH in New York City until January 2020.

Titanosaur is One of the Largest Dinosaurs Ever: Giant Model Takes Over Museum in NYC

10 Crazy New Species Discovered in 2015: Dracula Ants, Shape-Shifting Frogs, and Dwarf Dragons

KS Strange ScienceI live in San Francisco and the California Academy of Sciences is one of my favorite places to visit! Who doesn’t love penguins, rainforests, albino alligators, and a rad planetarium all under one roof??

In 2015, researchers at the Academy added 102 new plant and animal species to our family tree. The new species include two frogs, 23 ants, three beetles, eight wasps, 11 spiders, 26 fishes, nine sea slugs, two corals, nine plants, one water bear, and eight new viruses.

Given that we have found less than 10% of the species on our planet, the Academy has inspired me to share ten of my favorite wild new species discovered in 2015. Meet the hog-nosed shrew rat, sparklemuffin spider, and water bear. Happy New Year! 🎉

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New Species: Glowing ‘Ninja Lanternshark’ Lights up the Deep Sea

KS_LOGOs2_UnderwaterI was taught to not bury the lead, so here goes. This is a ninja lanternshark. That’s right – NINJA + SHARK. This new species of lanternshark is black, stealthy, lives in the deep sea, and oh yeah… it glows.

Adult female Etmopterus benchleyi. Credit: Ocean Science Foundation
Adult female Etmopterus benchleyi. Credit: Ocean Science Foundation

Researchers named the new species Etmopterus benchleyi, after Jaws author Peter Benchley. They are roughly 18 inches long and have patches of photophores on their snout, sides, and belly. These tiny light-omitting organs are what gives them the ability to glow.

But, ninja lanternsharks have less photophores than their cousins, so they don’t glow as bright. They are also distinguished by their dark black color – hence the name.

These masters of the deep were originally discovered in 2010, by the Spanish research vessel Miguel Oliver. They collected eight specimens off the Pacific coast of Central America at depths ranging between 2,700 and 4,700 feet.

With the help of the Pacific Shark Resource Center and the California Academy of Sciences, they determined that the ninja shark was indeed a new species. They published their findings in a journal this week.

New Species: Glowing ‘Ninja Lanternshark’ Lights up the Deep Sea