Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NASA Honors Apollo Astronaut Al Worden with Moon Rock

WASHINGTON -- NASA will honor Apollo astronaut Al Worden with the presentation of an Ambassador of Exploration Award for his contributions to the U.S. space program.

Worden will receive the award during a ceremony Thursday, July 30, at 4 p.m. EDT. The ceremony will be held at the Apollo Saturn V Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, where the moon rock will be displayed.

Reporters interested in covering the ceremony should contact Andrea Farmer at 321-449-4318 or Jillian McRae at 321-449-4273.

NASA is giving the Ambassador of Exploration Award to the first generation of explorers in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs for realizing America's goal of going to the moon. The award is a moon rock encased in Lucite, mounted for public display. The rock is part of the 842 pounds of lunar samples collected during six Apollo expeditions from 1969 to 1972. Those astronauts who receive the award will then present the award to a museum of their choice, where the moon rock will be placed for public display.

Worden served as command module pilot for the Apollo 15 mission, which set several moon records for NASA, including the longest lunar surface stay time, the longest lunar extravehicular activity and the first use of a lunar roving vehicle. Worden spent 38 minutes in a spacewalk outside the command module and logged a total of 295 hours, 11 minutes in space during the mission.

Worden was born in Jackson, Mich. He received a bachelor of military science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1955, and master of science degrees in astronautical and aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1963.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New NASA Images Indicate Object Hits Jupiter

Scientists have found evidence that another object has bombarded Jupiter, exactly 15 years after the first impacts by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

Following up on a tip by an amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley of Australia, that a new dark "scar" had suddenly appeared on Jupiter, this morning between 3 and 9 a.m. PDT (6 a.m. and noon EDT) scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., using NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, gathered evidence indicating an impact.

New infrared images show the likely impact point was near the south polar region, with a visibly dark "scar" and bright upwelling particles in the upper atmosphere detected in near-infrared wavelengths, and a warming of the upper troposphere with possible extra emission from ammonia gas detected at mid-infrared wavelengths.

"We were extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event. We couldn't have planned it better," said Glenn Orton, a scientist at JPL.

Orton and his team of astronomers kicked into gear early in the morning and haven't stopped tracking the planet. They are downloading data now and are working to get additional observing time on this and other telescopes.

This image was taken at 1.65 microns, a wavelength sensitive to sunlight reflected from high in Jupiter's atmosphere, and it shows both the bright center of the scar (bottom left) and the debris to its northwest (upper left).

"It could be the impact of a comet, but we don't know for sure yet," said Orton. "It's been a whirlwind of a day, and this on the anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 and Apollo anniversaries is amazing."

Shoemaker-Levy 9 was a comet that had been seen to break into many pieces before the pieces hit Jupiter in 1994.

Leigh Fletcher, a NASA postdoctoral fellow at JPL who worked with Orton during these latest observations said, "Given the rarity of these events, it's extremely exciting to be involved in these observations. These are the most exciting observations I've seen in my five years of observing the outer planets!"

The observations were made possible in large measure by the extraordinary efforts of the Infrared Telescope Facility staff, including telescope operator William Golisch, who adroitly moved three instruments in and out of the field during the short time the scar was visible on the planet, providing the wide wavelength coverage.

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Friday, July 17, 2009

How to Improve E-Mail Client Software: 15 Ideas Based On Enterprise Attention Management

The most popular "overload" topic in offices today is e-mail. But after all these years of incremental improvement to IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, surely there can't be any low-hanging fruit left to pick to help people manage inbox overload. Or is there?

The Enterprise Attention Management Conceptual Architecture to the rescue! Rather than relying on a set of personal pet peeves or specific annoyances that have happened in recent memory, a model such as the EAM conceptual architecture provides a systematic approach for analyzing the attentional characteristics of a system.

The EAM architecture is intended for use by organizations to examine individual technologies or whole systems (such as the information worker desktop) that are suspected of causing explicit (information stress) or implicit (poor decision making, slow reaction to new information) information handling problems. With systems it can be used for gap analysis. Here I use it as an intuition pump to reveal a set of potential enhancements to e-mail software that would improve its attentional characteristics.

Click on the thumbnail below and scroll around to see the ideas that came out of my informal analysis of e-mail. Also, here is a quick summary of the recommended improvements (going clockwise from the upper-left of the diagram):
  • Scheduled delivery

  • Maintain whitelists to bypass blocks and delays

  • “Move to discussion” greys out “reply”

  • Automated routing and prioritizing? Not yet

  • Un-bury turning off or freezing of “toasts” (alerts)

  • Enable e-mail hyperlinking

  • Enable role-based profiles

  • Enable sender tagged e-mails

  • Stop attachment abuse

  • Presence-enable recipient lists

  • Enable group-based rules

  • Turn e-mail into generic small-content tool

  • Manage multiple inboxes

  • Provide inbox analytics

  • Token systems

  • Remind sender if no reply

Caveat: I'm not an e-mail expert. It's possible that some e-mail systems can already do these things outright, with some configuration, or with simple coding. If so, great, although they should be no more than one click away. In the meantime, my inbox is filling up as I wait for these capabilities in the next version of e-mail programs.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

LRO Sends its First Lunar Images to Earth

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has transmitted its first images since reaching the moon on June 23. The spacecraft's two cameras, collectively known as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, were activated June 30. The cameras are working well and have returned images of a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).

As the moon rotates beneath LRO, LROC gradually will build up photographic maps of the lunar surface.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Add Headache to Dangers of Space Exploration

Astronauts need to add space headache to their list of occupational hazards, say researchers.

After quizzing 17 seasoned astronauts they found more than two-thirds suffered from headaches on missions yet were headache free back on earth.

The disabling headaches appeared unique - described by the crew as "exploding" - and were generally unrelated to common space motion sickness.

The Dutch investigators work is published in the journal Cephalalgia.

They propose space headache should be classified as a separate entity in its own right.

In the past, experts have thought all headaches in space are a symptom of motion sickness, which is caused by disorientation due to the absence of gravity and plagued the Apollo program.

More than three-quarters of the 21 headaches documented by 12 of the astronauts in the latest study had none of the associated main symptoms of space motion sickness, such as nausea, vomiting or vertigo.

Nine of the headaches were triggered during launch, nine during the stay at the space station, one during activities outside the space station and two during landing.

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