Monday, July 28, 2014

Want to Colonize an Alien Planet? Send 40,000 People

Want to Colonize an Alien Planet? Send 40,000 People

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Next Generation Air Transportation System

As seen in this image, Terminal Sequencing and Spacing technology enables air traffic controllers to better manage the spacing between aircraft as they save both time and fuel and reducing emissions, flying more efficient approaches into airports.
Image Credit: NASA

A new NASA-developed computer software tool designed to aid air traffic controllers was presented to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during a ceremony Monday at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

The Terminal Sequencing and Spacing (TSS) technology will enable air traffic controllers to better manage the spacing between aircraft as they fly more efficient approaches into airports, saving both time and fuel and reducing emissions. TSS is the another step in NASA’s support of the development of a Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, which is a joint multi-agency and industry initiative to modernize and upgrade the nation's air traffic control system.

"With TSS, NASA's aeronautics innovators have delivered to the FAA another valuable tool that will soon benefit our environment, our economy and every individual traveler," said Jaiwon Shin, NASA's associate administrator for aeronautics research.

The software enables the routine use of what are called Performance Based Navigation procedures, resulting in fewer course and altitude changes, while also reducing the frequency of necessary communications between controllers and pilots.
The TSS tool provides information to controllers about the speeds they should assign to aircraft as they follow fuel-efficient, continuous-descent arrival procedures while passing through a region of airspace surrounding an airport called the TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control), covering a distance from an airport of about 50 miles.
NASA's Airspace Systems Program, which is part of the agency's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, began the research that led to the development of TSS in 2009, with prototype development beginning in 2011. NASA used these prototypes to test TSS in 16 high-fidelity simulations involving controllers and pilots.

The FAA is working to implement the tool in the next five years, targeting an initial operating capability around 2018. The initial site has not yet been determined and implementation will depend on funding availability.
Through a highly effective technology transfer process enabled by the NASA/FAA Research Transition Teams, NASA has delivered to the FAA three other key software tools that enable more efficient air traffic and fuel savings.
For more information on NASA’s NextGen initiative, visit:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Is Your Kitchen the Place to Be?

The kitchen used to be, more than it is today, a part of the home, the place where people lived. Especially in older homes, the kitchen was large, with a table in the middle. At that table not only the kitchen work, cleaning meat and vegetables was done, but also the homework of the school going children was made on it​​. Mom and dad would write up their accounts, calculating how to make ends meet, at that same table. It was part of the kitchen and part of family life.

A real hearth

The real hearth was a large square, steel box on four sturdy legs, topped with a thick, cast iron plate that had four or more holes. Those holes could be opened or closed with rings and a round plate in the center.

The heat of the fire in the hearth-fed with wood or coal- was controlled by those rings. The bigger the hole the hotter the fire. So when the Dutch thick pea soup had to be cooked, all the rings were taken off, the soup had to cook for a long time. The soup then went on with little heat, most of the rings in place. This could take days and made the house smell lovely.

Two hot spots

There was a fireplace or stove, in the living room, or salon, and in the kitchen. Only two places in the house were heated, even in the dead of winter. You never found any heating in the bedrooms; you were supposed to keep yourself warm. Or you slept together with a brother or sister in an almost double bed and kept each other warm.

The living room, salon was actually used only for visitors, when the pastor came to see the family, or the local priest.

Therefore, the kitchen was the central place of the house where almost all life took place. On Saturdays, a large kettle was set on the hearth, filled with water. A big tub was placed in front of the stove. Filled with water that mummy kept warm with the water on the stove, and the kitchen served as bathroom for the whole family, one by one of course!

Daddies most loved chair was right next to the hearth, a stretched Smoking Chair. The back was adjustable and had the same size as the seat. The two armrests were not meant to sit on when talking to daddy! (We all did of course).

Before the TV took over that was the place to be in a home, the kitchen. Both objects, the hearth and the smoking chair, as well as the central table, can be used in a modern kitchen, provided it has the right size. The central working area is back in full force, a modern kitchen cannot do without. But I do miss children making homework there. So please reserve a place for the four chairs or stools, so your kids can enjoy the kitchen too.

A smoking chair may never win again, as smoking is banned in many places, out of fashion in others and the kitchen is not a good place to smoke anyway. But a nice, comfortable chair, where the cook can take a break without leaving the kitchen, is it such a bad idea? I for one do hope to see it again.

The oven and the cooking area are now part of the complete design, together with fridge, freezer, microwave oven and other kitchen appliances. But to put those appliances in a central position again, also is not a bad idea, I think. It would give the kitchen its life back and make it the center of the household once again. I would also love to see a fire again. That was after all why we lived in the kitchen, there was always a fire burning in the kitchen of our parents home.

Dutch Soldiers on a New Mission?

The Rutte II Cabinet, the present Dutch government will send Dutch soldiers on a new mission. About 380 Dutch soldiers and trainers will become part of Minusma, the UN mission in Mali. The military mission will most likely last until the end of 2015.This was decided by the Cabinet today.

This afternoon, Minister of Defense Jeanine Hennis presented the decision and explained the content in a press conference. The ministers Timmermans (Foreign Affairs), Ploumen (Development) and Opstelten (Security and Justice) will give explanations.

The Dutch contribution will largely consist of collecting military intelligence, processing and analyzing it for the UN mission Minusma. Also four Apache attack helicopters will be brought in. In addition to the collecting information, they will also be used for protection purposes. The mission at this moment does not have enough helicopters. Officers and civilian experts will help to police, train and reform the security sector.

"It's in the interests of The Netherlands to help avoid an unmanageable situation close to home", said the Prime Minister.

The decision will be communicated to the House in a so-called ' Article 100' letter Article 100 of the Dutch Constitution stipulates that the Cabinet is required to inform the parliament on military missions. However, the government does not need the consent of the House, because the assumption is that a government would not decide on a military mission without a broad political support for it.

But a Dutch military mission in Mali includes large risks. According to some specialists, it is a mission in the highest spectrum of military risk, with commandos behind enemy lines and attack helicopters.

The first question we must ask however is, is a Dutch contribution of 350 to 390 military personnel really useful to a military operation of this scope and range?

First of all the initial number of men and women sent, 70 specialists in gathering and analizing intelligence. These are computer wizz kids, no insult intended, who will stare at grainy photographs on high tech screens to try and identify weapons- or bomb-carrying individuals within gatherings of people and other dangers to the patrolling military and police staff from other countries. Essential, but no military action there.>

Then 90 Special Forces troops to basically protect the abovementioned group. Real soldiers at a very hight level of training. But they will not be engaged in real military action to protect civilians against attacking gangs from the Touareg tribes who live in the desert to the north of Mali, as they are trained to. They are babysitters for the 70 specialists.

The 128 support troops that will be sent are the only ones doing their normal work. Medical staff, logistics support, camp maintenance, cooking, administration and so on.


And then we have the real special component, 30 police officers, well not quite 30 because The Netherlands has one very special feature within its Armed Forces, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. These soldiers are really multi purpose. They train as police officers, customs officers and soldiers. They resort under the Ministry of Defense and 20 of them will be sent to Mali as well, along with 10 regular police officers. If you want to see part of the work of the Marechaussee, fly into the Netherlands by air and the person putting the stamp in your passport will most likely be a Marechaussee.

The Koninklijke Marechaussee, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, abbreviated to KMar, (English, Royal Marshals, but commonly seen as Royal Military Constabulary) is one of the four Services of the armed forces of the Netherlands. It is a gendarmerie force performing military police and civil police-duties. The main tasks for the Marechaussee in The Netherlands are border protection, military police duties and guard duties. They are therefore very well equipped and trained to pass on this versatile knowledge to Mali police officers. And that is exactly what they will be doing.

Will it be enough?

France has 3,200 soldiers in the country but plans to reduce the force to 1,000 by February, several months later than originally planned.

It handed over responsibility for security to Minusma in July. However, the UN force has less than half of its mandated strength of more than 12,000 military personnel and has appealed for reinforcements. Part of these reinforcements will be Dutch troops, but only a contingent of 390 in total.

OK, The Netherlands is a small country, so the contingent will be smaller that that of France. But France has sent soldiers who fight.

When the mandated strength is 12 000 it may be seen as a drop in the ocean, particularly by the French, who started the operation in Mali. Add to that the fact that more than half of the Dutch contribution consists of non military personnel and the Dutch might have a problem with its UN partners.

Minusma is fighting with the Tuareg

In 1963, the tribes of the Adagh Mountains in northern Mali first rebelled against the Malian government. The uprising was beaten in 1964.

A second uprising followed between 1990 and 1998, and a third in 2006. In all three uprisings a few men from the region Kidal in Mali played a major role.

In early 2012, Tuareg started a rebellion in an oil-rich region in northern Mali with the support of Arab and Songhai warriors. Many Tuareg had previously served in the army of Libya and were heavily armed by Muammar al-Qadhafi during the uprising in Libya in 2011, but driven out by the National Transitional Council. Due to their superior Libyan equipment the Tuareg in February and March managed to beat the army, which was poorly armed, and occupied more and more towns in northern Mali.

This prompted the innitial call for help of the Malian president to the French government.

The Touareg form a fighting forse to be reckened with, this is not a computer-game war. These are real fighting men with experience and the will to reach a goal. They want their country to be the independent Azawat, not Mali.

What do they have to lose? Nothing al all, that makes them double as dangerous, not a match for Dutch computer wizz kids and a few commandos with a limited mandate!

Prime Minster Rutte and his Minister of Defense should have a second look at the plans, while they still can.
This article was published on 11-01-2013 via Yahoo Voices.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Researchers found that Titan's ice shell, which overlies a very salty ocean, varies in thickness around the moon, suggesting the crust is in the process of becoming rigid.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI/Univ. of Arizona/G. Mitri/University of Nantes

Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have firm evidence the ocean inside Saturn's largest moon, Titan, might be as salty as the Earth's Dead Sea.
The new results come from a study of gravity and topography data collected during Cassini's repeated flybys of Titan during the past 10 years. Using the Cassini data, researchers presented a model structure for Titan, resulting in an improved understanding of the structure of the moon's outer ice shell. The findings are published in this week’s edition of the journal Icarus.

"Titan continues to prove itself as an endlessly fascinating world, and with our long-lived Cassini spacecraft, we’re unlocking new mysteries as fast as we solve old ones," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, who was not involved in the study.

Additional findings support previous indications the moon's icy shell is rigid and in the process of freezing solid. Researchers found that a relatively high density was required for Titan's ocean in order to explain the gravity data. This indicates the ocean is probably an extremely salty brine of water mixed with dissolved salts likely composed of sulfur, sodium and potassium. The density indicated for this brine would give the ocean a salt content roughly equal to the saltiest bodies of water on Earth.

"This is an extremely salty ocean by Earth standards," said the paper's lead author, Giuseppe Mitri of the University of Nantes in France. "Knowing this may change the way we view this ocean as a possible abode for present-day life, but conditions might have been very different there in the past."

Cassini data also indicate the thickness of Titan's ice crust varies slightly from place to place. The researchers said this can best be explained if the moon's outer shell is stiff, as would be the case if the ocean were slowly crystalizing, and turning to ice. Otherwise, the moon's shape would tend to even itself out over time, like warm candle wax. This freezing process would have important implications for the habitability of Titan's ocean, as it would limit the ability of materials to exchange between the surface and the ocean.

A further consequence of a rigid ice shell, according to the study, is any outgassing of methane into Titan's atmosphere must happen at scattered "hot spots" -- like the hot spot on Earth that gave rise to the Hawaiian Island chain. Titan's methane does not appear to result from convection or plate tectonics recycling its ice shell.

How methane gets into the moon's atmosphere has long been of great interest to researchers, as molecules of this gas are broken apart by sunlight on short geological timescales. Titan's present atmosphere contains about five percent methane. This means some process, thought to be geological in nature, must be replenishing the gas. The study indicates that whatever process is responsible, the restoration of Titan's methane is localized and intermittent.

"Our work suggests looking for signs of methane outgassing will be difficult with Cassini, and may require a future mission that can find localized methane sources," said Jonathan Lunine, a scientist on the Cassini mission at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and one of the paper's co-authors. "As on Mars, this is a challenging task."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about Cassini, visit

July 2, 2014 NASA Launches New Carbon-Sensing Mission to Monitor Earth’s Breathing

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launches with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2)satellite onboard from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. OCO-2 will measure the global distribution of carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth’s climate.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA successfully launched its first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide at 2:56 a.m. PDT (5:56 a.m. EDT) Wednesday.
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) raced skyward from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. Approximately 56 minutes after the launch, the observatory separated from the rocket's second stage into an initial 429-mile (690-kilometer) orbit. The spacecraft then performed a series of activation procedures, established communications with ground controllers and unfurled its twin sets of solar arrays. Initial telemetry shows the spacecraft is in excellent condition.

OCO-2 soon will begin a minimum two-year mission to locate Earth’s sources of and storage places for atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for warming our world and a critical component of the planet’s carbon cycle.

"Climate change is the challenge of our generation," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "With OCO-2 and our existing fleet of satellites, NASA is uniquely qualified to take on the challenge of documenting and understanding these changes, predicting the ramifications, and sharing information about these changes for the benefit of society."

OCO-2 will take NASA's studies of carbon dioxide and the global carbon cycle to new heights. The mission will produce the most detailed picture to date of natural sources of carbon dioxide, as well as their "sinks" -- places on Earth’s surface where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. The observatory will study how these sources and sinks are distributed around the globe and how they change over time.

"This challenging mission is both timely and important," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "OCO-2 will produce exquisitely precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations near Earth's surface, laying the foundation for informed policy decisions on how to adapt to and reduce future climate change."

Carbon dioxide sinks are at the heart of a longstanding scientific puzzle that has made it difficult for scientists to accurately predict how carbon dioxide levels will change in the future and how those changing concentrations will affect Earth's climate.

"Scientists currently don't know exactly where and how Earth's oceans and plants have absorbed more than half the carbon dioxide that human activities have emitted into our atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era," said David Crisp, OCO-2 science team leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "Because of this we cannot predict precisely how these processes will operate in the future as climate changes. For society to better manage carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, we need to be able to measure the natural source and sink processes."

Precise measurements of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide are needed because background levels vary by less than two percent on regional to continental scales. Typical changes can be as small as one-third of one percent. OCO-2 measurements are designed to measure these small changes clearly.

During the next 10 days, the spacecraft will go through a checkout process and then begin three weeks of maneuvers that will place it in its final 438-mile (705-kilometer), near-polar operational orbit at the head of the international Afternoon Constellation, or "A-Train," of Earth-observing satellites. The A-Train, the first multi-satellite, formation flying "super observatory" to record the health of Earth's atmosphere and surface environment, collects an unprecedented quantity of nearly simultaneous climate and weather measurements.

OCO-2 science operations will begin about 45 days after launch. Scientists expect to begin archiving calibrated mission data in about six months and plan to release their first initial estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in early 2015.

The observatory will uniformly sample the atmosphere above Earth's land and waters, collecting more than 100,000 precise individual measurements of carbon dioxide over Earth's entire sunlit hemisphere every day. Scientists will use these data in computer models to generate maps of carbon dioxide emission and uptake at Earth’s surface on scales comparable in size to the state of Colorado. These regional-scale maps will provide new tools for locating and identifying carbon dioxide sources and sinks.

OCO-2 also will measure a phenomenon called solar-induced fluorescence, an indicator of plant growth and health. As plants photosynthesize and take up carbon dioxide, they fluoresce and give off a tiny amount of light that is invisible to the naked eye. Because more photosynthesis translates into more fluorescence, fluorescence data from OCO-2 will help shed new light on the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants

OCO-2 is a NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder Program mission managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia, built the spacecraft bus and provides mission operations under JPL’s leadership. The science instrument was built by JPL, based on the instrument design co-developed for the original OCO mission by Hamilton Sundstrand in Pomona, California. NASA's Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch management. Communications during all phases of the mission are provided by NASA's Near Earth Network, with contingency support from the Space Network. Both are divisions of the Space Communications and Navigation program at NASA Headquarters. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information about OCO-2, visit:

OCO-2 is the second of five NASA Earth science missions scheduled to launch into space this year, the most new Earth-observing mission launches in one year in more than a decade. NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:

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