UAE looks to Mars for STEM inspiration
(CNN)On September 12, 1962, John F. Kennedy told the United States “we choose to go to the Moon.” What JFK and the American public didn’t know yet was that by investing in its space program, it was also choosing memory foam, precision GPS and the cardiac pump, food safety standards, invisible braces and the Dustbuster.
Mr. Barboza California Association of Gifted Conference
Mr. Barboza’s session was delightful as well as inspiring. The session wasn’t just a sit and get, it engaged the audience. The session went beyond being informative; it was in fact was a proposal. This proposal was a call to teach differently to implement the Common Core and Next Generation Science standards in a meaningful way. To do this he called on teachers to partner with him to make students into authors, composers, artist, programmers, reporters, mathematicians, and scientists.
The approach to do this was multifaceted. Having students write “STEM stories” relating to the theme of “Occupy Mars” was promoted. A STEM story is any science or science fiction like narrative that is accompanied by a sound track and sound effects. The goal is to engage students in writing by having them enhance their writing with sound. This was demonstrated during the session by humanoid robot and a laser activated musical instrument that a member of the audience played.
If students are writing STEM stories, then they will need an authentic audience to give them purpose. Mr. Barboza proposed three ways for students to do this. These were Kid Talk Radio, the Occupy Mars Band and characters, and a humanoid robot. Kid Talk Radio is a website that hosts student’s stories and reports in an audio format. The Occupy Mars Band and character will perform student STEM stories, using their teacher narrating the story in character. Students might also program the humanoid robot to tell their story including music, sound effects, and gestures.
Mr. Barboza also wants to get students involved in projects. The theme for these projects this year is “NASA and NOAA needs your help.” Students will take on the role of junior astronauts in solving these problems. Students will be involved with an augmented reality show during this endeavor. Designing experiments for cube satellites, assembling robots from 3d printed parts, and Mars habitats will be designed using dodecahedron geometry as well as other mathematics.
The session ended with Mr. Barboza offering the possibility of partnering with him. Partnership would be based on proposals submitted by teachers. Proposals that include taking advantage of the ideas mentioned above would be highly valued. Proposals that went beyond the ideas above and involved learners in solid project-based-learning might even receive grant money. More importantly, Mr. Barboza has 38 specialists in various STEM fields ready to help teachers succeed at the projects in their proposals.
Middle School Science Teacher.
In real life, we can’t pick up a planet and put it on a scale. However, scientists do have ways to figure out how much a planet weighs. They can calculate how hard the planet pulls on other things. The heavier the planet, the stronger it tugs on nearby objects—like moons or visiting spacecraft. That tug is what we call gravitational pull.
What does gravity have to do with weight?
When you stand on a scale, what it’s actually doing is measuring how hard Earth’s gravity is pulling on you.
If you were to step onto a scale on another planet, it would say something different than it does here. That’s because the planets weigh different amounts, and therefore the force of gravity is different from planet to planet.
For example, if you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh only 38 pounds on Mercury. That’s because Mercury weighs less than Earth, and therefore its gravity would pull less on your body. If, on the other hand, you were on heavy Jupiter, you would weigh a whopping 253 pounds!
How do scientists use gravitational pull as a scale?
In order to figure out how heavy a planet is, scientists need to know two things: how long it takes nearby objects to orbit the planet and how far away those objects are from the planet. For example, the closer a moon is to its planet, the stronger the planet will tug on it. The time it takes an object (whether it’s a moon or spacecraft) to orbit a planet depends both on its distance from the planet and how heavy the planet is.
Why do scientists usually talk about mass rather than weight?
An object’s weight is dependent on its mass and how strongly gravity pulls on it. The strength of gravity depends on how far away one object is from another. That’s why the same object weighs different amounts on different planets. It’s sometimes easier to compare planets using a measurement that isn’t quite so complicated. That’s why scientists and engineers often measure an object’s mass—how much matter the object contains—rather than its weight.
Mass stays the same regardless of location and gravity. You would have the same mass on Mars or Jupiter as you do here on Earth.
What is the mass of Earth?
We know that Earth has a mass of approximately 5,970,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms. That’s a really big number!
How do you write a shorter version of a very big number? Exponents!
The Earth’s mass is 5,970,000,000,000,000,000,000,000kilograms. That is a lot of mass! Here is a shorter way of writing that big number: 5.97 x 1024 kg. That little 24 is called an exponent. An exponent of a number is how many times to use that number as a multiplier. So, in other words:
5,970,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 is the same as…
5.97 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10
which can be shortened to…
5.97 x 1024
What is the mass of the other planets in our solar system?
The table below lists all the planets in our solar system in order from least massive to most massive. You can also find the mass of each planet in kilograms, and how the mass of each planet compares to that of Earth.
|Planets (in order of least massive to most massive)||Mass
|Each planet’s mass relative to Earth|
|Mercury||0.330 x 1024||0.0553|
|Mars||0.642 x 1024||0.107|
|Venus||4.87 x 1024||0.815|
|Earth||5.97 x 1024||1|
|Uranus||86.8 x 1024||14.5|
|Neptune||102 x 1024||17.1|
|Saturn||568 x 1024||95.2|
|Jupiter||1,900 x 1024||318|
Firms are building automated spacecraft for on-orbit repairs.
Hundreds of millions of dollars can go into the school bus-sized satellites that blast into orbit above Earth and provide services including broadband internet, broadcasting and military surveillance.
But if a part breaks or a satellite runs out of fuel, there’s no way to send help.
Commercial industry and government agencies believe they’re getting close to having an answer: robot repairs.
The idea is to extend the lives of satellites through on-orbit satellite servicing, in which robotic spacecraft essentially act as the AAA roadside service trucks of space, traveling from satellite to satellite to refuel them and fix problems.
On a spring day earlier this year in Greenbelt, Md., 30 companies gathered at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to learn about the technology and view hardware for on-orbit satellite servicing. They ranged from spacecraft makers to purveyors of robot arms and even insurance brokers. A second event is planned for January.
Industry watchers see the heightened activity as commercial validation for a 30-year-old idea that, until recently, attracted only government dollars.
“I think it could be a sustainable market,” said Carissa Christensen, chief executive of space analytic consulting firm Bryce Space and Technology.
One of the first such commercial robot technicians is set to launch next year, but analysts say a mature market is still at least 10 years away. Not only do the spacecraft and capabilities still need to be fine-tuned, but the space industry, which is relatively conservative, will want to see several demonstrations before signing on.
“It’s an environment where you can’t make mistakes,” said Steve Oldham, senior vice president of strategic business development at SSL, a division of San Francisco-based Maxar Technologies that has such a project in the works.
Technology still needs to advance to the point where robots become capable service workers. But the number of satellites that will need servicing is rising rapidly.
In 2016, there were more than 1,400 operational satellites in orbit, compared with 994 in 2012, according to a June report commissioned by the Satellite Industry Assn. and written by Bryce Space and Technology. Many are programmable, meaning their software can be updated throughout their lifespan, which can stretch to 10 or 15 years.
NASA has started to develop some of the necessary technology. In February, the agency launched a sensor called Raven during a cargo resupply launch for the International Space Station. Raven can track vehicles approaching the space station, much like a baseball catcher keeps tabs on an incoming ball long before stretching out an arm to grab it.
“Satellites in low-Earth orbit are traveling anywhere between 15,000 and 18,000 mph,” said Ben Reed, deputy division director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s satellite servicing projects division, which developed Raven. “We need to put our servicer underneath it with a robotic catcher’s mitt in the right place.”
That division was born out of previous missions to maintain and service the Hubble Space Telescope.
Astronauts aboard the space shuttle serviced the telescope five times, with the last mission in 2009 focused on replacing circuit boards and adding new sensors. When the shuttle program ended, NASA’s ability to access and service space assets disappeared, Reed said.
The division is also developing refueling technologies and is working to eventually launch a fully robotic spacecraft that will go to a satellite in orbit and autonomously capture and refuel it.
The autonomous-capture aspect is important, Reed said, because waiting for a video signal to reach human operators on Earth would be too slow. The round-trip delay between moving that spacecraft’s robotic arm and seeing the result on video can take about three seconds.
“We need rapid, rapid, rapid,” he said, snapping his fingers. “You don’t think when you reach out your hand to catch a set of car keys.”
Less time-sensitive tasks, such as cutting wires, will be done telerobotically via human operators.
NASA’s satellite servicing project division is not intended to compete with industry but rather transfer the technology it develops to interested parties, Reed said.
Rocket and satellite maker Orbital ATK Inc., which was recently acquired by defense giant Northrop Grumman Corp., has begun assembling a service spacecraft known as the Mission Extension Vehicle-1. The craft is set for launch next year with service starting as soon as 2019.
Orbital ATK has snagged satellite operator Intelsat as its first customer. The spacecraft’s structures, solar arrays and propellant tanks are being made in San Diego and Goleta.
In June, satellite and spacecraft manufacturer SSL announced a new business venture focused specifically on on-orbit satellite servicing. SSL was selected in February by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to be its commercial partner in a program to service satellites in geosynchronous orbit. SSL will build the spacecraft and the refueling capability while DARPA provides robotic tools and software.
The spacecraft will be test-launched in 2021. SSL is developing it at a facility in Palo Alto; two robotic arms are being built at a subdivision in Pasadena. SSL has signed its first commercial customer, Luxembourg satellite operator SES.
Some analysts question whether this robot geek squad will be needed at all. A coming boom in small, cheap satellites could replace more expensive, large satellites. Along with reduced launch costs, led by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its reusable rockets, it could be cheaper to launch several new small satellites than fix or refuel old ones.
But Christensen of Bryce Space and Technology is confident there will be a need for a high-and-low mix of satellites. She adds that cheaper launch costs could drive more repairs.
“If you’ve got a quarter of a billion dollars of hardware on orbit, it seems like it would be useful to figure out an application for that,” Christensen said.
And industry officials believe orbiting robot service workers will be essential if and when humans begin assembling giant craft to explore the planets.
“Those far-reaching, species-changing discoveries [are] what gives us the passion to move forward every day with something that sounds mundane,” NASA’s Reed said.
Mars Society Partners with Marspedia Project to Help Build Mars Online Encyclopedia
Kids Talk Radio Science wants to help with this project. We are located at the Barboza Space Center.
The Mars Society is pleased to announce that it has joined the online Marspedia project started by two other space advocacy groups – The Mars Foundation and The Moon Society – in an effort to build out a great resource for people of all ages to learn more about the planet Mars, promote the human and robotic exploration of the Red Planet and encourage STEM education.
The organization is striving to make Marspedia the one-stop shopfor all information related to Mars, including: articles describing past historical missions to the planet, current knowledge about Mars, technology related to ongoing exploration, future concepts such as terraforming and plans for human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.
The Mars Society is taking a leading role in this effort and has formed a Governing Council comprised of representatives of the three organizations, led by Susan Holden Martin, a Steering Committee member and former Executive Director of the Mars Society, along with James Burk, current IT Director for the organization.
In an attempt to expand the Marspedia project, we are currently looking for interested and dedicated volunteers who are able to help us to improve and maintain the online Mars encyclopedia, which takes the form of a “wiki” that anybody can add to or edit once they set up a free user account. We are also in the process of improving the overall design of the encyclopedia, including creating a new, modern logo for the project.
For the improvement of the encyclopedia’s content, an Editorial Subcommittee has been formed and is meeting weekly via teleconference. We need folks to join this subcommittee that have experience with editing and reviewing content, particularly with a science background. In addition, we are always looking for new content that we can add to Marspedia, and can attribute that content with multiple options of content licensing including Creative Commons and public domain.
For technical maintenance and upgrades, a Technical Subcommittee has also been formed and is using the Slack tool for communication. We already have an experienced group of technical experts that has set up and is maintaining the encyclopedia, but we are also on the lookout for experienced software developers and people that are familiar with the platform we are using: Mediawiki. The Mars Society is working to make Marspedia a cutting-edge and technologically advanced resource that has many tools available for our content writers and editors.
To join this important effort, please visit the main Marspedia web page at www.marspedia.org and access the information under “How You Can Help”, including links to the two subcommittees mentioned above. If you have content to share, there is a Submission Form available as well, so you can submit your content and have others post it into the encyclopedia.
Get Involved in Mars Society “Red Eagle” Student Contest to Design Mars Lander
Students and from the Barboza Space Center will support other teams that want to try for this new international competition. Write your letter for possible collaboration and send it to Barboza Space Center (Suprschool@aol.com. Attention Bob Barboza.
What do I need to do to get started?
The Mars Society recently announced plans for an international student engineering contest to design a lander capable of delivering a ten metric ton payload safely to the surface of Mars. The competition is open to student teams from around the world. Participants are free to choose any technology to accomplish the proposed mission and need to submit design reports of no more than 50 pages by March 31, 2018.
These contest reports will be evaluated by a panel of judges and will serve as the basis for a down-select to ten finalists who will be invited to present their work in person at the next International Mars Society Convention in September 2018. The first place winning team will receive a trophy and a $10,000 cash prize. Second through fifth place winners will receive trophies and prizes of $5,000, 3,000, $2000, and $1,000 respectively. In honor of the first craft used to deliver astronauts to another world, the contest is being named “Red Eagle.”
The key missing capability required to send human expeditions to Mars is the ability to land large payloads on the Red Planet. The largest capacity demonstrated landing system is that used by Curiosity, which delivered 1 ton. That is not enough to support human expeditions, whose minimal requirement is a ten ton landing capacity. NASA has identified this as a key obstacle to human missions to Mars, but has no program to develop any such lander. SpaceX had a program, called Red Dragon, which might have created a comparable capability, but it was cancelled when NASA showed no interest in using such a system to soft land crews returning to Earth from the ISS or other near-term missions.
In the absence of such a capability, NASA has been reduced to proposing irrelevant projects, such as building a space station in lunar orbit (not needed for either lunar or Mars expeditions), or claim that it is working on the technology for large visionary interplanetary spaceships which will someday sail from lunar orbit to Mars orbit and back, accomplishing nothing.
For full details about the Red Eagle student engineering contest, including team rules, guidelines and requirements, please click here.