Search results for: "apollo missions"

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TCM Spotlighting Science In The Movies Throughout January

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CurieWe’ve been highlighting several ongoing science fiction marathons this week, but those will be drawing to a close with the end of the holidays. If you still want to keep your DVR stocked with science- and science fiction-related programming, you’ll want to figure out where the hell TCM is on your cable or satellite. Beginning tomorrow night, and continuing throughout the month of January, TCM will be filling their Friday-night lineup with classic movies that “delve into issues of scientific discovery, exploration and alteration, with some side trips into science fiction.”

Sure, that description sounds kind of broad, so let’s get specific. Each of the Friday-night events will focus on different scientific themes, ranging from “Scientists on a Mission” to “Great Inventors” to “Mad Scientists.” And as we all know, mad science is the very best science. Tomorrow night’s themes are “Nobel Prize Winners” and one of our favorites here at GFR, “Rocket Science.”

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Apollo 7 Launched This Day In 1968: Today In Science And Science Fiction

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Apollo7We just revisited the legacy of astronaut Scott Carpenter, one of the Mercury 7, who passed away yesterday at the age of 88. It’s somehow fitting that today marks another landmark of space exploration. On October 11, 1968, the American space program launched the Apollo 7 mission. The first of the Apollo missions to actually send a crew into space, it essentially took over the mission originally intended for Apollo 1, which tragically suffered a fire on the launch pad that killed its entire crew. While the odds of something similar happening to Apollo 7 were very slim, that still had to be a bit of an eerie mission until everybody was safely back on the ground.

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The Moon Shows New Evidence Of Subsurface Water

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MoonWhen it comes to space science, finding water on the moon has been something of a holy grail to astronomers and scientists for decades. While it would of course be more informative to stumble across a fully formed civilization that could just communicate all of the satellite’s secrets, nothing is so easy, and discoveries have been slow going. But now NASA‘s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), onboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft has identified the existence of subsurface magmatic water on the moon, which could lead to a better understanding of how it formed. The research was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Amazingly, it’s the first time magmatic water has been identified from lunar orbit, and backs up the previous research done some months back on the moon rocks brought back from the Apollo missions. While it was once thought any water contained in those rocks was merely Earthbound contamination, the existence of hydroxyl (a molecule made up of one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom) matches up with what the M3 found within the moon’s Bullialdus crater, which has a central peak comprised of rock that forms far below the lunar surface.

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Seven Great Astronaut Movies To Tide You Over Until Cuaron’s Gravity

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With a breathtaking new trailer for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity tumbling into our lives this morning, we here at GFR decided it was time to pay tribute to some of our favorite astronaut movies. Now, there’s plenty of room for debate about what counts as an “astronaut movie,” but for us a few specific things come to mind:

  • They can be set in the future, but the not-too-distant future. You could argue that Star Trek is about astronauts, sort of, but it isn’t really what comes to mind when you hear “astronaut.”
  • They may veer heavily toward the fiction side of science fiction, but for us an astronaut move needs to have a real sense of possibility and verisimilitude. Even if there are crazy elements, it should have a feel of “It could happen, and I could see it in my lifetime”…even if the chances are slim.
  • It should tell the story of people whose jobs have taken them into space, whether as a scientist, explorer, or something else entirely. The ideal astronaut movie has a bit of a “procedural” element to it as well, reveling in the day-to-day details of working and living beyond our homeworld.

2001

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Water Traces Found In Old Moon Rocks

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Moon

If you’re into the outer space side of science, you might agree that one of the most tiresome, yet profoundly exciting subjects is that of water on the Moon. Decades of questions have ended in frustration, though recent years have provided overwhelmingly positive evidence, with much of the visible proof on the South Pole, in giant ice deposits. And with no sign of an extraterrestrial snowcone stand around, that must mean it was there already.

Speaking of things being there already, you know those Moon rocks that came back with the Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s? For a study in Nature Geoscience, researcher Hejiu Hui from the University of Notre Dame revealed that infrared spectrometer tests recently showed that every rock taken from the Moon’s surface had water traces in it, including the famed “Genesis Rock.” Of course, we’re not talking about tap water or anything, but the chemical hydroxyl, which contains both the hydrogen and oxygen elements needed to produce water.

Because the hydroxyl is embedded so deep within the rocks, it’s assumed this means water has been on the Moon for all these years. Previous theories of its formation assumed it came into being as a big debris-ball after a Mars-sized asteroid collided with the Earth in its early years, a process that should have sent any remaining hydrogen hurtling into space. This theory has persisted as long as it has due to lower levels of efficiency in the instruments used to test the rocks soon after they were brought back. While early spectrometers could pick out chemicals at 50 parts per million (ppm), the current devices can detect 6 ppm in the anorthosites which form on the lower crust, and as low as 2.7 ppm in the upper crust rocks called Troctolites. This all means that the Moon’s rocks may have taken much longer to crystallize than research had previously shown.

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NASA Unveils New Plan To Send Astronauts Beyond The Moon, But Will The White House Bite?

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When NASA lays out a plan for human spaceflight, it usually revolves around a presidential mandate that outlines the course of the agency within a president’s time in office. It’s not really the best arrangement, but if the president happens to stick around for two terms, then it hopefully provides a nice, eight-year cushion to keep the course steady for NASA. When President Obama unveiled his plan for the space agency, it predictably wiped the slate clean (for the most part) of President Bush’s underfunded plan, while simultaneously laying out an extremely long-term plan that would in all likelihood be changed as soon as he leaves office. Now it looks like NASA is no longer content to be left in the lurch with the plans of politicians and has put forth its own plan to the president for the future of human spaceflight. It’s a bold mission to build a space station on the far side of the moon, but can it get past the White House?

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the new plan calls for using parts of the current International Space Station to be re-purposed and moved to the L2 Earth-Moon Lagrange Point, where it would be used as a small outpost to increase training effectiveness for deep-space missions while providing a support base for future Mars and Lunar missions. In addition to being a stepping stone for deep-space exploration, the L2 base would also allow for robotic sample-return missions on the moon to be studied aboard the space station by human investigators. The L2 point is over 277,000 miles from Earth, so this would not only make the station the most distant that man has ever built, but it would put humans further away from Earth than at any point during the Apollo missions. That task will be monumental when it comes to the safety of the astronauts, who won’t have the relatively quick and easy trip home that they would from the ISS’s current orbit, but the possible benefits to future deep-space exploration would be immense.