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Camping Trip for the 2012 Perseid Meteor Shower

If you are looking for an impromptu activity to do with your friends, partner or children, tonight is an especially perfect night to embark on a camping trip. Though last minute, the advantage to camping this weekend is the peak of the  2012Perseid meteor shower which can be seen clearly in the night sky, as long as there are no interfering urban lights or glares. According to scientist Bill Cook, more than 100 ‘shooting stars’ can be seen in a single hour during this event.

The moon, Venus and Jupiter will also align in a spectacular display in the night sky, providing a romantic atmosphere or the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about the solar system, Earth and our moon.

Science@NASA released a short video that explains the phenomenon, which ends on August 13th.

 

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NASA’s Curiosity and Its Implications

One of the hottest topics in the science and tech world today is the recent landing of NASA’s rover ‘Curiosity’ on Mars. Here, the Washington Post’s Marc Kaufman explains why the project is considered “the mission of the decade.”

 

Another video reflects just how monumental the landing was, as the NASA staff erupts in celebration:

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Saying Goodbye to a Legend : Sally Ride

The national mourns today as California native Sally Ride passed away yesterday at the age of 61. Passing away from pancreatic cancer, Ride will long be remembered as the first American woman to make it into space.

But she wasn’t always shooting for the moon. Studying physics and English at Stanford University, Ride was actually also a nationally ranked tennis player. She chose to stick with academia rather than to pursue a tennis career. She applied for NASA’s training program on an impulse in 1978, and soon became one of six women who were chosen for the 35 training spots.

During the space shuttle’s second mission she was a capsule communicator at mission control. During the space shuttle’s seventh mission in 1983, she was given the privilege of becoming the first American woman astronaut.  The Challenger took off on June 18, 1983.  She was also on the thirteenth space shuttle flight of the Challenger.

Sally Ride was the only astronaut appointed to the Presidential Commission that investigated the tragic explosion of the Challenger in January of 1986.  After this experience, she worked for NASA and created the Office of Exploration.  Leaving NASA in 1987, she taught physics at Stanford and then at the University of California at San Diego.

Ride’s organization Sally Ride Science said, “”Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name.”

As NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said,

“Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism — and literally changed the face of America’s space program. The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally’s family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly.”

Hearing about her passing, President Barack Obama said,

“Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come.”

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Discovery Takes Off on Last Journey to New Home

Discovery, the oldest surviving space shuttle of NASA’s fleet, is about to embark on her last journey- to the Smithsonian Institution.

Discovery’s maiden voyage was launched in 1984, and she has traveled to outer space 39 times since then. Her experience makes her the number one shuttle in history, completing more missions in our solar system than any other.

Discovery’s feats include delivering the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit; connecting with Mir, the Russian space station with the first female shuttle pilot; being the first U.S. spaceship to launch a Russian cosmonaut; boosting shuttle flights after the Challenger and Columbia tragedies; and returning John Glenn to orbit.

Discovery will arrive at the Smithsonian’s hangar via a modified jumbo jet, after a farewell flight over Cape Canaveral and Washington D.C. Security officers, firemen, shuttle workers and, of course, Discovery’s last astronaut crew all gathered at Kennedy Space Center to say their goodbyes.

“It’s good to see her one more time, and it’s great that Discovery is going to a good home. Hopefully, millions of people for many, many years to come will go see Discovery,” Steven Lindsey, the last astronaut to command the shuttle, said emotionally. “It’s also sad…it’s sad to see that the program is over.”

Discovery will replace Enterprise, the spaceship prototype that was used only in landing tests over four decades ago. Enterprise will go on display in New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

Stephanie Stilson, a NASA manager, said “To see her like this is quite an amazing site. We’re finally here.” She added that it’s been almost exactly one year since Discovery’s last mission.

Still, “there’s no denying the sadness associated with it,” according to another of Discovery’s last crew.

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Astronaut Builds LEGO Model in Space

It would be hard to find more of a dream-come-true story for any child who enjoys building with LEGO.  Most children, when putting together a model, don’t envision that they’ll ever put that model together while actually sitting in that exact location.

But that’s exactly what Satoshi Furukawa, an astronaut with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, just had the pleasure of doing. While living in space at the International Space Station, Furukawa was recently given the task of building a LEGO model of this location.

Picture from NASA

The catch, of course, is that there is zero gravity in space.  The LEGO set, measuring two feet in length, was constructed inside a special “glovebox” that the Space Station has where things are kept from floating away.

Fellow astronaut Michael Fossum explained that,

“A lot of the work dealing with the small pieces had to be done in an enclosure. Otherwise, as he explained, there would be a problem with “all of these little pieces getting loose and becoming either lost or potentially getting jammed in equipment or even becoming a flammability hazard.”

Furukawa built the LEGO ISS set in September while living at the 360 foot long space station. This was part of a join educational program between NASA and LEGO, and his progress was documented in the video below.

Furukawa seemed less exuberant than some would have been about the project as he explained, “I enjoyed building it.” Perhaps it wasn’t the most exciting part of his space adventure – but it sure would have ranked up there for LEGO lovers around the world!

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