A giant orange NASA fuel tank began its final journey on Saturday, along city streets to a Los Angeles science center where it will be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavour.
The California Science Center has called the mission “ET Comes Home,” in a play on the “external tank” name and the 1982 movie “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
The transport is a sequel of sorts to the 2012 mission to tow Endeavour from the Los Angeles airport to the science center, a project that captivated crowds of onlookers.
But the 65,000-pound (29,484 kg) fuel tank, which is 154 feet (47 meter) long, is neither as wide nor tall as the space shuttle, which museum officials said means it can more easily squeeze through city streets as it is towed by truck on rolling dollies from Marina del Rey, where it had arrived on a barge.
ET-94’s route took it past a major highway and covered more than 16 miles (26 km) to the California Science Center just south of downtown Los Angeles, in a journey that ended on Saturday evening, the museum said.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) donated the fuel tank, which was designed to carry propellants to thrust a space shuttle into orbit and then detach, mostly disintegrating as it fell to the ocean.
Sue Finley, now 80 years old and NASA’s longest-serving female employee, recalls her early days with the space agency when she worked as a human “computer,” calculating rocket trajectories by hand at a time when computers were huge and expensive to operate.
Finley arrived at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, in January 1958, one week before the U.S. Army launched Explorer 1, America’s first earth satellite.
“It was a very big deal,” she recalls of the launch, a response to the launches a few months earlier of the first satellites, Sputnik 1 and 2, from the former Soviet Union.
She was at JPL for Pioneer 1, the first satellite sent aloft by the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in late 1958, which marked the beginning of the international space race.
Unmanned space probes
Since then, Finley has had a role in nearly every U.S. unmanned space probe, and some missions of other nations.
There were failures to overcome and spectacular successes, but always new goals as scientists expanded our knowledge of the earth and solar system.
“We were certainly proud,” she says of NASA accomplishments, “but you just go to the next thing.”
Finley has been through several career changes with the space agency, one of the most important when NASA phased out human computers, moving, initially, to simple electronic versions.
“We got little tiny computers,” she recalls. “One I had 16 wires, jumper cables to code with. One had 10 pegboards that you programmed with.”
As modern computers took over navigational tasks, Finley developed and tested software as a subsystem engineer.
Among her career highlights: the Vega mission, a Soviet-French collaboration with Venus, and Halley’s Comet, which received navigational help from NASA and dropped balloons into the atmosphere of Venus.
She had to change the software for the antenna that tracked the mission, “and it worked,” Finley recalls. “Everything worked. That’s what was so exciting!”
Finley has worked since 1980 on NASA’s Deep Space Network, which coordinates satellite facilities in California, Spain and Australia that allow communication with space probes.
Highlights of NASA career
Career highlights include developing software that generates audio tones sent back from spacecraft, informing engineers on the ground what is happening in space. It was first developed for the Mars missions.
Each tone has a meaning that communicates data, noted one of Finley’s colleagues, Stephen Lichten.
“If a parachute opened, it would send a tone,” Lichten, manager for special projects for the Deep Space Network, said.
“The spacecraft lets go of its heat shield, and it would send a different tone, and so engineers like Sue were here listening for those special frequencies which told them the spacecraft was telling them what it has just done,” he said.
He notes that Finley also helped develop communication arrays that combine multiple antennas to act in unison and other advances that now crucial to space missions.
Lichten once shared an office with Finley and says she inspired her younger colleagues.
“There was a parade of people coming in constantly, to ask her advice, to ask her questions,” he recalls. “This was during the Venus balloon mission days and I realized that Sue was regarded as sort of a guru at JPL.”
Finley has been involved with nearly every advance in space communications in recent decades, and she continues her work today, Lichten said.
There are many more women at NASA today than there were when she started, and Finley said she tells young women to be inquisitive.
“I tell them to never be afraid to ask questions, never be afraid to say you don’t know,” she said.
After nearly six decades at the space agency, a mother of two grown sons and a mentor to her colleagues, Finley has no plans of retiring.
“There’s nothing else I want to do,” she said. “And so far, they need me.”
As they have since the earliest days of the space agency. (VOA)
Florida, November 19, 2017: NASA captured 20 years of changing seasons on Earth in a striking new global map of the home planet.
The data visualization, released this week, shows Earth’s fluctuations as seen from space.
The polar ice caps and snow cover are shown ebbing and flowing with the seasons. The varying ocean shades of blue, green, red and purple depict the abundance — or lack — of undersea life.
“It’s like watching the Earth breathe. It’s really remarkable,” said NASA oceanographer Jeremy Werdell, who took part in the project.
Two decades — from September 1997 to this past September — are crunched into 2½ minutes of viewing.
Werdell finds the imagery mesmerizing. “It’s like all of my senses are being transported into space, and then you can compress time and rewind it, and just continually watch this kind of visualization,” he said Friday.
Werdell said the visualization shows spring coming earlier and autumn lasting longer in the Northern Hemisphere. Also noticeable to him is the receding of the Arctic ice caps over time — and, though less obvious, the Antarctic, too.
On the sea side, Werdell was struck by “this hugely productive bloom of biology” that exploded in the Pacific along the equator from 1997 to 1998 — when a water-warming El Nino merged into cooling La Nina. This algae bloom is evident by a line of bright green.
In considerably smaller Lake Erie, more and more contaminating algae blooms are apparent — appearing red and yellow.
All this data can provide resources for policymakers as well as commercial fishermen and many others, according to Werdell.
Programmer Alex Kekesi of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland said it took three months to complete the visualization, using satellite imagery.
Just like our Earth, the visualization will continually change, officials said, as computer systems improve, new remote-sensing satellites are launched and more observations are made. (VOA)
US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his Asia tour.
“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One before landing at the Yokota Air Base in Japan, Efe reported.
Putin is scheduled to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, which Trump will also attend as part of his long Asia tour.
The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to dominate Donald Trump’s meetings in Japan and the next two stages of his tour, South Korea and China, where he will have a highly anticipated sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The remainder of the tour will be more focused on economic issues, with Trump scheduled to take part in the APEC meeting in Da Nang and then in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.
Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is the longest international tour by a US head of state since the one then-President George H.W. Bush embarked on in 1992.
Bush became ill at the end of that trip, famously vomiting on the Japanese prime minister’s lap at a formal dinner before fainting.(IANS)