Friday November 24, 2017
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Giant magnetic shield can make Mars habitable for Humans, say NASA Scientists

Red Planet once had a thick atmosphere necessary to maintain liquid water

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Red Planet Mars, VOA

US, Mar 6, 2017: Scientists at NASA have proposed that launching a giant magnetic shield into space to protect Mars from solar winds could give the Red Planet its atmosphere back and make it habitable for humans.

Mars now appears to be a cold desert world and it has no global magnetic field. The cold temperatures and thin atmosphere on the red Planet do not allow liquid water to exist at the surface for long. But it might not have been always so.

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Scientists believe that the Red Planet once had a thick atmosphere necessary to maintain liquid water, and a warmer, potentially habitable climate. It is the collapse of the protective magnetic field billions of years ago that eventually made Mars what it is today — cold and arid.

In a presentation at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop in Washington, DC last week, NASA scientists proposed that launching a giant magnetic shield into space between Mars and the Sun could help the Red Planet restore its atmosphere and make it suitable for humans to colonise in the future.

The US space agency thinks a powerful-enough magnetic shield launched into space could serve as a replacement for Mars’s own lost magnetosphere, ScienceAlert reported on Monday.

Launching an “artificial magnetosphere” into space between Mars and the Sun could hypothetically shield the Red Planet in the extended magnetotail that trails behind the protective field, NASA’s Planetary Science Division director Jim Green was quoted as saying.

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“This situation then eliminates many of the solar wind erosion processes that occur with the planet’s ionosphere and upper atmosphere allowing the Martian atmosphere to grow in pressure and temperature over time,” the researchers explained in an accompanying paper.

The researchers believe that the magnetic shield could help Mars regain some of its lost Earth-like habitability within the space of a couple of generations. (IANS)

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NASA’s human ‘computer’ is still working at age 80

Sue Finely calculated rocket trajectories by hand

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Sue Finley still works at NASA
Sue Finley, 80, is still working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She started there in 1958 as a human "computer," calculating trajectories for rockets. VOA

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)

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20 Years of Changing Seasons on Earth Captured into 2½ Minutes by NASA

NASA captured 20 years of changing seasons in a striking new global map of the home planet that shows Earth's fluctuations as seen from space

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The Changing seasons of the Earth
The Changing seasons of the Earth has been captured by NASA. Wikimedia.

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)

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A Controversial Museum of Bible Opens in Washington

Many think that the location of the museum clearly signals that it has an agenda.

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Museum of Bible, Washington DC
One of the many state-of-the-art interactive displays for education and entertainment that are throughout the Museum of the Bible. The museum opens November 17,2017 in Washington. VOA

A larger than life entrance greets visitors at the new Museum of the Bible in Washington — dramatic 12-meter-tall doors containing text from Genesis 1, the biblical creation of the world.

The gateway allows entry to all things about the Bible, spanning several floors in the large building, which is located near the National Mall, Smithsonian museums and the U.S. Capitol. Not surprisingly there is a section filled with Bibles, many of them replicas of Bibles the museum was unable to obtain, and various versions from over the centuries that have been adopted by varying religious groups.

Executive Director Tony Zeiss said the Bible is significant because “it helps people navigate through life,” and he would like people “to commit to being more engaged in this amazing book.”

The Bible is the world’s best-selling book, and the $500 million, privately funded museum has displays ranging from pro- and anti-slavery themes found in the holy book, to Hebrew texts, and even biblically themed contemporary women’s fashions.

What’s missing, some people say, is that there is not enough of the star of the New Testament, Jesus.

Zeiss said the museum is nonsectarian, and more than 100 scholars, who represent a variety of views, designed the exhibits, which also include $42 million in state-of-the-art interactive displays for education and entertainment — even in the elevators.

You can also stroll through a serene recreation of Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up, amid hand-painted trees and the sound of chirping birds.

“It’s meant to create a setting where when you walk in, you feel like you’re in a different place that you would find 2,000 years ago,” said Seth Pollinger, the museum’s director of content.

Family behind museum

The museum was founded by Steve Green, a member of the conservative evangelical family that owns Hobby Lobby, the world’s largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer. In 2014, Hobby Lobby won a Supreme Court case, concerning religious objections, to deny workers at family-owned corporations contraception coverage.

“It would be hard for us as a family to try to hide what we believe,” Green said. “We believe this book is what it claims to be, but our role here is to present the facts of the Bible more in a journalistic look.”

“As much as they want to stay neutral and objective on the Bible, it’s going to be very, very hard to present the Bible in that way,” said John Fea, a liberal evangelical who chairs the history department at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The Bible is “connected to a particular religious tradition and their way of interpreting it,” he added.

Jacques Berlinerbrau, who is Jewish and a professor at Georgetown University, agrees.

“It is really problematic to ever say that one has a nonsectarian view of the Holy Scriptures,” he said.

Berlinerbrau also thinks the museum has an agenda.

“The idea that the museum doesn’t have any intent to convert people to a particular reading of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Scripture is absurd,” he said.

And even though museum officials say the location had nothing to do with being near the seat of the U.S. government, Fea is not buying it.

“It’s hard to see this as anything than other an attempt to try to bring Christian values in the Bible’s teachings as understood by evangelical protestants, like the Greens, into the center of American political life and American cultural life,” Fea said.

Texts and artifacts

The museum contains impressive rare biblical texts and ancient artifacts, some on loan from outside the U.S.; others from the Greens’ massive collection of antiquities. Some antiquities were smuggled out of Iraq, and purchased, inadvertently, by the family, they said. The Greens forfeited the items and paid a $3 million fine.

Green told VOA the museum is willing to return artifacts to their home countries “if there’s any artifact that we have that they would have a claim.”

When Green was asked if he would like to see people who come to the museum become more Christian, he smiled and said, “We want them to know the Bible better.” (VOA)