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The personal journal of technology journalist and conference speaker Randall S. Newton.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Protect the Earth" No Longer Part of NASA's Mission

In February NASA quieted deleted a line from its mission statement; the deletion is just now being noticed.

In 2002, early in the current Bush administration, NASA's chief at the time, Sean O'Keefe, created a mission statement which read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.” It seems in February of this year the phrase "To understand and protect our home planet" was quitely dropped.

It could be that the change is a reflection of President Bush's stated objectives of returning to manned exploration of the Moon and beyond. But could it also be a way to deflect attention from those pesky NASA scientists who are among the leaders in warning about impending climate change?

Using space to study Earth has always been a key aspect of the NASA agenda, mission statement or not. Think of that first image of the entire planet from Apollo 9, think of a generation of Earth imaging from Landsat and other satellites, think of GPS technology. I think having our space agency keep a watchful eye on the home world remains an important aspect of the mission.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Using Satellite Imagery to Search for Noah's Ark

There's an interesting report today in GIS Monitor, one of the professional journals I read, about one man's use of satellite imagery to try to understand "an anomoly" on Mt. Ararat in Turkey. The size, shape, and location of the thing roughly matches the dimensions and location given for Noah's Ark in Genesis.

"One of my ultimate goals," says Taylor, "is simply, using geospatial technology applications, to make Mt. Ararat more transparent to the dispassionate eyes of geospatial experts and scientists." He looks forward to the launch, next February, of GeoEye One, Ikonos' successor, which will have a resolution of .4 meters, and then also to the launch of WorldView I, Quickbird's successor, scheduled to launch by mid-2007. He claims that he is also "getting much closer" to having the intelligence community declassify the keyhole satellite imagery of the anomaly.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Did you know India is preparing a moon mission?

India, if you haven't heard, is working on a lunar rover. It plans to send the thing to the moon in 2008, to search for minerals deposits:

Chandrayaan-1 would orbit the lunar surface pole-to-pole for two years in a bid to conduct the first comprehensive mineral scanning and record high-resolution, 3D maps of the entire lunar surface.
I'm envious; we should be doing that.

Chandrayaan-1 is India’s first scientific mission to moon. The mission is aimed at expanding the scientific knowledge about the moon, upgrading India’s technological capability and providing challenging opportunities for planetary research to the younger generation. The scientific objectives of Chandrayaan-1 are the high resolution remote sensing of the moon in the visible, near infrared, low energy X-ray and high-energy X-ray regions for preparing a 3-dimensional atlas of regions of scientific interest with a high spatial and altitude resolution of 5-10 m and chemical mapping of the entire lunar surface for elements such as magnesium, aluminium, silicon, calcium, iron and titanium with a spatial resolution of 10 km and elements of high atomic numbers.

Details at PUNE Newsline.

Flatlife: A Very Clever Cartoon

If you have a fast connection (dial-up readers, forget it!) check out this great cartoon, "FLATLIFE" (2004) by Jonas Geirnaert. It was his graduation project that turned into a winning entry for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival 2004.

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