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Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

How to stop an asteroid: use a paint spray gun

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Asteroid hits EarthThere is research that is off the wall, some off the charts and some off the planet, such as what a Texas A&M University aerospace and physics professor is exploring.

It’s a plan to deflect a killer asteroid by using paint, and the science behind it is absolutely rock solid, so to speak, so much so that NASA is getting involved and wants to know much more.

We don’t run a lot of space science related stories on the TechJournal, but we thought this one might interest our tech-focused audience, particularly since a rather large space rock just caused havoc in Russia and another recently passed Earth more closely than some of its artificial satellites in orbit.

Dave Hyland , professor of physics and astronomy and also a faculty member in the aerospace engineering department at Texas A&M and a researcher with more than 30 years of awards and notable grants, says one possible way to avert an asteroid collision with Earth is by using a process called “tribocharging powder dispensing” – as in high pressured – and spreading a thin layer of paint on an approaching asteroid, such as the one named DA14 that came within 17,000 miles on Feb. 15.

Not your standard hardware store paint

What happens is that the paint changes the amount by which the asteroid reflects sunlight, Hyland theorizes, producing a change in what is called the Yarkovski effect (which was discovered by a Russian engineer in 1902).

The force arises because on a spinning asteroid, the dusk side is warmer than the dawn side and emits more thermal photons, each photon carrying a small momentum. The unequal heating of the asteroid results in a net force strong enough to cause the asteroid to shift from its current orbit, Hyland further theorizes.

The kind of paint used is not the kind found at your local hardware store, Hyland explains.

“It could not be a water-based or oil-based paint because it would probably explode within seconds of it entering space,” he notes.

Test it in space

asteroid_collision_avoidance“But a powdered form of paint could be used to dust on the asteroid and the sun would then do the rest. It cures the paint to give a smooth coating, and would change the unequal heating of the asteroid so that it would be forced off its current path and placed on either a higher or lower orbit, thus missing Earth.

“I have to admit the concept does sound strange, but the odds are very high that such a plan would be successful and would be relatively inexpensive. The science behind the theory is sound. We need to test it in space.”

As for getting the paint on the asteroid, a practical way to do this was discovered by a former student of Hyland’s, Shen Ge, who has since started a new space company.

The “tribocharging powder dispenser” would spray a mixture of inert gas and charged dry-paint powder at the asteroid that would attract the powder to its surface through electrostatics. Then solar wind and UV radiation would cure the powder, giving a smooth, thin coat on the surface.

Getting the paint in the asteroid’s path in a timely manner will certainly be a challenge, Hyland observes.

“The tribocharged powder process is a widely used method of painting many products,” he says. “It remains only to adapt the technology to space conditions.”

NASA has approached Hyland for developing such a project to test the theory, and the Earth may need it quickly. An asteroid called Apophis is due in 2029 and will come closer than many communications satellites in orbit right now. It will fly by on April 13 (Friday the 13 to be exact)  of 2029 and make a return trip in 2036, and it’s estimated to be more than 1,000 feet in length and is appropriately named for an evil Egyptian god of chaos and destruction. There is no chance of its hitting Earth in 2029, but a small chance in the next close approach in 2036, Hyland notes.

Earth hit before

asteroidAsteroids have hit Earth before. One hit off the Yucatan coast of Mexico about 65 million years ago and is believed to have caused the eventual extinction of the dinosaurs.

And in 1908, the fabled “Tunguska event” occurred in Siberia in which an asteroid or meteor exploded several miles above the Earth, flattening trees and killing livestock over 800 square miles. The explosion is now estimated to have been 1,000 times more powerful than the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

“There are thousands of asteroids out there, and only a small percentage of them are known and can be tracked as they approach Earth,” Hyland adds.

“The smaller ones, like DA14 are not discovered as soon as others, and they could still cause a lot of damage should they hit Earth.  It is really important for our long-term survival that we concentrate much more effort discovering and tracking them, and developing as many useful technologies as possible for deflecting them.”

NASA launches International Space Apps Challenge in April

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

spacestationNASA and government agencies worldwide will host the second International Space Apps Challenge April 20-21, with events across all seven continents and in space.

Participants are encouraged to develop mobile applications, software, hardware, data visualization and platform solutions that could contribute to space exploration missions and help improve life on Earth.

The two-day event will provide an opportunity for government to harness the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of citizen explorers to help address global challenges.

During the event, representatives of NASA and other international space agencies will gather with scientists and participants to use publicly released open data to create solutions for 50 software, hardware and visualization challenges, including robotics, citizen science platforms and applications of remote sensing data. Challenges selected to be worked on during the event will be published online prior to the event.

Twelve U.S. locations hosting events

The 2012 challenge engaged more than 2,000 participants who collaborated on more than 100 open source solutions to 71 featured challenges.

“What sets apart the International Space Apps Challenge from other events is that this is a collaborative opportunity to engage people from all over the world to participate in space exploration and develop state-of-the-art technology to improve life on Earth and in space,” said Nick Skytland , program manager of NASA’s Open Innovation Program.

Twelve locations in the United States will host an International Space Apps Challenge event: Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Cape Canaveral, Fla.; Cleveland; Detroit, Easton, Md.; New York; Philadelphia; Reno, Nev.; Rochester, N.Y.; San Francisco;Syracuse, N.Y. ]

Thirty-eight other events will be held in 30 other countries: Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan,Poland, Macedonia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda and United Kingdom.

Also participating will be McMurdo Station in Antarctica and astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Registration for citizen participation will open on March 1.

To learn more about the International Space Apps Challenge, visit:

PR Newswire (

Now you can visit the Space Station via cyberspace

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

spacestationNASA is using the Internet and smartphones to provide the public with a new inside look at what happens aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and in the Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Log onto the agency’s Space Station Live! web page or download the companion ISSLive! mobile application to get up-to-the-minute information.

Groundbreaking research and technology development work is going on every day in the microgravity environment of space, and Space Station Live! allows users to see what the expedition astronauts do minute by minute.

Streaming data from the space station lets the public see the latest information on temperatures, communications and power generation.


Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, Expedition 38 flight engineer and Expedition 39 commander, awaits the start of a spacewalk training session in the waters of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) near NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Students and teachers can use the data to solve classroom problems in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or to tour the space station and mission control operator consoles through virtual 3-D view models.

Space Station Live! includes a web experience and free mobile ISSLive! app for smart phones and tablet computers accessible on NASA’s website. The app also is available through the Google Play and iTunes app stores.

Special features of the Space Station Live! web and mobile app experience include:
— live streaming data from various space station systems
— live streaming data from actual crew and science timelines with social media links
— descriptions and educational material that describe how the space station works
— educational lessons using the live content
— 3-D virtual mission control
— 3-D virtual space station using live streaming data to correctly position the sun, Earth, moon and the station’s solar arrays
— 3-D model of the space station with labels and colored by the international partner contributions to its assembly
— links to NASA’s five international partner space agencies’ mission information.

To use Space Station Live!, visit:

To download ISSLive! and other NASA mobile apps, visit:

For information about the International Space Station, visit:


Angry Birds Space blasts off to megahit status

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Angry Birds Space, the latest incarnation of the extremely popular Rovio game garnered 10 million downloads in the first three days after its March 22 launch, leading one tech news site to proclaim that it “introduces the age of the mobile game blockbuster.”

The Angry Birds Space game sells for 99 cents on Apple’s iOS devices, and for as much as $10 on Windows devices. The Android version for Kindle Fire goes for $2.99.

If you want to give it a look and learn how to download it free for the iPhone or iPad check out Chris Pirillo’s YouTube piece on it.

We still play the older Angry Birds games, but our addition has subsided. That’s one reason smart game-makers keep releasing new and updated versions of their products – even the most entrancing games get old after you’ve played them from a while. Here’s our initial reaction to the original game: Kill the pigs! Kill the pigs, Angry Birds!

Here’s NASA’s Angry Birds Space video from the International Space Station – which includes physics demonstrations of things you might see in the game:

Famous women in computer science named by Anita Borg Institute

Friday, March 9th, 2012
Hedy Lamar

Hedy Lamar, considered one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood history, also co-invented spread-spectrum broadcast technologies

The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology has published its Famous Women in Computer Science List. The list highlights over fifty women who have positively impacted the creation of technology.

“Today and every day, we celebrate the impact that women have on the creation of technology and the positive impact that technology has on the world. The women on this list have all changed our world through their work. This list is by no means complete and we look forward to continuing to grow this list in the years to come,” said Telle Whitney, president and CEO, Anita Borg Institute.

Among the many women highlighted are:

Frances E. Allen, the first female ACM A.M. Turing Award Winner and a pioneer in the optimization of compilers.

Mary Lou Jepsen, founding Chief Technology Officer of One Laptop per Child and a leader in the design of low-cost and low-power LCD screens as CEO of Pixel Qi.

Katherine Johnson, research mathematician and scientist who worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center from 1953-1986, who calculated the trajectory of the early space launches.

Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood star who also co-invented spread-spectrum broadcast communications technologies.

Others on the full list include: Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard CEO; Radia Perlman, “Mother of the Internet,” and first Sun Systems female fellow; and Augusta Ada King, the colorful Countess of Lovelace, celebrated in fiction and films. Ada wrote a description of Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. She is credited with being the 1st computer programmer.

This resource was designed to highlight the importance of submitting women as well as men for awards for outstanding work. The list was created by members of the Anita Borg Institute’s Advisory Board Awards Committee.

The committee includes Katy Dickinson (Director, Huawei Technologies), Fran Allen (IBM Emerita and 2006 Turing Award Winner), Chandra Krintz (Professor, Computer Science Department, University of California at Santa Barbara), Dr. Bob Walker (Professor and Chair, Computer Science Department, Kent State University).

Virginia-based Synchrony brings total raised to $30M with new round

Friday, April 1st, 2011

SALEM, VA – Synchrony Inc., which sells magnetic bearings and high-speed motors and generators, has raised $5 million from a single investor, according to a regulatory filing.

It received $10 million in Series C funding from New River Management VI, a venture fund managed by Third Security in January 2010. funding that followed a 2006 investment of $5 million from Third Security and NewVa Capital Partners. In 2007, Synchrony secured an additional $10 million in Series B financing from the same venture capital firms.

The company was founded in 1993 by Dr. Victor Iannello, CEO and president. Iannello has led many programs related to high performance rotating machinery and holds patents related to magnetic bearings, motors, generators, and energy conversion systems. He is also a co-founder of Sunapsys, Inc., which integrates automation systems.

The company says its innovations in the magnetic bearing market improve reliability, reduce friction, minimize vibration and offer advanced  health monitoring and diagnostics– all without the potential environmental disadvantages of lubricants.

Synchrony was named a Virginia Fantastic 50 company in 1999 for its growth. Clients have included NASA, the US Air Force, and Rolls Royce.

The company disclosed the latest raise in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

NASA awards Emory, MCG $7.6 million for space radiation research

Monday, November 8th, 2010
Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle

ATLANTA – Manned space exploration may be on a back burner right now, but NASA is obviously still looking at how to protect astronauts from exposure to space radiation and other hazards of space travel. Researchers from Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute and the Medical College of Georgia are launching a new cancer research initiative – literally.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded a team of investigators from both institutions $7.6 million over five years to study how a component of space radiation may induce lung cancer.

The award establishes a NASA Specialized Center of Research (NSCOR), consisting of a team of scientists with complementary skills who work closely together to solve a set of research questions. Ya Wang, PhD, professor of radiation oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, is director of the NSCOR at Emory.

Interplanetary space travel could expose astronauts to conditions where they are chronically exposed to types of radiation not normally encountered on earth. One of these is high energy charged particles (HZE), which results in complex damage to DNA and a broader stress response by the affected cells and tissues.

There is no epidemiological data for human exposure to HZE particles, although some estimates have been made studying uranium miners and Japanese atomic bomb survivors, says Wang.

Animal experiments show that HZE particle exposure induces more tumors than other forms of radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays. Because it is a leading form of cancer, lung cancer can be expected to be prominent among increased risks from radiation even though astronauts do not smoke. However, the risk for astronauts remains unclear because the dose of HZE astronauts are expected to receive is very low, Wang says.

The Emory-MCG researchers will probe whether the broader stress response induced by HZE particles amplifies cancer risk. Investigators will collaborate with physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory to gather information on HZE’s effects. Individual projects include the study of how cells repair DNA damage induced by HZE particles, how HZE particles generate oxidative stress, and how they trigger regulatory changes in DNA known as methylation.

LeukoDx adds more seed funding for diagnostic device

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

TOWSON, MD -Bringing NASA science  down to earth, LeukoDx Inc., a company that is developing a hand held diagnostic device that can rapidly diagnose infections and other conditions, has raised an additional $115,000 in early stage equity. The company disclosed the funding in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

It nabbed $377,000 last fall.

The company evolved from NASA’s need for a hand held diagnostic device for its Mars mission. NASA funded two contracts for a project led by Acaltech scientist and one of LeukkoDx’s founders to develop the technology for the device.

The company’s point-of-care device provides quantitative information about white blood cell count, cell surface markers and plasma protein levels. It can help care providers establish that an infection is bacterial or viral and the extent of the infection.

While the cartridge-based system has many potential applications, LeukoDx focuses on identifying and characterizing infections, HIV progressing and other factors.

The disposable cartridge can perform a number of tests using a small quantity of blood and produces results in minutes

Contact Tech Journal South Editor and writer Allan Maurer: Allan at TechJournalSouth dot com.