Celestial Fireworks

April 24, 2015

The brilliant tapestry of young stars flaring to life resemble a glittering fireworks display in the 25th anniversary NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, released to commemorate a quarter century of exploring the solar system and beyond since its launch on April 24, 1990.
By nasa.gov

unnamed

Image courtesy of Natural History Museum, London.

This month we’re partnering with the Natural History Museum in London for our creative challenge, and it’s one that touches on a subject close to any LP Kid’s heart: creepy crawlies! Follow the instructions below for the chance to win a family ticket to the Natural History Museum’s stunning new Sensational Butterflies exhibition, or a bundle of LP Kids books.

THE TASK

Download and print out our Bugs and Butterflies activity sheet. Colour it in, making the picture as bright and colourful as you like.

HOW TO ENTER

There are three ways you can help your child enter the colouring competition:

1. By email: Scan their entry and send it from your email address to Lonely Planet at lonelyplanet.kids@lonelyplanet.com.

2. By post: Send their original entry to us via post to:
Colouring competition
c/o Lonely Planet
240 Blackfriars Road
London
SE1 8NW
You will need to include your email address with any entry sent via registered post so we can contact you if your child’s entry is chosen as the winner.

3. On your blog: Post your child’s entry to your blog and email the blog link to lonelyplanet.kids@lonelyplanet.com.

Entries must be received by 25 May 2015.

THE PRIZE

First prize is: a family ticket to the Sensational Butterflies exhibition at at the Natural History Museum in London, OR a selection of LP Kids titles, valued at £50 GBP (available globally).

Three runners up will receive a copy of Lonely Planet Kids’ Adventures in Wild Places (available globally).

Sensational Butterflies is at the Natural History Museum until 13 September 2015. Wander among hundreds of free-flying butterflies and moths from around the world in a tropical butterfly house in the heart of London.

Terms and Conditions

By Emma Sparks

In this photo taken from a chase plane, the Boeing ecoDemonstrator 757 flight test airplane –with NASA’s Active Flow Control technology installed on the tail — makes a final approach to King County Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington.
By nasa.gov

unnamed

Image courtesy of Natural History Museum, London.

This month we’re partnering with the Natural History Museum in London for our creative challenge, and it’s one that touches on a subject close to any LP Kid’s heart: creepy crawlies! Follow the instructions below for the chance to win a family ticket to the Natural History Museum’s stunning new Sensational Butterflies exhibition, or a bundle of LP Kids books.

THE TASK

Download and print out our Bugs and Butterflies activity sheet. Colour it in, making the picture as bright and colourful as you like.

HOW TO ENTER

There are three ways you can help your child enter the colouring competition:

1. By email: Scan their entry and send it from your email address to Lonely Planet at lonelyplanet.kids@lonelyplanet.com.

2. By post: Send their original entry to us via post to:
Colouring competition
c/o Lonely Planet
240 Blackfriars Road
London
SE1 8NW
You will need to include your email address with any entry sent via registered post so we can contact you if your child’s entry is chosen as the winner.

3. On your blog: Post your child’s entry to your blog and email the blog link to lonelyplanet.kids@lonelyplanet.com.

Entries must be received by 25 May 2015.

THE PRIZE

First prize is: a family ticket to the Sensational Butterflies exhibition at at the Natural History Museum in London, OR a selection of LP Kids titles, valued at £50 GBP (available globally).

Three runners up will receive a copy of Lonely Planet Kids’ Adventures in Wild Places (available globally).

Sensational Butterflies is at the Natural History Museum until 13 September 2015. Wander among hundreds of free-flying butterflies and moths from around the world in a tropical butterfly house in the heart of London.

Terms and Conditions

By Emma Sparks

This composite image of southern Africa and the surrounding oceans was captured by six orbits of the NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership spacecraft on April 9, 2015, by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument. Tropical Cyclone Joalane can be seen over the Indian Ocean.
By nasa.gov

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, currently on a one-year mission on the International Space Station, posted this image of the successful capture of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft with the space station’s robotic arm.
By nasa.gov

In this Chandra image of ngc6388, researchers have found evidence that a white dwarf star may have ripped apart a planet as it came too close. When a star reaches its white dwarf stage, nearly all of the material from the star is packed inside a radius one hundredth that of the original star.
By nasa.gov

Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart announced today that alumnus Mike Massimino SM ’88, PhD ’92 will be the first-ever guest speaker at MIT’s Investiture of Doctoral Hoods, a ceremony for PhD candidates held the day before Commencement.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Massimino has accepted the invitation to speak on June 4,” says Barnhart, who hosts the hooding ceremony. “His words will motivate and inspire our doctoral candidates as they make this significant transition from student life.”

The 2015 Investiture of Doctoral Hoods takes place Thursday, June 4, at 11:30 a.m. in the Johnson Athletics Center Ice Rink. The ceremony is open to family and friends of doctoral candidates; no tickets are required.

Last fall, on the recommendation of Eric Grimson, chancellor for academic advancement and chair of the Commencement Committee, a proposal to invite a guest speaker was brought to that committee for consideration. Consultation with doctoral students and alumni indicated keen interest in a guest speaker, with preference for an MIT PhD who could speak empathetically to candidates as they complete their doctoral studies and begin their professional careers.

Grimson extended his appreciation to all who participated in the pilot speaker selection process: “I’d like to thank the Commencement Committee, the department heads who submitted nominations, and the doctoral candidate working group for their collaboration to enhance the ceremony. We couldn’t be more delighted with the outcome.”

Massimino earned his undergraduate degree from Columbia University, where he is now professor of professional practice at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science; he worked as a systems engineer at IBM before coming to MIT to begin graduate work. His research as an MIT graduate student in mechanical engineering — on human operator control of space robotics systems — ultimately led to two patents.

After receiving his PhD from MIT in 1992, Massimino worked at McDonnell Douglas Aerospace in Houston as a research engineer, during which time he was also an adjunct assistant professor of mechanical engineering and material sciences at Rice University. In 1995, he became an assistant professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, where he taught human-machine systems engineering and researched human-machine interfaces for space and aircraft systems.

After joining NASA in 1996, Massimino logged more than 570 hours in space, 30 hours of which were on spacewalks; the focus of his two missions was the servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. He spoke at MIT in 2011 as part of the Institute’s sesquicentennial celebration, and last fall as part of events marking the centennial of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Today, Massimino is known for his efforts to make aerospace engineering accessible to the public; at present, he has 1.31 million Twitter followers and a recurring role (as himself) on the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

“Mike’s service to the country during his nearly 20 years at NASA is a credit to MIT and to mechanical engineers everywhere,” says Gang Chen, the Carl Richard Soderberg Professor in Power Engineering and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “His commitment to public education, combined with a distinguished teaching and technical career, is the very best of ‘mens et manus.’ … It will be a great privilege to welcome Mike back to MIT.”

By News Office

The X-56A Multi-Utility Technology Testbed (MUTT) is greeted on an Edwards Air Force Base runway by a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) team member.
By nasa.gov

Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins was part of the three-person crew that flew on mankind’s first mission to land on the moon, but he was the one who remained in orbit and never got to the lunar surface. In a talk at MIT yesterday as part of a class in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro), Collins said that he probably could have had a chance to walk on the moon after all, had he chosen to remain at NASA after that epochal mission.

“What I gave up probably was the opportunity to be the last person to walk on the moon,” Collins said in response to a question from the audience. Although there was no guarantee, he said, under the rotation system for crew selection at that time, he would likely have been named as commander of the Apollo 17 mission, which turned out to be the last to visit the moon.

Instead, Collins retired from NASA and went on to other things: writing a bestselling book about his experiences, called “Carrying the Fire,” and becoming director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. After the success of Apollo 11 in fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s call to send a man to the moon and back before the end of the 1960s, Collins said, “My mindset was, ‘It’s over, we did it’.”

Collins, who also appeared at MIT last year as part of AeroAstro’s 100th anniversary celebration, was back on campus this week to speak to a class on the history of the Apollo program. The course, “Engineering Apollo,” is taught by David Mindell, the Frances and David Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing and a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

A hero to many

“He’s a hero to many of us who have followed the world of Apollo,” Mindell said in introducing Collins. Among the numerous honors bestowed on Collins, Mindell said, perhaps the ones that would resonate most strongly at MIT were the naming of both an asteroid and a lunar crater after him. Collins’ book, Mindell added, is widely considered the best astronaut book from that era — or maybe ever.

Before flying the Apollo 11 mission, Collins graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, joined the Air Force, and became a test pilot, flying a variety of fighter jets. Though he had never anticipated flying into space, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced that U.S. astronauts would be selected from among qualified test pilots, Collins realized he was part of a select pool of perhaps 200 people, and decided to apply.

Prior to Eisenhower’s decision, Collins said, there were “a lot of crazy ideas” about how to choose astronauts, including suggestions for selecting people “accustomed to danger, including bullfighters,” or those used to having to breathe through special equipment, such as scuba divers.

Collins’ first mission was on Gemini 10, flying a two-person capsule that he recalled fondly as a “nice little flying machine.” On that mission, he became the fourth human ever to perform an “extra-vehicular activity,” or spacewalk.

The most challenging part of that mission, Collins said, was a first attempt at a rendezvous and docking between two spacecraft in orbit — an essential part of the preparations for the eventual lunar missions. “It was the rendezvous that probably bothered us more than anything,” he said, because of the technical complexity and risks of bringing together two vehicles flying in different orbits at high speed.

To train, the astronauts spent a lot of time in simulators, which faithfully reproduced the spacecraft’s interior and controls. That was a big improvement over preparation as a test pilot, he said, where there often were no simulators for the testing of experimental craft.

“I spent probably 600 hours in one simulator” while preparing for the Gemini mission, Collins said, in addition to many hours in other simulators. Overall, he said, “We were pretty well prepared” for both the Apollo and Gemini flights.

Basketballs and dancing

Asked about MIT’s role in producing the guidance system for the Apollo program, Collins recalled meeting Charles “Doc” Draper, then head of the MIT Instrumentation Lab, who was responsible for that system. “When I think of the instrumentation lab, I think of a basketball and ballroom dancing,” he said.

The “basketball,” he explained, was the heart of the inertial guidance system — a sphere that contained a timer, three gyroscopes, and three accelerometers. “You told it what time it was, and where it was,” he said, and “it knew where you were, and where you were going. That was the heart of Apollo.”

As for the ballroom dancing, he said, that referred to Draper himself — who, despite the hectic preparations for the lunar mission, “would disappear for weekends, and come back with these trophies for ballroom dancing. I thought that was so cool!”

Collins’ talk was open to the MIT community. He was asked about contingency planning in case the other two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, had been unable to return from the moon’s surface — which could have happened due to any number of malfunctions.

In that event, Collins said, “I’d go home,” leaving the others behind. “They knew that, and I knew that, but it’s not something we ever talked about. What’s the point?”

As for the future of the space program, Collins was emphatic: “I think NASA should be renamed NAMA,” he said. “They ought to make [Mars] their one overriding goal and destination.”

By David L. Chandler | MIT News Office