David Kirkpatrick

March 8, 2010

DVD recommendation — “Moon”

Filed under: Arts, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:52 pm

Moon” is the feature-length directorial debut from Duncan Jones (nee Zowie Bowie) and immediately belongs in the rarefied air of science fiction classics. The movie is essentially a one-man show, and even though the phrase is a cliche and over-used, tour-de-force perfectly fits Sam Rockwell‘s performance. The concept of the film is thought-provoking and quietly draws you into the tale, and you certainly don’t have to be a fan of sci-fi to enjoy Moon.

Even Jone’s short film, “Whistle,” included as a special feature on the DVD is worth a watch.

Hit this link to find “Moon” at Amazon.

July 3, 2009

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera sending images

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:08 am

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera is sending back it’s first images from the lunar exploration. It should be both interesting and cool to see what comes in as the mission really kicks into gear.

The release:

New focus on the moon

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera releases its first images of the moon

IMAGE: This Locator Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera’s Narrow Angle Camera image shows the position of the first two images. This image is 253×1000 pixels or 3,542 meters (2.2 miles) wide by…

Click here for more information. 

TEMPE, Ariz. – NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has taken and received its first images of the Moon, kicking off the year-long mapping mission of Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor. The LROC imaging system, under the watchful eyes of Arizona State University professor Mark Robison, the principal investigator, consists of two Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs) to provide high-resolution black-and-white images, a Wide Angle Camera (WAC) to provide images in seven color bands over a 60-kilometer (37.28-mile) swath, and a Sequence and Compressor System (SCS) supporting data acquisition for both cameras.

NASA reports that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launched June 18, is performing exceptionally well and spacecraft checkout is proceeding smoothly, so smoothly in fact that LROC was given an early, but short (two orbits) opportunity Tuesday evening to measure temperatures and background values while imaging. Since LRO is in a terminator orbit, much of the area photographed was in shadows, which is actually a good situation for performing engineering checks of camera settings, according to Robinson, with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. Much to the delight of the LROC team, a few of the images captured dramatic views of the surface.

“Our first images were taken along the Moon’s terminator – the dividing line between day and night – making us initially unsure of how they would turn out,” says Robinson. “Because of the deep shadowing, subtle topography is exaggerated suggesting a craggy and inhospitable surface. In reality, the area is similar to the region where the Apollo 16 astronauts comfortably explored in 1972. Though these images are magnificent in their own right, the main message is that LROC is nearly ready to begin its mission.”

LROC NAC: Two details from one of the first images

LRO was 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) above the lunar surface when the summed mode image was taken, resulting in a resolution of approximately 1.4-meters/pixel (34.4°S, 6.0°W). Incredible levels of detail are visible in these two (1000 pixel-by-1000 pixel) cutouts from the full image (2532 pixels-by-53,248 pixels). The NAC data shown has not been calibrated, and the pixel values were stretched to enhance contrast.

Along the terminator, there simply is not much light – the instrument is “photon-starved,” resulting in suboptimal signal-to-noise ratios. Without summing, images taken in this circumstance would be underexposed. To compensate for low light levels, the pixels can effectively be made larger by summing adjacent pixels to increase the signal-to-noise ratio, making the image sharper, though with 2x lower resolution. At this resolution, features as small as three meters (9.8 feet) wide can be discerned.

The NAC image shows a starkly beautiful region a few kilometers east of Hell E crater, which is located on the floor of the ancient Imbrian-aged Deslandres impact structure in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium. Numerous small, secondary craters can be identified, including several small crater chains. Also identifiable are distinctive lineations made readily apparent by the extreme lighting, representing ejecta from a nearby impact. The quality of these early engineering test images gives the LROC science team confidence it can achieve its primary goals, including obtaining the data needed to support future human lunar exploration and utilization.

IMAGE: This full resolution detail is from one of the first images taken by a Narrow Angle Camera, part of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera imaging system. At this scale and…

Click here for more information. 

Once LRO finishes commissioning operations and enters its 50-kilometer x 50-kilometer (31 miles x 31 miles) mapping orbit, a maneuver currently scheduled for mid-August, the LROC NAC will take images of over 8 percent of the Moon at 50-cm/pixel.

LROC WAC: Seeing the colors of the Moon

The LROC WAC represents a very different type of imaging system than the NAC. The WAC sees the surface in seven colors, one after the other. Looking at the raw image is akin to looking through venetian blinds, which is a little confusing at first.

First you notice the five stair step-like visible bands, and then the two lower-resolution and barely visible ultraviolet bands. During processing, these seven bands are pulled apart and seven single-filter mosaics are created that can be combined in various combinations for scientific analysis.

IMAGE: This full resolution detail is from one of the first images taken by a Narrow Angle Camera, part of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera imaging system. Visible are distinctive trending…

Click here for more information. 

The WAC is designed to help place the super-high-resolution NAC images into their proper geologic context, as well as discriminate color units on the surface to help geologists map rock types and identify resources. Acquired at the same time as the NAC image, more of the Deslandres region is visible because the WAC has a field of view 20 times wider than the NAC though with substantially lower resolution. For comparison, the width of the NAC image is shown as two vertical bars in the center of the image. The WAC image shown here has not been calibrated and the pixel values were stretched to enhance contrast.

LROC is scheduled for activation July 3 to formally begin its commissioning activities. The LROC Science Operations Center, part of the School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on ASU’s Tempe campus plans to steadily release images of the lunar frontier as more data is collected and processed.

LRO will spend the next year gathering crucial data on the lunar environment that will help astronauts prepare for exploring the Moon and eventually leaving the Earth-Moon system for voyages to Mars and beyond.


 The public can view LROC images online at http://www.nasa.gov/lro.

Additional information about the LROC instrument is at http://lroc.sese.asu.edu.

June 18, 2009

NASA’s heading back to the moon

A release hot from the inbox:

NASA Returning to the Moon With First Lunar Launch In A Decade

GREENBELT, Md., June 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched at 5:32 p.m. EDT Thursday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellite will relay more information about the lunar environment than any other previous mission to the moon.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

The orbiter, known as LRO, separated from the Atlas V rocket carrying it and a companion mission, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and immediately began powering up the components necessary to control the spacecraft. The flight operations team established communication with LRO and commanded the successful deployment of the solar array at 7:40 p.m. The operations team continues to check out the spacecraft subsystems and prepare for the first mid-course correction maneuver. NASA scientists expect to establish communications with LCROSS about four hours after launch, at approximately 9:30 p.m.

“This is a very important day for NASA,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington, which designed and developed both the LRO and LCROSS missions. “We look forward to an extraordinary period of discovery at the moon and the information LRO will give us for future exploration missions.”

The spacecraft will be placed in low polar orbit about 31 miles, or 50 kilometers, above the moon for a one year primary mission. LRO’s instruments will help scientists compile high resolution three-dimensional maps of the lunar surface and also survey it at many spectral wavelengths. The satellite will explore the moon’s deepest craters, exploring permanently sunlit and shadowed regions, and provide understanding of the effects of lunar radiation on humans.

“Our job is to perform reconnaissance of the moon’s surface using a suite of seven powerful instruments,” said Craig Tooley, LRO project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “NASA will use the data LRO collects to design the vehicles and systems for returning humans to the moon and selecting the landing sites that will be their destinations.”

High resolution imagery from LRO’s camera will help identify landing sites for future explorers and characterize the moon’s topography and composition. The hydrogen concentrations at the moon’s poles will be mapped in detail, pinpointing the locations of possible water ice. A miniaturized radar system will image the poles and test communication capabilities.

“During the 60 day commissioning period, we will turn on spacecraft components and science instruments,” explained Cathy Peddie, LRO deputy project manager at Goddard. “All instruments will be turned on within two weeks of launch, and we should start seeing the moon in new and greater detail within the next month.”

“We learned much about the moon from the Apollo program, but now it is time to return to the moon for intensive study, and we will do just that with LRO,” said Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist at Goddard.

All LRO initial data sets will be deposited in the Planetary Data System, a publicly accessible repository of planetary science information, within six months of launch.

Goddard built and manages LRO. LRO is a NASA mission with international participation from the Institute for Space Research in Moscow. Russia provides the neutron detector aboard the spacecraft.

The LRO mission is providing updates via @LRO_NASA on Twitter. To follow, visit:


  For more information about the LRO mission, visit: