NISAR: The Next Phase in Remote Sensing of the Earth - Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Aquifers, Glaciers and Devastation

July 24, 2023

Launching from India within a year from now (mid-2024), the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite mission will observe Earth’s land and ice-covered surfaces globally with 12-day regularity from two viewing geometries, thus sampling much of the Earth on average every 6 days. NISAR’s unique measurements will provide information about biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise, and groundwater, and will support a host of other applications.

This lecture will provide an overview of the measurements NISAR will enable, with particular focus on the exquisite measurements of ground movement and examples of how we use these measurements to study earthquakes, aquifers, glaciers, and devastation associated with natural disasters.

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The RIME & Reason of Juice - The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer

June 22, 2023

JUICE is a planetary probe on its way to Jupiter. Launched in April by the European Space agency, JUICE carries a diverse payload of instruments with the primary targets the icy moons of Jupiter: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. Coated with ice-rich crustal shells, the moons are believed to contain vast interior zones of liquid water, making them potential abodes for life.

One of the key instruments on JUICE is RIME, the Radar for Icy Moon Exploration. Building on experience from terrestrial ice sheets and orbital instruments at Mars, RIME will use radar sounding to probe kilometers deep into the moons' icy crusts. The RIME radar is a joint project between the space agencies of Italy and the U.S. with key components designed and built at JPL. The lecture will describe the JUICE mission, its scientific goals, and provide details about the RIME experiment, already underway during the interplanetary cruise phase.

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ESA’s Vision for Mars Exploration

May 11, 2023

Europe’s Mars exploration programme has always had, and will have, the ambition to marry exploration with science. ESA’s first Mars mission was Mars Express launched in 2003, and still orbiting Mars today. ESA continued that start with the ExoMars program that has weathered ups and downs and changing international partners, but has persevered---the Trace Gas Orbiter launched in 2016 is probing the mysteries of Mars’ atmospheric composition, sometimes confounding the observations obtained at the surface by NASA’s Rovers, and the Rosalind Franklin Rover is now planned for a 2028 launch with NASA’s help, and will carry out still-relevant science at Mars in 2030 by drilling for the first time more than 1 meter below the surface. ESA is a full partner in the Mars Sample Return program which represents a key scientific ambition of the Mars research community.

ESA’s vision however is to send Europeans to Mars. Europe is renewing its ambitions for human exploration, and an objective of that is to participate to the first human mission to Mars. ESA is using its robots to scout the way. While doing so, ESA is committed to sustainable space exploration; an additional challenge to wrap into already ambitious exploration goals. European missions to Mars are part of ESA's Terrae Novae exploration programme, which includes missions to 3 destinations: low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. The missions that are developed to each destination are planned to address a wide spectrum of scientific questions and develop technologies that will further enable exploration at all 3 destinations. Thus, ESA missions to LEO and the Moon will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet, but the missions to Mars are also intended to learn lessons and develop technologies that will aid in the exploration of the Moon and enable human crews and science in LEO.

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Field Exploration and Life Detection Sampling through Planetary Analogue Research (FELDSPAR)

March 29, 2023

Planetary exploration missions rely on orbiters to collect large-scale data, while landed missions, constrained to footprints of a rover or lander, collect data from individual samples on the mm to cm scale. It is currently not well-constrained how biosignatures, or even habitable zones, are distributed over these spatial scales. FELDSPAR has sought to conduct field studies analogous to Mars sample return from landing site selection, in-field sample selection, remote or stand-off analysis, in situ analysis, and home laboratory (sample return) analysis. This talk will present an overview of the data collected throughout the six years of FELDSPAR studies. Volcanic regions, particularly in Iceland, have similarities to Martian terrains spectroscopically and can have exceptionally low biomass. The four field sites studied include two recent lava fields at Fimmvörðuháls and Holuhraun, a recently deglaciated plain (Mælifellssandur), and an alluvial plain (Dyngjusandur), with samples collected in nested triangular grids every order of magnitude from the 10 cm scale to the 1 km scale. In-field analyses included overhead imagery at 1 m to 200 m elevation, in-field reflectance spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence. ATP content was analyzed in a field lab, and Raman spectroscopy, DNA content, metagenomic sequencing, and qPCR for fungal, bacterial, and archaeal DNA are ongoing in the home lab(s). Lessons learned from the various FELDSPAR rocky terrains will be presented, and their potential applicability, or lack thereof, to icy terrains will be discussed.

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Journey to the Center of Mars - Scientific Results of the InSight Mission

February 22, 2023

After more than 10 years of planning, design, building and testing, InSight touched down in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars on November 26, 2018. In contrast to the 45 previous missions to Mars which have (when they survived) thoroughly explored its surface features, chemistry, atmosphere, and searched for past or present life, InSight focused for the first time on the deep interior of the planet, investigating the processes of terrestrial planet formation and evolution. Up until its demise last December from dust-covered solar arrays, it performed the first comprehensive surface-based geophysical measurements on Mars, using seismology and precision tracking to shed light on its fundamental structure, from crust to core. InSight has provided key information on the composition and structure of an Earth-like planet that has gone through most of the evolutionary stages of the Earth up to, but not including, plate tectonics. The InSight Principal Investigator will describe the mission, its science goals and some of its outstanding scientific results.

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The Science of NuSTAR – 10 years of Exploring the Energetic Universe

September 7, 2022

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) turned 10 this year. Launched on June 13, 2012, this space telescope has opened our eyes to the X-ray universe over the last decade. As the first space telescope capable of taking focused high energy X-ray observations, NuSTAR has provided an unprecedented view of high energy objects, such as remnants of supernova explosions, like black holes and neutron stars, as well as the monster black holes that live in the centers of galaxies.

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Dreaming of Rocks from Mars - Scientific Desires and the Engineering of Mars Missions

August 25, 2022

In 1996, NASA and the White House held a spectacular press conference, announcing the probable discovery of the remains of martian life in a rock recovered from Antarctica, known as ALH840001. While most planetary scientists have now rejected those claims, the fact that they were made at all—one year before the first landing on Mars since 1976—provides a window through which to view the process of advocating for and engineering missions to Mars. Ever since the Viking landers parked themselves safely on the Red Planet, scientists have advocated returning samples of Mars to earth for laboratory studies as a top priority. To date, a many such projects have been proposed, detailed studies done, and a few sample return projects have even been approved and funded. None has made it as far as full-scale development, though, let alone Mars. Yet scientists' desires have mattered. The dream of sample return has affected both program planning and vehicle engineering. In this talk, Conway traces the evolution of several Mars sample return efforts, showing how technologies intended for sample return campaigns wound up being used for other missions.

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FLOAT & SWIM – Novel Meso-Scale Robots for Extreme Lunar and Ocean World Environments

July 11, 2022

As NASA seeks to explore ever-more extreme environments in the coming decades, two NIAC Phase I studies – FLOAT and SWIM – investigate novel solutions for the unique environmental, operational, and design constraints imposed on two types of robots operating on the Moon and Ocean Worlds.

For FLOAT – Flexible Levitation On A Track – we consider the challenges of building the first lunar railway system, to provide reliable, autonomous, and efficient payload transport on the Moon in support of ISRU (in-situ resource utilization) and ECO (excavation, construction, and outfitting) activities. For SWIM – Sensing With Independent Micro-swimmers – we study the idea of using dozens of miniature underwater robots, each approximately the size of a cell phone, to characterize the physical / chemical properties of ice-ocean interfaces on Ocean Worlds in search of signs of extant life.

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Probing Worlds Beyond our Solar System

December 7, 2021

Since the discovery of the first planets beyond the solar system more than 25 years ago, the field of exoplanet science has expanded rapidly. We now know of more than 4,000 confirmed exoplanets, most of which bear little resemblance to the planets within our Solar System. Dr. Lewis will discuss the methods used to both detect exoplanets and study them in detail. With current and upcoming observational facilities such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the soon to launch James Webb Space Telescope, researchers will have the opportunity to study the atmospheres of these distant worlds. Such observations provide a critical step in understanding planet formation and assessing the potential habitability of exoplanets. Finally, she will discuss recent results and provide a look forward to future observations that will help us to answer the question “Are we alone in the Universe?”

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How a Team of Young Caltech/JPL Researchers Transformed the Field of Earth Observation with Spaceborne Radars

November 2, 2021

Forty years ago, in November 1981, a team of young JPL scientists and engineers conducted the first experiment ever flown on the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle Imaging Radar-A (SIR-A) imaged large areas of our planet and led to the discovery of a network of ancient paleo rivers in Egypt and North Africa.

The SIR-A was followed by a series of progressively more advanced imaging radar systems (SIR-B, SIR-C and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission), conducted by the same team, that demonstrated the scientific benefit of multispectral and interferometric systems in mapping and monitoring our planet. They formed the technical foundations for the dozen of international and commercial free flying radars presently orbiting Earth as well as the radar systems that mapped Venus and Titan.

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Webinar: Interstellar Comets – Visitors from Another Solar System – Natural or Artificial?

September 14, 2021

The recent discovery of the first interstellar object, 1I/`Oumuamua, passing through the solar system in 2017 has provoked intense, sustained interest by the scientific community – but the interest has not always been purely scientific. `Oumuamua was visible to ground based telescopes for less than a month, and a little longer from space. After this short period of study `Oumuamua’s characteristics were quite different from what scientists expected from the first interstellar object (ISO). There have been a huge number of papers written about this one object, energizing a new interdisciplinary discussion about planet formation. ISOs enable the close up study of material from other planetary systems, allowing us to assess similarities and differences in the chemistry and physical processes driving planetary growth in other planetary systems. The second ISO, 2I/Borisov, was discovered less than 2 years after the first, much sooner than expected, and has characteristics which are very different from the first ISO, looking more like a solar system comet.

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Webinar: SWARM - A New Paradigm for Communication Satellites

March 17, 2021

Meet Swarm’s co-founder and CEO Sara Spangelo as she discusses how Swarm creates the world's smallest and lowest-cost two-way communication satellites.

Swarm’s mission is to connect people and devices anywhere in the world at the lowest cost. Swarm has 81 satellites in space and will have 150 by the end of 2021 – all designed and built in-house. 46 billion IoT (internet of things) devices are expected to be deployed by 2021, many of those in use by critical industries including agriculture, energy, ground transportation, maritime and more. Conversely, there remain billions of people around the world still lacking basic internet access. This problem affects rural areas and developing countries most, which further widens gaps in economic opportunity.

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Mars 2020 Lecture: The Thrill and Terror of Landing a Spacecraft on Mars

February 17, 2021

So far, half of all human attempts to land robots on Mars have ended in failure. In the past 20 years the success rate has improved to about 70% but even the experience gained from building on a string of 5 successful US Mars missions in a row can’t prepare us enough to guarantee success. From the beginning, we have learned from both success and failure to “load the dice” to help improve the odds of success. On February 18, 2021, Mars2020 with the Perseverance rover will try again. This time we will be aiming for an even smaller landing area on Mars that is littered with exciting surface science but also with danger. Over the last several years, the Mars2020 team built on past Mars mission experiences and inventions to develop new tricks that will improve the odds to stack the deck in favor of a safe landing and an exciting start for a Mars Sample Return mission.

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Webinar: The Ultraviolet Spotlight on Exoplanets

January 25, 2021

There are about seventy-five billion terrestrial planets in our one Milky Way galaxy with temperatures capable of supporting surface life. They tend to orbit stars called K and M dwarfs, which are lower in mass and temperature than our Sun. The stellar ultraviolet (UV) radiation from these stars is strong and highly variable, and their planets are exposed to “superflares” daily in their first ~300 Myr. Knowing the UV environments of planets of all sizes is crucial to understand their atmospheric composition and evolution. For temperate terrestrial planets, characterization of the UV provides a key parameter in a planet’s potential to be habitable and helps us to discriminate between biological and abiotic sources for observed biosignatures, gases we hope will be signs of life. Shkolnik will present their efforts to study the UV exoplanet environments using existing space telescopes and describing new efforts to build dedicated UV space telescopes specifically designed to provide key information needed to answer science questions.

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Webinar: OSIRIS-REx Sample Return from Asteroid Bennu

November 30, 2020

The OSIRIS-REx mission traveled to Bennu, a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid. The spacecraft launched on September 8, 2016, and rendezvoused with Bennu in 2018. Sample collection from site Nightingale occurred in October 2020.

The sample will return to Earth in 2023 and will be the first for a U.S. mission. The sample may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth. The mission is in an exciting phase right now as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft operations continue in the Sample Acquisition campaign.

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Webinar: World-Building: How Science Sculpts Science Fiction

November 12, 2020

Join us for a panel of pre-eminent science fiction authors famous for their vivid imaginings of fantastical, fictional worlds as they describe their favorite fictional world, and then discuss the process of inventing a new world. Where do they take ideas from reality? Where do they choose to deviate from reality, and why? When does story trump science? What are the hardest and easiest parts of a brand new world for them to imagine? And finally, what responsibility do writers have when it comes to the public's science literacy?

Moderated by Phil Plait, an astronomer, science communicator, and author of several astronomy books, the panel will feature Hugo award winners Becky Chambers, Mary Robinette Kowal, and John Scalzi, as well as Doctor Who writer Simon Guerrier. The panel will conclude with a moderated Q&A with the audience and the panel members.

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Webinar: Presidential Leadership in Human Space Exploration Yesterday and Today

November 10, 2020

This talk will first review the decisions regarding human exploration of space made by Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. This portion of the talk will be based on my three books tracing those decisions. I will suggest that the choices regarding whether or not to send humans away from Earth to explore distant destinations made by those three presidents have had lasting impacts, and that without sustained presidential support, U.S.-government-sponsored human exploration is not feasible. Even so, four of the five presidents since Ronald Reagan have called for resuming human space exploration, but to date no human has left low Earth orbit since 1972, Presidential leadership seems to be a necessary but not sufficient condition for exploration to happen. I will try to identify the principle reasons behind this reality. The talk will conclude with my speculation, given the (hopefully definitive) result of the November 3 election, on future U.S. exploration efforts.

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Webinar: FARSIDE - A Probe-Class Mission to Place a Radio Telescope on the Lunar Farside

October 19, 2020

FARSIDE (Farside Array for Radio Science Investigations of the Dark ages and Exoplanets) is a Probe-class mission to place a low radio frequency interferometric array on the farside of the Moon. A NASA-funded design study, focused on the instrument, a deployment rover, the lander and base station, delivered an architecture consistent with the mass and cost requirements for a Probe mission. FARSIDE will provide the capability to image the entire sky each minute in 1400 channels spanning frequencies from 200 kHz to 40 MHz, extending down two orders of magnitude below bands accessible to ground-based radio astronomy.

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Webinar: Robotic Exploration of Titan with Dragonfly - An Overview of the Lander Mobility System

September 2, 2020

Dragonfly is a rotorcraft lander mission that will embark on a journey to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2026. Selected as part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, Dragonfly will explore Titan's surface employing autonomous navigation with ground control providing only high-level waypoint and flight plan information. Carrying a suite of instruments, this robotic explorer will sample materials and determine surface composition in different geologic settings in order to characterize the habitability of Titan’s environment.

This talk with present a brief overview of the Dragonfly mission, and focus specifically on the Lander Mobility System. Utilizing Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) and lidar-based hazard avoidance techniques, Dragonfly will safely traverse several kilometers in a single Titan day.

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Webinar: Lunar Trailblazer - A Caltech-led Pioneering Small Satellite for Lunar Water and Lunar Geology

August 10, 2020

Lunar Trailblazer, selected in June 2019 as one of NASA's first planetary science small satellite missions, is designed to produce the best maps of water on the Moon. Led by Caltech and managed by JPL, a Lockheed Martin smallsat will carry the JPL High-resolution Volatiles and Minerals Moon Mapper (HVM3) shortwave infrared imaging spectrometer and the UK-contributed, University of Oxford/STFC RAL Space-built thermal infrared multispectral imager to 100-km lunar polar orbit. These instruments will collect data to simultaneously measure composition, temperature, and thermophysical properties of the Moon's surface.

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Webinar: Seeking Signs of Ancient Life in Jezero Crater with the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover

July 29, 2020

Mars 2020, NASA’s next flagship mission, will launch the Perseverance rover to Mars in July-August 2020 and will begin its mission on the martian surface in February 2021. Mars 2020 is seeking signs of past life in Jezero crater, the site of an ancient delta and crater lake. The Mars 2020 rover will also collect a diverse and compelling set of rock and soil samples for potential return to Earth by a future set of missions. This presentation, given by Dr. Katie Stack Morgan, the Mars 2020 Deputy Project Scientist, will provide an overview of Perseverance’s mission objectives, its landing site, and what we hope to learn from NASA’s next Mars mission.

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Webinar: Human Impacts on the Atmosphere as Revealed by COVID-19

June 9, 2020

Changes in energy use, transportation, and manufacturing during the coronavirus pandemic can be connected to changes in air quality and emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Panelists will discuss how this has created an experiment that can help us understand how human activity changes the environment and guide policies for a transition to a sustainable planet.

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Origami and Spacecraft Structures: Current Work and a Brief History

February 12, 2020

The mathematics, physics, and engineering of origami is a thriving field of academic research. We will discuss the origin and the maturation of the formal study of paper folding. Of the many applications of origami, this talk will focus on the design of deployable elements for spacecraft. Using specific examples from current work at JPL on starshades and solar arrays, this talk will highlight recent advances in origami engineering and its application to unfoldable spacecraft structures.

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Exploring Jupiter

October 28, 2019

Discovering the riches of our outer solar system with robotic spacecraft has been one of humankind’s great scientific accomplishments in the last 50 years. Dr. Hansen began her career planning the Voyager flyby of Jupiter and its moons, and has been involved with missions studying Jupiter ever since. She will discuss how our knowledge of Jupiter has evolved and talk about the latest mission, Juno, in orbit now around Jupiter.

Juno carries a visible imager (“JunoCam”) on the payload. Conceived as an outreach instrument, JunoCam has engaged the public in many aspects of the real work of an imaging team. Enhanced color image processing by volunteer citizen scientists brings out subtle detail in the clouds and storms.

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Telescopes, Astronomical Discoveries, and Their Influence on Literature

September 26, 2019

"I found and visited the famous Galileo grown old..." These are the words of John Milton in 1644. His most famous work, the epic poem Paradise Lost, was published in the wake of transformative discoveries and controversies enabled by the use of the telescope for astronomy. Centuries earlier, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a technical treatise on an astronomical instrument, the astrolabe; it was one of his most widely circulated works, second only to The Canterbury Tales. In this talk, the speaker will discuss Chaucer and Milton and other artists who grappled with developments in astronomy, and who incorporated an updated understanding of the universe into their dialogue and imagery.

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From Apollo to Artemis: Policy History and Promise

August 8, 2019

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the first Apollo lunar landing and the announcement of the Artemis program to place the first American woman and the next American man on the Moon in the next five years. The first half of the talk will describe the policy history around President Kennedy’s challenge of “before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” as well as subsequent internal debates on how to meet this audacious goal. In contrast, the Artemis program is beginning in a very different global political, economic, and technical environment for human space flight. How these different conditions have shaped and will continue to shape the Artemis effort, and the potential benefits to be gained, will be the subject of second half of the talk.

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Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS) Robotic Architecture

July 15, 2019

The Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor or EELS robot architecture is designed to carry the latest instruments into dynamic arenas in search of life. It is adaptable to traverse ocean world inspired terrain, fluidized media, enclosed labyrinthian environments and liquids. It is a snake-like self-propelled endoscope form comprising serially-replicated segments with encapsulated locomotion and bending. Multiple segments sequentially reverse rotations to reduce torsion in the endoscope, or replicate rotations to perform holonomic movements for steering.

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Watching the Earth Breathe from the International Space Station

June 26, 2019

Dr. Annmarie Eldering, the Project Scientist for OCO-3, will share some of the latest news from OCO-3, as well as the goals for the three year measurement campaign from the ISS. OCO-3 will demonstrate a new technique to measure urban carbon emissions, volcanic eruptions and other local carbon sources from space.

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The SPHEREx All-Sky Infrared Spectral Survey Satellite

May 6, 2019

SPHEREx, selected for a NASA Medium Explorer (MIDEX) mission in February 2019, is designed to spectrally survey the entire sky using a small cryogenic wide-field telescope combined with novel (but simple) spectrometers. SPHEREx will probe the inflationary birth of the universe by studying large-scale structure, complementing surveys optimized to constrain dark energy.

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Stimulating a Culture of Innovation at The Aerospace Corporation

April 17, 2019

The speed and agility of the "NewSpace" sector are pushing The Aerospace Corporation (Aerospace) to elevate our culture of innovation. In this talk, the speaker will describe the programs Aerospace created to stimulate an innovative culture and provide examples of employee innovation that have resulted from those programs.

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Biodiversity - Perspectives of a Techie

March 20, 2019

What is biodiversity, how do you measure, monitor, and detect changes in it, and why should you care? These are some of the topics discussed in this techie’s perspective on the state of our biodiversity knowledge.

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PUFFER: NASA's Pop-Up Origami Rover

February 20, 2019

Meet PUFFER—NASA's pop-up origami rover. Currently, rover missions face serious limitations in extreme terrain. A rover like Curiosity is just too valuable to risk driving into a crater or upending on rough ground. PUFFER was created to work in parallel with larger rovers (or deployed off landers) when the landscape becomes too dangerous. PUFFER has been tested in some of Earth's most challenging environments, and its designers at JPL hope to see it hitching a ride to new destinations in the solar system sometime soon.

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The Space Barons and the New Space Age

October 10, 2018

The Space Barons is the story of a group of billionaire entrepreneurs who are pouring their fortunes into the epic resurrection of the American space program. Nearly a half-century after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, these Space Barons are using Silicon Valley-style innovation to dramatically lower the cost of space travel, and send humans even further than NASA has gone. These entrepreneurs have founded some of the biggest brands in the world-Amazon, Microsoft, Virgin, Tesla, PayPal-and upended industry after industry.

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Dusty Planetary Systems and the Hunt for Planets

August 13, 2018

Understanding how planets and planetary systems form is critical to understanding the stages of planetary development and the uniqueness of our Solar System. The current understanding of formation is that planets and their star form from a collapsing cloud of gas and dust, or nebula. The resulting disk contains a central young star surrounded by the material needed to build planets.

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Parker Solar Probe: Exploring the Plasma Physics of the Solar Corona and Inner Heliosphere

July 19, 2018

On August 4th, 2018, the Parker Solar Probe will launch to carry out the first in situ exploration of the outer solar corona and deep inner heliosphere. Direct measurements of the plasma in the closest atmosphere of our star should lead to a new understanding of the questions of coronal heating, solar wind acceleration, and the generation, acceleration, and propagation of solar energetic particles.

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Magnifying Light by 100 Billion Times with the Solar Gravity Lens to Image an Exoplanet

May 16, 2018

Nature has presented us with a very powerful “instrument” that we have yet to explore and learn to use. This instrument is the Solar Gravitational Lens (SGL), which results from the ability of the gravity field of the Sun to focus light from faint, distant targets. In the near future, a modest telescope could operate on the focal line of the SGL which begins 547 AU in the far outer solar system. Using the enormous magnification power of the Lens would enable high-resolution images and spectroscopy of a habitable exoplanet.

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Moon Diver Mission Concept - Descending into a Moon Cave to Better Understand the Solar System’s Largest Volcanic Eruptions

April 2, 2018

The Moon Diver mission concept proposes to send the JPL-developed Axel extreme terrain rover into one of these pits, rappelling down the wall to expose the history of the lunar mare, and to illuminate the workings of the flood basalt eruptions that created them: eruptions on a scale never before witnessed in the history of humankind.

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The Interstellar Age

February 22, 2018

In this presentation, planetary scientist, author, and Planetary Society President Jim Bell takes us on both a personal and scientific journey looking over Voyager's shoulders as we all discovered the wonders of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and their panoply of rings and moons. And we'll also learn that their missions are not over - they both continue to explore and transmit data on the space environment beyond the planets and between the stars. Through the Voyagers, and their discoveries, we have all entered the interstellar age...

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Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments: Steampunk Meets Spacecraft

November 6, 2017

With its sulfuric acid clouds, temperatures over 450°C, and 92 times the surface pressure of Earth, Venus is one of the most hostile planetary environments in the solar system. Only a handful of Soviet Venera and Vega landers and a Pioneer probe have successfully reached the surface. Even the most robust of these landers survived for only 127 minutes before the electronics failed in the hostile environment. A potential solution to comes from a 16th century technology. The automaton is a mechanical device capable of performing a series of complex actions to achieve a specific result, or a mechanical robot.

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To Boldly Go... Well, You Know: NASA's Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

September 11, 2017

The ambitious and exciting Dawn mission is one of NASA's most remarkable ventures into the solar system. Dawn delves into the unknown and achieves what's never been attempted before. Dawn orbited and explored the giant protoplanet Vesta in 2011-2012, and it is now in orbit and exploring a second new world, dwarf planet Ceres.

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Building the Giant Magellan Telescope

July 17, 2017

The Giant Magellan Telescope is one of three extremely large telescopes now taking shape across the globe. Its primary light collecting surface comprises seven 8.4-meter diameter mirror segments, among the largest mirrors ever manufactured. Located in Chile’s Atacama Desert the Giant Magellan Telescope will offer powerful new scientific capabilities to advance our understanding of the heavens. The telescope’s unique doubly-segmented optical design incorporates deformable mirrors that will compensate for the atmosphere’s blurring effects, giving the Giant Magellan Telescope ten times the resolving power of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Heliophysics and the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

June 28, 2017

The path of totality of the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse provides a rare opportunity to study the inner and middle solar corona - almost entirely inaccessible in white light and in the visible spectrum - at this minimum stage of the solar-activity cycle. Given the logistic advantages of observing from the United States, an unprecedented suite of observational imagers and spectrographs will be brought to bear.

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Cassini's Grand Finale - Capstone for Saturn Exploration

May 15, 2017

Cassini, orbiting Saturn for nearly 13 years, has revolutionized our knowledge of the Saturn system and informed us of new places to search for habitable environments. Cassini will send back its final bits of unique data on September 15th, 2017, as it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere, vaporizing and satisfying planetary protection requirements.

This presentation will also highlight recent results from the Ring Grazing orbits, where spacecraft skirted the F ring 20 times.

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The Glass Ceiling and The Glass Universe

April 4, 2017

Women found an early, productive place in the activities of the Harvard College Observatory. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, as many as twenty women at a time made fundamental discoveries in astrophysics by examining glass photographic plates taken hour by hour, night after night, in both the northern and the southern hemisphere. The women’s efforts led to a globally accepted classification for the stars that is still in use today, and understanding of the chemistry of the heavens, and a means for measuring distances across space.

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The Role of Leadership in the Journey to Gender Equality

March 24, 2017

Ensuring increased gender diversity and equality across our organizations requires a strong commitment from the top. This panel discussion explores the steps taken to date by JPL and Campus leadership to recruit, retain and promote a diverse talent pool, summarizes the major accomplishments over the last decade, and highlights the next steps. A Q&A session will follow.

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Hybrid Rocket Propulsion for a Low Temperature Mars Ascent Vehicle

March 13, 2017

A hybrid propulsion system is being considered for a conceptual Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) due to its high performance and low Gross Lift Off Mass (GLOM). As part of a potential Mars Sample Return campaign, the MAV would be responsible for lifting Martian samples from the surface of Mars to orbit around Mars.
A potential design for a MAV using a novel, high performance hybrid propellant combination will be presented. The hybrid option is uniquely suited for this application due to its favorable low temperature behavior, ability to shut down and restart (enabling a simple, single stage to orbit) and high performance. However, this option is at a relatively low level of maturity compared to conventional propulsion systems (e.g. solids and liquids).

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Robotics for Space Exploration - Challenge to the Moon and Beyond

November 8, 2016

Professor Yoshida has been working on a variety of robotics research topics with respect to the dynamics and control of space robotic systems. His interests range from orbital free-flying robots to planetary exploration rovers. The applications are extended to the development of university-based micro satellites and also the terrestrial applications of space technology, such as robotic remote exploration for search and rescue missions. The talk will highlight his current challenge toward the Google Lunar XPRIZE (team HAKUTO) and back ground technology on micro-rover development.

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Artificial Intelligence Support of Rosetta Orbiter Science Operations

November 2, 2016

On September 30th 2016, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission ended with the Rosetta Orbiter landing on the surface of the comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko. While it is well known that this historic mission was the first mission to deploy a soft lander to a comet (Philae) and to escort a comet for two years, it was also a pathfinding space mission from the perspective of Operations and Computer Science in its usage of the Artificial Intelligence planning and scheduling software for early to mid-range science activity scheduling and data downlink scheduling. Come hear about the Rosetta mission: science, operations, and the use of Artificial Intelligence to support Rosetta Orbiter operations.

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Operational Thoughts on Data Driven Decision Making

October 5, 2016

Based on experiences gained training for spaceflight and supporting operations onboard the International Space Station, considerations for the implementation of robotically enhanced exploration will be discussed in the context of several operational environments: piloting jet aircraft; conducting routine operations onboard the International Space Station, and the execution of extravehicular activity (EVA).

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Climate Change Impact on Past Civilizations: Lessons from Space Data and Archaeology

May 24th, 2016

NASA and other remote sensing data from spacecraft and aircraft have contributed significantly to archaeological research. This work has included locating the lost “city” of Ubar in present day Oman, study of Native American sites on San Clemente Island off the California coast, to detection of disturbance of the Nazca lines in present day Peru. One factor emerging from this body of work is that past civilizations were significantly influenced by even minor climatic events.

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Building the First Spaceport in Low Earth Orbit

January 13, 2016

The construction of the Gateway will be humankind's most ambitious endeavor in space. A new kind of construction - a new way of thinking about building things - will be required to build what is, essentially, a city in space. To construct a massive spaceport like the Gateway would take a generation if we didn't use construction techniques like those used in modern shipbuilding and automobile factories.

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Light, Atomic Clocks, and Testing Einstein’s Assumptions

November 4, 2015

The Optical Frequency Comb technology exploded in 1999-2000 from the synthesis of advances in independent fields of Laser Stabilization, UltraFast Lasers, and NonLinear Optical Fibers, enabling a thousand-fold advance in optical frequency measurement, and searches (in the 17th digit) for time-variation of physical "constants". Several Optical Frequency Standards now have far better performance than the well-established Cs clock that defines Time in the SI (Metric System) measurement system. But adopting a new “Atomic Clock” to “tick out the Seconds” will be daunting - in many ways.

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Profits in the Final Frontier: Entrepreneurial Pursuits in Space

October 27, 2015

Tethers Unlimited, Planet Labs, and Planetary Resources, who represent the entire spectrum of space startups, will join Professor Sergio Pellegrino to discuss what is needed to succeed as a space company. Topics to explore include risks and rewards within each category, how to work with minimal existing infrastructure, and how to secure funding when the average return on investment timeline is much longer than for a typical startup.

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Looking for Life As (we think) We Know It: Enceladus and Europa

September 16, 2015

As the Keck Institute for Space Studies workshop this week considers life in exotic non aqueous environments, two bodies in the outer solar system (Enceladus and Europa) host oceans of salty liquid water that are accessible, or potentially so, to spacecraft measurements. A Europa mission has just begun development and has substantial capabilities to assess ocean habitability. Enceladus appears to have a habitable ocean based on Cassini measurements, but confirmation and search for life will require a follow-on mission... one such mission has been proposed under the Discovery program.

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Tyranny of the Rocket Equation

August 27, 2015

The rocket equation, a simple momentum balance that defines the performance of a rocket, holds a tyrannical grip on the design of these machines. From this equation it becomes apparent that the giant leap for mankind was not the first step on the Moon but attaining Earth orbit. A rocket ready to launch into earth orbit is 85 to 90 percent propellant and less than 2 percent useful payload. Humanity may visit other planetary surfaces but will never have thriving outposts if the paradigm of taking everything from planet Earth is kept. One possible way to break this tyranny is to use planetary resources at location for the materials needed by the hundreds of metric tons. These materials derive their utility from their bulk chemical composition or mechanical properties (rocket fuel, life support, construction materials like bricks and cement). The need to find new places to live and resources to use will eventually beckon humanity off the planet.

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The Implications of U.S. Space Policy Choices

August 18, 2015

In recent years, US global influence has been diminished by removal of the Moon as a focus for near-term human space exploration efforts, a failure to engage international partners in concrete plans for exploration after the International Space Station, and a slow response to increasing threats posed by Russian and Chinese military space capabilities. A more effective integration of national security and civil space interests in support of US foreign policy objectives would enable new opportunities for the United States and its allies. In shaping the international environment for space activities, exploration, scientific, commercial, and security efforts, can be used to complement each other to build a more secure, stable, and prosperous, world.

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Fire and Ice: Exploring Volcanoes on Earth and the Solar System

May 14th, 2015

The planets and moons of the Solar System are incredibly diverse worlds with histories both ancient and dramatic. Etched into their surfaces is a fascinating story – of fire and ice, of order and upheaval, of great cataclysms and slow change. Volcanoes are common throughout the Solar System and volcanic eruptions are among nature's most awesome spectacles. On Earth, we see that eruptions can range from gentle, beautiful outpourings of lava to catastrophic explosive events that can kill thousands. As we explore volcanoes on Earth and other worlds, we find a wide variety of landscapes—even ice volcanoes! We will tour different volcanoes on Earth and the Solar System, emphasizing how they have affected our scientific thinking, art, and culture.

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Richard Nixon and the American Space Program

May 6, 2015

On July 20, 1969, U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong took “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The success of the Apollo 11 mission satisfied the goal that had been set by President John F. Kennedy just over eight years earlier--“before this decade is out, landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” It also raised the question “What do you do next, after landing on the Moon?” It fell to President Richard M. Nixon to answer this question. The talk will trace in detail how Nixon and his associates went about developing their response, reducing the priority of the NASA space program, thereby ending human space exploration and then approving the space shuttle.

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Mars Helicopter Scout

April 1, 2015

The Mars Helicopter Scout is a current proposal to demonstrate helicopter flight at Mars on the Mars 2020 mission.The Mars Helicopter Scout will scout ahead of a planetary surface rover to provide high-resolution aerial images of the terrain for science and operational purposes. This talk will describe the scope of the Mars Helicopter Scout proposal, the signficant science and operational benefits of a helicopter in planetary surface exploration, and the technical design overview of Mars Helicopter Scout.

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An Interstellar Conversation

September 9, 2014

Ed Stone led the first science mission into the interstellar medium when Voyager 1 passed through the heliopause some 120 AU from the Sun into a region whose composition was dominated by particles from distant stars. This is humankind's first interstellar probe -- but it is only a tiny step in that direction. Can we go further, faster? What are the key scientific investigations to be made in interstellar space? Are there more distant milestones in the interstellar medium to strive as next steps toward interstellar flight? Joining Ed to discuss what's out there will be Freeman Dyson, whose creative thinking about interstellar flight and astrophysics has stimulated two generations of space explorers and former Astronaut Mae Jemison who leads the 100 Year Starship organization creating new projects for Earth and space based on ideas of interstellar flight.

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Near-Earth Asteroids: Stepping Stones to an Interplanetary Civilization

August 12, 2014

Human and robotic exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit has emphasized the Moon and Mars. But another class of target, the near-Earth asteroids, may be even more important to explore and understand in the immediate future. Unlike the Moon and Mars, asteroids occasionally collide with the Earth, posing a real threat to life and property, as demonstrated by the 2013 airburst over Chelyabinsk, Russia. But asteroid impacts are unique among natural disasters in that judicious application of feasible search and deflection technologies may be able to prevent them. Near-Earth asteroids are also interesting from a scientific perspective, offering insight into the origin and evolution of the Earth and other planets. Finally, private industry has recently begun to recognize the potential value of near-Earth asteroids as sources of metals, oxygen, water, and rocket propellant that are unconstrained by the expense of launch from Earth. Exciting new mission opportunities, including the Asteroid Redirect Mission currently under study at JPL, will pave the way for human and robotic exploration, manipulation, and utilization of these fascinating objects.

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Optical Remote Sensing of Earth and Planetary Surfaces

June 17, 2014

The development of space observation techniques and of user friendly software to process and handle those observations has opened a new era in geology and planetary sciences. The first global imaging systems made it possible to scan wide areas and search for promising sites for field investigations, or to get the contextual information needed to interpret local observations. As the resolution, whether spatial or spectral, and geometric accuracy improved, it became possible to make actual measurements and eventually monitor Earth surface changes. These possibilities offered new ways to investigate the geological processes at play in the landscape evolution on Earth and other planets. New opportunities are emerging, such as staring systems in particular, which will allow investigating processes and surface characteristics that cannot be observed with present systems. Rapid surface motions, such as from seismic waves, are one example.

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New Frontiers of Planetary Seismology

June 3, 2014

About 45 years ago and some time as a by product of the cold war, seismology started its escape from Earth, with not only the first successful installation of a seismometer on the Moon by the Apollo missions but also with the first observations of seismic waves in the ionosphere, 250 km or more above Earth surface. Our journey to today’s research at these frontiers of seismology will start with the Moon and the 40 years old Apollo data and will then move to Mars and finally Venus.

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The Long Space Age: An Economic History of American Space Exploration

May 27, 2014

Over the last half-century there has been a rapid expansion in goods and services that involve, in some part of their production process, physical infrastructure located off of the surface of the Earth. We are engaging in economic development off of our home planet. The economic development of the solar system presently extends to around 36,000 kilometers from Earth. There, nations and corporations have placed hundreds of satellites that provide billions of dollars worth of communications and meteorological services. Closer in, within a few thousands and hundreds of kilometers from the Earth, hundreds of satellites provide a wide variety of scientific, global positioning, and commercial services, while construction has been completed on humanity’s ninth and largest space station. On the planet itself, government agencies, corporations and individuals plan for the expansion of economic development to the lunar surface, the asteroids, and Mars.

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The Past, Present and Future of Understanding Earthquakes Using Space Observations

April 14, 2014

On January 17, 1994 at 4:31 in the morning, the M 6.7 Northridge earthquake abruptly shook Los Angeles. Though this earthquake was not the "Big One" its 10-20 seconds of shaking killed 57 people and caused over $20 billion in damage. The earthquake was the culmination of years of accumulated strain, the last portion of which was measured using survey grade Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. Dr. Donnellan will address the contributions of the Southern California Integrated GPS Network (SCIGN), Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), an airborne platform called UAVSAR, and modeling tools to understanding earthquakes using space and airborne observations. Future measurements and missions should provide unprecedented details of earthquake fault behavior and interactions, which can be used to address our exposure to these disastrous events.

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The Future of Human Spaceflight

April 8, 2014

In the 42 years since the last Apollo mission, humans have not flown beyond low Earth orbit. The capability to go back to or even beyond the Moon does not yet exist. President Obama adopted the flexible path proposed by the 2009 (Augustine) Committee to Review U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans by proposing NASA plan a series of steps into the Solar System - reaching a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, the vicinity of Mars in the 2030s and landing on Mars in the early 2040s.

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Exploring Mission Concepts with the JPL Innovation Foundry A-Team

January 15, 2014

The JPL Innovation Foundry has established a new approach for exploring, developing, and evaluating early concepts called the A-Team. The A-Team combines innovative collaborative methods with subject matter expertise and analysis tools to help mature mission concepts. Science, implementation, and programmatic elements are all considered during an A-Team study.

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Theodore von Kármán and Rocketry at Caltech

November 12, 2013

The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Theodore von Kármán's death. Born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary in 1881, von Kármán emigrated to the United States in 1930, joining the faculty of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at Caltech, where he remained until 1944. He then gradually moved to Washington, DC., to head the Air Force's Scientific Advisory Group. He was ultimately awarded the first Medal of Science by President Kennedy in 1963 and was the first director of JPL. In this talk, the story of von Kármán's life in aeronautics, engineering, and science, will be revealed - with a particular focus on his role in founding JPL.

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How to Select a Landing Site on Mars

July 8, 2013

Surface characteristics at the seven sites where spacecraft have successfully landed on Mars can be related favorably to their signatures in remotely sensed data from orbit and from the Earth. Comparisons of the rock abundance, types and coverage of soils (and their physical properties), thermal inertia, albedo, and topographic slope all agree with orbital remote sensing estimates and show that the materials at the landing sites can be used as “ground truth” for the materials that make up most of the equatorial and mid-latitude regions of Mars.

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Unraveling the Mysteries of Titan Using Lab on a Chip

June 19, 2013

Titan, the moon of Saturn with a thick atmosphere and liquid hydrocarbon lakes, is considered the best target in the solar system for the study of organic chemistry on a planetary scale. Solar radiation and energetic particles activate methane and nitrogen in the atmosphere of Titan, which react to form complex organic aerosols. Dr. Cable will describe how we can use lab on a chip technologies to tease apart these complex organic mixtures and identify key species. This work represents a significant first step in understanding Titan aerosols from a chemistry perspective, and can aid atmospheric models of this intriguing moon.

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Airships: A New Horizon for Science

May 2, 2013

Over the last decade, a few commercial telecommunication ventures as well as several well-funded military programs have attempted to develop autonomous, solar powered, high-altitude light-than-air (LTA) vehicles known as airships, which could maneuver and station-keep for weeks, months, or even years.

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John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon

March 12, 2013

Based on his award-winning 2010 book "John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon," Dr. John Logsdon will review the factors that led President John F. Kennedy, just four months after his inauguration, on May 25, 1961, to set as a national goal sending Americans to the Moon "before this decade is out." He will explore JFK's actions and second thoughts following that Cold War decision during the remaining thirty months of his presidency. Dr. Logsdon will address the question: "Was Apollo worth its costs and risks?" He will also relate the experience and evaluation of Apollo to current controversies regarding the character of future U.S. space efforts.

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Exploring Mars, the Moon, Asteroids, and Comets with Rovers and Landers

February 20, 2013

The exploration of our solar system over the past half century has been dominated by robotic flyby and orbital missions. Recently, however, NASA and other space agencies have been transitioning into an era of even deeper exploration, using robotic rovers and landers sent down to the surfaces of many of these worlds. Among the most successful and popular of these have been the recent Mars rover and lander missions -- Mars Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity, Phoenix, and now Curiosity. Plans are also in the works for new Mars landers and rovers, as well as new landers and rovers to explore in more detail the surfaces of the Moon as well as of small primitive bodies like asteroids and comets.

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Science and the New Space Race: Opportunities and Obstacles

January 10, 2013

NASA's Herculean feats of engineering, science, and exploration have been celebrated for over half a century, but a paradigm shift is underway. Private corporations have ambitious agendas for orbital payload delivery and astronaut transport, space tourism, and even interplanetary travel. SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft has successfully docked with the International Space Station; Virgin Galactic is selling tickets for flights in SpaceShipTwo and has unveiled LauncherOne, its small satellite launch system; and the share of space technologies developed and built in the private sphere continues to increase as both old and new companies ramp up their space efforts. Space agencies around the world, including in the United States, are increasing their reliance on these services to reduce costs and avoid long development cycles. What is the impact on the space, planetary, and earth sciences? Will these developments affect our ability to implement a broad, coherent space program that successfully tackles a wide array of ambitious scientific goals? How does this new landscape change the dynamics of international collaboration, public-private partnerships, intellectual property, and how will we strike a balance between scientific inquiry and the bottom line? Join us for a discussion of these issues with an internationally renowned panel of scientists, industry executives, and policy experts.

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Venus: Earth's Evil Twin or Just Misunderstood?

November 5, 2012

Venus is the second rock from the sun, and the planet most like Earth in terms of size and bulk composition. Yet the clouds contain sulfuric acid, the surface pressure is 100 times that of Earth's, and the surface temperature is 460° C, thanks in large part to the runaway greenhouse. Further, Venus has no plate tectonics, the system of moving plates that shapes Earth's geology. How did Venus end up so different from Earth today given its similar birth position in the solar disk? Volatiles and volcanism are keys to understanding Venus' history. Water, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide are key greenhouse gasses, and are released into the atmosphere from the interior when volcanoes erupt. But the volcanic history is controversial. Was resurfacing of the entire surface a rapid event, followed by little activity, or has it been more steady and more Earth-like? A discovery of geologically recent volcanism has reopened this debate and provided new insights into the sources of volcanism. Several volcanic locations previously identified as hotspots (areas where hot mantle plumes create volcanism, like Hawaii) show signs of recent volcanism. What does this tell us about how active Venus is today? Just how Earth-like is Venus?

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CubeSat: An Unlikely Success Story

October 30, 2012

CubeSat has become the de facto standard for small satellite development. These miniature spacecraft (smaller than a loaf of bread) are the choice for student satellites worldwide and are becoming a serious option for many missions being developed by traditional space organizations, from NASA and JPL to the Air Force and NSF. However, 10 years ago, when the CubeSat standard was developed by a Stanford-Cal Poly team success was not guaranteed. In the talk, we will look back at the development of the CubeSat standard over the years. We will explore some of the challenges facing the development team and try to identify some of the key factors leading to the standard's success. These lessons learned translate well to other innovative projects and may help support an environment that fosters innovation and out-of-the box thinking.

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Quantum Experiments in Space - From Quantum Technology to Quantum Foundations

June 27, 2012

Satellite-based platforms offer unique opportunities for quantum science. On the one hand, they provide global coverage for quantum communication, for example quantum cryptography links between arbitrary nodes. On the other hand, the possibility to combine low temperature and low pressure in a sustained micro-gravity environment makes space an unmatched ‘laboratory’ for new fundamental tests on the foundations of quantum physics. Professor Aspelmeyer will discuss the perspectives for bringing quantum experiments into space and report on the status of some of the ongoing projects around the world. Surprisingly, many available quantum technologies are already compatible with the requirements for space missions.

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Landing on Mars (do not try this at home)

April 11, 2012

Mars Science Laboratory's (MSL) Curiosity Rover is set to land on Mars on the evening of August 5, 2012. At nearly a metric ton, this rover is the largest single visitor to the red planet. MSL is the most recent, and perhaps the most ambitious mission in a series of missions that have been targeted to the surface of Mars since the early 1970's. About half of those missions made it to Mars safely. Rob Manning will discuss the history and the trajectory of Mars entry, descent and landing design and how the MSL project overcame some very difficult challenges.

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Exploring Protoplanets Through the Dawn Mission

May 2, 2012

The Dawn spacecraft reached Vesta, the second most massive asteroid in the main belt, in July of 2011, and has since returned a wealth of remarkable scientific findings. These have included the confirmation of Vesta as the parent body of a common class of meteorites (the Howardite-Eucrite-Diogenites), evidence for a substantial iron core, an impact record consistent with recent dynamical models driven by giant planet migration, and intriguing brightness and compositional variations. Vesta's nature is transitional between an asteroid and a planet, and represents one of the oldest intact planetary building blocks from the beginning of the solar system. Dawn's novel ion-propulsion system allows the spacecraft to travel further and orbit the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015.

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Science in Cyberspace

December 13, 2011

Science, scholarship, and education are being transformed by the advances in computation and information technology. Much of the scholarly work, including data, tools for their exploration and theoretical modeling, literature, and collaboration tools, are now moving to virtual environments. The exponential growth of data volumes, and the simultaneous increase in the data complexity offer both new scientific opportunities and new challenges for knowledge discovery in massive and complex data sets and data streams. We are now developing new methodologies for the scientific research in the 21st century.

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Photons to Bits and Beyond: The Science and Technology of Digital Image Sensors

November 11, 2011

Digital cameras are now small and everywhere, from cell phones to iPads to webcams to pill cameras to automobiles to digital SLRs to Mars Rovers. The images from these cameras shape our culture on a daily basis, from Facebook and Skype to unforgettable images of the Japanese tsunami and the Arab Spring. This presentation will address the science and engineering technology behind capturing these images, as well as a brief history of how this technology transferred from the lab at JPL into your cell phone. Future technology directions including the Quanta Image Sensor (QIS) will be discussed.

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Moving An Asteroid

September 28, 2011

The Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) and The Planetary Society present a public event examining novel ideas for capturing and moving a small Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) closer to Earth. Come learn why these Near-Earth Asteroids are interesting and important objects to explore.

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Many Suns, Many Worlds: The Galactic Quest for Exoplanets

October 4, 2010

Worlds like "Hot Jupiters" and "Super Earths" don't exist in our own solar system, but have been found in our very own galaxy. Astronomers have confirmed that 490 planets (and counting!) have been discovered outside our solar system. There may be billions of these "exoplanets" inhabiting the Milky Way alone. What do these discoveries, if anything, tell us about our place in the universe?

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Modern Methods of Observing Earthquakes: What We Have Learned about Haiti and Chile using Seismology and Space Observations

March 30, 2010

This public lecture provided an overview of the results obtained from analyzing the information gathered on the recent earthquakes which struck Haiti (January 12, Mw 7.0) and Chile (February 27, Mw 8.8). We discussed what has been learned on those earthquakes from seismology, observations made from satellite systems and field observations. We also discussed how space techniques could in the future improve earthquakes monitoring and help mitigate their effects.

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Seismology of the Sun and Stars

March 17, 2010

The origin of the magnetic field in cool stars with convective envelopes, such as the Sun, is not understood. Forthcoming observations of solar and stellar oscillations may provide the information that is required to constrain models of the dynamo. Professor Gizon will show how the solar interior can be imaged in three dimensions to infer flow velocities, structural inhomogeneities, and the magnetic field. In the near future, the seismology of solar-type stars of different ages, masses, and rotation periods should reveal crucial relationships between stellar internal properties (rotation, convection) and activity cycles. To give a taste of the possibilities in a Sun-like star observed by CoRot.

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Fossil Fuel Treaty Monitoring: Mission Impossible?

March 2, 2010

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (2009) tackled the challenge of designing and implementing a global agreement for control of greenhouse gas emissions. The meeting floundered, in part, due to a seemingly mundane technical challenge: If treaties to controls on carbon emissions are adopted, how would compliance be monitored?

Given the large the global emissions of fossil fuel, why is it such a challenge to know how much each country is emitting?

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Titan: A Strange Yet Familiar New World

May 26, 2010

The Cassini mission to Titan has unveiled a world that experiences surface temperatures about 200 degrees colder than Earth's, receives 100 times less sunlight, where hydrocarbon molecules rain from the sky and water ice is as hard as rock. But for all of its strange thermophysical and chemical state, Titan exhibits landforms remarkably familiar to our own: extensive dunes in the dry regions, braided channel networks draining from mountains to large basins, and perhaps most astonishingly, large seas and lakes in the high latitudes filled with liquid methane and ethane. Professor Ahronson will review the discoveries of the recent flybys of Titan with a focus on what has been learned about its lakes, their seasonal evolution, and the hypothesis that they undergo periodic change over tens of thousands of years, analogous to (Croll) Milankovitch climate cycles on Earth.

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Single Photon Detectors - from A to B (from Astronomy to Biology, and Beyond)

January 26, 2010

Professor Daniel Prober describes the development and uses of single photon detectors, covering photon energies from MeV to meV, and wavelengths from 1 picometer to 1 mm. The developments have been driven by many applications, drawn from astronomy, biology, communications, and materials analysis. Intended for a general scientific audience, Professor Prober presents a selection of these developments and applications.

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The Human and Scientific Tale of Galileo

November 19, 2009

Prof. Righini, an astronomer with the university of Firenze and a lifelong scholar and admirer of Galileo, recently authored the book Galileo: among science, faith and politics, from which he has developed a lecture The human and Scientific tale of Galileo, presented to the Italian audiences. An English version was developed specifically for this event. The lecture presented a portrait that spans the scientific accomplishments of an exceptional scientist to the personal limitations and flaws of a man, brings him to life and makes him endearing to us all for his extraordinary humanity and courage in standing by reason in the face of persecution.

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The MSU Debate, Climate Auditing, and the Freedom of Information Act

September 3, 2009

Since the late 1960s, scientists have performed experiments in which computer models of the climate system are run with human-caused increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs). These experiments consistently showed that increases in atmospheric concentrations of GHGs should lead to pronounced warming, both at the Earth's surface and in the troposphere. The models also predicted that in the tropics, the warming of the troposphere should be larger than the warming of the surface.

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The Darkest Galaxies

July 22, 2009

In the past three years, fourteen Milky Way satellite galaxies have been discovered, more than doubling the known population. These newly discovered "ultra-faint" galaxies have emerged as the least luminous and most dark matter-dominated galaxies in the known Universe. They are dramatically reshaping our understanding of galaxy formation and may hold the keys to deciphering the nature of dark matter. Professor Marla Geha reviewed our current understanding of the ultra-faint galaxies, focusing on the constraints these objects provide on dark matter.

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