AAS odds and ends

By Phil Plait | June 2, 2008 8:06 am

This is a funny way to start my reporting from the American Astronomical Society here in St. Louis, but news waits for no one!

1) First, a favor: if you participated in the online workshop on Sunday — even if you just watched the video stream — then we’re asking that you take just a minute or two and fill out a very brief survey. Basically, we’re just looking for feedback on what you liked and didn’t like about it. I know we had about 130 people at one point watching the streaming video, and some of you must have come from here. So please give us your opinions!

2) Tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7:00 is the blogger meetup. If you’re in the St. Louis area, please drop by!

3) There appears to have been some damage to the launchpad after STS-124 took off on Saturday. The flame trench — the concrete corridor that funnels the flame away from the Shuttle — has chunks of it missing, and debris was seen falling into the water near the pad. It’s unclear if the Shuttle itself got damaged, and we won’t know until it docks later today with the station. Universe Today has more info and some of the dramatic images.

4) Phoenix appears to have landed on some ice! And not only that, it’s started scooping. I am way too busy to keep up with Mars news, so you should really be getting your jones satisfied over at Emily’s place.

5) At these AAS meeting the news flows freely and rapidly. I’ll try to keep up, but it’ll be hard. In the meantime, all of us bigtime bloggers here will be crossposting at AstronomyCast Live, so you can read what everyone’s writing about.


Comments (8)

  1. Spiv

    Here’s some high res of the pad:

    The bricks getting blown out I understand, the buckled concrete is a little strange though.

  2. 01101001

    Fix the near-unintelligible survey question: “what you in”. I think it’s “what drew you in” and that’s how I answered (and I noted my confusion on the form, so if anyone reads early results, maybe it’ll get fixed fast).

  3. Did it land on ice or create the ice when it landed? How hot are the landing thrusters as it lands? I realize that the thrusters would push the surface dust away, but I just wonder if the thrusters were hot enough to melt the ice under the surface and cause liquid to rise to the surface then freeze when the lander landed.

    Either way, I can’t wait to find out what the ice has in it. This has been one of the most interesting probes I have been around to hear about. The rovers are way more interesting when they stop and find things or travel huge distances to check other sites. The fact that they have been operating for as long as they have is truly a testament to the scientists and engineers that developed them!

    Viva la Mars!

  4. Charles

    While concerns for the integrity of the orbiter after this are quite appropriate, given the speed of pad egress not to mention all of the forces in question blowing material away from the orbiter, there is probably not very much to worry about at all.

    Besides, the shuttle crew will inspect the craft fully after they get the spare arm off of and depart ISS.

  5. I finally own a little piece of heaven. After seeing a BA video where he holding a chunk of meteorite, I decided to seek one out myself. So now I have a 1.7 kg chunk of the Campo de Cielo meteorite… it’s about as big as my fist, but is a weird shape.

    It looks cool, and makes a great paperweight :)

  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Yay, probably ice, and if so it looks like the Snow Queen has melted and the slop refilled a crack.

    The reflectance makes this a tempting hypotheses, but I couldn’t believe the cheap way color information is provided or rather unfortunately not in this case, see Lakdawalla’s blog. What has the lidar that those puny LEDs doesn’t have, apart from no interest in specific color bands reflected?

    [Actually, good for NASA that they find ways to cut some corners. But too bad when things gets interesting.]

    The bricks getting blown out I understand, the buckled concrete is a little strange though.

    Looks like brick like concrete that is cracked and blown out. As it is likely reinforced, it can probably crack and bend on the iron during stress, and that could be part of what happened to those larger bricks.

    The rovers are way more interesting when they stop and find things or travel huge distances to check other sites.

    AFAIU the idea is that the probes, besides being in principle cheaper and less likely to fail et cetera, can land on places where the rovers can’t traverse to. Presumably this is one such place, despite the locally flat geography.

    I believe NASA likes a half-and-half, each time doing an alternate type of mission.

    “what you in”

    Blogging … *sigh*, not professionally, no.

  7. blf

    Torbjörn, my (admittedly superficial) understanding of the reason for the unsual LED colour imaging scheme is it’s intended (mostly) for use inside the trench, where the ambient light will be much dimmer. Yes, it doesn’t work so well on the surface, but as the arm digs down…

  8. MandyDax

    Did you see the “footprint” dubbed “Yeti”? The Phoenix’s scoop just touched the ground before they tried digging, and the impression looks like a footprint. There was an article over at Universe Today about it. I saw the footprint and thought, “Phil’s gonna have has hands full with this one.” XD

    PS: Where the BA’s book has been. Well, it wasn’t at Large Chain Bookstore cum Coffeeshop, but it is in transit to me.


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