Aerospace

Gravity does funny things.   While the Earth looks rather round in pictures from space, the distortions that would have to occur in order to have uniform gravity everywhere would make it look more like...a potato, or a squashed basketball.

ESA's GOCE satellite has gathered enough data to map Earth's gravity with unrivaled precision, and so we get the most accurate model of the 'geoid' ever produced.  The geoid is the surface of an ideal global ocean in the absence of tides and currents, shaped only by gravity. It is a crucial reference for measuring ocean circulation, sea-level change and ice dynamics.  
Back before I became a ham-licensed PCB-ordering flux-soldering basement-building boutique satellite maker, it all started with an idea-- actually, with a column on my other ID here at Science 2.0.  And since I'm still cooking with a 101-degree fever, I figure I'll go for that way-back-machine wavy effect and let you all read where it all began.

Alex
All space missions end-- some with a whimper, some with a 'fwoosh' of reentry.  For longevity, it's hard to surpass the twin Voyager probes.  They have been flying steadily for almost 30 years (since 1977), have passed the heliopause's termination shock, and are still cruising on momentum and sending back messages using the power equivalent of just 3 light bulbs.
If you're in the camp that says the U.S. military is not ridiculously ahead of the rest of the world enough, there is good news.   Months ahead of schedule, scientists at Los Alamos National Lab have achieved a breakthrough with the Free Electron Laser (FEL) program, demonstrating an injector capable of producing the electrons needed to generate megawatt-class laser beams for the Navy's next-generation weapon system.
Last week I told you how to get your degree.  Now it's time to look at the life of a working scientist.  It's time for me to answer oft-asked questions like:
  • What is a scientist's regular day at work like?
  • What do you do?
  • Where do you do it-- office, home, et cetera?
  • Do you work alone or with others in the same enviornment?
  • What got you interested in science?
  • Was it easy to get a job?
  • Around how much can i expect to earn?
  • How many hours do you work a day?
  • Do you feel you have enough time to spend with your family?
On paper, collaborations seem like a good idea because the costs for one agency or country are lower.  In reality, says a new analysis by the National Research Council, federal agencies should not partner in conducting space and earth science missions unless there is a truly compelling reason to do so and clear criteria are met in advance.
2010 is the biggest year for life on Mars since 1898.  Or 1955 or whenever the last 'life on other planets' craze hit the public.  
 
But unlike those other times, there is good reason.  This year, over 20 different papers have invoked the chance there may once have been life on Mars in their work.    There is now all kinds of data discussing water on Mars, minerals on Mars and even that the soil might support life.  The Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets alone has 64 papers on Mars so far this year.
In the alchemical days of building your own circuit boards, you had to swirl hand-masked boards in noxious chemicals to burn away the layers you needed. Now, you can just pay by the inch. It's a glorious time for using home-designed printed circuit boards (PCBs).
Say you have a curious kid and you want to confirm the planet is round to, you know, show off how experimental results can verify mathematical ones.    If you are with the Brooklyn Space Program group, you build your own spacecraft, of course.

But it isn't that easy.    You can put a camera on a balloon, sure, but your camera needs to survive 100 MPH winds, temperatures of -60, speeds of 150 MPH and maybe a water landing.  To find it if it does land safely, you need to have a GPS attached that transmits coordinates to a cell tower.

Here is their story:
The prospective launch of the ambitious and successful Copenhagen Suborbitals rocket received a lot of press. The subsequent launch-abort and delay to spring may not seem an upbeat thing.  In a broad sense, though, it is.
"MAIN LOX VALVE FAILURE