As you see from the post dates, this blog is no longer maintained.



NASA and Disney have signed a Space Act Agreement for a series of and public outreach activities related to Disney-Pixar's new movie, WALL-E, opening in theaters nationwide on June 27, 2008.

This collaboration highlights the similarities between the movie's storyline and NASA's real-life work in robot technology, propulsion systems and astrophysics. Disney-Pixar's WALL-E is set 700 years in the future. The film's main character is the only rover-robot left on Earth. He meets a new robot named Eve, and together they take a journey through the universe.

"Great ideas for future exploration of the universe start with the imagination," said Robert Hopkins, chief of strategic communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We hope that with the help of our new robot friend WALL-E, NASA can encourage young people to learn about science and technology and become the explorers of tomorrow." (link)

Visit WALL-E's web site here, the NASA site here, and the Disney page for the movie here.

There are several posts on the VNOG blog (written by Victor Navone, the animator for WALL-E) about the development of WALL-E)

Wall-E Spotted in LA! from Blink on Vimeo.


Is there life on....?

This morning one of our Year 6 students asked me if I thought there might be life on another planet. His class had been talking about it, using this web site for a reference. I had recently heard this podcast from The Naked Scientists (Cambridge University) about life on Mars.

In one portion of the podcast, Chris Smith says
"Writing in this week's Science, Cornell researcher Steven Squyers and his colleagues describe how the movement of their rover, Spirit, which has a broken wheel, carved a furrow into the Martian surface, revealing a layer of very white-coloured material. Intrigued, the team turned the rover's instruments on the light coloured layer and identified it as silicate, a mineral which forms around structures such as hydrothermal vents and fumaroles when hot mineral-laden water emerges, cools and drops its cargo of salts.

"On Earth, environments like this contain abundant forms of life, and silica turns out to be extremely good at preserving them. So this discovery, say the researchers, is important for two key reasons. First it confirms that Mars had significant water in the past, but second it also pinpoints an important place to look for life in future."

Later in the show, he interviews Susan Conway, of the Open University, about what shaped the surface of Mars. Here's a bit of their conversation from the end of the interview:

(Chris has asked Susan her opinion about what formed the gullies visible on Mars in recent photographs. She explains that there are several hypotheses.)

Chris - What's your gut feeling at the moment?

Susan - I think it's water, personally. It's all up for debate, we'll have to see

Chris - If it is water, looking at the terrain, when do you think water last ran?

Susan - It could be anything in the last 100,000 years.

Chris - Which is very recent, isn't it?

Susan - it is very recent, yes.

Chris - Which means, if there was life there it could still have been viable up until 100,000 years ago which is a blink of an eye isn't it?

Susan - Yeah. If the water formed these features and then has gone back into the ground and we still have liquid water beneath the ground little micros still could be living there in the rock, eating the rock, eating the water and still sitting there waiting for us to discover them."
You can subscribe to the Naked Scientist podcast through iTunes, or on the program's web site.

You can download the Life on Mars episode below:
MP3 Podcast
Enhanced Podcast, with pictures and chapters.

If you want to read more about the concept of life, go to this Wikipedia for Schools page. There is an interesting article about extra-terrestrial life at this page of the Wikipedia for Schools,


Ulysses - freezing to death is the Sun? How does it work? What's Solar Wind? What's the heliosphere? What's a gravity-assist manoeuvre? What is "space weather"?

"Ulysses, a pioneering ESA/NASA mission, was launched in October 1990 to explore uncharted territories – the regions above and below the Sun’s poles - and study our star’s sphere of influence, or heliosphere, in the four dimensions of space and time.

Originally designed for a lifetime of five years, the mission has surpassed all expectations. The reams of data Ulysses has returned have forever changed the way scientists view the Sun and its effect on the space surrounding it." (link)

The mission will end because of "dwindling electrical power on-board the spacecraft, especially to power the internal heaters required to prevent the attitude control fuel from freezing. Once this fuel freezes, the spacecraft can longer be manoeuvred to keep it pointing at the Earth to maintain its data downlink". (Ulysses Mission Operations Team)

Go to Cold Peril: The Continuing Adventures of Ulysses to read the script of a podcast about the Ulysses Mission
Listen to this story via streaming audio, a downloadable file.

Read more about the Sun and the Ulysses Mission on these pages:

Ulysses Mission overview from ESA

How the Sun affects us on Earth

The Ulysses Space Craft

Click on the picture below to see it full size. It is a screen shot of the ESA's Space Science Missions web site display of information about 10 ESA missions by using a comprehensive 3D model Solar System environment. It shows where the 10 ESA satellites were at the moment I took the shot. Click on this link, then on the Space Science Missions choice, and then Solar System View. (There are other interesting views at that page, too. Go investigate it!)


Buzz Lightyear has finally made it into space!

Buzz Lightyear is on the ST124 Space Shuttle flight to the International Space Station. Visit this page for an interactive page of games, "live transmissions" and videos from Buzz.

(You could also read what the humans are doing on the flight...)

Life on Mars?

NASA's Phoenix Mission has landed in the northern polar region of Mars, and there has been lots of exciting pictures, podcasts and articles about the new findings.

Visit this page at the Naked Scientists web site, and listen to - or download - their podcast about "how looking in valleys (of the Martian landscape) could tell us what shaped the Martian surface, and how probing Martian mud could reveal signs of life past and present."

The Naked Scientists is "The Naked Scientists are a media-savvy group of physicians and researchers from Cambridge University who use radio, live lectures, and the Internet to strip science down to its bare essentials, and promote it to the general public. Their award winning BBC weekly radio programme, The Naked Scientists, reaches a potential audience of 6 million listeners across the east of England, and also has an international following on the web." Their podcast is always fast-paced and fascinating.

You can listen to a podcast about the countdown for the mission at this link.

Visit the NASA Phoenix Mars Lander web page for the live pictures, videos, statistics and stories about the project.

Background on the mission is at this page.

There is an Odysen start page on the Mission here, which includes a news search widget for Mars, a news search widget for the Phoenix Mars Lander, a website bookmarker widget with links to NASA, and Movies on Mars, a Flickr photo widget, and a YouTube widget with Mars video clips.

Human Space Exploration

Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

The European Space Agency has a story about Human Space exploration in the future (Think about it! You might be the explorer!)
"What is the overall concept of a human mission to Mars? And what is the right mix of human/robotic missions and international partners for future missions to the Moon and Mars?

To land, first, on the Moon and, later, on Mars - in the 2030 timeframe - scientists need a mix of human and robotic missions to know in advance what challenges must be met - to know how humans can survive for years under microgravity, to scout landing zones and to develop precise navigation and artificial intelligence techniques."

You can watch a video about the story at this link.