I feel that most individuals, certainly most adults, wonder if anyone is out there.  Are there other planets with intelligent life and is that life humanoid or at least somewhat intelligent?  The first effort would be to define intelligent.  Don’t laugh but this does have some merit and has been considered by behavioral scientists for a significant length of time.  On Earth, human intelligence took nearly four (4) Billion years to develop. If living beings develop advanced technology, they can make their existence known to the Universe. A working definition of “intelligent” includes self-awareness, use of tools, and use of language. There are other defining traits, as follows:

  • Crude perceptive abilities: Like concept of a handshake (sending a message and acknowledging receipt of one sent by you)
  • Crude communication abilities: Some primitive language and vocabulary
  • Sentience: Should be able of original thought and motivation, some form of self -awareness
  • Retention: Ability to remember and recall information on will
  • Some form of mathematical ability like counting

Please feel free to apply your own definition to intelligence. You will probably come as close as anyone to a workable one.


NASA is looking and one manner in which the search occurs is with the new satellite TESS.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is an Explorer-class planet finder.   TESS will pick up the search for exoplanets as the Kepler Space Telescope runs out of fuel.

Kepler, which has discovered more than 4,500 potential planets and confirmed exoplanets, launched in 2009. After mechanical failure in 2013, it entered a new phase of campaigns to survey other areas of the sky for exoplanets, called the K2 mission. This enabled researchers to discover even more exoplanets, understand the evolution of stars and gain insight about supernovae and black holes.

Soon, Kepler’s mission will end, and it will be abandoned in space, orbiting the sun, therefore:  never getting closer to Earth than the moon.

The spaceborne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to detect small planets with bright host stars in the solar neighborhood, so that detailed characterizations of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed. TESS is only one satellite used to determine if there are any “goldy-locks” planets in our solar system. TESS will survey an area four hundred (400) times larger than Kepler observed. This includes two hundred thousand (200,000) of the brightest nearby stars. Over the course of two years, the four wide-field cameras on board will stare at different sectors of the sky for days at a time.

TESS will begin by looking at the Southern Hemisphere sky for the first year and move to the Northern Hemisphere in the second year. It can accomplish this lofty goal by dividing the sky into thirteen (13) sections and looking at each one for twenty-seven (27) days before moving on to the next.

The various missions launched to discover exoplanets may be seen below.

As mentioned earlier, TESS will monitor the brightness of more than two hundred thousand (200,000) stars during a two-year mission, searching for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Transits occur when a planet’s orbit carries it directly in front of its parent star as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to catalog more than fifteen hundred (1,500) transiting exoplanet candidates, including a sample of approximately five hundred (500) Earth-sized and ‘Super Earth’ planets, with radii less than twice that of the Earth. TESS will detect small rock-and-ice planets orbiting a diverse range of stellar types and covering a wide span of orbital periods, including rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.  This is a major undertaking and you might suspect so joint-ventures are an absolute must.  With that being the case, the major parterners in this endeavor may be seen as follows:

The project overview is given by the next pictorial.

In summary:

TESS will tile the sky with 26 observation sectors:

  • At least 27 days staring at each 24° × 96° sector
  • Brightest 200,000 stars at 1-minute cadence
  • Full frame images with 30-minute cadence
  • Map Southern hemisphere in first year
  • Map Northern hemisphere in second year
  • Sectors overlap at ecliptic poles for sensitivity to smaller and longer period planets in JWST Continuous Viewing Zone (CVZ)

TESS observes from unique High Earth Orbit (HEO):

  • Unobstructed view for continuous light curves
  • Two 13.7-day orbits per observation sector
  • Stable 2:1 resonance with Moon’s orbit
  • Thermally stable and low-radiation

The physical hardware looks as follows:

You can’t tell much about the individual components from the digital picture above but suffice it to say that TESS is a significant improvement relative to Kepler as far as technology.  The search continues and I do not know what will happen if we ever discover ET.  Imagine the areas of life that would affect?





January 6, 2018

OKAY, how many of you have said already this year?  “MAN, I have to lose some weight.”  I have a dear friend who put on a little weight over a couple of years and he commented: “Twenty or twenty-five pounds every year and pretty soon it adds up.”  It does add up.  Let’s look at several numbers from the CDC and other sources.

  • The CDC organization estimates that three-quarters (3/4of the American population will likely be overweight or obese by 2020. The latest figures, as of 2014, show that more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults age twenty (20) and older and seventeen percent (17%) of children and adolescents aged two through nineteen (2–19) years were obese.
  • American ObesityRates are on the Rise, Gallup Poll Finds. Americans have become even fatter than before, with nearly twenty-eight (28%) percent saying they are clinically obese, a new survey finds. … At 180 pounds this person has a BMI of thirty (30) and is considered obese.

Now, you might say—we are in good company:  According to the World Health Organization, the following countries have the highest rates of obesity.

  • Republic of Nauru. Formerly known as Pleasant Island, this tiny island country in the South Pacific only has a population of 9,300. …
  • American Samoa. …
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • French Polynesia. …
  • Republic of Kiribati. …
  • Saudi Arabia. …
  • Panama.

There is absolutely no doubt that more and more Americans are over weight even surpassing the magic BMI number of 30.  We all know what reduction in weight can do for us on an individual basis, but have you ever considered what reduction in weight can do for “other items”—namely hardware?

  • Using light-weight components, (composite materials) and high-efficiency engines enabled by advanced materials for internal-combustion engines in one-quarter of U.S. fleet trucks and automobiles could possibly save more than five (5) billion gallons of fuel annually by 2030. This is according to the US Energy Department Vehicle Technologies Office.
  • This is possible because, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, The Department of Energy’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility has a capacity to produce up to twenty-five (25) tons of carbon fiber per year.
  • Replacing heavy steel with high-strength steel, aluminum, or glass fiber-reinforced polymer composites can decrease component weight by ten to sixty percent (10-60 %). Longer term, materials such as magnesium and carbon fiber-reinforced composites could reduce the weight of some components by fifty to seventy-five percent (50-75%).
  • It costs $10,000 per pound to put one pound of payload into Earth orbit. NASA’s goal is to reduce the cost of getting to space down to hundreds of dollars per pound within twenty-five (25) years and tens of dollars per pound within forty (40) years.
  • Space-X Falcon Heavy rocket will be the first ever rocket to break the $1,000 per pound per orbit barrier—less than a tenth as much as the Shuttle. ( SpaceX press release, July 13, 2017.)
  • The Solar Impulse 2 flew 40,000 Km without fuel. The 3,257-pound solar plane used sandwiched carbon fiber and honey-combed alveolate foam for the fuselage, cockpit and wing spars.

So you see, reduction in weight can have lasting affects for just about every person and some pieces of hardware.   Let’s you and I get it off.


January 31, 2017

In looking at the political landscape over the last fifty (50) years I can truly say I have no real heroes.  Of course, ‘beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder’.  Most of our politicians are much too concerned about their base, their brand and their legacy to be bothered with discerning and carrying out the will of the people. There are two notable exceptions—Sir Winston Churchill and President Dwight David Eisenhower.  Let’s look at the achievements of President Eisenhower.


  • Launched the Interstate Highway System. Also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, this act came into effect on June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it. It authorized $25 billion for 41,000 miles of interstate highways to be constructed in the United States.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed the Act that created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which provided for the peaceful and collaborative exploration of space.
  • The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. Launched the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which ultimately led to the development of the Internet. (Cry your eyes out Al Gore!)
  • Established a strong science education via the National Defense Education Act
  • Sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools
  • Signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote by African-Americans. After declaring that “There must be no second class citizens in this country,” PresidentDwight Eisenhower told the District of Columbia to use their schools as a model of integrating black and white public schools. He proposed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 to Congress, which he signed into law. The 1957 Act created a civil rights office within the U.S. Justice Department and the Civil Rights Commission; both departments had the authority to prosecute discriminatory cases and voting rights intrusions. They were the first significant civil rights laws since the late 19th Century.
  • Opposed Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking the modern expanded version of executive privilege.
  • Desegregated the Armed Forces: Within his first two years as president, Eisenhower forced the desegregation of the military by reinforcing Executive Order #9981 issued by President Harry Truman in 1948.


  • Deposed the leader of Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d’̩tat .
  • Armistice that ended the Korean War: Eisenhower used his formidable military reputation to imply a threat of nuclear attacks if North Korea, China and South Korea didn’t sign an Armistice to end the three-year-old bloody war. It was signed on July 27, 1953.
  • Prioritized inexpensive nuclear weapons and a reduction of conventional military forces as a means of keeping pressure on the Soviet Union and reducing the federal deficit
  • First to articulate the domino theory of communist expansion in 1954
  • Established the US policy of defending Taiwan from Chinese communist aggression in the 1955 Formosa Resolution
  • Forced Israel, the UK, and France to end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956
  • Sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Nasser-inspired revolution


  • Becoming a five-star general in the United States Army
  • Serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II
  • Serving as the supervisor and planner of North Africa’s invasion in Operation Torch in 1942-43
  • Successfully invading France and Germany in 1944-45, attacking from the Western Front
  • Becoming the first Supreme Commander of NATO
  • Becoming the 34th President of the United States for two terms, 1953 until 1961

All of these accomplishments are celebrated in a new book by Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney. Bret Baier, the chief political anchor for Fox News and talented writer Catherine Whitney, have written a book that comes at a timely moment in American history. I found a great deal of similarities between the transition of Eisenhower and Kennedy relative to the transition of Obama and Trump.  Maybe I was just looking for them but in my opinion they are definitely there.  “Three Days in January” records the final days of the Eisenhower presidency and the transition of leadership to John F. Kennedy. Baier describes the three days leading up to Kennedy’s inauguration as the culmination of one of America’s greatest leaders who used this brief time to prepare both the country and the next president for upcoming challenges.

Eisenhower did not particularly like JFK.  Baier writes: “In most respects, Kennedy, a son of privilege following a dynastic pathway, was unknowable to Ike. He was as different from Eisenhower as he could be, as well as from Truman, who didn’t much care for him.” Times of transition are difficult under the very best of circumstances but from Eisenhower to Kennedy was a time, as described by Baier, as being a time of concern on Eisenhower’s part.  There were unknowns in Eisenhower’s mind as to whether Kennedy could do the job.  Couple that with Kennedy’s young age and inexperience in global affairs and you have a compelling story.  During those three days, though, Eisenhower warmed up to Kennedy.  There was a concerted effort to make the transition as smooth as possible and even though Kennedy and his staff seemed to be very cocky, the outgoing President was very instrumental in giving President-elect Kennedy information that would serve him very well during his first one hundred days and beyond.

On January 17, 1961, three days before inauguration ceremonies, Eisenhower gave a notable and now-prophetic farewell speech in which he looked into the future, warning Americans about the dangers of putting partisanship above national interest, the risks of deficit spending, the expansion of the military-industrial complex and the growing influence of special interest groups on government officials.  Eisenhower’s concerns have become reality in our modern day with technology outpacing legislation and common sense to oversee development of hardware that can destroy us all.  This book is about those three days and brief time-periods prior to and after that very meaningful speech.

If you are a historian, a news junkie, or someone who just likes to keep up, I can definitely recommend this book to you.  It is extremely well-written and wonderfully researched. Mr. Baier and Ms. Whitney have done their research with each reference noted, by chapter, in the back of the book.  It is very obvious that considerable time and effort was applied to each paragraph to bring about a coherent and compelling novel.  It, in my opinion, is not just a book but a slice of history.  A document to be read and enjoyed.


September 4, 2016

OK, if you are like me, your sitting there asking yourself just what on Earth is a robonaught?  A robot is an electromechanical device used primarily to take the labor and sometimes danger from human activity.  As you well know, robotic systems have been in use for many years with each year providing systems of increasing sophistication.  An astronaut is an individual operating in outer space.  Let’s take a proper definition for ROBONAUGHT as provided by NASA.

“A Robonaut is a dexterous humanoid robot built and designed at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Our challenge is to build machines that can help humans work and explore in space. Working side by side with humans, or going where the risks are too great for people, Robonauts will expand our ability for construction and discovery. Central to that effort is a capability we call dexterous manipulation, embodied by an ability to use one’s hand to do work, and our challenge has been to build machines with dexterity that exceeds that of a suited astronaut.”

My information is derived from “NASA Tech Briefs”, Vol 40, No 7, July 2016 publication.

If you had your own personal robotic system, what would you ask that system to do?  Several options surface in my world as follows: 1.) Mow the lawn, 2.) Trim hedges, 3.) Wash my cars, 4.) Clean the gutters, 5.) Vacuum floors in our house, 6.) Wash windows, and 7.) Do the laundry.   (As you can see, I’m not really into yard work or even house work.)  Just about all of the tasks I do on a regular basis are home-grown, outdoor jobs and time-consuming.

For NASA, the International Space Station (ISS) has become a marvelous test-bed for developing the world’s most advanced robotic technology—technology that definitely represents the cutting-edge in space exploration and ground research.  The ISS now hosts a significant array of state-of-the are robotic projects including human-scale dexterous robots and free-flying robots.  (NOTE:  The vendor is Astrobee and they have developed for NASA a free-flyer robotic system consists of structure, propulsion, power, guidance, navigation and control (GN&C), command and data handling (C&DH), avionics, communications, dock mechanism, and perching arm subsystems. The Astrobee element is designed to be self-contained and capable of autonomous localization, orientation, navigation and holonomic motion as well as autonomous resupply of consumables while operating inside the USOS.)  These robotic systems are not only enabling the future of human-robot space exploration but promising extraordinary benefits for Earth-bound applications.

The initial purpose for exploring the design and fabrication of a human robotic system was to assist astronauts in completing tasks in which an additional pair or pairs of hands would be very helpful or to perform jobs either too hazardous or too mundane for crewmembers.  For this reason, the  Robonaut 2, was NASA’s first humanoid robot in space and was selected as the NASA Government Invention of the Year for 2014. Many outstanding inventions were considered for this award but Robonaut 2 was chosen after a challenging review by the NASA selection committee that evaluated the robot in the following areas: 1.) Aerospace Significance, 2.) Industry Significance, 3.) Humanitarian Significance, 4.) Technology Readiness Level, 5.) NASA Use, and 6.) Industry Use and Creativity. Robonaut 2 technologies have resulted in thirty-nine (39) issued patents, with several more under review. The NASA Invention of the Year is a first for a humanoid robot and with another in a series of firsts for Robonaut 2 that include: first robot inside a human space vehicle operating without a cage, and first robot to work with human-rated tools in space.  The R2 system developed by NASA is shown in the following JPEGs:

R2 Robotic System

R2 Robotic System(2)

R2 Robotic System(3)


Robonaut 2, NASA’s first humanoid robot in space, was selected as the NASA Government Invention of the Year for 2014. Many outstanding inventions were considered for this award, and Robonaut 2 was chosen after a challenging review by the NASA selection committee that evaluated the robot in the following areas: Aerospace Significance, Industry Significance, Humanitarian Significance, Technology Readiness Level, NASA Use, Industry Use and Creativity. Robonaut 2 technologies have resulted in thirty-nine (39) issued patents, with several more under review. The NASA Invention of the Year is a first for a humanoid robot and another in a series of firsts for Robonaut 2 that include: first robot inside a human space vehicle operating without a cage, and first robot to work with human-rated tools in space.

R2 first powered up for the first time in August 2011. Since that time, robotics engineers have tested R2 on ISS, completing tasks ranging from velocity air measurements to handrail cleaning—simple but necessary tasks that require a great deal of crew time.   R2 also has an on-board task of flipping switches and pushing buttons, each time controlled by space station crew members through the use of virtual reality gear. According to Steve Gaddis, “we are currently working on teaching him how to look for handrails and avoid obstacles.”

The Robonaut project has been conducting research in robotics technology on board the International Space Station (ISS) since 2012.  Recently, the original upper body humanoid robot was upgraded by the addition of two climbing manipulators (“legs”), more capable processors, and new sensors. While Robonaut 2 (R2) has been working through checkout exercises on orbit following the upgrade, technology development on the ground has continued to advance. Through the Active Reduced Gravity Offload System (ARGOS), the Robonaut team has been able to develop technologies that will enable full operation of the robotic testbed on orbit using similar robots located at the Johnson Space Center. Once these technologies have been vetted in this way, they will be implemented and tested on the R2 unit on board the ISS. The goal of this work is to create a fully-featured robotics research platform on board the ISS to increase the technology readiness level of technologies that will aid in future exploration missions.

One advantage of a humanoid design is that Robonaut can take over simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks on places such as the International Space Station. Because R2 is approaching human dexterity, tasks such as changing out an air filter can be performed without modifications to the existing design.

More and more we are seeing robotic systems do the work of humans.  It is just a matter of time before we see their usage here on terra-ferma.  I mean human-type robotic systems used to serve man.  Let’s just hope we do not evolve into the “age of the machines”.  I think I may take another look at the movie Terminator.


July 21, 2016

The following information was taken from the NASA web site and the Machine Design Magazine.


After an almost five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a thirty-five (35) minute engine burn. Confirmation the burn was successful was received on Earth at 8:53 p.m. PDT (11:53 p.m. EDT) Monday, July 4. A message from NASA is as follows:

“Independence Day always is something to celebrate, but today we can add to America’s birthday another reason to cheer — Juno is at Jupiter,” said NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. “And what is more American than a NASA mission going boldly where no spacecraft has gone before? With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved.”

Confirmation of a successful orbit insertion was received from Juno tracking data monitored at the navigation facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, as well as at the Lockheed Martin Juno operations center in Littleton, Colorado. The telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas in Goldstone, California, and Canberra, Australia.

“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of the 4th of July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.”

Preplanned events leading up to the orbital insertion engine burn included changing the spacecraft’s attitude to point the main engine in the desired direction and then increasing the spacecraft’s rotation rate from 2 to 5 revolutions per minute (RPM) to help stabilize it..

The burn of Juno’s 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine began on time at 8:18 p.m. PDT (11:18 p.m. EDT), decreasing the spacecraft’s velocity by 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second) and allowing Juno to be captured in orbit around Jupiter. Soon after the burn was completed, Juno turned so that the sun’s rays could once again reach the 18,698 individual solar cells that give Juno its energy.

“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team the mission they are looking for.”

Can you imagine a 1.7 billion (yes that’s with a “B”) mile journey AND the ability to monitor the process?  This is truly an engineering feat that should make history.   (Too bad our politicians are busy getting themselves elected and reelected.)

Over the next few months, Juno’s mission and science teams will perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, final calibration of science instruments and some science collection.

“Our official science collection phase begins in October, but we’ve figured out a way to collect data a lot earlier than that,” said Bolton. “Which when you’re talking about the single biggest planetary body in the solar system is a really good thing. There is a lot to see and do here.”

Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. With its suite of nine science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras. The mission also will let us take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter also can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.

The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. JPL manages the Juno mission for NASA. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.


Before we list the systems, let’s take a look at the physical “machine”.

Juno Configuration

As you can see, the design is truly remarkable and includes the following modules:

  • SOLAR PANELS—Juno requires 18,000 solar cells to gather enough energy for it’s journey, 508 million miles from our sun.  In January, Juno broke the record as the first solar-powered spacecraft to fly further than 493 million miles from the sun.
  • RADIATION VAULT—During its polar orbit, Juno will repeatedly pass through the intense radiation belt that surrounds Jupiter’s equator, charged by ions and particles from Jupiter’s atmosphere and moons suspended in Juno’s colossal magnetic field. The magnetic belt, which measures 1,000 times the human toxicity level, has a radio frequency that can be detected from Earth and extends into earth’s orbit.
  • GRAVITY SCIENCE EXPERIMENT—Using advanced gravity science tools; Juno will create a detailed map of Jupiter’s gravitational field to infer Jupiter’s mass distribution and internal structure.
  • VECTOR MAGNETOMETER (MAG)—Juno’s next mission is to map Jupiter’s massive magnetic field, which extends approximately two (2) million miles toward the sun, shielding Jupiter from solar flares.  It also tails out for more than six hundred (600) million miles in solar orbit.  The dynamo is more than 20,000 times greater than that of the Earth.
  • MICROWAVE RADIOMETERS–Microwave radiomometers (MWR) will detect six (6) microwave and radio frequencies generated by the atmosphere’s thermal emissions.  This will aid in determining the depths of various cloud forms.
  • DETAILED MAPPING OF AURORA BOREALIS AND PLASMA CONTENT—As Juno passes Jupiter’s poles, cameral will capture high-resolution images of aurora borealis, and particle detectors will analyze the plasmas responsible for them.  Not only are Jupiter’s auroras much larger than those of Earth, they are also much more frequent because they are created by atmospheric plasma rather than solar flares.
  • JEDI MEASURES HIGH-ENERGY PARTICLES–Three Jupiter energetic particle detector instruments (JEDIs) will measure the angular distribution of high-energy particles as they interact with Jupiter’s upper atmospheres and inner magnetospheres to contribute to Jupiter’s northern and southern lights.
  • JADE MEASURE OF LOW-ENERGY PARTICLES—JADE, the Jovian Aurora Distributions Experiment, works in conjunction with DEDI to measure the angular distribution of lower-energy electrons and ions ranging from zero (0) to thirty (30) electron volts.
  • WAVES MEASURES PLASMA MOVEMENT—The radio/plasma wave experiment, called WAVES, will be used to measure radio frequencies  (50 Hz to 40 MHz) generated by the plasma in the magnetospheres.
  • UVS,JIRAM CAPTURE NORTHERN/SOUTHERN LIGHTS—By capturing wavelength of seventy (70) to two hundred and five (205) nm, an ultraviolet imager/spectrometer (UVS) will generate images of the auroras UV spectrum to view the auroras during the Jovian day.
  • HIGH-RESOLUTION CAMERA—JunoCam, a high-resolution color camera, will capture red, green and blue wavelengths photos of Jupiter’s atmosphere and aurora.  The NASA team expects the camera to last about seven orbits before being destroyed by radiation.


This technology is truly amazing to me.  Think of the planning, the engineering design, the testing, the computer programming needed to bring this program to fruition.  Amazing!



January 30, 2016


It is very difficult to believe that the Hubble Telescope is twenty-five (25) years in orbit. The launch date for Hubble was April 24, 1990 and remains in operation. Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images with negligible background light.  It rotates approximately 345 miles above our Earth.   It has recorded some of the most detailed visible-light images ever, allowing a deep view into space and time. Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe. A digital photograph of the Hubble Telescope is given as follows:


Every 97 minutes, Hubble completes a spin around Earth, moving at the speed of about five miles per second (8 km per second) — fast enough to travel across the United States in about 10 minutes. As it travels, Hubble’s mirror captures light and directs it into its several scientific instruments.

Hubble is a type of telescope known as a Cassegrain reflector. Light hits the telescope’s main mirror, or primary mirror. It bounces off the primary mirror and encounters a secondary mirror. The secondary mirror focuses the light through a hole in the center of the primary mirror that leads to the telescope’s science instruments.

People often mistakenly believe that a telescope’s power lies in its ability to magnify objects. Telescopes actually work by collecting more light than the human eye can capture on its own. The larger a telescope’s mirror, the more light it can collect, and the better its vision. Hubble’s primary mirror is 94.5 inches (2.4 m) in diameter. This mirror is small compared with those of current ground-based telescopes, which can be 400 inches (1,000 cm) and up, but Hubble’s location beyond the atmosphere gives it remarkable clarity.

As you might suspect, the marvelous Hubble Telescope is using technology that is considered outdated relative to what is available today.  Still working and still providing remarkable photographs and data, the scientists and engineers at NASA recognized a newer device would ultimately be needed to push the boundaries of astronomy. Hence the James Webb Telescope.  OK, just who is James Webb?


The man whose name NASA has chosen to bestow upon the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is most commonly linked to the Apollo moon program, not to science.

Yet, many believe that James E. Webb, who ran the fledgling space agency from February 1961 to October 1968, did more for science than perhaps any other government official, and that it is only fitting that the Next Generation Space Telescope would be named after him.

Webb’s record of support for space science would support those views. Although President John Kennedy had committed the nation to landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade, Webb believed that the space program was more than a political race. He believed that NASA had to strike a balance between human space flight and science because such a combination would serve as a catalyst for strengthening the nation’s universities and aerospace industry.

By the time Webb retired just a few months before the first moon landing in July 1969, NASA had launched more than 75 space science missions to study the stars and galaxies, our own Sun and the as-yet-unknown environment of space above the Earth’s atmosphere. Missions such as the Orbiting Solar Observatory and the Explorer series of astronomical satellites built the foundation for the most successful period of astronomical discovery in history, which continues today.  It is absolutely fitting that the next generation telescope be named after Mr. Webb.


The graphic below shows an excellent comparison between Hubble and James Webb relative capabilities.

Hubble vs James Webb


JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate JWST after launch.

Several innovative technologies have been developed for JWST. These include a primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch. The mirrors are made of ultra-lightweight beryllium. JWST’s biggest feature is a tennis court-sized five-layer sunshield that attenuates heat from the Sun more than a million times. The telescope’s four instruments – cameras and spectrometers – have detectors that are able to record extremely faint signals. One instrument (NIRSpec) has programmable micro-shutters, which enable observation up to 100 objects simultaneously. JWST also has a cryo-cooler for cooling the mid-infrared detectors of another instrument (MIRI) to a very cold 7 K so they can work.  The JPEG below will show the instrumentation assembled into the platform and give a very brief summary of purpose.


The telescope will be “parked” 932,000 miles above Earth into space; obviously, beyond our moon.  With the ability to collect much more light than Hubble, the Webb Telescope will be able to see distant objects as they existed much earlier in time, specifically 13.5 billion years earlier.  This number is only 200,000 years after the “big bang”.

Other JPEGs of the telescope are given as follows:

James Webb in Orbit

(ABOVE) The Webb Telescope in Orbit.

Given below:  The James Webb Telescope Team.


On 6 July 2011, the United States House of Representatives’ appropriations committee on Commerce, Justice, and Science moved to cancel the James Webb project by proposing an FY2012 budget that removed $1.9bn from NASA’s overall budget, of which roughly one quarter was for JWST.  This budget proposal was approved by subcommittee vote the following day; however, in November 2011, Congress reversed plans to cancel the JWST and instead capped additional funding to complete the project at $8 billion.

The committee charged that the project was “billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management”. The telescope was originally estimated to cost $1.6bn but the cost estimate grew throughout the early development reaching about $5bn by the time the mission was formally confirmed for construction start in 2008. In summer 2010, the mission passed its Critical Design Review with excellent grades on all technical matters, but schedule and cost slips at that time prompted US Senator Barbara Mikulski to call for an independent review of the project. The Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP) chaired by J. Casani (JPL) found that the earliest launch date was in late 2015 at an extra cost of $1.5bn (for a total of $6.5bn). They also pointed out that this would have required extra funding in FY2011 and FY2012 and that any later launch date would lead to a higher total cost. Because the runaway budget diverted funding from other research, the science journal Nature described the James Webb as “the telescope that ate astronomy”. However, termination of the project as proposed by the House appropriation committee would not have provided funding to other missions, as the JWST line would have been terminated with the funding leaving astrophysics (and the NASA budget) entirely. You can see from the following digital, Congress was certainly within their right to cancel the program.


It is not an inexpensive program.  The House of Representatives, as mentioned above, did not kill the program. Launch is still scheduled for 20 October, 2018. I personally believe this was the proper move for them to make.

As always, I welcome your comments.



October 3, 2015

Data for each university was taken from Wikipedia.  I checked information for each school relative to authenticity and found Wikipedia to be correct in every case.

USA Today recently published an article from the London-based “Times Higher Education World University Rankings”.  This organization was founded in 2004 for the sole purpose of evaluating universities across the world.  Evaluations are accomplished using the following areas of university life:

  • Teaching ability and qualification of individual teachers
  • International outlook
  • Reputation of university
  • Research initiatives
  • Student-staff ratios
  • Income from industries
  • Female-male ratios
  • Quality of student body
  • Citations

There were thirteen (13) performance criteria in the total evaluation.  The nine (9) above give an indication as to the depth of the investigation. Eight hundred (800) universities from seventy (70) countries were evaluated.  This year, there were only sixty-three (63) out of two hundred (200) schools that made the “best in the world” list. Let’s take a look at the top fifteen (15).  These are in order.

  1. California Institute of Technology–The California Institute of Technologyor Caltech is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States.   The school was founded as a preparatory and vocational institution by Amos G. Throop in 1891.  Even from the early years, the college attracted influential scientists such as George Ellery HaleArthur Amos Noyes, and Robert Andrews Millikan. The vocational and preparatory schools were disbanded and spun off in 1910, and the college assumed its present name in 1921. In 1934, Caltech was elected to the Association, and the antecedents of NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which Caltech continues to manage and operate, were established between 1936 and 1943 under Theodore von Kármán. The university is one among a small group of Institutes of Technology in the United States which tends to be primarily devoted to the instruction of technical arts and applied sciences.
  2. Oxford University–The University of Oxford(informally Oxford University or simply Oxford) is a collegiate research university located in Oxford, England. While having no known date of foundation, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second-oldest surviving university.  It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.  After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled northeast to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two “ancient universities” are frequently jointly referred to as “Oxbridge“.
  3. Stanford University–Stanford University(officially Leland Stanford Junior University) is a private research university in StanfordCalifornia.  It is definitely one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, with the top position in numerous rankings and measures in the United States. Stanford was founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford, former Governor and S. Senator from California.  Mr. Stanford was a railroad tycoon.  He and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, started the school in memory of their only child, Leland Stanford, Jr., who had died of typhoid fever at age 15 the previous year. Stanford was opened on October 1, 1891 as a coeducational and non-denominational institution. Tuition was free until 1920. The university struggled financially after Leland Stanford’s 1893 death and after much of the campus was damaged by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Following World War II, Provost Frederick Terman supported faculty and graduates’ entrepreneurialism to build self-sufficient local industry in what would later be known as Silicon Valley. By 1970, Stanford was home to a linear accelerator, and was one of the original four ARPANET nodes (precursor to the Internet).
  4. Cambridge University–The University of Cambridge (abbreviated as Cantabin post-nominal letters, sometimes referred to as Cambridge University) is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university.   It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with townsfolk. The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge“.
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology–The Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic  university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. Researchers worked on computersradar, and inertial guidance during World War II and the Cold War. Post-war defense research contributed to the rapid expansion of the faculty and campus.  The current 168-acre campus opened in 1916 and now covers over one (1) mile along the northern bank of the Charles River basin.
  6. Harvard University–Harvard Universityis a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was established in 1636. Its history, influence and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Established originally by the Massachusetts legislature and soon thereafter named for John Harvard, its first benefactor.  Harvard is the  oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.  The Harvard Corporation (formally, the President and Fellows of Harvard College) is its first chartered corporation. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregation­alist and Unitarian Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century Harvard had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites.  Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot‘s long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard was a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900.   James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College.
  7. Princeton University–Princeton Universityis a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey.  It was founded in 1746 as the College of New Jersey. Princeton was the fourth chartered institution of higher education in the Thirteen Colonies and thus one of the nine Colleges established before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, where it was renamed Princeton University in 1896.
  8. Imperial College of London— Imperial College Londonis a public research university, located in London, United Kingdom. The Imperial College of Science and Technology was founded in 1907, as a constituent college of the federal University of London, by merging the City and Guilds College, the Royal School of Mines and the Royal College of Science. The college grew through mergers including with St Mary’s Hospital Medical SchoolCharing Cross and Westminster Medical School, the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and the National Heart and Lung Institute to be known as The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine. The college established the Imperial College Business School in 2005, thus covering subjects in science, engineering, medicine and business. Imperial College London became an independent university in 2007 during its centennial celebration.
  9. ETH Zurich— ETH Zürich(Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, German:Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) is an engineering, science, technology, mathematics and management university in the city of Zürich, Switzerland. Like its sister institution EPFL, it is an integral part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain) that is directly subordinate to Switzerland’s Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.
  10. University of Chicago— The University of Chicago(U of C, Chicago, or U Chicago) is a private research university in ChicagoIllinois. Established in 1890, the University of Chicago consists of The College, various graduate programs, interdisciplinary committees organized into four academic research divisions and seven professional schools. Beyond the arts and sciences, Chicago is also well known for its professional schools, which include the Pritzker  School of Medicine, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Law School, the School of Social Service Administration, the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies and the Divinity School. The university currently enrolls approximately 5,000 students in the College and around 15,000 students overall.
  11. Johns Hopkins— The Johns Hopkins University(commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins) is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named after its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur, abolitionist, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins.   His $7 million bequest—of which half financed the establishment of The Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States at the time.   Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution’s first president on February 22, 1876,led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research.
  12. Yale University Yale Universityis a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701 in Saybrook Colony as the Collegiate School, the University is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. In 1718, the school was renamed Yale College in recognition of a gift from Elihu Yale, a governor of the British East India Company and in 1731 received a further gift of land and slaves from Bishop Berkeley.   Established to train Congregationalist ministers in theology and sacred languages, by 1777 the school’s curriculum began to incorporate humanities and sciences and in the 19th century gradually incorporated graduate and professional instruction, awarding the first D. in the United States in 1861 and organizing as a university in 1887.
  13. University of California Berkeley— The University of California, Berkeley(also referred to as Berkeley, UC Berkeley, California or simply Cal) is a public research university located in BerkeleyCalifornia. It is the flagship campus of the University of California system, one of three parts in the state’s public higher education plan, which also includes the California State University system and the California Community Colleges System.
  14. University College of London— University College London(UCL) is a public research university in London, England and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Recognized as one of the leading multidisciplinary research universities in the world, UCL is the largest higher education institution in London and the largest postgraduate institution in the UK by enrollment.  Founded in 1826 as London University, UCL was the first university institution established in London and the earliest in England to be entirely secular, to admit students regardless of their religion and to admit women on equal terms with men. The philosopher Jeremy Bentham is commonly regarded as the spiritual father of UCL, as his radical ideas on education and society were the inspiration to its founders, although his direct involvement in its foundation was limited. UCL became one of the two founding colleges of the University of London in 1836. It has grown through mergers, including with the Institute of Neurology (in 1997), the Eastman Dental Institute (in 1999), the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (in 1999), the School of Pharmacy (in 2012) and the Institute of Education (in 2014).
  15. Columbia University— Columbia University(officially Columbia University in the City of New York) is a private Ivy League research university in Upper ManhattanNew York City. Originally established in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of George II of Great Britain, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in New York State, as well as one of the country’s nine colonial colleges.   After the revolutionary war, King’s College briefly became a state entity, and was renamed Columbia College in 1784. A 1787 charter placed the institution under a private board of trustees before it was further renamed Columbia University in 1896 when the campus was moved from Madison Avenue to its current location in Morningside Heights occupying land of 32 acres (13 ha). Columbia is one of the fourteen founding members of the Association of American Universities, and was the first school in the United States to grant the D. degree.


As you can see, individuals in leadership positions across the world consider formal education as being one the great assets to an individual, a country and our species in general.  Higher education can, but not always, drives us to discover, invent, and commercialize technology that advances our way of life and promotes health.  The entire university experience is remarkably beneficial to an individual’s understanding of the world and world events.

It is very safe to assume the faculty of each school is top-notch and attending students are serious over-achievers. (Then again, maybe not.)  I would invite your attention to the web site listing the two hundred schools considered—the top two hundred.  Maybe your school is on the list.  As always, I invite your comments.

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