Category Archives: NASA

Dr. John Grotzinger Explores Mars Curiosity Rover’s Discoveries

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

With Hot Science – Cool Talks in full swing this fall, there is a great presentation scheduled for this Friday, October 18 at 7pm. Dr. John Grotizinger, lead scientist for the Mars Curiosity Rover, is coming back to UT Austin to talk all about what the Mars Rover has discovered since landing on the Red Planet. This is going to be a fascinating talk.

And don’t forget there will be lots of great pre-lecture activities starting at 5:45 pm. There will be all sorts of interactive displays and engaging activities. They’re especially geared to kids ages K-12, but the whole family will enjoy them.

In addition to Dr. Grotzinger’s Mars lecture, don’t miss November’s Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation too:

Hot Science – Cool Talks events take place at UT Austin in Welch Hall (Room 2.224). You can get discounted parking in the San Jacinto Garage.

For more information about Hot Science – Cool Talks check out the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute website and watch the many video interviews I had with past presenters, including this one with Dr. Andrew Howell:

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Filed under Curiosity Rover, Dr. John Grotzinger, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Mars, Mars Rover, NASA, University of Texas, UT Austin

Last Call at the Oasis: Interview series with Dr. Jay Famiglietti

I had a great opportunity to talk with Dr. Jay Famiglietti about the water concerns that we face across the United States, about his work with the GRACE satellite mission, and about the 2012 film featuring him, Last Call at the Oasis. (It’s coming out tomorrow, November 6, 2012, on DVD and BlueRay!)

Dr. Famiglietti visited UT Austin on October 26, 2012, to give his “Last Call at the Oasis: Will There be Enough Water for the 21st Century?” talk as part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute. Dr. Famiglietti is a Professor of Hydrology with the Earth System Sciences Department at the University of California – Irvine.

I published my video interview with Dr. Famiglietti in five parts with cool graphics from NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Click on the videos below to learn more about our water crisis that we face and ways that we, especially kids, can conserve water.

(1) Why the GRACE satellite mission is so cool

The GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites launched in March 2002. Learn about the valuable data these twin satellites provide along with insight that hydrologic modeling brings with Dr. Famiglietti.

(2) Dramatic Water Depletion in California and the United States

California’s Central Valley and the High Plains Aquifer in the central United States show high rates of water depletion. Dr. Jay Famiglietti talks about these areas of concern and ways that we could improve measuring our water supply.

(3) Quest for More Freshwater

If we found a way to have unlimited fresh water, would there be a population boom?What technological breakthrough do we need to transform sea water to fresh water easily and affordably? Learn about the water, energy, and food nexus with Dr. Famiglietti.

(4) What Can Kids Do to Save Water?

Saving water begins with becoming aware of your water use. Learn about Dr. Famiglietti’s easy tips to help kids save water. You’ll find that saving energy also helps save water too.

(5) Last Call at the Oasis with Dr. Jay Famiglietti

Dr. Famiglietti talks about the declining snowfall on the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the DVD and BlueRay release of his “Last Call at the Oasis” movie. You’ll also be surprised to learn about his favorite water sport.

My injured hand from taekwondo sparring has slowed me down 😦 , but I’m almost done with my post about the great time that I had during the Dr. Famiglietti’s Hot Science – Cool Talks event and the prelecture fun! 🙂

Thanks for the great interview, Dr. Famiglietti, and my wonderful thanks too to Dr. Jay Banner, Director of the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute (ESI); and Mr. Geoff Hensgen, ESI Outreach Coordinator, for the time to talk with Dr. Famiglietti!

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Filed under California Central Valley, Desalinization, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, drought, Environmental Science Institute, ESI, freshwater, Geoff Hensgen, GRACE, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, High Plains Aquifer, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Hydrologic modeling, Jay Banner, Last Call at the Oasis, NASA, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Tae Kwon Do, Taekwondo, Texas Drought, United States Geological Survey, University of Texas, USGS, UT Austin, water, water conservation, water hydrology

NASA Curiosity Rover Lands on Mars and in Texas with Austin Planetarium Party

Tomorrow night brings another great historical milestone for astronomy and for the possibility of discovering alien life.

The newest Mars rover, Curiosity, will land on the red planet at 12:30 a.m. CT, Monday morning, August 6, 2012. This rover contains the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which NASA scientists will use to investigate if life existed or still exists on Mars.

After it gets settled, the rover will bring the laboratory to Gale Crater to drill into Martian rock, collect and heat up dust, and examine the emitted gases to detect the minerals or organic molecules contained in the minerals.

When watching the animated video of the Curiosity Rover landing, “Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror”, at the top of my blog post, I noticed that it wasn’t a “bouncing” landing like the earlier rover landing as shown in the NASA animated video of the 2003 Mars rover.

The Curiosity Rover has a sky crane that will help it land slowly and safely in the rough terrain and to keep a dust cloud from damaging the instruments on the rover.

Mars Landing Party Hosted by the Austin Planetarium

Overnight, from Sunday, August 5, to Monday, August 6, the Austin Planetarium will host a free party to celebrate the landing of NASA’s Curiosity Rover at ND Studios as part of the Get curious campaign.

Here are the activities that you can look forward to:

  • 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.– Lots of family and kids activities
    • Enjoy Austin Planetarium’s Discovery Dome, their mobile planetarium, as well as their Magic Planet
    • Play Mars Bingo with the Texas Space Grant Consortium
    • View a robot replica of the Curiosity Rover
    • Get tasty snacks, including real astronaut ice cream and drinks
  • 9:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. – Adult activities and the lander live
    • Hear from science speakers
    • Watch live feeds from NASA with the latest updates from the lander
    • Listen to live music
  • 12:30 a.m. – Watch the Curiosity Rover touch down on the Mars surface!!!!

I’m really looking forward to seeing the live landing. (Actually, almost live since it takes the rover’s signal 14 minutes to reach Earth.) It’s going to be a blast!

Update: Hooray! The Mars rover, Curiosity, landed safely. How exciting to learn that Dr. John Grotzinger is a research scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory. As young Commander Ben, I met Dr. Grotzinger in 2005 at a UT Austin Environmental Science Institute Hot Science. Cool Talks. presentation.

Austin Planetarium at Hot Science – Cool Talks

Commander Ben and the Austin Planetarium team at UT Austin before Dr. Brittany Schmidt’s Hot Science – Cool Talks Presentation

I had a chance to meet the Austin Planetarium team and take part in their fun activities twice earlier this year as part of the great UT Austin Environmental Science Institute’s Hot Science – Cool Talks presentations:

You’ll find fun, interactive activities before every Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation. For example, before Dr. Schmidt’s talk, I entered the Austin Planetarium’s Discovery Dome. The speaker inside the planetarium used a computer to control a projector that led us through the night sky and zoomed in on Jupiter and its Galilean moons.

P.S. The Austin Planetarium team is working on building a world-class science and technology museum in Austin!

What about life on Europa?

Dr. Britney Schmidt and Commander Ben are excited by the possibility of life on Europa

Earlier this year, and I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Schimdt to talk about the possibility of life on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, as part of her Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation.

Dr. Schmidt thought that if there was life on Mars, it existed in the past and we would only find fossils today. Europa may have a greater chance of having life currently because this moon contains liquid water under its frozen surface.

Whether there’s life in space or not, there’s certainly life teeming in Austin for everyone who’s scientifically curious!

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Filed under Alien life, Astronomy, Austin Planetarium, Curiosity Rover, Dark Energy, Explosions, and Zombie Stars, Dr. Andrew Howell, Dr. Britney Schmidt, Dr. John Grotzinger, Environmental Science Institute, Europa, Extraterrestrial life, Gale Crater, Galilean moons, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Jupiter, Jupiter's Icy Moon, Mars, Mars Landing, Mars Rover, Mars Science Laboratory, NASA, Texas Space Grant Consortium, University of Texas, UT Austin

Young Commander Ben and Dr. John Grotzinger Rocket to Mars at Hot Science – Cool Talks

When I was looking through some of our old family photos, I found some of these wonderful pictures of me enjoying Hot Science – Cool Talks, when I was younger (and before I became an invasive hunter!).

The talk was The 2004 Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Evidence for Water and Prospects for Life by Dr. John Grotzinger on October 13, 2005.

As part of his talk, I think he showed a NASA animated video of the rover landing, but I’m sure that I enjoyed making and launching a baking soda rocket with one of the Hot Science volunteers:

Here I am with Dr. John Grotzinger (blinded by his awesome science):

Update: How exciting to learn that Dr. Grotzinger is a project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory that is part of the Curiosity Mars rover that landed on the red planet on August 6, 2012.

Upcoming Spring 2012 Hot Science – Cool Talk presentations

I’m sorry that I’m going to miss this month’s Hot Science – Cool Talk because I’ll be preparing for my presentation at Kid’s Day for National Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington DC, but I hope that you’ll be able to make it.

Here’s what’s coming up this month:

From Fracking to the 40 Acres

Dr. Michael Webber, Co-Director of the Clean Energy Incubator at the Austin Technology Incubator, and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin
Friday, February 24, 2012, at 7:00 p.m. CST

And then in April, I look forward to joining you and learning more about our universe:

Life on Europa? Exploring Jupiter’s Icy Moon

Dr. Britney Schmidt
Friday, April 13, 2012, at 7:00 p.m. CST

Be sure to get there early to enjoy all the fun activities before the talks.  Last month included making a moon lander before Dr. Howell’s presentation!

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under Dr. Britney Schmidt, Dr. John Grotzinger, Europa, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Jupiter's Icy Moon, Mars Rover, NASA