Category Archives: NASA

Holy Meteor Smokes! Electric-Blue Sky Invasion

Noctilucent Clouds in Sandbukta, Norway. Photo: Morten Ross

Bright Noctilucent Clouds in Sandbukta, Norway. Photo: Morten Ross

This gorgeous image of noctilucent clouds, captured on July 4th by Morten Ross of Norway, is a result of “meteor smoke” — tiny ice crystals seeded into Earth’s highest clouds that form 50 miles above Earth’s surface at the very edge of space. When sunlight hits these clouds, according to SpaceWeather.com, the ice crystals glow electric blue…as you can see in the image above.

Scientists are learning more about noctilucent clouds in recent years. Space dust, or meteor smoke, is comprised of microscopic specks of dust caused by meteoroids (think:  inner solar system litter) that hit Earth’s surface and burn up — leaving a haze of tiny particles around Earth’s outer edges. Specks of meteor smoke serve as the office water cooler — attracting water molecules to gather together and assemble themselves into ice crystals, in a process called nucleation.

These electric blue clouds are visible not only from Earth’s surface, but also from above. The crew of Space Station’s Expedition 31 captured the top down image of noctilucent clouds on July 13, 2012.

Noctilucent Clouds from Space Station. Image: NASA Expedition 31

Noctilucent Clouds from Space Station. Image: NASA Expedition 31

These clouds normally live in the Arctic Circle, but have migrated south due to the spread of green house gases, according to James Russell of Hampton University, principal investigator of NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission.

"Geophysical Light Bulb" over Arctic. Credit: AIM

“Geophysical Light Bulb” over Arctic. Credit: AIM

If you happen to see an invasion of electric-blue and white tendrils taking over the sky, you may want to send them back home — but get out your camera first. You can upload your images to SpaceWeather’s cloud gallery.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Earth, Fragile Oasis, NASA

Happy Birthday USA!

White House image with Barbara Jordan quote: "What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise."Barbara Jordan was one of my professors at the LBJ School at the University of Texas. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate and the first southern black female elected to the US House of Representatives, where she served on the House Judiciary Committee.

Barbara Jordan was a commanding presence.

She filled any room she entered. She chose each word thoughtfully, offering insight and wisdom. She was an early role model for me, and I felt fortunate to spend time with her both inside and outside the classroom. I was both terrified and in awe of her, which I think she found quite amusing. I’ll share one extremely embarrassing story. On one occasion, she asked me take her to the restroom, which required maneuvering her wheelchair into narrow stalls — this was in the 1980’s before ADA-compliant standards. Horror upon horrors, I wedged her in the restroom and had to get help to free her. I was mortified. She just shook her head, and said, “Oh, Beth, Beth, Beck…” which only works if you can hear the authoritative enunciation with which she spoke. She actually used my name as a phrase quite often. I believe I was comic diversion for her. Thankfully, she was willing to put up with my knack for making a mess of things — perhaps because of my  insatiable curiosity and inability to accept traditional thinking. She saw promise in me, and invested her time and talent into a spunky 20-something who fervently believed in the American political system — flaws and all.

Note:  The following week after the wheelchair incident, the women’s restroom at LBJ School was remodeled for wheelchair access. I guess you could say its my LBJ School legacy….

As we head into the 4th of July, I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve our country for almost three decades in the federal government. Even today, I still believe my job is to provide public good — a uniquely public sector responsibility.  Open government, which may be a trendy phrase, is what I’ve always believed our government exists for —  much to the credit of LJB School professor Barbara Jordan and her contribution to public service. Even after leaving office, she poured into future change-makers, like me. How many other public servants are paying it forward because she invested in us….

“What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” ~Barbara Jordan

She’s right. What people want IS an America as good as it’s promise. We’re working to make that happen every day at NASA through open innovation programs like Space Apps and LAUNCH. I’m fortunate to play a role in Open NASA movement. We have much to celebrate.

Thank you Barbara Jordan. Thank you USA.

Happy Birthday!!

USA Flags

 

 

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Filed under federal government, NASA

Space Apps 2014: It’s a Wrap!

Space Apps Go Beyond

The 2014 International Space Apps Challenge took place last weekend. Over 8000 humans in 95 locations around our planet joined together to leverage NASA data to solve global challenges. So many stories, so little time. Below is a collection of tweets that help characterize the international flavor and collective enthusiasm generated through NASA’s International Space Apps Challenges. Images tell the story better than words can.  I planned to only share five-ten images. Scroll down and you’ll see that I didn’t quite keep to that number.

Find yourselves in these images. I’ll bet you’re in one (or more) of them. 

Local hosts prepared for months to welcome participants: cool venues, name tags, goodies, tools, and hardware.

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Skopje

Space Apps Valencia

Space Apps Baltimore

Space Apps Certificates

Space Apps Kathmandu

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Sinaloa Cookies

Space Apps Toyko

Space Apps Nairobi

Space Apps fuel

Space Apps

We had Google hangouts and talks by space pioneers: astronaut Doug Wheelock from NYC, former astronaut Don Thomas in Baltimore, European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts Paolo Nespoli from Brazil and Luca Parmitano from Rome, and space tourist “astronaut” Mandla Maseko in Dakar, Senegal; Lome, Togo, and Pretoria, South Africa.

Space Apps Google hangout

Space Apps London

Space Apps Afronaut Talk

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps Rome

The participants formed teams around challenges in five mission priorities: asteroids, Earth watch, human spaceflight, robotics, and space technology. Teams created over 600 projects. The most popular challenges were: Where on Earth, Exomars Rover is My Robot, Asteroid Prospector, Space Wearables, Alert-Alert, Growing Food for A Martian Table, Cool It, and SpaceT

Space Apps Let Hacking Begin

Space Apps Bolivia

Space Apps Mexico City

Space Apps Auckland

Space Apps Porto Alegre, Brazil

Space Apps Doha

Space Apps Bangalore

Space Apps Winnipeg

pace Apps Glasgow

Space Apps Auckland

Space Apps Sinaloa

Space Apps Doha

Space Apps Brazil

Space Apps KSC

Space Apps London

Teams worked together to code software, build software, design mission profiles, and learn how to innovate in a collaborative environment. The solutions were creative, unique, and inspiring — all created in a compressed weekend of long days and short nights.

Space Apps Reno

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Paris

Space Apps Lome

Space Apps Chicago

Space Apps Istanbul

Space Apps Cork

Space Apps Rover

Space Apps Kansas City: Yorbit app

Space Apps South Africa hardware

Space Apps Exeter

Space Apps Nigeria

Space Apps Toronto hardware

Space Apps Lego

And, my personal favorite….

Space Apps Bolivia

Some of the locations took some time to look up into the skies. And that’s what space is all about, after all. Looking beyond the horizon and wondering, what if….

Space Apps Pittsburgh

Space Apps London

Space Apps Cyprus

Space Apps London

Space Apps Bordeaux

Space Apps Chile

Teams have to pitch their projects to local judges on the final day. Two of the local winners can go forward from each location to global judging, as well as a People’s Choice nominee.

Space Apps Kathmandu

Space Apps Benin

Space Apps South Africa

Here are some of the winning teams.

Space Apps Istanbul

Space Apps Goldcoast

At Space Apps Toronto, I had the privilege of serving as a judge. What an incredible experience.

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Who can resist a Judges Selfie???

Space Apps Toronto Judges Selfie

And, it’s a WRAP!

Space Apps Toronto: It's a Wrap

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 8.12.26 PM

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps KSC

Space Apps Sinaloa

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps London

What overflows my heart is NASA’s boundLESSness — beyond borders and cultures. When NASA calls, global citizens, of all walks of life, answer. What an amazing thing to behold! I’m humbled by the opportunity and privilege to serve the public through programs like Space Apps.

Thank you ALL for an OUT-of-this-WORLD experience!!

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Filed under Africa, collaboration, Earth, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

Unplugged: Screaming Silence

Yesterday, I drove to work, only to realize I left my iPhone and iPad charging on the kitchen table. Once I arrived at work, I entered the “unplugged” void — isolation from humanity.

Hubble image of supernova.

Hubble image of supernova.

I logged on to my loaner laptop — my temporary replacement for the fried hard drive on my original laptop. The computer tech guys were coming soon to download email and docs onto the temporary laptop, so I hastily jotted down all my meeting times, call in numbers, and pass codes. I knew I was in trouble without my iPhone to remind me when meetings start and how to call-in.

Crazy Busy Calendar

The tech guys showed up and worked on my loaner laptop while I was on a call. They determined the laptop needed a bit more love, and asked if they could take it with them. I gave them the thumbs up — assuming I would get it back relatively quickly. Oh, the dashed hopes of the optimistically-inclined. Turns out, my loaner laptop had more issues than they anticipated. Looks like I’ll get it back Monday. That’s ok. I’m off work today (and I have access to my iPhone and iPad).

But, yesterday I didn’t! What a day to leave them at home. :\

I was forced to go old-school. My hand-scribbled notepaper calendar saved my day. But I was still flying blind. We’re so wired with our communications, that we generally log into a web-ex-ish meetings with a virtually-shared screen, OR we’re working off a document shared with everyone that we view on our own devices. Not me. I just listened and imagined what everyone was seeing. That’s ok. I have a vivid imagination.

My biggest issue: colleagues started calling me about urgent email they sent to me that I hadn’t acknowledged or responded to.

We’re in the day and age of never-ending data pile-on. Email artillery shoots back and forth in rapid fire, and decisions are made based on who responds first. Not responding or engaging is taken as tacit agreement, or indifference to the topic.

The silence was screaming at me — WHERE ARE YOU….WHY AREN’T YOU RESPONDING…DID YOU SEE THIS…SAY SOMETHING, WE’RE WAITING ON YOU…IF WE DON’T HEAR FROM YOU, WE’LL GO FORWARD!!!!!

"The Scream" by expressionist artist Edvard Munch

“The Scream” by expressionist artist Edvard Munch

As bewildering as the Screaming Silence of being unplugged, the cacophony of voices in email can be just as disorienting. As much as I hated the unplugged isolation yesterday, I find myself longing for a day when the silence might actually bring peace and tranquility. Ah, maybe that’s what retirement is all about. Nope, not ready for it…yet. ;)

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Filed under NASA, OpenNASA, technology

White House Climate Data Initiative

Workshop with thought leaders in data-driven innovation community.

Workshop with thought leaders in data-driven innovation community.

Yesterday I had the privilege to take part in the White House Climate Data Initiative Launch event — which culminates months of collaboration with the White House, NASA, GSA, and other federal agencies to create the new climate.data.gov website. NASA is leading the curation of federal data sets and tools that will reside on the site for use by citizens, communities, municipalities, organizations, industry, and scientists and technologists to gather insights and make informed decisions about climate resilience. We’ve only just begun the collection of datasets and tools, but this site offers a data watering hole for users to engage and act. The site also features four climate-related International Space Apps Challenges that global solvers can gather together to address April 12-13 at nearly 100 locations around the globe.

Find a local Space Apps event.

Find a local Space Apps event.

Bina Venkataraman and Brian Forde of the White House organized the Climate Data Initiative events. I participated in one of the two workshops preceding the press event. Leaders from citizen organizations, city government, federal and state agencies, and data innovators shared cutting edge tools, and discussed climate-related challenges facing cities, business, and the public. Coastal hazards from sea-level rise is a rallying point to gather data-driven insights and tools to equip decision-makers — who come in many shapes and sizes, from home owners to business owners to city/state/federal leaders.

We heard from Denice Ross, Director of Enterprise Information at the City of New Orleans who discussed the challenge of brittle data supply chains and the pathological complexity of decision-making at the local level. Innovation is a far reach, but optimization is the more reasonable goal for local government. She called for mobile damage assessment tools that can operate in disconnect mode — not only for disaster environments, but for poverty-stricken areas where cell or wifi connections aren’t an option. Sara Wu, Climate Planning and Policy Manager in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia, discussed their need for insights into extreme heat/precipitation to plan for at-risk communities, along with life cycle costs for real estate planning. Their city is working to create a one-stop climate data shop, but implementation of innovative data assessment tools may be more aspirational that realistic. Katherine Greig, Senior Policy Advisor for New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, discussed their need for hyper-local data — such as the depth of basements and height of ground level floors. They are looking for resilience in design standards and consistent planning models. Garrett Fitzgerald, Strategic Partnerships Advisor for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network in DC discussed the lack of data use in decision-making, and the need for concrete examples of creative use cases.

The workshop featured existing tools and data, including the new Google Earth Engine tool; ESRI, geo-spatial data and map-based resilience tools; InaSAFE, a plug-in open street map tool to simulate disaster effects, Microsoft’s FetchClimate tool, NOAA’s earth data, and more.

Microsoft's FetchClimate Tool

Microsoft’s FetchClimate Tool

Google Earth Engine

Esri Geo-spatial tools

Esri Geo-spatial tools

Thanks Second Muse for designing the workshop. You guys are awesome, as always!! Now the real work begins. We need to figure out how to set free all available data and tools (and create new ones) to equip our decision-makers to make decisions for the future — in the face of certain uncertainty.

White House Climate Data Initiative

Here’s what we have at stake: our very own blue marble. The only human-friendly planet we’ve found…so far.

Earth: image by Expedition 34 Space Station astronauts

Earth: image by Expedition 34 Space Station astronauts

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Filed under data, environment, federal government, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

St. Paddy’s Day: Green Space!

Even though the DC region is covered in white, here are a few “green” space images to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy!

Space Station Expedition 37: French Polynesia

Space Station Expedition 37: French Polynesia

Earth's surface from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Credit: NASA/Robert Schwarz

Earth’s surface from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Credit: NASA/Robert Schwarz

Space Station Expedition 34: Northern Lights

Space Station Expedition 34: Northern Lights

Space Station Expedition 37: Aurora Australis

Space Station Expedition 37: Aurora Australis

Expedition 38: Night view inside Space Station

Expedition 38: Night view inside Space Station

Hubble image of supernova.

Hubble image of supernova

Hubble Reveals the Ring Nebula's True Shape

Hubble Reveals the Ring Nebula’s True Shape

Planetary Nebula MyCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star

Planetary Nebula MyCn18: An Hourglass Pattern Around a Dying Star

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Filed under Earth, International Space Station, NASA, space

Thoughts on Collaborative Innovation

Here are the charts I presented at the American Leaders 2014 Open Innovation Conference in Baltimore.

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Filed under collaboration, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

Space Station: Wonder ABOVE World

December 6, 1998 — fifteen years ago — humanity started construction on our human outpost, the International Space Station. Fifteen countries put aside cultural and political differences to join forces to create humanity’s greatest engineering feat. We built each section of Station in orbit. Pretty amazing, don’t you think? And when we plugged everything in (so to speak), it worked! Not at all like my experience with stringing Christmas lights.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary, here are a few pics of Station through the years — from infancy to maturity. Enjoy.

Space Station 2011

Space Station 2011

Space Station 2010

Space Station 2010

Space Station 2010

Space Station 2010

Space Station 2010 (Shadow of Space Shuttle Endeavour)

Space Station 2010 (Shadow of Space Shuttle Endeavour)

Space Station 2009

Space Station 2009

Space Station 2009 (Can you find Endeavour's shadow?)

Space Station 2009 (Can you find Endeavour’s shadow?)

Space Station 2009

Space Station 2009

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2008

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007. Can you see Endeavour’s shadow?

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2007

Space Station 2006

Space Station 2006

Space Station 2006

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Space Station 2005

Space Station 2005

Space Station 2005

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Space Station 2002

Space Station 2002

Space Station 2002

Space Station 2002

Space Station 2002

Space Station 2002

Space Station 2002

Space Station 2002

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Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

Space Station 2001

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Space Station 2000

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Space Station 1998

Space Station 1998

Space Station 1998

Space Station 1998

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Space Apps Winners @ MAVEN Launch

The prize for the winning International Space Apps team: MAVEN launch from Cape Canaveral tomorrow, weather permitting.

L-1 MAVEN launch

Here’s a quick update about the six winning apps, which represent wide ranging solutions to challenges on Earth and in space.

The Best Mission Concept, Popeye on Mars, offers a reusable greenhouse for Mars, comprised of a fully equipped aeroponic system to grow spinach over a 45-day mission.
SpaceApps13BestMissionConceptPopeyeonMars

The winner of the Best Use of Hardware, ISS Base Station, created a mechanical arm that points to Space Station in the sky as the vehicle and crew pass overhead.

SpaceApps13BestUseHardwareISSBaseStation1

SpaceApps13BestUseHardwareISSBaseStation

The winner of the Best Use of Data, Sol, created the first-ever interplanetary weather app to provide users information about weather on Earth and Mars.

SpaceApps2013BestUseOfDataSol

The Most Inspiring App, T-10, saves time for astronauts by using the location of Station and real-time weather data to alert astronauts when conditions are good to snap photos of designated locations on Earth. Astronauts can indicate when they will look out the cupola down on Earth so T-10 app users can wave back at the crew. The T-10 Apps team received “Astro-monials” from Station crew about the need for T-10 on Space Station.

SpaceApps13MostInspiringT-10

SpaceApps13MostInspiringT-10Hadfield

The Galactic Impact award winner, NASA Greener Cities Project, crowdsources microclimate data through low-cost sensors, network connectivity, and urban gardens to aggregate atmospheric measurements across cities. The data is displayed in real-time for officials to monitor air quality in communities and provide researchers insight into global climate.

SpaceApps13GalacticImpactGreenerCity

The People’s Choice award went to ChicksBook which provides how-to info on raising chickens and managing a backyard farm.

SpaceApps13PeoplesChoiceChicksBook
SSpaceApps13PeoplesChoiceChicksBook1

I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to meet the teams and hear the stories of what inspired them to create their space apps. We’re in the planning stages for the 2014 International Space Apps Challenge. Keep an eye on the website for more details.

Here’s hoping tomorrow’s MAVEN launch goes as scheduled. The forecast is 60% change of favorable weather.

Mars or BUST!!

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Filed under International Space Apps, NASA

Hope of Public Good…Beyond Furlough

Furlough: noun  • leave of absence granted to a member of the armed services or civil servant  • a temporary release of a convict from prison • a layoff, esp. a temporary one, from a place of employment.

Public Good: noun   • a commodity or service that is provided without profit to all members of a society, either by the government or a private individual or organization.

As a civil servant on directed furlough while Congress deliberates on our agency budgets and the debt limit, I find the conversation around the worthiness of federal employees quite disconcerting. I’ve spent most my career as a civil servant in the federal government. I firmly believe my job is to serve the public and bring about the public good by being available and accessible, creating processes and products that allow engagement, participation, and inclusion; and leveraging the scarce tax dollars as creatively and efficiently as possible.

Do I see waste in the government? Absolutely. Do I see opportunities and possibilities for innovative practices in the government? You bet. That’s why I’m still wearing my NASA badge.  [Ok, it's hanging by the door at this moment, but you know what I mean....]

As part of my PhD research, I ran across an article about inclusive public management and the promotion of democratic engagement. The authors distinguish between participatory and inclusive practices by government officials. Participatory programs enable individuals to engage in a discussion or activity, where inclusive practices allow participants to help define problems, deliberate on issues, and develop outcomes (Feldman, Khademian, Quick 2009). As a political scientist, I believe our government exists for the “people.” As  guardians of the public good, we best serve by opening up our decision-making processes (inclusively) to develop solutions collaboratively with creative thinkers, both inside and outside the government. Think: LAUNCH.org.

LAUNCH Impact Study

LAUNCH Impact Study

The article also introduces the concept of hope as a  means of collaboration and problem-solving within the public sector. As a public servant, I see this as my job — offering hope for a better tomorrow. It’s my passion language, actually.

Government Goddess ScepterIn my imagination, my super power might be…ta da…Government Goddess. [Much better than Government Girl, don't you think?] Cool if my tool belt armed me with a  Scepter of Inspiration to anoint humanity with hope and vision and strength of character to make tough [and often unpopular] decisions AND the desire to help those who can’t help themselves.

Tall order, I know. Sadly, I don’t own a cape or scepter, but we have amazing opportunities at NASA to make choices each day to serve the public while allowing external folks to create the public good with us — in whatever form it may take.

So, let’s get on with the business of offering hope through innovative government programs. I’m ready. I’ll start…the day after our mandated furlough ends. Deal? ;)

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson

Source: Feldman, Martha S., Anne M. Khademian, Kathryn S. Quick. “Ways of Knowing, Inclusive Management, and Promoting Democratic Engagement: Introduction to the Special Issue.” International Public Management Journal 12, no. 2 (2009): 123-36.

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Filed under federal government, LAUNCH, NASA