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That Was the Week that Was, March 14-18, 2011. . . Best of Goddard People, Science, & Media and the blogpodcastotwittersphere

March 21st, 2011 Comments off


Tsunami Damage, Rikuzentakata, Japan

Tsunami Damage, Rikuzentakata, Japan


Japan Earthquake
After the March 12 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it’s as if the world collectively gasped — and then what followed was almost a feeling of disbelief as the harsh facts begin to register. Entire seaside communities erased from existence. . . tens of thousands of lives feared lost. . . giant ocean swells flooding the coastline. . . cars and houses looking like toys bobbing in the water. And then there are the satellite images, which provide a critical wide-angle perspective.

NASA’s Earth-observing fleet has helped to reveal the full scope and power of the catastrophe. As Mark Imhoff, the Terra satellite project scientist at Goddard, said in a report by West Virginia Public Broadcasting:

“It’s been heart wrenching seeing some of these images because the first set images that we got in on the day after the earthquake on March 12, even though the resolution from of the satellite wasn’t very good, the data from the Miser instrument at Jet Propulsion’s Laboratory showed that there were a large area of coastline that really weren’t there anymore and so you could really get an impression that a lot of villages and agricultural areas had really been severely impacted by the ocean.”


NASA released a web feature on March 17, five days after the quake, showing tsunami after-effects documented by Landsat 7.

NASA Earth Observatory has compiled a gallery of earthquake-related images from various NASA spacecraft, including EO-1, Terra, Aqua, and astronaut photos from the International Space Station.

As usual, EO’s in-depth captions provide context and explanations for the various destructive effects of the earthquake on coastal Japan. An even larger selection of imagery is available in this NASA web feature about the disaster.


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New LRO Data
On March 15, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission released the final set of data from the mission’s exploration phase, along with the first measurements from its new life as a science satellite. The press release explains the details. The slideshow below takes a look back at some of the coolest imagery from the mission so far. All the images in the slideshow, and many more, are archived here on the NASA LRO website, which includes detailed captions.




Messenger Makes It
The third major story out of Goddard this week was the arrival in Mercury orbit of the Messenger spacecraft. After three spectacular fly-bys earlier (see slideshow below), Messenger is now in position to really dig into its science mission to reveal the nature and history of the first rock from the sun. An earlier post discusses some of the research being conducted on Mercury’s thin “exosphere” of atoms and ions wispily clinging within the planet’s gravity.


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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


That Was The Week That Was, September 12-18, 2010. . . A Digest of Goddard People, Science, & Media, PLUS Historical Tidbits and Our Best Stuff in the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

September 17th, 2010 Comments off
Mae_Jemison_202

Mae Jemison

Sunday September 12: “…but because it’s hard.” On this day in 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous moon speech at Rice Stadium and inspired a generation. Mae Jemison had a dream, which was to fly in space. And she did it on this day in 1992 as the first African American woman in orbit.

Monday September 13: See the sea ice snapshot of the Arctic by the Aqua satellite.

NASA Blueshift: Weekly Awesomeness Round Up looks at highlights of the past week, including planet-eating stars and a golden moment for the Webb Telescope’s mirrors.

Wednesday September 15: The Lunar Reconnaissance looked
over its shoulder at Earth on September 9 and captured
this global portrait.

sea-ice_202

Sea ice



Thursday September 16: The lunar surface is more complicated than you think. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals why. Don’t miss the cool video about LRO’s crater counting laser altimeter instrument.

The sun gets loopy: see a new video of looping prominences on the surface of the sun.

Antarctic ozone hole: watch the latest satellite snapshot.


Friday September 17: What On Earth blogger Adam Voiland’s Earth Buzz features Beetle-mania, Igor the Beautiful, and IceSat’s icy adventures.

Rooftop robots: check out a video of robotic instruments on the roof of Building 33 at Goddard.

Big chill: NASA Goddard technicians prep Webb Telescope parts for deep freeze test.

Saturday September 18: Got moon? Earth’s moon, that is. Join the global gathering International Observe the Moon Night this Saturday night to celebrate our companion in the solar system.

lnOMNLogo_circleLg_594

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

That Was The Week That Was, August 16-20, 2010. . . A Digest of Goddard People, Science, & Media, PLUS Historical Tidbits and Our Best Stuff in the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

August 20th, 2010 Comments off

ocean bloom

ocean bloom

MONDAY AUGUST 16: MODIS Image of the Day posts beautific satellite snapshot of microscopic plant life in the oceans blooming off the coast of Newfoundland.

On the edge: The IBEX spacecraft reports from the electrifying edge of Earth’s magnetic bubble.

More awesomeness: NASA Blueshift’s Weekly Awesomeness Roundup revisits a recent Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope discovery, the Perseid meteor shower, and a visit to Goddard by the local Fox TV station.

home sweet home

home sweet home

TUESDAY AUGUST 17: On the Goddard Flickr gallery, the latest GOES-13 satellite full disk view of Earth.

Billions and billions: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Facebook page reports that the LOLA surface mapping instrument has shot more than a billion pulses of laser light at the moon’s surface.

Pulsar discovery: NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) sees the first fast X-ray pulsar to be eclipsed by its companion star.

More about RXTE: On NASA Blueshift, blogger Maggie Masetti takes a close look at two recent discoveries made using data from the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer.

From Russia with science: NASA scientists trek (and blog) from Western Siberia on the Earth Observatory’s Notes From The Field.

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 18: NASA Blueshift ponders whether Hubble Space Telescope should go to a museum.

THURSDAY AUGUST 19: The Dawn spacecraft is now less than a year from arriving at asteroid Vesta. Read all about it on Science@NASA:

Honey, they shrunk the moon: NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter finds evidence of a cooling, contracting lunar crust.


Grab that Miracle-Gro! Decline in global plant growth documented by NASA satellites.

Earth buzz: The What On Earth blog highlights steamy July temps, the lowdown on the shakedown in the Gulf, and our planet in its grayest and gloomiest glory


FRIDAY AUGUST 20: On this day 35 years ago, Viking 1 left for Mars.

What On Earth Is That? NASA Earth blogger Adam Voiland posts another mystery image waiting for you to identify. Looks like dried mud flats to me. . .

Get a GRIP: Visit NASA hurricane scientists inside the DC-8 as it flew into the remnants of Tropical Depression Five over southern Louisiana.

Viking 1 gazes out at the surafce of Mars. . .

Viking 1 gazes out at the surafce of Mars. . .

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


It’s moon day at gogblog: International Observe the Moon Day is coming! ALSO: How to create a gorgeous portrait of the rising moon. PLUS: New NASA images say “Honey I shrunk the moon.”

August 19th, 2010 Comments off
click to make me bigger!

click to make me bigger!

Are you ready for International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN)? In a previous post I told you about this event, which was conceived by NASA lunar scientists and educators, but involvement has since become more widespread and international.

You should get involved, too. The InOMN website has everything you will need to participate. I and other members of the Goddard Astronomy Club will be at Goddard’s  Visitor Center September 18 with telescopes, showing the public a cavalcade of craters.

InOMN will include a lunar photo contest. In this post, you can learn how to create a gorgeous multiple exposure shot of the moon rising, similar to the one at left by Oregon photographer Randy Scholten. He photographed the partial lunar eclipse of June 26 (2010) and it was published on Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD).


The basic ingredients:

  • A camera that you can operate in manual mode.
  • A sturdy camera tripod.
  • Access to Photoshop software and basic Photoshop skills.

Here’s how to make the portrait:

Mount the camera on a tripod. You will need to keep the camera steady for the best results.

Take a background shot of the land, sky, and the moon just starting to rise.

Then shoot additional images of the moon as it rises. Scholten shot the eclipsing moon every 10 minutes with a 500mm telephoto lens. This is why the tripod is important: Even a slight jiggle while shooting in telephoto mode can blur the image.

To make sure you get the best possible shot, “bracket” the exposures a couple of settings above and below the initial one. This will give you more choices to work with in the Photoshop assembly phase.

Scholten used Photoshop to select the 12 best moon images and arrange them in a series onto the initial background image. To do this, you need to understand how to use the Layers function of Photoshop and the Marquee selection tool (elliptical). Fortunately, this is pretty easy to learn, with many clear and free tutorials available on the Web. Good luck!

“Not your grandfather’s moon” And last but not least, today the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team announced images that bear on the moon’s evolution. The new stuff from LRO adds to mounting evidence that the moon has been more dynamic then people thought, and is not at all a “dead” solar system body.

From the press release:

Newly discovered cliffs in the lunar crust indicate the moon shrank globally in the geologically recent past and might still be shrinking today, according to a team analyzing new images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The results provide important clues to the moon’s recent geologic and tectonic evolution.


Here’s a crack in the incredible shrinking moon:

scarp_608

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


International Observe the Moon Night Is Coming! On Saturday September 18, what will you be watching — Earth’s only natural satellite or “American Idol”?

June 30th, 2010 2 comments
Dutoit_moon_202

Goddard Astronomy Club president Cornelis Dutoit took this picture two days after first quarter moon. It's what you would see through a small telescope with a low-power eyepiece.

I recently bumped into Andrea Jones, a senior outreach coordinator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission. That means she helps get LRO science into classrooms. Andrea is bright, enthusiastic, and personable — just the sort of person you want for this job.

It’s always good to get around Goddard and talk to people. You never know what you’ll learn. For example, I learned a new email emoticon from corresponding with Andrea: :o  Does it say “I am happy and smiling while emailing with you” or “I am a hungry little baby bird; please feed me.” It’s hard to say.

InOMN logo_152More importantly, she clued me in on a cool new astronomical event of global proportions coming up in September. It’s called International Observe the Moon Night —  InOMN for short. It was hatched by the LRO people at Goddard and other lunar types at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.

Going lunar
To be part of InOMN, if only in spirit, all you have to do is look up in the sky on September 18th. A waxing gibbous moon will be (we hope) shining brightly in a clear sky in your part of the world. What will you see? Check out the chart below.

moon_chart_152When people ask me how they can “get into astronomy,” I always say:  Look at the moon. It’s one of the most unappreciated heavenly bodies I know. That and the dog-bone-shaped asteroid 216 Kleopatra.

The moon and I go back a long way, at least 0.0000008% of the moon’s age. I got my first telescope for Christmas in 1974. Naturally, the first thing I did was spy on a neighbor through his kitchen window.

Ugh: some guy standing in front of the stove, cooking scrambled eggs. Not very exciting, 11-year-old-boy-wise.

Second stop: the moon. Humans had left the moon just a year and 6 days earlier after multiple missions of exploration. But Earth’s natural satellite was still terra incognita to me. I looked into the eyepiece: WOW! Vast craters and mountains leaped out of the formerly featureless glow of a waxing gibbous moon. Yes, a waxing gibbous moon, just like on September 18 this year. Some coincidence, eh?

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Goddard Astronomy Club member Daniel Antonson snapped this image using a cell phone camera, looking through the eyepiece of the club's 12-inch reflecting telescope.

If you have never looked at the moon through a telescope or binoculars, you should. Mark down September 18 on your calendar: “Observe the moon tonight.”

It’s a Saturday, so the moon will have to square off against “American Idol” and “Dancing With The Stars.” But at least give it a quick look during the commercial break.

Depending on where you live, you might benefit from the expert guidance of a local astronomy club. If you come to the event at NASA Goddard’s Visitor Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, you will meet me and my friends from the Goddard Astronomy Club and peer through their phalanx of telescopes.

Schools will be involved in InOMN, as well as major astronomical observatories. The Adler Planetarium in Chicago is jumping in. Other partners already include Astronomers Without Borders, the Museum Alliance, Mauna Kea Observatories Outreach Committee, Navajo Nation, Solar System Ambassadors, the Astronomy Society of the Pacific’s Night Sky Network, and Astronomy from the Ground Up.

Foreign nations where events will be held now include Canada, Chile, Greece, Great Britain, and Italy. Quite a party.

Hey, you don’t even need to join some fancy organization to get involved. You could host your own Observe the Moon party.

If you need information and inspiration, go to the InOMN website: www.observethemoonnight.org. The site is still under construction, but already includes a number of downloads to help people host InOMN events, such as a promotional flier and various moon maps. InOMN will also host a Tweet-Up and a photo contest. Follow these hashtags for updates: #InOMN and #InOMN2010.

“InOMN 2010 is only the first of what we hope will become an annual event,” Andrea says. “2011 to 2014 are already planned, and it’d be great if it could go on even after that.”

Goddard Astronomy Club member Joseph Novotka took this photo while observing through his 8-inch Newtonian reflecting telescope using his Nikon D90 camera to look through the eyepiece.

Goddard Astronomy Club member Joseph Novotka took this photo while observing through his 8-inch Newtonian reflecting telescope using his Nikon D90 camera to look through the eyepiece.

Over the moon about the moon

International Observe the Moon Night has its roots in the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, June 18, 2009.

Here at Goddard, we hosted a public event August 1 called “We’re At The Moon!” That same night, education and public outreach teams with the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite and the NASA Lunar Science Institute hosted a similar event at Ames Research Center.

National Observe the Moon Night at Ames was part of the International Year of Astronomy, commemorating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s astronomical observations using a telescope. One of his targets: the moon.

Both events were huge hits with the public, so the organizers started to think they were onto something. Thus was born International Observe the Moon Night.

Hope to see you there. Stay tuned to gogblog for updates.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.


That Was The Week That Was: June 21-25. . . A Digest of Goddard Science and People In The Media This Week, Historical NASA Milestones, and FREE Stuff

June 25th, 2010 3 comments
Is there an echo in here?

Is there an echo in here?

On Monday June 21, “The Case of the Mylar Mystery” debuted on the History Detectives program. The detectives came to Goddard in January to figure out whether a scrap of silvery Mylar was could be traced back to Goddard’s Echo II satelloon project. . . . Well, gogblog won’t ruin it for you by revealing the answer, but you can download the transcript if you don’t have time to watch the show.

Lagrange points_152On Wednesday June 23, the Goddard Public Affairs Office (PAO) posted a mission update feature, ‘L2′ Will be the James Webb Space Telescope’s Home in Space. The orbital sweet spot is called L2 and it sits about 930,000 miles from Earth, where the gravitational tugs of the sun and Earth balance out . . . . .Why the way-out waystation? For one thing, the gravitational stalemate means it takes minimal energy to make the ‘scope stay put at L2. Also, the frigid temperature out there keeps Webb’s sensitive instruments frosty and sharp.  And L2 offers an unobstructed view of the cosmos.

LRO_farside_152

The lunar farside

Also on Wednesday, Goddard PAO’s Andrew Freeberg chilled out on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s first birthday at the moon with Ten Cool Things Seen in the First Year of LRO. And the winning contestants are 1) the coldest place in the solar system ever measured, 2) astronaut footprints, 3) a near miss with Cone Crater, 4) a lost Soviet rover, 5) the lunar farside, 6) a bevy of boulders, 7) mountains, 08) rilles, 9) pits, and 10) frigid polar craters. Andy’s fine review features lots of blogolicious moon images.

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Goddard Astronomy Club president Cornelis Dutoit keeps an eye on the sun as relentless shimmering waves of solar energy melt the faces off of everyone else attending Celebrate Goddard 2010.

On Thursday June 24, “Celebrate Goddard” took over the grassy mall near the main gate, spotlighting “the diverse skills and individual differences that have made our legacy of success possible.” Atta boy, Goddard! You go, major NASA center for research in astronomy, earth, and space science! Lookin’ sharp, kid! . . . . . The day featured exhibits by Goddard scientists, organizations, and clubs; a Center talent show; and the first-ever Celebrate Goddard parade, featuring the  DuVal High Marching Tigers. . . . . The weather: hot enough to melt your face off, with heat index up to 104 degrees.

Earth from the moon, LRO-style . . .Also on Thursday, NASA released a near-full disk image of Earth snapped by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team created it by assembling multiple scans captured by LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera. The image was originally posted on the Arizona State University LROC featured image site by Mark Robinson, LROC’s Principle Investigator.

***UPDATE: Friday June 25, 4:22 pm . . . NASA released another LRO image: Goddard Crater, located along the Moon’s eastern limb and named after the namesake of our beloved Center, pioneering rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard (1882-1945). The LOLA instrument that captured the image was built here.

Astronaut Sally K. Ride

Astronaut Sally K. Ride

HISTORICAL FOOTNOTES
Thursday marked 27 years since the space shuttle missionSTS-7, June 18-24, 1983 — that carried astrophysicist Sally K. Ride into space and into history as the first American woman in orbit. . . . . But the anniversary is bittersweet: STS-7 was a flight of the Challenger, which was lost with all hands about three years later, January 28, 1986. Two female astronauts died that day: Judith Resnik and Christa McAuliffe.

On June 25, 1997, the Russian resupply vessel Progress collided with the science module Spektor on the Mir space station while attempting to dock. The blow punctured and decompressed Spektor, and knocked out its solar panels. . . . . The two cosmonauts and one American astronaut (Michael Foale) on Mir were not harmed. . . . . The Russian space agency refused to abandon ship, and kept Mir alive until it could be repaired. Foale stayed aboard, too. . . . . Watch the animated recreation of this near-catastrophe on YouTube to get a sense of just how bad it was — and how lucky the astro/cosmonauts were to make it through alive!

On June 26, 1978, NASA launched Seasat-A, the first satellite to make global observations of Earth’s oceans. The satellite carried the first spaceborne synthetic aperture radar. After 105 days of returning data, Seasat was crippled by an electrical fault. . . . . Now here is a blogolicious Seasat-A science fact: While not anticipated by the satellite’s designers, Seasat-A was actually able to detect the waves of SUBMERGED submarines!

remembering giants_202FREE STUFF
Gogblog loves space tech, and here is a massive dose of it for like-minded technophiles. Remembering the Giants: Apollo Rocket Propulsion Development, Monographs in Aerospace History, No. 45 (NASA SP-2009-4545), edited by Steven C. Fisher and Shamim A. Rahman. . . . . This monograph is the proceedings from a series of lectures on Apollo propulsion development hosted by NASA’s Stennis Space Center. . . . . Request a copy of this monograph by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the NASA History Division, Room CO72, NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20546. Or just download a PDF of the report.

Gogblog gratefully credits the NASA History Division website as the source of the historical tidbits this week.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.


That Was the Year That Was: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Marks 365 Days Exploring the Moon

June 23rd, 2010 Comments off
Off you go!

Off you go!

A year ago today, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter — that’s “LRO” to the spacecraft’s many close personal friends — reached the moon. It’s been an eventful and successful mission. LRO, let me be the first to say, “You Rock!”

Speaking of rocks, LRO has seen rocks a’plenty. Not to mention lunar rilles, a Russian rover, and the coldest place in the solar system ever measured. For more details and blogolicious weblinks, see the  roundup of LRO discoveries and observations by Goddard’s own Andy Freeberg.

Here are Gogblog’s LRO mission highlights, fun facts, sideshows, and uninvited commentary:

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched June 18 2009 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It arrived at the moon Tuesday June 23.

  • Historical irony: In the 1960s, the United States was locked in a race to the moon with the Soviet Union. But today, a Russian-built RD-180 first-stage rocket engine lifts every Atlas V off the pad, including the one that took LRO to the moon. Also, a Russian team built LRO’s Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector.
LRO-spacecraft_152

Fly me to the moon . . .

Science mission: The spacecraft carries 7 instruments to  survey the moon’s surface and environment and look for water. This is data that any future human explorers would benefit from — for instance, to identify safe landing sites, locate sources of water and energy, and minimize radiation exposure.

NASA imaging team discovers shocking new evidence that intelligent beings once walked on the moon!

NASA imaging team discovers shocking new evidence that intelligent beings once walked on the moon! (click to see)

On July 2, NASA released the first images of the moon from the supersharp Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC, showing a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).

On July 17, fake moon landing conspiracy enthusiasts suffered a devastating dose of reality when NASA released LROC images of the lunar lander sites for Apollo 11, 14, 15, 16, and 17. In the Apollo 14 image, footprints and scientific instruments left by the astronauts were visible — I mean, unless the LROC images are fakes, and pigs can fly, and the tooth fairy is real.

  • Fun fact: In the LROC images, the 12-foot diameter lunar landers occupy just 9 pixels.
  • Great pixels: If you want to drink up some fantastic images from LRO and the history of manned exploration of the moon, check out the Big Picture image spread that ran in January 2010 on the Boston Globe website.
Diviner_152

Cold storage: shadowed craters could keep water frozen for billions of years.

On September 17, LRO science teams released early results of the mission. Included in the findings: LRO’s Diviner instrument found spots in permanently shadowed polar craters at -415 degrees Fahrenheit (-248 Celsius). That’s cold enough to store water ice or hydrogen for billions of years.

In a related development . . . On September 25, a team of scientists reported in the journal Science that data from the Indian lunar Chandrayaan-1 probe and NASA’s Deep Impact and Cassini spacecraft confirmed the presence of water molecules on the moon’s surface — especially near the poles.

A second mission, the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), had piggybacked to the moon on LRO’s Atlas V. (Its instruments rode to space in a ring-shaped package stuck between the top of the Atlas V’s “Centaur” second stage and the bottom of the LRO payload.)

The scientists crashed the spent Centaur into the moon’s surface on October 9 and used LCROSS’s instruments to search the debris plume for water. On November 13, the LCROSS science team announced they found it. “I am here today to tell you that, indeed, yes we found water,” said Anthony Colaprete, lead scientist for LCROSS. “And we didn’t find just a little bit; we found a significant amount.”

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.


Yes, we really did land on the Moon. Trust me on this.

January 29th, 2010 1 comment


Hey, check this out. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took 3D measurements of the Apollo 14 landing site. Take that Moon landing conspiracy theorists!

apollo14_lander_608

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.