Fifty Recent Colloquia

The MESSENGER Mission to Mercury

  • O'Shaughnessy, Dan
  • MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is the first spacecraft to achieve orbit about Mercury. Designed to operate for one Earth-year in Mercury orbit, MESSENGER exceeded expectations by completing more than four years of scientific study of the innermost planet. On 30 April 2015, MESSENGER will have completely exhausted all onboard propellant, leaving no means to fight the persistent tug of the Sun's gravity, resulting in a 3.9 km/s impact with Mercury's ... [MORE]

From Medicine to Space: Impact of the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) on Society

  • Baliga, Jayant
  • Considered the most important innovation in power electronics during the last 35 years, the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) has had an enormous impact on creating a sustainable society by enhancing the comfort and convenience of billions of people while reducing energy consumption. They have become indispensable components in consumer appliances (refrigerators, microwave ovens, washing machines), industrial manufacturing (robotics, steel-mills), transportation (electronic ignition ... [MORE]

Project Dyna-Soar: a Shuttle Ahead of Its Time

  • Teitel, Amy Shira
  • The Air Force's Dyna-Soar might have been the first spacecraft to carry astronauts into orbit, launching atop a Titan missile and gliding unpowered to a runway landing, had history taken a very different path. Like the V-2 program that spawned some of the first American missiles, Dyna-Soar's roots were in an unrealized Nazi antipodal bombing technology and the concept arrived in the United States with the German scientists imported after the Second World. First pitched as a weapon to th... [MORE]

How the Future Was: Visual Speculations of Tomorrow and Beyond

  • Di Fate, Vincent
  • This is a visual survey of how images in the popular media helped pave our way into space. The presentation will include glimpses of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and other fictional adventurers from the press, early TV heroes such as Captain Video and Buzz Corey of the Space Patrol and images and clips from the Golden Age of science fiction films and before. Central to the presentation will be Collier's Magazine's famous 1950s space articles series and Disney's animated Tomorrowland episodes o ... [MORE]

Dead Dinosaurs and Nuclear Wars

  • Toon, Owen Brian
  • Sixty six million years ago a mountain sized chunk of rock traveling at more than 10 times the muzzle velocity of an assault rifle, slammed into the shallow sea covering what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Shortly thereafter the 5th of the Earth's great mass extinctions occurred. The energy released by the impact was comparable to having a 1-megaton nuclear explosion spaced every 5 km over the Earth's surface. Massive tidal waves and earthquakes swept the Gulf of Mexico, an... [MORE]

Earth's Unique Continents

  • Rudnick, Roberta
  • The Earth is the only planet in our solar system with continents. Continents provide the habitat in which our species evolved, as well as the sustenance we need to survive. Yet how continents form, as well as when they formed, is still a matter of debate. This lecture will review current thinking on what continents are made of, and how they may have formed and evolved through time. [MORE]

Engineering at NASA HQ

  • Hyde, Tupper
  • I served as the Chief Engineer for the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA HQ for two plus years and have recently returned to Goddard. I thought the SE interest community at Goddard would be intrigued about what an engineer does at headquarters (hint: it's not really engineering). This talk will highlight how the engineering and reporting you do in projects makes it's way to and through headquarters. There will be a bit on how the Office of the Chief Engineer supports the mission dir ... [MORE]

Saturn's Icy Satellites

  • Spencer, John
  • In its ten years in Saturn orbit, NASA's Cassini mission has fleshed out our previous rudimentary knowledge of Saturn's satellites to provide a comprehensive picture of these remarkably diverse worlds. This talk will focus on what we have learned about the so-called "icy" moons (i.e. excluding the giant moon Titan). I'll discuss many of the mysteries that Cassini has helped us to unravel, including the two-faced nature of Iapetus, which is black on one side and white on the other side; ... [MORE]

Let it Rain and Snow: A Year of Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Mission Data

  • Skofronick-Jackson, Gail
  • Water is fundamental to life on Earth. Knowing where and how much rain and snow fall globally is vital to understanding how weather and climate impact our Earth's water and energy cycles. The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory spacecraft, a partnership with the Japanese, launched February 28, 2014. The GPM instruments are designed to extend the capabilities of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM, 1997-2015) by detecting falling snow, measuring light rain, ... [MORE]

Fracking - Evil Scourge or Game-Changing Technology?

  • Veil, John
  • This seminar will describe the size and scope of the U.S. oil and gas industry, and what impact oil and gas production using hydraulic fracturing has made on domestic and international energy supply. I will give some history on hydraulic fracturing and explain what the technology is and also what it is not. There is a great deal of misinformation about fracturing and its impacts on the environment and on society -- I will list some of the media concerns and offer an unemotional, factual poi ... [MORE]

Coronal Mass Ejections: from a Novelty to a Natural Hazard

  • Gopalswamy, Nat
  • Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were discovered only in 1971, but there were indications of such mass ejections starting from the late 1800s. Only in the 1990s it was realized that CMEs are the primary source of severe space weather that affects our technology in space and on ground. Before the 1990s, all space weather effects such as geomagnetic storms and solar particle radiation were attributed to solar flares, probably because of the fact that they were discovered more than a century befo ... [MORE]

Early Results from the MAVEN Mission to Mars

  • Jakosky, Bruce
  • The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since 21 September 2014 and collecting data in science mode since 16 November 2014. The science objectives of the MAVEN mission are to characterize the upper atmosphere and ionospheric structure and composition, the interactions of the sun and the solar wind with the planet, and the processes driving loss of gas from the atmosphere to space. Our goal is to understand the chain of processes leading to escape ... [MORE]

Measuring the Universe

  • Lawrence, Charles
  • In less than a century we have advanced from knowing almost nothing about the Universe as a whole to measuring it with exquisite precision. In this process, the cosmic microwave background has played a dominant role. Why is the CMB so important, and what have we learned from the new measurements of it by the Planck spacecraft, launched in 2009? [MORE]

Fast Radio Bursts - the Story So Far

  • Lormier, Duncan
  • I will describe a brief history of discovery and some exciting recent developments in the world of pulsars and fast radio bursts. Pulsars, rapidly rotating highly magnetized neutron stars, were discovered in 1967 and continue to surprise and delight astronomers as powerful probes of fundamental physics and astrophysics. Fast radio bursts are millisecond-duration pulses of currently unknown origin that were discovered in 2007. Both pulsars and fast radio bursts have great promise at probing ... [MORE]

Eta Carinae: Astrophysical Laboratory for the Study of the Most Massive Stars

  • Gull, Theodore
  • Eta Carinae has fascinated astronomers since brightening in the 1840s to rival Sirius but then fading to the unaided eye. Today the Homunculus, a massive, dusty, molecular bipolar shell expands outward at 600 km/s. Its kinetic energy approaches that of a supernova event. The surviving core, a 5.54-year binary, is obscured in our line of sight by 4 to 5 magnitudes of primary wind. In another direction, the secondary wind periodically carves a cavity out of the primary wind, releasing prodigi ... [MORE]

The Future of Cancer Research

  • Gottesman, Michael
  • Enormous progress has been made in the past three decades in defining the molecular and genetic basis of cancer and in understanding the "hallmarks of cancer" that are the basis of its pathophysiology and potential targets for therapy. And this has resulted in remarkable breakthroughs in the treatment of many types of cancers, extending lives and eliminating the burdens of illness. Significant problems remain, however, in translating this knowledge into more effective cancer therapies, such ... [MORE]

Living Fossils

  • Werth, Alexander
  • Charles Darwin first coined the term "living fossil" to describe archaic forms, including lungfishes and horseshoe crabs, which seem not to have changed since their appearance in the fossil record hundreds of millions of years ago. As Darwin explained, evolution is not merely a chronicle of historical events but an ongoing process that is the fundamental basis of all life on Earth. Given that evolution is all about species changing over time, how can we explain such species as the coelacant ... [MORE]

Using Cat States in a Microwave Cavity for Quantum Information

  • Schoelkopf, Robert
  • Dramatic progress has been made in the last decade and a half towards realizing solid-state systems for quantum information processing with superconducting quantum circuits. Artificial atoms (or qubits) based on Josephson junctions have improved their coherence times a million-fold, have been entangled, and used to perform simple quantum algorithms. The next challenge for the field is demonstrating quantum error correction that actually improves the lifetimes, a necessary step for building ... [MORE]

Sensors for On-Orbit Docking

  • Granade, Stephen
  • Docking spacecraft autonomously while on orbit can provide many benefits, from uncrewed resupply of the ISS to robotic servicing of craft like the Hubble Space Telescope. However, autonomous docking has been limited by what sensors and sensor processing are available. We'll discuss the tradeoffs in sensor design, such as whether the sensor should work with specialized cooperative targets or uncooperative spacecraft. We'll also look at existing sensors such as the Russian Kurs system... [MORE]

The Interplanetary Transport Network

  • Folta, Dave
  • With careful trajectory planning, we can carry out missions that would otherwise be impossible with the rockets we have available. One familiar example of this method is the Voyager spacecraft, which used gravity assists to visit all of the gas giants of the outer solar system. Other examples include GFCS's Wind and ISEE-3 missions which utilized lunar gravity to achieve unique orbits close to Earth or to flyby a comet. The gravity assist flybys are examples of using trajectory design to re ... [MORE]

The Slide Rule: 350+ Years from Napier through the Manned Apollo Missions

  • Chamberlain, Edwin J
  • The slide rule -- a simple yet ingenious computing device -- was used by many engineers, scientists, and mathematicians as their primary means of computation for over 350 years, until the appearance of the electronic calculator in the mid-1970s. It was used in the design and construction of buildings, bridges, rockets, and even in the design of the electronic calculator that would ultimately replace it. This talk will cover the history of the slide rule, from its beginnings with mathematici ... [MORE]

Social Implications of Brain Emulation

  • Hanson, Robin
  • Can we foresee the future? Some say that while we can project some social trends, and dimly see outlines of some disruptive future techs, we just can't foresee social implications of disruptive techs. To show these views wrong, I take an oft-mentioned disruptive future tech and study its social consequences in great breadth and detail. The tech is: artificial intelligence in the form of whole brain emulations, a.k.a. "uploads" or "ems," sometime in the next century. I attempt a broad sy... [MORE]

Desert Worlds: the Dry Limit for Life

  • Diruggiero, Jocelyne
  • Microorganisms have inhabited the Earth for 3.4 billion years of its history, and they are key for the evolution of its major geochemical cycles and the composition of its atmosphere. Planets and moons explored thus far in our solar system harbor extreme environmental conditions where it is more likely to find microorganisms than any other form of life. When searching for habitable exoplanets, one has to consider the boundaries of the habitable zone, in particular at its inner-edge where so ... [MORE]

Infinite Worlds: NASA in Photographs

  • Soluri, Michael
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has been orbiting our blue dot of a water world for 25 years. It's engineering and scientific ability in capturing the ancient light of the universe has been the result of 5 shuttle based up-grade service missions. My presentation visually highlights the meaning I discovered during my three year photographic journey during STS125 - SM4, the historic and last of the Hubble servicing missions. From 2007 through 2009 I photographed at GSFC, as well as at JSC and KSC ... [MORE]

CubeSats: Innovation and Risk in the (tiny) New Space Frontier

  • Antunes, Alex "Sandy"
  • As tiny 1-liter CubeSats go from a handful to hundreds launched or proposed each year, we look at why it's both very easy and very hard to launch your own personal satellite mission. Popular among amateurs, early adopters, and career engineers alike, they have moved the space technology question from "who can build satellites" to the more evolved "what will you fly?"- and how will you manage it. As tech demos, science missions, and- in some views- tiny little space hazards-- these satellite ... [MORE]

Storm and Surge Risk to Major Coastal Cities in a Changing Climate

  • Emanuel, Kerry
  • Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy remind us that many of our coastal cities are vulnerable to hurricanes, and that much of the damage comes from surges that accompany the storms. But history is too short and imperfectly recorded to allow for a robust assessment of the existing risk, and rising sea levels and changing levels of storminess may render history a poor guide to the future anyway. In this talk, I will show how physics and computational science may be brought to bear on the problem of a ... [MORE]

GPR 7123.1B: System Engineering Requirements Update

  • Firman, Cynthia
  • The talk will be on the updates made to the GPR 7123 from version .1A to .1B for GSFC to be in compliance with the changes made from NPR 7123 version .1A to .1B. [MORE]

The Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST): The Great Observatory to Follow JWST

  • Thronson, Harley, Feinberg, Lee, Rioux, Norman
  • NASA's Science Mission Directorate has identified as a future high priority a very large-aperture space observatory operating from ultraviolet wavelengths into the near-infrared. The NRC in 2010 recommended that the agency begin design work this decade on such a mission, which would include as a major science goal the search for the spectral signatures of life in the atmospheres of Earth-like worlds in the solar neighborhood. With partners at JPL, MSFC, and STScI for such a mission, Goddard ... [MORE]

10 Years of Infrared Exploration with the Spitzer Space Telescope

  • Werner, Michael
  • In March of 2004, within a few months of the start of the scientific mission of the Spitzer Space Telescope, I talked here at GSFC about the scientific results that were only just starting to emerge from NASA's Great Observatory for infrared exploration of the Universe. Ten years later, we are awash in Spitzer data, and exciting new results continue to pour in from the observatory, which has now completed about a quarter of a revolution around the sun as seen from Earth. In this talk, I... [MORE]

Tracing Human Migration using Genetic Markers

  • Schanfield, Moses
  • Of all species on the face of the earth, humans are the most disperse, in that they occupy the most diverse eco-systems, present on all large land masses and most large islands. In recent time much work has been done using maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA, and non-recombinant Y (NRY) chromosome markers to map human migration and ancestry. In addition large numbers of other DNA based markers have been used for similar purposes. However, anthropological geneticists have been looking at ... [MORE]

Extreme Spacecraft Engineering

  • Kusnierkiewicz, David
  • The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Space Department has the privilege of conducting investigations of some of the most extreme places in the solar system for NASA. From exploring the Pluto system, 4.5 light-hours from Earth, to flying into the outer corona of the sun itself, or living in the Van Allen radiation belts around the Earth, APL spacecraft are (or will be) contributing to discoveries from one end of our solar system to the other. The challenges of delivering t ... [MORE]

'We died at such a place!' The Interaction of Battlefield Archaeology and Forensic Science

  • Rowe, Walter F.
  • Battlefield archaeology has begun to emerge as a recognized discipline within the field of anthropology. Battlefield archaeologists use the methods of archaeology to interpret human behavior on battlefields. Excavated human remains and material culture artifacts (remains of weapons and uniforms) may reveal where fighting took place, where tactical units were deployed and how the soldiers in those units behaved (Did they fight or did they run?). The activities of battlefield archaeologists h ... [MORE]

Modeling Wildfires: Past, Present and Future

  • Gollner, Michael
  • In 2012, wildland fires burned more than 4.3 million acres, destroying 4244 structures and killing 34 firefighters. An accurate computer model of wildland fire is therefore essential, for land use planning and for real-time operations. In the early 1970's, Richard Rothermel and colleagues developed the first operational fire model. Although it was a great improvement, it cannot model many of the extreme fire behaviors seen today. This talk will discuss projects that seek to improve the a ... [MORE]

The Future of Virtual Reality

  • Asaro, Catherine
  • Can humanity remake itself with science? We may someday download our brains into computers or other technologies yet to be invented, or we may live in virtual universes so well developed that we can no longer tell created worlds from reality. Our technology has developed at an unprecedented rate in recent years. This talk considers where we might be in another few decades, in particular in regards to artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and biomechanics (which can be thought of as the ... [MORE]

Interstellar Colonization on the Rapacious Hardscrapple Frontier

  • Hanson, Robin
  • Attempts to model interstellar colonization may seem hopelessly compromised by uncertainties regarding the technologies and preferences of advanced civilizations. However, if light speed limits travel speeds and reliability limits travel distances, then a selection effect may eventually determine behavior at the colonization frontier. Making weak assumptions about colonization technology, I use this selection effect to predict colonists' behavior, including which oases they colonize, how lo ... [MORE]

Minimizing Human Factors Mishaps in Unmanned Aircraft Systems

  • Waraich, Raza
  • Unmanned aircraft system (UAS) mishaps attributable to lack of attention to human factors/ergonomics (HF/E) science in their ground control stations (GCSes) are alarmingly high. The ANSI/HFES 100-2007 human factors standard is proposed as a specification for the design of UASes because of the similarity between general-purpose computer workstations and GCSes. Data were collected from 20 UASes to determine the applicability of commercial standards to GCS designs. Analysis shows that general- ... [MORE]

John Wheeler's H-bomb Blues: Searching for a Missing Document in the High Cold War

  • Wellerstein, Alex
  • There's never a right time to lose a secret document under unusual circumstances. But for the influential American physicist John Archibald Wheeler, there might not have been a worse time than January, 1953. While on an overnight train ride to Washington, D.C., only a month after the test of the first hydrogen bomb prototype, Wheeler lost, under curious circumstances, a document explaining the secret to making thermonuclear weapons. The subsequent search for the missing pages (and for who t ... [MORE]

Dune Worlds - How Windblown Sand Shapes Planetary Landscapes

  • Lorenz, Ralph
  • Dramatic progress has been made in recent years in understanding sand dunes, a landform recognized on Earth, Mars, Titan and Venus (and prominent in fictional worlds too). Ever-improving remote sensing data allows us not only to map the extent and morphology of these beautiful features, but also assay their composition, and observe their changes, with dune movements now documented on Mars and Tatooine as well as Earth. Field data gives new insights into the nonsteady turbulent processes tha ... [MORE]

Exploring Mercury: Scientific Results from the MESSENGER Mission

  • Nittler, Larry
  • As the smallest planet in our solar system, and the closest to the Sun, Mercury represents an end-member of planetary formation processes. Although visible to the naked eye, it is difficult to study due to its proximity to the Sun. Since March of 2011, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has been in orbit around Mercury and its suite of scientific instruments have returned a wealth of data about the planet's surface, interior, magnetic field, and exosphere. This talk will review the mission, its ke ... [MORE]

Imaging the Earth's Interior with Geo-neutrinos

  • McDonough, William
  • Radioactive decay of U and Th gives off ghost-like, neutrino particles that can be detected by 1000 ton detectors built a mile underground, where they are shielded from the cosmic rays that rain down on the Earth. Collaborations between physicists and geologists are detecting these "geo-neutrinos". Future underwater detectors, deployed at different points on the ocean floor, will create a neutrino tomographic image of mantle structures sited at the base of the mantle above the core. [MORE]

Saturn's Great Northern Storm of 2010-2011: from storm clouds to hot vortices

  • Hesman, Brigette
  • The massive eruption at 40°N on Saturn in December 2010 has produced significant and lasting effects in the northern hemisphere on temperature and species abundance. When the storm clouds erupted into the troposphere of Saturn they were sheared and over the next 3 months wrapped around the entire planet. This eruption sent waves into the stratosphere, which caused significant heating. In 2011 and 2012 the Cassini spacecraft observed the effects of the storm over many wavelengths on multipl... [MORE]

Finding the Slippery Slope: Detecting Landslides from Space

  • Kirschbaum, Dalia
  • Rainfall-triggered landslides occur in nearly every country around the world, produce billions of dollars of damages and cause thousands of fatalities, and that is just in one year. Understanding and modeling the dynamics of rainfall-triggered landslides is a challenging task due to precipitation variability and the complexity of approximating landslide failure mechanisms over broader scales. Satellite data provides a unique perspective to estimate landslide triggering, but the accuracy of ... [MORE]

The First Year of Human Habitation, and Science, at the Geographic South Pole

  • Benson, Robert
  • The speaker was a scientific member of the first wintering-over party at the International Geophysical Year (IGY) Amundsen-Scott South-Pole Station in 1957. In addition to his scientific duties as the seismology lead and as an assistant to the ionosphere and aurora programs, he collected a comprehensive set of historical graphical material depicting the first wintering-over experience both inside and outside the South Pole Station. He will use this material to illustrate that first winter a ... [MORE]

Science News in the 21st Century

  • Day, Charles
  • Science news is in a paradoxical state. On the one hand, newspapers and TV stations continue to shrink and cut their science coverage. On the other hand, more news about science is available than ever before, notably online. But the key question remains: how to identify and satisfy the public's interest in science? [MORE]

Collisions in Space: The Threat of Asteroid Impacts

  • Hayes-Gehrke, Melissa
  • An asteroid impact is an astronomical threat that could become reality. The Earth and other planets have been impacted by asteroids in the past, with several specific impacts providing key information to scientists. The Chelyabinsk airburst of February 2013 was observed by an unprecedented number of people, as I will discuss in my talk. While it is likely that millions of asteroids exist in the main asteroid belt, the thousands that orbit in the inner solar system are the greatest threa ... [MORE]

The NICER Mission: a Partnership in Science and Technology on the ISS

  • Gendreau, Keith
  • The Neutron Star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) is an X-ray astrophysics mission of opportunity that will reveal the inner workings of neutron stars, cosmic lighthouses that embody unique gravitational, electromagnetic, and nuclear-physics environments. NICER achieves this objective by deploying a high-heritage instrument as an attached payload on a zenith-side ExPRESS Logistics Carrier aboard the International Space Station (ISS). NICER offers order-of-magnitude improvements in time ... [MORE]

Geeks, Hacker Culture, and Anonymous

  • Coleman, Gabriella
  • Drawing on fieldwork among Free and Open Source software hackers and the Anonymous protest movement, I will discuss some attributes of hacker and geek activism that set their actions apart from other modalities of dissent and contextualize their actions in light of broader historical trends concerning censorship, intellectual property law and surveillance. [MORE]

Life of a Snowflake

  • Johnson, Ben
  • The humble snowflake, oft noted for its unparalleled beauty and elegance, also plays a critical role in ensuring our continued survival as a species. Falling snow is a truly global phenomenon -- and has direct dynamic and physical impacts on the atmosphere and surface. In the colder regions of the Earth, whether by latitude or elevation, snow reaching the surface has a tendency to accumulate. For many regions of the world, the seasonal accumulation and subsequent melt of snowpack provides f ... [MORE]

Chlorinated Organics in a Gale Crater Mudstone and the Imprint of an Ancient Fluvial Environment in 3 Billion Year Old Water Found in a 4 Billion Year Old Martian Rock

  • Mahaffy, Paul
  • One Mars year after landing the one-ton Curiosity Rover in Gale Crater, Mars continues to surprise. Data from the Goddard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) experiment combined with that from the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) has now realized the first in situ chronology experiment implemented on another planet. In addition to establishing the K/Ar formation age of a drilled rock we have been able to measure the deuterium to hydrogen ratio in ancient water vapor locked in clay mineral ... [MORE]