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Where is America’s New Space Center?

Founded in 1961, Johnson Space Center in Houston was a hub of aerospace activity in the 1960s and 70s. The facility trained the astronauts who first walked on the moon and helped develop the Space Shuttle program. Then Kennedy Space Center at Florida’s Cape Canaveral came online in 1962 and became the epicenter of space exploration during the 80s and 90s. So where is America’s next spaceport?

Virgin Galactic is betting heavily on the future of space tourism with the sleek SpaceShip Two passenger ship. It can reach sub-orbit space. 

The Mojave Air & Space Port sits in the middle of the California desert and it’s already attracting new legions of ambitious young rocketeers and space scientists.

If you want to see where the future takes flight, this is it, approximately 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The Mojave Air & Space Port compound is a former military base that occupies some 3,300 acres and is home to about 100 aircraft hangars. The flat desert terrain provides a great location for the 2-mile-long runway. And there’s lots of room for blasting rockets off into the wild blue yonder.

Look around and you’ll find not only genius scientists but inventors and space engineers of every type. At one end of the spectrum, small groups of rocketeers launching their first DIY experiments. At the other end, well-financed corporations planning how to make space travel (including space tourism) and the further exploration of space into profit-making enterprises that could also help unlock the mysteries of the universe.

NASA’s New Business Model
The Mojave Air & Space Port is a new idea for a tougher economic age. The business of space exploration has changed dramatically lately with NASA’s decision to end America’s space shuttle program. In essence, NASA has been cutting away some of its more expensive programs as a means of making America’s space agency financially leaner and more sound. The space shuttle and its operation was intensive and costly. Although NASA is still sponsoring unmanned explorations (such as the Mars Rover project, and its probe to Venus), the days of U.S. space shuttles transporting cargo and people into space—at least for now—are over.

The Mojave Air & Space Port plays home to deep-pocketed corporations as well as small, passionate groups of DIY rocketeers.

The Mojave Air & Space Port fills that gap by providing a location where all types of corporations and individuals can work on their various space-oriented projects. The concept for the space port was originated by Virgin corporation president, Richard Branson. Branson, a thrill-seeker himself, was attracted to the idea, as were other corporate heads (such as Microsoft’s Paul Allen).

See Outer Space (And Be Back for Dinner)
Each company based at the Mojave Air & Space Port has a stake of some kind in space travel. Branson’s company, for example, plans to be the first to fly space tourists into low-levels of outer space via space shuttle-like craft. These passengers would take off from landing strips on the desert floor and embark on short, multi-hour excursions to the nearest edge of outer space. The ultimate in sight-seeing—a quick trip out of this world and then back down to earth in time for dinner.

Virgin Galactic recently acquired The Spaceship Company (here unveiling a new hangar at the Mojave Air & Space Port), showing its intention of shaping the space-tourism marketplace.

Other companies are busily tinkering with exploration and cargo-transport projects, in hopes of winning contracts with NASA itself. As the agency embraces its new business model, that means that (like many corporations these days) NASA will be outsourcing some of its activities to private space contractors.

Boldly Going to Space Camp 
While the Space Shuttle program may have ended, it’s the dawn of a new age in space exploration. For kids interested in space exploration, space camp is the place to start. At Digital Media Academy’s tech camp, kids learn science and engineering in a fun and creative way. Blasting off water rockets and learning how things work can turn your curious child into an aeronautics engineer. After all, it’s the new generation of discoverers that will lead us into tomorrow…and deeper into the far reaches of space.


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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog,Science & Engineering and have No Comments

Space Shuttle Endeavour Takes Final Journey

On Thursday, Space Shuttle Endeavour will embark on its very last journey. After an amazing twenty years in space, Endeavour is headed toward its final home on earth.

Space Shuttle Endeavor being detached from the Boeing 747 carrier jet it hitched a final ride on. (Click image for a larger view.)

Space Shuttle Endeavour flew 25 missions, including 12 missions to help construct and outfit the International Space Station. But now the traveling days of this “frequent flyer” are over. The space shuttle is now earthbound.

Endeavour’s “Victory Lap”
The fifth and final NASA space shuttle built as a replacement for Challenger (which was destroyed 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986), Space Shuttle Endeavour first flew way back in May 1992, as part of the STS-49 mission.

The Los Angeles Times 360 degree view of the shuttle Endeavour: bringing you the shuttle up close and personal.

The craft remained in service through its last trip into space, during the STS-134 mission of May 2011. The final landing of Endeavour also marks the end of America’s space shuttle program. With the last outfitting of the International Space Station (a permanently staffed floating space laboratory located 250 miles above Earth) completed, the shuttle program was seen as no longer being essential and NASA retired the shuttle fleet.

Space Shuttle Endeavour made a slow journey from its previous home in Florida to its final location in California. Ironically, Endeavour was constructed in California (following the Challenger tragedy) and its trip home on the back of a specially built 747 was a nostalgic one for Californians.

Grounded in Los Angeles 
The process of getting Endeavour to its final resting place at the California Science Center was a challenging one. It all started when the space shuttle was flown piggy-back style on a NASA Boeing 747 aircraft from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to Los Angeles International Airport. It took landing crews 12 hours to detach the Endeavour from the 747 that had carried it on its last flight.

Once safely on the ground, those crews used giant cranes to raise the aircraft enough to be maneuvered into a special hangar at the airport.

Los Angeles locals will experience the worst traffic jam since Carmageddon when the Endeavour rolls through town.

Endeavour is perched atop a special transporter vehicle designed to safely haul the 78-ton aircraft through the streets of Los Angeles. When it eventually find its new home at the Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Display Pavilion, Endeavour will take up residence as the most famous exhibit there. It will go on public display on Oct. 30, when the Endeavour exhibit opens to the public.

Shuttle Stats:

  • Endeavour racked up nearly 123 million miles (198 million km) of space travel during 4,671 flights.
  • Endeavour made some twenty low-altitude fly-bys over noted California landmarks like San Francisco and Disneyland on its last flight.
  • The transporter that will carry the shuttle to the California Science Center will take two-days to cover the twelve miles journey.
  • Named after a ship chartered to traverse the South Pacific in 1768 and captained by 18th century British explorer James Cook, an experienced seaman, navigator and amateur astronomer. Cook commanded a crew of 93 men, including 11 scientists and artists.
  • During an Endeavour mission the longest in space walk in history was recorded; the stroll lasted more than eight hours.
  • Endeavour’s STS-118 mission flight was the first launch for the orbiter in more than four years.


The spaceship in its prime; here 400 miles above Earth and waiting to dock with the International Space Station.

So as Endeavour takes a well-deserved final bow, we think about how its cargo transport enabled the establishment of the International Space Station and the tremendous amount of knowledge that we’ve subsequently gained in our understanding of the universe we all share.

For kids interested in becoming astronauts, they shouldn’t worry: Space travel will continue without Endeavour. And ultra-modern space camps will keep inspiring future generations of explorers.


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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog,Science & Engineering and have No Comments

World’s Best Tech Camp Starts Summer at Stanford

Summer is here and if you’re like most families, summer camp will most likely be part of your summer plans. But summer camps today are way different from those your parents attended. Now instead of making leather bracelets, kids and teens are making technology.

Digital Media Academy’s classroom at Stanford—air conditioned and decked out with brand new iMacs and Mario pixel art.

“I Will Create the Next _______”
Learning app development for the Apple iPhone and Video Game Design camp is a different kind of “screen time” and can be a great way to inspire young imaginations. At DMA, campers aged 6 to 17 choose their area of interest during week-long or two-week courses. They all create technology while meeting other young people like themselves and forging lifelong friendships.

This year Digital media Academy has added exciting brand-new tech camps to all twelve university locations across the United States and Canada:

DMA’s Adventures in Science & Engineering program brings kids age 8 through 12 face to face with science and some of its coolest applications. Campers construct buildings with CAD technology, learning about concepts such as structural stress. Junior inventors also get to build water rockets and solar race cars while grasping key principles about aerodynamics and how machines work. Kids even use Scratch to make their own 2D video games. This is hands-on science coupled with the summer camp experience of a lifetime.

Meanwhile, PS3 & Xbox 360 Game Development with Unity is perfect for the youngster (age 13 to 17) who wants to design and build a next-generation game for the Xbox 360 or PS3. Campers use the industry-standard Unity game engine to help them put together a playable first- or third-person game. Topics covered include game-development work flow, asset preparation, integrating animation, controlling characters, collision detection and weapon interactions. This summer camp experience is ideal for the dedicated gamer.

Another new program debuting at DMA’s Stanford location is the Academy for 3D Modeling, Animation and Visual Effects, for ages 12 through 17. Campers in this program get to go behind the scenes of Hollywood’s coolest blockbusters and find out how special-effects artists are able to work their special visual magic. And by using cutting-edge software like Maya and After Effects, students are exposed to animation basics, motion tracking, color correction, green screen technology and 3D rendering. Learn how the pros do it…by doing it yourself.

At Digital Media Academy’s tech camp (located at Palo Alto’s scenic Stanford University) a teen learns to create a Web site.

Est. 2002
This summer DMA celebrates more than ten years of delivering the finest technology summer camp experience around. It is the only tech camp founded at Stanford University by Stanford technology educators—and it’s grown. The company now operates programs at locations across the country, hosted by some of the nation’s most prestigious college and university campuses. It’s no wonder Digital Media Academy was ranked the world’s best technology summer camp by in 2011.

With world-class industry-based instruction and the best in today’s latest software, a DMA summer can deliver lasting benefits and inspire kids and teens to get moving on their career dreams. Make summer vacation count…with Digital Media Academy.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Technology Summer Camps and have No Comments

The End of an Era: Celebrating the Space Shuttle Program

When the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on July 21st, it marked the last time a U.S. space shuttle would probably ever fly. The landing effectively ended the 30 year shuttle program. From 1981 to 2011, NASA flew 133 successful shuttle flights. Put another way, approximately every three months during that time period, NASA launched and landed a shuttle.

The last of NASA’s shuttle astronauts. The STS-135/Atlantis crew included (from left): Mission Specialist Rex Walheim; Pilot Doug Hurley; Commander Chris Ferguson; and Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus. (Image: NASA)

Mission Accomplished
When the Atlantis mission ended, it signaled what many believed as the end of America’s commitment to ongoing space exploration. However, NASA was quick to point out that the end of the Shuttle program does not mean an end to NASA; America’s space agency recently began new, unmanned missions that will send back images and other data from the far reaches of space, as well as from the surface and atmosphere of planets such as Mars and Jupiter.

The Space Shuttle program demonstrated that NASA had achieved some basic mastery of space travel. While early NASA programs like Mercury were mainly trying to see if manned orbits of Earth were even possible, the Space Shuttle program made regular journeys into space seem as routine and safe as a commuter’s trip to work.

The Risks (and Rewards) of Space Exploration 
Despite an enviable track record, two NASA Space Shuttle missions ended in disaster. The Space Shuttle Challenger and its seven-member crew were destroyed during its 1986 lift-off, due to launch failure. The shock of the disaster was so great that news of the tragedy spread like wildfire; a poll afterward revealed that 85 percent of all Americans had heard of the disaster within one hour of it taking place.

Many years later, in 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia experienced mechanical failure during its decent into the Earth’s atmosphere – its crew of seven were killed when the craft broke apart upon re-entry. Neither accident derailed the Shuttle program, but each showed that exploring the heavens remains a risky business – and one that sometimes means we pay a terrible price, in human life.

The Atlantis lands…one last time…marking the end of three decades of  Space Shuttle service. 

On the other hand, despite these tragedies, the Space Shuttle program racked up an impressive list of achievements in its three decades of service. In many of the program’s finest moments, the Space Shuttles were used to assist larger scientific missions.

For example, when NASA needed to get huge space telescopes like Galileo and Hubble into orbit, the shuttle was the go-to choice for getting them in place (in part because the Shuttle orbiter – which resembles an oversized jet – had a large cargo bay that could hold space telescopes and satellites). Likewise, when astronauts needed to be transported to or from the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle operated like an orbital taxi, ready to deliver human cargo as well as replacement parts and other equipment to the ISS.

Coming Home
The Space Shuttle Atlantis’ last flight proceeded completely according to plan, and began on July 8th. As usual, the orbiter was attached piggy-back style to two rocket boosters and a huge external tank of fuel. At the moment of ignition, the rockets (fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen) produced approximately 2.8 million pounds of thrust to lift the entire shuttle stack (as it was called) off the mobile launch platform and begin the shuttle’s skyward climb.

After about 2 minutes, the solid rocket boosters detached from the stack and floated by parachute into the Atlantic Ocean, where they were recovered. Meanwhile, the orbiter remained attached to the external tank for another 7 minutes, until the shuttle had reached a speed of 17,500 mph, which is the rate required to maintain a low orbit around the Earth. At this point, the engines were shut down and the orbiter was separated from the external tank, which burned up completely when re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. Then the Atlantis proceeded on its mission alone.

The shuttle on re-entry, as seen from the International Space Shuttle. 

For most of its journey home, the Shuttle acted much like a glider. First, the crew fired its orbital maneuvering system engines, which caused the Shuttle to descend from orbit and start re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Then the Shuttle flew like the jet it appeared to be, relying on its aerodynamics since it had already jettisoned its main rockets. The landing on July 21st was predictably smooth, and was only remarkable because it marked the end of the program.

The End of the Era: Where to Go See History
Now, the U.S. Space Shuttle program is history. Of the original orbiter vehicles constructed, two were lost completely in the Challenger and Columbia disasters. The other four Shuttles, however, are still intact and will be placed on permanent display where interested space fans can check out the vehicles that defined America’s space program for 30 years:

Shuttle Atlantis will remain at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex (Florida)

Shuttle Endeavour will be on display at the California Science Center (Los Angeles)

Shuttle Enterprise will be kept at the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum (New York)

Shuttle Discovery will be housed at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (Chantilly, Virginia)

Where Do We Go From Here?
Due in part to funding restraints, NASA will now concentrate on unmanned space missions that rely on space telescope, probes and planetary rovers in order to keep uncovering the secrets of the universe. In the short term, NASA will be sending its astronauts into space via Russian shuttle flights, at an estimated cost of $50 million per astronaut, per mission.

The future of space will probably be commercially controlled; Virgin Galactic is taking reservations now. 

As for low-orbit missions, many observers are predicting that the next wave of space flight will be pioneered by private companies who are each eager to offer excursions into space for private citizens who hunger to experience the thrill of traveling far above our natural planet. Companies such as Virgin are already working on getting individuals into near-space, and there’s ample research data that suggests that many wealthy private citizens are eager to pay hefty prices to experience the sensations of space travel.

Virgin Galactic is now booking reservations for flights into Earth’s thermosphere, about 68 miles above the earth. During the 3.5-hour flight (which starts at $200,000), passengers can look forward to about six minutes of weightlessness and the views of a lifetime. In September 2010, Virgin chief Richard Branson predicted Galactic would begin its unique passenger service in approximately 18 months.

But just because the shuttle program is over doesn’t mean you can’t experience an out-of-this world adventure in science and engineering. Space camp doesn’t exist anymore but computer summer camps do, and they can give you the skills to be a new-age digital explorer.


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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

AstroClip Turns Your iPhone 4 into Space Camera

For many people, amateur astronomy (i.e., star-gazing) is an exciting and enjoyable hobby – one that lets you connect with the vastness of space while learning more about planets, stars and other cosmic phenomenon. Now there’s a new gadget that lets you attach your iPhone 4 to any telescope and take pictures of the deep reaches of space.

A photo of the Moon taken with AstroClip.

Called AstroClip, the molded plastic clip connects easily to your iPhone 4 and allows you to attach it to any telescope that uses a 1.25-inch eyepiece. Once you attach the clip by snapping it on your iPhone 4 – and then adjusting three small screws to secure the accessory to your telescope – you can then take pictures of the sky, or any distant object for that matter, using your iPhone.

Shoot the Moon…and More
The concept of the AstroClip is not new; astronomers have been attaching cameras to telescopes for years. However, such camera mounts have typically only worked with specific models or with heavier cameras that often made it necessary to start using a bulkier telescope tripod to keep the telescope from falling over.

Three small screws (shown here) secure the accessory to your telescope.

The AstroClip, because it works in conjunction with the featherweight iPhone 4, doesn’t put an excessive weight strain on your telescope’s tripod. Nor will AstroClip put a strain your wallet, as it costs just $25 (which includes shipping anywhere on our planet). Previous camera mounts carried significantly larger pricetags. AstroClip is a great deal for a novice astronomer.

The small, compact AstroClip makes it easy to bring along on an evening astronomy adventure. 

Follow Your Star
Unlike many hobbies that are scientific in nature, amateur astronomers actually play a key role in making genuine discoveries. Just recently, an amateur astronomer in Austria discovered a nebula created as a star began dying. Matthias Kronberger’s “soccer ball” nebula discovery was validated by Hawaii’s Gemini Observatory.

 It may look a little like a blue soccer ball, but it’s really a nebula – the last gasps of a dying star. This amazing gaseous form was discovered by an amateur astronomer in Austria, and later confirmed by scientists, who named the discovery “Kronberger 61” after the stargazer who found it. (Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA)

Want to have a star named after you? Maybe you want to discover your own planet? Today’s technology puts scientific wonders within everyone’s reach. For aspiring astrophysicists, you just need to start your adventures in science and you too could unlock the keys to the universe.


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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

How 2001: A Space Odyssey Predicted The Future

On August 5, 2011 NASA will launch a new mission. One of several missions now in the works at NASA, the Juno probe will travel to Jupiter. Juno won’t arrive at the solar system’s largest planet until mid-2016. When it does, it will start analyzing a mysterious planet that’s ten times the size of Earth.

A computer-generated image of the Juno probe within Jupiter’s orbit.

The Juno Probe
Juno is a technological marvel. Juno’s sensors will let scientists study Jupiter’s gravitational field – which is so strong that anything that entered its atmosphere four billion years ago, back when the planet was formed, is still trapped there – like an ancient insect preserved forever in a block of amber, Jupiter is a ready-made time capsule waiting to be explored.

Juno’s detectors will also check the planet for signs of water (past or present), in order to assess the possibility that life has existed there. It’s an opportunity for not only NASA scientists but future scientist and engineers who want to learn more about the universe to explore the reaches of the cosmos. The Juno mission may well change our concept of our solar system and will almost certainly change what we know about Jupiter. But Juno’s trip is not the first time we’ve been to Jupiter.

Ahead of His Time
Stanley Kubrick went to Jupiter first. It’s true, although in a fictional sense. In his sprawling space epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, master director Kubrick took filmgoers on a celestial sleigh ride to the planet. The film not only foretold Juno’s trip, but also managed to foresee inventions like the iPad and many other technological advances – way back in 1968.

Kubrick took audiences to Jupiter 48 years before Juno.

2001: A Space Odyssey sling-shotted viewers from man’s apelike beginnings to a future four million years later, all within the space of one glorious jump cut, which has been called “the longest flash forward in film history.” It also gave us a peek into the future. While the film may have not accurately predicted such advances as civilian space travel, manned lunar bases, and alien contact, the iPad and Juno are perfect examples of how the film impacted our future. Much of what the film predicted has become a reality.

Technology 2001: A Space Odyssey Predicted

Astronauts in the film use tablet computing devices to reconnect with humanity in the dead of space.

Flat-screens From computer monitors to televisions, flat-screens have replaced ancient CRT systems, giving viewers better resolution and more screen space.

Voice Identification Systems/Voice-controlled Computers The Dragon voice recognition system and Apple’s Siri are just a few examples of voice recognition computer systems that allow you to control your computer using your voice. Voice identification systems are used for security.

Video Teleconference & Telecommuting You can meet anyone now on your own terms (and, in most cases, without ever leaving your home).

Tablet Computing The iPad, like the iPhone caused tech manufacturers to re-think what consumers wanted in their electronic devices. Tablet computers offer compact computing solutions.

Game-Playing Computers IBM’s Jeopardy-dominating Watson wasn’t the first computer to show humans how inferior we were.

In-flight Entertainment Throughout 2001: A Space Odyssey, technology demonstrates how it can improve and entertain man.

2001′s still-incredible special effects were overseen by industry wizard Douglas Trumbull, two NASA aerospace engineers and some 35 designers.

In the final analysis, much (if not most) of the technology predicted by 2001 has become fact. It’s interesting to note that Kubrick, whose films are often called “cold” and “inhuman,” was trying to reflect a humanistic and even optimistic world view with 2001. And despite his noted perfectionism, Kubrick was showing at least some flexibility the film; for example, when he learned that his team of designers couldn’t realistically depict the fabled rings of Saturn, Kubrick immediately redirected his mission to Jupiter instead. If only NASA could do that.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Video Production,News Blog and have No Comments