Giving Thanks for 60 Years of NASA Discoveries and Research

By Vicky Harris, Vice President Marketing on November 20, 2018
Vicky Harris
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As we quickly approach the end of another year, we like to reflect on some of the things for which we are thankful. This Thanksgiving, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of NASA, we would like to celebrate their decision to make all NASA-funded research freely available to the public. NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan explains, “Making our research data easier to access will greatly magnify the impact of our research, as scientists and engineers, we work by building upon a foundation laid by others.”

Upon announcing this news, Science Alert indicated that the database where NASA is publishing this amazing trove of knowledge is called PubSpace. In today’s post, we’re using inspiring images from NASA to illustrate some interesting research papers now available online for free and a brief explanation of what they are about. We hope you enjoy the research journey.

“Performance of Orbital Neutron Instruments for Spatially Resolved Hydrogen Measurements of Airless Planetary Bodies”

This piece of research in astrobiology is about a method to detect the presence of hydrogen in moons and planets of our solar system with higher precision. Big deposits of hydrogen have been detected in Mars and on the moon. Their research explores ways to make detectors more sensible, so we can identify the presence of hydrogen in other planetary bodies in our solar system, and even in exoplanets someday.

Access the research paper here

Hydrogen-bearing molecules, possibly including water, on the moon.

“A Land Data Assimilation System for Sub-Saharan Africa Food and Water Security Applications”

The research introduces the “Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Land Data Assimilation System (FLDAS),” designed to monitor seasonal droughts, so that famines and agricultural disasters can be prevented with sufficient warning. In a continent ravaged by water scarcity caused by constant droughts, science is applying data collection and interpretation technologies to give communities an opportunity to plan ahead.

Access research paper here

NASA astronaut Terry Virts aboard the International Space Station shared this deep beige and red desert image of Africa tweeting, “Beautiful colors in the northern desert of #Africa.” ISS043E124378 (04/16/2015)

 “Putting Life on Ice: Bacteria that Bind to Frozen Water”

The research explores how Ice Binding Proteins (IBP), “the only known example of an adhesin that has evolved to bind ice,” perform their freezing trick. Scientists discovered that IBP “serves as an adhesin that attaches the bacteria to ice to keep it near the top of the water column, where oxygen and nutrients are available.” This feat is achieved when melting occurs to keep the bacteria near the nutrients.

Access research paper here

Lake Vida, one of the most remote lakes in Antarctica is home to ancient microbes. NASA says the discovery of life in the “darkest, saltiest and coldest habitats is significant because it helps increase our limited knowledge of how life can sustain itself in these extreme environments on our own planet and beyond.”

“The Surface Age of Sputnik Planum, Pluto, Must Be Less than 10 Million Years”

Before NASA’s New Horizons space probe flew past Pluto in the summer of 2015, this planetary body was a complete mystery. The space probe surprised us by showing a world with mountains made of ice and an atmosphere awakened from a freeze as the planet’s orbit took it closer to the sun. The scientists who wrote this paper conducted their analysis on the pictures NASA received from the New Horizons probe concluding, “geological and telescopic observations to make an order of magnitude estimate that the surface age of Sputnik Planum [one of the largest valleys in Pluto] must be less than 10 million years.”

Access research paper here

The NASA caption of this image from New Horizons reads, “The highlands to the southwest of the great expanse of nitrogen ice plain informally named Sputnik Planitia.”

 “Taxicab Tipping and Sunlight”

After analyzing data from almost 14 million cab rides in New York City, this intriguing paper concludes there is, in fact, “a small but statistically significant positive relationship between sunlight and tipping, with an estimated tipping increase of 0.5 to 0.7 percentage points when transitioning from a dark sky to full sunshine.” Articles like this demonstrate the human side and proximity of scientific research.

Access research paper here

A recent NASA presentation for an air taxi concept. A follow-on paper could explore if sunlight and tipping your taxi driver are also positively correlated high up in the stratosphere.

Scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and curious minds the world over benefit from free and easy access to the thousands of research papers made available by NASA. Untold future technological progress may become a bit easier thanks to the collaborative and open nature of NASA. That is plenty to be thankful for this year.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Photos courtesy of NASA on the Commons.
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