Monday, November 28, 2011

Super-size Mars rover blasts off

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover lifts off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral.

Surrounded by 50 American and French members of his team, Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roger Wiens, a planetary scientist in charge of Curiosity's laser blaster, called ChemCam, shouted, "Go, Go, Go!" as the rocket soared into a cloudy sky.

The 1-ton Curiosity — as large as a car — is a mobile, nuclear-powered laboratory holding 10 science instruments that will sample Martian soil and rocks, and analyze them right on the spot. There’s a drill as well as the laser-zapping device. (Full Story)

The most capable robot geologist ever built now heads to Mars

Curiosity rover. NASA illustration.

From a distance of nearly 25 feet, the ChemCam laser zaps material from the surface of a rock, dusting it off and ablating weatherized surfaces, creating a plasma that can be analyzed using the instrument’s telescope. For just five nanoseconds, the laser directs the energy of a million light bulbs into the area the size of a pinhead, said Roger Wiens, the instrument’s principal investigator, based at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“ChemCam is supposed to be a workhorse for the rover in identifying unique samples for the other instruments to spend more time on,” he said. “The ability to reach out and touch the rock from almost 25 feet away is a real advantage.” (Full Story)

From New Mexico to Mars

ChemCam laser investigates Mars geology. NASA illustration.

The ChemCam laser, developed by researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and put into use by scientists at the University of New Mexico, is one of several connections between the car-size rover named Curiosity and the Land of Enchantment.

The ChemCam laser will maximize the efficiency of the other instruments by working like a long-range tentacle to study the chemistry of surrounding areas and help the scientists determine where to send the slow-moving rover, traveling at a top speed of 10 feet per minute, said Los Alamos scientist Roger Wiens, ChemCam’s principal investigator. (
Full Story)

After 25 years, sustainability is a growing science that's here to stay

Luís M. A. Bettencourt. LANL photo.

Sustainability has not only become a science in the past 25 years, but it is one that continues to be fast-growing, according to new research from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Indiana University.

The findings, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were assembled from a review of 20,000 academic papers written by 37,000 distinct authors representing 174 countries and over 2,200 cities. Authors of the paper are Los Alamos research scientist Luís M. A. Bettencourt and Jasleen Kaur, a Ph.D. student in Indiana University. (Full Story)

McMillan: PF-4 safer than home

Don Cook and Charlie McMillan at the DNFSB hearing. LANL photo.

McMillan was so confident in the upgrades that he remarked “I must stress that PF-4 even without its recent upgrades is among the most robust structures in the region if not the state. In the event of a major earthquake, I believe I would rather be in PF-4 than in my own home. (Full Story)

Also from the Monitor this week:

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visits LANL

Adm. Winnefield is greeted at LANL by Bret Knapp, Principal Associate Director for Nuclear Weapons. LANL photo.

Admiral James A. Winnefield, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Los Alamos National Laboratory Thursday. Winnefield is a four star Navy Admiral, and as Vice Chairman is the second highest-ranking U.S. military officer.
Winnefield was at Los Alamos to receive a wide variety of classified briefings that covered the broad spectrum of national security science at Los Alamos. (Full Story)

All structures strong and small

Bryce Tappan. LANL image.

“These materials are unique in that they achieve aerogel-like densities with highly regular structures,” comments Bryce C. Tappan, an expert in lightweight metal foams at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Light pulled out of empty space

Getting something from nothing. Illustration from NewScientist.

"This is a significant breakthrough," says Diego Dalvit, a physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The energy of virtual photons is cosmologists' best guess of what lies behind the dark energy that is causing the universe's expansion to accelerate. (Full Story)

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