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On Chess: A Journey Through Chess And Space

Nov 7, 2019
Greg Chamitoff plays chess in the Harmony Node of the International Space Station on July 19, 2008.
St. Louis Chess Club

Of all imaginable things that could have happened during my time in space, I had no idea that a chess match would be the most historic.

Officially, in the battle of the first-ever public Earth vs. space chess match, the winner was Earth, but this is not the whole story. In fact, this was not the first game. Even more, the winner may or may not be Earth. How could this be? Well, the unofficial story is a little more intriguing and a lot more amusing.

A 14-pound rock collected from the Moon's Taurus-Littrow valley.
NASA Johnson Space Center

Geologists at Washington University will be among the first researchers to study lunar samples from the final crewed mission to the moon. 

The Apollo 17 mission in 1972 brought back moon rocks that have been kept in a vacuum-sealed tube for nearly five decades at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Nine research teams across the country will receive portions of the collection this fall. 

The samples will help scientists understand how the moon and the solar system formed, said Brad Jolliff, a lunar geochemist at Wash U.

NASA

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, when humanity took its first steps on another planetary body via astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, guest host Jim Kirchherr remembered that day in history with the manager at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, Will Snyder, and Linda Godwin, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Missouri and retired NASA astronaut. 

Catherine "Cady" Coleman (center), who spent about six months aboard the International Space Station during her NASA career, traveled to St. Louis last month to help celebrate two Missouri Girl Scouts, Molly Frei (at left) and Lilly Orskog, who are doing
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Retired astronaut and U.S. Air Force officer Catherine “Cady” Coleman is among very few people who have lived in space. But during a visit to St. Louis last month, she came across as equally excited about life on Earth – especially because of her interactions with some accomplished high school students.

Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air included a conversation with Coleman as well as comments from two Gold Award Girl Scouts, 17-year-old Molly Frei and 16-year-old Lilly Orskog, who Coleman came to town to help celebrate alongside the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri.

NASA engineers celebrating the successful landing of the Mars Insight spacecraft at the Mission Support Area in Pasadena, California on Nov. 26, 2018.
NASA/B. Ingalls

Engineer Brooke Harper has spent the last four and a half years making sure that the Mars lander InSight would make a graceful descent on the red planet. When the day finally came on Nov. 26 for InSight to land, she recalled feeling “extremely tense” in Mission Control.

When the announcer declared that InSight had landed, engineers and scientists celebrated. Harper and her colleague, Gene Bonfiglio, performed a touchdown dance, which was caught on NASA’s livestream camera. The elaborate routine has drawn widespread public attention to the mission.

Astronaut Bob Behnken is a Pattonville High School graduate. He has physics and mechanical engineering degreees from Washington University. He earned advanced degrees from the California Institute of Technology.
NASA Kennedy | Flickr

Bob Behnken is helping NASA usher in a new era.

The astronaut, who grew up in St. Ann, has nearly 40 hours walking in the vacuum of space. Now he is part of the crew that will conduct the first human test flights for the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

Janet Kavandi, a Missouri-born astronaut, will be in Jefferson City with NASA for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.
Gus Chan | The Plain Dealer

Come Aug. 21, NASA will be in Jefferson City, one of seven cities chosen from which to broadcast a live feed of the total solar eclipse.

Janet Kavandi, a Missouri-born former NASA astronaut and director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, will join the broadcast from Jefferson City. Kavandi has logged more than 33 days in space with 535 earth orbits.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015.
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Data from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft suggest that a syrupy ocean filled with ammonia could dwell beneath Pluto's icy shell. 

There is no direct evidence for an ocean on Pluto, but scientists argue it's very likely, given that a subsurface ocean would explain the planet's particular rotation and tectonics. In a recent paper published in the journal Nature, researchers mused that an ocean at extremely low temperatures could be maintained if it contained ammonia. Ammonia has also been detected by the New Horizons probe on two of Pluto's moons. 

"It expands our ideas on what oceans can be," said Bill McKinnon, a Washington University professor and co-principal investigator of the New Horizons Mission. "We'll probably find, ultimately in our exploration, that things are even stranger than we think."

Provided by Henric Krawczynski

A giant balloon will soon provide scientists at Washington University in St. Louis a view of black holes in the Milky Way galaxy.

Researchers will launch the 40 million cubic foot unmanned balloon, carrying an X-Ray telescope named X-Calibur, this month from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, N.M. The payload will ascend 126,000 feet into the stratosphere, which is about four times the cruising altitude of commercial airplanes.

The Starliner will be assembled in Florida, with parts built at Boeing plants throughout the U.S.
Boeing

Boeing's St. Louis-based Defense, Space & Security division is providing more details about a project with NASA that's designed to help resume U.S.-based human spaceflight.

The capsule that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station and other low-orbit destinations has been named "Starliner."

Psychologist: Mars One could change the world

Mar 5, 2015
This vista from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows "Wdowiak Ridge." Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) recorded the component images for this mosaic on Sept. 17, 2014
(Courtesy: NASA)

The world is sitting at the intersection of science fiction and science fact, in large part because of sci-fi devotees.

“People who are actively aware of what could be possible are psychologically more flexible than people who aren’t,” psychologist Michael Mahon told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh. Mahon was trained as a clinical psychologist but now works as a licensed professional counselor.

Philae Lander on Comet
ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

There is a St. Louis-area connection to the mission that recently landed a spacecraft on a comet for the first time.

Paul Friz is wrapping up an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

His interest in space started as a teenager looking at the stars at his family’s home in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

When he was 14, Friz saved money from a summer of mowing lawns to buy his first telescope.

Boeing Corp.

NASA announced Tuesday it will award Boeing $4.2 billion to build one of two spacecraft to take American astronauts to the International Space Station.

SpaceX’s Dragon won the other contract, worth $2.6 billion.

NASA said it’s backing the two space taxis with the goal of returning the launch of astronauts from U.S. soil by 2017.

Administrator Charles Bolden said NASA chose two spacecraft because they plan to have more destinations than the International Space Station, including Mars.

NASA

Forty-five years ago this Sunday, Apollo 11 became the first space flight to land men on the moon.

At Mission Control in Houston, Gene Kranz was the man in charge.

Kranz spent more than three decades working for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, serving as flight director for both the Gemini and Apollo space programs.

SLU Students Help NASA Ozone Study Soar Over Saint Louis

Aug 19, 2013
(Art Chimes)

If you happen to be near the Saint Louis Science Center planetarium at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, look up. You might see a weather balloon.

Students at Saint Louis University are launching them as part of a study sponsored by the U.S. space agency NASA.

The mission aims to improve our understanding of air pollution and global climate.

Before we run through the news of the day, let's pause for something spectactular: a new video from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. It shows a "massive filament" eruption on the sun that occurred last Friday. As Britain's The Register says, it is "mind-bogglingly gorgeous."

(Image courtesy of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Not long after midnight central time tonight, the rover known as Curiosity will land on Mars.

It will take the rover seven minutes to get from the Mars atmosphere to the planet's surface. But because it takes about twice that long for signals to travel from Mars to Earth, scientists won't know anything about the landing until after it's already over.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan 13, 2012 - The OMNIMAX movie "Space Junk" explores the growing problem of man-made debris orbiting the earth at super speeds. The film, which will have its world premiere this weekend, Jan. 14, at the St. Louis Science Center, is designed to raise public awareness of the situation and its impact on satellite communication and space travel.

Missing moon dust returned to NASA from St. Louis

Jun 23, 2011
(via Flickr/makelessnoise)

Houston now has one fewer problem to worry about.

Moon dust apparently smuggled years ago from Johnson Space Center is now back in Houston - from St. Louis.

Twenty-five years ago, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart shortly after liftoff, killing all seven crew members on board.

Here in St. Louis, the Challenger Learning Center is offering a variety of programs honoring the Challenger crew and their families.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 31, 2010 - Amid news reports Friday that the Obama administration is grounding NASA's plans to return to the moon, astronaut Robert Behnken was talking to reporters about his role aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor, scheduled to launch on Super Bowl Sunday.

Behnken, who grew up in St. Ann, said he is focused on the mission at hand, but he did share his broad perspective on the importance of American space exploration.