An artist’s depiction of the twin spacecraft that comprise NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. An artist’s depiction of the twin spacecraft that comprise NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. During the GRAIL mission’s science phase, spacecraft (Ebb and Flow) transmit radio signals precisely defining the distance between them as they orbit the moon in formation. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT › Full image and caption
PASADENA, Calif. — A NASA mission to study the moon from crust to core has completed its prime mission earlier than expected. The team of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, with twin probes named Ebb and Flow, is now preparing for extended science operations starting Aug. 30 and continuing through Dec. 3, 2012.
The GRAIL mission has gathered unprecedented detail about the internal structure and evolution of the moon. This information will increase our knowledge of how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds we see today.
Since March 8, the spacecraft have operated around the clock for 89 days. From an orbit that passes over the lunar poles, they have collected data covering the entire surface three times. An instrument called the Lunar Gravity Ranging System onboard each spacecraft transmits radio signals that allow scientists to translate the data into a high-resolution map of the moon’s gravitational field. The spacecraft returned their last data set of the prime mission today. The instruments were turned off at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) when the spacecraft were 37 miles (60 kilometers) above the Sea of Nectar.
“Many of the measurement objectives were achieved from analysis of only half the primary mission data, which speaks volumes about the skill and dedication of our science and engineering teams,” said Maria Zuber, principal investigator of GRAIL at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “While there is a great deal of work yet to be done to achieve the mission’s science, it’s energizing to realize that what we traveled from Earth to the moon for is right here in our hands.”
“GRAIL delivered to Earth over 99.99 percent of the data that could have been collected, which underscores the flawless performance of the spacecraft, instrument and the Deep Space Network,” said Zuber.
Both spacecraft instruments will be powered off until Aug. 30. The spacecraft will have to endure a lunar eclipse on June 4. The eclipse and the associated sudden changes in temperature and the energy-sapping darkness that accompanies the phenomena were expected and do not concern engineers about the spacecraft’s health.
“Before launch, we planned for all of GRAIL’s primary mission science to occur between lunar eclipses,” said David Lehman, project manager of GRAIL from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “But now that we have flown Ebb and Flow for a while, we understand them and are confident they can survive these eclipses in good shape.”
The extended mission goal is to take an even closer look at the moon’s gravity field. To achieve this, GRAIL mission planners will halve their current operating altitude to the lowest altitude that can be safely maintained.
“Orbiting at an average altitude of 14 miles (23 kilometers) during the extended mission, the GRAIL twins will be clearing some of the moon’s higher surface features by about 5 miles (8 kilometers),” said Joe Beerer of JPL, GRAIL’s mission manager. “If Ebb and Flow had feet, I think by reflex they’d want to pull them up every time they fly over a mountain.”
Along with mission science, GRAIL’s MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) education and public outreach program is also extended. To date over 70,000 student images of the moon have been obtained. The MoonKAM program is led by Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, and her team at Sally Ride Science in collaboration with undergraduate students at the University of California in San Diego.
The GRAIL mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA’s Deep Space Network is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
For more information about GRAIL, visit:
DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
Caroline McCall 617-253-1682
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Starting up with a new concept for an Electric Bike, we started by breaking the mold a bit. A rough CAD rendering below shows the rear powertrain, reserving the body exclusively for battery power and control.
What jumps out, of course is the hub-less concept, eliminating some rotating mass. A series of smaller motors are mounted to the rim, directly driving the wheel. This will increase the unsprung mass, but it is felt it can be compensated for with proper selection of the shock and spring. The hubless concept offers its own unique challenges as well.
I am very pleased to have heard the news that the guys at http://dpdjstands.com/ have gone live with their product line. Wishing them the very best of success as they enter the market!
INDEPENDENT MARKET REVIEW
NCSoft and Paragon Studios Shutdown
September 15, 2012
The following is a cursory, independent, white paper review, based on publicly available information, on the potential ramifications of the NCSoft execution of the closure of Paragon Studios. The review is intended for public distribution to all interested parties. The report is highly speculative, and cannot attribute all factors. As such, it should not be used to make significant decisions on its own.
NCSoft continues to be a major player in the gaming market, especially in the Eastern Markets, showing the equivalent of $146,000,000 in Q2 sales alone (1).
The Western market is a minor one for NCSoft (less than 6%) (1). Its handling of the shutdown of the City of Heroes (COH) franchise, operated by Paragon Studios, has given the impression of poor judgment in dealing with that market. Its actions have resulted in a series of events creating negative press that has had a disproportionately large effect on NCSoft interests, which could have been mitigated or avoided.
These actions have likely weakened NCSoft’s standing in the Western market, for the short term, and will likely hamper its ability to introduce and maintain titles in this secondary market in the short to mid term. Further, NCSoft has taken no public action to mitigate the situation, while consumer reaction has taken a strong foothold in industry related and general news media, effectively unchecked.
All of these factors combine to give the impression of either a lack of direction in the Western market, or a lack of commitment to the same, indicating proactive measures by competing firms could be especially well timed.
City of Heroes launched in 2004 and has remained a dominant product in the Superhero themed MMORG realm throughout its life cycle. Most notably, it has maintained a substantial foothold in the US market, while major competitors, such as World of Warcraft, were introduced. Recent, Superhero competitors have not been well received in comparison.
The City of Heroes franchise was purchased in November 2007 by NCSoft from Cryptic Studios. In June 2011, the game was switched to a hybrid free to play model.
Without significant investment in advertisement outside of the immediate player population, City of Heroes maintained stable revenue of approximately $2,500,000 quarterly for the last 8 quarters, appearing to have reached a stable level.
Extensive community outreach
Staff at Paragon studios have engaged in a strong outreach program to the consumer playerbase, and have been highly successful in building subscriber loyalty. Further, the control of the individual player over their own COH experience, evidenced in character customization tools, player run base designs and player created content, has created a sentiment of ‘partnership’ between the playerbase and development studio.
Playerbase outreach efforts have also grown from inside the game, involving several charity related programs, started by players who began communicating inside the COH game.
The reaction to the closure announcement has been overwhelmingly negative in the Western Market. Within two weeks, petitions against the closure had reached over 18,000 signatures (2). Articles and commentary widely expressed sympathy to COH players and Paragon Studio staff are found in number across much of the gaming industry websites and blogs(3-7). The event has garnered mainstream media attention at CNN(8). While the playerbase continues to raise awareness and to date, no official response from NCSoft has been made to acknowledge or address the consumer reaction.
In particular, three major factors seem to be fueling public reaction to the closure:
Mischaracterization of Western Market
Numerous factors seem to indicate that NCSoft is out of sync with the player demographic in the US in general, as well as the local population of City of Heroes.
Despite a steady influx of younger gamers which remain as foundation population set to the gaming industry, many adults have continued to play, creating a large population themselves. These tend to be more loyal subscribers, with larger disposable incomes and posses a range of professional skills they bring to bear in internal game organization (guilds, events, etc).
City of Heroes in particular, capitalizes on the West’s love of the Comic Book Superhero, which is a major industry unto itself, considering the Marvel (Disney) and DC franchises. This is a genre that many can trace back to early childhood, and the hero concept is deeply embedded in the American consciousness(9).
Finally, there is an expectation for a Return on Investment when it comes to loyalty from many gamers in the United States. Players, who have established long term commitments with the game, expect a certain reciprocation of loyalty from the parent company. Once example is SOE’s Everquest, which still offer servers with content updates for dedicated players despite its 13+ year age.
Confidence in NCSoft has almost certainly slipped in the Western market as a result of the City of Heroes closure. The company is considered ‘out of touch’ with its market. A percentage of players are reluctant to commit or try new NCSoft products without the security of a reciprocation of loyalty. For example, Sales of Guild War 2 has been negatively impacted by players who do not want to ‘invest’ time into an NCSoft product in light of the City of Heroes closure, feeling the game could be removed without notice or warning. The degree of this effect remains to be studied in depth and may be insignificant.
Little if any showing of a proactive effort to mitigate the negative publicity being generated has been shown on NCSoft’s part publically. While it is nearly certain attention to this is being given internally, the lack of outward leadership gives the impression that NCSoft either does not care to, or does not know how to address the issue. This lack of attention to an event resulting in a falling consumer confidence, however niche of a market it comes from, is baffling from an investors perspective.
The subsequent announcement of the release of Sword and Soul also gives a very confusing message, to both players and investors. By ending a stable product catering to a target demographic and introducing a new product not aligned to that market in its place, NCSoft leadership could be interpreted as showing a marked lack of innovation and even competency. Instead of recognizing the value of an existing product, NCSoft leadership seems determined to push existing formulas, regardless of the market demographic.
While NCSoft is covered largely by EULA statements, there are potential avenues for cases for fraud being brought against NCSoft in the case of long term advance subscription purchases. By allowing for Paragon Studios to continue work on expansion content, heavily advertising that content, and releasing new content, it is reasonable to assume many paying customers were doing so with the expectation of being able to play said content. If it could be shown NCSoft intended to do this in advance intentionally allowing Paragon to continue with the expectation of offering time on new releases (example: Guild Wars 2) as compensation, ‘bait and switch’ related fraud charges might be successfully applied in US and UK courts.
For reasons that are unclear, NCSoft seemed to undertake an approach for the ending of the City of Heroes franchise without a solid approach to sunsetting the product. Instead, it seems to have decided to simply ‘pull the plug’, without much preparation for consumer reaction. Consumer loyalty, in what most other scenarios would be considered a tremendous asset, has been turned into a liability though actions which continue to paint NCSoft in a negative light.
The overall behavior by NCSoft appears to be reactionary, potentially indicating either an internally localized lack of experience or a wider lack of direction when it comes to ongoing interaction in the Western market.
Internal efforts to address the situation may be occurring, but at this stage it appears the fire is being left to burn, in what can best be described as a clumsy ‘scorched earth’ move. At this point, NCSoft may be looking for a win-win exit strategy to this situation, or may simply be willing to write off the entire Western market place, both scenarios being potentially leverageable.
The overall situation created by the NCSoft decision is complex, involving international factors, a complex market place and multiple stakeholder factors. The situation is time sensitive, in that public reaction efforts continue to gain media traction, while any potential salvage efforts from NCSoft could be less effective as former Paragon Studios staff disperse into the workforce. Additional, expedited research on the topic is recommended prior to any outside investor actions.
I couldn’t avoid the apocalypse, and once again found myself helping the design in another set for this years Wasteland Weekend, stepping out of the lab and into more ‘down and dirty’ structural work.
This year, I found myself assisting and advising on the construction of the events bar. Last year, it was a casualty to the high desert winds. This year, the entire structure was renvisioned by the resident mastermind, Adam Chilson.
I was brought in to advise on how to make the retractable awning functional and wind resistant. My concerns quickly move to the human factor, or the ‘bouncing 300 lb gorilla’ effect. We quickly settled on a design and I started measuring and cutting metal to reinforce the salvaged car parts the structure was to be made of.
All in all, the team really made a beautiful structure, and the Atomic Cafe will undoubtedly be a centerpiece of the event. Im hoping to attend the event this year, and with luck, will avoid some of the grueling set up I led last year… but avoiding the hard work doesn’t suit me.
by John Zappe
Aug 28, 2012, 10:24 pm ET
Subscribers to The Fordyce Letter first read about the surge in temp workers in the May issue. Following the release of the June employment numbers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, FordyceLetter.com reported, “There are now 2.534 million contract and temp workers in the U.S., a number just a few months shy of exceeding the all time high of 2.657 million reached in August 2006.”
Now, U.S. News says “Temp Workers Make Huge Comeback.” The article points out that the staffing industry has regained almost all the jobs lost in the recession, while other employers have added just over half the ones they shed. It’s not simply a sign of cautious employers bringing in extra help while waiting to see what the economy will do, but evidence of a trend.
Says the article, “In 1983, temporary workers made up just over half a percent of all employment. Now, that figure stands at nearly 2.3 percent — a remarkable change, despite the small numbers.”
“It’s a structural transformation,” maintains Arne Kalleberg, a professor of sociology at University of North Carolina who studies the labor force.
Meanwhile, Dana Shaw, former senior vice president for Staffing Industry Analysts, says, “Currently, the average mix of contingents in the Fortune 100 is 20-30 percent of the workforce, but it will evolve to 50 percent.” That evolution, she says, will be complete in barely eight years.
Shaw is quoted in an article by Thomas Fisher, Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. In “The Contingent Workforce and Public Decision Making,” Fisher details what he sees as the implications of having a workforce that could be as much as 40% even 50% contract and temp. Some of these impacts are transitory, as older workers without modern business skills are forced into underemployment and become what he calls “a lost generation of workers.”
The longer term changes wrought by the rise of freelance, says Fisher, has several positives.
Fisher’s view is that government needs to respond now to the changes in the way we work, rethinking everything from commuting patterns and the consequent impact on highways and public transportation, to the tax incentives communities provide employers.
Next week, the U.S. Labor Department will release the August employment numbers. Analysts have yet to make public their monthly predictions about payroll changes, however there isn’t much reason to expect any significant swings either up or down. The report, though, will detail how the staffing industry job counts changed. The expectation is that the numbers will be up.
I recently found the time to crash course some quick wordpress knowledge and have been able to revamp the website. Please feel free to comment on the new look!
(South pole of the far side of the moon as seen from the GRAIL mission’s Ebb spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
PASADENA, Calif. — A camera aboard one of NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has returned its first unique view of the far side of the moon. MoonKAM, or Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students, will be used by students nationwide to select lunar images for study.
GRAIL consists of two identical spacecraft, recently named Ebb and Flow, each of which is equipped with a MoonKAM. The images were taken as part of a test of Ebb’s MoonKAM on Jan. 19. The GRAIL project plans to test the MoonKAM aboard Flow at a later date.
To view the 30-second video clip, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/zZXAPs .
In the video, the north pole of the moon is visible at the top of the screen as the spacecraft flies toward the lunar south pole. One of the first prominent geological features seen on the lower third of the moon is the Mare Orientale, a 560-mile-wide (900 kilometer) impact basin that straddles both the moon’s near and far side.
The clip ends with rugged terrain just short of the lunar south pole. To the left of center, near the bottom of the screen, is the 93-mile-wide (149 kilometer) Drygalski crater with a distinctive star-shaped formation in the middle. The formation is a central peak, created many billions of years ago by a comet or asteroid impact.
“The quality of the video is excellent and should energize our MoonKAM students as they prepare to explore the moon,” said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
The twin spacecraft successfully achieved lunar orbit this past New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Previously named GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B, the washing machine-sized spacecraft received their new names from fourth graders at the Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Mont., following a nationwide student naming contest.
Thousands of fourth- to eighth-grade students will select target areas on the lunar surface and send requests to the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego. Photos of the target areas will be sent back by the satellites for students to study. The MoonKAM program is led by Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space. Her team at Sally Ride Science and undergraduate students at the University of California in San Diego will engage middle schools across the country in the GRAIL mission and lunar exploration. GRAIL is NASA’s first planetary mission carrying instruments fully dedicated to education and public outreach.
“We have had great response from schools around the country; more than 2,500 signed up to participate so far,” Ride said. “In mid-March, the first pictures of the moon will be taken by students using MoonKAM. I expect this will excite many students about possible careers in science and engineering.”
Launched in September 2011, Ebb and Flow periodically perform trajectory correction maneuvers that, over time, will lower their orbits to near-circular ones with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers). During their science mission, the duo will answer longstanding questions about the moon and give scientists a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the GRAIL mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The GRAIL mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.
For more information about GRAIL, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/grail .
Information about MoonKAM is available at: https://moonkam.ucsd.edu .
JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.