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Calgary teacher tours the province inspiring under-privileged youth in STEM education – Calgary Herald

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Bruce Callow joins grade 5 students at Nakoda Elementary school in Morley while asking questions of Costa Rican aerospace engineer Alfredo Valverde who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The image was taken during NASA in Costa Rica workshops at the school. Courtesy Bruce Callow/ Submitted


With the global economy moving to technology-based jobs at lightning speed, a Calgary teacher is travelling the province to inspire STEM education in under-privileged youth.

Bruce Callow, who has spent decades teaching English and music in Central America, has spent the last year visiting schools and science centres in southern Alberta mentoring Indigenous youth in science with a focus on robotics and the space program.

After collaborating with a NASA astronaut while working on a climate change project in Costa Rica, Callow was able to expand his connections within the world-renowned aeronautics program.

He eventually wrote a book with his wife Ana Luisa Monge-Naranjo detailing the stories of 12 NASA scientists and why they’re passionate about science and space.

“To the Stars: Costa Rica in NASA” was published last fall in Spanish and English and has been part of Callow’s recent tour around southern Alberta, including an educational workshop at Nakoda Elementary School on the Morley native reserve just west of Calgary.

“I’ve always loved science but I was never very good at it. But the whole space program was always so interesting to me,” Callow said, adding last spring’s visit to Morley was one of the tour’s highlights when Indigenous students in Grades 4 and 5 had been studying space for months prior to his visit.

Callow’s workshops include discussions of his book, science education and a unique question-and-answer session with a NASA scientist through Skype or Google Chat.

“These kids prepared so well,” Callow said. “They were just so excited. The guys from NASA didn’t even have a chance to give the kids their presentation because they were just getting pummelled with questions. It was the most exciting conference I had ever seen.”

Callow also ran workshops at the Tsuut’ina Nation, at Telus Spark, helping Indigenous students prepare for an international robotics competition.

He also gave a presentation this spring at the University of Calgary’s IndigeSTEAM robotics pow wow tournament, part of a program that mentors aboriginal youth in science education. It even includes the discovery of science embedded in Indigenous culture and knowledge through mentors, elders and community leaders.

“When Bruce was speaking, you could have heard a pin drop in that room,” said Wendy Hutchins, founding treasurer of IndigeSTEAM.

“When kids were listening to him, he made them feel like there are so many jobs they can do that are connected to science and engineering. And he showed them, through pictures, that there are real people doing real jobs like this.

“And for these kids, role models are everything. They hear from them: ‘This is what I wanted and this is how I got there,’ and that is so key. It allows the kids to see themselves in the future.”

Callow says Indigenous kids living on reserve and in rural areas are a big priority for him because they’re not always exposed to as much as city kids are.

“It’s wonderful to share with kids of all ages,” Callow said.

“But our aim is to reach out to populations who are not as privileged as those in major centres. Our aim is to reach out to Indigenous populations. That is absolutely a priority.”

This summer, Callow wrapped up his STEM education tour with a stop in Vulcan, Alberta, for the “Vul-Con” Star Trek Festival.

“That was more of a celebration than anything,” said Callow, adding that he got a kick out of sharing his book and stories of his experiences with science education with several “extraterrestrials” at the event.

Callow said the Vul-Con event and the entertainment of Star Trek is another great way to inspire kids about science.


(L-R) Holly Ducarte, Bruce Callow, Mandy Hunter and Jens Dombek are pictured at the Vul-Con 2019 and display the book To the Stars: Costa Rica in NASA on July 26 and 27, 2019 in Vulcan, Alberta, southeast of Calgary. Dave Vaile/Submitted

Originally from Calgary, Callow has lived in Costa Rica on and off for 25 years teaching English, music and hockey to young children. He now teaches English to Chinese students through an online program. He’s even been recognized in the Hockey Hall of Fame for introducing the game of hockey to Central American kids on plastic ice.

Years ago, while working as a communications specialist at the British Embassy in Costa Rica, Callow connected with Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz, physicist, engineer and former NASA astronaut, while working on an environmental education project for kids.

After leaving the embassy, Callow began working for Chang-Diaz, who connected him with dozens of other NASA scientists that were embedded in several projects and scientific research from building Mars Rovers to conducting jet propulsion tests.

Callow’s book has spawned a sequel, he said, as he embarks on a string of stories about Guatemalans pioneering in space fields partnering with a Guatemalan-born NASA engineer who has already done the research.

Callow and his family leave soon to return to Central America for one year, and then plan on coming back to Calgary to continue working with First Nations students.

Callow says he will continue to develop his NASA contacts to bring their expertise to his STEM workshops via web conference. He also hopes to include David Saint-Jacques, the Canadian astronaut who just returned to earth this past June after spending six months at the International Space Station.

eferguson@postmedia.com

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Chinese Mars rover completes landing trial ahead of 2020 launch – Spaceflight Now

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A test model of China’s first Mars rover, set for launch in mid-2020, performs a landing test Nov. 14 inside a specially-built rig in northern China’s Hebei province. Credit: Xinhua

China has performed a hover and hazard avoidance test on a model the country’s first Mars rover, while engineers ready the real spacecraft for launch toward the red planet in mid-2020.

Comprising an orbiter, lander and rover, the mission aims to become the first Chinese spacecraft to reach Mars after lifting off aboard a Long March 5 rocket — the country’s most powerful launcher — during a several week window opening in July 2020.

The mission will launch from the Wenchang space center on Hainan Island, China’s newest spaceport.

China invited ambassadors and envoys from 19 countries, including the European Union, the African Union, France, Italy and Brazil, to visit a test rig in northern China’s Hebei province Nov. 14 to view a ground test of the Mars lander. The demonstration tested the rover’s ability to hover and autonomous avoid obstacles during descent under reduced gravity conditions, similar to those on Mars, according to the China National Space Administration.

Billed by China as the public unveiling of the Mars mission, the event last week verified the lander’s design, the Chinese space agency said.

If it launches next summer, the mission will reach Mars in early 2021 and release the landing module to enter the Martian atmosphere. After landing, the rover will drive off a ramp to begin exploring the surface with a suite of scientific instruments.

The orbiter will circle Mars to provide communications relay support for the rover and conduct its own scientific measurements.

The orbiting module carries high- and medium-resolution cameras, a radar instrument to probe the structure of the Martian subsurface, a spectrometer to analyze minerals in the Martian crust, and sensors to collect data on the interaction between the red planet’s tenuous magnetosphere and the solar wind.

Designed for three months of operation after arrival on Mars, the rover carries its own cameras and a radar to study underground layers below the mission’s landing site, along with a spectrometer and a Mars weather station, according to the National Space Science Center at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The three-part spacecraft China plans to send toward Mars in 2020 is seen here in launch configuration. Credit: CASC

China kicked off development of the Mars mission in 2016.

It will be the country’s second attempt to reach Mars with a robotic probe, following the Yinghuo 1 orbiter, which was stranded in Earth orbit after launch as a piggyback payload on Russia’s failed Phobos-Grunt mission.

China has landed two robotic spacecraft on the moon, and plans to launch a third lunar lander next year to attempt the first lunar sample mission in more than 40 years.

Like the Mars mission, the Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission will launch on the Long March 5, one of the most powerful rockets in the world, and the heaviest in China’s inventory of launch vehicles.

While the Mars orbiter and rover launching next year will carry exclusively Chinese payloads, officials used the Nov. 14 test to herald the country’s cooperation with other countries on space projects.

According to a CNSA statement, China has signed more than 140 space cooperation agreements with 45 countries and international organizations.

The China-France Oceanography Satellite and the China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite were launched by China last year in partnership with scientists from France and Italy, respectively, to collect climate measurements and detect precursor signals that could help predict earthquakes. China has developed a series of Earth observation satellites in cooperation with Brazil, and Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Saudi Arabia contributed to China’s Chang’e 4 lunar mission.

China has invited international proposals for small science instruments that could fly to the moon on the Chang’e 6 robotic mission in 2023. Earlier this month, Chinese and French space officials signed an agreement to fly a French instrument on the Chang’e 6 mission to measure the transport of volatiles, such as water molecules, in lunar dust.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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Hibernation chambers might make space exploration a reality – BGR

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We’ve all seen it in sci-fi space movies: Deep-space travelers cruising to a new location and sleeping for weeks, months, or even years to pass the time. In fiction, hibernation pods are a convenient plot device, but would they work here in reality?

A new research effort by the European Space Agency suggests that if we can get the technology working as intended, placing astronauts into a state of suspended animation might actually be the best way to explore the cosmos. The benefits would be many, including the option to use a much smaller spacecraft for long-haul crewed missions.

There are many hurdles we still need to overcome before we could even think about sending humans to other planets, let alone other systems. Even if we figured out how to overcome things like space radiation and the toll of long-term low gravity on the human body, we’re still left with one major problem: Humans need living space and a lot of it.

When engineers dream up concepts for crewed spacecraft that could travel to distant locations they’re typically quite large. That’s because we need space to move around, exercise, and live our lives, regardless of whether or not we’re flying through space in a big metal cylinder. Sleeping astronauts require far less room to stretch their legs, so to speak, and that means a much smaller ship.

“We looked at how an astronaut team could be best put into hibernation, what to do in case of emergencies, how to handle human safety and even what impact hibernation would have on the psychology of the team,” Robin Biesbroek of ESA’s Concurrent Design Facility explains. “Finally we created an initial sketch of the habitat architecture and created a roadmap to achieve a validated approach to hibernate humans to Mars within 20 years.”

The team came up with a design that reduces the mass of a deep-space crew module by a third. This is largely thanks to the removal of crew living space that would no longer be needed, as well as a reduction in the supplies that would need to be carried along for the journey.

The design assumes a lot of technological advancements that, put simply, just don’t exist yet. That includes the ability to safely place a human into a state of hibernation and slow down their metabolism by as much as 75%. This comes naturally to animals who hibernate, but humans aren’t one of them. Additionally, the crew would need time to recover after waking up, and that could mean spending weeks in cramped quarters of a shrunken ship.

We still have some time to figure it all out, of course, but it’s incredibly interesting that a concept dreamt up by science fiction writers decades ago may end up being the best solution to exploring other worlds.

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That Starlink Problem Astronomers Were Worried About Is Totally Happening – ScienceAlert

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For the modern astronomer, satellites are just a part of life. There are more than 2,000 active ones currently orbiting Earth, and the smartest minds in space photography have managed to work out clever ways of removing the occasional fly over from their images of space.

But then there’s Starlink. The first stages of SpaceX’s plan to launch up to 42,000 satellites to provide Earth with complete internet coverage have clocked in at 122 objects so far; after the first major launch in May, astronomers were worried.

Now a second launch has occurred, and their concerns have truly started to materialise.

In the early hours of the morning on November 18 at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Northern Chile, the trail of newly launched Starlink satellites flew overhead, absolutely filling an image taken by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam).

Each one of those dotted line trails in the image below is a Starlink satellite.

(Cliff Johnson/Clara Martínez-Vázquez/DELVE Survey)

While taking about 40 exposures of the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, SpaceX’s Starlink satellite train entered the camera’s vision around 90 minutes before sunrise, shining bright in the early morning sunlight and taking a whole five minutes to pass out of the telescope’s view.

“Wow!! I am in shock,” wrote CTIO astronomer Clara Martinez-Vazquez on Twitter. She noted there were 19 satellite trails, which is way more than a normal satellite pass by.

Although most of the time the satellites will be dark in the night sky (which still presents some problems), just after the Sun goes down, or early morning when the sky is still black, sunlight can still can hit the satellites, making them visible both by fancy astronomy telescopes, and just regular old binoculars.

“These things are big enough that when they’re sunlit, they’re bright enough to pick up with anything from binoculars and bigger,” Cees Bassa from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy told Forbes.

And astronomers are not impressed. As we’ve reported before, they’ve brought up some big issues with Starlink. Firstly, there’s going to be a lot of these objects in orbit, which could dramatically impact the way astronomers can see and listen to the sky.

“A full constellation of Starlink satellites will likely mean the end of Earth-based microwave-radio telescopes able to scan the heavens for faint radio objects,” Swinburne University astronomer Alan Duffy told ScienceAlert in May after the first launch of Starlink satellites.

The second batch of 60 Starlink satellites was launched just over a week ago on November 11, so they haven’t yet reached their final operational altitude – but that altitude is expected to be lower than for the first batch.

Sky watchers are also finding that Starlink are more reflective then other satellites. If thousands of extra satellites weren’t already a problem on their own, the fact they are extra shiny is just another thing astronomers are pulling their hair out about.

Astronomers can remove the trails from their images when Starlink swans into view, but much of the information scientists use is contained in the raw images, not the pretty photos we see. Additionally, it’s one thing to remove a single satellite trail from an image, and another to remove 19.

So far, some people are coping by poking fun at SpaceX’s Elon Musk on social media.

How astronomers and SpaceX will resolve these conflicting needs is still unknown, but with two more launches scheduled this year, there’s a chance this won’t be the last we’ll hear about this problem.

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