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Google 3D Mars canyon image  (Source: Google)
Google Mars 3D offers a unique look at the Red Planet of Mars; NASA has delayed the launch of shuttle Discovery at least one week; and researchers use a Sony PlayStation 3 Gravity Grid to avoid renting supercomputer time

Although Google has gotten lots of publicity now that Google Earth is able to offer a unique view of the ocean, it also offers a unique 3D view of Mars.  Google Mars 3D offers a high-resolution view of the Red Planet, and allows users to view large canyons and mountain ranges that are much larger than any found on Earth.

In addition, Google Mars 3D offers images from the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and other satellites that are circling the Red Planet.  NASA Ames and Google are joined by Carnegie Mellon University, SETI, and other partners to help collect data and make it available to the public.

The first NASA shuttle launch of 2009 has been delayed at least one week so engineers have time to evaluate a potential problem related to valves responsible for keeping the shuttle's fuel tank pressurized.  The U.S. space agency originally planned to launch shuttle Discovery towards the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, February 12, but wants to make sure there are no mechanical problems prior to launch.

Assuming the valve problem is fixed, the next shuttle launch date is set for February 19, with the shuttle docking at the ISS two days later.  NASA has four scheduled spacewalks on the docket for the Discovery crew, as NASA hastily tries to finish construction of the ISS before the current generation of shuttles must be retired next year.

The Sony PlayStation 3 Gravity Grid -- a group of PS3 consoles wired together -- is helping astronomers understand at what rotation speed black holes vibrate.  Instead of paying up to $5,000 per simulation to use a supercomputer, Lior Burko and other researchers from the University of Alabama used the Gravity Grid design created by UMass, Dartmouth professor Gaurav Khanna.

The grid cost about $6,000 to set up, and it can be used for multiple simulations at little cost, which will help Burko and his team save thousands of dollars in the future.





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