NASA is designing a spiffy new rocket, the Space Launch System, which will lob people and cargo to the moon, an asteroid and eventually Mars. [more inside]
On September 30, 2011 at 11:08am, Derek Deville's Qu8k (pronounced "Quake") launched from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to an altitude of 121,000' before returning safely to earth. Above 99% of the atmosphere the sky turns black in the middle of the day and the curvature of the earth is clearly visible. Direct video links inside. [more inside]
Over 500 people have traveled into outer space. While many have written books about the experience, only a few have used more creative means to express what they saw and felt. Here are a few: [more inside]
Scientist and Science Fiction author Joan Slonczewski, author of A Door Into The Ocean, guest blogs about science fictional and microbiology on Charles Stross's site: Salt Beings, Microbes grow the starship, Synthetic Babies
The descent of the Apollo 11, plotted with Google Moon Pictures from the actual moon landing side-by-side with Google Earth, as the lander descends. [via]
Also, try the Google Earth KML file for the Apollo 11 landing.
Also, try the Google Earth KML file for the Apollo 11 landing.
Martian Life's Last Stand in the Trenches? "Scientists have found water-bearing deposits on Mars that are out of step with what was happening elsewhere on the planet, raising the prospect that the sites could have hosted Martian life's last stand."
It's probably too late to take your Hasselblad aboard a Space Shuttle, but if the opportunity arises, read the Astronaut's Photography Manual (PDF) and you might capture photos like this one. Previously.
To paraphrase a character in the film, The Black Hole walks "a tightrope;" if not between "genius" and "insanity," then certainly between "genius" and "banality". If you're looking at this movie as a Manichean exercise between darkness and light, then you can -- for at least a few hours -- entertain the "genius" part of that equation.
The secretive NRO celebrated 50 years of spying from space with a one-day surprise public exhibition of a just-declassified KH-9 Hexagon "Big Bird" imaging satellite. Between 1963 and 1986, a constellation of KH-7 Gambit, KH-8 Gambit 3, and KH-9 Hexagon satellites, all revealed after a half-century of secrecy, returned high-resolution film exposures of Cold War targets from orbit by parachute.
Carolyn Porco is the leader of the Imaging Team on the Cassini-Huygens mission. Watch as she extolls the wonders and discovery about two of Saturn's most interesting moons, Titan and Enceladus. [more inside]
How does it feel to fly over planet Earth from the perspective of the ISS? A timelapse movie by James Drake, compiled from pictures drawn from the incredible Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Place the video in HD and fullscreen for the full effect. via [more inside]
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken new photos of the landing sites of Apollo 12, 14 and 17. Almost 40 years after the missions, the tracks made by the astronauts and the Lunar Rover are still visible.
When we talk about dark matter and its alternatives, we are talking about no less a task than explaining the structure of every large object in the Universe. On the largest scales dark matter blows all of its competitors away. In terms of explaining the large-scale structure of the Universe, not a single one of dark matter's alternatives comes close to mirroring its success. But of course, that doesn't stop the sensationalist headlines from rolling in. We are understandably uncomfortable with the notion that we are not the most important thing in the Universe. We've just successfully figured out where the new material to form the Milky Way's young stars is coming from: high-velocity intergalactic gas clouds! About a Sun's worth of gas falls into the Milky Way (on average) every year, and this resupplies the Milky Way's gas reserves, which get eaten up as new stars form over billions of years. But what about the other, larger mystery? What about reproducing the structure of the Milky Way itself?
Incredible, stunning, beautiful and humbling. Time lapse videos from Hubble.
Hey, remember the ISS, that space station the Space Shuttle helped build before the shuttle was retired? Turns out humans might have to vacate that nifty space station for a bit. [more inside]
Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life finished today. Promises of new projects and a print version by December have been made. [more inside]
FOX has greenlit an update of Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (on Hulu, previously) co-produced by Sagan's widow Ann Druyan and Seth MacFarlane, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, which will air in Fall 2013. [more inside]
NASA May Have Discovered Flowing Water on Mars Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.
Are We Alone In the Universe? New Analysis Says Maybe. In a new paper published on arXiv.org, astrophysicist David Spiegel at Princeton University and physicist Edwin Turner at the University of Tokyo argue...using a statistical method called Bayesian reasoning...that the life here on Earth could be common, or it could be extremely rare — there's no reason to prefer one conclusion over the other. [more inside]
Pluto may have been downsized in 2006, but it's still living large, moon wise: A fourth moon has been discovered orbiting the dwarf planet.
Dawn spacecraft now orbits asteroid Vesta - After almost 4 years of space travel, the Dawn spacecraft successfully entered orbit around Vesta, an Arizona sized rock. Dawn tweets, takes pictures, and there is a Vesta Fiesta party to celebrate. After hanging out at Vesta for a year, Dawn will head off to visit the Ceres asteroid next, a three year trip. Amazing achievement of engineering, innovation and accuracy.
Fancy yourself a rocket scientist? Want to build rockets and shoot little green guys into space? Comfortable with your rocket flying apart and exploding into a thousand fiery pieces? Able to press the space bar? Try Kerbal Space Program. [more inside]
On July 5th the SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured video of a comet, known as a sungrazer, in route to collide with our star. SOHO is equipped with an occluding coronograph that blocks direct sunlight and reveals the corona, but also prevents direct study of the terminal impact of sungrazers. But on July 6th, with the help of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), astronomers were able to observe the comet (slyt) streaking in front of the surface of the sun for the first time in history. It likely disintegrated before impact due to extreme heat and radiation.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS-135, is scheduled to lift off this morning from Kennedy Space Center. The time was originally scheduled for 11:26 AM EDT, but that has been pushed back, despite "no technical concerns and... weather is a 'go'." Astronauts aboard are Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim. Watch live coverage, with some archival footage, on NASA's Ustream or on NASA.gov. NASA has provided countdown highlights of the day to get you up to speed. Read NASA's feed on Twitter. At the time of this post's writing, the countdown clock is on a scheduled hold with 9 minutes to go. Previously, STS-134, on the Blue.
In After Earth Ben Austen looks at "Why, Where, How, and When We Might Leave Our Home Planet" while Jared Daniel asks, if given a chance to found the first human colony on Mars, would you go? Maybe we could turn it into a home away from home or perhaps we should terraform Earth first.
Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists presents Fifty Years of Space Nuclear Power "A plutonium fueled RTG that was deployed in 1965 by the CIA not in space but on a mountaintop in the Himalayas (to help monitor Chinese nuclear tests) continues to generate anxiety, not electricity, more than four decades after it was lost in place. See, most recently, "River Deep Mountain High" by Vinod K. Jose, The Caravan magazine, December 1, 2010." (MeFi previously)
The official Google Earth plugin is one free download that makes all sorts of cool stuff possible in your browser. There's a full screen version of the program (complete with underwater views and 3D buildings) which can be searched by entering queries at the end of the URL. There's a framed version with support for layers, historical imagery, day/night cycles, and the Google Sky starmap. Less useful but more fun are Google's collection of "experiments" demonstrating the possibilities of the Earth API, including a "Geo Whiz" geography quiz, an antipode locater, a 3D first-person view of San Francisco, a virtual route-follower, and MONSTER MILKTRUCK!, a crazy fun driving simulator that lets you careen a virtual milk truck through the Googleplex campus, ricochet off the Himalayas, or explore any other place you care to name. Lots more can be found in the Google Earth Gallery -- highlights include a look at mountaintop removal mining, a real-time flight tracker, a guide to trails and outdoor recreation, a 360 panorama catalog, geotagged Panoramio photos, and the comprehensive crowdsourced Google Earth Community Layer. And while it's too large to view online, don't miss loading the Metafilter user location map into a desktop version of Google Earth! [more inside]
It is a stunning image and one that is bound to be reproduced over and over again whenever they recall the history of the US space shuttle.
On May 16, 2011, after one scrubbed attempt, the space shuttle Endeavour set off on her final mission, STS-134. Shuttle commander Mark Kelly had this to say after receiving a "go" from the launch poll:
On this final flight of space shuttle Endeavour, we want to thank all the tens of thousands of dedicated employees that have put their hands on this incredible ship and dedicated their lives to the space shuttle program. As Americans, we Endeavour to build a better life than the generation before, and we Endeavour to be a united nation. In these efforts, we are often tested. This mission represents the power of teamwork, commitment, and exploration. It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore; we must not stop. To all the millions watching today, including our spouses, children, family, and friends, we thank you for your support.You've seen launches before, but NASA has uploaded a whole slew of angles that will truly amaze: Witness 4.4 million pounds of shuttle, fuel, and rocket boosters "twang" a full 18 inches as the main engines ignite. 1.2 million pounds of thrust push against a locked down stack, waiting for the solid rocket boosters to ignite. (The SRBs bring the total to 7 million lbs of thrust, enough to break all that binds her to the pad.) OTV Camera 71, a fantastic, short close-up. UCS-15 (TV-21A) provides a dead-on, close up shot of the launch. The South Beach Tracker shot offers a fantastic view as well. From 3.1 miles away at the Press Site, note the ~11 second delay before the piercing sound of the SRBs hits. And just released today, fantastic footage from the solid rocket boosters, including their trip to splashdown in the Atlantic ocean from 30 miles up. And finally, the classic NASA view, with some great data overlays by Spacevidcast. [more inside]
50 years ago today, on May 25 1961, US President John F. Kennedy decided "...this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." Eight years later the Apollo program fulfilled the task, leaving the world with a legacy that includes advances in computers and communciation, lessons in managing complex projects, technological innovations and new views of the Earth. [more inside]
Croatian software developer and amateur image processor Gordan Ugarković takes images from NASA's unmanned space probes released to the Planetary Data System, splices them together and tweaks the colors, sometimes combining higher resolution black and white images with color images, sometimes recreating what the object would look like in natural color (ie, in visible wavelengths, from images taken in multiple wavelengths), sometimes heightening the contrast to bring out detail. (via) [more inside]
The International Academy of Astronautics is holding the Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids May 9-12, 2011. in Bucharest, Romania [more inside]
The concept of time as a way to measure the duration of events is not only deeply intuitive, it also plays an important role in our mathematical descriptions of physical systems. For instance, we define an object’s speed as its displacement per a given time. But some researchers theorize that this Newtonian idea of time as an absolute quantity that flows on its own, along with the idea that time is the fourth dimension of spacetime, are incorrect. They propose to replace these concepts of time with a view that corresponds more accurately to the physical world: time as a measure of the numerical order of change.
An interesting article from Wired about Soviet photo manipulations from the 1960s space race. [more inside]
Following on the heels of NASA's announcement of the final resting places of the various space shuttles, NASA, in conjunction with William Shatner, released a final video commemorating the program. (SLYT)
First Orbit. "On 12th April 2011 it will be 50 years to the day since Yuri Gagarin climbed into his space ship and was launched into space. It took him just 108 minutes to orbit Earth and he returned as the World's very first space man. To mark this historic flight we have teamed up with the astronauts onboard the International Space Station to film a new view of what Yuri would have seen as he travelled around the planet. Weaving these new views together with historic voice recordings from Yuri's flight and an original score by composer Philip Sheppard, we have created a spellbinding film to share with people around the World on this historic anniversary." [more inside]
32 images of the earth from the blackness of space, many with spacewalking astronauts in the foreground, presented in a Big Picture style. (via) [more inside]
As they leave the solar system, the Pioneer spacecraft have anomalously decelerated, pointing to a possible gap in our understanding of gravity. Now, a computer graphics technique known as Phong shading predicts that the Pioneer anomaly is just a side effect of how the shape of the spacecraft reflects sunlight.
The Van Allen Belt is a pesky radioactive torus surrounding Earth. Spacecraft operating for extended periods within it must use heavy and expensive radiation hardening techniques just to survive. Tethers Unlimited has proposed a rather daring scheme for circumventing this nuisance: HiVOLT. [more inside]
In 1967, Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov went up in a capsule he knew would never get back (NSFW gruesome image) to earth in one piece. He could have bowed out of the mission, but that would meant his good friend, Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space) would have drawn the mission instead. So Vladamir launched knowing it was a suicide mission. The CIA was listening in , and recorded what may have been Vladimir Komarov's last words, amid cries of rage. Adding to the tragedy, Yuri died in a plane crash the next year.
"The Earth tide is a little-known daily event, similar to the oceans' more familiar tides. But the sun and moon's gravity doesn’t just pull on water, it deforms the Earth itself, causing the ground beneath us to bulge toward the pulling heavenly body." [more inside]