You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of
On Thursday, NASA released the names and designs of three vehicles that could replace the space shuttle as means of sending our astronauts into space. [more inside]
Breathtaking collection of images at The Atlantic: Viewing the Earth From Space
Civilians in Abandoned McDonald’s Seize Control of Wandering Space Satellite (with NASA's silent blessing)
Storm Chasing on Saturn with Cassini [viz. cf.] - "The sun is slowly rising over Saturn's north pole, exposing an immense six-sided hurricane. The storm, big enough to swallow four Earths, was first spotted by the Voyager missions in the early 1980s. [Cassini] will be passing directly over the north pole with its cameras pointing down later this month." (previously 1,2)
Today at approximately 08:45am GMT, the Rosetta spacecraft entered orbit of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko after a 10 year journey. Now in orbit 100km above the surface, Rosetta is already sending back amazing images of a rocky, rough rubber duck shaped comet. [more inside]
Previously, on Metafilter, we met Jeff Highsmith, who designed and built a pseudo Apollo Mission Control panel play desk for his son. He's done it again, with a "spacecraft" for his other son.
The Miura fold, a type of rigid origami that works by folding flat, rigid sheets with hinges, has a number of uses. For instance, It's great for folding a map, because Interdependence of folds means that it is very difficult to reverse them and the amount of stress place on the map, and can be used on solar panels that need to be folded and unfolded by automation, as deployment only requires one motor, and to transport materials for telescope lenses that originally would be too big to fly into space. Here's one schematic for duplicating the Miura fold (PNG), and a simplified version (YouTube). More information and fun with scientific origami at Robert J. Lang's origami website.
"Is it OK to take a selfie at Auschwitz?", asks archaeologist Paul Mullins. Selfies are people in places, not objects in spaces, says Katie Warfield.
Ирина Плещева: Russian cosmonaut Max Suraev (@Msuraev) youtubes day-to-day events from the International Space Station.
The solar system's solid surfaces stitched together. If you want some more detailed imagery, you can always browse around NASA's planetary photojournal archive.
Astronaut Sally Ride and the Burden of Being The First. 'Tampons were packed with their strings connecting them, like a strip of sausages, so they wouldn’t float away. Engineers asked Ride, “Is 100 the right number?” She would be in space for a week. “That would not be the right number,” she told them. At every turn, her difference was made clear to her. When it was announced Ride had been named to a space flight mission, her shuttle commander, Bob Crippen, who became a lifelong friend and colleague, introduced her as “undoubtedly the prettiest member of the crew.” At another press event, a reporter asked Ride how she would react to a problem on the shuttle: “Do you weep?”'
Ten years ago, the Cassini–Huygens spacecraft became the first to orbit the planet Saturn. After dropping off Huygens on the moon Titan, Cassini proceeded to spend its time exploring the Saturn system, watching the birth of a new moon, photographing water vents on Enceladus, discovering methane lakes on Titan, spotting hurricanes on Saturn, confirming aspects of general relativity and all sorts of other stuff. Enjoy these stunning photographs, explore the timeline of its exploration and marvel at the complex orbital mechanics that keep Cassini flying in Saturn's system with a tiny fuel supply.
Presented for your enjoyment and perusal: the Apollo 11 Flight Plan, and other fun reading material. [more inside]
When Falcon 9 attempted its soft water landing it recorded video, sadly not in the best condition. But SpaceX released the video to the public in the hope of recovering more. The NASA Space Flight forums released a description of how they restored the video.
What happens when you take four cameras and shoot a timelapse of the night sky, and then stitch the resultant videos together? Pure trippin' amazement.
What would a warp-drive ship actually look like? Artist Mark Rademaker has unveiled a set of concept images imagining what a faster than light spaceship would really look like based on theoretical done by Harold White and NASA on an Alcubierre Drive. Video lecture.
Between 2002 and 2006, the Hubble telescope took photos of an explosion coming from a red variable star in the constellation Monoceros, about 20,000 light years from the Sun. This is a time-lapse video of those photos.
Back in February (mefi), things looked grim for the ISEE-3/ICE probe. A lot can change in 3 1/2 months. [more inside]
Tonight at 7pm PDT, after years in development, SpaceX will reveal a new manned version of the Dragon spacecraft. Elon Musk said that Dragon 2 will look like "a real alien spaceship", leading to speculation what it will looks like, including this artists interpretation at ExtremeTech. According to Musk, Dragon 2 will have larger windows for astronauts to see outside, and "landing legs that pop out of the bottom" and "side-mounted thruster pods" to allow for propulsive landings on land.
Minecraft in Space: NASA embraces the space simulator Kerbal Space Program with the Asteroid Redirect Mission patch.
Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication is a free book (PDF) from NASA. The premise is that communication with alien lifeforms will have some (cautious) analogues to interpreting past cultures, and to the work that anthropologists and linguists do cross-culturally. Among the 16 chapters are: Beyond Linear B - The Metasemiotic Challenge of Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence; Learning To Read - Interstellar Message Decipherment from Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives; and, Mirrors of Our Assumptions: Lessons from an Arthritic Neanderthal.
Russia wants to nix plans to use the ISS after 2020, prohibit the United States from visiting the space station after that date along with preventing the US from using Russia made rocket engines for military launches. NASA says it hasn't received any official word, as US Congress critters begin asking questions
After being delivered to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX resupply mission, the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) platform was activated on April 30th, providing a live HD stream of Earth for anyone to view. [more inside]
Won't you please, please won't you be my neighbor? NASA's Kepler Discovers First Earth-Size Planet In The 'Habitable Zone' of Another Star. Kepler-186f is a planet about ten percent bigger than Earth that orbits within the habitable zone of its star. The light there is dim and orange, and it only gets about a third of the sunshine we do, but that may be enough for life. If you go outside tonight, there might be someone 500 light years away looking back at you...
Experience the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing: This project is an online interactive featuring the Eagle lunar landing. The presentation includes original Apollo 11 spaceflight video footage, communication audio, mission control room conversations, text transcripts, and telemetry data, all synchronized into an integrated audio-visual experience. [more inside]
The effortless grace of an astronaut on the lunar surface is a thing of beauty. (SLYT) [more inside]
NASA's 2015 budget request has been released (PDF, OMB Summary), with an interesting mission study : $15 million to look at a unmanned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. Why Europa? It may have more water than Earth, sloshing around under a thick ice, which makes it a major contender for harboring life. Don't get too excited just yet though. The mission would't launch until around 2025 and would arrive in Jupiter's orbit in the early 2030s. That's a long way off, but a particular US Congressman really wants this mission to happen.
If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel is a tediously accurate model of the Solar System that Josh Worth made to explain to his daughter just how difficult it is to go on holiday to Mars.
"Like a human who just went through laser vision correction, the International Space Station (ISS) recently got a clearer view of our world. That improved view is opening up new vistas for students in American classrooms." A gorgeous photo of British Columbia's snow-capped mountains was the first view delivered via the Window Observational Research Facility at the U.S. Laboratory Science Window on the International Space Station. This video explanation of the window (part 2) is hosted by three-time shuttle veteran Mario Runco.
GLaDOS teaches fusion and fission for NASA. Ellen McLain lends her autotuned voice to IRrelevant Astronomy, a video series produced as part of the education & public outreach mandate of the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. [via]
The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment has issued a fatwa banning Muslims from participating in a Mars colonization effort, citing pervasive risk for no "righteous reason." The Mars One project (previously) has penned a remarkably erudite reply.
Trip to Mars Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank
Just days after the launch of India’s Mangalyaan satellite, NASA sent off its own Mars mission, five years in the making, named Maven. Its cost: $671 million. The budget of India’s Mars mission, by contrast, was just three-quarters of the $100 million that Hollywood spent on last year’s space-based hit, “Gravity.” “The mission is a triumph of low-cost Indian engineering,” said Roddam Narasimha, an aerospace scientist and a professor at Bangalore’s Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research. “By excelling in getting so much out of so little, we are establishing ourselves as the most cost-effective center globewide for a variety of advanced technologies,” said Mr. Narasimha.(NYTSL)
When can I spot the Space Station? The International Space Station can easily be spotted with the naked eye. Because of its size (110m x 100m x 30m) it reflects very much sunlight. This simple tool will tell you all of the opportunities you can view the ISS over the next ten days, along with a brightness index and a map tracing its transit across your local sky. The red line shows where the ISS is sunlit and visible. On the blue line the ISS is in the Earth's shadow and invisible or it is less than 10° above the horizon. [more inside]
ISEE-3 seeks the creator. ICE/ISEE-3 to return to an Earth no longer capable of speaking to it.
A standard 6 sided die is a cube. It has eleven nets. The sum of the numbers on opposite faces of a die is 7. [more inside]
Van Cleef & Arpels, purveyors of super fine jewelry, have created the Midnight Planetarium, which holds part of the solar system on your wrist:
This new Poetic Complication timepiece provides a miniature representation of the movement of six planets around the sun and their position at any given time. Earth and Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are set in motion thanks to a self-winding mechanical movement of great complexity: equipped with an exclusive module developed in partnership with the Maison Christiaan van der Klaauw, it contains 396 separate parts. The movement of each planet is true to its genuine length of orbit: it will take Saturn over 29 years to make a complete circuit of the dial, while Jupiter will take almost 12 years, Mars 687 days, Earth 365 days, Venus 224 days and Mercury 88 days.[more inside]
The Rosetta spacecraft just woke up after a 32 month nap, some 500 million miles from Earth (interactive location tool) in preparation for its encounter with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. [more inside]
"I was going through boxes of my grandparents old photographs and found some incredible pictures of a tragic shuttle launch from 1986. I scanned them and made an album. My grandmother actually passed peacefully last week, and was because of her passing that I found these. We were all going through boxes and boxes of photos to find pictures to display at her memorial. I just happened to get the box with the Challenger pictures at the bottom, which was kind of special for me because I am the biggest NASA fan in the family," said Mike Hindes. [more inside]
London's first pay-per-minute café, Ziferblat (photos) costs 3 pence (5 cents) per minute to be there. Part of a chain from Russia. A Moscow cafe for example.
Everyone knows the birth of the Space Race: Sputnik and Vostok gave the Soviets a huge start while the US floundered about with the odd tiny satellite making it through a cavalcade of explosive fiasco. Most would say that the first voice from space was that of Yuri Gagarin in 1961. They'd be wrong. [more inside]
The successor to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the NASA/JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) spacecraft is preparing for launch at the Japanese Tanegashima Space Center. GPM will be the newest international Precipitation Measurement Mission and will be the core observatory of the GPM Constellation. The two sensors on-board GPM are the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR). The GPM/DPR team has produced a fantastic anime about the DPR instrument. [more inside]