In 1994, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a scheme for virtual faster than light travel using a real-world analog to the familiar science fiction trope known as "Warp Drive." The basic premise exploited certain space-time warping effects predicted by General Relativity to fold space-time, theoretically allowing a specially designed space craft to reach distant destinations effectively at FTL speeds without actually having to accelerate to light speed or beyond at all. There was, however, at least one major problem with the proposal: The math suggested it would require as much energy as the mass of the planet Jupiter to power the thing. But according to newer calculations based on a modified version of Alcubierre's original proposal, warp speed travel may now theoretically be within reach (warning: eyeball-gouging Space.com link), requiring drastically less energy than originally thought. Of course, not everyone's convinced there's anything to see here. And even so, prohibitive energy input requirements may not be the only serious challenge facing the development of real-world warp drive technology, so don't go packing your bags for that long overdue vacation to Risa just yet.
NASA Scientist suggests everything we see, touch, feel, taste, and smell could be a simulation running inside a computer. [more inside]
"It's horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point." Astronaut Frank Culbertson's reflections as he orbited the Earth on Sept. 11th, 2001.
Dr. David Morrison is the senior scientist at NASA's Astrobiology Institute in the Ames Research Center in California. For the past eight years he's also run the Ask an Astrobiologist feature on the institute's website. "Started by a civic-minded intern, the column has become the go-to place for concerned citizens to write to NASA and ask if, as they'd heard on the internet, the world will truly end on December 21, 2012. Before he took the helm on Ask an Astrobiologist, Dr. Morrison hadn't heard anything about such theories. Now he can't escape them." Meet NASA's unofficial answerer of apocalypse emails -- at least until December 23rd. [more inside]
The fine people over at the International Guild of Knot Tyers Forum talk knots. On Mars.
Google brings its Street View cameras into the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is their largest special Street View collection to date: 6000 panoramic images, including the Apollo 14 module, the Vehicle Assembly Building, Launch Firing Room #4 and Space Shuttle Orbiters Atlantis and Endeavour. Intro Video. (Via) [more inside]
NASA’s lunar lander crashes, ignites massive explosion (+video). The spider-like spacecraft called Morpheus was on a test flight at Cape Canaveral when it tilted, crashed to the ground and erupted in flames.
NASA commentary on Curiosity landing has just started, landing itself is expected two hours later, at 5:31 am UTC/10:31 pm PDT. [more inside]
Coming soon to a red planet near you, it's the Mars Science Laboratory! On Monday, August 6 at 05:31 UTC (other times around the world), NASA's Curiosity rover is expected to land on Mars in search of conditions suited to past or present Martian life. Live coverage begins on NASA TV at 03:30 UTC. But this mission has been years in the making, so if you have a little catching up to do... [more inside]
In the five day period between July 8th and July 12th, Greenland saw a dramatic and unprecedentedly rapid thawing across 97% of its surface ice cover. Initially, NASA and other experts questioned the satellite data, viewing such a rapid melting as too unlikely to be true, but NASA has since confirmed the results. [more inside]
Sally Ride has died of pancreatic cancer at age 61. NPR blog. She was an inspiration to many. I saw her speak years ago when I took my daughters to a women in science program at the University of Michigan and both they and I came away impressed with her intelligence and commitment - the world is a richer place for her having been in it.
Views from the ISS at Night (Vimeo) - Knate Myers assembled this video from a series of time-lapse videos taken aboard the ISS. Plus, one of my favorite movie soundtracks! Naturally, go full-screen HD for best experience. [more inside]
Robbie is a short film assembled from NASA archive footage.
Up-close with Atlantis. A photo gallery of Space Shuttle Atlantis, as it awaits decommissioning in the VAB.
Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror is a YouTube video guaranteed to get you excited about NASA again. It shows the elaborate process that will get the Curiosity rover onto the Martian surface on August 5. It involves the largest supersonic parachute ever built, multiple vehicles, 76 explosive devices, and a skycrane.
A gamma-ray burst, the most energetic explosions in the universe, converted to music. What does the universe look like at high energies? Thanks to the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT), we can extend our sense of sight to "see" the universe in gamma rays. But humans not only have a sense of sight, we also have a sense of sound. If we could listen to the high-energy universe, what would we hear? What does the universe sound like?
Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit relayed some information about photographic techniques used to achieve the images: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA has narrowed the target for its most advanced Mars rover, Curiosity, which will land on the Red Planet in August. The car-sized rover will arrive closer to its ultimate destination for science operations, but also closer to the foot of a mountain slope that poses a landing hazard. "We're trimming the distance we'll have to drive after landing by almost half," said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "That could get us to the mountain months earlier." It was possible to adjust landing plans because of increased confidence in precision landing technology aboard the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, which is carrying the Curiosity rover.
Stunning video of the transit of Venus by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.
The United States Department of Defense has generously "decided to give NASA two telescopes as big as, and even more powerful than, the Hubble Space Telescope." They apparently had some antiquated spy satellite hardware sitting around unused and unwanted. NASA still needs to find money to outfit them with recording instruments and pay a team to manage them, which may take 8 years
NASA's Image of the Day: Dragon on approach to the ISS (SIL) "This image of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft as it approached the space station was taken NASA astronaut Don Pettit. The SpaceX Falcon 9 and its Dragon spacecraft launched on Tuesday, May 22, at 3:44 a.m. EDT."
An Audience With Neil Armstrong is an hour long interview with Neil Armstrong about the moon landings from 2011, including a comparative view of footage from the Eagle's landing alongside Google Moon maps. [more inside]
SpaceX's Falcon9 rocket carrying Dragon capsule to dock with the ISS, has launched successfully. [more inside]
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo capsule is scheduled to launch at 8:55 am UTC on Saturday, May 19, 2012 - a little less than 12 hours from now. [more inside]
In a recent episode of Mad Men titled "Lady Lazarus," Pete Campbell has an existential crisis when he sees a picture of the Earth from space, but were there color pictures of the whole Earth in October 1966? First some background... [more inside]
io9 asks the question: When and Why did Science Fiction drop the ubiquitous "Dinner in a pill" device?
Chilling amateur home video of the Challenger disaster "Obviously a major malfunction." Those words have always haunted me, but to hear them here, echoing across a PA system as shocked onlookers come to terms with what they have just seen, they carry even more power than they did when they were just an anonymous voiceover on a TV shot.
What the hell happened to the Luna 23 probe? As part of the Soviet Union's Luna program, it was designed to collect a small sample of lunar regolith and return it to Earth. But despite landing, it failed to leave the moon. Two years later, Luna 24 landed nearby and managed to attain and return a sample, but its geological properties conflicted wildly with what was expected. What the hell happened with Luna 24? [more inside]
This video features a series of time lapse sequences photographed by the Expedition 30 crew aboard the International Space Station. Set to the song "Walking in the Air," by Howard Blake, the video takes viewers around the world, through auroras, and over dazzling lightning displays.
The wonders of space. This is a stunning black and white video taken from actual Cassini and Huygens mission footage.
The Space Shuttle Discovery, known for launching the Hubble telescope, as well as being the workhorse of the fleet, made a final flight today. [more inside]
The Evolution of the Moon: a cool, short video made with information from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
"NASA is one of the few institutions I know that can inspire five-year-olds. It sure inspired me, and with this endeavor, maybe we can inspire a few more youth to invent and explore." An undersea expendition funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has discovered the spent rocket engines used to power Apollo 11.
Beautiful HD video of whirlpools flowing around rocks, courtesy of NASA and neatorama.
Orbiter Autopsies "What NASA will learn from dissecting Space Shuttles Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour" before they transition into retirement. (From the May 2012 issue of Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine.)
"A space station is a serious place. We're doing serious research." Rovio and NASA further explore the classic avain-porcine rivalry (and microgravity) through a Space Act Agreement. Angry Birds: Space is launching today.
Auroras Underfoot is a short documentary about auroras by NASA, which uses high-definition images taken by International Space Station science officer Don Pettit of aurora from orbit. Pettit writes about the difficulties of taking photographs from orbit and other subjects on his blog.
"Nature is not always the best designer, at least when it comes to things that humans must build and maintain. So the newest artificial heart doesn’t imitate the cardiac muscle at all. Instead, it whirs like a little propeller, pushing blood through the body at a steady rate. After 500 million years of evolution accustoming the human body to blood moving through us in spurts, a pulse may not be necessary. That, in any case, is the point of view of the 50-odd calves, and no fewer than three human beings, who have gotten along just fine with their blood coursing through them as evenly as Freon through an air conditioner."
Neil deGrasse Tyson gives testimony on March 7, 2012 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (Majority member page) (Minority member page) Eight minutes of speech followed by questioning and response. [more inside]