Seriously detailed NASA map of August 21st eclipse over North America

Fascinating and detailed map of the eclipse path. Read the rest

Why NASA's Voyager mission almost didn't happen

On August 20 and September 5, 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. It was an incredibly audacious mission, and it's still going. My friend Timothy Ferris produced the Voyager golden record that's attached to each of the spacecraft and went on to write a dozen enlightening books about science and culture. (Tim also wrote the liner notes for the Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set I co-produced that's now available here.) In the new issue of National Geographic, Tim tells the remarkable story of the Voyager mission and why "it almost didn’t happen." From National Geographic:

The prospect of a “grand tour” of the outer planets emerged in 1965 from the musings of an aeronautics graduate student named Gary Flandro, then working part-time at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the world’s preeminent center for interplanetary exploration. At age six, Flandro had been given Wonders of the Heavens, a book that showed the planets lined up like stepping-stones. “I thought about how neat it would be to go all the way through the solar system and pass each one of those outer planets,” he recalled.

Assigned at JPL to envision possible missions beyond Mars, Flandro plotted the future positions of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune with paper and pencil. He found that they would align in such a way that a spacecraft could tap the planets’ orbital momentum to slingshot from one to the next, gaining enough velocity to visit all four planets within 10 or 12 years rather than the decades such a venture would require otherwise.

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The Voyager Golden Record now available as a vinyl box set

Forty years ago this month, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. The Voyager Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science. The Voyager Golden Record is a gift from humanity to the cosmos, but it’s also a gift to humanity. It lies at the intersection of science and art to spark the imagination, and delivers a dose of hope that so many of us are jonesing for these days. Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I embarked on a long journey to release the Voyager Golden Record as a box set of vinyl LPs so those on Earth can hear it as it was meant to be played. We were humbled by the incredible support our project received. (You can read about our experience in the project updates here.)

Ten months after our Kickstarter ended, the enthusiasm and excitement around the Voyager anniversary and the golden record continues to increase. We feel very fortunate that the story of this historical artifact resonates with so many people! As promised, we will never reproduce the Kickstarter "40th Anniversary Edition" box set again. Our Kickstarter backers took the journey with us and we are deeply grateful. However, for those who were not able to participate in the Kickstarter, we have decided to repress the Voyager Golden Record in a different edition than the one our Kickstarter backers will receive. Read the rest

NASA seeks 'Planetary Protection Officer'

NASA has a rare job opening for a new "Planetary Protection Office." Responsibilities do not include defending Earth from an impending alien invasion.

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Experience the Voyager Golden Record at San Francisco's Exploratorium, August 3

On August 3 in celebration of the 40th anniversary month of the Voyager interstellar mission, please join me at San Francisco's Exploratorium to experience the Voyager Golden Record with two of the brilliant minds behind it -- SETI pioneer Frank Drake and science writer Timothy Ferris.

In August and September 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. Ozma Records, the label I co-founded with my friend Timothy Daly, is releasing the Voyager Golden Record as a box set of vinyl LPs so those on Earth can hear it as it was meant to be played. The accompanying book contains all of the images encoded on the Voyager record, an original essay by Timothy Ferris, and a gallery of photos transmitted back from the probes. As our co-producer/designer Lawrence Azerrad has said, "It is the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package." (The limited edition super-deluxe Kickstarter edition will not be repressed but please keep an eye on our Twitter feed @ozmarecords for announcements from us in the next few weeks.)

At the Exploratorium's August 3 After Dark event, themed around "Our Place in Space," we'll play the Voyager Record on the museum's incredible Meyer Sound system while projecting the images encoded on the disc. Then, at 8pm, Frank Drake and Timothy Ferris will join me on stage to discuss this incredible artifact that was a gift from humanity to the cosmos, but also a gift to humanity. Read the rest

Old NASA computers and space probe data tapes found in dead engineer's basement

A scrap dealer cleaning out a deceased engineer's basement in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania found two massive 1960s computers, magnetic tape data storage systems, and hundreds of tape reels, all of which was marked as the property of NASA. The scrap dealer called NASA to report what he found and the agency's Office of the Inspector General investigated. It turns out that the fellow was an IBM engineer who worked for NASA in the early 1970s and was given permission to save the stuff as it was being discarded. One space agency's trash is another maker's treasure... From Ars Technica:

"Please tell NASA these items were not stolen," the engineer's heir told the scrap dealer, according to the (Office of Insepctor General's) report. "They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212. During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [redacted engineer] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them...."

NASA investigators picked up the 325 magnetic data tape reels on December 8, 2015. The cassettes measured 14 inches in diameter and were filled with half-inch magnetic tape. The tapes "were in poor condition and almost all were affected by moderate to severe mould."

Most of the tapes were not labelled, but "of the tapes that were labelled, the content appeared to be space science related with missions including Pioneer and Helios and the inclusive date range was 1967-1974."

NASA told the family of the deceased that it was not in the junk removal business.

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Watch: A new NASA documentary narrated by William Shatner

NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia turns 100 this year. In celebration, the space agency produced this short documentary and enlisted Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, to narrate. Here are just a few highlights from NASA Langley's incredible history:

• In times of peace and war, NASA Langley helped to create a better airplane, including unique wing shapes, sturdier structures, the first engine cowlings, and drag cleanup that enabled the Allies to win World War II.

• Langley broke new ground in aeronautical research with a suite of first-of-their-kind wind tunnels that led to numerous advances in commercial, military and vertical flight, such as helicopters and other rotorcraft.

• Langley researchers laid the foundation for the U.S. manned space program, played a critical role in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, and developed the lunar-orbit rendezvous concept that made the Moon landing possible.

• Development by Langley of a variety of satellite-borne instrumentation has enabled real-time monitoring of planet-wide atmospheric chemistry, air quality, upper-atmosphere ozone concentrations, the effects of clouds and air-suspended particles on climate, and other conditions affecting Earth’s biosphere.

• Protecting astronauts from harm is the aim of Langley’s work on the Orion Launch Abort System, while its work on materials and structures for lightweight and affordable space transportation and habitation will keep future space travelers safe.

• Helping to create environmentally benign aeronautical technologies has been a focus of Langley research, including concepts to reduce drag, weight, fuel consumption, emissions, and lessen noise.

NASA Langley: Innovation at 100

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Astounding close-up image of Jupiter's Giant Red Spot

NASA's Juno probe just completed the closest ever flyby of Jupiter's Giant Red Spot. The above is a processed version of an image created by Gerald Eichstädt from the Juno imaging data. Juno was passing about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the Red Spot. See many more images here. From NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

The Great Red Spot is a 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm that has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. In modern times, the Great Red Spot has appeared to be shrinking...

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet's cloud tops -- as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

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Startling space image of California wildfire smoke plume

On Sunday, NASA's Earth-monitoring Terra satellite captured this image of a smoke plume from the brutal Alamo Fire blazing in the County of Santa Barbara, California. According to the County, more than 600 firefighters have contained about 45% of the fire that's currently burning across 28,926 acres. It started on July 6. Read the rest

69th moon discovered orbiting Jupiter

Jupiter has at least 69 natural moons, reports Scientific American, with the latest distant dots of joy uncovered via images taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft.

Until recently the cataloged satellites totaled 67 in number. But only the innermost 15 of these orbit Jupiter in a prograde sense (in the direction of the planet's spin). The rest are retrograde, and are likely captured objects - other pieces of the solar system's solid inventory that strayed into Jupiter's gravitational grasp.

That population of outer moons is mostly small stuff, only a few are 20-60 kilometers in diameter, most are barely 1-2 kilometers in size, and increasingly difficult to spot.

Now astronomers Scott Sheppard, David Tholen, and Chadwick Trujillo have added two more; bringing Jupiter's moon count to 69.

Perfect for your pirate base/villain lair/secret Space CIA prison/unsettling scientific experiments lab/taco stand. Read the rest

Time-lapse of Juno's Jupiter fly-by

Composited by Sean Doran from images taken by NASA's Juno probe.

Previously: Jupiter's south pole. Read the rest

The south pole of Jupiter

From Nasa's Juno probe:

This image shows Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers). The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) in diameter. Multiple images taken with the JunoCam instrument on three separate orbits were combined to show all areas in daylight, enhanced color, and stereographic projection.

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Stunning short film about the Apollo moon landing made from astronauts' photos

Motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl created this gorgeous short film, titled LUNAR, from thousands of NASA photographs taken by astronauts. From the film description:

In the year 1957 the cold war expands to space. The Soviet-Union sends Sputnik as the first manmade object into earth-orbit.

2 years later Yuri Gagarin enters space as the first man in space. The so called "Space Race" seems to be decided.

But in 1961 President Kennedy promised to send American Astronauts to the moon. The Apollo Project was born. A space ship had to be built that is strong enough to escape earth's gravitation, land on the moon and bring the crew safely back to earth.

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The true color of Saturn's north pole is a stunning blue

Astroparticle physicist Sophia Nasr posted a gorgeous photo of Saturn's north pole, processed to account for a luminance layer. Instead of a reddish hue, it is a breathtaking cerulean blue. Jason Major replicated the results. Read the rest

Lego's new Saturn V/Apollo Mission model rocket set

Lego just announced its new NASA Apollo Saturn V model rocket set. It's based on a Lego Ideas submission by a builder named saabfun, it's a 1:110 scale model of the real thing. Of course the Saturn V was the workhorse rocket that took astronauts to the moon beginning in 1969 and delivered Skylab to orbit in 1973. and The 1,969 piece set will sell for $120 starting in June. It looks fantastic but I'll wait (and hope) for a Voyager Mission set complete with the Golden Record!

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How to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in space

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, commander of the Expedition 50 expedition to the International Space Station, explains how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in space. He returned from the ISS earlier this month after six months in orbit.

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Here’s how NASA tests Mars rovers on Earth

YouTube host Tom Scott explores the “Mars Yard” at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where NASA simulates what it’s like on Mars for its rovers. Read the rest

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