Astronaut Chris Hadfield shares 'unbeatable point of inspiration' for space exploration


Screengrab from Chris Hadfield music video for his cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."

On PBS NewsHour, science correspondent Miles O'Brien interviews Chris Hadfield, who has brought new popular interest to space exploration with his innovative use of web video, tweets, Facebooked photos, and a creative use of the internet, from space. Miles talks to the retired Canadian astronaut, author of "An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth," about the importance of space exploration.

You can listen to the interviews or read a transcript here; videos are below.

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NASA has a plan to just tow an asteroid around space like it's an old car

The crazy part about NASA's Asteroid Initiative isn't so much the part where we land human beings on an asteroid. That's cool and all, sure. But the bit that precedes it is actually a little bit more mindblowing. To make that landing work, we'll first have to send out robotic spacecraft to essentially capture an asteroid and tow it into a stable orbit around the Moon. Yeah. Seriously. Welcome to living in the future, dudes.

Planetary overprotection: Have we made ourselves Mars' helicopter parents?

We've talked here before about the Office of Planetary Protection and efforts to make sure that we Earthlings don't contaminate the rest of the galaxy with our bacteria, viruses, and other assorted detritus. Now, some scientists are arguing that we've done this job too well, effectively barring ourselves from exploring the parts of Mars that are most likely to be hospitable to life precisely because they could also be hospitable to tagalong life from Earth.

A case for colonizing Venus, Jetsons style

Venus is not exactly a hospitable-sounding place. The planet's surface can reach temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The atmospheric pressure is close to the psi found in a hydraulic car crusher . None of the landers that touched down there lasted more than an hour. Generally, it's a not a place that sounds very friendly to humans. But that's all on the surface. Just 30 miles up, conditions on Venus become incredibly Earth-like. In fact, the upper atmosphere of Venus is home to the most Earth-like conditions in our entire solar system.

Silicon Valley and the commercialization of space

95XaeroAPlumeSan Francisco's public television station KQED produced a half-hour documentary on the private efforts to commercialize space. The program focuses on Silicon Valley-based concerns like reusable rocket maker Masten Space Systems (image of their Xaero spacecraft above) and microsatellite developer Skybox Imaging. Also appearing is BB pal Steve Jurvetson, happy mutant venture capitalist and a board member at space transport company SpaceX. In fact, I ran into Steve at a model rocketry meet on Saturday -- the man really digs rockets! You can watch the KQED documentary, "Silicon Valley Goes To Space," in full below.

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Awesome new image of Saturn

PIA17172 fig1

NASA just released this breathtaking photo of Saturn, seven of its moons, and Earth in the background. Actually a mosaic of 141 wide-angle photos, this stunning view was captured by the Cassini spacecraft while inside Saturn's shadow. The image covers 404,880 miles (651,591 kilometers). According to a NASA report, "This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn's orbit; and the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance." Click through to NASA to see the much higher-res image including an annotated version: The Day the Earth Smiled (NASA)

Apollo 11 spacesuit was made by a bra manufacturer

101 Objects Discovery Neil Armstrong space suit 631

The spacesuit that Neil Armstrong wore when he stepped onto the moon was constructed by a bra manufacturer in Dover, Delaware. Smithsonian magazine tells the history of the Apollo suit:

For the suit’s creator, the International Latex Corporation in Dover, Delaware, the toughest challenge was to contain the pressure necessary to support life (about 3.75 pounds per square inch of pure oxygen), while maintaining enough flexibility to afford freedom of motion. A division of the company that manufactured Playtex bras and girdles, ILC had engineers who understood a thing or two about rubber garments. They invented a bellowslike joint called a convolute out of neoprene reinforced with nylon tricot that allowed an astronaut to bend at the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips and ankles with relatively little effort. Steel aircraft cables were used throughout the suit to absorb tension forces and help maintain its shape under pressure.

"Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit Was Made by a Bra Manufacturer"

That time a garbage scow crashed into a space station

Sometimes, you forget about things that happened during your own lifetime. For instance, I'd completely forgotten that, back in 1997, cosmonauts accidentally ran an unmanned spacecraft full of garbage into the side of the space station Mir, temporarily knocking out power and sending the space station into an uncontrolled spin. NASA has the full story, an oral history from an astronaut who was on board Mir at the time, and some nifty animations showing what happened.

Video of the Maui Space Surveillance Complex

From the US Air Force's Airman magazine:

The Maui Space Surveillance Complex is located on Mount Haleakala, a dormant volcano on the island of Maui in Hawaii. It’s one of three sites Air Force Space Command operates that makes up the Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep-Space Surveillance network, which tracks man-made objects orbiting the Earth.
"Capturing Space"

The hazards of Moon dust

Despite all the attention lavished on Moon dust, we still don't know what effect the stuff has on human lungs ... which is kind of a big deal, considering the fact that the dust has busted through every vacuum seal its ever faced. And eaten through layers of moon boots. Basically, you can imagine Moon dust as those tiny shards that get left on the floor when you break a glass and inevitably end up embedded in your foot four days later. At The New Yorker, Kate Green writes about efforts to better understand the effects of Moon dust on various materials and how engineers are trying to find new ways to control it before humans return to the lunar surface.

Museum of Robots: retro-futuristic jewelry and housewares


I got to see a bunch of the lovely, retro-futuristic themed housewares and jewelry from Musuem of Robots at a show last week, and they're beautiful, well-crafted, and really up my street. Especially lovely are the rocketship and planet pendants (above), made with naturally swirled agates and adorable pewter rocketships. They also do rayguns, and, of course, robots

Museum of Robots

NASA's Kepler spacecraft sends home data suggesting odds of space life are better than we thought


Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Dennis Overbye, in the New York Times: "Astronomers reported that there could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in the galaxy, based on a new analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft."

Indian spacecraft soars on historic journey to Mars


The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle lifts off at 0908 GMT (4:08 a.m. EST; 2:38 p.m. local time) from India's Satish Dhawan Space Center. Photo: ISRO

Today, India makes space history: its low-cost Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle blasted off with the nation's first mission to Mars. More at Spaceflight Now.

Tweet your ideas for the future of human spaceflight!

Mars expedition

BB colleague Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack and global instigator of Science Hack Day says:

I'm an appointed National Academy of Sciences committee member of a congressionally-requested study on the future of human spaceflight. The Committee on Human Spaceflight has been tasked with a study to review the long-term goals, core capabilities, and direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations to enable a sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program. Committees regularly request white papers as a way of soliciting public input - however, I'm leading the charge on the NAS's first ever endeavor to solicit public input via Twitter!

On Tuesday, October 29, any tweets with the hashtag #HumansInSpace will be used as *direct input* to the Committee on Human Spaceflight. Specifically, we'd like people to respond to: "What are your best ideas for creating a NASA human spaceflight program that is sustainable over the next several decades?". The official website for the campaign is here.

To me, this is a huge (and more accessible) way to make sure we hear from a wide array of people, and I'd absolutely love to make sure to get everyone who follows Boing Boing to have their voice be included.

#HumansInSpace at Twitter

Kazakhstan's decaying Soviet space murals


Esquire Kazakhstan features photos of the country's decaying Soviet space murals, which do not have protected status, and are coming to bits. They're still towering, heroic Soviet Realist paeans to space travel, sorrowful as they may be.

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