A billion-pixel view of Mars, from Curiosity rover


Reduced version of panorama from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity with 1.3 billion pixels in the full-resolution version. Image shows Curiosity at the "Rocknest" site where the rover scooped up samples of windblown dust and sand. Explore here. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA JPL sends word today that image processing lab specialists have assembled a billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. The 1.3-billion-pixel image is offered with pan and zoom tools here.

It's the first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars at this resolution, and is stitched together from close to 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity, revealing details of the landscape along the rover's route.

Here's a "manageable" download of the full image. More from the JPL news release, below.

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Meet the NASA Astronaut Class of 2013

More than 6000 people applied, eight were chosen. And, for the first time, NASA has an astronaut class with gender parity — four men, and four women.

The death of Yuri Gagarin

At the BBC: "New details have emerged about the air crash on 27 March 1968 that killed Yuri Gagarin - the first man in space."

Buzz Aldrin speaks out against Tang

According to Buzz Aldrin though, "Tang sucks." (NBC News)

How the Russians pee in space

I don't know if I can fully define human nature, but I'm pretty sure it includes a prurient and/or practical interest in how one uses the bathroom under strange circumstances. Thus, the various videos you've seen over the years explaining how astronauts use the toilet on board the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. Until a recent visit to Seattle's Museum of Flight, however, I'd never seen how cosmonauts do their business — an issue with increasingly broad reach, now that Americans and other international space voyagers are being ferried into the heavens aboard Soyuz.

The Soyuz toilet does not look much like the ones on board the Shuttle or the ISS. Those are recognizably toilets, for one thing. The Soyuz sanitary unit is more akin to peeing into a soda bottle in the back seat of the family station wagon — if that soda bottle were hooked up to a vacuum cleaner.

This video — kindly shared with us by The Museum of Flight — was filmed in 2009 by NASA astronaut Michael Barratt. It features the urination demonstration talents of spaceflight adventurer Charles Simonyi and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Please note that this video only demonstrates how the "part Number 1" works — and even that really only seems to apply to gentlemen cosmonauts. As best I can tell, women apparently just pee into something akin to a compact diaper or sanitary pad. (Fun!) As for "part Number 2", here is how it was described in a 2007 NASA publication written by James Lee Broyan, Jr.:

For fecal collection, a porous bag is placed in the receptacle. Once defecation is complete, the bag is removed, placed sequentially in three bags, and then placed in a wet trash compartment. Based on personal conversations with АСУ trainers, urine collection is acceptable but fecal use is avoided if at all possible with the crew using diet restrictions and preventive measures prior to flight.

• Read the 2007 NASA publication comparing different space toilet systems. Apparently, part Number 2 has also been used by female cosmonauts to dispose of menstrual waste.
• Read a description on the RuSpace site, which gives a little more detail on part Number 2.
• Watch the video at YouTube

Thanks to Ted Huetter at The Museum of Flight!

Vintage futures: Next Stop Mars, 1952

In the Boing Boing Flickr Pool, reader JMV shares this wonderful scan of a 1952 feature from the Vancouver Sun's "Weekend Picture Magazine" on the coming age of travel to Mars.

Illustration by Edgar Ainsworth.

"It will probably be some 50 years before any safe space flight from Earth to another planet and back is made, but there seems now to be very little doubt that the dreams of Roger Bacon in AD 1249 and Albertus Magnus in 1280 have left the realm of Wellsian imaginings and become a practical proposition."

Here's a larger size. Guess they didn't think of Rovers!

Interstellar message in a bottle

Later this month, scientists will start sending the first continuous mass hailing beacon into outer space — a sort of "Hey, you! Yeah, you! Here we are!" message that researchers hope will attract the attention of any intelligent life that happens to exist in the Universe. They're aiming it at the Gliese 526 system, about 17.6 light years away. It's worth noting that this is different than Gliese 581, a system you probably remember hearing about from the search for Earth-like planets. The two systems aren't even closely related. The name comes from a 1957 survey of (relatively) nearby stars.

Tumblog of Greatness: F*ck Yeah, Female Astronauts


Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space, launch date June 16, 1963.

A wonderful website: fuckyeahfemaleastronauts.tumblr.com [new expletive-free URL] womeninspace.tumblr.com.

Only 10% of people in space have been women, and on tumblr that seemed even less. so here it is for your inspiration. Fuck yeah! Female Astronauts!

(via s.e. smith)

National Academies: public call for future visions of human spaceflight

Do you have ideas about the future of humans in space? The US National Academies' Committee on Human Spaceflight is seeking short papers from individual and groups with a vision for the future of human spaceflight.
NewImageIn developing their papers, respondents are asked to carefully consider the following broad questions.

What are the important benefits provided to the United States and other countries by human spaceflight endeavors?

What are the greatest challenges to sustaining a U.S. government program in human spaceflight?

What are the ramifications and what would the nation and world lose if the United States terminated NASA's human spaceflight program?

"Submitting an Input Paper to the Committee on Human Spaceflight"

Space food

FruittttY'know "Astronaut Ice Cream" that's a favorite at science museum gift shops everywhere? I shouldn't be surprised, but astronauts don't eat the stuff. Freeze-dried ice cream was on the Apollo 7 menu but apparently the astronauts hated it so much that it never made it on future missions. (The same outfit that makes the Astronaut Ice Cream also sell a Mission Pack Space Food Sampler filled with other foods that astronauts probably don't eat.) The new issue of Smithsonian magazine examines the space food collection at the National Air and Space Museum, the place where, like many of you I'm sure, I had my first taste of "astronaut ice cream."

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Open source hardware 3D printer for pizza-on-demand

A mechanical engineer (awesomely) named Anjan Contractor has won a NASA grant to prototype a 3D printer for food -- specifically pizza. It will lay down layers of food and flavor powder and melt them together; the powders are room-temperature stable for long periods and can be made from relatively abundant, sustainable foodstocks like insects and soylent green. He prototyped the concept with the 3D chocolate printer in the video above, and he holds out hope that food-printing could solve world hunger by allowing billions to feast on low-wastage, low-energy-input, low-carbon-footprint foods that are printed to order.

Contractor's printer is RepRap based, and is open source hardware; he promises to keep the plans open and free.

I suspect that there's a lot of nutritional subtleties lost when you turn food into processed elements that are recombined (in the same way that beta-carotene in carrots is reliably shown to have health benefits, while beta-carotene supplements are far more questionable). But as a form of food processing, it certainly is exciting!

Pizza is an obvious candidate for 3D printing because it can be printed in distinct layers, so it only requires the print head to extrude one substance at a time. Contractor’s “pizza printer” is still at the conceptual stage, and he will begin building it within two weeks. It works by first “printing” a layer of dough, which is baked at the same time it’s printed, by a heated plate at the bottom of the printer. Then it lays down a tomato base, “which is also stored in a powdered form, and then mixed with water and oil,” says Contractor.

Finally, the pizza is topped with the delicious-sounding “protein layer,” which could come from any source, including animals, milk or plants.

The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)

NASA solar flare video with Lars Leonhard music

NASA released this stunning video of two powerful X-class solar flares erupting off the upper left side of the sun earlier this month. (Background here.) The images come from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and from the ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory. The music is by Duesseldorf-based ambient composer Lars Leonhard whose track Thunderbolt was featured in an equally-magificient video of the sun's corona captured by the SDO and released earlier this year. Watch that video below. Leonhard's debut album, 1549, inspired by the US Airways flight that famously hit a flock of geese and was ditched in the Hudson River, is available from Forced Exposure.

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Life of astronaut Sally Ride honored in Kennedy Center tribute


American astronaut Sally Ride monitors control panels from the pilot's chair on the flight deck in 1983. Photo by Apic/Getty Images, via PBS NewsHour.

Tonight, PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien will serve as master of ceremonies in a Kennedy Center gala honoring the life and legacy of astronaut Sally Ride. The tribute will highlight her impact on the space program and her lifelong commitment to promoting youth science literacy.

Her Sally Ride Science organization reached out to girls, encouraging them to pursue careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, where a gender gap persists.

At the PBS NewsHour website, read the column Miles wrote immediately following Ride's death in July 2012, 17 months after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Kepler's greatest hits

Your guide to the most awesome exoplanets yet found by NASA's Kepler space telescope — all in one handy place, thanks to Wired's Adam Mann.

Spacegoing Earth: a painting by Angus McKie


When I first saw this Angus McKie illustration, I had a moment when I thought it depicted the Earth being encased in a huge, space-going shell and I flashed back to Damon Knight's spectacular novel Why Do Birds?, a straight-faced yet comic novel about a man who puts the whole human race in a box. Then I realized that the picture depicted a hollow, space-going sphere being fitted with an armored cover and my mind spun into a deep future from which it hasn't entirely returned. Beautiful work. Here's the official McKie site, but it appears to be down.

Angus McKie