NASA sells off shuttle launch platforms

Here's something new for the BoingBoing evil lair collection — NASA is selling the massive platforms that used to move spacecraft from the hangar to the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center. From The Guardian:

The platforms provided power and umbilical connections to Apollo and the shuttles, and had open sections for flames and rocket exhaust to pass through. "At this point Nasa is looking to gauge interest for potential use of the [platforms] and concepts for potential use," spokeswoman Tracy Young said. Proposals are due by 6 September.

I'm sure you all have some good ideas.

EDIT: I previously understood this story to mean that the whole platform/crawler system was for sale. That appears to be incorrect. You can't have the tread-wheeled vehicle. NASA will be using that. But you can buy the platform that sat on top of the vehicle.

See a star explode with your bare eyes

Now, to temper this awesome news with a bit of harsh reality: Nova Delphini is not a supernova and it's not going to be as bright an object as you're probably imagining. Discover's Corey Powell has instructions for how to spot it (it probably won't be super obvious, especially if you're in a city) and galleries of photos, just in case you can't see it yourself.

Astronaut soup


Here's the crew of the Apollo 1 relaxing poolside as they practice their water landings. You shoulda seen Grissom's cannonball.

Apollo 1 crew practicing a water landing in 1966. [Collective History]

The Moon's mysterious dust

I'd never seen this NASA photo of Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan before. It was taken after one of his three moonwalks with crewmate Harrison Schmitt, though you could be forgiven for assuming that Cernan just came in from a shift at the coal mine rather than a jaunt across the surface of the Moon.

At the Life, Unbounded blog, Caleb Scharf writes about the Moon dust you can see clinging to Cernan, describing it as sticky, abrasive, and gunpowder-scented. It's also not something we totally understand yet — at least, we still have a lot to learn about how Moon dust behaves on the Moon. On September 6, NASA is launching a satellite to study this very phenomenon. One thing it might figure out: Whether electrically charged particles of Moon dust might form an extremely thin and vanishingly temporary "atmosphere" that hovers and falls over the Moon's surface.

Ariel Waldman on hacking science

Ariel Waldman is an open science pioneer, and we are delighted she will speak at our Boing Boing: Ingenuity theatrical experience on Sunday, August 18, in San Francisco! Not only that, but Ariel has been tirelessly working with us to orchestrate the Boing Boing Ingenuity: Data Driven hack day taking place the day before the live show.

As creator of Spacehack, lead instigator of the global Science Hack Day, and a "Future for Good" Fellow at Institute for the Future, Ariel is dedicated to instilling a sense of wonder, curiosity, and passion about science, and empowering everyone to get involved in scientific research. Ariel was recently honored by the White House as a "Champion of Change" dedicated to "increasing public engagement in science and science literacy." Above, watch Ariel talk open science in a recent interview for the Syfy channel.

Not going to be at Boing Boing: Ingenuity in person? We'll be sharing both days of the Boing Boing: Ingenuity experience through video and other media on the site starting this weekend and continuing over the coming weeks!

Boing Boing: Ingenuity in partnership with Ford C-Max.

Happy birthday to Neil Armstrong

Steve Jurvetson (of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson) posts this photograph of himself with "the true Armstrong hero," on the occasion of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong's birthday -- which was yesterday, August 5, same as mine! From Steve's post:

At Kelly's house, I had the chance to ask him a question about the first landing on the moon that provoked a response that seemed poignant and awe-inspiring.

I asked him, of all of the systems and stages of the mission, which did he worry about the most? He had spoken about the frequently failing autopilot... the reliance on a global network of astronomers to spot solar flares in time to get the warning out... the onboard computers being less powerful than a Furby...

Read the rest

Mars Rover mission team at JPL celebrates a birthday

Photo: Two of the first images transmitted back by Curiosity, as seen on monitors at JPL 20 minutes after the rover landed on Mars. (Xeni Jardin)


One year ago today, a one-ton, SUV-sized spacecraft "blasted into the Mars atmosphere at more than 13,000 miles an hour, deployed a supersonic parachute, fired eight rocket engines, unfurled a giant sky crane and lowered itself to the Martian soil." PBS NewsHour's Jenny Marder has a post up today looking back at that incredible milestone. Yours truly was there, and it was an amazing thing to witness. (HT: Aileen Graef)

X-ray of a space suit

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The above image is an x-ray of an experimental space suit from 1968. This x-ray and others are on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum as part of "Suited for Space," a special exhibit about the history of astronaut outerwear. (via National Geographic)

Onion accurately predicts GOP opposition to anti-asteroid initiative


Congressional Republicans are fighting Obama's plan to put a base on the moon and use it to launch an asteroid-capture program which would give NASA some practice in deflecting future asteroid-strikes -- as well as setting the stage for more ambitious missions, such as one to Mars. This whole kerfuffle was predicted by the Onion, two years ago, in a story called "Republicans Vote To Repeal Obama-Backed Bill That Would Destroy Asteroid Headed For Earth."

Read the rest

Jupiter layer cake


Cakecrumbs, creator of the amazing Earth Cake, has topped that marvel with a Jupiter layer cake whose layers reveal the theoretical makeup of the gas giant. Its multiple layers represent "a core comprised mostly of rock and ice... surrounded by a layer liquid metallic hydrogen, and the outer layer is composed of molecular hydrogen."

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Steampunk armada made from recycled plastic bottles

IZ Reloaded sez, "Spotted at Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2013! Using discarded plastic bottles, bits of old toys, disassembled computers and other recycled unwanted items, David Liew of the Sleeping Iron foundry has created an armada of steampunk inspired spaceships known as the Bottle Fleet. Each model has been sculpted and painted to the level similar to that of movie production models and miniatures."

Read the rest

Maggie talking space exploration on KCRW's "To the Point"

I got to join in a great conversation yesterday on KCRW's "To the Point" with guest host Madeleine Brand and several people involved in the future of space travel — especially commercial space travel. I was there to talk about my recent NYT Magazine story on the risks of boredom in space, but the rest of the conversation was also great, ranging from the profit motives of space exploration to Brand's excellent questioning of the founder of Mars One.

The least desirable addresses in the Universe

Can I interest you in a summer home on COROT-7b? Sure, the estimated surface temperature is 4,580 degrees F, the year is only 20 hours long, and it's probably just lousy with volcanoes. But, when it rains on COROT-7b, it rains rocks. No takers? Just in case, you should check out Lee Billings' slideshow on fantastically horrible planets.

Video is a "waltz around Saturn"

Fabio Di Donato made this gorgeous video from photos of Saturn taken by the Cassini spacecraft between 2004 and 2012. "Around Saturn"

Warp 0: Why warp drive technologies might never happen

Theoretical cosmologist Richard Easther has an interesting essay on the theoretical physics of warp drive technologies and why — despite the fact that they could work quite reasonably alongside relativity — they still might not ever make it to reality.