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Illustrated portraits of woman astronauts


Artist Philip J Bond created a set of illustrations depicting the women who've been to space. They're beautiful and full of personality and style, and really do justice to their subjects. I just showed these to my five year old daughter, and she was as entranced as I was.

Working for months at a time just penciling a comic book I started these portraits to get a bit of inking and colouring out of my system. I shouldn't say 'portraits', I'm not going for much of a likeness. Usually I'll glance at a couple of photographs and then go off and draw a vague impression. Margaret Seddon is blonde, Judith Resnik is a bit barmy looking, that sort of thing.

astronauts

Snap-fit 3D printable airship can also form the base of a Saturn V rocket


RealAbsurdity's "Modular Snap-Fit Airship" on Thingiverse is a 3D-printable toy whose parts can interchangeably form part of a Saturn V rocket. More snap-fit vehicles are planned.

This is a fully modular snap-fit (no glue required) model of an Airship. It is the vanilla base for a series of absurd mashups that currently includes a Trireme and a Saturn V rocket. Designed for 3D print, it comes in two flavors: solid and shell.

Modular Snap-Fit Airship (Thanks, crystlem!)

Meet Curiosity rover's earthbound sibling


Photo: Glenn Fleishman

Go and check out Glenn Fleishman's fantastic set of photos from the Jet Propulsion Lab's sandbox, where the scientists get to hang out and play with one of Curiosity rover's siblings.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield's otherworldly Earth landscapes, from space

"Venezuelan valley framed by misty clouds - mysterious, beautiful and surreal."—Chris Hadfield

As I've blogged before, Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield is currently living in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as Flight Engineer on Expedition 34 and he has been tweeting absolutely stunning photographs of Earth. Follow him on Twitter, for daily photo updates. Hadfield has captured some of the devastating floods hitting Australia this week, in images like the one below.

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Notes on making a stitched panorama with a 100,000' balloon-cam

Caleb sends us an article, "Wherein I present the results of and detail the technical feats needed to stitch together imagery from six cameras into interactive fully spherical imagery and video taken from a balloon sent up to nearly 100,000 feet. (*phew*)"

There are some other factors that come into play with panorama stitching. You want to avoid placing control points on objects that move between images taken. Typical panoramas are done with one camera being rotated after each photo is taken. Objects that move between photos taken that have control points on them will severely hinder the stitching process.

You also want to avoid placing control points on objects at largely different distances from the lens. Don’t mix control points between objects a couple feet away and a hundred feet away as the optimizer won’t be able to make them fit to one transform. I’m able to mostly ignore this issue at very high altitudes as everything is so far away that the difference between the closer and the further objects is so slight that it doesn’t do much to negatively impact the optimization. Of course, that means I don’t allow any control points to be placed on anything attached to the camera payload, including the parachute and the balloon.

In order to place control points you have to have common features. That’s why you need the overlap between images. The more overlap the better the result. In the sample images above we have one image, the fourth, that isn’t able to be connected to any of the others. And it’s not because there’s no overlap. There are three issues with the fourth image that presents us from finding control points in it.

Operation StratoSphere – Conclusion (Thanks, Caleb!)

Punk Voyager: when the punks launched their own space-probe

"Punk Voyager" is this week's story on the Escape Pod podcast, and it is fucking amazing. It's Shaenon Garrity story about punks at the twilight of the 1970s who are drunkenly outraged to discover that the Voyager probe has been launched with classical music records for aliens. They build their own Voyager probe out of garbage, razor-blades, beer cans and a surfboard some douchebag left on the beach, filled with all the most important human artifacts that they can find in their van. They forget about it as the 80s roar in, and then the aliens come to Earth and cockpunch Ronald Reagan.

Fuck yeah.

Punk Voyager was built by punks. They made it from beer cans, razors, safety pins, and a surfboard some D-bag had left on the beach. Also plutonium. Where did they get plutonium? Around. Fuck you.

The punks who built Punk Voyager were Johnny Bonesaw, Johnny Razor, Mexican Johnny D-bag, Red Viscera, and some other guys. No, asshole, nobody remembers what other guys. They were Fucking wasted, these punks. They’d been drinking on the San Diego beach all day and night, talking about making a run to Tijuana and then forgetting and punching each other. They’d built a fire on the beach, and all night the fire went up and went down while the punks threw beer cans at the seagulls.

Forget the shit I just said, it wasn’t the punks who did it. They were Fucking punks. The hell they know about astro-engineering? Truth is that Punk Voyager was the strung-out masterpiece of Mexican Johnny D-bag’s girlfriend, Lacuna, who had a doctorate in structural engineering. Before she burned out and ran for the coast, Lacuna was named Alice McGuire and built secret nuclear submarines for a government contractor in Ohio. It sucked. But that was where she got the skills to construct an unmanned deep-space probe. Same principle, right? Keep the radiation in and the water out. Or the vacuum of space, whatever, it’s all the same shit to an engineer.

Fuck that, it wasn’t really Lacuna’s baby. It wasn’t her idea. The idea was Red’s.

“Fucking space,” he said that fateful night. He was lying on his back looking up at space, is why he said it.

“Hell yeah,” said Johnny Bonesaw.

Punk Voyager

Asteroid mining to commence in 2015

It is definitely now the future.

A new venture is joining the effort to extract mineral resources on asteroids. The announcement of plans by Deep Space Industries to exploit the rare metals present in the space rocks turns asteroid mining into a two-horse race. The other venture, Planetary Resources, went public with its proposals last year.

Unloading supplies onto the International Space Station

As Matt Lynley put it, "Meanwhile, in space ..."

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Astronaut Chris Hadfield is photo-tweeting Earth, from space

Huge swirls in the sea off of Mumbai, India. Photo: Chris Hadfield/NASA

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is currently living in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as Flight Engineer on Expedition 34 (and soon to be Commander of Expedition 35 in March 2013), has been tweeting some gorgeous snapshots of earth as seen from space. Follow him on Twitter, for daily photo updates.

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How to clip your fingernails in space

I found this video in Reddit's Learn Useless Talents section. In my reality this won't be useless for long!

Horde of space GIFs

4chan's worksafe GIF board– a treasure trove of excellent content before it hits the social media tracts –has a great thread of space GIFs up now. I've selected a few of the best here.

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Fantastic tour of the International Space Station

Sunita Williams was in charge of the International Space Station for six months. On her last day in space, she made this 25-minute video — a much more in-depth tour of the ISS than I've personally ever seen before. This is the first time I've actually been able to get a sense of the whole interior layout of the ISS, rather than just seeing one place and then another with no understanding of how they connect. What's more, you really get a sense of the unearthly weirdness of moving through this space where walls are never just walls and "up" and "down" are essentially meaningless.

The video includes a detailed (but safe for work) demonstration of how to use the ISS bathroom; a behind-the-scenes peek of the pantry (with separate pantries for Russian and Japanese food); a visit to the Soyuz craft waiting to take Williams home; and the vertigo-inducing horror pod where all the really great pictures of Earth get taken.

Money quote: "I haven't sat down for 6 months now."

Also, for some reason, it bothers me that she refers to the "left" and "right" side of the Space Station, instead of port and starboard.

There is no crying in space

Or, rather, there can be. But it's really, really awkward. Maggie

Real history of the Fisher Space Pen

NewImage

I've carried a Fisher Space Pen Bullet on and off since I was a kid. ("Write underwater and upside down!") I usually lose them in a matter of weeks, but while I can manage to hold on to one I do appreciate its minimalist design, small size, and great "fiddleability." Of course, the Space Pen is surrounded by some epic marketing and myth. Did NASA really invest millions to develop a perfect pen for astronauts? No, apparently, Fisher had developed the pen technology and later brought it to NASA. Following two years of testing, the space agency bought 400 of the pens at a 40 percent discount. And on October 11, 1968, Apollo 7 astronauts carried Fisher Space Pens, model AG7, into orbit.

"The Fisher Space Pen Boldly Writes Where No Man Has Written Before" (Smithsonian)

Fisher Space Pen AG7 (Amazon)

Fermi's Paradox, the tapeworm-and-anus versus


Fermi's Paradox speculates that the fact that our civilization has not yet encountered evidence of alien civilization implies that such life must not exist. In "Tapeworm Logic," Charlie Stross brilliantly skewers this by looking at the version of Fermi's Paradox that a tapeworm-philosopher might arrive at:

Our tapeworm-philosopher gets its teeth into the subject. Given that the human is so clearly designed to be hospitable to tapeworm-kind, then it follows that if there are more humans, other humans out there beyond the anus, then they, too, must be hospitable to tapeworm-kind. Tapeworm-kind has become aware of itself existing in the human; it is logical to assume that if other humans exist then there must be other tapeworms, and if travel between humans is possible—and we infer that it might be, from the disappearance of our egg sacs through the anus of the human—then sooner or later humans interacting in the broader universe might exchange eggs from these hypothetical alien tapeworms, in which case, visitors! Because the human was already here before we became self-aware, it clearly existed for a long time before us. So if there are many humans, there has been a lot of time for the alien tapeworm-visitors to reach us. So where are they?

Welcome to the Fermi paradox, mired in shit. Shall we itemize the errors that the tapeworm is making in its analysis?

Tapeworm Logic

(Image: segments, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from istolethetv's photostream)