When "computers" were young, brilliant black women mathematicians


Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures recovers the lost history of the young African American women who did the heavy computational work of the Apollo missions, given the job title of "computer" -- her compelling book has been made into a new motion picture. Read the rest

Celebrating Michael Collins, 'forgotten astronaut' of Apollo 11


Any true NASA nerd knows that Michael Collins was the third astronaut who joined Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. But even for those who are already familiar with Collins, this video is still a lovely, poignant tribute to an unsung hero of the space race. Read the rest

Adam Savage writes about space nerd sculptor Tom Sachs

In Wired, our pal Adam Savage geeks out with Tom Sachs, a sculptor who makes incredibly intricate space-themed installations:

(Sachs had) mounted two Space Program exhibitions—the moon (at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills) in 2007 and then Mars (at the Park Avenue Armory in New York) in 2012. There were the blue Tiffany Glock and orange Hermès hand grenade, and also a Chanel chain saw and a Prada toilet. And a foam-core R2-D2, which I’d collected pictures of as inspiration for building my own DIY Artoo, a decade before I knew who Sachs was.

We had a lot in common. We’re both obsessive organizers. We both make replicas. And when we’re in the shop and can’t think of what to work on, we build infrastructure—stands, shelves, benches. Sachs told me he’d cribbed construction ideas from MythBusters Now he uses my workshop when he’s on the West Coast, and I use his when I’m back east. Our wives describe our relationship status as “dating.”

When I look at Sachs’ workshop, what’s more familiar to me than the tools are the rituals, the signs of how Sachs turns prosaic objects and materials into art.

"Ground Control to Major Tom" by Adam Savage (Wired)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Views Spectacular Layered Rock Formations of “Murray Buttes”

This view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows an outcrop with finely layered rocks within the "Murray Buttes" region on lower Mount Sharp.

Reports NASA today, “The layered geologic past of Mars is revealed in stunning detail in new color images returned by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, which is currently exploring the 'Murray Buttes' region of lower Mount Sharp. The new images arguably rival photos taken in U.S. National Parks.”

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Lost space probe finally found on comet


In 2014, the Philae space probe left the Rosetta spacecraft and descended to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Unfortunately, Philae missed its landing due to an anchor mishap, bounced around, and then vanished. On Sunday, just a few weeks before Rosetta's expected crash into the comet and the end of the mission, Cecilia Tubiana of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research was scouring new images of the comet transmitted from Rosetta and noticed the dishwasher-sized probe in a crack. From Nadia Drake's post at National Geographic:

“I immediately recognized Philae, there was no doubt about it,” says Tubiana, who’s at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. “I could not believe that we had finally — one month before the end of the Rosetta mission — successfully imaged it! I was so happy!”

Now, with Philae found, scientists can finally rest. The lander won’t be doing any more science, but knowing where it came to rest on 67P will help the team interpret the data Philae could collect during those few short days when it was operational in November 2014. And anyway, soon enough, its comet will carry it—and Rosetta—away from the sun and into a long, dark night.

"Long-Lost Comet Lander Finally Found" (Nat Geo) Read the rest

The universe has no "up"


New research from University College London suggests that the universe is indeed "isotropic," the same in all directions. Cosmologists Daniela Saadeh and Andrew Pontzen analyzed cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation left over from the Big Bang for any patterns that would indicate "a special direction in space." Read the rest

Explore other star systems' habitable zones -- and our own billions of years hence


The Circumstellar Habitable Zone Simulator provides detailed views of six star systems known to have exoplanets. You can change the stars' mass and the planetary distances and fool around with Goldilocks' breakfast, but it's the timeline control that's scary: drag it right to fly through the billions of years, watching the habitable zone head out of town as the star goes nova then contract to nothing. Read the rest

NASA launches OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample mission now speeding toward Bennu rendezvous

Image: NASA

NASA reports that its first ever asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05 p.m. EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, “beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.”

OSIRIS-REx, which is short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is headed to the near-Earth asteroid called Bennu.

The probe's job: Touch the asteroid (after asking consent first, and with a platonic vibe) so we can bring a small sample back to Earth for study. If all goes as planned after today's launch, the spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

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Recreating Our Galaxy in a Supercomputer

Simulated view of our Milky Way galaxy, seen from a nearly face-on angle. This image was created by simulating the formation of our galaxy using a supercomputer, which, in this case, consisted of 2,000 computers linked together.(Hopkins Research Group/Caltech)

Astronomers at Caltech have created the most detailed computer simulation yet of how our Milky Way galaxy was formed, from inception billions of years ago as a loose collection of matter to its modern state as a massive, spiral disk of stars.

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Images from Saturn Cassini probe reveal Titan's dunes and frigid landscape in new detail


“Frigid alien landscapes” are coming to light in new radar images of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, captured from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

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This Podcast Was Written by an AI

Today we do something weird, in honor of the end of the second season of Flash Forward! Instead of coming up with a future and then finding experts to talk about it, I asked an AI to write a future for us. And the AI apparently wants us to talk about space travel, witches, and the occult.

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon | Reddit

In this episode we feed all the past Flash Forward episodes to a neural network, and ask it to write a script for us. And that script is full of space travel, Mars conspiracy theories, future witches, and a whole lot of theories about cutting someone’s hands off.

▹▹ Full show notes

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SpaceX rocket explodes on launchpad; Facebook satellite destroyed


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its payload—a communications satellite backed by Facebook—were destroyed this morning during launch tests at Cape Canaveral, Fla. No-one was hurt in the explosion. Read the rest

ISS captures three hurricanes in time-lapse video, two in Pacific and one in Atlantic

L-R: Hurricanes Lester, Madeline and Gaston seen from ISS Aug. 30. [NASA]

Cameras on the International Space Station captured this footage of three major hurricanes on Earth on August 30. Two of these storms are in the Pacific Ocean, and one is in the Atlantic Ocean. Read the rest

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down with Crucial NASA Research Samples

Image from NASA's live coverage: SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft departing the ISS at 6:10 am EDT Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, after successfully delivering almost 5,000 pounds of supplies and scientific cargo on its ninth resupply mission to the orbiting lab.
Another successful SpaceX mission to resupply the ISS ended today with a splashdown in the Pacific, southwest of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. Here's an update from NASA.

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NASA's Juno to Soar Closest to Jupiter This Saturday

This dual view of Jupiter was taken on August 23, when NASA's Juno spacecraft was 2.8 million miles (4.4 million kilometers) from the gas giant planet on the inbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

An update on the Juno mission, from NASA.

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NASA: 35 Years On, Voyager's Legacy Continues at Saturn

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An update on the Voyager exploration program of Saturn from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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Test for Damp Ground at Mars' Seasonal Streaks Finds None, Reports NASA JPL

A Mars science news update from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California.

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