GIF of the day: NASA satellite images reveal air pollution improvement in US

Nitrogen dioxide pollution, averaged yearly from 2005-2011, has decreased across the United States. Image: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler


Nitrogen dioxide pollution, averaged yearly from 2005-2011, has decreased across the United States.
Image: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/T. Schindler

NASA satellite images released this week in animated GIF form show how air pollution has decreased across the United States over the past decade.

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Earth from space doormat

You can own the classic "Big Blue Marble" Earth-from-space shot as a 24" circular doormat for $23. (via Crazy Abalone)

Diamond the size of Earth

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Astronomers have found a diamond the size of Earth. The cooled white dwarf star, a huge chunk of crystallized carbon, is orbiting a pulsar about 900 light-years away, according to National Geographic.

Nigerians in Space: afrofuturist science fiction debut novel

This sounds good: Afrocyberpunk reviews the debut novel of Deji Olukotun, Nigerians in Space: "He wouldn't hit golf balls like the American astronauts. He would squeeze out rhythms from a talking drum into the blackness between the stars. These were the drums of war and death, of celebration, the drums that had bonded the towns of his homeland over centuries in tonal communication… He would bind the stars with the drums. There would be dancing."

Review [Afrocyberpunk]

Nigerians in Space [Amazon]

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover completes its first Martian year today

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- spent exploring the Red Planet. [NASA/JPL]


NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- spent exploring the Red Planet. [NASA/JPL]

NASA shares a Mars Curiosity mission update with us. The little rover that could completes one Martian year today.

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Betabrand line of space-themed streetwear

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Our friends at crowdfunded clothier Betabrand held a hack day to design a line of space-themed streetwear called Mission Control! A slew of space enthusiasts participated, including BB contributor Ariel "Spacehack" Waldman. The crowdfundable prototypes include the Voyager Gold Record Tee above, Galactic Carry-On and Dopp Kit, a sweatshirt with the Arecibo message (which would be a great complement to our own Boing Boing Areciboing t-shirt), and other far out designs! Betabrand Mission Control

Cosmonauts on ISS complete spacewalk, install antenna, despite equipment challenges

exp40_olegeva38_large_0Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev waves to a video camera after exiting the Pirs docking compartment Thursday morning.

After more than 7 hours of installation and experiment chores outside the Russian portion of the International Space Station, two spacewalking cosmonauts were able to call it a day.

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On space-borne espresso pods

The Awl has the last word on Lavazza sending an espresso pod machine into space: "actual garbage that has been toasted, ground up, dehydrated and put into a non-biodegradable plastic coffin...a good reason to never leave this big dumb rock with all of its perfectly fine non-garbage coffee."

Good news: NASA and ESA's Mars500 inspires film. Bad news: Starring Dane Cook.

Photo: ESA. Diego Urbina and Alexandr Smoleevskiy resting before starting their first 'Marswalk' on 14 February 2011.


Photo: ESA. Diego Urbina and Alexandr Smoleevskiy resting before starting their first 'Marswalk' on 14 February 2011.

cookdane__140609170333A real-life mock Mars mission created by NASA and the European Space Agency to test the psychological stresses of long-distance space travel has inspired an action movie starring comedian-turned-serious-guy Dane Cook.

From our archives, Miles O'Brien's report for PBS NewsHour on Mars500.

Welcome to the Mars500 isolation experiment, where they are simulating many of the psychological aspects of a real mission to the red planet five miles from Red Square. Three Russians, two Europeans and one Chinese, all volunteers, stepped into a windowless, hermetically sealed mock spacecraft at the Institute of Biomedical Problems on June 3 of 2010, hoping not to break the seal for 520 days. That matches the six-month flight to and from Mars, plus a month to explore the surface.

And today, on Deadline.com:

Production is just getting underway on 400 Days, a sci-fi thriller that stars Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Arrow‘s Caity Lotz , Mad Men‘s Ben Feldman, Ed‘s Tom Cavanagh, Grant Bowler and Dane Cook. New Artists Alliance and XLrator Media are backing the film, which is written and directed by Ghost From The Machine‘s Matt Osterman. The psychological pic centers on four astronauts sent on a simulated mission to a distant planet to test the psychological effects of deep space travel. Locked away for 400 days, the crew’s mental state begins to deteriorate when they lose all communication with the outside world. Forced to exit the ship, they discover that this mission may not have been a simulation after all.

The 2011 crew of Mars500.


The 2011 crew of Mars500.

The Mars 500 Experience Simulator.


The Mars 500 Experience Simulator.

[HT: Jeff Foust]

Rocket-ship pour-over coffee drip


Thinkgeek's Rocket Fuel Pour-Over Coffee Drip ($10) is a great, science-fictional way to make your single-cup pour-overs. Why flange when you can fin? It's made by the fine folks at Gama-Go.

Hello, World: NASA transmits video from space via laser

This week, NASA beamed a high-def video from the International Space Station to Earth, a distance of 260 miles, using a new laser communications instrument. The "Hello, World!" video was the first video message transmitted from space to earth using Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), "a technology demonstration that allows NASA to test methods for communication with future spacecraft using higher bandwidth than radio waves."

More about the video transmission, and the system it uses:

"The International Space Station is a test bed for a host of technologies that are helping us increase our knowledge of how we operate in space and enable us to explore even farther into the solar system," said Sam Scimemi, International Space Station division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Using the space station to investigate ways we can improve communication rates with spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit is another example of how the orbital complex serves as a stepping stone to human deep space exploration."

Optical communication tools like OPALS use focused laser energy to reach data rates between 10 and 1,000 times higher than current space communications, which rely on radio portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Because the space station orbits Earth at 17,500 mph, transmitting data from the space station to Earth requires extremely precise targeting. The process can be equated to a person aiming a laser pointer at the end of a human hair 30 feet away and keeping it there while walking.

To achieve this extreme precision during Thursday’s demonstration, OPALS locked onto a laser beacon emitted by the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station at the Table Mountain Observatory in Wrightwood, California, and began to modulate the beam from its 2.5-watt, 1,550-nanometer laser to transmit the video. The entire transmission lasted 148 seconds and reached a maximum data transmission rate of 50 megabits per second. It took OPALS 3.5 seconds to transmit each copy of the "Hello World!" video message, which would have taken more than 10 minutes using traditional downlink methods.

"It's incredible to see this magnificent beam of light arriving from our tiny payload on the space station," said Matt Abrahamson, OPALS mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We look forward to experimenting with OPALS over the coming months in hopes that our findings will lead to optical communications capabilities for future deep space exploration missions."

The OPALS Project Office is based at JPL, where the instrument was built. OPALS arrived at the space station April 20 aboard SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft and is slated to run for a prime mission of 90 days.

Skeletons in space-suits


The Skeletons in Space Suits is a fabulous collection from a very diverse set of sources. I'm sure they could use your contributions -- do you have anything that'd work?

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Parliament Funkadelic Mothership soon to be on display at Smithsonian

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The Mothership made famous in George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic golden years will soon be available for viewing at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

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NASA spaceflight review concludes agency lacks ability to get humans to Mars

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Washington Post: "A sweeping review of NASA’s human spaceflight program has concluded that the agency has an unsustainable and unsafe strategy that will prevent the United States from achieving a human landing on Mars in the foreseeable future. The 286-page National Research Council report, the culmination of an 18-month, $3.2 million investigation mandated by Congress, says that to continue on the present course under budgets that don’t keep pace with inflation 'is to invite failure, disillusionment, and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best.'”

More here.

The report bolsters the case for manned missions to the moon, which President Obama oppose. “I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before,” the president said in a space policy speech in 2010.

Vintage photos of NASA Apollo astronauts training in Hawaii

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In the 1960s and 1970s, NASA astronauts spent time training in the moon-like volcanic landscape of Hawaii's Big Island; the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems dug out fantastic photos from NASA's archives (thanks, Bob Pescovitz!).

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