Sally Ride, first American woman in space, has died

Dr. Sally Ride, an American physicist and former NASA astronaut, has died of pancreatic cancer. She joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became the first American woman to travel into space. From a statement on her website:

Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.

Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

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Character from Valve's Portal 2 game is "going to actual space"

"Wheatley," an orb-shaped robot pal in Valve Software's popular 2011 game Portal 2, is on his way to space. The unauthorized stowaway is on a Japanese spacecraft now in Earth orbit, heading to the the International Space Station (ISS).

Robert Pearlman reports:

[Wheatley] is flying aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA's) H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) that launched on Friday (July 20) to resupply the space station. The character, in miniature two-dimensional (2-D) form, is soaring through real space thanks to an unnamed NASA worker.

Valve announced on its website's blog that "thanks to an anonymous tech at NASA, Wheatley is actually going to actual space."

The one-eyed sphere, or "personality core" as referred to in the video game, is given its voice by English actor and comedian Stephen Merchant. On board the HTV, which is nicknamed "Kounotori or "white stork", the robot's voice is offered in the form of a phrase engraved under Wheatley's likeness — "In spaaaaaaace!" (Portal 2 players may associate that quote with another of the game's personality cores, the so-called "Space Core," though Valve attributes it to Wheatley on their blog.)

Photo: this image posted on Valve's website shows "what appears to be a circuit board with Wheatley's likeness laser-inscribed in one corner," according to Pearlman. We don't know the scale of the component, or the instrument it's part of.

How the Eagle Landed: Grumman Construction Log, and a message to space (Apollo 11)

On the anniversary of Apollo 11, Steve Jurvetson posted an amazing, never-before-seen series of space artifacts. He writes:

On July 20, 1969, Eagle landed on the moon. These are the handwritten notes from the Grumman engineers as they pushed to complete Lunar Module LM-5 in 1968. On the last page, they learn than this particular Lunar Module would be the one to bring the first humans to the moon.

The Grumman Engineering Log served not only as an engineering notebook but also as an intercom between the day and night shift – separate teams that needed to push the ball forward from where the other left off. So we are offered a rare peek into the concerns, uncertainties and conversations that might have otherwise been quietly undocumented.

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"We are on the fucking moon" (video)

[Video Link] Yesterday was the anniversary of Apollo 11's landing on the moon in 1969, the first time humans ever set foot on another world. Today, we discover this long-lost footage and audio from that historic moment. (thanks, inkfumes!)

Space Shuttle Enterprise floats to a new home: New York's Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum (photos)

Photo: C.S. MUNCY

The Space Shuttle Enterprise (OV-101) floated to its "retirement home" today, Wednesday June 6, 2012: the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. The museum's Space Shuttle Pavillion will open on July 19. The arrival of Enterprise was planned for 24 hours earlier, but weather delayed. During its voyage by water, the barge carrying Enterprise moved too close to the Jamaica Bay Bridge and clipped the Shuttle's wing. Ouch. But, you know: sadly, it's not like they're gonna need that wing for space travel now.

Special thanks to photographer C.S. Muncy, who is pretty intrepid himself—we understand these terrific shots cost him quite a sunburn.

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SpaceX readies for launch this Saturday, May 19, 2012

If all goes according to plan, tomorrow, Saturday, May 19th, SpaceX will become the first commercial space flight company in history to head for the International Space Station. You can watch online, live, at SpaceX.com starting at 1:15 AM Pacific / 4:15 AM Eastern / 08:15 UTC. You can also follow SpaceX founder and CEO @elonmusk on Twitter. He'll live-tweet from mission control during launch.

Veteran space journalist Miles O'Brien covered the story in a recent PBS NewsHour segment.

And below, Miles and NewsHour host Hari Sreenivasan talk about the details of the mission, the engineering challenges and the other spaceflight companies vying for a chance at delivering cargo and people to low-Earth orbit.

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Video: Kittens in Space, by Jonathan "Song A Day" Mann

[Video Link]. I'm recovering from yesterday's chemo infusion (my fifth!), and feeling kind of lousy. Jonathan Mann asked me this morning if he could write a song for me as his daily song project, and if so, if I had any theme requests. I was like, duh! Kittens, and space. And like a beautiful internet miracle, bam! Just hours later, he created the wonderful video above: "Kittens in Space."

More about Jonathan: YouTube channel, Facebook, Downloads, Twitter, mailing list, Soundcloud, blog, G+, app.

Lyrics follow.

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Virgin Galactic launches world's first commercial spaceport with performance by gravity-defying Project Bandaloop


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Man, if there's one thing Richard Branson knows better than anyone, it's how to put on an amazing launch event. Above, video from the Virgin Galactic kickoff for the world's first commercial spaceport, Spaceport America (alternate link), today in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Project Bandaloop did an aerial choreography performance from the side of the structure. Looked kind of like a really classy strip club in the sky. Branson himself joined the fun, and rappelled off the building during the ceremonies. The man knows how to have a good time.

Press release and photos from the event are here. From the sound of this Associated Press item, must have been a blast. (images: Mark Greenberg).

Previously on BB: "Virgin Galactic to unveil world's first commercial spaceport."

Atlantis: photos, video of final shuttle mission landing

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Space shuttle Atlantis STS-135 lands at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida July 21, 2011. The space shuttle Atlantis glided home through a moonlit sky for its final landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, completing a 30-year odyssey for NASA's shuttle fleet. (REUTERS/Scott Audette)

[Video Link] "Wheel stop. Think about that."--my friend and fellow space fan Mike Outmesguine.

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Photo: Father and son at first and last Space Shuttle launches, 30 years apart

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"Father and Son: STS-1 and STS-135," a photo by Chris Bray, who is the younger of the two in these side-by-side captures from the very first shuttle launch thirty years ago, and the final one, last Friday. "The picture we waited 30 years to complete."

(Flickr, via Reddit and Laughing Squid.)

Cassini: "space fan"-made film, using NASA footage

CASSINI MISSION from cabbas on Vimeo.

Filmmaker Chris Abbas created the beautiful short film above, and explains:
I truly enjoy outer space. It's absolutely amazing that we now have the ability to send instruments out into the void of the universe to observe all sorts of interesting things. Asteroids! Moons! Planets! Dark matter! This is the perfect opportunity for a Carl Sagan quote: "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." The footage in this little film was captured by the hardworking men and women at NASA with the Cassini Imaging Science System. If you're interested in learning more about Cassini and the on-going Cassini Solstice Mission, check it out at NASA's website.

(via Colin Peters)

The last Shuttle spacewalkers

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This image, from NASA, documents the last spacewalk of the STS-134 mission, and the final spacewalkers in the 30-year shuttle program.

NASA astronaut Michael Fincke worked outside the station during the fourth and final spacewalk of the STS-134 mission, which lasted more than 7 hours. Fincke and fellow astronaut Greg Chamitoff completed the primary objectives for the spacewalk, including stowing the 50-foot-long boom and adding a power and data grapple fixture to make it the Enhanced International Space Station Boom Assembly, available to extend the reach of the space station's robotic arm.
Below, with components of the International Space Station in the view, NASA astronauts Andrew Feustel (right) and Michael Fincke are pictured during the STS-134 mission's third spacewalk.

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NASA to launch new robotic science mission to asteroid in 2016

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Conceptual image of OSIRIS-REx. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA today announced a new space exploration mission: to launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016, and "use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system's formation and how life began." The mission will be titled Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, and will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth. There's an animation here, illustrating how this will work.

Boing Boing's science editor Maggie Koerth-Baker and I are on a NASA conference call as I type this post; look for a longer report by Maggie on this news. Lockheed Martin will build the craft; the launches will take place at Kennedy Space Center. The cost of the mission is estimated around 1 billion dollars.

A copy of the NASA press release announcing the mission follows.

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50 years since Kennedy's "moon shot" speech

Fifty years ago today, a few weeks after the first American astronaut flew into space, President John F. Kennedy gave a now historic speech in which he outlined a mission for NASA: send a man to the moon by the end of that decade.

On this date in 1961, Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress, with a worldwide television audience, and announced, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth." This was seen as a bold mandate because America's experience up to this point was Alan Shepard's suborbital Freedom 7 mission, which launched just a few weeks earlier and lasted about 15 minutes.

More at the NASA website. NASA also today alerted reporters to an announcement to come later today about a new science mission "that will usher in a new era in planetary exploration." More on that here on Boing Boing soon.

50 years of NASA art at National Air and Space Museum in DC, opening May 28

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Above, "Sunrise Suit-up," Martin Hoffman, 1988, mixed media: "Television screens in the media area at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch pad can be seen in the distance beyond Banana River. It is one moment of calm before the frenzy of launch activity."

This work is on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Mall building from May 28 to Oct. 9, 2011, as part of the "NASA | Art: 50 Years of Exploration" exhibition.