Boing Boing 

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.

Got a question for shuttle Endeavour astronauts? Live PBS webcast Q&A, Thu 6am ET


[Video Link]

PBS NewsHour, Google, and YouTube are teaming up to produce a live webcast with the Space Shuttle Endeavour and International Space Station astronauts, starting between 6 and 6:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, May 19. Space journalist Miles O'Brien will host.

The live webcast will be streamed at PBS and on YouTube.

Led by Endeavour commander Mark Kelly, the astronauts will answer questions from the internet in a live Q&A session hosted by Miles, as the crew orbits the earth at 17,500 mph. They're still accepting questions!

Virgin Galactic's "feathered flight" as a David Ope animated GIF

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I'm a big fan of haute gif artist davidope, and his homage today to the first "Feathered" flight of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is quite nifty.

Here's the actual video, from Virgin Galactic.

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Space Shuttle Endeavour's launch, as seen through the clouds from a plane

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Stefanie Gordon shot this striking snapshot of Space Shuttle Endeavour lifting off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning. Video of the same view follows...

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Morpheus Lander, at Johnson Space Center (snapshot)

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Here's a phone snapshot I just took of the Morpheus vertical lander, just hangin' out at Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

Morpheus is a vertical test bed demonstrating new green propellant propulsion systems and autonomous landing and hazard detection technology. Designed, developed, manufactured and operated in-house by engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center, the Morpheus Project represents not only a vehicle to advance technologies, but also an opportunity to try out "lean development" engineering practices.

It was manufactured and assembled at JSC and Armadillo Aerospace. Morpheus is large enough to carry 1,100 pounds of cargo to the moon - for example, a humanoid robot, a small rover, or a small laboratory to convert moon dust into oxygen - performing all propellant burns after the trans lunar injection. The primary focus of the test bed is to demonstrate an integrated propulsion and guidance, navigation and control system that can fly a lunar descent profile to exercise the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) safe landing sensors and closed-loop flight control. Additional objectives include technology demonstrations - for instance, tank material and manufacture, reaction control thrusters, main engine performance improvements, helium pressurization systems, ground operations, flight operations, range safety, software and avionics architecture.

50 years of US spaceflight: Alan Shepard, May 5, 1961

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Image above, NASA.

On May 5, 1961, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard piloted his Freedom 7 Mercury capsule in a 15-minute suborbital flight, becoming America's first astronaut. In this image, he is shown being hoisted aboard a U.S. Marine helicopter after splashdown. The flight carried him to an altitude of 116 statute miles.

Below, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued the following statement today, Thursday, May 5, 2011, about the 50th anniversary of United States human spaceflight.

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Scitweeps: LEGO minifigs of scientists and "science popularizers"

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Maia Weinstock (Twitter) creates these these neat minifigs of various personalities in science, space, and internet media. I first learned about this when I was attending a lecture by Carolyn Porco with Richard Dawkins, and Maia presented Dawkins with a teeny-tiny LEGO version of himself.

Maia has an ever-growing photo set of these LEGO figures here. They include @carolynporco, @pzmyers, @sciencegoddess, @badastronomer, @plutokiller, @richarddawkins, @profbriancox, @flyingjenny, @janegoodallinst, @milesobrien, @sallyridesci, @toastforbrekkie, @bluerules, @lukedones, @astroengine, @lirarandall, @jcventer, @algore, @oliversacks, @planetdr, @therealbuzz, @seanmcarroll, and @jenlucpiquant.

And here's how she came up with the idea, and a video re-creation in LEGO minifig of Porco's TED talk on Cassini. Her behind-the-scenes "making of" snapshots are fun, too.

Inset, space and science journalist (and friend), Miles O'Brien. Above and further below? Well, that would be me.

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Yuri's Night art contest winners announced

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For the past two months, the "space advocacy" nonprofit Yuri's Night has been receiving hundreds of space-themed videos, photos, and PSA concepts from around the world, for a series of contests with cool space prizes. I co-judged one of them, an art contest to produce an ad promoting space exploration (my co-judge was Ariel Waldman). Prizes included a 'zero-G' flight and the observation of a Soyuz launch from Baikonur. Today, Yuri's Night has announced the winners and runners-up for each of these contests:

"Call To Humanity" Ad Contest
Winner: "Start Exploring", Alex Herwig (shown at top of post)
Runner-up: "Looking Up", Daniel Alan (shown at left of post)
People's Choice Award: "Evolution", BK Power

OpenLuna Video Contest
Winner: "50 Years Of Spaceflight In 50 Seconds"
Runner-up: "Exploration. Change. Yuri."

Global Space Sweepstakes:
Winner: Patrick K. of Southport, England

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Rare photos of Mercury astronauts on 50th anniversary of Alan Shepard's historic flight

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May 5, 2011, is the 50th anniversary of the historic flight by Alan Shepard which made him the second person, and the first American, in space. LIFE has published a photo gallery of rare, never-before-published photos of Shepard, Glenn, Slayton, Grissom, and the rest of the Mercury astronauts, along with observations by LIFE photographer Ralph Morse (dubbed "the 8th Mercury astronaut" by John Glenn)

When Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in April 1961, a stunned America asked, How did the Russians beat us? And more importantly: Will we ever catch up? Three weeks later, on May 5, the second question was emphatically answered when 37-year-old Alan Shepard blasted off from Cape Canaveral on his own historic flight -- a feat that made the New Hampshire native the first American in space, and marked the moment the U.S. caught, and surpassed, Russia in the Space Race.

Photo gallery here.

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Xeni on The Madeleine Brand radio show: Russia's "Gaga-esque Gagarin Glitzothon" (audio)

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I joined Madeleine Brand Show guest-host Alex Cohen today for a radio segment on my recent trip to Moscow with Miles O'Brien and his documentary crew, on the occasion of the 50 year anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first space flight. On April 12, 1961, aboard the Vostok 3KA-3, Gagarin became the first human ever to venture into space.

On the show today, we talked about the crazy Cosmonaut's Day celebration we attended inside the Kremlin; what space tourists do in space; why NASA has bought up seats on the Soyuz as our shuttle program ends, and we also chatted about weird Russian strawberry sushi and the amazing Soviet time capsule that is the Moscow metro. [Listen here, or download MP3 here].

Miles shot video of the military choir finale, with breakdancing cosmonaut cosplay kids. That video is embedded above, or here on YouTube. The good stuff starts around 1:39 in.

And below, a translated video of Russian President Medvedev's speech at the Kremlin event.

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