NASA probe spots the final lunar resting place of the crashed Israeli spacecraft

Last month, Israeli non-profit SpaceIL's Beresheet probe made it to the lunar surface but sadly it wasn't a soft landing. Beresheet was the first private attempt at a lunar landing and they got pretty damn close. A couple weeks after the crash, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter orbited over the area and NASA has released images that show the impact site. From NASA:

LROC took this image from 56 miles (90 kilometers) above the surface. The cameras captured a dark smudge, about 10 meters wide, that indicates the point of impact. The dark tone suggests a surface roughened by the hard landing, which is less reflective than a clean, smooth surface.

From so far away, LROC could not detect whether Beresheet formed a surface crater upon impact. It’s possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos. Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach (around 8.4 degrees relative to the surface), light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet’s speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).

The light halo around the smudge could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet’s descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective...

Most importantly, we knew the coordinates of the landing site within a few miles thanks to radio tracking of Beresheet, and we have 11 “before” images of the area, spanning a decade, and three “after” images.

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Luna: Moon Rising, in which Ian McDonald brings the trilogy to an astounding, intricate, exciting and satisfying climax

Back in 2015, the incomparable Ian McDonald (previously) published Luna: New Moon, a kind of cross between Dallas and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, with warring clans scheme and fighting on a libertopian lunar colony where the only law is private contracts and you're charged for the very air you breathe; McDonald raised the stakes to impossible heights with the 2017 sequel Luna: Wolf Moon, and now, with the final volume, Luna: Moon Rising, McDonald proves that he despite the wild gyrations of his massive cast of characters and their intricate schemes, he never lost control. Read the rest

Toy blocks that teach about our solar system

Thomas Romer of the excellent Chop Shop Studio in collaboration with the nonprofit Planetary Society designed these delightful solar system toy blocks to teach kids (and adults) about the wonders of outer space! He's launched a Kickstarter to fund the manufacturing of the wood blocks with debossed typography. They're $75/set. Thomas says:

We worked on the project for over a year and while I did the graphics, etc — they made sure all the data was accurate and totally up to date. It is a set of 20 blocks featuring the most interesting worlds of the Solar System. Notice I didn’t say “planets”. One of my main objectives is to show children (and adults) that planet or not doesn’t matter. There are worlds like Io and Europa that most have never heard of. Two moons are bigger than Mercury, never mind Pluto (also included).

Then each side is loaded with data like size, distance, interior, name, appearance and the missions we have sent to explore them.

When they are shipped to our (Kickstarter) backers they will be sold in the Planetary Society store and profits will be sent to support their overall mission.

"Planetary Blocks: Our Solar System" (Kickstarter)

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#BlueMoon: Jeff Bezos says Blue Origin will land on Moon by 2024

“We must return to the Moon—this time to stay.”

New song from Brian Eno's forthcoming expanded edition of "Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks"

In 1983, Brian Eno with collaborators Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois released "Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks," a stunning ambient score for Al Reinert's glorious space documentary "For All Mankind." On July 19, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Eno is reissuing that record accompanied by 11 new tracks -- five composed by Brian Eno, three from Lanois, and three from Roger Eno. The new collection is titled "For All Mankind." Above is a video for one of the new tracks, Brian Eno's "Like I Was a Spectator."

More details in this announcement.

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Auction: Apollo 11 lunar landing manual that flew to the moon and back

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book was a key onboard reference for the heroic astronauts who made the first moon landing on July 20, 1969. Fifty years later, it'll go up for auction at Christies this summer as part of their sale "One Giant Leap: Celebrating Space Exploration 50 Years after Apollo 11." It's expected to fetch between $7 and $9 million. And yes, it really should be in the Smithsonian. According to Reuters, it's being sold someone who purchased it from astronaut Buzz Aldrin. From Christies:

Aldrin had written Eagle’s coordinates in the Sea of Tranquility on page 10 of the book — the first writing by a human being on a celestial body other than Earth....

The Timeline Book narrates the entire Eagle voyage from inspection, undocking, lunar surface descent and ascent, to the rendezvous with Michael Collins aboard the Command Module in lunar orbit. The book contains nearly 150 annotations and completion checkmarks made in real-time by Aldrin and Armstrong. Traces of what appears to be lunar dust are on the transfer list pages that detail the movement of lunar rock samples and equipment from Eagle to Columbia.

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Watch astronauts on the moon sped up for laffs

Cue "Yakety Sax."

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Strange codes from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems

ICD-10 is a standard that defines 70,000+ codes for standardizing the reporting of injuries and diseases, and it is terrifyingly comprehensive: if V95.4 ("Unspecified spacecraft accident injuring occupant") isn't enough, how about V97.33XA ("Sucked into jet engine, initial encounter") and for bisto, V97.33XD ("Sucked into jet engine, subsequent encounter"). Read the rest

Cute, floating cube robots arrive at the International Space Station

A few days ago, two little robots arrived at the International Space Station to help astronauts with simple tasks. Called Astrobees, the cube bots are 12" x 12" x 12" and propelled around the microgravity environment by small fans. The bots are named Honey and Bumble. A third, Queen, remains on Earth. From NASA:

Working autonomously or via remote control by astronauts, flight controllers or researchers on the ground, the robots are designed to complete tasks such as taking inventory, documenting experiments conducted by astronauts with their built-in cameras or working together to move cargo throughout the station. In addition, the system serves as a research platform that can be outfitted and programmed to carry out experiments in microgravity - helping us to learn more about how robotics can benefit astronauts in space.

(via Space.com)

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Watch: Lieutenant Uhura's NASA recruitment film from 1977

After Star Trek was cancelled, Nichelle Nichols, aka Lieutenant Uhura, volunteered her time to help NASA recruit women and minorities to join the space agency. The 1977 video above is from that era. Nichols' impact can't be overstated. From Wikipedia:

Among those recruited (by Nichols' NASA special project) were Dr. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, and United States Air Force Colonel Guion Bluford, the first African-American astronaut, as well as Dr. Judith Resnik and Dr. Ronald McNair, who both flew successful missions during the Space Shuttle program before their deaths in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986. Recruits also included Charles Bolden, the former NASA administrator and veteran of four shuttle missions, Frederick D. Gregory, former deputy administrator and a veteran of three shuttle missions and Lori Garver, former deputy administrator.

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Miniature space janitors to sweep up orbiting debris

There are an estimated 129 million tiny bits of debris floating in orbit that, due to their high velocity, can cause catastrophic damage to space vehicles and satellites. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers are developing a compact orbiting device to semi-autonomously seek out the debris and catch it in a net. Designed as a system of CubeSats, each just 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, the trash collector, called OSCaR (Obsolete Spacecraft Capture and Removal), will collect the tiny pieces of junk until it's full and then deorbit itself to burn up in the atmosphere. From RPI:

One of (the three) CubeSat units (in each complete system) will house the “brains” of OSCaR including GPS, data storage, and communication, as well as the power and thermal management systems. Another will hold propellant and the system’s propulsion module to drive OSCaR forward. The third unit will contain four gun barrels, nets, and tethers to physically capture debris, one piece at a time. This capture module will also have optical, thermal, and RADAR imaging sensors to help OSCaR locate debris in the vastness of its surrounding space...

“There’s an informal agreement that’s been in place for a few years that people who put space objects up there should be practicing good citizenship,” (Rensselaer engineering professor Kurt) Anderson said. “We envision a day where we could send up an entire flock, or squadron, of OSCaRs to work jointly going after large collections of debris.”

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The Voyager Golden Record deconstructed on the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast

The new episode of the always-fascinating Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast is a play-through of the Voyager Golden Record, the iconic message for extraterrestrials attached to the Voyager I and II space probes launched in 1977. Listen below.

The Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach to Blind Willie Johnson to Chuck Berry, Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes to, yes, Mozart's The Magic Flute.

This wonderful episode of Twenty Thousand Hertz features insightful track-by-track commentary by science and philosophy writer Timothy Ferris, producer of the original Voyager Record, and a rare interview with Linda Salzman-Sagan who compiled the greetings on the record.

Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released the Voyager Golden Record on vinyl for the first time as a lavish box set. Our project's resonance with the public, and the Grammy that we were honored to receive for it, are really a testament to the majesty of the original record and the brilliance of its creators -- Ferris, Salzman-Sagan, Ann Druyan, Frank Drake, and of course Carl Sagan who directed the project.

The Voyager Golden Record 3xLP Vinyl Box Set and 2xCD-Book edition is available from Ozma Records.

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1060-hour exposure of the Large Magellenic Cloud

Enjoy the sense of scale in this image, stitched together from 16 smaller images and 1060 hours of exposure.

The image is a mosaic made of 16 smaller fields of view, which, once stitched together form a high-resolution image of 204 Million of pixels! As of matter of fact, this is not the work of a single person but by a team of five french amateur astronomers called "Ciel Austral": Jean Claude CANONNE, Philippe BERNHARD, Didier CHAPLAIN, Nicolas OUTTERS et Laurent BOURGON.

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Pepsi plans to use cubesats to display ads in the night sky

Pepsi has announced plans to contract with the Russian space startup Startrocket to project massive "artificial constellations" spelling out ads for a "nonalcoholic energy beverage" in the night sky; Startrocket is planning to launch a cluster of cubesats with reflective mylar sails in 2021. Read the rest

A sculptural, hand-made lamp inspired by black holes

Sculptor Art Donovan (previously) writes in about "Event Horizon," his newest lamp, inspired by black holes. Read the rest

All three SpaceX Falcon Heavy Boosters landing

I always find there's a surreal quality to footage of SpaceX's self-landing rockets. It's the "living in the future" moment for my reptile brain, irrespective of what it really means for mankind or where it truly sits in the spectrum of discovery and progress.

Three at once:

SpaceX launched the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket on its inaugural commercial mission on Thursday evening. This was the second flight for Falcon Heavy, which became the most powerful rocket in use in the world after SpaceX’s successful test flight in February 2018. That launch was purely demonstration — Thursday represents the first revenue-generating flight of Falcon Heavy. Falcon Heavy launched from SpaceX’s launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Built out of three of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets, Falcon Heavy’s three cores stand side by side to create a 27-engine colossus. Together, those engines create about 5.1 million pounds of thrust.

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"How to take a picture of a black hole," a 2017 TED talk by grad student Katie Bouman who then helped make it happen

Yesterday, scientists revealed the first ever photo of a black hole. Three years ago, Katie Bouman, then a computer science grad student at MIT, led the development of a key algorithm that helped make this historical image possible. In the TED Talk above from 2017, she explained "How to Take a Picture of a Black Hole."

"No one of us could've done it alone," Bouman told CNN yesterday. "It came together because of lots of different people from many backgrounds."

In September, Bouman will start her teaching career as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology.

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