Enjoy watching the NASA astronauts spacewalk

Things on Earth are a mess, but it's fun watching these NASA Astronauts at work on a 24/7 live feed from the International Space Station.

You can see Earth from the International Space Station in these videos, and it looks so calm from up there. Read the rest

NASA fixed a Mars probe by hitting it with a shovel

The Mars InSight Lander has a ton of tools for exploring the Red Planet next door, including a 15-inch digging probe (also known as "the mole") meant to burrow into the Martian soil and take measurements.

Unfortunately, the mole got stuck. From Popular Science:

A rock could be in the way, but the more likely culprit appears to be the Martian soil. Previous observations had led the German Aerospace Center engineers who designed the probe to expect that it would be digging through loose sand. They built the mole to bounce up and down like a jackhammer, sinking with each stroke and threading its way around any modestly sized rocks it encountered. But the probe has found soil that seems more dirt-like than sand-like; It sticks together and doesn’t collapse around the mole to give it enough friction to dig. What the mole needs is a little nudge.

So what did they do to get the mole unstuck? They used the shovel-like scoop at the end of one of the InSight Lander's robot arms to pin down the mole. "The move is risky," Popular Science explained, "because a delicate tether that provides power and communications from the lander attaches to the back part of the mole, and a hard whack could damage it."

Fortunately, it worked.

Who knew that the "Why are you hitting yourself?" game would be such a useful tool for space exploration?

At long last, NASA’s probe finally digs in on Mars [Charlie Wood / Popular Science]

NASA fixes Mars lander by telling it to hit itself with a shovel [Dan Robitzski / Futurism]

Mars InSight Lander to push on top of mole [NASA]

Image: Public Domain via NASA/JPL-Caltech Read the rest

First city on Mars? No thanks

I have never taken the idea of large-scale colonization of Mars very seriously, at least not for the foreseeable future. Nothing about these two videos changes my mind.

When thinking about colonization, we often focus on the fact that Mars is pretty much hellbent on killing organics. But what about Lord of the Flies-like tribes of humans turning on each other in a desperate fight for resources or via the phantasms in their heads as settlers go loco from the deprivation and isolation?

I'm with Bill Nye. Exploration? Yes! Settlement? Hell no.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Voyager 2 is back up and running!

NASA is reporting on their Voyager Twitter feed that the Voyager 2 spacecraft is once again operational.

Kind of astonishing that 70s space tech that is 11.5 billion miles away from home is still talking to us. The Voyager 2 ran into trouble in late January and became unresponsive.

Read more on JPL's website.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Read the rest

Where are the Voyager spacecraft headed and what might they encounter next?

In this video on the UK-based V101 Science YouTube channel they ask the musical question: "What will Voyager 1 and 2 encounter next?"

Next stop for Voyager 1? An obscure red dwarf known as Gliese 445 in the constellation Camelopardalis. It will take the then long-dead spacecraft over 38,000 years to get there. Voyager 2 is hellbound in the direction of Sagittarius and will arrive in the neighborhood in some 40,000 years. Its first encounter will be with Ross 248 in the constellation of Andromeda.

Of course, we all know what's really going to happen to at least one of these probes. It's going to be picked up by a highly-evolved machine race and turned into the heart of a vast killer plasma cloud that will return to our solar system and try to destroy Earth. Read the rest

Fourth season of NASA Explorers premiers, focuses on microgravity and space science

I am excited for the launch of Season 4 of NASA Explorers, put together by the ISS Research Communications team which includes Boing Boing pal Rachel Barry.

The ISS Research Communications team is proud to announce the premiere of the latest season of the NASA Explorers video series. Season four, called “Microgravity,” will take you behind the scenes with a team of scientists as they prepare their research for launch to the International Space Station, and follows them through the epic journey of conducting science in space.

Rachel (a former editor at Craft: magazine and a Make: contributor) is Science Communication Strategist at ISS Research and is the narrator of Season 4. The episodes last around 5-7 minutes (bite-sized space science for modern attention spans) and will be posted to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Previous seasons have covered the Cryosphere, Apollo, and Fires.

Read the rest

A spent Chinese rocket booster destroyed part of a village near the launching site

On at 8:55am local time on Saturday, November 23, 2019, the Chinese government "successfully" launched a Long March 3B carrier rocket into orbit. Leaving from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, the Yuanzheng-1 upper was carrying two Beidou satellites—basically China's version of GPS.

I say "successfully" in quotes because, while the rocket and satellites reached their destination, they also happened to drop one of their lower rocket boosters on someone's house, along with some toxic propellant gas:

But worst of all? This isn't the first time in recent history that it's happened, either.

According to SpaceNews, residents within the calculated drop zones were given an evacuation notice, and advised against approaching the potential wreckage of their homes. Based on a quick perusal of comments on Twitter (and the ones I can parse from the Chinese social media service Sina Weibo), the Chinese government allegedly compensates people when something like this happens. I certainly hope that's true, though I wouldn't bet money on it. And even if it is, the fact that the government keeps launching rockets with the knowledge that the boosters may come down and destroy homes and lives is concerning enough.

Presumably, the Chinese government doesn't want to launch any rockets on the their coasts for fear of pissing off or threatening their neighbors—it's probably easier to handle your own citizens than deal with an accidental booster falling on someone in South Korea. Read the rest

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

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

Will Martian colonists need to be bioengineered?

Bioengineering future Martian colonists may be easier than taking the many difficult steps to reduce radiation exposure. But is it ethical? Read the rest

What Jack Kirby proposed for the plaques on the Pioneer space probes

By way of the Daily Grail comes this fascinating bit of Pioneer spacecraft history. Kirby was among the artist asked to submit ideas for the plaques to be flown on the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes, launched in the early 1970s. Kirby's submission was vastly different than the very literal pictogram designed by Frank Drake, Carl Sagan, and Linda Salzman-Sagan and flown on the missions. Jack was not comfortable with the idea of giving some future Galactus GPS directions to our house.

I would have included no further information than a rough image of the Earth and its one moon. I see no wisdom in the eagerness to be found and approached by any intelligence with the ability to accomplish it from any sector of space. In the meetings between ‘discoverers’ and ‘discoverees,’ history has always given the advantage to the finders. In the case of the Jupiter (Pioneer) plaque, I feel that a tremendous issue was thoughtlessly taken out of the world forum by a few individuals who have marked a clear trail to our door.

My point is, who will come a-knocking – the trader or the tiger?

In describing his approach to the art he submitted, he wrote:

It appears to me that man’s self image has always spoken far more about him than does his reality-figure. My vision of the plaque would have revealed the exuberant, self-confident super visions with which we’ve clothed ourselves since time immemorial. The comic strip super-heroes and heroines, in my belief, personify humanity’s innate idealism and drive

Personally, I don't think we want "underwear perverts" (as Warren Ellis has called spandex supers) representing us, but you've got to love the idea of communicating "exuberant, self-confident super visions" of ourselves. Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 08: the FINAL INSTALLMENT

Here's the eighth and final part of my reading (MP3) (party seven, part six, part five, part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 07

Here's part seven of my reading (MP3) (part six, part five, part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

How a photographer captured Elon's Tesla hurtling through space a million miles from earth

Deep-sky photographer Rogelio Bernal Andreo did the calculations, then managed to catch footage of Starman and the Tesla Roadster that were launched via the Falcon Heavy rocket. Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 06

Here's part six of my reading (MP3) (part five, part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 05

Here's part five of my reading (MP3) (part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 04

Here's part four of my reading (MP3) (part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 03

Here's part three of my reading (MP3) (part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

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