Over the weekend, SpaceX successfully completed its first manned mission carrying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The thrilling coverage by the Los Angeles Times is a reminder of how amazing this feat is. Read the rest
When Brits were asked by YouGov if they'd be willing to take a trip to the Moon (with safe return assured) half said no. Top reasons cited: not interested (23%), not enough to do or see (11%), would rather visit other places on Earth (10%), no point (9%), and (most British of all) reject premise that safe return could be guaranteed (9%). Read the rest
It's typical for astronauts in space to grow in height up to two inches. But 3-1/2 inches? Not so common, according to NASA.
However, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, who is currently at the International Space Station, tweeted this morning that he's grown 9 centimeters, or 3-1/2 inches, in space, and that he's "a little worried" that he won't be able to fit into the tight quarters of the vehicle used to transport him from the ISS back to Earth's atmosphere.
“Good morning, everyone. Today I share some serious news. Since coming to space, I have grown 9 centimeters. This is the most I’ve grown in 3 weeks since junior high school. I am a little worried I won’t fit in my seat on the return trip on Soyuz." [This translation is from The Washington Post.]
— 金井 宣茂 (@Astro_Kanai) January 8, 2018
Kanai is mostly likely just kidding about being too tall to travel back to Earth (Hollywood, take notes for your next screenplay!), but growing too many inches in space could potentially cause problems for astronauts once its time to head back home. According to the Washington Post:
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While it is temporary, and astronauts return to their normal height when they slip the bonds of space and return home, the height difference has an immediate impact on the dimensions of space suits, stations and vehicles.
Space is a premium in, well, space, with each inch scrutinized to pack in instruments, tools, plants and insects for experiments and other essentials like food and water.
Thomas Hayden at science blog The Last Word On Nothing has a wonderful little interview with Scott Maxwell (@marsroverdriver), who works at JPL as a Mars rover driver. Coolest job ever, right?
I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Maxwell at JPL a few weeks before Curiosity touched down, when I accompanied Miles O'Brien on a shoot about MSL for PBS NewsHour. Loved him, and I love how he describes what makes his job so exhilarating:
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I drove her. It was just a few meters along a simple path — we wouldn’t even bother to yawn at it today — but it was magic to me then, as it’s magic to me now. I went home and should have slept, but all I could do was stare at the ceiling, in awe that right then, on Mars, there was a robot doing what I told it to do. It was dead amazing, and that feeling has never left me and I hope it never will.
Read the rest here: SCUBA Diving through the Endless Martian Desert : The Last Word On Nothing. Read the rest
NASA JPL's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover will try to land at the foot of a 3-mile-high mountain on Mars this Sunday night (technically, early Monday morning) to learn more about the possible building blocks of life there.
The rover is about the size of a car. The whole project costs about $2.5 billion. As you can see from JPL's now-viral "Seven Minutes of Terror" video, the landing process is something of a Rube Goldberg scheme. It'll be amazing if this works. It'll really suck for JPL, and the immediate future of space exploration funding, if it doesn't.
Here's how to follow the Mars rover's journey. Read the rest
At the PBS Newshour website, a post by Miles O'Brien about one of his encounters with the late Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. He writes about the night of January 28, 2003, when Dr. Ride knocked on the door of his house in Atlanta. She was one of the guests of honor at his home that night to celebrate the opening of a new Challenger Learning Center. And at the time, Miles (then a reporter with CNN) had just closed a deal with NASA to become the first journalist in space, on a forthcoming shuttle mission. Snip:
I normally do not ask people for autographs or inscriptions, but on this night I made an exception. I handed her my copy of the book, and she wrote: "Hope you're the first journalist in space!"
Nice words from someone who knows what it means to be first.
While she was signing, and we were celebrating, the STS-107 crew was orbiting a few hundred miles over our head-- unaware of the fatal breach in the reinforced carbon heat shield on the leading edge of Columbia's wing.
In four days, everything would change for the people in my house that night. Columbia, of course, did not make it home. Sally Ride would soon be serving on her second commission investigating the loss of a space shuttle and its crew.
Read the rest: Ride, Sally Ride: My Dinner with the First American Woman in Space (PBS NewsHour)
Astronaut, physicist, and American science hero Sally Ride died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, at 61. Dr. Ride was the first American female in space, and left a vast legacy of scientific accomplishments. When her astronaut days ended, she worked to promote space and science literacy to young people around the world through Sally Ride Science.
As friends and professional associates knew, and as was quietly noted in the obituary released on her website, Ms. Ride had been in a committed relationship with a woman for some 27 years. She met her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy nearly 50 years ago. Neither her cancer diagnosis nor her orientation were publicly shared, prior to her death.
"The pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there's now this advocate that they didn't know about. And, I hope the GLBT community feels the same," Bear, who identifies as gay, told Buzzfeed. "I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them."
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Asked about those who would have opposed legal recognition of her sister's relationship, Bear Ride bluntly replied, "Who cares about them, really? There are those who are stubbornly ignorant, and if they want to continue in that, God bless them, but probably best not to talk to my family."
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:
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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.
"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).
[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. Read the rest
On the anniversary of Apollo 11, Steve Jurvetson posted an amazing, never-before-seen series of space artifacts. He writes:
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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.
[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!) Read the rest