The first selfie in space was taken 52 years ago today

On this day in 1966, Buzz Aldrin took the first selfie in space while standing on his seat and hanging out of an open hatch as part of the Gemini XII mission. From NASA:

This “stand up” EVA (the first of three during the mission) was conducted with the hatch off while Aldrin stood on his seat, his upper body clear of the spacecraft. He completed his tasks with ease, including setting up an ultraviolet camera to image star fields, installing a movie camera, fixing a handrail, and retrieving a micrometeorite experiment. The flawless EVA lasted two hours and twenty minutes.

The second EVA, on November 13, was the real test of Aldrin’s extensive training. Attached to the spacecraft by an “umbilical” cord, he stepped out into space and began his work. The combination of underwater training, multiple restraints and handholds on both vehicles, and a new waist tether paid off: he was able to perform the needed tasks on both the Gemini XII and the GATV without a struggle. He rested periodically, which allowed him to recover between activities, and used the new restraints to position his body in diverse ways that weren’t possible on previous missions. The EVA was a resounding success.

For the final EVA, like the first one, Aldrin stood in his seat on the spacecraft. He discarded unneeded equipment and food containers, knowing they would eventually reenter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, and took pictures of stars. Altogether, Aldrin spent five and a half hours conducting the Gemini XII spacewalks.

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Happy birthday, Carl Sagan. Wish you were here.

Today would have been Carl Sagan's 84th birthday. I wish he were here.

Watch the above, climb aboard your Ship of the Imagination, and make the future.

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My dear wonderful dad would be 84 today. I find that very hard to imagine. I spend a lot of time wondering what he would be like as an old man. I wish I could know that version of him. Just as I wish I could know the version of him pictured here, young and full of promise. I miss all the versions of him. The ones I knew and the ones I didn’t. Thank you to everyone who knew him and everyone who didn’t who still misses him, who still reads his work, who still thinks of him. It means a lot. #carlsaganday

A post shared by Sasha Sagan (@sashasagan) on Nov 9, 2018 at 7:12am PST

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Astonishing close-up image of Jupiter taken by Juno last month

NASA's Juno spacecraft took this glamour shot of Jupiter on October 29, 2018, from about 4,400 miles (7,000) kilometers above the planet's clouds. From NASA:

A multitude of magnificent, swirling clouds in Jupiter's dynamic North North Temperate Belt is captured in this image... Appearing in the scene are several bright-white “pop-up” clouds as well as an anticyclonic storm, known as a white oval.

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft's JunoCam imager.

JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and to process into image products at: http://missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam.

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Prototyping the betentacled, inflatable soft robots of zero gee

The MIT Media Lab's Spatial Flux Project was created by Carson Smuts and Chrisoula Kapelonis to imagine and prototype soft inflatable robots that would be designed to operate in zero-gee, where there is no up or down and "we do not have to contend with architecture's greatest arch-nemesis, gravity." Read the rest

Watch the first 8k video from the International Space Station

NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) released the first 8k ultra high definition (UHD) video of life and science inside the International Space Station. From NASA:

The Helium 8K camera by RED, a digital cinema company, is capable of shooting at resolutions ranging from conventional HDTV up to 8K, specifically 8192 x 4320 pixels. By comparison, the average HD consumer television displays up to 1920 x 1080 pixels of resolution, and digital cinemas typically project in resolutions of 2K to 4K....

Delivered to the station in April aboard the 14th SpaceX cargo resupply mission through a Space Act Agreement between NASA and RED, this camera’s ability to record twice the pixels and at resolutions four times higher than the 4K camera brings science in orbit into the homes, laboratories and classrooms of everyone on Earth.

“We’re excited to embrace new technology that improves our ability to engage our audiences in space station research,” said David Brady, assistant program scientist for the International Space Station Program Science Office at Johnson. “Each improvement in imagery fidelity brings that person on Earth closer to the in-space experience, allowing them to see what human spaceflight is doing to improve their life, as well as enable humanity to explore the universe.”

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Harvard-Smithsonian astronomers: could the mysterious interstellar object be part of an ET probe?

First discovered a year ago, Oumuamua is the strange cigar-shaped object of interstellar origin that flew through our solar system at 196,000 mph. Since it was first spotted, scientists haven't decisively determined whether it's a mildly active comet or something else. Now, astronomers Shmuel Bialy and Abraham Loeb of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have released a scientific paper asking if Oumuamua could be a "lightsail of artificial origin," part of a space probe developed by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Of course this is not a statement of fact but rather a question, albeit a very very interesting one. From CNN:

"'Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization," they wrote in the paper, which has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The theory is based on the object's "excess acceleration," or its unexpected boost in speed as it traveled through and ultimately out of our solar system in January 2018.

"Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that 'Oumuamua is a light sail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment," wrote the paper's authors, suggesting that the object could be propelled by solar radiation.

"COULD SOLAR RADIATION PRESSURE EXPLAIN ‘OUMUAMUA’S PECULIAR ACCELERATION?" (PDF)

(image: artist's impression of Oumuamua, ESO/M. Kornmesser) Read the rest

Auction: the only moon rocks retrieved from the lunar surface that can be legally sold

In the United States, it's illegal to buy and sell moon rocks retrieved from the lunar surface during the Apollo missions. However, the law doesn't apply to the tiny moon pebbles seen above that a Soviet robotic probe drilled out of the lunar surface and sent back to Earth in 1970. In 1993, Sotheby's auctioned these "Soil Particles From Luna-16" off for $400,000. Now, they're going on the block again and expected to go for twice that amount or even more. According to Sotheby's, "the sale will mark just the second time that an actual piece of another world has ever been offered for public sale." From Collect Space:

The lunar samples were originally presented by the Soviet government to Nina Ivanovna Koroleva, the widow of Sergei Korolev, the "Chief Designer" of the Russian space program. Under Korolev's direction, the Soviet Union successfully put the world's first satellite into Earth orbit and launched the first human into space. His unexpected death in 1966 came before he could see the outcome of the space race to the moon.

Four years after Korolev died, the Soviets launched Luna 16, the first of three robotic lunar sample return missions. Touching down after the U.S. Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts had come and gone from the moon, Luna 16 deployed an extendable arm to drill and extract a core sample 14 inches (35 centimeters) deep. The 3.5 ounces (101 grams) of soil and rocks that it collected were then deposited into a capsule for their return to Earth.

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Report: Canada's military unprepared to stop attacks on their assets in space

For a country the size of Canada, we've got a pretty small military budget. In order to secure our borders and work with our NATO pals overseas and in operations on our home turf, The Canadian Forces is often forced to do a lot with very little. Our Army, Navy and Air Force are tightly integrated, making it possible for us to make the most of our military infrastructure, supplies and training. Right now, Canada's military personnel are playing a game of hurry-up-and-wait while long-promised new equipment, upgrades to existing hardware, and better care for current members come into play. Unfortunately, as the Canadian government struggles to keep up with the basics of defining its borders, an internal Department of National Defence report obtained by the Canadian Press warns that the nation's armed forces could be ripe for getting dinged on a largely undefended frontier: space.

From The CBC:

Satellites vital to Canadian military operations are vulnerable to cyberattack or even a direct missile strike — just one example of why the country's defence policy must extend fully into the burgeoning space frontier, an internal Defence Department note warns.

The Canadian military already heavily depends on space-based assets for basic tasks such as navigation, positioning, intelligence-gathering, surveillance and communications. Canada is also working on the next generation of satellites to assist with search-and-rescue and round-the-clock surveillance of maritime approaches to the country, including the Arctic.

Unfortunately, as the hardware and software required to compromise satellite systems has become way less expensive over the past decade, the number of state and non-state actors with access to the gear needed to smoke our space hardware has grown. Read the rest

Magnificent "Voyager of the Moons" GIF from Cassini's images from Jupiter and Saturn

Kevin M. Gill, a software engineer and data wrangler at NASA-JPL, created the fantastic video below "using still images taken by the Cassini spacecraft during it's flyby of Jupiter and while at Saturn.

"Shown is Io and Europa over Jupiter's Great Red Spot and then Titan as it passes over Saturn and it's edge-on rings," Gill wrote on Flickr.

image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/CICLOPS/Kevin M. Gill Read the rest

Werner Herzog is making a documentary about meteorites

Fireball is Werner Herzog's forthcoming documentary "about meteorites and comets and their influence on mythology and religion," according to Variety. He's once again collaborating with British geoscientist Clive Oppenheimer, his partner on the volcano documentary Into the Inferno. From Variety:

The producers of “Into the Inferno,” Andre Singer and Lucki Stipetic, are both on board “Fireball.” Herzog and Oppenheimer will co-direct. They will once more go globe-trotting, this time to visit sites that yield insight into comets and meteorites and help them understand what they can tell us about the origins of life on Earth.

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Video: Fifty years ago today was the first Apollo mission to carry a crew to space

On October 11, 1968, NASA launched the first Apollo crew into space. This mission, Apollo 7, opened the spaceways for the moon landing the following July. Apollo 7 had the following objectives: Demonstrate Command and Service Module (CSM) with crew performance; demonstrate mission support facilities' performance during a crewed mission and demonstrate Apollo rendezvous capability; demonstrate live TV broadcasts from space.

From NASA:

The Apollo 7 crew was commanded by Walter Schirra, with Command Module Pilot Donn Eisele, and Lunar Module Pilot Walter Cunningham. The mission consisted of an 11-day Earth-orbital test flight to test the Apollo command and service module. It was also the first time a crew flew on the Saturn IB rocket.

Although Apollo 7 was a complete technical success, it was born out of a tragedy. After the fatal fire that took the lives of the Apollo 1 crew—Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White—the Apollo 7 crew took over the mission.

Apollo 1 was supposed to be the first crewed Apollo mission. During a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy, an electrical fire broke out in the cabin. Because the cabin atmosphere was pure oxygen, the fire spread incredibly quickly. The fire also created intense pressure inside the cabin, and because the hatch could only swing inward, the crew was stuck inside.

All further crewed missions had to wait until NASA could determine the sources of the mishap—technical and organizational—and ensure that nothing like it would happen again. In the 21 months between Apollo 1 and Apollo 7, the Apollo spacecraft and spacesuits were redesigned to more safely fly crews to space.

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Rocket failure forces emergency landing by joint American-Russian crew

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were forced to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan this morning during their attempted trip to the International Space Station. The duo were on board a Russian-built Soyuz rocket, launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan when, according to early reports from NASA, the rocket's booster failed minutes after liftoff.

NASA reported in a tweet that the “...Soyuz capsule is returning to Earth via a ballistic descent, which is a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.” A search and rescue team was deployed to pick up the astronaut and cosmonaut from the capsule's landing site, approximately 12 miles east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, will be conducting a formal investigation into what went wrong with their rocket.

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NASA-inspired artist Tom Sachs' new Mars Yard sneaker for Nike

Sculptor/filmmaker/installation artist Tom Sachs, perhaps best known for his incredible recreations/reimaginations of NASA missions in gallery spaces, has revealed his next sneaker designed in collaboration with Nike. According to Hypebeast, "the Tom Sachs x Nike Mars Yard Overshoe is slated to release at DSM London on Oct. 11 and roll out with a global release in the future, at a retail price of £390 (around $511 USD)." From an interview in Vogue:

As an artist and collaborator of many other artists and companies, what appeals to you about collaborating with Nike?

There’s a huge community with Nike, and I think probably the biggest thing that inspires me is that we have these shared ideals of: work first. It’s not just about winning the marathon, it’s about training for it. It’s not about finishing the sculpture, it’s the act of making things. For me, the advantage of being in the studio is I can make something one at a time, 19th-century-style. Nike doesn’t have that advantage, but has the ability to build thousands of products. As a result you have to make different kinds of decisions, and that process is very inspiring and challenging for me. I only do things that are interesting and keep me on my toes . . . . It’s a really major achievement, the shoe. I’m very, very proud of it. It’s something that I started working on in 2007 and just came to life this year. It’s something I didn’t know for sure if it was ever going really happen.

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Five-story-high spikes of ice could make it difficult to land on Jupiter moon

Jupiter's frozen moon Europa has a massive ocean below the surface that could potentially harbor life. To find out, NASA is in the early stages of building a robotic lander to explore the moon in the mid-2020s. Now though, Cardiff University researcher Daniel Hobley and colleagues suggest that touching down on Europa could be tricky due to fields of massive ice spikes jutting up as high as 50 feet. From Science:

Such spikes are created on Earth in the frigid tropical peaks of the Andes Mountains, where they are called “penitentes,” for their resemblance to devout white-clad monks. First described by Charles Darwin, penitentes are sculpted by the sun in frozen regions that experience no melt; instead, the fixed patterns of light cause the ice to directly vaporize, amplifying minute surface variations that result in small hills and shadowed hollows. These dark hollows absorb more sunlight than the bright peaks around them, vaporizing down further in a feedback loop.

From the research paper in the scientific journal Nature:

We estimate that penitentes on Europa could reach 15 m in depth with a spacing of 7.5 m near the equator, on average, if they were to have developed across the interval permitted by Europa’s mean surface age. Although available images of Europa have insufficient resolution to detect surface roughness at the multi-metre scale, radar and thermal data are consistent with our interpretation. We suggest that penitentes could pose a hazard to a future lander on Europa.

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Gorgeous time-lapse video of Sunday night's SpaceX launch

On Sunday evening, SpaceX launched a satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Visual Burrito created this beautiful time-lapse, 4K video of the spectacle in the sky.

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Voyager 2 spaceprobe may be on the verge of interstellar space

NASA's Voyager 2 space probe, launched in 1977 on a grand tour of the solar system, may be nearing interstellar space. Carrying a message for extraterrestrials, the iconic Golden Record, the Voyager 2 is now about 11 billion miles (about 17.7 billion kilometers) from Earth and still sends data back daily from its various sensors. Most recently, it has detected an increase in higher-energy cosmic rays that originate outside our solar system. This increase in the rate of cosmic rays indicates that the Voyager 2 may soon break through the heliosphere, the "bubble" of charged particles generated by our sun, and cross into interstellar space. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012.

From the Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

The fact that Voyager 2 may be approaching the heliopause six years after Voyager 1 is also relevant, because the heliopause moves inward and outward during the Sun's 11-year activity cycle. Solar activity refers to emissions from the Sun, including solar flares and eruptions of material called coronal mass ejections. During the 11-year solar cycle, the Sun reaches both a maximum and a minimum level of activity.

"We're seeing a change in the environment around Voyager 2, there's no doubt about that," said Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone, based at Caltech in Pasadena. "We're going to learn a lot in the coming months, but we still don't know when we'll reach the heliopause. We're not there yet -- that's one thing I can say with confidence."

In a decade or so, Voyager 1 and 2 will run out of power and go silent. Read the rest

Incredible and unaffordable solar system wristwatch with orbiting planets

Van Cleef & Arpels' Midnight Planétarium timepiece features a mechanical orrery integrated in the watch face. It is only US$214,000. From the company:

The movement of each planet is true to its genuine length of orbit: it will take Saturn over 29 years to make a complete circuit of the dial, Jupiter will take almost 12 years, Mars 687 days, Earth 365 days, Venus 224 days and Mercury 88 days...

44 mm pink gold case; pink gold bezel; aventurine dial, pink gold sun and shooting star, serpentine Mercury, chloromelanite Venus, turquoise Earth, red jasper Mars, blue agate Jupiter, sugilite Saturn. Pink gold crown with sapphire case back. Matte black alligator strap with pink gold folding clasp. Self-winding mechanical movement (Stern Manufacture), equipped with a Christiaan Van der Klaauw module developed exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels, 48 hour power reserve. Numbered edition

Midnight Planétarium Watch (via @pickover)

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