Space Rock

August 28th, 2010

NASA have invited the public to choose a wakeup song for the final Space Shuttle flight. So far, it looks to be a two-horse race:

Song Artist Votes % of total
Star Trek Theme Song Alexander Courage 368,239 33.1%
Magic Carpet Ride Steppenwolf 358,019 32.2%
Countdown Rush 218,374 19.6%
Blue Sky Big Head Todd 72,216 6.5%
Enter Sandman Metallica 10,884 1.0%

I'm a little surprised that the Star Wars theme has garnered just 0.9% of the vote. I have to assume that once their online fandom gears up they'll crush the likes of Steppenwolf and Rush. Whether the rebel scum can defeat the fandom that managed to get the prototype Space Shuttle named after their favourite starship is another question.

(For the record, my vote went to ELO's Mr Blue Sky, but with just 0.2% of the vote it's got an awful lot of ground to make up.)

[Via The Awl]

Comments Off on Space Rock


August 24th, 2010

The MESSENGER space probe, well on the way to a rendezvous with Mercury next March, looked back and caught a glimpse of home.

Comments Off on Home

Risky business

July 29th, 2010

During the early years of manned spaceflight, NASA found it impossible to arrange life insurance for the astronauts. The solution to this problem was both ingenious and impeccably market-oriented:

The answer was provided by NASA in the form of 'Insurance Covers', […] a number of which were given to every crew member and subsequently signed by every astronaut involved, as close to launch as possible. Its value would instantly be high, but would no doubt sky-rocket (no pun intended) should the astronauts never return; the deceased's surviving family then at least safe in the knowledge that in future they could cash-in their makeshift insurance policy if required.

By the time of the Columbia disaster in 2003, NASA had come up with a different approach:

The Americans who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia were eligible for the standard life insurance offered to military personnel and federal employees, but NASA carried no special coverage specifically for astronauts, officials say.


The 12 children of the Columbia astronauts will also be able to receive assistance from the Space Shuttle Children's Trust Fund. The private, nonprofit fund raised about $1.2 million after the 1986 Challenger explosion to provide for the needs of the astronauts' children.

[Via The Null Device]

Comments Off on Risky business

The Moon Hoax

July 20th, 2010

Darryl Cunningham's The Moon Hoax is, in essence, the comics equivalent of Phil Plait's original Bad Astronomy site. Nice work.

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

Comments Off on The Moon Hoax


May 15th, 2010

Like James Nicoll and most of his commenters, I read this update on a problem with Voyager 2 and thought V'Ger:

The mission has zeroed in on a flipped or bad bit in the flight data system being the likely culprit for the spacecraft's current problem with formatting science data properly. Remember that computers store information as strings of ones and zeroes or "on" and "off" bits. Once in a while, a passing cosmic ray can evade the radiation protection on a spacecraft and slam into a memory bit; when that happens, the bit may change value, from zero to one or vice versa. It's a lot like a transcription error in DNA; it's a sort of mutation of the code. It's possible that the flipped bit will have no or insignificant effect on the spacecraft, but once in a while, a flipped bit happens in a very important location and causes serious problems, and that's what the Voyager team thinks happened within Voyager 2's flight data systems.

Comments Off on V'Ger

ISS in transit

April 21st, 2010

The ISS Flying Across the Moon.

[Via Bad Astronomy]

Comments Off on ISS in transit

ISS meets aurora

April 5th, 2010

The view from the International Space Station as it flies through an Aurora at 28,000km/hr.

Never mind the image quality, feel the speed.

[Via Bad Astronomy]

Comments Off on ISS meets aurora

Daphnis in motion

March 30th, 2010

I've seen still images of Daphnis causing a perturbation in Saturn's A Ring before, but this Cassini video of Daphnis ploughing through the rings was new to me. Seriously cool.

[Via Joe Haldeman, via Kevin Riggle]

Comments Off on Daphnis in motion

Light cone

March 5th, 2010

What self-respecting geek could resist an RSS feed notifying you every time another star falls within your light cone?

72 Herculis is 46.9 light years from Earth. It was enveloped by your light cone 2 months ago.

Nu-2 Lupi, here I come…

[Via James Nicoll]

Comments Off on Light cone

Do not mess with Kathryn Sullivan

March 1st, 2010

Philip Bond's illustrations of female astronauts are quite delightful.

[Via MetaFilter]

Comments Off on Do not mess with Kathryn Sullivan

Obama appeases the Space Nazis

February 21st, 2010

Life imitates movie publicity:

Fortunately, it turns out that there is a good explanation for why Obama canceled the Constellation program. That explanation has been provided by Richard C. Hoagland. Hoagland, you may remember, is the person who discovered the lost city on Mars, and a bunch of giant invisible structures on the Moon that he asserts are the remains of alien civilizations. They're there, he says, but because they are invisible we have to trust him.

Hoagland has come up with a startling revelation… that Obama canceled the lunar program because (drum roll please): he was warned by Space Nazis. […]

It's crazy, but it's not quite up there with my favourite Hoagland theory, about Iapetus. Now that's quality crazy.

[Via James Nicoll]

Comments Off on Obama appeases the Space Nazis

That's no moon!

February 15th, 2010

My favourite response to this lovely close-up shot of Mimas came from comment #8:

8. Greg in Austin Says:
February 15th, 2010 at 11:37 am

I can imagine one of the Cassini engineers here on Earth programming in the flight pattern:

Engineer: "Keep your distance, but don't look like you're keeping your distance."

Cassini: "Beeep?"

Engineer: "I don't know. Fly casual!"

Comments Off on That's no moon!

Shuttle Silhouette

February 14th, 2010

The Space Shuttle in silhouette.

[Via Bad Astronomy]

Comments Off on Shuttle Silhouette

"Because the average distance from the Earth to the Moon is 237,000 miles."

January 26th, 2010

Secrets of The Shining: Or How Faking the Moon Landings Nearly Cost Stanley Kubrick his Marriage and his Life…

It is time to shed the lies. But also it is time for the world to view, uncensored, Stanley Kubrick's greatest unknown masterpiece. I ask NASA to release all of the footage directed by Kubrick for the faked Apollo landings.

May I also suggest that NASA use the millions of dollars made from this surely successful movie release to fund another mission to the moon?

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

Comments Off on "Because the average distance from the Earth to the Moon is 237,000 miles."

Mulder has been transferred to Afghanistan

December 13th, 2009

The British version of the X-Files is no more:

The government has shut a unit which has investigated UFO sightings for more than 50 years, judging its resources better spent on more earthly threats.


"The MoD has no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extra-terrestrial life. However, in over 50 years, no UFO report has revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom," it said in a statement.

Sceptical readers will note that they don't say that UFOs don't exist, just that there's no threat to the UK. Is this because they've found no evidence of alien visitors to UK airspace, or <paranoia level="maximum">compelling evidence that the government has already signed a non-aggression pact with an alien power?</paranoia>

[Via Blood & Treasure]

Comments Off on Mulder has been transferred to Afghanistan


November 24th, 2009

The Cassini probe's latest flyby of Enceladus has produced some mind-boggling images and animations.

Comments Off on Plumes

Blue and gold planet

November 13th, 2009

On the way past Earth one last time, the Rosetta probe grabbed a couple of gorgeous photographs of the crescent Earth.

I can't make my mind up which I prefer: the shot of a blue-and-white planet posted by Emily Lakdawalla or the warmer, more colourful picture posted by the ESA, featuring sunlight glinting off the ocean.

Comments Off on Blue and gold planet

Four inches thick

November 8th, 2009

The universe turns out, once again, to be stranger than we had imagined. It's been suggested that the neutron star at the heart of Cassiopeia A has a very peculiar atmosphere:

The properties of this carbon atmosphere are remarkable. It is only about four inches thick, has a density similar to diamond and a pressure more than ten times that found at the center of the Earth. As with the Earth's atmosphere, the extent of an atmosphere on a neutron star is proportional to the atmospheric temperature and inversely proportional to the surface gravity. The temperature is estimated to be almost two million degrees, much hotter than the Earth's atmosphere. However, the surface gravity on Cas A is 100 billion times stronger than on Earth, resulting in an incredibly thin atmosphere.

Comments Off on Four inches thick

Charting The Solar System

October 14th, 2009

50 Years of Space Exploration would benefit from a decent key explaining some of the colour coding, but even without such frills it's still pretty wonderful.

Be sure to download the large version.

[Via James Nicoll]

Comments Off on Charting The Solar System

Viewing Apollo

July 17th, 2009

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has started taking photos of the Apollo landing sites.

At the moment LROC is orbiting at a relatively high altitude, but NASA plan to make further passes over the landing sites in September which will give us a better look at the Lunar Modules, the instrument packages and the tracks left by the Lunar Rovers. I can't wait.

Comments Off on Viewing Apollo

Page 3 of 41234