Posts tagged nasa
Last night, Soyuz TMA-07M aka 33S safely returned to Earth with its crew of 3 astronauts. One of them was Chris Hadfield, a Canadian who served as ISS Commander for the last few months and has been living onboard since December. For the last 6 months, he’s been burning up the internet with cool things to watch and see and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that he has single-handedly brought NASA and the ISS to the attention of millions.
He took incredible photos. He’s on Facebook. And Twitter. And Tumblr, Google+ and Pinterest. He did a Reddit AMA. He recorded what things sounds like on the ISS. Zen Pencils turned one of his inspiring quotes into a sweet cartoon. Gizmodo said he “made us care about astronauts again.”
He played with Barenaked Ladies — FROM SPACE:
He taught us how to make a sandwich in space…
…and also the all-important skill of how to barf in space.
And as a finale before returning home, he did a revised version of Bowie’s Space Oddity…IN SPACE. And it’s GOOD. Which is all kinds of nerdy and all kinds of awesome.
I’m happy he’s back on the planet safe and sound, but I’m also kinda sad we can’t have him on ISS forever! Either way, I think it’s official:
BEST. ISS. ASTRONAUT. EVER.
I gotta admit that I was skeptical when I heard the JSC co-ops were making a parody video of Gangnam Style. (Mental note to add that song to Emma’s baby book as something that was popular when she was born, so she can look it up in 20 years and be appropriately confused.)
But I also gotta admit that the result is pretty awesome. It’s even got cameos from 3 astronauts, my directorate head, and both the retiring and incoming JSC Center Directors. Way to go co-ops!
This is what sunrise looked like yesterday morning as I drove to work. It’s been an unexpectedly hectic week after a Russian Progress vehicle had to abort its planned re-rendezvous and docking with the space station on Monday night.
The vehicle originally docked back in April with no issues, but while it was at ISS, the crew took out the old rendezvous radar and replaced it with a new, upgraded version. It undocked on Saturday and planned to re-rendezvous and dock again on Monday night to test out the new hardware. This is how the Russians do a lot of their upgrades — they test things on the Progress since it’s unmanned, and then eventually put the new hardware on the manned Soyuz vehicle too.
Anyway, all the tests they’d done ahead of time looked fine — and then on Monday night as they started back towards the ISS, the new system failed! Fortunately, both Russia and NASA plan for these sorts of things, and the vehicle was able to simply shut down its control system and glide past the ISS. Still, there is a lot of pressure on the Russians to now 1) figure out what’s wrong, 2) figure out what to do about it, and 3) reattempt the re-rendezvous. Sounds simple enough, but of course nothing in space is ever really that simple, and it’s kept me busy this week for sure!
Thank goodness I get to relax at book club tonight…
It’s been a couple months since I posted a round-up of good spacey stuff, so I’m definitely overdue! Here are some things worth watching:
We’re only a couple weeks away from Mars Science Laboratory’s arrival and landing on Mars! This video does an awesome job of explaining what’s involved in getting to the surface, which is pretty accurately described as “7 minutes of terror.” (This video has a totally different feel and tone than any other NASA-produced video I’ve ever seen — so much so that The New York Times even took notice and wrote an article about it. I really hope the powers-that-be keep this up, as it’s gotten quite a bit of positive attention.)
I seriously cannot get enough of Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’m sure you’ve all seen this one before, but it’s hard to post a space video roundup without something from NdT.
NASA Cribs! This was put together by some of the coops and it’s amusing, especially if you’ve ever watched MTV Cribs. Mike Fincke does a pretty hilarious job of imitating the way rich rappers show off their homes.
SpaceX put together another cool video of highlights from their demo flight in May.
And finally, although it has nothing to do with space, but I defy you to watch the latest “Where the Hell is Matt?” video that made the rounds recently (he even danced with the League City Fire Department!) and not end up with a big smile on your face feeling like there might just be something good about the human race after all.
Just in case you forgot how awesome space time-lapse video is, here’s a new one featuring photography from the Expedition 30 crew.
I also came across a really interesting article on Luminous Landscape (a photography website) by Alan Poindexter, a shuttle astronaut who most recently commanded STS-131 two years ago. I had assumed that the explosion in night photography from space was because either 1) recent ISS crews have been more interested in photography than previous crews or 2) NASA has just been doing a better job of making the photos and videos available to the public (for both viewing and for remixing).
It didn’t occur to me until reading this article that its the improvement in camera technology — and specifically in digital camera sensor performance in low light (high ISO) situations — that has had the biggest impact. Now that the astronauts on the ISS have cameras capable of capturing what the Earth really looks like at night, they’ve been able to come up with all sorts of inventive ways of making these time-lapse videos and capturing other amazing images.
The article is a really interesting read if you are interested in photography at all, but beware — it made me want to buy a new camera body! Mine is about 8 years old and the image quality starts to suffer at ISO 800 and higher. I would use the excuse that I need a new camera because we’re about to have a baby…except I just used that excuse two weeks ago to buy a new lens. I wonder how long (and how much money) is that excuse good for?
I got essentially zero work done this morning, but only because I was living vicariously through NASA TV and all of my friends and space tweeps in DC as Space Shuttle Discovery departed its Florida home and flew to its new home at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington. The next time I’m in DC, you can probably guess what my first stop will be.
They say the space shuttle is old, but she still looks beautiful to me.
Time for another roundup of cool space things!
First, another time-lapse video of nighttime time-lapse photography from the ISS. I know, I know, but I can’t get enough of them! The music really makes this one — very dramatic.
NASA just put out this “We Are The Explorers” promo, complete with narration from Optimus Prime. No, really.
Don Pettit, who is currently on the ISS, put together this neat video a few years ago of city lights from space. It’s long-ish, but really interesting to hear his comments on all the different cities. Japanese cities have a distinct blue-green tint, apparently. I never thought about how different types of light would affect a city’s appearance from orbit.
And finally, Stephen Colbert *hearts* NASA and the ISS. (Just in case you didn’t see this when it was released a month or so ago.)
Hi there. Here’s what’s been happening over the last week and a half:
Work has been steady, but not too busy. The Russians had a problem during some of their ground testing of the next Soyuz vehicle, so there will be delays to all the Russian flights for the rest of the year. I initially thought this would make me much busier for the next couple months, but it’s now looking more like the opposite. I won’t have too much going on until April, so I’m trying to learn about some of the new commercial space vehicles in develop and help out there.
On Saturday, Jose and I went to see the Houston Symphony do an encore performance of The Planets, set to a great movie of high def NASA imagery. They played at one of the local mega-churches, so we didn’t even have to go that far! It was a great performance and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We are going to see them downtown in a couple weeks when they premiere a “sequal” to The Planets featuring different music and a film of awesome Earth imagery.
On Sunday, we had a bunch of friends over for the Super Bowl. I didn’t take a single picture, so you will have to enjoy this photo of this pizza I made the next day. I had planned to make it for the party, but everyone else brought a ton of food so we didn’t need it. I saw a couple minutes of the halftime show and the last 5 minutes of the game. That was it! I was too busy talking to people and laughing at the 5 kids running circles around our house. (I thought their energy would die down after a while, but I was totally wrong about that!) I didn’t even see the commercials, so if there was a good one I need to go find on YouTube, someone needs to let me know.
This week I’m helping another team of teachers fly their experiment on the Vomit Comet. They are from a half-day math and science magnet program in Warren, Michigan and their students (high school) designed an experiment to test convection currents in microgravity. They have several tubes filled with half cold water and half hot water. A valve in the middle keeps the two halves separated until they’re ready to mix them. They fly on Thursday and Friday and are pretty excited, as you can imagine.
I’ve come across so many spectacular space videos and photos lately that I can’t help but keep sharing them!
(from NASA: 2Explore on Flickr)
This is one more image from the Soyuz 27S landing last Monday night. Earlier, I posted the video of the entry taken from the ISS, but astronaut Dan Burbank posted this pretty incredible still photo yesterday to his Twitter account. You can see the entering Soyuz vehicle as a bright streak in the center of the image, just below the end of the Progress vehicle still docked to ISS. The Black Sea is at the bottom of the image and sunrise is starting to peek over the horizon at the top. Wow.
This video from astronaut Ron Garan, who came home on Soyuz 26S in September, made the Internet rounds last week but I didn’t sit down to watch until last night. You can read more about how he did the time lapses on his Fragile Oasis site, but first I recommend you just sit back and watch the whole thing. The time lapse footage they are getting is just gorgeous, especially the nighttime passes (I love the city lights and the lightning flashes from thunderstorms) and the auroras.
On Saturday morning, the Mars Science Laboratory — a spacecraft carrying a rover the size of a Mini Cooper — launched from Florida. It should arrive at Mars next August. Planetary missions are always exciting. Some part of my brain feels like the stakes are higher since the destination is so far away, although that makes no logical sense, since there aren’t people onboard. This video shows the separation of the spacecraft from the upper stage rocket that provided the thrust to get out of Earth orbit. Super cool! That’s the final step of what I’ll call the launch and departure sequence. (I don’t know if there is an official name for it.)
As if live video of the spacecraft separation wasn’t enough, astronomers in Australia spotted MSL later that day as it began its journey to Mars. It looked almost like a comet — really strange! The plume is assumed to be particles from the burn that took the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and on its interplanetary trajectory.
When MSL gets to Mars next August, it will land using a new system called the Skycrane. It sounds, and LOOKS, pretty crazy — but there were several factors that drove the engineering team to design the system. The Scientific American blog has a really good overview of Mars entry, descent and landing (EDL) systems and how the Skycrane came to be, if you’re interested.
The space station crews have really stepped up their game lately and are making all sorts of fun photos and videos during their downtime on orbit. Here are two of my recent favorites:
Although you always hear that space is a vacuum, technically there is still a tiny bit of atmosphere up where the ISS is — enough that over time, the drag would eventually slow the station down enough that it would fall back to Earth. To counteract that, the ISS periodically performs a reboost burn. During the burn, the station is accelerating…but the occupants inside are not. If you don’t hold onto anything, you’ll drift backwards. Or rather, the ISS will speed up but you don’t. Looks like the crew had some fun demonstrating that in the video above.
Last Sunday morning, one of the Russian Progress supply ships undocked from the space station and deorbited. Since it’s just full of trash at that point, it burns up in the atmosphere on its way down. Astronaut Mike Fossum captured a great photo of the fiery reentry — as seen from orbit!