Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Space Exploration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Space Exploration. Show all posts

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Space and Struggle to Become Responsible

Vice President Pence Unveils U.S. Space Force Plans (C-SPAN) (9 August 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

The news is full of space headlines. On 9 August, the American Vice President Mike Pence announced that the United States will build a sixth branch of its armed forces, a "space force" to "prepare for the next battlefield." The full statement is here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking, An Immortal Farewell

This is a post I wish I did not have to write, on the passing of the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking. He died today, aged 76.

Image Source: Reuters via Voa News.

This time last year, it was reported that Richard Branson offered Hawking transportation on Virgin Galactic to the International Space Station. In 2007, the famous physicist became the first quadriplegic to experience simulated zero gravity on a modified Boeing 727-200 and looked incredibly happy when he became weightless.

Click here to read my references to his work. If you have not read his books, you can listen to some audiobooks and films on his work, below the jump.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cassini's End at Saturn

"This image of Saturn's northern hemisphere was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back to Earth before its mission-ending plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15, 2017." Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute via Space.com.

Launched 15 October 1997, NASA's Cassini–Huygens mission ended on 15 September 2017 as Cassini - the Saturn orbiter - entered Saturn's atmosphere at 11:53 UTC (7:53 a.m. EDT or 4:53 a.m. PDT). In 2005, the Huygens probe landed on Saturn's moon, Titan, on a beach which had the consistency of crème brûlée. From Stargazer's Nation:
"As planned, the Cassini spacecraft impacted the upper atmosphere of Saturn on September 15, after a 13 year long exploration of the Saturnian System. With spacecraft thrusters firing until the end, its atmospheric entry followed an unprecedented series of 22 Grand Finale dives between Saturn and rings. Cassini's final signal took 83 minutes to reach planet Earth and the Deep Space Network antenna complex in Canberra Australia where loss of contact with the spacecraft was recorded at 11:55 UT. For the spacecraft, Saturn was bright and the Sun was overhead as it plowed into the gas giant planet's swirling cloud tops at about 70,000 miles (113,000 kilometers) per hour. But Cassini's final image shows the impact site hours earlier and still on the planet's night side, the cloud tops illuminated by ringlight, sunlight reflected from Saturn's rings."
NASA's full gallery from Cassini's grand finale is here. You can see highlights of Cassini's photos of Saturn and its moons, herehere, here, and here. It is the end of a scientific era and the start of a new one. After twenty years of exploration of Saturn, attention now turns to Jupiter.

Cassini's last photo shows Saturn's atmosphere. Click to enlarge. Image Source: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Space Science Institute via Gizmodo.

Video Source: NASA via Weather Network.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Constitutional Dance around Surveillance

Julian Assange has posted a link today to the document below, uploaded by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. This is the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's (FISA) ruling on NSA activities, which was declassified on 11 May 2017. This secret court gives intelligence agencies permission to conduct surveillance activities. The ruling reveals the constitutional balancing act and/or illegality of NSA spying on US citizens and non-US citizens for five years. It shows the contorted legalese used to justify, and question, American government surveillance of domestic and foreign populations. From Circa:
"The American Civil Liberties Union said the newly disclosed violations are some of the most serious to ever be documented and strongly call into question the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to police itself and safeguard American’s privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure."
The Sinclair Broadcast Group has a curious small collection of documents, including the NSA's 2016 Inspector General Report. In a reflection of the broad impact of science and technology, this FISA release acquires an additional surreal touch, juxtaposed with another uploaded article: Healthy offspring from freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the International Space Station for 9 months.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Jovian Poles and Auroras

Juno's infrared view of the auroras at the Jovian south pole, not visible from earth (27 August 2016). The  Image Source: NASA/JPL.

NASA has released more data from Juno's mission to Jupiter over the past week, including a heat vision photograph of the southern lights over the maw that is the planet's south pole. Photographs from 27 August 2016 revealed that the north pole features a sea of giant cyclones. NASA also published an audio recording of Jovian polar aurora activity.

Composite photograph of Jupiter's south pole from Cassini mission (11-12 December 2000). Image Source: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Jovian north pole: "The JunoCam instrument obtained this view on August 27, about two hours before closest approach, when the spacecraft was 120,000 miles (195,000 kilometers) away from the giant planet (i.e., for Jupiter's center). Unlike the equatorial region's familiar structure of belts and zones, the poles are mottled with rotating storms of various sizes, similar to giant versions of terrestrial hurricanes. Jupiter's poles have not been seen from this perspective since the Pioneer 11 spacecraft flew by the planet in 1974." Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

Video Source: NASA via Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Thirteen hours of radio emissions from Jupiter's intense auroras are presented here, both visually and in sound. The data was collected when the spacecraft made its first orbital pass of the gas giant on Aug 27, 2016, with all spacecraft instruments turned on. The frequency range of these signals is from 7 to 140 kilohertz. Radio astronomers call these 'kilometric emissions' because their wavelengths are about a kilometer long."

Thursday, September 1, 2016

SpaceX: Not an Explosion

SpaceX's Falcon 9 on fire in Florida today. Image Source: Ahomka FM.

Sadly, SpaceX's Falcon 9 exploded today on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. The Falcon 9, which I have discussed here, is the great hope of company founder, Elon Musk. Report UK:
"In a statement, the company blamed the blast on 'an anomaly' and said no-one had been injured. It said the rocket's payload, a satellite due to be launched on Saturday, was also destroyed. ... The Falcon-9 booster is designed to return to Earth and land on a floating platform. SpaceX is seeking to create a new era of reusable rockets and affordable private space travel and has used its Falcon-9 rocket to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). In December last year, the California-based company successfully landed a Falcon-9 back on Earth after a mission – a first in rocketry. It went on to recover five more boosters, with most of them touching down on an ocean platform. The idea is to re-fly these rockets, and the first such 'second hand' vehicle is scheduled to launch in October. SpaceX is run out of Hawthorne near Los Angeles by Elon Musk, who made his fortune with internet companies. As well as being the rocket company”s CEO, he also heads up the Tesla electric car company."
The lost rocket cost USD $62 million and Musk's companies took a stock hit of almost USD $400 million; in one day, Musk's personal loss on his shares was USD $350 million. The satellite on the rocket, Amos-6would have enabled Facebook and Eutelsat to provide connectivity to entrepreneurs in Africa, a subject I will cover in a later post.

SpaceX failed Falcon 9 launch (1 September 2016). Musk called the ball of fire "not an explosion." Video Source: Youtube.

See all my posts on SpaceX.

Monday, August 29, 2016

NASA Reaches Jupiter

"Jupiter's north polar region is coming into view as NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches the giant planet. This view of Jupiter was taken on August 27, when Juno was 437,000 miles (703,000 kilometers) away." Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

NASA's Juno probe, launched from Florida on 5 August 2011, entered Jupiter's orbit on 4 July 2016; it will remain in orbit for 20 months, testing Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetosphere until February 2018. The American space agency continues the Decadal Solar System Exploration Survey; Jupiter has previously been visited by Pioneer 10 (1973) and Pioneer 11 (1974); Voyager 1 (1979) and Voyager 2 (1979); the Galileo spacecraft (1995-2003); Ulysses (1992 and 2004); the Cassini-Huygens mission (2000); and the New Horizons probe (2007). This Juno mission brings full circle four centuries of research on the great planet, which has three outer Gossamer rings and 67 moons. There are two Jovian lunar exploration missions proposed by the Europeans and Russians and NASA for the 2020s. More photos will follow from the Juno mission:
"NASA's Juno mission successfully executed its first of 36 orbital flybys of Jupiter today [27 August 2016]. The time of closest approach with the gas-giant world was 6:44 a.m. PDT (9:44 a.m. EDT, 13:44 UTC) when Juno passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter's swirling clouds. At the time, Juno was traveling at 130,000 mph (208,000 kilometers per hour) with respect to the planet. This flyby was the closest Juno will get to Jupiter during its prime mission. 'Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders,' said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

There are 35 more close flybys of Jupiter planned during Juno's mission (scheduled to end in February 2018). The August 27 flyby was the first time Juno had its entire suite of science instruments activated and looking at the giant planet as the spacecraft zoomed past.

'We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak,' said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. 'It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us.'"

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

NASA's Plan to Colonize Mars

Developing adequate supporting technology is a pre-existing requirement in NASA's plan to colonize Mars. Image Source: NASA via Daily Mail.

Interplanetary communications systems are being developed in plans to colonize Mars. I first covered Google's InterPlanetary Internet Protocols in 2011, here. Delay-tolerant network protocols must cope with huge distances between our planet and a future Martian settlement. On 9 October 2015, NASA released its plan for a manned journey to Mars, including a stated need for IPFS development:
"Currently, Mars robotic rovers have data rates around two million bits per second, using a relay, such as the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The ISS data rate is 300 million bits per second, two orders of magnitude faster. Future human Mars missions may need up to a billion bits per second at 1,000 times greater range than ISS, requiring laser communications to reduce weight and power. In addition, disruption and error-tolerant interplanetary networking and improved navigation capabilities are required to ensure accurate trajectories and precision landing."
This networking requirement for space exploration will potentially establish a permanent Internet, which I have discussed - coming from other sectors - here. On 18 March 2016, The Daily Mail reported that NASA plans to develop nuclear-powered rockets to travel to Mars, following a similar statement from the Russians in January 2016. With a nuclear rocket, spacecraft could reach the Red Planet in six weeks. The only problem is finding the money.

Planet Mars, As Seen by the 100 Inch Telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory: "Before we sent any spacecraft to Mars, these were the best images we had of the Red Planet." Image Source: The Carnegie Institution for Science via Tech Insider.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

SpaceX: Of Course I Still Love You

Falcon 9 launches with the Thai THAICOM 8 satellite (27 May 2016).

The pride of Elon Musk's private SpaceX spacecraft stable is the Falcon 9. The Falcon 9, first launched on 4 June 2010, is a reusable heavy launch lift vehicle, so named because it is powered by nine SpaceX Merlin 1C rocket engines. It has a little free-flying spacecraft crew capsule, the Dragon, attached at the top.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Baikonur Soyuz Launch TMA-20M

Image Source: European Space Agency.

On 18 March 2016, a Soyuz spacecraft successfully launched to bring cosmonauts and supplies to the International Space Station. From the European Space Agency:
"Tim Peake, Tim Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko on the International Space Station will be joined by three new astronauts after they are launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan today.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos will begin their six-month mission with a lift off in a Soyuz spacecraft at 21:26 GMT on Friday, March 18 [2016]."
Flight Crest of Soyuz TMA-20M. Image Source: Wiki.

"Soyuz TMA-20M crew patch: The Soyuz TMA-20M patch pays tribute to the origins of heraldry by its use of the classic shield shape. Its fields are divided by band of colors representing the Russian and American flags. The silhouette of a Soyuz spacecraft is at the centre of the shield, which is crowned by an outline of the International Space Station. Three stars against the blackness of space symbolize the three astronauts of the spaceship, while animals feature in the other three quadrants. The black bear comes from the coat of arms of the city of Rybinsk, birthplace of spaceship commander Alexey Ovchinin. This city on the Volga is also the 'capital of barge-haulers,' called Burlaks in Russian. 'BURLAK' is the callsign for the crew of this Soyuz mission. The American bald eagle, carrying the vector from the NASA logo it its beak, represents American astronaut Jeff Williams. The grey crane with its wings outstretched is for cosmonaut Oleg Skripotchka, who used the same bird in the patch of his first flight on board of the first in the current series of Soyuz spacecraft, on this one, the final Soyuz TMA-M."

Video Source: Roscosmos via Youtube.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Anniversaries: The Last Voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery

Video Source: William Shatner via Youtube.

It seems like yesterday, but on 9 March 2011, five years ago today, the first of three American space shuttles retired. Above, hear William Shatner's wake-up call to the crew of Discovery on 7 March 2011, while they were still in orbit, but soon to come home for the final time.

In 1990, the Discovery crew installed and later maintained the Hubble Space Telescope, which hugely expanded our view of the stars. Image Source: flickr.

Built in 1979, the spacecraft was named after four great ships from the European age of exploration: she took her name from HMS Discovery, commanded by Captain James Cook during his final voyage from 1776 to 1779; Henry Hudson's Discovery, used in 1610–1611 to explore Hudson's Bay and search for the Northwest Passage; the HMS Discovery of the 1875–1876 British Arctic Expedition to the North Pole; and RRS Discovery, which led the 1901–1904 "Discovery Expedition" to Antarctica.

Image Source: The Atlantic.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Anniversaries: Venera 3 Landing on Venus

Venera 3 did not gather information due to a malfunction, but it still made history when it crashed into the planet's surface on this day in 1966. Image Source: NASA.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Venera 3's crash landing on Venus on 1 March 1966. Venera 3 was the first human-made object to make an impact on another planet's surface. The site Russian Space Web gives a great chronology and details of the development of Russian rockets and space programmes from their earliest days.

Location of the Soviet Venus landers (1961-1984). Image Source: Wiki.

See my earlier post on Russian space art, here. The 2004 BBC television series, Voyage to the Planets, depicted what a manned mission to Venus would look like (previously mentioned in this post). On 17 November 2015, Ars Technica reported that the Russians and Americans are going to cooperate to explore Venus with landers in the 2020s:
After more than a year on ice due to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, NASA and Russia’s Space Research Institute has resumed discussions about a joint exploration mission to Venus, which could include a lander. NASA hasn’t flown a mission dedicated to Venus since its Magellan probe, from 1990 to 1994, which mapped 98 percent of the planet at a resolution of 100 meters or better.

So far NASA has only committed to talking with Russia about its Venera-D mission, which could launch in the 2020s. The space agency has agreed to perform a year-long feasibility study and several meetings during the next year. After that time NASA and Russia’s Space Research Institute, or IKI, will decide whether to continue its partnership, according to a report in Spaceflight Now.
For more information on the planned Venera-D mission, see here, here, here, here and here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Science and Tech: Headlines and History in February 2016

The world's first flexible smartphone lets you hold and use your mobile phone like an old-fashioned book. Gif source: Engadget.

Recent scientific and high tech headlines struck a positive note, with some discordant undertones. Several cutting-edge experiments create synthetic or mechanical versions of what we already have in organic form, revealing the underlying meta-mentality of researchers. The European Commission's Digital Single Market announced the arrival of the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' in late January, 2016. In early February, there was a discussion at Quora about converting energy into matter: E=mc2 says energy and mass are interchangeable. Are energy and matter states of a same thing? Is matter a rigid form of energy? Great discoveries, such as the possible cure for blindness this week, are beneficial; yet that same desire to overcome physical debilitation, limitations and illnesses becomes problematic in other examples, as when parents assert the right to edit their children's genes.

The flood of news in such a short amount of time reveals vast resources diverted to these spheres, with very little to no resources comparatively devoted to putting this work into human perspective. The headlines show how difficult it is to keep track of the explosion of innovations on an ongoing basis; and they reveal how necessary it is to do so (hat tips: Engadget, ErekAlert, Graham Hancock):
  • Quartz (3 February 2016): Germany is getting closer to nuclear fusion—the long-held dream of unlimited clean energy
  • BBC (11 February 2016): Einstein's gravitational waves 'seen' from black holes
  • BBC (11 February 2016): Why you really should get excited about gravitational waves
  • Engadget (12 February 2016): Watch DARPA's tiny drone do 45 MPH indoors, autonomously ... and then crash into countless expensive pieces
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (12 February 2016): Researchers Create ‘Mini-Brains’ in Lab To Study Neurological Diseases
  • Independent (13 February 2016): Chinese nuclear fusion scientists achieve temperatures three times hotter than the sun The temperatures were roughly equal to a 'mid-sized thermo-nuclear explosion'
  • Guardian (14 February 2016): Race is on for next breakthrough as physicists target dark matter: Scientists from South Dakota to Australia seek material believed to make up quarter of universe as researchers in China investigate another mystery particle
  • University College London / EurekAlert (15 February 2016): Virtual reality therapy could help people with depression: "Patients in the study wore a virtual reality headset to see from the perspective of a life-size 'avatar' or virtual body. Seeing this virtual body in a mirror moving in the same way as their own body typically produces the illusion that this is their own body. This is called 'embodiment'. While embodied in an adult avatar, participants were trained to express compassion towards a distressed virtual child. As they talked to the child it appeared to gradually stop crying and respond positively to the compassion. After a few minutes the patients were embodied in the virtual child and saw the adult avatar deliver their own compassionate words and gestures to them. ... 'People who struggle with anxiety and depression can be excessively self-critical when things go wrong in their lives,' explains study lead Professor Chris Brewin (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology). 'In this study, by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion.'"
  • Engadget (15 February 2016): Johns Hopkins grows tiny brains in petri dishes for lab testing: "Most new drugs tested on mice don't work on humans, because we're 'not 150-pound rats,' says Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School's Dr. Thomas Hartung. He and his team believe the 'mini-brains' they've designed and grown in the lab are better test subjects for drug development, since they're derived from human cells. These mini-brains are truly tiny at 350 micrometers in diameter, or about the size of a housefly."
  • PhysOrg (15 February 2016): No more keys or cards? Technology goes under the skin
  • Guardian (15 February 2016): Cancer researchers claim 'extraordinary results' using T-cell therapy ‘This is unprecedented’ says researcher after more than half of terminally ill blood cancer patients experienced complete remission in early clinical trials
  • Guardian (16 February 2016): WHO paves way for use of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika: Consequences of Zika outbreaks could be ‘staggering’ says WHO as it advocates further trials and assessments for controversial mosquito control techniques
  • Ars Technica (16 February 2016): The NSA’s SKYNET program may be killing thousands of innocent people: "Ridiculously optimistic" machine learning algorithm is "completely bullshit," says expert: "Last year, The Intercept published documents detailing the NSA's SKYNET programme. According to the documents, SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan's mobile phone network, and then uses a machine learning algorithm on the cellular network metadata of 55 million people to try and rate each person's likelihood of being a terrorist."
  • Engadget (16 February 2016): Doctors reveal they can 3D print body parts and tissue
  • Sky News (16 February 2016): 'Extraordinary' Cancer Breakthrough Revealed: Terminally ill patients are left symptom free after treatment with modified cells - described as a "potential paradigm shift"
  • Discovery News (16 February 2016): Hawking: Gravitational Waves Could Revolutionize Astronomy
  • Engadget (17 February 2016): Flexible smartphones may be coming sooner than you think
  • EurekAlert (17 February 2016): DNA evidence shows that salmon hatcheries cause substantial, rapid genetic changes
  • EurekAlert (17 Feburary 2016): New predictor of cancer: When your biological age is older than your chronological age, the risk of getting and dying of cancer rises
  • EurekAlert (17 February 2016): Progress toward an HIV cure highlighted in special issue of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
  • Yahoo (17 February 2016): The Hubble Space Telescope Just Snapped Photos of the Biggest Black Hole We've Ever Observed: "So how big is it, exactly? Well, according to our best estimates, the supermassive black hole is roughly 21 billion times the size of the Sun, and its event horizon (an area so dense and powerful that light can’t escape its gravity) measures 130 billion kilometers in diameter. That’s about 15 times the diameter of Neptune’s orbit around the Sun, according to scientists at the Hubble Space Telescope."
  • PhysOrg (18 February 2016): Five-dimensional black hole could 'break' general relativity: "Ring-shaped black holes were 'discovered' by theoretical physicists in 2002, but this is the first time that their dynamics have been successfully simulated using supercomputers. Should this type of black hole form, it would lead to the appearance of a 'naked singularity', which would cause the equations behind general relativity to break down. The results are published in the journal Physical Review Letters."
  • Guardian (18 February 2016): Robots could learn human values by reading stories, research suggests. Scientists have been running tests where artificial intelligences cultivate appropriate social behaviour by responding to simple narratives
  • Baltimore Sun (18 February 2016): Woman's blindness apparently reversed by stem cell treatment
  • Economist (20 February 2016): Wireless: the next generation. A new wave of mobile technology is on its way, and will bring drastic change
  • Daily Mail (20 February 2016): Earth really IS special: None of the 700 million trillion planets in our known universe are similar to our own, study finds
  • HuffPo (20 February 2016): Lost Tapes Reveal Apollo Astronauts Heard Unexplained ‘Music’ On Far Side Of The Moon. "If you’re behind the moon and hear some weird noise on your radio, and you know you’re blocked from the Earth, then what could you possibly think?"
  • Science Alert (22 February 2016): NASA researchers are working on a laser propulsion system that could get to Mars in 3 days. "There is no known reason why we cannot do this."
  • Wired (22 February 2016): Nasa's laser-powered engine could get us to Mars in 72 hours (if it works)
  • Reuters (22 February 2016): Brazil to fight Zika by sterilizing mosquitoes with gamma rays
  • Science Daily (22 February 2016): Bat 'super immunity' could help protect people
  • PhysOrg (22 February 2016): Study shows plants appear able to forget memories when they are not useful
  • Science Alert (23 February 2016): NASA has been inundated with a record number of astronaut applications. Real-life space cadets
  • Space.com (23 February 2016): Plans Being Devised for Human Outpost Near the Moon
  • Discovery News (23 February 2016): Self-Driving Flying Car to Take Off in Two Years
  • Nature (23 February 2016): Should you edit your children’s genes?
  • ErekAlert (23 February 2016): DNA 'Trojan horse' smuggles drugs into resistant cancer cells
  • ABC News (23 February 2016): Vaccinating wildlife with GM viruses could stop diseases jumping to humans, scientists suggest
  • Engadget (23 February 2016): Boston Dynamics presents the 'next generation' Atlas robot. Google's humanoid robot-builders have created a version that's smaller, lighter and more agile
The confirmed discovery of gravitational waves (11 February 2016), when two American research institutes recorded the merging of two black holes a billion years ago, has huge implications. Image Source: BBC via Twitter.

A 3D printed, human-size ear (16 February 2016). Image Source: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine / Engadget.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Photo of the Day: Spaceflower

Image Source: Scott Kelly.

The first flower to bloom on a spacecraft greeted the sun for the first time today on the International Space Station. I'm not surprised it's a zinnia (an edible orange variety). Zinnias are hardy, easy to grow, and beautiful. They are a genus of the sunflower tribe in Asteraceae, also known as the aster or daisy family. This one survived a crisis mold infestation in December 2015; its flower bud appeared on 12 January 2016.

NASA's page on the space flower garden is here. People are discussing the plant on Twitter under the hashtag #spaceflower. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is caring for the plant. The flower garden project is part of the joint NASA-Roscosmos ISS Year Long Mission, which involves experienced astronauts Kelly and Mikhail Korniyenko conducting tests and experiments to assess human physical and psychological health over long periods in preparation for extended missions to Mars. For my previous post on space gardens and space farming, go here.

See all my posts about the International Space Station.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Major Tom, Coming Home

Gif Source: giphy.

David Robert Jones also known by his stage name, David Bowie, has died (8 January 1947-10 January 2016). In A Space Oddity (1969), Bowie introduced his astronaut character Major Tom, who appears in the later song Ashes to Ashes (1980), as well as songs by other artists: Peter Schilling (1983); Plastic Bertrand (1983) - his Schilling cover is here; the Pet Shop Boys (1996), in an adaptation of Bowie's Hallo Spaceboy (1995); At the Drive-In (2000); K.I.A. (2002), covered by Sheryl Crow in 2011; the Tea Party (2004); and Shiny Toy Guns (2009). Elton John's Rocket Man (1969) does not have a connection to Bowie's character although the themes are similar. The same can be said for Matthew Wilder's Bouncin' Off the Walls (1984). Wiki lists other artists and songs which refer to Bowie's astronaut:
Major Tom also has had and continues to have passing references in other popular songs, such as: Five Star's Rain or Shine (1986), Def Leppard's Rocket (1987), Marilyn Manson's Apple of Sodom (1997), Lorraine Bowen's Space (2002), The Mars Volta's live rendition of the song Cicatriz (2005) featuring a lengthy jam, which would evolve into the song Cassandra Gemini, Cold's Happens All The Time (also 2005), Alphabeat's Fantastic 6 (2007), The Cab's Angel with a Shotgun (2011) and Lana Del Rey's Terrence Loves You (2015).
In 2011, William Shatner produced an album, Seeking Major Tom, with tracks related to this evolving Bowie character. There are many Youtube playlists (like this one) with Major Tom tributes. The character has also been mentioned in video games, television shows, cartoons, novels, and online media, demonstrating how much of an influence just one of David Bowie's songs had on popular culture. A Space Oddity was previously mentioned in this post, and Dia Sobin's 2014 tribute with links to Mac Tonnies's posts on Bowie is here. Below the jump, see some of the main Major Tom videos.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Names of the Prehuman World

Hypothetical image of earth during its earliest Precambrian Hadean eon. Image Source: pinterest.

Palaeontologists describe the prehuman world, a desolate and unrecognizable planet. Our beloved and enslaved earth had a secret, prehuman life. Not only did we not exist, but neither did our countries, continents or oceans. The territorial bases of humans and their nations and identities, geopolitics and religions, which we take so seriously now, were either primordial or absent. Modern humans are so self-involved that they forget that the planet once belonged to itself, a place we would find frightening, an antecessor that pre-existed everything our exploits might control.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Neptune the Mystic

Neptune's moon Triton is a dwarf planet, a captured body from the Kuiper Belt. The moon was photographed by Voyager 2 in 1989. Image Source: JPL/NASA.

Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft ever to visit Neptune and reached its closest point on 24 August 1989. The eighth planet was discovered on 23 September 1846 and was named for the Roman god of the sea. This gas giant has fourteen moons, all named after water nymphs and lesser sea deities. It has six rings, some of the fastest winds in the solar system, and a dark storm spot on its surface large enough to swallow the entire Earth. For the sound the planet makes from space, see my earlier post here.

Even today, astrologers maintain ancient religious values in their notions that Neptune dominates sleep and dreams, the imagination, ecstatic visions, mass entertainment, news as political theatre, and the 'eternal everything.' The planet can positively inspire the arts or negatively spin dark, mad fantasies. In his First World War Planets suite, composer Gustav Holst dedicated his musical poem to the planet as Neptune, The Mystic.

Image Source: Ruby Slipper.

Image Source: Illume Astrology.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Badlands of Pluto

This close-up view of Pluto's badlands shows the edge of the planet's incredible heart-shaped plain aka the Tombaugh Regio. Image Source: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI.

On 10 December 2015, NASA released high resolution photographs of the Plutonian landscape from the New Horizons July flyby. Above:
The images form a strip 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide, trending (top to bottom) from the edge of “badlands” northwest of the informally named Sputnik Planum, across the al-Idrisi mountains, onto the shoreline of Pluto’s “heart” feature, and just into its icy plains. They combine pictures from the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) taken approximately 15 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto, with – from a range of only 10,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) ... .
Below, a photograph of cratered terrain, released on 16 September 2015:
This 220-mile (350-kilometer) wide view of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft illustrates the incredible diversity of surface reflectivities and geological landforms on the dwarf planet. The image includes dark, ancient heavily cratered terrain; bright, smooth geologically young terrain; assembled masses of mountains; and an enigmatic field of dark, aligned ridges that resemble dunes; its origin is under debate. The smallest visible features are 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) in size. This image was taken as New Horizons flew past Pluto on July 14, 2015, from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers).
Cratered terrain, photographed on 14 July 2015 and released 16 September 2015. Image Source: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

And finally, from 24 September 2015, a view of the Tartarus Dorsa Mountains:
In this extended color image of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, rounded and bizarrely textured mountains, informally named the Tartarus Dorsa, rise up along Pluto’s day-night terminator and show intricate but puzzling patterns of blue-gray ridges and reddish material in between. This view, roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, 2015, and resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers).
The Tartarus Dorsa Mountains. Image Source: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Dunes of Mars

Image Source: NASA via The Planetary Society.

NASA's Curiosity rover is now crossing the Bagnold Dunes on the northwestern edge of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons), an 18,000 foot high mountain (a bit smaller than Mount Kilimanjaro, about the same size as Mount McKinley). Wiki on Curiosity's current status:
As of November 30, 2015, Curiosity has been on the planet Mars for 1179 sols (1211 days) since landing on August 6, 2012.
The mountain sits at the centre of the planet's Gale Crater and is named for geomorphologist Robert P. Sharp (1911-2004), an expert on the geological surfaces of Earth and Mars. Mount Sharp "is the 15000th named feature" in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, a list of all topographical features named in the solar system with the approval of the International Astronomical Union. Yes, the mountain's dune belt made me think of this opening film sequence.

NASA/JPL: "The dark band in the lower portion of this Martian scene is part of the 'Bagnold Dunes' dune field lining the northwestern edge of Mount Sharp, inside Gale Crater. The view combines multiple images taken with the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Sept. 25, 2015, during the 1,115th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. ... The view is toward south-southeast. Curiosity will visit examples of the Bagnold Dunes on the rover's route to higher layers of Mount Sharp. The informal name for the dune field is a tribute to British military engineer Ralph Bagnold (1896-1990), a pioneer in the study of how winds move sand particles of dunes on Earth." Images Source: NASA/JPL.