November 12, 2014

Got yer comet right here, buddy

IMO, Rosetta/Philae is the most impressive technical tour de force since Apollo 11. Congratulations to ESA for a job well done.

Phiale's got your comet
XKCD did a cartoon with running updates this morning.
(He was wrong about the harpoons in this version but has since corrected that.)
Philae touches down on the surface of a comet

London (CNN) -- Touchdown! The Philae probe has landed on the surface of a comet, scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Wednesday.

It is the first time a soft landing has been achieved on a comet.

However, project scientists believe anchors that hold the probe to the surface failed to work properly and are now trying to find out why, according to ESA tweets.

ESA lander system engineer Laurence O'Rourke told CNN that engineers are still checking the data to see "how we landed and where we landed."

Shortly after landing was confirmed, the probe tweeted: "Touchdown! My new address: 67P!" Later, it tweeted again: "I'm on the surface but my harpoons did not fire."

First image from the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from the Rosetta mission’s lander Philae (Photograph: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

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September 17, 2014

Rosetta selfie

Rosetta Mission Self-Portrait at Comet
The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander are exploring the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, capturing this amazing selfie as part of a camera test on Philae.

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10 years of flight

Path of the Rosetta craft since launch in 2004.

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August 22, 2013

I wonder what they'll christen her

Here's some follow up to last May's post, Anywhere on the globe in 4 hours. That was about Reaction Engines' SABRE, an engine which sounds like more than just a flash in the technological pan.

ESA Test Opens Way to UK Spaceplane Engine Investment

The UK government has announced plans to invest in the development of an air-breathing rocket engine – intended for a single-stage-to-orbit spaceplane – following the ESA-managed feasibility testing of essential technology.

The £60 million investment, provided through the UK Space Agency, will back technical improvements leading to construction of a prototype Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine, or SABRE.

Designed by UK company Reaction Engines Ltd, this unique engine will use atmospheric air in the early part of the flight before switching to rocket mode for the final ascent to orbit.

The concept paves the way for true spaceplanes – lighter, reusable and able to fly from conventional runways.

Reaction Engines plans for SABRE to power a 84 m-long pilotless vehicle called Skylon, which would do the same job as today's rockets while operating like an aeroplane, potentially revolutionising access to space.

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June 17, 2011

Endeavour's final mission

The InFocue photoblog has 38 pics from shuttle Endeavour's final mission.


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May 29, 2011

At the VLT

A hi-def time-lapse video shot at the ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile. (This is video of the telescopes, not from the telescopes.) Set it to 720P, if you have the bandwidth, and view it full screen.

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December 08, 2010

Return of the Dragon

Video and pix at the link.

Why the Dragon Spacecraft Success Opens a New Era In Space Exploration

Dragon orbited the planet gathering crucial data for future missions. Then it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, opening its parachute and splashing gracefully in the Pacific Ocean, right on its projected target—this hasn't happened since the Apollo years! The SpaceX crew has already recovered the capsule.

[...]This launch signals a new beginning in the age of space exploration. Congratulations, SpaceX.

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July 15, 2010

To infinity and beyond

After 12,000 Days in Space, Voyager 1 Heads for the Solar System Boundary

Next time you're marveling at the fact that Spirit and Opportunity have been roving Mars for over six years now, ponder this: the two Voyager spacecraft have been hurtling through our solar system for nearly 33 years. Today, Voyager 1 hits a mission milestone of operating continuously for 12,000 days. The spacecraft launched on September 5, 1977, while Jimmy Carter was president, and has now traveled 14 billion miles.

Voyager 1 made its closest approach to Jupiter in March 1979, coming to within about 217,000 miles of the planet's center and making detailed observations of Jupiter's moons. During its flyby of Saturn in November 1980, the spacecraft's cameras and remote sensing instruments revealed stunning images and information about Saturn's rings and atmosphere, as well as its giant moon Titan. In early 1990, Voyager 1 captured the now-famous image known as "Pale Blue Dot." As the spacecraft was on its way out of the solar system, astronomer Carl Sagan commanded it to turn its camera and take a picture of planet Earth dangling in the vastness of space.

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November 03, 2009

Saturn at equinox

The Big Picture has a great collection of photos of Saturn, its rings and its satellites.


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October 07, 2009

The Big One

Saturn's Infrared Ring

Full resolution Tif (1.0 Mb)

This artist's conception shows a nearly invisible ring around Saturn -- the largest of the giant planet's many rings. It was discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The artist's conception simulates an infrared view of the giant ring. Saturn appears as just a small dot from outside the band of ice and dust. The bulk of the ring material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). The ring's diameter is equivalent to roughly 300 Saturns lined up side to side.

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September 14, 2009

Hubble First Light

An impressive show of images from the recently refurbished Hubble Space Telescope.

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August 13, 2009

Hubble Ultra Deep Field

This is one of the most impressive clips about astronomy that I've seen. It explains recent work with the Hubble Ultra Deep Field photographs to create a 3D model from them. 4 minutes well spent.

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July 25, 2009

Next they'll tell us the LRO is a hoax


This is so so so freaking cool: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken pictures of the Apollo landing sites!

Holy Haleakala!

That's EXACTLY how I pictured it would look. That picture [of the Apollo 11 site - JdJ] shows the lower half of the Lunar Module, the part that stayed behind on the Moon when Armstrong and Aldrin blasted back up off the surface. It was essentially dead weight, so the LM was designed to split in half, with the top half (the aptly-named Ascent Module — click on the diagram on the right for details) going back up into orbit to meet with Michael Collins in the Command Module. From there they returned to Earth.

This is an LRO image of the Apollo 14 site.


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July 22, 2009


Jupiter Adds a Feature

Mauna Kea, Hawai'i—Jupiter's got a brand new mark. Something slammed into the gas giant leaving a dark bruise in the planet's atmosphere, scientists at Keck Observatory confirmed early on the morning of July 20 Hawaiian Standard Time.

The observation, made with the Keck II telescope, marks only the second time astronomers have seen such an impact on the planet. The first collision occurred 15 years ago, when more than 20 fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9) collided with Jupiter.

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July 13, 2009

Recreating Apollo 11

At they'll be recreating the Apollo 11 mission in real time, starting at 8:02 AM (Eastern) this Thursday.


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July 12, 2009

40 years ago

This coming Thursday is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 and Popular Mechanics has a retrospective on the Apollo 11 mission.


It's still difficult for me to imagine the fortitude it took for the crew to fly that mission.

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May 23, 2009

A toast to engineering

Drink up: Space station recycling urine to water

HOUSTON (AP) - At the international space station, it was one small sip for man and a giant gulp of recycled urine for mankind.

Astronauts aboard the space station celebrated a space first on Wednesday by drinking water that had been recycled from their urine, sweat and water that condenses from exhaled air. They said "cheers," clicked drinking bags and toasted NASA workers on the ground who were sipping their own version of recycled drinking water.

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April 16, 2009


A Young Pulsar Shows Its Hand

A small, dense object only twelve miles in diameter is responsible for this beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years. At the center of this image made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short. The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand.

In this image, the lowest energy X-rays that Chandra detects are red, the medium range is green, and the most energetic ones are colored blue. Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1,700 years old and is located about 17,000 light years away.


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January 13, 2009

In Saturn's shadow

A beautiful shot of Saturn eclipsing the sun, taken from the Cassini craft.


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January 08, 2009

Assembling the ISS

Here's a nice Flash animation (with dates) of the building of the International Space Station.


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October 25, 2008


India Launches First Unmanned Mission to Moon

India has launched its first unmanned mission to the Moon. The mission is a major boost to the country's space program, as India joins Asian nations China and Japan in exploring the Moon. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi.

The unmanned Chandayaan-1 spacecraft blasted off from a launch pad in Sriharikota in southern India, shortly after dawn, Wednesday, as the nation watched on television.

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September 29, 2008

Falcon 1 to orbit

SpaceX succeeded in putting their bird into orbit yesterday. Video below is 10 minutes.

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June 09, 2008

The view from Mars

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera would make a great backyard telescope for viewing Mars, and we can also use it at Mars to view other planets. This is an image of Earth and the moon, acquired on October 3, 2007, by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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February 09, 2008


Speaking of Known Space, check out this beautiful shot. (The small version below doesn't do it justice.)


As if emerging from a cocoon, space shuttle Atlantis races into the sky on mission STS-122 to the International Space Station. The launch is the third attempt for Atlantis since December 2007 to carry the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station. During the 11-day mission, the crew's prime objective is to attach the laboratory to the Harmony module, adding to the station's size and capabilities.

Image Credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph, Tony Gray, Robert Murray

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January 30, 2008

Meteor shower

How NASA makes shooting stars.



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December 24, 2007

Top 10 astronomy pix

This image comes from the Bad Astronomy blog's Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2007. This image is of two of Jupiter's moons, Europa and Io.

Europa is the crescent on the lower left, and Io ... is the one on the upper right. The plume you see is from the volcano Tvashtar, which has been active for quite some time now. If you look right at the bottom of the plume, you can see molten sulfur glowing red. Two other volcanoes appear to be making some noise as we

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November 16, 2007

Life in space

This clip by folks on the ISS is about both routine affairs and some zero G high jinks.


I simply can't imagine why the audio track is The Lion Sleeps Tonight. But the surprising thing is that it gives the clip a nice, light-hearted feel.

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October 16, 2007

10 years on for Cassini-Huygens

Wired has a collection of several photos taken by the Huygens probe of Saturn and its satellites.


Cassini-Huygens is a collaboration between NASA, ESA and Agenzia Spaziale Italiana that was launched October 15, 1997.


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August 08, 2007


This is a striking image indeed at Dan Harlow's gallery. It's an F-15 caught in flight during a space shuttle launch. The aircraft is there for a couple of reasons.


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June 29, 2007

One day in space

There's a really nice collection of 37 images at Dark Roasted Blend showing space shuttle Atlantis' rendezvous with the ISS. Most of them are of the astronauts or the craft, but this one is sunset over the Pacific ocean.


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June 28, 2007

Summer moon

For those in the northern hemisphere:

Summer Moon Illusion

June 27, 2007: Sometimes you can't believe your eyes. This weekend is one of those times.

On Saturday night, June 30th, step outside at sunset and look around. You'll see a giant moon rising in the east. It looks like Earth's moon with the usual craters and seas, but something's wrong. This full moon is strangely inflated. It's huge!

You've just experienced the Moon Illusion.

Above: A time-lapse sequence of the moon rising over Seattle. To the camera, the moon appears to be the same size no matter what its location on the sky. Credit and copyright: Shay Stephens.

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January 05, 2007

Walking on air

Image of a spacewalk at the ISS with New Zealand in the background. Click this thumbnail for a very high resolution (3032 x 2007) image.

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December 07, 2006

Keep looking up

An interesting video clip by Tony Darnell (sponsored by ESA/NASA) about the Ultra Deep field image taken by the Hubble Space telescope in 2003.

Think Pale Blue Dot.


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October 26, 2006

Mars Rover update

Keeping with this week's Final Frontier theme:

Mars Rover Beginning To Hate Mars

The Onion

Mars Rover Beginning To Hate Mars

PASADENA, CA—After nearly three years of nonstop data collection, Spirit has begun transmitting obscene gestures and confusing rants.

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October 25, 2006


One of two impressive images of a space shuttle launch from this site. The site claims these were taken from the ISS. Other folks claim they were taken from a chase plane. (What say you, CWF?)


Update: CodeWritinFool replies, "Chase plane. Two reasons:

1. NASA flies a plane known as WB-57 for this very purpose.

2. Shuttle flights to the ISS are launched when the ISS is OVER the Cape, generally +- 5 minutes. The fact that this image is shot from a side view says that the orbital planes are not likely to be coincident. Plane-change maneuvers require lots of fuel, something the Shuttle doesn't have a lot of once in-orbit."

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October 24, 2006

Virgin Galactic charter trips

This won't be news to those who follow space news, but I was suprised to find Nieman Marcus advertising charter trips aboard the (yet to be completed) SpaceShipTwo®.


Coming in 2009 - for less than $2M.

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September 25, 2006

Solar transit

This image shows a solar transit of the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Atlantis, taken by Thierry Legault.


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August 31, 2006

And then there were 8

Someone is selling a memorial shirt for Pluto.


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July 26, 2006

Infant stars

From the gallery at, this image of massive infant stars forming in the gas of Nebula N83B (NGC 1748):


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July 17, 2006

Genesis I

Bigelow Aerospace successfully deployed its inflatable, solar-powered prototype for a space hotel last Thursday.

Genesis I with the Earth in the background. The module's orbit is coming from the dark side of the Earth into daylight. The arm on the right is a side view of a forward solar array.


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July 13, 2006

Orders of magnitude

One of five images in a collection about astronomical scale.


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March 27, 2006

HiRISE the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera orbiting Mars AKA the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.


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March 01, 2006


Next ISS Commander's Spacewalk Golf Shot Raises Concerns
By Todd Halvorson
posted: 27 February 2006
1:36 p.m. ET

CAPE CANAVERAL - A spacewalking Russian cosmonaut plans to hit a golf shot outside the International Space Station this summer as part of a publicity campaign that already has raised safety concerns.

Clad in a cumbersome spacesuit and anchored to a specially designed tee box, Pavel Vinogradov will hit a six-iron drive along side the station's Russian segment, taking great care not to hook the ball into the outpost.

Nataliya Hearn, president and chief executive officer of Element 21 Golf Co., said Russian Federal Space Agency officials initially were concerned that fragile solar panels jutting from the station's Russian crew quarters might be struck.

But an extensive Russian test program -- one involving veteran cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev -- subsequently showed the golf shot in space would be safe, Hearn said.

"If they were not confident that there would not be any safety issues with the structural components of the International Space Station, they would never have gone ahead and approved the full mission," she said.

NASA managers are aware of the plans and are reviewing the safety issues.

The ball is expected to remain in orbit for three to four years.

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February 10, 2006

Cosmic tornado

The Astronomy Picture of the Day for February 3.


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January 19, 2006

Headed for Pluto

An image of today's launch of the Atlas V carrying NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to Pluto.


This snippet came a high-resolution image at the New Horizons mission site.

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December 27, 2005

At the Milky Way's center

From UCLA:

Galactic center

The center of our Milky Way galaxy, as seen in the infrared using the Keck Laser Guide Star (left panel) and the Keck Natural Guide Star (right). The white cross marks the location of the supermassive black hole.

Via A Welsh View.

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September 13, 2005

Now we're talkin'

4Frontiers Corporation, founded in 2005 and incorporated in the state of Florida, is an emerging space commerce company focused on the settlement of Mars. It recognizes the economic potential resulting from convergence of four frontiers – Earth orbit, Mars, the Moon, and Asteroids. Initial activities include development of profitable space technologies, consulting to key manufacturers and government agencies, and public outreach (and associated revenue streams).

4FrontiersA primary objective for 4Frontiers is to build an economically viable, permanent settlement on Mars derived from a majority of local materials. The company will accomplish this by developing key core technologies, establishing supporting business relationships, changing public perception of space settlements, and participating in the emerging inner solar system economy through discrete, achievable steps.

4Frontiers aims to be the premier Mars technology company and has attracted a distinguished staff ideally suited to the challenge. Economic development of the Mars system and its integration into the emerging solar system economy is central to our strategy. Ultimately, 4Frontiers will provide commercial and residential facilities on Mars and export raw materials from the Mars system which will energize Earth orbit and Lunar development.

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September 02, 2005

Magnificent Desolation


A new IMAX movie called "Magnificent Desolation/Walking on the Moon". Click the image to visit the site. (Flash, naturally.)

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August 04, 2005

STS 114

Here's the Image of the Day from NASA's Multimedia Highlights gallery for day 9 of the Space Shuttle mission.

STS 114 Day 9

You can view live video feeds (NASA TV) from the shuttle in Windows Media form or in RealPlayer form.

And here's a video clip of the shuttle doing a backflip (frame rate speeded up 5:1).

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July 26, 2005

Music of a sphere

Via slashdot, this report on the eerie sounds of Saturn's radio emissions.

Scientists at NASA have now heard proof (called 'Saturn kilometric radiation') that Saturn has a phenomenon similar to the earth's Northern Lights (aurora borealis). Talking about the eerie sounding noise, Dr. Bill Kurth with the University of Iowa says, "We believe that the changing frequencies are related to tiny radio sources moving up and down along Saturn's magnetic field lines. It couldn't sound any spookier if they added a Theremin."

Well worth checking out; it's uncanny.

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July 20, 2005

Surfin' the moon says:

Welcome to Google Moon

In honor of the first manned Moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969, we’ve added some NASA imagery to the Google Maps interface to help you pay your own visit to our celestial neighbor. Happy lunar surfing.

Google the moon

Via Hit & Run

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July 14, 2005

A Martian lake

This image of a frozen lake on Mars comes from ESA's Mars Express spacecraft and was published in Nature. You can find more images from the Mars Express craft here.

Martian lake

Image copyright © 2005 Nature Publishing Group.

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June 24, 2005

Day of the Comet

Pre-impactClick the image to visit NASA's site and read the whole article.

After a voyage of 173 days and 431 million kilometers (268 million miles), NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft will get up-close and personal with comet Tempel 1 on July 4 (EDT).

The first of its kind, hyper-speed impact between space-borne iceberg and copper-fortified probe is scheduled for approximately 1:52 a.m. EDT on Independence Day (10:52 p.m. PDT on July 3). The potentially spectacular collision will be observed by the Deep Impact spacecraft, and ground and space-based observatories.

Image: Artist's concept showing Deep Impact just before impact with comet Tempel 1. Image credit: Maas Digital.

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April 25, 2005

Happy anniversary, HST

An article at about the 15th anniversay of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. It includes an awesome image of the Eagle Nebula and one of the Whirlpool Galaxy (which appears in the pop-up below). Several galleries of Hubble photos are linked as well.

The Whirlpool Galaxy, M51, seen by Hubble in 2005.
Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI),
and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

And what better way to mark the occasion than with Monty Python's Galaxy Song? (Courtesy of Sarah.)

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April 20, 2005

Check it out

Great images of Io transiting Jupiter (click for a much larger image). Taken in French Polynesia by Leroi Teiva. Get the details here.

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March 10, 2005

Solar system on a page

I don't know where this came from but it's pretty cool. (Link to a very large image.)

If you like your one-page-solar-systems with a more traditional layout, see this page.

Posted by joke du jour at 09:30 PM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2005

Columbia's Arlington

The resting place of the space shuttle Columbia.

Our contributor writes, "See the amazing but sad photos at:"

February 1, 2004 -- The nearly 84,000 pieces of Space Shuttle Columbia debris recovered after the orbiter was lost one year ago today, now reside on the 16th floor of the building where Columbia was readied for launch.

On Friday, NASA invited reporters to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to view the repository inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.

"We think of this as the Arlington National Cemetery for Columbia," said Space Shuttle Launch Director Michael Leinbach. "This is Columbia's final resting place."

The media tour was in advance of the room being closed to all but reseachers and a select group of employees.

"It's not a museum," said Scott Thurston, NASA's leader for the Columbia Preservation Team. "We kind of think of it as more of a library. It's a place of learning."

The 7,000 square foot room, converted from engineering office space, is divided into two major areas. At the front are the larger, more recognizable pieces, including frames to the cockpit windows, remnants of the crew hatch, and the support skeleton of the vertical stabilizer "tail".

Also on display are the reconstructed leading edge panels from Columbia's left wing and the orbiter's data recorder.

"I think it's fair to say that the pieces that are out are the ones that helped us most in the investigation," Leinbach said. "But it was not intended that way."

Further into the repository, behind a room-wide banner signed by Columbia's STS-107 launch team, are rows of large boxes, each filled with debris that comprises the majority of the 84,147 pounds recovered. Each piece is individually numbered and catalogued, with manifests attached to each box. The debris is also visually indexed within a computer database.

"We know exactly where each piece of Columbia is," Leinbach said. "We could probably retrieve any piece of Columbia we wanted to in a couple of hours."

Absent from the main repository are the contents of the crew compartment. The cabin's remains are in a separate access-restricted room located nearby, controlled by the Astronaut Office.

All of Columbia's debris, including the crew compartment is available by request for study. As of Friday, NASA had received approximately 20 research proposals, most from universities, though requests may be made by anyone.

"It's a fitting end for [Columbia]," said Leinbach. "She will be used forever in study. So while her mission in space is over, her mission to the betterment of spacecraft designers is just now beginning."

Posted by joke du jour at 07:28 PM