Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mobile Space Apps Guide

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I downloaded a new space app to my phone and thought, HEY! Wouldn't it be cool if I had a list of every mobile space application I could find for hand-held devices?

I should learn to just slap myself in the head when such thoughts occur, and move on with my life. But no, I tried to find a list, finding only a few that were hideously out-dated, and then proceeded to comb both Apple and Android directories for every app with or involving: astronomical clocks, space mission, space agencies, eclipse simulators, orreries, rover driver sims, planet maps, moon phase calendars, astronomy dictionaries, and interactive solar systems.

Figured I'd find 30-40 apps. Nope, got 102 and still counting! Adding more as I find them tucked away in every corner of the internet, and I welcome any mention from readers of once I have missed, or your experience with any already listed.

Most are designed for iPhones, though many are compatible with iPad/iTouch. Those with pink text and asterisks* are specifically for Android. Click on each to see their creators, platforms, full descriptions and reviews... and note that a more formally tabled version of this guide is also available on pillownaut.com.

FREE! Aquarius (NASA)
Aquarius/SAC-D observatory mission by NASA and space agency of Argentina to study ocean salinity, freshwater paths and other factors affecting Earth's climate.

FREE! Ascent: Shuttle (NASA)
Commemorative video of STS-114, 117, and 124 Shuttle missions, including entire Ascent production with commentary, images, etc.

FREE! AstroApp: Space Shuttle Crew (NASA)
Every space traveler who flew on every Space Shuttle in the 30-year program, 1981 - 2011, sorted by name or by mission.

FREE! AstroApp: Space Station Crew (NASA)
17 partner countries support science in low Earth orbit aboard the ISS; every space traveler who flew on every expedition, sorted by name or mission.

$1.99 Astrock
Astronomical Clock: real-time sky map, daylight awareness, planet positions.

$0.99 AstroGizmo
88 modern constellations, planets, moon and all stars visible to the naked eye.

$14.99 Astromist
The largest pocket astronomer, available on multiple platforms, with nearly 20,000 images in huge libraries! Telescope control, Moon calendar, and Earth satellites simulator. Also: Mars, Jupiter, Comet & Asteroid assistants.

$9.99 Astromo
Orrery, Armillary, Ephemeris: see where in the zodiac the Sun, Moon and visible planets are, sunrise/sunset times.

$2.99 Astronomy Picture of the Day Viewer
POTD facts and wallpapers.

FREE! Astronomy Picture of the Day Lite
Slightly fewer POTD facts and wallpapers.

$0.99 Astronomy WhereIsIt *
Celestial objects, star refs, messier objects, horizon coordinates, etc.

Space apps for handheld devices
FREE! Astro Planner Lite
Astronomical deep sky objects like galaxies, nebulas and star clusters, plus link to NASA's Sky View servers.

FREE! AstroTools *
Hand-held Planetarium for the amateur astronomer, nice one for beginners.

FREE! Best of Astronomy *
Scientific information, videos and books on any astronomy topic with features to make and share reports on origin of universe, solar system, galaxies, black holes, big bang theory, famous scientists, etc.

FREE! Cassini (NASA)
Mission launched in 1997 exploring Planet Saturn and its moons; orbits, flybys, study data, news updates, maneuver.

FREE! CometQuest (NASA)
Land the Rosetta spacecraft on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and record surface craters and cracks, water or gas jets erupting, rock and ice of the bright tail, etc.

FREE! CosmoCalc
Set a reference cosmology and redshift to calculate astronomical distances and size scales.

FREE! CraterSizeXL
Calculates predicted results of asteroid impact event on various planets.
Yeah, gee, that's not morbid at all.

FREE! Daily Astronomy *
Displays NASA's astronomy photo of the day except when there's a video.

$5.49 Deep Sky Browser
Access to the Digital Sky Survey with 45,000+ celestial objects.

$9.99 Distant Suns
Night Sky Network Star-gazing, star data, constellation labels, etc.

FREE! DLR - German Aerospace Center
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V's online magazine, missions and activities.

Astronomy Mobile ApplicationsFREE! Earth Now (NASA)
3D models of global climate data from Earth Science satellites: air temps, carbon dioxide & monoxide, ozone, water vapor, gravity and sea level variations.

$0.99 Emerald Observatory
Astronomical clocks, orrery, star charts, moon phases, eclipse simulator, etc.

FREE! ESA OSHI
European Space Agency Online Showcase of Herschel Images; Hershel Space Observatory carries the most powerful infrared telescope ever flown in space.

FREE! ESO TOP 100
European Southern Observatory images, music and descriptions from the world's most advanced ground telescopes in Chile.

FREE! Exoplanet
Database of all extrasolar planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission.

FREE Fermi Sky
Fermi gamma-ray space telescope images, supermassive black holes, merging neutron stars, etc.

$0.99 Galaxy Collider
Graphical simulator for physics of interacting and/or colliding galaxies.

FREE! Galaxy Zoo
Help astronomers classify galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey according to shape and other properties.

FREE! Google Sky Map *
Android window on the night sky, showing constellations, planets and stars.

iTunes and Android Astronomy Apps
$9.99 GoSatWatch
Real-time earth-orbit satellite tracking, including the International Space Station (ISS).

$3.99 GoSkyWatch Planetarium
Point to the sky with your device to use as a personal telescope to locate stars, planets, constellations, galaxies.

FREE! Go StarGaze
Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the largest general astronomy society in the world, helps find stargazing events and astronomy clubs.

FREE! GRAIL (NASA)
Gravity And Interior Laboratory twin probes now circling Earth's moon.

FREE! GravLens
Gravitational lensing astrophysical phenomenon, where light of a distant galaxy is bent by a massive foreground galaxy.

FREE! HubbleSite
Space Telescope Science Institute presents a gallery of Hubble Space Telescope wallpapers and descriptions.

FREE! Hubble Space Telescope *
Planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies as catalogued by Edwin Hubble's namesake.

FREE! Hubble Top 100
European Southern Observatory Hubble gallery, set to music, with descriptions.

mobile space apps
$0.99 iMoonU
Moon phases calendars for any date, past, present or future; also, countdown clock for full moons.

FREE! Invisible Universe *
Point your device at the sky and see the non-visible ranges as opposed to visible! Rare!

$0.99 ISolarScape
Location-based observatory for sun, moon, planets, asteroids and NASA missions.

FREE! iSpaceNews
NASA and ESA history, media, news and images.

FREE! ISS CDR
International Space Station on-orbit status, tasks, news, arrivals, and departures.

$8.99 iStellar
HUGE Planisphere 1900-2099 with planets, stars that twinkle, constellations, eclipse sims, meteor showers, comet paths, Milky Way map, etc.

$2.99 Jupiter Atlas
3-D Globe images of planet Jupiter and the four Galilean Moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and Io.

$2.99 Kepler
Professional astronomer-updated exoplanet database from NASA's Kepler mission, plus Milky Way map and correlation diagrams.

mobile astronomy apps
$0.99 Living Earth HD
3-D Earth globe with weather satellite updates, world clock, sunrise/sunset times, etc. GORGEOUS IMAGERY!!

$0.99 Lúan
Lúan is an Old Irish Gaelic name for the moon; app shows Lunation tables per time zone, animated lunar transitions, moon and sun rising and setting times, etc.

$3.99 Luminous
Planisphere and simulator, with data on celestial objects. Can be set up to match your sky or to show you the sky from any date or location.

FREE! Lunar Electric Rover Simulator (NASA)
Drive on the moon! Support the activities of a functioning Lunar Outpost, using multiple difficulty levels in the most recently developed LER.

$5.99 Mars Atlas
3-D globe of planet Mars with zoomable terrain and labels.

FREE! Mars Globe
High-resolution satellite maps of Mars with labels; aerial terrain, and also views from various Rovers.

$2.99 Mercury Atlas
3-D globe of planet Mercury with zoomable terrain and labels.

FREE! Messier List
Images, data and positions of French Astronomer / Comet-Hunter Charles Messier's famed list of nebulae, clusters, galaxies, etc.

list of space apps for iPhone
$3.99 Mobile Observatory *
Planisphere with point & view function for any location or date/time; solar system views, eclipses, sun rise & set times, moon phases, constellations, etc.

FREE! Moon
Lunar phases, moonrises and sets, azimuth and altitude, and distance for current or or any other date.

$5.99 Moon Atlas
3-D globe of Earth's Moon satellite with zoomable terrain and labels.

FREE! Moon Globe
3-D views of the moon with labels and surface features from satellite imagery.

$1.99 MoonLight
Lunar phases for any date, views of the moon from any location on Earth.

$0.99 Moon Phase Pro *
Lunar phases on a 3-D globe for any date, plus moon-phases calendar, syzygies, rises & sets, etc.

FREE! NASA For Android *
Official NASA space agency App for Android.

FREE! NASA For iPhone
Official NASA space agency App for iPhone (and iPod Touch).

FREE! NASA Be A Martian
Mars maps, images, news, missions, Q&A for learning, alien avatars, etc. Open source project based on beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov.

list of space apps for Android
FREE! NASA Image Archive for Android *
60k+ space agency images in five categories: Universe, Solar System, Earth, Aeronautics, Astronauts.

FREE! NASA Now
Regularly updated NASA news-feed the NASA Image Of The Day, and the latest from various NASA missions.

FREE!NASA Space Weather Media Viewer
Near real-time imagery from NASA missions, scientist interviews about space phenomena, and NASA-created space visualizations.

FREE! NASA Television
Live or on-demand TV programming from The NASA channel.

$1.99 Night Sketch
Basic planisphere showing the sky above your device, where you can connect stars to create and share constellations.

$14.99 Oxford Astronomy
The entire massive Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy: 4000+ entries on all aspects of galaxies compiled by 20+ experts.

FREE! Orbit Architect
Change parameters of satellite orbits and then see animation of results; also, real-time ground tracking of sats.

$1.99 PlanetFacts Plus
Catalog of images and information about the bodies in the solar system, including dwarf planets, with maps to show scale.

NASA Mobile applications
FREE! Planets
Planishere Sky 2-D and 3-D switchable program which shows the location and orbital paths of planets, Sun & Moon with visibility information for your location. Constellations in the backdrop.

$0.99 Planisphere
Shows zoomable sky above the phone or for any location; shows rise & set times, and star constellations.

$2.99 Pocket Universe: Virtual Sky Astronomy
Planisphere with constellation outlines, lunar phases, planets in the solar system, moons of Jupiter and Saturn, with Q&A function.

FREE! Portal To The Universe
Magazine style consolidator web site organized by ESO/IAU/ESA, showing scientific breakthroughs, news and space blog posts from the worlds observatories, agencies and educational institutions.

$11.99 Redshift-Astronomy
Most sophisticated planisphere available, showing the sky above your device, 3-D solar system, massive catalog of stars and celestial objects; also, deep space objects and scale flights to / around them.

FREE! Satellite Insight (NASA)
Critical real-time weather data from the GOES-R weather satellite in a game.

$0.99 Satellites
NORAD and NASA tracking of the International Space Station (ISS) and other orbiting hardware.

$2.99 Saturn Atlas
3-D globe of planet Saturn and its 7 largest moons, with surface features.

$0.99 Sky Master
Solar System simulator and planetarium of the sky at any time/date, based on your Earth location; planets, stars, constellations and galaxies.

NASA mobile apps for smartphones
$4.99 SkyQ
Planisphere and multimedia sky guide from telescope manufacturer; audio tours, moon phases, planet & satellite positions, etc.

FREE! SkyOrb
3-D star map, 3D planetarium, ephemeris, search engine, solar clock, etc.

FREE! Sky Safari *
Planisphere showing sky above your device, catalog of thousands of celestial objects and renderings.

$1.99 SkyView - Explore the Universe
Planisphere showing objects and descriptions based on device point; artificial satellite paths, 3D graphics, etc.

FREE! Solar Dynamics Observatory (NASA) *
Video and high-resolution images of the Sun, solar atmosphere, and its affect on near-Earth objects from the NASA SDO satellite.

$0.99 Solar Max *
Latest Hi-Res images from the NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SoHO) satellite.

$2.99 Solar Walk
3D Dynamic Solar System model you can fly through at any date, with movie mode and music (3-D TV option if you have 3-D glasses).

FREE! Space Images for Android (NASA) *
Hundreds of images taken by NASA spacecraft studying planets, stars, galaxies, weather on Earth and more.

FREE! Space Images for iPhone (NASA)
Hundreds of images taken by NASA spacecraft studying planets, stars, galaxies, weather on Earth and more.

$4.99 Space Junk *
Based on your location, shows Earth view, planets, constellations and will track the Hubble Space Telescope, International Space Station, hundreds of satellites, etc.

download space apps
FREE! Star & Planet Finder
Select a celestial object such as a star or planet, and app will help you find it using a pointer.

$2.99 Star Chart *
Based on your location, Planisphere app shows constellations, Moon, planets, etc.

$3.99 Star Charts
Not for beginners! 18 extremely detailed charts based on atlas by famed celestial cartographer Wil Tirion.

$1.99 StarMap 3D
Star atlas program for that shows the sky for your location and gives information for selected planets, stars, constellations, star clusters, galaxies, and nebulae.

$11.99 Star Map
High-quality Planisphere show sky above device at any time; 350k+ catalogued stars, and advice for astronomers on best viewing locations, landscapes + horizon profiles, and observation conditions, such as weather, moonlight and possible sources of city light pollution; also calendars, animation, night vision mode, etc.

$0.99 Star Rover
Planisphere app with point & view function for stars, moon phases, planets, etc.

$2.99 Star Walk
Point and view planesphere which also includes satellite tracking, calendar, moon phases, plus the Astronomy Picture of the Day.

FREE! Stellarium
Mobile version of the popular open-source planisphere program with constellation views and detailed professional data.

mobile space apps guide
$2.99 SunDroid Pro *
Calculates path of Sun & Moon, all rises and sets, twilights, golden hours, etc.for any date, anywhere in the world.

FREE! Swift Explorer
Swift Mission Operations Center at Penn State University shows NASA's search for gamma-ray bursts.

$2.99 Terra Time *
Real-time interactive Earth globe, showing day/night, weather via satellite data, seasons, lunar phases, twilight times, etc.

FREE! 3D Sun
Sun model based on NASA's STEREO spacecraft images with alerts for major updates or events such as solar flares.

$2.99 Venus Atlas
3-D globe of Venus with 2000+ surface features; also shows the phase of Venus from your location.

$0.99 What's Up
Basic beginner app that shows location of Sun, Moon, and planets in the sky.

FREE! Where Is Io *
Current positions of the Galilean moons, rise and set times for planets, and information about solar system objects.

$4.99 Wolfram Astronomy Course Assistant
Facts, formulas, and tools for helping with introductory astronomy;includes high-res diagrams with 100k stars, sky phenomena, Drake equation data, etc.

$4.33 Zenith Mobile Telescope *
Watch hundreds of stars, constellations, and solar system planets. Also, images of galaxies and nebulae from the Hubble Space Telescope.


This list is also on the Pillownaut domain in a more structured format than I am able to accomplish on blogger.com, and when printed, will generally yield about 12 pages. So for heaven's sake, don't print it. ;)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Regolith Castles

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Enrico Dini, my new hero! Inhabitat, a green design forum that highlights new developments in design and architecture shows Pisan engineer-slash-inventor creating a 3-D architectural printer that can create buildings and someday... a moon base?!

I've seen Moleculaire's three-dimensional Food Printer in action, but edible material is easier to layer than... stone. Architects have used 3-D printers to "model" designs in recent years, but now they can print a building? On site. Full size.

So, of course, our SyFy-trained noggins leap ahead to when Moon Dust Igloos will be all the trendy rage.

Enrico Dini D-Shape 3D Architectural Printer
By suspending rigging over a building area, the huge D-Shape system uses rows of spigots to spray (waterless) binding glue atop a layer of sand, compacting the mix into rock. The process is repeated, building upward into whatever design was initially programmed into the printer.

3D allows previously impractical forms to be created, and accuracy is within 25 dpi. Also, since it requires no complex processes such as heating calcium carbonates (limestone) to create cement mixes, CO2 emissions are reduced.

As part of the European Space Agency's Aurora Programme, Dini is working with various contractors to modify D-Shape so that it will work with lunar regolith.

Enrico Dini, Chairman of Monolite UK Ltd.


The Italian show "Real Lives" introduces Dini and his grande macchina! It really starts rocking around the 00:50 second mark, when the camera moves all around the giant printer in action. At 1:15, you'll see the CAD/CAM software "visualize" animated projections, and get a true feel for the scale and textures.

Nice sculpture. Cathedral, anyone? Dini says his dream is to use the machine to complete la Sagrada Família, the infamous Barcelona church that has been under construction since 1882.

How many of these would he need to... actually rebuild Rome in a day?? ;)

Dini claims the D-Shape printer is four times faster than conventional building, costs less, yields almost no waste, is better for the environment and makes creating unusually-shaped structures much easier. Even things like columns and long cavities for wiring/piping are easily programmed and executed.

D-Shape Designs
However, I wouldn't run around echoing Inhabitat's "Voilà! Instant Regolith Resort!" sentiment just yet. The word "instant" is wishful thinking. Like anything else sent into space, development will include colossal amounts of preliminary work concerning weight, safety, travel costs and the reality of how the machine will operate in the moon's low gravity. Maybe they can test it on Earth with this stuff.

Ad astra per aspera!

Monday, March 19, 2012

AstroCappella

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I've had such a fun time listening to "AstroCappella" music by an amazing group called The Chromatics, who recorded their first CD with the help of a NASA IDEAS grant (Initiative to Develop Education through Astronomy and Space Science).

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where the a-capella group originated, still features the singers on their website, where you can hear a lively version of The Sun Song...

The Chromatics
Left to Right: Padi = AstroPhysicist Soprano
Karen = Solar Scientist Alto & Mezzo
Alan = AstroPhysicist Tenor
Barry = Architect Tenor
Deb = Database Designer Soprano
John = Satellite Astronomer Baritone

I also searched around YouTube (a bit of a trick, since there is also an Oregonian Synth-Punk band with the same name), but I found the AstroCap YT Channel, which features a few clips of the spacey-group's live performances.

The Chromatics CD CoversThis harmonious form of musical astronomy was developed by the members of the Chromatics for education and public outreach, and all of their tunes are "astronomically correct"! My favorite was their humorous "Bad Hair Day" -- but they also cover comets, asteroids, Mars exploration, the phases of the moon, the habitable zone of our solar system, gamma rays and even a Historical Overview of Telescopes in the "HST-Bop." Highly entertaining!

They were even commissioned by the Johannes Kepler Project to write a special song for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 called "Shoulders of Giants", which detailed Galileo's first observations of space through his newly-developed telescope in 1609.

Chromatics Christmas CDThey even have a Christmas CD! I purchased this entire set on iTunes along with some of their other selections, and I'm rather partial to "Pachelbel's Tantrum" ;)

Join their Facebook Fan Page or follow the Chromatics Twitter Feed to see when and where they conduct public performances.

Or, check out their AstroCapella Project to see how you can make the most of "the marriage of music & astronomy" to entertain at schools or introduce unique entertainment to your science, museum or planetarium public event!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Goddard's Rocket

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86 years ago today, Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard (1882-1945) launched the first liquid fueled rocket on March 16, 1926 in Massachusetts. Constructed out of pipes, and fueled by gasoline and liquid oxygen, his 10-foot-tall rocket traveled to an altitude of 41 feet at 60mph.

Robert Goddard
The Chinese military invented gunpowder-based rockets in the 13th century. In the 1800s, British engineers made further advances toward "rocket science." In 1903, Russian inventor Konstantin Tsiolkovsky published a theory about using rocket engines in space – though such speculations were still based on solid fuels with far lower exhaust velocity.

Physics professor Robert Goddard was the first to patent a liquid-propellant rocket design in 1914, and spent the next three decades tackling technical issues with burn rate, pressurization, fuel-injection, and igniter systems.

In 1920, the Smithsonian published his treatise, A Method for Reaching Extreme Altitudes, in which he claimed rockets might reach the Moon. The New York Times ridiculed Goddard's work as foolishness, implying he knew less than an average high-schooler if he thought crafts could ever leave Earth’s atmosphere. He responded, "Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace."

Robert Goddard, Harry Guggenheim & Charles Lindbergh
Harry F. Guggenheim, Dr. Robert H. Goddard,
& Col. Charles A. Lindbergh (1930)

Lacking official U.S. Governmental support, Goddard secured a Guggenheim grant with the help of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, with which they set up a testing site in Roswell, New Mexico. His team's milestones between 1930-1942 included:

  • First exploration of mathematics of propulsion to reach high altitudes.
  • First rocket operation in a vacuum (proving it needs no air to push against).
  • First development of rocket fuel pumps.
  • First scientific payload (barometer & camera) in a rocket flight.
  • First development of gyro control apparatus for rocket flight.

They ceased operations during WWII to help develop boosters for Navy seaplanes. (During these years, Germany led the world in rocket development, devastating many areas of Britain with guided missiles.)

Goddard passed away in 1945, by then holding 214 rocketry patents. Years later, scientists at the dawn of space exploration realized it was impossible to build an efficient rocket without utilizing Goddard's propulsion research. His work proved to be the foundation for human space flight, and 3 days before the Apollo lunar landing in 1969, the NY Times printed a retraction of their insulting 1920 editorial.

Robert H. Goddard

"Don't you know about your own rocket pioneer?
Dr. Goddard was ahead of us all." ~ Wernher von Braun

Sadly, Robert Goddard didn't live to see the space age, but NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, was named in his honor.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Roscosmos Tour!

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Pinch me, I must be dreaming! The MIR Corporation, a Seattle-based travel tour entity un-related to the Space Station of the same name, is now offering an exclusive tour that allows access and even optional Cosmonaut training tasks inside the Russian Federal Space Agency!

That last part is contingent on a medical exam, but... still... WOW. This gives a whole new meaning to Space Camp. And the 10-day package will only set you back $14,000 dollars -- or about 415,000 roubles.

Soyuz Simulator Star City
GCTC's Soyuz Simulator

Scheduled for October 2012, the tour will be led by Dr. Steven Lee of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, who also has Hubble history on Mars, and served as a research scientist at Boulder's Space Science Institute (SSI).

First stop: Moscow! Well, northeast of Moscow. The Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in "Star City" is obviously no longer a TOP SECRET kinda site if they allowing Yankee tourists! Here, one can enter the MIR and ISS simulator mock-ups, see the world's largest centrifuge, and tour the esteemed Star City Space Museum, which includes Russian and Soviet space program artifacts. Among each era are the space capsules and space suits, the original launch pad from the Sputnik missions, the Cold War Bunker, and even a reproduction of Yuri Gagarin's office.

(Note: Not to be confused with the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics inside the Moscow metropolis near Ostankino.)

Tour of Roscosmos
Mother of all Centrifuges

Next stop, Baikonur! Just a short jaunt to Kazakhstan to watch the rollout of a Soyuz rocket at the Cosmodrome, ho hum, how ordinary. NOT. As long as you're there you may as well tour the old Buran hangar where Russian rockets are now assembled, and a visit to the Energia and Proton launch pads.

On October 15th, the Soyuz TMA-06M will blast off from The Gagarin Start, carrying three Expedition 33/34 crew members to the ISS that you will get to meet, prior to flight (NASA Commander Kevin Ford, and RFSA Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin).

Moscow Mission Control
Moscow Mission Control: пилотирyемые полеты в CCCP
Translation of text on top left: "Piloted Flights in USSR"
or what we'd call "Manned Spaceflight Missions"
(Click picture to see larger image, compliments of Mike Allyn)

And as if the rest of us don't already hate you enough for being able to go to this when we mere impoverished mortals cannot, the last two days will be a return to Moscow for a tour of Mission Control, and the vast Energia Space Museum.

You'll also have time to see the usual touristy sites such as the Kremlin and Red Square – and if you're still just dripping money by then, you can take an optional travel package to St. Petersburg.

SO HAVE FUN, YOU SNOB!

Monday, March 12, 2012

RTFM

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And now, released for KINDLE and... what's that antique form of reading material? Oh right, paperback...

Actually, the paperback of this old favorite has been out for awhile, but it seems digital forms of ways to READ BOOKS are actually moving faster now than SPACE TECHNOLOGY. Go figure.

Seems the hardbacks are getting harder to come by, and I'm beginning to think people have too much time on their hands if they're still requesting audio books. But then, if it inspires space buffs, I'm all for it.

As Stephen Hawking said, it's odd that at the pinnacle of scientific achievement in many fields, fewer and fewer youngsters aim to be scientists. Why is that, exactly? It cannot possibly be a shortage of reading material... I lost track of all the space-related materials released in the past few years to coincide with Apollo anniversaries, Russian milestone anniversaries, Space Shuttle retirement and plasma dynamics development and the intended evolution of space tourism.

It's rather depressing that the Amazon page for this book still has the 2009 release notes: "As early as 2010, paying customers will have the opportunity to experience weightlessness, courtesy of Virgin Galactic." Well, that didn't happen, did it.

Rocket ship
Do kids still do this? Do we need them to? Laugh if you like, but the boys in that picture probably thought we'd have an entire colony on Mars now.

Why don't we? And what will kick start the next wave? Will civilians be routinely launched into orbit? Are private sector billionaires poised to spur interest in new rocket science technologies where once only space agencies ruled?

If we plan to get to Mars by the 2030s or 2040s, and the average age of a space-faring explorer is about 37 years old, take a look around you at the age range that will be in training when we finally have the technology to make a Mars landing a reality.

Mission Control of the Future Laugh again, but you're looking at the future -- I hope. They're either about to take Driver's Ed class... or downloading Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber tunes to their smartphones. That's right, the ones with the toe rings and the spiky haircuts who won't pull up their pants... right down to the ones having Disney princess parties and water pistol wars.

They're going to Mars. Around the time I'm finally dipping into my IRA and learning how to knit. Food for thought. And it makes me want to buy every kid alive under the age of 15 a book about space travel... a Buzz Aldrin action figure... tickets to a planetarium... a toy rocket... a week at Space Camp...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Attitude Mercurial

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In reviving my space trivia series on Twitter, I realized while going through my planetary research notes that I have completely neglected the smallest of our innermost and terrestrial planets, the lovely hot Mercury! How did that happen? Well, Mars is such a squeaky wheel, Mercury tends to get lost in the shuffle.

Crazy About A Mercury
I love Bing.

And Mercury is populated! Well... there are cities named Mercury in Alabama, Nevada, Texas, and Savoie, France. Cheap joke. But here you are, reading it.
Seriously -- planet Mercury, closest to our sun, smallest floating rock without being demoted to "dwarf" and the smallest axial tilt. Yeah, that one. Mr. Speedy, who orbits our parent star every 87.969 Earth days.

Assyrian astronomers in the 14th century BC were the first to record their observations of planet Mercury, on the famed Mul.Apin tablets, where its cuneiform name translates to "the jumping planet". Babylonians also recorded Mercury a few hundred years later, naming it "Nabu" after a messenger god.

Cuneiform Mul.Apin tablets
Ibn al-Shatir model for appearances of Planet Mercury

Later, the Greeks mistook Mercury for two planets, calling it "Apollo" at sunrise, and "Hermes" at sunset. Around 400 BC they realized this visible celestial body was one and the same, and it fell exclusively to Hermes, the winged messenger of the gods of Olympus. Romans equated the Greek Hermes with "Mercurius", the name from which "Mercury" eventually derived.

Humans sent 94 crafts to the moon, 39 crafts to Mars, 21 to Venus, and 2 to Mercury: Mariner 10 in 1974 and MESSENGER in 2011. Mercury missions alone have a 100% success rate... which is already pretty good, considering the massive technical challenges to studying Mercury up close!

Bepi Colombu Mercury Mission
Bepi Columbo Approaching Mercury

Bepi Columbo, a joint dual-probe mission of ESA & JAXA, will be next! One probe will map the planet, using spectrometers to study the planet in infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma. The other probe will measure Mercury's magnetosphere.

Upon completion, we'll know much more about Mercury's hot plains, impact craters and basins, magnetic field, core and crust and his unusually criss-crossing rupes.

The BC mission is named for Giuseppe Colombo (1920–1984), Italian scientist at the University of Padua, who developed the gravity-assist maneuver commonly used by planetary probes. Colombo devised the trajectory of NASA's Mariner 10, the first and only spacecraft to encounter Mercury during the 20th century.

And while we're on the subject of Mercury as a whole...

Hermes
Big. Damn. Villain.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ThunderDome: Spock vs. Sheldon

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So, today we will be discussing Rush Limbaugh!

I jest. I'd rather parachute into a solar flare. Sadly, in the vortex of darkness that was the last week in national news, something so much more crucial was lost in the shuffle: SPOCK MET SHELDON ON BIG BANG THEORY.

Leonard Nimoy Twitter
He was as excited about it as we are to see it!

I love that Leonard Nimoy, at the age of 80, has embraced Twitter -- and that he ends all of his tweets with LLAP!

He recently confirmed his filming day with the BBT cast, though rumor has it that he is only confined to a "voiceover" of a Spock action figure in this round. The producers have apparently worked on him for awhile to take a speaking part (along with TNG Star Trek alums Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton and LeVar Burton), but for the moment we shall content ourselves with him being the first TOS actor to grace the BBT studio.

Sheldon Cooper
Will they play Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock? Will additional DNA samples be forthcoming -- or will he meet his own clone, created by Sheldon from the original Cheesecake Factory napkin?! Will Rush Limbaugh acknowledge on the air that the little girl who played Blossom grew up to get a PhD in neuroscience before taking the part of Amy Farrah Fowler for fun? Time will tell.

The Nimoy episode will air on prime time, Thursday, March 29th, on the CBS Television Network.



Shout out to the Barenaked Ladies for what I consider the cleverest TV show theme song ever. I am fabulously impressed with any band who use the words autotroph, Pangea and australopithecus in a rock'n'roll song.

Tich Tor Ang Tesmur.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Justin Bieber's Fence

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So what is everyone's problem with Justin Bieber, exactly? Is he ugly by today's standards? Adolescent girls don't seem to think so, and if hair styles are any indication, a whole lotta adolescent boys don't seem to think so either.

Can he not sing? I've only heard one song, and sought out a few clips on iTunes just to hear him. I probably didn't hear enough to judge, but my musical tastes were set in the 1980s, and he isn't precisely my cup of Darjeeling. However, the sound didn't fling me into convulsions or scramble for the mute button.

Biebernaut?

Seems an astronomer wants to put Justin Bieber in space ... "to help jump-start the emerging suborbital spaceflight industry."

Also seems some people have a problem with this. Why? I remember a similar suggestion involving Lance Bass of 'N Synch a few years ago. Space tourists who can pay millions have trained for missions and gone to space. In our consumer cultures, how big of a stretch can it be to have a promotional passenger?

I Bing'd the kid on the internet. Justin Bieber's biography says he taught himself to play four musical instruments as a child, living in low-income housing with his single mother. He also played hockey and chess on organized teams. Doesn't sound like a silver-spoon story to me. Sounds like a normal, well-rounded kid who created exactly the sort of rise to success that capitalist societies should laud and admire.

So what's the problem with him being a cute teenager? I'm not sure what the bashing bandwagons are all about here. What am I missing?

I'm thinking this guy would be an easy sell...

In the first place, I support more Canadians in space. The Canadian Space Agency is amazing, and could use a great deal more attention if one of their citizens took an early commercial flight. There's no reason the first splash should be American.

In the second place, anyone selected would go through the same qualifications process for varying types of flights, and no one gets out of the requisite training. If Justin Bieber couldn't handle the drills, he would not be cleared for launch.

In spite of the positive press this might generate, and widespread interest from age groups that space agencies CLAIM to seek, every single article I've read about this young man has included thinly-veiled insults and snarky digs. Seems petty.

Why not give him a chance?!