Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy 25th Anniversary Hubble!


Wow, it seems like just yesterday, we were celebrating Hubble's 21st birthday, back when the intrepid eye-in-the-sky was old enough for a beer!

On April 24, 1990, STS-31 Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off on its mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) into orbit. This amazing astronomical observatory, a joint NASA-ESA project, has now been orbiting above Earth's atmosphere and observing celestial bodies for more than two solid decades!
Full-size Hubble Space Telescope mockup in the Smithsonian
(The "Structural Dynamic Test Vehicle")

Named after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953), the HST is capable of taking extremely sharp images in ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared wavelengths, and many of its captures have led to incredible astrophysical breakthroughs, not the least of which is accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe. In our own neighborhood, HST taught us a great deal about TNOs, dwarf planets and KBOs; and the very farthest objects seen, in Hubble Ultra Deep Field, or HUDF, are galaxies 13 billion light years away!!

To date, Hubble has observed more than a million celestial targets and amassed more than 100 terabytes of data in multiple archives!

Not too shabby for a telescope with a rather... inauspiciously blurry beginning!
Click to embiggen

Plaque reads: "Inside Hubble is one large, round, curved mirror and other smaller mirrors that focus light into cameras and other scientific equipment. When Hubble was launched and scientists first turned it on, they had a problem: the pictures were blurry! It's large, round mirror accidentally had the wrong curved shape, so the telescope couldn't focus. Luckily, the problem could be fixed by adding more small mirrors to the telescope, and in 1993, a crew of astronauts flew up and carefully slid them into place.  It was like putting on a pair of eyeglasses. Suddenly, Hubble could see stars, galaxies, and gas clouds much fainter and farther than anyone had ever seen before."
Before and After
Click to embiggen again

In May 2009, the fifth and final service mission, STS-125 Atlantis, captured Hubble to replace gyroscopes, computers, and scientific instruments over a whopping 37 hours of space walks! With that marathon upgrade, they made the telescope 100 times more powerful than when it launched. Human hands (or rather spacesuit gloves) won't touch it again, but hopefully it will last at least another decade.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Artoo in Love


So today I get to hit you with the best three minutes and thirty seconds you have ever seen on YouTube. And if you're a fan of Star Wars, you will of course consider this an R2-D2 "spinoff" film -- hopefully the first of many??

The aerial shots and special effects alone are worth the cinematic interest, the sound effects are a crack-up, and to anyone who has grown up watching Star Wars (and that's all of us), it's stunning the degree to which this little droid can still draw adoration from our hearts.
"I don't know. Fly casual."

Who hasn't fallen head-over-wheels in love this way, fallen into depression after being chase off by a Sithy-bot, but then prevailed by finding an even better electrical match? Aww, don't cry over stolen mailboxes, R2. (Because C-3PO totally would have called her "Yoko," anyway.)

You're nodding. See, I knew it.

We've all been there:

See YouTube Page for full Film Credits

The short-and-sweet film was written and directed by engineer Evan Atherton, who together with the star's R2-D2 builder and film producer Grant McKinney, used Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop in San Francisco to 3D print parts for R2-KT (the pink robot love interest).

STAR WARS meets 3-D PRINTERS. It's all too magical.

"Artoo in Love" premiered at the Sonoma Film Festival, drawing attention, articles, and reviews from the likes of Esquire, Boing Boing, the New York Daily News, the Dork Side, Huffington Post, and my personal favorite, San Francisco Travel. Wow! Not too shabby for a debut short!

It even crossed the pond to appear in the UK's Mirror. As it spreads around the world, one wonders if there is no Tinder equivalent for hardware?

R2-D2 builder Grant McKinney (left) with pals at Yuri's Night
(Space Shuttle Endeavour Pavilion - CA Sciences Center)
Photo Credit: Gerard Fajardo

Be sure you watch "Artoo In Love" a few times -- appreciating the amazing original score! Laughter, tears, lightning bolts! This has it all.

And I'm not just saying that because it was filmed in San Francisco, my home city, and, in my not even remotely humble opinion, the absolute BEST skyline in the world. But that part didn't hurt.   

Robot romance in the future site of Starfleet Headquarters?? That's the stuff.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Countdown to Yuri's Night!


 On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to enter space. Secured in a small capsule named Vostok 1, he launched from Leninsk, Kazakhstan (now renamed "Baikonur"), the first and still-largest space launch facility in the world. The 27-year-old cosmonaut made a historic 106-minute (not 108!) orbital flight around planet Earth.

Юрий Гагарин
Юрий Гагарин 1934 - 1968

In 1962, the Soviet Union established День Космонавтики, or "Cosmonautics Day,” to commemorate this amazing achievement.

In 2001, Loretta Hidalgo, George T. Whitesides and Trish Garner founded "Yuri’s Night," with the support of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) — and each year since, the parties celebrating the first human in space have only grown larger! This year, festivities all around the world are being held between April 4th – April 12th. The current count for Yuri’s Night parties is 160 parties in 42 countries!

The goal of Yuri's Night is to increase public interest in space exploration and to inspire a new generation of explorers. Driven by a worldwide network of celebrations and educational events, Yuri's Night creates a global community committed to the future of exploration while developing leaders and innovators.

Yuri's Night 2015

This year, *THE* place to be is the Space Station Museum!

On Saturday, April 11th from  noon to 8pm, this particular party will be the only one on the North American continent with actual Yuri Gagarin artifacts on display.

There are precious few places where one can see AND TOUCH Russian Cosmonautica outside of Russia... and The Space Station Museum in Novato, California is one of them! (Kansas Cosmosphere being the other big draw.)

Who can pass up Russian Tea Cookies... with TANG??

The highlight of the Yuri's Night celebration will be a LIVE Skype session with astronaut Dan Bursch at 5:00pm, to reflect on the significance of Yuri Gagarin's historical flight into space and answer questions from any and all space enthusiasts.

Yuri's Night

Please feel free to come in a space-themed costume! And bring your camera. There will be lots of good photo ops!


Tickets are not actually needed, but TSSM would like an estimate for attendance, so please register a free ticket at the Event Brite website if you plan to attend.