Tag Archives: space

13 Minutes to the Moon



It’s been 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquillity and there are many commemorative events coming up to the anniversary on 21st July.

As expected, NASA is celebrating and there’s a whole raft of information and historical footage on a special Apollo 50th section of its website. I particularly like the mission audio that’s presented day-by-day. Listen to day 5 from about 6 mins in for the last few seconds of the descent and as the lunar module lands you hear the immortal words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.

On the watch side, Omega’s Speedmaster Professional is forever associated with space exploration, visiting the moon six times – it’s not called the Moonwatch for nothing. To mark the event, there’s the Apollo 11 Anniversary edition in gold and red. Kind of pricey, mind you.

At the cheaper end of the market, i.e. free, the BBC World Service is joining in on the celebrations with 13 Minutes to the Moon, a series of radio programmes and podcasts based on interviews and recordings from the people who were there including Michael Collins, Jim Lovell and, Poppy Northcutt who was the first woman to work as an engineer in an operational support role in NASA’s Mission Control.

The first episode is available on 13 May but there are a few teasers in the podcast feed already. Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer has done the theme music. This is going to be epic.

Additional material.


Full-length Felix Bomgartner helmet cam video released



Just over one year ago, Felix Bomgartner rode his Red Bull Stratos balloon to the staggering height of 128,000 feet and then leaped out, free-falling from the stratosphere. It was the highest skydive ever made and, thanks to the extremely thin atmosphere, Bomgartner quickly broke the record for the fastest freefall at just over 840 MPH.

Prior to now, bit and pieces of the footage recorded by Bomgartner’s helmet cam have been released, but now, on the heels of the documentary release, the full nine-minute video has been released.

Astronomer Phil Plait points out that “Baumgartner accelerates to a velocity of 700 km/hr in a mere 20 seconds. That means he was accelerating at an average of about 9.7 meters per second per second — just about what you’d expect for an object falling to Earth in a vacuum, where the only force is that of gravity”.

While many news agencies were quick to describe this jump as “from the edge of space”, Plait also points out that space begins at a height of 100 KM and Bomgartner leaped from 39 KM. That doesn’t make it any less cool, of course, just a technical aspect of the perspective. If you are high enough to see the curvature of the earth, then its not somewhere most people would be comfortable with being, let alone jumping from.


What is “Remember the 13th”?



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Conspiracy theorists are running wild about a new web site that is purportedly from NASA. The web site in question is titled “NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet. This announcement will be released to the media on November 13th, 2013. It will be a day to remember and One for the history books. Spread the word to your family & friends and sign up to stay updated! – See more at: Remember the 13th and sports a logo from the space agency along with a rather cryptic message.

“NASA has made a historic discovery that will shake the entire planet. This announcement will be released to the media on November 13th, 2013. It will be a day to remember and One for the history books. Spread the word to your family & friends and sign up to stay updated!”

There is also a countdown clock running on the site, currently at 41 days. Nothing more is revealed and there is nothing about the page which gives any sort of hints.

Its all very clever, but also likely a marketing ploy for something and not an actual NASA news conference. Other than the logo, which anyone can slap onto a website, there is nothing to suggest any of this is anything more than a clever marketing campaign for a product, movie or TV show.

I will leave the question up to all of you. What do you think this is? Legitimate news coming from the space agency? Has Curiosity discovered something? Or is it, as I am leaning towards, very good marketing hype?


Celestron



Celestron HomepageBrian Cogdell of Celestron stopped by the broadcast table at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to show off some of the company’s latest products.

If you are not familiar with the name then perhaps you can gleen a bit of information from it none-the-less. Celestron manufactures telescopes and, for the amateur astronomer — and we are all space fans here at GNC, the company makes some of the better ones on the market.

The latest lineup contains robotic devices that make finding that illusive object a whole lot easier. The new lineup contains cameras for photographing that amazing image and even a remote control for pointing the telescope to whatever area of the night sky you wish to examine. The camera also works to align the device by calculating where it is pointed and moving to where you want to go.

There is a lot more to learn, but you will need to watch the video below. Given the technology involved in all of this the prices are fairly reasonable.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network

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Curiosity Spent Halloween Taking Amazing Self Portrait



Most of us have spent the past couple of months being completely fascinated with Curiosity, the latest and largest lander to roam the surface of Mars.  NASA has been regularly posting images snapped by the multiple cameras on board the rover, but the one it snapped on October 31st may be the best so far.

Astronomer Phil Plait, who pointed this image out, dubbed it “the single greatest vacation picture ever taken” and I can’t argue one bit. After all, how would you like to send this image home to friends and family?  The incredible self-portrait took some work.  It’s actually a composite made up of 55 different high-resolution images taken by a camera mounted at the end of a two meter long arm (the arm was edited out to improve the image).

You can get much more detailed information by visiting Phil’s Bad Astronomy blog over at Discover Magazine.  The image looks much like any desert on earth, but it’s a much starker and colder location than the images belie.  You can view the full resolution at the link below the image.

Preliminary self-portrait of Curiosity

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems