What if your job was to make sweeping, cinematic images of planned NASA missions? Pat Rawlings, professional space artist, gives us a lesson in finding the story in science.
NASA’s Logo Redesigned To Be Truly Out Of This World
The deputy chief scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory consulted on the movie Prometheus, in case you didn’t already have a reason to go see this film.
Opening June 8 in the U.S., the prequel to Scott’s 1979 Alien chronicles an ill-fated exploration team that travels to a distant planet in search of humankind’s origin. To ground the plot in scientific plausibility, Scott turned to Kevin Hand, JPL’s deputy chief scientist for solar system exploration, to explain the kind of terrain, atmosphere, or ecosystem astronauts might encounter on a planet outside of our solar system.
“I met with Ridley and his creative team early in the process to see how science could be utilized in plotlines,” says Hand. “They had lots of questions about what it takes for humans to travel to distant worlds, how those worlds might be uninhabitable for humans, the constraints to consider when thinking about alien life, and how it might have adapted to that environment. It became a creative brainstorming session where we bounced ideas and questions off one another. My goal was to help them get the science right while maintaining a plot that tells a compelling story.”
These NASA concept drawings are a big part of why I’m a sci-fi geek today.
The concepts look like America’s post-WWII suburban settlements popped LSD, as if every manicured bush is humming the national anthem while it soars through the galaxy on a psychedelic rainbow. Today, we’re convincing millionaires to book a glorified bus trip into the closest edge of space. In the 1970s, the same efforts could have leased them a two-bed, two-bath condo in the stars, complete with integrated Hi-Fi.
This video is mesmerizing.
Aurora Borealis over Northern North America and Canada
This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 30 on board the International Space Station on January 29, 2012. This video begins as the space station is passing over the dark waters of the North Pacific Ocean northeast towards Vancouver Island. The Aurora Borealis can be seen far north, where both the under side and top of the aurora are visible. They continue to pass over Canada until the sun begins to come up in the east while over Quebec.
Video from NASA
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Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity Rover” Mission Animation
For seven years, the scientists building NASA’s next-generation Mars rover have been refining every last detail aboard, in order to service one single goal: Searching for signs of life on Mars.
The result of that effort, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity, is getting its final tweaks in a pristine room, almost totally dust and microbe-free, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. It ships to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in June, in preparation for a late fall launch and nine-month interplanetary journey. NASA will choose the final landing site this summer.
As evidence of the latter, NASA has created a remarkable infographic that shows just how alarmingly fast Greenland is melting away. That chart shows, quite elegantly, the length of the melting season at various points along Greenland’s ice cap.
For most of the year, Greenland is totally frozen. But during summer months, some melting does occur. Because of rising temperatures, that melting season is starting earlier and lasting longer than ever before—in fact, in the places colored deep red on that map above, the melting season has lasted 60 days longer than the average of the last 30 years. That’s a whole hell of a lot of melting.
NASA gathered the data from meteorological satellites that measure tiny amounts of microwaves being emitted by ice and water. Since the signatures of each are slightly different, scientists can tell exactly when the ice cap is melting and when it is frozen.
So it’s amazing, and it really does seem like a human hand. But could your hand take a beating from a baseball bat and still work fine? DLR’s one can—thanks to those super-strong artificial tendons and clever spring assemblies that let the tendons “stretch”. The way the tendons are arranged (in what’s called an antagonistic manner) also means the “stiffness” or reboundability of each joint can be adjusted in real time by the arm’s computers. This trick even lets it safely catch a fast-moving ball (where previous robot appendages would suffer damage) because the springiness absorbs some of the incoming energy—just as your arm does. The DLR hand can also click its fingers, just for fun.
We admit, the video is a bit disconcerting without sound.