Robonaut, installed on the International Space Station to perform chores for astronauts, just got its first pair of real legs.
NASA says that the new seven-jointed legs are designed for climbing in zero gravity and offer a considerable nine-foot leg span. Instead of feet, the legs feature “end effectors” designed to grapple onto handrails and sockets located both inside the space station and, eventually, on the ISS’s exterior. Robonaut’s end effectors have a built-in vision system—almost like a pair of eyes—that are designed to eventually automate each limb’s approaching and grasping.
Andrew Zolli: Why have art in space at all? What does it say about us as a species?
Forest Stearns: Symbolic mark-making has always been an important part of the human experience. From caves to canvases to satellites, we all have an ambition to tell our story. And as we migrate upwards and outwards with space technology, we felt it was important to take this expressive instinct with us.
“After the TED talk, Hadfield met with press to discuss all things space. And I had to ask: what does Hadfield think about all the private space companies, like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, that are popping up? Can they really democratize spaceflight?
"You could ask the exact same question a century ago about airplanes. We’re at 1912 or maybe 1915 in spaceflight. The shuttle is a ridiculous vehicle, and yet it’s the best in the world.”
Seen from space, cities look incredibly detailed at night, when streetlights and buildings glow brightly enough that it’s possible for astronauts to clearly see individual streets. Photos taken from the International Space Station inspired London-based animator Marc Khachfe to spend hours creating this artwork in homage.
Chris Hadfield is a hero. A boss. The real deal. Not simply because he was Commander of the International Space Station, but for what he did while up there. Not content with being just “an astronaut,” he assumed the role of rock-star spaceman, conducting regular science-experiment videos from space, answering questions like, “What happens to tears in space?” Then, he gave us this: the first video from space. Watching Hadfield’s rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” while orbiting the Earth is nothing short of sublime. Mr. Hadfield, you win 2013.
The Towed Glider Air-Launch is an experimental project (still awaiting government approval) that would fire air-launching rocket boosters from a drone glider. In Budd’s modest words, the proposal offers “affordable, flexible access to space.” A glider would be towed into high altitudes by military transport aircraft on planned flights and would be released by the plane—the glider would then fire a rocket booster (with a satellite enclosed) into orbit. Afterward, pilots located in remote NASA facilities safely guide the glider home.