After a flood of letters from Star Trek fans, NASA named its first Space Shuttle Orbiter “Enterprise”. On September 17, 1976, Enterprise made its’ media debut at the Rockwell’s plant in Palmdale, California, as the Air Force band fired up the Star Trek theme music. The show’s cast was naturally invited, although somehow William Shatner missed it.
Surely he owned a fabulous leisure suit? He’s Bill Shatner!
From left: James Fletcher; NASA administrator, DeForest Kelley; George Takei; James Doohan; Nichelle Nichols; Leonard Nimoy; Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, George Low; NASA deputy administrator, and Walter Koenig;
Below, Leonard Nimoy recounts the events that led to the Space Shuttle’s name.
If you missed the recent annular solar eclipse, fret not as an amazing new video has just been released by NASA which reveals the Sun’s surface in a way never before seen.
This video takes SDO images and applies additional processing to enhance the structures visible. While there is no scientific value to this processing, it does result in a beautiful, new way of looking at the sun.
The original frames are in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet. This wavelength shows plasma in the solar atmosphere, called the corona, that is around 600,000 Kelvin.
The loops represent plasma held in place by magnetic fields. They are concentrated in “active regions” where the magnetic fields are the strongest. These active regions usually appear in visible light as sunspots. The events in this video represent 24 hours of activity on September 25, 2011.
I could stare at this for hours and not get bored.
If you have dreamed of joining the Astronaut Corps, now is the time to apply. NASA is continuing space exploration programs that will include missions beyond low Earth orbit.
NASA, the world’s leader in space and aeronautics is always seeking outstanding scientists, engineers, and other talented professionals to carry forward the great discovery process that its mission demands. Creativity. Ambition. Teamwork. A sense of daring. And a probing mind. That’s what it takes to join NASA, one of the best places to work in the Federal Government.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a need for Astronaut Candidates to support the International Space Station (ISS) Program and future deep space exploration activities.
It was in 1959 that NASA selected the 7 military personnel who became the first astronauts. Since then, 330 have been chose from diverse backgrounds, who all passed the strict physical, technical and academic requirements. The backgrounds of NASA’s latest group of Astronaut Candidates include schoolteachers, doctors, scientist, and engineers. According to Geek Sugar, you could now be one too if you have:
Height between 62 and 72-inches, as well as a resting blood pressure not to exceed 140/90.
20/20 vision, though corrective eye surgeries like LASIK are allowed.
Bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science, or mathematics. Despite the space flight factor, aviation degrees do not qualify.
3 years of relevant professional experience or 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft.
Of course, qualifying doesn’t mean you’ll end up floating in a tin can, but you will have as much chance as everyone else who applies - and the pay’s pretty neat at $64,000-141,000 per year - so, why the hell not?
In 1975, a year before NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft orbited Mars, Orson Welles presented Who’s Out There?, a NASA produced documentary examining the “likely existence of non-Earthly life in the universe.”
Thirty-six years on, this is a fascinating piece of archive, and rather timely with the news that NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory is due to be launched in November in a bid to make the first precision landing on Mars in August 2012.
Starting with H G Wells novel, and his own infamous radio production of The War of the Worlds, Welles, together with Carl Sagan, George Wald, Richard Berendzen and Philip Morrison, explore what was then “the new view of extraterrestrial life now emerging from the results of probes to the planets,” and conclude that “other intelligent civilizations exist in the universe.”
Carl Sagan: The most optimistic estimates, in the view of many, about the number of civilizations that there might be in the galaxy is of the order of a million, which means that only one in a few hundred thousand stars has such civilizations.
George Wald: That would mean a billion such places just in our own galaxy that might contain life.
Philip Morrison: As I believe there’s a society of these groups, not just one, there’re probably very many. There’s only one, we have no hope of finding them; there’re probably thousands, maybe as many as a million. They probably already have had long history of this same experience, of finding new ones and bringing them into the network.
Carl Sagan: And I would imagine, an advanced civilization wanted to talk to us, they would say “Oh, look, those guys must be extremely backwards, go into some ancient museum and pull out one of those – what are they called – radio telescopes and beam it at them.”
In summation, Welles says:
In 1976 we’re going to be able to explore Mars for perhaps not so humble microorganisms. Before and after that, we’ll be searching the planets and the galaxies for clues to fill in the new patterns we’re discovering, the evolution of evolutions that has produced us and the possible millions of other civilizations….
...The difference between the spacecrafts of NASA and the lurid flying saucery of that old radio War of the Worlds is the difference between science and science fiction and, yes, between war and peace. It’s our own world which has turned out to be the interplanetary visitor; we’re the ones who are moving out there, not with death rays but with cameras, not to conquer but simply to learn. We are in fact behaving ourselves far better out there than we ever have back here at home on our own planet.
Bonus - Orson Welles directs The Mercury Theater’s radio production of The War of the Worlds
Here’s a gorgeous and beautifully edited fan-made video for NASA by YouTube user damewse. Damewse says he made this video because “NASA is the most fascinating, adventurous, epic institution ever devised by human beings, and their media sucks. Seriously.”
I have the cover story over at h+ magazine today, about the new artificial intelligence upgrades to the space program. (Jet Propulsion Labs has upgraded the Mars rover with artificial intelligence firmware… could intelligent AI nanoclouds be far off?) Read on at the link below for the rest of my reporting live from NASA’s labs.
Though we may not have found intelligent life on Mars, NASA has just beamed up its own.
As announced at the end of March, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories has upgraded the Opportunity rover (already stationed on Mars) with artificial intelligence firmware, code-named AEGIS. Short for Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, AEGIS allows the Opportunity to identify high-value photography targets — making its own decisions about which Martian rocks to photograph and send back to Earth. As the rover has limited downlink capacity, this is expected to greatly increase its productivity, allowing it to retrieve more data in fewer trips across Mars’ surface. AEGIS isn’t the first artificial intelligence application developed for space, or even at Jet Propulsion Labs — JPL has been in the game as far back as the Deep Space 1 craft in 1998.
I visited JPL on a recent rainy afternoon. Nestled in the mountains near Pasadena, California, the NASA campus dates to the 1940s, and was an early stalwart of the United States’ rocketry and space programs. Beyond security checkpoints, rows of polished, glass-and-steel buildings house the facility’s various projects — major foci at the moment are the Mars rovers and Reconnaissance orbiter, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, and the Spitzer space telescope. Further up the hill is a simulated outdoor Martian landscape, with volcanic rocks resting in red sand. It’s an eerie thing to see through a gray LA fog.
Clip from a BBC Four documentary on the US government’s bizarre Project Orion, a plan to send spaceships around our solar system with nuclear power. The extent to which the space program was actually a high-level fusion of hard tech and just batshit crazy science fiction plans has always fascinated me. These guys were looking to science fiction writers as their creative team, basically. The romance of just making insane ideas real, and it actually working (well, at least to some extent)... why isn’t it like this anymore?
The extraordinary yet true account of a secret US government-backed attempt to build a spaceship the size of an ocean liner and send it to Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, propelled by thousands of miniature nuclear bombs.
Beginning in 1958 Project Orion ran until 1965, employing some of the best scientists in the world, including the brilliant British mathematician and physicist Freeman Dyson. “Freeman Dyson is one of the few authentic geniuses I’ve ever met”, says Arthur C. Clarke. “Orion isn’t crazy. It would work. The question isn’t whether we could do it, but whether we should do it”.
The film uncovers a contemporary angle to Project Orion. Arthur C. Clarke states that today’s generation are once again serious about going to Mars and that NASA has once more become interested in similar nuclear technology as used by Project Orion in the early 60s.
Well, they asked, NASA answered. American booksellers seemed okay with the contents of the ISS library—everything from Dickens to Dan Brown—but the list incensed movie buffs, particularly the ominous-sounding Shooting People, a UK-based collective of independent filmmakers. “Our members would like to see Harold and Maud [sic] rather than Harold and Kumar, that Man on Wire replace Man on Fire,” Shooting People’s James Mullighan wrote to NASA. Spelling errors aside there, James, I totally agree with you.
But, in a further sign that the demand for indie fare has, errr, cratered, NASA’s William Gerstenmaier explained that they don’t dictate the onboard selections?
NASA started to beam the song towards the North Star, 431 light years from Earth at midnight GMT on Monday, drawing congratulations from former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, who mused that it marked “the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe.”
But today’s New Scientist asks whether such signals could expose us to the risk of attack from mean spirited aliens.