Posts Tagged ‘nasa’

Gene Cernan RIP: Speaking To The Last Man On The Moon

Monday, January 16th, 2017

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Gene Cernan died today.

He was the last man to walk on the moon, an astronaut from a time of heroes, a pilot from a time where best friends didn’t come home. He also drew his daughter’s initials in the moon dust. They’re still there…
 
I was very lucky to speak to him in 2014 as he promoted Mark Craig’s documentary/biography ‘Last Man On The Moon.’ 

I’ve posted it above, and I’m going to listen to it again.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Trivial Posts #18: A Block Of Time, A Book Of Delights, And A Picture Of You

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Since the last weekly newsletter I’ve been to San Francisco… and made it home again. Lots to cover this week, so without too much hesitation…

What Have I Been Up To?

Every time I decide to fly to America, something ‘big’ happens back home, and this week was no exception. A week of catching up with old friends and new companies in Silicon Valley clashed with the BBC saying something about how the UK Song for Europe was going to be selected. My thoughts on that are here (and you can catch up on all the continent’s Eurovision news through the Eurovision Insight Podcast – find it on iTunes).

I’ve also suggested that Apple Music has failed, and even though I’m expecting the streaming music service  to be turned around nobody can quite agree in the comments on just how wrong I am to suggest such a thing.

On with the links (but first subscribe to the email newsletter version if you haven’t already).

Lego 21304

This set is going to be the biggest selling Lego set in the history of the UK:

Construct a stunningly detailed LEGO® version of the iconic TARDIS and role-play the Doctor’s time-travel adventures! Created by fan-designer Andrew Clark and selected by LEGO Ideas members, this set is based on the BBC’s popular and long-running television series about a Time Lord – the Doctor – exploring the universe in a blue police box. Due to trans-dimensional engineering, the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside and this cool multifunctional set includes the console room that houses all the flight controls.

Introducing Lego Doctor Who

The Other Container Was The Kindle

Is the Kindle Amazon’s final statement on digital book reading? The concept has barely changed since the first device was launch. Now the rush of delight is over, the Kindle has been found wanting:

All is not well on the digital book design front. Until recently, the Kindle iOS application still lacked the ability – nearly five years after its launch – to hyphenate words at the end of lines in books as they appear on the screen; this was a small ‘problem’, but it’s one that should have been solved years ago. And that’s only one of many deeper usability and design issues. Amazon’s long-term neglect of the Kindle continues to be worrying to me, both as a designer and a reader.

It seems as though Amazon has been disincentivised to stake out bold explorations by effectively winning a monopoly (deservedly, in many ways) on the market. And worse still, the digital book ‘stack’ – the collection of technology upon which our digital book ecosystems are built – is mostly closed, keeping external innovators away.

Craig Mod lays out the history and the arguments for the old-fashioned dead tree book next to the eBook phenomenon.

Future Reading

See All The Moon Landing Pictures You Never Saw

Think of the pictures from the Moon landings and you have to marvel at the skill of the astronauts in framing, lens control, lighting, and a million other things. Err…. no. They just ooh thousands of pictures on each mission and released five or six of the best. Until now, as NASA’s Project Apollo Archive has rescanned every negative and is in the process of putting all of them online.

Mark Murrman looks through the first 8400 (available as a Flickr set) to pick out his personal favourites on Mother Jones.

You can finally see all the blurry images, mistakes, and unrecognized gems for yourself. The unprocessed Hasseblad photos (basically raw scans of the negatives) uploaded by the Project Apollo Archive offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at the various moon missions…as well as lots and lots (and lots) of photos detailing the surface of the moon. Here’s a very small taste.

Two of my favourites would be the original Earthrise image from Apollo 8 (showing what post-processing can do to turn normal image into an iconic image, and a shot of the Lunar Ascent Module that captures the horror of flying around in a spaceship built from aluminium that was thinner than the tin foil in your kitchen. Zoom in on this and worry.

All 8,400 Apollo Moon Mission Photos Just Went Online

Life Is Like Helsinki Bus Station

A delightful theory for creative endeavours and life choices by Arno Minkkinen is explained in The Guardian. Indeed every creative endeavour can be represented by a bus leaving Helsinki Bus Station:

…it [vividly] illustrates a critical insight about persistence: that in the first weeks or years of any worthwhile project, feedback – whether from your own emotions, or from other people – isn’t a reliable indication of how you’re doing. (This shouldn’t be confused with the dodgy dictum that triggering hostile reactions means you must be doing the right thing; it just doesn’t prove you’re doing the wrong one.)

Having spoken to people starting out on new projects online, this is going in my toolbox of ‘how to judge how you are doing’.

This Column Will Change Your Life: Helsinki Bus Station Theory

By The Power Of Marketing!

Slashfilm hits it out the park again with another oral history. This time it’s for the delightfully bad film ‘Masters Of The Universe’ but it also covers how the toy line, how it saved Mattel, the birth of the TV series, and therefore the genesis of every TV Animation/Toyline production since the early eighties. THis is how culture was made.

Sales on the He-Man product line were going through the roof and thank god they did. Because other than He-Man, the company was going through a really tough time. Our Electronics Department [Mattel’s videogame division] was going down the tubes, so we were hoisting everything on our shoulders. If not for He-Man, Mattel might have gone under. There’s no question about it. No question. He-Man was doing, at that time, $400 million—if you took that piece out of the equation, there would be no Mattel. So it was kind of, you know, us against the world. It was a good time. It was a good time.

How Did This Get Made? Masters Of The Universe.

This Week’s Long Read: If They Build It, Will We Come? 

The fact is that in the first online tech boom the Porn Industry drove many of the elements that are vital to millions today (such as credit card processing, ecoomerce systems, multimedia CD- and DVD-Roms). In today’s ‘everything for free’ environment the industry has to address the same issues as mainstream media, but with a few more kinks. Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel explores the the world of the modern day porn business online.

But if porn helped to conceive and nurture the modern internet, the internet has turned its back on porn. Major internet companies like Instagram and Tumblr have hidden adult content from internal search, and Google has removed porn while de-prioritizing adult sites in its search algorithms. Facebook, arguably the internet’s most important destination, has banned adult content outright since its inception, and mainstream billing sites and financial services firms have shut their doors to adult companies, citing them as “high risk” clients.

If online porn was built by technically proficient, big-dreaming smut innovators, it’s now under siege by, essentially, technically proficient, deep-pocketed, shell corporation–constructing scoundrels. Consumed and overwhelmed by the fruits of its own technological innovations, the adult world must once again return to its entrepreneurial, iconoclastic roots if it wants to reclaim its industry. If anybody has any clue what we’re going to jerk off to in the future, it’s probably these guys.

Meet The Tech Entrepreneurs Trying To Take Back The Porn Industry

‘Trivial Posts’ is a mostly weekly series of posts that brings together interesting posts, ideas, video clips, essays, images, and anything else that catches my eye on the Internet. Read it online, or subscribe to the email newsletter version here.

Trivial Posts #15: Photographing Pluto, Styling Star Wars, And Space Whisky

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

An interesting week for me, with Apple featuring heavily on the professional side of things, and rather a lot more space/sci-fi/fantasy coming up in my links than normal. You can read about all of that here, unless you’ve already had them sent to you because you signed up to the mailing list!

What Have I Been Up To

As a tech writer I look on a big Apple event with a mix of christmas morning glee and Kasparov style planning. Pretty much every writer on the planet has the same raw materials (the streamed presentation) and the challenge is to find a different angle, approach, or analysis, and then to somehow get above all the noise and extra volume of articles trying to do exactly the same.

I’ll be honest here, I dodged this time around. I posted the day before the event, watched the event, then waited twenty-four hours to avoid the first rush and try to catch the second wave of interest. I decided to look at the strategic implications of Apple’s new technology, using the Surface Pro 3 and the iPad Pro to chart Apple’s ‘Reality’ Distortion Field’, and my weekly round-up of Apple News.

I also decided that Tim Cook is a Timelord.

Sure Looks Like A Planet

NASA and the team behind the New Horizons mission have released more photos of Pluto and Charon. Forget the quick thumbnails squirted back in the hours after the fly-by, were into the keep listening for a long time, here comes a big file’ pictures. These. Are. Wonderful!

New, Gorgeous, Pictures Of Pluto

A Disturbance Of Helvetica Black

There’s something delightfully geeky about Alex Jay’s look at Sar Wars. well, just one part of Star Wars. The logo, and how it evolved before, during, and after the first film released in 1977.

Anatomy Of A Logo

It’s Not Easy To Keep The Light Burning

Ahead of all the Muppet madness to come thanks to a new TV series about the Muppets which is in no way inspired by 30 Rock (which in no way was inspired by The Muppet Show), Jon Irwin profiles Steve Whitmire, the man who accompanies Kermit the Frog:

Steve Whitmire was inside his home north of Atlanta when he received a package in the mail. He pulled the contents out of the box… Now the familiar face stared back at Steve, its mouth open for no reason. Henson’s son Brian and then-interim company president was asking Whitmire to continue his father’s legacy. Whitmire was 30 years old. He stuck Kermit in a cupboard and did not look at him for weeks.

On The Other Hand

Dammit, Jim, I’m a Doctor Not A Jeweller

File this under Star Trek trivia that I genuinely did know. John Farrier is rewatching classic Star Trek and came across an interesting point. Dr McCoy has a gold ring with a blue stone on his left pinkie. Why?

DeForest Kelly dearly loved his mother, Clora Kelley. Clora owned a ring that her brother had won in a card game while he was in France. When Clora died of cancer in 1957, her son was consumed with grief. But he was private about the depth of his feelings. He asked for only one item from her possessions: the ring. He wore it from then on in remembrance of her.

When Kelley was recruited for Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry was firm: the actors would not wear jewelry. But Kelley was firmer: if he wasn’t allowed to wear his ring, he wouldn’t be on the show. Roddenberry conceded.

But the kicker for me is the final note regarding the rebooted Star Trek film series and Karl Urban’s portrayal of Dr McCoy:

When Star Trek was rebooted in 2009, Karl Urban took up the role of Dr. McCoy. As you can see in this screenshot, he wears a ring on the pinkie finger of his left hand…. to honor DeForest Kelly

Why Does Dr McCoy Wear A Pinkie Ring?

A Wee Nip For The Airlock?

Man cannot colonise space until someone develops a glass for zero-g whisky.

The bottom of the bulbous glass, made of gold-plated stainless steel, contains a spiral ring for a reservoir of whisky to cling to. Through a phenomenon known as capillary action, first observed by Leonardo da Vinci, the whisky is drawn upward through a helical channel within the side of the glass to a mouthpiece at the rim for a space traveler to drink.

Alright then, let’s colonise space.

A Glass for Enjoying a Sip of Whisky While Floating in Space

Tiger Porn Would Never Be Enough

Should it be right that you can do something in private that is legal, but filming it for personal use is illegal? That question is a starting point into Myles Jackman’s mission to change the obscenity law in the UK. The Guardian’s Edward Docx profiles the crusading lawyer.

 He maintains that pornography is a class issue, a gender issue, a philosophical issue, a freedom issue, an everything issue. (One of his many dicta: “Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech.”) And his campaign is against both state and statutes alike. By day, beneath the dark lawyerly suits that strain to contain him, he likes to wear Batman socks; by night, he wears Batman T-shirts. In the last six years or so, he has transformed himself from being just another lawyer into the Batman of obscenity.

One Lawyer’s Crusade To Defend Extreme Pornography

This Week’s Long Read: Give Spiro What He Wants

The family feeling of The Fast and The Furious isn’t just on-screen, isn;t just the cast, but in a tight night stunts crew that now insist on doing everything in-camera with minimal CGI (yes, even parachuting their cars out of a plane). Blake Harris allegedly talks about how the stunts were made, but his article is far more human.

Given the box-office success of Fast & Furious 6 ($788 million worldwide), it’s not too difficult to figure out how Furious 7 got made. But there is, however, one thing that does immediately jump out about the making of this film: the staggering number of stunt performers—over 150 in total—that it required to complete this movie.

This is a story about two of those stunt performers—who just so happen to be married to each other—about the film’s two stunt coordinators—who also happen to be brothers—and about the brilliant mad scientist at the center of it all…

Fast Cars And Furious Stunts

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Pluto Flyby, Using The Camera That Was There

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

Using the available data and images, with a bit of computer wizardry and filling in the blanks, Bjorn Jonsson has put together a video interpretation of the Pluto flyby  by the ‘New Horizons’ probe. Just stunning.

Pluto’s atmosphere is included and should be fairly realistic from about 10 seconds into the animation and to the end. Earlier it is largely just guesswork that can be improved in the future once all data has been downlinked from the spacecraft. Light from Pluto’s satellite Charon illuminates Pluto’s night side but is exaggerated here, in reality it would be only barely visible or not visible at all. The field of view is 12.5 degrees.

Watch it on Vimeo.

First star on the right, and straight on until morning

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Tim Fernholz looks at Elon Musk, SpaceX, and the commercial race to space:

Last month, NASA said it would pay SpaceX its largest single contract ever, $2.6 billion, to shuttle US astronauts up to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s one of two companies that will build vehicles to replace the discontinued space shuttle and return the US to the list of spacefaring nations. The other, SpaceX’s frequently testy competitor Boeing, will do the same job but at more than half again the cost—some $4.2 billion.

In fact, SpaceX has a chance at beating the aerospace giant to be the first private company to fly humans into orbit. This is an enormous milestone for the firm, and also its most dangerous task so far. But building cost-effective space vehicles gives SpaceX a chance to save US space efforts from their own torpor.