Today is the 50th Anniversary of “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
It’s an event worth celebrating, in the same way we celebrate Yuri’s Night.
The holy days — the holidays — that we celebrate say a great deal about us. They shape who we are. The controversies that emerge when we try to add (Martin Luther King) or remove a holiday (Columbus Day) are controversies because they express who we are, and how that could be changing.
Some of these new holidays are silly: Talk Like a Pirate Day, Star Wars Day.
Some of the holidays are happy, some are somber.
Apollo Day could celebrate the engineering achievement, the risks and dangers of exploration, and the sadness that we haven’t been back.
So, the only way to start a holiday is to start a holiday. Start by wishing people a happy Apollo day, and we’ll see if it reaches escape velocity.
Congratulations to the Hayabusa2 mission team, who flew to an asteroid, dropped multiple rovers, an impactor and a separate camera satellite to observe the impactor. The Hayabusa2 then flew around, to the far side of the asteroid to avoid ejecta from the impactor. In a few weeks, Hayabusa2 will probably land, collect more samples and then fly back to Earth.
For more: Hayabusa 2 page at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and don’t miss the “major onboard instruments page, including an ion engine using 1/10th the power of a chemical propellant, and fixes to malfunctions that happened after 15,000 hours of operation; a better seal on the collection horn and more.
A Japanese spacecraft may have just blown a crater in a distant asteroid (Science Mag)
I had not seen this amazing picture of Harrison Schmitt near Shorty Crater.
Via Astronomy Picture of the Day. If you enjoy these, Full Moon is a gorgeous collection of meticulously scanned Apollo images. There are various editions; I encourage you to get the 11″x11″ one, not the 8×8.
This video is really amazingly inspiring:
Not only does it show more satellites than I’ve ever seen in a single frame of video, but the rocket that took them up was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation, who managed to launch not only the largest satellite constellation ever, but had room for a few more birds in the launch. It’s an impressive achievement, and it (visually) crystalizes a shift in how we approach space. Also, congratulations to the team at Planet, the ability to image all of Earth’s landmass every day.
Launching a micro satellite into low Earth orbit is now accessible to hobbyists. Many readers of this blog could do it. That’s astounding. Stop and think about that for a moment. Our failure to have exciting follow-on missions after Apollo can obscure the fascinating things which are happening in space, as it gets cheap and almost boring to get to low Earth orbit. The Economist has a good summary. That’s not to say that there aren’t things happening further out. This is the year that contestants in the Google Lunar XPrize competition must launch. Two tourists have paid a deposit to fly around the moon.
But what’s happening close to the planet is where the economic changes will be most visible soon. That’s not to say it’s the only thing to watch, but the same engines will enable more complex and daring missions.
For more on what’s happening in India around space exploration and commercialization, this is a fascinating interview with Susmita Mohanty.
Video link: ISRO PSLV-C37 onboard camera view of 104 satellites deployment
When you were growing up, 2014 was the future. And it’s become cliche to bemoan that we don’t have the flying cars we were promised, but did get early delivery on a dystopian surveillance state.
So living here in the future, I just wanted to point out how cool it is that you can detect extrasolar planets with a home kit.
Read the story at IEEE Spectrum: DIY Exoplanet Detector.
July 20, 1969.
I’ve blogged about it before.
There are people who can write eloquently about events of such significance. I am not one of them. I hope that doesn’t stand in the way of folks remembering the amazing accomplishment that the Apollo program was.
The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project needs help to recover data from the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft.
Frankly, it’s a bit of a disgrace that Congress funds, well, all sorts of things, over this element of our history, but that’s besides the point. Do I want to get angry, or do I want to see this data preserved? Yes to both.
That’s why I’ve given the project some money on Rockethub, and I urge you to do the same.
Neil Armstrong died August 25, aged 82.
It’s difficult to properly memorialize this man, because, to a degree almost unheard of in our media-saturated times, he avoided the limelight. A statement by his family notes:
As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.
EC has a certain fondness for privacy and for Apollo. If you do, too, please consider this suggestion made by Armstrong’s family:
For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.
Image source: NASA
The CBC Quirks and Quarks podcast on “The 10% Solar System Solution” is a really interesting 9 minutes with Scott Gaudi on how to find small planets far away:
We have to rely on nature to give us the microlensing events. That means we can’t actually pick and choose which stars to look at, and we can’t actually pick what times to look at. So the best suited telescopes are those telescopes we can use at anytime that are located throughout the globe so that it’s dark somewhere. And so we use a lot of amateurs, actually we don’t use, we work with a lot of amatuers who have their own telescopes, relatively small telescopes, .3 meters, .4 meters in their backyard which they can use anytime they want. We call them up when we see a microlensing event happening that we think might be interesting and we ask them to get data for us. In fact in many cases they’ve gotten crucial data for us which has helped to discover a micro-lensing event.
What’s most amazing to me is how useful it is to have small parts loosely coupled, each pursuing their own interests. What emerges is, quoting Gaudi again:
One of our amatuers, Jenny McCormick who works in New Zealand and has her own observatory which she calls Farm Cove Observatory has said “It just goes to show: you can go out there you can work full time, you can be a mother and you can still find planets.”
Photo: The ESO Telescopes, by Paul Browne
40 years ago, NASA released this first [human-taken] photo of the Earth from far away:
[Update: The BBC has a nice story.]