Tag Archives: NASA

Mars: It’s On!

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This is one Sunday where whatever I typically share would not be nearly as compelling as this single image right here, fresh from Mars. Absolutely amazing.

And although it technically disqualifies this post as a Single Image Sunday, perhaps even more amazing is this:

Human beings send a robot to Mars, and take a picture as it lands with a satellite already there. This also happened in 2008, but this photo is even more clear, and still mindblowing. Via redorbit.com

What do you think? Have you been following this story? Were you witness to any other major space exploration milestones? Do you think humans will set foot on Mars in your lifetime? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday… MARS!

I have a fascination with aeronautics, aerospace and aviation. I don’t claim to technically understand much about them, but I think aspects of these fields are fascinating and important. That’s why I’m excited for Sunday, when NASA will be living through a very real seven minutes of terror vividly portrayed in this video about landing the Curiosity rover on Mars.

 

This video is just over five minutes long, and it’s exciting – but not as exciting as the seven minutes of burning anticipation a team of dedicated people are going to have to endure Sunday night (10:31 PST), wondering if their baby has made it to its destination, safe and sound as planned. Props to the NASA PR / Outreach / Education teams for bringing this story to us with dramatic flair.

Mars: Our Generation’s Moon Landing

Since I wasn’t around for the work leading up to the moon landing, this is my guess at what that must have been like. In all the years leading up to Americans walking on the moon, there were many missions like these just getting the logistics figured out. And wow – there are plenty of logistics.

Just think about it: we can see the moon from Earth, even observing features of its surface with our unaided eyes. With Mars, there’s a 14-minute delay from the time signals are sent until the they’re even received here. Thank goodness Curiosity is on Twitter:

NASA Peeps on Twitter

Here are some more cool NASA folk on Twitter – check them out for updates on Curiosity’s mission, and keep following for more news about space, science and exploration:

  • Adam Steltzner – head of NASA JPL’s Mars landing team
  • Lauren Worley – Press office at NASA
  • Stephanie Schierholz – NASA Social Media Manager
  • NASA JPL – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages many of NASA’s robotic missions
  • NASA Social – Announcements on social media & for info about upcoming NASA Socials
  • NASA – the News from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, themselves

Go, Science!

That we’ve ever been able to set anything on Mars’ surface, successfully navigate its terrain, take pictures from multiple angles then transmit them back them before our eyes on Earth is nothing less than astounding. And this Sunday, it can happen again. Unless something goes horribly awry – which is always a distinct possibility… but if it were easy, anyone could do it. My great respect goes to the entire Curiosity team and everyone at NASA for their work on this project.

Let’s hope all goes well for the Curiosity team this weekend.

What do you think? Will humans ever make it to Mars? Or Pandora? Did you ever fantasize about space travel? Are there aliens out there? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Contrasts Make Connections

It’s contrast that makes art interesting. Chiaroscuro, juxtaposition, or as Charles Atlas might call it, “Dynamic Tension,” whether in visual art, writing, or music. I noticed this recently in a superb story in The AtlanticEarth Station: The Afterlife of Technology at the End of the World, by Alexis Madrigal.

Click for full story by Alex Madrigal. © The Atlantic

Mr. Madrigal’s story has plenty of contrast, metaphorically and literally.

Contrast is the basis of nearly all humor. We love it. Subversion, exaggeration, things that should not be but for some wacky reason are — it all works thanks to contrast. Three Stooges? Ridiculous. Grown, yet idiotic men slapping each other around? Pure genius.

It’s this kind of juxtaposition that establishes scale in our minds’ eyes, and it’s a very efficient way to deliver a punch. Why is it so dramatic when a rock band takes things down for a minute? It makes the heavy parts heavier. Just ask Black Sabbath. They weren’t known for being fast, but no one wielded mightier riffs for that time (and not much since). And when they did it slow, it had maximum impact.

Many times, Madrigal works contrast into the text: describing how small he is in the photograph he has his fiancé take of him outside the station (“at its base, I was almost too small to see”); showing some genuinely human yet long forgotten documents emerge from a backpack then go back again, across the creek with a couple of scavengers — or rather, heroes.

The contrasts in this story drive home the underlying theme, as Madrigal himself states:

That story is about how jagged technological advancement is. People received images from the moon feet from a saloon locals rode horses to.
-Alexis Madrigal

From the moon to a saloon. There you go: contrast. (Also my favorite dive bar).

Yet in this contrast Madrigal shows a real connection, bound by geography. I would add to his description above that the story is also about connections: past-present, Chinese-American, lunar-saloonar… and as Madrigal elegantly phrases it, society and technology:

No technology stands outside society, and no society exists without the people who build it.

This point about connections is illustrated with the example of a utopian space colony described alongside the boring tedium required to make it possible:

Space Colony

Beautiful, yes. Now just imagine the meetings and spreadsheets behind making this happen.

Again: contrast, making connection happen as we take in the details.

It really hit me when I laid eyes on this photograph:

The whole article is worth reading for just this photo. See the story for full effect. © The Atlantic

As I state in the article’s comments:

My jaw dropped upon scrolling to the image of the Chinese visiting. With the scene painted so vividly by the preceding text, I fully appreciate the enormity of what those files revealed, as I can imagine Mr. Madrigal also did, seeing through his lens what another photographer captured four decades ago. The contrasts between then and now are astounding, as are the connections.
-Wow, did I say that? Huh.

This is a fascinating read and I highly recommend taking a moment to enjoy it, noticing the contrasts and connections as you go. It’s great writing and an inspiring story. It certainly got me appreciating how far we’ve come with technology and how human we will always be.

See also: Slideshow from New York Times. Outstanding photography from Annie Tritt (annietritt.com, @trittscamera)

Jamesburg Earth Station

Old communications equipment at the station. The Operational Room was where Jack Ramey, a retired technical supervisor at the station, said that he had listened to astronauts on a mission. © New York Times

What do you think? Do you notice contrast making things interesting? What are other examples? Could you live in a former Earth Station? Do you have designs on this piece of real estate to set up your evil lair? Let us hear from you in the comments!