Archive for the ‘Space’ Category


Holy Gassy Giants, Batman

December 9, 2008

Woah…  uh, wow, ahhh, BUH.

This is outstandingly amazing.  And clever.  Philly P breaks it down (as he does best) for the non-technical:

They got a spectrum of the star and the planet at the same time, and then waited until the planet was behind the star and got a spectrum of just the star by its lonesome. By subtracting the star’s spectrum from the star+planet spectrum, they got the spectrum of just the planet itself.

Because I am Not an Astronomer (TM), I often tell people in my theater that astronomy is something that I really have to do my homework on, because there is literally new astronomy news every single day.  This is a perfect example of that.

I can only imagine that this technique will become more and more easy and prolific, and we’ll be learning lots of extra things about extrasolar planets in the very near future.



November 19, 2008

Speaking of Endeavour…

Frankly, I’m surprised that this doesn’t happen more often:

Things didn’t go quite according to plan for astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper during her spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Tuesday.

First, a grease gun inside her tool bag leaked, coating everything inside with a film of lubricant. While she was trying to clean it up in the absence of gravity, the whole bag floated away.

Of course it slipped out of her hands–it was coated in a film of NASA-grade lubricant!  Hope they don’t dock her pay.

Also funny:

Mission controllers were also tracking the lost bag, which they say is floating well clear of the station and drifting further away.

Sounds like a job they probably shrug off on the newbies.

“Cool, you work for NASA, what do you do?”

“I monitor and observe the orbital paths of tools dropped by astronauts.”



Not your father’s Bowflex

November 19, 2008

It’s been glibly remarked that the Space Shuttle is the world’s most expensive delivery van.  This week, it’s partially true: Endeavour is taking a new workout machine to the ISS, as shown in this unusually detailed CNN report:

The advanced Resistive Exercise Device, aRED for short, functions like a weight machine in a gym on Earth, except it has no conventional weights. Instead, it has vacuum cylinders — canisters with air that have had a vacuum applied — that provide concentric workloads up to 600 pounds, NASA says.

Obviously, working out in space is very important, as the article says, but I have to wonder… how in the heck are they going to ge that thing aboard?  Just look at that picture, it’s HUGE.  I’m guessing it’s in pieces, and they’ll float ’em through the dock and then assemble it (I wonder which astronaut drew the short straw for THAT task…  You think these things are hard to put together on earth, just imagine what one is like in microgravity).

One thing that caught my eye was this little throwaway line:

Between the vacuum cans and the bar, there are small flywheels that spin in opposite directions, creating an artificial gravity when someone lifts the bar.

A-say what now?!  Artificial gravity?!  I’m guessing that this means that it pushes “down” against the user, essentially pulling toward the user’s feet with an Earth-like gravity.  How cool is that?

Also going to the ISS, a new-style Water Recovery System that will now recycle the crew’s urine into drinking water.

P + WRS = H20(ok)

P + WRS = H20(ok)

Look at it: also HUGE.  Two full double-wide rack-units worth of pee-transforming mechanical goodness.

But really, I think if you’re going to have something that’s recycling your bodily wastewater, you want it to look like this: big cylinders and tubes and pipes and buttons…  If it was just one tiny little self-contained solid-state machine that you could carry in your pocket, wouldn’t you be suspect of its results?