Friday, August 31, 2012

Some Info On The Photos Curiosity Takes, Stores & Transmits

In a world where we can throw gigabytes of information around in seconds, we get a bit blasé about the technical achievement it takes to get that done. Case in point: The Mars Curiosity Rover fields 17, count em, 17 cameras. For the most part these cameras store their data in "raw" or unprocessed format (I am not going to get into raw and jpeg and what is best, let's just take it on faith for the moment that raw is big, jpeg....not so much)what NASA/JPL has to deal with however is the size of Curiosity's data stream which is huge by comparison is an amazingly small 30meg per Sol. No, you are reading that right. Curiosity can stream 30 megabytes of data a DAY. (Hell, one frame off my ancient dslr in raw is bigger than that!) So you can imagine that the rover's controllers are not snapping away like a bunch of Japanese tourists on the GW bridge. Nor are they downloading everything that the rover takes either. Why? Because that 30meg a Martian day also has to carry all the other scientific data that Curiosity generates as well.

Well you must be saying, how do they know what to download or upload....depending on you point of reference (confused yet? lol) Well Curiosity does the same trick your camera does. When you look at the pictures in your camera, you are actually looking at the "thumbnail" (a low resolution representation)of each photo. The rover just sends thumbnails from which decisions are made as to what gets sent from the rover. Another trick they use is one I have harped on for years (people that have taken my photography courses have heard this one before) Megapixels are a myth, you don't need them. Yes, I have heard the arguments, more megapixels clearer better pictures. True in part, but unless you are printing wall sized pictures, you many never see the difference between 6 and 16 megs. Most people never print a picture so anything over 1 megapixel is a waste and to prove that point Curiosity's cameras for the most part are on 2 megapixels! Oh I know...sensor size and all that, but still it is vastly smaller picture which takes up little space on the rover's memory cards. But most importantly is the kind of hoops NASA/JPL controllers have to jump through each day just to get data back and forth!

You really should read this article here about the cameras and what they do. It is fascinating material. Go here for more on the Economist

Is It Time to Rename the Moon?

Here is something that always kinda puzzled me. According to a small article in Boing Boing:

  • Jack Pate says: "'The Moon' is a stupid name for our moon. As a species, we should all come together and come up with something even marginally more creative. The planet Jupiter has 63 moons. None of them is named 'Moon.' This has got to be the biggest astronomical gaffe in the Universe."
I know it is a name out of antiquity, but in today's "enlightened" time when we know that other astral bodies have moons that is comes of a bit odd that the Earth is the only body in the solar system that HAS a generic name for it's own satellite.


Tatooine May Exsist?!

Oh you Star Wars fans are going to love this one! Remember in the earlier part of the first Star Wars movie when Luke looks up into the glare of the dual suns on Tatooine? Well it seems that the Kepler space telescope has pulled another rabbit out of the hat by finding a planetary system that for all world reminds on of planet Tatooine.

Dan pointed me towards this article that details the very strange planetary system of Kepler 47. For it seems that this system of planets orbits not one but two suns!  Plus the Kepler 47 suns  are themselves orbiting each other and do so in as little a 7.5 days!  The two planets (kepler 47b & 47c) are themselves in varying degrees of odd.  47b orbits the pair of stars in less than 50 days where 47c orbits the pair every 303 days. This would put the planet in the "habitable zone," where life could possibly exist because of liquid water.

NASA announced that Kepler-47 is 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. This discovery seems to prove that planets can for in the highly unstable space around a binary star system. Plus it goes further to show that once these planets form, they can "persist" in the system for very long periods.

Astronomers found two planets in the Kepler 47 system that orbit two stars

Of course if you were standing on the surface of the "Tatooine" planet, the stars would not look very much like those out of Star Wars. One star is about the size of our sun but is only about 85% as bright. The other is very small, in the range of 1/3 the size of Sol and putting out only 1% as much energy.

Astronomers were quick to point out that two or more stars in a system are not unusual. The question to this point was, could a planet form in such an unstable system. Now they know that they can and do form.

NASA Kepler 47 article here

artwork NASA

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A DIY Space Suit?!

Here is Cameron M. Smith. Cameron wanted to fly for the Airforce, but had bad eyesight. Cameron sat his sights on the edge of space, but like the rest of the 99%ers, he could not afford the astronomical price tag. What is an inner child to do? You build your own space suit. Instead of a rocket you build a big balloon to take you to the edge of space!

Now at 50,000 feet there is very little air. Exposure here is deadly, so if you build a space-suit, it can not be some silver jumpsuit with a play helmet, but something that will keep you alive in an extremely dangerous environment.

But even so, Cameron's parts list sound a bit Rube Goldbergish. a diver’s dry suit, an aquarium pump, nylon straps, wire, PVC fittings and valves topped off by a 1980s-era soviet fighter helmet.

Cameron says that this suit is a "proof of concept" which he will test in a hypobaric chamber.

According to the Wired article:
  • if all goes well it will be rebuilt with sturdier elements.
Then the next challenge is building the balloon that will take him there.

There is more, click the article title for the complete Wired article

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Speculative Fiction an e-book from Amazon,

David Scholes, whom we have had on the program several times, writes with some good news:

  • I've just published a new e-book on Amazon - here's the link:

  • New E-book on Amazon Link

  • I'm also in the process of getting it published by Lulu as a paperback.

  • There are some familiar stories such as: Trath, The Intervention, Equalisation, and OdinForce plus some alternate history stories and a bunch of other stories.

Cheers  Dave

Thanks for the heads up Dave!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dream Chaser Lifting Body Spacecraft Might Fly as Early as 2015?

Here is an artist's rendition of Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser. Now if it looks somewhat familiar, yes it vaguely resembles the Shuttle, but this craft drew inspiration from the HL-20 from the 80s which was a test bed for NASA.

Dream Chaser launches like Dragon atop a booster, carrying no fuel of its' own. It will be capable of, according to the DVICE article of: ferrying up to seven people and a small amount of cargo up to the International Space Station.

NASA in betting on the system as well. The agency recently awarded $212 million from the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Space Act Agreement. With it, Sierra Nevada will be able to continue research and continue testing on the structure of a Dream Chaser prototype that has already been completed

Review: Sound of the Sky anime series

Review of anime series Sound of the Sky

Directed by Mamoru Kanbe

Original run January 5, 2010 – March 22, 2010
Episodes 12

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world after a great war in the fairly distant future as evidence by the "tank", which is considered a relic from a earlier time but hints at tech far in advance of that available in the present, that the series character and one in particular is working to restore to operational status. The "world war" regressed humanity to early 20th century technology. It also appears that the world is slowly running down. Each year there is more desert and less arable land.

The main character is called Kanata who is motivated to join the Helvetian (seems to be another name for Switzerland) Army after hearing a talented bugler. Joining she is assigned to the 1121st Platoon.

Peace talks with "Rome", but they speak German, have collapsed and their army is on the move towards Helvetia. There are sub-plots and character interactions and one is general, that of the Tower Maidens, which the story seems to slowly revolve around.

There are only 12 episode spread across 4 dvd disks, but that is enough to build characters that are complex and heart-warming. There is also enough time to evolve a strong plot of people and circumstances.

The anime art is pretty standard but overall done well. The characters are easy to identify with and the story is long enough for you to familiarize with them.

There are no extra to account for, but the story is interesting and entertaining enough to make up for. I would be tempted to call it young adult anime but it is adult and complex enough to keep an adults interest.

If you are looking for a weekend rental...this would do the job as long as you can get all four disks. That was my complaint was that on a budget plan it took a while to see all the episodes, so maybe it would be worth a purchase if it could be had at discount.

Batman is Really - WHO?!

Ok, yes, I know! Its' ridiculous! But it is also damn funny! And you must know by now that I just can not resist this type of weirdness. So, what is the setup? What if Cookie Monster's alter ego was.....Batman?

25fps MSL Curiosity Land Video! Wow!

Wow, this is great work! I saw this on Boing Boing and decided to go take a look at the original YouTube site. Here user hahahaspam takes the original 4fps Curiosity landing video and interpolated it to 25fps with stunning results! Now you can clearly see the heat-shield fall away to impact the surface and the rocky / impacted landing site as it looms into view!

YouTuber hahahaspam writes (that): "This took me 4 days straight to put together"

BMU #328 now online Goodbye Mr. Armstrong

This week on episode 328 of Beam Me Up I start with the new remix of John Anealio’s George RR Martin is not your bitch in his new electronic remix.

The first story this week is part four and conclusion of All That Touches Air by An Owomoyela. Ron Huber continues his great read of this exciting story.

I do a quick review of Armored from Baen Books edited by John Joseph Adams. This book contains over 20 stories that explore all the variation an armored suit can take in different environments and worlds. If you like this type of fiction you will not be disapointed by this collection!

Next on the list is Star Trek Trivia where I answer last week’s questions and pose new ones!
I follow this up with a couple of really good Earth Sky articles.

During earth_sky listener Barry called to tell me that he had just heard that Neal Armstrong had just passed due to complications from his heart surgery earlier this month. Needless to say, the tone of the program changed a bit.

I take a trip over to the blog to cover some of the other stories that have peaked interest. One is a facinating article of observation of a pair of super massive black holes from the Chandra X-ray telescope! That and more!

For the last story, I will be featuring Edward McKeown in September. To get the ball rolling I play part one of The Dive which has an excellent narrator who does a fantastic job. I can almost bet you will enjoy this 7 part effort!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

RIP: Neal Armstrong

The commander and the first human to ever set foot on another world died 8/25/12 from complications from heart surgery. He was 82 years old.

Armstrong made his history making foot print July 21, 1969, this however was not his first space record. During his first mission in space, he performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft, during the Gemini 8 mission in 1966, with pilot David Scott.

Apollo 11 was his second and last space flight.

Armstrong's surgery took place on August 7, 2012, to relieve blocked coronary arteries. He died on August 25, following complications from the surgery. President Barack Obama released a statement calling Armstrong "among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's Weirder that a Single Super Massive Black Hole? Dual Supermassive Black holes!

The Chandra X-ray telescope continues to find some of the strangest objects in the Universe. Case in point - A pair of super massive black holes in the center of the spiral galaxy NGC 3393.

In the image here, we see a composite of blue which is the X-ray information from Chandra and gold which is the optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope. And according to the Wired article, the insert is just data of the high energy x-rays as seen by Chandra. The blue indicates hot gas but low x-ray energy, it also indicates strong iron bands which means the pair are growing.

Since black holes of this size are found mostly in the center of galaxies, the pair indicates a collision between two separate galaxies which also accounts for the large amount of gas and dust that are obscuring the pair.

What is truly amazing is that it is obvious that the pair of super-massive black holes are strongly influencing each other. Astronomically speaking they are close, but the influence is being felt over a distance of 490 light years! Plus at 160 million light years, they are the closest pair of super-massive black holes us.

InSight set for possible 2016 Launch Date

Listener Dan sent in some info on NASA's next planned mission to Mars. Called InSight, the lander's misson will involve - drilling 16 feet into the crust of Mars. The mission, set to launch in 2016,

  • will provide detailed information about the planet’s core, in particular determining whether it is liquid or solid.
InSight's landing will be no where near as complex as Curiosity's and in fact more closely resemble Phoenix's "beach ball / airbag" system.  Its' complement of scientific gear will consist of
a robotic arm and two black-and-white cameras as well as instruments to measure Martian seismic activity and the planet’s rotation axis. A small drill-like instrument that will drill several feet into the Martian soil to make temperature measurements.

InSight is part of NASA's Discovery program which is designed to do as much science as it can for as small a price-tag possible. In that vein, the InSight probe was topped at no more than 425 million. Far cheaper than Curiosity, but still able to carry out significant research. Discovery missions must also compete for with other missions of its' class for selection. Other projects being considered were:

  • the Comet Hopper, which would have explored the body of a comet, and the Titan Mare Explorer, which planned to land a small boat-like probe on a methane lake on Saturn’s moon Titan.
If all goes well, InSight will launch sometime in 2016

for more information check out NASA/JPL
and also the WIKI site here

Curiosity Rover - On the Move...Sorta

Curiosity performed a set of maneuvers at Bradbury Landing putting it about 20 feet from where it landed. Did I hear you say "uhhhhhh whaaa, wait....where?' Yep you heard right, Curiosity's landing spot has been renamed Bradbury Landing after the renowned author Ray Bradbury.

Curiosity's movements consisted of forward, turn and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet from the spot where it landed 16 days ago.

In a news conference NASA/JPL confirmed the health of Curiosity saying "We have a fully functioning mobility system"

The rover will spend several more days of working beside Bradbury Landing, performing instrument checks and studying the surroundings, before embarking toward its first driving destination approximately 1,300 feet to the east-southeast.

For more info on this latest test, go to

Evidence Found of a Red Giant Devouring a Planet

In a recent post on the IO9 blog, astronomers from the from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland have released data concerning red giant BD+48 740 that shows evidence of absorbing one of its close in planets.

This evidence takes the for of elements that are usually not found in start, especially older ones, due to the heat and pressure, that destroys many of the less stable elements, in this case lithium, which shows up in unusually high concentrations.

Also other massive planets in the same system have erratic, elliptical orbits, which seems to indicate a missing planet.

For more, read the IO9 article here

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

X-51A Aircraft Test Flight Ends in Failure

Xnewsman sends in an article from the LA Times concerning the experimental hyper-sonic test bed X-51a, where the plane's most recent flight ended in failure.

According to the article:

  • The unmanned X-51A was launched over the Pacific Tuesday from above the Point Mugu Naval Air Test Range to fine-tune its hypersonic scramjet engine.
In this most recent test the plane was supposed to accelerate to mach 6 and fly for a five minute window.  However the "scram" engine never fired.   Fifteen seconds after it was released from its' cradle, under the wing of a B-52, a fault was discovered in the control surfaces that would prevent straight and level flight causing the craft to lose control.  

That leaves the X-51a fleet with only one remaining plane and officials doubt that it will fly anytime soon, if ever.  

Scientists on the project said that research into hypersonic flight is crucial to the next generation of missiles, military aircraft, spacecraft -- and even passenger planes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beam Me Up episode 327 is now online

It is episode 327 of Beam Me Up!

First the sad news of the passing of Harry Harrison one of the few left that can be considered Grand Masters.

The first story of the afternoon is Ken Liu's, Memory of my Mothers a sad and yet heartwarming tale of what a Mother will do to be with her daughter throughout the child's and later life.

next is a review of Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror. This feature length anime film was produced in a partnership with Fuji TV for its' 50th aniversary.

The Phoenix galactic cluster's central is garnering interest as there is activity where there shouldn't be.

JPL has has finished the Mars Curiosity Rover upgrades and now will proceed to some tests on a couple more crutial systems before it can start with the main portion of the program.

I take a short break to do Star Trek Trivia again this week as well as a couple of news articles from Earth_Sky.

Kallamis uploads an article detailing some upcoming events on the International Space Station over the next week or two which should prove to be noteworthy.

And finally Ron Huber continues his read of An Owomoyela's All that Touched the Air. This week is part three.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Phoenix Mega-Cluster Producing Stars After Billions of Years of Silence?

Astronomy has long held that galaxies at the center of most clusters may have been dormant for billions of years. But astronomers using the Chandra X-ray, the National Science Foundation's South Pole Telescope observatory and eight other world-class observatories studying the Phoenix cluster, which is one of the largest structures in the universe, located 5.7 billion light years from Earth, central galaxy is producing new stars at a prodigious rate.

This is bound to bring about a major rethink of how mega-structures like Phoenix, and the galaxies contained there - in, evolve. Scientists believe that the huge reservoir of star forming gas should, over time, cool and in-fall to the central galaxy to provide for massive star formation. The reason that has not taken place, it is theorized, is that the super massive black hole in the center of other super clusters is pumping so much energy into the system, as in the Perseus cluster, that the gas is prevented from cooling and forming new stars. This goes against everything what is being observed in Phoenix.

read the Daily Galaxy article Here for more info on how the black hole keeps stars from forming in the central galaxy of a mega cluster.  Click the title for the WIKIPEDIA link

Curiosity Rover - upcoming events

Curiosity has been on the Martian surface now for a couple of weeks, but they have been a long way from idle weeks. JPL engineers have been testing Curiosity’s test instruments, which have passed all test and are working perfectly.

Next tests will involve the wheels which will involve position alignment and movement. These should be completed over the next few days. Soon afterwards, Curiosity will be instructed to un-ship its' laser and move to its' first target which is a rock with the designation N165.

This rock will be used quite literally for target practice for the laser which will shoot N165 with 30 laser blasts in a 10 second period. JPL hopes the laser will disintegrate a piece of the rock for spectrometer analysis of the rock's composition.

Curiosity recently underwent a complete software overhaul.  NASA/JPL needed to swap out the software that ran the rover during flight/landing phases was not appropriate for roaming the Martian surface.  Since the rover did not have the memory resources to hold and execute both programs, they needed to be swapped before Curiosity could begin exploration duties.   The procedure took four days because of the distance involved, plus extreme caution had to be taken not to overload the rover and lose communications or worse.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

NASA and We Know It....

ok, just so we don't take ourselves TOO seriously, found on boing boing, this YouTube video was debuted on the Satire channel. A funny redo of I'm sexy and I know it.... Enjoy

Chemistry hee hee's

Thought everyone cold use a laugh today. 

found these online messing around, and figured they fit here. May not be space exactly, but still science. Sort of.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RIP: Harry Harrison

r Harry Harrison passed away Wednesday 8/1512 at the age of 87.

Wiki reports that Harrison wrote more than 50 novels, but he will always be best known for the Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the basis for the film staring Charlton Heston called Soylent Green.

He is survived by his two children two children, Todd and Moira

Live spacewalk

  NASA will be airing two space walks live on their channel. Cool.
The first space walk is scheduled to begin at 10am on Monday. august 20th. This will be the 163rd space walk, and will be Commander Gennady Padalka, and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko in the Russian Orlan Spacesuits. They will be spending approximately 61/2 hours outside relocating the cargo boom from the Pris to the Zarya module. They will also complete the installation of the micrometeroid debris shields on the Zvezda service module and also be deploying a small scientific satellite 
    The second walk will also be of about the same amount of time, will be the 164th space walk.. This one is scheduled to begin at approximately 7am on Thursday, August 30th. This one has NASA Flight Engineer Sunita Williams, and Japans Aerospace Exploration Agency Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide. They will be using the U.S. extravehicular mobility unit spacesuits. Their job is replace a faulty power relay unit on the space stations truss, rig power cables fro the arrival of a Russian laboratory module next year, and install a thermal cover on a docking port. This is also the first US based walk since July 2011. 

For information on NASA's streaming, schedule, and down-link information, here is the link.

For information about the station and her crew, this is the link for that.

   Now on to a side note. I am noticing that Mohawk dude at NASA may be getting a few people interested in space again. Not the way it should happen, but if it helps get people back into it, then good.
  And I'm not sure, but I think I freaked out my spell check on this article. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mars Curiosity Panorama

And you didn't think Curiosity could get any neater! Here is an interactive panorama, created by Andrew Bodrov of all the HD photos the rover has sent back so far.

You can also go here for the original site. The detail still amazes me!

Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 2 in New Mexico

Monday, August 13, 2012

YoYos In Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaace

NASA Astronaut Don Pettit is at it again with cool experiments on the ISS. In this episode, Don uses his off-duty time to practice his microgravity yo-yo skills.

How the yoyo behaves is truly amazing, and not at all how you would expect it to. However with the yoyo Don uses, (a free spinning axle - ball-bearing style) clearly demonstrates how gyroscopic action works in micro gravities.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review: Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror

Every now and then you get surprised by something that is really good, I mean way past expectations. Seems that is happening to me more and more with what I would call, High Concept Anime. Most often in the feature length versions, but not always.

I was recently notified by list that a new animated anime feature was available called Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror". If you enjoyed the lovely anime feature "Spiriting Away" then you really have to take a look at "Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror". Oblivion is a 2009 Japanese computer-animated film directed by Shinsuke Sato. It was produced in commemoration of Fuji Television's 50th anniversary.

I am not a great fan of computer animation, mainly because it gives the characters a somewhat plastic look as apposed to the hand drawn version which I consider more pleasing to the eye.

That being said, the movie is every bit as fast paced and environment rich as say Spirited Away. The premise of the movie is that forgotten or otherwise lost items are collected by the fox god.

A young girl missing her mother and feeling unloved, asks for the return of her mother's long lost hand mirror. Soon she finds herself in a small shrine, where through misadventure manages to witness this very same fox god "collecting" items.

Following him, she finds herself thrust into a world of small creatures who build their world with the collected detritus from the human world.

Our main character Haruka soon discovers that this world is ruled by someone called the Barron who in fact has the very mirror she wants returned. The balance of the movie follows Haruka as she and one of the "foxes" as she attempts to regain the mirror and in the balance foil his plans of destruction.

You might not get the same feel of rich legend that Spirited Away provided, but it is clear that the movie's plot and characterizations are rooted in Japanese mythology and a lot of respect was given to the legends that helped formulate the plot.

As far as animated features go, this film I think exemplifies the art-form without being pedantic, so in it's class I would give it a 9 with the drawback of the slightly plastic look to the graphics. I would say that it is well worth tracking down. I found it on YouTube, check it out.

Wikipedia article on Oblivion can be seen HERE

Beam Me Up episode 326 is now online

Episode 326 of Beam Me Up!

Couple of good offerings this week, plus news and reviews. Like I have said….oh hell you already know lol.

Ok, I start off with a short on Neil Armstrong’s recovery from surgery. Also I make the observation of how many people just had no clue.

The first story for the afternoon is episode 11 of “In Plain Sight” by Jason Kahn. Then a session of Trek Trivia!

Next from EarthSky the new super Chilian telescope Alma is due to be at full strength by next year and scientist are excited by what they expect to get for output from the array. Plus more from EarthSky.

The Curiosity Rover is next on the conversation list. The landing and subsequent photos were exciting beyond all measure. Can’t wait for what comes next.

Finally I review the movie Outlander, which was as bad as it sounds.

In closing this week I end with part 2 of “All That Touches the Air” by An Owomoyela.

That and other incidentals this week on episode 326 of Beam Me Up

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review: Outlander


Hey my buddy Mark came through again with a movie that I never thought I would see, because I had the completely wrong plot line and didn't pay attention to who was in it! Thanks Mark!

James Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, with Ron Perlman and John Hurt

An alien ship crashes into a Norwegian lake in 709 AD. The lone survivor tells the locals of a horrific dragon-like animal that somehow got aboard his “ship” killing everyone aboard.

He manages to enlist the aid of some of the locals to aide him in killing the beast. Which it seems is problematic as it is impervious to iron age weapons.

Outlander doesn’t really telegraph it’s plot devices but it is evident that a lont of the movie scenes are a homage to earlier films in the genre.

That being said, the cast is great!

James Caviezel with whom I first became aware of in the TV program people of interest which is government conspiracy, mysterious super computer, and the machine’s very eccentric creator. Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, with Ron Perlman do I really have to say anything about Ron’s SF connections? and John Hurt who it goes without saying is so much better than you would have thought of him being. Great cast who took the movie seriously.

I really can not talk much about the second half of the movie other to say, but this time you know where the movie is going, but it is a fun trip.

The extras are a big surprise! Commentary, deleted scenes LOTS OF THEM, tests and more! This movie gave me more bang for the buck than most blu-rays! But then this was a purchase disk and not a rental, but it WAS A DVD.

In rating the movie - its an 8 for being derivative but then it WANTED to be! I really don’t know what I would want more from the dvd... So I am giving it a most excellent 10...18 overall or a respectable 9 which means that the movie is better because of technical reasons but it is still a strong recommendation to give it a go.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bane after Batman...

From Funny or Die, the question is asked, after Batman, just how is the world treating citizen Bane, and just how is he adapting to a life after crime.....

Bob Hoskins Retires Due to Illness

Airlock Alpha has listed an article concerning Bob Hoskins. For you that might be in the dark about Hoskins, He was responsible for bringing to life Eddie Valiant, a rough, angry and hard drinking private eye in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" an animated live action film.
And his role as Smee in the movie Hook in which he stared with Robin Williams and Dustan Hoffman.

Hoskins has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and instead of continuing on a reduced schedule he has opted to retire and spend more time with his family.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Armstrong Reported in Good Shape After Heart Surgery reports that Neil Armstrong is "doing great" after cardiac bypass surgery. This, according to his wife Carol Armstrong.

The 82 year old Armstrong entered the hospital earlier this week after a routine stress test revealed
four blockages in his coronary arteries.

Armstrong is said to be in great spirits and doctors expect him to recover from the

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Landing Video From Curiosity Rover

Yep, I know, I am a bit fixated with the Curiosity Rover, but in truth, this amazing material keeps coming out and it is just amazing!

The rover it seems had video recorders going during the landing. Here we have a live video from Curiosity as it descended to the Martian surface. It is a short video, but then this all happened VERY fast. So, check it out!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

First Color Image from Curiosity's "Hand"

From NASA JPL, Here is the first color pic from Curiosity taken the afternoon of the first day on Mars.

NASA/JPL describe the photo as:
  • ... view of the landscape to the north of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity acquired by the Mars Hand Lens Imager....
  • In the distance, the image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater. The image is murky because the MAHLI’s removable dust cover is apparently coated with dust blown onto the camera during the rover’s terminal descent.

NASA says that this cover will be removed in the coming weeks for clearer shots from the "hand" device.

Here is more about that part of the rover:
  • The MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of Curiosity's robotic arm.

The picture was taken of course with the dust cover on but NASA also reports that:
  • the robotic arm was in its stowed position. The main purpose of Curiosity's MAHLI camera is to acquire close-up, high-resolution views of rocks and soil at the rover's Gale Crater field site. The camera is capable of focusing on any target at distances of about 0.8 inch (2.1 centimeters) to infinity. This means it can, as shown here, also obtain pictures of the Martian landscape.
and of course the stowed position explains the odd framing and orientation of the picture.  This of course will change when the arm is moved to an operational position.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Monday, August 06, 2012

Muppet Mars

Could not resist....  Here someone took the time to photoshop in the Muppet know the one on the left is saying Rover...the rest can only be imagined...

Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter Catches Curiosity In Mid-Air!

Wow, after the hugely exciting landing Monday morning of the Mars Rover Curiosity and the first three pictures from the lander, I didn't think that could be upstaged even for a second....Well, let me take those words back because according to an NBC.Com photo posted from NASA, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that wowed the crowd this morning with an incredible picture of the rover at the end of its parachute, six minutes into the seven minute landing maneuver, still under the 'chute!

It would seem that this was not all by chance however....again according to the article:
  • The orbiter's imaging team had planned the shot for months, and the payoff came when MRO snapped the picture from a distance of 211 miles. (The photo shows) Curiosity was about 2 miles above the Martian surface, still protected inside its Mars Science Laboratory back shell and heat shield.

The timing was so critical that if the photo had been taken one second before or after this one was snapped, there would have been nothing in the frame! Even more surprising is that HiRise controllers had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken!

I can remember the Curiosity controllers describing where the orbiters were in relationship to the rover and that any pictures being taken or data being transferred would have to deal with crafts at high angles and very close to the horizon. In any case, the MRO stands tall even in the big shadow cast by the arrival of Curiosity.

For those that are interested -  the resolution for the photo is a bit over 13 inches per pixel.  (Not bad, I will take that!)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Beam Me Up Episode 325 Now Online

Yep, so what do normal people do when it's hot? Right, so what possesses me to set in a hot studio all afternoon? Yeah, I can't put a finger on it either.

So it's Beam Me Up episode 325. I start out with a read from Kallamis' article wondering if Generation Star Ships are indeed possible. Next, I wanted to get my review of Lockout (a space/prison offering) because it was right there on the blog in front of me.

Then on to our first story! Mark Webb's “Striking Twice” is a bit more than your average version of this story! Plus he managed to do it in Flash Fiction!

Next Earth Sky offers up a couple real good pieces of astro-science this week. The Milkyway is most definitly on a collision course with Andromeda, and the time is at hand...sort of...aaaaaaaand tropical lakes where you will never expect them!

Then it is time for Star Trek Trivia! Two new questions from the Star Trek Trivia tome! NASA has awarded monies to three American companies to develop a man rated space craft that will be able to put American astronauts in space from American soil on craft built in the US of A.

And our last story of the afternoon, part one of All that Touches Air by An Owomoyela read by our august reader Ron Huber.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

NASA Awards 1b For a Man Rated Launch Vehicle

Friday, NASA penned an agreement with three companies which divvies up 1 Billion for design and development of a next generation man rated space vehicle.

The three companies involved are Boeing which will receive $460 million, SpaceX will receive $440 million (how bout them apples?! SpaceX playing on the same field as giant Boeing!) and Sierra Nevada Corporation receives $212.5 million. SNC is a systems integration firm.

Here is NASA's quote
  • "Today, we are announcing another critical step toward launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on space systems built by American companies," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "We have selected three companies that will help keep us on track to end the outsourcing of human spaceflight and create high-paying jobs in Florida and elsewhere across the country." 
These three companies are working under the auspices of the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) formed by NASA as part of theSpace Act Agreements who's focus is U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Antipodean #170 Now online!

David Scholes writes to tell me that Antipodean, the online flash fiction site is once again offering a new issue. Number 170, and what makes this episode unique is that David's offering in the newest issue is called "Equalisation".  Worth Checking out for sure.

Here is the complete story list for Antipodean issue 170

  • The Final Crusade by Mick Dawson
  • We'll Meet Again by John Craig
  • Retribution by Kevin J. Phyland
  • But I Only.. By Ashleigh Meikle
  • Equalisation by David Scholes
  • Addiction by Natalie J.E. Potts
  • Leprechaun in the Backyard by Rick Keuning

Guess Who's Coming for Dinner

Mark Wilson writing in About SF reports that the SF channel's Lost Girl has been renewed for a third season!  Yaaaaaaaaaaae!

And even better news is that Linda Hamilton of Terminator and Chuck fame will be, as Mark puts it, guesting as Acacia, a ruthless assassin.  So far Acacia is slated for just one episode.  (please let there be more!)

I know, not much to report, but as a Lost Girl fan and also always happy to know that Linda "Sarah Connor" Hamilton is still going strong, was a double payday for me. 

So look for her in an upcoming episode of Lost Girl on SyFy.

Review: Lockout


Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, Peter Stormare

My buddy Mike had been waxing eloquent about this prison break/rescue movie called Lockout and had offered it to me several times. No mention was made about science fiction being the main thread, Mike it seems in not really a science fiction fan. But sorry Mike, Lockout is a Science Fiction flic no question!

The basic theme is your standard framed warrior/police person/ merc is pressed into service to rescue a high level dignitary. Lockout follows Snow a man framed for a crime he did not commit, is offered his freedom in exchange for rescuing the President's daughter Emilie. The kicker is this time the prison is an orbital prison called MS One which he inmates have taken control of.

There are several sub plots about Snow’s “crime” and a mysterious briefcase and others that are tied up at the end.

The plot of Lockout will soon become familiar to fans of the space station /prison venue. Or the rogue soldier/officer or the main character who’s methods are viewed as anachronistic etc. such as say “Outland” or “Demolition Man” There are very familiar plot devices and as such takes very little chances. Matter of fact none. The special effect are adequate and plenty of them though some are definitely going to make you go HUUUUH? But even these are elements from other films, just applied a little gratuitously here.

So, Lockout is if not lazy every bit derivative. The square jawed main man, the femfatale who always seems to have a thing for bad boys. The obligatory psychopathic megalomaniac with a retinue of various malcontents.

But if you’re out for punch him in the throat and stomp on his head brainless fun, then Lockout is your entertainment for the evening. The direction is competent and the cast never seemed to camp it up even you the Wilhelm scream was way

Because I only had the dvd the extras were a bit slim, but there was a few decent shorts but no director’s comments but on a dvd can’t say I expected them.

So, I would give the movie a harmless entertainment 7 with a 6 for extras. An overall 13 and a 6.5 rating. With a “its not a rip off, and not bad to boot, rent it I would say, just don’t expect more than good entertainment.” review and hey, that aint so bad!

Generation Ship, Is it possible?

   The first and largest problem would be the descendants. The concept of self-worth and a reasonable future would be the biggest problem in such a society, as it is in any society. Why they were trapped on the inside of a massive ship lumbering along through the galaxy needs to be addressed absolutely.
   Self worth is largely based upon ones perceived achievements in life. This of course is also a conceptional reality in large based upon perception of ones self to their peers, or possibly the public, or even having just  helped make life better. That brings me to the one and only scenario I think would work. Or could work as we are now at our evolutionary stage.
     Go nuts and build build build. And I am talking about the ship. Here is where if we could develop artificial gravity, this would really be amazing, but since we don’t have it, it’s out. Yep, still the big round tube. Only now, you really do build it all the way. You build a city within it. A real one. I'm talking about a big freaking ship here, not some thing where you actually know at all times that you are on a ship.  Rebuild our entire basis of society inside a ship. People would already be living and growing up on it while it was being built. Theirs would be a society all its own over a period of time. When it came time to leave the rest of us behind, (yeah, my arse I’d be staying), they wouldn’t be missing that need of self-worth, or of having no future. They would have their own world in basically every sense of the word. By the time this thing was built, and lets throw a bit of magic in here anyway just for fun and speed up the process. Lets say we actually built the basic of this thing in 200 years time start to finish. (I know that's impossible, we all hate each other too much yet.) 
   But even in that time period, people would have already been living aboard this new world. They have miles and miles of area, a complete real city that has or is still being built. Hell you could even go fishing in areas that had water out in a somewhat country style setting where things are grown and raised. You'll have new forms of sports arising, new types of view-able entertainment, and of course I mean actors and plays, movies etc. They would develop their own form of monetary system, hopefully more responsible than here and not for things such as food and medicine etc. (My society, I'll envision it my way. You all can have fun tearing it apart.) You'd have stores, shops, places to go and eat, new fads and new music over time. You'd have a new world. You'd have such a variety of people, that freedom of choice for careers would be basically not much different than on earth, with the exception of a few more, and a few highly modified. I suppose to help even more with the basic needs of human nature and the desire to do something different it would be possible to replicate the seasons to a point. If that could be done, you would have a true generation ship. 
   This is not a world ship, it isn't nearly big enough, nor nearly advanced enough. This is something that we could basically start building right now, right out there. We just need to do some mining of asteroids, and the one place i really haven't decided if I would  want to mine to this extent. Our moon. Anyway, forget the tech part again, and lets just assume we built this monstrosity.  It is quite possible that in such a scenario, they could actually become akin to the nomads here on earth.  Wanderers of the galaxy.
   This is the only chance I can see of a generation ship working in any scenario that it was built out of. Whether it was to save the race, because the world was overpopulated and needed room for it's people, or my reason; just for the simple fact that it could be done.
   This concept however would take the entire planet working together. And there goes my ship.
   I'm leaving out all other scientific concepts here such as brain mapping and cloning to keep original crew present. Or deep sleep or anything else like that. Also leaving out all tech ideas such as nuclear rocket system which we did build, ion drive, all of this. This is just about the legitimate society issues that would be faced. Looking for a way to fix that, and see if it could be held off for what shall be considered a very long age indeed. 
   Maybe if we'd stop shooting at each other, for even a freaking year, and shoot for somewhere close out there as a prototype colony on the moon, maybe we would learn something again in general. People as a group seem to need a goal. A place to reach to or they end up like we are now. Get the entire planet behind the same idea at once, and maybe we'll get somewhere finally. Yeah, I know, wish in one hand and...
   That's basically it there. I almost titled this differently. I almost titled it as follows.
   "Generation Ship, is it Possible or Why I can't sit for a Week." 
   Okay, got me a cushion and a padded chair. Have at it. Hope you all liked my little concept idea at least.