All the American Flags On the Moon Are Now White

U.S. Flag on the moon, Photoshopped white

From gizmodo.com:

NASA has finally answered a long-standing question: all but one of the six American flags on the Moon are still standing up. Everyone is now proudly talking about it. The only problem is that they aren’t American flags anymore.

They are all white.

The debate on the Moon flags has been going on for decades. Engineers and historians have been discussing it without ever coming to a definitive answer as to their status. Even Dennis Lacarruba—the manufacturer of the flags—didn’t think they would still be standing erect. Lacarruba’s New Jersey company, Annin, made the nylon flags for $5.50 ($33 in 2012 dollars) a piece in 1969:

I can’t believe there would be anything left. I gotta be honest with you. It’s gonna be ashes.

Even the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera man, Dr. Mark Robinson, was skeptical. Like Lacarruba, Robinson thought that there wouldn’t be any trace of the flags to be found.

But his own camera has proved him wrong. The LRO has been taking photos of the Moon landing sites for a while now. They are so sharp that you can even see the tracks of the rovers.

These photos show that the shadows of the flags are still there. There’s even a video showing how the shadows change as the Moon rotates. Indeed, all of them are standing up except the one left by Armstrong and Aldrin, the first two men on the Moon. The Apollo 11 lunar module crew placed the flag too close to their spacecraft and, according to Buzz Aldrin himself, it was blown away as they blasted off to rendezvous with Michael Collins, on board Columbia, their Command and Service Module orbiting the Moon.

We come in peace

So America, F*ck Yeah, right? Not quite. While the $5.50 nylon flags are still waving on the windless orb, they are not flags of the United States of America anymore. All Moon and material experts have no doubt about it: the flags are now completely white. If you leave a flag on Earth for 43 years, it would be almost completely faded. On the Moon, with no atmospheric protection whatsoever, that process happens a lot faster. The stars and stripes disappeared from our Moon flags quite some time ago.

According to lunar scientist Paul Spudis:

For forty-odd years, the flags have been exposed to the full fury of the Moon’s environment – alternating 14 days of searing sunlight and 100° C heat with 14 days of numbing-cold -150° C darkness. But even more damaging is the intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the pure unfiltered sunlight on the cloth (modal) from which the Apollo flags were made. Even on Earth, the colors of a cloth flag flown in bright sunlight for many years will eventually fade and need to be replaced. So it is likely that these symbols of American achievement have been rendered blank, bleached white by the UV radiation of unfiltered sunlight on the lunar surface. Some of them may even have begun to physically disintegrate under the intense flux.

Robinson and Lacarruba agree with Spudis.

All the American Flags On the Moon Are Now WhiteExpand

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon.
July 1969, A.D.
We came in peace for all mankind.

Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin

We came in peace indeed. And here’s the flag to prove it.

Now, take us to your leader.

‘Made in space!’ Astronaut sews dinosaur toy from space station scraps

Karen Nyberg dinosaur toy
NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg’s stuffed toy dinosaur floats on the International Space Station. She made the doll for her son using materials she found on the orbiting outpost. (NASA)
There is a dinosaur on board the International Space Station where there wasn’t one before.

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, who since May has been working as a flight engineer as a member of the orbiting outpost’s resident crew, revealed the toy dinosaur floating on the space station on September 26.

“Made in space!” Nyberg, an Expedition 37 crewmember, exclaimed in her caption for a photo of the toy giant lizard she uploaded to the pinboard-style photo-sharing website Pinterest. “I made this dinosaur for my son last Sunday, September 22.”

The dinosaur, which resembles a Tyrannosaurus Rex, has an olive green back and a lighter green belly. It is stitched together with white thread.

Nyberg, a self-described crafter whose hobbies including quilting and sewing, packed threads, sewing needles and small fabric samples for her trip to space. But to make the dinosaur, she scavenged materials that she found around her orbital home.

“It is made out of velcro-like fabric that lines the Russian food containers [that are] found here on the International Space Station,” Nyberg wrote about the doll. “It is lightly stuffed with scraps from a used t-shirt.”

Astronauts have carried stuffed dolls to space before, and cosmonauts have a tradition of launching with small plush toys as talismans and “zero-g indicators.” When the dolls, which are suspended from the Soyuz spacecraft’s control panel, begin to float, the crew can tell they have entered orbit.

Nyberg’s crew launched with a plush white dog her Soyuz commander, Fyodor Yurchikhin, had received as a gift 30 years ago and had flown into space twice before. A small black cat doll, named “Dimlar,” served as the zero-gravity indicator for the crew that arrived September 26, named after cosmonaut Oleg Kotov’s children, Dima and Lara.

Karen Nyberg sewing
Expedition 37 flight engineer Karen Nyberg devotes some of her down time creating crafts in her “sewing space.” (NASA)

 

Nyberg’s dinosaur however, may be a new breed of space toy. It may be the first stuffed animal created in space.

In addition to sewing stuffed toys for him, Nyberg keeps in daily contact with her 3-year-old son Jack, sending down short videos for him every day. Nyberg’s husband, who is also an astronaut who last flew on the final space shuttle mission in 2011, sends up photos and videos of their son.

A photo Nyberg earlier shared on Pinterest revealed that Jack has his own handiwork in space, too. Hanging on the wall of her quarters is an orange and pink painting labeled “For Mommy.”

Nyberg is slated to return to Earth on Nov. 11, presumably with the toy dinosaur in tow.

The Kepler Space Telescope: The equivalent of keeping your gaze steady on a grain of salt from a quarter mile away

Kepler Space Telescope infographic

From nasa.gov:

The Kepler Space Telescope. Precision Pointing: It's a Matter of Scale

Image credit: NASA Ames/Wendy Stenzel

For four years, the Kepler spacecraft continuously and simultaneously observed and collected data on more than 150,000 stars. Its mission: to determine if Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zone of stars like our sun are common or rare.

The stability of Kepler’s pointing is measured in degrees, arcminutes, arcseconds and milli-arcseconds. To put that into perspective, the image compares the measurements using a movie theatre screen, a small bag of popcorn, a kernel of corn and a grain of salt.

During the four years of science operations, the pointing precision of the spacecraft was controlled to within a few milli-arcseconds. That is the equivalent of keeping your gaze steady on a grain of salt from a quarter mile away.

The next time you’re asked to pass the salt think of the Kepler space telescope, and share its story.

NASA Set to Fund World’s First 3D Food Printer

3D food printer

From worldindustrialreporter.com:

NASA has announced that it will fund construction of the world’s first ever 3D food printer. The American space company has given a $125,000 grant to mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor, who has already designed the machine.

And they hope it will eventually be able to provide food for astronauts on long-distance journeys through space.

Some commentators also say the design is just as exciting for Earth-dwellers, as the machines could eventually become a standard kitchen appliance. Families would then be able to simply print off their dinner, rather than spend time preparing it.

The food printer is fed on cartridges of powders and oils containing all the nutrients needed for a healthy diet — which work in much the same way as a standard printer’s ink cartridges.

The ingredients are sprayed on layer-by-layer by the 3D printer, eventually creating solid three-dimensional food.

It is also thought the printers might help cut food waste globally, as the cartridges wouldn’t go out of date for over 30 years and could only be refilled when they had completely run out.

Contractor told Quartz online magazine: “I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently. So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”

Once it is up and running, Contractor will test the machine by trying to print a pizza, which was an obvious choice due to its flat shape. The dough will be printed first, then the tomato base, then the “protein-layer” topping.

The report was first published in U.K’s daily national tabloid, the Sun.

[Full article]

Astronaut Chris Hadfield Returns to Earth

Chris Hadfield

By Kate Lunau from Macleans.com:

Hadfield saw space and Earth as if they were brand-new and shared his experience aboard the ISS with millions.

The wonder of Chris Hadfield

James Blair/NASA

On May 13, as the Toronto Maple Leafs faced off against the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of their Stanley Cup playoff series, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft was undocking from the International Space Station (ISS). Crammed inside like sardines were Chris Hadfield and his crewmates, American Tom Marshburn and Russian Roman Romanenko, returning home after five months in space. Underneath his spacesuit, Hadfield was wearing a Leafs T-shirt to support his favourite team. The Soyuz sliced down into the atmosphere and began to slow, subjecting the astronauts to a punishing 4 Gs—four times Earth’s gravity—and making their limbs feel leaden, their breathing laboured: a harsh reintroduction to gravity after the weightlessness of space. As the Soyuz dropped to its landing site on a Kazakhstan plain, search-and-rescue helicopters were circling.

The capsule hit the ground with the force of a car crash, tipping over onto its side. “I was hanging from the ceiling,” Hadfield says. “Roman was in the middle, and Tom was lying on the floor.” Marshburn looked out the window, and saw “dirt and grass where space had been just moments before.” The search-and-rescue team pried open the hatch and Hadfield and his crew were greeted by the scent of springtime, mixed with the burnt smell of their charred spaceship.

Dr. Raffi Kuyumjian, Hadfield’s flight surgeon, was one of three Canadian Space Agency (CSA) people in Kazakhstan. (Hadfield’s wife, Helene, was watching from mission control in Houston.) After the astronauts had been lifted from the spacecraft and were seated, draped in blankets, Kuyumjian said, “The first thing I did was dial Helene on my cell and give it to Chris.” He and Helene assured each other they were fine, then Hadfield asked: “How’d the Leafs do?” She broke the news that his team had lost in overtime. With that, Canada’s first space commander was truly brought back to Earth.

Since blasting off to the ISS on Dec. 19, Hadfield has become the most celebrated astronaut alive, one destined for a spot alongside his hero, Neil Armstrong, whose 1969 moon landing inspired his own career. But while half a billion people watched Armstrong climb out of the lunar lander and set foot on the moon, this is a more cynical time—one less impressed by technological achievement. People have lived and worked aboard the ISS continuously since 2000, and visiting low-Earth orbit isn’t as exotic as walking on the moon, let alone Mars or beyond. It’s a wonder that a Canadian astronaut like Hadfield could catch anyone’s attention, let alone captivate millions around the world. Yet, however improbably, that’s what he did.

[Full article]

The International Space Station will get its own 3D printer next year

Made in Space team members with 3D printer
Made in Space team members with their 3D printer hang on during a zero-g test flight.
CREDIT: Made in Space

Two of my favorite things! Space and 3D printing!

By Mike Wall from SPACE.com:

A 3D printer is slated to arrive at the International Space Station next year, where it will crank out the first parts ever manufactured off planet Earth.

The company Made in Space is partnering with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on the 3D Printing in Zero G Experiment (or 3D Print for short), which aims to jump-start an off-planet manufacturing capability that could aid humanity’s push out into the solar system.

“The 3D Print experiment with NASA is a step towards the future. The ability to 3D-print parts and tools on demand greatly increases the reliability and safety of space missions while also dropping the cost by orders of magnitude,” Made in Space CEO Aaron Kemmer said in a statement. [10 Amazing 3D-Printed Objects]

“The first printers will start by building test coupons, and will then build a broad range of parts, such as tools and science equipment,” he added.

Sunlight glints off the International Space Station, with the blue limb of Earth providing a dramatic backdrop.
In this photo, taken in February 2010, sunlight glints off the International Space Station, with the blue limb of Earth providing a dramatic backdrop. Credit: NASA

The 3D printer is slated to blast off in August 2014, tagging along with a cargo mission private spaceflight company SpaceX is launching to the orbiting lab for NASA.

The device will build objects layer by layer out of polymers and other materials, using a technique called extrusion additive manufacturing. The blueprints for these objects will be pre-loaded onto a computer bound for the orbiting lab or uplinked from Earth, Made in Space officials said.

Advocates say 3D printing can help make living in space easier and cheaper. For example, more than 30 percent of the spare parts currently aboard the International Space Station can be manufactured by Made in Space’s machine, company co-founder and chief technologist Jason Dunn told NASA chief Charles Bolden and congressman Mike Honda (D-Calif.) during a presentation today (May 24) at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

“3D printing is an exciting technology,” Niki Werkheiser, 3D Print project manager at NASA Marshall’s Technology Development and Transfer Office, said in a statement. “It will allow us to live and work in space with the same efficiency and productivity that we do on Earth, with the ultimate objective being to eliminate reliance on materials and parts launched from the ground.”

While off-Earth manufacturing will get its start at the International Space Station, NASA officials say the technology’s potential goes beyond low-Earth orbit. Werkheiser described 3D printing as “absolutely a critical enabler for NASA’s exploration missions.”

Indeed, NASA recently funded the development of a prototype 3D printer designed to make space food products out of cheap raw materials that have a long shelf life. This “3D pizza printer” could help feed astronauts on long space journeys, such as the 500-day trek to Mars, agency officials say.

California-based Made in Space was awarded a Phase 3 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from Marshall for this mission, and the two organizations will work together to make it happen.

3D Print won’t be Made in Space’s first foray into microgravity printing. The company tested out various 3D printing technologies in 2011 on parabolic airplane flights that produced short periods of weightlessness.

While 3D Print is primarily a demonstration mission, Made in Space is also developing a more permanent space-printing capability called the Additive Manufacturing Facility that’s expected to arrive at the orbiting lab in 2016.

The Additive Manufacturing Facility will likely be used to build components for ongoing off-Earth experiments, Made in Space officials said.

3D-printable food? NASA wants a taste

3D printer printing chocolate onto crackers
By from ArsTechnica.com:

Grant money goes to see if we can’t print perfect, nutritious food.

Printing chocolate onto crackers. Not much, but it’s a start. SMRC.

NASA has bestowed a $125,000 grant upon a research corporation to pursue the development of 3D-printable food, according to a report from Quartz. Anjan Contractor, who runs Systems & Materials Research Corporation, hopes to design a system that will turn shelf-stable cartridges of sugars, complex carbs, and protein into edible food on demand.

By the time the population reaches 12 billion people, we will have to change our perceptions of what “food” is in order to sustain everyone.

Contractor asserts that by the time the population reaches 12 billion people (“peak human” for Earth being around 9.5 billion to 10 billion people), we will have to change our perceptions of what “food” is in order to sustain everyone. A modified RepRap 3D printer serves as Contractor’s theoretical prototype design for printing food.

Contractor plans to keep the printer open-source and envisions situations where recipes can be traded and tweaked by users. The printer could even theoretically produce foods based on the optimal nutritional makeup for the consumer, whether it’s a young boy, old woman, or hung-over college student.

Quartz notes, per the NASA grant, that Contractor’s current focus is developing printable food for space travel. If 3D printers can someday handle food chemistry like they handle gun components (and become drastically less expensive), we’d try some nutritionally optimized meatcubes fresh out of the extruder. For science.