Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Mothership Eve

Lots of mainstream news websites are covering the public unveiling of Virgin Galactic's new WhiteKnightTwo mothership, known as "Eve". I've chosen to feature this video by ITN News because you can play a game as you watch: "Spot three errors in 90 seconds". I'll post my answers (yours may vary) in the comments tomorrow.

Monday, 27 July 2009

New Space Video Section

Here's the latest development in my quest to find the best way to present space videos - I'm trying out a hybrid system of embedded Youtube clips and my own uploaded videos. You can find it at the Space Museum Media Library.

A good video to catch is the latest Constellation Quarterly Report (July 2009). Amongst other things, this video talks about the new Ares Launch Abort System (emergency escape in the event of an aborted launch). The first test is scheduled for late October - it should be very interesting in light of a report by Patrick Air Force Base, which concluded that the Launch Abort System has a 100% chance of killing the entire crew.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Jupiter Impact

A week ago Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley took some photos of an impact event on Jupiter. Apparently a comet or asteroid has struck the planet. The team at Hubble decided the event was significant enough to interrupt the telescope's checkout and calibration (following the recent refurbishment) and get some snaps themselves.

Observing this sort of event is relatively rare. The last one was Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Happy Birthday Apollo

Not much to say really, just marking the exact anniversary. I'm watching NASA TV at the moment, enjoying the EVA (spacewalk). Later they're going to replay the mission control audio from that great day in 1969 - if you read this today you might like to tune in.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Photos of Apollo Landing Sites

After yesterday's bombshell admission about the wiped video tapes, NASA could use a come-back against the conspiracy theorists. Hi-res photos of the Apollo landing sites should help so it's very timely that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter delivers. See the photos here.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Restored Apollo 11 Footage

It seems there was one small incorrect detail in my last blog entry. Reports that the original Apollo slow-scan video tapes have been found and restored turn out to be wrong. Instead, the restored footage is the same broadcast material we've already seen. The results are nice enough and previews can be found in HD at nasa.gov.

Here's the kicker though: The original slow-scan master tapes were apparently deliberately erased by NASA to save money. I'm not joking. The best record of one of the defining moments of our species was purposely destroyed by the very organisation that made it happen. I'm still reeling from this news. It's a disgrace that beggars belief.

Human history includes numerous instances of historical records and monuments being deliberately destroyed. Most of these instances have rightly been accompanied by public condemnation. Where is the outcry over this NASA debacle? Who is being held to account? Why did I see this story in the New Zealand media while cnn.com, nasa.gov and other American sources conveniently bury or gloss over it?

The conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this one (happy birthday Richard Hoagland). Can you blame them? The decision to erase the tapes is so inexplicable that it's very tempting to wonder if there really was some ulterior motive.

Oh well, I guess I'll try my best to enjoy the new footage. Hard to see it as anything other than a bitter disappointment though.

Monday, 13 July 2009

NASA Finds Lost Apollo Footage

For almost 40 years space enthusiasts have wondered how NASA managed to misplace the original video tapes of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. The footage we've all seen is a lower-quality copy made for television broadcast, while the higher-quality tapes were stored.... somewhere.

NASA and its subcontractors have maintained that the tapes were never "lost", they were just stored safely. No-one remembered exactly where, but they were sure the tapes were safe. Of course the public didn't buy this and neither did the conspiracy theorists who argued that the lost tapes were evidence backing the moon hoax theory.

Eventually NASA gave this issue the attention it deserved and set out to find the tapes. Now, at long last, it's official: The tapes have been found and partially restored. At a media briefing on July 16th 2009 NASA will release the new footage. I hope the long years in a vault haven't degraded the tapes too much - I'll post again when I've seen the results.