Man gets in pod, pod goes up, man jumps from pod

GIF: Felix Baumgartner jumps from space.  on Twitpic

If you didn’t watch this live you missed the visual event of the year for me so far.

Felix Baumgartner got in a capsule attached to a balloon, spent two hours twiddling his thumbs and worrying that the heater on his visor wasn’t working and then jumped. Well fell, although there was apparently a small ‘bunny hop’ off the step.

At the time of blogging Baumgartner’s jump broke two records, highest balloon flight and longest freefall, with the possibility of a third if he breaks the sound barrier on the way down.

The jump was awe-inspiring, with millions watching online collectively holding their breath as he climbed out onto the platform no bigger than a skateboard and it is said the feat could help develop ways to bring astronauts safely back from space in an emergency. Of cause that doesn’t stop “Bum Gardener” trending moments after he landed… I love the Internet.

UPDATE: It’s confirmed he broke the sound barrier, so that’s three records in the bag!



Space geeks @twisst needs you now.

@Twisst is the twitter account that tweets you when the there’s an opportunity to catch the International Space Station as it flies overhead. And this morning Twitter told its creator that I believes it to be spam. If you follow the account you know that it’s clearly not and it would be a massive shame if this service was shut down because of the social networks drive to profitability.

So we all know what we need to do. #savetwisst is what we’ll tweet. Let the space geek community know about it. Astronauts, scientists, the NASA administrator himself. This is a service that lets thousand of people catch the ISS and it is something that needs to be kept.



UPDATE: So we did it! Twitter got in touch with @Twisst and the service is back up and running, well done all.

The original moonwalker slips the bonds of earth


I wasn’t alive to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. I don’t actually even remember the moment when I first saw footage of his ‘giant leap’. But I’ll remember where I was when I heard the original moonwalker had died. Sitting on a balcony at a hotel, staring up at the stars, wearing a t shirt with a picture of an Apollo astronaut on.

Apollo was what it was, a phenomenal human achievement wrapped up in an attempt to show an enemy who’s boss. But the raw human story of three of our kind hurtling away from us at speeds to high to comprehend to plant a flag on a desolate piece of rock we all take for grated is one that touched the world and will be told throughout human history.

I have never met an Apollo astronaut, I’m unlikely to pay the hundreds of pounds for a ticket to one of their numerous speaking events. But I hope one day I can visit the Apollo 11 memorial park, nestled in that far corner of the sea of tranquility and take my children’s children to touch the box keeping that famous footprint safe.

There was a half moon above the balcony where I wrote this post, but a moon that tonight reminds us all what can be achieved if we put our minds to it.

Meanwhile… in Russia

A few days post landing and NASA and others have been posting up videos and pictures galore…

The time-lapse of STS-135’s rollout to the launch pad is also available…

and this video is particularly amazing, it’s the shuttle landing viewed from the ground in Mexico…

Annoyingly there’s still no sign of the pictures astro_paolo took before he landed (I hope they survived reentry/he remembered to take the lens cap off/NASA might be saving them for the end of the whole space shuttle programme).

but meanwhile in a car park in Russia this happened…

(yes I know it happened the other day but this blog appears to have a bit of a tradition of posting about anniversaries a bit late. The Mars500 project is one of those projects that sounds (and looks) completely crazy but is scientifically quite useful. In case you haven’t heard about it the russians has essentially locked a group of guys up for a simulated mars mission in the car park of one of their universities.

The project’s website is full of videos of the experiments (pranks) the team looking after the guys have performed (here) and the final results of all this could have a real effect on the way we treat the first humans to head to the red planet or beyond.

Back in the real world and the second half of Expedition 28 moved a step closer to launching as its Soyuz rocket was dragged to the launch pad. It wont be long before the European Space Agency has the ability to launch some of these on their own, as they finished building a Soyuz launch centre in French Guiana not long ago. Once that happens we might finally see the one Brit in the ESA’s astronaut corps getting his feet off the ground.

Slightly missed anniversary, you’re asking us to do what!?

In my rush to blog yesterday I completely missed the fact that it was 50 years since Kennedy made this speech and gave NASA’s scientists the biggest shock of their lives…

Having been beaten into orbit by the soviets and with some serious cold war egg on his face Kennedy’s hands were pretty much tied….It’s just a bit of a worry he didn’t decide to warn the NASA guys about what he was planning on doing while he was planning the whole thing.

I would love to stumble upon the probably non-existent footage of NASA’s scientists basking in the success of getting a man in space for 15 minutes only to be told they had nine years to get a guy on the moon…..and back…..and with little knowledge of how that would be achieved. Talk about interesting day at the office!

Either was It’s a bit of a miracle this ever happened…

The lack of any substantial radiation shielding on the craft alone could have caused some serious problems and that’s before you look into the tiny amount of computing power the ‘most powerful rocket we’ve ever built’ actually had (the iphone i’m editing this post on has more memory).

I’ve also heard landing on the moon described as trying to hit a bullet, with another bullet, while riding a horse. Overall not exactly a walk in the park and not exactly the kind of thing you announce without running past the majority of the people involved.

But then again this is America we’re talking about, if the Brits had decided to go for the moon we would have set up 6 different committees, four of which would have been working on the same thing but reporting back to different people. Essentially we wouldn’t have even got to the planning stages let along fly a car to the moon.

Nostalgic moment over Gizmodo is throwing around an interesting idea that I hadn’t heard of before. Apparently on September 20th 1963 Kennedy addressed the UN and said…

Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity—in the field of space—there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon.

Yes that’s right, work together? For more details the article is here. As Gizmodo says there’s no way of telling how serious Kennedy was about that plan, but it shows the beginnings of an idea that has led to the world building the International Space Station, and countries buying seats on each other’s rockets when they run out of money to fund their own.

NASA’s planning a new bit of kit


As mentioned in the previous post NASA was going to unveil a new crew vehicle in partnership with Lockheed Martin this afternoon.

It’s slickly called the ‘multi-purpose crew vehicle’ (well done NASA, way to encapsulate the hopes of a species in one easy to remember acronym) and it’s main use will be for missions beyond earth orbit as well as a variety of other things…

“Spacecraft to serve as the primary crew vehicle for missions beyond LEO (low earth orbit).

Capable of conducting regular in-space operations (rendezvous, docking, extravehicular activity) in conjunction with payloads delivered by SLS for missions beyond LEO.

Capability to be a backup system for ISS cargo and crew delivery”

If you’re looking for more details NASA has put a page together on their website, but with years till it’s up in space I’ll believe it when I see it.

STS135 final space shuttle launch date set

I’m on a train so this post will be fairly unflowery, but essentially in the last few mins NASA announced this…

“NASA has targeted Atlantis’ STS-135 launch July 8 at about 11:40 a.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center in Florida: (details here)

The shuttle’s days are now officially numbered.