Americans weren’t the only ones with dreams of going to the moon. In 1970, two years after NASA achieved that goal (no, I don’t think Stanley Kubrick directed it all from a film set), a book was published in the Soviet Union showing cosmonauts on a trip that was never to be realised.
The Venera 7 was the first spacecraft to successfully land on another planet and transmit data back to Earth. It set off from Earth on 17 August 1970, and it landed on 15 December 1970. And it’s still there now, branded CCCP for all eternity to represent the Soviet Union, which of course no longer exists. If ever there was a metaphor to check human hubris, this surely is it.
Spotted on Imgur:
Russian photographer, Ralph Mirebs, managed to get inside an abandoned hangar at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where two Buran space shuttles of the Soviet space program have been left to slowly decay.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield recently published a book of photos taken from the International Space Station, You Are Here: Around The World in 92 Minutes.
My brother works for his publisher, Macmillan, and after meeting at their offices asked him to sign a book for my two sons Oscar (aged six) and Mateo (aged three). They are just the right age to get a message like this.
From Boing Boing:
You might recall an image release in 2012 of the Earth’s lights at night. Called Black Marble, the popular image was generated as a composite image from the best images by the taken over several months by NASA’s Suomi-NPP Visual Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). The instrument, according to NASA’s website, “detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses “smart” light sensors to observe dim signals such as city lights, auroras, wildfires, and reflected moonlight.”
Black Marble is a pretty image. It shows the light emitted by people, but it doesn’t give us a sense of how or why we are using it. So, Miguel Roman and Eleanor Stokes set about creating a dynamic understanding of human behavior at night around the globe.
They took over 3 years of Suomi-NPP VIIRS data over major urban areas in North America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, and developed algorithms to get rid of view-obstructing clouds, correct terrain errors, correct for atmospheric effects, and to remove light contamination from the moon, fire, and stray light. Overall, they focused on daily changes in lighting at the country, city, and neighborhood scales during the holiday season as compared to the rest of the year.
The result is visually dramatic. During the holidays our activity patterns change. This in turn changes the location of demand for energy services. For instance, in big metropolitan areas, lighting increases in predominantly suburban, residential areas. This is likely because people are leaving work earlier and going home to turn on lights. Also, McMansions require more light to illuminate with festive holiday lights. Interestingly, urban centers increase only slightly when compared to the suburbs, which is probably related to the fact that urban areas are more illuminated at night generally.
Right now, there are about 1,100 satellites whizzing above our heads performing various functions like observation, communication, and spying. There are roughly another 2,600 doing nothing, as they died or were turned off a long time ago.
How did each of these satellites get up there? And what nations are responsible for sending up the bulk of them?
The answers come in the form of this bewitching visualization of satellite launches from 1957 – the year Russia debuted Sputnik 1 – to the present day. (The animation starts at 2:10; be sure to watch in HD.) Launch sites pop up as yellow circles as the years roll by, sending rockets, represented as individual lines, flying into space with one or more satellites aboard.
“Things are not as simple as they were supposed to be, with the planets staying quiet forever,” says Alessandro Morbidelli, a planetary dynamics expert at the Nice Observatory in France. “When the planets form they don’t know they have to form on good orbits to be stable for billions of years! So they are stable temporarily, but are not stable for the lifetime of the star.”
Translation: Earth was forged in chaos, lives in chaos, and may well end in chaos.
While Morbidelli is explaining all this to me in a cheery Italian accent, I cannot help fixating on the grim connotations of his last name. He and his scientific compatriots are amplifying a recent realization about our celestial home: Instability is our natural state. For centuries, Isaac Newton and his followers envisioned a solar system that runs like divine clockwork. Only in the past decade have high-precision mathematical simulations shown just how wrong he was. Carl Sagan famously declared that “we’re made of star stuff.” Morbidelli has an equally profound message: We are made of cosmic chaos.