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Video Space Exploration Politics -- and an Explanation of the Apollo Flag 'Mystery' (Video) 39

Meet Tom Moser. And here's another NASA oral history interview with him. And we interviewed him last week ourselves. Tom has been involved, one way or another, as engineer or manager, with every American manned space flight program since 1963. Now, among other things, he's thinking of ways multiple governments and private companies can share their resources to make future space exploration feasible, which may not be engineering -- but in many cases politics can be more important than designing and building the hardware, which is why it's worth learning about.

And thinking of hardware, do you remember the conspiracy people talking about how the U.S. flag on the moon was faked because there's no way it could wave in the breeze without an atmosphere? Moser gives us the inside scoop on that: it was an engineering screwup, and at least partly his fault. Whoops!

Video Veteran Spaceflight Engineer Talks About Governance for Space Exploration (Video) 12

Meet Tom Moser. (And if that piece of oral spaceflight history wasn't enough, here's a second one.) He's been involved, one way or another, as engineer or manager, with every American manned space flight program since 1963. Now, among other things, he's thinking of ways multiple governments and private companies can share their resources to make future space exploration feasible, which is the main topic of today's video (and transcript), and one we plan to run next week as well.

Video Solar Energy in Space is not Necessarily Easy to Harvest (Video) 85

The ARTEMIS Innovation web site says, "John C. Mankins, President of Artemis Innovation Management Solutions LLC, is an internationally recognized leader in space systems and technology innovation...." And one of John's biggest recent projects is coming up with a practical way to collect solar energy beyond our atmosphere and use it not only in space, but how to beam it down to the Earth's surface where we can use it to power our plug-in cars, household appliances, and other electrical devices.

Video Urthecast Brings You Earth Images and Videos from the ISS (Video) 16

Most of us probably won't ever visit the International Space Station (ISS) and look down at the Earth (motto: "The only planet we know has beer, so let's not ruin it"). Looking at pictures and videos made by cameras mounted on the ISS is about as close as we're going to get. There's already an ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment on Ustream, but Urthecast is putting out higher-definition images than what you see on Ustream, and has plans to put out even clearer images and video before long. While Urthecast is likely to accumulate plenty of "oohs" and "aahhs" as it rolls along, according to CEO Scott Larson their real objective is to sell imagery -- and not necessarily just from the visible light band of the overall spectrum -- to industrial and government users. People like us are still invited to look at (and marvel at) lovely images of our planetary home.

NOTE: Today's video is about 4:30 long. If you want to watch and listen to more of Mr. Larson, we have a second "bonus" (Flash) video for you. Or you can read the transcript, which covers both videos.

Video CanSat Helps Students Make & Launch Sub-Orbital 'Satellites' (Video) 22

The Magnitude (motto: "Powered by Curiosity") "Can-sized satellites" aren't technically satellites because they're launched on rockets that typically can't get much higher than 10,000 feet, or as payloads on weather balloons that can hit 100,000+ feet but (obviously) can't go beyond the Earth's atmosphere. But could they be satellites? Sure. Get a rocket with enough punch to put them in orbit and off you go -- something Magnitude Co-founder and CEO Ted Tagami hopes to see happening in his local school district by 2020. Meanwhile, they'll sell you assembled CanSat packages or help you build your own (or anything in between), depending on your schools resources and aspirations. Have a question or an idea? Talk to Ted. He'd love to hear from you. Use the Magnitude Web form or send email to hello at magnitude dot io. Either way works.

Video Planet Labs Has Launched Over 100 Imaging Satellites with Many More to Come (Video) 15

According to a recent CNN article, Planet Labs produces Great photos of Earth from the world's smallest satellites. Most satellites these days are about the size of a car. Planet Labs micro-satellites are closer to the size of a shoebox. The company was founded in 2012 and has attracted major venture capital. They're using that money to launch an ever-increasing number of Flocks (their word) of satellites they call "Doves," which are basically nothing but cameras and simple comm equipment, along with solar panels, batteries, and control circuitry required to make everything work. Interviewee Shaun Meehan gets into most of this in the video; for more detail, please read the transcript.

Video Send Your Own Radiosonde 90,000 Feet Into the Sky (Video) 48

Radiosonde, weather balloon, near-space exploration package... call it what you will, but today's interviewee, Jamel Tayeb, is hanging instrument packages and cameras below balloons and sending them up to 97,000 feet (his highest so far), then recovering them 50 or 60 miles away from their liftoff points with help from a locator beacon -- and not just any locator beacon, mind you, but a special one from a company called High Altitude Science with "unlocked" firmware that allows it to work with GPS satellites from altitudes greater than 60,000 feet, which typical, off-the-shelf GPS units can't do.

Here's a balloon launch video from Instructure, a company that helps create open source education systems. The point of their balloon work (and Jamel's) is not that they get to boast about what they're doing, but so you and people like you say, "I can make a functioning high altitude weather balloon system with instrumentation and a decent camera for only $1000?" This is a lot of money for an individual, but for a high school science program it's not an impossible amount. And who knows? You might break the current high-altitude balloon record of 173,900 feet. Another, perhaps more attainable record is PARIS (Paper Aircraft Released Into Space) which is currently 96,563 feet. Beyond that? Perhaps you'll want to take a crack at beating Felix Baumgartner's high altitude skydiving and free fall records. And once you are comfortable working with near space launches, perhaps you'll move on to outer space work, where you'll join Elon Musk and other space transportation entrepreneurs. (Alternate Video Link)

Video Hack A Day Prize is a Trip To Space (Video) 34

Last month, at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014, Timothy Lord spotted a guy wearing a very large piece of headgear that included two crossed wrenches. The guy turned out to be Mike Szczys, Managing Editor of, which says, "The Hackaday Prize will send one person into space for building the next evolution of hardware." That's certainly of interest to the hardware hacker/maker crowd. How they're going to arrange the space flight (probably one of those "just above the atmosphere" hops) isn't specified, but even so the contest is an interesting idea, and the Hack A Day site seems to have some interest hacks and tutorials on it. So go ahead and enter the contest -- and don't forget to take your camera with you on your flight into space, because we'll want to see pictures! (Alternate Video Link)

Video Aspiring Astronaut Gideon Gidori Invents a New Holiday: Star Day (Video) 46

Gideon wants to be an astronaut. You could even describe him as "space-obsessed." He wants to be the first astronaut from Tanzania. The only African to make it into space so far is Mark Shuttleworth, who is from South Africa. Can Gideon talk Elon Musk into launching from Tanzania, which is directly on the equator? How about bringing in other space buffs and entrepreneurs? Don't think this is a silly idea. Gideon is only 14, but he's a straight-A student at the Florida Air Academy, and before that was one of the top students at Shepherds Junior School in Arusha, which Mama Lucy Kamptoni originally financed by raising and selling chickens. Gideon's scholarships to Shepherds and later to Florida Air Academy have been financed in part by, which is also helping him spread the word about Star Day (tomorrow; June 7), the holiday Gideon created, which is being celebrated all over the world even in this, its first year of existence. You can celebrate it, too. All you have to do, weather permitting, is sleep outdoors under the stars, and maybe make a wish or two. After all, wishing (and a lot of studying and hard work) have helped Gideon get to where he is today, and may yet help him become Tanzania's first astronaut.

Video ISS-Above Tells You When the International Space Station is Overhead (Video) 59

It's a device, and quite a small one, based on the Raspberry Pi. It tells you when the ISS is visible from your part of the world and when it will soon be visible so you can grab the kids and dogs and run outside to wave at the astronauts. Or just to watch the closest thing humanity has to a space colony orbit the Earth. Liam Kennedy, ISS-Above's creator, points out that the ISS passes over most of the inhabited parts of the Earth five or six times a day, which is more than most people know. And about ISS-Above and Kickstarter: It's too late to climb on that wagon, and it already was when this interview was recorded in mid-May. But don't despair. Liam managed to raise $17,731 -- which was far more than his $5000 goal. Can you buy one of these things in its various manifestations? Yes. But you need to look long and hard at the ISS-Above website to spot the all-caps word HERE that takes you to the order page. Liam also points out that you can get all kinds of smartphone apps that will tell you where the ISS is at any given moment, but the ISS-Above has an advantage or two over those apps that will be revealed only to those who watch the video or read the transcript. (Alternate Video Link)

Video A Chat with Kristian von Bengtson, co-founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals (Video) 26

Copenhagen Suborbitals says their mission is "very simple. We are working towards launching a human being into space." That doesn't sound so simple, really, but they're approaching this gargantuan task with an intentionally simple approach: a small team, relatively unhampered by bureaucratic hassles, who are taking advantage of existing, off-the-shelf high-tech solutions when they make sense, and low-tech solutions when possible; if the parable of the Soviet space pencil hadn't worked its way into the mythology of space technology, it could have been based on the Copenhagen Suborbitals point of view. I talked with project co-founder Kristian von Bengston about the project's progress so far, as well as what the next steps are. Among those next steps: in summer 2014, the Suborbitals team plans to launch their HEAT2X lift vehicle loaded with the TDS-80 capsule; you can download the preliminary trajectory projections for both the launcher and the capsule.

Video Why We Need to Keep Our Night Skies Dark (Video) 130

Kelly Beatty has a unique perspective on the world of astronomy: Beatty's been on the staff of Sky & Telescope magazine for nearly 40 years as a writer and editor, including a stint heading "Night Sky" magazine. He's also written what's been called "the definitive guide for the armchair astronomer," and teaches astronomy to people of all ages. (He even has an asteroid named after him.) Besides being fascinated with the objects we can see in Earth's skies, Beatty takes the skies themselves seriously: his Twitter handle is NightSkyGuy for a reason. We talked a few weeks ago, in dark-skied rural Maine, about his involvement with the International Dark-Sky Association, and why you should care about ubiquitous light pollution, even if you don't have a deep interest in star-gazing. (And it's not just to be courteous to your neighbors.)

Video Amateur Astronomer Bruce Berger Talks About Telescopes, Part II (Video) 31

Bruce Berger is an IT guy, but he's also an amateur astronomer who takes telescope selection and scope building extra-seriously. We ran a video interview with him yesterday. Today that interview continues, with more emphasis on telescope selection and purchasing. He mentions Orion, a telescope vendor he seems to respect, along with other sources for both new and used equipment. Which should you buy (or build): A reflector or a refractor telescope? Bruce talks about how you should make your selection based on what you want to view, your skill level, and how much time and/or money you have available.

Video Amateur Astronomer Bruce Berger Talks About Meteors and Telescopes (Video) 36

Bruce Berger is an IT guy, but he's also an amateur astronomer who takes at least one aspect of astronomy more seriously than most sky-watchers. Not content with what he could buy when he first wanted a telescope of his own, Berger set out to make one -- it turned out so well, he says he'll never part with it, and he's made several others since, and taught many other people to do the same. In this pursuit, he's also been a long-time member of the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston, including a stint as the group's president. (Berger's custom license plate reads "SCPMKR.") In the video below, though, I caught up with him in Maine between evenings watching this year's spectacular Perseid showers (and without any of his home-built scopes to hand), to give some insight about what would-be skywatchers should consider in looking at scopes. It's surprising just how good today's telescopes are for the money, but it's easy to be ripped off, too, or at least disappointed. (And besides avoiding department store junk, building your own is still Bruce's strongest advice.) Ed note: This Video is Part 1 of 2. Part 2 will run tomorrow.

Video Jon Oxer Talks About the ArduSats That are On the Way to ISS (Video) 17

Two ArduSats were launched last week from Japan, along with an ISS resupply package, and on August 9 this payload is due to arrive at the International Space Station. Jon Oxer is a co-founder of Freetronics, a company that sells Arduino-based products, so he has a vested interest in ArduSat's success. He's also a major Free Software booster, which may be part of the reason he was at OSCON -- where Timothy Lord and his camcorder caught up with him. BTW: This is the same JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) launch that is carrying the first talking humanoid robot to go into space from Earth. So this launch is not only "a giant leap for robots," as Japanese robot Mirata famously said, but is also a good-sized step for Arduinos. And for CubeSats, too.

Hotels are tired of getting ripped off. I checked into a hotel and they had towels from my house. -- Mark Guido