Mars is Back on the Back Burner

Posted by Michael Pinto on Mar 8, 2010 in Science

A NASA Mission to Mars

After being chided by congress for not having a moon and Mars mission it looks like the Obama administration is adding the goal of space exploration back into the mix for NASA. But sadly even though a boost of six billion over five years sounds like a great deal of money, in the world of space exploration it’s just a fraction of what’s needed to make a trip. So the sad reality is that we’re back to the NASA of the Bush years: An agency spread too thin with too many goals and too little cash. Yes we’re still planning on getting to the moon and Mars once again, but that may take decades. Read more…



I’ll Miss the Amazing Visions of Dr. Robert McCall

Posted by Michael Pinto on Mar 2, 2010 in Cinema, Science

I was very saddened to hear that Dr. Robert McCall passed away as he was very much a hero of mine. I’ll never forget the first time I visited the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. — along with being able to touch a piece of the moon and look at shopping mall full of aircraft and spaceships the first thing that hits you it the amazing larger than life mural by Robert McCall (an amazing gallery of his drawings that they house are here). Most of us have science fiction fanboys have grown up with McCall’s artwork without even knowing the artist. I think the first time McCall spoke to me was with his amazing work on the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was looking at this artwork as a child long after the film came out, but his paintings created a magical environment that you’d want to wander around and step inside: Read more…

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Dear Congress: If You’re Serious About NASA Going to Mars That Requires a Serious Budget

Posted by Michael Pinto on Feb 25, 2010 in Science

Charles Broden speaking to Congress

Not so long ago congress was picking apart NASA chief Charles Bolden for not having a solid plan for space exploration: This is putting the blame in the wrong place which belongs with congress. Frankly a trip to Mars or even just the Moon requires a huge financial investment. Unlike the 60s NASA is highly invested in an ancient space shuttle fleet that’s due to expire and a huge stake in a space station which is in mid-life, not to mention dozens of other side projects which involve everything to investigating climate change to send probes to the furthest reaches of the solar system. Read more…

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Meet a Real Life Dr. McCoy

Posted by Michael Pinto on Feb 20, 2010 in Science

Robert Satcher JrRobert Satcher Jr. is an astronaut and a surgeon: And not only is he a 21st century of a Dr. McCoy but since he’s also an Chemical engineer you can say that he’s also like Mr. Scott. What I love about watching videos like this is that you get to see people who actually go into outer space for a living, and cooler yet they’re actually quite geeky too! It’s also inspiring to see that Satcher has given back so much too. Here’s a wonderful photo of Satcher in action: Read more…

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The Newest Space Shuttle is Older Than a High School Student

Posted by Michael Pinto on Feb 16, 2010 in Science

Watching this video on the history of the Space Shuttle Endeavour is very depressing to me. For starters the shuttle was rolled out during the Bush administration: No I don’t mean George W. Bush Jr. but his father! That’s right Endeavour came out the first year that Nirvana scored a hit with Nevermind about 19 years ago, a time before any living high school was born. Of course the construction of Endeavour was kicked off in 1987: This means the last time America was serious about NASA was when the film Dirty Dancing came out. Read more…

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What Does Outer Space Smell Like?

Posted by Michael Pinto on Feb 13, 2010 in Science

This cute video shows a chat between astronaut Mike Massimino on the ground feeding questions from Twitter to astronauts Nicholas Patrick and Robert Behnken who are hanging out at the International Space Station. As a sci fi fanboy what I love about this chat is how they go into detail on what outer space smells, sounds and looks like when you take a space walk.

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A Space Shuttle Somersault

Posted by Michael Pinto on Feb 10, 2010 in Science

space shuttle EndeavourThe shuttle looks like an aircraft and lands like one, yet we tend to forget that it’s a real spaceship — and flying a spaceship doesn’t look like an X-wing jetting into to the Death Star. And that’s what I love about this recent video footage from the current shuttle mission which shows the Endeavour performing a rendezvous pitch maneuver so that the crew members aboard the ISS can photograph the orbiter for any signs of damage it may have incurred during liftoff. By the way if you missed the launch of Expedition 23 here are some highlights of the dramatic night launch: Read more…

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This Isn’t Science Fiction: Meet Two Real Life Spaceship Flying Heroes

Posted by Michael Pinto on Feb 5, 2010 in Science

Commander Eileen CollinsHaving grown up watching science fiction shows you get the feeling that you’re not looking at a real spaceship crew unless there’s a lot of adrenaline being thrown about. However the reality is much different as real world astronauts are quite a cool quite group — more Spock than Kirk if you know what I mean. NASA produced these two short videos which give a nice glimpse at some of these unsung pioneers who deserve to be household names. Shown above is Eileen Marie Collins who was the first woman to pilot a space shuttle and below is Guion “Guy” Bluford, Jr. who was the the first African American in space back in 1983: Read more…



Least We Forget Those Who Sacrificed for Space Exploration

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 29, 2010 in Science

I just came across this tribute video from NASA which to me underscores how much we owe to those who put their lives on the line to travel into space. With the advent of space tourism we tend to forget that sending up a spaceship into orbit is in fact going into harms way. It’s sad to me that we don’t honor these brave folks by investing in NASA.



NASA: Surrender the Moon to Save the Space Station?

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 29, 2010 in Science


From what I’m reading the upcoming NASA budget will do three things: Give up the underfunded quest to return to the moon, keep the ISS flying until 2020 and push to outsource a shuttle replacement which would mean scrapping the Ares I rocket. This is all unconfirmed at this point, but the it looks like NASA funding will increase by $6 billion which sounds good on paper, but may not be enough to replace the shuttle soon enough. Read more…



A Six Year Road Trip on Mars

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 24, 2010 in Science

This is a nice video that sums up the work of the Opportunity rover on Mars which was expected to be a 90 day mission, but that has been going string for six years. Of course my frustration watching this video is that one wishes that humans had made the trip instead of a robot — but the images are still impressive.

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Spaceship Plumbing isn’t a Pretty Thought

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 22, 2010 in Science

This video shows an interesting interview with Evan Thomas works for NASA on “water recovery systems” which means converting urine to drinkable water. Although it should be pointed out that similar systems are already used on here on planet earth. What I found interesting about this interview is that the NASA technology can also be applied to helping folks who are living through a drought.



A European Push to Save the International Space Station

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 15, 2010 in Science

International Space Station

According to this article at the BBC News website the European Space Agency’s Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain is pushing to keep the ISS going until the year 2020. This is critical as support for the station is up for review, and signs are pointing to pulling the plug by 2015: Read more…

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How Big is a Space Shuttle?

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 7, 2010 in Science

Infographic: How big is the space shuttle? Well these tiny things are humans

The video below shows the Space Shuttle Endeavour being moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A for its February 7th mission. The one thing that amazed me about this video is that gives you a good taste for just large the space shuttle is in scale. You get a great feeling for this looking not just at the scale of the automobiles driving by but also by how slow the rollout goes: Read more…

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Six Years on Mars: The Case for Manned Mission to Mars

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 2, 2010 in Science

It’s impressive to see NASA send these cute toys to explore Mars to wander about — but the damn things always seem to break down. It’s frustrating to watch knowing that humans wandering about in spacesuits could be much more productive. I’ll grant you that the cost is much great, but it’s sad to me that the United States doesn’t seem to be serious yet about going to Mars. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that Obama gives NASA a budget boost, but NASA needs more than a gentle increase: It’s time to aim high again…

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The Final Moonwalk of the 20th Century

Posted by Michael Pinto on Dec 13, 2009 in Science

Apollo 17 in 1972: The last moonwalk of the 20th Century

On this day in 1972 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt went out for their third and final Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) — which is known to us civilians as a moonwalk. The Apollo 17 mission would mark the last time in the 20th Century when humans would walk the surface of the moon. While the close of that century would start a new golden age of astronomy with many planets outside of our solar system being discovered, it’s been a dark age of space exploration. And yet least we forget: The nation that went to the moon was in the middle of an expensive Cold War, was fighting an actual war in Asia and was enacting new healthcare programs — and yet they still had the gumption to go. Read more…

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The Mainstream Media Should Stop Neglecting NASA

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 29, 2009 in Science

Ares I-X logoShown above is the breath taking footage of NASA’s Ares I-X test rocket from yesterday. As usual NASA kicked ass with the six minute flight of a next generation space craft. Sadly for NASA everything went well, so now just a day later nobody in the mainstream media even mentions this story which got very little mention yesterday. Had the rocket blown up the chattering classes would be hard at work on this story this minute and for weeks to come — and this is a symptom of a larger problem. The mainstream media isn’t covering the real story which is that NASA is dying from negligence. Read more…

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Finding Earth-Like Planets in Far-Away Solar Systems

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 23, 2009 in Science

In this video Bethany Cobb does a great job of explaining how astronomers search for planets in orbit of stars. In the full video she further explores NASA’s Kepler Mission and its search for Earth-like planets in other solar systems. Here’s a previous video with Cobb talking about the expanding nature of the universe: Read more…

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The Soyuz Launch: Will This Be the Only Way to Reach the ISS in 2010?

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 1, 2009 in Science

What shown above is both wonderful and terrifying if you’re a fan of NASA. On one hand any successful launch of a spacecraft is a good thing — and in this case the September 30th launch of the Soyuz Expedition 21 is a vital link to the International Space Station. On the other hand with the upcoming retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet this might be the only way for Americans to get into orbit. In a sense we’re lucky that Russia still has a decently funded space program, but on the other hand not having a backup plan is always a bad idea. Read more…

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Hubble’s Amazing Rescue: PBS is Making Science Sexy

Posted by Michael Pinto on Sep 19, 2009 in Science

This is a promotional video for the upcoming Nova episode Hubble’s Amazing Rescue which looks amazing. To me the irony of this documentary is that both NASA and PBS are examples of amazing government backed programs that deliver high quality results yet are terribly underrated and ultimately underfunded by constant budget cuts.

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How To Build an Ares IX Rocket

Posted by Michael Pinto on Sep 16, 2009 in Science

I don’t think that most folks have any idea what kind of bang for our buck we get out of NASA. Every day folks at that agency kill themselves to do a wide range of tasks in an underfunded program that’s doing so much with so little money. Shown here is just one example: This is time lapse video showing the building of the Ares I-X flight test rocket.

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Fantastic Footage from the Friday Discovery Launch

Posted by Michael Pinto on Aug 31, 2009 in Science

No where in the mainstream media did I see any coverage that there was a space shuttle launch on Friday. This is sad to me because each launch of the shuttle is a news event to this humble NASA fanboy; for what you are seeing is takes a ton of work where the crew is putting their life at risk. Under no circumstance should we fall into the apathetic notion that this is in the same class as an airplane taking off even if NASA makes it look that easy. And here’s some footage of the shuttle docking to International Space Station: Read more…

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View of the Space Shuttle from the Solid Rocket Booster

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jul 22, 2009 in Science

This amazing video shows the view of a camera attached to the SRB, which translated into English is the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster. If you want to see something amazing look at the 2:20 minute mark on the video and you can see the booster separate from the shuttle! I made an animated gif to show this off: Read more…

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Low Budget Lunar Exploration

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jul 17, 2009 in Science

This is an interesting Science Now segment from the PBS series Nova on doing unmanned lunar exploration on a low budget. It shows how a team working on the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) used every day items to create a payload experiment that would look for traces of water on the moon. Read more…

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