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    Kickstarter: Reissue of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual

    Hot on the heals of NASA's old 1975 Graphics Standard Manual getting some love in blogs and on Flickr, a new Kickstarter campaign is raising funds to republish that manual for fans of the NASA worm logo. Jesse Reed & Hamish Smyth have had success with crowdfunded reissues of famous graphics manuals before, and are sourcing this reprint with scans from designer Richard Danne's personal copy of the 1975 document.

    Dissecting the Technology of 'The Martian': Air

    This is the second in a series of articles that examine the real-life systems aboard the International Space Station (ISS) which inspired the fictional equipment found in Andy Weir's novel (and soon-to-be-released movie) The Martian. In the first installment, we looked at the many ways in which water is conserved and recycled. This time around, we will investigate the components that process air to make the ISS both habitable and comfortable for the humans inside.

    The Basics

    Before getting into too much detail about the air systems on the ISS, a brief overview of the general layout is probably warranted. As with the water systems, many of the US-made air management components on the ISS have foreign counterparts. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus only on the US equipment.

    The habitable areas of the ISS are pressurized modules that are typically cylindrical in shape. Three node sections (named Unity, Harmony, and Tranquility) serve as the crossroads for all of the modules No matter which direction you choose to exit a node, your path will soon reach a dead end in some module.

    On Earth we have the luxury of myriad natural processes that create air currents on a local and global scale. This helps to ensure that the same patch of air never lingers over any location for very long. In the manmade ecosystem of the ISS, however, such air flow does not occur naturally. The Intermodule Ventilation system (IMV) compensates by using fans to force airflow between the modules. Without it, the air would stagnate in those dead ends. Well, everywhere, actually.

    The inter-module airflow is extremely important because the life support systems that manage the composition of the air are not present in every module. In fact, most of the US-managed life support systems are located in Tranquility. IMV mixes and moves the atmosphere to ensure that the air quality in every module is homogeneous--or nearly so.

    The Talking Room: Adam Savage Interviews Author Mary Roach

    While researching topics for her books, author Mary Roach puts the obscure and fascinating stories of science under a spotlight. Her books cover a diverse range of topics, including sex, colonizing Mars, death, and the human alimentary canal. Please welcome Mary Roach to The Talking Room!

    Calculating The Raw Power of Natural Occurrences

    If there's one thing our culture values, it's power. Whether we get it from burning fossil fuels, pumping water through dams or absorbing it from the sun, it makes our way of life possible. Scientists are always trying to find new sources of energy in the natural world, and today, we're going to crunch some numbers to find out just how much is really out there. From lightning strikes to volcanic eruptions, let's calculate exactly how much power we could harness from these acts of nature.

    Ryan Nagata's Space Suit Replicas

    Adam isn't the only replica prop builder obsessed with spacesuits. At the recent Replica Prop Forum showcase, we met Ryan Nagata, a propmaker and independent director who collaborated with Adam on his Mercury suit, and made his own Apollo-era spacesuit as well. Every part of Ryan's suits is an original fabrication, and the suits are wearable!

    Photo Gallery: The Dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum

    Much of my past two weeks was spent in Calgary, Alberta where some of you suggested a visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in nearby Drumheller. I'm so glad I made that trek--it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. The paleontology museum is filled with incredible displays of dinosaur fossils and skeletons, including quite a few T-Rex's. The exhibits are beautifully arranged and lit, making them really fun to photograph as well. Here are a few of my favorites from the visit.

    Dissecting the Technology of 'The Martian': Water

    Andy Weir's novel The Martian has struck a chord with an audience of readers that extends far beyond the traditional sci-fi demographic. I think that part of the book's broad popularity stems from the fact that Weir never leaps too far ahead of the current human condition. This makes his storyline approachable for readers who would normally dismiss the sci-fi genre as too fantastical, myself included.

    Much of what grounds the story is the technology that is referenced throughout. There are no Zenon alien zappers or antimatter toothbrushes. In fact, many of the systems found on Weir's imaginary Martian outpost are actually in use on the International Space Station (ISS) today. Weir sometimes extrapolates the capabilities of these systems into the future, but he invariably remains faithful to the science at their core.

    Water is a tremendously valuable commodity in space. The ISS contains numerous systems aimed at getting the most out of every drop.

    This is the first in a short series that will examine a few of these real-life space systems that are referenced in The Martian. The intent is not to compare any differences between the actual components and Weir's versions. What would be the point? Although he aimed for (and largely achieved) technical accuracy, Weir had creative license to write about death rays powered by peanut butter if he chose. So there's no point in splitting hairs. Rather, the goal here is simply to provide greater insight into the life-sustaining systems that that are referenced in the book and relied upon by astronauts and cosmonauts every day.

    Today, we'll discuss the use and recycling of water in manned space missions.

    Aging Suit Simulates Experience of Old Age

    Speaking of conceptual transhuman experiences, here's video of an "aging suit" that simulates the experience of being 75 years old. The Atlantic's James Hamblin tests this exoskeleton, which limits movement, impairs hearing, and blurs vision (to approximate cataracts). It's the latest invention of technologist (and ex-Imagineer) Bran Ferren's Applied Minds, and is intended to get people talking about issues around aging and long-term care.

    In Brief: Real Life Goat Simulator

    Our buddy and former writer Matt Braga reports on an experiment by English speculative designer Thomas Thwaites, who recently investigated what life would be like living as goat. As in, Thwaites donned custom limb prosthetics and lived among goats for a few days in the Swiss Alps. The bizarre experiment is more performance art project than scientific endeavor, but totally worth it for the surreal photographs.

    Norman
    Astronauts on ISS to Eat Veggies Grown in Space

    My biggest takeaway from the two videos we did with Commander Hadfield in 2013 about eating in space is that fresh produce is one of the astronauts most precious commodities. From cosmonauts chomping into raw onions to astronauts snarfing apples sent up in resupply missions, getting a bite of crisp food is a high point for most long-duration astronauts. Right now, those bites are limited to the few days after the arrival of a resupply mission since the station lacks food refrigeration facilities.

    That's about to change. The Veggie plant growth system has been used to grow leafy greens and flowers on orbit since May 2014. The first crop was returned to earth for safety analysis last year, and astronauts have gotten the go-ahead to chow down on half of the most recent crop (the other half will be sent back to Earth for analysis). I believe this marks the first time humans have eaten food grown on-orbit while still on-orbit. This is an awesome step toward figuring out how to grow food in space and a problem we must solve before we can make it to Mars and points beyond with manned missions.

    I'm Fascinated By the Tree of 40 Fruit

    I've been into the idea of grafting, attaching a branch from one tree to another similar species, since I was introduced to the technique as a kid. Sam Van Aken grafts branches from 40 species of fruit tree to make a single gorgeous tree that bears 40 different kinds of fruit. Horticulture meets art! (via kottke)

    Smithsonian Launches Kickstarter to Conserve Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

    The Smithsonian Institution just launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes in raising funds to conserve and digitize the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore on Apollo 11. It's seeking $500,000 for this "Reboot the Suit" project, which isn't covered by its federal appropriations. The suit currently resides in museum storage, in fragile condition--the project would include building a climate-controlled display case to protect the suit for public display, as well as digitizing it using multiple scanning technologies (as part of the Smithsonian X 3D initiative). Half a million is a lot to raise for this project, but the campaign could be a way for the museum to get press to reach private donors. If the money isn't raised, the suit would stay in storage, which would be a bummer come 2019 and the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.

    In Brief: Five Interesting Things Today

    After a week-long exhale from Comic-Con, we're back to a regular schedule and looking forward to upcoming events, product testing, and more projects! Here are some stories currently sitting my browser tabs that I thought were worth sharing. First, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced that he would be spending $100 million over the next ten years to amp out the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Steven Hawking's on board. I also enjoyed this NPR story about the research into the curious sound of screaming. Windows 10 comes out in a week, and Microsoft has released an invite-only beta of its Cortana app for Android--Arstechnica has tested it. Boingboing's exploration of vintage Star Wars clothing collecting strikes a chord. And the best custom LEGO build in recent memory may be David Szmandra's enormous RC construction crane. "Massive erection" indeed.

    Norman 1
    10 Surprising Things Spotted With Satellites

    It wasn’t long after the Soviets put Sputnik in orbit that people started to think about what we could see on the Earth from up in the sky. Surveillance satellites are constantly spinning around our planet, taking snaps that we use for military and civilian purposes. But sometimes, they manage to get pictures of things we didn’t even know were there. Today, we’ll share ten images that came back from space and gave us a real surprise.

    Fluid Dynamics and The Lollipop Hypothesis

    From Science Friday: "It's not just generations of children who have pondered how many licks it takes to reach the center of a lollipop. Mathematicians studying fluid dynamics at NYU's Applied Mathematics Lab designed experiments to watch how lollipops dissolve, and in doing so answered this epic childhood question."