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    UrtheCast Camera Footage from the ISS

    UrtheCast, a satellite imaging startup, operates two massive Iris cameras mounted on the International Space Station to capture pretty incredible footage. Objects a meter in size are visible, and software compensates for the movement of the ISS above Earth. The company, which plans to sell its video and data to companies and the government, has promised to stream live video from its cameras to the public next month.

    Inside NASA's Virtual Reality Laboratory

    A fun video piece from Gizmodo: "We've seen how NASA recreates the vacuum of space right here on Earth, but what about the gravity of space? What about the forces of inertia? When large objects move and behave so differently, how to you train for a mission so you know what to expect when you get there?" Read the associated story, originally published last November, here.

    The Talking Room: Adam Savage Interviews Andy Weir

    Adam Savage welcomes author Andy Weir to The Talking Room! Andy wrote 'The Martian', the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars--it's a book we can't recommend enough. Adam and Andy talk about the research that went into writing the book, the portrayal of astronauts in fiction, and the upcoming film adaptation!

    The Spacesuit Fire That NASA Refuses to Forget

    These days, Joe Nowetner is an operations manager at UTC Aerospace Systems, the contractor responsible for NASA's fleet of spacesuits. Early in his career, Joe worked as an electrical technician at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) supporting the testing regimen of a new spacesuit design, the EMU (Extravehicular Mobility Unit). One particular test served as a startling reminder that exploring space is a dangerous business…even for those who never leave the ground. Joe has never forgotten the lessons he learned that day. Neither has NASA.

    The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) has been the suit worn by spacewalking astronauts since the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program. A mishap during development of the EMU helped to shape NASA's current safety culture.

    The EMU Fire

    The EMU design would persevere to become the spacesuit worn by spacewalking astronauts throughout the Space Shuttle Program and even today on the International Space Station. In the nearly 40-year history of the suit, truly scary moments have been so infrequent that they are still referenced in generic terms, with no distinction needed…i.e. "the water leak", "the chamber incident", "the bellows failure". In that lingo, the events of April 18, 1980 are summarized as "the EMU fire".

    At that time, the space shuttle was still ramping up for its inaugural flight and the EMU was an unproven system. Nowetner was part of a JSC team tasked to execute functional tests on an EMU unit. This task was a critical step in preparation for the first manned test of the suit, an event where space-like conditions would be simulated in a large vacuum chamber.

    Although the EMU was unmanned for the April test, the suit's life support system was exercised. Ironically, it was the life support system that caused a flash fire which burned two technicians (one severely), destroyed the EMU, and reawakened a culture of safety throughout NASA. Here's what happened.

    Suit Up: 50 Years of Spacewalks

    "This NASA documentary celebrates 50 years of extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalks that began with the first two EVAs conducted by Russian Alexey Leonov in March 1965 and American astronaut Edward White in June 1965 . The documentary features interviews with NASA Administrator and astronaut, Charles Bolden, NASA Deputy Administrator and spacesuit designer, Dava Newman, as well as other astronauts, engineers, technicians, managers and luminaries of spacewalk history. They share their personal stories and thoughts that cover the full EVA experience-- from the early spacewalking experiences, to spacesuit manufacturing, to modern day spacewalks aboard the International Space Station as well as what the future holds for humans working on a tether in space. "

    In Brief: ILM's John Knoll on the Death Star and Star Wars Physics

    A week ago, attendees at Star Wars Celebration got the first glimpse of the first Star Wars Anthology film, named Rogue One. Director Gareth Edwards revealed that the film would be about the theft of the Death Star plans before the events of Episode IV, and showed a short teaser clip created by ILM specifically for the announcement. The clip, which has yet to be officially released by Lucasfilm (but for which bootleg copies were immediately uploaded to YouTube), showed the massive Death Star looming over the horizon of a forested planet. AICN writer and professional astronomer used screencaps of that footage to calculate the physics of that shot to assess it's "realism", and was subsequently contacted by effects legend John Knoll to walked through ILM's thinking behind that shot. Knoll's explanation is wonderfully geeky, and shows how much thought effects artists and engineers put into their work, beyond just the "wow" factor. It's the very best of sci-fi apologetics, from the behind-the-scenes technicians closest to canon. (h/t Gary Whitta)

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    Watch SpaceX Rocket Launches in 4K

    SpaceX just uploaded this montage of its recent rocket launches (but not landing attempts) which were shot in 4K resolution. YouTube 4K is pegged by some reports at around 15mpbs, though Google recommends that 4K source files are encoded at 35-45mbps. Regardless, the footage looks spectacular, even if you're viewing it on a 1440p monitor. Happy Friday!

    In Brief: Apollo Flight Control Consoles Explained

    An oldie but a goodie: Ars Technica's Lee Hutchinson explains the role and purpose of each control station in NASA's Apollo-era Mission Control room, which was restored in 1992. Lee, a friend of Tested, interviewed retired NASA Flight Controller Sy Liebergot to go through every console and panel in the hallowed operations room. We've previously shared photos of other Mission Control Centers from space agencies around the world and taken photos at JSC's MCC during our visit back in 2013.

    Norman
    Adam Savage's Navy Mark IV Helmet

    We've shared Adam's passion for NASA spacesuits, including his Mercury era spacesuit replica that he wore at Comic-Con. The helmet for that suit was based off of B.F. Goodrich's Navy Mark IV design, and Adam has recently come into possession of an original Mark IV helmet. Time to geek out about it!

    A Brief Explanation of Gravitational Lensing

    From the New York Times' "Out There" astronomy column: "A century after Albert Einstein proposed that gravity could bend light, astronomers now rely on galaxies or even clusters of galaxies to magnify distant stars." The use of gavitational lensing has allowed astronomers to observe the same supernova nine billion light years away four times since 1964. (h/t Laughingsquid)

    In Brief: Why M&Ms are the Perfect Space Snack

    Smithsonian magazine has a fun little feature about the history of chocolate in the space program. Chocolate has been a choice treat for cosmonauts and astronauts since the very first manned space flights, but has travelled in many different forms: tubed sauce, pudding, brownies, and of course, M&Ms. We were privileged to be able to see some of these freeze-dried and vacuum-sealed snacks during our visit to JSC in 2013. I can neither confirm nor deny that I have a sealed package of space travel-ready 'candy-coated chocolates'. (Sort of related: the contents of Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 stowage bag 'purse', recently discovered and brought to the National Air and Space Museum. Its incredible contents here.)

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    10 Little-Known Achievements Of Space Explorers

    We all know the big space records – first man on the moon, first dog in space, the usual. But of the hundreds of brave men and women who have traveled outside of Earth’s atmosphere, some hold more unusual records. Today, we’ll run down ten pretty awesome achievements that don’t always make the history books.

    Behind-the-Scenes at the Explorers Club Headquarters

    From Science Friday: "Tour the unique artifacts, including a yeti scalp and 4-tusked elephant, collected by Explorers Club members during research expeditions over the last century. Executive Director Will Roseman reveals the remarkable science and stories of the collection at the Club Headquarters in New York City."

    10 Things You Didn't Know about Going to the Bathroom in Space

    In space, nobody can hear you scream. But they sure can hear you use the bathroom. The question of how astronauts deal with their waste is one that has occurred to every eighth grader since the dawn of the space program, and we’re about to give you all the answers with this rundown of NASA’s space toilet.

    Why NASA's Orion Mission is So Important

    Ever since the final space shuttle mission, STS-135, landed more than three years ago, NASA has lacked a vehicle to send its own astronauts back into space. Current timelines put astronauts back in American-made rockets no sooner than 2021. The Orion mission that launched this morning [more specifically, Exploration Flight Test -1 (EFT-1)], is a huge milestone in NASA’s path back to the business of launching humans into space. It can’t be overstated: This mission is a BIG deal.

    ORION WAS LIFTED BY A DELTA IV HEAVY ROCKET FOR EFT-1. SUBSEQUENT LAUNCHES WILL USE THE SLS LAUNCH VEHICLE CURRENTLY BEING DEVELOPED. (NASA Photo)

    What is Orion?

    Orion is NASA’s next generation of man-carrying spacecraft. It is chartered to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), lunar destinations, or even Mars. Orion is really only the top part of what was sitting on the launchpad earlier today. The uppermost section of Orion is the Launch Abort System, which completely enshrouds the 4-to-6 person Crew Module. Just below the conical Crew Module is the Service Module that provides thrust, power and provisions in space. The Orion-to-Stage Adapter mates Orion to the rocket it sits atop. In the case if EFT-1, that rocket was a Delta IV Heavy (currently the largest operational rocket in the world).

    ORION IS NASA’S NEXT MAN-CARRYING SPACECRAFT. IT JUST WON’T HAVE ANY ASTRONAUTS ABOARD UNTIL ITS THIRD MISSION IN 2021. (NASA Photo)

    The genesis of Orion dates back to 2005 and the now-defunct Constellation program. When Constellation was cancelled in 2009, the Orion aspect of the program was retained for use in whatever program would come next. That program emerged in 2011 as Space Launch System (SLS). SLS is what will launch those astronauts in 2021.

    First Launch of NASA's Orion Next-Generation Capsule

    This morning at 7:05am EST in Cape Canaveral, a Delta IV Heavy rocket lifted off carrying the first unpiloted test flight of the next-generation Orion capsule. Orion is designed to take humans back to the Moon, near Earth asteroids, and hopefully Mars. Right now, the two-orbit, 4.5 hour mission, which is designed to test the systems designed to slow the capsule from almost 20,000mph to 20mph, is almost complete. You can watch the live feed of the splashdown on NASA TV.

    "Wanderers" Imagines Human Exploration Through Our Solar System

    Set to a beautiful original score and a Carl Sagan audio recording, Wanderers is an awe-inspiring short film created by filmmaker Erik Wernquist. As he describes it, the four minute piece is "a vision of humanity's expansion into the Solar System, based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens. The locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available. Without any apparent story, other than what you may fill in by yourself, the idea of the film is primarily to show a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighboring worlds - and above all, how it might appear to us if we were there." It's a beautiful and haunting vision of the vastness of space, like a Chesley Bonestell painting brought to life. Stills and commentary from the short can be found here.