Boeing recently unveiled the suit that astronauts will be wearing when they ride their upcoming Starliner capsule to the International Space Station (ISS). Officially called the Starliner Ascent and Entry Suit, it also answers to "Starliner spacesuit". Aside from its bold "Boeing blue" color, the Starliner spacesuit has numerous features worth noting. It is quite different in several ways from any suit that astronauts have ever worn before. These differences reflect an emphasis on mobility and comfort, efforts to blend the suit with its host spacecraft, and the specific emergency scenarios that the suit is designed for.
The most important thing to understand about the Starliner spacesuit is its role an "ascent and entry" suit. As such, it is only designed to be worn during launch and landing of the spacecraft. You won't see astronauts spacewalking in this suit (at least not for long!). The primary function of an ascent and entry suit is to keep the occupant alive if there is a problem inside the crew compartment during launch or landing. The scenarios with the highest probability (though still relatively unlikely) are loss of cabin pressurization or an internal fire.
Before getting to the specifics of the Starliner spacesuit, let's discuss the attributes of ascent/entry suits in generic terms. Previous generations of these suits have been derived from the pressure garments worn by pilots of high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 and SR-71. In some cases, the differences were negligible. Whether worn in an airplane or a spacecraft, the job such a suit is to provide its occupant with a tolerable atmospheric pressure, even when the outside pressure conditions are lethal.
With the help of a super capacitor and the LED lights he loves so much, Adam Savage shows how GE scientists were able to capture lightning and harness its energy in order to start a car! (Watch more here!)
Is something that's "like talking to a wall" REALLY that bad? Maybe not. Using accelerometer technology, Adam Savage shows how GE engineers were able to detect and travel sound through several feet of concrete. Watch more here.
Could a snowball have a fighting chance in hell? Using a FLIR thermal imaging camera, Adam Savage shows how GE, using a mysterious material called Alloy X, saved a snowball from melting away after being submerged in molten metal. Watch more!
As it turns out, you CAN unring a bell. Adam Savage demonstrates how GE's scientists, using the same scientific principles behind noise-canceling headphones, were able to prevent the sound of a ringing 20-ton bell from waking a nearby baby. Watch more here!
Adam gives a tour of his Apollo A7L spacesuit replica, made by industrious suit builder Ryan Nagata. The attention to detail and fabrication techniques make this suit one of Adam's favorites in his collection. You may have seen Adam wear this spacesuit in the final season of Mythbusters!
Our science lead Kishore shares his favorite things of 2016! Unsurprisingly, his list is filled with some science-themed recommendations, but Kishore also has a few book picks and one piece of technology that's changed his home life.
Since Battlefield 1 came out, we've been in awe of some of the amazing stunts pilots are able to achieve in-game. To see if these manuevers would actually be possible and learn more about how World War 1-era biplanes worked, we jump into a biplane ourselves for a thrilling lesson in stunt aeronautics! (A huge thanks to Hoagy de la Plante for taking us up in his biplane!)
After taking part in Tom Sachs' Space Program: Europa mission (in charge of Special Effects, natch), Adam takes us through the exhibit currently on display at San Francisco's YBCA. Here are photos of some of the pieces in the exhibit, featuring Tom's signature build style and obsession with NASA's missions and operating procedures.
Adam takes you on a tour of Tom Sachs' Space Program: Europa exhibit, currently on display at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The massive gallery is filled with Tom's plywood creations, including the mission control and LEM replicas used for his Europa mission.
Simone returns to the Tested office after a few weeks of travel to find this awesome mailbag package from a fan. Its contents combine some of Simone's favorite things. Plus, her first tasting of Astronaut ice cream! Thanks so much to Carley Hansen-Prince for sending this mailbag!
Tonight is the premiere of MARS, a new weekly television series on the National Geographic Channel about our neighboring planet. In a departure from the documentaries that we've come to expect from Nat Geo, this series is part documentary and part dramatization. The scripted element follows an international crew during its Mars mission in the year 2033.
The show's producers claim that the storyline is based on our best guess at what a Martian mission would look like. Many elements seen on the screen, whether it's the vehicles, spacesuits, habitats, mission objectives, and even our motivation for travelling to another planet, are reflections of the ideas of the current-day Mars exploration advocates who were consulted for the show. Sound bites from these advisors make up the documentary elements of MARS. Many of the faces will be familiar to you, such as Elon Musk, Scott, Kelly, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jim Lovell, and Andy Weir.
I've watched the first two episodes of MARS and found them enjoyable. I'm easy to please when it comes to documentaries, so that aspect was a slam dunk. At the same time, I'm a harsh critic of space-based dramas. Although I thought the pace of the storyline was a bit slow, it avoided my usual gripe about these types of stories: too much suspension of disbelief. I don't recall many instances where I pointed at the screen yelling "No way! That's not how it works!" The producers did their homework.
While the dramatic and real-life aspects of the show complement each other, I think that either could stand on its own as well. I won't offer any spoilers here, as I'm sure many of you already have plans to watch tonight's episode. However, I thought it would be interesting to delve into the unique thinking within the book (and TED talk) that inspired the show, Stephen Petranek's How We'll Live on Mars.
Get up close with Adam's replica A7L spacesuit, made by Ryan Nagata and featured in this week's One Day Build!
Adam dons his replica Apollo-era spacesuit, made by replica spacesuit builder Ryan Nagata. As part of their ongoing collaboration, today's One Day Build entails milling parts for the spacesuit, including a radiation dosimeter and aluminum knobs. But all doesn't go right as Adam has to overcome a maker's slump.
Tested's science editor Kishore Hari teams up with Stanford engineers to launch a weather balloon to photograph Earth from the edge of space. Adam helps Kishore design a balloon payload that pays tribute to space capsules, and the team utilizes the Honda Ridgeline to set up their midnight launch and thrilling retrieval. #sponsored #featuresnotstandard #HondaRidgeline
One of the biggest perks of my time working at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) in Houston was the opportunity to mingle with a large portion of the astronaut corps. There was always a steady stream of folks in blue jumpsuits who came to the NBL to train for spacewalks. Other space flyers were poolside in supporting roles. It didn't take much time working with the astronauts to figure out that they do not fit a rigid mold. Sure, all of them that I met were extremely smart people and habitual overachievers. Beyond that, they were subject to the same variables that you would find in any other group of humans.
They Are Only People
Some astronauts were laser-focused on the tasks ahead, while others seemed to take a more relaxed approach. Many were silly jokesters, but a few were more solemn. The vast majority of astronauts were gracious and easy to work with.
I think I speak for most of my NBL colleagues when I say that Clayton Anderson was one of our favorite astronauts to have around. He was always quick to shatter any illusions of rank with a self-effacing joke. The next minute, you might find yourself the target of a publicly-delivered, yet good-natured verbal jab from Clay that made you feel like part of his inner circle. Even in such a lighthearted atmosphere, the work never suffered. That was critical, since underwater training at the NBL is full of deadly hazards. Working with Clay convinced me that you don't have to be stuffy to be a perfectionist.
I was completely flummoxed when a few of my colleagues from the Mission Control Center (MCC) told me that Clay's reputation among flight controllers wasn't nearly as rosy as his NBL image. Some of NASA's "console jocks" felt that he was a troublemaker and difficult to work with. I later learned that there were widely differing opinions of Clay even among his comrades in the astronaut corps. I was never able to reconcile the negative things I heard about Clay with my positive personal experiences working with him. Sometimes I wasn't even sure that we were talking about the same person!
For many airplane enthusiasts, the term "warbird" invokes images of P-51 Mustangs, T-6 Texans and other American-made military classics. There is also a wide variety of lesser-known foreign aircraft that satisfy the warbird distinction. These metric machines have found favor with many American owners who appreciate the non-traditional attributes that only an imported warbird can provide. I recently spoke with the owner of a foreign warbird to better understand the benefits and challenges that these airplanes offer.
Kimberly and Bill Mills are the driving forces behind Mills Aviation Charities (MAC), which provides scholarships for college students pursuing aviation-oriented degrees. A large part of the organization's outreach efforts involves flying its aircraft at various public events. I visited the organization's hangar in Florida to get a closer look at one of those airplanes, the Nanchang CJ-6.
The CJ-6 is a 2-seat, single-engine trainer that formerly served in the Chinese military. Now that it is a civilian airplane, the Mills' colorful Chinese warbird is one of the most photographed of the American-owned CJ-6s. The couple can be found in the MAC CJ-6 performing in airshows and flyovers across many states…often in formation with other CJ-6 owners. They even host an annual airshow at their home airport in Palm Coast, Florida.
If you fancy yourself an airplane aficionado but, you're not familiar with the CJ-6, don't feel bad. I felt the same way when I first stepped into the MAC hangar. I walked out with a much better understanding of the airplane and why it's so appealing to private owners.
Summer is here, and it's time for some food science! We team up with Serious Eats' Managing Culinary Director J. Kenji López-Alt (and the author of James Beard Award-winning cookbook The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science) to test for an ideal way to sear a steak. Adam and Kenji discuss some misconceptions about steak searing, and test four searing methods at different temperatures.
The microscope was never really "invented." It's probably more accurate to say that it evolved. And that seems right for what is possibly the most useful and important laboratory tool ever created. The history of the microscope is directly tied into the history of the lens. But it's not completely clear where the first lens came to fruition. Some say the earliest known example is the Nimrud Lens (or the Layard Lens) -- a carved piece of convex crystal that dates back to 750 B.C., Assyria, which historians believe could have been used as a crude magnifying glass (though according to The British Museum, which houses the lens, its convex shape was more likely an accident and the lens is actually just a piece of jewelry). Others say the first lenses weren't created until the 11th century for the purpose of magnifying small text (at the time they were called "reading lenses"). But other historians say the 11th century is late in the lifespan of the lens -- that's because there are references to a "burning-glass" in literature from ancient Greece. One thing we do know for sure is that the first real and true use of eyeglasses can attributed to the Italians around 1260. But before that, well, let's just agree that humans have been using lenses to magnify things for a really, really, really long time.
Given our long history with using lenses to magnify objects and manipulate light, it's kind of surprising that it wasn't until 1590 that a Dutch eyeglass maker and his dad made the world's first actual microscope. Zacharias Janssen and his father Hans made the first sort-of microscope in Middleburg, Holland (Germany and Holland were well-known at the time for being the world's top lens-makers). It looked a bit like a kaleidoscope and consisted of three tubes -- two with a lens on one end and one that was open on either side to hold them together. The lens you looked through was biconvex, meaning it was curved on both sides. The lens that faced the object you wanted to magnify was plano-convex, meaning it was flat on one side and curved on the other. By elongating or shortening the tube, the microscope's user could magnify an image from three to nine times its original size. Kind of like a telescope.
It should be noted that some say Janssen and his father actually didn't invent the first microscope but, rather, their competitor Hans Lippershey, an eyeglass maker who lived nearby actually beat them to the punch. Because even in the 1500s new inventions had intellectual property controversies! Either way, this early device almost immediately set off a flurry of innovations and upgrades.