Pushing Boundaries

Rescue T-13

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Yesterday I discovered a fascinating story about a daring space adventure back in 1985, a rescue mission to save the Soviet space station Salyut 7, the direct processor to Mir. This tale was posted over on the arstechnica website, and I am not going to do it an injustice by trying to retell it, but instead wet your whistle a little bit to pique your interest, then send you over there!

At 1:20pm and 51 seconds on February 11, 1985, Salyut 7 became unresponsive. The Russians now had two choices, let the station die, fall out of orbit uncontrolled, while waiting for Mir to come online; or plan an unprecedented repair mission requiring a never attempted “Docking with a non-cooperative object”. The state of the station was unclear–had there been a fire, had there been a micro-meteor strike, was it habitable?–but the mission was a go. June 6, 1985, Soyuz T-13 launched with Vladimir Dzhanibekov as commander and Victor Savinikh as flight engineer, and this story is theirs.

“The story happened in 1985 but subsequently vanished into obscurity. Over the years, many details have been twisted, others created. Even the original storytellers got some things just plain wrong. After extensive research, writer Nickolai Belakovski is able to present, for the first time to an English-speaking audience, the complete story of Soyuz T-13’s mission to save Salyut 7, a fascinating piece of in-space repair history. Belakovski is an engineer with a background in aerospace engineering. He is fluent in English and Russian and gathered a number of technical and non-technical sources in order to understand what really happened in the leadup to and execution of the Soyuz T-13 mission.”

Read the full story, “The Little-Known Soviet Mission to Rescue a Dead Space Station–How two Cosmonauts battled extreme cold, darkness, and limited resources to save Salyut 7.” on arstechnica!

Spaceheads

Gumdrop Meets Spider

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Apollo 9 will probably never be remembered by the general population like Apollo 13 (thank you Forrest Gump) and Apollo 11 (thank you Walter Cronkite). However, it was an important step before man could walk on the moon. It was in the crawling phase and merely orbited our blue marble. Apollo 9 was the third manned Apollo mission. It was the second flight of the Saturn V rocket. It was the first flight to include the Command/Service Module with the Lunar Module. The three man crew — made up of Commander James McDivitt, Command Module Pilot David Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart — tested the docking maneuver necessary to reorient the CSM and LM from their launch configuration to “circle the moon and land and hopefully make it back” configuration. That’s where this photo comes in. CMP David Scott is standing in the open hatch after mating the CSM, named Gumdrop, to the LM, named Spider. The photo was taken by LMP Schweickart who was also performing an EVA to spend some time on the LM “porch”.

I wonder if he was sipping tea.

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Covet Thy Neighbours' Swag

A Chance to Buy the E.T. Game!

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Did you miss out on the big Atari scavenger hunt dig at the Alamogordo, NM landfill, back in April of this year? We followed the expedition and, spoiler!, they did indeed find gaming treasure! Then, of course, the question arises, what to do with all that video have loot. After all, if you go to the trouble of digging something up out of a landfill, you can’t exactly just put it back because no one wants it. So the city of Alamogordo has decided they will sell some games, and donate many others to museums around the world that have expressed interest. The city owns the games now by way of what is surely some sort of Byzantine bylaw involving the fact that they were throw in the trash and buried in the city’s landfill since 1983.

According to Reuters:

Members of the Alamogordo City Council voted 7-0 late on Tuesday to offer some 800 of the Atari games found earlier this year for sale on eBay and the council’s own website.

The unearthed games are under the custodianship of the Tularosa Basin Historical Society and stored at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, 200 miles (320 km) southeast of Albuquerque.

So far, there is nothing on the city of Alamogordo’s website about the sales, but we’ll try to keep an eye out for auction news! The film centering somewhat around the dig story, and certainly the impetus behind making it happen, is also due out soon. “The documentary will be released sometime this fall, and it will only be available on Xbox One and Xbox 360. It’s only the first in an original series called Signal to Noise, which will examine aspects of video game culture from new perspectives.” (arstechnica.) See the trailer after the jump!

Continue reading A Chance to Buy the E.T. Game!

Old School Gaming

Would You Like to Play a Game?

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With the recent craziness of the political world, one of the phrases that gets thrown about is a ‘return to the Cold War’. Who can really say for sure? But with the internet and world connectivity and cell phones (and Russian dash cams, they seriously love those things), it seems pretty clear that a Next Generation Cold War–Russian Refreeze!–will be lacking in the same Iron Curtain information blackout that the previous version held. That Iron Curtain kept the prying eyes of the West out from not only the military workings of the USSR, but also kept the everyday life and times of the ordinary citizens hidden as well. One such area that remained largely unknown was that of video games! The Soviets weren’t really keen to import Atari’s and Nintendo’s, so they made their own. Although, those game systems were more products of the Far East than of decadent Western culture, but hey, I don’t make the rules. Let’s take a look at a few arcade posters from Soviet Russia!

Continue reading Would You Like to Play a Game?

Deconstructing Technology

Packard Revival

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In a bit of positive news out of the land of Detroit, the deal for the former Packard plant has been completed, and the planned revival is scheduled to begin.

The Packard Plant ruins on Detroit’s east side could soon be buzzing with construction cranes as the plant’s Spanish-born owner launches the opening phase of his ambitious redevelopment project.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday, Fernando Palazuelo said he anticipates the arrival within two to four weeks of cleanup crews…the workers and equipment due to start next month would clear debris and dangerous loose concrete from the vicinity of the old Packard Motor’s administrative office building and the iconic red brick bridge that crosses East Grand Boulevard.

An eventual second phase would involve restoring to original condition the bridge and the four-story office, as well as a courtyard behind the office building.

Palazuelo envisions restoring some of the original Packard structure and redeveloping it for commercial, industrial and cultural uses. (Detroit Free Press.)

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The plant was sold to Palazuelo for $405,000 in the Wayne County Treasurer’s foreclosure auction, but the actual title to the complex had been in limbo until very recently. A former owner came forward with a claim that he was still the owner because the county auction didn’t satisfy all of his ownership interests, so a deal had to be worked out before the project could move forward. Hopefully now work can begin and some of the iconic structure can be saved.

Past the jump, check out a recent “remote control helicopter cam” video of the complex in its pre-recovery state. (And kudos to theoldmotor.com for calling it an RC helicopter!)

Continue reading Packard Revival

Go-Fast Technology

You Have to Land Sometime

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No doubt you have wondered to yourself while watching Star Wars, “Sure, the Millennium Falcon is fast in space, because spacecraft shape doesn’t matter in a vacuum, but what would the reentry be like?” After all, one you finish the Kessel Run you’ve still got to deliver Logan or whatever else it was you were running, and that means landing on a planet or moon. (Unless it is no moon.) Now, certainly this could be simply explained away with shields and other such-not, but that’s just not all that interesting, now is it? So how about a wind tunnel model, with speeds up to Mach 3!

“Supersonic wind tunnel testing and schlieren flow visualization of a Millennium Falcon model at Mach 3. The high-speed images show startup, steady state, and shutdown of the blowdown wind tunnel facility at Penn State University. The oblique shock waves over the model are observed. The boundary layers on the bottom of the wind tunnel are also imaged”.

Continue reading You Have to Land Sometime

Covet Thy Neighbours' Swag

Other is a Very Broad Term

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The great thing about the “Other” categories on eBay Motors is that occasionally, instead of getting some random suspension parts that someone just listed poorly, instead you get something really out there. An example, a recent listing for a narrow gauge locomotive pair. What is better than one stream engine? Two.

The ad is for Baldwin Locomotives engines Halawa and Sister engine Manana . Selling as Pair. From the ad:

The engines were built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, of Philadelphia, for plantation service on the island of Oahu. Delivered in 1899 and 1916 respectively.
Sold to a sugar plantation in the Philippines in 1947, the engines worked there until 1998 when they were set aside. Recovered in 2004, these two steam locomotives represent some of the very few Hawaii engines to have survied.
The 1899 engine was nameed”” Halawa” and is an 0-6-2 tank engine of 18 tons- her sister engine, named “” Manana” was built in 1916 to the exact same design. Both ran on the Honolulu Plantation Co operation near Pearl Harbor until 1947, when they were sold to the Hawaiian-Philippine Surgar Co, of Silay City, Island of Negros, Phillippines. To have located a matched pair of Baldwin engines with Hawaii History is a major feat.

Both engines are 36″ gage. Manana was in operating condition when we purchased it from the Philippines, but I think the boiler will need to be replaced. Halawa will need a new boiler for sure. Also the tops of the cabs were cut off for shipping.

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Is there certain information that seems to be missing? Do the pictures look like cell phone photos of a computer screen showing images of previously taken photos? Is $275,000 a whole lot of money to spend on something you would have to build a special railway for? Yes on all counts!

Continue reading Other is a Very Broad Term

Deconstructing Technology

Secrets Revealed

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The Magic Eight Ball is a wonder of wonders, a see-er of seers! But have you ever been the least bit curious how it works? Or what the frequency of positive versus negative answers are? If you harbor no such curiosity, and prefer your spoilers unspoiled, then I would suggest you not hit the jump…

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Invented by Albert Carter, the first versions of his future telling device were simple tubes, decorated with mystical promises! Later versions had the look of a crystal ball, for enhanced mysticism. He partnered with Abe Bookman to mass produce this device, but Carter passed away before seeing his product sold to the world. The company they formed, Alabe Crafts, did begin to market the device, and was approached by Brunswick Billiards in 1950 and asked to convert some of the crystal ball style seers into billiards balls for advertising. The powers of the Eight Ball were such that it remains with us today. There is even a digital eight ball, for those who don’t care to venture out into meat space!

Continue reading Secrets Revealed

Spaceheads

I Heard You Like Space

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My kids happen to all be huge fans of the Disney Buddies franchise. Now, I would imagine side of you probably missed out on the whole Buddies thing and have no idea what I am talking about, so let me briefly explain. At some point in the 90s, Disney made a movie about a dog, a golden retriever to be specific, that could play sports. And then he could do more things, which meant more movies. Then, they hit on the true genius of the form, the only thing cuter than a golden retriever doing human things and talking–golden retriever puppies talking and having adventures. To date, there have been something like 12 Buddies movies made (I have no idea what the actual number is, but it is seriously a bunch, they are trying to give The Land Before Time a run for their money), and one of those movies just happens to involve space. And a Russian space dog that gets rescued from Mir. Also, one of the friends from the Drew Carey show lives on Mir and is crazy Russian cosmonaut!

My point with all this being, the dogs in said film wear cheesy, fake looking space suits. But there have been actual dogs sent to actual outer space wearing actual pressure suits! And now, thanks to to victory of capitalism over communism, you have the chance to own one! You will have to hurry, because the auction it’s this weekend! And in Berlin.

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Continue reading I Heard You Like Space

Deconstructing Technology

Surreal Stop-Motion

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Very early in the days of film, certain highly creative, perhaps you could even say weird, filmmakers, saw an opportunity to show the world just what sort of oddities had bouncing around in their brains. Welcome to the world of the surreal, a new reality that expanded the bounds of what you could believe. Call it surreality, brought to life through the magic of film.

Without a doubt, the brains behind the film you can watch just beyond the jump, was one of the pioneers of surreality. Charley Bowers was a filmmaker and film actor during that transition time between silent film and talkies, after getting his start as a tightrope walker in the circus at the age of 6. He started as a cartoonist around 1912, making mostly Mutt and Jeff toons, but by the late 1920s he had perfected his self-proclaimed “Bowers Process”, his way of combining live action and stop-motion animation. There seems to be little detail on how exactly this process worked, but the stop-motion it’s impressive, even in today’s CGI world, perhaps even more so, and his films have a certain feel, a style of a dream come to life.

““It’s a Bird” is a strange little stop-motion animated short directed by film pioneer Harold L. Muller in 1930 that features a shoe-wearing, metal-eating bird (that actually looks a fair bit like a pterodactyl) that devours a car, piece by piece. Slapstick comedian Charles R. Bowers plays an explorer who encounters both the bird and a gruff-voiced talking worm on his travels to Africa.” (laughingsquid) As a note, Bowers and Muller collaborated on several films, but the stop-motion effects that really set this apart were created by Bowers.

Continue reading Surreal Stop-Motion

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