Moon Lasers


For some reason I find the whole Moon landing conspiracy to be really fascinating. To me it just seems like what is harder to believe, that man managed to travel off the Earth and land on our nearest neighbor, or that hundreds if not thousands of people pulled off a highly technically complex and intricate hoax, and have managed to keep it a secret for nearly 50 years? That, and NASA left stuff there, not just the disposable Moon rovers and descent stages, but actual experimental equipment that can still be used from Earth, given the proper tools of course. One such experiment is the retroreflector arrays left on the moon by the Apollo astronauts that are used for laser ranging.

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Shutdown: All’s Well That Ends Well


Seeing Orion safely nestled away in the well deck of USS Arlington almost makes me feel like the US has a space program again…

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Shutdown: American Space’s Futures Past

1970 was somewhat of an optimist perspective.


Image via


Fifteen Years On

On December 6, 1998 International Space Station managers proclaimed construction had begun. The US-built Unity module, seen here being positioned, was carried aboard space shuttle Endeavour on STS-88. A few weeks before, Russia had launched the first piece of the station to float above our heads, Zarya. The crew of STS-88 then parked […]

User Input

Message in the Sand – Graffiti on Mars

Here’s a little intergalactic Easter egg…

Our latest Mars Rover “Curiosity”, which set down on the Red Planet last year – August 2012, has a curious pattern molded into the tread of its 20 inch wheels…

For those of you well versed in the ancient language of the Old West, or perhaps even […]


Planet Fabulous

A new planet has been discovered. It’s pink. Scientists, those uncaring bastards, have named it GJ504b. I’ve decided it should be called Planet Fabulous.

[Image Credit: NASA]


Twin Peak

Gemini 11 High Orbit 2

Not too long ago in our Toasters Reads feature we looked at a book, The Pilgrim Project, that told a fictionalized account of a secret NASA project to send one man on a one way mission to the Moon in a Mercury capsule, to be steadily resupplied then later rescued by the Apollo program.  The basis for this book was supposedly an actual study presented by members of the Institute of Aerospace Sciences in 1962.  Since the sounded at least semi-legitimate, I took to the interwebs to see if such a proposal was ever floated.  I didn’t come across any real conclusive proof of that study, but it did find a good number of alternative mission, and lunar mission specifically, proposals using not Mercury, but the existing Gemini technology.

We are going to explore some of those proposals that never were over the next few weeks, but I wanted to start out with one test of Gemini that actually happened.  In all NASA’s efforts in space, the typical height of orbital missions has been roughly 200 miles.  Mercury and Gemini operated at 160-170 miles, the Shuttle typically orbited at 200, and the ISS was built at 230 miles.  But the record for highest orbit lies with the Gemini 11 mission, commanded by Pete Conrad.

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This Looks Like a Photoshop…

Hubble Photos

I can tell from some of the galaxies… have you ever wondered just where exactly those awesome images of deep space from the Hubble come about? I always thought they where just images from a camera, but as it turns out, it isn’t quite that simple. Check out this video from the HubbleSiteChannel on YouTube where they show an accelerated look at the processing each image goes through.

Hubble images are made, not born. Images must be woven together from the incoming data from the cameras, cleaned up and given colors that bring out features that eyes would otherwise miss. In this video from, online home of the Hubble Space Telescope, a Hubble-imaged galaxy comes together on the screen at super-fast speed.

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AT Book Club

Toasters Reads: The Pilgrim Project


A few weeks back we looked at a speech memo written for the US President in the event that some catastrophe befell the Apollo 11 Moon landing, and they were unable to return to Earth.  In the write up for that, I mentioned that some other posts sort of along a similar vein would be forthcoming, and this look at the science fiction book The Pilgrim Project, by Hank Searls, is the first of those.  When I came across that memo, this story was the first thing that popped into my head.  This book seems to be somewhat of an unknown, and was one of those books that my family just happened to own when I was growing up, and my brother and I read it as our interest in space and technology began to grow.  For those of you [Professor, cough, cough] that might have been around, you may recall a film entitled Countdown, make in 1968 and based on this book.  Reviews indicate the film was somewhat forgettable, and likely overshadowed by the actual Moon landing the following year.

The Pilgrim Project seems to have been inspired by actual ideas tossed around during the early days of the space race, and that always made it more interesting to me.  In 1962, at a symposium in New York, members of the Institute of Aerospace Sciences proposed sending an astronaut on a one-way trip to the Moon.  This was no suicide mission, but a long term mission.  The theory was that we had rockets powerful enough to get someone to the Moon, but not to execute the then early plans for an Apollo type mission, where an orbiting capsule would send a lander down and then back up, then safely return to Earth.  Instead, a simple capsule would land the intrepid astronaut on the lunar surface, and a separate launch from those same less powerful boosters would sent up a living quarters.  Then those same rockets would launch re-supply containers at frequent intervals, until such time, perhaps a year or two in the future, the Saturn booster was ready for a full Apollo mission, at which point our lonely explorer would stand relieved and return to Earth.

Why go to extremes to get to the Moon? To beat the Russians, of course!

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Recording the Shuttle Launches


The mailboxes are watching…

We’ve all watched lots of videos of various NASA launches, especially launches of the Space Shuttle. I’ve always marveled at the videos that show the vehicles clearly at very high altitudes and wondered at what kind of equipment that they use. Well, perusing the UK edition of Gizmodo, I found my answer. A post by Jamie Condliffe today included a video from the 1980s about the photo operations at Kennedy Space Center, and shows all sorts of interesting old camera tech and the various shops and contractors that made it all work. Well worth watching after the jump.

Photo Credit: NASA

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