Tag Archive for 'space'

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Project 22 – 4 October 2007

Sputnik 1, as drawn on my whiteboard

Fifty years ago today, the first man-made object orbited the Earth. This first satellite changed the world–suddenly, the heavens were very much in reach. Today, we take satellites for granted. We rely on them, even, for near instantaneous communication, for guidance, for broadcast, and for fun. We’ve come a very long way in fifty years. Thank you, Sputnik.

(And, lest anyone worry that I have not fulfilled my terms by calling this a photo of the day: fear not! This is a photo. Just a photo of a drawing on my whiteboard at work. Yes. Geek. I know.)

Project 22 – 1 October 2007

Neil deGrasse Tyson at Cornell University

Today’s Project 22 entry isn’t the greatest composition and the colors are, well, terrible (auto ISO killed me here), but it definitely commemorates the highlight of my day: attending the Olin Lecture given by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. His two-hour talk ranged over an array of topics, including a strong emphasis on why the United States is and will continue to fall behind other countries in terms of scientific and technological achievement. To some extent, it was preaching to the choir to give such a talk at Cornell, but it’s important to hear nonetheless. As a speaker, he was extremely engaging and entertaining–sometimes it felt more like stand-up comedy than an intellectual discourse, but nobody seemed to mind. I ought to have spent time jotting down some of his excellent remarks, but, alas, I did not. Here is one of the most poignant in paraphrase: “You know, as a culture, that you’ve stopped innovating when your first achievement still looks impressive.”

Descent to Titan

In honor of one of the projects I just completed–the design of an orbiter for a mission to Saturn’s moon Titan–I give you videos of the Huygens probe’s descent through Titan’s atmosphere. First, a small video with narration (10 MB) and, secondly, a higher resolution version (91 MB) without narration. (Via Wohba.)

I find it interesting that Cassini-Huygens appears to have flown directly to Titan rather than doing a fly-by of Saturn first. Granted, this route would probably have been a better one for our mission (PDF file!) to take in terms of fuel consumption, but with the limited tools that we had, I don’t know how well we would have been able to handle a crash course with Titan from that perspective. Still, it makes me wonder how many improvements we could have made…