AirToob Lightning

Tags  →  mars

This book is a nail-biting masterpiece of ingenuity, perserverance and human spirit - not to mention considerable humour in the face of major adversity.

Short version of the plot: an authentic survival adventure in the spirit of Apollo 13, the main action taking place on a very real Mars.

Longer version: click the image to the right!


(1) This book has been described as “hard sci-fi” but is really “hard engineering”. For me, it captures perfectly the co-operative human qualities and engineering skills that make space exploration very unlike (say) politics in Washington (some thoughts on that here). However, if technical details of what it takes to stay alive in a hostile environment are not your thing, the book may not be for you - but you might want to take a risk with it anyway!

(2) If you have to go to work next morning, don't start reading it the night before...

(Found for me by Karenak, whose help pages anyone new to Categorian should visit - but there is much more to her pages than help!)

PS: I see that Ridley Scott is making a film of this book starring Matt Damon, due for release 25 November 2015.

If you like science fiction...

[The SF section of my books page]

...or the real thing...

[Curiosity Rover lands on Mars, screenshots from NASA TV with my commentary from watching it live]
[Mars Curiosity Rover on Facebook]
[NASA JPL on Facebook]

A celebration of the Curiosity Rover Mission, with beautiful images and music

Thanks to ensemble5 (whose beautiful pages are well worth visiting).

[How far is it to Mars? (nice video animation)]

Trees on Mars?

A HiRISE image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing trees on Mars... or so it appears!
Click the image for full-size version

(Image from this page - check out the "subimage")

Explanation from the page:

There is a vast region of sand dunes at high northern latitudes on Mars. In the winter, a layer of carbon dioxide ice covers the dunes, and in the spring as the sun warms the ice it evaporates. This is a very active process, and sand dislodged from the crests of the dunes cascades down, forming dark streaks.

Another discovery on the fine pages of batchbatcharak.

If you like this...

[More about HiRISE (High-resolution Image Science Experiment)]
[More examples of carbon dioxide fans from HiRISE]
[Polar Geology on Mars (science theme from the HiRISE site)]
[Awesome desktop wallpaper images from HiRISE]

From the page:

This image was taken by Curiosity’s MAHLI camera, which sits on the end of the rover’s extendable arm. MAHLI snapped 55 pictures from different locations. The different positions overlapped just enough so that the arm couldn’t be seen in the final result.

What can be seen are tire tracks, scoops in the Martian dust that Curiosity made, and the foothills of the 3-mile-high Mount Sharp in the background, which Curiosity will be driving up in the coming years. The rover will be investigating this area for signs of habitability in the Martian past or present. NASA will present new results about the Martian atmosphere at 10 a.m. Pacific/1 p.m. Eastern, which may include analysis of methane on Mars, a possible indicator of geologic or biological activity.

I cut out two relatively tiny images from the high-resolution original in order to show the detail that it contains:

Curiosity’s “eye” at the top with a reflection of Mars and the rover’s arm

Fine detail of the wheel and surface

Click any of the above images if you want to see the original... thanks, Bordertourista!

If you like this...

[My coverage of Curiosity's landing on Mars, taken from live NASA TV]

You're on Mars... take a look around!

Thanks to Fourteenth (whose pages are well worth visiting) for sharing this one.

If you like this...

[More from Mars...]

I have just watched the successful touchdown of the Mars Curiosity Rover, streamed live on NASA TV... here are some of my screenshots from this truly historic event (click any image to get to the site where I watched).

When this sequence starts, it is too late for control signals to get from Earth to Mars in time to influence anything, so everything is happening automatically at the Mars end.

JPL are getting signals about 15 minutes behind actual events, even with signals travelling at the speed of light, relayed from Odyssey, the Mars orbiter, which is circling Mars.

(There is nothing accidental about the timing - the Lander's touchdown needs to happen when one of the orbiters is in line of sight.)

At some point in this sequence, telemetry changes to tones and "heartbeats". The heartbeats confirm everthing is proceeding as expected.

(Nostalgia - I once programmed a thing called a "watchdog timer" which generated an electronic heartbeat so long as the equipment was working succesfully... in a slightly more modest application!)

This is live computer simulation, showing the team what the computer calculates should be happening at this moment

Reporting that Mars is pulling Curiosity in... speeding up to 5.1 km/sec, as expected



This is no longer simulation - this is a computer presentation of actual telemetry data coming in!

In the next sequence, we hear that tones report start of guided entry 12 to 13 earth Gs deceleration... signal from Odyssey received... then data... Mach 2.4, flying almost like a plane... heartbeat tones again... parachute expected Mach 1.7...

Parachute deploy! Ground radar active... 82 m/s... Just a few km away...

We hear that Sky Crane has started (see my previous post)... then touchdown confirmed!

Heads up... first images coming down... the first one is a low res thumbnail of the Lander's wheel

...then a higher res thumbnail...

A new image on the left, showing the shadow cast by Curiosity on the surface of Mars

...and now we can see the dust particles that are partially obscuring the view, dust in the Martian air that was blown by the descent engines (dust on the Moon settled immediately in hard vacuum)

I am blown away too... The landing was at Pacific Daylight Time 10:32PM on Sunday 5th August 2012 (Monday in England) - a time to remember

At this point most viewers are probably losing interest as the team starts systematically checking through a zillion pieces of telemetry data, and it's all about Ohms and Volts and what each reading means... but for me, this is still exciting

My mind truly boggles at this achievement - so many things that so many people had to do, and so many bits of different technology made by so many people, that all had to work perfectly - and did.

Last words from this part of the broadcast: "Let the science begin."

(See my previous post for more about the Curiosity Mission.)

If you like this...

[Curiosity's Facebook Page]
[NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Website]
[Did putting man on the Moon really cost America anything?]
[All of my posts about space exploration]

With the London Olympics going on, it would be easy to miss seeing a truly amazing team achievement that is due to happen (if it is successful) on Monday, 6th August at 6:51 AM British Summer time, 5 hours earlier (Eastern) or 8 hours earlier on Sunday evening (Pacific) if you are in the USA.

It's the most ambitious landing on Mars yet - a huge Mars explorer that will be landed using a "sky crane".

The video is an animation by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and provides a very realistic view of what will happen on Mars (hopefully) after that amazing landing, as well as the landing itself. If you want to travel around on Mars, watching this video is the closest that most of us will come!

I can't find any programme listings for the landing on my TV channels, but I'll definitely be up early on Monday to follow it live on this site.

(I was! See my next post above.)

From the page:

It is one of the most dramatic images ever to emerge from Mars.

In fact, this extraordinary photograph is so clear that even the sand dunes at the base of the half-mile wide canyon are visible.

Experts even believe that they can see the tracks of a Mars lander on the left-hand corner of the Victoria Crater.

This image of the Victoria Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The reduced image above does no justice to the original. Check out the original hi res images from NASA/JPL, and visit the HiRISE link if you would like to see some more truly awesome stuff.

Thanks to dayseye for this one - one of many beautiful and fascinating things to be found on her pages.

If you like this...

[Slide show of Saturn - commentary on images from the Cassini spacecraft]