Some of the axis are inverted, as is the end stop logic, but it moves on demand. Let the hard, boring work of calibration begin!
Everything is in place, except for the print head (extruder). The power supply is in place, and electronics mounted. There is some soldering to do before I can power it up. I’ve got some big worries about calibration and alignment, which means I fully expect really poor quality printing until I get it all straight. If I can just get some motion at all this weekend, I’ll be happy.
So I’ve decided to build a 3D Printer.
After much deliberation, procrastination and interwebbing, I’ve parted ways with some cash in return for various bits of a RepRap Mendel Prusa i3. It’s the latest generation of the RepRap line, and while that is all great and full of innovations, it does mean that there is no coherent build instructions. I’ve resurrected my long neglected blog to document my build and perhaps help and share with others embarking on this adventure.
Either arrived, or in transit are the following bits:
**UPDATE** I’ve just posted a new video to youtube, and embeded at the bottom of this post, showing the point cloud visualisation running in realtime.
You may know from this blog, that I work for a company called Square Enix, and before that Eidos. SE is a video games publisher, famous for Final Fantasy, and through the acquisition of UK publisher Eidos, Tomb Raider. Among other duties, I manage the metrics system and create data and visualisations that the business uses to make better games. All the data we collect is anonymous. For a while now I’ve been using this data to create Heatmaps of player activity. You can see some of these on the Just Cause website.
I’ve been using Processing to create tools that render the heatmaps, but while the logical structure of program is fairly simple, there are significant challenges in working with large datasets. The primary challenge is loading the data into memory. The data is all held in a SQL database, and while I could connect to the DB directly using processing, the DB is optimised for data-in operations, not data-out, so you don’t want to be pulling the data out too often. Instead, I dump the raw spatial data (X,Y,Z coordinates) into a CSV file, one record per row. I usually create heatmaps from datasets in excess of 1 million rows, and most of them are between 5 – 20 million rows (I have one that is 22 million rows!). A CSV file containing 10 million rows of spatial data is about 364MiB in size (the 22.3m row CSV is 802MiB!). In order to create the data structures in memory to hold sets this large, I have to work in 64bit mode to get over the Windows 32bit memory restrictions.
When I wrote the tool for heatmapping, I was pretty fresh to processing, and I can now see many ways to optimise this process to be more efficient at memory usage, but I’m not great at refactoring, and as it works, I’ve not been back to optimise it. The heatmapper application works by looking at the resolution of the image you want to create (eg. 2000x2000px) and then subdividing this into a cell structure whose size determined by the “cell resolution” variable. The cells are essentially buckets, into which I put the rows of raw data. Each row of raw data (the data’s X and Y value) is processed to find out which bucket that row of data fall in and then a Cell’s value is incremented by one every time an element of the raw data lands in it.
Once the whole raw dataset has been parsed, and the Cells populated with counts, we render the cells. This is a simple process of drawing a circle of the same diameter as the cell size. The colour of which is determined by the number of the raw data elements that landed in that cell. The palette is scaled so that the cell with the largest value of counts is always pure white, so there is no clipping in the colour (although you can remove this scaling, meaning that any cell with more than 255 counts in it will be white, the trade off is increased colour resolution for the less populated cells). I use a simple alpha blend to help smooth out the rendering. The results are pretty good.
What was bugging me was that I was getting this huge set of raw data, but only using two thirds of it. I never ventured into third dimension by factoring the Z coordinate (the ‘height’ spatial component) into the process. At the beginning of this year, I decided to do something about this. I started a project to rebuild the heatmapping application in 3D.
My first results we truly awful. I rendered 9000 points in rows using the OpenGL renderer, with colour to show the relative height of the points. With only 9k rows, I couldn’t manage more than a couple of frames a second. The culprit was the Map() function that I was using for scaling the colour palette, for each point, each frame. Once I removed that, Life got a lot better, but I couldn’t render more than a few thousand points without the framerate falling off a cliff.
It became obvious that I would need to start getting a bit more low level with OpenGL to get more performance. This is where I discovered the work of Andrés Colubri and his GLGraphics library for Processing. With some great support through the Processing Forums, I was able to move a lot of the heavy lifting from the CPU to the GFX card, and ultimately create a vertex buffer object holding the points. I can render 11 million points in realtime at 30fps, on my desktop computer. This was several orders of magnitude greater performance than I ever thought would be possible.
The JustCause2 dataset that I was using was a selection of player deaths specifically where the player had died from an impact event. This was great because players tend to spend a lot of time jumping off tall buildings or riding around in helicopters and planes, so impact in this context is generally impact with the geometry of the environment. When the data is rendered, you can see the underlying world, almost as clearly as if we were rendering the 3d mesh itself.
Finally, and arguably the most important aspect of any data visualisation is working out the best way to communicate it. The data looked great, but I couldn’t distribute it as source because of the size of the CSV files that accompany it. I needed to some way of taking the viewer through the data and showing them points of interest. Up stepped another Processing hero, Jean Pierre Charalambos and the ProScene library. With ProScene, and Jean Pierre’s help I was able to direct the camera around to create a visual tour of the data which I then rendered out as individual 1080p frames, and assembled later into an animation.
It’s not over, in fact this journey into 3D visualisation of big data is only just starting. The JC2 Point Cloud animation isn’t really a heatmap at all, more like a 3D scatter graph of points. I will be investigating how to build a 3D cellular structure next, to create a true study of interactions in the 3D space. I will most likely be using data from the upcoming Square Enix game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution as it’s level based structure is more suitable for this project than the vast open world of Just Cause 2.
If you are even slightly interested in aviation, military hardware or just screaming ear-bleeding earth shattering bowel loosening noise, then you need to know about MITO. MITO is the military abbreviation for Minimum Interval take off, and put simply it’s a scramble to get airplanes airborne as quick as possible. The airplanes in question are B52 bombers, and although I know very little about the specifics, I understand that a MITO was to conducted when a threat to the continental united states was detected, in order to get the bombers airborne and dispersed (or on a retaliation strike) as soon as physically possible. In some of the videos below, as was the practice during the early days of the cold war, they launch with a 15 (or sometimes even 12) second interval. In more recent times, the interval is more like 30 seconds. I’ve no idea if the practice is continued with the modern B2 long range bombers, but it’s known that you’ll never see B52′s doing this again. The videos I’ve found on youtube are below, with their descriptions.
This is how we did the MITO back in the day, BEFORE the colapse of the Soviet Union. These are B-52G’s and KC-135A’s from the 416 BMW, at the former Griffiss AFB, NY. The Buff with the old “lizzard” paint scheme is piloted by Capt. John Hannen. The loud voices you hear are the maint specialists that stayed up all night getting the air[lanes ready.
Note the AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missiles under the wings…Sometimes the Hound Dog’s engines were running to boost take-off thrust. Also, the restricted area badges clipped below their left shirt pockets.
The B-52G was proposed to extend the B-52′s service life during delays in the B-58 Hustler program. At first, a radical redesign was envisioned with a completely new wing and Pratt & Whitney J75 engines with a water injection system to assist on takeoff. The water injection adds approximately a 17% increase to the takeoff power, also leaving the runway covered in a dense smoke screen.
MITO was used by the Strategic Air Command during the cold war to get as many airplanes off the ground as quickly as possible.
The beautiful clouds of black smoke are indicative of water injection takeoffs.
If you know of any more MITO videos, please leave them in the comments.
Of course the first place to start would be the wikipedia article on Stuxnet, which does a great job of covering all areas of the discussion. It has an awesome list of references. It would probably be worth checking out the wikipedia articles on the following subjects too, as they will crop up frequently in the following discussions.
The best commentary I’ve found on the subject comes (bizarrely) from the US magazine, Vanity Fair. It’s not so odd when you consider that it’s published by Condé Nast who also publish Wired, and probably share staff writers and content. The article is called “A Declaration of Cyber-War” and if you read nothing else, then this will give you the big picture (although it’s a little bit sensationalist at times).
That is not to say that Wired doesn’t have it’s own coverage of Stuxnet. As you would expect it’s covered in great detail in many of the magazines online channels. The Wired DangerRoom Blog (on US national Security) has an excellent article here on Stuxnet (With Stuxnet, Did The U.S. And Israel Create a New Cyberwar Era?) and the ThreatLevel Blog (Online Security) has ongoing coverage under the Stuxnet Tag (including this particular post (Surveillance Footage and Code Clues Indicate Stuxnet Hit Iran) that discusses the origins and target(s)).
There are many interesting resources on youtube, mainly from the big anti-virus corporations discussing the exploits used by Stuxnet and it’s code structure. the only one I’ll embed here is the talk by Microsoft Engineer, Bruce Dang who (apparently) led the research into the worm’s attack on windows. It’s taken from 27C3 (27th Chaos Communication Congress) and weighs in at nearly an hour long, but is worth every minute.
Some of the other youtube videos worth looking at are:
There are plenty more videos on youtube on the subject of Stuxnet.
The BBC also has some good coverage, and recently reported (4th March 2011) on claims that the US and Israel were behind Stuxnet. They also earlier (15th Feb 2011) provided commentary on the Symantic report on the spread of the worm and it’s different waves of infection. (Check out the list of related stores at the bottom of the BBC articles for more of their coverage).
In all, there is enough content out there to keep me in reading and research for years to come. I think it’s only really when you get the story from lots of different angles that the you start to see the common truths emerging. To paraphrase the closing statement of the Vanity Fair article on Stuxnet, I think it really will be viewed as a Hiroshma-scale event, marking the start of a global cyber-war arms race that moves beyond simply stealing millions of hotmail passwords, to an era of targeted deployment of sophisticated digital weapons against physical infrastructure.
…Look out the windows of course. That’s why they have the cuploa, proof that sometimes, just sometimes, art, beauty and feeling can win out against harsh economics.
This is Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson looking out of the observation window, known as the Cupola on the ISS, shortly before her return to earth after a 176 day mission.
My TreeMap tool is getting better, (and prettier!) I’ve built custom tiles, and worked on the sorting. Colour has been added to, but so far it’s not communicating anything, it just looks nice. The tiles have transparency (which in this rendering context is the same as brightness) to complement the tile sizes differences. I’m still working on a literary theme with this, although the main use of the tool will be visualising video game metrics data for work.
This is Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility. Like most of the other tree maps I’ve ordered this using a Pivot by Split Size
Pivot-by-split-size selects the pivot that will split the list into approximately equal total areas. With the sublists containing a similar area, we expect to get a balanced layout, even when the items in one part of the list are a substantially different size than items in the other part of the list. (source)
The same data can be ordered in a more conventional way; this is Sense and Sensibility in a “Squarified Layout”:
Here are some other books, for your viewing pleasure.
Pride and Prejudice
Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone
2001 A Space Odessey
The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
The Trawl of the traffic sources (for the wiki) continues and has pulled up another gem, let’s say hello to Robotmonkeys.net, they also found my SmartLED. However, they’ve picked up on the issue mentioned in the make blog comments about the accuracy of the internal temperature sensor. I should try and set the record straight on this, the ATtiny25/45/85 chips have a +/- 10 degree Celsius difference between chips, not in the accuracy of an individual chip. Once you calibrate a chip to a known temperature (it’s best to do this at two temperature points – I put the SmartLED in the fridge to do this!) you can dial in the chip to make the readings accurate enough to be practical. It’s a pain but you would have to calibrate each chip individually if you were making a bunch of these.
But…. that’s not the interesting bit. It looks like Jonathan Koren (Robotmonkeys.net resident blogger) and I have a shared interest in Number Stations. In fact that’s perhaps unfair on Jonathan, as he’s got far more info on them than I’ve seen in while, I’ll have to catch up on what’s happening in the murky world of global short-wave espionage. I first read about number stations back in 2000 and thought they were the coolest thing ever. In fact it was the seed that started me on the route to classified satellite tracking (something else I like to think I’m ‘active’ in doing, but actually just talk about a lot). Kudos to Robotmonkeys.net for helping to keep number stations alive in the blogosphere! Yay!
I’ve just been looking through the traffic sources for my wiki and noticed a couple of hits from a site called Spime.org. It’s a blog by Peter Horvath cataloguing some extraordinary cool designs and concepts in the data visualisation / open hardware space. There are some truly amazing ideas in there, I love the Magnetic curtains, that hold thier position when you fold and crumple them, or The Messenger which displays e-mails in a selection of super-impractical mediums (including a large array of 26 talking washbasins, each intoning a letter of the alphabet in Spanish).
Why the curator felt that my modest creation should be included in this digital museum is something I can only speculate on, but I’m very happy that it did. Perhaps it will inspire me to finish the project!
I’ve just found a Satellite photo of the UK taken on the afternoon that Saragh and I rushed to hospital to welcome are daughter Poppy into the world. Looking out of the window on the 7th January 2010, as Saragh went into labour, I had a feeling it was going to be a very special day. The last time that there was Snow covering the whole country, we didn’t have satellites like TERRA and AQUA armed with the MODIS camera system to take such amazing photos. I’ll keep this pic for prosterity. Somewhere down there, just on the outskirts of SW London, as TERRA glided silently overhead, an expectant father leaned out of his bedroom window and wondered if the car was going to start all right.
Click on the image to get the awesome full resolution version of the whole of the UK.
I love infographics, and this one is just awesome. It shows in context, the depth of the well that was drilled by the Deepwater Horizon platform which exploded on 20th April 2010. Click on the image below, or the link above for the full size version.
Another Infographic on the same subject details the current cementing plan that is favoured by BP.
From Doug McCune’s Blog post “If San Francisco Crime were Elevation“. It’s nice to Data rendered with soft shadows and a bit of radiosity.
To do it a bit more justice in the engineering department, its more about creating a KAP rig (which seems to be largely a matter of
aesthetics) that will support the camera in a controlled way that minimises the swinging and pendulum action, while providing remote pan and tilt ability with remote shutter release. It’s a hugely interesting field of design and engineering, there are as many solutions and different approaches as there are KAP’pers and KAP rigs.
I built a KAP rig last year, but have yet (groan… no surprise) to finish it. The Pan servo is not in place and I’ve not built a picavet. despite this, I did fly a camera under the kite and got some great pictures.
The rig I’ve designed uses an Arduino to control the servos, it communicates to the ground via xbee modems. The camera (although it’s an olympus in the prototype shots above) is a Canon Ixus 50, running CHDK. the Arduino controls (will control) the shutter using CHDK’s USB shutter release hack. Using an Arduino allows us to capture other metadata around the photo. I planned to fly a GPS unit up there too to get lat, long and altitude (as good as GPS altitude gets). We could even put temperature and humidity sensors on there, although at this point we are running out of good reasons why. More notes can be found in the (needing to be updated!) wiki page
I recently wrote up a Build Log on the wiki for the SolarTerm SmartLED that I’ve been working on. This is very much still work in progress as I’ve not built the solar engine for it yet. The project was picked up by Make’s Blog and others. Along with building the solar engine, I’ve also got a problem with the watchdog timer which is not behaving as expected. I think i need to go and call on the nice folks over at AVR Freaks for some help. I’ll post an update on this when I make some progress.
It’s about time I did something here, and a system update and new theme should fit the bill. Welcome to the new JimBlackhurst.com Blog, with added themey goodness! The main reason for doing this update is to shift focus from my previous space based ramblings (which will still take place as the mood takes me) to introduce you to my main passion, open and embedded physical computing (or “Electronics” as we used to call it). Grab your Soldering Irons and join me in the shed!
I’ve been cataloguing a lot of my projects on my wiki, which you can link to here. I will do a post at some point for each project to introduce them.
I always thought this Blog would be about my two joint passions, Video games and Space geekery, but there has been little in the way of games that I’ve been motivated to write about. Just occasionally, however, something happens that reminds me of how cool the games biz is and inspires me to write about it. I’ve been at the Develop Conference in Brighton this week, and I was looking forward to seeing a session with David Braben and Dave Jones comparing their two most famous titles, Elite and GTA1 respectively. I’ve played GTA1 many times, and I appreciate it’s place in history, but Elite is the whole reason I am in the in the games industry and making games today. I was not quite prepared for just how damm emotional it was seeing it running on a BBC 32k again (well an emu, but it felt the same).
He was asked during the Q&A if we would ever see Elite again, to which he just replied ‘Yes’. Of course that’s nothing new, we’ve known for years that Elite is supposed to be in active development, but he simply won’t be drawn on any details. My first thought was that i hope he uses Eve as a graphic reference, but beats Eve into a bloody mess by putting some real ship control and combat in there, rather than eve’s lame point and click navigation and warfare. My second thought which was much sadder was that whatever he does, it’s never going to meet our expectations.
One thing that did freak me out a little was when he mentioned something that addressed a deep sense of inadequacy I’ve carried since being a child. Even friends who only dabbled with Elite were able to stumble across one or more of the mythical missions, however I never did. Despite achieving a rank of dangerous, I never had so much as a suggestion of a mission. How could I ever pretend to be worthy of my commander rank? Of course, it was obvious. I was playing on an Acorn Electron, and the missions were the bit that was chopped to shoehorn the game into the reduced memory space. I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was to hear that!
I’d also forgotten how painful it must of been to play, it took 20 mins to load it in by tape! This, according to Braben, allowed for a degree of forgiveness by the players for the very steep learning curve. It may have been hard to play if you were new to it, but after waiting 20mins for it to load, you’d at least give it a few mins of playing to see if you could master it. I’m sure that’s a trick being used on some PS3 games today
As I type this we are about 1hrs 25mins from the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-125 to service the Hubble Space Telescope. The launch is due at 7:01pm our time today (Monday).
This is one of the very rare times, and possibly the last ever time we will see two shuttles rolled out onto the pads at the same time. Why?
After the Columbia accident, where the shuttle broke apart and burnt up during re-entry, it’s Nasa policy that any mission must have a safe haven, where the Crew can move to should the shuttle be found to be damaged and unable to cope with re-entry. Usually this is the International space station, but we aren’t going there on this mission, we are going to the Hubble, so the Atlantis will be all alone out there. This is why Endeavour is sat their waiting, It’s a life boat in case anything goes wrong.
This could be the final flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis, it is due to be decommissioned after this flight. Atlantis has completed 29 flights, spent 220.40-days in space, completed 3,468 orbits, and flown 89,908,732 nautical miles (166,510,972 km) in total, as of September 2006. Among the five Space Shuttles flown in space, Atlantis has conducted a subsequent mission in the shortest time after the previous mission when it launched in November, 1985, only 50 days after its previous mission (from Wikipedia). However, the Ares (big Saturn 5 like rocket – due to replace the Shuttles in 2012) test flights due to take place this year have been postponed due to “budget reviews” so the old shuttles may still have some life and a few more missions left in them yet. (there are major parts of the shuttle Atlantis flying today that we rated for a 10 year life span, which are now 22 years old!)
Good luck Atlantis!
You can watch the flight live on Nasa TV or if you want higher quality streams you can try the links on my blog.
About the Hubble space telescope.
The shuttle fleet aren’t the only ones feeling their age. The Hubble space telescope was launched in April 1990, nearly 20 years ago. It was hugely expensive and very ambitious. The launch was successful, but when it was turned on and pointed at the stars for the first time, it was found that everything was blurred and out of focus. Considering the mission costs, this was a stunning disaster.
Fortunately, the Hubble was designed to be repaired and upgraded in space, so a mission was put together to fit corrective optics and since then the HST has been responsible for some of the most important space based science ever done, despite its huge cost, it has earned its money many times over.
Over the next 11 days there will be five back to back space walks to replace instruments and refill the propellant tanks, there will even be some work done on circuit board level which has never been attempted before. Atlantis is due to land on the 22nd (a week on Friday) at about 15:41.
You can be amazed by the science Hubble has done, you can be shocked at the cost of the operation and maintenance, but it’s the outstanding beauty of its images and its ability to connect us to the universe that which will be its long lasting legacy.
Last night (17th March 2009) I was able to capture a few photos of the ISS and Discovery very close to docking. The combination of circumstance that has to fall into place is stagering, firstly, there has to be a shuttle about to dock, and that doesn’t exactly happen every week. Next, the orbit of the IIS and shuttle has to be favorable so that the orbital ground track pass will near enough my house to be able to see it, this is not so tricky, pretty much anywhere over Westen Europe will do. However, timing is critical, it must be just in that sweet spot of dusk where the sun will still reflect off the space craft, but it’s dark enough at home that you can take a fairly long exposure without it being blown out. Finaly, it has to be clear; a cloudy night would ruin it. As you can see below, the clouds nearly did. I’m pleased with this shot, but if you want to see a better one check out Marco Langbroek’s blog
Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted anything here, but there hasn’t been much space action recently to write about. As a catch up here are some of the things I should have blogged about, but didn’t get round to!
On February 10th, at 4:56pm, Two satellites in earth orbit were destroyed in the first ever satellite collision in space 500 miles above the Taymyr Peninsula in Siberia. The relative speed of the impact was 26,170mph! The satellites involved were a live and fully functional “Iridium 33” (part of the Iridium satellite phone network that you may have seen the comic relief climbers using on Kilimanjaro) and a defunct Russian Kosmos 2251 communications satellite which had been dead since 1995. This collision has created a huge debris cloud in space. The effect of this debris is really scary, perhaps leading to something called the “Kessler Syndrome” where the debris from this collision collides with other satellites, and that debris then collides with more satellites and before you know it (in a process called Ablation cascade) earth orbit is full of razor sharp bits of metal flying around randomly at 10,000+ miles per hour making being in space even more dangerous than it is now. (You can see a great diagram of this, here, via APOD)
Earlier this month, on the 6th march, a new space telescope was launched called Kepler. Read more about it here. It’s main job is to SEARCH FOR EXTRASOLAR PLANETS! How cool is that? It’s not a direct replacement for the ageing hubble ‘scope but it will be ‘complementary’. There is a shuttle mission scheduled to repair hubble soon, more details on that below. The mission will last for 3.5 years and aims to discover and catalogue planets within the ‘habitable zones’ around nearby stars.
In dramatic news, the International space station was evacuated last Thursday (12th March) for fear that it was about to be hit by space debris. Although not connected to the satellite collision mentioned above, it’s still a sign that this issue of debris is being taken seriously. The debris passed by eventually and life on the station went on as usual, but it was really interesting to see how the news spread almost as fast as it can via twitter. Normaly, the ISS ground crew actually move the station out of the way of debris by boosting it’s orbit, but in this case they didn’t have time. The crew closed all the interior hatches and took refuge in the Russian Soyuz escape capsule. Upadate: This has just happend again, on monday!
The main news is that last night (Sunday March 15th), Space shuttle Discovery launched just before midnight on mission STS-119 to the international space station. You can watch the launch in glorious HD here (also watch this HD video taken from a guys back yard 40 miles away!!!!). The aim of this mission is to fit out a new set of solar panels and a truss section to the ISS. Should be some hot spacewalking action over the next 14 days so stay tuned.
From Wikipedia:STS-119 will deliver the S6 solar arrays to the space station, completing the construction of the Integrated Truss Structure. STS-119 will be used for several experiments, including Shuttle Ionospheric Modification with Pulsed Local EXhaust (SIMPLEX), Shuttle Exhaust Ion Turbulence Experiments (SEITE), and Maui Analysis of Upper Atmospheric Injections (MAUI). STS-119 will also be used for the “Boundary Layer Transition Detailed Test Objective” experiment. One tile in the thermal protection system will be raised 0.25 inches (6.4 mm) above the others so that, at about Mach 15 during reentry, a boundary layer transition will be initiated.
I recently bought myself a really cheep “fish-eye” converter for my camera from eBay, and surprisingly it’s not half as bad as I was expecting it to be. Yes it’s blurry round the edges and looks about as far from anything professional as you could get, but it did only cost five pounds. It would have been rude not to! Anyway, it is a .45 multiplier which on my 18-55mm kit lens, at the 18 end of the tube makes the effective focal distance 8mm ish.. I’m not going to get anything as wide as that until I get round to buying the sigma 10-20 (and then it’s 2mm longer, but sooo much nicer looking with it)
It’s been really cloudy here, and when it is clear, it just doesn’t get dark, I guess that’s the english summer for you. I did manage to take a couple of shots of the ISS on consecutive nights, although tonight i was really aiming for the Early Ammonia Servicer which i think I saw, but in a totally unexpected part of the sky. I’ll get it next time…
Last night I snapped Lacrosse 5 as it made its way over my house. Lacrosse 5 is one of the US military classified Spy Satellites (or DarkSats if you are feeling dramatic). I wanted to get one long exposure with it arcing across the full frame, but a series of screw-ups meant I got three different pics. While I was watching it, I did wonder what it was watching as it sailed across my back garden (probably not much seeing as it was night… )
It looks like STS-124 launched without incident, no damage or issues being reported. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for Launch pad 39a at KSC which pretty much got blown apart (ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration) when Discovery took off.
Those are pieces of pad 39a splashing into the water below Disco’s Plume
This digital image was taken by the HiRISE camera (the most powerful camera ever flown in space (except for the HS telescope)) on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in orbit around Mars. As I’m sure you’ve worked out, In it’s sights is Phoenix, on it’s parachute descending towards the Martian surface.
So it’s old news by now. Every cable news channel has been looping the footage because it’s been a slow news weekend. Phoenix landed, it was great, it worked, it sent back pictures.
I couldn’t help feeling a pang of nostalgia for the MER EDLs. The phoenix EDL was sharp, focused and professional, but it didn’t have any of that Wayne Lee flair or the Steve Squyres coolness. I hope they bring back the old team for the MSL Mission.
NASA to Announce Success of Long Galactic Hunt
WASHINGTON — NASA has scheduled a media teleconference Wednesday, May 14, at 1 p.m. EDT, to announce the discovery of an object in our Galaxy astronomers have been hunting for more than 50 years. This finding was made by combining data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory with ground-based observations.
So that’s 6pm our time. There is live audio on the net of the conference, and a pre-recorded Video file will air on nasa tv (although no time given)
I doubt it is that earth shattering, otherwise news would have leaked by now. Nasa is celebrating it’s 50 years as an institution this year so there will probably be something dry and dull like “the next 50 years of nasa”.
But.. seeing as the pope has said it’s ok to Love aliens (or something like that) and the UK government has admitted that it’s run by Aliens (sort of), maybe, just maybe it’s something more exciting.
(thanks to Unfriendly Ghost for pointing this one out!)
(It makes more sense if you were thinking of Beck’s – Where it’s At (“I got Two turntables and a Microphone”) when you read it)
I had the best night yet for Sat Obs last night, despite it being hazy and the ridiculous amounts of light pollution from living so close to London. I managed to score 5 naked eye sats, four of which I was able to identify, and none of which were anything obvious like the ISS. It constantly amazes me that I can get ~3.4 mag sightings out of my back garden, you should see the raw images that I get from the camera; bright orange!
Speaking of images out of the camera, I used my new remote to break through the 30sec Bulb barrier and did a few 1 Min+ exposures. For the final shot of the night I was aiming for Cosmos 2263 and opened the shutter with a 50mm lens attached, I visually picked up the satellite a few seconds later but bugger me if it wasn’t going the wrong way across the sky. Turns out that in a moment of serendipity, I had clocked Cosmos 1154 instead. Huh those crazy satellites!
The real buzz came when I found my original target Cosmos 2263 setting in the east, it’s path meant that the Camera shot that caught C.1154 probably caught C.2263 as well.
After some heavy duty PostPro in Photoshop to remove most of the light pollution, I had an image I’m proud of. In a geeky sort of way.
So it’s been a bumpy ride for some recently. The first south Korean astronaut was very nearly an ex-Korean astronaut on Saturday when the Soyuz earth return vehicle that she and fellow astronautess Peggy Whitson along with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko narrowly avoided “lithobraking” (slowing down only when you leave a smoking crater in the ground).
The (slightly pale looking) Korean Astonaut, Yi So-Yeon, told a press conference in Russia’s Star City today: “During the descent there was some kind of fire outside the Soyuz capsule because we were going through the atmosphee. At first I was scared, but the two other guys looked okay, so I tried to look okay, too.”
The soyuz landed nearly 300 miles off course and 20 mins late due to a systems failure on board. The failure meant that the capsule returned to earth on a ballistic trajectory, rather than its normal computer controlled descent. (The word ballistic means to fall under the power of gravity) The difference between the two types of landing are 2-3 Gs Max for a normal descent compared with about 8-10Gs for a Ballistic entry.
Just to round off a bad day, the retro rockets that fire moments before touch down to slow the capsule right down for a soft landing also failed. Good job the parachutes were working. Apparently this isn’t the first time it’s happened it’s quite a common occurrence for the good old Soyuz (old being the emphasised word there). Apparently there are backup computer systems on board, one of which, I shit ye not, is noted down in the Soyuz flight manual as your brain. The amazing thing is that the Soyuz is actually built to withstand these types of landing, even without the retro rockets.
It’s a classic Soviet design philosophy: when quality and precision are unavailable, substitute brute strength.
Russian take on it – http://www.kommersant.com/p884947/Soyuz_TMA/
BBC news story – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7355912.stm
You may remember that ESA recently launched it’s new Space Truck, the ATV, AKA Joules Verne. It’s now docked to the ISS. What they were keeping quite is (I don’t know why, possibly not to worry the Americans or Russians) is that it and it’s Ariane-V is now human-flight rated.
By far the most exciting thing on the space geek radar is the landing of the Mars Phoenix Lander Mission which is due to land (fingers crossed) in 34 days, 8 hours and 48 minutes from now (not that I’m counting or anything). It’s a stationary lander like the old Viking probes (rather than golf buggy like rovers, spirit and opportunity). It’s landing in the polar regions with the primary goals of looking for water ice and microbial life. Rather alarmingly, they are ditching the whole bouncing airbag landing thing that spirit and opportunity used (and worked so perfectly) in favour of retro rockets and luck of the gods. Lets just hope they didn’t buy the retros from the same dodgy supplier that the Russians did for Soyuz. If they did, I guess there is always a backup plan of “regolithobraking” hahahaha (sorry – bad geology geek joke)
Nasa (JPL) mission home page – http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/mission.php
What does it say about life when all the visionary’s have died? Carl Sagen, Douglas Adams and now Arthur. Hang in there Patrick
It’s going to be a busy month for us space fans. At 0403GMT on Saturday 8th, the new ATV, Jules Verne (a bus sized cargo transfer vehicle for the ISS) built by ESA will launch. It will chase the station for a week and then park it’s self nearby and wait for the shuttle to arrive.
Endeavour is due to launch on March 11th on a 16 day mission. Reading between the lines, I’m guessing part of the mission will be either to monitor the docking of the new ATV with the Station to check that it’s working as expected, or to rescue the crew when the ATV ploughs into it. Not that I’m being pessimistic, but have you seen how the Europeans drive?
The main bulk of the sts-123 mission will be the installation of the new Japanese Lab, (Kibō), and the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM) (which sounds to me like something you could have some fun with). Looks like it could be a night launch, the current blast off is scheduled for 6.28am UTC
Thanks go to Paul for giving me a heads up on the LRO, a new mission to the moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Obiter will be notable for many things, but my guess will be that it will remembered for being the first mission able to image the Apollo landing sites (for sure this time), and therefore put a final nail in the conspiracy theorists coffin. (Of course, the more stupid among them will be inclined to call this mission a fake too).
LRO will launch later in the year, Oct 28th. It is to be ‘co-manifested’ with The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) which follows the proud NASA tradition of smacking expensive hardware into the face of the moon and superbly terminal speeds. This time, given clear skies, we should be able to see the cloud of ejecta and the flash from here on earth.
Last August (4th 2007) a mission to mars called Phoenix launched, and it is scheduled to land on May 25th in the Polar Regions. We haven’t had much mars action recently so this should be fun. NASA is already changing the orbits of MRO and MOO and ESA are doing likewise with MEO (that’s the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey Orbiter and Mars Express Orbiter respectively) so that they can all watch Phoenix’s EDL (Entry, Descent and Landing). You’ve got to love all these TLAs.
It’s probably old news by now but Burt Rutan has been recovering from open heart surgery. He seems to be on the mend now and has returned to his duties as head dude in charge of making Space Ship 2 fly.
So lots of stuff happened while I was away at GDC, and I didn’t get time to blog about it. Firstly, the most boring space shuttle mission in recent history landed, gasp, safely. However, we won’t be waiting long for the next one, Endeavour on STS-123 is already out at the pad and due to launch on March 11th (6.28am!). It’s going to be a long mission, 16 days, with the main focus the installation of the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibō).
Of course, the main news is that the US decided to shoot down USA 193, which was also a bit of a shame, it would have been much more exciting to watch it crash and burn. The announcement that they would shoot it down led to all sorts of predictable conspiracy outbursts and ranting about how it was all a big cover story for US ASAT tests. I’m sure the US did want to shoot it down to prove to china that they can shoot satellites down as well, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t do it before or actually planned this, it was all just opportunity. I was in my hotel room reading up on SeeSat-L when I discovered the news about the impending shoot down, due at about 10:30pm (iirc) that night. I suddenly felt quite vulnerable sitting there in a big US city. If they miss, or otherwise screw up, there could be some very, very, angry countries out there. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Jericho.
So it’s all over and we’re home and mostly cleared of the jetlag. Overall it was a busy show, the effect of E3 dying is obvious to see, GDC is now as much about business development as it is about games development. I actually found it a bit frustrating to get around simply due to the number of people present. And I didn’t get a T-shirt.
I can’t believe I’m going to say it but… I think the iPhone is going to be a great gaming device. Damm Apple and all their ultra popular design. I was turned off touch screen by a generation of weak underpowered devices who didn’t have enough processor grunt to refresh the touch and update the screen, let alone run any games, but then I saw the LG Viewty. At last there was a touch screen device that responded to a touch with out having to wait a week for anything to happen. Nearly. Then I relented and allowed myself to be in the same room as an apple device for a short time, and found that I was deeply impressed. The screen is huge, both in resolution and real estate and the touch is so responsive, it almost feels predictive. The motion sensor works and the multi touch pinch is fun. This could be a great gaming platform. I’ve never been at a show where there was more anticipation for one technology release, namely the official iPhone SDK (now delayed untill march).
The main event also had it’s moments. I have been thinking a lot about PS3 Home, and I can’t help thinking that it’s not going to be a mediocre so-so. It will either be the most laughable attempt at community ever or a brilliant success. My game of the show was Chat Noir which I thought was perfect in every way. The experimental gameplay sessions, was terribly disappointing except for a few notable highlights, namely Ricky showing off Bernie, which was brilliant and a preview of the awesome Crayon Physics Deluxe. Where was the indie game jam? The whole event seemed to be lacking the energy of previous years, it was the first time in 6 years that I’ve seen empty seats in that room.
It rained a lot too.
After waiting for ages, STS-122 finally launched last night, it was one of the few launches recently I’ve not been around to watch on nasa TV. It all looks like it went smoothly, except for the usual foam breakup. The sensor glitches in that had kept the launch date on hold appear to have been fixed. “We won’t have the ECO sensor problem again. We’ve licked it,” [nasa administrator] Griffin told SPACE.com.
I just hope that ‘lick’ a metaphor…
In other news, your friend and mine, Mr. Burt Rutan and his team at SC are getting ready for a test flight of SpaceShip Two sometime ‘towards the middle of the year’ It will be flying from the worlds first space port (unless you count Star City in Russia, but that is military I suppose) which is going to be in the Mojave desert, and designed by Norman Foster’s bunch. I’ve seen it written that “The world first private spaceport will be designed to relate to the dimensions of the spacecraft and blend with its desert surroundings with a combination of geo-thermal, solar and wind power used to create a very low carbon footprint.” Which is handy considering the huge amount of stuff thrown out of the back of SS2’s rocket motor as it blasts it’s way into space (or the stratosphere at least). I think that the renaming of VSS Voyager to VSS Spirit of Steve Fossett is a brilliant move and I’m hoping that one of the three as yet unnamed VSS craft will be named after Carl Sagan.
Despite the outlandish predictions of some internet pundits, the future of humanity was never at risk today. But scientists were hoping to use the fly-past to work out how best to defend the planet against asteroids in the future.
As I mentioned in a post yesterday, the sat known to us as USA-193 has come to the attention of the worlds press as a threat to all life on earth, when, complete with it’s multi-megaton thermo nuclear power source, it hurtles back into the earth’s atmosphere from whence it once came, to wipe either London, New York, Paris, Sydney (or all of them) off the map. As is usually the case, the official sources are saying nothing, the press (and me) are just making stuff up, the only people with any clue what’s going on are the amateurs. To understand the real story of USA-193 and follow it’s progress, the best place to look is the SeeSat List. One of the seesat posters Dr. Marco Langbroek from Holland has a great blog that explains it all in detail.
USA-193 – Image by John Locker from the SeeSat List
Considering this will be a blog about my work with mobile games and games design in general, and quite possibly a vent for all my enthusiasm for anything space-like, a more appropriate banner was needed.
Howdy Space fans!
The date for the rescheduled STS-122 Atlantis mission has been announced. Unfortunately it’s outside of our working hours, but should be fun anyway. You can watch it at home if you are geek enough, http://www.nasa.gov
For more fun links to “when space things go bad” give these two clips a spin, both are of the same event, the launch of a US Delta 2 rocket back in ’97 carrying a military GPS sat. I hope the crew of the soon to launch STS-122 don’t watch this!
at long last i’ve given the blog a bit of a face lift in preparation of getting typing. the picture of a the bulb is one of mine that i took a couple of years ago at a working electric generating waterwheel. the bulb had these huge amber glowing filaments that made it look like it came right from the Victorian era. how it survived that long I’ve no idea.