Dune On Mars


A dune on Mars, captured by NASA and posted on Lori Fenton’s great blog – her description of the image:

“A piece of Mars: A single dune sits on the surface of Mars, not too far from the north pole. It’s early spring, but this far north the dune is still covered in white CO2 frost (as well as a thin yellow layer of airfall dust). But the sun has done some work already: the dark spots are areas where enough frost is gone from the warm sun’s rays, revealing the lovely black sand beneath. Before long the frost will be gone and the dark dune will be fully released from its wintery blanket. (ESP_033729_2565, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)”

Dunes on Titan


Radar image of dunes on Saturn’s moon Titan.

“These [ridges] are interpreted to be longitudinal dunes. Dunes are mostly an equatorial phenomenon on Titan, and the material forming them may be solid organic particles or ice coated with organic material. Spaced up to 3 kilometers (about 2 miles) apart, these dunes curve around bright features that may be high-standing topographic obstacles, in conformity with the wind patterns. The interaction between the two types of features is complex and not well understood, but clearly the topography and the dunes have influenced each other in other ways as well.”

Via: Wikipedia

Hexagon Spy Satellite

The “Hexagon” spy satellite, deployed via Titan rocket in 1971.  According to this fascinating article in Wired this morning, the satellite was to return high-resolution film.  When the parachute failed to open, the module crashed into the Pacific Ocean and sunk 16,000 feet.  After a year-long recovery effort, the film succumbed to the elements and disintegrated when it reached the surface.

As I’ve posted before, I’m fascinated by the geometry and design of space equipment (and I think “Secret Hexagon” would be a great band name).

Via: Wired

Curiosity Rover Animation

This 11-minute animation from NASA shows the Curiosity rover landing on and traversing across Mars.  It is nearly silent, save some realistic but oddly empty foley sound, making the rover seem very much alone.

Density of the Universe

According to The Physics Factbook, there are approximately 5 atoms per cubic centimeter, though various estimates range from 0.1 – 1000 atoms.

Full citation: Cutnell, John D. & Johnson, Kenneth W. Physics, 3rd Edition. New York: Wiley, 1995: 441.

Rauschenberg, Warhol drawings in space


While considering again the CubeSat program as a means to get art into space, it turns out there’s been plenty of examples in the past.

By far my favorite are these tiny drawings are made by Robert Rauschenberg (a straight line, love it), Andy Warhol (a penis, of course), and Claus Oldenberg (Mickey Mouse) amongst others.  Etched into an iridium-plated ceramic wafer at the famous Bell Labs, they were then sent into space as a “Moon Museum” and left there.  According to the unfortunately named “Space Place“:

The Moon Museum 1969 a small ceramic tile carried on Apollo 12 on which American artists Robert Rauschenberg drew a straight line; Andy Warhol drew a penis; Claus Oldenberg drew the image of Mickey Mouse; and John Chamberlain, Forrest Myers and David Novros all drew geometric designs. The Moon Museum was delivered to the Moon by the crew of Apollo 12 on board a Saturn V rocket (Earth Launch Date: November 14, 1969. Moon Landing Date: November 24, 1969).

However, a little more digging found a great post on Greg.org explaining that “the Moon Museum was secretly installed on a hatch on a leg of the Intrepid landing module with the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Corporation after attempts to move the project forward through NASA’s official channels were unsuccessful.”

A November 22,1969 New York Times article by Gracie Glueck (excellently) titled “New York Sculptor Says Intrepid Put Art On Moon” revealed the story/incident.  My favorite is the last line, in which a NASA official is quoted saying “Now I know that there’s a soulful piece of art up there – a piece of software among all that hardware and junk”.  A surprisingly thoughtful, though sentimental, reaction.

Images and first text via: Space Place
Additional quote and source of the NY Times article: Greg.org