Tag Archives: space

Take that, moon!


Whether it’s monkeying with our ocean levels or turning people into werewolves, I think we can all agree that the moon is a total douche. In fact, the moon was just awarded the Nobel Prize for Fuckfacery. So when a bunch of scientists got together this morning and fired a rocket up its ass, a single joyful tear fell down my cheek.

Oh, and we’re looking for water. Moon water:

Of greatest interest is whether there is water ice hidden in the crater’s perpetual darkness and frigidness. The data could play into the debate over where NASA’s human spaceflight program should aim next, whether to return to the Moon or head elsewhere in the solar system neighborhood. The presence of large significant amounts of water could make it easier to set up future settlements with the ice providing water and oxygen.

What the hell is it with scientists and their obsession with making us all live on the moon? Oh they’ll tell you it’s so they can use the moon as a jumping-off point for deep space exploration, but let’s be honest about what’s happening — these nerds want to float around in zero gravity on a space station. Well, me too nerds. Me too.

Oh, and good job firing a rocket up the moon’s ass.

This has been Pax Arcana with your in-depth science report. Take it away, Jim…

In Test of Water on Moon, Craft Hits Bull’s-Eye [NY Times]


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Friday Random 10: Astro-pee edition

Becoming an astronaut requires one to possess extraordinary physical and mental capacities. Not only must you be a brilliant and articulate person of science, but you must also endure severe physical challenges that would humble nearly all other humans.

The training program for astronauts is rigorous and largely thankless. Nearly all astronauts spend year after year on the ground, watching a select few of their compatriots be launched into space. Many say the wait for a mission to space is the most difficult part.

space-peeHowever, once selected for a mission, astronauts enjoy certain privileges that ordinary humans don’t. Such as the ability dump a 150-pound bucket of your pee into space — thereby creating a brilliant streak of reflective human waste thousands of miles long and visible to humans on the ground.

The picture at right was taken in Hungary last Wednesday. In it, you can see what amounts to more than a week’s worth of astro-pee cascading through the night sky:

According to NASA spokeswoman Kylie Clem, because space regulations bar astronauts from dumping waste water at the International Space Station, the Discovery astronauts had to wait until undocking before they could discard their pee — which by that point amounted to a hefty ten days’ worth.

Sad you missed the show? No need to worry: you may get another chance, as it’s actually a fairly common sighting, says Clem.

And now you know what all that Tang is for.

(Hat tip: Perry Ellis)

The songs:

Chinese Translation — M. Ward
Agoraphobia — Deerhunter
Stop — Ryan Adams
Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be — The Black Keys
Merchants of Soul — Spoon
Fight Test — Flaming Lips
The Long Island Sound — Beirut
Bartering Lines — Ryan Adams
Margaret in Captivity — The Decemberists
In Harmony in Silver — Cold War Kids

Bonus video:

While You Wait for the Others — Grizzly Bear (Live on Jools Holland)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.

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Pax Arcana

Despite the best efforts of our best minds over thousands of years, we still know almost nothing about outer space. I guess that’s why space is so captivating. It’s not just the mysteries of space — it’s the expansiveness of a realm so replete with puzzles that the act of constructing a foundation from which to observe the smallest corner of it requires the herculean efforts of thousands of humans over thousands of years.

Or at least that’s what I used to think. Now that astronomers are reporting a “loud roar” from a distant and unknown end of the cosmos, my attitude is this:


OK, so clearly vicious space tiger is approaching us at supersonic speeds. I presume space scientists are also in a blind crazy panic over this:

“The universe really threw us a curve,” Kogut said. “Instead of the faint signal we hoped to find, here was this booming noise six times louder than anyone had predicted.”

Detailed analysis of the signal ruled out primordial stars or any known radio sources, including gas in the outermost halo of our own galaxy.

Sweet — so at least we know it’s not martian farts. Now about that vicious space tiger…


Mystery Roar from Faraway Space Detected [Space.com]

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Space Balls is going to rule

Pax Arcana

In many ways, professional sports is a collosal waste of brain power. Not only do us fans sit on our couches for hours at a time draining melted Velveeta directly into our esophagus, but the worlds of science and business miss out on the acumen of those who choose to play pro sports for a living.

Consider the genius of Ken Harvey, former linebacker for the San Francsico 49ers.

Not content to laze around in retirement, Harvey has come up with an idea positively brimming with potential — why not put athletes in outer space and invent a ridiculous game for them to compete in?

The game would be called Float Ball. It would combine elements of basketball, football and the Lionel Richie video for “Dancing on the Ceiling” into a sort of free-for-all, compelling weightless players to bounce off walls, obstacles and one another while herding weightless balls of various colors to either end of the playing space, which would be placed inside the cabin of a zero-gravity plane or, possibly, on the moon. Eventually, one day, if all went well, some sort of custom arena would be constructed. On Mars.

Personally, I would go with the video for “Hello,” but that’s just a personal preference.

Anyway, back to the article. I have a few questions. First of all, what? And also — huh?

In the end, Harvey’s inner Star Trek fan guided him away from the steakhouses and car dealerships of traditional N.F.L. retirement. Taking Herbert as a business partner, he set to work developing a futuristic movie, promoting envisioned athletic offshoots of extraterrestrial tourism and designing Float Ball. He has been invited to address the Global Space Technology Forum in Abu Dhabi next month.

WOW! Did you see Captain Trog of the Io77 team slam home that spacedunk???!!! He was like three grimlachs high before his crystallizer pack ran out! I’m not sure if Zardor the Neptunian will ever recover from being holographed like that!!

The best part is that NASA — which I’m told is positively LOADED with sports buffs — has come down from its ivory space tower to give Harvey’s ideas the chance they deserve:

His audience, about 40 NASA specialists, fell silent. Harvey ran through a series of slides covering the troubled economy, the promise of space tourism, citations of sports in the work of science fiction novelists and precedent-setting events like Alan Shepard’s lunar golf shot. He cracked jokes, digressed liberally and quickly won over the group.

Advanced concepts like the Float Ball league, he argued, would develop in time from astronaut fitness programs, virtual reality games, zero-gravity flights and educational efforts designed to instill post-space age children with new interstellar dreams.

“Sometimes,” he said, “it doesn’t happen in your generation, but you plan to see it in the next generation.”

Float Ball: The only advanced concept I came up with in my backyard in 1985.

For Ex-N.F.L. Star, a Dream of Sports in Space [NYT]

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Friday Random 10: Space smells edition

Pax Arcana

Despite its proximity to Uranus, space smells surprisingly good.

At least that’s the word from the Times (UK), which reports  that astronauts say outer space smells distinctly like fried steak, as well as hot metal and other acrid smells. Even better, apparently NASA is paying one of those fancy smell labs to recreate the odor for those of you who will never enjoy the sensual pleasures of intergalactic travel:

Nasa asked Steven Pearce, the managing director of Omega Ingredients, which makes fragrances, to recreate the scent after hearing of his work creating smells for an art exhibition in July, one of which was of the inside of the Mir space station. Mr Pearce is interviewing astronauts to help him with his task. “We have already produced the smell of fried steak, but hot metal is proving more difficult,” he said. “We think it’s a high-energy vibration in the molecule.”

In other news, the economy is collapsing around us and we’re staring into the abyss of a profound national depression. But hey! Space smells like steak!!

The songs:

I Want to Live — Talking Heads
Superfly — Curtis Mayfield
Up in the Air — Hüsker Dü
Aging Faces/Losing Places — BSS Presents… Kevin Drew
After the Bombs — The Decemberists
White Christmas — Otis Redding
How to Fight Loneliness — Wilco
Various Stages — Great Lake Swimmers (Live)
Needle in the Hay — Elliot Smith
Meadowlake Street — Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

Bonus Video:

Papa was a Rolling Stone — Stevie Wonder (Live)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.


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Space travel is shitty

Pax Arcana

You may have heard last week that the potty on the International Space Station had broken, and no amount of jiggling of the handle or kicking the bowl would fix it. (Not to worry, the Space Shuttle Discovery is on the way up with replacement parts as we speak).

Via Boing Boing, Scientific American has an awesome rundown of how the lack of gravity and atmosphere in space make it difficult for astronauts to relieve themselves in a manner approximating normalcy.

For one thing, without gravity, rogue pee streams that ordinarily would drop harmlessly on the New York Times Book Review on the floor of your bathroom ball up and float endlessly about the cabin. So NASA invented little sucking tubes that you stick your weiner (or girl parts) in for quick evacuation.

Then there’s the problem of jettisoning the pee from the spacecraft:

Ejecting liquid waste has caused problems in the past. In 1984 the urine collection system on Discovery had to be shut down when a urine icicle formed that threatened to damage the craft’s protective heat tiles if it stuck around and broke free on reentry.

However, the difficulty of going number one is number two behind the difficulty of going number two. Let me explain why with some science learnin:

One cannot drop a deuce in an environment where things cannot be dropped

Here’s how former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart explains the process to Sci Am:

“You just float around for awhile doing things with a bag on your butt,” Schweickart tells ScientificAmerican.com. Then came the task of dislodging the excrement (no gravity, remember?) without spreading it everywhere. All told, Schweickart said, the process took about an hour.

It seems a shame that science hasn’t figured out a better process for this yet. Especially since Dr. Octagon is already armed with seven rounds of space doo-doo pistols.

Getting a Handle on Space Toilets [Scientific American]
Space Toilets [Boing Boing]

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Mars is dirty

Pax Arcana

NASA’s $420 million Phoenix lander finally landed this weekend and found what it was looking for — Phoenix.

Of course, this photo isn’t actually from Phoenix. It’s from a top-secret computer-enhanced photo studio in central Florida, bankrolled by an international cabal of tax-plundering neo-aristocrats whose membership includes no less than the Queen of England and German soccer superstar Michael Ballack.

NASA, adhering strictly to its fictional storyline, swears the photo is the first-ever taken from the surface of Mars — the planet so legendary they named a candy bar after it.

“It was better than we could have possibly wished for,” said Barry Goldstein, the project manager for the mission. “We rehearsed over and over again. We rehearsed all of the problems, and none of them occurred. It was perfect, just the way we designed it.”

At 9:53 p.m., there were more cheers as confirmation came that one more critical event, the unfolding of the solar arrays, had occurred without problem. And then the first pictures arrived: black-and-white images of the solar panels, of one of the lander’s footpads and of surrounding terrain, showing the polygonal fractures caused by repeated expansion and contraction of the underground ice.

Underground ice, huh?

Look, NASA, I’ll give you a freebie. If you want us to believe that you landed a space machine on some faraway planet called “Mars,” you’d better do better than this. Like I suppose the Martians just stick their ice in the ground to keep it cold. You ever see what happens when you drop an ice cube from your daiquiri on the ground? That’s right, it gets covered with ants. And dirt. And no matter how many times you lick it, you can never get all those ants and dirt off of it.

Give us some credit, scientists.

Mars Lander Transmits Photos of Arctic Terrain [New York Times]

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You are paying more than NASA for your data

Pax Arcana

Sending and receiving text messages from your cell phone — or as Pax Arcana calls it, the “gossamer communicatron” — involves a complicated array of technologies.

First the signal is transmitted from your handheld device to a nearby television antenna, where it is sent into ether and converted into radio signals. Then a series of tree-shaped radio receivers convert the signals into morse code and pipe the dots and dashes through a complicated network of underground tubes called “The Internets.” Once the morse code is translated by a crew of protocol droids, gasoline-powered turbines push the messages in hermetically sealed envelopes to a storehouse dedicated to your recipient’s cell phone number. An operator then reads the message and types the text onto the recipients cell phone screen through some sort of inscrutable black magic called “satellite.”

Speaking of satellites, one British space scientist (via Boing Boing) says the cost of sending and receiving text messages is four times higher than NASA pays for digital transmissions from the Hubble telescope. Which is way the fuck out there in space.

Ready to be bored?

“The maximum size for a text message is 160 characters, which takes 140 bytes because there are only 7 bits per character in the text messaging system, and we assume the average price for a text message is 5p. There are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that’s 1 million/140 = 7490 text messages to transmit one megabyte. At 5p each, that’s £374.49 per MB – or about 4.4 times more expensive than the ‘most pessimistic’ estimate for Hubble Space Telescope transmission costs.”

Of course there are infrastructure costs — switching stations, towers, mall kiosks — that cell phone companies have to pay for somehow. The Hubble got its money from John Q. Taxpayer.

Speaking of, how much did the Hubble cost anyway? Oh, here it is. $6 billion. That sounds like an awful lot of money, doesn’t it?

Not so, says this one guy:

NASA space science chief Ed Weiler is quick to put that seemingly huge number in perspective.

“Thats about $6 billion spread out over 30 years,” he said. “And that equates to about two cents a week per American taxpayer over that period of time.”

Two cents a week? That’s more than a dollar a year! Do you know how many text messages that buys?

SMS data rate is 4x more expensive than data from the Hubble [Boing Boing]

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Raquel Welch’s ass was out of this world

OK, Lucy the Blog, we’ll see your William Shatner interpretive music rap — and raise you one Raquel Welch dancing in space pants in front of giant ugly statues (which we brazenly stole from Boing Boing):

Man, where’s Astronaut Jones when you need him?


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