At the time of writing this we are less than 11 hours from the Pluto Flyby!
I missed out on the first images of the distant solar system. When I was old enough to fully realize my interest in space, we had already flown past of all the planets (all 8). Voyager 2 was the first to visit the outer gas (ice) giants Uranus and Neptune in the mid to late 1980’s. I was too young to appreciate what we had just accomplished. We brought planets into focus we’ve known about for decades and centuries but for the first time with detail, colour, textures, and data. These distant points of light pondered by astronomers for centuries were made very real as they clutched our own technology in their gravity.
While Pluto is no longer classified as a planet, knowing that this famous celestial body is about to be imaged at this distance for the first time has me so stoked. New Horizons has given me the opportunity to go back in time during the days of Voyager 2 to see what I missed and have my mind blown. Not only did Voyager 2 provide us with the clearest images of the most remote planets in our solar system, it reminded us that yes…this is where we are! We are in a system of planets and bodies orbiting this incredible ball of plasma called the Sun flying through space on an existential crisis asking what we’re all about and if there is anybody else out there also asking these questions and launching probes. Furthermore, we can blow everybody’s mind in real-time (ish as it takes about 4 hours for messages to get from Pluto plus lag time in bandwidth and processing) as everything that is transpiring over the next few hours will be online. It’s a good time to be taking photos of planets.
45 Years ago today we landed on the Moon for the very first time. The Apollo 11 team of Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin took the first “Giant Leap for Mankind” (humankind) putting the first steps of humanity on a world beyond our own; a world characterized in the words of Buzz Aldrin by “Magnificent Desolation.”
There has been a lot of buzz (pun intended) about the 45th anniversary from screenings of the original landing to renewed debates about the moon landing hoax to an AMA by Buzz Aldrin on Reddit which you should check out. There has also been questions about why we have yet to return.
That is a good question. At the same time, we need to remember that since the late 60’s we have learned an incredible deal about space as we currently find ourselves in a Golden Age of Astronomy. We launched the Voyager Probes in the late 70’s which have just recently reached the edge of our solar system and crossed into inter-stellar space. The 80’s saw the dawn of the space shuttle program leaving the legacies of the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope. We got MIND BLOWING images in the 90’s from the Sojourner probe, part of the Mars Pathfinder Program when the Internet was first becoming ubiquitous. As a kid growing up in the 90’s where you could actually download images from Mars…amazing. I believe we actually crashed the NASA servers. We have since returned to Mars recently with Curiosity.
On April 12th, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to leave the confines of this planet’s gravity, and stepped into the cosmos.
April 12th now marks Yuri’s Night: The World Space Party. Under the banner of Yurisnight.net, events in celebration of this epic space anniversary are being hosted throughout the world in the month of April. At current count, there are over 194 events in 47 countries across 7 continents.
How do you know if there is an event near near you?
You can check out http://yurisnight.net/find-a-party/ to see if somebody is hosting a Yuri’s Night event in your area. They could range from movie screenings to up close encounters with a space craft.
Last year, Chasing Atlantis was celebrating Yuri’s Night in both Seattle and Toronto. I noted then that there were no events in Vancouver area where I’m based. This year, in partnership with Simon Fraser University we are hosting a screening of the movie HUBBLE, an IMAX film that documents the last Space Shuttle servicing mission to the International Space Station as well as the capabilities of this amazing space telescope.
If you’re in the Vancouver area, be sure to stop by Simon Fraser University Burnaby tomorrow at 5pm. The event is being held in Lecture Hall 3210
Alternatively, throughout the month you can organize YOUR OWN Yuri’s Night event. Just follow the link below, watch a cool video with LeVar Burton, and register your event to add it to the nearly 200 around the world!
Of his experience, Gagarin said:
“Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship, I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty – not destroy it.”
Rock the Planet tomorrow!
Gravity staring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock releases today! The trailers for the film. are absolutely thrilling – in a terrifying sort of way. Perhaps more terrifying is the fact that the accident depicted in the trailer is set during present day (slightly in the past as the Space Shuttle is still in operation) complete with an exploding International Space Station.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Dr. Kevin Grazier who served as Scientific Advisor for Gravity. Kevin specialized in planetary sciences and worked on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Cassini/Huygens project. (You can thank Kevin as part of the team that brings you AWESOME photos of Saturn like this) Kevin has also worked as advisor for some of our favorite shows like Battlestar Galactica – So Say We All!