Tag Archives: NASA

“We are singing stardust”

Popular culture is filled with many iconic fictional spacecraft, but relatively few factual ones. But to anyone old enough to remember Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos, or young enough to have enjoyed its more recent incarnation, the image below will stir up many fond memories!

It is of course a NASA Voyager probe, faithfully recreated in LEGO by Ryan H (eldeem)…

Voyager 2

Launched in the 1970′s, NASA’s Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft were actually the first to explore the outer solar system, and the first to carry a message for any aliens that might encounter them. But the later Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes gained much more notoriety, with their more ambitious missions and superior imaging capabilities. Even the “message from Earth” got an upgrade, from a simple plaque, to a recording containing images and sounds from Earth (which you can even see in Ryan’s model above).

Lasting more than a decade, the Voyager missions were much longer than anything the public were used to at that time. Every few years one of the spacecraft would reach its next target, and the world would be caught up in Voyager fever all over again, as amazing images of far-off worlds flooded our screens. Still transmitting to this day, the Voyager probes are among the most distant man-made objects in existence, and are now at the very edge of the solar system, headed for interstellar space.

Ryan’s Voyager is a commission for the University of Colorado, and will be on display at the CU Heritage Center from mid-September. Go check it out!

Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

Tomorrow is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. I hope we see many moon-themed LEGO models over the next couple of days, but we’ll start with this fantastic microscale version of the lander by Ted Andes.

Moon Landing

Ted has been building one vignette a week this year, and this is his 31st. Check out his photostream for the rest.

LEGO Mars Curiosity Rover reviewed with Set Designer Stephen Pakbaz

On January 1, LEGO released the newest in the CUUSOO line, the Mars Curiosity Rover. Set designer Stephen Pakbaz submitted his design to CUUSOO, and in due time the project reached it’s 10k votes. The set was revealed at BrickWorld 2013.

We’ve previously interviewed Stephan about his work on the LEGO model–and the real Mars Curiosity Rover, currently broadening our horizons on Mars.

This fantastic video, from Your Creative Friends reviews the new set with Stephen’s walk through, explaining the instruments and their purpose while comparing the final set design to his original design. I highly encourage you to check it out!

LEGO CUUSOO 21104 Mars Curiosity Rover
icon is currently back-ordered, but only available from the LEGO Shop online. Click through the link to order it for yourself!

Dragons in orbit?

I distinctly remember hearing about the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding in 1986. I was having dinner with my parents and sister, eating grapefruit for dessert, when the news came on the radio. It was a highly publicised flight, even before lift-off, because Christa McAuliffe was on board, as part of the teacher in space project. Before her flight, the Shuttle was the exclusive domain of scientists, engineers and test pilots. The explosion came as a shock, not just in the United States, but also for a then ten-year old boy from the Netherlands, sitting next to the radio. I also have distinct memories of the Columbia disaster in 2003. I had recently moved to a new apartment and had organised a house-warming party for that evening, with my friends (mostly fellow physicists). That evening we could talk about little else.

Both events highlighted problems with NASA’s approach to safety and showed that the Shuttle itself was a deeply flawed concept. Yet, last year’s pictures of NASA’s Boeing 747SCA flying the Shuttles around the US to their resting places at museums, fill me with sadness. Rather than making giant leaps, it feels as though we are slowly crawling backwards. American and European Astronauts are now resigned to flying in the cramped confines of Russian Soyuz capsules, that really aren’t all that different from the capsule that carried Yuri Gagarin into orbit more than 50 years ago.

There is a glimmer of progress though, in the form of the Dragon. Stephen Pakbaz (Apojove) has built a very nice model of this spacecraft, doing a good job of representing the round shape with its conic end.

DRAGON 20130528-01

Last week I attended a lecture by AndrĂ© Kuipers, a Dutch astronaut who was on board the International Space Station from December 2011 to July 2012. A Dragon docked with the station during this time, and Kuipers described the new-car smell that greeted the crew when they opened the hatch. It’s not as sexy as the Space Shuttle, but the significance of the Dragon is that it is the first commercially developed space craft intended for manned missions in orbit. Previously this was exclusively done by governments. So far the Dragon has only been used as an unmanned supply vehicle, but it has been developed with manned missions in mind and plans are afoot for a first crewed flight in 2015. It’s a small step, but hopefully, in the non-too-distant future, commercial companies will be cheaply doing the nitty-gritty of lifting stuff and people to orbit, allowing NASA to do the more exciting stuff further out there.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

Dave Shaddix just finished this mosaic in honor of Buzz Aldrin’s recenly celebrated 83rd birthday. This is a great rendition of an iconic photograph. For the few who don’t know who or what is in the picture, it is a picture that Neil Armstrong took of Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. The LEM and Neil Armstrong are reflected in the visor of Buzz Aldrin’s spacesuit. Well done, Dave, I love it!

Teensy NASA Space Shuttle blasts into my heart

Looking over their photostream, I think we’ve blogged everything Sean & Steph Mayo have built over the past several months, so why stop now? This is the smallest NASA Space shuttle built from LEGO that I’ve run across, but it may be my favorite.

Micro Nasa Shuttle

The LEGO Castle helmet standing in for the top of the External Tank is pure genius.

The joy of leaving your LEGO model in someone else’s capable hands

I’ve seen some wonderful collaborations between talented LEGO builders and photo editors over the years, and though I certainly can’t claim to be either, I included a note in my description of the Aldrin Mars Cycler I posted yesterday saying that I wouldn’t mind if somebody felt like Photoshopping it onto a cool space photo. halfbeak left me a comment offering to help, and we were soon exchanging ideas in email.

I wouldn’t normally post one of my own LEGO models twice, but I’ve learned a few things along the way that I thought I’d share.

Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (1)

After nearly 10 years of posting my LEGO models online, I find myself pretty locked in to the “Dorling-Kindersley aesthetic” of LEGO photography and presentation — a three-quarters view of the LEGO model on a neutral (usually white) background. (I know Chris has strong opinions about this, too.) Even as I was envisioning something flashier than my unedited photo in my head, it was still basically the same thing, except with Mars in the background. Halfbeak combined views of Earth and Mars with the NASA logo and some text to create something that looks a lot like the publicity photos NASA releases for its missions. Way cool.

I also have a tendency to let the LEGO model take over the whole photo, but halfbeak scaled it down in several of his edits to really emphasize how tiny a human creation is on the cosmic stage.

Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (3)   Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (4)

In many of his edits, he changed the orientation of the spacecraft from my original photo, turning it on its side and even upside down — after all, there is no “up” or “down” in space.

One of my favorite edits is this vertically oriented photo, with Mars hanging above the minuscule ship. This one is now the wallpaper on my phone.

Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (5)

Ultimately, my Aldrin Mars Cycler isn’t necessarily the favorite among the things I’ve built, but these photos demonstrate how stellar presentation can take a fun but fairly middle-of-the-road model to a whole new level. These are now easily my favorite photos of something I’ve built. I’ve also learned to look beyond how I’ve photographed the model in thinking about how best to present it.

Huge thanks to halfbeak for truly awesome work! It’s amazing what variety he’s created from just one original photo.

See all twelve photos on Flickr.

Mars Rovers Sojourner & Opportunity + Aldrin Mars Cycler

Having immersed myself quite deeply in both the recent news from Mars and as a judge of the Real World Starfighter Contest, I felt compelled to do a bit of building to scratch that space itch. I’d already built Stephen Pakbaz’s Curiosity, so just had to build Sojourner (landed 1997) and Opportunity (landed 2004 and still operational) in approximately the same scale.

Mars Rover Family Portrait

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity   Mars Sojourner Rover

There’s nothing functional about my LEGO Sojourner, but Opportunity has working rocker-bogie suspension (which I struggled mightily to build, since the design is different from Curiosity’s, and I couldn’t simply scale down Stephen’s LEGO version). I plan to build the lander at some point, too.

After he landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong, astronaut Buzz Aldrin came up with an idea for a craft that would cycle back and forth between the Earth and Mars, providing significantly greater comfort for astronauts during the five-month journey. With the cancellation of the Constellation program, the dream of regular travel to and from the Moon and Mars seems even farther away. Nevertheless, I still find the idea inspiring, and built my own rendition of an “Aldrin Mars Cycler”.

Earth-Mars Cycler "Aldrin" (1)