30 April 2013

Rocketplanes, Science comics, and Curiosity

Posted by Ryan Anderson

Hi there! I don’t have a full blog post for you because I am a bad person and a delinquent blogger, but I do have some choice links to share.

  • First of all, in case you missed it, we live in the future. Proof? This actual photograph from Virgin Galactic’s successful supersonic rocketplane flight:

Awesome view of Space Ship 2's rocket firing during a successful supersonic test flight.

The plane in question is Space Ship 2, eventually intended to be a suborbital passenger plane for space tourists. Dear NASA: this is proof that sexy spaceships can also be functional. Take note!

  • Speaking of exciting news in commercial spaceflight, check out this video of SpaceX’s “Grasshopper”:


Grasshopper is a proof-of-concept for SpaceX’s plan to return rocket stages under their own power. I’d say it’s looking pretty good! There’s a reason I’m more optimistic about SpaceX launch vehicles than anything from NASA.

  • Next, I need to share my latest obsession. It’s a webcomics reality show called Strip Search, run by the guys who do Penny Arcade. It is extremely entertaining and unlike most reality shows all the contestants seem super nice and cool. Why mention it on this blog? Because one of the Contestants is Maki Naro who does the amazing Sci-ence webcomic. I think I linked to his awesome comics about Curiosity’s landing before, but now I need to share this brilliant one about Carl Sagan, brought to my attention on twitter by Emily Lakdawalla, who convinced Maki to make a T-shirtof the last panel. Needless to say, though I like all the contestants on the show, I’m rooting for Maki to win.

Click to see the full comic and the best punchline ever.

  • And finally, I wanted to point you to this excellent New Yorker piece on the Curiosity mission. Callan shared it with me and I have to say I had very few nitpicks, it’s overall very well done. My only real complaint is that it makes it sound like we didn’t figure out that the landing ellipse was interesting until after we decided to go there and started the detailed mapping. Many people (myself included) showed that the ellipse itself was fascinating. But I’ll forgive the writer for mixing up the timeline for landing site selection to make it a bit more dramatic. I still highly recommend the piece.