Posts tagged with "nasa"

LIMITED-EDITION MODEL NASA SUIT WATCH VIA G-SHOCK

G-SHOCK GOES TO SPACE

Today, Casio pays homage to NASA with the release of the G-SHOCK GWM5610NASA4 the third limited-edition timepiece in the series. The latest model, which celebrates space exploration, comes with advanced technical capabilities like Tough Solar Technology and Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping. Styled after the iconic orange suits worn by astronauts, the new model mirrors this famous aesthetic with an all-orange case and band, and an American flag adorning the black band loop.

The orange uniform, known casually as a “pumpkin suit,” is a full-pressure suit used by NASA astronauts during the ascent and entry portions of flights. Along with the eye-catching pop of color, the model also includes the NASA insignia on the lower band and an engraving of an astronaut on the case back. Additionally, the watch dial intertwines black, white, and blue colorways against a positive LCD, and the watch packaging is inspired by the metal launch pad bridge out to the orbiter.

The limited-edition timepiece also features several improved technical characteristics compared to the first two models. Among the new features is Multi-Band 6 Atomic Timekeeping, which provides radio-controlled time syncing, allowing the watch to automatically update the time without manual adjustments, based on the user’s home-city setting and Tough Solar power, allowing the watch to convert power from even the weakest light sources.

The GWM5610NASA4 retails for $170 and is currently sold out. Please visit select retailers and the G-SHOCK Soho store for more information on availability. For additional information about the G-SHOCK brand, visit HERE.

TOYOTA CONNECTED × CABIN AWARENESS

Toyota Connected North America (TCNA), an independent software and innovation center of excellence, today introduced its Cabin Awareness concept technology that uses millimeter-wave, high-resolution 4D imaging radar to help detect occupants (including certain pets) in cars and has the potential to detect them if ever they’re left behind.

The Cabin Awareness concept takes a unique approach to in-vehicle occupant detection using a 4D imaging radar sensor, mounted out of sight above a vehicle’s headliner that can detect presence of a life form in the vehicle, even after a driver exits.

Specifically, the Cabin Awareness concept has the capability to sense micro movements, such as a heartbeat, motion and respiration of occupants across three full seating rows, the cargo area and footwells. It also classifies all occupants according to size, posture and position – supporting advanced safety applications. The platform provides robust sensing even if the occupant is covered with a blanket, a scenario which a passerby would be unable to see the occupant. It differs from other technologies on the market such as weight sensors, that can be prone to false alerts and mis-detects, cameras limited by blind spots or other radar systems with a limited range of passenger detection.

“Toyota Connected’s talented software engineers and data scientists are leveraging cutting-edge technology to bring innovation and advanced technologies to customers’ vehicles,” said Zack Hicks, CEO and president, TCNA and executive vice president and chief digital officer, TMNA. “We are extremely proud of our efforts to take this idea from the drawing board to a full-blown concept, and, hopefully, developing a technology that has the potential to save lives.”

Real-World Testing  

While Cabin Awareness is currently a concept, the feature is getting a real-world trial through Toyota’s partner May Mobility. The autonomous-vehicle company is testing the technology in its fleet of Toyota Sienna AutonoMaaS (Autonomous Mobility as a Service) minivans at its headquarters in Michigan and will soon begin testing in public AV deployments in Arlington, Texas, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, with additional deployments coming in late 2022. Recently, May Mobility announced that a portion of the fleet will be modified to become ADA-compliant and accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

May Mobility was founded with a mission of making roads safer through autonomous technology – and we’ve kept safety as our top priority as we’ve advanced our technology and worked with key strategic partners like Toyota,” said Edwin Olson, CEO, May Mobility. “As we move closer to driver-out operations next year and continue to scale our global business with more public AV deployments, technology like the Cabin Awareness concept is essential for our riders.”

In the future, one possible application for autonomous shuttles is alerting parents when their children complete a ride. Conversely, a shuttle may delay driving to its next stop if it senses someone is still in the vehicle upon reaching its destination.

“The key difference with this system is the improved resolution and accuracy, full-cabin detection and scope of functionality Cabin Awareness provides,” said Simon Roberts, managing engineer, TCNA, who has spearheaded the development process. “With the precision of these sensors, we’re designing Cabin Awareness with the aim of reducing false positives and false negatives.”

Applying Technology to Alert Drivers

In 2021 in the U.S., 23 children died from heat stroke after being left in vehicles, according to the nonprofit Kids and Cars. On average, one in four children that die in a hot car obtained access to the car while it was unattended or not operational. Depending on the circumstances, the inside of a car can get up to 125° F in minutes even when outside temperature is as low as 60° F. Studies show children’s body temperatures rise three to five times faster than adults. If left in a vehicle during the summer, the inside cabin temperature can reach dangerous levels in just 10 minutes.

“We are excited to explore and leverage new technologies, connected intelligence and existing safety platforms, with the ultimate goal of reducing child fatalities in hot cars. This Cabin Awareness concept has the potential to do exactly that.” said Brian Kursar, chief technology officer, TCNA and group vice president, chief technology officer and chief data officer, Toyota Motor North America (TMNA). “I’m so proud of the Toyota Connected and TMNA’s Connected Technologies teams for developing this concept and believe in the talent and dedication of our engineers.”

As currently designed, the Cabin Awareness concept provides an array of warnings to help alert the driver (and potentially, passersby) to check the back of the vehicle if a living being is detected. First, a warning light signals on the instrument cluster. Then, the horn honks. Emergency lights flash. Following all the early warnings, the owner may get a notification on their phone through the Toyota app as well as text messages.

If programmed, Cabin Awareness could even send alerts through smart home devices or send text messages to designated emergency contacts assigned by the primary user. Further alert options include having Toyota’s Safety Connect® emergency assistance system contact first responders through the integrated SOS vehicle function.

The team is continuing to explore additional notification alerts such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications and the incorporation of smart infrastructure retail signage to further expand the reach of this alert.

Born from Innovation

The idea for Cabin Awareness was born in 2019 out of the inaugural Toyota Connected Hackathon, a 36-hour innovation event that challenged teams of software designers and engineers to ideate, develop and test real-world solutions. This winning idea quickly grew support following the Hackathon, allowing Roberts to assemble a team of engineers and further develop the technology.

The Cabin Awareness concept also allowed Toyota Connected to evaluate and develop hardware for the first time in addition to building innovative software systems and creating new processes. The Toyota Connected team evaluated millimeter-wave suppliers and began working with technology provider Vayyar Imaging’s in-cabin monitoring platform.

Vayyar’s high-resolution, single chip, 4D imaging radar is the only solution on the market that has the capability to monitor an entire vehicle cabin with a single sensor. The platform provides exceptionally dense point cloud imaging, enabling developers to independently develop a wide range of advanced applications and deploy them remotely using over-the-air software updates.

Inspired by Space Technology

Inspiration for the Cabin Awareness concept came from microwave radar technology created by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to support underground rescues after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in 2015. In this application, NASA engineers and rescuers were able to detect human breathing and heartbeats under more than 30 feet of rubble, helping responders know where to dig holes.

“NASA’s use of radar technology was inspiring,” said Kursar. “The idea that you can listen to heartbeats using contact-less technology opens up new possibilities to give Toyota the potential to produce a service that is beneficial to the evolution of our in-vehicle services.”

“The Cabin Awareness program is an innovation first for Toyota Connected and Toyota in so many ways,” said Roberts. “The most important goal we’re working on, though, is to build technologies that empower occupants and give them greater peace of mind.”

Technology illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Cityzenith Futuristic Sky Mapping

Digital Twin pioneer Cityzenith predicts futuristic 3D sky mapping will launch low carbon city flight revolution

Science fiction fans can tick off one more prediction turned to reality as NASA aims to optimize local travel and commuting by air above cities.

A key enabler is Digital Twin technology, a ‘real-world SimCity’ software able to aggregate vast quantities of data on buildings, roads, infrastructure, vehicles, and even the space above into an interactive 3D virtual model of a city.

It is the potential to manage integrated drone and ‘new age’ air taxi routes in the air space that attracted a nationwide NASA search, leading Digital Twin pioneer Cityzenith to be 1 of just 10 tech companies presenting to senior NASA officials at the prestigious ‘Ignite the Night: Aeronautics’* NASA iTech virtual event on April 13, 2021.

NASA iTech identifies and searches for cutting-edge technologies being developed outside of NASA that solve problems on Earth, but also having the potential to address challenges facing exploration of the Moon and Mars. 

The high-profile panel of judges includes:

  • David VoracekCenter Chief Technologist, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

Julie Williams-ByrdDeputy Chief Technologist, NASA Langley Research Center NASA’s vision for Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) aims to help develop air transportation to safely move people and cargo between places previously not served or underserved by aviation – local, regional, intra-regional, and urban – using revolutionary new aircraft only now becoming possible.

Michael Jansen, CEO of Chicago-based Cityzenith, said: “This will be the second presentation to NASA by my company and its SmartWorldOS software platform within weeks, and we are very honored and excited to be the only Digital Twin company at this prestigious gathering.

“It highlights yet another application for Digital Twin technology and growing interest in flight above our cities, a dream dating back to the ground-breaking 1927 movie ‘Metropolis’ and many sci-fi classics since then, but now set to happen as we move to delivery by flying drones and then human travel by zero-carbon air vehicles using electric propulsion.

“It will open a whole new dimension to city life; no longer will high-rise living and working mean people must literally come down to earth to go elsewhere.

“But there is a real pressure to act, too: The World Economic Forum has reported that ground level delivery vehicles in the world’s 100 largest cities will increase 36% by 2030, carbon emissions from all urban delivery traffic will rise 32% and congestion will be up by 21%, adding 11 minutes to an average daily commute.

“NASA introduced the air taxi concept in 2001 and the race is now on to create the first viable electric machines in a market tipped to grow 26.2% annually to $6.63 billion by 2030**.

“This new air mobility can also significantly reduce greenhouse gases in cities, a goal of our Clean Cities – Clean Future mission to drive down urban carbon emissions. Cities produce more than 70% of global carbon emissions (source: UN) and that’s why we pledged to donate SmartWorldOS to key cities around the world, one at a time, to help the most polluted become carbon neutral.

“We are also expanding to meet demand for our Digital Twin capability as the post-COVID-19 ‘Build Back better’ initiative grows; we have just passed a $2.5 million milestone en route to a $10 million Regulation A+ crowdfunding investment raise.”

Provided by:

World Digital Foundation

Allied Market Research

Film Premiere illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Twenty Pearls Premiere

COMCAST ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE OF
TWENTY PEARLS – A DOCUMENTARY EXAMINING THE STORIED HISTORY OF ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY, INCORPORATED – ON ITS NEWLY LAUNCHED BLACK EXPERIENCE ON XFINITY CHANNEL

Comcast NBCUniversal is excited to announce the exclusive premiere of the documentary film “Twenty Pearls: The Story of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated”, arriving Friday, March 26 on its newly launched Black Experience on Xfinity Channel, available on X1, Flex, and on-the-go with the Xfinity Stream app.

From award-winning filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper, produced by Coffee Bluff Pictures, and narrated by Phylicia Rashād, Twenty Pearls closely examines the founding and legacy of the first Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, which is now regarded as one of the most significant and influential Black organizations in historyThe documentary tells a powerful story of sisterhood. In 1908, nine Black women enrolled at Howard University made one decision that would change the course of history. These college students created Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. For over 113 years, the sorority has influenced many of the most famous watershed moments in history.

Through narration, interviews, and rarely seen archival materials, the audience will see the sorority’s impact on World War II, NASA, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) culminating in the historic election of America’s first Black and South Asian woman Vice President. Twenty Pearls features interviews with members of the sorority including Vice President Kamala HarrisMiss Universe Ireland 2019 Fionnghuala O’ReillySmithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Fierst, great-granddaughter of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, International President and CEO of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Dr. Glenda Glover and many more.

 
Watch the Twenty Pearls trailer hereTrailer
 

“This is an extraordinary time to look back at our past to serve our future,” added filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper. “A future where Black women are centered. Helming this documentary love letter to the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the generations of women that followed in their footsteps, and to all Black women everywhere is an honor. This is an important history for all of us to know and understand.”

“We’re thrilled to work with award-winning filmmaker, Deborah Riley Draper, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to bring this exclusive premiere to the Black Experience on Xfinity channel, furthering our company-wide mission of investing in and showcasing authentic Black stories and culture,” said Keesha Boyd, Executive Director, Multicultural Video & Entertainment, Xfinity Consumer Services. “We launched this channel to help facilitate the discovery of stories like Twenty Pearls while providing a platform for emerging Black content creators.”

“Telling our own story is essential to preserving our history and uplifting the culture,” said Alpha Kappa Alpha International President and CEO Dr. Glenda Glover. “Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated’s remarkable 113-year journey which began on the campus of Howard University is punctuated by stories of history makers, ceiling breakers, public servants, and ordinary women who have changed the course of American history.  Through this beautifully written and narrated odyssey, this film highlights in undeniable ways the vision, courage, tenacity, determination, and power of Black women while putting to bed the age-old questions about the relevance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Divine Nine sororities and fraternities.”

Black Experience on Xfinity is a first-of-its-kind destination of Black entertainment, movies, TV shows, news, and more. It features high-quality content from many of Xfinity’s existing network partners, at no additional cost, while investing millions of dollars in fostering and showcasing emerging Black content creators. The channel is the only one of its kind endorsed by the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), the world’s largest group of Black film critics that gives annual awards for excellence in film and television. Available at home on Xfinity X1 and Flex, and on-the-go with the Xfinity Stream app, the Black Experience on Xfinity will entertain, educate and uplift, featuring Black actors, writers, producers and directors. At home, Xfinity subscribers can visit channel 1622 or simply say “Black Experience” into the Voice Remote to instantly enjoy the ultimate in Black storytelling.

Visit Xfinity to learn more about the Black Experience on Xfinity and other Black programming available on X1, Flex, and the Xfinity Stream app. Visit Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated to learn more about Twenty Pearls, which premieres on March 26 on Xfinity and is free for subscribers, and will be available nationwide, on-demand, starting on March 30, 2021.

Wonderworks image by Cher Murphy PR for 360 Magazine

WonderWorks Syracuse Reopens

After a Year of Pandemic Closure, WonderWorks Syracuse Reopens with a New Exhibit

The moment so many people have patiently waited for is here. WonderWorks Syracuse will officially reopen on March 26, 2021. While Canyon Climb ropes course re-opened in August 2020, WonderWorks has been closed for nearly a year due to the pandemic. With the reopening, WonderWorks will have new rules and covid safety measures to help keep people safe and socially distanced.

“We are thrilled to be able to get our doors back open and welcome people to come on in,” says Nicole Montgomery, general manager of WonderWorks Syracuse. “We know that people are ready to get out and do things, and we offer a great mix of fun and educational activities, with something for everyone in the family.”

Some of the changes that patrons can expect when visiting WonderWorks Syracuse include:

  • Being cashless. Be sure to bring an electronic form of payment or purchase your tickets online ahead of time because WonderWorks will no longer be accepting cash.
  • WonderWorks is reopening on a reservation basis only, which will keep its capacity to 50 people. It will only be allowing 50 people inside every 30 minutes.
  • The hours will be limited to start with, which is currently noon–6 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and 11 a.m.–7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Tickets will be available for advanced sale soon.
  • There will be COVID measures taken, such as staff health screenings and guest temperature checks before entering. Additionally, guests over the age of two must wear a face covering and everyone must adhere to social distancing of six feet.
  • WonderWorks is providing sanitizer stations throughout.

“Come on out and have some fun,” added Montgomery. “We have a lot to offer, including ropes courses, laser tag, rides, science exhibits and more.”

WonderWorks reopens with its newest exhibit that incorporates student artists. CNY Art: New York Youth Art Gallery held its first annual contest, the winning masterpieces will be on display for a year.

WonderWorks ropes course, called Canyon Climb, is the world’s largest suspended indoor ropes course. It offers three levels and 81 obstacles. Additional attractions include laser tag, where people can have fun strapping on a laser tag vest and competing in a fast-paced, action-packed battle of laser tag, a 4D XD motion theater, and various fun and educational zones. The zones focus on weather, light and sound, physical challenges, space discovery, imagination and art.

WonderWorks Syracuse recently launched some educational programs, including virtual learning labs and homeschool days. It also offers group rates, scouting programs, sensory days, birthday parties and corporate events.

To see a full list of COVID-19 safety measures being taken, visit the site.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the site.

For information on the exhibit, CNY Art: New York Youth Art Gallery, visit their website.

About WonderWorks

WonderWorks, a science-focused indoor amusement park, combines both education and entertainment into one venue. With over 100 hands-on exhibits, there is something unique and challenging for all ages. Feel the power of 71 mph hurricane-force winds in the Hurricane Shack. Make life-sized bubbles in the Bubble Lab. Get the NASA treatment and experience zero gravity in our Astronaut Training Gyro. Nail it by lying on the death-defying Bed of Nails. WonderWorks is located in Orlando, Pigeon Forge, Panama City Beach, Myrtle Beach, Syracuse and Branson. For more information, visit their website and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Space Station Vacation

Culture Editor Tom Wilmer shares insights about civilian journeys to the International Space Station

By Tom Wilmer & Elizabeth Saylor

Today, even the best ultimate destination vacations are hampered by Covid-spector realities. Ubiquitous masks, goggles, testing and social distancing subconsciously ratchet up anxiety levels while simultaneously reducing pleasure and awe.

But what if there were a getaway promising out-of-this-world scenery, once in a lifetime thrills, a chance to make history and come away from it with a life-altering view of humanity’s totality — all possible without requisite plague masks, twinges of anthropophobia and hand-sanitizer-cracked hands?

Well, by thinking outside the box (or sphere, in this case), Directed by Roman Chiporukha and Erica Jackowitz, husband-and-wife co-founders of Roman & Erica, Inc., NYC-based lifestyle and luxury travel firm is the first company to offer such an epic adventure. Partnering with Axiom Space, seats are now available for a 10-day total “private astronaut” space flight  experience to escape earth’s confines, designating a low-earth-orbit space station as “home” for eight of those transformative days.

It’s only natural that Mike Suffredini, former director of NASA’s International Space Station, would be willing to lend his expertise as Axiom’s CEO to help  people experience the numerous social, economic and even cognitive benefits of space flight.

Hyperbole aside, space travel really is life changing. There’s even a term for visualizing earth from space: the “overview effect”, which is a profound sense of interconnectedness and euphoria whereby the viewer sees earth’s fragility, beauty and the oneness of all living things. Astronauts have even reported the cognitive changes re-made their perceptions of life’s purpose. Earthly, holiday vacation digital media memories are no match for life-affirming adventures beyond our atmosphere.

Aside from personal enlightenment, other private space-travel benefits are innumerable. For the industrially inclined, research and development opportunities from space’s microgravity/extreme environment will drive future discoveries unavailable on earth.

Scientific endeavors in the field of medicine, e.g. regenerative medicine, pharmaceutical R&D and accelerated-disease modeling– along with unparalleled possibilities for advancements in fluid physics and protein crystallization modeling, make the science/space coupling full of potentially profound discoveries.

Axiom Station will be constructed while attached to the ISS and, at the end of the ISS’ life, detach and operate on its own into the future.

And if a private astronaut’s proclivities are humanitarian, what better stage could there be to deliver a compelling message encouraging specific global behavioral change. No doubt, messages encouraging climate change awareness would strike an impressive cord with our delicate blue-dot planet framed by the cosmos.

So, how does one sign up for the trip of a lifetime?  Of course, would-be adventurers must be very healthy, and a thorough medical evaluation with a physician’s clearance is required. Once greenlighted physically, a 15-week astronaut training (spread out over almost two years) is held at space agency facilities — with the training purported to be an incredible experience even with feet planted on terra firma.

The launch team usually consists of three private astronauts and one career-commander astronaut. Learning to function as a team is crucial not just for safety reasons, but for building mental health ease and camaraderie. The fact that training  takes place in the same ultra-sophisticated, beyond-cutting-edge-tech facilities used by hero astronauts is heady stuff.

And then there’s the cost. With an all inclusive price tag of $55 million, it’s obviously out of reach for nearly all who may want to sail toward the stars… BUT for those who can afford to sign up now, their journeys will pave the way for the next wave of civilian astronauts and, within a relatively short period of time, drive down costs enough to enable hundreds, and eventually thousands, of eager space explorers to afford the mind-bending travel.

Though Roman & Erica, Inc. sold out the October 2021 flight, an extraordinary accomplishment, two seats are still available for the April 2022 launch. “We are the first travel company to successfully sell private astronaut seats for the ISS mission and are literally travel agents to the stars! It’s outta this world,” said Roman Chiporukha, CFO & Co-Founder of Roman & Erica, Inc. “We are thrilled to partner with Axiom Space. They are virtuosos in the private astronaut space and in the process of building the replacement to the International Space Station which is incredible!”

It’s been whispered that Tom Cruise is supposedly going for a 30 day mission in Oct 2022 with Mission Impossible director pal, Doug Liman. That would leave an extra seat, possibly, to chat up Top Gun while hurtling through space– hard to resist, right? After that, it’s your race to make a reservation with history. And if you’re not keen on travel to outer space, Roman & Erica will be happy to sort whatever else you’re interested in. We hear they have a waiting list to become a member and frankly, we are not surprised.

In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is shown in low-Earth orbit. NASA is partnering with Boeing and SpaceX to build a new generation of human-rated spacecraft capable of taking astronauts to the International Space Station and expanding research opportunities in orbit. SpaceX’s upcoming Demo-1 flight test is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract with the goal of returning human spaceflight launch capabilities to the United States.

The Wine Dark Deep Series by R. Peter Keith

“Turning My Time on a NASA Co-Designed Spaceship and Asteroid Base into a Space Opera”

By R. Peter Keith

It started in a museum exhibit.

About fifteen years ago, I co-founded a company to produce museum exhibits with core experiences that were high-end simulations. Video games built from ground up to be both fun and compelling educational experiences.

My first project as creative director was a dinosaur exhibition that reproduced 2.5 square miles of late Cretaceous Montana complete with AI dinosaurs sporting simulated musculoskeletal systems, digestion systems, and intelligence based off of both fossil evidence and analogs of behavior in modern day animals that occupy their same ecological niche. The landscapes and nutritional values of plants were resurrected from the fossil record of leaf and seed distributions.

Upon the success of that venture we embarked on a five-year endeavor to create an experience that would allow visitors to learn how to fly a spaceship. No joke, real useful knowledge. It would teach, among other things, the basic principles of spaceflight and the laws that govern it. And we wanted to focus on space exploration as it could plausibly be in just a few short decades. A world that we could experience within our lifetimes. It turned out that NASA was cool with some Sci-Fi.

As I worked on the design, a funny and interesting thought experiment-type question kept popping into my head: What if PBS had produced the original Star Trek instead of NBC? What would that have been like? Where would the tension and conflict and challenges arise? I felt there were tons of delightful possibilities inherent with that idea – but it was too big. Too big for the framing device of a museum exhibit.  We ended up using just the hint of it, but I never forgot it.

During the five years of the project, I got to work with some incredible people from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Langley and JPL – which operates as a space agency partner in accordance with a different branch of the same program, the NASA Space Act Agreement Partnership Program, that my company is proudly a part of.

We created physical structures, space capsules and station corridors, and digitally re-created 22 square miles of the Lunar North Pole, encompassing Whipple Crater and all of its two-plus miles of depth, where visitors can eventually land and explore. We built 12 miles of an area of Mars called The Labyrinth of Night. And we didn’t simply look at a map and extrapolate something similar, our landscapes were simulated using NASA space probe data: laser scans of the surfaces of these worlds from the Lunar and Martian Global Reconnaissance Orbiters. When you drive on my Moon, you are on a surface that is accurate down to about a foot. Thanks to some fortunate timing we also got to study early results from the Dawn probe of the asteroid Ceres, rich in all the things humanity needs to explore space but terrifyingly distant. NASA helped us to design plausible near-future spacecraft and surface facilities designed to enable deep space exploration and colonization.  For example, the lander and it’s flight behavior was worked out by a member of the same team that designed the Entry, Descent and Landing profile for the Mars Curiosity Rover.

And then of course there are the laws of physics that govern space flight and the ways in which they acted upon a spacecraft (and the forces it would produce) often produced surprises for me. I had always been a lifelong space-geek but even so – this was actual rocket science. Other exhibits can do with a diagram or diorama, but this was simulation. Visitors were going to have to learn these concepts, learn about the technology and then apply that knowledge in a high-fidelity 3D simulation of that very situation. And all of it would have to pass the muster of these NASA advisors because it was premiering at one of the greatest of all NASA Visitor Centers. It was an exciting and incredibly rewarding experience but every day there was some new set of data or counter-intuitive process (in orbit, in order to speed up you need to slow down) to make me feel like I was being punched inside my skull.

I lived in this simulated world for all that time, building and refining the experience for future museum visitors—and it became real to me. I could envision the people who would live there and the challenges they would face, both natural, technological and – most importantly – those of human nature. Over the course of one long drive down the Eastern coast of the U.S., the plot of the entire first book of Wine Dark Deep sprang into my mind. It was as if I’d lived parts of it. Sounds silly, but I was so immersed it was true.

In fact, the idea and the world just kept growing and I realized there was too much for one book. It needed to be its a series. – and that the concept to govern the series should be my initial abandoned concept for the narrative of the museum exhibition.  The question that never left my head: What if PBS had done Star Trek? What would that be like?  2001: A Space Odyssey the Series?  Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Trek?  It would have a cast of realistic characters who made logical choices and the conflicts and challenges that arose would stem equally from human nature as from real scientific challenges. And each step along the way, as the story moved from a base of grounded science fiction into the fantastic, would feel earned.

Peter Keith is a co-founder and creative director of a NASA Space Act Agreement partner company that specializes in the design, fabrication and display of museum exhibits and interactive experiences. The first three books of the Wine Dark Deep series (Wine Dark Deep, Encounter at Jupiter, and The Odyssey), will be released on October 12. Visit Uphill Downhill Press’ website, his publisher, to learn more.

Challenger: The Final Flight

By Cassandra Yany

On Wednesday, Netflix released “Challenger: The Final Flight,” a four-episode docuseries about the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

The doc was directed by Daniel Junge and Steven Leckart, and executive produced by JJ Abrams and Glenn Zipper. It provides a complete look at the events leading up to the takeoff and includes interviews with family members of the seven astronauts who died in the explosion.

According to CNN, the series uses archival footage and home videos, along with interviews from officials and crew members to shed light on the poor decision-making and systemic failures that led up to the disaster, as well as the aftermath that followed.

Challenger took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on January 28, 1986. Just 73 seconds after it launched, the shuttle began breaking apart, due to malfunctioning O-rings in the rocket boosters, which hardened as the temperature decreased. NASA had reportedly known about this damaged hardware for months prior, according to Vanity Fair.

The purpose of mission STS-51-L was to deploy a satellite to study the approaching Halley’s Comet, but it had been delayed multiple times because of technical difficulties.

The crew was one of NASA’s most diverse to date, as reported by the New York Post. One of the astronauts was a teacher, so school children across the country watched in class as the shuttle went down, engulfed by a huge, ominous cloud of smoke. The explosion devastated the nation, especially all of the young children who had watched it live.

Nearly thirty-five years later, we remember the passengers who lost their lives on that dreadful day:

Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffe was a teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire who learned of the Teacher in Space Project— NASA’s plan to fly an educator into space. NASA had hoped that this would help increase public interest in the space shuttle program. 

Along with 11,000 others, McAuliffe applied in 1984 to be the first teacher to communicate with students from space. She was chosen as one of two finalists from New Hampshire, then was selected to be part of the STS-51-L crew by a Review Panel in Washington, D.C.

McAuliffe took a year off from teaching to train for the space shuttle mission. While in orbit, she was planning to conduct experiments in chromatography, hydroponics, magnetism and Newton’s laws. She also would have taught two 15-minute classes— one providing a tour of the spacecraft, the other about the benefits of space travel— which would have been broadcasted to students on closed-circuit TV. 

The nationwide excitement of having McAuliffe in space was a significant reason why the explosion had such a lasting impact on the country, and was especially upsetting for young students who watched the takeoff or extensive coverage in class. 

Gregory Jarvis

Gregory Jarvis was an engineer for Hughes Aircraft who served as Payload Specialist 2 on Challenger. In 1984, he was one of two employees from the company that were selected for the Space Shuttle program. 

Jarvis was originally supposed to make his shuttle flight in April 1985, but was rescheduled to early January 1986, then rescheduled again, landing him a spot on the STS-51-L crew. From space, he planned to conduct experiments on the effects of weightlessness on fluids. 

Dick Scobee

Dick Scobee earned his pilot wings in 1966 and served as a combat aviator in the Vietnam War, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

After the war, Scobee graduated from the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School and became an Air Force test pilot. He was the commander on Challenger and died a lieutenant colonel.

Judith Resnik

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, Judith Resnik worked as a design engineer in missile and radar projects at RCA (Radio Corporation of America). There, she performed circuit design for the missile and surface radar division. She later developed electronics and software for NASA’s sounding rocket and telemetry systems programs. 

Resnik qualified as a professional aircraft pilot in 1977 and was recruited into the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1978. She was one of six women selected for the program out of 8,000 applicants. At NASA, and piloted the Northrop T-38 Talon, trained intensely, conducted research, and developed different systems and software. 

Resnik served as a mission specialist on the maiden voyage of Discovery in 1984 for her first space flight from August to September. During this flight, she operated a shuttle’s robotic arm (which she created), and deployed and conducted experiments on a solar array wing to determine if there was a way to generate additional electric power during missions. She was the second American woman in space and the first Jewish woman in space. 

Resnik was a mission specialist on Challenger. After the explosion, further examination of the cockpit shows that her Personal Egress Air Pack was activated, indicating that she may have been alive after the cockpit separated from the vehicle to activate it. Her body was the first to be recovered from the crash by Navy divers. 

Ellison Onizuka

Ellison Onizuka served as a flight test engineer and test pilot for the U.S. Air Force in the early 1970s. After attending the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School from 1974 to 1975, he became a squadron flight test engineer there and worked as a manager for engineering support in the training resources division. 

In 1978, Onizuka was selected for the astronaut program and later worked in the experimentation team, orbiter test team, and launch support screw for the STS-1 and STS-2. At NASA he also worked on the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory test and revision software team. 

Onizzuka’s first space mission was one year before the Challenger explosion, on the mission STS-51-C on the shuttle Discovery. This was the first space shuttle mission for the Department of Defense, and he became the first Asian American to reach space. 

Onizuka was a mission specialist aboard Challenger. Similar to Resnik, it is speculated that he could have been alive when the cockpit separated from the vehicle because his Personal Egress Air Pack was also activated. When he died, he held the position of lieutenant colonel, but was later promoted to the rank of colonel. 

Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair received his Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976 and became nationally recognized for his work in laser physics. After graduation, he worked as a staff physicist at the Hugh Research Lab in Malibu, CA. 

McNair was one of the ten thousand applicants to be selected in 1978 for the NASA astronaut program. He became the second African American astronaut in 1984 when he flew as a mission specialist for STS-41-B on Challenger from Feb. 3-11. 

McNair later served as a mission specialist for STS-51-L. During this flight, he had planned to record the saxophone solo for a song he had worked on with composer Jean-Michel Jarre for his upcoming album Rendez-Vous. This would have been the first original piece of music to be recorded in space. 

McNair was also supposed to participate in Jarre’s Rendez-Vous Houston concert through a live feed from Challenger. To honor McNair, Jarre dedicated the last song on the album to him and subtitled it “Ron’s Piece.”

Michael J. Smith

Michael J. Smith served in the Vietnam War, then attended U.S. naval Test Pilot School. After graduation, he was assigned to the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate at NAS Patuxent River in Maryland, where he worked on the A-6E TRAM and Cruise missile guidance systems. In 1976, later returned to NTPS for 18 months as an instructor. 

Smith was selected for the astronaut program in May 1980, in which he served as a commander in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, the Deputy Chief of Aircraft Operations, the Technical Assistant to the Director, and the Flights Operations Directorate. 

Smith was the pilot for Challenger, and was set to pilot another mission the following fall. His voice was the last heard on the flight deck tape recorder with his final words being “Uh oh.”

All seven passengers were awarded with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004.

The Avalanches × The International Space Orchestra

Today, The Avalanches and The International Space Orchestra (ISO) come together to share their collaborative music video for the Australian alt-rock/electronica pioneers’ new track, “Wherever You Go” ft. Jamie xx, Neneh Cherry and CLYPSO. The video, filmed live during lockdown, is a meteorite shower of space science, planet-poking and harp-playing spacecraft operators coming together with The Avalanches’ Robbie Chater and Tony DiBlasi in the most cosmic collaboration imaginable. The clip, which marks the first time The Avalanches have appeared in a music video, can be viewed here.

Robbie Chater and Tony DiBlasi of The Avalanches say “We are forever grateful to Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian and The International Space Orchestra for a truly magical, inspiring and connective experience. During a hard lockdown, it has renewed our faith in music, humanity and the power of connection, science and love.”

“We have so much respect for all those at NASA and SETI Institute and the work they do pushing the boundaries of human exploration, in trying to find the answers to the universe, and who and what lay beyond our neighborhood.”

As part of a musical collaboration, The Avalanches also worked on developing a sonification of the Arecibo message created by SETI Institute co-founder Frank Drake, who shared the original message with the band.

“We would also like to thank Dr. Frank Marchis and Dr. Frank Drake for all their help in deciphering the Arecibo message for inclusion on our upcoming project. It’s the first time this message has been translated into music,” added Chater and DiBlasi.

Created in 2012, ISO is directed by SETI Institute Designer of Experiences Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian along with musical director Evan Price. Under Ben Hayoun-Stépanian’s leadership, ISO has performed sold-out shows on some of California’s most prestigious stages, including San Francisco Symphony Hall, The Fillmore and the Hollywood Bowl with world-renowned, Grammy award-winning artists such as Bobby Womack, Damon Albarn, Beck, Sigur Rós, Maywa Denki and Savages.

Of the collaboration, Ben Hayoun-Stépanian says, “The Avalanches have been working on a space inspired album for a few years now. Researching sounds coming from space, they came across the brilliant work developed by our scientists at the SETI Institute and by the International Space Orchestra. Very quickly, it became apparent that our musical collaboration should focus on further inspiring new perspectives and desires to understand the universe. In the current context we could not make our performance happen in real life, but we decided to make it happen regardless and this performance is the result of our online meetups. We hope that our performance will allow for further curiosity and interest to research further galaxies and extraterrestrial intelligence and life. Working with The Avalanches has been our greatest honour, one of the most cosmic experiences we have encountered. Robbie and Tony are truly inspiring, kind, caring and just too brilliantly talented. Thank you to them for having us at the International Space Orchestra and the SETI Institute a part of their outer-space musical journey.”

Released in July 2020 by Astralwerks, “Wherever You Go” ft. Jamie xx, Neneh Cherry and CLYPSO is an epic track that begins with greetings from planet Earth, sampled from The Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated copper disk launched into space by Voyager 1 and 2 in 1977. The New York Times said,  “The track moves from buzzy, beeping, tinkling abstraction to a thumping dance floor,” while PASTE Magazine hailed “Wherever You Go” as one of the “Best Songs Of The Week.”

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FOLLOW THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE ORCHESTRA: Website

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'Bending Arc' by Janet Echelman. Photo Credit: by Brian Adams courtesy of Studio Echelman

Civil Rights Sculpture

On July 6, 2020, the new St. Pete Pier™ and its St. Pete Pier District debuted world-renowned artist Janet Echelman’s latest large-scale aerial sculpture. The work, which was inspired by both the destination and its connection to the Civil Rights Movement, incorporates materials and technology utilized by NASA. Entitled ‘Bending Arc,’ the aerial sculpture is composed of 1,662,528 knots and 180 miles of twine and spans 424 feet, reaching 72 feet at its tallest point. Named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces,” Echelman and her work defy categorization.

Echelman’s artwork offers visitors an oasis where they can seek a moment of calm sensory experience and heightened awareness of nature and our place within it. “The sky is the canvas for my artwork,” says Echelman.

Embracing change, the monumental sculpture gently billows above the Pier District, allowing the wind to create a choreography of constantly changing shape in the sculpture’s soft surface. The sculpture’s color also transforms at every moment while its surface interplays with natural and projected light. In daytime the sculpture casts shadow drawings on the park and people below, and at night it transforms into a glowing beacon of magenta and violet light. Images available here.

How It’s Made

The technical design process utilizes custom proprietary software that allows Echelman’s team to perform soft-body 3D modeling of the monumental design while understanding the constraints of the craft, and shows digital responses to the forces of gravity and wind.

First, the artist extrudes custom color PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) into fiber. PTFE is a highly-engineered technical fiber that retains its strength under UV exposure, and for this reason has historically been used to coat astronauts’ spacesuits.

Then the artist mixes multiple fiber colors together and braids them into twine. The blended colors of twines are wrapped onto bobbins and loaded onto looms which knot lengths of diamond mesh netting. Mesh is hand-cut and hand-knotted together to sculpt complex geometric forms.

Separately, UHMWPE (Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) fiber is braided into ropes. This fiber is 15 times stronger than steel by weight and was used by NASA to tether the Mars Rover. These ropes are spliced by hand to create the 420 ft rope structure using a method that fishermen and mariners have used for centuries. Then the net is meticulously hand-knotted to the rope structure.

Cranes arrive on site to pull the ropes into tension at maximum force levels of 65 tons at top of masts. The net and rope structure has been engineered by Arup to withstand a design wind load of 150 mph.

The sculpture is illuminated with sustainable low-energy LED lights which project a combination of colors designed by the artist to transform the sculpture at night into a glowing beacon.

About ‘Bending Arc’ and Janet Echelman

The internationally-renowned artist, born and raised along the shores of Tampa Bay, was inspired by historical postcards depicting blue and white striped beach parasols together with the geometric forms made by colonies of barnacles growing on the underside of the pier itself. The sculpture’s design in aerial view can be read as three barnacle-like parasols nestled together.

As she continued her design process, she learned of the site’s important Civil Rights Movement significance, as the place where local citizens began peacefully challenging racial barriers, leading to the 1957 US Supreme Court case ruling which upheld the rights of all citizens to enjoy use of the municipal beach and swimming pool without discrimination. The sculpture’s geometry in section is composed of multiple arcs, which gently billow in the wind. The artist titled the sculpture Bending Arc in reference to MLK’s words: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Echelman’s work has been celebrated for enlivening cities and have become focal points for urban life on five continents, from Singapore, Sydney, Shanghai, and Santiago, to Beijing, Boston, New York and London. Her experiential sculptures such as her permanent works in Porto, Vancouver, San Francisco, West Hollywood, Phoenix, Eugene, Greensboro, Philadelphia, and Seattle transform daily with colored light and the natural movement of wind.

About the St. Pete Pier

Janet Echelman was commissioned to create a monumental aerial sculpture for the Pier District which is also receiving multiple accolades for its future-forward design, an ambitious and sustainable infrastructure that not only embraces, but empowers St. Petersburg’s growth. It encompasses many things from economic development, urban resilience and environmental awareness to equity, access, enjoyment and recreation – designed to be as rich in use now as it will be in twenty years, fifty years and beyond.