Planet Earth is Blue (and there's something you should view…)

international space station by nasaSpace buffs and music buffs alike should be thrilled by a song video with a difference that’s just been posted to YouTube – all the way from the Earth’s orbit!

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the out-going commander of the International Space Station, returns to Earth today and decided to mark the end of his tenure by performing and recording an acoustic cover of David Bowie’s immortal 1969 inter-galactic hit Space Oddity – while floating in zero gravity around his very own ‘tin can’ inside the space station against the backdrop of outer space, 230 miles above the Earth, making it the first ever music video to be filmed in space. Beat that, Major Tom!

The video marks a triumphant culmination of a six-month tour aboard the station that has seen Hadfield become a global social media superstar through his Twitter account, which he began with the aim of raising awareness and reigniting enthusiasm for space travel, recording every detail of his stay in space backed by some stunning shots of the Earth from orbit. To date he’s amassed over 770,000 followers – doubtless now a few music promoters among them!

To view the video on YouTube, follow this link:

http://t.co/dWXTf8a8Jq

International Space Station over the Earth, courtesy of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, reproduced from Flickr under CC License.

World Space Week

Today marks the beginning of World Space Week, an annual international celebration of the many benefits of the exploration of outer space.

This year’s theme for the event is “Space for Human Safety and Security”, which seeks to extol the virtues of how much Earth observation, navigation and telecommunication satellites are used everyday to protect humans and safeguard our environment.

Chosen specifically for this date by the UN General Assembly to mark the succesful launch of Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite, on October 4th 1957, and the signining of the ‘Treaty on Principles Governing the Activites of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies’ on October 10 1967, World Space Week has been held every year since 1999, and seeks primarily to educate people about the positives of space exploration and encourage better public understanding and support for space programmes.

We’re very keen on space in the Library, and not just the kind students look for for studying in! We possess a large range of material about space flight and the history of astronautics, including access to NASA’s Scientific & Technical Information (STI) web site among our extensive array of Aeronautical databases.

For more information about World Space Week, including an opportunity to participate in a ‘Tweet-up’ with legendary Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, visit their website here:

http://www.worldspaceweek.org/wsw/

Mars, Bringer of… Curiosity!

NASA took another giant step forward in mankind’s exploration of the Solar System this morning following the successful landing of a new robot explorer, named Curiosity, on Mars.

Curiosity’s primary assignment is to look for signs of life among the frozen red sands of our enigmatic near-neighbour. It is the fourth robotic rover NASA have landed on Mars since 1997, but Curiosity’s size and the sophistication of its hardware dwarfs all previous missions, as it includes a plutonium battery with a ten-year plus lifespan, two on-board laboratories to analysis soil and rock samples, and laser system to help identify such samples to the minutest atomic detail. Costing a mere $2.6 billion dollars, hopes are high that this project will prove the most revealing exploration of Mars yet, possibly even paving the way for a manned mission in future.

Curiosity landed successfully in the Gale Crater at just after 6.30AM amid scenes of great jubilation back in NASA mission control in Pasadena and almost immediately began to transmit pictures of its new ‘home’. You can follow the passage of the mission via NASA’s website here.

The Library has quite a range of material about space exploration among our aeronautical engineering section, as well as several books on the topic of the Red Planet, including H.G. Wells seminal War of the Worlds. Let’s hope Curiosity finds something a lot friendlier than Mr Wells’ Martians…!!

Earth & Mars image courtesy of bluedharma, reproduced under CC License from Flickr.

Fifty Years of Europe in Space

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Established through an agreement between the various Western European states on June 14th 1962, the ESA initially began life as two seperate organisations, ELDO (European Launch Development Organisation), which tackled the thorny issue launching men and materials into space, and ESRO (European Space Research Organisation), which, as its title suggests, carried out space research. It wasn’t until 1975 that the two organisations were merged to form what is now the ESA.

Although European space exploration has remained very much in the shadow of the more illustrious (and better funded) United States and Russian space programmes, the ESA has achieved many notable successes, including the Ariane commercial launch vehicle, and has since gone on to form partnerships and collaborations with both NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency on a variety of projects.

Indeed, the first ESA astronaut into space was the German Ulf Merbold in 1983, who was part of a NASA mission to help set up the ESA designed Spacelab laboratory which would be re-used to good effect during 22 Space Shuttle missions between ’83 and 1998.

The Library has a current subscription to the ESA Bulletin, in addition to a wealth of information about astronautics and space flight technology among our hard-copy and electronic resource aero-auto engineering collections. Plus you can find out a lot more about the ESA and its history from its web site here:

http://www.esa.int/esaCP/index.html

Image shows the International Space Station, courtesy of NASA, reproduced under CC License from Flickr.

Farewell Discovery…

Space Shuttle Discovery (image copyright NASA)

The Space Shuttle Discovery, the flag-ship of NASA’s Orbiter fleet, was today launched on its final mission into space, drawing another glorious chapter of manned spaceflight closer to a close.

Discovery was first launched in 1984, and this will be its 39th outing – more missions than any other vessel in the fleet. When it lands back on Earth in nearly two weeks’ time it will have covered a massive total career distance of 230 million km – which is further than the distance from the Earth to the Sun (149 million km)!

During this last mission Discovery will be visiting the International Space Station, where it will be delivering a new storage module and, more excitingly, NASA’s first humanoid service robot, Robonaut R-2, designed to assist the Space Station crew with their duties and which NASA hopes will be the first in a generation of android assistants, rather like Star Wars R2-D2!

Only two more Shuttle flights remain to be launched this year, involving Discovery’s sister ships Atlantis and Endeavour, before the fleet is retired for good after 40 years of invaluable scientific service.

You can follow the entire progress of the mission via NASA’s website here.

The Library has access to a wide variety of information on the subjects of space exploration in our Aeronautical Engineering section on Metalib, including access to NASA’s own Technical Information database.  And you want to find out more about the economical ramifications of the space programme, you can find a wealth of information through databases such as Business Source Complete. But if you’re interested simply in the history of manned space flight, why not dip into the newspaper archives on Nexis UK, where you can read all about it?