A few weeks ago on December 21, 2015, SpaceX successfully launched one of their Falcon 9 rockets, delivered 11 satellites into orbit, and landed the rocket back on Earth, undamaged and ready to be used again. It marks the first time that a rocket has been sent into low Earth orbit 100 miles above Earth and successfully captured upon re-entry to be used again. Traditionally, rockets have been single-use equipment that crash land into the ocean. The ability to capture and reuse rockets is a great step forward in driving down the cost of space exploration by promoting re-usability.
Here is a picture posted to Twitter by SpaceX showing the launch and landing…only a few miles apart:
Earlier this week on January 12, 2016, SpaceX posted a great recap video to YouTube:
Well done SpaceX! Keep up the great work! Good luck on your next launch this coming Sunday!
A few weeks back during the Christmas holidays one of the people I follow on Twitter tweeted about something called ISS Above that flashed like crazy when the space station flew overhead which prompted her to go outside and wave to the astronauts with her kids. As someone who is trying to nurture my own child’s imagination and interest in science I was immediately hooked and I quickly found myself on the ISSAbove web site learning more about what exactly this device was (and how amazing it is) and how I could get one myself. The web site is full of great information about how the project started as a kickstarter, details on the project, how you can purchase one, and much more. I ordered one on New Year’s Eve and it arrived a few days later.
The device is rather simple, it’s a Raspberry Pi mini-computer with a PiGlow attached running custom software written in Python by the creator. It can be purchased as either an all-in-one package or the software alone if you already have the requisite hardware. Being new to the Raspberry Pi world I opted for the all-in-one package which was marketed as a “just open up the box and plug it in” solution.
Well, I’m happy to say that the marketing lived up to the hype! When my ISS Above arrived it was accompanied by some simple instructions which laid out exactly what to do and some basic troubleshooting steps if any unforeseen issues arose. Within a matter of minutes the device was up and running and projecting a beautiful HD image of the Earth as seen from the international space station.
The ISSAbove performs several actions, for one as just mentioned it live streams HD quality video from the space station when available. It also offers a built in web server that gives information about future overhead passes of the ISS, and engages the PiGlow to perform a light show depending on the duration until the next ISS flyover. One of my favorite things it does is actually twofold: 1) it tweets the space station twitter account whenever the ISS is flying nearby over your location, and 2) it posts a WordPress blog post to the ISSAbove.com site. Both of these are customizable on your device and I am hoping to write future blog posts on customizing these two features.
Below are some pictures of this amazing little device, which has not only opened up my toddler’s eyes to space but also rekindled my excitement. I would strongly recommend learning more on the official ISS Above web site and getting your own.