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Space Art

Best of 2011 Space Shuttle Photos (STS-133, STS-134 & STS-135)

It took me awhile to prepare this set of photos as I wanted to pick the absolute best of my 2011 experience with the final 3 Shuttle launches in Florida (plus one scrub!). I wanted to portray the craziness that occurs in the press site, but more importantly the beauty of this historic exploration program. The final photo makes my eyes a little puffy as it portrays one of the crew check-out team (#1) walking out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) after saying his final goodbyes and receiving many congratulations from colleagues and strangers. The Shuttle program has been launching my entire life and I was lucky to witness 5 launches (125, 132, 133, 134, 135) and a 3 scrubs (127, 127, 134), I was there for SpaceShipOne’s three flights in 2004, and I’m optimistic about the future of human exploration in space.

These photos were originally posted on my website (I tweet as “RyInSpace” regularly, but I don’t blog on my site often): www.RyInSpace.com


Space and Lego, a Love Story

Hello all. For those that don’t know me, I’m John Knight. In Space Tweep circles I’m known as the guy who has the MECO (one and only) tattoo and I’m the only non-Lego employee to have designed a Lego set for NASA (The SDO, Solar Dynamic Observatory set!). Today I wanted to share a bit about my love of Lego and one of the best tools out there for Lego fans, Lego Digital Designer.

I’ve been collecting and playing with Lego bricks for over 35 years. I can’t recommend them enough as a toy for helping develop motor skills, eye hand coordination, appreciation for engineering, robotics and art. If you have every shopped for or purchased Lego, you know that they are expensive. I am very brand loyal to  the Lego brand despite the cost simply because I know the quality of the product is worth it and the company really does a great job of taking care of the customers. This brings me to Lego Digital Designer (LDD). I’ve amassed over 100,000 bricks in my collection and sometimes that’s not enough to build some of the ideas I come up with.  LDD is a free program that essentially gives you an unlimited supply of Lego bricks to play with in a friendly and easy to use computer aided design program created by the folks at Lego. This program is simple enough for children 6+years to have fun with and sophisticated enough for the hardcore enthusiast, like myself, to have countless hours of fun with. You can download it here: http://ldd.lego.com/




I’m brand new to Space Tweeps and am producing an animated short “Backspace” based on my animated series “Giraffstronaut”. You can find more info here .  It’s like Spongebob meets Star Trek… or, an even better tagline…. “if you like naked mole rats, you’ll love Giraffstronaut”! I’d love to know what Space Tweeps think about it!!

Starcrossed by @tactfulcacti

If you know me, you know I love finding ways to combine space with the arts. So when @tactfulcacti contacted me about their recently completed short film, I thought it would be fun to share. Hope you enjoy it!

A mission patch for Meco

If you hadn’t heard already, our society mascot, Meco the birdonaut, will be making his first trip into space next month. He will be traveling (in the form of one of our Space Tweep Society patches) to the International Space Station with astronaut Ron Garan, @Astro_Ron, on Soyuz TMA-21.

A few months back, we asked members to draw their own mission patches for Meco. We only had a few submissions, but they were all great. You can see them here together in the collage above. They were designed by @zarquil’s son, Kelley (top left), @zarquil (top right), @zarquil’s daughter, Rebekkah (bottom right), @spasmunkey (bottom left), and @geekygirlau (center). You can download a large copy of the collage of designs here. Huge thanks to all of the artists for the great work!

One of the artists, @geekygirlau, has generously allowed us to use her design to promote this historic event. I am pleased to announce that her design has been added to our Lands’ End e-store and you can have it embroidered on shirts, jackets, bags and more (it is a little too large to fit on hats). Just select the item you would like, add it to your cart, and you will come to a screen with a drop-down menu to choose the logo you want. Select “Meco ISS Patch” and the location on the item that you want the logo.

Today only, there is a free logo promotion from Lands’ End. You can save over $11 on each item on the embroidery application fee by using the promotion code EMLOGO.

Note: If your shopping cart shows a higher amount for tax than expected, do not worry, the correct amount will be charged. They are working on fixing this issue.

Remembering Artist Robert T. McCall

Born in 1919, Robert T. McCall would grow up to be one of the greatest  artists to capture the hope and vision of the future. Often Mr. McCall’s brightly lit and somewhat impressionistic style of painting would capture my imagination again and again. I found out today that he passed away.

Who is Robert McCall? What did he paint? If you’re asking these questions then I’ll ask you to Google his name and look at just at a single page of his work. I bet you this, you’ll recognize more than one piece. Why am I so certain? It wasn’t that he was simply prolific.  His art and concept paintings influenced so so many people and projects:  2001: A Space Odessy, Star Wars, the US Space Program, the US Air force and Disney. His art graced the pages of magazines where I can first remember seeing his art. Then there was his work for Star Wars. A year or so later, as a child I would see murals of his at EPCOT Center in Orlando. When I started collecting stamps with a space theme, there was his work again. His paintings of the Apollo program, then the Space Shuttle captured the brightness and hopefulness of the future. He continued painting images of America’s changing space program painting Space Station Freedom, eventually what became the ISS.  His style of bright colors made space look like a calidascope (which in reality, through Hubble, we would all learn how right he was).

Always within his paitings of space there were always the people.  He would capture all the technical details of a spacecraft but it’s the people and their emotion I remember the most. Like Norman Rockwell he captured a moment in his subjects eyes and facial expression of hope and purpose.  The one case that stands is contrast, as there is no face, just a face mask, is his incredible mural in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  The image of Apollo astronatus standing on the moon converys raw emotion all through body language and lighting.  A few years ago I was able to take my father and son there to see DC and this painting. That moment is captured and hangs on my den wall.

I’m not sure what the best compliment to pay an artist is. Certaily I would love to own his work but that’s not an economic reality. All I can say is that his art work inspired me and affected me when I was a child and still does all these years later. I’ve always wanted to live in his paintings, his visions. Maybe that’s  the best thing I could say of his work. Godspeed Robert McCall.

Other remembrances:



As a female rocket scientist, I loved this!

GIrls Can't What?

Santa’s eventful flight

I’ve just got news that last night Santa had an aviation accident involving an unknown vehicle. Details are sketchy and authorities are still investigating, but it looks like Santa is safe and his sled was damaged. The issue caused a delay in gift delivery. A short report with an image is available online.

The Lego Test: Discovering Hidden Talents

I will never forget or downplay the incredible experiences I had working with children within a regular school setting.  I did this not as a teacher, but as a therapeutic shadow to specific client children. In that role, I was able to observe and interact not just with my clients but with all the children in the class. This gave me a great opportunity to just watch and admire these young minds at work. It also gave me the chance to find among the students at least one, and usually more, shy geeks.  

Shy geeks? These are intensely bright children who for one reason or the other keep their intelligence close to their chests. In many cases, because of their shyness they performed poorly and were often mistakenly labeled as “slow achievers.”  Who is not to say that among this muted group there is not at least one Einstein, Fermi, Feynman, etc?  I believe it from the bottom of my heart.

So, for quite awhile now, I have been thinking about ways to gently nudge out these potential geniuses.  The idea of a Lego Test came to my mind after viewing several dramatic reports on the fact that Legos are very much alive and well. Legos are like favorite snacks; they are irresistible and captivating.  I do not believe any child can sit for more than 10 seconds before they have reached out and started piecing together a Lego creation.

Here is my general idea of the Lego Test and how it would be applied and interpreted.

  • First, one does not swoop in and grab up candidates. Their very shyness will destroy the key element of the test – relaxed, unmonitored, creativity.  The candidates must be wooed carefully to ease their shyness.
  • A fair amount of time must be devoted to building the candidates confidence in what we are asking them to do.  No pressure, and with lots of friendliness to further ease their worries and shyness.
  • The key to the test is, there are NO requirements or special rules.  The children are presented with the most complete Lego set imaginable. It must include all those really terrific extras. The only instruction is that the candidates take all the time they need and build or not build whatever they want.
  • The test environment is quiet and each candidate works alone. They can call for help at any time (their questions are also part of the test). They can also refuse and that must be honored, but not without at least a bit of gentle encouragement.
  • When they have finished, they will be asked to explain, in detail (conversationally), what they have built, what it does or represents, and why. There own explanations and reasoning are the test results, and the absence of an explanation or reason is of equal importance.

Well, it will take quite a bit of time to develop this into a real test, and the test monitor must be well trained to properly assess and record the children’s responses.  In this regard, the child that asks for crayons and paper instead of the Legos should be fully accommodated (Some of Lockheed-Martin’s key members of its “skunk works” design group probably started out with crayons and paper.).

I know, I have not told you why I want to do this with respect to the space sciences.  We need every kind of talent imaginable to carry us forward into the new world of space exploration.  Scientists, engineers, technicians, artists, writers, organizers, these are some of the very special talents that exist today in our space program and must continue to exist.  That continuation can only come from a steady flow of young minds with these talents. Sure, there will always be many youngsters already determined to enter these fields, but I want to make sure we do not miss any, and especially those that may have incredible talent.This latter goal is the source for my idea of the Lego Test and the search for shy geeks.  They are out there, and if we ignore them, we stand to let slip from us a bounty of creativity.

Space 3D, a new space anaglyphs blog

In October 2009, Italian amateur astronomer and space anthusiast Roberto Beltramini started Space 3D, a blog where he posts his space-related anaglyphs and discusses how to create them. You need red and cyan glasses to view the 3D images. Roberto writes in Italian, but the blog includes a handy page translation widget that supports English and all other Google Translator languages.

I knew Roberto as an active contributor to Forumastronautico.it, an Italian online community of space enthusiasts. I later found that he is also a prolific and expert creator of space anaglyphs, which he started collecting on a web site.

I was hooked. And I was probably not alone. In October 2009, BBC Sky at Night Magazine published Space 3D Collector’s Edition, a 100 pages special issue packed with stunning astronomy and space anaglyphs. Section “MAN IN SPACE” includes 20 pages with his best anaglyphs.

In the Space 3D blog, Roberto shares his new anaglyphs. Some of the images are fresh from current space missions, like one of Ares I-X on the launch pad.