Robert McCall, inspirational master of the space painting

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Gizmodo has posted a fantastic series of 27 works from the master of space painting, Robert McCall.  McCall’s realistic, documentary-style paintings have been seen on everything from Hollywood posters (most notably for 2001: A Space Odyssey) to promotional materials by NASA.  And this set doesn’t include my personal favorite, Apollo On The Moon, depicting a lunar lander and astronaut standing on the Moon, with Earth in the background.

For those young’uns of you: These are among the most inspirational visual works depicting space and space exploration of the 1960s and 70s, the paintings that turned many a child’s eye inexorably skyward… including my own.

Robert McCall

Curiosity and efficiency

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Curiosity Rover landing (NASA)

Curiosity Rover landing (NASA)

I stayed up the other night to watch NASA’s Curiosity Rover descent onto the Martian surface.  Well, it wasn’t so much watching Curiosity… it was watching NASA personnel reacting to the telemetry that told them what Curiosity was doing.  In some ways, it’s like watching a sports announcer calling the game, instead of actually watching the game.  But hey, with NASA, that’s the way it works.

Though it’s been awhile since I watched a NASA event, much less stayed up late to see one, this one fascinated me because it was a landing design unlike anything NASA had done before: Using a “skycrane” platform to hover over the surface, lower the rover to the ground on cables, then cut loose and land elsewhere.  If you haven’t seen the simulations of how it should (and apparently did) work, you should.

But there’s something else that fascinates me, about this moment, and about NASA: They have become a textbook model of American efficiency. Continue reading