Index / NASA

Introduction: Space Race

Why is the first issue of Material about space? Material 1 is about space because starting here reflects one of our central means of observation: to understand the whole, you have to start with the extreme. Peruse the borders. Mark your limits. Establish the frontier. Often the best position from which to begin any analysis […]

There’s Life on Mars: Behind the Scenes At a Simulated Martian Colony

There are many ways to visit outer space. One way is to pretend you’re already there. Right now six research volunteers are doing just that, in a small dome perched on the side of the Mauna Loa volcano on the big island of Hawaii. From October of last year until this June, the third mission […]

Why Do Beverage Companies Keep Sending Shit Into Space?

by William Rauscher Red Bull. Jose Cuervo. Ardbeg Whiskey. Pocari Sweat. What do these four large beverage companies have in common? They’re all part of a new wave of grand-scaled stunt marketing that uses outer space as a billboard. Red Bull sent skydiver Felix Baumgartner to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere and had him […]

From an Abandoned McDonald’s, Space Pirates Hijack a Satellite

by William Rauscher In the spring of 2014, former NASA employee Keith Cowing and a crew of volunteers successfully hijacked the ISEE-3, a NASA spacecraft in solar orbit launched in 1978. Operating independently from NASA, the “citizen scientist” crew adopted a “spacecraft for all” approach, carrying out a space mission that was entirely crowd-funded and […]

Faces of Space: Archival NASA Portraits

Our collective visual memory of the NASA space program has been collaged largely from several decades of official portraits, PR photo ops, and breathtaking vistas of the Earth and the heavens.  The surface narrative told by these images has heavily focused on depicting the collective heroism responsible for humankind’s greatest achievement. This curated selection of […]

How Private Industry is Winning the Space Race

by William Rauscher Why did Columbus travel west? Why did Marco Polo head east? Because it is that pull, that unknown, that prospect of adventure that compels humans to seek new frontiers to explore. —MarsOne Manifesto Private enterprise is changing outer space. As NASA moves from an organization that travels to space to one that […]

Space Junk: Souvenirs From the Final Frontier

These days obtaining your own special piece of space history is no sweat: you can find second-hand space junk in resale venues like auctions, eBay listings and garage sales. A Russian spacesuit, a bit of Astro-food, a mixtape from Apollo, or an incomprehensible grey box with an LCD screen, all are up on the chopping […]

Eye in the Sky: Live Stream of Planet Earth

On April 18th, 2014, a new experiment called the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) was installed in the International Space Station, after being delivered by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. HDEV consists of four commercial HD video cameras that provide uninterrupted streaming footage of planet Earth viewed from stationary orbit. This real-time eye in the sky […]

The Voyager Golden Record: Postcards From Planet Earth

A message in a bottle. The first cosmic mixtape. A letter from home that may never reach its destination. Compiled for NASA by a Cornell University committee led by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan in 1977, copies of the Golden Record are currently carried aboard both Voyager I and Voyager II spacecraft as they plunge […]

Cassini Orbiter: Rings of Saturn

In 2013, NASA’s unmanned Cassini orbiter probe sent back to Earth some of the most precise images of the planet Saturn and its rings ever taken, so precise that they achieved a distinctly abstract quality. Captured with a scientific eye, the Cassini images convey a minimalist sensibility, like National Geographic photos art-directed by Peter Saville. […]

Frontier Music: How Brian Eno Pioneered “Space Country”

by John Moeller and William Rauscher Early in the film Trainspotting, junkie protagonist Renton dives into ‘The Worst Toilet in Scotland’ to retrieve some opium suppositories. Sliding down the toilet bowl, he passes through a rabbit hole, emerging on the other side in a dreamlike ocean world. The soundtrack to the scene is a drifting melange of […]

NASAgram: Space Goes Social

The cosmos is a busy place: thanks to the public-relations efforts of NASA’s social media department we can participate in NASA’s efforts to explore, utilize and colonize space more than ever before, encountering otherworldly images of space in feeds more known for selfies, dinner pics, and photo bombs. At the same time, the NASA Instagram […]

The Overview Effect

This short documentary by Planetary Collective explores what astronauts, scientists and experts have come to refer to as the “overview effect”: the experience of viewing Earth from the vantage point of stationary orbit. This macro perspective on our world produces a mental collision between two sensations: the sense of how enormous our planet is, and […]