Thursday, May 31, 2012


Apojove posted these pictures of his Mars Pathfinder, the unmanned probe that landed on Mars in 1997. He depicts it here as a tourist attraction in an imagined future. Interestingly, NASA recently released a request to future lunar explorers to please leave the Apollo landing sites alone to preserve them for future historians and to protect ongoing scientific studies.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mars Science Laboratory

A couple of days ago I posted the Curiosity, or the Mars Science Laboratory, by a then-unknown WAMALUG member. It turns out it is by Apojove, who was actually one of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers who helped design this probe.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Camelboy68 built this version of the Vehicle Assembly Building from the Kennedy Space Center. This building, one of the largest by volume in the world, was built to be large enough to assemble Saturn V rockets, and has been used since 1968 to prepare rockets for launch.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Even more Mars

The LEGO partnership with the Planetary Society and NASA mentioned yesterday had another cool aspect: LEGO on Mars. Each of the two landers launched in 2003 held a CD with the names of four million people who registered (for free, it was all about raising awareness). The disc was held by four LEGO-brick-shaped clamps and had the image of a minifig. BTW, this is only one of several partnerships that LEGO has held with NASA over the years. At some point I'll have to go back and do a comprehensive listing of all of the sets and other collaborations they've done.

Friday, May 11, 2012

More Mars

Following up on yesterday's post, I should note that LEGO has a history with Mars rovers. The LEGO Company partnered with NASA and the Planetary Society in a contest to name the Mars rovers that launched in 2003, with the winners coming up with Spirit (which operated on Mars from 2004-2010) and Opportunity (which is still operational today). As part of the deal, LEGO released a line of NASA themed sets, including 7469, Mission to Mars, and 7471, Mars Exploration Rover.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mission to Mars

The Space Shuttle Discovery is now in place at its permanent home, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (in case you don't know, this is a huge complex outside of Washington DC near Dulles Airport - it's part of the whole Smithsonian, just not located down on the Mall near most of the other museums). It looks like WAMALUG recently displayed there, perhaps as part of events surrounding the opening of this new exhibit. A WAMALUG member, presumably TJJohn12, built these Mars probes. The first model is the Curiosity, a rover that is currently en route to Mars (set to land this August) with the mission to study the possibility that Mars ever supported life, collect data in preparation for a potential future manned mission, and to study the soil and geology of Mars. The second is the Mars Pathfinder, which landed on Mars in 1997 and operated for three months (in excess of its planned one month lifetime), conducting tests of the atmosphere and soil. The lander, dubbed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station unfolded to reveal solar panels and release a rolling robot named Sojourner.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nitrous oxide dimer

Atoms are combined into molecules by covalent bonding, which involves the sharing of electrons. Two or more molecules will associate with each other by noncovalent interactions. These are weaker attractive forces, such as the coulombic attraction between partial charges. Nitrous oxide is a gas that has various uses, including as an anaesthetic and as a component of rocket fuel. In the gas phase, these molecules can come together in a variety of dimeric forms, as described by East and coworkers. Pasukaro76 made a LEGO version of the nonpolar N-in dimer (which happens to be the high energy conformation on the potential energy surface described by East).