All posts by Steve Shurtleff

So why a photo?

PtS LogoI’ve been asked by many what the point is of sending a photo into space.

Simply put, it’s symbolic.

It’s a way for the “person on the street” to become part of the commercial space venture until going in person becomes more affordable, and believe me, that day is coming. In just another few years, those tickets may be no more than the cost of a flight from New York to California, especially as spaceflight becomes more common.

But for now, for right this moment, it’s still out of reach for most of us.

Now, some cultures believe that when a person’s photo is taken, some of that person’s essence then lives inside the photo. While this is sometimes seen as a negative, it can also be a positive. Looking at it that way, sending a photo of yourself, loved one or friend into space and back means that some part of yourself or them has gone into space and returned as well.

It also means that you shouldn’t limit yourself to sending just one picture. Nothing says you can’t send pictures of all of your friends and family. Don’t worry though, we’ll allow photos of enemies as well. Just remember that it’s a round trip; they’ll come back too.

So next time you dig out the family album, or you’re looking through the pictures on your computer or on Facebook, and you see some that stir fond memories, go ahead and take the next step: make that memory all the more powerful by sending that photo, and by extension that friend or loved one, on a trip that most won’t get to take.

As always, Dream!


Mr. Worf, engage the tractor beam!

The Enterprise uses its tractor beam to tow another starship.  Image from Star Trek, property of Paramount Pictures

The USS Enterprise uses its tractor beam to tow another starship. Image from Star Trek, property of Paramount Pictures

On January 25th, 2013, Czech scientists announced the creation of a real tractor beam, a ray of light manipulated to pull or attract items towards the source.

Though a beam of light ordinarily “pushes” items away from it, scientists from the University of St. Andrews and the Institute of Scientific Instruments, both in the Czech Republic, have found a way to reverse the repelling radiation of light in order to bring objects closer.

While the objects being moved are, for now, microscopic, and move only at the microscopic level, Dr. Tomas Cizmar, Dr. Oto Brzobohaty, and Dr. Pavel Zemanek, the lead scientists working on the project, have also noted that, under certain conditions, the objects being attracted are also reorganizing themselves due to the effects of the tractor beam in such a way as to strengthen the attractive properties and intend to continue their research as a means of improving blood analysis in the fields of life sciences and photonics (the generation and manipulation of light).

This is but the latest addition to the growing list of imagined devices becoming a reality.

What sorts of inventions do you imagine for the future?


January 28th, 1986


Today we remember the crew of Space Shuttle Challenger, Flight 51-L, lost this day 27 years ago.

Mission Commander Francis R. Scobee
Pilot Michael J. Smith
Mission Specialist 1 Ellison S. Onizuka
Mission Specialist 2 Judith A. Resnik
Mission Specialist 3 Ronald E. McNair
Payload Specialist 1 Christa McAuliffe
Payload Specialist 2 Gregory B. Jarvis

It was warm that day, as January days in Colorado go. I was only 13 then, and in the 8th grade. Before I left for school that morning, I remember hearing on the news that the Space Shuttle Challenger launch was holding due to some kind of electrical problem that I didn’t really understand.

I went through my first two classes as I would have any other day. Toward the end of the 2nd, the junior high’s assistant principal, Mr. Williams, could be heard over the PA system calling all staff and students to the gym for an assembly, stating that we’d be talking about the problem with the Shuttle.

This seemed very odd to me. Why would an electrical problem be reason to gather all 3 grades and the teachers together?

Obviously, I didn’t yet know what had happened.

The gym’s bleachers had already been opened up for us when we got there. As I recall, there were somewhere between 400 and 450 students there, but it was far too quiet for a room full of teenagers. Also out of place was the lone television sitting on its cart facing the seats.

Something wasn’t right. I got the feeling that at least some there were aware of something that I wasn’t.

After Mr. Williams began to address us with the news that Challenger had been lost with all hands, the tv was turned on. By that point, the news was just starting to sink in for me, and the video of the ship’s disintegration seemed hazy, though I could see it clearly, even sitting at a considerable distance.

We at Photos to Space also wish at this time to honor the crews of Apollo 1 (Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White), and the Space Shuttle Columbia (Rick Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon), all of which also gave their lives for the furtherment of human exploration.

Where were you that morning? Please take a moment to share your memories of that day in a comment.


Happy (belated) birthday, Dr. Kaku!

michio-kaku-200We at Photos to Space are wishing a Happy Belated Birthday to theoretcal physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku, born January 24th, 1947.

Originally from San Jose, CA, Dr. Kaku currently resides in New York and is part of a growing movement of scientists who aim to “popularize” science.

Having written over 70 science articles and published 7 books on physics, 2 of which were New York Times Best Sellers, Dr. Kaku built his first particle accelerator and atom smasher in his parents garage while still in high school.

Continuing to be on the forefront of raising scientific awareness, Dr. Kaku is one of the most influential physicists alive today.

Happy birthday, Michio!


Pick up those pens!

Space - The FutureSpace mining. Warp Drive. Transporters. Lightsabers.

For most, the first thing that comes to mind about these are movie props and plot devices. But did you know that all of the above are currently being developed in reality, and at least one already exists?

So is it a coincidence? No, it’s not.

While scientists are busy making such things a reality, the original concepts that are leading to these developments came from the minds of highly imaginative writers like Arthur C. Clarke and Gene Roddenberry.

And let’s face it, nobody loves turning science fiction into science fact more than, well, scientists.

So are scientists more important than writers? Not by a longshot. Both are very important to our future. Writers have the ideas, and scientists make them real.

So why not try it for yourself? Instead of picking up that game controller, or turning on the tv, why not pick up a pen, or maybe bring up the word processor on your laptop?

See where your imagination takes you, and the entire world may just come along for the ride.



Things That Both Are And May Become

gold_ring_50267The year 2013 is off to a great start for the commercial space industry, to say the least.

However, not all commercial flights are aimed at tourism. Two private companies, Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, are now working on plans for off-planet mining operations, primarily looking at asteroids as potentially viable sources of metals and minerals.

While yet to be realized, this isn’t a new concept to movie buffs and science fiction fans. One of the greatest Sci-Fi films ever made took place aboard a mining and refinery ship. And now it looks like life will imitate that aspect of art within the next 4 years. Imagine wearing a necklace or a ring that was not only made in space, but was made from gold that was mined in space as well.

The adventure has already begun, and it’s picking up speed with each passing day.

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