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 The Pink Floyd Frontier
There’s this… game? I don’t know how to describe it now, with my heart in my mouth. I am chewing my own heart. Space Engine probably isn’t a game. It’s… It’s a universe simulator. It’s galaxies and galaxies in a tiny zip file. And the most amazing thing is we live in it. And that it is so very beautiful.
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Gentleman purveyor of indie-game discoveries, Pixel Prospector, has pointed out the existence of the neon vector flying-shooter type game, Vektropolis. It’s still at an early stage, according to the devs, but it has some lovely visuals already, and that sort of free-flying Descent/G-Police way of doing things that was so popular for a while back there, but these days seems to have fallen out of favour. I wish there was actually a proper genre name for the flying-and-shooting-but-not-a-sim genre. Anyway, I am interested to see more of this. Check out the video below.
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Now that the final space shuttle has landed, many thousands involved with it have lost their jobs, and budget cuts loom, I thought it would be interesting to have a look at the other projects NASA has been working on recently, and what will be keeping the agency busy in the coming years. There has been a flurry of discoveries and firsts just this year alone, as scientists have discovered a fourth moon around Pluto, and a spacecraft has entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta for the first time. Earlier this month the spacecraft Juno launched toward Jupiter, while workers prepared the next Mars rover, Curiosity, for launch by the end of this year. All of this on top of supporting existing missions to the sun, Mercury, Earth, Mars, Saturn and more. Collected here is just a small recent sampling of NASA's far-reaching projects and missions. [33 photos]

Rising from fire and smoke, NASA's Juno planetary probe, enclosed in its payload fairing, launches atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Leaving from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on August 5, 2011, the spacecraft will embark on a five-year journey to Jupiter. The solar-powered spacecraft will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere and investigate the existence of a solid planetary core. (NASA/Scott Andrews)

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NASA’s latest high tech spacecraft, launched Friday August 5th, 2011 aboard an Atlas V rocket, is named after the Greek and Roman goddess Juno. Juno was able to peer through the veil of clouds that her husband, Jupiter, drew around himself to hide his mischief. Over a cycle of 33 orbits, Juno will pass over Jupiter’s north and south poles, allowing the first close-up looks at the bright auroras there.

Juno will cover the distance from Earth to the moon–about 250,000 miles in less than one day’s time. However, scientists will have to wait another five years for Juno to complete the journey to Jupiter. With four large moons and many smaller moons, Jupiter forms its own miniature solar system. Once Juno is in orbit around Jupiter, it will use its collection of eight science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant’s obscuring cloud cover to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core. In order to survive the powerful radiation surrounding Jupiter, Juno’s instruments are protected inside a titanium vault. This radiation will eventually degrade the electronics, and the spacecraft will be sent crashing into the planet.

This true color mosaic of Jupiter was constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera on NASA’s older Cassini spacecraft during its closest approach to the giant planet at a distance of approximately 6.2 million miles. It is the most detailed global color portrait of Jupiter ever produced; the smallest visible features are approximately 37 miles across. The mosaic is composed of 27 images, and each of those locations was imaged in red, green, and blue to provide true color. Although Cassini’s camera can see more colors than humans can, Jupiter’s colors in this view look close to the way the human eye would see them. Over an hour was required for this portrait. Jupiter rotated during this time, so the face and the lighting on its moving clouds, were changing. In order to assemble a seamless mosaic, each image was first digitally re-positioned to reflect the planet’s appearance at the instant the first exposure was taken. Then, the lighting variation across each image was removed, and the mosaic was re-illuminated by a computer-generated ‘Sun’ from a direction that allowed all imaged portions to appear in sunlight at once.

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