Watch $200 Million Burn

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The Orbital Sciences Antares rocket is a new rocket system. During a launch last night from the Mid-Atlantic Spaceport at Wallops Island, VA, only its fifth, something failed causing this spectacular explosion. Luckily, no one was injured, but it does appear there is significant damage to the launch facility.

The explosion occurred approximately 15 seconds into the flight.

Continue reading Watch $200 Million Burn


Startdown: Worse Than a Bad USB


Maybe he is White Hat, using his powers for good.

Image via the Green Box.

Airborne Awesomosity

Betting Man


Last week marked 58 years since a relatively unknown yet undoubtedly impressive stunt was pulled off in New York City (and this week is 56 years since it was pulled off again, but we’ll get to that momentarily). On the late evening of September 30, 1956, the young Thomas Fitzpatrick, whilst enjoying some tasty beverages in a Washington Heights barroom, found himself engaging in a bit of a friendly wager. The wager in question, according to third-hand retellings, was that Mr. Fitzpatrick could, or could not, make it back to the bar in 15 minutes from New Jersey.

Being challenged so, the only recourse was to take the trip to New Jersey, and prove it. The solution he had to this dilemma was relatively simple–‘Mr. Fitzpatrick, then 26, took a single-engine plane from the Teterboro School of Aeronautics in New Jersey and took off without lights or radio contact and landed on St. Nicholas Avenue near 191st Street.

The New York Times called it a “fine landing” and reported that it had been widely called “a feat of aeronautics.”’

There were some in the city that were mildly displeased about this stunt, and Mr. Fitzpatrick was initially charged with the theft of the plane. The plane owner, perhaps out of admiration for the impressive feat of strength, declined to press charges, so instead the charges were reduced to the lesser crime of ‘landing a plane in the street’, which was (and perhaps still is) specifically against city code. Once the landing fees of $100 were paid to the city, the whole matter seemed settled.

Until just over two years later. That’s when, in another bar in the same neighborhood, Mr. Fitzpatrick now found his truthiness in question. ‘On Oct. 4, 1958, just before 1 a.m., he took again a plane from Teterboro and this time landed on Amsterdam and 187th Street in front of a Yeshiva University building after having “come down like a marauder from the skies,” in the words of Ruben Levy, the magistrate at Mr. Fitzpatrick’s ensuing arraignment. Newspapers reported that Mr. Fitzpatrick jumped out of the landed plane wearing a gray suit and fled, but later turned himself in.

Mr. Fitzpatrick told the police that he had pulled off the second flight after a bar patron refused to believe he had done the first one.’

Via the New York Times, who owns the lead image.

Airborne Awesomosity

BAC TSR-2: When An Aircraft Plays (Political) Football


The aeronautical landscape is littered with the rotting shells and mylar prints of cancelled aircraft programs. Setting out to push the boundaries of man’s capability often goes hand in hand with rising costs and lengthened schedules. These two things also give opponents of said programs leverage to do away with them at their first opportunity. Such is the story of the British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2.

Continue reading BAC TSR-2: When An Aircraft Plays (Political) Football

A-T Whatsit

Name That Plane!


Some time ago, I signed up for access to the government’s surplus auction website, which had changed a little since then but is now What hasn’t changed are the fun emails that they send me daily highlighting newly posted auctions. I have actually yet to purchase anything just yet, despite want to bid on probably 80% of the surplus, just because it is cool! Last night, I got an email titled “Mixed Metals & Burning Slag Available Now“, which doesn’t sound all that compelling, but I was curious just what burning slash might be, so I clicked on to read the whole email. Lo, what do I discover but this as one of the items: “53,000lbs Mixed Metals Flight Simulator“.

Couple that with a tiny thumbnail of the picture you see above, and now you have my interest! The text of the ad reads: “53,000 lbs. (approx.) demilitarization required Flight Safety Services Corp. & CAE Electronics Ltd. PN MA140500-01-2-845 flight trainer simulator SN 0001WST has ABB mdl unknown hydraulic power pack control panel, lot includes catwalk, shelving, interface cabinet units, electric cable wire, hydraulic lines, leveling pads. Main simulator dimensions 264″ x 164″ x 136″, power panel dimensions 80″ x 96″ x 74″. NSN 6930015558064. All scrap under this contract requires mutilation by the buyer prior to removal and must be witnessed by DOD personnel. Title to the material does not pass to the buyer until the scrap has been mutilated. Buyer agrees to allow USG personnel to witness destruction. Removal and processing of property will begin no later than 5 days from the date of receiving paid invoice. **Please open surveillance plan for all mutilation guidance**

The question is, what plane is it? Since we still have the comment drama, you’ll all just have to have self-satisfaction on this one, but hey, it should still be fun!


[As a side note, this post carries the same title as last night’s Hooniverse Last Call, which is purely coincidental, but makes me think it is all the more appropriate!]


By the Light of the Moon


The passion that those who feel ‘the Apollo record is full of anomalies and inconsistencies’ still surprises me at times. The idea that it is easier to believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of folks involved with NASA and the Apollo program pulled off the greatest hoax in history and managed to keep the secret, even to this day, than it is to believe those same hundreds and thousands put forth their best effort and took risks and accomplished one of the biggest technological challenges of the last century, well it quite honestly astounds me.

Yesterday I came across a video from computer graphics company NVIDIA that purports to: “Explore the truth behind the iconic Buzz Aldrin moon landing photo. See how modern graphics innovations can shed new light on a 35-year-old conspiracy theory.
Learn more about Maxwell, the new GPU architecture powering the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970.”

It is a piece of advertising for their new gear, but I think re-creating a 45 year old scene rock by rock digitally is quite an interesting tech accomplishment, and if they get a little bit of advertising by aiming the ad at a controversy that has arguably gained traction in the age of the internet, well there you go. The video has been on YouTube for less than a week, and the amount of comments, many of which argue very strongly against the assumptions made by NVIDIA and discussing how it in no way proves anything, are quite impressive. Even more fascinating to me, the first comment links to a site,, that has quite the discussion about those Apollo program ‘inconsistencies’. One of the recent posts is also a discussion of how NVIDIA attempted to rope a skeptic in for exploitation, for one assumes just this video advertising campaign. But the skeptic in question was not fooled, oh no. Conspiracies within conspiracies, Egad!

Hit the just to see the video, and decide for yourself if you want to believe!

Continue reading By the Light of the Moon

Reluctantly Relevant

What’s Happening in the Lab


Good Tuesday to you all, and welcome back to work! I am sure most of you went in to your place of work yesterday, but I’d wager many of you were feeling like me and just skating by, trying to make it through the day without doing anything. Since Tuesday is the back to work day, when we all try to get something done before the idea of the coming weekend distracts us, and yet still most likely none of us really want to be working, perhaps we should check what’s happening in the lab. I mean, of course, the illustrious Muppet Labs, run by the esteemed Dr. Bunsen, ably aided by his assistant Beaker! These sketches made an appearance in all five seasons of The Muppet Show, and in the interest of improving your day, thanks to, click here to find a link to not only a list of every episode with a summary of the tale told inside, but also a link to a clip of each sketch! A sample of what you will find lies after the jump!

Continue reading What’s Happening in the Lab

Genius Innovators

Chertok’s Mustache


Hopefully you all got the chance to read the article linked in yesterday’s post, about the Soviet mission to resuscitate the Salyut 7 Space Station. In the comments of that article, the author, Nickolai Belakovski, mentioned this little story from Boris Chertok, a senior official at Energiya, a major Russian space company. (“Formed out of Korolev’s design bureau OKB-1, the same design bureau that launched Sputnik and Gagarin.” Read more about Chertok’s pretty impressive career at astronautix, and check out his books, ‘Rockets and People‘ available in pdf from NASA.) Chertok was discussing the decision by mission controllers to re-activate the [primary comm system that had auto-shutdown on the station. This decision caused the major short that shut the station off completely and necessitated the repair mission. In regards to those mission controllers, ‘He describes them using the Russian phrase “Мы сами с усами” which translates literally to “We too have mustaches,” (unfortunately the translation doesn’t rhyme like the original) and more practically to “We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck”‘.

I find the expression “We too have mustaches” to be completely awesome, and I hope to start using in conversation. As one whose spouse really isn’t a fan of the mustache, loathe is perhaps too gentle of a word, the meaning for me skews a little more towards, “Shit happens.”

Happy Friday everyone.

[Ed. We hope to have comments enabled soon. Right now our commenting system too has mustaches. Thank you for your patience and for continuing to visit Atomic Toasters.]

Pushing Boundaries

Rescue T-13


Yesterday I discovered a fascinating story about a daring space adventure back in 1985, a rescue mission to save the Soviet space station Salyut 7, the direct processor to Mir. This tale was posted over on the arstechnica website, and I am not going to do it an injustice by trying to retell it, but instead wet your whistle a little bit to pique your interest, then send you over there!

At 1:20pm and 51 seconds on February 11, 1985, Salyut 7 became unresponsive. The Russians now had two choices, let the station die, fall out of orbit uncontrolled, while waiting for Mir to come online; or plan an unprecedented repair mission requiring a never attempted “Docking with a non-cooperative object”. The state of the station was unclear–had there been a fire, had there been a micro-meteor strike, was it habitable?–but the mission was a go. June 6, 1985, Soyuz T-13 launched with Vladimir Dzhanibekov as commander and Victor Savinikh as flight engineer, and this story is theirs.

“The story happened in 1985 but subsequently vanished into obscurity. Over the years, many details have been twisted, others created. Even the original storytellers got some things just plain wrong. After extensive research, writer Nickolai Belakovski is able to present, for the first time to an English-speaking audience, the complete story of Soyuz T-13’s mission to save Salyut 7, a fascinating piece of in-space repair history. Belakovski is an engineer with a background in aerospace engineering. He is fluent in English and Russian and gathered a number of technical and non-technical sources in order to understand what really happened in the leadup to and execution of the Soyuz T-13 mission.”

Read the full story, “The Little-Known Soviet Mission to Rescue a Dead Space Station–How two Cosmonauts battled extreme cold, darkness, and limited resources to save Salyut 7.” on arstechnica!


Gumdrop Meets Spider

Gumbdrop meets Spider

Apollo 9 will probably never be remembered by the general population like Apollo 13 (thank you Forrest Gump) and Apollo 11 (thank you Walter Cronkite). However, it was an important step before man could walk on the moon. It was in the crawling phase and merely orbited our blue marble. Apollo 9 was the third manned Apollo mission. It was the second flight of the Saturn V rocket. It was the first flight to include the Command/Service Module with the Lunar Module. The three man crew — made up of Commander James McDivitt, Command Module Pilot David Scott, and Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart — tested the docking maneuver necessary to reorient the CSM and LM from their launch configuration to “circle the moon and land and hopefully make it back” configuration. That’s where this photo comes in. CMP David Scott is standing in the open hatch after mating the CSM, named Gumdrop, to the LM, named Spider. The photo was taken by LMP Schweickart who was also performing an EVA to spend some time on the LM “porch”.

I wonder if he was sipping tea.

[Ed. We hope to have comments enabled soon. There are some technical challenges we are working through at the moment to ensure a pleasant and spam-free experience for our readers. Thank you for your patience and for continuing to visit Atomic Toasters.]