Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Artoo in Love


So today I get to hit you with the best three minutes and thirty seconds you have ever seen on YouTube. And if you're a fan of Star Wars, you will of course consider this an R2-D2 "spinoff" film -- hopefully the first of many??

The aerial shots and special effects alone are worth the cinematic interest, the sound effects are a crack-up, and to anyone who has grown up watching Star Wars (and that's all of us), it's stunning the degree to which this little droid can still draw adoration from our hearts.
"I don't know. Fly casual."

Who hasn't fallen head-over-wheels in love this way, fallen into depression after being chase off by a Sithy-bot, but then prevailed by finding an even better electrical match? Aww, don't cry over stolen mailboxes, R2. (Because C-3PO totally would have called her "Yoko," anyway.)

You're nodding. See, I knew it.

We've all been there:

See YouTube Page for full Film Credits

The short-and-sweet film was written and directed by engineer Evan Atherton, who together with the star's R2-D2 builder and film producer Grant McKinney, used Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop in San Francisco to 3D print parts for R2-KT (the pink robot love interest).

STAR WARS meets 3-D PRINTERS. It's all too magical.

"Artoo in Love" premiered at the Sonoma Film Festival, drawing attention, articles, and reviews from the likes of Esquire, Boing Boing, the New York Daily News, the Dork Side, Huffington Post, and my personal favorite, San Francisco Travel. Wow! Not too shabby for a debut short!

It even crossed the pond to appear in the UK's Mirror. As it spreads around the world, one wonders if there is no Tinder equivalent for hardware?

R2-D2 builder Grant McKinney (left) with pals at Yuri's Night
(Space Shuttle Endeavour Pavilion - CA Sciences Center)
Photo Credit: Gerard Fajardo

Be sure you watch "Artoo In Love" a few times -- appreciating the amazing original score! Laughter, tears, lightning bolts! This has it all.

And I'm not just saying that because it was filmed in San Francisco, my home city, and, in my not even remotely humble opinion, the absolute BEST skyline in the world. But that part didn't hurt.   

Robot romance in the future site of Starfleet Headquarters?? That's the stuff.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Countdown to Yuri's Night!


 On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to enter space. Secured in a small capsule named Vostok 1, he launched from Leninsk, Kazakhstan (now renamed "Baikonur"), the first and still-largest space launch facility in the world. The 27-year-old cosmonaut made a historic 106-minute (not 108!) orbital flight around planet Earth.

Юрий Гагарин
Юрий Гагарин 1934 - 1968

In 1962, the Soviet Union established День Космонавтики, or "Cosmonautics Day,” to commemorate this amazing achievement.

In 2001, Loretta Hidalgo, George T. Whitesides and Trish Garner founded "Yuri’s Night," with the support of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) — and each year since, the parties celebrating the first human in space have only grown larger! This year, festivities all around the world are being held between April 4th – April 12th. The current count for Yuri’s Night parties is 160 parties in 42 countries!

The goal of Yuri's Night is to increase public interest in space exploration and to inspire a new generation of explorers. Driven by a worldwide network of celebrations and educational events, Yuri's Night creates a global community committed to the future of exploration while developing leaders and innovators.

Yuri's Night 2015

This year, *THE* place to be is the Space Station Museum!

On Saturday, April 11th from  noon to 8pm, this particular party will be the only one on the North American continent with actual Yuri Gagarin artifacts on display.

There are precious few places where one can see AND TOUCH Russian Cosmonautica outside of Russia... and The Space Station Museum in Novato, California is one of them! (Kansas Cosmosphere being the other big draw.)

Who can pass up Russian Tea Cookies... with TANG??

The highlight of the Yuri's Night celebration will be a LIVE Skype session with astronaut Dan Bursch at 5:00pm, to reflect on the significance of Yuri Gagarin's historical flight into space and answer questions from any and all space enthusiasts.

Yuri's Night

Please feel free to come in a space-themed costume! And bring your camera. There will be lots of good photo ops!


Tickets are not actually needed, but TSSM would like an estimate for attendance, so please register a free ticket at the Event Brite website if you plan to attend.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


That's not a typo! Vacation!

I'm sorry I have not been writing as often as usual -- but it's also gratifying to have so many new projects, even if they divide my attention!

I'm going on another blog hiatus, but for happier reasons. For the first time in 6 years, I am taking a GENUINE vacation, where there is no "work" involved before or after fun days off.

For three weeks, I'll be traveling through the Dutch Antilles and Latin America, and I'm not taking my laptop. I guess by the end of week 1, I'll know if "not being connected to the internet" is a relief, or bringing on serious withdrawal.

 I'm off to Aruba, Curacao, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica...
See you on the flipside!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Weightless 3D Printing: The Next Giant Leap


The race to Mars quietly enjoyed two giant leaps toward reality in recent months. A journey to the red planet poses many challenges: propulsion, radiation shielding, predicting what a ship and crew would need to make the journey, and of course, human health over the 500+ theoretical mission days.

Addressing the health piece, NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and RFSA Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend an entire year in orbit, a long-duration experiment designed to study physiological changes in weightlessness, as well as psychological reactions to isolation.

The other piece? A small company called Made In Space announced that an astronaut on the International Space Station installed their 3D printer inside the Micro-Gravity Science GloveBox, created the first test print in orbit, then further printed a custom tool for a repair. Before the printer was there, Barry "Butch" Wilmore would have had to wait for the right tool to be delivered on the next rocket from Earth!

Butch Wilmore and the 3D Ratchet
The ratchet heard 'round the world

Many moons ago, I wrote a blog article entitled "Regolith Castles" (March 2011) wherein I detailed the adventures of Enrico Dini, who used lunar analog material to make giant 3D prints (or, layered composites based on 3D software models) of structures that might one day be used to build habitats in low gravity on our Moon.

3D printers were invented in the 1980s, but it took until the 2000s for them to show up in TED talks and seminars about new "disruptive technologies" of the 21st century. Also now known as "additive manufacturing," 3D printing has now made splashes in many supply industries (from metals to chocolate!) and was even featured on The Big Bang Theory in January of 2013. Can a reality TV show be far behind??

If anyone had asked me "How long until we have a 3D printer that can operate in micro-gravity?" I'm quite sure my answer would have been, "It won't be on this current space station. It will be on the next one after 2030." Then, perhaps, Enrico Dini's visions in the next decade. But, the leap came earlier than expected!


Made In Space has completed 20+ 3D prints in orbit since the first test print in November of 2014, and will compare the items made in micro-gravity to those made on Earth.

This changes everything.


3-D printers on the ground? New. Cool. Fun! 3D printer in space?? This doesn't just change the game. It changes the entire sport. Imagine basically emailing new items into space instead of launching them inside rockets.

As with most spacetweeps, the first thing that popped into my head was Apollo 13. With the ability to send software to a spacecraft, and print whatever parts are needed, the practical applications are at once obvious -- and mind-blowing.

Apollo 13

Launching heavy hardware is expensive. Any spacecraft can now potentially take printers and lighter raw materials, to create customized tools with reduced human effort. When there's no making a quick U-turn back to Earth in dire emergencies, a machine that can swiftly print what is needed, on demand, from a medical cast for a broken wrist to new receptacles for the inevitable hydroponics farms, the 3D printer becomes the new "Spacecraft Must Have."

The technology will extend to food such as 3D printed pizza, accessories such as 3D printed cameras, and eventually, perhaps even metals for hull or hatch repairs, or fabrics for spacesuit patches. One thing is certain: in the not-far-future, probably closer than we think, there will be no such thing as a mission without multiple additive manufacturing printers.

3D printers will be the new way we build things in space: satellites, space stations, spacecraft internal quarters, and ultimately, off-world colony habitats. No more lugging along millions of dollars worth of spare parts that must be stored, but may never be used.

Additive Manufacturing Facility
Second Printer: The AMF
Photo courtesy of Made In Space, Inc.

Made In Space will be launching it's second printer in 2015, the AMF, or "Additive Manufacturing Facility." NASA will still be a customer, but in addition to their continued experiments with station supplies, this larger and higher-precision hardware will be made commercially available to companies, universities, government agencies, and artists who are interested in the ability to create objects in space.