There’s some evidence that microbes living inside a rock could be blasted from their home planet, travel through space, and then crash-land on a new planet relatively unscathed. Throughout the ALH84001 debate, scientists assumed fossils could also withstand the grueling journey, but it looks like nobody actually set out to test it—until now.
For the July issue of Popular Science, we—the Office for Creative Research—created a data visualization celebrating NASA’s long history of aerospace innovation. Since 1959, NASA has published a document called “Astronautics & Aeronautics Chronology” nearly every year, compiling news coverage of science, technology, and policy at the agency. In these compilations, NASA is reporting its own history. What kinds of stories do these documents hold? How has their language changed over the last six decades? To explore these questions, we created “The Whole Brilliant Enterprise,” a text-based visualization drawn from—by our count—4,861,706 words of NASA history.
Ever since NASA established its history program in 1959, the agency has periodically compiled the world’s aeronautics advances into a single report. Assembled mostly from press releases and news stories, the documents recount coverage of budget negotiations alongside milestones like the shuttle program and the moon landing. Data illustrators at the Office for Creative Research distilled the trove of reports from 11,000 pages and 4.9 million words into just over 4,000 discrete phrases. Their illustration charts the frequency of some of the most important terms, colored by topic and arranged by time, and presents a new view of how NASA took humanity to the stars.
The Space Shuttle Columbia carried the Chandra X-ray Observatory into space on July 23, 1999. To commemorate the telescope's quinceañera, NASA has released four beautiful new images of supernova remnants, processed from Chandra's readings, that showcase the observatory's capabilities.
Forty-five years ago, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the first footprints on the Moon, and it was epic. Popular Science covered this enormous achievement with an article by Wernher von Braun– a German-born engineer, now known as "The Father of Rocket Science," who built the Saturn V launch vehicle that brought Apollo to the Moon. In our July 1969 issue, he described the plans for Armstrong and Aldrin's two-hour rendevous with the Moon.