NASA

For the 50th Anniversary of Man on the Moon I Picked Up the NASA Graphics Standards Manual

On July 20th, 1969 I was seven and a half years old and I still remember being glued to the TV as the first live broadcast from the lunar surface was beamed back to Earth. The family was downstairs in our family room/office. Walter Cronkite was giving the play by play and then they cut to a grainy picture of Neal Armstrong as he stepped off the ladder and spoke his now famous line. ” That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

I have always been a bit of a space nut. I think being born at the beginning of the space race helped solidify that in me. I’ve been fascinated with everything from the space flight itself to the amazing illustrations produced for NASA.

With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, I decided to break down and pick up a copy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Graphic Standards Manual. It’s been out for a few years and has been on my short list so I finally decided to pull the trigger and pick it up.

For a designer and self-professed space nerd, this is pure heaven. This is a few hundred pages of the design systems put in place by Richard Danne, Bruce Blackburn, and the staff at Danne & Blackburn in 1974.

This reissue is a modern spin on the original which was a series of bound documents designed to be distributed to internally and externally to coordinate the NASA brand for the world. The reissue book is all about faithfully reproducing what Danne & Blackburn while infusing history and additional details. Details like the anti-static foil sleeve that it arrives in.

The book is an authoritative reference compiled from scans of 35mm slides presented to NASA in 1974, normally shielded from those without clearance.

The manual covers everything from spaceship graphics to brochures, including specific details on how to type a letter using the NASA letterhead.

This is the ultimate “brand bible” for the formidable application of a graphic identity system in an otherworldly institution. The NASA Graphics Standard Manual is a meticulous facsimile of Danne & Blackburn’s 1974 re-branding of the agency. An authoritative reference compiled from scans of Danne’s own personal copy, the book also includes an introduction by Danne, alongside an extended essay on the culture of the agency by Christopher Bonanos.

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“In Saturn’s Rings” Stephen van Vuuren’s 4K Journey Into Space.

South African filmmaker Stephen van Vuuren is working on an IMAX film titled  In Saturn’s Rings. The film is being created by stitching, processing, and animating over one million images. The result is a spectacular immersive journey from the view point of Cassini-Huygens mission using Saturn and 25 additional sources.

Vuuren’s  film has been in development for a few years now, and its slated for release in IMAX at 6K resolution early next year. The visual process, which compiles still photographs into a moving images, is a proprietary  system by Van Vurren himself and if the trailer shows that this is going to be one beautiful film. The trailer is below, but if you click through to YouTube you can watch in 4K resolution which looks fantastic.

“The goal is to use large screen imagery, synchronized to powerful but moving music, to create an experience for those who see it, hear it and feel it.”

The Overview Effect

If you are in Kansas City today, you’re probably trapped inside do to the snowstorm. That means you probably have 20 minutes to spare. If you’re living some place where the climate is being a bit more hospitable take some time and watch this short documentary anyway.

The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

‘Overview’ is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect. The film also features insights from commentators and thinkers on the wider implications and importance of this understanding for society, and our relationship to the environment.

OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

Bloom Box: a power plant for the home

Today, K.R. Sridhar a former NASA employee will officially unveil what he and his company Bloom Energy have been working on in virtual secrecy for the last 4 years. The Bloom Energy power box.

With the help of an estimated $400 million in private funding, Bloom Energy took technology from an oxygen generator meant for a scrapped NASA Mars program, and converted them into refrigerator sized fuel cell power units that are currently being used by corporate clients like Walmart, FedEx, Ebay, and Google.

The corporate-sized cells cost $700,000 to $800,000 and are installed at 20 customers you’ve already heard of including FedEx and Wal-mart — Google was first to this green energy party, using its Bloom Boxes to power a data center for the last 18 months. Ebay has installed its boxes on the front lawn of its San Jose location. It estimates to receive almost 15% of its energy needs from Bloom, saving about $100,000 since installing its five boxes 9 months ago

Bloom Energy’s design feeds oxygen into one side of a cell while fuel (natural gas, bio gas from landfill waste, solar, etc) is supplied to the other side to provide the chemical reaction required for power. The cells themselves are inexpensive ceramic disks painted with a top-secret green “ink” on one side and a black “ink” on the other. The disks are separated by a cheap metal alloy, instead of more precious metals like platinum, and stacked into a cube of varying capabilities — a stack of 64 can power a small business like Starbucks, or more importantly, a small home. According to Bloom, two units could power a large American household greater than 3000 square feet. Pretty impressive don’t you think.

Bloom makes about one box a day at the moment and believes that within 5 to 10 years it can drive down the cost to about $3,000 to make it suitable for home use.

I can’t wait for the official announcement and press release to see where this going. I think this is one of the more exciting green energy announcements from the last few years. Last Sunday there was a full interview with Bloom Energy on 60 Minutes. You can see the video here.