Space Shuttles are BIG!

We’ve heard a lot about the space shuttle program recently, after Discovery’s final launch last week. There are two more shuttle launches planned – Endeavour on April 19 and Atlantis on June 28 this year. After that, the shuttles are scrapped and the US will be relying on the Russians for trips to the International Space Station.

But I think it’s nice to have a reminder of the sheer scale involved. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center recently tweeted these photos of the Endeavour being readied for launch.  Here’s the Endeavour being transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where it will be joined to booster rockets and an external fuel tank for takeoff.

Space Shuttle Endeavour on a 76 wheel transporter. Credit: NASAKennedy

The VAB is the world’s largest single-story building: it’s 160m tall, 218m long and 158m wide. So how do you get a massive shuttle like that upright, and move it around the assembly building? With a really big winch:

Space Shuttle Endeavour on a winch in the VAB. Credit: NASAKennedy
And here’s a shot of it still on the winch and now joined with the fuel tank and booster rockets. That fuel tank holds 535,000 gallons (2,026,244 liters) of liquid oxygen and hydrogen!

Endeavour is lowered into place next to its external tank and solid rocket boosters. Credit: NASAKennedy

For more photos – including the Endeavour being driven through a shuttle-shaped doorway! – check out Universe Today’s post.

Last year, this brilliant video was made showing the process of moving the shuttle to the VAB and then to the launch.

Incredible!

Images posted to Twitter by NASAKennedy.

Diaspora

Remember the outcry when Facebook changed its privacy settings every 6 weeks? A group of university students decided to make an alternative social network that gave ownership and control of information to the users, and they called it Diaspora. Raising over US$200,000 from Kickstarter, they set about designing and building a network focussed of freedom and privacy.

Central to Diaspora’s operation is the understanding that we all have different groups of people that we associate with, and our approach to them is different. What I share with my co-workers, for example, is different to what I share with my family or with my close friends. With Diaspora, managing that is easy – you can put people in different (fully customizable) ‘aspects’ of your life – Family, Work, Friends, General Public for example. For everything you share you determine which aspects have access to it. Facebook does this as well, but it’s a much less straight-forward approach.

The long-term plan for Diaspora is to decentralize it as well – so you can run it on your own Webhost and you’re not then subject to Facebook’s network. That’s not such a big deal now, but whenever you’re relying on one  company or party there’s always the risk that they can shut you down  – breaches of terms and conditions, for example. With Diaspora being distributed, and open-source, there’s no one organisation that can kill your account. That’s the future, though, at the moment it’s all running from the one spot – http://joindiaspora.org.

I’ve managed to score some invites, so I’ll be handing them out to some friends soon. It’ll be interesting to see how Diaspora goes, given the formidable competition they’re up against in Facebook.