Flight Of The Conchords’ Bret McKenzie Is Working On An Animated Series About NASA

bret-mckenzie-untitled-animated-tv-series-foxFor now, it seems like Flight of the Conchords, the musical/comedy duo Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are taking a hiatus. Clement appeared as the villain in Men in Black 3 and voiced the character Nigel in the Rio animated films. McKenzie, on the other hand, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Man or Muppet” from 2011′s The Muppets, and he’s returning to handle the music duties for the Muppet sequel, Muppets Most Wanted. While McKenzie is busy with songwriting for films, he’s also set to produce a new animated series for Fox.

According to TV Guide, McKenzie’s new animated TV series is a workplace comedy that will follow “the exploits of a group of employees toiling away at an almost-obsolete NASA space center in Boulder, Colorado.” Although McKenzie will produce the new series with King of the Hill writer/producers Tony Gama-Lobo and Rebecca May, he has not yet committed to voicing any of its characters, but according to the entertainment outlet, it remains a possibility.


SpaceX Is One Step Closer To Manned Flight Capability

DragonBack in 2009, NASA began the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), designed to promote private sector development of human spaceflight. The eventual goal is to jumpstart a spaceflight industry capable of taking tourists and government astronauts into space. The program’s focus is on crew transportation system designs, an important first step in the development of a commercial industry which is predicted to deliver cheap, reliable, and more efficient transportation of space-going folks into Low-Earth Orbit. In 2012, NASA received proposals from companies committed to working on fully developed and integrated crew transportation systems. SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada Corporation were among those that received funding after a NASA evaluation, and are now expected to meet 15 milestones on the way to realizing their privatized human spaceflight plans. SpaceX just reached, and passed, the eighth milestone—a review of its in-flight abort procedures.

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft made its first manned test flight in December 2010, and a few years later became the first commercial vessel to dock with the ISS. Dragon is partially reusable, and will be sent into space by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The recent review focused on the craft’s SuperDraco engines, the software that controls the abort procedure, and the communication between the Dragon and the Falcon 9.


Space Racers And NASA Aim To Take Over Preschool Entertainment

space racersIf you have children you’ve probably been inundated by one program after the other that teaches kids how to count, spell, speak, share, play, and a wealth of other information to shape their growing minds. And while I’ll always be partial to Sesame Street and the Muppets, I despise hearing shows like Calliou or Backyardigans wailing away in the background as I let the TV babysit my daughter while I write stories like this. Please withhold judgment. But soon I may be able to share her enjoyment of the upcoming series Space Racers, a science-based animated series backed by none other than NASA. Members provide technical consultation for the show.

Space Racers is the brainchild of Richard Schweiger, who was inspired a few years ago by a trip to Washington D.C.’s National Air and Space Museum. There he watched his two young sons have a blast with toy rocket ships he’d purchased from the gift shop and a light bulb went on. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how amazing would it be to do a show where the characters are the spaceships, and the spaceships can go on missions through the solar system?’” he told Entertainment Weekly. Little did he realize how far this idea would travel.


NASA Prepares Orion For Unmanned Flight Tests

Orion capsule mock-upDespite the government shutdown, NASA was able to continue working on the Orion, NASA’s next manned spacecraft. Before any humans step aboard the ship sometimes referred to as “Apollo on steroids,” the space agency will continue working on the ship in preparation for its debut test flight in September of next year.

Next fall, a Delta IV heavy rocket will launch the Lockheed Martin-designed Orion capsule from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Exploration Flight Test is designed to assess a number of critical functions, including the capsule’s heat shield, which will be tested as it plunges into Earth’s fiery atmosphere at speeds of 20,000 mph. Orion’s heat shield, like Apollo’s features “Avcoat,” which essentially removes the heat of reentry and stores it in a honeycomb matrix. This latest model will be the largest in the world, roughly 17 feet across. The flight will also test other structural components of the craft, as well as avionics and software. Ideally the results will allow developers to assess risks and ways to mitigate them.


Asteroid That Zoomed Past Earth Last Month Probably Won’t Hit Us In 2032. Probably.

asteroidIt seems that asteroid-related doomsday predictions have become a staple of science news. Yep, there are asteroids out there. Yep, we’ll eventually mine them. And yep, one passed by Earth just last month, coming within 4.2 million miles of our planet (in space terms, that’s actually pretty close). In 19 years, that same asteroid will have another pass at Earth, but NASA has calculated there’s a 99.998% chance that it won’t hit us. Those are pretty good odds. But some people don’t like being told the odds, and other people prefer to focus on the .002% chance that this asteroid will hit us. I guess maybe it makes life more interesting?

Asteroid 2013 TV135 (what’s with these names?) is roughly 1,300 feet wide, and, if it did hit Earth, it would make a nuclear bomb look puny — the explosion would be about 50 times greater. It was discovered by Ukrainian astronomers on October 8th, but it wasn’t until after astronomers began tracking it that they realized how close it had come to Earth a few weeks earlier.


President Jimmy Carter’s Voyager Letter To Any Theoretical Extraterrestrials Out There

VoyagerThe Voyager 1 probe made history last month when scientists agreed that it had finally, officially ventured beyond our solar system and entered interstellar space. Even if Voyager’s distance traveled is not even a gnat’s eyelash when considered against the unfathomable scale of our universe, it was still an exciting landmark, one that reminds us that our species is capable of great accomplishments when we’re not so facedown in the mud that we lose sight of the stars.

You’ve all probably heard of the so-called “Golden Records” that were included on the Voyager craft. They contain tons of images, sounds, and information about our species and our world, designed to serve as a sort of time capsule of who and what we were at the time we sent Voyager 1 and 2 off into the void. They also contained copies of a letter from then-President Jimmy Carter, a greeting to any extraterrestrial explorers who might someday cross paths with Voyager. (Admittedly, a very unlikely scenario given the sheer size of our galaxy, and the comparative tininess of Voyager. But you never know.) While the aliens obviously wouldn’t speak English, the many different languages included on the Records would theoretically serve as a sort of Rosetta Stone to help them interpret our messages.