DIY Space Travel

Copenhagen Suborbitals is a non-profit, do-it-yourself space program based in Denmark. You read that correctly. Funded by sponsors and donors and staffed by volunteers who stop in after their usual 9-to-5 is finished, “CopSub” builds vehicles destined for suborbital (~100km) flight. Their ultimate mission is to send a manned vehicle into space using their own research and technology - meaning they’ve started from scratch and, on principle, will not apply any government-funded research to their projects. Absolutely incredible.

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Conceptual drawings for the Tycho Brahe, CopSub’s first vessel.

Maybe even more incredible is where this research and manufacturing is conducted. The CopSub team operates out of a decommissioned shipyard on the island of Refshaleøen near Copenhagen.image

Inside the CopSub hangar

Surely this is just a bunch of nerdy Danes tinkering around in an old garage. There’s no way this project would actually work, right? Wrong. The guy-in-a-tube drawing that you see above actually made its way into space in 2011:

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Tycho Brahe, space-bound

When I found out about CopSub and saw those conceptual drawings, I had to find out more about the maniac who stuffed into that tiny spaceship and shot himself into space. Slightly disappointed, I discovered the unfortunate truth: he turned out to be a crash test dummy. 

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- Dave

Taxi, 1957 Canopy, 1958 Snow, 1960 Red Umbrella, 1957 Don't Walk, 1952 Tulips, 1954 Postmen, 1952 Newspaper Kiosk, 1955 Grey Umbrella, c. 1954

Without any formal training, Saul Leiter began taking his own photographs on the streets of New York City in the 1940s. His amateur works were quickly recognized by Edward Steichen, who included him in two shows at the MoMA not long later in the 50’s.

For some 40 years after those exhibits, Leiter’s continued to take pictures for his own pleasure, but his personal photography remained just that - his own, not shared with the public.

It wasn’t until the 90’s that Leiter revisited his collection of slides and began to make prints again.

His work is both spatially expansive and confining. What often looks accidental, his framing is almost scientific, as he unconventionally captures moments of tranquility in the frenzied commotion of New York.

His shots are still and serene, but full of life and motion. His color pallet looks carefully curated but also abstract and improvised.

Leiter once said that he usually purchased inexpensive color film that was past its expiration date, because he liked to be surprised by the strange shifts in color that would result.

Above are some of my favorite works by Leiter. His use of negative space and the movement that he conveys is what really grabbed me and first turned me on to his photographs. It’s an inspiring reminder that the camera is an extension of the eye, arm and mind, and that you don’t need to be a trained professional to use one.

- PS

Photos courtesy: Jackson Fine Art

"We had an expansive run in the 60’s and the 70’s. You might have thought, as I did then, that our species would be on Mars before the century was over. But instead, we’ve pulled inward. Robots aside, we’ve backed off from the planets and the stars. I keep asking myself: is it a failure of nerve, or a sign of maturity?”  - Carl Sagan

The Sagan Series is an education project created in promotion of scientific literacy. Part 6, above, was produced last summer in the midst of NASA’s final space shuttle launch, combining voiceover from Sagan’s famous Pale Blue Dot with various classic space footage. One year later, the astronomer’s words are as powerful as ever.

- Maggie

The Burchfield Penney’s current Useum exhibit is fantastic. If you’re a fan of Sendak, Dahl, or “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” you’ll want to stop in. “Secret Spaces,” on display through Sept. 19, explores the crevices of our homes and spaces we escape to, and what secrets we leave there. It’s convenient to think of these “secrets” and “spaces” as being merely metaphorical, but we’ve all got somewhere we go, or someone we share hidden selves with. This exhibit gives anonymous voice to these recesses, exposing the freedom that comes with leaving your baggage somewhere else for others to find. Also on display, for those naysaying adults who think kids are little people to talk to, and not with, the depths of intellectual and emotional maturity in the minds of our young ones.

-Ben