Category: Space art

Detail of the Earthrise mosaic, a remake of the famous photo made in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission

Earthrise: Remake as a Digital Mosaic

Earthrise is the name of one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century. The photo of the Earth above the gray landscape of the Moon was made by astronaut Bill Anders during the Apollo 8 mission on December 24, 1968, Christmas Eve. On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Earthrise, NASA made this video, which shows in detail how the photograph came about. Fascinating, because it makes you feel like you are there in person. Merry Xmas Apollo 8 was a legendary achievement: the first three people traveling beyond Earth orbit. Their capsule brought them more than...

The inverted world map where land and sea have been swapped; continents are oceans, islands are lakes and the other way around, in colors inspired by NASA's Blue Marble imagery

The Inverted World Map – Variations on a Blue Marble

It probably happens to everyone who likes to look at maps. You imagine land to be water and water to be land. Continents to be oceans and and oceans to be continents. Islands to be lakes and lakes to be islands. I could not resist the temptation to make a detailed map of such a topsy-turvy world. But I am not the first to do so. A little bit of googling yields a nice collection of inverted maps. Vladislav Gerasimov, for example, made a lovely styled fantasy map. And Chris Wajan on his Panetocopia website extensively discusses climate, vegetation and...

The names of all bodies in the Solar System larger than 100 kilometres, with font sizes relative to their radius, based on the realistic colors of the objects against the black background of space

87 Members of the Solar Family

A while ago I made a family portrait of the solar system. Or rather a portrait of the leading members of the family, the eight planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Earth, Venus, Mars and Mercury. Moons, asteroids and dwarf planets But there’s more happening around the Sun. Moons for instance; our own Moon, of course, but also a large number of satellites of the four gas giants. There is an asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter where, besides a lot of little ones, also bigger objects are turning their rounds. But many asteroids can be found outside...

A room with world map Mars 2.0, showing the planet as it may look after terraforming, as decoration on the wall, while Mars rover Sojourner is driving around between the furniture

Mars 2.0 – Return to the Red, Green and Blue Planet

Liquid water has just been found on Mars. The movie The Martian (the perfect blend of Castaway and Apollo 13, with a touch of Saturday Night Fever) is in cinemas right now. And NASA has announced detailed plans to send people to Mars in twenty years. A good moment for me to take a look at the planet again as well. Mars Society Netherlands Mars and I have a long history together. In 1999 I founded, together with Arno Wielders (currently involved in Mars One) the Dutch chapter of the Mars Society in a café in Leiden. In the first...

Group portrait of the eight planets of our solar system, shown to scale: Earth, Venus, Mars and Mercury in their entirety and parts of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus

Portrait of the Planets

When you want to capture the whole Solar System in one image, you come across a problem: the distances between the eight planets and their star are huge, almost unimaginable. In all the pictures of the solar system you’ve ever seen the sizes of the planets are wrong: they are strongly exaggerated, by necessity. On a scale model of about two metres – a nice size to hang on the wall in your living room – the Earth would be only four thousandths of a millimeter. You wouldn’t even be able to see our homeworld! Heaven on Earth The only...

Impression of The Sulawesi Space Elevator, with a rotating space station and solar panels in the foreground, the Earth in the background and the cable with elevator cars in between.

The Space Elevator: It Ain’t Cheap, But…

An elevator into space: it sounds like science fiction. And that’s what it is: authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein and Kim Stanley Robinson wrote heavy books about it. But what’s science fiction today, is in the newspaper paper tomorrow and in the history books on the day after. And Arthur C. Clarke has been right more often; after all, he also conceived the communications satellite. An appealing concept In recent years, organizations such as NASA, but also companies like Google, started exploring the possibilities of the space elevator. And the concept certainly has some appeal. The traditional way to get...

Impression of solar sail Johannes Kepler on its way to the moons of Jupiter against a background of stars with the Earth on the left and the moon in the distance

Sailing on the Solar Wind

You can state by now that the wind is a recurring theme in my work. That’s shown most clearly by my triptych about wind energy on the North Sea. But also my plea for the rebuilding of windmill De Noord at Oostplein in Rotterdam fits perfectly into that story. Probably not everyone realizes that there’s wind also beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Another kind of wind, though: solar wind. The particles from which the sunlight is composed exert force on objects that are illuminated by it. Johannes Kepler was, in the 16th century, the first to realize this when he studied...

NASA's indestructible Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, still going strong after two hundred years, driving around on the terraformed former Red Planet

Opportunity’s Bicentennial

More than eleven years ago, on January 25, 2004, Opportunity, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover, landed in Meridiani Planum. An identical rover, Spirit, landed three weeks earlier, on the other side of Mars. Both vehicles were expected to remain active for 90 Martian days, more or less equal to three months on Earth. The Martian climate would claim its toll, or so the mission planners feared. Although on Mars the sun shines more than six hundred days a year, the dust storms and large daily temperature differences would surely leave their mark. Indestructible Oppy But the rovers appeared to be more...

Orbital image of a terraformed Mars with the Northern ocean and the North Pole, Valles Marineris, Kasei Vallis, Arabia Terra and the Tharsis highlands, against a background of stars

Modified Mars Revisited

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone who asked my permission to use Modified Mars as a setting for a novel. Modified Mars is a project that I conceived eight years ago, and it’s about terraforming the world currently known as the Red Planet. Another Earth A brief explanation for those who rarely or never read science fiction: terraforming (literally earth formation) is the alteration of a planet in such a way that Earth organisms, including humans, can thrive there. Terraformers are especially interested in Mars for several reasons: the planet is not too big, not too...

Kerstkaart met schilderachtig beeld van een kerkje in het winterlandschap in nationaal park Thingvellir in IJsland

Merry Christmars

For decades, I’ ve been putting a great deal of work into my Christmas cards. And sometimes into those of others. This year I made one by commission of Explore Mars, a (mostly) American non-profit organization that promotes Manned Mars exploration: The design and the text “Two Down, Mars and the Universe to go” is a reference to Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” and the recent landing of the European spacecraft Philae on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Mars comes into view as the next big step. And after that there are a few hundred billion stars and their planets to...