What’s the Difference Between a Rocket and Space Plane? Amazing Hand-Drawn Animations Explain It All

You gotta love Earth’s atmosphere. It basically makes life (as we know it) possible on our planet by providing warmth and air to breathe, as well as protecting us from nasty space things like radiation and smaller asteroids. But for studying space (i.e., astronomy) or coming back to Earth from space, the atmosphere is a pain.

Last year, we introduced you to freelance animator and storyboard artist Stanley VonMedvey, who started creating short, hand-drawn videos to explain a complex topic: how spacecraft work. These videos are wonderfully concise, clear and easy to understand. Plus Stan’s hand-drawn animations are incredible.

His series, “Stan Draws Spaceships” now has a new video that shows the complexities of how spacecraft return to Earth through our atmosphere, comparing the partially reusable Falcon 9 and fully reusable Skylon. Take a look below. Again, the hand-drawn animations are impeccable and Stan’s explanations are just captivating.

I was trying to think of sufficient accolades for Stan’s work, but I can’t do any better than one commentor on Stan’s YouTube Channel. MarsLettuce said, “The attention to detail here is insane. The air intake being shorn off by drag was especially great. The sequence of her hands making the paper plane was subdued, but it added a lot. The characters were really well done, too. I love the reaction of Stan being hit by the paper airplane. It’s hilarious.”

Stan’s earlier videos explain expendable launch vehicles and the space shuttle.

He describes himself as “completely obsessed with and fascinated by space exploration,” and he wants to share what he’s learned over the years about spaceflight.

Stan would like the opportunity and resources to make more videos, and has started a Patreon page to help in this process. Right now, he creates the videos on his own (he told us he uses the time-honored home-recording technique of draping a blanket over his head) in his home office. It takes him roughly 2.5 months to produce a 5 minute episode.

“I’d like to make a lot more videos,” he writes on Patreon, “explaining things like Hohmman transfers and laser propulsion and the construction techniques of O’Neill cylinders. I want to make long form videos (2-3 minutes) that explain a general idea, and short form videos (30 seconds) that cover a single word, like “ballistics” or “reaction control.”

An artist’s conception of Reaction Engines’ Skylon spacecraft. Credit: Reaction Engines

So, check out Stan’s videos and his Patreon page. If you’d like to see more, consider supporting his work. See more of his drawings at his website.

Incredible Hand-Drawn Animations Explain How Spacecraft Work

Freelance animator and storyboard artist Stanley VonMedvey has started using his remarkable talents to create short videos to explain a pretty complex topic: how spacecraft work. He’s made two so far and they are wonderfully concise, clear and easy to understand. Plus his hand-drawn animations are incredible.

Here’s the first one that caught my eye, about the space shuttle and the concept of reusability:

VonMedvey describes himself as “completely obsessed with and fascinated by space exploration,” and he wants to share what he’s learned over the years about spaceflight.

He’d like the opportunity and resources to make more videos, and has started a Patreon page to help in this process. Right now, he creates the videos on his own (using the time-honored home-recording technique of draping a blanket over his head) in his home officee.

“I’d like to make a lot more videos,” he writes on Patreon, “explaining things like Hohmman transfers and laser propulsion and the construction techniques of O’Neill cylinders. I want to make long form videos (2-3 minutes) that explain a general idea, and short form videos (30 seconds) that cover a single word, like “ballistics” or “reaction control”.

The second video he’s done covers expendable launch vehicles:

Enjoy these great videos and if you’d like to see more, consider supporting his work. See more of his drawings at his website.

Why Is the Solar System Flat?

It’s no mystery that the planets, moons, asteroids, etc. in the Solar System are arranged in a more-or-less flat, plate-like alignment in their orbits around the Sun.* But why is that? In a three-dimensional Universe, why should anything have a particular alignment at all? In yet another entertaining video from the folks at MinutePhysics, we see the reason behind this seemingly coincidental feature of our Solar System — and, for that matter, pretty much all planetary systems that have so far been discovered (not to mention planetary ring systems, accretion disks, many galaxies… well, you get the idea.) Check it out above.

Video by MinutePhysics. Created by Henry Reich
Continue reading “Why Is the Solar System Flat?”

A Day in the Life of a Living Mars

Back in January we posted some intriguing images showing concepts of what a terraformed “living Mars” might look like from orbit. With a bit of creative license, software engineer Kevin Gill turned the Red Planet into its own version of the Blue Marble. He’s now created an animation showing a rotating Mars and compressed 24 hours to one minute.

Kevin explains how he did the animation:

The base two dimensional elevation model was generated using data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter aboard the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft and satellite imagery from the Blue Marble Next Generation project. Sea level was set non-scientifically, but such that it would flood much of Valles Marineris as well as provide shoreline near the cliffs on the outer edges of Olympus Mons. The clouds are straight from NASA’s Blue Marble NG project and height mapped (rather arbitrarily, but looks good) by relative opacity (The more opaque a point, the higher up in the atmosphere I put it). This was rendered using a digital elevation modeling program I am writing, jDem846, with some extras baked in through its scripting interface, and encoded to video with ffmpeg. Because I defaulted to Earth-based time, each frame is about one minute in time over twenty-four hours.

Kevin told us that this project was “something that I did both out of curiosity of what it would look like and to improve the software I was rendering this in,” he said via email. “I am a software engineer by trade and certainly no planetary scientist, so with the exception of any parts derived from actual data, most of it is assumptions I made based on simply comparing the Mars terrain to similar features here on Earth (e.g. elevation, proximity to bodies of water, physical features, geographical position, etc) and then using the corresponding textures from the Blue Marble images to paint the flat image layer in a graphics program.”

This is a fun and thought-provoking look at what Mars may have looked in the past … or if things had worked out just a little differently in our Solar System!