Aug
24
2017
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Descartes Labs raises $30 million Series B for its brand of geospatial analytics

 Descartes Labs is announcing a $30 million Series B this morning in a large round led by March Capital. This comes just three months after one of Descartes’ largest competitors, Orbital Insight, closed its own $50 million Series C with Sequoia. Both Descartes and Orbital are playing in the emerging market of geospatial analytics. These companies use machine learning to produce insights… Read More

May
02
2017
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Orbital Insight closes $50M Series C led by Sequoia

 Orbital Insight, a geospatial analytics startup, announced it had completed raising a $50 million Series C round of financing from Sequoia. The fresh capital brings the company’s total fundraising to $78.7 million. Read More

Apr
02
2017
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Commission your own traffic and construction studies without ever leaving bed using SpaceKnow

 The number of things that can be done from the comfort of one’s own bed has increased in recent years — shopping, banking and now geospatial analytics. Ok, it doesn’t sound sexy but it might give you a leg up the next time your friend starts an arcane argument with you over whose neighborhood historically has more vehicles on the road. With SpaceKnow’s online… Read More

Jan
17
2017
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TellusLabs wants to help us better understand our planet

cascades-and-agriculture-aug-2016 If you’ve spent time following companies like Orbital Insight and Descartes Labs, you might assume the geospatial analytics race has been won. But TellusLabs thinks, on the contrary, that the table hasn’t even started to cool. Armed with $3 million in new seed funding from IA Ventures and an investor group including Hyperplane VC, FounderCollective and Project11, the… Read More

May
21
2016
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Russian Cosmonaut Museum

DSC_0104In 2015, we spent a couple of weeks in Western Russia, including some spectacular days in Moscow. As a space-nut, there was no way I was going to miss a trip to the Memorial Museum to Cosmonauts. We braved a 3-line trip through Moscow's subways (which are incredibly clean and efficient, by the way), and were confronted by this huge memorial. The museum is underground, beneath it.

There were no English speaking guides, and though some of the exhibit signs were in English, most were not, and it took all my space knowledge to piece together what we were looking at. 

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Outside the museum is an avenue of statues and busts of famous space pioneers and cosmonauts. Standing at the entrance was this fellow, Sergei Korolev, regarded by many as the father of astronautics. He worked as the lead rocket engineer and designer for the Soviets during the Space Race in the 1950's and 1960's. 

 

 

 

 

Below are Strelka and Belka. They were launched into orbit on 19th August 1960 aboard Korabl-Sputnik 2 sat atop a Vostok-L carrier rocket. The two dogs were accompanied by some mice, rats and plants. They were recovered safely and in 1961, when Strelka had a litter of puppies, one was sent to Jacqueline Kennedy as a goodwill present.

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Talking of Sputnik, below is a breakaway model of Sputnik 1. Sputnik 1 is of course famous as the first spacecraft to leave Earth's atmosphere on 4th October 1957. Each orbit took 96 minutes, during which everyone on Earth could listen to the beep-beep of its radio transmitter. After 21 days it fell silent, its battery exhausted. Sputnik 1 itself spent 3 months in orbit before burning up in the atmopshere.

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Below is a Vostok capsule. This one is probably the Vostok 3KA used to carry a single dog into orbit. In a larger size, the Vostok capsules would go on to carry the first man into space in 1961, Yuri Gagarin. As you can see, this one is pretty small – I'm almost fatter than it is!

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Below is Venera 9, one of my all time favourite unmanned space missions. The Venera series orbited and dispatched landers through the impenetrable Venusian atmosphere to the horrendously hot surface of Venus. This exhibit is shown without the huge solar panels and communications dish. Venera 9 entered Venus orbit on October 20th 1975. That egg shaped bulge at the left end is the lander and descent module. Though other Venera probes had landed successfully on the surface of Venus, Venera 9 was the first probe to return images from the surface of another planet. It lasted only 53 minutes before succumbing to the intense heat and pressure.

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Below is Zond. This series of planetary probes were launched by the Soviets between 1964 and 1970. Zond 1 flew by Venus, Zond 2 went to Mars, but then the remainder of the series, up to Zond 8, were repurposed to study the Moon for the Soviet moon program.

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Everyone know what this famous space station is? MIR. A series of 7 modules launched and joined in orbit. MIR had an operational life from 1986 to 2001, during which astronauts from several nations (including the USA) spent time there with the Russian cosmonauts.

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And below is a life size replica of the MIR Core Module, the first component to be launched in 1986. It contained living quarters and a spherical airlock/docking port, onto which the later modules were attached. It was fun to walk about on this and see just how cramped it was.

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Below is Luna 17. It landed in the Sea of Rains on the Moon on 17th November 1970. As well as collecting and analyzing soil samples, it deployed the first robotic rover, Lunokhod 1.

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And here is Lunokhod, and it's completely massive! I guess the Luna 17 lander was considerably larger than it looks. Lunokhod 1 survived for almost a year and travelled 10.5 km across the Lunar surface. Lunokhod 2 travelled 35km near the edge of the Sea of Serenity.

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A couple more pictures: First an inside view of the cramped Soyuz capsule, the mainstay of the Russian space program and still used to ferry astronauts between Earth and the ISS.

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And a mockup of a Russian lunar lander.

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May
20
2016
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The Europas — It’s time for a different kind of tech conference

awards3 (1) Let’s face it. Some tech conferences have lost their way. While TechCrunch Disrupt remains a firmly curated, media-driven, event, with hundreds of journalists attending, a couple of other conferences have really gone for scale. A minimum of 15,000 people, thousands of companies, echoing halls — and a lot of investors (and journalists) turning their badges around so they don’t… Read More

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