Blog by Herbert Blankesteijn

An thruster to achieve perfect rest

An thruster to achieve perfect rest

ESA's recently launched LISA Pathfinder spacecraft uses special thrusters to make sure the craft experiences no forces at all.

Pros and cons of America's Space Act

Pros and cons of America's Space Act

Frans von der Dunk is a Dutchman and a professor of Space Law and he is writing space laws for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He is also starring in a documentary on space law by Dutch broadcasting oganization VPRO. Co-starring in this programme is America's Space Act, the first of its kind, which says no-one can claim extraterrestrial real estate as their property, but they do get to keep resources that they dig up on celestial bodies.

Lunar X-Prize: Two companies book launches

Lunar X-Prize: Two companies book launches

The first two private companies have booked launches to bring their robots to the moon. Both are competitors in the 'Google Lunar X-Prize' competition. In order to win a 20 million dollar Grand Prize, a contender needs to put a robot on the Moon, send hi-def pictures back to Earth and move the robot at least 500 meters.

Catch cheating farmers - there's an app for that!

Catch cheating farmers - there's an app for that!

Satellite data on soil wetness can be used to catch farmers who pretend to make their land available for part-time nature conservation, but who in fact attempt to pocket subsidies they don't deserve. An app is in preparation to check up on farmers behavior using said satellite data.

First rocket lands on tail, can be re-used

First rocket lands on tail, can be re-used

They finally did it! And it wasn't Elon Musks SpaceX but Blue Origin, the company founded by Amazon's owner Jeff Bezos. On November 23rd Blue Origin launched a rocket, sent it up to an altitude of 100.5 km and had it come back down to land safely on its tail.

3D printing with nanoparticles

3D printing with nanoparticles

A Dutch startup is determined to revolutionize building electronic circuits and various other products. They use a patent pending process in which building blocks of many possible materials are grown from loose atoms up to almost any desired size. This way you can build a circuit by laying down just what you need, instead of etching away almost everything. Advantages are many.

New Horizons heading to next target

New Horizons heading to next target

Just the other day New Horizons, the spacecraft that recently flew by Pluto, changed its course towards 2014 MU69, a recently discovered member of the mysterious class of Kuiper Belt Objects. In January 2019 New Horizons is expected to arrive there and send pictures. We will get to know another member of the Solar System.

Go and create your own health wearable

Go and create your own health wearable

Dutch startup Totem has today presented the developer edition of their Smart Health Sensor, a wearable device full of sensors that can be used for research, therapy and personal health purposes. Also they released all digital files a person needs to create their own version. Home made versions of Totems invention could be around even before they launch their own device commercially. Totem also is a finalist in a Unicef wearables competition.

Dutch students break altitude record

Dutch students break altitude record

This summer on this blog, Dutch space entrepreneur Roel Eerkens mentioned that he was still co-owner of the European altitude record for amateur rockets, and that he hoped some Dutch group would soon take it away from him. Eerkens just got his way.

Where little green men probably don't live

Where little green men probably don't live

What causes the weird dips in the light of a star 1500 lightyears away? Nobody knows but many people speculate.

Protecting the Mars environment

Protecting the Mars environment

Turns out in searching for life on Mars, NASA actively avoids the regions where the probability to find life is highest. What's that all about?

A farm in your kitchen

A farm in your kitchen

A German startup is working on a tabletop 'vertical farming' machine that can produce all the vegetables a small family needs, every day. The device will be on sale sometime next year. Sounds like you could use one in space, right?

Drones can build your rope bridge

Drones can build your rope bridge

At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich a team of drones has woven a 7 meter long rope bridge autonomously. No human steered a drone or directed the team as a whole. Afterwards, the bridge could easily carry persons crossing all the way to the other side.

The next comet explorer might be a hopping cube

The next comet explorer might be a hopping cube

Wouldn't it be fun to stand on the surface of a comet? Among many spectacular differences to life on Earth, you would weigh almost nothing. Strangely though, this would make getting around rather difficult. On a comet, you'd better be a cube full of flywheels. Nasa and Stanford are playing around with some.

A 20 km high space tower? Seriously?

A 20 km high space tower? Seriously?

Thoth Technology of Canada has patented a partially inflatable tower 20 km high, from the top of which you could launch rockets into space., They say a 1.5 km high prototype could be built within 5 years. That's pretty wild but not crazy, since there are plans around the world for buildings around 1 km high.

An artificial meteor shower

An artificial meteor shower

A Japanese company called Star-ALE thinks it can create record-breaking fireworks: it wants to imitate a meteor shower by throwing pellets from a satellite. It is currently raising money to develop a prototype.

Elon Musks drive for Mars

Elon Musks drive for Mars

On the web there's plenty to read about Elon Musk and his various enterprises. Most stories are about some tiny part of the guy's vision. But if there is a Whole Story, this is it.

A separate internet for your things

A separate internet for your things

The Internet of Things is one of those technology promises that appears hard to keep. Lots of hype and a certain lack of credible applications. Now a Dutch entrepreneur turns things (and their internet) upside down: he has created a ready-made internet for your things just now. Thinking up apps is up to you.

Here, have some space-grown lettuce

Here, have some space-grown lettuce

Check out this wonderfully surreal scene. Somebody uses a pair of scissors to cut some lettuce, in weird purple lighting, with a narrator announcing: 'Standing by now for the first consumption of red romaine lettuce leaves, grown in the microgravity of space.' It sounds as if a major rocket launch is next.

American radar satellite in trouble

American radar satellite in trouble

A NASA satellite designed to measure soil moisture suffers from a malfunctioning radar. It can no longer achieve its groundbreaking resolution. Hopes of recovery are fading. Can NASA satisfy customers who were counting on the intended specs?

Countdown to Pluto, red planet with wobbly moons

Countdown to Pluto, red planet with wobbly moons

Tension is building for outer solar system aficionados and dwarf planet lovers. Just a few days from now, on the 14th of July, the New Horizons spacecraft will fly by Pluto. We have learned so much already and the climax is still to come.

Rockets made in Holland

Rockets made in Holland

If you need a rocket sometime soon, don't go straight to SpaceX. Here's a small Dutch company that's developing its own rocket. The company is called T-Minus and the rocket is especially designed to bring research hardware into the upper layers of the atmosphere.

Space mining has begun

Space mining has begun

Planetary Resources, the space mining company, has launched its first probe, Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R). It will circle the Earth to test avionics, control systems and software. That's a point of no return right there. Later this year its successor, A6, will be put in orbit for more testing.

Cleanup of space is about to start

Cleanup of space is about to start

Experts have warned about the pollution of outer space for more than 30 years. Countless pieces of junk are circling the Earth, endangering satellites and astronauts. Now three different missions are in preparation to demonstrate cleanup technology.

Smart health patch for serious apps

Smart health patch for serious apps

A Dutch startup is working on a prototype patch that will send health data to a user's smartphone. Possible applications include monitoring athletes; a leading Dutch sports organisation is involved. The technology will be open and privacy built in.

It's a bird, it's a drone, it's... Robird!

It's a bird, it's a drone, it's... Robird!

Birds like geese, gulls and crows that damage crops and endanger airplanes, could be chased away by a drone resembling a falcon or an eagle. Dutch startup Clear Flight Solutions is working on a 'Robird' that looks like a falcon and really flies by flapping its wings.

Airborne wind energy, when will it fly?

Airborne wind energy, when will it fly?

If there's any country where you'd expect scientists to discuss windmills, it would be the Netherlands. Except maybe not flying ones.

Europe's latest space celebrity returns home

Europe's latest space celebrity returns home

A posting on longread blogging network Medium wonders if she's 'the most awesome astronaut ever.' While that may me slightly over the top, Samantha Cristoforetti has certainly made some waves on YouTube and Twitter, doing science, mooring unmanned cargo vessels to the Space Station ISS, explaining everyday life in space, reading literature in many languages and so on. On Thursday June 11 she returned home after more than half a year in space.

Japanese island selected for plastic removal test

Japanese island selected for plastic removal test

Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch company that aims to rid the world's oceans of the infamous 'plastic soup,' aka 'garbage patches' will test its plastic removal technology next year in the vicinity of the Japanese island of Tsushima.

'Suit Up' for space: documentary on 50 years of spacewalks

'Suit Up' for space: documentary on 50 years of spacewalks

If you're even remotely interested in spaceflight, don't miss this. NASA made a half-hour documentary to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first spacewalk.

US Space Act thinks US is alone in the Universe

US Space Act thinks US is alone in the Universe

Boldly going where no lawmaker has gone before, the US House of Representatives has passed a 'Space Act' that essentially says: whoever first grabs resources in space, gets to keep them. The Act does not mention that other nations might disagree.

Cubesats, the third power

Cubesats, the third power

Lightsail, the Planetary Society's prototype solar sail, was launched this week and is doing fine. The probe that the sail is attached to is built out of cubesats - a technology that enables even small companies to engage in spaceflight.

Planetary Society sets sail to space

Planetary Society sets sail to space

Don't miss this on May 20th. On that day a satellite will be launched carrying a solar sail: a large reflective sheet that can accelerate a spacecraft by the pressure of sunshine.

Let's violate some laws of nature

Let's violate some laws of nature

NASA is testing a propulsion method that shouldn't be possible, according to tried-and-tested physics principles. But now at least one source of error has been ruled out.

Why is it dry in California? 35 years of satellite data may help

Why is it dry in California? 35 years of satellite data may help

'Since 1978 we have satellites gathering data on soil moisture. We need to make better use of that. So we're building datasets that help us better understand droughts, and predict them.'

Hubble: 25 years of world class engineering

Hubble: 25 years of world class engineering

We marvel at thousands of pretty pictures and the solutions they gave us to many astronomical riddles, such as the age of the Universe. But we also have to pay respect to the engineers who made this possible.

Help send a message to the aliens

Help send a message to the aliens

Would you like to have your message to the universe put on board a spacecraft that is already at the edge of the Solar System?

Falcon 9 booster comes so close to tail landing

Falcon 9 booster comes so close to tail landing

Here's the video of SpaceX's third failed attempt to bring a Falcon 9 booster safely back to Earth instead of throwing it away.

What it's like to spacewalk

What it's like to spacewalk

This incredible unedited video lets you experience what it's like to make a spacewalk.

No internet? You can be on the Outernet!

No internet? You can be on the Outernet!

Outernet is a read-only alternative to the internet, for use in remote or politically sensitive locations.

You can be an asteroid hunter now

You can be an asteroid hunter now

Amateur scientists can now help spot new asteroids using a free desktop application made available by NASA and space mining company Planetary Resources.

Crippled Chinese rover peels the Moon like an onion

Crippled Chinese rover peels the Moon like an onion

Crippled space missions can produce great results. China's Yutu moon rover got stuck on the Moon's surface after a short circuit a year ago.

How to become an astronaut

How to become an astronaut

If you want to become an astronaut, it's probably a good idea to become a scientist first.

How the force of a sheet of paper can replace a rocket

How the force of a sheet of paper can replace a rocket

An interesting part of Dawn's mission is the ion engine. This works very differently from regular rocket motors.

Ceres, here we come!

Ceres, here we come!

Ceres, the blinking dwarf planet Once again a celestial body in the Solar System will give up some of its secrets. Ceres, a dwarf planet in between Mars and Jupiter will receive its first visit from a manmade space probe this Friday, March 6th 2015.

Intelligent computer can play your game for you

Intelligent computer can play your game for you

Have you ever figured out a video game without a manual or a human friend to help you?

Is Silicon Valley wasting precious talent on stupid apps?

Is Silicon Valley wasting precious talent on stupid apps?

Silicon Valley doesn't think big anymore and risks becoming irrelevant. So says Michael Steep, Senior Vice President of Global Business Operations at Xerox.

ESA successfully tests its own shuttle

ESA successfully tests its own shuttle

Recycling seems to be all the rage in spaceflight these days. While Elon Musks SpaceX is wrestling to get their first stage boosters to return safely to a platform at sea, the European Space Agency ESA this week successfully tested a space shuttle of its own: a prototype of a re-usable craft called IXV, for Intermediate Experimental Vehicle.

Lunar X Project extends deadline, awards prizes

Lunar X Project extends deadline, awards prizes

If you're working on your private lunar robot, rejoice: you have one more year to make it happen. If you're not working on your own mission to the Moon, read on to find out who does.

Rosetta is getting to know its comet

Rosetta is getting to know its comet

Ripples, cliffs and cracks: Rosetta is getting to know its comet. Landscapes in the Solar System don't get much weirder than the ones on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Microsofts hologoggles put researchers on Mars

Microsofts hologoggles put researchers on Mars

A new gadget by Microsoft is making some space researchers very happy. The HoloLens can be seen as a set of Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles that you can see right through. So where the Oculus Rift (and many knockoffs) lock you up inside a 3D virtual world. Microsofts HoloLens projects an virtual scene on top of the real world.

Detecting the whisper of alien life

Detecting the whisper of alien life

Microscopic life forms cause tiny vibrations that can be detected with a method developed by Swiss researchers.

A 3D touchscreen made of drones

A 3D touchscreen made of drones

Here's a crazy idea. Instead of putting on virtual reality goggles and moving around in a virtual world, you could rebuild that world in real space. Oh yes, and use flying building blocks. An early version of this has been demonstrated by Queens University of Canada.


About Herbert Blankesteijn

Herbert Blankesteijn is a technology journalist from the Netherlands who has written for many prominent Dutch newspapers. He presented and directed television and radio programmes and has 10 books to his name. Herbert is interested in nascent fields such as 3D printing, drones, robotics and the private space business.