Freethink

The Four Weirdest Things We've Sent to Space

We take a look at a few of the not-so-obviously-bizarre things we've launched beyond the earth's atmosphere.

Mike Riggs November 4, 2016

We’ve sent many thousands of objects into space since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 in 1957. Ranking those objects in order of weirdness might seem like a Herculean task, but it’s not. The general rule is that if it seems weird on its face, it’s actually not. Like, some folks think it’s weird that U.S. Astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich on the Gemini 3 mission, but when you think about it, astronauts have to eat and corned beef is delicious. The same goes for human ashes . To my mind, it is actually less weird to send a person’s remains into space than it is to pump them full of preservatives, dress them up like a mannequin, and bury them under six feet of dirt.

To that end, here are the four actual weirdest things we’ve sent into space:

4) A golden record that is full of lies

I don’t know if there’s intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, but if there is, I’m almost certain they won’t know what to do with the gold-plated copper records affixed to Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Launched in 1977, the two unmanned vessels were sent out into space as greetings to whatever intelligent life might exist in the universe. Each record is inscribed with a series of sounds (animal calls, ocean surf), 90 minutes of various types of music, and greetings from U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The records are also inscribed with picture-based instructions and images encoded in analog format. You can listen to Secretary Waldheim’s greetings to the cosmos here:

The Voyager records were the brainchild of astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who saw them as a means to communicate Earth’s peaceful intentions and stunning biodiversity. The Voyager spacecraft left our solar system roughly 26 years ago, and won’t reach another planetary solar system for 40,000 years.

This is an incredibly weird thing to send into space, even if you optimistically assume that both Voyagers will survive floating through space for the next 40 millenia (they could be destroyed by asteroids).

What if the other intelligent life forms in the universe don’t interpret vibrations in the air the same way we do? Like, they might not even be able to hear. What if they don’t have eyes? What if--and I’m just spitballing here--the intelligent life form that discovers the records is incredibly aggressive? The records we sent into space four decades ago make humans sound like pacifists and Earth like a buffet.

But let’s assume they’re peaceful; that they’ve evolved past intra-species violence and no longer use or even develop weapons. While the Voyager records represent everything good and right about humanity on two discs (which you can actually buy in remastered form), they are essentially a big lie. Yes, Earth is great (I honestly have no desire to live anywhere else) and many people living here would be thrilled to establish peaceful relations with another intelligent species. But we’re not a perfect species, and the Voyager records could probably use a disclaimer. Something along the lines of, “If you decided to visit, please don’t surprise us. We have a tendency to blow things up.”  

3) Evidence of our own inferiority

You can’t see it from wherever you are right now, but the Earth is surrounded by garbage.

space-debris-density-illustration
A computer illustration of space junk (Image via ESA)

“Inactive satellites, the upper stages of launch vehicles, discarded bits left over from separation, and even frozen clouds of water and tiny flecks of paint all remain in orbit high above Earth's atmosphere,” according to Space.com. “Over 21,000 pieces of space trash larger than 4 inches (10 centimeters) and  half a million bits of junk between 1 cm and 10 cm are estimated to circle the planet. And the number is only predicted to go up.”

The trash doesn’t bother me personally, but I’m horrified by the idea of another intelligent species coming to visit and seeing all the crap floating around. They would immediately see that our space capacity is pretty limited (“Whatever animal lives on this planet can get stuff up, but can’t get it down”), and that we’re launching stuff despite our inability to clean it up.

It would be like an old friend from college who’s done really well swinging by your place on a business trip after you’ve just gotten over a cold. The sink is full of dirty dishes, you’ve stopped showering, and there are balled up snotty tissues literally everywhere. Your friend doesn’t say anything, but you can tell that they’re kind of grossed out and they end up not staying very long.  

Hopefully we can clean up low Earth orbit before the aliens come to visit.  

2.) Our closest genetic relatives

ham-the-chimp-biopack-couch-nasa
Ham the Chimpanzee

In January 1961, Ham the chimpanzee became the first primate to visit space when he was strapped into a Mercury-Redstone 2 rocket and launched from Cape Canaveral into suborbit. His capsule was recovered later that day in the Atlantic Ocean and Ham was declared a hero. His survival also cleared the way for Alan Shepard’s flight later that year. After his death in 1983, Ham’s remains were buried at the International Space Hall of Fame and a memorial service was held honoring his contribution to space exploration.

The pleasant way to think about Ham is to talk about what he did. The weird way is to talk about what was done to him. As a baby, Ham was captured by hunters in Cameroon, sold to an animal farm in Florida, then bought by the Air Force. He was trained to use the equipment aboard the MR-2 by having electric shocks administered to the bottom of his feet when he failed to do a procedure correctly. During his flight, Ham’s capsule lost pressure, and when he landed in the Atlantic, the recovery ship couldn’t find him for several hours. After Ham was recovered, several photographers requested to take pictures of him inside the capsule, but according to Save the Chimps, Ham “refused to go back into it, and multiple adult men were unable to force him to do so.”

He didn’t get the name “Ham” until after the flight, because in the event the mission failed, NASA didn’t want the American public freaking out over a cute little dead chimp with a human-sounding name.

And you know what? We knew it was weird to send Ham into space when we did it. According to Donna Haraway’s Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science , Ham was called Chimp 65 prior to launch. He didn’t get the name “Ham” until after the flight, because in the event the mission failed, NASA didn’t want the American public freaking out over a cute little dead chimp with a human-sounding name.

Speaking of little: Ham was only three-and-a-half-years-old when he went to space. Chimps can live as long as 50 years in the wild, upwards of 60 years in captivity, and their developmental stages mirror those of humans. Which essentially means we electrocuted a toddler’s feet, strapped him on top of an explosive device, sent him into space, then let him sit in the Atlantic ocean for several hours.

But wait, it gets weirder: The Russians also sent animals to space, and after those animals died, the Russians stuffed them and put them in a museum. The U.S. Government thought this was neat and so after Ham died, they decided to stuff him and put him in the Smithsonian. And do you know what happened? People freaked out and said stuffing Ham would be like stuffing a human astronaut. So instead they dissected him for medical research and then buried his remains in New Mexico.

1) Ourselves

Let’s say modern humans first appeared on Earth 50,000 years ago, after several million years of hominid evolution. How many humans have lived on Earth since then? Roughly 108 billion.

In that 50,000 year span, do you know how many humans have gone to space? Less than 600.

They were and are some of the smartest, most accomplished humans alive, and we sent them to a place where they can’t breathe on vehicles that don’t always work. That’s very, very weird.

Consider the first two humans to travel to space. Yuri Gagarin was born to Russian farmers in 1934. During World War II, his siblings were put in Nazi labor camps while he and his parents were forced to live in a tiny mud hut. After the war, he went to school to learn about tractor repair and learned how to fly on the weekends by using a biplane. This is a biplane.

gagarin
Yuri Gagarin

In 1960, he became one of 20 people in a country of 208 million to be selected for the nascent space program. And do you know why the Soviets chose Yuri Gagarin to be the first human to fly into space? Because he was brilliant and emotionally intelligent and perfectly qualified in pretty much every way, down to a height of 5’2. Then the Soviets took this brilliant person and strapped him into what was essentially a giant rickety bomb and pointed it at the sky and fired the thing up, all the while having no freaking idea whether or not he’d survive.

And that inspired the Americans, who had already lost the satellite race, to ready their own perfect person: Alan Shepard skipped two grades and got into the U.S. Naval Academy at 16, but couldn’t go because he was too young. He served in World War II, volunteered to be a test pilot, and then in 1959 became one of seven people in a country of 180 million people tasked with going to space.

The resumes of pretty much every human who’s gone to space since Gagarin and Shepard are as impressive if not moreso. Which basically means that for the last 55 years, we’ve taken some of the smartest, most resilient, level-headed and adaptive people in the world and strapped them to giant bombs. We have literally never sent an unintelligent or even just average person to space, even when we were first doing it and had no idea if anybody would survive.

That’s kind of weird. It’s also kind of great.

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The App That Sniffs Out Censorship
Created by the Tor Project, the app gives internet users a new way to monitor and report online censorship around the world.
This Week in Ideas: Saying Goodbye to Lab Rats and Replacing Bees with Drones
On The Cusp
This Week in Ideas: Saying Goodbye to Lab Rats and…
This Week in Ideas: Saying Goodbye to Lab Rats and Replacing Bees with Drones
Breakthrough could mean the end of test animals, violent crime nearly cut in half, and drones that pollinate flowers.
Nico Sell on Recruiting Hackers for Good
Coded
Episode 4
Nico Sell on Recruiting Hackers for Good
Nico Sell, founder and chairman of the Wickr Foundation, on teaching kids how to hack and encouraging them to use their new-found talents for good.
Nico Sell Thinks Hackers Can Be a Force for Good
Coded
Nico Sell Thinks Hackers Can Be a Force for Good
Nico Sell Thinks Hackers Can Be a Force for Good
After criminals hijacked the term, Sell is on a mission to change our perception of hackers.
Hacking the Future
Coded
Episode 4
Hacking the Future
How do we make sure the next generation of hackers uses their talents for good?
This Week in Ideas: Building a Cheaper MRI, Reconciling God and AI, and The Next Einstein
On The Cusp
This Week in Ideas: Building a Cheaper MRI, Reconciling God…
This Week in Ideas: Building a Cheaper MRI, Reconciling God and AI, and The Next Einstein
Rethinking the MRI machine, how will Christianity handle advanced tech, and is this 7-year-old the next Einstein?
Meet the Digital Bodyguard for Investigative Journalists
Coded
Meet the Digital Bodyguard for Investigative Journalists
Meet the Digital Bodyguard for Investigative Journalists
Smári McCarthy discusses his job protecting the work of journalists investigating organized crime and corruption
It’s Time for Regular Americans to Think Differently About Cybersecurity
Coded
It’s Time for Regular Americans to Think Differently About C…
It’s Time for Regular Americans to Think Differently About Cybersecurity
If huge companies and government agencies can't manage the cyber threats, how can ordinary Americans?
The Hackers Exposing Government-Wide Crime and Corruption
Coded
The Hackers Exposing Government-Wide Crime and Corruption
The Hackers Exposing Government-Wide Crime and Corruption
Displaying the power of unique technological abilities combined with dogged investigative journalism
The People’s NSA
Coded
Episode 3
The People’s NSA
Hackers and journalists team up to expose crime and corruption around the world
This Week in Ideas: Embryonic People-Pigs, the Glories of the Hubble Telescope, and American Cyber-Security
On The Cusp
This Week in Ideas: Embryonic People-Pigs, the Glories of…
This Week in Ideas: Embryonic People-Pigs, the Glories of the Hubble Telescope, and American Cyber-Security
A step toward human organs in animal embryos, the Hubble Telescope was a game changer, and Americans aren't doing much to protect themselves online.
The Evolution of a Dissident: How Ladar Levison Became Someone Who Said "No" to the FBI
Coded
The Evolution of a Dissident: How Ladar Levison Became…
The Evolution of a Dissident: How Ladar Levison Became Someone Who Said "No" to the FBI
For Ladar Levison, founder of secure email service Lavabit, everything changed when the two FBI agents showed up at his door.
What We Mean When We Talk About Hacking
Coded
What We Mean When We Talk About Hacking
What We Mean When We Talk About Hacking
We've all heard it before: "I was hacked!" But that can mean a lot of things. We take a look at some of the big ones.
Meet the Programmer Who Defied the FBI
Coded
Meet the Programmer Who Defied the FBI
Meet the Programmer Who Defied the FBI
Ladar Levison spent 10 years building his business, then destroyed it all in one night when the FBI came knocking.
The Unhackable Email Service
Coded
Episode 2
The Unhackable Email Service
Edward Snowden’s email service of choice wants to make mass surveillance obsolete.
This Week in Ideas: How to Form Good Habits, the Case Against Empathy, and a Miracle Cure Derailed
On The Cusp
This Week in Ideas: How to Form Good Habits, the Case…
This Week in Ideas: How to Form Good Habits, the Case Against Empathy, and a Miracle Cure Derailed
From how to make good habits (and keep them) to a crisis at the NIH, it's a new edition of our week in ideas.
WATCH: Trailer for Our New Show, Coded
Coded
WATCH: Trailer for Our New Show, Coded
WATCH: Trailer for Our New Show, Coded
Meet the programmers on the frontlines of the war over security and privacy.
Coded Trailer
Coded
Trailer
Coded Trailer
Meet the programmers on the frontlines of the war over security and privacy.
Let's Talk About Failure
Challengers
Let's Talk About Failure
Let's Talk About Failure
Are we fetishizing failure? What are the costs of failing? How do we bounce back after it inevitably happens?
What Can We Learn From an Entrepreneur Whose Business Failed?
Challengers
What Can We Learn From an Entrepreneur Whose Business…
What Can We Learn From an Entrepreneur Whose Business Failed?
Luke Kenworthy put everything he had into making his business work. But it didn't pan out. Now he's sharing what he learned through it all.
Failure is Inevitable, But It Doesn't Have to Ruin Your Life
Challengers
Failure is Inevitable, But It Doesn't Have to Ruin Your Life
Failure is Inevitable, But It Doesn't Have to Ruin Your Life
Why learning to suck at something is the only way to get good at it.
This Week in Ideas: Good Things That Happened in 2016
Culture
This Week in Ideas: Good Things That Happened in 2016
This Week in Ideas: Good Things That Happened in 2016
Despite 2016 being widely panned, there were also truly good things that happened over the past year. Here are some of the big ones.
Four Crazy Uses for Virtual Reality (That Aren't Video Games)
Challengers
Four Crazy Uses for Virtual Reality (That Aren't Video…
Four Crazy Uses for Virtual Reality (That Aren't Video Games)
We’re now starting to scratch the surface of the true potential of virtual reality.
Five Insights: Linc Gasking On What Every Startup Should Be Shooting For
Challengers
Five Insights: Linc Gasking On What Every Startup Should Be…
Five Insights: Linc Gasking On What Every Startup Should Be Shooting For
Linc Gasking, co-founder of VR startup 8i, discusses the day-to-day grind and big picture excitement of being an entrepreneur.
Meet the Startup Creating Incredible Virtual Realities
Challengers
Meet the Startup Creating Incredible Virtual Realities
Meet the Startup Creating Incredible Virtual Realities
8i takes video and converts it into virtual realities that are nearly indistinguishable from real life.
How VR Could Change Your Life
Challengers
Episode 5
How VR Could Change Your Life
Virtual reality could alter the human experience forever.
Five Insights: Ryan Petersen on Tackling Problems That Feel Too Big to Fix
Challengers
Five Insights: Ryan Petersen on Tackling Problems That Feel…
Five Insights: Ryan Petersen on Tackling Problems That Feel Too Big to Fix
Flexport's founder discusses the personal and business side of building an ambitious startup.
This Week in Ideas: Why D.A.R.E. Didn't Work, the Future of Cities, and is Love Actually Actually Good?
On The Cusp
This Week in Ideas: Why D.A.R.E. Didn't Work, the Future of…
This Week in Ideas: Why D.A.R.E. Didn't Work, the Future of Cities, and is Love Actually Actually Good?
Our weekly take on the best stuff from around the web.
Five Insights from AltSchool Founder and CEO, Max Ventilla
Challengers
Five Insights from AltSchool Founder and CEO, Max Ventilla
Five Insights from AltSchool Founder and CEO, Max Ventilla
Max Ventilla on why he thinks its time for a new way to educate kids and how his startup could be a way to do it.
Can This Startup Build the School System of the Future?
Challengers
Can This Startup Build the School System of the Future?
Can This Startup Build the School System of the Future?
AltSchool wants to build a new school system based on a highly personalized education model that any school could join.
Building a Better School System
Challengers
Episode 4
Building a Better School System
A highly-personalized experience could be the foundation for the future of education.
Dr. Leslie Dewan on the Future of Nuclear Energy
Challengers
Dr. Leslie Dewan on the Future of Nuclear Energy
Dr. Leslie Dewan on the Future of Nuclear Energy
We dive into the viability and future of nuclear energy in the U.S. and around the world with Leslie Dewan, CEO of nuclear power startup Transatomic.
Four Crazy Ideas From the Golden Age of Nuclear
Challengers
Four Crazy Ideas From the Golden Age of Nuclear
Four Crazy Ideas From the Golden Age of Nuclear
For a couple decades people thought nuclear power was the answer to pretty much everything. And they came up with some ideas we’ll generously call visionary.
Three Reasons We Don't Have More Nuclear Power in the U.S.
Challengers
Three Reasons We Don't Have More Nuclear Power in the U.S.
Three Reasons We Don't Have More Nuclear Power in the U.S.
Many think of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island when they hear nuclear power. But nuclear's struggle to gain a foothold in the U.S. is more nuanced than isolated safety problems.
Can This Startup Power the World With Nuclear?
Challengers
Can This Startup Power the World With Nuclear?
Can This Startup Power the World With Nuclear?
Leslie Dewan and her team at Transatomic believe they've figured out a safe, scalable, cost-effective way to power the world with nuclear.
Leslie Dewan on Learning from Failure
Challengers
Episode 10
Leslie Dewan on Learning from Failure
Dr. Leslie Dewan, CEO of nuclear power startup Transatomic, discusses the importance of entrepreneurs' ability ...
Powering the World With Nuclear
Challengers
Episode 3
Powering the World With Nuclear
Transatomic believes they've figured out a safe, scalable, cost-effective way to power the world with nuclear.
This Week in Ideas: The End of Checkout Lines, Photoshopping Your Voice, and a New Way to Pay for a Ride
On The Cusp
This Week in Ideas: The End of Checkout Lines,…
This Week in Ideas: The End of Checkout Lines, Photoshopping Your Voice, and a New Way to Pay for a Ride
Amazon's new grocery store, Adobe's new tech can make you say anything, and pay for the bus by watching an ad.
You Should Start Learning About Artificial Intelligence. Here's How.
Challengers
You Should Start Learning About Artificial Intelligence.…
You Should Start Learning About Artificial Intelligence. Here's How.
There are a lot of different levels of artificial intelligence being applied in a lot of different ways. Here's a primer for starting to wrap your head around it all.
Five Insights: Scott Phoenix on Creating AI and Building a Company Around a Crazy Idea
Challengers
Five Insights: Scott Phoenix on Creating AI and Building a…
Five Insights: Scott Phoenix on Creating AI and Building a Company Around a Crazy Idea
Scott Phoenix, founder of Vicarious, shares insights on the development of artificial intelligence and why this is a great time to be alive.
Meet the Startup Developing Human-Level Artificial Intelligence
Challengers
Meet the Startup Developing Human-Level Artificial…
Meet the Startup Developing Human-Level Artificial Intelligence
The story of Vicarious' mission to build the world's first human-level artificial intelligence and use it to help humanity thrive.
Can AI Solve Our Biggest Problems?
Challengers
Episode 2
Can AI Solve Our Biggest Problems?
Vicarious believes smart machines could solve virtually every problem humans can’t.
This Week in Ideas: Fighting Addiction With Implants, Using VR to Educate, Amazon Prime Gets Primer
On The Cusp
This Week in Ideas: Fighting Addiction With Implants, Using…
This Week in Ideas: Fighting Addiction With Implants, Using VR to Educate, Amazon Prime Gets Primer
An arm implant to treat opioid addiction, teaching hair stylists with VR, and a potential Amazon Prime game changer.
An American Entrepreneur on the Importance of Chinese Manufacturing
Challengers
An American Entrepreneur on the Importance of Chinese…
An American Entrepreneur on the Importance of Chinese Manufacturing
Greg Shugar, founder of Tie Bar and Thread Experiment, discusses why his businesses wouldn’t have been possible without Chinese factories.
This Startup Wants to Make Everything You Buy Cheaper
Challengers
This Startup Wants to Make Everything You Buy Cheaper
This Startup Wants to Make Everything You Buy Cheaper
Flexport's app is built to make global trade easier. If they're successful, it could mean everything you buy will cost less.
An App for Global Trade
Challengers
Episode 1
An App for Global Trade
Flexport thinks bringing trade into the 21st century could improve lives around the globe.
This is The New Space Race
The New Space Race
This is The New Space Race
This is The New Space Race
It’s been 44 years since a human stepped on the moon, and a new generation of entrepreneurs is laying the groundwork for us to go back.
Challengers Trailer
Challengers
Trailer
Challengers Trailer
Fast Company presents a Freethink original series about entrepreneurs building companies that could transform entire industries and change the world.
This is Our Superhuman Future
This is Our Superhuman Future
This is Our Superhuman Future
With Thanksgiving winding down, take some time to join us on a journey to the frontier of medical technology.
Meet the Entrepreneurs Disrupting Industries and Changing the World
Challengers
Meet the Entrepreneurs Disrupting Industries and Changing…
Meet the Entrepreneurs Disrupting Industries and Changing the World
Fast Company and Freethink bring you powerful stories of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
This Week in Ideas: Unveiling Google Earth VR, China Goes All in on CRISPR, Cuba's Cancer Vaccine
Culture
This Week in Ideas: Unveiling Google Earth VR, China Goes…
This Week in Ideas: Unveiling Google Earth VR, China Goes All in on CRISPR, Cuba's Cancer Vaccine
Google releases some beautiful VR, human trials of gene-editing technology CRISPR, and importing Cuba's cancer vaccine.
What We Need Right Now Is a Little Bit of Hans Rosling
Culture
What We Need Right Now Is a Little Bit of Hans Rosling
What We Need Right Now Is a Little Bit of Hans Rosling
The Swedish public health researcher says that, contrary to most of what you hear, the world is actually moving in the right direction.
This Week in Ideas: A $1 Microscope, Healing Our Divisions, Planet Earth is Back
Culture
This Week in Ideas: A $1 Microscope, Healing Our Divisions,…
This Week in Ideas: A $1 Microscope, Healing Our Divisions, Planet Earth is Back
Democratizing microscopes, how we heal our political divisions, and BBC's Planet Earth returns. These are our favorite stories of the week.
Why the U.S. Government Treated Satellites and Machine Guns as the Same for 15 Years
The New Space Race
Why the U.S. Government Treated Satellites and Machine Guns…
Why the U.S. Government Treated Satellites and Machine Guns as the Same for 15 Years
Regulations forced companies that planned to sell satellites to other countries to register, in effect, as arms dealers.
How Do We Respond to Crimes in Space?
New Space Race
How Do We Respond to Crimes in Space?
How Do We Respond to Crimes in Space?
As talk of space colonization heats up, is it time to have a serious conversation about conflict resolution in a place where few rules or laws exist?
Preparing the First Space Colonizers for Life Off of Planet Earth
The New Space Race
Preparing the First Space Colonizers for Life Off of Planet…
Preparing the First Space Colonizers for Life Off of Planet Earth
It’s only a matter of time until the average person can explore space. But, will the average person be ready?
Preparing for Outer Space
The New Space Race
Episode 5
Preparing for Outer Space
As the tech side of space travel advances, an annual gathering focuses on life off of planet earth.
How a Sci-Fi Enthusiast Decided to Memorialize His Best Friend
Culture
How a Sci-Fi Enthusiast Decided to Memorialize His Best…
How a Sci-Fi Enthusiast Decided to Memorialize His Best Friend
The story of how one man gave his space-loving best friend a final resting place in the final frontier.
Who Owns the Moon?
The New Space Race
Who Owns the Moon?
Who Owns the Moon?
Throughout history, different organizations, governments, and even individuals have attempted to establish rules for, and ownership of, outer space.
Can This Startup Give Everyone Access to the Moon?
The New Space Race
Can This Startup Give Everyone Access to the Moon?
Can This Startup Give Everyone Access to the Moon?
With advanced navigational technology, Astrobotic wants to provide a routine, affordable, and accurate delivery service to the moon.
This Week in Ideas: Beer That Delivers Itself, Chatbots From Beyond, and How to Set a Very Strange World Record
Culture
This Week in Ideas: Beer That Delivers Itself, Chatbots…
This Week in Ideas: Beer That Delivers Itself, Chatbots From Beyond, and How to Set a Very Strange World Record
Uber's self-driving beer truck, how a chatbot can help the grieving process, and more of our favorite stories from the week.
Why Don't We Believe Extreme Weather Forecasts?
Science
Why Don't We Believe Extreme Weather Forecasts?
Why Don't We Believe Extreme Weather Forecasts?
Research shows people don't take extreme weather predictions seriously. And don't take the necessary precautions as a result.
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
The New Space Race
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
The Market for Tiny Satellites Is Going to Be Huge
Fleets of small satellites can gather far more accurate and timely data than conventional satellites. And investors are taking notice.
The Startup That May Be On the Cusp of Revolutionizing the Satellite Industry
The New Space Race
The Startup That May Be On the Cusp of Revolutionizing the…
The Startup That May Be On the Cusp of Revolutionizing the Satellite Industry
Spire's satellites fit in the palm of your hand, cost a fraction of their predecessors, and transmit more data than several behemoth satellites combined.
Tiny Satellites With a Huge Impact
The New Space Race
Episode 4
Tiny Satellites With a Huge Impact
Many satellites are nearing the end of their life. This is what could be next.
This Week in Ideas: Using Drones for Medicine, Fighting Zika, Re-Imagining Passwords
This Week in Ideas: Using Drones for Medicine, Fighting…
This Week in Ideas: Using Drones for Medicine, Fighting Zika, Re-Imagining Passwords
Reimagining how we get medicine to people, using genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika, and selfies as passwords. These are the stories that got us talking.
Here's What Happens to the Human Body in Outer Space
The New Space Race
Here's What Happens to the Human Body in Outer Space
Here's What Happens to the Human Body in Outer Space
As the idea of colonizing space becomes mainstream, it’s important to keep in mind that traveling in outer space does some crazy stuff to our bodies.
What Happens When Stuff Breaks in Space?
The New Space Race
What Happens When Stuff Breaks in Space?
What Happens When Stuff Breaks in Space?
Despite rigorous prep, astronauts often have to improvise when things go wrong in space. And a lot more duct tape is involved than you may expect.
Why This Startup Believes 3D Printing in Space Will Be a Game Changer
The New Space Race
Why This Startup Believes 3D Printing in Space Will Be a…
Why This Startup Believes 3D Printing in Space Will Be a Game Changer
Sending things into space is really expensive. But what if we didn't have to? What if everything in space was made in space?
Can We Make It In Space?
The New Space Race
Episode 2
Can We Make It In Space?
What if one day, everything in space was made in space? 3D printing may hold the answer.
What a Controversial Asteroid Mission Tells Us About U.S. Space Policy
The New Space Race
What a Controversial Asteroid Mission Tells Us About U.S.…
What a Controversial Asteroid Mission Tells Us About U.S. Space Policy
Billions spent on projects of questionable benefit - like the plan to capture an asteroid - raises the question: Should NASA take a back seat in the 21st century space race?
Where Did the Commercial Space Sector Come From?
The New Space Race
Where Did the Commercial Space Sector Come From?
Where Did the Commercial Space Sector Come From?
Private companies have worked with NASA for decades. Can the next generation of space companies get by without the government as their biggest customer?
Can XCOR Build the World's First Airline for Space?
The New Space Race
Can XCOR Build the World's First Airline for Space?
Can XCOR Build the World's First Airline for Space?
Out of a small hangar in the Mojave Desert, XCOR is developing a rocket ship designed to fly to space four times a day, five days a week.
This Week in Ideas: Rockets in Flight, Poverty in Decline, and Explaining the Unexplainable
Culture
This Week in Ideas: Rockets in Flight, Poverty in Decline,…
This Week in Ideas: Rockets in Flight, Poverty in Decline, and Explaining the Unexplainable
A step forward for space tourism, extreme poverty could be on its way out, and illustrating advanced tech. These are our favorite stories of the week.
The New Space Race is Here
The New Space Race
The New Space Race is Here
The New Space Race is Here
Our new show will introduce you to the people and the technology that could make humans a multi-planetary species in the coming century.
The Fake Disease That Saved Rome's Jews
Culture
The Fake Disease That Saved Rome's Jews
The Fake Disease That Saved Rome's Jews
Dr. Giovanni Borromeo dreamed up a brilliant scheme that saved dozens of Jewish families in Rome from Nazi persecution.
A Delivery Service for the Moon
The New Space Race
Episode 3
A Delivery Service for the Moon
This startup wants to offer the world insanely accurate shipping to the moon.
Four Flights a Day. Five Days a Week.
The New Space Race
Episode 1
Four Flights a Day. Five Days a Week.
At XCOR, the dream of taking regular commercial flights to space is alive and well.
New Space Race Trailer
The New Space Race
Trailer
New Space Race Trailer
Meet the next generation of explorers taking us higher and farther than ever before.
This Week In Ideas: An Artificial Pancreas, Google's New Translation Tech, and a Massive Mars Rocket
This Week In Ideas: An Artificial Pancreas, Google's New…
This Week In Ideas: An Artificial Pancreas, Google's New Translation Tech, and a Massive Mars Rocket
An incredible medical breakthrough, Google ups the ante, and the SpaceX Mars rocket. These are our favorite stories of the week.
What to Expect In a Post-Meat Future
Science
What to Expect In a Post-Meat Future
What to Expect In a Post-Meat Future
From advanced plant-based meat alternatives to real meat grown in a lab, the days of eating meat from once-living animals could be numbered.
Could Ugly Produce Change the World?
Change Agents
Episode 11
Could Ugly Produce Change the World?
Meet the startup that wants to sell you ugly fruits and veggies
Elon Musk Explains the Economics of Getting to Mars
Culture
Elon Musk Explains the Economics of Getting to Mars
Elon Musk Explains the Economics of Getting to Mars
The SpaceX founder gave a rousing presentation on his company’s long-term plan for getting to Mars and establishing a civilization there.
This week in ideas: How VR changes our dreams, a stem cell miracle, and the shoes of the future
This week in ideas: How VR changes our dreams, a stem cell…
This week in ideas: How VR changes our dreams, a stem cell miracle, and the shoes of the future
Virtual reality users experience more lucid dreams, a paralyzed man gets movement back, and self-lacing shoes. These are our favorite stories this week.
This Computer Can Write 2,000 Snarky Articles Per Second
This Computer Can Write 2,000 Snarky Articles Per Second
This Computer Can Write 2,000 Snarky Articles Per Second
What does it mean for the future of journalism when a computer can turn mounds of data into a cohesive narrative?
This Army Sergeant Started a 24-Hour Hotline For Service Members with PTSD
Culture
This Army Sergeant Started a 24-Hour Hotline For Service…
This Army Sergeant Started a 24-Hour Hotline For Service Members with PTSD
First Sgt. Landon Jackson battled with severe PTSD and turned his experience into a 24 hour hotline that gives service members an outlet whenever they need it.
Self-Driving Cars are Finally Here. Sort Of.
Self-Driving Cars are Finally Here. Sort Of.
Self-Driving Cars are Finally Here. Sort Of.
Uber rolled out self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, but they're not totally autonomous. Yet. Under Pennsylvania law, every car still needs an operator.
Meet the Wounded Veteran Using Bionics to Take Back His Independence
Superhuman
Meet the Wounded Veteran Using Bionics to Take Back His…
Meet the Wounded Veteran Using Bionics to Take Back His Independence
Jerral lost his left arm in Iraq. Now he's working with a team from Johns Hopkins to test a prosthetic arm that works by reading signals in his skin.
Gaining Independence with the World's Most Advanced Prosthetic Arm
Superhuman
Episode 6
Gaining Independence with the World's Most Advanced Prosthetic Arm
Jerral was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq and left paralyzed. Now he's partnering with researchers to regain his independence. »
This Week in Ideas: Reasons to Feel Good About Humanity
Culture
This Week in Ideas: Reasons to Feel Good About Humanity
This Week in Ideas: Reasons to Feel Good About Humanity
A paralyzed woman runs a half marathon in an exoskeleton, Sri Lanka defeats malaria, incomes are rising. Here's some good news since most of what we hear is just the bad.
A Regulatory Fight Is Brewing Over Experimental Stem Cell Therapies
Science
A Regulatory Fight Is Brewing Over Experimental Stem Cell…
A Regulatory Fight Is Brewing Over Experimental Stem Cell Therapies
New proposed regulations from the FDA would effectively shut down private stem cell clinics in the U.S.
The Future of Sports and Human Performance
Science
The Future of Sports and Human Performance
The Future of Sports and Human Performance
Unpacking the science behind human performance with The Sports Gene author David Epstein
The Experimental Procedure That Can Reverse Blindness
Superhuman
The Experimental Procedure That Can Reverse Blindness
The Experimental Procedure That Can Reverse Blindness
Doctors told Vanna she was permanently blind. But thanks to an experimental procedure, she can see.
Reversing Blindness
Superhuman
Episode 5
Reversing Blindness
Vanna was legally blind. Now she can see. Hear her inspiring story and meet the amazing doctors who gave her back her sight.
Can Tech Giants Get Ahead of A.I.?
Can Tech Giants Get Ahead of A.I.?
Can Tech Giants Get Ahead of A.I.?
Companies gather to discuss impact of A.I. A possible neural lace breakthrough. And unmanned cargo ships. This is the coolest stuff we've read this week.
How Do We Scale Bionic Technology?
How Do We Scale Bionic Technology?
How Do We Scale Bionic Technology?
Right now, assistive bionic technology is really cool and really expensive. This is how it will get better and cheaper.
What to Expect at the First Cyborg Olympics
What to Expect at the First Cyborg Olympics
What to Expect at the First Cyborg Olympics
The event will seek to answer one of the most interesting technology questions of the early 21st century: How close are we to integrating humans with machines?
Could Your Brain Regenerate Like Skin?
Science
Could Your Brain Regenerate Like Skin?
Could Your Brain Regenerate Like Skin?
Brain regeneration used to be considered a medical fantasy. But research shows that fantasy could eventually become a reality.
Meet the Paralyzed Man Who Can Walk Again
Superhuman
Meet the Paralyzed Man Who Can Walk Again
Meet the Paralyzed Man Who Can Walk Again
Robert is paralyzed from the chest down. But now a robotic exoskeleton is giving him what he calls "a second chance at life."
A Life Changed by Robotic Legs
Superhuman
Episode 4
A Life Changed by Robotic Legs
Robert is paralyzed. But thanks to a robotic exoskeleton, he can walk again.
Will Robots Steal Our Jobs?
Will Robots Steal Our Jobs?
Will Robots Steal Our Jobs?
Could exoskeletons help us do our jobs? Should we actually be afraid of robots taking our jobs? These are the latest stories from the frontlines of the robotic world.
Assistive Tech Doesn't Have to be High Tech
Assistive Tech Doesn't Have to be High Tech
Assistive Tech Doesn't Have to be High Tech
The story of how 3D printing gave Ryan Hines a chance to regain his independence for $150. And how he's now offering the same chance to others.
Prosthetics Enter a New Age of Beautiful Form and Incredible Function
Technology
Prosthetics Enter a New Age of Beautiful Form and…
Prosthetics Enter a New Age of Beautiful Form and Incredible Function
For centuries, prosthetics didn't change much at all, but the past 10 years has seen an incredible leap forward in the way they look and work.
Everything You Wanted to Know About the World's Most Advanced Bionic Arm
Superhuman
Everything You Wanted to Know About the World's Most…
Everything You Wanted to Know About the World's Most Advanced Bionic Arm
A fascinating interview with Michael P. McLoughlin, the chief engineer of research and exploratory development at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.
Meet the Man with the Most Advanced Prosthetic Arm in the World
Superhuman
Meet the Man with the Most Advanced Prosthetic Arm in the…
Meet the Man with the Most Advanced Prosthetic Arm in the World
Johnny Matheny has been working with doctors at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to test a prosthetic arm that is controlled with your thoughts.
A Lay Person's Guide to Biohacking
A Lay Person's Guide to Biohacking
A Lay Person's Guide to Biohacking
We're living in a golden age of people exploring high and low tech methods to optimize our bodies.
How to Send Mail to a Person With No Address
Technology
How to Send Mail to a Person With No Address
How to Send Mail to a Person With No Address
Millions of people have no address. They can’t get mail, they can't vote, they can’t get aid, and they don’t have rights. One company wants to change that.
The Real Bionic Man
Superhuman
Episode 3
The Real Bionic Man
After losing part of his arm to cancer, Johnny now has one of the world's most advanced prosthetics.
How to Rebuild a Broken Brain
Science
How to Rebuild a Broken Brain
How to Rebuild a Broken Brain
The unbelievable story of the day Jordan Riley was declared brain dead and his journey of re-learning how to be human.
Conor Russomanno on Exploring Our Limits
Superhuman
Episode 2
Conor Russomanno on Exploring Our Limits
Could linking our brains to computers allow the mind to control the world outside of our bodies?
The 3D-printed helmet that can read your mind. Could it change the world?
Superhuman
The 3D-printed helmet that can read your mind. Could it…
The 3D-printed helmet that can read your mind. Could it change the world?
OpenBCI has developed technology that allows you to control the world outside your body with your brain waves.
Open Sourcing the Brain
Superhuman
Episode 2
Open Sourcing the Brain
Open BCI has developed a 3D-printed headset that allows your brain to interact with computers in amazing ways.
Karen Aiach on Doing the Impossible
Superhuman
Episode 9
Karen Aiach on Doing the Impossible
When Karen Aiach decided to quit her finance job in 2005 in order to find a ...
Meet the Mom Curing Her Daughter's Incurable Disease
Superhuman
Meet the Mom Curing Her Daughter's Incurable Disease
Meet the Mom Curing Her Daughter's Incurable Disease
Karen Aiach isn't a doctor and has never worked in medicine. But when doctors said her daughter wouldn't live past adolescence, she knew she had to get to work.
The Promise of Gene Therapy
Superhuman
Episode 1
The Promise of Gene Therapy
When Karen was told her daughter had an incurable disease, she started a gene therapy company to find a cure.
Superhuman Trailer
Superhuman
Trailer
Superhuman Trailer
Join us as we meet the innovators building our superhuman future.
The Fascinating Story of How AIDS Activism Helped Usher in a "Right to Try" Movement
Science
The Fascinating Story of How AIDS Activism Helped Usher in…
The Fascinating Story of How AIDS Activism Helped Usher in a "Right to Try" Movement
Should terminally ill patients be allowed to try experimental procedures? Hear the amazing, true story of the AIDS activists who fought for a "right to try." And won.
Is the Miracle Medicine of the Future About to Become the Totally Real Medicine of the Present?
Superhuman
Is the Miracle Medicine of the Future About to Become the…
Is the Miracle Medicine of the Future About to Become the Totally Real Medicine of the Present?
Gene therapy uses a virus to replace missing or defective genes. It sounds counterintuitive, but it could be the key to curing previously incurable diseases.
Three Women Who Changed the Way We Think About Medicine
Superhuman
Three Women Who Changed the Way We Think About Medicine
Three Women Who Changed the Way We Think About Medicine
From newborn health to AIDS treatment to DNA research, these brilliant women paved the way for incredible advances in the field of medicine.
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