This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:
It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
Official LL Viewers
Current Release version 188.8.131.529115, dated September 22nd, promoted October 13th – formerly the “Moonshine” Maintenance RC – no change.
Now open at Artful Expressions, curated by Sorcha Tyles, is United States of Mind, the second solo exhibition of photography by Jes Mode (J3sus Mode). It features a total of eight studies, each focused on a specific state of mind / feeling / emotion.
Presented in muted tones, and a step away from Jes’ more usual use of black-and-white, these are considered, artful and provocative takes on their subject matter, using both Jes and his in-world partner and fellow artist, Cecilia Mode (Cecilia Nansen) as models.
Each piece takes its title from the state of mind / feeling being presented: apathy, breakdown, fear, hedonism, insomnia, nihilism, schizophrenia, and vanity, and is accompanied by notes from the artist to give further expression to the piece.
For some of the art, the subject matter is presented in what may appear to be a relatively straightforward manner: there is little doubting Schizophrenia, for example, with its figure bound within a straitjacket shaking his had so rapidly we literally see he is in two minds, while Breakdown offers a physical manifestation of collapse. Others are more nuanced in presentation, such as Hedonism, with not only its menage-a-tois, but also its more subtle hints at pleasure. Others appear to run slightly contrary to their title, or at least bind it with other outlooks / philosophical standpoints; Nihilism, for example, when taken with its accompanying text perhaps also suggests vanity and solipsism through the emphasis of self.
Be this as it may, all deserve careful study, because they are perhaps more layered than may first appear to be the case – again, note the bottle of wine in Hedonism, the overall setting of Schizophrenia – the image itself perfectly positioned alongside of Fear, offering a visual as well as metaphysical link between the two subjects. Similarly, Apathy offers an evocative presentation in which not only are the two bodies positioned so as to suggest a lack of (sexual) interest in one another – or at least mutual passivity – the blurring of facial features speaks volumes suggestive of a total lack of interest / concern, each towards the other, adding further depth to the sense of apathy within their pose.
In short, these are all marvellous studies, skilfully executed representations of their subject matter, mirror reflections of their accompanying descriptions (consider Vanity and the quote Jes gives from Lou Reed, or the way Insomnia focuses the eye not on the figure, but on the shadow, echoing the idea of a copy of a copy, as quoted in Jes’ notes. All told, a captivating exhibition, and one which should not be missed.
It’s been two years since my last visit to Aspen Fell, so when Shakespeare suggested Caitlyn and I head back and take a look and the region in its new home, I thought he had the right idea.
The region presents a setting caught between autumn’s last breath and the cold winds of winter. It is a rocky place, the majority of the region given over to a high-walled rocky U running north to south, surrounded by cold looking waters and offshore peaks, the entire setting struck in muted browns, whites and greens by the lowering Sun (I’ll be honest, I pushed the Sun a little higher into the sky to gain a little more natural contrast).
The landing point sits on the south side of the region, at the base of the U. Facing visitors on their arrival is the high face of the cliffs, split by a narrow crack, which seems to offer an invitation to see what lies on the other side of the rocks. However, we’d recommend you avoid the temptation, unless you want to get particularly wet. Instead, turn to the east or west, where sit old walls bearing wrought iron fences and heavy gates, pointing the way to where you might find paths snaking their way up to the plateaus above.
This is very much a place of two parts in several ways. To the west, it is distinctly autumnal; the grass is still green, the trees still have their leaves, the lowlands offer a long ribbon of sand that curls around the cliffs, a place to walk and even enjoy a sauna – but everything is cast under a chilly, heavy sky, the tide braking against that sandy ribbon particularly cold. To the east, the region is caught in the grip of winter; snow blankets lay over both the curl of the beach and the tops of the plateaus, and even forms drifting slopes between the two. The trees are denuded, the grass fighting to push itself through the white mantle of snow, and frost catches stone and wood.
Similarly, to the west, the cliff tops, caught in their autumn cast, appear careworn and a little tired. Dilapidated barns and the ruins of a farm-house together with the wrecks of old vehicles lay scattered across the plateau. To the east, the cliff tops are given over to the remnants of much older structures: an ancient bridge or viaduct together with the walls, arches and paved floor of a former building or gate-house, their stonework giving them a sense of youthful permanence within the landscape, the snow on and around them presenting a feeling of pristine newness.
Down in the valley between the arms of this rocky U, these two halves meet, but do not merge. To one side, the cliffs descend with path and rocky face to the snow-covered banks of a watery finger poking its way south. The trees here are also without leaves, bent against the cold, while an icy shelf reaches outwards over the water without actually reaching the far bank. Across the water, the west side of this broad valley again holds on to autumn the grass is tall and the trees, though bent and twisted, retain their crowns of leaves. Paths again wind up to the highlands above, and like those highlands the detritus of life can be found here: the ruin of a wooden house, the wreck of a car, a forlorn wooden deck caught under the downpour that holds the north-west of the region captive.
Bridges suspended by balloons link the two halves of the valley, undulating over ice and water to link snow and grass. To the south, the two halves of this landscape are also brought together by an old railroad line, a narrow bridge allowing it to hold the two sides together likes stitches holding together the thin slice of a cut.
If all this sounds gloomy, don’t be fooled; Aspen Fell also hold plenty of warmth. Scattered across it are places to sit, indoors and out, be they in the warmth of cosy cabins or aboard the freight cars of a parked train or on blankets or cushions under open skies, or up in a watch tower or under the canvas awning of a tent. Lamps and lanterns are also scattered throughout the setting, offering pools of warmth and illumination, while many of the trees on the snow-laden eastern side of the region are festooned with lights, bringing their own cheer and warmth to the setting.
I’ve always enjoyed Aspen Fell, and this iteration is no exception. Raw it may be on first looks, but there is an appeal to be found here, a desire to explore and discover. So, too, does it offer a place to be shared, and to perhaps reflect on the passing of another year (albeit with a typical northern hemisphere outlook).
NASA has provided an update on the first integrated launch of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft.
Planned as an uncrewed mission, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), planned as a flight to cislunar space and back, is a critical test on the road to NASA’s human deep space exploration goals, designed to verify the SLS / Orion’s capabilities in handling missions between Earth and the Moon.
The update comes after the completion of reviews of both the Space Launch System and the Orion vehicle systems – the latter of which took place on both sides of the Atlantic, given the Orion’s Service Module, which is providing the vehicle with power and propulsion, is being built by the European Space Agency. NASA initiated the reviews as a result of early studies, which raised concerns over meeting a December 2019 launch date as ambitious, leading to the agency pushing it the launch back to June 2020.
As a part of the update, NASA points to June 2020 still being the planned launch date, but indicates it is also working to keeping the December 2019 launch a possibility, providing no significant setbacks or issues arise, as several of the risks indicated in the earlier report have not been realised. However, even if EM-1 still achieves the 2019 launch date, the follow-up EM-2 mission, which will carry a crew into space, will still take place in 2023, rather than 2021 as originally planned, to allow additional time for the development of the SLS Block 1B launch vehicle which will be used in that mission.
As part of the recent reviews, and in order to help meet the December 2019 launch opportunity, the update indicates that a flight test of the Orion’s launch abort system, critical to SLS operations, and must occur prior to EM-1, have been brought forward to April 2019. Known as Ascent-Abort 2, it will validate the launch abort system’s ability to land the crew safely during descent, and also help ensure that the agency can remain on track for the EM-2 crewed flight in 2023.
To build the SLS and Orion, NASA is relying on several new and advanced manufacturing techniques, including 3D printing, which is being used to fashion more than 100 parts for the Orion capsule. In Germany, integration of the first Service Module is progressing. Recently, the 24 orientation thrusters were installed, complementing the eight larger engines that will back up the main engine, and more than 11 km of cables are being laid and connected to send the megabytes of information from the solar panels, fuel systems, engines, and air and water supplies to the module’s central computers.
With the SLS booster, welding has been completed on all the major structures for the mission and is on track to assemble them to form the largest rocket stage ever built and complete the EM-1 “green run,” an engine test that will fire up the core stage with all four RS-25 engines at the same time.
EM-1 will see a crew-capable space craft travel further from Earth than at any point in time since the dawn of the space age. Following launch, the vehicle will commence a 4-day flight to cislunar space, where it will remain in extended orbit around the Moon, before making a 4-day return to Earth.
SpaceX Looks to Falcon Heavy Launch and Operational Return of Pad 40
With NASA still looking at a potential of December 2019 for the maiden launch of the Space Launch System rocket, SpaceX is preparing for a December 2017 maiden flight of their new launch system, the Falcon Heavy. Originally scheduled for November 2017, the launch is now pencilled for December 29th, 2017 and will be one of five launches SpaceX plan to round-out the year.
The Falcon Heavy, when operational, will be capable of hoisting a maximum payload of 63.5 to low Earth orbit, although the more usual LEO payload limit will be around 55 tonnes. It will also be capable of lobbing 14 tonnes to the Moon, 10 tonnes to Mars and even 3.5 tonnes to the outer solar system.
The maiden flight, however, will carry little more than a dummy payload, but it will hopefully include the recovery of the three Falcon 9 rockets which make up the core of the Falcon Heavy.
Two of these rockets form “strap on boosters” for the Falcon Heavy, and are jettisoned first. If all goes according to plan, these will perform automated “boost back” manoeuvres and fly themselves to safe landings.. The central booster will continue until its fuel is almost expended, then separate from the upper stage, perform its own boost back manoeuvre and return to Earth.
Eventually, SpaceX plan to make Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy fully reusable with the addition of a “fly back” upper stage as well.
Also in December, SpaceX plan to re-active their launch facilities at Launch complex 40 at Canaveral Air Force Station alongside Kennedy Space Centre, Florida. This has been out of commission sine September 1st, 2016, when a Falcon 9 booster exploded on the pad during a pre-launch test, completely destroying itself, its payload and severely damaging the pad.
Since that time, SpaceX’s east coast operations have been confined to launch complex 39A at Kennedy Space Centre, which will be used for all Falcon Heavy launches and – eventually – for the launch of the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System.
Despite Canaveral Pad 40 being out of service, SpaceX has achieved its highest cadence of launches to date in 2017, and hopes to be able to commit to an even higher rate of launches in 2018 using both pad 40 and pad 39A.
The first scheduled flight from the repaired pad 40 should be a commercial cargo resupply services mission to the International Space Station (ISS), and subject to NASA approval, might utilise a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage.