Space Sunday: Ups and Downs

An artist’s rendering of the ispace HAKUTO-R M1 lunar lander. Credit: ispace

Japan’s first attempt at a lunar landing appears to have ended with the loss of the vehicle – once again proving that, for all its successes, spaceflight is nowhere close to being a certainty.

Launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 in December 11th, 2023 on a low-energy ballistic trajectory that carried it 1.4 million km from Earth before starting on its return, with the Moon getting in the way to allow the vehicle enter an extended elliptical orbit on March 20th, 2023. Over the course of the next several weeks that orbit was circularised, allowing the vehicle to attempt a landing on April 25th.

Essentially a private mission – the lander was built by Tokyo-based ispace – the craft was carrying a set of private and government-sponsored payloads. Among them was Rashid, a small lunar rover developed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in the United Arab Emirates, and a “transformable lunar robot” the size of a baseball from Japan’s space agency JAXA. Other payloads include cameras and technology demonstrations.

ispace originally started as a partner of Netherlands-based White Label Space, founded in 2008 to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize. The team then became White Label Space, Japan LLC. They then become Hakuto in order to compete directly in in the Lunar V Prize, developing the Sorato rover before finally transitioning into its present form. Credit: Syced

The landing was streamed live and appeared to initially go well, the HAKUTO-R M1 vehicle having survived its extended trip to the Moon with only minor issues, all of which ispace were able to rectify.  However, during the final part of the lander’s decent – whilst it was still some 80 metres above the lunar surface, close to Atlas Crater and descending at a rate of 48 km/h, the telemetry readings for the lander appeared to switch from live data to a simulation, with no subsequent confirmation of a safe landing or any further receipt of telemetry.

ispace initially acknowledged the potential vehicle loss 25 minutes after the planned landing. It came after repeated attempts at communication had failed; six hours after that, the company issued a statement confirming they believed the vehicle had been lost.

During the lander’s final approach to the surface [the] estimated remaining propellant reached at the lower threshold and shortly afterward the descent speed rapidly increased. Based on this, it has been determined that there is a high probability that the lander eventually made a hard landing on the Moon’s surface … it has been determined that Success 9 of the Mission 1 Milestones, successfully landing on the Moon and establishing communications, is no longer achievable.

– ispace announcement on the loss of the HAKUTO-R M1 lander

Despite the loss, Takeshi Hakamada, founder and chief executive of ispace, believes the mission yielded valuable data from both the development and flight of the M1 lander. This, he said would be fed into the company’s next lander mission – M2 – which is targeting a late 2024 launch. It will carry a set of customer payloads as well as a “micro rover” that ispace developed. That rover will collect a regolith sample that will be transferred to NASA under a 2020 contract awarded to ispace’s European subsidiary.

Ingenuity Snaps Perseverance

A panoramic view of Belva Crater captured by NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter during its 51st flight on April 22nd, 2023, the 772nd Martian day, or sol of the Mars 2020 mission. Within it can be seen – upper left and upper right edges – two of the helicopter’s landing feet, and just below and to the right of the image centre is the helicopter’s own shadow. Taken at an altitude of 12 metres, the picture also shows – top left (and just above and inboard of Ingenuity’s landing foot), at the foot of a create wall slope – the Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Voyager 2 Gets Extended Mission Life

NASA engineers have developed a means to extend the science lifespan of their venerable Voyager 2 space probe beyond its already impressive 45 years – and could do the same for the Voyager 1 craft.

The twin Voyager programme vehicles, launched in August and September 1977 respectively, are the only human-made spacecraft to reach interstellar space.  Together, they are helping scientists understand the heliosphere, the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields generated by the Sun, informing them as to its shape and its role in protecting Earth from the energetic particles and other radiation found in the interstellar environment. At the same time, the vehicles are helping those scientists also understand the nature of the environment beyond our solar system.

An artist’s rendering of Voyager 2 in deep space. Credit: NASA/JPL

However, whilst powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), which convert heat from decaying plutonium into electricity, the two vehicles have a limited source of power, the RTGs generating less and less electricity as the plutonium degrades.

Thus far, the flow of electricity to the science instruments has been maintained by means of turning off other systems as they’ve ceased being required – such as the high-power camera systems – and those which do not contribute to the science mission or communications. Nevertheless it has been estimated by late 2023, Voyager 2 would be unable to generate sufficient power to manage its instruments, and NASA would have to start turning them off one by one.

To avoid this, engineers carried out a review of the craft’s systems, and realised that the voltage regulation system, designed to protect the science instruments against unexpected surges in the flow of electricity to them, has a small percent of power from the vehicle RTG specifically dedicated to it; a reserve that isn’t actually required, as it also works off the primary supply. The decision has therefore been taken to release this reserve and allow the instructions access it.

This does mean that if there is a serious voltage issue on the vehicle, the regulator might not be able to deal with it – but as engineers note, after 45 years of continuous operations, the regulators on both of the Voyager craft have been perfectly stable and have never needed to draw on the reserve. While the amount of power freed-up by the move is small, it nevertheless means NASA can forestall any need to start turning off instruments until 2026.

The same approach can also be taken with Voyager 1, although the situation there is less critical at that craft lost one of its science instruments relatively early in the mission, leaving it with sufficient power to keep the remaining instruments through until the end of 2024 before decisions on releasing the power reserve needs to be taken.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: Ups and Downs”

2023 Raglan Shire Artwalk in Second Life: call to artists

Raglan Shire Artwalk 2022 – blog post

The Raglan Shire Artwalk is one of the staples of the SL art calendar, and for 2023 the 15th Artwalk will take place between Sunday, May 14th and Sunday, June 18th, inclusive.

Running across four weeks, the Artwalk is popular event among artists and residents, often attracting over 150 artists, who display their 2D and 3D art across the regions of Raglan Shire. All the displays are open-air, with 2D art is displayed on hedgerows in and around the regions, while sculptures and 3D art is displayed in a number of designated areas, all of which allows visitors to both appreciate the art and explore the Shire regions.

Qualifying Art

For the purposes of the event, qualifying art is defined as representations of RL photography, painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, and digital fine art that can be displayed on a prim; and SL photography, manipulated SL photography and SL sculpture. Pictures of physical world crafts, such as beadwork, leatherwork, etc., are not part of this show definition.

Call to Artists

A Call For Artists for the 2023 event has been issued for those wishing to participate, and key points about the exhibition in addition to the above, are as follows:

  • It is a non-juried show.
  • Artists can display more than one piece if they wish.
    • 2D artists (“flat” art – photos, paintings, etc.) will be awarded a maximum of 15 LI. Individual pictures should be 1 prim, including the frame, and pieces should not exceed the height of the hedgerows against which they are displayed. No hovertext allowed.
    • 3D artists (sculptures, etc.), will be awarded a maximum of 500 LI for up to three pieces of work. Artists are requested to state the LI per piece in their application, together with its overall dimensions (length, width & height). Note that any piece exceed 10m in any of these will require special permission from the organisers.
    • Sales of art are allowed.
  • All the above art forms are welcome, but should be rated PG / G – so no nudity, please!
  • Group membership will be required in order to display work.
  • Tip jars and floating text are not allowed.
  • Touch-based landmark / biography givers may be included, but will count against an artist’s total LI allowance.
  • Questions and enquiries should be forwarded via note card to Artwalk Director Karmagirl Avro, or Artwalk Assistants Kayak Kuu, Linn Darkwatch, or RaglanShireArtwalk Resident. Aid can also be obtained by asking questions through the Friends of Raglan Shire in-world Group.

Those wishing to display their art should complete and submit the Raglan Shire Artwalk 2023 Registration Form by no later than 21:00 SLT on Monday, May 8th, 2023.

Raglan Shire Artwalk 2022

Event Dates

  • Monday, May 8th: applications close at 21:00 SLT.
  • Tuesday, May 9th: notification of exhibit space location issued to artists – note that hedgerow space for 2D artists is on a “first come, first serve” basis.
  • Friday, May 12th (after 09:00 SLT) and Saturday May 13th: Artist set-up days.
  • Sunday, May 14th: Artwalk Opens.
  • Sunday, June 18th: Artwalk closes.
  • Sunday, June 18th (after 21:00 SLT) through Tuesday, June 20th: takedown of works.

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A soulful Japanese Forest in Second Life

The Last Aokigahara Souls, April 2023 – click any image for full size

Occupying one quarter of a Full region leveraging the private region Land Capacity bonus, lies The Last Aokigahara Souls. A highly photogenic setting cast beneath a night sky, this is a place designed primarily designed by Eddie Takeda and Clair Wolf Takeda (Kajda1610) which is open to the public, and is described as a piece of Japanese nature where visitors can relax and enjoy a good cup of tea.

The name appears to have been taken from Aokigahara, the Blue Tree Meadow (also known as the Sea of Trees); a rich forest which has grown on some 30 square kilometres of lava laid down by the last major eruption of Mount Fuji in 864 CE. Located on the volcano’s north-west flank, the forest is a popular tourist destination, and has a historical reputation as a home to yūrei, the ghosts of the dead – something which might again be perhaps reflected in the parcel’s name.

The Last Aokigahara Souls, April 2023

Like its namesake, The Last Aokigahara Souls is a place where volcanic rock can be found – notably in the curtain cliffs which bound this sky-based location, and in the multiple basalt columns and outcrops found throughout. Also like its namesake, this is a richly wooded setting, home to both streams and pools of water, where exploration is encouraged along paths and trails.

The landing point sits within the outer courtyard of a large traditional-styles Japanese house, a smaller guest house facing it from across the gravel floor of the courtyard. Information boards to one side avail themselves to visitors, as does the seating located within the courtyard. Access to the house is via a set of inner courtyards, and once inside, visitors can make their way through the inner courtyards to where coffee awaits thirsty folk at the back of the house, or those wishing to unwind a little more can partake of sake in one of the two side rooms of the lower floor.

The Last Aokigahara Souls, April 2023

There are two exits from the landing point. The first is a gravel footpath marked by a red Torii gate to one side of the main courtyard or by crossing a simply log bridge which spans the stream paralleling the courtyard beyond the screen of bamboo running alongside the guest house. This to another Torii gate on the far side of the stream and a short gravel path alive with local wildlife, which provides access to a romantic little gazebo where couple might enjoy a dance or two.

The main path, meanwhile point the way to a little outdoor eatery, complete with its own little lantern-strung courtyard eating area. Here the path splits the two arms each bordering a side of a large pond fed by low waterfalls. Pointing away from the eatery, the first arm of the path directs explorers between the pond and more bamboo to where a further Torii gate guards stone steps as they start a curving climb up a hill whose flanks are hidden under the drooping cover of the trees. The second arm of the path runs onward past the eatery to joint to be cross by another path running down from the hills via a further – and straight – stair, which is again marked at its base by the presence of a Torii gate.

The Last Aokigahara Souls, April 2023

Both of the paths up the hill lead to the same destination: a temple and shrine. Illuminated by lanterns and sitting within a small garden space, the temple presents visitors with the options of spending time in quiet contemplation or sitting before Buddha whilst awaiting enlightenment as the heavens turn overhead. That the two paths both lead up to and down from the temple means they offer a tidy loop around this part of the setting without the need to retrace steps.

The path at the foot of the straight stairway not only crosses the one leading outward from the landing point, it continues on to where a small red bridge arches over the stream as it is beautifully lit by floating lanterns sitting on rafts clearly anchored against the swift flow of its current. Across the bridge, the path enters a Zen garden offering multiple points of interest to explore and in which to spend time.

The Last Aokigahara Souls, April 2023

Within this corner of the setting can be found a further shrine, a small watermill sharing its space with a family of pandas (a typical inclusion within many Japanese-themed settings, despite the fact the panda is not native to that land – although it is beloved of Japanese people); a garden marked by the presence of a huge tree in Sakura-like bloom where a couple might enjoy cuddles under a smaller tree, watched over by both Buddha and Japanese cranes; and a gravel-floored space beyond the latter garden, which can also reached by a separate path running from the Zen garden, providing the home for a small teahouse where a rather talent kitty is available to entertain visitors.

In addition, for those passing by the watermill, a further pair of bridges cross over the water channel cut to turn the mill’s wheel and (again) over the stream. These connect with a further path running under the lee of one of the boundary cliffs, climbing a set of steps as it does so to reach a little hideaway overlooking a rounded pond. Fed on one side by falls dropping from the cliffs and with its own falls tumbling to feed both mill and stream below, the pond is home to dancing crane, koi that calmly swim under the surface and lanterns which float above, lilies and basalt outcrops completing this near-idyllic spot where tea might again be enjoyed.

The Last Aokigahara Souls, April 2023

Set as it is within a sky platform, The Last Aokigahara Souls is beautifully presented; the space has been wisely used to give a sense of a location larger than its actual size, allowing for plenty of exploration without immediately feeling one is simply retracing steps. There are also multiple opportunities throughout for photography, whilst the setting gives people a chance to get away from others and enjoy a little time alone and in peace.

As noted, The Last Aokigahara Souls does sit under a (quite glorious) night sky by default, but it also lends itself to other EEP settings for photography, as I hope a couple of the images here demonstrate.

The Last Aokigahara Souls, April 2023

Definitely a place to be visited, and my thanks to Shawn Shakespeare for pointing me to it.

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Aneli’s art in Second Life

Aneli Abeyante: the new La Maison d’Aneli

La Maison d’Aneli, the gallery complex operated and curated by Aneli Abeyante, and so long the host centre for a range of art exhibitions in Second Life (many of which have been featured in these pages), may have closed at the end of 2022, but the name lives on, now as a home for Aneli’s own art.

Her most recent exhibition, Scrap Heap, opened on April 19th, 2023, and it gave me good reason to visit the new La Maison d’Aneli, located within its own airborne space at vroum Short’s VeGeTaL PLaNeT. The core of this exhibition can be found on the upper level of the gallery, and features a collection of eight photographs taken by Aneli in the physical world which offer us the opportunity to view metal structures and objects through her eye and lens.

Aneli Abeyante: Scrap Heap

From the gears of aged industrial machines to the skeletal remains of metal frames, passing by way of the metal core of building long fallen into disuse, this is a selection of images captivating in their subject and the approach Aneli has taken to recording them. Her use of angle, focus and object presenting us with a series of images which – contrary to their static nature – have a richness of life and history to them.

Scrap Heap sits above an more expansive display area, complete with indoor event space, in which Aneli displays a selection of her digital art. Focused on the use of geometry withing pieces which are both static and animated, these are pieces which are engaging in form and in motion; visually pleasing digital abstractions with a further expression of life and motion which can be quite hypnotising – just cam in onto Lueur1 and / or Composition 2 for just a minute or two and see what I mean.

Aneli Abeyante: Scrap Heap

In addition, the gallery space has been dressed by Aneli in keeping with the Scrap Heap theme. the walls in places finished as aged, rusting metal, industrial grating used as flooring and walkways, and rusting flotsam in the waters either side of the landing point. This dressing and décor helps add a level of immersiveness to the gallery and the exhibition whilst also providing a visual counterpoint to the organised regularity of the digital pieces.

Although and engaging pair of exhibitions presented by an engaging Second Life artist, and on a personal note I’ll add that it is pleasing to see someone whole had devoted so much of her time promoting the art of others in Second Life now taking time to stage and display exhibitions of her own work.

Aneli Abeyante: the new La Maison d’Aneli

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2023 SL SUG meetings week #17 summary

Grand Garden, February 2023 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday,  April 25th Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting. They form a summary of the items discussed and is not intended to be a full transcript. A video of the entire meeting is embedded at the end of the article for those wishing to review the meeting in full – my thanks to Pantera for recording it.

Server Deployments

  • On Tuesday, April 25th, the SLS Main channel servers were restarted without any deployment, leaving them on simulator release 579248.
  • On Wednesday, April 26th, simhosts on the Bluesteel RC channel will receive a bugfix maintenance release, highlights of which include:
    • “Fixes in the vicinity of” BUG-232037 “Avatar Online / Offline Status Not Correctly Updating” – although all causes of this issue may not be fully resolved with this update.
    • A fix an issue with avatars colliding with their vehicles on region crossings.
    • Removal of a spurious error message that would pop up on llSetKeyframedMotion.
    • Being able to add UUIDs to the ban list that don’t belong to an agent or group and then being unable to remove them.

Upcoming Simulator Releases

  • It is still hoped to get the server-side support for PBR materials to one (Preflight) or two (Preflight and Snack) RC channels. There is no ETA on this, with both viewer and simulator with LL’s QA team.

Viewer Updates

No official viewer updates at the start of the week, leaving the pipelines as:

  • Release viewer: Maintenance R viewer, version, dated March 28, promoted March 30th.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself).
    • Performance Floater / Auto FPS RC viewer updated to version, April 20th.
    • Maintenance T RC viewer, version, April 6th.
    • Maintenance S RC viewer, version, March 31st.
  • Project viewers:
    • PBR Materials project viewer, version, April 10 – This viewer will only function on the following Aditi (beta grid) regions: Materials1; Materials Adult and Rumpus Room 1 through 4.
    • Puppetry project viewer, version, December 8, 2022.

In Brief

  • A discussion on llMessageLinked, and the idea of an llMessageListLinked function, starting some 27 minutes into the meeting. To avoid misunderstnadings, please refer to the video below for the full discussion.
  • The above led into a general discussion on possible LSL updates / functions, including the likes of BUG-232312 and BUG-229174 – again, please refer to the video for details.

† The header images included in these summaries are not intended to represent anything discussed at the meetings; they are simply here to avoid a repeated image of a rooftop of people every week. They are taken from my list of region visits, with a link to the post for those interested.

Back to Burrow Wood in Second Life

Burrow Wood: Road to Nowhere, April 2023 – click any image for full size

It is said that as his government faced the Sterling Crisis of 1964, former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson quipped, “A week is a long time in politics”. Whether he did in fact say anything of the sort is a subject for debate by those so inclined. However, it does give me the opportunity to offer something of a corollary of sorts: a month is a long time in Second Life.

I say this because within a month of my writing about Monica Mercury’s Burrow Wood County, originally located within a quarter-region parcel of a Full private region, had closed and elements from within it relocated to an expanded set of parcels occupying fully half of another Full private region. Here they sit within a setting of two halves: Burrow Wood – Road to Nowhere and Burrow Wood by the Sea, and Monica recently and kindly invited me over to pay a visit and update my records.

Burrow Wood: Road to Nowhere, April 2023

Once again designed for Monica by Teagan Lefevre of Le’eaf & Co fame, there is much about the this location that is mindful of Burrow Wood County: the same dusty roads, the presence of a run-down motel, the auto shop / garage, the trailer par, and so on. But so too is there much that is new within the expanded landscape, making a further visit worthwhile, even if you did drop into Burrow Wood County just before it closed. That said, a little care might be required with explorations this time around, as the setting now includes a number of rental properties available as private residences, so trespass is to be avoided.

Each part of the location has its own landing point; however, for the sake of convenience, I’m starting my description from the Road to Nowhere landing point, given it sits towards the back of the setting, below the curtain of cliffs which separate Burrow Wood from the neighbouring parcel occupying the region. I also opted to use my personal “travelling” EEP settings when taking the pictures seen in this piece.

Burrow Wood: Road to Nowhere, April 2023

As with the former incarnation of Burrow Wood, this landing point sits at a bus stop, giving visitors the impression they’ve just been dropped off by said transport. Across the road is a lumber yard, and next door to that the familiar motel, facing a slightly upbeat diner as the track runs arrow-straight to the auto shop / garage and splits, one arm sweeping into the little trailer park, the other pointing due south. As it does so, it passes over a familiar old railway bridge, giving the suggestion the track from the landing point may have once been the bed of the railway line. Beyond the bridge, the track runs parallel to a water channel cutting through this part of the setting, passing one of the rental homes before diving trough another tunnel to arrive at the gated access to Burrow Wood by the Sea (passing the latter’s bus stop landing point in the process).

Here the channel the track has been accompanying is given the look of a canal, the banks built over with retaining walls supporting pedestrian-only sidewalks serving. These serve the shop on either side of the channel before dipping down to become / serve small wharves where larger boats moor moor. Two bridges span the channel, each elevated enough to allow smaller boats to pass under them and possibly moor at the floating pier with its gas pump. Sitting between the channel and a small shingle beach is another familiar location: the local oyster house from Burrow Wood County, now offering more outdoor space for diners – and possibly the local seagulls if people aren’t careful!

Burrow Wood by the Sea, April 2023

A single track runs outwards from the town to the west, forming a broad alley between the local bookshop and café. Unpaved and with dirt compacted down from years of use, it runs uphill to where a third tunnel sits,  as the track leads up to another tunnel, this one apparently closed to traffic for whatever reason. Either side of the track is tree-shaded grasslands offer a sense of open wilderness. To one side, this land is cut through by a fast-flowing stream as it tumbles away from the falls which give it life, before it dives into what is presumably a natural bore hole which drops the water down under Burrow Wood by the Sea’s café and into that main waterway.

The falls feeding the stream drop from an arm of rock reaching out from the western curtain of cliffs to neatly split the landscape in two as it steps its way down to meet the main water channel. Tucked under this arm of rock and reached by a makeshift bridge spanning the tumbling stream, is a small cobble-floored terrace and wooden pergola offering visitors a place to sit. Across the stream from it and a little more down slope can be found a shaded picnic spot caught in the loop of a public footpath and, beyond that, another rental property.

Burrow Wood: Road to Nowhere, April 2023

Across the dividing wall of rock the landscape is equally rich and varied as it reaches back towards the building of Road to Nowhere. A wild garden, open to the public can be found on the slopes as they drop down from cliffs to water channel. A round gazebo, well shaded by trees sits within this garden, and both garden and gazebo might at first glance easily be taken to be extensions of the rental home sitting at the top of the slope as it climbs towards the backdrop of cliffs. However, this is not the case, as the fence marking the boundary of the rental property makes clear.

A large and deep pool of water makes up a good part of the landscape here, crossed towards one end by an old wood-framed, covered bridge; what appears to be a relic of a bygone era. A rutted track curves up from one side of the bridge and under the lee of the cliffs, suggesting that perhaps this was once a main right-of-way for carts and wagons – perhaps back in the day when the main track was still home to a railway track. However, across its span, the rest of this rutted route has in part been lost, leaving only a sign alongside at the back of the auto shop to note it is now “road closed”.

Burrow Wood by the Sea, April 2023

With its richly diverse landings, good use of ambient locals sounds, and the careful, natural dividing of the overall setting into a number of distinct areas, Burrow Wood offers photographer, explorers and casual visitors a lot to see and appreciate, and perfectly expands upon Burrow Wood County. My thanks to Monica for the invite to visit!

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All of Burrow Wood is rated Adult.