How I Made The NASA Perseverance Mission “Dare Mighty Things” Poster on Redbubble

As a space and astronomy nerd, I have been excitedly following the NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Mission, which has just succeeded now in late February in landing a new exploration vehicle on the surface of the Red Planet. Yesterday, I learned that NASA hid a secret massage in the colored panels of the parachute that lowered the rover to the surface of the planet!

Figure 1: NASA Perseverance Mission’s Rover Parachute

The red and white panels of the inner parachute ring were arranged to make a binary code of 0s and 1s, which spelled out the mission slogan “Dare Mighty Things”, while the outer ring encoded the coordinates of the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Earth: 34 11 58 N 118 10 31 W. How cool is that! Here is how I went about turning that blurry original image into a poster.

First, I made a simple outline of the 80 segments of the parachute using the free Photoshop-like tool called Gimp. (Gimp is my go-to for pretty much any kind of detailed image work because it is free and I love free things, plus it is surprisingly powerful.) I drew one segment with the Paths Tool, then copied and rotated and pasted until I had this:

Figure2: The 80 parachute segments drawn

Using the same drawing tools, I outlined the individual panels and other main areas of the parachute, like this:

Figure 3: Panel outlines complete

Next it was time to color the panels. Using the eyedropper tool I sampled the colors in the original photographic image (including the beautiful dark blue Martian sky!) as well as various sunlit and shadow areas on the panel. This gave me good and varied color palette for the rest of the work. Now it was time to bucket fill each panel with the appropriate base color:

Figure 4: Base colors of the parachute panels, including transparent areas (dark blue)

To give the design a little depth, I added a new “shadow” layer to the image to darken the edges of the individual panels a little. Technically this was at the limit of my graphic design skills and involved much fiddling with Gaussian blurs and masks and other yucky things. However, I think the effect was worthwhile. Here’s how it looked in close-up:

Figure 5: Panel shadows to give 3D depth

Next it was time to create a ring of outer text. To do this, I switched to my other favorite free graphic tool, Canva. It’s a great online tool for quickly putting together basic designs. It doesn’t have the power of Gimp, but it is very flexible for mocking up ideas — it is also great for creating curved text! And it comes with thousands instantly usable fonts too. I found a really good NASA-looking font called “HK Modular” and used that to create a ring of text to go around the main image:

Figure 6: The text ring in Canva. The inner circle element helps with text alignment

(The circular element approximated where the parachute would go and helped me to align the text perfectly.) The text ring was made at the largest free image size in Canva (5000 x 5000 pixels) and after downloading it I needed to remove the background as the free version of Canva doesn’t allow you to export transparent images. (One day I will take a Canva subscription because it really is worth it, but for now I’m just a happy freeloader.)

I imported the text ring into Gimp, removed the background, then resized it to wrap around the main image:

Figure 7: Main elements aligned

The final graphic design step was to imitate the effect of sunlight on the parachute as a whole. To do this I selected the white panels and tinted them towards the blue, before using the spray-gun with white to lighten the parachute areas in the sun. A similar effect was applied to the red panels. The finished design has a nice harmony I think:

Figure 8: Sunlight falling on the panels

My design was then ready for uploading to my Redbubble shop, where you can now find it on:

and 91 other products.

This project stretched my graphic design skills to the limit, but I am secretly pleased just how much I have learned in the last year, both about the tools of the trade and about how to design good-looking products. Now it is on to the next challenge!

/Chris

The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn — in case, like me, you missed it

Like many people living in the Northern Hemisphere, the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in late December 2020 was hidden behind a mass of boring cloud. The only view of the event I got to see was a secondhand blurry image made available on Wikipedia by user KSPFanatic102 under a Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license.

I got to wondering what the conjunction on the winter solstice would have looked like if I had been able to see it through a really powerful instrument, like the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. Maybe I could create some sort of mosaic image based on other higher-resolution images?

It turns out that there are many high resolution images of the individual planets and their moons in the public domain. Using the original image as a template, I set about replacing each blurred planet and moon with an appropriately rotated, scaled down, de-saturated, high-resolution image, lightened or darkened to match the planet or moon’s correct albedo.

As the actual conjunction occurred in Sagittarius, I took the liberty of adding a faint but appropriate starry background. The resulting image is, I believe, as close as possible to what you would have seen if it was possible to “look through” as powerful a scope as the Hubble in orbit:

The 2020 Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, ultra high resolution astronomy mosaic.

In the composite image we see Jupiter bottom right with, from right to left, its moons Europa, Io, and Ganymede. Top left we see Saturn with, above it, its moon Titan. In close-up you can see the planets and moons in high-resolution:

Close up Jupiter with Io and Ganymede during the Great Conjunction 2020.

Astronomy is a deep passion of mine and I love to contribute to its great body of knowledge in anyway I can. If anyone is interested, I have made this image is available as a poster, a print, and in various other forms in my Redbubble shop.

10 Beautiful Space & Astronomy Gifts

Here are some stunning astronomy gift ideas that are perfect for the stargazer, cosmologist, or astronaut in your family … even if that’s yourself!

Space is fascinating, educational and entertaining! We marvel at the asteroids, comets, moons, planets, stars and galaxies. We wonder about all that is to be discovered across our vast universe. And space science provides us with some of the most gorgeous images ever captured by mankind. Here are some stunning astronomy gift ideas that are perfect for the stargazer, cosmologist, or astronaut in your family … even if that’s yourself!

1. The Horsehead Nebula in Orion Wall Poster

An eye-catching and gorgeous wall poster featuring the Barnard 3 nebula in the constellation of Orion, based on a photograph taken by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. Perfect for dorms, bedrooms, offices, studios, classrooms, or anywhere blank walls aren’t welcome, Printed on 185gsm semi gloss poster paper. Size 99.3 x 84.3 cm (including a 5mm white boarder). Available in other sizes and on 50 more products. Available on Redbubble

2. The Crab Nebula Chiffon Top

A bright and beautiful addition to any wardrobe, this stunning image of the Crab Nebula was taken by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope. Available in a wide range of sizes, this garment’s front panel is edge-to-edge custom printed using a sublimation transfer print technique that embeds dye into the fabric allowing it to stay soft and drape. Option of black or white back panel, sleeves and binding. Slightly sheer 100% Polyester chiffon with silky hand-feel, ideal for wearing as a layering piece. Loose cropped boxy style fit. Available on Redbubble

3. The Tarantula Nebula iPad Case

A stunning and colorful iPad case featuring the famous Tarantula nebula in Dorado, based on an original Hubble telescope photograph. Slim impact resistant poly-carbonate case with protective lip. Design wraps around the sides of the case and the colors are embedded directly into the case. Case allows full access to device ports. Fits 4th, 3rd, and 2nd iPad models, as well as model numbers A1395, A1396, A1397, A1403, A1416, A1430, A1458, A1459, A1460. Thickness 3/64 inch (1mm), weight 35g. Also available as a form-fitting removable vinyl decal with laminate top coat iPad skin, and on 50 more products. Available on Redbubble.

4. Galactic Center Throw Blanket

A rich and glorious throw blanket featuring the heart of the Milky Way, based on radio and x-rays images from the Chandra X-ray and MeerKAT observatories. The throw blanket is 100% polyester fleece with soft, fluffy hand-feel. Printed on front with ivory colored back. Edge-to-edge sublimation print. Machine washable. Available in small (101 x 76cm), medium (152 x 127cm) and large (203 x 152cm) sizes. Also available on 75 more products. Available on Redbubble.

5. Horsehead Nebula Close Up Throw Pillow

An stunning close up photo of the famous Horsehead Nebula in Orion. This vibrant double-sided print floor pillow cover is a versatile seating or lounging option that will update any room. Durable 100% spun polyester cushion cover. 90 x 90cm. Fills must be purchased separately for this floor pillow. Concealed zip opening for a clean look and easy care. This image is available on 75 other products too. Available on Redbubble

6. “Pale Blue Dot” Framed Print

“Pale Blue Dot” is a famous photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 from 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles) by the Voyager 1 space probe at the request of famous scientist, writer and Cosmos presenter Carl Sagan. The Earth is shown as a tiny blue speck against a ray of sunlight. This image is available as a framed print in three sizes. The print itself measures 23.9 x 20.3cm, 35.9 x 30.5cm or 47.9 x 40.7 cm. Both box and flat frame styles are available and the frame is a high-quality timber frame finishes to suit your decor. Premium perspex completes the frame – clearer and lighter than glass. Available on Redbubble

7. Earthrise Over the Moon Tote Bag

This elegant tote bag features the image of the Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon that was captured by the crew of the Apollo 8 mission as it orbited the Moon. The tote bag is a durable, easy-to-carry shopping bag with sublimated print on both sides and is available in small, medium and large sizes. It has a super strong 1 inch (2.5cm) wide cotton shoulder strap and is made from soft yet durable 100% spun polyester poplin fabric. Gentle machine wash. This image is also available on a cotton tote bag and 50 other products. Available on Redbubble

8. BOSS Great Wall Graphic T-Shirt

This wonderful and unique T-shirt features the “Great Wall” imaged by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey mapping project. The front panel is edge-to-edge printed using a sublimation transfer technique for crisp, bold colors. The printed front panel is 96% polyester, 4% spandex. Solid color back panel, sleeves and neck bind are 100% cotton. This amazing image is also available on 50 other products. Available on Redbubble

9. The Pillars of Creation Duvet Cover

A fabulous bed covering featuring the “Pillars of Creation”, the amazing clouds of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula in the Serpens constellation, some 6,500–7,000 light years from Earth. This machine-washable duvet cover has a vivid, full color print on the front, white on the back. 100% polyester top, 50% cotton / 50% polyester back. Concealed zipper opening and internal insert ties for easy assembly. Available in multiple sizes from twin to king. Twin size (173 x 224 cm) fits most extra long dorm beds. Duvet insert not included. Available on Redbubble

10. Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation A-Line Dress

This beautiful dress pattern comes from the CMBR, the electromagnetic radiation remnant from an early stage of the universe. This faint cosmic background radiation fills all space. The dress has a loose swing shape for an easy, flowing fit. Sizes run large, so order a size down from your usual. Print covers entire front and back panel. 97% polyester, 3% elastane woven dress fabric with silky hand-feel. This pattern is available on 50 other products. Available on Redbubble

These and many many more space and astronomy-themed products can be found in the Astronomy Collection in the Tiokvadrat store on Redbubble. Available products include colorful astronomy design for tops, t-shirts, skirts, scarves, leggings, socks, bags, phone cases, covers, mugs, notebooks, coasters, cushions, pillows, duvets, mats, blankets, clocks, prints, shower curtains. Perfect gift idea for astronomy and space sciences loving boy, girl, friend, wife, husband, partner, brother, sister, colleague, or the office. Happy shopping!