As ISS Enters Its Final Years, Politics Take Center Stage

There was a time when the idea of an international space station would have been seen as little more than fantasy. After all, the human spaceflight programs of the United States and the Soviet Union were started largely as a Cold War race to see which country would be the first to weaponize low Earth orbit and secure what military strategists believed would be the ultimate high ground. Those early rockets, not so far removed from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), were fueled as much by competition as they were kerosene and liquid oxygen.

Space Shuttle docked to Mir space station in 1995.
Atlantis docked to Mir in 1995.

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. The Soviet Almaz space stations might have carried a 23 mm cannon adapted from tail-gun of the Tu-22 bomber to ward off any American vehicles that got too close, but the weapon was never fired in anger. Eventually, the two countries even saw the advantage of working together. In 1975, a joint mission saw the final Apollo capsule dock with a Soyuz by way of a special adapter designed to make up for the dissimilar docking hardware used on the two spacecraft.

Relations further improved following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, with America’s Space Shuttle making nine trips to the Russian Mir space station between 1995 and 1997. A new era of cooperation had begun between the world’s preeminent space-fairing countries, and with the engineering lessons learned during the Shuttle-Mir program, engineers from both space agencies began laying the groundwork for what would eventually become the International Space Station.

Unfortunately after more than twenty years of continuous US and Russian occupation of the ISS, it seems like the cracks are finally starting to form in this tentative scientific alliance. With accusations flying over who should take the blame for a series of serious mishaps aboard the orbiting laboratory, the outlook for future international collaboration in Earth orbit and beyond hasn’t been this poor since the height of the Cold War.

Continue reading “As ISS Enters Its Final Years, Politics Take Center Stage”


How Do You Make A Raspberry Pi On A Stick?

We agree with [magic-blue-smoke] that one of the only things more fun than a standard Raspberry Pi 4 is the Compute Module form factor. If they are not destined to be embedded in a system, these need a breakout board to be useful. Each can be customized with a myriad board shapes and ports, and that’s where the real fun starts. We’ve already seen projects that include custom carrier boards in everything from a 3D Printer to a NAS and one that shows we can build a single-sided board at home complete with high-speed ports.

[magic blue smoke] used this ability to customize the breakout board as an opportunity to create a hackable media player “stick” with the Raspberry Pi built-in. We love that this Raspberry Pi CM4 TV Stick eliminates all the adapters and cables usually required to connect a Pi’s fiddly micro HDMI ports to a display and has heat sinks and an IR receiver to boot. Like a consumer media player HDMI stick, all you need to add is power. Continue reading “How Do You Make A Raspberry Pi On A Stick?”

wood kayak model

Wood And Glue Scale Kayak Is Super

While we don’t feature many woodworking projects here, we always love learning from people who really know their stuff in any medium. [Brian Oltrogge] showed us a hands-off way to shape aluminum with this 3D print sand-casting project and now brings us a very hands-on kayak project.

We have seen kayaks made from plastic wrap and 3D printed parts, and in the video after the break, [Brian Oltrogge] is building a scale model to validate a wood kayak design created with Rhino 3D and Grasshopper. Besides being a joy to watch the craft of the project, the video is full of great hacks. The “buck” that the wood is formed over sits on CNC cut stands that slot into it. The thickness of three layers of laminated veneer fits the 1:4 scale model perfectly representing 3/4” plywood, and the laser-cut parts use the exact pattern that the final full-size CNC will.

spiral saw blade compared to a quarter for scale

There are also some great tool hacks hidden in the video. [Brian Oltrogge] tells us about a spiral scroll saw blade that can cut in any direction, but as a bonus tip, we also can see a clamp compressing the saw while the blade is tensioned. Watch the video through the end to see some clever wall-mounting brackets too.

The video doesn’t tell us what a Stitch & Glue boat is or how the full-scale will be assembled. To find out more about that, see this charmingly odd vintage film from Chesapeake Light Craft.

Thanks for the tip [Keith Olson]