Sunday, 15 July 2012

Ex Astris Mini Series - First Issue Cover

Here's a sneek peek at the first issue cover of an Ex Astris three issue mini series we're working on for a publisher. This is work in progress for now: there's still some work to be done!

More details on this incarnation of the project later!

Art by and copyright 2012 Bill Storie

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Ex Astris returns to Blogger

After a great deal of thought, we've returned to Blogger as our platform of choice for bringing you the latest news on our Ex Astris comic strip.

While an official domain and site seemed a good idea, the fact of the matter is that we haven't used the main EA site or Wordpress blog as we planned when we made the move a couple of years back, and in these austere times neither Bill or I can justify the costs.

Ironically, the move back comes just as we're bringing Ex Astris to mobile devices, backed by ROK Comics, who recently released the first issue of their own Team MOBILE comic on iPad - but nore on that later this month...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

NASA continues alien hunt

NASA's Kepler Mission is to continue. Image: NASA
Good news for alien hunters. NASA’s Kepler Mission has been approved for extension through fiscal year 2016 based on a recommendation from the agency’s Senior Review of its operating missions.

The extension provides four additional years to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone – the region in a planetary system where liquid water could exist on the surface of an orbiting planet – around sun-like stars in our galaxy.

“Kepler has revolutionized our understanding of exoplanets and the study of stellar seismology and variability,” said Roger Hunter, Kepler project manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. “There is currently no other mission in development that can replace or surpass the precision of Kepler. This extended mission will afford Kepler a unique opportunity to rewrite our understanding of the galaxy and our place in it.”

Launched in March 2009, the Kepler spacecraft identifies planet candidates by repeatedly measuring the tiny change in brightness of more than 150,000 stars to detect when a planet transits the face of the star. The size of the planet can be derived from these periodic dips in brightness. At least three transits are required to verify a signal as a planet.

“Kepler offers a new technical capability, opening a new measurement parameter space, and as often happens with such developments, that has led to unexpected results. There has been a continuous stream of new findings – the assimilation and exploitation of new opportunities is just beginning,” as stated by the committee in the 2012 Senior Review report.

The mission’s discoveries beyond our solar system include the first unquestionably rocky planet; the first multiple-transiting planet system; the first small planet in the habitable zone; the first Earth-size planets; the smallest Mars-size planets; and the confirmation of a new class of double-star planetary systems.

Ames Research Center manages Kepler’s ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, managed the Kepler mission’s development.

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data.

Kepler is NASA’s 10th Discovery Mission and is funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.
• The Review report is available at:

• For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it

Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it is the British Library’s first exhibition to explore science fiction through literature, film, illustration and sound and opens next month, running until September. The Library tells us “it will challenge visitors’ perceptions of the genre by uncovering gems of the Library’s collections from the earliest science fiction manuscripts to the latest best-selling novels.”

Guest-curated by Andy Sawyer, Science Fiction Collections Librarian at the University of Liverpool, the exhibition will trace the development of the genre from True History by Lucian of Samosata written in the 2nd century AD to the recent writings of Cory Doctorow and China Miéville, showing how science fiction has turned from a niche into a global phenomenon.

Events include appearances by several British comic creators including Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

Here’s a full list of all events.

Out of this world: Why Science Fiction speaks to us all
Friday 20 May 18.30 – 20.00

Throughout history, people have asked ‘what if?’ We have always allowed our imaginations to create other worlds as expressions of our wildest dreams, hopes and fears, and so better to understand our own. ‘Science Fiction’ expresses this human need in potent ways, but so does the work of Swift, Lewis Carroll and George Orwell. The story and present state of our speculations are explored by China Miéville (right), Adam Roberts, Tricia Sullivan and special guests. £7.50 / £5 

Out of this World: Science and The Future

A short series of discussions exploring the cutting edge thinking and scientific research and ideas that may determine the kind of future we will have on earth. This is the thinking that may seem like science fiction but will be revolutionary in our lifetimes; although it is not without controversy. Leading scientists, theorists and writers share their thoughts.

Who owns the story of the Future?
Tuesday 24 May 18.30 – 20.00

Will the future be better or worse? – and does the story we are telling ourselves help or hinder us? Can we make the right choices, and deal with the grand challenges ahead or will our ambitions and lack of political will get in the way. Jon Turney (The Rough Guide to The Future) chairs a panel including economist Diane Coyle (The Economics of Enough), technology and SF writer Cory Doctorow and Mark Stevenson (An Optimists Tour of the Future). £7.50 / £5 Concessions

Compared to this, the Industrial Revolution was nothing!
Wednesday 25 May 18.30 – 20.00

Is the ‘ultimate reboot’ is coming as the Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics/AI revolutions intertwine and pick up speed? Are we heading toward a radically different society where our notions of old age, scarcity and our institutions have to be radically rethought? Or have we heard it all before? Speakers include Richard Jones (University of Sheffield, author of Soft Machines; Nanotechnology and Life) Robin Lovell-Badge (Head of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research) and Anders Sandberg (Future of Humanity Institute). Chair, Jon Turney. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

Fixing the Planet: have we finally got some concrete options?
Friday 27 May 18.30 – 20.00

From carbon scrubbing, to fourth generation bio-fuels, to biochar, to improved grassland management – we have the tools to deal with the climate change crisis in short order. So why don’t more of us know about them – and what can we do to start putting them into action? Speakers include Chris Goodall (Ten Technologies to Save the Planet), Tim Kruger (Oxford Geoengineering Research) and Mark Stevenson. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that transform the World
Tuesday 31 May 18.30 – 20.00

David Deutsch, the acclaimed physicist and author of The Fabric of Reality, explores the big issues that inform our understanding of how the physical world works. His much awaited new book, The Beginning of Infinity reaches some startling conclusions about the nature of human choice, scientific explanation and the evolution of culture. Chaired by Graham Lawton, Deputy Editor, New Scientist. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

The Age Of Entanglement: are we too intertwined with technology?
Friday 3 June 18.30 – 20.00

“As technology infiltrates every aspect of our lives it’s become a life support system without which we can’t survive” (James Burke). Are we too dependent on our technologies, or are they the key to a bright future? Are we subjugated or emancipated by them? Speakers include technology writer and broadcaster Aleks Krotoski and Sherry Turkle (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Alone Together). £7.50 / £5 Concessions

Airborne Dreaming; a prehistory of flight
Friday 3 June 13.00 – 14.30

Flight is one of the defining dreams of magic, myths and fairy tales. In The Arabian Nights above all, early scientific fantasies of flight, imaginary voyages and utopias give us the flying carpet, a vehicle of rapture and ecstasy as well as power over time and space. Prize-winning writer of fiction, criticism and history, Marina Warner, explores these magical and prophetic annunciations of the coming era of powered flight. £6 / £4 concessions

Utopias and Other Worlds
Monday 6 June 18.30 – 20.00

The Culture, a vast anarchic and utopian interstellar society, is one of the most extraordinary settings in modern literature, and it follows a long tradition of imagined worlds, perfect or otherwise. Its creator, acclaimed novelist Iain M Banks, is joined by Gregory Claeys, author of Searching for Utopia, to trace the long history of the idea, and Francis Spufford, whose Red Plenty explores the world of Soviet idealism. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

H G Wells: The Man Who Invented Tomorrow
Wednesday 8 June 18.30 – 20.00

‘Scientific romances’ such as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, within a prolific career as writer and social thinker made H G Wells the most famous author in the world. Yet his life and ideas were full of contradiction. Wells is the subject of A Man Of Parts, the new novel by David Lodge, who discusses this complex and intriguing figure with Stephen Baxter, whose The Time Ships was an authorised sequel to Wells, and Adam Roberts, SF writer and Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. £7.50 / £5 concessions

The Art and Science of Time Travel
Friday 10 June 18.30 – 20.00

From Madeline D’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time to Doctor Who and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 the concept, appeal and paradoxes of time travel have inspired many mind-boggling flights of the imagination. Join the creators of two superb recent experiments with the idea: Stephen Baxter, whose The Time Ships is a sequel to HG Wells, and Audrey Niffenegger, the author of the best selling The Time Traveler’s Wife. Acclaimed science writer John Gribbin will be the evening’s authority on the theory and logic of time travel. £7.50 / £5 concessions

SPECIAL EVENT: LATE AT THE LIBRARY- OUT OF THIS WORLD Global Communication and The Radio Science Orchestra live with DJs Rob da Bank and Jon Hopkins
Friday 17 June 19.30 – 23.00

Join the Library as they go into interstellar overdrive at a unique music event to celebrate ‘Out Of This World’. A rare chance to catch the theremin led retro-space sound of Bruce Woolley’s Radio Science Orchestra featuring Ken Hollings, in Return To Mars. They are followed by the return of Global Communication, one of the pre-eminent electronic acts of the modern era, performing live for the first time in 15 years. Plus the exceptional DJs Rob da Bank and Jon Hopkins and a special appearance by the Immaculate Extremists. Please dress futuristically! And come to our Illamasqua sci-fi salon on the night for a fabulous makeover. £12.50

Space Children: From Dr.Funkenstein to the ArchAndroid
Saturday 18 June 15.30 – 17.00 (plus film screening at 14.00)

The afrofuturistic imagination reached fantastical heights in the lavish science fiction inspired stage shows, costumes and concept albums of US funk acts Parliament and Labelle. George Clinton, whose P-funk mythology turned his whole band into characters from a wild space opera comes to the British Library to talk about all things galactic in his career. He shares the event with Nona Hendryx from Labelle, whose concerts and extraordinary styling in the mid 1970s had to be seen to be believed. A multimedia journey into this thrilling world, that also features special film of their heiress Janelle Monae, ‘the ArchAndroid’.The event will be preceded by a rare screening of John Akomfrah’s documentary The Last Angel of History at 14.00. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Brian Aldiss, John Clute, Michael Moorcock and Norman Spinrad
Tuesday 21 June 18.30 – 20.00

A rare chance to spend an evening with four of the most extraordinary writers of modern times: Brian Aldiss, John Clute, Michael Moorcock and Norman Spinrad. Each has had a long, diverse writing career encompassing novels, short stories, essays and non fiction; championing originality and freely blending the literary mainstream with fantasy, science fiction and absurdism. Moderated by Roz Kaveney. £7.50 / £5

Mary Shelley and Romantic Science (and that Creature)
Wednesday 22 June 18.30 – 20.00

Mary Shelley was still Mary Godwin, and only 18 years old, when she began the short horror story that eventually became one of the most influential novels of the 19th century: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. Acclaimed biographer and historian of science Richard Holmes depicts an era of scientific speculation that enabled Mary to conceive her extraordinary Creature, and his visionary creator, Victor Frankenstein. £6 / £4 concessions

Aliens and The Imagination
Tuesday 28 June 18.30 – 20.00

Are we alone in the universe? While we wait for an answer that may never come, we seem compelled in the meantime to imagine alien encounters, devise extraordinary alien worlds and races and find ‘the other’ much closer to home. Fascinating presentations and discussion from film director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) author Gwyneth Jones, Mark Pilkington (Strange Attractor); scientists and writers Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, (What Does a Martian Look Like?: The Science of Extraterrestrial Life) and David Clarke, Sheffield Hallam University and consultant to the National Archives UFO project. Chaired by Bryan Appleyard. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Niall Ferguson: Civilisation and Virtual History
Wednesday 29 June 18.30 – 20.00

What if the Spanish Armada had been victorious? What if Germany had won the Second World War as imagined in Philip K Dick’s The Man In The High Castle? Imaginative writers have often used ‘counterfactualism’ as a device but rarely historians. Niall Ferguson, writer of many acclaimed books and presenter of Civilisation The West and the Rest, outlines some of the intriguing scenarios that could have resulted in a completely different world to the one we know, and explores how this speculation helps us understand history. £7.50 / £5 concessions

The Universes of Alan Moore
Monday 4 July 18.30 – 20.00

Alan Moore’s vast forthcoming novel Jerusalem is set in a four dimensional world of overlapping history, personal life and local geography, working class angels and demons. It builds on a remarkable body of work, including The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta which have made him one of the most influential writers in the history of comic novels. He joins comedian and writer Stewart Lee to discuss many aspects of the real and unreal, time and space, people and places. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R) by Karel ?apek
Wednesday 6 July 18.30-21.15 and repeated on Friday 8 July 18.30-20.00

Ninety years ago the great Czech playwright and novelist Karel ?apek first presented his remarkable play R.U.R, from which the word ‘robot’ is derived and which describes the elimination of humanity by robots. A powerful comment on politics and technological progress, it also presages the questions of cloning and nanotechnology of our own time. A staged reading, abridged and directed by Ivor Benjamin. The performance on Wednesday 6 July is followed by a discussion with leading scientists and technologists on the impact of robotics on our lives, past, present and future. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Out of this World classics: selected and dissected
Tuesday 12 July 18.30 – 20.00

The organisers of the Arthur C Clarke Award, the leading British SF honour, invite you to join their crack team of panellists as they chose and discuss personal favourites from the British Library’s Out of this World exhibition – which takes in everyone from Voltaire to Vonnegut, Thomas More to Alan Moore, and Borges to Burgess. Participants include Pat Cadigan and Paul McAuley. £7.50 / £5 Concessions

Afro Futures: Pumzi plus Q+A with Wanuri Kahiu
Tuesday 19 July 18.30 – 20.00

This stunning short film by Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu attracted admirers from all over the world when it premièred at the Sundance festival. Set in a dystopian future after water wars have torn the world apart it is a beautifully crafted film, with special effects provided in part by the team behind futuristic shocker District 9. £6 / £4 concessions

Robin Ince’s School for Gifted Children Summer Science Fiction Module
Wednesday 20 July 18.30 – 20.30

Robin Ince, presenter on Radio 4′s Infinite Monkey Cage and creator of live shows Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People and Uncaged Monkeys with Brian Cox, presents an evening of comedy, inspired ideas and mini SF lectures from Toby Hadoke, Richard Sandling, Helen Arney and other special guests. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Class, Control and Clones
Monday 1 August 18.30 – 20.00

Science Fiction and Social Science both explore dangerous and difficult ideas about the social world around us, about relationships, and about our reactions to change. One creates imaginative worlds, the other uses observation and evidence. What do ‘social science fiction’ works such as Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale say about our preoccupations with gender relations, fertility and class? Is it simply a question of science, sex and stereotypes, or do more fundamental ethical, sociological and political issues underpin the fictional worlds created? £6 / £4 concessions

Lemistry – 100 years of Stanislaw Lem
Friday 9 September 18.30 – 20.00

A truly great European writer, Stanislaw Lem (1911-2006) transcends both Polish literature and his chosen genre, science fiction. Best known for his twice-filmed novel Solaris, he was a virtuoso storyteller who packed his writing with philosophy, comedy, and allegory. This evenings rich centenary celebration features contributions by writers John Gray, Toby Litt and Wojciech Orli?ski, and film makers Ari Folman (currently filming Lem’s The Futurological Congress as follow up to Waltz with Bashir) and The Brothers Quay. Chaired by journalist and critic Rosie Goldsmith.
Presented in association with the Polish Cultural Institute. £7.50 / £5 concessions

Plus more ‘Out of this World’ events in September to be announced.

The Library’s exciting season of events continues in the final weeks of the Out Of This World exhibition. In September, the British Library welcomes best selling author Neil Gaiman, alongside other greats of science fiction and beyond. Further events will be devoted to the exceptional writers J G Ballard, Robert Holdstock and others.

• Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it runs from 20 May – 25 September 2011. Tickets for all events are available at, by calling 01937 546546 (9am-5pm Mon-Fri) or in person at The British Library.

• Please visit the website for latest news:

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Space Shuttle Discovery lands at the Smithsonian

Streams of smoke trail from the main landing gear tires as space shuttle Discovery touches down on Runway 15 at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Photo credit: NASA/Linda Perry and Chad Baumer
NASA has just announced that Space Shuttle Discovery, the longest-serving orbiter in the space shuttle fleet, will be transferred to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum collection.

After a period of preparation and delivery, the orbiter will be placed on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar of the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Photo: NASA

Discovery has earned a place of honour in the collection of national treasures preserved by the Museum as the champion in the space shuttle fleet, having achieved an especially rich history in its 27-year career.  The longest-serving orbiter, Discovery flew 39 times from 1984 through 2011 – more missions than any of its sister ships – spending altogether 365 days in space. Discovery also flew every type of mission during the space shuttle era and has a record of distinctions. Discovery well represents the full scope of human spaceflight in the period 1981-2011.

Space Shuttle Enterprise, currently on display at the Center, will be transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

• The date Discovery will go on display is not known yet, but for more information and a selection of photos, visit the Museum’s special Discovery website:

Discovery Landmarks
  • Satellite delivery and retrieval, US Department of Defense, scientific, Hubble Space Telescope, Mir, and space station assembly, crew exchange, and resupply missions
  • Three Hubble Space Telescope missions: deployment (1990) servicing (1997, 1999)
  • Highest crew count: 246
  • First non-astronaut to fly on space shuttle, Charles Walker (1984)
  • Flown aboard Discovery: US Senator Jake Garn (1985) and Senator John Glenn (1995)
  • Served as Return-to-Flight vehicle after Challenger and Columbia tragedies (1988, 2005)
  • Flown by first African American commander, Frederick Gregory (1989)
  • Piloted by first female spacecraft pilot, Eileen Collins (1995), and by Pamela Melroy on her first flight as pilot (2000)
  • Flew 100th shuttle mission (2000)
  • Flown by both women commanders, Eileen Collins (2005) and Pamela Melroy (2006)
  • Made first visit to Mir, rendezvous without docking (1995)
  • Made final docking visit to Mir space station (1998)
  • Made first docking with International Space Station (1999)
  • Delivered trusses, Harmony node, Kibo laboratory module, Robonaut2, Leonardo module, and tons of supplies to International Space Station (1999-2011)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Sunspot Aurora’s effects set to hit Earth tonight

On February 15th sunspot 1158 exploded blasting a huge coronal mass ejection (CME) in our direction.

This huge cloud of charged particles is due to reach Earth tonight, February 16th and tomorrow, February 17th which will result in increased auroral activity.

This is the largest flare to erupt from the sun in four years and due to its size it may be possible to view spectacular displays of aurora so keep an eye out over the next two days for auroral activity towards the north or the south if you happen to be in the southern hemisphere.

(With thanks to Pascal Desmond)

Friday, 11 February 2011

Celebrating the Space Shuttle era

As the Space Shuttle era draws to a close for NASA, with the final mission next month, Apogee Books have released Voyages of Discovery – The Missions Of The Space Shuttle Discovery, the first book to cover specifically the history of the space shuttle Discovery, the most storied orbiter in the fleet.

A very straight forward narrative history of the most storied orbiter in the Space Shuttle fleet, the book is written by written by former navy man Robert A Adamcik with a minimum of technical jargon. It put the reader on Discovery‘s flight deck during some of the most important missions of the Space Shuttle era from satellite retrieval to deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope, to construction of the International Space Station, and the Return to Flight after two tragic losses.

The book also offers general background on the history of the Space Shuttle program and the shuttle Discovery in particular, with information on her various crew members, missions, research and scientific discoveries.

Robert A Adamcik was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy and served for 20 years as a Surface Warfare Officer, serving on six ships during the course of Operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Stabilise, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Retiring as a Lieutenant Commander in 2009, Mr Adamcik combined his love for space flight, ships, and history into Voyages of Discovery. He resides in Norfolk, Virginia with his wife Kate and their several dogs and cats.

Voyages of Discovery – The Missions Of The Space Shuttle Discovery Robert A Adamcik cost £18.95 ISBN 9781926837130
STS 134: The Final Shuttle Mission
NASA: The Space Shuttle Era mini site