Celestial Send-off

by Summer Ash


Yesterday morning, the European Space Agency's Rosetta Mission was given a fond farewell as it performed the final maneuver of its programmed life - a controlled descent onto the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. I'm still consoling myself on the loss by cozying up on my couch in my Le Petite Prince sweater which is one of my most treasured possession in the world.


Rosetta launched in 2004, but didn't fully enter our hearts and minds when it rendezvoused with its target in mid-2014 and began sending back some of the most incredible images of this strangely beautiful rocky interloper. 

Browsing through ESA's Rosetta gallery reminds me just what an amazing time we live in. Humans banded together to create the dream, the technology, and the means to not only build and launch a spacecraft to a comet, but one that could orbit it, send down a lander, and then later descend to the surface itself.

Every single image is worth contemplating in detail if you have a quite moment, but here are just a few of my favorites.


October 19, 2014: As Rosetta approached the comet in the summer of 2014, scientists saw the comet had a very irregular shape, instead of one lumpy body, it looked more like two stuck together. In fact, the closer Rosetta got, the increased resolution in images revealed it to be shaped like a rubber duck. This image is looking from the "head" of the duck towards the "body." (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)


January 22, 2015: Comet 67P from a distance of 27.9 km above the surface looking at the "neck" area of the duck. The Hathor cliffs are to the left and the Hapi region strewn with boulders are just right of center. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)


July 26, 2015: When Rosetta first reached Comet 67P, it was far enough away from the Sun that it wasn't yet "active". But as it continued toward the inner solar system, the Sun's heat caused the ices on the comet to warm and sublimate (go directly from solid to gas). This activity is what gives comet's their characteristic comas and tails. Comet 67P was too small to produce a large observable tail in the popular sense, but Rosetta go a great look at its many outgassing events. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)


September 30, 2016: Rosetta took a few last photos during its final approach. This is from roughly 16 km above the surface, captured overnight (at least for this New Yorker). (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)


September 30, 2016: A collage of images of Rosetta's targeting landing site as it continued to descend. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)


September 30, 2016: Rosetta's final photograph. Scientists estimate this is approximately 20 meters above the surface. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

There's a sign at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that reads "Dare Mighty Things". I always think of that when celebrating amazing feats like Rosetta. Go big or go home. Rosetta went big and now its at rest in its new home, riding through the Solar System on what is probably the best roller coaster ever.

Summer Ash is the Director of Outreach for Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy. Having been both a rocket scientist and a radio astronomer, she’s now harnessing her powers for science communication. She is the "In-House Astrophysicist" for The Rachel Maddow Show and has written for The AtlanticScientific American, Slate, and Nautilus Magazine. She tweets as @Summer_Ash and is also one-half of Startorialist.


Filed under: astronomy clothes comet cosmos exploration little prince petit atlas petit prince rosetta comet rosetta landing science science life space universe

The Inside Scoop on this Father's Day

by Shelby Strattan

Your dad grew up in a different time and space.

“You kids were too young but I remember when….”

Sometimes we listen, sometimes we don’t. Regardless, our fathers are full of a wisdom that is worth hearing. Our dads are walking history books, imbibed with knowledge of years we didn’t get to see. They are our looking glass into the past.

Our dads of all ages hold memories spanning a plethora of countless events. Slow Factory wants to connect your dad with something he can resonate with for this Father’s Day.


The three giveaway prints are from our newest collection, “We Are Home.” This collection helps to shine a light on those who were forced from their homes in Syria. With little to nothing left, these refuges often flee to Lebanon. Here, the nonprofit organization Anera helps provide a valuable education to give these refuges hopes for a brighter future. Slow Factory donates 10% of this collection’s sales to Anera, supporting our mission to revolutionize the fashion industry. Our 100% eco-friendly and fair trade products showcase that sustainable materials and responsible practices are the new direction the fashion industry is moving toward.

These sheer prints are a luxurious blend of silk and cotton. Folded, they can transform in numerous different pocket scarf designs. The first print is of a photo taken when Apollo 10 first launched. The image captures the awe of the audience, taking in a monumental experience of watching our fellow citizens launch into depths of space that most will never see with their own eyes. The second scarf is an image of earth taken in 1967. This is the first color image of earth as a planet from space, so it received the nickname “Earth’s First Selfie.” The last print is an aerial image of scattered clouds over the sea, combined with a fading rainbow ombré print. This print represents the light-scattering properties of mineral dust in our atmosphere that cause increased cloud formation. Its effects on the environment are not clearly defined, but still serve as a reminder to be cautious in regards to our space. This is why Slow Factory only uses eco-friendly materials in order to help our Earth achieve sustainability in regards to the atmospheric climate.

Dadio won’t like these prints? We’ve got you covered.

For a limited time only, we are selling our Le Petit Prince pocket scarf, Globular Clusters tie, and bow ties – the Witch Head Nebula and the Globular Clusters.


Let him feel connected to the life above us on this special day. Show him he’s your favorite star out there.


Shelby Strattan is a student at Tulane University interning in New York this summer for Slow Factory and Dimassimo Goldstein. She is currently enjoying the summer heat and the city's delicious food. 

Filed under: fashion activism Gift ideas inspiration science life we are home

How Humans Can Evolve to Survive In Space

by Amina Suleimamagich

"If we hope to one day leave Earth and explore the universe, our bodies are going to have to get a lot better at surviving the harsh conditions of space. Using synthetic biology, Lisa Nip hopes to harness special powers from microbes on Earth — such as the ability to withstand radiation — to make humans more fit for exploring space. "We're approaching a time during which we'll have the capacity to decide our own genetic destiny," Nip says. "Augmenting the human body with new abilities is no longer a question of how, but of when." " - TED, Lisa Nip - Synthetic Biologist

Filed under: inspiration science science life universe

Ellesmere Island

by Celine Semaan Vernon


Ellesmere Island

The dome-shaped glaciers, or ice caps, on Canada’s Hazen Plateau started to form about five thousand years ago. After several periods of growth and retreat over the millennia, these ice caps have become fragile and could disappear completely within a few decades.

Two of these ice caps are located north of St. Patrick Bay, on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut, Canada, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Alert. These images of the “St. Patrick Bay ice caps”— standing amidst the darker tundra were acquired with the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite. The top image shows their extent on July 12, 2004; the second image is from August 4, 2015. Turn on the image comparison tool to see the retreat.
In 1959, aerial and ground-based surveyors estimated the size of the larger ice cap at 7.5 square kilometers (3 square miles). The extent of both caps from that year is marked with a yellow line. The two ASTER images show significant shrinking in just a decade, and by 2015, the larger ice cap had shrunk to just 7 percent of its 1959 area; the smaller cap stood at just 6 percent.

Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC), described his time spent studying the ice caps in the early 1980s. “While I’ve been to a lot of interesting places since 1983, a day has rarely gone by that I haven’t thought about my early adventures on the St. Patrick Bay ice caps,” he said in an NSIDC story. “To think that they are likely to die before I do blows my mind.”

Source: NASA

Filed under: science life

What's it like in Space?

by Celine Semaan Vernon

I conducted a short interview with Ariel Waldman, author of the book "What's It Like in Space?". A book I cannot wait to read personally! Waldman makes “massively multiplayer science”, instigating unusual collaborations that spark clever creations for science and space exploration. You can learn more about her here and buy this amazing book here.

1. What inspired you to write this book?

Through my work in democratizing space exploration and serving on a National Academy of Sciences committee on the future of human spaceflight, I started meeting a number of astronauts. There are only ~550 humans who were ever astronauts, so it's a great privilege to meet anyone who has been in space, no less a number of them. I began realizing that people sometimes hold a very "buttoned up" view of astronauts which didn't match up to my interactions with them. I'd often come home from various trips with lots of funny stories to tell about the amusing, embarrassing and weird things that had happened to astronauts while in space. The first question most people want to ask astronauts is "what's it like in space?". I thought it'd be great to collect these short stories and share them with the world.


2. What did you want to be when you grow up?

Honestly? When I was a little girl, I would tell my parents that I wanted to "sew clothes for poor people" - meaning I wanted to repair clothes for the homeless. I did take sewing classes for a little while. At 14, I became very career-obsessed and was determined to become an Executive Creative Director - which I did end up spending several years of my life trying to achieve by climbing a corporate ladder before having an epiphany and becoming independent.


3. What's your favorite quote in your book?

I love the story of Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean when he walked on the Moon having to remind himself of what a huge experience he was having. Alan Bean revealed, "I would look down and say, 'This is the Moon, this is the Moon,' and I would look up and say, 'That's the Earth, that's the Earth,' in my head. So, it was science fiction to us even as we were doing it."


4. Which astronaut had the biggest impact on you the most?

I really enjoyed talking with Anousheh Ansari. Anousheh is the first Iranian in space, the first blogger in space, as well as the first self-funded ("spaceflight participant") woman in space. She is just incredibly relatable and her stories reflected the way most of us would imagine space travel to be like. For instance, she talked at length about how when she went into space that she didn't get any sleep because she'd stay up the entire time just to keep looking out the window. I think Anousheh is very much an early example of making space exploration more open so that people of all different backgrounds can participate.


5. We spoke briefly over the phone about fashion and science, what relationship do you see between these two fields?

I think both fashion and science are about exploring provocations about the world we live in. I grew up adoring Alexander McQueen's creations and wanting to make my own weird things someday. I ended up achieving this in the end through being a "science hacker". In fact, I've been hoping for a while that a fashion magazine would do a photoshoot feature of biohackers, spacehackers, neurohackers, etc. with their crazy contraptions because I do think they provoke in the same manner that fashion does. Nicole Kidman once said about fashion magazines, "They give us access to another world. They give us access to dreams." In this sense, science and fashion are one and the same to me.

Filed under: inspiration science life universe

A Universe of Love

by Summer Ash

February is branded as heart month by corporations, but I say we should feel the beat all year long. 

I have a complicated relationship with my heart to say the least, but if anything, it's made me realize the importance of friendship, love, and appreciating the Universe on a daily basis. So on this last day of February, and a bonus one at that, I thought I would share some of my favorite celestial symbols of love. 

The photo at the top of this post is of the surface of Mars, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2009. Launched by NASA in 2005, MRO had a two-year primary mission to study the history of water on Mars. Now almost ten years later, it continues to function, still taking data while also assisting in relaying communication from other satellites and rovers on the Red Planet. 

Our other planetary neighbor, Venus, is of course named after the goddess of love herself. Venus is practically an Earth-twin in size, but an anti-twin in everything else. This image is a composite of radar data taken by the Magellan spacecraft NASA sent to Venus in 1989. The planet itself is shrouded in thick cloud layers, but NASA was able to make this image with radio waves that penetrate the atmosphere and bounce off the planet's surface, giving us a picture of the topography. While on Venus, this dense atmosphere is toxic to life, from here on Earth, it's what allows Venus to shine so bright in our morning and evening skies - and perhaps inspire our imaginations from time to time. 

Eros is a member of the asteroid belt, orbiting the Sun in an orbit similar to Mars, sometime further and sometimes closer. Fittingly, it's a member of the Amor group of asteroids. In 2000 NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR Shoemaker) mission was the first spacecraft to visit Eros and send back high resolution images like this one. Even more incredible is the fact that NEAR Shoemaker successfully landed on the asteroid's surface at the end of its mission life in February of 2001, just over fifteen years ago today. 

Hopefully this image needs no introduction, but if Pluto hadn't captured your heart before, I hope this picture seals the deal. Less than eight months ago, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft arrived at Pluto and snapped this phenomenal image - our first ever glimpse of this distant world. The heart shaped feature (aka Sputnik Planum) became an instant symbol of our love of exploration and discovery. 

Lastly, moving out into the galaxy, I leave you with these nebulae colloquially called Heart and Soul. Located over 6,000 light years away from us, these regions of gas and dust, called nebulae, are where are stars are actively being formed (or at least they were 6,000 years ago!). This image was taken with NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) which was launched into Earth orbit in 2009. WISE uses infrared light to detect emission from dust, asteroids, brown dwarfs, stars and galaxies. It captured the glow of these striking regions, IC 1848 (aka Soul Nebula) on the right and IC 1805 (aka Heart nebula) on the left, in 2010. I think it's safe to say, it also captured my heart for now and evermore. 

I hope you'll take this opportunity to look around you and realize that love is everywhere, here on Earth and throughout the Universe, not only during "heart month" but everyday. 

Summer Ash is the Director of Outreach for Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy. Having been both a rocket scientist and a radio astronomer, she’s now harnessing her powers for science communication. She is the "In-House Astrophysicist" for The Rachel Maddow Show and has written for Scientific American, Slate, and Nautilus Magazine. She tweets as @Summer_Ash and is also one-half of Startorialist.

Filed under: allthelove asteroid asteroid belt astronomy awe cosmos Eros heart heart and soul inspiration love Mars nasa nebula pluto romance science science life soul space universe Venus

What is it Like in Space?

by Celine Semaan Vernon

Have you ever wondered...

Everyone wonders what it's really like in space, but very few of us have ever had the chance to experience it firsthand. This captivating illustrated collection brings together stories from dozens of international astronauts—men and women who've actually been there—who have returned with accounts of the sometimes weird, often funny, and awe-inspiring sensations and realities of being in space. With playful artwork accompanying each, here are the real stories behind backwards dreams, "moon face," the tricks of sleeping in zero gravity and aiming your sneeze during a spacewalk, the importance of packing hot sauce, and dozens of other cosmic quirks and amazements that come with travel in and beyond low Earth orbit.

Pre-Order it here!

Filed under: inspiration science life

Knotty Objects

by Celine Semaan Vernon

Slowly but surely, I am updating you on the Knotty Objects conference that happened on Thursday, July 23rd at the MIT Media Lab. The first MIT Media Lab Summit devoted to design, Knotty Objects was curated by Paola Antonelli, Neri Oxman and Kevin Slavin. Watch the videos or "shorties" here.

Slow Factory collaborated with the Media Lab to created exclusive and unique pieces with the images of their professors, artists and scientists. 

In this picture is Neri Oxman wearing her very own Slow Factory™ scarf.

Knotty Objects celebrates the chimeric nature of design: affirmative design and critical design. The event's name is inspired by knots: things that are tied and cannot be untied.

"Their whole is bigger than the sum of their part." - Neri Oxman

Knotty Objects

Knotty Objects” are objects for which conception, design, manufacturing, use and misuse are non-linear, non-discrete. They entangle practices, processes, and policies. When successful, they transform material practice, manufacturing culture, and social constructs.

We consider the brick, the bitcoin, the steak, and the phone to be archetypal knotty objects.

The brick invites questions about modular building and construction practices across all aspects of contemporary life, and how these are changing as they come to incorporate living materials instead of constraining them.

The bitcoin defies simple distinctions between currency, asset, and platform, and changes not just the imagining and practice of money, but of trust, reputation, value, and exchange.

The steak is a vivid reminder that all manufactured consumables have consequential origins, whether those origins are living, breathing animals, or cells in vitro.

The phone lies at the foundation of 21st century human (and non-human) communication, and shapes these exchanges for the hand, for the eye, and in the mind.

The event questioned, challenged, augmented, and exploded these notions among others, tying together speakers, panelists, and the audience over the course of two days.

What resonated with me was this simple sentence:

"You need to know your enemy and embrace it. Your enemy is the status quo."

This forces us to question the new normal,  ask ourselves "what if?" as a way to explore the future of design. Exploring ideas around data and data as a material, a little bit like we explore here, at Slow Factory, where we experiment on archiving data onto a natural fabric that gives the data another sets of use then the one originally designed to support data: which is the computer screen. Data is political, it is messy, and data has always been a privilege. What happens when we allow people to explore data, to create using data and to try to understand this data - in other terms: without the expert.

Whatever happens makes sense after the fact. Everything is so obvious once you know the answer. And here lies the role of art and design and the work around experiment and exploration. 

I will leave you with this quote for now. Let me know know your thoughts on this conference! @slowfactory_


Filed under: design inspiration knotty objects mit media lab moma science life

The Prince on Rosetta's Comet: Searching For Deeper Meaning

by Celine Semaan Vernon

Inspiring awe and wonder since the dawn of history, Comets are something to be celebrated. In discovering NASA’s image of the Comet and the launch of Rosetta, one of our favorite childhood books came to mind, Le Petit Prince, which is simultaneously being launched into the public domain this spring. In the book, an aviator, downed in the desert with limited odds of survival, meets the Prince who has traveled from his solitary home on a distant asteroid,  tormented by the single rose with which he lives. Noted as a young person, not yet a man nor a boy, his central emotions of conflict—isolation, fear, and uncertainty—are alleviated only by intimate speech and love. The story, it turns out, is a fable of war that explores the deeper complexities, abstract ideas and emotions associated with the ‘strange defeat’ of France, with the experience of Vichy and the Occupation. With the launch of Rosetta (a ten year mission), NASA hopes to find a deeper meaning of space and earth by catching and exploring the Comet.


Existential pose, Samar Seraqui de Buttafaco, Une Libanaise à Paris.

Rosetta holds great significance, being the first spacecraft to soft-land a robot on a comet, furthermore accompanying the comet as it enters our solar system. It will observe how the comet transforms from the sun’s heat, a process that has inspired people for centuries.

Though the origins of these two stories, and landmark events, are significantly different - both in time and space - their themes are significantly parallel. As true connectivity to our inner selves and earth becomes more and more rare, we continue to search for meaning. We often look outside of ourselves to feel more grounded, when we are all searching for the same things: connection, understanding, and love- just like the Prince. We ask: Is this a story of war with ourselves?

To celebrate these themes, we’ve combined NASA’s image of the comet with Le Petit Prince to create the ‘Prince on the Comet Rosetta’ sweater. Printed in Brooklyn, New York, on 100% cotton, each collage requires 8 screens to print. This, in and of itself, serves as a significant point of our creative process. The number 8 represents perfection and infinity, further bringing to life the underlying dualities and theme of seeking deeper meaning and connection within imperfect scenarios.


Written by Emilie Hawtin

Filed under: cotton france inspiration made in usa petit prince rosetta rosetta landing science life

A Conversation with HiRISE . Chapter One

by Celine Semaan Vernon


When we launched our Mars, Revealed! Collection back on August 8th the day Curiosity Rover celebrated it's second year anniversary on the red Planet, I was contacted by Ari Espinoza from HiRISE. HiRISE is the  High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It is the very camera that allowed us to create our Mars, Revealed! Collection. Ari and I spoke and decided to catalog our conversation within our series of short interviews with scientist that I am thrilled to be sharing with you.


Celine : Hi Ari, Thank you for accepting to do this short interview with me. Just to start tell me a little bit about your position and your role at HiRISE

Hi!, I’m Ari Espinoza and I’m the Media And Education Public Outreach for HiRISE.

C: So what do you do there?

A: One thing that I am responsible for is our website, it’s design and making sure that information that we release to the public is available, I handle all of our social media channels (facebook, twitter, tumblr). I also answer media request and provide high resolution images for print on request, I talk to groups who are interested in Mars or Planetary science and talk about HiRISE and what we do and answer public questions about what we do.


C: In your own words, what is HiRSE?


A: HiRISE is the most powerful camera we have ever sent to another Planet, it’s an acronym (wikipedia)

We launched in 2005 and got to Mars in 2006 and we’ve been taken these images of Mars ever since. Our images are extremely detailed because there’s ever been a camera like this on any other space craft. And we are actually one instrument on board the Mars Reconnaissance orbiter - there is another camera too that has a much bigger footprint than ours, our camera can really focus in very very nicely on the terrain. We work with the other teams to coordinate observations, they might see something of interest and they might want a closer look, so our camera would take a close up. And it would allow for scientists to write papers and to observe the planet more closely to see if we can learn something more.



C: Is it going to stay there forever?

A: I would certainly like that because that way I could retire from this job, I believe we have enough fuel until 2023. That be plus or minus a few years depending on a lot of things, I’m not sure what the plans are after that. But there is an end life to the orbiter and to the instruments because they do age over time. It’s amazing that HiRISE and the other instruments have been in such good shape for 9 years.


C: From a tech perspective, what’s cool about HiRISE?


A: You know it’s really interesting how this camera can really zoom in and get very close. Our typical images are about 5 km across and about 10-13 km in length and you can get in very very close to see these boulders which would be about the size of a car. You could probably see a desk. And that’s amazing. This is a fantastic thing that we could actually see. I couldn’t be able to see you if you were standing there, but we could see your shadow. That’s how good this camera is. It’s really important that we help other missions take good safe landing spots. Like we did for the Phoenix lander in 2008, we did for the Mars Science Laboratory or CURIOSITY in 2012 and we also image other areas of scientific interest for other teams like Lander in 2020. There’s one in 2016. It’s just amazing to look up these pictures in full resolution and you realise “My Gosh, I’m looking at the surface of another Planet, and that is something my parents couldn’t do.. It’s just amazing.”



C: I’m freaking out over here! So cool! So, what’s your relationship like with NASA?


A: So here at HiRISE we are all part of NASA and the whole area under NASA that deals with Mars. All of the information that we have is for the public, it’s taxpayer funded, so we are part of that huge branch under NASA that says “hey! we are doing exploration and here is the fruit of our labour, here is all the data that we have. Here is all the images.” We don’t keep things for ourselves, and anybody can look at these pictures, can do their own research. And we are very proud to be under NASA and we believe that the work we are doing is extremely important.


C: How do you get these images back to Earth? Through Radio Waves? Do you download them? Does it take forever to download? How does it work?


A: So when we take a picture, it’s actually our science team that would find area that they would be interested in. And the public can also do this too - I’ll explain in a minute - so we find an area of interest, we find a list of targets, we cut those targets down in something we can do when we are on a particular orbit around Mars. And we take these images, and they are taken in a very long strip of information. That information is stored on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, it’s transmitted back to Earth through radiowaves and it goes through what we call the Deep Space Network. There are three of those here on Earth, there’s one in Australia, one in Spain and one in California. We get all this raw information here, in the University of Arizona, and we process it, then we make these pictures from that data that we put on our website. It doesn’t take that long, we could usually get our images back within a day if everything is going smoothly, it could take from 13 to 14 minutes to get it from Mars to Earth. The only time we have a hard time is when we have low data rate or when Mars in behind the Sun.


/// END of Chapter One \\\

Filed under: HiRISE Interview Mars science life