GPT-2 says the Darndest Things about Space

We finetuned GPT-2 on Orbital Index posts and here are the results.

Andrew used Max Woolf’s Google Colaboratory project to finetune the GPT-2 language model on our newsletter archive. Here are some (cherrypicked) favorites. Monospace parts are the prompts we provided to be completed by GPT-2. We like how it learned to generate paper links and indent lists.

The Moon is now officially a ‘failed state’ according to a new paper describing 14 months of activity on the moon. The paper’s authors attribute significant parts of the decrease to “meteor avoidance” and solar-panel failures.” While not directly the cause, failures may have been a significant factor in the loss. We think that failures on the part of the contractors who built the Moon, and the incentives for keeping them there, are significant. Related: the metamorphosis of NASA’s lunar contract with Astrobotic, a company that won the Lunar lander contract back in 2009, may have some bearing on future contracts.

News in brief. The maiden flight of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission was scrubbed from the schedule due to a probabilistic missile strike; Starlink-5 could be launching in 2019—but we’re not holding our breath—but we will definitely be seeing more of this in the future; after the success of the 100-mile-wide (!) Antares rocket in May, the US Air Force is considering sending a smallsat to the ISS (sadly, the US doesn’t have an ISS presence today); and, Voyager 2 has a new star—and it has a very large outgassing hydrogen electrolysis reactor. (But wait, there’s more! There is a third planet and a super-Earth…)

Papers. In the presence of an electron, protons, or any other high energy particle, like those in the Sun or the Force, tend to become polarized (see the Wikipedia article about protons and solar radiation). There are currently about 200,000 X 107 protons remaining in the Sun, one-fifth of the energy of the Sun, and it’s increasing in size by ~500x per year (not to be confused with the 300 million to 1.5 megaton-scale protons measured by the Parker Solar Probe—who took pictures!).


  • How to dress for space.
  • TEMPEST, an adaptive double-decker bus simulator, was released last week. It runs on the supercomputer Tianwen and enables realistic bus turbulence. Related: more realistic simulations of how a cosmonaut’s capsule might move during flight if oxygen is lacking or the vacuum is too rough for his or her preferred (and more likely) fluid.
  • Two studies (in press) use computer simulations to explain why black holes are much dimmer than they look. (The other was about how simulations are often used in settings where there are no real-world black holes to explain.)
  • Here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t be on the Moon (or Mars) right now.
  • Geese are probably not extraterrestrial in origin (paper)
  • Mars' largest volcano is called Onyabaru (“blood thorn”) and is easily visible from space (a recent video).

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