Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Future of Human Spaceflight - Orion

Last week was amazing. I was one of the fortunate to witness the maiden launch of the next vehicle that will take humans beyond Earth's orbit, that will take us back out to another celestial body. It is difficult to describe the emotions I'm still feeling, four days after the mission. I'm still grasping for the appropriate words to share with people back home, but everything I say, no matter how detailed and eloquent, fall unequivocally short.

We are striving to advance, to evolve, as a species, and I was part of that, in my small insignificant way. I am so very fortunate to have had both the opportunity to go, and be with the people who make me feel at home during the event. I hope they feel as warmly about me as I do them, because I see them as my family.

The sunrise both days of the launch attempts were stunning. Well worth getting up at "Orion O'clock" to see this.

Seconds after powering off the launchpad. We were positioned at the Saturn V Center looking southeast. The ascent was silent.

After the Delta IV Heavy disappeared into the cloud cover, and the delay of deafening thunder subsided, all that remained was the vapor. And "Base Sec Helo".
The Orion Flag is hoisted at Kennedy Space Center. The first time a vehicle flag has been raised since the Shuttle Fleet were retired. Via Spaceflight Insider

The community of "spacetweeps" worldwide is quite frankly astounding. They came from all over, just to watch a minute of a rocket. But it's clearly about so much more than watching a controlled explosion leap into the sky. While I ran around with my "space sisters" Kristen and Jennifer, I got to catch up with friends from near and far, some I see a couple times a year, some I haven't seen in years, and yet others I've just met for the first time. And that's what makes this community so special. We may be complete strangers, yet when we meet for the first time in person, it's like we're long lost pals.

It's utterly heartwarming that such a passion could do this, could bring people together in such a way. We all came together to witness history in the making, and I wouldn't have wanted to stand next to anyone else. It doesn't matter what we look like, where we live, who we voted for. We honestly and earnestly believe in this great endeavour we are undertaking, and we are committed to helping its success.

I miss everyone already as we go our separate ways again, and I can't wait to do this again. I love you all. Thank you for the memories.

The rest of my photos from the trip can be found here:
google plus photo album
flickr album of the launch

Friday, October 31, 2014

Sensitivity in Spaceflight

It has been quite a week in space, amirite?

As I type even now, helicopters and vehicles are littered around a section of the Mojave in the aftermath of a terrible account that no one wants to hear happen - Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suffered a "serious anomaly" resulting in the loss of the ship.

As soon as it occurred, the speculation game was afoot. Now, earlier this week, Orbital Sciences lost their rocket, the Antares, very shortly after launch. The first thing everyone who witnessed it in person told each other was "Don't Speculate. It Isn't Your Job To Speculate Or Spread Unconfirmed Rumors."

Three days later and oh how quickly we have forgotten this. Jumping on the local police scanners and tweeting what we hear, completely unfiltered. Sharing "eyewitness" accounts of the scene, blatantly ignorant of how horrific the scene may be.

Let us please, PLEASE, take a step back, and try to be as respectful as possible in times like these. I think of it like this: if that were a loved one of mine, would I be posting information as unfiltered as I would normally want to? I think sometimes we may forget that when discussing spaceflight mishaps, the majority of the time it is uncrewed, so we are desensitized to a degree.

So, if one of these crew members were your loved one, would you want this sensational, headline-grabbing, reader-drawing, unfiltered information streaming through your timeline like it is now? I know I wouldn't. It makes me sick thinking someone is talking about them with no regard for who their audience may be.

To repeat: please be more respectful with what you post and share on these delicate topics.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

#ThingsNASAMightTweet - An Anniversary Of Sorts

Happy 56th Anniversary, NASA! You officially opened shop on this day in 1958! And, while your priorities and strategic goals are no longer mired in Cold War politics, your outcomes have inspired the world to aspire to your status in planetary and space exploration.

I think we can both agree that you've done some fairly awesome things since you've been around:

You've shown us a whole new world. Literally.

Humans on another planetary body!

So many ways to keep track of our world (LandSat images here)

 You've shown us ourselves. Again, literally.

Earth mote, via Voyager 1 (now in interstellar space!)
And an update to the above classic with Cassini, which should move you to tears.
You gave us this:

(via launchviewing)
Which gave us this:

Bruce McCandless, free-floatin' on STS-41B
And this: 

Every day we're Hubblin'

Aaaand this: 

The cake-topper to the Shuttle's accomplishments: the International Space Station

There are so many things that have been left out, I KNOW (or this post would never end), but the accomplishments I have included are astounding feats of humanity in and of themselves. We are amazing creatures, and we can do so much more if we center our focus on more of the things above, and less of the things of the killing and antagonistic sort.

It's good to have you this year, NASA. Let's go do some more stuff.
From October 17, 2013. Everyone was happy to go to work!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Get To Work, MAVEN

Atmospheric gas

stripped harshly by solar wind

MAVEN seeks account.
Shamelessly taken from NASA. They give everything away. Your tax dolla-dolla-billz at work!

That's my haiku, currently hurtling toward what's left of the Martian upper atmosphere. I like that NASA and the Planetary Society decided to put all of them on board, instead of just the winners.

Because we're all winners.

MAVEN, or Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, has been on a planetary trek to the Red Planet for 10 months. This weekend, it will enter its orbit, and begin its mission. There are a couple main scientific queries the spacecraft has been sent there to answer, along with a lot of minor and indirect ones.

The major ones are: What is the current state of Mars' upper atmosphere? What is the current escape rate (of gasses into space)? And, what has the total loss into space been over time?

For the uninitiated, you may be wondering why we want to know the state of another planet's atmosphere. Good grief, those crazy scientists won't shut up about how messed up Earth's is, now they want to poke around Mars?

I know, right?

Deep breath. If we want to send astronauts there one day (soon, I hope, and maybe a person or people I know *fingers crossed*), we kind of want to know what's going on instead of charging in blindly. Basically, we want to know how bad it's going to be for our explorers when we send them, and further down the road, would it be possible to replenish the atmosphere for some long-term tenants.

WHAT?! Yes! There's a line scientists love to say, and Arthur C. Clarke is popular for quoting his friend Larry Niven: "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program." Well, humans have space programs. We need to ensure our species survives (besides stop killing each other, of course!!) by branching out and populating other habitable worlds, in case, you know, Bruce Willis can't drill to 800 feet (that movie is one giant lie, ftr) and Earth meets its fiery DOOM.

Here are some articles in the meeedia you can read.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Marketing Dreams: Japanese Beverage Company Going To The Moon!

Well. We knew this was coming eventually. Leave it to Japan to be the first to do it.
A Japanese beverage company, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company, recently announced that they have plans already in the works to send a capsule, which looks exactly like their Pocari Sweat brand (think sports drinks, but a little healthier) soft drink can, to the moon, and land it safely on the lunar surface.
Titanium Pocari Moon Capsule. Pocari Earth Capsule Contents May Vary.
According to the official website (yes, there is one - very detailed with english subs for everything, because they want us to know that they're doing this), they will send a powdered form of the drink sealed inside the ca(n)psule, and let it sit there until astronauts find it to make a beverage with lunar water. Because, I guess they think future astronauts might forget to pack tang or something?
Kids can even send in messages of their dreams for the future, which they will inscribe on plates and include inside the ca(n)psule for the future lunar explorers to read. That part is cool.
My only question (besides 'how much is this PR stunt costing you, really?') is, how is this stuff going to taste XX years (decades; centuries) in the future, after sitting in metal, all of the ingredients' shelf lives ridiculously past expiration dates? I don't know about you, reader, but I wouldn't drink that.
And my first thought when I read the article from WSJ was the end scene from the movie Hancock, with the All-Heart logo on the moon.

Image: Columbia Pictires

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

High Visibility Close Call (Looked More Like Low-Visibility)

What's up?

I didn't catch the conference call, just the report post on it (because, you know, work - BOO), but I heard about the findings Sunday, although nobody went into detail. ILC was just stoked to say "WASN'T US!!"

So, for those of you that don't know, two separate entities make the EVA EMU (that's fancy talk for spacesuit - whay are you here again?). ILC Dover makes the part astronauts wear, and Hamilton Sundstrand makes the life support systems contained inside the "backpack."

The part that failed was from a fan pump separator in said backpack, which prevented the water from flowing as it should have. So, like your toilet, it backed up into Luca Parmitano's helmet, and accreted around his face. Now, I haven't had time to read the report, just skim it (and look at the pages upon pages of [NOT FOR YOUR EYES]), but I didn't see any company names mentioned. I don't know if they did in the call or not.

IDC; I'll tell you what's up.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

ILC Dover Talks What They Know Best

Today at Dover Air Force Base's Air Mobility Command Museum, ILC Dover Historian and all-around cool guy Bill Ayrey gave his yearly talk on - you guessed it - the spacesuit.
There wasn't anyone in my age group. In fact, other than the four young kids, it was all old people. But I'll bury my disappointment. This is about people enthused about space artifacts.
There isn't anything in the talk you can't find on ILC's website or Wikipedia, but that's not why we're there. We go to listen to Bill. The way he tells the story of the company and the life-saving equipment is magical.
If you've never heard him talk, well shame on you!

Friday, January 31, 2014

They're Called 'UFO's' Because They're UNIDENTIFIED You Dummy

Mark my words.

It's been published in an online tabloid, but it's only a matter of time before a "real" "news" outlet (I see you, Fox and CNN) picks this ridiculous story up and rolls with it.
I went and scoured JPL's photo bank of the front hazcams, and had to go aaaaaaaaall the way back to Sol 504.
BUT I FOUND the image in question, courtesy of Left Hazcam B:

Link takes you right to the image detail page
Detail (the only thing I did was put a big red circle on it):

Okay, so yeah. The thing wasn't photoshopped in or anything. Can we see it on Front Right Hazcam B?

Another linky

That's a negative, Ghostrider. If it were a sky object, *should* be visible just below MSL's sample area, right? I could be wrong that it should be viewable, but I printed it out and lined the photos up to the horizon and turret/swiss army knife instruments.
Make the decision for yourself. I've presented you with the evidence you need.

In my opinion, it's the ghost of ISON (profuse crying) come back to haunt the solar system.
I still haven't forgiven you for what you did, scumbag sun.

It could also be a lens flare.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Wasn't Yet Three Years Old. But January 28, 1986...I Was There.

Isn't it amazing, the odd, almost insignificant details you can recall from early childhood? I was almost two and a half years old, and here are the things I remember from a trip my parents and I took to visit my aunt and uncle stationed at Patrick AFB in Florida:
  • I remember an oversized stuffed white-ish (maybe yellow?) dog my aunt had at her house. I loved that thing, and we were only there for I think a week or so.
  • I remember walking down the road with my aunt. I can't tell you where we went, but I walked with her.
  • I remember that's when my love affair with gummy bears began (thanks again, Aunt Kate).
  • I remember standing under the jet my uncle flew and being scared because the area was loud and I thought it was going to run me over (even though it wasn't even on).
  • I remember my dad yanking me, and hugging me so tight that it hurt. People covering my face. My dad crying. Throughout my life I can count the number of times I have seen my dad cry on one hand. This was the first.
I never knew, or understood, what happened or what I saw until years later when I was in middle school learning about it. We watched film and I got chills. As in, déjà vu chills. When I told my dad what happened, he said "honey, you were there." He then told me all about it.

"...And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
We mourn their loss as a nation together.
...We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers..."
 - exerpts from Ronald Reagan's Address to the Nation on the Evening of January 28, 1986

Monday, January 27, 2014

#Apollo1 Crew Were Just Cool Guys

I know everyone likes to share photos of Gus, Ed, and Roger looking all badass and the epitome of "the right stuff" and all, but I gotta tell you, this is one of my favorite photos. Just lounging in the pool during water egress training.

Never forget that they were probably guys that liked to hang out and have a good time and enjoy a good laugh like you and I. Yes, we made them heroes (apropriately so) because they paid the ultimate price - their lives - in the name of the advancement of space exploration.
But they were men.
They were human.
And I, for one, like to remember that part of them.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Things You Might See at Goddard

First off, don't ask me which building any of these are in. They're all called "Building ##," and you're whisked through just about all of them in your action-packed (okay - science-packed) day.

For the folks accepted into the James Webb Space Telescope #NASASocial next week, I thought I would share a little taste of what you MIGHT see while you run all over Goddard Space Flight Center. I was selected to attend the Global Precipitation Measurement NASASocial that was held in conjunction with JAXA and the National Cherry Blossom Festival last year (which you should check out; the events are awesome).
If you DO NOT perform the obligatory "badge shot" post to your social media account(s) you are not a real #SpaceTweep and I regret to inform you that you need to turn in your membership card immediately.
You might get to go in to see the High Capacity Centrifuge. It can accelerate your mom so fast, she'll experience forces 30x greater than Earth's gravity. If she weighs 2.5 tons. And not human (they are NOT allowed to ride).
You might walk through the "Room With Many Variant-Sized Space Environment Simulators" (my name - I think it's catchy).
While you're in the "Room With Many Variant-Sized Space Environment Simulators," see if you can spot my hot pink extension cord.
If they don't take you to see visualizations on their Hyperwall, they are meanies and you should all immediately riot* because this thing is REALLY COOL.
*DISCLAIMER: I take no legal responsibility if NASASocial attendees do, in fact, initiate a riot of any means at any point in time.
I'm going to take bets that you see this. Also, no photo can accurately show how large the Large Space Environment Simulator is. It fit Hubble in it. And they're gonna put JWST in it. That's a baaad mother-SHUT YOUR MOUTH- I'm just talkin' 'bout SES.
You might be lucky enough to see someone working on another craft! Like we did with two of the MMS probes!
I know for a FACT you will go to the highbay cleanroom (the world's largest cleanroom - YEAH IT'S BIG). That's just a given that you're going there. Note the entire wall - 9000 square feet - is HEPA filters.
More than likely, you'll also stop off in Astrobiology, where they'll let you handle space material that is [I don't often use the word "literally," but when I do] LITERALLY older than dirt. Because it's older than the Earth.
Because the GPM satellite is already at Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. And if there is a crate of "GPM critical hardware" still lying around, well then, I THINK WE MIGHT HAVE A PROBLEM.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Astronaut Geisha

If you need a reason (YOU NEED A REASON?!?!) to like the Japanese band Asian Kung Fu Generation, and the artist Yusuke Nakamura that collaborates with them to do all of their album art, this would be it.

Their last album, titled Landmark (which you can buy in the US iTunes store, btw!), features a geisha in an EVA suit, on the moon.

Oh, the symbols! THE SYMBOLS!! Not to mention the cymbals [crash]. Littered through the cover image, you will find a reference to every song on the album, as well as recurring AKFG themes (the band members, parakeet, Fuji/Tokyo, cd, a girl).

I just find it a little weird that in her visor you can see the guys walking across the crosswalk with Tokyo Tower and Fujisan. Is her helmet pointed at the Stargate or something?

Favorite part of this? The floating cell phone still hooked up to its usb charger. Because Ajikan are #CHARGEAHOLICS obviously.