Joining an internet meme

Leave a comment

So full fledged Internet meme participation…  “I love living in the future!”  This image is a screenshot off my laptop computer, of video on NASA TV, beamed to Earth from the International Space Station.  Here the Dragon spacecraft has been grappled by the robotic arm, getting lined up to be berthed to the bottom side of the orbiting complex.  (“bottom side of the orbiting complex” was just now stolen by me from the NASA TV audio feed!)

12 year old Space Cadet JimmieJoe is green with envy over all the cool stuff in grown-up JimmieJoe’s life.  While all the computers are neat, I think he’s most impressed by the iPhone, which lets me watch things from outer space live on a hand held device, even in the basement dispatch center that was built to be an atom bomb/fallout shelter.  Most of the stuff grown-up JimmieJoe takes for granted these days has Space Cadet JimmieJoe beside himself, barely able to contain the giddy joy of life in the future.

He does give me a strange look now and then, though…

I know what he’s thinking.  (of course I do.  He’s me.)

It’s that whole flying car thing.

You’d think we could let that go, but…  no.  We were promised, dammit!

Terra, and Luna. From Orbit.

Leave a comment

Photo by Ron Garan, Space Shuttle astronaut.

End of an era: Last Shuttle launch

Leave a comment

An era ends.  The last Space Shuttle lifted four astronauts and tons of supplies into the Florida sky today, enroute to the International Space Station.  The first Shuttle launch, of Columbia, occurred on April 12, 1981.  That launch was a mere 20 years to the day after the first manned space flight, by Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union.  In those 20 years, we went from the first dangerous launches on modified ICBM rockets, to the Saturn 5 that took us to the Moon six times, to the “space truck” that is the Shuttle.  The last Shuttle mission, flown by Shuttle Atlantis, is scheduled to land on July 20, the 42nd anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing at the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon.

Once Atlantis lands, the United States has NO way of launching astronauts into space.  We hope to have private industry doing so “soon”, but that “soon” could be a decade away.  In the meantime, we buy rides on the Russian Soyuz.  “TAXI!”


Space Cadet Makes Momentary Appearance

Leave a comment

It happened again.  On Monday the 7th, the Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station flew overhead just after dark.  I went outside to watch, expecting only the Space Station, and was jumping up and down (at least internally. I doubt anyone driving by noticed) when I realized I was getting the double lucky view of the shuttle leading the station in the same orbit, just miles apart from each other.  The Discovery had undocked from the station earlier that day, and was slowly increasing the distance between it and the orbiting outpost with each moment.  Tonight, the shuttle is on the ground, but ISS is still up there, and still gliding majestically across my sky from time to time.

Photo: NASA

Space Cadet Jimmie made a sudden appearance Monday, and again today.  He’s someone I don’t get to visit very often these days, but maybe…  just maybe…  he’ll come around more often.


They Came From Outer Space

Leave a comment

Actually, they didn’t come from outer space.  They came from Earth.  Florida, to be exact.  It’s a bit much to even say they are in “outer” space.  They were just a couple of hundred miles from me tonight.  That’s closer than friends in the San Francisco Bay area.  In fact, they were closer to me than most of the rest of humanity, right at that moment.  But they were in orbit, and I was standing in my driveway in Visalia, California.

I didn’t take this picture.  It’s not of the sight from tonight.  It gives only an idea of what I saw streaking across the sky above my home.  Two points of light (streaks here due to shutter timing) floating silently overhead.  The Space Shuttle Discovery, followed by the International Space Station.

I subscribe to a service that will send me a message by Twitter about Space Station transits viewable from my home.  Today’s message told me a “very bright” ISS would be visible.  I set the alarm on my iPhone.  They neglected to mention that it would be a double whammy on this pass!

It was, literally, a once-in-a-lifetime event.  I can’t begin to describe how I felt as I saw it.


Delivery, Space Station Style

Leave a comment

The latest Russian unmanned Progress supply ship docked with the International Space Station this morning, as the orbiting complex flew above central Asia.  The unmanned cargo vessel flew itself up to the Space Station, did a fly around to align itself for docking, then docked.  That’s like a delivery truck, minus a driver, coming to your house from another state, pulling up to your garage, opening the door, pulling in and closing the door behind itself.  All the while never breaking any traffic laws, causing any accidents, or scraping the paint on the garage walls.

Now the crew aboard the station will unload the supplies, fill it with trash, and in December sometime cut it loose to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

We may have beat them to the Moon, and designed the most complex space vehicle ever, but the Russians have perfected the art of unmanned docking and assembly line spacecraft production.  With the impending retirement of the Space Shuttles, we will rely on Russia for many years to come for access to space for our astronauts.  We’ll be “spaceship-pooling” with them, and picking up the tab.

OMG! Robot Geek! NASA Snuck This One Right Past Me!


I’m a bit abashed… NASA snuck this guy right past me, and I never even knew about him!  The next Shuttle mission to the International Space Station, set for September,  will include R2, a robot!  Well…  half a robot, for now, anyway.  He doesn’t have any legs, and he’ll be bolted down, but he’s going to become a permanent part of ISS.  Eventually, they’ll take him outside on spacewalks, to assist astronauts and cosmonauts.  Here’s a video where the designers talk a bit about him.  You can follow him on Twitter, too!

He even gets his own mission patch!

This is sooo cool!

Of course, in every bad science fiction story where the robots take over or destroy the world, the first robots are innocuous.  We will have to keep an eye on this guy, and any compatriots that get built.

I offer some suggestions for their design:

#1.  An easy to reach off switch!

#2. An equivalent to the Three Laws of Robotics.

#3. Don’t ever give them a personality, no matter how much they beg for one!

In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream

Leave a comment

…unless your microphone is open.

So, you’re an astronaut on the International Space Station.  You’ve got important work to perform.  You’re floating in the most expensive, complex, and technologically advanced tin can ever created.  You have the best hardware that your fellow rocket scientists can provide.  There’s just one problem…

You’re running Windows!

I was just tuning past NASA TV, and stopped to listen and watch for a few minutes.  A member of the station crew was talking to Houston’s Mission Control, and informed them of a computer problem.  One of the laptops in the Russian segment was giving her problems.  She read off the error message, and it was that dreaded “missing or corrupt” screen that silently mocks you to do anything about it.

Curse you, Bill Gates!

The Sky on Fire

Leave a comment

Planet Earth.

South Polar region.

The sky is on “fire”.

The aurora australis — the southern lights — snakes its way across the Earth’s magnetic field as seen from above!

In this picture taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, lighting up the sky.

Things like this is why I prefer science to superstition and mythology.  Those stories are entertaining, and inform much morality, but they pale before the real thing.  This isn’t because some “god” decided to light the sky on fire, this is simply the end result of natural processes.  Figuring out why it happens, how that might affect us, and that it might lead to other exciting discoveries and advances is what science is all about.  How unsatisfying to say merely “because God made it that way”.

%d bloggers like this: