Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Wrath of Buzz


Late Breaking NOT NEWS! The Apollo Hoax accusations are being kept alive for another generation to enjoy. What a relief. And here I was afraid the children born in the 21st century wouldn't be able to engage in a good moon landing debate.

While browsing the lively and droll headlines on my favorite not-news site, Fark.com, I found a link to the Cinema Blend web site, which was promoting a SyFy Channel show called Fact Or Faked Paranormal Files.

I am not sure what this has to do with the paranormal, but their young cast decided to film a Lunar Landing Hoax episode, which will investigate the Apollo 15 mission from July of 1971. Tune in Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 10/9c on Syfy to see their Red Bull-sponsored conclusions.

Fact or faked? Hammers vs. feathers? We'll see how well they understand physics and re-create lunar gravity.

Of course, half the fun of finding any kind of space news on FARK is the ensuing verbal tempest in their forums. Here are some of the choice comments that followed the publishing of the Syfy link:

The only way I'll watch [this show on Syfy] is if Buzz comes in and punches every one of these farkers in the nose.

"Well, we weren't able to replicate it... but that doesn't mean they couldn't have. Inconclusive."
"Well, we were able to replicate it... but that doesn't mean they did. Inconclusive."

Already been done by the Myth Busters. (yawn)

Ghosts are real, but nobody went to the moon. I've never seen a symbiosis of suspension of belief and disbelief so strong it could power a city.

Tomorrow: Obviously, nobody could carve a mountain; how Mount Rushmore was formed by natural erosion.

Lunar Landing Hoax?
You don't believe the Moon landing really happened? One of the most documented events in all of human history and you don't believe any of it because you think that all evidence is subjective.
/you fail science

How do people justify the lack of a moon landing with this elephant in the room: Russia was a nation every bit as technologically capable as we were, who were in a race against what were enemies at the time. Do people honestly believe that the Russians couldn't track our radio signals, watch the ascent of our rockets with telescopes, even bounce their own lasers off our refractory mirrors? I assure you had we faked it, they would have been able to tell and would have yelled it from the moon themselves that we were liars!

Gee, I remember saying something quite similar recently. Well okay, ranting something quite similar recently.

At the time I found this yesterday, there were 38 comments. I decided to be a spectator for awhile and see what unfolded. I don't actually have a login for FARK, because it's notorious for being wall-to-wall misogynist trolls, but I lurk and laugh quite frequently.

There are now over 200 comments, and like every other forum in existence on the internet, the discourse has degraded into The Tin Foil Hat Faction vs. The Science Geeks. Always Entertaining.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our Astronaut Heroes


Raising money for education! November 2010 saw the 8th Annual Astronaut Experiences & Memorabilia Auction, Online and Astronaut Autograph & Memorabilia Show at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida… and what a great turnout this year!

Commander James Lovell
Astronaut Jim Lovell of Gemini 7, Gemini 12,
Apollo 8, and Apollo 13 signing autographs

Each year, this event is sponsored by the non-profit Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which to date has 80 astronaut members who help provide monies to American college students who exhibit exceptional performance in various fields of science, physics, and engineering.

The foundation now awards annually 20 scholarships each worth $10,000, for a total of $200,000. To date, the ASF has awarded $3 million in scholarships to qualifying students all over the nation. This amazing entity raises funds via corporate donations, citizen donations, astronaut-autographed memorabilia (never any shortage of demand for that!) and fund-raising events like the one shown here.

Shuttlenaut Bruce McCandless
Astronaut Bruce McCandless of STS-31 and STS-41-B

Originally the “Mercury Seven Foundation”, what is now the ASF was begun in 1984 by the six surviving members of America's original Mercury Seven astronauts: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter, Gordo Cooper and Deke Slayton – as well as the widow of the seventh, Mrs. Betty Grissom.

Over the years, more and more astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle programs have joined to continue to help raise money for education in the USA, hopefully motivating our best and brightest young scientists.

Check out the entire Picasa Gallery, which features Jim Lovell, Gene Cernan, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Charlie Duke, Scott Carpenter, Bruce McCandless, Ed Gibson, Bill Pogue, Frank Culbertson, and Owen Garriott. Wow! Quite a showing this year!

Scott Carpenter, Buzz Aldrin
Original Seven Astronaut Scott Carpenter of Mercury-Atlas 7,
with Apollo Moonwalkers Buzz Aldrin & Charlie Duke

The official AFS site doesn’t have their photo album up yet for this event, but check out the history of all their events… wow, too many moonwalkers to mention! Also keep up with future events here… the next up will be the Apollo 14 40th Anniversary Celebration this coming January!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Final Two Shuttle Missions


Throughout the year, as I've been following Shuttle launches, I have continually moved my "Final Five Shuttle Missions" post up to the blog front page. Now, however, I'm going to truncate that down to the final two... possibly three?

We will know next year if STS-135 should be added to the list! For the moment, here is what we have left, with updated descriptions, tasks, times and dates:

Thursday, February 3, 2011
STS-133 scheduled for launch at 1:34 a.m. EDT

The very last flight of Space Shuttle Discovery. An all-veteran, all-American crew will deliver the Express Logistics Carrier, the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module and the much-anticipated Robonaut!

Final Flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis
Friday, April 1, 2011
STS-134 scheduled for launch at 3:15 a.m. EDT

The very last flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour is the last planned mission of the Shuttle program, which began service in 1981. She will deliver a Logistics Carrier, a high-pressure gas tank, micro-meteoroid debris shields and an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the ISS. One spacewalk is planned to mount the AMS to the integrated truss structure, and this may be the final EVA ever conducted by a Shuttle crew.

This final mission will mark the 134th flight of the Space Shuttle Orbiter, the 36th Shuttle trip to the ISS, and the 165th American manned launch.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cosmic Junk Drawer


Every now and then, I have a great week of surfing where I find SO much to write about, I cannot decide. Or maybe the findings are neat-to-tweet so I don't feel the need to blather on about them for 600 words, and just put them in my Facebook or Twitter feed.

But, I'm trying something new today, in deference to the shortening attention span of Earthlings, LOL... some byte-sized space tidbits for your enjoyment, collective groans and/or edification.

For starters, here was my favorite Follower Re-Tweet after my "NASA Money Myths I and II" posts last week:

Pillownaut Retweet
Think Las Vegas would go for it?

THE GOOD NEWS: In the National Journal, the "Tech Daily Dose" column reports: NASA Among Most Savvy Social Media Users. So, it turns out that bureaucracy can slowly be overcome.

THE BAD NEWS: Former NASA chief of staff and White House liaison Courtney Stadd, a mere 18 months after his indictment, is sentenced to 4 years in prison for "inappropriate reallocation" of NASA funds.

Area 51
Air & Space Magazine released their first issue of 2011, featuring the first Shuttle Commander (John Young, 80) and the last Shuttle Commander (Mark Kelly, 46) on their cover. Mark Kelly and John Young, side by side? As my teen nephew says, Awesomesauce. I have no idea what that means, and I suspect I lost cool points just typing it.

But anyway, I loved this excerpt from their SHUTTLENAUTS article:
"To understand just how long the space shuttle has been flying, and how many generations of astronauts it has ferried to orbit, consider this: Of the six men assigned to the 134th and last scheduled mission, four weren't even born yet when the first shuttle commander, John Young, joined NASA in 1962."

Air & Space Magazine January 2011
By the time the Space Shuttles are retired, 363 astronauts will have flown inside of them, on a variety of voyages that include scientific experiments, releasing of the Hubble Telescope, trips to the Mir Space Station, creation of the International Space Station, deployment of extended-voyage space probes into the solar system, deployment of observatories and commercial satellites, tethered and un-tethered spacewalks, repair missions and re-supply missions.

The NASA Gallery now features new downloadable and printable tribute posters for each Space Shuttle Orbiter in the fleet, courtesy of graphic designer Amy Lombardo. Take a look!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mars500 Math


Today, November 22nd, is Day #173 for the international crew of the Mars 500, who are conducting the largest and longest simulated voyage to planet Mars ever undertaken! What is Day 173 out of 520? One third of the way.

Their entire schedule is:
Phase 1... 250-day journey to Mars
Phase 2... 30-day surface exploration phase

Phase 3... 240-day journey back to Earth

A couple weeks back, they passed the milestone where they could finally say, "One year from now, we will finally get to go outdoors again!"

Mars 500 Journey
"Mars is the ultimate goal of the global human exploration programme," said Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Human Spaceflight Director. "In addition to developing the necessary space infrastructure for exploration missions, ESA's Directorate of Human Spaceflight also has an ongoing programme of ground-based analogues and ISS research activities to make sure that our astronauts are as prepared as possible for the physical and mental demands of future long-duration exploration, and to develop countermeasures against any adverse effects of such a mission."

They make it sound so gilt-edged at the press conferences, don't they? And don't get me wrong, I love it when the administrators write, rehearse and deliver quotable-quotes. The real story, however, unfolds far from the glitterati.

As the project has progressed, the crews' logbook-style blog and Martian Chronicles media updates have become more popular (two have achieved a "heart throb" status of sorts in their home countries).

Recently, the more westernized fellows got to introduce Wang Yue to the concept of "Halloween" – with which he was hitherto unfamiliar. But he got into the spirit and improvised a great mummy costume. (However, I have no idea what the heck Alexey was supposed to be!)

Trick or Treat.

He's the one who looks like a sinister nun. Or is that the Grim Reaper, just squinting?

Updated diagrams of the Mars500 Isolation Facility in Russia have been uploaded, as well as greater detail in all the Crew Biographies as the men become better known throughout the space community and news outlets. Great stuff! Especially all the new video diaries, Q&A sessions with the Marsonauts, and their hilarious experience with barbering one another's hair while inside the space ship!

If you haven't been following along thus far, previous updates of the Mars500 are in my blog's Mars 500 Archive, and I'll check in again at their half-time show!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The NASA Myth


BLOG POST SUBTITLE: How To Cure Low Blood Pressure

Do we need NASA? Johnny Depp is set to break Tom Hanks' record to become the highest paid actor ever, in that he will receive $56 million dollars for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film. One guy. Swishing in front of a camera, playing pretend pirate. Yet, I never hear people discussing whether we really "need" Johnny Depp anymore.

Military Spending
Global Distribution of Military Spending
by the Stockholm Intl Peace Research Institute
and the US Center for Arms Control (May 2010)

I found this disturbing chart, courtesy of the GlobalIssues.Org website, in a fellow space writer's discussion about federal spending. If you have time, I recommend his blog: The Space Advocate. He is opinionated, vehement, not even remotely politically correct – and almost always right. In this particular rant, he asked: "Seriously, how many ways to kill a human being do we need to come up with?"

It's a fair question, and it set me trolling through hundreds of links, hoping to find a visual comparison of money we spend killing versus money we spend exploring.

I grow weary of hearing that tired old whine, "Why give money to NASA when we could be using the money for problems on Earth?" It's not even worth debating... certainly not on my blog, because I'd be preaching to the choir about all that world space programs have done for Earth, and how even minimal spin-off technologies have changed the lives of entire generations and nations.

NASA's budget for FY 2010 was about $18.7 billion. We hear the words million, billion and trillion bandied about on the news these days like they're nothing, but I won't sit here and try to convince anyone that is not a huge amount of money. It absolutely is. However, there is a greater perspective to be drawn, here.

The annual budget of the United States for 2010 was over THREE TRILLION. The cut that was allocated to NASA was thus 0.623%. Less than one percent. I went roaring around the internet and found over a hundred pie charts for 2008, 2009 and 2010 budgets; without fail, NASA barely even merits a visible slice (unless the chart is enlarged to a pie that you could live inside).

2010 Federal Budget of the United States
Get your magnifying glass and try to find NASA!

Consider also these statistics, as compiled by Forbes, the NY Times, Consumer Reports and the Bureau of Labor Statistics about how Americans spend their money:

Each year, Americans spend over $65 billion dollars on illegal drugs, and another $315 billion on rehabilitation facilities and health care costs to get people off said drugs. Seems to me Robert Downey, Jr. & Steven Tyler alone probably spent more on questionable substances than NASA will ever have for certain earthbound projects (climate science, ocean exploration, etc.).

Americans also spend $600 billion per year in casinos, gambling money away for no other result than to lose games of chance. See the budget list in the addendum post just below this one, and examine the categories that cost under $600 billion.

I have not found a single person yet who admits to contributing to the massive pornography industry, which somehow stays afloat on a mere $10 billion in revenues per year -- despite having no customers. Amazing.

Double Facepalm
Why don't we put more money into health care? Into famine? Again, fair questions. I don't know the answers.

Why do members of congress get to vote themselves raises? Why did they give money to car companies whose CEOs have private jets? Why do law-breakers in prisons have better exercise equipment and libraries at their disposal than I do?

If you really want to talk about skewed priorities, why are there more shelters in the US for abused animals than for abused women? I don't know.

What I do know is that NASA isn't the mythical spending sponge that some people claim, and I'm at a loss to understand the unfounded indignation, given all they have provided "for the benefit of all."

NASA Money Myth II


When you truly examine the numbers, the almighty budget is an entirely different animal from what you see on cable news shows, where elephants trumpet and donkeys bray about entirely unfounded assumptions.

According to the GPO.gov or the GPO Access (where anyone can go see federal manuals, budgets and legislation in entirety), the big guns are as follows:

$677.95 billion – Social Security
$663.7 billion – Department of Defense
$453 billion – Medicare
$290 billion – Medicaid
$164 billion – National Debt Interest
* * * * * * * * *
$78.7 billion – Department of Health and Human Services
$72.5 billion – Department of Transportation
$52.5 billion – Department of Veterans Affairs
$51.7 billion – Department of State and Other International Programs
$47.5 billion – Department of Housing and Urban Development
$46.7 billion – Department of Education
$42.7 billion – Department of Homeland Security
$26.3 billion – Department of Energy
$26 billion – Department of Agriculture
$23.9 billion – Department of Justice
$18.7 billion – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
$13.8 billion – Department of Commerce
$13.3 billion – Department of Labor
$13.3 billion – Department of the Treasury
$12 billion – Department of the Interior
$11 billion – Potential Disaster Allocations
$10.5 billion – Environmental Protection Agency
* * * * * * * * *
$9.7 billion – Social Security Administration
$7 billion – National Science Foundation
$5.1 billion – Corps of Engineers
$5 billion – National Infrastructure Bank
$1.1 billion – Corporation for National and Community Service
$0.7 billion – Small Business Administration
$0.6 billion – General Services Administration

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Inches of Mercury


Pawing through NASA's image archives is one of the great joys of my life, and not just because they never copyright anything. While that makes my blogging life easier than say, celebrity stalkers, I'm pretty sure I would pay for the privilege even if it wasn't free.

I recently ran across perhaps the most interesting photograph I had ever seen of any astronauts, anywhere. Oh, we've seen astronauts in simulators, astronauts in neutral buoyancy labs, astronauts golfing on the moon, and all other manner of oddities... but have you ever seen a bunch of astronauts in their underwear with parachute veils??

NASA Mercury Seven
The Mercury 7 in training in 1960

Left to right: Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Walter Schirra and Donald "Deke" Slayton.

Hmm, I don't remember seeing this scene in The Right Stuff. However, in 1960, the seven men selected to be America's first astronauts had to undergo (among many other trials that were depicted in the film) hostile-environment survival training. Each was left at a remote location in the Nevada desert near Stead Air Force Base (operational 1942-1966) for four days with a mock-up of a Mercury spacecraft, a parachute and a different survival scenario.

The idea, of course, was to prepare the men to survive in the event of an emergency landing in the wilderness, due to the [albeit unlikely] possibility that they could land in an unpopulated area of Africa or South America. During this training, Deke Slayton would later write, "We learned how to protect [ourselves] from the sun, how to utilize a limited water supply, and to build clothing and shelter from the parachutes."

Mercury 7 Crew
The official press portrait was a bit more spiffy...

But wow, would you trust these clowns to babysit if they knocked on the door? I wouldn't. In a fascinating twist, they actually pulled off all the goals of Project Mercury: Orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth, investigate man's ability to function in space, and recover both men and spacecrafts safely back on the planet.

And if this looks scary, check out this history page to see their egress water training… yikes! Also included are interesting tidbits about academic training, flight training, static training, dynamic training, weightless training, mission training, preparatory simulation training… I'm getting exhausted just thinking about it.

I also found a great list of each of the astronauts "specializations" that I had never seen before, and I enjoyed examining this old record:

Mercury Seven Crew Specializations

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Where Oh Where


There is an entire team employed by NASA who do nothing all day long but try to think up ways to give out free prizes and involve the public in whimsical games and activities. I have not yet laid eyes on them, but I know they exist. Somewhere.

I picture a big blue room, perhaps at NASA Langley, with a rock-climbing wall, trampoline and a big table full of red vines and M&Ms. Amid this funhouse and in between volleyball games, they must sit themselves down and discuss: How can we name the next Mars rover? What can we put people's names on and launch with the next Shuttle? How can we get little kids and adults alike fascinated with space?

ISS Cupola
Wheelockin' From the Cupola!

Well, they took a break from finger-painting and are apparently at it again, with the Where Over the World is Astronaut Kelly Contest.

Earlier this year, JAXA's Sōichi Noguchi was first to "tweet" stunning aerial photographs during his Expedition on the International Space Station. More recently, Doug Wheelock has similarly out-done himself on TwitPic, and you should definitely follow his feed @Astro_Wheels if you are interested in the topographic wonders he captures! The night-time picture of Italy (above) is my favorite.

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly
NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly is now taking over the helm, with much the same assignment as the last two click-happy-larrys, to "capture a kaleidoscope of geographical spots for Earth scientific observations. " So says NASA. Then Team Funhouse, wherever they are, decided to make a contest out of it.

Follow the @StationCDRKelly Twitter feed, whereby Mr. Scott (I love calling him that) will tweet an aerial picture from space. If you know the precise geography of the picture, the first person to reply to his post with the correct answer will win a printed version of the photograph, autographed by Scott Kelly after his return to Earth. You will also be listed alongside your win on the NASA.gov website.

The modern era is incredibly unique in our ability to see the Earth from 230 miles up! And to possess the technology to visually capture the many natural monuments and man-made civilizations, both day and night, we are indeed truly privileged.

I hope everyone will join Scott on Expedition 25/26 and play along with us! You can read the official contest rules at the main contest website. Have fun! =)

Monday, November 15, 2010

事 業 所 ・ 施 設


My brain is officially tapped -- not good for a Monday. This past weekend, in my newest Space Map update, I tackled the entire Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), much the same way I did with NASA last month.

I'll say up front that as good as I am with picking up languages, what I know about Japanese you could put on the head of a pin and still have room for the Ten Commandments. But hey, if we never traveled to the event horizon of our abilities and attempted to stretch beyond it, we'd never know what we can do, right?

Space Map Japan
Conclusion: This was fun, but my brain is definitely not cut out for Japonic language families. I'm still glad I made the attempt to find every site of the Japanese Space Agency in the native tongue -- and I put them on the Pillownaut Space Map in both English and 日本語.

I encountered a few interesting surprises. Japan possesses the one and only world space agency that is accessible only by ship. Ironic, eh? No driving there for a casual visit, so you'd have to be a pretty hardcore space enthusiast to find the Ogasawara Station. No airports on this island, the idea was too controversial! One must travel to the Takeshiba Pier in Tokyo, and take the Ogasawara Maru ship to the Hutami port of Chichijima Island to see the JAXA site. Ah, someday.

Also, JAXA has four international offices across the Earth that act as liaisons to NASA HQ, NASA Mission Control, the European Space Agency and also science industries in the Asia-Pacific.

JAXA International Offices
本社・調布航空宇宙センター or JAXA Chofu Headquarters (Tokyo)

名古屋駐在員事務所 or Nagoya JAXA Office (Aichi)

能代多目的実験場 or Noshiro Testing Center (Akita)

勝浦宇宙通信所 or Katsuura Tracking & Communication Station (Chiba)

小笠原追跡所 or Ogasawara Downrange Station (Chichijima Island - Ships Only)

大樹航空宇宙実験場 or Taiki Aerospace Research Field (Hokkaido)

筑波宇宙センター or Tsukuba Space Center (Ibaraki)

種子島宇宙センター or Tanegashima Space Center (Kagoshima)

内之浦宇宙空間観測所 or Uchinoura Space Center (Kimotsuki)

相模原キャンバス or Sagamihara JAXA Campus (Kanagawa)

角田宇宙センター or Kakuda Space Center (Miyagi)

臼田宇宙空間観測所 or Usuda Deep Space Center (Nagano)

沖縄宇宙通信所 or Okinawa Tracking & Communication Station (Kunigami, Okinawa [island])

関西サテライトオフィス or Kansai Satellite Office (Osaka)

地球観測センター or the JAXA Earth Observation Center (Saitama)

増田宇宙通信所 or Masuda Tracking & Communication Station (Tanegashima)

INTL - FRANCE: JAXA Paris Office

INTL - THAILAND: JAXA Bangkok Office



If you have the time on your hands, definitely read some of the descriptions of JAXA's projects among the many sites; their space agency has truly grown into a huge, complex, varied and amazing entity!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Space Crafts VOTING Begins!


And here, "crafts" takes on a new meaning... not hardware, but artistic creativity! Joanne Campbell, alert reader at Dragonflights of Fancy, sent me a link to Etsy, who teamed with NASA to invite their artsy & crafty population to commemorate the end of the Space Shuttle Program by creating an original handmade item inspired by the Shuttles and/or space. The winning artwork might even be flown on the final mission.

Exploring this web site has been the most fun I've had online in weeks. I am continuously amazed at how NASA inspires people all over the world!

Etsy and NASA Contest
NASA Etsy Craft Contest: To the Moon & Beyond

I spent the last hour examining all the amazing pieces of art, clothing, jewelry, novelties and toys generated by this contest, and even found some gifts for a few friends! I voted three times, once in each category:

* 2D Original Art (painting, drawing, mixed media or flat collage)
* 2D Art Reproduction (photographic or computer-generated print)
* 3D Art (any size or material, wearable art, soft sculpture, etc.)

I was particularly impressed by the Space Shuttle hats, the cleverly-named Moonscape Moon Cape, and Baby's First Shuttle Launch Kit (sure beats baby's first Christmas ornament). The 2D categories were also fantastic, including everything from puzzles to iPad Covers to Family Trees in the form of constellations (!!!)

Etsy + NASA Contest Entries
Vote For Your Favorites!

Even if you don't care to vote or shop, I encourage everyone to go have a look at the stunning array of creative items the contest inspired in so many artists.

Public voting will continue for another week, up through November 19, 2010, and is intended to yield 20 finalists per category, whose entries will then be reviewed by a panel of Etsy, NASA and guest judges to choose the contest winners.

Please note: I have no affiliation with Etsy, and gain nothing from sharing their contest. As ever, I keep my blog free of ads and refrain from encouraging anyone to shop for any particular product. I appreciate all the links sent to me by readers who think I might find things interesting, and only promote them on my blog if I DO personally find them interesting! Thanks Joanne! =)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Space Map International!


Occasionally, I'll think up a theme for the month. This isn't one of those months. Or, we could just consider this "daily random information because I’m so bummed about Discovery being scrubbed five times" month.

Next time, I'll go for something catchier.

But, one theme I have continued as time allowed is my Space Map! I started with NASA facilities, added Space Museums, later added Space Crafts... and then I thought I would pick up again with international space sites.

You'll notice I said "I thought" ... as opposed to "I succeeded." Turns out, there are far, far more space agencies and branches than I ever dreamed! I thought I knew an awful lot about the overall space industry… perhaps because I can rattle off all 18 member countries of the European Space Agency at cocktail parties. (I can also say the alphabet backwards unreasonably fast. Even after a few drinks.)

At any rate… did you know that the Japanese Space Agency alone has 21 space centers, research institutes, manufacturing sites and launch complexes in five different countries? I sure didn't. And Russia now has over 30 sites. Wow. (For those keeping score, NASA has 25.)

So, I'm going to take this in stages. This past weekend, I map-marked the headquarters sites of the European Space Agency, founded in 1975. This entity now includes the space programs of Austria, Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (Holland), Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

I'm working on some of the other international sites now. Around Christmas, I should have the whole "world of space" on there. What a learning odyssey this has been! The overall space industry really snuck up on me, and is much larger than we all probably think!

European Space Agency
Interesting tidbits:
1. Check out the Swedish Space Institute (67.84° N, 20.41° E)... it is the northernmost space post I've found thus far, and a real snow-covered treat!

2. Note that three of the sites on the HTML page are not countries but rather the continent "Europe" – and these comprise the European Mission Control, Astronaut training site and general Astronomy office of the ESA.

3. The main launching space port of the ESA is, interestingly, located in South America! See if you can find it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Discovering Discovery


Shuttle Discovery! Yay, Launch Day for Shuttle Discovery! Oh wait, nope... scrubbed for the fourth time.

All the technical issues appear to have been handled, but no one can do anything about the rain.

Discovery Orbiter
Such is the nature of launches. I know two people who had to drive back to South Carolina today to get back to work, and are so sad they will miss it, but couldn't hang out in Florida any longer.

I know a couple more Floridians who plan to drive up each time there is a chance she might launch. There are a lot of very dedicated enthusiasts on the "Space Coast" right now, hoping the rain clears up quickly!

Will there be more interest from classrooms or news channels as everyone figures out we only have a few launches left??

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New NASA Shirts


Okay, I admit it, I'm just killing time now until Shuttle Discovery launches. Postponed for the third time now, but who's counting?

"This is part of the business, you fly when you're ready and you don't if you're not. And we're not ready to go." - Launch Director Michael Leinbach

Inspiration eludes me in times of elongated WAITING, so today I'll just share some photographs. The following is the "fall line" of shirts now available at the NASA space centers. These are compliments of the Space Trader near Johnson Space Center in Houston!

Actually, it IS Rocket Science
NASA Since 1958: Actually, It IS Rocket Science

Size Matters Just Ask Pluto
Size Matters. Just Ask Pluto.

Escape Velocity
Escape Velocity: You Can't Leave Home Without It

Failure Is Not An option
NASA: Failure Is Not An Option

And in what will come as a supreme shock to precisely NO ONE, I bought the Velocity one. :) Visit a NASA center near you to get yours! They have all the same sentiments on coffee mugs, shot glasses, key chains, pins... and yes, Christmas ornaments now.

Fingers crossed for Shuttle Discovery tomorrow afternoon!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Space Television


I had planned to discuss the final launch of Shuttle Discovery today, of course, but the launch has been postponed two days running. Not unusual, and weather may not cooperate once the technical issues are solved. SSDD, as they say! Shuttle Countdown 101 is due to begin soon, however, so stay tuned!

Shuttle Launch
I'd hate to be the one
who has to change this sign...

So, while Discovery undergoes checks and repairs, I thought I'd mention all the ways one might watch the last shuttle launches... and that turned into a marathon of research about all available space television. (And by the way, WHY is there no general Space Channel?)

I've mentioned TWIS many times, and almost everyone I know keeps up with their episodes, though unfortunately host Miles O'Brien and his producer David Waters announced that this labor of space love provided no real revenue stream, so they are now on hiatus. What a terrible loss! Though even without the video streams, one can keep track of launches at their Space Flight Now tracking page.

For those undergoing withdrawal, here are some other space programming resources!

"Making Space Commonplace": Space news and social media covering all things space flight, space news, space shuttle, NASA, ESA and more!

ESA Television
European Space Agency programming, and broadcast schedule.

Astronomy & space exploration news as they happen. Click the "LIVE" tab.

SpaceLaunch News
Aerospace Journalist Charles Atkeison gives complete multimedia coverage of World space launches & missions from Cape Canaveral.

NASA Television
NASA Television (NTV) is a resource designed to provide real-time coverage of agency activities and missions, and their programming schedule is posted daily.

NASA Television
I am a huge fan of NASA TV because you can watch it just about anywhere, and I tend to leave it on for hours and hours and hours. I keep wondering when they will cave, and turn to quick-cut editing and celebrities, but so far, the science and behind-the-scenes reality has remained prominent.

I remember reading an article quite awhile ago where a journalist declared… Ground Control to NASA TV: Liven Up! He began by saying that "typical shows feature live coverage of space-station activity, shuttle launches, news conferences, wrap-ups of space news, and educational programs about such topics as asteroids..." He bemoaned the stretches of silence and tried to make us think these programs were somehow bad things.

Sorry, but with every other available channel catering to the lowest common denominator of target demographics, I'll take this broadcasting gem anytime.

FACT: NASA TV was founded as "NASA Select" in 1981 to provide mission coverage for NASA's internal personnel, not for public consumption. The fact that we can tune in anytime to see what's going on is truly icing on the agency cake. There are no advertisements, and no scandalous clawing at "edgy" plot lines to gain viewers because NASA genuinely does not care how many or who watches their programming – they do not even bother to harvest Nielsen ratings data.

Will they change someday, to be glossier, faster, more chic? It appears some people hope so, butt I say give the money to the Mars program and leave NASA TV the way it is!