Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Iron Chef ISS


Just some light photographic fun today, because there are enough of these types of pictures to make a whole new blog. It's no secret that most space nerds can never get enough pictures of humans doing all manner of things in micro-gravity.

Astronaut Clayton Anderson
Click to embiggen Astro_Clay's Original

The split second the Skylab crew actually had room to do somersaults, they hurled themselves through the air and did them, presumably just because they could. Next came the M&M Olympics...

...And now look... we have cooking shows in low earth orbit. Humans have eaten in space, worked in space, slept in space, played musical instruments in space, conducted experiments and scientific research in space, exercised in space and prepared everything from Tang to shrimp cocktails to sushi! Yes, sushi.

NASA Astronaut Clay Anderson
Click for Astro_Clay's Twitpic Account!

We owe a lot to gravity. But the lack of it sure looks like a lot of fun.

NASA Astronaut Clayton Astronaut put his camera to good use, both inside and outside the cupola of the ISS during his recent expedition. Follow him at @Astro_Clay or click here for his entire collection of awesome twitpics!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Call Sign: Rocket Robyn


Recently, it was my distinct pleasure to meet one of the few female scientists who worked in the Apollo program, providing one of the many puzzle pieces that would combine to land humans on the moon! Robyn Villavecchia was in the thick of it all in the mid-1960s, and described things about the space race I can only imagine (quite literally, since I wasn't born yet!)

As many longtime readers know, I love seeking out all kinds of workers around NASA. This particular exchange has been one of the most educational and nostalgic for me, so instead of editing the interview, I asked her permission to print all that we discussed and emailed. Because of course, it's impossible not to ask questions of someone who can casually say, "Oh yeah, I hung out with Gus Grissom."

Rocket Robyn
Heather & Robyn at NASA Ames Research Center

I try to keep blog posts around 700 words or less on most days, and the "lite" version makes up today's regular post. For the entire interview, see the separate page about Robyn at

I was honored to meet you at Ames, and hear about your experiences with Saturn V rocket development; your knowledge of the hardware is impressive. What were you doing before the Apollo program got rolling at NASA?
ROBYN: Like some 400,000 others I was contractor personnel; work assignments were at White Sands Missile Range and our instructors were the scientists and engineers in the earliest days of our military missile program, many of whom were Operation Paperclip refugees from the WWII German rocketry programs.

Sounds exciting! What took you to Cape Canaveral in 1964?
ROBYN: I was only 25, reporting to a wonderful guy named Dan Kime. My office was a back bedroom! Did I mention it was formally the Merritt Island Chicken Farm, on the Titusville causeway? Kime told me I would find catalogs, from which to order lab glassware, pipettes, balance scales, whatever... and oh yeah, then he said: "You have 60 days to spend 28 million dollars or we lose our appropriation!"

Read more detail to these answers and other questions at ...

Cape Canaveral 1968
The Office

What did you do in this division?

ROBYN: We determined the density, viscosity and purity of the propellants to be loaded for flight to the moon. We needed to know this with an extreme degree of accuracy, first because the lives of the astronauts were at risk, and secondly because we could not afford to load excess mass aboard the vehicle. Lifting just a few extra pounds up out of the gravity well, and trucking to the surface of the moon was the limiting factor.

It's always a delicate balance, isn't it?
ROBYN: Indeed. When you and I went to the Ames Fluid Dynamics Lab, I was struck by the CEV launch escape system. Back in my day, we did not have anywhere near the computational muscle to model flight dynamic loads. We stuck a "boilerplate" Apollo Command module with its escape system atop a Little Joe II rocket, launched it and at test altitude, fired the escape system. If it worked, fine. If not, back to the drawing boards! We had to rely in great degree to empirical data!

Read more detail to these answers and other questions at ...

From Little Joe II to Saturn V

Not too shabby for someone who started out at the old chicken farm! Did you get to meet members of the astronaut corps at the time?
ROBYN: Yes, I did know a number of the early astronauts. I even had the pleasure of flying with Pete Conrad, Fred Haise and my personal favorite, Joe Engle! I knew Gus Grissom pretty well. He would come through the lab from time to time leading a party of "suits". I had a little demo routine where I would release a cloud of Nitiogen Tetroxide in a fume hood and using a big horse syringe full of Hydrazine, would squirt it into the cloud and write my name in fire. Usually was good for a few jaws falling on shoes, LOL...

When you say FLYING with Pete Conrad, you mean he actually took you up in a jet? Or do you mean you were at mission control somewhere when he was flying?
ROBYN: The three guys I mentioned flying with, in their "spare time" flew airshows in vintage aircraft. I flew with them in the same shows on occasion, so no, nothing so exciting as a ride the a T-38, lol I should have explained better what I meant. Pete was famous for his practical jokes. One day, I was tooling down final approach, fat dumb and happy. Suddenly I hear in the headphones...

Read more detail to these answers and other questions at ...

Thanks Robyn! I will never have a story as cool as being shot down by Pete Conrad, LOL... and readers, you can follow Robyn's Twitter feed @fizzviic, and also see her amazing essay "The Meaning of Apollo" – both discussed in the UK Urban Times, and also printed in entirety on Waddell Robey's great Explorology Blog.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gas Guzzlers


Guess what we'll all be talking about in 2015? That's right, the price the gasoline in space. It seems that MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates of Canada have teamed with satellite provider giant Intelsat to master the art of refueling in orbit.

The Wall Street Journal (yes, that big pack of space lovers who never put private profits ahead of public risks, har har) reports that MDA and Intelsat have signed the first commercial contract to design remote control methods to refuel satellites in active orbit. (Note: Non-subscribers maybe be blocked from links at

Orbital Debris
Of course, they jump ahead to how it could "fundamentally reshape the economics of the global satellite industry" – but let's make sure we can pull it off first, right? Because some of us are still bitterly awaiting our hovercars.

The process has allegedly been successful at airplane altitudes, and if successful in micro-gravity, could help our growing space junk problem and extend the life of many thousands of orbiting satellites that would otherwise undergo various inevitable types of technological obsolescence: merely floating dead indefinitely or burning up in the atmosphere as their orbits degrade closer to Earth.

Gasoline Sign
MDA plans to launch Space Infrastructure Servicing (SIS) vehicles by 2015, each with enough fuel to service about 12 satellites and perhaps also even complete simple robotic repairs, saving billions of dollars, reducing the need for so many rockets to launch new satellites, and also ultimately reducing the amount of floating hardware. SIS stations might also steer existing dead satellites into flame out zones, helping to clean up orbital debris that makes manned space flight increasingly dangerous.

Given what fossil fuels cost on earth right now, I don’t even want to know what they will cost in space by 2015, but ones hopes there will be a happy ending in terms of the long-term payoff. And the bill? Picked up 100% by the commercial sector in terms of development and testing.

DVice has a great video released by MDA, describing the toolset:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Space Fortune Cookie


And now, for no particular reason, here is the best fortune cookie... ever.

Space Shuttle Fortune Cookie
I've decided that the next time I have a party for any reason, I am going to make my own fortune cookies -- each with little space messages inside.

Fun stuff, like... planetary trivia, mission milestones, and how to say "Space Shuttle" in various languages, like the one above. Here's the thing -- I only cook twice per year when the smoke detectors need testing!

So if anyone beats me to it, here's the Fortune Cookie Recipe. ;)

Alien Fortune Cookie
And maybe a few quotes from X-Files would be fun too...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Regolith Castles


Enrico Dini, my new hero! Inhabitat, a green design forum that highlights new developments in design and architecture shows Pisan engineer-slash-inventor creating a 3-D architectural printer that can create buildings and someday... a moon base?!

I've seen Moleculaire's three-dimensional Food Printer in action, but edible material is easier to layer than... stone. Architects have used 3-D printers to "model" designs in recent years, but now they can print a building? On site. Full size.

So, of course, our SyFy-trained noggins leap ahead to when Moon Dust Igloos will be all the trendy rage.

Enrico Dini D-Shape 3D Architectural Printer
By suspending rigging over a building area, the huge D-Shape system uses rows of spigots to spray (waterless) binding glue atop a layer of sand, compacting the mix into rock. The process is repeated, building upward into whatever design was initially programmed into the printer.

3D allows previously impractical forms to be created, and accuracy is within 25 dpi. Also, since it requires no complex processes such as heating calcium carbonates (limestone) to create cement mixes, CO2 emissions are reduced.

As part of the European Space Agency's Aurora Programme, Dini is working with various contractors to modify D-Shape so that it will work with lunar regolith.

Enrico Dini, Chairman of Monolite UK Ltd.

The Italian show "Real Lives" introduces Dini and his grande macchina! It really starts rocking around the 00:50 second mark, when the camera moves all around the giant printer in action. At 1:15, you'll see the CAD/CAM software "visualize" animated projections, and get a true feel for the scale and textures.

Nice sculpture. Cathedral, anyone? Dini says his dream is to use the machine to complete la Sagrada Família, the infamous Barcelona church that has been under construction since 1882.

How many of these would he need to... actually rebuild Rome in a day?? ;)

Dini claims the D-Shape printer is four times faster than conventional building, costs less, yields almost no waste, is better for the environment and makes creating unusually-shaped structures much easier. Even things like columns and long cavities for wiring/piping are easily programmed and executed.

D-Shape Designs
However, I wouldn't run around echoing Inhabitat's "Voilà! Instant Regolith Resort!" sentiment just yet. The word "instant" is wishful thinking. Like anything else sent into space, development will include colossal amounts of preliminary work concerning weight, safety, travel costs and the reality of how the machine will operate in the moon's low gravity. Maybe they can test it on Earth with this stuff.

Ad astra per aspera!

Space Times News


A few weeks back, a delightful chap named John Wilpers of the Scripps Newspapers company contacted me about having some of my writing featured on a new website by and for space enthusiasts. As their Global Blog Coordinator, seems he was tasked with reading space blogs, all space blogs and nothing but space blogs, to find content. Nice work if you can get it!

John and Scripps just took the Space Times News website live, along with many other folks they fondly call "partners" -- and I know we all feel very lucky to be part of this great new launch pad of space data!

Space Times News
The Space Times News

I was assured my blog was chosen for its"intriguing topics", the overall "conversational, humorous tone", and they appreciated how I "never presume that readers know stuff, so even beginners can enjoy the blog, but so can real space fans"! ...Flattery will get you everywhere.

I have such fun with my writing, and I am drawn to others who share the same passion. The researchers and writers for STN didn't just choose materials at random, either. They sent me a list of what amounted to editorial reviews of my past posts, proving they had truly done their homework. They were not merely scanning, they were studying -- in order to build a truly comprehensive site about all things space!

Space Times News
STN front page, featuring my post about the Trek Con!

Other daily and weekly features include an eye on launch weather, amazing photo galleries, news of the ISS & Space shuttles, top stories across the entire space industry, popularly emailed stories, voting polls and mission news. It's a great place to check in each day and see the headlines and major happenings.

So check out the Space Times News and register for an account to make comments!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hailing Frequencies Open


I am trying to think of how many times Uhura actually says "Hailing Frequencies Open, Captain!" in the original Star Trek show, and wondering if it is another one of those inaccuracies like "Beam me up, Scotty" -- which was never actually spoken verbatim in a single episode! Regardless, it is one of those things Nichelle Nichols hears on the street quite frequently, I'm sure.

Nyota Uhura
I had not planned on any more Trek posts, but in an odd twist of timing, a NASA website for women was unveiled this week by social media champion Nick Skytland, and it made me think of the recent lecture by the lovely Nichelle Nichols at last weekend's sci-fi convention.

Unbeknownst to some, Nichols was a recruiter at NASA for many moons, and to this day makes public appearances for the agency at various space and research centers when her schedule allows.

Cindy & Maggie with Nichelle - Star Trek Convention
Pals Cindy & Maggie with Nichelle Nichols
Star Trek Convention, March 2011

Nichelle was the very first "face of diversity", who brought NASA from the stone age into the space age! Her direct recruits include, among others, the first American woman to travel into space, Sally Ride, and the first African-American in space, Guion Bluford.

Ms. Nichols is an eloquent and classy lady, but she delved into an amusingly scandalous saga at the Star Trek convention when she related a story about how NASA first asked her to recruit women and minorities as astronaut candidates. She wasn't the only one bothered by the Good Ol' Boys Club.

She told them, "If I do this for you, if I take time off from performing, and if I go to all this trouble of recruiting high-caliber men and women of varying races... and we still inexplicably wind up with an all-white, all-male astronaut corps, I will SUE you. I will sue you for my time."

Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle on stage, tellin' it like it is!

Paraphrased, of course, from a conversation that took place in the mid-1970s, but you gotta love her gutsy gusto! What an amazing woman. And how ahead of her time. Since the mid-1980s, Nichols has served on the Board of Governors of the National Space Society, a nonprofit space advocacy organization founded by Dr. Wernher von Braun.

Also check out her personal web site at UHURA.COM!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

He Is Not Spock


Or maybe he is -- according to this books, he cannot seem to decide...

Leonard Nimoy Auto-Biography
At any rate, I cannot believe I forgot I had video footage from the Trek convention! I only took two snips -- this one and the costume competition, though I stopped filming because the crowd was unpredictable, and the sound system was quite poor in terms of recording quality.

However, the audience quieted when Leonard Nimoy came onstage, and truly tuned into him very attentively as he spoke, so this clip is not so bad. Just a little fuzzy-wobbly. But hey, it's LEONARD NIMOY. I still say that like I met the freakin' king of the universe or something...

I am familiar with a great deal of Nimoy's photography and a little bit of his poetry, so I was happy when he read one that I not only KNEW offhand, but consider my favorite piece of his writing.

He did not recite the entire piece, but rather picked up toward the end:

Leonard Nimoy Poetry

A beautiful sense of identity and diversity comes through in his words, a very personal journey that he shares with us, so it was a treat to hear him read it in his rich, deep voice -- and also with the personal vocal inflection of how he wrote it. Emphasis can be tremendously meaningful in spoken poetry, more so than what jumps off a page.

This one-minute recitation is also on my channel at YouTube... go like it!! =)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Cosmos Gallery


It was recently my great pleasure to enjoy the beauty of The Cosmos Gallery, an online artwork collection by a marvelously talented Peruvian painter and web site developer named Dacio, who shares all his art on a self-made site that is an amazing blend of science and creativity! Dacio agreed to an interview about his beautiful creations, and gave permission to share them on my blog.

You began painting after being inspired by the International Year of Astronomy 2009 – but seeing your work, I find it hard to believe you've been working with oils for only two years. Did you paint other subjects before exploring the universe?
DACIO: I've been painting and drawing since childhood, but it was something I took for granted and did not approach seriously. I've painted landscapes, abstracts and portraits, but the universe always captured my imagination. One of my first memories is gazing in awe at Halley's Comet through my father's telescope. However, space seemed overwhelming, too magnificent to grasp or paint. I did remain curious, and in 2009 I started watching the series Cosmos after learning about the IYA. I found myself experiencing an intense urge to learn more about the stars that Carl talked about. A few months later, I attended my first star party, and realized to my surprise that by then I could find my way around the night sky and that I had a better understanding of what I was looking at. Learning a bit of what once seemed obscure was an empowering feeling, and I wanted to share.

Painting the Colors of the Cosmos
The rich textures and bold colors in your "astro art" are very powerful, and your emotions about the connections between science and creative expression come through so clearly. How do you get your ideas for subjects? Are you influenced by Hubble, science shows, or do you wait for something spontaneous to appeal to you?
DACIO: I collect images from space telescopes and observatories, because they are available on the internet for free to everyone. I feel happy knowing that I will never run out of inspiration by choosing the cosmos; every day I find something new that takes my breath away. I don't watch TV, so I'm thankful for all the science content that you can find online: documentaries, science blogs, films, podcasts, etc. I listen to online while I paint. This allowed me to discover my favorite podcasts: 365 DOA, The Space Writer, Skepticality, Dr. Kiki's Science Hour, and The Groks Science Show. I no longer have to wish upon a star and hope that TV or newspapers will keep me informed about the stuff that matters to me.

My favorite description in your gallery was for The Swan, "where stars are born". I loved the story of the abstract painting, Going Nova, an "awakening that takes us through a thousand years and across space into the heart of a star". Celestial events can be timeless symbols for enlightenment, and your journeys of creation are quite profound. Are you also a poet? Do you write as well as paint?
DACIO: I do love poetry and literature; I used to write more when I was in high school, but at some point I wanted to express more than I could comfortably put into words. I particularly love Pablo Neruda and Gustavo Bécquer, they wrote a type of poetry that I found irresistible in its simplicity and elegance. I found some of that in painting: I didn't need a big budget to get serious about it, I didn't need a crew or a producer or a studio. I simply needed my brushes, paints, an empty canvas and a burning desire to share.

Magnificent DesolationWhy do you encourage people to download and share the pictures of your paintings on your site, what about your copyrights?
DACIO: Many artists publish their work online by disabling the right-click or other techniques to block users from downloading, or as I'm constantly told, "To protect your work and stop people from stealing it, man!" This attitude seems shortsighted. Why share your work online in the first place then? I'm thankful that NASA has the courtesy to share images without copyrights, thus granting me freedom to create upon this inspiration. This openness is nothing strange within the scientific community, and I wanted to keep that spirit when I released my work online.

I tell my visitors they already have my permission to download and share, that they are free to post it on their blog, or remix and build upon it. A Creative Commons license seemed the right decision by allowing me to give away some rights for the sake of better sharing, while still reserving the right to make a living from my work. I started selling reproductions on canvas of my paintings as a way to find out if like minded people would see value of science-inspired art and give me the chance to continue creating with their support. I had not anticipated that it also provided me with encouragement for further effort and dedication. Thanks to this, I'm able to reach a broader audience.

Dance of the FirefliesMy favorite painting is the Dance of the Fireflies: Antennae Galaxies, and it's clear you did scientific research while creating these visuals. In a world saturated by digital data, many might have advised you to concentrate on your web career instead of 2-D painting. Is this form of art still relevant in the modern age?
DACIO: Well, first there is the social relevance. As humans continue to reach new heights, we will carry on inspiring each other and art will continue playing a role. Inspiration transcends fields: I was inspired by science to paint the stars and my art can inspire others to pursue scientific literacy. It is true that modern age has brought us a saturation of options, information and distractions, but it also brought the chance to connect to a global audience. I want my paintings to have substance, I want to infuse them with gratitude for the science outreach that inspired me. This was the main reason why I developed in my website and interactive "Anatomy" section for each piece.

Secondly, there is the personal journey. The creative process develops a critical stance, experimentation and problem solving skills. This is how painting becomes a type of learning journal for each creative moment, and with a particular contrasting property in this age of rapid obsolescence: the longevity of the medium. It's mind boggling how we can still appreciate the tangible beauty and technique of an oil painting created hundreds of years ago. Learning about the universe makes you appreciate the short time given to us. In this context, I feel that painting is also a way of saying, "I was here; everything else along with me shall pass, but the colors of my moment will stay a bit longer."

Thank you so much for your time in answering questions and for allowing me to post your beautiful images. Friends and readers, you can also keep up with Dacio on his Facebook page, and his YouTube Channel… !

Monday, March 14, 2011

Star Trek Convention Newbie!


I woud love to describe in exhaustive detail all my wonderful experiences at my very first Star Trek convention this past weekend at the San Francisco Hyatt, but my brain just keeps rolling the same astonished sentence over and over: "I met Leonard Nimoy, I met Leonard Nimoy..."

It may take me a week or three to get over that.

Many of my Facebook friends told me how jealous they were that I got to see Spock, and normally I would say something comforting like, "Oh, don't be, he was a real jerk!" But, he wasn't. He was gracious and talkative and had a smile or a joke for everyone. Nimoy was truly everything one hopes for when meeting someone special that you have been watching on television since toddler-hood!

Heather, Leonard Nimoy & Garet
Heather, Leonard & Garet

Nimoy spoke for over an hour on Saturday, thrilling the audience with pictures from his childhood, his time in the U.S. Army, early acting work... including a portrait of him in his first feature film, Zombies of the Stratosphere, rare scenes from the Star Trek set back in the 1960s, a timeline through his many Trek movies, then on up to his most recent photography work.

What a treat, to see such a multi-talented artist share a lifetime of his work, just shy of his 80th birthday (which will be on March 26th). To think, he started out just driving a taxi around Los Angeles.

And wow! We had such a blast all day, I cannot believe I never attended a convention -- because it's quite different from what I pictured. My friend Garet from high school had been to conventions before, and was very concerned that I have a good time at my first... but he had nothing to worry about! We made many friends while touring the booths, taking pictures, and enjoying auditorium presentations by humans, Vulcans and Klingons.

Click to see the entire photo gallery!

At one point, a professional photographer asked us to pose for portraits, so here's hoping we make it into his new Star Trek book. I realized that when you attend one of these events in costume, you are public property when it comes to having your picture taken right and left! I lost count of how many flashes went off in my face.

I do not labor under the delusion that I am a member of Starfleet or ruled by the Federation of Planets, LOL... nor did I meet anyone who was as freaky as depicted in that "Trekkies" film, which were unnecessarily extreme examples of people who enjoy science fiction as a hobby.

Most are perfectly normal people, leading regular lives, and who enjoy stories about space travel and other planets as a form of commentary on the human condition. And what fun when you can all get together and share the passion!

Literally... the Next Generation!

Creation Entertainment hosts many different types of conventions all over the continent, and I hope to attend the larger Trek convention in Las Vegas this summer, celebrating Star Trek's 45th Anniversary... where both William Shatner and Patrick Stewart will be speaking together.

We'll see how much travel money I have left after the final Shuttle launch!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Space City


Not to be harping on my pretty new map or anything, but in the event it proves too long to browse for those with limited time, I'll point out some highlights I found along the way in my international research!

The American Roadtrip highlights are great, but if one's budget allows for more exotic locales, head to India! The National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) under India's Ministry of Culture is the world's largest chain of science centers under a single administrative umbrella.

Science City Kolkata
Science City, Calcutta, India

Unsurprisingly, they thus host the world's largest space theme park, Science City Kolkata. Their stated goal is: "To portray the growth of science and technology and their application in industry, human welfare and environment, with a view to develop scientific attitude and to create and sustain a general awareness amongst the people."

A fine mission, and they accomplish it with interactive experiments, IMAX, Earth exploration exhibits, motion simulators, models, maritime displays, live animals, an evolution park and… roller coasters. No joke, they have rides everywhere – but this is not to say that it detracts from the amazing array of educational science; I was totally blown away by the sheer size and comprehensive nature of everything described on their website!

Space City France
Space City, Toulouse, France

Another amazing theme park is the Cité de l'espace, or "Space City" in Toulouse, France. Among their unique features are an Earth TerraDome, a moonwalk simulator and a Stellarium, described as an astronomical simulator with a hemispherical screen. They also feature rides and interactive experiments for those aspiring to be astronauts or scientists, or for folks who simply want to see what it's like to live on the International Space Station.

Their outdoor park features a Soyuz capsule, an Ariane 5 rocket and full-size replica of the entire MIR space station, that was, once upon a time, used for analog ground testing! And don't skip the Alien Encounter. America clearly doesn't hold the patent on schmaltz.

Universum, Bremen, Germany

Perhaps the most interesting architectural novelty I found was the Universum in northern Germany... another shining example of how every technological culture develops a fascination with UFOs! Like the science park of India, they tell multiple stories about the natural world and humankind, exploring the history of human technology from fossil evidence up through the space-faring years.

From the Big Bang to their research labs, they allow people hands-on exploration of scientific experiments, and then they threw in a WaterWorld for good measure. And an array of restaurants. Playful park options include the Moon Jumper, gyroscopes, and science shows at the outdoor arena.

Noesis, Thessaloniki, Greece

Lastly, I'll feature the Noesis, an amazing set of structures in Greece, on the Aegean coast. Like all the others, it features a mall and a planetarium as standards, but it's big local draw is obviously the ancient Greek technology. Their "Technopark" is a themed space odyssey, in perhaps one of the most unique buildings I've ever seen.

It rather begs the question – why is there no equivalent SPACE CITY anywhere in America? And I don't mean a NASA center. We should have a theme park with flying saucer rides! I have a map. If you happen to be an eccentric billionaire with time on your hands, please pick a spot. I'll help build.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alien Hitchhikers Welcome


While researching space museum locales for the most recent Pillownaut Space Map, I inevitably came across a few on the "fringe" of space science.

And when I say "fringe", I mean something I would still voluntarily visit, but with slightly less enthusiasm than, say, Fox Mulder.

International UFO Museum, Roswell
Yes, that's me in a crashed flying saucer next to a Grey.
(Roswell, New Mexico - 1999)

I'm always glad to see healthy interest in space exploration, be it rocket science, shuttle launches or science fiction... (perhaps a tad less enthused with hard sci-fi these days because it leads children to think true space exploration is bland, but I know it has a place in pop culture and may keep some interest alive at least.)

So, I've included many "novelties" I know of in the United States and Canada, each marked with a blue flag. Ever heard of the the Aurora, Texas UFO Crash of 1897? How about the New Jersey Martian monument?

I kinda wish I was kidding, but I'll admit these are pretty funny.

View Pillownaut Map: Space Museums in a larger map

In addition, I tripped over a number of internet links to a tremendously fun site called Roadside America, upon which many brave travelers listed novelties such as the Sci-Fi Hall of Fame, the Alien Research Center, space-themed lodges or inns... and my favorite, the large model of the Starship Enterprise in Vulcan, Alberta.

Then I came back to my senses and included Galileo's house, the birth home of Isaac Newton, and so on.

Moon Wok Restaurant
Moon Wok Chinese Restaurant Menu
(French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana)

Another interesting and unexpected task was mapping all the restaurants with space themes! Most are terribly kitschy, such as the Red Planet Diner and the Flying Saucer Drive-In... but if you are road-tripping this spring to any of the states listed, these are too good to pass up!

One themed northern restaurant called the Space Aliens Grill & Bar has quietly blossomed into a chain of seven eateries in two states! Sure hope I can visit someday and try their Rockets or the Martian Munchies platter.

Pegasus Star Ship - Italy, Texas

There are also a few Easter Eggs on the map, which is to say there are funny markers on the map itself, but not on the Map Index web page... so only the cleverest Trekkies and Browncoats with time on their hands may find them ;)

Happy hunting! Be sure to tell me if you visit any spots...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Map of Luxury


Time for another Pillownaut Space map! And this is a fun one. In my last Google Map project, I listed all the addresses and web sites of national space agencies. This time, I thought I might do something a bit more... ROAD TRIP friendly!

No matter what road you're on... or on what continent.

View Pillownaut Map: Space Museums in a larger map

Many moons ago, I started with American space museums and then I also noted the many NASA space crafts on display. From there, I expanded into space museums around the world, though that turned out to be harder than I anticipated.

Finding art museums? Easy. Arguably, the entire nation of Italy is a giant art museum. War museums? Cultural museums? They’re everywhere. You could backpack through Europe blind-folded, and trip over them daily. However, finding science museums with space-related exhibits in Europe... wow, that takes some hunting. And it shouldn't. We should all know right where they are, and make sure the young people in our culture experience them regularly.

We are so lucky to have all these amazing collections of human ingenuity and innovation, even if some aren't as publicized as they should be.

Case in point: this post would have been out a few hours earlier, but just preparing it and looking for pictures to accompany the text caused me to trip over another museum I hadn't seen before. Had to go add it!

Space Museums of the world
As for the listed websites, both on the blog and on the Pillownaut Space Museums Map page... in some cases, I linked to main site if the museum revolves around space. In other cases of general science-oriented museums, I linked to the collections that revolve around space artifacts.

SO ALSO PLEASE NOTE: The post below this one with all the names and locations is not a comprehensive list of all the general science or flight museums on Earth... these are only the subset of museums known to have SPACE artifacts from various space agencies. I included those that are connected to planetariums - and that seeded the idea to perhaps do all planetariums next, and all world observatories!

Did I miss one near you? Tell me so!

World Space Museums



Egypt (Alexandria)
Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Israel (Haifa)
National Museum of Science, Technology & Space

South Africa (Pretoria)
Sci-enza at UP + TRAC (Technology Research Activity Center)


China (Pudong)
Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

China (Chengdu)
Sichuan Science and Technology Museum

Chinese Pensinsula - Hong Kong (Tsim Sha Tsui)
Hong Kong Space Museum

Japan (Gifu)
Gifu City Science Museum

Japan (Osaka)
Osaka Science Museum

Japan (Tokyo)

Japan (Kofu)
Yamanashi Science Museum

Korea (Seoul)
Seoul National Science Museum

India (Bengaluru)
Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technological Museum

India (Kharagpur)
Nehru Museum of Science & Technology

India (Kolkata)
Science City Kolkata & Helios Star Ball

India (New Delhi)
National Science Centre

Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
Pusat Sains Negara or National Science Centre

Philippines (Pasay City, Metro Manila)
Nido Science Discovery Center & Digistar

Science Centre Singapore

Thailand (Khlong Ha)
Technopolis Thailand National Science Museum


ACT (Canberra)
Questacon – The National Science & Technology Centre

New South Wales
Powerhouse Museum

Queensland (Brisbane)

Victoria (Melbourne)
ScienceWorks & Planetarium

Western Australia (Perth)
Scitech Discovery Centre


Alberta (Edmonton)
Telus World of Science AB

British Columbia (Vancouver)
Telus World of Science VC

Manitoba (Winnipeg)
Manitoba Museum & Planetarium

Ontario (Ottawa)
Science & Technology Museum

Ontario (Sudbury)
Science North & Planetarium

Quebec (Montreal)
Cosmodome & Space Camp Canada


Belgium (Transinne / Libin)
Euro Space Center & Astronaut Camp

Belgium (Mechelen)

Czech Republic (Prague)
Národní technické muzeum

Czech Republic (Prague)
Kepler Museum

England (Bath)
Herschel Museum of Astronomy

England (Cambridge)
Whipple Astronomy Collection

England (Colsterworth)
Woolsthorpe Manor, Home of Sir Isaac Newton

England (Leicester)
National Space Center

England (London)
The Science Museum

England (Oxford)
Museum of the History of Science

England (Winchester)
INTECH Science Centre

Finland (Vantaa)
Heureka Planetarium

France (Paris)
Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace

France (Paris)
Cité des Sciences et Planetarium

France (Toulouse)
Cité de l'espace

Germany (Berlin)
Deutsches Technikmuseum

Germany (Bremen)
Universum Science Center

Germany (Feucht)
Hermann Oberth Space Travel Museum

Germany (Oberschleißheim)
Deutsches Museum Flugwerft Schleißheim

Germany (Speyer)
Technik Museum

Greece (Thessaloniki)
Science Center, Technology Museum & Planetarium

Ireland (Birr)
Birr Castle Historic Science Centre

Northern Ireland (Armagh)
Armagh Planetarium

Italy (Florence)
Museo Galileo

Netherlands (Amsterdam)
NEMO Museum

Netherlands (Leiden)
Boerhaave Museum

Netherlands (Noordwijk)
Space Expo

Poland (Warsaw)
Copernicus Science Centre

Portugal (Coimbra)
Museu da Ciência

Portugal (Santa Maria daFeira)
Visionarium (Europarque)

Glasgow Science Centre

Spain (Valencia)
Ciudad de las Artes Y las Ciències

Sweden (Gothenburg)

Switzerland (Meyrin)
CERN's Microcosm

Turkey (Istanbul)
ITÜ Bilim Merkezi

Wales (Caerdydd)
Techniquest & Planetarium


Russia (Moscow)
State Polytechnical Museum

Russia (Moscow)
Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics

Russia (Moscow)
RKK Energiya


Brazil(Rio de Janeiro)
Museu Nacional

Chile (Santiago)
Museo De Ciencia Y Technologia

French Guiana (Kourou)
Gateway to Space Museum

Mexico (Monterrey)
Alfa Museum & Planetarium


Alabama (Huntsville)
US Space & Rocket Center

Arizona (Pima)
Pima Air & Space Museum

Arizona (Outside Winslow)
Meteor Crater & Astronaut Memorial Park

Chabot Space and Science Center

California (San Diego)
San Diego Air & Space Museum

California (Downey)
Columbia Memorial Space Center

California (Santa Ana)
Discovery Science Center

California (Santa Maria & Los Angeles)
California Space Authority

Colorado (Denver)
Wings Over The Rockies

Florida (Cape Canaveral AFS)
Air Force Space & Missile Museum

Florida (Cape Canaveral)
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Florida (Titusville)
National Aviation Museum

Florida (Titusville)
Space Walk of Fame

Georgia (Columbus)
Coca-Cola Space Science Center

Indiana (Mishawaka)
P-H-M Air/Space Museum

Kansas (Hutchinson)
Cosmosphere & Space Center

Michigan (Frankenmuth)
Military & Space Museum

Michigan (Portage)

Missouri (Cahokia)
Greater St. Louis Air and Space

Nebraska (Ashland)
Strategic Air & Space Museum

New Hampshire (Concord)
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

New Mexico (Alamogordo)
Museum of Space History

New York (Garden City)
Cradle of Aviation Museum

New York (New York City)
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

New York (Troy)
Children's Museum of Science and Technology

New York (Utica)
Children's Museum of Utica

Ohio (Wapakoneta)
Armstrong Air & Space Museum

Ohio (Cleveland)
International Women's Air & Space Museum

Ohio (New Concord)
John Glenn Historic Site

Oklahoma (Weatherford)
Stafford Air & Space Museum

Oklahoma (Tulsa)
Tulsa Air & Space Museum

Oregon (McMinnville)
Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)
The Franklin Institute

Rhode Island (Providence)
Museum of Natural History

Texas (Dallas)
Frontiers of Flight Museum

Texas (Dallas)
Patricia Huffman Smith Museum, "Remember Columbia"

Texas (Houston)
Space Center Houston

Virginia (Hampton)
Air and Space Center

Washington DC
National Air & Space Museum

Washington (Seattle)
The Museum of Flight

Wisconsin (Sparta)
Deke Slayton Space & Bicycle Museum

Friday, March 4, 2011

NASA's Green Light


Alert reader and longtime supporter Manuel Dornbusch of Munich, Germany, sent in a wonderful article about how a "Cutting-Edge NASA Research Center Goes Ultragreen", which described NASA's new "Green Building" – to be called "NASA Sustainability Base" when completed:

Ceiling panels that cool the air? Windows and shades that open automatically? A constant LCD display of energy Relevant Products/Services use? All this plus fresh air, solar and wind-turbine power, natural light, forward-osmosis recycled water (the same system installed on the International Space Station) and a passive geothermal system. For pictures of construction, see the "Multimedia" section of their official website.

NASA Sustainability Base
Yes, a building with a website of its own

The bottom line? A building they say is designed to produce more energy than it uses. Although perhaps a better term would be a "NET ZERO" system (before all the science brains out there start screaming about Newton's Law of Conservation of Energy en masse!) – because I'll admit that was one of my first thoughts before I read the details. ;)

As luck would have it, mere days after Manuel sent the link, I was able to visit the structure itself, currently under construction only yards from the NASA Ames Research Center Administration building. Before and after the Ames Tweetup, I drove around Sustainability Base to take photographs, now in my Picasa galleries. It looks like any other construction site, but is being touted as the "government's greenest building" according to the US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

The government's greenest building
The plan is to save taxpayer money and be as environmentally friendly as possible by lowering utility bills and bring federal building standards to a new high, per executive orders – and spokespersons say such a building wouldn't have been possible even five years ago.

Software monitor and adjust building temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide as well as light and noise levels in the 50,000-square-foot NASA gem, which will use 75% less energy and 90% less potable water than regular code-built structures.

NASA Ames Research Center Sustainability Base
Love the golf carts around the Green Building, but
shouldn't they be in the shape of mini-Lunar Rovers??

Can we truly create a building that not only doesn't "hurt" the environment, but actually benefit its surroundings? Time will tell. I suppose to anyone outside of California, anything costing over $20 million doesn't sound like such a bargain… approximately $400 per square foot? What sounds reasonable on the West Coast for real estate probably sounds insane anywhere else – but if the water and electricity bills wind up being as "non-existent" as planned, this structure will be a historical landmark in human construction.

NASA already has one prototype "green building" at Kennedy Space Center, the Propellants North Administrative and Maintenance Facility, which is described in this great SCV Television clip.