Monday, November 26, 2012

Free 2013 "Year In Space" Calendar!


Readers and Tweeters! Some lucky SpaceTwit is going to win a stunningly gorgeous 2013 Year In Space Calender, hot off Starry Messenger Press, published in cooperation with The Planetary Society.

And when I say SpaceTwit, I mean that in the nicest possible way. Because all you have to do to enter the contest is tweet about the new calendar to spread the word.

Designer Steve Cariddi created this large-format 2013 Year In Space Calendar, quite unlike any other ever published, to appeal to space enthusiasts of all ages, and the introduction was written by everyone's favorite Science Guy, Bill Nye!

This beautiful creation has his stamp of approval, and it's not difficult to see why. I got my hot little hands on it, and have been absorbed for hours. The photography is stunning, and every square centimeter is packed with colorful collages, planets, astronauts, space crafts, and profiles of famous scientists. The calendar grids feature moon phases, sky-gazing guides, space exploration milestones throughout history and fun space facts.


Circulate any of the tweets below, or create your own tweet with the calendar link, and CC: back to my account so I know to enter your Twit-handle in the drawing.

Win a FREE Year In Space 2013 calendar w/fabulous space photographs! Intro by Bill Nye @TheScienceGuy cc @pillownaut

Win a FREE Year In Space 2013 Calendar! Published by @exploreplanets the Planetary Society cc @pillownaut

Win a FREE Year In Space 2013 calendar w/fabulous space photographs! Partnership with @universetoday cc @pillownaut

EVERYONE who tweets will also get a re-tweet from me from somewhere in their recent stream, and an inclusion in my next #FF round for your Klouting pleasure! On Saturday morning (December 1, 2012), we will choose a winner at random and notify everyone.

Click to see Calendar Pages!

And Get This: you get a special discount for being a Pillow Astronaut Reader & Tweeter! Of course, only one person can win the free prize, so when the rest of you purchase multiples for your kids for Christmas, and I know you will, check out the discount grid, alongside FREE U.S. shipping and lowered international shipping.

Check in the box for the Internet Discount, which ranges from 24% to 44%, depending on quantity ordered; then in the comment section, let them know Pillownaut sent you!

If you do not have a Twitter account, share this article to Facebook, and leave me a comment here on this blog post to let me know! Anyone who shares is entered. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bed Rest Studies Revisited


Many moons ago, the European Space Agency operated bedrest studies as "space flight simulations" in Toulouse, France, which were very similar to those conducted by the scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center. They specialized in data based on women's needs at the time, as the trials also served pregnancy-related bedrest concerns and osteoporosis.

Tilt Test reported recently that the ESA will be re-starting a new program for 12 participants of both genders that will stretch into 2013.

Four will spend 21 days in bed while engaging in recumbent weight-training and a vibrating exercise contraption. Another group of four will engage in the same, but add whey protein to their diets to see if there is any difference in muscle building. A final four will spend the same amount of time in bed, but lacking any of these attempts at "countermeasures".

bed rest studies

21 days in bed may sound like a lot. I once spent 54 days in bed for the sake of a similar Space Flight Simulation, so I like to think 21 would be no problem. However, any amount of bedrest can be a challenge to the body!

As we age, our bodies lose bone density and muscle strength. Astronauts in space suffer similar changes but at a much faster rate than on Earth.

Finding ways to combat this process is important to space agencies, hospital patients and everyone who plans on growing old.

That would be... all of us. So, hey, all in the name of science, right?  My kudos and congrats to the amazing people who screens and qualified for this wonderful project.  NASA should soon be announcing their new bed rest flight sims for 2013 as well! Stay tuned for news if you want to apply!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Science Action Figures


This makes me so happy, I almost don't know how to contain myself. For only the second time* in my life, I regret never having children, LOL! Because I love the idea of this scenario:

Little pal of my kid: "What is that?"
My kid: "Action figure." 
Little pal: "Of who?"
My kid: "Neil deGrasse Tyson!" 

HEROES OF SCIENCE action figures
Click to embiggen original at DeviantArt Datazoid

I've seen Einstein bobble heads. I've seen science FICTION "dolls" designed to sell space movies or books. I've even seen a Carl Sagan finger puppet... but this is the first time I've seen the great brains of our time (and the last two centuries) organized into such a inspiring representations, right down to Neil's pink shirt and Carl's signature sweater.

I so wish the creator had investors and avenues from which he could mass-market these! I honestly cannot think of anything I would rather see on toy store shelves.

The eccentricity of Jacques Cousteau? Schrödinger's bow tie! HANS BETHE HAIR! Oppenheimer looking like he's starring in Men in Black IV?  It's all too magical. And I am of course, so gratified to see Marie Curie included... though Maria Mayer and Rosalind Franklin would have been nice additions. 

 Perhaps what is most interesting is who is serious and who is grinning. Definitely head to Datazoid's page to see the true-sized original in all its glorious detail!

*First is when I see people with kids pre-boarding airplanes.

Monday, November 12, 2012

SPACE, Interrupted


Around the halfway mark of Obama's first term, the Senate panel on Commerce, Science & Transportation passed a blueprint for NASA that attempts to retain USA's leadership title in space science, continue development of launch vehicles to avoid job losses in the rocket industry, and shaped guidelines for the next decade of space policy.

This was the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, and it's a relief to know the writers and legislators who penned and passed it will not undergo any "re-tooling" under a new presidential administration.  This will continue to be our guideline.

Cute quip, but not accurate...

I'd really like to remind everyone that this initiative in 2010 was completely bipartisan.  Perhaps one of the precious few things that has gone un-debated in recent years. The NAA2010 passed with unanimous approval Not a single dissenting vote. Wow. Shows that Congress can work together when they so genuinely desire.

While we've seen wonderful results from this bill in both government initiatives (added Shuttle flights and extension of the ISS) and commercial (Leaps by SpaceX!) enterprise, we still run up against the "myth" that a break in MANNED spaceflight is equal to NASA's death rattle.

Not so.There are currently 80+ active space missions in our solar system... and while they are all largely robotic in nature, this isn't 1959 where we don't have space robots! People, we have robots!  That's a good thing!


Will we see a return to manned spaceflight?  Lofty ideas and budgets are suddenly being thrown around now that Obama's new term is imminent -- but even then, I still engage in Facebook discussions weekly where folks accuse exploration enthusiasts of "living in the past" or "supporting waste" because we publicly admire the space program on our social media platforms.

You'd think that Democrats and Republicans coming together on NASA would speak volumes... but that's not enough for some, who still follow the "We have more important issues here on Earth!" banner. True, we do. Famine, disease, poverty – we all know the list, it's as old as culture itself, and consistent through every era.

While simultaneously providing hundreds upon thousands of jobs and spawning entire industries, space missions have benefited these ongoing issues, not picked pennies from their pockets. We must keep endeavouring to explain this to people who cannot see overall inter-connectedness.  For example: MORE people on Earth are FED now, because of space agencies, not in spite of them.

The bill supported "overall growth in science, aeronautics, and space technology and a long-term goal for human space flight to expand a permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit." Senator David Vitter put it during their panels' press conference, "Sometimes the divide between authorizers and appropriators is bigger than the party divide, but there is no divide here."

For those of you not intimidated by homework (or you just have a half-hour to kill), the best write-up of the bill can be found over at SpaceRef's description of how the Measure Balances Commercial Space Investment and Robust Mission for NASA; pay particular attention to the wording and ramifications of sections 201, 304, 602, 701 and 906.

Exam TBA ;)

Don't have time for all that? At least come back later this week, as I'll be detailing all the new moon base (and beyond) plans!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Happy Sagan Day


Happy, happy Fourth Annual Carl Sagan Day!  Once again, Broward College in Florida is hosting lectures, planetarium shows, children's activities, educator workshops, COSMOS episodes, telescope instruction, and star-gazing.

The celebration, themed heavily with Mars Curiosity Rover news, continues throughout the weekend, and includes a fundraiser dinner to honor what would have been Sagan's 78th birthday.

 Most folks recognize Carl from COSMOS in the 1980s, the most widely watched program in PBS history! I've blogged numerous times about my idolization of his highly-quotable written material, my great love for his part in the Voyager Golden Records and their longevity, and this year, I was so pleased to find the Carl Sagan Planet Walk scaled solar system in New York!

Carl Sagan passed away in December 1996 at the age of 62, and was also buried in New York (Lakeview Cemetery, Ithaca). He taught at Cornell and Harvard universities, and worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Other titles included technology officer of the Icarus planetary research journal, Planetary Science Chair at the Astronomical Society, Astronomy Chairman at the Advancement of Science Association, and Co-Founder of the Planetary Society, the Earth’s largest space-interest group.

Carl Sagan
An astronomer, philosopher, professor and NASA consultant, Carl Sagan won 30 public awards, published over 600 scientific articles and authored or co-authored 20 books. I’ll never weary of recommending Pale Blue Dot to anyone who will listen!  The unmanned Mars Pathfinder spacecraft was renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial Station in 1997. Asteroid 2709 Sagan is also named in his honor.

Sagan was instrumental in the early Mariner missions to Venus, determined landing sites on Mars for the Viking Lander probes, and also assembled the first physical messages sent into space.  He was instrumental in establishing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence(SETI), urging the use of radio telescopes to detect signals from other intelligent life. Along with Frank Drake, he also composed the Arecibo message, beamed once into space in 1974.

Carl Sagan and Viking Lander
He's one of those people who makes you scratch your head and think, "What the heck have I been DOING with my time?!"

However, my admiration of this incredible individual departs from mere lists of accomplishments, and into a more ethereal reverence for the kind of realist thinker he was, without losing his good-hearted idealism for the human race.

Carl had the ability to make space "knowable" to audiences of all ages. He was known for popularizing  science in a way that inspired people to understand both our insignificance in the larger universe, but also, paradoxically, the absolutely precious nature of our enormously unlikely existence.

Speaking for space geeks everywhere... thanks a billion, Carl.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four More Beers?


Wait, what? Beers, where? Hey, does anyone know the election results? Well, the bad news is, with the money spent on the American Presidential election process in the past 3 years, we could have gone to Mars, made a trip to an Asteroid, and then given a filet mignon dinner to everyone on the planet.

The conservative Koch Brothers alone spent a sneaky, dirty hundred million trying to stifle one side and forward another, and all for nothing. We could have the foundation of a lunar base by now.

Most tweeted picture EVER.
4 million re-tweets.

The good news is... well, the good news remains to be seen, in so many ways.  But, today I feel more positive and hopeful than ever before!

I am very happy for President Barack Obama. I am happy about President Barack Obama. I think we're on the right track, headed in the right direction, and have a chance to forward an effective national fiscal and scientific recovery. Over the years since Obama was elected, I have repeated a series of posts about "The Obameter" in terms of promises kept for our pet space projects, with the largest accomplishments coming in 2010 and 2011.

While the loss of the Constellation program and the retirement of the Space Shuttles felt like severe blows, the NASA Authorization Act, the extension of scientific aims on the International Space Station were gratifying strides forward -- strides that, with no apologies, I do not think would continue under a Republican administration.

President Barack Obama
We of the geek persuasion have experienced an exhilarating landing on Mars using bold new techniques, we've pulled all-nighters to watch the huge strides in the commercial space industry, compliments of the amazing employees of SpaceX (made possible by NASA partnerships and technology lending) and, contrary to popular myth, we've actually seen an increase in budgets for long-term missions to Mars and an Asteroid.

These are not episodes of Big Government intruding upon individual lives. These are examples of partisan solutions of a struggling government to do what's right... and succeeding.  HOW ABOUT WE KEEP DOING THAT?

Closer to home, among space enthusiasts who understand how our way of life truly depends on space, we've seen a huge spike in social media, conferences, events, and participation.  That pattern certainly would have continued, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.  Enthusiasm itself is always healthy among the dedicated, motivated Big-Thinkers who lament that the US isn't doing the Big-Things anymore.  We yearn for a return to the days when space exploration truly inspires and

That will not happen in a divided nation.  That will not happen in a divided government.  Like it or not, just as with the last two-term President, the 4 years will pass with a certain person at the helm, and there is nothing that can be done about that until 2016.  If you love that idea, support space initiatives with all your might.  If you hate that idea, support space initiatives anyway. Regardless of what "side" you're on, it matters more than anything else in our solar system. Literally.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Atlantis! Celebrate the Journey


All right, Armchair Astronauts, who is watching the Atlantis retirement event today and tomorrow?

This is it. Once this is completed, no Shuttle will ever move again, through the air or along the ground.

When Atlantis is in place, the retirement shuffle is complete. Discovery resides in the Smithsonian, Endeavour just had her opening ceremony in the California Science Center, and Atlantis will be the third and final orbiter to roll to her newly constructed display case.

The announcement for the NASA Social beginning today had thousands of applications, as usual, and a lucky 40 or so social media enthusiasts will be trekking around KSC today, getting the retirement event preview.

Follow the #NASASocial hashtag, or peruse their attendee list for folks who can keep us updated!  Parts of the NASA Social agenda will be live on NASA Television.

STS-135 Launch
I still cannot believe I took this photograph.

Having seen Space Shuttle Atlantis launch twice, I'm a bit more emotional about this orbiter than the others, so I'm sure I'll be glued to the NASA TV feed!

Tomorrow, November 2nd, Atlantis will make a 10-mile journey on the 76-wheel flatbed vehicle called the Orbiter Transportation System, beginning at Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and ending at the new $100-milion permanent home under construction at the KSC Visitor Complex. The official Atlantis exhibit is set to open summer 2013.

If you're already in line to attend, expect big crowds! The "Atlantis - Celebrate the Journey" Ticket Packages included basic $50 admissions, $75 Launch Pad tours, $90 Explorer Park entries, and the whopper: $115 for the Atlantis Adventure Package (Tour+Park together). Tickets sold out within mere days of going on sale. More were added, and those sold out too!

Following the move, 50 astronauts will be autographing memorabilia at the Kurt H. Debus Conference Facility, adjacent to Rocket Garden. Not too shabby for a final Shuttle blowout! If you're there, be sure to share plenty of tweets and pictures!