Friday, December 28, 2012

Win 2013 YEAR IN SPACE Calendar!


We had so much fun Tweetstorming the Castle a few weeks back, we're going to give away one more Year In Space Calender to kick off 2013!

Baktun 13, Year of the Snake, Holocene 12013 -- however you count, enjoy the Gregorian grid with this beautiful collage of photos and facts, compliments of Starry Messenger Press, published in cooperation with The Planetary Society.

You could be JUST THIS HAPPY if you WIN!

That is the very joyous and beautiful Christine Nobbe, our first winner of the 2013 Year In Space Calendar!  After re-tweeting, she was chosen at random (okay, actually chosen by my cat, who hoped to gnaw each entry) and is seen here holding up her favorite page.

Wouldn't you love to do the same? 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.  Designer Steve Cariddi created this large-format masterpiece to appeal to space enthusiasts of all ages, and the introduction was written by everyone's favorite Science Guy, Bill Nye.

To enter the contest, simply 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 2013 Year In Space 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 Wednesday morning (January 2, 2012), we will choose a winner at random and notify everyone.

Intro by Bill Nye The Science Guy!
Click to see Calendar Pages...

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

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, Tumblr, Pinterest or any other social media platform, and leave me a comment here on this blog post to let me know! Anyone who shares is entered. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kiss My Baktun


Today's the day! Welcome to the eve of !  No, it's not a goofy IP address, but the day civilization will be destroyed, according those of the tinfoil hat persuasion.  In the past few years of blogging, I have noticed:

Blog posts 2011 pattern

Seriously, I've had people attack me like *I* personally demoted Pluto. But, you don't start a blog to keep your opinions to yourself -- so, this piece is especially for my longtime readers who enjoy arguments and conspiracy theories.

In the Mayan calendar, the long calendar count begins in 3,114 BC and is divided into roughly 394-year periods called B'ak'tuns. Mayans held the number 13 sacred and the 13th B'ak'tun ends this year. Or ended last year. Or we might be way off.

The Mayan calendar marks the end of a 5,126 year old cycle somewhere between October 2011 and April 2013. Different scholars have done different math. Various crackpot groups have claimed a Mayan god of war or destruction & creation will resurrect, others claim a grand celestial event will occur.

Yah, actual Maya descendants counter with a weary eyeroll, it merely marks the termination of one period and the beginning of another. Kinda like taking down your 2012 wall calendar and hanging the 2013 one. Casting cataclysmic consequence onto this simple phenomenon is a little like accusing someone of murder for offing a stuffed animal.

Don't Move Or The Bunny Gets It

To my intense shock and looming lack of respect, even the Discovery and History Channels have contributed to this preposterous hype, relying on 20th century re-interpretations of meagerly educated contemporary writers – and completely ignoring the fact that nothing in our cosmic neighborhood is due for major alignment, explosion, death by solar flare, or even close orbital flyby.

The National Institute of Anthropological History in Mexico issued a statement, hoping to quell the barrage of apocalyptic waves, stating calmly that "The messianic thinking of Western culture has distorted the world view of ancient civilizations. The Maya did not think about global warming or predict the poles would fuse together. We merely project our current worries on them."

On a level that even Bigfoot Hunters could understand, there are now banners all over Facebook proclaiming: "The Mayans couldn't predict their own demise, what makes you think they can predict ours?"

The Non-Committal Messiah

As tempted as I am to write off the nutjobs who can't grasp reality, it's no laughing matter. Even you believe it's harmless, history shows us that failed fake doomsday predictions have deadly real-life consequences, including mass suicides, lost life savings, isolating cult behavior, the splitting apart of entire families, and even people killing their own children.

Don't humor anyone who wants you to panic. Doomsday prophesying has been a hallmark of religious literature for thousands of years, and shouldn't be all that convincing in a scientific age.

The very reputable Live Science site produced a brief list of Ten Failed Doomsday Predictions. Feel free to point these out to people who haven't yet wrapped their brains around the pattern.

Further, the History and Archaeology Department of the Smithsonian compiled a fact-filled list of Ten Notable Apocalypses That Obviously Didn't Happen from 2800 B.C. to Present.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Space Shuttle Discovery at the Smithsonian!


This past April, huge crowds welcome Space Shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven Ferencz Udvar-H├ízy Center. Last week, while on the east coast, I was overjoyed to finally see Discovery up close!

And wow, does she ever look every bit her age and flight-worn effort. Clean her up? Nah. Why should we? She should look like she's been to space and back 39 times!

Heather with Space Shuttle Discovery
With ThinkGeek Timmy... and hey look, a Space Shuttle

Shuttle Discovery's maiden flight was STS-41-D in August of 1984, which launched two communications satellites. Over her entire career, she would release 31 total.

Discovery launched the Hubble Space Telescope on mission STS-31, and returned twice on later servicing missions.

Of her 39 flights, she has flown to the Mir Space Station twice, and to the ISS 13 times, delivering trusses, supplies, and two major modules: Kibo and Harmony.

NASA Space Shuttle
SpaceTweeps in the House!

Discovery carried 246 crew members, including the very first Russian cosmonaut launched in an American spacecraft, Sergei Krikalev on STS-60 in 1994.

She has spent 351 days in orbit and made 5,628 orbits around planet Earth.

Shuttle Discovery flew the 100th Shuttle Mission in the year 2000... and I'm happy to say, I got to see this one launch personally. What a blast. Literally!

Space Shuttle Discovery
My buddy Glenn checking out the Nose Job

Shuttle Discovery STS-120 flew the light-saber used by Luke Skywalker (actor Mark Hamill) in "Return of the Jedi." In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars film franchise, Chewbacca (actor Peter Mayhew) presented the famed movie prop to NASA, where it was packed into a Shuttle locker and spent two weeks in orbit. George Lucas attended Discovery's launch, and the light saber was later returned to Lucasfilm Ltd. for display in a traveling exhibit.

Less famous and quirky, but among my personal favorites, is how a rookie astronaut named Eileen Collins took Amelia Earhart's scarf on her first spaceflight aboard Shuttle Discovery STS-63.

Shuttle Discovery
Mark & Glenn over the wings

Best. Hangar. Ever. Until I see the next one, anyway. Notice that I named my gallery of pictures "Space Shuttles"... plural!  I hope to see Endeavour in Los Angeles and Atlantis in Florida in 2013!  Click here or on any of the photographs above to see the entire collection at Pillownaut Picasa.

Want to check out the hangar without flying to Washington DC?  Udvar-Hazy also has awesome Space Shuttle Discovery web cams!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

NASA Social with Astronaut Joe Acaba


Another day, another Tweetup! Of course, they're called "Socials" now, but some verbal habits die hard.  I say "social". I think "tweetup". Regardless, astronauts are always worth the travel trouble.  During a rare winter heat wave in the nation's capital and surrounded by fellow SpaceTweeps, I enjoyed meeting Astronaut Joe Acaba at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC.

Heather with Joe Acaba

LIVE on NASA television, Acaba showed a slideshow of his two missions (one on Space Shuttle Discovery and one on Soyuz) to the ISS, describing many of his adventures with his crewmates in his cumulative 138 days in space.

Joe was part of NEAP, or NASA's Educator Astronaut Program, having been a middle school and high school science teacher... also, a geologist, Peace Corps volunteer, and... well, I'd give you his entire resume, but it would break the internet.

Joe Acaba Tweet

Suffice to say, Joe is incredibly accomplished both on Earth and in orbit!  He is also the very first Puerto Rican astronaut to travel into space.  Among his many humorous anecdotes that we tweeted madly through the Spacetweep crowd, he cracked that many fellow Puerto Ricans had attended to hear him speak, but lamented that none had brought him any Puerto Rican food!

He is a very funny speaker, though only spent about 20 minutes describing his work. He spent the remaining TV time answering questions from the studio audience in English, then questions from the @NASA_ES twitter account in Spanish.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba

He also speaks a bit of Russian, having spent most of his last mission with two Russian crew-mates. Multi-talented, and multi-lingual!

You can watch the show on NASA TV's YouTube Channel: Astronaut Joe Acaba Sits Down with Followers in DC at NASA Social.

Heather with Apollo 11 Capsule

I also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum to see the Apollo 11 Command Service Module "Columbia"!  Haven't seen this one since I was in grade school, but it never disappoints. Enjoyed many other wonderful artifacts there, including Sally Ride and John Glenn's suits, Moonwalk memories,

Click on any of the pictures above, or the link right here, to see the entire NASA HQ gallery over at Pillownaut Picasa!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

NASA Headquarters!


NASA Headquarters! Ah finally, a trip to the Mother Ship!

I flew into Washington DC this past weekend to meet with east coast pals, see NASA Goddard, revisit the National Air &Space Museum at the Smithsonian and... attend another amazing NASA Social with press and spacetweeps!

Heather at NASA HQ
Note the worm logo! Time for a re-carve??

NASA HQ will be hosting an event today with California astronaut Joe Acaba, who launched to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz this past May, spending 123 days as part of the Expedition 31/32 crews.

He returned to Earth in September after four months in orbit. During his time on the ISS, he supported the arrival of the first commercial resupply spacecraft, the Space X Dragon capsule!

Acaba had previously spent 13 days in space during Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-119 mission to the station in 2009, where he conducted two spacewalks.

Really? Can't wait for it to show up!

Today at NASA HQ, Joe Acaba will speak about his missions, and you can follow all the action on NASA Television, beginning at 10:00am Eastern Time, and most likely going to 11:30am or Noon. We'll see how long the Q&A lasts.

You can also follow along on Twitter, of course. The Pillownaut feed will be updating all morning, as well as fellow spacetweeps @AgilistaAG, @VaxHeadroom, @VAStarGazer, @SpaceLauren...

... or just follow the #NASASocial hashtag and choose some new friends! So wonderful to be at such an amazing event in the Nation's Capital!

The White House
Dropped by Obama's pad while I was in the neighborhood