Sunday, June 28, 2009

Free Spirit website

I first though of the old Free Spirit Sears bicycle I had when I was a kid. Remember back in 1976 when they had the red, white and blue bike with the banana seat and tall handlebars? I found one photo, but there was copyright stuff all over it, so I found this instead. The famous Evel Knievel Free Spirit bike. I never had one, but the kid down the street did. Yes we took it over some sweet jumps too!
Anyway, back to space. I saw that JPL has the Spirit rover so badly stuck in the soil on Mars - up to its belly on stuff too. That they have now put up a "Free Spirit" web page with updates on the progress getting the little rover roving again. Rover drivers are working hard with simulations using an earth-based duplicate rover trying to figure out how to get Spirit un-stuck and moving again. They should make this into a bumper sticker, then Mars geeks would be easy to identify on the freeways.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Volcano views - and Seattle from ISS.

The Big Picture has a photo essay with a few more good shots of the Sarychev Peak volcano. Scroll down and there is even a view of Seattle - on a clear day - from about a month ago in late May. Of course that day was followed by a cloudy night....

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Expedition 21 crew photo.

I really like the new public outreach direction NASA has been going lately. Twitter, Blogging, Facebook pages, and a lot of other fun stuff. I think this should hopefully get the public more interested in exploration.
One of the fun things that NASA has done are the new crew posters for the shuttle missions and ISS crews. Here is the latest with a Star Trek theme for Expedition 21. Notice there are 6 crew members finally on board. (Just don't ask me about the new Star Trek movie, I'm one of the very few that has a different opinion about it!)

Coolest volcano image ever - even better animated!

The photos of the Sarychev Peak volcano are all over the internet now, but I just found an animation that I must have overlooked on the NASA page. Stop reading this and click below.

Buzz Aldrin "Rocket Experience" rap.

Not sure what to think of this, but you have to admit that Buzz Aldrin sure gets his name around (and for about $250 you can have his name too!). I can't stand Rap music, maybe partly because it's often delivered to my front yard by certain neighbors that spew it out of their cars. I don't see kids running after them hoping to buy a popcicle so I don' think they are in business of any type. That would take the job away from the fat guy with the recycled mail truck painted with house paint that plays "She'll be coming around the mountain" all year long. I guess business is good in Seattle in February for ice cream?
Anyway, Buzz has just released his video "Rocket Experience" that he produced with Snoop Dog. Kind of funny I guess, but if it does get kids interested in the space program, I say go for it Buzz!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Group photo from Apollo 11 evening last weekend.

Here is the group photo of all the special guests at the Museum of Flight last weekend when I helped out with the Apollo 11 40th anniversary gala.

Click for full size
(Thanks to Sy Liebergot for sharing the photo on

First Row: Pat Garza, Betty Sjoberg, Gerry Griffin, Glynn Lunney, George Mueller, Buzz Aldrin, Bill Anders, Chris Kraft, Dick Gordon, Gene Kranz, Milt Windler, Maureen Bowen

Second Row: Briggs Willoughby, Jr. (standing in for dad), Bonnie Dunbar, Gary Renick, Maurice Kennedy, John Hirasaki, Bill Boone, Merlin Merritt, Jim Joki, Chuck Lewis, Doug Ward, Dr. Charles (Chuck) Berry

Third Row: Jerry Mill, Frank Van Rensselaer, George Abbey, George Jeffs, Frank Hughes, Sy Liebergot, Floyd Bennett, Bill Moon, Tom Weichel

Fourth Row: H. David Reed, John Llewellyn, Charlie Harlan, Charlie Duke, John Aaron, Jay Greene, Chuck Deiterich, Arnie Aldrich, Spencer Gardner

Fifth Row: Jerry Bostick, Hal Loden, Bill Peters, Mike Collins, Grant Heiken, Ken Young, Neil Hutchinson, Bill Reeves, John Wegener, Larry Sheaks, Gran Paules

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Volcano seen from ISS.

I do like volcanoes. This is the best shot of an eruption I've seen since a few good ones from Mt. Redoubt in Alaska. This time its Sarychev Peak in the Kuril Islands.
The large version make a fine wallpaper for your computer screen. I have a volcano on my computer screen at work currently!
(see link below for info and the full size image)

Flight path of the crashing Kaguya....

I just came across this image from the JAXA site. Here is the final approach path for the Kaguya before it hit the moon.
(click image to see full size)

Skimming low over the moon.....

The final views from the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft were released after it had crashed into the moon (yes, this was intentional). If you were riding on board a spacecraft as it did it's final plunge, this is what you would see.
The video shows the Kaguya skimming over the craters at about 6,000 km/hour until finally, it smears itself across the surface and the video ends. The blast was small, but there was an observatory in Australia that did see the impact.
Last week another spacecraft launched to the moon. The LRO and LCROSS spacecraft both headed toward the moon after some slight weather delays. So far everything is working great, and the LRO should arrive at the moon 4 days after launch. Again, unless you are living in a cave, you should know that the LRO is the spacecraft that will put an end to the moon landing hoaxers. I can't wait to see the Apollo leavings up there!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Evening with Apollo 11.

I'm probably down at The Museum of Flight at least a couple times a month to attend the events they have over there. For the last few years, I've also volunteered my time to help out with the yearly Gala events that they put on there. These events aren't really open to the public, unless your name is McCaw, Simonyi, Ayer....etc. So you probably don't hear much about these.
This is my third gala that I've helped out with, and it's a lot of fun. This year's theme was obviously - Apollo 11. About 50 of the mission control guys were there as well as a few astronauts.
Anyway, the following is an email I wrote to my mom describing the evening (I'm just too lazy two re-write it all here!)...
It was good fun!
I talked with a whole bunch of Apollo guys and they were all very excited to talk about what they did - and probably liked the fact that I also understood what they were talking about.
No photos since cameras were forbidden, but I know a few people did break the rules a little bit. There were a whole bunch of mission control guys there, Buzz, Bill Anders, Charlie Duke, Bonnie D., John Creighton (5 time shuttle commander), Richard Gordon, and some other astronauts. The guy that I was escorting worked on the flight control systems (basically everything) on the Lunar Module when they were landing. I hung out with him for about an hour and talked about stuff. They have one of the old control panels at the museum and I asked him if they powered that up, would he still be able to do what he did 40 years ago "Oh, no way! But I know that Neil would still be able to land on the moon if they gave him a chance!" was his response. He was a really neat guy, and we could have talked all night. His wife said that he never got tired of talking about it, and he said that despite the fact that they worked 24/7 in those days, he was always amazed that they paid him to do it since they had so much fun!
I also talked with the "father" of the Skylab space station - they were auctioning off a chunk of the old station (exact piece that I have at home) and I mentioned "I have one of those in my living room!" and then found out the guy behind me helped build it. Talked with him for about 5 minutes until someone had to drag him away.
I walked over to Paula who was talking to someone, (who I did recognize) and she introduced me to Dr. Chris Kraft (Uh...I DO know who he was!). Later we talked with him a little more when Maia was sitting near the bathroom - we found that was a good place for meeting other famous guys.
Also talked briefly to the guy that was the first to notice the warning that John Glenn's heat shield may have been deployed. Could have talked with him a lot longer, but I think his wife was ready to go.
Oh, Lisa and Charles Simonyi were there too, but I didn't see him. Maia talked with him and invited him to come to another meeting, he said he would like to and had a lot of fun that night. I wanted to see him and ask where he put my photo!

Anyway, good fun and the best place for Apollo geeks to be that night. :-)

Vertical chunks in Saturn's rings.

Cassini has come up with another surprise in Saturn's rings. Since the rings are nearly edge-on to the sun right now, any vertical structures in the rings will leave a long shadow due to the low sun angle. Saturn has these little so-called "Shepard" moons that will herd the ring particles like a dog chasing scared sheep!
We have seen the little moons stir up the ring particles many times before from the gravity of the moon as it passes through the rings, but now we see that there is also a vertical component of the "wake" that the moon leaves. The waves of particles stick up out of the ring plane and cast a long shadow making it easy to see the 3d effect of the ring material. Pretty neat stuff! It kind of reminds me back in the days when I used to play my dirty, scratched records and end up with a mound of crud in front of the needle as the record spun my "Story of Star Wars" record that I listened to over, and over, and over.....
The vertical stuff is about 1/3 to 1 mile tall, while the little moon is about 5 miles across. Read more at the link below.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lost Milky Way.

I came across an interesting article that says that 1/5 of the human population of Earth has lost view of the Milky Way at night. Not that it isn't there, or weather is bad for most of the population, but rather light pollution is what hides it. I was kind of surprised that it was only 1/5 of the population, I figured it would be more like 2 or 3/5th of humanity. I guess people are more spread out than I thought. From the article mentions that it's mostly Europe and a lot of the US that lost it, so I that does make sense since it's pretty tightly packed with people all their light pollution spraying up in the sky from their cities.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

More very cool new/old moon images from the orbiters.

The latest image in the series of re-processed images from the old pre-Apollo orbiters in the 60s has been released. This image shows the Apollo 14 landing site taken from an altitude of about 28 miles above the surface. There isn't any human garbage left there in this image since we hadn't been there yet when this was taken. The photo has the Apollo 14 paths drawn on the image for reference. That part that really blows me away is the last image of the rock. The rock pile on the rim of the crater is seen from above, then again taken from the surface by the astronauts. Very cool!
So if we had the ability to see this closely in the 60s (or at least now that we can process the tapes better) it's pretty easy to see that soon we'll be seeing the Apollo hardware again for the first time in 40 years!
Soon Bart Sibrel won't have any reason to chase after moonwalkers with his Bible.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I'll respond to your email, but scream afterwards - Mars August 27, NO!

Yes, once again, it's time for the yearly Martian misunderstanding to start spilling into the email flow like the Nigerian royalty with their offshore Viagra savings account needing your life savings to make you rich and save the country from the latest operating system vulnerability attack on Tuesday.
Yes, I have to be nice about it since I'm the president of our astronomy club, but after I hit the [send] button, I'll have to grit my teeth and scream quietly - or loudly if there isn't anyone around.
Ok, here is the story. Back in 2003, Mars and Earth were making passing "close" to each other. No chance of collision or Marvin the Martian zapping the Earth to restore his view of Venus, but rather a measly 250 million km apart. That distance would happen on August 27th of that year. Sure, that's fine and we did have some good views.
The part that makes me scream is the badly written email that said "Mars will appear as big as the full moon". Arggh! NO!
Look through a telescope, see Mars and some details of the polar caps, clouds and surface features. Then look away from the scope and look at the moon. The moon without a scope, looked about the same size as Mars IN the scope magnified. Easy!
Forward every year since 2003, a sure sign of spring is when the emails start showing up again asking "are you having a special Mars party on August 27th? If so, what time?" Arggh! NO! That was 6 years ago, and it wasn't big.
Whew! Now that I got that off my mind, please pass this blog entry to all your friends and other readers. Don't ask me about it, it's not happening....then listen for a distant scream.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hauling Atlantis from Edwards to KSC

Kind of a fun little blog site with some good photos and videos. Dan Kanigan (not sure what he does for NASA) wrote up this blog page of how the shuttle gets from California back home to Florida on back of the 747. I really like the video he has of the walk around where he walks under the wing of the 747 and looks up at the shuttle. Look at it in full screen for a little better impression of the size of that huge pile of aviation!
Yeah, someday we'll have a view like this here in Seattle when NASA drops off a shuttle for our Muesum of Flight. *hint* (Dr. Bonnie Dunbar has to get us one, right? Huh? Yes? Please??)

Another "Big Picture" photo essay - Messenger at Mercury

The Big Picture has another fine photo essay up today. This time it's a bunch of good photos of the Messenger spacecraft on it's way to Mercury and photos from it's two flybys.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spiraling into the moon for a crash....and some cool video.

In a few months the LCROSS spacecraft will crash into the moon, but first the Japanese are planning to splatter their spacecraft next week. The Kaguya spacecraft that has been sending back those amazing hi-def videos is ending it's mission on June 10 at about 18:30 GMT (I'll have to look that up for Pacific time). The impact will probably be too small to see from Earth anyway (at least with backyard scopes) and the moon will be just past full, so it's darn bright anyway.
The spacecraft is getting lower all the time, and here is some new video of the view just skimming over the moon's surface. The second video goes as low as just over 6 miles above the hills. Be sure to double click for a full size view, and bring up the HD mode. Quite a view!

| Kaguya impact page from JAXA |

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Penguin poo from space.

Scientists have been trying to track the movements (no pun intended) of the emperor penguins down south on the antarctic ice sheets. A very simple way was just figured out to locate these tuxedo wearing birds. The penguins will usually cluster together in large colonies on the ice, I guess for protection, squak at each other, and do whatever it is they do other than standing around. These colonies could be seen from space, but since they would appear black, they could easily blend in with the background or shadows on the ice. Easy answer? Just spot their brown smear of leavings on the ice! That reminds, me I have 3 cats I need to go deal with.....

Stargazing from 2.01 AU from Earth.

The view won't be very different from here on Earth other than the lack of atmosphere to stir up the images, but kind of fun to see a sky view from a distant spacecraft. The Dawn spacecraft on it's way to the Vesta and Ceres asteroids, is currently 2.01 AU from Earth when it took these images. (Multiply 2.01 x 93 million to get the miles).
Image of star field in Cepheus (right). Carina and the nebula (left).

Rover belly.

The Spirit rover is still stuck in the deep dirt on Mars. The rover reached under with it's arm and took a picture of it's belly with the only camera on the arm - the microscope. That's why the image is so blurry, since that camera is used for very close shots. But this is the best that can be done to check under the rover.
Easy to see that the rover has bottomed out on a rock or dirt pile. If this was a car here on Earth, it would be similar to getting your oil pan punctured on a rock or hung up on a log. No logs on Mars or oil-pan on an engine of the rover to bust, so the rover is just hung there for now. JPL rover drivers are still working with a duplicate rover here on Earth to figure out a way to get Spirit unstuck and driving again.