Monday, March 28, 2011

Discovery wings clipped.....Pad 39B taken apart.

This would all be a lot happier to see if there was something in the works to replace the shuttles, and launch from a rebuilt launch pad.  But no, nothing but silence and empty blue sky above that part of the space center after this summer.

Disovery getting her nose RCS rockets removed and 'safed' for museum display.

Launch pad 39B being taken down.  What will launch from this pad in the future?  

The final crew photo. STS-135 - Atlantis

The final crew photo for the space shuttle program.

...and my favorite crew photos, the fun "movie poster". 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Astrophotography motivational poster.

As always, I find the best things on the internet by accident.  I was wandering around and came across this perfect motivational poster that a lot of frustrated backyard astronomers can probably relate to. 
This astrophotography hobby (if you can call shivering in the darkness, with misbehaving electronics, dew, clouds and extreme frustration a "hobby") is sometimes more of a form of self torture that a few of use put ourselves through any chance we get.  I guess we just "try  harder" as the quote says!
It's been a frustrating winter here in Seattle for this activity, maybe next year I'll have a chance at my ultimate shot of the Horsehead Nebula in Orion?
Photo credit: Ranger Bob

Risk is our business....that's what the starship is all about.

A friend sent me this little video clip.  Captain Kirk preaching about taking chances with exploration.  This is from the episode "Return to Tomorrow" which aired on February 9, 1968, which is very fitting for what was going on at that time.  NASA was a few months away from taking a huge risk (like Kirk mentions) and launching Apollo 8 to the moon.  This was the first time a Saturn V had been flown with a crew on board, and rather than playing it safe and doing a test flight in orbit, they flew all the way to the moon.  This was only the second flight of the Apollo spacecraft after Apollo 7 just a few months earlier.   Anyway, we know that whole story.  Risk!
Back in the 60s, most people had a good idea of what was going on with the space race with the Russians.   Kids sitting in front of TVs watching the space flights while rolling their Food Sticks up in little balls before eating them, spilling orange Tang down the front of their pajamas, and building cardboard LM models that were obtained from Gulf gas stations when dad filled his gas tank in the family car.  Oh, I think I just described myself when I was 5 years old!
Dangerous times for the few brave test pilot/astronauts flying that stuff.  They could have easily been killed or blown to tiny bits before they could even say "Uh oh..."  Risk!
John Young, and Bob Crippen flew Columbia manned on it's very first flight.  They had ejection seats, but they would only be good for a few seconds after launch. Risk!
Now here we are, just a few months from the end of the shuttle with two flights left. The last mission had a once in a lifetime chance to take a photo of the entire ISS complex with all ships parked.  Risk!  Don't fly the Soyuz around for the ultimate photo, something could happen and the Soyuz would have to return to Earth.  Unlikely, but the Russians thought the risk was too high to take a chance.
After Columbia's destruction, the risk was too high to do a final Hubble mission.  Astronauts were all willing to risk their lives and volunteer to fly the mission anyway.  Finally, it was approved, but with a backup shuttle ready to fly since the risk factor was so high.   
After this summer, shuttles will be done, assigned to museums, and a lot of risk will be eliminated.  Constellation canceled (sure, this was mostly financial and political) so that risk is eliminated, there were questions about safety of the Aries I spacecraft if the abort handle needed to be pulled.
With all the lawsuits, finger pointing, passing blame and those odd warnings on medicine bottles that say "for oral use only", it shows that risk taking is almost something that we should still take, but only when nobody is looking our way.

I always liked Gus Grissom's quote:
If we die, we want people to accept it. We're in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.
...and Captain Kirk's speech:
They used to say if man could fly, he’d have wings. But he did fly. He discovered he had to. Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn’t reached the moon, or that we hadn’t gone on to Mars and then to the nearest star? That’s like saying you wish that you still operated with scalpels and sewed your patients up with catgut like your great-great-great-great-grandfather used to.

One other thing....I did have to Google for the name of the Trek episode. I'm not THAT geeky!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Aurora video from Norway.

Another one of those very cool things that I've only seen a couple times from home in the Seattle area.  I'd see it more often, but in Seattle, the rarity of the celestial event is inversely proportional to the amount of cloud cover we have.   Never fails.
Great work from Terje Sorgjerd, and a fine choice of Lisa Gerrard for the soundtrack!

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Discovery photos.

It's been an ugly week for dramatic photos with the disaster in Japan.  We can always depend on for some of the best photos of current events, and it's been filled with destruction lately.
So, they finally published a nice set of photos from Discovery's final mission, as well as a bunch of older ones.  Take a break from the sadness in Japan and view this set.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Discovery wheels stop.

It's been a few days since the final flight of Discovery completed.  The first of the final three "...wheels stop" calls have been made.  Discovery has gone from being the hardest working shuttle in our fleet to a museum artifact that will never fly on her own power again.  Discovery has flown 365 days in space, 39 missions, twice she brought us back from disaster of Challenger and Columbia loses....and a lot of other historical milestones.  STS-133 from what I read was a nearly flawless mission and the astronauts said Discovery performed like a new orbiter with no problems.  Why retire?  The shuttles were originally designed to fly 100 missions each, and Discovery did the most with 39 and the least number was Challenger with only 10 flights.
Sure, I do agree that the shuttles are old at 30 years, it's time to retire and move on. But what happened?  NASA had the Constellation program cut (the Orion spacecraft is still being developed, but nothing to lift it with), so US astronauts have no ride other than Soyuz and eventually maybe Falcon 9.  I just read that the Russians have raised the ticket price to $62 million for each astronaut to ride the Soyuz now.  Good for them!  They know that they are the leaders now in manned flight, so they can raise rates and know they will get paid!  *Ugh!*
I really didn't like the Constellation program much since it seemed like something made from Goodwill parts and old hand-me-down Apollo ideas.  But we did have plans to return to the moon with that contraption, which I agree is the next step no matter what we rode up there with.  But that was all axed by congress.
I'm a frequent visitor to the Museum of Flight in Seattle to hear lectures by astronauts.  A few times now I have heard them tell kids in th audience, "do well in school, study math and science, try your best....but right now, don't try to aim at being an astronaut".  I've seen former NASA admin Mike Griffin and Charlie Bolden even express their disgust with where the program isn't going anymore.
Anyway, I could go on and on complaining about this, and probably will in future blog entries. For now, enjoy the following videos of Discovery's final launch and landing.  This is pretty much the same view I had of the launch when I was there on the causeway.  GO see one of the last two launches if you haven't been to one!  We'll never see a ship like this again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Final stacking of Endeavour.

All this "final" stuff is really depressing.  I've said it before, the shuttle is old, it's end has been scheduled for a while now, and now it's finally coming to a close after 30 years.  Next up for one last flight is Endeavour.  Some nice photos of her final trip to the VAB from Ken Kramer at site.

Video of Discovery's final departure from Earth.

I always look forward to seeing these videos come out about a week after launch.  They do such a nice job of editing the camera angles and the music fits in so well with the action.
Tomorrow Shuttle Discovery is coming home for the final time.
Nicole Stott said it well....
“I’m looking forward to bringing her home to the people who care for her the most, to the time when we are on the runway and can look back and still see her standing on her own gear, with her own proud wings holding her up before she goes back to that hanger for the last time.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Again, shaking my fist at the Seattle cloudy skies.

Discovery is up there for th last time.  Can't the Seattle skies just clear up for a while so I can get a shot of the shuttle flying over my house for the final time?  Please?
Once again, Thierry Legault has shared another one of his amazing images of the station.  If the Russians would take a few chances and fly the Soyuz around the station for a photo shoot of the completed complex,  it might look something like this:

(Image credit: Thierry Legualt)
Be sure to cross your eyes and look at the 3D video on his web site also.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

STS-133 launch videos.

I didn't take any video myself of the launch, but usually just wait a few days and some really great stuff shows up.  Here are a couple good ones that I've come across.
Here is the full 8 minutes of the launch seen from pilot Eric Boe's seat.  This looks out the front windshield over the nose of the shuttle with the tank below it.  Look how fast the sky gets dark!

If you follow the shuttle blog sites news, and other things shuttle related, this video isn't new to you, but it's a different view for sure.

There was an announcement today that the Russians won't fly the Soyuz around the station for the best photo ever of it with all spacecraft docked.  You would think those cosmonauts would like to log a little hands-on Soyuz "stick time" in their flight log, but they are just stuck with their approach and landing.   We'll just have to settle with ground based images.  Bummer.  That would have been an awesome view!
Thierry Legault is again the master of ground-based shuttle/ISS photography.  This is Discovery and the ISS before docking.  Click here to see a video he took from his telescope.  Seattle skies haven't been friendly for me here to try some shots of the ISS and Discovery.  This is my last chance to see Discovery fly over my house, so maybe I'll get lucky?