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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Day On Earth

This is rather pretty.


January 27, 2016 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Third Time Pays For All

We're in a risky business and we hope if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life...Our God-given curiosity will force us to go there ourselves because in the final analysis only man can fully evaluate the moon in terms understandable to other men.

 - Gus Grissom, January 1967

It's the anniversary of that awful fire on Pad 34.  Apollo One was supposed to test the Command/Service Module in low Earth orbit a few weeks later.

You might also recall that Apollo 13's Service Module suffered a catastrophic failure a few years later, making the Command Module where the astronauts lived essentially uninhabitable.  That forced the crew to retreat to the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat."

This is the CSM's successor:

NASA’s Orion spacecraft is another step closer to launching on its first mission to deep space atop the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. On Jan. 13, 2016, technicians at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans finished welding together the primary structure of the Orion spacecraft destined for deep space, marking another important step on the journey to Mars.

Welding Orion’s seven large aluminum pieces, which began in September 2015, involved a meticulous process. Engineers prepared and outfitted each element with strain gauges and wiring to monitor the metal during the process. The pieces were joined using a state-of-the-art process called friction-stir welding, which produces incredibly strong bonds by transforming metals from a solid into a plastic-like state, and then using a rotating pin tool to soften, stir and forge a bond between two metal components to form a uniform welded joint, a vital requirement of next-generation space hardware.

It's taking an excruciatingly long time to even get this puppy upstairs to test, but given the trifecta of NASA disasters around this time of year, that's not entirely a bad thing.

Back in '76 I had debated the merits of the shuttle program in my language arts class at Maumee Valley Country Day School--I was on the "pro" side, and a good friend was "con" (our teacher declared it a draw, which I quite possibly resent to this day).  A few years later I'd seen the first moving pictures of Jupiter's Red Spot, compiled from data sent back from Voyager 1.  It was a giddy time for space geeks like me.

To see the first re-usable spacecraft finally ready for primetime was wicked cool.  I remember watching the landing in Mr. B's 7th grade science class in '81, in the same place where I'd learned all about Voyagers 1 and 2 in the first place (Carl Sagan's Cosmos notwithstanding).  I thought NASA could do anything. 

Yet three decades ago I sat with the rest of Mrs. Z's high-school physics class and sadly watched the endless replays of the shuttle exploding 71 seconds into its flight (Z had been part of the "Teacher in Space" program).

It was time for class, but when I got to the room it was dark and somebody ran past me yelling, "it blew up!"  We spent the rest of the afternoon in the school library watching events unfold on the TV that had been set up to show the triumphant launch.

If I recall correctly, the last voice transmission from the shuttle was "uh-oh."  Maybe that's a faulty memory, or one of the myths that developed afterward (as opposed to the joke punchline, "No, I wanted a Bud Light!"), but whatever.  It represents to me that sinking feeling that if only certain warnings had been heeded, lessons learned, decisions made, we wouldn't come to this. 

Yet I believe, as did Grissom, human spaceflight is a good thing.  His colleague Jim Lovell said on the 1st anniversary of Columbia in 2004:

President Kennedy referred to the Apollo Program as "Mankind’s greatest adventure." As an astronaut who made those journeys, I’d like to think he was correct. But as I look at the limitless vistas ahead, I have to believe that the greatest adventures are yet to come. We must continue the journey which has only just begun.

Apollo One, Challenger, and Columbia didn't have to happen--the business is full of risk, but NASA cannot settle for undue risk.  I hope "failure is not an option" once again becomes the mantra as we continue to explore our cosmos.


January 27, 2016 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fifty Thousand Miles To Your Anus

Yes, I'm still in fourth grade:

On January 24th, 1986, Voyager 2 swept past our system’s seventh planet, Uranus, on its way through the solar system. It was the first and last time we visited the gas giant, and we found it’s one of the stranger locations in our solar system.

Throughout classical times, scholars recognized only six planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, each visible to the naked eye. It wasn’t until the advent of advanced telescopes that anyone found additional worlds orbiting our sun.

While Uranus is visible to the naked eye, and had been observed throughout history, it had been identified as a star. It wasn’t until March 13th, 1781 when William Hershel observed the planet and noted it down as a comet.

Jupiter is what sparked my passion for our solar system in the first place back in the 70s, but the whole Voyager program turned me on and I watched with great excitement as the first pictures of...you know...were processed and displayed.


January 24, 2016 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Why Does Obama Address Congress?

All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties.

 - Some guy citing some other guy

If only the Soviets had caused global climate change:

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.  We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget.  We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon. 

I wonder what NASA's carbon footprint was back in those heady days...


January 12, 2016 in Biofuels, Bitches!, Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Ground Control To Major Glam

The Original Seven was featured in Life, the New Double-Xs get Glamour, but still cool:

For the first time in history, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)has chosen a class of astronauts that consists of as many women, as men. Adding to that good news—some f these women may be on the inaugural trip to Mars. The New York Times writes:

The mission itself is at least 15 years away—it will take that long to build and test every last piece of equipment. But it's already the most hotly anticipated space-exploration effort ever. Governments around the world—in China, Europe, and Russia—have plans in the works to at least land robots on Mars, while in the U.S., private companies like SpaceX are partnering with NASA on a human mission and plotting their own commercial trips. And unlike the 1960s race to the moon, this time women are playing pivotal roles—building rockets, designing space suits, and controlling the remote rovers that are already sending momentous insights back from Mars.

To become astronauts, these women had to endure two years of intense training. Ginny Graves with Glamour Magazine writes and extensive story and supplies quotes from these space women.

If we ever do get around to sending a peopled mission to Mars, I'll probably have to change the ironic pop-ref post category...


January 12, 2016 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Innumeracy Tax

I think I have a better chance of winning Powerball than becoming preznit or being killed by an asteroid, so Imma buy a ticket this week.  Then become the preznit who sends Bruce Willis into space.  Mission paid for with lottery revenue, natch.


January 10, 2016 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Timepieces In The Sky

A guy called Galileo:

On the 7th day of January in the present year, 1610, in the first hour of the following night, when I was viewing the con­ stellations of the heavens through a telescope, the planet Jupiter presented itself to my view, and as I had prepared for myself a very excellent instrument, I noticed a circumstance which I had never been able to notice before, owing to want of power in my other telescope, namely, that three little stars, small but very bright, were near the planet; and although I believed them to belong to the number of the fixed stars, yet they made me somewhat wonder, because they seemed to be arranged exactly in a straight line, parallel to the ecliptic and to be brighter than the rest of the stars equal to them in magnitude.

The position of them with reference to one another and to Jupiter was as fol­lows. On the east side there were two stars, and a single one towards the west. The star which was furthest towards the east, and the western star, appeared rather larger than the third.

I scarcely troubled at all about the distance between them and Jupiter, for, as I have already said, at first I believed them to be fixed stars; but when on January 8th, led by some fate, I turned again to look at the same part of the heavens, I found a very different state of things, for there were three little stars all west of Jupiter, and nearer together than on the previous night, and they were separated from one another by equal intervals...

At this point, although I had not turned my thoughts at all upon the proximity of the stars to one another, yet my surprise began to be excited, how Jupiter could one day be found to the east of all the aforesaid fixed stars when the day before it had been west of two of them; and forthwith I became afraid lest the planet might have moved differently from the calculation of astronomers, and so had passed those stars by its own proper motion.
I therefore concluded, and decided unhesitatingly, that there are three stars in the heavens moving about Jupiter, as Venus and Mercury round the Sun; which at length was estab­ lished as clear as daylight by numerous other subsequent obser­ vations. These observations also established that there are not only three, but four, erratic sidereal bodies performing their rev­ olutions round Jupiter, observations of whose changes of position made with more exactness on succeeding nights the fol­lowing account will supply.

As I've noted before, my photo above from a decade ago isn't quite the arrangement Galileo first saw--Ganymede, Io and Callisto with Europa lost in planetary glare, as compared to Ganymede being hidden initially from the astronomer, plus it's actually reversed because of how the optics of his telescope worked.  But you get a flavor of the scene.

I don't step outside for stargazing much these days, let alone astronomical photography.  Still, it's fun to talk to the kids about the clockwork up there in the sky when we get the chance...


January 7, 2016 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.

But St Nick never had to reconfirm his burn time.


December 25, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Missionaries In Space

Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.


PS--I'll note once again that I have no problem with such things.

December 24, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, December 19, 2015


And thus endeth our manned lunar excursions.


December 19, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Another Earthrise

This lovely new one naturally reminds me of a couple of previous earthrises in our consciousness.


December 19, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Overcoming Paradox

Rendezvous and proud conquest!


PS--This was possible in large part thanks to Dr Rendezvous.

December 15, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Take your final look at the valley of Taurus-Littrow...

Except from orbit.


PS--Ascent from the DAC.

December 14, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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St Nick In Space

07 15 25 40:

LMP-LM Partially open; that's good .... Jettison the jett bag. Here goes Santa Claus - -

CDR-LM Here you go, Santa Claus. - - Santa Claus' bag. Another bag of goodies.

LMP-LM Give it the old - -

CDR-LM There you go.

LMP-LM - - 3-point kick.

CDR-LM Right. Beautifully done. Just where we wanted it. Ail clear the ascent stage.

LMP-LM Need the - Okay; clear. Good boy. Now, for your next act.

CDR-LM No. Don't - don't even think about it.

In space, nobody can hear Ho-Ho-Ho!


December 14, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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"Godspeed the crew of Fake Apollo 17."

Final faked footfall on the soundstage lunar surface:

On December 14th, 1972, Cernan became the last human to step on the Moon’s surface:

07 00 00 47: “Bob, this is Gene, and I’m on the surface and as I take man’s last steps from the surface, back home, for some time to come, but we believe not too long into the future. I’d like to Just list what I believe history will record that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus Littrow, we leave as we come and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind...

It really is such bullshit that we haven't pretended to go back.


December 14, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, December 11, 2015

"You seen one Moon, you've seen them all."

The final faked moon landing.


December 11, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Day of Jollity

One of my favorite days of the season!

First of all, the largest irregular moon of Jupiter, Himalia, was discovered in 1904 by Charles Dillon Perrine at the Lick Observatory:

Himalia is the fifth largest moon orbiting Jupiter. With a mean radius of 85 km assuming an albedo of 0.04), it's only about 5% the size of the fourth largest moon, Europa. But it's by far the largest member of the Himalia group, a family of Jovian satellites which have similar orbits and appearance, and are therefore thought to have a common origin.

Himalia may be the largest remaining chunk of an asteroid (a C- or D-class asteroid, judging by the fact that it reflects only about 4% of the light it receives), which had several pieces broken off in a collision either before or after being captured by Jupiter's gravity. In this scenario, those pieces became the other moons in the Himalia group...

Himalia was named for a nymph of the island of Rhodes in Greek mythology who was one of the lovers of Zeus (the Greek equivalent of the Roman god Jupiter). She bore him three sons: Spartaeus, Cronios and Cytus.

And in 1973, Pioneer 10 made its closest approach to Jupiter, taking pictures like the one here (still about 1.3 million km away, or 1.1 million shy of its nearest encounter).  

Storm on, Red Spot...


December 3, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Back In My Day, We Had To Use Os Because We Didn't Have 0s

Know FORTRAN, will travel into interstellar space:

Larry Zottarelli, the last original Voyager engineer still on the project, is retiring after a long and storied history at JPL. While there are still a few hands around who worked on the original project, now the job of keeping this now-interstellar spacecraft going will fall to someone else. And that someone needs to have some very specific skills. 

Yes, it's going to require coding, but it won't be in Ruby on Rails or Python. Not C or C++. Go a little further back, to the assembly languages used in early computing. Know Cobol? Can you breeze through Fortran? Remember your Algol? Those fancy new languages from the late 1950s? Then you might be the person for the job. 

"It was state of the art in 1975, but that's basically 40 years old if you want to think of it that way," Suzanne Dodd, program manager for the Voyager program, said in a phone interview. "Although, some people can program an assembly language and understand the intricacy of the spacecraft, most younger people can't or really don't want to.​"

Thank goodness we don't need to work with Apollo computers any more (there's another advantage to crewed spaceflight!).


October 30, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (2)

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Seeing Stars

The eternal stars shine out again, so soon as it is dark enough.

 - Thomas Carlyle

Apropos of not much 'cept talking about space and stuff with Sam, I'll note that a common Apollo Hoax Truther bit is that all those pictures from the moon are missing stars in them. So fake, hahahaha!

Yeah, well, on the day after the anniversary of Tycho Brahe's death, and mere days after Apollo 7 came home safely, the stage is set for our friends on Apollo 8 to give us an eyewitness account of stars in space.  Here's LMP Bill Anders, describing for the first time what it's like to look out from a spacecraft orbiting the moon:

The sky up here is also rather forbidding, foreboding expanse of blackness, with no stars visible when we're flying over the moon in daylight.

Hard to see stars in the daylight (as any Earther should understand).  Which, you know, was all the time astronauts worked and took pictures whilst on the surface.  Duh.

Now let's talk about Sesame Street and its pro-autism, pro-Pharma message...


October 25, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

V-2 No. 13

The first photo from space:

On October 24, 1946, not long after the end of World War II and years before the Sputnik satellite opened the space age, a group of soldiers and scientists in the New Mexico desert saw something new and wonderful—the first pictures of Earth as seen from space.

The grainy, black-and-white photos were taken from an altitude of 65 miles by a 35-millimeter motion picture camera riding on a V-2 missile launched from the White Sands Missile Range. Snapping a new frame every second and a half, the rocket-borne camera climbed straight up, then fell back to Earth minutes later, slamming into the ground at 500 feet per second. The camera itself was smashed, but the film, protected in a steel cassette, was unharmed.

Fred Rulli was a 19-year-old enlisted man assigned to the recovery team that drove into the desert to retrieve film from those early V-2 shots. When the scientists found the cassette in good shape, he recalls, "They were ecstatic, they were jumping up and down like kids." Later, back at the launch site, "when they first projected [the photos] onto the screen, the scientists just went nuts."

Before 1946, the highest pictures ever taken of the Earth’s surface were from the Explorer II balloon, which had ascended 13.7 miles in 1935, high enough to discern the curvature of the Earth. The V-2 cameras reached more than five times that altitude, where they clearly showed the planet set against the blackness of space. 

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet...


October 24, 2015 in Mars, Bitches! | Permalink | Comments (0)