Friday, December 30, 2011

Actually, There Is One New Year's Resolution for 2012...


Because every girl's crazy about a sharp dressed man. Pete Conrad and his wife, Jane, 1970. Photo from Retro Space Images

My resolution for 2012 is to dress more like Pete Conrad. Look at his hat and his sweater. He was stylin'. 

Reflections Upon 2011...

I usually never, ever do blogs here which share anything personally, but I'd like to use this space today to share my gratitude and happiness that this blog has found an audience. In a little over a year, I've gained over 20,000 hits (not too bad) and a respectable following. I'd like to thank my readers...you all make it fun and worthwhile! 


To be honest, I'm really in no rush to have 2012 begin. 2011 was an awesome, overwhelming year. I got to see tons of launches, including the final shuttle launch. I got to go to my first NASA Tweetup (amazing, absolutely amazing!). I made a lot of lifelong friends. I attained a degree of personal stability and I got my dream job, which I am still beyond thrilled about. All in all, life was pretty good during 2011. I am just trying to enjoy the moment while not focusing too much on the next page. 


My goal for 2012 - if I had to make one - would be to continue to overcome (not be cured of....there is a difference) any mental and physical roadblocks to become a much better version of myself. I also wish my family and friends a great year filled with health, happiness and prosperity! Once again, to my readers...thank you so much for reading this blog...I wish you nothing but the best and be sure to have a fun, safe New Year's Eve! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

End of 2011: Top Space Happenings of the Year


STS-133 launches in February 2011. Photo by the author taken at Space View Park, Titusville, Florida.

Despite the end of the space shuttle program in July of this year, NASA still is chugging away victoriously. Obviously, the final shuttle launches were momentous, but this year brought thrills to space watchers in the form of various space probes being launched. 


In August, Juno was launched. Photo by the author taken at Kennedy Space Center. 

In August, Juno was launched - it is now headed to its destination, Jupiter. I had the unique honor of being invited to the NASA Tweetup for this mission; the event was among the two greatest days of my life, no joke. Words can't really capture the awe of what I experienced there.

In September, the twin GRAIL probes were launched to investigate the moon's gravitational sources; these probes should arrive at the moon later this month. Most recently, the Mars Curiosity mission (Mars Science Laboratory) was launched, destined to reach the red planet in August 2012. Between the United Launch Alliance and JPL, NASA has more than proven itself to have a lot of life left in it. 

Russia, despite having suffered some well-publicized vehicle failures this past year, has successfully launched several crews to the ISS via Soyuz capsules.

In 2012, I hope to make it back to KSC to be around for SpaceX (planned to launch in February) and any other planned launches. My heart is located in Titusville and Cocoa Beach; I love the history of that area. I also hope to see private companies and NASA more aggressively develop new space vehicles and launch systems to get our manned program back into gear.


Space shuttle Atlantis launches for the last time, July 8, 2011. Photo by the author taken at Rotary Riverview Park, Titusville, Florida. 
  
What would you like to see NASA do in 2012? Feel free to leave comments!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Give Space Books for Christmas, Such as The Astronaut's Cookbook!


For Christmas, get this book NOW for your space-obsessed buddy or family member. The Astronaut's Cookbook: Tales, Recipes, and More, by Charles T. Bourland and Gregory L. Vogt, is informative and often very funny, sharing tales from the vintage days of space travel (the best: John Young's sandwich crimes during Gemini 3 in 1965 and Dr. Joseph Kerwin's valiant struggle with a...sugar cookie after Skylab 2 in 1973). 

I recently purchased this book and absolutely love it - I recommend it to anyone curious about what it was like to be an astronaut from Apollo to the shuttle era, plus it has recipes from astronauts in it as well (among other cool things). This is a perfect Christmas gift - or a gift anytime of the year! - to put under the tree. I (obviously) love space books and this is a great one.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Titusville, Florida: Where the Road Led


Welcome to Titusville from Ride5 Films on Vimeo.


This film, by Ride5 Films, shows a few of the many people impacted by the end of the shuttle program this past July. It's a beautiful, emotionally touching film for those of use who love Florida's Space City. I've been there countless times this year for various launches and I've had the honor of meeting many great folks who worked at NASA before the layoffs. 


Also, I can't recommend the Space Walk of Fame Museum enough to those obsessed with vintage space travel. They now have a blog, which looks awesome. It's one of the coolest space museums in the U.S., and I know, because I've seen all of them; their collection of photos, memorabilia and artifacts easily rivals the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. If you're in town, please, swing by Titusville to enjoy vintage space excitement. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Caption Tha Photo: Who Wants My Crappy Space Cartoon? You Might!



My drawing involves two of the participants at this table. Don't you want to find out who they are? Keep reading. 

We here at This Space Available love to joke around about random stuff. Now, here's your opportunity to make your own jokes. Caption this photo; whoever come up with the funniest, best caption can win a very crappy drawing courtesy of me re-depicting what was really going on in this photo. When I am done with my artistic tour de force, I will post an equally crappy screen capture of it as evidence of my fantastic nonexistent artistic talent. Have fun! 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Non-Space Post: Professional Women, Beware


I feel kind of like this right now. Frank Borman, mad, 1968. 

I usually never post about non-spaceflight related things, but I felt a need to make this tidbit of information more well-known. 


There's a "professional organization" (Editor's note: I am using this term extremely loosely) who call themselves the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW). Anyways, they called me at work this morning touting the news that I had been selected for a "free membership," which I thought was funny...I've only been at my current writing job since September. That's not a long time, really. 


After wasting my time with some silly, blatantly ego-feeding interview (I have no ego, so to be honest, I wasn't really that impressed...) they said I had been "selected" for their organization...and they needed about $680 to confirm my "free" membership. LOL, NOPE. The saleswoman on the other end then started to get increasingly desperate (read: snotty) and started quoting other prices for "membership," which were still impressively high. At this time I declined the membership (which I doubt does anything for any professional woman) and hung up the phone before she started asking me for credit card numbers, the names of my next of kin, etc. 


It was one of the grossest, most transparent telemarketing ploys I've ever dealt with. About 10 - 15 minutes of work time for me was wasted (yes, they called me at work, which is disrespectful). In addition, note that they called me on Monday morning at about 9:30 a.m. Hmmmm. After a long holiday weekend. So they figured I'd be a moron and fork over hundreds of dollars for some fake b.s. when I was basically half-asleep. Nice!


I did a bit of research and found these two great blog posts, which warn unsuspecting, LEGITIMATE professional women about this organization: 


http://michellevillalobos.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/napw/


http://kristineforpresident.com/2010/12/01/beware-pickpockets-and-loose-professional-women-the-art-of-money-getting/


So yeah, these are good reads. Apparently the NAPW is also linked with some other fake "Who's Who" organization, which also enjoys draining hard-earned $$$$ from people. 


So the moral of the story is: 

  • If you are a professional woman, DO NOT be fooled by this organization. It is not legitimate. You should never pay for recognition of any sort. Be smart and do NOT give out any bank account or credit card information over the phone. If it seems shady, it most definitely is. Trust your gut instinct...I did. 
  • I am extremely disgusted that a "professional woman's association" would be looking to swindle money from professional women. The NAPW or whatever...they should be disgusted with themselves. Women should be in no position to exploit other women for money or for anything. Also, to this organization: if you come at me with a cease and desist, good luck with that. I'm certainly not lying and there are plenty of other women out there who can vouch for that. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Video of MSL Launch - November 26, 2011


From NASA Television on YouTube - MSL launch from this morning. Right now, MSL's Centaur stage is performing a burn which will take it out of Earth's orbit and on its way to Mars. NASA TV is showing some great video from the Centaur stage...it's about to separate from the spacecraft. 

EDIT: MSL just separated from its Centaur! Woo hoo! It's on its way to Mars now!

MSL/Mars Curiosity Atlas V Launch Liveblog - November 26, 2011


 MSL and its Atlas V on the launchpad this morning. Picture from Kennedy Space Center on Facebook.

8:41 a.m.: Okay, I am here. We are 1:10 away from the opening of the launch window. Right now, liquid oxygen is being loaded onto the rocket's Atlas stage. Catch all televised updates at http://www.spaceflightnow.com/atlas/av028/status.html online.

8:51 a.m.: My name is one of the many being sent to Mars via a microchip today. So awesome. A piece of me will go interplanetary!

9:02 a.m.: 50 minutes and counting!

9:05 a.m.: So far, weather conditions are "green." Liquid hydrogen is being loaded onto the rocket's Centaur and Atlas stages. No technical problems so far (fingers crossed).

9:07 a.m.: My buddy Heather at Pillow Astronaut explained the way the Mars Curiosity rover will have to land when it reaches Mars...the payload weighs approximately one ton. Dang. In comparison, 1976's Viking lander looks like a kid's Big Wheel. Thanks Heather :)

9:14 a.m.: Fueling is almost complete. The Atlas V rocket is being fueled with hydrogen and oxygen, which also helped to power the space shuttle.

9:17 a.m.: 35 minutes and counting! The view of that beautiful rocket by the water is unbeatable.

9:20 a.m.: Another wind balloon is being launched at T-31 minutes to assess the wind conditions.

9:25 a.m.: A weather briefing will take place soon. It's kind of breezy today but that's no cause for alarm...

9:32 a.m.: 19 minutes away with some holds, etc., planned. A weather briefing will take place in a few minutes. All safety checks have taken place. So far, so good.

9:36 a.m.: From MSL's Twitter account:  "Fuel fill sequence initiated. Top off the tank, guys. I hear there are no service stations en route to Mars."

9:42 a.m.: Nine minutes until first planned hold!

9:45 a.m.: Weather is green! Hell yeah!

9:48 a.m.: In first planned hold at four minutes. This final hold before launch will last for 10 minutes. Waiting for flight readiness statuses. Hold will be released in a few minutes. That was quick!

9:55 a.m.: What I like to hear - everything is GO. We have permission to launch! MSL is on internal power and so far is ready to go! So excited!

9:58 a.m.: Less than four minutes. No offense...if it launches you'll hear about it afterwards. I just want to enjoy the view.

10:07 a.m.: WOOT! It went off flawlessly...now we are seeing the Centaur stage burning.

10:11 a.m.: 150 miles in altitude above Earth...coming to the end of the first burn.

10:16 a.m.: The spacecraft is now in a coast phase along the Earth for the next 19 minutes or so until the Centaur burns again to send MSL into an interplanetary trajectory.  Watch NASA TV online to see replays of the launch. I should have a launch video up later today. Everything looks good and NASA did it yet again. What a great year for space!


MSL launches successfully this morning at 10:02 a.m. Eastern Time. Photo courtesy of Spaceflight Now on Facebook

Friday, November 25, 2011

MSL/Mars Curiosity Liveblogging Starts Here in the A.M. - Don't Miss It!


From Kennedy Space Center's Facebook page - en route to the Vehicle Assembly Building, 11/25/2011. 

Watch this space...in the morning I will be here around 8:00 liveblogging the MSL/Mars Curiosity Atlas V rocket launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 

The launch is scheduled to go off at 10:02 a.m. While I won't be hanging out at the Space Coast, I will be following it online and on NASA TV. Anyway, stay tuned!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How to Perfect Frank Borman-esque Facial Expressions, Part 1

This blog post was inspired by this blog post on Rookiemag.com, so enjoy.

There are three basic facial expressions used by former NASA astronaut/general serious business guy Frank Borman in the 1960s. Here are some expert tips on how to pull these off. These are great tools to scare people at work or in grocery stores.

Indifference, or The Official NASA Portrait Face


Basically all you have to do here is stare blankly ahead at someone or some fixed object like you're bored. This one is rather easy to do. 

Raised Eyebrows with Indifference 


This one is a bit more difficult. Learn to move your brow muscles to add a slightly worried, concerned furrow to your forehead. This expression is useful when being told you have to stay in a space capsule with someone for two consecutive weeks. 

Get the Hands Involved/Complete Exasperation
 
 
Use your hands to get your point across: you don't want to share a locker with Buzz Aldrin. Sometimes the face says what words just cannot convey. 

My Awe-spiration: 


No one has ever been so effective being angry, ever.

Frank Borman photo from Life magazine. The supermodel of the world is Emily Carney.

MSL Delayed by One Day Next Week...


 “The launch of the Atlas V carrying NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), has been delayed one day to allow time for the team to remove and replace a flight termination system battery. The launch is rescheduled for Saturday, Nov. 26 at 10:02 a.m. EST.” 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Soyuz TMA-22/Expedition 29 Launch and Mission Updates


Soyuz TMA-22 launches from the snowy Baikonur Cosmodrome November 13, 2011 at 11:14 p.m. EST. This was the first manned launch since July 8 this year (STS-135's launch). The spacecraft will rendezvous with the ISS on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of spaceflightnow.com online. 

http://www.spaceflightnow.com/station/exp29/status.html

Check it out at this link above! The launch was flawless and the crew has reached orbit! Yes! 

Their solar arrays were just successfully deployed. Great news for Russia and the U.S. space programs! (Also, I wish I was there in space, too!)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Russian Mars' Moon Probe Drama - UPDATED 11/14/2011

The Russian Mars' moon probe Fobos-Grunt (Russian for "Phobos-Ground") was launched yesterday. It was meant to take a tiny sample of the Martian moon Phobos, which would have been the first sample taken from an interplanetary body since 1976. However, it failed to make its planned trajectory towards Mars and is now stuck in Earth's orbit. Russian engineers are attempting to rescue the probe by planning a series of burns and by resetting its computer system. 

Space buffs are worried that the probe may crash back to Earth, potentially unleashing toxic fuel. According to an AP report, a U.S. expert said the probe "could become the most dangerous man made object ever to hit the planet." A more detailed report can be found on SPACE.com.

Apparently the spacecraft's orientation system experienced failures, which is why the probe is stuck in Earth's orbit. Hopefully if the spacecraft does have to be deorbited, it can somehow be steered somewhere over the ocean away from land, similar to what happened when the U.S. satellite UARS deorbited earlier this fall. Famed space writer and NASA veteran James Oberg condemned Fobos-Grunt by saying, "The go-for-broke nature of this mission, aiming for the first Russian deep space success in a quarter century, always looked awfully bold, and now looks just plain reckless - whatever happens next." 

Stay informed about this latest space event by checking back with This Space Available; I will be providing updates. 

UPDATE 11/12/2011 - The latest news about Fobos-Grunt is not good as ground controllers have failed to reestablish communications with the space probe. Also, its orbit has dropped. Thanks to my friend Trent for sending me this update.  

UPDATE 11/13/2011 - Fobos-Grunt is officially considered lost. Stay informed for possible reentry information through This Space Available over the next few days.  

UPDATE 11/14/2011 - According to this link from the Planetary Society's blog, all is apparently not lost according to Roskosmos, the Russian space agency. So yeah, keep checking back here...

Monday, October 24, 2011

You, Too, Can Visit the Vehicle Assembly Building


The space shuttle Discovery inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center, August 4, 2011. Photo by the author. 

KSC's Visitor Center has just announced on their Facebook that they are allowing - for the first time in ages - tours of the famous Space Cathedral, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). From their press release:
"For the first time in more than 30 years, guests at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will have the chance to disembark their tour buses and tour inside the VAB to see firsthand where monstrous vehicles were assembled for launch, from the very first Saturn V rocket in the late 1960s to the very last space shuttle, STS-135 Atlantis, earlier this year.

The opportunity to visit the VAB will be offered for a limited time to a limited number of Visitor Complex guests per day as part of KSC Up-Close, a new two-hour, guided special interest tour. Beginning Nov. 1, the tour will be offered eight times daily for $25 for adults and $19 for children ages 3-11, plus the cost of admission which is $43 + tax for adults and $33 + tax for children ages 3-11.

Making this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity even more special, for a very limited time, guests on the KSC Up-Close tour may see a space shuttle orbiter inside the VAB as they are being prepared for display in their new homes in Los Angeles, CA, Washington, DC and Florida.

Tickets will be on sale soon. Stay tuned for more details!"
 Here's another shot I took of the VAB during the Juno NASA Tweetup:




The building is even more unimaginably enormous when one sees it through his or her own eyes. If you've never seen it before and you happen to be a space enthusiast, I would recommend that you visit it before they stop the tours. It's a breathtaking experience and an immense honor to have stood where those great vehicles were once assembled. The VAB is the world's largest one-story building and was home to the Apollo space vehicles and the space shuttles during assembly. It was built in 1966. At one point, it had an interesting bicentennial logo painted on it; the classic NASA vector logo was repainted on the building in 1998. 

In addition, NASA's Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle now has a page on Facebook. Apparently astronauts are already doing simulations involving the next-generation spacecraft which hopefully will fly within the next decade, ushering in a new era of spaceflight to the Moon and other worlds (we'll see). This page has a ton of information and photos. See it now before it becomes mainstream, so you too can be a Space Hipster

Monday, October 17, 2011

More ESCANDALO in Space: In Which a Certain Astronaut Racks Up 28 Parking Tickets at JSC for the Lolz


"But I can't go to jail; I'm a doctor!" Dr. Kerwin reacts to finding out the consequences of his Emily Carney-style approach to parking problems. (BTW, I am Emily Carney.) 1973 NASA photo. Agony at its finest despite the blurriness provided by Kerwin. 

We at This Space Available are big fans of the first U.S. doctor in space, Dr. Joseph P. Kerwin. I've heard though the grapevine that he's a really nice guy and a total gentleman. He provided probably some of the best photo opportunities in NASA history and was absolutely shameless about looking like a total goober. At some point, he did some important scientific stuff in the name of science (in all seriousness, he was the Director of Space and Life Sciences at Johnson Space Center in Houston for some time). He got to participate in one of the longest in-orbit parties ever called Skylab 2. He was bros with Pete Conrad. You get my point. 

In the mid-1960s he also decided to break the record for the most parking tickets acquired by anyone at JSC. He made it to 28 parking tickets total. This is, in itself, an astonishing feat. No one, including Neil Armstrong, had probably ever done this before. His knowledge of all things medical and spaceflight-related was inversely proportional to his skill at using a parking meter. As the story goes, Kerwin received a nasty-gram from JSC's security people about his number of tickets. He brought this letter to his supervisor, who happened to be the extremely terrifying Alan Shepard, first U.S. man in space and a bit of a grumpy guy. 

Kerwin asked Shepard, "Is this the record or should I keep trying?" Shepard then told Kerwin to "knock it off." He also probably dislodged a foot in the poor naval flight surgeon's behind just for craps and giggles, topped off with shouts of "I WAS THE FIRST U.S. MAN IN SPACE AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET IT." (Did you know that Shepard was so scary in the mid-1960s, according to the miniseries Moon Shot poor Stuart Roosa would literally avoid him in the hallways around NASA? Eventually Big Al loosened up and became buddies with everyone around his moon landing in 1971.)

If you'd like to read more about Dr. J.P. Kerwin's brush with the Long Arm of the Law, check out this interview from a few years back. In addition, it is a great summary of his entire career at NASA and beyond.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Carrying the Ire: The Most WTF Spaceflight Books


Slayton: "Guys, if you can't play nice together, WE WILL GO BACK INSIDE DAMMIT." From left, Thomas Stafford, Deke Slayton, Gene Cernan and Buzz Aldrin try to keep the peace, 1966. 

I suppose this is the beginning of what will become a long series of posts, because there are a ton of nutty spaceflight-related books floating around (so to speak) in the ether. Today, I'll focus on Buzz Aldrin's Return to Earth (1973) and Gene Cernan's Last Man on the Moon (1999). 

First, I'll focus on Last Man on the Moon, because I'm going to save the best for last. Last Man on the Moon (titled because, well, Gene happened to be the last man on the moon) certainly has its share of crazy moments. Perhaps the best sections involve Gene's not-entirely-irrational, VERY PUBLIC hatred of astro-colleague and Group Three alumnus Buzz Aldrin. He begins the book with a (sort of) heart-warming reminiscence about his late buddy Roger Chaffee blatantly trolling Ol' Dr. Buzz with a "broomstick trick" (an athletic feat of insane proportions...you'd have to read the book to understand) and Buzz stomping off in a huff about this. (In retrospect, it's not hard to imagine Roger doing this. He always had a mischievous twinkle in his eye.) 

Buzz regularly gets the stick in more than one way in Last Man on the Moon. We hear in great depth about Buzz trolling Gene to an annoying degree around the time of Gemini 9 over extracurricular activities (Gene had a difficult EVA during that mission, which is chronicled in terrifying detail). We also hear about Buzz's unsurprising, bombastic efforts to be the first man on the moon, an honor which went to the rather quiet, unassuming Group Two astronaut Neil Armstrong. Gene's complete lack of tact in discussing Buzz's, um, craziness is pretty hilarious. There are other vignettes in the book which are worth discussing, such as the time Gene accidentally on purpose crashed a helicopter (????) and the time Gene got in deep doo-doo over throwing around cusses on Snoopy, Apollo 10's LEM. He also refers to Alan Shepard as a "sumbitch" (well, Big Al was kind of a sumbitch, at times) and recounts a lovely time in which he was cussed out by Tom Stafford. Yikes. There are more cusses in Last Man on the Moon than most gangsta rap albums made around the same time. If you need some hearty giggles in your spaceflight books, sans cuteness (because 2008's Homesteading Space: The Story of Skylab will MAKE YOU DIE OF CUTE), Gene's your man.

...BUT THE REAL BIG DADDY OF ALL CRAZY SPACEFLIGHT BOOKS IS BUZZ ALDRIN'S RETURN TO EARTH. This book is the Too Much Damn Information Extravaganza of Spaceflight Books. Really, Buzz gives away ENTIRELY TOO MUCH about his personal life in this one. I do think his decision to go public with his alcoholism and depression issues was - and continues to be - a brave one. However, Buzz cushions the noble message of his first stab at an autobiographical sketch with the craziest stories you can ever imagine. I believe he had his first sexual encounter with a Juarez hooker (I DID NOT MAKE THIS UP. He wrote this!) and he recounts the experience of being the first man to take a piss while he was standing upon the moon's surface in excruciating detail. He also buys a monkey named Popo just for the lolz (seriously, he went out and bought a monkey, because he just wanted one). To this day NO ONE knows why the monkey was named Popo. The monkey, last I checked, was not available for comment. 

At any rate, Buzz Aldrin's Return to Earth remains the gold standard for slightly inappropriate astronaut memoirs. Neil may have been the first man on the moon, but Buzz was arguably the first astronaut on the moon who gave zero shits about anything at all. He probably ate more unauthorized sandwiches and took more dumps than John Young ever did. And that's my last word on that subject. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs, A True Innovator



From the Apple Web site
Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.
His pioneering spirit will be missed. 


Image copyright 2011 by Ben Hughes from Tumblr. Thank you! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Space Movie Review Korner - Apollo 18 Edition


"THE SPACE CAPSULE IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE." Apollo 18 brings the lolz, disappoints. 

So here's my review of the hot mess soon-to-be space horror classic Apollo 18. 

I hope this review encapsulates the feelings I had when I watched this movie tucked into a seat in the back of the theater hoping no one would see me there. I literally started laughing violently at some of the scenes in the movie and took a picture of myself doing this. However, I deleted the photo because some usher at the theater got mad. Oh, well. At least he didn't kick me out. However, I wouldn't have cared, because I knew how the movie was going to end anyway. 

Here's some selected text of this review to ponder:
"The word 'predictable' is almost too predictable of an adjective to even begin to describe Apollo 18. In fact, I think I broke my computer’s thesaurus trying to find more synonyms for 'predictable.' (My hard drive is going to start smoking a cigarette in about two seconds.)"
Read the review and draw your own conclusion. EDIT: SPOILERS INCLUDED! If you were going to see this movie, I am going to ruin it for you. 


Text and photo courtesy of Popshifter, September/October 2011.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

FINAL UARS Update - September 27 Edition


NASA ground track shows UARS leaving Africa and reentering over the Pacific Ocean at approximately 12:01 a.m. EDT September 24. Map courtesy of NASA

Here's the final word from NASA's UARS reentry Web page
"NASA's decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite fell back to Earth at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT) on Saturday, Sept. 24. The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has determined the satellite entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at 14.1 degrees south latitude and 189.8 degrees east longitude. This location is over a broad, remote ocean area in the Southern Hemisphere, far from any major land mass. The debris field is located between 300 miles and 800 miles downrange, or generally northeast of the re-entry point. NASA is not aware of any possible debris sightings from this geographic area."
 By the way, if you live in Florida and you think you saw UARS reenter, you so totally didn't. Stop playin'. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, John Young!


John Young, 1965. He was approximately my age (34) in this Life magazine photo. 

Happy birthday to Floridian badass and originator of the Blue Steel, John Young! John and his tousled hair are both 81 years old today.

Here's a short list of things John Watts Young has accomplished in his time on the planet:
  • Flew on Gemini 3 with Gus "I Am A Total Badass" Grissom (1965);
  • Flew on Gemini 10 with Mike Collins, the original space hipster (1966);
  • Flew on Apollo 10 with his bros Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan (1969);
  • Flew on Apollo 16 with Ken Mattingly and Charlie Duke, and walked on the FREAKIN' MOON (1972); and
  • Flew the space shuttle twice like a boss (STS-1 in 1981 and STS-9/Spacelab 1 in 1983).
He also probably made that particle or whatever go faster than the speed of light, but he's too humble to take any credit for it. At any rate...the day belongs to John Young.

Friday, September 23, 2011

UARS Reentry Update: 9/23/2011

UARS is scheduled to reenter sometime between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. September 24. It may reenter over parts of Canada, Africa and Australia. Here's a link from NASA which provides more in-depth updates. The FAA has also issued an advisory of sorts.

So, who wants to have a UARS reentry party with me? This Space Available will be providing updates as this situation unfolds. 

UPDATE 9:56 p.m.: Observers in Texas saw UARS overhead still in orbit around 9:18 p.m. EDT. It has not yet begun to reenter.  

UPDATE 10:58 p.m.: UARS will reenter over parts of Canada, Africa and Australia (as well as over the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans) between 11:45 p.m. and 12:45 a.m. EDT. For more updates, check out this NASA link. Spaceflight Now has live tracking data available on its site.

UPDATE 11:39 p.m.: UARS is apparently on its last orbit. 

UPDATE 11:46 p.m.: Within an hour of reentry. 

UPDATE 12:54 a.m.: An unconfirmed report came through that UARS came down somewhere in Northern Quebec. No idea is this is true. Waiting on positive confirmation. 

UPDATE 1:56 a.m.: I am really tired. No confirmation from NASA yet as to where UARS is now located.  It is widely believed the satellite is down. I am going to bed...I will update this post tomorrow. 

UPDATE 10:14 a.m.: NASA has confirmed that UARS reentered sometime early this morning. It is believed it went down over the Pacific Ocean, although no one has confirmed this yet. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why There Are Bigger Things To Worry About Other Than That Satellite Falling To Earth


This is what the satellite which is falling from orbit - the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite - looks like. So if you see this in your backyard, you might want to call NASA and let them know. NASA photo. 

There's been a lot of hype about the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (deployed by space shuttle Discovery in 1991) falling back to Earth. The satellite is currently expected to enter the Earth's atmosphere tomorrow (also known as Friday, September 23 for those who are confused about what day it is) during the early afternoon. Before you freak out and break out the Skylab shields from 1979, here's a short primer on why you probably shouldn't be worried about this thing crashing into your house and ruining your swimming pool. 

Keep in mind that the Earth's atmosphere upon reentry is really, really, REALLY hot. I am talking about 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit hot, or something in or about that general hotness neighborhood. Most of the satellite's components will be burned up in the high atmosphere. There are parts of the satellite which are expected to survive reentry because they are made of materials which happen to have a high melting point. Only 26 parts like this have been identified. Also, the Earth is comprised of 70% water. Statistics dictate that any satellite  parts and pieces would most likely enter an ocean, never to be seen again. If you want to learn more, click on this CNN article

This is nothing compared to when Skylab was reentering in 1979 over Australia. Several large pieces of the first U.S. space station survived the reentry, and generally horrified everyone at the time. Also, Skylab weighed 70 tons. That is way larger than the pieces which may or may not enter our atmosphere around this time tomorrow. Contrary to what you may have heard, no one was injured due to Skylab's reentry. (Click on this link to read more about Skylab's reentry.)

In summation, I wouldn't stay up at night worrying about this satellite crashing on your vintage Corvette. Here's a list of things you probably should actually worry about:
  1. Making sure your car is filled with gas before you drive to work;
  2. That weird-ass light which keeps popping up and annoying you on your dashboard;
  3. The rising cost of basic things, like milk and deodorant;
  4. Making sure you brush your teeth on a regular basis; and finally
  5. Those pants look funny on you. Really, change into something different.
There. Those are some things you should legitimately be worried about.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lots of Updates: This Last Week in September Edition


John Young looking superfly in 1972 following Apollo 16. Photo from Retro Space Images on Facebook.

Okay, NASA announced several new prospective launch vehicles this week; one of these vehicles (the SLS) looks like a dope-ass Saturn V rocket with boosters.

In addition, they discovered a planet with two suns which happens not to have occurred in Star Wars movies or in Old Spice ads. DOUBLE SUN POWER!!!!!! All in all, it's been a pretty cool week on the space front. 

I have been pretty busy in real life so I haven't had much time to cover these events; however, they did end up at my Tumblr blog. If you'd like to read about these stories in further detail, check out the archives section at "As Only NASA Can."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Some Updatin' Updates - 9/10/11 Edition


Joe Kerwin makes a perfect sphere of water out of a straw in Skylab, 1973. NASA photo.

I was linked in a blog post by The Planetary Society! The Planetary Society is a non-profit space education outreach organization championed by Bill Nye, who readers may know as the ubiquitous "Science Guy" who stalked your TVs throughout the 1990s with science and math. I'd like to thank them for linking me!

Also, I contributed a blog post about Skylab II to Space Blog Alpha, which has been around since 2005 and promotes spaceflight education. It's entitled "Skylabbin' with Pete, Joe, and Paul" and I hope my readers enjoy it. I'd like to thank Space Blog Alpha for letting me contribute to their great site!

IN ADDITION...this is my 100th post on this site! Woo hoo! Party time!

 
STS-2 parties down before their November 1981 launch. NASA photo.

GRAIL Launch Coverage - September 10, 2011


GRAIL and its Delta II launch vehicle at LC-17B on September 8, 2011. Photo credit: NASA/Ken Thornsley.

So, I am up and it is around 8:48 a.m. Watching NASA TV in an attempt to see the twin probes GRAIL launch to their lunar destination. GRAIL is a set of two probes destined for the moon, and will be measuring the moon's gravity fields in an unprecedented lunar mission. I believe this will be the last launch from LC-17 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

8:50 a.m.: Waiting for next weather balloon data set to come in shortly after 9:00 a.m. The launch has already been scrubbed several times due to pesky high level winds. 

8:53: Apparently now we have a yellow indication on fuel tank pressure. I don't like that line of thinking. However, range is currently go. Just got news that latest weather balloon was GREEN. This is all according to NASA TV...launch director Tim Dunn will give the final word I suppose.  

8:58: NASA team is ready for launch. Countdown will resume after planned T-4 hold. Currently GO for launch. 

9:03: GRAIL is now on internal power. Standing by for release of the planned hold in 30 seconds. 

9:05: Counting down! Yay!

9:06: Spacecraft is go. Things (hopefully) are going swimmingly now.  

9:07: Range go for launch. Go GRAIL!

9:08: GO! We have launch! 

9:12 - 9-13: Four minutes into flight, now at MECO. Now at stage separation and fairing separation. Hey there GRAIL!


Photo by NASATweetup on Twitter. 
  
9:17: GRAIL's probes are now in a parking orbit; in an hour, another burn will take place in order to send the probes to the moon. The launch went fantastically and of course NASA delivered the wonder yet again. 

 

GRAIL launch video from NASA.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Jack Swigert of the Week: It's Tax Season, Oh No!


"Oh thank you, I seriously thought I was going to jail over my taxes. Now I can go back to my normal everyday activities, which include but aren't limited to flying jet planes, being a total badass and squiring insanely hot women around town." Jack Swigert receives a gift and his tax forms from American Samoa Governor John M. Haydon, April 1970. Jack famously remembered that he hadn't filed his taxes while he was in space on Apollo 13; he was granted an exemption since he was most decidedly out of the country.

I believe this photograph is from the Jean P. Haydon Museum, Fagatogo, American Samoa; if it is not, feel free to correct me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

From The Earth To The Earth: The Missions Which Never Left The Ground, Part One - 2TV-1, 1968


In 1968, these three goobers spent a week pretending they were in space. But why? Read on. NASA portraits. From left, Joe Kerwin, Vance Brand, and Joe Engle. 

By mid-1968, NASA was still working on its design of the Apollo command module. In order to make the spacecraft "human rated," NASA needed to stick three guys inside one of its Apollo capsules for a seven-day simulated moon mission. So they picked three then-rookie astronauts - Joe Kerwin (the first U.S. space doctor who flew on Skylab 2 in 1973), Vance Brand (ASTP pilot and future shuttle commander) and Joe Engle (X-15 pilot and general space badass) - and slapped them inside a fake Apollo capsule for an entire week. To NASA's credit, they at least pressurized the spacecraft's cabin and gave them some food and water. On June 16, 1968, these three poor dudes had the hatch slammed shut in their smiling faces at about 11:00 a.m. 

The three crew members of "2TV-1" wore pressure suits during the first phase of the "mission"; they gradually settled into typical in-flight garments consisting of thermal underwear and white jumpsuits, which were probably slightly soiled during the mission by food, boogers from sneezes, and shame. Before you come to the quick conclusion that this fake mission was invented to merely troll these junior astronauts, understand that IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION and engineering data about the Apollo command module were all at stake. 

Perhaps having set the Guinness Book record for the world's longest involuntary slumber party, the three intrepid explorers - who hadn't budged from their rather tiny space during that entire period - emerged 177 hours later on June 24 looking like grizzly bears. They hadn't shaved during the preceding week, and probably all wanted to throttle one another. Joe Kerwin undoubtedly wanted to strangle Joe Engle for playing rock music ("But I only like classical music! Stop playing the Animals!"), while Vance Brand wanted to punch both of the men in their stubbly grills for both being named "Joe." Okay, I just imagined that last part; according to NASA, by all reports the men exited the spacecraft in excellent physical and mental health. It is still not known if the three astronauts played the popular military game known as "Which Meal Do You Want The Most When You're Released From This Long Nightmare?" during their stint inside the capsule. (This particular game was impossible to escape during my time in the U.S. Navy, when we were forced to eat awful food for six month stretches with scarcely a delicious hamburger break.)

At this point in NASA's Apollo timeline, the command module now was rated for human flight. The lunar module also required a similar test, but I'll judiciously save that story for another post. 2TV-1 may have never left the planet, but they made plenty of advances in science, engineering, and embarrassing photo technology (if that isn't a field of study, it should be). 


They emerged looking like this. From left, a post-mission shot of Brand, Engle, and Kerwin. The shame. 

DID YOU KNOW?: 2TV-1's mission motto was Arrogans Avis Cauda Gravis, which from Latin translates to "The Proud Bird with the Heavy Tail," denoting that the mission was not leaving Earth. 2TV-1 commander Joe Kerwin suggested this phrase to describe the mission. Joe probably just thought he was really intelligent and wanted to bust out some Latin phrases to impress everyone, because he's a friggin' doctor. (Note: If you're Joe Kerwin and you're reading this, I AM JUST KIDDING; please, don't sue me.)

If you'd like to read more about 2TV-1, check out this NASA press release from June 1968

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Workin' Hard Like A Boss In FL


Deke Slayton talks to Alan Shepard during Al's 1961 suborbital flight like a boss. Life magazine photo.

First, the good news: I have an awesome new job, and things in This Space Availableland (located in This Space Available, Florida, of course) are going pretty well at the moment. 

However, I won't have as much time - except during the weekends - to update this space, so I will go longer without newer updates. However, don't despair - I will still keep you, dear reader, up-to-date with the latest badassery in spaceflight as best as I can.

This week, a lot of my space tweep friends are going to see the GRAIL launch on Florida's eastern coast, so I will have some cool pictures and video of that event. I am hoping to make it to MSL (the Mars Curiosity mission) event in November...we'll see how that goes. At any rate, I wish you all a great week.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Apollo 18, Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Want Mah Money Back From The Theater


Gus Grissom's facial expression above sums up my reaction to the newly-released Apollo 18 movie. 1959 photo from Life magazine.

Yes, I did pay $10 to see the hot mess summer blockbuster smash Apollo 18.

If you love NASA, the Apollo program, and tastefully executed projects in general, I recommend that you should probably stay away from this movie. My extended review is coming up soon in Popshifter.

As a palate cleanser, I had to watch this vintage footage tonight, and just admire it for the gorgeousness it was. Ahhhh, nighttime Apollo launch, sans craziness.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stuff To Watch: 40390576's YouTube Channel



Saturn SA-6 onboard film, 1964, view two. The launch vehicle is a Saturn-I; the vehicle's second stage is a S-IV. Video from 40390576 on YouTube.

In my time as an amateur spaceflight historian/shuttle pimper, I've found a lot of amazing channels while surfing around on YouTube. I've decided to occasionally profile some of the interesting things one can see while looking for space-y videos on YouTube.

This channel, called "40390576" (very enigmatic!), has an impressive catalog of vintage rocket/shuttle-related footage. There are a lot of great shots of rocket stage separations (such as the footage above of a S-IV second stage separating from the Saturn I launch vehicle). Also, if explosions are your thing, this channel has the market cornered on various rocket failures from the early days of the space program. This one from 1965 was particularly impressive, and I sincerely hope no one was injured in the resulting massive conflagration.

At any rate, this channel is regularly updated, and is an amazing find for any budding rocket engineers out there, or people who merely want to watch insane sh*t blow up. Check it out, whatever your viewing hungers are; you will not be disappointed.

Monday, August 29, 2011

ISS Update: August 29, 2011

According to Space.com, NASA officials announced this morning the ISS might be de-crewed (unmanned) staring in November due to the recent Progress launch vehicle failure. This scenario could happen if Russia's space program is not underway again by that time. 

However, there is no need to panic. Ground crews are more than able to operate the space station's systems with no crew members aboard for an extended period. 

...So yeah, anyway, more of what we already know. We've all had sort of a difficult last week - I certainly did - so here's a cute picture of Gemini 3 to make us all feel a bit more cheery. 


Gemini 3 crew Gus Grissom and John Young, 1965, from Life magazine. 

UPDATE 9:25 PM EDT:  Evidently the problem with the Soyuz rocket was caused by a gas generator failure in its third stage engine, according to Russian news sources.