Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kennedy Space Center 50th Anniversary/MSL NASA Social...Yeah, I'll Be There

Happy 50th Anniversary, Kennedy Space Center! Photoshop masterpiece courtesy of Scott at Play Space on Tumblr. My most gracious thanks to you, sir!

One of my favorite places in the world, Kennedy Space Center, is celebrating its 50th year. On Thursday, August 2, and Friday, August 3, NASA is inviting 50 of its social media followers to a NASA Social celebrating this accomplishment. I will be there!

So yeah, expect lots of Internet-shrieking and fangirling from my side of the world later this week. I intend to be blogging from the event and I promise to take lots of photos. Also, dear reader, you can follow me on my personal Twitter account, as I'll be updating that too. 

We will also be treated to a preview of MSL's upcoming landing, which will be about as challenging as fitting three gallons of crazy into a two gallon bucket (I did not make up that phrase...a good friend did, and it's apt to describe MSL's landing).

So yeah, if you don't like lots of updates about the Space Coast and other happenings in that area, you can feel free to...

Deal With It Dave strikes again. Dave Scott, before Apollo 15, 1971 NASA photo. Lolz added by me. Because I had to get a gratuitous mention of Apollo 15 in here (it's also Apollo 15's 41st anniversary this week!). 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Grief - 7/23/2012

STS-7 crew, 1983. Sally Ride, John Fabian, Bob Crippen, Norman Thagard and Fred Hauck. 

I hate it when people write tributes or ruminations about people they admired and attempt to make the piece about their own life, rather selfishly, but in this case, I'm going to have to make a departure. 

I remember when Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space with her STS-7 flight in 1983. In 1963, the USSR sent the first woman into space, Valentina Tereshkova. It took our country 20 years to get with the program and send our own women into space; the Mercury 13 were rather unceremoniously blocked from being womankind's first foray into spaceflight in the 1960s. Sally Ride was literally the first woman who entered my consciousness as having a career in science. For me, this was a huge deal and I wanted to be like her some day, having an awesome career in any field of my choosing. Because of her, I really think I was able to do that. The next big role model I remember was Judith Resnik, also a great astronaut and scientist.

I got the news of Sally's passing from my husband as I walked in the door; I had just gotten home from work. It was a good thing he gave the news to me after work, as I am a bit of an emotional mess...I flashed back to all of those spaceflight books I devoured as a kid and remembered how awesome, carefree and smart Sally seemed, with her flying hair and her jaunty smile. Did it really seemed like those days would ever end? Not this soon. Just looking at the achievements of my female friends in all fields - not just science - one can understand how Sally Ride did so much for us and made so much eminently possible in our lifetimes.

Here's the official press release. Like I said, I loathe self-serving tributes...I hate it when people equate others' losses with themselves, if that even makes any sense. But Sally really made a very positive impact on my life and I know she made a huge impact on the lives of so many young women. Her death will not end that, as death never really ends anything. I know the stars are a better place tonight, because of her. 

"...In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night."

 - Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, The Little Prince 

Sally's handprints, from the Space Walk of Fame Museum, Titusville, Florida. Photo by Emily Carney.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Happy (Belated) Moon Day: Here's Neil Armstrong Eating Fried Chicken

On July 20, 1969, this quiet, unassuming Ohioan flew a spaceship to the moon and became the first man to walk on its surface. Our hats are off to you on your big anniversary, sir. Enjoy your chicken.

The gang's all here: Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins and Neil, with an inflatable moon.

Both photos are from Life magazine, 1969.

Monday, July 16, 2012

John Young's Greatest Hits, Part 2

Crip's all business, while John is a clown. STS-1 25th anniversary talk, 2006. 

If you ever had doubts about John Young's comedy prowess, watch this clip here (it's 53 minutes long, so get some tea and a snack). 

  • John discusses what would have happened if software hadn't canceled out aerodynamic sideslip on STS-1 ("You'd still be lookin' for us...");
  • Calls modern lunar/interplanetary landing techniques for "a bunch of sissies";
  • Just watch the entire clip. Seriously. The whole thing is hilarious. "How many of y'all worked on Gemini?"
I just reread Andrew Smith's book, Moondust, and giggled at John all over again. He was blatantly trolling the poor interviewer there by not looking at him and basically being a smartass, but it had a great result. John's contribution is one of the greatest parts of the book and I think revealed the most about him (well, more than other books have, but his memoir is on its way...). Viva John forever!

Pool partiez, 1969. Life magazine photo.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hey Guys, Remember That Time We Nuked Space?

The resulting explosion from the Starfish Prime warhead over Maui, July 9, 1962. Photo from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Death, pretty death!

...How could possibly anything go wrong?

As most people know, the United States and the former Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War during the 1950s and 1960s. The "Space Race," in part, happened due to the Cold War, as the U.S. wanted to outdo everything and anything the USSR had to offer. It's no secret that during this period, there was a lot of nuclear testing, both underground and above ground. Well, at some point, both the U.S. and USSR decided it was a good idea to see what would happen if they nuked space. Yes. SPACE WAS NUKED. I didn't make that up. 

Starfish Prime was detonated 250 miles above the Earth on July 9, 1962. To this day, it remains the biggest high-altitude nuclear explosion and its effects were momentous. Above, one can view the magnificent aurora caused by the explosion - beta particles were attracted to the planet's magnetic field and lit up the sky like a Christmas tree. However, high-energy electrons formed radiation belts. This would cause problems...the following day, Telstar 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral, becoming the first communications satellite to relay television pictures. It orbited along the Van Allen Belt, which had been energized by the nuclear warhead's blast. Within a few months, the radiation damaged its electronics, causing it to fail. By February 21, 1963, the satellite failed, although it is still in Earth's orbit (amazingly enough). Over the next few months, seven satellites failed due to radiation bombardment. The effects of Starfish Prime were felt through 1968, more than five years after the explosion. 

In conclusion, here's a lesson learned: don't send stuff, in general - living or dead - into space along the path of a very recent nuclear detonation. You might get a bad sunburn, or worse. 

For further reading, check out this 1964 NASA report on the effects of high-altitude nuclear explosions.