Saturday, August 23, 2008

To the moon!

For some time now, there have been rumors floating around that there are plans being bandied about to skip the lunar missions of Constellation altogether. The alternate proposal, it seems, is to land astronauts on an asteroid.
(Note: If it's Bruce Willis we're sending to an asteroid, I fully support this change of plans.)

Anyhow, in the comments section of one article from Aviation Week, someone posted this doozy:

We should concentrate on building a time machine. Then no matter what China does, we can go back before them and stop it. We can also go back to 1952 and buy all of the Mickey Mantle rookie cards and finance a trip to Pluto just in case the Brazilians have any plans. We see the way you are looking at Pluto, Brazil.

I LOL'd.

Spitzer Image

A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveals generations of stars amid a cavity carved from a colorful cosmic cloud. The striking infrared picture shows a region, called W5, which is similar to N44F, or the "Celestial Geode" that was discussed in a Universe Today article last week. The gas cavity, which looks similar to a geode-like cavity found in some rocks, is carved by the stellar wind and intense ultraviolet radiation from hot stars. W5 is studded with stars of various ages, and provides new evidence that massive stars – through their brute winds and radiation – can trigger the birth of new stars.

-Universe Today

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's like Groundhog Day.


I am grateful that you let me see interviews with the STS-125 crew.
They seem really swell, to a person.
That Megan McArthur is just precious, and Mike Massimino comes across as extremely likable, just a neat guy to have a beer with.
I am very interested in the final Hubble servicing mission, and all that.
STS-125 is sure to be a great success with those seven people as its crew.

But in the name of all that is holy, can you PLEASE stop playing it 24/7?
I miss the ISS coverage. I miss "NASA Edge." I miss "Space Place Live."
Hell, I even miss the footage of random guys standing around while a random truck backs into a random building to unload who-knows-what.

Thank you for your consideration.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Call CDOT. They'll have it ready for you by 2030. 2050, tops.

There's a big problem with Kennedy Space Center playing host to the Constellation Program: The heavy-lift rocket, Ares V, may be too heavy for the infrastructure to cope with. The crawlerway is a 40 year old road designed for the Saturn V (Apollo Program) crawler-transporters and is currently used to carry the Shuttle up to 6.8km (4.2 miles) from assembly building to launch pad. The crawlerway may be unable to withstand the weight of the fully-laden Ares V, transporter and mobile launch pad; a combined weight 33% heavier than anything the Kennedy crawlerway has ever supported.

I saw a hysterical comment about this matter on some site. It read:

When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a 10.9 million kilogram rocket on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, lad, the strongest rocketship in all the world.

I died.

Pants on fire.

A launch last weekend by Iran that the country's government claimed put a satellite into orbit was, in fact, a failure, according to information provided by US intelligence sources. The launch, which took place Saturday but not announced by Iran until Sunday, reportedly put a dummy or simple test satellite into orbit. However, US sources say that the second stage broke up during ascent, at an altitude above 150 kilometers, based on monitoring from a US Navy vessel in the Persian Gulf and satellite observations. Iranian officials still claim publicly that the launch is a success, although they have backed off from initial claims that it placed a satellite into orbit.

Chicago Sinfonietta presents Gustav Holst's "The Planets"

Chicago Sinfonietta
The 2008/2009 season

The Planets at Millennium Park

Millenium Park

Friday, August 22, 2008, 7:30 pm
Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park

The Chicago Sinfonietta performing Holst's The Planets

Due to popular demand, the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Adler Planetarium present an encore performance of our legendary sight and sound spectacular on Chicago’s most spectacular stage.

Astronomer and visual artist Dr. José Francisco Salgado’s breathtaking video suite is projected on a giant screen while the orchestra performs Gustav Holst’s dramatic masterwork. Immerse yourself in this unforgettable pageant of sight and sound.

Adler PlanetariumVector and Pixels Unlimited

A co-production of the Adler Planetarium and Vectors & Pixels Unlimited

This concert is free and open to the public.

Kay: Overture to the Theater Set
Ginastera: Estancia Dances
Holst: The Planets

Special thanks to the Pritzker Foundation for their generous support.

I'll certainly be there eating space cheese and drinking space champagne*.

*Okay, space sparkling wine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy birthday to the astronaut person with the most cumbersome name ever.

Many happy returns to Jean-Loup Jacques Marie Chretien, astronautical jack-of-all-trades.

Chretien trained with both the Russian and US programs, and served as a crewman on Soyuz, Mir, and STS-86.

In fact, he served on Mir's EO-4, which was also one of Aleksandr Volkov's Mir missions. The adorable Sergey Volkov, Aleksandr's son, is the current Commander of ISS Expedition 17.
And Sergey Volkov's favorite actor is Kevin Bacon.

(Okay, I made that last bit up.)

Hang in there, Space Coasters.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In which I see the most awesome thing ever.

Friday night, I met up with some friends at Millennium "We weren't 4 years late, we were 996 years early" Park to hear my friend Michelle and the rest of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus sing the final concert of the free GPSO Summer Concert Series.
The concert didn't start until 8:30 PM, because the Chicago Air and Water Show was going on, and I guess the GPSO wanted to ensure that they wouldn't be drowned out by FA-18s.
There was a fireworks show at 9, but we didn't even hear it from MP.
So the evening was wonderful and we were enjoying everything, when suddenly:

The sky started falling.

I was sitting on the western edge of MP, so the Aon Center (the 3rd tallest building in Chicago) was just east of my northern view, then a space of maybe 3" if you held up your fingers to measure, then more buildings.

There was no air traffic at this point. A very, very bright UFO (unidentified falling object) was suddenly visible. We first noticed it at about 1000' altitude, and watched it fall all the way to about 400'. Then it disappeared behind the buildings.
Towards the end, it appeared to split into two pieces.

We were amazed, and didn't know what to make of it. It was so close, so beautiful.
Everyone in our immediate area was stunned.

About 2 to 2 1/2 minutes later, it happened again, but this time, it was three smaller pieces falling at the same rate, at the same angle. Again, we were stunned.

Then about 5 minutes later, it happened for the last time - same sort of thing, but toward the end it appeared to zigzag a bit.

Then, my husband thought, "Oh, maybe it's skydivers with magnesium flares!"
I replied that if that was the AWS's skydiving show, it sucked. It was totally random, no rhyme or reason.

I talked to other Chicagoans the next day who had been in the same area. They said, "Ohhhh, did you see the end of the Air Show?! Wasn't it cool?"

Now, keep in mind, this happened at about 10PM, long after the Air Show ended.

So I told them, "That couldn't have been the Air Show. It was too late, and it was too random."
Skydiving is a very precise, very orchestrated "show", particularly when they dive at night with flares. The only way this meteor-shower nut can describe it? It looked like the coolest falling stars you've ever seen, but it definitely looked like falling stars.

The next day, Tom Skilling from WGN (incidentally, the nation's HIGHEST-PAID weatherman, period) reported that the Perseids were still falling and very visible in Chicago's skies.
He did NOT, however, mention this event, just that many people were still seeing meteorites.

My opinion? So many people (like my friends at work) saw it and thought, "That's the Air Show", even though it happened an hour after the show ended.
The rest of the people? Maybe they thought, "Oh, that's pretty cool" and then went back to talking about Lindsay Lohan being gay.

I wish someone who knows about these things and maybe saw it (HELLO, ADLER!) would comment on it.

UPDATE: I found one mention of a woman seeing four shootings stars over the Lake.
(FYI, if you are sitting on the west edge of Millennium Park looking due North, you are actually looking straight towards Lake Michigan. The shoreline curves (think the S-curve on Lake Shore Drive near the Drake Hotel), so the ones she saw could have certainly been the ones I saw.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Launch of Soyuz TM-24

[Above: Валерий Григорьевич Корзун]

This date in 1996, Soyuz TM-24 launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome enroute to Fred Sanford's salvage yard Russian space station Mir.
Onboard were Aleksandr Kaleri and one of my very favorite cosmonauts space travelers of any country ever, Valeriy Korzun.

Mir EO-22 would become one of the most dangerous famous expeditions, giving us fun times like the Great Space Fire of '96, during which Valeriy's hands were badly burned had absolutely nothing of consequence happen to them, and the Great Human Waste Container Crisis of '96, during which the crew had to "improvise" storage for their space pee and space poo. Nice.
Korzun spent tons of time talking to amateur radio enthusiasts around the globe; he was really into this hobby. If it had been me, every single transmission I made would have been, "Get me off this piece of shit NOW."
But by all accounts, Korzun is good-natured and patient and professional and has a much less vulgar mouth than I do, so he kept a sunny outlook and a stiff upper lip and just talked about fun space stuff with average Joes around the world.

Undeterred by EO-22's mishaps and by TsUP's blaming of crisis after crisis on the cosmonauts, Valeriy went on to fly on STS-111 and was a crewman of ISS Expedition 5.

Valeriy Korzun is freaking awesome, and if I had the chance to meet one single cosmonaut, he'd be it.