Thursday, August 28, 2008

Do you sometimes find yourself missing the old secretive, paranoid Soviet-style Russia?

[Poster: "Keep your mouth shut!" by Nina Vatolina, 1941]

Me too!

[Pats you on head.]

Here, honey. Feel better.

In the interest of fair time, may I also present the hilarious official NASA version on the whole DAM affair:

Conjunction Update:
Using ATV thrusters, the ISS performed a 1 m/s braking burn yesterday at 12:11pm EDT to remove the risk of collision with an orbital object,- #33246 (part of the Kosmos-2421 satellite). The retrograde firing of 5 min 2 sec duration resulted in a mean altitude loss of ~1.77 km. Propellant usage: ~98 kg of ATV prop, leaving ~190 kg in “Jules Verne” prior to undock (possibly with some margin, to be assessed by ESA) and ~320 kg of Progress/SM props for attitude control of the stack. A second possible conjunction with another piece (#33248) of Kosmos-2421 has been identified for tomorrow (8/29) at 9:09pm EDT, currently predicted to be in the RED box. This would require another DAM (Debris Avoidance Maneuver), but more tracking is required for a burn decision. Estimated prime TIG (Time of Ignition): tomorrow 7:00pm. Prop strategy is currently under study. If a second DAM is necessary tomorrow, using ATV prop, the Progress 29P undocking on 9/1 (Monday) can be supported by SM thrusters. Ballistic calculations must continue to account for future Soyuz launch, Soyuz landing and Shuttle ULF2 launch/rendezvous constraints.

Ah, bureaucracy!

Wonder if anybody is walking around KSC today saying, "BAAAADGES?!"

According to reports, the security badges used by KSC are real fun until someone loses an eye.

On August 15th, a NASA Safety Notice issued at Kennedy Space Center warned that NASA's new Identity Stronghold badge holder has the "potential to introduce dangerous Foreign Object Damage (FOD) to flight hardware areas and can cause personnel injury if the metal clips are installed improperly."
The badge holder's metal clasps, if installed backwards, "will become a projectile when the badge is opened creating a potential eye injury hazard," the Safety Notice says. "When removing your badge, do not point end with metal clips towards your face or another person."


We trust them to assemble solid rocket boosters but we can't trust them to properly assemble a security badge?

And I know that NASA is full of light-hearted pranksters , but do they have to take it to the "pointing metal clips towards other people" level?

Folks, when security badges are outlawed, only outlaws will have security badges.

Huh. I work with a lot of Putzes, too.

I see that today is the 108th birthday of Oswald Putze, a German rocket engineer who became a USSR rocket engineer following the post-WW2 relocation.

In the immortal words of the US immigrant German rocket engineer in The Right Stuff, "Our Germans are better than their Germans."

Way to go, Chamitoff.

[Below: The culprit downloads porn and plays a little pirated Grand Theft Auto to pass the time. Probably.]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy birthday, Sergei Krikalyov a.k.a. Sergei Krikalev.

Happy birthday to one half of the "last citizens of the Soviet Union."

(The other half being ISS Expedition 17 commander Sergey Volkov's father Aleksandr - Volkov and Krikalyov were aboard Mir on December 21, 1991 when the USSR collapsed. When they left earth, they were citizens of the USSR; when they returned, a few things had changed, and they were citizens of Russia. Thus, they have the distinction of being the "last Soviets.")

Sergei Krikalyov is a cool cat.

The craziness which surrounded him during his time on Mir is way too involved to write about here. I don't have 2 weeks for one post.

The events of Sergei's space travel seemed at times a comedy of errors, though I am sure it wasn't funny to Krikalyov.

Fires, collisions, Volkov's spacesuit malfunctioning during EVA, a banged-up leg due to a hard landing, having to start calling your hometown "St. Petersburg" after knowing it as "Leningrad" your whole life, watching your country crumble, having to rethink your entire identity... really, nothing else could have happened to poor Sergei during that damn Mir EO-4.

Undeterred by the black cloud which overshadowed EO-4, Sergei would go on to serve on three shuttle missions (in fact, he was the very first cosmonaut to fly aboard a space shuttle) and two Space Station Expeditions, including the very first. It was Krikalyov who first placed icons (there are now dozens) in the Zvezda module of the ISS during Expedition 1.

He also received the beautiful icon "Theotokos of Valaam" while serving on Expedition 11. The icon arrived on an unmanned Progress supply ship, and Our Lady would make more than 1,000 orbits around the earth before she headed back home with her fellow space travelers.

Sergei Krikalyov accumulated more time in orbit than any other human being, 803 days, 9 hours and 39 minutes. He is now the VP of RKK Energia. Go fig.

Volcanic sunsets.

Above: Sunset in Princeton, Indiana, as photographed by Misty Lundberg.
The eruptions of Kasatochi and two other volcanoes in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska are creating red sunsets all across the United States.
Says atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley: "Volcanic eruptions hurl gigantic clouds of fine dust and sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere where high winds spread them around the globe. Sulfur dioxide forms aerosols; these and the dust scatter sunlight to give us red skies, twilight rays and Bishop’s rings. I’m getting many reports of unusual sunsets – look up!"
Check out the entire article (and more photos) at

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cassini, 4 years and counting.

New vidja from JPL.

More on noctilucent clouds.

Below: Noctilucent clouds photographed by ISS Expedition 17 crew:

Atmospheric scientist Gary Thomas of the University of Colorado has seen thousands of noctilucent cloud (NLC) photos, and he ranks this one among the best. "It's lovely," he says. "And it shows just how high these clouds really are--at the very edge of space."

He estimates the electric-blue band was 83 km above Earth's surface, higher than 99.999% of our planet's atmosphere. The sky at that altitude is space-black. It is the realm of meteors, high-energy auroras and decaying satellites.

What are clouds doing up there? "That's what we're trying to find out," says Thomas.

People first noticed NLCs at the end of the 19th century after the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. The Indonesian supervolcano hurled plumes of ash more than 50 km high in Earth's atmosphere. This produced spectacular sunsets and, for a while, turned twilight sky watching into a worldwide pastime. One evening in July 1885, Robert Leslie of Southampton, England, saw wispy blue filaments in the darkening sky. He published his observations in the journal Nature and is now credited with the discovery of noctilucent clouds.

Scientists of the 19th century figured the clouds were some curious manifestation of volcanic ash. Yet long after Krakatoa's ash settled, NLCs remained.

"It's a puzzle," says Thomas. "Noctilucent clouds have not only persisted, but also spread." In the beginning, the clouds were confined to latitudes above 50o; you had to go to places like Scandinavia, Siberia and Scotland to see them. In recent years, however, they have been sighted from mid-latitudes such as Washington, Oregon, Turkey and Iran.


(From a link I found on Space Weather which redirects to an article at

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cosmic "needle in a haystack"

A massive cluster of galaxies seen in the distant universe by ESA’s orbiting XMM-Newton x-ray observatory is so big that astronomers believe there can only be a few of them that far away in space and time. “Such massive galaxy clusters are thought to be rare objects in the distant Universe," said Georg Lamer, Astrophysikalisches Institut in Potsdam, Germany. "They can be used to test cosmological theories. Indeed, the very presence of this cluster confirms the existence of a mysterious component of the Universe called dark energy.” The astronomers compared the rare find to a cosmic 'needle in a haystack.'

Entire article over at Universe Today

Sunday, August 24, 2008


ATK sub-orbital rocket failure from the other day.

I once saw a rocket failure which was a thousand times cooler than this.
Alas, no video.