I had the fortune to be invited last minute to the Tweet-up with Astronaut Ron Garan at NASA Headquarters yesterday, in the place of a co-worker who couldn’t go. And then last minute, I got drafted to actually help out! Sara and I have been to several tweet-ups, but this was the first time I worked one. It was a really cool experience. I got to help check people in and then run around with the microphone for the Q&A which was a challenge since I wanted to stay out of the camera’s way, not block people, but be quick getting to those with questions. And then I felt bad for those who weren’t able to get their questions in. I tried!
I had a great time and I also was often able to get a great view of the speaker, Astronaut Ron Garan. “Astro_Ron”, as he is known on Twitter, was an F-16 pilot (how cool is that?!) who became an astronaut in 2000. He flew on STS-124 to the ISS and on his second mission, spent six months there as a member of Expedition 27. He’s ridden on both the Space Shuttle and the Soyuz. And he had a lot of great stories to tell. He really saw some amazing things like aurorae, sunrises, incoming orbiters, hurricanes, and meteor showers. (You can page through more of his amazing images from space on his Twitpic.)
During nearly an hour of Q&A, Astro Ron also showed us this gag video called “Space Station Blues – The Sequel” that they shot right before he left the Space Station. (He had been told he’d have to stay for two more months, though it only ended up being an extra week.)
As the launch countdown rapidly approached zero, STS-135 Commander Christopher Ferguson addressed Launch Director Mike Leinbach:
“Thanks to you and your team, Mike, until the very end you all made it look easy. The shuttle will always be a reflection of what a nation can do when it dares to be bold and commits to follow through. We’re not ending a journey today, we’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end. You and the thousands of men and women who have given their hearts, souls, and their lives for the cause of exploration have rewritten history. Let’s light this fire one last time and witness this great nation at its best. The crew of Atlantis is ready for launch.”
STS-135 Atlantis lifts off from pad 39A, Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
With these impassioned words still hanging in the air, the shuttle Atlantis soared gracefully up from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday July 8th, 2011 at 11:29 am and quickly slipped behind a dense cover of clouds – a spectacular bookend to the space shuttle program’s illustrious 30-year history. Read more »
The time has come to say goodbye to Space Shuttle. The program has faithfully served NASA, our country and the international community for 30 long years, and now it’s time for an era to come to a close. The final Shuttle launch occurred mere minutes ago, down at Kennedy Space Center.
In honor of this historic and bittersweet event, we’ve compiled a special Awesomeness Round-Up all about the Space Shuttle. And stay tuned in the coming days as I (Faith) traveled down to Florida – along with over 1 million other space enthusiasts – to view the launch!
STS-135 crew members Chris Ferguson, left, Douglas Hurley, second from left, Sandra Magnus, and Rex Walheim, right, pose for a group photograph atop of the Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) as the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) rolls out of High Bay 3 in the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39a for its final flight, Tuesday evening, May 31, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The 3.4-mile trek, known as “rollout,” will take about seven hours to complete. Atlantis will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module to deliver supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station. The launch of STS-135 is targeted for July 8. Caption Credit: NASA, Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
As you may or may not know, each “morning,” the astronauts aboard the shuttle are woken up with specially selected music. Sometimes they get the original band to play the tune, sometimes it’s a favorite song or a parody (during the last Hubble servicing mission, I have it on good authority that a parody of Hotel California written by someone on the project was used), or sometimes the public votes on it.
And sometimes, it’s…Captain Kirk?
Our question to you is this:
Blueshift ponders: What song or message would you want to send the last two shuttle crews for a wake-up call?
This Red Rover cartoon was recently posted on NASA.gov in honor of the astronauts that have lots their lives in the pursuit of space exploration, and we wanted to share it with our readers too.
It’s a sad and thoughtful time of year for NASA, as we mark the anniversaries of three tragic accidents. The astronauts of Apollo 1 perished 44 years ago on January 27th, Challenger was lost 25 years ago on January 28th – and the tragic loss of Columbia occurred 8 years ago on this date. NASA held a Day of Remembrance last week to honor and mourn the sacrifices of these brave astronauts.
Blueshift Ponders: Some events define a generation. What are your memories of these events? Where were you? What are your hopes for the future of space exploration?
Ok, most of us at NASA aren’t astronauts and will be having normal Earth-food for Thanksgiving, but have you ever wondered what Thanksgiving is like for astronauts in space?
Last year, astronauts Jeff Williams and Nicole Stott made a little video to show what they’d be eating for Thanksgiving on the International Space Station (ISS). In additional to traditional turkey, they also had foods from NASA’s partner countries!
This past weekend, I attended an unconference called SpaceUP DC, which drew together space enthusiasts from near and far to talk about the future of space exploration and advocacy. It’s an “unconference” because it’s not like a regular professional conference – it’s much more free-form, and attendees determine the structure, schedule, and sessions on the spot! It was invigorating to be collaborating and networking with a diverse crowd who all love space!
Topics discussed at SpaceUP DC covered a wide variety of topics (you can see the final session schedule on the wiki), but there was a lot of emphasis on where we should go next: in manned and unmanned exploration, in public and private exploration, and in outreach and advocacy. There was a lot of discussion about the future. So we wanted to ask you:
Blueshift Ponders: What big things do you hope to see next in space exploration?
Photo taken by Voyager 1, one of only four human-made objects to leave our solar system.
What happens when planets form around a tightly orbiting binary star system? A cosmic smashup! As this particular type of binary stars get cozier, they cause a disturbance in the force… err, I mean, in their gravitational influences on their local planetary system. Things start colliding, and it’s not pretty for the planets involved. It does create a lovely glowing disk of dust, which you can see in the next image. It’s also worth reading the associated press release from Spitzer, which points out that the residents of a planet in one of these systems would see two suns in the sky, just like on Tatooine. Not sure if that’s worth living on a planet that’s likely to be pulverized, but it would be pretty awesome.
When you were a kid, dreaming of the future, did you expect to have a flying car someday? Or to live on the Moon? Traveling into space has fueled the dreams of many people, but the reality is that space flight is difficult and expensive. Though escaping Earth’s gravity to reach orbit is a real challenge, it is much easier and less expensive to take sub-orbital flights – that is, those that reach an altitude of 100 km (approximately 62 miles) above Earth. This may prove to be an affordable way for scientists to do science in space, especially with the technology to do these getting close to being ready for use.
One of our scientists, Joe Hill, builds x-ray and gamma ray instruments… and she also wants to be an astronaut. Recently, she was given the opportunity to participate in sub-orbital scientist training, which took her one step closer to realizing her dream of going into space.
Working at NASA can provide unique and exciting job opportunities. It can be the chance of a lifetime to work on a satellite and see the products of your hard work launched into space. The flip side is that many projects only span a few years, so your dream job may not last forever. Many of us change projects routinely – and also have to deal with some level of uncertainty concerning employment.
There are, however, some long-running projects at NASA – and the Hubble Space Telescope is one of them. HST was carried into orbit nearly twenty years ago, and it has been serviced by astronauts four times. Each repair of Hubble called for specialized skills that may or may not be applicable elsewhere. With Servicing Mission 4 successfully complete, we wanted to find out what the people who spent years (and perhaps their entire careers) on Hubble were doing now that the final servicing mission is done.