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Monthly archive September, 2009

A National Space Tweetup

The tweetup concept and philosophy is one of the most promising methods for getting us in touch with those who are making space exploration history and also with those who are planning its future.  That future, by the way, is THE future not just for this nation but globally. When we talk about space exploration, we must think about it in the context of we-citizens-of-planet-Earth.

So what about this National Space Tweetup?  Simple, we initiate through NASA and the White House a tweetup at NASA HQ with Administrator Bolden and President Obama. What?  Yes, Bolden needs to know the kind of support he really has from the public, and President Obama needs to know how important our space plans are for the future of the entire world.  Letters and phone calls help, but a tweetup lays it on the line.  Eye to eye, heart to heart, both leaders get to know where we stand.

If the President can go public and attend many town hall meeting about health care reform, he should be open to attending one, major town hall (tweetup) about humankind’s’ future.  He does not even have to travel far to attend, just down the street from the White House. He could even walk it he wanted to.  Most importantly, we could have the greatest health care system in the world, but if we drop the ball on our space future, good health is not going make much difference.  Fear tactics used here?  No, just firm reality tactics!

I cannot believe any of us would want to not try for this considering the tremendous risks, sacrifices, and contributions that have been made by so many over the long, long years of our efforts to reach out into space.  Hold it, I hear cheers from Galileo, Goddard, Hubble, and every astronaut who has laid it on the line for us and space exploration. Lets not ignore those cries of encouragement.  Lets get together now, and tweet up a plan and make the contacts.  Most importantly lets get it done before Congress processes the future of space exploration.

If you are a believer, if you look up and are uplifted in spirit and hope then come on lets get this tweetup going. 

Astronomy at the Software Freedom Day 2009

On Saturday September 19th, a major event in the promotion for Free Software (Free as in “Free Speech” and not as in “Free Beer”) took place in more than 500 cities around the World: the Software Freedom Day.

Free Software has become a very important tool for making and teaching Science. Client computer software such as Stellarium, Celestia, KStars and Xephem (for Sky simulators), VLC (for video broadcasting), QAstroCam, wxAstroCapture (for astrophotography) and Fldigi (for Amateur Radio Digital Signaling) are among the best in their own categories.

As an Amateur Astronomers Society that makes an extensive use of this kind of tools, ANASA  teamed up with Nicaraguan SFD’s organizers and readied a workshop for Stellarium. Also we installed a promotional stand. People gathered around, showing real interest in Space and our activities. Several copies for Stellarium were uploaded to their memory sticks.


And with this public appearance, we have fulfilled another goal in our local IYA’s activities. We still have one Astronomy Pictures Public Gallery and several web-conferences with Central American Amateur Astronomers. Everything looks good  at the moment! :)

 You can find pictures for this event clicking on this link:


Clear Skies!

An astronaut is born, and is wearing a dream

In June 2009 I told on the Google Lunar X PRIZE blog how my friend Samantha Cristoforetti was selected in May 2009 to become a new ESA astronaut. On September 1, 2009 she reported to ESA for beginning basic training.

Now I have just run across this photo posted to Twitter by space tweep @travelholic. It shows Samantha distributing autographed photos at an ESA public outreach event (see the full size version). When I saw her uniform and the patches on it, I fell over my chair — again — with excitement. I personally find this photo moving, and wanted to share it with fellow space tweeps.

UK space enthusiasts should also have a look at this photo. I hope they will feel equally moved by the same uniform and patches worn by the man sitting next to Samantha: Timothy Peake.

‘Space Talk’ Podcast Episode #2 – Space Exploraton and the Media

Another great podcast episode by some of our great members rolls out…

“This week Our panel takes on the topic of how the main stream media in general covers the US Space Program”

Host this week: Gene Mikulka. Panel Members: Mark Ratterman, Gina Herlihy  Sawyer Rosenstein. Announcer: Russ Dale , Space Tweep Theme Composed by: Todd Cecilio. Special thanks to all of the members of the Space Tweep Society (http://spacetweepsociety.org)  The folks at Spacevidcast (http://www.spacevidcast.com), & Andy Gruswitz at the Apple Store in Rockaway NJ for their support! Show Recorded – Sunday, 9/13/2009

Listen Here!

International cooperation, or national isolation?

If we want to get out there, as the human race we naturally want to explore. But should each nation be going it alone? The ISS has been so successful due to the huge cooperation from everyone, would we have had those wonderful moments aboard the ISS where every person on board was from a different country. I think international working together will be the only way forward in space travel successfulness and progress.

The USA is having trouble getting the funds together to actually get back to the moon any time soon. If other leading countries, e.g. France, UK, Canada, Japan etc, would cooperate, then each nation would jointly fund the moon missions as well as the ISS. The total money one country needs to pay is decided by that countries wealth, so therefore, America would pay most, as they have more money to give than UK, France, etc. 

It upsets me about this talk of, ‘who will get back to the moon first, USA, Russia, China, etc etc’ as I just feel that we should be working and helping each other to, not only better a nation’s strength and pride, but to better the whole world! Why not have an International Moon Base (IMB) where any nation that is part of the project can send their people, have all participating nations’ flags erected around the front of it, in a UN HQ style? Think how much space exploration would be boosted if we had not only the US flag on the moon, but the Union Jack, the French flag, etc. It would make those countries want to do more to help. All they would have to do is give money and funding, or design/build something; as soon as they do this they would get their flag on the moon, and an agreement that eventually an astronaut from that country would land on the moon. Now if that wouldn’t boost the space industry, I don’t know what would!

Working together we can accomplish so much more, so why does it have to stop with moon exploration, why can’t we put our differences aside and explore the solar system? Why can’t they set up an International Space Agency that countries sign up to if they want to? I am sure most nations would be able to see the benefits of these.  

I could write for days on this topic, but I would not want to bore you. 

If you take the time to read this, then thanks. I would also like to hear your views on this. 


Can We Use “The Gap” to Reprioritize?

Ok, so I’m taking my turn and reading the Augustine Commission’s Summary
Report on HSF plans. I got through the first page and was already thinking to
myself, “I have words to say.” So… Maybe this gap might not be such the bad thing
that it’s being made out to be. Perhaps it would be a good time to regroup, and
get the world together in support of our lofty ambitions for the space program.
It’s unanimous among all space enthusiasts that the goal is to push the
envelope beyond LEO, return to the Moon, then tackle Mars. But, when I discuss
these completely achievable plans with others I get doubtful stares—“Mars?” I
wonder about the proportion of people that have no clue that there are people
conducting science in space this very
moment. It is disturbing that shuttle launches, at the very least, are not even
adequately covered! So I think of how realistic it would be to expect the
support of the federal government, the representative of the people of the
country, and the world, and their needs and desires (in theory anyways). Maybe
this is too much of a top-down approach.
    I wish I had some specific suggestions, at the moment, as to where to begin, but I’m just thinking that we should start over at the bottom. We know what we want, but maybe the general public needs to see
some real practicality in space program ambitions, with the state of the
world’s economy as it is. Without this, the plans will never fly. 
    Jumping around a little, science education needs a serious overhaul.
Let’s conquer the world’s problems through promoting science, and thus the space
program. Since there isn’t enough to blast off to Mars right now, let’s dump
lots of money into teaching. While continuing space activity as much as
possible, maybe through unmanned exploration, how can we integrate the public
more in the meantime? No progression can ever be achieved if we don’t continue to explore and
discover the uncharted. I don’t think people consider this regularly. The
world is changing so fast and this is necessary! Children are not being taught
to inquire, create, and to dream big. Before my writing starts to get really fluffy, I’m going to get back to
reading the Augustine report. Be back in a minute…  
    As far as keeping the space program alive, let’s use the commercial
avenue to get people pumped on space. Is that not what drives this country?
Government grants, to promote development of new technology and advances, have
worked before and it can work again! And for the record, I think the ISS should be
kept alive and well for as long as possible. It would be a great tourist stop
if we could work with other countries to get more people into space. To me, it
seems like international partnerships are the way to keep the program going. Japan is on the scene now and I’m sure they won’t be the last ones. I vote them in. China is getting the Amazon I hear, and so they also
want the moon, for fuel. Let’s see what they find, or better yet, let’s work with them.
Ready… Go!
    Oh… what is my point? Ah, long, rambling story short: Mars isn’t going anywhere any
time soon. Let’s take this time and turn it into something good. Let’s grow
lots of great scientists and engineers, and work on a real, robust plan. First
order of business: get some tangible problems for the general public to fester
on, to which space is the only logical solution! Technologically, we may have
the means, but what exactly is the end? I’m ready for comments or

Spacesuit helmet – LOLspace

Space is a harsh environment requiring appropriate protection, as this goofy kitten sort of understands.

spacesuit helmet

New to LOLspace? See: LOLspace, the space lolcats.

The “Good, Bad, and Ugly” of Option 5B of the Augustine Committee Report

In an effort to draft a petition from Space Tweeps to the
Senate Sub-Committee on Science and Space, I came up with Option 5B as the one
that holds the greatest immediate promise for a continuation of America’s human
exploration of space.

Despite that decision, there are parts of that option that
are not so good and some parts seem to ignore to some degree the important
scientific and historic contributions made by NASA.  So here is my personal analysis.  I hope you read it and then make your own
decision and express that decision directly to the sub-committee.  Don’t worry I will tell you how later on.

The Good:

It keeps NASA and
America on track with a definite focus on space exploration
, albeit
gradually. This is the strongest good feature in this option.  It also extends the shuttle until 2011 and it
extends the ISS until 2020. Vitality of research and innovation are sustained.

The positive
inclusion of the private sector
in the broad space exploration goals of
this nation is a definite positive both for greater access to innovation, and
the fact that the private sector picks up a share of the overall costs. This is
also one whopping stimulus for high-tech and support-related space industry
employment opportunities.  Space industry
also becomes a full reality not just a media buzz word.

international, joint ventures
are the only realistic answer, and Option
5B gets this ball rolling. As the committee notes there is insufficient funds
to cover any aspect of our current goals. Most importantly, this realization
actually becomes a corollary in that the more we extend ourselves into outer
space the more it will cost. This means that no single entity (agency,
corporation or nation) is going to be able to foot the entire bill. We must

The Bad:

The committee states in this option that
NASA will structurally change.
The impression that is left is that NASA will be essentially
disassembled into a basically research and administration agency. If this
should happen, as I interpret it, we would lose an important and incredible
resource of experience, research and motivation that are all absolute
essentials in our future space exploration efforts. In saying this, I admit
that my recommendation for NASA to be elevated to a cabinet position (see my
blog here: The Department of Space Science and Exploration) in the
administration would do some disassembly, but not in a wholesale fashion.


To offset the bad, NASA should remain the focal point of all space exploration
efforts as a research and exploration coordination agency and as a key player
in international joint ventures.  NASA
should also establish and monitor all national space science goals regardless
of whether they are undertaken by public or private entities.  This focus is critical to make sure that
space exploration becomes and is sustained as an endeavor by the citizens of
planet Earth, not by any single or many nations or corporations. To accomplish
this, NASA, as I have already advocated, must become a cabinet level
organization in order to successfully fulfill all its obligations and to
effectively promote and support international joint ventures.


In summary, NASA should change under
Option 5B
, but for the better and with much expanded responsibility for
the successful integration of both national and international space exploration
goals. In this respect it essentially exceeds, possibly even replaces the muted
UN involvement.


The Ugly:

We are going to be adding a lot of cooks
in the space science kitchen.
This is generally good and has the potential for incredible innovation
and advancement.  There will be vigorous
competition, which again is good, but can introduce a potential and deadly
flaw: safety.


Safety in
this respect covers not only the lives of our national and international
spacefarers (astronauts and space tourists); it must be expanded to cover
safety in the orbital zones that surround this planet. This must include both a
system to police and dispose of space junk, and a positive and active Near
Earth Object (NEO) detection and dispersal (move or destroy) system. We must
detect and interdict those NEOs that are a definite hazard to this planet, and
we must also protect our space faring investments.


Until we have a well established and
fully industrialized and scientific civilization on another planetary body, we
have only Earth as our key resource to support our explorations.
 Our NEO detection and interdiction programs
right now are at best haphazard because of funding issues and a variable level
of attention.  We cannot afford to lose
our very wherewithal to move forward; therefore this safety issue must be given
the highest priority.  We are not going
to colonize any planet in the immediate future, but an NEO can mess up our
lives and future- tomorrow.  Right now there is not much we could do about
it without further endangering all of us.


My Ad-lib: Well, I hope I have stimulated an interest,
even if from disagreement. Please take some time and read, again the Summary of
the Augustine Report. If Option 5B is not your choice, then come up with some
solid reasons for the option you have chosen and do one of the following: (a)
Prepare your argument and submit it by fax to the Senate Sub-Committee on
Science and Space or (b) Call the sub-committee and leave a short message
(include your full name and state) stating which option you would like to see
supported by Congress and the White House.


Well, why the sub-committee and not the
White House?  On September 16, 2009 the sub-committee will begin to analyze the
Augustine Report recommendations.  They,
in turn, will advise President Obama on what they believe is the best of the
recommended options in the report.  In effect they are setting the future of
our nation’s space history!

Now, the Chairman of this sub-committee is Senator Bill Nelson, of
Florida who is a strong supporter of NASA and space exploration.  He is the MAN right now and we must reach out
to him and his sub-committee with our comments on the Augustine Committee


Go here to get all the contact information on the sub-committee:  http://bit.ly/lrwJr   Additionally this is their fax-number: 202-228-2339. Their Executive Assistant gave it to me
yesterday.  Please note she urged us to
call back and check to see if the fax was received as sometimes they get misdirected.  The link above has all the telephone numbers
you need.  Please take some action:  We, all humankind, must now start to “go
where no human has every gone before”. It is our evolutionary mission.  Let’s do it!


Space Tweeps Podcast #1 – Single Human Theory & Defying Gravity

Did you know Space Tweep Society now has a podcast? Well we do!

Space Tweeps @thenasaman, @genejm29 and @MarkRatterman recorded our inaugural episode Sunday:

Single Human Theory & Defying Gravity

Welcome to our first podcast! An open exchange of ideas and opinions about current events in space exploration, space science and policy.  As an introduction we tell you what were all about, what we are not and kick around two topics timely topics in space flight news.

Topic One: A possible plan to get humans to the Martian surface made a bit of a splash last week because of it’s unorthodox nature. If you could would you go to Mars alone to explore it’s secrets knowing you will never return back to Earth? That was the idea that made the rounds and our panel of space enthusiasts make their stand on this issue.

Topic Two: The ABC Television show Defying Gravity which airs at 10:00 PM EDT On Sunday nights. Is this the vision we want to give the public of our space program or is it a good thing that a show on space exploration is even on TV?

Host this week: Gene Mikulka. Panel Members: Mark Ratterman &  Sawyer Rosenstein. Announcer: Russ Dale , Space Tweep Theme Composed by: Todd Cecilio. Special thanks to all of the members of the Space Tweep Society (http://spacetweepsociety.org ) & The folks at Spacevidcast (http://www.spacevidcast.com)  for their support! Show Recorded – Sunday, 9/6/2009

You can listen to the episode here: 

Listen to the Space Tweep Society Podcast!

An RSS Feed for the show can be found at: 

RSS Feed for Space Tweep Society Podcast - Subscribe NOW!

Why Space?

Why space?  It’s exciting!  The wonders to behold when one looks to the sky and beyond are impressive to say the least.  The environments in the black overhead are vastly different than anything we are conscious of here on the good Earth.  The differences alone should spark humanities desire to learn all about them.  We should explore them to the fullest of our capabilities.  And puzzle them out.  We need to know and learn. We’ve only just begun.

Here locally, in our own solar system, the possibilities of absolute marvel, exciting exploration and scientific gain are amazing!  From planets to moons to dwarf planets to planetesimals to comets to asteroids – these celestial objects are ripe for continued and new visitation!  It’s like a trip from London to New York City but different.  Why shouldn’t we visit these objects?  President John F. Kennedy said in his 1962 address at Rice University on the nation’s space effort, “Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it.  And the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.”

The words are still exciting even 47 years later!  There is much to be excited about, especially with moons, moons and moons!  There is Enceladus, the sixth-largest moon of Saturn, with its active eruptions; outgassing that originates from a body of sub-surface liquid water!  H20!  Our knowledge says that with water comes life. 

Outgassing is a cool term.  Sing it with me now, “Outgassing!”  Doesn’t that feel good?  Jupiter’s moon Io (with over 400 active volcanoes) and Neptune’s moon Triton (with cryovolcanic and tectonic terrains) have also had observed active eruptions.  They are all geologically active!  It is hypothesized that Jupiter’s moon Europa has an ocean beneath its icy surface.  Could extremophile extraterrestrial life exist below Europa’s surface?  Or on Enceladus?  Or Triton?  Or Io?  Or even on Saturn’s moon Titan, with its environment rich in complex organic chemistry?  We can find out if we really, really, really wanted. 

Is there life on Mars?  If humans ventured there we could know the answer quicker and faster given the “spirit” and “opportunity.”  Think of how the discovery of life elsewhere would rock the very foundation of Earthly ways of life and beliefs and thinking.  

What aspects of our solar system are you interested in?  Is Pluto a planet or a dwarf planet?  I am filled with questions.