One of the tweeps asked me to pass along this information about ISDC 2010, which is being held in Chicago on May 27th to 31st. To register, please visit their website.
From the website:
I’ve just got news that last night Santa had an aviation accident involving an unknown vehicle. Details are sketchy and authorities are still investigating, but it looks like Santa is safe and his sled was damaged. The issue caused a delay in gift delivery. A short report with an image is available online.
Space tweeps, this has been an amazing year- I can’t believe how fast it has flown by. I believe we have created something very special with the society, and I am so happy to have met you all. I look forward to meeting and working with even more of you in the coming year.
The Space Tweep Society grew so quickly after its inception in June that it has been difficult for me to keep up with (this is a good thing; I’m not complaining!). I am working hard to get that all under control now so that we can continue to grow and do bigger and better things. I appreciate all of your support and help. You tweeps have been truly wonderful to work with and a constant reminder of why this is worth doing.
Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, winter break, etc. depending on your beliefs. In any case, happy holidays, and keep up the great tweets!
Just to let everyone know my guide to buying a telescope is online at:
It’s a general overview of what is available, what to consider and what you can do. A lot of folks have asked me about this since I got my own telescope, and attended a talk on the topic by Sky at Night magazine’s Reviews editor Paul Money.
In his Address to the U.S. Congress in 1975, Arthur C. Clarke said: “I’m sure we would not have had men on the Moon if it had not been for Wells and Verne and the people who write about this and made people think about it. I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books.” In his book, “First on the Moon” Clarke writes: “The inspirational value of the space program is probably of far greater importance to education than any input of dollars… A whole generation is growing up which has been attracted to the hard disciplines of science and engineering by the romance of space.” Let’s celebrate Arthur C. Clarke’s birth by contemplating his words.
I will never forget or downplay the incredible experiences I had working with children within a regular school setting. I did this not as a teacher, but as a therapeutic shadow to specific client children. In that role, I was able to observe and interact not just with my clients but with all the children in the class. This gave me a great opportunity to just watch and admire these young minds at work. It also gave me the chance to find among the students at least one, and usually more, shy geeks.
Shy geeks? These are intensely bright children who for one reason or the other keep their intelligence close to their chests. In many cases, because of their shyness they performed poorly and were often mistakenly labeled as “slow achievers.” Who is not to say that among this muted group there is not at least one Einstein, Fermi, Feynman, etc? I believe it from the bottom of my heart.
So, for quite awhile now, I have been thinking about ways to gently nudge out these potential geniuses. The idea of a Lego Test came to my mind after viewing several dramatic reports on the fact that Legos are very much alive and well. Legos are like favorite snacks; they are irresistible and captivating. I do not believe any child can sit for more than 10 seconds before they have reached out and started piecing together a Lego creation.
Here is my general idea of the Lego Test and how it would be applied and interpreted.
Well, it will take quite a bit of time to develop this into a real test, and the test monitor must be well trained to properly assess and record the children’s responses. In this regard, the child that asks for crayons and paper instead of the Legos should be fully accommodated (Some of Lockheed-Martin’s key members of its “skunk works” design group probably started out with crayons and paper.).
I know, I have not told you why I want to do this with respect to the space sciences. We need every kind of talent imaginable to carry us forward into the new world of space exploration. Scientists, engineers, technicians, artists, writers, organizers, these are some of the very special talents that exist today in our space program and must continue to exist. That continuation can only come from a steady flow of young minds with these talents. Sure, there will always be many youngsters already determined to enter these fields, but I want to make sure we do not miss any, and especially those that may have incredible talent.This latter goal is the source for my idea of the Lego Test and the search for shy geeks. They are out there, and if we ignore them, we stand to let slip from us a bounty of creativity.
Every year since 2005, ISAA association (Italian Space and Astronautics Association) is organizing a 3-days convention, devoted to spread space exploration awareness, and giving the opportunity to many Italian space enthusiasts to speak about their resarches on the same topic. The first three editions were held in Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, but the last one has been moved in Lecco, Lombardy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lecco), that is also my hometown. Lecco is, my dear US friends, settled on the same lake, Lago di Como, choosen by George Lucas for many shots of his “Star Wars Episode II” film, and by George Clooney as a pleasant place for one of his magnificent Villas. Here you can finde more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Como.
It is also a tradition of our Convention to host great personalities in space world, and let them have public speeches to share their experiences and anecdotes. In past editions we’ve hosted Paolo Bellutta, an Italian JPL employee part of the MER’s “rover drivers” team, and astronaut Umberto Guidoni (STS-75 and 100), the first European to enter the ISS.
This time, from 19th to 22nd November, we had the pleasure to host NASA Astronaut Col. Michael E. Fincke (Exp 9 Engineer and Exp 18 Commander). His presence among us was the result of a lucky series of coincidences, that I want to briefely tell you.
In march 2008 our association helped, with others, a local school to arrange an ARISS radio contact with Expedition 18, onboard the International Space Station. The reaction of teachers and studenrts was overwhelming, and local political authorities were very impressed. After a long year spent preparing the contact, tears were in our eyes when we heard loud and clear the voice of Mike calling for us. I know, it may sound weired, but I assure you it’s a very emotional moment after monthes of classes and technical preparation with students.
Immediately after the contact, that went extremely well, I and some friends of mine thought how it would be awesome if in some way we could manage to obtain a real, face to face contact between the astronaut and the students who have spoken with him by radio. ”Let’s do it, at least we cannot say we didn’t tried”. We were everyting but sure that a NASA astronaut would accept our invitation. Nevertheless we submitted our request, and after about 40 days NASA contacted us saying… YES! We were speechless. What should we do to properly welcome among us such a great guest? You see, maybe for many of you U.S. friends, NASA astronauts are in some way “ordinary”, but try to look through our eyes. NASA is such a myth everywhere, it’s like your favourite rockstar coming for a concert in your small, unknown less-than-1000-souls village. Just unbeliveable.
We started to work hard with local authorities (Province and Municipality of Lecco), and with the local group of astro amateurs, the “Deep Space” Association, to arrange the best accomodations and to plan a schedule for Mike’s public speeches.
Every time we had meetings with local institutions (Municipality, Province, Engeneering Faculty at Politecnico di Milano, Brera’s Observatory) we received requests of public speeches. So we had no choiche than arrange a really tight schedule, even if we were also extremely pleased because of the enthusiasm and curiosity that were raising in the town.
All the planning phase went smoothly (sort of, NASA burocracy is heaven compared to the Italian one) and finally, on 18th November, I with my friends Loris and Gianpietro were at the Malpensa International Airport of Milan, picking up our very first NASA astronaut.
His first words let us very impressed: “I look forward to meet the students. Being here is like a dream becoming true”. His dream? “What a coincidence, Mike, you are making our dream true”, we thought.
I studied every detail of Mike’s bio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Fincke). He accomplished so many things that I was expecting someone that could be a little “snooty”. Forget it. Mike was one of the humblest people I’ve ever met. He proved to be largely superior to my expectations, especially in human terms.
His personality is characterized by an enthusiasm matched only by his humility, and that, above all his accomplishments, has literally conquered all the people he met.
Mike spoke to over 1000 people in 3 different locations in 3 days, and he never spared himself. He *always* had a kind answer, an handshake and a wide smile for everyone. To tell you the truth, my personal opinion is that perhaps, at some point, he regretted the loneliness of the International Space Station. Of course we did our best to reward him with super rich Italian lunches and dinners, and I think he enjoyed them… a lot
The most challenging part of all the Convention was the evening of Saturday 21st. The Major of Lecco reserved the city theater for us. That was amazing, since the “Teatro della Società” theater is ancient and beautiful (http://is.gd/5jgxP), and we were proud to offer it to Micke’s speech. In the same time we were also really frightened: the location is the most prestigious theater of the entire Province, and fill up its 450 empty seats seemed an impossible mission to us. All the delegations of students, all the highest rank politicians were invidted that very night. Everything had to work perfectly: PCs, video projector, our trembling knees (I was among the hosts – http://is.gd/5jgFq )…
Then, while we were in the backstage, Mike asked for a moment of loneliness. Maybe he was praying, maybe he was just gathering all his energies, but in the meantime the entry gates were opened and a huge, pushing crowd started to flow in. One hundred, two hundred… in 20 minutes the theater was filled up to his very top row of seats, and more than 50 people was left outside. As we say, SOLD OUT. We peeked over the curtains and the view was… well, incredible (http://is.gd/5jgI6). Mike was still alone, concentrating in his dressing room and waiting for us to call him on the stage. He did not have any chanche to peek the audience. So when we called him I can only imagine the emtional impact he had, finding himself in front of a overcrowded theater, that literally exploded in a thunderous applause (http://is.gd/5jgMU). We were so happy for us, but expecially for Mike. It was a very special moment.
His incredible magnetic personality conquered the audience in few minutes. We’ve prepared few surprise for him to “break the ice”, like a video of the Star Trek Enterprise’s episode in wich he had a cameo. Everything contributed to make him closer to te attendance.
Then, after his entertaining speech and video commentary, as asked at the airport Mike finally met all the students involved in the radio contact. That was another very touching moment. The students greeted Mike one by one, then they gave him a nice present. Right after that, few words were said by the teacher, Prof. Lafranconi, who struggled to make his students involved in the radio contact’s project. (God knows how many of those professors we need here in Italy). One of the things that delighted us more was the presence of delegations from two other Italian cities, wich have had the same kind of radio contact Mike: Pietrasanta (in Tuscany, 380 Km from Lecco) and Porto San Elpidio (in Marche, 590 km from Lecco). I think that such a meeting was quite an unique experience for a NASA Astronaut, and for sure it’s been something very special for the students, the teachers, and for all the people who worked hard to share few minutes of radio contact with Mike.
I want to stress how important are PRs for promoting space exploration awareness. I’ve seen with my own eyes how initiatives like ARISS School Contacts, expecially if followed by the presence of a real astronaut, can lit up the fire of passion for space, and create memories wich maybe will become important in the future, when the kids of today will be called to decide what to do with their own lives.
Mike has left us all and hundreds of “Lecchesi” (citizens of Lecco) with indelible memories. In those three days he was the public face of NASA for the Italians, and he did a GREAT job. As I said, he’s been always patient and flattering kind. Sunday Nov. 22nd he spent his last day with us at the local Planetarium. There were so many people that he had to replay and comment his video onboard the ISS for 3 times. After that he signed more than 400 autographs, each single one of them with a custom sentence. And for every signing there were a photo, each single one of them with a bright smile. Can you imagine the happiness of the dozens of childs who gathered there to meet him in person? They were awed and elated, as he always showed with blue flight suit filled with cool patches.
Such a dedicated behaviour by foreign astronaut, coming from a foreign space agency, was also an indirect lesson to our own space agencies. Despite the efforts of many ESA (European Space Agency) offices, who are very supportive for space-related initiatives, they’re not yet capable to create an extensive awareness campaign. Sometimes even the copyright disclaimers of ESA images and video prevent a free sharing of cool space materials. Anyway I want to stress that, if asked, ESA offers (and offered us) great contribution, and we look forward to collaborate once again in the future editions of our conventions.
I am sorry to admit that we were totally ignored by our very Italian Space Agency, ASI. ASI is a very strong and respected NASA partner, they do great job in the context of space missions and international collaboration. But in my view it’s just half of the job. ASI’s PR and space awareness offices are nonexistent. Despite we informed them about the presence of Col. Fincke, and required their help and PR materials, we obtained a “deafening silence”. No letter, no phonecalls, no noting came from there. So no surprises if in Italy the acronym ASI is well known just to insiders. Of course it’s easier organize space events for few dozens of key top level managers of aerospace firms, like ASI does very often in Rome, but the average Italian taxpayer is unaware that his country has a Space Agency. Unfortunately ASI is not spending efforts to make Ialians understand why is important to invest tax money in fields, like astronautics, that not always return immediate results. The Agency’s website is poor in multimedia content and boring. Even online there’s not an easy way to answer one of the most asked question about space exploration: “Why spend all those money to put an Italian into space?”
Let’s hope things will be better in the future, since we have two incoming missions for Italian astronauts: Roberto Vittori on STS-134 and Paolo Nespoli on Exp 26/27. Paolo will be the first Italian assigned to a long duration mission onboard the ISS. We are proud of them both!
Let’s close our storytelling. Sunday’s evening we were all exausted, and in a very poetic moment, as a “farewell”, while we were pakcing our car with Mike’s luggage the ISS flew over Lecco’s Planetarium (http://is.gd/5jihb). Mike’s wife, Ranita, was waiting for him in Milan, and after all the gift and touching moments we’ve had together, it was just time to finally bring him back to his wife. He looked very very tired (even if he never complained about anything, and if you ask him, he’ll deny) but we’re sure Ranita took good care of him.
This is the end of our story. I hope that even in my poor and twisted english I was able to share with you the emotions that Mike Fincke gifted us with his presence. You U.S. friends have to be proud of him an also proud of your space agency. You guys rock!
From an anonymous Constellation employee —
The Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for Santa’s sleigh, North Pole One
(NPO), was held recently and mission managers revealed that Northern
Launch Range officials had recently discovered an unverified
requirement for the triboelectrification launch commit criterion (LCC).
An audit of verification paperwork is underway with the prime
contractor, Saab Aerospace, to try to discover where or how this
requirements gap formed. NPO Deputy Chief Engineer, Ulf Glockenspiel,
expressed his confidence that this does not represent a
safety-of-flight issue for the vehicle and stated that the search for
original verification paperwork would be a potentially
elfpower-intensive endeavor. A number of prime contractors have held
the contract over the years and NPO program manager Kristoff Kringel
admitted that record keeping has probably been lax in many years, under
the intense pressure to meet launch schedules. The trail from Saab to
Airbus, to Dornier, to Fokker to contractors that are no longer extant,
such as Wright, DaVinci, and Icarus, is a difficult one to follow.
Launch director, Ragnar Gunnar, stated in a recent press conference
that, even in the face of layoffs, every available elf was being
re-directed to the search for the official record and a parallel
process of drafting flight rationale was also underway. As of this
writing, launch remains scheduled for 12/24/09.
My sadness over an unrealized vision for human spaceflight only leads me to a more general realization. And it’s this realization that is very troubling to me, even ominous. Will America be able to compete in the global high technology marketplace of the 21st century? Are we taking science and technology education seriously? Are parents taking science and technology education seriously? Do Americans know that our national prowess in science and technology is about the future of our children, our standard of living, and the American dream? Do Americans truly know this is of national strategic importance? We are living through changes forced by globalization and a new marketplace. Are jobs lost ever coming back? More importantly — are we training Americans — all Americans — in our grade K-12 system and in our colleges and universities, in skills required by 21st Century jobs? This is far bigger than leadership in spaceflight. It’s about the science and technology required to address global problems from energy, to climate change, to managing limited resources in the midst of growing populations. Will America be capable of stepping to the plate in the face of these challenges — in the face of these remarkable opportunities? We landed humans on the moon. It is still hard to fathom. It was the most remarkable journey the human race has ever undertaken (my view). It was raw inspiration that propelled generations of young Americans to the frontiers of science and technology. Yet it seems to me that a vibrant, healthy nation, is only as good as its next success. The question before us — are we now destined in the words of Dylan Thomas to “just go gentle into that good night?” I firmly believe it is up to us. I had written in an earlier post my view on the needed driver for the future of U.S. human spaceflight.
My sadness over an unrealized vision for human spaceflight only leads me to a more general realization. And it’s this realization that is very troubling to me, even ominous. Will America be able to compete in the global high technology marketplace of the 21st century? Are we taking science and technology education seriously? Are parents taking science and technology education seriously? Do Americans know that our national prowess in science and technology is about the future of our children, our standard of living, and the American dream? Do Americans truly know this is of national strategic importance? We are living through changes forced by globalization and a new marketplace. Are jobs lost ever coming back? More importantly — are we training Americans — all Americans — in our grade K-12 system and in our colleges and universities, in skills required by 21st Century jobs? This is far bigger than leadership in spaceflight. It’s about the science and technology required to address global problems from energy, to climate change, to managing limited resources in the midst of growing populations. Will America be capable of stepping to the plate in the face of these challenges — in the face of these remarkable opportunities?
We landed humans on the moon. It is still hard to fathom. It was the most remarkable journey the human race has ever undertaken (my view). It was raw inspiration that propelled generations of young Americans to the frontiers of science and technology. Yet it seems to me that a vibrant, healthy nation, is only as good as its next success. The question before us — are we now destined in the words of Dylan Thomas to “just go gentle into that good night?” I firmly believe it is up to us.
I had written in an earlier post my view on the needed driver for the future of U.S. human spaceflight.. It will give you a sense of where I’m coming from, and might reconnect you with a vision for the future from a time long ago.
I posted this on my personal blog yesterday, but felt it would be well received here as its as much about me as saying thanks for everything so far
Well I am a bit of a ‘Johnny-Come-Lately’ to the whole Twitter scene. I had seen it, I know of others that use it, but never really bothered with it as it was just another password to remember and another internet thing to try and remember to write to…
Boy was I wrong!
Now I readily admit to being a geek of the computer persuasion, I am also a mad keen aviation buff (refer to my job title as well!) as well as a space-geek. The space-geek in me only ever surfaced every now and then. I would watch Shuttle launches on NASA TV when I remembered them being on, I would read the NASA site from time to time and I have plenty of books on my shelves at home I have collected since a kid.
My biggest dream (still is!) is to be an Astronaut, I still want to be the first Australian woman onto the ISS. Andy Thomas has already been up there, its time for the girls now, and I think that should be me…;)
So, back to Twitter…
I joined Twitter about 2-3 weeks prior to the NASA ‘Tweetup’. I had seen snippets of info about this event around the internet but really wasn’t following it closely. I turned on my Mac on the day of the ‘Tweetup’ and sat there in total amazement. I watched the first day of the ‘tweetup’ with speakers like @Rocky_Sci and @Astro_Mike and the 100 people that were there getting to TOUCH and HOLD parts of the Shuttle!!! Now, in my job (aircraft mechanic) I have had people say to me how cool it must be to play with expensive aircraft all day, and I guess after a while it does lose some of its gloss after 18 years. But I really understand why people get excited about such things now.
I get excited about the thought of getting to play with a real orbiter, I get excited about seeing real live rocket engines, I get a lump in my throat at the thought of watching STS-131 in person…I finally ‘get it’!
Through the NASA Tweetup event I experienced a launch and NASA all the way over here in Australia in a ‘real time’ like situation. I was totally hooked that Sunday night and found myself awake until the wee hours of the morning watching the live stream video. I was up again the following night watching the launch of STS-129 as well. For someone like me living all the way over here that was something truly amazing. Of course to have been there in person would have been something else – I think I would have been crying the entire time just about! (What price do you put on your dreams anyway?)
The NASA Tweetup led to my discovery of all these wonderful people calling themselves #spacetweeps. Now, I didn’t really understand too well as a Twitter ‘noob’ what the deal was so I did a search, found the site and signed up.
Oh gee…there are so many other people in this world with the same interests and passions its really blown my mind. I have ‘met’ people like @ageekmom – truly someone after my own heart. She has been very warm and welcoming, and as we have found out, we have many things in common. I am in awe though of her knowledge and passion for all things NASA and space.
@patimc – another wonderful woman I have been ‘talking’ with via Twitter, she has a great sense of humour and also shares the same passion as everyone else there vis a vis spaceflight and aviation.
@flyingjenny – well there is a lady who I think has my job – this lady is a Shuttle Technician, trust me when I say I have been gobsmacked to see that! How awesome is that?!
@catherineQ – a lady from NZ in the US who just happens to be an astrophysicist! Wow…there are very smart people here
Last but definately not least, @Astro_TJ – where do we start with this guy? ISS Expedition 22 and 23 Astronaut. A VERY cool guy who is more than happy to answer our questions via Twitter. He has a great sense of humour and I am completely awestruck to have the chance to be able to ‘talk’ to him. (He also has my job btw..)
There are many other #spacetweeps out there I have had the absolute pleasure of ‘conversing’ with over Twitter as well. There isnt a day that goes by now that I am not checking Seesmic on my G1 or having Destroy Twitter running there in the background watching this thing called Twitter and the #spacetweeps that are found there. Its a cool addiction to have though!
To wrap this all up I too would like to express my thanks to everyone that was involved with the #nasatweetup – for a girl over here in Australia it has been an amazing experience to watch it all over the internet. It has been a doorway to a thriving space community and has given me a renewed vigour and interest in something that I have sadly left dormant for a while now. It always been there, it just needed a little prodding and thanks to the #nasatweetup and the #spacetweeps its back….its big…its beautiful and its one of the best things to have come out of the internet for a long time!
See you all for my own ‘tweetup’ when I watch STS-131 launch from KSC in March
Quotes are interesting stuff. Wether you agree with them, or disagree. There is a bit of truth in everyone of them.
Sometimes, I research quotes to enhance a business presentation, but sometimes I’m just browsing them for fun. I like them for their eternity and their wisdom. Strange thing is, that you can even change your mood just by selecting “the right ones”. After reading some inspirational or visionary ones, I can feel the urge to move something or get things going again even if the day had been exhaustive and rough.
A by-product is that it most often leads me to Wikipedia to get to know more about the person behind the quote. On more than one occasion it has been the reason I forgot time and drifted away from the original subject
Occasionally I have been tweeting my findings.
Yesterday fellow SpaceTweep @ageekmom asked me if I was collecting these pieces somewhere (which I did not) and the idea was born to collect them on the Space Tweep Society Website.
Somehow most of the quotes I like are science or space related – who thought about that
So let’s start off with some I tweeted and if you like, please continue and post your favorites:
Men who have worked together to reach the stars are not likely to descend together into the depths of war and desolation.
–Lyndon B Johnson addressing the U.N. General Assembly 1958
Science has not yet mastered prophecy. We predict too much for the next year and yet far too little for the next ten.
–Neil Armstrong, speech to joint session of congress 16th Sept. 1969
Earth is the cradle of mankind, but man cannot live in the cradle forever.
–Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
The sky is the ultimate art gallery just above us.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Through space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom; through thought I comprehend the world.
The Moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.
–Arthur C. Clarke
We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.
–Carl Sagan; Cosmos 1980
To be continued
(Please let me know if you like it and feel free to DM, tweet or comment me on any typo’s or other errors)
In the past week a private NZ company, bought us into the space exploration fold with the tentative launch of Atea-1 a five metre long, dual stage rocket. It may not have had the exposure that so many other launches seem to attract, but for me it was just as exciting for it was something happening in my own backyard.
I was up early the morning of the launch full of enthusiasm, to see what was going to happen and I was not disappointed, even though there was a slight delay in the launch due to part failure. The problem was rectified by a helicopter ride to buy a part worth around 3 dollars.
The rocket performed very well and even though the payload was not recovered, I am sure the next launch will go just as flawlessly.
I have included a link to rocketlabs