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Scott Carpenter – A tribute to a curious but ordinary superman

Scott Carpenter – A tribute to a curious but ordinary superman

“Conquering fear is one of life’s greatest pleasures and it can be done in a lot of different places.

– Scott Carpenter, May 1st 1925 – October 10, 2013-

Scott Carpenter, a curious but ordinary superman. Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Scott Carpenter, a curious but ordinary superman.
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

 

One of only two remaining Mercury Program Astronauts from the 60’s, Scott Carpenter, sadly passed beyond the veil on Thursday October 10th 2013 following a stroke in September. He was 88 years of age. Carpenter was one of the earliest pioneers in the infancy of the Space Age. He was the 2nd American to cross the threshold into orbital space on his MA-7 “Aurora 7” spaceflight and the 6th man overall.  He also held the unique distinction of being not only an astronaut but an aquanaut following his NASA career in the US Navy’s various Sea Lab projects.

For each last step, there is a first step. Born in Boulder, Colorado, USA on May 1st 1925, Malcolm Scott Carpenter was impressed by planes at the age of 5 when his father took him to his first airshow. His love of flight grew as he continued to build and fly model balsa wood plane kits as a boy. He gained a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Colorado, before entering flight school with the US Navy at Pensacola Florida and Corpus Christi Texas. After the Korean War where he flew aerial anti-submarine surveillance and patrols, Carpenter enrolled at Patuxent River’s Navy Test Pilot School in Maryland. Following this, he was assigned as an Air Intelligence Officer on the USS Hornet. During this time he received special orders to report to Washington DC for an unnamed meeting. That meeting led to his selection in Project Mercury on April 9, 1959, which was instituted as the newly formed NASA’s first step to catch up to the Soviets who had taken an early lead in the rapidly escalating Space Race.

What followed is fabled history. The exhaustive raft of testing of 110 candidates down to what are now known as the “Original Seven” and Carpenter formed part of that elite fraternity of Mercury Astronauts. Their every move was recorded and lauded by the public at large as the nascent American Space Program took its initial steps forward. Due to his communications and navigation experience Carpenter was back-up on his good friend John Glenn’s orbital flight. Upon launch, as Glenn cleared the tower, Carpenter’s words of “Godspeed John Glenn” were recorded and have echoed through the years of spaceflight history. Carpenter repeated this goodwill message when Glenn went into orbit again aboard the Shuttle in 1998.

The brotherhood of the Original Seven. Front row, from left, are Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald "Deke" K. Slayton, John Glenn Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter. Back row, from left, are Alan Shepard Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and Gordon Cooper. Credit: Discovery News / CORBIS

The brotherhood of the Original Seven. Front row, from left, are Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald “Deke” K. Slayton, John Glenn Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter. Back row, from left, are Alan Shepard Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, and Gordon Cooper.
Credit: Discovery News / CORBIS

On May 24, 1962, Carpenter’s own flight dubbed “Aurora 7” launched and completed 3 orbits of the Earth. His mission; to prove a human could work in space. This was an important link in the chain of events which ultimately resulted in a manned landing on the moon just 7 short years later. For the first time he demonstrated humans could perform tasks, experiments, communications, navigation and eat solid food in space. Due to some technical faults, inadvertent errors during the mission, all of which Carpenter compensated for, Aurora 7 came home safely but overshot the target landing zone due to fuel mismanagement during the mission. He was found by rescuers almost 5 hours late, 1000 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, coolly relaxing in the life raft alongside his spacecraft.  Ever the gentleman astronaut he even offered his rescuers food and water from his survival kit.

The launch of Scott Carpenter on Aurora 7. Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

The launch of Scott Carpenter on Aurora 7.
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Looking out for John Glenn's fireflies... Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Looking out for John Glenn’s fireflies…
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Carpenter, awaiting recovery after splashdown. Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Carpenter, awaiting recovery after splashdown.
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

As with many space explorers who are comfortable with the risk of space exploration, Carpenter had remarked that his mission realised a long held dream and that “This is something I would gladly give my life for.” In today’s modern world of Google Earth and armchair exploration, we should remember that back then it took a special kind of person to ride fire into the heavens to expand knowledge at risk of their own life. Unlike many of his Mercury astronaut peers who were recovered and debriefed after their space shots relatively quickly, Carpenter had time for introspection and reflection on the events and meaning of his experience on Aurora 7. Carpenter was also blessed with a curious and philosophical mind. Peering through the small periscope of Aurora 7 into the endless night outside, Carpenter remarked,

“From that view … you are a long way away. Everything you see gives you satisfaction of the expectation which involves curiosity. The most important driver in everything we did then was curiosity. Can we make machines do this? Can we put our bodies through this? It’s revelatory. Addictive. Beautiful beyond description. To have been in space is very satisfying of one’s curiosity. It’s instructive. It’s marvellous.”

At the time, some may have perceived those comments and qualities to be extraneous for a test pilot / astronaut, favouring engineering rigour and zero margin of error during those early missions.  Consequently, Carpenter never flew in space again. In later years his curiosity and philosophical mind have become more appreciated by his peers.

Following NASA, Carpenter’s curious mind to banish unknowns led him to meeting with the French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. He saw many parallels, between deep space and the deep ocean, with transferable skills, technologies and parallel experiences. But more personally for him, like with his Mercury flight, working beneath the waves to satisfy his curiosity would remove any “unreasoned fears”, just as he had done above the clouds on Aurora 7. As part of the Navy’s Sea Lab II experiment, Carpenter spent 30 days in spring 1965 on the ocean floor of La Jolla as an aquanaut, proving humans could survive in this environment.  At one point during his time under the waves, he even spoke by phone to the crew of Gemini 5 orbiting far overhead. Old Mercury Seven buddy Gordon Cooper was no doubt happy to hear him. His work on the ocean floor has yielded cross benefits for NASA too as Carpenter became the Navy/NASA liaison for underwater zero gravity training – or neutral buoyancy, which has become mandatory for NASA EVA astronaut training. For this work, Carpenter was awarded the Navy’s Legion of Merit medal.

Carpenter on top of SEA LAB II shortly before being lowered to the ocean floor where he stayed for a month. Credit: Discovery News / CORBIS

Carpenter on top of SEA LAB II shortly before being lowered to the ocean floor where he stayed for a month.
Credit: Discovery News / CORBIS

In his later years after retiring from the Navy, Carpenter had remained active on various projects utilising his aerospace and oceanic engineering expertise. From enhancing ocean resource usage, to consulting on underwater, diving and submersibles, and lecturing on the future of technology developments and impacts Scott Carpenter had continued to actively contribute to the quality of our lives here on Earth.  Not stopping there, he had also authored three books, one of which is his memoirs “For Spacious Skies” which he wrote with his daughter Kris Stoever. Carpenter remained a staunch advocate of manned spaceflight, and pushing our exploration to Mars.

“We need a goal other than the International Space Station. We need to get cracking on a manned flight to Mars, because that is going to capture the interest, support and imagination of people who pay for spaceflight…We need to go to Mars… Mars is interim, but for now that is a goal that NASA and the country and the planet can live with enthusiastically.”           

Looking back, Carpenter remarked that he and John Glenn bonded over common interests, mutual respect and being Air Force boys. Upon hearing of his great friend’s passing, the last remaining torchbearer of that age, Mercury astronaut John Glenn paid tribute with his friend’s simple words and remarked “Godspeed, Scott Carpenter.” Carpenter himself has said that he believes he is very fortunate to have lived life during a time when there were so many unknowns to be solved during this century. That had pleased him immensely as he was always a very curious person and he has had a lot of satisfied curiosity in his time.

Brothers in Arms; Carpenter (left) and John Glenn (right). Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Brothers in Arms; Carpenter (left) and John Glenn (right).
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Meeting Scott Carpenter at Spacefest V in May 2013 in what turned out to be his twilight months, was a special privilege and for myself, the highest honour, to meet a member of the Original Seven. Meeting Scott himself, who truly understood the wider more nuanced experiences of manned spaceflight, the continuing importance of manned exploration and the questing nature of humanity, was even more special to me. The hallmark of his character, curiosity, still burned brightly in his alert eyes even though his health was visibly failing. I briefly asked him about what lessons he has taken with him on his explorations of the ocean and space into his life. Scott merely whispered, as if sharing a secret;

“Be led by your curiosity. And never forget the fun of learning and discovery. It can take you places you have never dreamed”.

Curiosity brought us here. Scott Carpenter and myself. Credit: Amjad P. Zaidi

Curiosity brought us here. Scott Carpenter and myself.
Credit: Amjad P. Zaidi

Words from a curious but ordinary superman that will stay with me forever. May fair winds be at your back Star Voyager for you have returned to the place where we all came from. You are stardust.  We thank you for your bravery, your discoveries, your humanity and your continuing inspiration.

Godspeed, Scott Carpenter.

Scott Carpenter and his children. His legacy. Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

Scott Carpenter and his children. His legacy.
Credit: www.scottcarpenter.com

 

Sources:

http://www.scottcarpenter.com/

http://www.rocketstem.org/2013/10/03/spacefest-v-ultimate-party-space-lovers/

http://www.astronautix.com/astros/carenter.htm

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/291542-1

http://life.time.com/history/scott-carpenter-rare-and-classic-photos-of-a-nasa-legend/#4

http://news.discovery.com/space/history-of-space/the-right-suff-scott-carpenters-mission-photos-131011.htm

Space Tweep Society, STS-135 NASA Tweetup receives mention on Canadian Radio

SpaceTweepSociety.org and the STS-135 Kennedy Space Center NASATweetup is reported on by Charles Atkeison (@AbsolutSpaceGuy) on Canada’s News Talk Radio in Saskatchewan – 980 AM Regina and 650 AM Saskatoon, on July 7, 2011, including an update on L-1 activities for space shuttle Atlantis.

The Ties the Bind, Part 2: Memories of Tucson in the Aftermath of Tragedy

I lived in the Tucson area for a number of years, long ago. Too long. I still miss it terribly. Back then, residents often thought of it as America’s largest small town. I guess it still is. Two thousand miles distant and decades later (give or take), the awful events of this past weekend, beyond the sadness and heartbreak we’ve all shared, have come with so many reminders of my time there, ties that personalize this tragedy for me in so many ways. Watching the reporting on TV, I can’t help think and feel “I know these places, these people; they’re a part of me.”

It happens that the very area where the shootings occurred has, ironically, had a very special place in my heart. My telescope (a vintage 1978 Celestron 8″) had its “first light” there — in a good friend’s backyard less than two miles almost due north of the Safeway where the shootings occurred. I (along with my telescope) would pass through Safeway’s intersection at Ina and Oracle roads many times on my way there. Before this event, if you’d asked me what comes to mind about that area of Tucson, I’d have said, “That’s where I first saw Saturn’s rings and the Ring Nebula!”

That friend was, at the time, the baseball coach at Canyon Del Oro high school. I went to some of their games. I just read 9 year-old victim Christina Taylor Green was in the Canyon Del Oro little league. I wonder if she ever played on that same field or attended any of their games, too?

Federal Judge John Roll, also killed in the attack, was in law school at the University of Arizona while I was starting as an undergraduate. He later taught there, so our years there may have overlapped quite a bit. I can’t help wonder if we ever crossed paths on campus, at the student union, or the library, or a football game, perhaps even a class? Perhaps we shook hands at Mass? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

For a two-year span during my time as a student at the U of A, the first thing I would see when I opened my door was University Medical Center (UMC), just a block away, separated only by, what was then, a dirt parking lot. At first, seeing it so often both haunted and yet tugged at me. I had spent some rather painful times as a child as a long-term patient in hospitals in New York. I was reminded of them each time I looked over at UMC. I couldn’t help wonder if there was anyone there, especially kids, going through what I went through. So, I gave in — I wound up becoming a volunteer there, in Peds (pediatrics). I was happy helping treat the one sickness I was actually qualified to treat, despite not having any formal medical training: hospital-induced homesickness.Seeing this same hospital on the news these past few days has brought back dozens of memories of some very special people and moments there I’d long forgotten — patients, nurses, staff. I remember feeding a young girl, perhaps seven years old. She spoke Spanish; I didn’t. She was blindfolded by bandages and couldn’t see.How could I tell her the cream of wheat I was about to feed her was hot? I pressed her finger against the bowl.She nodded. Now, each time I see Dr. Peter Rhee and the staff briefing the media on the condition of Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims, I can’t help but feel some pride that I was once part of the UMC family, however minor and briefly.

Sunday night, flipping from one news program to another, I happened upon Katie Couric introducing a segment involving an interview with someone from the U of A. I was thinking “can’t be anyone I’d know.” It’s a big school, and many years had passed. But as this face appeared on screen, I could feel areas of my brain, long dormant, sputtering to life, then flaring with a sense of recognition. Seconds before the voice-over introduced him or any caption appeared, I smiled and blurted out loud, “That’s Tom Volgy!,” recognizing the face of an old friend again, right there on my TV. He was one of my government professors. During one semester, perhaps my favorite class, we did a simulation of international relations, where the class played different roles. He played God — I was Jerry Ford.

Speaking of Jerry Ford, I read this morning about President Obama traveling to Tucson. Even that news brought back a memory, this one of opening my door one morning (again facing UMC), looking to the northwest horizon and seeing a 707 slowly transform into Air Force One as it got closer — the first time I’d ever seen Air Force One — on approach to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base … with the real Gerald Ford on board. The color and paint scheme, with the presidential seal, all sostately and dignified,the engines roaring — I still remember the chills it gave me. I can’t watch or read the coverage of this horrible event without some fond memory firing up.

No, I don’t actually know any of the victims in the Tucson shooting. Like most of you, I knew Congresswoman Giffords only as @ShuttleCDRKelly’s wife (which, I regret to admit I had to be reminded of — a genuine “OMG” moment). But I sure feel like I know these people. Tucson does that to you.As the husband of one victim at today’s medical briefing said, “That’s Tucson.” In fact, seeing so much of it on TV these past few days, I feel like I just left. They are good people, they did not deserve this, and they have all my love, respect, and prayers. I’m proud to say I was once one of them. If I’m lucky, perhaps, someday, maybe I’ll be again.

Go Cats!

“Rocket Science” and a Successful Falcon 9 Launch




“Rocket Science” and a Successful Falcon 9 Launch

SpaceX added a very positive event to a line of problems and mishaps that occurred recently, from the failed Russian three-satellite launch to more delays in Discovery STS-133 launch, originally set for the end of October, now scheduled for Febuary.

All in all, these recent events show us that even after a space access system has been working for 30 years and more than 60 years after launching the first satellite, getting complex systems or people to space is still, as the saying goes, rocket science.
 

Read the rest on 

http://www.spacepirations.com/2010/12/rocket-science-and-successful-falcon-9.html

Congratulations SpaceX!

Space Station to Welcome Resupply Craft, Shuttle in Coming Week

Space Tweeps, a Russian cargo craft loaded with
tons of food and supplies will begin a three day trip to
resupply the growing International Space Station on Wednesday.

Loaded
with extra fuel, experiment hardware, water, air and requested personal items, the arriving craft will keep
the Expedition 25 crew of six happy and healthy for weeks to come.

Launch
of the Soyuz U rocket with the Progress M-08M supply ship is set to
lift-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in western Kazakhstan tomorrow at
11:11:53 am EDT (1511 GMT).

The
Soyuz U was transported horizontally to it’s launch pad on Monday
morning by way of rail car, and then moved into its vertical launch
position. Crews then began the tasks of connecting both fuel and
electrical connections to the rocket.

After
a three day orbital chase, the Progress craft will fly in and dock to
the Russian Zevezda service module on Saturday at 12:40 pm (1640 GMT).

The Progress docking begins a busy six weeks aboard the space station.

Three
days after the supply ship docks, the space shuttle Discovery is
scheduled to dock to begin an eight day visit to resupply the station
and deliver a permanent storage module.

A
Russian spacewalk was added on Tuesday. Cosmoanuts Fiodor Yurchikin and
Oleg Skipochka will begin a six hour EVA on Nov. 15 starting at 9:25
am EST.

On Nov. 30,
three of the current station crew members will undock and return to
earth aboard their Soyuz TMA19 craft. Two weeks later, a fresh crew of
three will launch and then dock their Soyuz TMA20 to begin their six
month tour of duty.

Looking ahead into 2011, January
and February will also be a busy time for the Expedition 26 crew. Three
unmanned cargo crafts from the European, Russian and Japanese space
programs, and the American space shuttle Endeavour will head to the
orbiting outpost 221 miles above to bring fresh supplies and equipment.

To
the crews living aboard the station, food has always been a form of
leisure and most try out their own orbiting gourmet food styles while
in micro-gravity.

The
space station is a very multicultural location. An astronaut or
cosmonaut from one country will always enjoy a taste from a special
menu prepared by the crew of a visiting country.

The Russian Space Agency stated today,
“Food boxes will contain not only standard rations, but also fresh
fruits and vegetables – lemons, apples, onions, tomatoes, and a
kilogram of garlic”.

 “(Progress) will also carry
high-speed data transmission equipment to be installed on the outer
surface of the station during EVA (spacewalk) by Oleg Skripochka and
Dmitry Kondratiev in January,” the space agency added earlier today.

Teaser of Moonscape, a free Apollo 11 documentary

Swiss journalist Paolo Attivissimo is working on Moonscape, an upcoming free Apollo 11 documentary funded and produced by space enthusiasts, with a focus on accuracy and original material It will use the highest quality footage, audio and images, and feature synchronized views. Here is the first English teaser.

Paolo is a great Apollo expert and enthusiast. He also built an Apollo US flag replica that was saluted by a guy named Buzz.

Russia Announces They Have a Mini-Space Shuttle

The Russian Space Agency announced on Friday that they have a delta winged space shuttle in which
they say can deliver payloads to orbit.

Called
the Multipurpose Aerospace System (MAKS), the Russian shuttle has the
same style and size as the American Air Force’s recently launched X37-B
spacecraft.

However,
unlike the X37-B which used an Atlas 5-501 rocket to achieve orbit on Thursday, the MAKS will use an airplane carrier to achieve the initial
climb to orbit.

Rocket
manufacture Molnia’s Vladimir Skorodelov, a general designer in the company’s research and development, acknowledged
his country’s mini-shuttle on the heels of the American launch of
two space shuttles this month — Discovery and the X37-B.

“The
spacecraft was designed in ’80s and it is still in work. This is a
reusable multipurpose aerospace system of the same size as U.S. Х-37,”
Skorodelov stated to TASS news.

Skorodelov also mentioned that Russia is eager to see it launched soon.

The
space agency stated that the cost of sending 2.2 pounds of cargo
into space is between one to two thousand dollars. They stated that the
American shuttle costs nearly $20,000 for the same weight.

Russia experimented with an unmanned space shuttle in the 1980′s, which had nearly the same dimensions as the U.S. orbiters.

The
Soviet Union’s space shuttle Buran (below) made one unmanned trip into space
in November 1988. But the fall of the Soviet Union, and the country’s cash-strapped space program canceled their shuttle program in 1992.


Atlas 5 to Launch Air Force’s Space Plane Thursday

(CAPE CANAVERAL, FL) — A prototype of an advanced space plane by the U.S. Air Force will make it’s debut on Thursday as it heads into space a top an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral.

The 29-foot long, 11,000-pound Orbital Test Vehicle (X37-B) is a white winged craft with a similar style as the U.S. space shuttle.

“The OTV has the potential to revolutionize how the Air Force operates in space by making space operations more aircraft like and adding in the capability for returnable plug-and-play experiments,” David Hamilton, Director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities office stated last week.

In 1999, NASA begun the X37 project, however the space agency handed it over to DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in September 2004. DARPA is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.

DARPA, originally formed in 1958 as the Advanced Research Projects Agency, is an office designed to prevent technological surprises against the United States, such as the Soviets launch of Sputnik in 1957.

The OTV project partnership between the military, DARPA and NASA was announced in October 2006.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5-501 remains set to lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 41 on April 22 at 7:52 pm EDT (2352 GMT). The launch window closes at 8:01 pm.

This reporter has learned from a source that the Boeing-built X-37B will launch into a low earth orbit of about 350 miles high, and could stay aloft for over 100 days. The craft has the ability to stay aloft for 270 days, the Air Force stated to this reporter.

During the classified year ahead, the robotic spacecraft will be maneuvered around and will test it’s “advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics and high temperature structures and seals”, Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young reported.

The orbital vehicle will be powered via Gallium Arsenide Solar Cells with lithium-Ion batteries.

Once the Air Force brings the reusable space plane home, it will reenter just like the space shuttle and will aim for a touchdown on runway 12 at Vandenberg, AFB.

The belly of the vehicle is protected with a black thermal protection system designed by NASA. The X37-B has a wing span of 14 feet, 11 inches from tip to tip.

Lt. Col. Troy Giese, the OTV systems program director said, “Upon being given the command to return to Earth, the X-37B will automatically descend through the atmosphere and land on the designated runway. There is no one on the ground with a joystick flying it.”

If weather or technical issues arise on landing day, then Edwards, AFB will be called up with it’s longer runway.

The question on the minds of most in both military and civilian uniforms are asking if this is a one time event, or the start of a second generation space shuttle.

The military was to have taken over shuttle Discovery in 1986 for DoD flights from Vandenberg. However fuel contamination issues and the Challenger break-up forced the cancellation of a military launch pad in California.

 

Following a successful flight, the next OTV flight is slated for mid-2011.

 

Story by Charles Atkeison

 

 

 

‘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!

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!

Petition to get Carolyn Porco a cameo in the next Star Trek movie

A group of Cassini fans of the CICLOPS online community have started a petition to get Carolyn Porco a cameo spot in the next Star Trek movie. This is an official petition endorsed by Dr. Porco. The goal is to get at least 10,000 signatures, but there are just slightly over 300 right now. Can you help?

Planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, who currently leads the imaging science team of the Cassini mission to Saturn, needs no introduction to space tweeps. We can now follow her on Twitter as @carolynporco.

A Captivated Audience

Thursday 18th June 2009 was no ordinary day for me…

The suspense and excitement was already starting to build as I got to my desk right after dinner. The internet was all a-Twitter about the launch of the LRO/LCROSS mission. As the reports started coming on of pre-launch going well and ‘tanking’ was beginning. Then came news that the weather was likely to go ‘RED’ in the area during the launch. Thunderstorms were moving near and that could scotch the whole launch program. Lets face it, you don’t want to mess around with that much Liquid Oxygen and Hydrogen in a steel flask in the middle of a lightning field! The good news was tanking completed successfully and they could hold for a later launch slot. As it was they picked the latest possible one, 5:32pm EDT. Everyone held their breath. You could feel the suspense even through the tweets. It went quiet. You could tell everyone was willing the clouds away and the weather to pickup. Maybe we did it between us or maybe Mother Nature was just smiling on Cape Canaveral that day. The message popped up in my stream:

@flight0001:
WEATHER IS GREEN! GO FOR LRO/LCROSS LAUNCH! @5:32 pm EDT

That’s all we needed to know. The launch was a go. As you could feel the anticipation beforehand and the tension during the weather hold, you could now feel from the tweets with caps and exclamation marks the relief and excitement as everyone again look towards the 5:32pm launch window.

The next part was exciting for me more than almost anyone else watching. In the UK we don’t get NASA TV piped to cable. I know NASA TV broadcasts over the internet and has for some time but for one reason or another I’ve never watched a live launch before. I expected the ground pictures, I expected the commentary, and I expected the glorious sight of the lift off. What I didn’t expect was the onboard pictures as the Atlas V with LRO/LCROSS aboard soared high into the atmosphere and underwent the separation of the first rocket stage and the shedding of it’s payload fairing. All I can say is ‘Wow.’

But when you are watching all this unfold on Twitter it doesn’t stop there! Almost immediately after the launch people started posting picture links of the launch, some of which were absolutely stunning!

Twitter and NASA TV served up a meal fit for a king to me that evening and I can’t wait for the next sitting! I’m still amazed at how the emotion of the event actually comes across through the tweets. Who’d have thought you could do all that inside 140 characters. Amazing stuff from some amazing people!