I will be attending a two day symposium organized by JAXA in Tokyo. The theme is Space Exploration for Humanity and the Future. It will open Tuesday October 30 at 1300, Japan time. The complete program can be found at the following address:
I will try to cover the event live on Twitter with pictures. Even if it proves difficult (power supply problems, etc.) I will write about it here later in the week.
As you can see, the philosophical aspects of space exploration will be discussed but also its future. With the attendance of top executives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Mitsubishi HI, SpaceX among others, we can expect some interesting talks about the commercial aspects of space exploration.
I also intend to make use of the event to contact persons interested in starting a SpaceUp or Space Tweetup events in Japan in the near future.
Anyone interested can contact me through my Twitter account @ScienceInSpace
I am looking forward to having an active exchange with my fellow Spacetweeps from all around the world.
Spurred on by @SpaceKate and her recent blog post about the talk in Pontefract by Apollo 16 Astronaut Charlie Duke, I thought I’d post something here as I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past week since the talk.
I grew up in the 80s and 90s. My parents watched the first moon landing when they were young. They can both remember it well. I, of course, wasn’t around then. I do remember they dragged me out of bed as an 8-year old boy in 1989 to watch the in-real-time repeat of the moon landings on BBC television to celebrate the 20th anniversary. But still, my connection is to the Space Shuttle, the winged space plane floating serenely above the earth, Challenger, the Hubble telescope and feats like Bruce McCandless’s first untethered MMU EVA (you’ve all seen that picture, right?). This was ‘space’ for me when I was growing up and these are the things that stick in my mind.
Now I have to be brutally honest. I had never had a particularly strong affinity with the Apollo program. While undoubtedly impressed and amazed by it’s achievements and groundbreaking place in history, and admiration for the people who made it happen in such a short time, it sat as just that. An important piece of history. As someone outside of that generation I had no personal connection with the program, the events or with that period in history. A week ago that changed.
Somewhat last-minute I found out that Charlie Duke, the tenth man to set foot on the moon alongside fellow Apollo 16 astronaut John Young, was doing an evening talk at a school in Pontefract in Yorkshire. At first I didn’t know if I could make it, some excuses started to cross my mind, but about three days before the fog seemed to clear in my mind and I heard this loud voice yell “It’s Charlie Duke, he walked on the moon!” (that’s the polite version anyway). Things were catalysed further when I found a cheap room for the night and realised it was only a modest drive from where I live. So I decided to go. Boy I’m I glad I did.
Meeting up beforehand I didn’t really know what to expect. I know the whole thing felt mighty incongruous. For those that don’t know Pontefract, it’s a small industrial town near Leeds in South Yorkshire. It’s claims to fame are having an unfeasible number of train stations (three last time I counted) for a town its size, being wedged between two major motorways and making sour liquorice sweets called Pontefract Cakes. Not much connection to space there! Still, here we were and there it was. The talk was very well organised (thanks to @Space_Lectures) and was held in a large lecture theatre at a local school. When I got in and got a seat the place was already 4/5ths full and by the time the talk started it was almost full to capacity.
What followed was an exciting, animated and enthralling account of Charlie Duke’s life up to and including the flight to the moon and his three day stay there. There are other accounts of the talk and the stories told (@SpaceKate’s blog post put it into words much better than I can) but what struck me was a man that is genuinely still excited about what he did 40 years and countless thousands of talks later, and delights in relaying the tales of his experiences to an audience. This bright, lively talk not only had me enthralled for the whole hour, it also did something else. Hearing about the experience and seeing it for myself through Charlie Duke’s words forged a connection for me to another time and place beyond my own lifetime. As any good story or tale puts you in a place beyond your own, Charlie Duke’s talk transported you to the moon, helped you understand what they did, what went through their minds, what it felt like to be there. After the talk we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to have an item autographed by Charlie Duke and (thanks to @SpaceKate) I had a lovely photo print of him on EVA on the moon ready to sign. That photo is now in a frame on the wall at home. I’ll never forget that evening.
In the days since I look back at my fond memories of the talk and feel my view of the Apollo moon landing program has changed forever. It’s gone from an interesting page in history to being something I’ve heard about first hand from an astronaut who went there and did those things. It’s changed my view of the program, of the people involved and of my feelings about it. Something that before I had little connection to I now feel some kind of personal attachment to. Suddenly I want to know more, hear more experiences and know more about it.
This is the importance of telling stories. Stories are mankind’s way of passing our knowledge of these great events down to new generations, for them to cherish and pass on again and again. “I was there” is one of our greatest assets and one of our most valuable sources of not only information but also inspiration. Charlie Duke’s story is a very special one, possibly among the most special of anyone alive today, but lots of people do amazing things and have amazing experiences and never relay their tales. Never believe that no-one is interested. There are always people willing to listen and maybe you’ll inspire someone in ways you never imagined.
Be sure to tell your story and listen to others who have a story to tell…
As an introduction, let’s just say that ESO – the European Southern Observatory – basically builds and operates the most advanced and powerful telescopes observing from our planet. For their 50th anniversary, they had the awesome idea to get one of their followers to tweet their way to the VLT… I came back a few days ago, and it was a beautiful life-changing experience.
The Very Large Telescope is located on top of a Chilean mountain, Cerro Paranal, at an altitude of about 2600 meters. Cerro Paranal is in the Atacama Desert, the driest region on Earth, 2 hours away by car from the nearest town. ESO chose the southern hemisphere to install their telescopes because it enables them to observe the center of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds… and they chose Chile because the “seeing”, the quality of the observations is excellent. The atmosphere is very stable, the skies are almost always clear, there is no light pollution whatsoever.
Cerro Paranal is often nicknamed the astronomers’ paradise by those who visit it… and with reason; one of them even told me that if he was not married, he would never want to leave! The conditions up there are harsh, and of course observations last all night long, 365 days a year, but Paranal is nonetheless an amazing place to work and live. ESO did a great job when they built the Residencia, which is beautifully integrated in the surrounding landscape. From the outside, it looks a bit like the underground lair of a James Bond villain… which may explain why the Residencia was chosen as a filming location for Quantum of Solace!
Cerro Paranal hosts 10 active telescopes. There are four telescopes with an 8.2-meters diameter mirror, named UT-1 through 4 and a.k.a. Antu (The Sun), Kueyen (The Moon), Melipal (The Southern Cross) and Yepun (Venus) in Mapuche language. There are also 2 survey telescopes, VST with a 2.6-meters and VISTA with a 4-meters mirror and 4 “small” ones, with “only” an 1.8-meters mirror (the auxiliary telescopes). Telescopes can be combined for specific observations using a process that is called Interferometry – which makes them even more powerful. The 4 auxiliary telescopes can be moved around to any of the 30 positions available on the platform, which opens an amazing range of observation possibilities. I think the only place where I can say it this here, among spacetweeps… I sure did not expect to be so emotionally moved by these gentle giants.
The telescopes are amazing pieces of technology… powerful, silent, and gorgeous in the chilean light – sunrise, daylight, sunset, darkness, moonlight… The view from and on the VLT platform is always breathtaking. Please check out check out my pictures here if youre not convinced yet!
On my last night at Cerro Paranal, I teamed with Henri Boffin – a renowned ESO astronomer- to image Thor’s Helmet, the NGC 2359 nebula… The observation was streamed live on ESO’s website as part of a six-hours broadcast, which I can only recommend you watch if you’re interested in astronomy. The picture we took is stunning! Mathieu (outreach team), Gabriel (astronomer), Claudio (shift supervisor) and I were also live from the VLT platform a few hours later for a Q&A session…
If I had to sum up this week in Chile… I had a great time, met a lot of people who are passionate about their work, and learned a lot about astronomy and ESO. And if you’d rather read the longer version, please check out my blog entries for this trip… available in both english or french!
Can you imagine that the mirror for the future E-ELT (European-Extremely Large Telescope) will be 39 meters wide?
As I’d never done anything remotely like a un-conference or SpaceUp before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found impressed me, excited me, blew me away almost. I think what I have experienced at SpaceUpEU is a huge melting pot of passionate, enthusiastic people both individual in their views and interests but also united equally by their love of space and curiosity to discover other people’s passions and interests. Everything from the range of topics to the massive age range of the participants, the 15 countries participating, how far people had travelled. It made you think very differently and it helped me be more encouraged and open about something I usually only talk about online.
With so many topics, talks and discussions and, of course, overlapping slots it is impossible to absorb everyone’s ideas during the weekend but hopefully with the abundance of video equipment and recording hopefully some things I didn’t get to see might filter down later on, probably a good idea given the rather crammed state of my brain! From square one, even maybe before the event began on Friday night I have learned lots of great stuff that I hope I can remember when I need it. The sheer range of topics was also mind-blowing. From the meticulously prepared to the totally ad-hoc, enthralling to the brain-cell popping (Yes, I’m still recovering from Christer Fuglesang’s mass, weight and particle physics!!) to the down-right controversial (Mars One caused by far the most discussion!) and pretty-much everything in between.
For me personally, the diversity of information and the friendliness and openness of the crowd stands out a lot at events like this. I wore a replica NASA flight suit to day 1 of SpaceUpEU and so many people commented on how cool it was and how good it looked. Also I knew very few people there, probably only half a dozen at most, but *everyone* was open and friendly and wanted to get to know you and talk to you. Most impressive however was actually giving a talk to a group of people, in my case an Astronomy Kickstarter, who were genuinely interested in what I had to say. Although I’d have loved more time and to open the discussion to the people there with me, I still got a massive satisfaction from talking to them about a shared interest and presenting helpful information to people who wanted to get going themselves.
My only regret is perhaps that a lot of passions, information and ideas were presented but perhaps that we didn’t always have time to discuss those within the SpaceUp event format. A lot of the discussion occurred in the evenings and outside the talks themselves which is sort of what SpaceUp and ‘un-conference’ is supposed to be working to bring into the main event. I don’t think this was necessarily a failure of the event so much as so many people were so interested in sharing their passions and, being the first European SpaceUp event, it uncorked a rich source of this passion and sharing. As a first event, an opener and a launch of the SpaceUp concept in Europe, though, it was a hugely successful and exciting event to be part of. Hopefully (and I know there are other SpaceUps already happening or being planned, starting with SpaceUp Stuttgart in October) this will be the spark that ignites the fires of other people to continue the flow of ideas and information in our area of the world.
Last but by no means least, I couldn’t write a blog post about SpaceUpEU without offering massive thanks to our organisers:
- Remco Timmermans (@timmermansr)
- Eico Neumann (@travelholic)
- Angie Kanellopoulou (@akanel)
- Alex von Eckartsberg (@starlingLX)
- Marco Frissen (@mfrissen)
- Joachim Baptist (@JustBe74)
Although, as they kept reminding us, SpaceUp is as much a product of the participants as the organizers, their amazing efforts and hard, dedicated work opened the door for so many people to get together under this common banner to share and ignite discussion, some of which will still be going for a good while I’m sure (but hey, the rovers will do it!).
As September is approaching fast, it will also be almost one year ago that I attended my first SpaceTweetUp. Being ESA & DLR’s first foray herein this is all the more fitting. This is the last place where I need to explain what a SpaceTweetUp can do to a person, so not going there.
So SpaceUp Europe, that’s what I would like to talk about. To me it’s a beautiful full circle story. One of the things that immediately struck me was how a Barcamp like event would be great for this topic/crowd. Little did I now at that time that it already existed and the first SpaceUp had already been held in San Diego in 2010. So one throws up the idea but it stayed with talking at that point. The fun part is that at the same time some US SpaceTweeps that already attended a SpaceUp were also talking to some other EU SpaceTweeps about the same topic. But also here, it stayed as an idea to pick up at a later time.
The next step. At some point before #SpaceKoelsch2 some SpaceTweeps started talking about SpaceUp and doing this in Europe. At this point the 2 groups that first talked separate are now talking together, space unites once again! This was the perfect time to bring it to the table and see which traction it could gather. And traction it did gather! One week later 5 SpaceTweeps were exchanging mails and on January 23 we had our first hangout (G+ is great for this:) together. SpaceUpEU was born! The first EU organising crew consisting of @akanel (GR) @mfrissen (NL) @timmermansr (NL) @travelholic (DE) and myself @JustBe74 (BE), a real European team.
Fun and work, lots of both luckily. I think it’s fair to say none of us really knew on what journey we were embarking. Finding a location (Genk, Belgium) and date (22-23/09) primarily and secondly logistics, sponsors, legal things, set-up registration and so on. This last point bringing us to today. T-1 actually! Starting tomorrow registrations will open for the first ever SpaceUpEU. Another great milestone for us, but for sure not the last. So keep an eye out on @SpaceUpEU tomorrow to be part of it.
To be continued!
The #NewSpaceTweetup, part of the NewSpace 2012 Conference, will be Friday, July 27th, from 8-10 pm at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara.
It is a social event open to the space-loving public and conference attendees. Come join us to geek out about commercial space and build LEGOS! Cosmically good music will be provided by In Space Media. There will also be goodies from Yuri’s Night, SpaceUp, Space Travelers Emporium and the Silicon Valley Space Center. If you’d like to donate something, bring a space display or provide a space activity, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event is free (donations welcome). More details will be posted soon. Follow @NewSpaceTweetup for the latest updates!
I was recently contacted by someone looking to find some volunteer judges for the Nano-Sat Launch Challenge, which is being run by Space Florida. One or more judges will be assigned to oversee rules compliance for each competing team. Approximately 10 volunteers are needed, and they will be reimbursed for expenses, including travel, but that’s all. To qualify, a volunteer should have some aerospace knowledge or experience and should be able to read and interpret the challenge rules. Exact timeframes are based on when each team decides to launch. If you are unable to travel to the launch site when the time comes, another judge from the pool will be assigned, so there is flexibility. If you are interested, tweet at @flyingjenny to let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the volunteer coordinator.
Fellow #Spacetweeps :
Just wanted to bring the #Penny4NASA effort to your attention. I discovered really fast at the #NASATweetup at @NASAJPL a little over a year ago (May 2011) that #Spacetweeps are an exceptional bunch of people. I thought I was alone in knowing that the exploration of space, and the passion it inspires, is crucial to the long-term survival of humanity. I had always assumed that everyone else was ignorant of NASA’s importance to the United States and the world. Then, I went to a #NASATweetup. It changed my world. To meet all of these people, and the passion they carry for our collective well-being…it humbled me. I met the greatest people. A #NasaTweetup does something immeasurable to you; it gets in your blood.
And so, with this new perspective I plugged in as far as I could go into this new sub-culture. I was already earning degrees, moving to become connected to exobiological research, a field close to my heart. But after that #NASATWeetup I became an advocate for NASA. I helped launched the #SaveJWST campaign to raise awareness for the troubled budget of the James Webb Space Telescope (savethistelescope.blogspot.com). In part, we were successful and it was a thrill, for once, to see NASA and Space Exploration championed like that. I know the JWST is controversial to some, but I cannot wait to see it fly. It will open up a whole new paradigm of questions about the universe and our place in it. One single #NASATweetup influenced me to get involved, to take a stand for our collective future.
And now, there is a new movement I have just connected with. A new, broader direction for championing the good that NASA represents. #Penny4NASA is a grassroots effort to influence the Federal Government to double NASA’s current budget, from half a penny on every Federal dollar spent to one whole penny per dollar. A humble, small request…especially if you consider that NASA’s entire budget is tiny considering the whole Federal Budget. The $850 billion bailout, spent in one go, is bigger than that entire 50 year NASA budget.
But, of course, many of you know this. Many of you have heard of #Penny4NASA , too. I am, after all, speaking to the choir =) So, I just want to leave you with this: the new #Penny4NASA video “We stopped Dreaming.” Share it. Sign the petition.
Presenting new #Penny4NASA video:
#NASA is the key to the future. It is our greatest investment.
Thank you very much for your attention. I look forward to seeing you at the next #NASATweetup (#NASASocial).
The ISON project was founded by Jamey Erickson, John Heimkes and Andy Kvamme in Minneapolis, MN with the ultimate goal of building & launching an amateur rocket that can break the barrier of space (62 miles) and inspire the next generation of dreamers to start exploring again.
We’ve started a Kickstarter campaign chock full of great rewards, but ned your help to get us across the finish line.
Check us out on Kickstarter - http://svns.in/qc
Lets go to space!
Hello Space Fans!
I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce all of you to TheSpaceport.us. We are a Space/Astronomy/Everything forum site with some really great members. We talk about everything from technology and space to politics and aviation. We discuss upcoming and current space missions including those in the private sector. We have some very educated individuals that add a lot of great knowledge and debate to the site. Along with some great aviation history buffs and former military members who actually worked with and on the aircraft!
We are always looking for some new and exciting members to share our love for technology and all things space! We are a good bunch of people that love to make new friends and discuss our passions for science and technology. Come visit us and start talking about the other side of space at TheSpaceport.us!
Keep looking up!
@mtclemente (Delphinus on TheSpaceport)