Hi all! I’m John and for most SpaceTweeps that know me I can be summed up in about two words: Lego and Space!
I’m here to let you know that if you (or someone in your SpaceTweep family) loves Lego bricks AND Space then you can help make more Lego Space sets a reality? Want to see a Mars Rover set? What about a model of your favorite shuttle!? Want to build a model of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft? Well thanks to the fine folks over at the Lego Group, they’ve created a special site and process to let anyone submit designs for a new Lego Set! If the set gets 10,0000 votes, the Lego Group will consider it (based on several criteria). If it’s selected by them for production the person(s) who submitted it will get 1% royalties form the sale of the set. One of the sets selected and taken to production has been a space one, the HAYABUSA spacecraft (http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/439)! Also a Curiosity Rover is under consideration by the Lego Group right now (http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/3431). So, if you’ve been wanting to see more real space sets on the shelves, please go over to the Lego Cuusoo site, search and vote for the sets you’d like to see and buy! Or, even better, submit you own! 🙂
Browsing the site has been known to cause people a sudden desire to go and build with their Lego bricks! I’m not responsible if you decide to take over the living room and build for a few days!
P.S. You can check out my submitted designs here -> http://lego.cuusoo.com/profile/johnmknight#projects 🙂
Social media is one of the fastest evolving new media in society. Tools and methods seem to success each other at ever increasing rates, making it difficult to stay on top of the latest, even for the social media savvy readers of this blog. In the space community this evolution has largely been driven by NASA. After organizing the first space-related tweetup at JPL in January of 2009, NASA continued to embrace and include the social media community in its public outreach and communication strategy.
Just before the first tweetup in 2009 NASA became active on several social media platforms. It is by far the industry leading space organization on Twitter and Facebook and has set the standard on many other platforms as well. NASA TV is probably the best known online TV channel in the world.
Since the first experimental #NASATweetup events in 2009 the concept proved very successful for NASA. And despite some initial internal doubts it quickly evolved into a key new communication channel to the general public. Opening doors of facilities and events to its Twitter followers created an increasingly large worldwide community of NASA ambassadors. In April 2012 the audience was enlarged to include followers on other platforms, and the event name changed into #NASASocial.
Less than three years after the first #NASATweetup and six months after switching to the #NASASocial model, NASA is now introducing the ‘Social Media Credentials’ model. This third ‘evolution’ brings the social media community in line with traditional media. There are a few changes though. Selection of social media users is no longer random. In order to be eligible, an applicant has to meet certain criteria. Active participation on multiple channels is now a clear prerequisite. In NASA’s own words:
“Social media credentials give users a chance to apply for the same access as journalists in an effort to align the access and experience of social media representatives with those of traditional media. People, who actively collect, report, analyze and disseminate news on social networking platforms are encouraged to apply for media credentials. Selection is not random. All social media accreditation applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Those chosen must prove through the registration process they meet specific engagement criteria.” (source)
The first time this new credentials principle was introduced was for the @SpaceX Dragon launch in October 2012. The NASA social media team explained the background of the new social media credentials as follows:
“Social media users selected to attend the SpaceX launch will be given the same access as journalists in an effort to align the access and experience of social media representatives with those of traditional media. “We look at this as a natural extension and an evolution of the NASA Social concept,” said Bob Jacobs [@BNJacobs], deputy associate administrator for the agency’s Office of Communications. “Just as radio, television, and other media expanded the definition of ‘the press,’ we’re going to open our doors to influential and interested people who engage in social media activities and invite them to work alongside traditional media.” (source)
This new concept is proof that for NASA – as for society in general – social media are becoming a mainstream communication channel, and no longer something subordinate to traditional media. This means that savvy social media users and bloggers are considered as important as traditional journalists. It will be interesting to see how NASA will manage and ensure the quality of the public outreach message through these ‘citizen reporters‘. Accreditation for these social media space ambassadors is great step in the right direction. A development that deserves our support and will keep NASA in the forefront of social media integration in public outreach. Hopefully others will follow suit…
One of the greatest benefits of being part of the #spacetweeps community are the great events that are organized. These events are the best way to turn a space passion into a true space ambassadorship and many new friends. When joining my first #NASATweetup in 2011 the other attendees told me it would change my life, which I politely laughed away. But wow, were they right! So after #NASATweetup followed ESA/DLR #SpaceTweetup, #CNESTweetup, #AndreTweetup, #SpaceKoelsch 1-3 and a few #SpaceUps. It is great to be in the heart of the best virtual and real life community in the world! (more…)
Many projects are working on Three-D printing and in situ resource utilitization. Maybe I don’t read enough, but the discussion and popularization seems to have not surpassed some obscurity on the central “what if we had this technology” from the perspective of fundamentals like the periodic table.
So, what if we had a technology that could produce arbitrary mechanical and electrical components and assemblies on scales ranging from nanometers to kilometers? My own thoughts on the subject are described at Ultralight Spaceflight Fabrication. Primary power is solar, secondary power is wind and perhaps geothermal. Land a fabricator on Mars, and execute a program linked from Earth. Land many fabricators on Mars and execute a more complex fabrication program.
From a picometer toolkit of mechanical, electronic, photonic and spintronic combinations of the elements found in the surface and atmosphere — a self sustaining village could be built in a few months.
This future technology builds a cubic meter of a rough mechanical regions in a couple seconds, or a cubic nanometer of logic, emitters or collectors.
A small group of female Saudi spacetweeps has taken the challenge to organize the first SpaceUp Unconference in the Middle East. It is really great to see the US-born SpaceUp movement now quickly taking over the world. Last September we saw the first non-US event take place in Europe, while this December 1st we will see the first @SpaceUpIndia event in Bangalore. But the event in Saudi Arabia in January 2013 promises to be a breakthrough event for several reasons: (more…)
During this weekend (24-25th of November) SpaceUp Poland will take place in Warsaw.
It is great opportunity to meet people who are fascinated by space and excellent chance to discuss with them and share experience in this field. Traditional and local food with the atmosphere of the capital of the country will be a great background for the unconference and with inspiring presentations and talks will create an unforgettable SpaceUp Poland!
If for some reason you cannot take part in SpaceUp Poland,
you can reach us on our livestream channel:
Starts at 11.00 AM, CEST, 24th November.
SpaceUp Poland is dedicated to the fact, that Poland became 20th European Space Agency member state this month, which is great milestone for all space and astronomy enthusiasts in Poland!
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!).