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Monthly archive August, 2009

How to view live still NASA TV images on your mobile phone

You are starved for current NASA TVimages of your favorite space mission, and are on the road with no TV set or Internet access handy, but you have a mobile phone with a data plan. What can you do? Bookmark these links:

NASA TV latest still (small)

NASA TV latest still (medium)


NASA TV latest still (large)

The NASA – KSC Video Feeds web page provides automatically updated still images of live TV streams and cameras from various sources such as NASA TV, the KSC Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF), Shuttle launch complex LC-39A, and more. Some space-related web sites embed these images in their layouts. The above URLs directly link to NASA TV stills of the NASA Public channel in 3 different sizes:

NASA TV small: 147×99 pixels (5 KB)
NASA TV medium: 240×163 pixels (10 KB)
NASA TV large: 704×480 pixels (30 KB)

When you need the latest NASA TV still, just visit with your mobile browser the one that best matches your display size, connection speed and data plan. To get a later still, run the browser’s reload command. The minimum refresh time of the NASA – KSC Video Feeds page is 45 seconds, so it is not necessary to reload more frequently than once every 1 minute or so. This should work on most smartphones, mobile phones or PDAs.

You may also save the NASA TV images or even post them to Twitter via Twitpic. Note that, when provided with a direct link to a JPG image, some browsers try to download the file rather than displaying it.

You can get stills from more video feeds by checking the corresponding channel number on the KSC site. The general URL format is:


To get the Shuttle LC-39A image on channel number 4 at medium size, for example, visit this URL:


This is not the real thing and you don’t get audio, but it is a bandwidth-savvy way of accessing NASA TV and other useful space video streams. When you are on the go, this may be enough to complement the rich information and news on space events from Twitter and provide enough context.

Are there other ways of displaying NASA TV images on mobile phones or smartphones? What are your favorite tips?

Space in France

OK, so, I just got back from a week in France, and missed pretty much everything to do with the STS128 mission and the launch of Discovery. Pick up any French newspaper, and (although my French is still stuck at kindergarten level…) I expected to see something on the launch, build up, anything!!! Alas no, the only glimmer of news was from catching the last 3 seconds of a report on, you guessed it, CNN. 

I have, nevertheless, learnt an important lesson from this. 

Using twitter to keep updated costs an absolute fortune on a iPhone. You have been warned.

W2U’s Great World Wide Star Count

The time is coming for addressing the public and invite them to participate with some citizen science practice!

The Great World Wide Star Count opens an opportunity to seek out for schools, the neighborhood and your family and take them outside their houses and teach them how to identify the Sky, Constellations and brightest stars, while helping to determine how much pollution is in the air!

Come on! Join Windows to the Universe and start counting stars!

Can i has doggy bag? – LOLspace

By popular demand (okay, just one prominent space tweep solicited this), here is a LOLspace featuring a dog. LOLspace may indeed also show dogs or other pets.

can i has doggy bag? needs space nom fur mah trip to space stashun

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

Sidewalk Astronomy: showing the wonders of the sky to your neighbors!

Space, the final frontier. No matter how many times I gaze up toward the starry night, I always find it amazing, mesmerizing, fantastic!

The wonders of Space and the secrets it keeps have haunted me since I was a 5 years old kid. Living in a Nation in a period of time where science and public information was restricted, I’ve desperately looked for information where possible: newspapers, TV news, Sci-Fi movies, magazines, whatever mean possible. My Dad helped me, sending me articles from foreign newspapers, while he traveled to Panama and Colombia. 

I remember one time when, after gaining access to a private store in Managua (the only one allowed to sell  products in US Dollars, open only for Diplomatics), I found a 2 inches refractor telescope, awaiting in one corner. My eyes grew wide at the view and rapidly requested my Dad to buy it for me. He looked at me and, with the seriousness that characterized him, he denied me my request. No matter how many times I pleaded that day, that telescope remained in the store and I left the building with a sad feeling.

Several decades later, I clearly understand his decision: being an unexperienced kid, with no knowledge at all about observational astronomy and no possible ways for finding a mentor, no matter how hard I could have tried: at the end, I would have ended frustrated, deeply.

Now, as an Amateur Astronomer and father to 3 kids, I can teach them the wonders of sky, in a way I could have only dreamed at their age. They join me at the backyard when I point one of the telescopes that I now own toward the Moon, or Saturn or Jupiter. They recognize the objects on the computer screen and start making questions about planets, comets and meteors.

But, besides the joy of sharing my passion with my Wife and Kids, I found another reason for loving Amateur Astronomy: To show the Night Sky to my Neighbors!

Every time I place my telescope at the sidewalk, it is inevitable! Swarms of kids and young people gather around, and beging making all possible questions from “What are you looking at?” to “Are there Aliens in the Backyard?”

Once I managed to set a little order, one by one everyone of them peered into the eyepiece and the look in their faces is priceless. Many of them lined up again for a second, third or fourth time!

The Moon and its mountains and craters causes a great impression on them, but always the Winner is Saturn and its rings. Using a low power eyepiece (75x) I challenged them to spot Titan and all of them start making a more detailed observation. Then, if I have my laptop nearby, I open up Stellarium and show them what were they looking at. And one more time questions arise.

Trust me on this: there is no better way and tool to help kids in their quest for science and knowledge than Astronomy! Let’s transmit to them our joy and passion, and teach them their way to the stars!

Remember, they are our future. They are the ones that will walk on the Moon again and fly toward other worlds.

Space, the Final Frontier… let’s help them to boldly go where we always wanted to be!

International Space Station science results during the assembly years 2000-2008

Did you expect CERN’s new LHC particle accelerator to produce breakthrough science while it was being built? Probably not, but many question the usefulness or effectiveness of the International Space Station for scientific research based on what it could accomplish during its assembly and checkout phase.

From what I hear about this issue, I often get the impression that not much is known on what was done on ISS and what its operational constraints were in its early years. In mid 2009 NASA finally published a report that provides some basic facts and data on the research activities and science output of ISS: International Space Station Science Research Accomplishments During the Assembly Years: An Analysis of Results from 2000-2008.

Highly recommended.

The Department of Space Sciences and Exploration

It is time for the NASA we know and love to change.  Part of that change would be the
incorporation of NASA’s key leadership functions into a newly created cabinet
of the Executive Branch of the United States of America.  That means if it occurs as expeditiously as
it should, this new organization would have General Charles Bolden, NASA’s
current Administrator, as the first Secretary of the Department of Space
Sciences and Exploration.

Why is this
necessary and why does it make sense? 
The United
States has progressed to the point in the space sciences and their application
where they must expand their design, development and project operations into a
joint effort between public and private interests.

  • This expansion must
    also include formalized international agreements that put in place a cooperative,
    worldwide effort in the exploration of all aspects of our intergalactic
    environment: the Universe. 
  • These changes/expansions
    demand a policymaking role for the space sciences and their respective
    exploratory efforts that encompass a national responsibility.
  • Policymaking also
    mandates a participatory one with the Office of the President and the
    Department of State in related international negotiations for joint space
    research and ventures.
  • This joining of resources
    is necessary to insure the full utilization of available financial,
    intellectual, and engineering prowess is brought to bear for the
    successful exploration of space. In other words, space exploration becomes
    a global commitment from all humankind.
  • Finally, the results of
    our current research and explorations make it clear that there are space
    related threats from Near Earth Objects (asteroids and comets) that need a
    fully coordinated and functional detection and deterrence effort.  This is best mandated and controlled by
    a science-based policymaking entity. 
    Here again, international affiliations are vital to the
    effectiveness of this effort.

This all makes sense, because our solar system and everything
beyond in this Universe are the domains of all humankind, not that of any one
nation or group of Earth’s nations. We must start now with that premise and
build our entire space science and exploratory efforts within that framework.

Finally, the new SSE department has a much more interactive
relation with both the White House and the Congress. With respect to the
Congress, SSE becomes more of an expert advisor and partner than as a
supplicant.  Although the Office of the
President is the final policymaking entity, the collaboration between the
President and the SSE department would represent, in the majority of cases, a
joint policymaking effort on all space related matters.

happens to the old NASA?
There are four mission directorates within the current
NASA organization. The new cabinet would include the functions of the four
directorates, but their respective organizational structures will change.  Most of their sub-directorate functions would
become contracted with both the private sector and the research centers of
educational institutions.

  • It is anticipated that
    the majority of design, development, production and deployment (launch)
    functions will be through both contracts and affiliations between the
    department and the private sector. 
  • Current NASA maintained
    facilities for assembly, launch and recovery of space vehicles will be, as
    it is now, a joint responsibility of the department, other agencies and
    private contractors.
  • Other NASA facilities
    associated with other research or testing programs will reflect changes
    due to contracts with the private sector and educational institutions.
    Some facilities, however, are expected to remain within the department

Impact Analysis.
The level of contracted efforts by the private sector
will grow somewhat, but it is expected that, going forward, the joint venture
concept will grow more rapidly. On the national level, joint ventures between
the department and the private sector would anticipate a mutual financial and
intellectual commitment by both the department and the private sector member or
members. The joint venture concept is important for the following reasons:

  • By being a joint
    venture between SSE and a private corporation or partnership there is both
    a sharing of resources as well as a sharing of costs. This is important in
    these early stages of space exploration.
  •  Profitability from direct exploration is
    at least questionable and realistically impossible. This is because in its
    earliest stages exploration offers information but no viable source of
  •  Without an ROI of some degree,
    organizations with the required intellectual and investment potential
    would be usually disinterested in starting their own full-scale space exploration
  • These “gifted”
    entities, however, could become interested in a joint venture where high,
    positive and public visibility is a benefit. This could also include an
    increase in their ability for future, follow-on space operations that hold
    profit potential.
  • Processes, procedures,
    and equipment developed in a joint venture are usually jointly owned
    depending on contractual agreements.  
    SSE could easily “sweeten” the venture by assigning full rights to
    some or all of the development products or processes. The general
    objectives being to undertake a successful exploration and also share in
    the investment by the private sector in future space operations.

Joint venture opportunities on an international level are
already happening, and it is expected that these will increase and expand under
the DSSE concept.  In this regard,
competition between space faring nations has been a healthy boost for moving
space technology forward, but now we must share our goals, and our financial
and intellectual resources. We must establish this in order to successfully
explore our solar system and beyond. 
Certainly, the International Space Station is a clear example of an
early success in international joint ventures. 
We must now expand and intensify that historic beginning.

Some joint
venture projects

  • An expanded, joint
    program to detect and deter Near Earth Objects that pose an imminent
    threat to Earth and its inhabitants. 
    This effort is partially in place, and needs the stimulus of a more
    active and internationally supported (funding and staffing) operation.  The design, development and
    implementation of a deterrence system must be a specific goal of this
    joint activity.
  • An ongoing and expanded
    cooperative, international effort to address the “real” scientific issues
    associated with global warming and associated climate change. An impaired
    or endangered planet Earth will retard, perhaps even prevent, our successful
    and ongoing ventures into space.
  • The human exploration
    of our solar system including placing humans on the planet Mars as well as
    possibly one or more large asteroids or planetary moons.
  • The extended
    exploration of our galaxy, the Milky Way, first robotically, but in years
    ahead by human exploratory missions.

All of the above reorganizations, joint ventures and
international cooperation will dramatically boost the economies of all
participating nations and will steadily raise the standards of living across
the globe.  This is not just a casual
spin-off it is part of the evolutionary progress humankind must make.  Space exploration is the necessary stimulus
to bring this about and scientifically and historically a mandated evolutionary
move by humankind.  If we fail, we as
humans do not simply lose, we defeat the entire and glorious process of life
that inhabits the entire universe.

Let us
begin today for the benefit of humankind and all life beyond.


This author acknowledges that he is not a current member of NASA or any of its
contractors and is aware that some may wonder about his boldness in this
recommendation. He does, however, have over 18 years direct experience in the
aerospace industry in both financial and engineering management.  He apologizes if he has offended anyone, but his
intent is to create an idea stimulus that produces support for something like
the Department of Space Sciences and Exploration. He believes we must make this
change, but defers to the real experts to make it a reality.

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.

It’s All About “Vigah”

John F.
Kennedy’s spirit remains alive and intensely in my heart. That momentous day
when he vowed that we would “land men on the moon before the end of this decade”
brought me to my feet with tears in my eyes. Sadly, while I was deeply embroiled
in Navy rocket programs the word came he had been assassinated. Tears flowed
again, that time from grave loss.


The essence
of that spirit I hold so dear is, in his words, “vigah.” With his words, his
actions and his strong belief in the future of America and especially its young
people, he infused all of us with “vigah.” With that infusion we did the near
impossible and put men on the moon as directed; safely and on time.


As we ponder
whether we will venture anywhere in space in the next decade, we stammer and
lose faith.  Wherever it must originate,
however it will be communicated, and whenever it will take hold, we must
re-infuse our belief in ourselves, our future and especially our dreams to
explore all that surrounds us.  We must
regain “vigah.” We must do it now, and we must impart it throughout the space
community, the Congress and our President.


We are a “can
do” people. The impossible is an irritant that drives us to succeed against
seemingly dreadful odds.  Why are we now
revoking that can do spirit?  Whatever
the initial budget, we must find a way. Whatever the technological hurdles, we
must find a way. Whatever the naysayers shout, we must press on.  Whatever it takes, we will do it, and we will
do it with ‘vigah.”

Cash for Clunkers…Does NASA count?

The government has recently announced its plan to give drivers money for cashing in their old, unwanted clunkers of cars for a government rebate check of almost $4500 if you qualify. Well, if the government can hand out money to private citizens to get a new car, why can’t the government give one of its own divisions money to help improve itself? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration back during the Apollo days composed of almost 4% of your taxes! During todays economy, NASA gets less than 1% of your tax dollars. So, should NASA get a government check to keep it going? What is NASA’s next step?

Just recently, it was announced that NASA’s division of NEO, or Near Earth Object, trackers do not have enough money to track all of the asteroids that have a posibility of making an encounter with the Earth too close for comfort. This lack of money causes even greater concerns with manned spaceflight missions. If STS-128 and Shuttle Discovery need to be rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for further External Tank inspections, the launch could be pushed to October, which is the same month where another 900 employees who work on the shuttle program will be laid off. Should we be concerned about this? The obvious and correct answer is “heck yes we should”. Our president knows this and agrees with it, and is finally taking action.

President Barack Obama proposed a committee to examine all of the possible places the manned space program could go, and to come back to him with their decision. This committee became the Augustine Commission, lead by Norman Augustine along with many other large members of the space community, such as Dr. Sally Ride, also the first US woman in space who flew on STS-7. It was stated that each of these meetings must be done in public with the exception of minor factors, and in agreeing with that requirement, traveled to different places in the US holding public meetings regarding whether to remain in Low Earth Orbit, the fate of the ISS, and the benefits of going to the moon or to mars along with many other topics. It was also important that they heard the community, as they ended each session with the public’s comments.

Now, the real question remains…what will the committee’s conclusion be, and will the President along with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden follow through with their recommendations? The best thing for now is that President Obama realizes that space exploration is important, along with peaking interest in Americans by giving them money for their old cars. Now, if only Obama could combine the two, and get public interest in space, while giving good old NASA its own rebate check to follow through on the Augustine Committee’s recommendation, whatever it may be.

Dis ur road to rocat science – LOLspace

In this LOLspace, your rocat science master reminds that the space business is hard work requiring science and math skills, but the rewards are out of this world.

LOLspace: dis ur road to rocat science

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

“Space Race” Kaput?

I agree that sadly today the general public knows very little about NASA. When I was a kid in the 1960s there was much more interest for many reasons. First of all, President John F. Kennedy said we would land a man on the moon before 1970 and that was exciting to all. (He had no idea how of course), and although his life was cut short, the COLD WAR was very much alive. Let’s not forget that we were also involved in a war in Vietnam and yet we did land two men on the moon before 1970.

I think back THEN, the public interest was about beating the USSR
with a manned ship to the moon because they started “a race” with
Spudnik. I remember my parents telling me about the world watching the
“October Sky” to witness that event. In 1964 (I believe) the Soviet
government gave the ‘go ahead’ for a lunar landing mission. I was only
5 years old at the time, but I remember reports of problems with their
rockets, etc. Everyone where I lived by the time I was 5 or 6 knew the
name John Glenn! The first AMERICAN to orbit the earth… wow… now
there was something to be proud of! I remember seeing his photo on Life
Magazine and in newspapers. We even had his photo in our school as
early as the first grade. Most people today probably can’t even name an
astronaut. (Sure Buzz likes his press and book tours and that’s good).

The real history of Soviet spaceflight was for the most part the story of Soviet military space. Of course much of the U.S. interest in the space program has also been for military use I’m sure. Who can forget the “Star Wars” years from hawkish Ronald Reagan. I removed the personal comment about him, but I’m glad I’m old enough to remember all of this.

I think if we had elected officials who were not just lawyers, but men
and women who loved science we might just be heading towards Mars at a
faster pace. What do I know, these are my memories and my opinion, but
I’m glad I got to live through those exciting years. (I suppose there
will be a lot more of the private sector getting involved in space
travel besides Sir Richard Branson). Maybe it was something unique about
being “the first”. We’re Americans, we love competition. Perhaps that
is why the general public knows who will be in the World Series, but not
who will next fly to the ISS, or even what the ISS is.