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Monthly archive November, 2009

New song by @CraftLass! Bake Sale for NASA

Bake Sale for NASA cover

One of the great things about Twitter is the way it can lead to inspiration for projects and even collaboration. A great example of that can been seen in the song, ‘Bake Sale for NASA’ that was just released by one of our own tweeps, @CraftLass. She was inspired to write the song through tweets she read from a few of us space tweeps. 

After she wrote the song, she brought me into the project by asking me to do the cover art. I had a great time working on it! You can find the song at Amazon.com, and it will soon be released on iTunes, Rhapsody, and Napster. Congratulations, @CraftLass!

Song lyrics are posted here.

Gear for Tweeps on a budget

If you haven’t heard already, Land’s End is having a promotion until 12/1 where you can get free embroidered logos and free shipping. For Tweeps without a lot of cash to spare, this is a great opportunity for you to get Space Tweep Society gear at low prices. Some best bets:

Cotton twill cap for $4.05 

T-Shirt for $7.20

Women’s Regular ¾ Sleeve Pattern Broadcloth Shirt -Choose True Blue/Light China Blue Stripe for $13.05,  White/True Blue Window pane for $11.70, True Blue Mini Windowpane for $11.70

Women’s Regular Pattern Broadcloth Shirt– Choose True Blue/Light China Blue Stripe for $13.05

First, make sure you are in the Space Tweep Society Land’s End store (or you won’t be able to add our logos). Go our store by clicking here. Choose the color and size of the item you want, then click “continue” to add the logo you want and its placement.

The Space Tweep Society logo can be embroidered on dark or light colors or you can get just Meco the birdonaut without the rest of the logo.

There are other bargains to be found, but these were a few I came across. Enjoy!

Piece of mind on Space Shuttle

I wrote this a while ago (during sts-128) and I wasn’t planning on sharing it, but I decided I should and this is the right place to do it so…

I just had the weirdest feeling ever. I felt… empty. I was online, and i decided to go to nasa.gov and read about the current mission and the ones to come. I found an article called “The Final Countdown for Space Shuttles”, or something like that, it talks about the few missions we have left, and what was each of them doing and schedules.

Suddenly I felt really weird. I realized the only spaceship I know, the only one I’ve seen a launch of, is not gonna be around for much longer. I felt like everything I knew was going away. Don’t get me wrong, I know Soyuz will still go to space, and I’m truly excited about Constellation, but no Shuttle?

Well… I’ll have to enjoy these last missions, these last Shuttles, and every “last” in every mission. And then after Space Shuttle program is over I’ll enjoy robotic exploration,  the ISS, and all the new discoveries they bring us, and all the science we get from them. I’ll even enjoy all the milestones in the build of Ares, and the rest of Constellation. Then, hopefully, when it is ready to fly, I’ll enjoy its missions, and maybe even some to the moon, or Mars!

I’ll enjoy all of that, but the Space Shuttle will always have a special place in my heart (brain?) as the first spaceship I ever saw, the one I stayed up late, and woke up early for, the one I saw being launch, and the one that inspired me. I look forward to the future, but I’ll always miss the Space Shuttle.

It is short but really, really heartfelt…

A Well Choreographed Ballet or a Recruitment?

After having seen just the International Space Station along with the ISS and the space shuttle docked to it, I had yet to see the ISS trailed by any of the three remaining space shuttles. After 6 unsuccessful attempts either due to weather or personal situations, I was getting worried I’d never get to see it, and for mission STS-129, my first information told me the next ISS pass was after space shuttle Atlantis landed.

Talk about disappointment! I thought I’d never get to see it with only 5 shuttle flights left. Then, a true miracle. On this Thanksgiving in the United States, I must say I am thankful for Twitter and luck. While bored out of my mind at a family get-together, I went onto Twitter on my iPod Touch, and saw a mention from @twisst, which notifies a person when the ISS will be near, and it said 5:05pm EST. I nearly threw my iPod in the air out of excitement. I might get to see them pass!

As it became 5:00, I gathered a few of my family members who were interested in seeing the two spacecraft pass overhead. I open the door, and my jaw drops. No, I didn’t see the ISS or Atlantis, but I did see lots of clouds. Getting worried, I got off the porch and into the driveway, where there was a slight break in the clouds…right where the two spacecraft were supposed to be.

I looked up, nearly in pain, and saw it was 5:07. I started to turn to go inside, and sure enough, I misread the information and was looking at the wrong part of the sky (and apparently my watch is fast) and out of the clearing in the clouds, a beautiful white streak that I have seen in the past crossed the sky. Suddenly, looking exactly where the ISS came from, 10 seconds later, a second dot appeared, and unbelievably, I was seeing both the ISS and Atlantis separated and trailing each other.

As we called out more members of our family, I started to describe to everyone that there were astronauts living aboard the ISS and returning home tomorrow on the space shuttle. While describing, I continued to look up. I thought to myself that it looked like a magnificent ballet that was going on, which was well choreographed as the two bright, shining dots danced gracefully across the sky and behind the clouds following right behind each other, many of us unaware that this dance is really 250 miles over our heads traveling at 17,500 miles per hour.

As the two disappeared in the night sky, some of the famiy went back inside. Yet, surprisingly, many people stayed outside and continued to talk to me about amazing it was that they saw exactly what they did. Sure enough, every single one of my 15 relatives outside never knew you could see either of the craft with your own naked eye. A few were probably ashamed to admit they had no idea what the International Space Station was. Two family members even commented that had I not pointed it out, they would’ve just taken them to be two airplanes awfully close together and not blinking.

Regardless of their prior knowledge, there was plenty of interest in what was going on, and once they saw it for the first time, they became hooked, and a thirst for more knowledge came upon them, asking me tons of questions. Probably the best part is that these family members were mixed in ages. Some hadn’t even left elementary school yet, while others were already retired, and yet every single one of them were amazed, and it turned them all into little kids in a candy store as they became interested in what was going on.

So, I write this for two main reasons. One because I was just struck by the amazing beauty of the two spacecraft floating across the sky together. The second and probably most important reason is that this story shows that people are really interested in what’s going on in space, whether they know it or not. It just has to be brought to their attention. So, the moral of this story is that if we want people to support our space program and maintain an interest in space like there was back during the Cold War era, then all we need to do as a community is to get people to look up and show them what is up there and maybe that little glimmer can spark an interest in all generations, just as it did to all of us who are members of this society.

NASA Tweetup – Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch – Day 2

Monday started at 6am, so I got an extra hour of sleep compared to the day before.  We were asked to meet at a different location to get on a bus for the launch site, since no cars were allowed in many areas of the NASA property on launch day.  Upon arrival we found a large air-conditioned press tent that was dedicated solely for the TweetUp.

Read the rest and see pictures here

NASA Tweetup – Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch – Day 1

The morning began at 5am, waking up to 2 alarms and a hotel wake-up call.  Why so early? The allergies I brought with me from Atlanta forced one eye to swell shut last night, so I wanted to be sure and shower this morning to rinse the offensive allergen from my body.  And since I still adorn an aircast, that process takes longer than normal.  Plus, I was panicking about being late to the Tweetup, and refused to allow sleeping in to be the reason I missed my NASA experience.  

Read the rest and see pictures here

The Sociology of Tweeting and How It Affected a Space Launch: The Incalculable Benefits of Social Media on Geeks

A writer is someone one who has to write.  She feels compelled, like a musician who must get the song out of her head, to set down on paper the ideas that are rolling around inside and must be expressed.

I always wanted to be a writer but I lacked that compulsion. I used to have it many years ago, in my teens, but it was scrubbed from my consciousness by a series of domineering relatives (blood and otherwise) who spent my life, telling me how to live it.  They worked hard to expunge the spark of creativity struggling to escape and, after many years, managed to all but put out the fire. In the last few months, however, I have started to feel the return of that desire to give birth to the thoughts I have and begin to share them with others.

This is my progeny:

It hasn’t been by mere happenstance that this rebirth has occurred. It has been inspired by my new set of friends.  It has only been since I have met these new friends that I have felt the words and ideas begin to burst forth like they once did.

You think these must be very influential friends I have acquired.  Well, they are. They are brilliant, knowledgeable, educated people with a singularity (pun intended) and focus of purpose matched only by their intense dedication to the heavens and all things space like.

They are astronomers, engineers, technicians, computer wizards, and at least one amazing astro-physicist.  They are fellow educators, social media experts, software gurus, public affairs officers and space workers.  They are moms and dads, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons. 

Somewhere along the way, some little spark of inspiration caused them to direct their passions towards space.  I suspect many have been harassed, ridiculed, and put down for their single-mindedness from the time they were youngsters.  Now they have found a commonality of thought with a group of people with whom they may share their obsession and extreme knowledge of all things space, without being intimidated, derided or “made fun of.” They go by the designation, “Space Geeks” and I proudly consider myself one of them.

My guess  is, if you polled the group, you’d find that some of these people define themselves as being socially anxious (I know I do).  One of them mentioned that he has a hard time being around large numbers of people (as do I).  I believe that’s part of why we all relate to each other so well.  We are people who have known the isolation of having a great passion about a subject.

We laughingly call ourselves “Geeks” but when we were school age, that name was not a positive one. We’ve just come to realize that it’s the Geeks of the world who hold the joy of curiosity and adventure (and make all the money).  So we revel in the community of like minds and consider ourselves lucky that we have found such great people. 

We are quick to thank each other for little niceties that others might overlook. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, births, and achievements as if they were our own, like good friends do. And we do it with a joy and consistency that is unparalleled.  We reinforce each others fragile psyches with words of encouragement when we have been revered and words of rage at the perpetrators when we have been maligned. We lift each others desolated spirits when we have been separated from loved ones and keep each other company when there is no one else around to talk to. We do it, in some cases, without ever having met “in person.”

I laughed when someone, the other day, started a sentence with, “Well, this isn’t space related, but…”  He had not noticed that some time ago the “space talk only” rule had been unconsciously waived.  People who had come together, bound by the common thread of space, had branched out to discuss the diverse, and sometimes even banal, topics that good friends share. 

We talk about weather because it affects the missions and our gardens. We talk about what’s happening in our lives because that’s what the sentence over the little box asks us to do. (It used to say, “What are you doing?” but I suspect that so many people took that too literally so Twitter decided to make the question less specific.)

We started out with a space in which to be as technical and “geeky” as 140 characters would allow but somewhere along the way, interspersed with all the techno talk, we have come to share our lives.

We talk of families, pets, jobs (or lack of). We trade recipes, amazing photographs, and stories about how we came to be the people we are. We sometimes know more about each other than our actual family members do. We humor, compliment, reassure, and bolster each others egos.

We are friends. We are a true community and if anyone questions or doubts that, let him examine the events of the past week to allay any misgivings. This week a large group of relative strangers came together, bonded, and departed as new found friends.  Over and above the well planned and well executed programs provided by NASA, were the spontaneous gatherings of people who did not want to be torn from the enchantment of the event.  Long after the planned events had concluded, we still “clung” to each other and congregated in parks, parking lots, and restaurants, bent on maintaining the thread of connectivity we felt when together.

It has been a week since the event, and yet we still share it daily. We have shared our mementoes with comrades who couldn’t be with us at the gathering and we have shared stories and photographs to help them feel as if they were there.

We all seem to recognize, on some level, whether conscious or not, that we have made a connection that will be with us, as a life changing event, for the rest of our lives. More than a couple people have said that this was the experience of a lifetime, the culmination of a lifelong dream and that’s exactly what they mean.  They know that all of the variables that came together to make the magic that we experienced this week, will never realign in the universe.  There can only be one first and this was it.

We continue to thank NASA for bringing us all together but it was our common spirit, that enriched this event. A beautiful, powerful, ship, full of courageous astronauts, launched into the clouds and with it was launched an enduring group of friends.

Thank you, NASA, and all the many people that acronym represents. And thank you, my new friends, for truly making this the time of my life.  

Jan DuRaine

Book Review: “Is There Life Out There” by Sara Seager, PhD

The once
casual and often puzzling questions about whether humankind has relatives
elsewhere in the universe has grown into a serious scientific pursuit.  A variety of powerful land-based and space
telescopes are concentrating on finding and cataloging stars and their orbiting
planetary bodies. The terms extra-solar and exoplanets have come into common
parlance among scientists and the public.

scientist and astrophysicist, Sara Seager, PhD is one of the leading
researchers in this field and she has written a delightful and highly readable
book. She explains how scientists are going about finding out whether there is
other life in the universe.  She does it
in a most conversational manner as if the reader is sitting chatting with Dr. Seager
about life in the universe.  Her enthusiasm
and obvious firm belief that we will find a “sister Earth” is infectious and
stimulating.  You will turn the pages quickly,
not from haste or boredom, but from an eagerness to know more.

In an
earlier interview I had with Dr. Seager she firmly stated that we are “stardust
people” and from that implies that the universe possesses and passes around all
of those magical elements that support the formation of life.  All that is needed is a host planet that is
considered habitable.  This is a major
theme of Sara Seager’s book. She fully explains and illustrates the science and
research involved in finding our “Earth twin.”

When I
finished “Is There Life Out There”, I had no doubts. Like Dr. Seager I am
convinced that the answer is yes, and that, in time, we will find other life in
the universe. I strongly urge you to order this wonderful book and sit down for
a most informative and exciting conversation with this remarkable scientist.

To learn
more about the book and its author, please visit with Sara Seager here.

Congress and NASA

DISCLAIMER: **Anything I write here is my personal opinion and does not reflect the official position of NASA**

As a civil servant, I work for the President, whether I agree with him or not. Come January, it is quite possible that I could be in the untenable position of having to tell Congress to fund NASA with a budget I am disgusted by.

I hope that everyone will play a part in the political process and work hard to show Congress that they CAN change the fate of human spaceflight even if the President doesn’t step up with the funding needed to continue exploring our solar system.

In the campaign and in the budget proposal of 2010, the President talked about ending the so called “War on Science.” While I don’t believe that war actually existed, I do believe cutting NASA would stifle the economy and eliminate careers and technology we haven’t yet imagined. For my children, I think that is unspeakable!

So to the Space Tweep Society, thank you for your efforts and please watch closely as Congress makes progress through the budget. Write your Member of Congress and meet with the Space Legislative Assistant if you come to Washington, DC.

If you have children, have them write Congress how they want their space program to look! Before I was born, Congress decided I and everyone my age and younger could not see astronauts land on the moon. They canceled capabilities our country is now trying to rebuild. (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4214/ch12-2.html). I hope this Congress does not make that decision for my children too.

DISCLAIMER: **Anything I write here is my personal opinion and does not reflect the official position of NASA**

Through the Looking-Glass: Jurij Gagarin, first kosmonaut dies in plane crash

Sorry about the delay. I’ll make it up by posting four articles that touch same subject – the tragic death of Yuri Gagarin.

Yuri Gagarin, The first cosmonaut dies in plane crash

MOSCOW (PAP). The Central Committee of the CPSU, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the Council of Ministers of the USSR with deep regret inform that on 27 March 1968, following a plane crash during a training flight in an airplane, the first cosmonaut of the world, famous aviator-cosmonaut of the USSR, member of the Soviet Communist Party, deputy of the Supreme Soviet, Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel Yuri Gagarin has lost his life.

In the same plane crash the commander of the air unit, a member of the CPSU, Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel Vladimir Sieriegin engineer was also killed.

The Central Committee of the CPSU, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the USSR Council of Ministers express their deep sympathy to the families and relatives of the deceased.

The Central Committee of the CPSU, Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and Council of Ministers decided to form a government comission including member of the Politburo to organize the funeral of Gagarin and Sieregin and being led by secretary of the CPSU Central Committee – Andrej Kirilenko.

Gagarin and Sieriegin will be buried on Red Square in the Kremlin Wall.

Source file: link

This is probably the first article that was published in polish newspapers informing about the plane crash. Note typical for that time certain way of writing political expressions that sound like gibberish. It’s hard to say when it was published exactly – probably a good number of days after 27th of March. Probably in April. It would also seem that they couldn’t decide how to write ‘Sieregin’.

Yuri Gagarin was born on 9 March 1934. April 12, 1961 was the year the spaceship “Vostok I” made the first spaceflight in the world reaching Earth’s orbit (apogee 327 km, perigee 175 km) and landing on the designated territory of the USSR (around the village Smielovka in Saratov Oblast). Flight lasted 108 minutes at a speed of 28 thousand kilometers per hour. During his first journey to Space, Gagarin flew 40 thousand kilometers.

MOSCOW (PAP). – The Central Committee of the CPSU and the USSR Council of Ministers formed a government commission to clarify the circumstances of the tragic death of the world’s first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin and colonel Sieregin who both lost their lives in the crash during flight training.

Source file: link

I’m not sure if this part was below the article or is from a completely different source. It might have been included below main text which sounds like it was translated from official soviet document to make it up to date.

Circumstances of the tragic death

MOSCOW (PAP). A government commission established to clarify the circumstances of the death of Gagarin and W. Sieriegin reported that the plane, which they used crashed near the village Nowosielkovo in Vladimir Oblast.

On 27th March during daylight Gagarin took off from airfield near Moscow for his next flight with Sieriegin (an instructor) in the two-seater trainer jet to train piloting technique. The plane crashed on its way back to the airport after the completion of the training task.

Source file: link

This is the first official confirmation of the crash site mentioned in polish press – most likely dated to early April, few days after the incident.

Spacefaring (Paraody of Memory by Sugarcult) #Musicmonday

This is a Parody of Memory by Sugarcult

Sing along with the youtube clip


This may never launch.

We could go extinct
And not become
Sure, we’re doomed to die,
But we can be great
reach the high frontier.

So get back, back, back to the
Where we once imagined
that we all could live in
So move to, to, to the brand new space age.
My heart’s
beating faster
as the launch fills it with flame.

This may
never launch.

We could go extinct
And not become
Losing half a year,
Waiting for funding.
on advocating.

So get back, back, back to the Apollo.
we once imagined
that we all could live in space.
So move to,
to, to the brand new space age.
My heart’s beating faster
the launch fills it with flame.

This may never launch.

Chilling burning hearts.
And not become spacefaring.
our sense of awe
At that old night sky.
Yet, reach the high

So get back, back, back to the Apollo.
Where we
once imagined
that we all could live in space.
So move to, to,
to the brand new space age.
My heart’s beating faster
as the
launch fills it with flame.

This may never launch.

We could go extinct
And not become
Sure, we’re doomed to die,
But we can be great
reach the high frontier.

No longer a dusty, dry rock…

Just imagine. A nuclear reactor, an electrolyses plant and we’ve got fuel folks. Lots of it.

Yes, LCROSS, the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite was responsible for not only the worst meme of the year (we were so not bombing the moon people!) but it has also turned up much more useful and exciting data. In a press conference today NASA scientists announced that results recorded during the LRCOSS impact experiment pointed to a “significant amount” of water on the moon in the Cabeus crater.

Isn’t that exciting? I thought so too. Read all about it here:

LCROSS Preliminary Water Results

So what does that mean? Well water is important. It’s not only the fact that all life (at least on earth) needs water to survive, but also what we could use it’s constituent components for, in some cases while we create water for human consumption.

Look at the Shuttle as an example. The Main Engines (those 3 big ones) use Hydrogen and Oxygen to generate thrust. It’s a mighty feisty reaction but it works very well because Hydrogen andOxygen are very reactive, but at opposite ends of the scale and love to react with each other. That reactivity also lends itself to another use on the shuttle – hydrogen fuel cells. These generate electricity for the many systems on the shuttle during it’s missions. They take in Hydrogen and Oxygen and use the reaction to generate power. NASA has been using them since the mid 1960s but they’ve always taken fuel onboard with them to keep these systems going. not only that but onboard the Shuttle Orbiter, Fuel Cells make 25 lbs of pure, clean water per hour to supply the crew.

Imagine then if we could build a semi-portable plan on the moon to process water ice into fuel for these types of systems on future space craft. Inter-planetary filling station anyone? It’s possible, we have the technology, and we could make it work in space. What’s more, if it works well on the moon we could go beyond that and setup on Mars, or anywhere else we find water ice. Truly exciting future technology.