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Monthly archive February, 2010

Remembering Artist Robert T. McCall

Born in 1919, Robert T. McCall would grow up to be one of the greatest  artists to capture the hope and vision of the future. Often Mr. McCall’s brightly lit and somewhat impressionistic style of painting would capture my imagination again and again. I found out today that he passed away.

Who is Robert McCall? What did he paint? If you’re asking these questions then I’ll ask you to Google his name and look at just at a single page of his work. I bet you this, you’ll recognize more than one piece. Why am I so certain? It wasn’t that he was simply prolific.  His art and concept paintings influenced so so many people and projects:  2001: A Space Odessy, Star Wars, the US Space Program, the US Air force and Disney. His art graced the pages of magazines where I can first remember seeing his art. Then there was his work for Star Wars. A year or so later, as a child I would see murals of his at EPCOT Center in Orlando. When I started collecting stamps with a space theme, there was his work again. His paintings of the Apollo program, then the Space Shuttle captured the brightness and hopefulness of the future. He continued painting images of America’s changing space program painting Space Station Freedom, eventually what became the ISS.  His style of bright colors made space look like a calidascope (which in reality, through Hubble, we would all learn how right he was).

Always within his paitings of space there were always the people.  He would capture all the technical details of a spacecraft but it’s the people and their emotion I remember the most. Like Norman Rockwell he captured a moment in his subjects eyes and facial expression of hope and purpose.  The one case that stands is contrast, as there is no face, just a face mask, is his incredible mural in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  The image of Apollo astronatus standing on the moon converys raw emotion all through body language and lighting.  A few years ago I was able to take my father and son there to see DC and this painting. That moment is captured and hangs on my den wall.

I’m not sure what the best compliment to pay an artist is. Certaily I would love to own his work but that’s not an economic reality. All I can say is that his art work inspired me and affected me when I was a child and still does all these years later. I’ve always wanted to live in his paintings, his visions. Maybe that’s  the best thing I could say of his work. Godspeed Robert McCall.

Other remembrances:



Polish Space Effort: How celebrating past sacrifices future

Some of You might have seen my twitter status stating that I have some bad news. I finally can write more about it.

You probably don’t know what ESMO is, so I’ll start with an explanation – ESMO or European Student Moon Orbiter is project led by ESA with – surprise surprise – students from a large number of European best Universities. It so happens that after some very hard work our three best Univs managed to qualify into that project. Contacts have been made, studies are well underway. However things suddenly turned for the worse a bit over a month ago. Even so the government agreed to lay funds for the project, the formal request for 130.000 Euro, which is a really insignificant sum, has been denied by the Ministry of Economy. Reason? The undergoing worldwide economical crisis (which is funny to hear considering the fact we were the only country in Europe that still have a rise of GDP!)

Anyway, this puts our teams at risk of being removed from the project. What’s more – they have been denied even a trip costs to a free, week long workshops that dealt with spacecraft engineering, which resulted in them not going. The only three teams that were not there.

As You might imagine the situation is grim. One University already declared that they will no longer support their students. Two others are seeking outside sponsorship (with only partial success).

The irony is that at same time Ministry of Economy is willing to lay additional 1 mln zł (around 250.000 Euro) beyond already reserved 5 mln Euro to support celebrations of Solidarity anniversary.

Fortunately we managed to create some rush around the subject and one TV station picked it up. Result? Today a delegation will go for a meeting with Minister of Science and Education. Will it bring any effect? We’d have to wait for that.

So, as You might imagine an action of sponsor seeking is underway. Some funds have already been declared by Polish Space Research Center and by Warsaw University of Technology. Of course that’s not enough, so the future is still uncertain at this point.

Looks like not only US Space Program will have war over funds…

Cheers, hope You had better days.

What About A NASA Kids Tweetup?

As the days of the great shuttle program draw to a close I keep thinking about what a great event it would be if there could be a special NASA tweetup for kids at either the last or the next to last shuttle launch.  The reasons are obvious, I am sure. We need to make that inspirational imprint on our future, and our future is our youth of today.

Now, I am sure many youngsters from the Florida region have accompanied their parents to shuttle launches; however, I am not certain that they have ever benefited from a full NASA tweetup program. The opportunity for tours and maybe to meet and listen to some of our astronaut heroes as well as witnessing a live launch creates an indelible impression and stimulus.

I mentioned this on Twitter and have gotten some positive reactions and recommendations. In all cases the kids, or course, would need to be accompanied by an adult. The kids ideally should be in grades 6-12 with preference for kids in grades 6-8 This latter grouping has the highest promise of serious impact. So how do we do it?  Here are some ideas:

1. The tweetup invitation goes out to adults, but has the requirement that to qualify for attendance they must be accompanied by a child within the grade groupings mentioned above.

2. Ideally it would be nice to select kids with above average school performance, but this may impose too much paperwork and delays in the selection process to make it workable.

3. The NASA courtesies extended to prior tweetups should apply here as well.

4. The announcement and offer should be widespread across the country; however, family budget limitations may keep some from making the trip. We need to consider this in the scope of the program

5. Of course, SpaceTweep members with children would certainly be most welcome, but SpaceTweepSociety membership should not necessarily be a criterion.

6. Lastly, please review this suggestion, and respond in the comments section and hopefully we will be able to move forward with a specific plan.

Before you comment, those of you who have witnessed a live shuttle launch, consider your own experiences and emotions and project them forward for these children.  They will never forget it, and many I suspect will rise to join the space science community.In doing so, they will enrich the future of all humankind.

Thank you.

NYC Calendar

So, it turns out that there are a lot of SpaceTweeps in and near New York City. With our population density, I guess that shouldn’t be surprising, but I often find myself wondering, “Where were you people all of my life?” Our first mini-tweetup was small but a great success, I think, and I would like to make this a regular thing (as those of you who follow me know). We’ve had a little trouble getting it all together, even though there are great ideas floating around, so now I’d like to introduce a tool I’ve been working on, a Google calendar not only for our events but any space-related events in the area, sort of a one-stop space geek shop.

To access the calendar in a browser use this link or for the HTML version use this.

To subscribe to the calendar in your organizer of choice use the iCal link.

If you would like to add events to this calendar please DM me your email address and I will add you to the administrator list. Also, for out-of-towners who plan to visit the area, let me know your dates and I would be happy to try to arrange a tweetup if you wish (we really are a lot more friendly around here than we often get credit for lol).

Also, I would like to start using the hashtag #stnyctweetup as there are other groups that use #nyctweetup already. So, watch for that as well as checking the calendar often for new events!

Can’t wait to meet more of you!


It’s late at night and I should be working, but the experiment named #YaSTwSStream needs a post.  The #spacetweeps are fun and interesting to listen to, so I’ve started favoriting posts that I see.  It’s a super convenient tool, and I’m able to keep up with the stream editing with full coverage. 

As always, please feel free to send any and all comments to jdp@syntelos.org.  (See also ITAR Web Whistle).

Hash Tags Are Public Domain

It’s easy to reproduce.  The Twitter favorites stream is an RSS location (reference) for feed readers, so many mashups are possible.

I’ve written some description here #YaSTwSStream and here, Twitter feeds & clips.


This experiment reminds me of Url Pong, the one page scifi novel.  Perhaps in #YaSTwSStream I get to play the droid. 

  1.  ? #YaSTwSStream  
  2. #YaSTwSStream Access public; Current with twitter;
  3. From @Me; Drop @My /3450349853049 #YaSTwSStream
  4. #YaSTwSStream Access owner; Requested dropped;

Someone should build such a thing.  Sounds fun.

Thoughts on the JSC #NASATweetUp

Whew!  The JSC Tweetup is over & I’ve finally had some time to sit down and collect my thoughts. 

It’s been a very hectic week, from working STS-130 to the Tweetup to managing to squeeze in a few world domination discussions with @flyingjenny since she was at my house, there wasn’t much time to stop and take it all in.

I’m very sorry that I couldn’t participate on the tour, but such is life and being a Flight Controller for a few years now I’ve learned that you really can’t plan anything, from vacations to family events to holidays to Tweetups, everything’s on hold until wheel stop – and then there’s another one!  

For now at least, there’s another one.  A few other ones.  Even though I wasn’t able to join the actual tour, I was able to attend the events the night before and the night of the Tweetup.  I was very excited to meet everyone who I’ve been talking to only virtually for almost a year now.  Finally, I get to show you what we do!  

I used to be a tour guide at the US Space and Rocket Center (Space Camp) Museum, and I’m used to and very comfortable with engaging the public about space.  One of my tours, about 45 minutes long, was made up of over 100 people.  While I love being a Flight Controller and I worked very hard to get here, my USSRC job will always be remembered as one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.  I got to get up in the morning, put on a (albeit fake) Flight Suit, and for hours and hours do nothing but tell the public about space.  We had an Apollo 16 Command Module, part of Skylab that fell on Australia, a moon rock, all kinds of mockups, it was great.  The looks on people’s faces, especially the kids, to see them get excited about space because of something YOU told them, it never got old.

So to have such a large group of people who I feel like I know and who are friends come and see where I work was so exciting to me.  And I’d seen the agenda ahead of time but to you it was a surprise, so just imagining your reactions while I was working kept me smiling all day long.  A lot of times at the space museum we would have people come through who maybe weren’t space buffs and you felt good when you could try and bring them over to our side, but I knew you all were space buffs so the experience would be that much more special.  I knew because so many of you were me at one time.

I didn’t go to MIT or Purdue or anything like that.  I went to some small school in Louisiana that you’ve probably never heard of but did have an excellent Engineering program.  I’m by no means a genius – I had to work through my classes and found them to be very challenging (we won’t even talk about Circuits and Chemistry is something I’d like to forget altogether!).  But I always wanted to work at NASA and I thought that a degree in Engineering was the best way to go about doing that.  So I kept going, telling myself it would be worth it one day.  

After I graduated we moved to Houston, where I’d gotten a job at another company doing design work for airplanes.  It was fun, but it wasn’t NASA.  So I kept trying – kept applying, kept working towards that dream that I knew one day would come true.  And then I got the call; I would have taken anything, but I never expected Mission Control. Those guys were geniuses…they were special, they never failed because it wasn’t an option right?  For about the first 6 months at work everyone told me what a huge smile I had on my face.  I loved just being there – every meeting, every assignment, every project, felt like it was so important and that it had a purpose. Sitting inside Mission Control was overwhelming; I felt so unworthy!

You might be asking by now what does this have anything to do with the Tweetup? I’m getting there, trust me.  You all know that the last couple of weeks have been very hard for those of us who follow the space program.  The future is uncertain and there are only a few Shuttle flights left.  I don’t know if I’ll have a job in 6 months – the people I work with, my good friends, they don’t know either.  We’re not told much more than you are and like I said in my last post, that’s hard.  I don’t want to leave my friends – there aren’t many people who do what we do and that brings us together.

So, we’re in this uncertain environment with not many Shuttle launches left.  Our jobs as we know and love them today will be gone forever.  It’s been tense and scary and to be honest, not fun.  Enter #nasatweetup!

I was so honored to be selected as an Ambassador, it meant so much.  And meeting everyone was great, but something happened that I didn’t anticipate – how much of an impact seeing and hearing everyone else be so excited would affect me.  Meeting everyone and seeing their excitement brought me back to when I was new at JSC and seeing everything for the first time.  Someone told me to try and never lose that sense of wonder, but it’s hard.  It’s hard when you work crazy hours for 2 weeks straight and you’re tired and everyone else on your shift is tired and it starts to take its toll.  It’s hard when you have an evaluation coming up soon and you don’t feel ready but there’s pressure for you to do well from everyone else in the group.  It’s hard when you mess up in a sim and you know you can do better but you just weren’t on your game that day.  So after years of this, it’s hard to keep that sense of wonder.  

Talking to people at the Tweetup brought a lot of that sense back, and it made me realize how lucky I am.  The future is uncertain but tomorrow I get to go to Mission Control and monitor data from a vehicle that’s orbiting the earth.  You know what? That is cool.  That is REALLY cool.  How many other people can say they do that?  I don’t know, but I do and I need to remember how special it is.  There aren’t many Shuttle flights left and if we don’t savor every moment of each one we’ll regret it forever…because you can’t get it back.

Lots of you told me thank you for doing what I do and how much you all appreciated it; I say thank YOU.  Thank you for lifting my spirits when I needed it the most.  Thank you for making me realize how lucky I am.  Thank you for caring about what I do. Thank you for being passionate about human spaceflight.  Thank you for taking your time and your money to see what it is we do over here.  Thank you for telling me your stories and thoughts and feelings about the past and the future of space exploration. Thank you for asking me questions and engaging in conversation.

It’s because of people like you and your support that I am able to even have this job at all, for however much longer it lasts.  And for that – for the past 6 years and for next few months, thank you.

The Mere Meaning of Mir

first module of the Mir Space Station, known as the Base Block (Core
Module), was launched aboard a Proton rocket today in 1986 (February 20th Russian time).

The Mere Meaning of Mir
Mir REALLY mean peace? Maybe not… Frank Culbertson’s extremely
well-written letter to Congress in 1996 sheds a different light.  Frank’s
letter also points out something amazing that is very timely in our
current space wars of money and direction.  The fact is Mir was done
when they had NO resources!  They cared enough about their foothold on
space to make huge sacrifices in the eye of pride and mankind’s
absolute need to explore the unknown and achieve things some think
impossible!  At times I heard stories from my Russian counterparts in
the NASA-Mir program that they had not been paid in months or often
were paid in solid goods – like toilet paper that was found in a
warehouse and recognized of value.  Did the workers leave?  Did they
quit, mad about the wages owed to them?  No, they did not!  They found a
way to survive to maintain that foothold.  They found a way, utilizing
every resource to its maximum – they sent one Soyuz to two different
space stations at the beginning of Mir because they did not have enough
Soyuz spacecraft!  Not only did they do it, they maintained the life of
that space station three times longer than intended.  I had the fortune
to be there for the 10th anniversary and a few proud office
celebrations with chilled Zhelka… and they weren’t done yet!  Mir was
not deorbited for another six years!

I strongly recommend Frank’s letter, and especially the last paragraph and concluding lines!

Parent Site on Mir Space Station History – with even more moving thoughts!


STS-130 NASA Tweetup got a message from ISS Expedition 22crew, met an astronaut and king of the flight controllers, watched live comm from Shuttle Mission Control and cruised astronaut training facilities, even seeing new AsCans hard at work!

adllewellyn, pillownaut, spasmunkey & aggieastronaut
in the BlastOff Theatre at Space Center Houston


Meeting so many folks from the Tweep Society, Facebook and Myspace was incredible. I’ll be adding pictures and videos to my blog and youtube channel over the next few days and my link is: http://pillownaut.blogspot.com/

I hope other Tweeps will do the same. I’m so grateful for this site for bringing folks together; it gave me information to search out people by name so we can revel in our shared space interests!  Cont’d –>

Tweeper Birdie

If anyone missed it on the Twitter feeds directly, we were on Click2Houston TV and here is the TwitPic gallery from the JSC professional photographer.

Like losing your children

Yesterday was Valentines Day.  More correctly, Saint Valentines Day, where we celebrate love and affection for those we cherish most.

No mother should have to see her child die, much less her grandchild and be present at the stillbirth of the third generation of her progeny.

Yes, I received the obligatory flowers and candy and while I am surrounded by the love of  my worldly children, but I cannot help but weep for the loss I am feeling for my spiritual children…

I was present at the birth of Apollo, changed his diapers so to speak and watched him grow healthy, strong and mature, only to see him cut down in the prime of his life.

And I cried…

I was there, at least in spirit if not body when Shuttle was born, so
lovely, so capable, so wonderful and so versatile.  And now I sit here, maintaining
a death watch as she draws her last breaths.

And I am crying…

And in the depths of my sadness for our lost children, I see the last of our kind, stillborn.  Constellation, dead without every having had the opportunity of meeting the promise of all who had a part in her creation.

And I have no more tears to shed…

I think of those who so ably served Shuttle, and yes, even the few of
us who are still around who remember Apollo, who worked on them and were
there to hear the thunder of their voices as they rose so majestically
toward the heavens,

Yes, America’s astronauts will still fly to the ISS, albeit paying $51 million for each of six seats aboard a Russian Soyuz.  After that who knows.  The head of Roskosmos has already gone on record giving us fair warning that following the current contract, the price tag will be much, much higher…regarding the current contract for six seats, Roskomos head Anatoly Perminov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying:

“We have an agreement until 2012 that Russia will be responsible for
this. But after that? Excuse me but the prices should be absolutely
different then!”

At the same time, the Russians announced they were going forward with the development of their next generation vehicle, designed to replace their venerable Soyuz.

China and India are knee deep in the development of manned programs, while we cede to them the playing field.

There is an old adage, “Nobody likes a quitter!”

Will American entrepreneurs rise to the occasion and give birth to a whole new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles?  I really don’t know.  Are their pockets deep enough?  Again, I don’t know.

Perhaps, if the companies heading up the efforts will be privately owned and not subject to stockholders demands for dividends and a return on their investment.  The management of Boeing and Lockheed Martin will most assuredly decline to foot the bill, after all, they like Congress must answer to a constituency.  This leaves it to folks like Bigelow and Musk and Marsden to keep the dream alive.

One thing I do know.  One thing is certain.  I will not live long enough to see American men and women ride aloft in a space bound vehicle that proudly proclaims…

“Made in the USA”

Space Tweeps Home Theater




The Space Tweeps Home Theater Prize is to win the admiration of your peers through the release of a successful multi-platform solution to the definition statement.

ITAR Web Whistle

On the Moon disc there’s a film named Whistle that opens in a way to remind me of the protections ITAR endeavors to formalize.  

For my part, I’d like ITAR to have a Web Whistle.  A policy of simply sending an email or filling in a web form to protect, qualify or interact over any possible issue.

For example, I like to build things like GD Astro.  Some people might say there’s some issue and others might not.  

Such a policy would provide a fundamental and reasonable assurance for people working on open source engineering and related areas.

JSC #NASATweetUp Gathering

For those of you traveling to Houston for the #NASATweetUp being held on February 17th we would like to invite you to a pre-tweetup gathering on Tuesday February 16th starting at 8 pm at Cadillac Bar in Kemah.  Come and meet people, hang out, and enjoy the boardwalk on Galveston Bay!

The following 13 Tweeps have been selected as NASA Ambassadors – follow them on twitter in preparation for your experience!  @skytland, @txflygirl, @edgufry, @saroy, @LucieD_inthesky,
@adllewellyn, @mgrabois, @spacekiwi, @i_leslie, @spasmunkey,
@joelwalker, @jbmccl @absolutspacegrl

Please note that not all of the NASA Ambassadors will be able to attend the pre-tweetup gathering.  This is really an opportunity for the tweetup participants to mix and mingle the night before the event.

#NASATweetUp Press Release