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Monthly archive August, 2010

Teams Ready Up for the AIAA’s Design Build Fly Contest

The rules for The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Design Build Fly (AIAA DBF) contest have been posted on the official website. This contest is a fun way from undergrads to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world. My experience in the DBF gave me a new respect for what goes into the design and construction of air and spacecraft; the detail required for our RC airplane was mind blowing. I was able to learn things that I would have learned in later years. Older team members taught me how to use almost every machine in the machine shop and how to use certain materials. This is why the DBF is a great opportunity for engineers and why every student engineer should try to enter. If you know an undergrad, suggest that they join their college’s DBF team or start their own. Even if you don’t know an undergrad, you can still root for your local school or your old school. Trust me, the teams need the encouragement when they hit inevitable snags. Look up your school in the list of teams that participated in the DBF last year. If a team wants to enter, they have until October 31 to register.

This year teams have to build a soldier portable Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The craft must fit in a “commercially produced suitcase meeting airline carry-on bag rules”. We have 4 attempts to complete 3 missions: Fly as many laps as possible, carry “Ammo” (A steel bar, the size is up to the team, but the heavier the bar is, the more points) 3 laps and carry “medical supplies” (As many golfs ball as your plane can fit, the more you carry, the more points) 3 laps. We only have one shot at each mission.

You can read the detailed rules here. The Georgia Tech team is the only team with a twitter account, follow them @GATechDBF. My team’s website is here. Other teams who have websites are:

I’m sure there are more, but I couldn’t find any more. I’ll update this post when I do.

Space Birthdays – Real and Science Fiction

Thanks to twitter and @thinkgeek I noticed that today is the birth date of Gene Roddenberry, the father of Star Trek. A short search leading to the Brainy History web site revealed somewhat of a statistical aberration – three Star Trek people and three astronauts were born on this date.
Apart from Gene Roddenberry, both Jonathan Frakes(Commander William T. Riker) and Diana Muldaur(Dr. Katherine Pulaski), both from Star Trek: The Next Generation, were born on this date.

On the NASA front, astronauts Franklin Story Musgrave (only astronaut to fly on board of all five Space Shuttles), Michael J. Massimino (shuttle astronaut, a.k.a. @astro_mike, perhaps the most active astronaut on social media, the first astronaut to tweet from space) andCharles F. Bolden Jr. (shuttle astronaut, NASA administrator since 2009) were all born on this date.
On the Russian side, Vladimir Borisovich Alekseyev was also born on that date (a Soyuz VI cosmonaut), meaning that out of the 547 astronauts (at least according to Wikipedia), four were born on August 19, about 0.73%, or about 2.7 times more than the statistical 1/365 chance of being born on a certain date (leap year excluded).

For those of you still in this world, Happy Birthday! Don’t forget to look up!


(copied from my blog, www.spacepirations.com).

Carnival of Space #167: The Space Tweeps Edition

Hello everyone and welcome to the Carnival of Space number 167, here at the warm and cozy home of the Space Tweep Society. We hope to use our uberl33t twitter skills to promote space exploration and to push STEM education. I can tell you from personal experience that every member loves space and all their tweets are highly encouraging, sort of like how a litter of puppies just loves life. Plus, having chats over twitter late at night with other sleep deprived members is hilarious. That’s why I’m proud to share some of the top articles about space in this week’s Carnival of Space.



Quick Version (Now with twitter):

Discovery News: Can Solar Storms Cause Wildfires?: Tweet This

Weirdwarp: Is Human Colonisation of Europa Possible?: Tweet This

Next Big Future: Spacex talks Falcon X Heavy for 125 tons of heavy lift and Falcon XX for 140 tons and Nuclear Thermal interplanetary Rockets : Tweet This

Next Big Future: Army Working on Nanomissiles for Launching 10-23 kilogram Nanosatellites: Tweet This

Next Big FutureWide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is Top Priority Space Telescope Project: Tweet This

IAG Planetary Geomorphology Working Group: Featured images for August 2010: Tweet This

Dr. Schenk’s 3D House of Satellites: Saturn Triple Play – Tethys, Rhea & Iapetus: Tweet This

Music of the Spheres: Space Models!: Tweet This

Brains Matter and Cheap Astronomy: Astronomy for non-human life forms: Tweet This

The Spacewriter’s RamblingsWe’re Losing Our Skies and our Inspiration: Tweet This

AstroblogUnexpected Rainbows (Part 16) The Copenhagen Edition: Tweet This

Dynamics of Cats: Decadal Survey: 2010: Tweet This

We Are All in the Gutter: No Rings Round Rhea: Tweet This

Beyond Apollo: The LUT, the Orbiter, and the Saturn V S-IC stage (1969): Tweet This

Weird Sciences: Short Article: Hawking’s Weirdness Continued: Tweet This

Weird Sciences: Hyperluminal Travel Without Exotic Matter: Tweet This

Rocket Scientist: RS Classic: Manned vs. Unmanned: Tweet This

FlyingJenny: Kick Starter Kennedy Space Center Sunrises- a photo book: Tweet This

We first begin with an update on the never ending war with doomsday theories. Ian O’Neill posts an article on Discovery News which goes over why the sun won’t fry this planet into something crisper than KFC’s new “sandwich”. (Hint: we have seen the worst case already). But let’s move on from worrying and onto imagining about the future. Weirdwarp goes beyond dreaming about moon and Mars bases and instead thinks about Human Colonisation of Europa. While not a money earner, there are people actively planning this mission. As extreme as the environment is, Europa could be a great home away from home.

Speaking of big dreamers, no one beats Next Big Future in that department. Every article posted is about a ground breaking technology. This has be a particularly amazing week, so they have three submissions to the carnival and all are worth your time. First, they report on SpaceX’s crazy ideas for a 125 ton, 140 ton and nuclear powered, interplanetary rockets. (Crazy is a positive word in my book) Then, on the smaller end, they have an article about the Army’s nanomissles for launching nanosatellites. Finally, they offer an article about the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope’s (WFIRST) new (science) rockstar status. A close second is Weird Sciences, who brings two articles about the cool stuff in the future. First, they go over how Hyperluminal Travel might be possible by increasing the local speed of light then they move onto reasons why space habitation isn’t the best option for humanity at the moment.

Speaking about….um…ok I really don’t have a segway for this, but the Planetary Geomorphology Working Group has some cool pictures focusing on Hematite-rich regions on Mars. Who know nature could produce sphere like rocks? No, really, don’t let my awkwardness prevent you from looking at the shiny images. Equally mind blowing as the Planetary Geomorphology Working Group’s pictures, Dr. Schenk’s 3D House of Satellites brings us the Saturn Triple Play – Tethys, Rhea & Iapetus. Gaze in wonder at the craters on Rhea, stare in awe of the impact basin on Odysseus and drool over the Equatorial Mountains of Iapetus.

Now, wipe the drool from your face, you don’t want to get any of it on the extremely detailed Space Models discussed at Music of the Spheres. The work is worth drooling over, but I’m not sure if the paint on these beautiful reproductions will stand up to all your space nerds flooding them. (Aside: Ooo no, they are starting to drool, must save the models…what to do? What to do?!? I know, show them something shiny.) Next up, Astroblog shows us some Unexpected Rainbows at a train station in Kongens Nytorv. Quickly, go take a look at the shiny, I think it might even be a triple rainbow. (Aside: …that was close) 

But we humans aren’t the only life forms who enjoy shiny things in the sky. The fine folks over at Brains Matter and Cheap Astronomy talk about how animals use astronomy for their daily life. After listening to this podcast, I’m convinced wildlife appreciates the sky most than us humans. What pushed me over the edge was The Spacewriter’s article titled We’re Losing Our Skies and our Inspiration. As if the light pollution isn’t bad enough, poor funding is killing any chance of inspiring our kids. Read more over at her blog.

But things might not be that bad. Dynamics of Cats live blogs Devadal’s eTownhall meeting, there is a ton an juicy and exciting content, this post might be a list of all the future astronomy projects. But there is progress today! We Are All in The Gutter reports on a paper which may disprove the rings around Rhea. After reading these two articles, I’m sure we can push through.

Over at Beyond Apollo, David Portree covers how the Launch Umbilical Tower and the Saturn V S-IC stage could have modified to support a version of the space shuttle and a space station. The Rocket Scientist swoops in with an article detailing why forcing a choice between manned spaceflight and unmanned spaceflight is something that can be avoided so we can have more of the cool stuff blogged about at Beyond Apollo.

Finally, I would like to remind the whole space community about FlyingJenny‘s project. She only needs $1005 more to publish her book of sunrises at the Kennedy Space Center.  It epic the we raised about $5,500 dollars for her, but we owe her at least this last bit. She built what is a major hub for the space community and she brought together a raggy bunch of space tweeters into a group who has some of the most mind blowing tweetups ever. The sleepless nights chatting with other space cadets we meet through the Space Tweep Society can not be repaid, let’s atleast do this.

Well, that’s all folks. Do you want to join the amazing collection that is each week’s Carnival of Space, then check out the instructions on how to join us and I hope to see you at the next Carnival of Space.


Images by:

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center




Lights In The Dark

Opal Lei


Flying Jenny

International Observe the Moon Night

International Observe the Moon Night – September 18, 2010

SEEING THE MOON… in a whole new light!

Professional and amateur astronomers, astronomy clubs, planetariums, science centers and all astronomy enthusiasts worldwide are invited to celebrate Earth’s celestial companion, the Moon, on Saturday, September 18, 2010.

International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) follows on the great success of lunar missions in 2009.  NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has already sent back more close-up images and digital data in its first year orbiting the Moon than any other planetary mission in history. In an unprecedented search for water below the Moon’s surface, Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) crashed into the Moon’s south polar region with the world watching.

InOMN builds on NASA’s first celebration of these historic missions during the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Now, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is partnering with NASA missions and centers, along with other institutions, to bring the excitement of observing and learning about Earth’s closest neighbor in space to the worldwide public – putting the “International” into InOMN.

“InOMN is a community-based effort where everyone can share the excitement of lunar
exploration with the public by hosting their own InOMN events,” said Mike Simmons, Founder and President of Astronomers Without Borders. “Public telescope observing events, lectures, school presentations and workshops, and even online events like TweetUps are already being planned,” adds Simmons.

Join the celebration. Get others looking up and seeing the Moon…in a whole new light!

Astronomers Without Borders

Astronomers Without Borders is dedicated to fostering understanding and goodwill  across  national and  cultural  boundaries  by  creating  relationships  through  the universal appeal of astronomy. Astronomers Without Borders projects promote  sharing, all through a common interest in something basic and universal – sharing the sky.

More information:  http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/projects/intl-observe-moon-night.html


Thilina Heenatigala
AWB InOMN Coordinator
Astronomers Without Borders
+94 716 245 545

Mike Simmons
Founder and President
Astronomers Without Borders
+1 818 486 7633

Teaser of Moonscape, a free Apollo 11 documentary

Swiss journalist Paolo Attivissimo is working on Moonscape, an upcoming free Apollo 11 documentary funded and produced by space enthusiasts, with a focus on accuracy and original material It will use the highest quality footage, audio and images, and feature synchronized views. Here is the first English teaser.

Paolo is a great Apollo expert and enthusiast. He also built an Apollo US flag replica that was saluted by a guy named Buzz.

Music and Astronomy Under the Stars

Recently, I was asked to participate in a wonderful event funded by NASA. It’s called Music and Astronomy Under the Stars. Dr. Donald Lubowich, Coordinator of the Astronomy Outreach Program at Hofstra University, received this funding to give concertgoers a view of the cosmos at the Tanglewood Music Festival. This event was co-sponsored by The Dudley Observatory, of which I am a member. Also participating were members from the Springfield Stars Club.

Tanglewood is a beautiful place nestled in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and it provided a wonderful setting for this astronomy education and outreach program. Once our telescopes were set up on the spacious lawn provided to our group, curious musicians, staff and concert attendees began to approach us and ask questions about our various telescopes, celestial objects and recent news they’ve read. Although it was early in the day, we were able to provide some fantastic views of a large sunspot, which prompted even more questions that led to the recent reports of the possibility of seeing an aurora that night.

I was elated to see the amazement on the faces of children and adults who viewed a sunspot for the very first time. While witnessing this, I finally realized why astronomy truly has drawn me to look at the sky, read all I can, and share my information and views. Astronomy is a potential source for answers. When I heard the children’s questions, the epiphany was that we all have a child’s curiosity when we look up.  The increasing amount of knowledge provided by clearer views and the increasing amount of data are providing answers to the many curiosities we had as children, and if we’re fortunate, still have. The night’s clouds may have disappointed some, but I’m sure the day’s events and discussion will encourage many to continue to look up to satisfy their urge to know more about who we are and what is our place in this magnificent universe.

Ultralight Spaceflight: field of dreams

This week @ULSF has been quieter than usual.  Looking out at our world, @PTScientists have a new blog post on rover wheels, and Alex @Csete is at the AMSAT UK Colloquium discussing Gnu Radio and OZ7SAT.


Reading about the ISS this week chills the bones.  Glad everyone is safe.

Work on the Sagittarius “plastic lifter” design study project continues in the solid modeling software.  The Constructive Solid Geometry package is presently being debugged. 

Additional work on future flight test locations has identified Floyd Bennet Field as an ideal candidate.  This location is an established R/C park, expansive, isolated, and surrounded by water.