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Author Archive

Lego Space Sets? You can make it happen!

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 🙂

One Question – A Once in a Lifetime experience

Today, at 9:15am CT I will be on hold – on a phone call. It will be one of few times in my life that waiting for the other person to be available on the other end of the line, will be both understandable and pretty awesome.

Yesterday, I was offered the opportunity by NASA to participate in this morning’s ISS, Expedition 30 press conference. What does participation mean? It means I get to ask one question to the crew – via that phone call (the one I’ll be on hold for). So, one more dream come true, one more item off of my bucket list and one question, one incredible opportunity via NASA!

So.. follow along this morning with the following hashtags: #askStation, #ISS, #NASA and #Exp30. Oh, and while I get to ask one question via the phone, you get the chance to ask a question via Twitter! Start submitting questions using #askStation and, if there’s enough time, the Expedition 30 crew will get a few questions from the twitterverse! How awesome is that?!?!

Oh.. and while I have a few questions in mind.. feel free to tweet me some suggestions! 🙂 @johnmknight

Space and Lego, a Love Story

Hello all. For those that don’t know me, I’m John Knight. In Space Tweep circles I’m known as the guy who has the MECO (one and only) tattoo and I’m the only non-Lego employee to have designed a Lego set for NASA (The SDO, Solar Dynamic Observatory set!). Today I wanted to share a bit about my love of Lego and one of the best tools out there for Lego fans, Lego Digital Designer.

I’ve been collecting and playing with Lego bricks for over 35 years. I can’t recommend them enough as a toy for helping develop motor skills, eye hand coordination, appreciation for engineering, robotics and art. If you have every shopped for or purchased Lego, you know that they are expensive. I am very brand loyal to  the Lego brand despite the cost simply because I know the quality of the product is worth it and the company really does a great job of taking care of the customers. This brings me to Lego Digital Designer (LDD). I’ve amassed over 100,000 bricks in my collection and sometimes that’s not enough to build some of the ideas I come up with.  LDD is a free program that essentially gives you an unlimited supply of Lego bricks to play with in a friendly and easy to use computer aided design program created by the folks at Lego. This program is simple enough for children 6+years to have fun with and sophisticated enough for the hardcore enthusiast, like myself, to have countless hours of fun with. You can download it here: http://ldd.lego.com/



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:



Remembering the morning of January 28, 1986

On January 28th, 1986 I was 15 years old. I awoke knowing that the Space Shuttle Challenger would be launching around lunch time. It was a school day. At 15 I was enjoying my time in high school. I had every reason to look forward to going to school, seeing my friends. I was one of those kids, who for the most part, liked school. This morning though I wanted very much to stay home. I showered and got dressed and looked my self over in the mirror. I took at deep breath and decided to try something. I walked down stairs to where my mother was pouring herself a cup of coffee. I asked, “Mom, the shuttle is going up later this morning…”. She looked straight into my eyes. I froze. After a second, I continued, “I know they won’t say anything or show it at school…” She interrupted, “I suppose you aren’t feeling well today.” She said it in almost a flat tone and as she spoke the word, “today”, she drew it out, her lips turned to a sly smile. “No, I suppose I don’t”, I said. My smile was far more obvious than hers. I could hardly hold my self back from laughing. The cause of my joy, wasn’t simply because of my mother’s good nature in supporting my interest in all things space. No, she had been doing that since before I was born. I was happy because, I had watched, with great excitement, every shuttle launch until that point. I had cut newspaper articles since before Columbia first flew and put them, carefully more or less, into kind of scrap book. A year before Columbia’s first launch, I had toured Kennedy Space Center and seen the preparations for the launch. I was so hooked on space and had such a supportive family that on that day back in 1986, I was simply over joyed.

Leading up to the launch, I had a frustrating time actually finding any news coverage of the launch itself. I was growing up in a small suburb of Indianapolis, Mooresville.  The local ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates weren’t showing or mentioning anything about covering the launch. My mother, always an avid news radio listener, began in parallel to my efforts, of scanning the AM and FM dials for any coverage.  We found it shortly before launch, maybe 10 or 12 minutes before.

I won’t describe what happened to the vehicle or crew after launch. What I remember, what is burned into my memory is this; my mother and I were standing in the kitchen together, smiling at one another. We were sharing some rare teenage son and mother quality time. Our little secret (Mooresville High School, I didn’t have the flu that day), that I wasn’t sick. Both of us, fans of our country’s space program. My mother, who had watched every Apollo launch, the one who had sat me upon her lap at watched the last mission to the Moon, the one who had covered one part of our kitchens wall with clippings from each mission.

I remember her face. I remember as how the words changed her giddy smile and joy from the announcers description of a beautiful launch, that turned so quickly to tragedy. I remember she stared straight into my eyes. We never broke our gaze. As the words began to register in her brain and sudden denial washed over her, her eye brows furrowed. She stared at me as confused as my own child would later when Columbia was destroyed. My mother began to shake visibly. She continued to look me in the eye and ask what the words the announcer was speaking, meant. I translated into half technical terms and half gibberish. I was trying to take it all in, to rationalize it. I tried by offering words of comfort to my now sobbing mother. I tried to think of ways the crew could have survived. My mother added into the conversation, remembering how show had seen a video or photo of astronauts and an ejection system in the Shuttle.. I corrected her. Her lip trembled as I had hastily spoken what I knew was fact. I said it in such a matter of fact way, I was oblivious to how it had the affect of a knife to her gut. She reached out and put a hand on our stove to steady herself. I pulled up some chairs and we say there in our kitchen, huddled close, listening to the tinny AM signal coming through a 30 year old radio perched on a small shelf above our range.

In the living room, the reporters were not turning their attention from a launch, to a national tragedy.  We both watched and listened for the rest of the day. We talked. We yelled. We yelled at the sky, we yelled out for a reason this had happened, for someone to blame. We prayed together for the crew, for their families, NASA and for the country.

I don’t remember the first launch after Challenger. It seems strange to me now. I don’t remember the launch that came three years later. What I do know is that my mother was watching and I remember her smiling again.



Tweeting; To The Moon, and Beyond

“Or, How My Faith in My Fellow Man Was Restored Because of Twitter.”

While I haven’t posted anything on this blog, I have been Tweeting. To a much lesser extent, I have also been updating my Facebook page. Why? Well, I’ve been busy and Tweeting is like the snack cakes of blogging. It’s easy (gotta love those iPhone apps) and it’s just easier to fill 140 characters with something rather than blog, at least in my case. As the family and local “tech guy” (finally graduating from PC guy, AV guy, and techie) I have tried to explain Tweeting to many people. Microblogging? Timeshifted Texting (my fave) or the new real time replacement for People Magazine? It’s all those. All the more interesting and powerful tools ever created in the world could be put to different purposes and used effectively by different trades people. Think about the hammer. Put a nail in to a board? Of course! Break open a rock on the Moon? Now we’re talking. Basically the same tool… different users, different uses. Twitter is like that to me. I think it’s this multifacidness that just plain stumps a lot of people.

“To share or not to share.”  

Tweeting like Facebook, a blog or most any form of social networking tool can allow a person to share just about anything they want, whenever they want, to the entire world. This puts off a lot of people and companies when it comes to social media in general. I have personally flip flopped on the amount of information I want to share at different times over the past 15+ years. Yes.. I had my first “home page” aka blog, while I was working for Indiana University in the early 90’s. Over time I have found more of a comfort level with sharing bits and pieces of my life with complete, and utter strangers. For those who have known me (in person) for sometime, this may not be a total shock. I have a more extroverted personality and as they say, I have a gift for the gab. I’m a story teller. So.. details about me come out. It’s part of who I am. Online though, in all these dark and strange alleyways off the ol Super Information Highway (the Internets for you younger readers) is sometimes a frightening place still and people and companies both want to avoid going into these shadowy areas or being percieved as having ever ventured there. Guilt by association? A big fear for people and corporations a like. It’s this assocation or trail of connections that is both the incredible and awesome power of social media today as well as it’s biggest hurdle. Why?

“I don’t want my Mom reading this…”  

Well, in this case, I actually do. But this statement and fear can also be read “I don’t want my investors/stock holders reading this…” as well. What “this” is that people don’t want their Moms or stock holders reading, isn’t a news article, it can be ANYTHING posted outside the comfort and control of a press room, or one’s own writing. This is very scary stuff for a lot of people, and again, companies. People like to create a persona and magange it. This social media stuff can get out of hand. This is where my story really begins and where the power of social media (and people) can be seen!

“Space Geek” 

Oh I love space. I’m a geek’s geek and a nerd’s nerd. These things I cannot deny. I was born one day before Apollo 16 landed on the Moon. The first thing I remember building out of Lego as a 5 year old was the Viking Mars Lander (it was July 4, 1976 when it landed, my 5th birthday was later that July). My den/home theater/man cave is a shrine to manned space flight.  I say all of this to set the stage for what comes next. See, I’m not the only space geek out there. Until recently, I didn’t know there were conventions for fans like us. Sure I’ve been to comic book conversions and a sci-fi convention or two (who’s counting?) What I did know, from Twitter, is that there was an astronaut by the name of Michael J. Massimino, aka, @Astro_Mike.

From @Astro_Mike I found: @NASA @NASA_EDGE @bethbeck @CatherineQ @TaviGreiner @ericmblog @Clearedthetower @saburitz @flight0001 @flyingjenny @moonrangerlaura @salottimc @comtnclimr @txflygirl @howellspace @absolutspaceguy @genejm29 @apacheman @marsroverdriver @absolutspacegrl. Some of these people are just fans, others are NASA employees, contractors, etc. All interesting people or organizations I’ve been able to have conversations with and feed my passion and curiosity about manned space flight. It was through them that I learned about all the incredible events of the past few days.

“Missed Opportunity, PART 1”  

Somehow I missed completely, the opportunity to signup for the first ever NASA sponsored “TweetUp” at NASA Headquarters on July 21. Astro_Mike along with the entire STS-125 crew were going to be there. I missed it. Gone. However, @ericmblog was kind enough to offer me a guest seat. He had signed up and was allowed one guest. Me. A complete stranger, save for our shared interested in manned space flight and conversations in broken 140 character long chunks. I had my reason to go to Washington DC for a few days of vacation.

“Missed Opportunity, PART 2”

For the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, there were incredible events planned for this past week by NASA and the National Air and Space Museum. Every year the NASM hold the Glenn Lecture series. This year’s speakers were the entire Apollo 11 crew and Deke Slayton. As it turns out Senator John Glenn, introduced the lecture. Did I have tickets? No. The sign up had been almost a month earlier and tickets given out by lottery. 7000 people signed up, only a few hundred seats were available. @flyingjenny was unable to attend and offered her four tickets up. Did I get there in time? Nope. Some guy from across Michigan got all four. @ericmblog, within a matter of moments offered me a ticket (I had been second to respond to @flyingjenny). I now had my second, incredible reason to go to DC. All through the kindness of strangers.

“Missed Opportunity, PART 3”

On July 19th, at the NASM, Apollo astronauts Al Bean (Apollo 12), Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins (both Apollo 11) were having their recent books signed. I got to the museum just as it was opening and stood in line for… hours. Almost four hours actually. I had run out of time. The line to have books signed was cut short. I had purchased two sets of each books in hopes for a few signatures from some of my childhood (and adulthood) hereos. Nope. Didn’t happen. What did happen is that @ericmblog ‘s wife took a set of my books and instead of having a set of her own signed, had mine instead. I met Eric and his wife while standing in line that mornining. Sure, we had tweeted, but the first time I spoke face to face to them was there in line at the museum.

“And Now for the Lesson…”

I was able to attend some of the most memorable and historic events because of strangers. People I hardly knew but shared common interests. My first attempt to thank these people for their wonderful gifts seem paltry compared to what they did for me. @ericmblog and his wife @saburitz were treated to dinner at the Capital Grille and @flyingjenny is getting a signed Al Bean book. Now, if you’re a company or individual wondering about a benefit of social media, please take away the following learning from my story…
Connecting with people who share your interests or passions is never a bad thing.

With enough conversation and sharing of information about yourself, (I had to give @ericmblog my contact information at some point), you can get to know the people behind the @. Given the right opportunity, these people can demonstrate their amazing knowledge. @ericmblog and I conversed at length about new launch systems as well as photography. They can also share their kindness and support. I now consider these people and others I’ve met through these past few days as friends. A word I and others do not use lightly or casually.

In the end, isn’t this what people and companies both want out of social media?

Images from my recent adventure:

Glenn Lecture at NASM and Apollo 11 Event at Newseum 

NASA’s first Tweetup with STS-125 crew