Last night, Soyuz TMA-07M aka 33S safely returned to Earth with its crew of 3 astronauts. One of them was Chris Hadfield, a Canadian who served as ISS Commander for the last few months and has been living onboard since December. For the last 6 months, he’s been burning up the internet with cool things to watch and see and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that he has single-handedly brought NASA and the ISS to the attention of millions.
He took incredible photos. He’s on Facebook. And Twitter. And Tumblr, Google+ and Pinterest. He did a Reddit AMA. He recorded what things sounds like on the ISS. Zen Pencils turned one of his inspiring quotes into a sweet cartoon. Gizmodo said he “made us care about astronauts again.”
He played with Barenaked Ladies — FROM SPACE:
He taught us how to make a sandwich in space…
…and also the all-important skill of how to barf in space.
And as a finale before returning home, he did a revised version of Bowie’s Space Oddity…IN SPACE. And it’s GOOD. Which is all kinds of nerdy and all kinds of awesome.
I’m happy he’s back on the planet safe and sound, but I’m also kinda sad we can’t have him on ISS forever! Either way, I think it’s official:
BEST. ISS. ASTRONAUT. EVER.
Yesterday space shuttle Endeavour stopped in Houston for the night on its final journey. It’s being transported from Florida to California to take its place as a museum piece at the California Science Center. We decided to forego fighting the traffic to get to Ellington for an up close and personal view, but there was no way I was missing out on seeing Endeavour as it did several flybys.
Emma, Jose’s mom and I piled into the car and met Jose at Rocket Park, right at the entrance to JSC. It was a great vantage point. We were pretty early, but after a half hour of waiting, we finally spotted Endeavour heading towards us on the back of its 747 carrier. It came by once, twice, and then we thought it was heading for a landing — until we saw it rise in the distance again and make one last slow turn towards JSC for a third and final pass.
I’ve always thought of Endeavour as “my” shuttle. I saw her on the launch pad the first time I went to KSC as a high school freshman in 1993. I saw her up close and even touched her nose in the OPF during a coop trip to KSC in 1997. Ironically, the two missions I worked as lead Rendezvous Officer were Atlantis and Discovery, but I saw Endeavour fly by JSC in 2008 and launch on the STS-130 mission in 2010. She has a special place in my heart.
Emma had fallen asleep, and of course she wouldn’t have remembered the experience anyway. It’s so strange to me to think that for Emma, the space shuttle will just be “that old thing Mom and Dad worked on before I was born.” Still, I will be able to show her these photos when she’s older, and tell her about how we took her to see the space shuttle when she was only 6 weeks old. But who knows, maybe it’s a sign — like my “spaceship that lands on Earth” shirt from so many years ago that eerily foreshadowed my future career.
That’d be pretty cool.
This is what sunrise looked like yesterday morning as I drove to work. It’s been an unexpectedly hectic week after a Russian Progress vehicle had to abort its planned re-rendezvous and docking with the space station on Monday night.
The vehicle originally docked back in April with no issues, but while it was at ISS, the crew took out the old rendezvous radar and replaced it with a new, upgraded version. It undocked on Saturday and planned to re-rendezvous and dock again on Monday night to test out the new hardware. This is how the Russians do a lot of their upgrades — they test things on the Progress since it’s unmanned, and then eventually put the new hardware on the manned Soyuz vehicle too.
Anyway, all the tests they’d done ahead of time looked fine — and then on Monday night as they started back towards the ISS, the new system failed! Fortunately, both Russia and NASA plan for these sorts of things, and the vehicle was able to simply shut down its control system and glide past the ISS. Still, there is a lot of pressure on the Russians to now 1) figure out what’s wrong, 2) figure out what to do about it, and 3) reattempt the re-rendezvous. Sounds simple enough, but of course nothing in space is ever really that simple, and it’s kept me busy this week for sure!
Thank goodness I get to relax at book club tonight…
It’s been a couple months since I posted a round-up of good spacey stuff, so I’m definitely overdue! Here are some things worth watching:
We’re only a couple weeks away from Mars Science Laboratory’s arrival and landing on Mars! This video does an awesome job of explaining what’s involved in getting to the surface, which is pretty accurately described as “7 minutes of terror.” (This video has a totally different feel and tone than any other NASA-produced video I’ve ever seen — so much so that The New York Times even took notice and wrote an article about it. I really hope the powers-that-be keep this up, as it’s gotten quite a bit of positive attention.)
I seriously cannot get enough of Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’m sure you’ve all seen this one before, but it’s hard to post a space video roundup without something from NdT.
NASA Cribs! This was put together by some of the coops and it’s amusing, especially if you’ve ever watched MTV Cribs. Mike Fincke does a pretty hilarious job of imitating the way rich rappers show off their homes.
SpaceX put together another cool video of highlights from their demo flight in May.
And finally, although it has nothing to do with space, but I defy you to watch the latest “Where the Hell is Matt?” video that made the rounds recently (he even danced with the League City Fire Department!) and not end up with a big smile on your face feeling like there might just be something good about the human race after all.
The weekend was filled with two things: space stuff and baby stuff. Or three things, if you want to get more technical: space stuff, baby stuff, and astronomy stuff.
SpaceX was scheduled to launch their Dragon spacecraft to the ISS early Saturday morning — and I mean early to the tune of 3:55 a.m. Jose is supporting this mission as part of NASA’s engineering team so he was up at 2 a.m. to get to Mission Control at 3 a.m., and then I got up at 3:45 to watch the launch itself. The countdown went swimming right along. 3…2…1…liftoff… Except it didn’t lift off. The rocket engines lit for a couple seconds and then shut down, with the rocket still sitting firmly attached to the ground. The launch window for this mission was instantaneous, meaning SpaceX had to launch at exactly the right second in order to get to ISS, so I immediately knew that they wouldn’t be going anywhere that day. Turns out one of the engines on the rocket was measuring high pressure, so the computers automatically shut everything down. Their next launch attempt is tonight/tomorrow morning at 2:44 a.m. Houston time.
Even though the launch was aborted, Jose still ended up having to work a bunch over the weekend. Still, we managed to head out on what I called a “reconnaissance mission” to Babies R Us on Saturday afternoon. Now, a couple months ago, I ended up in the baby section at Target to buy a gift for someone else and was completely overwhelmed thinking about how we would eventually need a lot of that stuff ourselves. Cribs, car seats, strollers, bottles, baby monitors…with so many options, how does anyone ever figure out the right thing to buy??? But now I’ve had a little more time to think about what we need, and I’ve gotten some advice from people I trust. This time around, looking at all the stuff was actually kind of fun! We identified a car seat/stroller combo that we want, a glider/ottoman pair that should work well in the baby room, and narrowed down what style of crib we want. I doubt we’ll buy all of it from Babies R Us since their prices seem to run higher than Amazon, but it was nice to have a place to actually mess around with stuff and see how it worked.
One of the big decisions we still need to make is whether we want to cloth diaper or not. Frankly, I have no idea, so I am soliciting advice on the matter (as long as it is non-judgmental). Feel free to comment below!
I also ordered a rug for the baby room! I saw it on Zulily a couple months ago but wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. But both Jose and I loved it, and I kept thinking about it when I mentally decorated the baby room. When it unexpectedly went on sale through Zulily again over the weekend, I couldn’t resist any longer and got a 4′x6′ version to go in the middle of the room. The light blue clouds are the same color we’re using to painting the walls, and it’s got light green in there to match the bedding color we’re planning to use. Plus, it has a FLYING PIG. Which is really all you need.
So hooray for the first official nursery purchase! Well, except for the paint we already bought. We’d planned to paint this weekend, but Jose ended up working so much that we didn’t have time.
We wrapped up the weekend with what little we could see of the annular solar eclipse last night. It started at 7:40 and the sun set just after 8, so we didn’t have a great view but what we could see what pretty awesome! We actually watched it from Freebird’s while eating our burrito dinner and that turned out to be a better spot than our house would have been, since we had a clearer view of the horizon as the sun was setting. We even took our solar sunglasses! We got those two years ago when we went to KSC to see the STS-130 launch — after the launch, we went to the KSC Visitor’s Center and there were some people who work on the Solar Dynamics Observatory giving these out. See? Sometimes it’s good to be a pack rat.
Just in case you forgot how awesome space time-lapse video is, here’s a new one featuring photography from the Expedition 30 crew.
I also came across a really interesting article on Luminous Landscape (a photography website) by Alan Poindexter, a shuttle astronaut who most recently commanded STS-131 two years ago. I had assumed that the explosion in night photography from space was because either 1) recent ISS crews have been more interested in photography than previous crews or 2) NASA has just been doing a better job of making the photos and videos available to the public (for both viewing and for remixing).
It didn’t occur to me until reading this article that its the improvement in camera technology — and specifically in digital camera sensor performance in low light (high ISO) situations — that has had the biggest impact. Now that the astronauts on the ISS have cameras capable of capturing what the Earth really looks like at night, they’ve been able to come up with all sorts of inventive ways of making these time-lapse videos and capturing other amazing images.
The article is a really interesting read if you are interested in photography at all, but beware — it made me want to buy a new camera body! Mine is about 8 years old and the image quality starts to suffer at ISO 800 and higher. I would use the excuse that I need a new camera because we’re about to have a baby…except I just used that excuse two weeks ago to buy a new lens. I wonder how long (and how much money) is that excuse good for?
I got essentially zero work done this morning, but only because I was living vicariously through NASA TV and all of my friends and space tweeps in DC as Space Shuttle Discovery departed its Florida home and flew to its new home at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington. The next time I’m in DC, you can probably guess what my first stop will be.
They say the space shuttle is old, but she still looks beautiful to me.
I made the executive decision today that I am definitely feeling the baby move. What I thought were muscle twitches have gotten less twitchy and more like weak thumps. And this morning at the dentist, I felt a ton of twitch/thumps while the hygienist was in my mouth with the ultrasonic cleaner and the buzzing toothbrush, and the timing just seemed a little too coincidental. So I’ve decided it’s the baby. Which is COOL! And also, it’s very fun telling Jose every time I feel something because he gets really, really excited.
My dad texted me this photo on Monday for my birthday. It made me laugh because my mom is in the background just getting out of the car, and apparently he told her to stop and stand there because he was taking a picture of the azalea(?) bush to send me. I would show you the azaleas in my own front yard — except oh, they all died last year in the drought. On that note, can anyone recommend a good landscaper? I want someone to redo our front flower bed, and the one place I contacted so far never got back to me.
At work, I’m finishing up some of the last safety training courses I’m required to take — case studies of several accidents and close calls NASA has had over the years. I read the Apollo 1 case study and was surprised to learn that there was a report written a couple years before the fire (which occurred during ground testing and killed all three crewmen) about the problems in development and delays in the Apollo spacecraft. One of the findings was: “North American Aviation is overstaffed and the work can be done, and done better, with fewer people.” I found this interesting.
That’s all that I had in my head for now.
Great little overview of the Soyuz booster. This is an ESA-produced video designed to give some highlights now that ESA is launching Soyuz boosters from their facility in French Guiana.
Neat video showing Soyuz rocket engine testing in Voronezh, Russia. It’s in Russian, but still neat to watch.
Another video in Russian, but this one’s about Elena Serova, who could become the 4th Russian woman to ever fly in space. That’s right — the Russians have only flown 3 women in space, ever.
If you made it through the Russian videos — or even if you didn’t — you can reward yourself with this cool time lapse of auroras and starry skies over cool landscapes. Because you should like time lapses as much as I do.
Time for another roundup of cool space things!
First, another time-lapse video of nighttime time-lapse photography from the ISS. I know, I know, but I can’t get enough of them! The music really makes this one — very dramatic.
NASA just put out this “We Are The Explorers” promo, complete with narration from Optimus Prime. No, really.
Don Pettit, who is currently on the ISS, put together this neat video a few years ago of city lights from space. It’s long-ish, but really interesting to hear his comments on all the different cities. Japanese cities have a distinct blue-green tint, apparently. I never thought about how different types of light would affect a city’s appearance from orbit.
And finally, Stephen Colbert *hearts* NASA and the ISS. (Just in case you didn’t see this when it was released a month or so ago.)