mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
This is the first shuttle launch in decades that I've managed to watch live. The experience takes my breath away; so daring, so defiant, putting people atop all that high explosive and flinging them into the hostile vacuum above us. I'm not always thrilled with my species, but this sort of thing restores my faith in our future... at least briefly.

In a very small way, I contributed to this launch, which only adds to the thrill. I contributed indirectly, to be sure, just by doing my day job keeping the Macs of Langley humming; but I'm proud nevertheless.

Ishtaria

Feb. 25th, 2009 09:48 am
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
According to Tolkien legend, the most skilled craftsman ever to live created the great Silmaril jewels using the radiance of the Two Trees which once lit the world. Almost immediately, of course, mortal and immortal began fighting for possession of them. In the epic wars that followed, two were lost, and the immortals placed the third in the sky: out of reach of the greedy, and a lasting beacon of hope to the good-hearted.

Wanna see it tonight? Go outside before the crescent Moon has set, and you'll see an unusually bright Venus near the Moon and between it and the horizon. That's the last legendary Silmaril.

(It's also a stifling, baked world enveloped in poisonous acid fog, with no signs of life other than the corroding remmnants of a few robot landing probes from Earth. But that's an entirely different realm of cool and interesting.)
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (TARDIS42)
Since my 'Net connection is still wonky, I may be reduced to watching this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special on SciFi. The horror.

On the other hand, I received a nice Who fandom Xmas present in the from of this Livejournal artwork post by [livejournal.com profile] _tonylee_. The image linked at the bottom cheered me greatly; the likenesses are a bit off, but it's still my desktop wallpaper for a while. (One of them. The other wallpaper is the Apollo 8 "Earthrise" shot right now.)

As Starr works tonight and tomorrow, we finished the majority of our own gift-giving last night. Among other things, I received two hardcovers: an H.P. Lovecraft collection, and a Hitchhiker's omnibus of all five novels and the short story. In each case, these will supersede paperbacks already on my shelf, thus retaining the integrity of the Stuff Reduction Plan. Starr, on the other hand, got a gift card for plenty of crochet yarn, and a brand-new toolbelt to aid in her remodeling projects (she's already done a den and a bathroom). She wore the toolbelt around all evening to 'break it in', so I think it was appreciated.

I am messing with my co-workers today, playing Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra with album breaks provided by cuts from the "Sailor Moon SuperS Christmas For You" album.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (Default)
  • 11:13 Experiencing a blast from the past: I have Eve Tokimatsuri songs running through my head now. #
  • 11:45 @snidegrrl "The spiders launched to the space station a supply of tasty fruit flies for food" - spiders with orbital capability? Uh-oh. #
  • 12:07 Noting that the "post Twitter entries to LJ" script is doing so at wildly varying times of day for some reason. #
Sent subspace radio by LoudTwitter
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Space is getting a little more interesting now, with reports of developments in both government and private sectors.

The Chinese astronauts have returned safely to Earth after almost three days in space; one 'taikonaut' performed a spacewalk during the mission, a task which remains difficult and risky despite many successes on the part of the U.S. and Russia. The Chinese return capsule made a 'hard' landing on solid ground, which is a bit trickier than landing in water. According to Wikipedia, an airbag-based 'hard' landing system for NASA's Orion capsule has been removed for weight and complexity reasons, returning Orion to water landings.

Space X's Falcon 1, carrying a dummy payload, achieved orbit around the Earth on Sunday morning. This is the first time a privately funded company has done such a feat with a liquid fuel rocket; the company's press updates page has some cool pictures from a webcam mounted on the side of the launch vehicle. Video is supposed to follow soon. By 2010, the company plans to have a version that will safely launch heavy payloads and human beings.

The last thing the U.S. needs right now is another artificial "space race" where we pick a goal, achieve it, and rest on our laurels for another 40 years. But competition, both at home and abroad, is a good thing if it provides motivation and options. A problem suffered by both the American and Soviet space programs is that they generally had the budget to choose one method to achieve a goal, and if committing fully to that choice turned out to be inefficient, tough. No going back. Perhaps this is changing.

Only vaguely related: if you don't read XKCD, you need to check out "Height". There's a poster of that image, and yes, I want it.

Taikonauts

Sep. 25th, 2008 09:00 am
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Assuming that I have converted my time zones correctly, and that nothing went awry with the countdown, the third Chinese manned space mission is heading for orbit right about now. There should be three crew aboard, one of which will perform a spacewalk during the mission, using a spacesuit based on Russian designs.

This mission is to lay the groundwork (spacework?) for a Chinese space station, to be constructed in orbit from emptied fuel tanks before 2020. This idea was proposed by American scientists decades ago, but eventually rejected.

Meanwhile, we are still trying to decide whether to throw tons of money at the Shuttle to keep it flying, buy Soyuz spacecraft, or beg for rides from the Russians (who we're currently mad at because they're invading people again). Who knows, maybe the SpaceX manned program will work out.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Once again, here at Langley we have more work than we have people to perform it.

If you have at least a year of IT experience, and are interested in temporary work in Hampton, VA, you're encouraged to drop me a note. We are slowly moving the whole base from their old subcontractor-owned Mac, Windows, and Linux machines to our own equipment, and we need people who work well with the public and can handle unexpected glitches in file transfer and account configuration.

General aerospace fanaticism not necessary, but makes the job cooler.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Thirty-nine years ago today...

"Houston… Tranquility Base here… the Eagle has landed."

From that day on, mankind could only be limited to one fragile world if they chose to be. For the most part, we have chosen that, but I don't think that state of affairs is permanent. I don't believe we can afford to let it be so.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
T - I - R - E - D.

Went back to Roanoke on Saturday. My mom's doing great: she can move both her leg and arm now, and on Sunday took a few steps (with a great deal of support). I'm told this is still Gold Medal performance, and my optimism was repeatedly fed this weekend. [livejournal.com profile] nanoreid was there for a bit, and I got to say hi to Ginny and Ian as well. Starr bought my mother a knitting loom which can be fastened to a solid surface, and now my mom can indulge her addiction one-handed for the duration!

Roanoke felt a little odd, there are buildings and shops which weren't there last time I passed through - a bit like hearing an old song on the radio and finding an entirely new chorus after the second stanza. I took a hotel room there Saturday night to save us the drive to and from [livejournal.com profile] shrewlet's offered crash space in Blacksburg, but while the room was huge, the bed was hard as a plank, and we slept poorly for folks who would be driving 204 miles home. Route 460 was a beautiful, tranquil drive, though. I'm sold on that road for now.

Yesterday we woke too early, and headed over to spend lunch with Starr's mom, then the afternoon at Amy's with the gamer group. Her mom was going to gas grill the food, but after the gas loop rusted away at a touch, we went with good old charcoal, and lunch was yummy. I now know where Starr gets her habit of cooking a regiment's food for a few people, and felt guilty leaving before I could consume a second hamburger.

While the afternoon was sold as a combination grilling / gaming event, I'm not sure anyone was really into the gaming, and after a few hours of excellent chatting and cattching up, we left to get me some badly needed quiet time. I developed yesterday something that feels much like my old migraine headaches, something which comes in short, searing pulses then goes away for a half-hour or so. (One of the first things Starr did when hearing about that was to check me for stroke indicators - of which I seem to have none.)

In geek news, the Mars Phoenix robot probe has a Twitter account. Andy Ihnatko referred to the account as cosplay for rocket scientists, but I'm enjoying keeping up with what the probe's doing (or at least what it was doing 15 minutes ago - speed-of-light lag, y'know). Some quick Googling finds images taken by the Mars Recon Orbiter of Phoenix on the way down (Phoenix Down?) which means that we Earthlings not only managed to hit a target scores of millions of miles away, we got a picture of it from another camera that had previously done so under our instruction. [T]hese are the things that hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years. - Carl Sagan

So, yeah. Probably another early bedtime tonight, which is a shame because I wanted to get some WoW levelling in. With luck, the rest of the week will go a little easier on me!
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (Default)
  • 08:14 Parking a block farther from the office building to make myself get more walking in. #
  • 08:44 We are role-playing a flame war on a discussion forum. "I cast Straw Man!" "I cast Ad Hominem!" #
  • 09:15 Three-week-old kitten having breakfast: tinyurl.com/6grpcq #
  • 12:34 "Keep Track Of Equipment" poster has picture of Space Shuttle Main Engines. Are we misplacing those often? #
Sent subspace radio by LoudTwitter
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Taking a short break from reporting on weather and virtual worlds:

Tomorrow is Yuri's Night, the anniversary of the first human spaceflight, and of the first space flight of the Shuttle. Forty-seven years ago, a Soviet cosmonaut took mankind's first step toward the final frontier. Twenty-seven years ago, the American space program began our first experiment with reusable spacecraft. On April 12th we celebrate a milestone which will stand as long as we reach for the stars.

There are Yuri's Night parties in Richmond, DC, and the Raleigh area, and more all over the world - even in Second Life! The Yuri's Night website has plenty of information about the celebrations, including a chance to win a ride on G-Force One, a plane that performs weightless simulation flights.

Our space exploration efforts have faltered in recent years, but mankind hasn't given up; whether it be aboard an Orion capsule, a Soyuz spacecraft, or a Rutan spaceplane, a steadily-increasing number of us will have the chance to see the world from above, and dip their toes in the vast sea of stars that awaits the human race.

EDIT: [livejournal.com profile] jameshroberts correctly points out that our robotic exploration efforts are remarkably successful; it's just the manned side which has faltered somewhat.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (TARDIS42)
See, this is how you "rickroll" someone. Rather than just posting random stupid misdirected link, post YouTube video claiming to be Muppet bloopers which even a savvy person will want to click just in case; then, play skillfully re-edited video of Beaker and the Electric Mayhem singing "Never Gonna Give You Up".

The funny thing about Blizzard's "Molten Core" joke is that you can still find people writing games for the Atari 2600, though they're almost always played on emulators. It's quite the programming challenge to get a fun game tucked into less storage space than my LJ user icon requires.

Two days of warm weather have produced an explosion of plant sex here. My car's turned an unhealthy yellow-green, the streets have pale stains, and there are drifts of powdered lemonade in the gutters. We'll see if I can breathe by the end of the day!

This weekend, I found out what the "Age of Aquarius" actually means. The Earth's axis wobbles a tiny bit (but does not fall down). Some astrologers define a "Great Year" as the time it takes the axis to perform a complete wobble, approximately 26,000 years. A Great Year is divided into 12 Ages. Astrology being the exact science that it is, the Age of Aquarius is to begin sometime between 2062 and 2680. Or maybe it began in 2000, though any way it's supposed to take a while to get up to speed. But now I know! (Yeah, I like that song. It's happy.)

Gonna try to finish Technicon posts today.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (Default)
  • 10:48 Reading BadAstronomer's live tweets of the launch of the space shuttle this morning. I love this Internets thing. #
  • 10:50 Hating the fact that, due to the early EDT changeover, I'm getting up in the dark again :( #
Sent subspace radio by LoudTwitter
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
By an odd coincidence, I've had to deal with the "No, we didn't land on the Moon!" claim three times in the last few days. My views on it ought to be pretty obvious: if you really want a conspiracy theory, there are far more plausible ones than that.

My current favorite argument against the Hoax: There were thousands, if not millions, of Very Very Smart people involved in the Apollo program. Either they were in on the secret or they weren't; if they were in on the secret, then it wasn't much of a secret, really. It's like the "we test unusual stuff at Groom Lake" secret - the details may be foggy, but the whole world knows that it's a government testing base.

If they weren't on the secret, then you have all these Smart People being well paid to develop what they honestly believe will be a moon rocket - to the tune of several billion dollars. These people all think they succeeded, and they aren't idiots - they would have noticed things like "Hey, there's not enough radiation shielding in our design." So, since all these people think we have a moon rocket, and we spent the money to make it, why just go ahead and make the landing? Hmmm?

As an aside - the Soviet Union at the time definitely had the technological ability to detect whether we really went or not - they were quite close to managing it themselves. If we didn't really go, the Russians of the late 1960's really didn't have much motivation to help us cover it up. Unless you believe that the One World Government was already up and running by then, and the Soviet space establishment was also ordered to lie; in which case, I will choose to bow out of the discussion at this point and move on to another World of Warcraft post of some kind. Circy's level 60 now! Woo!

The essential Moon Hoax links:

Quick and simple: http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/tv/foxapollo.html

In-depth and pretty: http://www.clavius.org/
mikailborg: Chris drew this picture of my first Starfleet character for a newsletter cover, years ago. (kriet)
Got some cool stuff from Starr for my birthday... a refractor telescope, a black tee with a handcuff graphic ("I can't believe I'm buying you another black t-shirt") and... this!

Can you guess what it is (besides an afghan, of course)?

Fourth Doctor Afghan

The answer's behind the cut )
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
If I know you, and you are interested in moving to Hampton Roads for a permanent position installing and troubleshooting Macs, Windows machines, and/or Linux boxen for NASA, NOW is the time to e-mail me your resume.

Demonstrable computer skills would be a good idea - either college education or practical experience. Polyplatformers who can handle two or all three OSes are especially encouraged.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
I quote the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait:

"Most people are surprised — I was when I first heard — that Brian May is actually a scientist. He had just started working on his PhD thesis when he got distracted by his guitar playing in some band or another. But he knew was gonna be a big man someday."

His thesis is entitled Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, and it seems he now has his degree. I only hope the "Flight of the Hawkmen" theme played as he accepted the honors.

This is just... excellent.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
Today, as I drove to work, I plugged the iPod into the car stereo and listened to an episode of Astronomy Cast. (iTunes link)

Astronomy Cast bills itself as "your facts-based journey through the cosmos". There are few surprises in the podcast for a hard-core space geek, but the presentation is good and the content accessible to almost anyone listening. The science expert for the show, Dr. Pamela Gay, becomes excited and passionate when talking about her fields of expertise, but seems ever so slightly impatient any other time. Overall, it's entertaining and informative, and it's usually one of my first listening picks.

Today I heard pretty useful advice about purchasing binoculars and telescopes for casual amateur astronomy - useful because I think there's a telescope in my near future. (Suffolk is a short drive away and has nicely dark skies.) The previous episode, however, made *me* impatient; 30 minutes pointing out that higher dimensions, alternate universes, black holes, and FTL travel really do none of the fun things that science-fiction writers come up with. Hey, kids, human exploration will be over as soon as we land on the remaining solar planets - after that, it's all data analysis! Check out this set of spectra!

I admit, based on what we know right now, all that's probably true. But scientists have thought before that little remained to know, then been forced to change their minds when something new poked though the statistics. I'll acknowledge the validity of thier statements for now, but I'm not yet ready to give up the dream of yearly trips to Alpha Centauri! In the meantime, the "serious scientists" need to stop being such bummers. Carl knew better.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Last night, I heard that Virgin Galactic will be testing their SpaceShipTwo prototype this year, and expects to start its public, commercial, sub-orbital flights before the end of 2008 (possibly early 2009, depending on which part of their website you're looking at). They expect to take several hundred people up to 100km (official Astronaut altitude) within the first year of the company's operation.

Even after the success of SpaceShipOne, the whole thing still seemed a bit pipe-dreamy. "Maybe we can do this as a business one day." Now, somehow, it seems real, and I hear the sound of Richard Branson buying himself a major turning point in human history. Not that I mean to be too dismissive of the man: it's a much healthier way to establish a presence in the textbooks than trying to establish a 1000-year Reich, for example.

I cannot help but look at their promotional materials and realize that my dream of going up is about to change from "realistically impossible" to "currently impractical". Don't let anyone say that's not an enormous difference. There was a time in my early 20s when it was "currently impractical" for me to walk unassisted. "Impractical" is a lot easier to change.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Wil Wheaton is reviewing old ST: TNG episodes for a website known as TV Squad. He's just reviewed Justice, and my trivia sense tingled; Brenda Bakke, the half-naked actress who gleefully welcomes Worf as the "Huge One", also played Nim, the Texas Air Ranger in Gunhed.

This, of course, contributes nothing at all to your day.

Slighlty more interestingly, astronomer Phil Plait has posted that tonight's 9:35 launch of the Space Shuttle will be visible over most of the US' east coast. A link to a similar opportunity from '97 suggests that Norfolk viewers might be able to see the STS reach 12 degrees over the south-southeast horizon, while Roanoke area space buffs will only see the engine glow for 5 degrees (possibly discounting intervening mountains).

(I'll probably forget to go look, though.)

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mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (Default)
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