Do you wanna fix a spaceman?

As many of you know, I am the team lead of a group called the Orbital Ospreys that recently flew in zero gravity through NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. This is the program’s last summer, and we were part of the last traditional flight week. It was also the first time we applied for the program, and we were so grateful and lucky to be blessed with the chance to take part in NASA’s greatest education program. 

Below is a video of our experience, which we submitted with our final report. 

It may also remind you of an old favorite video game (for those around 25 or younger).

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How the Rosetta Spacecraft Will Land on a Comet (Infographic)

NASA Social: Apollo 45

On Monday, July 12, I got to attend my first NASA Social, #Apollo45. It was a special event, celebrating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11. The Operations and Checkouts building at Kennedy Space Center was also being renamed that day to the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkouts building, and a special renaming ceremony was being hosted. 

I arrived on center that morning and drove to the press site, across from the iconic VAB. The press site, sadly, did not seem to be bustling like it used to before a launch or special event. I met with the other NASA Social attendees, many of them having attended at least one social or tweetup before this. I met a few familiar faces that I had previously only known through twitter, which was really fantastic! We introduced ourselves and then hopped on a bus and rode to the O&C for the ceremony. 

We walked into the O&C, which has gotten a nice facelift in recent years! We came inside to see rockets and historical space objects, like Neil Armstrong’s moonsuit. We had the chance to sign a sign commemorating the event, alongside signatures of Neil’s family, Buzz Aldrin, and other space celebs. 

Then we entered the Orion high bay, where the ceremony was being held. It was already very full, but to my surprise, we were escorted to the front, across from the stage, with the professional media. Even more to my surprise, a few of us (myself included), were allowed to actually stand on a side stage to ourselves during the ceremony! (It was one of the best views in the place). 

NASA Deputy Director Charlie Bolden and KSC Center Director Bob Cabana, both former astronauts, started the ceremony. Then astronauts on board the ISS tuned in via video in realtime and had a Q&A/speaking time. Then, Neil’s two sons, Mark and Rick, spoke about their father. Following the Armstrongs, former astronaut Jim Lovell, backup commander for Apollo 11 and commander of Apollo 13, spoke about Neil and their adventures back in the day. Next, Neil’s Apollo 11 crew spoke. Second man on the moon, science advocate, and celebrity Buzz Aldrin, spoke about Neil. Mike Collins, an unsung and often forgotten member of the Apollo 11 flight, spoke. (Mike flew the capsule and did not get to go to the moon; rather, he orbited by himself while Neil and Buzz were on the lunar surface). 

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Rick Armstrong

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Mark Armstrong

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Jim LovellBuzz

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Michael Collins

After the speaking ended, the event moved into a side room for cake and socializing, and the NASA Social attendees and I went off to lunch. 

After lunch, we had an awesome tour of the VAB. We went to a couple of different floors and saw platforms for both the space shuttle and the Saturn V. It was pretty neat! Overall, my first NASA Social was an awesome experience and I hope to do it again. 

VAB me

The final space shuttle launch: Three years ago today

The anticipation that morning was high.

Everyone arrived early with a bittersweet excitement. The entire space center was abuzz. This was the last launch. The last launch. After today, never again would the space shuttle spread her wings and soar into the cosmos.

We were a part of history.

Many people there who witnessed the last launch had worked on or in support of the magnificent space shuttle for years, for entire careers. Others, like myself, only worked on it for a summer or two. The vast majority, the rest of the world, watched it with a different perspective of awe and sadness. But everyone watching was amazed. And everyone watching was sad.

I can’t believe this launch was three years ago today. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember the entire day as if it were a movie I just watched. I remember the sights and the feelings and everyone around me. It was one of the most bittersweet days of my entire life.

It was a day I’ll never forget.

Where were you this day three years ago? Did you watch the launch? Share your stories in the comments!

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Voyager I: The greatest exploration feat of all time?

I remember the exact moment about one year ago when I read that it was suspected that Voyager I had entered interstellar space. I freaked out, texting my friends and telling nearly everyone within a mile radius, “we may have left the solar system!”

Now, it has finally been confirmed by NASA that Voyager I has indeed left the solar system and entered interstellar space!!!

Image Credit: JPL/NASA

Image Credit: JPL/NASA

This may not seem as momentous as the Spanish conquistadors and explorers venturing to the Americas, but Voyager I, in my opinion, far exceeds most engineering and all exploration feats of all time (with the exception of the lunar landings). The impact of the spacecraft leaving the solar system may not be widely felt, as no humans are aboard the craft, but just imagine! We are  the only known intelligent race, and we have sent a robot OUTSIDE of the solar system. Voyager I passed the planets, the asteroid belt, as well as the Oort Cloud… All thanks to incredible engineering. (Voyager I was launched in 1977, and was engineered for years before that. How is that for “old”, “antiquated” engineering?)

We have LEFT the solar system, the neighborhood we love so much, to discover and explore places that have never been explored before. Is this not amazing? We as a species are one step closer to the stars; slowly we are climbing the rungs to become a space-faring planet.

We have not only explored our own Earth and moon, but also our neighboring planets; now we are off into the great unknown. Who knows what we will discover?

Read more about Voyager I at the links below:

Happy birthday Schrödinger!

“If we were bees, ants, or Lacedaemonian warriors, to whom personal fear does not exist and cowardice is the most shameful thing in the world, warring would go on forever. But luckily we are only men — and cowards.”

-Erwin Schrödinger

I just got onto the Google homepage, and upon seeing today’s fantastic doodle, I realized… It’s Erwin Schrödinger’s birthday!

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To physics geeks like me, Schrödinger has almost god-like status. Born this day in 1887, Schrödinger was an Austrian physicistand was a founding father of quantum mechanics. He studied wave theory, earning him the Nobel Prize in 1933 with another giant of physics, Paul Dirac.  

Schrödinger contributed to many other areas of physics, such as thermodynamics, cosmology, general relativity, and he even tried to develop a grand unified theory, the holy grail of physics.  He is most remembered for his incredibly simplistic explanation of quantum mechanics, called “Schrödinger’s Cat”. This “experiment” describes electron superposition by comparing to a cat in a box being both alive and dead, (superposition). I cannot explain it nearly half as well as these videos:

Schrödinger was an absolute genius man, and will be forever remembered for his amazing contributions to physics. You can also read more about him here: 

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1933/schrodinger-bio.html

STEM links of the week: NASA edition

There has been a lot of news around NASA lately, so I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s STEM links to our favorite space agency! Check out these recent happenings, and remember, if you have any links you want to be shared on 3…2…1…, drop a line in the comments! 

The WISE space telescope, “retired” in 2011, may be given new life as an asteroid hunting scope!

Woohoo! NASA’s SLS (space launch system) rocket, a HUGE rocket that is larger than the Saturn V, passed its preliminary design review. 

Although Lori Garver is leaving NASA (boo!), discusses the importance of women working at NASA, and how they and everyone can inspire more generations of girls to aim for the STEM fields. 

Whether it’s getting astronauts to an asteroid, protecting space farers from radiation, or creating the most advanced propulsion systems, NASA is always looking for innovative technology. 

STEM Links of the Week

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and of private space company Blue Origin, has an awesome pastime of searching the oceans for old space artifacts. His most recent discovery were the engines from Apollo 11, the mission that first took man to the moon!

An interesting study on what makes people introverted and extroverted. 

How clean should our rovers be when sending them out to Mars and other places in the solar system?

The revolutionary Sabre engine is getting funding from the UK government. Read all about this amazing engine here. 

(Note: If you have any news articles on anything STEM-related and would like to have it featured on 3…2…1…, please drop a line in the comments!)

STEM links of the week

Announced today, an astronomer at the SETI Institute discovered a new moon around Neptune! 

Astronomers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology are finding antimatter in solar flares! 

Biologists are researching biology’s “dark matter”, unknown microbes and biological mysteries that still elude scientists. 

A bill is being presented to Congress proposes that the lunar landing sites of the Apollo missions would become national parks. (Anyone care to join me for a visit?)

Scientists are sensing a loss of identity from media portrayal and stereotypes. 

(Note: If you have any news articles on anything STEM-related and would like to have it featured on 3…2…1…, please drop a line in the comments!)