Friday, March 30, 2012

Tonight's Game: Space Mega Millions

Ok, fine, I admit it. I caved in to the social pressure and bought a lottery ticket today. I thought about what I would do with a metric flock ton of money (other than the obvious). For me, there's only one thing to do with that kind of money. Follow my passion and do whatever I can to advance space tourism, commerce and access to space by anyone. 

With that in mind, I picked the following numbers:

05 - For the Saturn V and my hero Wernher von Braun, whose rockets enabled humanity to achieve jaw-dropping escape velocity and get to the moon.

11 - For Apollo 11. An unprecedented achievement that I watched as a small child on an old black and white TV and just like that, a space geek for life was born. 

30 - For 30 years of Space Shuttle flights that awed, inspired and kept me looking to the stars.

35 - For STS-135 Atlantis, the last shuttle flight and one I saw in person. Never underestimate the power of 20% go for launch (a special good luck charm mention here goes to @phiden and @charmcitygavin.)

51 - For STS-51L Challenger and in memory of the astronauts who lost their lives in the January 1986 shuttle disaster. Also a reminder that space travel is a risky business.

13 - As the Mega Number because I just have to pay homage to an Apollo crew that patched up their faulty capsule with a sock and duct tape to plummet safely back to Earth. Talk about luck.

Will my Space Numbers be the lucky ones tonight? 

We will find out in about an hour.


Monday, March 5, 2012

When Astronauts tweet: @astro_andre's video #fromspace

After my last blog entry last night, I was delighted this morning to see ESA astronaut @astro_andre tweet this time lapse video of Western Europe at night from the International Space Station. Can you identify the major population centers? Gotta be quick - we're traveling at 5 miles per second! Probably a lot faster, since it's a time lapse.


@astro_andre is André Kuipers, a Dutch astronaut currently on orbit. For more about André Kuiper's life on the ISS, follow his blog here (in English)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When Astronauts tweet: @astro_ron's Pictures #fromspace or Why Geography is Fun

Astronaut Ron Garan @astro_ron is one of my favorite tweeters - That means he ranks way up there in the Top 5 tweeters I like to read when I look at my phone in the morning. 

Last year, Ron spent a few months on the International Space Station. In the process, he took hundreds of photographs #fromspace (a twitter search for this hashtag and #fragileoasis will amaze you). He often published his pics on twitter, asking "Where on Earth is this?", leaving his followers to test their geography skills. If you think you know your geography, I invite you to test your geographic mettle by perusing Ron's photos #fromspace. No more neat lines and labeled countries. No more predictable North is up - West is left orientation. Just snapshots of our Planet, rotating in its Inimitable Splendor.

With most of Ron's photos, I really wasn't sure what part of Earth I was looking at. I considered myself lucky if I could identify a coastline or mountain range. I aced geography in school. As an avid follower of @astro_ron, I correctly identified immediately just one geographic feature - a day time picture of Lake Victoria. I looked for that picture for this article, but no luck. If anyone has the URL to the Lake Victoria pic, please send it along.

Here is another one of Ron's pictures that I recognized immediately:

Here is another night time picture of several metropolitan cities that a lot of people on this Earth will swear up and down they can pick out on a Map. They'll look at this Actual Photograph and won't be able to locate those cities without a good amount of doubt and guesswork.
What fun!