Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

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Did you know about the unmanned space station?

June 11, 2012

Chinais getting ready to launch a manned rocket to dock with their unmanned space station in orbit.  Not only is that a major accomplishment, but they might have a female in the 3-person crew.  I’m a little confused on why the female taikonaut is going to be chosen last minute though.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  I know, from my internships at JSC, that astronauts go through at least 1 if not 2 years of training, for one mission.  If the astronauts have a space walk, they spend 10 hours in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) for every hour of the space walk.  Everything is rigorously planned and rehearsed and practiced, well in advance, so why would someone pick the crew last minute?  Perhaps everyone has already been training together and it’s a matter of which person will fill that third slot, or maybe that’s just how the Chinese have chosen to do things.  I’m not in the minds of the decision makers, so I can’t say what they’re thinking of, but I can say that to me, it makes no sense.

However, that one of the crew may be female is wonderful news.  I hope it remains true, and thatChinasends a female taikonaut up on this ground-breaking mission.  What do you think?  Do you have an opinion on why the decision may be so last minute?  Or perhaps you have something to say aboutChina’s space program.  Let us discuss!

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And we have liftoff

May 22, 2012

The SpaceX Dragon capsule launched today, and as far as I can tell, is well on its way to attempt docking with the ISS on Friday.  A successful docking and mission would signify that SpaceX is ready, and that commercial spaceflight isn’t just a pipe dream, but on the horizon, chomping at the bit.  When I first heard about commercial spaceflight during my first summer internship at NASA, I was extremely skeptical.  I didn’t think that companies would be in it for the right reasons; they would be in it to make money, and not care about the lives of the people who took rides on their rockets.  I had heard there were no safety regulations for commercial spaceflight, and that just didn’t sit well with me.  That being said, it’s silly to think that no one would take safety into consideration, so I’ve been trying to give commercial spaceflight a second chance in my mind.

I came across an article that talked about how SpaceX is trying to make space cool again, and get theUSback into business of launching astronauts from home soil, instead of renting seats on the Russian Soyuz.  The thing that struck me was the comment about how SpaceX had managed to spend a third of the money NASA would have spent, on the launch.  Private industry is about making money, and somehow that translated negatively into my mind, but it really isn’t.  If NASA spends a third of what they had been, on launches, the rest of that money can be used in other areas.  I don’t think private industry will ever make NASA obsolete, but I think private industry and NASA can work together to make spaceflight exciting and fun, and not a source of contention between space geeks and everyone else.  I understand that the majority of Americans don’t see a purpose in spaceflight, when there’s all this other stuff going on in the world.  However, the spinoffs generated by NASA have helped everyone in some way or another; so perhaps if NASA continues its research, but private industry does more of the heavy lifting, we as a country can be less divided on the practicality of spaceflight.  Maybe.  What do you think?

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Inserting my opinion in the mix

May 21, 2012

Among the space geek crowd, there has been a lot of talk about the upcoming SpaceX Dragon launch.  It was supposed to go Saturday morning, but in the last moment before liftoff an abort was called.  There has been a lot of speculation about whether this was the correct response, whether the mission should have still gone on or now.  I wasn’t at the launch site, I wasn’t in launch control, and I don’t know a lot about Dragon, but I thought I’d throw my two cents into the internetsphere, because I can.

Aerospace is risky.  Rockets can blow up due to very small issues, or very large ones.  When people get comfortable, mistakes can happen and lives can be lost.  The Dragon launch was unmanned, so in this case, human life is not something that would be a casualty, unless the rocket explodes and debris rains down on the people watching the launch, but typically the launch watching sites are picked because if that were to happen, the location would lead to the least amount of casualties.  (At least I believe I heard someone mention that when I was out at KSC for the GRAIL Tweetup)  The reason for the abort was high pressure in engine #5.  It’s very possible that the rocket could have completed the mission with that engine offline, but at the same time, “it’s better safe than sorry”.

They were able to abort the mission at the last second, that feat in itself is pretty impressive.  If I remember correctly, had the same thing occurred with a shuttle launch, stopping the shuttle would not have been an option.  (Now the shuttle did have an escape system, so it would have been possible for bail-out.)  So SpaceX managed to shut the engines down and save the mission.  They will try again on May 22, and I applaud them.  It’s not an easy decision, calling for an abort.  There’s a lot of pressure to have the rocket launch anyway, and being safe, instead of having an explosion, is commendable.  Yes, if it had launched, it may have made it to ISS without problem, and it may have exploded.  There’s no way to know what would have happened, and calling an abort gives SpaceX the chance to figure out the problem, fix it, and try again another day.

Besides, if you think about it, many NASA missions were scrubbed multiple times.  The GRAIL launch was scrubbed.  Aerospace is risky business and anyone who forgets that is going to learn the hard way.

That’s my two cents.  How do you feel about it?

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The waiting game

May 17, 2012

The “waiting game” is something that happens to everyone.  It could also be called “Hurry up and wait”.  Basically, it’s that time where something is going to happen, and no one knows when it’s going to happen.  That’s where I am right now, or at least I hope to be there right now.  I had my phone interview earlier this week, and the end of the week is nearing, and the first job is potentially going to be filled by the end of the week.  Well, the person in charge of making the decision will have made a decision by then, but then HR takes over.  Since this is a government position, HR probably moves at the speed of snail.  So how long do you wait?  How long should a person wait to hear back on a job, before contacting someone to ask what’s going on?  I know that 1 of the 2 positions is hoped to be filled by the end of this week, and the second probably by the end of next week, but will HR contact the person immediately, or will they have to do some reference checking?  All I know is that the phone interview was it, that there is not another opportunity to impress them, so if chosen, that’s it.  So how long do you wait?

My gut says that I wait until a week or two after the point when I know all interviews are over, and the choices should have been made.  I’d prefer not to have to contact anyone, but at some point, I’ll have to suck it up and send an e-mail.  It’s really hard not to get into the mindset of “I’ve got this in the bag”.  I have a lot of positive qualities, and a lot of experience and background that would make me a great fit.  However, there are 12 candidates, so there could be other people with the same level of qualifications, or better, or gave a better phone interview.  So in the end, I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I’m also trying not to squash my hopes as well.  It’s a hard thing to balance?  Have you ever been waiting to hear back on a job, and you felt confident, but you just weren’t sure?  How did you pass the time during “The waiting game”?

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Adulthood does not equal boring

April 26, 2012

I know this is a subject that has been talked about a lot, but I thought I’d put my own thoughts and feelings out, on this topic.  It seems to be, that at some point people stop having fun.  There’s this feeling that adults must act like adults, and if they want to make something and creative and fun, that is slightly childish, then there’s something wrong with them.  It is frowned upon to play video games, as an adult, or make paper airplanes, unless doing so with children.  Why?  Why have we as a society stifled that which makes us happy?  There’s something to be said for the soothing powers of coloring books, but if an adult spent their day coloring in a coloring book, there would be talk of that being wrong.  Why?

When I volunteered for the GESTEMevent last week, I was treated to some adults, having fun, and being like kids, and it was an awesome experience, for the kids, and for the other adults in the room.  This specific session was sponsored by Lockheed Martin, and involved the kids getting to build foam rockets, and then launch them.  The team from Lockheed Martin had such energy and excitement about things, that all the kids felt the buzz of energy.  Not only did the kids get to build rockets and shoot them off inside, but they had a purpose, it was more than just shooting rockets, it was accomplishing a goal.  What was the goal? Intercepting the bad rockets to prevent disaster.  The kids were paired off, and one girl was a missile, and the other girl was the interceptor.  It was the interceptor’s job to try and hit the missile.  It would seem that the girls would just have fun launching their rockets, but they actually tried to, and many succeeded, in hitting the rockets.

I think more companies, and more adults should do like this group of people from Lockheed Martin.  Being an adult does not mean that you can’t have fun and play with things deemed “childish”.  Sometimes, it takes making things really simple, to find the answer.  So let’s stop being boring adults and have some fun in the name of learning and growing!

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Extreme Enthusiasm

April 23, 2012

I am an acoustics enthusiast.  I walk into a room, and immediately analyze what the acoustics might be.  But not only that, if I think they could be improved, I think about how they might be improved.  This is a part of me that I cannot shut down.   Sometimes I try to make it less obvious, and keep my thoughts to myself, but when I’m in a new location, and nervous, my eyes and mind go to acoustics.  What I’d like to figure out is why.  Why do I resort to acoustics when nervous or unsure what to say in a new setting?  Is it something I use to create conversation?  Am I trying to appear smarter than the other person?  Or is acoustics something I feel safe in, and so I turn to that like a safety blanket?  To quote the Tootsie Roll commercial, “The world may never know!”

Acoustics isn’t the only thing I get extremely enthused over.  ((I’m trying to avoid using the word ‘nerd’ since apparently it has negative connotations for a lot of people)) I also get enthused over instrumental music.  Specifically when it’s a piece of music that I’ve heard before, or played, or just really enjoy.  In high school I used to show that enthusiasm by shaking excitedly and wiggling my fingers at the screen, or waving my fingers about as I conducted to the music.  That scenario didn’t really occur when I was in new situations or with strangers.  I really only allowed that enthusiasm out when I knew the people I was with and knew they had some level of appreciation for the same things.

When I see other people, who are clearly passionate about the topic they are discussing, I take a moment and wonder if my passion comes through as clearly as theirs.  I’m sure it does, but having never seen myself when I’m talking about something I’m excited over, I’m not entirely sure.  What kinds of things are you extremely enthusiastic over?

 

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Discovery’s Final Flight

April 17, 2012

Today was the day that the space shuttle Discovery moved to her final home.  It’s scary to think that theUShas no vehicle to get to space, other than paying the Russians.  Last time there was a transition between vehicles that had a time gap; the original gap was doubled in time.  I can only imagine that with a large chunk of theUSthinking that NASA is irrelevant and needs to be ended, the gap will probably be doubled, at least.  I understand that private industry is throwing their hat into the ring, but it isn’t the same.  Private industry is out for themselves.  They want to make money; they want to be better than the next guy.  I’m all for competition and being the best, but I also think space exploration should be about learning, and furthering our knowledge and technology.  So knowing that we’ve got years of relying on other countries to gain knowledge of what’s out there, makes me wish I could convince the rest of the country that NASA is not the defunct and pointless organization that they think it is.

But what would convince people that may never reap the benefits of space exploration?

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Musings on my ‘Lunch Hour’

April 4, 2012

During my 1 hour lunch break, I allow myself to turn the TV back on, and I happened across an episode of the show The Doctors.  I only watched a few minutes of it, but they were discussing the argument about whether men are becoming less manly.  And, since one of the things I’m interested in writing about, is related to gender, I thought I’d weigh in on my initial reaction to what was being said.  The issue was discussed from multiple views, including physiology.  Since I am not a doctor, nor do I really keep up on medical news, I can’t refute anything they said.  The issue there is that men are reporting a lower level of testosterone, and the sperm count is falling.  From that standpoint, I can see the argument that men are become less masculine, less manly.

However, I am frustrated by this need to define men and women by masculine and feminine, in the sense that, if you aren’t fixing things, you aren’t manly.  I understand that for many years, men did the heavy lifting, they fixed the cars, and they fixed whatever needed fixing.  However, I don’t think it’s fair to call that manly, because there are plenty of women that are into fixing things, and cars.  As a female engineer, I find myself interested in, and excited over things that many people consider masculine items.  I am not a man, and I am not masculine, but I like explosions, and action movies, and geeky and nerdy items.  My belief is that we should stop calling men manly, and women feminine.  Our society isn’t that black and white anymore, and the labels are not helping society unite.

Yes, it is important to understand why testosterone levels are dropping, or why the sperm count is going down, but that should be the only concern.  Going back to the tv show I was watching, they had a short clip of people being asked if men were less manly now compared to twenty years ago.  Everyone said yes, but I don’t think it’s a valid question.  Society now, is completely different from society then.  Society back in the Renaissance is different from society in the present time.  At each point in time, there is a specific purpose, or goal, or unifying driving factor, that influences the roles of society.  I don’t think it’s fair to challenge the validity of one society over another.  Nothing in life is certain, nothing in life is static, and it is always changing.  Why do we, as a society insist on making everything static?

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Current Events That Struck a Chord

April 3, 2012

Recently, 60 Minutes, did a story about the SpaceCoast, and how it has changed now that the Shuttle Program has been shut down.  It was a very difficult piece to watch because it just emphasized how hard it is to get a job right now.  And I being an unemployed entry-level engineer hearing about people with many more years of experience not getting a job does not give me much confidence.  However, it’s good that it’s out there.  I feel very strongly about NASA and manned spaceflight and I’m not sure how I feel with privatization compared with keeping it a government agency.  I can see positives on both sides of the coin.  As a response to 60 Minutes, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote a blog about how the story about the SpaceCoastdid not tell the whole story.  He talked about how he and President Obama were working hard to create more jobs, and that unemployment in Brevard County, Floridawere the lowest they had been since 2009.  (You can see the 60 Minutes video here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7403938n and Bolden’s response here: http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/bolden/posts/post_1333472915111.html )

I think it’s great that people are working so hard to bring unemployment down.  I think it’s great that people are still talking about NASA as something important, and I understand that many people feel NASA has become pointless.  It is this last fact that has me concerned.  I could go into a long diatribe about how Americans just aren’t inspired anymore, and care more about what celebrity had the foie gras for lunch, than they do about significant science progress, but that’s not what my point is for this post.

Because NASA is a government agency, and the leaders are chosen by the President, the future of NASA changes every 4 years.  It could be dramatic, or it could be something small.  Either way, the direction is a very fluid thing.  So while it’s great that President Obama is promising to bring more jobs, jobs in the space industry may not always be a priority.  If the people whom elect the next president don’t see a point to NASA, the next president is less likely to work to improve the conditions in that industry.  I see this as one of those big negatives out there, as related to working for NASA, but at the same time, knowing all that doesn’t change that I would love for a chance to work in that industry.  It’s not going to be glorious and rosy all the time, but nothing is.

So I choose to take Administrator Bolden’s words as a piece of hope with which to grasp and cling to.  The world isn’t perfect, the country isn’t perfect, but when we have opportunities that spark our imagination and creativity, I think it’s important to let those shine and continue to glow.  What do you think?  Is hoping that NASA will still be there tomorrow, fostering the edge of exploration in space just a pipe dream?

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The Quilt Idea

April 2, 2012

I finally got started on that quilt idea that I had been rolling around in my head for a few weeks.  I had dinner with a friend who is crafty and asked for her advice in this idea that I had, and she gave me some ideas on how to do it well, and so I took her suggestions and began sort of drawing it on graph paper, so that I could estimate sizes I wanted.  I had originally wanted to do the Space Shuttle launching, but when I tried to draw the Space Shuttle with all of its tanks and stuff, it just came out looking wrong.  I have a big diagram of the Saturn V rocket on my wall, across from where I usually sit, so I just stared at that and came up with a replica.  My math didn’t quite work out the way I wanted, but I’m very pleased with what I accomplished, and if the picture link works, here’s a picture of what I have started.  It’s a bit abstract, but I think it’s clear that it’s a rocket.

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