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Archive for July, 2011

Model rocket attacks real (big) rocket!

July 27, 2011 2 comments
Looking up: Model rocket enthusiasts at the NASA Goddard visitor center

Looking up: Model rocket enthusiasts at the NASA Goddard visitor center


On Sunday, July 17, model rocket enthusiasts gathered at the Goddard Space Flight Center Visitor Center to commemorate the historic Apollo 11 launch and landing in 1969. Below is a clip of a puny model rocket “attacking” the magnificent, towering Thor Delta in back of the VC. Lucky strike! Watch it in HD/full screen for the full and dramatic effect of this modern-day reenactment of David vs. Goliath.

Regular public rocket launches began in 1976 as a program of the new Visitor Center and, of course, to mark the nation’s bicentennial. These days, it’s not uncommon for multiple generations to participate — even children of children of people who attended the early launches!

The special Apollo 11 launch event began in 1980. It’s always been on the third Sunday of July, which makes sure it coincides reasonably with the Apollo 11 anniversary.

“We have flown altitude, parachute duration, streamer duration and spot landing events over the years. I think we have kind of settled down for spot landing now,” explains Ed Pearson, a local model rocket enthusiast and longtime associate of the Visitor Center who helped start the public launches at Goddard.

More on that in a future post. Turns out the Visitor Center building has a more interesting history than imagined. More details to come…



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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Check out the Viz — a new way to explore the planet and beyond

photo of ipad with nasa viz app displayed

In the past year or so, I was involved in a project here at Goddard to create a new iPad app and it’s finally out. It’s called the NASA Visualization Explorer.

I know, I know — what do they mean by “visualization”? Pardon the jargon. It’s the local industry around here.

“Visualization” is sorta what it sounds like. It’s the process of making something visual. In this case, the thing being visualized is data from NASA’s fleet of scientific satellites.

The crack team of scientist-artists at NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio crank this stuff out, and some of it is truly amazing work. But it doesn’t necessarily reach the public. The new iPad app will help to spread the good news: “We got viz!”

If you have an iPad, check this thing out and let us know what you think.


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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Paul Richards took one look at the first Space Shuttle launch and thought, "That's my ride."

NASA Goddard engineer Paul Richards in 2001, spaking to the media about his upcoming flight on the Space Shuttle mission STS-102.

NASA Goddard engineer Paul Richards in 2001, speaking to the media about his upcoming flight on the Space Shuttle mission STS-102.

What did the Space Shuttle program mean to you?

NASA engineer Paul Richards knew from the moment he saw the first one roar off the pad in 1981.

“The first launch was 1981. I was a junior in high school. I wanted to be an astronaut since I was 5 years old. So as soon as I saw that first Shuttle launch, my thoughts were, ‘That’s my ride. I’m going up on that thing.'”

And he did — once — in 2001. It changed his life.

Yesterday, Richards was one of the speakers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who recalled their experiences and contributions to the U.S. Space Transportation System, a.k.a., the Space Shuttle. Richards, currently Observatory Manager of the GOES-R satellite program at Goddard, flew in space in 2001 on the STS-102 mission to the International Space Station.

The video below, about 15 minutes long, contains the portion of Richards talk where he walks through his changing “perspectives” on the Shuttle, starting with that first launch in 1981: hearing of the Challenger accident while in college; coming to Goddard and using the Shuttle to launch payloads; getting to know the astronauts; becoming an astronaut; watching friends and colleagues die in the 2003 Columbia accident. And finally, yesterday, watching the final Shuttle land.

Richards was candid, honest, and humble in his storytelling. It seems to me that he and others like him are one of the most precious legacies of the Shuttle era — the NASA people who did great things and took great risks to be true to their belief in the redeeming adventure of human spaceflight.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Discover AQ, 12 o'clock high!

photo of p3 aircraft flying over I 95

Much-magnified view of P-3B flying over Maryland July 14, 2011.



It’ a small world after all. Yesterday at around 5 p.m., I tweeted out the following message for Goddard:

NASA DISCOVER-AQ will conduct air quality flights over NE Maryland Thursday 7/14, 8am-4pm EDT. #MDsmogstudy go.usa.gov/Zle



This morning, 8:38 a.m., I was driving south on I-95, just a couple miles north of Rt. 32, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but the distinctive silhouette and quadraphonic exhaust plumes of a P-3B aircraft — the P-3B that NASA is using to sniff pollution over the region.

I grabbed my handy Canon digital Elph and snapped two photos before the craft roared overhead at low altitude, heading due north. I reckon it was 500 to 1,000 feet above the ground.

Check out the Discover AQ website for all the details on the mission.

Here is the actual “cockpit view” of what the camera saw outside my rolled-down car window:


photo of p3 craft flying over I 95
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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Getting ready to take the robots to the beach

This summer, Geeked On Goddard is reporting on Engineering Boot Camp, a program run by NASA engineer Mike Comberiate. In the program, new and aspiring young engineers work on technology programs to support NASA science.


photo of interns working in building 25


There was a full house of apprentice engineers in Building 25 the past few days, getting ready for a planned trip to NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Assateague State Park. Today, the boot campers are showing off their robotic projects at Wallops, taking a tour, and having a beach party. Tomorrow morning (Thursday), at 5 a.m., they will take the GROVER2 rover to Assateague beach for his first field trials.

I’ll be there to capture it on video. In the meantime, here is a glimpse into Engineering Boot Camp as the teams hurried to get their ‘bots running.





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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Hubble Space Telescope: one in a million

July 6, 2011 1 comment

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured its one-millionth scientific observation. To commemorate, here is more than 200 of the most spectacular Hubble images, set to music from the Planets album by the New York City band One Ring Zero. Many thanks to One Ring Zero co-leader Michael Hearst for extending permission to use the song Pluto in this video. And thanks to NASA fan Alex Grzybowski of Glenelg Country School for right-clicking more than 200 Hubble images off Hubblesite for this project.


Download the video (.m4v, 28 Mb)

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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GROVER2 gets a set of (aluminum) bones

This summer, Geeked On Goddard is reporting on Engineering Boot Camp, a program run by NASA engineer Mike Comberiate. In the program, new and aspiring young engineers work on technology programs to support NASA science.


guillermo and kyle in shop

The other day I stopped by Building 25 — ground zero for NASA Engineering Boot Camp — and was happy to see the ice-crawling robot, GROVER2, taking shape in the shop. Mechanical systems lead engineer Guillermo Diaz (above, right) took me out to a small brick building neat the main building.

In a marathon 36-hour session, slightly bleary-eyed Guillermo helped assemble and weld GROVER2’s aluminum bones together. Fellow Engineering Boot Camper Kyle Hobin (above, left), an undergraduate engineering student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, took the lead on welding the components together. The team had recently cut them from large aluminum sheets using high-pressure water jet cutting machinery.

Guillermo has also been working overtime to make sure that critical components, such as wheel bearings, arrive in time to complete GROVER2 for a trip to the beach next week for field testing.

As planned, the new rover is narrower and more compact, just 54 inches wide, 60 inches high, and 65 inches long, by my measurements. The two 1/4 horsepower electric motors that will drive GROVER2’s caterpillar tracks (adapted from racing snowmobile components) are already bolted to the frame.

With luck, we’ll be on the beach next Wednesday to put GROVER2 through his paces. In the meantime, here’s a slide show of images from the shop.





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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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