Monday, May 10, 2010
The Imaginarium, Research for a Better World...
Friday, May 7, 2010
The students are safe and in the ships after an accident involving their school bus bringing them to the Space Center from Terraton Idaho for tonight's Overnight Camp.
I'm relieved! It would be devastating if anyone was injured or killed in the accident, especially because they were on their way to our Overnight Camp. The entire story is below along with pictures from the crash.
Again, the kids are in the ships now. I hear debating, music, explosions, a bit of shouting and the normal sounds of five simulators all neck deep in EdVentures into the Cosmos. What could have been a disaster turned out to OK. Again, we are glad the kids are here at the Center, alive, uninjured and having fun.
By: Stuart Summers
It was a wild ride for dozens of students Friday morning after the school bus they were traveling in was hit by a truck on Interstate 15. The collision sent the bus from West Jefferson School District off the interstate and down an embankment.
Melanie Newman, mother riding school bus: "It was rather scary. It was something you don't expect."
It began as an overnight middle school trip to space camp in Utah, but early on in their voyage the bus encountered some turbulence.
Audrey Newman, 7th grade student on bus: "We just slammed on the brakes, and I saw the car flip and I didn't really know what was happening. I was glad when it was over."
Just before 7:30 a.m. the 61 year-old driver of a 1999 Toyota Tacoma lost control of his truck while trying to pass this school bus. The two vehicles collided just north of Blackfoot causing the truck to overturn, and sending the school bus down an embankment.
Melanie: "We went off the interstate and the bus kept going for a ways. That was it. It stopped and we're glad it stopped."
The dozens of students aboard the school bus were startled by the accident, but luckily no one was injured.
The driver of the truck was taken by ambulance to Bingham Memorial Hospital and was treated for minor injuries.
As for the trip to Utah and space camp, a new bus was sent to pick up the kids and they are on their way.
Melanie: "Everyone was shaken up a bit, but we'll go on with the trip and have a good experience."
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
The history of the Space Center continues in this post by Bill Schuler. Thanks Bill for getting this written so we have a real history. My memories of those old days have either evaporated or have been forgotten for sanity's sake. Please read. I know its long and some of you younglings aren't into 'Long Reads' (the texting generation) but you'll really appreciated how nice it is today compared to the old days when the Center first opened its doors in 1990.
And now Bill's Post.
As it Was
by Bill Schuler
Here we are, once again.
Note: Before continuing with the saga of the "Pizza Guy" I thought I would give an outline of the physical layout of the Space Center the way it was when it opened. Precious few records of that time exist so most of you really haven't any idea just how primitive the facilities were when compared to the current layout. This may give you a little more prospective on how far we have come. Also keep in mind that the Voyager was it! No other ship existed.
As it Was
Picture in your mind the bridge of Voyager in school year 1991-1992. The layout was not unlike it is today. Communications on the lower level, Right and Left Wing on the mid level, and some unoccupied areas on the top level. Also on the top level, where the Engineering Station now is, sat a large Plexiglas Box with a remote robot arm inside.
Back in those days the Captain's position was on the lower level with the communications
people. Security was a rather nebulous position which had no official status and no formal
station. The top level where the Command dais, security, and science stations are now located were unoccupied. Desks were in place but no computers. These desks were usually either unoccupied or had observers sitting at them.
One day, while a group of Jr. High students were doing a mission, the appointed Captain
removed herself from the Captain's chair and planted herself on the desk on the highest level. Through the microphone Vic told her to go back to her station. The Captain replied "Thank you very much but her current position was much more practical for observing the bridge than the official location. This was one of those "Daaaa!!!!" moments and from that time on the Command station was moved to it's current location. Security eventually took over the desk where today's security station sits; with the exception that it faced out to the bridge rather than in to the wall. Records and Science stations eventually filled the remaining desk on the top level. I miss those desks. They made such wonderful barricades. One pirate, if he or she knew what they were doing, could hold the entire bridge against the crew by using the captain's desk as cover. Oh the memories!!!
Back then the computers consisted of an assortment of Apple Macintosh computers. These
puppies were the single box, all in one machines with 9 1/2" black and white screens featuring four, count them four, shades of gray! and hard drives significantly smaller than today's typical iPod. They sat, semi recessed into the desks.
Mission control was pretty sparse. Vic's station was in the same position, with a microphone , a couple of Audio tape players and a music CD player. The CD player had a capacity of 1 CD! These were all tied together with a primitive soundboard which controlled the volume of the various devices. All sound that was generated by these devices stored on tape or Commercial CD.(At the time it was not possible to burn a CD.) No sound computers existed as of yet to store or provide sound effects. During a mission Vic would have something like 30 or 40 Audio tapes carefully arraigned in front of him. How he kept track of them, I will never know, but rare was the time when there was no sound and music on the bridge. As of yet there was no voice distorter to create different voices. All the various voices came out of your own throat.
What would now be described as the "Second Chair" consisted of a couple of Macs that saw all of the computers on the bridge. In those days (As Brian Hawkings described in his post) we used a devilish program know as Timbuktu to see and control the other computers. This was not what you would consider ideal. Timbuktu allowed you to see a computer on the bridge and control it if necessary but it was very awkward. The guy (no gals yet) in charge of that station looked at the screens and would tell Vic if a certain crewman was operating his or her station correctly. There were something like 17 computers on the bridge and 2 computers at Second Chair to monitor them. Remember these computers have 9 1/2 inch screens! What you had to do is tile all the
computer screens from the bridge onto these 2 Mission Control monitors. Using this system a crewman would do something (or not), Second Chair would monitor the action and then
verbally relay to Vic whether it was done correctly. Woe be to the inattentive Second Chair.
This system in addition to being very labor and verbal communication intensive was very slow. since you were virtually seeing and controlling all the computers using very narrow bandwidth with very chatty software, they were, by today's standards, unacceptably slow in their response time. But at the time it was all we had.
Next to Second Chair was the Video Station. All visuals ran through this station just as they do now. Three devices made up this station; 2 video tape players and 1 laser disk player. One VCR would play the mission tape, the other would play stars and the Laser disk would do whatever. As today a switch box allowed you to switch from one device to another.
Mission tapes at that time were austere affairs. Ships moving in front of planets, Through wormholes etc. Footage was exclusively from the Star Trek films. Vic did the tapes in those days. They were recorded using the two consumer VHS players at the Video station. With no time base correction the copies were noticeably less pristine than the original. One of the major problems using this type of equipment is your edits. Without insert edit capability (This required a special type of tape head not usually installed on consumer machines) each edit has to reestablish the the track resulting in a huge signal degradation lasting several seconds. There was a way to avoid this. By pausing in the record mode and unpausing with a new clip you could reduce transition disturbance to something approaching acceptable. The downside to using the pause was that it would last only three minutes, then the machine would automatically turn itself off leaving you, once again with a huge signal break. The play VCR also had a speed control so the playback could be slowed down to stretch out the shot. While it stretched the length of the shot it also created a noticeable strobe and jerkiness (no frame blending way back then).
The majority of the images used back then came from a Laser Disk player, a technology that dated from the early 80's. It's introduction into the consumer market was hampered by the versatility of the VHS tape recorder. It wasn't until a decade later that the merits of the Laser Disk began to be appreciated by the consumer public. The disk itself was that size of one of those LP platters that were the norm for storing music prior to the introduction of the CD. The disk when placed into the player would be scanned by a laser and this data would be translated into video and audio signals. It's main advantage over the VHS tape was it's superior digital image and sound. Another great feature was the disk was a random access device, you could program in chapter codes to immediately access the particular image you wanted. This was not possible with tape, which had to be forwarded and reversed sequentially. The Laser Disk was a big hit in education circles because of the huge amount of data that could be stored and retrieved on demand.
Vic used several Disks distributed by NASA. The video person had a list of chapter codes to quickly bring up the appropriate images. This remarkable piece of equipment surged back
onto the consumer market in the early 90's when people recognized the medium's obvious image and sound quality advantages over VHS Tape, So superior, in fact, that if you recorded a Laser Disk image onto video tape, that recorded image had a greater quality than a commercially recorded VHS tape. This technology virtually disappeared in the mid 90's with the introduction and meteoric rise of the DVD .
Back in those prehistoric days, there was one more position in mission control, Tactical! The tactical computer, once again, one of those little Mac's was set up on a desk where the stairs leading to decontanimation are now. It in turn was connected to a state of the art LCD screen that sat on top of an old fashioned overhead projector which in turn flashed the LCD screen image onto the tactical window. The image was black and white, or rather blue and yellow. This set up was very temperamental. The easiest way to get Vic into a bad mood was to mess with this setup.
At that time Vic had no direct control of the Tactical computer. A staff member had to man that device to get images to move, by clicking and dragging. By doing so the staff member would move the Voyager out of Space Dock, dodge torpedo's, maneuver through asteroid fields etc. Again this called for a lot of verbal communication to coordinate. The actions on the tactical screen had to match what was going on in the rest of the story. At that time, the most important prerequisite for being a staff member was that one had to be telepathic.
And that is the way it was. nothing like the level of integration we enjoy today. Despite the shortcomings of the Center this was truly it's Golden Age.
More on that to Come.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
To Whom It May Concern,
The BYU Physics and Astronomy Department is excited to announce BYU AstroFest, a fun interactive astronomy event for kids and families on Saturday May 22, 2010, on BYU campus. We would appreciate it if you would let your scouts know about this event through you, their leaders and their parents.
The purpose of AstroFest is to educate and excite children and their families about space and science through hands-on learning activities. Some these activities include building and launching your own rocket, making your own constellation finder, and a planetary scavenger hunt. In addition there will be free planetarium shows, physics demonstrations, lights and lasers shows and planetary atmosphere presentations. We will also have a solar station with activities about solar energy, solar ovens, and solar telescopes for safe viewing of the sun. We are happy to announce that this year we will be having a Mars Mission Training Center, where children and families can “climb” the tallest mountain in the solar system, and complete astronaut fitness training in our obstacle course. AstroFest will then conclude later in the evening with a telescope star party.
This event is FREE and open to the public from 10am-4pm with activities ongoing throughout the day. All AstroFest activities can be easily tied into any science, astronomy or scout curriculum. In addition we have free educational material from NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope to give away. Please let your leaders and scouts know about this free educational event. We look forward to seeing you there and sharing our love of the universe with you!
For more information please visit our webpage at Astrofest.byu.edu. The website includes a flyer that can be downloaded for distribution. If you have specific questions please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Heather Jones at 801-422-5372.
Denise Stephens, Faculty Advisor
Heather P. Jones, AstroFest Coordinator
Friday, April 30, 2010
This was posted to YouTube about the Space Center. I enjoyed reading it and thought to pass it along to you.
Remember, regular imagination recharges keeps you young at heart. Use botox for the rest :)
And Now, The Comment:
Oh Man. . . I remember 6th grade. . . I was assigned to the Odessy, with the hardest mission they had. Oh man. . . one of the scariest moments of my life was spent on that ship. I was tactical, and a few years later, my little brother went on a variation of the same mission on the same ship, but as engineering. Same reaction. The best moment of the mission for me though was near the end. I was starting to have an advantage on the enemy, but they shut it off as I was about to destroy him!
About to get ready for my Friday morning ritual. Up, Get Ready and off to WalMart to purchase the Overnight Camp groceries. I just looked out the window. There is snow on my deck! Enough is enough already.
That said, I'd better get going. The Space Center doesn't run itself you know. Hope to see you all in the Trenches real soon. We have many patients suffering from imagination dehydration and never enough time to administer Wonder's Water - a Space Center Mission!
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
We have 8 openings for our Overnight Camp this weekend (Friday, 7:00 P.M. to Saturday 10:00 A.M.) for anyone between 10 and 14 years old. If you're interested in attending you may come at the discounted Blog Readers price of $38.00 (reg. price $43.00). To attend, please send the following information by email.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Atlas 5 on Pad at Kennedy
Saturday, April 24, 2010
By Alex Debirk
CMSEC Flight Director
Back in April 2002 I began training as a Galileo flight director under Kyle Herring and James Porter. There weren't any high school flight directors at that time, and I was part of a push to train a bunch in order to combat growing school class sizes around the district. Soon after I began training, Kyle learned that I was also a drafting student, and he approached me about designing a replacement for the Galileo. The ship was already 3 years old or so, and was only meant to last 5, so coming up with a sturdier model to replace the now middle-aged box was going to soon become paramount.
Next we had to figure out how to build the curved shape of the ship. The original design was made of spline curves, some of them compound (curving both horizontally and vertically). We thought of bending square tubes to make the shape, but just thinking about how to make a tube twist in just the right way in 3D space had me looking a bit green in the face. The problem is you can't measure spline curves--the only way is to give the fabricators coordinates to points in space and hope they can match it decently, which is exactly what I ended up doing on the drawings. Kyle and I then met with some steel shops to get their input and see what they were capable of doing. One of them is a very large shop in Pleasant Grove that does very large structural steel projects. We talked to them about the project, and they weren't excited about building with tubes either. They wanted a model to go with the drawings, though. So I sat down and from the drawings tried to make a balsa wood frame of the actual ship, hoping I'd drawn the designs right and that the thing would come together (like I said, I was only a high school drafting student). It took a long time. I had to bend the wood to fit each shape and drown it in glue to make it hold. After three weeks of hours a day, I had finished only the nose section. As I was getting ready for the rest, though, I got a call from a guy at the steel shop in Pleasant Grove saying that he had built a full model in a day--I was a bit blown away. He had come up with a different design though--bulkheads, flat steel shapes cut into ribs that have the exact shape of the ship. All that's needed is then to weld the shapes together, and then you put a metal skin over the "bones" as it were, creating the perfect shape. Not only did bulkheads eliminate twisting tubes, but the structure was stronger, more versatile, and lighter. What's more, cutting shapes is done by computerized cutters in no time at all, making the process much faster and much much cheaper. It was perfect, well, except that I had to redo all of the drawings, again hoping the 2D projections would become the shape we hoped for. There were some delays on the horizon, though. The Phoenix suddenly needed a more permanent home than a space lab bubble in the cafeteria, and I was hired to design that too. More problematic, I was nearly 19. I left on my mission in 2004 having barely finished it all (I think I needed to have my dad turn in the Phoenix plans on the way home from dropping me off at the MTC). The Phoenix was built with some upgrades to the initial plans while I was gone, but as far as I know the Galileo project came to a halt.
Working from St George, I delivered completed details to Kyle (from which the picture below comes from). The structure simply needed to be cut out and welded together at a fab shop. Kyle had a different idea, though. He wanted to sponsor a BYU Mechanical Engineering Capstone project and have the students build the ship for us. The idea was that they would get the finished design and then provide the labor to build it, saving the Center money, or at least that's how I understood it. There's probably more details there from Kyle's side. I had a bad feeling about it, and tried to fight it, but being far away in St. George made it tough. Victor was for it, though, and he has the final say. So BYU got the project. By the time I'd finished my contract and come home, the project was well under way.
For the project to be academically viable, however, the BYU students couldn't just take someone else's design and build it like they were simple hired labor. They had to redesign it to make the project their own, which makes total sense from BYU's point of view. That's how the Galileo came to look like it does today. It's still based on the original design--the floor plan is still the same, including the torpedo launcher and the forward escape hatch, but BYU reverted the ship's structure back to tubing instead of bulkheads, and turned curved shape into a practical multifaceted one. There were some pros and cons to BYU's design. For instance, the ship is bigger and roomier than I had designed, and it was much easier to mount the interior and exterior skin of the ship onto flat planes rather than the curves I had going. It's heavier, though, and was much more expensive.
The interior and all, including the amazing engineering system done by Matt Long, were all designed and built by others. You'll have to talk to Kyle, Matt, Stacy or Taylor if you want background on that--unless you're too bored at this point. The only other thing I was a part of was the torpedo launcher. Spencer carved a mold of the probe casings out of wood, and then Kyle Jones, Morgan Ruesch and I got together to design the launcher itself and all of the components that go inside. The Galileo's engineering section and the torpedo launcher mark really big moments in space center history, I think. The engineering section has been designed so that the days of simple "plug and chug" damage reports are over in the Galileo. The engineer will have to determine how to repair a system by themselves through diagnostics and personal know-how. In other words real engineering and problem solving. Also, the probe casings and equipment are designed to pose executive challenges on their use and versatility. These innovations provide another level to problem solving at the Space Center, a part of Center's core curriculum.
Overall, the goals that Kyle and I had in our first design meeting have been met. Although it's taken eight years to get there (evidenced by the length of this!), the Galileo Mark VI is larger, more durable, and more equipped to provide all of the things the Space Center is founded upon than its predecessor.
Anyway, that's the history of the Galileo's design as far as I was involved. Kyle, the mastermind, Matt or Stacy likely have a lot more to add.
Friday, April 23, 2010
So today folks. We announce that we are increasing our security measures. Our imagineering department is beginning a revamp of our zoology pen forcefields. Hopefully it will further contain the mutant bat-frogs.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Overnight Camp this weekend has openings! If you're interested in attending please send an email with the following information.
Parent or Guardian Name:
Normal price is $43.00. Blog readers and Frequent Flyers can come in for $38.00 payable on arrival Friday night with a check or cash. The camp is open to everyone between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. Starting Time: Friday 7:00 P.M. Camp ends Saturday at 10:00 A.M.
Photographer: Rob Ratkowski
Summary Author: Rob Ratkowski
Astronomers are frequently asked why we have our observatories on high mountain tops. A big part of looking into deep space has to do with atmospheric transparency and freedom of particulates along with heat that causes blurring. A simple but effective understanding of this 'seeing' is to put a finger at arm’s length in front of the Sun and observe the aureole that’s produced. Held at arm’s length, a finger tip subtends about one half of a degree of sky – nearly the same amount of space that both the Sun and Moon take up. At sea level, observing is often compromised by the build up of heat, dust, moisture, haze, pollution, and aerosols that include ash and even salt. Higher up, there’s less of this to deal with since there’s less atmosphere to peer through. These three photos were taken on the Hawaiian island of Maui at (left to right) Baldwin Beach, Kula and Haleakala Observatory, respectively. The disk of the Sun is completely hidden by my index fingertip at 10,000 ft (about 3,050 m). Note, I can positively verify that my finger didn’t increase in size as a result of the thinner air.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
And Now a Story About this Picture Written by Bracken and the folks at his Creatorium :)
Jack: The Snowman Hunter
Very little is known about the history of Jack Frost. In the early 1900's his legendary hunting skills moved him into a position of fame. Later, in the late 1970's, he became immortalized in a stop-motion movie about the beginning of Santa. But, in all reality- Jack was a snowman hunter, and a very good one at that.
Before Jack- Snowmen weren't the cute, cuddly creatures they make them appear to be on television. In fact- Frosty isn't like his actor portrayed at all. I know they made Jack Frost appear bad, but in all reality, they were switched in roles. Frosty was causing the blistering cold that was causing global freezing- starting in about 1883. Global freezing was scaring environmentalists, they were afraid that all the world oceans would freeze, and our precious water resource would vanish, until a massive flood would wipe everyone out (please refer to the documentary called ICE AGE, put out by my agency for more information).
Frosty was behind it. He had created a machine that would spiral the freezing cold weather out of control. It was a terrible problem for everyone around. Nobody knew that the source of the problem was actually a machine- most people were blaming el nino at the time.
Jack was working for an organization called the counter-freezing unit (CFU). He worked with several other people attempting to counter the freezing cold. A snowman attempted to blow up their headquarters, and that was the end of it. Jack was instantly on the job. He was able to take care of multiple global freezing threats. (For a completely revamped version of these missions- please watch the hit television series "24". The character Jack Bauer is based on Jack Frost).
This trophy wall- even though it looks evil, and sadistic- holds the heads of the snowmen that were attempting to freeze the world. Because of this trophy wall though, Jack Frost will forever be considered "evil"... Even though he saved all of us from an certain doom.
Just remember troops. Never judge a book by it's cover.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Our First Item for Consideration. Hmmmmmm. Yes, A delicious Motherboard. Gosh, what will they think of next at that Imaginarium? Don't they ever do real school work or is it all play?
Answer....... Yes, our students at the Imaginarium study, but perhaps in a different way. For instance. The assignment, Genetics; and the result from one of our senior students above.
Always giving what isn't expected........ The Imaginarium.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
This is a post on the History of the Space Center from Brian Hawkins he sent some time ago and since we are taking time to learn the history of the Center I thought you'd be interested in learning about our great staff from the past.
Brian was our first 'Chief Programmer'.
Enjoy his post and learn more about the Space Center's history.
And now Brian's Post:
As long as everyone's throwing out history, I thought I would add my two (or more) cents. My journey from Space Center participant to flight director was unique, and perhaps the first of its kind-- although it's much more common now. So here goes . . .
I first attended the Space Center not long after it opened as part of my sixth grade class (Cherry Hill Elementary, Orem, Utah). I need not describe how amazing it was--all of us know that feeling. I immediately resolved to return as many times as the Space Center and my parents' pocketbook would allow. Generally, that meant once or
twice a year--always a summer mission, and sometimes a private overnighter during Christmas break if I was lucky. Again, I need not waste words describing how excited I felt about each trip to the Space Center.
After a few years of attending missions I wanted to do more. First, I knew that the Space Center computers ran on HyperCard, and I knew I had HyperCard on my Mac at home. I started wondering whether I could program Space Center-like controls on my home computer, so I taught myself HyperCard. Also, I was a soundtrack junkie, and I began to hear a lot of movie music that struck me as Space Center- appropriate. Finally, I was big into theater at school, so I was gaining a lot of acting and fake-accent experience.
All of these tendencies began to converge when Vic announced a new class at the Space Center--a "story development" workshop. This was in the Winter of 1993. My personal suspicion was that Vic was running out of story ideas and decided to teach a class on the subject as a way of milking new ideas out of us. :^) In any event, it was my first opportunity to interact with Vic in a "personal" setting. It was also during this period that I volunteered to show him some HyperCard tricks I had learned--things that could make the current stacks look and run better. He was somewhat impressed, but, if I recall correctly, nothing came of it.
At this same time, however, I was participating in a Star Trek club (the USS Alioth), which had agreed to do some volunteer work for the Center. In return for a free 8-hour flight, we built an "engineering station" on the Bridge. It was located in that corner room off to your right as you come up the short set of stairs (that is, not the
spiral stairs, but the stairs coming up from the control room area). It's all torn out now and replaced by bunks, but at the time it included a place for isolinear chips (the first ever at the Space Center) and "cooling rods" for the warp reactor. I helped to design and build all of this, and thus gained more exposure to and interaction with Vic and some of the other Space Center staff.
Soon another opportunity arose. The following school year (1993-94), Vic organized the Voyager Society. Initially, the Society included only Space Center attendees who had more than a certain number of flight hours. Having been on a number of overnighters, 48-hour flights, and even the famed 5-day mission, I had plenty of hours. I was "Captain" of the Society for some time.
One of the best parts of the Society was the chance to volunteer on missions. My first volunteer experience was a 48-hour flight during the summer of 1994. I finally got close-range interactive experience with Vic, Mark, Dave Wall, Steve Wall, Bill Shuler, Tony, Jake, Nate, Bart, and all the rest. I also began showing off my HyperCard
experience a bit more, and Vic liked what he saw. He asked me to make a few changes here and there. Then I shared some soundtrack ideas, which Vic also picked up (Clear and Present Danger and the heavy-drums Yanni excerpt come to mind--although Yanni's not a soundtrack). And I had fun with accents.
I volunteered for a few other missions that summer and volunteered for as many overnighters as I could during the 1994-95 school year. Finally, sometime in the winter of 1995, my "big break" occurred. At that time, Steve Wall was driving down from Logan every Friday afternoon to meet his brother Dave (driving from Salt Lake) and run the "X-Craft"--a makeshift simulator inside the Starlab (a primitive
version of the Falcon). However, on one particular Friday, Steve could not make it down. Perhaps it was snowing too much. In any event, Dave was all alone. Vic assigned me to work with him. Dave and I didn't hit it off right away, but we got to know each other and I showed him that I was competent as a "second chair."
From that point on, I almost always worked with Dave and Steve. More importantly, what we now call the Odyssey (then called the "ISES" and after that the "Seeker") was in the planning stages. It was to be built over the summer of 1995. Dave and Steve had heard of my HyperCard skills and tapped me to create the controls for the new ship.
At this point, I began spending so much time at the Space Center that Vic took notice. At the end of an overnighter, he announced to me nonchalantly, "Brian, you're doing all this stuff . . . we're just going to hire you, okay?" I was taken aback. I had wanted to work at the Space Center for a long time, but I thought I would never get hired. Aside from adult employees, it had been Vic's policy to employ only students who had attended Central Elementary. So, as far as I am aware, I was the first volunteer to break the "Central ceiling" and actually get on the Space Center payroll.
Meanwhile, as the new "Chief Programmer" (an informal title at the time), I was working away on the controls for the Odyssey. Because the new ship would be the Space Center's first to have color computers, I created the Space Center's first color stacks--very primitive by today's standards, but they looked cool to us back then. The Odyssey launched in the fall of 1995, with my stacks, and so I spent most of my time working in the Odyssey control room-- usually as second-chair to Dave Wall. Dave and I became good friends, and still are.
It was in the fall of 1995 that my second "big break" occurred. At that time, both the Odyssey and Voyager kept track of what the kids were doing on their computers through the Timbuktu system, which slowed down the computers immensely. I had come across something in a HyperCard book that could help us break free from Timbuktu-- AppleTalk messaging. For example, if Left Wing goes to Warp 6, instead of having to see a graphical representation of that kid's computer screen showing the ship at Warp 6, the kid's HyperCard stack could send an AppleTalk message through the network telling a control room computer, in effect, "Left Wing has taken the ship to Warp 6." Then the control room computer would have a little text box labeled
"Warp Speed" and HyperCard would insert a "6" into that box, and perhaps even make a noise and/or use the computer's "speech" function to say, "Warp 6." And everyone would know that the ship had gone to Warp 6, but without wasting so much processor time. (This should sound familiar--it's the way things run now.)
Well, this was a great idea, but I could not get it to work. Specifically, I could not get two computers to permit the other to send messages to it. Then along came Kirby Glad, who had also taught himself HyperCard. Kirby had programmed his own stacks for use in the special missions he was developing, and I noticed he was using AppleTalk messaging. I asked him how he got it to work, and he graciously showed me what I was doing wrong (it had to do with "Users and Groups," for all you old Mac hands).
Suddenly, everything worked. (Thank you, Kirby!) Within a month or two, I reprogrammed the Odyssey computers to use AppleTalk messaging rather than Timbuktu, and it was like a whole new ship. All the computers ran at the speeds of which they were capable, and we in the control room didn't have to worry about those silly Timbuktu windows. Half the time, we didn't even need to look at the control
room computers. They would simply speak to us: "[Ding!] Warp Six." (Sometimes I programmed them to say something sassy, like, "Warp Six, you fool.")
Soon, Vic wanted the Voyager computers to run on the same type of system. Over the next several months, I completely reprogrammed the Voyager stacks to look better, and to use AppleTalk messaging. The computers were still black-and-white, but it was nonetheless a needed facelift and internal upgrade.
Also during this time, I produced all the Tactical and Sensor stacks. I found those projects pretty fun, and I amassed a wealth of Star Trek bitmap clip art (which I still have on my hard drive-- somewhere).
As the years progressed, it became more burdensome for Dave Wall to come to the Space Center every weekend, and so I gradually assumed the Odyssey flight director's chair. Although Dave and Mark Daymont would still run the ship on occasion, I got to direct numerous missions from about January 1997 through September 1998. During that time, Allan Stewart and Stephen Porter became my second-chairs, and Allan Stewart took it upon himself to learn HyperCard. As I prepared to leave on my mission in September 1998, he was the obvious choice to assume the role of Chief Programmer, with Steve as his back-up.
After my mission, I maintained contact with the Space Center (a few small HyperCard projects, and a short-lived programming class--the first "Multimedia Development Academy"), but it dwindled gradually. School was just too demanding, and I had a job on campus. Then I graduated and moved away.
I'm now a lawyer, graduated from University of Michigan Law School. I'm married and have a family. Nonetheless, I confess that the Space Center is still on my mind. I
get the daily digest e-mails, of course. But more than that, I see a new sci-fi show, play with a new gadget, hear a new soundtrack, etc., and my first reaction is almost always: "Wow, the Space Center could really make use of that."
I'm also pleased that a lot of my innovations live on. I visited the Center briefly in August 2005 (my most recent visit). Although the Space Center's stacks have now all been completely reprogrammed in a new programming language, they all contain graphic design elements and programming processes that I helped to develop.
the Center for so long has seemed so... soo undeparmentalized. That's not entirely true- the imaginarium just has a lot more time to advertise themselves. The rest of us, of course, are doing the real work.
Space Center FD
Friday, April 16, 2010
PBS HAS A NEW SCIENCE SERIES .... VIEW IT ONLINE FOR FREE....THAT EVERYONE AT THE SPACE CENTER AND ANYONE INTERESTED IN SPACE MUST SEE. IT IS CALLED "HUNTING THE EDGES OF SPACE"....PART ONE AND TWO....
FASCINATING INFO ABOUT LIGHT, TELESCOPES, DISCOVERING THE ESSENCE OF DARK ENERGY/MATTER..GREAT SERIES!!
AKA ST. SHEILA
SPACE CENTER EDUCATOR
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
STS-131 Second spacewalk hits a snag
By Mark Daymont
From his Blog:
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Several members of the staff and volunteers came over yesterday to Bradyn Lystrup's farewell lunch. Bradyn enters the MTC on Wednesday to serve an LDS mission to Boston. We feasted upon delicacies prepared in the cavernous kitchens of Walmart. Well, I say delicacies.... actually just a six foot subway sandwich, but good just the same. In fact, I had this fear the sandwich would come as an actually six foot sandwich sitting atop a six foot cardboard board. I became a bit self conscious entering the store wondering how I was going to manage maneuvering this six foot monstrosity through the the store balanced on top of a shopping cart. My vision conjured images from those old slapstick comedies of someone holding a ladder across their shoulder. I saw myself turning the cart to change directions and knocking several people over in the process.
To my relief the sandwich was cut into several slices and put in boxes. The boxes fit into the cart! I could exit the store without drawing attention to myself. It was good.
The lunch started at 1:30 P.M. I wasn't expecting many people. It was Spring Break and many of our adult staff were out of town. I'm happy to report that more people arrived than I expected and we had plenty of food. The sandwich of course was supplemented by Lorraine Houston's lip smacking potato salad, my baked beans ala tincan and a delicious chocolate cake topped with several chopped up Snicker's bars. Bottled water was the drink of choice.
Most of us sat around and talked. Bracken and Alex played pool. Alex was loosing so he did what I would have done, He rolled a billiard ball across the table and right into Bracken's fingers. Bracken was leaning against the table and was distracted in conversation. Alex apologized in a very believable humble tone. Bracken cussed. I won't record the exact word used but it was definitely something you'd never hear spoken at my home. Stacy, Emily, Metta and Lorraine nearly fainted in shock. We hurriedly rustled up bottles of ice cold water to revive them. Bracken seemed indifferent to the damaged done - he was too busy jumping up and down while rubbing his injured digits in an attempt to restore the flow of blood. Alex excused himself and began texting his victory to his co conspirators.
Casey Voeks is running for Alpine District's School Board. He updated us on the campaign and sweet talked a $49.99 contribution from me. Ohhh that hurt writing that check. Imagine me writing a check to help someone win a political race! Imagine me writing a check for anything!
I'm known for my extremely tight fiscal policies at work and at home. Some people think money is power. I believe you could make a good argument for that. I believe money is security. You can keep your power - I want security. You should work, earn and save. Spend only if you must and only on those things that are needed. Save Luxuries for Christmas and Birthdays. Too many people in this country believe you should Work, Earn, Spend, Borrow, and Save only if you must. That is a recipe for disaster. Enough Said. Casey got the contribution and Good Luck to him.
Everyone went home around 4:00 P.M. Emily and Alex had a Voyager mission at the school. I wished Bradyn all the best, shook his hand and out the door he went. You know, its sobering to think that this will be the first time in nearly ten years the Space Center hasn't had a Lystrup working or volunteering. It started with Bradyn's older brother Bryson and continued with Bradyn. It is the end of an era.
Bradyn ran the Voyager mission "A Matter of Honor" for his older brother Friday night. Bryson helped write the mission with Kyle Herring. The following pictures were taking during the mission. This is Bradyn, telling his last mission at the Space Center (I would have preferred to see him wearing his Flight Director's shirt but what the heck).
The Voyager ran like a charm for both the five hour and Saturday's 2.5 hour missions. Our Poltergeist seems to be exorcised. Fingers crossed our field trip missions go without a hitch tomorrow.
All the Best!