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Sunday, December 4, 2016

The USS Magellan's New Sickbay Pod. Megan Warner Returns! Washington DC's Mobile Simulator Selected as a Model Program by the US Dept. of Education. Sam's Space Station. Theater Imaginarium.

Space Center Directors 1 and 2 Catch Up on Old Times

Megan Warner, Space Center Director #2, Returns from the California. Her Time in that Far Away Land is Over
     Breaking News!  You read it on The Troubadour first.
     Former Space Center Director (#2) Megan Warner has moved back to Utah from her rejuvenation sabbatical to California. I met up with Megan at the Space Center on Saturday while getting the scoop on a new addition to the Magellan's bridge. Megan is doing well and will be living in Eagle Mountain. She's looking for meaningful employment so if you know of a good job needing a former Space Center director and all around dedicated, hard working, creative, highly organized, intelligent person, let her know ( 

Wow, three Space Center directors together??  Well no. Truth be told, Space Center volunteer Audrey thought it would be fun to get a picture of Megan and I and add Mr. Porter using the magic of Photoshop.  I really like this picture due to the fact that it's near impossible to get a decent picture of me and even more impossible to get a good picture of Mr. Porter. The elusive Mr. Porter likes to hide from cameras; and when trapped with no escape, gives little effort into a passable smile :)   

The Magellan's New Bridge Sickbay

      Mr. James Porter is a very busy man. He administers the Space Center, which is more than a full time job, and is working to complete his master's degree. I tried doing something similar back in 1989 when my grants started coming in to build the Space Center. I quickly discovered that building the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center while working on a master's degree while continuing to teach sixth grade was too much for a mere mortal. Something had to give.
     To honor my commitments, I choose to put my nearly completed master degree on hold. Due to the demands of the new Space Center, and the fact that graduate credit disappears after a set number of years, the hold became permanent. That decision was unfortunate for me financially because of the years of master's degree pay I never earned. On the other hand, the decision was fortunate for the hundreds of thousands of school children who've attended the Space Center over the years.  
     There are no regrets. Giving 100% to the creation and maintenance of the Space Center was the right decision; look at how the concept has grown and expanded over the years.
     If you think about it, Mr. Porter and staff could just sit back and let the place continue as is, on auto-pilot, until the new Central School and Space Center are built in a couple years. This would give him a more normal working schedule. But this is not the Space Center way.  The Space Center constantly seeks to improve, try new ideas, search for new ways to use the simulators to enrich learning through experiential missions. Flying on auto-pilot is unacceptable. That philosophy is demonstrated with the addition of the new Magellan Sickbay.

     I heard rumors of this new sickbay and stopped by the Space Center on Saturday to see it for myself.  There it was, right in the corner, the new sickbay pod marked appropriately with the red cross sign I had made years ago for my "Mercy Strike" mission.  
     The sickbay pod will add another level of fun and realism to a Magellan mission. Now there is a place to put 'injured' crewmen. From one of the two bunks, the injured can do their moaning and groaning while still keeping abreast of story developments.  Having crew members in the pod will stress the crew, thus making the mission more intense and real. Somebody will have to do their work and monitor their stations (nirvana for a demented flight director who takes dark joy is seeing a crew suffer when stretched so thin).  
     Fantastic improvement Mr. Porter and staff. Keep up the great work.  

Mr. W.       

Explore! Mission Mobile Flying to new Heights
     It’s been awhile since we’ve posted news on our blog, but today we’re delighted to share a bit of news from the IKS Horizon… also known as the Mission Mobile at Explore! Children’s Museum in Washington DC.  The IKS Horizon was recently selected as a model program by the US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology!   
     When Richard Culatta, former director of the Office of Educational Technology, hosted various Latin American directors of educational technology, the Explore! Children’s Museum team brought the Mission Mobile to them and they participated in a mission. They all loved the experience, and Richard Culatta later shared the Mission Mobile as an example of innovative practice in one of his presentations.  Congrats to everyone at Explore! for a job well done!
     It’s a bit late for Giving Tuesday, but the Mission Mobile is running a donation campaign to bring their simulator adventures to more students than ever before—and to expand the museum’s other programming as well.  If you’d like to support their growth, please consider donating on their website.

The Tsar Peter the Great Station (untextured)

The Tsar Peter the Great Station Taking Shape for New Voyager Mission

     Sam G. is a member of the Farpoint Voyager Club who has taken upon himself to learn Blender, with an end goal of making outstanding tactical cards for simulator missions.  Like all other simulator tactical artists learning their trade, I find it best to give the apprentice a specific project to hone his skills. 
     Sam was asked to create a space station for an upcoming mission to premier on the new USS Voyager simulator at Renaissance Academy.  The mission requires a Russian space station parked near a planetary nebula far, far away. Sam sent an update that I'd like to share with you.  He's doing a fine job.  
     Thanks Sam!

The station is taking shape, now with texture

The Original USS Voyager Highlighted in a Book on Gifted Education

     Barbara Lewis and Jim Delisle wrote a book on gifted education and referenced the Space Center?  The book was published in 2003. Barbara Lewis, was the gifted coordinator for the Park City School District and a frequent visitor to the Space Center with students in tow. Mr. Porter, CMSEC Director, happened to find it while researching information for his master's paper.

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Theater Imaginarium
The best gifs of the week, assiduously edited for gentler audiences, minors, and the terminally offended

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Space News. Saturday's Imaginairum

Two Re-entries: One Good, One Bad.

A Cygnus resupply vehicle grappled with the ISS robotic CanadArm

There have been two fiery re-entries in the ISS program lately. One went well, the other did not. On November 27, the Cygnus OA-5 cargo spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere and burned up (along with a lot of space station trash) over the Pacific Ocean. On its way out, it performed some vital services. After undocking from the ISS to make room for future cargo deliveries, the Cygnus performed a test of the fire system aboard the spacecraft, with the goal to observe how fires behave in a zero0G environment. After the successful test, ground engineers operated the ship to a new high altitude Cygnus record of 500 kilometers, and then launched a series of four LEMUR cubesats. Two days later the engineers guided Cygnus to its end.

Fiery break up of an earlier Cygnus mission.

Night launch of a Progress supply mission.

Things did NOT go as planned for a Russian resupply mission to the ISS station. On Thursday December 3, Progress MS-04 blasted off from Baikonur with supplies for the astronauts in ISS. It was the 4th use of the revamped Progress series of robotic cargo ships. As engineers are still verifying safety tests with the new Progress and Soyuz variations, the plan was to continue using the 2-day orbital approach technique to the station rendezvous. Something went wrong during the third stage separation. Observers noted the fiery re-entry and crash over southern Russia. This marks the 3rd Progress failure in 65 launches.

Chinese Space Station Success

Illustration of China's new space station. Credit: China Daily.

China has made more progress in its ability to keep its Taikonauts in space for more than short stays in a Soyuz-like Shenzhou capsule. Much of the western media does not cover Chinese space efforts the way they cover the ISS, but a lot of that has to do with the restrictive nature of the Chinese government. China's space program is in a phase similar to that of the early Soviet space station stages, gradually building bigger space stations and living longer in orbit.

This illustration demonstrates how the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft would appear docked with the Tiangong 2. Credit: Xinhua.

The Chinese station was launched in mid-September from the Jiuquan satellite launch center from pad LC-43. It was originally built as a back-up for Tiangong 1, but with changes in the CHinese space program, it now serves a purpose to help Chinese Taikonauts prepare for a much larger space station program in 2018. With modifications made to the station, it will test new technologies needed for China's new modular-design station, similar to the transition Russia made from the Salyut station designs to the Mir station.

Crew of Shenzhou 11. Commander Jing Haipeng and Pilot Chen Dong. Credit: Xinhua.

Shenzhou 11 blasted off from the same pad that launched the station. The mission used the Long March 2F/G (Y11) rocket. Lift off took place on October 14. The government had been somewhat silent on the mission, finally announcing the crew shortly before the spacecraft arrived at the pad. The primary mission for the crew is to successfully dock with the station, and then break the Chinese record for an extended 30-day stay in orbit. The station does come equipped with some science experiments, mostly designed to help the taikonauts perform health studies and experiments. There is also a Chinese version of the robotic arm, which will become very essential to future operations.

Another illustration of a Shenzhou spacecraft docked with the Tiangong 2. Credit: ?

On Thursday, November 17, the Shenzhou 11 undocked from the station and returned its crew safely to the Earth. The mission achieved its major goals. On Friday, the spacecraft parachuted to a safe landing in Mongolia. 
There is some disagreement in Western Press about future missions to the Tiangong 2. Probably due to mistakes in Chinese government planning announcements. In one scenario, this Shenzhou 11 mission would end up as the only manned mission to the station. Another scenario includes a robotic supply mission to the station, to test the ability of a remote-piloted craft to resupply future missions. And yet another scenario includes a three-man mission later this year.

By Mark Daymont

The Imaginarium