Visit SpaceCampUtah.org to learn more about the Space Education Centers in Utah. Visit SpaceGuard.org and ProjectVoyager.org for information on joining a simulator based school space and science club.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Phoenix's Faulty Cloaking Device Causes a Stir in Russia

Megan with her Staff on the Space Center's Last Mission of 2011
Annika, Hayley, Megan and Connor

Hello Troops,

Leave it to Megan and her staff to give me grief on the last day of 2011. The Space Center's last flight of 2011 (a Phoenix mission) had trouble with the Phoenix's cloaking device as the ship made reentry into the atmosphere. They rather unskillfully maneuvered across Russia, the Bering Sea, Alaska and Canada before making a rough landing at Central. Did Megan or anyone on her staff report this to me? Of course not - I am always the last to know when things go wrong.

The crew's failure to correctly balance the power in the cloaking device resulted in a spotting over eastern Russia. This sighting was videoed and uploaded to YouTube. The video immediately caught the attention of the Comptroller of the Imaginarium's Office of Unwelcomed Attentions (IOUA). The Comptroller called me this morning demanding an explanation. I stood there, phone in hand, mumbling something about a failure to communicate. I was reminded that all Imaginary missions fall under the IOUA's jurisdiction. He further reminded me that such imaginations could lead to the discovery of the Imaginarium.

"Humans must never know where the true source of their dreams and imaginations," he said.

"I am aware of that," I replied.

The IOUA is secretly feeding misinformation about the sighting to worldwide news channels in an attempt to deflect people's imagination from the truth. Extra staff have been brought in to ensure that everyone who sees the video believes that what they are seeing is a comet of some kind skimming through the upper atmosphere.

"Do you know how expensive it is to cover this up!" he shouted. "Imagine the overtime, AND it's New Year's Eve! This is coming out of the Space Center's budget."

"I knew they were having trouble on reentry," Megan explained. "We did our best to help them but sometimes there isn't much you can do. They either get it right or they suffer the consequences. That crew didn't get it right and the Phoenix cloaking device malfunctioned creating a differential in temperatures, which in turn caused a rapid condensation within the cloaking sphere, which became visible to anyone who..."

"Happened to be looking up?" I completed her sentence.

"Yes," Megan sheepishly replied.

So, while the rest of you party tonight, I'll be putting in overtime at the Imaginarium working to conceil the blunder by the last staff of the Phoenix.

Thanks.....mumble mumble......

Mr. W.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Matt's R's Never to be Forgotten Christmas Cookie and Other Things from the Imaginarium


Hello Troops,
Teachers receive gifts from students at Christmas time. These gifts span the spectrum from mugs with hot chocolate mix to multiple boxes of chocolate covered cherries (one year back in the day when I taught 6th grade, I drove away from Central School for Christmas Vacation with twelve boxes of chocolate covered cherries from my very thoughtful students), to nicely wrapped boxes of peanut brittle as seen above. Some student gifts to teachers are hand made trinkets and cards. Others bake things like cookies, or caramel popcorn balls (my one true weakness and highly addictive). Then there is the last category of gifts.

Matt R wandered into the Center the last day of missions before Christmas Vacation bringing a gift. Rarely do things leave me speechless. Matt's gift did. There, sitting on a paper plate, was something so indescribable I had to take a picture and let it speak for itself.

"It looks like a rainbow threw up on a plate," Brittney said. Brittney got a verbal high 5 for that description. Although my first impression was quite different from hers.

"Are these Unicorn steaks?" I asked. "Do you fry them, grill them, or bake them?"

"They're sugar cookies," Matt answered with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. "I made them in Home Economics."


I took the bow from the beautiful box of brittle (thanks Patrick) and placed it on the 'sugar cookies' thinking the bow would add dignity to the plate. You judge for yourself.


"So, this is what it has come to?" I questioned. "Twenty nine years of teaching and this one memory will stay with me to the end of my days. Thank you Matt. Thank you indeed."

We applauded his effort at mastering the baking arts. In my imagination I pictured Matt's poor Home Economics teacher looking at her student's creation and wondering if she'd wasted her life going into education.

"Give it a try," Matt suggested. I broke off a piece and brought it slowly to my nose. It carried the aroma of Play Dough. I put the piece into my mouth. It had the texture of cookie dough. I swallowed.

"Needs sugar." Then the after taste kicked in. How can I describe it? Imagine eating a cardboard box with a coating of a chemical fire retardant - and that is being kind.

"Matt, you are a brilliant computer programmer. You are well liked by everyone here at the Space Center. You've got a great sense of humor and a compassionate nature BUT you are no baker."

Truthfully, Matt gave us one of the best Space Center Christmas memories ever. His gift made it into The Troubadour and therefore forever enshrined in Space Center yore.

Good on ya Matt.



And to go with Matt's lovely gift, how about a box of Destroyed Alderaan. Brilliant in design and creativity.

And now, How about a few things from the Imaginarium?




I'm thinking I'd like to take this idea (above) and do something similar on the walls of our Control Rooms as a way of keeping track of how many crews we've taken down and how many times we've taken the bridge etc.


Now here's a child that appreciates a good Christmas gift. This kid will make a great
Space Center fan one day.

Imagination in advertising.

Humbling when you stop and think about it.

And finally, a series of painting I classify as brilliant done by a Russian artist. I don't know is name but admire his work. Each painting contains a face, yet it doesn't. The Space Center is all about imagination and creativity. Bravo!










Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Space Center's first Decade in Pictures. 1990-2000


Several of the staff and volunteers in the late 1990's visiting USU's Explorer Simulator built in the Engineering Building by Steve Wall. Do you know any of their names? How about a contest? Can you name everyone in this picture? Four Water Gardens Movie Tickets to the fist person to email a complete list of correct names.



Hello Troops,

And a very Merry Christmas to all!

Choosing to be the good son, I took my mother out this yesterday morning for a bit of last minute Christmas shopping. It's good to take one's elderly mother out for an airing occasionally. Getting her out of the house and shopping has a beneficial side effect - exercise. She spends hours a day playing Solitaire on her new iPad. That kind of inactivity at her age results in less blood flow to the extremities. Less blood flow to the extremities leads to a general loss of circulation. A loss of circulation leads to gangrene. Gangrene leads to noxious odors and amputation. Amputation leads to more inactivity, which continues the downwards spiral into the grave - all brought on by and iPad and an addiction to Solitaire.

Early morning Christmas Eve Shopping is perfect for people like me who put off their shopping until the last minute. WalMart was eerily empty at 7:30 A.M. I saw a few women, but mostly men. One man I overheard at the jewelery counter.

"I need something nice and quick. What do ya got?" The man looked like he'd just come off the graveyard shift at the steel mill. The sales assistant, who looked like she'd come over from the bakery department to help out, led him to a locked case where Walmart kept its good stuff ( Walmart's jewelry's selection starts with the plastic stuff in the claw machines near the entrances to 10K gold with diamond flakes and speckles in the locked cabinets).

It was good to get the shopping done and now its Christmas Day. Soon life will return to normal.

I rummaged through a box of old pictures yesterday after getting home from WalMart. In one old box of pictures I found the following photos of the Voyager and Odyssey taken between 1990 and 2000.


The left wing on the Voyager Bridge as it looked on the first day the Space Center opened for business in November 1990. The red stools were for the Wing Chiefs. This first incarnation of the Voyager didn't have enough stations for everyone, so one or two students sat on the stools and 'supervised' the others. They repeated the Captain's orders and made sure their 'wing' carried them out. I programmed the first Voyager in Hypercard. The controls were laughable by today's standards but they did the job and got us open.

Each Wing had its own set of controls on every computer assigned to that wing. For example, you see the left wing on the picture above.

"Warp 4," the Captain would order.
"Warp 4," the Wing Chief would repeat. All four persons on the left wing would have to push the warp 4 button within a second of each other for the ship to respond. It sounds corny today but somehow it worked back then.
"Everyone on warp 4?" the Chief would ask.
"Yes Sir," all four would reply when they were ready for the final command.
"One, Two Three, Push." On "Push" all four would click on the button marked "Warp 4" at the same time. Ah, those were the days.....


Once again, the Voyager on opening day. You're look at today's Damage Control. Behind Damage Control is today's Record's Station. On the left is today's Security Station. You see the Phototron sitting in today's "Bridge Sick Bay". Back then it was the Voyager's Science Station. Students did experiments in the Science Station during missions. The whole thing read great on paper, but didn't work in reality. The kids assigned to Science kept abandoning their station to see what was happening. They felt they were 'stuck' in the boring part of the ship while everyone else got to 'have fun' with the main story line.

I didn't have enough computers for every station (as seen by the lack of a computer at the Record's Station). I don't remember exactly what I had the students do at that station back then. Most like kept written records. Notice the little twirly toy on the wall where today's speaker sits? Back then the Speakers sat higher on the wall. The Voyager's original speakers are still in use today. You'll find them in the Galley and the Bridge Sick Bay.


The Voyager's original Captain's Station was down at today's Telephone and Long Range Communications Station. I changed that after the first few missions and moved the captain up to where he sits today. This photo was taken shortly after that move. The Voyager's original Captain's Chair can be seen in the photo above. The little box on the Captain's right was a Radio Shack home intercom system. It was the way we spoke to the Captain in those days.


This was how the Voyager's Control Room looked on opening day. We started with five or six staff to run a mission. Each had their own specific job. For example, the person who sat at the little red black and white TV looked for mission visual shots on the small library of visuals on the VCR tapes. I would tell that person what I needed for the story. He found the scene on the tapes, handed the correct tape to the person working the two VCRs. That person would insert the tape, cue the scene and have it ready to play when needed. It was very cumbersome.

Those were the days when I made up missions on the fly. Forget detailed scripts and pre made visuals. I was the only Flight Director. Needless to say the stress of running missions nearly drove me to drink! I was working 12 hour days back then (running field trips, then private mission every night to raise extra cash for the Center, then a full 24 hours on the weekend for the Overnight Camps). The Overnight Camps were rough on all of us. Back then they started at 5:00 P.M. Friday evenings. We fed them supper (Sound's Easy Pizza). We stopped for bed at Midnight. Everyone was up again the following morning at 6:30 A.M. The Overnight Camps ended at 11:00 A.M. All of that for $25.00 per person!

Did I bite off more than I could chew? Yep, which is why I'm insane today :)

Now we move ahead in time to the end of the 1990's. Notice the changes to the Bridge? The Federation Emblems are on the wall covering the Voyager's original artwork. Both the Telephone and Long Range Stations have computers. That's an incoming message printer behind the Telephone Station.


The Record's and Science Stations at the end of the 1990's. Notice the Science Room was redesigned and the Phototron moved.


You're looking at the Voyager's Engineering Station at the end of the 1990's (where today's Bridge Sick Bay is located). On the left is the isolinear chip station. On the right are the anti-matter cooling rods. The Engineer slid the cooling rods back and forth a set number of inches every time the ship changed speed.


The Captain's Station before the Voyage was remodeled in 2000. The Captain had a computer of his own. Notice back then the Captain sat at a desk. He could still move around if he wanted, but rarely did for field trips. The First Office did most of the running around back then.

A Field Trip's Captain and First Officer. 1999


Traveling at Warp Speed in the late 1990's. The Front of the Voyager.


The Voyager's Security Station in the late 1990's. Ah, the good ole days. Back then it was so easy for our Orion Pirates to shoot the two Security Guards from the loft. See how they were trapped by the desk. They had one way in and one way out (the opening to the right on the picture). They were forbidden to hop over the desk to make a quick escape. The Voyager's Security Guards quickly learned to keep one person on patrol while one worked both computers. Being the one stuck at the desk was the early Voyager's true expendable Red Shirt :)

Me at Flight Control. November 21, 1995.


The Voyager's Control Room, 1999. (above and below)



The Voyager's Last Day


This picture was taken the last day of July 2000. It was the last day of the last summer camp of 2000. The staff gathered for a toast to the Grand Old Lady. That very next day everything seen in the picture above was removed. The Voyager you see today was built starting August 1, 2000.
I truly miss this old Voyager. She was a wonderful ship to fly.

Cheers Voyager!


The Odyssey in its Early Days


Brothers Dave and Steve Wall designed and built the USS SEEKER (the Odyssey). they called it the SEEKER when it was first built. I referred to it as the ISES. They didn't like ISES and I didn't like SEEKER. We had a disagreement. After a year or so I decided we would scrap both names and renamed the ship "Odyssey". And the rest is history.

Dave Wall is pictured above all tangled up in VCR tape. He and his brother built the Odyssey. He was the Odyssey's first Flight and Set Director. Notice how the entrance to the ship has changed? It was a two door entrance. The outer door slid open. The inner hatch opened inwards.

Back then my office was called "The Briefing Room". We didn't have the Discovery Room so all mission briefings and classroom field trip teaching was done in the Briefing Room.



The Odyssey's mid section in the 1990's.

The Odyssey's Front in the 1990's.

The Space Center's history is well documented from 2000 on thanks to our YahooGroup and "The Troubadour". Little is written about the Center between 1990 and 2000. Please contact me if you have pictures or writings of the early Space Center. I'd like copies for our history.

Mr. Williamson

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Expedition 30 B-Team launches to the International Space Station

Soyuz rocket lifts off from Baikonur.

At 6:16 am MST this morning, the Russian TMA-03M spacecraft was blasted into orbit aboard a Soyuz rocket on its journey to the International Space Station. The 3-man crew on board will join the ISS Expedition 30 A-team that is patiently waiting for the rest of their crew complement. Commanded by Astronaut Dan Burbank, flight engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin will be joined on Friday by astronaut Don Petit and cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Andre Kulpers.

Docking is expected to occurr on Friday at about 8:22 am MST, with the hatches opening at about 11 am. MST. The TMA-03m craft will dock at the station's Rassvet module (Russian).


ISS Mission Control in Houston monitors the launch.


ISS crew watches the video feed of the launch while in orbit. The large interior space of the ISS modules is very evident. Another astronaut can be seen in the connecting module farther back. The crew has been busy decorating ISS with a Christmas theme, though not seen in this screenshot. We'll see more of the Christmas spirit during docking procedures and the welcome aboard ceremony on Friday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Battle Field Promotions and Brittney's Last Mission Recorded for Posterity.



"crackle. hiss. static...... static.......crackle"
[coming in soft, then louder] This is the BBC World Service.

London Calling.....
Today the forces of KAOS swept across the northern frontier breaking through the Imaginarium's defenses in several sectors. Imagination is in full retreat before Reason's Black Guard. The enemy grows in strength and momentum - hour by hour and day by day.

New Home Guard recruts await their medicals and orders.
The Minister of Defense explained, "Extreme times require extreme measures."

The Imaginarium's Home Guard has been mobilized. New recruits are gathering at the induction centers waiting for their medicals and orders. Many are still in their teens. The Ministry of Defense explains that extreme action is required if the enemy is to be stopped.

We have a reporter at the Induction Center. Our connection isn't without its problems so you may have to sit closer to your wireless to hear properly.

Margaret are you there? This is London calling.

[A woman's voice comes in over a field of static]
London, I'm here at the Imaginarium's Center Street Induction Center. I'm standing here in a hallway waiting for the doors to open and the selection process to begin.

[faint explosions are heard in the background].

Judging by the sounds of those explosions we must assume KAOS is getting closer. I believe all our listeners understand that if the Imaginarium falls so goes much of the world's joy.
Fighting to keep that from happening are these young people I'm standing with today. I'd like you to meet one of them. Her name is Emilie. Emilie, please come closer and let me ask you a question. Don't let this microphone scare you. Speak directly into it.

Emilie, you received your orders to report yesterday. What are your feelings at this moment?

"I'm ready. We're young but that won't stop us. There will be nothing left of Imagination by Christmas if we don't do something right now."

[shouts of "Here Here!" are heard from others. Then a powerful explosion. Uninterrupted static follows. Then complete signal loss]

It appears we've lost the signal from the Imaginarium. We will attempt to regain contact.


In other news, we have recently learned of new promotions and assignments. Field Marshall Parker presented the Voyager Award to Lt. Tanner.


Retired Field Marshall Brittney presented the Magellan Award to Lt. Tanner.


Supreme Commander Williamson presented a Year Service Pin to Private Morgan. Private Morgan will be promoted to the rank of Lt. She has been transferred to the Grand Army of the North to work with Field Marshall Casey Voeks.

[Pri. Morgan's voice] "Do I look like I'm afraid of KAOS? We've been fighting them since I can remember. I'm ready for this. Imagination will hold its own against Ignorance and apathy. I'm willing to put it on the line!"


Colonel Josh was promoted to Odyssey General by Field Marshall Grosland. With that promotion came a new uniform of navy blue. The Field Marshall then sharply saluted her new young general with the Odyssey's two armed salute. General Josh will be commanding the Odyssey Division under the Field Marshall. The Odyssey Division sees more fighting than any of the Imaginarium's other Divisions.


In other news, Andrew M. and Tanner C. were recently promoted to the rank of Supervisor Colonel by Marshalls Parker and VandeBoss. They will be assigned to the Voyager and Magellan Divisions. Both spontaneously peppered the audience with "Hurray's" accented with upstretched arms. Their celebratory gestures, while frowned upon by the Supreme Commander as an 'unnecessary display of emotion', were welcomed by the assembly.

With their promotions came new uniforms of royal blue. With the Royal Blue uniform comes authority over Black Shirt recruits. That authority was immediately seen in the faces of Andrew and Tanner. Both held their noses at a constant 45 degrees as they walked by the ranks of black shirts to return to their seats.


General Anderson presented Private Anderson with the Phoenix Award. She advances to the rank of Corporal.


This Phoenix Award was also given to Corporal Logan. Corporal Logan will not be assigned to the front just yet. He battles a nervous condition which beings his skin out in a rash and causes his index fingers to spams when facing stress (as seen in the photo above).

Because of his unbridled enthusiasm, Logan may be exempted and allowed to return to the fighting with his division with the condition that he not be issued a weapon if he is still suffering the index finger spasms.


The Supreme Commander was pleased to present the Ten Year Service Pin to Field Marshall Casey Voeks. Marshall Voeks commands the Grand Army of the North. He and several of his lieutenants visited Headquarters over the weekend for advanced training, a few hot meals and a little rest and relaxation. They took the Saturday afternoon train back to the northern front.


It is important to remember that we all must do our part, no matter how small, in this war against Ignorance. To end this broadcast I'd like you to hear the recorded words of a Mr. Matt Ricks. We found him cleaning the floors of the Induction Center. While unable to serve directly on the front lines due to his perfect score on the Enlistment Intelligence Survey, Matt still finds ways to help.

[Matt's voice] "I do what I can in my own very limited way to support the troops on the front lines. There are many people just like me who provide the support, ammunition and intelligence required to fight a modern war against these dark forces arrayed against us.

Is my contribution with the Intelligence Division any greater than the contribution made by the custodians who clean this building? I say no. To illustrate that point, I make it my policy to help with the cleaning whenever possible. I believe this sets the proper example to my other gifted friends. A bit of spit and polish never hurt anyone. If I can do it, then so can all the others with superior IQ's. Let's win this war and bring our troops home."


This has been a special bullitin from the World Service. Next on the wireless - dancing from the Apollo with the music of Conrad Philips and the Two Tones.

This is London.......

Brittney's Last Overnight Mission.

Brittney VandeBoss attends BYU. One day while dining at the Cougar Eat, Brittney heard rumors that the grass grew greener on the other side of the fence. She couldn't sleep for several nights, tossing and turning, haunted by the thought that working at the Space Center might not be the climax of her professional career. That is when she decided to mount a daring (some would say fool hearty) expedition over said fence to investigate the validity of those rumors.


With sled packed and gear checked and double checked, Brittney has ventured out on her own to find her destiny.

The Official Change of the Magellan Set Directorship.

This is a picture showing friendly chit chat between Brittney (the then Magellan Set Director) and Zac H. (the soon to be Magellan Set Director). Notice the microphone in her hand. She rolled the microphone over and over in her hand, almost hesitant to turn control of the Magellan over to this younger whipper snapper. Remember, at the Space Center Set Directorship is passed from old director to new director by the passing of the ship's microphone.

I stood with baited breath (refer to the picture above) , wondering if Brittney would actually go through with the hand off. Would she really go looking for greener grass, or would she come to realize that the Space Center was the pinnacle of everything anyone could ever possibly dream of professionally?


This is the picture of the actual moment the Magellan's microphone changing hands, and with it, Brittney's reign as Il Duce of the Magellan came to an end. She had made her bed and was going to sleep in it. The deed was done. The die was cast.
Zac was the new Magellan Set Director. He giggled with anticipation as his powers set in.

Zac Giggling with Anticipation as his Powers Set In. Brittney is lowering her
head in reverence to the new director.



Brittney did the deed. She'd given up the Magellan.
Remembering how other Space Center employees and volunteers had ventured over the fence to seek their fortune on uncharted Kentucky Bluegrass only to never to return again, I thought it best to have the ending of her last Overnight Camp Mission recorded for posterity.

Please forgive the filming. While quick with the microphone and wit, young Zac does struggle with even the simplest of electronic devices (hence the sideways filming at the end).

Have a great day!
Mr. W.