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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hurray, Winter is Gone. A Miracle at the Discovery Space Center. Space News and Views

 Hello Troops,

We start this evening's post with a celebration.  It is time to say goodbye to winter and HELLO to spring.  The winter of 2012/13 is gone forever.  I for one am happy to see the backside of last winter.  It was bitter cold and the air was down right fowl for much of it.

It's that time of year again: the first day of spring.  On this special date, the length of the day and night are about the same for most of the planet. The amount of solar energy delivered to the Northern and Southern Hemisphere is also equal.

The photograph below was taken at the exact moment the Earth reached the spring equinox for the northern hemisphere and the autumn equinox for our friends living in the southern hemisphere by the NOAA's GOES-13 satellite today (March 20, 2013) at 7:45 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Today's spring equinox as seen from space.

A Miracle at the Discovery Space Center

DSC Director Casey Voeks is shown above, still in a state of shock, several hours after the Discovery's four starship simulators suddenly, and without a known reason, decided to talk to each other.  The week long nightmare of not having a computer network is finally over.

"We've been essentially running with no network since we opened," Casey Voeks confessed to me, on condition I wouldn't share this tantalizing bit of gossip with the readers of The Troubadour.  I promised not to type a word (promised with my fingers crossed behind my back).

"How did you pull that one off?" I asked.  I already knew the answer.  It is a trick we've been using at the Space Center for years.  You send a few of your staff and volunteers to the bridge, they stand at strategic locations where they can see the computers screens, and then you have then narrate the action in such a way not to make the crew suspicious.  They say things like, "Timmy, you did such a good job pushing that WARP SPEED 3 BUTTON."  and "Betty, are you sure you connected that phone call to MAIN ENGINEERING?"
I think you get the picture.

"The staff called out what they were doing," Casey answered.  "You know the trick.  You taught it to us."

What Fortuna gives, Fortuna can take away.  If for some reason Fortuna, the Goddess of Luck and Fortune, has seen fit to bless our good friends at Discovery, they had better keep in mind that for some unknown reason, the network may suddenly stop working.  Best to mind our manners and never, never, ever take anything for granted.  Keep Fortuna on your good side by saying nice things about the luck you've been given and by being grateful for small favors.  It wouldn't hurt to burn a stick of incense in the simulators in her honor, and for heaven's sake,  stop paying homage to the Gods of Perikoi (an inside staff and volunteer joke).

Please do not Disturb the Programmer 

Matt Ricks is the Discovery Space Center's computer programmer.  Many DSC employees blamed the network problems mentioned above on his new controls, an accusation he vehemently denied.  Matt kicked the blame to the network engineer who, instead of kicking the dog as he should have done, kick the can back to Matt saying it had to be the controls.  Matt threatened that if the slander directed at his controls didn't stop, he would tell someone, who would make them sorry.

Tempers have calmed since the network problems disappeared and Matt is a back in his natural habitat.  We ask that you DO NOT DISTURB.  The DO NOT FEED THE PROGRAMMER sign was taken down by Center Director Casey Voeks.

"We're letting people feed our programmer again. Its the least we can do to reward him for the work he's been doing," Casey said.   

Photos of Discovery Zoo's programmer courtesy of Nicole VanDeboss

Space News and Views

Planning a little space travel to see some friends on Kepler 22b? Thinking of trying out your newly-installed FTL3000 Alcubierre Warp Drive to get you there in no time? Better not make it a surprise visit — your arrival may end up disintegrating anyone there when you show up  Read more:

The NASA Biocapsule—made of carbon nanotubes—will be able to "diagnose" and instantly treat an astronaut without him or her even knowing there's something amiss. It would be like having your own personal Dr. McCoy—implanted under your skin. It represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of medicine, and yes, it'll work on Earth, too.  Read More

How well are we prepared to deflect city-obliterating space rocks hurtling toward Earth? Well, NASA head Charles Bolden told Congress yesterday, "if it's coming in three weeks, pray."

Bolden's spiritual guidance came as part of a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on U.S. efforts to prevent asteroid and meteor-related catastrophe, one that involved quite a bit of finger-pointing at lawmakers who expect NASA to be able to find a needle in the deep-space haystack before it comes crashing into one of our cities -- on a tight budget.  Read More

We’ve all asked this question at some point: How long would it take to travel to the stars? And could I do it in my lifetime? There are many answers to this possibility, some very simple, others in the realms of science fiction. To make this easier to answer, we’ll address how long it would take to travel to the nearest star to the solar system, Proxima Centauri. Unfortunately, any route you take to the stars will be slow, even if you are powered by the most powerful nuclear propulsion technology…
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