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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saturday at the Space Centers. Space and Science News. An Easter Imaginarium. Happy Easter!

Hello Space Fans!
     Happy Easter from all of us at The Troubadour!   
     Yes, while you idle away hours of your life sitting on the back lawn watching the little ones race from one corner of the yard to the other in an exercise originally intended to teach capitalism to children and given the unassuming and politically correct name of "Easter Egg Hunting", we have been out and about gathering all the Space Centers' news worthy of mention.   
     The Easter Bunny and I haven't been on speaking terms for a number of years now - ever since The Troubadour exposed the truth about the sweatshop it runs, exploiting Santa's laid off elves and paying them pennies an hour to paint Easter eggs. Dog droppings are the only thing I find on my front lawn Easter morning.  I think the canines are in league with the rabbits on this one.  Rabbits set policy and dogs enforce it.

Saturday at the Space Centers

     I didn't get to the DSC yesterday, so except for my overnight camp chaperoning comments, I've nothing more to add except to report on how busy they were all day Saturday. Saturday's DSC work schedule was ridiculous.  I'm hoping the staff got double and triple time pay to compensate them for the number of missions they had to work.  
     Todd Rasband deserves a medal of devotion to the Great and Mighty OZ Voeks for managing the overnight camp THEN returning Saturday evening at 9:00 P.M. to run a four hour mission for a group of UVU students.  Todd, let me know if Casey hesitates on that bonus.  I've got a good lawyer handling the class action lawsuit we're bringing against the Easter Bunny on behalf of the elves.  I'll add the DSC's working conditions to the list of complaints and get you a nice settlement.  I'll need a picture of you at work though.  You need to dressed in a Santa elf's uniform complete with pointed ears.  Have the picture taken from your waist up while you're on your knees trying to reach the buttons in the simulator's control room.  A basket of half painted Easter eggs in the background would be a nice added touch - for the sympathy vote to be sure.    

At the CMSEC

    Rumors that  Megan Warner had assigned Magellan supervisor Jacque Lystrup to flight direct the Saturday Magellan missions buzzed around The Troubadour's staff room Saturday morning. I took the assignment to check the rumors out myself.  
     I walked into the Discovery Room at the CMSEC and heard a female voice over the Magellan's speakers.  The rumors were true and I needed proof.  I yanked open the control room door and snapped the photo above.  Andrew was overly relaxed while Abram struggled with 2nd chair.  Jacque sat in the hot seat with a mic in one hand and her phone in the other.  
     "Just checking on my Star Trek vocab," Jacque explained, noticing my eyes were focused on the phone in her hand.  
     "You seem pretty relaxed compared to Connor," I observed.  Jacque shrugged her shoulders and leaned back in the chair. "I'm not bothered," she pointed to Abram. "Abram on the other hand..."  

    I noticed two of our Farpoint Cadets were sitting on either side of Abram - helping him get through the mission. They both had their hands on the multiple 2nd chair keyboards.  
     Abram was wearing his unhappy face. "What do I get to do?" Abram whined.  
     "Here," Jace answered.  "I'll let you push this button here."  
     Abram pushed a key on the keyboard with his index finger.  He smiled (as pictured above) when he saw a "W" appeared in the 'Scan Answer' box on the monitor.  "Good boy Abram," Jace said using his rusty little kid's voice. " YOU did that.  You're awesome.  You're the best.... Give me five."  
     "My 'W'," Abram chanted as their palms met overhead.  Jace looked at Jacque.  Jacque responded with a smile and a thumbs up.  Jace replied with the same.  "We're going to make a supervisor out of you yet and give that mean old Andrew a run for his money."  
     "Andrew IS mean," Abram replied.   

     I've no choice but to report Megan Warner and the rest of the CMSEC staff to the PC monitors for violating the principle of separation of church and state.  A questionable wrist band was found on the second chair's monitor.    
     "Don't look at me." Jacque seemed as surprised as I was. "I don't know how it got in here."
     "We'll see what the PC monitors have to say about this," I replied while snapping the photo (can you tell its was a slow news afternoon?)   

     Andrew overseeing the Discovery Room obstacle course.

     There's something about a phaser that draws a Farpoint Cadet to it like a fly to stink. You see Michael staring at the phaser.  Aiden is watching me.  Andrew told them both to leave the phaser on the table. You can see from Michael's appearance that he was having none of it.  That phaser was calling his name.  He had to have it, despite any warning to the contrary from Supervisor Andrew.    

     And there you have it.  Michael gave in to the urge and took the phaser from the table.  Aiden is not happy.  He wanted a phaser of his own.  It was only a matter of time before the boys started fighting over the weapon, causing the phaser to misfire and hit Aiden in the arm.   

    Andrew and Abram settled Aiden down and treated him for shock.  "What do we do for third degree phaser burns?" they asked me. 
     "Look it up online," I replied while searching for a baggie in the room's cupboards.  The supervisors did their research while I went to the faculty room in search of ice for the baggie.  Michael felt badly, but not badly enough to give up the phaser.  

Matt Long and the Programming Gang Field Test the new Magellan Controls.   

     The Magellan is about to get a new set of bridge simulator controls thanks to the hard work of Matt Long and his gang of programmers.  They field tested the new controls in the school's faculty lounge on Saturday, using the school's Macbook portable lab.  

     Matt reports the testing went better than expected.  "Sure there were bugs, that's why we did the testing," Matt explained.  "Overall though, these are going to be the best set of controls anywhere.  The campers will love 'em".  
     The new controls will be installed in the Magellan next week for further testing.  Once the bugs are eliminated, the Magellan will make the switch over - just in time for the summer camp season.  

Mr. W. 

Space and Science News

Earth's Cousin Detected

From Quarks to Quasars
This week, scientists announced the discovery of the first Earth-size exoplanet in the habitable zone of its host star. This plant has been deemed an “Earth cousin,” as it might have liquid water and the correct conditions for life. Sadly, it would take us a rather long time to reach this relative of ours, as it is some 490 light-years from Earth, but that doesn’t make this find any less exciting. The planet in question is called Kepler-186f, and it was first spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. At first glance, it seem like an unassuming planet circling a run-of-the-mill dim red dwarf star. However, a closer inspection uncovers tantalizing results.  Read More at From Quarks to Quasars. 

SpaceX Gets the Big Pad

NASA and SpaceX officials announce historic deal next to Pad LC39A.

While I was busy posting about important events from 50 years ago, some new historic events were taking place at the Kennedy Space Center. Just before SpaceX was scheduled to launch another Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International SPace Station, NASA and SpaceX officials held a press conference to announce that the Famous LC39A launch pad would be turned over under a lease to SpaceX.  Although the launch was scrubbed due to a helium leak (rescheduled now for Friday afternoon), the historic deal means that SpaceX will now control and modify the launch pad and tower where Apollo rockets sent men to the Moon and Space Shuttles into orbit.

From Mission STS134: Shuttle Endeavor sit s on pad 39A for its last mission to the ISS.

Until now, SpaceX had been in the running against space competitor Blue Origin (which is designing a crew orbital vehicle of their own) who had teamed with ULA (United Launch Alliance, which manages rocket launches for NASA). Recently, fearing that NASA was leaning towards deciding in favor of SpaceX, Blue Origin filed a complaint with the government that their own program better matched NASA's requirements for management of the site. The government office turned down the protest, stating that NASA had not claimed a preference of approach. SpaceX won the contract.

Artist computer rendering of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on 39A.

Pad 39A was originally host to the Saturn V launches of the Apollo era. The Saturn V was the heavy lift vehicle that took men and equipment to the Moon, and later placed the Skylab space station in orbit. SpaceX intends to use the pad to launch its upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket, which will be the most powerful American rocket since the Saturn V. The first test launch of the Falcon Heavy is expected to be near the end of 2015. If it does launch, it will beat NASA's own SLS rocket, also a heavy-lift vehicle, by a couple of years.  You can find out more about the Falcon Heavy here:

By Mark Daymont
Farpoint Educator

50 Years Ago: FIrst Lunar Test Vehicle Ready

LLRV in flight over Edwards AFB in 1965.

Back in 1964 on April 15, the NASA FLight Research Center received the first version of the LLRV (Lunar Landing Research Vehicle). Built by Bell Aerosystems Company, the cage-like vehicle operationally resembled the flight characteristics of the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module. On this machine, astronauts and test pilots would practice maneuvers that would be required to land the LEM on the Moon in future Apollo missions. The controls were adapted to function in Earth gravity, but feel to the pilot how engineers thought they would feel while simulating Lunar gravity. The vehicle was very unstable, and was considered one of the most dangerous craft a test pilot could ride. This was the first of two vehicles delivered.

A closer look at the LLRV. COl. Emil "Jack" Klueger was one of the test pilots who would learn to tame the beast.

By Mark Daymont
Farpoint Educator

Atlas D rocket lifting off with Project FIRE from Pad LC-12.

Fifty years ago, scientists designing the spacecraft for Project Apollo knew that the command module with three astronauts would be slamming into the Earth's atmosphere at over 25,000 mph. To understand the heat stresses on the craft's protective shield, they needed to actually plunge an object with sensors into the atmosphere at that speed and analyze the results. Project FIRE (Flight Investigation Reentry Environment) studied these effects for the various NASA spacecraft.  On April 14, 1964, NASA launched an Atlas D rocket carrying a Project Fire test object from LC12 into a 500 mile arc into space. Never intending to reach orbit, the craft separated and plunged down at a steep angle replicating the speed the Apollo capsule would be travelling. Sensors on board the experiment could then measure and define the stresses encountered and the heat effects.

Wind tunnel model of the Project FIRE experiment.

To reach the incredible speed, as the object prepared to return to Earth, and Antares II motor ignited and pushed the experiment even faster. Lasting about 30 seconds, the eventual speed of about 26,000 mph was achieved. While cameras on the ground filmed the fiery descent the craft recorded heat on the exterior at about 20,000 degrees F. After 32 minutes from launch time, the craft impacted into the Atlantic Ocean.

By Mark Daymont
Farpoint Educator
The Imaginarium
Happy Easter!  Now that you're sugared up, time to relax and let your imagination wander.

Books I'm considering for my classroom library.  
Any comments :)


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