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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Last Saturday at the Space Center. Conner's 1000 Cranes. Space News. The Imaginarium.

Hello Space EdVenture Fans!
I have some pictures from last Saturday I forgot to post.  

Remember when I use to put this sign in the school's foyer every Saturday to direct the massive crowds coming for their missions to stay put until a staff member came out to greet them?
Well bust my buttons, what do you think I found in the foyer last Saturday when I stopped by the Space Center for my weekly catch up?  Jon Parker remembered.  What a good boy Jon.

My next stop was the Magellan.  A Magellan mission was in the Discovery Room getting briefed on a mission.  Our Farpoint Voyager volunteers were on the bridge listening to the Magellan's training recordings (tapes).  That's called using your volunteer time wisely.  Instead of sitting in the Magellan Control Room passing the time with idle chit chat, these volunteers are bettering themselves.  The more stations you know, the more you can train.  The more you can train, the more valuable you are as a volunteer.  The more valuable you are as a volunteer, the more hireable you are when you're old enough to work and a staff position opens up at the Space Center.  

I heard a commotion in the Odyssey Control Room.  Odyssey Flight Director Natalie Anderson was being entertained by four awesome Nautilus Squadron cadets. They had finished their Round Two Long Duration Mission earlier in the day and stayed after to work a few missions. That  Nautilus Squad is something else. We do our best to beat them up in their LDM and they still chose to stay and volunteer.   

The Kraken Squad was also well represented last Saturday. Above you see Kraken cadet Scott in the Odyssey helping a camper understand one of the Odyssey's switch boards.  

From one Odyssey bulkhead to another, Scott continued his instruction.  I listened as he demonstrated. He did a bang up job.  Scott knows his stuff and knows how to teach it so someone without his superior IQ gets it.  A point for Kraken in the Farpoint House totals.  What do you have to say about that Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw?   

It's true that I miss the old Odyssey and would take it back in a heartbeat if possible, but there is something magical about the new Odyssey.  I love the simulator's sleek lines, lights, and crisp clean look.  Great job Megan Warner and staff.  You did well with this new Odyssey.  

The young Odyssey captain reviewing his command book before the start of the mission.  

The Odyssey's engineering station.  

I never visit the Space Center without making a stop to admire the Galileo. Kyle Herring, Alex DeBirk, and crew created a real simulator masterpiece with this simulator.  It is a one of a kind - a simulator that looks like a ship on the inside AND outside.  We don't need a wand to make magic, we have our simulators:  Odyssey, Magellan, Galileo, Phoenix, Columbia, Challenger, Endeavor, Atlantis, Everest, Pathfinder, Leo, and Titan.  

Have you ever wondered what's behind that door marked "Staff Only" in the Odyssey and Phoenix room (Briefing Room for you old timers).  Look at the very definition of order.  Every costume, prop, and tool properly hung, folded and tucked away.  

Now for the sad postscript.   See the shelves at the end of the room?  Notice the shelf sits in a wall recess?  That's the old door leading to the Voyager, permanently blocked by the shelves (the cabinet is attached to the wall).  Think of all the times you old timers bumped your head on that low doorway coming and going into and out of the Voyager.  

Don't get depressed, the new Voyager will open in June at Renaissance Academy. It will properly pay tribute to this grand lady of all simulators.  The ship which all other ships sprang from.  

Paying Tribute to Conner

Conner Larsen is an all around great guy - and so say we all!  He is a friend to all, devoted to the Space EdVenture philosophy and always there whenever anyone needs an ear to talk to and a shoulder to cry on.  

Last Saturday Conner was feeling a bit down so the staff and Voyager volunteers decided to brighten his day.  He had just finished briefing the Magellan crew when the gang called him out into the hall. 
Lissa and Lindsey ambushed him with phaser fire to keep him from walking away.  Conner did what all properly trained Space EdVenturers do - he fell to the floor.  Nolan, playing the medic, revived him.  Harrison and Jake supervised. Lizzy was in charge of the purple water bottle.  Marissa was looking for a good place to put her hallway dinosaur (ah, who remembers that?).   

Megan held Conner's favorite cake and used it to get him up and moving down the hall toward the school's parking lot where the staff and volunteers had a surprise waiting.  

It was the story of a thousand cranes (well, not quite a thousand, it was the thought that counted).

Conner read the letter explaining that there is only one Conner and the how cool it was that they got to work with him on a regular basis.  Conner was moved.  Lizzy offered the purple water bottle so Conner could touch it and all was made well.  

 And they lived happily ever after.......

The End.

Mr. Williamson

Space News 
by Mark Daymont
From his blog:

Expedition 42 Returns to Earth

The Soyuz TMA-14M descent module floats down to a landing in Kazakhstan.

Expedition 42 came to an end this week, and Expedition 43 has begun. On Tuesday March 10, Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore gave command of the space station to Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts in a change of command ceremony. Astronaut Wilmore, Soyuz commander Alexander Samokutyaev, and cosmonaut Elena Serova undocked the Soyuz spacecraft from the ISS at 6:44 pm Eastern on Wednesday. They maneuvered their craft into a re-entry position and began to enter the Earth's atmosphere, touching down in the snowy fields of Kazakhstan at 10:07 pm Eastern. Unexpectedly, during the return, the spacecraft lost communications contact with ground flight controllers once the parachute had deployed.  

Rocket Rumbles in the Utah Desert

The 5-segment SRB ignites. NASA TV.

Another step has been taken in the development of the NASA SLS rocket system. On March 11, Orbital ATK successfully tested the new version of the 5-segment Solid Rocket Booster which will be part of NASA's new giant rocket. For two minutes, the booster shot superheated gas and exhaust out over the desert while officials and visitors some distance away shook from the shockwaves.

The enormous plume of fire gives an idea of the power of just one booster.

Originally Thiokol, then ATK, the company that built the SRBs for the space shuttle has been working to include the system in the future of American spaceflight. Planned for the Ares-1 rocket system, the new 5-segment booster (the shuttle used two 4-segment SRBs) would have been designated the first stage of the Ares-1. A successful test of the Ares-1 occurred in 2009. However, with rising costs, the Obama Administration cancelled the program. Too bad, because according to the proposed schedule the Ares-1 would be flying by next year. The new SLS rocket is not planned to lift astronauts until after 2020.

Planned development of the Ares-1.

When NASA began working with the Commercial Development of manned rockets, ATK joined with Astrium to develop the Liberty rocket to compete with submitted plans by Boeing, SpaceX, and several other companies. Liberty would have been similar to the Ares-1 and also would use the 5-segment motor. Unfortunately for ATK, NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX for further development, even though ATK had already done initial testing with the Ares rocket. Again, too bad, as the plan would have had the system flying by now.

ATK illustration of Liberty launch.

Fortunately for the company the new NASA design for the giant SLS rocket included two SRBs for the first stage launch. The 5-segment motor would therefor be used in missions designed to lift heavy items into orbit and for missions that would eventually go to Mars. Recently, the company has completed a merger with Orbital Sciences, maker of the Antares rocket, the Pegasus sub-rbital rocket, and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft. Now named Orbital-ATK, the company needs to complete one more test firing of the booster before it is ready to begin shipping to the Kennedy Space Center for the first launch tests.

Planned development of the SLS rocket family.

During the test firing, the booster produced 3.6 million pounds of thrust. 102 design objectives were met by the success of the test. Temperatures inside the booster reached 5,600 degrees. Now THAT is a great piece of engineering.

All done! Water is sprayed into the motor to cool it down for post-test analysis.


50 Years Ago: Ranger Probes Explore the Moon

Ranger 8 launch from Cape Canaveral.

Fifty years ago on February 17, 1965, NASA launched the latest in its series of Ranger-class lunar probes. Ranger 8 blasted off from Cape Canaveral's LC-12 pad on an Atlas-Agena rocket, reaching Earth orbit at 185 kilometers altitude. The Agena second stage ignited and sent the Ranger 8 space probe on its way to the Moon on a course to reach the Lunar surface on February 20. The ranger series was designed to take as many pictures of the lunar surface as it could manage, and transmit them to the Earth before crashing into the surface.

Diagram of the Ranger block III spacecraft.

The Ranger probe was powered by twin solar panels throughout its journey. It made a mid-course correction using hydrazine thrusters. SIx cameras were carried on board, each with their own control system and transmitter for rapid transfer to Earth. Before it crashed, the cameras sent back 7,137 pictures before impact on the surface. The pictures were used by NASA to help plan future lunar landings for the Apollo program, including the first close-up pictures of the Apollo 11 landing site.

Picture of lunar surface from Ranger 8.

One more Ranger was planned in the program, for a launch a few weeks later in March.


EVAs prepare ISS for changes

Is there any job better than this?

In the last month, American astronauts aboard the International SPace Station have conducted three spacewalks preparing the ISS for future module changes. With the expansion of commercial programs to include manned ferry missions from Earth to the ISS, some of the modules on the station need to be moved in order to provide better docking positions. The current placement of the modules benefitted the docking of the US space shuttles, but as only one shuttle docked at a time, the new arrangement must allow for the docking of multiple spacecraft. In each manned flight, the craft must be useable as emergency escape vessels. That means there would be no time in an emergency to use the robotic arm for positioning and cable hookups, the way that it's done now with robotic cargo ships.

Astronaut Barry Wilmore connects cables on the Harmony module.

The first of the series of three spacewalks by Expedition 42 took place on February 21. Astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts spent 6 hours and 41 minutes outside in space, during which they rerouted cables on the US-built Harmony module and the Pressurized Mating Adapter 2. Designated EVA-29, the spacewalk was successful and the astronauts prepared for the next step.

Astronaut Terry Virts rides the robotic arm into position.

The second spacewalk, EVA-30 took places days later on February 25th. The main goal was to rout power cables and prepare the PMA-2 for installation later this year of mating adapters, which will be delivered by the Dragon spacecraft. The astronauts got ahead of the schedule, and used the extra time to start preparations for the next spacewalk. However, during the spacewalk, Terry Virts encountered a problem - water was leaking into his space helmet. Engineers noticed it during the beginning of the EVA as Virts left the airlock, but since it was very small (not anywhere near the amount of water that endangered astronaut Luca Parmitano in 2013) they continued the EVA and kept a close watch on the problem. Virts was able to detect some of the water leak by the end of the spacewalk, but managed to complete the EVA and return inside without any problem.

Astronaut Wilmore during the recent EVA. You can see part of a docked Soyuz spacecraft in the upper right of the image.

EVA-31 took place on March 1st. The objective this time was to install new antennas for the new C2V2 communications system and connect more wiring. The new comms system will be used for astronauts in docking spacecraft to talk with station crewmembers and ground controllers, and is an advanced system compared to the shuttle-era High Frequency setup. The antennas and about 400 feet of cabling were installed in 5 hours and 38 minutes - over an hour earlier than had been planned. Great job of planning and executing their tasks enabled them to return early. There was also no further problem with water in Virts' helmet.

You can read detailed accounts of the spacewalks, with more pictures, on the pages at NASA at:

With the successful conclusion of the three EVAs, Expedition 42 gets ready to conclude. Tuesday March 10th will see a change of command ceremony as Barry Wilmore (USA), Alexander Samokutyaev (Russia) and Elena Serova ( Russia) prepare to leave the ISS and return to Earth.

It's not all work on the ISS. Here, astronaut Terry Virts and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti play with their food before eating a snack.

A moment of reflection. Samantha Cristoforetti (ESA) pays tribute to the passing of legendary Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy by making the Vulcan hand gesture for "Live Long and Prosper." She is wearing her Star Trek shirt pin which she brought aboard the station, of course not knowing that Nimoy would pass away during her stay. Now there's a Star Trek fan.

The Imaginarium

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