Friday, November 26, 2010

"Why Me?" - Jim has seen it all!

Due to the Thanksgiving break and the fact that I am about to take my first real vacation next week, I am going to send this week's "Why Me?" out a littler earlier. Also, it is Jim's Birthday today - so, my little "Happy Birthday Jim" is right here. I am truly excited about this one because my friend Jim has seen and done some very interesting things. Jim and I occasionally talk and share our views. I quickly realized that Jim had a strong knowledge about our Sun and also knew a lot about the Space Shuttle program. So I enjoyed listening and learning from him and now I am excited to introduce him to you. Check out some of his pictures! They are just too cool. 

That's me under the white "bunny" suit! Chilly in there
that day I recall, but indeed a thrill of a lifetime seeing something
that landed on Mars some seven months later, and see it
move on another planet, Wow!
When you are not enjoying Social Media, what do you do as a profession?
Media. Since the 80’s in Miami, both print/electronic. Aviation News/Aerospace news publication, now defunct. Contributor to WPLG (ABC) Miami, space shuttle program. Consultant, freelance currently. Also heavily involved in NASA Outreach/informal EDU, for more than 25 years! Public, K-12, University-level, total, exceeds 100,000+…

The "Big Three", during the 20th anniversary at KSC 1989. I'll never forget that day there. They're dressed in suits and ties, temps that day were in the mid-90's, talk about hot!
 What has made space exploration such an interesting subject for you?
Always fascinated me since I was old enough to know what it was! One movie I seen that struck me, was Robinson Crusoe On Mars, that was it!

KSC Mars Pathfinder, Nov. 1996. Excellent detail of the "Sojourner" rover, first experimental rover to roam red planet!
In your opinion what are the 3 most amazing achievements/results of space exploration?
Growing up in the 60’s, I recall, seems as if everyone does who was old enough to remember, watching Apollo 11 on the Moon, I was in St.Louis. That would rank as number 1. Number 2, well, getting to meet and know the late Dr. Carl Sagan, and 3. Writing/reporting on the space shuttle program, and unmanned programs, including seeing Mars Pathfinder, and the Sojourner rover prior to leaving Earth and landing on Mars!

Myself, and former Astronaut Bob "Hoot" Gibson. Taken during a break in training. Was on mission STS-41B, which was the first check out of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). I interviewed astronaut Bruce McCandless II following the mission. Bob flew on five flights!

Is there a current mission (or missions) you follow regularly? If so, what mission(s)?
Actually all of them! My priority is of course the (heliophysics) aspect (Sun). I’ve also assisted in an art program (Sunworks) with Steele Hill, over at the Soho project, been very successful!
From the early 80's. WLRN TV, (PBS) Miami. Myself (right), and Don Webb (left) co-host of Something on Seventeen. Was a nightly, one hour "live" talk/variety program. We did space program updates on the show. No room for mistakes, in prime time!
Why are you friends of this Not-Every-Day-Run-Of-The-Mill rubber chicken?
It is good to have a mascot of a program, or a project! It creates a “connection” for people to follow!

Myself and STS-1 Astronaut Bob Crippen, taken during Space Congress on Cocoa Beach, Fl. A unique irony here, Crippen was selected to fly as commander of space shuttle mission STS-62A, which was to have launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif, but was canceled following the space shuttle Challener accident. Vendenberg never used for shuttle launches! STS-62A, would have been "Discovery"!
What is your advice to today's youth?
Follow your dream, stay in school, and don’t let adversity get the best of you! I know three young people who I used to work with, while they were students, one is in D.C. (Congress), the other is aboard a U.S. Navy Submarine in the Pacific, while the third is a U.S. Army Medic, been in Iraq, now in Colorado Springs, Co.

Follow Jim on Facebook:
Pic taken in late 2005 while on a school visit. Kristine Sigsbee, and Barbara Thompson (NASA/GSFC), selected it to appear on the cover of the United Nations' handbooklet for the International Heliophysical Year (IHY 2007-09). The booklet appropriately titled; Putting the "I" in IHY", the photo indeed fits the EDU theme, with Kara's "eye" at the telescope looking at the Sun

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Space Fair 2010 - Melaka Planetarium, Malaysia

Debbie and I with some of our new friends!
Opening day at Melaka Planetarium!!! There were hundreds and hundreds of people from all over Malaysia who came to see us today. Some of the school groups took over3 hours to get here. They must really love science.Today I got to learn about how big the solar system really is. The students working with us set up a giant balloon, complete with sunspots, to represent the Sun. The Earth was a23 mm marble. They had all the other planets there, the moon, the asteroids, even a model of the Kuiper Belt objects and Pluto.

I love their faces - this is what interest looks like!

Visitors had to figure out which Earth ball was the right size for the balloon Sun. Then they got to figure out how far away the tiny Earth marble should be placed from the balloon Sun. It was 270 meters – almost 3 football fields away! It made me feel like Earth was very small and fragile. They also had a map that showed where in the city the other planets would be in our model. The farthest one, Neptune, was WAY outside the city. That was hard enough to understand. Then they showed us a 360 mm (14”) ball,and said it was the scaled size of the nearest star. I asked how far away the nearest star would be from the Sun, on our scale. You won’t believe this – it would be 72,000km(40,000 miles) away!

The kids are learning about spectroscopes and about me!

Part of my local team! They are great!

And as you can see, it's hands-on science teaching!
Here the kids are learning about the scale sizes! They loved it.
Some of my new Malaysian friends! Thank you for your hospitality and interest!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Why Me?" - Meet your Virgin Galactic Space Travel Agent Bev!

Beverly and I have known each other for some time and I have enjoyed following her career as a Space Travel Agent for Virgin Galactic. Beverly has been a very supportive follower of not only NASA SDO, but also other NASA missions! 

But why don't you go and read for yourself...

When you are not enjoying Social Media, what do you do as a profession?

I work as a full service travel -and- space travel agent! I was selected to be 1 of only 76 people authorized in the America's to sell space travel with Virgin Galactic! An amazing honor!! It would be my pleasure to assist you with undersea lodging, to out of this world experiences - and everything in between! My travel agency, Sixth Star Travel in Plantation, FL is a part of the by invitation only Virtuoso luxury consortium - and Virtuoso has the exclusive agreement to sell space travel. Also, my owner is also an ASA (accredited space agent) so that makes it extra special for me. 

What has made space exploration such an interesting subject for you?
When I was in elementary school (yes, back in 1962) our class wrote a letter to John Glenn, asking for his autographed picture, after he went into space. I cherished that photo & after a flood, my Mom inadvertently threw it away. I was devestated! A few years ago, I wrote John Glenn a letter explaining the situation and he sent me his 2nd autographed photo of when, as a senator, he returned to space in 1998 for the 2nd time! It is now framed and one of my most cherished space items, next to my meteorites! Think how far they had to come to Earth & how long it took them to reach us! And of course, we all watched the Astronauts walk on the moon in 1969! How special that was/is! Then on December 7, 2009, I had the extreme privilege and pleasure of attending the Virgin Galactic unveiling of the VSS Enterprise with Sir Richard Branson, Burt Rutan, Governor(s) Schwarzenegger & Richardson. What an exciting adventure THAT was!! I am now also a part of creating a new South Florida Chapter of the National Space Society, as their 1st secretary, and can share my passions with like minded people! All are welcome to join us! And in my spare time, I write travel articles with the Airliner's Magazine (please check them out on facebook).

Spaceport America Runway Dedication in New Mexico today with Sir Richard Branson The event is part of Space Week in New Mexico and is another significant occasion for Virgin Galactic. A special flyover of Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo, the first long-distance capture-carry of the two aircraft, will form part of the runway dedication. Richard Branson has called the flyover a momentous development in the history of space and the commercialisation of space activity. More than 400 leaders in the commercial space industry have attended the 6th International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, with the runway dedication closing Space Week.
In your opinion what are the 3 most amazing achievements/results of space exploration?
All the amazing scientific and medical advancements we've made, thus far, by our being able to be in space*The astronauts who landed and walked on the moon and came safely back to Earth. * Viewing the incredible sights of our stars and universe from so far away*Virgin Galactic actually builidng a successful spacecraft to successfully take the everyday person up into suborbital space and being one of the pioneer's in space tourism. 

Is there a current mission (or missions) you follow regularly? If so, what mission(s)?
Each & every one that NASA has, as well as the Scaled Composites team testing of WK2 & SS2/Enterprise with Virgin Galactic!

View of the runway with VSS Enterprise! Space Tourism is here.
Why are you friends of this Not-Every-Day-Run-Of-The-Mill rubber chicken?
Why wouldn't I be? She is a darling chicken & THE mascot of NASA! She makes the subject of space & science so very interesting and entertaining. This chick has met more astronauts and famous people - that many people wish they were in her shoes! Plus, she is becoming a major fashion icon with her tin foil hats!! 

What is your advice to today's youth?
It is so important to study hard and do well in school. It's totally up to you to make yourself into someone who makes a difference in this world especially with your own family and friends to start. You must pay attention to all the advancements that are happening in this entire world and not limit yourselves in any way. Be open and receptive to new ideas, thoughts, beliefs and of all other people's customs & view points. And you must help preserve our planet and its resources for you and our future generations of our one planet earth.

Wishing everyone much health & happiness in their lives! Thank you so very much for this wonderful opportunity to share and introduce myself Camilla Sdo and our special facebook friends!

Twitter: n/a
Blog: n/a 

Runway dedication ceremony today of SpacePort America in New Mexico, USA with the arrival of VSS Enterprise!

Greetings from Maleka Planetarium, Malaysia

Today my team and I spent most of the day unpacking, counting, and organizing the amazing amount of materials that NASA has provided for this event. 

We counted 99,338 different give-aways for educational dissemination -- space weather posters, pizza Suns, Chandra gorgeous photos, books. Everyone who attends the event will get something! I think the kids will especially like this.

Attached is a photo of me checking out some of the boxes.

We also worked with the planetarium staff to finish all the large displays and posters we've brought. There is evidently a rule in Malaysia -- "Nothing gets done until the very last minute." They follow this religiously, but the results are quite fine. We'll have 6 giant 8'x10' displays, one of them, about the Sun, developed by Debbie at Stanford.

The lovely young woman in the photo with me is Gomathy Ramasamy. She likes me a lot, and giggles whenever she sees me. Gomathy has been the organizer at the planetarium who has been working with us. The planetarium staff already knew a lot about me, and have been reading my Facebook page. So I want to say a lot of good things about them.

Gomathy Ramasamy - my wonderful new friend
here at the Melaka Planetarium.
In the evening, we all went for a walk through Melaka, and saw Little India (with beautiful silk clothes), old buildings along the riverfront, and then walked down a place called (Jonker's Walk -- I need to check that) to eat. This place was 
full of vendors and stalls. And, guess what, I saw hundreds of other rubber chickens -- all sizes and shapes, some even like me. I even saw a rubber cow!!! I felt quite at home there. However, none of them were lucky enough to be wearing NASA clothes and walking with NASA scientists.

Today we are supposed to train 60 students from the local university to help us with our activities. I hope to meet some cool new people!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Social Media - Experiences from the STS-133 NASA Tweetup

Social Media - the media for social interaction, using highly accessible, scalable and web-based publishing tools in order to turn communication into interactive dialogues. That's what it is!

#NASATweetup STS-133 (Nov 2010)

#NASATweetup STS-133 2.0 (Feb 2011)

I truly believe no other organization has utilized social media as successfully as NASA has. I was watching and reading as Mars Phoenix explored the Mars surface and I was present when our own mission SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) ventured into Social Media. At the time there were only a handful of NASA Twitter accounts and just a few Facebook sites discussing the amazing science behind what we do here. In fact, Little SDO started out as Little SDO HMI (HMI being one of the three instruments on SDO (the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager - the instrument that kind of looks inside the Sun). The team quickly realized that we can really bring our mission closer to the people and get them more involved. And so Little SDO HMI became Little SDO and he convinced me to join the party and so I, Camilla SDO, got my own accounts!

But let's go back to our social media "mother" NASA. Thanks to the social media implementation, the creative ways of using the tools available, and the hard work of many people behind the scenes, NASA, via it's various missions/centers/astronauts social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other outlets, has been reaching a very wide variety of individuals all over the world. I am 100% positive that thanks to all of this Web 2.0+ efforts, more people have a better knowledge of Space Exploration than just 3 years ago. It's not just the die-hard fan, the one who loves sci-fi, rockets, astronomy, and everything there is to our Universe, it's now also the every day person, who can follow, learn and enjoy the discoveries, the knowledge and the plans for the future of Space Exploration! It's a new way of accessing knowledge, information, digesting and storing science, adventure and findings. And all it takes is a few minutes a day. And thanks to these Tweetups, a small army of everyday citizens got to experience a rocket launch up close! And not just the Space Shuttle - even Little SDO had a SDOisGO launch Tweet-up. The first unmanned mission to have a launch tweet-up!

In my capacity of assisting with Education and Public Outreach, I relay on social media. This is how my voice is being heard - unless you squeeze me and then you really hear me squawk. I have attended many Tweetups at various sites and I have met some really wonderful people. I have met some who hadn't really kept up with what NASA does, then attended a Tweetup, and became very interested in the subject. And I have also met people who knew NASA's history, rocket facts, astronaut information like they were a Wikipedia site! But they all walked away from these events with more knowledge, motivation, appreciation and understanding... (added on April 4, 2011: and with more inspiration!)

And I met people who thanks to a NASA Tweetup made new friends, new connections, and found new interests in life. At the latest NASA Tweetup for STS-133 at the Kennedy Space Center, I met people who housed together, who became tight and close, who will stay friends for years to come.

Here I am collecting their impressions, their words and thoughts. And no matter if you are using Social Media or not, if you are interested in NASA and Space - you should read these stories.

But one question did arise. Because we now spend more time behind a screen of some sorts, be it a computer monitor or a smart phone screen, could it be that we just get more excited about actually meeting people that are similar to us than before? Or are these new ways of meeting alikes really that powerful and life changing? You judge...

Here is a study you might want to review first:

L2, November 23, 2010

CNET News, November 23, 2010

NASA Sun-Earth Day Tweetup, March 19, 2011

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum



NASA Ames Tweetup, February 11, 2011




International Spacemission

NASA Tweetup STS-133, October/November 2010 
& February 2011 2.0

Raam Dev

Craft Lass


NASA Tweetup STS-132, May 2010



NASA Tweetup SDOisGO, February 2010


NASA Tweetup STS-129, November 2009



Space Fair 2010 - Melaka Planetarium, Malaysia

This is my very first visit to Malaysia and it is a beautiful country. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometres (127,350 sq mi). The country is separated by the South China Sea into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo (also known as West and East Malaysia respectively).

Science Policy in Malaysia is regulated by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment. Malaysia is one of the world's largest exporters of semiconductor devices, electrical goods, and information and communication technology products. In 2002 the Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa) was formed to deal with all of Malaysia's activities in space, and to promote space education and space experiments. In early 2006, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and three other finalists were selected for the Angkasawan spaceflight program.

Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor became the first Malaysian to go into Space in October 2007, making Malaysia the 37th Nation to have visited Space. He traveled on board a Soyuz TMA-11 with the Expedition 16 crew to the ISS.
Astronaut Peggy Whitson (right), Expedition 16 commander; Russia's Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, flight engineer and Soyuz commander; and Malaysian spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor pose for a portrait following a pre-flight press conference at the Johnson Space Center. Whitson, Malenchenko and Shukor are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in a Soyuz spacecraft in October 2007

I am telling you all of this because there are some many wonderful connections to all of this. First and foremost, Sheikh's fellow astronauts on TMA-11 were Yuri Malenchenko and Peggy Whitson. And once on board the ISS, they joined my dear friend Clay Anderson, who was then replaced later in October by Astronaut Daniel Tani, who I also got to meet very recently. As you can see, with only approx. 530 people having visited Space, you are bound to find some fun connections.
Flat Peggy & I at JSC

3D Clay & I at JSC
Astro-Blue-Color-Brothers, Dan & I at KSC

But let's go back to the reason why I am in Malaysia. I was invited by the Melaka Planetarium to attend their Melaka Space Carnival as part of NASA's Exploration & Discoveries in the new Millennium. I am part of a very impressive team, ranging from NASA HQ, JPL, and GSFC. Everybody brings something special to the table and over the next few days, we will have various activities throughout the day. For example, we will show Science Themed Exhibits and videos, show computer based simulations, show Marscape and Earthscape, have hands-on activities, lectures, workshops, video conferences and so much more. Kids, students, teachers and everybody else can come and be part of our activities at the beautiful Melaka Planetarium.

Science Themed Exhibits
We will teach about NASA's latest exploration and discoveries
- Universe; Discoveries of the New Millenium
- Sun
- Mars
- Earth and its Climate
- Natural Hazards
- Humans in Space

Hands-on Activities
- Scale Modeling of the Solar System
- UV Beads as part of UV Light/Sun
- Global Warming in Action
- Straw Rockets
- Building a Spectroscope
- View the Sun with a Solar Telescope
- Robotic Exploration
- Color Your Favorite Space Picture (for the very young ones!)

Workshop for Teachers
NASA has a wide variety of resources available for both teachers and students. Both the teacher and student websites offer numerous learning tools and are a resource for teachers.  In this Teacher Workshop the NASA Education Office will show how to navigate through the numerous amount of information to find what you need on the NASA Education website. You will explore some of the tools you can use to inspire, excite, and engage your students.  Topics of discussion include NASA’s Digital Learning Network (DLN), NASA eClips™, Podcasts, Students’ Cloud Observations Online (S’COOL), Smart Skies, and more.

Talks by NASA Professionals

Investigating the Earth’s Climate and Natural Hazards
Tom Nolan
Flight Instruments Operations Engineer
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Sun and Us
Dr. GopalswamyNatchimuthuk,

Robotic Space Exploration and Next Missions to Mars
Mr. Paulo Younse
Robotics Engineer
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Astronomy in the New Millennium
Jaya Bajpayee
Program Executive for Operating Missions
Astrophysics Division
Science Mission Directorate

Video Conferences with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL)


“Hitting the Road on Mars: The Legacy of the 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers and the next Missions to Mars”
Nagin Cox

Robotic Planetary Exploration

“Future of U.S. Robotic Planetary Exploration”


Amber Jenkins

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Space Weather - Lost

Last week we talked a little bit more about Space Weather and what causes Space Weather. We also started to look at some of the impact Space Weather has on our daily life. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that changes in the geomagnetic field affect biological systems. Studies indicate that physically stressed human biological systems may respond to fluctuations in the geomagnetic field. Interest and concern in this subject have led the Union of Radio Science International to create a new commission entitled Electromagnetics in Biology and Medicine.

This is an artist's rendering of solar wind coming towards the Earth and its magnetosphere.
Possibly the most closely studied of the variable biological effects of the Sun has been the degradation of homing pigeons’ navigational abilities during geomagnetic storms. Pigeons and other migratory animals, such as dolphins and whales, have internal biological compasses composed of the mineral magnetite wrapped in bundles of nerve cells. While this probably is not their primarily method of navigation, there have been many pigeon race smashes during a geomagnetic storm. A smash is a term used when only a small percentage of birds return home from a release site. Because these losses have occurred during geomagnetic storms, pigeon handlers have learned to ask for geomagnetic alerts and warnings as an aid to scheduling races.

Ready, Set, Lost! 

Racing homing pigeons navigate incredible distances with apparent ease. A champion racing pigeon can be released 400 miles from its home loft, in a place it has never been before, and return within 1 day. The last 40 miles of its journey, the bird navigates by sight. But over the other 360 miles, the pigeon determines its way home by "sensing" the Earth's magnetic fields. We are not yet sure exactly how this mechanism works, but it does work -- extremely well.
Speedpigeon AU 02 LV 682 (I call him Moritz!)

How can the Sun affect racing pigeons?

When there is especially strong activity on the Sun, such as a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), unusually strong surges of solar wind (charged particles from the Sun) can create a geomagnetic storm which distorts the Earth's normal magnetic field. The pigeons can no longer rely on their normal guidance system and may become lost. Thus wise pigeon racers, especially those in very northern areas, keep track of solar activity and do not fly their birds under certain geomagnetic conditions.

How do we measure geomagnetic activity?

Geomagnetic activity is measured by what we call the 'A' Index, which ranges from 0 to 400 Nanoteslas (nT), a measurement of the strength of a magnetic field. 0 indicates virtually no geomagnetic disturbance, while 400 is the maximum disturbance. Another useful number is the "K" index, which tracks changes in the radio atmosphere and can affect pigeon navigation. The K index ranges from zero (no disturbance) to 9 in a maximum disturbance.

24-hour Forecast: Geophysical Activity Forecast : The geomagnetic field is expected to be mostly unsettled to active with a slight chance for an isolated period of minor storming over the next 3 days (16-18 November). This activity is forecast because of elevated solar wind speeds near 650 km/s and intermittent periods of southward Bz, as well as a possible glancing blow from the CME on 13 November.

What levels of geomagnetic activity are dangerous for pigeons?

Any current reading of local figures over 150 nT in the A index of geomagnetic activity, or 4 or higher in 'K' index, is considered unsafe for training or racing pigeons.

Where can pigeon racers and fliers get solar activity data?

Geomagnetic stations track geomagnetic activity around the Earth. Their readings are freely available. The center of these activities in the USA is the Space Environment Center at Boulder, Colorado. There are other data centers in various parts of the world. Because the Earth's geomagnetic field emanates from the poles, the affects are more dramatic in the far north and far south. Thus pigeon racers need to rely on local data, that is, data that accurately represents the state of the geomagnetic field in their particular geographical location.