Wednesday, December 29, 2010

ISS Wave - Show your Love

I learned about this choreographed grassroot Twitter campaign several weeks ago and I loved the idea. It's simple. The week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve wave at the International Space Station and let others know about it. So simple but with so much power!

See, the International Space Station is now so big that it is easily visible by the naked eye. All you have to do is figure out when it will fly over your area. And there are plenty of ways to figure this out. If you are on Twitter you can follow @Twisst and it will notify you. Or there are iPhone Apps such as FlyBy or you can just go online to the NASA or ESA website and look up the information on your computer:

NASA ISS Tracking

ESA ISS Tracking

We all need some excitement in our lives. And why not do something like this? Why not get your child excited about science and engineering? Why not get you excited about the Why and What behind space exploration? Inspiration can lead to great things. Just look at 1957 and after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik - how many kids, young adults and grown ups where inspired and motivated to out-do what the Soviet Union just did. Granted, it might have been more on a competitive basis, but nevertheless, great things followed. Only 12 years later man set foot on the Moon! I see similarities between Sputnik and the ISS:

On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite. Amateur radio operators monitored and followed Sputnik around the world (20.005 and 40.002 MHz) until 22 days later the transmitter batteries ran out. That was 53 years ago. Today we have a chance to watch the largest human-made object ever built in Space - by just looking into the clear night sky. And this structure has been occupied for the last 10 years!

It's not too late. There are still a few days left to not only observe the ISS, but to join ISSWave and all who have already waved in this expression of human solidarity during the Holidays. So, go look up the next ISS pass over your town, then go out, watch for it. Tell your family, your friends, your co-workers. Get excited!

ISS Wave Map - see where the ISS currently is and all the places which have waived at the 6 crew members on board the ISS.
World Map of all the ISS Waves

And here are my two waives:

December 26, 2010

December 27, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Me? - Lisa with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Lisa has been an important friend to me and the SDO mission! Even before we met in person, Lisa had supported our outreach ideas and given me good feedback. Then she invited me to come to the Education Alley, which is the ultimate field trip for students! They got to meet scientists, engineers, researchers and astronauts as they shared their passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). 

It was at that annual event in Southern California where Lisa introduced me to many wonderful people and helped me increase my circle of friends. Lisa has continued to be a true friend. Her passion for STEM has inspired me to do more outreach events and we are thinking about joining Education Alley in 2011 with a SDO Team and help Lisa and her team with education, inspiration and motivation! 

When you are not enjoying Social Media, what do you do as a profession?
I am the STEM K-12 Program Manager for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). I work with teachers and students, helping them learn that not all math and science is irrelevant, but that the applications of math and science can lead you to places that you never could have imagined.

What has made space exploration such an interesting subject for you?
When I was little, I remember the thrill of watching a launch( yep, it was on TV live because it was such an event) and thinking how exciting it was. When we went to the moon, I was amazed that pictures could come from so far away. All my life, astronauts were my heroes because they dared to do the things that no one had ever attempted before- and they were not afraid to fail.

In your opinion what are the 3 most amazing achievements/results of space exploration?
Neal Armstrong’s one small step for mankind, the amazing Spirit and Opportunity rovers that never say never and keep providing us with windows to other worlds, the Hubble telescope for providing the most beautiful pictures of worlds beyond imagination. The rovers and Hubble are amazing because they prove every day that something or someone never outlives their usefulness, even when they have far exceeded the mission that they were sent to perform. It is a good life lesson.

Is there a current mission (or missions) you follow regularly? If so, what mission(s)?
Well, I must admit that I only knew about the Sun from school days. I have gotten caught up in the magic of following the SDO mission through my new friends and have actually learned a new appreciation of the mission and found that the education that I’m getting is FUN! I also will say that any shuttle launch and its mission are exciting to me- that little girl with her nose pressed against the TV screen has never really grown up. I still think that it is amazing that people live and work above my head every day doing vital things that are so important- like growing crystals for new medicines, doing research on plant growth that can solve problems here on planet earth.

Why are you friends of this Not-Every-Day-Run-Of-The-Mill rubber chicken?
First of all,  Camilla, anyone who says that you are ordinary will have to answer to me. The whimsy that you have created about space exploration and igniting interest  of every day people gives me lots of hope. Right now, you are giving the perfect “chicken eye” view of all kinds of places within NASA that regular folks never have access to. You relate to kids....and after all, they are our future. Who could not smile when looking at pictures of Camilla on her next adventure? In all seriousness, I have witnessed first-hand the impression that a rubber chicken can make on a child or an adult......and dare them to ask questions and to find answers for themselves in the space program.

What is your advice to today's youth?
Dream big...the future is bright. The job that you will be doing tomorrow has not been created yet....and you can be the master of your own destiny. Ask questions, be curious, take things apart...and put them back together in a way no one has imagined.

Facebook Name: Lisa Warner Bacon
Twitter Name: n/a
Blog: n/a

Enjoy a short video about the 2010 Education Alley

At the Education Alley Astro Clay sent this picture for me! 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Astronaut John Grunsfeld - The Hubble Hugger

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Astronaut Dr. John Mace Grunsfeld! I was extremely looking forward to this meeting and his lecture. As you know, both Little SDO and I adore Hubble and its science.  If you followed the amazing STS-125 mission to upgrade our dear friend Hubble, then you are familiar with John Grunsfeld, Mike Massimino, Michael Good, Greg Johnson, Scott Altman, Megan McArthuer and Andrew Feustel. The crew of Atlantis repaired and upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope, conducting five spacewalks during that amazing mission to extend the life of the orbiting observatory. If you haven't seen the IMAX or 3D movie, go find a place and take it in!

Astronaut John Grunsfeld STS-125 mission specialist positioned on a foot restraint on the end of Atlantis remote manipulator system RMS, participates in the mission fifth and final session of extravehicular activity.

The other reason why I was looking forward to meeting John is that he flew with Swiss Astronaut Claude Nicollier on STS-103. Claude Nicollier was the very first Astronaut I got to meet and ever since, I have had a very special interest in Space Travel and Switzerland! (plus the chocolate and cheese made me like Switzerland even more!). So getting to meet Mr. Hubble Hugger was a great event for me. Why the nickname Hubble Hugger? Well, John visited Hubble three times and performed many important repair works, making the telescope even better!

In one of my earlier posts I talked about how small this Astro community is. Here is another example. John was part of the NASA Astronaut Group 14, which was nicknamed "The Hogs". Here are some of his class mates:

Scott Horowitz
Scott's first flight was on STS-75 also with Claude Nicollier and Scott's 2nd Flight was also the 2nd Hubble Servicing Mission.

Cady Coleman
I met Cady a couple of months ago at JSC and she is about to launch from Russia next week to join Expedition 26 aboard the International Space Station.

Scott Parazynski
Scott I have now met a couple of times and his stories are plain amazing! Not only has Scott been to Space and done some amazing repair work on the ISS solar panels, but he has also climbed Mt. Everest. And he flew with John Glenn!

Chris Hadfield
I also got to meet the first Canadian Astronaut in Space and the first soon-to-be Canadian ISS Commander. Chris and Scott actually few together on STS-100 to install the robotic arm Canadarm2 to the ISS.

It is enjoyable to see these connections and it just shows me again how important team-work is for these Astronauts and all of us.

Anyway, let's not loose our focus here. John asked a very good question - Why do we study astronomy? And after a few moments he answered his own question with two simple points:

Because it is Fun and Exciting

Because it answers Fundamental Questions
- How did the Universe form
- Where did we come from?
- Are we alone?

It got me thinking of how much we had already discovered before Hubble launched in 1990 and how much Hubble has taught us ever since. Hubble has provided us answers to How the Universe has been formed, given us an idea of where we came from and still let's us dream if we are really alone!

In regards to Hubble, I would make the claim that the Hubble Space Telescope is the most well known telescope there is. We all have seen at least one of its images, read about its successes and issues or heard somebody talk about the challenges with Hubble. Just a couple of weeks ago Little SDO and I introduced this amazing Hubble video

But what's next? John has retired from NASA and is a Deputy Director at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. STScI is the home of public outreach activities for Hubble and is also the science and operations center for the James Webb Space Telescope. When JWST launches and gets into position, 1,500,000 km away from Earth, it will become the most powerful scientific tool, looking even further into the Universe and back in time! Will JWST find answers to “Are we alone”? Only time will tell…

The JWST scale model on the lawn at NASA Goddard - takes some creative origami
to get it folded into the Ariane 5 fearing.
As for me, I left yesterday’s meeting with John fulfilled with joy, and amazement. I am thankful to the many people who make all of this possible. From the engineers who design and build these amazing instruments, the people who get them ready to fly, prepare the launch vehicles, guide and train the crews, to the actual heroes who strap themselves to the top of a burning rocket and perform the most dangerous spacewalks and repair works with such grace, it should become an Olympic event! But I am also thankful to the people who show interest, who attend lectures, listen to what scientists and astronauts have to say, who teach in schools, mentor our kids and the leaders of tomorrow and support space travel and exploration!

One final note – we are one blue marble in an endless sea of stars, planets, comets, meteorites and other beautiful things. But we only have this one blue planet and you and I can do so much to keep it blue, to keep it healthy. But we can also influence others, including corporations and Governments to improve processes and procedures, to create laws and to enforce them – we need to take care of mother Earth! Astronaut John Grunsfeld responded to the question of the future of manned space flight:

“It is our destiny to go and explore! Single planet species do not survive!”

Monday, December 6, 2010

A very special "Why Me?" Cindi, the Android Spacegirl

Friends, I am so excited to introduce you one amazing Spacegirl! Not only that, but Cindi and I will get to meet each other this Sunday at Exploration Station in San Francisco! It's a free and very fun event for young and young at hearts, giving you a chance to learn about today's science, meet scientists, NASA people and two awesome chicks; Cindi and Camilla! Plus there is also free cool stuff to collect there. So, without any more selfish promotion about this family event - let's meet her! The one-and-only Android Spacegirl Cindi! 

Cindi, I am so happy to talk about you! Please tell my friends more about yourself and what you do?

Oh, I'm just an ordinary android spacegirl who works as a dogcatcher. It's not the most glamorous job around, but the pay is good. Plus, the view is fantastic and I get to work outside and get lots of sun!

How did you become involved in this?

Back in 2004 Dr. Marc Hairston and Dr. Mary Urquhart at the University of Texas at Dallas were trying to think of ways to let people know about NASA's CINDI mission and they needed a mascot.  I just happen to live up here in space and it turned out my dogcatching ability is a lot like what the CINDI instruments do.  And by a *really* strange coincidence, I also spell my name the same way they spell their mission's name!  They contacted me and the rest is history. My android spacegirl friends Dawn, Calipso, Mini-RF, and Sofia are very annoyed that no one from *those* NASA missions ever contacted *them* about being mascots.

You are a superhero with two comic books. What kind of adventures do you go through in your comic book and how does this relate to real life?

In the comic books I show folks what I do as a space dogcatcher.  I have these two nets, one that catches dogs with tails and one that catches dogs without tails.  Like me, the CINDI instrument has two detectors, one that catches atoms with all their electrons (neutrals) and one that catches atoms that are missing an electron (ions).  I help explain to people how these
ions in the upper atmosphere create the Earth's ionosphere. I also explain why those ions matter by sometimes interfering with radio signals between satellites and technology on the ground. Just like storms down there on Earth can mess up things in your life, space weather storms in the ionosphere can mess up your GPS navigation and other satellite communications.

A third book is coming up and I hear it's a little bit related to what Little SDO is doing up there. Can you give me some hints?

We started out explaining the ionosphere (which is the part of the atmosphere between 80 km to 1000 km) since that's the part of space that CINDI studies. But that's just part of space weather that's out there.  To understand it completely you need to see all the other parts too, and it all starts with the sun and the solar wind.  So our next book will be "Cindi in the Solar 
Wind" and we're going to put Little SDO in there.  (Would you like to be in there too,
Camilla?)  I'd love a chance to do even more comics so I can talk about the Earth's magnetosphere and about all the other planets in our solar system. Besides, it's great to see my picture in print!

Oh Cindi - I know Little will be thrilled to hear that he is going to be in a comic book. As for me, I would love to be in a comic book someday. Yes, that is for sure. But I have so much work to do before I deserve to be in one with you and Little in it! 

Where can we find more information about you and where can teachers get their hands on your book?

The neat thing about our books is that they're *free*.  You can download them to your computer by going to our website at

Cindi's Website

And of course you can always become my fan on facebook.

Cindi's Facebook Fan Page

(I love having fans, don't you Camilla? ^_^ ) I post new stuff about space and science and comic books there a couple of times a week.

So anything exciting in your future?

As far as the CINDI mission goes, I'm really excited that NASA has approved a four-year extended mission for it, so I'm excited about that.  We should be going into solar max, which means a lot more space dogs to catch for me, and a lot of good science for CINDI.  I'm hoping for some great solar storms, too!

By far the biggest excitement for me is that I'm going to be coming to visit you on Earth soon. I'll at the Exploration Station in San Francisco on December 12 and I'll finally get to meet you in person there!!

I'm so looking forward to it!  Family-friendly science demos, a rubber space chicken, and a cartoon android spacegirl.  No place but San Francisco!

And the week after that will be the *big* American Geophysical Union meeting there in San Francisco.  Over 17,000 scientist from around the world will be talking about everything from oceanography, to volcanoes, to weather and climate, to plate tectonics, to space studies, to the sun, to the latest from all the NASA missions to all the planets (and Pluto too!), to the very edge of the solar system where the solar wind stops. Mary and Marc and all the other CINDI scientists will be there giving talks and posters about all their scientific discoveries.  And NASA will actually be letting a space dogcatcher help out there!  I'll be making a guest appearance at the NASA booth during the meeting. I'll be there from 1 to 3 pm on Wednesday passing out comic books and postcards.  I bet all those scientists would just die to have an
autograph from a famous android spacegirl like me. Don't you think so?