Archive for Aerospace

Cassini: The Grand Finalé

Cassini Spacecraft

Early yesterday, I awoke to news that the 20-plus year mission of the Cassini Saturn-probe spacecraft has come to an end. The durable spacecraft, launched in 1997, had more than tripled its four-year scientific mission’s original timeline plan. Early on September 15, 2017, the spacecraft executed it last command to dive into the atmosphere of Saturn and disintegrate.

Since Cassini arrived on station thirteen years ago, we watched the marvelous discoveries and monitored the experiments performed with eager anticipation to see what new facts about the Saturnian system of moons, rings and the planet itself might be revealed. We were not disappointed.

So, adios to Cassini. We look forward to seeing the next explorations planned not only by NASA/JPL, but also by other commercial space exploration entities.

There is considerable information about the now completed mission at the Cassini Grand Finalé toolkit page.

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ISS and SpaceX Dragon Sighting

SpaceX Dragon

One of our regular activities in retirement in our desert place is to watch for overflights of The International Space Station when they are visible. Tonight’s flyover was the last in the current series of visible passes in our area and included a special treat of which we were unaware until after the pass.

As the ISS soared across the sky, Damsel noticed a fainter speck of light following in trail of the brighter space station. We both saw it and wondered what it could be. I suggested that it might be a cargo resupply or something of the sort. We continued to watch the pair as they swooped out of sight towards the southern horizon.

I came back in the house and got on the computer to see if I could find out what we were seeing. It turns out that the fainter dot of light was a SpaceX Dragon CRS-12 resupply ship with 6400 pounds of “stuff” on board to deliver to the ISS on Wednesday morning.

This is from the NASA blog about the SpaceX Dragon Launch:

Crew members aboard the International Space Station can expect a special delivery Wednesday morning. A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft loaded with more than 6,400 pounds of supplies, equipment and science materials is heading their way after the successful liftoff of SpaceX CRS-12 at 12:31 p.m. EDT from NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.

The on-time liftoff marked a spectacular conclusion to a countdown that proceeded like clockwork throughout the morning, aided by cooperative weather conditions across the launch site. With a sonic boom sounding across Florida’s Space Coast, the first stage returned to SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station while the rocket’s second stage finished the task of propelling Dragon to orbit.

Read more at the link above the quote. Damsel and I feel very fortunate to have witnessed this extraordinary extra-terrestrial event.

Damsel remarked earlier this evening regarding that she’s glad to see SpaceX, rather than Russians, supplying the ISS these days. I wholeheartedly agree with that.

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Seventh Anniversary of Retirement

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Another year of retirement has passed. As we head into our eighth year, we have generally good health (only a couple of minor issues), our financial situation is quite manageable and we have been traveling to keep in touch with family and to explore in the motorhome.

The forecast for the year is to continue with our retirement routines here at home and to venture out to do more family contact as well as go and observe the August 2017 eclipse in Wyoming. We actually have been planning for the eclipse since we heard about it several years ago.

We consider ourselves blessed by God to be in our situation and look forward to the future with optimism and enthusiasm. Our dreams are still coming true.

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May 9, 2016 Transit of Mercury

My efforts to photograph the Mercurial transit of the sun today were less than optimum; the diminutive disk of the small planet did not resolve well with my Canon SL1, 300mm lens and a $10 solar filter. Moreover, looking at the sun through Eclipse Shades was a bust; you couldn’t resolve the planet at all.

But, all was not lost - thanks to the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s images on the internet, I captured several screen shots to combine into the animation below. The sequence starts when Mercury is almost at mid-transit (I did not want to get up at 4 AM) and continues to the point where the shadow is barely touching the east limb of the sun. I find it very interesting that the sunspots at and above the equator move to indicate the solar rotation over the few hours it took for the transit.


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A Twentieth Century Icon - Howard Hughes

Howard R. Hughes, Jr. 1904-1976Between 1965 and 1980, I was employed at Hughes Aircraft Company, generally at the Culver City Facility that contained both the Hughes Aircraft Company (which developed and built electronics systems) and the Hughes Tool Company (which developed and built aircraft and a few oil drilling tools). Sort of backwards, I know, but so were a lot of things in the Hughes Empire.

I found the long-lost poster seen at the right today when I was opening a picture frame to scan in a certificate I earned in my Ham Radio activities (DXCC for those who know) and found the poster was in the same picture frame. Frankly, I cannot remember putting it in there, but there it was in near-perfect condition. I scanned in my certificate (for another purpose) and also this poster, since I was scanning.

IMAGE: Iconic Howard Hughes portrait along with some of the Hughes legacy icons. Click on the image to enlarge to poster size.

Since I was suddenly dropped into the topic of the famous Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., I went out to Wikipedia and looked him up. I found an extremely interesting entry about Hughes’ life and times, much of which I had been previously unaware. It was intriguing and I was riveted to reading it all the way through, disregarding the references, of course. I can’t attest to all of it being true, but since I was there towards the end of Hughes’ life, I know some of it is gospel.

I never met the man, but others I knew and trusted told me of times when they had seen him come to Culver City for various visits in which they had caught a glimpse or two of the man. He had mostly gone full reclusive after I had been there a year or two.

If you’re interested in icons like Hughes, I recommend reading the Wikipedia Article (disclaimer - I can’t guarantee any of it is true, but it IS interesting). Bonus - Click here for some Spruce Goose coverage.

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Mars Human Exploration and Habitat Visualization

I was poking around on the NASA website looking for something entirely different (Pictures of Pluto and Charon), when I stumbled across a page entitled Where on Mars Might Humans First Land? The very detailed and impressive video above is also embedded in that page which describes potential areas of human exploration of the red planet.

The NASA webpage referenced above describes how Exploration Zones (EZ) will be selected and implemented on Mars:

While it is too early to identify where the first humans will land exactly, they will land in a pre-designated EZ, and begin building the infrastructure to support human life on Mars. New orbital and surface data from the Red Planet, contributions from our partners and advances in space exploration capabilities over the next several years will ultimately determine the exact configuration of the first human landing site(s).

Based on current studies in hardware and operations necessary for a sustainable human presence on Mars, the animation [above] represents work of the Human Spaceflight Architecture Team’s Evolvable Mars Campaign. It illustrates just one of many potential concepts for how an EZ might evolve over the course of multiple human and automated cargo missions spanning upwards of two decades.

The video above has no oral narration, but animated graphics appear designating the various features of an EZ. It is worth your time to watch the under-seven-minute video if you’re a space exploration junkie like me.

As an aside, I have bookmarked another Mars exploration site, Explore Mars Now, which features an interactive exploration habitat a bit different than in the video. Both are well-done.

I hope that I live long enough to see the first stages of human exploration of the Martian surface, but as the article describes the timeframe, it will be decades before anything comes to fruition.

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Six Years Down the Road

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It’s hard to believe that I have been retired for six years. October 01, 2009 was the first full day of official retirement from big aerospace, although excess leave and personal time off hours allowed us to take most of the last three months off. But on this day, six years ago, the first pension check from the second stint at the same company I had retired from a decade before. Sorta weird, but I get a separate check (directly deposited, of course) for each term of service.

I say that retirement has been damn good because we have had ample opportunity to relocate, build a new home, travel and just enjoy the leisure time. There have been a few pitfalls, but the outcome of those (so far) have not had a very negative effect on our retirement.

As we go forward with our life of leisure, we will be able to travel a little more often than we have in the first six years which is important now that our families have presented us with a new grandson and a great grandson. We will be visiting them and going to visit our other extended family from time to time. We envision an upgrade in our RV status in the future and will be organizing a vacation get-together with some of the family who also have that capability.

We eagerly anticipate the next six years of retirement and even more, God willing.

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