Archive for the ‘Space Flight’ Category

Local Aliens   Leave a comment

Alien Fest - Sue & Gretche

Susan Crawford, Gretchen Weerheim and a Photobombing Alien

Pine Bush, NY Alien Festival is a local institution celebrating that town’s rather long legacy as the Hudson Valley’s premier UFO visitation site. And while it might not compare with, let’s say, ComicCon, it’s a small, charming, earnest festival that welcomes aliens and their friends from all over the universe. Sure, you have a crowd of abductees retelling their stories of horror aboard a ship of untraceable origin. Local authors hawk fiction and nonfiction stories of the weird and strange. And if you’re hungry, there’s always fried dough to munch on.

My sister Gwen and our friends Susan and Kate (actually, they’re sisters too) gathered together to check out the festival. Having never actually attended, none of us knew what to expect, which was a good thing. Yeah, sure, alien stereotypes abound.

Alien Fest - Porch Aliens

Porch Aliens

Oh, so what. Who cares? The whole town’s having a great time, a silly laugh and an excuse to dress up. What’s wrong with that?

Alien Fest - Mispelled sign

If things got too much, aliens can always esape…or escape…to a special hideaway created just for them.

Alien Fest - Star Trek Fans

 

To break of the monotony of green, we’ve got a little Star Trek thrown in. As Gwen and I wandered around, we came upon these two from the local chapter of the Star Trek Fan Club from Poughkeepsie, NY. These two reps from the club were about as enthusiastic as can be, offering me a chance to snuggle the tribble, offer me a piece of Double Bubble, and graciously giving me a copy of their newsletter. They’re open to new members and have MeetUps often. Visit their website for more details, if you’re interested.

 

Alien Fest - T-Shirts for SaleAlien Fest - Tom Q

Of course, any festival has great souvenirs of all kinds. Everyone seemed to be selling T-shirts and although I really thought they were cool, $20.00 is a bit steep. Thomas Quackenbush, a local sci-fi author, sold his books.
Alien Fest - Band

And what kind of festival is it if there isn’t some kind of ear-splitting music echoing down the streets? This particular band, First Round, actually was quite good. They played a good selection of covers extremely well. I liked them. Down the other end of the street, however, was a high school band with a horribly off-key wailer, accompanied by kids playing their instruments without any discernible rhythm.

I’m saving the best for last – the parade. The Parade.

Sure, it’s tiny and if you blink, it’s over. But man, those streets jam up and everyone cheers ’em on! Alien Fest - Saucer FloatAlien Fest - Green Aliens

Alien Fest - Green KiddiesAlien Fest - SW CarAlien Fest - ST CarAlien Fest - White AliensAlien Fest - UFO Patrol

As you can see by the above pictures, the parade was well attended.

Alas, the day came too quickly to a close, so we ran for the car, seven blocks away, and drove off before everyone else thought about leaving. On our way home, as we got diverted down a road none of us ever saw because of an accident, we recounted our adventure on a lovely Saturday afternoon. Already we’ve made plans for next year.

Oh, and it’s been decided: we’re going as Coneheads.

Ham Radio and the International Space Station   Leave a comment

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Credit: 15 December 2015 File Photo

Sure, everyone’s done it. You pick up the phone, take a quick glance at a number you’ve never seen before and dialed it. A voice connects at the other end and it sure sounds unfamiliar. Still, you ask for the person you intended to reach, hoping a friend or a wife or a kid answered the phone. And no, they’re not there because you’ve dialed the wrong number.

No biggie. It happens.

Except when that wrong number happens to originate from the International Space Station.

British astronaut Tim Peake mistakenly called someone and later tweeted about his wrong attempt and apology. I’m sure the person at the other end thought it was a bunch of bored kids pranking and though little of it until the story broke in the news. It just goes to show you that no matter who and where you are, accidents happen, even at the ISS.

But here’s something: do you know that anyone can contact the ISS? That’s right. If you’re a licensed ham radio operator, you have an opportunity to contact the ISS when it’s above your neck of the woods.

Last summer, Adrian Lane contacted the ISS while it flew over Britain. After sending out a call signal, Lane’s signal was received. He and an American astronaut spoke for about 45 seconds before contact was broken.

As it turns out, there are three ham radios aboard the ISS: an Ericsson MP-X handheld radio, a Kenwood TM D700 and a Kenwood D710.

John Phillips and Ham Radio

Credit: NASA – John Phillips at an ISS Ham Radio 

Obviously, their frequencies operates on different ones than Houston. Its purpose is exactly the same as Adrian Lane discovered – as a means of public education. Schools, for example, reach out to the inhabitants of the ISS to ask questions.

When astronauts have free time, they choose to make random, unschedule contact with whomever is choosing to reach them. Though their work schedules dictate their availability, an astronaut’s waking period is weekdays between 7:30 am – 7:30 pm UTC during the week, which means during that time they’re generally working. However, at either end of that schedule they might be available, as well as weekends, when more free time is also available.

Crews don’t scan but switch between frequencies, depending upon their location. Since the ISS travels rapidly, a person only has about 45 seconds worth of contact time.

If you are interested in contacting the ISS, visit this excellent website hosted by Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). It details location prediction maps, frequencies, and everything else you’ll need to set up contact and once you do, how to receive a QSL card to prove it! And though it’s entirely random, you might just get lucky like Adrian Lane.

 

 

Space Objects   Leave a comment

Credit: Project Helium Tears

A few weeks ago I wrote about space junk.  This entry’s a bit different.  And yes, while this stuff was deliberately placed there, it’s not your garden-variety space program detritus.  It’s all simply for fun.

My first entry has an awful lot to do with “Star Wars,” which, thanks to Disney utterly saturating the market without mercy, hasn’t quite gone this far to promote their film.  In fact, the producers of this little clever snippet are garnering worldwide attention just to snatch a couple of opening night tickets.  Hey, for what it’s worth, I say these guys deserve it!  Attaching an X-wing fighter to a weather balloon’s a pretty nifty idea and puts a bit of a scientific spin on a sci-fi icon.

But why stop at an X-wing fighter?  Haven’t you ever wondered what would happen if a pink glazed doughnut took a updraft hike?

Credit: Stratolys

Curiosity knows no bounds as a small team of Swedes gather in what appears to be a running track and launched the first doughnut into space.  There’s little fanfare, but it seems the Coast Guard comes to the rescue.

Now that you fought a war and ate a doughnut because you’re starved, how about celebrating your achievements with some space whisky?  Ria Misra from i09 writes about gross-tasting, overpriced whisky that Ardbeg, a single malt Islay Scotch whisky company tested, was sent in space to the ISS in 2011 and returned to earth in 2014.  Hey, it was worth a try, eh?

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Credit: Ardbeg

Clearly, those with enough money and resources know what’s going to capture attention.  Sure, doughnuts and X-wing fighters are great do-it-yourself projects.  But we’re talking classy booze here!  Discriminating palates await!  After a hard day’s walk out into the Great Vacuum, you’re going to relax and take a nip or two.

But for those of us stuck here on the ground, there’s always this:

 

 

2015 New York Air Show!   Leave a comment

NY Air Show 2015

 

I’ll admit I’m the first person who hates flying, but I do it anyway.  That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the vessels that transport people from A to B.  However, the winged method of transportation I’m talking about here are joyrides of a different kind – military style.

Yes, this past weekend Stewart Airport hosted the New York Air Show, a parade of the latest and vintage military aerial vehicles dating back to World War II.  My husband, Andrew Chattaway, a photographer, shot all of the pictures you will see (except the one above – I did that).  Andrew, me and our son Matt braved the heat and crowds of 15,000 people to get up close to classic planes and helicopters.  I even had the chance to go inside a Chinook and sit in the pilot’s seat.  Despite $3.00 bottles of water, parking about a two days’ journey away and standing the entire four hours we were there, we had a magnificent time.

Here, let me show you some of the sights of this fantastic show.  And if anyone’s looking to do research for space vehicles, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here!

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

This is a beautiful example of a B-Class Bomber from World War II with its payload doors open.

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

Here’s a U.S. Marine Corps AV-88 Harrier.  This bad boy’s totally cool feature is that it hovered over the runway for what seemed like ever, much to the crowd’s appreciation.

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

U.S. Army helicopter rescue demonstration, achieved in mere moments.

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

Geico Skytypers do an amazing job of scrolling trails and daredevil stunts

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

Old-fashioned stunt flying that made everyone, us included, hold our breath.

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

The U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet flies gracefully in just about any direction – straight, sideways or upside down.

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

Here’s a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor really showed everyone that it pretty much could do anything, including blast out our eardrums.  It went past us at 700 miles per hour and left such a retort that my ear, blocked by my hands, banged anyway.  Take a look at this thing – it really seems like some kind of alien attack vessel, you know, the kind that comes down by the millions from the mother ship hovering just above our atmosphere.

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Credit: Andrew Chattaway

At the end of the show flew a top-of-the-line WWII fighter plane next to the F-22 Raptor.  At first glance, it doesn’t seem like much of a comparison.  Yet both flew proudly and with such grace, it really was a marvel to watch.  The F-22 slowed to keep in time with its much older companion, but it didn’t take away from the fact that both protected our nation and allies.

Well, I hope  Andrew’s photos  inspire you to write some really good speculative sci-fi, military sci-fi, what your father did during the war (any) or present you with the opportunity just to marvel at some really incredible feats of aviation engineering.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Space Junk   Leave a comment

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Credit: NASA

Maybe you read The New York Time’s July 16, 2015 article regarding a fragment of a Russian weather satellite passing near ISS caused one astronaut and two cosmonauts to enter a Soyuz capsule until the all clear was issued.  It wasn’t the first time something like this happened, nor will it be the last.

Take a look at the above picture.  That’s a graphic representation of all of the flotsam and jetsam from the entire planet’s space industries. First, blame it on the United States and Russia. Then, blame it on any nation that dared test the limits of gravity.  Pretty soon, anything as minuscule as a paint fleck to a section of a satellite remained at various levels of orbit, zooming around at 175,000 mph/281,640 km/h.  Occasionally bits fall to earth, succumbing to gravity and burning up harmlessly as they enter the atmosphere.

NASA and the Department of Defense keep an excellent log of anything larger than a softball and if any debris comes close enough to the ISS, both Houston and Moscow work together to plan a strategy to keep the inhabitants safe.  If a threat is deemed plausible, all are instructed to go into the ISS’s lifeboats – the Soyuz capsules – in case a quick getaway is necessary.

But this poses a larger problem: what’s being done to clean up the mess?  Simply ask this question to Google and you’ll get numerous responses on various sites.  Space.com has an article listing 7 Wild Ways.   Popular Mechanics has its own solutions.   Here’s what Mental Floss has to say.

The truth is, nothing’s being done…yet.  Sure, the idea’s been kicked around, maybe even a few plans surfaced.  It seems getting there and back takes priority over all the mess it takes to accomplish our goals.  It’s a junkyard, for sure, and like the neighbor who refuses to let go of all the cars (and their subsequent parts) owned over the past 30 years, it’s unsightly, only getting worse, and isn’t going away.

Of course, there’s been a multitude of sci-fi inspiration drawn from this.  Take, for example, the recent movie “Gravity,” wherein Sandra Bullock’s character Ryan Stone finds herself floating in space untethered thanks to a run-in with remains.  David Brin’s novel, “Existence” tells the story of an alien artifact tucked among the pieces of debris.

Sadly, this is a commentary on how the inhabitants of this planet choose to deal with exploration and conquering the impossible.  Mt. Everest is defiled by the remains of extreme tourism.  Roman ruins scattered about their former empire faced years of abuse from casual visitors seeking an up-close inspection.

SpaceX, to its credit, is developing multistage rockets that return to earth to be used in future missions.  It’s facing challenges with no successes yet, but it’s not giving up and it’s getting closer with each try.  They do seem to be one exception, though.

Until we learn that exploration often results in exploitation and near-irreversable damage, perhaps any further missions might benefit from following SpaceX’s lead.  If not, there won’t be any room up there to put a satellite nor will be be safe to remain in any space station.

 

Lunar Properties – Yours for Cheap!   Leave a comment

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Credit: Lunar Embassy

This sort of thing has been going on for seemingly ever – real estate for sale that’s basically unobtainable – but it’s never stopped anyone from trying and believe it or not, it’s a profit-making enterprise.

Take, for example, LunarLand.com.  Since 1980, they’ve been selling offworld prospectors lunar property one acre at a time.  And why not?  Just about everyone, and I mean everyone, has endorsed them.  A quick trip to their website tells you that over 250 celebrities have snapped up lucrative tracts of land, perhaps one day to start a development bearing their name.

It’s not like it’s a great wad of dough you have to shell out, either.  For $29.95, you too can lay claim to a spot of your own, and it comes complete with all the documentation you’ll need.  So if some pesky astro-, cosmo- or taikonaut trudges through the breccia on your spot, you have every right to give them the boot or charge rent.

So how is this possible?  Well, in 1967 a treaty stated that governments can’t own lunar land, but there’s nothing to stop corporations and private individuals from doing so.  All property sales are registered with the US Office of Claims Registries, the same office that’s responsible for any land claims.  Any government in the world is free to challenge this, but so far, none has.

But is it realistic?  Can you really hop in your own rocket, blast off and set up housekeeping/shop in a barren world with little means to support yourself in any way, shape or form?

Ah, that challenge was faced by those intrepid souls who once trod the lands of this country back in time, not knowing what they’d find or if they’d survive the experience.  But somehow life carried on, the land was settled and people prospered.  Houses were built, highways grew and shopping malls sprang up like crocuses in spring.

So, what are you waiting for!  Grab your lunar acreage while the opportunity’s still fresh!

Interstellar, of Course…   Leave a comment

interstellar.black_.hole

Credit: “Interstellar” Media Image – mashable.com

Yes, I’ll admit I’m a geek.  I married one, too.  So of course we felt it necessary to see “Interstellar.”  We read up on it, exchanged speculations on the theories behind it, compared different viewpoints, opinions, reviews, all of that.  After all of this effort, a sensible decision was cast to go and see it, already.

So last night, after first ducking into Target to purchase some chocolates to stick into our pockets so we wouldn’t have to pay the ridiculous price of $4.oo for a $1.oo candy bar, we went.  It was great to go into a theatre filled with our kinds of people, equally geeky and completely silent during the showing, with only the rare murmur of approval over a spectacular scene.

Naturally, we weren’t disappointed.  Both of us loved it and spent the ride home discussing it.  And I could go on about this, that or the other thing regarding the vagaries of space-time travel and the physics behind it.

Why would I?  You know all that anyway.

What got me were the small touches, the little hints of things to come and viewpoints either behind the characters or the writers who invented them.  First on my list were the books on the shelves in Murph’s bedroom.  How many of you took a good look at them?  Here’s two that caught my immediate attention:  “The Stand” and “Outlander.”

“Outlander” caught my eye because Diana Gabaldon wrote this book regarding a portal that transports a woman through time, and Stephen King’s “The Stand” because the human race is nearly killed off in that one.  Both of those elements were the story in “Interstellar.”

Actually, books do figure prominently in the movie.  Take, for example, the school district’s reliance on “corrected versions” of history.  The moonwalk was all propaganda to economically bankrupt the Soviet Union.  After all, the Soviets never made it to the moon, so that propaganda campaign must have worked.  Yet Murph refuses to believe it all and listens to her father, who reinforces the truth.

All that talk about chemical compositions and how it affects environments and circumstances also gave me the goosies.  The way how too much nitrogen in an atmosphere isn’t ideal or any atmosphere’s makeup is so sensitive to various forms of life made me smile.

But really, when you get right down to it, the use of time as a resource and element defined the film.  Everything from the father Cooper as a younger man visiting his daughter Cooper as she lay dying, much older than he (all right, how many of you also knew that was Ellen Burstyn?), to the astronaut left behind for 23 years when Brand and Cooper seemed to be gone only minutes?  Or the gradual shift of Earth from viable to slowly dying, which seemed to take both an interminable and finite amount of time?

I could go on about many, many more things about why we enjoyed “Interstellar” so much, but that would take time, so if you haven’t seen it, take the time and go!

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