Category Archives: NASA

Catching up with NASA & Ebola


There are a lot of things going on in the world these days. I need to catch up on a couple of things that are on my list of interests I like to keep an eye on. After editing, it dawned on me the title of this post might be a bit misleading – I apologize for that – but the NASA piece was short, and I liked the image. So, I’ll start with the cool stuff, and finish with the scary shit.orion-boarding-pass

NASA’s Human Exploration Space Program: NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX the contracts to provide crew transportation – beginning with trips to the International Space Station targeted for 2017. I pretty much anticipated that they would get these contracts, as their designs were probably the furthest along. It helps that these companies are full of ex-NASA engineers, flight controllers, program managers, and even a few astronauts, as well as contractors in various positions,  that left NASA to build something in the way a new generation might. I sure hope we can eliminate our dependence on Russia by 2017. Not sure what else is going to shake out for the future . . . only time will tell at this point. But NASA’s Orion crew module – with Mars and other destinations in mind – is scheduled for its first exploration flight test this December. I’ve got my boarding pass 🙂 (Which is ironic, since I don’t fly!)

Ebola:  With the disease continuing to spread and the number of fatalities rising (close to 4500 so far), new cases have have been reported in Spain, and a few cities here. I’m afraid other places will also experience people contracting this virus. The U.S. has experienced its first case of the virus being spread from one person to another. Nina Pham, a nurse who had contact with Thomas Duncan the patient who died in Dallas earlier this month, has been diagnosed. I hope everyone that has come in contact with these patients is being quarantined and monitored. I can’t help but worry that someone has been missed, unnoticed, or unidentified.

Nurses in various cities have held rallies to voice their concern for the lack of preparedness for this infectious disease, though their employers (the hospitals) are saying they are fully prepared to handle these types of diseases. CNN reported nurses from the Texas hospital involved have anonymously complained to their union stating, “guidelines were constantly changing” and “there were no protocols” – the situation described of the handling of Duncan is exactly as I feared.

I read an article a few days back stating several issues that could increase the odds for a pandemic. I can’t remember all the points cited, and I didn’t get to read it all either, but the two that stuck out were if an infected person traveled to India or China, and the possibility for mutation and increased virility. (I have been trying to find that article so I could finish reading it, but haven’t yet.)

Stanford University Dr. David Sanders, who has studied the virus since 2003, commented on a news interview that Ebola can enter the lungs, via the airway side. With continued spreading of the virus, mutations could occur increasing virility, which could result in it becoming airborne.  He added that suppressing the outbreak in Africa is key to preventing it from continuing to spread globally. Well, we already know they have not been exactly successful in this endeavor.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the CDC and a host of others are trying to figure out how Mr. Duncan’s nurse became infected. They believe it has to do with the removal of protective wear. Last I heard, they have honed in on the possibility that the nurses necks were exposed in some way. Pham is improving, since having a blood transfusion from one of the recent Ebola survivors.

As a side note, I heard the patient in Spain had a dog that was euthanized. Pham’s dog is in quarantine. I wonder if anything might be learned from this.

Some people feel that travel should be suspended from the affected countries where the outbreak began and is concentrated. Though I can certainly agree with that sentiment, I get the impression, in today’s global village mentality, this is not going to happen. After hearing what Dr. Sanders and others have said, I think those in charge need to re-examine how to proceed further for the best interests of the global community.

When I took a training class on Pandemic Preparedness a few years ago (they were mostly targeting influenza) it was noted that a pandemic would cause major impacts on society due to widespread restrictions on travel, as well as other closings and cancellations affecting schools, large gatherings, and businesses. It was stressed a pandemic could have the “potential for severe impact on domestic and world economy.” Hmm . . . (yes, I have to admit, it was not a subtle hmm!)

What do you think about suspending travel? Do you think they are handling this crisis properly, or in a lackadaisical manner? Do you believe a robust Pandemic Plan is in place nationally in your country or globally?

Just some things I was thinking about . . .

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Outer Space Treaty


orion-image

While reading the newspaper today, it was mentioned that on this day back in 1967 the Outer Space Treaty was agreed upon and entered into force. This agreement prohibited placing weapons of mass destruction on the moon or elsewhere in space. Space exploration was recognized as a peaceful endeavor and a benefit to all mankind , among other things.

That was almost 50 years ago . . . I can’t help but wonder what will happen in the next 50 years. Will Russia, India, China, and North Korea honor this treaty as they excel in their space exploration?

Just something I was thinking about . . .

Catching Up On a Few Things


Owls in tree
Baby owls in my tree – look closely, there are 5 sets of eyes!

The world really freaks me out – I mean like frightens me, especially for my kids and grandbabies. I heard that North Korea is really incensed about some movie scheduled to come out in October, with Seth Rogen and James Franco. It’s called “The Interview.” The movie is about a plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong Un. He is pissed and feeling completely disrespected and has said if this movie is released it will be considered an “act of war that we will never tolerate.” Seriously, we are going to have a war with North Korea over a movie . . .

This is from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28014069:

The North Korea [foreign ministry] spokesman was quoted by the state KCNA news agency as saying: “Making and releasing a movie on a plot to hurt our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated.”

He added that the “reckless US provocative insanity” of mobilising a “gangster filmmaker” to challenge the North’s leadership was triggering “a gust of hatred and rage” among North Korean people and soldiers.

“If the US administration allows and defends the showing of the film, a merciless counter-measure will be taken,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.

What can you say about that? I certainly believe in free speech, but at what cost? Is this particular movie and article of free speech worth poking this crazy frickin’ bear? What do you think?

And then I heard Iran, Iraq, and Syria want help from the U.S. in the form of air strikes to help them fight against ISIS. The world just keeps getting stranger. Not sure what I think about the request – could be advantageous later, but then again, it seems whenever we get involved in this type of conflict, especially in that part of the world,  those we go to help seem to turn on us later. I don’t know, I just can’t help but think if we ever have another civil war here, the United States would not tolerate any other country stepping in, in any way, shape, or form. I understand about needing a peacekeeper/peacemaker/mediator sometimes, but who appointed the U.S. government in that role?

They still haven’t found the plane and I am beginning to think they never will. I don’t know, maybe aliens did snatch that baby right up, or maybe Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went through an area like the Bermuda Triangle. I remember growing up, we all talked about the Bermuda Triangle and whether it was weather-related, pirate-related, alien-related, or a series of coincidences  – we weren’t savvy enough at the time to think any government might be involved. Now that I am older and with the advent of cable TV and the Internet, I don’t hear much about the infamous triangle anymore. Maybe it’s lost its appeal, with everybody paying attention to Lindsey Lohan, Justin Bieber, that icy blue-eyed criminal and zombies and other useless kind of stuff.

Speaking of that icy blue-eyed criminal  – his mugshot finally hit over 100,000 likes on the Stockton Police Dept.’s Facebook page. The noise on him has definitely quieted down a bit. I can tell you some of the comments are on that page are just stranger than fiction. REALLY!

Russia has hinted they may pull out of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020, as opposed to getting the full life out of it, manning it until 2024 or 2028. They want to re-allocate Russian ISS funding to work on projects with China and India. It sounds like Russia wants a piece of the moon, if you ask me. Anyone paying attention to NASA lately had to have seen that one coming . . . I did. I see lots more to come on that regard, and I can promise it will be interesting to say the least. NASA has high hopes the amicable international partnership of the ISS will continue. I hope they are right.

There’s a new Planet of the Apes movie coming out – that just scares the shit out of me . . . really LOL!! Like the world isn’t a scary enough place, without thinking about apes being in control 😉

On a joyful note, I did find out there are at least five owl babies!! I don’t believe the nest is in my fig tree, but is in in one the trees in that little corner thicket, maybe in one of the cedar trees. Haven’t seen them in over a week now, so maybe they got big enough to fly away. Sure hope they come back next year!

Just some things I was thinking about . . .

What Will Happen to the International Space Station?


iss imageThis photo of the International Space Station was snapped by an STS-133 crew member on the space shuttle Discovery on March 7, 2011. Image Credit: NASA

It’s started. Not quite three years since the last shuttle flew, the Russian government has threatened to pull support from the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. NASA has hoped that the ISS could operate through 2024, possibly even as far out as 2028 – which extends its original lifespan, which I believe was 15-20 years.

The Russian government has also decided to block the U.S. from using Russian NK-33 and RD-180 rockets to launch U.S. military satellites due to the growing tensions between the two resulting from U.S. sanctions in response to the upset in Ukraine, as well as U.S. plans to deny export licenses for high-technology items to Russia.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has decided to really spice things up by saying the U.S. could use a trampoline to get our astronauts to the station. He also implied the Russian Space Agency may continue to utilize the station alone, as the U.S. segment cannot function without the Russian segment, though the Russian segment can function without the U.S. segment. The thrusters on the Russian segment keep the ISS in orbit and at the proper attitude.

NASA issued a statement saying they have not received any formal word from the Russian government regarding this proposed change in space exploration cooperation. The $100 billion space station is the result of the work and cooperation of 15 nations, predominantly the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and Europe.  I am pretty sure we have covered a pretty huge dent in the costs, in one way or another.

This raises so many questions. Why did President Bush decide to cancel the shuttle program before there was another option in place? Why was this aspect (replacement for the shuttle i.e. human spaceflight) so short-sighted in thought and forward planning? Though the space shuttles were becoming outdated, NASA was in the process of upgrading them. Why does our government continue to cut our space exploration legs out from under us by cutting funding?

Why does our government seem to have a problem with strategic long-term planning support in this area? Often NASA makes plans, gets funding, starts work, and then whichever administration is in power loses patience and interest. I would love to see a complete list of all NASA (and other government) programs that were funded, worked on, and then scrapped, and why they were scrapped.

Asking these questions will not change what has happened, but I think examining some of these disconnects might help going forward. Space and politics aren’t really my thing, but even I am smart enough to understand the implications of the U.S. not having a prominent place and role in manned space exploration.

Well at least the Russians aren’t threatening our seats on the Soyuz just yet. And maybe this is just all bluster on Rogozin’s part. There is still a lot of knowledge to be gained from the space station, not counting the amount of money that has been invested. It only seems right to get as much out of it as possible for all parties involved.

What a way for the greatest engineering achievement ever embarked upon and completed successfully to end. What a way for one of the most auspicious global collaborations in cooperation of shared visions to come to a close.

Just something I was thinking about . . .

Russia and Your Space Station


I read an interesting article in the paper a few days back regarding all the upheaval in Ukraine with Russia, and how this is affecting the relationship between Russia and the U.S. when it comes to the International Space Station (ISS). I know a little about NASA and the ISS and its operations, and I can tell you this issue is troubling to me. We have an ISS mission operations control center in Russia, as well as here in the U.S. at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Our astronauts train in Russia for the Soyuz flights that ferry them back and forth to the ISS. The following is an excerpt from an internal NASA memo:

“Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted. This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted. In addition, multilateral meetings held outside of Russia that may include Russian participation are not precluded under the present guidance.” SOURCE: NASA Watch

From what I know, there are teleconferences at least weekly and emails probably daily. Before each flight of a vehicle to the ISS, Flight Readiness Reviews and Stage Operations Readiness Reviews are typically held and ALL international parties attend in person or via teleconference. Most configuration changes of any kind often require all international partners to agree and sign-off on. I have no idea what exactly has been deemed essential and how this is impacted by the sanctions the U.S. currently has in place with our partner in space.

We are dependent on Russia to get our astronauts to the ISS. We have much invested in the way of funding and are gaining enormous benefits in areas that will not even be realized for years – the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer could possibly change the basic concepts of physics; medical studies regarding cancer, aging, medications, etc.; as well as many other important scientific and technological advances.  When NASA’s Space Shuttle Program ended, with no crew vehicle to take its place, the price of the seats on the Russian Soyuz went up, now costing approximately $70 million. Sometimes two of those seats belong to us, meaning that cost doubles.

I’ve read that Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator has said Russia’s space agency Roscosmos will continue to cooperate with NASA as far as providing our astronauts a ride to and from the space station. He has assured that Russia depends on us and can’t run the station as we supply many essential power and operating systems. He mentioned in 2008, when there were diplomatic issues involving Georgia, there were no problems. Well at that point the ISS was not completely assembled. I doubt both of the robotic arms were onboard and I’m pretty sure the satellite deployers had not been delivered. The robotic arms are used for so many tasks and operations and the small satellite deployers are a definite advantage in this newer area of technology. In my opinion, the only guarantee we have is that Russia wants our money.

My understanding is that the Russian cosmonauts spend the majority of their time living and working in the Russian modules and predominantly only work on their own science investigations – which if you ever look at a NASA Expedition Press Kit, these science experiments/investigations are written in Russian, so if you do not know the language or have an interpreter, most people have no idea what the Russians are really working on. (Though I am sure someone at NASA does.) They may even use their own communication systems separate of NASA’s, as well.

Also, if I understand correctly, the Russian Zvezda Service Module is the main piece of the station when it comes to powering all other systems and if it goes down – the whole thing can die. Having said all that, the Russians could just shut the parts of the U.S. side of the station down that they didn’t want to use and that would be that. I’d be willing to bet, there’s probably ways to disconnect the U.S. modules and let them deorbit, if so desired.

The space station was conceived as an engineering feat, to result in not only great advances in science and human space exploration, but also as a model for international cooperation – peace, compromise and teamwork. Under the circumstances though, I can’t help but wonder if Russia would try and use their advantage and take over the station.

I don’t know, and I am not an expert on any of these things. I am just thinking about the possibilities of what can happen with operations of the space station and the ramifications of the state of the world and our own affairs in this country presently. WE have a lot at stake here and I don’t think most of us really even know it. It’s not just about who owns, runs, funds the ISS and the science we get from that – it’s about who ultimately owns the skies with satellite technology and just as an aside, human space exploration.

I just realized North Korea has a space agency. North Korea has a space agency and China has landed a rover on and is exploring the moon and Russia is the only way our astronauts can travel back and forth to the space station that we as a nation and as taxpayers own a big part of. Regardless of your opinions of NASA, space exploration, and its funding . . . Is it just me or is this picture disturbing?

Just something I was thinking about . . .

China’s Moon?


When our government decided to cancel NASA’s Constellation Program several years back, which would have taken us back to the moon and to Mars, Homer Hickman (author of Rocket Boys and October Sky) wrote a short story set in the not-so-distant future. This was his take on America in a “post-NASA” world, a world where the United States is not the leader in human space flight exploration.  I wanted to share it with you, as I have some specific opinions that are of a similar topic I will be writing on in the future, and thought this would be a perfect preface.  It’s an interesting tale, for sure – and a little disturbing to say the least.

I hope you find it interesting, as well, whether you support NASA’s endeavors or not. Oh, and were you aware that China landed its first rover on the moon last December?

The Boy Who Looked at the Moon by Homer Hickman

Just something I was thinking about . . .