Friday, December 10, 2010

Little Piece of History

Found this neat Mercury Capsule bank at an antique mall this week. I have to say, it is pretty rare when I find a manned spaceflight bank I have never seen before (I have far more than on that website...)! It is pretty thick plaster and has the original cork on the bottom. I thought I had found a little piece of NASA history - but instead I find that I found a pretty major piece of Houston history!

Minimal googling revealed that Texas National Bank was in Houston. The building was shared with Conoco and opened in October 17th, 1955. On top of this building was a weather ball - popular in the mid 50s - mid 60s. It could be seen at night from 25 miles.

Most people erroneously think that Conoco sign on Houston's weather ball came later. But from this Aug 22, 1955 Life magazine clipping, the sign had two different sides upon inception in 1955. You can also see the Conoco side peeking through from the backside in this photo.

Weather balls were fairly popular at the time (providing an alternate way to get your forecast) and they all seemed to use the same jingle. When the ball was glowing red warmer weather was just ahead, when shinning white colder weather was in sight, when wearing green no change was foreseen, colors blinking light and day precipitation was on its way.

Houston's was dismantled in 1964 as a result of complaints and found its way to the entry fountain at Astroworld. In 1994 (shortly after Time Warner bought half of Six Flags), the globe was removed from the fountain. In 1995 it had been located in Astroworld storage. I am researching if it was auctioned off during the Astroworld auctions after the park closed in 2005. Stay tuned for an update!

Great video on the fate of the Northwestern Bank weather ball in Minnesota

Do you know where Houston's Weather Ball is???

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Today in Space - 2001: Mir Reentry

Mar 23rd - a 143 ton space station falls from grace during a controlled reentry over Fiji and into the South Pacific. Progress M1-5 was launched in January to escort Mir on her final farewell. As expected, six main pieces survived the breakup to give one final show. We had a party that day ... to celebrate her and our opportunity to be a part of her storied history. An attempt was made to save her by private industry - they even sent one last Soyuz mission that spent 70 days there in April, May, and June of 2000.

86,331 orbits... 31 spacecraft, 64 cargo ships, nine shuttle missions... 125 cosmonauts/astronauts from 12 different countries. A five year space station stays in service for 15! But unlike our last party after the Mir Station was left unmanned in August 1999, at least on this sad day there were men living in orbit again.

Mir Reentry FGAN radar Image from above
Website for FGAN radar imaging
Video with simulated reentry, actual reentry footage, and a map
Details on controlled reentry of Mir
Neat website with all kinds of data
Interesting reflections on the reentry and what it meant to TsUP workers

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2dayNspace 1962
Friendship 7 Launch

John Glenn became the first American in orbit aboard a Mercury Atlas (MA-6) launched from Launch Complex 14. The complex has been dismantled, but some of its structure still sits there today. Fresh off a trip to KSC, I wandered around the complex just a week or so ago. Some new structure has been put in place to secure what is left of the obvious historical treasure. The parking spot nameplates (a newer John Glenn one had been installed) were not original. They were added some time later - I am researching this one (perhaps when they did the monument dedication in 1964?). The 45th Space Wing restored the inside of the blockhouse and turned it into a conference room around 1998 just before John Glenn's shuttle flight.

Hi res photo of Glenn and the capsule artwork
Aerial View of SLC-14
Amazing drawings of the original structures
Photos of the restored blockhouse

Friday, February 19, 2010

2dayNspace 1986
Mir Space Station Launched

The first module of the Mir Space Station, known as the Base Block (Core Module), was launched aboard a Proton rocket February 20th Russian time.

The Mere Meaning of Mir
Does Mir REALLY mean peace? Maybe not... Frank Culbertson's extremely well-written letter to Congress in 1996 sheds a different light. Frank's letter also points out something amazing that is very timely in our current space wars of money and direction. The fact is Mir was done when they had NO resources! They cared enough about their foothold on space to make huge sacrifices in the eye of pride and mankind's absolute need to explore the unknown and achieve things some think impossible! At times I heard stories from my Russian counterparts in the NASA-Mir program that they had not been paid in months or often were paid in solid goods - like toilet paper that was found in a warehouse and recognized of value. Did the workers leave? Did they quit, mad about the wages owed to them? No, they did not! They found a way to survive to maintain that foothold. They found a way, utilizing every resource to its maximum - they sent one Soyuz to two different space stations at the beginning of Mir because they did not have enough Soyuz spacecraft! Not only did they do it, they maintained the life of that space station three times longer than intended. I had the fortune to be there for the 10th anniversary and a few proud office celebrations with chilled Zhelka... and they weren't done yet! Mir was not deorbited for another six years!

I strongly recommend Frank's letter, and especially the last paragraph and concluding lines!

Parent Site on Mir Space Station History - with even more moving thoughts!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shuttle Commemorative Patch Winner

The winning design for the Commemorative Shuttle Patch was announced today, along with the two runner-ups.

Complete story at CollectSpace

Despite the absolutely production readiness of the winning patch, I am slightly surprised a specific patch was picked. NASA Shuttle Program reserved the right to make modifications and I always expected them to take a few elements of the favorite designs and add something to the winning patch.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

NASA's Bold New Era = One Giant Leap Backwards

I have to ask myself why Bolden gets so choked up when talking about the passion, the safety of the crew, or the death in the family. If he is so excited about this bold new era Obama has blessed us with, why the tears? Does he not really believe in it? I hope so… having worked with him my jaw continually drops to the floor these last two days at response to some of things he has said.

So excited to find ways to get us out of low Earth orbit

Excuse me, isn’t that what Constellation was? Oh no, it wasn’t an idea… it was a plan! My bad…

Same ol’ Same ol’…

I find this particularly amusing that Obama would like us to spend the next ten years figuring out a way to get out of LEO. So many of the entries for the SSP Commemorative patch contest lamented on the fact that the shuttle KEPT us tied down in LEO.

Everywhere vs. Nowhere

“When you are going everywhere, you are going nowhere”. Okay… but we are NOT going everywhere - we are indeed going nowhere!

What Dreams Are Made Of

Bolden said this was so much better because we are not building programs from our dreams… huh? Is that NOT how we excite our supporters, how we interest students in math and science? The exact quote: “It’s different because, for one thing, the president has set out a budget that supports where we think we want to go. And we are building programs based on the budget that we have and not building programs based on a dream “. Did he listen to what he just said…??? How is that not settling?

Completely Drunk on the Kool-aid

The next thing I heard Bolden say was that with STS we were given a plan but no money. And now we have a plan and here is the money that you are going to have to do it….. what, how is that any different than what you just said??? The entire statement was absurd! Obama has supplied Charlie with an IV, I guess. Well I guess if you scale back to status quo, it doesn’t really cost that much – so you will certainly have enough money.

Hmmmm, I want to drive to Colorado but need a new car. So instead of figuring out how to budget the new car and maybe not spend wasted money on health care for the squirrels in my yard… I am told that I think I don’t really need to go to Colorado yet. So, I can just get a cheap car that can get back and forth to Houston and ultimately go nowhere I haven’t been. Yea, I can afford that!

Managing to pull through, Managing to recover

“We are going to get through this, kind of stick with us if you can”… If this is such an exciting, bold, new challenge – why are we recovering, pulling through, or sticking with you? Oh yea, not exciting enough… true!

Press Club Video from CSPAN

The Votes Are Tallied

Voting concluded on Sunday for the SSP Commemorative Patch design contest. I have been comparing and contrasting the vote below in my blog for the last couple of weeks. Here is the last graph illustrating the differences between the collectSPACE fan poll and the internal NASA voting.

As for the changes since the last comparison, there was not much. The only significant delta was a 3% increase for patch 7 in the internal NASA voting - borrowed 1% a time from three separate patches.

I still find it interesting how the two top vote-getters were so strongly favored over the other entries and would love to run the fan poll with all 85 of the original entries. Especially with so many strong ideas excluded from the 15 finalists!

Monday, February 1, 2010

2dayNspace 2003
Columbia Lost

The crew of Columbia had a higher mission - one to teach us about ourselves. And they still teach us today in the wake of Obama's wish of NASA's new direction (or lack thereof...). The spirit of Rick Husband, William McCool, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon will always remain in our hearts and encourage us to explore into the unknown despite whatever setbacks we may encounter on the way!

My original tribute site can be seen here.
My experience in the Super Bowl XXVIII Pre-Game Show Tribute to Columbia.
Still very moving flash tribute.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2day N Space 1986
Challenger Explosion

Truly amazing that 24 years later these words can still send a chill up my spine - "Obviously a major malfunction... We have a report from the Flight Dynamics Officer that the vehicle has exploded". I was in college and had just been let out of historical geology early due to my instructor's laryngitis. Heading straight into the student center, I saw tons of people gathered in the the two lounges that had a tv. I assumed Reagan had declared WAR on Iran (or whoever was acting up in 1986). When I made it around the hall to next lounge I heard the words from Peter Jennings "... and this is when it happened." Or something like that... I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned. I think I watched that footage for hours at home before I finally had to turn it off. My desire to work at NASA never wavered. To this day a wall in my cube/office has all the shuttle stickers since I have worked at NASA. I came along between STS-29 and STS-30 but decided my wall should start with 51-L to always remind me of the bottom line and to keep the safety of "our friends in hight places" in mind! It also stands as a vigil of why we do what we do, slip the surly bonds of Earth and explore. It is in our nature to explore, it defines us, it makes us great! "we must never... stop exploring, stop hoping, or stop discovering. We must press on." -VP George H.W. Bush
Live NBC coverage video while it actually happened (holy cow...)
CBS breaking news video of Challenger disaster with Dan Rather
ABC coverage with Peter Jennings five hours after ( he is emotional and haggard)
NBC Nightly News from 1/28/86 - Tom Brokaw (still painful, but a powerful reminder)
ABC Challenger explosion news coverage (beware - includes some classroom reaction)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Outpost Update - Headed to a Court Near YOU!!!

Apparently the land owner decided to lock out the owner of the Outpost January 15th by changing the locks. He claims he did it because he was concerned thousands of dollars of memorabilia had already been removed. Huh? He seems to think he owns The Outpost Tavern... and he wants to move it and re-open it. How could ANYONE other than the Foster family honestly think they own the contents that they have compiled over 30 years??? The land has nothing to do with the business or the building. I was very disappointed when I went in December and saw most of the memorabilia had already been removed for the fear of people grabbing souvenirs... Oh Thank God she did! Except.... the beloved swinging doors - the ones I had wanted to take my picture with in the last weeks - are presumably still in there. In fact, I was headed there today to have some crawfish! Walter Wright has stolen two weeks worth of farewells from those who loved the Outpost Tavern. Let me steal a line from Color Purple - Walter Wright, nothing you do will succeed until you do right by Stephanie Foster!

If anyone needs someone to break in and steal those doors from the grubby-handed, greedy Walter Wright, SIGN ME UP!!!

Outpost new url
Houston Chronicle article
New Outpost Store

2day N Space 1967
Apollo 1 Fire

I prefer to "celebrate" the space memorials individually instead of the cost-saving Day of Remembrance NASA has created. So today, let us reflect on the Apollo 1 crew. No new nuggets or amazing information with this entry - just a few links.

A nice video (unsure of publication date)
Some original TV footage
Launch Complex 34 site
Neat older photos of LC 34
The Plaque photo I used in my collage
Original patch artwork I used in my collage
Apollo 1 Memorial Foundation site

Some transcripts from the investigation, and conclusions
NASM Apollo 1 site
The debate regarding the Russian fire

Monday, January 25, 2010

SSP Commemorative Patch Voting Update

In the last ten days there has been no real change in collectSPACE voting. Again, pretty much the same people voting over and over outweighs any new votes. As for the JSC vote however, patch 7 has gained some popularity without any significant sacrifice to the other finalists.

The first graph illustrates JSC vs collectSPACE voting on January 25th. You can compare this one with the two red and blue ones in the earlier post.

The second graph is a total picture of the voting so far. I added a key with the dates and identified each chart with the logo of the source voting. The collectSPACE voting is fairly close across the board with the exception of patch 4 and patch 10. What I find interesting is most of the select favorites are divided about the same (of course with exception to patch 3 which is the clear favorite.

As for the JSC voting on the second graph, there is more variation and the continued struggle between patch 3 and patch 7 is evident. Other than what seems to be more of a daily flux with the JSC site voters, patch 10 stands out as going in the opposite direction as the collectSPACE voters.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shuttle Commemorative Patch Vote Update

Looking at the current votes, there has been some minor shifts. I have made an excel spreadsheet to assess some of the differences.

The first graph illustrates the initial JSC (actually internal NASA - website is a JSC based site) voting with the current trend today. The biggest change is that some of the patch 3 votes went to patch 7. These have been the top two vote-getters across both sites and all dates hands down. Patch 8 seemed to lose some of its popularity while the exact opposite is true on collectSpace. Patch 10 lost half of its vote with patch 14 and patch 6 gaining 3 and 4%. The trend I can see there is an immediate wow-factor of patch 7 giving way to the traditional mission completeness of patch 3. Patch 10's waning could be due to the similarity to the STS-107 Columbia patch.

The second graph illustrates the same initial vs. current voting for the collectSpace Fan Poll. Interestingly enough, none of these percentages vary significantly. This leads me to believe the same select few are voting over and over.

The third graph illustrates JSC on-site voting vs. collectSpace fan poll on the initial voting day. Huge difference of opinion here! And quite unexpected that the overwhelming favorite was not the new, out-of-the-box artistic design of patch 7. In fact, patch 3 and its bottom line engineer mentality with the Mission Complete message was favored by the collectSPACE fans. The collectSPACE voters responded measurably better to patch 6 than JSC voters - it was created by one of collectSPACE's major contributors. The other significant difference was the favor of patch 14 on collectSPACE over those at JSC. This particular difference eventually levels out.

The fourth graph illustrates JSC voting vs. collectSpace fan poll on January 15th. The general trend is that everything is leveling out. But patch 3 has become the overwhelming favorite. Patch 10 favor jumped from JSC to collectSPACE - which I think is pretty interesting. Possibly some of the JSC voters fled to patch 14.

Notes on some of the artists and some additional cool submission ideas.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

SSP Commerorative Patch Voting

Voting on the internal NASA site and fan voting on Collect Space started yesterday. I just cast my votes and was surprised to see the current tally.... The first column is the internal JSC site voting and the second is the Collect Space fan voting - here it is:

14 votes=2%cS 5%

15 votes=2%cS 3%

103 votes=15%cS 25%

86 votes=12%cS 15%

24 votes=3%cS 2%

28 votes=4%cS 12%

218 votes=31%cS 9%

45 votes=6%cS 8%

4 votes=1%cS 1%

71 votes=10%cS 3%

3 votes=0%cS less than 1%

17 votes=2%cS 1%

12 votes=2%cS 3%

29 votes=4%cS 10%

36 votes=5%cS 2%