Monday, December 31, 2012

The Real Genius behind Star Wars worked for Boeing

Another overlooked death of 2012... March 3rd of this year a man named Ralph McQuarrie died at 82 of Parkinson's.  Who? (to quote the Cracked article I found this in) Ralph McQuarrie was working at Boeing doing technical art (aviation sketches - not space related) when George Lucas was trying desperately to get his space opera funded commissioned him to sketch some of the concepts he was unsuccessfully trying to explain. He got the job because he was an industrial artist and could make things look futuristic.

He sketched Darth Vader's helmet (and suggested the breathing apparatus) and cape,designed the porcelain armour of the Storm Troopers, C-3PO, light sabers, and TIE Fighters.
He also designed the mothership in Close Encounters and animated CBS News' Apollo Program coverage!

Sweet video of his space artwork!

The Art of Ralph McQuarrie

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Darrell Royal and the Moon?

Prior to Darrell Royal's death, and auction had been scheduled to raise money for Alzheimers.  In it were quite a few space related items that really caught me off guard. Turns out DKR was friends with several moon walkers and they had presented him with a few gifts.

Charlie Duke gave him the above  Texas flag flown to the moon and claims (on the presentation - see below) that he tried to make a Hook'em in the photo with his gloved hand. 
Texas Flag from Moon - very faded, he obviously had these in his office and ENJOYED them! Lots more close-up photos in the auction listing! (15,000-25,000=$17,000)

But the neatest thing I learned was about a single recording with Charlie Duke and Willie Nelson during one of their infamous (all night) "picking" sessions.  In the conversation they all sat around talking about what it would be like to be in space.  A conversation between a football coach, a musician/songwriter, and a guy who HAD walked in space.  I would kill to hear that recording!

The audio recording of the party with Charlie Duke and Willie Nelson talking about what it would be like to be on the moon. I so want to hear this – hope the buyer makes it public! (60-150=$425)

Apollo 12 moon flag - signed by Conrad, Gordon, and Bean (10,000-15,000=$15,000)

Apollo 8 Moon Flag - signed by Borman, Lovell, and Anders. What a steal! (10,000-15,000=$6500)

The auction website - browse through - it's fun!
Neat article about Auction - with photos.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pinball in Space - A Tribute to Steve Kordek

I received my annual Chicago Pinball Expo email today and as usual, wished I could attend but t hat weekend is taken.  I do this every year it seems, and am saddened that yet one more year will pass without me shaking the hand of my favorite pinball designer and telling him how much I appreciate what he did.  Not just him revolutionizing the pinball machine, but how he was the only one that made realistic spaceflight machines, and about my quest to obtain those machines. 

A few years ago I finally secured the hardest one to get, completing my collection, from a barn.  With only 700 of Friendship 7 ever made (and it being common practice to destroy or repurpose machines) it took years to find one in good shape.  I had only seen a couple in person and one for sale on line.  She didn't work - but of course, I got her up and running!  You can see a gallery of space related pinball machines on my space pinball page here.

Below, is a picture of Kordek in his office as he shows some of the reference material that he used for the Space Mission/Space Odyssey machine.

I would ask if he always had a love for space since so many of his earlier machines were futuristic (for then) space designs.  Would be an amazing conversation with plenty of humble nods shedding my praise.  I did a quick google search realizing it may finally be too late and my fears were realized.  After seven decades of designing pinball machines, he died back in February.  He was 100 years old - man, what a conversation that would have been!  I am greatly saddened and only hope that he can see me now and know how much he touched my life - and how much I enjoy playing those machines!

Article about his death.
Great photos with audio recordings of his Pinball Expo appearances.
An interview.
1994 video of Steve... still in the Williams factory.
Video of his 100th Birthday.
There is a tribute page on Facebook - I will link this blog post there so his family will know how much I appreciated him!

And get this... during WWII many of the Genco cabinets were made from excess birch panels from Howard Hughes' H-4 Spruce Goose!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Endeavour Full Circle

Today Endeavour, atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) #NASA905, made a pit-stop at Ellington (EFD).  A simple, but eloquent thank you for all of our hard work over the years. Flyovers at numerous Houston locations allowed her to say a small goodbye.  I chose to watch the flyovers at JSC Rocket Park because I had seen ALL my flyovers at JSC.  Of course, the benefit there was multiple passes including right over my head at less than 1500 feet!

But the moving part of this story (to me at least) was that I was here for her very first trip to Houston in 1991.  On her way to KSC from Palmdale where she was born, I was given my second up-close view of a space shuttle orbiter.  The first came soon after starting work at NASA.  I travelled to KSC and was given the rare privilege of visiting Atlantis on the pad - even stuck my head inside her flight deck from the White Room!  The Rotating Service Structure (RSS) was in place - so I had an up-close view of the cracked and repaired space "aged" tiles.

At that time, Endeavour was a far cry from her experienced sister.  She was new and shiny - a virgin.  I had a fellow Space Tweep snap a pic of me yesterday in front of the "space aged" Endeavour while I was holding my first photo taken in front of her from 1991.

My third up-close view was of Columbia and was in 1994.  We were allowed to go inside the SCA and up through the hatch below the orbiter.  It is there we saw the infamous "PLACE ORBITER HERE BLACK SIDE DOWN".  I had no camera on me that day and never got that photo - one of my largest regrets of my career...  I had hoped to get that chance again today! Because it would be the very last time... EVER.  However, with so many public visitors (reported that 100,000 people flocked to Ellington Field to see her), that option did not arise.  Which is okay - my name and twitter handle are on that very SCA and will make that last flight with her!

One last thought about my connection to Endeavour... With deep connections to Atlantis (first orbiter, most Mir flights, and been inside of her) and Discovery (um, dad's death and hence GodspeedDiscvry), Challenger (obvious), and Columbia (again, obvious - but also I helped find and pick up debris - I mean, I held pieces of her in my hand), I wasn't sure what Endeavour meant to me until this week.

She is the only existing orbiter I did not see make her final launch. Something told me not to make that drive to KSC... a rising creek and possible pending flood at Flint, and just this gut feeling - someone up there was telling me not to go.  I fought it, but eventually said "Well, if there was one orbiter to miss, it would be this one."  I ended up missing Dallas area tornadoes, all of the horriffic southeastern US outbreak of storms that I would have been driving right through - and of course, we ended up not launching on that attempt.  Having said "If there was one..." and circumstances for being away from work for the next attempt, I let her launch without me.

So I find it fitting that this visit cemented what exactly my connection was with her.  My Houston experience with Endeavour ended exactly where it started, at Ellington Field, book-ending Endeavour's 25 flight space history.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How DID a moon rock get into a window at the Washington National Cathedral?

It is fitting that Armstrong's public memorial service tomorrow will be at the Washington National Cathedral.  The cathedral has a rather special stained glass window.  As identified in the below article, a moon rock was given to the church to incorportae into the "space window".

The moon rock is in the center of the red swirl (solar sphere) and the thin white line circling one of the spheres symbolizes a manned spaceship exploring the universe.  How did a moon rock find its way into a cathedral that construction began just after Kitty Hawk?  The south windows had been designed to represent the gifts that people use to serve God. This particular opening was indeed designated for the “scientists and technicians” window.

The window was designed by Rodney Winfield of St. Louis (see below for video interview).  He created the design "to symbolize the macrocosm and microcosm of space. Radiations of light emanate from numerous solar spheres. Shining through deep colors are white dots symbolizing stars. The thin white trajectory encircling a sphere depicts a manned space ship. Winfield wanted to show the minuteness of humanity in God’s universe. Inspiration for the window’s design and color palette came from photographs taken during the Apollo 11 mission."  The window was donated to the Cathedral by the NASA Director at the time of the Apollo 11 flight.  Once it was received, the dean of the cathedral had the idea of embedding a fabulous artifact in the newly donated window - the window was to depict Creation.  After two years and a little help from the then NASA Director, a letter from President Nixon announced the gift (full article).

 The Apollo 11 sample that was presented at the dedication service was not put into the window until several years later because they were concerned something of so much value would be too easy to get to with scaffolding and the current construction.  The article below identifies when the moon rock was installed in the window.

Sign up here to get the downloadable program for the service, the video of the space window dedication, and a high res image of the window.

Interview with Rodney Winfield here with interesting details about how he got involved with the cathedral, designing 13 different versions, and acquiring the moon rock.

Godspeed, Neil!  #WinkAtTheMoon

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chasing an Explorer

This Friday a very special package will make its way to the Johnson Space Center Dock.  Around noon, the Kemah bridge will be closed as a precaution while it travels by barge underneath through the Clear Creek Channel.  The largest arrival since 1977 Saturn V stages will dock next to the Hilton from 3-5pm.  At that point the #Shuttlebration will ensue.

But I will be well into my bicycle chase team activities.  I plan to follow along on bike seizing the various vantage points not accessible with a car!  Starting near the Kemah Bridge I will make my way down NASA Road One to the dock at Space Center Boulevard.

The Space Shuttle model Explorer was originally at the KSC Visitor's Center and was given to us when we did not get a retired shuttle.  It was removed to make way for Atlantis which will go on display at KSCVC. I am impressed by the effort to get her here.  There are banners up all over to announce her arrival!

Saturday, I will observe the lifting operations.

On Sunday at 3am, traffic signals on NASA Parkway will be removed.  The trek from the dock down NASA Parkway to Space Center Houston will happen between 5 and 9am.  Early morning bike ride anyone?

Kemah Boardwalk Webcam
Kemah Bridge live webcam to see Explorer entering into Clear Lake

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shuttle Void

Back in August I did quite a bit of research after a space shuttle was awarded to the Intrepid Museum. I found it extremely hurtful that yet one more space artifact landed on the east coast. I was so disgusted and emotionally disturbed once the data was laid out, I never posted it. The bad attitude of the ungrateful recipients of Enterprise DID NOT help. And now on this glorious anniversary as our beautiful and amazing flying machines begin to be relegated to educational tools and relics, the water cooler and social media discussion picks back up. Asked to post my effort, here it is.

The stars on the US maps represent publicized bids for the space shuttles and whether they got a trainer or a real shuttle vehicle.First and foremost - the Space Shuttles were awarded to places with the most visitors. FALSE As you see in the below graphic, the Intrepid gets no more annual visitors than JSC.
Second - the Space Shuttles will be distributed evenly amongst the country's population. FALSE As you can see the below graphic the bulk of the country received no shuttle. One shuttle (as expected) on the west coast for 15.43% of the US population. What disgusted me the most was THREE space shuttles on the east coast - 75% of the space shuttles for only 36.78% of the US population.
Let's look at flown spacecraft distribution across our country. Seattle has NONE. I would have preferred the fourth shuttle to go to Seattle over NYC. At least they would have the ability to mount it on top of a 747 to illustrate the ferry/test flight mode - a unique opportunity for sure. The index on this graphic illustrates whether the spacecraft was manned.
So, where does that leave JSC? The center that trained EVERY SINGLE shuttle astronaut. The center with Mission Control that controlled EVERY SINGLE minute a space shuttle was in space. The graphic below shows where the trainers are going. I found no published data back in August on the locations of the MDF and SST-3.
So, there you go. At least KSC was nice enough to give us their old full-sized shuttle model. Greatly appreciative! And... we get a shuttle access arm and White Room! ;) Suck it, NYC!

Bottom Line - the decision was made by a secretary with no real mathematical justification. Great leadership...

2dayNspace: April 12th

Today should be declared Space Day! Cosmonautics Day is celebrated by the masses in Russia and those of us who have been personally effected by or involved with the Russian Space Program.
1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space! Yea, yea... FIA or whoever actual definitions aside - Yuri was definitely the first human in space regardless of how and where he landed! I picked up these little goodies in Russia (back when they were cheap in the mid-to-late 90s). You can find absolutely anything you can imagine to commemorate that historic day - even today!

I recently had a friend seem not impressed by my collections - a big part of my collection revolves around the pop culture of the manned space race. I find these things fun and full of life and imagination. He felt they were not personal collectibles. On the contrary, each of these items is very personal and many were acquired while being provided amazing opportunities for international travel to support NASA's international partners.

And nothing is more dear to my heart than the Space Shuttle! My entire 20+ year space career has revolved around the space shuttles. I counted it up one time - I think it was 75 flights I had been involved in. In 1981, on this day, Columbia was the first Space Shuttle to launch. I wish it was celebrated more - maybe it will be now that they are on the verge of being reduced to educational tools and museum relics instead of the amazing flying machine in its prime that it should be! I have every Time, Life, and Newsweek space cover, most framed on the wall.