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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama Will Stick with Bush Moon Plan... This is great news, especially if you’re as much a space geek as I am. Here’s hoping Obama doesn’t get any second thoughts about this...unless he decides that NASA should try sending astronauts back to the Moon by 2018 and not 2020, haha. Anyways, here’s the article as posted on aviationweek.com, by Frank Morring, Jr.:

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"The fiscal 2010 NASA budget outline to be released by the Obama Administration Feb. 26 adds almost $700 million to the out-year figure proposed in the fiscal 2009 budget request submitted by former President Bush, and sticks with the goal of returning humans to the moon by 2020.

The $18.7 billion that Obama will request for NASA - up from $18.026 billion for fiscal 2010 in the last Bush budget request - does not include the $1 billion NASA will receive in the $787 billion stimulus package that President Barack Obama signed Feb. 16.

Aviation Week has learned that in addition to the human-lunar return, Obama wants to continue robotic exploration with probes to Mars and other Solar System destinations, as well as a space telescope to probe deeper into the universe.

He will request increases in Earth Science, in keeping with his call Feb. 24 for action on global warming. And he will ask for additional funds for the NextGen satellite-based air traffic control modernization effort within NASA's aeronautics request.

In addition to those newly requested funds, under the stimulus package the space agency will receive $400 million for back-to-the-moon exploration work; $400 million for science directed at climate-change space missions and the supercomputing capability needed for climate modeling; $150 million for aeronautics, including NextGen, and $50 million for repairs to hurricane damage suffered in 2008."


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An artist's concept of the Orion spacecraft orbiting the Moon.
NASA / Lockheed Martin

Before you start thinking to yourselves about how the money going to our space program (if you're American) is better spent on more social matters, like helping out "Octomom" and her 14 kids, keep in mind that NASA's budget only accounts for less than 2% of the overall federal budget (which exceeds 1 trillion dollars...despite the current economic crisis).

According to a recent survey, nearly 9 out of 10 Americans see value in America's space program. Click here for more details.

An artist's concept of the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles.
NASA / Marshall Space Flight Center

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

IT ISN’T very often that I’d type something that you would mostly find on TMZ.com (haha, just kidding), but just thought I’d point out that as of yesterday, Megan Fox is single! Not that I myself would have a chance with her...unless I moved to the Hollywood area, grew a couple of inches taller, bulked up, actually got my career going in the entertainment industry, and/or liquored her up with 10 shots of vodka and tequila. Oh, and convinced Ms. Fox to smoke 5 joints afterwards. Wow... I sure am implying that I have low self-esteem here, haha. I take all these back. Well...except maybe for the 5 joints thing. Kidding. Note to Brian Austin Green: There’s always your role as John Connor's uncle in the FOX TV show, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Until the end of this season, that is. That is all.

Megan Fox at the premiere of the Shia LaBeouf film EAGLE EYE, late last year.

Monday, February 23, 2009

24 logo.

DAY 7... I must say that this latest season of the hit FOX TV show is currently kicking ass! It’s almost as good as season 5...with Cherry Jones’ take as the honorable President Taylor just as memorable as Gregory Itzin’s take on the corrupt (Nixonian?) President Logan in "Day 5". If 24 ends up getting an Emmy nomination for Best TV Drama because of this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the clip they use during the awards ceremony comes from today’s episode: When FBI agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) slaps and chastises Jack Bauer (do I even need to list the actor’s name here?) for him being insensitive to the death of Ike Dubaku’s innocent girlfriend at the beginning of tonight's show (Sorry, forgot to type: SPOILER ALERT!). "Do you feel that? Do you feel THAT?" You read his file, Agent Walker... You know Jack went through lots of crap over 7 whole, um, days that he feels little effect from this latest tragedy!

President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) addresses her Cabinet in an earlier episode of 24, Season 7.

Can’t wait till Jon Voight’s character (who was seen in last November's 24: Redemption) emerges later this season. Those will be some intense episodes...especially when he eventually confronts Bauer. 24 rocks.

Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) in an episode of 24, Season 7.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for his role as The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT.

CONGRATULATIONS to the late Heath Ledger and Slumdog Millionaire for winning the top Oscars tonight. I guess the Academy Awards aren’t complete crap...this year...

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto in the 2009 Best Picture winner, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Space shuttle Discovery at Launch Complex 39A.

PARMAN’S PAGE Update... Yesterday, I finished creating a new section on my website devoted to my visit at Kennedy Space Center 2 weeks ago. I took more than 600 photos during my 4-day trip, but 80 are uploaded to my site (despite the fact I’m planning to print out 102 pics for my actual photo album, haha).

You can view the images by clicking here.

TOP PIC: An actual Saturn V rocket.  BOTTOM PIC: Launch Complex 39B.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Fallen confronts a squad of soldiers in TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.

TF2 Update... The official High-Definition teaser trailer for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was released on Monday, and you can check it out on Yahoo!. The highlights of this new clip include protoforms crashing in Paris, near the Egyptian pyramids and into a U.S. aircraft carrier, the return of Scorponok, a partial glimpse of Jetfire (in that shot of Scorponok jumping towards a robot holding a cane... That’s Jetfire), better views of Demolisher (the Constructicon who drives through and obliterates that bridge just as Optimus Prime leaps onto him) and The Fallen himself (shown above). Judging from the shot shown in the trailer, The Fallen apparently teleports! Hopefully that’s true. A teleporting Decepticon is more badass than anything that Starscream, Bonecrusher or Megatron did in the first film. Not that what those three Decepticons did weren’t cool. Starscream taking out those F-22’s... Bonecrusher ramming through that bus... Megatron ripping Jazz in half... Those moments rocked.



The next trailer should be released with J.J. Abrams' Star Trek in May. Hopefully.

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.
All images courtesy of Paramount / Dreamworks

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Artist concepts of proposed missions to the Jupiter system (left) and the Saturn system (right).
NASA / JPL

ONWARDS TO THE OUTER PLANETS... Last week, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced plans to move forward with a mission that would send a spacecraft back to Jupiter to study it and its four largest moons in 2026, and another flight that would go to Saturn and visit its moons Titan and Enceladus. Why am I excited about this? Well... Because space exploration rules, and something like this.

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NASA and ESA Prioritize Outer Planet Missions (Press Release)

At a meeting in Washington last week, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and European Space Agency officials decided to continue pursuing studies of a mission to Jupiter and its four largest moons, and to plan for another potential mission to visit Saturn's largest moon Titan and Enceladus.

Both of these proposed missions are grand endeavors that set the stage for future planetary science research. These outer planet flagship missions could eventually answer questions about how our solar system formed and whether life exists elsewhere in the universe.

The missions, called the Europa Jupiter System Mission and the Titan Saturn System Mission, are the result of NASA and ESA merging their separate mission concepts. NASA originally studied four mission concepts during 2007, which were narrowed down to two proposals in 2008. One finalist was a Europa Orbiter to explore that icy moon of Jupiter and its subsurface water ocean. The other was a Titan Orbiter to visit the Saturn moon. Independently, in 2007, ESA also initiated a competition to select its flagship mission for the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 slot of the ESA scientific programme. Two finalists, called Laplace and Tandem, were selected by ESA for further study. Laplace was a set of spacecraft to orbit Jupiter and eventually orbit and land on Europa. Tandem was a set of spacecraft intended to orbit Titan and explore its surface, after also exploring the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

NASA and ESA engineers and scientists carefully studied both potential missions in preparation for last week's meeting. Based on these and other studies as well as stringent independent assessment reviews, NASA and ESA agreed that the Europa Jupiter System Mission, called Laplace in Europe, was the most technically feasible to do first. However, ESA's Solar System Working Group concluded the scientific merits of this mission and a Titan Saturn System Mission could not be separated. The group recommended, and NASA agreed, that both missions should move forward for further study and implementation.

"The decision means a win, win situation for all parties involved," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Although the Jupiter system mission has been chosen to proceed to an earlier flight opportunity, a Saturn system mission clearly remains a high priority for the science community."

Both agencies will need to undertake several more steps and detailed studies before officially moving forward.

"This joint endeavour is a wonderful new exploration challenge and will be a landmark of 21st Century planetary science," said David Southwood, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration. "What I am especially sure of is that the cooperation across the Atlantic that we have had so far and we see in the future, between America and Europe, NASA and ESA, and in our respective science communities is absolutely right. Let's get to work."

New Exploration Challenges at Jupiter and Saturn

The Europa Jupiter System Mission would use two robotic orbiters to conduct unprecedentedly detailed studies of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and its moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. NASA would build one orbiter, initially named Jupiter Europa. ESA would build the other orbiter, initially named Jupiter Ganymede. The probes would launch in 2020 on two separate launch vehicles from different launch sites. The orbiters would reach the Jupiter system in 2026 and spend at least three years conducting research.

Europa has a surface of ice, and scientists theorize it has an ocean of water beneath that could provide a home for living things. Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, is the only moon known to have its own internally generated magnetic field and is suspected to have a deep undersurface water ocean. Scientists long have sought to understand the causes of the magnetic field. Callisto's surface is extremely heavily cratered and ancient, providing a clear indication of a record of events from the early history of the Solar System. Finally, Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system.

The orbiters would spend nearly a year orbiting Europa and Ganymede. NASA's probe would investigate whether Europa might harbor life, and ESA's spacecraft would orbit Ganymede to conduct investigations of the surface and interior of this satellite, to better understand the formation and evolution of the Jovian system.

The Titan Saturn System Mission would consist of a NASA orbiter and an ESA lander and research balloon. The complex mission faces several technical challenges requiring significant study and technology development. NASA will continue studying and developing those technologies. Future work also will provide important input into the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey by the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, which will serve as a roadmap for new NASA planetary missions to begin after 2013. On the European side, the interested community of scientists will have to re-submit the Titan mission at the next opportunity for mission proposals in the Cosmic Vision programme in the years to come.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will manage NASA's contributions to the projects for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. ESA's Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration will manage the European contribution to the Jupiter mission.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Artist's concept of the DAWN spacecraft flying past Mars.
NASA / JPL

DAWN Update... At 4:28 PM, Pacific Time today, the Dawn spacecraft passed within 341 miles of Mars...as part of a gravity assist maneuver that will help the NASA probe remain on-course during its journey to asteroid Vesta, which Dawn will arrive at in August of 2011.

Dawn's position near Mars, as of 8:20 PM, PST on February 17, 2009.
ABOVE: Dawn's position near Mars, as of 8:20 PM, PST on February 17, 2009. (Where is Dawn
now?
)
- NASA / JPL


In other news, two other spacecraft are on schedule to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) within the next three months: The Kepler spacecraft and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Kepler was just attached to its third stage booster yesterday, and is set to be transported to Launch Complex 17-B at CCAFS on February 19, to be mated to the Delta II rocket that will ferry Kepler into space. Lift-off is scheduled for March 5.

LEFT PIC: Artist's concept of the KEPLER spacecraft.  RIGHT PIC: The Kepler spacecraft after it is attached to its third stage booster at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
NASA / Troy Cryder

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived in Florida on February 13, and is currently undergoing check-ups at a processing facility in Titusville before being prepped for launch. Lift-off for LRO (onboard an Atlas V rocket) is currently scheduled for April 24...but may change in response to scheduling issues between NASA, the U.S. Air Force and United Launch Alliance, the organization responsible for conducting rocket launches at CCAFS (as well as at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California). If the launch of LRO is delayed, then it will take off no earlier than May 7.

LEFT PIC: Artist's concept of the LUNAR RECONNAISSANCE ORBITER.  RIGHT PIC: The LRO spacecraft undergoing check-up at its Florida processing facility.
NASA / Jim Grossman

There’s a second spacecraft that will hitch a ride with LRO during launch to the Moon, and it’s called the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). LCROSS is currently en route to Florida (via cargo truck) after being shipped from its manufacturing facility (at Northrop Grumman) in Redondo Beach, California yesterday. For info on what LCROSS will do at the Moon, go here.

LEFT PIC: Artist's concept of LCROSS at the Moon.  RIGHT PIC: LCROSS undergoing tests inside a thermal vacuum chamber.
NASA / Northrop Grumman

Monday, February 16, 2009

GRAN TORINO... Two days ago, I finally got around to seeing the much-acclaimed Clint Eastwood film. While it definitely didn’t deserve the Oscar nominations that some people thought it got robbed of (though Eastwood probably could’ve gotten a Best Actor nom), it was still an exceptional film. It was interesting to see Eastwood pretty much play a bigoted version of Dirty Harry ("swamprats", "zipperhead", "gook" and "nip"... Just a few of a couple of racist terms that Eastwood’s character constantly spouted out with hilarity. And yes, I’m Asian). The biggest highlight of the movie, for me, was the finale. Gran Torino has been out since last Christmas, so I guess I can talk about the ending now. The film could’ve concluded through one of two ways: 1.) Eastwood does go all-out as Dirty Harry and blasts away those Hmong gangmembers, or 2.) He dies of lung cancer. Fortunately, it was Number 3... A nice little twist where Eastwood ultimately sacrifices himself so an Asian family can live normally, despite the fact Eastwood’s character took the lives of many Asians when he served in the Korean War. Eastwood and screenwriters Nick Schenk and Dave Johannson definitely deserves kudos for finding a way to make Gran Torino end on an unpredictable and satisfying note.

In terms of negative critique, a big minus for the film was the acting by pretty much everyone else in Gran Torino...particularly the Asian cast. Unlike Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire, Bee Vang (who played Thao Vang Lor) doesn’t exactly deserve an award for his performance...especially for the scene where Eastwood locks him up inside his basement. Ahney Her (who played Thao’s sister, Sue) was also kinda flat in her performance. While it was an emotional scene when she walked into that front door bruised-up and bloodied, her line delivery in other parts of the movie could’ve been better. Other than this, Gran Torino was a fine film.

No wait— One more critique: What was up with Clint Eastwood singing at the beginning of the end credits?? Please...don’t be like Joaquin Phoenix and decide to become a music artist, Eastwood. Stick to acting. That’s all.

Clint Eastwood plays a Korean War veteran who befriends his Hmong neighbors in GRAN TORINO.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

JUST LIKE IN THE OLD DAYS... How cool is it that Shaq and Kobe won a trophy together for one last time...after helping the West whup the East’s ass, 146-119, in today’s NBA All-Star Game? Of course, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak would have to be smoking weed from the same bong that Michael Phelps used if he entertained the thought of the Big Whatever returning to Los Angeles. Fortunately, it’s more than safe to say that that’s not gonna happen. In the meantime, let’s celebrate like it’s 2000-’02. If you’re a Lakers fan, that is. Okay let’s not.

Co-MVPs Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant of the Western Conference hold up the trophy after the West defeated the East in the 58th NBA All-Star Game, on February 15, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images

Friday, February 13, 2009

CGI concept of The Fallen.

REVENGE OF THE FALLEN Update... This has been a good week for Transformers fans, what with the title character known as The Fallen being confirmed for the movie with leaked images of its toy figure, as well as a CGI concept shown above. Also, the new teaser trailer that will be shown in front of Friday the 13th (out in theaters today) was leaked onto the web last night. Obviously can’t wait till the official version gets released. Michael Bay said a few weeks back that the teaser will be released online a week from now, but I read from other sites—too lazy to link to them here—that it will get released this Monday (the 16th). I’m hoping it’s the latter. Bay did say before he started production on the film that he’s gonna spread misinformation about Transformers 2...


The Fallen action figure.

Watch the new trailer before it um, gets taken down by Paramount/Dreamworks:



Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen comes out in theaters on June 24...not June 26.

(I know... If this were a term paper for school, I'd totally have gotten an 'F' for complete lack of citations here. Oh well.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Posing in front of space shuttle Discovery on its pad at Launch Complex 39A.

I’M BACK! I was gonna post a Blog after I got home from Florida last night, but was too tired to after spending more than 5 hours on the plane after it had to constantly veer away from bad weather that plagued the southern U.S. There were thunderstorms over Houston, Texas, and overlooking the fact it was cool to watch lightning flash every other second inside the clouds from the safety of my passenger cabin, it was also pretty freaky when the plane flew right next to these storm cells (which lingered off to the starboard side of the aircraft, where my seat was located). Add to this the fact there was considerable turbulence when the airliner flew through clear skies above New Mexico and Arizona. My flight landed at LAX around 9:49 PM, PST (original arrival time was 9:29 PM, PST), but I didn’t get home till a little before midnight. I didn’t go to bed till 2:30 AM, but yes, I was too tired to post a Blog.

Posing in front of Launch Complex 39B as it continues to be modified for NASA's Constellation Program.

Anyways, in terms of the trip itself, it was awesome! Completely successful. I got the pics I wanted, in front of space shuttle Discovery as it continues to get prepped for its Feb. 22 launch (on mission STS-119) from Launch Complex 39A, inside the Space Station Processing Facility and outside the mammoth Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). I also took photos of LC-39B as modifications continue to be done to it for the Constellation Program.

Posing in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center.

The weather was great! It was the complete opposite from the wind and downpour that thwarted the final days of my trip to Florida last August, thanks to Tropical Storm Fay (just click on the labels near the bottom of this journal entry for more info). I should hopefully have pics posted on my official website before, um, the end of this month. But seeing as how I took more than 600 photos during my 4-day trip, it’s gonna be pretty interesting to see which images I actually upload to my page. Stay tuned.

Space shuttle Discovery as seen from the LC-39 Observation Gantry, 3 miles away.

Oh, and one more thing... I bought some astronaut ice cream when I was at KSC. Pretty delicious.


Astronaut ice cream.  Yum.

Friday, February 06, 2009

TOMORROW, I’m travelling back to Florida after going there last August. Will be heading to Kennedy Space Center on Florida's Space Coast (its east coast, that is). Be back on February 10th!


An aerial view of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA... Just thought I’d post up screenshots from the Super Bowl ad for this upcoming, um, blockbuster. I was originally gonna post these on Sunday, but the teaser for Transformers 2 itself accidentally(?) leaked online Saturday night and, well, if it was a choice between posting images of Sienna Miller appearing hot as the black-leathered Baroness or Megan Fox appearing hot just looking scared (here and here), I’d choose Megan first.

G.I. Joe gets released in theaters on August 7.

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA.
G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA.
G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA.
G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA.
Images courtesy of Paramount

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

NOTE TO THE LAKERS... Next season, if you’re playing a game against the Memphis Grizzlies in January, and he hasn't been re-injured (yet?), have Andrew Bynum sit out the entire game. Not to be superstitious or anything. That is all.

8 to 12 weeks... We'll see.

Kobe Bryant watches as Andrew Bynum writhes in pain on the floor, after the two collide during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on January 31, 2009.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The logo for Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa Bay, Florida.

SUPER BOWL 43... In case you didn’t know yet ‘cause you’re a non-sports-loving Yank or you live in Afghanistan, today is the Big Game between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. For once, I’m rooting for the underdogs in a sports championship game: GO CARDINALS! The Game starts at 3:28 PM, Pacific Time, on NBC. (Yes, that’s the official time.)

UPDATE (8:37 PM, PST): Steelers: 27, Cardinals: 23. Darn it.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger celebrates with the NFL Trophy after his team won 27-23 against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, on February 1, 2009.

If you’re not a football (that is, the one that involves using a ball made out of pigskin—actually, it’s cowhide leather—and not the one that has the announcer yelling, "GOOOOOOOAAAAAL!") fan, but a die-hard movie buff, TV spots for a couple of anticipated summer blockbusters will be shown during the Game. Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Up, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will have ads shown. In terms of Transformers 2, this will be the first time that the public will actually get an official glimpse at footage from the upcoming film. The ad for Transformers 2 will be shown a couple of minutes into the 3rd quarter, according to TF2 director Michael Bay.



Of course, if you can't wait for the 3rd quarter of the Game to see the TF2 trailer, then by all means, click above! I like making screenshots...


TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN.
Images courtesy of Paramount / Dreamworks