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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Sky Shuttles of CIRCUS CIRCUS Hotel in Las Vegas.

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... Remember back in the day when Circus Circus was one of the most popular hotels on the Las Vegas Strip? I do...back in the early '90s. Anyways, just thought I’d post these two pics of why I enjoyed traveling to Sin City when I was young: Getting to ride on these so-called "Sky Shuttles" at Circus Circus. In the image above are shuttles heading to and departing from the Circus Circus Manor. I remember that there was a Pink Panther stuffed animal sitting on a chair inside the Sky Shuttles’ control room at the Manor. I wonder if that stuffed animal is still there? Pretty amusing.

So when was the last time I went to Las Vegas, you ask? Back in 2006...for a family reunion. Would I go back to Vegas, you ask again? Well— I’ve outgrown playing video games at the arcades, and I don’t gamble. And I don't have mad cash to spend at the Moonlite BunnyRanch (which is actually located in Carson City, Nevada)...so not anytime soon, haha. Oh, and if you want me to get artsy-fartsy in this Blog, I am no longer amused by Sin City’s postmodern sensibility. If I wanted to see the skyscrapers of New York, I’d travel to that city again (I last visited the Big Apple in 2006 as well). The Luxor Hotel was cool to stay at (my family booked a room there back in 1996), but I'd rather travel to Egypt (um, just not right now...in case you've been watching the news lately) to see the real Pyramids. And if I wanted to see the actual Eiffel Tower, I’d...look at a photo of it online. That is all.

The Sky Shuttles of CIRCUS CIRCUS Hotel in Las Vegas.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The crew of mission STS-51L.

25 YEARS AGO TODAY... The 7 astronauts of space shuttle Challenger lost their lives 73 seconds into flight on a cold January day. 44 years ago yesterday, the 3 astronauts of Apollo 1 perished in a horrific fire during a ground launch rehearsal at Cape Canaveral, Florida. This Tuesday, it will be 8 years since the crew of space shuttle Columbia was lost during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere over Texas. May all these folks rest in peace. Hopefully, space shuttle Discovery will be launched as scheduled on February 24—and commence what will (hopefully once more) be a safe and successful conclusion to the space shuttle program (the flights of Endeavour and Atlantis will follow that of Discovery...in April and June, respectively). This particular era of American human spaceflight, which will have lasted a little over 30 years, deserves an upbeat and memorable ending. It would obviously be a tribute to the 17 men and women who sacrificed their lives in the name of exploration. Not to sound clichéd or anything...it's the ultimate truth.

The crew of mission STS-107.

The crew of Apollo 1.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A self-portrait of the IKAROS solar sail, with Venus in the background, taken on December 8, 2010 (Japan Standard Time).
JAXA / JSPEC

IKAROS Update... According to a blog posted by The Planetary Society today, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) IKAROS solar sail finally completed its primary mission that started last May and culminated with a flyby of Venus last month. Shown above is a self-portrait of IKAROS, with Venus in the background, that was taken on December 8, 2010 (Japan Standard Time)...the day the solar sail flew within 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers) of the greenhouse planet.

According to IKAROS’ mission blog (whose text is in Japanese... It can be translated using Google), the solar sail is currently 77 million miles from the Sun, 77 million miles from the Earth and now 10 million miles from Venus. Since it relies on centrifugal force to keep its sail fully deployed at all times, IKAROS is currently rotating at 2.1 revolutions per minute. That is all.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) watches as Ariadne (Ellen Page) manipulates the dream world around them in INCEPTION.

83rd ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS... Glad to see that Inception got major props (except for Best Director...sorry Christopher Nolan) this year, though with 12 Oscar nominations, methinks that The King’s Speech will win Best Picture next month. Nope— I never saw that film. In the wake of him preparing to don the Bat cowl once more for The Dark Knight Rises when it begins filming later this spring, it would be cool to see Christian Bale win for Best Supporting Actor. But with Geoffrey Rush of The King’s Speech up for nomination in the same category, that probably won’t be the case (despite the fact Bale won the trophy at the Golden Globe Awards almost two weeks ago). I hope Natalie Portman will win her first Oscar for her performance in Black Swan. No, I didn’t see that film either. I’m simply rooting for Queen Amidala to have a great awards season, haha. Props to Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld in getting nominations for True Grit. Great movie... The ending could’ve been better though.

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) and Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) take a rest during their trip to find and capture the man who killed Ross' father in TRUE GRIT.

I'm surprised to see that five movies (Alice in Wonderland, Hairy Pothead 7, Hereafter, Inception and Iron Man 2) are up for nomination in the Best Visual Effects category this year. If only this were the case at the Oscars in 2006 (which, like every other year before this one, had only 3 flicks up for Visual FX nomination)... Maybe then, Revenge of the Sith would've been considered for the coveted special effects prize that year. Though this wouldn’t have prevented the first Transformers movie from being robbed of the Best Visual FX trophy in 2008 (The Golden Freakin’ Compass won it). Oh well. I think Inception will win the award. If not—then Iron Man 2. Too bad Jon Favreau won’t direct Iron Man 3... That is all.

Lt. Col. James Rhodes dons the pre-War Machine Mark II suit in IRON MAN 2.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Super Bowl XLV.

IT'S OFFICIAL: I'll be rooting for the Green Bay Packers when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Arlington, Texas two weeks from tonight. Of course, considering the fact that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be playing for his third NFL championship ring at Cowboys Stadium, it's safe to say that the Packers will be the underdogs on February 6. And I usually don't root for the underdogs. Oh well.

The Green Bay Packers' Sam Shields heads for the end zone after making an interception during the Packers' 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game, on January 23, 2011.
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A composite photo of the NanoSail-D spacecraft in low Earth orbit.
NASA

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER... Deployment was originally suppose to occur early last month.

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NASA's First Solar Sail NanoSail-D Deploys in Low-Earth Orbit (Press Release - January 21)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Friday, Jan. 21 at 10 a.m. EST, engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite deployed its 100-square-foot polymer sail in low-Earth orbit and is operating as planned. Actual deployment occurred on Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. EST and was confirmed today with beacon packets data received from NanoSail-D and additional ground-based satellite tracking assets. In addition, the NanoSail-D orbital parameter data set shows an appropriate change which is consistent with sail deployment.

"This is tremendous news and the first time NASA has deployed a solar sail in low-Earth orbit," said Dean Alhorn, NanoSail-D principal investigator and aerospace engineer at the Marshall Center. "To get to this point is an incredible accomplishment for our small team and I can't thank the amateur ham operator community enough for their help in tracking NanoSail-D. Their assistance was invaluable. In particular, the Marshall Amateur Radio Club was the very first to hear the radio beacon. It was exciting!"

NanoSail-D will continue to send out beacon signals until the onboard batteries are expended and can be found at 437.270 MHz. It can be tracked on the NanoSail-D dashboard at: http://nanosaild.engr.scu.edu/dashboard.htm.

It is estimated that NanoSail-D will remain in low-Earth orbit between 70 and 120 days, depending on atmospheric conditions. NanoSail-D is designed to demonstrate deployment of a compact solar sail boom technology. This research demonstration could lead to further advances of this alternative solar sail propulsion and the critical need for new de-orbit technologies. This ejection experiment also demonstrates a spacecraft’s ability, like the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, to eject a nano-satellite from a micro-satellite, while avoiding re-contact with the primary satellite.

"This is a significant accomplishment for both the FASTSAT and NanoSail-D projects. This accomplishment validates that we've met another of our primary mission objectives -- successfully ejecting a nanosatellite from an orbiting microsatellite," said Mark Boudreaux, FASTSAT project manager at the Marshall Center. "This is another significant accomplishment for our inter Agency, Industry and Governmental FASTSAT-HSV01 partnership team."

Source: NASA.Gov

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With its sail fully deployed, NanoSail-D undergoes processing before its launch on November 19, 2010.
NASA / Marshall Space Flight Center

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Delta IV-Heavy rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the first time on January 20, 2011.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

PHOTOS OF THE DAY... Today’s entry is devoted to yesterday’s launch of the Delta IV-Heavy rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. If you read this recent post (high-five if you did), then you’ll know that the launch pad the Delta IV (whose payload was a top-secret spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office) lifted off from was originally intended for space shuttles being sent into polar orbit for military missions. As mentioned in the entry I linked to above, this plan was scrapped after the Challenger disaster in 1986. Too bad. As for yesterday’s launch (which took place at 1:10 PM, PST), this was the first time ever that the Delta IV—which is currently the largest unmanned rocket (or Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle in techno-jargon) in the U.S. inventory—took flight from the California coastline. Here is a video of the launch:



Living in Southern California, I would’ve driven 100+ miles north to view this historic moment for um, America’s military space program, but I had errands to do around the time of launch yesterday. That, and my car will be 13-years-old this year (yes—it’s Japanese-made, but still...) and I currently can’t afford to spend money on something like a rental car right now. I probably shouldn’t have broadcast that here. Oh well.

A Delta IV-Heavy rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the first time on January 20, 2011.
Pat Corkery / United Launch Alliance

A Delta IV-Heavy rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the first time on January 20, 2011.
Gene Blevins / LA Daily News

A Delta IV-Heavy rocket soars skyward after being launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on January 20, 2011.
TitanFan - NASASpaceflight.com

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bane.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Part 2... I didn’t want to upstage yesterday’s news about Anne Hathaway being cast in The Dark Knight Rises, so I just thought that I’d post a separate journal entry about Inception's Tom Hardy officially playing Bane in next year’s Bat flick. While it’s too bad that he won’t play the Black Mask as mentioned in an earlier Blog, I see a lot of possibilities plot-wise in how Bane could be portrayed in Batman 3. In fact, I myself speculated about how Christopher Nolan could approach this villain back in summer of 2008. Even a recent Entertainment Weekly article had the same ideas that I did...with the proposal that Bane become the new head of the League of Shadows (which was led by Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul before he bit the dust in Batman Begins) in Batman 3. What’s missing from this scenario is Talia al Ghul (with Minka Kelly playing her, haha) being at Bane’s side as he wreaks havoc on Gotham City. Also missing, of course, from the characters that will show up in The Dark Knight Rises is Azrael himself. Oh well. What are the chances that Nolan will make up for this omission by having Bruce Wayne don armor that will come close to resembling the blue and gold mechanical suit that Jean-Paul Valley uses to defeat Bane at the conclusion of 1993's Knightfall comic book series? I hope the chances are good.

Azrael-Batman soars over Gotham.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Dark Knight.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Part 1... I just read online that Anne Hathaway has officially been cast as Catwoman in next year’s Batman flick. Niiiice. Considering that Christopher Nolan was able to turn The Joker into an Oscar-winning role for the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, I have absolutely no doubt that Nolan has great things in store for Selina Kyle and her feline alter-ego in The Dark Knight Rises. Of course, I’m still hoping that the Black Mask will appear in Nolan’s third Bat flick. That is all.

Anne Hathaway will play Catwoman in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Warehouses in the distance.

BACK TO SQUARE ONE... So anyways, I recently quit a job that I only had for three days at a warehouse close to my home. I got laid off from my previous employer (for reasons that I won’t divulge here) almost two weeks ago, and quickly took this job after I applied for it last Tuesday. So why did I call it quits at that warehouse, you ask? Well for starters, I found out that it’s not my kind of work. I did blue-collared jobs in the past, but this one required a lot of strenuous physical activity (and my last two jobs called for me to either just stand there and look official for hours at a time, or work a computer. But at least I got to wear a nice business suit—hence the 'look official' part, haha)...such as loading and unloading hundreds of boxes from cargo trucks; sorting these boxes according to numerical designations written on their side; picking up these boxes again, placing them on wooden pallets and then using so-called "pallet jacks" to tow these boxes—which are now heavily stacked—to the back of the warehouse. Fortunately, the company I worked for dealt with distributing clothing goods...so the boxes weren’t that heavy (for the most part). As for other reasons why I left that job? There were a gripload of factors.

One very simple reason why I quit that warehouse gig? I totally felt out-of-place there. I live in Southern California, FYI, and being Asian; I obviously felt that I didn’t belong inside a building where the majority of workers were Latinos. In fact, 99% of the employees at this warehouse were Hispanic [this is actually a derogatory term for Latinos (according to a class I took in college like, 12 years ago)...but saying Latinos in two consecutive sentences feels a little repetitive...except when they’re in parentheses haha], 0.9% were Caucasian (they were obviously company managers who manned cushy computer workstations inside the warehouse) and 0.1% was Asian (which would be me). And not to sound racist or anything (too late?), but you know that I’m in a bad situation when—inside a warehouse filled with hundreds of Latinos in which the majority of them are tattooed high school drop-outs who are paying child support and don’t speak fluent English or no English at all—it’s the lone Asian with a college degree who was constantly sweeping the floor with a broom. Yea, NOT COOL. On the plus-side though, you’ll be pleased to know that Latinos have a good work ethic and that illegal immigrants from Mexico should receive some slack in the next U.S. election. Yes, I’m being serious. Who else is gonna do the slave labor? I KID.

(Another reason why this job wasn’t good? It was pretty much a sausage-fest at that warehouse. Apart from middle-aged women who were working in other areas inside the building, the workforce that was unloading trucks consisted of all dudes...plus some overweight she-male who was part-Latino/African-American. The one cute Latino girl—who appeared to be slightly younger than me—in the company worked in the Human Resources office...which is a 15-minute-plus drive from the warehouse I was assigned to.)

The reason why I got this gig in the first place was because it was offered to me right when I was still filling out my job application last Tuesday. I was still filling out the form when a lady from Human Resources immediately walked up to me and asked me to show up at 7 AM the next day with work clothes on. Having been unemployed for 3 days before that, I knew it was too good to be true that I could be hired so soon after I lost my previous job (considering that one of my close high school friends, as well as one of my siblings, hasn’t had a full-time job for about 2 years now). SO WORD TO THE WISE: When someone wants to employ you right when you’re still applying for the job, watch out! The work is most likely so crappy that they’ll hire anyone who bothered to drive to the company’s main office in the first place.

All I know is; I hope that I don’t feel any kind of regret for ditching this job anytime in the future. I personally call this emotion misplaced nostalgia: You start getting sentimental about a past event even though you know that it was a crappy situation in real-life. I’d be angry with myself if I had that "would've, could've, should've" type of regret months from now. To apply another analogy to this: It’s like when you’re dealing with someone who constantly angers and annoys the CRAP out of you. When you finally snap at them, you start feeling bad for doing so afterwards. That person saw it coming and most likely deserved it, but you still feel bad for getting mad at them. It’s like this warehouse job. I think it’s a s***y job now, and I better think it’s a s***ty job in the distant future. ‘Nuff said.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES... Check out the newest trailer to this March's alien invasion film (starring Aaron Eckhart, Bridget Moynahan, Michelle Rodriguez and others) below. All I can say is, I AM STOKED to watch Battle: Los Angeles when it comes out in theaters less than two months from now. Hopefully, the actual movie will have that trippy song ("The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky Turned Black" by Icelandic musician Johann Johannsson) that's been played in the background of this clip as well as the teaser trailer that made its debut in front of the film Skyline last November. I saw the newest trailer in front of The Green Hornet after I watched it at an AMC theater yesterday (I might review Hornet on this Blog. Might). That is all.



The obligatory screencaps from B:LA:

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A truck carrying NASA's Glory spacecraft arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on January 11, 2011.
NASA

CALIFORNIA GLORY...

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NASA's Glory Satellite Arrives At Vandenberg Air Force Base for Launch (Press Release)

The latest Earth-observing satellite developed by NASA, called Glory, arrived Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in preparation for a Feb. 23 launch. Glory was transported by truck from Orbital Sciences Corporation’s satellite design, production and testing facility in Dulles, Va.

Glory is NASA's next Earth-observing research mission that will improve our understanding of how the sun and airborne particles called aerosols affect Earth's climate. It will join the Afternoon Constellation or "A-train" of polar-orbiting satellites, a group that includes the Aqua and Aura satellites. Glory will carry two primary instruments, the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) and the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM). APS will measure aerosols in the Earth's atmosphere and will take advantage of the A-train orbit by gathering coincident data with other atmospheric science instruments. TIM will point towards the sun and continue the 32-year data record of the sun’s brightness, or total solar irradiance.

"The scientific knowledge gained from Glory will have a significant impact on our understanding of natural and human influences on climate," said Hal Maring, Glory program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

On Jan. 18, Stage 0 of Orbital’s Taurus XL 3110 four-stage rocket will be moved to the launch pad and hoisted into position. Stages 1, 2 and 3 will join stage 0 on the pad on Jan 25. The Glory spacecraft will be enclosed in the Taurus XL payload fairing on Feb. 4-5 and transported to the launch pad to be mated to the third stage of the rocket the following day. Once the spacecraft is integrated with stages 1, 2, and 3, the entire unit will be rotated to vertical and hoisted atop stage 0 on Feb. 15.

On Feb. 23, Glory is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 576-E at 2:09 a.m. PST (5:09 a.m. EST). After launch, mission operators will conduct verification tests for 30 days and then begin normal data collection for a period of at least three years. Glory will fly in a low-Earth orbit of 438 miles (705 km) altitude, which is about the distance between Boston and Washington.

Glory is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Launch management is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Orbital is responsible for the Glory satellite’s design, manufacture, payload integration, and testing, as well as spacecraft operations conducted from its Mission Operations Complex in Dulles, Va. Orbital is also responsible for the mission’s launch service with its Taurus XL rocket. The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado provided and will operate the TIM instrument. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in El Segundo, Calif., provided the APS instrument, which will be operated by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An artist's concept of the Glory spacecraft in Earth orbit.
NASA

Monday, January 10, 2011

An artist's concept of the exoplanet Kepler-10b.
NASA / Kepler Mission / Dana Berry

KEPLER Update...

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NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers Its First Rocky Planet (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Kepler mission confirmed the discovery of its first rocky planet, named Kepler-10b. Measuring 1.4 times the size of Earth, it is the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system.

The discovery of this planet, called an exoplanet, is based on more than eight months of data collected by the spacecraft from May 2009 to early January 2010.

"All of Kepler's best capabilities have converged to yield the first solid evidence of a rocky planet orbiting a star other than our sun," said Natalie Batalha, Kepler's deputy science team lead at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and primary author of a paper on the discovery accepted by the Astrophysical Journal. "The Kepler team made a commitment in 2010 about finding the telltale signatures of small planets in the data, and it's beginning to pay off."

Kepler's ultra-precise photometer measures the tiny decrease in a star's brightness that occurs when a planet crosses in front of it. The size of the planet can be derived from these periodic dips in brightness. The distance between the planet and the star is calculated by measuring the time between successive dips as the planet orbits the star.

Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the planet's surface. However, since it orbits once every 0.84 days, Kepler-10b is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun and not in the habitable zone.

Kepler-10 was the first star identified that could potentially harbor a small transiting planet, placing it at the top of the list for ground-based observations with the W.M. Keck Observatory 10-meter telescope in Hawaii. Scientists waiting for a signal to confirm Kepler-10b as a planet were not disappointed. Keck was able to measure tiny changes in the star's spectrum, called Doppler shifts, caused by the telltale tug exerted by the orbiting planet on the star.

"The discovery of Kepler 10-b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own," said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise of many more to come."

Knowledge of the planet is only as good as the knowledge of the star it orbits. Because Kepler-10 is one of the brighter stars being targeted by Kepler, scientists were able to detect high-frequency variations in the star's brightness generated by stellar oscillations, or starquakes. This analysis allowed scientists to pin down Kepler-10b's properties.

There is a clear signal in the data arising from light waves that travel within the interior of the star. Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium scientists use the information to better understand the star, just as earthquakes are used to learn about Earth's interior structure. As a result of this analysis, Kepler-10 is one of the most well-characterized planet-hosting stars in the universe.

That's good news for the team studying Kepler-10b. Accurate stellar properties yield accurate planet properties. In the case of Kepler-10b, the picture that emerges is of a rocky planet with a mass 4.6 times that of Earth and with an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimeter -- similar to that of an iron dumbbell.

Ames manages Kepler's ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes the Kepler science data.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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An artist's concept of the exoplanet Kepler-10b orbiting its star.
NASA / Kepler Mission / Dana Berry

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A nighttime shot of space shuttle Enterprise sitting atop its SLC-6 launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
U.S. Air Force

WHAT COULD’VE BEEN... SpaceflightNow.com has posted up some neat photos of the prototype space shuttle Enterprise sitting atop a launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, back in 1985. Prior to the Challenger disaster, the Department of Defense planned to launch the shuttle from the U.S. West Coast on military flights...but that was scrapped after the 1986 tragedy. Unlike launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, where shuttles and other spacecraft are sent up into equatorial (or west-to-east) orbit, the ascent of the shuttle after a Vandenberg liftoff would bring it into a polar (or south-to-north) orbit...which is the orbit that all satellites launched from the California airbase are sent to. Today, the pad, technically known as Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6), serves as the launch site of the Delta IV-Heavy rocket—which will fly its very first mission from the West Coast on January 20. The Delta IV’s four previous launches were from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Space shuttle Enterprise arrives at SLC-6 in California's Vandenberg AFB.
U.S. Air Force

All I can say is...had the shuttle been launched from Vandenberg AFB as originally envisioned, I wouldn’t have to spend a thousand dollars to fly to Florida to see the orbiter at KSC instead. Then again, unlike at KSC—where I can take a tour (the 'Up-Close Tour' to be exact) to see the shuttle’s launch pad from as close as a mile away—there is no visitor complex at Vandenberg. Nor is there any hilly terrain (which would obscure the shuttle at liftoff) in Florida like there is in Ventura County (where Vandenberg is situated) in California. Oh well. I like traveling out-of-state anyway... When I have the money to do so, that is.

Space shuttle Enterprise is driven through rocky terrain at Vandenberg AFB in California.
William G. Hartenstein

Space shuttle Enterprise is being transported to SLC-6 at Vandenderg AFB in California.
William G. Hartenstein

Space shuttle Enterprise arrives at SLC-6 in California's Vandenberg AFB.
U.S. Air Force

Space shuttle Enterprise is about to be attached to its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters at Vandenberg AFB in California.
U.S. Air Force

Space shuttle Enterprise sits atop its SLC-6 launch pad at Vandenberg AFB in California.
U.S. Air Force

Space shuttle Enterprise sits atop its SLC-6 launch pad at Vandenberg AFB in California.
U.S. Air Force

A nighttime shot of space shuttle Enterprise sitting atop its SLC-6 launch pad at Vandenberg AFB in California.
U.S. Air Force

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

PHOTO OF THE DAY... Check out this awesome, unaltered pic of Saturn's moon Enceladus (which may harbor a subsurface water ocean) with the planet's rings in the background. The image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft...which celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its flyby of Jupiter last month. Cassini flew past the Jovian world on December 30, 2000, and entered orbit around Saturn on July 1, 2004. Click here for more details on the photo.

An image, taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, of Saturn's moon Enceladus with the planet's rings in the background.
NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Optimus Prime returns in this July's TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!! Personally speaking, 2011 looks to be waaay more action-packed and exciting than last year...at least in terms of movies and space exploration. I’m looking forward to the releases of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Battle: Los Angeles, while filming for Christopher Nolan’s final flick in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight Rises is scheduled to start by this May. With regards to space exploration, NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover is scheduled for launch to the Red Planet this November, the Juno spacecraft is set to launch towards Jupiter this August, the twin GRAIL spacecraft are set to launch to the Moon this September, The Planetary Society’s Lightsail-1 spacecraft should fly by the end of this spring, the Glory spacecraft is set to launch on its long-awaited Earth science mission next month, the space shuttle fleet will finally retire by April (if the STS-135 mission that is scheduled for June doesn’t end up receiving funding by Congress), the Dawn spacecraft will arrive at its first destination—asteroid Vesta—this July, the MESSENGER spacecraft will enter orbit around Mercury in March, SpaceX will finally be sending its Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo might be ferrying paying passengers on suborbital flights as early as the end of this year.

An art concept of the LIGHTSAIL-1 spacecraft in Earth orbit.

On a more personal level, I should be able to pay off my credit card debt and close the account by this Spring...assuming my tax refund this year is as high as I hope it to be. Um, should I have divulged this information to y'all? Oh well.


Logo for the 2011 BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona.

January 2011
-Partial solar eclipse over much of the Eastern Hemisphere (Jan 4)
-BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona: Auburn vs. Oregon (Jan 10)
-The Green Hornet (Jan 14)
-68th Annual Golden Globe Awards (Jan 16)
-Season 10 premiere of American Idol (Jan 19)
-Launch of Japan’s second H-2 Transfer Vehicle to the International Space Station (Jan 20)

An art concept of NASA's GLORY spacecraft in Earth orbit.

February 2011
-Mission STS-133... Space shuttle Discovery (Feb 3)
-Super Bowl XLV in Texas (Feb 6)
-53rd Annual Grammy Awards (Feb 13)
-Launch of Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, to the International Space Station (Feb 15)
-53rd annual Daytona 500 in Florida (Feb 20)
-2011 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles, California (Feb 20)
-Launch of NASA’s Glory spacecraft into Earth orbit (Feb 23)
-83rd Academy Awards (Feb 27)

Michelle Rodriguez in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.

March 2011
-Apollo 18 (Mar 4)
-Rango (Mar 4)
-Battle: Los Angeles (Mar 11)
-2011 NCAA March Madness basketball tournament begins with Opening Round Game (Mar 15)
-NASA’s Messenger spacecraft enters orbit around Mercury (Mar 18)
-NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft crosses Uranus’ orbit (Mar 18)
-Conclusion of the March Madness tournament prior to the 2011 Final Four games in Texas (Mar 27)

A space shuttle lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

April 2011
-Mission STS-134... Space shuttle Endeavour (Apr 1)
-2011 NCAA Final Four basketball tournament in Houston, Texas (Apr 2)
-NCAA Final Four Championship Game in Houston, Texas (Apr 4)
-Scream 4 (Apr 15)
-Fast Five (Apr 29)
-NFL Draft (TBA)

Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES.

May 2011
-Thor (May 6)
-Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20)
-Start of the 2011 French Open tennis tournament (May 22)
-The Hangover 2 (May 26)
-95th Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (May 29)

A partial solar eclipse.

June 2011
-Partial solar eclipse in the Arctic (Jun 1)
-X-Men: First Class (Jun 3)
-Conclusion of the 2011 French Open (Jun 5)
-Super 8 (Jun 10)
-Total lunar eclipse; viewable in Africa, India and Middle East (Jun 15)
-Cars 2 (Jun 24)
-Mission STS-135... Space shuttle Atlantis (Jun 28 - Tentative)

An artist's rendition depicting NASA's DAWN spacecraft in the Asteroid Belt.

July 2011
-Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Jul 1)
-Partial solar eclipse off the coast of Antarctica (Jul 1)
-Start of the 2011 Tour de France (Jul 2)
-International Olympic Committee announces host city for 2018 Winter Olympics (Jul 6)
-NASA’s Dawn spacecraft enters orbit around asteroid Vesta (TBA)
-The planet Neptune completes its first full orbit since being discovered in 1846 (Jul 10)
-2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Phoenix, Arizona (Jul 12)
-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (Jul 15)
-Captain America: The First Avenger (Jul 22)
-Conclusion of the Tour de France (Jul 24)
-Cowboys and Aliens (Jul 29)

An art concept of NASA's JUNO spacecraft approaching Jupiter.

August 2011
-The Smurfs (Aug 3)
-Launch of NASA’s Juno spacecraft to Jupiter (Aug 5)
-Start of the XXVI World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain (Aug 15)
-Conclusion of World Youth Day (Aug 21)
-Start of the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Slovenia (Aug 28)
-Analog TV stations in Canada required to complete transition to digital (Aug 31)

An art concept of NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft orbiting the Moon.

September 2011
-Conclusion of the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Slovenia (Sep 4)
-Launch of NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft to the Moon (Sep 8)
-Start of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand (Sep 9)

A screenshot from the movie REAL STEEL.

October 2011
-Real Steel (Oct 7)
-First flight of SpaceX’s Dragon ship to the International Space Station (Oct 8)
-Paranormal Activity 3 (Oct 21)
-Conclusion of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand (Oct 23)

Engineers work on the CURIOSITY Mars Rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

November 2011
-The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Nov 18)
-Launch of NASA’s Curiosity rover to Mars (Nov 25)
-Partial solar eclipse in Antarctica (Nov 25)

A U.S. soldier in Iraq.

December 2011
-The Ides of March (TBA)
-SpaceX’s Dragon ship launches cargo to the International Space Station (Dec 7)
-Total lunar eclipse; visible in Asia, Australia and Alaska (Dec 10)
-Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus freighter launches to the International Space Station (Dec 14)
-Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Dec 16)
-A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (Dec 23)
-Launch of Russia’s Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module to the International Space Station (TBA)
-All United States troops are scheduled to leave Iraq (Dec 31)