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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Liancourt Rocks, a.k.a. Dokdo islands, in the Sea of Japan.

IMAGE OF THE DAY... Today’s entry goes to a group of small islets located in the Sea of Japan. Known as Liancourt Rocks, or Dokdo islands, I first became aware of this intriguing locale when I saw a photo of it on a freeway billboard sign near my hometown. I forgot what the ad on the billboard was about, specifically, but this pic totally sold me on visiting this island...if it was at all possible [considering the fact that Dokdo is home to only two residents: an octopus fisherman and his wife (according to Wikipedia, haha). South Korea also stations its Coast Guard there]. Along with this cool boat image that was taken in the Andaman Sea near Thailand, the Dokdo photo exemplifies the kind of awesome and exotic places to go to in Asia (including the Great Wall of China, the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia and Thailand’s massage parlo— Nevermind). If not now...then obviously in the future (as something I would mention on a bucket list).

The million dollar question is: Why hasn’t Liancourt Rocks been featured in any Hollywood movie or something? Possibly because it is a remote location...or maybe it’s because South Korea’s Coast Guard or that fisherman and his wife don’t want outsiders lurking on their property. Either way, I would try to convince them to have me shoot some kind of film project on the island. Most likely it would be a mystical kung-fu flick (like Big Trouble in Little China, Mortal Kombat or um, The Forbidden Kingdom)... Or a James Bond-ish spy movie where the protagonist (not necessarily British or American) finds out that a large nuclear weapons facility is hidden underneath Dokdo’s islets. Don't steal my ideas now. That is all.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON marquee at my local AMC theater.

PARMAN’S PAGE Update... Just to let you know, I recently created two additional Blogs on my website that will be devoted to manned spaceflight and movie news from here on out. If you want to read my inevitable review for Transformers: Dark of the Moon (which officially comes out in theaters this Wednesday), check out my Film Notes section. If you want to get info about the upcoming mission of Atlantis (which will be the final flight for the space shuttle program before it comes to an end next month), visit my Human Spaceflight Blog. For other news that have absolutely no relevance to the most of y'all, stay on this page. Carry on.

LINKS: Click here to read my movie review for TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (June 30)

Click here to read my launch blog for space shuttle Atlantis' STS-135 mission (July 8)

The crew of flight STS-135 pose for a photo op in front of space shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on June 22, 2011.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An image of asteroid Vesta that was taken by the Dawn spacecraft on June 20, 2011.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / PSI

DAWN Update...

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Dawn Nears Start of Year-Long Stay at Giant Asteroid (Press Release - June 23)

PASADENA, Calif. – NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to begin the first extended visit to a large asteroid. The mission expects to go into orbit around Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early August. Vesta resides in the main asteroid belt and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth.

"The spacecraft is right on target," said Robert Mase, Dawn project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We look forward to exploring this unknown world during Dawn's one-year stay in Vesta's orbit."

After traveling nearly four years and 1.7 billion miles (2.7 billion kilometers), Dawn is approximately 96,000 miles (155,000 kilometers) away from Vesta. When Vesta captures Dawn into its orbit on July 16, there will be approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between them. When orbit is achieved, they will be approximately 117 million miles (188 million kilometers) away from Earth.

After Dawn enters Vesta's orbit, engineers will need a few days to determine the exact time of capture. Unlike other missions where a dramatic, nail-biting propulsive burn results in orbit insertion around a planet, Dawn has been using its placid ion propulsion system to subtly shape its path for years to match Vesta's orbit around the sun.

Images from Dawn's framing camera, taken for navigation purposes, show the slow progress toward Vesta. They also show Vesta rotating about 65 degrees in the field of view. The images are about twice as sharp as the best images of Vesta from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, but the surface details Dawn will obtain are still a mystery.

"Navigation images from Dawn's framing camera have given us intriguing hints of Vesta, but we're looking forward to the heart of Vesta operations, when we begin officially collecting science data," said Christopher Russell, Dawn principal investigator, at UCLA. "We can't wait for Dawn to peel back the layers of time and reveal the early history of our solar system."

Dawn's three instruments are all functioning and appear to be properly calibrated. The visible and infrared mapping spectrometer, for example, has started to obtain images of Vesta that are larger than a few pixels in size. During the initial reconnaissance orbit, at approximately 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers), the spacecraft will get a broad overview of Vesta with color pictures and data in different wavelengths of reflected light. The spacecraft will move into a high-altitude mapping orbit, about 420 miles (680 kilometers) above the surface to systematically map the parts of Vesta's surface illuminated by the sun; collect stereo images to see topographic highs and lows; acquire higher-resolution data to map rock types at the surface; and learn more about Vesta's thermal properties.

Dawn then will move even closer, to a low-altitude mapping orbit approximately 120 miles (200 kilometers) above the surface. The primary science goals of this orbit are to detect the byproducts of cosmic rays hitting the surface and help scientists determine the many kinds of atoms there, and probe the protoplanet's internal structure. As Dawn spirals away from Vesta, it will pause again at the high-altitude mapping orbit. Because the sun's angle on the surface will have progressed, scientists will be able to see previously hidden terrain while obtaining different views of surface features.

"We've packed our year at Vesta chock-full of science observations to help us unravel the mysteries of Vesta," said Carol Raymond, Dawn's deputy principal investigator at JPL. Vesta is considered a protoplanet, or body that never quite became a full-fledged planet.

Dawn launched in September 2007. Following a year at Vesta, the spacecraft will depart for its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in July 2012. Dawn's mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are part of the mission team. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Source: NASA.Gov

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Images comparing the latest photo of asteroid Vesta taken by the Dawn spacecraft to an earlier picture shot by the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / PSI and NASA / ESA / STScI / UMd

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A crate carrying the CURIOSITY Mars Rover is unloaded from the C-17 aircraft that flew it from California to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on June 22, 2011.
NASA

CURIOSITY Update...

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NASA Mars Rover Arrives in Florida After Cross-Country Flight (Press Release)

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's next Mars rover has completed the journey from its California birthplace to Florida in preparation for launch this fall.

The Mars Science Laboratory rover, also known as Curiosity, arrived late Wednesday night at NASA's Kennedy Space Center aboard an Air Force C-17 transport plane. It was accompanied by the rocket-powered descent stage that will fly the rover during the final moments before landing on Mars. The C-17 flight began at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., where the boxed hardware had been trucked from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The rover's aeroshell -- the protective covering for the trip to the Red Planet -- and the cruise stage, which will guide it to Mars, arrived at Kennedy last month. The mission is targeted to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18. The car-size rover will land on Mars in August 2012.

"The design and building part of the mission is nearly behind us now," said JPL's David Gruel, who has managed Mars Science Laboratory assembly, test and launch operations since 2007. "We're getting to final checkouts before sending the rover on its way to Mars."

The rover and other spacecraft components will undergo more testing before mission staff stack them and fuel the onboard propulsion systems. Curiosity should be enclosed in its aeroshell for the final time in September and delivered to Kennedy's Launch Complex 41 in early November for integration with a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

Curiosity is about twice as long and more than five times as heavy as any previous Mars rover. Its 10 science instruments include two for ingesting and analyzing samples of powdered rock delivered by the rover's robotic arm. During a prime mission lasting one Martian year -- nearly two Earth years -- researchers will use the rover's tools to study whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.

JPL built the rover and descent stage and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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The Curiosity rover undergoes final testing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, on June 3, 2011.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Martian moon Phobos, with Jupiter in the background, photographed by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express orbiter on June 1, 2011.
ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

JUST THOUGHT I’D SHARE this cool image of the Martian moon Phobos—with Jupiter in the background—that was taken by the High-Resolution Stereo Camera onboard the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express orbiter on June 1. Apparently, you have to be at the distance of Mars or obviously within the Asteroid Belt to actually see clouds on Jupiter...or even on Saturn...as was the case when ESA’s other spacecraft, the comet-bound Rosetta probe, caught the ringed planet orbiting far behind asteroid Lutetia last July. For your convenience, I’ve also included that image below.

An image of asteroid Lutetia, with Saturn in the background, that was taken by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft on July 10, 2010.
ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / RSSD / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA

Sunday, June 19, 2011

IMAGE OF THE DAY... Is there a merit badge for arsonism? Is arsonism even a real word? Whatever.

No seriously, IS there a merit badge for arson/arsonism/whatever?  I kid.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

MORE BAD LUCK WITH MY CAR... So yesterday afternoon, I was just chillin’ at home when I stared out the living room window and saw a police car idling in the middle of the street outside my house. There were two cops present...and the one in the driver’s seat was watching as his partner exited the cruiser and walked over to my car—which was parked out on the curb as usual. Frowning, I watched as that officer stood near the front of my vehicle for a few seconds before he went back to the cruiser and the two pigs—err, officers—drove off. Moments later, I exited my house, walked over to my car, and found a parking citation for $55 on my ride’s windshield.

WHY did I get a parking citation, you ask? Well it turns out; my car was parked farther than the maximum 18 inches from the sidewalk. In fact, the right back wheel of my car was about 10 inches from the curb while the front right tire was 21 inches from the curb. Granted, I obviously parked crooked based on that detail I just gave you, but still— THIS IS BULLSH*T.

I’ve been living in the same area for more than 13 years (yes, I need to move someplace else), been parking in the same spot for almost 8 years, AND NOW I’m being penalized for the way I park? FRIGGIN' LAME. I live on a cul-de-sac, so how would parking far from the curb be hazardous to any traffic? Then again, this is the same spot where my car got rammed by my neighbor’s RV last month (and by a previous hit-and-runner a few years ago)... So basically, I clearly have bad luck with this particular spot on my street. But that’s beside the point.

The point of this Blog is that when and why has my hometown began this stupid parking enforcement? Is it because the city is low on cash or something? Or that it’s becoming like the City of Bell (in Southern California... If you live in Los Angeles County and read the L.A. Times newspaper, then you’d know what I’m talking about)...where the politicians are becoming corrupt and want to find new ways of scrounging money from the people. I’m still unemployed [before you call me a lazy-ass, I’ve recently began trying to make money off this Blog and my main website (thanks to Google Adsense)...both of which I’ve had for about 11 years now. Why have I started monetizing my webpage so many years after I created it, you ask? Because the economy sucks, of course], and with only a three-figure amount left in my bank account, I can’t afford to expend cash on this kind of unexpected nonsense.

So basically (one of many terms I like to overuse on this Blog), I might try to fight the citation... Though on a technical level, those damn cops were right in fining me. HOWEVER, in terms of principle, it’s moronic that the city would now impose this crappy new ordinance on people living in my area (Couldn't the city at least have given an advanced warning that they would begin regulating parking spots?)—especially considering the fact I live on a quiet cul-de-sac in the middle of the suburbs. So F**K YOU, West Covina...take those stupid parking citations and stick it up your politicians’ (and law enforcement officials) asses. Y'all have a s***ty day.

My Toyota Corolla.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Damage on my Toyota Corolla.

THE IMPORTANCE of having a good auto mechanic... Last month, my car fell victim to a major fender bender after someone backed their RV into it. As you can see from the pics above and below, the damage was obviously pretty bad. So bad, in fact...that more than $1300 was spent on repairing my car’s fender and its headlights over a one-week period. Of course, the repair was paid for by the RV driver’s insurance company and not mine. Oh, and did I mention that this accident was done while my car was parked outside my house? And that my house is located on a cul-de-sac? And that the RV driver is one of my neighbors? And that this was the second time in about 3 years that my car got hit while parked in the same spot where my fender went smashy-smashy (that sounds lame, I know) last month? To this day, there’s a long rusty dent on the side of my left passenger door—which I was too lazy to get repaired back when the damage was incurred. My mechanic said it would now cost around $800 to get that dent removed. My car turns 13 in a few weeks, so needless to say I think that dent will obviously be there till I finally replace my trusty ol’ Corolla.

Damage on my Toyota Corolla.

Damage on my Toyota Corolla.

Speaking of my mechanic... As you can see from the pic below, my car looks as good as new after it was repaired. My family and I have been going to the same auto repair guy for God-knows-how-long, and he has done a fantastic job in fixing or conducting maintenance on our automobiles over the years. I’d recommend his garage to anyone who lives around my area and needs some work done on their rides, but you know, my location is classified. And I could care less about the condition of your automobiles. Just kidding about the classified part. That is all.


My Toyota Corolla after it was repaired.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Me, Usha, Sarina, Franz and Richard Duong at Erika and Matt's wedding in July of 2006.

JUST FOUND OUT a couple of minutes ago that one of my close high school friends, Richard Duong, passed away in Japan last night. He was 31. Richard's family is obviously leaving for Japan right now to pick him up. Damn. Rest In Peace, Rich... My deep condolences go out to his family.

Richard Duong poses with Kobe Bryant at a basketball charity event in April of 2007.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Dallas Mavericks celebrate their first championship after beating the Miami Heat, 105-95, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals...on June 12, 2011.

THE MAVERICKS GET THEIR REVENGE... Much like how the Lakers got revenge against the Celtics last year for being embarrassed in Boston during Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks sought redemption in Miami tonight after being eliminated by the Heat (in Dallas) in the 2006 Finals. I don’t normally root for the team that defeats the Lakers in the playoffs (as Dallas did when it swept Kobe Bryant and Co. in the semifinals last month), but considering the douchey move that LeBron James made when he deserted the Cleveland Cavaliers for South Beach, Florida last year, I had to root for Dirk Diggler and company to win it all. Speaking of LeBron, he DOES NOT deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Kobe and Michael Jordan even when 'King' James does win his first title. LeBron has now been to the NBA Finals twice...and has now choked twice in the championship round. At least Dirk Diggler (yes I know his real last name) and Jason Kidd (whose New Jersey Nets got swept by the Lakers in 2002) won their first rings on their second tries.

So the Miami Super Friends are now Super Failures. Assuming a lockout doesn’t take place next season, here’s hoping that new head coach Mike Brown will somewhat fill Phil Jackson’s shoes and lead the Lake Show back to greatness. Kobe needs to win his 6th title before LeBron wins his first one...and of course, seek revenge against the Mavericks for the 4-game sweep that took place last month. All crosshairs are obviously on Dallas now...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Katy Perry, in an issue of ROLLING STONE magazine.

RANDOM BABE BLOG #16... Just thought I’d take a quick break from writing about space and Transformers-related news and post a Blog that’s been 3 years overdue. Today’s entry goes to pop sensation Katy Perry...who—if you’ve been living under a rock this whole time (*cue in that GEICO TV commercial*)—became famous with her song "I Kissed a Girl" back in 2008. Rumor has it that this song was inspired by former-Transformers hottie Megan Fox. If true, then it’s unfortunate that to this day we haven’t yet seen these two gorgeous ladies make I Kissed a Girl a reality in a music video or elsewhere. Oh well. As for which Perry song I actually like (and actually heard, along with I Kissed a Girl), "Teenage Dream" is pretty good. Haven’t seen the video for this tune yet, but I’m pretty sure Fox isn’t in it, either. Darn. Anyways, carry on.

Katy Perry lookin' good in a convertible.

Katy Perry during the 2011 Grammy nominations.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Concept artwork of Shockwave in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

TRANSFORMERS 3 Update... In honor of Dark of the Moon coming out in theaters nationwide in just 19 days, just thought I’d share some screencaptures of the Transformers that will show up in the third film. Optimus Prime and Megatron are obviously a given, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Shockwave wreak havoc on-screen. Unlike The Fallen in Revenge of the Fallen, I hope the one-eyed Decepticon will kill an Autobot or two in TF3. Or at least annihilate a lot of people in Chicago during the climax of Dark of the Moon. Considering what we’ve seen from the theatrical trailer, the latter is definitely a given. Carry on.

Shockwave stands menacingly atop the 'Driller' in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

Optimus Prime gets ready to rumble in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

A screenshot of Megatron from the music video to Linkin Park's TRANSFORMERS 3 song, 'Iridescent'.

Laserbeak on the rampage in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

Mirage confronts the U.S. Army in TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Posing with the Curiosity Mars rover and its descent stage behind me, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on June 6, 2011.

JPL TWEETUP... Last Monday, I attended a special event at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, that was held for around 110 lucky folks who were invited via Twitter to go to JPL. During the Tweetup, we listened to presentations held by NASA engineers and scientists who were working on past and present deep space projects such as Voyager, the Mars Exploration Rovers, Dawn, GRAIL and the Juno mission. At the end of the day, we got to go to the Spacecraft Assembly Facility to see the Curiosity Mars rover (which is undergoing final testing before being shipped out to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida around June 22 for launch preparations). All-in-all, it was a great experience. To see more photos from the JPL Tweetup, click on the red link below.

LINK: Photos I took at the 2011 JPL Tweetup

A group photo of the 110 Twitter users, including Yours Truly, who attended the JPL Tweetup on June 6, 2011.

A friendly way of telling us 'space tweeps' not to wander around the laboratory during the JPL Tweetup on June 6, 2011.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

An infographic showing U.S. Delta Force and Navy SEAL soldiers.

IMAGES OF THE DAY... This entry would’ve been a lot more relevant if I posted it earlier last month, but oh well. Check out this cool illustration (if you’re a warmonger like I am, haha) depicting American Special Forces soldiers, as well as concept artwork showing how the stealthy Black Hawk helicopter that transported U.S. Navy SEALs to Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan on May 1 (California Time) would look like. Pretty interesting. Now carry on.

Concept artwork depicting the stealthy Black Hawk helicopter that brought U.S. Navy SEALs to Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan on May 1 (California Time).
Concept artwork depicting the stealthy Black Hawk helicopter that brought U.S. Navy SEALs to Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan on May 1 (California Time).

A photo of the tail rotor that remains of the stealth chopper that brought U.S. Navy SEALs to Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan on May 1 (California Time). The chopper was destroyed by SEALs after it made a crash landing inside the compound at the start of the raid.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

CALLIN' IT QUITS... After 19 years in the NBA, Shaq is finally hanging up his basketball jersey after having a career that earned him an Olympic gold medal, several Most Valuable Player awards and four NBA championships. A couple of additional observations: 1.) Lakers fans will no longer have to burn his jersey since Shaq didn't, nor ever will, win another title playing with the Boston Celtics... 2.) Kobe Bryant can take solace in the fact he has one more ring than his 7-foot nemesis... And 3.) Shaq will always be known as one of the most dominant (if not THE dominant) centers the NBA have ever known. That is all.

Shaquille O'Neal celebrates after the Lakers advance to the 2000 NBA Finals after beating the Portland Trailblazers in 7 games during the Western Conference Finals that year.