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Monday, September 30, 2013

Sleepy Hollow...

Police lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) is pursued by the Sandman in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Did Sam and Dean Winchester ever take on the Sandman in the CW's hit series, Supernatural? No? Well anyways... The 'Dream Demon' looked pretty cool on tonight's episode of Sleepy Hollow. This show is awesome.

The Sandman only hunts those who harbor dark secrets in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Friday, September 27, 2013

MAVEN Spreads Its Wings One Last Time Before Launch...

Reporters and photographers gather in front of NASA's MAVEN spacecraft as it was put on display for the media to see at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on September 27, 2013.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Almost two months after arriving at Cape Canaveral in Florida (and exactly six years after NASA's Dawn spacecraft launched on its mission to explore the Asteroid Belt), the MAVEN spacecraft is now fully assembled and less than two months away from soaring to Mars aboard an Atlas V rocket. Check out these photos taken earlier today as the media got to visit MAVEN at NASA's Kennedy Space Center before the orbiter undergoes a final series of tests prior to being loaded with fuel (scheduled for next month) and then being mated with the Atlas V (scheduled for early November). The MAVEN team has entered home stretch for launch preparations, just before lift-off is set to occur from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on November 18.

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is prepped for display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on September 24, 2013.
NASA / Jim Grossmann

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is put on display for the media to see at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on September 27, 2013.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Reporters and photographers gather in front of NASA's MAVEN spacecraft as it was put on display for the media to see at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on September 27, 2013.
NASA / Kim Shiflett

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The End of Deep Impact

An artist's concept of the Deep Impact spacecraft.
NASA / JPL

Overlooking the fact I was annoyed that a CD bearing the names of 625,000 people (including mine) was only placed on the so-called Impactor that smashed into a comet in 2005, it's still sad to see a prolific mission like Deep Impact finally come to an end. Oh well— It's not like it runs the risk of being intentionally rammed into an asteroid or something... Thanks NASA.

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NASA's Deep Space Comet Hunter Mission Comes to an End (Press Release - September 20)

PASADENA, Calif. - After almost 9 years in space that included an unprecedented July 4th impact and subsequent flyby of a comet, an additional comet flyby, and the return of approximately 500,000 images of celestial objects, NASA's Deep Impact mission has ended.

The project team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has reluctantly pronounced the mission at an end after being unable to communicate with the spacecraft for over a month. The last communication with the probe was Aug. 8. Deep Impact was history's most traveled comet research mission, going about 4.7 billion miles (7.58 billion kilometers).

"Deep Impact has been a fantastic, long-lasting spacecraft that has produced far more data than we had planned," said Mike A'Hearn, the Deep Impact principal investigator at the University of Maryland in College Park. "It has revolutionized our understanding of comets and their activity."

Deep Impact successfully completed its original bold mission of six months in 2005 to investigate both the surface and interior composition of a comet, and a subsequent extended mission of another comet flyby and observations of planets around other stars that lasted from July 2007 to December 2010. Since then, the spacecraft has been continually used as a space-borne planetary observatory to capture images and other scientific data on several targets of opportunity with its telescopes and instrumentation.

Launched in January 2005, the spacecraft first traveled about 268 million miles (431 million kilometers) to the vicinity of comet Tempel 1. On July 3, 2005, the spacecraft deployed an impactor into the path of comet to essentially be run over by its nucleus on July 4. This caused material from below the comet's surface to be blasted out into space where it could be examined by the telescopes and instrumentation of the flyby spacecraft. Sixteen days after that comet encounter, the Deep Impact team placed the spacecraft on a trajectory to fly back past Earth in late December 2007 to put it on course to encounter another comet, Hartley 2 in November 2010.

"Six months after launch, this spacecraft had already completed its planned mission to study comet Tempel 1," said Tim Larson, project manager of Deep Impact at JPL. "But the science team kept finding interesting things to do, and through the ingenuity of our mission team and navigators and support of NASA's Discovery Program, this spacecraft kept it up for more than eight years, producing amazing results all along the way."

The spacecraft's extended mission culminated in the successful flyby of comet Hartley 2 on Nov. 4, 2010. Along the way, it also observed six different stars to confirm the motion of planets orbiting them, and took images and data of Earth, the moon and Mars. These data helped to confirm the existence of water on the moon, and attempted to confirm the methane signature in the atmosphere of Mars. One sequence of images is a breathtaking view of the moon transiting across the face of Earth.

In January 2012, Deep Impact performed imaging and accessed the composition of distant comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd). It took images of comet ISON this year and collected early images of ISON in June.

After losing contact with the spacecraft last month, mission controllers spent several weeks trying to uplink commands to reactivate its onboard systems. Although the exact cause of the loss is not known, analysis has uncovered a potential problem with computer time tagging that could have led to loss of control for Deep Impact's orientation. That would then affect the positioning of its radio antennas, making communication difficult, as well as its solar arrays, which would in turn prevent the spacecraft from getting power and allow cold temperatures to ruin onboard equipment, essentially freezing its battery and propulsion systems.

"Despite this unexpected final curtain call, Deep Impact already achieved much more than ever was envisioned," said Lindley Johnson, the Discovery Program Executive at NASA Headquarters, and the Program Executive for the mission since a year before it launched. "Deep Impact has completely overturned what we thought we knew about comets and also provided a treasure trove of additional planetary science that will be the source data of research for years to come."

The mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. JPL manages the Deep Impact mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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The comet (named 9P/Tempel 1) that the Impactor smashed into during the Deep Impact mission in 2005.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / UMD

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kung Fu Kobe...

A better tagline for this photo would be Kung Fu Mamba...but since someone else already came up with that caption on Facebook (where I found this image on), I'll stick with what's in the title above. Technically, Kobe is pulling a Hurricane Kick (a la Ryu or Ken from Street Fighter II) on the wrong person here—LeBron is standing right behind you, KB24—but seeing as how the Lakers had the Cleveland Cavaliers' number in the last two years L.A. was the champion (2009 and 2010), we should let that one slide. The 2013-'14 NBA training camp will start soon! Not that it means anything to the Lake Show this year...or the Clippers. With such a loaded team, maybe CP3 and company will actually make it to the second round of the playoffs next spring. Maybe. That is all.

Kobe Bryant pulls a martial arts move during an L.A. Lakers game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Photo courtesy of Lakers Nation - Facebook.com

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, U.S. Air Force!

I'm posting this because 1.) It really is cool that the USAF is celebrating its 66th birthday today, 2.) This pilot's flight helmet and oxygen mask brings back pleasant memories of my HALO jump last April and 3.) An F-22 Raptor is reflected on the visor of this aviator...who if you're military-savvy is apparently working the refueling boom on a KC-135 Stratotanker. But I like this pic mostly because it reminds me of my high-altitude skydive last spring. Now where's the birthday cake?

Happy 66th Birthday, U.S. Air Force!
Photo courtesy of Pacific Battleship Center - Facebook.com

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sleepy Hollow...

The Headless Horseman welds an automatic rifle in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

So I watched the newest sci-fi thriller on FOX tonight, and all I can say is: The Headless Horseman welds an M-16?? I'm sold. Bring on next week's episode of Sleepy Hollow!

This show is The Following (the Bible's Book of Revelations plays an integral role in explaining the villains of Sleepy Hollow the same way Edgar Allan Poe's poems motivated Joe Carroll's cult followers in the Kevin Bacon TV drama) and Supernatural (like the CW show, Sleepy Hollow will hopefully last long enough for Death and his fellow Horsemen to almost succeed in bringing about the Apocalypse to the world) both rolled into one. (There are definitely other TV shows that this can be compared to, but I don't watch them so they don't count.) Awesome.

The main cast of SLEEPY HOLLOW.

This British Redcoat isn't what he appears to be in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

The British Redcoat is dressed as the Revolutionary War version of Bane (from THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Never bring a knife to a gunfight in SLEEPY HOLLOW. An axe whose blade is heated to 500 degrees, on the other hand...

It's obviously too late for John Cho to figure out that it's not wise to make a deal with the devil...especially in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Welding an M-16, the Headless Horseman rides off into the sunset—err, sunrise, in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Death and his fellow Horsemen are ready to bring about the Apocalypse in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Jaegers for Pacific Rim (Part 3)!

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Manila Assassin.

Just thought I'd share a few more Pacific Rim posters that I created recently. I promise that these Jaeger images will be the last ones I blog about...for today. Carry on!

LINK: Click here to view all of the Pacific Rim Jaegers that I created

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Manila Assassin.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Blue Apocalypse.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Blue Apocalypse.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Voyager 1: Making Star Trek a Reality...(Kinda)

An art concept showing a Voyager spacecraft cruising through deep space.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Note to Russian President Vladimir Putin: This is the newest reason why America is exceptional. Go NASA!

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NASA Spacecraft Embarks on Historic Journey into Interstellar Space (Press Release - September 12)

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun.

New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside the solar bubble, where some effects from our sun are still evident. A report on the analysis of this new data, an effort led by Don Gurnett and the plasma wave science team at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, is published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science.

"Now that we have new, key data, we believe this is mankind's historic leap into interstellar space," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "The Voyager team needed time to analyze those observations and make sense of them. But we can now answer the question we've all been asking -- 'Are we there yet?' Yes, we are."

Voyager 1 first detected the increased pressure of interstellar space on the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles surrounding the sun that reaches far beyond the outer planets, in 2004. Scientists then ramped up their search for evidence of the spacecraft's interstellar arrival, knowing the data analysis and interpretation could take months or years.

Voyager 1 does not have a working plasma sensor, so scientists needed a different way to measure the spacecraft's plasma environment to make a definitive determination of its location. A coronal mass ejection, or a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields, that erupted from the sun in March 2012 provided scientists the data they needed. When this unexpected gift from the sun eventually arrived at Voyager 1's location 13 months later, in April 2013, the plasma around the spacecraft began to vibrate like a violin string. On April 9, Voyager 1's plasma wave instrument detected the movement. The pitch of the oscillations helped scientists determine the density of the plasma. The particular oscillations meant the spacecraft was bathed in plasma more than 40 times denser than what they had encountered in the outer layer of the heliosphere. Density of this sort is to be expected in interstellar space.

The plasma wave science team reviewed its data and found an earlier, fainter set of oscillations in October and November 2012. Through extrapolation of measured plasma densities from both events, the team determined Voyager 1 first entered interstellar space in August 2012.

"We literally jumped out of our seats when we saw these oscillations in our data -- they showed us the spacecraft was in an entirely new region, comparable to what was expected in interstellar space, and totally different than in the solar bubble," Gurnett said. "Clearly we had passed through the heliopause, which is the long-hypothesized boundary between the solar plasma and the interstellar plasma."

The new plasma data suggested a timeframe consistent with abrupt, durable changes in the density of energetic particles that were first detected on Aug. 25, 2012. The Voyager team generally accepts this date as the date of interstellar arrival. The charged particle and plasma changes were what would have been expected during a crossing of the heliopause.

"The team's hard work to build durable spacecraft and carefully manage the Voyager spacecraft's limited resources paid off in another first for NASA and humanity," said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. "We expect the fields and particles science instruments on Voyager will continue to send back data through at least 2020. We can't wait to see what the Voyager instruments show us next about deep space."

Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched 16 days apart in 1977. Both spacecraft flew by Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 also flew by Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2, launched before Voyager 1, is the longest continuously operated spacecraft. It is about 9.5 billion miles (15 billion kilometers) away from our sun.

Voyager mission controllers still talk to or receive data from Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 every day, though the emitted signals are currently very dim, at about 23 watts -- the power of a refrigerator light bulb. By the time the signals get to Earth, they are a fraction of a billion-billionth of a watt. Data from Voyager 1's instruments are transmitted to Earth typically at 160 bits per second, and captured by 34- and 70-meter NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) stations. Traveling at the speed of light, a signal from Voyager 1 takes about 17 hours to travel to Earth. After the data are transmitted to JPL and processed by the science teams, Voyager data are made publicly available.

"Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before, marking one of the most significant technological achievements in the annals of the history of science, and adding a new chapter in human scientific dreams and endeavors," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science in Washington. "Perhaps some future deep space explorers will catch up with Voyager, our first interstellar envoy, and reflect on how this intrepid spacecraft helped enable their journey."

Scientists do not know when Voyager 1 will reach the undisturbed part of interstellar space where there is no influence from our sun. They also are not certain when Voyager 2 is expected to cross into interstellar space, but they believe it is not very far behind.

JPL built and operates the twin Voyager spacecraft. The Voyagers Interstellar Mission is a part of NASA's Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NASA's DSN, managed by JPL, is an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions.

The cost of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 missions -- including launch, mission operations and the spacecraft’s nuclear batteries, which were provided by the Department of Energy -- is about $988 million through September.

Source: NASA.Gov

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An art concept showing Voyager 1's current position out in deep space. The scale bar is measured in Astronomical Units, or AU (1 AU equals 93 million miles, or the distance between the Earth and the Sun).
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Thursday, September 12, 2013

MasterChef: Season 4

Much props to Luca Manfé for winning the top prize on the hit FOX TV show last night. The fact that Manfé was eliminated early on in Season 3 of MasterChef (in fact, I don't think he even made it past the auditions), only to try again this year and win $250,000 plus his own cookbook (and a trophy), shows what a feel-good American story this is...overlooking the fact that Manfé is European (change that to South African if Natasha Crnjac was the one who won yesterday, respectively). Anyways, Viva l'Italia!

Luca Manfé competes against Natasha Crnjac in the Season 4 finale of FOX's MASTERCHEF...on September 11, 2013.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 Years Later...

God Bless America.

Just thought I'd commemorate 9/11 by posting these two pics—one new, one old—of New York City that I stumbled upon on Facebook today. The image directly below shows the USS Iowa sailing past the island of Manhattan with the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center looming in the background. In the very last photo of this entry, the new 1 World Trade Center stands majestically above the rest of the New York skyline...in a pic that was taken late last month. My fellow Americans should definitely be proud that we can get back up and recover after trying to be taken down by those who are threatened and/or jealous of our freedom. Go USA!

The USS Iowa sails past the island of Manhattan in this archival photo.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Battleship Center - Facebook.com

The 1 World Trade Center in New York City...as seen on August 30, 2013.
Photo courtesy of WTC Progress - Facebook.com

Monday, September 09, 2013

My Jaegers for Pacific Rim (Part 2)!

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Angry Albino.

As mentioned in this previous journal entry, here are three more Pacific Rim Jaegers that I came up with a day after I posted five previous ones. The Warner Bros app (which I linked to in my Film Notes section) has limited options in terms of poster backgrounds as well as changing the heads, limbs and torsos of the giant robots before their designs start looking the same as each other, so I think I'll stop with this trio here. Happy Monday, everyone!

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Angry Albino.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Bloody Inferno.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Bloody Inferno.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Death Dynamo.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Death Dynamo.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

My Jaegers for Pacific Rim!

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Manila Assassin.

Just thought I'd share these eight illustrations that I made of my own Jaegers for the movie Pacific Rim! Visit my Film Notes section to see a fifth Kaiju-hunting robot (known as the Shadow Rumbler) that I conjured up for Guillermo del Toro's film (which I hope will become a cult classic after it comes out on DVD this October 15). I've also provided a link on the other journal entry to the Warner Bros' webpage where you can design your own monster-killing machine! Don't be surprised if I post artwork for additional Jaegers that I come up with in the near future, hah.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Manila Assassin.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Iron Gauntlet.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Iron Gauntlet.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Phantom Viking.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Phantom Viking.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Red Reaper.

My own PACIFIC RIM Jaeger...known as the Red Reaper.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Life of a Background Actor...

A screenshot from 2002's SPIDER-MAN.

For those of you who do film and TV extra work, I'm sure you can totally relate to this video...which pokes fun at the largest casting agency in Hollywood that books background actors for movies and TV shows (Won't mention the name of this agency since I don't want to piss it off— I actually get a lot of gigs through this company, haha). So anyways, I can work on Chatty Vaginas. Do I need to show up on set having had*?



* - Having had is background acting parlance for having ate breakfast, lunch or dinner before arriving on set...since the production crew already had meal like, an hour ago (and catering usually has tons of leftovers that literally end up being dumped into the trash once lunch break ends).

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Preparing For NASA's Next InSight on the Red Planet...

An artist's concept of the InSight lander on the surface of Mars.
NASA / JPL

NASA Evaluates Four Candidate Sites for 2016 Mars Mission (Press Release)

NASA has narrowed to four the number of potential landing sites for the agency's next mission to the surface of Mars, a 2016 lander to study the planet's interior.

The stationary Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander is scheduled to launch in March 2016 and land on Mars six months later. It will touch down at one of four sites selected in August from a field of 22 candidates. All four semi-finalist spots lie near each other on an equatorial plain in an area of Mars called Elysium Planitia.

"We picked four sites that look safest," said geologist Matt Golombek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Golombek is leading the site-selection process for InSight. "They have mostly smooth terrain, few rocks and very little slope."

Scientists will focus two of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter cameras on the semi-finalists in the coming months to gain data they will use to select the best of the four sites well before InSight is launched.

The mission will investigate processes that formed and shaped Mars and will help scientists better understand the evolution of our inner solar system's rocky planets, including Earth. Unlike previous Mars landings, what is on the surface in the area matters little in the choice of a site except for safety considerations.

"This mission's science goals are not related to any specific location on Mars because we're studying the planet as a whole, down to its core," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at JPL. "Mission safety and survival are what drive our criteria for a landing site." Each semifinalist site is an ellipse measuring 81 miles (130 kilometers) from east to west and 17 miles (27 kilometers) from north to south. Engineers calculate the spacecraft will have a 99-percent chance of landing within that ellipse, if targeted for the center.

Elysium is one of three areas on Mars that meet two basic engineering constraints for InSight. One requirement is being close enough to the equator for the lander's solar array to have adequate power at all times of the year. Also, the elevation must be low enough to have sufficient atmosphere above the site for a safe landing. The spacecraft will use the atmosphere for deceleration during descent.

All four semifinalist sites, as well as the rest of the 22 candidate sites studied, are in Elysium Planitia. The only other two areas of Mars meeting the requirements of being near the equator at low elevation, Isidis Planitia and Valles Marineris, are too rocky and windy. Valles Marineris also lacks any swath of flat ground large enough for a safe landing.

InSight also needs penetrable ground, so it can deploy a heat-flow probe that will hammer itself 3 yards to 5 yards into the surface to monitor heat coming from the planet's interior. This tool can penetrate through broken-up surface material or soil, but could be foiled by solid bedrock or large rocks.

"For this mission, we needed to look below the surface to evaluate candidate landing sites," Golombek said.

InSight's heat probe must penetrate the ground to the needed depth, so scientists studied Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images of large rocks near Martian craters formed by asteroid impacts. Impacts excavate rocks from the subsurface, so by looking in the area surrounding craters, the scientists could tell if the subsurface would have probe-blocking rocks lurking beneath the soil surface.

InSight also will deploy a seismometer on the surface and will use its radio for scientific measurements.

JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The French space agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, and the German Aerospace Center are contributing instruments to the mission. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is building the spacecraft.

InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, which NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages. InSight's team includes U.S. and international co-investigators from universities, industry and government agencies.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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A Martian map showing InSight's future landing site as well as the locations of past and present NASA spacecraft on the Red Planet's surface.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Quotes of the Day...

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

-― Dr. Seuss


"The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it's all that matters."

-― Audrey Hepburn


"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

-― Ernest Hemingway