Monday, November 12, 2018

Rest In Peace, Stan Lee (1922-2018)...

Stan Lee addresses the crowd at his Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

This month marks five years since I saw Stan Lee in person at his Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles. While the Marvel Universe and comic book fandom as a whole won't be the same without the legendary Lee to look up to after he passed away today, this is both a sad and joyous moment. It's a joyous moment because we can forever remember the Marvel visionary as a person whose amazing superhero creations—ranging from Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Spider-Man to Black Panther and The Avengers—are popular icons that millions of fans around the world can continue to be inspired by...both on paper and on the big screen. At 95 years-old, Stan Lee lived a full life that had a positive impact on dreamers around the globe. So I won't end this entry by saying 'Rest In Peace' again, but by exclaiming Excelsior!

Miniature movie maquettes of IRON MAN—one of Stan Lee's iconic comic book creations—on display at his Comikaze Expo in downtown Los Angeles, on November 2, 2013.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Photo of the Day: An Orange Half-Moon in the Sky...

A snapshot I took of the Waxing Crescent Moon...which was tinted orange by smoke coming from the Woolsey Fire near Malibu, California, on November 10, 2018.

Just thought I'd share this pic (shot with my Nikon D3300 DSLR camera) that I took of tonight's Waxing Crescent Moon...which is tinted orange from all of the smoke coming from the Woolsey Fire still burning near Malibu (about 74 miles from where I live in Pomona), California. The last time I took photos of the Moon, it was back in late January...when it had a crimson hue due to the fact that it was a Super Blue Blood Moon (a.k.a. a Supermoon that was also a Blue Moon which occurred during a lunar eclipse, also called a Blood Moon). Like that winter snapshot, I wish today's image was also taken in less dire circumstances.

My sympathies to those who lost their loved ones and homes during the tragic wildfires currently raging in northern and southern California.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

America Is Slowly Regaining Its Soul...

Even though the Republicans retained control of the Senate, Russian patsy Donald Trump will STILL be screwed by the House Democrats.

I have to get things ready for work tomorrow, so I'll just leave these images here for your enjoyment. Do your research online, and you'll know why a Democrat-led House of Representatives is good for the United States, and bad for Donald Trump.

Speaking of Trump, looks like he'll have to find another Cox-sucker to do his bidding here in California. Congrats to Gavin Newsom, who will soon become my state's next governor! Carry on.

Can't wait for you to release Trump's tax returns, House Democrats!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

The Sun Has Set on Dawn's Mission...

Enhanced color images of asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres...which were explored by NASA's Dawn spacecraft in 2011 and 2015, respectively.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

NASA’s Dawn Mission to Asteroid Belt Comes to End (Press Release)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA's Deep Space Network on Wednesday, Oct. 31, and Thursday, Nov. 1. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing. Dawn can no longer keep its antennae trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.

The Dawn spacecraft launched 11 years ago to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt. Currently, it’s in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades.

“Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission – its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system.”

Dawn launched in 2007 on a journey that put about 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) on its odometer. Propelled by ion engines, the spacecraft achieved many firsts along the way. In 2011, when Dawn arrived at Vesta, the second largest world in the main asteroid belt, the spacecraft became the first to orbit a body in the region between Mars and Jupiter. In 2015, when Dawn went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is also the largest world in the asteroid belt, the mission became the first to visit a dwarf planet and go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth.

"The fact that my car's license plate frame proclaims, 'My other vehicle is in the main asteroid belt,' shows how much pride I take in Dawn," said Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time. It's hard to say goodbye to this amazing spaceship, but it’s time."

The data Dawn beamed back to Earth from its four science experiments enabled scientists to compare two planet-like worlds that evolved very differently. Among its accomplishments, Dawn showed how important location was to the way objects in the early solar system formed and evolved. Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history – and potentially still do.

“In many ways, Dawn’s legacy i­s just beginning,” said Princ­­ipal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL. “Dawn’s data sets will be deeply mined by scientists working on how planets grow and differentiate, and when and where life could have formed in our solar system. Ceres and Vesta are important to the study of distant planetary systems, too, as they provide a glimpse of the conditions that may exist around young stars.”

Because Ceres has conditions of interest to scientists who study chemistry that leads to the development of life, NASA follows strict planetary protection protocols for the disposal of the Dawn spacecraft. Dawn will remain in orbit for at least 20 years, and engineers have more than 99 percent confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years.

So, while the mission plan doesn't provide the closure of a final, fiery plunge – the way NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended last year, for example – at least this is certain: Dawn spent every last drop of hydrazine making science observations of Ceres and radioing them back so we could learn more about the solar system we call home.

The Dawn mission 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, Alabama. JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

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A Delta II rocket carrying the Dawn spacecraft is launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida...on September 27, 2007.
Tony Gray and Robert Murray for NASA / Carleton Bailie for United Launch Alliance

IMAGE 1: A photo taken by me of a microchip on display during the 2007 Open House at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California.  IMAGE 2: A technician installs the Dawn microchip onto the spacecraft.  IMAGE 3: The Dawn microchip now secured on the spacecraft.

A certificate commemorating my participation in the 'Send Your Name to the Asteroid Belt' project.