The misadventures of Commander Merlin and the crew of RV-103
Thursday July 24th 2014

Space Update: SpaceTEC Blog

RV-103 has partnered with SpaceTEC in producing a blog called “Space Update” for aerospace technicians.  The blog will cover aerospace technician issues such as career advice, space issues, space history, and technical issues.

“SpaceTEC®, the Center of Excellence for Aerospace Technical Education, provides skill-based, nationally recognized and industry utilized professional certifications for U. S. Aerospace Technicians. All SpaceTEC® certifications are performance driven, identifying technician competencies valued by industry when competing in today’s global economic environment.

SpaceTEC has successfully certified aerospace technicians employed in civil, defense, and commercial organizations nationwide. Some of the businesses and agencies served include Boeing, General Electric, Harris, Jacobs, Lockheed Martin, NASA, Northrop Grumman, the US Air Force, US Navy, and US Army. The SpaceTEC Certified Aerospace Technician Core is also recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Office as one of three certifications the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) operator may use for RLV Aerospace Maintenance Technician (RAMT) training during forthcoming rating assessment processes.

Through its eleven partner colleges located in 10 states, the SpaceTEC Consortium offers Aerospace Technical Education skills training and college degrees for the U. S. aerospace industry. The SpaceTEC Certified Aerospace Technician Core is recommended by the American Council on Education (ACE) for 24 college credits toward a technical degree, enabling SpaceTEC Certified Aerospace Technicians to earn degrees at an accelerated pace. SpaceTEC also provides Knowledge/Skills Inventories (KSI) that are designed to identify and quantify workforce skills and abilities in the fields of aerospace composites, vehicle processing, and aerospace manufacturing, as well as custom-designed inventories for a variety of advanced technology areas.”

The public is also invited to check out the blog.  You can find the blog link here or at the right side bar on RV-103′s website.  Join in and feel free to comment on the posts.

STS 133 Discovery’s Final Rollout

Monday evening I turned on NASA TV and watched Discovery (OV-103) do her very last rollout to Launch Complex 39 A.  As I was watching the rollout, I called some friends still working at Kennedy Space Center to chat.  It was for them, as it was for me, very bittersweet.  Many of the people I talked with are being laid off next week (1,400 in total from KSC during this round of layoffs) and will not be there to watch Discovery lift off for the last time.  I could hear the crowd cheering as Discovery was carried by the crawler at the breakneck speed of 1 mph.  Work at KSC stopped as everyone went outside to witness Discovery’s progress in this historical event.

The last time. Credit Larry D. Tanner

The next morning, Discovery was safely at LC 39 A and many people took the opportunity to take pictures of her. One young couple, who recently married and work at KSC, posed in front of Discovery in their wedding attire for the most unique wedding picture ever taken.  As Discovery’s productive life is ending, this young couple is starting their own productive journey in life.  The crew of RV-103 wishes them and all the soon to be laid off workers good wishes in their future pursuits in life.  As Spock would say, “Live long and prosper.”

NASA workers Beth and Jesse Palma in their wedding attire posed in front of shuttle Discovery at launch pad. Credit Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel

Well done Kennedy Space Center and well done the people of United Space Alliance!

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same.

The editorial below was written by Jim Slade in 1991 for ABC Radio.  It applies to our situation now as it did then.

Jim Slade 1991

More of Jim’s writings can be found here.

An Idea Whose Time May Have Come.

America’s Human Space Flight program (HSF) is a mess.  With the attempted cancellation of Constellation by the politician in the White House Mr. Obama, 535 members of Congress fighting over two other options of their creation, America’s HSF program is truly threatened with extinction 50 years after the first Mercury launch.  With NASA’s budget being decided each and every year and the fact that many HSF Programs require many years of design and work, there is a reason why politicians should not decide the fate of America’s HSF programs.  Let me give you a brief history.

  • Mercury, America’s first HSF program started in 1959 with the unmanned launch of Little Joe 1 from Wallops Island.  The first manned flight carried Astronaut Al Shepherd on Freedom 7 in 1961.  The program was completed in 1963 when Gordon Cooper rode Faith 7.
  • Gemini was officially designated in 1962.  The first unmanned launch was in 1964.  The first manned launch, with the crew of Gus Grissom and John Young aboard the Molly Brown, launched in 1965.  The program was completed in 1966 when Gemini XII crewed by James Lovell Jr. and Buzz Aldrin flew.
  • Apollo started in 1968.  President Nixon cancelled the program in 1972 after only 6 missions to the Moon and a total of 1 week on the surface of the Moon by the Apollo crews and announced during the Apollo 16 mission the start of the Space Shuttle Program.  There was still enough hardware to launch at least three more missions to the Moon.  The last three remaining Saturn V rockets are now museum pieces.
  • Skylab, America’s first space station was started in 1973 with left over hardware from the Apollo program.  Three crewed missions were flown to Skylab and the program was suspended by President Nixon in 1974.  Skylab was assumed to be in a stable orbit that would last 8-10 years, long enough for the Space Shuttle to come online and service the station by boosting it before the orbit degraded.  Unfortunately, due to increased solar activity and delays in Space Shuttle Columbia’s construction (she didn’t launch until 1981), Skylab’s orbit did degrade and America’s first space station crashed to Earth in 1979.
  • Apollo-Soyuz was a one-time diplomatic mission in 1975 that used the last of the left over Apollo command modules.  Though it was a considered a propaganda stunt by both the USA and the Soviet Union, it did lay the groundwork for future cooperation between both nations in the 1990’s, 20 years later.  Because Apollo-Soyuz used up the last Apollo Command Module, America had no spacecraft in their inventory to boost Skylab and save the station.
  • Space Shuttle Program first flight was in 1981 by Shuttle Columbia.  The Space Shuttle Fleet consisted of Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour.  After the loss of Columbia in 2003, President Bush cancelled the Space Shuttle program effective 2010 (later changed to 2011 due to launch delays) and be replaced by Constellation.  Work on Constellation was started in 2004.  All the Space Shuttles are designed to fly 100 times each.  The oldest Space Shuttle, Discovery, is flying her last mission in November 2010 and it will only be her 39th mission. All remaining shuttles are destined for museums.
  • Constellation, first started in 2003, has had $9 Billion dollars invested, one successful unmanned launch, and extensive ground support equipment built at KSC though President Bush and the Democrat Congress consistently underfunded it.  In 2010, Obama announced he was cancelling Constellation and replacing it with nothing.

So, of the six major HSF programs, four of them ended prematurely, directly or indirectly due to a politician’s decision. (Though Skylab came down due to solar activity and delays in Columbia’s construction, it was President Nixon’s decision to squander the last Apollo Command Module that left us with no way to save the station.)

Maybe it’s time for the politician’s influence on America’s HSF to be limited.  Most HSF programs require years of stable budgets and years of time to develop and achieve its goals.  That is why they call it “rocket science.”  Maybe in order for NASA to be able to have a stable HSF program, it needs to have a stable budget.  Instead of NASA wasting energy and manpower trying get next year’s budget set, maybe Congress should grant NASA an adequate ten year budget.

A ten year budget with a comprehensive HSF program would give NASA stability, focus all its resources to their HSF and other space programs without the distraction of begging for next year’s budget, and prevent politicians from changing our HSF programs on a whim every time we change presidents.  Of course NASA would have to understand that there will be no supplemental funds during that time period, and will have to appraise Congress and the Nation of their progress in a timely manner.

It’s just an idea whose time may have come.

Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center

On September 18th, the RV-103 Lecture Series appeared for the open house at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center in Olean NY.  Earlier, retired astronaut Commander Pamela Melroy had appeared and spoke to the audience about what life was like as an astronaut.  Later on it was Rocketman’s job to describe what life was like as a technician on the Space Shuttle Fleet preparing it for flight.

Credit Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center

The Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center is part of a nationwide network of Challenger Centers.  It was originally thought of and developed by the families of the Challenger Astronauts who lost their lives in 1986 during launch.  The families did not want stone memorials commemorating their deaths, but living monuments commemorating their lives and their love for science and education.  Thus the Challenger Centers were born.  Their Mission Statement is, “The Challenger Center will be the symbol of our nation’s continuing support of space exploration and an affirmation of our faith in the future. It will re-energize our country’s commitment to educational excellence and increase scientific literacy among our people.”

Currently over a ½ million children have passed through the Challenger Centers doing hands on science and mission simulations in space.  There are over 50 Challenger Centers in these United States of America and the United Kingdom.  None of these children were even born when the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost, but the crew’s legacy has been permanently instilled in them.

The Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center is located next to the St. Bonaventure University in a state of the art facility.  There are meeting rooms, presentation rooms, and of course the mission simulation rooms.  The mission simulation rooms are extraordinary in how they were laid out and designed.  It is just like walking into mission control at Houston.   The other mission simulator room mimics a deep space spacecraft with the ability to send out probes to a comet’s tail, medical lab, biology lab, etc.  Rocketman had to have Commander Merlin continue to wipe his mouth because he was drooling so much during the tour of the simulators.

Credit Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center

Considering the rural area that Olean is in, the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center is a precious jewel for the community.  Most people don’t know it, but many astronauts are from rural areas such as western NY.  In fact, Commanders Eileen Collins and Pam Melroy are both from western NY.  Who knows, this particular Challenger Center may just inspire the next group of astronauts someday.

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

The RV-103 lecture series visited the elementary schools in Olean NY this week.  The 5th grade curriculum for NY schools has the students learning about space related topics starting that year and talk about an enthusiastic groups of kids!  The kids got to hear a presentation on “What is it Like to Work on the Space Shuttle: The Misadventures of a Space Cadet” and then participate in a Q&A session afterwards.

Credit East View Elementary
Credit East View Elementary

Fifth grade classes at Ivers J. Norton, Washington West, East View, and Boardmanville Elementary schools put Rocketman on the hot seat with some very good questions such as “How fast does the Earth rotate?”, “How does a spacecraft orbit and not fall to the Earth?”, and “What is plasma?”  Thankfully Commander Merlin was hiding in another room and was whispering the answers into Rocketman’s ear via a small radio after looking it up on the internet.

Commander Merlin sings a few tunes between questions.

People on the game show, “Are you smarter than a 5th grader” only have to face off against 3-6 fifth graders.  Rocketman on average had to face 40-60 fifth graders at each school.  Currently he is still in therapy trying to recover from the experience.

Rocketman Featured in Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine

The October/November issue of the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine has done an article called “Throttle Down” by Tom Harpole.   The article is written about the end of the Space Shuttle Program and the economic devastation it will cause to Brevard County Florida.  In the photo gallery, various shuttle workers are highlighted including yours truly.

You can find the online version of the article here.

Credit Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine/David Burnett/Contact Press Image

Comparing Apples and Oranges and Space Plans

Credit www.AmericaSpace.org

With all the other news going on lately, many people are not aware that there are now four plans being pushed to replace the Space Shuttle Program.  There are of course Constellation, which was first proposed by President Bush seven years ago, and Obama’s plan proposed April 15th of this year that killed Constellation and replaced it with nothing and effectively killing America’s Human Space Flight Program completely.

But Congress has now joined the fray by putting forth two plans, one from the  House and one from the Senate.  I thought I would try to do a comparison of all four plans so you can decide which one you think fits best for these United States of America.  I have left the budget numbers out because I want you to see the overall picture/goals of each plan as it concerns Human Space Flight.  I have included a file at the end that has all the budget numbers if you want to see them that was done by the Space Foundation.

First, I have to do a few definitions for you.

Near Earth-Low Earth orbit (LEO) out to geo-synchronous orbit (customarily 22,500 miles above the Earth).

Cis-lunar-Region of space from the geo-synchronous orbit of the Earth out to and including the region around the surface of the Moon.

Deep Space-Region of space beyond cis-lunar.

ISS – International Space Station

Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle, or HLLV, is a launch vehicle capable of lifting more mass into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) than Medium Lift Launch Vehicles. While there is no universally accepted capability requirement, current and past rockets like the Saturn V,Titan IV, Ariane 5, Proton, and Delta IV-Heavy are generally considered “Heavy Lift” launch vehicles.

So what does that mean in layman’s terms?  Imagine you are standing in a room with a ceiling 10 feet above you.  On a table before you are two balls, a baseball and a bowling ball.  You are the launch vehicle and the balls are the payloads.  You know you can pick up the baseball and throw it and hit the ceiling with ease.  That is your “medium” payload.  Now try to pick up your “heavy” payload, the bowling ball, and throw it straight up and hit the ceiling.  Can’t do it can you?  That’s because you and most of us are not capable of “launching” such a heavy payload.  You would have to find someone that is much stronger and can do the “heavy lifting” to get that bowling ball to hit the ceiling.

Current USA Heavy Lift Vehicles Tonnage to LEO

Space Shuttle                                                          115.5 tons

Atlas V                                                                      32.36 tons

Delta IV                                                                    25.25 tons

Falcon 9 (Space X)                                                  35.2 tons (note: SpaceX says 35.2 tons is it’s capability of the their rocket, but actual launch performance which is listed at the bottom of their page is 23,050 lbs or only 11.5 tons!)

Past USA Heavy Lift Vehicles Tonnage to LEO

Saturn V Moon Rocket                                            129.8 tons

Heavy Lift rocket required by:                                                Tonnage

Constellation

Ares I (Crewed vehicle)                                           28.16 tons and with one successful test launch (Ares I-X October 2009)

Ares V                                                                        206.8 tons and several years of design work put into it.

Heavy lift in Obama’s Plan                                     Unspecified and un-designed

Heavy Lift in Senate Plan                                       70-100 tons initially (eventually evolving to 150 tons) and un-designed

Heavy lift in House Plan                                         Unspecified and un-designed

Sources for Heavy Lift Stats are here and here.

Below is a little table I whipped up comparing the four plans.

Plan Destination Goals Current Status Comments
Constellation

(It appears that NASA has scrubbed Constellation from their main website, but Wikipedia still has info)

Start of Discovery’s Final Voyage

Discovery's Last Rollover to the VAB 09-09-2010 Credit: David Kranz

Today, Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be stacked and mated in preparation for being rolled out to Launch Complex 39A.  This will be Discovery’s 39th and last mission.

Though Discovery launched on her first mission August 30th, 1984, 26 years ago, she has not even reached “middle age.”  NASA required the contractors that built the Space Shuttle Fleet to build ships that could fly 100 flights each.  Discovery has now flown more flights than any other shuttle but still has 61 flights left in her if the program had been allowed to continue.  It is sad to see such a great ship be regulated to a museum so young in her life, but we can thank the short sighted politicians in Washington, both the White House and in Congress.

Rocketman and Discovery in the VAB

Discovery was my first ship and has always been special to me.  From the first time I saw her during a tour about 3 days after I was hired, to my final walk around her during my last night of work nearly a year ago, I’ve always thought she was the most beautiful and special Shuttle of the entire fleet.  To see her go from a productive space craft to a museum piece is saddening.

Layoff notices by the truckload. Credit Florida Today

What makes things more bittersweet is the fact that about 20% of the workforce at United Space Alliance will not be there to see her final liftoff and landing.  Almost 2,000 contractors at Kennedy Space Center have been laid off since October of 2009, including another batch of 1,400 workers scheduled to laid off permanently the first week of October 2010.  Those 1,400 workers have been directly involved in preparing Discovery for her final mission and have accompanied her to the VAB and will accompany her to the launch pad, but will not be there to see her launch in November.

The remaining workers, about 8,000 at KSC alone, will be let go throughout the rest of 2010 and early 2011, the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program.  The people laid off now and those to follow will become new “government employees” and transferred to the fastest growing Federal Government Department in the last two years called the Unemployment Department.  They will all take a 40% pay cut and will not be allowed to produce for the American people anymore in taking care of America’s Human Space Flight program and their new tasks will include how  to pay their mortgages, keep food on the table, find another job, etc.

Life after NASA Credit Jeff Parker Florida Today

In fact, as I covered in past posts here and here, America will not only lose these productive employees, but will also lose their entire Human Space Flight Program if Obama has his way by cancelling the Shuttle’s successor, Constellation.  When you see Endeavour launch in early 2011, it will most likely be the last time you will see an American astronaut fly on an American ship for the foreseeable future.  Remember Obama, and your representatives in Congress, including the representatives who were supposed to be protecting KSC Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, when you see that last Space Shuttle fly.  Remember they all had a hand in destroying our Human Space Flight program and our leadership in space exploration.  Remember they killed Constellation and therefore killed our dreams for our country.

Not on my watch!

Also, please remember the contractors at KSC and all the other NASA space centers throughout the nation that worked for you America.  They punched a clock, worked overtime, spent their salaries in our local economy, and took care of America’s only productive crown jewel for over 50 years for you.  They have produced for you and have made America the Human Space Flight leader in the world and all it has cost you is 1/6th of one penny in your tax dollar.  In the last 50 years they have sent Americans to orbit the Earth and walk on the Moon.  Wayne Hale once described this workforce as “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”  There is so much truth in that.  Like our armed forces, they have come from all walks of life and have worked together to serve our country, dream big, and produce a better life for all Americans.

I am going to ask a favor of you all.  I would like to you take 5 minutes and write or call these contractors that have worked so hard for you and thank them for their service. If you are an astronaut reading this, please also write your thanks to these “ordinary people” because they ensured you got into orbit safely and returned safely to your spouses and families.   If you know one of these contractors personally, then give him or her a call and tell them your appreciation.

The majority of the workers in the Shuttle Program work for United Space Alliance, a company owned by Boeing and Lockheed.  The Space Shuttle Program Manager is Howard DeCastro.  Please make a phone call or write a personal letter to Mr. DeCastro and ask him to forward it on to the workers showing your appreciation for the work they have done for our country. He is an honorable man and will ensure that the workers get your message of thanks.   You can write to Mr. DeCastro at:

Mr. Howard DeCastro

c/o USA Community Relations

1102 John Glenn Blvd

Titusville, FL  32780

Or call and leave a message at 321-799-7200

If you have another five minutes, please call or write your representatives in Washington and give them hell for ending Constellation and our Human Space Flight Program.  You can find your representative at this website.

Godspeed Discovery and God bless your caretakers for all these years of service.


Shortly after Discovery arrived in the VAB, she was lifted into a  vertical position and placed upon the shuttle stack in prepreation for her rollout to the launch pad later in the week.

Discovey's final time being stacked. Credit Larry D. Tanner

Rainbow over Cuba NY

Took a picture of a nice rainbow over Cuba NY from the RV park.

Time Traveling

A couple weekends ago we drove up to see the Genesee Country Village and Museum.  It’s located up in Mumford NY, about an hour’s drive from our campsite.

The Genesee Country Village is actually comprised of two villages: an 18th century village and a 19th century village laid out next to each other.  The villages are manned by volunteers dressed in period costumes who explain what each building and business did way back when.  Some of the businesses are in actual use and you can “apprentice” at them for a fee of $150.  You can also bring your family for an entire weekend to live in a 18th century cabin and live the “pioneer” life for a fee.

The first thing we saw when we entered was two oxen.  I’ve never seen oxen before and was surprised at how large they were.  They make a regular size cow look small.  I had first had thought they were bulls due to the large horn set they had, but as we got closer I knew they were bigger than any bull I’ve ever seen.  I can see why the early settlers valued them so much for they have the strength to pull a plow through some of the toughest ground you can think of short of solid rock.

We visited the one room school house next and found a young charming lady that was very informative about the building and what went on there.  School was usually held during the winter months when there wasn’t much going on at the farms.  Basically it is still the same today.  Not many schools are open during the summer months and that can be traced back to our days as an agricultural nation.

The desks were one long slanted board set out in rows with benches for seats.  Each student area consisted of just a small chalkboard, called a slate board, and some chalk for the students to do their lessons on.  Up front, was a lectern where the teacher sat on a raised pedestal so she could oversee the classroom.  Behind her was a larger chalkboard and a small rack of books.  Due to books being scarce during that time period, the students probably did not handle the books, just the teacher.

It was one room, heated by one stove and the student body consisted of a mix of ages.  The older students would assist the teacher with the younger ones in their lessons and being a role model.  Of course the older students had their lessons to tend to also.  I’ve read a study somewhere that suggested this type of learning atmosphere was actually better for the children compared to the system today where all the children are segregated by age and class.  Considering the state of our economy and the shortfall in funding for our schools, those type of mixed classrooms may someday come back into vogue.

We next moved on to the Blacksmith shop.  This is one of the areas where you can apprentice.  He had a small forge powered by a bellows that he pulled by hand to stoke the fire.  Basically his job was to create or fix metal farm equipment and even assemble a Conestoga wagon from time to time when a pioneer family was moving westward.  They were also called Prairie Schooners and used by the thousands to move settlers further west.  One of his biggest jobs was to make nails.  If you apprentice there, that is exactly what you will learn to make.  Don’t laugh!  Nails were far more important than you realize.  It helped hold your home and barn together.  When a family would move, they wouldn’t sell the house, but actually burn it down and retrieve the nails from the ashes to use in their next home.

We next moved on to visit the cooper.  A cooper is a barrel maker and bucket maker.  With nothing but hand tools, an experienced cooper can make a entire barrel in one day.  You can also apprentice there and will learn how to make a bucket of your own and hopefully it can carry water.

We went on and visited the apothecary or drug store, town hall and the gun smith.  The gun smith has on display several flint lock rifles from the late 18th to early 19th centuries.  I got to hold one and was amazed at how heavy it was.  I wouldn’t want to have to carry that all day.

We visited the local paper and I had an entertaining talk with the printing press operator.  He showed me a flyer he had just printed announcing a reward for his runaway apprentice saying he was willing to pay a bucket of ashes for his return.  This was a tongue in cheek way of saying that the newspaper publisher was no longer responsible for any debts, mischief, etc. that the runaway apprentice got into.  Normally, an apprentice was answerable to his Master and the Master was answerable to anything the apprentice did out in the community.  The Master is sort of like a parent, but he would be teaching the apprentice his trade along with the parental responsibilities.

We next visited the brewery, situated next to a small field of wheat and hops, called W. Grieve Brewer and distiller * Malster.  They had large iron kettle big enough for three men to heat their water in and the whole set up to make beer.  The building was two stories and due to the heating of the kettle, very hot inside.  My son-in-law, Matthew, spent a good bit of time inside talking with the brew masters.  Matt brews his own beer as a hobby and after tasting the beer made in a similar manner later that night and Matt’s dark lager he made,  I will take Matt’s beer any day.  I think he could teach the  brew masters a couple things about making beer.


We visited the carriage house which contained carriages of all types and some horse drawn sleds.  There was even an old horse drawn beer wagon for Genesee Beer that existed long before Budweiser’s Clydesdale teams.  The carriages were exquisite and one resembled an Model T Ford.  I’m sure this type of carriage was where Henry Ford got his idea for his first mass produced car.

There were many beautiful homes, especially in the 19th century village, but the one that caught my eye was the Octagon House.  This is a house that was first designed by Orson Squire Fowler, a famous lecturer on Phrenology (the ability to read personalities of people by mapping the bumps on their heads) and amateur architect.

Fowler had come up with a design for a house that consisted of 8 sides instead of the customary 4 sides that ended up having 20% more square footage than a regular house that would sit on the same plot of land.  Inside he had a large central staircase directly in the center of the home that allowed warm air to rise up and heat the upper floors during the winters and warm air to escape out of the top of the house during the summer months.  Basically, he developed the first central air and heat system for a home.

The houses were commonly designed with a veranda circling the entire home, sometimes one would be on each floor.  The houses were customarily 2-3 stories high and topped off with a cupola that gave a person a 360 degree view of their property.  Some roofs were designed to be slanted inwards so they could catch rainwater that was piped down through filters consisting of sand and charcoal and into underground cisterns.

One other “improvement” that Fowler brought into his design and is still used by homes today, is the indoor toilet.  Up to that time, you had to go outside to the outhouse to relieve yourself.  He argued that the restroom should be inside the home with adequate plumbing, and located under the stairs.  At first people laughed at this suggestion, but the elderly and invalid loved the idea.  In time folks went back to their 4 sided homes and forgot about the Octagon Houses, but the indoor toilet idea stayed on.  You can read more about octagon houses in Fowler’s book, A Home For All, or The Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building. Originally published in 1853, the book is still available as reprints on Amazon.  I bought a copy for my library.

The last thing that caught Gypsy and I’s eye was a garden behind a 19th century mansion.  It was laid out in a square fenced off on one end by the house, the other end with a trellis thick with grape vines, and the sides with thick honeysuckle bushes that were nearly 10 feet tall.  Inside the garden was several square sections blocked off by small hedges and in these areas fruit trees, flowers, and various plants grew.  You could walk the garden between the squares with ease and enjoy the shade of the fruit trees and the smell of honeysuckles in the air.  On one end was a gazebo that had shutter doors, similar to doors we find on closets today, but larger that could be used to close off the gazebo during bad weather and open to the air during beautiful days.  The entire garden was quite impressive and I can envision a similar backyard garden someday in our future.

Later in the evening, they had a wine tasting event.  It rained clear up until it was time for the tasting so nearly half of the vendors from the local wineries did not show up.  The ones that did show up did not have any wine that we tasted worth buying for our collection.  I do have to say, there was a jazz band in the main building that was fantastic and we spent quite a bit of time enjoying their music.

Overall it was a wonderful day and we are looking forward to returning in the future.

Put Your Face In Space!

From the NASA web site:

Fly Your Face in Space

NASA wants to put a picture of you on one of the two remaining space shuttle missions and launch it into orbit. To launch your face into space and become a part of history, just follow these steps:

First…Select the Participate button at the bottom of this page and upload your image/name, which will be flown aboard the space shuttle. Don’t have a picture to upload? No problem, just skip the image upload and we will fly your name only on your selected mission!

Next…Print and save the confirmation page with your flight information.

Later…Return to this site after launch to print your Flight Certificate – a commemorative certificate signed by the Mission Commander. You can also check on mission status, view mission photographs, link to various NASA educational resources and follow the commander and crew on Twitter or Facebook.”

Go to www.faceinspace.nasa.gov to upload your picture and get to “fly” on one of the last two Space Shuttle Missions.  Remember, this is  probably the last time you will see American Astronauts fly on an American ship, so don’t pass  up this historic opportunity!

Letchworth and Stony Brook State Parks

I am sorry for the long delay in posting to RV-103.  Gypsy and I have been busy enjoying the State of NY and I now finally have some time to sit down and write.

We have been doing some hiking in two local state parks, Letchworth and Stony Brook.  I’ve written about Letchworth before when RV-103 was on her first mission, but this is the first time we ever did any hiking there.

Letchworth is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” and earns that title.  We took a seven-mile hike down the gorge and viewed two of their three large falls up close.  We then looped around through the woods and back to where we started.  While we were in the woods, we saw a fox, deer, and I even got a picture of a coyote!   The wildlife is quite abundant here and the scenery is beautiful.  We plan on returning soon to do some more hiking and exploring in the near future.  Below are some pictures I took during our last visit there.

Do you see the train crossing over the first falls?
View from above the first falls
Genesee River
Second falls
Another view of the second falls
See the stone bridge?
"Two paths diverged in a wood, and I--I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

The coyote didn't like his picture taken...
...but the deer didn't mind.
Time to take a break!

Stony Brook State Park is hidden away just outside of Dansville NY.  Driving by the park entrance and over the little brook would never give you a clue as to how steep and deep the actual gorge is.  During the late 1800’s, this place was a private resort and many people would travel to this place for privacy and relaxation.  There are two trails, the Eastern Rim and the Western Rim.  Each trail is only about 1 mile long, but very steep in places.  As you climb up one of the rim trails (I recommend ascending the Eastern Rim and descending the Western Rim) you can overlook the gorge in various places.  It surprising how quickly you rise in elevation.  Thankfully there are steps in place at the most difficult places thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps from the 1930’s.

As you descend the Western Rim, you can choose the trail that follows Stony Brook and wade in the water for refreshment, or you can take the upper Western Rim Trail to overlook the gorge again.  We have done both and found each route has its particular beauty.  Though it is only a two-mile hike, the steepness of the climb and descent will make it feel much longer.  Stony Brook has three falls in the gorge, with the biggest being over 45 feet high.

Next up: RV-103 travels to the 18th and 19th centurys for some wine.

Join the Misadventures!

RV-103 is proud to announce the RV-103 Lecture Series.  The RV-103 Lecture Series is designed to present to civic groups, schools 5th grade and up, and scout troops what it is like to be involved and work in Human Space Flight, specifically the Space Shuttle Program.

The first series of Lectures is titled:

What’s It Like to Work on the Space Shuttle-The Misadventures of a Space Cadet.

Proof that pigs can really fly!

Any interested schools or civic groups that may be interested can contact Rocketman at Rocketman@RV-103.com for rates and availability.

Currently, RV-103 and her crew are conducting a mission in the Western New York Twin Tiers Region, but may be coming to your area soon.

Join the Misadventures!

www.RV-103.com

Commander Merlin & Crew


NASA Administrator: Forget the Moon, Let’s Worship Allah and Sing Kum Ba Yah!

I was going to do some RV type posts today, but then this story came up on Fox News that just blows my mind.  It is said,  “Reality is stranger than fiction,” and stories like this prove that cliche’ so true.

It seems that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden thinks not only we should forgo true exploration and the Moon and instead get “religion”, and not just any old religion, but a full partnership with the Muslim world.  Give me a break!

Charlie Bolden on Al Jazeera Television

“When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — he (Obama) charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering,”

 

Credit: IBDEditorials.com/cartoons

(If you notice he said he was asked to do this before he became NASA administrator. So now we know that was part of the interview process for getting the job. Now we know why there were a ton of names mentioned before anyone got the job! None of them wanted the job under those terms!!!! – sb023 comment on NasaWatch.com)

(Why worry about getting moon or Mars? After 2 more shuttle flights we will not be able to go anywhere, for maybe dozens of years. Has anyone noticed that none of the 3 things Bolden has been charged to do involves actually launching things or flying in space? Is it too much to ask that NASA be charged with space exploration. Why is making Muslim nations feel good about themselves, NASA’s mission? Shouldn’t that be up to the Muslim nation. Obama is US president and NASA is US agency, shouldn’t they do something to make thier own citizens feel good? – Mungo comment on NasaWatch.com)

It is true that Middle Eastern Nations contributed in the distant past significantly, especially to astronomy and mathematics, prior to the establishment of the Muslim religion, but they have done nothing to improve science or math since then.

I am beginning to seriously wonder if this man was ever fit to command a Space Shuttle in the past, let alone administer America’s Human Space Flight Program.  I have never in my life seen a man sell his soul and integrity so completely as Charlie Bolden has done to Obama. Good Lord!  In the Muslim world, he would be known as a dhimmi and rightly so.

Charlie Bolden also said in the interview, “…the United States is not going to travel beyond low-Earth orbit on its own…” I guess Mr. Bolden forgot that we did travel beyond Earth orbit 9 times between 1968 and 1972 (Apollo 8, 10, and 13 orbited the Moon while 6 Apollo missions actually landed on the Moon.) to the Moon on our own and still remain the only nation to do so.  Does he want the Muslim nations to provide magic carpets so we can fly beyond Earth orbit?  I think he and Obama have watched Disney’s Aladdin once too often.

Obama and Bolden Fly On Their New Magic Carpet

I keep pinching myself hoping to wake up from this insanity that has infected NASA and our nation.

UPDATE:  Nasawatch and Fox News report that Astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, has called for Charlie Bolden’s resignation over this and for supporting Obama’s PowerPoint Plan.

More Reactions:

“President Obama likes to say ‘if we could put a man on the moon’ we can do anything, from socializing medicine to abandoning fossil fuels. That’s nonsense on stilts for a host of reasons. But it’s also ironic, given that we can’t even put a man on the moon anymore. Not when NASA’s foremost priority is boosting the self-esteem of children and Muslims.” –columnist Jonah Goldberg

Michelle Malkin’s site has some great logo ideas for Obama’s and Charlie Bolden’s new mission for NASA.

Spacedout and Keith Cowling summed it up pretty well at NasaWatch:

“Lets take the word “Muslim” out of the equation. If he said that his foremost priority was to do outreach to Canada what would we do? I would say my reaction is the same. That is not NASAs mission. There are 3 possibilities here: 1)Charlie really believes this is NASA’s main priority, 2)He does not but is being a loyal soldier, or 3)He is incompetent and was not authorized by the Whitehouse to say what he did.

In 2 of the 3 cases above, he should be fired or resign. If he does not believe what he said, then resign and tell the world why. If he is incompetent he should resign as he would no longer have the backing of Obama. Since he will not resign, I assume he truly believes this BS. In that case, NASA is lost. As I stated on a previous thread, his butt should be in DC working the new plan. Everything else, is a waste of time/money.

In a year from now, when we still have no clear direction in HSF, remember why. Elections have consequences and what we see in this administration from healthcare to the oil spill reaction is amateur hour. It would be funny were not so serious.

Keith’s note: excellent point. This issue has nothing to do with Muslims. He could have easily said French-speaking or German-speaking nations; countries with lots of Tibetan buddhists (Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and India) or some other non-American group of people. While it is great for NASA to be thinking of things in a global context at the end of the day it is an American space agency first and foremost.”

One final word from me before I close out this post:

From a email I wrote to a friend about this whole mess of Obama’s and Boldens.

What is the old army saying?  Promote a competent person until they reach their level of incompetency?  I think that is what has happened to Charlie Bolden.  He can command a shuttle mission, but make him administrator and a buffoon as his boss (Obama) and he’s way out of his league.

As for the news article, and the plans that are being floated out there, they all sound good but when it’s coming from a known liar like Obama and Bill Nelson I just have to take it all with a large grain of salt.  I want to believe and I want to have hope but if you watch Obama’s actions instead of listening to his words, you find he’s not honest.

Constellation may not be the best option but I do truly believe it’s the only one.  It has $9 billion and 6 years worth of work done already.  That’s quite a foundation compared to all those other “plans” out there, real or not.  It sure is a mess isn’t it?

Civil War: America’s First Space Battle and it’s on Earth!!!

Although Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden have tried since January 2010 to push Obama’s Power Point plan as America’s new Human Space Flight Program, calling the matter “settled”, seven months later it is far from settled and a Civil War has broken out within NASA being led by the folks at Johnson Space Center and Marshall Space Flight Center.

There are basically two sides to this civil war:  Obama, NASA Senior Administration officials, and a few “Obamanauts” who wish to kill America’s Human Space Flight Program vs many mid-level NASA managers, employees, and contractors who are fighting for Constellation and our Human Space Flight Program.  As with all civil wars, this war is going to be more damaging in the long run compared to other wars.

Congress, during the last year, had passed a requirement that NASA had to get approval from Congress before canceling Constellation.  There were fears that though Obama had promised during the election campaign he would support our Human Space Flight Program and our setting up a base on the Moon by 2020, he might be lying and would try to cancel Constellation and our Human Space Flight Program.  For once, Congress did something very forward thinking and prudent though Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden don’t seem to be that concerned about the law unless it’s in their favor.

Credit NasaWatch.com

On May 27th, Jeff Hanley, Constellation’s Project Manager was removed from his job by Charlie Bolden for doing his job in promoting Constellation!  Charlie Bolden felt that Mr. Hanley needed to lose his job because he “was “conflicted” and had become a lightening rod for controversy,” per the Huntsville Times.  Funny, since Constellation is still on the books as America’s official Human Space Flight Program and Obama’s plan has not yet been approved by Congress, who is the “lightening rod for controversy” Mr. Bolden?

Senator Richard Shelby and other lawmakers felt this firing of Mr. Hanley was NASA senior administration’s way of bypassing Congress and getting rid of Constellation by getting rid of their effective personnel in the program. “NASA leadership removed a capable program manager in its continuing efforts to suppress internal voices of dissent to their visionless space exploration plan,” Shelby said this afternoon. “This action furthers an atmosphere where NASA’s leadership team has become a key impediment to space exploration moving forward.”

In possible retaliation for Senator Shelby’s criticism of the NASA administration and Obama, the Citizens Against Government Waste (at Obama’s prodding?) named Senator Shelby the “Porker of the Month” for wanting to save Constellation. Congressman Bill Posey rose to Senator Shelby’s defense and pointed out, “The real waste is canceling a program that’s near completion after investing $9 Billion into it.”

Credit: Florida Today

But Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden weren’t done yet. Charlie Bolden and his legal team dug up a 140 year old law (Yes I said a 140 year old law created before Jules Verne had written his fictional account of man going to the Moon) called the Anti-Deficiency Act.  The Anti-Deficiency Act requires money to be set aside to cover termination costs in case a government contract is cancelled.  Bolden wanted to use this 140-year-old law to force the contractors working on Constellation to lay off the workers and use the funds to prepare to shut down Constellation and America’s Human Space Flight Program.  “NASA told Congress this week it intends to start shutting down its moon program despite legislation prohibiting the agency from terminating Project Constellation without the approval of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.”  “It also comes despite rulings by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals that places all termination liability on the government rather than contractors.”

Stonewalling Congress is another tactic being used to kill Constellation.  Congress has been getting frustrated with Obama’s plan lacking any detail and has ordered NASA to hand over data and material that would explain the plan better.  But, “Word has it that the White House views this request as a matter of Executive privilege. As such it is unlikely that NASA will be allowed to provide much of what the House members are demanding to see.”NasaWatch article titled “House Gets Firm With NASA Over Data Request.”

NASA officials did throw a bone to the people wanting to return to live on the Moon by announcing a new video game (part of Obama’s new space program?) called Moonbase Alpha.  Instead of us really going back to the Moon to live and work, we would do it online in a video game.  Oh the genius of this!

NASA INVITES JOURNALISTS, VIDEO GAME EXPERTS TO REVIEW ONLINE GAME

WASHINGTON — News media and video game reviewers have an opportunity
to preview a new NASA video game, Moonbase Alpha, in advance of its
worldwide release.

Moonbase Alpha is a game with single and multiplayer options where
players step into the role of an exploration team member in a
futuristic 3-D lunar settlement. Their mission is to restore critical
systems and oxygen flow after a nearby meteor strike cripples a solar
array and life support equipment.

NASA’s senior administration also went on the offensive to try to explain why people didn’t “understand” Obama’s new plan.  In the article titled Malice, Mischief and Misconceptions in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space online edition, the writer discussed this attempt; “The latest attempt to explain NASA’s new direction is an article published in Space.com by Clara Moskowitz.  She tries to “correct” some alleged “misunderstandings” about the Obama administration’s new direction and budget for NASA.  Her article quotes several space luminaries, who opine that the new path is simply “not understood” by a few petulant detractors who stubbornly refuse to accept Flexible Path as advertised.” In other words, we are too stupid to understand Obama’s plan, including the tens of thousands engineers, technicians, aerospace professionals, Congressmen, Senators, and nearly all of the retired astronauts that are free to speak up including Neil Armstrong, and Gene Cernan.

Personally, I think the Cartoon series called South Park does a fine job explaining Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden’s new “plan.”  ***Language Warning***

Credit: NasaWatch

But, the Pro-American Human Space Flight people haven’t been idle.    Mr. Dale Thomas, who replaced Jeff Hanley as the Constellation Project manager, continues the fight.  “Dale Thomas has simply picked up where Jeff Hanley left off and has told his staff that this is what he is doing. Nothing has changed and JSC still operates in open defiance of NASA Headquarters – starting with its center director.”

Though Charlie Bolden is trying to use the 140-year-old law, The Anti-Deficiency Act, to shut off funding for Constellation, various NASA centers and mid-level managers are still obeying the Congressional directive and 2010 budget requirements and fund Constellation work.   “…Mr. Bolden in recent weeks issued directives intended to immediately halt or sharply curtail funding for continued work on some big-ticket projects. They include the family of Ares rockets being developed by Alliant Techsystems Inc. However, midlevel NASA contracting officials in the past few days released more than $160 million to Alliant. Andrew Hunter, a NASA budget official, said Wednesday the action was intended to prevent Alliant from being forced to abruptly stop all Ares work and lay off employees. Lockheed Martin Corp. also got the green light to receive $80 million for other work related to a crew capsule.” Wall Street Journal (6/24)

Even Mr. Bolden’s press spokesman defended this defiance of Obama and Mr. Bolden in a recent article titled Obama Space Plan Under Continuous Assault “Asked about providing continued funds for Ares work, Bob Jacobs, a press spokesman for Mr. Bolden, said Tuesday: “Whether or not it fits the priorities” previously mandated by Mr. Bolden “is kind of up for interpretation.” The spokesman said “a commitment was made” by NASA earlier to provide the money.”

The most potent weapon that is starting to be used in this civil war is the political awakening of the Human Space Flight workforce.  Most aerospace workers didn’t give a hoot about politics, but they now realize that their dreams of Human Space Flight and their jobs are dependent upon a politician’s whim and they don’t like it.  They now understand that elections do have consequences and when you elect a man that has never managed a McDonalds, how can he manage a country let alone Human Space Flight?

This large body of tens of thousands of Human Space Flight workers, a sleeping giant so to speak, has awakened and they are ticked off.  They are calling their representatives in Washington, showing up at town hall meetings when the democrats are actually brave enough to hold one, and becoming politically active.  The first politicians that will feel their wrath this November and November of 2012 are the ones that sold them out and supported Obama killing America’s Human Space Flight Program.  Politicians such as Senator Bill Nelson, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, and Congressman Allan Grayson, all from Florida.

Credit: Florida Today

Meanwhile Congress is getting into the debate.  Sixty two Congressmen recently sent a letter to Obama “expressing concern that the decision to cancel the Constellation Program could mean that the United States would cede its leadership in human space flight to other countries.”

Six Senators have written Charlie Bolden asking him “to abandon efforts to slow down Constellation by requiring contractors to withhold funds to cover termination liability.” Per Space Politics  Or in other words, quit trying to use a 140-year-old law to kill Constellation, which never had been used by NASA before, without Congressional approval!   It should be noted that Florida Senator Bill Nelson did NOT sign that letter, but it’s already well known he sold out our Human Space Flight Program along with Congresswoman Kosmos for a ride on Air Force One and a photo op with Obama.

Maryland Congressman Ruppersberger recently met with the workers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which is far more than I can say of Obama, Nelson, and Kosmos not meeting with Kennedy Space Center workers, but hiding from them  last April.   According to the Huntsville Times June 21st issue, Congressman Ruppersberger is “concerned about ending” Constellation saying, “It gives a head start to a lot of our competitors, especially the Chinese, and I don’t want to give any country a head start when it comes to controlling the skies and controlling space.”

Elderly Senator John Glenn even got into the act, but took the tack arguing that the Shuttle Program should not be shut down until a reliable replacement is ready.  Senator Glenn is about 6 years too late for that argument though the very late effort is appreciated.  At least he’s not doing “Dancing with the Stars” and “World Wide Wrestling” like the only Apollo astronaut to support Obama is, 80-year-old Buzz Aldrin.  It’s easier to take the elderly Senator Glenn more seriously than poor old Buzz.

It appears that even the Russians are starting to think it’s a bad idea to be left as the only ride to the International Space Station.  In an article dated 6-26 in the Parabolic Arc titled Chinese Shenzhou Vehicle Eyed as ISS Backup to Russian Soyuz, “Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov said the International Space Station partners are awaiting a response from China on an invitation to join the project. The interesting aspect is why the offer was made: Russia doesn’t want to be solely responsible for crew transport once the space shuttle retires.

“This is rather dangerous, any expert recognizes that. There must a backup for the Soyuz.We wish some country would have it, and we contacted China with its human spaceflight program mature enough to maintain crew transportation in the program, asking to join the ISS partnership. However there was no response,” Perminov said.

Oh, I can’t imagine this going over very well with Congress. Not. At. All. NASA issued a formal statement about this story on Friday: “We checked and confirmed with the director of the Russian Federal Space Agency human space flight program that Russia has not issued an invitation to China to join the International Space Station Program.” Personally, I think NASA is lying and trying to do some damage control before Congress finds out the truth.

Probably another thing that glaringly shows why Constellation should not be cancelled and our Human Space Flight program be handed over to private companies is the commercial companies themselves.  Six years ago, Space Ship One made history as the first privately built spacecraft to achieve sub-orbital flight.  They did two flights that year and none since then, though they were to be transporting tourists who pre-paid $200,000 apiece by now.  SpaceX has had 4 flights with their Falcon 1 rocket that failed 3 times and one flight with their Falcon 9 rocket, which had mixed results.  (See SpaceX Post) Those are the only two private companies that I know of that have put anything into space on their own besides the big boys such as Lockheed and Boeing.  Though the commercial industry supports Obama’s plan and the money that would come with it, they are probably the best hostile witness out there that shows they are not ready to take over the role of transporting our astronauts to low earth orbit or to the ISS.

This fight for our Human Space Flight is far from over.  But the damage Obama and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden have done already to NASA and our country’s aerospace community will take a long time to heal.  I was asked by a space blogger I respect very much if I thought NASA would recover from this division.  My answer, I don’t know.  I do fear that if our HSF is destroyed, that NASA will become irrelevant in a very short time.  Sometimes I think it’s only the contractors that still believe in the dream of our HSF program and America’s leadership role. I fear that NASA’s administration has lost that dream due to their lust for titles, power, and influence and therefore lost their direction and purpose.

Please go to www.Congress.org and use the contact information to contact your Senator and Congressman.  Ask them to support and save our Human Space Flight Program by saving Constellation.

100th Post!!! Full Moon Over RV-103

Recent Full Moon Over RV-103. Taken on my Iphone

I just realized when I made this post that it is the 100th post of RV-103.  Wow!  I thank you all for following this website and inputing your comments along the way.

I also want to thank the USA Educational Department for calling me on this auspicious occasion.  I really enjoyed talking with you all this evening.

Let’s see where the next 100 posts take us.

Be safe and be well.

Rocketman

Where is that Global Warming Al Gore?

We had a weather front come through yesterday and things cooled down.  By the time we were ready to go to bed, I commented to Gypsy that I was cold.  I shut the windows and checked on our weather station that monitors the temps inside and outside RV-103.  It was 36 degrees outside!  4 degrees above freezing!  I have never seen it this cool in the summer, especially this far into summer.

Brrrr…time for the extra blanket.

SpaceX and Their Falcon 9 Launch

On June 4th, 2010 SpaceX “successfully” launched their Falcon 9 rocket for the first time.  For that accomplishment, I give them my congratulations.  To launch a rocket and achieve orbit is a massive undertaking and very few nations can do that let alone private companies.

The reason I put the word “successfully” into quotes is because SpaceX has never, to my knowledge, released their mission goals or milestones they hoped to achieve during this inaugural launch of their Falcon 9.  Unlike NASA, Space X does not seem to have to release this information because they are a private company.

I would be more apt to say they had “limited success.”  Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, would only say that his rocket achieved orbit within one mile of their intended goal of 100 miles.  There is also the question of the first stage failure to land safely in the ocean to be recovered and the unusual spin the second stage experienced during flight.  That spinning stage was witnessed over Australia 45 minutes later resulting in numerous UFO calls to authorities.

Prior to launch, Elon Musk was making statements to downplay the launch realizing that most inaugural launches of new rockets historically have a 50% failure rate.  “Tomorrow’s launch, or the next day’s launch, should not be a verdict on the viability of commercial space,” he said.

Of course afterwards, Mr. Musk was making statements saying, “I think this bodes very well for the Obama plan.  I think it really helps vindicate the approach that he’s taking, and it shows that even a sort of small, new company like SpaceX can make a real difference.” I think part of his statement is post launch hubris from celebrating the launch and part of it was just public relations on Obama’s part.

With the limited knowledge of the launch goals we have, let’s break down just how “successful” this launch was.  Are they ready to climb another 150 miles and deliver supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station?  I’ll let you decide.

First of all, there is the failure of the 1st stage to splash down in a controlled manner and be recovered.  These things happen.  Even in the Shuttle Program, occasionally the solid rocket boosters land a bit hard and are damaged.  During the Ares 1-X launch, the first stage had a parachute failure resulting in the stage being damaged during splashdown.

Second, was the unusual spin on the second stage.  Though the Falcon 9 achieved orbit, spinning end over end spewing out fuel from the side of the rocket is not good.  In 1966, Gemini 8 commanded by Neil Armstrong, had a thruster stick causing the spacecraft to violently spin out of control nearly killing the crew with one rotation occuring every second.  Armstrong shut off the thrusters and brought the spacecraft back to Earth saving the crew and the spacecraft, but without completing the mission objectives.  This occurred 44 years ago and NASA corrected the problem. As far as I know, NASA never experienced such a problem with their spacecrafts again (with the exception of Apollo 13 that was due to an explosion on board).  End over end spins are dangerous and can lead to the loss of the spacecraft, cargo, and more importantly the crew.  SpaceX just experienced what NASA has dealt with and corrected 44 years ago.

Gemini 8

The original purpose of SpaceX was to launch payloads in orbit for a cheaper price.  They also became part of the Commercial Orbiter Transportation Services (COTS) program done by NASA to set up a way to supply the International Space Station with cargo during the gap between the Shuttle Program and Constellation.  NASA at first, had no intention of using SpaceX to deliver crews to the ISS, for that was to be one of Constellation’s tasks (besides carrying crews to the Moon and back).  Obama changed all that by putting SpaceX into the role of being the one and only agency to transport human crews.  Considering SpaceX youth, inexperience, and a failure rate of 60% out of 5 total launches (Falcon 1 and Falcon 9), there are questions if this company is truly ready to take on the mantle and responsibilities of America’s Human Space Flight Program.

From a recent article on SpaceNews.com, “Roger Tetrault, a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) formed in the wake of the February 2003 space shuttle disaster, has joined the chorus of critics of NASA’s plan to cancel the Moon-bound Constellation program and rely on commercially oriented firms like Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to fly astronauts to the international space station.

“America’s path is now threatened by the decisions being proposed in the NASA budget,” Tetrault wrote in a May 27 letter to U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), a critic of President Barack Obama’s proposed human spaceflight overhaul. “We are cancelling a program built around the findings and lessons learned from Columbia. There is no clear mission or direction given to NASA, and the use of proven-technologies is being shunned. Further, the choice to commercialize our launch capability provides insufficient safety for the brave men and women that will be asked to ride these rockets. Surely, they deserve the best we can provide.”

“…the new entrepreneurial space transportation companies” should first demonstrate they can be counted on to deliver cargo before they are trusted with NASA’s human spaceflight mission.

“Only after they have proven that they are mature and safe enough, should they be allowed to step up to the much harder task of carrying humans…”

SpaceX has also not dealt with NASA as contractors such as United Space Alliance does everyday.  NASA requires “complete accountablity” from it’s contractors when it comes to Human Space Flight.  This means that every nut, bolt, screw, etc must be accounted for on the ship.  USA has to provide where they got the parts, who made them, who installed them, who signed off on it, etc.  The oversight and paperwork tracking all these parts and work done on the shuttles are immense and time consuming, but for good reason; the safety of the ship and the crew.  SpaceX has chaffed in the past over the Air Force’s regulations concerning range safety at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station which is next door to Kennedy Space Center.

“Musk said the decision to launch Falcon 9 from the Cape was a big contributing factor to the launch delay because of the huge volume of regulatory work that has to be completed to conduct a launch from the Cape.

Air Force rules and regulations at Cape Canaveral are increasingly being identified as big obstacles to Florida attracting more space business to the Cape. The costs, security demands and rules for launching rockets from the Air Force rocket range…”

I have no idea how SpaceX will accept and comply with  NASA’s oversight when and if they start launching crews.

I do hope for SpaceX’s continued success, but I do not think they are a viable replacement to Constellation, no matter what Obama thinks.  They do not have the decades of expertise, and institutional knowledge that contractors such as USA, Lockheed, and Boeing have.  SpaceX is just not ready for Prime Time yet nor will be for many years in my humble opinion.

See my past posts about Obama’s new plan here and here.

Update:  Dwayne A. Day wrote a wonderful article about determining SpaceX’s “success” rate compared to government success rates, etc.

Earthquake!!!

It’s really ironic if you think about it.  We spent about 4 months in CA and experienced rain and high winds, but not much else.  We have to come to New York for me to experience my very first earthquake!

Around 1:52 pm today I was sitting on one end of the couch watching TV while Gypsy was taking a nap on the other end.  The next I know, the RV starts rocking side to side waking Gypsy up.  I looked outside the window expecting to see the trees bending from a strong wind gust, but they were standing straight up without a single leaf fluttering.  The rocking went on for a good 10 seconds.

“What’s going on?” asked Gypsy.

“I don’t know!  It’s not the wind.” I replied in a puzzled tone.

I went outside to see if a group of people  was pushing hard on the RV, but there was no one around.  I came back in and Gypsy suggested that maybe it was an earthquake.  After a few minutes, the Drudge Report put up a story of a earthquake in Ottawa Canada, nearly 460 miles away.

Sure enough that was what we felt.  The USGS reports that the quake was a 5.0 quake and was felt all the way east into Massachusetts, as far west as Wyoming, and as far south as Cincinnati OH over 1200 miles away from Ottawa.

Commander Merlin of course showed her coolness during this earthquake.  She was sleeping on the bed and never twitched a ear.

Happy 100th Birthday RV!

Fox News reported yesterday that this year is the 100th birthday of the RV.

“You might not even think about it when you see an RV lumbering down the road, but there are about 30 million people in this country who regularly go traveling with a home on wheels.”

“RV’s first started rolling around the country in 1910, not long after automobiles came around. “As the automobile was invented and became popular, Americans determined how to put beds and kitchens behind their automobiles, and it evolved in RVs”  says historian Hal Hesselbart.”

Michelle Malkin and her family are traveling for the first time in a RV and have made this great post about their adventures so far.

Happy 100th Birthday RV!  Here’s to another 100 years!

Commander Merlin Goes on Her First EVA!

The only time that Commander Merlin has ever left RV-103 was in her escape craft/shuttle called PC or Pet Carrier.  It was time for her to experience her first Extra Vehicular Activity or EVA.

The crew of RV-103 helped Commander Merlin into her harness and tether with minimal blood loss, though the crew did require stitches at the local ER.  Then it was outside to new adventures!

As soon as we set Commander Merlin on the ground she fell right over.  We stood her up and she fell over again!  Obviously she wasn’t going to cooperate for us.  After much coaxing, Commander Merlin stood up and walked around a little bit with a “gleeful” look on her face as you can see in the picture below.

I am NOT a dog!!!!!! Someone is gonna die for this!

Later that night, we closed and locked the door to the crew bedroom.  We could hear a distinct growling on the other side that sounded a bit like Commander Merlin though none of us had the courage to go and see.

Your Calls Are Making a Difference!

Though Obama and Charlie Bolden are trying hard to kill our Human Space Flight Program, Constellation is still hanging on.  By law, which was passed by Congress last year, Constellation cannot be cancelled without congressional permission.  Work continues on Constellation though Bolden works hard to sabotage the work by firing and transferring the lead manager on Constellation and trying to silence NASA employees and contractors who fight for Constellation.

Check out this recent article in Florida Today.

Meanwhile, Charlie Bolden and democratic Florida representatives recently met in Orlando for a dog and pony show to demonstrate to the media how much they care for the people who productively work for the taxpayer in our Human Space Flight Program.  Funny, they exhibit the same “bravery” as Obama did on April 15th by not meeting with the employees affected at KSC.

Credit: Florida Today

Folks, your calls and letters to Congress are making a difference.  If you want to save America’s Human Space Flight Program, keep the pressure on your congressman and senators.  Call them at least once a week until Constellation is saved and America doesn’t lose it’s Human Space Flight Program.    You can find out the contact information for your representatives here.

When the Crew Goes AWOL

Recently, Gypsy and I took a short weekend trip out of state to take care of some business.  Since we were going to be gone for about four days, we made arrangements with Gypsy’s son and daughter-in-law to look in on Commander Merlin and RV-103.

Upon our return, we found the following letter of reprimand from our fearful leader, Commander Merlin,  lying on the table with some new books on vineyards.

We are still scrubbing the floor with our toothbrushes and sleeping outside on the picnic table.  Hopefully Commander Merlin will allow us back in before winter.

05-26-10 Space Shuttle Atlantis Comes Home for the Last Time?

Atlantis on her final landing at KSC. Credit Larry D. Tanner

Space Shuttle Atlantis arrived home for the last time today.  After a picture perfect mission to the ISS, Atlantis safely arrived at the KSC Shuttle Landing Facility and was put to bed in OPF 1.  Well done OPF 1 and the United Space Alliance TPS crew!

Atlantis returning to OPF 1 for the last time. Credit Darlene Dube

Ken Ham, the Commander of Atlantis’s last flight said, “Walking around Atlantis after the flight I realized I probably just did the most fun and amazing thing I’ll do in my life.”  I think the contract workers at KSC can agree with you 100% Commander Ham.

During Shuttle Atlantis mission, amateur astrophotographer Thierry Legault took this picture of Shuttle Atlantis nearing the ISS for docking with the Sun in the background.

Credit Thierry Legault

During re-entry, astronaut Soichi Noguchi on the ISS took this picture from above of Atlantis as she did her fiery descent through the atmosphere over the Pacific.

ISS astronaut Soichi Noguchi captured Atlantis as that fireball, streaking though atmosphere, just as dawn approached. "Dawn, and Space Shuttle re-entered atmosphere over Pacific Ocean. 32 years of service, 32nd beautiful landing. Forever, Atlantis!"

Atlantis was the first Space Shuttle launch I had witnessed when I first moved to Florida in 1996.  I was working at the local hospital on night shift and was very excited about seeing the upcoming launch.  About 10 minutes before launch, we got very busy on the floor with numerous patients calling for assistance and it looked like I was going to miss seeing the launch.

I was in a patient’s room assisting her when nurses Diane and Tracy came rushing in.  They brought another nurse to take over my task and rushed me to another room that overlooked the space center just in time to see the launch pad glow brightly like the sun.  The whole area lit up into daylight and I watched in stunned amazement as Atlantis leaped off the pad on a tail of fire towards the heavens.  I laid my fingers lightly on the window and could feel the vibrations from the launch though we were about 30 miles away.  I have got to see many launches after that, including 5 ½ years worth of launches only 3 miles from the pad, but that first launch was the best and one of the most memorable to me.

Well done Atlantis and thank you for your service over these last 30 plus years.

STS 132

Update:  Atlantis has been given one more mission and the bittersweet privilege to be the very last Space Shuttle and American manned mission.  She will launch in July of 2011.  Don’t miss it for it will probably be the very last time you will see an American astronaut fly on an American ship for at least 10 years or more.

Time Lapse Video of Shuttle Discovery

This was done by the Air and Space Museum during Discovery’s last mission prep and launch.  This is my ship and my former co-workers.  I think this is the fastest I’ve ever seen them move.  Well done OPF 3, TPS, and United Space Alliance.

Enjoy!

05-14-10 Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on Her Last Mission?

Space Shuttle Atlantis launched on her last mission after 25 years of service.  The launch was flawless and the Atlantis mission to the ISS is to deliver science experiments and a new Russian laboratory.  Try to make some time to visit the NASA channel and watch this historic last mission.  Only two more launches are left, Discovery and Endeavour, then it’s all over for America’s Human Space Flight Program.

Below is a short history of Atlantis from the NASA website:

“NASA’s fourth space-rated space shuttle, OV-104 “Atlantis,” was named after the two-masted boat that served as the primary research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts from 1930 to 1966. The boat had a 17-member crew and accommodated up to five scientists who worked in two onboard laboratories, examining water samples and marine life. The crew also used the first electronic sounding devices to map the ocean floor.

Construction of the orbiter Atlantis began on March 3, 1980. Thanks to lessons learned in the construction and testing of orbiters Enterprise, Columbia and Challenger, Atlantis was completed in about half the time in man-hours spent on Columbia. This is largely attributed to the use of large thermal protection blankets on the orbiter’s upper body, rather than individual tiles requiring more attention.

Weighing in at 151,315 pounds when it rolled out of the assembly plant in Palmdale, Calif., Atlantis was nearly 3.5 tons lighter than Columbia. The new orbiter arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 9, 1985, and over the next seven months was prepared for her maiden voyage.

Like her seafaring predecessor, orbiter Atlantis has carried on the spirit of exploration with several important missions of her own. On Oct. 3, 1985, Atlantis launched on her first space flight, STS 51-J, with a classified payload for the U.S. Department of Defense. The vehicle went on to carry four more DOD payloads on later missions.

Atlantis also served as the on-orbit launch site for many noteworthy spacecraft, including planetary probes Magellan and Galileo, as well as the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. An impressive array of onboard science experiments took place during most missions to further enhance space research in low Earth orbit.

Starting with STS-71, Atlantis pioneered the Shuttle-Mir missions, flying the first seven missions to dock with the Russian space station. When linked, Atlantis and Mir together formed the largest spacecraft in orbit at the time. The missions to Mir included the first on-orbit U.S. crew exchanges, now a common occurrence on the International Space Station. On STS-79, the fourth docking mission, Atlantis ferried astronaut Shannon Lucid back to Earth after her record-setting 188 days in orbit aboard Mir.

In recent years, Atlantis has delivered several vital components to the International Space Station, including the U.S. laboratory module, Destiny, as well as the Joint Airlock Quest and multiple sections of the Integrated Truss structure that makes up the Station’s backbone.”

Well done OPF 1, United Space Alliance, and Godspeed Shuttle Atlantis.

Update: The Space Shuttle Program has been extended by one mission, so Atlantis will get to fly one more time in July 2011 and will have the historical role of being the last American ship to fly an American Astronaut for at least the next 10 years or more.

An Interesting Observation About The RV Lifestyle

I have observed something interesting about the RV lifestyle and wonder if any of the other full time RV’ers on the site noticed the same.

When we were in CA, I started taking up the chore of doing laundry while Gypsy was working on a contract.  That’s when I first noticed that most men I’ve ever met at RV parks are in the laundry room.  It wasn’t just limited to the RV park in CA, but at just about every RV park I’ve visited.  It was rare to see a woman in the laundry room.

Weird huh?

05-13-10 We Aren’t Homeless Anymore!

We got the call today that RV-103 is repaired and ready for pickup.  We drove down to Ballantyne RV & Marine in Victor NY and paid the bill.  After inspecting the work, we prepped RV-103 to depart for our campsite.

I never got to meet Jason who had been my main contact.  He was out to lunch when we arrived.  He is a good representative for Ballantyne RV & Marine and I wish I had gotten to thank him.  I had spoken to Jason about our refrigerator being full of food and that I had it running on propane.  He had our RV plugged into main electrical power to save us using our propane and all our food was in good shape and cold.  Well done Jason and thank you!

We started out for our campground and the brakes worked fine.  We arrived at Maple Lane Campground about an hour and half later and set up camp.  It’s good to be back home in the RV.

Home Sweet Home!

It’s Jail For You My Furry Little Feline!

I decided the crew needed to unwind from all the stresses lately, so I took the crew out to the local bar.  We had a wonderful time at first and maybe drank a bit too much.  I vaguely remember Rocketman was dancing on the table naked wearing deer antlers he had grabbed off the wall while Gypsy was passed out in a corner snoring loudly.  The next thing I know a policeman showed up.

“I’m going to have to take you all in for drunkenness and disorderly conduct” he told the crew.

“Yeehaw!” exclaimed Rocketman as he continued his dancing.

I looked up from my bowl of vodka soaked Meow Mix and staggered over to the cop.

“I’m the Commander of this valiant crew.  What’s the problem?”, I said with a slurred meow.

“They are drunk and Rocketman is scaring all the customers” said the cop.

“I am the Commander and I am responsible for this crew.  Don’t you know this is the crew of the famous RV-103?” I meowed belligerently.

“You are taking responsibility for this drunken crew?” asked the policeman drawing himself up to his full height.

“Of course I am!” as I showed my claws.

“Ok, then you are the one going to jail my little sassy furball.” said the policeman with a sly smile as he whipped out his cuffs.

“Just try it you Barney Fife wannabe.” I said sarcastically with a swish of my tail.

So he did.  “Damn!”

I want my lawyer!

The crew is working hard to raise bail as we speak.

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