Friday Links

Down To Earth

NASA is hosting a “social” for the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on April 30. I applied to attend but they are only taking something like 50 guests. Here’s hoping!

Hot on the heels of ATV-3 docking, ESA has shut down production of more ATV cargo vehicles. After the fifth vessel in 2014, the program’s future is uncertain.

NASA has published a timeline of events for Space Shuttle Discovery’s trip to the Smithsonian on April 17.

Unrelated to spaceflight, but of interest to astronomy enthusiasts, the Keck I telescope has started using its new MOSFIRE instrument. MOSFIRE is a wide-field near-infrared spectrometer that is very sensitive. This past week it was activated and took its first pictures. My father is a software engineer at Keck and worked on this instrument so it was fun to get emails from him with updates from activation and testing. I even received one of the first MOSFIRE images in my personal inbox (but I won’t be sharing it here with you EDIT: some first light images have been made public)! Here’s a not-very-exciting video of MOSFIRE being installed in Keck I the other day.

In a lot of ways, operations of the multi-million dollar Keck telescopes is similar to operations of the multi-billion dollar ISS that I work on. Both programs are basically “24/7 operations” with science, maintenance, repairs, and troubleshooting planned every day. My dad was even up on a late shift supporting MOSFIRE activation. I’ll be sure to post here if MOSFIRE makes any stunning discoveries!

In Orbit

A NASA senior review has approved mission extensions for several orbiting astrophysics missions including Hubble, Kepler, and Swift (among others). Of course Phil Plait is enthusiastic about it!

I was at the traditional “100-day party” here in Houston. When an ISS crew reaches (roughly) 100 days in space a happy hour is planned at one of our local hangouts. Beer and food is enjoyed, of course, but we also set up a video conference with the astronauts in space! Friends and family get in line to say hi and say “haha don’t you guys wish you had beer too?”


I love this photo of Italy by Andre Kuipers in ISS. The black hole of Mount Vesuvius really stands out.

This shot of the Great Barrier Reef isn’t bad either.

Speaking of Andre Kuipers, he continues to tell us interesting stories about life on ISS.

Because it’s Cool

This has nothing to do with space but I loved these photos and video of a close encounter with a sperm whale.

Of all the internet April Fool’s jokes, I thought APOD’s was pretty funny. You have to read the caption for full effect.

What geek doesn’t like to see the President hanging out with Uhura and throwing up a little LLAP? Too bad Nemoy and Bolden weren’t there!

April 2, 2012 6:42 pm

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