Friday, March 27, 2015

Big News

         Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

OFF EARTH: Today, three men left Earth, and two of them aren't coming back for a long spell.

Shortly after 12:40 p.m. Seattle time, a Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft launched with NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

We watched pre-launch coverage on NASA TV, which included lots of interviews with crew members and information about the mission. We watched the men suit up and head for their vehicle. I always love listening to the music played by the Cosmodrome "DJ" as these pre-flight events are going on. Today, in addition to traditional Russian music, I heard The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun." An interesting mix, as it always is.

The launch was nominal, thankfully.  In the NASA TV photo below, astronaut Scott Kelly gives a thumbs-up from inside the Soyuz TMA-16M. 
At dinner time, we watched the Soyuz dock with the ISS.  These quick trips to the station are remarkable. I can only imagine how much better the astronauts like them than the days-long journeys of old.

Kelly and Kornienko will be on station for nearly an entire year. NASA is producing a new series of videos called "Space Station Stories." The first one profiles the crew who will be long term ISS residents.

MEANWHILE, ON EARTH: Business as usual down here. The kids had their film making class this afternoon, and the skies were blue once again. 

Speaking of Earth, tomorrow is the annual Earth Hour event. Millions all over the world will 
turn their lights off at 8:30 p.m., in a symbolic gesture demonstrating how we all need to do our part to conserve energy and raise awareness about climate change and what we can do about it. More information and updates about Earth Hour events 'round the world can be found here:

Here's a short video about the event

BIG NEWS: MPA will be "in the house" at the NASA Social in conjunction with the upcoming Space X launch of a resupply mission to the International Space Station on April 10.  A couple weeks back, when I saw an announcement about the opportunity, I pestered Christian to apply for social media credentials for the launch, and as he was filling out the online app, I told him he was going to get chosen.

I love it when I'm right. :)

After the launch, SpaceX will (once again) be attempting to land the first stage of their rocket on a barge in the Atlantic. Hopefully Christian will be there to cover history being made! Fingers crossed the launch goes off on schedule. ... 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dazzling Day

#YEARINSPACE:  Lots of chatter on the Internet about tomorrow's launch, which will take two cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut to the International Space Station. Two of the three men, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, will spend nearly a year on board, the longest continual time any humans have ever spent off planet. 

Here's a short video about the Human Research Program.

Launch coverage will start at 11:30 a.m., and the Soyuz is set to lift off at 12:42 p.m., Pacific time, on NASA TV

SHOREBIRDS:  The sun shone brightly from the get-go this morning. The kids each had a class to attend this morning, and at lunchtime, we manned a booth for the social issues club they're a part of, but after that, got out into the wonderful weather.

A walk from 'downtown' Magnolia to the shoreline at the end of 32nd Avenue West.   
It was absolutely amazing. The sound was smooth and there wasn't a wisp of wind. Believe it or not, before too long the kids complained about being hot! It was 70 degrees out, but it's all relative, isn't it?

Annabelle walked many a log, and CJ ran around on the rocky beach. 
 We watched boats go by - everything from small yachts to ferries to cargo ships. 
At one point I even noticed multiple jets from a fire fighting boat in the distance.  You can see them just beyond all the masts.
Back home, we did some math, cleaned the fish tank, tended to our veggie starts, and worked on an art project.  We also took time out to measure the magnificent daffodils that continue to delight us in the garden.
After dinner, it was so darn nice out, we went to yet another beach in Magnolia, a pocket park along Perkins Lane.

Annabelle waded and jumped waves.  (Just think - weather so nice you can wave jump in MARCH. In SEATTLE!)

We also inspected many a rock, and wished we had geologist Uncle Jim on speed dial, so he could tell us what we were looking at.
It was a lovely visit, with one downer. ...

Why in the world don't the people living in the mansion on the sound find the money to replace the flag on this pole? Or at the very least, take this tattered mess down?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Countdown's On

Image Credit NASA/Bill Ingalls

FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED MINUTES: This morning, we watched a TIME magazine produced trailer about Captain Scott Kelly's upcoming year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. TIME's Red Border Films will be making a movie about the mission. 

Beginning in May 2015, and presented across all TIME platforms (print and digital), "A Year in Space" will chronicle Scott Kelly and his twin brother and fellow astronaut Mark Kelly, from training pre-flight to the ISS, orbiting 250-miles above Earth. 

You can see a trailer for the series here:   (Warning, for us, it was preceded by a creepy commercial for a series about Lizze Borden.)

For more info, visit

Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan,, the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft has been rolled by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome for Friday's launch. See the AWESOME Bill Ingalls photo above. :)

Speaking of launches, midday, we watched (via the Internet) a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket send a GPS to orbit for the U.S.Air Force. It was uncharacteristically foggy  at ground level at the Cape today, but we were happy to see the rocket didn't seem to mind. 

WHERE'S THE (CORNED) BEEF?: Since we were having corned beef for dinner, I had to share a funny story with the kids about corned beef smuggled to space. Seriously. 

Back on March 23, 1965, astronaut John Young reportedly smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board during the Gemini 3 mission. Apparently it was very pungent in the tiny capsule. Funny that Young would feel the need to do that - it was just a three-orbit, five-hour mission. You can read the Washington Post story about it here:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Coming Up

GROWING LIKE GANGBUSTERS: Our fledgling garden has become a daily delight. Every morning we check to see what has grown how much. Today's progress was impressive! Zucchini is popping up all over, and tiny tomato plants are making their presence known. 

We left home about 10 a.m., and when we came home at 1 p.m., we were shocked by how much bigger and more numerous the zucchini starts were as compared to the morning! Amazing!
Naturally, we've joked about the zucchini overtaking our kitchen, and then our house. CJ said he, for one, welcomes our new zucchini overlords. ;)
The tomato plants are downright wispy in comparison. No surprise, I suppose, given they're cherry tomato type plants.

SAVE THE DATE: This Friday, three men will be leaving Earth, and two of them will be living off-planet for an entire year.
         Image Credit:  Roscosmos/GCTC
From left are Flight Engineers Scott Kelly of NASA, with Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos. Kelly and Kornienko will be spending an entire year in space on board the International Space Station. I hope they enjoy each other's company. :)

The launch, from the Balkonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will take place at 12:42 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, March 27. Coverage on NASA TV begins at 11:30 a.m.

According to a NASA press release, "Kelly and Kornienko will spend a year on the space station to better understand how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space. Data from the expedition will be used to determine whether there are ways to further reduce the risks on future long-duration missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars."

One of the reasons Mark Kelly was selected for the mission is that his twin brother, Scott Kelly, is a retired NASA astronaut.  Data and samples will be collected from both Scott an Mark throughout the year. Comparing data from the genetically-identical Kelly brothers could help identify changes caused by long-term spaceflight.

YESTERDAY ONCE MORE:  We have a few photos left over from yesterday's field trip to Pike Place Market. 

Naturally, we had to visit the booth where they famously throw the fish around. There were no flying fish during the two minutes we were there. However, Annabelle's gaze came to rest on a monk fish. She was a little afraid of its less than conventionally attractive appearance, shall we say.
You can see it in the front and center in the bottom of their display, below. If you look, you can also see one of the workers behind a sign in the center of the top row.
Turns out he was headed to the string that's attached to the (fake) monk fish. You should have seen Annabelle JUMP!!!! when he tugged on said string. She actually (mildly) hurt herself she jumped so violently. We all had a good laugh about it, though.

We also had to pay a visit to what has to be one of the most disgusting tourist attractions in the world: The Gum Wall in Post Alley.
Colorful, and it actually even smell good (all spearminty!), but oh, so gross, and growing every day. The photo below is just a fraction of it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Water World

WATERY:  Yesterday was the United Nations' World Water Day, an annual event to bring attention to water scarcity and the need for water conservation and improving access to those in need.

For the past month-plus, the weekly social issues club the kids participate in has been studying the issue of water scarcity. We've read articles, scoured Web sites and watched documentaries, and today, the kids began sharing what they've learned with their peers.
CJ and Annabelle prepared a poster with information about water scarcity education, conservation, innovation, and communication. 
The put their info on display in the commons area of their alternative learning center along with other members of the group.
The kids will be staffing the booth for a couple more hours this week during high traffic times at the center.
ON THE WATERFRONT: Thanks to the Seattle Public Library's free museum pass program, we visited the Seattle Aquarium this afternoon.
 It's not an inexpensive ticket, and we sure appreciate the opportunity to go for free.
About the first thing you walk into is a wall of water, with abundant marine life darting to and fro.
From there, we wound our way back to the pools where the kids could touch sea creatures, see an octopus (my photos were terrible, sadly), walk under a tunnel of jellyfish. 
The colorful, diverse array of creatures was amazing.
We made our way to the largely outside area of the aquarium and the sea dome. We could hear a presentation was underway, and close to wrapping up. There were dozens of people in the dome, who had watched and heard the whole show, which included a live diver, swimming overhead. Despite our tardy arrival, when the moderator asked if there were any questions, CJ's hand shot up, and he was called on immediately. The question he asked the diver? "What's your favorite fish?"
Without hesitation, the diver said it's the wolf eel. 
The otters were amusing, as always, though they were tough to photograph, as they were in the midst of a shrimp feeding frenzy.
It was fun watching this big seal watch us watching it.
There is a shore bird exhibit, and Annabelle was feeling sorry for this 'one legged' bird. I told her I thought it had two, and I stood around long enough to prove myself right.

FAIR-Y: This morning, we listened in and watched some of the fifth annual White Hose Science Fair. So inspiring!

We learned about Nikhil Behari, 14, Sewickley, PA, who created a secondary security system for authenticating passwords. It involves connecting sensors to a microprocessor that he'd programmed to detect keystroke pressure, and then he used another program to measure action and pause time as users type. In other words, Nikhil pioneered a way to not just detect the password being keyed in, but *how* it was keyed in, as a secondary test. Fascinating!

One of the most fun entries in this year's fair was 16-year-old Mallory Kieyman's "Hiccupop," a lolipop formulated to help cure hiccoughs. The patented invention uses apple cider vinegar, sugar, and the sucking action to help cure the ailment.

More highlights of the exhibits are included in a press release here:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Museum Mania!

TOUR DE FORCE:  Yesterday afternoon we had the opportunity to tour Experience Music Project's special exhibition: Star Wars™ and the power of Costume. It opened Jan. 31 and runs through Oct. 4, and will go on a national, 12-stop tour after its debut at EMP.

In all, there are nearly 60 costumes from the 6 (so far) movie franchise on display.
One could certainly see the evolution of the costumes over time. 
Scary then, scary now: Tusken Sand Raider on the right.
I was surprised at how dirty this Storm Trooper's costume looked. He needs to hit a car wash. ;)
It was hard to get a good picture of Darth Vader. He was in a particularly dark corner of the exhibit.
 Usually when someone reaches out to you, it's a good thing. With Darth? Not so much ...
I spent the most time looking at the original Leia outfit. Simple, really, but compelling. 

 For whatever reason, all the mannequins used for display were grey. In my humble opinion, I didn't think that worked very well with some of the costumes ... like Leia's famous gold bikini.
This costume was absolutely stunning. Gorgeous, GORGEOUS dress. The photo doesn't do the ombre effect of the fabric justice.
 Annabelle fancied this costume and thought it might be good for Halloween. If she's serious, we better get started sewing it NOW.

 Queen Amidala sure had a lot larger wardrobe than Pricess Leia.

Amidala's wedding dress was lovely, but I think it sure would have popped more if it weren't shown on a base the same color as the dress. 
Oh-so-familiar uniforms ...

Chewbacca is one tall, hairy dude. Er, I mean Wookie.

Here's CJ's review of the exhibit ...
On March 19th, I went to the EMP museum where we saw the "Star Wars and the Power of Costume" exhibit, where we saw different outfits and suits worn by actors in Star Wars movies in the original trilogy and the prequels (not in that order, the original trilogy was upstairs). The C-3P0 costume was said to be designed after the Maschinenmensch from Metropolis, a 1927 silent classic directed by Fritz Lang, and the R2-D2 came in two forms when it moved in the prequels: It was either remotely controlled, or was moved by a dwarf on the inside of the costume. The signs also pointed out at the exhibit that the costumes in the prequels typically expressed more of a sense for fashion then the costumes from the original trilogy did, as once the dark side took power, fashion was pretty much thrown out the window.

REVOLUTIONARY:  While at EMP, we also made sure to check out another special exhibit there right now. I'll let Annabelle tell you a bit about it. ... 
On March 19, I went to see the "Indie Game Revolution" exhibit at Experience Music Project. The exhibit features different stations where you can play multiple different games from genres ranging from exploring the landscape to a competition between two players. The games were interesting and I didn't get time to look at them all, but the ones I did look at were very fun. One of the more memorable ones was a game called "Into the Woods," a game about a cat who lives in the city exploring. I didn't get very far into the game, but the art style and dialogue was very good. The next I remembered was Tenya Wanya Teens. It was a game where you press buttons to do things such as shower, play the guitar, or act like a bear in certain area and race against your opponent to do so. The game was very funny and random, and I liked it. Overall the exhibit was fun and I would recommend it.
The exhibit area was certainly a treat for the eyes.
Some of the games were really cool. 
Others were downright ridiculous.
Here are a couple of shots of the Tenya Wanya Teens game that Annabelle referenced in her write up.

You kind of have to love a game that is about "competitive teen awkwardness."

While at EMP, we also had to stop for a random photo opportunity. ...

LAKE SIDE:  Our first field trip of the day on Thursday was a visit to the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), on the south shore of Lake Union.
The kids immediately made a beeline for the big display of iconic Pacific Northwest items.
And we had to pay homage to the toe truck, too, of course. 
The kids each played with an educational slot machine.
It told about how immigrants came to the area to try to find their fortune.

A visit to MOHAI wouldn't be complete without watching the musical movie about the Great Seattle Fire. 
Naturally, we checked out items in the collection of iconic industry artifacts, like this original Starbucks coffee store sign.
And, of course, we looked out MOHAI's windows at the lake and boats on it.
We also checked out some sports memorabilia ... 

and some artifacts from the World's Fair in 1962.
We always enjoy our time at MOHAI.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION:  While roaming the grounds of Seattle Center yesterday, we learned about an exciting new feature soon to be open there - what looks to be a fantastic playground!

It looks like there's still a fair amount to do before it's finished.
A banner about the project said it will be done this spring, but it didn't give a specific date.  
The whole area was fenced off, but the kids found places to peek through.
 We sure are looking forward to the finished project!
In the meantime, we'll read more about it on the Center's Web site.