Friday, February 5, 2016

Going, Going

AD ASTRA, ED:  The crew of Apollo 14 have now all left Earth for parts unknown. The last survivng crew member, Edgar Mitchell, died yesterday, at the age of 85.

Mitchell's death came just one day shy of the 45 year anniversary of his moon landing. 

Mitchell was one of my favorite astronauts because he was unabashedly an X-Files kind of guy. He had a keen interest in what or whom is "out there."  It wasn't uncommon to see headlines like "Peace-loving aliens tried to save America from nuclear war,' claims moon mission astronaut Edgar Mitchell," and Former astronaut: Man not alone in universe associated with him. Guess where Mitchell grew up ... Rosewell, New Mexico, of course!

Buzz Aldrin had this to day about Mitchell: "I first met Ed when I was at MIT as he was studying there at the same time. Ed was certainly involved in advanced mental (sensory) perceptions aka mind reading. Not my bailiwick but I respected him for his persistence and dedication to studying the unknown. I'm sorry to lose another of our Apollo Lunar Pioneers. RIP Ed."

TECHIES: As has become our habit, last night, the first Thursday of the month, we spent a couple of hours at Living Computer Museum, enjoying their free movie night. I'll let the kids tell you a bit more about it, starting with Annabelle ...
The Living Computer Museum is a place where you can see the history of computing evolve, and interact with it too! All of the vintage computers they have on display actually work, and you can do many things with them. They have a large section of computers that run games that are usually on floppy disks or large cartridges. They also have a punch-card machine where you can spell a sentence or phrase, and then take it home! There are many small mechanical typewriters scattered around as well. The machines are fun to look at and interact with, and it’s interesting to learn about the history behind some of them. On the first Thursday of every month, the museum has a movie night where admission is free, but you might want to reserve a seat because they’re usually full. February’s movie was “TechMan”, which is about how computers have- and will- revolutionize our world. We’ve already developed Google Glass, a pair of glasses that project images like directions, reminders, or the internet, directly onto your retina. You can also take pictures. If you don’t like having your picture taken, you can wear an “Obscura” which will shine a laser beam into any cameras it detects. So much technology has been invented to help us, we can start digitizing our lives and not have to remember anything! It will be interesting to see how much life changes because of technology.
And here's CJ's take, centered on the movie we saw. 
"Tech Man" is a documentary made by Films for the Humanities and Sciences about the increasing closeness of human beings to machines. One of the featured devices in the documentary is "Google Glass". Google Glass is a device made by Google that you wear on your head and can use to browse the internet and take pictures or videos. The film also talks about other devices bringing humans and machines closer together, such as a watch that can show you your temperature or a camera, worn around your neck, that records everything you do. One of the people featured in the movie is Gordon Bell, the author of a book called "Total Recall," and he decided that he would record everything in his life and put it on a computer. This does not just include his daily activities, it also includes things like his e-mail and browsing history. Gordon said that he loses strong emotions associated with something once it has been recorded.
Turns out you can watch TechMan in the comfort of your own home via Vimeo:

TechMan (50 minutes) from Bregtje van der Haak on Vimeo.

POSTER GIRL: We were recently asked to help with a poster for a Black History Month event. The organizer wanted something that would capture the feeling of a Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote about light and love, and she cited the song "I'm Gonna Let it Shine" as a potential inspiration, too. 

Those were plenty of great ideas to work with, so, we on the MPA design team started talking about ideas. We liked the idea of a lantern, because they were used to illuminate the way on the Underground Railroad. We also liked the idea of a heart prominently in the image. So, Annabelle drew up a great heart lantern and we worked hard to come up with the right kind of flare in the middle to have it look like a candle. She did a great job with shadows to give it depth, and we wanted a nighttime looking wooden fence as a background to put the text on. 

We were really pleased with the end result, and so were the event organizers. Hooray!
It looked really nice when we printed it out poster size (about 17 x 22 inches). I could tell Annabelle was really proud to see the poster on the wall for all to see.

INGENUITY: In the past couple of days, a great story from Skylab days has popped up in my social media feeds.

It's the story of saving Skylab, really, thanks to some good ol' Yankee ingenuity and a woman with an industrial strength sewing machine. Unfortunately, the off-planet outpost was damaged during its launch off Earth. Once it reached orbit, a solar array failed to deploy, and damaged shields left astronauts at risk. A couple years back, we heard firsthand accounts from a couple of Skylab astronauts, including Jerry Carr, Jack Lousma, and Owen Garriott, talk about the orbiting lab getting too toasty.

The photo below shows Alyene Baker sewing an emergency, makeshift sunshield to keep Skylab from getting toasted. With her are, left to right, Dale Gentry, Elizabeth Gauldin, and James H. Barnet Jr.
          Credit: NASA
Before sending the thermal protection to low Earth orbit, NASA conducted experiments on the ground regarding its installation. Below, astronaut Russell Schweickart worked on a procedure for installation.
         Image credit: NASA
After a number of attempts, determined astronauts were able to manually make the damaged solar array deploy, and they installed the 'aftermarket' shield, stabilizing temperatures within the orbital workshop. 
The awesome NASA photo above shows Owen Garriott in extra-vehicular activity aboard Skylab.
It definitely looks like an add-on, doesn't it? But it worked!
     Image credit: NASA
The photo below, taken on June 22, 1973, shows the shield on the left side of Skylab, protecting it from micrometeroids and acting as a thermal shield. 
Thanks to the fix, Skylab went on to act as an international space lab for six years.

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