Buzz Aldrin Raps with Snoop Dog About Apollo 11

Some things you just have to see to believe. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin recently cut a hip-hop song along with rappers Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli. The website Funny Or Die has the music video of the song, “Rocket Experience. They also have the “making of” video of Buzz’s song. Quincy Jones and Soulja Boy also make appearances. It’s fun to watch, and Buzz really lets it all hang out – he’s a very cool dude! And let’s face it, everyone wants to see Buzz Aldrin rapping about traveling in space, right? My favorite part is when Buzz is rapping while standing next to the famous cardboard cut-out of him standing on the Moon. (I have one of those…) Enjoy the video!

Also available: Download the song “Rocket Experience” on iTunes. A portion of the proceeds from the song sales of” Rocket Experience” will go to ShareSpace Foundation, to further benefit and support the work of the National Space Society, the Planetary Society and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Flying Saucers? The Fun Is For Real…

On a recent trip to Canada in the great province of Ontario, I found a quiet corner on Lundy’s Lane. I had been enjoying the scenic beauty of Niagara Falls and to break away for the tourist aspect seemed like a welcome respite. How could someone who lives, eats and breathes space 24/7 pass up an opportunity to visit a place like this? The answer was… I couldn’t.

flying_saucer_richard_weissFor any one old enough to remember and still too young to resist, the retro-styling and drive-in atmosphere of this super clean diner was enough to make you smile the moment you stopped in the parking lot. Glittering multi-colored lights and a welcoming glow was all I needed to take a chance. Once inside I was transported back to all of my childhood fantasies, and despite having a well stocked refreshment area – all you really wanted was a cold soda or a milk shake. Why spoil the fun?

menu0001When the menu came, my grin got even wider. There’s nothing that delights me more than a sense of humor… and to combine it with good food makes the experience even more extraordinary. Needless to say, I didn’t just stop by this place on a whim. I’d researched my restaurants in advance and every sample around the family table proved to be just as tasty and well prepared as the reviews promised. The “Jupiter Burgers” were absolutely among the finest I’ve ever eaten and the clam chowder didn’t come out of can, my friends. Even though the hour was late, I had a delightful time talking to the “natives” who were patient with my questions and seemed to enjoy the company as much as we enjoyed theirs!

Right down to the little stuffed aliens…

So what’s a less than serious piece about finding a flying saucer restaurant doing in a serious astronomical webpage like Universe Today? It’s to remind you to take a chance on what you love. If you love astronomy and having dinner in a restaurant shaped like a flying saucer looks like fun? Do it! You may end up in some remote corner of Iowa having the worst cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted… Or you might end up in a quiet corner of Niagara Falls surrounded by your laughing family enjoying diner food at it’s best.

Because the fun is what’s for real…

Thanks to Richard Weiss for the additional image!

Reporting From the NorthEast Astronomy Forum

So what’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys? Try acres of telescopes and hundreds of amateur astronomers. If you’re not familiar with NEAF then let me introduce you into some of the fun that’s been going on for almost two decades at Rockland College in Suffern, New York.

dsc03103When NEAF first began, it was a small affair sponsored by the Rockland Astronomy Club and held in a cozy corner of the college campus. As each successive year passed, the event expanded and grew more popular – drawing ever larger crowds from further distances and encompassing every aspect of astronomy. Today, some 18 years later, the NorthEast Astronomy Fourm’s speaker, vendor and guest list reads like a virtual “who’s who”… Yet, unlike other social events, a gathering of astronomers is, well… a gathering of astronomers. If you’re not wearing your favorite battered space t-shirt and willing to talk about telescopes, imaging techniques, eyepieces, tripods, supernovae and the latest recipe for calamari in chocolate sauce then you just might be in the wrong place.

dsc03117If you want to know what’s new on the market? Then take a walk around. There’s what seems like endless acres of the latest technology and the best representatives of each company willing to take the time to talk to you about their products. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking or cooking – the point is getting what’s available to the public to be seen, tested, talked about, and drooled on. There are telescopes here that none of us will ever be able to afford – but that’s part of the beauty of NEAF. At least these magnificent instruments are here for us to see, and more than a fair share of equipment we can’t usually find readily available offered at prices that are darn hard to refuse. And if you’re feeling lucky? The vendors who come here are hugely generous and give away thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of merchandise to the guests in door prizes.

dsc03114But, NEAF is a whole lot more than just a sales floor. Two days prior to the event is the NorthEast Astro-Imaging Conference, where some of the finest minds share their talents and their secrets with all who are willing to listen. During the weekend, guests can enjoy planetarium programs, amateur telescope making workshops, or engage in fine array of guest speakers. Why not step outside and enjoy the sunshine while you’re here, too? Because the courtyard is always filled with a huge array of solar telescopes where you’ll have the opportunity to see our nearest star through every aperture and wavelength you can imagine.

dsc03111Is it all about astronomy? Yeah. It is. The astronomy family. And nothing makes the astronomy family more happy than to see a smiling face. It can be the smiling face of the fellow you’ve seen at every star party and astronomy event for the last 15 years and never did catch his name – or it might be the smiling face of a child who has a plastic bag filled with tiny treaures accumlated through the day. And sometimes the smiling face you see?

Is your own at the end of a day at NEAF.

Morristown UFO? Hoaxers Tell Their Story

If you follow UFO sightings at all (and even if you don’t) you probably heard about the Morristown, New Jersey UFO’s from earlier this year. Reports of the sightings in January 2009 were covered extensively in newspapers around the country, on CNN, several national talk radio shows, and even was featured in the History Channel’s new show, UFO Hunters. Well, yesterday two New Jersey residents Joe Rudy and Chris Russo revealed something big: its was all a hoax. The two created the entire five-night spectacle by tying flares to helium balloons. Everyone should read their account over at (and the Bad Astronomer beat me to the punch by posting about it before I could, so read his take on it, too.) Why did they do this? “We set out on a mission to help people think rationally and question the credibility of so-called UFO “professionals,” write Rudy and Russo, “We delivered what every perfect UFO case has: great video and pictures, “credible” eyewitnesses (doctors and pilots), and professional investigators convinced that something amazing was witnessed. Does this bring into question the validity of every other UFO case? We believe it does.”

The article provides links to videos of how they created the hoax, and provides all the extensive media reaction. Most of the media includes quotes from “experts” including a pilot who saw UFO lights. But the two “hoaxers” call into question the validity of so-called UFO investigators and shows like the History Channel’s UFO Hunters, as well as eye-witness accounts even from so-called experts. They make some great points in their article: “This begs an important question: are UFO investigators simply charlatans looking to make a quick buck off human gullibility, or are they alarmists using bad science to back up their biased opinions that extraterrestrial life is routinely visiting our planet? Either way, are these people deserving of their own shows on major cable networks? If a respected UFO investigator can be easily manipulated and dead wrong on one UFO case, is it possible he’s wrong on most (or all) of them? Do the networks buy into this nonsense, or are they in it for the ratings? How can a television network that has pretensions of providing honest and factual programming be taken seriously when the topic of one of their top rated shows deals with chasing flares and fishing line?”

Check it out.

New Issue of Space Lifestyle Magazine Now Available

Have you heard about Space Lifestyle Magazine? It’s a digital magazine, with a full color layout just like a print magazine, but its all online. And the winter issue of Space Lifestyle Magazine is now online and available for free. SLM has feature articles about all aspects of space — NewSpace, NASA, military, science and astronomy — but mostly it’s about the people that make the space sector tick.

In the latest issue, you’ll find a bang-up article written by UT’s Ian O’Neill about SpaceX. Ian actually toured the SpaceX facility and took some great pictures and wrote a very comprehensive article about SpaceX’s recent successful launch to orbit.  Other features include an interesting overview about the work being done to create magnetic shielding for spacecraft that will help repel radiation.

There’s also a feature story about South Korea’s Yecheon Astro Space Center selecting XCOR Aerospace services – specifically their Lynx Mark II suborbital vehicle – as its preferred supplier of suborbital space launch services.

There’s also a comprehensive rundown of the X PRIZE Lunar Lander Challenge competition last fall, and much more including book reviews (Death From the Sky by Phil Plait) and a special discount for the National Space Symposium to be held March 30-April 2 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. If you haven’t already “subscribed” to SLM, please do so for the chance to win a Zero-G parabolic flight and other prizes. Enjoy!

Check out Space Lifestyle Magazine.

Super Bowl Goes to Space

I admit, I watched the Super Bowl with all its hype and consumerism. But who can pass up a good excuse for a party or miss a chance to see Springsteen? A couple of the advertisements caught my eye. One was a fun spot with astronauts tearing around on Titan with a space-age hot rod. The premise is old, but enjoyable nonetheless. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, here it is:

Also, a trailer for the new Star Trek movie aired during the game, with more hot rods:
Continue reading “Super Bowl Goes to Space”

Today is Wright Brothers Day

Almost all of us take for granted that we can get to virtually any destination in the world by flying in an airplane. We routinely board an aircraft, grumble at the slightest delay, and complain when we don’t get any peanuts during the flight. But really, we should be amazed in wonderment as each airplane takes off and lands.

It’s almost a miracle: we can sit in a somewhat comfortable chair, sleep, read a book or watch a movie, and three hours later, we’ve flown across the country. And it all began 105 years ago. On December 17, 1903 the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, made the first successful controlled, powered and sustained flight of an aircraft.

Orville flew for 12 seconds, covering 120 feet (36.5m), at a speed of only 6.8 mph from level ground into a cold headwind gusting to 27 miles (43 km) an hour. The flight was recorded in the famous photograph, above. Then, to prove it wasn’t a fluke, they flew two more times: Wilbur flew approximately 175 feet (53 m), and then Orville took the controls again and flew 200 feet (60 m).

Their altitude was about 10 ft above the ground. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls – a three-axis control – that made it possible for a pilot to control the aircraft and made fixed wing flight possible.

Every year since 1963 the US Congress proclaims Dec. 17 as Wright Brother’s Day, and the US President signs the proclamation (read below). Here is Orville Wright’s account of the final flight of the day:

“Wilbur started the fourth and last flight at just about 12 o’clock. The first few hundred feet were up and down, as before, but by the time three hundred feet had been covered, the machine was under much better control. The course for the next four or five hundred feet had but little undulation. However, when out about eight hundred feet the machine began pitching again, and, in one of its darts downward, struck the ground. The distance over the ground was measured to be 852 feet (260 m); the time of the flight was 59 seconds. The frame supporting the front rudder was badly broken, but the main part of the machine was not injured at all. We estimated that the machine could be put in condition for flight again in about a day or two.”

The proclamation of Wright Brothers Day :

“Our history is rich with pioneers and innovators who used their God-given talents to improve our Nation and the world. On Wright Brothers Day, we commemorate two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, who took great risks and ushered in a new era of travel and discovery.

With intrepid spirits and a passion for innovation, Orville and Wilbur Wright became the first to experience the thrill of manned, powered flight. On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright flew for 12 seconds over the North Carolina sand dunes in the presence of only five people. In the span of one lifetime, our Nation has seen aviation progress from the first tentative takeoff at Kitty Hawk to an age of supersonic flight and space exploration.

On this Wright Brothers Day, we recognize all those who have taken great risks and contributed to our country’s legacy of exploration and discovery. This year, we also celebrate the centennial of the world’s first passenger flight. By remaining dedicated to extending the frontiers of knowledge, we can ensure that the United States will continue to lead the world in science, innovation, and technology, and build a better future for generations to come.

The Congress, by a joint resolution approved December 17, 1963, as amended (77 Stat. 402; 36 U.S.C. 143), has designated December 17 of each year as “Wright Brothers Day” and has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation inviting the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 17, 2008, as Wright Brothers Day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Famous People Wandering the Halls of AAS

Walking the halls of the AAS meetings we found Galileo Galilei, who actually looks pretty good for being 440 years old. He had a briefing with officials from the inquisition (the media) and said that he has just returned from Rome on his book tour, promoting Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger). But here, he met up with another author, Dava Sobel, who wrote “Galileo’s Daughter,” and is in St. Louis to speak at a public lecture in conjunction with the AAS meeting.

The International Year of Astronomy (IYA) which celebrates 400 years since Galileo looked through his telescope, is being promoted heavily here at the AAS meeting, which includes educational workshops and symposiums sponsored by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, highlighting special educational programs specifically created for IYA.

Speaking of education, Galileo says that being a professor is difficult. “The work is hard and the pay is terrible,” he said. “I’m looking to invent something here during the next year which might give me some fame.”

Galileo was played by Mark Thompson, an impersonator who actually is an amateur astronomer. Although he kind of transited back and forth to the present and the past, he said he’s currently living in IYA time, which means he hasn’t yet built his telescope. That will happen coming up next year.

More information about Mark Thompson as Galileo.

Shape Shifting Robot Can Reassemble After Crashing Apart

It’s fairly certain that the Mars Polar Lander and the Beagle lander crash landed on Mars, never to be heard from again. Well, what if crash landing was no problem? What if a robotic spacecraft could just reassemble and fix itself if there was a mishap on the way to another planet’s surface? That type of science fiction is getting closer to reality. A group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have developed a robot made of separate modules that can recognize each other and reassemble itself if they crash or get kicked apart. Maybe this could solve the problems of landing on Mars!
Except we haven’t figured out how to reassemble people, yet.

Take a look a the video. It’s pretty remarkable, although I have to admit, I had visions of the Terminator after watching it….

Original News Source: New Scientist

Arthur C. Clarke Dies


Sir Arthur C. Clarke, writer, inventor and visionary, has died from heart failure at age 90. A master of science fiction, Clarke was known most for his futuristic book “2001” published in 1968, which was made into the landmark movie. Clarke wrote scores of fiction and non-fiction books, more than 100 short stories, and numerous articles and essays.

Some of his early books included Interplanetary Flight (1950), Prelude to Space (1951), and The Making of a Moon (1957). He wrote a series of “Odyssey” books: 2010: Odyssey Two (1985) –also made into a movie—and 2061: Odyssey Three (1988) and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1996). His last book was published in 2005, The Last Theorem.

Clarke foresaw many technological advances in his writing, describing, among other things, cell phones, the internet, and moon landings using a mother ship and a landing pod. He was also known as the “godfather of the telecommunications satellite.” In a 1945 article in Wireless World magazine, he outlined a worldwide communications network based on fixed satellites orbiting at 22,240 miles (42,000 km) – a geosynchronous orbit – often referred to as the Clarke Orbit.

Clarke was born December 16, 1917 in Somerset, England. From an early age he was interested in astronomy and science. During World War II he was a pioneer in using radar with the Royal Air Force. Later, he completed a college degree, with honors, in physics and mathematics at King’s College in London. He was an editor for the journal Physics Abstracts when his first science fiction books were published.

Clarke spent most of his life promoting science and space exploration. He was an American Astronautical Society Fellow, the British Science Fiction Association President, an International Academy of Humanism Laureate, was on the National Space Society Board of Governors and Planetary Society Advisory Council, was a member of the Royal Astronomical Society and was Knighted by the British Empire in 2000. He has a nebula and an asteroid named after him.

Clarke suffered from post-polio syndrome since 1988 and sometimes had to use a wheelchair, but until recently, he still continued to scuba dive, one of his lifelong passions. His love of scuba diving brought him to Sri Lanka, where he lived since the 1950’s. Clarke once said he was “perfectly operational underwater.”

On his 90th birthday, Clarke released a video, in which he talked about his life and accomplishments. “Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered,” Clarke said. I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these I would like to be remembered as a writer.”