NASA’s KaBOOM Experimental Asteroid Radar Aims to Thwart Earth’s Kaboom

Over the past month, about a half dozen rather large asteroids have careened nearby our home planet and in one case caused significant injury and property damage with no forewarning – showcasing the hidden lurking dangers from lackluster attitudes towards Asteroid Detection & Planetary Defense.

Now in a prescient coincidence of timing, NASA is funding an experimental asteroid radar detection array called ‘KaBOOM’ that may one day help thwart Earth’s untimely Ka-boom – and which I inspected first-hand this past week at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC),following the SpaceX Falcon 9 blastoff for the ISS.

“KaBOOM takes evolutionary steps towards a revolutionary capability,” said Dr. Barry Geldzahler, KaBOOM Chief Scientist of NASA Headquarters, in an exclusive interview with Universe Today.

If successful, KaBOOM will serve as a prelude to a US National Radar Facility and help contribute to an eventual Near Earth Object (NEO) Planetary Defense System to avert Earth’s demise.

“It will enable us to reach the goal of tracking asteroids farther out than we can today.”

First some background – This weekend a space rock the size of a city block whizzed past Earth at a distance of just 2.5 times the distance to our Moon. The asteroid – dubbed 2013 ET – is noteworthy because it went completely undetected until a few days beforehand on March 3 and measures about 460 feet (140 meters) in diameter.

KaBOOM experimental asteroid radar array at KSC consists of three 12 meter wide dish antennas mounted on pedestals at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
KaBOOM experimental asteroid radar array at KSC consists of three 12 meter wide dish antennas mounted on pedestals at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

2013 ET follows close on the heels of the Feb. 15 Russian meteor that exploded violently with no prior warning and injured over 1200 people on the same day as Asteroid 2012 DA 14 zoomed past Earth barely 17,000 miles above the surface – scarcely a whisker astronomically speaking.

Had any of these chunky asteroids actually impacted cities or other populated areas, the death toll and devastation would have been absolutely catastrophic – potentially hundreds of billions of dollars !

Taken together, this rash of uncomfortably close asteroid flybys is a wake-up call for a significantly improved asteroid detection and early warning system. KaBOOM takes a key step along the path to those asteroid warning goals.

KaBOOM asteroid radar under construction near alligator infested swamps at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
KaBOOM asteroid radar under construction near alligator infested swamps at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

‘KaBOOM’ – the acronym stands for ‘Ka-Band Objects Observation and Monitoring Project’ – is a new test bed demonstration radar array aimed at developing the techniques required for tracking and characterizing Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) at much further distances and far higher resolution than currently available.

“The purpose of KaBOOM is to be a ‘proof of concept’ using coherent uplink arraying of three widely spaced antennas at a high frequency; Ka band- 30 GHz,” KaBOOM Chief Scientist Geldzahler told me.

Currently the KaBOOM array consists of a trio of 12 meter wide radar antennas spaced 60 meters apart – whose installation was just completed in late February at a remote site at KSC near an alligator infested swamp.

I visited the array just days after the reflectors were assembled and erected, with Michael Miller, KaBOOM project manager of the Kennedy Space Center. “Ka Band offers greater resolution with shorter wavelengths to image smaller space objects such as NEO’s and space debris.”

“The more you learn about the NEO’s the more you can react.”

“This is a small test bed demonstration to prove out the concept, first in X-band and then in Ka band,” Miller explained. “The experiment will run about two to three years.”

Miller showed how the dish antennae’s are movable and can be easily slewed to different directions as desired.

“The KaBOOM concept is similar to that of normal phased arrays, but in this case, instead of the antenna elements being separated by ~ 1 wavelength [1 cm], they are separated by ~ 6000 wavelengths. In addition, we want to correct for the atmospheric twinkling in real time,” Geldzahler told me.

Why are big antennae’s needed?

“The reason we are using large antennas is to send more powerful radar signals to track and characterize asteroids farther out than we can today. We want to determine their size, shape, spin and surface porosity; is it a loose agglomeration of pebbles? composed of solid iron? etc.”

Such physical characterization data would be absolutely invaluable in determining the forces required for implementing an asteroid deflection strategy in case the urgent need arises.

How does KaBOOM compare with and improve upon existing NEO radars in terms of distance and resolution?

“Currently at NASA¹s Goldstone 70 meter antenna in California, we can track an object that is about 0.1 AU away [1 astronomical unit is the average distance between the Earth and the sun, 93 million miles, so 0.1 AU is ~ 9 million miles]. We would like to track objects 0.5 AU or more away, perhaps 1 AU.”

“In addition, the resolution achievable with Goldstone is at best 400 cm in the direction along the line of sight to the object. At Ka band, we should be able to reduce that to 5 cm – that’s 80 times better !”

“In the end, we want a high power, high resolution radar system,” Geldzahler explained.

Thumbs Up for Science & Planetary Defense !  Ken Kremer; Universe Today and Mike Miller; NASA KSC KaBOOM project manager. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Thumbs Up for Science & Planetary Defense !
Ken Kremer; Universe Today and Mike Miller; NASA KSC KaBOOM project manager. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Another significant advantage compared to Goldstone, is that the Ka radar array would be dedicated 24/7 to tracking and characterizing NEO’s and orbital debris, explained Miller.

Goldstone is only available about 2 to 3% of the time since it’s heavily involved in numerous other applications including deep space planetary missions like Curiosity, Cassini, Deep Impact, Voyager, etc.

‘Time is precious’ at Goldstone – which communicates with some 100 spacecraft per day, says Miller.

“If/when the proof of concept is successful, then we can envision an array of many more elements that will enable us to reach the goal of tracking asteroids farther out than we can today,” Geldzahler elaborated.

A high power, high resolution radar system can determine the NEO orbits about 100,000 times more precisely than can be done optically.

Lead KaBOOM scientist Barry Geldzahler ‘assists’ with dish antenna installation at the Kennedy Space Center; - I’m from Headquarters and I’m here to help’ - is Barry’s mantra.  Credit: NASA
Lead KaBOOM scientist Barry Geldzahler ‘assists’ with dish antenna installation at the Kennedy Space Center; – ‘I’m from Headquarters and I’m here to help’ – is Barry’s mantra. Credit: NASA/KSC

So – what are the implications for Planetary Defense ?

“If we can track asteroids that are up to 0.5 AU rather than 0.1 AU distant, we can track many more than we can track today.”

“This will give us a better chance of finding potentially hazardous asteroids.”

“If we were to find that a NEO might hit the Earth, NASA and others are exploring ways of mitigating the potential danger,” Geldzahler told me.

Kaboom’s ‘First light’ is on schedule for late March 2013.

More in Part 2

Ken Kremer

Plastic Wrapped Shuttle Atlantis Slated for Grand Public Unveiling in June

Imagine visiting Star Fleet headquarters in the 23nd Century and being engulfed by a holodeck journey to a 21st century NASA Space Shuttle; complete with a full sized Hubble Space Telescope – perhaps the important science instrument ever constructed and an outstanding legacy of the Space Shuttle Program.

Well that’s the thrilling new experience awaiting the visiting public and space enthusiasts alike starting this summer at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) in Florida – after the ghostlike Space Shuttle Atlantis (see photo album above & below) is unveiled from a thick coating of shrink wrapped plastic.

But – there is one important caveat regarding the holodeck dream sequence.

Starting on June 29 you will be seeing the ‘real deal’, an actual space flown NASA Space Shuttle Orbiter – not a high tech imaginary glimpse, engineering reproduction or holodeck recreation.

During the recent SpaceX CRS-2 launch events, I was very fortunate to take a behind the scenes inspection tour all around of the new ‘Space Shuttle Atlantis’ pavilion that’s been under construction at the Kennedy Visitor Complex for a year and is now racing towards completion.

And Atlantis is still supremely impressive beneath that white plastic wrap – unlike any shuttle view I’ve see over the years.

Scan through my photo album walking around Atlantis – covered in 16,000 square feet of shrink wrap plastic – and the Star Fleet like pavilion that truly reminded me of an exciting Star Trek adventure ; to see what’s in store soon. The orange exterior pavilion facade is meant to evoke the scorching heat of reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Shrink-wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis inside museum home under construction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor complex in Florida - mounted on pedestals.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Shrink-wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis inside museum home under construction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor complex in Florida – mounted on steel pedestals. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

The plastic wrap is protecting the orbiter from construction debris and will be unfurled in May. Then the payload bay doors will be carefully opened and the Canadian built remote manipulator system (RMS) — or robotic arm — will be installed and extended.

Inside her new 90,000-square-foot home, everyone will be treated to breathtaking, up close views of the real ‘Space Shuttle Atlantis’ mounted high on steel pedestals – tilted at exactly 43.21 degrees – simulating the outlook as though she was ‘in flight’ orbiting Earth and approaching the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS and Hubble are the primary legacies of the Space Shuttle program. Atlantis flew 33 total space missions, spent 307 days in orbit and conducted the final flight of the shuttle era.

Rear-side view of plastic wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis inside museum home under construction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor complex in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Rear-side view of plastic wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis inside museum home under construction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor complex in Florida. Walkways will provide exquisite up close viewing access. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

You’ll gaze from stem to stern and from above and below – and all while peering down into the humongous open cargo bay, up to the heat shield tiles, or across to the engines, wings, tail and crew flight deck. Walkways will provide exquisite up close viewing access.

Atlantis rises some 30 feet off the ground. Although her nose soars 26.5 feet above ground the portside wingtip sits only 7.5 feet from the floor. The wing tip top soars 87 feet from the ground.

And sitting right beside Atlantis will be a co-orbiting, high fidelity full scale replica of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope which was deployed and upgraded by the astronaut crews of six space shuttle missions.

ISS module mockups, simulators and displays will tell the story of the massive stations intricate assembly by several dozen shuttle crews.

Star Fleet like headquarters- still under construction -  is the permanent new home for Space Shuttle Atlantis due to open in June 2013 the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Star Fleet like headquarters- still under construction – is the permanent new home for Space Shuttle Atlantis due to open in June 2013 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

More than 60 exhibits, hands- on activities and artifacts surrounding Atlantis will tell the complete story of the three-decade long Space Shuttle program and the thousands of shuttle workers who prepared all five orbiters for a total of 135 space missions spanning from 1981 to 2011.

Atlantis has been lovingly preserved exactly as she returned upon touchdown at the shuttle landing strip at the conclusion of her last space mission, STS-135, in July 2011 – dings, dents, scorch marks, you name it. And that is exactly as it should be in my opinion too.

Rear view of plastic wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis with soaring tail at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor complex in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Rear view of plastic wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis with soaring tail at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Shuttle Atlantis was towed to the Visitor Complex in November. The orbiter is housed inside a spanking new six- story museum facility constructed at a cost of $100 million that dominates the skyline at the largely revamped Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Rear view of plastic wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis and 3 main engines at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Rear view of plastic wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis and 3 main engines at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Standing tall right outside the entry to the museum pavilion, visitors will see full scale replicas of the twin solid rocket boosters mated to the orange external fuel tank, suspended 24 feet above ground – and reaching to a top height of 185 feet. They will be erected vertically, precisely as they were at the Shuttle Launch Pads 39 A and 39 B. It will give a realistic sense of what it looked like atop the actual shuttle launch complex.

The mighty steel framework for holding the boosters in place (in case of hurricane force winds up to 140 MPH) was coming together piece by piece as workers maneuvered heavy duty cranes before my eyes during my pavilion museum tour just days ago.

Well, get set to zoom to space as never before beginning on June 29 with the last shuttle orbiter that ever flew in space.

Ken Kremer

Plastic wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis tilted at 43.21 degrees and mounted on pedestals at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Plastic wrapped Space Shuttle Atlantis tilted at 43.21 degrees and mounted on pedestals at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Workers install steel braces for outside display of twin shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters at new Space Shuttle Atlantis pavilions due to open in June 2013 the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Workers install steel braces for outside display of twin shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters at new Space Shuttle Atlantis pavilions due to open in June 2013 the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
A full-scale space shuttle external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters will serve as a gateway at the entry to Space Shuttle Atlantis. The metallic “swish” on the outside of the new exhibit building is representative of the shuttle’s re-entry to Earth. Image credit: PGAV Destinations
A full-scale space shuttle external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters will serve as a gateway at the entry to Space Shuttle Atlantis. The metallic “swish” on the outside of the new exhibit building is representative of the shuttle’s re-entry to Earth. Image credit: PGAV Destinations
Steel trusses being installed as braces for outside vertical display of full size twin, full size shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
Steel trusses being installed as braces for outside vertical display of twin, full size shuttle Solid Rocket Booster replicas at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Endeavour to Take to the Skies One Last Time

One of NASA’s 747 SCAs carries Endeavour from Edwards to Kennedy in 2008 following its landing at Edwards to conclude shuttle mission STS-126. (NASA)

Endeavour, mounted atop NASA’s modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), will become the last Space Shuttle orbiter to soar aloft when it departs Monday, Sept. 17, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a three-day flight to Los Angeles International Airport.

In cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, the SCA is scheduled to conduct low-level flyovers at about 1,500 feet above many locations along the planned flight path, including Cape Canaveral, Stennis Space Center, New Orleans and stopovers in both Houston and Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Read more about NASA’s SCA: “The World’s Greatest Piggy Back Ride”

Flyovers of Sacramento and San Francisco are also planned before landing at LAX on the 20th.

After arrival at LAX, Endeavour will be demated from the SCA and spend a few weeks at a United Airlines hangar undergoing preparations for transport and display. The orbiter then will travel through Inglewood and Los Angeles city streets on a 12-mile journey from the airport to the California Science Center, arriving on the evening of Oct. 13.

See a map of Endeavour’s planned route across LA here.

Beginning Oct. 30, the shuttle will be on permanent display in the science center’s Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion, beginning its new mission commemorating past achievements in human spaceflight and educating and inspiring future generations of explorers.

On August 16 Endeavour was moved from KSC’s Orbiter Processing Facility 2 to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where it’s being housed temporarily until its departure on the 17th. (Photo above at right; read more here.)

On May 16, 2011, Endeavour launched on its final mission, STS-134:

Completed in July 1990, Endeavour (OV-105) was the last shuttle orbiter to be constructed for NASA. Endeavour completed 25 missions, spent 299 days in orbit, and orbited Earth 4,671 times while traveling 122,883,151 miles.

On Twitter and along Endeavour’s route? NASA encourages people to share their shuttle sightings using the hashtags #spottheshuttle and #OV105, Endeavour’s orbiter vehicle designation.

Read more and find the full flight itinerary on the NASA news release.

NASA’s Colossal Crawler Gets Souped-Up for SLS

Shuttle Discovery riding one of KSC’s crawler-transporters to Launch Pad 39B in June 2005 (NASA)

One of NASA’s two iconic crawler-transporters — the 2,750-ton monster vehicles that have delivered rockets from Saturns to Shuttles to launch pads at Kennedy Space Center for nearly half a century — is getting an upgrade in preparation for NASA’s new future in space flight.

131 feet long, 113 feet wide and with a breakneck top speed of 2 mph (they’re strong, not fast!) NASA’s colossal crawler-transporters are the only machines capable of hauling fully-fueled rockets the size of office buildings safely between the Vehicle Assembly Building and the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center. Each 3.5-mile one-way trip takes around 6 hours.

Now that the shuttles are retired and each in or destined for its permanent occupation as a relic of human spaceflight, the crawler-transporters have not been doing much crawling or transporting down the 130-foot-wide, Tennessee river-rock-coated lanes at KSC… but that’s soon to change.

According to an article posted Sept. 5 on TransportationNation.org, crawler 2 (CT-2) is getting a 6-million-pound upgrade, bringing its carrying capacity from 12 million pounds to 18 million. This will allow the vehicle to bear the weight of a new generation of heavy-lift rockets, including NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

Read: SLS: NASA’s Next Big Thing

In addition to carrying capacity CT-2 will also be getting new brakes, exhausts, hydraulics and computer systems.

Part of a $2 billion plan to upgrade Kennedy Space Center for a future with both NASA and commercial spaceflight partners, the crawler will have two of its onboard power engines replaced — but the original generators that power its eight enormous tread belts will remain, having been thoroughly inspected and deemed to be “in pristine condition” according to the article by Matthew Peddie.

When constructed in the early 1960s, the crawler-transporters were the largest tracked vehicles ever made and cost $14 million — that’s about $100 million today. But were they to be built from scratch now they’d likely cost even more, as the US “is no longer the industrial powerhouse it was in the 1960s.”

Still, it’s good to know that these hardworking behemoths will keep bringing rockets to the pad, even after the shuttles have been permanently parked.

“When they built the crawler, they overbuilt it, and that’s a great thing because it’s able to last all these years. I think it’s a great machine that could last another 50 years if it needed to,” said Bob Myers, systems engineer for the crawler.

You can see some really great full panoramas of the CT-2 at the NASATech website, where photographer John O’Connor took three different panoramic views while the transporter was inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC in Highbay 1. There’s even a pan close-up of the giant cleats that move the transporter.

Read the full article on TransportationNation.org here, and find out more about the crawler-transporters here and here.

Since the Apollo years the transporters have traveled an accumulated 2,526 miles, about the same distance as a one-way highway trip from KSC to Los Angeles.

Inset image: the Apollo 11 Saturn V, tower and mobile launch platform atop the crawler-transporter during rollout on May 20, 1969. (NASA) Bottom image: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the site of the CT-2 upgrade in August 2012. Each of the crawler’s 456 tread shoes weighs about one ton. (NASA)

Morpheus Lander Crashes and Burns

NASA’s “lean and green” Morpheus lander crashed and burned during a free flight test at Kennedy Space Center today, August 9, at approximately 12:46 pm EDT.

Watch a video of the failed test after the jump:


Designed in-house at Johnson Space Center, the Morpheus lander is engineered to use a liquid oxygen and methane fuel — relatively cheap materials that can be stored easily and would be available resources on other worlds besides Earth.

Morpheus’ first successful tethered flight had just occurred a few days earlier, on August 3.

It IS still rocket science, after all…

Images: NASA TV

An Inside Look at the ‘Astrovan’

We’ve all seen the specially made NASA van that takes the astronauts to the launchpad, but normally we don’t get to see what it is like on the inside. NASA just put out this video, letting us Earth-bound folks get a peek inside the shiny, silvery astronaut vehicle. And just take a look who got to drive it…

Shuttle Duo Nose-to-Nose Rendezvous highlights Retirement Duty

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To see one shorn shuttle is bad enough. Seeing two NASA space shuttles edged together and voluntarily gutted of their spaceflight capability for lack of Federal Government funding in the prime of their lives is beyond sad.

Two of NASA’s trio of space shuttle orbiters – Discovery & Endeavour – switched locations at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on August 11, moving them further down the path to eternal retirement and public exhibit at their future homes in museums. That’s far afield from their intended purpose to soar as spaceships of exploration to the High Frontier.

Space Shuttles Discovery and Endeavour swap locations ahead of nose-to nose rendezvous at KSC on Aug. 11. Discovery is pulled out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB, left) as Endeavour is towed out of Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF-1, right). The two NASA shuttles switched places to continue the transition to retirement. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Discovery and Endeavour briefly met in a matchless nose-to-nose configuration for a roadside photo opportunity between the humongous Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the processing hanger – dubbed the Orbiter Processing Facility – where the orbiters are prepared for flight.

Space Shuttle’s Discovery and Endeavour swapped places at KSC so that technicians could resume preparations towards the transition and retirement of shuttle Discovery – the first of NASA’s orbiters to be officially withdrawn from active duty spaceflight service.

First, Discovery was backed out of temporary storage from a high bay inside the VAB. Then Endeavour was towed out of Orbiter Processing Facility-1. Technicians then maneuvered the orbiters to a rendezvous point in between on the ground. Just imagine how grand this vista would have appeared in space.

Discovery and Endeavour approach roadside rendezvous point at KSC on Aug. 11. Discovery departs the VAB (left) as Endeavour departs OPF-1 (right) on the road to permanent retirement. Credit: Ken Kremer

At last Discovery and Endeavour met for the truly sad nosy encounter of gaping holes where the forward reaction control thrusters once fired to meticulously maneuver the shuttles in orbit. Protective plastic sheeting meant to shield the empty thruster bay from FOD – or Foreign Object Debris – was in tatters and whipping wildly in the wind almost from the moment Discovery emerged from the VAB.

The rear ends of both orbiters looked like the main engines had been sawed off. Both orbiters have been stripped of their trio of mighty space shuttle main engines (SSME’s) and duo of bulbous Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS’s) pods for months of decommissioning work.

Discovery was then pulled into the Orbiter Processing Facility-1 (OPF-1) where the next step is to extract even more of her guts, namely the Auxiliary Power Units (APU’s) and associated systems for “safing” over the coming months. In April 2012, Discovery is scheduled to depart KSC forever and be flown off for permanent public display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

Discovery and Endeavour at roadside rendezvous at KSC. Credit: Mike Deep

Endeavour was towed into the VAB for storage until October, when she will be moved into OPF-2 for further work to ready her for public display at the California Science Center in Los Angles sometime next summer.

Atlantis is next on the chopping block. And America retains zero indigenous capability for human spaceflight.

The situation likely won’t change for at least several years until one of the commercial providers launches a human rated “space taxi” to low earth orbit.

Read my continuing features here about Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis

Shuttle workers with shuttle tribute banners. Credit: Mike Deep
Perpendicular shorn shuttles at KSC. Credit: Mike Deep

Two Days of Tweetness: Witnessing a Shuttle Launch

Space Tweeps Unite! NASA Tweetup participants gather at the launch clock on Friday, July 8, 2011. © NASA HQ Photo

It’s been over a week since the NASA Tweetup and I’m still thinking about it. For good reason, of course… it was awesome.

Over the course of two days I saw a capsule that had been to space and back, talked with five astronauts (one currently in orbit!), toured Kennedy Space Center, met a muppet, touched a piece of the Moon, made dozens of new friends and, of course, watched, heard and felt the launch of the last space shuttle to leave Earth. (And managed to talk my way into a delicious barbecue sandwich inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.) All with less than six hours of sleep.

Not too shabby. 😉

Continue reading “Two Days of Tweetness: Witnessing a Shuttle Launch”

The Final Countdown: Fueling the Anticipation

An update on my NASA Tweetup adventure…

The world will be watching - and tweeting! – when Atlantis launches on July 8
The launch of the space shuttle Atlantis is just a week away, and with it the NASA Tweetup event of a lifetime. (Well, my lifetime anyway!) But it’s not just me who’s been having visions of shuttle plumes dancing in his head… there’s 149 other space tweeps (yes, that’s what we call ourselves) who are eagerly counting the days, hours and minutes until then.

Here’s what some of them are saying…

“Wicked excited! (says the Boston gal – who yes, now lives in the Midwest!)” – Leslie Berg

“I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it….” – David Parmet

“This has been a dream of mine since the first launch. I was so sad when I was unable to attend STS-134 with the delays and so excited when I found out that I could at least see the last launch paid to change my plane ticket to NYC for summer.” Dvora Geller

“It’s an honor to be chosen by NASA to be a part of the last flight in shuttle history.” – Heather Smith

“NASA has continued to fill the history books with their profound and inspirational achievements. I can’t believe I’ll witness another significant page being written for that book, in person, up close, on July 8th!! Bring it!!” – Justin Boddey

With people attending the Tweetup from not only all over the US but also all around the world, this is an awesome representation of the international attention that the final launch is getting.

Also, after some scouting about for the right contact person (thanks Susan!) I managed to get in touch with the metro editor at the Dallas Morning News and he assigned a reporter to cover my story. I had a phone interview this afternoon with her, and the story should be published next Tuesday! In addition they want to feature my Tweets on the news site live from the launch…I sure hope the 3G signal coverage isn’t overwhelmed!

Anyway by this time next week I and 149 others from around the world will be preparing for a very exciting morning… it’s going to be crazy, I’m sure, but totally worth it!

Stay tuned….

“I spend several moments a day suppressing the urge to freak right out over the fact that I’m going to be as close to going into space as I’ve ever been. There’s also a 9 year old in my head screaming SPACE SHUTTLE! all the time. It’s really distracting. I feel so lucky.” – Nicole KT Winchester

“Since the day I found out I was selected to attend the Tweetup, it’s been on my mind every minute of every day. I’m basically trying not to die before July 7th.” – Andres Almeida

“I can pretty much guarantee my reaction to seeing a space shuttle live, in person, will be, ‘Whoah.’ Followed shortly by, ‘That’s pretty.'” – Kara DeFrias

_________________

Jason Major is a graphic designer, photo enthusiast and space blogger. Visit his website Lights in the Dark and follow him on Twitter @JPMajor or on Facebook for the most up-to-date astronomy awesomeness!

The Final Countdown: A Tweetup Journal

The last space shuttle: Atlantis awaits its final launch. Credit: NASA

On July 8, less than a month from now, the last remaining space shuttle is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral. The STS-135 mission will bring supplies and parts up to the International Space Station and will be the historic conclusion of the 30-year-long shuttle program.

Unless otherwise rescheduled, at 11:40am on Friday, July 8, the big clock will count down, the rocket boosters will ignite, the steam will billow and the shuttle Atlantis will roar into the sky for one final, glorious time.

And I’ll be there.

(*exhale*)

Continue reading “The Final Countdown: A Tweetup Journal”