Saturday, May 31, 2008

Beyond Cool

It doesn't get any cooler than this. Mark Kelly (far right) and his crew for NASA's mission STS-124 using the Space Shuttle Discovery. I was in Florida for the launch today. Here they are standing in front of the Astrovan. The rest of the text here is from Wikipdedia: "The AstroVan is a NASA vehicle used to transport astronauts to the launch pad before a launch mission. The current model, a modified Airstream Excella motorhome, has been in use since the beginning of the Space Shuttle program in 1981. Similar models have been used since the beginning of the space program. It has a special built-in cooling system for the astronauts to plug in their orange-colored launch and entry suits, so the astronauts do not get overheated during the trip to the launch pad." Photo from NASA

Monday, May 26, 2008

More on Mark's Shuttle Mission

From the Associated Press:

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Japan is about to roll out the Lexus of space station labs, a whopper in size and sophistication. The $1 billion Kibo lab — which means "hope" in Japanese — is poised for a Saturday launch aboard space shuttle Discovery. It will be the biggest and, by far, the most elaborate room at the international space station — a 37-foot-long scientific workshop as large as a school bus, with its own hatch to the outside for experiments and a pair of robot arms. Making it even bigger will be a closet and porch.

Kibo is so enormous that three shuttle flights were needed to get it all up.

Seven astronauts, one of them Japanese, will deliver the actual lab on the upcoming mission, along with the larger of the two robot arms. A separate storage room loaded with Kibo equipment went up in March. The porch for outdoor science experiments and the smaller robot arm will fly next year.

Kibo (pronounced KEE'-boh) dwarfs the two labs already in orbit — NASA's modest-size Destiny and the even smaller European Space Agency's Columbus.

"It's usually the other way around, isn't it? Japanese products should be smaller, but this time it's the other way around," Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide said with a chuckle.

Two decades in the making, the 16-ton Kibo is 9 feet longer than the U.S. Destiny lab, which was launched in 2001, and more than 14 feet longer than Europe's Columbus, which flew to the space station in February.

Shuttle commander Mark Kelly calls it "the Lexus of the space station modules."

"It's big and it's capable. I mean, it's got its own dedicated robotic arm. It's got its own air lock. Eventually, it's going to have an external platform for experiments. It's got a lot of capable science racks that are going in. So yeah, I think it's pretty impressive." Kelly and his crew will install Kibo during the 14-day shuttle flight, then attach the Japanese storage compartment that was left in a temporary parking position in March.

Three spacewalks are planned to hook up Kibo and handle other space station work, like replacing an empty nitrogen gas tank and seeing how best to clean a jammed solar-wing rotary joint.

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's space operations chief, said it seems like simple tasks. "But when you get into the details of what's actually involved ... it's an extremely complicated mission," he said.

Besides all that work, one of the Discovery astronauts, Gregory Chamitoff, will swap places with the space station's current U.S. resident, Garrett Reisman, who will return to Earth on the shuttle following a three-month stay. Chamitoff will spend six months up there.

Just last week, NASA decided to proceed with its shuttle mission as planned, even as the Russians continue to investigate April's rocky landing by a Soyuz spacecraft carrying three astronauts home from the space station. A Soyuz constantly is docked at the orbiting outpost for use as a lifeboat in an evacuation.

Discovery's flight will be a milestone for NASA in more than one way. It will be the 10th shuttle mission since the 2003 Columbia tragedy and will leave just 10 more shuttle flights before the fleet is retired in 2010. That will mark the end of space station construction.

Discovery's fuel tank is the first to incorporate all the post-Columbia changes from the start of construction instead of later in the construction phase. While shuttle managers expect this fuel tank to be the best one yet — i.e., with minimal insulating-foam loss — a full inspection of the spaceship's thermal skin still will be required. That inspection will occur much later in the flight than usual. That's because Kelly and his crew won't get their inspection boom until they arrive at the space station. The 50-foot laser-tipped pole was left there in March by the previous shuttle visitors; it couldn't fit in Discovery's payload bay given the size of Kibo.

Another milestone for Discovery's upcoming mission: Astronaut Karen Nyberg, the lone woman on the crew, will become the 50th woman to fly in space. She will be rocketing into orbit just a few weeks before the 45th anniversary of the first woman in space, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, and the 25th anniversary of the first American woman in space, Sally Ride.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fellow Airstreamers Show Up During My Staycation

You can't imagine the thrill this morning when I looked out the front of the Airstream and saw . . . Fellow Airstreamers!

Not only that, they, and their Airstream, are quite famous.

Here's a shot of the restored 1961 Airstream Globe Trotter that is known to Airstreaming fans around the world thanks to Douglas Keister's book Silver Palaces.

After being stranded in one single metropolis for almost two months, the sight of fellow Vintage Airstream owners was more welcome than you could ever imagine. They were just here for the night, en route from the Pacific Ocean at California back to their land-based home in Santa Fe.

Jake and I have enjoyed our Staycation this weekend. See Tour of America's May 25th posting for more on that.

The Globe Trotting Pup

Jake's image reflected on the side of the Globe Trotter.

Internationally Reknowned Airstreamer Karin W

Even more exciting than seeing this famous Airstream was meeting its celebrated owners. The more well known of the two is photographer Karin Wikstrom of Santa Fe. She became famous in Airstreaming circles by posing in her Airstream's bathtub, which is what she's sitting on top of in this photo. Airstreamers need to utilize space well and in this restored Airstream they placed the bathtub under the seat for the dinette.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Minus Fifty

It's over 50 degrees cooler right now versus a couple of days ago. I am actually chilly. It's also the same temperature in Minneapolis and Phoenix at this moment. That happens, but not often.

We didn't make it down to 42 though--the number of today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Parks Heat and Bikram

It was so hot yesterday that when I got home to the Airstream at about 8 PM I found a bottle of water on the counter that was hot to the touch. The water must have been over 100 degrees, or close to it.

And it's only May.

See the photo and entry titled "The Sonoran" (from March) for more on this.

There was an election in Phoenix yesterday, which I sadly didn't know until late in the day. The good news: a measure to improve city parks passed with 80% of the vote. This is unheard of for tax raising measures. Of course very few people were probably voting which no doubt helped the energized group of supporters. Still, it's great for Phoenix, a city whose parks need a boost.

I am back in the yoga studio these days practicing Bikram--the hot yoga. It's sooooo good for me. Just finished three days in a row. Will take today off.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mark is going up!

My friend Mark Kelly is the Commander of the next Space Shuttle mission. I'll be in Florida to see him take off.

Here's a news story this morning on the scheduled trip into the heavens:

Tue May 20, 4:44 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - NASA has given the green light to launch the space shuttle Discovery on May 31 for a mission to the International Space Station, officials said. The Discovery's 14-day mission will include three spacewalks and is to be the second of three missions on which astronauts will install components of the Japanese Kibo laboratory.

The launch is scheduled for 5:02 pm (2102 GMT) at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Discovery mission marks the third for the shuttle this year out of four which have been planned. The final mission, which could take place October 8, aims to repair the Hubble telescope.

After the Discovery's May launch, seven more flights will be necessary to complete the assembly of the International Space station. Two more launches are planned to bring spare parts necessary for station maintenance in the coming years, Gerstenmaier said.

Friday, May 16, 2008

D-Day plus one--2008

A day after the anniversary of D-day this year, I will be going from 73 to 71.

I'll be moving out of my 1973 Airstream Trade Wind and moving in to a place at Patio71, in the Biltmore neighborhood of Phoenix.

To see a web site featuring my new home (where I will be for 3-4 months) go to

When the summer heat begins to fade I hope to return to 1973.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Phoenix One

Quick update. I've just finished my first month back in Phoenix. All's well. The new job is fun and keeping me very busy. Jake gets to come to work with me, which we both love. Just paid for a second month at the RV park here. Will be moving out of the Airstream at the end of that time due to the hellish heat that will be arriving in 3-6 weeks. Don't know where in Phoenix I'll spend the summer, but am thinking I'll be back in the Airstream come October. Time will tell. More later.