Category Archives: General

Preparing For Launch

Soyuz Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA along with their backups, Alexander Misurkin and Nikolai Tikhonov of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei of NASA are the group comprising the crew of ISS Expedition 49-50.

The group are actively preparing for launch at the Soyuz MS-02 to the International Space Station on 19 October from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.


Hurricane Matthew – KSC Update

It looks like Kennedy Space Center is right in the path of Matthew. Good luck!

Update from Kennedy Space Center at 19:17 UTC 15:17 EDT:
The wind conditions at Kennedy Space Center have dropped below 40 knots and preliminary damage assessments are under way. KSC is now in a “Weather Safe” condition as of 2 p.m. Friday. While there is damage to numerous facilities at KSC, it consists largely roof damage, window damage, water intrusion, damage to modular buildings and to building siding. There does not appear to be damage to flight hardware at this time. The Damage Assessment and Recovery team will undertake more detailed inspection on Saturday and will enter all facilities. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be closed on Saturday and will reopen on Sunday. Based on the damage assessment, the return to work status for KSC employees will be determined Saturday afternoon.


September Equinox 2016


The September equinox arrives/arrived at 14:21 UTC. or 10:21 EDT.  Autumn in the north and spring in the south.

The image here came from and is a good depiction of what is going on:  Today at 14:21 UTC the equator of the Earth is pointed right at the center of the sun.  As the Earth travels in its orbit the position of the Sun with respect to the equator changes.  In September the tilt is such that the center of the Sun is moving south.  By late December the Earth has moved sufficiently in orbit the apparent movement stops (the December solstice) and starts going back north.


Happy Solstice!


A little déjà vu? By the way the moon is full today too and this is known as the Strawberry Moon, not for any color, rather the beginning of Strawberry season in the north.

Today the Sun reaches its most northern point in the sky in the northern hemisphere and the lowest in the southern hemisphere.

Put another way,  for the northern hemisphere: the June solstice is when the subsolar point or that point where the sun is perceived to be directly over head, is at the northern most latitude it will attain before due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis and is on the Tropic of Cancer (23.44 deg). After the June Solstice the Sun will day by day become lower in the northern sky until the December solstice when it rises to its lowest point of the year.

The southern hemisphere experiences the opposite, so today the Sun is at its lowest point and after today will gradually reach higher in sky until the December solstice.

The moment of the June Solstice occurs today at 22:34 UTC.  US Naval Observatory.

More at:

My typical June solstice tradition is to take a nice long walk at sunrise, heavy rain made me skip the walk.


Image: Creative Commons

Happy Towel Day!

toweldaypixHappy what-day?  Towel day, it is a tribute to Douglas Adams. The image is Towel Day 2005 in the lovely Innsbruck, Austria, where Adams got the inspiration to write the Guide.

There is much to do, at least there are options – check out

I will be on a twenty-meter lift today and you can bet I’ll have a towel with me.

From the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost." What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in "Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)


Samples recovered from recent seasons include rare and scientifically valuable pieces of Mars and Moon, as well as rocks formed very early during the formation and evolution of the solar system that hold clues to the origin of volatiles, planets and the organic compounds essential to life.


Cassini and Planet 9


LOL. I’ve been getting quite a kick out of some of the hoopla surrounding “Planet 9” and saw the stories about how Cassini’s orbit was getting knocked about by the gravity of said planet.

I’ve even seen claims that NASA  is projecting a huge hologram into the sky in order to hide the sight of “Planet 9” coming right at us, after all according to these people,  it is supposed to be on a track to hit is in April and by my reckoning there is less than three-weeks left.

One tiny problem, we don’t even know for sure if “Planet 9” even exists, to say nothing about the rest of it. Although I would love to believe NASA could produce a big hologram like that, but no sadly they can’t.  Oh well, it makes for some good science fiction.

Anyway to address the Cassini’s orbital perturbations,  the Cassini team has this to say:

Saturn Spacecraft Not Affected by Hypothetical Planet 9

Contrary to recent reports, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is not experiencing unexplained deviations in its orbit around Saturn, according to mission managers and orbit determination experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Several recent news stories have reported that a mysterious anomaly in Cassini’s orbit could potentially be explained by the gravitational tug of a theorized massive new planet in our solar system, lurking far beyond the orbit of Neptune. While the proposed planet’s existence may eventually be confirmed by other means, mission navigators have observed no unexplained deviations in the spacecraft’s orbit since its arrival there in 2004.

“An undiscovered planet outside the orbit of Neptune, 10 times the mass of Earth, would affect the orbit of Saturn, not Cassini,” said William Folkner, a planetary scientist at JPL. Folkner develops planetary orbit information used for NASA’s high-precision spacecraft navigation. “This could produce a signature in the measurements of Cassini while in orbit about Saturn if the planet was close enough to the sun. But we do not see any unexplained signature above the level of the measurement noise in Cassini data taken from 2004 to 2016.”

A recent paper predicts that, if data tracking Cassini’s position were available out to the year 2020, they might be used to reveal a “most probable” location for the new planet in its long orbit around the sun. However, Cassini’s mission is planned to end in late 2017, when the spacecraft — too low on fuel to continue on a longer mission — will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere.

“Although we’d love it if Cassini could help detect a new planet in the solar system, we do not see any perturbations in our orbit that we cannot explain with our current models,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL.

Image and press release: The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.