Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hello from Washington!

Even though I am on vacation, I still try to visit either a school, company, or organization to talk about the Space Shuttle. So this time I just visited my sister's company, Tetra Tech to give a briefing on the Orbiter's Thermal Protection System and mission turn-around process.

As for my vacation...We did a lot of hiking at Granite Falls and Mount Rainier National Park. We visited Ocean Shores and geesh was the water cold!! I have definitely become accustomed the to the warm Florida waters. :) The weather has been great here in Washington. Completely sunny and around the 70s. Tomorrow we head to Oregon for a couple of days. I was going to upload photos of the sites we've visited now that I finally got internet access, but I forgot the cord to download the pictures from the camera at the house. duh...

So here's a quick update on some space stuff while I've been away:

  • Looks like the tanking test proved to be successful today and no leaks were found! Yey!! This makes a July 11th launch for Space Shuttle Endeavour look a little more promising. (Hopefully weather won't be an issue now!)

  • NEW ASTRONAUTS SELECTED!! What we've all been waiting for!! CLICK HERE to read all about them!

  • Construction is under way on a new mobile launcher for the Constellation Program. The new mobile launcher will be the base for the Ares rockets to launch the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the cargo vehicle. The base is being made lighter than space shuttle mobile launcher platforms so the crawler-transporter can pick up the added load of the 345-foot tower and taller rocket. When the structural portion of the new launcher is complete, umbilical lines, access arms, communications equipment and command/control equipment will be installed.

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    Anonymous said...

    I wonder is Kate being a virologist has anything to do with the H1N1 flu!

    Tom said...

    I looked for you on that list of new astronauts, but I guess you'll be in the next one. :-)

    We have had some really nice weather here in WA lately, just wish the clear skies and moon would not line up together like they are. Darn light pollution!

    Christopher Lusardi said...

    I doubt (very much) that our new astronaut student, Kathern Rubins, has any real significant relationship to the Swine flu. Her name probably has more to do with people liking Rubin sandwichs than her career indicating any acknowledgement from NASA about the severity of the Swine flu.

    Below is a partial investigation into the Swine flu.

    The simple fact is the future path of the H1N1 (Swine) flu cannot be assertained at this point of time! I.E.: At the front-end of a new pandemic.

    Definition: A pandemic means that a new virus is wide spread on more than one continent and says "nothing" about how many people could die.

    The CDC (Center For Disease Control) has stated that the current pandemic is of a category 2 severity. This means that between 90,000 and 450,000 Americans will die from it. But, the simple fact is that ordinary seasonal flu kills 36,000 Americans a year. I do not know how much time this death rate (the new lower bound of 90,000 people) is to span. The 90,000 people could die in 1 to 2 years! I'm not sure.

    A mathematical model of a flu is based on a key parameter called R0 which is 2 in most cases. It indicates how many people become infected from an already infected person before he/she becomes isolated. The pandemic of 1918 had an R0 of from some where between 2.4 and 4.2.

    Anyway, as of today (7/4/09) 175 Americans have died which is a distant cry away from 90,000 people. Admitedly, people do say that pandemics happen in waves and there are quiet periods between waves.

    Incidentally, the seasonal flu generally does not occur during the summer months.

    Ordinary seasonal flu is resistant to Tamiflu, and most scientists believe Swine flu will also become resistant to it in very fast.

    So, my summation at this point in time is there is no need to worry about the Swine flu.

    If you are worried or concerned just seek out reports about it and become worried when necessary.

    If you are concerned the same preparation stategies should be taken similar to preparing for hurricanes etc. You just have to find out what to do if a 1918 pandemic arrives at our door, I guess. (For a bad virus you have to have a lot of good facial masks, stored food, water, the right medicines, and you have to wash your hands.)

    I, personally, do not think our government would allow this to happen and that we would have minimally been told to prepare for the worst long ago.

    Kathern in 2 or more years may be studying bacteria etc in space because this topic has been in the news recently. Bacteria are suppose to proliferate easily in near-zero gravity.

    I send my congratulations to Kathern and the rest of the new astronaut candidates.

    Christopher Lusardi said...

    Damarius, I know this is off-topic, but I would like to try and clarify something I posted.

    I dedicate this to Kathern Rubins in the hope that some day I will become an astronaut candidate.

    I boldly stated earlier that "The simple fact is the future path of the H1N1 (Swine) flu cannot be assertained at this point of time!" I hopefully will now be able to clarify my statement, a little!

    What I was trying to imply with this not completly stated statement was that all flu virous' are notoriously known to quickly mutate. (It's random to some extent.)

    What really exist's is there is a mean-type organism existing in a group of many mutations of that mean-type virus.

    The flu virus has genes which are made up of RNA which is unlike the human DNA. RNA has 8 segments which can easily be exchanged with other flu virus' gene segments. That's how a mutation is formed. Human's DNA are more stable and do not mutate.

    Well, a virus is much smaller than a bacteria cell. Part of the problem in 1918 Spanish Flu was that scientists did not have an electron microscope to see the virus. It was too small to easily study. They could look at bacteria though with their relatively crude microscopes.

    Anyway, a virus enter a bacteria cell and the virus' genes exchange with the bacteria's genes. The brand new gene sequence tells the bacteria cell to produce new flu virus cells which can be mutated versions of the original virion. There are about 100,000 to 1 million virions created in one bacteria cell! Again, these new virions have all possible permutations of genes and outter proteins. For example, this gives rise to not only the mean H1N1 virion but H2N1 because the proteins on the outside of the virion easily become other forms and shapes.

    The terminology H1N1 is suppose to encapsulate "H" for any one of 16 possible forms of the hemogglutinin protein and "N" for any one of the 9 possible forms of neuraminidase protein. These proteins protrude from the virion like spikes and other forms.

    An effective vaccine is supposedly able to identify the new virus based on the form of these protruding hemogglutinin and neuraminidase proteins. Most flu vaccines are never totally 100% effective because the flu changes every year and scientists can not accurately plan an attack on it (year after year)!

    Interestingly, other know non-flu virus diseases are 100% effective because they do not mutate at all.

    Most of these flu virions created in the bacteria die off and only the original mean-type virion remains along with some of the other permutations. The survivors are the ones that can replicate inside other cells etc. That's Natural Selection. About 1,000 to 10,000 virions escape that single bacteria cell and they repeat their attack on other bacterial orgainisms all over again.

    Today's scientists are fearful of a more deadly mean-virus being produced.

    So, basically at this point in time (at the start of the pandemic) the scientists cannot predict the stability of the current mild Swine flu mean-virus.

    All these mean virus groups are called a "mutant swarm" because it's a mean surrounded by mutations.

    The fear is the mean could mutate to a more deadly virus, or it could become a less deadly virus. It's all based on Natural Selection of the virus.

    Definitions: A "drift" is a minor and harmless mutation of seasonal flu involving those proteins I talked about. A "shift" is a more serious change of the flu which is unreconized by the human body and could lead to a pandemic.

    Christopher Lusardi said...

    Anyway continuing, if I could make a wish at this point in time during the astronaut selection process I would wish to become an astronaut candidate and work with Kathern.

    NASA has been successful at getting me to study virus'. It seems to be a fasinating subject. I hope other people catch on.

    This entire world of micro-organisms is similar to studying a metaphor of space and our entire universe.

    My first degree did touch on micro-palenontolgy which is the study of micro-organisms on Earth. All the micro-organisms that have ever existed on this planet.

    Christopher Lusardi said...

    Oh, I forgot to mention that an antigenic shift occurs with gene segments being exchanged (new assortment), and antigenic drift occurs when two of the main virion's protruding proteins do a simple shape change.

    sidd said... time instead of looking up the blog i will just be reading damaris's blog comments!! lol..great info chris..that seems to be the work of a lot of research..

    Anonymous said...

    Kate is a cutie. A taken cutie... *sigh*

    Hello, MAM!!!

    WTF?!?! Is that short for mammal, mammary, what?!

    Ah, my favorite comment person has returned! Rubins sandwiches??? Seriously? Try "reuben", you tool! Or were you trying to be punny? Leave it to Lusardi to post a crapload of drivel in a comment on a blog like this to focus on the mighty worldwide epidemic swine flu. What do you think, Damarius??? Off-topic, indeed! Why, Lusardi? Do you think we actually care? Other than the laughs, I assure you the majority answer will not please your ego.

    Tsk, tsk! I was about to call you out for failing to mention the antigenic shift/drift!!! Nice save!

    You are pretty much the swine flu of this blog, Lusardi. Overall rather harmless and inane, but showing up in print a lot, to the point that people just wish you would go away and crawl back into the pig mucus from which you were spawned.