Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A shot from tonight's lunar eclipse!

I'm sure others will have better shots of tonight's lunar eclipse, but this is what we were able to get out of the camera. :)

Atlantis lands at KSC!!!

Today Atlantis landed at runway 15 at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility. I was out at the runway when the Orbiter landed to perform an overall quick-look inspection of the Thermal Protection System (TPS). The orbiter's TPS was a good condition aside from the minor issues we detected in orbit. Luckily we had awesome weather to be performing this inspection out on the runway.

As a side note, I made it to the Picture Of The Day site on the Lower Merion School District Site:

Atlantis lands today!!!

It's 4:00am and I'm about to head in for landing preparations. I'll be out on the runway when Atlantis lands and perform an inspection of the overall condition of the Thermal Protection System with the team. This is an exciting day as I anticipate the crew's return!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FIRST LEGO League State Competition

If you love LEGOs then you would have wanted to be where I was on Sunday. The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) State Competition was held at Florida Institute of Technology. FLL is a competition for teams of up to 10 students ages 9-14 years old. The competition consists of table matches (where their lego robot runs) and judging on the design and construction of the robot and software as well as how effective they operate as a team. In addition, they are required to conduct research on a topic related to the theme designated for the year and are judged on a presentation of their research. They receive a new "challenge" each year consisting of a set of missions to be accomplished on a 4' x 8' table with a mat a field set up to simulate some scenario.

The robot match is 2 1/2 minutes long. Each team runs their robot three times. Robots are constructed from LEGO Robotics kits and are programmed using either the LEGO Mindstorms software or Robolab software which is based on Labview. Both software programs are graphic and have fairly simple constructs. The teams bring their robot and either a printout of their programs or a laptop for viewing the programs to the judging area. Hardware judges have the teams demonstrate how their robot accomplishes the mission objectives and talk with the team members about how their robot is designed, why they made specific design decisions, etc. Software judges have the teams walk through their software and have them talk about the design and how effective their software is.

Well, I was a software judge for the robots and was extremely impressed how these young students were proficient and understood programming. They were accurately able to answer the questions I asked them related to the program they created. Each team had a team name such as the Hammerheads, Storm Cats, RoboGeeks, Legooners, and Lego Monkeys. Clothing or costumes related to their team name were also a hit as they showed off their enthusiasm for this fun competition.

Brevard County Regional Science and Engineering Fair

On Friday, I volunteered to be a judge at the Brevard County Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Merritt Island. I was assigned to judge high school seniors in the Biological Science category. The students were very creative with their project topics! Some examples of the projects were the effects of music on blood pressure and determining what teaching technique is more effective (lecture or book work). Below is a slide show of the projects I judged.

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over Pad 39A

With Endeavour sitting out at the launch pad, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds did a fly-by over the pad!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

STS-122: Flight Day 6

The protruding blanket on Atlantis's right OMS pod has been cleared for re-entry "as is" in its current condition. All the the testing and evaluations by the analysis team has calculated there will be no risk to the vehicle during re-entry.

Monday, February 11, 2008

STS-122: Flight Day 5

Yesterday a focused inspection of the lifted blanket gave us much better shots. Based on the photos we are clearly able to see that it is only a corner that is slightly lifted and more accurate measurements of the protruding corner have been taken. Tonight, analysts will be wrapping up their assessment of the condition. We performed a blanket pull test on a test panel we created last night with appropriate loading. The final decision will be announced tomorrow, but so far things are looking promising to fly back with the blanket in its current condition. We'll wait for the final word tomorrow!

Shuttle Atlantis Launch Photos

Here are some awesome shots from launch day!

Endeavour makes it to the Vehicle Assembly Building!

This morning Endeavour rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to become mated to the External Tank (ET) and Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB). Michael Nicholas was able to take some photos since I am in Houston supporting STS-122. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

STS-123: Endeavour Prepares for Shuttle Stacking

Endeavour will rollover to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) tomorrow. The STS-123 mission is currently scheduled to launch March 11th, 2008. Maybe I can get someone at work to take some pictures so I can post for you guys to see since I am in Houston!

STS-122: Flight Day 4

Today we are going to perform a focused inspection of the protruding blanket on the right OMS pod. What that means is that we will utilize a high-definition camera mounted on the tip of Atlantis's 50-foot robotic arm to get better imagery of our blanket of concern. The crew will be able to take photos of the blanket and photos down in the cavity so we can generate more accurate measurements of the protrusion. Once we have these photos the analysis team will proceed with analyzing if the blanket condition it acceptable for reentry without repair and then the team I am working with (Team 4), will assemble test panels for demonstrating repair methods. The test panels are set up so we can have a suited astronaut practice certain repair methods to see how feasible it would be with the gloves, tools, etc. So right now, we're just waiting for those new photos to come in with the exact condition we have.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

STS-122: Flight Day 3

Atlantis has successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS). Last night, I worked from 7pm to 5am and reviewed images of the wing leading edges and nose cap. We documented any features on the surface that violated our criteria and required further evaluation.

Identified in ascent imagery, a thermal blanket on the right OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) pod seems to be lifted at a corner. I am about to get ready to go into JSC and see if any of the images that the ISS crew took before docking gives us a better idea of the type of issue we have. Atlantis had a similar type of blanket protrusion during STS-117 which required a spacewalk to pin and staple the blanket back into place for a safe re-entry.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's off to Houston I go....

What a great launch today! I really thought the weather was going to come between us having a successful launch, but I was proved wrong. All the launch preparations went so smoothly! Tonight I will be packing to travel to Houston to support the mission imagery team. The team will be analyzing imagery of the wing leading edges as well as the nose cap for any potential debris hits or differences from imagery taken before launch. This is just one of the inspections performed to determine if the vehicle and crew will make a safe return home. :)

So far so good......

The ECO sensor system is operating successfully this morning. We will still be waiting until about another hour until the sensors are cycled once the tank filling is completed. Weather is still an issue, but outside right now, it looks acceptable. Rain showers associated with the approaching cold front are about 45 miles away. That front is expected to be directly over Kennedy Space Center at launch time this afternoon. Right now I am headed to do a live radio interview with a spanish station CARACOL 1260. I'm a little nervous!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Atlantis is ready!!

Atlantis is getting ready to lift-off! Tomorrow morning (around 5:20am) when they start fueling the external tank, we'll really know if the sensor problem has been fixed if all sensors read accurately. The possible obstacle is the weather. There is a 70 percent chance that clouds and rain could prohibit launch. However, if Thursday doesn't work out for launch due to weather, Friday or Saturday look AWESOME!

Thank You Merion Elementary!!

Today I recieved some thank you letters from Mrs. Glackman's class at Merion Elementary. I loved the comments and hope to be back there next year to share more stories with the students. Here are some comments the kids wrote:

"Thank you for coming!! The decal and launch picture are awesome! They are great for my collection. The experiment we made with you was SO cool!! It was so interesting because one was waterproofed and when you put water on it, the water would turn into a kind of blob. And the other one would just absorb all the water and that one would end up being heavier. The slide show went really well! I just want to say thanks for visiting our class and school. You're awesome. I really so think you will be an astronaut one day!! Sincerely, Molly G."

"We loved your demonstration and all the other stuff you showed us. Next time you go on the vomit comet, bring four bags and not two. Good luck on becoming an astronaut. From, Daniel"

"I really enjoyed your visit, and I hope you liked visiting us too. Your experiment was really fun (and messy, but I like messy). The slide show that you showed about your job was cool too. I know you will get on a mission some day and I wish you luck. Your friend, Sophie"

"Thanks for coming to our school. Today we saw your blog and the slide show too. I saw of photo of me. I loved the experience of holding a piece of blanket, a heat resistant tile, and the waterproofed tile and the non-waterproofed tiles. I think you would make a fantastic astronaut. Reach for the stars! From, Izzy"

"I really liked your coming to my class, it was fun and interesting. I'd like it if you'd come back next year. The slide show was awesome because I learned something like the nose of the orbiter has the strongest protection. The experiment was too because the water stayed on one tile and on the other it soaked in. I still have one question for you: was there anyone who inspired you to become an astronaut? I hope that you become an astronaut. Your friend, Devlin E."

I want to send a GIGANTIC thank you to all the students who took the time to write these generous comments. To answer Devlin's question, I was first inspired by former Astronaut Susan Helms! She has a career of many accomplishments and she has inspired me since I was in 8th grade.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A week of Rememberance

This week is a week of rememberance for the lives lost in each tragedy: Apollo 1 (January 27th, 1967), Challenger (Januaru 28th, 1986), and Columbia (February 1st, 2003). Difficult lessons have been learned and we have also achieved great accomplishments of human spaceflight holding safety as our first priority.