Monday, December 31, 2007

A Year of Space & Blogging

I'm still reading Andrew Chaikin's excellent Apollo book (I'm in the middle of Apollo 16 right now) and enhancing this experience with Orbiter simulations of lunar landings and EVA's in AMSO. Apollo 15 was such an impressive mission, and thanks to Chaikin and especially AMSO, I now have a much better feel for the dramatic mountain valley location, for the distances covered in this first Lunar Rover mission, and for the scientific accomplishments of this mission. The picture shows the LM approaching its landing site about 2 km east of Hadley Rille. AMSO continues to improve, and according to this recent forum thread, the next version will even include 3D virtual cockpits for the CSM and LM!

But it's the last day of the year, the traditional time to look back and sum up: just how did we do in the fiftieth year of the Space Age? Fortunately for me and you, Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log has done a great job summarizing the year in space. This brief video summary of JPL's impressive 2007 accomplishments and this one about JPL's Explorer 1 (the first US satellite, launched in January 1958) are also great.

For myself, 2007 was a really great "year in space." It was my first year as a volunteer JPL Solar System Ambassador, and I presented or participated in at least ten educational outreach events, many of them in conjunction with the Aldrich Astronomical Society. I attended the National Space Society meeting (ISDC 2007) in Dallas, presenting a paper (3.5 MB PDF) on the uses of Orbiter for education, and attending talks by (among many others) Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt (I stood three feet from Buzz for about 5 minutes but he was busy and I didn't get to meet him). I was also fortunate enough to attend a NASA educational conference in Orlando in connection with the STS-118 mission, which also allowed me to join in a VIP tour of the Kennedy Space Center and to experience a shuttle launch from just 6 km away - really awesome. I also bought my first small but fairly reasonable telescope, an Orion StarBlast (earlier I had bought one of those useless department store telescopes they tell you never to buy, ostensibly for my daughter). I'm sure there will be more!

It certainly appears that I like to write, though I've known that for years. Before blogging came along, it was personal journals on whatever I was into at the time: books, Japanese study, songwriting, recording, flight simulators, flight lessons, etc. Although I didn't produce a new edition of Go Play In Space as I did in 2005 and 2006, I managed to write some 326 blog posts on quite a few subjects, including a number of tutorial posts under the heading "Orbiter for Educators." I still believe that space and astronomy are a great way to engage kids and others and to encourage interest in the wonders of science and technology. Orbiter continues to be a great help in my educational presentations and personal explorations into space and astronomy. I look forward to doing more educational outreach (and more blogging) in 2008 and beyond.

Happy new year and best wishes to all!

P.S. I had planned to host the Carnival of Space last week, but people were apparently too busy with Christmas and other things. I'm waiting to hear from Fraser Cain about hosting it this week, so stay tuned, and if you have a post you'd like to include in the next carnival, please send it in.


Matthew said...


Just a quick not to say I really enjoy your blog, and it's probably going to replace as my weekly space-geek read.

I'm currently enjoying reading Riding Rockets, great book huh?

I never realised Sally Ride was mentioned in We Didn't Start The Fire (Mike Mullane mentions this in the book). What he forgets to note is that, apart from Crista/Challenger this will be last time astronauts mattered. Hell, even a geek like me struggles to name any recent shuttle pilots/MSes

Keep up the great blogging!

FlyingSinger said...

Thanks for the kind words, Matthew. Yes, Riding Rockets was a good one! The only recent astronauts I can readily recall are Eileen Collins and Winston Scott, who I met last summer. I think they still matter even if they're not individually well known. Space is in a weird intermediate stage now, between the pioneering Wright Brothers/Charles Lindbergh or barnstorming stage and some sort of wider commercial stage. I think space will become more a part of everyday life AND produce more heroes and celebrities in the future. There will be other Neil Armstrong's (and even more Stuart Roosa's and Charles Duke's, moonwalkers who few probably remember unless they are Apollo buffs).

matthew said...

Thanks for the reply.
Come to think of it - I hardly even know the moonwalkers. I was watching In The Shadow of The Moon last night and I was blown away by how interesting a person Mike Collins all my years I never paid much attention to the guy in the can..but he certainly seems interesting. I wonder if he has done a memoir/will do?

FlyingSinger said...

Mike Collins wrote "Carrying the Fire" a year or two after Apollo 11, and it's still one of the very best astronaut memoirs. I really liked "Shadow of the Moon" and plan to buy the DVD when it comes out in February. Both Collins and Alan Bean were especially impressive though all were interesting to hear. The astronauts are a pretty interesting bunch of people and surprisingly diverse even within the first few groups who were all military test pilots. Winston Scott is one of the few astronauts I have briefly met, one of our few black astronauts, a Navy pilot and jazz musician who came from a pretty poor family in Florida. He's was a shuttle era mission specialist on 4 or 5 missions. His brief memoir "Reflections from Earth Orbit" is really good - quite inspiring.