Tag Archives: shuttle

STS-120 Lifts Off

I was at the NASA Press Site yesterday for the launch of STS-120. What an amazing launch that was to witness. I’ve seen a lot of launches, and this one was the loudest I can remember. I imagine the extreme loudness can be attributed to either the heavy humid air, or the wind direction, or the low cloud deck, or probably a combination of these atmospheric conditions. I took these photos of the launch while at the same time helping to make sure people didn’t “loiter” in front of the big countdown clock. When people stand directly in front of the clock, it has a tendency to annoy most of the TV stations who are using the footage from the countdown clock in their live launch feeds. Click on a photo for a larger version in my photo gallery.

.STS-120 launch .STS-120 launch

BLOG CONTEST: I will give one dollar via PayPal to the first person who can identify the white haired man in the white shirt in the second photo. Anyone that I know and have already told is obviously not eligible! Also, anyone who was actually at the NASA Press Site yesterday is not eligible. To enter, you must email me (Kurt only) via the web based email form on my website and tell me your name and your email address so that I can PayPal you the money. If you enter using this method, your email address will only be seen by me and nobody else. If you don’t mind sharing your email address with the whole world, you can enter by adding a comment to this blog posting. I promise I will not use your email address for anything other than sending you the one dollar.

My first 5K run: KSC InterCenter Run

This evening I ran my first 5K race. I’m not counting the one in January where Sam and I walked and pushed both boys in their umbrella strollers. This time I actually ran. 🙂 I guess I performed okay for my first race. I wasn’t studying the clock when I finished … guess I was just happy to finish … but a couple coworkers who were paying more attention than I was told me that I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 32 minutes.

Below is a poor quality photo from my cell phone. It was pretty hot and sunny and also very humid during the race, which started at 5PM. There was a pretty good turnout of KSC employees … probably around 400 people. They had choices of a 2 mile, a 5K, or a 10K. It was a well organized race and I definitely plan to do it again next year.

. Kurt after his first 5K race

September 27th update: The official race results are in and I came in 115th out of 149 runners in the 5K race with an official time of 33:00.17. I’m happy being in the front of the last quarter of the participants for my first race. My goal for my next race will be to be smack in the middle of the whole crowd.

There were 330 total participants between all the different race choices: 71 in the 2 mile walk, 58 in the 2 mile run, 149 in the 5K run, 48 in the 10K run, and 4 rollerblade entries.

STS-117 SRB & ET Launch Footage Compilation

I recently merged some STS-117 NASA launch video footage from four of the six Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) cameras and also the External Tank (ET) camera into a single synchronized video compilation. Below are a few teaser frames from the compilation:

. Title frame

. SRB Separation frame

. SRB Splashdown frame

The video compilation is about 10 1/2 minutes long and runs in real time starting from launch all the way through SRB splashdown and even through Orbiter (Atlantis) separation from the ET. It’s a pretty cool video to watch because you get to see what happens behind the scenes with the SRBs after separation.

I used Adobe Premier Elements version 3.0 to compile the video. It’s a very powerful consumer video editor program, but it’s also quite user friendly so you don’t have to be a video editing expert to be able to use it. It costs a hundred bucks, and you can download and use a free 30 day trial here: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/

Below is a high bandwidth link to the finished compilation video. It is in Windows Media Player 9 (WMV) format. Enjoy!


STS-117_SRB&ETLaunchFootageCompilation (LAN Quality – 1150 Kbps – 960×720 – 30fps – 90 Megs)

Here is the lower quality YouTube version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-e0Fam-Za4

P.S. For those in the audience who are complete perfectionists, I did not attempt to synchronize the time counters in the corners of each of the videos to each other. That would have taken me much longer and would not have ended up looking very much different. All I did was synchronize major events (like liftoff and SRB separation) to occur simultaneously to my own eyes. Actually the video in the lower left appears to be a few seconds off from the rest on it’s time counter. Especially towards splashdown of the SRB’s. So synchronizing that video’s time counter would have actually thrown it off from real time.

Space Shuttle Challenger mural at my high school

When I was a student at Deer Creek Mackinaw (Dee-Mack) High School in Mackinaw, Illinois (1984 thru 1988) I was really into anything that was even remotely related to art. I loved drafting classes and all of the different art classes too. Our art teacher, Mrs. Schultz, organized some of the best art students there and had them paint a few organized and approved murals around the school. I was allowed to paint a Space Shuttle mural upstairs on the big 2-story wall just outside the library. I was also into space, and I had some NASA photos and mission patches and I basically just painted a collage of some of the items in that material. I dedicated the mural to the crew of the Challenger mission that was lost during their launch on January 28th, 1986. This large mural was a big project for a high school student … and I never actually technically finished the mural. I had intended to paint land masses on the earth, but never got around to it. I took these photos in the summer of 2002, so the mural was at least there for 14 years. I think they had to paint over it a few years ago, though.








NASA is retiring the Space Shuttle

Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions, not official NASA statements!

For those readers who don’t follow NASA news closely, NASA publicly announced recently that the Space Shuttles are slated to be forced into retirement in 2010. This is due to many factors, some of which are listed below:

  • Space Shuttles and associated ground infrastructure are getting quite old and harder and harder to maintain and enhance.
  • Their design is fairly dangerous and we’ve lost two already and the chances of losing others increase with age.
  • The Space Shuttle system, although reusable, is a money pit. Due to budget cuts and design compromises in the 1970’s, the Space Shuttles have never lived up to the hopes and dreams of the engineers who conceived them. I believe that the costs per pound to orbit are worse than if we had stuck with “disposable” rockets.
  • President Bush in 2004 gave NASA a new direction. Enough of this low Earth orbit stuff. His Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) speech suggested that we build a new “crew exploration vehicle” to take us back to the moon, and to Mars, and even beyond.

NASA plans to spend $100 billion over the next 12 years to design, build, and launch the new spacecraft and rockets it needs to put humans back on the Moon by 2018.

For those who think we should only stick to robot exploration:
We already did the robots to the Moon thing. NASA calls this the “Exploration” program because the whole point is to get ourselves off the Earth and out exploring other planets. The NASA Exploration Program tagline for marketing purposes is “Moon, Mars, and Beyond!” Whenever you use a robot, your science is very limited, and your ability to cope with problems that crop up is almost non-existant. Using humans is risky and expensive, but the payoff can be enormous when successful.

For those asking why do we want or need to go back to the Moon:
One possibility is that we can extract precious oxygen from lunar regolith and/or from lunar ice. This act would help a moon base to be a little more self-sustainable and require less logistics missions. Scientists would like to set up large telescopes on the moon where there’s no atmosphere to look through like on Earth and no potential for decay of orbit and reentry, like we have with Hubble Space Telescope. There’s lots of other science that can be done on the Moon.
Once we’re comfortable living on the moon, we can raise our sights and try it out on Mars, and Beyond! Of course, the flights to the Moon planned for 2018 will be similar to Apollo … where we just go, do some science for a few days and then return. It will take a while longer to get into a position to actually set up a long term Moon base. I imagine it will take 2 or 3 times as long to build a Moon base as it is currently taking us to build our Space Station. And that’s been going on for quite some time now.


The publicly released NASA image above shows a relative size comparison between the Saturn V rocket used for Apollo Moon missions, the Space Shuttle used today for low Earth orbit missions, the new Ares I rocket which will be used to send humans into low Earth orbit, and the new Ares V rocket which will be used to send large cargo into low Earth orbit and beyond.

By putting the humans and the cargo on two separate launch vehicles, NASA is hoping to make it much safer for the astronauts. A vehicle required to take a small crew capsule into space is much safer than a vehicle required to take a huge and heavy payload into space. Also, the Ares I vehicle is derived from today’s Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters, which have a good history after the post-Challenger improvements. Also a single inline vehicle is safer than the piggyback configuration that we used for Shuttle.

After both crew and cargo are launched into low Earth orbit, the crew capsule will attach itself to the cargo and use rockets attached to the cargo to make the trip to the Moon. The plan is very similar to the Apollo Moon missions after that. The crew capsule actually looks a lot like the one used in Apollo, only bigger. Most of the new vehicles are expendable and the only thing that will actually re-enter and land on Earth is the crew capsule, similarly to Apollo.

The Space Shuttle was a great Engineering feat. But it was just too fragile and the overall architecture design was too costly to maintain and also very dangerous for the crew. NASA has decided that it’s not going to trade safety for reusability in it’s new space system architecture. They’re playing it safer this time around. After losing two Shuttle Orbiters along with their astronaut crews, can you blame them?