Tuesday afternoon the Badlands National Park Twitter account decided to take matters into its own hands (at least this is what was initially thought) after Trump instructed employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture not to communicate with the press or the public, instituting a media blackout. In an act of defiance against the gag order the official Badlands Twitter page appeared to put out various scientific tweets about climate change but were later taken down taken down and the reason why? An ex employee apparently “hacked” the system.
In a statement to Buzzfeed, the National Park Service blamed “a former employee who was not currently authorized to use the park’s account” for the tweets. The park was not told to remove the tweets but decided to take them down anyway since they didn’t come from an authorized Badlands National Park employee. Since the system had been compromised they opted to remove the tweets. That being said, other federal agencies took to Twitter, posting about climate change and those have not been removed.
At this time, National Park Service social media managers are encouraged to continue the use of Twitter to post information relating to public safety and park information, with the exception of content related to national policy issues,” the National Park Service statement said.
So this leads me to ask the question. How do we continue to support the hashtag #TweetwithBadlands if it was in fact a breach in their system? While climate change is a very important issue we also need to understand what we are defending and why.
On January 19th, 2006 New Horizons launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Complex 41 in Cape Canaveral, Florida and the rest is history. Well, history making because Alan Stern and his New Horizons team did what no one else could do, they gave us Pluto.
Turning a point of light into reality.
Before the New Horizons mission the Hubble telescope was our best source for capturing pictures of Pluto but unfortunately it lacked depth and detail. Little was know about the planet (Oh yes, I went there) but thanks to the New Horizons team we now know the most we ever have about this distant object with an elliptical orbit and heart-shaped patch of terrain. We told Pluto “We love you!” and it definitely sent that love back. This is one space object that definitely wears its heart on its sleeve. On July 14th, 2015 New Horizons flew over Pluto making it the first spacecraft to reach and explore the distant planet. It may have taken 9.5 years to reach Pluto but anything this good is worth waiting for.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” ~ Albert Einstein
Eleven years later to the day Alan Stern, Principal Investigator at Southwest Research Institute along with Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters, Glen Fountain, New Horizons (encounter) project manager at APL, Kelsi Singer, New Horizons co-investigator at Southwest Research Institute and Helene Winters, New Horizons project manager at APL spoke to the public via a Facebook live-stream about where the New Horizons spacecraft will be going next. There were plenty of smiles to go around as the team started talking about where New Horizons was going next and rightly so because going deeper into the Kuiper Belt isn’t something that happens everyday.
On January 1st, 2019 New Horizons will flyby MU69 which is quoted as being “a typical Kuiper Belt object” yet to us humans I am sure it is anything but typical. Although most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen elements we find on earth, such as methane, ammonia and water one can’t help but look at it like an exotic gem. One question that was asked that I have often thought about was this: Are there any threats to the spacecraft? And the answer is, traveling three billion miles away, threats are definitely a possibility but there are back up plans/routes if threats are found. The most typical threats are debris and lets face it the Kuiper Belt is full of that but nothing will stop New Horizons from helping us learn the building blocks of the solar system!
I, for one, am very excited about where New Horizons is going, yes I may be a tad biased but considering this is my favorite mission you can see why I am waiting with bated breath.
Now if we could just get the New Horizons team to put a rover on Pluto…
Now for some New Horizons and Pluto facts:
The Spacecraft is traveling at about 35,000 MPH.
It was the fastest spacecraft to launch from earth.
The team is in contact with New Horizons on a daily basis.
Glen Fountain stated that New Horizons has enough power to go until the mid 2030’s.
There is no “cooling off” for Pluto! it is very much geologically alive.
Pluto is about the size of North America.
Jupiter gave New Horizons a gravity assist.
I will leave you with this.
Inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime and it’s usually when we least expect it. I decided to start writing again because of someone who made me realize I shouldn’t be afraid of who I am and that I still have a fire burning inside of me. So thank you for seeing something in me that I couldn’t see in myself and for being a part my life and because of you the number 13 will never be the same again.
In 1610 a brilliant astronomer by the name of Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the celestial heavens discovering the four Galilean moons of Jupiter….
Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto because naturally you would name Jupiter’s orbiting moons after his mistresses and NASA being the amazing facility it is named its probe Juno. She is jaded, pissed off and coming for revenge! (Clears throat and looks around room)
Okay, sorry back to reality.
It was the discovery of those four moons orbiting Jupiter that paved the way for science to finally prove Copernicus right, we are, in fact, not the center of the universe. Fast forward to August 5th, 2011 when a little spacecraft orbiter by the name of Juno was launched into space, its destination? The dangerous, volatile but mighty planet of Jupiter. Juno, armed in titanium battle gear, starts her five year journey to confront Jupiter and she could care less if his four mistresses are watching.
After a long journey into the unknown with a lot of “what ifs” Juno finally passes Jupiter’s protective magnetic field with a beautiful battle song.
This was just the first hurdle because Juno still needed to make it to Jupiter’s orbit. She kept shimmying along, past all the Galilean moons with a grace and confidence that said “try and stop me”. Then with five days to go NASA shut down Juno’s electronics and the space world patiently waited for July 4th. Then the day finally came and Twitter was all a buzz with the excitement of Juno’s arrival. Anxiety, nerves and yes a lot of nail biting as tone after tone was being received by mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. The live stream showed lots of swaying, pacing and tense faces as we all held our breath waiting for that last tone to come through……and then it happened.
Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit!
HURRAY! CHEER! HOLY SHIT! GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAL!!
After numerous years in the making from planning to flying, Juno was a successful mission and the cheers could be heard and seen from JPL to Twitter and even Google.
As you can see this was a very exciting and happy moment for all of us but especially for the Juno team at JPL. All their hard work, dedication and love paid off in a very successful way.
They made history.
I’d like to think that Galileo is watching from among the stars with a proud smile on his bearded face. Proud that humanity worked together. Proud that Juno made it. Proud that his discoveries weren’t in vain. Proud that we the humans of earth with all our faults were able to put aside our differences if even for a moment to discover the cosmos.
(I would like to take a moment to thank Jason Major @JPMajor for helping cover this event even though he is on vacation.)
Rachelle Williams is the host of The Anarchist Guide to the Universe and can be found at @GalileoMoon on Twitter.
This morning I woke up and looked at Twitter like I always do. Scrolled through my feed looking at the various cat memes, space pictures, gaming achievements, Private Business Should Lead the Way in Space Exploration…
Against my own better judgement I click the link, just waking up, before coffee, I begin to read the “article” and instantly wish I had waited. The author starts out praising private sector, claiming they should “take the lead” in space exploration and not once did he give any recognition to NASA or the fact they are the reason we are in space in the first place. The authors article, in my opinion, is a glorified Elon Musk fanboy article that leaves out any facts for either side.
For anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge ULA supporter but I am also not delusional in the thinking that ULA will replace NASA. Private sector is a supporting role for NASA, to help keep costs down so we can continue exploring space and discovering our vast and amazing universe. In my opinion If we solely relied on private sector or in a lot of people’s minds, Space X, we would be so behind, Russia would be on Mars already with a Starbucks.
As far as private sector using their own money (as pointed out in the article), trust me it comes from sources. NASA is allotted a budget every year they have to fight for and for anyone who has watched the budget hearings knows what a struggle it is. It has to be distributed among numerous NASA facilities all off which have their own needs for the funding. Private sector is a sole business…
Without NASA we wouldn’t have the satellites built for humanities vast love of technology and without private sector we wouldn’t have the means to get them up into orbit. The Mars rovers, the satellites and our astronauts we took to the moon was all because of NASA and to say private sector should lead the way is a slap in the face of America. It concerns me that I come off as a person who dislikes private sector which isn’t the case. I am a person who dislikes fanboyrism to the point of “opinion as fact” and articles that try and support the tripe. I will leave you with the article link so you can form your own opinion and I am open to comments and questions. You can contact me here or my Twitter handle @AstroAnarchy.
When I started this endeavor over a year ago I never thought I would travel this far. When I first started promoting space travel, amateur astronomers/astrophotographers and astronomy through Twitter my goal was to share my love for all things space. I wanted to make it so astronomy and space travel was easier for everyone to understand. When I started college for my astronomy degree I kept thinking “There has to be an easier way for me to understand this, for everyone to understand this.” So I started to simplify they way I processed the information and utilized that for Twitter and my blog.
The goal, the ultimate goal is to share astronomy and space travel with everyone. From the little girl who love looking up at the stars to the most novice astronomer and everyone in
between. Space excites me, so naturally I want everyone to be excited about it but the best way to do that is to make it so everyone gets it. There is a way to talk about stats and figures without being that stats and figures person who confuses everyone. Some people may see this as not being serious about the industry, that simplifying or making it so space is fun to talk about is not professional my goal is to prove them wrong.
I have a pretty big gamer following on Twitter, some of my biggest supporters are in fact, gamers. I reach people who don’t solely geek out over space and that right there is the reason I do this. I have been messaged privately from gamers who have said my enthusiasm is what made them go out that night and look up at the night sky and THAT right there is why I do this. I reached those people who may not have done just that, I reached them and they went out and discovered the night sky.
If space geeks only reach space geeks then what the hell are we doing this for?
I am now a part of a team where we will be producing a podcast to follow the same statement. To produce space content for everyone, report the space news in a fun way where stats and figures won’t feel like the main focus. The podcast crew all have different backgrounds, the diversity is a big range but space brought us all together. Curt Godwin, James Ridgers, Gene Mikulka, Carolina Garza and me, Rachelle Williams. A big band of misfits working together to showcase how amazing space is for everyone to appreciate.
I love astronomy, I love sharing it with who will every listen and even if I just get through to one person about space who may not realize how amazing it is then my day is complete. So I ask that before you assume something about someone you stop for a moment and get to know them because fun and enthusiastic doesn’t equate to not serious. It just means their love of something may not be delivered in a fashion you are use to. So with that I leave you with my usual saying because I feel it can’t be said enough.
Welcome to the first episode of my first podcast “The Anarchist Guide to the Universe”! I am very excited I get to finally announce this and post the first episode. This episode will address the Space X Falcon 9 debacle and I get to talk about my trip to NASA Armstrong for the NASA Social for The State of NASA.
My co-host for this episode is Gene Mikulka @genejm29
I hope you all enjoy the first episode of “The Anarchist Guide to the Universe” and remember…..
Let me first start by explaining some background to this story, I am president of Saddleback College Astronomy and Physics Club and we have a lecture series. Now, this series usually involves professors giving the lectures and they are typically amazing but I felt we needed something new. Something that hadn’t been done before in the lecture series and then the idea came to me…
A night with the officers.
Now, I don’t know if I was tired, delirious, hungry or drunk but I thought it would be a great idea to have myself and two of my officers each give a lecture on the topic of our choice. And guess what? It was a hit.
Carolina Garza my Publicist spoke on the Cassini Mission and she absolutely nailed it. Well spoken, confident and handled an unruly guests questions with grace and confidence.
Neda Afkhami my Secretary spoke about Dark Matter with poise, a confidence I have never seen with her and I was so proud.
The evening was met with rave reviews and a very happy club adviser. I was very proud of my officers and I wanted to make sure I gave them the praise they deserved before I got into my story because they absolutely deserved it.
Now without further ado…
I have never gave a lecture before let alone even thought about giving a lecture on something as big as LIGO. I have a debilitating fear of speaking in front of an audience and I loathed that I fear it. So in my moment of self loathing I decided to have a night with the officers. Now, when I say I was nervous that is an understatement, I was an absolute basket case. I questioned my self everyday after I decided to have the three of us do this and the day the flyers were made I just sat and stared at the page. I kept thinking “What the hell did I do? I can’t do this.” Wait, I can’t do this? Have I lost my mind? And it was that moment I kicked my own ass.
“I can’t do this” is something I swore never to tell myself again so I put on my big girl panties, buckled down and started my LIGO presentation prep. I was going to do this, I didn’t care if I passed out on stage I was going to give my LIGO lecture. So help me someone better have smelling salt to revive me because I was going to give that damn lecture! I knew the material, I had been researching LIGO long before I decided to do this and I was confident in my ability to put the presentation together but deliver it? Not so much.
And then the day arrived and this was the results.
And there it is, a pale redhead in a NASA shirt and heels tackled LIGO and the rest is history.
On February 28, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX made its third attempt in its campaign to launch the SES9 communication satellite which will provide service to Indonesia and surrounding areas in Asia. The first attempt was hampered by weather and to be blunt, nothing can be done about that. You simply wait for another day when the weather is in your favor. Next attempt the next day was marred due to unfamiliarity with a new type of liquid oxygen fuel and miscalculating the time needed to get the Falcon 9 fueled in time to meet the appointed launch time. To the casual observer, it seemed like a debacle .
After a 24 hour delay after launch controllers worked the fuel issue, a third attempt to get SES9 into orbit was made last evening, All systems were go, the fueling issue had been solved and proper fuel levels had been reached. Weather was a go, SES – 9 was go, and the Falcon 9 seemed ready to fly.
Then a boat of some sort decided to sail into the “keep out” zone which violated the range safety rules and resulted in a HOLD call at a minute and thirty three seconds from the SpaceX launch team. I was thrown for a few moments because at the time it was unclear why we were holding and as I was letting out an audible “wtf not again!” as reports of the boat holding the launch came through.
After what seemed like an eternity, the launch attempt resumed, and the countdown recycled with a little over eleven minutes placed on the countdown clock. This gave enough time for the USCG to get the ship out of the area. With the range now green this seemed to be fly time for SES9. This was it, it looked like it was going to happen as the countdown ticked to 00:00 and then nothing. The computers triggered a shut down which resulted in an abort call shortly after. Later, SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, put out a tweet stating:
Which seemed to place the onus on the wayward boat.
Well, it looks like third time is not a charm. As of this writing, SpaceX has not announced the new flight data for the 4th attempt in the campaign. Some press reports have said an announcement may not come until Tuesday.
Reflecting back on the audio portion of the countdown network, being broadcast over the web, the launch team sounded like they needed a break. After listening to the audio again they almost sounded confused and frazzled. I received a text from a friend of mine who stated it sounded like “amateur hour” and I sadly had to agree.
It wasn’t just me either, others were making the same observation last night and it makes me wonder what exactly is going on over at Space X. Are they working their people a little too hard? SpaceX isn’t NASA, they are a private company unencumbered by stock holders. They are well within their rights to run their company in any way they wish to. However, tired people are going to make mistakes, and spaceflight does not react well to human fallibility.
Thursday evening couldn’t have been more of a nail biter for all of us watching the Falcon 9 “launch” at launch pad SLC-40 in Cape Canaveral, Fl. After Wednesdays scrub due to weather we eagerly awaited the rescheduled launch on Thursday. It seemed all systems were go, weather was at 80% go and all checks were green.
Or so we thought…
At T-Minus one minute and forty-one seconds an abort was called.
After I realized I wasn’t breathing, I realized I was cussing, what the hell just happened?! Twitter was exploding with the abort call and then the reason started rolling in, a LOX fueling issue. This is where my frustration grew, I started questioning why and how this could have happened so close to launch? Not enough fuel? How does this get over looked? I started to see people making excuses for Space X and that is when I realized people look at Space X with “rose colored glasses”.
I was hoping I would see someone question the same thing I was questioning. How does
something such as “enough fuel” slip past the professionals hired to handle this? Then I started thinking, had this been NASA, heads would be rolling and no one would be making excuses for the oversight. The way I envision it is Space X is the media darling while NASA is the redheaded stepchild. With all this being said I need to make something perfectly clear, I support Space X but when I see a glaring issue not being addressed that’s when I speak up.
Then this was brought to my attention:
“SpaceX engineers struggled to master the handling of the super-cold densified propellants at the Falcon 9 launch pad before the maiden flight of the upgraded rocket in December, but the rocket successfully took off the first time it received propellants on a real launch attempt.
The launch team updated the Falcon 9’s countdown procedures to account for the sensitivity of the super-chilled propellants. Instead of loading the propellants three hours before liftoff, the upgraded Falcon 9 receives its fuel in the final 30 minutes of the countdown to minimize the time the cryogenic liquid sits inside the rocket tanks and warms up in the mild ambient temperatures of Florida’s Space Coast.” (Via SpaceFlight Now)
So in December Space X struggled with the exact same issue with the propellants but failed to realize it could be an issue again. My question is how do you make another fueling mistake when you already had one to teach you a lesson?
Listening to the audio of the abort call via Space X I truly wondered how anyone could make excuses. They were finishing the first and second fueling stages when they realized while evaluating how much time they had left they may not have loaded enough fuel. At that time the team decided to hold the count down.
You came into our lives and stole our hearts back in November of 2014 when you did the impossible.
You landed on a moving comet.
Sure there were some tense moments when you landed and bounced back up finally settling 110 minutes later. Yes, you were tilted rather caddywhompus in the shade but you pulled through and started sending back data. You were kept company by a spunky satellite named Rosetta and she made sure you were never alone.
We thank you for your service you kick ass little lander and we thank ESA for daring to believe they could put you on a moving comet. You served us well and you will never be forgotten.