NASA cuts ties to Russia, jeapordizing our space travel

Traveling to and from the International Space Station will now be a big challenge for the U.S.

Traveling to and from the International Space Station will now be a big challenge for the U.S.

With the recent Russian annexation of the Crimea, its political ties to the U.S. have become strained, to say the least. Now word comes that NASA, our  preeminent federal space agency, has officially cut its ties with Russia and its space program.

This becomes highly problematic for the U.S. agency since we retired all our Space Shuttles in 2011 and have none at present to replace them. It’s going to take a few years yet for the new  Orion deep-space vehicle to be available and fully operational. And several private companies are still working on creating spacecraft to shuttle humans to the International Space Station.

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NASA newest experiment – growing veggies on the Moon

The moon's surface is definitely not plant friendly

The moon’s surface is definitely not plant friendly

The lunar surface is devoid of plant life, at least as far as we know. With no thriving topsoil, no water, no oxygen and no native plant life, there’s no way anything can grow there. But NASA plans to give it a try.

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Father and son capture outer space with everyday ingredients

A view of the blackness of space from the father and son amateur space capsule

Most of us have dreamed of going into space, whether we admit it out loud or not.

This past August, a father and son from Brooklyn, NY, achieved space – via an HD video camera and weather balloon.

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Space – the Final Frontier

apollo-moon-landingIf you haven’t read the paper, seen the news or heard a radio report – in other words, if you’ve been “unplugged” – for the past 12-24 hours today’s the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. 

Who above the age of 47 can forget crowding around the black and white small screen TV (that’s right – little grainy-looking screen you’d be embarrassed to have around now but then it was cool). So many around the world collectively held their breaths, praying that the lunar module will land safely, that all would go well.

Then those famous words – “One small step for man. One giant step for mankind” rang out and everyone cheered! I get goosebumps just thinking about it, even after 4 decades.

For one moment, the world stopped as we all focused on the amazing, almost incmprehensible event taking place so very far above our Earth.

Take a moment today. Remember the wonder and the awesome exciting possibilities of that day. Celebrate what was and what is yet to be.

NASA’s Astronauts Celebrate 50 Years

NASA’s first astronauts – the “Mercury7″ – celebrate a landmark anniversary. 50 years ago today, on April 9th, NASA introduced men whose names would become familiar around the world – Gus Grissom, Alan Shephard, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn and Gordon Cooper.

John Glenn, famous for 2 spectacular space flights, commented “The experience back then of being selected and participating in the early flights is so vivid to me, it seems like this all happened a couple of weeks ago.”

The Mercury flights proved man’s ability to take to the stars and paved the way for future expeditions like Gemini and Apollo.

For more information on the Mercury flights, see the Mercury section in Universe Today’s Guide to Space.

Dreams of Space Can Come True


This replica of the Space Shuttle stands proudly at the Marshall Space Flight Center

This replica of the Space Shuttle stands proudly at the Marshall Space Flight Center

I promised you some tales of my time at Space Camp. Here’s the first installment of that amazing experience.

Marshall Space Flight Center – the site where Space Camp took place on February 6th and 7th, 2009– is located on the Redstone Arsenal, an Army installation in Huntsville, Alabama.

One of three main sites where NASA manages the U.S. space program, it’s complete with it’s own Mission Control (more on that in a future post) and training center filled with a variety of simulators, astronauts have trained here to prepare for missions into the unknown.

Marshall’s just one tenant housed on the Army base. Others include the Army Material Command, contractor companies and Aviation Challenge, a sister camp to Space Camp for kids and parents who want to experience what flight and survival training for Army pilots is like.

Arriving late the evening before the start of Space Camp, I was treated to a drive by the campus. Amazingly, I saw actual space-related missiles and rockets from NASA’s space program of the 70’s, along with a fantastic replica of the Space Shuttle!

Standing out sharply against the dark night sky, these majestic visions brought back childhood memories – being surrounded by family, excitedly glued to the television set with collectively held breaths watching heroic men like John Glen or Alan Shepherd blast off into the fiery unknown.

How could I have imagined then that years later I’d participate in a program that would give me a real flavor of what that might actually be like. With my own personal blue flight suit and a group of around 18 media-related folks, I was embarking on one of the most exhilarating journey – a breathtaking childhood dream come true.

There are many stories yet to tell. Be sure to come back for more!

Astronauts, the Future and the (im)Possible

Having just left an elegant and sparkling evening complete with eight – count them 8 – astronauts in the room, I can hardly believe my luck and good fortune.

With talk of returning to the Moon, the Aries mission and building a  lunar oupoost, and the prospect of exploring Mars, the evening was an exhilirating, heady  experience.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be detailing a wide variety of stories, anecdotes and obserations from this remarkable weekend at Space Camp. From shaking hands with living legend Dick Gordon (of Apollo 12) to  interviewing the Director of NASA, Larry Caps (Brigadier General, retired) , this was what can only be considered a once-in-a-lifetime, amazing experience.

I have also uncovered, or rather, discovered a wealth of other stories that bear telling but that may be more appropriate to another blog. So stay tuned for news of that upcoming venue – I promise it will be worth the wait and viewing.

For now, think about this. If you’ve ever had a dream – something you’ve imagined having or doing but were sure could NEVER happen – consider that what you think could be, in some near or future timeframe, be mistaken.

An impossible dream just may be within your grasp. As this weekend (for me) and NASA itself has demonstrated, doing the impossible cam become the do-able. So hold onto the dream. It just may take a little longer than you think.

A Different View – Training for Space

Though this blog is focused on environmental innovations and “happenings”, the next few posts will be a departure.

I am about to participate in a special media event at NASA’s Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. This will include “training” for a space mission, going into Mission Control and meeting and interviewing astronauts.

Truly a personal dream come true.

This event is part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the walk on the moon and the Apollo space missions.

If you’re over 40-ish, you probably remember where you were that summer night in 1969. Many crammed in front of their black and white TV’s, wating in excited anticipation to see and hear our astronauts’ when first they stepped out onto the surface of the moon. It was a landmark time – for the United States and for every kid who ever dreamed of going up in a rocket ship into space.

Now, as an adult, I find myself about to embark on finding out some of what astronauts go through to prepare for such an epic event.

Arriving earlier this evening, I was treated to the sight of a replica of the Mars  Pathfinder vehicle. Huge, gkeaming white, standing proud in the night, it was an inspiring vision against the night sky. I hope to be able to upload this and other photographs of amazing space-related sights in upcoming blog posts.

So be sure to come back over the coming days to see what it’s like to be part of a space training team, to train for a “flight” and to talk with some honest to G-d space jockeys.

You won’t want to miss it!

NASA’s new Lunar Rover to be in Inaugural Parade

On Tuesday, the new Lunar Electric Rover prototype will make its debut in President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Able to hold two astronauts for a fortnight of lunar exploration, this remarkable piece of space travel equipment will contain beds and a toilet.
An innovation of the newly designed Rover is its multi-directional ability, including side to side movement making it easily adaptable to rugged terrain.
The new Constellation program currently has U.S. astronauts slated for their next moon launch before 2020. The program’s goal is to establish permanent bases on the moon. Considered a next step towards exploring our solar system, the long-term goal includes colonization on Mars, an effort widely written about decades ago by well-known science fiction writers like Edward Burroughs.
NASA has indicated its plan to adapt the Rover’s technology to earth-based electric vehicles as well.