Monthly Archives: October 2010

Excel’s TIME function

Does anybody know how to get excel to subtract time across midnight? I have a series of times in EDT that I’m trying to convert to UTC and PDT. The conversion to UTC isn’t a problem, because excel understands that when you add 4 hours to 2200, you get 0200. Unfortunately, Excel doesn’t understand that when you subtract 3 hours from 0200 that you get 2300. It sees it as -0100 and doesn’t know how to handle that.

I’m using the TIME function, so the formula A1-TIME(3,0,0). Does anyone know a good way of getting excel to make this function work? How about converting from one timezone to another?


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My Son, The Astronaut

On Monday, STS-133 the second (or third) to last shuttle mission is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This will be the last flight of Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103). It’s odd to me that people don’t know that the end of the Shuttle era is so close at hand. This will be a game changer for our nation and most people don’t even know that it’s happening.

One person that does know it’s happening is my two year old son. His halloween costume is a blue astronaut flight suit which has 6 patches on it. 1)A NASA patch, 2)The US Flag, 3) a Space Shuttle Program Patch 4)The Space Tweep Society patch (with MECO on it), 5)A STS-131 patch, and 6)A STS-132 patch. He’s also a good listener and has been learning the component parts of the Shuttle stack. He knows that the tank is orange, the boosters are white and the orbiter (pronounced orb-butter) is the thing that looks like the airplane.

He knows the ISS and has touched it. He knows what the moon looks like in the sky, and up close. He also tells me he wants to visit the moon. It amazes me that he will sit still and watch the moon, both in the sky and on TV, but rarely sits still otherwise. I’ll admit that I’ve guided him towards this interest, but still, it’s awesome that he likes it.

On Sunday, my son will wear his blue flight suit and be an astronaut. On Monday, 7 astronauts will don their orange pressure suits and head to orbit. My thoughts and his as well as those of millions of people around the world will be with them.

For more information on the STS-133 mission, check NASA’s site at

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Family ISS Viewing

This morning, as my wife, son, and I were getting ready for the day, we took a moment to watch the ISS fly over. My son and I had seen it before, but it was my wife’s first time. It was about a two minute pass with a bright magnitude, so it was easy to spot.

My son is going to be an astronaut for Halloween. He knows that astronauts fly in the space shuttle, but didn’t know that there are astronauts on the space station, so it was a good teaching moment. The surprise, however, was my wife. She was looking up and seemed to be fairly transfixed by the sight. It was really awesome! There’s another flyover tomorrow morning. It’s going to be later, but brighter. Hopefully, We’ll be able to see it again!

For sighting info on the ISS and other satellites, see

If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, you can download the Satellite Flybys app. More information at:

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What is our goal?

I’ve been thinking about what the next several months mean to the space program. The Space Shuttle program is ending in 2011. I’ve been trying to reconcile whether we as a nation will be able to capitalize on this opportunity or whether we are really just taking a large step backward.

When our missions to the moon were ended in 1972, we had a plan going forward. We were aiming for the Space Shuttle, some didn’t like the plan, but there was one. Even after the lunar missions ended, we sent men to space. In 1973 and 1974, three missions went  to Skylab, where we continued the art of on orbit fixes. In 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz test project flew, marking the first international cooperation in space. The shuttle was supposed to launch a mere three years later, in 1978. Even with the delay to 1981, we were working toward something specific.

Next year, after the last shuttle mission, we won’t be working towards anything. We will be adrift, looking for something to make our goal. I recently read Wayne Hale’s blog post called “Chasing Augustine” in which he gives his perspective on the august sounding “Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee” (otherwise known as the 2009 Augustine Committee). The stated goal of this committee was to ensure the nation is on “a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space.” Unfortunately, in Mr. Hale’s perspective, the study was rigged from the start and really shows what happens when a pre-determined outcome affects the study process.

So we don’t have anything but a vague goal that was created by a committee that some say had a pre determined outcome. Where does this leave us? That’s a good question. What is our plan?

Well, we’re going to get to mars orbit by 2030 or so…


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A 4 Question Quiz

If you’re a space geek, please ignore this post. If not, please read on.

Here’s a brief quiz about space awareness… Please send the answers to me by email or post a comment below.

The questions are:

  1. Which Space Shuttle is getting ready for launch?
  2. When is the next launch?
  3. How many Space Shuttle launches remain after this one?
  4. What mission number is it going to be?


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