Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Space Shuttle Discovery is Now Part of the National Collection

I came across a video this morning, posted by the Smithsonian Institution on YouTube entitled, “Space Shuttle Discovery Delivered to the Smithsonian.” It’s a wonderful video highlighting Discovery’s flyover of Washington, D.C., removal from the SCA, and the ceremony in which it was inducted into the National Air and Space Museum.

The video includes excerpts from several of the speeches that day, including one from the speech of France A. Cordova, Chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. Once the transfer document is officially signed, she remarks, “The Space Shuttle Discovery is now part of the national collection.” I’ve watched this video a couple of times this morning, and I tear up at that line. As I’ve said before, the Space Shuttle Program is the only space program I’ve ever known. I’ve grown up with it and lived through its triumphs and tragedies. Through the use of the internet and social media, I’ve been privileged to join a community of people interested in space travel. I was lucky enough to witness the launch of STS-131 in person in April of 2010.

I know the history of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. I cherish the fact that humans have walked on the moon. I know how and why the space race occurred and I believe that it was a good thing for humanity. With that said, the only space program that I’ve experienced is the Space Shuttle. Whether on TV or the internet, I’ve followed missions and watched launches and landings. I remember exactly where I was both when I heard of the Challenger disaster and seventeen years later when I heard of the Columbia disaster. The Space Shuttle has been my space program and I truly treasure it. The end of the program has been coming for a while now, but the reality of it has just hit me.

Dr. Cordova’s remark that Discovery is now part of the national collection is true. She’s been retired and is no longer operational, but will be forever inspirational. I hope that Discovery will inspire others as much as she and the entire Space Shuttle program have inspired me. It makes me think back to the Brian Bassett cartoon from last year, What A Ride It’s Been.

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The Sun, The Moon, and Two Pieces of Paper

My family and I joined a group of strangers today on Skyline Boulevard to watch a rare experience, an Annular Eclipse of the Sun! It was an amazing experience to come together and experience this natural event as a community. We shared solar glasses, welding hoods, and pinhole projectors among the group. We experienced about 90% coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area, which definitely dimmed the light, but I was amazed at how bright it still was when the moon covered 90% of the sun. Here’s a map of where the eclipse was viewable.

Even when 90% covered, the sun can still do tremendous damage to your eyes. So to watch the eclipse, we used ancient technology called a pinhole camera.  Basically, this was a piece of paper through which I pushed a pin to make a hole. I held this sheet up in the direction of the sun, and held another piece of paper up below it. The sun’s image was projected, upside down, on the lower piece of paper. It was amazing that this simple method allowed us to safely watch the eclipse. What amazed me even more was that my 3-year-old son kept on asking to see the projection on the paper.

Here’s the projected image from 1759PDT, about a half an hour before totality:

Here’s a view from just around the time of totality:

Neither of the above photos is particularly great, but the fact that I could project the image of the sun onto a piece of paper is just amazing to me.

I also took a direct image using my iPhone camera. Hopefully, I didn’t do any Apollo 12 type damage to my phone’s camera sensor,  but here it is nonetheless. Look to the right of the sun and you can see the lens flare showing the disc of the sun.

Finally, here’s the scene on Skyline before the eclipse.

Here are some of my favorite photos of the eclipse taken by others:

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