Tag Archives: ISS

Lessons from the West Wing about the Orbital Launch Failure

If you need a moral of today’s ‪#‎Orb3‬ Launch failure, watch an episode of The West Wing called Galileo. One of the several plot lines in the episode is about a NASA space probe that doesn’t make it to Mars. At about 40 minutes into the episode, the President and CJ enter into a conversation about whether or not the President should do a televised event the next day with students which was planned to coincide with the probe going in to orbit around Mars. Listen to what she says about how even a mistake can inspire people to do their best and how it can inspire people to come out of their shell.

It’s a great episode of television and it’s especially applicable today.

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Twisst is back in business thanks to Twitter

So, I posted about Twitter breaking Twisst, the service that sends out notifications of visible International Space Station passes. Users of Twisst mounted a campaign using the #savetwisst hash tag. Well, Twitter has fixed the service! Here’s Twisst’s explanation of what happened. Here is a rundown from The Next Web.

I’m happy that Twitter heard the community of Twisst users and realized that Twisst isn’t spam.

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Twisst is Shut Down by Twitter

The International Space Station orbits the earth every 90 minutes. If passes over you near dusk or dawn, it’s actually possible to see the ISS as it flys over you. There are several web sites available to find out when there will be visible passes in your area. One of the best ways to find out when there are visible passes coming up is a service on twitter called Twisst. It’s a subscription service that sends you a tweet a couple of hours before there will be a visible pass in your area.

To get notifications, twitter users have to do two things: 1)Put their location in their twitter profile and 2)follow the main @twisst account. That’s it, notifications, in the form of @ replies start flowing your direction. Unfortunately, because of the way that twisst sends out its notifications as @ replies, its accounts are getting blocked by Twitter as spammers. There are so many subscribers to Twisst that it has to use multiple accounts to send notifications. Since users only follow the main account and not the accounts sending the notifications, twitter is considering the accounts sending the notifications as spammers.

Twitter clamping down on spammers is an admirable thing, as it’s hard to avoid spam on twitter these days. But Twisst is NOT spam. It’s a useful service utilized by over 48,000 people across the globe. Twitter should be able to make this useful service work within its rules and keep us space geeks informed about visible ISS flyovers.

Here’s a useful rundown on the situation.

Here are some tweets of support from users of twisst:

@janellewilson: Knowing when a 17,500 mph orbital spacecraft races over yr house isn’t spam. It’s science & engineering & math & awesome

@gabrielleNYC: @twisst is not spam. It’s a great service that tells us when the #ISS is passing overhead & is Opt In. #savetwisst

@thenasaman: Hey @Twitter. @twisst is NOT spam. They are actually a tool of science and inspiration. Please remove the suspension on their accounts

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The Majesty of an ISS Flyby – Part 2

On a recent Saturtday morning, I headed to the highest accessible viewing point around and watched for almost 6 minutes as the International Space Station flew almost directly over my head. My view stared with a speck of light rising from about 10 degrees above the horizon in the southwest. It flew almost directly over head and disappeared into the coming dawn in the north east. It was truly amazing to see the largest object ever constructed off the planet

Once you’ve viewed an ISS pass, it’s hard NOT to spot the station if it’s visible. It looks like nothing else in the sky, it moves at its own very steady speed, never varying, never changing.

Please see http://wp.me/pWb5u-6h for a previous post on this subject…

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Single Points of Failure

In designing a process or a system, it’s always wise to ensure your system is able to withstand multiple failures and keep on operating. If it can’t do that, it’s the victim of a single point of failure. When it comes to the International Space Station, that single point of failure has failed. For the past ten years, both the United States and Russia have had the capability to bring crew members to the station. This year, the Shuttle retired which left us with the Soyuz as the single method of transporting crew members to the station.

When the Progress 44 launch failed on August 24th, the single point of failure was activated. The Progress rocket used the same third stage as the manned Soyuz rockets and that was the stage that failed. So, mere weeks before one half of the crew of the ISS was to depart for earth and another three astronauts were to be launched on a Souyz to replace them, all manned space flights are on hold while the failure is investigated. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Soyuz spacecraft has an on-orbit lifespan of about 6 months. The crew of Soyuz TMA-21 launched in early April, 2011 and the crew of Soyuz TMA-02M launched in early June. The TMA-21 crew must get back to earth before October and the TMA-02M must return by November. This means that if the Russian investigation into the cause of the failure draws on, it is possible that the station will have to go unmanned for a while. There is not danger to the station if it goes unmanned for a while, as Slate explains. However, if it occurs, the de-crewing will break the 10 year streak of consistent manned spaceflight.

I hope that we will get beyond the point of having only a single point of failure and get back into the business of launching humans in to space. Whether it’s Russia or the United States, humans need to be in the business of getting off Earth.

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Hanging with Space Tweeps

One of the best parts of a #NASATweetup is getting the chance to meet such great people from all around the country and the world. Usually around the tweetup, there are informal get togethers where tweeps just hang out and talk. These events range from breakfast at a local restaurant before the event to dinner and drinks at a local wine bar. Usually, the tweeps are joined by some of our NASA hosts, sometimes also NASA and contractor folks who are on twitter, but couldn’t join us for the tweetup.

The chance to sit down and have informal conversation with the people who make our space program happen. At the STS-132 JSC #NASATweetup, our after event was a truly amazing experience. We sat for hours on a porch on a hot Houston night and talked space with astronauts, flight controllers, trainers, public affairs folks, tweetup organizers, and our fellow tweeps. I learned firsthand that that the people who make our space program happen are space geeks just like me. We saw an ISS flyover and a HST flyover. It was wonderful!

I’ve loved the three tweetups that I’ve participated in because I’ve learned so much about our NASA, our manned space program, our unmanned space program, and many other things. I love meeting space tweeps because I learn about what drives people to love exploration. Hanging with space tweeps has made me realize what makes our nation great.

Hanging with space tweeps has also given me some great experiences that I never would have otherwise had. The day after the STS-135 JSC Tweetup, I visited Space Center Houston with @absolutspaceguy, @lynnvr, & @omaflinger. While there, we met Apollo 7 Astronaut Walt Cunningham, who was touring with his family. Col. Cunningham was kind enough to take a picture with us and to sign an Apollo 7 patch.

After that I enjoyed lunch with @lynnvr, & @omaflinger and saw a tweet by @waynehale saying he was on the JSC site signing copies of the book Wings In Orbit. I wasn’t able to get on Site, so I tweeted him and asked if it would be possible to meet him offsite. He was amenable, so we met at the Starbucks across the street from JSC.

We talked to a bit and he mentioned that a lot of NASA folks visit this Starbucks. He headed off to finish his day. Several minutes later, I noticed a man coming in to Starbucks who looked a lot like 4 time shuttle flyer and STS-125 commander Scott Altman. It was indeed him, and he was kind enough to sign my book and let us take a picture.

All in all, hanging with Space Tweeps is awesome!


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What Kind of World Do You Want?

NASA created a video based on the Five for Fighting song, World. It asks the question, “What Kind of World Do You Want?”

I want a world where humans are explorers. I want a world where the sky isn’t the limit. I want a world where the decade long continuous presence in space becomes a century long continuous presence in space. I want a world where nations work together to better humanity.

I want a world in which our political leaders recognize that no money is spent in space, it’s all spent on earth. I want them to realize that investments in space and NASA create technologies that we use every day. I want them to realize that space exploration is worthwhile and I want them to allocate more than the current 1/2 of 1% of the Federal Budget to Space.

I want a world where engineers, technicians, controllers, and other people who make space travel possible are truly valued…

Without further ado, here’s the video!

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