Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year Decade Resolutions and Predictions

It's the end of the year. 2009 marked the end of a decade, possibly an era. It was a year with the Augustine Report, a year with the first test of Ares, a part of the Constellation Program that may or may not take people to the moon or Mars (probably not), a year of several successful shuttle missions and maybe the most amazing discovery of finding water on the moon. Since space exploration progress is slow, and execution of decisions made today will take years if not decades, it is perhaps better to take the custom of New Year Resolutions and extend it to the next decade.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Journey to the Stars

I've been having discussions this past week about humanity, the meaning of our existence here, religion and in between. I found myself pulling up the following video, created by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Watching it humbling. It shows both how far we've come in terms of knowledge about the universe and at the same time how little that portion is from all there is to discover and explore.

The AMNH has a lot more to offer in terms of science and space combined with art. If you're in New York, you'll want to go there and check out the unabridged version of The Known Universe, a 60 minute presentation of which the YouTube video is only a small portion.

Another interesting program is Journey to the Stars, a spectacular (quoting the web site) space show in the museum that combines real photos, artist rendering and visualizations of physics simulations. Below is the trailer of that show.

I haven't been in New York with my family, but I know I'll go visit the American Museum of Natural History when I'm there. This is the right stuff to entice a new generation of space explorers that will boldly go where no one has gone before.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dream Catcher

A few days ago I received my Garmin Forerunner 310XT with heart rate monitor (HRM). I named it Dream Catcher (hey, the Garmin software asked...). After all, it's going to accompany me and help me go after my dreams, with the first challenge being the half-marathon in May (Starwalker, in case you just landed on my blog from outer space...).

Today I took it for a little spin with two of my kids - Yanir and Liam. We went to the park close to our house here in Superior to have some fun in the snow. We had our plastic sled with us, and I went down the hill with the boys a few times, other times documenting the event with our camcorder.
Click here to see the resulting data. I am really impressed by the watch and believe it will help me achieve my goal of being prepared to run the Starwalker half-marathon and beyond.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hanukkah in Space

Last week my family and I celebrated holiday of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival-of-Lights. It commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE, and specifically the miracle of oil supposed to last one day actually lasting for eight.

After lighting 12 menorahs on Friday (that's 108 candles, in case you were wondering) with some Israeli friends on Friday, I got curious to check how Hanukkah would be celebrated in space, specifically in micro-gravity.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Starwalker - I'm In!

Late last week I got an e-mail from the Starwalker TV show telling me I am one of those who will participate in the first show. In what seems to be a semi secretive, or possibly mischivious manner, no specifics were given as to where that first episode will take place, although a discussion I started on the Starwalker facebook page revealed there are 3 confirmed locations - USA, UK and Australia and a possible eastern hemisphere location (is Russia putting up some resistance?). Since us competitors are required to pay for travel for the first episode, that will help since no one would have to fly half way across the globe.

My fitness goal of running Bolder Boulder in May just got replaced with half a marathon. If you know me for more than a few months, at this point you're shaking your head, rolling your eyes and looking for the phone to call us and ask my wife, Sofia, if she's sure her husband wasn't replaced by a Stepford husband or a Cylon...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

VSS Enterprise - What's in a Name?

A few days ago the VSS Enterprise, a.k.a. SpaceShipTwo was revealed. A lot has been said about its design and innovation, and I can only agree - it is an impressive feat of technology and vision, which will form a much cheaper alternative to the Soyuz as space tourism goes ($200,000 compared to $30,000,000), albeit giving the tourist-astronaut a shorter experience - maximum altitude is just over 100km, not circling Earth and 5 minutes of weightlessness compared to reaching the International Space Station and spending several days in orbit.

This is undoubtedly an important step towards privatized space industry and space tourism (albeit in its very infancy), much like the first commercial airlines 100 years ago.

However, what about it's name?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I originally decided to run the Bolder Boulder, but a few days later I got an e-mail from the upcoming Starwalker TV show, which just happens to have a half-marathon on the first episode for eliminating 50% of the competitors. Starwalker seems to be a thing of the past, but not my training!

In this post I'll document my training, initially in free form, with possibly more of a summary as I progress.

Any comments, tips, suggestions, etc. are more than welcome!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting in Shape

As a child, I was never the outdoors kind. I played Lego, watched TV (StarTrek), read books, did my homework and practiced my violin. I had to walk about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) to school every day in each direction down and up a hill, and that was my main physical activity for the first 6 years of school. I'm not entirely sure why, but I never played Soccer or Basketball even though I lived next to a park with a basketball court. It might have been lack of encouragement in that direction at a young age combined with accepting it just wasn't in me later on. PE (Physical Education) was not my best subject at school, to say the least. According to a story my father told me, when I learned how to swim in summer camp the teacher described me as lazy...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Starwalker - A New Breed of Astronauts?

Over the years, NASA was the authority for selecting astronauts in the U.S., alongside the ESA, CSA, the Russians etc. outside this nation's borders. Then, space tourism came about, where for a mere 20-35 million dollars and some training one can go up to the space station in a Russian Soyuz.
Reality TV is a varied arena, where everything from being on an island to eating bugs to swapping wives is fair game.

At a time when NASA plans are questioned and budgets are tight, enters Starwalker (blog, web site, Facebook, not the MontBlanc pen). It is still not very clear what, where and how the show will progress, and apart from a Terms and Conditions page there isn't a lot to work with yet, though apparently there are already some successful entrants...