Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ares I-X Test Flight

Sure, there were delays - weather, a ship, more weather, and finally a small window with the right conditions.

Finally it was launched. My wife and three kids watched it on the NASA channel after clearing snow from our satelite dish, and a bunch of us at work were glued to our monitor.
It was thrilling to see this, even in the light of the Augustine report. Whatever the next ten years are going to look like, this is a great step in the Constellation program.
Alongside the thrill of watching this live, there were other feelings of nostalgia. Both for the Apollo program which resembles this part of Constellation more than the space shuttle (rocket, capsule which lands at sea), but also for the space shuttle. As a kid growing up, the Columbia, Challenger and later Discovery, Atlantis and Endevour brought us closer to these amazing shuttles on Startrek and Star Wars, at least in shape, letting our imagination of what will be when we grow up run wild.

All in all, great success and applause to everyone at NASA making this (and whatever will follow) happen.

Videos after the jump...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Eighteen Years

My older brother died when I was eighteen, half my current age. I was a high school senior, right before finals, shaping my academic future.

We were very different from each other. He was the genius and distracted professor type while I was the grounded one. He was the scientist type while I was the engineer type. He was the kid that stopped playing the piano after five years and had a teacher tear his notebook of frustration because he only did what he cared about and I, the croud pleaser and self criticizer, sticking to playing the violin until graduating the conservatory and willing to study less-than-desirable subjects.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rocky Mountain Mars Society - Outside The Box

I went on Monday evening to the quarterly meeting of the RMMS - Rocky Mountain Mars Society. The meeting took place at the Environmental Design building at CU.
Discussion topics were the Augustine report and water on Mars. Though I've recently read about these, this was very much outside the box for me. At the same time this was interesting to be involved in a discussion about such issues that are also being discussed at the highest levels of this country and about an entire domain which could have an amazing decade or a complete wash depending on how the cards (i.e. decisions and money at the presidential level) are dealt by our government.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Quest for Flight, Or - To Be On-Air

A little physics calculation would reveal the balloon hurling through the beautiful Colorado sky a few days ago would hardly hold a six year old.
An observant eye would easily see that the balloon was not even completely filled, and definitely not flying the way it would if it had its center of mass at the little space under it.
I found several places on the internet which calculate the lift power of that balloon.

Here's a short page about air lifting and Helium from "How Stuff Works" for the ones wishing to go through the math.

The cost of this little quest for flight, or more likely, quest to be on-air, was pretty high, from media coverage through the Colorado National Guard, Denver airport diverting flights, FAA tracking the balloon and I-25 crawling due to drivers looking up instead of forward (as revealed to me by a friend on Friday), to name a few.

It is interesting, that the UFO craze of the second half of the last century stepped aside in favor of publicity hunger, where the media (and us as its consumers) seek an amazing story, which if indeed little Falcon were in the balloon, would end either as an amazing adventure of kid survives after a breath taking chase of the balloon or the horrific end of an innocent child. While it was happening, no one would dare think that the story, which managed to push aside the economy, wars and other insignificant subjects away from the headlines, would finally end in a third way - like a popped balloon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

7th Annual Astronaut Experiences and Memorabilia Auction

What was once mundane and a part of a day's work becomes memorabilia.

Personal aspirations to touch the sky (or at least something that is related...) can fund scholarships that will further advance the human thirst for knowledge and exploration.

I specifically like the Gemini V on-board testing checklist page. It's a good reminder that the ability to go beyond the human capacity relies not only on amazing discoveries and heroics, but sometimes boils down to simple procedures.

Auction web site

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Astronauts, but on Earth

Intrigued by some astronaut bios that didn't have any listed flights, I stumbled on a fact that somewhat surprised me - astronauts that didn't get to fly.
It's somewhat of a canundrum - after being chosen and rigorously trained, these 11 men and women out of more than 300 NASA astronauts didn't make it to a launch and probably won't in the future.
Some have left NASA, some are still listed as astronauts but have been passed over.

I hold great respect for those who made it all the way except to fly, and I am sure each has a story to tell about what brought them to where they ended up being - contributing to space exploration in their own way but not by actually making it into space.

Duane E. Graveline
F. Curtis Michel
John S. Bull
Philip K. Chapman
Donald L. Holmquest
J. Anthony Llewellyn
Brian T. O'Leary
Christopher "Gus" Loria
Neil Woodward
Yvonne Cagle
Fernando "Frank" Caldero

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2009 Physics Nobel Prize - Hubble Nods "Thank You"

In days where in nearly every pocket there's a digital camera, it is important to remember that a defining moment that enabled all those small cameras as well as much bigger ones such as the Hubble telescope, was way back in 1969, when Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith invented the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) in Bell Labs in New Jersey.

A matrix of pixels get hit by light and produces electrons, thus getting a charge, which is then turned into digital data by measuring the voltage of each pixel.
Even though each pixel is monochromatic, by laying down a color-pattern filter, each pixel gives a reading for a specific color. Several adjacent cells are combined together to form a full spectrum pixel.

Now derivatives of that forty year old invention are in cellular phones, cameras of all sizes, and enables space exploration, from the Hubble telescope which shows us the universe in ways we didn't see it before, to unmanned missions to planets in our solar system, sending detailed pictures back with crucial data for future manned missions.

Wired: Inside the Nobel Prize: How a CCD Works

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Govrin Family

Here we are -- from the left - myself, Yotam and Yanir, our eight year old twins, Sofia my wife and Liam who's three.
Incidentally, this is during that visit to the Kennedy Space Center I mentioned in my first post.

I was actually here once before, in 1990 as a 17 year old high school student, but I think this time around I understood more of what this place embodies and means to humanity and myself.

Back to the Future

In college I was mostly interested in signal processing, image processing and pattern recognition. My first job as a test and experimentation engineer in the Israeli Defense Force was very much in tune with that, and produced successful programs still used to this day. My future was going to be doing that. Astronauts and space exploration have always been a fascination, an unatteinable goal to be marveled and admired for many reasons as a kid growing up in Israel.

Then I had a little detour - for the last thirteen years I've had different roles in two software companies, ranging from a part time software engineer to a manager of sixteen engineers building a security suite used by millions of customers.

Two weeks ago I took a vacation and visited the Kennedy Space Center. A slap in the face wouldn't do what that visit did.

I decided to go back to the future I had as a young engineer - back to a research, and back to the stars, in one form or another, now more attainable than as a kid growing up in Israel.

I'm hoping it will be interesting for people to see my new path unfold. I'm hoping to inspire and get inspired by the people I'll meet on the way, people who may also have dreams and want to reach for the stars, figuratively and literally.