XGiving Week 2013

My sixth bimonthly climate change column will be online at www.aiaahouston.org/newsletter by December 10, 2013, if we meet our deadlines. The one-page column is called Climate Change and Local Responses.

As Editor of that bimonthly publication called Horizons, I recommend it to you. It is the free newsletter of AIAA Houston Section, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Most recent issues contain more than 36 pages. Horizons uses the PDF format.

The Horizons team is now finishing up a third issue in three months, to be online by Decmeber 10. That will get us back on our bimonthly schedule. The next issue will be online by February 28.

A recent public astronomy lecture informed me about the July 2012 coronal mass ejection. It missed the Earth. If we had been hit, we would still be picking up the pieces now in late 2013. The 1859 Carrington Event was similar. That is worth looking up in Wikipedia.

Gamma ray bursts were discussed in a recent public astronomy lecture, too.

Astronaut Stanley G. Love gave a November 2013 lecture to the Johnson Space Center Astronomical Society (JSCAS) about a trip he took to Antarctica to find meteorites.

The 100 Year Starship public symposium took place in Houston in late 2013. They are doing a great job. They are associated with the 2011 DARPA and NASA/Ames 100 Starship (100YSS) initiative.

NASA human space is focused on the International Space Station and the Asteroid Redirect Mission as part of a program leading to Mars and other destinations, especially Mars. If the destination changes later, the steps now in work will be as useful as always.

The Daily News of Galveston County is the oldest newspaper in Texas. It started on April 11, 1842. (I started as Horizons editor on April 11, 2011.) The Daily News has a daily circulation of 33,000. They have a new section about space. It covers both public and private space programs.

Another great space website is www.enjoyspace.com.

See you next time here on the blog.


Horizons Newsletter from AIAA Houston Section November / December 2012 Issue

I recommend this bimonthly (six issues per year) newsletter from The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Houston Section. It is a free download in PDF format. This issue is 72 pages. I read it on my iPad 1 or my wife’s 3rd generation iPad. Its address is www.aiaahouston.org.

Here are a few cropped screen capture images. No captions needed, I suppose.

AIAA Houston Section Horizons newsletter November / December 2012 & 72 pages


Newsletter cover cropped screen capture image with Collier's series 1952

Newsletter cover image cropped showing Collier’s series (1952)

Newsletter article on astrodynamics

Newsletter article cropped image: astrodynamics


Newsletter article: astrodynamics


Newsletter article showing a public lecture


Newsletter article on astrodynamics


Newsletter article on astrodynamics

Newsletter article

Newsletter article from a distinguished author

A History of the George W. Bush Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) by Paul Spudis

Paul Spudis used five blog entries to create a record of the life and death of the 2004 American Vision for Space Exploration. It is a priceless history of that important initiative and it takes it all the way to 2012, where that vision is no longer in effect. Following the loss of the space shuttle orbiter Columbia, President George W. Bush made a televised speech which I watched with others at my work, a speech announcing this Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). My career was mostly NASA related with Honeywell Aerospace (1981-2011). I was on the team when the first contractors went to work on what was called the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). My group was entry mode team flight control, and our contractor technical work started in late 2006, as I recall. Orion was part of a fleet of space vehicles, a fleet called Constellation. The fleet included designs for a big and a small rocket, a lunar lander and a lunar rover. In 2010, after spending more than $9B on that, it was canceled, and more than $2B was paid to contractors in addition as part of the cancellation process! Orion still survives for now, and today the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that they budgeted and will pursue a NASA partnership for the Orion service module, noting that Orion’s capabilities will include access to the International Space Station (ISS).

The great pain and shock felt by so many people whose jobs and careers were lost or shaken up by this cancellation makes this report from Paul Spudis a priceless addition to the history of these important activities. Enjoy his blog report on this subject as a great read. While we worked so hard on those activities, we did not have time to soak up space policy like a sponge. Paul Spudis was an insider in those space policy activities, so his history blog entries on this subject are unique.

On another subject, I receive e-mail comments every time I make a blog entry, though I am not yet publicizing this blog. The e-mail notes have no comments, or maybe they contain a few words in broken English saying thanks and asking me to buy something. Most of these comments are related to a brand of headphones, a line of women’s purses, or something else for sale. A few notes talk about SEO, optimizing blog entries and keywords, working to sell me software to automate that optimization. This cannot continue. Receiving up to 60 such e-mail notes in response to each blog entry is not feasible. As time permits, I will learn more about the actions I can take in this situation.

Climate Change and a Houston Chronicle Blog

Since April 2011 or before I worked to get my bearings on this climate change subject. Human caused? Global warming?

As shown here in my own blog, I got my bearings in the 10/23/12 episode of the PBS TV show Frontline, the episode titled Climate of Doubt, which anyone can watch online. The web site contains more good information from my point of view.

The only uncertainty noted in the PBS TV show is whether by 2100 the global temperature (global surface temperature?) will rise (from what date?) by 2 C (about 4 degrees F) or 4 C (about 8 degrees F). According to that TV show, more than 97% of the community of thousands (approximately how many?) of climate scientists agree on that. According to a person I trust on that TV show (the President of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA?), that entire scientific community worked hard to find flaws in these conclusions for a long time, and these conclusions still hold up for now. I conclude that this subject merits a high priority for everyone and that reasonable citizens will make it clear that individual and government action is required, as well as ongoing climate science research and data gathering.

Today I read a good blog entry dated 10/17/12 in the Houston Chronicle. The blog is Climate Abyss by John Nielsen-Gammon. I find it now and then using www.chron.com/sciguy, the SciGuy blog of Eric Berger in the Houston Chronicle. That is Eric’s science blog, an excellent one. The Climate Abyss blog is one that Eric Berger leads in some sense, one of a few Houston Chronicle blogs that Eric collects on his blog page. Anyone can register and create a Houston Chronicle blog. The Chronicle does not review them, as I recall. But Dr. Eric Berger is a Chronicle employee reporting on science, weather (and climate) and space, as I understand it.

The question marks in my blog entry above are easily answered my me or anyone quickly skimming over reliable web sites obtained by Google searches, reliable web sites such as PBS, NPR, The New York Times (not a free web site), the Houston Chronicle, NASA, NOAA, National Geographic and more. I include the question marks here in order to write this blog entry quickly, summing up my thoughts tonight.

Some say we need to merely follow the data. Though I do not recommend the book The Righteous Mind, it makes a good point about reason being the rider on the elephant of emotion. To sum up some points in my own words, reason is useless if we are merely working alone at home with the data. We all form a conclusion based on our emotions, then we all seek to confirm that conclusion, and we stop seeking confirmation and data once we find the least bit of evidence that is plausible to support our conclusion. Reason (data) will not help us unless we take our data and conclusion in public to a diverse group that we respect.

Orphan Jupiters- The First Confirmation

Here is a link to this big news:


Below is an image file from that article,

Orphan Super-Jupiter

Above: This artist’s impression shows the free-floating planet CFBDSIR J214947.2-040308.9. This is the closest such object to the Solar System. It does not orbit a star and hence does not shine by reflected light; the faint glow it emits can only be detected in infrared light. Here we see an artist’s impression of an infrared view of the object with an image of the central parts of the Milky Way from the VISTA infrared survey telescope in the background. The object appears blueish in this near-infrared view because much of the light at longer infrared wavelengths is absorbed by methane and other molecules in the planet’s atmosphere. In visible light the object is so cool that it would only shine dimly with a deep red colour when seen close-up. Credit: L. Calçada, P. Delorme, Nick Risinger, R. Saito, European Southern Observatory/VVV Consortium

I learned of floating, orphaned super-Jupiters (a prediction of many of them, none detected yet) and similar super-Neptunes, etc., from Dr. Bill Bottke when he made a public presentation in Houston, Texas USA, at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in the Houston Clear Lake area near NASA/JSC. A report about that lecture appeared in the November / December 2011 issue Horizons, the newsletter (magazine?) of AIAA Houston Section, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

By the way, some of those LPI events, the Cosmic Explorations public lecture series, are available on the LPI web site in video form, though this lecture by Dr. Bottke is archived with only the publicity flyer.

Dr. Bottke’s lecture was surprisingly inspiring for the audience, like a great episode of Nova on PBS TV, but faster-paced. As noted in Horizons, he reported that some of their best models for planetary formation predict that in most solar systems, gas giant planets are formed and then changed orbits very suddenly, and even more often are flung out of their own solar system. They become real “wanderers,” the meaning of the word “planets.”

Since Dr. Bottke predicted the existence of tremendous numbers of these floating, orphaned super-Jupiters, this announcement of the first confirmation is big news for me, an aerospace engineer (Honeywell Aerospace 1981-2011).

I hope you find this news to be amazing and inspiring, such a surprising thing to exist in our universe and our galaxy: floating, orphaned gas giant planets, far from any sun and far from any solar system.

Horizons, Newsletter of AIAA Houston Section, September / October 2012 Issue (52 pages)

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has a great newsletter (magazine) free for anyone to download every two months. See www.aiaahouston.org and www.aiaahouston.org/newsletter.

The latest issue is the September / October 2012 issue, published about October 31, 2012:

Crop of cover from www.aiaahouston.org/newsletter

Above: A cropped screen capture image from the cover.

They use a nice picture of Houston in the table of contents, and they added The Starry Night, the Vincent van Gogh painting to that image. Both images show a night sky, and they blend together nicely, especially for this cover story about a 100 Year Starship Public Symposium. Here it is:

Image from www.aiaahouston.org/newsletter

Above: A screen capture from the table of contents from this issue.

They have a French sister section, too, and one small screen capture from that article is shown below:

French sister section at www.aiaahouston.org/newsletter

Above: a screen capture from a page (from an article related to their French sister section) from this issue of this newsletter.

They are reprinting Man Will Conquer Space Soon! from Collier’s:


Above: Reprinting Man Will Conquer Space Soon! from Collier’s starting on page 32.

They have an ad relating to the dean of science fiction, Robert A. Heinlein:


Above: Part of the 2012 ad related to Robert Heinlein.

And they mention a spacecraft capsule-helicopter hybrid:


Above: Spacecraft capsule-helicopter hybrid testing in the early stages (2012).

Please enjoy this free newsletter. They are all volunteers and they would like to see their hit counter results increase.

Climate Science Results and Sensible Responses

The 10/23/12 episode of the PBS TV show Frontline sorted out this climate change controversy for me. One convincing moment:

screen capture http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/climate-of-doubt/

Above: Going Down the Up Escalator. Screen capture from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/climate-of-doubt/. 17:45/53:47.

Frontline shows the above graph in response to a claim that there has been no global warming for the last ten years. Frontline then shows the same graph in this manner:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/climate-of-doubt/ at 17:45/53:47

Above: Frontline shows how climate scientists view the same data as shown in the prior figure. This data is from 1950 to after 2010.

I am too lazy to trace those figures, so I used screen capture images from the PBS web site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/climate-of-doubt/.

That is a powerful response to a specific complaint I have heard from more than one climate change skeptic.

I recommend this entire hour-long TV show. The related web site has more information I find equally helpful, especially an interview with a sociology professor from Drexler University.

How to Pick Your Dragon and the 100 Year Starship

Above: My artwork based on screen captures (using a digital still camera). Hiccup takes his father Stoick home via the scenic route on the back of the flying dragon, Toothless, the only Night Fury in Berk. Hiccup leads them above the clouds, and five meteorites pass by as his father stares at the meteorites in wonder.

I can relate anything to spaceflight, and I did not need to work too hard to connect this new TV cartoon series to space, as shown by the meteorites flying by in the above image.

The 100 Year Starship (100YSS, www.100yss.org) needs spaceflight to look good in the public eye. Movies like How to Train Your Dragon from Dreamworks can easily get people tempted to fly, since they ride flying dragons in that excellent cartoon movie. I just now stumbled on a new episode of the related TV cartoon series on the cable TV channel Cartoon Network. The series is called Dragons: Riders of Berk, from Dreamworks. This episode is How to Pick Your Dragon.

Like most people, I love great animated movies and TV shows. I stumbled upon this episode of this show as it was being aired for the first time. The 2010 movie How to Train Your Dragon had great trailers, and the movie itself did not disappoint, though watching squash and stretch cartoon characters can get old for those of us born in the early 1950s.

This HD TV show has all of the great production values of the movie! It also has the same voices. The writing for this episode is excellent. This was a very funny story about this Viking chief, his son Hiccup, and their town getting adjusted to living with flying dragons.

It is a stretch to connect this to spaceflight via the meteorites. But in this episode, the father never listens to his son. If generations of people are the crew of 100YSS (their starship), maybe a father on that spacecraft will not be listening to his son. See how easy it is to connect anything to spaceflight?

The crew of this TV show will be working hard if every episode matches the quality of this one. Based on this episode and the 2010 movie, I recommend this TV show to anyone.

From Dreamworks, this show is Dragons: Riders of Berk. It is based on the 2010 movie How to Train Your Dragon.
This episode’s title is How to Pick Your Dragon.
Based on the How to Train Your Dragon book series by Cressida Cowell.
Written by Art Brown and Douglas Sloan.
Directed by Louie del Carmen.
Co-Executive Producer: Sandra Rabins.
Executive Producers: Art Brown and Douglas Sloan.

Image credits:
I took several snapshots of the TV screen using the pause command and our DVR. I then viewed those on my laptop computer and sketched this in pencil using a clipboard and white paper (8.5 x 11″) that is normally used for our printer at home. This drawing is a composite of three such images from this sequence in the TV show. I then put another piece of paper on top of that one on the plastic (and partly transparent) clipboard. I moved a lamp into my lap and used a ball point pen to sketch this in ink, tracing my pencil drawing. Pencil: a mechanical pencil with 0.5″ lead, and the pencil is ZEBRA M-301 (Japan) purchased at a Walgreen’s drug store. The pen was also purchased there. I like this pen very much. It is a PILOT EasyTouch FINE using black ink. I then scanned the image here at home and placed it into iPhoto on this 2010 MacBook Pro laptop computer. I clicked “Enhance Photo,” making the lines much darker. I then clicked “Black and White,”, but that had little effect.

Starships in the Public Eye and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-present)

Above: Poster/DVD for Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Source: Wikipedia. Wikipedia source: impawards (http://www.impawards.com/2008/star_wars_the_clone_wars.html). Copyright: fair use (critical commentary on the TV series and the 2008 movie). Wikipedia mentions fair use in this context, citing United States copyright law.

I attended both of the 100 Year Starship (100YSS) public symposiums so far (2011 and 2012). For the latter, I used press credentials (www.aiaahouston.org) for all events except the two evening events. Since earning my “middle-class” living with space journalism is one of my goals for the next ten years, I might one day be associated with 100YSS. For now, I enthusiastically support them.

Giving starships a good reputation in the public eye is a part of that task. Star Trek was mentioned often at the 2012 100YSS public symposium, and featured guests Nichelle Nichols and Levar Burton were great contributors to the event.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars recently started its fifth season on Cartoon Network on cable TV. Wikipedia notes that the first episode of this season had nearly two million US viewers. I enjoy this HD TV series, though I started watching late, in about its third year. I was born in 1952, so I am not typical of their target audience, but I heartily recommend it to viewers of any age. This will certainly help 100YSS as its starts on its 2012-2122 task, a 100-year task of sending a starship and people to another star system.

The 100YSS team also mentioned a great song by Nicki Minaj, Starships. The lyrics are adult (explicit), as is the preview of the music video, but it is a great song. In my view, this is a great help to 100YSS, but I don’t know if that was the intent of the musicians.

A great friend and colleague Eryn mentioned that Michael Dorn of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Lt. Worf, the Klingon officer on the Enterprise) is shopping around an idea for a new Star Trek Series with Captain Worf leading a Federation starship. IMDB has a report that leads to this link from September 2012.

I conclude by recommending Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-present) to people of all ages everywhere. Some episodes are better than others, but familiar characters lead a great cast in this animated series. New characters are great, too. Many new works of art will support 100YSS, and this weekly TV show is one such creation whose new season starts now.

Free Access for All: Videos and Presentations from an Aeronautics and Astronautics Conference (AIAA)

Caption: Image from the presentation by a NASA civil servant, a screen capture taken from the PDF file. The PDF file is available to anyone. This shows an artist’s view of Curiosity on Mars, the payload whose 2012 sky crane landing on Mars was successful. The spacecraft was called the Mars Science Lander.

This post merely reports that video recordings and presentation slides from a recent professional conference are now online for all to see. I am a member, but it was not necessary for me to log in.

Here are the links:

SPACE 2012 Videos >
See Also:
Presentations at AIAA SPACE 2012 Conference and Exposition >

Here is a description of the conference:

“The Honorable Lori B. Garver, Deputy Administrator, NASA; Charles Elachi, Director, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Lt Gen Ellen M. Pawlikowski, USAF, Commander, U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, and other high-level leaders from government, industry, and academia gathered in Pasadena, CA, 11–13 September, at the AIAA SPACE 2012 Conference and Exposition.”

This post will interest professionals in this field, and I hope many more people will find this of interest. For those of us with careers in aeronautics and astronautics, and for those of us with careers in space, we work to get people excited about these subjects, and we do not drop them once we attract them to these fields.

AIAA: The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.