Archive for April, 2009

(Legal) Blood Doping at Everest

April 30, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio (April 30 @ 11:30pm EDT) – Just got off the Skype with Astronaut Scott Prazynski and his Media Sherpa Kieth Cowing at Everest Base Camp. Great conversation. Got a bunch of questions in from Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to leave questions you might have below. Scott is hoping to summit on May 9 – the full moon. Mother Nature may throw a momkey wrench into those plans however. We won’t have video from Scott for a few days as he is heading into thicker air – to do some legal blood-doping at a village a few thousand feet below Base Camp.

Scott’s blog is here. The maps (politcal, satellite and topographic) showing his tracks up and down the mountains – courtesy of the SPOT satellite tracking device – are found here.

Among the questions I posed on behalf of the Interweb Nation:
Neel Patel: How long does it take to acclimate to a new atmospheric elevation so that the climbers don’t develop hypoxia and hyperventilation.
Terry Kathleen Kirchhoff: What is the average cost to participate in a successful climb for an American?
Dale Andersen: Will Scott be measuring barometric pressure at the summit or if he will log it during the climb. It would make for an interesting plot.
Andrea Mikulin Winters Kalbfleisch: Which part of the climb is the hardest…base camp 2 to camp 3 for example, the summit, the climb down, the Hillary Steps?
Brian Okeefe: What is he doing to clean up the mountain?

Sabine Hope: How are his lungs feeling?

Sasha Winderbaum Dds: What are the temps like ?

fox_in_space: what’s the power source for Your equipment there? How much low temperature affects Your gear?

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It's Not About the Paper, Senator!

April 30, 2009

Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Miles O'Brien and David Waters in the midst of a five-hour webcast covering the launch of STS-119.

Blogger Bill Salvin really gets it. He understands what is happening in the world of journalism – and he realizes it is not all bad. The free market can and should decide on its own how it uses its free press. Politicians don’t belong here – muddying the clear waters of our First Ammendment

View From The Bridge: The Future of Journalism, Part II.

My advice to Senator Kerry (not that he’s asking) is to let the journalists and entrepreneurs figure this out. Miles O’Brien was laid off from anchoring and reporting on CNN, but he’s back anchoring and reporting in this new environment (and doing really well!). Just as people figured out how to make their newspapers relevant with the advent of radio, and radio reinvented itself when television came on the scene, the media will figure this out. We know that people want news. We know that people will figure out ways to make money delivering it.

Congress can’t help with this. Freedom of the Press includes the freedom to fail.

Scott at Everest – with the Sun Shining

April 29, 2009

Eventually, we are going to get these vidchats from Everest Base Camp down to a science. At 11pm EDT on Wednesday – 8:45am Thursday at EBC, I spoke with Astronaut Scott Parazynski and his Media Sherpa Keith Cowing. The weather is much better at this time of day there – and so we finally saw the amazing peaks behind them. Scott also showed the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) transmitter that we use to reach the Inmarsat constellation to get these images back to the US. We also talked about the amazing SPOT satellite tracker that allows us all to follow Scott’s tracks as he treks up and down the mountain to prep for his summit bid. Scott’s blog is here and his SPOT tracks on a Google map are here. Check out the satellite and topographic maps.

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Scott Parazynski checks in from Everest

April 29, 2009

Astronaut Scott Parazynski checks in from Everest Base Camp. He is resting and eating – a lot (5,000 calories a day) in preparation for his summit bid. What’s his favorite food at EBC? Not the Yak!

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You can follow Scott’s footsteps here courtesy of the SPOT satellite tracking device.

And you can read Scott’s blog here. It is quite a tale of high adventure.

A Failure of Imagination…

April 28, 2009
Screengrab from YouTube user chrisxmakk

Screengrab from YouTube user chrisxmakk

White House Apologizes for Air Force Flyover – City Room Blog –

The Police Department confirmed that it had been notified about the event but said it had been barred from alerting the public. “The flight of a VC-25 aircraft and F-16 fighters this morning was authorized by the F.A.A. for the vicinity of the Statue of Liberty with directives to local authorities not to disclose information about it but to direct any inquiries to the F.A.A. Air Traffic Security Coordinator,” the Police Department said in a statement.

So the guys who fly the VC-25’s (what we call 747’s) that are painted white and powder blue and adorned with the Presidential Seal decide they want to make a cool new postcard. No problem with that, right? That shot they got of a VC-25 with Presidential livery flying low over Mt. Rushmore is a real winner. Desktop wallpaper city – a big seller in the souvenir shops!

So, let’s see, what else would make for a good photo opportunity? Of course, the Statue of Liberty! What a great idea! This will go viral!

Well it did…for all the wrong reasons.

Air Force One flying over Mount Rushmore.

It is hard to imagine no one inside our government who knew about this did not immediately understand that the sight of a big transport jet in formation with fighters flying the “Atta-1 Arrival” to the foot of Manhattan might cause a stir.

Of course it did. Office workers were running for the exits. And the only glimmer of good news here is no one got hurt or had a coronary.

Apparently the White House did notify the FAA (can’t avoid that), Mayor Bloomberg’s office and the NYPD. But they were told not to spread the word – that it was a “need to know” operation.

Well listen up all you Secret Squirrel/Jack Bauer/Maxwell Smart types: WE NEED TO KNOW.

Next fall, we will mark the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and I have the sinking feeling the morons in our government are back in 9/10 mode.

The 9/11 commission detailed a litany of bad – or non existent – communication between the FBI and the CIA –  the FAA and the Pentagon – and the President and his own intelligence brainstrust.

The report said the system was “blinking red” and no one had the insight to put it all together.

The 9/11 report also concluded there was a “failure of imagination” in our bureaucracy – that the people charged with keeping us safe could not fathom such an attack.

Well, yesterday they didn’t fathom something very obvious (even without the benefit of hindsight): that the public (for whom they supposedly work) might view this elaborate (and, incidentally, rather pricey) photo op as something sinister and threatening.

They flunked the imagination test yet again. That makes me want to run for the exit.

Miles O'Brien on Brian Lehrer Show

April 27, 2009

Miles O’Brien on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

My interview with Brian Lehrer. We talked about (what else?) space. Full interview can be heard here.

Skype vidchat with Astronaut Scott Parazynski at Everest Base Camp

April 27, 2009

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Mallory, come quickly! – great chat with Scott Parazynski and Keith Cowing  this morning (EDT) – their afternoon (Everest time). Scott is in good spirits and “feeling strong like bull”. He was joined by Keith Cowing (who is his multimedia sherpa for this season). Eric Simonson, the lead dog at IMG made a cameo as well.

You can follow Scott’s footsteps here courtesy of the SPOT satellite tracking device.

And you can read Scott’s blog here. It is quite a tale of high adventure.

TechEBlog » Fisher Bullet Space Pen is NASA Certified

April 27, 2009

TechEBlog » Fisher Bullet Space Pen is NASA Certified.

The Fisher Space Pen is a ballpoint pen that will write upside down, underwater, over grease, and in extreme cold and hot temperatures. This pen has an estimated shelf life of 100 years.

After rigorous testing, in 1967, NASA selected the Fisher Space Pen for use on the Apollo Missions. They are now used on all manned space flights – American and Russian.

The apocryphal story that NASA spent all this time and effort to make a pen that works in space – while the Russians instead chose to use a #2 pencil, is in fact, just that – apocryphal. That said, like most stories of this kind, it rings true – as it reflects the philosophies of the two programs to a “T”.

First Dog trumps Final Frontier?

April 27, 2009
The April 12 launch at Pad 39A of STS-1, just ...

There is a lot of hand-wringing in the space community these days about the Obama Administration’s inability to fill the corner office on the ninth floor at NASA headquarters.

The incredulous refrain among space cadets: “they picked the First Dog before they selected a NASA administrator!?”

NASA is now approaching the hundred day mark without a fully vested leader. This is not a record by any means. The longest gap between administrators lasted 225 days (9/15/1970 – 4/27/71)  between the legendary Thomas O. Paine and James Fletcher.

Christopher Scolese, Associate Administrator o...

In those days there was no acting administrator who took the reins. That is not the case right now. A 22-year highly-regarded NASA veteran – Chris Scolese – is running the show right now. And by all accounts he is doing as good a job as a leader without portfolio can do.

Of course “can do” is what this agency is all about, right?

But implicit in all the fretting among the Space Cadet Corps is the idea that there are big decisions in the Administrator’s inbox – just waiting to be made. And time is a wastin’ as they say.

Congress told NASA to protect the option to keep the space shuttle fleet flying beyond the end of 2010 – when the remaining orbiters will be shipped to museums.  NASA’s top management tier has already said they will stop doing that – and start ordering up the mothballs for the shuttles.

Would that have played out any differently if there was a new boss at NASA? I highly doubt it. Keeping  the shuttle fleet flying is a $3 billion per year proposition. No one wants to give NASA the extra money (although measured against some of these big bailouts, it now seems like a pittance).

But perhaps more to the point: the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) said the shuttles could not be safely flown any longer. What Member of  Congress would like to volunteer to be the person who insists the shuttles keep flying – only to see a third shuttle disaster? Cricket…cricket.

So the shuttle decision is a done deal. No administrator needed for that – as the last NASA boss set all of this in motion during his tenure.

Ares 1 (February 2008) MSFC-0800205 (8 Feb. 20...

The other big – and related – issue that puts the Space Cadets into a retrograde orbit is the so called “gap”. That is the period of time between the last shuttle flight and the first launch of the vehicle (collectively called “Constellation”) that is designed to carry American astronauts back to the moon.

As it stands now, the first flight of the Ares I rocket is set for 2015. So if all goes according to schedule, there will be a five year period where the US will not have a vehicle capable of carrying people into the void. Our stop gap solution: flag some Russian Soyuz taxis. No one seems to like that idea. But the decision was made when then President Bush laid out his Vision (thing) for space Exploration in January of 2004.

There was never enough money in that scheme to fly the shuttle and build its successor concurrently.

And today, there is very little anyone can do to squeeze the gap. If you threw another $1.9 billion at Constellation, you might be able to launch six months sooner.

So that decision is also pretty well baked.

The real issue for NASA is this: without an Administrator, it loses clout inside the Beltway – where power, status, rank and title mean much more than boring things like serving the taxpayers. Without a boss, NASA doesn’t have a seat at the table. Over time, this could hurt the agency, but in this short period, likely not.

In short, you could put a dog in the 9th floor corner office at 3rd and E Street, SW and things would not be much different – which is to say, not very pretty.

Hey how about throwing Bo’s collar into the ring?

NEXT: Why it is taking so long

Great Skype chat with Scott Parazynski on Everest

April 27, 2009