Posts Tagged ‘Skype’

"Stationary" Spirit

January 30, 2010
Mars Exploration Rover.  Source:  NASA/JPL

Mars Exploration Rover. Source: NASA/JPL

This past week, the Spirit team threw in the towel on trying to get the rover out of that sand trap she has been mired in for 10 months now.

With winter looming in March, the focus is on trying to back Spirit up a hill ever so slightly so she can better catch the sun’s rays when they gets low and less plentiful. Basically Spirit is designed to go into hibernation like a Polar Bear – she will shut down – and then every day turn on briefly to see if she has enough juice to call home. if the power is low – no call. So the team will soon have to kiss her good night – and hope in spring – August or September here on Earth – she awakens and drops a dime. If all that happens – they have a lot of science planned for a stationary spirit.

Just after the announcement, I checked in via Skype with Spirit’s Project Scientist – Steve Squyres in his office at Cornell University.

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Musk Fires Back

January 24, 2010
DragonLab In Orbit.  Courtesy:  SpaceX

DragonLab In Orbit. Courtesy: SpaceX

Even though the Augustine Commission did not pick a vehicle or a destination  when it issued its report on the future of human Spaceflight to Obama –  it was clear from reading the tea leaves in their report that the Augies liked the idea of entrepreneurs building rockets for trips to low earth orbit.

But another group of gray beards that noses around NASA – the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel – this week lowered the boom on this notion – ASAP said anything other than the plan of record – specifically the the Ares 1 rocket – would be no faster, no cheaper – and less safe than, say the Falcon 9 rocket, being built by SpaceX. I caught up with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk this week via Skype – he was fuming over that report.

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Next "This Week In Space" on track for Friday 1/15

January 13, 2010

twis300We are in the final run-up to the next “This Week In Space,” hosted by Yours Truly!  Check us out on Friday for the latest on the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the ISS, probes on Mars, a Skype interview with Hubble-Hugger-In-Chief John Grunsfeld,  an in-depth report on the Lunar Orbiter Image Restoration Project, and much, much more…

We got great response to our first show…give us a try!  You might like us.  You might really, really like us!

Watch us:
Spaceflight Now
You Tube

Contact us:
Twitter: @ThisWeekInSpace

“The most challenging thing I have ever done…"

May 21, 2009


Scott Parazynski says it is the hardest thing he has ever done. This comes from a guy who has strapped himself five times to a rocket with the explosive force of a small nuclear bomb – and who has ventured into the void as a spacewalker seven times. In his last spacewalk, he was lashed to the end of an extended robot arm on the space station – and performed an improvised fix to some bunched arrays – which were still alive with electrical current. But summiting Everest still tops all of it.

Listen to my last Skype chat with him and his Sherpa Danuru from Everest Base Camp. It sure was a fun ride for me – even though I seldom left my laundry room. Hope you enjoyed it as well.

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As you know by now, Scott was carrying some small moon rocks with him gathered by Neil Armstrong in July 1969. Here are some great shots of him at the top including one holding the rocks in a container with a sliver of a moon in the distance.



Astronaut 'Hurting,' Resting after 'Topping Off' at Everest

May 19, 2009


UPDATE: Videos of Scott’s arrival and descent now available here.

Astronaut Scott Parazynski is now back at Camp 4 – “hurting” and resting – after successfully making it to the summit of Mount Everest at 4 am local time on Wednesday (6:15 pm EDT Tuesday ) – one year after a back injury forced him to turn around as he neared the top of the world’s tallest peak. Carrying moon rocks, a hi-tech satellite tracking device and the dreams of a lifetime, he is the first astronaut to summit Everest.

Scott and his Sherpa Danuru remained on the summit for about thirty minutes and then began the more perilous journey down the mountain. Scott told me in his last Skype chat before making the final push that he was worried about an “Into Thin Air” style conga line at the top of the world, and so apparently got up early to beat “rush hour” on Everest.

Although I have not had a chance to confirm this, his plan was to speak to the crew of the International Space Station as he stood on Everest.everest_route_map

Scott is carrying some tiny moon rock fragments gathered by Neil Armstrong on Jul 20, 1969 in the Sea of Tranquility. You can see my post – with some video and images of the rocks here. They are on loan from NASA.

He is carrying a SPOT satellite messenger device which allows users to leave a trail of electronic breadcrumbs on the web. You can see Scott’s trail to the top of the world at

As Scott pointed out in his last Skype chat with me, the trip down the mountain is considered the most perilous. First, climbers are pretty well spent by the time they make it to the summit (Scott had been climbing non-stop for 10 hours to get there) and second, tripping on crampons going down the steep, icy precipice has potentially fatal consequences.

Scott is being assisted by Keith Cowing who hosts the website – where you can find a blog that details their advenutres. I just got off the Skype with Keith Cowing at Everest Base Camp. He got a little misty when I asked him to put the whole adventure into perspective:

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The five-time shuttle shuttle flier has conducted seven spacewalks (including a perilous trip into the void in 2007 to repair a snarled solar array on the International Space Station) and he flew in 1998 with Senator John Glenn. So what does a guy like that (oh, he is also an M.D.) do after the space thing is over? One word: Everest.

Last year, only a few thousand feet from the summit, he awakened to stabbing pains in his back. He had a ruptured disc and was forced to hobble down the mountain. His only saving grace: on Everest, there is an endless supply of ice to deaden the pain. Since then he has had surgery and stuck to a strict exercise regimen. The back was not a problem this time around.

Scott and I had lunch in New York around the holidays. He was wondering if there was a way that he could get back for a second stab at the summit. I was newly out of a job and agreed to help him find sponsorship  – under the assumption that I would join him at Everest Base Camp to help him get the story out. Everything worked except I turned out to be a pretty busy unemployed guy  – and my obligation to the PBS documentary Blueprint America: The Road to the Future extended into my Everest window. And so I spent the trip talking to Scott in my laundry room. Alas, they also serve who wait and wash…

Here is a photo album from Scott’s two-month trek toward this moment:

Astronaut at Everest Base Camp – Looking Up!

May 14, 2009


Just heard from Astronaut Scott Parazynski. After a few days in thicker air – sleeping on a bed in a a hotel, he is back at Everest base Camp. I will have a Skype chat with him tonight at 11pm EDT. Below is a portion of the blog entry I just posted for him at You can follow Scott’s tracks at

The weather appears to be cooperating, as we had a beautiful, cloud-free morning — and a typical EBC afternoon with clouds and light snow. Some teams have elected to head back up to Camp II early tomorrow, but our plan is to take tomorrow off, and head back up on May 16th. We’ll then take a rest day at Camp II, and target a summit on or about May 20th (when weather is also expected to be calm and hopefully clear).

'Please No One be Under There…'

May 4, 2009

NEW YORK  (May 3) – Astronaut and soon to be Everest Summiteer (we hope) Scott Parazynski checked in for a Skype vidchat with me a short time ago. This five-time shuttle flier and veteran spacewalker admitted he has some butterflies as the summit date appraoches. Given the weather conditions areound Everest now, his team leader Eric Simonsen is expecting to make a bid to top off sometime between May 11 and 14 – give or take.

Scott’s sidekick in this Mutt and Jeff team is Keith Cowing. I asked him about some of the scientific experiments Scott will be taking to the summit. One of the big questions astrobiologists have is how life does in conditions where there is little protection from the atmosphere’s ozone layer. Four billion years ago, in the pre-Sunblockian era, living things managed OK even though they got blasted by unfiltered UV rays.

I also asked Scott about this scary avalanche footage that he and Keith captured earlier Sunday:

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He and everyone else in Base Camp were convinced they were watching someone’s demise. They all got on their radios and started frantically calling comrades to ensure everyone was accounted for. Fortunately, they were.

You can read Scott’s blog here. And you can follow his tracks in real time with position reports from his SPOT satellite tracker – located here. Below is my Skype vidchat:

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