Wednesday, March 30, 2011

UPDATED 4/22/11: Where will you be at 5:45 EDT on 3/30/11?

OK! Arianespace is going to try again today, April 22, 2011 to launch the Yahsat YA 1 and Intelsat New Dawn communications satellites.

The Ariane 5 stack has been rolled out to the pad for the opening of the launch window at 5:37 PM EDT.

You can watch the launch live at: Arianespace - Current Mission Launch Coverage Site

Below you will find the original post about the launch, the payload, and the launch vehicle. You will also find the video of the first launch attempt which resulted in a main engine ignition followed by a shutdown and vehicle safing due to error readings during thrust build up. The stack was rolled back to the Final Assembly Building until today's launch attempt.

I hope to live tweet today at:   

If so, I will use the hash tag: #Ariane5

Thanks for reading,


Well, you may already know this, if not here it is.

The Ariane 5, carrying the Yahsat YA1 and Intelsat New Dawn telecommunications satellites, had an anomaly. The main engine fired at T-0, but at some point in the 7 second "checkout" phase, the computers commanded the SRB's to NOT fire. Fortunately, the vehicle stayed on the pad and was "safed" according the procedures. Arianespace announced the launcher and satellite stack would be rolled back to the Final Assembly Building to be checked out and returned to flight-ready condition.

Here is the link to the Arianespace Press Release.

If you missed the live broadcasts here are two videos:

Arianespace will provide a new launch date as soon as possible.


Good Morning/Afternoon!

Today (as of 11:45 AM EDT) Arianespace is scheduled to launch an Ariane 5 with two satellites, one to service the UAE and the other for Africa.

Information/Content Credit: At the bottom of the post you will find links (other than the embedded ones) to the sites I pulled the content from. You will also find the link to the launch coverage site from Arianespace.

Why you should watch this launch:
  • Arianespace's launch coverage is EXCELLENT.
  • The Ariane 5 is interesting to watch. When the countdown hits zero, the main engine ignites and runs for 7 seconds, completing self-checks & thrust build-up, then the solid rocket motors ignite. At that point the Ariane 5 is heading up! This is a very cool sequence to watch and they have great video coverage of it.
  • ATK and Astrium (the developer and manufacturer of the Ariane 5) have teamed up to enter the "new" commercial space race with the Liberty Launch Vehicle for the NASA CCDev-2 competition. I think we need to pay more attention to Arianespace, Astrium, and ESA as they will be players in the "new" industry.
Subject: Ariane 5 Rollout
Photo Credit: ESA (?)
Launch Facts:
  • Date: March 30th, 2011
  • Launch Window: 9:45 PM-10:52 PM GMT / 5:45 PM-6:52 PM EDT
  • Launch Site: ELA-3 Launch Complex in French Guiana
  • Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5 (with a Core Booster powered by a Vulcain main engine and 2 SRM's)
  • Payload: 2 Satelittes stacked on top of a cryogenic upper stage.
    • Satellite #1:
      • Spacecraft: Yahsat Y1A
      • Customer: AL YAH Satellite Communications Company
      • Prime Contractor: Astrium & Thales Alenia
      • Mission: Telecommunications
      • Platform & Payload: Eurostar E3000 with 25 Ku-band & 14 C-band transponders
      • Expected Life: 15 years
      • Coverage Area: Middle East, Africa, Europe, and South West Asia
    • Satellite #2:
      • Spacecraft: Intelsat New Dawn
      • Customer: Intelsat
      • Prime Contractor: Orbital Sciences Corporation
      • Mission: Telecommunications
      • Platform & Payload: Star-2 with 24 Ku-band & 28 C-band transponders
      • Expected Life: 15 years (minimum)
      • Coverage Area: Africa
Subject: Ariane 5 Launch
Photo Credit: ESA (?)
Subject: Ariane 5 Launch
Photo Credit: Unknown

Launch Sequence Events (highlights only):
  • 11 hrs 30 mins 00 secs - Start of final countdown
  • 04 hrs 50 mins 00 secs - Start of filling of the main cryo stage with liquid oxygen and hydrogen
  • 03 hrs 20 mins 00 secs - Start the chilldown of the Vulcain main engine stage
  • 01 hrs 10 mins 00 secs - Check all connections between launcher, telemetry, tracking, and command systems
  • 00 hrs 07 mins 00 secs - "All systems go" report. Start of the synchronized sequence.
    • This is where the computers take over the launch. It's similar to the Space Shuttle's launch sequence that starts at T-9 mins with the Ground Sequencer start, followed by what I think is the best part of a Shuttle launch sequence announcement: "T-16 seconds, we are GO for auto-sequence start" which means, unless the computers detect a problem, they are going to hit the GO button and the Shuttle is heading upward on 7.5 millions lbs of the thrust for the 8.5 minute commute to space!
  • 00 hrs 04 mins 00 secs - Tanks are pressurized for flight
  • 00 hrs 01 mins 00 secs - Switch to onboard power
  • 00 hrs 00 mins 03 secs - Unlock guidance systems to flight mode
  • 00 hrs 00 mins 00 secs - Ignition of the main engine for health checks and thrust build-up
  • + 00 hrs 00 mins 07 secs - Solid Boosters Ignition & LIFTOFF
  • + 00 hrs 00 mins 17 secs - Begin roll maneuver
  • + 00 hrs 02 mins 20 secs - Solid Booster jettison
  • + 00 hrs 03 mins 11 secs - Fairing separation
  • + 00 hrs 08 mins 53 secs - Separation of main cryo stage
  • + 00 hrs 09 mins 03 secs - Ignition of the upper cryo stage
  • + 00 hrs 27 mins 27 secs - Separation of the Yahsat Y1A
  • + 00 hrs 35 mins 03 secs - Separation of the Intelsat New Dawn
  • + 00 hrs 46 mins 03 secs - End of Arianespace Flight Mission

Links and Resources:


Monday, March 28, 2011

Mixed emotions...

It's strange to write an opening paragraph after the post is written. But I wanted to give you a heads up. My opinions and ideas in this post may not be popular with the audience that's most likely to read it. I want encourage you to read the whole thing. If you get to a part you don't like, don't stop reading, you'll miss out on the complete journey of my thoughts. I'm OK with any disagreements you may have, but read the entire post, then lets engage in some debate.

Saturday morning while making pancakes for the kids, (being the space geek that I am) I had the NASA YouTube channel playing on my iPad. I wanted to listen to the recent media update on the Space Shuttle program.

I recommend you take the time to watch this video. I am not going to recap the whole thing, you can listen to it when you have a chance. What I want to talk about is the mixed emotions I had while listening. I figure since this my blog I can talk about my feelings and opinions. I have both when it comes to talk of the Shuttle program.

As many of you know the Space Shuttle is being retired this year, sadly there are only two flights left on the manifest. As a child of the 80's, I've grown up with the Space Shuttle, so I have an emotional reaction when discussing, reading, or hearing about "The End."

Where am I going with all of this you ask? Back to the video of course. Many of the questions asked to the panel related to the last two flights, the current status of the workforce, the "autopsy" being done on Discovery, and life after the Shuttle program ends. This immediately brings out my frustration, sadness, and disappointment. We are the United States, we are a leader in human spaceflight, we have some of the smartest people on the planet working for NASA, but now we have no US-based human spaceflight program. Nothing! We can't even resupply the ISS, never mind send an astronaut there. No big deal we have only invested billions of dollars to build the ISS, there's no reason to get there and use it (insert sarcasm here). No worries, we have the Soyuz to be the "ISS Taxi" (insert more sarcasm here). Don't get me wrong the Russians are qualified veterans in human spaceflight, they are leaders in ISS resupply, and they are a reliable and honorable spaceflight partner. But this is NASA. WTF? NASA having no program to get our own astronauts into space! Really? This whole gap in the US program goes against what NASA has been a pioneer of...system redundancy! We have no backup system if the Soyuz program has problems, either with the vehicle, the launcher, or the overall supply chain. No backup...come on! The ISS is a multi-billion dollar investment....and don't forget we have real live human beings up there. Don't they deserve a backup plan?

Now I know that NASA has lost its way without a real vision or challenge beyond the Space Shuttle (at least this is my opinion), but it's not entirely NASA's fault. Congress, the President (both past and present), the US taxpayer, and the shuttle program suppliers are all guilty on some level. All share a part of blame with NASA leadership for lack of cost innovations, inspirational ideas, and cutting edge technology goals. Let's be honest, the Constellation program and it's the goal of returning to the Moon was maybe not the best choice to inspire a game changing vision for the future of the US Space program. In hindsight, it is easy to see some of the problems with the overall program and it's direction. But, not having any plan, to handle US-based human spaceflight during the time between the Shuttle retirement and Constellation (which would not have been available by the time the Shuttle retired even if it wasn't cancelled), other than the Soyuz, is a my opinion. The ISS is a huge investment of our tax dollars and we are a lead partner in building, maintaining, and managing it. I want US vehicles flying US astronauts to and from the ISS. We owe to the taxpayers and our international partners to pull our own weight. How do you provide leadership on a program like the ISS when you have to ask your buddy (the Russians) for a ride to work because you don't have your own spaceship (another perfect spot to insert sarcasm)? We as a nation have failed in terms continued leadership and expansion of our human spaceflight program. Before I go on, please know that I am not as negative as I sound. I know we have real astronauts that are scheduled to fly on the very reliable and capable Soyuz spacecraft. Which means we do have a human spaceflight program at NASA, it's just not our own vehicles. What I'm ranting about in this section is our reliance on another nation's program for US transport. It's pure frustration for me that we won't be the leaders in this area for the near future.

Subject: Soyuz TMA
Photo Credit: Unknown
Now that I'm done ranting, there are a lot of great things going on at NASA that are....well....out of this world. NASA still has some of the smartest scientists, engineers, and leaders on the planet, doing really cool, game changing, scientific exploration and discovery (I know this because I was fortunate enough to attend the 2011 Sun Earth Day Tweetup at Goddard Space Flight Center). So, in no way am I calling NASA a failure. Nor is our current predicament in US-based human spaceflight all that bad. Yes, I just spent a whole paragraph ranting and being sarcastic, but we will rise above this current gap. Read on to see why I think so.

Subject: GSFC Sun Earth Day 2011 NASA Tweetup
Photo Credit: NASA/Pat Izzo
Here is why it's not all bad. There are conversations, ideas, and plans happening everywhere about this "new" industry called Commercial space. Actually, it's more than ideas and talk. Real hardware is being built and some has actually flown...successfully! And what's really cool is some of the players in this "new" industry are both new (SpaceX, ArmadilloVirgin Galactic with Scaled Composites, Bigelow, Blue Origin, and Masten Space Systems) and experienced companies (Boeing, Lockheed, Orbital, ATK, and ULA). Togther they are entering the next phase of human exploration to, and beyond, LEO. I am excited about what I am seeing, reading, and hearing from all these companies. My only disappoint is the most likely vehicles to fill the LEO gap are capsule designs. I think the revolutionary Shuttle design is much more elegant (and in my opinion a more practical approach) than the capsule technology that requires the spacecraft to be "dropped" through the atmosphere (technically the current capsule re-entry method is considered a "lifting-body" entry like the Shuttle, but for me they are two different more elegant than the other). But, that being said, SpaceX/Dragon, ULA/Orion, ULA/CST , and ATK/Liberty (key: launcher/crew-cargo module) all have a relatively good shot a being successful in the near future. In fact SpaceX has launched their Falcon 9 booster (twice) with spectacular success and they have flown the Dragon crew module into orbit and back with the same success. Unfortunately these companies will not have flight certified vehicles ready by June 2011 when a Space Shuttle leaves the pad for the last time. It will take a couple of years before any of these designs will be available for a return-to-flight of a US-based human spaceflight program. The good news is we will get there.

Subject: SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon Capsule
Photo Credit: NASA
It's the conversations, ideas, activity around this next phase of the US space industry, that causes me to have such mixed emotions. The Space Shuttle ending = sadness, anger, frustration, and disappointment. Commercial space getting traction = excitement, hope, enthusiasm, and eagerness to participate. I think we are still writing the definition of Commercial Space. So here is what I think it will be:
  • It's new (and experienced) companies providing, highly reliable, reusable, commercially viable launch vehicles.
  • Its crew and cargo capabilities to LEO, the Moon, and Mars.
  • Its Space Tourism, like the Dragon crew module to a Bigelow orbiting hotel.
  • It's the next generation airline like Virgin Galactic. (And let's be honest, Branson says they are a suborbital space tourism company. So, why does his craft look like, fly like, and act like an airplane? Why will it operate from today's airplanes? Simple it's really the next generation of airline travel and Virgin is going to be the only player in town. If he succeeds, and I think he will, with seats available at $20K or less, he will have a viable suborbital airline....with ZERO competition. Think about that for a minute. Pretty cool huh?)
  • It's private industry (such as medical or big pharma) having affordable access to LEO and the micro-gravity environment in order to develop new products and procedures that make life better, longer, and of higher quality.
  • It's universities having reliable, cost effective access to space for new scientific discovery.
  • It's better launch vehicle technology that allows NASA access to the outer solar system for more economical science missions. Missions of discovery, understanding, and pure exploration. Missions for us to better understand our origins. Missions that push technologies, ideas, and boundaries beyond the known edge of the envelope.
Subject: Virgin Galatic's SpaceShipTwo
Image Credit: Virgin Galactic
Subject: BA-330 Inflatable Space Station modules
Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace
I would go on and on but you get my point. Commercial space is a developing and expanding industry. I like to make the analogy of the aviation industry and how it started. Commercial space is in the same position. Aviation was not economically successful when it started out. But it grew into a commercially viable industry (some would argue this point), it's accessible to most people, and has an excellent safety record (again we could debate this point but not now). I truly believe the commercial space industry is going to reach for, and actually get to, the star

I want to go back to the video and point out one comment that caught my ear. I'm paraphrasing this quote: "...we have a lot of talented people on this team (meaning the Shuttle program) and their talents will be needed as these commercial space companies ramp up. Our team has the skills, passion, and dedication to meet the growing talent demand that will be needed...." So, for me I feel good about commercial space because the future employees of this "new" industry will come from the current NASA program. These companies will be more efficient and do more with less employees, but there are more companies in operation. This is in contrast to there being just NASA and a handful of contractors (or more simply put a limited employer pool). So fewer employees but more players means more opportunities for the affected Shuttle workforce....I hope. As a disclaimer: I don't know about ability of the workforce to transition or if the skill sets are applicable, but it seems from the program management opinion, that the talents will be in demand and available to the commercial space companies in the near future. I also want to believe there is opportunity for non-NASA insiders who want to join the industry as well.

I hope this post causes you to think. To think about the proud, highly successful, pioneering history of the Space Shuttle program. To think about what the retirement of this reliable and versatile vehicle means to NASA and future of the US Space program. And to think about what Commercial space will mean to your personal future, as well as our nation's future and our planet's future. I would hope that this will cause you to be more attentive to what is going on at NASA and at the companies that will take us into this rapidly approaching tomorrow.

Subject: Space Shuttle Program Patch
Image Credit: NASA
I'm not sure how to wrap up this post. Maybe it best to leave it open ended. It's not like there is going to be closure for me right now. The Shuttle will retire and we will wait for the commercial space industry to mature. Until these things happen I'm going to continue with this battle of sadness and excitement. We'll have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading and joining me on this journey...


Friday, March 25, 2011 fried my satellite!!!

This post is part of a series related to the Sun Earth Day 2011 NASA Tweetup at Goddard Space Flight Center on March 19th, 2011

Yup! That's the Sun for you, zapping satellites, blowing hundreds of tons of the Earth's atmosphere into space, and on occasion displaying, a dazzling light show called aurora, in the upper atmosphere around the poles. To be more specific it's really an eruption from the Sun, called a Coronal Mass Ejection or CME, that causes these things.

OK, that's nice, you say, but so what? Why do I care about what the Sun is doing? Well, let me ask you these questions first. Do you like your TV, internet, cell phone, GPS, weather forecast, and your electricity? What about in-flight safety? Do you care about the massive investment made in the ISS or for the safety of astronauts living and working there? If you answered YES to any of these, then you NEED to care about the Sun, it's activity, and these Coronal Mass Ejections.

When a CME erupts it bombards the planet, our atmosphere, and the magnetosphere with a massive burst of solar wind made up of billions of tons of charged particles. Now, you're probably thinking what is nut writing about? Is he trying to scare me with this talk of bombarding the Earth with particles (electromagnetic radiation!), question whether flying is safe, and what's this about blowing the air off the planet into space? Really! Well, all of these things are true. But fortunately for us, the Earth is very well suited to handle these CME's and we are very much protected (the exceptions are satellites and the power grid which do have some vulnerabilities). This has been happening for billions of years and will continue for billions more. But, (yes there is always a but) we do need to better understand these Coronal Mass Ejections. We know these bursts of energy are slamming into us at a millions miles per hour and can affect electronics (think fried satellites), our power grid (think blackouts), and humans at high altitudes (think airplanes and astronauts). Since a CME can cause disruptions to power transmissions, do serious damage to electronics, or potentially impact your health, we really should understand when they happen, why they happen, and what can we do to better protect from the potential damage they can cause.

Thankfully the gang at NASA, scientific institutions, and universities around the globe are on the job. There are many active missions, observations being made, and models are being built to help answer the questions above.

NASA's STEREO is one such project. What does a NASA radio have to do with the Sun you ask? Nothing, STEREO is not a radio, it's an acronym for the twin (nearly identical) spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station near Kennedy Space Center on October 25th, 2006 aboard a Boeing (it wasn't until December 2006 that Boeing and Lockheed formed the United Launch Alliance JV) Delta II rocket.

Below this really cool video of the launch, are a few facts about these orbiting observatories that came from the Stereo website. These are followed by a summary of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME's), a couple of links to two other significant solar missions, and a brief introduction to the IMAX film "3D Sun", or as I like to call it, the story of STEREO.

Link to the full site: STEREO Mission - Goddard Space Flight Center

The launch!

Video courtesy of  NASA Kennedy YouTube Channel

The Mission:
STEREO is an acronym for Solar Terrestrial Relations Observetory.  The mission is made up of two spacecraft placed on opposites sides of the Earth in order to capture stereoscoptic measuremnts of the Sun. STEREO will be capturing Coronal Mass Ejections (CME's) in stunning 3D.

The Spacecraft and Science Instruments:
1) Picture of the spacecraft with the instruments labeled.

Credit: JPL
2) The two observatories are stacked for launch getting placed on a spin table to check balance & alignment.

Credit: NASA/George Shelton
3) The spacecraft are loaded into the fairing on top of the launch vehicle in preparation for launch from CCAFS Space Launch Complex (SLC-17) Pad B.

Credit: NASA/George Shelton
4) The Delta II stack with the twin STEREO spacecraft tucked safely inside the fairing for launch.

Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
What are Coronal Mass Ejections?
According to the STEREO Mission and NASA websites: "CMEs are large clouds of charged particles that are ejected from the Sun over the course of several hours. These are powerful eruptions can blow up to 10 billion tons of the Sun's atmosphere into interplanetary space. They travel away from the Sun at speeds of approximately one million mph."

Image Description: When a Coronal Mass Ejection erupted (Jan. 13, 2011), it also triggered a wave of compressed plasma across a wide portion of the lowest reaches of the Sun's outer atmosphere, the corona. As seen in extreme UV light, after repeated bursts within the bright [white] magnetic active region, the compression wave races outward, leaving a dark area behind it. This outward propagating wave of compression, like a blast on an air horn, can travel across almost the entire surface of the Sun. To generate enough force to travel such distances of hundreds of thousands of miles across the surface of the Sun suggests the enormous magnetic energy release that triggers such a storm in the first place.
Credit: NASA
This is a pretty brief explanation on CME's. I strongly encourage you to check out these links for more detail information and explanation:
Other NASA missions are studying the Sun:
There are many missions being run by NASA centers and I encourage you to go to  and search on Missions. But here are two Sun related missions being run out of Goddard Space Flight Center that I want to highlight:
  • SOHO - Solar & Heliospheric Obseratory"SOHO cooperative effort between ESA and NASA. SOHO was designed to study the internal structure of the Sun, it's extensive outer atmosphere, and the origin of the solar wind."
  • SDO - Solar Dynamics Observatory"SDO will help us understand where the Sun's energy comes from, how the inside of the Sun works, and how energy is stored and released into the Sun's atmosphere."
Credit: NASA/SDO AIA 171 taken 2011-03-25 19:45:01 UT
What about this "3D Sun" IMAX movie anyway? What's that all about?
As you know from my other posts (and if you don't, check them out after this) our Sun Earth Day tweetup started at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. We climbed onto two WiFi enabled buses and headed to DC. We were quickly ushered into the Lockheed IMAX theater for a special showing for "3D Sun" which was a privilege since it is not currently being shown there. Guess what it's about?  Yup, the STEREO mission! This was a fantastic 3D movie explaining the mission and bringing massive Coronal Mass Ejections into the theater in all their 3D glory. This was a great way to demonstrate the power and awesomeness of what we were about to learn during this tweetup. I would recommend this movie to you all but according to the IMAX website it is not playing anywhere at this time. Here is the 3D Sun website, maybe you can contact them for more information on possible showings. Or ask your local IMAX theater if there is a way to bring it back.

So, that's all I have for this time. Please be sure to check the links in this post, take a look at some of my past posts, and most definitely come back for future posts.

Thanks reading!

- Aaron

Disclaimer: I am not a scientist nor in anyway am I considered an expert in the topics above. I get most facts from NASA websites, NASA related publications, and general internet research. I do use books from my personal collection as well as books from the local libaray. As a reader I have some of the data stored in my head. I will cite all facts as best I can. If a fact or claim is wrong, it is completely unintentional and if it is brought to my attention, I will correct it ASAP.
      - Thanks, AC

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tweet Break...What's that??? Simple, think NASATweetup

This post is part of a series related to the Sun Earth Day 2011 NASA Tweetup at Goddard Space Flight Center on March 19th, 2011

So you want to know what a Tweet Break is huh? Well, read on my dear friend and you will see. Really, this is a short post, you have a few minutes, I'm sure this is worth a read.

Tweet Break (as defined
  • It's kind of like a built-in-hold. NASA, ULA, SpaceX, Arianespace, JAXA, and Roscomos all use built-in-holds to give the launch teams a chance to review systems status and to provide cushion in the timeline as to not impact the targeted launch window. So how does this help define what a Tweet Break is? Easy, its a built-in-break in a NASATweetup schedule that allows the attendees a chance to get caught up on tweets, blog posts, Facebook updates, and Flickr/YouTube uploads without missing the Tweetup content.
Why do "tweeters" need a break. Simple...a NASATweetup is information and emotional overload (which is OK, we love that). But, when you are trying to tweet, re-tweet, respond to tweets, update your Facebook status, check-in on FourSquare, write a quick blog post, upload photos to Flickr, Yfog, and Twitpic, and upload videos to YouTube you can become overwhelmed. Add to this trying to listen, learn, and ask questions of the presenters (who in most cases are volunteering their time and expertise to talk with us) and you are quickly overloaded. Now bring in the logistics and complexity of trying to move from place to place...on the bus, off the bus, room to room.... Try staying connected, typing (on a tiny keyboard or touch screen) and walking at the same time. Go ahead, try it now, I'll wait.

OK....see what I mean, it's not easy. Again, I am not complaining...we loved our time at Sun Earth Day tweetup and we loved the sights, sounds, and information. But, I found myself typing on an iPad, sending TwitPics with a BlackBerry, and taking pictures and video with my camera, all while trying to absorb loads of wonderful, exciting, and thought-provoking data.

When you are at a Tweetup like the KSC Launch event, most presentations are in the Tweetup tent at the press site (at least for STS-132 that was the case). So you have power, a constant connection, and a table to sit at while you multi-task. This makes the above activities a little easier to manage. Although you still need these Tweet Breaks (aka built-in-holds) to get caught up.

Again...I'm not complaining, just recommending. We have the privilege, opportunity, and obligation, as the select few who get to participate in a NASATweetup, to deliver high quality, real-time information to those that are following us. We owe it to the thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of people that are taking the time to listen, read, learn, and hopefully become inspired by what they see and hear. Let's keep in mind who we are delivering the message to. They include supporters, enthusiasts, teachers, possibly doubters (who we hope will listen with an open mind) and most importantly the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technology pioneers who will push the envelope beyond its current boundaries. That's exciting stuff huh? It makes this opportunity so much more important.

So, to sum it all up. We need to ask for Tweet Breaks. It will give us a few minutes to gather our thoughts, facts, and ideas before we unleash a torrent of tweets, discussions, and newly acquired knowledge.

Thanks for reading....come back soon!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Links, Links, Links...

This post is part of a series related to the Sun Earth Day 2011 NASA Tweetup at Goddard Space Flight Center on March 19th, 2011

I hope you will find this list of links helpful. I have organized it into sections:
  • Websites
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Blogs
  • Pictures/Videos
I also added a few videos and pictures to the end of the post. I figured if I just posted a list of links you would be bored and would not have the overwhelming desire to return and read my ramblings (what I call this blog). As you can tell from the large blue note above (or if you have been reading my other posts) this is part of a series.

(Begin Commercial Break) 
"If you have not had a chance to read my earlier posts, I strongly recommend you take minute or two to review them. You may or may not be sorry you did." - I'm Aaron and I approve this message!
(End Commercial Break)

And we're back. I would like you to return and read my future posts as I upload them. I also welcome any and all comments, both good and bad. Don't be shy! I don't least I think I don't. I'm not sure. Let's move on.

If you would like to add a link to this post, please let me know via the comment section. Comments are moderated so they do not post until I review them.

Note: Not all links are related directly to the Sun Earth Day Tweetup, some are general links related to NASA, science, and planetary missions.

Photo Credit: NASA/Pat Izzo
A few special links first:
Goddard Annual Sun-Earth Day Has a Tweeting Twist
National Air and Space News Room
National Air and Space Group Photo
NE Live - Sun Earth Day Tweetup

Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)
GSFC Sun Earth Day 2011
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
GSFC Mission List
GPM Mission
SDO Mission
SOHO Mission
STEREO Mission
Landsat Program
Kepler Mission
New Horizons Mission
Hubble Space Telescope
James Webb Space Telescope

@JoelGlick (HatCam)

Facebook Pages:
Goddard Space Flight Center
Sun Earth Day
NASATweetup Alumni
Camilla SDO
New Horizons
National Air and Space Museum


Pictures and Videos (hint you will find the links below the videos):

Caitlin Bacha (@SpacePlumbr) sharing a story about SDO.

This is what a NASA supercomputer sounds like.

HATCAM - JustinTV - Search for "NASATweetup"

Goddard Space Flight Center - Building 29 - "Shake & Bake"

The End! (sort of...once it got dark we went to the Laser Ranging site)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Tweetup at the VAB and SLF? Yes, please!

As I read the tweets of excitement from the new round of NASA Tweetup attendees, I keep thinking "I wish I was going" to the STS-134 NASA Launch Tweetup. And the reason might surprise you! It's not for the launch...really, I know this sounds crazy...and it is a little! But it's true. Don't get me wrong, no no no, I would LOVE to see another launch from the Press site, but it's the VAB tour that I want to see now. I was very humbled, privileged, and thankful for my STS-132 NASA Tweetup experience. But when I saw the VAB through Joel Glickman's HATCAM, I was a little jealous. We were unable to do a VAB tour for my tweetup.

I would give up the chance to see a Press Site launch for a chance to see the VAB....from the inside!  Why would I do that you ask?  Well, I had my chance. I think others need the opportunity to have this awe-inspiring, very emotional, and potentially life changing experience too!

And its not just the VAB I want to stand in,  it's the SLF I want to visit as well. We did a drive-by on the STS-132 launch tweetup, but I would love the chance to stand on the actual runway.  To be in the presence of rubber from the tires of a Space see the marker where Discovery's nose wheel stopped for the final time, that would be an experience of a lifetime.

I would even be as bold to say...if there is no Shuttle on PAD 39, we should get a group photo inside the fence at the base of the pad. Or we could stand in the flame trench looking up waving for unique group picture.  But I don't want to push my luck here, I have't even formally asked for the tweetup yet.

So here is my idea for a VAB/SLF NASA Tweetup.  And I think if we ask nicely and promise not to touch anything, we may be able to get NASA to host the event.

VAB/SLF NASA Tweetup Timeline:

  • 7:00AM - meet that badging station to get credentials
  • 8:00AM - assemble at the Press site tent for opening talk
  • 9:00AM - presentation on the history of KSC, VAB, and SLF
  • 11:00AM - "TWEET Break" - see below for the reason & definition
  • 12:00PM - lunch by the countdown clock
  • 1:00PM - VAB/SLF tours
  • 3:00PM - tour of the Apollo 1 Pad with the entire group
  • 4:00PM - back to the Tweetup tent for round table discussions
  • 5:00PM - buses to KSC VC for Hubble IMAX 3D
  • 7:00PM - back to the press site for closing
Hopefully the presentation portions could be broadcast live by NASA TV, hosted by the NASA Edge guys

*** A "Tweet Break" is time built in for those trying to tweet, post (to YouTube, blogs, and Flickr), take pictures, shot video, listen, learn, and ask questions all at the same time.  A break built in to have some time to catch up is critical.  It was more critical for tweetups like Sun Earth Day 2011 ( SED2011 Facebook Page ) when we were on the move a lot.

Now the timeline would change if there was a photo opportunity inside the pad fence or, if a shuttle is on the pad, a photo op at the end of the day with the tweetup group and a Xenon lit Space Shuttle in the background. Just sayin'....


I know there are MAJOR logistics, time, and money spent on hosting a tweetup. But these outreach events are truly "reaching out" to the public, students, and the next generation of NASA scientists, engineers, and leaders.  Communities are developing (both online and in real life), conversations are happening, healthy debates are occurring, and people are being inspired.  OH...and don't forget, the employees of NASA and its contractors, who are getting an opportunity to see how many supporters, fans, and enthusiasts are out there. All of whom appreciate all of their hard work and dedication!

So, here goes....

Dear NASA,

I am respectfully requesting the above NASA Tweetup. I think the opportunity for attendees and NASA to have another highly successful outreach project (which all the NASA Tweetups have been) would be fantastic. 150 people tweeting, posting, and streaming live reaches hundreds of thousands maybe even millions of people. I know the effort to execute this type of event is no small task, but the benefits of reaching out to so many is immeasurable. Thank you for considering the idea. I look forward to hearing from you.



Monday, March 21, 2011

So little time so much to here is the plan to share

Well, the Sun Earth Day NASA Tweetup is over...sort of.  I have tried very hard over the past 36 hours or so to organize my thoughts around how best to share my experience at Goddard Spaceflight Center.

A few quick things come to mind.  First is sharing will take place over multiple postings. Second, the amount information to be shared is massive. I will need to fact check a lot of items. Tweeting (on multiple devices), taking pictures, shooting video, and trying to listen, learn, and ask questions can lead to many bad things. Such as inaccurate numbers, misquoting a presenters comments, or confusing facts from multiple presentations.

I also want to present some themes and ideas that come to mind right now:
  • History. Believe it or not, history plays a key role on how we got to where we are today in Earth and space science. I think it is definitely worth exploring this as a topic.
  • The importance of education in all subjects, not just math, science, and engineering, but in  English, history, and geography. I want to discuss why being good at math and science is only one part of being a great scientist or engineer.
  • The role public outreach (i.e. - Twitter, Facebook, Tweetups, Twitter & web Chats, Foursquare & Gowalla, Flickr groups, video programing like NASA Edge, NASA TV, YouTube and HATCAM, bogging, podcasting, and live chat via Skype and Talkshoe) is critical to making the connections and starting the conversations. These are powerful and far reaching tools and concepts.
    • For example (this has not fact checked) it was said that the Sun Earth Day Tweetup had hit over 3.5 million "impressions" by the end of the live NASA Edge broadcast....we still had half the day to keep the connections growing!!! (A media impression is: the number of people who may have seen an article, heard something on the radio or in a podcast, watched something on television, or read something on a web page or blog - according to This means we "impressed" 3.5 million people one time each or maybe we "impressed" 350,000 people 10 times each. Whether you agree with this definition or not, 3.5 million is a sizable number and it shows we were having a significant impact to a large audience.
  • I also feel its important and interesting discuss past, present, and future Sun, Earth, and Planetary science missions.  I hope this will lead you to explore and discover some of the great NASA missions. I also want to look at Goddard's important role in developing, managing, and planning these missions.
  • You can expect a post on women in science, technology, and engineering. I was surprised and pleased at the number of bright, talented, and enthusiastic women I met at the Sun Earth Day Tweetup. This list includes presenters, coordinators, volunteers, and those in the tweetup group as well.  We had teachers, science enthusiasts, and self-professed space geeks in this group, many of whom were women. I don't care if you are a man or woman, I think we need to best and the brightest working at NASA. And I don't want the young women of today to thinking that space, science, or even NASA is a not a welcome profession. I know it is much better today than it was 20 years ago and there are many women entering and succeeding this these fields of work, but that fact that we still having the conversation means there is some work to be done. As a disclaimer I know a post like this may ruffle some feathers but it is meant as nothing more than a positive observation of the people I met at the Tweetup.
  • Finally, I want to share with you how this event has changed me.  With the focus on the youth of today (the next generation of scientists and engineers) I feel its important to look at the role someone like me plays in this focus. I also think its important to evaluate yourself when you have an experience that you think changes something about you, your values, your goals, and ideas. I'm not talking about just upending your life, I'm talking about seeing opportunities, evaluating them, and maybe, if the analysis justifies it, you can "fire your thrusters" and nudge that personal spacecraft of life into another direction. These can be short burns to slightly alter direction or speed or they can be major maneuvers that change the entire mission. Either way I want to explore what type of burn I need, I'm comfortable saying that it is going to be a small one, just enough to change direction over the long run. Not enough to upset the balance with my family or my obligation to them, but enough of a course correction to re-task the long term mission.
Well, that's a lot for me to get out in this post. But I feel I have some direction. I hope these are topics and conversations that you will share and enjoy. Maybe you will even take part in the debate, adding to the body of ideas and moving them forward to another level. Many of the themes will be over multiple postings so there will be opportunities to influence, engage, and inspire the direction and outcome of the conversations.

I can't wait to start this adventure of exploration and discovery. What about you?


Saturday, March 19, 2011

As a most unbelievable day ends I have a few thoughts...

Update to original. I had a few facts wrong. Working to sort out my notes and get some questions answered. Sorry about that. It's 30 G's not 35 G's and I need to get the rights temps instead of really really cold.

Today was filled with:

Cleans rooms where they prep satellites and spacecraft. Have you ever hear of the Hubble Space Telescope, Solar Dynamics Observatory, The Stereo mission, or the James Webs Space Telescope? They all spent time in the Goddard Spaceflight Center clean room.

We also saw a centrifuge that can test space flight hardware up to 30 G's. Wait until you see these pics!!!! It was HUGE. Goddard has to call the power company before they turn it on so they don't cause a brown out!

A "space environment simulator" which makes things very very very cold.

We walked into the actual acoustical chamber they use to subject satellites and other spacecraft to the sounds they will experience at launch time. Just a quick fact about the sound of a launch. Stand too close to a Space Shuttle launch and the sound (not the flames) will KILL you. Yes....sound!

Spacecraft are delicate precisely manufactured science platforms. But to get to the vacuum of space, they need to ride a is neither quiet nor smooth. This is why the engineers and scientists at Goddard Spaceflight Center put these engineering marvels through the "shake and bake" process. More to come on this process in a future post.

We saw one of the MOC's (Mission Operations Center) where they fly Landsat 7 and Aura. All the control, commands, and communications are done in the ops centers.

We saw the NASA Center for Climate Simulation...this is a bunch of really smart above, average people with huge banks of computers doing weather modeling. Why spend money on that? Better models means better prediction, which means a better things for us and the planet. There are some pics you will have to see.

We got up close and personal with a Hubble mock up section. A) it was huge, B) it was only 1/3 of the whole telescope, & C) Astronauts have used it to train for the Hubble servicing missions.

We had with a great discussion with Michelle Thaller (I'm checking her last name) Director of Science at NASA Goddard. The pics from the Science on a Sphere classroom are mind blowing visuals. And information about our Sun and Solar System is almost unbelievable. In here I learned the Sun is an out of control explosion that is too big to explode. Stop here and think about that.

We wrapped up our day of inspiration and information which we will use to spread the word and pay it forward as new Ambassadors of NASA and space science. Our day ended at the Laser Ranging Facility where we learned about why we bounce lasers of satellites and why it's important to know exactly (I mean exactly, like within centimeters & millimeters) where the spacecraft is. They are also shooting beams at LRO which is orbiting the Moon as you read this using it's own laser pointed down at the Moon to precisely map the surface. Bottom line, it was a great facility and a really cool laser show!

Please bookmark this blog and return often. It will take weeks to share what I have learned. There are some great pictures and video too. But you have to share this knowledge, pass along this blog to others. Be a part of the inspiration of your kids, your friends kids, and even the big kids inside ourselves.

I also need you to take the time to visit the NASA websites, Facebook pages, and follow fact JOIN the conversation, on Twitter. I'm serious about the Twitter thing, you may even converse with a real Astronaut, Planetary scientist, or one of the outreach folks from NASA (who work hard to provide activities, information, and connections all of us) to become better educated on the NASA missions. I can 100% say I have done each on of these and it was...well just do it you will understand then.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Last stop on the Goddard Spaceflight Center Tour

WOW...I have a lot to share over the next few days. It will take that long to absorb and organize what we have learned. I have been inspired, I know you will be too! Be sure to follow this blog, Facebook, and Twitter for updates.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Done at National Air & Space Museum heading back to GSFC

Great day at NASM in Washington DC. We saw the IMAX 3D show of the Sun. Take the time to read about the Stereo satellites that made that movie possible. The photos are compelling and awe inspiring.

The Sun's impact on our atmosphere, the Earth's magnetism, and on our space hardware is undeniable. One massive coronal mass ejection (CME) can alter radio, GPS, and the power grid.

That makes you want to learn more doesn't it?

Check out the work they are doing at Goddard Spaceflight Center for more info.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 18, 2011

The night before...

We are settled into our hotel after a smooth trip from New Hampshire ( thank you Southwest Air).

All devices are being charged, cameras are packed, and devices are plugged in everywhere!

So, I'm ready! And just in case I forget (tomorrow is going to be a crazy exciting day) a big THANK YOU to NASA. It's a privilege to have this opportunity to learn more about the Sun (which based on my prior post is truly lacking) and to see first hand the efforts of all the engineers, scientists, employees of Goddard Spaceflight Center. The project list is huge (don't believe me? Go check out Goddard's website). There is real Earth, Space, and Sun science going on everyday (ever hear of the Hubble Space Telescope or see the pictures taken by SDO or did you hear about's in orbit around Mercury right now).

These tweetups are not just for the attendees in person. NASA does it so it's an interactive experience for those online. There will be tweets, Facebook updates, even a live broadcast by the NASA Edge team. Please join me and the other attendees of the Sun Earth Day NASA Tweetup online for a day of learning and inspiration. Check out my Highs and Lows post. Try to answer those questions. I really want to find out the answers, I hope you will to. If you do, join us tomorrow. Bring your kids (of all ages) to a computer or mobile device and see what fantastic things we can learn about together. All the attendees know that we are ambassadors of the event and will try our best to bring it to you in real time with the highest quality content.

Thanks for reading and I hope to "see" you at the tweetup.


Note: I think Joel Glick will be wearing his Hat Cam. You can follow him on Twitter, use the hash tag #hatcam for a personal point of view (it's very cool, you should check it out anyway). You can also find this live feed on JustinTV if he is able to broadcast.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sun Earth Day 2011 - NASA Tweetup Info

I just wanted to do a quick post of links for Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube. I will add to this post new links as I get them.

I will also try to post blog entries during the tweetup. I'm not sure how this will work out since I will be trying it with a mobile app on my iPad.


Twitter feeds to follow:
Twitter hash tags to follow:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Highs and Lows: The tale of a NASA Tweetup e-mail

I logged onto my personal e-mail on Tuesday and saw a message from Aleya, this weekend's "Sun Earth Day Tweetup Wrangler."  I of course opened it with the excitement of a 5 year old on Christmas morning and started to read.

The message starts out with "Sun Earth Day is rapidly approaching; I hope all plans are going smoothly. We have two things for you to do in preparation for your day."  Preparation? OK, I have been to a NASA Tweetup this should be easy. I know my NASA stuff...not a problem.

The e-mail continues with "The first is a survey." Huh! That's simple. I fill out surveys all the time, I love sharing my opinion! (There's a surprise for with an opinion.) The note further explains why NASA wants to gather this data and confirms the data gatherer is "OK." They have "checked her out and approve." Excellent, but I trust Aleya and the NASA Tweetup crew. If they want me to do a survey, I will do it.

The paragraph continues with "Please complete this pre-event questionnaire. Please be honest in your answers, and do not Google anything! (Honor system!!)" WHAT? It's a questionnaire now? OK, stay calm, you know your NASA stuff I tell myself.  Then I read the last line again. Do not Google? Honor system? This interesting, why would I need Google? Why are we on the honor system? (Pause here to ponder these two statements.)

I click the link (now you should hear a menacing clicking sound in your mind, just like I did) to see what type of questions await me.

The window pops open showing me the first few questions...relief sets in. Name, age, zip code...all standard demographic info and most importantly, they are easy to answer.  Then a few questions about my tweeting, hobbies, and use of NASA content. No problem! My fingers fly across the keyboard (OK, to be honest, they don't really fly...I hunt and peck with 2, sometimes 3 fingers. Typing is not a skill I possess.) I was up (getting the e-mail), then down (a questionnaire or "test"?), and now I'm up (easy questions). This is crazy, letting an e-mail take me for a ride on an emotional roller coaster. (OK, your right, that last statement was a little dramatic. But you get the point.)

Why would anyone need Google to look up these answers? I scroll down to the next set of questions.

Question 1 - Name the NASA Centers - OK, I can see why some people may need to Google this. But not me. I start typing without thinking: Ames, JPL, Langley, KSC, Marshall, Stennis, Glenn, JSC, Dryden, of course Goddard...and then I stop. My brain freezes. There's more, but I'm drawing a blank. Panic sets in, I know my NASA stuff, I should be able to do this. Is this stage fright? I tell myself to calm down. Breath. Am I freaking out because my fingers stopped typing or is my mind playing tricks because it knows I can't use Google?  Either way, my fingers are on strike.  There will be no more letters spelling out the names of NASA Centers for this question.  Why is this happening to me? Time to regroup and move on to question 2; I will come back to this question later. So I clear my head and scroll down.

Question 2 - Describe at least three projects from Goddard - Easy...this is the Sun Earth Day Tweetup.  SDO is first on my list. Then SOHO...another easy one SOHO has solar and helio in its name. Then I type HST…Hubble Space I'm on a roll. But, it happens again...stage fright? Nervousness? Or do I really not know my NASA stuff? CRAP! Think! At this point my fingers are refusing to work and my brain is saying "_____ (insert expletive here) you, you don't know this stuff” (sadly this is the battle I do with my thoughts sometimes). I tell myself, relax this is not a test, it's just a few questions to see what the group knows and doesn't know so NASA can make the most out of the tweetup (my brain laughs at me and says you know that’s a BS line…I have to agree, I’m trying to fool myself, this is a test of sorts). Think! Think! Think! Yes, Operation Ice Bridge….another one down. Now we are back to listing Goddard projects! Next…OK fingers, brain...I said next. Hello? Next project please. Nothing. CRAP! What do I do? Should I quit? Bow out of the tweetup? Let someone who is more knowledgeable than me attend? I can't do that. I'm not a quitter...nor am I a cheater. No Google, no quitting. Next question.

Question 3 - Name at least three space scientists or ... - That's it. We’re done. Cooked! There is more to this question, but I'm embarrassed to admit, I can't name a single space scientist, not without Google at least. I know Space Shuttles, Apollo missions, the astronauts, the ISS, even some of the planetary missions (like MESSENGER which is about to orbit Mercury, the Mars rovers, Voyager, New Horizons, Mariner, etc...). But I don't know the people behind these projects...the scientists, engineers, and astronomers that make these missions possible. I'm really disappointed in myself. Moving on to the next question.

Question 4 - Describe the Sun - Easy! Center of our solar system, closest star, a giant ball of burning hydrogen. Then it happens again, my fingers stop the alphabet dance. What else do I know about the Sun? Is that really it? Why do I know so little? I studied in school. Have I lost some knowledge on my journey through life? Crap this is not looking question please.

Question 5 - Describe the Sun's impact on Earth - OK this is easy. The Sun is a critical provider of light energy. This light, a by-product of nuclear fusion, make things like photosynthesis possible. It also impacts our weather, the seasons, and even our emotions (come on, who is not happier on a bright, warm, sunny day). Is that it? Nope. I know there is a more detailed, educated, response...but it’s not coming from me today. _____ (insert another expletive here) Next!

Question 6 - Describe what one past civilization that has used technology to understand the Sun and the Universe - Easy? Nope. I'm done. I can't think of one. Aztecs, Mayans, Greeks, the Egyptians all pop into my head, but the one that used technology to understand the Sun? Nothing, blank, empty. OK it's time to be honest with myself.  I just don't have the knowledge I should have about the Sun, its impact on us, its history, or the people that have studied it, both past and present.

There are a few more questions that I go on to answer with the same crappy results.  More blank space than words describing answers.  Let's just say I’m at the low point of this whole e-mail.  I'm really bothered that I could not bang out these answers without the help of Google.  Maybe it's time to "go back to school" and re-learn what it appears I have forgotten.

I could just leave my mind and heart at this level of disappointment but that's not me. I think I will take this new found revelation (that is my lack of knowledge) and go learn something (that's an interesting idea huh?). One of NASA's big initiatives today is stimulating interest in science, math, engineering, and technology and I understand why they want to do that. We are a civilization of explorers, seekers of knowledge, a form of life that searches for and overcomes challenges. I lack (or lost some) of my knowledge and skills along the path of life, but that does not mean I can’t participate. I can and I will! (Insert mood improvement here.)

By becoming more educated myself (and remember you are never too old to learn, don't feel like this stuff is just for the youth) I can help move forward NASA's goal of engaging the next generation of scientists, engineers, and dreamers of the future. I will get the opportunity to learn (or re-learn in some cases) something about NASA's science missions on March 19th, 2011 at the Sun Earth Day NASA Tweetup. And the best part of all is I can tweet (also known as - educate, collaborate, share knowledge, and inspire others) while I’m learning myself. I can't wait!

Look for my tweets at:

And be sure to check back here for more posts over the weekend. I will be trying a mobile iPad App to post quick and dirty reports about the tweetup.



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why is it so hard to come up with a title?


I have decided to try a blog. I have a lot on my mind and someone, maybe that's you, will be interested in my rambling thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  Maybe not, who knows.

I really have another reason.  It has to do with NASA Tweetups.  Since I am not in media and have no real access to a media outlet, I wanted to have a way to share my Tweetup experience. I have attended 2 of these tweetups so far and I'm about to do it again. Sometimes you need more than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter.

Why Twitter? <<< hint this is a link :)

  1. Well, I'm a NASA junkie and Twitter has allowed me access into the NASA world and to experience one in a lifetime opportunities (more on this in another post...this is your hint to subscribe and check back often).
  2. Twitter is easy! If I can do it, you can to.
  3. Twitter is fun. Really! I kid you not. Twitter is fun.
  4. Twitter is anytime, anywhere! Log on, follow, tweet, anytime and anywhere (with a mobile device).
  5. You can have a conversation, express an idea, have an opinion, or just talk in 140 characters or less.
  6. You can and most likely will make friends and expand your community.
  7. And in the spirit of full disclosure I would be remiss if I did not mention that Twitter is a powerful tool for marketing and engaging consumers. But, that's not why I use Twitter, the first 6 points are why I use it.
Now back to NASA Tweetups

I was lucky to be selected for the Sun Earth Day 2011 Tweetup at Goddard Spaceflight Center just outside of Washington DC this coming weekend (March 19th, 2011).  I plan on blogging about this event and hope you can follow me on Twitter at

I will also be posting (at some point in the future) my Earth Day 2010 and STS-132 Tweetup experiences. I will include pictures, videos, and comments.

Grammar, Spelling, Formating and Content Note

This is simple! I am poor at all of are officially warned. Oh, I forgot, I like to use exclamation points, quotes, and "..." a lot. 

As far as the content you can expect posts about: NASA (naturally), Nascar (I drove a real Nascar car once), Beer (brewing & drinking this fine liquid), Music (usually New Country, I don't like twangy stuff, and 70s-80s rock),  my kids (the crazy things they say and do), and once and a while my opinion of stupid things people say and do.

What you will not find for topics: Politics, religion, or anything else I don't want to discuss.

Well, this is enough for a first blog, I look forward to your comments, suggestions, and constructive criticism.