Monday, May 30, 2011

Atlantis Rollout Post #1

As many of you know (due to my shameless self promotion!) I will be bringing the final Space Shuttle rollout to you live. I hope to be bringing some live video (from my phone) and answering your questions and responding to comments via Twitter.

Important Links for the May 31st (at 8PM EDT) Event:

I know rollout is more of a photo opportunity than a live conversation event. But this is the last one ever and scince I am not a professional photographer, I wanted to concentrate on something you don't normally get during a rollout. And that is live, on the ground, reporting.

"Space Shuttle Atlantis bathed in the Xenon lights"
Photo by Ben Cooper at

Subject: Atlantis Rollout for STS-132
Credit: Ben Cooper /
I want to "bring" you with me during this historic event and to talk with you about why this is not the end. True the Shuttle Program is ending, but the future for NASA, Space Science, US Human Spaceflight, and the new "commercial space" industry is very bright!

I hope to spark some interest in you (if you have none) and I hope I can inspire at least one student to consider getting an education in math, science, engineering, or technology.  I am really hope I can get one student who says, "WOW, the Space Shuttle is cool, I wonder what space ship I can fly on when I grow up?" "I want to be an astronaut someday, the space ships we will have when I grow are going to be the coolest yet!" to study hard and achieve that goal of being an astronaut.

Her are a few links to get started with inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers!

My (not so professional) YouTube video from the STS-132 Launch at the May 2010 NASATweetup

Thanks for reading and I look forward to talking with you!

- Aaron

35,000 feet

Yup! Blogging from the plane...using an iPhone. I'm not even a tech geek and I love this stuff!

That's it since we are bouncing all over the place. It's tough to type on a small keyboard.

Ohhh one more thing. Be sure to follow my tweets using the #atlantis135 hash tag and you can find me live at during the last ever Space Shuttle rollout to Pad 39A.

Live video will be at

Thanks for reading,


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:In a plane!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Historic day! Soyuz TMA-20 - Undocking, Fly-around, & Landing

Today will be a historic day in International Space Station (ISS) history. When the Soyuz TMA-20 undocks today for it's return to Earth, they will do an ISS fly-around capturing Space Shuttle Endeavour docked to the ISS. There was talk of trying this unique opportunity during STS-133, but an agreement could not be reached with the ISS partners.

Below you will find, NASA TV and video feeds for the Soyuz TMA-20 undocking and landing coverage. Followed the NASA briefing discussing the Soyuz undocking and fly-arround, as wells as the a fly-around animation video. Then you will find some information on the Soyuz TMA-20 as well as some helpful links.

Here is NASA TV's schedule (summarized) for the undocking/landing coverage (all times are Central):

Monday, May 23 
  • 2:30 p.m. – Soyuz TMA-20 crew farewells and hatch closure (3 p.m.) coverage 
  • 5:45 p.m. – Undocking (6:06 p.m.) coverage 
  • 8:15 p.m. – Deorbit burn (8:35 p.m.) and landing (9:26 p.m.) coverage 
Tuesday, May 24
  • 5 a.m. – Video File of landing and post-landing activities 
  • 11 a.m. – Video File of the landing and post-landing activities, including post-landing interview and return to Chkalovsky Airfield, Star City, Russia 
NASA TV's Ustream Feed:

Spaceflight Now LiveStream Coverage:

Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnow at

NASA Briefing: "Unique Photo Op in Space Set for Monday:

Soyuz TMA-20 Fly-around Animation:

Soyuz TMA-20
Launched: December 15th, 2010
Landing (expected): May 23rd, 2011
Highlights: Arrival of JAXA's HTV2, ESA's ATV2, STS-133, & STS-134 (with AMS)

Subject: Soyuz TMA-20 Rollout
Credit: NASA(?)
Subject: Soyuz TMA-20 / Expedition 26/27 Launch
Credit: NASA (?)
Subject: Soyuz TMA-20 - Approach to ISS
Credti: NASA
Click here >>> Wikipedia Link to Soyuz TMA-20

Dmitri Kondratyev, Commander, Roscosmos
Catherine "Caddy" Coleman, FE-1, NASA
Paolo Nespoli, FE-2, ESA

Subject: Soyuz TMA-20 and Expedition 26/27 crew
Credit: NASA
Click here >>> NASA Link to Expedition 27 Crew Info
Click here >>> ESA's/Paolo Nespoli Flickr Page

Subject: "Expedition 27 is done!"
Credit: NASA/ESA
Subject: "Moonrise"
Credit: NASA/ESA
Helpful Links:
Soyuz TMA-20 Rollout
Soyuz TMA-20 Launch
ESA ATV2 Information
Arianepace ATV2 Launch
JAXA HTV2 Information
AMS Information
NASA Soyuz Landing Coverage Soyuz Article Dual Docked Operations/Fly-Around Article

Thanks for reading!

- Aaron

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why should you care about how much salt is in seawater? I'll tell you why...

Reminder: I embed many links in my posts. Please make use of them. Often they link to content that will enhance the post or they link to the source of my information. And if I have failed to properly credit anyone or any content, please let me know ASAP and I will correct it right away. - AC

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. Any Earth Science posts will fall under this category between now and Sun Earth Day 2012!

I assume if you made it past the title and you are reading this now, you really want to know why you should care. It all has to do with something called the water cycle. So, there are a few questions you are probably asking yourself, such as:

  • Most of your posts are about NASA, what does this have to do with them?
  • Why are you doing a post on the amount of salt in seawater? It's the ocean, it's supposed to be salty!
  • What is the water cycle?
And when I'm done answering these questions, you are certainly going to ask:
  • What inspired you to write about this topic?
  • What can I do participate?
Most of your posts are about NASA, what does this have to do with them?
The answer is simple. This post is about the Aquarius/SAC-D Spacecraft and its Earth Science mission.

Mission Overview:
This is a joint mission between NASA and the Argentinian Space Agency (CONAE). The main scientific objective is to measure the surface salinity of the Earth's oceans. This information is critical for better understanding the water cycle and ocean circulation. The Aquarius instrument was built jointly by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in California and Goddard Spaceflight Center (GSFC) in Maryland. NASA is providing the launch vehicle, a United Launch Alliance Delta II, and the launch services at Kennedy Space Center. The Mission operations will be controlled from a CONAE ground station who will transmit all raw Aquarius data to GFSC (who is managing the mission operations phase and process the science data). JPL will mange the commissioning phase as well as the mission data archiving.

The Spacecraft:
The spacecraft is compromised of two major sections. NASA's Aquarius Instrument and CONAE's SAC-D spacecraft carrying a host of international instruments.

Subject: Aquarius/SAC-D Spacecraft
Credit: NASA
Here is a link to the entire list of instruments aboard the spacecraft:
Instrument List with descriptions

Subject: Artist Rendering of the Aquarius/SAC-D Spacecraft
Credit: NASA
Subject: Aquarius/SAC-D Spacecraft Launch Config. / Deployed Config.
Credit: NASA
Subject: Front of the Aquarius Instrument
Credit: NASA
Subject: Back of the Aquarius Instrument
Credit: NASA
Other Spacecraft Facts:
  • Orbit: Sun-synchronous
  • Altitude: ~400 miles above the planet
  • Life: 3 years (minimum)
  • Weight: ~ 4 tons
  • Length: ~ 5 meters (will fill the Delta II fairing)
  • Coverage Area: The entire planet will be mapped every 7 days!
Launch Information:
Launch Video Example - Delta II launch from VAFB SLC-2 May 5th, 2009

Additional Mission Information:

Why are you doing a post on the amount of salt in seawater?
I wanted to highlight this mission, which is to better understand ocean salinity and circulation. 70%+ of the Earth's surface is covered by water, 96.5% of that is stored in our oceans as salt water. These two attributes make the oceans, their circulation, and their salinity level major drivers in the water cycle.  A better understanding of these will lead to improved weather forecasts and planet health.

What is the water cycle?
The water cycle, also called the hydrologic cycle, is the constant movement of water above (in the atmosphere), on (the land and oceans), and under the surface of the planet. Here is the Wikipedia description of the cycle:

It is important to know that all our water is recycled by the water cycle process. This means the water you drink, wash your dishes with, and swim in, is the same water used by all life on Earth since the beginning. Yes, you use the very same water that the dinosaurs used.

So, understanding this recycling process is not only important for things like weather forecasting, its very important to understanding the health of the planet. All ocean water (unusable for drinking and farming) becomes freshwater (needed for drinking and farming) at some point in the process.

How we manage, use, and treat our water matters! Only 1% of the Earth's water is usable by humans (click this link for the graphic). Water that is contaminated, polluted, poisoned, or otherwise rendered unusable, needs to go through the water cycle process to be recycled. This takes time and has a significant impact on the environment and ecosystem.

Salinity matters! The degree of salinity in oceans is a driver of the world's ocean circulation, where density changes due to both salinity changes and temperature changes at the surface of the ocean produce changes in buoyancy, which cause the sinking and rising of water masses. Changes in the salinity of the oceans are thought to contribute to global changes in carbon dioxide as more saline waters are less soluble to carbon dioxide.

Here is a another great link to a NASA site on why salinity level matters:
NASA Earth Science - Salinity

What inspired you to write about this topic?
There were two things that led to this post. First, I listened (and Live Tweeted) the Aquarius briefing on NASA TV the other day. This got me interested in the mission and the science objectives. This is where I learned the details and importance of ocean salinity and circulation. Second, I have been spending time on NASA Astronaut Ron Garan's website: Fragile Oasis

The website is currently featuring Projects from around the world related to Community and/or School Research projects. "There are ten content categories that correlate with Space Station infrastructure and activities: water, energy, health, food, environment, community, research, communication, education and peace. Criteria for project submission is simple – a demonstrated desire to make a positive impact on the community, city, country or world. Projects can be large or small, student research or mature design, concept phase or on-the-ground development." - from the Project Nomination Page on

All the projects are great! But two of the "water" related projects caught my eye.

The first being the Thirst Project This project seeks to raise "awareness about the world’s clean water crisis by educating the public through school curriculum and local speaking engagements, public exhibitions and other events." I am a believer in education being a path to solving current problems as well as preventing future ones. On their website,, you are hit with a reality on the home page.

"The Problem: Almost 1 billion people on our planet don't have access to safe, clean drinking water and proper sanitization. That's one in every eight of us. 4,500 children die every day from diseases caused by contaminated water. That's huge. That's approximately one child every 15 seconds. 80% of all global diseases are water-borne and result from drinking contaminated water. These diseases kill more than 2.2 million people every year."

If that statement is not a wake up call, I'm not sure what is.

The other project that caught my eye was One Drop in Honduras. This project is currently in Honduras supporting local partners and their efforts, with the Access to Safe Water for the Communities of the Dry Tropics of Honduras project. Its objectives are:
  • Improve access to safe water in order to increase the level of health and agricultural output
  • Ensure food security
  • Increase household incomes
  • Raise awareness of water-related issues through multidisciplinary shows and educational and artistic workshops
  • Promote gender equality
  • Develop leadership and mobilize youth so that they become agents of change
This project directly impacts 1,000 families and will ultimately benefit over 15,000 men, women and children. You can visit their website at:

Again, what inspired me to write this post? Simple....water matters. It is a critical, scarce, and fragile resource. How could I not be inspired to bring it to your attention? I take my fresh, clean, safe drinking water for granted. I don't think about the ocean, the water cycle, or impact it has on our planet and ecosystem. I'm sure you don't either. I hope that by the time you are done reading, I have changed your mind.

What can I do participate?
There are hundreds of ways. But some simple and easy ways to get started are:
  • Become aware of the water cycle.
  • Become educated and knowledgeable on the impacts it has.
  • Share your knowledge and awareness. Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are great tools to do this.
  • Be aware of your water usage. Try to minimize how much you use.
  • Support projects like the ones on
  • Be mindful and supportive of Earth Science projects and missions like Aquarius/SAC-D.
  • Don't take water for granted. It is a resource that makes life (in the way that we know it) possible.
  • And finally, please support NASA and the ISS program. Check out this link to a story on the ISS Water Recycling System. The things we learn by having the ISS will directly translate to solving problems here on Earth. We will develop new processes, technologies, tools, and knowledge that will improve life, both on and off the planet. Believe me, sometime in the near future will will leave LEO. Water will be a part of that journey!
If you need an additional inspiration check out this shot from the ISS and follow Ron Garan and Fragile Oasis on Twitter.

Subject: A Fragile Oasis - Our Home Planet Earth
Credit: NASA/Ron Garan
As always, thanks for reading!

- Aaron

Link List: