Saturday night I headed up to Mt. Pinos and met up with folks from the LA Astronomical Society to catch some views of Mars while it was still rather close. Best view of Mars I’ve ever had, period. Admittedly, not too surprising since there were a couple of 24″ reflectors/artillery pieces there.
Tried to sketch the view and this is more or less how it looked. Both polar caps were visible along with quite a bit of surface detail. I *thought* I saw some detail in the south polar cap, but that was straining the limits of my poor vision.
The most amusing part of the night? The displaced ravers who were interloping in trying to find their rave somewhere out in the Los Padres. You could hear the rave – just couldn’t find it.
There was a early evening ocean haze here in Long Beach that was making totality rather hard to see. But once the moon just peeked out from under the Earth’s shadow it was high enough in the sky to clear the haze and just be absolutely spectactular.
In retrospect I wish I fished my telescope out of the garage, but there’s barely any room left here on the roof for anything. However, here’s a nicely overexposed featureless pixelated photo. I need to get a new camera adapter for the scope.
Just realized something… Is there anyway we can get Mars to be included in the Axis Of Evil? There would have to be an invasion…
A thread on rec.arts.sf.written excerpts a weirdly prescient description of a space shuttle re-entry crash from Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Inferno:
“One of those days,” Corbett said. “First, a twenty-six hour hold while we replaced one of the solid boosters. That was only irritating. We lost one of the three main motors going up. Then after we made orbit one of the fuel tank clamps jammed. Either of you know what a space shuttle looks like?”
“Well, the tank is big and bulky and cheap. We carry the main motors down aboard the dart, the winged section, but we leave the tank to burn up in the atmosphere. If we couldn’t get the tank loose there wouldn’t have been any point in going down.”
“Sure. We fired the orbital motors in bursts until the clamp sprung open and let us loose. Then we had to use more fuel to get back to our orbit. We were supposed to dump cargo and change orbit, but there wasn’t enough fuel. We had to go down.”
“I don’t know. I spacewalked out and looked at the fuel tank clamp. I swear there was nothing wrong. But maybe the metal fatigued, or maybe the hatch over the clamp lock got twisted–anyway, we were halfway down and going like a meteor when we got a burnthrough under the nose. I heard the maintenance techs– they were the cargo I couldn’t jettison– screaming in the instrument room, then the whole nose peeled back in front of me. I woke up by that ferryboat. The crowd pushed me along to Minos, and he threw me into the whirlwind.”
The folks of sci.space.shuttle have put together a pretty good FAQ about the loss of Columbia.
Garth points out the STS-107 Mission Report as the best place for non-absurdist information on Columbia. I’d add in NASA Watch myself. Either way, forget the newspapers or TV.
Brian Webb’s Thursday email alert for viewing Columbia’s re-entry is still in my inbox. I set the alarm early and poked my head outside to see what the weather was like, but it was pretty well socked over at the coast and didn’t feel like driving far north to see it. So I went back to sleep.
Other blogs have been much more eloquent about today’s events, so I’ll go with this picture instead – the very first shuttle landing (STS-1) out at Edwards in 1981. I was fifteen years old and didn’t know the ways of telephoto lenses so it’s a tiny photo, but I was there. This is how I’ll remember Columbia.
Heads up and charge up your digital cameras. A modified Minuteman II is set for launch from Vandenberg on December 11th at 00:01 PST. Full details on the Pentagon press release.
This is one of those rare space photographs that instantly transforms an abstract planet or moon from the realm of KPT/Bryce effects to an actual place. Looking at this I can imagine a new form of extreme mountaineering, only in addition to the oxygen, you’ll need to bring some extra-grade radiation protection.
Amazing collection of Landsat images chosen for their artistic appeal.