NASA Twins Study | Preliminary Findings

The Twins Study

How does an extended mission in space lasting as long as a year affect the human body? Answers to that question are being investigated by ten research teams from around the country. They used astronaut twins Mike Kelly and Scott Kelly as subjects. Scott spent 340 days aboard the Space Station from 27 March 2015 to 1 March 2016. Mike remained on Earth. Each was tested in a variety of ways by the research teams in order to compare results of long duration space flight.

Scott Kelly (left) and Mike Kelly (right) | NASA

Scott Kelly wrote the book Endurance about his experience. It is an excellent account of the lives of Mark and Scott, how they became astronauts, and behind the scenes events in the space program. My previous posts about this Twins Study mission can be found here and here.

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Black Point Wildlife Drive

Our view of a very low-tech place near the space coast.

Our View From Iowa

by Melanie and Jim

On our last full day in Florida, we headed to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge north of Kennedy Space Center. The wildlife site is accessible from the town of Titusville. After crossing the causeway from Titusville, we turned onto the Black Point Wildlife Drive. This is a seven-mile, one-way drive through marshlands.

As the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says, it “provides an excellent place to see waterfowl (in season), wading birds, shorebirds and raptors. Alligators, river otters, bobcats, various species of snakes, and other wildlife may be visible as well.” We saw no bobcats or snakes, and the velociraptors were hiding. But there were plenty of birds and alligators to enjoy. Zoom/drag or turn your phone in this interactive for a typical view of the area.

This Great Blue Heron stalked some lunch while we passed. It gave us some great views.


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Kennedy Space Center | GOES-S Launch

Our views of the 1 Mar 2018 GOES-S launch.

Our View From Iowa

by Jim and Melanie

This post describes our view of the launch of the GOES-S weather satellite from the vantage point of the Apollo/Saturn V Center on 1 Mar 2018. Our previous post about the Kennedy Space Center highlighted some of the exhibits at the Visitor Complex. If you are interested in seeing a launch, this link provides details about the options.

Our son-in-law works for a company contracted by NOAA and NASA. His company gets the satellite ready for launch, and then tests it during the months after launch, before turning it over to NOAA for operations. He was entitled to nominate guests to view the launch. Our names were submitted along with that of his father, who joined us at the viewing site.

As launch time neared, we made our way to the buses provided for invited guests.


It was a short drive from the Visitor Complex to the Apollo/Saturn…

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Kennedy Space Center | Visitor Complex

Scenes from our recent visit to the Kennedy Space Center.

Our View From Iowa

by Jim and Melanie

Early in 2018, our son-in-law invited us to be his guests at a launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We immediately said “yes.” Our SIL is literally a rocket scientist/engineer. He works for a company contracted by NOAA and NASA, whose mission is to support the launch and instrument checkout of the next generation weather satellites of the GOES-R series.

Geostationary GOES-R was launched 19 November 2016 and is now part of the National Weather Service fleet. It views the eastern half of the U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean. Storm development, lightning, and hurricane tracking are parts of its main focus.

Our invitation was to watch the launch of GOES-S on 1 March 2018. When GOES-S is commissioned several months after launch, it will view the western half of the U.S. and the Pacific Ocean as GOES-West. Pacific storms, their impact on…

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SpaceX | Heavy Launch | Unique Views

I watched with excitement and apprehension as the countdown for the SpaceX Heavy launch neared liftoff. This stuff is in my blood and has been for more than 50 years. When the world’s most powerful rocket lifted off and arced over the Atlantic, it brought tears. I eagerly waited for the two side boosters to separate, return, and land at the Cape. They did so perfectly and almost at the same moment.

If you missed the launch, this replay video shows it all. I skipped the pre-launch discussions and set the time slider to the 21:45 mark for the actual launch. You can drag the time slider to the beginning if you want to see the whole video. The intro minute is actually quite good. Drag the slider to the 29:00 mark to see the boosters come down and land.

The third booster in the center core which lifted the payload into orbit also came down but into the Atlantic. It was supposed to land on a barge. A mistake in calculation of the amount of fuel needed at the very end caused it to run out before reaching the barge. As a result, it missed by about 380 yards and struck the water going about 300 mph. Elon Musk says that is an easy fix.

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Supermoon | 31 Jan 2018

In the evening of 30 January, the Moon rose bright and large in the east. Within 12 hours, it would be in the shadow of the Earth. There were a few clouds. The forecast was calling for a 50% cloud cover in the morning.

7 pm CST

At about 3 am I noticed the Moon was shining brightly through the bedroom windows. I felt hopeful the much hyped Supermoon would be visible before moonset/sunrise. I got up at 5:40 and walked down the street a few houses with camera and tripod. The Moon was entering some clouds toward the horizon. Overhead it was very clear. Eclipse was in progress.

We drove to a location away from houses and lights to get one more chance to photograph the beginning of totality. Too late. Clouds took over and the Moon disappeared. We headed home to watch online. NASA carried excellent video from three sites in California. These four images were screen grabs from Griffith Observatory near Los Angeles. They show the blood moon and the emergence from totality.

Using video from NASA via Griffith Observatory, I layered frame grabs onto a disk the size of the umbra of Earth. It shows the relative size of the Moon compared to Earth. Progress was slow as it moved at a speed of about 2,300 mi/hr (3,700 km/hr or 1 km/s). Totality began at 6:51 and ended at 8:08 CST.

Video via NASA | Griffith Observatory

Here is a beautiful time-lapse of the view from Griffith Observatory. It takes only a minute.

As the event ended, the Moon appeared low to the horizon as viewed by a telescope at the Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB. These frame grabs captured the distorted Moon behind some hills with wind turbines in view. As the Moon disappeared, it added a sense of finality to the entire event. It was a lot of fun to watch. I hope you were able to see it.