Happy holidays, everyone. I have three short topics to report:
There is a very interesting article at the New York Times titled "The Fight Over NASA’s Future." It's all about the new direction NASA is taking with the Constellation program and Ares launchers and how things might get shaken up with the new Presidential administration. For example, should NASA continue with the Ares I/V model or opt for something that may be more cost effective like DIRECT 2.0?
The blogosphere is all abuzz today about NASA's 400-page Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report (NASA/SP-2008-565). This followup to the 2003 Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report was written by the Spacecraft Crew Survival Integrated Investigation Team (SCSIIT), and it focuses more on "a comprehensive analysis of the accident, focusing on factors and events affecting crew survival." The report gives a detailed timeline of the events that transpired during the Columbia accident and includes 30 recommendations to improve spacecraft design and crew safety. You can read NASA's official press release announcing the report or learn more from the links below:
Speaking of blogs, you may take interest in this categorized list of the top 100 space and astronomy blogs according to Christina Laun. The compilation is fairly comprehensive, although it's missing a section for astronaut wannabes like yours truly. :)
Today I am shamelessly re-posting some information recently shared on the AsHos board by an upcoming interviewee who spoke with Teresa Gomez.
- There will only be 110 rather than 120 interviewees in the first round. I'm not sure exactly how this will affect the timeline I previously posted. Either 1-2 are being shaved off each group, or one of the groups will not meet altogether.
- The first eight groups are already full, but the remaining four groups from 19-30 January still have vacancies.
- The Astronaut Selection Office's goal is to notify the last interviewee by 15 January for an interview during the last week of interviews (26 January).
- Interviewees will receive additional medical forms to fill out before coming to Houston.
- Some of the activities during the interview will include: the formal interview, psychological testing, medical records review with a flight doctor, assessment on a new robotics system, a brief physical, some spaceflight exercises, and of course the informal, social gathering.
- In case there was any doubt, Ms. Gomez confirmed that NASA will pay for the whole interview trip.
As for me, there is still no news to report. It's a nail-biter to be sure!
Space Shuttle Endeavour is currently on its way from Edwards Air Force Base in California to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It made a pit stop for fuel in Texas and will complete its journey to Florida tomorrow or Friday. It's relatively rare to see the Shuttle riding on top of NASA's modified 747. Ever since I received a toy Shuttle and 747 when I was about 5 years old, I've been fascinated by this feat of aviation. Below is a picture of that very toy (which I keep in my office) and Endeavour's most recent hitchhike on the 747.
I've been getting a lot of questions lately about the similarities and differences between the International Space University (ISU) and University of North Dakota (UND) space studies masters programs. As someone who has been a student in both universities (ISU SSP '05 and UND MS '10), I am in a good position to compare them. Note that although I was accepted into the ISU masters program, I decided to only attend their Summer Session Program (SSP) instead, so my firsthand ISU perspective is from the SSP rather than the masters. Over a year has passed since I blogged about my decision to join the UND Space Studies distance program. At the halfway point, I can report that I am overall quite happy with it so far. Before getting started, I'd like to thank the folks at UND and ISU who were gracious in providing information for this post.
First, what is space studies? While many universities offer degrees in space-related fields such as aeronautical engineering, planetary science, or space law, ISU and UND are the only schools with interdisciplinary space studies curricula*. Space studies spans many space-related fields including physical sciences, life sciences, engineering, applications, policy, law, business, management, and society/history. Space studies students gain broad backgrounds that allow them to understand the linkages among these fields and to become leaders in the space sector.
Let's see how ISU and UND stack up.
After jumping to answer the phone every time it rang for the past few weeks (hoping for that call inviting me to an interview), I decided to call the Astronaut Selection Office and ask for a status update on my application. Two of my key references had informed me about a week ago that they had just sent in their recommendation forms, so I wanted to make sure the Selection Office had received them.
Teresa Gomez shared that they are really "backed up" with processing the recommendation forms right now with a backlog of at least 50. I asked how this affects the selection of interviewees, and she said the references don't matter very much since they're not even required to return the forms in the first place. I guess they see any recommendation forms they receive (and process) as useful but not required information in accesssing an applicant. I inquired when she thought they'd make it through the stack (thinking she'd say a few days), and she suggested that I call back in "a few months" and ask again.
Obviously, I'm concerned because perfectly good recommendations might go unused while the selection panel chooses the interviewees based on incomplete information. Recently, several fellow applicants have discussed the matter of references on the AsHos board. I think my conversation with Ms. Gomez today clears up the question whether an application is in limbo until all references are turn in (No). This explains why some people have been asked to interview without reference contacts.
Greetings, earth and space fans. If you're looking for some inspiration, check out the slideshow below, which can also be accessed directly on this page. Right click on the black box and select "Play" to start the show. It starts out with some great views of earth from space and then moves on to show the Shuttle and ISS orbiting above it. The slideshow is set to some soothing music, but it's kind of loud, so you might have to adjust your computer speaker volume for comfort. Enjoy!
I just wanted to put in a plug for two of my friends who are currently blogging from Antarctica. I spent a month in Antarctica in 2002 and hope to go back someday (pictures here).
- The first is from my former officemate Mitchell Barklage. He is down there working on the GAMSEIS project, which is part of POLENET. His work studying mountains buried beneath the ice is similar to my Antarctic field work back in 2002 supporting the TAMSEIS project.
- The second is Yuki Takahashi. Although we don't know each other personally, we are both ISU alumni, facebook friends, and 2008 NASA astronaut applicants. Yuki is at the South Pole working with the Gravitational Wave Background Telescope to study the cosmic microwave background.
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