While I was preparing a post on my experiences as a Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) CapCom (Capsule Communicator) during the past four months, I received some wonderful (also Mars Society related) news that I decided to share instead. I'm going to Mars!

Well, not the real Mars (yet). I've been selected as a crewmember for this summer's month-long field expedition to the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) on Devon Island in the Canadian arctic. This largest uninhabited island on Earth also happens to be a hotbed for Mars analog research, with both FMARS and the Haughton-Mars Project calling the island home. These stations are important laboratories simulating how to live and work on Mars. NASA has even tested prototype lunar rovers there.

Today is Earth Day! Every year since 1970, Earth Day has been a day set aside to increase our awareness of the environment and learn what we can do to help better sustain the planet.

Please take some time out of your day to consider what changes you can make to decrease your carbon footprint. Try one of these carbon footprint calculators to see where you stand: Nature Conservancy, TerraPass, or EPA. In addition, the Sierra Club has a lot of green living tips and several quizzes you can take to see how green you are in a variety of areas like food, travel, exercise, etc. Also check out Earth Day events in your area. The U.S. government's EarthDay.gov website has some great tips for taking action to protect the environment at home, work, or schoool. NASA's Earth Day website has loads of great photos and information, including a HD video of Earth views from space.

Climate change is a big and growing problem, and I am happy that it is now receiving mainstream recognition by governments and the population at large. Here are some of the impacts of global warming. For more details, see the UN IPCC reports, which represent the consensus of over a thousand of the world's top climate scientists. The summary of those reports is that: (1) the planet is warming; (2) humans are the cause of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; (3) climate models predict past climate variability quite well; (4) climate models predict relatively large increases in warming, sea level, etc. in the next century.
I wanted to share a video that's been making the rounds on Facebook. It features a Space Shuttle launch, views of Earth from orbit, and landing. The editing is done very well, and it's set to inspiring music. Note that it shows Atlantis on the launch pad but Endeavour on the landing. Here is the direct link to see it in HD full screen (1280x720), but it's also embedded below for your convenience. Enjoy!

One of the things I've enjoyed most about having this blog is getting to meet so many great people. One of these people is Heather Archuletta, the author of a really interesting blog called Pillow Astronaut. She works in bioastronautics at NASA JSC and was a subject in a 2008 NASA bed rest study on the long-term effects of microgravity on the human body. Her blog focuses on that and other space-related topics. Heather did me the honor of mentioning me in a recent post, so I'm returning the favor for her today.

The name Gene Kranz conjures instant recognition among any true space cadet. Sporting his signature crew cut and vest, Kranz served as Flight Director for nearly every spaceflight from Mercury 1 through Apollo 17. As he described in his book, he kept his cool in many difficult situations, most notably the Apollo 13 disaster.

Fred Haise was Lunar Module Pilot on the Apollo 13 mission. In the 1970s, he was involved with the development of the Space Shuttle. I think it's especially cool that he's was Commander on 3 of the 5 test flights of the Space Shuttle Enterprise. He's the only person who can brag that he's survived a harrowing space disaster and flown the Enterprise.

What does all of this have to do with pillownaut? Well, she had a front row seat in a recent presentation featuring both of these legendary figures talk about their experiences during Apollo 13.
I'd like to thank all of the readers of this blog for their interest and loyalty. As the following plots illustrate, the blog seems to have a core audience of about 50 people who tend to view about two pages on the site per day.

During the blog's height in popularity from November to December 2008, these numbers were about 2-5 times greater than their current values. The initial upsurge the blog's popularity began in November 2008 when I made it to the highly qualified stage of astronaut selection. The next peak during December 2008 corresponded with popular posts related to astronaut interviews and my comparison of ISU vs. UND. The daily popularity of the blog waxes and wanes depending on when I have substantial posts. However, there has been an overall decline in readership since early January 2009 when I announced that I wouldn't be advancing to the interview stage.
I wanted to share a presentation I gave a couple of days ago to my high school's annual alumni career day. I give outreach presentations like this a few times per year, but this is the first time I have done one remotely via the Internet with video conferencing software. It worked pretty well, and I was happy to re-connect with my high school, which played an important role in my life.

An article on space.com caught my eye today. It's all about how the 2009 astronaut class will be the first group in 30 years with no prospect of flying on the Shuttle or any other US spacecraft in the near future.

As interesting and concerning as the so-called "space gap" is, I'd like to draw your attention to the section towards the end of the article titled "Brushing up on Russian." This includes some tidbits of information from Duane Ross that give us a glimpse into the current astronaut selection process status:

  • There were 3564 applicants total (up from 3535 quoted previously).
  • There will be 10-12 people chosen (down from the 15-20 quoted previously).
  • The final group of astronaut candidates will be announced at the end of May end of April (not early May as has been reported previously).
  • The two-years of astronaut candidate training will include 54 weeks of training on Russian Soyuz systems and with the Russian language. Usually that time is spent on learning Shuttle systems.
  • There will be a greater emphasis on geology and geophysics than in the past (good for me).
  • The makeup of astronauts will continue to be about 1/3 pilots and 2/3 scientists and engineers, although the pilots have little hope of piloting spacecraft "anytime soon."
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