A Facebook discussion I had with the Space Advocate got me thinking about the probability of becoming an astronaut. He had pointed out that a gambling website cited the odds of becoming an astronaut in the US as 12,100,000 to 1. According to that site, this is approximately the same as winning the California lottery (13,000,000 to 1), becoming President (10,000,000 to 1), or becoming a saint (22,540,000 to 1). Maybe instead of "Where's Waldo?", the cartoon should be called "Where's Astro?". In this post, I'll try to verify these numbers and will also tell you about an exciting opportunity that could get YOU into space!
Happy Birthday Henry! My son is 2 years old today. It seems like I blogged about his first birthday just yesterday. Henry's vocabulary is fast-approaching 100 words (86 by my count), and he's just started combining two words together to make mini-sentences over the past few weeks. He knows about half the alphabet and can read about 50 words so far too. Thanks to our use of cloth diapers and EC, Henry is also mostly potty-trained, which is fairly rare for a child this age in the US.
I feel extremely fortunate that my wife and I have flexible schedules that allow one of us to be home with Henry full time each day so we can nurture his development. Henry loves being outside for bike rides or swimming at the beach, but his favorite obsession lately is trucks. If it's an excavator, bulldozer, dump truck, or tractor, he's happy. Can anyone read my mind for the caption to this photo on the right (hint: read his shirt and think of a movie title)?
Let's face it. Until the cost of spaceflight significantly decreases, only a few highly qualified and lucky people will be selected as astronauts to fly in space. But that doesn't mean they have to have all of the fun. Here are some free space simulators you can download to hone your skills. Some are targeted at students for educational purposes, some are just for fun, and others are real research tools used by NASA.
ORBITER is a free flight simulator that goes beyond the confines of Earth's atmosphere. Launch the Space Shuttle from Kennedy Space Center to deploy a satellite, rendezvous with the International Space Station or take the futuristic Delta-glider for a tour through the solar system. Many addons that expand the simulator's capabilities are available. (Windows only)
The big news yesterday was NASA's annoucement that LCROSS definitely exhumed water in its October 9 impact into the Moon. That's good news because it confirms the presence of water on our closest neighbor. This means we have a ready source of hydrogen, oxygen, and water for rocket fuel and life support. It makes the prospect of establishing a permanent human base on the Moon much more feasible. Almost every space blog seems to have written something about this landmark discovery, so I won't repeat it here (The New York Times had a nice article.) Congratulations to the LCROSS team!
One day in the hopefully not-too-distant future we'll have a permanent research base on the Moon, but it'll likely be operated much like McMurdo Station, Antarctica is here on Earth. It'll require frequent resupply of life's necessities, and in the event of emergencies, people can leave. The Moon will probably never support a large human civilization, but Mars could be another story if we're willing to make a few changes there.
This week is the National Geographic Channel's (NGC) second annual Expedition Week. It features some interesting programs like Drain the Ocean, Giant Crystal Cave, Easter Island Underworld, Bizarre Dinosaurs, and Egyptian Secrets of the Afterlife. Any series with "Expedition" in the title grabs my attention, but I was particularly drawn to one of the series' other offerings: Mars: Making the New Earth, which will air on Thursday, November 19. That happens to also be my son's second birthday, so now I have two reasons to look forward to the date! The show is all about how and why humans could transform Mars into a habitable planet. You can watch a promotional clip of the program here:
In observance of the first annual Carl Sagan Day honoring the late, great astronomer and communicator, I'd like to share an inspiring link to a 360-degree panorama of the cosmos titled "One thousand billion worlds" by acclaimed astrophotographer Serge Brunier. Click the link to view full screen, wait for the Flash file to load in your browser, and enjoy exploring the heavens in any direction on the celestial sphere. It's almost as much fun as Google Sky.
With last month's earthquakes and tsunamis in Samoa on Sept. 29 and Vanuatu on Oct. 7, the spotlight has been on my workplace. The Samoa event produced the first tsunami casualties on American soil since the 1975 Hawaii tsunami. 34 people died in American Samoa and about 160 more in neighboring Samoa. This has spurred a lot of recent visits by the news media, school groups, concerned citizens, and several government review panels. The tsunamis were also popular on Twitter. CNN.com even wrote an article about me that was their top story for a few hours. I usually keep this blog focused on my astronaut aspirations, but today I'll break tradition and write about my job.
For the uninitiated, I work as a Geophysicist at NOAA's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. I have been here 4 years and in that time have gained a great deal of experience during more than 10 significant tsunami events. Founded in 1949, PTWC was the world's first tsunami warning center. Since the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the tsunami warning system has been expanding rapidly. At PTWC, we now serve about 130 countries, states, or territories in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Caribbean Sea.
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