31 January 2006

Victory: ILLINI


Fighting Illini in HD

Who needs season tickets? This is the first time I've seen my Illini hoop it up in 77.5 inches of HD glory.

Oh yes, life is good.

They're winning, too.

27 January 2006

Watch her go!

Some great professional pics of the New Horizons launch are here. Not exactly large enough for your windows background, but still pretty spectacular.

Also joining the NH tool canon, this little graphic, which will update as you refresh:

It's courtesy of the author of this webpage, which will tell you how far New Horizons is from practically everything.


21 January 2006

Roscoe's got a new 'do



What he's lost in cuteness he seems to have made up in style. Although that purple bandana is a bit too much Brokeback Mountain for me. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

19 January 2006

MOC Bloggin': Whoosh

Yeah, still here. 9 hours later.

That whooshing sound you just heard was New Horizons
passing the moon.

Tell me that isn't damned cool.


MOC Bloggin': Still Chuggin' Along

Nothing new to report, except I've switched to Trader
Joe's green tea.

In the down time I've also ordered some new Mate Latte
tea from the Republic of Tea...for those not in the
know, it's the finest, tastiest tea in the world, and
I'm fresh out.


I got a full pound, plus the storage tin. Some other
stuff, too.

I've earned it. I'll wish I had some around midnight
tonight when I'm still here. Mate is naturally


MOC Bloggin': Hello, Nurse!

New Horizons speaks! She says she's fine.

More later.


MOC Bloggin': We're on our own

At T+ 00:44:55, New Horizons separated from the Boeing
spinning third stage. This followed the expending of
5 solid rocket boosters, the Kerosene/LOX first stage,
and the LOX/LH2 Centaur second stage.

It's now spinning at approximately 70 rpm and hurtling
towards Pluto by way of Jupiter.

We'll find out if it's talking to us soon.


MOC Bloggin': LIFTOFF!

What a beaut. Everything looks good so far...I'll
post again after first contact.


MOC Bloggin': T,L-Minus 4 Minutes AND COUNTING

Hang on to your potatoes, Dr. Jones!


MOC Bloggin': New Beverage

7 minutes and counting.

Switched to Decaf Earl Grey (Twinings)


MOC Bloggin': We've got a new time

After considerable deliberation...

2:00 PM EST

Be There or Be Square.


MOC Bloggin': What a difference 2 minutes can make...

From SpaceFlightNow:

1825 GMT (1:25 p.m. EST)

The cloud rule at issue here in the ceiling limit.
Range Safety requires that it can track the rocket
unobstructed through the first 6,000 feet of flight.

1829 GMT (1:29 p.m. EST)

Range is 'go' for launch! The cloud conditions are now
acceptable, safety officials have determined.

1831 GMT (1:31 p.m. EST)

Range is 'no go' now!

So YAWRD. New launch time: TBD.


MOC Bloggin': YAWRD

Clouds again. 1:40 is the next launch time.


MOC Bloggin': Quick Change

Scratch that. 1:30 PM EST now.


MOC Bloggin: Delayed

Yet Another Weather-Related Delay (YAWRD)

Cloud cover issues.

New Launch at 01:25PM EST.


MOC Bloggin': L-Minus 6 Minutes

Got me a fresh cup of hot chinese white tea, with a
touch of honeydew melon flavor.



MOC Bloggin': L-Minus 15 minutes

Talked to mom, apparantly she and dad are kicking back
with the co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy, Dr.
Levy. Shoemaker-Levy broke up and plunged into
Jupiter a few years back in pretty spectacular
fashion. I'm not saying that's a dark omen or
something, but it's an interesting connection, since
New Horizons will be visiting Jupiter as well if it
launches today.


MOC Bloggin': L-Minus 23.5 Minutes

The rocket is fueled and being topped off continually
(LOX and LH2 boil off pretty quickly) You can see
where the cryogenic fuel tank ends on the
rocket...there's a clearly delineated line between
frost and bronze. I believe below the bronze is all
of the refined kerosene.

Almost time to kick this pig.


MOC Bloggin': Guest Blogger

Clearly Mattatiyahu is further up-to-date on these
things than I am:

--- Mathias Dill <mathiasdill@XXXXXXXX.net> wrote:
> 1624 GMT (11:24 a.m. EST)
> Forty percent of the Centaur liquid oxygen tank has
> been filled so far.
> YES.. The Centaur Liquid is at 40%!!!!!

For those watching, as the stages fill with ultracool
propellant (anywhere from -200 to -400 degrees
Fahrenheit, the bronze skin of the rocket will turn
white with frost.


MOC Bloggin': L-Minus 1:45:00

Lunch. Cold Cuts. Yellow mustard. Miracle whip. No
Gulden's in sight. Calgon, take me away!


MOC Bloggin': Day 3

I've got a good feeling for today. Maybe it's my
freshly-laundered New Horizons polo (of course, in my
laundry-doing zeal I managed to wash and dry a few
items in Barbie's wardrobe that shouldn't go into the
dryer...but whose fault is that, really?)

Also, it's mom and dad's last day down at KSC, so I'd
like them to see a good show.

Turns out my aunt, who also was there on day one, and
share the same last name as New Horizon's Principal
Investigator, was mistaken for a relative of his
(probably not a stretch, as we Jews are about as
genetically diverse as British royalty) and was
offered a VVIP pass to attend the launch with Tom
Hanks and Jeb Bush. She turned it down, as she wanted
to be with the rest of the family there. Can't say
I'd've done the same thing.

Won't be much blogging today, as our internal network
is being hammered by outside folks visiting the NH
website (http://pluto.jhuapl.edu) and we've been asked
to keep the internet access down.

Go to spaceflightnow.com for regular updates. Come
here for irregular ones.

For now...weather is good, power is on, and shirt is

Let's roll.


18 January 2006

Can't even MOC Blog today

Well, there's a total power outage at APL today, making it impossible to launch the spacecraft. The weather down in Florida wasn't very cooperative anyway, but it suffices to say that we're done for the day.

Depending on the power situation, we'll try to make history tomorrow. More news after a 4pm meeting.


17 January 2006

Back Home...will do it again tomorrow.

Turns out it was the wind. We'll try again tomorrow assuming the weather cooperates.

Time for a little r&R: rest and Roscoe.

MOC Bloggin': Done for today

It wasn't the wind, but the countdown was stopped at
T-minus 2 minutes, 34 seconds. Supposed to be rain
tomorrow; we'll see. Launch window opens at 1:16 PM
EST Wednesday.


MOC Bloggin': YAWRD, Last Chance Today

We're now aiming for the end of the launch
window...all or nothing at 3:23 pm EST.

This time, upper winds were ok, but lower winds were
gusting too hard.

MOC Bloggin': Delay #5

YAWRD (Yet Another Wind-Related Delay)...next launch
window opens at 3:05 EST.


MOC Bloggin': Delay #4.

Next window: 2:50PM EST.


MOC Bloggin': Delay #3

Now we launch at 2:30. It's windy down there,
especially around 800 feet up, according to NASA
weather balloons.


MOC Bloggin': Again Delayed

Another delay, this time to 2:10pm. For those
curious, I'm posting this info after it appears on
spaceflightnow.com rather than when I find out about
it. The delay is typically a minute or two.

Launch window closes around 3:30.


MOC Bloggin': Delay 21 minutes

We've got a wind delay here...next launch window opens
at 1:45 EST.


MOC Bloggin': L-Minus 1 Hour

The first stage is almost full with oxidizer, 50,000
gallons of Liquid Oxygen (LOX). Its fuel, kerosene,
was loaded yesterday (25000 gallons worth). The
second stage, a Centaur, is now loaded with 4300
gallons of LOX and almost loaded with 13000 gallons of
Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) fuel.

Winds have hit 35 knots...


MOC Bloggin: Break Like the Wind

Thanks to trusty Spaceflightnow.com:


I learned that the gusting at KSC is up to 29 mph, and
the launch limit is 33.

You're welcome.


MOC Bloggin': L-Minus 2 Hours

Just got an update. Mom's in line for the bus down
there with dad, Aunt Cookie, cousins Nancy and Ellen,
and Ellen's husband David.


MOC Bloggin': L-Minus 3 Hours

Turns out our video feed is 20 seconds delayed (so is
yours if you're watching the NASA feed online).

Good to know.

MOC Bloggin': L-Minus 4 hours

The rocket's copper-colored midsection is glittering
in the Florida sunshine as it sits on the launch pad.

We'll be making history today. I find myself looking
past the launch, though. First contact will be the
most exciting thing that happens today. It's just
like in the movies, when the capsule has passed
through the Earth's atmosphere and we wait for some
sign, any sign, that someone's still alive.

When that data stream starts flowing, then we're in

MOC Bloggin': TV Coverage

Turns out I lied a bit the other day when I said no
cameras in the MOC. DC's Fox affiliate is here in the
situation room, watching the MOC through the window.
Feel free to check it out if you're in the area.
You're unlikely to see me unless I'm wandering around,
since the MOC is L-shaped, and I'm at the farthest
point of the L from the cameras.


MOC Bloggin': Mom's shirt artwork

For those curious, here's the image she used. Just
picture a space-suited Pluto in the upper right with
everything left of New Horizons cropped out.



Bloggin' from the MOC

While I can't post directly, I can blog by email, so
enjoy what will surely be some sporadic posting
this lovely launch morning.

Got my New Horizons polo shirt and hat yesterday
(fortunately UPS works on MLK Day), so I'm all spiffed
out in proper NH gear. The hat will come in handy
after 12-14 hours here -- I'm on station until
midnight EST assuming we launch on time. I'm also
decked out in the custom tee that mom had made up
which was far nicer than the official NH T-shirt.
I'll see if I can get a picture online at some
point...basically it's the NH spacecraft above Pluto
(the planet) with Pluto (the dog) in space suit
filling up the night sky. She does good work.

I've also got an Dunkin' Donuts XL Hazelnut Coffee
with skim and Splenda as my morning companion. All is
good, or green in today's parlance.

First health check at T-5:00:00, in about 5 minutes.

Until later...


16 January 2006


New Horizons, aboard its Atlas V, is headed to the pad.

Watch here: http://countdown.ksc.nasa.gov/elv/public/


Periapse/Apoapse Speed Calculation

It occurred to me that the specifics of the calculation in the last post may be useful to others who want to repeat the work or do it for other spacecraft/orbiting bodies. Now this won't be plug-and-play for everyone, as the calculation I'll show you requires that you know the periapse (closest distance), apoapse (furthest distance), and period or semimajor axis of the orbit.

Fortunately, for Helios 1 and 2, we have those here. We've also got some fellow Illini who've done the calculation for Helios 2 so I can check my math.

These are:
Helios 1 Aphelion = 0.985 AU
Helios 1 Perihelion = 0.309 AU
Helios 1 Period = 190 days = 16416000 seconds
Helios 2 Aphelion = 0.983 AU
Helios 2 Perihelion = 0.290 AU
Helios 2 Period = 187 days = 16156800 seconds
Now we need some equations:
That leaves µ, the standard gravitational parameter. Fortunately we have Wikipedia. For the sun, µ = 132,712,440,018 km3s-2

Now plug this into Excel or you favorite calculator:

Helios 1 Semimajor Axis = 96759926 km
Helios 1 Eccentricity = 0.522
Helios 1 Aphelion Speed = 20.7 km/s = 46382 miles/hr
Helios 1 Perihelion Speed = 66.1 km/s = 147851 miles/hr

Helios 2 Semimajor Axis = 95738701 km
Helios 2 Eccentricity = 0.544
Helios 2 Aphelion Speed = 20.2 km/s = 45218 mph
Helios 2 Perihelion Speed = 68.5 km/s = 153273 mph
So these suckers were zoomin', even when furthest from the sun. These check well enough with the Aerospaceweb speed numbers. Any differences are from slight inconsistencies in our input parameters.

15 January 2006

Time to go...to Pluto Corrections

First, folks have been asking if they'll be able to see me on the NASA feed. The answer is no...there's no camera in the New Horizons MOC. The folks on camera are monitoring the rocket, not the spacecraft.

Second, it turns out that New Horizons, which after the Jupiter gravity assist will be travelling at 47,000 mph, is not the fastest spacecraft ever. It's third. For that matter, it's the third-fastest manmade object ever. Helios 1 and 2, launched into solar orbit in the mid-70s, had perihelion (closest to sun) speeds of 148,000 and 153,000 miles/hour respectively. (Thank you Frank for forcing me to calculate Helios 1's speed for completeness sake.) So they win. Voyager 1 will slide down to fourth at 38,600 mph assuming all goes well and we do the Jupiter flyby.

Third, that Mission to Pluto show is really good. Be sure to catch it.



12 January 2006

Time to go...to Pluto.


For those of you who have wondered what I've been up to since I started at APL, the moment, as they say, is at hand. The launch is currently slated for Tuesday, 1/17 at 1:24 pm EST. Unfortunately, I won't be down there to watch it go up, as I'll be on station here at the Mission Operations Center at APL.

If you want to see the rocket go up, and it should be quite a sight, it will be broadcast on CNN; although I imagine they'll cut in at close to the last minute. You can also watch on NASA TV, if you get that, or on the web at:


I recommend Channel 3, with the 5-way split screen. That's what I'll be watching. You can also follow along with mission updates as the clock counts down at:


Velocity after Jupiter Gravity Assist: 47,000 mph

Fastest. Spacecraft. Ever.

You can also watch the show Passport to Pluto on NASA TV and Discovery Science Network, starting this weekend.



09 January 2006

08 January 2006

And last night...

It's a Bird by Steven Seagle
Probably the most original take on Superman I've ever read. This is more of a Harvey Pekar-type of self-exposition, but it really works. I had an old biology teacher who was predisposed to Huntington's Disease (onetime called Chorea)...don't know what ever happened to him. That observation is actually related to the book.

07 January 2006

What I've been reading

Sure I haven't seen a movie since November (Zathura, in case you're curious), but all of my time hasn't been spent cleaning after Roscoe.

In the last couple months, I've cruised through:

Y: The Last Man, Volumes 1-5, by Brian K. Vaughan
These were some quick reads, provocative, well-written, great art. Highly recommended.

Punisher MAX, Volumes 1-4, by Garth Ennis
I prefered Ennis's earlier Punisher work, both in terms of artwork and story. His earlier Punisher series was still lighthearted, if viciously violent. Now that he's MAX'd out, he's lost his sense of humor. Fortunately that wasn't the case with

Thor: Vikings, by Garth Ennis
Still horrifically ultraviolent, but more fun. More my style.

Gotham Central: Volumes 1 and 2, by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka
Good stuff here, focusing on the Gotham PD rather than Batman's exploits. Brubaker's a hard-boiled type of guy, and he brings his distinctive style to Gotham. Greg Rucka does just fine with his tales of Det. Renee Montoya.

Batman: Hush, Volumes 1 and 2, by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee
Jeph's skill with the Bat is legendary, and no one draws a sexier Catwoman than Jim Lee. Top notch stuff.

Artemis Fowl, Books 1 and 2, by Eoin Colfer
Lest you think all I'm doing is reading comics, I've worked some novels in as well. Artemis is mainly kid stuff, Harrypotteresque, but I still liked it. So there.

His Dark Materials, Book 1, The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
His Dark Materials, Book 2, The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
Pullman mostly gets press lately for his loathing of C.S. Lewis, but he spins quite a tale of a multiverse dominated by the theocratic Authority.

The Chronicles of Narnia, Books 1-3, by C.S. Lewis
Suck on it, Pullman!

Cinnamon Kiss, by Walter Mosley
A year without Easy Rawlins is like a year without sunshine.

That's all I can think of right now, outside of a few short story collections that I've had forever and read on airplanes and left there...no need to mention them. I'm in the middle of at least a half-dozen more. I'll keep ya posted.


I love seeing what people can pull off with Macromedia Flash if they're creative enough.

If you've got 10 minutes or so to kill to solve a Terry Gilliamesque puzzle, head to Nanahiro's Treasure Box.

06 January 2006

Week 17: It's a Fantasy Wrap...

And not the rhyming kind, thank goodness.

I only had two teams in action this week, and, for once in the playoffs, they actually won. This secured two, count 'em two, 3rd place trophies among the five leagues I'm in. Not exactly barnburning, but things could be worse. I finished at or above .500 and in the top half in every league I was in. Given how things went in the postseason, I'll take better-than-average.

AnyGivenSunday: Philly Phalanx (14-2) feasted on the Vancouver Mad Orcas 100-67
asdf: Olney Ocelots (9-7) cancelled Hollywood Hogwash 77-57

The Phalanx actually scored the highest in the league this week, which obviously would've secured the championship trophy if they'd won last week. But wish in one hand; crap in the other; and see which one fills up first...

Final Standings:
Philly Phalanx (14-2): 3 of 18
Olney Ocelots (9-7): 3 of 10
The Senators (9-7): 4 of 12
Philadelphia Phizz (10-5): 4 of 10
Philadelphia Phrenzy (8-8): 6 of 12

Now, the playoffs. Only 7 months until the next draft.

I'll try to talk about something else now.