Thursday, October 23, 2008

2 weeks in

Well its been a couple of weeks since my last.... :)
Yesterday NASA/ MESSENGER scientists invited the MESSENGER Fellows to a teleconference. Well I was on my way to Florida for the Florida Association of Science Teachers Conference for my first official, large group of people I don't know presentation!

Guess who I met on the way to THAT forum??? I met the Rainman and his brother! The real guys, not Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruize ! I recognized his condition as they made their way to the flight gate. I thought to myself... I know what this couple is all about because of the movie.. but WOW... it was really him. His name is Kim and he and his brother travel around the county talking to audiences about disabilities and acceptance. He was quite a talker! Very factual and like to crack himself up. He joked with the flight attendant about an old Delta Airline logo( Id tell yah but I can't remember what he said). The air steward was a young guy so Kim's joke dropped right there in front of him, and this sentence and reference is waste because I can't remember either... but my point is... this guys memory was incredible. He and his brother were chatting with me and a couple of people on the plane and Kim told the guy what year he was going to retire and the day of the week that date fell on!
Pretty cool
Well I can't comment on the teleconference because I couldn't get it in flight. And even if I did listen, I couldn't comment on it here. So I think Ill stop and work on the finalities of my presentation for tomorrow

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The new pic is released

Well, here they come!!

Images and data is falling from the sky! This data is traveling 43 million miles in 5min! Check out the clarity and objects that have been revealed.

The spacecraft is flying past the planet at incredible speeds. In fact on October 15th because of the gravitational pull of the sun, this little spacecraft will be the 2nd fastest spacecraft in history and traveling at 148, 000 miles per hour relative to the sun. Right now it is traveling at 7mph relative to Mercury. Now keep in mind.. Mercury is traveling very quickly around the sun and when we talk about speed, it is relative to an object.
Remember middle school physics... speed is relative to a location? To jog your memory... you are sitting on a bus, the bus is traveling 40mph. How fast are you going??? Well relative to the bus, your speed is 0. Your speed relative to the ground you are traveling 40mph.
Now lets talk about the new image. Why is Mercury grey? What do you think those brighter lines/rays show us? Why are some craters brighter than others? How about those longitudinal lines..what are they? These are all questions being discussed at John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. Stay tuned for the science update this afternoon

Monday, October 6, 2008

Reflections for today

I was reading my blog from this morning and cringed at all those typing errors.. oh well. It was 6am??? I had already been up for 4hrs.
After leaving the Situation Room this morning, we headed back to the hotel for a nap. There was a lunch scheduled at noon followed by a meeting with USRA, University of Space Researchers Association leaders. They are one of the organizations that...lets say.. supports, trains and provides us Fellows with this NASA opportunity.

Getting back to the hotel...aahhhh. In bed, curtains closed, about to fall asleep... begins. Saws, hammers, clickin' and clackin' in the hallway... the floor below us was being renovated. Fortunately for me, if Im tired, I sleep. Its that simple. I had some crazy dreams but I did get some sleep.

After lunch we went back to JAPL to talk about the Educator Fellows Program. They wanted to discuss how we are using Web 2.0 tools. Are our schools supporting us? How are the trainings going? What changes can be made to the program? Good stuff was discussed and tossed around. Flow charts were drawn, scribble through and redrawn.

Next meeting was a 4pm. We were invited to an teleconference orientation meeting. I was particularly excited because I had listened in on the Phoenix Mars teleconferences on my Ipod. I subscribe to many podcasts and listen while I work out. JPL and ASU would present collaboratively. Reporters would post questions and scienctists would explain in minute detail problems, possible solutions and future plans. Now I was at a teleconference in person. I was able to ask the questions! I could see the new images as they shared and discussed among colleagues. It was so very cool!
Here is a quick synops of the meeting.
  • The flyby was a success. They were off of trajectory by 2km! That is simply amazing!
  • Space craft followed the trajectory… 3 billion miles around the sun.
  • Signal strength varied at the correct time during the sequence.
  • Images will not be available till tomorrow 2am. ( I think we are going back to see this)
  • Data download will begin at 2am and continue through the morning.
  • Beginning tomorrow and through out next week will be the give and take of scientific discussions.
  • Teams meet in the morning to discuss the data and present their information in the afternoon.
  • Soar sailing worked great.

After the update... they pulled out an image that was taken with the wide angle camera. It could have been a picture of the moon and I wouldn't have known the difference. These guys knew the Mercury terrain so well that they could differentiate between craters and scarps and ridges and they saw a crater with a mote??? I didn't know what that meant but they seemed pretty excited about it.

Well its 11pm and I'm tired. My roomate is brushing her teeth which is a good cue that it is time to shut down and go to bed.

Its time!

Wow... I'm the MESSENGER situation room looking into the MOC (mission operations room)! It is 4am and about 5 minutes from MESSENGERs closest approach to Mercury.

There are about 40 folks sitting around watching the animations being produced from While I'm typing, I'm listening to Jim the mission design lead engineer explain this animation to another gentleman in the room. Jim developed this animation program which uses images from the Mariner 10 expedition from 30 years ago and the fly by in January to show what the MESSENGER spacecraft is seeing and its location in relation to the planet. These images are now being updated by the MESSENGER spacecraft during the flyby with a resolution of 500m/pixel using the narrow angle camera and 4km/pixel with the wide angle camera. The approach for the spacecraft is, "4 degrees to the north of the equator,"," due to gravity it will be going.. " It is now 51 sec from closest approach. They both get up and go into the MOC.

There are a lot of side conversations in the room. I'm listening to Louise, the instrument scientist explain her role in the mission. She makes sure the Mercury Dual Imaging System is doing what is supposed to do. She is telling us about the images, how they are downloaded, compressed, and overlaid. In some of the images prior to the flyby, Saturn could be seen in the distance. Saturn is so small and so far away that they couldn't get any good images from the MESSENGER cameras on the spacecraft.

The conversation in the SRoom has quieted. Everyone is moving to the MOC. Well, everyone but us. We can't enter the MOC. We can only watch through a window and listen through a one way intercom system. The quiet in the room is interrupted, "for those observing the animation, the end for this animation is 08:50 spacecraft time." They are now starting the daytime surface scan. They are passing over to the light side of the planet using the wide angle camera. On the tv screen on the wall.

Eric Finnegan is the mission systems engineer. Solar sailing is being used to navigate the spacecraft. This source of energy to maneuver the spacecraft wasn't the planned propulsion but a new addition to the mission. "The solar panels are being used as a sail....this wasn't planned at take off. We always planned to use gas but have been able to use solar pressure to maneuver the spacecraft. It has taken two years to learn how the spacecraft will respond to the solar pressure. Each part of the spacecraft will reflect light differently so the the spacecraft will respond differently. We have to keep flipping the spacecraft to keep the sunshade facing the sun. Solar pressure is .... Learning about using solar sailing. Solar Pressure is a function of r squared.. 11 times greater on MESSENGER than on the Earth."

Over the intercom, "The next activity is the high resolution mosaic strip."

Sean is the geologist... So Mercury has a core... but it is very small relative to the Earth's core. Sean said that volcanism is a result of the planet releasing heat not because of tectonic plates. Earth is the only planet that has tectonic plates.....

The velocity of the spacecraft will be 148,000miles/hour on October 15th. This is the second fastest ever a space craft has ever gone. This speed is relative to the sun. We are now about 65 % closer to the sun than the earth.

Ok that is about it for now. It is now 6:36 am. We are powering down and packing up to go back to the hotel for a nap. We meet back for another meeting after lunch

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Almost time and can't sleep

It is about 6 hours before we get passage to John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to experience first hand what it is like to be a scientist with NASA. At 4:30am Monday morning, MESSENGER spacecraft will be sending back the data it has collected on its mission to Mercury. What makes this so exciting ( well for some of us :) is ....Mercury hasn't been visited for 30 years! Pictures being sent back will be from the part of the planet that has never been seen before!!

Me, along with 6 other teachers from around the county will watching as those pictures are revealed! SO VERY COOL!!

So what do you think could be on the other side of the planet? Condos? Mercurians? Worms? Nothing? Just dirt?

Sitting at dinner tonight we were talking and wondering what tomorrow will bring? Will we see be able to see the pictures? Will we be able to share the pictures with you?
All this wondering and I need to get to sleep.. it already almost 10pm.. yawn ;)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pre Fly by...

Today is the last day I will be at school to trouble shoot the technology to be sure all is well at Ni and Web 2.0 social networking. It started with me calling an ITRT at another location to see if my sound and video cam worked. Sound was fine at her end but I got nothing at my end. Well after quite a while of her hearing me and me having to read text, we figured out that there is a little button on the headset called MUTE! LOL..Keep it simple!
The technology system operator at Ni is super and always willing to try new things. Today we kept calling each other using the video cam, unplugging the video cam, plugging in headsets, unplugging headsets and playing with all the settings. So at 1:45... I think we are ready for the next step of video cam JAM. Tonight my sysop( technology system operator) will be trying to video conference outside the school server and tomorrow we will try to video conference with one of outside the server and one inside the server...whew!
My face book and Twitter is set up and the only thing left to do is to set up a group in our LMS for a discussion group. Heck I feel like I'm setting up my own little mini mission here! :)