This past Friday, Paul and I stood beneath the wing of the last space shuttle to fly a mission to space. I could actually read the serial numbers on each of the thermal protection tiles as Atlantis hovered above me on its carrier.
We are only 3 hours from heading to the Kennedy Space Center to see the start of Atlantis’ journey to its new home at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex. In anticipation of this historic event, we have launched our Chasing Atlantis IndieGoGo campaign. The campaign is a way for us to secure critical funding for us to complete the film as well as generate awareness. We believe in community building. That’s what space is all about…exploring the universe as a means of exploring ourselves. We want this campaign to be a way to build that community as we work to complete Chasing Atlantis.
We invite you to visit the IndieGoGo Campaign page where you can check out our latest NEW TRAILER as well. Please forward the campaign to those who would be interest in helping this vision become reality!
We will see you following Atlantis’ roll out! Be sure to check out the live coverage on NASA TV
On the one year anniversary of Atlantis’ final flight, Chasing Atlantis is going to be at Polaris 26 this weekend. Chasing Atlantis is going to be at Polaris 26 this weekend. Polaris is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention held annually in Toronto. The guest line-up is pretty amazing including Star Trek actor and social media authority Wil Wheaton, J.G. Hertzler (Martok from DS9) and Robert O’Reilly (Gowron from DS9). We have a few interview requests out to see if we can sit down with some of the guests. Still waiting to hear back. Might be a shot in the dark, but then again, we figured it would be a long shot to interview astronauts as well. (Hertzler and O’Reilly are also doing photos IN COSTUME. Definitely going to get in on that. No pain sticks though Qapla!)
If you’re coming to Polaris, we hope that you’ll stop by to see one of our three presentations that will include a series of segments we’ve put together from the footage that will give you a sense of what the documentary will be about. We are also doing a Q/A to talk about the making of the movie and how it all came to life.
If you’re in the Toronto area and not attending Polaris; why aren’t you? Here is the registration page!
Once in a lifetime opportunity today to see Venus as it journeys across our view of the Sun. The planet, just slightly smaller than our own, will be dwarfed by our life-giving star and appear as a small black dot contrasted against the Sun’s light.
Some of you may already be setting up your solar observing telescopes. But for those of you without access to that equipment, (or in an overcast area like I’m in right now *shakes fist) you can watch the transit live from several locations including places very high up in the air (Hawaii) or above the entire Earth itself (International Space Station)
I found a handy article from Wired Magazine that outlines all the various sites online that you can watch today’s transit. Be sure to check it out! This event happens only twice in a given 8 year period every 150 years. The first was in 2004. Following today, the next will not happen again until 2117 May you be humbled by the wonder that is our solar system!
It’s now Day 6 in the Race for Space! Yesterday I was setup with my booth at SFU. Got to talk to some folk who are also space geeks. Printed flyers with QR codes on them so that everybody could scan on their smart phones straight from the booth.
The Link to vote went down for a few hours last night. I believe there was a confusion on end of voting dates. It was supposed to close last night in the US but remain open until April 5th in Canada. I e-mailed the competition and they have since e-mailed me back apologizing for the confusion and have re-opened the voting link. The awesome thing is that now, if you go to the gallery page and sort by top entries
You can now find my entry on the first page! Huzzah. Thank you all!
To continue to vote, just click the link here http://metroinspace.com/ca/view/ct94/ Only 1800 more votes and I move up 3 more places! Already 16th, that would put me in number 13 edging in closer on the top ten! Remember, you can easily vote 30 times a day. 10 per device you’re on. 10 at work, home and on your phone.
Metro newspaper is running a competition to put one of their readers on a sub-orbital flight that literally crests the edge of the atmosphere. As you might know from our project, I really dig space, and always wanted to get up there somehow. This is an opportunity to do just that.
The competition is based on entry and by vote. My entry is below. You can vote multiple times a day. Any support would be greatly appreciated!!
I’m back from Florida. Each step in this journey has been so remarkable. When we set out from Toronto at the outset of “Chasing Atlantis” I never imagined that we would have such a rich story to tell or have met so many amazing individuals. This most recent return journey to Florida is yet another example.
I arrived in Florida the evening of March 7th. Our supporter and friend, Ryan Horan, who works at the Kennedy Space Center, informed me that Atlantis was being moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building to one of the KSC’s Orbital Processing Facilities. Once inside, access to the orbiter is even more limited. If we were going to get a shot at seeing her up close, we needed to be on a flight that night. So, stuffing suitcases and packing cameras, I was off to Vancouver airport.
The next morning, I was back at the Vehicle Assembly Building. The structure is massive even on the outside and yet still even more so once you walk through the massive exterior doors. Inside, by volume, the VAB could house 4 of New York’s Empire State Building.
Any vehicle seems dwarfed. This is where the mighty Saturn V rocket that took humans to the moon could stand completely upright pointing toward its heavenly destination. But I was here to see the shuttle that inspired our entire journey, and, finally, there she was, Atlantis, not more than 30 feet in front of me, dwarfed by the VAB yet seemingly larger than life.
Because Atlantis was being rolled out to the Orbiter Processing Facility, it meant that I was in store for a shuttle double header. The following morning Atlantis was swapped with Discovery in the Vehicle Assembly Building.
Following NASA, Ryan and his wife, Rachel, took me out on the town for an evening concert featuring Big Head Todd and the Monsters in Orlando’s House of Blues in Downtown Disney. Big Head Todd is a favorite around NASA. Each morning during Atlantis’ last journey in orbit, music was played to the astronauts to get their day started as a sort of reveille. This has been tradition for many shuttle missions. Big Head Todd played live in Houston Mission Control to facilitate the morning wakeup call. It was the first time live music was played to any shuttle crew while in orbit.
Saturday was my day “off”. I decided that it would be great to reconnect with some familiar faces in and around Titusville and catch up with those who helped to support our documentary when we were in town in July and October. I managed to reconnect with Space Walk of Fame Director Karan Conklin, however she was not at the Space Walk. I found Karan at this amazing project started by local Titusville entrepreneur Maxine Trainer. Maxine, who we also first met back in July during the Atlantis launch, had mobilized the Titusville community to completely renovate an old Firestone garage into an art studio. The studio featured the work of local artists and also raised funds to support charitable causes such as the non-profit Just for the Cause founded by Chasing interviewee Liz Parker, which raises awareness of the challenges faced by young children with autism. The name for the Firestone garage-turned-art-studio? Stone Fire! Interviewing some of the Stone Fire team, I asked Maxine “would this have happened if the Shuttle Program was still in operation?” I wanted to know if there was a connection. In the absence of the Program, Titusville’s economy has taken a hit. House values have been impacted and the city is struggling to find its footing. Maxine’s answer was a clear “No.” “This city had become dependent on that…” she said gesturing toward the Vehicle Assembly Building. In her view, Titusville was in a state of transition and this art studio represented a community that was helping the city find a new identity in the post-space shuttle era.
Maxine wanted to show me more of the new growth in Titusville and invited me to another concert with local artists at the brand new Rabbitfoot Records – a new store which exclusively features vinyl LPs. The March 10th concert marked the grand opening of the store and headlined local band The Dull Blades. I was able to sit down with store owners Robert Wallace and Kendra Heckart. Kendra described Titusville’s post shuttle program experiences as a “renaissance”, one where the city itself was “waking up” to a new era. When I asked Rob why it seemed economically sound to start a business in Titusville, he said the rationale was obvious: Their store could find a niche market much more easily than in a larger city like Orlando or Miami. There were many local artists who can now find a community hub within the store, and rent rates in Titusville are very competitive right now.
Rabbitfoot’s vinyl collection was amazing. My brother has a record player. Being that he is a jazz musician, I went hunting for some records and found stuff I hadn’t even seen in Toronto stores. Needless to say, the bottom layers of my suitcase were a vinyl Satchmo sandwich.
This second return journey to Florida was a vivid reminder of the themes that have woven themselves through our documentary from the very beginning: We came for the technology, but were truly inspired by the people. Whether it was the astronaut flying the shuttle, the fire safety crewman who protected Apollo crews, the woman who started an art studio, or a couple who founded a record store, we have been so amazed at the people who have been a part of our story and I am really looking forward to when we get to share that story with all of you. Keep an eye out for news about our Summer release! And speaking of some of those amazing folks, here are some links below where you can learn more about them and their cool projects.
Just for the Cause On the Web
The Dull Blades On Facebook
Rabbitfoot Records On Facebook
PS, another huge thanks to Ryan (@Whitethunder75 on Twitter) and Rachel Horan for hosting me while I was in town, and for keeping us updated on all things space!
On February 19th, I made a post regarding cuts to NASA’s budget that puts future human space flight missions in jeopardy
I had a few direct responses to the post, some for and some against, but I also came across this critique to the general sentiment of my post that made me second guess my original argument.
“NASA, we have a problem, why America is Lost in Space” by Brett Biddington, Adjunct Professor, School of Computer and Security Science at Edith Cowan University states in his article:
“Some commentators have already been fast to criticize the cuts, suggesting they are minimal relative to the buckets of money lavished on the US defence establishment (which include classified and unclassified space programs).”
He continues by arguing that NASA has lost focus on space exploration, lost touch with the public, and is in danger of becoming a cold war relic. This final point struck me. It rang true with many of the interviews we conducted with both active and retired personnel at NASA during the shooting of Chasing Atlantis. Many who started early into the program were ashamed that NASA astronauts were not being lifted from the globe by Chinese technology insinuating that America had lost some of its pride. From a country that has a space program which has always hitchhiked its astronauts into space, I cannot fully relate. Canada has always been proud to have any of our citizens or technology (Canadarm/Canadarm II) in orbit at all. I also just finished watching Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In his latest book, Space Chronicles, Tyson says that when the moon landing happened in 69, predictions were made suggesting that we would be on Mars by 1980. We’re still not there, and it doesn’t look like we are going any time soon. Why? Tyson says that with the pressure of the cold war over, the impetus on extra terrestrial travel was lost.
It would seem both authors are correct then. In the absence of a war, we have made no further progress to put humans elsewhere in our solar system and NASA, according to Biddington continues to exude habits formed during the cold war in terms of its reluctance to participate in international programs.
So what is the solution? More funding? Smarter allocation? Public engagement to create a new-found sense of relevancy? I am uncertain. However, I do echo Tyson’s concerns he shared on the Daily show, currently our civilization seems to be regressing. Reduced funding for education, technology development, a labored economic system. Perhaps a new frontier is exactly what we need right now.
As an update to the previous blog post on the 12th which talked about potential decreases to the Mars Exploration project, it seems that the predictions about budget cuts to this project have indeed occurred.
The Article from the BBC explained that NASA’s planetary science budget loses 20% of its current 1.5 Billion. Mars exploration, which is a part of that budget is down 39% of what it was originally.
In the last 12 months, NASA has now lost 5 major projects that were in the works
The Lisa Gravitational Wave Observatory
International X Ray Observatory
Europa-Jupiter System Mission
and two ExoMars projects including the Trace Gas Orbiter for 2016 and ExoMars rover in 2018 to say nothing of a human flight to Mars.
We also saw the teetering of the James Web Space Telescope (JWST) this past Summer. That project, which is to be an upgrade to the Hubble Space Telescope has been saved in the meantime, but its budget will now restrict other NASA projects as they face a reduced overall budget.
During the discussion on the JWST, I recall thinking about how we take for granted our Hubble window into the Universe. The incredible vistas of deep space are a relatively recent achievement. Only in the last 20 years has Hubble orbited our planet helping to remind us of our humble place in the Universe; a tiny speck in the grand design. Perspective is important, and if there is anything which has provided us with this universal bird’s eye view, it is the Hubble space telescope. If it were to die without replacement James Webb, we not only loose this perspective, but one of our most advanced research tools.
For now, it would appear that Webb has been saved, but I think of how much more we could enrich our self-awareness as a society, with these other journey’s that we may no longer be taking.
To see the original BBC article visit: