ik's spaceport

This has got to be the astronomical headline to end them all: Johns Hopkins Reveals Color of the Universe: It Doesn't Go With Anything. :)

Sometimes, all you can do is just laugh at the mishaps.

Important Things To Do:

Warning: political content ahead!

Unsurprisingly, Dubya is an idiot: slashing NASA's budget to pay for a tax break for his cronies. You can write him to tell him just how horrible a mistake he's making at:

George W Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington DC 20500-0001

Also be sure to contact your Representative (lookup is here) and Senators (lookup is here) and let them know that you support NASA and they should too!

I've been a fan of the space program for as long as I can remember.

I can just remember Apollo XI landing; I clearly remember Apollo XIII and the rest of the moon missions and Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz and Viking, and I remember being spellbound.

Given a preference, I suppose I'd rather be on orbit on the ISS right now. Failing that, I just have to make do with watching and marveling.

Just after I turned ten in 1973, we were visiting my grandparents at their home on Lake Erie during the Skylab 4 mission. The local paper had printed overflights for a few days earlier in the week, but not for when we were visiting. Undaunted, I was determined to find the pattern to unlock when it would be overhead again, not really realizing exactly what went into orbital mechanics and spacecraft tracking. I was just determined to see with my own eyes our space station, even though I knew it would just be a featureless, moving dot.

I was off by about five minutes in time and about ten degrees in space. Not bad for a ten year old. :)

Five and a half years later, Skylab and I crossed paths again in much the same way -- on 10 July 1979, I was determined to see it again before it de-orbited, and again, the newspaper was less than helpful -- of course, by then, Skylab's orbit was decaying badly and was harder to predict. Still, with patience and a little luck, I was rewarded with a bright orange streak as Skylab skimmed the atmosphere on one of its last few orbits before coming down in Australia.

In 1986, armed with an old (ca. 1958) Tasco alt-az 2.25" Newtonian, I had to make do with makeshift calculations and a little bit of luck again, this time to catch a glimpse of Halley's Comet, although not a very good look. Still, that didn't matter -- the important thing was seeing it, not taking precise measurements.

Earlier that same year, I spent a week crying over the Challenger. The idea of NASA having a failure -- and worse, an avoidable one -- was then completely alien to me. I was too young to recall the Apollo I fire; my whole concept of what happened when disaster struck a NASA program was shaped by the recovery of Apollo XIII. NASA couldn't fail, or so I thought. My mom woke me up early that January morning and just told me to go watch the news. It was incomprehensible -- and in retrospect reprehensible, now that we know it could have been avoided. Mom told me later that day, "Now I think you understand what it was like when Kennedy was assassinated." Maybe so. I still shudder when I hear the words "Roger, go with throttle up."

A few years later, when NASA finally launched again, I was working in an engineering office as administrative support. The day of the launch, I brought a pocket TV in with me. Half the engineers were around my desk as we watched Discovery take us back into space. I remember praying, shouting "Go, you big beautiful bird!" and crying with relief when she made orbit.

Space is important. I guess I didn't realize how important it was to me until that launch.

Anyway, my interest spiked even more when, in 1999, I finally bought myself a good telescope: a Meade 4500. Later that year, I joined the Columbus Astronomical Society (thanks, Don!), and have been looking up ever since.

I'll have real content here shortly, including the only astrophotograph I've ever taken (under somewhat unusual circumstances). Not only do I enjoy looking at things in space, I build models of spacecraft (excluding the Babylon 5 station, they're all of real, historical spacecraft). My models of the Mir and the R7-8K71 (the Sputnik I launch vehicle) are currently on display at the Perkins Observatory library. At home are the Galileo, the Shuttle and a Snap-Tite model of Mir, and in the works is a model of the ISS. Photos of them are forthcoming.

In the interim, we'll just have to make do with some links.

The Columbus Astronomical Society - The club I belong to, a great bunch of folks. :)

Perkins Observatory - Where we meet. No, I haven't seen the ghost of Hiram Perkins yet ... but then, I'm usually looking up while I'm there.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration - No explanation necessary. :)

The Russian Space Research Institute - Again, no explanation necessary.

The European Space Agency - And yet again, no explanation necessary.

The Hubble Space Telescope - Hubble, and the coolest pictures in the universe.

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory - Realtime observations of the Sun and its corona. Cool screensaver there, too.

Friends and Partners in Space - The definitive spaceflight encyclopedia.

Extrasolar Planets - Butler and Marcy's official site