Dear NASA, I Want To Be An Astronaut

Dear NASA,

I noticed that you announced on Facebook that I could apply to be an astronaut. Thank you for letting me know.

 You might reconsider putting that sort of thing on Facebook when you see the quality of the other applicants. Of course, that message did reach your obvious target audience. I suppose that you have to deal with some lower quality Facebook astronaut wannabes to get to a prime candidate like me.

It’s probably best that you get away from that stereotypical young test pilot with a crew cut sort that you’ve been hiring since the sixties. You just don’t know what you’re going to get from them.

No, wait. Actually, I think you do know what you’re going to get from them and it’s boring. I’m certain there are things that are attractive about knowing you’re going to get a measured and reasonable response from a person under pressure. But when the chips are down and the navigation computer is too, is a little bit of freaking out in a space capsule such a bad thing? Read the rest of this entry »


Drunk Moon Photobombs Earth’s Selfie

The last really good portrait of earth was taken from the moon back in the 1970’s.

If I were Neil Armstrong, the first words spoken from the moon would have been “Hey, I can see your house from up here” (image public domain.

Perhaps you think that the 1970’s were a long time ago. I don’t happen to agree. As you know, the standard method of deciding if something was a long time ago is if I remember it. Whether you remember an event doesn’t matter, I am the standard by which “a long time ago” is measured. I remember photos being taken from the moon so that was a pretty recent happening.

And despite that knowledge, NASA decided that we needed a newer photo of our planet. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have a photographer on the moon to compose the picture. This was inconvenient, but not discouraging to the engineers at the space agency. Read the rest of this entry »


Chatting With Mars Rat

Last night, I was sitting around, getting a lot of nothing done. They say that idle hands are the devil’s workshop. My workshops were on the couch behind my head so they have no blame in this matter. One of my hands picked up the phone when it rang. That’s what hands do.

Mars Rover

Mars Rover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Hello”, I said in that questioning way that we all answer the phone. A rather high-pitched voice came through the earpiece – “Oma, it’s me, Mars Rat”.

“Mars Rat, from the NASA photo on the internet?”

“How many Mars Rats do you know? Yes, Mars Rat from the internet”

It seemed that the rat had a bit of an attitude. I asked if there was a reason he was calling me. “I was surfing the net on the way to Mars and stumbled across your blog and read a lot of your stuff. It’s pretty obvious you’ve got too much time on your hands. I needed someone who was sure to answer the phone. You fit the bill.”

Mars Rat has me pegged. He is smarter than your average rodent.

“Look, I need you to get the word out for me. There’s some baloney being spread about me and I want to put a stop to it.”

I’m no fan of baloney, or even malarkey. Shenanigans, I enjoy, but the rat made no mention of them.

Msl20110602 PIA14175-full

Mars Rat’s sweet ride.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What’s the baloney you need help with?” I asked. He said “I’ve gotten popular since my photo was spotted on line. Today I read that some UFO conspiracy theorist guy was floating the idea that NASA sent me up here as part of a secret experiment to see how long I’d live. That isn’t true. I’m a stowaway.”

Stowing away on a NASA rocket is no small achievement. I told the rat that I was impressed and asked how he survived the trip. He told me that he survived by chewing the insulation off the wires on the Mars Curiosity Rover. According to him, the Rover is barely functioning because of his diet. “Seriously, it’s a bucket of bolts,” he told me. Then he got us back on topic.

“Look, I don’t know how long my battery will hold out, so listen up. I’m up here because I stowed away. It was my idea. These clowns that treat this like I’m the victim of some great conspiracy don’t understand human nature.”

“What do you know about human nature?” I asked.  “People can’t keep secrets and they don’t agree on much”, he told me. “So even if someone wanted to send me up here, someone would have let the cat, or rat, out of the bag long before some conspiracy theorist. You’re a cop, right Oma? How do most criminals who work together get caught?”

That was an easy question. Most people who manage to cobble together a conspiracy get caught because one of them starts talking to someone. The Rat was right. If NASA did put him on this journey, the word would have leaked out by now.

“OK” I said, “you’re pretty much saying that it is ridiculous to think that this is some sort of plot to send you to Mars and that two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead.”

“Exactly” he said. Mars Rat started to elaborate, but it started to become hard to hear him. The line went silent. I tried desperately to get him to respond – “Omawarisan to Mars Rat, your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong. Can you hear me Mars Rat? Can you hear me Mars Rat?”

Poor guy.

Anyhow, Mars Rat and I have little patience for conspiracy theory types. We can’t put four people in a room here in the US and get them to agree on whether the sun is up (it isn’t up). Conspiracies are nearly impossible to assemble and harder to maintain.

I wish the media wouldn’t give attention to the sort of people who spread these theories.

Here’s a video of the photo of Mars Rat, which is actually a rock. To be sure, it is a rock that looks like a rodent. The video has ominous music. Ominous music is really good for proving conspiracies.


NASA UARS Satellite Falling From Space. Be Afraid.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite

One big chunk, or twenty-six small ones? (Image via Wikipedia)

NASA has announced that a satellite called the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) would be falling to earth on Friday. There isn’t much to worry about though. It weighs six tons, but scientists expect most of it to burn up in the atmosphere.

It will burn up before it lands, except for twenty-six pieces “between tens of pounds to a few hundred pounds” that will hit the earth. These twenty-six are made of metals that have higher melting temperatures than the aluminum parts  that will burn up in the atmosphere. The intent of telling us this is to reassure us. It isn’t reassuring. Let us examine why. Read the rest of this entry »


The Jolie Pez Project: San Jose, CA

The Jolie is covering a lot of territory in her travels. This post shows her visit to San Jose and San Francisco, CA as a guest of my friend, Margie. Margie is unique among those who have hosted The Jolie (so far) in that I have actually met her. She was a great friend through Jr. High and High School. We’ve managed to cross paths a few times since and I’ve been happy to see her each time.

The Jolie’s San Jose visit was lost in the depths of my email box for a few weeks until Margie told me where I could find it. She was kind enough not to tell me where I could put it. Behold, the lost episode –

The Jolie went hiking outside San Jose. There was a little climbing involved, but the Jolie was dressed for the occasion and up to the task.

Read the rest of this entry »


Perhaps Backward And On Fire Would Be Easier.

Remember re-entry? Back before spaceships had wings?

Apollo Command Module splashdown.

They did it backward, in flames, into the ocean (Image via Wikipedia)

Back in the day, astronauts came back to earth by falling backward through the atmosphere. Their capsule would be engulfed in flames in the upper atmosphere, then there’d be a point where they’d deploy a parachute or three and slow down.

It wasn’t over even then. They’d fall into the ocean. Ideally, this would happen somewhere near the aircraft carrier they were aiming for so they could be rescued before they capsized.

Original caption:

"Omawarisan is no Astronaut. He will scream like a banshee" - Walter Cronkite (Image via Wikipedia)

Walter Cronkite used to portray the astronauts as cool and collected during this wild plunge. He made us think about them going about their business as their fireball streaked toward the ocean. Read the rest of this entry »


Talking about things I don’t know about.

I saw on the news that the space shuttle landing for the current mission has been delayed twice for rain at the primary landing site in Florida.

There are a lot of things I am eminently not qualified to comment on. Rocket Science is one of those things. All the same, I have to ask, how can a vehicle that can bring people and thousands of pounds of payload into space be stopped by rain? Read the rest of this entry »