Suday In DC Snapshots

Number One issue this week with trying to keep up on this site – hotel internet that sucks, sucks, sucks. Aside from the fact that it’s running at barely 2 Mbps download and only 0.28 Mbps upload, that’s when it’s actually up. I can always connect – but it freezes or locks up and I have to re-connect every five minutes or so.

Note to self – Self, add to the travel checklist, “Check internet & wi-fi speed and Yelp comments before booking hotel!”

Final day of sightseeing, glorious weather, one really sore toe with a blister, but some great sights. More, of course, when I get back home and can actually connect and post something like this in a half hour rather than in three hours.


Treasury Department


Eisenhower Executive Office Building


White House


White House


Washington Monument in the warm sun instead of ungodly cold & rain


Jefferson Memorial. First time I’ve ever visited here.

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Jefferson Memorial. I love this picture.


From the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, across the Tidal Basin full of paddle boats, you can see the White House through the trees to the left of the Washington Monument.

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Saturday In DC Snapshots

So much to talk about in more detail about all of this! So, so late getting back to the hotel every night! So, so, so sick of the hotel internet being about as fast as a 9600 baud modem (google it, kids) and dropping out every couple of minutes. Trying to upload photos is so slow that it’s like watching grass grow.

I found myself back at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum today. Not that I really needed a big excuse, but I had heard that there was a certain Canadian astronaut, musician, and author who would be there signing his two books. I figured there might be an hour or more wait, but it would be worth it anyway. Instead, it was a twenty minute wait and there was time to actually chat for a minute or two about his work, the CAF, his F-86 Saber jet, and his concerts with Amanda Palmer.

If that’s not a highlight in a week full of highlights, I don’t know what would be!

Then, of course, as long as I was already there and there were a few galleries that I hadn’t seen yesterday… And where yesterday the HUGE Robert McCall mural in the main hallway had been mostly covered up by curtains hiding construction equipment, today it was there to be seen in all of its glory… And then, since there are other things in DC besides NASA Socials and museums and monuments, I met The Long-Suffering Sister-In-Law for a dance performance at her daughter’s college.

And now it’s again after 1:45 AM local and the wi-fi just went out for the 100th time… Snapshots, just snapshots for now.

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Air & Space Museum Snapshots

What another wonderful, exciting, amazing day! And the hotel internet still sucks.

Again, many pictures (probably not these exact ones) along with comments and captions were posted to Twitter (@momdude56) and you can see them on the right side of the screen. Again, I will bury you with more pictures and stories and things when I can about today’s adventures.

For now, snapshots. For the vehicles that are either still in space (HST) or that have been flown, jettisoned, and burned on reentry (Skylab), the exhibits shown are the structural or proof test vehicles, designed identically to the vehicle that flew, but used for testing and engineering tests.


Apollo 11


Spirit of St. Louis


Hubble Space Telescope






Apollo Lunar Module


Gene Cernan’s boots from Apollo 17. The shoes that made the last footprints on the moon. (So far!)


Emelia Earhart’s Lockheed 5B Vega


Wonderful old commercial planes


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Hubble 25th Anniversary NASA Social Snapshots

What a wonderful, exciting, amazing day!

What a really long day it’s been (again). How did it (again) get to be way after midnight EDT? And why does this hotel internet suck so bad?

Here are a bunch of snapshots from today’s wonderful, exciting, amazing, and long day. I think that I referenced all of them in some form or another in Twitter posts (at the right-hand side of the screen), although with different pictures. On the other hand, I’ve only got two brain cells left to rub together, so I could be completely wrong.

Tomorrow, or when I get some sleep and a decent internet connection, or both, I will bury you for about three days with pictures and stories and humblebrags. In the meantime, enjoy!


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Hubble25 At DCA

Long, touristy day, late night tonight, early rising tomorrow for the Hubble 25th Anniversary (#Hubble25 on Twitter) NASA Social — so I’ll be brief.

This is a big deal here in Washington! (As it should be, but still, we all know that science and space and tech stuff isn’t always appreciated by everyone, especially politicians.) Tonight at the Washington Nationals – St Louis Cardinals baseball game, the first pitch ceremony involved some of the lead scientists from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and for the “President’s Race” the gag tonight was Teddy Roosevelt setting up a telescope so everyone could look at Hubble — while they were looking, he snuck across the finish line.

In addition, when I came into Reagan-National Airport (DCA) late last night, on the way to the baggage area I found several Hubble posters…


… as well as several panels of Hubble-like drawings done by school kids.


Tomorrow’s going to be fantastic! Stay tuned!


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Outrunning The Sunset

A week ago I was headed from North Carolina to Los Angeles on an “Oh Dark Thirty” flight and posted a picture of the sunrise catching us somewhere over the southwest United States. I also had mentioned a few days earlier that the trip out from LA to NC had been “an adventure.”

Today the trip back to the East Coast (for this week’s NASA Social and celebration of the 25th anniversary of the launching of the HST, but you knew that) was much more “nominal” and much less “adventurous.” No delays, both flights left on time. No hassles with lost luggage. The flight from DFW to DCA actually got in over thirty-five minutes early. The ride from DCA to my hotel was tedious but cheap.

With the plane tickets being bought on somewhat short notice (I didn’t get the invite to the NASA Social until a couple of days after we were back in LA), I had been told that I would have nothing but center seats. In fact, I got the opportunity to change with someone for an aisle seat on the first flight, and on the second flight I got moved to a window seat.

Even better, it was a window seat with extra leg room, the first one in the cabin. But that meant that I didn’t have my backpack o’ cameras at hand. It was stuffed into an overhead bin instead of under the seat in front of me – there wasn’t any seat in front of me.

As unusual as it might be for me to be on a plane with a window seat and not take any pictures (I take a LOT of pictures!) I figured that it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was cloudy as soon as we took off from DFW, and it was the “boring overcast to the horizon” cloudy, not the “oooh, cool, look at the thunderheads” cloudy. And then it was going to be dark, so what the heck. Time to catch up on some reading during the flight.

And then this happened (and I remembered that my iPhone had a perfectly good camera in it):


From out behind the wingtip…


…with the sunset glinting off of lakes…


…the sun popped out…


…just in time to set underneath the wing.


A big lake in the distance and a tiny one nearer to us caught the sunlight…


…while the sun started to disappear…


…and finally vanished…


…leaving in its afterglow a winding river, thunderstorms silhouetted on the horizon…


…and small towns across the American midwest starting to light up like Earthbound stars.

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The Hubble Space Telescope And Me

Look, I’m not going to sugar coat this. If you don’t care about astronomy and our space program in general, and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in particular, you should probably not be reading here for the next week to ten days. On the other hand, as has been noted before, if you don’t care about those things, why are you reading my blog to begin with?

Circular reasoning aside, the next week is going to be full of HST, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum (amazingly, I’ve never been there yet!), and Washington, DC sightseeing and tourism up the ying-yang. Or up the Potomac, at least. Since I’ll be there for six days and have cousins in the area as well as The Long-Suffering Sister-In-Law and one of The Long-Suffering Nieces On The Long-Suffering Wife’s Side, it won’t be ALL space exploration and squeeing and slack-jawed touristing. Probably no more than about 98.5%.

Before we get into all of that, here are a few disjointed, unorganized, miscellaneous thoughts about the upcoming trip:

  • I will refer to the Hubble Space Telescope as “HST” constantly. Be forewarned, I’m not typing that all out a zillion times.
  • A lot of the live stuff, particularly for the NASA Social on Thursday, the 23rd, will be coming out on Twitter first. You can watch my Twitter feed scroll on the right-hand side here, or you can follow me directly on Twitter. I’m @momdude56.
  • At the other NASA Socials I’ve been at I’ve been one of the older attendees. I would make a WAG that the average age (excluding me) is probably in the early 30’s, with lots of college kids in their 20’s and lots of working folks in their 30’s and 40’s. That being the case, I expect that there may be more than a few attendees who were not even born when HST launched twenty-five years ago.
  • This blows my mind. Just a little.
  • There are a couple of very, very nice e-books available on HST, and since they come from NASA and NASA’s funded by our tax dollars, they’re free! The latest one, for the 25th Anniversary, is here. There’s another one, “Hubble: An Overview of the Space Telescope,” as well as a couple of similar volumes on the upcoming Webb Space Telescope, which will eventually replace HST. You can either download an epub file, or you can get them for free from the iTunes Store.
  • I’ll bet there will only be a handful of attendees who were alive for the Apollo moon landings. The flip side of feeling old and wanting to yell at kids to get off of my lawn is the realization that these generations have never known a time when we had not been to the moon. It’s just like my generation has never known a time when commercial airline travel wasn’t commonplace.
  • Being paid for by our tax dollars, we also have access to all of the images produced. NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute have several fantastic websites where you can learn all about HST, as well as scan through  a gajillion images in different levels of detail. Go here first – the pictures are in the Gallery tab.
  • I remember the Space Shuttle mission to launch HST, how amazing it looked in orbit as they pulled away.
  • I remember the crushing disappointment when they found out that the optics were flawed and the HST might be useless.
  • I remember the thrill when they figured out a way to do the nearly impossible, designing a series of lenses (HST’s “eyeglasses”) to correct the optics. Of course, they also had to figure out a way to open up parts of the HST that were never intended to be opened up on orbit, and do repair jobs that were never dreamed of or designed for. They had to carry all of this work out while wearing awkward, heavy, spacesuit gloves and floating weightless, so that every loose screw or drifting tool was a potential disaster.
  • I remember the first pictures being released after the repairs, pictures that absolutely blew us away. And then they got better. And better.
  • I remember the second and third servicing missions, where reaction control wheels had failed and left HST with limited (and failing) abilities to point accurately. Again, parts that weren’t supposed to be replaced or even accessed on orbit. Again, done flawlessly. Then we started upgrading the cameras and instruments internal in HST’s innards, giving us even more amazing images and discoveries.
  • I remember the HST “Deep Field Image” where every dot is a galaxy, some over ten billion years old.
  • I remember when the previous administration decided that it was “too dangerous” to do a final servicing mission to HST with the Space Shuttle, since it wouldn’t be able to go to the ISS if there was a problem. I was more than just a bit furious.
  • I remember when the next administration said, “Bullshit! When did we get so timid? Who says that we can’t figure this out and get ‘er done?” (I paraphrase.)

So now I’ll get to be a part of the celebration of HST’s 25th birthday. Stay here for updates, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.


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