Category Archives: Space

Heinlein Had The Right Idea

Robert Heinlein had a LOT of right ideas, but the one that I’m trying to remember the source for tonight deals with frustration, intelligence, and balance. I’m sure someone out there will see this and immediately go, “You simpleton! It’s ‘____’ of course!!” I am, in fact, counting on you.

I think it was one of the opening scenes or chapters of one of the “Heinlein juvenile” novels. (I’ve ranted here before – “Starman Jones” is still one of my all time favorites, bar none.) In it our plucky young hero wants nothing more than to go to space and has an opportunity! They’re taking applications for some job or the other and he goes in, along with thousands of others, to take some sort of preliminary written test. The questions are not trivial, so fairly early on he sees other test takers who bail and walk out. He presses on as the test drags on and on. The questions never get too difficult, but they become increasingly repetitive and just downright stupid. Why the hell do they need to know these things? And why do they need to know it ten times? Finally he has had his fill. It doesn’t matter how much he wants the job, this is freaking ridiculous. He storms out while hundreds of others continue to answer increasingly pointless questions with no end in sight.

Of course, our hero gets the job. The test wasn’t to get the answers to the questions. The test was to week out the quitters who gave up way too soon and the drones who would follow mediocrity right into the pit of Hell without bothering to think for themselves. But there was a sweet spot for those smart enough to be able to answer the questions, but not sheep-like enough to follow along without questioning or purpose, people who had the correct balance of independence and discipline, intelligence and the ability to take action.

(This is where you call me a simpleton and tell me what book it is…)

Regardless, the principle’s the thing tonight.

How does one balance stability, both economic and lifestyle related, against stagnation?

How does one balance passion and purpose against caution and “responsibility?”

How does one balance “I’m too old for this shit” against “What do you mean? Never give up! Never surrender!”

How does one balance fear of change against fear of not changing?

How can you know the difference between the act that you’ll regret for the rest of your life and the one that you’ll regret for the rest of your life if you don’t do it?

This shit makes my head hurt.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Job Hunt, Space

Whisp O’ Blue Moon

The first edges of a storm were moving in this afternoon, drifting through the bluest of blue skies and fighting with the quarter-full daytime moon.

Moments like this are why I love having a high-quality digital camera in my pocket just about 24/7. The fact that it can also be used as a supercomputer and a phone are just gravy.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space, Weather

Some Excellent ISS Passes Coming To SoCal This Week

…and I guarantee I won’t see a single one of them!


Magnitude -3.7? That’s like 747-on-final-approach bright!

72° peak above the horizon? Nice & high, trivially easy to spot!

Almost six minutes from horizon to horizon? SWEET!

Rising at 5:07 AM? My ass will be warm, comfy, and ASLEEP IN BED!

As Dirty Harry said, “A man’s got to know his limitations!”

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Filed under Astronomy, Space

Wake Up, Florida!

Yeah, all of you…

(Images courtesy of the SpaceX webcast)

And EchoStar 23 is on its way to an orbit over Brazil. Congratulations to SpaceX on another outstanding and successful launch!

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Sunset On Trappist-1e

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It’s only forty light-years away! I’m ready to go!!

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Filed under Art, Astronomy, Space

It Moved!

Again out to the roof of the office parking garage. Tonight I started to attract some attention. It’s not normal to see a guy out there with a couple of big cameras pointed at the moon!

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Look at that! Last night the moon was down there, but tonight it’s up there! (Well, relative to our sightline to Venus, but let’s not get carried away here.) It’s almost like the Earth, Moon, Venus, Sun, and Mars were all…moving.

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It was a bit darker when I went out tonight, so it’s easier to pick up Mars. It’s just above center here, with Venus on the bottom, the Moon, at the top, and the Sun somewhere way over to the left. Obvious to us, but not so to the ancients. We might have a slightly more accurate worldview than they did.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space

Crescent Moon + Venus + Mars

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Last night was “clear and a million” and I had my alarm set incorrectly, so I missed most of the nice sunset with the thin crescent moon. Not tonight, even if it does mean taking a quick break from the office and going out to the parking garage roof.

But where’s the moon?

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There it is! Veiled by all of those high, thin clouds.

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Not bad for a handheld shot, no tripod.

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Look out! I didn’t know Southwest Airlines had regularly schedule service to the Moon!

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Coming back out about a half-hour later when it was suitably dark, I found that most of the overcast had disappeared, allowing Venus to appear!

img_0370_smallA little bit of Earthshine lighting up the dark parts of the moon.

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Mars was suposed to be to the upper left of Venus from this perspective. Is it there? Click on the image to see it full-sized and take a look.

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Filed under Astronomy, Photography, Space