Stargazing Live

Friday, January 15th, 2016 10:12 pm
tourmaline: (ISS)
It's been Stargazing Live week, and it's been the best one yet. We had an extra show tonight to cover the EVA, which was amazing even though the EVA didn't completely run to plan. I hadn't realised how youthful some of the regular presenters are, I generally assume that they must be older than me because they know so much more than me (generally they're all professors or have doctorates or both). But they had a closeup of Chris Lintott and he looked very youthful, so I Googled him and he's only 35. But to balance this out, John Bishop is older than I thought he was, must be his sports career (he's a former semi-pro football player) keeping him looking younger. He was so fabulous at the astronaut training, and it was great to see Andreas Mogensen on TV too.

I had the EVA on NASA TV on a browser tab at work this afternoon, and took my flag into work and draped on the back of my chair - this is the flag I took to the Olympics, and got ready last year when Tim Peake was part of the backup launch crew and he favourited my tweet of it, so I'd wore it for his launch. I could only follow it briefly, but there were amusing parts - at the start while the Tims were in the airlock, Scott Kelly was looking at something on a laptop while adjusting his trousers, then realised he was on camera and stopped suddenly and smiled at the camera. To be fair, he's done worse in the past :)

But it was so cool to see Tim Peake out on the EVA, and it was great to follow all the news coverage and Twitter coverage, and the comments about him being the first under the British flag to conduct an EVA. I didn't find out about the terminate call until I got home and switched my phone on, and then I had stuff I had to do before I could get my laptop out. The detail of the issue showed it wasn't as critical an issue as when Luca Parmitano got water in his helmet a couple of years ago, but it was the right thing to do to terminate the EVA. Hopefully we'll get to see more of Tim's mission, there's still five months to go.


Friday, January 1st, 2016 02:16 pm
tourmaline: (coffee)
Ten years ago today I followed many of my friends on the Devoted to Hugh messageboards and set up my LiveJournal. The first post was short and sweet. I don't post very often these days but I'm glad I still come back occasionally, sometimes a longer post is required and it's nice to have somewhere quieter to retreat to.

So, 2016: the Road to Rio 2016 is already well-worn yet there's some distance still to go. Hoping for a decent defence of gold medals won at the Home Games, even though many have retired and many more will no doubt do so after Rio. It's likely to be a closer call in terms of the GB-Australia rivalry though.

Space: I notice Tim Peake looks well settled in on the ISS, his somersaults and flips are more controlled, which is a good indication he's used to moving around in microgravity. A crew swap in March will see the ending of the Year Long Mission, and the end of 2016 will see the launch of Thomas Pesquet, the last of the ESA Class of 2009 to go into space.

Work: Don't want to think about it. There's a reason we eat lots of cake and biscuits in our industry. One work-related highlight expected is a workfriend is to become a first-time Dad in the spring.

Home: I discovered this Christmas how much I prefer my own home-made versions of goodies to the shop-bought stuff. So in order to get them right for next Christmas I need to practice during the year. A friend gave me an afternoon tea recipe calendar for Christmas so I might try some things from that if I'm in the mood to make something new. Also, I am hoping I can actually grow some flowers this year instead of crabgrass.

Screen stuff: Certain articles are hinting that Peter Capaldi is about to give notice on his tenure as the Doctor. I think he's right not to stay too long but he's the best Doctor ever and I don't want him to go.

Brit In Space

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015 09:23 pm
tourmaline: (ISS)
It's been a long day, and I've spent most of it sitting on the sofa in front of my laptop. I took the day off so I could follow today's Soyuz launch unencumbered by work. It's been amazing, it was such a perfect-looking launch, then a bit of unwanted drama with the docking having to be done manually, and then a long wait for the hatches to open. Luckily the live BBC coverage overstayed its time so we could see the crew enter the ISS.

There were two Stargazing Live special programmes on TV today, covering the launch and the hatch entry. Chris Hadfield was on both programmes alongside Dara O Briain and Professor Brian Cox, and Helen Sharman was also on the evening programme. Additionally, I listened to Ron Garan on a BBC Radio Five Live programme last night, and on Sunday I heard a BBC World Service documentary about the history of space stations which was narrated by Samantha Cristoforetti. There have been glimpses of other astronauts on the BBC TV coverage - biggest name was Alexei Leonov was on the morning programme with Helen Sharman, there was a clip of Tim Peake's training with his fellow ESA astronauts, and I saw Mike Fossum with the crew's families in Baikonur on the evening programme. The Stargazing Live specials came from the Science Museum which was full of schoolchildren, all waving flags and being fantastically noisy - counting down with the launch countdown, and cheering loudly when Tim Peake waved and gave a thumbs-up during ascent.

As always, I was waiting for this sight:

Expedition 46 Crew 15Dec15

It was very busy on Twitter too, lots of debate over whether Tim is the first British astronaut - he isn't, he's the first British person to go into space as a member of the astronaut corps attached to Britain. Helen Sharman, the first Brit in space, went as part of a privately-funded venture, and in the intervening time there have been three NASA astronauts with joint US/UK citizenship, and two spaceflight participants with joint UK/other nation citizenship. It's a great question to ask on QI.

This crew is scheduled to be onboard until June next year, so there will be lots of opportunity to follow along. It will be so cool.

Last Day In Space

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 07:34 pm
tourmaline: (ISS)
I can't believe Samantha Cristoforetti comes home from space tomorrow. She'll have been in space for 200 days, the longest mission by an ESA astronaut and by a woman, but sometimes it feels as if the time's gone so quickly, she's just got there. Her tweets today have been lots of last looks She's also a big sci-fi fan, here she is reading from The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy last month for Towel Day:

Safe journey home Samantha! Shortly before Christmas we'll see Tim Peake launch (according to current schedule), and I'm looking forward to all the media coverage.

New Television - Day 2

Thursday, May 31st, 2012 11:40 pm
tourmaline: (strawberry shake)
I had a phonecall at work mid-morning - it was Dad, phoning from some electrical store, telling me how my TV is actually rather a good one cos they've got identical TVs there, Toshiba branded, and slightly more expensive. He then went on to say how the guy in the shop talked about how good they are, so he's glad I've got a good TV. Kind of an apology-but-not-quite.

The TV also has a USB port, so I've been trying out watching avi files from a USB stick. Works well (now that I know how to bring up the menu) but I need to ensure any files I have are of a high enough resolution, so I might be converting a few things. I have a really awesome video overview of Doug Wheelock's time on the ISS but it's too pixelly to watch right now.

This evening I watched DVDs of Sherlock (the unbroadcast pilot, the only thing I hadn't yet seen from the boxset) and an episode of House - The Dig, the one where House meets Thirteen out of jail and they go on a roadtrip. Fab to see the scenery by the lake at the spudgun competition, and of course to see how beautiful Hugh looks on my new TV. When House ended last week I thought it might be fun to dive in and watch all the episodes in random order - I think it's going to be even more fun on this TV.
tourmaline: (ISS)

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is now part of the International Space Station! Didn't get to watch capture or berthing live as I was at work or home fiddling with broadband, but so thrilled to hear it all went well. The first commercial craft to dock to the ISS, and the first supply wagon to have downmass capability - ie it's designed to get back to Earth in one piece, not to burn up in the atmosphere like the Progress, ATV and HTV do. Development work is in progress for a Dragon to fly manned missions, giving an alternative to the Soyuz for ISS crew rotation. That's some years away, and this current mission is officially a test flight (it's carrying non-crucial supplies, which makes it sound like it's full of these to me) and it's not over until it's landed and recovered. But it's so cool that we're now in the next stage of space exploration and space travel. And the Dragon is such a beautiful craft too.

Oh yes, and we now have new broadband :)
tourmaline: (ISS)
Yesterday I travelled north to Durham, to attend an event at Durham County Hall - billed as An audience with NASA astronaut Colonel Ron Garan. Ron is one of the astronauts I met in 2008, a few months after their Space Shuttle mission. This time, we would hear about Ron's five-and-a-half months living in space, a time which included his performing an EVA (with Mike Fossum) and the final two space shuttle missions.

The full story, with pic and video )

It has been an eventful two days, meeting Ron Garan again and reading this book have made deep imprints on me. I'm sure the passing scenery from the train would have done so too, if I'd given it a chance and not been too engrossed in reading. But I'd like to revisit Durham sometime, it did look a very interesting place to explore - although not before I've found the walking boots of my (and my knee's) dreams.


Friday, September 16th, 2011 09:18 pm
tourmaline: (ISS)
I was up late last night watching Ron Garan's departure from the ISS, and set my alarm for 5am this morning to watch his landing back on Earth. They showed the farewell speeches live on NASA TV:


There was also this pic of the three crewmembers just before the hatch was closed - everyone had their version that they tweeted it seems:


I woke up at 5am, their expected landing time, and got the HD feed of NASA TV up & running about 1 minute after the Soyuz had landed. It would've been nice to see the actual landing, but the first commentary I heard was them saying all three crewmembers are well. I then watched and saw them being lifted out of the Soyuz and carried to their recliners, it was nice to see when Ron Garan was pulled out he had a big smile on his face, he has such a wonderful smile :)

This pic was shared on Twitter by Elyse David, who's a major person at Fragile Oasis:


It'll probably be a few days before we hear from him again, either on Twitter or his blog, but I'm sure it won't be too long. Apparently he has lots of pics to share online that he took from the ISS, so I'm looking forward to hearing from him again soon.
tourmaline: (twitter)
I think Twitter was waiting for me to tweet so it could go down at that exact moment. I was going to tweet about the chocolate I found in the cupboard (a bag of Cadburys treat-size Twirl bars). But this is also Ron Garan's final full evening/night on the ISS, he's due to land at 10am Kazakhstan time on Friday (5am UK time, midnight Eastern) and he's probably got lots to tweet about but can't :(

But some people will be sorry to see him leave for Earth apparently:

tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Endeavour)
Captain Mark Kelly announces his retirement from NASA and the US Navy

Oddly, I was thinking this morning about how we'd probably hear an announcement like this at some point before the year is out. A lot of astronauts are leaving or have left NASA because the end of the shuttle programme means their chances of another trip into space are very small (NASA has a group of Astronaut Candidates currently in training, plus there's a group of recently-qualified ESA Astronauts waiting for their first missions), and Kelly's retirement (effective 1st October) means he'll be around to spend time with his wife during her rehabilitation. Also, according to this article from, they're writing a joint memoir, which would be a fascinating read I'm sure. There can't be many astronauts who have visited the ISS on four separate occasions - I wouldn't be surprised if he's the only individual to have done so.

So, thank you Captain Kelly, for your years of service, and for sharing your awesome spaceflight missions with us. Wishing you and your family all the very best for the future.

From Space

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 09:26 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Endeavour)
I just got retweeted from space! By Ron Garan, ISS Flight Engineer Squeee!

Check out @Astro_Ron's website & blog at Awesome.

I will be setting the alarm early tomorrow morning (only half-an-hour early) so I can watch Space Shuttle Endeavour land for the final time. She's due to land just before 2.30am Eastern, which is 7.30am UK time, ie when I'm usually still in the shower. If cross-winds at the Shuttle Landing Facility are a problem - as was forecast a few days back - then she can still land on the following orbit, around 4am Eastern, 9am UK time. Check out for details.

Cady's Awesome Hair

Saturday, May 21st, 2011 07:18 pm
tourmaline: (ISS)
I could watch Cady Coleman's hair all day.


More )

Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli & current ISS commander Dimitri Kondratyev are due home on Monday. I understand plans are in place for them to photograph the Shuttle docked to the ISS, which will be awesome - like the pic of Atlantis & Mir, the whole of the ISS and the Shuttle in one photo.
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Endeavour)
Both active Space Shuttles can currently be seen via webcam/web-accessible TV right now (hurry!). Endeavour is now docked to the ISS and can be seen as part of regular mission coverage on NASA TV of STS-134. Atlantis is in the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC, being mated to the external tank & solid rocket boosters for STS-135.

Please take a look now, while you can. Note the header - when I say 'both' space shuttles that's what I mean, we're down to two, and in a couple of weeks' time we'll be down to one, then none by the end of the summer :'(

Wheels In Space

Friday, February 18th, 2011 07:18 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
This is long for a YouTube vid but so totally worth watching, OMG it's so awesomely amazing. It's a series of vignettes of Expedition 24, with a particular focus on Doug Wheelock, who was a Flight Engineer on Expedition 24 and then Commander of Expedition 25.

Expedition 24 is special to me, because the final EVA (by Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson) took place on the day my niece was born. When I tell her about space and the ISS, I can tell her about what happened there on the day she was born.

Journey's Start

Monday, February 14th, 2011 10:31 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Ron Garan is on his way to begin Expedition 27 - he has tweeted that he's on his way to leaving the country, he won't be back until his tour of duty in space is over.

There's about six weeks of final training sessions and final exams at Star City in Russia before launch at the end of March. So, given that Ron Garan is my favourite astronaut, you are likely to hear a lot about his final training weeks and space mission here.

Sushi & Stargazing

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 09:47 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Well I'm still here and so is work, busy but things got done and are getting done. In an effort to create something to look forward to, I made sushi this evening - delicious, tried including mushrooms for the first time, but next time I need something with a stronger flavour like shittake maybe.

Sushi Pics )
Because I left work a few minutes early and got started as soon as I came home, I managed to get it all completed before Stargazing Live began. Completely awesome tonight, Tim Peake was a guest, and there was a recording from October or November when Brian Cox spoke to the US astonauts on the ISS (Doug Wheelock, Shannon Walker, Scott Kelly). I was also LOLing cos Jonathan Ross is the programme's resident noob, he was in the studio tonight and said about how the pictures from the major global telescopes were so awesome, it was a bit underwhelming in a way to then see Jupiter or M31 or whatever through a standard back garden telescope, and Dara O'Briain's face was like thunder, I wondered what he'd have said had they not been on live TV.

Poem: Blue

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 10:35 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
You may have seen this already on Twitter - a poem has been written to accompany a now-classic picture of Tracy Caldwell Dyson looking at the Earth from the cupola of the International Space Station.

View the full-size version here, thankfully not huge

If I were still of an age to have posters on my bedroom wall, I would totally want this. I can imagine, in years to come, astronauts saying they remember seeing this picture as children and thinking 'that could be me one day'. How awesome would that be? And I want to nominate the photo as the iconic image of 2010.

Refridgerate Me

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 05:11 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 143 Undocking day - probably the final time for Atlantis :'( - I hope it's pleasantly temperatured up there, cos it's so hot here :( I've been basking in front of the fridge:


The huge stack of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter doesn't belong to me, mine's the Bertolli.

It's too hot to play on the Wii, so am watching Michael Palin's Around The World In 80 Days. It was filmed in 1988, he's in Tokyo and sampling a sushi bar and a karaoke bar, back when they weren't so much known outside Japan. It's strange how only around 20 years makes for such a different world.


Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 08:17 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 138 My mission patches have finally arrived! This is the patch for the current mission, STS-132:

STS-132 Mission Patch

The good thing is I recognise most crewmembers; the downside is I don't know everyone immediately. Like I don't know who it was we saw after yesterday's EVA (it wasn't Steve Bowen or Ken Ham) who was holding Garrett Reisman firmly between his thighs while he undressed him.

Art Deco Teal

Monday, April 19th, 2010 09:29 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Yay I changed my LJ layout :) I've always liked the Art Deco layouts, but I resisted for ages cos it felt like everyone was using them at one point. But recently I've been feeling that the previous layout was rather plain and that maybe it was time to experiment with something a bit sunnier.

My friend C, who I feared was caught up in the travel delays with the volcano ash, was back at work today as planned - they had Eurostar bookings and didn't know about the problems until they turned up on Friday afternoon for the Eurostar.

Discovery didn't land today cos of bad weather at KSC - bad enough for the STA to be unable to take off to investigate the weather due to fog. So it should land tomorrow as the weather forecast for both KSC and Edwards are looking good, but it means I won't get to see the landing as I'm in a meeting all morning and then we're out at lunch. Unless the restaurant has free wi-fi. It's unfortunate that for reasons of Ku problems and time zoneage this has been a difficult mission to follow closely, cos together they've been a really awesome crew. And it's the final seven-person shuttle crew, so the last time there will be thirteen people together in space till who knows when. And four women together in space, and two Japanese astronauts together in space. And I'm looking forward to seeing Clay Anderson on Dancing With The Stars next year :D