Author Archives: roamingfirehydrant

About roamingfirehydrant

I get paid to break things.

Kennedy Space Center and Atlantis

I promise to write more about this trip later, but the dearth of posts this weekend cries out for something, anything right now.

I took my family to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center. Something of a busman’s holiday, but that was okay. I’ll admit that it was not cheap (what in Florida is?) but it was a full day of exhibits and tours, plus the fun of a collegiate robotic challenge.

What I came to see was this:

I’ll admit, I cried when I first saw her, pinned like a butterfly on display when she should be soaring through space. But the exhibit for Atlantis is a good one, lots about the history of the Space Shuttle program, the accomplishments in telescopes, satellites, and assembly of ISS, remembrances of the crews we’ve lost, and spinoffs from space. And as a friend reminded me, better on display like this than a jumble of broken pieces hidden in a warehouse. She accomplished her mission, though I still think she was retired too soon.


Filed under engineering, Personal, space

Roamy roundup

NASA is using its Earth-observing satellites to help Nepal recover from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit April 25.

The satellite data will be used to compile maps of ground surface deformation and to create risk models. NASA and its partners are also contributing to assessments of damage to infrastructure. They are tracking remote areas that may be a challenge for relief workers to reach, as well as areas that could be at risk for landslides, river damming, floods and avalanches…
NASA technology that can locate people trapped beneath collapsed buildings is being deployed to Nepal. A remote-sensing radar technology called FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response), developed by JPL in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, can locate individuals buried as deep as 30 feet (9.1 meters) in crushed materials, hidden behind 20 feet (6 meters) of solid concrete, and from a distance of 100 feet (30.5 meters) in open spaces. This technology, licensed by the private entity R4 Incorporated of Edgewood, Maryland, has been taken to Nepal to assist with recovery efforts.

The folks here at Marshall are also compressing needed data to make up for the limited bandwidth available in Nepal.


The MESSENGER spacecraft lithobraked into Mercury sometime yesterday. The primary mission was to orbit Mercury for a year and send back data. It lasted just over 4 years in an intense thermal and radiation environment and only took the dive when it ran out of fuel. NASA Science News covered some of MESSENGER’s discoveries, such as ice at the poles, tectonic landforms, an active magnetic field, and an exosphere.
Photo from Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Mariner 10 is the only other spacecraft to visit Mercury, and that was a flyby mission. That spacecraft also ran out of nitrogen for maneuvering and went quiet in 1975.


A Russian Progress resupply ship launched on April 28 failed to reach the International Space Station and is expected to burn up during reentry. The current rumor is that the third stage engine failed to shut down and bumped the spacecraft into a spin.

So no one here is complaining that SpaceX didn’t get the first stage landing like they wanted. The Dragon successfully docked with ISS on April 17, delivering food, water, and experiments.


Speaking of experiments, the X-37B mini-shuttle will be launching soon. One experiment that they mentioned is a Hall thruster propulsion experiment. I helped with some ground testing of Hall thrusters a decade or so ago, so it’s nice to see it actually fly. There’s another experiment, but the press release isn’t out yet, so that will have to wait for the next Roamy roundup. :)


Filed under space

Muskogee War Memorial and the USS Batfish

This is one of those happy accidents that you have to be ready for when traveling. For our trip to Oklahoma, I wanted my kids to learn about the different Native American tribes. After some reading and research, I decided on the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee. In hindsight, I should have focused on the Cherokee in Tahlequah. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum consists entirely of “Andrew Jackson moved us here, here’s some art.” The art was good but unsatisfying for the left-brains of the family.

A pamphlet stand for area attractions included one for the USS Batfish. A submarine in land-locked Oklahoma? This deserved further investigation.

The USS Batfish is a Balao-class submarine.

Continue reading


Filed under history, navy, Personal, ships, World War II

Tulsa Air and Space Museum

The Tulsa Air and Space Museum was a nice find.  A retired American Airlines MD-80 is parked outside, and an F-14 Tomcat is among the aircraft inside.


The museum pays homage to Oklahoma aviators and astronauts, including a large display about Wiley Post, Will Rogers, and their ill-fated flight in Alaska.  Another display described the last B-24 built at the Douglas plant in Tulsa, the “Tulsamerican”, which later went down in the Adriatic. Art deco pieces of the old airport building are preserved, as well as a couple of old Spartan airplanes. Oklahoma astronauts include Apollo 10 and Apollo-Soyuz commander Thomas Stafford, Skylab astronauts Owen Garriott and William Pogue, and Shuttle astronauts Shannon Lucid and John Herrington.

Mr. RFH liked this, the Jumo 004 turbojet engine for the Me-262.

The kids liked the interactive displays and the knowledgeable docent.
mini me

Last but not least was the planetarium, which had a number of shows. I liked this display, an Eagle project made of a couple of thousand Rubik’s Cubes.
2000 rubiks

They also had up-to-date stargazer news, including the rendezvous with the Dawn mission to Ceres, the solar eclipse earlier in March, and updates on the James Webb Space Telescope.

On the same road, not far from the museum is Evelyn’s Soul Food Restaurant. This was a nice place to have lunch then return to the museum.


Filed under history, Personal, planes, space, World War II

Thoughts on Palm Sunday

I just returned from spring break, and while I usually write about space, this post will be a little different.

Athiests are trying to remove the cross of burned steel beams from the World Trade Center Museum. Somehow, the Islamic crescent of red maples at the Flight 93 Memorial is hunky-dory. History has been whitewashed so that God is not mentioned. Mayflower Compact? Washington’s first Inaugural Address? Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address? Fuhgeddaboutit. My husband’s liberal cousin and her friends lamented the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case with “Who would want to work for a Christian anyway?” (Uh, me, please.)

So imagine my surprise in finding a national monument, part of the National Parks Service, that was not cleansed by the politically correct. I almost hesitate to talk about it, lest someone in DC yell, “We missed one!” and hustle out there to “fix” it. Still, I think it’s worth bringing to your attention.

10 miles off Interstate 44, near the town of Diamond, Missouri, is the George Washington Carver National Monument. Dig this: (click to embiggen)


Carver’s Formula for Success


Carver believed in God and described his conversion when he was ten years old. He said, “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

Now, zoom in on that picture for this:

Tell that to the yahoos on the other side of the state in Ferguson, waiting for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to make their lives better. This was said by a man born a slave, who walked eight miles to attend the school in Neosho because the school in Diamond was for whites only. A man who was accepted at Highland College in Kansas, only to be turned away when they found out he was black. A man who went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iowa State (yay, Jay!), the first black man to do so, without quotas, without affirmative action, probably fighting every step of the way. A man who witnessed one lynching and was nearly lynched himself for traveling with a photographer who was a white woman. A man invited to speak at conferences where he had to enter through the service entrance and eat meals with the hired help. A man recognized for his contributions with the establishment of a national monument despite the days of Jim Crow.

A museum true to the man it’s dedicated to – it was indeed a delightful find. I wish we had more like him.


Filed under history

Roamy roundup

Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of the first spacewalk. Alexei Leonov shares his thoughts.

Ed White would make the first American spacewalk on June 3, 1965 during the Gemini 4 mission. Both men had trouble with their helmets fogging up, which led to better cooling systems in future spacesuits.

Speaking of anniversaries, the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope is next month. There is the NASA version of March Mania where you can vote for your favorite Hubble image. This telescope was designed to be serviced by astronauts, and still they had to repair items not meant to be monkeyed with in microgravity. One example is the imaging spectrograph, repaired during the last servicing mission. Goddard designed this fastener capture plate to hold the 111 fasteners (#4 and #8 size).
capture plate
Between Hubble and ISS, it is amazing what we can do with spacewalks.

If you ever want to fly an experiment on the International Space Station, NASA is creating researcher’s guides for each discipline.

I had posted the 5-segment booster test and thankfully didn’t repeat the public relations error about it being the most powerful booster test ever. NASAWatch sets the record straight with the Wikipedia entry for Aerojet’s motor firing of 5.88 million pounds thrust.

Between Sept. 25, 1965 and June 17, 1967, three static test firings were done. SL-1 was fired at night, and the flame was clearly visible from Miami 50 km away, producing over 3 million pounds of thrust. SL-2 was fired with similar success and relatively uneventful. SL-3, the third and what would be the final test rocket, used a partially submerged nozzle and produced 2,670,000 kgf thrust, making it the largest solid-fuel rocket ever.

And that is the Roamy roundup for today.

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Filed under space

Booster test today

Successful 5-segment booster firing in Utah earlier today.

**Tim Allen grunts “More Power!**


Filed under space