Author Archives: roamingfirehydrant

About roamingfirehydrant

I get paid to break things.

Geminid meteor shower this weekend

Hope there’s clear skies for you.

The online Slooh Community Observatory will host a live webacst of the Geminid meteor display on Saturday night beginning at 8 p.m. EST (0100 Dec. 14 GMT).You can also watch the Slooh webcast directly:

More skywatching info at

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Filed under space

JPL | News | Saturn’s Moons: What a Difference a Decade Makes

The successor to the Voyagers at Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, has spent the past 10 years collecting images and other data as it has toured the Ringed Planet and its family of satellites. New color maps, produced from this trove of data, show that Cassini has essentially fulfilled one of its many mission objectives: producing global maps of Saturn’s six major icy moons.

via JPL | News | Saturn's Moons: What a Difference a Decade Makes.

Pretty cool to see the difference in the maps. The north polar region of Enceladus will be filled in next year.

On a side note, I always thought that GM-Saturn should have named their cars after the Saturnian moons rather than names like SL and LW. Titan would be a pretty good name for a big SUV.

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Poll of the day

We buried my father-in-law the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He was a WW2 veteran, 15th Army Air Force. The local chapter of the VFW did a great job as honor guard. Minutes before the service at the cemetery, the funeral director asked, “Who’s the oldest?” And so it was that the flag was presented to my sister-in-law.

At my maternal grandfather’s funeral, the flag was presented to the second-oldest aunt, and there was a great deal of squawking about it. Consensus seemed to be that the oldest uncle (also a veteran) should have received it.

At my oldest brother’s funeral, the one who received the flag was not the oldest, but the son currently serving in the Army. Everyone was fine with this.

So my question is this:

Just to keep the record straight, I think it’s fine that my sister-in-law received the flag. She had the lion’s share of caring for my father-in-law. I plan on giving her a display case for the flag. I just wondered if there’s a dominant tradition out there.


Filed under Air Force, army, marines, navy, Personal, veterans

Successful launch of Orion

Yesterday there was a boat too close, then winds were too high, then a fuel valve wouldn’t cycle properly. This morning, the countdown went smoothly.

I realized that while I know the rhythm of the Shuttle launches – the max Q, the booster separation, eight minutes to main engine cutoff – I don’t know squat about a Delta 4 Heavy launch. That was impressive.
Splashdown around 11:30 AM Eastern time off Baja California.


Filed under space

EFT-1 Orion preparing for historic launch atop of Delta IV-H |

The unmanned Exploration Flight Test 1 mission, the maiden flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft, is due to lift off atop a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral during a two-hour, 39-minute window which opens at 12:05 UTC 07:05 local time. [7:05 AM Eastern]

Thursday’s mission will see Orion make two orbits of the planet during a four and a half hour mission that will end with the spacecraft’s recovery in the Pacific Ocean. Reaching a maximum altitude of 5,790 kilometres [3,600 miles] the mission will test separation mechanisms, demonstrate Orion’s Crew Module in orbit and prove that the spacecraft can withstand atmospheric reentry and be recovered successfully.

via EFT-1 Orion preparing for historic launch atop of Delta IV-H | will cover the launch, orbits, and re-entry. Should be a good test of the heatshield during re-entry. For comparison, the International Space Station flies at an altitude of around 250 miles.

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Comet landing attempt today

From the NASA press release:

Earlier this morning, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission deployed its comet lander, “Philae.” Seven hours later at 11 a.m. EST, the experiment-laden, harpoon-firing Philae is set to touch down on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

It will be the first time in history that a spacecraft has attempted a soft landing on a comet. Rosetta is an international mission led by ESA – European Space Agency, with instruments provided by its member states, and additional support and instruments provided by NASA.

NASA Television will provide live coverage from 9-11:30 a.m. EST of Rosetta scheduled landing of a probe on a comet today. NASA’s live commentary will include excerpts of the ESA coverage and air from 9-10 a.m. EST. NASA will continue carrying ESA’s commentary from 10-11:30 a.m. EST. ESA’s Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at 10:35 a.m. EST. A signal confirming landing is expected at approximately 11:02 a.m. EST.

After landing, Philae will obtain the first images ever taken from a comet’s surface. It also will drill into the surface to study the composition and witness close up how a comet changes as its exposure to the sun varies. Philae can remain active on the surface for approximately two-and-a-half days. Its “mothership” is the Rosetta spacecraft that will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015. The orbiter will continue detailed studies of the comet as it approaches the sun and then moves away. NASA has three of the 16 instruments aboard the orbiter.

Comets are considered primitive building blocks of the solar system that are literally frozen in time. They may have played a part in “seeding” Earth with water and, possibly, the basic ingredients for life.

Watch NASA TV online at:

comet 67p


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‘Thanks Joni': Hardee’s CEO congratulates Senator-elect Ernst with newspaper ad [photo] | Twitchy

During her acceptance speech, Iowa Senator-elect Joni Ernst joked that “It’s a long way from Red Oak to Washington, from the biscuit line at Hardee’s to the United States Senate.” Ernst hadn’t forgotten her days working at the fast food chain, and her shout-out to her former employer didn’t go unappreciated. Hardee’s took out a full-page ad in the Des Moines Register to congratulate Ernst and thank her for reminding us that “your job and your life are what you make of them.”

via ‘Thanks Joni': Hardee’s CEO congratulates Senator-elect Ernst with newspaper ad [photo] | Twitchy.


My cousin saw this as a good response to the “living wage” minimum wage hike. Hardees taught Senator-elect Ernst to show up on time, do a good job, get along with co-workers, etc. That is what minimum wage jobs are supposed to do. They are meant to be the beginning, not the be-all and end-all of a career. My cousin pointed out that theaters used to have ushers, gas stations had attendants, and all of the grocery stores had bagboys. Bureau of Labor Statistics says there was 60.5% labor participation for 16 to 24 years old this part July, compared to 77.5 percent in 1989. Another hike in the minimum wage, and that will drop even further as companies automate and cut back on service.

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Filed under history, Personal, Politics