Early this morning we were treated to another feeling of pride as the Curiosity rover for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory made a successful landing on our neighbor in space.
I was part of the many who chose to stay up late and watch the coverage live on NASA’s website. It was fascinating watching the footage from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and seeing the scientists and technicians in action while Curiosity made its historic descent and landing.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – descent and landing of Curiosity rover
Of course, Curiosity is not the first U.S. rover to successfully land on the Martian surface. The Sojourner rover as part of the Mars Pathfinder mission successfully landed and operated on Mars from July 4 – September 22, 1997. The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity both landed on Mars in January of 2004. Spirit‘s wheels became stuck in the sand in January of 2010, and communication with it ended on March 22, 2010. As far as Opportunity, that rover is still operating on the surface of Mars. Read more…
Christmas Eve has finally arrived.
Later this evening children will be tucked into bed, trying desperately to sleep before the arrival of Santa Claus.
Tomorrow morning will involve the unwrapping of presents and watching as joy is spread between families and friends.
In today’s modern times, it’s easy to forget just how fortunate we are to be able to celebrate such a holiday. Here in the U.S., times are peaceful. It’s not like artillery barrages are flattening buildings, or massive armies of soldiers are sweeping through the countryside, killing everybody who stands in the way.
One of my favorite examples of humanity and the Christmas spirit dates back to December 25, 1914 in Belgium. Read more…
As most of you probably know by know, the college sports world was rocked once again by the announcing of the deaths of Oklahoma State University women’s basketball head coach, Kurt Budke, and assistant coach, Miranda Serna, from a plane crash that occurred around 4 pm Thursday afternoon.
And as it’s been posted by the news media and sports history buffs, this is the second time in ten years that Oklahoma State has lost part of its basketball program in a plane crash. In January of 2001, ten people affiliated with players and coaches of the OK State men’s basketball team died after their plane crashed in Colorado following a basketball game.
Budke and Serna were en-route to Little Rock, Arkansas, on a recruiting trip when their single-engine plane went down and crashed in mountainous, heavily-wooded terrain. It’s also been reported that the pilot of the aircraft was eighty-two years old.
Personally, I have no idea who Budke and Serna were. I don’t follow men’s or women’s basketball programs, college or professional. However, from what I’ve seen so far, it sounds like both people were well-liked and respected in their field, and this is a tough loss and serious blow to not only Oklahoma State faculty and students, but fans of the sport in general.
For the crash, I haven’t seen any details yet about the make or model of the aircraft, or any other conditions of the flight. It was reported that the aircraft was built back in 1964. For anybody who’s flown general aviation, you know as well as I do that this is a moot point. Most Cessna trainers were built in the early 1970s, and many aircraft from the 1960s are still very much flyable as long as the aircraft’s owner(s) keep up with the required maintenance.
It was also reported that the pilot himself was eighty-two years old. The pilot’s age may have very well been a factor. Hunters in the area reported that they heard the aircraft’s engine sputter before it took a nosedive and crashed into the hilly terrain. So far I haven’t heard any reports of pieces of the airplane falling away from the aircraft. Was the engine sputtering and presumed engine failure caused by a mechanical issue, or was it related to pilot error? Read more…
Ah, the joys of airline travel.
From the hassles of security checkpoints in the airports to incompetent workers to the excessive fees for checked luggage, traveling by air these days can be a royal pain in the ass.
I’ve loved aviation since my early youth. Boarding an aircraft and experiencing the thrills from takeoff to landing still entertain me, despite all of the changes that have effected the industry over the past ten years. Back in high school I earned my private pilot’s license and completed most of my instrument training. Alas, the high costs of training and some minor medical issues have kept me out of the cockpit, but that love of aviation is still there.
So when it comes to choosing an airline and taking a commercial flight, whether it’s for business or pleasure, what characteristics do you look for in an airline? Is price the main consideration? Is luxury and personal attention more important? Is a major carrier with more flights better than a regional airline that may operate from a smaller airport closer to your home or destination?
More importantly, when seeing TV commercials for airlines, do they really inspire you to consider them for your next flight?
Let’s take a look at some of 2011′s best and worst airline TV commercials and see how well they sell themselves to us, the general public.
British Airways — To Fly. To Serve.
Right off the bat this is my favorite airline commercial. Read more…
The death toll from last Friday’s tragic crash at the Reno Air Races has officially reach eleven; seven dying at the crash site and four more succumbing to critical injuries and dying in the hospital.
So what happened to the aircraft?
Why did the veteran pilot suddenly pitch up in his modified P-51 Mustang, The Galloping Ghost, roll inverted and slam nose first into part of the spectator viewing area?
Right now the videos of the crash and its horrific aftermath don’t yield a whole lot of clues. People recording the race were focused on many of the racing aircraft, and it’s hard to find a clear video of The Galloping Ghost. And from what I’ve seen in the news, personal accounts of the accident match what little we can see in the amateur videos.
Fortunately for the NTSB and anybody else looking for answers, a few photos have surfaced and they actually shed quite a bit of light as to the final moments of The Galloping Ghost and veteran pilot, Jimmy Leeward.
Taken some point before its final race, here we can see The Galloping Ghost on the taxiway at Reno. Inside the red circle you can clearly see pilot Jimmy Leeward sitting in his seat. As a whole, cockpits for fighter aircraft are usually cramped with just enough room for the pilot to effectively move the controls and safely maneuver and navigate the aircraft. Read more…
It’s hard to imagine that this day has finally arrived.
From Columbia‘s first flight in STS-1 on April 12, 1981, to Atlantis‘s final mission in STS-135 on July 8, 2011, the space shuttle launches and landings have both thrilled viewers and inspired future astronauts for over thirty years.
Since the early days of childhood I’ve been fascinated by flight and the space program. I remember being in elementary school and receiving word over the P.A. system about the Challenger disaster. I remember looking at newspapers lying on a table talking about the Columbia disaster while helping my brother move between college residences in February of 2003.
And now, sadly, I’m sure I’ll remember where I was as Atlantis took to the skies on the final space shuttle mission.
Launching of STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011.
This past weekend I had a travel opportunity to once again visit the great city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Well, it was more of a pack-an-apartment-and-move-the-contents-back-to-Georgia-type trip rather than traveling for business or pleasure. Come to think of it, we really didn’t have any free time at all on this trip.
The journey began bright and very early as my friend and I flew from Atlanta to Pittsburgh on a CRJ200. The aircraft itself was pretty sweet, but when it comes to riding on the regional aircraft, I definitely prefer turboprops. I flew on a Dash 8 this past November, and that was definitely a lot more fun.
One of the benefits to traveling first thing in the morning is that in addition to shorter lines going through security, the wait for takeoff is kept to a minimum. In our case the pilot told us that we were first in line for takeoff. We cruised along the taxiway, made the turn onto the runway, and then went to full power for takeoff. We were airborne within a short moment and on our way north to Pittsburgh.
Well, folks, in a few hours I’ll be heading down to Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport for a non-stop flight to Pittsburgh, PA.
It’s simple. My friend’s sister had a successful dual-lung transplant, and now it’s time to move everything in the temporary apartment back down here to Atlanta. We moved her up there at the end of November. The fact that someone can have a major operation like that and then be essentially dismissed and allowed to move back home in such a short time frame is amazing.
This time my flight will be aboard a CRJ200 regional airliner. It’s not as glorious as riding in a turboprop, but cruising with a pair of jet engines will still make this an entertaining flight. I’m already looking forward to the acceleration of takeoff and the thrill of a (hopefully) smooth landing. This is going to be a sweet ride.
The fact that snow is in Pittsburgh’s weather forecast this Sunday is an added bonus. I’m sick of this extreme pollen here in Atlanta, and the breath of cold, fresh air is going to be great.
In the meantime, it’s time to sleep for a couple of hours before heading down to the airport.
Earlier today the Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) touched down at Kennedy Space Center, concluding its 39th and final mission into Earth orbit.
I was fortunate enough to be in central Florida during the launch of Discovery. The Florida trip was a planned family vacation to theme park land, and the launching of the space shuttle was just a bonus.
So the big question — Can you really see a rocket launch from central Florida?
Just don’t expect to see any details. It’s basically a tiny black dot cruising high into the sky and leaving behind a massive exhaust plume in its wake. It’ll look quite a bit different than the normal airliner contrails that sometimes cover the sky.
I was in Epcot on the day of the launch, and (as predicted because I tend to have bad luck) the sky was mostly cloudy that afternoon. We had nice and sunny skies for most of the week, but that afternoon was mostly cloudy with only a few pockets of blue sky. In other words, you just had to keep scanning the few holes in the cloud and hope to be looking at the right one at the right angle during the launch.
I wasn’t so lucky.
The camera was ready, but I picked the wrong hole in the clouds. Shouts were heard as the rocket suddenly climbed high into the sky. By the time I spotted it there was nothing but an exhaust plume. Oh well. Read more…
Today I had another opportunity to attend a home football game for Georgia Tech.
I’m not a Tech alumni, nor am I a huge fan of the school. I do like them significantly more than that other popular college in the state of Georgia. My alma mater, however, is with a different university a couple of states away. Today’s gameday experience was provided by my late brother’s seasons tickets.
The game against Miami went pretty much as I expected. Tech’s passing game was non-existent, and despite having a greater time of possession and the same if not more rushing yards, the scoreboard called the game a blowout. The game was pretty much over since the first quarter when Miami was up by 14 points. If Tech has to play catch up with its triple-option offense, well, good luck. There’s a good reason why you no longer see that style of offense in Division 1 football.
One of the more exciting parts of the game (aside from the 1990 Georgia Tech National Championship football team being honored at halftime) was the military fly-by at the end of the national anthem. Making an approach from the north and staying about a thousand feet above ground level was a C-17 Globemaster III. The massive transport made a low pass over Bobby Dodd Stadium and managed to get what Tech fans were sober enough to get to the stadium in time excited for today’s game.
The second half of the game was a bore as Miami pulled ahead and sealed the game. As I was watching the Tech fans leave the stadium at the start of the fourth quarter, I couldn’t help but overhear conversations about the fly-by from last year’s Wake Forest game. This was the infamous “too low” fly-by performed by a pair of F/A-18 Hornet pilots from the VFA-136 “Knighthawks” strike fighter squadron. Those two pilots (both were GA Tech alumni) were permanently relieved of pilot duty after that stunt. Read more…