Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Future of NASA?


With a newly elected president, and the possibility of a new NASA administrator, many space enthusiasts and especially those in the aerospace industry are reasonably wondering, what will the future hold?

What's to come in the new presidential administration

In years past, I have spent Decembers on space calendar giveaways, top missions of the year, and various awards, then created a post in January to discuss space goals, agency changes, and what the new year might bring.

A few Twitter users have accused me of "zeroing in" on Trump in a way that I "never did with Obama," except that I meticulously documented Obama's campaign promises for many years -- as evidenced by my past posts where I literally listed EVERY SINGLE ONE of President Barack Obama's space-related policies.

I just as meticulously documented results, and was never shy about listing his promises and researching them exhaustively, nor did I ever  fail to mention when promises were stalled, compromised upon, or downright broken.

Obameter of Space promises

While I may be asking these questions a bit earlier than before, it is because the administration itself has changed for the first time since I've begun writing about the nation's civil space policy. Any change in command at the highest level could well mean significant changes to many portions of the space agency, not the least of which is a new leader for the agency itself.

The short list includes GW Space Policy Institute Director Scott Pace, former astronaut Colonel Eileen Collins, and Oklahoma Representative Jim Bridenstine -- author of the Space Renaissance Act.  Top priorities, as always, are listed as Moon, Mars, and Commercial Space. However, these tend to be the "sexy spotlights," when in fact NASA's $18+ billion is spread broadly among many major categories that contribute to successful industries both in space and across the globe.


Here are the major categories of the NASA budget. What will a Trump presidency mean to things like climate change research, Earth sciences, Green efforts, or even planetary science? We know many of these categories have been in the "pork" list for conservatives for many cycles. Will a budget for Mars glory mean gutting the long term plans for the habitability for our own planet?

We can likely count on many Senators in the 10 states with major NASA centers to fight for the jobs inside their borders, and the crucial work that fuels technology and spinoffs from space research; what we do not know is how well they will fare against blatantly partisan attempts to cater to myths that science is untrustworthy, or that science cares about elections, imaginary lines on maps, or whether Floridians just voted to imagine climate change does not exist when sea life is flooding into Miami parking garages.


For the moment, we only have sparse commentary from President-Elect Donald Trump, and none so far show that he has a grasp of the actual issues facing the space agency. So far most of the details have come from more knowledgeable policy advisers, and not Trump himself. Based on his own comments, comparing the promises of Trump to Obama is a stark contrast, indeed.

I won't try to predict what the future holds, I'll just hope the message from the first man in space holds true into the 21st century.

Monday, January 18, 2016

StarTalk Live at Sketchfest!

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Star Talk Radio is on the road again! This week, Bill Nye The Science Guy will be hosting their annual Sketchfest gig in San Francisco!  Lucky, lucky audience in California.

Okay, okay, don't say it... if it's Star Talk Radio LIVE and ONSTAGE, it's... not.. exactly RADIO. But who's quibbling with the best radio show and podcast around?

I'm so flattered to tell all my readers that the StarTalk social media team invited me, for the second year in a row, to "guest-host" their Twitter account during Bill Nye's show on Friday, January 22nd. Joining me for fun across multiple social media platforms will be the ├╝ber-cool host of The STEMulus, aerospace engineer Stephanie Evans!

Star Talk Radio Podcasts


StarTalk, from Curved Light Productions, is the first (and still only) popular commercial radio/television broadcast devoted to space exploration, the search for life in the universe, astrophysics, and cosmology -- and they manage to make all these subjects accessible to listeners of all ages and backgrounds with facts, humor, and celebrities.

If you are not a regular StarTalk listener... um, who are you and what are you doing on my blog?? No seriously, if you're new to the show, you can brush up on the format and fun by seeing their greatest hits on their YouTube channel or iTunes.

There is one episode where Neil deGrasse Tyson had a conversation with GOD. Make time.


Engineer, Emmy-winning TV host, comic, and owner of 350+ bow ties, Bill Nye is also the current CEO of The Planetary Society.  I happen to be a proud, card-carrying member. It will be my distinct pleasure to put all my Nye-rich knowledge into describing the show on Friday night at the historic Nourse Theatre in San Francisco.

If you live in or near the SF Bay Area, you can purchase tickets to come live-tweet #StarTalkRadio with us, or follow along with all the great sciency comedy from home by following the social media hashtag #StarTalkLive.


The above video is from Nye's San Francisco StarTalk show, at the annual SF Sketchfest. Watch this if you want to get an idea of what's in store!

For all the news this week about #StarTalkLive, you can follow the major players on Twitter at @Pillownaut, @StephEvz43, @AndyWeirAuthor, @TheScienceGuy, @EugeneMirman, and of course the Big Guns: @StarTalkRadio.

Friday, January 15, 2016

FREE 2016 "Year In Space" Bill Nye Calendar!

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Readers and Tweeters! Some lucky SpaceTwit is going to win a stunningly gorgeous 2016 Year In Space Calender, hot off the Starry Messenger Press, published in cooperation with The Planetary Society.

And when I say SpaceTwit, I mean that in the nicest possible way. Because all you have to do to enter the contest is tweet about the new calendar to spread the word, and we will announce the winner on Friday, January 22nd during StarTalkLive's Bill Nye show at Sketchfest 2016!


Designer Steve Cariddi created this large-format 2016 Year In Space Calendar to appeal to space enthusiasts of all ages, and the introduction was written by everyone's favorite Science Guy, Bill Nye!

This beautiful creation has his stamp of approval, and it's not difficult to see why. I got my hot little hands on it, and have been absorbed for hours. The photography is stunning, and every square centimeter is packed with colorful collages, planets, astronauts, space crafts, and profiles of famous scientists. The calendar grids feature moon phases, sky-gazing guides, space exploration milestones throughout history and fun space facts.

2016 Year In Space Bill Nye Calendar


TO ENTER THE TWEETSTORM

Circulate any of the tweets below, or create your own tweet with the calendar link, and CC: back to my account so I know to enter your Twit-handle in the drawing.

Win a FREE Year In Space 2016 calendar w/fabulous space photographs! bit.ly/1TYfkHX Intro by @BillNye The Science Guy! cc @pillownaut

FREE @BillNye Year In Space 2016 Calendar bit.ly/1TYfkHX contest at #StarTalkLive by @StarTalkRadio on Fri 1/22! cc @pillownaut :)

Win a FREE Year In Space 2016 Calendar bit.ly/1TYfkHX Created by @YearInSpace + @exploreplanets the Planetary Society cc @pillownaut

Also, if you are a fan of Bill Nye The Science Guy, be sure to buy tickets for Sketchfest in San Francisco next week! We will be tweeting live with StarTalkRadio and announcing the winner during the show!

2016 Year In Space Bill Nye calendar
Click to see Calendar Pages!

And Get This: you get a special discount for being a Pillow Astronaut Reader and Tweeter! Of course, only one person can win the free prize, so when the rest of you purchase multiples for your kids, and I know you will, check out the discount grid.

Check in the box for the Internet Discount, which ranges from 22% to 39%, depending on quantity ordered; then in the comment section, let them know Pillownaut sent you!

If you do not have a Twitter account, feel free to share this article to Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or Tumblr!  Then, leave me a comment here on this blog post to let me know! Anyone who shares is entered. :)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Post-Thanksgiving Planet

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For any international readers, you may have noticed American social media buzz about a curious little holiday we call "Thanksgiving", which we pretend is about Pilgrims and Natives preparing meals together at the dawn of our colonial period. It's kinda really totally actually NOT, but as with most holidays, we like myths more than we like historical facts.

This excuse to over-eat is held each year on the third Thursday of November. Then, on the third FRIDAY of each November, we celebrate an even more curious custom known as... Wishing We Could Move To Planet Mercury.


Your Weight On Other Worlds
There is a great contraption at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where you can step on a large scale and see what you weigh on all the planets. I've been on it, and it's quite a fun experience. They also have their calculator on a web page, so you can see Your Weight On Other Worlds.

(I think it goes without saying, there will never, EVER be a book fad known as "The Jupiter Diet".)

Why the discrepancies? In simple terms, gravity is the force of attraction between objects. Gravitational pull is what makes the Earth orbit the sun, or the moon orbit the Earth. Suns, moons and planets are all surrounded by fields of gravity. These fields will be different, depending on things like planet size, mass, speed, its location in any solar system, and any other objects around it in space.

If Earth's force of gravity is measured at 1.00, force on other planets would be:

List of Planets and their Gravitational Forces
We'll include Pluto for the purists. And so I don't have to listen to any arguments.

More complex components of gravity come into play, but in general: the larger the object, the greater the gravity. However, the further away you travel from an object, the less you are affected by its gravitational field. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, so it has the strongest field (except for our Sun, which is over 27+!). You cannot stand on Jupiter, because it's mostly gas. However, if it had a surface, the force holding your body on the planet would be much greater. This increases your weight, even though your mass remains the same.

At any rate, multiply your weight by any of these numbers, and you will see what you weigh on that planet.  Oh goody, math homework!