Your Pluto-palooza Party Guide

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The basics:

http://www.nature.com/news/pluto-fly-by-a-graphical-guide-to-the-historic-mission-1.17927

Detailed timeline of flyby events:

http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2015/06240556-what-to-expect-new-horizons-pluto.html

Where to follow progress:

ETA: schedule of media events at http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-announces-updated-television-coverage-media-activities-for-pluto-flyby

Also, The Science Channel is going to do a flyby special on the evening of July 15th.

 

Party goodies:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Participate/community/Plutopalooza-Toolkit.php

This is an awesome desktop app for Pluto and other NASA stuff:

http://eyes.nasa.gov/

…And then life throws you a curve ball

I guess… back in November? I started to experience incredible pain while sitting–in my neck, in my back, in my left shoulder. Some of this is arthritis, some is muscle strain from arthritis. I’ve been experiencing arthritic twinges in the knees, back, and neck for a few years now. But I’ve never had any trouble sitting for long periods of time. Then the pain got exponentially worse to the point where I couldn’t sit and write comfortably, and I have to do pain drugs to get through my work day. I have an expensive ergonomic chair at work that I can sit in most of the day, if I get up frequently and stretch out.

For a while, it was more comfortable to walk than sit. I would take walks when I was in too much pain. Then a bad squat at the gym inflamed the tendon in my right knee. I still walk, but I can’t overdo it.

The one lesson in all this (besides hours and days and years of sedentary pursuits are bad for you, kids, especially with crappy genes on both sides, because, horse-barn door?) is that I’ve had to change the way I do things. I am writer, and a computer programmer. None of that has changed. It’s just the way it’s done that has change.

No more writing kicked back on the recliner. I now sit upright at a table like the rest of them, although this has its limits. I have also been experimenting with voice recognition input, which is great for one-liners on Facebook, or for making notes to myself, less good for composing, to say nothing of editing.

I have stopped living off “healthy” TV dinners and started cooking anti-inflammatory fare. Cooking, btw, not all that much fun with a gimp knee.

Pain is a strange thing. I always considered myself pretty stoic, but the pain I’ve been experiencing–inescapable, debilitating to normal, everyday activities–can turn me into a harpy. You just discover this wounded animal side to your personality.

If pain is the rich soil of the seeds of creativity, can we make lemonade?

Sure, just stop mixing your metaphors.

Space Geeking

I am terribly behind in my space geeking. Life has thrown me a couple of curveballs, and there’s been a lot of cool space stuff to fall behind on geeking about.

(1) Lunar Mission One: A kickstarter campaign by a private British group, Lunar Missions Ltd, to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon and drill deep into the rock for a scientific analysis of the the geological composition of the Moon.

http://lunarmissionone.com/

 

(2) Hayabusa 2 launched on December 3rd. It is a Japanese asteroid sample return mission targeted at asteroid 1999 JU3. It is due to arrive in July of 2018 and return to Earth in 2020.

http://global.jaxa.jp/
http://b612.jspec.jaxa.jp/hayabusa2/e/index_e.html

(3) Orion! NASA’s new reusable spacecraft intended for future manned space missions (part of NASA’s plans to return to the Moon, and their Asteroid Retrieval Mission) had its first unmanned test flight on December 5th. It did two orbits around the Earth, then returned safely.

http://www.nasa.gov/orion/

(4) New Horizons, NASA/JPL’s mission to Pluto, woke up last Saturday from a two-year hibernation in preparation for its arrival at Pluto this coming July. It will stay “awake” from here on out, and hopefully get some awesome pictures of the Pluto system before its fly-by. Then it is off to explore another Kuiper Belt Object.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons/on-plutos-doorstep-new-horizons-spacecraft-awakens-for-encounter/

Moar space robots!

It’s taken ten years to get there, but early Wednesday, November 12 Central European time (from about 1 AM to 8 AM, which is about 5 PM to midnight Pacific time), the European Space Agency will land a craft on a comet. Their Rosetta spacecraft got to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko three months ago, and has been in a weird jagged “orbit” around it ever since. Now its attached lander, Philae, is being prepped to detach from it.

All the pre-flight stuff is going to happen when I’m busy at a conference next week, and the actual flight and grand finale landing, if it is successful, will happen in the middle of the night. Good luck to the ESA. #cometlanding

Two videos related to this. The first is more cutesy space stuff, but it’s also part of a rather brilliantly accessible series of cartoons promoting and explaining their mission.

The other video is a short art film the ESA collaborated on that I believe is a promo for a longer, upcoming science fantasy film, “Ambition” about the life-creating chemicals and water of comets:

Oodles of Mars Comet links

PIA18611_fig1

Image credit: NASA JPL

This morning, I’m really flummoxed that I don’t have that telescope Santa keeps promising me for Christmas. I was out ogling the early morning sky, and it was possible to see comet Siding Spring near Mars then, hours before its closest fly-by (2:27 PM EDT, 11:27 PM PDT, 18:27 GMT). That’s day time in North America, and yet the real irony belongs to Australia, where the comet was originally discovered last year. The comet closest fly-by won’t even be in their sky at all. The Deep Space Network dishes in Europe, the US, and Puerto Rico can watch.

The comet will scrape by Mars at a distance of 82,000 miles. That’s a third of the distance between Earth and the Moon. Comet Siding Spring originates from the Oort Cloud, a cloud of comets that surrounds our sun at a distance almost quarter of the way to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

There are spacecraft in orbit of the planet Mars from the US, the European Space Agency, and India. They will all be ducked behind the far side of the planet during closest comet approach. But as they swing back around, they might still get a bit of comet dust on them. This has the potential to be very, very bad. A tiny spec of comet junk flying at enormous speed could punch holes right through an orbiting tin can like Earthling’s Mars satellites.

Hopefully, though, all they’ll catch are some cool photos.

The rovers on the surface of Mars will be safe due to the Martian atmosphere, but alas, the poor little guys will also experience closest fly-by during daylight hours.

Mars and Siding Spring will become visible again in North America after sunset this evening.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-best-seat-in-the-house-for-sunday-s-comet-flyby-is-mars1/

http://www.space.com/27403-mars-comet-fly-by-orbiters-to-duck-and-cover-behind-planet-video.html

http://earthsky.org/tonight/comet-siding-springs-near-collision-with-mars-on-october-19

http://mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring/

http://www.universetoday.com/115430/watch-live-as-comet-siding-spring-flys-by-mars/

http://www.livestream.com/eurospaceagency

http://live.slooh.com/stadium/live/comet-siding-spring-swings-by-on-a-close-approach-to-mars

http://www.livecometdata.com/comets/c2013-a1-siding-spring/

 

Things

I am looking forward to some parts of Christmas–spending time with my family, eating good food. But the gift-giving parts, not so much. Not that I have a problem spending a little dough on my loved ones. But this year especially, I am not looking forward to being on the receiving end.

Back in January, I made a New Year’s resolution to declutter one item a day for the entire year of 2013, and I am pleased to say I’ve kept that resolution. A lot of it was finding ten things to tie me over for the next ten days, then ignoring the resolution for a week and half. And sometimes, I would count four identical items as one day’s item, while other times, I’d put the multiple identical items I wanted to ditch on different days, depending on how likely it was I’d fall behind in my resolution.

But yeah, December is a third over, and I’m finished for the year. You wouldn’t know it to look at my place. I kept all my crap tucked away where no one could see it, so visually it hasn’t changed all that much. But if you were to walk into the Good Will down the street from my place? It would be, like, House of Me.

What really has changed is my feeling about “stuff.” I don’t want “stuff” for Christmas. The thought of it just viscerally turns me off. I want tickets to a show, or a gift card to a spa, or something else experiential. Enrich my life, don’t clutter my house. My sister-in-law, bless her heart, got me some random stuff for my birthday that sad to say is going to end up in the Good Will box. I just have no use for it whatsoever, but I don’t want to insult her by saying so. If I must have stuff, the annual trading-of-the-Amazon-gift-cards is A-Okay with me. I will purchase eBooks.

This may suck some of the fun out of Christmas. The Sculptor and I always play Santa for each other and fill each others’ stockings. How many of her stocking stuffers ended up in the GW box after last Christimas and/or on the kitchen counter at work for other people to eat so I could maintain my girlish figure? Yeah, I’m kind of Scroogey that way now.

Not sure I will play 365 things next year. I was actually stunned I could always find stuff if I looked hard enough this year. I probably could find 365 more things if I put my mind to it, but it can be exhausting at times. What it did do was change the way I look at the importance of “gotta keep this in case I need it” and “gotta buy this!” And it makes me value the stuff I hung on to all that much more. So I’ll carry one thing into 2014: a new attitude.

I want candy

My life since graduate school: I am a child in a candy store, the one who is told she cannot eat anything until she’s finished her chores.

I have a job, but beyond that, few responsibilities. I am single and childless. I don’t belong to any organizations (anymore, used to be a thing with me). I have a few family obligations, but nothing that taxes on a daily basis. My family (including my GF) gives me lots of space. Even in my job, I am left pretty much alone as long as I get the work done. Sure, sometimes that work is demanding.

But it is safe to say, that for the most part, I do what I want when I want.

Which means there is a candy store of experiences waiting for me to just try them. What’s the candy? Sometimes, it’s a wonderful television program. Sometimes, it’s a fascinating place to visit. Sometimes, it’s feathering this little nest I’ve built for myself. Sometimes, an interesting friend. Sometimes, it’s literally a piece of candy.

But I’m not allowed these things until my chores are finished. So of course, I sneak off and I eat the candy, and then berate myself. No candy until your chores are done.

And what are my chores?

Writing. That’s my chores. “The great American novel.” That should be one of the pieces of candy, the most delicious, enticing candy in the store. Instead, it’s the thing that the mom-voice in my head is telling me to finish before I can taste one little delicious piece of life.

So of course I’m always rebelling by watching TV, working on some personal project, or eating. And then berating myself, bitterly. In an endless cycle.

Self-beratement doesn’t work. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. All it does is turn the best thing in my life into a cudgel I use to bludgeon myself with.