Category Archives: aerospace

Preserving the stories of Viking

Rachel Tillman has a scrapbook that is out of this world. What started out as a young girl’s effort to save a cool piece of space history has morphed into a project to preserve the artifacts of the iconic Viking program and the stories of the people who made it happen.

VMMEPPTillman is the founder, executive director, and chief curator of the Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project, a Portland-based nonprofit that has a huge collection of photos, documents and artifacts from the Viking missions and aims to collect oral histories of some 10,000 people who had a hand in the project—the “Vikings,” as Tillman calls them.

Little kid heaven

Her interest in the mission started early.

“My father worked on the Viking mission,” she said. He is James E. Tillman, a professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington who was a member of the Viking meteorology team.

“He is an explorer; scientists often are explorers,” Tillman said of her father. “He was so engrossed in his work that lived and breathed it. He brought it home at night.”

What he often brought home was the latest problem or design or a new photo from the lander, and he would ask the kids what they thought about it. Rachel ate it up.

Viking on Mars

One of the more famous photos in planetary exploration history: the first sent from Viking 1 shortly after it landed on Mars July 20, 1976. The original is part of the VMMEPP collection. Photo: NASA/JPL.

“I was interested from the get-go,” she said. Often she would go to her father’s office after school and soak up all of the conversations he and other scientists were having about technical matters. She’d go look it up and figure out the language, and would often make drawings about what she was learning. She made a few trips with her father to the Jet Propulsion Lab in California, and then got to go to Florida for the launches of the Viking spacecraft in 1975.

“We were down there at Cape Canaveral for the launch with Carl Sagan and Gerry Soffen and my dad and the guys from KSC,” she said. “I saw the rocket fly off.”

That’s quite a crowd for a little kid to hang out with. Rachel recalls Sagan as intense and funny, but said Soffen, the chief scientist on the Viking mission, was her hero.

“He was thoughtful, funny, very smart, absolutely wanted to know whatever it was out there to know,” she said. “He was also a magician. I’m a kid, that’s really cool!”

“The makeup of the people of the mission was amazing,” she added: Hard working, dedicated, sacrificing, funny, intelligent, grumpy, passionate—all of those things that a kid really picks up on.”

“I couldn’t have dreamed a better life than I live,” Rachel said.

They were going to melt it down

Viking was in Rachel’s DNA, but her work as a preservationist started almost as an accident.

NASA built three flight-ready Viking landers, but the first two worked and so the third—VL3—was not needed. Several groups and companies fiddled with plans to turn it into a rover, but ultimately nobody had any funding to do anything, so the lander was set aside. Then around 1979 James Tillman was looking for some used filing cabinets and found some interesting items on the NASA surplus list: his own Viking and meteorology instrument, and VL3.

VL3 at MOF

They didn’t scrap Viking Lander 3! The lander, owned by Rachel Tillman, is on exhibit at the Museum of Flight. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“They were scrapping it,” Rachel said. “They were going to melt it down.”

She immediately said that they had to get it and save it. Her father thought it was a ridiculous idea, but she convinced him to do it anyway because she had a ready purpose for the lander.

“We’re going to put it in my school,” she told him, “and we’re going to teach kids about robotics and about Mars and about science and engineering.”

Rachel now owns the Viking lander VL3, and it actually was at her school for a while. It also was on display for some time in the electrical engineering department at the UW. For the last ten years it has been on loan to the Museum of Flight, where it is a part of the permanent exhibit Space: Exploring the New Frontier.

“That’s how my preserving began, was with the Viking Lander,” Rachel said. Though it started with a great piece of historic hardware, Rachel is now drawn to the human side.

It’s about the people

“My role as a kid who grew up with the mission is to honor the people who did it,” she said. “Everybody. Not just the rock stars.”

Greg and Viking stuff

The author in front of information boards the Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project uses at outreach events. The box my arm is resting on contains James Tillman’s Mars meteorology instrument. Photo: Rachel Tillman.

“Every Viking represents a child today that may want to do something like what they did,” Rachel added. “They don’t have to be the mission director, they don’t have to be the principal investigator of a science instrument, they don’t even have to be the lead engineer.”

So many other people had important functions from keeping travel schedules to crunching numbers to designing small but important components of the landers.

“All of these people are so critically important to the mission, and 95 percent of them were forgotten,” Rachel said. “That’s my job: preserve the history and the individuals; not just the timeline events, but the people who did them. That’s what this is all about.”

The Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project was founded in 2008, but only really started doing any outreach in the last year. It’s been mostly underground work as Rachel met and interviewed as many of the Vikings as possible. She thought it was important to do some public events this year, the 40th anniversary of the Vikings’ landings on Mars. They held an open event in Denver—the landers were built there by Martin Marietta, which is now Lockheed Martin. NASA also held some events at Langley and at JPL, and the project held three “Science Pub” talks last month through the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

The future of VMMEPP

To date the project has run mostly through donations from James and Rachel Tillman, some of the Vikings, and a few others, but in the next year or so they will be doing some more serious fundraising.

“Our plan is to create a trust fund around all of the artifacts of Viking so they can’t be given away or sold,” Rachel said. “As we get new donations they will stay in this trust.”

She said the fund will help with management of the artifacts as well as preservation. Then in the next year or two they plan to issue a request for proposals from institutions and organizations that would like to host the Viking artifacts.

“They’ll have to meet the requirements that we set for care of the artifacts and for creating access to the artifacts for the public, because that’s critically important,” Rachel said.

In the meantime, the project has established an online museum, where you can go page through raw documents from the Viking missions. The project website is a treasure trove of photos and facts and stories about the Viking missions.

Rachel plans an outreach event at the Hillsdale Library in Portland for December 20, but then will probably be mostly invisible for a little while.

“Doing the oral history interviews, creating access, and protecting the artifacts, those our our three really big pushes.”

It’s a fascinating and worthy cause. If you would like to help with the preservation effort, you can donate to the project online through Facebook (through December 13) or Amazon Smile, or simply send a check to:

Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project
5331 SW Macadam #258-504
Portland, OR 97239

Podcast of our interview with Rachel Tillman:

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Seattle’s place in new space

Seattle is seen as a hub or epicenter of the “new space” industry, so much so that the annual NewSpace conference produced by the Space Frontier Foundation came to the city for the first time last week. The conference attracted a who’s who of the industry for networking and discussion.

John Thornquist

Thornquist

One question tackled at the event was why Seattle? John Thornquist, director of the state Office of Aerospace, said the state has the four essential elements that the space industry needs:

  • Businesses and a highly skilled workforce in manufacturing, software, tech, engineering, and big data
  • A culture of entrepreneurship
  • Strong university education and research
  • Support of state leaders

“We’ve been on the forefront designing and building some of the most advanced, successful commercial and military aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and scientific exploration vehicles the world has ever known,” Thornquist said in welcoming remarks to the conference.

Panel: Why Seattle for new space

OK, but it’s his job to pump the state. A panel of space company leaders gave their reasons for choosing Seattle and Washington.

Fred Wilson

Wilson

Fred Wilson, director of business development for Aerojet Rocketdyne, said the reason the company chose the Seattle area is simple. Its four founders were Boeing engineers who started the company in 1959.

“Boeing and the aerospace engineering pool that Boeing brought to the Seattle area was a key spawning ground for space companies,” Wilson said, adding that Aerojet Rocketdyne is now doing the same thing. “Having been in the Seattle area for close to 60 years, we’ve spawned off a lot of engineers to companies in the Seattle area.”

Jason Andrews

Andrews

Jason Andrews, CEO of Spaceflight Industries, backed Thornquist up on his assessment, noting that space companies need great software, big data, and capital.

“Seattle is an epicenter for all three,” Andrews said. Combine that with the city’s other positives, and you have an easy choice.

“Seattle is a great place,” Andrews said. “It is unique here because of the visionary people and the pioneering culture that Seattle has had from the very beginning.”

Rob Meyerson

Meyerson

Rob Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, picked up on that concept as well.

“Space companies come here because so many companies before us have come and made this a really, really fantastic place, when you combine it with the natural resources around us,” Meyerson said. He also said the educational institutions are a good draw, from Raisbeck Aviation High School to the state’s universities.

“It’s a unique place, it’s a beautiful place to live, it’s a very, very intelligent community, a high rate of STEM education, a very literate group,” Meyerson said. “The infrastructure here is really well suited for what we want to do.”

Chris Lewicki

Lewicki

Chris Lewicki worked for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California before moving north with the founding of Planetary Resources, of which he is president and CEO. He said Seattle was a conscious choice for the company; it’s ambition is mining asteroids, and that will take a while to develop.

“It’s going to take you two, three, four, five, ten—maybe longer—years to build a successful business in the space industry,” Lewicki said. “You’ve got to enjoy where you live, and Seattle is spectacular for that.”

The future of new space

Andrews of Spaceflight Industries said it’s hard to predict how the industry will evolve, as so many companies have different goals and objectives, from asteroid mining to satellite launching.

“The ultimate holy grail is about creating a permanent human presence in space; three of the companies leading that are here,” Andrews said, noting Space X, Blue Origin, and Vulcan Aerospace.

“Seattle is really at the beginning of its space growth curve,” he added. “Companies here are going to have other entrepreneurs that come, work for five years, and spawn off and create new businesses that fill niche markets around this ecosystem that we’re creating in Seattle.”

“The capital, the people, the resources, the attitude—Seattle is going to be on the map for a long time,” Andrews concluded.

Charles Beames

Beames

“The companies here are either a part of the revolution itself, or they’re enabling it in some fashion,” said Charles Beames, president of Vulcan Aerospace. “In terms of jobs, the biggest growth is actually going to be all of the new space startups that are highly innovative, that are going to survive, and they’re going to employ all kinds of people and grow new companies.”

“I don’t think you can constrain where the Seattle space economy and industry is going to go,” said Wilson of Aerojet Rocketdyne. “I think it’s going to be innovative and creative and it’s going to pop up in many different areas we don’t even realize right now.”

It turns out, then, that Washington’s aerospace director Thornquist, and everyone else in the state, has good reason to be optimistic.

“New space has come to Washington,” Thornquist said, “and we’re more than ready for it.”

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Sorting out new space and old space

The Space Frontier Foundation has put on a NewSpace conference every year since 2006 as a way to bring together people involved in the space industry—be they from established companies, startups, or government agencies—with investors and tech innovators. The confab ventured out of the Silicon Valley and landed in Seattle for the first time last week, in a nod to the growing number of new-space companies located in the area. Interestingly, one of the takeaways from the conference is that NewSpace may be something of a misnomer, an unnecessary distinction given the direction in which the industry is headed.

“This future, we call next space,” said Charles Beames, president of Vulcan Aerospace.

Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson

Aerojet Rocketdyne would qualify as old space if you want to make a distinction; the Redmond-based company was founded back in the 1950s and has built more than 15,000 rocket engines that have powered missions to every planet in the solar system.

“There’s a lot of talk of new space versus old space, but I think the key relevant thing to me is innovating versus stagnating,” said Fred Wilson, director of business development at Aerojet, who noted that the company’s track record is no guarantee of future success. “It’s the successful innovators that grow over time. Even though we’ve been around for 50-60 years, if we quit innovating we’re not going to be around much longer.”

Distinction without a difference

Lepore

Debra Facktor Lepore

Debra Facktor Lepore, vice president and general manager of strategic operations at Ball Aerospace, finds the dichotomy to be a false one.

“It’s about old and new and everything in between, both working together to advance the future of space,” Lepore said. She noted that the relationships between entrepreneurs and startups and more established companies can evolve to meet the specific business or technical needs in each situation, and that an us-versus-them approach can be disruptive. Lepore called the relationship synergistic.

“In the end it is all about the people and being passionate about going to space: why we go there, how we get there, what we do there, what we discover when we’re there, and making a difference for our lives here on Earth and in pioneering discoveries to make a difference for beyond our planet and the solar system,” Lepore said.

Building real businesses

Charles Beames

Charles Beames

Beames, of Vulcan, noted that one aspect of new space that really is new is that the laws of economics are beginning to apply to low-Earth orbit. It isn’t enough for companies to simply go to space; they must have concrete business plans, real products or services, and customers who want those things. Vulcan aims to support startups to help them get there.

“It’s all about enabling access to the entrepreneur; the entrepreneur that wants to create a business, the entrepreneur that has an idea to solve a really tough problem,” he said. Sometimes, the challenge for space businesses is the long wait to get a project launched and off the planet. Beames said providing convenient and timely access to low-Earth orbit could help raise confidence among investors.

“Keeping the proverbial two-men-in-a-garage together for two years, that’s a long time to be paying salary without being able to either generate revenue or to raise equity,” he observed.

Simpson

Jim Simpson

Jim Simpson, senior vice president of strategy and business development with Aerojet Rocketdyne, said space companies, new or old, need to remember a key fact. His voice lowered to a near whisper, as if he were divulging a well-kept secret: “Businesses need to make money,” he said, echoing the point about sound economic practices.

While there’s a lot that is new about the space industry, Simpson reminded conference attendees that one old player can’t be ignored. He pointed out that two-thirds of all space missions are still government missions, and that the government remains a big economic player in the industry.

“There’s going to be a struggle between the government and commercial space applications as far as the dynamics are concerned,” Simpson said, adding that he expects that will lead to a healthy evolution.

“Old space and new space: it’s about the ideas, the drive, the people, the innovation and the partnerships,” said Lepore of Ball Aerospace. “All of us are really working to make a difference to pioneer discoveries, explore the universe, have a sustainable planet, improve our quality of life. Is it new? Is it old? Is it mid? Is it next?” she asked.

“It’s always about what’s next,” she concluded.

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Discussion of space security is highlight of week’s calendar

Several area astronomy clubs have meetings and star parties this week, and the University of Washington hosts a symposium about space security.

Jackson School of International StudiesDoctoral candidates and junior fellows in the Space Security Initiative at the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies have been examining the prospects of various international spacefaring nations, and will present a briefing about their findings at the University this Wednesday, June 8. Seattle Astronomy is among the participant panel of journalists, space company representatives, government officials, military, economic development specialists, and other space thinkers involved in the discussion of the future of space exploration and security. We’ll report back on the discussion in a future post.

Astro club activity

Tacoma Astronomical SocietyThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 7 in room 175 of Thompson Hall on the University of Puget Sound campus. Seattle Astronomical Society member Mark de Regt will give a talk about how he moved from observing the skies from his yard to remote imaging with equipment located in the South Australia desert. He gave a similar presentation to the SAS back in March. The Tacoma group also will hold one of its free public nights beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday, June 11 at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. An all-weather program about aurorae will be featured, and club members will have telescopes on hand for observing if weather permits.

BPAAThe Battle Point Astronomical Association has a full evening of events planned for Saturday, June 11. The club’s popular BP Astro Kids program will celebrate its first birthday at 5 p.m. by revisiting its first year of fun kid projects in a relaxed, science-based, crafty evening! Participants can come by any time as there is no talk, just celebrations! The club’s monthly planetarium program follows at 8:30 p.m., this time focusing on “Pluto & Some Planets.” Astronomer Steve Ruhl will examine the latest data about Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft. They’ll also take a brief look at the three bright planets currently in the evening sky: Jupiter, Mars and Saturn. If the sky is clear, astronomers will be on hand with telescopes. The event is free to BPAA members, $2 donation suggested for nonmembers, $5 for families.

Olympic Astronomical Society has its monthly meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 6 in room Art 103 at Olympic College in Bremerton. As of this writing the program had not been published.

Up in the sky

As the BPAA suggests, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are all beautifully placed for viewing starting at dusk these days. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope list additional observing highlights for the week.

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Seattle’s place in the future of space

Some of the top thinkers about the future of space visited Seattle this week as part of the U.S.-Japan Space Forum. The forum, supported by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation and the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, is a standing committee of policy experts who meet regularly to sort out the challenges and opportunities for the two countries and more. The group had two days of private meetings in town, followed by a public symposium Wednesday at the Museum of Flight. Saadia Pekkanen, a professor at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and a co-chair of the forum, said there was good reason to bring the discussion to Seattle.

Saadia Pekkanen

Saadia Pekkanen is a UW professor and co-chair of the U.S.-Japan Space Forum. She moderated a panel discussion Wednesday at the Museum of Flight. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“Seattle is in many ways the new hub for space policy, bringing together a combination of billionaire interest, technical workforce talents, and also shared passion on the part of educational institutions like the Museum of Flight to take and advance our understanding of space,” Pekkanen said. She added that space is no longer dominated just by governments, and that the list of important partners includes longtime contractors such as Boeing and all of the newcomers in commercial space as well.

“We are also dealing with a world that is no longer just dominated by Western players,” Pekkanen said. “The most ambitious space players, I would say, are actually found in Asia—not only ambitious but also very competent.”

With so many countries and companies getting into the space business we have to examine our old assumptions.

“We can no longer take the rules of the game—the normative, the legal, the policy, and the regulatory frameworks that have really shaped global space affairs—for granted,” Pekkanen said. Shaping that discussion, she said, is a big part of what the U.S.-Japan Forum is all about.

Security challenges

Yamakawa

Hiroshi Yamakawa, professor from Kyoto University. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Roy Kamphausen, the vice president of the National Bureau of Asian Research, spelled out six challenges for space and security in the Asia-Pacific region. These include China’s space expansion, conflict with North Korea, the evolving and complex relationship between China and Russia, Southeast Asia’s reluctance to act on military and security questions, and changing priorities and resources for the United States and Japan.

Hiroshi Yamakawa, a professor from Kyoto University, noted that space debris and possible threats to assets in space also present challenges. Yamakawa presented a history of collaboration in space between the U.S. and Japan, which he said goes back more than 50 years.

“It’s a very long and sustainable cooperation since the beginning of the space age,” Yamakawa said, noting Japan had recently extended its commitment to work with the International Space Station until at least 2024. “I hope that this cooperation will last at least until 3016.”

Collaboration in space

Collaboration in space comes down to pretty practical matters. For one, few countries have the funds to go it alone in space any more.

Ron Lopez

Ron Lopez of Boeing. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“This backdrop of real threats, favorable policy environment, and budgetary constraints creates an environment that necessitates greater collaboration in space and defense,” said Ron Lopez, director of Asia-Pacific business development for Boeing. “We’re talking about the bringing together of superior technologies with skills and know-how to develop value-added, cost-effective solutions.”

“The purpose of collaboration is really to do more with less,” Lopez added.

Collaboration is not a new idea. Shoichiro Asada of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries pointed out that U.S. and Japanese companies have already worked together on missile defense systems, jet fighters and engines, and other systems.

 

Shoichiro Asada of MHI. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Shoichiro Asada of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“Until now, industries in the U.S. and Japan have had a good relationship in space and defense,” Asada said. He had five suggestions about how that could be made even more productive. These include promotion of collaboration between governments and of an open-door policy for government procurement, harmonizing of procurement rules and of requirements and specifications for projects, and standardizing parts, which he admits can be a challenge when few of certain items are produced.

John Mittleman, expert on maritime domain awareness with the U.S. Naval Research Lab, gave an interesting presentation about the huge quantities of data available, especially from small satellites. We can pinpoint practically every ship at sea as we work on security considerations. Information about what is happening on the oceans can also inform us about other challenges, such as resource issues, energy, and climate change. There’s so much data that Mittleman says machines are going to have to do a lot of the heavy thinking.

John Mittleman

John Mittleman of the Navy Research Lab. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“Machine learning embedded in big-data analytics will rival human all-source analysis, with one important distinction: the volume of information they can handle will far surpass the speed and capacity of the world’s entire corps of intelligence analysts,” Mittleman said. “Very useful information can be pulled from massive troves of data, whether the data comes form satellites, drones, every car on the highway, every smart phone in your pocket, or anywhere else.”

Can computers really think and understand? Mittleman said the premise of the 2015 film Ex Machina is not all that far-fetched.

“Machine learning can and does discover very complex relationships, hidden relationships, that look an awful lot like human intuition,” he said. “We’re beginning to see real, live, effective understanding coming from the conjunction of persistent, multi-source data with high-speed, high-volume data analytics.”

There’s a fascinating and important future ahead in space, and Seattle people and companies will have a big part to play.

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Astronaut Wilson blazing trails to space

It’s interesting that so many people involved in space and astronomy can point to a particular moment when they became interested in the field as a career. For astronaut Stephanie Wilson it happened when she was about 13 years old.

Stephanie Wilson

Astronaut Stephanie Wilson spoke about her inspiration for pursuing a career in aerospace during a talk to participants in the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program Saturday at the Museum of Flight. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“I was given a school assignment to interview somebody who worked in an interesting career field,” Wilson recalled. “I was interested in astronomy at the time, so I interviewed an astronomy professor at Williams College.”

Wilson said she was fascinated by the opportunities to travel, do research, and teach to which a career in astronomy might lead.

“That was my first interest in space and my introduction to science,” Wilson said.

Wilson spoke Saturday at the Museum of Flight in a presentation to the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program. The program, named after the Washington-native astronaut who died in the space shuttle Columbia tragedy in 2003, aims to provide inspiration and role models for students who are underrepresented in aerospace.

“It really started a thought process about what other opportunities were available and what were some other ways that I could function in aerospace,” Wilson said of her talk with the astronomy professor. “I also had an inerest in working with my hands and understanding how devices are put together, so I did decide to study engineering in college.”

Statue of Mike Anderson

This statue of astronaut Michael P. Anderson is outside the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

She earned degrees in engineering science at Harvard and in aerospace engineering at the University of Texas. Wilson held jobs in structural dynamics, robotics, and spacecraft attitude control before becoming part of the astronaut class of 1996. She was the second African-American woman to fly in space, going on three shuttle missions to the International Space Station. During her presentation Wilson showed video of highlights of her STS-131 mission in 2010. She has logged 42 days in space, and hopes to go again. She said she’d especially enjoy a longer mission during which she could spend six months on the ISS.

Michael Anderson was part of the 1995 astronaut class, and Wilson met and flew with him during her early days with NASA. She said that gives her some extra affinity for his namesake aerospace program’s goals.

“I really hope that people see that, as a woman and as an engineer, I tried to worked hard in that field, I did the best that I could to advance those fields,” Wilson said. “I also hope that people see that I tried to make a path so that people could follow in those footsteps and continue on their work. I hope that young people will see that anything is possible.”

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Astronaut visit, three club meetings this week

A talk by a visiting astronaut and three astronomy club meetings highlight the week on the Seattle Astronomy calendar, and two of the week’s featured events are on the west side of Puget Sound.

Astronaut Wilson speaks at MOF program

Stephanie Wilson

Astronaut Stephanie Wilson. Photo: NASA.

Astronaut Stephanie Wilson, the second African-American woman to travel to space, will give a talk at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Museum of Flight. Wilson, who flew on three shuttle missions, appears in recognition of Black History Month and in conjunction with the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program, named after the Washington native astronaut who died in the space shuttle Columbia tragedy. The program brings in mentors for at-risk students and gives them exposure to aerospace education, improving their chances to graduate from high school.

The talk is free with admission to the museum.

Astronomy clubs meet

Three area astronomy clubs have their regular meetings scheduled this week.

The Olympic Astronomical Society gathers at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1 in room Art 103 on the Olympic College campus in Bremerton. The club has a half-dozen interesting talks on its agenda for the evening.

Tacoma Astronomical Society will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2 in room 175 of  Thompson Hall on the campus of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Popular speaker Ron Hobbs, a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador, will give a talk about the DAWN mission to Ceres.

The Spokane Astronomical Society plans its monthly meeting for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5 in the planetarium at Spokane Falls Community College. Guest speaker and program information hadn’t been published as of this writing.

First Friday Sky Walk

Pacific PlanetariumIf you haven’t checked out Pacific Planetarium in Bremerton, this Friday would be a good time to do so. The planetarium presents a First Friday Sky Walk each month, with the next being on Feb. 5. These family-friendly presentations give a look at what’s up in the night sky for the coming month. The first show is at 5 p.m. and it is repeated hourly through 8 p.m. Before or after shows you can explore the planetarium’s space science exhibits and activities. Volunteers from the Olympic Astronomical Society will be present to answer your astronomy questions.

Tickets are $3 and are available online or at the door. For those coming from the east side of the sound, the planetarium is less than a mile from the Bremerton ferry terminal.

Up in the sky

The Moon passes near Mars, Saturn, and Venus this week as the early-morning lineup of planets continues. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope have other observing highlights for the week.

Follow the Seattle Astronomy calendar to keep up to date on astronomy happenings in the area.

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