Tag Archives: Museum of Flight

Seattle Astronomy calendar, week of June 15

Summer arrives in the Northern Hemisphere this week, there will be an array of public astronomy events, and we celebrate a couple of anniversaries of women in space.

The Seattle Astronomical Society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 17 in room A102 of the Physics/Astronomy Building on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. As of this writing, the guest speaker presentation was still listed as TBA; watch the SAS website for updates.


The Theodor Jacobsen Observatory at the University of Washington. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Later that evening, starting at 9 p.m., the University of Washington will host one of its bi-monthly open houses at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory. Rebecca Kemmerer, a senior in physics and astronomy, will give a talk titled, “Stars and Their Place in the Milky Way.” Kemmerer’s presentation will include a discussion of the different types of stars in our galaxy and the ways that their masses influence how they are born, live, and die. It’s free, but reservations are strongly encouraged for the talk; the classroom is small and fills up quickly! Volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society will be on hand to give tours of the observatory and, if weather permits—and we’re optimistic it will!—will offer a look through the facility’s vintage telescope.

Women in space

Two anniversaries of women in space come up this week. Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space when she flew on Vostok 6 on June 16, 1963. That flight is still the only solo space flight by a woman. Twenty years and two days later, on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman to fly in space when she launched on the crew of the Challenger and STS-7. Ride has been on our pages a lot of late. Her birthday was May 26, and we also enjoyed Lynn Sherr‘s recent biography of the astronaut, Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space (Simon and Schuster, 2014). Sherr was in Seattle last year and spoke about Ride.

Busy Saturday of astro events

There will be a lot to choose from for astronomy enthusiasts on Saturday, June 20. The day’s festivities kick off with a talk by Rob Manning, the chief engineer for the Mars rover Curiosity. Manning will talk about his book, Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer (Smithsonian Books, 2014). The talk will be at 2 p.m. at the Museum of Flight. For our money the landing of Curiosity on Mars was one of our greatest engineering achievements. Here’s a chance to get the inside story. Pick up the book in advance. Manning will sign copies after his presentation.

Summer begins Sunday at the solstice, which happens at 9:38 a.m. Pacific time. Saturday evening Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info will host a solstice sunset watch at Solstice Park in West Seattle, with the gathering beginning about 8:45 p.m. for the sunset, which will be at about 9 p.m. Enevoldsen is a NASA Solar System Ambassador, and this will be her 25th seasonal sunset watch at the park. They’re fun and informative!

The Seattle Astronomical Society will host two public star parties June 20, at Green Lake in Seattle and Paramount Park in Shoreline. Both will begin at 9 p.m., weather permitting. The Tacoma Astronomical Society also plans a public night Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. Presenter Chuck Jacobsen will talk about the Sun, and, weather permitting, members will be on hand with telescopes for a look at what’s up in the sky.

Happy Father’s Day

In case it slipped your mind, Father’s Day is June 21, and we think dear old dad would love a telescope, eyepiece, or astronomy book as a present! There’s a lovely selection of such things in the Seattle Astronomy Store!


Seattle Astronomy calendar, week of June 8

A visit from a space policy expert and a bunch of astronauts on the town highlight this week’s space and astronomy events in the Seattle area.

Dr. John M. Logsdon, the former director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University and a leading expert on and historian of space policy, will visit The Museum of Flight this week. Logsdon will talk about his book, After Apollo?: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program, in a lecture at the museum at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 13. The book is one in a series of Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology, which includes Logsdon’s 2010 tome John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon.

This will not be the first visit to Seattle for Logsdon this year; he spoke on a similar topic at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in town back in January. Read our coverage of that talk and pick up the book in advance. Logsdon will sign books after his talk.

Astronauts on the town


Astronaut cavorts at Kubota Garden on Earth Day in this Museum of Fight photo.

Museum of Flight fans are probably familiar with Astronaut, a character who has been a staple in the museum’s advertising and social media since he came on board in 2012. You’ll be seeing a lot of Astronaut around town this summer. As part of its 50th Anniversary celebration this year, the museum has created the public art project Astronauts on the Town. Artists have decorated 25 six-foot-tall fiberglass versions of Astronaut, and they will be on display at various public locations around town, with deployment beginning Friday.

No doubt many selfies will be taken with Astronaut during the course of the summer. All 25 statues will return to the museum in September for an anniversary event.

Planetarium show on Bainbridge Island

BPAAThe Battle Point Astronomical Association offers a planetarium show this Saturday, June 13 beginning at 8:30 p.m. The topic will be “Exploring our Solar System.” Dr. Erica Saint Clair will discuss six decades of exploration of the solar system with landers, rovers, and probes. It’s an especially timely topic as New Horizons speeds toward its July encounter with Pluto.

If the weather is good they’ll also open up the Edwin Ritchie Observatory and have other telescopes available for viewing the heavens. The event is free for association members, $2 donation suggested for nonmembers, $5 for families.


Seattle Astronomy calendar, week of May 4

Local organizations are hosting special space and astronomy events and other regular astro-club functions are on the docket for this week.

The Museum of Flight observes Space Day as part of its Free First Thursday May 7. Local astronomy clubs will be there with telescopes for viewing—Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are all great targets this week. In addition, NASA Solar System Ambassador Ron Hobbs will give a presentation about the Hubble Space Telescope. Space Day runs from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. The Hobbs talk will start at 7 p.m.

PacSci arches

The arches at the Pacific Science Center. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

The Pacific Science Center observes Astronomy Day Saturday, May 9 starting at 10 a.m. and running all day. It will be a day of arts and crafts, planetarium shows, and other fun activities. Volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society will be on hand with solar telescopes for safe viewing of the Sun, if the Sun is indeed out that day. Guest presenters include retired astronaut Dr. Nick Patrick, who will give a talk at 2 p.m., and Dr. Tom McCord from the NASA Dawn mission, who will speak at 3 p.m. Find the full schedule on the PacSci website.

Tacoma Astronomical Society

The Tacoma Astronomical Society holds its monthly meeting Tuesday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m. in room 175 of Thompson Hall at the University of Puget Sound. Then on Saturday, May 9, they’ll have a public observing night from 9 p.m until midnight at the Fort Stielacoom campus of Pierce College. Presenter John Finnan will talk about binocular astronomy—a rewarding and inexpensive way to get started in the hobby.

Back at TJO


The Theodor Jacobsen Observatory at the University of Washington. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Wednesday night, May 6, is open house night at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. The event runs from 9–11 p.m. Two talks by UW undergraduates are scheduled. Riley Harris will give a talk at 9 p.m. titled, “The State of the Planet, The Future of Space Travel.” Harris will run down the history of space travel, take an honest look at the current state of Earth, and explore the possibilities for future space travel and colonization. At 9:30 p.m. Kyle Musselwhite will give a talk titled, “Hey, What’s That Sound? The Universe!” Musselwihite will outline relationships between the history of science and musical thinking, then discuss why music is a useful tool for conceptualizing certain properties of the universe (especially time and distance). Volunteers from the Seattle Astronomical Society will be on hand to give a peek through the observatory’s vintage telescope if weather permits. Reservations are strongly suggested for the talks.

Everett society meets

The Everett Astronomical Society holds its monthly meeting Saturday, May 9 beginning at 3 p.m. at the Evergreen Branch of the Everett Public Library.


Space policy dean, Curiosity engineer to speak in June at Museum of Flight

Our copy of Aloft, the member magazine of the Museum of Flight, arrived in the mail today bearing news of two interesting space talks planned for the museum in June.

John M. Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute and considered by many to be the dean of U.S. space policy, will discuss his new book, After Apollo?: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program. The book is part of the series of Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology. In it, Logsdon takes a look at how President Nixon and his administration impacted post-Apollo space policy. Logsdon gave something of a preview of his presentation here in Seattle at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January. You can read our coverage of that talk to learn that Logsdon doesn’t think very highly of Nixon’s approach. Logsdon is scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 13, 2015 in the William M. Allen Theater at the museum.

The following weekend Rob Manning will be in town to tout his aptly titled book, Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer (Smithsonian Books, 2014). Manning, who is indeed the chief engineer for the mission, will discuss the challenges of getting such a large and complicated robot safely to Mars to conduct science. Manning’s talk, also in the Allen Theater, will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 20.

You can pick up copies of the books by clicking the links or cover photos above, or by visiting the Seattle Astronomy Store. Keep track of any schedule changes by watching the Museum of Flight website. These events are so new that, as of this writing, they weren’t yet listed on the museum’s online calendar. We’re planning to cover both talks.


At SpaceUp Seattle

We’re up and running at SpaceUp Seattle at the Museum of Flight!

SpaceUp agendaAs we reported earlier this week, SpaceUp is an unconference, at which all of the participants can suggest topics and decide what to talk about. It really works! Here’s a photo of the agenda for today–dozens of topics were suggested and the most popular made the grid, easily moved around with masking tape!

I’m at the first session, an overview of Blue Origin. There are also folks here from SpaceX and Planetary Resources. But there also will be civilian-led topics, including discussions of space law, storytelling, and how to get more public support for space travel and exploration.

SpaceUp Seattle goes on today and tomorrow. We’ll file occasional dispatches.


SpaceUp Seattle symposium at Museum of Flight next weekend

Space exploration enthusiasts in the Northwest will have a chance to share their ideas with professionals in the commercial spaceflight industry at a two-day symposium next weekend. SpaceUp Seattle is scheduled for April 13-14 at the Museum of Flight.

Organizer Forest Gibson said attendees of SpaceUp Seattle will actually get to participate much more directly than they get to during Q&A sessions at the typical conference. In fact, SpaceUp is an un-conference; there will be no set agenda and anyone who shows up can choose a topic, give a talk, or make a presentation.

SpaceUp Seattle“It’s about the people who are at the un-conference deciding what they want to talk about,” Gibson explained. “This means there’s never any misalignment in terms of what people really want to hear, because it’s being decided in that moment.” So any topic is possible, from asteroid mining to model rockets.

Industry players such as Boeing, Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Planetary Resources are expected to be there, but they won’t necessarily drive the conversation. In fact, Gibson said that for the professionals SpaceUp provides a chance to listen.

“Whether it’s just amateur enthusiasts or industry professionals, they get a feel where people’s interests really lie and what their concerns are,” Gibson said. “Having their ears to the ground about what non-professionals are concerned about is something they should be paying attention to.”

Gibson said there will be plenty at the un-conference for the casual observer, astronomy blogger, or aspiring space explorer. “It’s a chance to go and spend some time with a lot of other people who are interested in the same things,” he noted. “Especially with something that’s so new, you don’t know what opportunities could exist for you for being more involved in what’s happening professionally.”

In Gibson’s view it is important that SpaceUp Seattle go for two days. Participants will get comfortable with the process on day one, and really dive in the second day. So don’t worry—while you can give your own presentation if you’d like, there won’t be a pop quiz about Newton’s Third Law.

“It facilitates and encourages participation, but doesn’t require it,” Gibson said of the SpaceUp format.

There have been more than a dozen SpaceUps around the world over the last year and a half or so, and Gibson notes that while there is a core group of organizers, the effort isn’t really centralized. He expects that if next weekend’s event goes well, Seattle will have another within a year or so. After all, many commercial space companies are based in the Northwest, and with participants setting the agenda on the spot, the conversation won’t get stale.

SpaceUp Seattle runs at the Museum of Flight from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday, April 13, and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 15. The museum also is hosting a Yuri’s Night celebration on Friday, April 12, so it will be a full weekend of space observances.

Admission to SpaceUp Seattle is $35 for Museum of Flight members, $40 for non-members. Get tickets here.

More information is available on the SpaceUp website. SpaceUp is also on Facebook and Twitter.


Spacewalker Ross visits shuttle trainer in Seattle

Jerry Ross

Astronaut Jerry Ross flew on seven space shuttle missions. He spoke March 1 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Photo: NASA

Retired astronaut Jerry Ross figures he spent upwards of 1,200 hours in the NASA Full Fuselage Trainer preparing for his seven space shuttle flights. It was with mixed emotions that Ross spoke earlier this month at a dinner in his honor, held next to the trainer, which is now on exhibit at Seattle’s Musuem of Flight.

“It’s kind of sad to see it here, frankly,” Ross said of the trainer. “I’m glad that you have it; I’m glad that it didn’t go to a scrap heap somewhere. But I know that the fun years of the space shuttle program are behind us.”

Still, Ross acknowledged that the space shuttle, in use for more than 30 years, was getting a bit worse for wear.

“It was probably time to retire it and go on to something else,” he said. “Unfortunately, that something else hasn’t happened yet.”

Ross spent a couple of days at the museum promoting his new book, Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer. He said that a main reason he wrote it was to encourage young people to chase their dreams.

“I wanted them to understand that I had a dream as a young person, and I felt that God had designed me to be an astronaut,” Ross explained. He kept scrapbooks about space as a kid in Indiana, and learned from the news articles that he clipped that engineers and scientists, especially  those from Indiana’s Purdue University, were playing an important role. Ross said his dream was crystallized when Sputnik went up.

“I was in fourth grade, and based upon what I knew I decided I was going to go to Purdue University, that I was going to become an engineer, and that I was going to become involved in our country’s space program,” he said. “I really didn’t know what an engineer did, but I knew it was engineers who were doing what I wanted to go do.”

He did it, and flew on as many space missions as anyone. Space runs in the family—his daughter is a Purdue engineering grad and works on space suit design, and his wife, who majored in home economics at Purdue, eventually headed up the program that made food for the shuttle flights.

“I’ve told people for many years the only time I got a home-cooked meal after she took that job was when I flew in space,” Ross joked.

Ross said that being launched into space aboard the space shuttle was an incredible experience.

“One-hundred-eight feet tall, weighed four-and-a-half million pounds,” he said of the shuttle. “We generated over six and a half million pounds of thrust at liftoff. And that’s a real kick in the pants. Disney would have had to get a double-E ticket for that!”

Ross said that he was well prepared for his first flight, but that it was really impossible to actually know how it would feel.

“About 15 seconds after lifting off, I thought to myself, ‘Ross, what are you doing here?’ There was much more shaking and vibration, there was much more noise as the wind was just screaming by the windows of the orbiter, it was much more exciting than I expected.”


Ross drew a nice crowd to the Museum of Flight for his March 1 talk in the shadow of the Full Fuselage Trainer, on exhibit in the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

He said he wasn’t exactly afraid, but added, “You can’t strap on six and a half million pounds of thrust and not be a little bit apprehensive about it. If you aren’t, then you really don’t understand what’s happening.”

“I went back six more times, so it wasn’t too bad,” he added.

Ross said the only time he came close to quitting was after the Challenger disaster. He had a young family to support, and they discussed it at length.

“It took some serious thought and prayer,” he said, but they decided not to quit. “If we did we would let down our friends who we lost on the Challenger. To allow them to die and not pursue with even more vigor and dedication what they had done would have been a mistake.”

The Museum of Flight held the dinner next to the shuttle trainer in homage to a similar event NASA hosted for Queen Elizabeth II in Houston in 1991. The dinner with Ross was well-attended, and indications are that the museum will host more such events to allow some low-key and more personal conversation with celebrity aviation visitors.