Browsing articles tagged with " Space"

My Chat with Chris Hadfield. Yeah, It Was That Kinda Friday.

Jun 14, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Awesome, Blog, Fun, Space  //  3 Comments



This is Chris Hadfield calling from Houston…

Music to my ears.  How appropriate, eh?  Today I was honoured to be able to chat with Commander Chris Hadfield. It was brief, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to talk to him again.  It was a personal call, so I didn’t record it.  Some of the highlights:

  • He remembered where we had met once – at a Canadian Science Writers event in Toronto. I think he remembered because of @venusbarbie.  Yes, that sort of stuff gets you remembered.   I told him I actually met him first at Nolan’s Pub in Cocoa Beach the night of the STS-134 Endeavour scrub — a surreal informal event with about 40 astronauts, NASA, ESA and other space organization staff.  Plus a few star-struck spacetweeps.
  • We talked about the maple cookies that I nominated to go to the space station.  I sometimes bring these to events because they are so dang good and do a good job of representing Canadian sweets. And they smell wonderful.
  • We talked about the amazing job he and the Canadian Space Agency did in promoting space exploration, STEM, and working hard to meet one’s goals.  And #Chris2D. I really miss my travelling companion.   I admire the wonderful people at the CSA and all they did to make these exciting thing happen.  I can’t wait to see what they do next.
  • We chatted a bit about his accomplishments before, during and after his mission.
  • We talked about his future plans for where he will be living and projects he will be doing.  I’m sure he’ll be tweeting about those soon.

So why did I get the call?  Officially, because I won a contest for nominating Canadian food to go to the International Space Station.  Since he asked “You’re Datachick, right"?”, I’m hoping my prolific tweeting and sharing managed to help him in his work on space and STEM outreach.  I can dream, too, right?

You’re Datachick, right?

It was a great honour that Chris would take time out of his busy schedule to personally call the winners of this contest.  I am happy that I got a chance to tell him how much I valued his work and the out come of his efforts going forward.  That’s one of the things I think is wonderful about all the astronauts, but especially @cmdr_Hadfield. During his mission it always felt that he put a lot of effort into ensuring that people understood why we have the Station, why space is so important, and why regular people like you and me should be paying attention.  I think he managed to get a lot of attention for STEM, space and space agencies, don’t you?

Thanks, Chris.  For all you did and all you are going to do in the future.  I can’t wait to see what you’ll be doing next.

Even though Chris is back on Earth and moving back to Canada, you can still follow the astronauts on the ISS, including my good friend (okay, I met him a couple of times) Luca Parmitato (@astro_luca).  Luca was Chris’s mission backup.  Luca is currently sharing photos and doing interviews from the ISS.  You should go follow him for more space goodness.


Maple Cream Cookies in Space

Maple Cream Cookies I nominated - Chris's photo from the ISS


Music Monday Video


Travelling with Chris2D

Datachick and Chris2D. Photo by Josh Fennessy

Even Tiny Data Has Significance (Updated)

May 28, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, DLBlog, Fun, Space  //  No Comments

Does size matter?  Sometimes.

Today this tiny bit of data told a huge story.


Earlier today:


And then…


Today was the launch of Expedition 36 crew to the International Space Station. 

Maybe, someday, we’ll be able to persist this data in something other than a TINYINT.


And then this happened:


On 11 June 2013, the Chinese Space Agency launched 3 astronauts to the Chinese space station Tiangong-1, via the Shenzhou-10.  This launch included China’s second female in space.  While it would be better if all nations were cooperating in space exploration, it’s heartening to me to see progress of human space flight.  And getting closer to double digits of people working and living in space?  Wonderful.

#CSATweetup Trip Prep Fun #spacestache

Feb 4, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Fun, Snark, Space  //  No Comments


Because everyone needs more moustache in their lives, right? 

I can’t wait to visit with Commander Hadfield via the International Space Station this Thursday at the Canadian Space Agency Day in the Life of Chris Hadfield CSATweetup.  There’s even a phone call with William Shatner.  We’ll also hear from CSA scientists and investigators and Astronaut Jeremy Hansen (@astro_jeremy)

There may be photos and tweets.  Set your filters to stun.

Astronauts Know Everything…

Sep 29, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Fun, Snark, Space, Travel, WIT  //  1 Comment

Recently @VenusBarbie visited Europe for the ILATweetup and SpaceUPEU events.  I wasn’t able to go due to other commitments, so Rob had to take over escort duties for our traveling Astronaut Barbie (@venusbarbie | Technical Barbies on Facebook).  The truth of the matter is that we humans officially get the invites, but we know that it’s really the space mascots that are wanted due to their celebrity status.  Rob also took along a 2D version of Commander Chris Hadfield (@cmdr_hadfield), AKA #Chris2D

I have some other photos to share, but the set I found most interesting were those with European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli showing Rob how to ensure that Barbie’s hair is just right before a photo shoot:

@projmgr, @astro_paolo, @venusbarbie and #chris2d

I guess all that centrifuge training she did at the DLR comes in handy when she hangs with other astronauts.


Once VenusBarbie was set, then all four (Rob, Paolo, VenusBarbie and Chris2D) were ready to pose.

Photo by Martin Stojanovski


Good job, men.  And @VenusBarbie.

On This Day in 1983, Data Analytics Might Have Been a Fail

Sep 26, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Visualization  //  2 Comments
Stanislav Petrov – Human decision making


On 26 September 1983, Stanislav Petrov took a stand against what his systems were telling him and he may have changed the course of history.  Petrov was working as a duty officer at the command center for the Oko nuclear early warning system.  This is the place where the Soviets monitored incoming attacks, much like the US command center you remember from War Games.  Earlier that month, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean commercial jetliner over the Sea of Japan, claiming that it was on a spy mission.  269 people died in that incident, including a US Congressman.  Some at the Soviet Union were fearful of a retaliation strike by the US.  Cold War tensions were high.

At the command center, Petrov was getting data that a launch of five missiles had been made in the US towards the Soviet Union.  But instead of just reading that dashboard and acting he actually used his own inner analytics system to process the data and decide not to report or react.

Had Petrov reported incoming American missiles, his superiors might have launched an assault against the United States, precipitating a corresponding nuclear response from the United States. Petrov declared the system’s indications a false alarm. Later, it was apparent that he was right: no missiles were approaching and the computer detection system was malfunctioning. It was subsequently determined that the false alarms had been created by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and the satellites’ Molniya orbits, an error later corrected by cross-referencing a geostationary satellite.[5]

Petrov later indicated the influences in this decision included: that he was informed a U.S. strike would be all-out, so five missiles seemed an illogical start;[1] that the launch detection system was new and, in his view, not yet wholly trustworthy; and that ground radars failed to pick up corroborative evidence, even after minutes of delay.[6]

– Wikipedia contributors. "Stanislav Petrov." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Sep. 2012. Web. 26 Sep. 2012.

I’ve always wondered if the system he was using had a bunch of fancy dashboard features, like shiny 3D pie charts, moving average lines and drill down capable reports if he would have been able to not trust the data.  I’ve seen this sort of over-trust of data with data model diagrams.  It seems the prettier or more advanced the presentation of the data is, the more people want to believe it is right.  In fact, I’ve learned to present draft documents to people on my teams with hand-written notes/comments on them to sort of "break the ice" to show people that they are drafts.  A modern solution might have included some sort of decision making guidance that say "Confidence Factor of Attack: 99%" or something like that.  And it would have been highlighted by some sort of red bar, showing just how confident the system was based on the data – bad data, it turns out.

More details about Petrov and his actions in the video above from

Discovery versus Exploration

Feb 14, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Space  //  No Comments
Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin

Image via Wikipedia

The American experience stirred mankind from discovery to exploration. From the cautious quest for what they knew (or thought they knew) was out there, into an enthusiastic reaching to the unknown. These are two substantially different kinds of human enterprise.
Daniel J. Boorstin

Which kind should we be?

Happy Anniversary, Buran – 15 November 1988

Nov 15, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Fun, Space  //  No Comments

Today marks the anniversary of the first and only orbital mission of the Buran, the Soviet Union’s only shuttle program.  This flight was unmanned. Haven’t heard of the Buran?  Neither had I until I visited the Speyer Technik Museum just outside of Frankfurt, Germany as part of the social activities of the European Space Agency’s first SpaceTweetup a few months ago.    In 1988 I was working at Space Division at a US Air Force base and I still had not heard of this program.  I guess I was focused on data and process models to much.

During the visit we were able to climb up to view the payload area and some of the crew areas.  I’m betting that the general public won’t get this sort of access to the US Space Shuttle orbiters once they are delivered to their museum homes next year. 


From Wikipedia:

The only orbital launch of Buran occurred at 3:00 UTC on 15 November 1988 from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 110/37. It was lifted into orbit unmanned by the specially designed Energia rocket, which to this day remains the heaviest rocket running on liquid fuel. Unlike the Space Shuttle, which is propelled by a combination of solid boosters and the Shuttle’s own liquid-fuel engines sourcing fuel from a large fuel tank, the Energia-Buran system used only thrust from the rocket’s four RD liquid-fuel engines developed by Valentin Glushko. From the very beginning Buran was intended to be used in both fully automatic and manual mode. Although the program accumulated a several-years delay, Buran remained the only space shuttle to ever perform an unmanned flight in fully automatic mode until 22 April 2010 when the US Air Force launched its Boeing X-37 spaceplane. The automated launch sequence performed as specified, and the Energia rocket lifted the vehicle into a temporary orbit before the orbiter separated as programmed. After boosting itself to a higher orbit and completing two revolutions around the Earth, ODU (engine control system) engines fired automatically to begin the descent into the atmosphere. Exactly 206 minutes into the mission, the Buran orbiter landed, having lost only five of its 38,000 thermal tiles over the course of the flight.[6] The automated landing took place on a runway at Baikonur Cosmodrome where, despite a lateral wind speed of 61.2 kilometres per hour (38.0 mph), it landed only 3 metres (9.8 ft) laterally and 10 metres (33 ft) longitudinally from the target mark.[6] The unmanned flight was the first time that a spacecraft of this size and complexity had been launched, completed maneuvers in orbit, re-entered the atmosphere, and landed under automatic guidance.

Wikipedia contributors, "Buran (spacecraft)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed November 15, 2011).

The Buran program was the Soviet Union’s response to the NASA Space Shuttle program.  Once the cold war came to an end, the Buran program was ended in 1993.  No manned space flights of the Buran happened.  Now both programs are over and we are back to non-reusable vehicles to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.

Watch the video of the Buran being delivered to the Speyer Technik (German)


Buran delivery


As we left the exhibit, I wondered what a joint shuttle program with more space agencies co-operating might have been.


Subscribe via E-mail

Use the link below to receive posts via e-mail. Unsubscribe at any time. Subscribe to by Email