JPL Open House 2014

This past weekend, October 11th and 12th, marked the return of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) annual Open House. The 2013 event was canceled due to the federal government’s budgetary issues. The Lofty Duo has attended JPL’s Open House in previous years, but this year only Doug was able to make the trek up and around Los Angeles to JPL’s home in Pasadena. JPL’s … Continue reading JPL Open House 2014

On Traveling: NASM & Other Serendipity

Last week, we were back at the University of Maryland. We lived in College Park, Maryland, in the early 1990s while Anna was earning her MFA and working at the Entomological Society of America and Doug was working for NASA at the Center for AeroSpace Information as an abstractor and indexer. The University of Maryland and the surrounding communities have changed in twenty years, with … Continue reading On Traveling: NASM & Other Serendipity

The Next Year: Countdown to The Cold War, Cancer, and Space Exploration

August 6, 1945: An atomic weapon named “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. An estimated 70,000 people—almost one-third of the city’s population—and more than 90% of the physicians and nurses were killed by the bombing that day. In the days, months, and years after that event and the bombing of Nagasaki three days later, others died as a result of radiation exposure and related … Continue reading The Next Year: Countdown to The Cold War, Cancer, and Space Exploration

Space Probes

While the word probe is used conversationally to mean to examine physically or refers to an instrument designed for that sort of physical examination, the word probe comes from a Latin word meaning to test or the result of such a test, proof. Today, we celebrate both senses of this word and the spacecraft that embody both meanings, that carry out our examination and testing … Continue reading Space Probes

NASA’s Toughest Week

Every year, NASA has a Day of Remembrance during this—its toughest—week. On January 27, 1967, during a ground test of Apollo 1, a fire broke out. All three astronauts inside the spacecraft died. On January 28, 1986, just 73 seconds into its 25th flight, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart and fell in pieces to the ocean below. All seven astronauts inside the crew compartment … Continue reading NASA’s Toughest Week

Launch Pad: Facts about the Moon

On Sunday, we returned from Launch Pad, the astronomy workshop for writers. Our minds are overflowing with facts and ideas. Our first post about Launch Pad dealt with how Earth experiences seasons. (Hint: It’s not the distance; it’s the angle.) Now, we’ll take a small step—in astronomical terms—and share five things we learned about the Moon. The far side of the Moon is not the … Continue reading Launch Pad: Facts about the Moon

Writing in General, and Science Writing in Particular: National Geographic

Joy. As emotions go, it’s a relatively straightforward one to communicate. We can share with others our joy in doing something in so many ways: the tone of our voice, facial expression, even the way we move. After watching Jamie Shreeve (at the Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop) describe his role as an editor at National Geographic, it’s clear that this is a man who … Continue reading Writing in General, and Science Writing in Particular: National Geographic

Interview: Norm Thagard

While we were in Florida for the last journey of space shuttle Atlantis, we met up with some astronauts. This experience reminded us of our happenstance interviews of two years earlier, which you can find at “A Year of Lofty Interviews.” Two weeks ago, we posted our follow-up interview with Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke. Today, we share our conversation with shuttle astronaut Norm Thagard. Thagard flew … Continue reading Interview: Norm Thagard

Sputnik, NASA, and Generation Space

On Friday, October 4, 1957, a gleaming aluminum sphere, roughly the size of beach ball,  weighing 184 pounds and studded with four whip-like antennae, was lofted into orbit around Earth. Sputnik changed the world in both large and small ways. That same weekend in Doug’s grandparent’s house, a litter of kittens was born. The firstborn, a tiny black-and-white female, was named Sputnika after the Russian … Continue reading Sputnik, NASA, and Generation Space

Plutonium at Its Worst and Best

  This week marks the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, respectively, in 1945. Tens of thousands died on those dates, and more people died, as a result of radiation sickness, in the weeks and years following. War reveals human beings at their worst. Nuclear weapons represent our largest, surest capability for self-destruction. In commemoration for that time, … Continue reading Plutonium at Its Worst and Best