Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy birthday, cosmonaut Viktor Afanasyev!

Viktor Mikhailovich Afanasyev, born December 31, 1948 (same day as Donna Summer!) in Bryansk, Russia, is a cosmonaut who has visited both Mir and the International Space Station. From 1985-1987 he took space training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and flew his first mission on Soyuz TM-11, which launched December 2, 1990.  He spent 175 days on Mir as part of the eighth manned expedition (EO-8) returning May 1991.

Afanasyev was commander of Soyuz TM-18 from January-July 1994 as part of the EO-15 crew.  This time he spent 182 days on Mir.

His third flight was as commander on Soyuz TM-29, which launched February 1999 to Mir for the EO-27 crew.  He returned to Earth in August after 188 days in space.

His fourth and last flight was on Soyuz TM-33 to the International Space Station in October 2001 as commander and returned later that month on Soyuz TM-32.

He has conducted 7 EVAs for a total of over 38 hours and has logged 545 days in space. 

Donna Summer, Queen of Disco, born 1948

Donna Summer, born LaDonna Adrian Gaines December 31, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the most successful solo female singers of all time.  She is the first artist to have three consecutive albums reach #1 on the Billboard 200 and had four singles reach #1 in a 12-month period.  She released 20 albums and won 5 Grammy awards:

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, 1979 for Last Dance
Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, 1980 for Hot Stuff
Best Inspirational Performance, 1984 for He's a Rebel
Best Inspirational Performance, 1985 for Forgive Me
Best Dance Recording, 1998 for Carry On (with Giorgio Moroder)

She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Ms. Summer passed away May 17, 2012 at her home in Naples, Florida.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Happy birthday, Jeff Lynne!

Jeff Lynne, born December 30, 1947 in Birmingham, England, is the mind behind super-group Electric Light Orchestra (ELO).  He formed the band in 1970 and enjoyed great success until 1986 when they disbanded for the first time.

He then performed with The Traveling Wilburys with Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.  Lynne produced the album The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 which received a Grammy award in 1989 for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. 

He produced Tom Petty's album Full Moon Fever, which includes the singles Won't Back Down and Runnin' Down a Dream.  He produced Agnetha Faltskog's single One Way Love, which appeared on her second post-ABBA album.

He released an album of all new ELO music Alone in the Universe, November 13, 2015.

Wonder Woman episode "The Deadly Toys" airs 1977

I don't know why this is one of my favorite episodes of Wonder Woman, but The Deadly Toys is a lot of fun.  Perhaps its Frank Gorshin as a dirty old man (the Toymaker, but not the Superman villain Toymaker), who makes a life-sized Wonder Woman robot.  One wonders why he really made her.  Hmmm....

Frank Gorshin played the Riddler in Batman, with Adam West and Burt Ward.  He also appeared in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (also with Adam West).  So he's been up against  DC's Big 3!

In The Deadly Toys, Frank Gorshin and John Rubinstein are replacing scientists with look-alike robots so they can create a powerful weapon.  But Diana Prince and Wonder Woman are on to them.

I really liked the scene with the remote-controlled attack plane but couldn't find the clip.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Happy birthday, Space Shuttle astronaut Nancy Curie-Gregg!

Nancy Jane (Sherlock) Currie-Gregg, born December 29, 1958 in Wilmington, Delaware, is a veteran of four Space Shuttle flights.  She is a colonel in the U.S. Army.

Her first flight was on Endeavour (STS-57) as mission specialist June-July 1993. She operated the shuttle's robotic arm.

Her second flight was on Discovery (STS-70) in July 1995 as mission specialist.  She conducted biomedical and remote sensing experiments.

She traveled on Endeavour (STS-88) December 1998 as part of the International Space Station assembly.  She operated the robotic arm during space walks.

Col. Currie-Gregg's final mission was on Columbia (STS-109) in March 2002, to service the Hubble Space Telescope, again operating the shuttle's robotic arm.

Shenzhou 4 launched 2002

Shenzhou 4, launched December 29, 2002, was the fourth unmanned mission of China's Shenzhou program.  The following October, they would launch their first astronaut into space. 

Shenzhou 4 was a continuation of experiments to prepare for sending a man into space.  It carried two dummy astronauts, with a sleeping bag, food and medication.  The windows were constructed of a new material that would stay clear even after re-entry, so astronauts could see if the parachutes had deployed properly.  It carried 100 peony seeds to see how weightlessness would affect plants grown from them.

Shenzhou 4's re-entry module returned to Earth January 5, 2003.  The orbital module remained in orbit until September 2003.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Happy birthday, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide!

Akihiko Hoshide, born December 28, 1968 in Tokyo, Japan, has flown on the Space Shuttle and Soyuz to the International Space Station.  He is the third Japanese astronaut to conduct an EVA. 

His first mission was aboard Discovery (STS-124) May-June 2008 as a mission specialist.

His second flight was aboard Soyuz TMA-05M, launched in July 2012 to the ISS as part of Expeditions 32 and 33. It was during this time he performed EVAs with Suni Williams.

In 2014, he commanded NEEMO 18, an undersea exploration mission at NASA's Aquarius underwater laboratory.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Happy birthday, JAXA astronaut Naoko Yamazaki!

Naoko Yamazaki, born December 27, 1970 in Matsudo City, Japan, is an astronaut from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-131) in April 2010.  She is the second Japanese woman in space after Chiaki Mukai.  STS-131 was the first time two Japanese astronauts were in space at the same time: Yamazaki on Discovery and Soichi Noguchi on the International Space Station.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Akihiko Hirata, Godzilla and Rodan actor, born 1927

Akihiko Hirata, born December 26, 1927 in Kyogo, South Korea, has been in more Godzilla movies than anyone!  He played Dr. Serizawa in the original movie Godzilla in 1954.  He went on to star in Rodan (1956), Mothra (1961), Ghidorah, the Three-headed Monster (1964), Godzilla vs the Sea Monster (1966), Son of Godzilla (1967), Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974) and The Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975).

He is the only actor to appear in the debuts of monsters Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla!

Mr. Hirata passed away in July 1984.

Salyut 4 launched 1974

The Soviet space station Salyut 4, launched December 26, 1974, was the first unmanned portion of the experiment.  It successfully achieved orbit after its "twin" DOS-3 failed in May 1973.

Salyut 4 hosted 2 crews, Soyuz 17 and Soyuz 18, during its mission.  The crew of Soyuz 18a had to abort since they failed to achieve orbit.  The first crew, Georgi Grechko and Aleksei Gubarev, stayed for about 29 1/2 days.  The second crew, Pyotr Klimuk and Vitali Svastyanov, stayed for about 63 days.

Salyut 4 was "deorbited" February 2, 1977 and re-entered the Earth's atmosphere the following day.  Do you remember the hype over it burning up in the atmosphere like Skylab in '79? No?

Happy belated birthday, Godzilla actor Katsuhiko Sasaki!

I just found out yesterday that prolific and handsome Japanese actor Katsuhiko Sasaki celebrated his birthday the day before that, December 24.  He was born Christmas Eve in 1944 in Tokyo, Japan.  One of our cable channels hosted a Godzilla marathon yesterday and I got to see at least part of one, Godzilla vs Megalon.  I also got to see the beginning of the Terror of Mechagodzilla and recognized the same actor. 

Katsuhiko Sasaki has been in four Godzilla films, including the two mentioned above and Godzilla vs Biollante and Godzilla vs King Ghidorah.   

Monday, December 25, 2017

Space Shuttle astronaut Michael P. Anderson born 1959

Michael Phillip Anderson, born December 25, 1959 in Plattsburg, NY, was a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions.  After graduating from the University of Washington in Seattle he became a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.  In 1986, he was selected to attend undergraduate pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma.

Anderson reported to NASA in March 1995 and qualified to become a mission specialist.  His first Space Shuttle flight was on Endeavour (STS-89) in January 1998 to the space station Mir.

His second and final flight was aboard the ill-fated mission of Columbia (STS-107) which disintegrated over north Texas upon its return in February 2003.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sounds of the Season: The Pointer Sisters - We Three Kings

The amazing Pointer Sisters perform We Three Kings with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 1994.

"Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" premieres 1964

One of the best movies ever, and not just from the psycho-biddy or hagsploitation genre, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland and Agnes Moorehead opened December 24, 1964.  A good wholesome movie for the holiday!

We all know about the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford which led to de Havilland being brought in to replace Crawford after she was fired. 

The best performance in this movie was by Agnes Moorehead, who won a Golden Globe for her role and was nominated for an Academy Award.  She was the only member of the cast to be nominated for an award.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Happy birthday, Space Shuttle astronaut Karol J. Bobko!

Karol Joseph "Bo" Bobko, born December 23, 1937 in New York City, is a veteran of three Space Shuttle flights. He graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1959 and then received part of his pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma!

He was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1969 and was pilot for the maiden voyage of Challenger (STS-6) in April 1983.

He served as commander of Discovery (STS-51-D) in April 1985.

His third and final flight was commander of Atlantis (STS-51-J) in October 1985.

Remembering astronaut Bruce McCandless II (1937-2017)

Bruce McCandless II, Space Shuttle astronaut, passed away December 21, 2017.  He is best known for being the first astronaut to fly untethered from his spacecraft. On the fourth day of mission STS-41-B aboard Challenger in February, Bruce operated the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) for the first time. McCandless ventured out about 320 feet from the shuttle.

His second and final mission was on Discovery (STS-31) in April 1990, when he helped deploy the Hubble Space Telescope.

McCandless passed away at his home in California.  He was 80 years old.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy birthday, JAXA astronaut Takuya Onishi!

Takuya Onishi, born December 22, 1975 in Tokyo, Japan, traveled to the International Space Station aboard Soyuz MS-01 in July 2016 as part of Expeditions 48 and 49.  He spent almost four months in space.  Prior to his space travel, he served as an aquanaut in NASA's Aquarius underwater laboratory in October 2011.

Happy birthday, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko!

Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko, born December 22, 1951 in the Ukraine, has spent more time in space than anybody, except for fellow cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.  He is a veteran of 5 Soyuz missions and one Space Shuttle flight.  He has been aboard Mir and the International Space Station.  As of June 2016, he has spent a little over 827 days in space.

His first flight was as commander aboard Soyuz TM-19 to Mir in July 1994, where he spent 4 months. 

His next mission was aboard Atlantis (STS-106) in September 2000 as mission specialist.

His third flight was on Soyuz TMA-2 in April 2003 to the ISS.  While on board, he got married got married to Ekaterina Dmitrieva August 10, 2003. She was in Texas and he was 240 miles over New Zealand.  He is the first person to get married while in space.

Malenchenko's fourth flight was on Soyuz TMA-11 as commander in October 2007 to the International Space Station.  His fellow astronauts were Peggy Whitson, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor (first Malaysian astronaut) and Yi So-yeon (the first Korean astronaut).

On the 37th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program, he blasted off on Soyuz TMA-05M July 2012.

His final flight was on Soyuz TMA-19M in December 2015.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy birthday, Space Shuttle astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford!

Millie Hughes-Fulford, born December 21, 1945 in Mineral Wells, Texas, went into space aboard Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-40) in June 1991 as Payload Specialist.  The mission was the fifth Spacelab mission, the first dedicated to biology and the first time three women were on board.

Vega 2, Soviet probe to Venus and Halley's Comet, launched 1984

In a rather ambitious program, the Soviets launched Vega 2, December 21, 1984 to visit both Venus and Halley's Comet.  The descent module separated from the flyby module June 13, 1985 and arrived at Venus two days later.  The flyby probe continued on to rendezvous with Halley's Comet.

The descent module consisted of a lander and a balloon probe.  The lander touched down in the Aphrodite Terra region and transmitted data for about 56 minutes before falling silent.

The balloon probe used a series of parachutes to reach an altitude of 53-54 kim in the middle layer of Venus' three-tiered atmosphere.  It transmitted data for almost 2 days and drifted about 11,000 km before sending its last transmission.  Who knows how far it kept drifting?

The flyby probe first encountered Halley's Comet March 7, 1986 and made its closest approach March 9.  It took pictures during a three-hour window during the closest enounter and continued to take pictures March 10 and 11.  Contact with Vega 2 last until March 24.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Soyuz TMA-17 launched 2009

L-R: Tim Creamer, Oleg Kotov, Soichi Noguchi

Mission patch

Soyuz TMA-17, the 104th flight of the Soyuz program, launched three crew members of Expedition 22 to the International Space Station, December 20, 2009.  On board were Commander Oleg Kotov (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Timothy Creamer (NASA) and Soichi Noguchi (JAXA).

Soichi Noguchi is the second Japanese astronaut, but the first from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).  Toyohiro Akiyama, the first Japanese in space, went up in 1990-1991.  JAXA was founded in 2003.

Soyuz TMA-17 returned to Earth, landing on May 26, 2010.

"All Monsters Attack" released 1969

Released two years later in the US as Godzilla's Revenge, this piece of crap doesn't even belong with the other Godzilla movies.  All Monsters Attack released December 20, 1969 in Japan follows the exploits as he tries to fit in with the "cool kids" (i.e. hoodlums).  He imagines himself as Godzilla fighting other monsters such as Ebirah, Anguirus and more.  The film contains clips from previous Godzilla movies so his appearance keeps changing throughout.  There are no original Godzilla scenes at all.  The main character is annoying and the movie was obviously geared toward children. 

Happy birthday, Alan Parsons!

Alan Parsons, born December 20, 1948 in London, England, is the mind behind The Alan Parsons Project and engineer extraordinare behind The Beatles' Abbey Road and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

It is his partnership with Eric Woolfson, better known as The Alan Parsons Project, that I enjoy most.  Got all their albums!  Parsons has been nominated for a Grammy 11 times, two times each in 1976 and 1979. 

This month is the 33rd anniversary of Vulture Culture's release in 1984.  The first Alan Parsons Project tune I remember hearing on the radio was Damned if I Do, Damned if I Don't from Eve.  Several years later, I heard Time from Turn of a Friendly Card.  We all remember that one!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Discovery (STS-103) launched 1999

Left to right; C. Michael Foale, Claude Nicollier, Scott J. Kelly, Curtis L. Brown, Jr., Jean-Francois Clervoy, John M. Grunsfeld and Steven L. Smith

Mission patch

Discovery blasted off December 19, 1999 on mission STS-103 to service the Hubble Space Telescope.  Her international crew consisted of Commander Curtis Brown, Pilot Scott Kelly, mission specialists John Grunsfeld, Jean-Francois Clervoy (ESA), Michael Foale, Steven Smith and Claude Nicollier (ESA)

Four EVAs were scheduled but scaled back to only three.  Smith and Grunsfeld each performed two, while Foale and Nicollier did one.  Each EVA lasted a little over 8 hours.

Discovery attained the highest altitude for a Space Shuttle flight, 378 miles!  It was the last solo flight for Discovery since the rest were to the International Space Station. It was the third time a crew has spent Christmas in space.

It was the fourth and final flight of Claude Nicollier, the first Swiss astronaut. It was Scott Kelly's inaugural flight.

Happy birthday, Space Shuttle astronaut Frederick Leslie!

Frederick Weldon Leslie, born December 19, 1951 in Ancon, Panama, flew on Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-73) as a payload specialist October-November 1995.  He graduated from Irving High School in Irving, Texas (the one that's on O'Connor a few blocks south of SH-183).  He got his Masters and PhD in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

Soyuz TMA-07M launched 2012

L-R: Tom Marshburn, Roman Romanenko, Chris Hadfield 

Mission patch

Soyuz TMA-07M, launched December 19, 2012, carried the three members of Expedition 34 to the International Space Station.  The crew was Commander Roman Romanenko (Roscosmos), Chris Hadfield (Canadian Space Agency) and Tom Marshburn (NASA).

They remained on the ISS until May 13, 2013 when they returned to Earth landing in Kazakhstan May 14.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Happy birthday, cosmonaut Boris Volynov!

Boris Valentinovich Volynov, born December 18, 1934 in the former Soviet Union, is a veteran of the Voskhod program and went into space twice aboard Soyuz vessels.

He was first assigned as a possible commander for Voskhod 1 in 1964, but he and two others were bumped three days before the scheduled launch.  He trained a year training for Voskhod 3, but the flight was cancelled just 10 days before launch and he was transferred to the Soyuz group.

Volynov made it into space January 1965 aboard Soyuz 5 and transferred his two crewmen, Aleksei Yeliseyev and Yevgeny Khrunov to Soyuz 4 via EVA.  Volynov returned to Earth as a solo re-entry but things did not go as planned.  Soyuz 5's equipment module failed to separate properly and blocked the re-entry heat shielf on the base of the descent module.  Volynov lost control of Soyuz 5, which began tumbling.  The heat of the re-entry finally burned off the equipment module and the descent module oriented itself properly.  The parachutes deployed but only partially and the retro-rockets for a soft landing failed to fire.  Volynov hit the ground so hard it broke several of his teeth. 

It wasn't over. 

Volynov landed far from his planned landing spot.  He landed in the Ural Mountains where it was -36 °F and rescuers would not reach him for many hours.  He abandoned the capsule and walked several kilometers to find shelter at a local peasant's house.

That didn't discourage him from going into space again.  His second and final mission was aboard Soyuz 21 to Salyut 5 in July - August 1976.  This landing had problems as well, but nearly as bad as his first.  As Volynov tried to undock from the space station, the latch failed to release properly.  The spacecraft moved out of range and only the first set of emergency procedures were receieved.  It did not work.  After another orbit, they received their final emergency procedures and the latches disengaged.  Soyuz 21 was now outside the normal recovery window and encoutered strongs winds as it descended.  This caused the retrorockets fire unevenly and they had a hard landing about midnight.

Volynov has not returned to space.

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" debuts 1966

Everyone's favorite grouch, the Grinch, first aired December 18, 1966.  Dr. Seuss' holiday staple How the Grinch Stole Christmas was first published in October 1957.  Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named it one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children".  In 2012, it ranked 61 among the Top 100 Picture Books in a survey by the School Library Journals.

After its debut, CBS aired How the Grinch Stole Christmas annually until 1988.  Then it was aired on several different stations multiple times a season.

In 1968, Boris Karloff (voice of the Grinch) won a Grammy Award for the Best Children's Album

Happy birthday, Space Shuttle astronaut Andy Thomas!

Andrew Sydney Withiel Thomas, born December 18, 1951, is the first Australian-born professional astronaut in space.  Fellow countryman Paul Scully-Power was the first Aussie in space but he was an oceanographer.  Thomas has flown on 5 shuttle missions, including time spent on Mir.

His first mission was on Endeavour (STS-77) May 1996 as a Mission Specialist. On January 23, 1998, he took off on Endeavour (STS-89) and transferred to the Mir spacecraft where he spent four months.  He returned to Earth in May aboard Discovery (STS-91).

In March 2001, he flew on Discovery (STS-102) to the International Space Station for resupplying and rotating Expedition 1 and Expedition 2 crews. 

His fifth and final flight was aboard Discovery (STS-114) for NASA's "Return to Flight" mission July-August 2005.  It was the first space shuttle mission following the Columbia disaster.

Thomas retired from NASA in February 2014.

Soyuz 13 launched 1973

Soyuz 13, launched December 18, 1973, was modified to carry the Orion 2 Space Observatory, becoming the first manned space observatory and the Soviet Union's first mission dedicated to science.  Soyuz 13's crew consisted of Commander  Pyotr Klimuk and Flight Engineering Valentin Lebedev, both rookies.

They observed spectral lines of aluminum and titanium in the spectrogram of a planetary nebula.  They also studied Comet Kohoutek.

Klimuk and Lebedev returned to Earth December 26.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Soyuz MS-07 launched today!

Crew of Soyuz MS-07

Mission Patch

Soyuz MS-07 launched today is taking three astronauts to the International Space Station.  The crew consists of Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos), Scott Tingle (NASA) and Norishige Kanai (JAXA).  The will dock with the ISS in about two days.

"Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster" premieres 1966

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, which premiered December 17, 1966, pits the G-Man against Ebirah, the horror of the deep. Ebirah comes from the Japanese word "ebi" which means shrimp.  So Ebirah means shrimp.

My man Akira Takarada appears as a thief, who gets caught up in a young man's quest to find his long-lost brother. A large condor, Dai-Kondoru, and Mothra both show up as enemies and allies for Godzilla.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror" airs 1966

The fourteenth episode of the first season of the original Star Trek series, Balance of Terror, aired December 15, 1966.  The episode is a classic since it introduced audiences to a new race: Romulans.  It also was the first appearance of Mark Lenard, who went on to play Sarek, Spock's father and a Klingon in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That makes him the first actor to play three major aliens: Romulan, Vulcan and Klingon.

The plot was inspired by two WWII-era submarine movies: The Enemy Below and Run Silent, Run Deep.  Robert Wise directed Run Silent, Run Deep and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

"Young Frankenstein" premieres 1974

Mel Brooks' comedic masterpiece, Young Frankenstein, opened in theatres December 15,  1974.  It starred Gene Wilder, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, and Terri Garr.  It was  nominated for two Academy Awards.  Cloris Leachman was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a  Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical.  Madeline Kahn was nominated a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, although she had more screen time than Cloris Leachman.

Soyuz TMA-20 launched 2010

L-R: Catherine Coleman, Dmitri Kondratyev, Paolo Nespoli

Mission patch 

Soyuz TMA-20, launched December 15, 2010, carried the second crew of Expedition 26 to the International Space Station. Its crew consisted of Commander Dmitri Kondratyev (Roscosmos), Catherine Coleman (NASA) and Paolo Nespoli (ESA).  The spacecraft docked with the ISS two days later.

The first crew of Expedition 26 arrived on Soyuz TMA-01M in October. 

After 157 day, Soyuz TMA-20 undocked from the ISS and touched down in Kazakhstan May 24, 2011.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

NASA Discover Eighth Planet Circling Distant Star

Our solar system is no longer top dog in the Milky Way.  NASA, using Artificial Intelligence in which computers "learned" how to identify planets, discovered Kepler-90i, a rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days and has a surface temperature about 800° C.  That brings Kepler-90's system up to eight planets, the same as ours.  But all of Kepler-90's planets have orbits closer than Earth's is to our sun. 

Software engineers came up with a way to "train" the neural network to identify transiting exoplanets using previously proven signals and then tested it.  The neural network correctly identified true planets and false positives 96% of the time.  The computers can now sort through the massive amount of data that humans can't do easily or as quickly. 

The data that led to this discovery was collected from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope.  Kepler-90 is a Sun-like star about 2545 light-years away from Earth in the Draco constellation.

Happy birthday, Space Shuttle astronaut Robert Parker!

Robert Allan Parker, born December 14, 1936 in New York City, is a veteran of two Space Shuttle flights.  He was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1967 and was a member of the Astronaut Support Crews for Apollo 15 and 17. He was a program scientist for all three Skylab missions.

His first shuttle flight was on Columbia (STS-9) in November-December 1983 as a mission specialist.  He traveled with Ulf Merbold, the first ESA and West German in space.

Parker's second and final flights was also on Columbia (STS-35) in December 1990.  He retired from NASA in August 2005.

Welcome back to Earth, Expedition 53!

Randy Bresnik, Paolo Nespoli and Sergey Ryazanskiy landed a little after 3:30am EST today (2:30pm in Kazakhstan) completing their mission on the International Space Station.  While on board, they performed many experiments, contributing to studies on microgravity's effect on the antibiotic resistance of E. coli, a baterial pathogen responsible for urinary tract infection, and growing larger versions of an important protein implicated in Parkison's Disease.  This last example was developed by the Michael J. Fox Foundation with two other partners.

They were launched July 28, 2017 aboard Soyuz MS-05

Expedition 54 will continue with 3 crew members, Commander Alexander Misurkin, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, until this Sunday when the next crew arrives: Anton Shkaplerov (Roscosmos), Scott Tingle (NASA) and Norishige Kanai (JAXA).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Rebirth of Mothra II" released 1997

The second in the Mothra trilogy, Rebirth of Mothra II, released December 13, 1997 in Japan, pitted everyone's favorite big bug monster against the evil Dagahra.  Clearly a children's film, three kids try to find an undersea city Lost Treasure of Nilai Kinai to restore Earth's environment which is failing. 

However, the rampant pollution has created Dagahra, who might be too powerful for Mothra.  It's sort of a remake of Godzilla vs the Smog Monster (Hedorah) but much better.  The movie of the G-Man's battle against a monster created from pollution had plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through, editing problems that almost seemed like someone with severe ADD had completed it, and just overall WTF?

Rebirth of Mothra II is silly but fun.  It's great to see Mothra in her own movies and showing off some beefed-up powers!

Mayors across North America sign Chicago Climate Change

Since the Donald and the TEPA have no interest in preserving our global environment, mayors from over 50 cities from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. signed a formal agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emission in their cities.  They met last week at a climate change summit in Chicago and pledged to meet goals simliar to those in the Paris Climate Agreement, from which the Donald withdrew the U.S. 

President Obama spoke to the assembly, discussing the rising global temperatures, rising sea levels, worsening storms and droughts as evidence of climate change. 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted the absence of leadership in Washington, DC and said mayors are taking the reins to fill a leadership void created by The Donald.  The Chicago Climate Change commits cities to reducing carbon emission reduction targets by 2025.

Read the signed charter and signatures here.

Among those cities whose mayors signed:

Los Angeles
Washington, DC
San Francisco
Mexico City
Pittsboro, North Carolina

Here is a complete list of cities that are working to reduce greenhouse gases.

"The Poseidon Adventure" premiered 1972

The star-studded, 70's disaster-flick The Poseidon Adventure opened December 13, 1972.  The cast included 5 Academy Award winners: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Albertson, Shelley Winters and Red Buttons.

The Poseidon Adventure won two Academy Awards, one for Best Original Song and a non-competitive Special Achievement Award for Best Visual Effects.  Shelley Winters won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture.

The movie was #1 Box Office Champ of 1973 and by the end of 1974 it was one of the most successful movies ever.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ABBA releases "ABBA: The Album" 1977

Swedish super-group ABBA released their fifth studio album ABBA: The Album December 12, 1977 in Scandinavia.  British and American fans had to wait until after Christmas because of the massive pre-orders.  Apparently it was released in conjunction was this movie ABBA: The Movie, but I haven't seen or heard any more about it.

ABBA: The Album reached 14 on the USA Billboard 200 but broke the Top Ten in many other countries and went to #1 in many of those.

Happy birthday, Chinese astronaut Chen Dong!

Chen Dong, born December 12, 1978 in Luoyang, Henan (a province of China), flew into space November 2016 aboard Shenzhou 11 with veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng.  They logged 33 days in space, the longest flight to date of the China National Space Administration.

Kwangmyongsong-3 Unit 2 (1st North Korean satellite) launched 2012

An accomplishment met with universal apprehension and skepticism, North Korea launched their first satellite, Kwangmyongsong-3 Unit 2, December 12, 2012.  Previous attempts had failed, despite the North Koreans declaring all were successful.  This was the first satellite that tracking stations around the world could track and observe.

North Korea became the 10th country to obtain the technology to launch its own satellites.  North Korea claimed Kwangmyongson-3 Unit 2 is to estimate crop yields collect weather data and assess the country's forest coverage and natural resources.

Other countries aren't so sure. 

A few days after launch, ground observers noted the satellite was tumbling out of control.  The North Koreans responded by saying "it's supposed to do that!" but since it was meant to keep constantly pointing toward Earth, this seems unlikely.

An overly-exuberant newsanchor reports the successful launch of Kwangmyongson-3 Unit 2.