Space “Fan” Milestones

Somewhere there is a Polaroid my father took of our TV in New Milford Connecticut. It shows Apollo 11 landing on the moon in 1969. You can say I’ve been a space fan since then.

In the last few years I have tried to step up my game a bit and I think I am doing OK. I thought it might be nice to track a few of my space fandom milestones.

Visits to “Space Centers”
– Kennedy Space Center – December 2019
– Space Center Houston – February 2020
– Space & Rocket Center Huntsville – August 2014
– Kansas Cosmosphere – Circa 2000

Moon Rocks Touched
– Kennedy Space Center – December 2019
– Space Center Houston – February 2020
Smithsonian – To Be Accomplished

Space Shuttles Visited
– Discovery, June 2015, Udvar-Hazy Center, Fairfax, VA. (OV-103)
– Enterprise, June 2019, Intrepid Air and Space Museum NYC (OV-101)
– Atlantis, December 2019, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. (OV-104)
Endeavour, To Be Accomplished, California Science Center (OV-105)
– Replicas: Kansas Cosmosphere, Johnson Space Center (Independence), Space and Rocket Center (Pathfinder)
– Special Mention: NASA 747 Shuttle Ferry Plane – N905NA

Apollo Command Modules Visited
– Apollo 11 – Kennedy Space Center
– Apollo 17 – Space Center Houston

Apollo 11 – Kennedy Space Center
Apollo 17 – Space Center Houston

More to come.


Challenger Memorial & Mother Earth Sculpture

Google Photos Album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/4dnuxQbSfUQpS8Aj6

Took a ride about 2 miles from the hotel to see the Challenger 7 Memorial Park in the suburbs of Houston. I found a huge park (at least by my standards) with this memorial placed prominently. – More pictures in the link –

In one of those “Let’s see what else is in the park” moments we came across signs for the “Mother Earth Sculpture.”

No wild hogs were seen.

The sculpture is a clay rendering of Mother Earth laying on her back, covered by grass, looking up at the heavens. Check the album for pictures, but definitely not what I expected near an astronaut memorial.

Tips on a Raspberry Pi Base Working Image

I thought it might be helpful to some to document how I go about taking the latest version of Raspbian (available at https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/) and customize it for myself. This makes it easier for me to start a project and make sure all the Pi’s I work on have the same basic setup.

I tend to work from headless systems, so the first thing I do to the raw image file on my SD card is add a blank file named “ssh” to enable that functionality.  Next, add a file named “wpa_supplicant.conf” to your boot directory as well.   Include your WiFi information so you don’t have to connect to Ethernet if you choose not to.

Take that disk image you have on your SD card and connect it to the Pi.  Connect however you choose (I use PuTTY) and login if needed.

Enter “sudo raspi-config” and make the following changes:

  • Change your password (seriously!)
  • Change your host name (I use a convention like PiBWIJune18) so I can find it in my DHCP list if I need to discover the IP and so I know which version I am using.
  • Expand yout file system to use the whole disk
  • set your keyboard type
  • set your time zone
  • optionally decide if you want to boot to desktop or command line
  • optionally enable VNC  (though if you are just doing command line, there is no need to do this.)

After you exit and save all that, now is a good time to reboot. 

Starting up again, I remove Wolfram Alpha.  It takes up about 700 MB and it’s not something I use regularly.  I can always add it back if I need it for a project, but I haven’t yet.  That command is “sudo apt-get purge wolfram-engine”

Another reason to remove Wolfram is that it seems to have a ton of updates and takes forever.  Once it is gone, run your system updates with “sudo apt-get update”.

I run a home NTP server and quite a few of my projects are time related, so I always add NTP.  A great tutorial to do that is at: http://raspberrypi.tomasgreno.cz/ntp-client-and-server.html

Finally, I want an easy way to move files between Pi and my desktop as needed.  So I set up SAMBA sharing.  The tutorial I use it at: http://raspberrywebserver.com/serveradmin/share-your-raspberry-pis-files-and-folders-across-a-network.html

When that’s done, I shut down the pi and make a backup.  That’s the file I use to start my next project with, my “Base Working Image.”

Hope this helps.  If not, at least I can find my notes next time there is a new Raspian release!

The Atlas 5 Launch Experience

ULA Atlas 5 with Solar Orbiter – February 2020 by N4BFR

I really enjoyed going to a night launch on the Space Coast on Feb. 9. United Launch Alliance shot a Solar Orbiter for ESA that will map close to the solar poles for the first time. Cool science is coming!

I used this an an experiment to photograph a bunch of different ways. 4 cameras ended up in this final video. My Sony A58 shot the launch in HD, I used my Panasonic Lumix to shoot the rocket gliding under the moon, I used a small “Action Cam” to get a time lapse of the launch, and finally my iPhone shot the selfie videos.

One shot that didn’t make it was a 4K Vertical Launch shot. I started the camera with about 2 minutes to go, but when I adjusted its placement I bumped it. No recording. Good thing I had some redundancy!

From the Radio Side, I listened to the launch on the K4GCC 146.94 repeater, who simulcast the launch audio for every launch via a phone patch. (Well it was a phone patch the two times I heard it). I also attempted to listen to the CCAFS traffic via a scanner. I was able to hear some KSC gate discussions, but no operational audio related to the launch. Something to try for next time!

Parks On The Air

I’ve been enjoying getting back into Parks on the Air over the last few months. I have about 25 confirmed chases and 2 activations. I shot a video of my Banks Lake activation, where I made about 30 contacts on Christmas Day. Enjoy.

If you like the video, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.