Tag Archives: Science

Griffith Park

The Dead Sea Scrolls at the California Science Center

Every time I visit the California Science Center I love it just a little bit more…

The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition is currently at the Science Center…

There was no photography allowed inside the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit, but I couldn’t stop myself from taking this one. The is me touching a three-ton stone from Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Not even close to the same as being there of course, but an emotional moment all the same.

California Science Center

NASA Social at JPL

I’ve been trying to write this post for about 24 hours now, and I just can’t. I can’t find the words to express how incredible and amazing an utterly mind blowing the experience of going to a NASA Social was… Maybe the words will come to me once I’ve had more time to process the experience, but for now here are some of my pictures, they’ll have to tell the story for me.

The Von Karman Auditorium was “home base” for us. How do you decorate your auditorium? Well, if you’re JPL you decorate with space craft…

The list of speakers we heard was impressive. Another attendee said something about how everyone was so excited to have us there at JPL and share their work with us, and that was so true. Everyone was fascinating and I know I missed at least half of everything between trying to listen, take pictures, and tweet all at the same time. I tried to be good with details, but if I’ve gotten anything wrong in this post please let me know in the comments.

A 2 hour portion of the program was broadcast on NASA TV and has been uploaded to you tube. (Start around 16:30. For some reason the beginning is just a title card for a long time.)

Another piece of the program:

When we arrived on day 2 there were parts on our tables. Actual spacecraft parts! And there were scientists and engineers all throughout the room to explain the parts and demonstrate NASA’s various apps.

(If you see a table tent in the photo it was just the table name, it isn’t connected to the part on the table.)

And of course while we were in the room I had to take the obligatory “pretending I work at NASA” picture.

We had a speaker on Monday who was not in the program. LeVar Burton who was at JPL to shoot a PSA graciously made time to stop and talk to us.

Our time at JPL wasn’t all speakers, we were treated to tours of some amazing places…

The JPL Museum complete with scientists and demonstrations

The Deep Space Network Mission Control

They showed us a video of the room on Curiosity’s landing night, while we were sitting in that room. I got a little misty-eyed. Dare Mighty Things, indeed…

The Spacecraft Assembly Building

And the Mars Yard.


(I have no idea where this originally came from, but I’ve seen it online a few times and it always cracks me up!)

I’ve done a lot of really cool things in my life. This was the coolest.

I think I took about 300 pictures in the Mars Yard alone, I was really excited to be there!


Hangin’ out with my new pal Curiosity! (okay, Maggie)

JPL is a really beautiful place, in addition to all of the awesome science happening there…

Here are the official group photos from JPL. (Click to see various sizes, up to and including ginormous!)

Normal picture

“Goofy” picture. (Not that much different) πŸ˜‰

With “NASA Mohawk Guy” and space cutie, Bobak Ferdowsi

Now back to real life, but I sure could get used to being treated like a VIP at JPL every day! πŸ™‚


Health update: These two days were very hard on my body, especially the 2nd day. I’m not sure how long it will take me to recover (so to speak) but everything was more than worth it! The staff at JPL had a golf cart standing by to take me where I needed to go, and other than a few places I was able to sit down when I needed to. No one made me feel singled out or like ‘that disabled lady’ (you’d be surprised how often well-meaning people do this) and I was able to be just one of the group. And woo-hoo I didn’t fall even once while I was there! πŸ™‚ Special thanks to a wonderful friend who played chauffeur both days so I was able to take pain meds when I needed to and not have to worry about driving later. ❀


One thing I learned over the course of the event is exactly how bad my “selfie” skills are, so there are not that many pictures with me in them. Here are some pictures other people have posted.

@VickySvyrydyuk posted this photo of @susankitchens, myself, and @thisDianeNorris.

@Janestarz posted this picture of a group of us looking down into the Spacecraft Assembly Facility, I’m the one closest to the camera.

@amyjclayton posted “Table Jason at lunch with Howard Eisen.”


L-R: @susankitchens, myself, @thisDianeNorris, @VickySvyrydyuk, @elsienw, Howard Eisen, @anna_1312

@CourtOConnor posted this picture. I’m small, but I’m there!

@VeronicaMcG posted this picture. (Back of my head.)

@PlanetaryKeri posted this picture. (Another ‘back of my head’ shot.)

@TinaCassler posted this picture. (Busy tweeting!)

@Streeterama posted three photos here that I’m in.

@kikipessa posted a photo here.

@ridingrobots posted a photo here.

@RaeBeta posted a photo here.

@RaeBeta posted a photo here.

@TinaCassler posted a photo here.

@susankitchens posted a photo here.

@NASAJPL posted a photo here.

@NASAJPL posted a photo here.

@ageekmom posted some photos here.

Veronica McGregor turned our tweets into a story using Storify here.

@audvin made this awesome network centrality graph of the #NASASocial JPL tweet stream

@audvin posted β€œA visualization of the #NASASocial conversation. Data from the 3,500 last tweets. @NASAJPL” here.

@audvin posted β€œDay 2: People central to the #NASASocial conversations. No surprise to see @MarsCuriosity :)” here.

Endeavourfest & The California Science Center

Does everyone remember when Endeavour was moved on the streets of Los Angeles to the California Science Center?Β  Here are a few of my pictures from her journey.


Can you believe that was a whole year ago?!! The California Science Center celebrated Endeavour’s “homecoming” anniversary with Endeavourfest October 11-13. The California Science Center is in Exposition Park which houses the Coliseum, many museums, a rose garden, and more. It’s a neat place to explore if you’ve never been, and quite beautiful.


Walking up the the front of the Science Center was a Dragon. No, not like the fire-breathing ‘princess-in-peril’ type, the kind of Dragon that SpaceX has been launching into space. This particular Dragon was the first one ever to go into space, orbiting he Earth in December 2010. (It also amused me that the signs telling you not to touch the spacecraft said “Please do not pet the Dragon.” In related news, I am easily amused.)


It isn’t long after walking into the Science Center before you’re looking up and saying “wow.”


But I was really all about Endeavourfest. We went into a big conference room and sat for a good long time. Despite the government shutdown forcing the cancellation of NASA’s participation in the event there were plenty of things to see and do.

First we heard from one of the filmmakers of “Three Days, Three Nights.” It is a 20 minute documentary on Endeavour’s 68 hour journey through the streets of LA to get to the California Science Center. Even though you know going in to the film how it’s going to end (spoiler alert: she arrived) you’re holding your breath as you watch some of the close calls and challenges. It’s a short but powerful little film, more about human ingenuity, inspiration, and doing the ‘impossible’ than a simple “how it happened” story. I wish it was available to stream or purchase somewhere but so far it isn’t. Hopefully this will change soon. I’m sorry I didn’t get the name of the gentleman who spoke, he was great.

Next we heard from Astronaut Danny Olivas. (An honest-to-goodness astronaut!) Everything he had to say was interesting but honestly I spent most of his talk watching the crowd. I can’t even tell you how much it filled my heart with hope to see how excited the kids in that room were. Little ones dressed up in astronaut costumes. Older kids asking questions about what it takes to be an astronaut. Questions about space and science and the universe we live in. Questions that showed a desire to learn and explore. I know it was a “preaching to the choir” kind of thing, everyone in that room chose to be there so of course there was interest, but it was so nice to see kids looking up to someone for something other than behaving badly on television. But that’s a rant for a different post…

John “Danny” Olivas is pretty awesome. Well, I mean, all astronauts are awesome. Duh. But everything I know about Danny Olivas is impressive. He was an aquanaut. He went into space twice. Go read a sort bio about him here. Go do it now, I’ll wait. Are you back now? Good. Talk about having the right attitude in life! Those were some great lessons applicable to everything, not just astronaut stuff. (If you didn’t click the link and just kept reading this I bet you’re curious now, huh?)

Danny Olivas wrote a children’s book called Endeavour’s Long Journey. An awesome friend surprised me with an autographed copy a few months ago. I highly recommend it if you have kids who are interested in space. I think if you’re a grown up you can use the “kid at heart” excuse, it totally counts. πŸ˜‰


Now I should be clear, I’ve never been to the California Science Center before. Maybe it’s one of those things where you never do the things in your town because you live there and can go anytime? I know, I really have no excuse… I knew some of what to expect, but for the most part I was surprised by all of the amazing things there. Nothing was a cooler surprise than finding myself in front of a Mercury, a Gemini, and an Apollo capsule. Did you understand that sentence? HOLY CRAP THEY HAVE MERCURY, GEMINI, AND APOLLO SPACE CAPSULES!!!


This Mercury-Redstone 2 Capsule launched for a 17 minute flight on January 31, 1961 with a chimp named Ham inside. If you have 9 minutes worth of interest in the mission this video is a fun watch. (Click the first link if you want to know what those painted yellow symbols are all about.)


This Gemini 11 space capsule flown by Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon was in space September 12-15, 1966. It landed on autopilot to test the landing system. The pattern on the heat shield is from reentry when the outer surface vaporized from a solid to a gas. It isn’t centered because the capsule came in at an angle.


The Apollo Command Module on display was originally supposed to go to the moon as Apollo 18, but when congress cancelled the mission it was used for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project instead. Engineers developed a docking module to let the American’s Apollo join up with the Russian’s Soyuz and let the crews visit each other’s spacecraft.


Here is a Project Mercury Test/Training Suit. It is nearly identical to the ones worn in space by the Mercury Astronauts. (This one was made around 1960 for test evaluation and training.) The suit only weighed 20 pounds, not being designed for use outside the spacecraft.


This is the actual space suit Astronaut Ken Mattingly wore during an Apollo 16 spacewalk. It weighs 185 pounds (on Earth, that is) and has a life support system (the backpack) with 8 hours of oxygen.)


Moon rock. Actual rock from the moon! Sample #10017-9010 if you want to get technical. It’s on loan to the California Science Center by Dr. Buzz Aldrin. Maybe you’ve heard of him? πŸ˜‰


Now we are at a point where I’m a little fuzzy on things. I tried to be good and take pictures of the signs alongside items I was photographing, but honestly I kept turning around and taking more pictures of the Apollo capsule. I was having a “ooh, shiny object!” moment, sorry.

I could be wrong about any of these, by the way. DID I MENTION THERE IS AN APOLLO CAPSULE RIGHT IN FRONT OF THIS DISPLAY?!!? Anyway, If you have better info than I have please share it in the comments.


Another awesome thing just “hanging around” (I’m so sorry for that) is Cassini. (Displayed with insulating blankets.)


1/5th scale models of the Hubble and Chandra telescopes.


Iron meteorites are only about 4% of meteorites but they are easy to recognize. I kind of want a side table made out of one.


Velie Monocoupe Model 70. The link tells us “The Velie Monocoupe is one of the first planes built for private pilots. Manufactured from 1927-1929 by W.L. Velie, an industrialist who had previously specialized in carriages and cars, the single-wing Monocoupes were built with a frame of wood and shell covered with canvas. The Monocoupe could seat two people, and its enclosed cabin, speed and flashy style made it quite popular.” Actually it tells us a lot more and has some awesome photos if you’re interested.


1902 Wright Brothers’ Glider (replica)


And now we get to a section all about Endeavour…


I’ve read in a few places that the question astronauts are asked most often is how they go to the bathroom in space. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. πŸ˜‰


What is the ROSC? Click and find out!


How do you cook in space? Another good question! (Not as commonly asked as the toilet one though.)

(Did you know that salt and pepper are served in liquid to keep the small specks of seasoning from escaping? These are the things you learn at the California Science Center!)


Space Flown items


She may launch upwards, but Endeavour lands like an airplane. Which means tires. These are the tires from Eneavour’s final flight, STS-134. The main landing gear tires are only used once. They would get so torn up they needed to be replaced for every mission.


Do you remember when that guy had that plan to skydive from space? Well that guy was Felix Baumgartner and he did a freefall jump from 128,100 feet, rushing toward earth at supersonic speeds. It was a big deal where he broke a bunch of records and a lot of people (myself included) watched live online as it happened. (Oh and by the way, he he stuck the landing!) Well, his capsule and special pressurized spacesuit are at the California Science Center through January 12, 2014.


SPACEHAB modules flew on the shuttle 18 times, and the first and last SPACEHAB missions were flown on Endeavour.


All around the pavilion Endeavour is housed in are displays giving a little bit of info about each and every shuttle mission. Taking pictures of pictures has always seemed pointless to me, but there were a few that I did stop to photograph.


And here she is, the lady of the hour:

(The reason this post is so after-the-fact is that I couldn’t narrow down the hundreds of pictures I took of Endeavor into anything resembling a reasonable amount. Here are 15 of MANY…)


There was a Space Shuttle Main Engine at ground level in one corner so we could get a closer look


Fun fact from the website: “Guests who come to see Endeavour often notice that the flag on the starboard side of the orbiter appears to be “backwards.” But tradition (and an interpretation of the U.S. Flag Code) suggests that the blue field on the flag should always be pointed forward, into the wind, as if the flag were flying on a flagpole in the breeze. The flag is painted the same way on many aircraft, such as Air Force One.”


Of course a visit to the gift shop ended the day.

I resisted buying any of the models.

There were other things I bought, but those are the cute ones.


Good pictures to end on, I think.


We timed our visit to see Space Station 3D in the IMAX theater. I’m not a fan of 3D but I really enjoyed the movie. Here’s a trailer if you want to get an idea what it’s all about. Really enjoyable film.

Basically the California Science Center is awesome and you should all visit if you can. There were entire sections of it that we didn’t get to, I can’t wait to go back and explore more!

(Okay, one minor confession: while we did go to Endeavourfest and loved what we saw, there were just too many people for me to navigate. Every time I have fallen in public it has been because someone just wasn’t paying attention and bumped in to me. Even though I had the walker with me I didn’t want to risk a fall so we went back a few days after Endeavourfest to go through the Center itself and see Endeavour. The pictures above are a mixture of both of those days. Just pretend it was all one exciting day though, it reads better that way. πŸ˜‰ )