#Extant E3: See Things First, Hear Them Later

Me and Astronaut Doug Wheelock in front of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the day before liftoff

Me and Astronaut Doug Wheelock in front of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the day before liftoff

In last night's episode of Extant, Molly (played by Halle Berry) sees a rocket lifting off, heading into space and likely docking with the space station.  It reminded me of when I attended a shuttle launch. One of the most fascinating things was seeing the shuttle launch .... in silence.  Then, 15 seconds later ... WWWWOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSHHHHHH you get blasted by the full sound of the rocket launching from the Earth.  Why did it take so long?

In the above video, we start to hear sound about 15 seconds after we see it. Why is that? Well, the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) is much, much, much faster than the speed of sound (1130 ft per second). So if something is more than 1130 ft away from us, we should see it one second before we hear it.  If it's 2260 ft away, we'll see it two seconds before we hear it. For 15 seconds, the math works out to just over 3 miles, which is the actual distance from the shuttle launch pad to the Kennedy Space Center press site that I was at.

This is the exact same reason why you see lightning before you hear thunder - if the lightning is far enough away, the light reaches your eyes way before the sound reaches your ears! You can also calculate how far away the lightning is by using the same method I used to calculate how far I was from the shuttle launch pad.

If you want to check out the livetweet of the show (watch out, there are spoilers), check out the Storify below!

The Space Age: Shuttles and Stations


When the average American thinks about space, both the space shuttle and the space station usually come to mind. Two milestones related to both of these achievements are being celebrated this week!

I was lucky enough to see Atlantis take off last year, and now it is taking on its final journey - a 10 mile trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building (where shuttles hang out)  to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) visitor center. This will definitely be the easiest of the shuttle retirement trips, but it is still a task that requires intense expertise and planning. C

The International Space Station also celebrates a milestone - 12 years ago, the first crew began living on the station!  Check out the crew of Expedition 1 below, consisting of USA Commander Bill Shepherd and Russian Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. The ISS has served as a beacon of international cooperation, especially between the former Cold War adversaries.  They've worked together to provide wonderful images like this one provided by my Google+ buddy Erica Joy, 

Launch Drunk: Final Thoughts on the Shuttle Program

(For more photos, click for my albums from pre-launch and Launch day)

I've been in a state of writer's block ever since I saw Atlantis break away for the clouds on Friday morning. Sure, I've been updating Twitter and Google+ like a madman, but I needed some time to write a long form blog post. As a fellow NASA Tweetup attendee taught me, I was "launch drunk!"

Now that I've some rest, I can better reflect on the impact that NASA and the shuttle program has had on my life.

My earliest memory is the aftermath of the Challenger incident. As a six year old, I couldn't put this into the proper historical perspective. However, there was a huge push for space and technology news within my school as well as my favorite media of the time - Highlights for Children and 3-2-1 Contact. I manned my own personal missions with my toy spacecraft, hoping that my impromptu Lego modular design would help against the inevitable alien encounter.

As a preteen, I took an astronomy class at the local community college, where we learned about planetary orbits, plotted constellations, and, of course, talked about the space shuttle. We even took a trip to the National Air and Space museum in DC, which was one of the first times I had been to a museum outside of the New York metro area. As a sign of the times, I also remember the bus stopping at a Dairy Queen on the way back, and playing the Simpsons arcade game with tree other friends as long as we could.

In a few years, I began to read the paper and watch the news on a daily basis. I always made sure to tune in for shuttle launches. There was no NASA TV or YouTube - the only way to experience NASA missions was to tune in live or for a recap. I always felt butterflies watching the coverage.

I felt those same butterflies during my first live launch last Friday, the last one ever.

NASA has big things on the horizon - continued research on the International Space Station, getting humans to Mars, and exploring asteroids - and my hope is that future generations are inspired by this work. I know I was.

NASA's Final Shuttle Launch - I'll be there!

last one by shlomi yoav (shlomi_y) on
last one by shlomi yoav


Happy 4th of July to all of my American viewers!

On July 8th, at approximately 11:40am, the Space Shuttle Atlantis will lift off for its final mission, and I'll be right there!  I've been invited by NASA to participate in a NASA Tweetup for 150 of its twitter followers.  I've previously blogged about my experience with the tweetup and the previous launch, along with the accompanying media coverage, but I missed the actual liftoff of the shuttle due to the launch being moved at the last minute for safety concerns.  Of course, this can happen again for this launch, but I have my fingers crossed!

The community of people that support NASA initiatives is very impressive. We are connected on various social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and the information flows freely.  There are people that clearly know more than me, but not once have I felt talked down to. It's truly an example of how technology can help to bring like-minded people together.

You can view my press release by clicking here.

NASA Tweetup attendees are traveling from across the U.S. and globe to attend this historic event. A list of registered Twitter attendees can be found on the NASA Tweetup Twitter account:

Information about the NASA Tweetup can be viewed at