2:22 Friday Afternoon Launch Update

We’re now just 24 hours from launch!!! ….. hopefully… (ha)

So, since it’s Friday I figured I would share some NASA Friday Fun Facts. Buckle up, some of these may bLoW your mInD!

NASA has an Office of Planetary Protection that will protect any life we find in space. Any threat to that life will have to go through this office. Am I the only one who REALLY wants to work in this office?!

We have landed on the Moon six times. Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. There was always a superstitious reservation about Apollo 13. Superstitions are so silly, though…..right? (haha)

Apollo 12 was struck by lightning twice. The lightning was sparked from a cloud deck the rocket flew through. Prior to launch, there was no lightning in the area.

Snoopy (from Peanuts)  is the astronaut safety-protocol mascot.

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Neil Armstrong turned his astronaut application in a week late. A friend of his slipped it into the pile so that it would look like it arrived on time. Procrastinators unite! (ha)

The Apollo astronauts didn’t qualify for life insurance. If that doesn’t tell you your job is dangerous nothing will! (ha) So, they signed “insurance photographs” prior to launch. The hope was that by selling those unique photographs enough money would be raised to take care of the astronaut’s families.

The Russians onboard the ISS don’t drink from the same water system as the Americans. The Americans recycle their urine to drink (as well as the Russians’ urine). The Russians refuse. I’ll have more on this  in a later post sometime (ha). And yes, I’m cringing just typing this nonsense (ha). All for science, right?

You must travel 50 miles up above the earth to earn your astronaut “wings”. Otherwise, your just an “astronaut candidate”. This is not without controversy, as the space shuttle Challenger passengers who had never been to space before that mission are technically not astronauts, since the Challenger never made it that high up.

Bill Nye the Science Guy has repeatedly applied to be an astronaut. He has been rejected every time. I like Bill Nye but never ever listen to him try to teach meteorology. It’s painful to watch and just so wrong.  He is the butt of many a jokes in our field.

The “good luck” breakfast of astronauts is scrambled eggs and steak. Thank Alan Shepard for this! Who could eat, though, right?

Before a shuttle launch the shuttle crews played a hand of cards. Every time. They always finished the hand before the flight. The game was either Blackjack or 5 card poker. The flight can’t happen until the commander loses.

The first man in spaceflight, Yuri Gagarin, had to make a pit stop before being taken to the launch pad…he peed on the back wheel of the van. Even today, it’s tradition (and expected) that male cosmonauts (Russian astronauts) pee on the back wheel of the vehicle that is taking them to the launch pad. Female cosmonauts are not obliged to participate but they have been known to bring a vial of their own urine to throw on that same tire. What? You thought you were the only one who didn’t just kick the tires?

Space is really weird but I’m pretty sure we humans are much, much weirder! (haha)

It may disturb you to know I could go on and on with NASA oddities. I’m sure SpaceX has as many, too.

So, the next time you see that penny on the ground that is heads up, don’t be embarrassed to pick it up. If anyone says anything just tell them that even the geniuses at NASA would have probably picked that darn thing up! (ha)

Please be looking for my LAUNCH WEEK post tonight. It’s about the cost of NASA and whether or not the cost outweighs the benefits. This is the number one criticism I hear and I always enjoy addressing that concern.

See you all this evening!

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Baldwin’s Launch Week Friday Wx Blog for May 29

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Headlines

Launch Week continues! Tomorrow may be the BIG day!

A cold front is moving through tonight

A very pleasant forecast coming in the days ahead

Main threats

Some of the storms today could produce heavy rainfall that could result in localized flash flooding. Be aware of this if you’re out driving and encounter one of these downpours.

Baldwin’s Severe Wx Concern

Storms may become a bit strong this afternoon and evening, but severe weather chances are quite low.

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Once this cold front clears our area tonight, our severe storm chances drop significantly for several days.

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Baldwin’s 7-Day forecast

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Daily Forecast

Today: Showers and storms likely. Heavy downpours could lead to localized flash flooding.

Saturday: Becoming partly cloudy. A nice day, especially in the afternoon.

Sunday – Tuesday: Partly to mostly sunny skies and quite pleasant! Warm afternoons will be followed by cool, crisp nights. Humidity levels will be very low.

Wednesday: Partly cloudy skies and warmer.

Thursday: Partly cloudy with a chance for an afternoon/evening shower or storm.

Hay Weather Forecast

That hay weather forecast is still looking good! Drying conditions begin Saturday and should last through Wednesday. I’ll have a video update in tomorrow morning’s blog!

Almanac

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Yesterday’s National High and Low Temperature

High: 120 at Death Valley, California

Low: 25 at Peter Sinks, Utah

Difference of: 95 degrees

Today’s 

Wx Hazards Across the Nation

Severe storms threaten the Northeast, while heavy rainfall threatens portions of the Southeast coastline.

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Tomorrow’s 

Wx Hazards Across the Nation

Severe storms threaten portions of the Pacific Northwest. Some of those storms may even produce tornadoes, which is a bit odd for that area! Higher elevations of that area will see snow. A wild weather day for them tomorrow!

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Sunday’s 

Wx Hazards Across the Nation

No significant hazardous weather for the country.

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Tropics

We are already watching another system! Remember, hurricane season doesn’t begin until June 1 and we’ve already had our first two storms (Arthur and Bertha). It’s now looking like we will have our first three storms by June 1. The National Hurricane Center gives this system a 50% chance of becoming a named tropical storm within the next few days. It should stay out to sea. If named, this system would be Tropical Storm Cristobal.

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Records

On this date in 1965 the satellite Explorer (pictured below) was launched to study space physics. It was powered by chemical batteries and solar panels. It remained fully functional for two years and was considered a success. The satellite re-entered earth’s atmosphere on July 4, 1968 and burned up.

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Weather Trivia 

Q: Does the wind blow on the moon?

a. It sure does!   b. Nope, not a bit!

(Answer at the end of the blog!)

Long Range Outlook 

An overall warmer and drier period is still looking likely for the first days of June.

Temperature

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Precipitation 

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7-Day Projected Precip Totals

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LAUNCH WEEK!

We are now just a day away from the big launch! We’ll try it again tomorrow at 2:22 CDT. Unfortunately, there is a 60% of weather being a problem again.

Today’s topic is a bit two-fold, as I’ll talk a bit about both the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and the countdown clock.

The VAB is one of the most iconic structures on NASA’s campus. In fact, it probably is the most iconic structure. It’s not a small building, that’s for sure, and the first time you go in it you can’t help but strain your neck looking all around.

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It is the largest buildings in the world and, if I’m not mistaken, the largest single story building in the world. Believe me when I say this….it’s HUGE! How huge is it, you ask? Well, it would hold nearly four Empire State Buildings! It is more than 200 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Get my drift? It’s HUGE! (ha)

The building was constructed for the housing of the Apollo missions but was then modified for the space shuttle program. A space shuttle can fit into this building. It’s big, I tell ya!

It’s so big that clouds sometimes form near the ceiling on humid days, causing this building to have one of the largest air conditioning units in the world. I just blew your mind, didn’t I? You should have seen my face when they told me this for the first time (haha).

The building covers 8 acres and is 525 feet tall. Construction required the use of over 95,000 tons of steel (this building ain’t going anywhere!) and 65,000 cubic yards of concrete. There are 71 cranes housed here for use of heavy lifting.

The doors to the VAB are over 450 feet tall and require hours to open and close. This place is impressive, to say the least. I never get tired of going there!

The American Flag on the side is nearly 210 x 110 feet! The stripes are nine feet wide! The stars on the flag are six feet across.

The building also houses the reconstructed Columbia space shuttle. It was reconstructed from the debris found after the shuttle was lost during re-entry. The public is not allowed in that part but family members and friends of the astronauts lost on that mission are allowed there. In addition, every engineer who works for NASA is required to visit that room. It is to remind them of the consequences of mistakes.

I have actually been on the roof of that building! I was there covering the launch with a press pass on behalf of weatherTAP and was selected from all the reporters to be one of only a handful allowed to watch it from the top.

Most. Amazing. View. Of. A. Rocket. Launch.Ever. And…..that was my first rocket launch! I was there to see the GOES-S satellite sent into space.

It was surprisingly windy up there! I was actually very, very surprised at that. Cameras kept blowing over, we could hardly hear ourselves talk from time to time. On the ground, there had been hardly a breeze! It was all unforgettable, for sure.

The Clock

Now, the countdown clock is just down the road from the VAB. It is just as iconic as the VAB building, come to think of it. It has been said that it is only second in popularity to London’s Big Ben clock! The clock was built the same year as the Moon landing (not coincidental) and always begins 43 hours before a scheduled launch, with many holds along the way. There’s no such thing as a countdown without some time delays of some sort on the countdown clock.

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The clock is 26 by 3 feet and six feet tall. There are humidifiers inside to try to protect the inside of the clock from Florida’s unforgiving humidity. Each number is four feet tall and two feet wide. It uses 56 40-watt bulbs.

There is a flag pole just 34 feet away and the press box is just across the street from the clock. In 2001 the clock, flag pole, and press site were listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.

It’s so very cool to stand next to that clock, and I have been honored to be able to do that several times. I’ve even stood there as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and astronaut Bob Cabanna spoke to my group about NASA. I was awestruck.

Baldwin’s View-of-the-Day

The top is Apollo, the middle pic is from the shuttles, and the bottom pic is from DEMO-2. I think we’ve come a long way, don’t you? There are manual back-ups to those touch screens, thank goodness!

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Weather News

Should the launch not go off tomorrow, I will stick with just placing NASA info in the morning blog updates. Fingers crossed for a successful launch sometime this weekend!

Answer to Trivia Question

A: (b) There isn’t one bit of wind on the moon. The presence of wind requires at least some atmosphere and pressure differences. Without an atmosphere, wind is impossible on the Moon.

But the flag Armstrong placed on the moon appears to be waving in the wind. That’s because a “normal” flag would have just slumped on the pole with moon’s weak gravity and absence of wind. That wouldn’t have made a very appealing picture! So, engineers place a horizontal rod across the top of the flag, kinda like a curtain. The problem was that the astronauts, especially with their big “glove” hands, had trouble spreading out the flag. In the end, it looked really cool, though!

That is one dang cool picture, right? Man…..

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You all have a great day!

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Launch Week Thur Night Update: 3D Printer

I know, I know…I said there wouldn’t be a NASA post this evening because there are storms around. The good news is that the severe threat has been greatly diminished. We could see a strong storm or two overnight, but it’s pretty typical summer-like stuff.

So, I thought I would briefly share one more Launch Week post! You know you love this stuff! (ha)

When I had the opportunity to participate in a NASA social at Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama this past summer, I had the opportunity to see a 3-D printer.

The purpose of these printers for NASA is for missions that take astronauts far, far from home. Should they need to replace something, they will have the 3-D printer onboard that can print what they need! Got a broken screw? Print one. Lost the screwdriver while out on a spacewalk? Print another one. That’s right, you can print just about anything!

So, how does this work? The one I saw in Huntsville used little grains of metal that reminded me of BB bullets. Those grains cover a tray and then a laser runs over the metal grains in the pattern of what you need. It keeps doing this for layer after layer until what you need has been made. It can take a long time to print something complicated but that’s better than not being able to get it all.

The video below was shot by me. We all watched it for far too long! (ha)

There has been a 3D plastics printer onboard the International Space Station since 2014. It’s printed spare parts and even printed a wrench!

If I were you, I’d expect to this technology available more and more in your life. I wouldn’t be surprised if the day comes when you need a screwdriver….or a screw…or even a hinge…that you’ll just fire up the printer in the garage and print one off. Or, maybe someday stores won’t carry things that can be custom printed for you. You just go inside and tell them what you need and they print it off. No overstock. No extra inventory. No waiting on it to be shipped. Am I dreaming too big? We will see!

You all have a great evening and be sure and check out tomorrow’s Launch Week posts! I think they may be the best yet!

Launch is scheduled for 2:22 CDT Saturday afternoon. Chances for launch not being affected by weather are currently at 40%.

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12:15 Storm Update

WHAT: A strong or severe storm or two across the plateau

WHEN: This afternoon/evening. The threat should end after dark.

The Storm Prediction Center just updated the thunderstorm outlook for today and we remain in the marginal risk for severe storms. The slight risk that was in effect for extreme southern Middle TN and northern Alabama has been dropped. That was the closest slight risk area to us.

We remain in the threat for a damaging wind gust with any storm. The tornado threat is extremely low.

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Any storm that develops will also have the potential to produce very heavy rainfall, which could lead to localized flash flooding.

I’ll keep an eye on the radar but I don’t foresee significant issues, and I certainly don’t anticipate widespread severe weather. Still, just be a bit weather-aware if you’re out and about.

My concern level remains low.

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