Ahh, memories of the Moscow Subway

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/30/2006 09:44:00 PM

This link (thanks, Boing Boing/Cory Doctorow) brings back the memories for me - when I was in Moscow for 3 freezing winter months in '99.

Control Room changes and plaque hangings - and back to FCR1!

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/30/2006 02:11:00 AM

This past week, I supported ISS mission operations on the “Orbit 1” shift (from 11PM to 8AM local Houston time). At the end of my week’s operations (yesterday), I decided to hang around Mission Control for the privilege of watching the STS-115/12A mission plaque hanging, and the retirement of the Blue Flight Control Room (BFCR).

Mission plaque hanging is a long-standing tradition within Mission Operations. If you visit any of the main Mission Control rooms in Houston, you’ll see mission plaques hanging on the side walls of each main Mission Control room. These mission plaques are representative of each mission supported within the room, reaching all the way back to the Gemini missions. At the end of each mission, the lead Flight Director selects a Flight Controller who exhibited the most poise and professionalism (usually under duress) with the privilege of climbing the ladder and “hanging the plaque” in Mission Control.

For this past mission, four Flight Controllers were given the honor – for two plaques within the White FCR (where the Shuttle Flight Control team works), and two within the Blue FCR (where the Space Station Flight Control team works). For this past mission, lead Flight Controllers for the INCO (Instrumentation and Communications officer) team and PDRS (Payload Deployment and Retrieval System – basically, the Robotics officers) hung the plaques in the WFCR. In the Blue FCR, the Assembly and Checkout and PHALCON (Electrical Power) Lead Flight Controllers hung the plaque.

After the plaque hangings in the BFCR, another special ceremony was added. Normally, during the plaque hanging ceremonies, the ceremony itself has to occur while Space Station operations are occurring. The event can get unnerving, as ~12 Flight Controllers are maintaining Space Station operations while ~40 people from a previous mission come into mission control and hang a couple of plaques on the wall (usually the events are scheduled during a light operations timeframe, to keep the ceremony from unnecessarily hampering space operations).

However, this time, the ISS was being operated out of the WFCR - nobody was in the BFCR! This is because we are moving ISS operations out of the BFCR to “FCR1”. FCR1 is actually the room where the Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, Skylab, and early Space Shuttle missions were flown. (Tourists don’t need to worry – a second BFCR has been maintained 1 floor above FCR1 which is in essentially the same condition as it was for the Apollo missions.) FCR1 has been refitted with more modern computer equipment, and on 6-October, we plan on operating the ISS from it.

Back to the future!

The people's choice: People (and things) whose 15 minutes are up

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/28/2006 09:28:00 PM

In response to the astounding hue and cry for this, I present to you, the blog viewing public, my thoughts on the people and things whose 15 minutes are up.

By "15 minutes", I'm quoting from the famous Andy Warhol quotation, "In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes". In my humble (?) opinion, the clock on these folks have run out ... in some cases, quite a while ago.

If you have good ideas on this list, let me know in the comments. Thanks!

1. Paris Hilton
2. Paris Hilton's sister
3. Roseanne
4. Regis Philbin/Kelly Ripa
5. Jessica Simpson
6. Jessica Simpson's sister
7. O J Simpson
8. Nick Lachey
9. Lindsey Lohan and her work excuses
10. Anyone whose been on American idol, the Bachelor/Bachelorette, the Great Race, or any of what seems like 54,868 "Reality TV" episodes
11. The concept of "Reality TV"

C-USA Football roundup: Week 4

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/26/2006 09:55:00 PM

Tulsa 24, Navy 23

Tulsa pulls out this squeaker in OT by blocking Navy's extra point (up in Annapolis).

Rice 7, Florida State 55

This game looks like a leftover from the Bobby May/Ken Hatfield days. Rice should not be scheduling these kinds of games, and the results show. Fortunately, this is the hardest part of their schedule, as they now will start into C-USA.

Misssissippi State 16, UAB 10

UAB could have been the 2nd C-USA team to beat Mississippi State, but it was not to be, as MSU wins this one in Birmingham in OT.

Marshall 7, Tennessee 33

Marshall takes on the #15 ranked team in the nation, in their stadium, and the results show (particularly in the 4th quarter).

West Virginia 27, East Carolina 10

East Carolina hangs fairly well with the #4 team in the nation at home but falls apart in the 2nd half.

Texas-El Paso 13, New Mexico 26

UTEP travels north to New Mexico, but spots the Lobos a 19 point lead before getting their act together. Without spotting them the lead, this might have been a better game. Oh well ...

Tulane 7, LSU 49

Tulane's win against Mississippi State last week does not carry over to Louisiana State, as the #10 Tigers scored early and often against the Green Wave.

Arkansas State 9, SMU 55

The Mustangs have a flashback to days of yore as they paste the ASU Indians.

Oklahoma State 25, Houston 34

I took the wife & kids to this one at Robertson Stadium. It was a fun one, as a near-sellout crowd (about 25% local and travelling OSU fans) showed to see the Coogs beat the Cowboys. The game ended in the rain - certainly something we wouldn't have seen in the old Astrodome days.

Week 3 Personal Fantasy Football Roundup

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/26/2006 06:33:00 PM

Week 2 Personal Fantasy Football Roundup
Money League (Yahoo)

This week, my "money" team (the Local Yokels), took on the Bayou Boyz.

Here's the results ...POOR BOYZ!

Pos Player Opp Status Projected Actual
QB E. Manning (NYG - QB) @Sea L, 42-30 15.07 19.75
RB S. Alexander (Sea - RB) NYG W, 42-30 18.00 11.90
W/T M. Harrison (Ind - WR) Jac W, 21-14 10.08 9.40
W/T D. Stallworth (Phi - WR) @SF W, 38-24 9.46 0.00
W/R J. Galloway (TB - WR) Car L, 26-24 7.81 6.80
K J. Feely (NYG - K) @Sea L, 42-30 8.69 7.00
DEF Indianapolis (Ind - DEF) Jac W, 21-14 9.59 13.00
Total 78.70 67.85

Pos Player Opp Status Projected Actual
QB K. Warner (Ari - QB) StL L, 16-14 15.24 9.80
RB F. Gore (SF - RB) Phi L, 38-24 14.75 5.40
W/T A. Johnson (Hou - WR) Was L, 31-15 9.02 15.20
W/T L. Fitzgerald (Ari - WR) StL L, 16-14 8.78 12.50
W/R F. Taylor (Jac - RB) @Ind L, 21-14 10.80 7.40
K S. Janikowski (Oak - K) Bye 0.00 0.00
DEF Chicago (Chi - DEF) @Min W, 19-16 9.57 9.00
Total 68.16 59.30

Non-money league (ESPN)

Pinhead results ...

QB Peyton Manning, Ind QB Jac 21-14 F 14
RB Clinton Portis, Was RB P @Hou 31-15 F 23
RB Corey Dillon, NE RB Q Den 7-17 F 1
WR Donald Driver, GB WR @Det 31-24 F 7
WR Rod Smith, Den WR @NE 17-7 F 2
WR/TE Antonio Bryant, SF WR Phi 24-38 F 1
D/ST Redskins D/ST, Was D/ST @Hou 31-15 F 9
K Shayne Graham, Cin K P @Pit 28-20 F 4

QB Donovan McNabb, Phi QB @SF 38-24 F 13
RB Willis McGahee, Buf RB NYJ 20-28 F 15
RB Fred Taylor, Jac RB @Ind 14-21 F 7
WR Torry Holt, StL WR @Ari 16-14 F 12
WR Chris Chambers, Mia WR Ten 13-10 F 4
WR/TE Alge Crumpler, Atl TE @NO 3-23 F 2
D/ST Giants D/ST, NYG D/ST @Sea 30-42 F 8
K Jeff Reed, Pit K Cin 20-28 F 8

Weekly Blog Features - 9/25/06

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/24/2006 08:57:00 PM

Here's my weekly "tease" on what I'll be blogging about this week

Standard Items -
C-USA Football/Basketball Roundup
Fantasy Football roundup
Weekly ISS ops summary (I'll be on console this wk)

Potpourri (potential blog articles) -

The people have spoken. Last week, I put up a poll to ask you, the reader, to let me know what you want. Well, the people have spoken, although there were very few of you that took the poll (it was more like a faint whisper).

The "runaway" winner (by a vote of 3 to 1 - it got 3, the next nearest got only 1) was "People whose 15 minutes are up". Look forward to seeing this blog entry in a blog near you.

Note: I went ahead and just posted the STS-115 summary, because it made sense to.

Also note that, even though it came in second, I also posted my work on "How to be a NASA Flight Controller".

Why did I do it? Why did I jump the gun?

Well, I had done most of the work - and I also wanted to enter it as an easy way to increase viewership (thanks Darren Rowse)!

You see, folks, it's all about eyeballs. That's what the Internet mavens tell me it's all about, and who am I to argue the point? ;*)

Anyways, check out the voting "booth" on the right, and as they say in Chicago - Vote Early and Vote Often!

Hopefully, this week, we can get the voting % to be higher than a US presidential election ... not that I'm setting a high goal there or anything ... :*/

VOTE ON THESE NOW TO LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!!! (Or vote for "Something Completely different" and drop me a comment or e-mail).

1. Houston Cougars football attendance – I’m working up an extensive set of analyses/assessment on this & intend to share. It may be a one blog entry or multiple-blog installment.
2. What is XPOP, and why do I care?
3. What is planning? (A philosophical question)
4. The alt.space summary (may be a standard item)
5. Lists I'm working on -
A. 5 reasons why you won't catch me discussing anything controversial in my blogs about space policy, NASA, JSC, or ISS:
6. Something completely different

Back to console ops - and Steve Gibson is "the man"

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/24/2006 08:36:00 PM

I get my turn again this week on console, working the graveyard shift again.

Actually, I should have started my work last night. However, I misread the console manning plan!

Normally, we staff the graveyard shift 5 days a week (Monday through Friday). The shift actually starts 1 hour prior to the beginning of the day - so my "Monday" shift starts at 11PM on Sunday and continues through 8 AM that day. I noted how I was on the graveyard shift but missed that it actually started Sunday - which is the way we normally staff for a Soyuz crew rotation mission (like we currently have).

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem. However, I had 4 tickets to the Houston-Oklahoma State game - and the kickoff would be at 8PM. Remember what I said about the Houston-Rice game?!? I wouldn't be home until 12:30 AM ... 1.5 hours after my first shift was to start!

I figured this out at 3 PM on Friday. Time to panic!

But after 10 seconds of panic, I calmed down & thought out what to do. First, call the CEO (Ms. McCormick) & tell her the bad news. As I describe it to her, it dawned on me that I might be able to find an Ops Planner still in the office to "pinch hit" for me for one shift. It was late Friday, but it was worth a shot. So I got off the phone with the CEO & attempted to find someone who I might be able to "cut a deal" with.

Enter Steve Gibson (a.k.a. "the man").

Steve was the Lead Ops Planner for Expedition 13, and had just earlier come off his duties at that position (with the Soyuz docking to the ISS). I explained my situation and asked him if he could help out - he said he'd have to check with his wife (I understood that - I have to check with the CEO on those things, too). After about an hour or so, Steve gave me the "thumbs up". Yahoo!

So far, everything has worked out. Oh, and Houston beat Oklahoma State, 34-25 (more blogging on that later).

So now I'm getting prepared for the majority of the Soyuz joint mission - Expedition 13, Expedition 14, and Anousheh Ansari.

STS-115: Well done!

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/21/2006 11:01:00 PM

My apologies for not blogging this sooner, but ...

STS-115 came out great!

The crew was able to deploy the P3/P4 truss segment, carrying the new Solar Arrays. The Solar Arrays and their associated thermal radiator were deployed. Deploying big mechanical things on the ISS always looks cool, but deploying the Arrays is signficant - it starts us down the path of having enough electrical power onboard the ISS to support the Japanese and European laboratory modules (slated to be installed in the coming flights).

This mission was not without its glitches - some minor, some potentially major (such as the bolt loss during the EVA, and the liberated debris found floating on the day prior to the first reentry attempt). I'm confident that folks will be looking to understand those anomalies and come forward with recommendations to mitigate or eliminate them.

In the meantime, check out this NASA link - these pictures say a thousand words.

Congratulations to the STS-115 crew and FCT! Good job!

How to get a job as a NASA flight controller

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/21/2006 07:40:00 PM

Due to somewhat popular demand, I've decided to post this.

These are the most common steps it takes to get a job as a NASA flight controller in Houston (i.e., for NASA human space flight). The amount of time it takes to become certified is a function of the organization's needs and your capabilities. What I've listed here is the basic path for flight controller certification.

1. Study well in High School and College. Your emphasis should most likely be in Science and Mathematics, as these provide the best foundation for working at NASA and in Aeronautics in general. However, you should also strive for a well-rounded education: English, Foreign Languages, and Humanities-based course work is also vital, and also should be studied well.

2. If you are not one, become a US citizen. Yeah, I know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Nevertheless, you likely will not be hired to work in Mission Control in Houston. The only exception is if you work for an International Partner for the International Space Station (Russia, Japan, Canada, or one of the European Space Agency member countries) - and then, only in a limited capacity (i.e., to positions assigned for those Partners or as liaisons to control centers in the other Partner countries.

3. When in college, obtain a degree in something that correleates to a position in Mission Control. (Here's a link that describes all the positions.) This generally means that you should major in Engineering, but several other areas (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science) are acceptable for many positions. Some positions are suited for specific areas (examples: Pre-Med), but most of the others will work with an Engineering or science degree program. It's possible to get a flight controller position without an Engineering/Science degree, and several have, but they are generally rare.

Note 1: For Engineering, your degree needs to come from an accredited school. (Don't get too cheap - your career depends on getting this right.)

Note 2: Technology degrees are not Engineering degrees (even "Engineering Technology" degrees). If they were, then there would be no need to offer the two different types of degrees.

4. Actually get the degree. And by all means, do not come close to getting it and miss it by a class or two, then whine about how "all the people with Engineering degrees get the good jobs and I don't". If you're that close to finishing, just finish - stop trying to imply that the last few courses don't matter (and then attempt to build a career around that).

5. Apply to the organizations that are responsible for providing mission controllers. Currently, this includes NASA as well as several NASA contractors - the United Space Alliance, Barrios Technology, Cimarron (GC), and Wyle Labs (BME/Surgeon). Indicate that you wish to work in mission control. Your ability to be hired is dependent on your track record in college, and the needs of the organization. (Note that most of the organization knows it has openings that are generally tied to the Fiscal Year, which starts in October.) The organizations needs will drive your schedule to determine your certification as a flight controller.

6. After you are accepted, you will be expected to undergo training. Most controllers go through a series of classes called “Training Academy”, which can take upwards of 2 months.

7. Work with your branch to determine how you can get certified in a back room position. Almost all of the flight controllers that you see on TV in mission control have at least one person that assists them in particular tasks in another room away from the main room. These positions are considered “back room” flight controllers – and the “front room” controllers could not do their job without them. Virtually every flight controller in mission control has been a back room flight controller at some point.

8. At some point during the back room certification process, you will be required to undergo a medical evaluation and associated certification. This certification is the equivalent of an FAA Flight Controller medical certification and needs to be kept current with your other work-related certifications.

9. As you continue further specialized training for your position, you will be required to review a lot of technical material and participate in simulations. The simulations can be held with either one controller or an entire Flight control team (and astronaut crew). Certain conditions will be put into the simulation that will test your ability to respond.

10. Assuming you respond to the training and simulations correctly, your branch will certify you to be a flight controller. Congratulations!

11. Further tasks, training, and simulations are usually required before you will be certified in the main Flight Control room, which will also be driven by the organization’s needs.

Week 2 Personal Fantasy Football Roundup

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/19/2006 08:46:00 PM

Money League (Yahoo)

This week, my "money" team (the Local Yokels), took on the Canadian Jimis. Here's the results ...


Local Yokels
Points Points
Pos Player Opp Status Projected Actual
QB E. Manning (NYG - QB) @Phi W, 30-24 14.31 28.55
RB S. Alexander (Sea - RB) Ari W, 21-10 21.68 15.80
W/T M. Harrison (Ind - WR) Hou W, 43-24 11.96 12.70
W/T D. Stallworth (Phi - WR) NYG L, 30-24 9.81 14.10
W/R T. Glenn (Dal - WR) Was W, 27-10 8.37 15.40
K J. Feely (NYG - K) @Phi W, 30-24 8.50 6.00
DEF Indianapolis (Ind - DEF) Hou W, 43-24 10.28 7.00
Total 84.91 99.55

Canadian Jimis

Pos Player Opp Status Projected Actual
QB D. Brees (NO - QB) @GB W, 34-27 17.46 19.65
RB S. Jackson (StL - RB) @SF L, 20-13 15.85 12.40
W/T Sa. Moss (Was - WR) @Dal L, 27-10 8.24 8.80
W/T L. Coles (NYJ - WR) NE L, 24-17 7.17 16.00
W/R C. Taylor (Min - RB) Car W, 16-13 12.77 12.80
K J. Kasay (Car - K) @Min L, 16-13 8.12 7.00
DEF Washington (Was - DEF) @Dal L, 27-10 6.64 9.00
Total 76.25 85.65

Non-money league (ESPN)

Team McCormick has been operating "managerless" this week and last. We lost a close score to the knuckleheads. As a result, I am renaming my team "The Pinheads".


QB Peyton Manning, Ind QB Hou 43-24 F 25
RB Clinton Portis, Was RB @Dal 10-27 F 0
RB Corey Dillon, NE RB @NYJ 24-17 F 14
WR Donald Driver, GB WR NO 27-34 F 8
WR Rod Smith, Den WR KC 9-6 F 0
WR/TE Antonio Gates, SD TE Ten 40-7 F 2
D/ST Redskins D/ST, Was D/ST @Dal 10-27 F 10
K Shayne Graham, Cin K P Cle 34-17 F 10
+ Home Team 1
QB Tom Brady, NE QB @NYJ 24-17 F 4
RB Tiki Barber, NYG RB @Phi 30-24 F 7
RB Samkon Gado, Hou RB @Ind 24-43 F 3
WR Wesley Welker, Mia WR Buf 6-16 F 2
WR Jerricho Cotchery, NYJ WR NE 17-24 F 14
WR/TE Jeremy Shockey, NYG TE @Phi 30-24 F 0
D/ST Ravens D/ST, Bal D/ST Oak 28-6 F 34
K John Kasay, Car K P @Min 13-16 F 7

Yesterday's console ops

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/19/2006 07:38:00 PM

Late last week, I agreed to substitute for the Ops Planner scheduled for mission support this week. I was only needed for Monday (yesterday), during what is called the "Orbit 2" shift (which is 7AM to 4 PM - basically, regular day hours). Since the Shuttle had just undocked from the ISS the day before, the ISS crew was slated for some off-duty time, so I figured the day would be relatively quiet.

Wrong again!

When I came into Mission Control, I went to the MPSR (Multipurpose Support Room). It's an area with other Flight Controllers that provide support to the Front Room Flight Controllers that most people see on NASA TV. I normally leave my headset there - when I pick it up and drop it off at the beginning and end of my shift, it gives me some time to talk face to face with some of the Flight Controllers helping me during my shift.

As I was picking up my headset, I turned on one of the TV monitors, and it showed Astronauts John Phillips and Shannon Lucid at the CAPCOM console, intently looking at their monitors. Since the TV volume wasn't on, and the Flight Controllers were listening to conversations through their headsets (and not through speakers, which would have been unusual anyway), I didn't really know what was going on. Then, one of the Shuttle Flight Controllers said "Yes, that would be a reason to declare emergency". I didn't piece together what he meant, since I couldn't hear the loop conversations. Then, I spoke with one of the Station Flight Controllers from the previous shift, who said, "Bob, you'll have a really interesting shift here. The crew's reporting smoke in the cabin and we've declared a spacecraft emergency!" I rolled my eyes and headed down to the Front Room to see what was going on.

I started taking my handover from the previous Ops Planner, and as I was doing so, someone in the room said "You're on CNN now". Good thing my tie was straight! It turned out that the crew had problems starting the Russian Elektron Oxygen Generator (it has had problems before), and this caused a smoke-like smell in the Russian portion of the ISS. The crew had turned the Elektron off, retreated towards the Soyuz, gone on surgical masks, and were taking cabin readings to determine the chemical makeup of the cabin air.

In times like these, it's best to remember what your job is and how it fits into the entire operation. I am an Operations Planner. I am responsible for developing and maintaining the overall execution plan for the ISS. My job is not to necessarily respond to every systems emergency - there were plenty of other console positions doing that job. Therefore, my job was to possibly consider the plan changes - while at the same time, help finalize the nominal plans. I had to assume that the crew and FCT would and would not be able to recover from the emergency. However, I had very little to do with recovering from the emergency, so I interpreted my job with staying out of the way until the right members of the FCT and the crew could do that job.

In the end, the crew and FCT did the usual superb job. We were fortunate that the crew was not scheduled for a full duty day. The crew found a spill, which they wiped up and stored. The Engineering teams, both in Moscow and in Houston, will continue to research why the Elektron failed and will develop a plan to restore it. This will be necessary, to continue to support the nubmer of crew on the ISS.

Weekly Blogging Features – 9/19/06

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/19/2006 07:00:00 AM

Here is the first installment of the A Blog a Day "Weekly Blogging Features" (WBF) …

New Standard Items -

C-USA Football/Basketball Roundup – a Roundup of the games involving Conference USA Teams, with a few more teams from Texas thrown into the mix. Since I'm a UH fan, they get the emphasis (my blog, my rules).

Fantasy Football roundup – A roundup of my posse(s) in the fantasy football leagues I’m in.

Weekly ISS ops summary – a link to the routine PAO stuff. If I’m on console, I’ll try to share something from what I experienced.

Potpourri (potential blog articles) -


1. Houston Cougars football attendance – I’m working up an extensive set of analyses/assessment on this & intend to share. It may be a one blog entry or multiple-blog installment.
2. How to be a NASA flight controller
3. STS-115/12A: synopsis (actually, I'll probably blog on this anyway ...)
4. What is planning? (A philosophical question)
5. Lists I'm working on -
A. 5 reasons why you won't catch me discussing anything controversial in my blogs about space policy, NASA, JSC, or ISS:
B. People whose 15 minutes are up ...

C-USA Football Roundup: Week 3

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/19/2006 06:02:00 AM

A topsy-turvy week for CUSA ...

Georgia 34 UAB 0

Georgia is #8 in the nation, and this score shows why. UAB had a tough time doing anything against this Georgia squad on the road.

East Carolina 35 Memphis 20

A surprise. ECU has been down the past couple of seasons, but multiple mistakes in the 2nd half by Memphis' offense did them in.

Southern Miss 37 NC State 17

An upset for those who aren't watching over a BCS team. Apparently NC State wasn't ready for this one. They should have been - Southern Miss is a perennial CUSA power, and it shows with this score.

Kansas State 23 Marshall 7

Another tough loss for CUSA.

South Florida 24 UCF 17

In this battle of "middle Florida", the CUSA team comes up a little short at home.

Houston 42 Grambling 22

The family and I went to this one. Grambling is a Division I-AA team. It was not as close as the score indicated (Houston had a 42-7 lead in the 3rd quarter when they started putting in the 2nd stringers). Halftime was memorable, and is worthy of a blog itself. In the meantime, you can check out a video of it here and here.

Tulsa 28 North Texas 3

Tulsa (last year's CUSA champ) does what it should against a Sunbelt conference team.

SMU 45 Sam Houston State 14

SMU also does what it should against a Division I-AA team.

Tulane 32 Mississippi State 29

Another shocker, given the pasting Tulane got last week against the Coogs (45-7). With MSU being a BCS team (SEC), I wonder how long their coach will remain employed there. Good bounce back, Tulane!

Texas 52 Rice 7

Texas takes out their frustration of being knocked out of #1 against the Owls. It doesn't get any easier for Rice next week - they go on the road against #17 Florida State.

Note: Ronnie Turner at the Chronicle rank's em this week at this link.

The future ain't what it used to be ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/13/2006 12:38:00 AM

This link illustrates the way folks used to think of the future ... or in this case, the way folks in the distant past thought about the future that is already our past. (You know what I mean.)

It's a commercial of Branniff Airlines' vision for the future (i.e., a future 1975). Of course, it missed the biggest part of their future ... that they would not be in existence past 1982.

The whole thing reminds me of Steely Dan's IGY.

Oh, and I like the feature of the guy flying in on the jetpack to practically seal the passengers in. And are the passengers being served by ... nuns???

Hat Tip: Boing-Boing/David Pescovitz

STS-115/12A: Flight Day 4 synopsis

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/12/2006 06:30:00 PM

Another good day overall. The crew performed the EVA and actually got a couple of "get-ahead" tasks done for the next EVA (two days from now).

The only problem, which was minor, was that a Bolt/spring mechanism came loose At ~1420 GMT, Joe Tanner reported that one of the bolt/spring mechanisms to one of the SARJ launch locks came loose (came loose during eclipse, so it was a bit dark) and floated away. He reported that the mechanisms seemed to skid along the outside of the truss structure. The FCT and crew was initially concerned that they would float into the SARJ mechanism, but trajectory analysts analyzed the trajectory of the mechanism (based on his view angle) and determined that this was unlikely (and unlikely to recontact the ISS or STS). These mechanisms are related to one of the "get-ahead" tasks for the next EVA tomorrow, so the next EVA crew will know for certain. However, it's unlikely that there's any significant risk.

Also, the FCT was able to command to the SARJ mechanism. This is a big thing, because it will allow the new Solar Arrays to track in one axis (as the sun comes over the horizon and over the ISS), and will ultimately increase the Solar Array's ability to obtain power.

STS-115/12A: Flight Day 3 synopsis

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/11/2006 11:26:00 PM

From all that I have seen, it looks like STS-115 is going well. The Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver (and all the associated inspections of the Orbiter's Thermal Protective System - the tiles and Wing Leading Edges) have revealed nothing significant. The crew accomplished the docking, and has handed off the P3/P4 truss segment.

Tomorrow (Flight Day 4), the segment should be structurally mated to the Space Station, and the first EVA/spacewalk will occur. This spacewalk will connect the appropriate utility lines to P3/P4, which will allow P3/P4 to pivot about it's Solar Array Rotational Joint (SARJ). Assuming the rest of the P3/P4 segment checkout (including Solar Array deployment) is completed in subsequent days, the P3/P4 and it's associated SARJ will not only increase the Station's power generation capability, but will eventually allow the ISS to abandon flying in an XPOP attitude orientation. (More details on what XPOP means, and why we fly in that orientation, later.)

The increased power generation capability also starts to give the ISS the capability to attach Japanese and European laboratory modules (on subsequent Shuttle flights).

Both the SARJ checkout and the Solar Array deployment will be crucial to establishing this capability.

Link housekeeping

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/10/2006 10:50:00 PM

The blog links on the right hand side of this blog are getting a little to long. So, I've decided to do a little housekeeping on this blog.

Unless someone lets me know, the following blogs are outta here ...
The Houston Conservative
Liberty's Blog - Hasn’t posted since 25-June.
Lone Star Times
My Home Houston - The Blog - A couple and their attempts @ real estate in Houston (and not in my area anyway)
Incoherent Thoughts and other Hints of Insight
Todd Quasny's blog
America In Space - Not updated since march
New Mexico Spaceport - Last updated in april
Also, I'm adding this blog link ...
Minimiles - a co-worker of mine ...

Houston Cougars vs. Tulane Green Wave, 9/9/06

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/10/2006 10:08:00 PM

Out of curiousity as much as anything else, I decided I'd go see the University of Houston Cougar football team play the Tulane University "Green Wave" football team. As you recall from my post last week, the Coogs had barely escaped with a win against their cross-town rivals, the Rice Owls. I noted that the game would start at 6PM, so we wouldn't have a repeat performance of the 8PM start/12:30 AM get back home time like we did against Rice the week before. Even though the weather prediction was "iffy" (quite a bit of rain coming from off the Gul Coast), because the game was starting earlier, I was able to talk the entire family into going this time.

It was UH's first home game for the year, at Robertson Stadium, which seats about 32-33ooo. Ultimately, about 16,000+ were in attendance - this is a relatively low number for most University football games of UH's size. I have several theories on this, which I'll talk about in a subsequent post.

We got to the UH campus (where Robertson Stadium is) at about 4:45. We decided to buy tickets at the Stadium - we could have bought them online but we noticed two different prices for tickets on two different UH websites. Grand total was $48 for the entire 4 person McCormick clan. I was wearing my red UH Alumni shirt, and the family was decked out in UH gear (except for son #1 - he just didn't want to do it ... reasons for that later), so we were able to get in a line serving sausage, hotdogs, etc. for $5 right outside the Stadium entrance.

We managed to get in to the stadium right as the UH band was doing pre-game entertainment on the field. Since there was only 16k at a stadium seating 32k, we had plenty of seating opportunities - we picked our seats in the End Zone.

Right away I noticed that the Stadium had undergone some good renovations. There was a new scoreboard with excellent graphics. (The scoreboard featured an awesome video filled with great plays and players from past UH teams, while playing "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana. There were also banners under the Stadium featuring UH teams from decades past. Even the weather started to clear up. All in all, it was really a sight to see.

As for the game itself, UH got out to a quick 14-0 lead on Tulane. However, unlike last week, UH did not let up. Tulane never really got into the game as the final score indicated: UH 45, Tulane 7. I actually felt sorry for Tulane - they are from New Orleans, and actually had to play all their home games on the road last year, due to Hurricane Katrina damage to their campus. My hunch is that they have not yet shaken off the affects of Hurricane Katrina.

In retrospect, I still see the Coogs making mistakes that I think a better opponent would have taken advantage of. Some of Tulane's receivers were wide open, and just dropped the ball. UH also committed some stupid penalties. The UH quarterback also missed some of his recievers - mostly by throwing behind them or too low. Nevertheless, it's hard to argue with a 45-7 final score.

We stayed through the end of the game - again, that was no problem for getting home, sincet he game started 2 hours earlier than the Rice game the previous week. The UH Athletic department also had a fireworks display after the game, which we enjoyed (there were times when they would have a fireworks display after games they lost ... I hope they don't make that mistake again!).


Written by Bob McCormick on 9/09/2006 10:50:00 AM

Hooray for Space Shuttle Atlantis/STS-115/12A!

They finally made the launch. The ECO sensors finally worked (I would expect that NASA's trying to tear that problem apart - this is the 2nd time in 3 flights where ECO sensors have delayed launch).

Of course, the real reason why they launched today was because if they didn't, I would have had to go to work on console next week. It was really my schedule constraints that drove the entire launch decision. ;*)

Note: As I said before, this flight is a really big deal for the ISS. To see why, look at this timeline illustration. You can also see the complexity of the P3/P4 segment in the "Station Construction Animation" link in on the page.

- Bob

A Dozen Images to use as target practice

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/06/2006 11:30:00 PM

I'm not a man prone to violence, but there are some things that definitely get under my skin. I also don't carry a concealed weapon, but there are times I'd like to practice target shooting, whether it's with a gun, bow/arrow, knive, or whatever. I'd like something more interesting to shoot at than a bullseye.

I remember my brother in law practiced his pellet gun shooting with sides of Girl Scout cookie boxes. While I don't have anything against the Girl Scouts, the act gave me an idea ... what if I could create some things that I think would be OK to shoot at?

So, with that in mind, I present some things and people whose images I think would be perfectly acceptable for target practice. Things on this list tend to be bad or (in my mind) over-the-top-obnoxious.

Here's the list (in no particular order):

1. Osama Bin Laden
2.. Baby Bop, Barney, or BJ, or any combination therein
3. Digger the Dermatophyte (Lamisil ad)
4. Adolf Hitler
5. Eddie Haskell (from the "Leave it to Beaver" TV show during the 50's)
6. Any combination of the Teletubbies
7. Cousin Oliver (from the "Brady Bunch" TV show during the 70's)
8. Carrot Top
9. Mr. Opportunity (from the car ads)
10. The Doublemint twins (gum ads)
11. Snuggles the bear (selling fabric softener)
12. Herbie the Dentist (from the "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" TV movie traditionally shown around Xmas)

BONUS: Apparently Mike Dogen at Owen's World took the Teletubbies idea one step further. You don't have to wait for the printout to start the shooting gallery! (Hat Tip: Boing Boing/Cory Doctorow)

5 reasons why I don't ride my bike to work, even though it's only a 45 min. ride

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/06/2006 11:10:00 PM

1. Relative humidity can climb up to 90% in Houston, with 94deg. F (34 deg. C) particularly here near the coast.

2. Incompatible with shift work. Midnight or swing shift would require riding at night.

3. What happens during inclement weather?

4. I usually carry a satchel and a lunch pail with me to work - not easy to deal with on a bike.

5. > 45 minutes if the side entry that I normally take is closed (typical over weekends, holidays, or during the swing/mid shifts)

Houston Cougars vs. Rice Owls, 9/2/06

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/05/2006 10:40:00 PM

On this past 3-day Labor Day weekend, I decided I wanted to see the University of Houston Cougar football team's first game of the season. They'd lost their last game last season badly (the Ft. Worth Bowl) to the University of Kansas, but they had a lot of returning players and their schedule looks favorable this year.

Their first game was with the cross-town rivals, Rice University, with kickoff at 8PM. 8PM is later than I would have wanted it - we eventually wound up getting home at 12:30 in the morning because of it. Ms. McCormick and son #1 decided not to go, so it was just son #2 and I.

Rice University is very close to the University of Houston - only 5 miles apart. The game was actually an "away" game, but since Rice is in the city of Houston, it's all fairly relative. The game was played in Rice Stadium. Rice is a private University (about 5000 students total), whereas the University of Houston is a state-supported University (about 7x as much as Rice). Nevertheless, Rice Stadium is much larger than the University of Houston’s Robertson Stadium – Rice Stadium can seat as much as 70000 people and was actually the site of one of the NFL’s Super Bowls (back in '74 I think).

We made it to Rice at about 7:30, which was cutting it close, as we still had to buy tickets. We kinda got caught behind a small crowd of folks rooting for one of the UH players – they looked like family/friends of UH’s Anthony Alridge – but we were able to get around them & hurry up to get to the ticket booth. We bought the tickets at the Southeast gate, and had to contend with a large (relatively speaking) Rice student crowd. To beat that traffic, we walked over to the northeast corner, which was where most of the UH fans were sitting anyway. We got into the stadium just as the National Anthem was played.

We went into the corner area for seats. Rice Stadium used to have old wooden bleachers, but the corner areas were now missing the old wooden bleachers (along with splinters to pick up on your back side!); in fact, there were no bleachers (in the corners) at all. It reminded me of a Roman Coliseum seating configuration. We got there just in time to see UH return the opening kickoff 76 yds & thought we’d have a good night.

Son #2 and I went up to refreshment area for snacks, and came back to see UH’s 1st td. Thought we’d have a good night. We stayed down in the Coliseum/corner & went to Rice side for a bit – long enough for UH’s 2nd td. The night seemed to be getting better.

Son #2 wanted to see the vantage point from the upper deck of Rice Stadium, so we went up into those “nosebleed stands” on the UH side. We stayed up there through ~ middle of 3rd qtr. This seemed to be the time when the wheels came off the UH team. Someone on the UH defense missed their assignment badly at least twice, allowing Rice to get long 80+ runs (seemingly) each time. The UH offense was going nowhere – QB was too tight, badly overthrowing receivers, if we wasn’t being sacked. UH cornerbacks seemed to be giving Rice WRs at least 5 yards off the line of scrimmage, which Rice was taking advantage of (either quick out passes, slant ins, or bootlegs). The frustration showed on 1 UH cornerback (Gulley, I think) who got caught in a cheap penalty near the goal line, setting up Rice. Basically, Rice came up with the next 27 points. Son #2 wanted to go home (he was getting tired), and the way the game was going and with the time of day, I was tempted to oblige. But I wanted to see how the next 2 drives by UH would go before calling it a night. I had dark thoughts about UH coaches’ career chances. I did note that the Rice QB looked like he got hurt in the knee after 1 play.

We got more refreshments & went back to the Coliseum/corner. UH nabbed a fumble from Rice at the 5 yard line (how often does THAT happen?!?). The UH offense couldn’t get to the end zone, so the coach made the right decision by getting a field goal out of the relative position – the 4th quarter hadn’t started and making up 14 points was not out of possibility (the field goal made the score 30-17 Rice). Rice started to look a little more tired.

The UH defense really shut down Rice –coaches must have seen what was going on in the 2nd quarter & made adjustments. That, or the QB’s knee might not be 100%. Whatever – they shut them down. Then, UH put together a good, easy drive (from about the 50 yd line), making it 30-24. Son #2 still wanted to go home, but I win the argument, telling him that UH might be able to pull this one out.

The UH Defense shut down Rice again. I really begin to think the Rice QB’s mobility isn’t the same – the UH defense is able to get to him & either sack him or rush his passes incomplete. UH gets the ball back & drives down, to a 4th & goal at the 8. They try a reverse, and the guy gets in - and whaddya know, it’s Alridge! UH 31, Rice 30! I don’t see his family anymore in the large UH crowd, but they must be happy. But there was still 10:30 left in the game, so there’s way too much time to think this is a done deal.

The UH defense remained stout. The UH offense isn’t setting the world on fire, but the team effectively killed the clock. UH wins by 1 (31-30)!


1. After last year, I didn’t really know how good to gauge this team. Still don’t. Next week (against Tulane) may be a better guide.

2. Rice has new coach, playing scheme, and overall attitude. Their next 3 games will be tough but I predict they will not go 1-10 like they did last year: maybe 3-8 or 4-7. They will sneak up on some people.

3. UH still plays stupid. Too many penalties. Too many missed assignments on defense.

4. UH's Special teams was either great (1st kickoff runback, punting in general, blocked extra point attempt by Rice) or stupid (poor decision making on kickoff receptions later, not knowing when to take a knee in the end zone until towards the end of the game).

5. UH looks like they figured out how to adjust to a team, looked stronger at the end of the game then their opponent did, and came back when down by 16. THESE ARE ALL A BIG STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, COMPARED TO LAST YEARS TEAM.

6. On paper, UH should have won handily, and after the 1st quarter, it looked like they would. They seemed to let off the gas after going up by 14 in the first quarter, which is far too early. UH needs to play to go up by 30-40 points before letting off of anyone, especially in the 1st quarter. (I blame some of the UH fans for this – everyone remembers the hapless Rice teams of the 70’s and 80’s which is clouding their vision of reality).

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Written by Bob McCormick on 9/04/2006 10:09:00 PM

This is a commencement speech from Steve Jobs. I actually read this about a year ago.

Until then, I did not realize the adversities that Steve Jobs had gone through. His advice to the Stanford graduates, and to all of us, is spot on.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.