Sunday, July 29, 2007

STS-118 Images

I know that I mentioned this web site earlier but I wanted to really stress this page. It has a ton of pictures of the crew as they prepare. One of my favorite pictures is below. It shows the next teacher in space, Barbara Morgan working with a group of kids. I know that this site will also have a bunch of pictures posted after the launch. Keep checking back to see what new images they post.

Barbara Morgan working with students

Dave Williamson using virtual reality to train

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cluster Map

Just wanted to do a quick little update today. Not much news on the launch or microgravity flight. Still just trying to book the flights and get all of the little details together. I will be going into school next week to start putting my classroom together. Not sure yet how I will be decorating everything but I know I have a lot of work to do.

The main reason for this update is to tell you about the cluster map to the right. It is a pretty cool feature. Basically whenever someone goes to this web page it will show up on the map as a red dot. The larger the dot, the more people from that area that have been to the web page. I assume that there will be a lot of dots on Liberty, or at least one big dot. I’m hoping for a few dots from around the country and maybe around the world. It also keeps a count of the number of the people that go to the site. Click on the map and it will take you to a larger version. You can also tell it to show you smaller dots which give a lot more detail.

Friday, July 27, 2007

More Good News

The good news just keeps rolling in. I just found out that I have been selected to participate in a microgravity flight. This is a flight that is just like how they train the astronauts. I will load up into an airplane which will fly up to 35,000 feet and then drop at a 45 degree angle. This will produce 30-45 seconds of weightlessness. We will fly 10-20 loops like this. I will post a lot more information later, when I get it. For now, here is the link to Northrop Grumman who are sponsoring the flights.

More Launch Information

I think it is finally starting to set in that I am actually going to get to see a space shuttle launch. I am trying to not get too excited because I know that there is a good chance that the shuttle will be delayed, possibly past the date when I have to come back to Liberty. Last night I was able to book my flight to Florida. It was way more expensive than I thought it was going to be. The one thing that kind of stinks about this is that I have to pay to get down there and also for my hotel room while I am there. The good news is that there are four of us going that are friends and we are splitting some of the cost. I am including some links below that I thought were interesting. Check them out. There is a lot of information there about the shuttle and the launch.

One of the coolest web sites that I want to mention before I forget is the Launch Blog. It is a blog, just like this one. The difference is that this is done during the countdown. The web site is actually not activated until several hours before the launch. It is cool because if you don’t have NASA TV you can still follow along with what is going on in Florida. It is literally updated every few minutes. Check it out on launch day.

Right now I am on my way home from Springfield and the math academy. It was a pretty fun week. We ate at Lambert’s last night, home of the throwed rolls. They literally chuck the rolls across the room and you have to catch them. I think I ate five of the huge rolls. They were sooo good.

While I had a couple of minutes and my mind is on space stuff, I thought I would tell you about something I saw at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. They had a full size model of the Mars Rover. The Mars rover program was started three years ago. NASA sent two rovers, sprit and opportunity, to Mars. They were supposed to last for 90 days. They are still going 3 years later. I followed along with the rovers early on. They have some amazing pictures on the web site. I thought that when I heard about rovers that they were little bitty robots about the size of a big remote controlled car. What I didn’t realize is that they are HUGE. They are over 6 feet tall when their camera tower is extended. Take a look at the picture below. I am 6’3” tall. These things are big. While in the Space Foundation class in Colorado, I learned that they are getting ready to send another rover to Mars and this one will be a lot bigger than the one I am standing next to. Wow, that is going to be enormous! The name of the next lander is called Phoenix. Click on the link to see the NASA web site.

Here are the web addresses I mentioned earlier.
STS-118 Main Site
STS-118 Education Site

STS-118 Photo Gallery – I think this will be updated often, especially after the launch.
Main NASA web site
Launch Blog – not activated until 6 hours before launch

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

3. . . 2. . . 1. . . Blast Off

Okay, I just got confirmation today on the big news I mentioned earlier. Today I was accepted by NASA to go to Florida next week as their guest for the upcoming space shuttle launch! I am SOOO excited. I got the itinerary today about what all we will be doing and it is going to be amazing. The shuttle is supposed to launch on the 7th of August. On the 6th we will be taking a big behind the scenes tour of the Kennedy Space Center Complex. We will actually have an astronaut as a tour guide. What an amazing opportunity. I will be going with a few teachers that I met in Colorado Springs. We take the tour on Monday, and then at midnight Monday night we go out for a night viewing of the shuttle. It will be all lit up and you will actually be able to see the orbiter without the gantry in front of it. Then the day of the launch we get to go to Banana Creek to watch the launch. I think this is the site where they have the big count down clock. It is only 3 miles away from the launch pad. That is the closest anyone gets to be to a launch. It is so close that we actually have to leave 15 minutes after the launch because the cloud of steam might blow towards us. There is so much to talk about but the battery on my computer is almost dead so I will end for now. I will try to give more information tomorrow. I plan on updating this often while I am gone so that you can follow along with me as I go to Florida.

Here is the link to the STS-118 Web Site.

This is also the shuttle that will carry the next teacher in space, Barbara Morgan.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Civil War: The Battle of Wilson's Creek

Mr. Kelsey firing the cannon!
U.S. Markings on the cannon.

Tonight we drove over to the Civil War battlefield here in Springfield, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. We got there after the visitors center was closed so we weren’t able to get a map. That kind of stunk because we didn’t really know what we were looking at the whole time. There were about 8 stops that had signs. We saw where some of the troops were and where the cannons were stationed. It amazed me that there were 12,000 Confederate troops engaged during the battle. That is a HUGE battle. From what I understand it was the second major battle of the Civil War and the first on this side of the Mississippi River. I’m always amazed when I stand next to a cannon and I think about how much destruction one cannon could do even back then. Then I think about soldiers from both sides running towards them charging the other side. The bravery on both sides is beyond belief.

Big News Maybe

Not a whole lot to talk about today. Class today wasn't very interesting, just practicing giving a student assessment. There is the possibility of big news coming soon. I don't want to say anything else for fear of jinxing something. Hopefully there will be a big post on some very exciting news coming soon.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Math Academy Day 1

Got up early today and headed to Springfield for math academy. Basically we are learning how to give an individual math assessment. That part has not been incredibly interesting but there have been some fun things. We got a problem to solve today that took myself and Mr. Eltiste about 10 minutes to figure out. See if you can solve it. I will post the answer later.

A man goes into a store and says, “If you give me the same amount of money that I have, I will spend $10.” He then does this again at a second and then a third store. After the third store, he had no more money left. How much money did he start with?

If you think you have the answer, post it under the comments.

I remembered tonight that there was a pretty large Civil War battlefield here in Springfield called Wilson's Creek, I am hoping to go check that out this week. I think we also might make a stop at the zoo.

The last story for tonight is about the mall. There is a huge mall here in Springfield called the Battlefield Mall. As we were walking through I found a book store. I found so many books that I want to read but the one that looks the most interesting was “Blogs of War.” It is about blogs, like this one, that soldiers from Iraq are keeping. Should be pretty interesting.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Moonwalker Harrison Schmitt

When I got home yesterday I learned that the 12th man to walk on the moon, Harrison Schmitt, was going to be at the T-Bones game. I called out and they let me get in to the “press conference”. It was actually more like a question and answer session. It was cool and disappointing at the same time. It was great because there were only a few people who showed up but that also made it great because I got to talk to a guy that has walked on the moon for about 45 minutes. Harrison Schmitt was the first Lunar Geologist. I asked him what he thought the most impressive geological feature of the moon was. His response was that the whole moon was impressive but that probably it was the rocks that had come from within the moon in volcanic eruptions. I also asked him what he would tell fifth graders if he had the chance. I will eventually put the video of his response on this post so check back.

Up the Mountain

Okay, so I didn’t do such a good job of keeping this updated every day. I got so busy with class and some other fun stuff that I didn’t get a chance to update this every day. Right now I’m driving home. I think we just passed Fort Riley (I learned on the way out that up on a hill across from the base is one of the only nuclear cannons in the world). So I thought that I would take a few minutes to update you on the last several days.

The day after the giant geology lecture we actually got to go out into the Garden of the Gods and look at some of the stuff that we had learned about yesterday. Now you have to understand that I had walked through Garden of the Gods several times. I actually proposed to my wife there last year. I had been on the same trail that we took at least 3 times before. But after going through it with someone that knew the geology it was a whole different story. It was like putting on a pair of glasses that allowed you to see things you had never seen before. Some of the highlights included seeing where two separate geologic formations come together (one formed under water and the other from blowing sand), and seeing part of the rock where you could actually see water ripples like you would see at the edge of a stream or on the beach. We took about a two hour walk and saw all kinds of things that I had never noticed before.

The next day we spent at a nature center called Fountain Creek. It was really pretty. It was cool because it had five distinct habitats in one area. We took several hikes and looked at the plants and some animals. We say a frog, tons of birds, a great blue heron, a turtle, several small lizards, a snake, and the coolest was a weasel. I had never seen one before and when we told them about it they said that it was only seen a couple of times a year. We also did some water and soil testing as well as took an in depth look at pond much. I was amazed at how many animals were in one scoop of it, leaches, worms, bugs, and crawdads to name a few.

Thursday was an AWESOME day. I was nervous about going to the top of Pikes Peak but I made it. We made several stops along the way. My job in my group was to take pictures and to participate in a lung test. I had to get out of the van and blow into a tube (seen below) to measure my lung capacity. Then I had to play Frisbee for a minute and take the test again. I thought that my lung capacity would go way down as we went up the mountain. It did go down but not as much as I thought.

Playing frisbee on the mountain. You can see the beginning of Pikes Peak in the background on the right.

Giant rock located in the "Devil's Playground". This was the stop before reaching the summit. That is my wife climbing up the rock in the grey sweatshirt.

Flowers on the mountain.

Once again at "Devil's Playground". We are about 13,000 feet above sea level. The lake you see in the background is huge. It doesn't look like it from this view but it really is.

One of the things that I was very surprised about was that half of the road on the way up was dirt and there was NO GUARDRAIL. There is no way I could have driven up there. Thank goodness I was riding. Everyone in the van knew that I was nervous and they were really cool about it. At our last stop before the top we got out at a place called Bottomless Pit. It was beautiful. It was starting to get cloudy but you could see a long way down a big canyon. The flowers were really cool. Little bitty yellow, bright blue and purple flowers were everywhere. I even looked over the edge. I was standing a long way back but I did look down. It was a loooooong way down.

We then made our way to the summit. The elevation is 14,110 feet above sea level. When we first got up there you could see a little but the clouds were starting to move in. It took me a few minutes to get used to it up there but once I did I was okay. When the clouds moved in it was kind of creepy. You couldn’t see very far at all. I actually wish that it hadn’t been so cloudy. I was scared but if I went up there, I wanted to be able to see. I actually might try going up the cog railroad sometime. Overall, I am really happy that I did it. It was really cool.

Now I am driving home (actually, I am riding. Typing and driving wouldn’t be too much fun). So far I have written my back to school letter, done this post and have worked on a class mission patch. I will probably do a post about that later. Tomorrow is going to be a sleep in day and then Monday I head to Springfield, Missouri to attend the last week of math academy. I will try to post more next week.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Information Overload

Not a long post today but I wanted to put something up. Seldom am I overwhelmed in a class but today was one of those days. Today was my first day of an Earth Science class through the Space Foundation. We started the day by watching a video about Garden of the Gods, then went for about a 2 mile nature walk looking at different plants and a few animals. Probably the coolest thing was seeing a couple rock climbers. I will post pictures tomorrow. Tonight, I forgot the camera in the car.

After lunch we had a 3 hour lecture about geology and the basic principals that geologists used. We started out good with a review of the 3 types of rocks (sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic). Then the teacher, who is a professional geologist, went way in depth about things that I had never thought of before. Tomorrow should be really cool because we are taking all the stuff we learned yesterday and going to actually see examples of it. I will be sure to post a ton of pictures tomorrow.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mountain Roads and Giraffes

Wow, I actually posted two days in a row. Today was a really fun day. My wife and I took a scenic route to get from Denver to Colorado Springs. Little did I know that the road would end up going over a small mountain. Some of the roads were kind of scary but we made it. There was a museum that I had wanted to go to today that was closed. It was a mining museum. From what I have heard, you can actually see two tectonic plates where they come together. At least I will have something to look forward to the next time I am out this way.

While driving through the mountains today it was obvious that a HUGE forest fire had gone through the area. Acre after acre of trees were just gone. Nothing was left but burnt stumps. The really cool thing was that there was tons of green around the trees. Forest fires are a natural process that can help forests. Unfortuanately, these fires were because of people being careless. A lady at a roadside gift shop told us that there had been three separate fires, one in 1998, 2000, and 2002. The pictures here are from the fire in 2000. Just think about that, seven years and not much has grown up. Yes, there is grass but not much else. There were over 138,000 acres of land destroyed along with tons of homes.

After making it through the mountains, we went to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. This is the highest zoo in the country and has the largest heard of giraffes. They had 18 adult giraffes and one baby that was born June 20th. The coolest part was getting to feed them. Their tongues are amazingly long and slimy. Tomorrow we start class in Garden of the Gods. I will be sure to post some pictures.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Summer Part 1

I thought I would take a minute to let you know what I am doing this summer. I am doing this for a couple of reasons. First, I want to get into the habit of posting often and second, I am doing some really cool stuff this summer. As I write this I am setting in a hotel room in Denver, Colorado. I am looking out my window at the Rocky Mountains. Today has been a fun but tiring day. My new wife and I started the day by taking a tour of Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. It was a great tour that took us into the dugouts and out onto the field. We also took a few minutes to go by the capital of Colorado. The dome is covered with 200 ounces of gold leaf. It is beautiful.

After that we headed over to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It is an amazing museum. They have hundreds of dioramas of mounted animals. This is the second time I have been here and I am always amazed at how cool the dioramas are. There was a huge dinosaur exhibit as well as exhibits on space and Native Americans. There was also a balcony that gave an amazing view of downtown Denver. Tonight we are heading down to the ESPN zone. Sarah, my wife has never been there and we are hoping to catch part of the Royals game.

The reason we are in Colorado is because we are taking classes offered through the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs. Last week we took a class all about robots and satellites. I can’t wait to bring some of the stuff that I learned back to use in the classroom. One of my favorite lessons that we did involved “geocaching.” This is where you use a GPS unit to find a particular spot. I am already planning a lesson about this for the upcoming year.

Next week we are taking a class about geology. Our first two days are at Garden of the Gods, an amazing park with natural rock formations. The third day is at a nature center and the final day is on Pikes Peak. If you don’t know it, Pikes Peak is a big mountain. The elevation is 14,100 feet above sea level. I am afraid of heights. Not quite sure how well that is going to go but I am actually looking forward to challenging myself to go to the top. You always hear people say that it is good to get outside your comfort zone. I will definitely be testing that next week.

This summer I also got married, went to Disney World, and have completed 2 of 3 weeks of a math academy. It has been busy. I will be posting more on all of these things later. And next week I plan on putting up daily updates about the geology class.