• Pictures

    Happy Equinox!

    Thanks to one of our readers from Universe Today, Rick Ellis, for sharing his e-Postcard for the holiday! In the northern hemisphere, may your longer nights always be star-filled. In the southern hemisphere, as Neil de Grasse Tyson said on Twitter, Happy Spring Equinox to the 15% of all humans and 100% of free penguins who live down under.

  • Cool Stuff

    Dancing Around the World

    I hope when future generations look back at this time in history, or if an alien civilization ever found evidence of life on Earth, this is what they’d see. All anyone ever really wants is to be happy, and sometimes dancing is the only way to express it. This was featured on today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. You can find more information about this crazy dancing guy at WhereTheHellIsMatt.com

  • Music,  Travels

    The Day the Music Died

    I often drive through Iowa, and have taken the opportunity to see a couple of unusual sights in the state. I previously wrote about seeing the Field of Dreams movie site, and I had also heard there was a small memorial near Clear Lake, Iowa at the site of where young rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959. So last fall, I followed some rather cryptic directions I found on the internet and was able to find it, hidden in a corn field. It literally is out in the middle of nowhere. The only way I could…

  • Cool Stuff,  Pictures,  Travels

    Astronomy Photographer of the Year and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (I was there!)

    As I wrote in a recent article on Universe Today: “The Royal Observatory Greenwich in the UK was the perfect setting to announce the winners of this year’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, and I was privileged to be in attendance at the ceremony…” Yes, I was really in London and was invited to Greenwich and the Royal Observatory for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards ceremony in September! The video above is from Will Gater and the BBC Sky and Night Magazine, and as evidence that I was really there, at :59 seconds into the video, you’ll see me hob-nobbing with astronomers and folks from the observatory…

  • Cool Stuff,  Nancy's news,  Space Shuttle

    Astronomy Picture of the Day

    I’m getting some new visitors to my blog today, thanks to the folks at Astronomy Picture of the Day (otherwise known as APOD) who featured a picture that I took back in March of space shuttle Discovery rolling out the launchpad at midnight, and the Xenon lights shining on the shuttle stack created a unique silhouette shadow up in the wispy clouds. I actually think some of the other pictures of the event turned out better, but this one is the easiest to see the effect. If you want to see more of these images and the story of how it happened, see my post, “Beyond the Shadow of a…

  • Baseball,  Cool Stuff

    The Place Where Dreams Come True

    This is Iowa. We drive through the Hawkeye State quite often and had always talked about stopping at the Field of Dreams movie site near Dyersville. We finally went there, and eerily, it looks exactly like it does in the movie. But really, it’s pretty cool: the big white farmhouse, the meticulous baseball field edged by a field of corn, and although there were probably 25-50 visitors wandering around on a nondescript Sunday afternoon, there was an air of quiet and – almost – reverence. It really felt like Shoeless Joe or Moonlight Graham could show up at any moment. But the only voices we heard were the chatter between…

  • Uncategorized

    Saying “So Long” to the Space Coast

    “I lived and worked on the Moon. I called the Moon home for three days of my life.” — Apollo 17 Astronaut Gene Cernan Those words from Gene Cernan have been floating around in my mind the past few days. Although my experiences the past two months were nothing like Cernan’s, I think I can kind of understand how he felt. I have now lived and worked on the Space Coast and at Kennedy Space Center. I called Florida my home for two months of my life. But now I’m heading home. As you’re reading this you’re probably shouting, “What! Why is she leaving? There is a shuttle launch in…

  • Cool Stuff,  Space Shuttle

    Up Close with Discovery

    “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases, it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams …. Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing A flowery band to bind us to the earth…” —John Keats I love that poem by John Keats, but if he had been able to see a space shuttle launch, he might have changed those last couple of lines to something like, “Every day, we labor so that humanity can soar out into the Cosmos.” And that is what the technicians and specialists who work with the space…

  • Uncategorized

    Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt, the Space Shuttle is Gorgeous

    On March 2, 2010 I had the privilege to watch space shuttle Discovery’s first motion of rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building to launchpad 39A, which began precisely at midnight. I was told first motion hasn’t been open to the press for many years, since the return to flight mission in 1988 and so I felt very lucky indeed to witness the event. Especially stunning was a unique silhouette shadow of the shuttle stack that formed against the clouds as the Xenon spotlights bathed the shuttle in their glare. Art Edwards, who works at the KSC PAO, told me he has witnessed over 60 shuttle rollouts and he has never…

  • Astronauts,  Cool Stuff,  Launches,  Nancy's news,  NASA,  Space Shuttle

    Catching Up

    I’ve received a few emails from people wondering why I haven’t written anything on my personal blog lately. And honestly, I was surprised to look and see the last post was a month ago. I usually use Saturday mornings for catching up with things I’ve been meaning to do — like post something on this blog — but this is the first Saturday in 4 weeks that I haven’t either been attending media events at Kennedy Space Center, hosting visitors here in Florida, or traveling hither and yon. More about the hither and yon part later. But since the initial goal of having this blog was to share my experiences…

  • Astronauts,  ISS,  Space Shuttle

    Talking to Astronauts

    Another highlight of my adventures at Kennedy Space Center was participating in the joint ISS/shuttle crew news conference on February 18. I have to admit, I’ve interviewed lots of astronauts, scientists, engineers, etc. before, but my heart was absolutely pounding out of my chest when I stepped to the mic to ask my questions! Maybe its because I’ve never done an interview live for all the world to see before. But it was thrilling to talk directly to the astronauts, and even give them a couple of laughs. You can watch the video of the crew news conference above. Below is a picture of the set-up at KSC for the…

  • Cool Stuff,  Launches,  Solar Dynamics Observatory

    SDO Soars and Roars to Space!

    Two rocket launches in one week! It doesn’t get any better than this! The launch of the Atlas V rocket with the Solar Dynamics Observatory on Feb. 11 was incredible! (Have I used that word before here?!) Above is an animation of the images I took of the launch, and below is a video taken by another journalist that was near where I was at the Kennedy Space Center press site. The Atlas launch was not as loud and engulfing as the shuttle launch, but still it is breathtaking. Where the shuttle guns it off the pad, Atlas rises slowly and gradually picks up velocity.

  • Launches,  Solar Dynamics Observatory

    Sunrise and SDO Rollout at Kennedy Space Center

    It was a beautiful (and early!) morning at Kennedy Space Center. I arrived at the press site at about 6:30 a.m. to watch the rollout of the Atlas V rocket which will bring the Solar Dynamics Observatory to orbit. Launch is, hopefully, tomorrow (Wed. Feb. 10) but the weather — and specifically winds — are going to be a factor. But this morning, it was gorgeous. Note the launchpad and countdown clock. See more, plus some rollout images below.

  • Cool Stuff,  Launches,  Space Shuttle

    Endeavour Lights Up the Night Sky

    The launch of space shuttle Endeavour early this morning was just absolutely amazing. I tried to express what the experience was like on my post on Universe Today, but quickly ran out of superlatives. People can tell you that a shuttle launch is going to be loud and that a night launch will be amazingly bright, but nothing can prepare you for what the experience is really like.

  • Launches

    Launch Night #2!

    It’s round 2 for the launch of space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-130 mission since last night’s launch was scrubbed. It’s now 2 a.m. at the press site at Kennedy Space Center, and things are not hopping quite as much as round 1 — several journalists only allowed one day for the launch and there seems to be less VIPS wandering around. We saw the crew walk out of crew quarters — again — and with the smaller group of journalists and photographers, they were able to offer some banter back and forth with us. Commander George Zamka said he thought today would be the day. Again, the concerns for…

  • Launches

    Launch Night!

    UPDATE: You’ve likely heard, but the launch was scrubbed just 9 minutes before scheduled liftoff due to low clouds. But enjoy the pictures of my all-nighter in the KSC press area. But here’s what I posted from the KSC press room at about 2:00 a.m.: We’re at T- 2 hours and counting. The press corp just returned from the crew walkout, which was very fun to see in person. Lots of cheering for the crew of STS-130. It’s a cold and windy night here at KSC — I’m seeing Twitter messages that people here to watch the launch are cold out there, but are having too much fun to care.…

  • Cool Stuff,  Launches,  Space Shuttle

    At a Quiet Kennedy Space Center

    Space Shuttle Endeavour on the launchpad enshrouded by the Rotating Service Structure. Image: Nancy Atkinson It was a little eerie and not quite what I was expecting. Nobody was there. I went to the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday for my first visit as a member of the media. Driving there, I was in space-nerd heaven, with butterflies in my stomach. As I came onto the property the thing that struck me most is that everything there is big. First, when you turn onto the NASA Causeway, you drive by the Astronaut Hall of Fame with an actual-size shuttle replica out front. It’s big. Then you drive, … and drive,…

  • Cool Stuff,  Mars

    Flying Over the Cliffs of Bahram Vallis

    A couple of days ago I posted on Universe Today some new Mars flyover videos created by Doug Ellison from UnmannedSpaceflight.com. He now has rendered a few more, and this one is my favorite: Bahram Vallis. Hang on to your hat when you approach the cliffs! Doug is able to create these amazing 3-D flyover videos from data from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Using DEM (Digital Elevation Model)– (also known as DTM Digital Terrain Model) files provided by the HiRISE team. Since he is using actual high-resolution data from HiRISE, Doug says the terrain seen in the movies has accurate vertical scaling and is not exaggerated.…

  • NASA

    Remembering Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia

    Today is NASA’s Day of Remembrance, honoring those who have lost their lives furthering the cause of exploration and discovery.  Today falls in the middle of anniversaries of three NASA tragedies:  the Apollo 1 accident during a training session on January 27, 1967; the Columbia space shuttle explosion following launch on January 28, 1986; and the breakup of the Columbia space shuttle during re-entry on February 1, 2003.   There have been many other people who have lost their lives while working for NASA, and we remember them, as well.  There was a wreath-laying ceremony at Kennedy Space Center this morning. NASA has an interactive feature in honor of the three…

  • Launches,  Space Shuttle

    Go For Launch

    NASA announced today that everything is go for launch for space shuttle Endeavour and the STS-130 mission.  I’m go for launch, too, and can’t wait to experience a liftoff live and in person.  I hope to share my adventures and take everyone along for the ride both here and on Universe Today. Launch is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 4:39 a.m. EST.