Last week, while driving into work, I saw a rather unusual sight. An AirTran airliner was taxiing at Moffett. It looked like it had just landed. Why was it there? Did NASA buy the aircraft, and it simply wasn’t repainted yet? Was it an emergency landing, and if so, why not just land at Mineta which is just like five minutes further south? Was it some sort of bizzare mistake?
Googling around, I found the flight: AirTran 8141 from Halsey Field San Diego to Moffett. Halsey is NAS North Island, so it was flight from one government airport to another, but still seems a bit unusual for it be a commercial flight.
Friday, we went to see Endeavour’s fly-by of NASA Ames. Ming wasn’t too crazy to go at first, but she relented. It’s the last time anyone was going to see a shuttle in the air. Although Maximilian isn’t going to remember this, I still wanted him there. (Got to start them out early on science.)
When reading up about the shuttle retirement, I came across this image on wikicommons:
This flag first flew on the first shuttle mission, and then again on the last one. It was left behind on the ISS to be retrieved by next US launched manned mission. It’s kind of sad and nice at the same time. A “We will return,” promise. (Albeit not likely in a spaceplane.) I had no idea that this flag existed. NASA has also slated this flag to fly on the next manned mission to leave Earth orbit. The sentimental part of me likes that there’s this symbol that’s passed from crew to crew, even if its history only goes back to 1981 instead of 1961.
NASA’s inspector general is still gunning for Hanger One. Essentially, the IG and NASA HQ are upset with Ames Research Center’s leasing of property to private groups such as Singularity University, Airship Ventures, and the Google Triumvirate, and insist that future leases correspond to “current or future mission[s]”, and to sell any properties that can’t be leased. I believe the IG is referring in particular to the airfield itself.
Not having any particular knowledge beyond what I find in the local papers, but that seems a bit strange. I thought NASA Ames was one of the centers that was researching heavy lift airships for cargo transport to remote areas, and that Hanger One was intended to be used for these airships.
Thursday, September 20, 2012 between 9:00 am and 9:30 am, the Space Shuttle Endeavour is going to make a fly over of NASA Ames on it’s way down to Los Angeles and its destiny of being a museum piece. I’ve went to a launch of STS-26, the return-to-flight mission after Challenger, and I saw the shuttle sitting on the 747 at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi of all places back in the early 90s.
It would be nice to see it in the wild one more time.
Update Thu Sep 20 21:58:51 PDT 2012
Shuttle delayed. It’s coming tomorrow (Friday, September 21) at approximately the same time.
Not content with having an exception to land their party plane at Moffett Field, Google’s triumvirate want a historic landmark for their eight private jets. That’s right. The triumvirate says they’ll pay for restoration, if they get to park their planes.
While I support keeping Hanger One, it just feels to essentially like an an attempt by the ultra rich to indulge their whims on public property. If it was a straight up philanthropic gesture that’s one thing, but this is reeks of a crass move. They (and numerous other Silicon Valley multi-millionares) have wanted to use the NASA field as their own private airfield, and now it looks like they’ve sensed the opportunity to get it. The most depressing part of this whole thing is that this could be the only way to keep the landmark.
The Computer History Museum is hosting an evening with with our trivia overlord IBM Watson, and chief scientist David Ferrucci, Tuesday, Nov 15 at 6pm. Admission is free.
IBM Watson really is an amazing piece of software, much more interesting than Deep Blue. Chess, like all board games, is very artificial. While there’s no doubt a technical achievement in being able to search a large number of well defined states in parallel, but it is a bit abstracted from real problems. Watson on the other hand deals with natural language. You ask it random lookup questions, and it answers. It’s a technology – along with Siri – that is futuristic.
Hanger One is being dismantled. Hanger One has been in danger of being torn down for years. It’s walls are contain PCBs. Save Hanger One, has been trying get NASA to reskin the hanger instead of tearing it down. NASA Ames now wants to use it for airship research. Federal funds were finally approved to reskin the hanger, until the House appropriations committee, on recommendation from the NASA Office of the Inspector General, eliminated the $32.8 million to replace the skin. This means PCB walls will be removed, and hanger will probably be torn down.
I say “probably,” because at the last minute the House changed the appropriations bill language to allow NASA to reapply for funds to reskin the hanger in the future. It is supposed to be painted with a sealant to protected it while NASA reapplies for funds.
Personally, I suspect it will be torn down in three years.