Space Exploration

The Apollo 50th Anniversary Stamp Ceremony

I was able to add the 50th anniversary Apollo stamp to my signed and 1st day issued 25th anniversary stamps!

I was able to add the 50th anniversary Apollo stamp to my signed and 1st day issued 25th anniversary stamps!

Five years ago I wrote a blog post right here talking about my experience of being at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (at that time twenty years ago) for the unveiling of the 25th anniversary Apollo 11 stamps. Well, now I get to add on to that story just a bit. Unless you have been living under a rock you know that this weekend is the 50th anniversary of mankind making the first boot prints on the Moon. Just like at the Smithsonian 25 years ago, the USPS has issued a brand new set of stamps to commemorate this historic milestone...two Apollo 11 50th anniversary edition stamps. The grand unveiling of these stamps was on Friday July 19th at the Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center. 

I have had a couple of very busy months of work related travel and vacation and my tight schedule continues for the next month. So this past Friday was one of only a few days I would be in the office for a while, so I had already scheduled a trip to the Saturn V center to scout out a location to setup telescopes next week (our KSC astronomy club is supporting an event there next week). But I didn’t realize until the night before that the 50th anniversary stamp event was going to be happening at the same time I had already coordinated our little scouting party for. The coincident continues when I realized that the astronomy club member that was going with me on Friday was a medical doctor for the Apollo astronauts...Doctor Wyck Hoffler. Wyck is one of the founding members of our KSC astronomy club and back when he worked on the Apollo program he was physically on the recovery ships for all but a few of the Apollo missions!

Doctor Wyck Hoffler and I in front of the Saturn V rocket during the 50th anniversary stamp ceremony

Doctor Wyck Hoffler and I in front of the Saturn V rocket during the 50th anniversary stamp ceremony

So Wyck and I scouted out locations for telescope setup for our event next week and we also got to see the stamp unveiling and purchase some of the 1st day issued stamps. But what makes this even more special for me was that I was able to take my 1st day issue 25th anniversary stamps that I had signed at the Smithsonian 25 years ago by the artist that designed the stamps and have as 50th anniversary stamp added to them and have it 1st day issued...all on the same card. I was in Washington D.C. 25 years ago as part of a High School space settlement design competition, so that was before I even started my career. Now about 20 years into my career I got to be part of a similar event with a friend of mine that had a very significant role in the Apollo program. It is days like this where you really have to pinch yourself and ask “did I really just get to be a part of this?”

OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Arrives at Asteroid Bennu Monday!


Just a little over 2-years ago (September 2016) I helped integrate the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft onto the Atlas V rocket so it could leave Earth on its way to visit (and eventually sample the surface and return from) asteroid Bennu. Tomorrow (Monday Dec 3rd) the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrives and (hopefully) successfully begins orbiting the asteroid. NASA will be covering the arrival LIVE between 11:45am and 12:15pm EST on the following channels:

There are a lot of unique things about the OSIRIS-REx mission. It will be the first US mission to capture and return a sample from the surface of an asteroid. Also, asteroid Bennu is actually quite small as it is only 492 meters in diameter so when NASA talks about injecting into an orbit around Bennu it is quite different than going into orbit around a planet (its really like trying to orbit a large potato in space). So be sure to watch the coverage live tomorrow if you can...

Snow Patrol - Life On Earth

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I'm a big Snow Patrol fan and they recently put out a new music video called "Life On Earth." If you a fan of space then this music video is not to be missed. It features some (European Space Agency) ESA testing facilities in the video, which is pretty cool since I have actually visited several. Can't wait for their new album to come out next month!

An Amazing New Space/Astronomy Newsletter


I’ve been reading (and listening via podcast) to Fraser Cain at Universe Today for many years. Fraser just announced recently that he is starting up a weekly newsletter that he is personally writing. The newsletter will come out every Friday and it will feature space related news from across the globe that Fraser will handpick as they are things that have caught his eye. I can tell you from experience that Fraser has a good eye for these things. If you are into space and astronomy and want an easy way to stay on top of what is going on then I highly recommend you sign up for this newsletter. I did. It will be waiting for you every Friday in your email inbox. That’s perfect timing for me as the weekend is when I like to kick back a little bit and catch up on interesting reading and this certainly fits the bill. It’s rare to get this kind of personalization these days so take advantage of it. Click on the linked article below for instructions on how to sign up...

Linked Article:

The Organ of Interstellar and the Temple Church in London

Interstellar is one of my favorite movies of all time and the soundtrack to the movie, which is composed by Hans Zimmer, is simply jaw dropping. The strong organ presence in the soundtrack also really draw me to the music because I first learned to play the organ as a young child before later moving on to play piano and keyboards. So what's the story behind the Interstellar Organ? What organ was used and why did Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan (the director) end up choosing the organ as such a central instrument? Like everyone else today I did a bit of searching on the internet. Turns out the decision to use a pipe organ as a central instrument in the score was first brought up by Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer quickly jumped on the idea and the rest was history.

So why was specifically was the 1926 four-manual Harrison & Harrison organ in the Temple Church in London chosen? I couldn't find the answer to why that specific organ was chosen but I suspect it was for the amazing acoustics in the Temple church along with the relative notoriety of the Harrison & Harrison organ in the church. Keyboard Magazine published an interview that was done with Hans Zimmer and Hans had this to say about recording the organ in the Temple church for the movie soundtrack:

"Abbey Road Mobile set up a remote studio in one of the side rooms of the church. It wasn’t just the organ; we had the orchestra in there as well. So we had an enormous amount of microphones placed all throughout that church. But I think the main mics really were a few Neumanns, about 20 feet away. More were about 40 feet away from the main pipes."

"It was great being able to really use the space. Because an organ doesn’t exist outside its acoustic space, so you have to find the right space. The great thing about Temple Church is, it’s in the center of London but it’s completely isolated. There are just the law courts all around it, and it’s basically a pedestrian zone, so there’s no traffic noise."

The reason an organ in general was chosen was because of the scientific significance of the instrument (after all Interstellar was all about the science). A quote from an article in title "Why Interstellar's Organ Needs to Be So Loud" in the Atlantic I think says it all:

"As Zimmer recently told the Film Music Society, the organ was chosen for its significance to science: From the 17th century to the time of the telephone exchange, the pipe organ was known as the most complex man-made device ever invented. Its physical appearance reminded him of space ship afterburners. And the airiness of the sound slipping through pipes replicates the experience of suited astronauts, where every breath is precious (a usual preoccupation with sci-fi movies that is taken very literally in Zimmer’s music, which also features the exhalations of his human choir)."

I could go on and on about the details of how the soundtrack was made, but this short video does a great job of explaining it:

But this article isn't just meant to be about the background behind the Interstellar soundtrack. No, I wanted to share with you what it was like to actually experience being inside the Temple Church in London and hearing first-hand what the acoustics are like in this small but impressive and quite old church. In the past year I have had two business trips to London. When I went to London last year I only had about 3 or 4 hours of free time in London and I didn't make it to see the Temple Church. Turns out this was a good thing, because when I went back to London this summer we ended up spending about half a day at the Temple Church and its surrounding grounds (which are quite extensive and beautiful). Below are several pictures I took of the exterior of the Temple Church, the Temple Church grounds, the organ of Interstellar itself and the surrounding interior of the church:

Now its time for the real content. I want to share with you a short piece of audio I took with the built-in mic on my iPhone. While we were visiting the Temple Church there was a small acapella men's group practicing. Honestly, the visit to the Temple Church would not have been complete without this amazing audio demostration. Granted it would have been even better to have heard the organ being played, but then again maybe not. You expect room filling sound with an organ but the way this small group of human voices filled the volume of the church was simply amazing. I chose to use this short clip as my video for one reason...the singers stop to correct a mistake. Honestly, if they had not have stopped you could have easily assumed I simply subbed over a silent video with CD quality singing. So plug in some headphones, close your eyes and imagine you are standing in the middle of the Temple Church listening to this small group of singers.

Its one thing to watch the Interstellar movie or listen to the soundtrack, but its quite another to witness first hand the acoustics of the Temple Church. After being there in person I no longer have to question why this organ and this church were chosen to be part of the soundtrack for the movie. If you ever go to London, take some time to stop by this beautiful church and see and listen for yourself!

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