Saturday, May 5, 2012

History Again

History is being made as I write!

It turns out that NASA's meteorite hunting blimp isn't a blimp at all, it's a Zeppelin!  Never before in history has a zeppelin been used to hunt meteorites. The Sacramento Bee today published a "treasure map" of what has been found up to and including Tuesday's finds. I hope they'll do likewise once the zeppelin hunt wraps up.

Sacramento Bee Graphic

On Thursday's 6 O'clock News I watched LIVE as they "landed" the zeppelin at McClellan Park. It looked pretty dicey with the winds kicked up by the passing weather system. At the time I didn't think Hindenberg, because I was still thinking blimp.

Airships are having a renaissance in our modern world. When I was a kid, the Goodyear Blimps were the whole airship flotilla here in America. Now there's a bunch of differently branded blimps floating over sporting events from coast to coast. I remember a newspaper story a few years ago about "stealth blimps" being developed for surveillance work. KirkVallus and I had many belly laughs at the thought of giant airships sneaking up on bad guys. This was before 9/11 I'm sure, today the idea would rate a FacePalm...

I've always had a passing interest in airships, but I don't "follow" them the way I do spaceflight. Thursday the SF Giants played an afternoon game, and waddya know, the telecast had a blimp feeding aerial shots. Needless to say, with the clouds and afternoon sun the views of action on the field paled in comparison to the myriad "beauty shots" of AT&T Park on McCovey Cove, the Bay's Bridges, San Francisco's hills and San Francisco Bay itself.

All the pretty blimp shots didn't help the Giants win however...

The NASA zeppelin Eureka, which NASA actually chartered from Airship Ventures who share space with NASA at Moffett Federal Airfield near Sunnyvale, CA. is the only zeppelin flying in the States today.

Though both are airships, blimps and zeppelins are different solutions to the same puzzle. Blimps are pressurized airships with only the envelope giving them their signature shape. Zeppelins are rigid airships with a metal structure giving the airship it's shape. Post-Hindenberg, all airships use helium instead of the highly explosive hydrogen.

I watched another chartered flight this morning on the web, when a United Launch Alliance Atlas V sent an Air Force Advanced AEHF communications satellite. ULA is a joint venture between Lockeed and Boeing. This was the launch delayed from Thursday for a balky purge valve. ULA rolled the Atlas V back to the assembly building and changed the valve in time to launch 24 hours later...even Florida's weather cooperated.

After the launch I caught up with the zeppelin story. Yesterday I likened the hunt to a glass bottom boat trip, it turns out the glass bottom boat has moved into the 21st Century. The zeppelin Eureka carries a gyro-stabilized, high-resolution video camera that can pick out a golf ball in the dirt from 1,500 feet.

I'm keeping an eye peeled to see if the zeppelinauts find anything.

Read more here:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Meteorite Hunting

@rgj tweets: Scientists to use blimp to look for meteorites after explosion over Sierra Nevada: A group of scientists will bo...Reno Gazette Journal Story

From a blimp! I imagine this mission to be kinda like a mid-century glass-bottom boat trip without the Caribbean waters or sun tan lotion. It's just 1PM here in the Inland Valley, and it's been sprinkling for an hour or more, the winds aren't that bad, but the radar shows showers over the Mother Lode. Fog or mist on the ground would put the kibosh on searching...

It's a gray day all's sprinkling on the Giants and Marlins at AT&T Park in the 1st inning. Interestingly, the CSN Sportsnet broadcast has a blimp today, too! No sign of Bruce Lee the redtail hawk. The AT&T Gulls won't show up 'till the 8th or 9th...

Here ya go, the Sacramento Bee says the blimp is airborne. Happy hunting!

Here's KCRA3 with video of the blimp launch. These scientists are a brave lot!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


What an amazing day I had mining the internet! From the tech minutia of Formula One aero-developement (with great spy photos!) tweeted LIVE from Mugello in Italy's Tuscan countryside, to enough snarky tweets to sprain my funny bone, via some web radio, and some baseball blog fun, it sadly unraveled as the Junior Seau news unwound. Godspeed Junior. I hope his death spurs on the concussion studies of NFL players.

There's been a bunch of tech stuff streaming this week. I think it's so cool that SpaceX streamed the rocket engine test LIVE from Cape Canaveral Monday. The test went perfectly after one quick delay, and SpaceX will send their first Dragon capsule to the International Space Station later this month. Private spaceflight...I've been waiting for this since I was a kid listening to NASA space shots on a cheap transistor radio!

It's been a bad couple of weeks for offshore sailboat racing in California. The Slow Speed Chase ran afoul of shoals at the Farallones on April 13th, leaving one dead and four missing. On the morning of April 28th, the Agean went missing during the 65th Annual Newport to Ensenada Race with four souls aboard. Early speculation had the Agean tangling with a large ocean going ship.

The SoCal yacht racing deaths have been explained. Tech holds the answer. After lunch today, Latitude38 posted to Facebook the rest of the Agean story. It looks like no other vessel was involved. Agean's SPOT Messenger GPS track shows the boat was on a constant course and speed for more than three hours before crashing into North Coronado Island.

This SPOT Messenger GPS is a pretty cool gadget. A hundred bucks for the SPOT and $100/yr for the service looks reasonable to me for people who spend their time out near the edge. I haven't seen any SPOT coms on my Facebook or Twitter feeds...yet...

Jeez, SturgeUrge and I have been planning another Tomales Bay Dungeness Crab Hunt for a week now...the wind, weather and tides just won't cooperate. we're looking at after Mother's Day now...

The winds have turned blustery, and the skies have been darkening since noon today. The Monterey/SFO AFD said there was an 80% chance of rain on Tomales Bay tomorrow, with just a chance of precip here in the Inland Valley. My eye says it could rain here before morning.

Regular readers will remember Bruce Lee, the AT&T Park Red Tail Hawk. Bruce is on Twitter now. Not to be out-maneuvered, the AT&T Park Seagull signed up this week too. I expect an epic, dare I say Iconic, SnarkFest should ensue when @HawkBruce and @ATTSeagull start to tangle!

Finally, the numbers on the 2011/2012 Ski Season are coming out, and they're not good. Truckee's Local Fishwrap has the numbers from Northstar and Heavenly Valley. The two Vail-owned resorts report a 24.2% hit to skier visits from the slow starting season. How'd I know about the Sierra Sun story? They're in my Twitter feed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Month Of May

May is many things to me. Ski season is definitely over, spring is really here, and my niche sports really put it in gear.

Bicycle racing begins the Grand Tour Season with the Giro d’Italia on May 5th.

AMGEN's Tour of California kicks off May 13th, and comes through the Inland Valley May 15th.

Formula One returns to Europe in May. Teams are testing at Tuscany's Mugello this week, and the racing starts in Catalunya, Spain May 13th.

IndyCar spends the entire month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway preparing for the Indy 500 on Memorial Day Weekend.

May is Mount Everest month. Several hundred climbers will summit the World's Tallest before the monsoons come.

Major League Baseball settles into it's summertime groove this month. I'm liking what I see from my San Francisco Giants. There's a few anniversaries in Giants history this year. The Giants went to the World Series for the first time as the San Francisco Giants 50 years ago. They lost to the New York Yankees.

Time for me to duck outta here, I'm LIVE streaming Peter Windsor's "The Flying Lap" today at 11AM PDT Guests include Pirelli Tire's Director of Motorsport, Paul Hembery to talk testing from Mugello.

This season is shaping up to be a total geek-out for me. Formula One really has stepped up it's Social Media Outreach. I spent much of my morning following F1 testing on Twitter. Brilliant "spy photos" of all the teams latest developments, from pit lane. Most teams are still working on their exhaust exits and how the exhaust gasses help produce rear downforce. Teams haven't forgotten the front of the cars either, many new front wing refinements are on track at Mugello.

Did I mention May is Monaco Grand Prix month? F1 on the streets of Monte Carlo and the Indy 500 both run on May 27th.

Gentlemen, Start...Your...Engines!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Aboard BB-61

I got my butt down to Richmond Saturday. A glorious sunny San Francisco Bay day. Getting off San Pablo Dam Road and onto I-80W took 15 minutes. I finally got on the freeway, and headed West. We were making 50-55 MPH until a mile from my exit. I jumped off the freeway and made my way to San Pablo Avenue, once upon a time, this street was part of the Lincoln Highway. I took it into Albany, and pulled into Casper's Famous Hot Dogs for lunch.

Properly sated, I pulled back onto San Pablo and turned left on Cutting Blvd. I arrived at the Battleship Expo a little before 2PM. I paid ten bucks to park, and shot a dozen or so photos before I strode up the gangplank.

There were a lot of people on board, including a troop of Boy Scouts in uniform. Workers were hard at it, too. Up on the bow, volunteers were removing the old teak decking. The carpenter in me asked one of the volunteers: "How many boardfeet of teak are we talking?" He sheepishly replied, "I'm just volunteer labor" his partner said "I think they said about 150 thousand square feet from bow to stern" "Times two inches I replied" That's 300K boardfeet plus waste, I thought...

2 X 6 Nominal Teak Deck
We visitors were kept forward of the superstructure. Plywood walkways were laid down for visitor safety. The old teak deck was past due for replacement. I could hear a symphony of grinders coming from the stern.

I strode forward and stopped at the business end of Gun Turret One.

16 inch guns fire 2000lb shells 27 miles
I snapped some photos and struck up a conversation with a docent in his hardhat. I put my foot in my mouth in my first sentence. I asked about the Missouri-Class USS Iowa. The docent corrected me...the Iowa-Class battleship Iowa...(I edited yesterday's blog when I got home)

I asked him: "Where is the analog place here on the Iowa where Japan signed the surrender in Tokyo Bay on the Iowa's sister ship USS Missouri?" I stumped the's been several months since I last viewed the famous photo of MacArthur signing. Now that I look at the pix again, I think the ceremony wasn't on the main deck, but upstairs aft of the citadel, forward from turret three.

I really wanted to walk Iowa from stem to stern, all 861 feet of her. Today Iowa displaces uphill of 50K tons, and walking her decks feels like walking on the sense of the sea or swell. Granted, she's side tied in harbor, and even with a steady 10kt wind, she wasn't moving a millimeter.

Iowa ships out May 20th. The restored Liberty Ship  SS Jeremiah O'Brien will set sail to honor Iowa's departure with "A Champagne Toast to The Iowa" The liberty ship will flank Iowa through San Francisco Bay and out under the Golden Gate Bridge.

I'ts definitely worth a trip to Los Angeles Harbor to visit the USS Iowa when she fully opens as a museum.