NASA Is Breaking Records

Thursday, October 29, 2015, Astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 45 Commander, took a space selfie (above) as he set a new NASA record. He has surpassed the previous record held by Michael Lopez-Alegria. Alegria had spent a record 215 days straight engaged in spaceflight. Kelly’s got him beat as well as Astronaut Michael Fincke who held the record for 382 cumulative days in space. And, Kelly ain’t through yet! He won’t be headed back to Earth until the Spring of 2016.

What does a guy do with all that time in outer space? Well, yesterday Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren conducted a seven hour spacewalk performing routine service and upgrades to the space station, performed a task in a dark matter experiment and rerouted cables that will be used on the future docking port of the Boeing Starliner CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Kelly and Lindgren are not alone in their work on the space station. An entire crew from all over the world is hard at work in the space station. Lindgren was born in Taiwan. Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov is from Ukraine, Mikhail Kornienko is from Russia, Oleg Kononenko was born in Turkmenia, and Kimiya Yui is Japanese. Yui is studying the way plants grow if there’s no gravity around to tell them which way is up or down. Volkov, Kornienko and Kononenko worked on controlling a rover from space.

Expedition 45 originally began its mission September 11, 2015 and will reach the end of its mission December 22, 2015. Some of the objectives are to conduct research in the fields of human biology, biotechnology, and astrophysics research. Yesterday’s spacewalk was one of two that are scheduled to take place. November 6 Kelly and Lindgren will have a repeat performance of today’s spacewalk. The purpose of the spacewalks is to install equipment that will be used to conduct experiments and research in the study of dark matter and cosmic rays. The crew’s discoveries and work will all help continue the slow but steady advance toward Mars.

There are so many things the gringa loves about this little tidbit of NASA info. For one thing, how exciting to see history and records being made right before my eyes! It is also exhilarating to see the astronauts readying the household to welcome the Starliner and Dragon, the first commercial spacecraft that, one day, may deliver passengers like myself to far off places for some space adventures. But, best of all, the gringa is immensely impressed with the fact that, despite all of the political posturing, Russians and Americans are up at the ISS showing everyone that borders and labels and nationalities really just don’t matter when you get down to the heart of what is really important, living and growing and exploring together.

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Read With The Gringa “Martin de Leon”

All ages should join the gringa for an 18 minute read along about some rich, little known history about Mexico and Texas.

A Halloween Fly-By

Halloween is fast approaching and NASA has been working on a suitable treat for all of its fans. On October 31 at 10:05 am, space enthusiasts should be prepared for an asteroid flyby, at a safe distance of course. If you have access to an observatory you could get a close up of this baby or glimpse it at home with a telescope. Scientists will be actively scanning asteroid 2015 TB145 from “spacecraft Earth” during what they consider a “close pass”.

This hunk of rock is new to the asteroid catalog. It was only discovered this past October 10 by the University of Hawaii’s Pan-STARRS-1 telescope that is part of a NASA funded program. The Minor Planet Center keeps a catalog of near-Earth objects (NEOs) and they consider this fly-by to be the closest pass by such an object until August 2027 when asteroid 1999 AN10, a 2,600 feet wide asteroid, is expected to approach from a distance of 238,000 miles. TB145, estimated to be about 1,300 feet wide, should keep its distance at about 300,000 miles, zipping around at a steady velocity of about twenty-two miles per hour. It will be close enough that Earthlings can view it in the night sky with the aid of a telescope.

The unusual oblong orbit and high velocity has caused some to speculate it may actually be a comet. NASA’s asteroid radar research program will be taking advantage of this opportunity to test new radar imaging technology. As scientists track the asteroid, they expect to capture detailed images that will produce about seven feet per pixel depicting fine details of the asteroid’s surface, shape and other physical properties.

Now, just to put to rest all the excitement the doom and gloomers may want to attempt to raise, “Spaceguard” has officially declared that there are “no known credible impact threats”. Spaceguard is the nickname for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program (NEOO). Scientists involved with this program track asteroids and comets with ground and space telescopes. They discover these objects, catalog their characteristics and study them in order to predict their future paths. Their work helps to determine whether any of these NEOs pose any potential hazard to Earthlings, astronauts deployed to the ISS or to any of the many satellites and bits of technology floating about the cosmos. So, no need to begin the prepping unless that means running out and buying a telescope so you can get a peek at our other-worldly trick-or-treater that will be flying by.

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Read With The Gringa “The Magician’s Nephew” Chapter 12

Join the gringa for a 23 minute read along as we continue book one of the series “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. Find out about the mission Aslan sends Strawberry, Digory and Polly out on!

Great Space “Spin-Offs”

As we go about our everyday life we are enjoying the benefits of what NASA does and, most of the time, we are completely unaware of this space agency’s contribution. As NASA develops new technologies that are vital to mission success or products designed for a specific purpose, there is almost always a “spin-off” product or technology that reaches the Earthling market that makes things a little better for humanity.

How many of us have mixed up a bottle of baby formula or spooned a jar of peas and carrots into the hungry mouth of a toddler? If you have, you were giving that baby space food. Almost one hundred percent of commercially sold infant formula is infused with a natural omega-3 fatty acid ingredient discovered while researching life support technology for the Mars mission. The next generation of Earthlings will have healthier brains, eyes and hearts thanks to NASA.

If you’re reading this article on my blog, then you’ve also probably seen the videos I’ve been posting reading books aloud. The technology used in my laptop camera as well as cellphone cameras are all NASA inspired inventions. Astronauts needed to miniaturize cameras in order to save as much space as possible as they packed and organized supplies for their space missions.

And, how many of my dear readers have ever flown in a great big airplane? Chances are, all of you. You know when you look up at a low-flying passenger jet and see those little up-turned wingtips and wonder just what the heck those things are? Well, the ever curious gringa asks that question every single time I see one. Those things are called “winglets”. These little aerodynamic dynamos are saving airlines billions of dollars in fuels and it’s all thanks to the research and development that goes on at NASA. When NASA develops technology in order to save the taxpayers a dime or two, that technology is eventually shared with companies so they can save a dime or two which then means the tax-paying consumer gets to save another dime or two when they shell out the dough for their airfare.

How many of us have “Google Earthed” our physical addresses to see what pops up on the satellite image? Yes, the curious gringa does this all the time. The accuracy of our current GPS technology is also thanks to the efforts of research and development at NASA. Everyone, everywhere, all over this globe, benefit in some form or fashion from this technology. I tell the caveman all the time to remember that my GPS locator is always activated on my cellphone so if anyone kidnaps me, and lets me keep my phone, he can find me. He assures me that if I remain my true, “Chatty Cathy” self they will certainly let me go so I need not waste the battery power. But, even if they don’t tire of my incessant chatter and question asking, he’ll come looking for me in a day or so.

That is when the gringa goes off for a pout by curling up with a good book in her space bed. Surely you know what I mean? That greatest invention mankind has ever come up with for people with back problems? You know, the memory foam mattress! Good Lord, over the years I have had so many falls with seizures and received neck and back injuries as a result, that I prayed for a non-gravity sleep chamber or a wind tunnel sleep chamber that wouldn’t put any pressure on my neck, hips or back no matter what position I might lay in. Well, the memory foam is the next best thing and a decent compromise. I’m able to get a relatively pain-free night’s sleep now because astronauts needed a material that would help keep them comfortable during times of extreme acceleration. Thank you, NASA, from the bottom of the ginga’s little heart.

I love watching law enforcement reality shows. One of my favorite types to watch is search and rescue. When I see the Coast Guard rushing to respond to a distress beacon for some poor crew of fishermen or pleasure sailors who have gotten themselves into trouble, once again NASA has been the source for a vital live-saving device. Without the satellites that NASA has deployed into Earth’s orbit, there would be no relay device for their distress signals.

The “greenies” out there can also feel some affinity toward the space agency for reducing big rig fuel consumption by almost 7,000 gallons annually per truck because of the NASA inspired new aerodynamic designs most modern rigs sport. As you pass one of these eighteen-wheelers on a bridge, you can feel secure because most modern bridges feature state of the art shock absorbers bracing them in place, technology originating with NASA in their efforts to develop technology to help astronauts survive the extreme effects of rocket launches.

One of the gringa’s favorite technology sharing tidbits of information regarding NASA, and, yes, even more of a favorite than my awesome memory foam mattress, are the vulnerable people around the world that are able to have access to clean drinking water. Water purification devices that are used today on the small scale of an individual, reusable, filtering water bottle or a hand held device that can provide clean water for an entire village is all thanks to the humanitarian mission of NASA. Growing up in the jungle and having to boil river water was how my caveman grew up. Needless to say, as a child, he and his siblings often suffered water-borne, internal, parasitic infections. There is a very soft spot in the gringa’s heart toward NASA for making it possible for many children around the world to improve the quality of their life and enjoy something I take for granted every day.

As I ponder the amazing contributions astronauts and scientists at NASA make to our world, I can’t help but flash a smile. And, thanks to one more of NASA’s greatest inventions of all time, invisible orthodontic braces, the gringa smiles boldly instead of covering that grin with a hand, embarrassed by crooked teeth and crazy fangs. Thanks, NASA, for not only inspiring fantastic dreams of space exploration but also for making everyday life a little bit better for everyone everywhere!


Read With The Gringa “My Friends”

Get the kids ready for 15 minutes of English & Spanish as they learn the names of animals and find out how friends help us learn!

Read With The Gringa “Annie And The Wild Animals”

Let the little ones join the gringa for 10 minutes of storybook fun on a snowy adventure feeding the wild animals of the forest.

Dynamic Duo

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly will return to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) in the spring of 2016. He is one of two key components of a very special medical study NASA is conducting. His twin brother, Mark, is the other component. They are the superstars of the NASA Twin Study. While Scott is deployed for one year to the ISS, Mark is grounded here on Earth. A parallel study of two individuals who have the same genetics, but are in different environments, is underway. NASA wants to study the differing effects of identical medical events occurring to a human in orbit round the Earth and one whose feet are firmly planted on the ground.

In September both brothers were inoculated with an influenza vaccine. Before and after the injections, blood was drawn from the brothers to analyze how their immune systems responded to the vaccines. Understanding the changes the immune system undergoes is critical to keeping astronauts fit and healthy throughout a mission into space. However, maintaining spaceflight health is not the only thing doctors and scientists are working on. They also are devising methods to protect astronauts from infection while they are on Earth, prior to deployment. Success in developing such preventative measures will not only benefit astronauts. NASA’s humanitarian aim would share such data with medical professionals everywhere for the benefit of all mankind to benefit where health related issues are concerned. Patients with auto-immune diseases like diabetes and arthritis should keep their eyes turned toward NASA for possible breakthroughs in their treatment options as well as the possibility of a cure.

While on the ISS, Scott Kelly participated in radiation research with the RaDI-N2 Neutron Field Study. He collected eight detectors that had been placed throughout the station and returned them to the Russian crew who stored them until he returns with them later on in the year. Participation by the Canadian Space Agency used their bubble spectrometers to isolate and measure neutron radiation levels. Neutrons do not have an electrical charge. This makes it easier for neutron radiation to enter the body and cause damage. This study will provide NASA with data that will help develop methods that will protect future crews that participate in deep-space missions from radiation damage. All Earthlings will benefit from this technology also because it will help medical experts have a better understanding of how neutron radiation damages and mutates DNA in order to most effectively treat patients.

Once again, NASA is collaborating with many other agencies in order to gather the best talent team possible in order to gather vital information that will eventually benefit all mankind. The gringa is certain with a team of such diversity that surely there is a place for someone like me! Keeping my fingers crossed that at least one of NASA’s future missions has a need for a chatty, sassy, outspoken writer with an insatiable curiosity.

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Read with the Gringa “The Magician’s Nephew” Chapt 11

Join the gringa for a twenty minute read to see who Aslan appoints as king and queen of Narnia!