The Purple Pinup Guru Platform

When purple things are pulsating on your mind, I'm the one whose clock you want to clean. Aiding is Sparky, the Astral Plane Zen Pup Dog from his mountain stronghold on the Northernmost Island of the Happy Ninja Island chain, this blog will also act as a journal to my wacky antics at an entertainment company and the progress of my self published comic book, The Deposit Man which only appears when I damn well feel like it. Real Soon Now.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

New NASA astronauts will never fly on shuttle

First recruits in 5 years will train for space station, other crafts

Image: NASA's new 2009 astronaut class
Meet NASA's new 2009 astronaut class, starting on the top row from left; Serena Aunon, Jeanette Epps, Jack Fischer; in the middle row from left, Michael Hopkins, Kjell Lindgren, Kathleen (Kate) Rubins, and in the bottomrow from left, Scott Tingle, Mark Vande Hei, Gregory (Reid) Wiseman.
By Tariq Malik
updated 1:08 p.m. PT, Mon., June 29, 2009NASA on Monday unveiled the nine Americans making up its newest class of astronaut candidates, a group that will never fly on the space shuttle.

The six-man, three-woman astronaut class of 2009 is NASA's first batch of new spaceflying recruits in five years. The candidates are expected to report to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in August to begin two years of training.

"This is a very talented and diverse group we've selected," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's space operations chief, in a statement. "They will join our current astronauts and play very important roles for NASA in the future."

NASA's three aging space shuttles are due to retire in 2010 after completing construction of the International Space Station. The new astronaut candidates, therefore, will likely only train to fly aboard the space station, Russian Soyuz vehicles, and NASA's shuttle replacement - the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and its Ares rockets tapped to ferry spaceflyers to orbit and back to the moon by 2020. The 11 astronauts of NASA's 2004 class are all expected to have flown once on a shuttle by the fleet's retirement next year, NASA officials have said.

"In addition to flying in space, astronauts participate in every aspect of human spaceflight, sharing their expertise with engineers and managers across the country," Gerstenmaier said.

The 2009 astronaut class is a relatively young group, with ages ranging from 30 to 43. NASA selected the nine from a field of 3,500 applicants to make up the new class, its 20th group since the original seven Mercury astronauts were unveiled in 1959.

The group is a mix of military and civilians that includes: a technical intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), two NASA flight surgeons, a space station flight controller, a sprint-running molecular biologist, as well as two Navy test pilots, a U.S. Air Force test pilot and the special assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.

"I think this is a thrilling time to be part of the space program, and I feel very fortunate to be starting as an astronaut candidate at this particular time," said Kathleen Rubins, 30, the molecular biologist, in a NASA interview.

Here's a brief look at NASA's new astronaut class:

  • Serena M. Aunon, 33, of League City, Texas; University of Texas Medical Branch-Wyle flight surgeon for NASA's space shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation programs; born in Indianapolis, Ind. Aunon holds degrees from George Washington University, the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, and UTMB.
  • Jeanette J. Epps, 38, of Fairfax, Va.; technical intelligence officer with the Central Intelligence Agency; born in Syracuse, N.Y. Epps holds degrees from LeMoyne College and the University of Maryland.
  • Jack D. Fischer, Major U.S. Air Force, 35, of Reston, Va.; test pilot; U.S. Air Force Strategic Policy intern (Joint Chiefs of Staff) at the Pentagon; born in Boulder, Colo. Fischer is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Michael S. Hopkins, Lt. Colonel U.S. Air Force, 40, of Alexandria, Va.; special assistant to the Vice Chairman (Joint Chiefs of Staff) at the Pentagon; born in Lebanon, Mo. Hopkins holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Stanford University.
  • Kjell N. Lindgren, 36, of League City, Texas; University of Texas Medical Branch-Wyle flight surgeon for NASA's Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Constellation Programs; born in Taipei, Taiwan. Lindgren has degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado State University, University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, and UTMB.
  • Kathleen (Kate) Rubins, 30, of Cambridge, Mass.; born in Farmington, Conn.; principal investigator and fellow, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT and conducts research trips to the Congo. Rubins has degrees from the University of California-San Diego and Stanford University. Rubins is not the youngest person to be selected for NASA's astronaut corps. Astronauts Sally Ride and Tammy Jernigan were both 26 at the time of their selections in 1978 and 1985, respectively.
  • Scott D. Tingle, Commander U.S. Navy, 43, of Hollywood, Md.; born in Attleboro, Mass.; test pilot and Assistant Program Manager-Systems Engineering at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Tingle holds degrees from Southeastern Massachusetts University (now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) and Purdue University.
  • Mark T. Vande Hei, Lt. Colonel U.S. Army, 42, of El Lago, Texas; born in Falls Church, Va.; flight controller for the International Space Station at NASA's Johnson Space Center, as part of U.S. Army NASA Detachment. Vande Hei is a graduate of Saint John's University and Stanford University.
  • Gregory R. (Reid) Wiseman, Lt. Commander U.S. Navy, 33, of Virginia Beach, Va.; born in Baltimore; test pilot; Department Head, Strike Fighter Squadron 103, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, based out of Oceana, Va. Wiseman is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Johns Hopkins University.

Currently, there are about 85 active astronauts in NASA's spaceflying ranks. The nine members of the 2009 class will join the astronaut corps after their two-year training regime.

NASA spokesperson Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters told that the nine NASA recruits will be joined by new astronauts from Japan, Canada and Europe, who will also train with them. In May, the Japanese and Canadian space agencies each added two new astronauts to their small cadre of spaceflyers, while the European Space Agency unveiled six new astronauts representing Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

The new astronauts are all expected to report for training duty in late August, Cloutier-Lemasters said.

"We look forward to working with them as we transcend from the shuttle to our future exploration of space, and continue the important engineering and scientific discoveries aboard the International Space Station," Gerstenmaier said.

© 2009

Drink up! Guinness offers seat on a spaceliner

Beer company to send contest winner to space aboard Virgin Galactic craft

The company behind the dark Irish beer Guinness will give loyal drinkers a taste of space along with their stout, but only if they win new contest.

Guinness has reserved a seat aboard a suborbital Virgin Galactic spaceliner as one of three experience prizes in an online contest honoring the 250th birthday of the beer's brewery this year.

Founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is a commercial space tourism company that plans to launch passengers on $200,000 trips to suborbital space using a fleet of SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. The spaceliners are designed to be launched from the air by a massive WhiteKnightTwo mothership and send two pilots and six passengers on a weightless joyride.

Virgin Galactic currently plans to launch and land space tourist flights from a terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico — which began construction earlier this month — as well as from a spaceport in Kiruna, Sweden. The first WhiteKnightTwo carrier ship "Eve" has been flying a series of test flights this year.

Guinness officials said their space trip contest runs through Sept. 24 and promised a thrilling ride for the winner.

The launch will catapult passengers beyond Earth's atmosphere at nearly 2,500 mph — three times the speed of sound — to a point about 68 miles above the planet, Guinness officials said. Once in space, passengers will have a view of the blackness of space and unbroken vistas of the Earth for 1,000 miles in every direction before re-entering the atmosphere and gliding back to its home port, they added.

he beer company announced the new contest on Wednesday to commemorate founder Arthur Guinness's signing of the 9,000-year lease on the St. James's Gate brewery in Dublin, Ireland. Some 250 events are planned in participating countries around the world. They are open to adults of legal drinking age in their respective countries.

"Since 1759, Arthur Guinness and the Guinness brand have been behind some remarkable and hugely momentous achievements," Guinness officials said in a statement. "To continue this legacy and as part of the 250 celebrations, Guinness is giving something back to Guinness supporters around the world by offering the chance to win one of these three remarkable Guinness experiences."

The two other prizes include an undersea trip to a Guinness bar 229 feet below the ocean's surface near the Lofoten Islands in Norway, as well as a private live studio performance by the band The Black Eye Peas.

Virgin Galactic's carrier ships and spacecraft are being built by the California-based company Scaled Composites. The new vehicles build on the firm's SpaceShipOne and WhiteKnight vehicles that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.

For more information on the Guinness online contest visit:

© 2009