Backtalk - 2/21/08

Feb. 21, 2008
Help wanted: Astronaut
NASA is accepting applications for next year’s Astronaut Candidate Class. Those selected could spend long-duration stays on the International Space Station or be sent on missions to the moon.

To be considered you need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, science, or math, and three years of relevant professional experience. Typically, successful applicants have significant qualifications in engineering or science, or extensive experience flying high-performance jets.

Teaching experience, including work at the K-12 level, is considered qualifying. Educators with the appropriate educational background are encouraged to apply.

After a six-month period of evaluation and interviews, NASA will announce final selections early next year. Astronaut candidates will report to Johnson Space Center in the summer of 2009 to begin the basic training and prepare for future spaceflight assignments. NASA is accepting applications through July 1, 2008. To apply visit:

Space Beatles

Feb. 4, 2008, 7:00 p.m. EST — Three, two, one, Blastoff. Forty years to the day that the Beatles recorded “Across the Universe,” NASA beamed the song towards the North Star, Polaris, which is 431 light years away.

The transmission, over NASA’s Deep Space Network, commemorates the 50th anniversary of NASA’s founding; the launch 50 years ago this week of Explorer 1 — the first U.S. satellite; and the 45th anniversary of the debut of the Deep Space Network, an international network of antennas that supports missions to explore the universe.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney expressed excitement that the tune, which was principally written by fellow Beatle John Lennon, was being beamed into the cosmos. Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow, characterized transmitting the song as a significant event.

This isn’t the first time NASA has used Beatles music. In November 2005, McCartney performed the song “Good Day Sunshine” during a concert that was transmitted to the International Space Station. “Here Comes the Sun,” “Ticket to Ride,” and “A Hard Day’s Night” have also been played to wake up astronaut crews in orbit.

Raise your brick to Lego

Children have been playing with Lego bricks for 50 years. The company’s “System of Play” were themed sets. The Lego Town Plan, from 1955, featured Lego founder Ole Kirk Christiansen’s grandson Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen as a boy. He’ll once again grace the cover of the 2008 version, this time as a man. The updated version includes 1950s-era elements like a gas station, car wash, garage, movie theater and, of course, a town hall.

Over the years, the Lego brick has become one of the most recognized toys in the world. Lego’s first sets came out in 1956, two years before the company filed its patent for the now-famous plastic brick, which was officially launched in1958.

Lego will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of its Minifigure — small figures of people included in many Lego sets.

Dj vu?

The recently unveiled WhiteKnight- Two carrier aircraft resembles past catamaran aircraft. Built by Virgin Galact ic and Scaled Composites, the impressive doubl e -hul l ed design is eerily similar to that of one built in the late 1970s by the Russians, the Myasishchev 3M2 ( _ info&cPath=24_53&products_ id=703). The model shows a twin-hulled aircraft, in Aeroflot regalia, with four jet engines and a center wing built to carry Myasishchev 3M2 a space shuttle aloft.

Engineers at JPL's Mission Control initiated a signal telling the NASA's Deep Space Network to send the song into space. Image credit: NASA/JPL


The 2008 edition of Lego’s Town Plan. It is Set No. 10184, and it contains 1,981 pieces. Photo: Courtesty of Lego



Artist’s rendering of the WhiteKnightTwo carrying SpaceShipTwo high into the Earth’s atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Virgin Galactic.


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