(I meant to post this yesterday but ran out of oomph. Er, maybe it's still Thursday somewhere?)

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I realise this is not the most exciting photo in the world, but my Fun Space History Fact of the Day for Throwback Thursday is that the Cassini spacecraft distributed operations computers OS of choice is...Solaris. Note the countdown clock in the upper right corner of the screen. Only two weeks left.

Side note: I love those weird eye-bendy default backgrounds in Solaris. They remind me that my first experience learning to use *nix properly was on the Sun Sparc 5 workstations in the Von Karman library basement at the University of Southern California.

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Yesterday, we celebrated the retirement of one of my lab colleagues (second from right). He spent 52 years working as a technician in our lab. Power supplies he built for dozens of space missions are scattered throughout the solar system. He is a (largely) unsung hero of space history, Hauksbee Award notwithstanding. Trevor Beek, I salute you. I hope you enjoy many years in contemplation of a job well done.
It is now just over three weeks until Cassini plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere and the mission (but not the Project) comes to an end. I grow a little sentimental.

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This is the flight spare of Cassini’s fluxgate magnetometer sensor, which will live on. We use it for command simulations on the ground.

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This is a 1:25 scale model of the Cassini spacecraft, with the Huygens probe attached to its side. It includes the magnetometer boom, which is hidden in this view. These were distributed to the payload teams. It's been in our group longer than I have (>11 years).

I recently ordered a big perspex display box for the model, so we can have it on show at the upcoming Imperial Fringe festival, post-mission-end. I’ll be giving a talk at the Farewell to Cassini exhibit. Details to follow (on the Londoners filter) when they’re confirmed and the web site for event registration is live.

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This is a screenshot of NASA Eyes on the DSN that I took on 4 August. DSS-14 at Goldstone (the antenna in white on the left) is receiving data from Voyager 1 (spacecraft shown on the right). I accompanied this with “We’re still listening” on [instagram.com profile] magnetometrist on Instagram.

NASA has a poll, open until Tuesday 29 August, to choose a 60-character-or-less #MessagetoVoyager, to be sent on 5 September. If you want to vote on a message, go here.
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[Image of a Cassini spacecraft model inside a black gimbal structure comprised of three concentric rings, mounted on a plexiglass stand and sitting on the corner of a desk.]

Now that I'm back at work, I present another of my Rare Objects from Space History for #tbt. This is a model of the Cassini spacecraft, mounted in the centre of what I can only think to describe as a gimbal. The high gain antenna is pointed toward the bottom of the photo. The model was distributed to instrument teams to aid them with pointing design. It can be rotated around three axes within the gimbal. Each circle of rotation is marked in degrees, so that from a set of numbers indicating its orientation (eg "RA & dec"), an instrument engineer can work out which way the spacecraft is pointing.

I have no idea when it was originally given to our team but it predates me joining the Cassini project (ca 2006).
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[Image of a fluxgate magnetometer in its housing with its frayed MLI-coated cable curled round it. The destroyed connectors can be seen. The whole assembly is sitting on top of an antistatic envelope. The sensor housing reads: "CLUSTER-FGM SENSOR 08 FM1", where FM means "flight model".]

I gave an outreach talk at an open day this morning, to about a hundred A-level students, their parents and their teachers. The talk was focused on the Cassini end-of-mission science, but I managed to sneak in this bit of space history when explaining what a magnetometer does.

The fluxgate in the photo above actually went into space for a few brief seconds. It got about 5 km up before it was unceremoniously returned to the Earth. The Ariane 5 rocket that launched the spacecraft whose payload it was part of had exploded, showering the swamps of French Guiana with wreckage.

This sensor sat in that swamp for a good few weeks before a French Foreign Legionnaire fished it out.

I'm afraid that being blown up and mouldering in a tropical pond was, in fact, enough to kill it, but it's still a pretty cool object, and the students seemed to like seeing it very much.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Jan. 26th, 2017 08:51 pm)
Dad & Mom at Waimea Canyon, Kauai
This is a scanned photo of my mom and dad with their arms around one another at Waimea Canyon in Kauai, Hawai'i. I love this photo partly because they both look happy, and partly because this is how they always appear in my mind. I know they have white hair and stooped shoulders now, but my brain fails to see that unless they're right in front of me, which doesn't happen very often since they live so far away.
Hanalei Valley, Kauai
This is me, my mum and my grandma at Hanalei Valley in Kauai, Hawai'i, USA. I believe we have stopped at a Point of View along the road into the valley. Items of special interest in this photo: my mum's glasses, my grandma's flowery dress and my yellow bonnet.
Me & Gram at Kalalau Lookout, Na Pali, Kauai
This is a scanned snapshot of me, aged about one, in my grandmother’s arms. We are at Kalalau Lookout in the Na Pali Coast State Park on Kauai in Hawai’i. When I was very small, my parents had a condo on Kauai and we went there for our holidays (from Honolulu). It was wonderful. I have vivid memories of the hike down the cliffs to the fine white sand of the deserted beach below the condo, and of playing for hours in the crystal clear water. My parents always found this surprising as I was, at the time they sold it, only about four years old.
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In the second installment of Weird Metal Contraptions I Was Placed In As A Baby, I give you my baby bouncer. At least this one features floral print fabrics instead of black leather like my high chair. The bouncer was modified by my grandfather (also pictured) so that he could bounce me with minimal effort. We’re on the lanai (porch) in my grandparents’ house in Honolulu, here.
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Above, my (only white) cousin, aka Big Keiki, aged about five, spoon-feeds me, aged a few months, in the weird black leather and metal contraption that functioned as my high chair. The chair looks as though it were designed for more sinister or deviant purposes. It was the 70's in Hawai'i, so who knows. Anyway, I like how his mouth is wide open and mine is not.
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For Throwback Thursday, here's a scanned photo of me flopped out on my maternal grandmother, who is bottle-feeding me. I think I'm only a few months old here. She was like a second mother to me when I was growing up, until she began to suffer from dementia when I was a teenager. I don't have a lot of photos of her, as she was not fond of having lenses pointed in her direction, so I treasure all the snaps I have of her.
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