Words for the wise from the mouth of a fool.
Saturday, February 01, 2003
I've been very impressed with the job Miles O'Brien is doing anchoring coverage on CNN. He's well-informed on the topics at hand, and more importantly he's been the first to quash wanderings from fact, from the "terrorism" mumblings early Saturday morning, to those claiming they saw a plane in the air nearby. Tonight, he's even praised those who avoid speculation altogether (such as Story Musgrave, who declined to answer a couple questions because he lacked the proper technical background.)
However, it does bug me a bit to see that O'Brien's CNN bio has already been updated to mention the coverage as a career highlight. The rest of the information in the paragraph is useful--indeed, remembering him from his Mars coverage a couple years ago (turns out it was in 1999) I went to the page to find out more about his background covering space stories. But opening with the Columbia disaster as if it's a past event already...
O'Brien is likely innocent as he's been too busy onscreen, but tsk-tsk in the direction of whatever CNN webhead is getting a bit ahead of what seems appropriate.
The disaster rules above the fold on the front page of the online New York Times, with their lead story as the banner headline. You have to go down to the tiny "In Other News" section in the bottom corner before you see anything related to the war. Hopefully the world will follow suit and allow us at least a day to grieve.
More debris stories from the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel: Despite all the warnings about the health risk posed by the debris and the threat of fines and imprisonment, idiots abound; Nacogdoches citizens gather together around the debris shown on CNN; the Sentinel's debris photos.
Also, a woman's car gets hit while she drives down the road. The new draft of my auto insurance policy just showed up in the mail. While I'm not covered for damage "due to the discharge of a nuclear weapon (even if accidental)", I don't see any exclusion for parts raining from space. I fully expect it will be in there next year.
"With this having happened, and now down to three vehicles," (Harrison) Schmitt continued, "I suspect it will add new impetus to this Orbital Space Plane effort. More than likely it'll change the direction somewhat…so it becomes not just a rescue vehicle but also a vehicle for access."
Space.com has an article up on the inevitable policy wrangling in the near future. They also have a piece on the investigation teams that are forming.
Lest you forget, among the tragedy, the wonders that await us in space, here's yesterday's Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Poynteronline has compiled a set of links for journalists working on the story.
World leaders are sending their condolences to the U.S.
Newsweek and MSNBC interview the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, John Logsdon.
The National Review Online has a touching entry on the disaster from a child's perspective. They also provide a link to the story of "Moon Landscape"--the drawing borne in a Holocaust-era dream of a different world that was destroyed on its way home.
Rounding up some of the new links from Instapundit:
* "The world will keep turning and the sky will stay firmly in place." A hopeful look forward from Samizdata.
* The speech that should have been on Happyfunpundit.
* Baseball Musings takes a moment away from baseball to write about the disaster as a friend of mission specialist Dave Brown.
* On his MSNBC blog, Glenn Reynolds provides his own commentary while drawing on sources across the blogosphere: "As we reevaluate our position in space, we should put more emphasis on the pioneering aspects of space exploration, and put an end to NASA’s bureaucratic “rice bowl” mentality. The American West was settled by pioneers, not bureaucrats. We’ll bury our dead. But then we must move on."
The flow of new information is definitely slowing; Larry King is interviewing a CNN anchor. (UPDATE: and a Texas witness whose story has been getting more polished over the course of the day as he repeats it to various CNN anchors. But he's still willing to follow leading questions from King like "It looked like it was much lower than 200,000 feet?" and "It appeared to be going faster than normal?")
Dan Hon provides a transcript of the tech briefing from earlier today.
Angela Gunn's Speed City Velocitors have issued a statement.
I've seen phone numbers and email addresses announced on television for getting relevant information to NASA, but it looks like they've also established an anonymous FTP conduit.
William Gibson has posted a short but beautiful entry on his blog, "Columbia Sadness".
If you haven't seen it, Spaceflightnow.com has posted raw video and audio of the last minutes of the flight.
Matt Haughley's wholelottanothing has gone black, with the header "A Sad Day for Science".
Going back to standard-format blogging now, with newest links appearing at the top, here are some new links and updates:
ABC News is reporting that crew remains have been found. The same story reports that there are people in the hospital for ignoring the authorities and handling debris.
MeFi user bwg points to parts of the Challenger report, in particular Richard Feynman's appendix.
The no-fly zone has been expanded to a 40-mile wide, 160 miles long area stretching from east Texas into Louisiana.
A story regarding the left wing area malfunctions has been posted on Spaceflightnow.com (whose quick-look mission fact sheet provides some good basic data.
Well, the coverage below was at the end of a thirty-six hour work and writing marathon. Hopefully my exhaustion didn't show. I just paused for a few hours to catch some sleep, during which this has become a Real Story with graphics packages and theme music and everything. Now I'm going to go get some food and be with some friends for a little while. Thanks to everyone who has come by--later tonight I'll post a summary of still-working links along with whatever new information comes along.
STS-107 DISASTER, Part III
(for Part I, 8:42 AM - 12:04 PM CST, click here to jump down)
(For Part II, 12:10 - 2:20 PM CST, click here to jump down)
(2:32 PM CST)
The second NASA press conference is underway. Though they say it's still much too early to come to any conclusions, some of the early indicators they're looking at are a series of events where the temperature sensors in the left wing were the first to go.That was followed by loss of tire pressure measurements from the left main landing gear and structural sensors. Manufacture of STS components has been put into "slowdown" mode until the investigating team decides how to proceed, and future flights are currently on hold (the March mission--where ISS crew rotation was supposed to occur--is almost assuredly scrubbed, as they say the crew on the space station "may not see us until June".)
Time enters the informed speculation business.
Eyewitness reports from debris sites are hitting the web. Metafilter user Yangwar says:
"I live in Nacogdoches, TX where some of the wreckage has been found. My fiancee and I went out and took pictures of some of it. We saw about 4 different pieces but we saw bystanders looking at many, many more throughout town. The largest intact piece was about 4 feet by 3 feet or so. There's a fair amount of white powder near the impact sites. An interesting point is none of the pieces seemed to be very heat damaged; I thought they would be. e.g. There were two metal tubes connected by a bolt that landed in somebody's back yard. The metal didn't appear to have melted and the grass around the metal wasn't burned or anything. I always thought that metal falling from 200K feet up would be pretty damn hot upon impact. I'll see if I can get some pictures hosted soon." In a later post, he provides a link to his pictures.
Via Calpundit, the Christian Science Monitor take a look at the potential international impact of the disaster.
Steve Miller captured the NOAA radar loop and made it into a QuickTime movie.
David Brown has posted pictures of the Astronaut Memorial at KSC. It's about to get more crowded. (via boingboing)
STS-107 DISASTER, Part II
(for Part I, 8:42 AM - 12:04 PM CST, click here to jump down)
(12:10 PM CST)
CNN reports that Fort Hood has launched a task force (currently four helicopters and rising) to help local authorities in a 24-hour "search and rescue" (read: find debris) operation. Given the scope of the area (judging by eyewitness reports and the NOAA radar evidence), it's going to be an big task.
(12:18 PM CST)
Press conference is underway. Early upshot is that after the loss of communications, there was little they could do but make sure they locked down and hung on to as much data as possible. CNN is 'kind' enough to be showing the explosion over and over on the majority of the screen, pushing NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe to one side.
No indications that anything from the ground had anything to do with the accident; investigation team is scrambling together from across the Johnson/Marshall/Kennedy Space Belt and will be headed by someone "external to the federal agencies". A touching personal statement by O'Keefe ("It started out as a pretty happy morning..."), and then he hands things over to three-time Shuttle pilot and now Human Space Flight Admin Bill Readdy (by the way--CNN is now showing the CBS scorch site footage, CBS bug and all). Readdy handles the procedural details for a bit before giving his own statement, also touching, and wrapping up with "My promise to the crew and the crew families is that the investigation we've just lauched will find the problem, fix it, and we'll move on." No questions until 3 PM EST.
They just replayed the footage from Mission Control this morning at the time of the accident. The controllers were talking with the crew about the tire pressure on the shuttle and then....nothing. Heartbreaking.
If you were wondering about the three crew on the space station, you may not know that at one point the crew was actually supposed to be not three but seven. Here's a story on Sean O'Keefe's first visit to Capitol Hill a year ago when that decision was discussed.
The Times of India is now reporting the disaster, centering on Kalpana Chawla.
A Metafilter user who works at an NBC affiliate reports "NBC (is) saying that all local syndication and sports specials have been cancelled for the entire day -- save for a "local early news" -- so that they can report. Just fyi in case you were hoping to catch x-games related stuff." (I mention it not because I thought you'd rather be hearing about the XGames--maybe you would, but to be honest, I don't care--but just because it's always interesting to me to hear how people handle crisis situations behind the scenes.)
Flight restrictions have been announced in a 60-mile radius around Fort Polk, Louisiana, with no planes allowed under 3000 feet. Strange that it would be centered on a military base, but accidents are capricious, I suppose.
The President will speak to the nation in a few minutes.
The STS-107 thread on Space.com shows a snapshot of the online community observing the accident in progress.
"Our journey into space will go on." I'll keep an eye out for an online transcript of the President's speech. (UPDATE: here it is.)
For raw bulk of news, here's the Google News thread on the disaster.
On Electrolite, Fort Worth
* Thanks to Patrick for correcting my imprecision.
Worst headline I've seen yet comes from the Pakistan News Service.
Saltire has a summary page up that provides a pair of highly-informed possible scenarios on what might have happened.
Cory Doctorow provides a mirror of a Washington Post story that jumped the gun this morning, reporting a happier altternate world where the Shuttle landed safely.
Link-gathering is also occuring on Scott Adams' blog and on Scripting News.
Well, bloggers and online bloviators have been waiting for this story, so some journalist at Reuters went and dug it up: "Iraqis Call Shuttle Disaster God's Vengeance".
There may not have been a hole in the side of that apartment building, but there's definitely a hole in the roof of a dentist's office in Nacogdoches--and that's not all:
"It's all over Nacogdoches," said James Milford, owner of a barber shop in downtown. "There are several little pieces, some parts of machinery ... there's been a lot of pieces about 3 feet wide."
The text of the President's address is now online.
The shuttle has exploded over Texas.
Damn damn damn damn damn.
(8:52 AM CST)
NASA TV is silent for the most part, and getting choppier as it gets hammered by more and more users. Impact zone of debris is now being reported as centered on Palestine, Texas.
CNN is reporting that debris was seen breaking loose of the Shuttle on liftoff, possibly striking the left wing. Reporters had asked NASA techs about it earlier in the week, and their thinking was that it had been nothing critical. (UPDATE: It was foam insulation, according to this story.)
Planned landing was at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image of planned landing track from mission website that shows how it goes over what are now being called "impact zones".
Texas citizens are being told to stay away from "potentially toxic" (due to propellant saturation) debris. Eyewitnesses calling in to CNN are promptly ignoring this advice, one man saying he's "going out" to find whatever it is that smells like burned rubber nearby. (I note that CNN has made no attempt to stop him.)
CNN is into the 'recap the story so far stage' for a while. Bloggers are likely doing the same thing journalists are, poking into the corners and edges of the story. The MeFi comment thread notes (likely correctly) that a no-fly zone has probably been established around the region, so we won't see any aerial photography for quite a while. Maybe by late afternoon. (UPDATE: Already seeing some aerial photography of debris at 11:17 AM.)
Also, courtesy of MeFi user dhartung, a good summary of the situation vis a vis the ISS Expedition 6 crew:
"karl, the Station is currently manned by one Russian astronaut (Budarin) and two Americans (Pettit and Bowersox). They are scheduled to remain on board through March 1, when the Atlantis was to bring up the expedition 7 crew and an MPLM logistics module, as well as consumables such as fresh water and food; it is unlikely they will remain even that long, now, even if their supplies would have lasted. Because of NASA's concern for safety margins, they may be ordered home almost immediately, using the Soyuz crew return vehicle. The Soyuz was due to be swapped out in late April (they have a six-month on-orbit lifetime).
The ISS had just begun construction of the main truss, which will hold the major solar arrays and cooling systems, and its completion -- with as many as four flights by the end of year -- would have been the major task of 2003."
Via ICQ, Bezzy asked about China's space program. Here's a BBC story on their plans.
Debris now reported on the ground in Nacogdoches.
(I don't know if anyone in the world is using my page as their portal to the story, but blogging seems to be helping me deal with the shock. Thanks to Scott and Kasab for calling to alert me to the story. I hope those whom I called to pass the news along weren't upset at the early morning call. To paraphrase Callahan, "Shared joy is increased, shared pain is diminished.")
Press conference has been announced for 35 minutes from now. NASA has already lowered the flags at the countdown clocks in Florida and Texas to half-staff.
The President has left Camp David to return to the White House and plans to address the nation at some point later today.
The local connection to the story: Mission Specialist 4 Laurel Clark is from Racine and was a UW-Madison grad (BS Zoology '83). Several UW-Madison agriculture experiments were also on board.
CNN is showing footage from another of their affiliates--KOAT in New Mexico--tracking the Shuttle's reentry. Nothing immediately interesting in the footage, certainly not as dramatic as the Texas video.
CNN is showing photos emailed in by viewers of debris on the ground (and, in a quick shot, what looked like a hole punched in the side of an apartment building) in Nacogdoches.
[UPDATE: I suspect the hole was a figment of my imagination; they've shown plenty of footage of that particular debris now, and there's no hole.]
For future media historians, I would like to note that CNBC is still showing paid programming. Apparently everyone in their news department is sleeping in this morning. ABC, NBC, and CBS are covering the story...which makes me concerned for all the kids watching the shuttle explode over and over instead of their Saturday morning cartoons.
The good news is that everyone seems to be treating the story calmly. All "terrorist" rumors have been quickly quashed, and the coverage has moved beyond yokel call-in eyewitnesses (sadly, Howard Stern fans have apparently been spamming Dan Rather over on CBS) to experts. I'm glad the press conference is coming up soon. More info will be good--though they're keeping it under rein, you can feel everyone wanting to speculate.
A good collection of interviews with the crew, and a good summary sentiment by MeFi user madamjujujive.
Impact is showing up on Texas radar (see the red-orange blob on the far right, not the ground clutter of DFW.)
UPDATE: Another NOAA radar image that shows the debris trail better. It appears that it may stretch into Louisiana.
Mefi user Calwatch provides a link to a summary (in map form) of Texas eyewitness reports.
For those online, I highly recommend the Metafilter thread. It's about one step ahead of television in terms of providing breadth and synthesis on the story.
I was doing pretty well until I read a Heinlein quote that means a lot to me on Metafilter:
We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
— Robert A. Heinlein, The Green Hills of Earth
I'm going to get away from the computer for a while.
***holes have already started to post related eBay auctions. B*stards. (UPDATE, 11:30: User on the SA Forums reports that the auction has been shut down already. Good for eBay.)
Footage from Louisiana now on CNN shows the explosion head-on, with the debris spreading in many directions.
A lot of debris eyewitnessing going on. CBS is showing pictures of a still-smoking impact zone (for scale, just below my red dot is a human walking the edge of the scorched area) near Fort Worth.
Everyone online is noting that Prontix Integration is a bunch of opportunist jerks for quickly registering columbiadisaster.com. Surprisingly, even the contact phone numbers appear legit.
The mission web page now has a statement from NASA:
A Space Shuttle contingency has been declared in Mission Control, Houston, as a result of the loss of communication with the Space Shuttle Columbia at approximately 9 a.m. EST Saturday as it descended toward a landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. It was scheduled to touchdown at 9:16 a.m. EST.
Communication and tracking of the shuttle was lost at 9 a.m. EST at an altitude of about 203,000 feet in the area above north central Texas. At the time communications were lost. The shuttle was traveling approximately 12,500 miles per hour (Mach 18). No communication and tracking information were received in Mission Control after that time.
Search and rescue teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth and in portions of East Texas have been alerted. Any debris that is located in the area that may be related to the Space Shuttle contingency should be avoided and may be hazardous as a result of toxic propellants used aboard the shuttle. The location of any possible debris should immediately be reported to local authorities.
Flight controllers in Mission Control have secured all information, notes and data pertinent to today's entry and landing by Space Shuttle Columbia and continue to methodically proceed through contingency plans.
More information will be released as it becomes available.
ABC's White House reporter is reporting that the flag atop the White House was lowered "on the President's order".
More good posts on the topic around the web while we wait for the press conference: a good collection of information in the related Instapundit post (including Glenn Reynolds' concise (and please, let it be clear) explanation of why it was not a terrorist attack); good comment threads (as usual) on Electrolite and Making Light, as usual; Spaceflight Now is coming up to speed and passes on the news that "Kennedy Space Center workers have been told that all work has been cancelled for this weekend. Only essential personnel should report for their duties."
Following Reynolds' good example, I'm closing out this post as of 12:05 PM CST. Further updates will be made above.
Zusty and JP pointed me towards the fiendishly cool LEGO game Junkbot. Don't start playing until you have nothing else on your schedule for a while.
Friday, January 31, 2003
Knowing that I'm a sucker for news on literary figures who share our alma mater, the Great Minzini passes along a link to the obit of Leslie Fiedler. As when I first discovered Heinlein and Feynman, I'm sad to be rediscovering Fiedler only after his death -- I remember hearing about him in school, but he's always been in my mental "get around to that someday" file. I suppose I might as well get started: a quick search reveals that there's a lot of Fiedler's work out there to read (and perhaps even more, if you count those he influenced), and I look forward to receiving my just-ordered copy of The Fiedler Reader and digging into it. I'm also glad to see that there's a biography of Fiedler, if only because I'd love to read more about his days as a cryptologist (yes, I'm a sucker for WWII cryptology too...)
Joshua Elder suggests that perhaps Superman should kill once in a while. I'm not sure I'm convinced (at all, really), but it's interesting to hear him argue the case.
A journey into cooking fandom as a $175, seven-pound cookbook from a small Spanish restaurant becomes all the rage among L.A. restraunteurs. (via Bookslut; first link is from the LA Times and required free registration.)
Another interesting Slate piece, this time on "why grown-ups shouldn't spend money on video games". If that link doesn't spark an interesting comments thread, I don't know what will.
I admit to being a bit suckered in by the trailer, but reviews like this Slate review (and Ebert's so-so review) might convince me to wait for The Recruit to hit the cheap theaters:
"There's something obscene about the way, on the eve of war, The Recruit exploits our urgent curiosity about the modern art of intelligence gathering, then high-tails it to Stupidville"
"A place where the lonely, the desperate, the horny, the crazy, the bored, and probably a few murderers, can shoot from the id and the rest of us voyeurs can feel superior and prudish while simultaneously losing our faith in the inherent goodness of the human soul."
Now I can rest easy knowing that somebody is reading Craig's List so that I don't have to (yet I still get to hear about the best or (and?) weirdest parts...)
Thursday, January 30, 2003
An entry on Gawker today provides a rebuttal via links to yesterday's slam on the New Yorker in the Morning News.
Via Lore, the link to a Billy and the Boingers fan site. Who are Billy and the Boingers, you say? If you forget them, then who will fight for our right to say "Snugglebunnies" in a blog?
James Lileks has added a new section on Big Little Books to the Institute of Official Cheer. Check it out.
Wednesday, January 29, 2003
I remember watching the classic educational film "Powers of Ten" over and over at the Science Museum of Minnesota as a kid, and down at the Museum of Science and Industry last week just a few seconds reminded me once again how much I loved it. So I was thrilled to see boingboing provide a link to a Java-powered expansion of the same idea, taking us from 10^23 meters to 10^ -16. Neat stuff.
My Cowboy Bebop soundtrack box showed up in the mail today, and listening to the Seatbelts got me wondering what the team behind the show might be up to now. Turns out they're at work on a new show called Wolf's Rain. Maybe Glenn call tell us more what it might be about (beyond this short piece of near-Engrish.) All I can do is look at the concept art and let my expectations build...
From Wired News, an interesting interview with the Pentagon's "futurist-in-chief".
From "Among the Unsavvy", a great piece in today's Morning News by John Warner:
Q: Have you ever rescued anything notable from the slush pile?
A: Someone who’s submitting themselves directly to the fiction editor probably isn’t all that savvy about publishing and probably not about writing either. Though I’m sure there are exceptions to that. Particularly in poetry. A lot of poetry comes from the slush pile, because poets don’t have agents.
Despite the kernel of sad truth in that statement (though I agree with Warner that the "probably not about writing either" bit goes a little too far), I find myself firmly in Warner's camp. I hope that the New Yorker takes him up on his challenge -- I'd watch "Great American Writer" three times before I'd watch "American Idol" once.
An interview by National Geographic with Robert Young Pelton about his recent kidnapping experience. You know, I'm glad I'm not the kind of guy that has to clarify "kidnapping experience" with "recent". (via boingboing)
Via the Towlebooth, the news that the Hatfield-McCoy feud has once again reared its ugly head.
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Rather than add to the storm of State of the Union commentary sweeping the web (and actually making it difficult to log on to Blogger right now), I'm going to toss out a collection of random links I've been meaning to tell you about during the last week:
Sometimes, when I hear other people recount their dreams, I wish I remembered more of mine. Other times, not so much.
Next time you find a "funny" Flash based on a skit by the DJs of the Wacky Morning Zoo, how about passing this one on to your friends instead: "What the Hell is the Fibonacci Series?" (via Incoming Signals, as is a link to the big names of music, circa 1971, pictured with their parents.)
Via Boing Boing and Slate, Wired e-i-c Chris Anderson's excellent columns from the halls of Davos, the annual meeting of some of the world's power elite. I read a brief snippet over the weekend about Colin Powell attending, but it was nice to find something that put that in a broader context.
Also, Anderson's last piece turned me on to the blog of Joi Ito, which looks to be a great portal to new-generation Japanese perspectives on industry and technology.
Monday, January 27, 2003
Here's a paper not posted by the Newseum: the Antarctic Sun, online newspaper of McMurdo Station.
Via Electrolite and DefenseTech, the real computer security story of the weekend--how you too can have your very own .mil domain name.
Just because I enjoy playing Uplink doesn't mean I think I have the technical chops to go out and become a l33t haX0r. But if it's really that easy, no wonder AOL script kiddies and non-techsperts can wreck such havoc...
Uplink is coming to the U.S., courtesy of Strategy First. I've been enjoying my hand-shipped (and hand-produced, I suspect) copy for months, but I couldn't be more thrilled that a great game will have a chance at a wider audience.
In related news that should excite a few particular OD readers: Contraband Entertainment is almost done with the port, so Ambrosia Software will also be releasing it (soon!) for the Mac.
A potentially substantiated rumor says that the first season of Alias will be coming out on DVD in September.
So there's a new blog out there, and rather than have a dozen people email me to tell me of its existence, I'm going to provide a link for the curious in the (non-spidered) comments thread of this post. Because he'll have no trouble topping out Blogdex and Daypop without me, I'm sure.
(A postscript: while checking my possibly sleep addled spelling of 'existence' (it was fine), I found it interesting that Blogger's built-in spell checker doesn't know the word 'blog'.)
Sunday, January 26, 2003
JP has written a terrific tutorial for those folks who have the affordable yet sometimes difficult to use (for video capture, at least) ATI TV Wonder card.
Random art from OD