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The Shuttle Shokunin, and Kennedy Space Center's 50th anniversary


Discovery launch. Source: NASA.

This past weekend, I accompanied Miles O'Brien to the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Space Center. In attendance were present and past KSC directors, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, astronauts and space heroes of all eras—from Thomas Stafford to Cady Coleman—and many of the so-called "pad rats" who built spacecraft from the Apollo era through the Shuttle era. Miles delivered an amazing speech dedicated to those pad rats.

If you're familiar with traditional Japanese craftsmanship culture or you've seen the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you'll know why he calls them "The Shuttle Shokunin."

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Mission to Mars: Anticipating NASA rover 'Curiosity' touchdown

[Video Link] This Sunday night (and through the wee hours of Monday morning), engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA will attempt to land the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars. If the daring and complex landing plan goes right, Curiosity will enter the red planet's atmosphere, slow its descent by releasing a parachute, then lower itself to the surface on a tether with the help of a 'sky crane.' In this report for the PBS NewsHour, space journalist Miles O'Brien previews the highly anticipated space event. Read the full transcript here, and view video or download MP3 audio here.

Here's our roundup of ways to tune in and watch Curiosity make history. Things get hot and heavy starting around Sunday 830pm PT.

Breaking Bad Season 5: Xeni air-drops into the best viewing party in the world, in ABQ (video)

[Video Link: Our episode recap and review, with a room full of ABQ locals.]

My aviator boyfriend Miles O'Brien and I are flying in his plane from California to the east coast this week, before I start 6 weeks of radiation treatment for breast cancer. When you fly in a single-engine plane like his, you have to stop every 4 hours or so for fuel. When we woke up Sunday, the day the first episode of the new season of AMC's BREAKING BAD would air, we thought: hey, why not plan today's stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the show is based? And why not try to find some fellow fans, and invite ourselves into a ABQ BrBa premiere viewing party tonight?

So we did. I put out the call on Twitter, and hours later, a fellow fan in ABQ named Shanna Schultz tweeted back, come on over.

"Booze-wise we're making an asston of blue jungle juice in honor of the blue meth," Shanna said, "plus we'll be grilling."

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Alan Alda attacks science jargon in "Flame Challenge," a science communications contest for young people (video)

In this PBS NewsHour segment, science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports on a contest launched by actor and author Alan Alda that challenges scientists to explain the science behind a flame, while flexing their communication muscles. The judges are thousands of 11-year-olds.

Below, the winning video entry: "What is a Flame," by Ben Ames, a quantum physicist working on his doctorate at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. I loved it, but more importantly, so did the kids.

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SpaceX readies for launch this Saturday, May 19, 2012

If all goes according to plan, tomorrow, Saturday, May 19th, SpaceX will become the first commercial space flight company in history to head for the International Space Station. You can watch online, live, at SpaceX.com starting at 1:15 AM Pacific / 4:15 AM Eastern / 08:15 UTC. You can also follow SpaceX founder and CEO @elonmusk on Twitter. He'll live-tweet from mission control during launch.

Veteran space journalist Miles O'Brien covered the story in a recent PBS NewsHour segment.

And below, Miles and NewsHour host Hari Sreenivasan talk about the details of the mission, the engineering challenges and the other spaceflight companies vying for a chance at delivering cargo and people to low-Earth orbit.

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Will the FAA stop prohibiting electronic devices on commercial flights?

As I noted in a Boing Boing post yesterday, there's news of a possible change ahead for in-flight gadget rules in the US.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently prohibits passengers from using electronic devices on commercial flights when the plane is below 10,000 feet in altitude. But the FAA announced this week that after widespread demands to modify restrictions, there may be new efforts to review whether devices like the iPad or phones in "airplane mode" can be permitted safely during takeoff and landing.

Aviation journalist and pilot Miles O'Brien, who uses his iPad for navigation while flying his own plane, joined KPCC's Patt Morrison show today to discuss the news. Here's a direct MP3 link to the radio segment. It's a good listen.

Frontline post-Fukushima documentary "Nuclear Aftershocks" airs tonight

[Video Link]

"Nuclear Aftershocks," the PBS Frontline documentary which Maggie described in a Boing Boing review as "brilliant," airs tonight online and on local PBS stations at 10pm. I've seen an advance copy, and I agree that it's excellent—though I'm admittedly biased, since I love everything Miles O'Brien does, and collaborate with him creatively from time to time. A preview of the documentary is above. They have some cool web extras up at the Frontline site, including a map of how much nuclear power each US state relies on.

Safecast draws on power of the crowd to map Japan's radiation

[Video Link: YouTube, PBS.org]

I traveled to Japan with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien to help shoot and produce a series of NewsHour stories about the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters.

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