While my week at NASA didn't end as the agency may have planned, there's no way around it: it was an incredible week.

Bonus: Check out my collection of photos from the trip over on Flickr.

If the first day was about why we do things in space, than the rest of the week was all about the how.

For example, we saw how thermal protection tiles — the tiles that allow vehicles to reenter the atmosphere without burning up — are made:

We also toured the Vehicle Assembly Building, where NASA assembles rockets. This image is from the center of the building, looking up almost 500 feet:

What impressed me more than the facilities, however, were the people getting things done: engineers, designers, project managers, bus drivers, press people and more, all pointed in the same direction.

Very quickly, I noticed something about these people, regardless of if they worked for NASA or a third-party company. They all use the word we when it comes to the work of space.

"Up on ISS, we have about 40 hours worth of experiments to run."
"This is the pad we went to the moon on."
"The SLS is what we will use to go to Mars."

This sense of community and working toward a common goal was noticeable, no matter where I went last week. It's something that I believe sets NASA apart in its work, and one of the factors in its on-going success.

Back to the Future is the most perfect blockbuster ever made

My all-time favorite movie turns 30 years old this weekend, and Vox's Todd VanDerWerff's takes a look at what makes it so special:

Back to the Future works because, in the end, its stakes are so very small. Beneath all the jokes and the moments where a mother unknowingly flirts with her son and the time travel and the action-packed countdown sequences, all that remains is a theme so universal that we keep returning to it in story after story after story: can you ever understand your parents? And perhaps even harder: can they ever understand you?

Kbase Article of the Week: About the iPod shuffle Reset Utility

Remember the original iPod shuffle? Turns out, it could get stuck in weird modes, but Apple had a tool to help users in this situation:

The iPod shuffle Reset Utility restores the original iPod shuffle. The restore process completely erases all music and data on iPod shuffle and reinstalls software version 1.1.5. This utility is made available for customers using Mac OS 10.2.8.

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SpaceX CRS-7 breaks up post-launch

This morning, I joined the press and other NASASocial members to view the launch of SpaceX’s CRS–7 mission. The launch itself was stunning. We were about 4 miles away, right across the water from the pad.

My video (Forgive the shaky cam; I shot this with one hand with my iPhone as I was taking still photos from a tripod.) doesn’t do the experience of the thing justice.

A couple of minutes away from launch, a silent anticipation fell across the crowd. The voice marched on, marking off the seconds, and then it started.

Because sound travels slower than light, we felt and heard it a moment after we saw the steam and flame. It all felt much slower than I had guessed it would. Once the sound came, it was stunning. The power of thing was impressive, even miles away.

The rocket continued to climb, and was just about out of sight when it broke up. When the “anomaly” was announced, the excitement that had built up was instantly snuffed out. Many of us instantly thought of the programs lost, but were also relieved the flight was unmanned.

That said, today is a reminder that space — even commercial travel — is hard. Up until today, SpaceX’s track record has been perfect, but even the best-engineered systems in the world aren’t immune to failure.

In the coming weeks, I’m sure SpaceX will have more to announce about what happened this morning, and NASA will have news on how to re-supply the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Until then, it’s a rough today for space nerds.

The sky calls to us

Outside of the building where the space shuttle Atlantis is on display at Kennedy Space Center, this quote greets visitors:

I’m spending the rest of the week in Florida as part of the NASA Social program, covering Sunday’s SpaceX CRS–7 launch.

I applied a few weeks ago, while in San Francisco at WWDC, and was excited to learn I had been accepted. I drove down yesterday, and spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, where I saw Atlantis and lots of other bits of NASA history. The actual program kicks off in the morning.

I’ve always felt a connection to the space program. While I was born on a tragic day in space history,[1] I am in no way unique in my interest in all things NASA.

As I was walking around the various exhibits I visited today, I couldn’t help but notice how excited many people were about what we were seeing. There were kids standing on their tiptoes, trying to stretch to be tall enough to see into the visor of the vintage space suits. There were old men who clearly remembered the news coverage being played back for education purposes. People were taking photos, asking questions and genuinely learning.

I wasn’t alone in my nerdiness, and that was a nice feeling.

The glories of the universe are breathtaking on their own, but when coupled with the grit and grind required to climb on top of a live rocket to go explore them, the whole business becomes truly inspiring and heroic.

That’s the crux of it. The space program takes the best qualities found in humankind and couples them with the best technology we can build. That’s exciting, and with a return to the Moon and a manned journey to Mars on the horizon, I no longer have to be jealous of the generation that watched those early astronauts answer the call Carl Sagan identified.

  1. Some of you are feeling really old right now, while others of you can’t believe how old I am. Time is weird.  ↩

Kbase Article of the Week: AppleWorks 6.2.9 for Mac

Version 6.2.9 would end up being the final build of AppleWorks, the company's long-running suite of office applications. Here's what was included in the update:

This update to AppleWorks 6.0 and later supports mice with scroll wheels and improves the performance and reliability of AppleWorks’ presentation and spreadsheet environments. AppleWorks 6.2.9 also offers improved printing and resolves issues using web based templates and clip-art on networks using proxy servers.

Like countless long-time Mac users, I have fond memories of writing in AppleWorks, and to this day, wish I could still run it from time to time.

On Hulu's Seinfeld apartment and Jerry's Macs

Christina Warren:

Hulu recreated nearly every aspect of the Season 8-era Seinfeld apartment with great attention to detail.

Except for one thing. They gave Jerry an old PC.

After Carrie Bradshaw, Jerry Seinfeld might be the most visible Mac user in 1990s television. Over the course of Seinfeld's 9 seasons, Jerry's apartment frequently showed off various models of the Macintosh. Everything from the Mac SE/30 to a PowerBook Duo with Duo Dock, to the 20th Anniversary Macintosh were featured on the show.

In addition to the compact Mac shown in Christina's post, I too remember Jerry having a 20th Anniversary Macintosh as well as a PowerBook Duo.

How to set Logic Pro X's project time and banish that pesky leading hour

If you record or edit in Logic, you may have noticed the fun quirk of the application in which the project time has an hour added to it by default:

This has always annoyed me while working on podcasts, as I don't need the options and power that time synchronization offers. Thankfully, it's easy to tell Logic to remove the leading hour by navigating in the menubar to File → Project Settings → Synchronization.

There, you can change the highlighted field from 01:00:00:00.00 to 00:00:00:00.00.

And boom:

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