Tag Archives: NASA

Six things you may not know about NASA

NASA turned 60 on October 1, 2018 and last weekend the Museum of Flight hosted a talk by the agency’s chief historian, Bill Barry, as part of the anniversary celebration. Since we all know about the Moon landing, the space shuttle program, explorations of the planets, the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, and various NASA research and discoveries, Barry focused his talk on six things you may not know about NASA.

#6: NASA science data saved us from disaster

In a day and age when there’s significant distrust of science, it’s interesting to note NASA’s role in solving a difficult environmental problem. Researchers as early as the late 1950s noticed that there was a depletion of ozone in the atmosphere above the South Pole, but it was difficult to document.

Bill Barry

NASA chief historian Bill Barry gave a talk at the Museum of Flight Oct. 6, 2018 celebrating the 60th anniversary of the creation of the agency. Photo: Greg Scheiderer

Barry explained that NASA used the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) on the Nimbus 7 weather satellite to confirm and map the hole in the ozone.

“It was pretty clear that the ozone hole was big and getting bigger,” Barry said, and that got people’s attention. Scientists postulated that the ozone depletion was caused by chemical reactions with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) such as refrigerants and spray-can propellants, but again it was tough to prove. Observations made from NASA’s ER-2 aircraft and DC-8 Flying Laboratory eventually confirmed that the CFCs were the culprit.

This led to an amazing act of international cooperation on an environmental issue. In the Montreal Protocol in 1987 nations agreed to phase out CFCs and other ozone depleting substances. It’s working; Barry noted that the ozone is gradually recovering.

“Demographers suggest that this action saved us at least two million cases of skin cancer,” since then, he said.

#5: NASA almost didn’t happen

At the dawn of the space age, after Sputnik, the military became keenly interested in spy satellites and possible space weaponry. US Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which later became the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with the aim of collaborating with academic, industry, and government partners on military programs involving space.


Hugh Dryden was director of NACA from 1947 until NASA was formed in 1958. Photo: NASA

In the meantime over at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) director Hugh Latimer Dryden had pushed the committee’s research agenda toward high-speed flight and space research. In January 1958 he wrote a key report suggesting that space efforts be a collaboration between the DOD, NACA, National Academy of Science, research institutions, universities, and industry. That’s pretty close to the ARPA mission, with a civilian bent.

Barry said that within about a month of the issuance of Dryden’s report, President Dwight Eisenhower went along with it, and sent Congress proposed legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. Congress soon approved it.

In the early days of the collaboration there was still arm wrestling over control. A memo from Eisenhower directed that NASA would run all programs “except those peculiar to or primarily associated with military weapons systems or military operations.” The DOD took a broad definition of that—figuring putting people in space was military and so that was within their bailiwick. Eisenhower intervened to clarify that the legislation made NASA a largely civilian organization.

“This key decision on Eisenhower’s part was really important,” Barry said. “NASA in some ways has become the world’s space agency, one of the most positive aspects of US international relations,” and the civilian nature of the agency is vital to that.

#4: NASA is a serial creator of new industries

Barry pics

Barry said smartphone cameras with CMOS chips may be as good or better than DSLR cameras, so we put it to the test. Smartphone pic is on the left. Problems may be due to operator error! Photos: Greg Scheiderer

There’s a common belief that Tang, Teflon, and Velcro were creations of the space program. Barry said those aren’t correct, but a lot of other stuff has NASA origins. Excimer lasers developed for ozone detection proved useful for laser surgery, for example, and the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) chips in your smartphone camera were originally developed to build a better camera for space probes. Oddly, those never flew, but they’ve taken off here on Earth. NASA’s annual Spinoff magazine highlights stuff that originated in the space program.

Beyond those, NASA has spun off entire industries. Weather satellites and communication satellites (now a $2 billion/year industry) came from NASA. Under COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) companies such as SpaceX and Boeing are building crewed vehicles and plan to begin testing next year.

“We hope by the end of next year to be launching US astronauts from Florida again up to the International Space Station and paying American companies to do it for us,” Barry said.

#3: NASA revolutionized the understanding of the universe

One’s first response to that is, “Well, duh!” but Barry said it’s easy to take for granted what has happened over the last 60 years.

“We don’t often think about how much things have changed since 1958 when NASA was created,” he said. Sixty years ago otherwise sane people thought there may be civilizations and canals on Mars and dinosaurs on Venus. They figured the outer solar system was just boring ice. There were nine planets; we now know that virtually every star has at least one. We had no idea the Van Allen Belts existed. Now we have a photo of the cosmic microwave background.

#2: Why did we go to the Moon?

President John F. Kennedy wasn’t actually that big on space; in early speeches after he was sworn in he kept proposing that the US and Soviet Union team up on space projects.

The Soviet Union wasn’t too keen on that. They were using the success of their space program to proclaim the superiority of their system and to recruit allies in a world that had been “decolonized” after World War II. The Soviets were winning the propaganda war. JFK wanted a way to beat them without breaking the bank.

Trailing in the game, Kennedy moved the goalposts and declared the race to the Moon.

“The Soviet Union’s success in space was a major strategic strategic problem for the United States,” Barry explained, “so investing money in going to the Moon was a way to prove that the western, capitalist model of government was, in fact, at least as good as if not better than the Soviets.”

#1: The race to the Moon was closer than you think

JFKJFK made his speech to Congress about setting the goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” in May of 1961, shortly after Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. It wasn’t until years later, with President Lyndon Johnson pushing the goal as Kennedy’s legacy, that the Soviets took notice.

“It’s really obvious by the summer of 1964 that the US was serious about going to the Moon and had the political will and the money to make it happen,” Barry said.

The Soviet response was the Zond program. They wouldn’t orbit the Moon, but would instead fling their spacecraft around it and then return to Earth.

The Soviets made five Zond launches in 1968 had a few successes. Zond 5 in September took some tortoises and other life forms along and landed back on Earth, though in the Indian Ocean rather than on land as intended. Zond 6 made the trip and landed on target in Kazakstan, but its heat shield failed. Tests weren’t going well on the N-1 rocket, the Soviet counterpart to the Saturn V that would be their way of launching people to the Moon. In December 1968 Apollo 8 and three US astronauts orbited the Moon.

“It was pretty clear they weren’t going to get their guys on the surface of the Moon before we did,” Barry said. But the Soviets didn’t give up. They sent up a Hail Mary.

The Soviets had been launching Luna spacecraft since the late 1950s, and in the space of six months they cobbled together a robotic craft that would land on the Moon, collect a few rocks, and bring them to back Earth.

A first launch attempt failed, but Luna 15 blasted off three days before Apollo 11. The Eagle got to the Moon first. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did their Moon walk and were catching a few winks before launching to return to the command module Columbia.

“While they’re sleeping in the lunar module the Soviets fired the retro rockets on Luna 15 and landed on the surface of the Moon. It crashed,” Barry said. But he added that if it had landed successfully, the Soviets may well have been able to get their Moon sample back to Earth first.

“The race to the Moon ends July 20, 1969 after the first Moon walk actually happened,” he marveled. “It was that close.”


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See it happen: Curiosity arrives at Mars Sunday


The Museum of Flight had a full-size model of the Mars Science Lab Curiosity on exhibit back in 2010. The real one is set to land on Mars next Sunday. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

The search for life on Mars will get a lot more serious next Sunday when the Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity” lands on the Red Planet. At least, we hope it’s a successful landing. “The Curiosity landing is the hardest NASA robotic mission ever attempted,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator. “This is risky business.”

At least two public gatherings are planned in Seattle for watching the historic landing attempt. Alice Enevoldsen of Alice’s Astro Info, a NASA Solar System Ambassador, will host a viewing event at The Kenney, 7125 Fauntleroy Way SW in West Seattle, beginning at 10 p.m. August 5.

At the Museum of Flight they’ll celebrate MarsFest 2012 beginning at 6:30 p.m. that evening. Events will include Mars-related family activities and games, Mars exploration and spaceflight engineer speakers, and a live link-up with The Planetary Society’s Planetfest 2012 in Pasadena, starring Bill Nye.

The actual landing is scheduled for about 10:30 p.m. Pacific Time August 5; if you don’t want to be out late that evening you can watch the coverage of the landing on NASA TV. That coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. Pacific.

NASA engineer Kobie Boykins, who worked on the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, gave a talk in Seattle back in May of 2010 about the challenges of making a successful landing on Mars, calling the time of radio silence between safe landing, or crash, “six minutes of terror.” NASA has pushed that up to seven minutes for Curiosity, which is a much more challenging landing because the rover is much bigger, and cannot land with the inflatable bouncing balls used with the previous smaller rovers.

If you’re not up to speed on the Curiosity mission, the video of the NASA news conference below, published July 16, includes a lot of information about the mission and landing day.

ShuttleFest to celebrate arrival of crew section of shuttle trainer

Can that thing really fly? The NASA "Super Guppy" cargo plane will deliver the crew cabin of the space shuttle full fuselage trainer to the Museum of Flight in Seattle June 30, and will remain on display at the museum over the weekend. Photo: NASA.

The Museum of Flight is throwing a week-long shindig to celebrate the delivery of the main attraction of its new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. The 28-foot-long crew cabin section of the space shuttle full-fuselage trainer, the museum’s take from the end of the shuttle program, will be delivered June 30 aboard NASA’s “Super Guppy” cargo plane.

The Super Guppy will be piloted by astronaut and West Seattle native Greg Johnson, who will bring it in over Lake Washington and the Seattle Center before landing at Boeing Field at about 11 a.m. June 30. The plane and its cargo will be welcomed at a special ceremony by museum brass, local politicos, former astronauts, the Sounders band, and TV personality Steve Pool, who will be the Master of Cermonies for the event.

The Super Guppy will remain at the museum for the weekend, open for tours on Sunday, July 1, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Johnson will give a talk about the astronaut biz that day at 2 p.m.

The space shuttle crew cabin is being separated from the fuselage at NASA Johnson Space Center before its delivery to The Museum of Flight. Photo: NASA.

ShuttleFest will include three book signings during the following week. Ted Huetter, public relations manager at the Museum of Flight, will autograph copies of his book, Edwards Air Force Base (Images of Aviation), July 2. Huetter was an aviation writer at the base during the 1990s. Sam Howe Verhovek will sign copies of his book Jet Age: The Comet, the 707, and the Race to Shrink the World July 3. Dr. Dean Hunter, author of For Love of Life and Country, will autograph his book July 6. All of the book signings will run from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the museum. Books are available at the museum store, or through the links above.

The week’s festivities conclude with a Boogie Woogie Hangar Dance at the museum Saturday, July 7 from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. The dance will feature the legendary Harry James Orchestra with the incomparable horn of Fred Radke and the captivating vocals of Gina Funes. Tickets are $25 for museum members, $30 for general public, and are available online.

Engineers become dreamers at NASA Future Forum

With a panel of aerospace engineers set to discuss commercial space investments and their benefit to the nation at the NASA Future Forum Dec. 9 at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, one was prepared for some heavy number crunching and rocket science. Instead, the group of representatives of various firms involved in commercial spaceflight focused entirely on the intangibles of inspiration, innovation, and vision.

A great example comes from Sierra Nevada Space Systems, which named its space vehicle Dream Chaser. Mark Sirangelo, head of the company, talked eloquently about the appeal of the industry.

Space Investments panel

A panel discussed Commercial Space Investments and Benefits for the Nation at the NASA Future Forum Dec. 9 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. L-R: Moderator Doug King, president and CEO of the museum, Phil McAlister of NASA, Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX, Peter McGrath of Boeing, Mark Sirangelo of Sierra Space Systems, Robery Meyerson of Blue Origin, and Steve Isakowitz of Virgin Galactic. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“It’s being able to see something built and grow from nothing, from an inspiration,” he said. Sirangelo noted that the companies involved are full of dreamers, and used Seattle’s aerospace giant as an example.

“There was a Boeing. It was a family and it was a person like we are,” he said. “We’re individuals who believe in something and believe that we can make a difference and be able to change something in the future.

“That’s the personal inspiration for me, being able to do something that hasn’t been done in this way before, to be able to fly something that I hope to be able to fly in the next few years, and understand that this is something that we’ve designed and built and developed. There’s no better satisfaction than being able to take that dream and make it a reality.”

Most of the panel participants were of similar age to the author. I was born two weeks before the launch of Sputnik, so my life is the space age and as a kid I was fascinated by the race to the Moon. It is the reason I am interested in space and astronomy today. Everyone on the panel told a similar story. Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, said it’s important to remain interesting to the next generation.

“Space has to be cool. It has to be cool to be technical and enter into these kinds of fields,” Shotwell said. “Space is the best place to inspire children to do great things and study hard and focus on changing the world.” Her message to kids: “It’s OK to be a nerd!”

Peter McGrath of Boeing is a chip off the old block—his father also was an aerospace engineer—but he, too, took inspiration from Apollo.

Boeing Santa

The St. Nick on duty at the Museum of Flight seems to have a preference for the local aerospace company. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“I would also say it was seeing somebody walk on the Moon,” McGrath said of his career motivations. “We need to create that next environment, somebody walking on the Moon, to really energize the next generation of aerospace engineers.”

“We’re a nation of explorers,” said Robert Meyerson, president of Blue Origin. “Space represents that next frontier. I believe that strong investments in science and technology will make us stronger.”

The engineers did get around to tackling some problems. Steve Isakowitz, chief technology officer for Virgin Galactic, said the cost of space flight is a big hurdle. He noted that technology is making a lot of things easier and cheaper; Moore’s law holds that computer power doubles every 18 months while the cost drops. Unfortunately, that has not yet translated to space.

“In fact if you look at the economics of space travel, the cost has either remained the same or even increased, depending on how you do the math,” Isakowitz said. “I think the challenge to the panel here is to change that, to create our own law. Perhaps every five years the price of space travel will be cut in half, so that more and more people will have the opportunity to enjoy space travel and allow us to push the frontier of space exploration.”

NASA of course remains the major player in the field, but Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development, said it’s perfectly logical for the companies represented on the panel to help take us to space.

“For lower orbit, where the International Space Station travels, that’s a place that we’ve been many times over the last 40 years,” McAlister said. “So we feel like it’s time now to transition some of the responsibility for launching crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit to the private sector.”

McAlister also noted that having the private sector involved will provide a buffer of sorts to the vagaries of federal spending.

“If this commercial crew and cargo industry takes off we’re no longer dependent on just NASA’s budget going up and down,” he said. “The private market will spur these innovations, spur these opportunities, so when kids get closer to high school they’re going to see these opportunities. It won’t just be about NASA. The pie will be bigger.

“That’s why I believe this is the right path not only for NASA but for the nation.”

You can watch the entire panel discussion on the NASA TV video below.


NASA Future Forum panel discusses importance of technology and innovation

Those looking for real-life applications of all of the cool technology NASA creates need look no further than cleaning appliances or one of the biggest fad toys of a decade ago.

“The computational power that was used to make an Apollo spacecraft successful is now embodied in a Furby,” said Dr. Ed Lazowska. “It’s not clear that this is the greatest social use for that technology, but it’s still a remarkable comment on what we’ve been able to do.”

Tech and innovation panel

This panel discussed "The Importance of Technology and Innovation for our Economic Future" at the NASA Future Forum Dec. 9 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. L-R: are Joseph Parrish and Robert Pearce of NASA, Dr. Kristi Morgansen of the University of Washington, Dr. Roger Myers of Aerojet, and Dr. Ed Lazowska, UW. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, was speaking as part of a panel about “The Importance of Technology and Innovation for our Economic Future” at the NASA Future Forum held Dec. 9 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. He sees robotics as a major area of innovation in the coming decade.

“NASA has been a pioneer in robots in unstructured environments, where they have to be autonomous and they have to respond to unanticipated situations,” Lazowska said. “You see these in your home today in the person of the Roomba vacuum cleaner.”

“This notion of robots in unstructured environments working with us is going to be transformative in the next ten years,” he said.

Robert Pearce, NASA’s head researcher, says today’s jetliners are a prime example of how agency’s work has made it out into common use. Instrumentation, wing and engine design, the shape of the planes, even the way the pilots work together all were born from the space agency.

“The DNA of everything that flies started at NASA,” Pearce said, though he noted one exception. “When you turn and go down into the airplane and you see all of those tight, cramped, uncomfortable seats—that’s not NASA.”

Joseph Parrish, who moderated the panel and is NASA’s deputy chief technologist, takes exception to the often-expressed view that the space agency is doing little more than blasting scarce tax dollars into space.

“We’re not actually packaging up a bunch of dollar bills into the nose cone of a rocket and firing it out to Mars, to be spent by Martians, on a prank,” Parrish said. “We’re spending that money on planet Earth, and in the process of developing the systems that we do send to Mars and to Jupiter and to Saturn and beyond we’re enabling things here on planet Earth. We’re creating high-technology jobs that in turn inspire new ideas and create and new ecosystems of supporting companies. Think of all the companies that support Boeing. Think of all the companies that are going to support this burgeoning commercial launch industry that NASA is helping to kick off.”

One of those companies is Redmond-based Aerojet. It’s executive director for electric propulsion and integrated systems, Dr. Roger Myers, says his company is working on better ways to get spacecraft from here to there.

“Today’s propulsion systems are pretty inefficient,” Myers said. “That means that you have to carry a huge amount of fuel, you have to launch a tremendous amount of propellant, to get beyond low-Earth orbit. It takes big, expensive, unique rockets to do that.”

“We have to change that paradigm,” Myers added. “If we’re going to explore deep space we need a balanced set of investments, in both the launch architecture, the way that we launch people and cargo, and also we need a parallel set of investments in deep-space transportation architectures.”

Lazowska said that a big problem with technological innovations is that the uses are seldom obvious.

“It’s often not clear at the outset what the real benefit of an innovation is going to be,” he said. “When people were working on the Internet, ARPANET, nobody was thinking about email or the web or ecommerce or digital media. It was for remotely using expensive mainframe computers. You see this pattern again and again.”

Lazowska said the concept of technology transfer is important but often misunderstood.

“The goal of university technology transfer is to put publicly funded innovation to work for the public good,” he explained. “People have to get over the notion that somehow you’re going to float the institutional boat on licensing revenues, and realize that the goal is to make our nation the world leader, and make our regions regions of innovation.”

You can watch the entire panel discussion on the NASA TV video below.

SpaceX flight to ISS announced at NASA Future Forum in Seattle

The NASA Future Forum held Dec. 9 at Seattle’s Museum of Flight was all about the approach of creating a new economy out in space, getting private enterprise to take over the work in low-Earth-orbit while the NASA plans for getting us out beyond the Moon to deep space. As if to underscore that point, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver broke some milestone news during her keynote address at the forum.

Lori Garver

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver does a live NASA-TV broadcast in the Great Gallery of The Museum of Flight in Seattle Dec. 9. Garver was in town for the NASA Future Forum. Museum of Flight photo by Ted Huetter.

“We have set the target date for launch on February 7 next year for SpaceX’s second commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) demonstration,” Garver announced. “Pending all the final safety reviews and testing, SpaceX will send its Dragon spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station in less than two months.”

It would be the first commercial linkup with the space station.

Garver noted that NASA has invested some significant seed money, about $800 million, in COTS for getting crew and cargo to the ISS. The February mission will give SpaceX the chance to show what it can do.

“It is the opening of that new commercial cargo delivery era for ISS, and it’s great news for NASA and SpaceX together,” Garver said.

Garver said the new approach makes sense. NASA’s gig has always been to learn the unknown and create knowledge and technology. LEO is hardly a mystery any more, and private companies are demonstrating that they can do it. She adds that if the private sector and competition can lower launch costs, it will leave more resources for the science.

“We’re here to learn from each other, just like we have for all of these years, how we can more effectively advance personal and commercial space flight, how we can more effectively transition the technologies that we develop at NASA to the private sector to create those high-paying jobs and open up endless possibilities for economic growth,” Garver said. “Together we are truly developing an industry that until recently had been largely science fiction, but now it stands poised to open the new frontier, that next chapter in human space development.”

NASA Future Forum

Photo: Greg Scheiderer

Commercial space transportation already is a significant industry. In 2009, according to Garver, it generated $208 billion in economic activity in the U.S., employing about a million people who brought home $53 billion in wages.

She disagrees with the notion that the end of the space shuttle program was some sort of signal that the United States was no longer in the space game.

“Our job is just beginning,” she said. “The excitement and adventure is just beginning, and the opening of the space frontier is just beginning.”

She said the agency fully embraces the approach and NASA’s agenda: “Investing the nation’s valuable tax dollars to assure a healthier, more competitive industrial base that advances technology, provides more scientific benefit, and expands humanity’s presence farther than ever before while creating new markets, new industries, and new jobs to enhance our national security and our economic future.”

NASA has always had partners from the private sector, and Garver referred to the aerospace industry as a community.

“What we are trying to do is have our whole community gain a competitive advantage, moving out faster on this ambitious new direction that our nation’s leaders have given us,” she said. “Developing new technologies, developing partnerships, providing opportunities for competition and innovation, and looking for ways to get the most mileage out of all of the hard work over the decades that this community has invested in the fields of engineering, science, aeronautics, and technology.”

“This is what will inspire the next generation.”

You can watch Garver’s entire talk on the NASA-TV video below.


Dedication of new space gallery to launch busy weekend at Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight in Seattle will formally dedicate its new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery Thursday, kicking off a busy weekend of space- and astronomy-themed events.

Charles Simonyi

Who is that mystery man? Microsoft billionaire and space tourist Charles Simonyi reportedly donated $3 million of the $12 million cost of a new building at Seattle's Museum of Flight. He'll be on hand Thursday for the dedication of the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. Photo: NASA.

The gallery was originally conceived and built with an eye toward landing one of NASA’s retiring space shuttles. However back in April NASA announced the shuttles would go to New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Florida. The Museum of Flight instead will receive the Full-Fuselage Trainer in which all of the shuttle astronauts prepped for their missions. Ted Huetter, public relations and promotions manager for the museum, said there isn’t yet a firm time for delivery of the trainer, which is now in Houston, but that it would likely be some time in the spring. It will be the centerpiece of the new Simonyi Gallery.

The dedication hoopla will get under way at the museum at 11 a.m. Dec. 8.

Simonyi is a Microsoft billionaire who has a home in Medina. He has twice flown to the International Space Station as a space tourist. He reportedly donated $3 million of the $12 million cost of the gallery.

The gallery will open to the public Saturday with a temporary exhibit called “The Future of Spaceflight.” The exhibit will explore the developments taking place as the commercial spaceflight industry works to open up access to space. It also will include renderings of the upcoming permanent exhibit “Space Flight Academy,” featuring the Full-Fuselage Trainer, which is scheduled to open in June. On Saturday museum visitors who bring a donation of a non-perishable food item will receive half-price admission. The food drive will benefit Northwest Harvest.

All day Friday the museum will host a NASA Future Forum, featuring panel discussions on innovation, discovery, commercial partnerships, and education. A number of NASA officials will be on hand, as will representatives of Andrews Space, MEI Technologies, the X Prize Foundation, and Arkyd Astronautics. The mix represents the notion that the private sector is going to play a larger role in future space exploration.

There’s a bit of humor in an attempt create some mystery about the gallery opening. A news release sent to Seattle Astronomy today from a public relations firm working for the museum gushed that “a renowned space traveler” would be on hand Thursday, and that “this local man will make an additional surprise announcement.” The coyness about his identity comes despite the fact that both the Seattle Times and SeattlePI.com ran stories about the Simonyi Gallery on Monday, and an email sent to museum friends and members Tuesday bore the subject line “Future of Spaceflight Exhibit Opens 12/10 in Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.”

Check the Museum of Flight website for details of all the special space events happening this weekend.