Archive from December 2015
Bibra-Online
23. December 2015

I’d like to wish all family, friends, regular readers, commenters and all other visitors Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, A Happy New Year or any other Holiday Greetings you prefer! Of course, I like Happy Newtonmas because Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, but I’m very democratic in that respect and let everyone celebrate the the holiday they prefer.

This is my traditional end-of-year posting with a roundup of things I’ve been up to this year – which turned out to be a lot in 2015! It was a very busy, productive and relatively peaceful year for myself and especially good in the hardware department because there have been quite a few technology updates around her. In addition to a new tablet, I also got my first smartphone in 2015 and finally replaced my aging laptop with something well, a bit less aging. This means that working on the websites and other related projects has become much more comfortable recently with less holdups due to slow or breaking down computers and other devices.

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CommodoreComputer
23. December 2015

Before I get to my article about the actual Commodore Amiga computer, I thought I’d dive into something more fun before the winter holidays: the inevitable article about all those great games from back then as a sequel to my C64 Games post from last year. When I had switched from the Commodore 64 to the Amiga 2000 in November 1990, the 16-bit-computer was already an established force in the video games industry and easily the best gaming machine next to the consoles of the day. I discovered that there were a lot of really crappy games, but the then very powerful hardware of the Amiga allowed the developers to realize many ideas that had not been possible before. So apart from my favourite genre, the adventures, there were a lot of other games to discover. Here are my favourite games from the early 1990s that I first encountered on the Amiga – this is, of course, a highly biased and personaö list that may raise some eyebrows and is be missing some entries, but I still like those games even until today.

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Science & Astronomy
22. December 2015

The past one and a half weeks were action-packed with all sorts of amazing happenings, but because there’s so much going on all the time I decided to make this a sort of end-of-year posting covering both weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. The launch of three astronauts to the International Space Station last week was fantastic, but the absolute highlight was, of course, the successful launch and landing of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on Monday night. There was also a successful launch of the next-generation Progress to the ISS, the passed budget which was good news for NASA and interesting news about Mars and Pluto from the AGU meeting and a few other things. Overall, 2015 was one of the most exciting years for spaceflight and space exploration despite some setbacks earlier – but everything is back on track now and more exciting things are coming next year!

A few notes regarding the winter holidays: the Weekly Space Hangout and most other hangouts are taking a break this and next week but will be back in January – we’ll keep everyone informed in the WSH Crew Google+ Community, where we also keep up with all the news and other things over the winter break. The WSH Crew Website will also be kept up to date and I will also post updates on my social media streams, primarily Google+, if there are any news. You can also follow my Space & Astronomy Collection on Google+ (which you already do if you have me circled), for all my space and science related postings.  But now on to the last round of news of the year 2015!

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Science & Astronomy
15. December 2015

The docking of a crewed Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS is usually a fairly boring affair and today it looked like a fairly normal arrival of Timothy Peake, Yuri Malenchenko and Timothy Kopra, who had launch earlier today from Baikonur. But shortly after I had taken the capture seen on the right, the automatic Kurs docking system failed and the spacecraft backed up suddenly to a safety point about 140 meters away from the station. While this is relatively unusual and does not happen very often nowadays, it poses no dangers for the crew because the pilots are extensively trained for both automatic and manual docking. There was not even the slightest confusion when the crew switched to manual mode and although was some urgency to be heard in the radio transmissions, in the end the Soyuz was docked safely by Yuri Malenchenko manually – that means the spaceship was flown by hand!

[Update: the full docking video is now online – watch the Soyuz suddenly reverse at 4:35! There’s also the amazing launch video in which the first stage booster separation was clearly visible.]

This was just another reminder that spaceflight is hard, but if you train astronauts well there is nothing to be afraid of. The Soyuz is now docked to the ISS, but the actualy hatch opening is still more than an hour away – you can watch it live on NASA TV, but on 19:00 GMT there’s also a special Stargazing Live episode on BBC2 hosted by Brian Cox and Dara O Briain with Helen Sharman and Chris Hadfield as guests – see my post over at DVDLog for more about that! I’ll update this article with another paragraph about the hatch opening later this evening.

Update: The three astronauts are now aboard the ISS, but the hatch opening was somewhat delayed – so much, that the Stargazing Live broadcast from the BBC had to run longer because the three new ISS crew members just came into the station when the hour was up! Fortunately the BBC had granted them some overtime so that the short welcoming ceremony including the somewhat awkward calls home were broadcast too. It was a great way to see this almost familiar event, especially with two former astronauts, Helen Sharman and Chris Hadfield narrating in addition to Brian Cox and Dara O Briain. And now… let Expedition 46 commence!

Science & Astronomy
13. December 2015

There was such a lot going on this week that it was actually hard to choose from all the news. The big ones were the arrival of the first US cargo spacecraft to the ISS since the failed launches from OrbitalATK and SpaceX and the Soyuz departure, but the bright spots on Ceres, Pluto in colour, Curiosity reaching the sand dunes on Mars, an almost lost Japanese space probe finally reaching Venus  and Germany’s first fusion reactor were equally exciting. This time, I’ve included both stories that were posted in the WSH Crew Community and my G+ Space & Astronomy Collection and I think I will continue this arrangement from now on to get a bit more diversity. If I go on with those posts, I might as well do it right – and there will be even more going on next week! But now on to the news…

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Science & Astronomy
6. December 2015

It’s been all about rockets and rocket engines this week – there was only one successful launch with the LISA Pathfinder mission, but the one that everybody was waiting for didn’t get off the ground because of bad weatner: OrbitalATK’s Cygnus launch to the ISS was scrubbed three times. [Update: Actually it may still launch – the Sunday attempt is on again at 21:44 UTC… and was successful!] I haven’t posted much else this week due to an unexpected smartphone breakage, but I got a replacement quickly and will be able to do some quick and easy space news article gathering once again. The experiment of resharing selected news articles into my Google+ Space & Astronomy Collection has continued well despite my limited posting and I can’t belive that this collection is now followed by almost 16000 people! But now for a few news articles…

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Science & Astronomy
2. December 2015

This is another edition of my now regular articles about the crew changes on the International Space Station – the ISS has been a very busy place in the last few months with a lot of crew changes in September and three spacewalks, but thankfully no major problems have come up so far. In comparison to the crisis a decade ago when the Columbia shuttle disaster had forced the permanent crew down to only two astronauts for quite a while, the ISS operations are today running very smoothly. The loss of three cargo flights in a row might have been inconvenient and uncomfortable, but ultimately was not the catastrophy it could have been. While Expedition 45, which ends in December, has not been much talked about in the media, it has certainly not been an unexciting time – but as usual, the press only likes to talk about the space station when something really goes wrong. Let’s see what’s going on this Winter!

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