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Astronaut and kids celebrate socks in space

A student from Seattle’s Rainier Prep listens to NASA astronaut Jessica Meir answer a question posed via an Earth-to-space video link. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Astronauts on the International Space Station get thick calluses on the tops of their feet instead of the bottoms, but today students tried out ways to make the final frontier a little friendlier for feet.

Not only did they get a chance to talk with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir about socks in space, over a video link between the space station and Seattle’s Museum of Flight, but they also ran their own experiment as part of an Astro Socks Challenge created by NASA and Microsoft Education.

The challenge, and the Earth-to-space chat, made a teachable moment out of a fact of life for long-duration spacefliers.

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Watch an astronaut chat about socks in space

Jessica Meir
NASA astronaut Jessica Meir sports green-toed socks during an earlier Earth-to-space chat with students. (NASA via UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Hundreds of middle-school and high-school students will gather at Seattle’s Museum of Flight on March 2 to chat with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir on the International Space Station while the world watches on the Web.

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Red Arrows fly aerobatics of a different color

Seattle’s Museum of Flight may have put a Blue Angels jet on a pedestal, but today it rolled out the red carpet for a military aerobatic team of a different color: the Red Arrows of Britain’s Royal Air Force.

“They’re the best,” said Stephen Williams, a visitor from Horsham in southern England who was among the roughly 300 spectators and VIPs who turned out this morning to watch the Red Arrows arrive. “Your Blue Angels … they’re OK.”

Red wasn’t the only color in the Arrows’ quiver: As they made their photo-op rounds over downtown Seattle and Boeing Field, the pilots’ BAE Hawk T1 trainer jets released contrails of red, white and blue — the hues of the Union Jack as well as the Stars and Stripes.

Today’s one-day stopover was mostly aimed at showing the colors and refueling the planes, between last weekend’s performance at the Oregon International Air Show in McMinnville and a series of events starting Sept. 24 in Vancouver, B.C., which is the next stop in the Red Arrows’ grueling two-month North America tour.

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Space settlers just might dig a moon of Mars

Jim Logan's plan for Deimos
Jim Logan, a former NASA flight surgeon who is the co-founder of the Space Enterprise Institute, lays out his plan for putting a space settlement inside the Martian moon Deimos. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

The smaller of Mars’ two moons, Deimos, was named after the Greek god of terror — but the way former NASA flight surgeon Jim Logan sees it, Deimos could be a comfort zone for space settlers.

“The Mars-facing side of Deimos is probably the most valuable real estate in the solar system,” Logan, co-founder of the Space Enterprise Institute, said today at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

Logan laid out his case for Deimos during a conference on space settlement, presented this week by the Space Studies Institute to highlight the late Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill’s vision for humanity’s expansion into the solar system.

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Space settlement vision updated after 50 years

Von Braun Rotating Space Station illustration
The Gateway Foundation’s Von Braun Rotating Space Station would take advantage of a ring structure to create artificial gravity. (Gateway Foundation Illustration)

Fifty years ago, a Princeton physicist named Gerard O’Neill asked his students to help him come up with a plan for setting up settlements in space.

Just a few years later, O’Neill published the resulting vision for freestanding space colonies as a book titled “The High Frontier” — a book that helped inspire Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ vision of having millions of people living and working in space.

Now the keepers of the “High Frontier” flame at the California-based Space Studies Institute are revisiting O’Neill’s original vision, with an eye toward updating it for the 21st century.

“The fact is, a lot has changed in the last half-century,” Edward Wright, a senior researcher at the Space Studies Institute, said today at the start of a two-day conference presented by the institute at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

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Spaced-out goodies mark Apollo 11 anniversary

Space beer bottles
Elysian Brewing’s Space Dust IPA will be sporting space-themed labels this summer. (Elysian Brewing Photo via Museum of Flight)

Want a little space history in your beer? Or soda pop? Or chocolate? Seattle brands are banding together to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with the Museum of Flight leading the charge.

You’ll find a roundup of space-themed products on the museum’s “Summer of Space” website.

For instance, take Elysium Brewing Co.’s Space Dust IPA, one of the Seattle brewery’s standards: This summer, Space Dust bottles will be sporting a series of three Apollo 11 labels celebrating the mission’s liftoff, moonwalk and splashdown in July 1969.

If your tastes run more toward the softer side, check out the collectible Apollo 11 labels that’ll be part of Jones Soda’s 50th-anniversary lineup.

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Apollo moonshot exhibit touches on family history

Mark Armstrong
Mark Armstrong, one of the sons of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, checks out the spaceship that his father rode to the moon at the Museum of Flight’s “Destination Moon” exhibit. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

“Destination Moon,” the traveling exhibit making its debut at Seattle’s Museum of Flight this month, puts some of the greatest treasures of the Space Race on display. But if you know where to look, you’ll also spot little treasures that shed light on the life of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong.

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Space fans set to celebrate Apollo 11 anniversary

Apollo exhibit
Lisa Young, conservator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, adjusts the gloves that Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin wore on the moon, on display as part of the “Destination Moon” exhibit at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. Aldrin’s helmet and visor can be seen on display, and in the famous moon picture seen in the background at left. (Museum of Flight Photo)

The countdown is on for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and that means the appointment books for space luminaries and their fans are filling up like the propellant tanks on a Saturn V rocket.

Seattle’s Museum of Flight is one of the epicenters for the festivities, thanks to its status as the next stopover for the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling “Destination Moon” exhibit. Due to a remodeling project at the National Air and Space Museum, some of the choicest Apollo artifacts are going on the road. The Museum of Flight will be hosting the exhibit starting next month and running all the way through the July 20 anniversary into the Labor Day weekend.

Just this week, curators worked in a sealed-off section of the museum to get the helmet and the gloves worn by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin ready for the exhibit. A magnifying glass was positioned near the cuff of a glove to give museumgoers a close look at the checklist of tasks Aldrin was given for his moonwalk. The checklist reminded him about an important chore: taking a picture of a bootprint.

“Destination Moon” officially opens on April 13, but VIPs will get sneak peeks starting a couple of weeks before that date. There’s a luncheon for museum members on March 30, featuring talks by Apollo flight directors Glynn Lunney, Gerry Griffin and Milt Windler. A members-only preview of the exhibit is planned for April 6.

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Mars maverick touts low-cost plan for moon bases

Robert Zubrin
Mars Society President Robert Zubrin provides a guided tour of future space missions during a talk at the University of Washington. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

For decades, rocket scientist Robert Zubrin has been a voice crying in the Martian wilderness. But now the president of the Mars Society is pleading the case for a cause that’s much closer than the Red Planet: low-cost lunar exploration and settlement.

Zubrin’s lays out his latest plan, known as “Moon Direct,” this week in a tech journal called The New Atlantis, and he’s in Seattle today to talk about it in conjunction with the Museum of Flight’s SpaceExpo 2018.

The expo also features demonstrations of a virtual reality project highlighting one of Zubrin’s longest-running projects, the Mars Desert Research Station, a testing ground for space settlement that was built in Utah back in 2001.

If Zubrin gets his way, such outposts could be built on the moon and on Mars as well, on time scales far sooner and at costs far lower than NASA projects.

The problem is, Zubrin doesn’t always get his way. Since the 1990s, he’s advocated for a mission architecture known as Mars Direct that would first send uncrewed rockets to Mars and follow up with later crewed missions. Each mission would make use of on-site materials to produce the fuel for the return trips.

The Mars Direct plan didn’t get much traction, and Zubrin says that’s NASA’s fault. “The manned space science program has been adrift in this period,” he said during a Friday night presentation at the University of Washington.

Now NASA is turning its attention to missions to the moon — but Zubrin is worried that, once again, NASA is taking the wrong approach.

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Next generation inspired by Jeff Bezos’ tales

Jeff Bezos and kids
eff Bezos gets his picture taken with students at the Museum of Flight. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

By Chelsey Ballarte and Alan Boyle

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos visited the Museum of Flight this weekend to answer questions from students, the kids did not hold back.

“That’s one of the great things about kids,” Bezos said on May 20. “There are always questions.”

Scores of elementary-school and middle-school students came from the Seattle area as well as from Deer Park, a city just north of Spokane on the other side of the state, to cram into the museum’s “Apollo” exhibit and meet America’s second-richest person (after Bill Gates).

The kids asked about Bezos’ successful expedition to recover sunken rocket engines from the Apollo moon missions, about his Blue Origin space venture, and about his own life story. One questioner picked up on a report that, as a toddler, Bezos dismantled his crib with a screwdriver because he wanted to sleep in a real bed.

“Have you always been that independent?” the boy asked.

“I’ve always been, uh, focused,” Bezos replied.

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