I'm sure you have all seen those massive rooms with walls of electronic displays like the NASA Flight Control Room. Ever dreamed of being a mission controller and having all that data at your finger tips?
This weekend is a long weekend in Australia and a very special event is occurring! The Hayabusa Spacecraft is returning to its home planet with samples from Asteroid Itokawa. Keeping it all in AsiaPac, JAXA, the emerging Japanese powerhouse of space projects, has selected the Woomera Restricted Area for a landing and recovery zone.
I am watching the whole thing with extra interest as if it overshoots it might land on my telescope! ;-)
Anyway I digress (as usual).
Today I thought I would share with you how to set up your own mission control room so you can watch all the action unfold. TV is boring anyway as its largely re-runs of shows and terrible ads, whereas the internet is a seething mish-mash of live breaking news, particularly since the advent of social networking. So here, step by step, I'll describe how you can set up your own Mission Control Centre.
1) Leather recliner
2) 46 " Plasma
4) Wireless Mouse in the USB port
[Seriously, I have actually done a full test plan on this]
What to do with above Equipment:
1) Open 5 windows
2) Window #1: Open Url http://www.trendmaps.com and search on #Hayabusa and or follow @Hayabusa_JAXA for live updates in Twitter. Trendmaps will enable you to see what everyone else is saying in the twitter feeds that include #Hayabusa.
3) Window #2: Open Google Translator for Japanese to english translations (The Aussies are not the only ones excited about Hayabusa).
4) Window #3 Of course you will need the latest updates from my blog http://aartscope.blogspot.com (I am hoping for a live reporter, if I can find one).
5) Window #4 You may want to have the Mission Page up for any updates http://hayabusa.jaxa.jp/e/index.html
6) Window #5 Nasa has flown an entire flight crew to man a DC-8 and attempt to film the re-entry and stream it live Here: http://airborne.seti.org/hayabusa/ Knowing how carefully NASA plan things I'd say the chances are "better than average" there will be something to see.
7) Plug Laptop PC into your large screen/Plasma/LCD/ Brand spanking new LED TV with 3D (Ok now we are going a bit too far).
8) Arrange Windows on screen so you can see them all - re-size the windows to suit.
9) Use wireless mouse to refresh screens that don't feed.
10) Pour glass of preferred beverage and relax and watch the show!!!!!
Re-Entry is at Sun 13th around 23:22 local time (around 1300 UT to 1400 UT should cover most of the action) when the tiny spacecraft will glow at an estimated magnitude of -5 (brighter than Venus) as it passes through about 100Klms up. If you are fortunate enough to be at least 500 kilometers away from the nearest Port Adelaide AFL game, then you may well be in the vicinity of Glendambo, SthAus where it is expected be briefly visible about 30 degrees above the NW Horizion.
Details on the descent can be found here: http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/enterp/missions/hayabusa/trj.shtml#new
So there you have it, get yourself a an anime thumbnail photo for your Social Networking Profile, brush up on your Japanese, set up your "Mission Control" screen and enjoy what should be a historic occasion.
LIVE BLOGGING and TWITTER UPDATES from Astroswanny from 1200UT.
Update: 12/6 09:34am Hayabusa_JAXA have posted a lovely photo of the dark australian night (presumably from Woomera) Looks like they are ready to go.
Update: 13/6 09:08 PM T -3 Hrs and counting. This afternoon the JAXA Team announced that Hayabusa would be faintly visible after sunset before the Satellite entered the earths shadow in the Maldives about 6 minutes before re-entry. Satellites are visible in early evening and before sunrise when they are light by the sunlight whilst still being visible in the "night". Details of the observation details in the Maldives - http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/topics/2010/hayabusa_obs3.shtml
Update: 13/6 09:27 Welcome everyone to tonight's coverage. In the last hours I have noticed a number of visitors from the US East coast, Japan, Europe (looks like somewhere near France or Spain) and Australian visitors in Melbourne, Perth and possibly the Woomera restricted area, or some really keen nearby desert dwellers ;-)
You can see the visitor on the "Revolvermap" one of my favourite webtools at the top of the page. NASA are yet to open up the server to their live broadcast.
Update: 13/6 09:39 (Local AEST UT +10 - in case you were wondering) Welcome Jakata!
OK then I'm all set - Laptop, iPad and a glass of Verdello and the Soccer on the TV Algeria and Slovenia has just started.
If you want to join the conversation RT @Astroswanny on twitter with #hayabusa_jaxa and #hayabusa
UPDATE: 13/6 09:55 pm - Cool must see Geo Greeting....in a way only Google can!!!
UPDATE: 13/6 10:00 Hourly update. JAXA reported at 9pm that the lander successfully seperated from the mother ship. Twitter feeds following the action with heavy traffic are #hayabusa and #hayabusa_jaxa. About 1Hr 20mins now till anticipated touchdown.
UPDATE: 13/6 10:21 One hour to go. The Tweetsphere is roaring and there are over 20 concurrent visitors - A special welcome to the folks in a boat off the west coast of Africa!!! (or perhaps there's a tiny island there I can't see) - Just trying to get a fix on the NASA DC-8 You can flight track it here in Google Earth : http://airborne.seti.org/hayabusa/HayabusaFlightTracker.kml
UPDATE: 13/6 10:52PM NASA DC-8 has been airborne for a few hours and is now approaching the observation area.
UPDATE 13/6 11:13PM Hayabusa should be over Indian ocean and visible over Maldives about now. NASA DC-8 making good progress to target area:
UPDATE 13/6 11:22pm Local Any minute now we should see announcement from: http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/home/hayabusa-live/
UPDATE: 13/6 11:42pm Servers all running seriously slowly, can't raise the NASA feed, no offical news yet. Intrepid reporters in Japan having their own Hayabusa parties and streaming via Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/kalapattar
UPDATE: 11:50pm Looks like the NASA DC-8 made it into position, I couldn't contact the server for the feed, let hope they got what they came for!!!
Update: 11:53pm My Japanese is not good but there is lots of cheering and an photo from the NASA DC-8 it appears, lots of cheering!
UPDATE: 12:04am Our Japanese friends have cracked the champagne and are looking very excited. Thanks for everyone who has visited the blog. Join me early next week when I will be hosting Carnival of Space.
UPDATE: 12:08am ＜6月13日 22時57分（日本時間）発信＞地上からカプセルの発光（火球）を確認しました。これにより、カプセルが大気圏に再突入したことを確認しました。Which if you followed the steps mention above ;-) you would instantly recognize as Re-entry fire ball confirmed!
UPDATE: 12:25am JAXA broadcasting via Ustream and the Live Universe channel have captured the re-entry in spectacular video.
Observer reports starting to come in PWB described it as a long slow shooting star in Alice Springs.
12:46 am -SIGNING OFF - Well, no news on the science yet but that is about all we'll hear tonight I guess. First photos of the landing are in and show the spectacular fireball. Thanks to all the new visitors to AARTScope where our mission is to "help create the sense of anticipation and discovery that keeps scientists asking questions". I'll do another round-up when I host Carnival of Space tomorrow. The re-entry was observed as far away as Alice Springs by one of our guests at tonight's Live Blog. Please leave you comments and subscribe to the Blog and the Astroswanny TWITTER feed. Australia opens is world cup campaign in 4 hours so I better get some shut eye. CLEAR SKIES!!!!!