• Tanesha | 2014.11.05

    My Balloon Launch Experience

    By: Tanesha


    The balloon launch was held on Sunday, October 26, 2014. It was a fun, exciting, and adventurous experience although we did go through some struggles along the process. We weren’t sure about the exact location of launch because we knew it was somewhere around the Chevron Refinery in Richmond. We kept driving until we reached the end to a private marina called Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor. First, we had to ask permission from the owner, Eric, to launch the balloon at his property. He called the Chevron Refinery and they told him if anything falls into their facility, we could get arrested. There recently was a drone that fell into the Chevron Refinery and everyone who was part of it got arrested. The homeland security were extremely upset. Our entire group got scared but we were keeping our fingers crossed so that everything goes well. Ultimately, Eric had to decide if we could conduct our experiment. Everyone thought he would say no, but he finally agreed and allowed us.

    We went to the end of the harbor at the west jetty to set up and unload. The winds were pretty high so we blew up the balloon by using the truck as a wind breaker. The payload group made sure all cameras were turned on, GPS trackers were giving signals, and all components in the package were fully functioning. For a fun experiment, we also attached Starburst candy onto the payload to see if it would taste the same when it comes down from space. Eric, the owner of the property, was quite cooperative by helping us with the project. Soon all his neighbors started to come out and watch the launch. Once we were done attaching the parachute to the balloon and the payload to the parachute, it was time to launch. We slowly let the balloon up and it went up really fast. It was exactly 12:53 according to Steve from a photo of the launch from his phone. We spent about an hour packing up and watching the balloon go higher and higher. The sky was very clear so we could see the balloon for a while. Everyone was happy that it successfully went up without any trouble.

    As we waited for the balloon’s descending, we had lunch at Extreme Pizza. We got our first signal at about 2:10 p.m on Steve’s phone which meant the balloon was descending. We started driving to Tassajara near Livermore. About every 5 minutes, we would get a signal closer and closer to its exact location.


    Finally, at 3:48, we received our last signal stating that the balloon has landed. We headed out to its final destination which was at a dirt bike range at Carnegie SVRA. We talked to the park’s rangers and showed the exact spot of location which was somewhere on a trail in the mountains.



    They explained to us that we could not take our car up there because the car will be wrecked and we could get hurt.The park ranger said that he would be able to take two people up there on his six wheeler to search for the payload. Everyone in the group wanted to go but only one intern plus Steve could go up. Brandon was randomly picked by a fair game. The rest of us waited for about an hour and a half and we hung out in the area and had ice cream while we waited for them to return. We thought it was getting too late so we were going to leave. Immediately, Steve, Brandon, and the ranger came down the hill with the package while we all congratulated them. Our group became excited and started eating the space candy which ended up tasting the same but hard and cold. We thanked the ranger and took pictures with him along with the payload. We packed our items and headed back on the road back to Berkeley.


  • Brandon | 2014.11.05

    Retrieval Recollection

    My personal story by: Brandon Johnson


    It was hot out. And very dusty. We had just eaten pizza, (I was still hungry, lol), and we were all psyched to retrieve the payload. We drove into the Carnegie SVRA (State Vehicular Recreation Area). We had two vehicles. The first vehicle Steve was driving with Leitha and six other interns was stopped at the entrance by four rangers. Steve explained that we had a payload somewhere on their property. He knew that because of his GPS tracker that showed him the location. The rangers took a look and determined exactly where they would need to go to find the payload. One of the guys, (Taylor), was willing to drive to the location on an ATV.


    But there was a catch; there were only two extra seats on said ATV (and Steve had to ride along, so there was really only one seat left). Then Dan had an idea. He was gonna think of a number between one and a hundred, and whoever guessed closest got to go. I guessed seventy-six. The number was seventy-five. I was thinking of 76, the gas station. (good thing I was on the drivers’ side, amirite?). So Taylor gave Steve an extra-large biker helmet, I got a large, which was apparently still a tiny bit small, (it was kinda tight on me wee skull…and it was pushing my cheeks into my eyes...),



    and Dan handed me a film camera. I sat in the passenger seat and Steve rode in the back part, (kinda like the bed of a truck), next to a yellow stretcher. Everyone was cheering and clapping when we got in the ATV.


    I felt kinda tense when he took off, and a lot of dust was kicking up.


    Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any sweet footage of the ATV ride; it was way too dusty. Plus, I was holding onto my phone in my pocket with one hand and to dear life with the other, (there was a convenient handle on the inside of the roll cage). Along the way, we stopped to let a few bikers ride by, who offered waves, thumbs-ups, and nods. When we got to a pretty level point a few minutes later, Taylor stopped the vehicle, and we all got out to check the GPS tracker that Steve had. The GPS transmitter was getting signals, but it was still a ways away. So we got back in and drove a little lower, near some high hills. It was shady, dusty, rocky, and shrubby. The trail to the payload was too narrow to ride the ATV up to retrieve it, so we had to walk. Walk. When we got near the signal, it was reading up a hill covered in dry shrubbery. Taylor, Steve, and I started climbing a steep, rocky, hill, (which I totally wimped out of...I’m still kinda mad at myself about it…), which I “couldn’t climb”, so I handed the camera off to Steve, and he went with Taylor to find the payload.



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    I don’t really know how long I stood there, (booooo.), but it felt like a while. Then Steve and Taylor held up the bright orange box. So they came back down, we walked up to the ATV, and we rode back, Steve holding the payload. We made it back to the rest of the group, met by clapping and high-fives. Then we all took group pictures, (one or so with Taylor), and we gathered around the box to eat the Space Starbursts, (cherry FTW!!!), which were cold and hard.


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    We thanked Taylor, he left, we put the payload in the backseat of Dan’s car, and we went home...


  • Steve | 2013.07.16

    Our summer workshops are in full swing, and we are updating our Twitter and Instagram feeds with pictures, videos, and more. We're also gathering our social media updates and mentions using RebelMouse right here on our website.

  • Katrina | 2013.07.04

    Last weekend on Saturday, I was taken along with another intern, to the James Lick Observatory. The James Lick Observatory lies east of San Jose atop the summit of Mt. Hamilton. The observatory houses an abundance of huge telescopes used for various astronomical research projects such as discovering several moons orbiting Jupiter.

    I was told that it would be hot that Saturday, and it was indeed blazing hot. After stopping by at Berkeley bart to see if any other interns were going to the observatory, we drove up to San Jose. Up the mountains, after more than one hundred twists, and turns up the windy road, and about an hour or two of driving with many spectacular views of the bay area, we reached the observatory.


    Our guide, Elinor Gates has gotten her PhD and holds the title of Support Astronomer. She was extremely knowledgable of all the telescopes we visited. One of the telescopes we saw was the Nickel Telescope. It is a one meter reflecting telescope. The telescope was named after a San Franciscan, Anna L. Nickel, after donating about $50,000 to the observatory.  The Nickel Telescope is used in astronomical projects and research that require less light-gathering power than the Shane Telescope, which is a 120-inch reflecting telescope. Did you know that the refractor telescope in the picture below is where James Lick, the founder of the observatory was buried under?


    In addition to the various projects that many astronomers and researchers work on in the observatory, James Lick Observatory is also home to a population of about 15 staff members. This provides the convenience for them so they don’t have to drive up and down the long roads through the mountains. There is housing for the staff members, a kitchen in which they can cook their meals, and a promising view they wake up to every morning.

    The day ended with eating our Jack-in-the-Box to-go lunches, and driving back down the swervy, narrow road. About a quarter way down, we were stopped by a sign that had said that the main route back to San Jose was closed off due to a tree that had fallen. We took a detour way back to San Jose and made it safely back with the experience of seeing amazing and historic telescopes, eye-catching views, and the hottest day of summer I’ve ever felt this year. Everybody should visit the James Lick Observatory when they have the free day to go!

  • Charles | 2013.05.03

    First off I would like to say that I am neither an expert artist or scientist, but rather an admirer/lover/fan of the beauty of these two fields.  I feel that outer space is one of the most beautiful and wonderous places that we are still learning much about.  The deep complexities of space provide a sense of wonder, and create great inspiration for some of my favorite pieces of art both visual and musical.  I have not always liked science, in middle school it was actually my least favorite subject in school.  Through being part of the NOVAS program as well as others, I have been able to escape the endless textbook pages of science that repulsed me, and gain a new perspective on a subject that most people do not get interested in.

  • Katrina | 2013.05.03

    Have you ever thought that science and art could ever be connected? I sure have not come across that idea or thought about it until I attended the NOVAS program last year. Upon scrolling through lists of summer programs and contemplating on what to apply for, this one program caught my eye. In general, I have had a great liking for art, and found it interesting that there was a program that would be able to explore the relationship between art and astronomy. I’ve participated in an abundance of activities from painting exoplanets, and creating stop motion animation films to explain missions sent to space. I’m Katrina, an intern at the NOVAS program, and being a part of the program has definitely allowed me to explore different aspects of art and science altogether.


  • Alejandro | 2013.05.03

    >I would like to make a chemistry joke, but all the good ones Argon. Everyone should have some sort of interest in science, since it does help to explain all the astonishing things that happen around us each and every day. Science and the arts help to make sense of the world around us, and as such I am very interested in both! I learn about the world through/ because of science, and process the world through art, especially music. However, this does not mean that art has no place in science. All the pictures that we see to represent such things as atoms and planets are artists renderings of things we do not readily see everyday. Science needs artists to bring concepts to life, to give them a shape and form, using scientific theories, so that people can better understand these concepts. The marriage of arts and science makes sense, and this program attempts to bring this idea to teenagers and get them excited about it!


  • Steve | 2013.02.27

    Welcome to NASA Opportunities in Visualization, Art, and Science! NOVAS explores NASA science through art and highlights the need for and uses of art and visualizations in science. We learn about space and humanity's place in the universe, and express our understanding through art. Last summer two dozen teens from the San Francisco Bay Area gathered weekly to talk with space scientists and to create collaborative art through painting, animation, sculpture, and other media. We're currently recruiting high school students for our after-school program, and we'll be presenting more exciting workshops this summer. You can find out more here!

    NOVAS is produced by a team of science- and art-education specialists from the UC Berkeley Space Science Lab and Astronomy Department, and the YMCA-PG&E Teen Center, and is funded by a grant from NASA.