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Stories by Michael J. Battaglia

I Was a Teenage Element Hoarder

Credit: IStockphoto I knew I wasn't like the other kids. Oh sure, I collected baseball cards and model airplanes, but not with the passion that I saved for my real obsession—collecting each and every element of the periodic table.This was just part of my chemical romance, which also involved (but was not limited to): watching phenolphthalein solution in test tubes change color, launching sodium carbonate/acetic acid (vinegar)–powered rockets, generating the sulfurous odor of rotten eggs and making a smoke bomb that accidentally detonated in the basement, and eventually graduating to electrolysis and various combustibles that fortunately resulted only in singed eyebrows, but no loss of digits or eyesight.Outside of explosives, however, lay the Holy Grail—a complete set of the fundamental building blocks of the universe.

October 11, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

Notes from the Ground: Launch Day Wrap-Up

Atlantis Launch Notes: July 8, 9:00 P.M.KENNEDY SPACE CENTER—What a day it was. One to which I’ll dedicate lots of long-term memory neurons.

July 9, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

Space Shuttle a Go-Go--NASA's Atlantis Successfully Lifts Off [Video]

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER— Atlantis lifted off Friday at 11:29 A.M. Eastern time after a last-moment hold at 31 seconds on its 33rd and final mission—both for it and NASA's 30-year-old manned space shuttle program, putting on hiatus the era of human access to low Earth orbit on board U.S.

July 8, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

Status Report on the Launch of Atlantis: A Perfect Liftoff

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER— Shuttle a Go-Go Atlantis lifted off Friday at 11:26 A.M. Eastern time after a last moment hold at 34 seconds on its 33rd and final mission—both for it and NASA's 30-year-old manned space shuttle program, putting on hiatus the era of human access to low Earth orbit on board U.S.

July 8, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

Notes from the Ground: A Visit to the Launch Pad

Atlantis Launch Notes: July 7, 6:00 P.M.KENNEDY SPACE CENTER—At T-11 hours and holding all day (as usual, a planned halt). Just got back from the launch pad—and just in time, seems lightning hit within a third of a mile from the shuttle.

July 7, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

Notes from the Ground: One Day to Go to Final Shuttle Launch

Atlantis Launch Notes: July 7, 9:00 A.M.KENNEDY SPACE CENTER—As of now, NASA's final space shuttle launch is still on for Friday at 11:26 A.M. Eastern time, but a gathering storm bearing down on Florida's Space Coast remains a major concern.While waiting on a go/no-go decision from the mission managers yesterday afternoon, I decided to take a little field trip thrown by the people at SpaceX, the builders of the Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule, slated to carry cargo—and later up to seven crew members—to the International Space Station (ISS).Interviews and tours for the press brought me face to face with the Dragon capsule, which, at least in appearance, recalls both Apollo and the new Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

July 7, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

Notes from the Ground: The Final Shuttle Launch

Atlantis Launch Notes: July 6, 2:45 P.M.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER--One day, 20 hours to launch on Friday. This may be a last for the shuttle program, but it's a first for me.

July 6, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

Truckin' Up to Low Earth Orbit, Part 3: The Shuttle Gives Science a Boost

This is the third of a three-part series that looks back at the 30-year history of the U.S. space shuttle program. Before the 1986 Challenger disaster made safety paramount and new constraints had been established, the shuttle could carry fueled upper-stage rockets to launch space probes, which embarked for planetary destinations.

July 6, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

Truckin' Up to Low Earth Orbit, Part 2: Deadly Reality-Check: Challenger and Columbia

This is the second of a three-part series that looks back at the 30-year history of the U.S. space shuttle program. Any summary of the shuttle program cannot go on without mentioning 14 lost astronauts and two doomed vehicles— Challenger on launch in 1986 and Columbia on reentry in 17 years later.

July 5, 2011 — Michael J. Battaglia

For the Pentagon, it's easy being green

The U.S. Navy has successfully shot down NROL 21 (aka USA 193), the crippled and covert National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite. (See SciAm's slide show here.) Whereas skepticism was voiced by some, the mainstream media outside of the science and technology press largely went along with the U.S.

February 21, 2008 — Michael J. Battaglia

Star Trek--Original Series: Where no pixel has gone before

Thanks to insomnia, I have gone where only the most dedicated fans of Star Trek --the Original Series have gone before. It was 3 A.M. and I switched on the TV to somnambulantly wander with my remote through the hazy media netherworld of half hour infomercials, advertisement-pocked B horror flicks and tedious reruns of the Andy Griffith Show .

August 2, 2007 — Michael J. Battaglia

Thank you, Mr. Wizard

I am saddened by the news that Don Herbert, aka "Mr. Wizard" died yesterday at the age of 89. His weekly program, on NBC from 1951 to 1965, brought simple science to children—and made it fun.

June 13, 2007 — Michael J. Battaglia

Good-Bye Blue Monday

Good-bye Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., whose resemblance to that other great American satirist, Mark Twain, is almost uncanny. And I believe his literary doppelganger would have enjoyed visiting the Vonnegutian universe populated by Kilgore Trout, Wanda June, Eliot Rosewater, Francine Pefko, Paul Proteus, Billy Pilgrim, Howard Campbell, Jr., the planet Tralfamadore, ice nine, granfalloons, foma, Illium, N.Y., and, of course, the lovely Montana Wildhack.Call him a pessimist, a stoic, or a dark and cranky curmudgeon, Vonnegut, like Twain, supplied what any self-satisfied civilization occasionally needs to keep it honest—a good thwacking from a brilliant satirist.And thwack he did.

April 13, 2007 — Michael J. Battaglia

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