Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: space (page 1 of 3)

When Photos Tell a Different Truth

Does your credit union ensure a consistent message through all channels?

If a member walks in to a branch, do they feel like they’re at the same credit union as your website?  I know our partners put great effort into ensuring this consistency.

Imagine if you shared information about your institution online, while using stock photos to represent, or even shots from another credit union altogether.  Once your members arrived at a branch, they’d be confused.  “Am I in the right place?”  Even worse, it could give them an alternative perception of your credit union, for better or worse.  And we know what happens when expectations aren’t met.

Sadly, I saw this today in the mass news media.  This morning, astronauts on the International Space Station made history by harvesting and eating the first produce grown in space.  They grew vegetables…in space!  Add a little oil and vinegar; we’ve got a salad!  (No, seriously, they had little eyedroppers of oil and vinegar for flavor)

It’s a minor historical moment where the date or event won’t be remembered, but the effects will.  So it’s important to get that first story right.  NPR did not.  On their story, “One Small Bite…”, they use a feature photo of a gorgeous test garden.  Wow!  Veggies line the walls!  Except that isn’t on the space station.  But now you have commenters exclaiming how wonderful the station’s garden is.

Will these people ever find out the photo is wrong?

Telling a different story from a photo is misleading journalism, and not including a simple screenshot from the live HD feed is just lazy.

In credit unions as in the world, truth matters.

CUbit out.

It’s Flyby Day!

Update 2: Data is inbound!  NASA is holding press conferences daily until July 20th to release new imagery and scientific observations received.  Watch on NASA TV and see schedule at

Update: At just prior to 9:00 p.m. EST, the New Horizons spacecraft sent back a series of, “I’m good” messages following the flyby.  Data will be inbound over the next week on this schedule.  The full dataset from the flyby will take over a year to transmit.  Think about that the next time you complain about a few seconds of buffering on your Netflix stream!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled post for a news bulletin more than 9 years in the making. Today, after traveling faster than any man-made object, New Horizons will be entering the Pluto system. If you follow me on Twitter @JoeCUGeek (you should, but don’t take my word for it), you’d know how fascinated I am with the progress. And how can you not!

Try to wrap your head around this: We built a spacecraft, composed of parts from all over planet Earth, then we strapped it onto a giant rocket. 3-2-1…liftoff! Atop thousands of pounds of explosive chemicals and gases, this craft was shot beyond escape velocity to exit our gravitational pull. But that wasn’t enough. Pluto is really far. Not light-years far, which is crazy far, but far if you are planning on moving a physical object to it. So the rocket was specially outfitted with additional thrusters to give it more boost. That’s not all! If you launch within the next 15 minutes, we’ll also attach a one-of-a-kind rocket inside the bigger rocket to push a bit harder. With this combination, New Horizons would get there, but time was of the essence. As Pluto moves away from the Sun during its 90,465-day orbit, a little bit of its suspected atmosphere freezes away daily. The sooner our gadgets can arrive, the better science we can collect.

How does one go faster than our biggest rockets can push? Ask for a leg up from the big kid. Launched to coincide with a unique planetary alignment, New Horizons was able to grab a gravity assist from Jupiter, adding 9,000 mph to an already fast spacecraft. Of course, this upset Jupiter, who now, due to conservation of energy, has slowed down a tiny bit. It’s estimated that in 5 billion years (around when the Sun will swell into a red giant and consume Earth), Jupiter will be one millimeter off in its orbit. The nerve.

With the additional gravity assist, New Horizons is now traveling over 30,000 miles per hour (relative to our sun’s movement), eliminating 3-4 years of travel time. I’ve never been offered that upgrade at the airport! Remember I mentioned how far Pluto was? Well, of that 9-year journey, 8 were spent after passing Jupiter. Our solar system is big. And it’s just one of billions in a single galaxy, among one galactic cluster, in one supercluster, nestled within one corner of the observable universe. Feeling small yet?

Once a week, New Horizons has called us here on Earth to say, “yep, I’m still good”, then it was back to sleep. You’d nap in the car too for that long a trip. But now, slumber is done. It’s all hands (and instruments) on deck. Since the energy to accelerate and decelerate are equivalent, there are no plans to slow New Horizons down before or during the flyby. So everything will happen fast. Given that it takes even light over 4 hours to cover the distance one way, plans need to be spot on. Good thing everyone had help.

During the journey, ground and space-based telescopes have squinted towards Pluto to get a better picture of what awaits New Horizons. From these blurry measurements, tiny course corrections refined the path. Over the past few weeks, history has been made. Each day, the images returned dwarf the best observed throughout all of humanity. It’s not just the flyby; as the craft approached the Pluto system, scientific discoveries were made. Think of the excitement when you can first see your destination far off in the distance. Now remember you have no brakes. Got your cameras ready?

Today marks a milestone in human history. Formal planet or not, Pluto represents the furthest reaches of our solar system (assuming you don’t include the Oort Cloud). Sure, we’ve seen Mercury (RIP: MESSENGER), landed on Venus (It’s really hot), rolled around Mars (Next mission: Dune buggy races…Dune, get it?), and orbited all the gas giants at least once. But Pluto was always the mysterious “beyond”. It’s no accident Pluto was named after the god of the underworld. A place humanity couldn’t go and never would learn about, New Horizons really is uncovering a new horizon.

I cannot be more excited for the imagery and other data returned from New Horizons during and after this flyby. If you want to keep updated, NASA TV will be broadcasting with glee nonstop (“Schedules be darned! New Horizons forever!” is probably the producer’s chant). Full mission details, as well as the potential future Kupier Belt targets (oh yes, New Horizons will have more flybys in the future!), can be gathered on the official New Horizons mission site.

Next week, I’ll be back with a credit union-focused post. In the meantime, join me in celebrating the best of human accomplishments and remember the big picture of why we all strive for greatness and growth. We’re a tiny planet, nestled in an outer arm of a fairly typical galaxy. If Earth was our town and our solar system the state, we’re finally getting to know those who live out on the fringes, and, joining the Voyager spacecrafts, looking out at what’s beyond those boundaries.

And now you have an excuse for watching TV during work.

Image credit: NASA

Stalking a Comet

Update: This post relates to the comet flyby in October of Siding Spring past Mars.  Earlier today, the Philae lander flying on Rosetta (a European Space Agency mission) made a soft landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  A first for humans, we look forward to the science data and imagery Philae will return.

Call it an interstellar flash mob.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arose in October for astronomers. In 2013, a comet was seen hurtling towards the Sun. Not too surprising, as many do just that in the course of their orbits. Except this one was different. We hadn’t seen it before. And it came from far away. Scratch that, very, very far away.

Comets we see come from the Kupier Belt. Imagine a mish-mash of rocks and debris in the general area of Pluto. But not this one, now called Comet Siding Spring, after the observatory from which it was discovered. Siding Spring came from the Oort Cloud, a favorite name from my childhood (thank you Dutch astronomer Jan Oort), but also a special region of space. If you think the Voyager spacecrafts have gone far, picture this: The Oort Cloud is a thousand times further away than them, and they’ve been flying for over 35 years. The cloud has material from the birth of our solar system, and Siding Spring has not come close to the sun…ever.

So this comet is on a long journey.

There’s more! Projections of Siding Spring’s path took it into, no, past Mars…so close that it would interact with the upper Martian atmosphere. It’s like a ball whizzing through the hairs on your neck.

Hold your rockets…we have stuff at Mars! Could we perchance take a peek as it goes by? Also, our satellites above Earth. And observatories here, too! Don’t forget Hubble! Gee, that would take a lot of coordination. It’s good NASA handles all of them…oh wait, they don’t? Other countries? How many years did you say we had again?

On October 19th, Comet Siding Spring zoomed past Mars at a few dozen miles per second (relative speed). Every craft and rover at Mars was in position to catch observations, from Curiosity and Opportunity on the surface, to Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to Mars Express, to the new arrival, MAVEN. Additional observations were made from Earth-based telescopes and dozens of spacecraft. Everyone coordinated for a unique event and delivered!

If asked, could you gather together your team, as well as others from different institutions, and work towards a single goal with only a few week’s notice?

NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), and many more made it happen. The next time an Oort Cloud comet comes toward your CU, will you be ready?

Image credit: Siding Spring Observatory, James Willinghan:

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