Devon Island Expedition

Devon Island Expedition
This blog features educational updates on my Devon Island Expedition of July 14-20, 2007. Other sites:,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Pilots, astronauts and their wristwatches, right? There is something about a nice wristwatch. From the beauty of its design to the beauty of it's engineering to the combination of elegance and functionality, a wristwatch to many of us is more than a practical tool.

I recently did a detailed interview and podcast with Jake Ehrlich, who is a Rolex afficianado. You can check out his blog and my interview/podcast at:

I've worn a few different watches in space, including Rolex, Omega and Breitling. But, it is a Rolex GMT Master that I own. That watch flew with me on every space mission. I acutally bought the watch in Davos, Switzerland, before I was selected as a NASA astronaut.

After leaving NASA at the end of 2005, a friend of mine at Rolex had it inscribed for me with my name and space mission designations.

Do you have a favorite timepiece?

Leroy Chiao

Saturday, July 26, 2008

UFO's, Aliens, Coverups?

This week, I read a news article, where Ed Mitchell, an Apollo moonwalker, claimed that the US Government has known about and covered up alien encounters for the last sixty years. This is astounding and one's first thought is whether or not this person is thinking clearly.

I found these asserions interesting, because another early astronaut, Gordo Cooper (whose first name was Leroy, I being the only other astronaut with that name) made the same assertions years ago. Gordo and Ed both claimed to have chased UFO's in their interceptor jets while on active duty in the US military. Ed claims to have received top secret briefings on the existence of aliens. He also claims that the Roswell incident was a real UFO encounter and that the aliens who have allegedly visited are small in stature with large heads and eyes.

During my four missions in space, I saw a few strange things, but these were probably explainable as either natural phenomena or man-made hardware. I never thought for a minute that any of my sightings were alien spacecraft with living creatures aboard.

Ed's assertions, along with those earlier from Gordo give me reason to pause for a moment. I absolutely believe that there is life elsewhere in the universe, I am however, skeptical that that other life has found and visited us. I do maintain an open mind though.

What do you think?

Leroy Chiao

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mobile Me and Other Improvements?

Mac users who used dot Mac got "upgraded" to Mobile Me a few days ago. To date, the dot Mac page, which was supposed to seamlessly connect one to the Mobile Me page, doesn't work and hasn't for almost three days now. I can get to my email, since I figured out that I can go directly to the "me" page. However, the mail is SO SLOW that it is almost unusable. Also, there are issues with trying to print. This and the site was quite unstable today, locking up and crashing several times. I finally reverted to doing Email on my iPhone, which was a LOT faster and worked. That's quite a statement.

What happened to Apple? Usually, their releases are relatively well-tested and stable. This is strange. Couple this with the fact that a friend of mine bought one of the very first iPhone 3G's, lining up outside the local Apple Store. As employees tried to port over her phone number from her old iPhone to the new, the process froze. She was caught in transition. Now, neither phone works and the Apple Store had no answer. The same happened to several customers and the store suspended sales of the new iPhone.

When is better the enemy of good enough? What is the right balance of moving forward and staying with the tried and true? Some time ago, I wrote about getting Microsoft Word 2008 for the Mac. It is terrible and I make all efforts not to use it. I only use it when I receive a file that requires 2008 to open. It is much slower and cumbersome, in addition to being A LOT slower to start and to do other operations.

This is why software on spacecraft are only upgraded after extensive testing. Also, modifications are only made when really necessary. This is prudent because lives are literally on the line. The same standards should not be applied to commercial software, but I can't help but observe that Apple dropped the ball on this one. Clearly, the product was not adequately tested and/or is simply too cumbersome. I hope they get their act together, as I am a long-time Apple supporter.

Leroy Chiao