Category Archives: astronaut

Very Spacey Social Media Week in DC

This week was social media week around the world. How cool to participate on the Breakfast Kickoff Panel, and our NASA Tweetup with Space Station Astronaut Ron Garan. Here is a snapshot of DC Social Media Week chatter: a little space on Earth.

@skytland tweet

DC Social Media Week Kickoff

Peter @Corbett3000 kicks off DC Social Media Week

Social Media Week @GoogleDC tweet

Social Media Week @InTheCapital Tweet

Social Media Week @jnetter tweet

Social Media Week @yourdailyphil tweet

Social Media Week @Isaldarriaga tweet

DC Social Media Week Panel

Fellow Panelist @AlliHouseworth + Moderator Bonnie Shaw @bon_zai

Social Media Week @AlliHouseworth Tweet

DC Social Media Week

Fellow Panelist Ryan Hill @Hirshorn

Social Media Week @R_Steinbach tweet

Social Media Week @SMWWDC tweet

Social Media Week @bon_zai tweet

On Tuesday, NASA hosted three Space Station astronauts: Mike Fossum, Cady Coleman, and Ron Garan. They debriefed NASA Headquarters employees, met with Members of Congress and staff, and split off for separate events. Cady and Mike when to an event at the Air and Space Museum while Ron hosted space tweeps at the NASA tweetup at NASA Headquarters in downtown DC.

NASA tweetup @Astro_Cady Tweet

@AndreasSchepers Tweet

NASA tweetup @NASAhqphoto Tweet

NASA tweetup @schierholz Tweet

NASA Tweetup @andresdavid Tweet

NASA tweetup @bethbeck Tweet

NASA tweetup @Astro_Ron Tweet

NASA Tweetup @KelleyApril Tweet

NASA tweetup @bethbeck Tweet

NASA Tweetup @Sig727 Tweet

NASA tweetup Crowd. Photo: NASA/Carla Cioffi

NASA tweetup Crowd. Photo: NASA/Carla Cioffi

NASA tweetup @Astro_Ron Tweet

NASA Tweetup @datachick Tweet

Thanks for letting me share a few highlights from a great week! And a real treat for me: trending in DC during Social Media Week!

Social Media Week @TrendsDC tweet

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Filed under astronaut, Fragile Oasis, NASA, social media, tweet-up

2011 My Space: Top 10 Off-Planet Pics

View from Space Station: 16 Moonrises Each Day. Photo by Astronaut Ron Garan

View from Space Station: 16 Moonrises Each Day. Photo by Astronaut Ron Garan.

STS-134 Endeavour docked to Space Station

STS-134 Endeavour docked to Space Station.

Astronauts Mike Fincke reflected in Greg Chamitoff's visor. Final spacewalk by Space Shuttle crew.

Astronauts Mike Fincke reflected in Greg Chamitoff's visor. Final spacewalk by Space Shuttle crew.

STS-134 Space Shuttle Endeavor docked to Space Station: Photo by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli

STS-134 Space Shuttle Endeavor docked to Space Station: Photo by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli

Mosaic of 48 Saturn images from the Cassini spacecraft

Mosaic of 48 Saturn images from the Cassini spacecraft.

STS-135 final mission to Space Station with US flag flown on STS-1.

STS-135 final mission to Space Station with US flag flown on STS-1.

Atlantis docked to Space Station

STS-135 Atlantis docked to Space Station.

STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis leaving Space Station. Photo by Expediton 28 crew.

STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis leaving Space Station. Photo by Expediton 28 crew.

NASA's Spitzer space telescope shows "stellar nursery" around Orion's sword.

NASA's Spitzer space telescope shows "stellar nursery" around Orion's sword.

Comet Lovejoy: Photo by Space Station Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank.

Comet Lovejoy: Photo by Space Station Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank.

TOO many images to choose from — which is a good thing. I hope these give you a flavor for space.

A special 2011 space thanks to Expedition 27/28 Astronaut Ron Garan for your visionary leadership for Fragile Oasis. Your willingness to share  your Space Station experience made space seem closer for those of us who are gravity-challenged. Elyse David, you are amazing. Thanks for keeping Fragile Oasis going 24/7. Donna Connell, you juggled all our requirements for LAUNCH and Fragile Oasis, and ensured we were totally covered contractually. You ROCKet! Ben Slavin, you’re my hero. I’m so glad you’re on the team. We wouldn’t have made it through the year without you.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to host several tweetups at our last Space Shuttle launches. I gained so many new friendships with space tweeps from around the world. I will treasure my time with the ESA/DLR colleagues at the two Space Tweetups across the ocean. Getting to know ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti was a highlight for 2011. I look forward to the time when she’s telling her stories from space.

Though we’ve closed out the Space Shuttle program, we continue to support a crew of six humans onboard Space Station 240 miles overhead, orbiting Earth every 91 minutes at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. We have much work ahead in 2012. I’m eager to get started.


Filed under astronaut, Fragile Oasis, LAUNCH, NASA, space

ESA Space LUV: Italian-Style

The morning after the ESA/DLR SpaceTweetup, NASA’s Stephanie Schierholz and I met with  Marco Trovatello and Henning Krause of the Germany Space Agency DLR and Fulvio Drigani,  Erica RolfeDaniel ScukaAndreas Schepers of the European Space Agency ESA to talk lessons learned from the first-ever European tweetup. Great sharing ideas and good practices across agencies.

Space Tweetup Debrief with ESA, DLR, NASA

Space Tweetup Debrief with ESA, DLR, NASA

Erica, bless her heart, traveled with me to Italy for the next ESA tweetup at the ESRIN facility. We took a train from Cologne to Frankfurt. A plane from Frankfurt to Rome. And a taxi through congested evening traffic to Frascati, located south of Rome.

ESRIN is ESA’s European Space Research Institute – the center for Earth Observation. No one prepared me for the little piece of paradise I would encounter in the land of olive trees, lavendar bushes, grape vines, and cappuccino bars!

Morning Cappuccino Break

Morning Cappuccino Break at ESA/ESRIN

Olive groves on ESA/ESRIN property!

Olive groves on ESA/ESRIN property!

Not so hidden among the olive trees, ESA's satellite dish.

Not so hidden among the olive trees, ESA's satellite dish.

On Thursday, ESA hosted a small group of space tweeps for a one-on-one question and answer session with the MagISStra crew, ESA’s name for the Expedition 26-27 Space Station crew: @Astro_Paolo Nespoli and @Astro_Cady Coleman. @AstroSamantha Cristoforetti was part of the panel as well.

ESA MagISStra Mission Logo

ESA MagISStra Mission Logo

Each of the tweeps had been invited for their support during @Astro_Paolo’s mission, or for winning ESA twitter contests, or for supporting the mission within ESA. @NickAstronomer won the golden ticket as the 25,000th @ESA twitter follower. Here is the list (forgive me if I missed someone): @TiraLondon, @SpaceKate, @mariiabennet, @nhaima, @Stelygs, @pressarea,@mattegianni, and @HimeIshida.

Tweeps: ESA/ESRIN SpaceTweetup

Tweeps: ESA/ESRIN SpaceTweetup

@Astro_Cady @Astro_Paolo @AstroSamantha

@Astro_Cady @Astro_Paolo @AstroSamantha

Space Tweeps chatting with astronauts

Space tweeps chatting with astronauts

@Astro_Paolo with @AstroSamantha tweeting

@Astro_Paolo with @AstroSamantha tweeting from stage

@tiraLondon tweet

@stelygs tweet

@nhaima tweet

@pressarea tweet

After our session with the astronauts, we toured the facilities at ESRIN. Here we are wearing our cool spacey 3-D shades to watch GOCE satellite image animations.

Tour of ESRIN facilities

ESA GOCE image of Earth

ESA GOCE image of Earth

Touring the facilities

Touring the facilities: @Stelygs @mattegianni

Space tweeps tweeting during tour

Tweeting: @pressarea @ericarolfe @mattegianni

ESA @TiraLondon @SpaceKate

@TiraLondon @SpaceKate

After the tour, we headed out to Frascati to an event with the Mayor, citizens, and astronauts.

Frascati, Italy

Frascati, Italy

Q & A with Mayor and Citizens of Frascati

Q & A with Mayor and Citizens of Frascati

They posed for pictures in front of this statue. I’m not sure the story behind the second head, but it can’t be good….

Statue in Frascati's Town Hall

Statue in Frascati's Town Hall

Great day all around!! 

Special thanks and well-deserved praise for my ESA colleagues. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share your world with you this past week. I want to take a few moments to thank you each individually.

Erica Rolfe (communicator extraordinaire and force behind the @ESA twitter account):

Words can’t begin to express my appreciation for you. You are a gracious and cheerful host, all the while juggling several events, social media, and family. You made sure I had rides to the ESA office and events, a place to work, and plenty of opportunity to share ideas with ESA staff. Erica, you’re truly AWEsome. Virtual applause for all that you do. Thanks for sprinkling me with your star dust.

In fact, @Astro_Paolo presented an award to Erica, but she missed it. She was presiding over a facilities tour with invited space tweeps.)

Fulvio Drigani:

Thanks for your vision and support for the role social media can play in connecting Earthlings with space. Your easy laugh is a delight. I look forward to working closely with you when we hatch our future partnership plots. We have so much to gain by working together more closely.

Frederic Le Gall:

Thanks for your probing questions and lively debate over how best to tell the story of space and allocate scarce resources. You made me think the most! I look forward to the FAB new ideas you have in mind for future projects. Let us know when you’re ready to collaborate.

Asa Ericson:

You are an absolute doll for picking me up at my hotel each morning, taking care of badging and wifi access, making sure I have coins for the vending machines, copying your map to keep me from getting lost, and overall cheerful support. You put me at ease and helped me feel at home. I’ve never felt so welcome. Truly. You’re wonderful.

Daniel Scuka:

Though you didn’t come back to Italy with us, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for taking care of me in Cologne. Your sense of humor and chill demeanor helped ease my jet-lagged slogginess. And I enjoyed your German, even though the taxi-drivers made you switch to English. My regards to your Texan wife!!

Samantha Cristoforetti:

I’m inspired by your passion, enthusiasm, and great perspective on life. You’ve embraced the social media tools as a way to help share the story of space. You really “get it,” which makes life easy for those of us who want to help you do your job in the best way you can. Thanks for catching the vision. Your journey to space can be our journey too, if we can go with you through social media. Glad to see you on Google+ too!

Thanks ESA. I wave my flag (or your flag) in your honor!

ESA flag

ESA flag flying at ESRIN in Frascati

Final thought:

@Astro_Paolo Nespoli posed a question to tweeps after the ESRIN tweetup:

“What do you get out of social media. What does it do for you?”

We all gave him good reasons, but it struck me on the flight home that without social media, I would never have met any of the folks at ESA or DLR, nor would I have been invited to attend these super cool SpaceTweetups. I met my communications colleagues through Twitter, not through normal work channels.

But here’s the real reason we use social media: we get to share the space LUV and watch it grow exponentially.

@mattegianni tweet

I’ll leave you with a quick glimpse of Rome. I’m ready to go back and spend some time enjoying the sights!

Roma Colosseo

Roma Colosseo

Roma: Colonna Traiana

Roma: Colonna Traiana

Roma: Arco di Constantino

Roma: Arco di Constantino

Rome: Santa Maria Maggiore

Roma: Santa Maria Maggiore


Filed under astronaut, Earth, NASA, social media, SpaceTweetup

SpaceTweetup: #Awesome

I keep trying to post my thoughts and photos about the first-ever European tweetup in Cologne, Germany and a smaller tweetup with @Astro_Paolo Nespoli, @Astro_Cady Coleman, and  @AstroSamantha Cristoforetti at the ESA/ESRIN facility in Frascati, Italy. Way too many great conversations and experiences to slow down and write. Now that I’m back home in DC, I have no more excuses.

One word sums up the week: AWESOME!

SpaceTweetup stage

SpaceTweetup stage. Cologne, Germany

Just so you know, I was informed by my European tweeps that they were making a bit of fun at our American enthusiasm by using the word awesome. As it turned out, awesome became the catch-word of the event — with it’s own hashtag. I think enthusiasm is actually contagious, if given the proper petri dish. Right @twISSt? ;)

Kudos to Marco Trovatello and Henning Krause of the Germany Space Agency DLR and Fulvio DriganiErica Rolfe, Daniel Scuka, Andreas Schepers of the European Space Agency ESA. You guys ROCKet!

Here are some highlights of the Space Day Tweetup in Cologne:

Enthusiast tweeps waiting to board the bus.

Enthusiast tweeps waiting to board the bus.

Cat herder ESA's Erica Rolfe

ESA's FABulous tweep-herder @EricaRolfe

ESA/DLR SpaceTweetup Welcome

ESA/DLR SpaceTweetup Welcome by Marco, Andreas, and Fulvio.

ESA's @DanielScuka is tweeting for @ESAoperations.

ESA's @DanielScuka tweeting for @ESAoperations.

We headed out to the tarmac to see the A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world, and Sofia aircraft, or Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. We got a glimpse of the German version of Air Force One for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (What is it with wet tweetups lately? Did Stephanie Schierholz and I bring the STS-135 rain with us?)

German version of the Air Force 1

German version of the Air Force 1

Sofia telescope

Sofia telescope

We headed back to the tweetup tent to meet the Expedition 26-27 and STS-134 astronauts. One problem, we separated from the group somehow. Here are my LostMates!

Lost with me on the grounds of German Space Day: @SpaceMike @Timmermansr @JohnnyMojo

Lost with me on the grounds of German Space Day: @SpaceMike @Timmermansr @JohnnieMojo

This little train came by to give us a lift.

This little train came by to give us a lift. Well, not exactly...

This little magic train appeared. I thought maybe it would lead us back to basecamp, but no dice. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how we found our way back to the tweetup tent. Perhaps it was the huge inflatable astronaut that guided us home. (Or the smell of coffee and pastries back in the TWent!)

Large inflatable Spacewalker at German Space Day

Large inflatable Spacewalker at German Space Day

SpaceTweetup Coffee Bar

SpaceTweetup Coffee Bar

Before starting the program again, we assembled at the stage for a group photo. Just then, @Astro_Paolo appeared in the tent, followed by @Astro_Cady, @Astro_Box, @AstroIronMike, @Astro_Taz, and Drew Feustel. One by one, they plopped down in the middle of the chaos to pose with us for the group photo. Totally unscripted. Totally AWEsome!

SpaceTweetup Portrait with Astronauts Sprinkled in. Photo: ESA

SpaceTweetup Portrait with Astronauts Sprinkled in. Photo: ESA

Here is a list of the speakers from the agenda. As you can see, the DLR/ESA folks kept us hopping — in a wonderful way.

SpaceTweetup speakers

SpaceTweetup speakers

I lost track of the number of astronauts who visited the tent during the day. Ten or more, maybe? ESA astronauts train at a facility on site, which made it easy for them to drop by. I was thrilled to meet new ESA astronauts Alexander Gerst, @Astro_Luca Parmitano, and @AstroSamantha Cristoforetti, as well as veteran astronauts like Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.

And, you know how it goes…when astronauts show up, tweeps leap into action…as in Lights, Camera, Action!

ESA/DLR SpaceTweetup TWaparazzi!


New ESA astronaut @AstroSamantha

New ESA astronaut @AstroSamantha

@DataChick brought @VenusBarbie and friends

@DataChick's @VenusBarbie and friends listen to @Astro_Luca

NASA's Stephanie Schierholz encourages ESA Astronaut Alexander Gerst to tweet

NASA's Stephanie Schierholz encourages ESA Astronaut Alexander Gerst to tweet

I loved hearing new ESA astronaut @AstroSamantha tell the crowd that her inspiration has been @Astro_Paolo, @Astro_Ron, and his brainchild @FragileOasis. WooHoo for Fragile Oasis!! AND, if we can work out an agreement with our ESA colleagues, we hope to include ESA bloggernauts on the site. Shhhh. That’s just between us…. 

Stephanie Schierholz and I had an opportunity to share insights from our NASA tweetup experience. Here’s what tweeps look like via my iPhone Hipstamatic app Helga lens. Quite surreal and grainy. Or maybe it was all a dream.

Our very own TWaparazzi!

Our very own TWaparazzi! @mfrissen @gravinaut @hollandSpaceCen

With Space Day in full swing, we shared the facility with 80,000 visitors — adding to the excitement and frenzy.

DLR balloon in the crowd outside the SpaceTweetup Tent.

DLR balloon in the crowd outside the SpaceTweetup Tent.

Jeff Wallace @RocketMan528 carried @Camilla_SDO to Europe with him. Camilla is quite the cult hero. Space groupies rushed to take photos with her (including my Star Wars buddies and me). I don’t know if you can tell, but the woman in this photo is crying. I’ve never seen anything like it. Crying, just because she got to hold a rubber chicken (a very lovable rubber chicken, I might add).

SpaceTweetup @Camilla_SDO Fan

SpaceTweetup @Camilla_SDO Fan (They even dressed alike!)

Star Wars characters invaded the tweetup tent!

Magnet @Camilla_SDO collects Star Wars + NASA

I have so much more to share. Time and space get in my way. I’m still processing and absorbing. I have so many new tweeps to connect with. Without social media, I would never have met any of you out in the virtual universe — like my long-time Twitter buddies @Cosmo4U and @Amoroso, whom I met in person for the first time.

Our world is getting smaller, but our connections are limitless!

@SpaceRaceKids + @Timmermansr sharing the space luv!!

@SpaceRaceKids + @Timmermansr sharing the space luv!!

For more information about the tweetup, you can read ESA’s excellent blog and their Flickr stream.

I leave you with a few iconic pics of Germany.

Church next to my hotel.

Church next to my hotel.

The view outside the train station!

The view outside the train station!

Yummy Pretzels!

Yummy Pretzels!

Very Matrix-y: Remember to look UP inside the Frankfurt Airport

Very Matrix-y: Make sure you look UP inside the Frankfurt Airport

Next post: ESA/ESRIN tweetup in Frascati, Italy.


Filed under astronaut, NASA, space, SpaceTweetup, tweet-up

Moon Shadows

Now that I’ve started the PhD program at Virginia Tech, I drive to the Blacksburg campus one day a week for classes. In order to get to my 9:00 a.m. class, I leave my house at 4:00 a.m. Needless to say, much of the drive is illuminated by artificial light — street lights and headlights from my car. Once I get into the hills and mountains outside the Washington, D.C. area, street lights disappear, as well as the light pollution from the metroplex. An amazingly bright moon (and BBC news on XM radio) kept me company.

Moon from Space

Moon from Space

As I drove, I thought about the disparity between people who live without power around the world — even today — and the hi-tech culture that sends humans to space. Technology enables me to look at photos of moonrises from space in near realtime. Some cultures may never see those pictures.

Lost in thought, I noticed something odd. Light kept flashing on and off the road in front of me and bounced off the hood of my car — like a pulsating flood light from a helicopter, but engulfing too great a distance to be manmade. I looked up through my sunroof to see the source.

The trees on top on the mountain cutaway created a filter pattern, blocking and revealing the moon, strobe-light fashion, as I drove through. It dawned on me:

Moon Shadows!

I’d never seen them before, that I can recall. What a cool experience in the black of night to have the heavenly light-dance in front of and all around me. A song from my distant past flooded into my memory: Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow.

“Yes, I’m being followed by a moonshadow

Moonshadow, moonshadow

Leaping and hopping on a moonshadow

Moonshadow, moonshadow…”

In my case, I was embraced by a moon shadow.

What is the significance of any of this? I’m not sure. I just felt the need to share the wonder and awe I felt driving through moon shadows, even just for a few minutes. I felt connected, in some strange way, to humans who walked on the surface of that huge reflecting orb in the sky. I felt sad for Astronaut Ron Garan who leaves behind, probably forever, the magnificent view he has of the moon and stars from Space Station.

Moon Rise over Earth. Photo by @Astro_Ron

Moon Rise over Earth. Photo by @Astro_Ron

Thank you, Moon, for inviting me to your shadow-dance performance. You made my day!

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Filed under astronaut, Earth, NASA, space, technology

Welcome to Gravityland @Astro_Ron


Ron Garan's Moonrise from Space Station September 12, 2011

Astronaut Ron Garan departs Space Station Thursday, September 15. I know his family is elated. He’s been gone for six months. I have to admit. I’m having the opposite reaction. I’ve truly enjoyed his tweets, twitpics, blogs, vlogs…and, yes, phone calls from space.

As founder of Fragile Oasis, Ron tirelessly provided fresh content for NASA’s fledgling website to ensure we tell the story of space in a way that inspires Earth-bound citizens to want to make this world a better place. From the unique point of view only our astronauts can provide, we learn about our blue planet — a fragile oasis suspended in an extremely hostile universe. Fragile Oasis features projects submitted by the community to contribute to a better tomorrow. Take a moment to browse the awe-inspiring projects on the site.

Fragile Oasis

Ron is the Founding Bloggernaut for Fragile Oasis.

“The focus is not on the problems of the world but on how the problems of the world are being solved by amazing people.” — @FragileOasis

I first met Ron at our LAUNCH:Water forum, when Ron’s Manna Energy was selected as one of ten disruptive innovations. I had no idea he was an astronaut. How cool is that! When he went to Star City to train for his time on Space Station, Elyse David and I both received phone calls from Russia with a new brainchild: Fragile Oasis. And now you can join Fragile Oasis too — simply by signing in through Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn.

I have to say, working with Ron brought some really cool perks — like photos from space.

Photo of my family in Soweto flown in space

My daughter Steph, my mother and I are visiting a day care in Soweto, South Africa.

A green screen Space Station photo of me in the actual Space Station

A green screen Space Station photo of me in the actual Space Station. Oh the irony.

The photo immediately above is from NASA’s Galactic Explorer Module, one of my first creations in my current job as Outreach Manager. We created a green screen kiosk that allows individuals and groups to go to space and back in 30 seconds (ok, not really, but it’s as close as we can offer on the ground) and email their photo/video to friends and family. This was years before social media hit the scene — but our early attempt at viral messaging.

This green screen photo of me with Space Station as a backdrop is now up in space inside the real Space Station. Too cool for words!

Ron thrilled dozens of space tweeps when he called to say hello at our STS-135 tweetup. He’s called each one of our Fragile Oasis team members from space. It seems like a simple thing to do, but a phone call from space is just over the moon! Well not literally, but you get my point.

Ron, we’ll miss having you in space. You’ve been an amazing ambassador. I’m sure you’ll have us running around the moment you climb out of your Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan this week. See you soon.


Filed under astronaut, Earth, Fragile Oasis, LAUNCH, NASA, space, tweet-up

Remembering 9/11

I drive past T.C. Williams High School on my way to work every morning. Yesterday, I noticed the cluster of flags on the front lawn, which reminded me that September 11 is this weekend.

Cluster of American Flags in front of TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA.

Cluster of American Flags in front of TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA.

Once I got to work, I watched a new 9/11 Tribute on the NASA website, featuring former Astronaut Frank Culbertson, Expedition 3 Commander on the Space Station at the time of the 9/11 attacks. He was the only American off the planet with eyes to see the devastation from 220 miles up. I was really taken aback by my emotional response to the video.

Smoke from Twin Towers. Credit: NASA

Smoke from Twin Towers. Credit: NASA

Tweet about 9/11My daughter Steph came by the office yesterday afternoon. It was her first day of classes in the International Psychology PhD program at the D.C. campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. I went outside the building to welcome her, and happened to see Frank Culbertson walk past. I stopped him to thank him for his moving tribute and introduced him to Steph. We chatted a bit about his experience. Here’s a letter Frank wrote while in space.

I know everyone is writing about their experiences, and you’ve probably read one too many. I just need to get this out. Feel free to jump to the bottom.


I was working in the Administrator’s Office at NASA Headquarters, which meant my office had a very large TV that I never turned on. The morning of September 11, I turned on the TV. Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America reported a plane hit one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center. I was frozen to the screen, assuming it was pilot error. When the second plane hit, I knew: terrorism. [I worked as a CIA Fellow on the very first Terrorism Analysis team in the mid-1980's.]

Then the third plane hit the Pentagon. My sister called from Texas with a very clear message. “You have two daughters. Get out of there.” I put down the phone. Turned off the TV. Picked up my purse and left the building. I didn’t ask. I didn’t wait for instructions. I simply left. Motherhood instincts kicked in.

I pulled out of the NASA garage to the sound of sirens everywhere. Police cars zoomed past, though the streets seemed strangely empty. I drove South on 395, the highway that curls around the Pentagon. Black smoke blocked my path, belching from the fires at the Pentagon. The image haunts me even today. I drove into the thick blackness, sobbing uncontrollably. On the other side of the smoke, police blocked the North-bound route. I was one of the few cars that made it south before they closed the highway completely. My mission: get to Steph. She was a student at T.C. Williams at the time. My daughter Carol was in New York, attending Syracuse University.

I passed the high school with the intent to get off the roads, park at home, and walk back to the school. I opened the my front door just as a second explosion rocked my house. I had no idea what caused it. I just knew I needed to get to the school to make sure Steph was safe. (I assume the second blast was the fuel depot for the Pentagon helicopters.) I rushed to TC to get Steph, as well as Paolo, a Brazilian student who had come to live with us to study English. As we walked home, we watched fighter pilots fly over us. We were safe. Parents of other TC students weren’t. They worked in the Pentagon.

Note: I accompanied my daughter Carol and her team from Syracuse to work with the Red Cross at the recovery site in NYC after 9/11. For eight hours a day, we sat with the Ground Zero workers during their breaks, listened to their stories, served food, cleaned the tables and floors, and did whatever was needed. Our experience included housing at the YMCA, where my daughter and I shared a set of bunk beds with a couple of mice who chewed through my clothes. Not hers. Only mine. But all for a worthy cause. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to serve, even in such a small way.


As we approach the tenth anniversary of September 11 tomorrow, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives, as well as the military families who’ve suffered loss.

Human hatred and the outward expression it evokes, for whatever reason or provocation, is simply heartbreaking. We have the power within us to learn how to overcome differences and find common ground. We are, indeed, a global community — as we model every day on Space Station.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

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Peace on Planet Earth

Moonrise over Earth

Moonrise over Earth. Photo: Astronaut Ron Garan

I keep thinking about this photo in contrast to the East Coast craziness we experienced this week: Earthquake DeeCee and Hurricane Irene. But, viewed with a bit of perspective, neither of these events caused devastation like we’ve seen around the world in Haiti or Japan or Indonesia or New Zealand. Nor can these events compare to unrest in the Middle East and droughts in Africa.

  • No building toppled onto of me.
  • No 20-ft waves flattened the landscape or carried my loved ones out to sea.
  • Hunger never gives me more than a twinge of discomfort.
  • Bullets and bombs don’t force me into hiding.

Yes,we snipe at each other over politics, but our elections are free and open.

We have a bad day when someone at work treats us poorly, or we get in snarled traffic, or the AC goes out. Heaven forbid the TV cable decides to act up and delay our “On Demand” selection.

We have SO much to be thankful for in our land of plenty.

Our astronauts’ point-of-view gives me such a rich perspective. In @Astro_Ron‘s photo above, I see our world at peace. Yes, Mother Nature seems on the warpath, but we humans can learn how to get along better. We can make better choices to live together as a global community of caring individuals. Can’t we?

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. — James 3:16-18

As you can tell, I feel reflective in the calm after the storm. How ’bout you? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do you care about most?
  • What excites you to get out of bed every morning?
  • What dreams have you left untouched?
  • What’s stopping you from achieving your dreams?

Do you want to make this world a better place? I do! Join others who feel the same on Fragile Oasis.

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Space Pioneers Invade Capitol

“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” — Roald Dahl

After each mission, our astronauts visit the NASA Centers and Washington DC to share their stories and thank the staff who supported them before, during and after their zero-G adventures. This week, the crews of Space Shuttle STS-134 and Space Station Expedition 26/27 came to town. They spent time visiting the hallowed halls of Congress, and stopped by NASA Headquarters to debrief employees.

Below is STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly introducing members of his crew: Pilot Greg “Box” Johnson, ESA’s Roberto “Ricky Bobby” Vittori, Mike “Spanky” Fincke;  as well as two members of his twin brother Scott‘s Space Station Expedition 26 and 27 crew: Cady Coleman and ESA’s Paolo Nespoli. STS-134 is missing two members: Drew Feustel, who is in Europe, and Greg Chamitoff, who is on vacation in Australia.

@ShuttleCDRKelly introduces STS-134 + Expedition 26/27 crew @ NASA HQ

@ShuttleCDRKelly introduces STS-134 + Expedition 26/27 crew @ NASA HQ

Greg "Box" Johnson, Roberto "Ricky Bobby" Vittori, Mike "Spanky" Fincke, Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli

STS-134: Pilot Greg Johnson, Roberto Vittori, Mike Fincke; Exp 26/27: Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli

The crew shared photos and video from the mission, and answered questions. Box Johnson talked about the violent ride to orbit on the Space Shuttle on top of seven million pounds of thrust. Spacewalker Mike Fincke talked about his final spacewalks during a Space Shuttle mission. Roberto and Paolo were the first two Italians in space at the same time. We saw a clip of their chat with Pope Benedict XVI, another first in space.

Pope Benedict XVI talking to STS-134 & Space Station crews

Pope Benedict XVI talking to STS-134 & Space Station crews

Paolo Nespoli: Disadvantage of Zero-G living -- losing your spoon.

Roberto Vittori: "If you close your eyes, you wake up where you don't want to be."

@Astro_Cady "We need lots of different faces up in space to inspire kids to dream

We had some special guests in the audience at NASA Headquarters for the briefing. @FlatSamantha was in the HOUSE!

@FlatSamantha posing with space suit at NASA HQ

@FlatSamantha posing with space suit at NASA HQ

You may not be aware, but STS-134 had a additional crew member: @FlatSamantha. Yes, @FlatSamantha went to space. Here’s a condensed version of @FlatSamantha’s space story. I first met @FlatSamantha at the STS-134 tweetup, a special guest of Doug White. After the STS-134 launch was delayed, Doug asked if @FlatSamantha could go with the crew to space. I contacted STS-134 Pilot Box Johnson to see if he could take a digital image of @FlatSamantha to space. He went one step further. He took a printed photo of @FlatSamantha with him to orbit, and snapped a photo of her picture with space as the backdrop. Too cool!

@FlatSamantha: Junior crew member for STS-134. Photo by Pilot Greg Johnson

@FlatSamantha: Junior crew member for STS-134. Photo by Pilot Greg "Box" Johnson.

Box brought the photo back home to Earth, and offered to deliver the “flown-in-space” picture of @FlatSamantha to “the-real-Samantha” in person. What a guy!!

@Astro_Box with @FlatSamantha and the real Samantha

@Astro_Box with @FlatSamantha and the real Samantha

Box posed for photos with Samantha’s family and friends, including @FlatSamantha’s NASA tweetup escort Doug @CPUguru White (seen on the far right). “The-real-Samantha” is easy to spot in red.

@Astro_Box + @FlatSamantha + Samantha + @CPUguru

@Astro_Box + @FlatSamantha + Samantha + @CPUguru @ NASA HQ.

Doug posted all his @FlatSamantha pics on Flickr. He’s got some great shots from the STS-134 launch tweetup and the visit to NASA Headquarters. Be sure to check them out. You can also read all his NASA tweetup blog posts, including Samantha’s story.

Tweet about Flickr streamAfter saying goodbye to Samantha, we headed upstairs for the office lunch with the crew. I sat with Mike Fincke. He’s simply adorable. He was the first to become a space dad while in orbit in 2004. His wife gave birth while he was in orbit for six months on the Space Station Expedition 9 mission. He also holds the record for most days in space for an American: 382 days. (Oh, and Mike thinks space smells like burned medal, rather than burned cookies.)

Spacewalker Mike Fincke

Spacewalker Mike Fincke @ NASA HQ office lunch

As he talked, I noticed his fingernails. I asked if his spacewalk damaged them. He told us how the nail laminate peeled off inside the glove while he was working. He said he could feel it, but it didn’t hurt. One nail looked like he’d smashed it with a hammer. I knew spacewalker lost nails, but I’d never seen it before.

Tweet about @AstroIronMike's fingernails

Having the crew come to town is always a highlight for me. I love hearing their stories. I love getting as close as I can to space. Our astronauts touch space. They look with glittering eyes at the world above us. They come back with answers to the greatest secrets hidden in the most unlikely places. They go to the extremes of where humans can go. They pave the way for others to follow.

Thank you space pioneers! You can invade our nation’s Capitol whenever you want. :)

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Hipstamatic View of Final Liftoff

Space Shuttle Atlantis on Launch Pad A

The very last Space Shuttle, Atlantis, soared to the heavens through cloudy skies on Friday, June 8 carrying STS-135 crew of four: Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus, and Rex Walheim. Waiting to greet them on Space Station: Expedition 28 Commander Andrey Borisenko, Ron Garan, Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa, Alexander Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov.

I watched liftoff with fellow space tweeps at the Kennedy Space Center press site where we hosted our final Space Shuttle mission tweetup. More on the tweetup in my next post.

I wanted to share these images with you taken my iPhone Hipstamatic app (thanks to Nicole Solomon, who told me NEVER to post pictures again without Hipstamatic). Now I have a forever memory of Atlantis via this little slideshow.

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