Category Archives: space

Welcome to Gravityland @Astro_Ron

Moonrise

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Space Shuttle: Wheels Stop

“In life, there are no ordinary moments. Most of us never really recognize the most significant moments of our lives when they’re happening.” — Kathleen Magee

One week ago today, STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis landed on Earth for the final time.

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button.

Last Thursday, I left my Cocoa Beach hotel at 3:00 a.m. to head out to the Kennedy Space Center to meet the space tweeps who would share this historic moment STS-135 Landing Tweetup with us.

I’d never seen a Space Shuttle landing before. This would be my first…and last.

After checking in all our landing tweeps, we boarded the bus around 4:30 a.m. — Zero-Dark Thirty!!! We waited for news of STS-135 Atlantis in orbit. Only at Deorbit Burn could we head out to the landing strip.

Chris our KSC Escort wait for new of Atlantis' Deorbit Burn

Chris our KSC Escort waits for news of Atlantis' Deorbit Burn

Ah the anticipation. But still, it was really, REALLY early. Thankfully, some came well-equipped with Red Bull and Energy Drinks!!

Ching-Yao Yu @nutzareus pointing to Energy Drinks

@nutzareus pointing to @sharkb8t Energy Drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks!

Many of our friends showed up — some flat, some furry, some human: @CraftLass, @WoodToast, @MouthTheTribble, @Astro_Fuzz, @FlatSamantha, and Camilla_SDO

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters.

We received news of Deorbit Burn! WooHoo! Our bus driver pulled out of the parking lot. We were on our way.

Space Tweeps on way to Final Space Shuttle Landing

Deorbit Burn means NASA Tweetup Bus is moving!

Not long into our journey, we slowed to a crawl in snarled “final landing” traffic. @WiredForFlight and @FlightSoft checked an iPad app to track our progress on the road.

@WiredForFlight @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic

@WiredForFlight + @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic.

Once we arrived, we headed to the viewing stands. I was hoping the sun would defy nature and rise early so we could see Atlantis drop from the skies. But no.  Still dark.

Shuttle Landing Tower

Shuttle Landing Tower

As we waited for Atlantis to land, the Expedition 28 crew onboard the International Space Station streaked across the sky at 17,500 mph. What an amazing treat to wave to @Astro_Ron Garan, Mike @Astro_Aggie Fossum and their crewmates 220 miles overhead.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Atlantis landed just a few minutes after Station crossed the sky. I expected to cry, but instead, I squealed and giggled. This was my first landing. It was more first than last to me. I felt incredibly giddy.

Tweet: Job Well Done America!

What a treat to be part of history!

We all boarded the bus again, and said goodbye back at the media badging building. @WinObs rode off into the sunrise on his bike, but before he left, he posed with @Camilla_SDO.

@WinObs post-landing w/ @Camilla_SDO

@Camilla_SDO gets around. Here she is with @WinObs.

I headed back to Cocoa Beach to check out of my hotel and grab breakfast with Madi Sengupta and Mary Lynne Dittmar. Next we headed over to the launch pads of our past — Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury. The Apollo pad is well cared for. Gemini and Mercury, not so much. Walking among the ruins, I imagined ghosts of rocket boys with crew cuts and slide rulers who paved the way for the Space Shuttle generation.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

One of the highlights of the day: attending the employee celebration with Atlantis post flight! Here is my first view of Atlantis, the star of the party.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Atlantis Post-Landing

Here she is: Atlantis!!!

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

My "mark" on history.

My "mark" on history.

Thank you Stephanie Schierholz for making the landing tweetup happen. What a glorious day. Sad because it’s the end. But what a wonderful 30 years we’ve had!

Time to head to the airport. On the way, I pulled over to take a picture of space melons. Only on the space coast…! ;)

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

On the flight home, the flight attendant read aloud a note someone gave him, recognizing the last Space Shuttle landing and the end of an era, as well as the NASA Administrator in the front row and other NASA employees on the flight. The passengers broke into applause. Tears streamed down my face. The end. It finally hit me.

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Final Shuttle Launch Tweetup

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” — Douglas Everett

I really don’t have the heart to write about the end of an era. Many others are quite prolific in their opinions — both pro and con. I simply want to celebrate the coming together of NASA employees, families, friends, fans, as well as all the new tweetships forged at the Kennedy Space Center during the picture-perfect STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis final liftoff.

STS-135 Atlantis Launch. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

STS-135 Atlantis Final Liftoff. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Honestly, I never believed we would launch on time with all the crazy weather the day before launch. Torrential rain. Lightning strikes near the pad. I’m SO VERY thankful for our sturdy TWent and plywood floor during the L-1 tweetup events. And it all started out so innocently. Look at the gorgeous blue skies on L-2:

2 Days to Launch

NASA tweetup registration

NASA tweetup registration

That evening, the skies told a different story:

Ominous L-2 Clouds over Cocoa Beach

Ominous L-2 Clouds over Cocoa Beach

L-1, NASA tweetup day, the weather turned stormy:

1 Day to Launch

The weather outside couldn’t dampen the spirits INside the NASA tweetup TWent. Space tweeps, who know each other virtually, get to “meetup” for the first time.

NASA tweetup Twent-full

Twent-full!!

Great speakers. NASA’s Deputy Lori Garver kicked off the festivities. Then our special guest, Elmo from @SesameStreet, interviewed astro-tweeters @Astro_Mike Massimino and Doug @Astro_Wheels Wheelock.

NASA Deputy Lori Garver addresses space tweeps

NASA Deputy Lori Garver addresses space tweeps to kick off the formal tweetup event.

@SesameStreet Elmo chats with Doug @Astro_Wheels Wheelock

@SesameStreet Elmo chats with Doug @Astro_Wheels Wheelock

Elmo tells @Astro_Mike he wants to be a teacher.

Elmo tells @Astro_Mike he wants to be a teacher.

Quite the comedy routine. You can watch the U-Streamed video. We learned from @Astro_Wheels that space food tastes like warmed up plastic, and that a Soyuz reentry is like “going over Niagra Falls in a barrel that someone lights on fire.” @Astro_Mike told Elmo that we have to learn to get along on Earth and in space. Team work is how we get things done. @Astro_Wheels added that problem-solving skills are essential. Think Space Station Expedition 24  failed ammonia coolant Pump Module. Side note: Mike also informed Elmo that cougars live in the Bronx Zoo. (But, if you weren’t in the TWent or watching on U-Stream, that comment will make no sense. We’ll just leave it at that.) ;)

Next up: Bill Gerstenmaier, my boss and head of NASA’s Space Operations. He approves the funding to host mission tweetups, so give it up for Gerst. Virtual standing ovation! He gave us a state of the mission update, then the deluge trapped him in the TWent with us.

Space Operations Chief Bill Gerstenmaier

Space Operations Chief Bill Gerstenmaier

View from NASA tweetup tent

Deluge: VAB + launchpad view from NASA tweetup tent

Tweet: TWent Movie Title: A River Runs Thru It, or under it

Angie Brewer, Kennedy Space Center’s Atlantis Flow Director, talked about her beloved Orbiter. We also learned about Space Station research and the new National Lab concept from Tracy Thumm @ISS_Research and Justin Kugler @ISS_NatLab.

Angie Brewer, Atlantis' Flow Director

Angie Brewer, Atlantis' Flow Director

We draw a crowd. The press come in and out of the TWent — our ever present TWaparazzi.

TWaparazzi

TWaparazzi!

After lunch, we headed out to tour the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) on the #COOLbus! See for yourself…

STS-135 tweetup Cool bus

STS-135 tweetup #COOLbus!!

On our way to the VAB, @Astro_Ron Garan called from Space Station to say hello to the tweeps! Yes, you read it right. Ron called from space! The tweeps had just enough time to shout out their greetings before the call went out of range. Too cool for words. Right tweeps?

@Astro_Ron tweet after calling STS-135 tweeters from space.Inside the VAB, I always get emotional looking at the flag hanging from the top.

Funny story about the VAB: In the elevator back at my hotel at the end of the day, a boy was telling his mom about getting to go inside the B.I.G. where the orbiter is mated to the tanks. He was telling her it was the biggest building on site, and that’s why they named it B.I.G. I asked if he meant the V.A.B.? Too funny. V.A.B…B.I.G…they sound a lot alike, don’t you think? ;)

Flag inside the Vehicle Assembly Bldg

Flag inside the Vehicle Assembly Bldg

Next, we headed out to the launch pad to watch the Rotating Service Structure roll back from Atlantis, in preparation for launch. We’d heard the roll back was delayed due to weather, so I was pretty bummed…until, voila, Atlantis started peeking out from behind the structure. Wow. Atlantis in all her glory. Here we are in front of of the last Space Shuttle before her liftoff on the last Space Shuttle mission. Many thanks to NASA’s photographer, Paul Alers, who graciously agreed to take our picture, even though it wasn’t on his to-do-list.

STS-135 space tweeps in front of Atlantis on Launchpad

STS-135 space tweeps in front of Atlantis on Launchpad. Credit: NASA/Paul Alers

Overnight I slept with my iphone next to me. All night I checked for scrub email. Nope. Not a one. I left the hotel at 4:20 a.m. but I still didn’t beat the tweeps to the tent.

L-0: launch day!

Take a look at Atlantis on the pad via Sarah Horst‘s twitpic.

Sarah Horst @PlanetDr twitpic of Atlantis on the pad L-0We had a steady stream of speakers all morning. NASA’s Deputy @Lori_Garver came back to chat; along with Laurie Leshin, Deputy of the new Human Exploration and Operations Office (we’re merging Exploration Systems and Space Operations); Chief Technologist @Bobby_Braun; STS-132 Pilot Tony Antonelli, and ROCKet star, Bob Crippen, STS-1 pilot, my former boss. I was running around, so I missed some of the drop ins.

STS-132 astronaut Tony Antonelli

STS-132 astronaut Tony Antonelli

STS-1 Pilot Bob Crippen

STS-1 Pilot Bob Crippen

We posed for our group portrait by the launch countdown clock, then headed out to see the crew in the astrovan on their way to the launch pad. No U-turns this time!

Countdown clock portrait

Countdown clock portrait. Credit: NASA/Paul Alers

Astrovan with STS-135 crew

Astrovan with STS-135 crew. No U-Turns!

So many highlights to share from this historic event. A real tear jerker for all of us was the debut of Shuttle Fanfare, composed by Battlestar Galactica’s Bear McCreary through the teamwork of Seth Green, Mike Dougherty, and NASA. Seth introduced the tribute theme song for STS-135, and explained that he’s working on a Blog-umenary for the Fragile Oasis website detailing the process to create the song.

Seth introducing Shuttle Fanfare

Seth introducing Shuttle Fanfare

Space tweeps eager to hear Bear McCreary's Shuttle Fanfare composition

Space tweeps eager to hear Bear McCreary's Shuttle Fanfare composition

@Astro_Ron Garan called again from Space Station just before launch. This time I passed around my iphone for the tweeps to take to Ron individually. Quite a rush!! We’re hoping to compile a transcript of what everyone talked to Ron about.

But even as awesome as it is to talk to space,  the star of the show was Atlantis herself. What an amazing vehicle. What an incredible legacy.

Space Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad

Space Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad

The press site was crawling with humans and cameras. I wasn’t at NASA in the beginning of the Shuttle program. I’d never seen so many satellite trucks and viewing platforms. I’m thankful Atlantis drew a crowd. She deserved it. This photo of Karen James, STS-133 alum, paints a portrait of passionate enthusiasm we all felt.

@keJames eager for Atlantis to liftoff

@keJames eager for Atlantis to liftoff

Press Site Craziness

Press Site Craziness

But we weren’t the only ones watching Atlantis leave this planet for the final time. The Expedition 28 crew onboard Space Station were glued to their screen.

@Astro_Ron tweets pic of Space Station crew watching launch

No, it's not Sunday football. Expedition 28 crew watching Atlantis liftoff.

Here is my launch collage of Hipstamatic images of Atlantis breaking the bonds of gravity.

Collage of my iphone images of Atlantis using the hipstamatic app

Collage of my iphone images of Atlantis leaving Earth.

Thank you space tweeps for making this final launch so special. You are part of the NASA family now! I think this picture says it all:

@KelleyApril + @glancz jumping for joy

@KelleyApril + @glancz jumping for joy!

Big takeaway: We turn dreams into reality. Let’s go boldly into the future together.

For now, if you want to help make this world a better place, join Fragile Oasis and submit your own project. Founder and chief Bloggernaut @Astro_Ron is waiting to hear from you!!

Flyer for Fragile Oasis

Fragile Oasis Tweetup Flyer

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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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Think UNthinkable Thoughts

“To achieve the impossible, it is PRECISELY the UNthinkable that MUST be thought.” Tim Robbins

How many times have you shared an idea, only to be told it would never work? While you’re busy counting, I can tell you I lost count several lifetimes ago.

Visionaries “envision” the end product in their heads. Realizing that vision, now that’s the heart of the adventure. The barriers to success are built upon layers of “no way” or “you’re crazy” or “not on my watch.”

Think about the dreamers who designed the magnificent reusable space vehicle we know as the Space Shuttle. Though they believed winged flight from space back to Earth was possible, could they ever have imagined 30 years of reliable service? Yes, we’ve experienced two tragedies, but we’ve also witnessed 20,952 orbits around Earth by the fleet — prior to next week’s final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Time in space for 134 flights: 1,320 days, one hour, 32 minutes, 44 seconds.

Space Shuttle Atlantis rolling out to the launch pad for her final flight. NASA/Bill Ingalls

Space Shuttle Atlantis rolling out to the launch pad for her final flight. NASA/Bill Ingalls

Prior to the final mission, STS-135, the five Orbiters traveled 537,114,016 miles.

  • Columbia was the first to fly into orbit carrying John Young and Bob Crippen on April 12, 1981. She flew 27 complete missions for 121,696,993 miles and 300 days in space. The vehicle and crew were lost at the end of the STS-107, her 28th mission. (My personal story: I worked at NASA Headquarters in DC, but was in Texas with my daughter Steph for a college visit at The University of Texas. My sister lived north of Dallas. One of her friends from JSC called to ask us to go outside and look for the Orbiter in the sky. They had lost contact. Horror of horror. We only saw contrails.)
  • Challenger‘s maiden flight was STS-6 on April 4, 1983. She flew nine complete missions for 995 miles and 62 days in space, before exploding at lift off on her 10th mission, STS-51L, carrying Christa McAuliffe, our first Teacher in Space. (My story: I was on maternity leave from the Johnson Space Center after the birth of baby daughter Steph. I saw the story on the news. I attended the Memorial Service with President Reagan. I came back from maternity leave to the accident investigation.) 
  • Discovery flew her maiden voyage in August 1984 with STS-41D. She served as the Return to Flight missions after both accidents. She flew 148,221,675 miles, 39 flights, and 365 days (ONE FULL YEAR) in space. As the most seasoned Orbiter, Discovery retired first following the STS-133 mission.
  • Endeavour is the baby of the fleet. She was the last built, ordered to replace Challenger. She flew her first mission, STS-49, in May, 1992. She retired second after flying 122,883,151 miles and 25 missions and 299 days in space through her final mission, STS-134.
  • Atlantis flew first on October 3, 1985 during the STS-51J mission. She is the last operational vehicle in the Space Shuttle fleet. Prior to this final mission, she’s completed 32 flights and 120,650,907 miles and 293 days in space.

Over the last 30 years, the five Orbiters carried human cargo to space and back: 848 before this final flight of Atlantis, which carries a crew of four: Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Wilheim. At the end of the Space Shuttle program, 852 humans can boast about riding a rocket to space and glider back to planet Earth. Think about the stories they’ll tell their grandchildren and great grandchildren — about a time when humans allowed themselves to think unthinkable thoughts. And when they did, they created something amazingly awesome: a reusable winged space plane.

STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis on launch pad. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis on launch pad. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

If we keep thinking unthinkable thoughts, we can do unimaginable things and go unforeseenable [yes, I know this is not a word, but I like it] places. 

But it takes work:

  • Parents, believe your kids can do more than seems possible. Give them a leg up: support them even if it means sacrifice on your part.
  • Teachers, open your students’ eyes to the wonder of the universe. One of them may be the first to build a personal spacecraft or step on Mars without the need for a bulky spacesuit.
  • Bosses, give your employees an opportunity to create new products and processes. Allow them the flexibility to think outside the box without fear of retribution.

Even as we close out the Space Shuttle program, tomorrow holds great promise if we dare to dream it. So, let’s get to it!

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Filed under astronaut, culture, Earth, innovation, NASA, space, technology, tweet-up

Touching Lives

“Life is not a path of coincidence, happenstance, and luck, but rather an unexplainable, meticulously charted course for one to touch the lives of others and make a difference in the world.” — Barbara Dillinham

My daughter Steph came home from a year in Africa yesterday. She served as a counselor to young victims of trauma and abuse for Bethany House in Krugersdorp outside Johannesburg, South Africa. She was heartbroken to leave all the children behind who took captive her heart, as well as all the friends and colleagues who made her year so special.

Steph in Africa

Her cat Sammy (my furry grandchild) kept circling around her, sniffing her clothes and hair. She doesn’t smell the same way she did when she left. He wonders if she’s the same Steph who left our house one year ago. He’s right. She’s not.

After a year of living and working in another continent at the bottom of the world in a totally different culture surrounded by ten unique languages and the vestige of apartheid, she changed. As a professional counselor, she listened to stories of heartbreak and horror from children who:

  • lost their parents to the ravages of the creature called AIDS that devours the lives of an entire generation of adults (and may have AIDS themselves),
  • live with their grannies (who can’t afford to feed/care for all the little ones left to them),
  • or an abusive family member,
  • or pretend to live with a family member but instead serve as the child head-of-household for their younger siblings;
  • have very little to eat and too many responsibilities to study,
  • see no hope for the future, and
  • often believe suicide is the only way out.

Steph’s world view altered irrevocably. In a good way — though at times she too lost hope, overwhelmed by the despair she encountered. Many of the children she’s come to love won’t live to the age of 14. AIDS will claim them too. Each time, she had to shake off the weight of the world,  take a breath, and start over again. She’s a plucky little thing, I must say. She touches lives. She changes hearts. She transforms the hopeless by offering tools to deal with their emotions and circumstances.

Many are tempted to give up if we can’t solve ALL the world’s problems. Instead, the answer is for each of us to do what we can to make a difference: one person, one problem, one day at a time.

I may not get to spend my days out in the field helping people, at least I can take steps to make the world a better place through creative programs at NASA, like LAUNCH and Fragile Oasis. My small contribution is helping to inspire citizens of this planet through our space endeavors to take special care of our communities and neighbors — AND sending both my daughters off into the far reaches of this world to help others.

What are you doing to make a difference inside your circle of influence? A smile. A hug. No effort is too small to touch lives in a positive way.

For now, I’m doing lots of smiling and hugging, now that Steph is back!

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Filed under Africa, Bethany House Trust, Fragile Oasis, LAUNCH, poverty, space

Life: Where’s my Debris Shield?

I haven’t posted an update in two months. I know. I know. I feel the guilt weighing heavily on me. My last post was during the STS-134 Tweetup. I never even downloaded the hundreds of iPhone pics I took of all the tweeps. Sorry guys. And here we are on the heels of our last Space Shuttle mission tweetup: STS-135 Atlantis. NEXT week!!

STS-135 crew portrait

STS-135 crew: Rex Walheim, Pilot Doug Hurley, Commander Chris Ferguson, Sandy Magnus

So here’s my list of excuses:

  • I returned from the last launch to a house consumed by voracious weeds,
  • my Mother returned from Zambia,
  • my daughter, Carol, bought/moved into her first home,
  • a project at work required 24/7 attention,
  • I rediscovered my bicycle, and
  • my brain was fried.

In two days, my daughter Steph returns from her South African adventure. I’m thrilled beyond words to have her back home while she pursues her PhD. Skype is great, but face to face is much better. We’ve been busy trying to rearrange the house to make sure Steph has a place to spread out and study.

Which brings me to why I have time to post this. I’m on sick leave. I experienced an unpleasant encounter with falling debris (ceramic vase) which I unsuccessfully avoided.

If only I had Mission Control to monitor threatening debris and maneuver me out of the way — like they did for the crew of Space Station only this morning.

Unlike me, the crew received warning in time to take cover in the Soyuz spacecraft docked to Station. The debris passed without incident, and they returned to their stations to get on with their daily schedules. I, on the other hand, experienced a direct hit.

Really, you’ll never want me on a long-distance mission. I attract calamity. Yes, I’m the accident-queen. Only two weeks ago, I engaged in battle with angry ground wasps in my garden. Two days ago, I attracted a vase from the top of the refrigeration — which had held those very flowers from my garden that the wasps tried to protect.

@FlatSamantha "Next time wear your space suit @bethbeck - it'll keep those wasps from stinging you and help beat the heat!"

Right now, I’m awaiting word on whether or not my ankle is broken. Either way, the doctor has me off my feet with the offending leg elevated. Which, I must say, severely cramps my lifestyle. Sigh.

In perspective, though, I think my calamities are God’s way to get me to slow down.

I tend to live a “shot-from-a-cannon” life. I’m always in the middle of multiple projects at home, as any homeowner will understand. At work…well, we won’t even talk about that.

Now that I’m forced to slow down — ok, grind to a halt — I can take a moment to reflect. The yard looks amazing. Steph boards a plane tomorrow to come home. We’re about to celebrate our last Shuttle mission — which, though sad, is still an amazing accomplishment. And the coolest thing about getting hurt: a CALL from SPACE wishing me well — thanks to Expedition 27/28 crewmember Ron Garan, Mr. Fragile Oasis!

If you haven’t had a chance to browse Ron’s brainchild, Fragile Oasis, take a moment to join the community. Submit your own Earth-based project and if you get all your friends/colleagues/family to vote for it, you can get a picture from space.

In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying views of Earth (my backyard) as I ice my ankle and keep it propped up on pillows. Maybe someday I’ll get my own PDS…otherwise known as Personal Debris Shield.

Planters in my yard

Container gardening adds color in barren corners.

Planters in my yard

Cluster of planters in my yard.

Tricycle Planter in my yard

Tricycle Planter in my yard

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Filed under Africa, Earth, NASA, social media, space, technology, tweet-up

STS-134 NASA Tweetup: Day 2

Day 2 of the STS-134 tweetup started with great hope for an afternoon launch. I passed this car in the parking lot. LUV it!!

Space Shuttle Team: Doing What Others Dream

Space Shuttle Team: Doing What Others Dream

What a day. We started with a NASA Tweetup marriage proposal and ended with a launch scrub. Oh, and a visit by the President of the United States and First Family somewhere in between.

NASA Tweetup Proposal @tempegirl @chriscardinal

NASA Tweetup Wedding Proposal: Chris Cardinal @chriscardinal + Nina Tallman @tempegirl

Nina Tallman accepted Chris Cardinal's wedding proposal

Nina Tallman said YES to Chris Cardinal's wedding proposal

We took our traditional NASA Tweetup Countdown Clock pic. What a good looking group of tweeps.

STS-134 NASA Tweetup Launch Clock portrait

STS-134 NASA Tweetup Launch Clock portrait. Photo credit: NASA/Paul Alers

Good luck finding yourself in this shot, tweeps. I’m sitting crosslegged in front in white pants. They weren’t quite so white after the shot. ;)

Our Brits celebrated the Royal Wedding in their very own way — complete with flag-waving in front of the Countdown Clock. They are hoping to “launch” Royal Kate and William into wedded bliss. At least, that’s my interpretation.

Brits @tristamsparkes @jackdearlove @DrLucyRogers

Flag-waving Brits @tristamsparkes @jackdearlove @DrLucyRogers

@JackDearLove trying to take over NASA tweetup

@JackDearLove trying to take over NASA tweetup ;)

@JackDearLove's flag

@JackDearLove's flag

We had great lineup of speakers, starting off with Astronaut Ricky Arnold. He’s somewhere in the sea of tweeps in the photo above. Here are a few great quotes tweeted out during his talk. The Barbies were all so excited. Ken too!

@VenusBarbie & friends

@VenusBarbie & friends

@jenniferHuber Ricky Arnold food tweet
@SusanMazza quoting Ricky Arnold
@michaelbmore quoting Ricky Arnold
@TimLillard quoting Astronaut Ricky Arnold

NASA’s Education Chief, Leland @Astro_Flow Melvin came to speak next.

@SpaceTeam tweet about @Astro_flow
@schollem lego tweet about @Astro_flow
@brendajburrell quotes @Astro_Flow
@CarsonSkinner quotes @Astro_Flow

Tweeps heard more about NASA’s activities with LEGO from Daire McCabe, LEGO designer, then heard from Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett, Launch Weather Officer.

@DrLucyRogers LEGO mission patch
@NancyBroden weather tweet

We broke for lunch then lined up along the “road to the launch pad” to wave to the STS-134 crew as they pass by in the AstroVan. But, alas, they drove past, turned around and went back where they came. The dreaded SCRUB!

AstroVan headed to Launch Pad A

AstroVan headed to Launch Pad A

AstroVan returning Crew

AstroVan returning Crew

We went back to the NASA tweetup tent to wait for more information about the next launch attempt. The President and First Family toured the Kennedy Space Center and met with the crew. Some of our tweeps waved to them as they passed by.

POTUS with STS-134 crew

POTUS with STS-134 crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

We found out that the earliest next launch attempt will be Monday at 2:34 p.m. EDT. Many of the tweeps had to say goodbye, sadly. But not before lots of goodbye pics like the one below with the LEGO mission patch.

Space Tweeps

Space Tweeps

We packed up, making plans to start this show again on Monday, if all goes well. Our DC Twitter rep, Adam Sharp, was the very last to leave around 6:30 pm. He has a meeting Monday and can’t stay for the next launch attempt.

Last to leave the tweetup tent....

@Sharp: Last to leave the tweetup tent....

Here’s my last look:

NASA Tweetup Tent Sign

NASA Tweetup Tent Sign

Looks like Seth Green, Clare Grant, Nicole Solomon and Abe Benrubi will be coming back for Monday’s launch attempt. WooHoo! (BTW, thanks Nicole for strongly encouraging me to using Hipstamatic pics. They really are so much fun!

@SethGreen tweet

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Filed under AIDs, Bethany House Trust, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up