Tag Archives: Discovery

Discovery Rules Galactic Social Media Empire

Discovery Alexandria Flyover @bethbeck

Discovery Alexandria Flyover @bethbeck

On Tuesday, I watched the Space Shuttle Discovery piggyback over Old Town Alexandria with several hundred others who gathered at the waterfront. When Discovery appeared in the sky, I cried. The intensity of emotion that flooded over me took me totally by surprise. I thought I was over it — that I’d moved on after the final Space Shuttle mission. I was wrong. It hit me hard.

Shuttle Discovery over DC. Photo: NASA/Chris Gunn

Shuttle Discovery over DC. Photo: NASA/Chris Gunn

On Thursday, I was scheduled to speak at the first ever #140cuse social media conference at Syracuse University in New York. My topic: Launching a Galactic Social Media Empire. The format for the conference is 10 minute presentations. You can browse the list of speakers on the #140cuse Conference website.

Badge from #140cuse Conference

Badge from #140cuse Conference

“One must learn by doing the thing, for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.” — Sophocles, 400 B.C.

After an emotion-filled experience with Discovery, I changed the focus of my talk from creation of a social media empire to the outcomes from a social space empire — specifically the #SpotTheShuttle campaign. Social media connected us in awe and wonder as we looked up to the skies to witness a seasoned spaceship flying by the power of her Earth-bound transport over the nation’s Capitol on her way to retirement at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy facility.

Discovery RULES the Galactic Social Media Empire!

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @ThinkGeek

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @ThinkGeek

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @ThinkGeek

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @ThinkGeek

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @LauraBly

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @LauraBly

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @ebuzzedge

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @ebuzzedge

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @USAgov

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @USAgov

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @KelleyApril

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @KelleyApril

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @kachok

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @kachok

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @DarrenMilligan

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @DarrenMilligan

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @WorldBankPhotos

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @WorldBankPhotos

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @LisFace

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @LisFace

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @SenJohnThune

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @SenJohnThune

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @jeff_foust

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @jeff_foust

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @CindyhM1

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @CindyhM1

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @raffg

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @raffg

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @PapaBradstein

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @PapaBradstein

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @almacy

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @almacy

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @brookezigler

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @brookezigler

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @datachick

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @datachick

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @RobertPearlman

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @RobertPearlman

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @charlieowen4

Discovery #SpotTheShuttle @charlieowen4

Discovery: @stevenyoungsfn #SpotTheShuttle
Discovery: @stevenyoungsfn #SpotTheShuttle
Farewell, dear Discovery. You are well-loved.

1 Comment

Filed under NASA, social media

Dear Discovery…

Space Shuttle Discovery on Launchpad for final launch. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Space Shuttle Discovery on Launchpad for final launch. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Dear Discovery,

You have served us well. You’ve given hope to Earthlings of all shapes and sizes, ages and interests for almost 30 years. You are the third spacecraft to join the Space Shuttle fleet, and the first to be retired. You were born on August 27, 1979 and took four years to roll off the assembly line.

You were named after two exploring ships of old. One of your namesakes carried Henry Hudson to explore the Hudson Bay in the early 1600s, searching for a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Your other namesake carried British explorer James Cook on his adventures to the South Pacific in the 1770s. On this voyage, he discovered the Hawaiian Islands.

Discovery, we thank you for taking us back to space after both our Challenger and Columbia tragedies. You were the first US spacecraft to meet up with the Russian Mir orbiting space station, and the first to be flown by a female pilot, Eileen Collins — who later became the first female commander. You returned Astronaut John Glenn to orbit as the oldest human to fly in space.

You traveled 148,221,675 miles in space for a total of 365 days off the planet. You orbited Earth 5,830 times, and gave 242 humans the ride of their lives. I’m sorry I wasn’t one of them, but I was with you in spirit as you soared through the heavens at 17,500 miles per hour.

I look forward to seeing you fly over us today as you piggyback your way to Dulles for your final retirement home at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy facility in Chantilly, Virginia. Look down. I’ll be waving wildly and snapping your photo with my iPhone.

Discovery, we love you. We’ll miss seeing you break the Earth’s gravitational boundaries. But, I know you’ll continue to break hearts (in a good way) as long lines of Earthlings come see you for the first time. Enjoy your retirement. You deserve it.

Final Godspeed to you, old girl!

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

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!

4 Comments

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

Space Wonder from Earthling Eyes

French photographer Thierry Legault takes some amazing photographs of our spacecraft. See what I mean?

STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery approaching Space Station to dock. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery approaching Space Station to dock. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Spacewalk as seen from Earth. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Spacewalk as seen from Earth. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Goosebumps!

You are looking at images of Space Shuttle Discovery’s final mission to Space Station. Soak in the significance of these images. We are closing out the final chapter in our nation’s Space Shuttle program. (But you already knew that, right?) So cool that we have photographers like Thierry out there caring enough to record this journey for us.

Let me share the back story of our NASA relationship with Thierry.

It all began back in September 2006, when Space Shuttle Atlantis launched to orbit for STS-115, a 11 day-19 hour-6 minute mission to Space Station and back. Thierry captured this image.

STS-115 Atlantis & Station in front of the sun. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-115 Atlantis & Station in front of the sun. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Note: Space Station had a totally different shape then. We were only six years into the decade-long construction project.

I saw this picture in a magazine and tracked Thierry down through his photography service in France. On April 24, 2007, I wrote him this email:

Thierry,
Your image of Station and Shuttle in front of the sun is absolutely FABULOUS! May we have permission to use the photo with our NASA exhibits?  We would give you credit, of course! Your image is the most striking I’ve ever seen, and the fact that the Shuttle and Station are in the same shot from Earth is incredible. The general public has trouble getting excited about Station because we’ve built it in orbit. They’ve never seen it, except in our images from space. Your image allows them to touch space from home.

He contacted me almost immediately and agreed to let us use his photo. We were thrilled! For me, the story this image tells is that humans (and the things we create) are SO tiny against the awesome backdrop of the universe we live in. Wow! Plus, we can allow folks at home a glimpse of of the incredible engineering marvel we’re building UP IN SPACE.

Fast forward to August 2008, we received an email from Thierry that he was interested in taking pics of his beloved Atlantis during the STS-125 Hubble servicing mission. The only problem was, Hubble orbits 35o miles over Earth. Space Station orbits 220 miles overhead. He couldn’t afford the special lens required to capture the image – an additional 130 miles UP in the sky. He wanted to know if we had one, or were willing to buy one, so that he could record such an historic event — the final Space Shuttle repair mission to Hubble.

Intrigued, we did a bit of research to see if we had any NASA camera equipment that met the specs. Nope. Our next option was to look into purchasing the lens, but we needed to find other uses of the equipment after Thierry borrowed it for the mission. NASA photographer, Bill Ingalls, raised his hand (or more accurately, jumped up and down with glee) at the opportunity to get his hands on the lens. Done. (And, just so you know, the price of the lens dropped significantly by the time we purchased it. We snagged a great lens at a great price.)

Thierry traveled from France to Florida for the STS-125 mission. Our own excellent Bill took Thierry along with him for all his official duties, giving Thierry access to the best NASA locations to photograph the mission.

What did we get out of the deal? Incredible images of Space Shuttle Atlantis and Hubble in front of the Sun, that’s what!

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit

The images went viral. Newspapers, websites, blogs, tweets around the world gushed about Thierry’s images of our spacecraft. What’s not to love?

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

Thank you Thierry for sharing your photos (and your amazing talent) with us. You’ve perfectly captured the drama and awe and wonder of space.

What an out-of-this-world sight!

Hot off the presses (or email): After posting this morning, Thierry sent me more images to share with you. How many times can I say WOW!!! Simply breathtaking!

Space Station during Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with Space Station 05/16/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with Space Station 05/16/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Station 05/22/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Station 05/22/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Solar Eclipse 01/04/2011. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Solar Eclipse 01/04/2011. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Thierry, keep ‘em coming!

1 Comment

Filed under Earth, NASA, space, technology

Flat Stanley: Out of this World Tour

Guest Post by Stanley Lambchop

Hi! My name is Flat Stanley. I belong to Nathan Woolverton, Beth Beck’s adorable nephew. Nathan’s class has an assignment to send me on an adventure. I’ve always wanted to go to space, so I asked if Nathan’s aunt Beth would take me to work with her. She works at NASA, you know. So, Nathan’s mom popped me into a mailer and here I am. I’m flat, you see, so I don’t cost much in postage to get from Texas to DC.

"Flat Stanley" book by Jeff Brown, 1964

"Flat Stanley" book by Jeff Brown, 1964

Beth told me you might not know who I am. Really? Wow. I guess I better tell you a little about myself. I was born in 1964. My real name is Stanley Lambchop. My younger brother is Arthur. My dad gave me a bulletin board that fell on my bed, squashing me flat. Hey. Don’t worry. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I kinda like it. I’ll never grow bigger or older than I am now. How cool is that?!? AND, I can slip inside an envelop, fax or email to go ANYwhere I want. I’m getting to see much of the world.

But Nathan is special. He sent me on an out-of-this-world adventure. I dare you to top this! I’ve been sending Nathan email pics of my adventure. I have to write a journal too, so Beth thought a guest blogpost would let all of you enjoy my incredible experience. Now my class journal can be a virtual learning tool. Note: In case you’re wondering, I’m dictating my comments to Beth. I haven’t quite mastered typing on a keyboard with my flat fingers.

Fellow Earthings, prepare to get VERY jealous.

First of all, you should know that the weather in DC is very cold, icy and snowy in the winter. But while I’ve been up here, Nathan and his class have seen two snowstorms. Quite amazing — since he lives in warm sunny Texas. We had to shovel our way out before Beth and I could drive to work. We were both sweating inside our snow clothes. It’s hard work!

Flat Stanley in DC snow

Washington DC: I helped shovel snow.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management allowed federal government workers to telework or take vacation time off — just to keep thousands of drivers off the snowy roads. Beth had a meeting, so we drove in to work together. You know NASA is a government agency, right?

Here I am at NASA!

Flat Stanley Visits NASA

Here I am at NASA! Woot!

I came to visit on an important day, NASA’s Day of Remembrance, when NASA honors fallen heroes who’ve given their lives to the cause of exploration.

Flat Stanley: NASA Day of Remembrance

I learned about NASA's Day of Remembrance.

I toured the building. I found astronaut Deke Slayton’s spacesuit right down the hall from where Beth works. Deke was was one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts, selected in 1959 (before I was born). He was the only member of the Mercury Seven not to fly. He was grounded because of a problem with his heart, but he ended up flying in space in 1975 with the Apollo-Soyuz test Project — the first time the U.S and Soviet Union worked together in space.

Astronaut Deke Slayton's spacesuit.

Here I am with Astronaut Deke Slayton's spacesuit.

I met Robonaut Centaur. Pretty cool dude. He rolls around on a rover base. He’ll help astronauts who are working on the surface of another planet. He’s kin to Robonaut 2, robo-humanoid STS-133 crewmember launching to Space Station on February 24.

Flat Stanley meets Robonaut Centaur

I met Robonaut Centaur, cousin to STS-133 Robonaut2.

Here I am hangin’ with my new peeps, the RoboTwins: Robonaut 2 and Robonaut 2. They were duking it out over who gets to launch onboard STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery on one of the final missions in the Shuttle program, scheduled for February 24.

Flat Stanley with his peeps: Robonaut 2 Twins

Hangin with my peeps: RoboTwins

I inspected a Space Shuttle up close and personal. It’s really high way up at the top. Check it out!

Flat Stanley's Tank Top View

Here's my Tank Top View. Original photo by NASA's Bill Ingals.

Here’s what a bird would see when a Space Shuttle launches. Pretty amazing, don’t you think? I can’t believe we’ll only have three more launches EVER in the history of mankind.

Flat Stanley sees a Space Shuttle launch

Only three more Space Shuttle launches EVer!

The only way off this planet, until we come up with another solution, is by rocket propulsion. “Beam me up, Scotty” only works on TV and in movies, sadly. Hopefully some of you out there will come up with a cool new mode of transportation, like dream transport or spacial folding techniques. (I just made those up, but who can predict what breakthrough might happen in the future.)

Once we get off the planet, though, we can see sights like these. Come along for the rocket ride.

Flat Stanley visits International Space Station

Isn't Space Station amazing?

The International Space Station orbits 220 miles over Earth, circling the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of 17,500 mph with a international crew of six.

Flat Stanley tours Space Station

Another view of Space Station.

Flat Stanley on Top of the World

Flat Stanley on Top of the World

Flat Stanley on the Moon: Nope. No cheese!

Moon tour: Nope. No cheese!

Flat Stanley scorched by Sun

Sun: Man, this place is HOT!

Flat Stanley: Mars

Mars, the Red Planet. Humans could live here in the future.

When humans travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere, they need protection from the harsh environment of space. Either a spaceship or spacesuit — to provide air, cooling and heating, and other essentials. Our atmosphere provides a radiation shield, but once we go further out, we need to provide protection. On the planet’s surface, whether Moon or Mars, we’ll need a hardshelled suit, like the one I tried on. But I don’t think it fits. Do you?

Flat Stanley tries on Mars suit

I'm trying on the Mars suit. It's a bit big.

Maybe someday we’ll have bio-shields or exo-skins that protect us without a spacesuit. Maybe Nathan and his classmates will come up with a technology breakthrough that NASA can use.

Highlight of my visit: I met a real live astronaut! Really. I promise. Not only is Leland Melvin a spaceman, he’s also the Chief of Education at NASA. He really likes kids. You can tell. He stopped a meeting to pose for a picture with me. Cool dude!

Flat Stanley meets astronaut Leland Melvin

Here I am with astronaut Leland Melvin!

Leland spent over 565 hours in space during two Space Shuttle missions: STS-122 in 2008 and STS-129 in 2009. He also played football in the NFL with the Detroit Lions in 1986, as well as the Dallas Cowboys and Toronto Argonauts, until injuries kept him off the field. Good thing for NASA. Don’t you think?

Maybe someday I’ll go live on Mars. I don’t weigh much. I don’t eat anything. I don’t need radiation protection, or even a spacesuit, for that matter. If Robonaut can be part of a space crew, I think a flat boy should have the chance. Leland and I are buds now. Maybe he can put in a good word for me. Hmmm.

I hope you liked my space adventure. I learned alot about NASA. I hope you did too.

Oh, and you can Facebook me, if you want. I have my own page. But for now, I need to get back to Nathan’s class. Time for me to get into the mailer, so Beth can get me to the post office. When I get back to Texas, I’m going to make sure Nathan asks his mom to let me watch live views from Space Station on the NASA TV channel on the web. You can too.

Flat Stanley & NASA's Alien

NASA discovered alien life after all!

7 Comments

Filed under federal government, NASA, space

Every Ending = New Beginning

In the mid-90’s, I recall a conversation with German Space Agency liaison, Gerhart Brauer — both a colleague and good friend to me. I struggled with a painful chapter in my life, and Gerhart offered this one simple phrase that made all the difference at the time. And even today.

Every ending is a new beginning.

Sometimes, though, this concept can be hard to accept. Personally and professionally. Take the end of our beloved Space Shuttle program, for example. Only three flights left. EVER!

Shuttle Stack

Shuttle Stack

My sister Aimee recently reminded me how she and Daddy watched Columbia lift off on April 12, 1981. She remembers him marveling that we could actually launch a rocket from Earth and fly it back to the planet like an airplane. The concept was so unbelievable at the time.

We take it for granted today.

I don’t recall the launch at all. But, I remember the STS-1 landing two days later. I worked at the University of Texas Ex-Students’ Association in Austin. We gathered around the conference table to watch Columbia land. I remember how cool it was to meet STS-1 John Young and Bob Crippin for the first time a few years later. They were the first humans to put their lives on the line and strap themselves onto the Shuttle stack for launch.

But then again, every astronaut who has ever flown on a rocket ship takes a leap of faith — each time we ignite the engines.

Yes, the fleet of amazing reusable winged vehicles served us well over the last three decades (with the exception of our tragic loss of the Challenger and Columbia crew and vehicles on two missions: STS-51-L and STS-107). We don’t relish mothballing the remaining three vehicles: Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour. But think about the exorbitant cost of upgrades. Cost alone makes the close-out decision for NASA managers so much easier than for those on the outside looking in.

Orbiter Cutaway

Orbiter Cutaway

Let’s face it, many of us are mourning the end of the program. And that’s ok. Grief is a reasonable human response. We love to watch our winged vehicles soar into the air, breaking gravity’s grasp on humanity. Those of us fortunate enough to witness a Shuttle launch live, love to feel the ground-shaking rumble and the roar of the engines. Some have even seen the night-sky turn to day as the vehicle propels to the heavens above.

 

STS-131 launch

STS-131 launch

 

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a Space Shuttle!!!

(Sorry Superman. We’ve got the real thing. You’re only fiction.)

So what happens next? What follows the Space Shuttle program? So many ask. Many are angry and confused. I don’t have the answers. Just know that NASA folks are furiously working to fill in the blanks. (We’ll fly on Soyuz spacecraft to Station in the meantime.) Beyond that, stay tuned. No comfort for thousands of workers who made house payments, put food on the table, and paid school expenses off Shuttle-related paychecks. I get it. My heart goes out to them. This post-Shuttle “new beginning” must feel like a black hole, where everything they know is disappearing into a powerful vortex outside their control. NASA has been planning this for years, but it doesn’t make the end of the program any easier.

We humans don’t like change, do we?

It’s uncomfortable. Messy, at times. We often prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty. That’s why we stay in dead-end jobs or in joyless relationships. We’re funny like that. When change comes, we fight it, dig in our heels, complain to anyone who will listen. Does that sound at all familiar?

But with every new beginning, comes new hope for a better tomorrow.

If we can only let go of those things we cling tightly to, we might have two arms free to embrace this scary, unknown new thing — sometimes called a fresh start.

Here are a few ways to face change head on. Our Goal: Influence Change!

  1. Think creatively.
  2. Use the same tools in new ways.
  3. Find new tools to make old ways new.
  4. Look at a problem upside down and right side up.
  5. Deconstruct to reconstruct.
  6. Make change your own.
  7. Sculpt your world into something better than ever existed before.

Who knows, you might like tomorrow better than today! Really, it could happen. ;)

STS-132

STS-132

 

BTW: The next launch, STS-132, is scheduled for May 14. We’ll be having our second Shuttle Launch tweetup at the Kennedy Space Center and a mission tweetup at the Johnson Space Center. Stay-tuned for stories about the launch and space tweeps I meet there.

If you have stories to share about where you were and how you felt with the first Space Shuttle left Earth, feel free to post them as comments. I’d love to read them.

Crosspost on OpenNASA.com and GovLoop.com.

13 Comments

Filed under Earth, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up

Women of the World. Literally!

STS-131 Space Shuttle Discovery lit up the dawn sky this morning as she broke free from gravity’s grip to reach low Earth orbit on her way to the International Space Station.

Lift off! STS-131 Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo: NASA TV

Lift off! STS-131 Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo: NASA TV

Onboard Discovery, three female astronauts: NASA’s Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. They will join Space Station Expedition 23 crewmember Tracy Caldwell Dyson.

Four women in space at the same time! How cool is that?!?

Tracy, Dottie, Stephanie, Naoko

Tracy, Dottie, Stephanie, Naoko

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Naoko will tweet during the mission. You can follow @Astro_Naoko in English AND Japanese. Space Station is like our Space United Nations (S.U.N) with multiple nationalities and languages. ;)

Tweet from @astro_Naoko

Tweet from @Astro_Naoko

Not only did we launch three female astronauts into space onboard a rocketship this morning to join the fourth on Space Station, but we also launched our NASA Deputy Lori Garver into the Twittersphere with her first tweet from launch at the Kennedy Space Center. You can follow her tweets @Lori_Garver.

In fact, one of Lori’s first tweets inspired this blogpost.

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver. Photo: NASA

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver. Photo: NASA

Lori also launched her Facebook fan page this morning. NASA’s social media presence ROCKets!

So, girls out there in the universe: Take hope. Aim high. Work hard. Never let a little “no” stop you. Your WORLD awaits you, as we have proof today.

4 females in space. April 7, 2010

4 females in space. April 7, 2010

Crosspost on GovLoop and OpenNASA.

2 Comments

Filed under astronaut, Earth, leadership, NASA, social media, space

Space Invaders in Nation’s Capitol

Crazy week at NASA. Space Shuttle Discovery completed her cross-country piggy-back ride from California back to Florida. We announced the discovery of water on the Moon…and more on Mars. The 2009 Astronaut Class and the STS-127 crew came to visit NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. We hosted a Tweet-up with Space Tweeps and the STS-127 crew. (Thanks all you Space Tweeps who joined us!)

STS-127 Crew @ NASA HQ

STS-127 Crew @ NASA HQ

Since I work human spaceflight issues, I love having our astronauts come up to DC. So, I’ll share a few stories with you from this week.

Jules Verne in Orbit:

Veteran Astronaut Dave Wolf talked about his time with the Russians on Mir vs. time on Shuttle and Station. He described Mir (precursor to Space Station) as Jules Verne-like with ivory keys on the control panel and a red leather chair. Who needs a chair in Zero-G, if you think about it? But Dave said he spend time in the red leather chair as best he could on orbit. Velcrow, perhaps?

Smells in space:

Julie Payette answers question

Julie Payette answers question

Both Canadian astronaut Julie Payette and Dave Wolf talked about how the U.S modules on Space Station differ from the Russian side — look, feel, taste and smell. Dave said the smell of the Russian modules reminded him of his time on Mir. You gotta’ wonder exactly what that means…right? But then, if you think about it, our senses are assaulted walking into someone’s home — smell of cookies or fried foods, smoke or new carpet, candles or dirty clothes. Space Station is their home in space. They eat, sleep, exercise, work for up to six months at a time. They will leave their scent, I assume. Hmmm.

Fear of Falling:

Astronaut Chris Cassidy

Astronaut Chris Cassidy

First-time astronaut Chris Cassidy spoke of his first moments after opening the hatch for his spacewalk. He looked out to see the Earth spinning under him. As he watched, he realized he held onto the handle with a death-grip. His brain had to process the reality that he wouldn’t fall…he would float.

Our human brains are gravity-wired. Even with years of training, astronauts have to mentally, as well as physically, adjust to the differences zero-g present.

One-way ticket to Mars:

When asked if any of the STS-127 crew would jump at a ticket to Mars, Chris Cassidy spoke of family and how they factor into the decision. He and Commander Mark Polansky both said the decision might be different if family could go along.

Would you go, if given the opportunity — knowing you would never see our blue planet or other Earthlings EVER again?

Wouldn’t it be cool, though, to have that choice? Someday our planet will be asking our global citizens for volunteers on humanity’s quest for knowledge. Someday.

In the meantime, we’ll host space invaders fresh from our orbital outpost 220 miles overhead.

STS-127 Lift Off

STS-127 Lift Off. Credit/NASA

The Office of Space Operations hosted the brand spankin’ new astronauts for an early breakfast. Our Exploration colleagues joined us.

Astronaut-Africa Connection:

Breakfast with 2009 Astronaut Class

Breakfast with 2009 Astronaut Class

I spent some time with Dr. Kate Rubins, one of 14 members of the 2009 Astronaut Class. She’s an expert on infectious diseases — HIV, Ebola and Lassa viruses, which primarily affect West and Central Africa. She’s been given her “call-sign” already by her fellow astronauts: Bola (as in E-bola). I really enjoyed hearing about her time in Africa working with the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  She lamented how so many diseases are preventable with education and simple steps.

Kate is taking action to relieve suffering by founding the Congo Medical Relief Organization to provide medical supplies to the poverty-stricken.

You can become a fan of Congo Medical Relief on facebook. Their first support site is: L´Hôpital Général de Référence de Kole in a remote region of central Democratic Republic of CongoKate told me the Astronaut Office supported her work and encouraged her to continue her efforts. So cool!

Now, if we can only link NASA advances in supporting human life in the harsh reality of space to relieve those facing harsh realities here on our home planet.

Side note: After spending time in Africa (as you can obviously tell from my Africa blogposts), I left my heart there. I would LOVE to find a way to collaborate in some way — taking the best NASA has to offer to lift up those who can’t help themselves. That’s the missionary in me, I guess. Ideas on how to do this?

Viral Space Fever:

Space Shuttle on launch pad.

Space Shuttle on launch pad.

I spoke with many of the Astronaut Candidates about the importance of sharing the magic of space outside our circle of influence. They are SO, SO eager and enthusiastic now.

Jeanette Epps, 2009 Astronaut Class, told me,“We’ve been given this amazing opportunity to live out our dreams.

She and the others can’t imagine NOT wanting to share this experience with anyone willing to hear it.

Sadly, my experience predicts otherwise.

Editorial comments (i.e. Soapbox Moment):

Sharing the astronaut experience through public appearances — school visits, events, speeches, and more — must be approved by the Astronaut Office in Houston. The decision to honor the request or not is viewed in light of the mission: sending humans safely to space and back. Here are a few considerations:

  1. Fact: Our Astronaut Corps is shrinking with the close of the Shuttle program in 2010.
  2. Fact: We have fewer slots for longer duration missions on the International Space Station (which increases time needed to train).
  3. Fact: Everyone (or almost everyone) wants a chance to meet an astronaut.
  4. Fact: We have too few astronauts to meet all the requests for public appearances.
  5. Fact: Every minute an astronaut spends attending a public appearance translates into one minute less training for a task on a mission.
  6. Perception: Mission training is more valuable to NASA than public appearances.

Here’s what I have observed of the astronaut culture over the years:

An astronaut who enjoys “speaking with the public” risks being seen as less technically-credible by fellow astronauts.

A less technically-credible astronaut may jeopardize selection for the highly coveted slot on space missions — which take years to secure. Astronauts who are the best “Space Ambassadors” may risk ridicule as “attention-seekers.” Ah, those pesky unwritten rules on how to get one of those few seats on a spaceship leaving Earth.

Several members of the new Astronaut Class commented that they’d been advised to keep a low profile. Yet, I want them to have the HIGHEST of ALL profiles. I say, BRING it ON: hand-held video for YouTube, blogposts, Twitter and Facebook updates.

Let the world be part of astronaut training – right along side them!

 Spacewalk: Coming out of the Space Station hatch.

Spacewalk: Coming out of the Space Station hatch.

One of the former Astronaut Office chiefs told me they worked hard to balance mission-critical training with all the outside non-mission-critical requests for their time. Public outreach/educational events remove the astronauts from the job each was selected for — going into space. Training requires single-minded focus.

‘Really hard to argue against that logic. Mission-critical sounds like it should trump anything non-mission-critical. Right? But really, isn’t that just an assumption within our traditions and culture?

I really don’t envy the Astronaut Office folks. I can only imagine the pressure they’re under to juggle all the competing requirements for their time. I also get our NASA culture: we stick with what’s worked well for us in the past. But…is that the only way to succeed?

Can tradition handicap us, get in the way of creative solutions?

Enter technology — tools that could lighten the load and create new ways to share the training process with the rest of the world. Social media tools make sharing so simple. At one point, we were all afraid of e-mail. Now we can’t live without it for accomplishing work.

So here’s what I would do — in my imaginary world where I’m King of the Universe:

I would rewrite the equation: 1/2 unit technical + 1/2 unit inspirational = 1 Astronaut

NASA HQ employees crowded around STS-127 crew.

NASA HQ employees crowded around STS-127 crew.

In my opinion, social media should be a ‘given’ throughOUT the entire training process. Equip the astronauts with the iPhone 3GS (video) so they can instantly post pics and video inside the simulators, water training, T-38 practice time, and more.

Allow the tax-payer an opportunity to participate and interact WITH our incredible national treasure — the space travelers who’ve broken the bonds of Earth gravity.

If I were King, I would craft a career path that includes time at NASA Headquarters for EACH and EVERY astronaut in the Corps — prior to promotion consideration of any kind. (I realize this sounds harsh for uprooting the family structure, but kids/family members can benefit from time in our nation’s Capitol.) The time would be split evenly:

  1. six months in the Office of Legislative Affairs (sharing NASA’s story with Members of Congress and staff) and
  2. six months in the Office of Public Affairs (learning and practicing communication methods and representing NASA at outreach-type events outside NASA).

Our future as a space-faring nation depends on the will of the people, as expressed through decisions by their elected representatives.

STS-127: Discovery docked to Space Station

STS-128: Discovery docked to Space Station

Our astronauts and our images of the heavens offer our citizens a window into the universe. Our images show the story of what’s beyond our reach. Our astronauts tell the story — how it feels to GO beyond our reach. Yes, training is crucial to get the job done. But, the real job, is getting OUT THERE…in the Universe! We need political will to get there.

Astronauts embody the human drive to push beyond the boundaries of our knowledge.

Yes, the technical aspects of the mission are CRUCIAL. We have human lives at stake. Totally. Absolutely! And, we, at NASA, are incredibly good at conducting missions safely. However, without the storytelling — how it tastes and feels, complete with hair-raising near-misses and close calls — we may not have future space missions to conduct.

Humans are addicted to the drama behind the story.

Why else would we have an entertainment industry that we throw money at — for the privilege of losing ourselves inside the storytelling in novels, movies and TV shows?

So let’s tell our story…using every tool we’ve got!

IMG_0739

13 Comments

Filed under Africa, culture, Earth, federal government, leadership, NASA, poverty, space, water