Tag Archives: Earth

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!

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Filed under federal government, NASA, space

Space: A Waste?

NASA Facebook fans are a chatty bunch. We post something of interest going on at NASA. Fans talk about it. They like it. They dislike it. They have an idea for how to change it. But, for the most part, they’re supportive of our efforts. It is, after all, a “fan” page.

Lately I’ve noticed a few unhappy folks who post little “This is a waste of time” zingers. I really find it fascinating. If the information we’re posting is a waste of their time, why do they spend time on the NASA fan page?

Timbuktu Credit/NASA

Timbuktu Credit/NASA

I’m intrigued by the “waste of time” mentality.

Ok, I admit it. I’ve had similar thoughts about meetings or work products I considered a waste of my time. After all, I work for Uncle Sam…Big Brother…the Feds. I find I’m most frustrated when my time is expended against my willI wouldn’t dream of posting my time-waster list…well, maybe I might. ;)

Back to the point. When someone writes “This is a waste of time” on NASA’s Facebook wall about the Timbuktu image above, I have to wonder…as compared to what? Their frame of reference would be so telling. Wouldn’t it? For instance:

  • Reading a book is a waste of time when you could be fishing.
  • Fishing is a waste of time when you could be working.
  • Working is such a waste of time when you could be spending time with family.
  • Family time is such a waste when you could be traveling.
  • Traveling is such a waste of time when you could be volunteering.
  • Volunteering is such a waste of time when you could be making money to donate.

Look at the context in these examples. One choice is pitted against another. We tend to do that, don’t we?

Don’t we make judgments about choices others make based on our own value-based choices?

Here’s what I notice: we humans often expect others to share our views and values. If they don’t, we like to cast them as our enemy. We’re good. They’re bad. That simple.

But really, it’s not simple at all. Just because I value something doesn’t mean you have to value it too. Yes, I’d LOVE everyone to agree with me on EVERYthing. But, I’m no less valid in my choices or opinions than you are in yours. (You’re probably shaking your head right now, thinking how I’m idealistic and unrealistic I am.  You won’t be the first to think it.) Hear what I’m saying.

Life is all about balance.

We each bring to the table different and unique attributes for the greater whole. Synergy! The same goes for NASA. So, let’s explore how the federal government works, shall we?

Civics 101: The government exists to provide the public good. We fill the gap between:

  1. the needs of the common man, and
  2. profitably ventures attractive to commercial entities.

The pursuit of knowledge (i.e. NASA endeavors or basic science) isn’t profitable. But once we pursue the unknown, gain knowledge, and share what we’ve learned, THEN the opportunity exists for someone to take it and run all the way to the bank.

For instance, what we’re learning about humans existing in long-duration space onboard Space Station may help address the debilitating effects of osteoporosis on here on Earth. A drug company MAY use this information to manufacture and sell an “antidote” to brittle bones.  Yay for them!

We discover knowledge that leads to a product that meets a need someone is willing to pay for. Or, IF the need is worthy and a commercial entity can’t make a profit, we’re back to the government providing it. The cycle circles back on itself.

Society = balance of public good + commerce.

In reality, the argument boils down to managing the appropriate balance among the nations’ priorities to best bring about public good.

Civics 101, Part 2: The White House and Congress determine the nation’s priorities.

  1. The White House sets the agenda, and
  2. Congress holds the purse strings.

NASA receives less than 1% of the federal budget. Even if I do say so myself, we accomplish aMAZing feats with that partial penny on every dollar given us by Congress.

What can YOU do with less than a penny?

So back to the question, is space a waste? Again I ask: as compared to what?

Personally, I feel the time and energy I spend exploring unknown places or books or foods or experiences is never wasted. Every time I learn something new, I know more than I did the moment before. Even when the experiences are painful, I’m still wiser than before. Can that knowledge ever be wasted?

What if I share what I learned with you, and it:

  • saves you time,
  • streamlines your effort,
  • prevents harm, or
  • gives you insight on places or people you’ll never see?

What we discover at NASA changes textbooks! Generations upon generations of humans will benefit from the sacrifice our nation made to fund the space program, in an effort to learn what we don’t know. In the meantime, our government also took care of housing for the homeless, education for students, subsidies for farmers, benefits for veterans, security of our borders, and so much more. We can debate the balance of funds distributed, but it was ALL in an effort to bring about the public good…as determined by the White House and Congress.

Civics 101, Part 3: Citizens, if you disagree with how your tax dollars are spent, you speak loudest through your right to vote (as opposed to a fan page on the internet).

In the meantime, I’ll see you on Facebook! :-D

Crosspost on openNASA.

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Filed under culture, federal government, NASA, OpenNASA, space

EarthShip NASA: Exploring the American Pioneering Spirit

I was looking for a file on my computer and found this proposal I wrote (WAY back when) to send out a traveling crew to connect NASA‘s can-do pioneering spirit with folks out in the heartland who do the very same thing…but for their families and communities.

I hoped to ignite passion in Earth-bound citizens of this planet, to push them to the next level in their personal lives…stretch…dream…reach for the impossible. In my mind, I envisioned space gardens and space murals and community space festivals across the country.

Note: Podcasting was new back then. Twitter and YouTube didn’t exist. (I inserted those features after -the-fact.)

At the time I proposed this idea, NASA’s chief of Strategic Communications didn’t believe in traveling shows. He didn’t think NASA should expend our efforts on Earth in this way.  He had a point. But I see things differently. I believe our job is to share what we do best:

we’re the dreamers, the curious, the problem-solvers, the doers.

Yes, we build spaceships and scientific instruments. I get that. But if you think of NASA like a “reduction sauce” in the show, Top Chef, boil down what we do at NASA and you get this:

we make things happen against all odds.

I believe we need to ignite that spark in other Earthlings — the desire to push out the boundaries of what we know. We need generations-to-come of planetary citizens to celebrate the can-do spirit, right where they live…even if their feet never leave this planet.

We have new leadership coming to NASA with the Senate confirmation hearings this week for Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver to come take the helm. Culture can change. Policies can take different directions. Who knows, maybe this kooky idea will take hold with new folks coming in. Ideas that lay dormant can take root…with a little care and feeding. Really. I’ve seen it happen. (Remember, I’ve been around NASA for a LONG time.)

I have a more polished proposal at work, but I thought I’d share the one I cranked out on a flight home from the OshKosh airshow, where the inspiration first hit me.

EarthShip NASA

Mission:

365-Day Mission to explore and celebrate the pioneering spirit deep in the heartland of our country from small towns to urban regions.

Purpose:

Ignite passion for exploration and cultivate the pioneering spirit – whether at home or off our planet.

NASA relies on individuals with curiosity for the unknown to explore unconquered territory outside the boundaries of our knowledge.

Definition:

A pioneer is someone who claims the “first” of any category — the first to attend college in the family, the first to grow a pumpkin patch in the neighborhood, the first to build a playground for handicapped children, the first to study read 50 books during summer, the first to paint a mural with glue, etc.

Logistics:

NASA “terra-naut” team will be composed of five NASA employees from different ethnic backgrounds and ages (including one astronaut, if possible) who will commit to 365 days on the road.  Terranauts will blog/tweet and post video/pictures from the road, celebrating “pioneers” in every stop along the way.

NASA Terranauts will feature the local pioneers on video segments for NASA TV, blogs, and podcasts (plus YouTube, Twitter, GovLoop, and all the new social media tools).

An advance team will plot the cross country course and work with the community leaders to prepare for EarthShip’s arrival — identifying playgrounds to be cleaned up or space gardens to be planted, murals painted on school walls, etc.  The EarthShip team will arrive to set up camp and prepare for the Pioneer Festival.  NASA will offer a portable “Space Fair” in the community, and hold contests for Pioneering awards for all ages and categories.  The Advance Team will work with the community of culture-specific categories.

The EarthShip will consist of a converted Winnebago outfitted to look like a spaceship, and complete with “dorm rooms” for the Terranauts.  Perhaps we can work with Winnebago to provide our transportation, and Mobil/Exxon or Shell to provide gas, in exchange for sponsorship recognition.  Perhaps Good Morning America might team with us to provide once-a-week coverage of our progress, along with live coverage from NASA TV – to allow the public insight on where the EarthShip is going and who we’ve encountered on the way. (BTW, I’m a HUGE GMA fan!!! Yay Chris, Diane, Robin, and Sam!)

A lean support team composed of camera crew (or hand-held vid-cams), exhibit technician, and social media expert will help the EarthShip crew of Terranauts keep up with their postings.  Perhaps we can fly in “Max Q,” the astronaut band to perform at some of stops along the way.  One trailer will house the NASA exhibit material, which will include outside and inside material — weather-specific.

One slot for the EarthShip crew might be reserved for contest winners to travel for one month at a time, learning about NASA and taking the information back to their communities.

So, what do you think?

Crazy, huh? Yeah, I know. I get that all the time. But, still….

:-D

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Filed under Earth, federal government, leadership, NASA, space

Space: Humanity’s Playground

Today something amazing happened. Did you notice? A Canadian, Russian, and European launched on a Russian rocket from the Republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia headed 220 miles in the air to dock with an orbiting outpost built by five partner nations representing 15 member countries. Waiting to greet them? An American, Japanese, Russian crew. We listened to Mission Control chatter in Russian with English translation.

Hey! What is exactly going on here?

In the ghost of NASA past, we successfully reached the Moon to compete with the evil Soviet Union. We just unearthed a mountain of documents from the Father of our space program, Wernher Von Braun. Included among his 10-15,000 papers, a letter to President Kennedy outlining the reasons we should go to the Moon. All about those dastardly HammerAndCycle-ites, the Communists!

Fast forward to today, we’re good buddies with the Russians. We overcame our differences to shape something important for humanity—an off-planet habititat where we can learn how to live in a hostile environment with minimum comforts of home. Heck, we even take turns with the Russians to “Command” the International Space Station. Yes, you read this right. Expedition Mission Commanders rotate between an American Astronaut and Russian Cosmonaut each Expedition mission.

What a milestone for us today! With this launch to Station, we increase the population from three to six who live/work/play on orbit traveling at a speed of 17,500 mph around the planet 24/7 in 90-minute orbits. For the first time, all our partner space agencies will be represented on Station: NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

My take-away from this amazing moment: We find ways to get along when we want badly enough to get going! No cultural or ideological barrier can stop us if the need is great enough. 

Any partnership is only an invitation away. Lead the pack. Make the first move.

And let’s face it, we can’t explore the cosmos on the back of the tax-payers from any one nation. Space is humanity’s playground. My prediction: in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be partnering with China, Korea, and Iran. (After all, they like to launch things too.)

Wouldn’t it be SO cool to create the Human Space Agency and wear an Earth Badge? Maybe in a few tomorrows from today we’ll see it come to pass. Today proves we’re on the right path with our Station partners. We’re proving we can work together to do this thing called space. 

Humanity’s destiny is to expand our knowledge of the unknown. Earthlings, UNITE!

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Filed under NASA, space