Tag Archives: Lori Garver

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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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

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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.

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

LAUNCH Water Day 1

After working on the LAUNCH:Water concept for the past year, we finally kicked it off yesterday — along with our cool new Nike-designed website.

LAUNCH team prepping for innovators

LAUNCH team prepping for innovators

We started the day with Lori Garver, NASA’s Deputy Administrator and LAUNCH Water Host.

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver

Majora Carter: Welcome

Peter Gleick, President and Co-Founder Pacific Institute, “21st Century Water: The Role of Technology and Innovation”

Innovator Mark Tonkin, DTI-r: “Subsurface Vapor Transfer Irrigation

Innovator Mark Tonkin

Innovator Mark Tonkin

Innovator Andrew Tinka, UC Berkeley: “Floating Sensor Network

Innovator Andrew Tinka

Innovator Andrew Tinka

Innovator Ashok Gadgil, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab: “ElectroChemical Arsenic Remediation

Innovator Ashok Gadgi

Innovator Ashok Gadgil

Innovator Mark Sobsey, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill: “Low Cost Bacterial Water Test

Innovator Mark Sobsey

Innovator Mark Sobsey

Lili Anna Peresa, “The Comprehensive Approach of ONE DROP: Water for All, All for Water”

One Drop Foundation: Lili Anna Peresa

One Drop Foundation: Lili Anna Peresa

Partner Head Table

Partner Head Table

Each of the innovators rotated through focused discussion sessions to help shape their success strategy. I like to call it: Innovator Speed Dating.

Innovator "Speed Dating"

Innovator "Speed Dating"

Impact Rotations

Impact rotations

Innovator Impact Rotations

Innovator Impact Rotations

Launch Water Impact Rotations

Launch Water Impact Rotations

Launch Impact Rotations

Launch Impact Rotations

So many incredible stories to share. Stay tuned.

Crosspost on OpenNASA.

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Filed under Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, leadership, NASA, space

NASA: Cultural Trap Doors

This week, NASA’s Deputy Lori Garver hosted a Town Hall meeting at NASA Headquarters. She set aside time to answer questions from employees. NASA TV aired the Town Hall live so that NASA employees could benefit from the conversation remotely.

I asked a question about managing the complex issue of astronaut appearances, and offered a potential solution — astronaut career assignments in NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs and Office of Legislative Affairs. If you’re interested, you can read a previous post.

Lori’s response: NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, former astronaut, would call the shots on how the Astronaut Corps operates. She mentioned that Charlie met with the new 2009 Astronaut Class, and encouraged them  to act as Space Ambassadors (my paraphrase of her answer) during the many years before they fly a space mission. Appropriate response to the question.

Now let’s focus on the reaction among my NASA colleagues following the Town Hall meeting. Here’s a sample of what I heard the rest of the week:

I can’t believe you asked a question. (Shock)

I can’t believe you got away with asking a question. (More shock.)

I can’t believe you got away with asking THAT question. (Even greater shock.)

Did you get in trouble for asking a question? (Worried.)

Did you get in trouble for asking THAT question? (Expectation of trouble ahead.)

What happened after you asked that question? (Assumed reprimand.)

Do you know what’s going to happen to you? (Expectation of reprimand.)

Did anyone say anything to you after you asked that question? (Missing word: yet.)

I heard YOU asked a question. (Wink Wink, as in “same ole’ Beth.”)

I HEARD you asked a question. (Raised eyebrow-disapproval.)

I heard from SEVERAL people you asked a question. (Expectation of disciplinary action.)

I’d have been in SO much trouble if I’d asked a question. (I can’t believe you AREN’T.)

I’m glad you asked that question. (Support.)

That was a really good suggestion. (Validation.)

Do any of these comments surprise you? Do you find yourself most surprised that I would a question at all — much less in front of TV cameras. If so, let’s talk about our culture.

Whether we like it or not, we’ve all been socialized by the organizational culture we exist in.

I can’t begin to touch socialization resulting from childhood or society-at-large. I only want to explore organizational culture — where your paycheck comes from. We learn how to survive by watching those around us reap reward or punishment. We emulate the habits and patterns of those who look successful in our eyes.

Let’s be honest, how many UNsuccessful people do you look up to?

Look at the comments above. Most comments expose underlying assumptions of our organizational culture. Can you see them? Here’s what I see:

  • keep quiet,
  • fly below the radar,
  • hunker down,
  • do as you’re told,
  • don’t make waves.

Depending on your perspective within your own cultural environment, you could easily make assumptions about me based on the fact that I…

  • asked a question
  • in a Town Hall meeting
  • with a new Deputy
  • in front of TV cameras.

I’ll just get creative and list a possible range of value statements you might tell yourself about me. I’m sure I haven’t captured everything, but for the sake of discussion I’ll start with these:

  1. Arrogant.
  2. Attention-seeker.
  3. Careless.
  4. Clueless.
  5. Naive.
  6. Undisciplined.
  7. Trouble-maker.
  8. Time-waster.
  9. Change agent.
  10. Problem-solver.

I prefer #9-10. You don’t have to agree. And…many don’t. Side note: I hear “trouble-maker” used to describe me quite often. But, then again, I tend to unsettle those who find change uncomfortable. ;)

What do YOU think about someone who asks a question in a public forum — even though questions are actively solicited? Doesn’t the answer depend on how you’ve learned to survive or thrive within your organization?

But your real question may be, “Who cares?”

This is not just my story. This story is a symptom of a problem. I use it only for illustration purposes. It’s a story about assumptions we make about appropriate/acceptable behavior  — whether we know it or not. Don’t we assess motive and value about our colleagues’ contributions based on our personal perceptions?

I like to call our everyday assumptions: Cultural Trap Doors.

Let’s face it, aren’t our assumptions molded by years upon years of organizational pressure? If you think about it, we’re like cultural fossils with stripes and layers shaped under the weight of our experiences. Let’s at least examine what formed the patterns we fall into. I wish I could tell you the story of how everyone buzzed about the great ideas generated during the Town Hall discussion, or how eager we were for more conversations like this.

I’m not saying we don’t share ideas at NASA. We do. I’m only noticing, from this experience, that many of my colleagues feared for my “career” based on one simple question in a Town Hall meeting. Fear shouldn’t exist within a healthy organization — in my humble opinion. I see it differently:

In an open culture, individuals feel safe speaking out, sharing their ideas, and offering solutions.

Bravo NASA for having an open Town Hall meeting! What we need, though, is a safety net for those participating in the discussion. Cultural trap doors open up when we least expect them.

We can only get rid of the trap doors if we know where they are. If we want a truly open culture, let’s start the hunt!

"Cultural Trap Doors" by NASA's Resident Cartoonist Jim Hull

"Cultural Trap Doors" by NASA's Resident Cartoonist Jim Hull

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Filed under culture, federal government, Gov 2.0, leadership, NASA, space

Honor Past but Celebrate Future, PLEASE!

Apollo 40th Logo

Apollo 40th Logo

These next few days portend a frenzy of Apollo anniversary activities.  Let’s see what we’ve got on the agenda:

Saturday, July 18:

Sunday, July 19:

  • John Glenn Lecture Series at the National Air and Space Museum will feature the Apollo 11 crew and legendary former Johnson Space Center Director Chris Kraft. Charlie and Lori are invited, as well.

Monday, July 20:

  • Various media events for the Apollo astronauts,n and a private lunch.
  • Newseum 40th Anniversary Educational Forum featuring hunky George Clooney’s dad, Nick, as moderator. Panelists include: Apollo astronauts @TheRealBuzz Aldrin, Charles Duke and Alan Bean, along with STS-125 crewmember John Grunsfeld and Goddard’s Dr. Laurie Leshin.
  • Evening Reception at the National Air and Space Museum. Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson will MC the event honoring Apollo astronauts and former Apollo employees — of whom we have a handful still working at NASA Headquarters. Plus, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will accept the Ambassador of Exploration Award on behalf of the late President John F. Kennedy.
Apollo Employees @ HQ

Apollo Employees @ HQ

Tuesday, July 21

  • Capitol Hill Congressional Gold Medal Presentation to Apollo 11 crew.
  • Appreciation Social with NASA Headquarters employees to honor Apollo astronauts.

This list is the tip of the iceberg. I can’t begin to list all the Apollo celebration events hosted at the NASA field centers.

Yes, we have much to celebrate at NASA. We’ve done some amazing things never thought possible four decades ago. We have every right, and responsibility, to reflect and honor the courage, dedication, daring, and engineering genius that lofted humans to the heavens. How boldly incredible is this accomplishment? Really! Bravo to all who played a part in the foundation of our space program.

But, here’s my quandary: We’ve spent a great deal of time planning for this anniversary. Just like we did for NASA’s 50th birthday. Meetings, telecons, vidcons, brain-storm sessions, product prep, website creation, and much, much MORE to pull together a respectable list of things to do.

Some part of me can’t quite reconcile all this activity. Does an agency retrospective propel us where we want to go tomorrow?

I pose this merely as a question, rather than a conclusion. Believe me, I get that we need to honor those who got us here. I understand the need to look back and marvel at our greatness. It’s our culture. If reliving these momentous achievements (which they TOTally were) makes us smarter for the difficult endeavors we face in current and future programs, then YAY!

But, here’s what I’d like to see: NASA expending the same effort showcasing all the amazing things we’re doing now, and will be doing in the future. For instance:

  • Clean Water challenges to replicate waste water recycling like we practice in space. We are pioneers in sustainable living. Our technology enables crewmembers on Space Station conserve and reuse every drop possible.
  • Orbital 365 events around the globe for every additional year we live/work/play on our incredibly complex orbital outpost — International Space Station.
  • Light the Candle community celebrations held EVERY remaining Space Shuttle launch, AND for significant engine test firings for new vehicle development.
  • Light Gardens created from home-made solar collectors to remind us how delicate and fragile the balance is between creation and consumption of energy, as our international crew of six onboard Station can attest every day in orbit 220 miles over our heads.
  • Star-gazing festivals where we turn out the city lights and look to the skies together. Our brightest star might just be Station zipping across the horizon.
  • Ticker Tape Parade

    Ticker Tape Parade

    Ticker tape parades for all Earthlings returning to the home planet. (Wait! Who even knows what “ticker tape” is? At least I can show you what it looks like in this picture.) So, in keeping with the times, how ’bout virtual confetti blasts synchronized through an iPhone app?)

I’m merely suggesting ideas to spark your imagination and get the conversation going. I’m not saying these celebrations would even work. But, then again, you never know ’till you try. Right?

Let’s face it, looking back is SO much easier than looking forward — which involves peering into the unknown. Though…that whole “unknown” thing is something NASA is particularly good at. ;)

So, what’s stopping us? Come on! Let’s “pay it forward.”  Tap into that amazing creative energy we have. Celebrate NASA’s today and tomorrow, while we honor the past.

Happy Apollo 11 anniversary!

First step for man...

First step for man...

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Work Space: Is Yours Out of This World?

Quick Post. I’m on my way to a creative writing course for a few days. I wanted to share these thoughts before I go.

I attended a Google DC Talk yesterday with Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson on his new book, “FREE, the Future of a Radical Price.” (Thanks Jesse Thomas of Jess3 for the invite!)

Google DC is located north of the White House, not far from the new DC Convention Center, only a short distance from NASA Headquarters. Though Google DC is close by, it felt light years away in culture.

The offices are open and colorful with fun, funky furniture. I felt at home right away.

Side note: You should see my house. My home office is painted lime green. Yes, I know. You’ve raised your eyebrows at that. But really. If you stepped inside, you’d feel hopeful, energetic, renewed. Color makes a HUGE difference — at least in my life.

So my quick thought before I head out the door.

I’ve wanted for years to RE-decorate some NASA “creative spaces” at Headquarters with fun, colorful, spacey decor since WAY back in the 90’s when our new Deputy-to-be Lori Garver was running Policy and Plans. At the time, I proposed we re-model our Concourse break room after the Motley Fool model — the first business I’d seen at the time decorated with LOADS of color, as well as ping pong and pinball machines for stress release and team building. I was told we couldn’t because we only lease the building. Bummer.

But I haven’t given up the idea. I’ve simply changed my focus.

We have deadzone hallways in the center of the building on every floor (already equipped with sink, refrigerator, soda machine) that could be creative spaces. All we need to add are funky chairs, PAINT, and a self-serve coffee bar.

A place where employees could chat over ideas, unwind, recharge, and build community.

I met this week with Loraine Bjorendahl, Events Coordinator at Origo, to discuss an upcoming project (really aMAZingly cool project that you’ll go CRAZY about) that we’re planning. She mentioned the Swedish tradition of “Fika,” or coffee break, which is a time where they break the day, gather together, and share thoughts. She described Fika as a time of relaxed reflection where the best ideas flow.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:

Create “Fika Space” at NASA, a space where we can gather together to “share ideas” in a caffeine-charged color-soaked funky-chair inspired environment.

What say you? Are you with me? Arm yourselves with paint brushes. CHARGE!!!

:-D

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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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NASA: Thoughts on New Beginnings

With former Astronaut Charlie Bolden poised to take the helm at NASA, and Lori Garver as Deputy, I dusted off a letter of mine published in SpaceNews, January 21, 2002. Much of it still applies. I offer a partial reprint.

NASA exists as a paradox, a quandary, a political dilemma.

Unparalleled in the federal government, NASA’s mission is bounded only by the expanses of the heavens and limited only by the human imagination. Our inability to consistently communicate the wonder and magic of space to decision-makers who hold our purse strings stifles our progress.

NASA personifies the innate, never-say-die human spirit that conquers barriers and pushes beyond limitations. NASA ignites the spark that flames the human desire to improve, to learn, to grow. NASA embodies the pursuit of knowledge in unexplored regions of the universe, as well as the universe of the mind.

NASA is a uniquely American icon.

The public absorbs NASA images each day from TV and print advertisements, motivational posters, books, television programs and movies. NASA symbols adorn T-shirts, toys and trinkets. As a brand name, NASA evokes awe and wonder and delight beyond the borders of our nation, yet carries little leverage with political heavyweights with the confines of the beltway.

NASA may boast of a constituent base as broad as the world community or as narrow as the astronaut corps, or scientific investigators tied to a specific mission.

Private industry may applaud NASA for opening the frontier of space and awarding large aerospace contracts or complain bitterly to Congress that we prevent entrepreneurs from gaining affordable access to space.

NASA may appear an untapped reservoir of risk-takers who dream of barriers yet to be broken or an aging agency run by risk-averse, pocket protector-wearing bureaucrats. 

So I offer a few thoughts to our Next Administrator:

You have the power to contradict the contradictions. You bring new eyes to NASA. Yes, you’ve been here before, but you will ask new questions at this new beginning. You will mark this agency with priorities unique to your interests. This part of the dance can be quite uncomfortable to those unused to dancing.

Change of any kind can be unsettling to those wedded to the security of the status quo.

Douglas Adams once said, “There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something more bizarre and inexplicable.

I’ve never met you, but those who have speak highly of you. I listen with great encouragement. If you were to ask me what I want for you, it would be this:

Vision

To recognize all that’s wrong with NASA, yet behold an uncut diamond ready to be shaped and polished with steady, skilled hands.

Wisdom

To hear from opposing viewpoints both inside and outside the power structure, season them with common sense and insight, and form fair judgments.

Discernment

To detect deception when presented as truth, to distinguish between public good and personal gain, and recognize the strings attached to any good deals.

Integrity

To say what you mean and mean what you say, stand by your word, and create an environment of trust.

Patience 

To allow time to develop the correct solution rather than the fastest answer, and withhold judgments until the facts are clear.

Courage

To walk the narrow path and stand for what is right, not what is easy; to stretch yourself and others beyond the comfort zone.

Humor

To take yourself lightly and laugh easily.

I welcome your fresh look at who we are and what NASA has become in the years since you were here last, and assume you’ll bring a healthy skepticism about what we take for granted. I welcome your genuine concern for shaping NASA into a nimble and responsive federal agency.

I look forward to probing questions, which force us to look honestly at ourselves.

Yes, you will bring change, and change can be unnerving. Will you wield a scalpel? Will we feel the pain of incision? I, for one, prefer the pain of incision to the malignancy of indecision.

 Welcome home to both you and Lori! Best wishes as you navigate the confirmation process in the next few weeks.

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