Tag Archives: Space Shuttle

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!

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Space Shuttle: Wheels Stop

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

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

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ching-Yao Yu @nutzareus pointing to Energy Drinks

@nutzareus pointing to @sharkb8t Energy Drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks!

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

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters

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

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

Space Tweeps on way to Final Space Shuttle Landing

Deorbit Burn means NASA Tweetup Bus is moving!

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

@WiredForFlight @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic

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

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

Shuttle Landing Tower

Shuttle Landing Tower

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

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

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

Tweet: Job Well Done America!

What a treat to be part of history!

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

@WinObs post-landing w/ @Camilla_SDO

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

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

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

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

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Atlantis Post-Landing

Here she is: Atlantis!!!

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

My "mark" on history.

My "mark" on history.

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

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

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

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

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Life: Where’s my Debris Shield?

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

STS-135 crew portrait

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

So here’s my list of excuses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planters in my yard

Container gardening adds color in barren corners.

Planters in my yard

Cluster of planters in my yard.

Tricycle Planter in my yard

Tricycle Planter in my yard

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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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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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Today in Space: Savor the Moment

Take a peak at STS-130 Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at the International Space Station 220 miles over our heads with Planet Earth as a backdrop. Wow. Both spacecraft are traveling at 17,500 miles per hour around Earth right now. Can you imagine?

STS-130 mission: Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at the International Space Station

STS-130 mission: Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at Space Station

Savor this view. Only a few more times in your life will you see a Space Shuttle docked to Space Station.

If you follow space at all, I’m sure you’re aware of the debate about the NASA budget and the decision to retire the Space Shuttle. It’s all over Twitter, Facebook, blogs, newspapers. Fervent water coolers arguments, I’m sure.

Some cheer the end of the Shuttle and Constellation program, believing commercial providers can fill the gap.

Some mourn the loss of U.S. transportation capability, and believe NASA is lost.

Friends and colleagues outside NASA contact me to check in — see how I’m doing.

Let me assure you. I’m fine. NASA is fine.

We’re not going away. But yes, we’ll be going about our business differently. We received extra money in our budget over the next 5 years to advance technology. We’ll purchase our transportation and supply needs from available providers. (Those of you who know me have heard my predictions about future options. But those are water cooler conversations. Not blog talk.)

Here’s the deal:

We don’t debate budget decisions. We make cool things happen with what we’re given.

Space Shuttle Endeavor against the Sky

Space Shuttle Endeavor against the Sky. Credit: NASA

Let’s talk about the Space Shuttle fleet. These amazing winged spaceships have served us well for many years. Well beyond our expectations (just like our adorable Mars Rovers).

But to keep the Shuttle program going means money spent on upgrades and refurbished parts. To go beyond Low Earth Orbit, humanity needs a different ride. Think of it this way:

  • How much money do you keep putting in your old car before you invest in a new one?
  • If your current means of transportation won’t get you where you need to go, what do you do? (Build a new car? Pay someone to build a new car for you? Wait for someone to build a new car that you can bum a ride in?)
  • What happens when you need transportation for short commutes, as well as long-distance? (Own two cars? Own one car, and buy a seat from another transport provider? Stay at home?)

Everyone will answer these question differently. Just understand none of the choices are easy, but that’s why we’re NASA.

We do hard things and make them look easy. We solve problems against all odds.

I’m excited for our future, though I’m emotional about the last few flights of the Shuttle. I’m really hoping an entrepreneur comes out of the woodwork with a space transport solution that requires no spaceship (hey, why not?), or a cute little George Jetson-mobile that I can zip around in (kinda’ like the X-38).

X-38

NASA's X-38 Crew Return Vehicle. Credit: NASA

As we close out the Space Shuttle program (and for those who mourn Constellation),  I leave you with this thought:

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

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Astro-Stars in Our Eyes

My youngest daughter, Steph, is a Houston Astros baseball fanatic. She grew up wanting to be Craig Biggio. She lives and breathes for the game, watches them on her computer, knows the stats by heart.

Two summers ago, she came home for a visit with one purpose in mind — watch the Astros play a 3-game series against the Nats in their new stadium. I’d never been there before, so we headed out for our adventure in southwest DC. We bought our tickets to sit above the Astros bullpen, so she could be close to her boys.

My daughter's fav baseball player ever!

My daughter's fav baseball player ever!

During the game, a man and two boys sat down next to us. One of the boys wore a NASA shirt. I asked where he got his shirt. He pointed to the man next to me and said his dad worked at NASA.

What an amazing coincidence. Of all the seats in the National’s Ballpark, two NASA employees end up sitting together.

I asked his dad where he worked. Houston, he told me. We chatted for a bit before I discovered he was an astronaut. Turns out he’d come to the game to throw out the first pitch. He brought his son and nephew along with him. Really nice guy.

Terry Virts. STS-130 Pilot.

STS-130 Pilot Terry Virts

STS-130 Pilot Terry Virts

I share this with you now because he’s up in space right this very minute. He broke the bonds of Earth yesterday on his first flight to space. And how cool is that?!? He’s circling the planet at 17,500 mph while I type.

STS-130 launch

STS-130 launch. Credit/NASA

Today’s STS-130 Flight Day 2 wake-up call was dedicated to Terry. Great song by Brandon Heath, “Give Me Your Eyes.” Wake-up calls for Space Shuttle missions are chosen by family and friends. The song selection says a great deal about the person, I think.

Mission Control ground-to-space Flight Day 2 audio recording.

I’ll share a few lyrics from “Give Me Your Eyes” by songwriters: Brandon Heath and Jason David Ingram. (The lyrics themselves serve as a wake-up call for service to the forgotten and broken-hearted.)

“Looked down from a broken sky. Traced out by the city lights. My world from a mile high. Best seat in the house tonight. Touched down on the cold black top. Hold on for the sudden stop. Breathe in the familiar shock. Of confusion and chaos.

All those people going somewhere. Why have I never cared?

Chorus: Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see. Everything that I keep missing. Give me your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the broken hearted. Ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me your eyes that I can see.”

Great song. Great heart. Great guy. So nice to see the good ones fly.

Oh, sorry, I got caught up in the whole rhythm and rhyme thing.

Getting back to the event that started this whole story. I don’t recall whether the Astros won or lost. Steph can tell you, though. She’ll remember who got what hit. Who scored. How many runs batted in. How many errors.

But she won’t remember which astronaut she talked to. I will. I’ll be able to tell you how many times he flies. How many hours in orbit. What music he likes. And so on.

At least we’re keeping space in the family. Steph has stars in her eyes for Earth-bound Astros. I have stars in my eyes for Astros who leave Earth. Life offers such interesting parallels. Don’t you think?

You can find out more about Terry and the STS-130 crew at NASA.gov.

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