Tag Archives: YouTube

How Space Travel is like Trip to Ikea

I was off work yesterday. I took advantage of light Friday morning traffic and headed out to Ikea for a bit of shopping. When I returned home and tried to assemble my new purchase, I thought of the crew on Space Station assembling the C.O.L.B.E.R.T. treadmill.

I starting thinking how much space travel is like a trip to Ikea.

Think about it. We have teams of people around the world designing equipment to be

  • lightweight (as much as humanly possible),
  • efficiently packaged to use every ounce of space,
  • complete with detailed assembly instructions,
  • and special assembly tools.

Just like Ikea products…. (For those of you who shop at Ethan Allen, just trust me on this.)

Our astronauts have worked all week assembling the C.O.L.B.E.R.T.

COLBERT treadmill patch

COLBERT treadmill patch

Note: You may recall the kerfuffle (don’t you just LUV that word?) when Stephen Colbert won the write-in vote for the online contest to name a Space Station node. Alas, we named the node Tranquility and devised this wonderful acronym as a consolation prize: Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill. He’s a good sport. Here is Stephen Colbert’s YouTube video message to NASA when we launched the treadmill.

Astronaut Nicole Stott tried out the treadmill for the first time yesterday. Evidently they put all the parts in the right place. It worked. YAY! (You can follow Nicole’s Space Station adventure on Twitter.)

Even bigger than the treadmill, our astronauts and international crewmates, assembled the ENTIRE orbital outpost OUT IN  SPACE — piece by piece, tool by tool, complete with instructions and remote service help from Mission Control. For 10 years we’ve been piecing together our technological marvel that orbits 24/7 over our heads every 90 minutes at a neck-breaking speed of 17,500 mph. Pretty aMAZing, if you think about it.

So, next time you shop at Ikea, lug home your purchases, and contemplate assembly, I challenge you to do this:

imagine yourself floating weightless.

Can you put together your products while floating free? Consider all the steps. Here are a few to consider.

  1. Unpack the boxes from your car or truck
  2. Clear a work space (if you haven’t already).
  3. Transfer the containers to your work space.
  4. Open each container.
  5. Sort out the pieces and parts.
  6. Open your little packages of different-sized screws.
  7. Maneuver with specially-adapted tools to connect the parts.

Ok, now that you’ve finished creating your pretty new bookshelves and dressers, kitchens and bathrooms, and you’ve placed your newly assembled furniture or equipment where it belongs, you may want to do this next:

Go outside. Look up to the skies. Marvel at what we’ve accomplished peacefully in space.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like clapping.

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Filed under culture, federal government, NASA, space

Culture: Straitjacket or Springboard?

I’m thrilled to be featured as a Gov 2.0 Hero on GovFresh.com. I received Luke Fretwell’s request while I was in the Orlando Airport, returning home from a previous scrubbed STS-127 mission. Made my day. (THANKS Luke!!) How cool that he thought of me — one of the many fish swimming around in the huge, vast ocean we call the federal government. My initial reaction:

Do I get a cape? I mean really. Don’t all hero’s wear capes?

Luke sent me a list of questions for the profile:

  1. What was your path to Gov 2.0?
  2. What area of government offers the biggest opportunity for improvement via Web 2.0 tools?
  3. What’s the killer app that will make Gov 2.0 the norm instead of the exception.
  4. What part of Gov 2.0 most excites you?

What is Gov 2.0? Easiest explanation: mash-up of Web 2.0/social media tools in government processes. For starters, agencies finding creative ways to “do business” through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, etc.

As I answered the questions, I kept coming back to the same sticking point — culture. An organization’s culture dictates its aptitude for “picking up” new technology to meet daily challenges. Hmm, cultural aptitude tests. Might be incredibly telling.

My buddy, Mike Boon, describes culture in his book, The African Way: The Power of Interactive Leadership,

“Culture is not an independent thing. It is what we are as people. Our culture guides us in how to behave, and it is the expression of our values and beliefs.”

Luke’s Gov 2.o Hero profile questions focus on what technologies exist to transform government. Transparency is the current buzzword with our new President. Transparency is the underpinning of the Gov 2.0 movement — to make what we do inside the government freely and easily available to all those outside the government.

Personally, I love it. But not everyone does.

Transparency can be quite threatening, especially if one’s power base is built on insider knowledge that is closely held and doled out like currency to buy more power.

Will even the most “killer app” technology transform our federal government overnight. Probably not. We are Uncle Sam, after all. Uncle Sam isn’t known for being quick on his feet, now is he? But, what about Aunt Samantha? She just might be a fast-talkin’ two-steppin’ little whipper-snapper who runs circles around ole’ Sam. (Yes, I’m from Texas. Can you tell?)

Do I think new technology will change how we do business in the federal government? Do I think Web 2.0 will transform our decision-making processes from muddy to clear? Actually, I do. But it totally depends on the leadership and culture of the organization.

A risk-averse culture views change with suspicion and animosity.

A risk-averse organization is unlikely to leap into the arms of new technology. More likely, I picture the “concrete boots” reaction. Perhaps we need a VUKA! intervention to shake up our more entrenched organizations. Vuka is a Nguni word that means: ‘to come alive’, ‘resurrect’, ‘bring to life’, ‘wake up’.

Quick note: I’m traveling with family to South Africa and Zambia. In South Africa, we’ll spend some time with Mike Boon and his family. I know Mike from high school. He was a Rotary Exchange student. Amazingly, we’ve kept in touch ALL these years. Mike’s company, Vulindlela, specializes in organizational interventions. We will accompany him to an event in Soweto, outside Johannesburg, to see how this works. Here’s a quote from his website:

VUKA! is dependent on an organisation’s willingness to build in processes that ensure the sustainability of the change that will definitely have occurred in each individual!

Maybe I’ll learn something about VUKA! to bring back to the job to help jump-start Gov 2.0 within our organizations. But even without intervention, we have pockets of open culture within our government already. I work with some amazingly creative, intelligent, secure, energetic, enthusiastic folks at NASA who are chomping at the bit to gallop into the future.

What can I do?  Open doors, supply tools for the journey, and get out of the way as the stampede rushes past!

Does this make me a Gov 2.0 hero? Unlikely. But, hey. I’ll take the title! I wonder what I’ll look like in a cape? ;)

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Filed under federal government, Gov 2.0, leadership, NASA

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

From Serendipity to Space Harmony

Social media is unfolding a world of unknowns for us at NASA. Take for instance NASA’s serendipitous new relationship with the band, McFly.

I admit, I’d never heard of McFly before two weeks ago. Where have I been? How did I miss this phenom band? I just learned today that McFly snatched the Beatles’ long-held title in the Guinness Book of World Records as youngest band to hit #1 with a début album. (Not MY Beatles! Heaven forbid.)

So what’s the connection between NASA and McFly?

Social Media: Twitter, to be exact!

During the STS-125 Space Shuttle mission to repair the Hubble telescope, McFly’s founder Tom Fletcher @TomMcFly encouraged his 40,000+ (now over 50,000) fans to tweet @NASA to play one of the band’s songs, “Star Girl,” as a Wake-Up call for the astronauts. “Ok followers, let’s tweet @NASA for “star girl” to be played in space!!!”

And tweet they did!

#StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace! #StarGirlInSpace!

Through serendipity, a NASA colleague of mine happened to see all the #StarGirlinSpace tweets pouring over Tweetgrid. She contacted me to see if I noticed saw all the traffic. We googled “McFly: Star Girl” and discovered their YouTube music video, featuring the band members attempting their own back-yard-astonaut-training. We laughed so hard we drew a crowd in the office. We immediately contacted our buddies in Public Affairs to request formal contact with the band.

You might wonder why?

Why would NASA cave under pressure to a pesky bunch of over-zealous teens that clog up our @NASA twitter account? (Admit it: that thought crossed your mind!)

I’ll tell you why.

We’ve lost touch with the youth of our nation and the world. Sure, NASA boasts a solid following among men, educated folks, and the AARP generation. Yes, we get high public opinion scores for doing a good job. But, dig below the surface and you’ll find the Gen X/Y-ers simply don’t see NASA as relevant to their lives. McFly’s fanbase fits eXACTly within the age demographic we have trouble penetrating.

I watched the sample DVD they sent us: Radio: Active Live. These guys are GOOD! With their catchy tunes, fantastic harmonies, and amazing energy – not to mention good looks – no wonder they have tens of thousands of adoring fans. They look and sound like a modern-day version of the Beatles. And, they named themselves after Marty McFly from “Back To The Future.” What’s NOT to like? 

Band Members:

Tom Fletcher

Danny Jones

Dougie Poynter

Harry Judd

Hey McFly boys, can YOU ignite passion for space among your adoring fans? Can you give voice to the drama and magic of the unknown in a way we can’t?

Will “Star Girl” get airtime as a Wake-Up call? Unknown. (Actually, the song selection process is another blog post entirely.) No matter! We’ll figure something out. And, we have a number of potential ideas on how to collaborate outside the Star Girl option.

Thanks Social Media and Serendipity for bringing us together with such talented musicians who happen to like space! McFly boys, how cool if your fans screamed over NASA space missions! Someday….

If music is the key to engage the next generation in space, then play that chord boys! Play it LOUD!

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Filed under NASA, space