Monthly Archives: April 2010

Every Ending = New Beginning

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

Every ending is a new beginning.

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

Shuttle Stack

Shuttle Stack

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

We take it for granted today.

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

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

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

Orbiter Cutaway

Orbiter Cutaway

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

 

STS-131 launch

STS-131 launch

 

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

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

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

We humans don’t like change, do we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

STS-132

STS-132

 

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

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

Crosspost on OpenNASA.com and GovLoop.com.

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

Hug-a-Blue-Planet Day

Hey, how many blue planets do you know…and love? Today is the day to celebrate Planet Earth — the one with the atmospheric thin blue line that supports life as we know it.

Earth: Thin Blue Line

Earth: Thin Blue Line

Pretty amazing, when you think about it. Of all the stars and all the galaxies out there, our fragile planet Earth is teeming with life — plants, animals, humans. Though, I could do without some of the less loveable lifeforms — like roaches — but that’s another story altogether.

Today we celebrate Earth. Our home planet. Perfectly formed. Amazingly complex. Incredibly beautiful.

Earth: Blue Marble

Earth: Blue Marble

After attending a NASA employee preview of the  IMAX Hubble 3D movie this week, I gained fresh appreciation for our planet Earth. My favorite quote from the movie in reference to the Apollo missions,

“On the way to the Moon, we discovered Earth.”

I’d never really thought about it. We’d never seen our planet (through human eyes) until we left the planet. Astronauts looking back upon the Earth and capturing “vacation” images from the surface of a different orbiting body, gave us a unique perspective on the place we call home.

Now, decades later, it’s really easy to take for granted the unique vantage point space gives us of Earth. How else would you see these clouds from the top down?

Cumulonimbus Clouds Over Africa

Cumulonimbus Clouds Over Africa

Side note: When you were young, did you imagine cloud formations as objects? I still do. This pic reminds me of a one-eyed cloud creature. Or a cloud-brella. Or a cloud ship — to feed imaginations of UFO-watchers. ;)

@astro_soichiHow times have changed from the days of Apollo to today. Astronauts onboard Space Station and Shuttle post real-time pics of Mother Earth from space. We can go along with their journey as they orbit Earth every 90 minutes traveling 17,500 mph. Japanese Expedition 23 crew member @Astro_Soichi Noguchi is prolific in his Twitpic-ing. Here is his Happy Earth Day pic.

@Astro_Soichi: Happy Earth Day to you.

Astronauts celebrate Earth Day every day they spend OFF the planet.

They live the green life we only aspire to here on Earth. Think about it.

  • All the power onboard their spacecraft is generated by the Sun, collected via solar panels, and stored for use. I collect sun in my skin cells to use in Vitamin D, but that’s about it for my solar energy collection here on Earth.
  • Space pioneers collect waste water and urine to recycle into drinking water and other water needs. I recycle the cat bowl water into my plants. Hey, it’s a start, isn’t it?
  • Long-duration space travelers wash clothes in ziplock bags and hang them in zero-g to dry. Nope, I use a washer and dryer. Sorry Earth.
  • Air filtration systems on Space Station scrub and recycle the air they breath. I keep my windows closed during pollen season. Does that count?
Space Station Expedition 19: Toast to fully recycled H2O

Space Station Expedition 19: Toast to fully recycled H2O

How cool to work for an organization (dare I say American icon?) that has changed how humans view and interact with the world. We initiate amazing projects, like LAUNCH:Water, that allow us to help make a difference for the world of tomorrow through disruptive sustainable innovations we put in place today. And we’re busy planning the next LAUNCH.org event. WooHoo! LAUNCH from Geologie on Vimeo.

I’m excited that NASA affords me the opportunity to play even the tiniest role in making this planet a better place to live.

Perhaps we can celebrate best by skipping today’s shower, eating edible flowers from our garden (not that I have any), and unplugging all our phone chargers. Every little bit helps, right?

Happy 40th Earth Day to all fellow Earthlings. Aliens too!

Earth Week flowers at DC Smithsonian Castle

Earth Week flowers at DC Smithsonian Castle

Crosspost on GovLoop.

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Eating Earth Dust (for NASA)

After two days on the National Mall with the NASA exhibit to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I can literally say I’ve become a dust-of-the-Earth kinda’ gal. The saying “ashes to ashes” (volcano ash), “dust to dust” (dust tornados to be precise) holds new meaning for me this week. I feel Mother Earth trying to claim me as her own this week. Fitting, I guess, for Earth Day week.

Cold, sand-blasted, wind-whipped  – but great space conversations.

Planet Earth art sculpture on National Mall

Planet Earth art sculpture on National Mall

"Plant It" Earth art sculpture on National Mall

"Plant It" Earth art sculpture on National Mall

Capitol behind Earth sculpture.

Capitol behind Earth sculpture.

NASA participated in the Earth Day Network celebration with tents and activities on the Mall. We brought a flown Space Shuttle tire for visitors to sign and decorate. We’re recycling the tire to let folks touch something that’s actually flown in space, and leave their “mark on space” by signing/doodling on the tire.

Flown Shuttle tire on Saturday.

Flown Shuttle tire on Saturday.

Graffiti Tire AND Display on Sunday

Graffiti Tire AND Display on Sunday

Yep, we love to leave our mark on history — as you can see.

We also took our Spacesuit Photo Op display out to the Mall for visitors to step inside for a spacesuit portrait. Always fun for Earthlings of all ages.

(We can even show proof of space cooperation with the Chinese…Panda bears, that is.)

Even Panda Bears love space!

Even Panda Bears love space!

Space boy

Maybe he'll walk on Mars one day.

NASA's Vickie Walton staffs Photo Op Spacesuit.

NASA's Vickie Walton staffs Photo Op Spacesuit.

Hannah (in stripes) LOVES all things space! Girl power!

Hannah (in stripes) LOVES all things space! Girl power!

We held our first-ever Earth tweet-up yesterday. I don’t work in the Earth science program at NASA, but cool that I was working the Mall exhibit and had the chance to chat with Space Tweeps all day. Serendipity for me. Except that while I talked to Tweeps, people signed the Shuttle Tire DISPLAY holder, rather than the tire itself.

NASA's first Earth Day Tweet-up

NASA's first Earth Day Tweet-up

Space Tweep @astroIvy

Space Tweep @astroIvy

My space tweep buddy Glenn @zippyG2

My space tweep buddy Glenn @zippyG2

Space laughs with @cmaaarrr + @moonrangerlaura

Space laughs with @cmaaarrr + @moonrangerlaura

@oceanChick99 interviewing Maria-Jose @theAGU for UnanimousMovie.com

Tina @oceanChick99 interviewing Maria-Jose @theAGU for UnanimousMovie.com

Manoel Belem

Manoel Belem

I really enjoyed meeting Manoel Belem, astronaut-candidate in Brazil — back when they were partnering with us on the International Space Station. Manoel flew here from São Paulo JUST for the NASA Tweet-up. Manoel shared with us about Brazil’s first astronaut Marcos Pontes who trained with the astronauts in Houston, before his country made the decision to fly him to space through the Russian space tourist program. Marcos launch with the Expedition-13 crew from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 29, 2006 and spent eight days in space. Brazil shut down the astronaut program, leaving Manoel without a flight to space. He’s still dreaming of the day he fulfills his zero-g dream. In the meantime, he’s active in social media as @mlbelem.

Great conversations with all of you! But, I have to say, the highlight for me was holding @astroIvy’s iPad in my very own hands. I so SO want one!

Browse the Earth Day pics the Science Mission Directorate posted on Flickr. (The Earth dome in the Flickr pictures blew over. We’re hoping Mother Earth calms down during the week so we can pitch the tent again.)

We’ll be on the Mall all week through next weekend. Come learn more about NASA and space, if you’re in town. (And dress for winter!)

Hill staffer @KenMonroe shows off green NASA bag.

Hill staffer @KenMonroe shows off green NASA bag.

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

Spring has Sprung!

Rejoice. Easter Sunday. Wonderful weather. Fabulous flowers. The world feels fresh and new. Oh how I love Spring. (I wonder if my March birthday affects how I feel about the season?)

Cherry Blossoms at the Jefferson Memorial

Cherry Blossoms at the Jefferson Memorial

So often, I miss Texas. Every time I go back to visit, I want to move home — to Austin, Longhorn country. Then I fly back to DC, drive through the green parkways lined with flowers, commute to work each day in view of our Nation’s monuments…and I’m thankful I live here.

During this time of the year, I thank God for the little things here in DC — the daffodils, cherry blossoms, dogwood trees, and tulips. (Though, I could do without the pesky weeds that thrive in my yard.) ;)

Yes, it’s a WONderful life!

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In honor of Easter Sunday, I leave you with this:

1 Peter 1: 23-25

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.

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Snapshot: Bologna

Quick tour of Bologna. I have more pics, but I’ll start with these. Enjoy. :)

Bologna streets

Streets of Bologna

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