Monthly Archives: August 2011

Peace on Planet Earth

Moonrise over Earth

Moonrise over Earth. Photo: Astronaut Ron Garan

I keep thinking about this photo in contrast to the East Coast craziness we experienced this week: Earthquake DeeCee and Hurricane Irene. But, viewed with a bit of perspective, neither of these events caused devastation like we’ve seen around the world in Haiti or Japan or Indonesia or New Zealand. Nor can these events compare to unrest in the Middle East and droughts in Africa.

  • No building toppled onto of me.
  • No 20-ft waves flattened the landscape or carried my loved ones out to sea.
  • Hunger never gives me more than a twinge of discomfort.
  • Bullets and bombs don’t force me into hiding.

Yes,we snipe at each other over politics, but our elections are free and open.

We have a bad day when someone at work treats us poorly, or we get in snarled traffic, or the AC goes out. Heaven forbid the TV cable decides to act up and delay our “On Demand” selection.

We have SO much to be thankful for in our land of plenty.

Our astronauts’ point-of-view gives me such a rich perspective. In @Astro_Ron‘s photo above, I see our world at peace. Yes, Mother Nature seems on the warpath, but we humans can learn how to get along better. We can make better choices to live together as a global community of caring individuals. Can’t we?

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. — James 3:16-18

As you can tell, I feel reflective in the calm after the storm. How ’bout you? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do you care about most?
  • What excites you to get out of bed every morning?
  • What dreams have you left untouched?
  • What’s stopping you from achieving your dreams?

Do you want to make this world a better place? I do! Join others who feel the same on Fragile Oasis.

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Quake Rattle and Roll Week

What a week this has been. It started with an Earthquake DeeCee and ended with Hurricane Irene, which cancelled our girls’ weekend in NYC. Sandwiched in the middle, I began the Planning, Governance and Globalization PhD program at Virginia Tech, my daughter Carol turned 30, both daughters joined Twitter, AND we discovered a HUGE rat in my yard!!

But, let’s talk about Earthquake DeeCee!

Yes, I named her. If hurricanes get names, why not earthquakes?

Here’s my story: My daughter Steph and I were meeting with my teammates Diane Powell and Rachel Lawley at a restaurant in DC’s Eastern Market. Steph came to work with me so she could meet with her PhD advisor in DC. Rachel had just flown in from San Francisco. While we were chatting, our bench began to pitch back and forth. I watched Steph bounce about, nearly thrown off a couple of time. At first, I thought a truck hit the building. Then I thought perhaps an explosion rocked us, or that the subway derailed below us. But the movement didn’t stop. We kept rolling. My instinct was to get out of the building, but Rachel calmly told us to stay put. She advised us to take shelter under the table. Yet, we sat — stunned. Still swaying, I tweeted the message below, and looked on Twitter to see if anyone else was talking about our human roller-coaster experience.

Earthquake tweetNote: Please excuse the typo “on” instead of “in” — the ground was still moving while I typed.

What was amazing for me: Twitter confirmed it. Yep. We were in the middle of an earthquake. I was shocked to see tweets from NYC to North Carolina to New Jersey — all experiencing rumbles and rattles. The epicenter of the quake: Mineral, Virginia (or Lake Anna to locals). Only 67 miles from DC.

Quake tweet
Quake tweet
quake tweet

Animated quake-tweet map by Eric Fischer

Quake-tweet map by Eric Fischer

Here’s another animated gif of quake-related tweets, thanks to @brobof.

Much of the rest of the day, Steph and I both experienced “quake-sickness.” I was amazed that 30 seconds or more of quake, rattle, and roll could give me such stubborn motion sickness.

quake tweetWe returned home to find pictures knocked off the walls and things strewn about. The only real damage was one of my pinhole camera images. My cross suffered the most — the glass shattered. (Mother Earth persecuting my faith?) Yet, my faith remains intact. 😉

Hipstamatic image of earthquake damage

Quake damage: shattered glass on my pinhole Cross photo.

Post-quake thoughts:

1. Social media ROCKets! I didn’t have to turn on the radio or watch the news. Post-quake phone lines were snarled. Steph‘s text messages were delayed over an hour. But Twitter worked. My daughter Carol signed up for Twitter the morning of Quake DeeCee. She read my tweets, and knew I was ok.

quake tweet

2. My mother made a comment at the end of the day that put our crazy day in perspective: “We still have beds to sleep in tonight.” She was right. Though the earthquake put some new cracks in my walls and broke things, we are alive and well and have safe shelter.

My mother’s words add context to this thoughtful tweet from Japan — in the aftermath of their 9.0 earthquake:

quake tweetEarthquake DeeCee is a reminder to be thankful. We are richly blessed! 

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little STARDUST caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched. — Henry David Thoreau

Before I close this post: Meet my two tweeting  daughters:

My 2 tweeting daughters

Carol @CarolKecil 


Steph @StephCBeck


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Space Pioneers Invade Capitol

“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” — Roald Dahl

After each mission, our astronauts visit the NASA Centers and Washington DC to share their stories and thank the staff who supported them before, during and after their zero-G adventures. This week, the crews of Space Shuttle STS-134 and Space Station Expedition 26/27 came to town. They spent time visiting the hallowed halls of Congress, and stopped by NASA Headquarters to debrief employees.

Below is STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly introducing members of his crew: Pilot Greg “Box” Johnson, ESA’s Roberto “Ricky Bobby” Vittori, Mike “Spanky” Fincke;  as well as two members of his twin brother Scott‘s Space Station Expedition 26 and 27 crew: Cady Coleman and ESA’s Paolo Nespoli. STS-134 is missing two members: Drew Feustel, who is in Europe, and Greg Chamitoff, who is on vacation in Australia.

@ShuttleCDRKelly introduces STS-134 + Expedition 26/27 crew @ NASA HQ

@ShuttleCDRKelly introduces STS-134 + Expedition 26/27 crew @ NASA HQ

Greg "Box" Johnson, Roberto "Ricky Bobby" Vittori, Mike "Spanky" Fincke, Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli

STS-134: Pilot Greg Johnson, Roberto Vittori, Mike Fincke; Exp 26/27: Cady Coleman, Paolo Nespoli

The crew shared photos and video from the mission, and answered questions. Box Johnson talked about the violent ride to orbit on the Space Shuttle on top of seven million pounds of thrust. Spacewalker Mike Fincke talked about his final spacewalks during a Space Shuttle mission. Roberto and Paolo were the first two Italians in space at the same time. We saw a clip of their chat with Pope Benedict XVI, another first in space.

Pope Benedict XVI talking to STS-134 & Space Station crews

Pope Benedict XVI talking to STS-134 & Space Station crews

Paolo Nespoli: Disadvantage of Zero-G living -- losing your spoon.

Roberto Vittori: "If you close your eyes, you wake up where you don't want to be."

@Astro_Cady "We need lots of different faces up in space to inspire kids to dream

We had some special guests in the audience at NASA Headquarters for the briefing. @FlatSamantha was in the HOUSE!

@FlatSamantha posing with space suit at NASA HQ

@FlatSamantha posing with space suit at NASA HQ

You may not be aware, but STS-134 had a additional crew member: @FlatSamantha. Yes, @FlatSamantha went to space. Here’s a condensed version of @FlatSamantha’s space story. I first met @FlatSamantha at the STS-134 tweetup, a special guest of Doug White. After the STS-134 launch was delayed, Doug asked if @FlatSamantha could go with the crew to space. I contacted STS-134 Pilot Box Johnson to see if he could take a digital image of @FlatSamantha to space. He went one step further. He took a printed photo of @FlatSamantha with him to orbit, and snapped a photo of her picture with space as the backdrop. Too cool!

@FlatSamantha: Junior crew member for STS-134. Photo by Pilot Greg Johnson

@FlatSamantha: Junior crew member for STS-134. Photo by Pilot Greg "Box" Johnson.

Box brought the photo back home to Earth, and offered to deliver the “flown-in-space” picture of @FlatSamantha to “the-real-Samantha” in person. What a guy!!

@Astro_Box with @FlatSamantha and the real Samantha

@Astro_Box with @FlatSamantha and the real Samantha

Box posed for photos with Samantha’s family and friends, including @FlatSamantha’s NASA tweetup escort Doug @CPUguru White (seen on the far right). “The-real-Samantha” is easy to spot in red.

@Astro_Box + @FlatSamantha + Samantha + @CPUguru

@Astro_Box + @FlatSamantha + Samantha + @CPUguru @ NASA HQ.

Doug posted all his @FlatSamantha pics on Flickr. He’s got some great shots from the STS-134 launch tweetup and the visit to NASA Headquarters. Be sure to check them out. You can also read all his NASA tweetup blog posts, including Samantha’s story.

Tweet about Flickr streamAfter saying goodbye to Samantha, we headed upstairs for the office lunch with the crew. I sat with Mike Fincke. He’s simply adorable. He was the first to become a space dad while in orbit in 2004. His wife gave birth while he was in orbit for six months on the Space Station Expedition 9 mission. He also holds the record for most days in space for an American: 382 days. (Oh, and Mike thinks space smells like burned medal, rather than burned cookies.)

Spacewalker Mike Fincke

Spacewalker Mike Fincke @ NASA HQ office lunch

As he talked, I noticed his fingernails. I asked if his spacewalk damaged them. He told us how the nail laminate peeled off inside the glove while he was working. He said he could feel it, but it didn’t hurt. One nail looked like he’d smashed it with a hammer. I knew spacewalker lost nails, but I’d never seen it before.

Tweet about @AstroIronMike's fingernails

Having the crew come to town is always a highlight for me. I love hearing their stories. I love getting as close as I can to space. Our astronauts touch space. They look with glittering eyes at the world above us. They come back with answers to the greatest secrets hidden in the most unlikely places. They go to the extremes of where humans can go. They pave the way for others to follow.

Thank you space pioneers! You can invade our nation’s Capitol whenever you want. 🙂

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