Tag Archives: Chris Ferguson

Hipstamatic View of Final Liftoff

Space Shuttle Atlantis on Launch Pad A

The very last Space Shuttle, Atlantis, soared to the heavens through cloudy skies on Friday, June 8 carrying STS-135 crew of four: Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus, and Rex Walheim. Waiting to greet them on Space Station: Expedition 28 Commander Andrey Borisenko, Ron Garan, Mike Fossum, Satoshi Furukawa, Alexander Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov.

I watched liftoff with fellow space tweeps at the Kennedy Space Center press site where we hosted our final Space Shuttle mission tweetup. More on the tweetup in my next post.

I wanted to share these images with you taken my iPhone Hipstamatic app (thanks to Nicole Solomon, who told me NEVER to post pictures again without Hipstamatic). Now I have a forever memory of Atlantis via this little slideshow.

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Think UNthinkable Thoughts

“To achieve the impossible, it is PRECISELY the UNthinkable that MUST be thought.” Tim Robbins

How many times have you shared an idea, only to be told it would never work? While you’re busy counting, I can tell you I lost count several lifetimes ago.

Visionaries “envision” the end product in their heads. Realizing that vision, now that’s the heart of the adventure. The barriers to success are built upon layers of “no way” or “you’re crazy” or “not on my watch.”

Think about the dreamers who designed the magnificent reusable space vehicle we know as the Space Shuttle. Though they believed winged flight from space back to Earth was possible, could they ever have imagined 30 years of reliable service? Yes, we’ve experienced two tragedies, but we’ve also witnessed 20,952 orbits around Earth by the fleet — prior to next week’s final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Time in space for 134 flights: 1,320 days, one hour, 32 minutes, 44 seconds.

Space Shuttle Atlantis rolling out to the launch pad for her final flight. NASA/Bill Ingalls

Space Shuttle Atlantis rolling out to the launch pad for her final flight. NASA/Bill Ingalls

Prior to the final mission, STS-135, the five Orbiters traveled 537,114,016 miles.

  • Columbia was the first to fly into orbit carrying John Young and Bob Crippen on April 12, 1981. She flew 27 complete missions for 121,696,993 miles and 300 days in space. The vehicle and crew were lost at the end of the STS-107, her 28th mission. (My personal story: I worked at NASA Headquarters in DC, but was in Texas with my daughter Steph for a college visit at The University of Texas. My sister lived north of Dallas. One of her friends from JSC called to ask us to go outside and look for the Orbiter in the sky. They had lost contact. Horror of horror. We only saw contrails.)
  • Challenger‘s maiden flight was STS-6 on April 4, 1983. She flew nine complete missions for 995 miles and 62 days in space, before exploding at lift off on her 10th mission, STS-51L, carrying Christa McAuliffe, our first Teacher in Space. (My story: I was on maternity leave from the Johnson Space Center after the birth of baby daughter Steph. I saw the story on the news. I attended the Memorial Service with President Reagan. I came back from maternity leave to the accident investigation.) 
  • Discovery flew her maiden voyage in August 1984 with STS-41D. She served as the Return to Flight missions after both accidents. She flew 148,221,675 miles, 39 flights, and 365 days (ONE FULL YEAR) in space. As the most seasoned Orbiter, Discovery retired first following the STS-133 mission.
  • Endeavour is the baby of the fleet. She was the last built, ordered to replace Challenger. She flew her first mission, STS-49, in May, 1992. She retired second after flying 122,883,151 miles and 25 missions and 299 days in space through her final mission, STS-134.
  • Atlantis flew first on October 3, 1985 during the STS-51J mission. She is the last operational vehicle in the Space Shuttle fleet. Prior to this final mission, she’s completed 32 flights and 120,650,907 miles and 293 days in space.

Over the last 30 years, the five Orbiters carried human cargo to space and back: 848 before this final flight of Atlantis, which carries a crew of four: Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus and Rex Wilheim. At the end of the Space Shuttle program, 852 humans can boast about riding a rocket to space and glider back to planet Earth. Think about the stories they’ll tell their grandchildren and great grandchildren — about a time when humans allowed themselves to think unthinkable thoughts. And when they did, they created something amazingly awesome: a reusable winged space plane.

STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis on launch pad. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis on launch pad. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

If we keep thinking unthinkable thoughts, we can do unimaginable things and go unforeseenable [yes, I know this is not a word, but I like it] places. 

But it takes work:

  • Parents, believe your kids can do more than seems possible. Give them a leg up: support them even if it means sacrifice on your part.
  • Teachers, open your students’ eyes to the wonder of the universe. One of them may be the first to build a personal spacecraft or step on Mars without the need for a bulky spacesuit.
  • Bosses, give your employees an opportunity to create new products and processes. Allow them the flexibility to think outside the box without fear of retribution.

Even as we close out the Space Shuttle program, tomorrow holds great promise if we dare to dream it. So, let’s get to it!

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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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