Tag Archives: Goddard

Space Outreach Overature

Last night, Astronauts Patrick Forrester, Jose Hernandez and Swedish-born Christer Fugelsang of the STS-128 crew visited with Members of Congress and congressional staffers in partnership with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. One big surprise: Jose Hernandez called up to the podium all NASA employees from Headquarters and Goddard performing outreach functions.

For those of you outside the government, outreach encompasses the effort to share information about federal programs with the general public.

Only two of us in the room stepped forward. Awkward. But cool, none-the-less. Here’s why: Jose talked about the importance of reaching out to the community to inspire others to reach for the stars. Frankly, I don’t recall a time when an astronaut took time at an event to thank us for getting out there telling their story.

Jose told the story of how he couldn’t speak English until he was 12 years old. Once he saw Astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz selected to travel into space, Jose realized that someone who looked like he did, with hispanic heritage, could be an astronaut. That very day, he decided to study hard in school and make something of himself. He thanked us for going out to work with communities and schools to get out the message of hope. (Don’t quote me on his exact words. It’s all a blur since I was, after all, standing awkwardly in front of a room full of people.)

The funny part, however, is that one of our Legislative Affairs staffers came up to me afterward and explained that Jose planned to call up all the hispanic-heritage NASA folks to thank them for their efforts. Um…I don’t qualify. Oops. Instead he called up outreach NASA folks. I do qualify. Made me giggle…AND a tad embarrassed, at the same time. I’ll bet Jose was surprised to see me come forward. He took it in stride and thanked women engineers for their efforts too. Um…I don’t qualify for that category either. (But I AM a political scientist — to use an old term from the 70’s.)

So we decided, after the fact, that I had a few points in my favor:

  • I grew up in Texas,
  • studied Spanish in Mexico,
  • spoke fluent Spanish at one point (LONG, long ago), AND
  • speak Texan fluently to this very day.

Thanks Jose for the recognition of NASA’s outreach efforts, even if I can’t check the other boxes you were looking to highlight.

I simply don’t see a down side to warm fuzzies, no matter how inadvertently they come.

Here are a few iPhone pics from the event. I’ll add some official ones once they come available.

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Filed under culture, federal government, leadership, NASA, space

Honor Past but Celebrate Future, PLEASE!

Apollo 40th Logo

Apollo 40th Logo

These next few days portend a frenzy of Apollo anniversary activities.  Let’s see what we’ve got on the agenda:

Saturday, July 18:

Sunday, July 19:

  • John Glenn Lecture Series at the National Air and Space Museum will feature the Apollo 11 crew and legendary former Johnson Space Center Director Chris Kraft. Charlie and Lori are invited, as well.

Monday, July 20:

  • Various media events for the Apollo astronauts,n and a private lunch.
  • Newseum 40th Anniversary Educational Forum featuring hunky George Clooney’s dad, Nick, as moderator. Panelists include: Apollo astronauts @TheRealBuzz Aldrin, Charles Duke and Alan Bean, along with STS-125 crewmember John Grunsfeld and Goddard’s Dr. Laurie Leshin.
  • Evening Reception at the National Air and Space Museum. Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson will MC the event honoring Apollo astronauts and former Apollo employees — of whom we have a handful still working at NASA Headquarters. Plus, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will accept the Ambassador of Exploration Award on behalf of the late President John F. Kennedy.
Apollo Employees @ HQ

Apollo Employees @ HQ

Tuesday, July 21

  • Capitol Hill Congressional Gold Medal Presentation to Apollo 11 crew.
  • Appreciation Social with NASA Headquarters employees to honor Apollo astronauts.

This list is the tip of the iceberg. I can’t begin to list all the Apollo celebration events hosted at the NASA field centers.

Yes, we have much to celebrate at NASA. We’ve done some amazing things never thought possible four decades ago. We have every right, and responsibility, to reflect and honor the courage, dedication, daring, and engineering genius that lofted humans to the heavens. How boldly incredible is this accomplishment? Really! Bravo to all who played a part in the foundation of our space program.

But, here’s my quandary: We’ve spent a great deal of time planning for this anniversary. Just like we did for NASA’s 50th birthday. Meetings, telecons, vidcons, brain-storm sessions, product prep, website creation, and much, much MORE to pull together a respectable list of things to do.

Some part of me can’t quite reconcile all this activity. Does an agency retrospective propel us where we want to go tomorrow?

I pose this merely as a question, rather than a conclusion. Believe me, I get that we need to honor those who got us here. I understand the need to look back and marvel at our greatness. It’s our culture. If reliving these momentous achievements (which they TOTally were) makes us smarter for the difficult endeavors we face in current and future programs, then YAY!

But, here’s what I’d like to see: NASA expending the same effort showcasing all the amazing things we’re doing now, and will be doing in the future. For instance:

  • Clean Water challenges to replicate waste water recycling like we practice in space. We are pioneers in sustainable living. Our technology enables crewmembers on Space Station conserve and reuse every drop possible.
  • Orbital 365 events around the globe for every additional year we live/work/play on our incredibly complex orbital outpost — International Space Station.
  • Light the Candle community celebrations held EVERY remaining Space Shuttle launch, AND for significant engine test firings for new vehicle development.
  • Light Gardens created from home-made solar collectors to remind us how delicate and fragile the balance is between creation and consumption of energy, as our international crew of six onboard Station can attest every day in orbit 220 miles over our heads.
  • Star-gazing festivals where we turn out the city lights and look to the skies together. Our brightest star might just be Station zipping across the horizon.
  • Ticker Tape Parade

    Ticker Tape Parade

    Ticker tape parades for all Earthlings returning to the home planet. (Wait! Who even knows what “ticker tape” is? At least I can show you what it looks like in this picture.) So, in keeping with the times, how ’bout virtual confetti blasts synchronized through an iPhone app?)

I’m merely suggesting ideas to spark your imagination and get the conversation going. I’m not saying these celebrations would even work. But, then again, you never know ’till you try. Right?

Let’s face it, looking back is SO much easier than looking forward — which involves peering into the unknown. Though…that whole “unknown” thing is something NASA is particularly good at. 😉

So, what’s stopping us? Come on! Let’s “pay it forward.”  Tap into that amazing creative energy we have. Celebrate NASA’s today and tomorrow, while we honor the past.

Happy Apollo 11 anniversary!

First step for man...

First step for man...

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Filed under federal government, leadership, NASA, space