Tag Archives: launch

LAUNCH: Innovating the Way We Create

Upcycled waste becomes Robot Art

Upcycled waste becomes Robot Art

The amazing LAUNCH core team from NASA, USAID, State Department and NIKE is gathering in San Francisco to host a brainstorming session with thought leaders in the field of “sustainable waste” — creating less and creating more value from existing and future waste. We call this brainstorming session, LAUNCH: Big Think. Waste is a huge issue for long duration human spaceflight. Engineers at NASA are grappling with ways to creatively design closed loop systems that use waste as feedstock for additional needs. A simple example is using wasted package material to line module walls as radiation protection on orbit.

On the plane, I read the book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart. What a great summary of the state of waste for the past, present, and future. Even the book is printed on “technical nutrient” (synthetic paper) rather than wood pulp or cotton fiber.

The book promotes a vision of eco-effectiveness rather than eco-efficiency. The prevailing winds of eco-efficiency rely on a notion of doing less harm. Eco-effectiveness pushes a “do NO harm” approach to how we create products and services for the future.

The authors use the ant as a model for how humans could exist on this planet —

“all the ants on the planet, taken together, have a biomass greater than that of humans. Ants have been incredibly industrious for millions of years. Yet their productiveness nourishes the plants, animals, and soil. Human industry has been in full swing for little of a century, yet it has brought about a decline in almost every ecosystem on the planet. Nature doesn’t have a design problem. People do.” — Cradle to Cradle

For the LAUNCH: Waste forum in July, we’re sifting through the innovation space around waste — reuse, remake, recycle, upcycle, net-zero, closed loop, cradle-to-cradle, etc. to determine where we should focus our search for ten innovations. From the perspective of the Cradle to Cradle authors, we should aim to eliminate all waste products by ensuring discarded products become feedstock for new valued processes.

“To eliminate the concept of waste means to design things — products, packaging, and systems — from the very beginning on the understanding that waste does not exist.” — Cradle to Cradle

I’m intrigued by the conversations we’ll have tomorrow about the waste innovation space — and hopefully a better name than LAUNCH: Waste which, let’s face it, kinda’ stinks (pun intended.)

In the end, this is the kind of world I’d love to live in — one with trees and birds and flowing streams. Stay tuned.

Mosaic forest art from DFW airport.

Mosaic forest art from DFW airport.


Filed under innovation, LAUNCH

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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Filed under astronaut, Earth, environment, NASA, space

LAUNCH Water Day 1

After working on the LAUNCH:Water concept for the past year, we finally kicked it off yesterday — along with our cool new Nike-designed website.

LAUNCH team prepping for innovators

LAUNCH team prepping for innovators

We started the day with Lori Garver, NASA’s Deputy Administrator and LAUNCH Water Host.

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver

Majora Carter: Welcome

Peter Gleick, President and Co-Founder Pacific Institute, “21st Century Water: The Role of Technology and Innovation”

Innovator Mark Tonkin, DTI-r: “Subsurface Vapor Transfer Irrigation

Innovator Mark Tonkin

Innovator Mark Tonkin

Innovator Andrew Tinka, UC Berkeley: “Floating Sensor Network

Innovator Andrew Tinka

Innovator Andrew Tinka

Innovator Ashok Gadgil, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab: “ElectroChemical Arsenic Remediation

Innovator Ashok Gadgi

Innovator Ashok Gadgil

Innovator Mark Sobsey, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill: “Low Cost Bacterial Water Test

Innovator Mark Sobsey

Innovator Mark Sobsey

Lili Anna Peresa, “The Comprehensive Approach of ONE DROP: Water for All, All for Water”

One Drop Foundation: Lili Anna Peresa

One Drop Foundation: Lili Anna Peresa

Partner Head Table

Partner Head Table

Each of the innovators rotated through focused discussion sessions to help shape their success strategy. I like to call it: Innovator Speed Dating.

Innovator "Speed Dating"

Innovator "Speed Dating"

Impact Rotations

Impact rotations

Innovator Impact Rotations

Innovator Impact Rotations

Launch Water Impact Rotations

Launch Water Impact Rotations

Launch Impact Rotations

Launch Impact Rotations

So many incredible stories to share. Stay tuned.

Crosspost on OpenNASA.


Filed under Earth, environment, federal government, humanitarian aid, leadership, NASA, space

Astro-Stars in Our Eyes

My youngest daughter, Steph, is a Houston Astros baseball fanatic. She grew up wanting to be Craig Biggio. She lives and breathes for the game, watches them on her computer, knows the stats by heart.

Two summers ago, she came home for a visit with one purpose in mind — watch the Astros play a 3-game series against the Nats in their new stadium. I’d never been there before, so we headed out for our adventure in southwest DC. We bought our tickets to sit above the Astros bullpen, so she could be close to her boys.

My daughter's fav baseball player ever!

My daughter's fav baseball player ever!

During the game, a man and two boys sat down next to us. One of the boys wore a NASA shirt. I asked where he got his shirt. He pointed to the man next to me and said his dad worked at NASA.

What an amazing coincidence. Of all the seats in the National’s Ballpark, two NASA employees end up sitting together.

I asked his dad where he worked. Houston, he told me. We chatted for a bit before I discovered he was an astronaut. Turns out he’d come to the game to throw out the first pitch. He brought his son and nephew along with him. Really nice guy.

Terry Virts. STS-130 Pilot.

STS-130 Pilot Terry Virts

STS-130 Pilot Terry Virts

I share this with you now because he’s up in space right this very minute. He broke the bonds of Earth yesterday on his first flight to space. And how cool is that?!? He’s circling the planet at 17,500 mph while I type.

STS-130 launch

STS-130 launch. Credit/NASA

Today’s STS-130 Flight Day 2 wake-up call was dedicated to Terry. Great song by Brandon Heath, “Give Me Your Eyes.” Wake-up calls for Space Shuttle missions are chosen by family and friends. The song selection says a great deal about the person, I think.

Mission Control ground-to-space Flight Day 2 audio recording.

I’ll share a few lyrics from “Give Me Your Eyes” by songwriters: Brandon Heath and Jason David Ingram. (The lyrics themselves serve as a wake-up call for service to the forgotten and broken-hearted.)

“Looked down from a broken sky. Traced out by the city lights. My world from a mile high. Best seat in the house tonight. Touched down on the cold black top. Hold on for the sudden stop. Breathe in the familiar shock. Of confusion and chaos.

All those people going somewhere. Why have I never cared?

Chorus: Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see. Everything that I keep missing. Give me your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the broken hearted. Ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me your heart for the ones forgotten. Give me your eyes that I can see.”

Great song. Great heart. Great guy. So nice to see the good ones fly.

Oh, sorry, I got caught up in the whole rhythm and rhyme thing.

Getting back to the event that started this whole story. I don’t recall whether the Astros won or lost. Steph can tell you, though. She’ll remember who got what hit. Who scored. How many runs batted in. How many errors.

But she won’t remember which astronaut she talked to. I will. I’ll be able to tell you how many times he flies. How many hours in orbit. What music he likes. And so on.

At least we’re keeping space in the family. Steph has stars in her eyes for Earth-bound Astros. I have stars in my eyes for Astros who leave Earth. Life offers such interesting parallels. Don’t you think?

You can find out more about Terry and the STS-130 crew at NASA.gov.

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Filed under Earth, NASA

SnOMG=X-teroid Invasion!

I’m snowed in. I should be shoveling out. But, I really don’t feel like it. I’m not in the mood to exert the energy required to uncover almost two feet of snow. If I were smart, I’d be shoveling out every couple of inches. Or if I were really smart, I’d move to the British Virgin Islands. Yet, here I sit — a blanket of white falling hard and fast out my windows. No end in sight.

Snowmaggedon. Snowpocalypse. SnOMG!

While I sat here, posting info on tomorrow’s Super Bowl Sunday STS-130 Space Shuttle launch on Facebook, I ran across this X-files-looking Hubble image of a “mysterious X-shaped debris pattern and trailing streamers of dust” that astronomers have never seen before.

Hubble discovers X-teroid

Hubble discovers X-teroid

I know this can all be explained-away by science. Here’s what NASA has to say about it: “Hubble shows the main nucleus of P/2010 A2 lies outside its own halo of dust. This has never been seen before in a comet-like object. The nucleus is estimated to be 460 feet in diameter.”

But…what if it really is a spacecraft of some kind?

Ok, let’s stop here. Let me warn you that I have a vivid imagination. …Now, with that said, hear me out.

What if this crazy blizzard is a cover for a planet X-teroid invasion?

Look at the timing. Hubble catches a glimpse of the advance X-ship. Then, the snow storm of the century hits our Nation’s Capitol!

Rather suspect. Wouldn’t you agree?

No? You’re not buying my alien conspiracy theory? I’m crushed. 😉 But hey, what a fun SciFy plot. SnOMG=X-teroid Invasion. I’m selling the rights. Who’s buying?

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some of my crazy blizzard shots. Then, I guess I have no excuse left NOT to go shovel my way out.

SnOMG Trees

SnOMG Trees

snOMG snow boat (i.e. hammock)

snOMG snow boat (i.e. hammock)

SnOMG front steps

SnOMG front steps

snOMG is devouring my car

snOMG is devouring my car

Tootles! A-shoveling I go….

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Filed under Earth, NASA, space, writers

FlashForward: LOS, please?

A funny thing happened to me in the NASA Headquarters lobby this week. I encountered a colleague I haven’t seen in a while. She posed this question:

What have you been doing with your life?

Innocent question on her part. My reaction: TILT!

My brain: Tilt!

My brain: Tilt!

The connections in my brain overloaded, then broke down. Total Loss of Signal — like when Mission Control can’t talk with the astronauts. When I snapped back, I realized I’d experienced a flash forward moment — a time in my life when I have absolutely NOTHING to do.

No deadlines, no distractions, nothing on my list. Utter bliss!

But to answer her question, one word escaped my lips, “Work.”

Atlantis crossing over Africa

Atlantis crossing over Africa

In my mind, strobe-light images from the last few weeks danced in my head:

  • STS-129 Tweet-up down at KSC,
  • STS-129 launch, mission, landing,
  • NASA Facebook updates in the wee hours,
  • Twitter space talk 24/7
  • SpaceSmart metrics and design project,
  • LAUNCH:Water sustainability forum, and
  • Space Operations budget review…

Oh… just a sampling of the things that keep me awake at night.

She gave me a horrified look, and said,

“But what are you doing for yourSELF?”

Once again, my mind kicked into overdrive. For the month of November alone, I pictured:

  • over 50,000 words typed over 30 days of literary abandon in November’s National Novel Writers Month NaNoWriMo,
  • 11 blogposts on this site,
  • several guest blogposts on OpenNASA and GovLoop,
  • reading and responding to hundreds upon hundreds of Twitter updates,
  • Thanksgiving preparations and  time with my daughters, and
  • time with God every single day — the very BEST thing I do for myself.
  • Oh, and the dreaded Black Friday!
Black Friday Madness

Black Friday Madness

But, who wants to hear any of that? Really.

So, I responded, “Nothing.”

Seeing that she found my answer inconceivable, I asked what she’d been doing lately. After all, that was the real question, now wasn’t it? She listed Kennedy Center performances, trips with friends, volunteering for worthy organizations, and much much more. I listened to all the wonderful things she was doing and thought to myself,

I really, really want a day of nothing. Just plain nothing.

I think I even said that to her. It’s all a blur. I don’t recall her validating my desire for nothingness.

I get that I choose this frenetic life of mine.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, I can still dream about a simple time — my own personal Flash Forward Loss of Signal. A time when my internal Mission Control goes silent. No more things to do. All is quiet. Peace at last.

After a moment or two in this alternative universe, boredom would come for a visit, most likely. I would find myself daydreaming of new missions to accomplish.

Hmmm. We’ll probably never know, will we? But, for now, I  better get busy. My list is long. This IS the Christmas season after all. No time to rest. 😉


Filed under NASA, OpenNASA, social media, space, tweet-up, writers

Space Tweeps: Flying High

Oh what to say about the amazingly flawless STS-129 Space Shuttle launch…AND the opportunity to watch it with space tweeps from around the world? Yes, around the world. @RobOotc traveled from New Zealand — the furthest of ALL. (Shout out to Tiffany @astrogerly and @ericmblog for driving non-stop from Michigan!)

How incredible to give 100+ eager @NASA twitter fans the opportunity of a lifetime to see one of the few remaining Shuttle launches. Yes, I get emotional writing about it. We’re at the end of an era. We’re watching history unfold in the skies above us.

But, I gotta’ say…I spent a good deal of time over the last two days explaining Twitter to non-Tweeps. (Can I get away with calling them Twitter losers…or TWosers? Is that totally rude?)

My advice: you can’t just stick a toe in. JUMP!

The guys still dry have been asking about the Return on Investment ROI for Twitter. I had an entire blog ready on ROI of Twitter, but I’m throwing it away. Instead, I’ll paraphrase a comment by @CatherineQ from New Zealand. She told me her personal ROI (PROI?) for using Twitter was one Million fold. Her reward: Space Shuttle launch and tweet-up!

How cool is that? OUR launch tweet-up IS HER Twitter ROI.

So, what’s my ROI for using Twitter? The chance to give 100+ tweeters the thrill of a lifetime with today’s Shuttle launch. They couldn’t stop grinning…and giggling…and thanking us for sharing what WE do for a living — this thing we call “space.” They even made a presention to the NASA employees. A poster they’d signed…for us. Now, that’s a first.

Thanks guys! Soooo much.

Nick @Skytland suggested we scan the poster and make it available online to our tweeters. Brilliant. Stay tuned. Thanks also to @flyingjenny and @apacheman for hanging with the tweeps as our KSC experts…and founders of Space Tweep Society.

Because our tweeters were so enthusiastic and incredibly awesome, we’ve already had discussions for more launch tweet-ups — another ROI, perhaps? We only have five launches left, after all. (And, BTW, launch control called. They’d like us to create the Huffer-Puffer Brigade to blow the clouds away for all the remaining Shuttle launches!) 😉

Let’s do this thing…AGAIN!

You too can share our emotional experience from the launch. Take a look at the living-growing archive of our tweet-up tweets, along with our group pic. Aren’t we a good-looking group? Now, if we only had a video record of our space-wave. Or…maybe not. You had to be there.

Thank YOU space tweeps. You’re the best! I LOVE you all!


Filed under NASA, social media, tweet-up

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.


Filed under culture, federal government, NASA, space