Tag Archives: Mars

Flat Stanley: Out of this World Tour

Guest Post by Stanley Lambchop

Hi! My name is Flat Stanley. I belong to Nathan Woolverton, Beth Beck’s adorable nephew. Nathan’s class has an assignment to send me on an adventure. I’ve always wanted to go to space, so I asked if Nathan’s aunt Beth would take me to work with her. She works at NASA, you know. So, Nathan’s mom popped me into a mailer and here I am. I’m flat, you see, so I don’t cost much in postage to get from Texas to DC.

"Flat Stanley" book by Jeff Brown, 1964

"Flat Stanley" book by Jeff Brown, 1964

Beth told me you might not know who I am. Really? Wow. I guess I better tell you a little about myself. I was born in 1964. My real name is Stanley Lambchop. My younger brother is Arthur. My dad gave me a bulletin board that fell on my bed, squashing me flat. Hey. Don’t worry. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I kinda like it. I’ll never grow bigger or older than I am now. How cool is that?!? AND, I can slip inside an envelop, fax or email to go ANYwhere I want. I’m getting to see much of the world.

But Nathan is special. He sent me on an out-of-this-world adventure. I dare you to top this! I’ve been sending Nathan email pics of my adventure. I have to write a journal too, so Beth thought a guest blogpost would let all of you enjoy my incredible experience. Now my class journal can be a virtual learning tool. Note: In case you’re wondering, I’m dictating my comments to Beth. I haven’t quite mastered typing on a keyboard with my flat fingers.

Fellow Earthings, prepare to get VERY jealous.

First of all, you should know that the weather in DC is very cold, icy and snowy in the winter. But while I’ve been up here, Nathan and his class have seen two snowstorms. Quite amazing — since he lives in warm sunny Texas. We had to shovel our way out before Beth and I could drive to work. We were both sweating inside our snow clothes. It’s hard work!

Flat Stanley in DC snow

Washington DC: I helped shovel snow.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management allowed federal government workers to telework or take vacation time off — just to keep thousands of drivers off the snowy roads. Beth had a meeting, so we drove in to work together. You know NASA is a government agency, right?

Here I am at NASA!

Flat Stanley Visits NASA

Here I am at NASA! Woot!

I came to visit on an important day, NASA’s Day of Remembrance, when NASA honors fallen heroes who’ve given their lives to the cause of exploration.

Flat Stanley: NASA Day of Remembrance

I learned about NASA's Day of Remembrance.

I toured the building. I found astronaut Deke Slayton’s spacesuit right down the hall from where Beth works. Deke was was one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts, selected in 1959 (before I was born). He was the only member of the Mercury Seven not to fly. He was grounded because of a problem with his heart, but he ended up flying in space in 1975 with the Apollo-Soyuz test Project — the first time the U.S and Soviet Union worked together in space.

Astronaut Deke Slayton's spacesuit.

Here I am with Astronaut Deke Slayton's spacesuit.

I met Robonaut Centaur. Pretty cool dude. He rolls around on a rover base. He’ll help astronauts who are working on the surface of another planet. He’s kin to Robonaut 2, robo-humanoid STS-133 crewmember launching to Space Station on February 24.

Flat Stanley meets Robonaut Centaur

I met Robonaut Centaur, cousin to STS-133 Robonaut2.

Here I am hangin’ with my new peeps, the RoboTwins: Robonaut 2 and Robonaut 2. They were duking it out over who gets to launch onboard STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery on one of the final missions in the Shuttle program, scheduled for February 24.

Flat Stanley with his peeps: Robonaut 2 Twins

Hangin with my peeps: RoboTwins

I inspected a Space Shuttle up close and personal. It’s really high way up at the top. Check it out!

Flat Stanley's Tank Top View

Here's my Tank Top View. Original photo by NASA's Bill Ingals.

Here’s what a bird would see when a Space Shuttle launches. Pretty amazing, don’t you think? I can’t believe we’ll only have three more launches EVER in the history of mankind.

Flat Stanley sees a Space Shuttle launch

Only three more Space Shuttle launches EVer!

The only way off this planet, until we come up with another solution, is by rocket propulsion. “Beam me up, Scotty” only works on TV and in movies, sadly. Hopefully some of you out there will come up with a cool new mode of transportation, like dream transport or spacial folding techniques. (I just made those up, but who can predict what breakthrough might happen in the future.)

Once we get off the planet, though, we can see sights like these. Come along for the rocket ride.

Flat Stanley visits International Space Station

Isn't Space Station amazing?

The International Space Station orbits 220 miles over Earth, circling the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of 17,500 mph with a international crew of six.

Flat Stanley tours Space Station

Another view of Space Station.

Flat Stanley on Top of the World

Flat Stanley on Top of the World

Flat Stanley on the Moon: Nope. No cheese!

Moon tour: Nope. No cheese!

Flat Stanley scorched by Sun

Sun: Man, this place is HOT!

Flat Stanley: Mars

Mars, the Red Planet. Humans could live here in the future.

When humans travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere, they need protection from the harsh environment of space. Either a spaceship or spacesuit — to provide air, cooling and heating, and other essentials. Our atmosphere provides a radiation shield, but once we go further out, we need to provide protection. On the planet’s surface, whether Moon or Mars, we’ll need a hardshelled suit, like the one I tried on. But I don’t think it fits. Do you?

Flat Stanley tries on Mars suit

I'm trying on the Mars suit. It's a bit big.

Maybe someday we’ll have bio-shields or exo-skins that protect us without a spacesuit. Maybe Nathan and his classmates will come up with a technology breakthrough that NASA can use.

Highlight of my visit: I met a real live astronaut! Really. I promise. Not only is Leland Melvin a spaceman, he’s also the Chief of Education at NASA. He really likes kids. You can tell. He stopped a meeting to pose for a picture with me. Cool dude!

Flat Stanley meets astronaut Leland Melvin

Here I am with astronaut Leland Melvin!

Leland spent over 565 hours in space during two Space Shuttle missions: STS-122 in 2008 and STS-129 in 2009. He also played football in the NFL with the Detroit Lions in 1986, as well as the Dallas Cowboys and Toronto Argonauts, until injuries kept him off the field. Good thing for NASA. Don’t you think?

Maybe someday I’ll go live on Mars. I don’t weigh much. I don’t eat anything. I don’t need radiation protection, or even a spacesuit, for that matter. If Robonaut can be part of a space crew, I think a flat boy should have the chance. Leland and I are buds now. Maybe he can put in a good word for me. Hmmm.

I hope you liked my space adventure. I learned alot about NASA. I hope you did too.

Oh, and you can Facebook me, if you want. I have my own page. But for now, I need to get back to Nathan’s class. Time for me to get into the mailer, so Beth can get me to the post office. When I get back to Texas, I’m going to make sure Nathan asks his mom to let me watch live views from Space Station on the NASA TV channel on the web. You can too.

Flat Stanley & NASA's Alien

NASA discovered alien life after all!


Filed under federal government, NASA, space

Rocket Man Dreams of Mars

Meet Jesco.

Jesco Von Puttkamer trying out space suit

Jesco Von Puttkamer trying out space suit

German-born Jesco Von Puttkamer came to NASA 48 years ago to build rockets with legendary Wernher Von Braun. I’ve known Jesco for almost 20 years now, since I first came up to NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

What can I say about Jesco? He’s a force to be reckoned with. I’ve known him as one who stands his ground. I’ll leave it at that.

In the 1990’s, I worked in international relations at NASA Headquarters as the German Desk Officer.  In this job, I witnessed Jesco’s rock star status in Germany. Everywhere I went, the German’s wanted to know if I knew Jesco or if I could get Jesco to come speak at their events.

So why am I introducing you to Jesco now?

Simple. Jesco and I spoke on the “Future Directions” panel at the International Space University’s “Public Face of Space” Symposium last week in Strasbourg, France. His talk moved me to tears.

Here’s what I learned about Jesco last week that I never knew:

Jesco’s unfulfilled dream=GO TO MARS!

Jesco to Mars

Tweet about Jesco's passion for Mars.

Who knew? I always understood he liked to build rockets and track Space Station. But Mars? Wow. Somehow I missed the destination-side of who Jesco is.

I like to think of Jesco as the Forest Gump of space — always right on the fringes of every historical moment. Prime example: Take a look at this picture of President Kennedy touring the Space Center with Wernher Von Braun. Jesco stood on the street corner as the car drove past.

Jesco snapped this pic from the street corner.

President Kennedy with Wernher Von Braun.

I’d never caught his passion before. Jesco’s presentation took us back to his years at the Marshall Space Flight Center, the very center of the space universe, the birthplace of all things space — until, that is, we learned the Soviet Union had their own space Capitol where they worked as feverishly as the Von Braun team to be #1 in space.

Space race news articles

Space Race

Here is Jesco on his first day on the job.

Young Jesco on his first day on the job.

Young Jesco on his first day on the job.

He spoke passionately about how he took no vacation for eight years because he feared missing an exciting breakthrough. None of the team wanted to go home at night. (Let’s not talk about the toll on their families.) The point of his talk: we can’t go forward without understanding where we’re coming from.

Rocket guys married to the job.

Rocket guys married to the job.

I knew Jesco was passionate about the past. That wasn’t news to me. What utterly shocked me was his passion for the future. I’d never connected his love of all things space to a particular destination — Mars. And to see his face light up when he spoke of it, reminded me of the little boy in him dreaming of what might be someday.

I knew Jesco, the pragmatist. I’d never before seen this Jesco. Jesco, the dreamer.

I write this post as my way of saying thanks to Jesco for all his dedication and sacrifice and passion for the journey to the great unknown we know as space. During the Q&A portion of our Future Directions panel, I liked his response to the question, “Why space? Why bother?” (My paraphrase.)

“We establish the frontier, step over it, and push the frontier out even further.”

Thanks Jesco for pushing the space frontier out even further to get us closer to your passion: Mars.

His presentation will be available on the International Space University website. For more tweets from the ISU conference, I created an archive.

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

Rethink: Rings Around Saturn

Have I ever told you why I drive a Saturn? You can blame it on NASA.

In 1990, NASA Headquarters brought me up on assignment from the Johnson Space Center in Houston to work on a new team — the first Office of Exploration. We were formed following the 90-day Moon/Mars Study requested by President H.W. Bush.

My task: design an evolving organizational structure to adapt quickly to change over a 30-year program of unknowns.

In carrying out this assignment, I looked for models of success. I researched bureaucratic organizations that spun off creative teams– to break free from entrenched culture. General Motors’ Saturn company offered wonderful parallels for NASA.

Their motto: Rethink!

The more I learned about the spanking new Saturn company, the more I fell in love with it. I couldn’t wait for my little Chevy Nova to croak, so I could buy my first Saturn. Once I became a proud Saturn owner, I entered the tight family circle — I slipped inside the rings around Saturn. I attended cook-outs at the dealership and new owner workshops to learn how the engine worked. I bought Saturn mugs and stuffed animals. The Saturn guys sent me birthday cards and notified me of company news. They even hosted a yearly get-together for all Saturn owners at their home plant in Tennessee.

I adored the Saturn culture — open, friendly, transparent.

Saturn success offered hope of a similar culture change at NASA for spin-off organizations. Sadly, their experiment in open environment failed to reap profit for GM. GM is shutting down the Saturn line.

The rings around Saturn collapsed under the weight of unmet corporate expectations. (Or perhaps from the weight of years of corporate culture crushing down.)

Saturn of Fairfax Dealership

Saturn Of Fairfax

As I sat in the Saturn dealership yesterday with other Saturn owners, we lamented over the death of our dream — a car company that offered affordable style and trustworthy employees. But a funny thing happened, we had a lovely morning talking about space.

We started talking about On-Star, which somehow led to satellites, which led to the retirement of the Space Shuttle, Russian Soyuz and the transportation gap, President Obama and new directions for space, opportunities for commercial space, SpaceShipTwo venture, Chinese and new space-faring nations, radiation effects on humans on Space Station, and much much more.

One of my fellow-Saturn owners went to high school with former Astronaut Pierre Thuot. Thanks to my iPhone, I could look him up and share what missions Pierre flew on.  Another fellow-Saturn owner shared MIT advances and how they might be applied to space travel. When his car was ready, he told me he’d rather stay and chat.

Upon retrospect, I find the cycle fascinating:

  1. NASA introduced me to my love-affair with Saturn; and
  2. I’m reminded of my love for NASA — spending four hours in a dreary Saturn dealership talking about space.

Two orbits collide on a cold Saturday morning. What are the odds? Though I’m sad Saturn will no longer be around, I’m glad their grand experiment taught us lessons on culture.

Saturn company not only built a great car, they built a communityeven though the business case failed to deliver profit.

Let’s hope NASA can learn lessons from Saturn about transparent culture and community-building. It’s not the vehicle itself (pick your spaceship), it’s all about creating a family circle and rethinking status quo.

Rethink Space? Hmmm. I like it!

Oh, and Santa, don’t forget to put the Saturn Sky in my stocking.

Saturn's Sky

Saturn's Sky sportscar


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