Tag Archives: #nasatweetup

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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Filed under astronaut, culture, Earth, innovation, NASA, space, technology, tweet-up

Astronauts-R-Us Tweetup

STS-132: Social media history for NASA. Two tweetups in one mission — one at the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of Atlantis, the other in at the Johnson Space Center for live mission coverage.

Whew! Busy two weeks.

Cartoon by NASA's Jim Hull
Cartoon by NASA’s @JimEHull.

I haven’t been back to JSC since the STS-114 Return-to-Flight mission. I started my NASA career at JSC, so this trip was a home coming, of sorts. I was surprised to see all the construction and building refurb going on. Workers everywhere. Not that much has changed really:

Humidity. Texas twang. Astronauts. Oh, and Longhorns.

Texas Longhorns keep the JSC grass short
Texas Longhorns keep the JSC grass short. Hook ‘Em!

Tweetup Lineup for Wednesday, May 19

This was my first “mission tweetup” at JSC. (I was in Italy during the first one.) Wonderful group of 91 space tweeps, with eight foreign nationals representing five countries: UK, Hong Kong, Australia, India, and Sweden. We started out at Space Center Houston @SpaceCenterHou first thing in the morning. We featured NASA’s very cool Buzzroom on one of the three huge screens! You can see it on the left screen in the pic below.

Getting started at JSC STS-132 Tweetup
Getting started at JSC STS-132 Tweetup

Buzzroom visually aggregates the social media conversation (tweets, links, images, and videos) so that anyone can go to buzzroom.nasa.gov to take part in the space buzz — even without a Twitter account. Very slick! We’re still working out some of the sync kinks, but hey, we’ve only been live for a week now. Thank you Jesse Thomas and team for building it for us!!!

Tweet about BuzzroomGive Buzzroom a try. You’ll luv, luv, LUV it!

We started the morning with introductions by NASA’s John Yembrick who likened each tweetup slot to Willie Wonka’s Golden Ticket. And so it is for the lucky 91 space tweeps who sat eagerly in their seats, waiting for the magic to happen. They didn’t wait long. Q & A with astronaut Ron Garan @Astro_Ron who tweeted answers live — but remotely using his iPhone in the passenger seat of traveling vehicle. Don’t you love the freedom technology gives us to stay connected from anywhere (with a cell tower)?

Astronaut Ron Garan
Astronaut Ron Garan @Astro_Ron

#askAstro Ron tweet

#askAstro Ron Garan tweet

Note: You may remember me writing about Ron in March, when he represented MannaEnergy as one of the ten featured innovators in NASA’s sustainability event, LAUNCH:Water! He’s doing amazing things on and off the planet to make the world a better place.

Johnson Space Center Deputy Director and astronaut Ellen Ochoa welcomed space tweeps to the Center.

Astronaut Ellen Ochoa welcomes space tweeps
Astronaut Ellen Ochoa welcomes space tweeps.

Our next speaker shared powerpoint charts about how NASA made it possible for astronauts to tweet directly from space. At this point, however, I glazed over. Powerpoint does that to me. But I must say, our space tweeps geeked out. While they were absorbing his charts, here’s what I saw:

Fail Whale

Oh no! Fail Whale!!

Astronaut @Astro_Jeff Williams spoke about his time as Space Station Commander and narrated a video with mission clips. Hint: Don’t accept if Jeff offers to give you a haircut. He graciously stayed behind to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Nice guy.

Astronaut Jeff Williams tells space stories.
Astronaut Jeff Williams @Astro_Jeff.

@astro_Jeff Tweet@Astro_Jeff tweet@Astro_Jeff tweet

We broke for lunch, then loaded onto busses and trams for a tour of Mission Control to hear from Space Station Flight Director Ed Van Cise @Carbon_Flight. Look! Tweeps are waving at you from Mission Control in pic below. Don’t they look happy? Below that is a pic of Ed sharing stories about how we do business…and how he came to NASA. Behind Ed on the large screens: live views of an STS-132 spacewalk.

Space tweeps watching spacewalk from Mission Control.
Space tweeps watching spacewalk from Mission Control.

Flight Director Ed Van Cise  @Carbon_Flight
Flight Director Ed Van Cise @Carbon_Flight

Astronauts @Astro_Clay Anderson and Steve Robinson tag-teamed small groups of tweeps during our tour of the Shuttle/Station mockup facility, where the astronauts train for space duty. By chance, I got to watch STS-134 Greg Chamitoff and Drew Feustel in the middle of a training simulation. Their flight moved from July to November, at the earliest, due to a payload issue with Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS).

Here we are mugging for the camera(s)…again!

Tweeps with Astronaut Steve Robinson in front of Shuttle mockup.
Tweeps with Astronaut Steve Robinson in front of Shuttle mockup.

Next up: Sonny Carter Training facility, or Neutral Bouyancy Lab, where astronauts train underwater — the closest we can get simulating the zero-g environment in space for training with large equipment. Life-sized mockups of space hardware live inside the tank, just waiting for humans to come play. We just missed a training run with Astronaut Kevin Ford, Danny Olivas, Canadian Jeremy Hansen, and Jack Fischer.

Photo of a photo of dive training.
Photo of a photo of dive training at the NBL.

NASA tweetups are all about sharing inside scoop, granting behind-closed-doors access. We let you be part of our space family. And how cool is that?

The JSC tweetup gave tweeps extraordinary access to our astronaut corps, who graciously volunteered to spend time on and off duty. In addition to our speakers during the day, astronauts Steve Robinson, Dan Burbank, Greg “Ray J” Johnson, and the Kelly boys, Mark @ShuttleCDRKelly and Scott @StationCDRKelly, all dropped by to hang with the tweeps — who were THRILLED beyond measure. And to top off a very successful day, we witnessed a flyover of Atlantis docked with Space Station. My first time to see it. EVER!

Can you see it? Station and Atlantis onorbit!
Can you see it? Station and Atlantis on orbit!

In addition to meeting all my new space tweep buds, I also got to spend time with NASA tweeps I’ve met in the Twittersphere. Gotta’ love this brave new social space frontier. I didn’t meet everyone on the list below, but I WILL! Just give me time. (I finally met Holly Griffith, one of my first NASA space tweeps!) You can follow the JSC Ambassadors on Twitter.

Special thanks to Michael Grabois @mgrabois for meeting me early the following morning for a tour of the Shuttle Motion Base Trainer, Aft Deck trainer, and the famous space potty. I even tried the “positional training.” Watch the Mike MassiminoBehind the Scenes-Space Potty” video for more info. (Yes, I have a pic sitting on the Shuttle potty, but that’s reserved for Facebook!)

michael grabois @mgrabois
JSC Ambassador Michael Grabois @mgrabois.

Thumbs up to Amiko Kauderer and her team in Houston for putting on a good show!

Crosspost on OpenNASA.

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Filed under astronaut, Earth, federal government, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up

I Met Beth Moore!

Coming back yesterday from the STs-132 mission tweetup hosted by the Johnson Space Center, I met Beth Moore at the airport.

Beth Moore. Credit: Living Proof Ministries

Beth Moore. Credit: Living Proof Ministries

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Beth Moore, founder of Living Proof Ministries, let me just tell you she’s an inspiration to women of faith around the world with her books and Biblical studies. My daughters, sister and Mother have all read, taken, and shared Beth Moore studies through the years. In fact, when I was in Zambia visiting my missionary aunt Melody, we watched a Beth Moore series video with the other missionary ladies serving in country. “Breaking Free” was my first Beth Moore experience. My daughter shared “Praying God’s Word” with me when I was going through a tough time. I bought the book to share with my friends. I have a library full of Beth Moore books and devotionals.

No, Beth Moore's hair doesn't look like this!

No, Beth Moore's hair doesn't look like this!

Back to my story: I noticed a petite woman on the escalator in front of me wearing a cute outfit and Texas hair. Those of you from Texas know what I’m talking about. Texas hair is perfectly coiffed. Virginia hair is pony-tailed or clipped. (I moved from Texas hair to Virginia hair long ago. I’ve worked in DC for 20 years now.)

I followed this cutely-dressed woman into the airport tram. As the doors opened, I saw her face for the first time. She looked so familiar. Then it hit me, she looked just like Beth Moore — who I’ve only ever seen in video and on book bios. As we left the tram I asked her if anyone ever told her she looked like Beth Moore. She responded with a laugh, “Oh, I get that all the time.” I laughed and told her I wasn’t surprised because she looked just like her. As I started to walk away, she added,

“….It’s because I am Beth Moore.”

Wow! We chatted as we headed down the escalator and to our respective gates. I told her how my daughter Steph and I visited the JAM facilities in South Africa because of her!

Last Christmas, I attended a Christmas tea at the Willard hosted by a colleague’s church. At the tea, Candice Pretorius, daughter-in-law of JAM founder Peter Pretorius, showed a video with a clip by Beth Moore talking about JAM‘s amazing work feeding poor children in Africa. I talked with Candice about Steph wanting to serve orphans in South Africa and that we were planning a trip to survey potential organizations. Candice connected us with Joy Nell at JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg to learn more about what JAM does.

As it turned out, JAM really doesn’t need counselors at this time. They focus on feeding the most at risk children. And what a great job they do! See earlier blogposts of our time in Africa.

JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa

JAM Headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa

Steph, BTW, just graduated in May with her Masters in Community Counseling, with a specialty in play therapy. I shared with Beth Moore that she accepted a one-year (or more) position with Bethany House in Johannesburg, South Africa to work with victim empowerment program to counsel kids with untreated trauma. She leaves in July.  Here’s the cool part about meeting Beth Moore: she told me several times how thankful she was that my daughter was going to serve in South Africa.

She told me to tell Steph how proud she was of her.

Bethany House

Bethany House

Just let me tell you, those few words of encouragement on a chance meeting in the IAH airport (though I don’t believe in chance) made all the difference to my daughter Steph. She’s facing some life-altering experiences — both thrilling and unsettling. She’s uprooting to a different continent, leaving friends and family, and starting over with children who desperately need help. She’s following God’s call for her life, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Beth Moore’s heartfelt words of thanks gave Steph a boost when she needs it most.

Thank you Beth Moore for all you do! So cool to meet you!!

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Filed under Africa, space, tweet-up, writers