Tag Archives: planet

Today in Space: Savor the Moment

Take a peak at STS-130 Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at the International Space Station 220 miles over our heads with Planet Earth as a backdrop. Wow. Both spacecraft are traveling at 17,500 miles per hour around Earth right now. Can you imagine?

STS-130 mission: Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at the International Space Station

STS-130 mission: Space Shuttle Endeavour docked at Space Station

Savor this view. Only a few more times in your life will you see a Space Shuttle docked to Space Station.

If you follow space at all, I’m sure you’re aware of the debate about the NASA budget and the decision to retire the Space Shuttle. It’s all over Twitter, Facebook, blogs, newspapers. Fervent water coolers arguments, I’m sure.

Some cheer the end of the Shuttle and Constellation program, believing commercial providers can fill the gap.

Some mourn the loss of U.S. transportation capability, and believe NASA is lost.

Friends and colleagues outside NASA contact me to check in — see how I’m doing.

Let me assure you. I’m fine. NASA is fine.

We’re not going away. But yes, we’ll be going about our business differently. We received extra money in our budget over the next 5 years to advance technology. We’ll purchase our transportation and supply needs from available providers. (Those of you who know me have heard my predictions about future options. But those are water cooler conversations. Not blog talk.)

Here’s the deal:

We don’t debate budget decisions. We make cool things happen with what we’re given.

Space Shuttle Endeavor against the Sky

Space Shuttle Endeavor against the Sky. Credit: NASA

Let’s talk about the Space Shuttle fleet. These amazing winged spaceships have served us well for many years. Well beyond our expectations (just like our adorable Mars Rovers).

But to keep the Shuttle program going means money spent on upgrades and refurbished parts. To go beyond Low Earth Orbit, humanity needs a different ride. Think of it this way:

  • How much money do you keep putting in your old car before you invest in a new one?
  • If your current means of transportation won’t get you where you need to go, what do you do? (Build a new car? Pay someone to build a new car for you? Wait for someone to build a new car that you can bum a ride in?)
  • What happens when you need transportation for short commutes, as well as long-distance? (Own two cars? Own one car, and buy a seat from another transport provider? Stay at home?)

Everyone will answer these question differently. Just understand none of the choices are easy, but that’s why we’re NASA.

We do hard things and make them look easy. We solve problems against all odds.

I’m excited for our future, though I’m emotional about the last few flights of the Shuttle. I’m really hoping an entrepreneur comes out of the woodwork with a space transport solution that requires no spaceship (hey, why not?), or a cute little George Jetson-mobile that I can zip around in (kinda’ like the X-38).

X-38

NASA's X-38 Crew Return Vehicle. Credit: NASA

As we close out the Space Shuttle program (and for those who mourn Constellation),  I leave you with this thought:

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

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Filed under Earth, federal government, leadership, NASA, social media, space

EarthShip NASA: Exploring the American Pioneering Spirit

I was looking for a file on my computer and found this proposal I wrote (WAY back when) to send out a traveling crew to connect NASA‘s can-do pioneering spirit with folks out in the heartland who do the very same thing…but for their families and communities.

I hoped to ignite passion in Earth-bound citizens of this planet, to push them to the next level in their personal lives…stretch…dream…reach for the impossible. In my mind, I envisioned space gardens and space murals and community space festivals across the country.

Note: Podcasting was new back then. Twitter and YouTube didn’t exist. (I inserted those features after -the-fact.)

At the time I proposed this idea, NASA’s chief of Strategic Communications didn’t believe in traveling shows. He didn’t think NASA should expend our efforts on Earth in this way.  He had a point. But I see things differently. I believe our job is to share what we do best:

we’re the dreamers, the curious, the problem-solvers, the doers.

Yes, we build spaceships and scientific instruments. I get that. But if you think of NASA like a “reduction sauce” in the show, Top Chef, boil down what we do at NASA and you get this:

we make things happen against all odds.

I believe we need to ignite that spark in other Earthlings — the desire to push out the boundaries of what we know. We need generations-to-come of planetary citizens to celebrate the can-do spirit, right where they live…even if their feet never leave this planet.

We have new leadership coming to NASA with the Senate confirmation hearings this week for Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver to come take the helm. Culture can change. Policies can take different directions. Who knows, maybe this kooky idea will take hold with new folks coming in. Ideas that lay dormant can take root…with a little care and feeding. Really. I’ve seen it happen. (Remember, I’ve been around NASA for a LONG time.)

I have a more polished proposal at work, but I thought I’d share the one I cranked out on a flight home from the OshKosh airshow, where the inspiration first hit me.

EarthShip NASA

Mission:

365-Day Mission to explore and celebrate the pioneering spirit deep in the heartland of our country from small towns to urban regions.

Purpose:

Ignite passion for exploration and cultivate the pioneering spirit – whether at home or off our planet.

NASA relies on individuals with curiosity for the unknown to explore unconquered territory outside the boundaries of our knowledge.

Definition:

A pioneer is someone who claims the “first” of any category — the first to attend college in the family, the first to grow a pumpkin patch in the neighborhood, the first to build a playground for handicapped children, the first to study read 50 books during summer, the first to paint a mural with glue, etc.

Logistics:

NASA “terra-naut” team will be composed of five NASA employees from different ethnic backgrounds and ages (including one astronaut, if possible) who will commit to 365 days on the road.  Terranauts will blog/tweet and post video/pictures from the road, celebrating “pioneers” in every stop along the way.

NASA Terranauts will feature the local pioneers on video segments for NASA TV, blogs, and podcasts (plus YouTube, Twitter, GovLoop, and all the new social media tools).

An advance team will plot the cross country course and work with the community leaders to prepare for EarthShip’s arrival — identifying playgrounds to be cleaned up or space gardens to be planted, murals painted on school walls, etc.  The EarthShip team will arrive to set up camp and prepare for the Pioneer Festival.  NASA will offer a portable “Space Fair” in the community, and hold contests for Pioneering awards for all ages and categories.  The Advance Team will work with the community of culture-specific categories.

The EarthShip will consist of a converted Winnebago outfitted to look like a spaceship, and complete with “dorm rooms” for the Terranauts.  Perhaps we can work with Winnebago to provide our transportation, and Mobil/Exxon or Shell to provide gas, in exchange for sponsorship recognition.  Perhaps Good Morning America might team with us to provide once-a-week coverage of our progress, along with live coverage from NASA TV – to allow the public insight on where the EarthShip is going and who we’ve encountered on the way. (BTW, I’m a HUGE GMA fan!!! Yay Chris, Diane, Robin, and Sam!)

A lean support team composed of camera crew (or hand-held vid-cams), exhibit technician, and social media expert will help the EarthShip crew of Terranauts keep up with their postings.  Perhaps we can fly in “Max Q,” the astronaut band to perform at some of stops along the way.  One trailer will house the NASA exhibit material, which will include outside and inside material — weather-specific.

One slot for the EarthShip crew might be reserved for contest winners to travel for one month at a time, learning about NASA and taking the information back to their communities.

So, what do you think?

Crazy, huh? Yeah, I know. I get that all the time. But, still….

😀

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