Tag Archives: Space Station

Space Shuttle: Wheels Stop

“In life, there are no ordinary moments. Most of us never really recognize the most significant moments of our lives when they’re happening.” — Kathleen Magee

One week ago today, STS-135 Space Shuttle Atlantis landed on Earth for the final time.

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button

STS-135 Final Space Shuttle Landing Guest Button.

Last Thursday, I left my Cocoa Beach hotel at 3:00 a.m. to head out to the Kennedy Space Center to meet the space tweeps who would share this historic moment STS-135 Landing Tweetup with us.

I’d never seen a Space Shuttle landing before. This would be my first…and last.

After checking in all our landing tweeps, we boarded the bus around 4:30 a.m. — Zero-Dark Thirty!!! We waited for news of STS-135 Atlantis in orbit. Only at Deorbit Burn could we head out to the landing strip.

Chris our KSC Escort wait for new of Atlantis' Deorbit Burn

Chris our KSC Escort waits for news of Atlantis' Deorbit Burn

Ah the anticipation. But still, it was really, REALLY early. Thankfully, some came well-equipped with Red Bull and Energy Drinks!!

Ching-Yao Yu @nutzareus pointing to Energy Drinks

@nutzareus pointing to @sharkb8t Energy Drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks

@sharkb8t is a zombie without her energy drinks!

Many of our friends showed up — some flat, some furry, some human: @CraftLass, @WoodToast, @MouthTheTribble, @Astro_Fuzz, @FlatSamantha, and Camilla_SDO

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters

@CraftLass & her husband @WoodToast w/ space critters.

We received news of Deorbit Burn! WooHoo! Our bus driver pulled out of the parking lot. We were on our way.

Space Tweeps on way to Final Space Shuttle Landing

Deorbit Burn means NASA Tweetup Bus is moving!

Not long into our journey, we slowed to a crawl in snarled “final landing” traffic. @WiredForFlight and @FlightSoft checked an iPad app to track our progress on the road.

@WiredForFlight @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic

@WiredForFlight + @FlightSoft watching our progress in Landing Traffic.

Once we arrived, we headed to the viewing stands. I was hoping the sun would defy nature and rise early so we could see Atlantis drop from the skies. But no.  Still dark.

Shuttle Landing Tower

Shuttle Landing Tower

As we waited for Atlantis to land, the Expedition 28 crew onboard the International Space Station streaked across the sky at 17,500 mph. What an amazing treat to wave to @Astro_Ron Garan, Mike @Astro_Aggie Fossum and their crewmates 220 miles overhead.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Space Station crossed sky just before STS-135 landing.

Atlantis landed just a few minutes after Station crossed the sky. I expected to cry, but instead, I squealed and giggled. This was my first landing. It was more first than last to me. I felt incredibly giddy.

Tweet: Job Well Done America!

What a treat to be part of history!

We all boarded the bus again, and said goodbye back at the media badging building. @WinObs rode off into the sunrise on his bike, but before he left, he posed with @Camilla_SDO.

@WinObs post-landing w/ @Camilla_SDO

@Camilla_SDO gets around. Here she is with @WinObs.

I headed back to Cocoa Beach to check out of my hotel and grab breakfast with Madi Sengupta and Mary Lynne Dittmar. Next we headed over to the launch pads of our past — Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury. The Apollo pad is well cared for. Gemini and Mercury, not so much. Walking among the ruins, I imagined ghosts of rocket boys with crew cuts and slide rulers who paved the way for the Space Shuttle generation.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury launch pads.

One of the highlights of the day: attending the employee celebration with Atlantis post flight! Here is my first view of Atlantis, the star of the party.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Employees salute Atlantis, the final Space Shuttle.

Atlantis Post-Landing

Here she is: Atlantis!!!

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

Employees sign STS-135 banner.

My "mark" on history.

My "mark" on history.

Thank you Stephanie Schierholz for making the landing tweetup happen. What a glorious day. Sad because it’s the end. But what a wonderful 30 years we’ve had!

Time to head to the airport. On the way, I pulled over to take a picture of space melons. Only on the space coast…! ;)

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

Space Melons: only on the space coast.

On the flight home, the flight attendant read aloud a note someone gave him, recognizing the last Space Shuttle landing and the end of an era, as well as the NASA Administrator in the front row and other NASA employees on the flight. The passengers broke into applause. Tears streamed down my face. The end. It finally hit me.

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Filed under Earth, federal government, NASA, space, tweet-up

Life: Where’s my Debris Shield?

I haven’t posted an update in two months. I know. I know. I feel the guilt weighing heavily on me. My last post was during the STS-134 Tweetup. I never even downloaded the hundreds of iPhone pics I took of all the tweeps. Sorry guys. And here we are on the heels of our last Space Shuttle mission tweetup: STS-135 Atlantis. NEXT week!!

STS-135 crew portrait

STS-135 crew: Rex Walheim, Pilot Doug Hurley, Commander Chris Ferguson, Sandy Magnus

So here’s my list of excuses:

  • I returned from the last launch to a house consumed by voracious weeds,
  • my Mother returned from Zambia,
  • my daughter, Carol, bought/moved into her first home,
  • a project at work required 24/7 attention,
  • I rediscovered my bicycle, and
  • my brain was fried.

In two days, my daughter Steph returns from her South African adventure. I’m thrilled beyond words to have her back home while she pursues her PhD. Skype is great, but face to face is much better. We’ve been busy trying to rearrange the house to make sure Steph has a place to spread out and study.

Which brings me to why I have time to post this. I’m on sick leave. I experienced an unpleasant encounter with falling debris (ceramic vase) which I unsuccessfully avoided.

If only I had Mission Control to monitor threatening debris and maneuver me out of the way — like they did for the crew of Space Station only this morning.

Unlike me, the crew received warning in time to take cover in the Soyuz spacecraft docked to Station. The debris passed without incident, and they returned to their stations to get on with their daily schedules. I, on the other hand, experienced a direct hit.

Really, you’ll never want me on a long-distance mission. I attract calamity. Yes, I’m the accident-queen. Only two weeks ago, I engaged in battle with angry ground wasps in my garden. Two days ago, I attracted a vase from the top of the refrigeration — which had held those very flowers from my garden that the wasps tried to protect.

@FlatSamantha "Next time wear your space suit @bethbeck - it'll keep those wasps from stinging you and help beat the heat!"

Right now, I’m awaiting word on whether or not my ankle is broken. Either way, the doctor has me off my feet with the offending leg elevated. Which, I must say, severely cramps my lifestyle. Sigh.

In perspective, though, I think my calamities are God’s way to get me to slow down.

I tend to live a “shot-from-a-cannon” life. I’m always in the middle of multiple projects at home, as any homeowner will understand. At work…well, we won’t even talk about that.

Now that I’m forced to slow down — ok, grind to a halt — I can take a moment to reflect. The yard looks amazing. Steph boards a plane tomorrow to come home. We’re about to celebrate our last Shuttle mission — which, though sad, is still an amazing accomplishment. And the coolest thing about getting hurt: a CALL from SPACE wishing me well — thanks to Expedition 27/28 crewmember Ron Garan, Mr. Fragile Oasis!

If you haven’t had a chance to browse Ron’s brainchild, Fragile Oasis, take a moment to join the community. Submit your own Earth-based project and if you get all your friends/colleagues/family to vote for it, you can get a picture from space.

In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying views of Earth (my backyard) as I ice my ankle and keep it propped up on pillows. Maybe someday I’ll get my own PDS…otherwise known as Personal Debris Shield.

Planters in my yard

Container gardening adds color in barren corners.

Planters in my yard

Cluster of planters in my yard.

Tricycle Planter in my yard

Tricycle Planter in my yard

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Filed under Africa, Earth, NASA, social media, space, technology, tweet-up

Hashtag Pics Spark World Cup Obsession

It’s the little things, really, when you get right down to it. Little things like #hashtag-generated soccer balls and flags inside tweets. That’s all it takes to spark a World Cup obsession.

South Africa World Cup

All you brand guys out there: Learn a lesson from this!

I’m not a soccer fan. I admit it. I had my eye on the World Cup because of where it’s being held: South Africa. I’m a South Africa-holic after visiting there last summer with my mother and daughter.

The home of World Cup 2010 will be home to my daughter for the next year or more.

Reason enough for me to take interest, don’t you think? But my interest caught fire when I noticed the cute little soccer ball showing up on tweets after the hashtagged #WorldCup.  World Cup

I first noticed it after our NASA Earth Observing guys posted a twitpic of the World Cup stadium from space.

World Cup stadium from space. Credit: NASA

World Cup stadium from space. Credit: NASA

World Cup Joberg Stadium Tweet

SOOOOO cute. SOOOOOO fun. What a cute little World Cup soccer ball!!

World Cup #nasa tweet
A simple little picture of a soccer ball grabbed my attention enough that I came home and turned on ESPN to watch the World Cup overview. So unlike me. But my NASA world keeps colliding with my life. As I’m watching ESPN, they air an interview of Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson talking from Space Station about the World Cup.

World Cup Tweet

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson on Space Station. Credit: NASA

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson on Space Station. Credit: NASA

Ok, now I can’t help myself. I have to tweet about it. Next I notice little hashtag-generated flags for the countries of the teams playing in the World Cup. Oh I’m so totally addicted now!

World Cup Flag Tweet

Then I get busted by this tweet:

World Cup Busted Tweet@Bongobeardy was right…to a certain extent. But by this time, I actually had the World Cup South Africa vs. Mexico game on in the background at work. I could only find a Spanish channel carrying the game, which made the concept of the World Cup even more “worldly” with Spanish sports announcers giving play-by-play. Now, I’m following on the web.

World Cup Addiction Tweet

I’ve even found my new posterboy: heartthrob Danish Nicklas Bendtner. (To be honest, I looked up the Danish team because Mikkell Vestergaard of my previous post is heading down to the World Cup to watch the match.)

Nicklas Bendtner: Denmark

Nicklas Bendtner: Denmark. Credit: AFP

He SO looks like actor Clive Owen here.

I post this story as a testament to simple brand strategies with huge payoffs. Adorable little images inserted into tweets fueled several new passions for me. So easy. Very little effort. Ripple effects far-outreaching the initial idea, I imagine.

What I’d love to see? Little NASA logos hashtag-generated in tweets.

How cool would that be?!? I’d tweet even MORE (if that’s possible) just to see those cute little pics. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a space helmet for #astronaut, a rocket for #space, an Earth for….well, you get my drift.

Hey Twitter, you’re sitting on a gold mine in advertising — not that I want to pay for NASA logo pics. But still, I could see brand managers lining up to pay per click, etc. Just sayin’…..

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Filed under Africa, NASA, social media, space

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

Every Ending = New Beginning

In the mid-90′s, I recall a conversation with German Space Agency liaison, Gerhart Brauer – both a colleague and good friend to me. I struggled with a painful chapter in my life, and Gerhart offered this one simple phrase that made all the difference at the time. And even today.

Every ending is a new beginning.

Sometimes, though, this concept can be hard to accept. Personally and professionally. Take the end of our beloved Space Shuttle program, for example. Only three flights left. EVER!

Shuttle Stack

Shuttle Stack

My sister Aimee recently reminded me how she and Daddy watched Columbia lift off on April 12, 1981. She remembers him marveling that we could actually launch a rocket from Earth and fly it back to the planet like an airplane. The concept was so unbelievable at the time.

We take it for granted today.

I don’t recall the launch at all. But, I remember the STS-1 landing two days later. I worked at the University of Texas Ex-Students’ Association in Austin. We gathered around the conference table to watch Columbia land. I remember how cool it was to meet STS-1 John Young and Bob Crippin for the first time a few years later. They were the first humans to put their lives on the line and strap themselves onto the Shuttle stack for launch.

But then again, every astronaut who has ever flown on a rocket ship takes a leap of faith – each time we ignite the engines.

Yes, the fleet of amazing reusable winged vehicles served us well over the last three decades (with the exception of our tragic loss of the Challenger and Columbia crew and vehicles on two missions: STS-51-L and STS-107). We don’t relish mothballing the remaining three vehicles: Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour. But think about the exorbitant cost of upgrades. Cost alone makes the close-out decision for NASA managers so much easier than for those on the outside looking in.

Orbiter Cutaway

Orbiter Cutaway

Let’s face it, many of us are mourning the end of the program. And that’s ok. Grief is a reasonable human response. We love to watch our winged vehicles soar into the air, breaking gravity’s grasp on humanity. Those of us fortunate enough to witness a Shuttle launch live, love to feel the ground-shaking rumble and the roar of the engines. Some have even seen the night-sky turn to day as the vehicle propels to the heavens above.

 

STS-131 launch

STS-131 launch

 

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a Space Shuttle!!!

(Sorry Superman. We’ve got the real thing. You’re only fiction.)

So what happens next? What follows the Space Shuttle program? So many ask. Many are angry and confused. I don’t have the answers. Just know that NASA folks are furiously working to fill in the blanks. (We’ll fly on Soyuz spacecraft to Station in the meantime.) Beyond that, stay tuned. No comfort for thousands of workers who made house payments, put food on the table, and paid school expenses off Shuttle-related paychecks. I get it. My heart goes out to them. This post-Shuttle “new beginning” must feel like a black hole, where everything they know is disappearing into a powerful vortex outside their control. NASA has been planning this for years, but it doesn’t make the end of the program any easier.

We humans don’t like change, do we?

It’s uncomfortable. Messy, at times. We often prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty. That’s why we stay in dead-end jobs or in joyless relationships. We’re funny like that. When change comes, we fight it, dig in our heels, complain to anyone who will listen. Does that sound at all familiar?

But with every new beginning, comes new hope for a better tomorrow.

If we can only let go of those things we cling tightly to, we might have two arms free to embrace this scary, unknown new thing — sometimes called a fresh start.

Here are a few ways to face change head on. Our Goal: Influence Change!

  1. Think creatively.
  2. Use the same tools in new ways.
  3. Find new tools to make old ways new.
  4. Look at a problem upside down and right side up.
  5. Deconstruct to reconstruct.
  6. Make change your own.
  7. Sculpt your world into something better than ever existed before.

Who knows, you might like tomorrow better than today! Really, it could happen. ;)

STS-132

STS-132

 

BTW: The next launch, STS-132, is scheduled for May 14. We’ll be having our second Shuttle Launch tweetup at the Kennedy Space Center and a mission tweetup at the Johnson Space Center. Stay-tuned for stories about the launch and space tweeps I meet there.

If you have stories to share about where you were and how you felt with the first Space Shuttle left Earth, feel free to post them as comments. I’d love to read them.

Crosspost on OpenNASA.com and GovLoop.com.

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

Women of the World. Literally!

STS-131 Space Shuttle Discovery lit up the dawn sky this morning as she broke free from gravity’s grip to reach low Earth orbit on her way to the International Space Station.

Lift off! STS-131 Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo: NASA TV

Lift off! STS-131 Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo: NASA TV

Onboard Discovery, three female astronauts: NASA’s Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger and Stephanie Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. They will join Space Station Expedition 23 crewmember Tracy Caldwell Dyson.

Four women in space at the same time! How cool is that?!?

Tracy, Dottie, Stephanie, Naoko

Tracy, Dottie, Stephanie, Naoko

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Naoko will tweet during the mission. You can follow @Astro_Naoko in English AND Japanese. Space Station is like our Space United Nations (S.U.N) with multiple nationalities and languages. ;)

Tweet from @astro_Naoko

Tweet from @Astro_Naoko

Not only did we launch three female astronauts into space onboard a rocketship this morning to join the fourth on Space Station, but we also launched our NASA Deputy Lori Garver into the Twittersphere with her first tweet from launch at the Kennedy Space Center. You can follow her tweets @Lori_Garver.

In fact, one of Lori’s first tweets inspired this blogpost.

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver. Photo: NASA

NASA's Deputy Lori Garver. Photo: NASA

Lori also launched her Facebook fan page this morning. NASA’s social media presence ROCKets!

So, girls out there in the universe: Take hope. Aim high. Work hard. Never let a little “no” stop you. Your WORLD awaits you, as we have proof today.

4 females in space. April 7, 2010

4 females in space. April 7, 2010

Crosspost on GovLoop and OpenNASA.

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Filed under astronaut, Earth, leadership, NASA, social media, space

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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Ideas on How to Open NASA? Spill!

Are you someone who knows exactly what it takes to make NASA the best agency possible? Do you doodle ideas on cocktail napkins and mail them to a NASA Center? Do you wake up early in the morning to watch Space Shuttle launches (like this morning’s 4:14 a.m. EST STS-130 launch) or stay up all night for mission coverage of Space Station? Do you wish you could wear a NASA badge and sit in a cubicle somewhere in the bureaucratic maze at a NASA installation?

Have we got a job for you!

Get your creative juices flowing. Capture all your ideas. We’re listening. You have until March 19, 2010 to share your ideas with us about how NASA can be more:

  1. Transparent,
  2. Participatory,
  3. Collaborative, and
  4. Innovative.
OpenGov NASA idea sharing site

OpenGov NASA idea sharing site

We’ve deployed a cool idea-sharing tool to let you give input, comment on input of others, and vote ideas up or down. Your ideas will feed into NASA’s Open Government Plan. You need an account first, but that’s as simple as adding your e-mail and a password.

Go ahead. Give it a try.

Submit an Idea

Submit an idea

And if you find any ideas by me in the system, feel free to give them a generous thumbs up!  (I’m just getting started….)

OpenGov/NASA idea

OpenGov/NASA innovation idea

OpenGov/NASA People's Choice Award

OpenGov/NASA People's Choice Award

“We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” – John Gardner 1965

Let’s tackle those opportunities!

Crosspost on GovLoop and OpenNASA.

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Filed under federal government, Gov 2.0, NASA, OpenNASA, social media, space

Once Upon a Blue Moon

Last night truly was our first blue moon in 20 years. How cool is that?

Not a blue moon. Full moon over River Po, in Turin, Italy

Full moon over River Po in Turin, Italy. Credit: Stefano De Rosa

(FYI: The picture above isn’t a blue moon, but rather a full moon over River Po in Turin, Italy talken by Stefano de Rosa on December 2nd. I planned to put a real blue moon image here, but this was simply too gorgeous to resist!)

My grand plan for this early New Year’s morning:

…write a blogpost about all the amazing things that happened this past year. Instead, an image of a grandpa and teenage girl sitting on a porch looking up at the blue moon invaded my thoughts. I couldn’t shake the image. Becca’s story emerged. Here’s the beginning.

******

Once Upon a Blue Moon

I always thought “once in a blue moon” described a rare and magical event. Last night, we witnessed a New Year’s Eve blue moon. Grandpa said it’s been 20 years since the last time the moon turned blue. Two decades to the day, he told me.

Yes, something rare happened last night. But it wasn’t magical. Grandpa teased that my face looked bruised under the blue light. He was right, but it wasn’t from the blue of the moon. My face reflected my heart. Blue. Bruised. Broken.

I can’t tell anyone what happened last night under the blue moon, after Greta’s New Year’s Eve party. Only one other person in the universe knows what happened last night, but he won’t breathe a word of it to another soul. In fact, he’ll never take another breath at all.

How am I supposed to celebrate New Year’s Day with my family, as if nothing happened? Do I put on a pretty smile and pretend? Is this how Mother perfected that beauty pageant expression she always wears, as if it’s the latest fashion accessory? Is she the sentinel for dreadful secrets like the one I must protect? Does she hold her own little horrors inside?

Maybe I’m just like my mother after all. I feel a twinge of shame for all the times I despised her for her irritating self-control. Her lack of emotion. Her guarded responses. Now I want to take back the screaming fits where I tried so hard to get a rise out of her.

“Becca!”

“Coming,” I respond to my mother’s call from the kitchen below. I gaze into my dressing table mirror, trying my best to recreate the expressionless face she wears so often. Yes, that’s the one. I’m surprised. I see my mother’s wooden eyes staring back at me.

I push back from the image. My dressing chair screeches a loud protest against the pine floor. Good thing Grandma forced me to attend those dreadful acting classes with Frothing Freddy Jerrard. I’ll need them today.

******

I’m eager to find out what happened to Becca under the blue moon. Guess I need to get busy writing! Now you know what I’ll be doing in the wee hours of the early mornings in 2010 — my best time to write. (Yes, I’ll also be busy with our final five Space Shuttle missions and completion of Space Station assembly. What a year we have to look forward to!)

Happy New Year to you and your family!

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Time Warp…or Memory Wormhole?

I attended my 35-year high school reunion last weekend in San Marcos, Texas. Going back after all these years is like waking up to a world where everything changed overnight. At least, that’s how it felt to me.

People and places are frozen in my memory just as they were in 1974.

We moved to Austin right after high school. Without having my parents as an anchor in town, I rarely had the excuse to go back. Life moved on. Three and a half decades passed. I went to one reunion long ago. I don’t even remember which one it was. 5-year? 10-year?

When I left:

  • Southwest Texas State was a small party college in town.
  • Aquarena Springs was a vibrant vacation spot.
  • The San Marcos River drew tubers from all around Texas.
  • Neighborhoods looked much the same as decades before.
  • First Baptist was a church near downtown.
  • Estrella, the horse, lived next to the Sac ‘n Pac. (I named her for the star in her forehead. I don’t know her real name.)

When I returned:

  • Southwest Texas State is Texas State University.
  • Aquarena Springs belongs to the University and looks like an abandoned property.
  • The San Marcos River is the home of endangered River Rice and looks like a swamp.
  • Texas State ate up neighborhoods, reminiscent of the old Pacman game.
  • First Baptist Church, the building, is now Sanctuary Lofts apartments.
  • Estella’s place is now Palmer’s restaurant.
  • Sac ‘n Pac is still there. Whew! Now that’s a relief. ;)

It’s not like it all happened overnight. Decades passed. I’m sure the changes happened slowly…except in my mind. How odd to be the one coming back telling the stories about what once was. And it was a long time ago, after all. More than a lifetime to many who will read this. Maybe I’m like Rose, the elder version, in the movie, Titanic, when she tells the story of the fateful voyage to the crew who discovered the shipwreck.

Don’t worry. I have no plans of jumping in the San Marcos River at the end of this blog — especially the river rice overgrown part.

Let me jump to work issues for a moment:

How do you think it will feel when humans leave this planet for long durations, then return? Our astronauts live onboard Space Station for six months at a time.

What happens when we venture further out, where the journey takes years and the mission lasts a decade?

What will it be like returning home to Earth? Think about it. I’ll bet they experience the time warp sensation I did upon returning to San Marcos after all these years. People and places will have changed. They themselves will be different. Their journey will change them — just as my life’s journey changed me since I left San Marcos.

Fun to ponder, right?

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a glimpse of some iPhone pics of my high school romps: San Marcos, Wimberley, Austin.

I’ve gotta’ say, though. I really miss Texas. No way to catch up on 35 years of living in one single weekend. That’s where Facebook comes in. I’m thinking we need a San Marcos High School Class of ’74 fan page, where we can all post our stories. (I know, I know…it’s on my to-do list.)

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