Tag Archives: Space Station

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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NASA Tweet-Up: Live Space Link

Today tweeters joined us at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC to chat with Space Station crewmates @astro_Jeff Williams and @astro_Nicole Stott live onorbit. So nice to meet you all!

Former astronaut Tom Jones helped MC the event and answer questions. When the master alarm sounded on Station ending our live interview, Tom stepped in to explain the onorbit process Jeff and Nicole would be following to check out the cause of the alarm. (All is well on Station. Rest assured.)

Our tweeters had great fun with Tom’s name and tweeted names of songs made famous by singer Tom Jones. (I really didn’t get the reference until later. I was busy tweeting on my iPhone. I saw a few strange references flow down the twitterfall screen at the front, but had no idea what they meant. I guess I need a life.)

Adorable astronaut Mike Fincke, veteran of two Station missions, joined us from Houston (via NASA TV feed) to answer questions from tweeters. He absolutely twinkles. Gotta love him. We also heard from NASA Deputy Lori Garver, Space Operations Deputy Lynn Cline, and Space Operations Jacob Keaton. Jacob shared some anecdotes about the node naming contest and our interaction with U2.

Oh, and BTW, we played Star Girl by McFly in space during the downlink. Yay. So excited to engage an enthusiastic new demographic of music fans who may now perk their ears when NASA missions occur. Star Girl and ThankYouNASA both climbed the Twitter Trending chart after the Tweet-Up. Tom Fletcher, mastermind of the #StarGirlinSpace campaign, thanks NASA.

Let’s now talk a bit about the master alarm episode. Quite unsettling. My first thought, how horrific if something were to happen to Station while our Twitter guests sat and watched. My second thought, confirmation, once again, that:

Space is an unforgiving business. What we do is hard.

We make it look easy.

Our astronauts who live and work in space onboard Space Station put their lives on the line EVERY SINGLE DAY. Watching Jeff and Nicole calmly excuse themselves to go check out the source of the alarm, demonstrates our professionalism. Chances were the alarm registered a false reading. Had the reverse occurred, the worst case scenario would send the crew to the Russian Soyuz escape vehicles to abandon ship.

None of this happened. Whew! Our tweeters went home happy. No traumatic scars from that day at NASA Headquarters when “the alarm” sounded. Yay. Hurray. On with the show.

Here are my iPhone pics from the day. Yes, they’re a bit fuzzy. Work with me. (I’ll caption them properly when I’m not sleepy.)

Note: Just so you know, the spacesuit on the stage is “headless” because the helmets are out being refurbished. It’s really not a Halloween statement, as some thought. 😉

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

Space: A Waste?

NASA Facebook fans are a chatty bunch. We post something of interest going on at NASA. Fans talk about it. They like it. They dislike it. They have an idea for how to change it. But, for the most part, they’re supportive of our efforts. It is, after all, a “fan” page.

Lately I’ve noticed a few unhappy folks who post little “This is a waste of time” zingers. I really find it fascinating. If the information we’re posting is a waste of their time, why do they spend time on the NASA fan page?

Timbuktu Credit/NASA

Timbuktu Credit/NASA

I’m intrigued by the “waste of time” mentality.

Ok, I admit it. I’ve had similar thoughts about meetings or work products I considered a waste of my time. After all, I work for Uncle Sam…Big Brother…the Feds. I find I’m most frustrated when my time is expended against my willI wouldn’t dream of posting my time-waster list…well, maybe I might. 😉

Back to the point. When someone writes “This is a waste of time” on NASA’s Facebook wall about the Timbuktu image above, I have to wonder…as compared to what? Their frame of reference would be so telling. Wouldn’t it? For instance:

  • Reading a book is a waste of time when you could be fishing.
  • Fishing is a waste of time when you could be working.
  • Working is such a waste of time when you could be spending time with family.
  • Family time is such a waste when you could be traveling.
  • Traveling is such a waste of time when you could be volunteering.
  • Volunteering is such a waste of time when you could be making money to donate.

Look at the context in these examples. One choice is pitted against another. We tend to do that, don’t we?

Don’t we make judgments about choices others make based on our own value-based choices?

Here’s what I notice: we humans often expect others to share our views and values. If they don’t, we like to cast them as our enemy. We’re good. They’re bad. That simple.

But really, it’s not simple at all. Just because I value something doesn’t mean you have to value it too. Yes, I’d LOVE everyone to agree with me on EVERYthing. But, I’m no less valid in my choices or opinions than you are in yours. (You’re probably shaking your head right now, thinking how I’m idealistic and unrealistic I am.  You won’t be the first to think it.) Hear what I’m saying.

Life is all about balance.

We each bring to the table different and unique attributes for the greater whole. Synergy! The same goes for NASA. So, let’s explore how the federal government works, shall we?

Civics 101: The government exists to provide the public good. We fill the gap between:

  1. the needs of the common man, and
  2. profitably ventures attractive to commercial entities.

The pursuit of knowledge (i.e. NASA endeavors or basic science) isn’t profitable. But once we pursue the unknown, gain knowledge, and share what we’ve learned, THEN the opportunity exists for someone to take it and run all the way to the bank.

For instance, what we’re learning about humans existing in long-duration space onboard Space Station may help address the debilitating effects of osteoporosis on here on Earth. A drug company MAY use this information to manufacture and sell an “antidote” to brittle bones.  Yay for them!

We discover knowledge that leads to a product that meets a need someone is willing to pay for. Or, IF the need is worthy and a commercial entity can’t make a profit, we’re back to the government providing it. The cycle circles back on itself.

Society = balance of public good + commerce.

In reality, the argument boils down to managing the appropriate balance among the nations’ priorities to best bring about public good.

Civics 101, Part 2: The White House and Congress determine the nation’s priorities.

  1. The White House sets the agenda, and
  2. Congress holds the purse strings.

NASA receives less than 1% of the federal budget. Even if I do say so myself, we accomplish aMAZing feats with that partial penny on every dollar given us by Congress.

What can YOU do with less than a penny?

So back to the question, is space a waste? Again I ask: as compared to what?

Personally, I feel the time and energy I spend exploring unknown places or books or foods or experiences is never wasted. Every time I learn something new, I know more than I did the moment before. Even when the experiences are painful, I’m still wiser than before. Can that knowledge ever be wasted?

What if I share what I learned with you, and it:

  • saves you time,
  • streamlines your effort,
  • prevents harm, or
  • gives you insight on places or people you’ll never see?

What we discover at NASA changes textbooks! Generations upon generations of humans will benefit from the sacrifice our nation made to fund the space program, in an effort to learn what we don’t know. In the meantime, our government also took care of housing for the homeless, education for students, subsidies for farmers, benefits for veterans, security of our borders, and so much more. We can debate the balance of funds distributed, but it was ALL in an effort to bring about the public good…as determined by the White House and Congress.

Civics 101, Part 3: Citizens, if you disagree with how your tax dollars are spent, you speak loudest through your right to vote (as opposed to a fan page on the internet).

In the meantime, I’ll see you on Facebook! 😀

Crosspost on openNASA.

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

One Drop of Water for Space Acrobat, One Giant Bite Out of Poverty?

This week’s announcement by Space Adventures that Guy Laliberté will be Canada’s first private citizen in space really captivated my imagination.

Fire-breathing, stilt-walking Guy Laliberté is the founder of Cirque du Soleil. Repeat after me: CIRQUE du SOLEIL! No really. CIRQUE du SOLEIL!!! Incredibly talented individuals performing amazingly awe-inspiring feats that defy the imagination. (Hmmm. Does that sound like NASA?)

So here’s the deal:

For years, I’ve tried — unsuccessfully – to connect with folks at Cirque du Soleil to collaborate on a “Space-themed” traveling show. I can only imagine what a Cirque du Soleil Space Show might look like, but it could be no less than FABulous. NASA content shaped by wildly inventive interpretations? Oh, I’d buy a ticket. Wouldn’t you?

How ironic. While I’ve been dreaming of a traveling “Space on Earth” Cirque du Soleil show, their founder has been dreaming of traveling from Earth to space. So much so, he purchased a seat with the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, to ride a Russian Soyuz up to the International Space Station.  I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised. He’s accustomed to defying gravity here on Earth on his stilts. Why not extend his reach? (And Guy, no FIRE-BREATHING on Station, PLEASE!)

Now here’s another cool fact that excites me. His 12-day visit to Station is billed as the first social/humanitarian mission in space. His cause: clean water through his foundation, One Drop.

“Guy Laliberté’s POETIC SOCIAL MISSION in Space is a unique opportunity to share information about water-related issues with the world. His messages will spread ONE DROP’s dream of “Water for all, all for water.”

Some of you may wonder why we should care about water. After all, 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Easy access to drinkable water, that’s the issue.

Here’s a quick overview: Less than 5% of the Earth’s water supply is freshwater and 1.7 billion people have no direct access to that 5%, according to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. In addition, fresh water is polluted in many developing countries. Guy’s One Drop website states: “90% of sewage is dumped into the water untreated.” The World Bank links water and poverty. Their 2006 report points out that inaccessibility to safe water traps developing countries in a cycle of poverty. People in 40% of the world in 80 countries suffer from extreme water shortages, hitting women the hardest. UNICEF estimates an average woman in rural areas can spend “one-quarter to one-third of her time fetching water” which leaves little time for school.  

Sobering. Shocking. Humbling.

And here I have a choice every day for my fill of tap, bottled, or sparking water, depending on how much I’m willing to pay. Now, let’s be clear, I’m absolutely unequivocally UNqualified to weigh in on this subject. I can, however, offer this thought:

Water is crucial for life ON and OFF this planet.

At NASA, we’ve been working water issues for decades. Traveling long distances in space means we can’t rely on re-supply. We have to carry or generate our own water. Exciting news! NASA recently reached a major milestone on Station: COMPLETE waste-water reclamation (including the dreaded liquid…urine). We have a spiffy new system to process six gallons of crew urine in six hours.

Distasteful, yes. But not bad-tasting. Really!

Expedition 20 astronaut Mike Barratt reports that Station’s new recycled water tastes like what you would expect in store-bought bottled water. Here’s how it works. Our technology onboard Station collects crew urine from the US toilet, boils off the water (to separate it from the briny nasty stuff we don’t keep), captures the vapor and mixes it with air condensation collections, and filters any impurities. Clean, purified water ready for drinking. Yum.

And who knows, our recycled water technology could be coming to a home or office near you! We bring you space technology, you apply it on Earth. Could be as common as your average water heater in the next decade, or sooner.

I’m excited about the world’s newest private citizen in space. Maybe, just maybe, we can make progress toward a cool “Cirque du Soleil-Orbital High,” based on Guy’s personal experience in space. Even more important, perhaps we can leverage NASA technology and know-how to help One Drop meet it’s goal,

Water for all, all for water.

Hey! It can happen. We’re NASA. We make the impossible possible!

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Space: Humanity’s Playground

Today something amazing happened. Did you notice? A Canadian, Russian, and European launched on a Russian rocket from the Republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia headed 220 miles in the air to dock with an orbiting outpost built by five partner nations representing 15 member countries. Waiting to greet them? An American, Japanese, Russian crew. We listened to Mission Control chatter in Russian with English translation.

Hey! What is exactly going on here?

In the ghost of NASA past, we successfully reached the Moon to compete with the evil Soviet Union. We just unearthed a mountain of documents from the Father of our space program, Wernher Von Braun. Included among his 10-15,000 papers, a letter to President Kennedy outlining the reasons we should go to the Moon. All about those dastardly HammerAndCycle-ites, the Communists!

Fast forward to today, we’re good buddies with the Russians. We overcame our differences to shape something important for humanity—an off-planet habititat where we can learn how to live in a hostile environment with minimum comforts of home. Heck, we even take turns with the Russians to “Command” the International Space Station. Yes, you read this right. Expedition Mission Commanders rotate between an American Astronaut and Russian Cosmonaut each Expedition mission.

What a milestone for us today! With this launch to Station, we increase the population from three to six who live/work/play on orbit traveling at a speed of 17,500 mph around the planet 24/7 in 90-minute orbits. For the first time, all our partner space agencies will be represented on Station: NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

My take-away from this amazing moment: We find ways to get along when we want badly enough to get going! No cultural or ideological barrier can stop us if the need is great enough. 

Any partnership is only an invitation away. Lead the pack. Make the first move.

And let’s face it, we can’t explore the cosmos on the back of the tax-payers from any one nation. Space is humanity’s playground. My prediction: in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be partnering with China, Korea, and Iran. (After all, they like to launch things too.)

Wouldn’t it be SO cool to create the Human Space Agency and wear an Earth Badge? Maybe in a few tomorrows from today we’ll see it come to pass. Today proves we’re on the right path with our Station partners. We’re proving we can work together to do this thing called space. 

Humanity’s destiny is to expand our knowledge of the unknown. Earthlings, UNITE!

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