Tag Archives: STS-125

Space Wonder from Earthling Eyes

French photographer Thierry Legault takes some amazing photographs of our spacecraft. See what I mean?

STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery approaching Space Station to dock. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery approaching Space Station to dock. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Spacewalk as seen from Earth. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Spacewalk as seen from Earth. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Goosebumps!

You are looking at images of Space Shuttle Discovery’s final mission to Space Station. Soak in the significance of these images. We are closing out the final chapter in our nation’s Space Shuttle program. (But you already knew that, right?) So cool that we have photographers like Thierry out there caring enough to record this journey for us.

Let me share the back story of our NASA relationship with Thierry.

It all began back in September 2006, when Space Shuttle Atlantis launched to orbit for STS-115, a 11 day-19 hour-6 minute mission to Space Station and back. Thierry captured this image.

STS-115 Atlantis & Station in front of the sun. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-115 Atlantis & Station in front of the sun. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Note: Space Station had a totally different shape then. We were only six years into the decade-long construction project.

I saw this picture in a magazine and tracked Thierry down through his photography service in France. On April 24, 2007, I wrote him this email:

Thierry,
Your image of Station and Shuttle in front of the sun is absolutely FABULOUS! May we have permission to use the photo with our NASA exhibits?  We would give you credit, of course! Your image is the most striking I’ve ever seen, and the fact that the Shuttle and Station are in the same shot from Earth is incredible. The general public has trouble getting excited about Station because we’ve built it in orbit. They’ve never seen it, except in our images from space. Your image allows them to touch space from home.

He contacted me almost immediately and agreed to let us use his photo. We were thrilled! For me, the story this image tells is that humans (and the things we create) are SO tiny against the awesome backdrop of the universe we live in. Wow! Plus, we can allow folks at home a glimpse of of the incredible engineering marvel we’re building UP IN SPACE.

Fast forward to August 2008, we received an email from Thierry that he was interested in taking pics of his beloved Atlantis during the STS-125 Hubble servicing mission. The only problem was, Hubble orbits 35o miles over Earth. Space Station orbits 220 miles overhead. He couldn’t afford the special lens required to capture the image – an additional 130 miles UP in the sky. He wanted to know if we had one, or were willing to buy one, so that he could record such an historic event — the final Space Shuttle repair mission to Hubble.

Intrigued, we did a bit of research to see if we had any NASA camera equipment that met the specs. Nope. Our next option was to look into purchasing the lens, but we needed to find other uses of the equipment after Thierry borrowed it for the mission. NASA photographer, Bill Ingalls, raised his hand (or more accurately, jumped up and down with glee) at the opportunity to get his hands on the lens. Done. (And, just so you know, the price of the lens dropped significantly by the time we purchased it. We snagged a great lens at a great price.)

Thierry traveled from France to Florida for the STS-125 mission. Our own excellent Bill took Thierry along with him for all his official duties, giving Thierry access to the best NASA locations to photograph the mission.

What did we get out of the deal? Incredible images of Space Shuttle Atlantis and Hubble in front of the Sun, that’s what!

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit

The images went viral. Newspapers, websites, blogs, tweets around the world gushed about Thierry’s images of our spacecraft. What’s not to love?

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

Thank you Thierry for sharing your photos (and your amazing talent) with us. You’ve perfectly captured the drama and awe and wonder of space.

What an out-of-this-world sight!

Hot off the presses (or email): After posting this morning, Thierry sent me more images to share with you. How many times can I say WOW!!! Simply breathtaking!

Space Station during Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with Space Station 05/16/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with Space Station 05/16/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Station 05/22/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Station 05/22/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Solar Eclipse 01/04/2011. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Solar Eclipse 01/04/2011. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Thierry, keep ‘em coming!

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Vote @Astro_Mike: Tweet of Year

Vote for Twitternaut @Astro_Mike Massimino’s first tweet from space for “Tweet of the Year” in Mashable’s Open Web Awards Social Media Edition.

You can vote once a day through December 13th.

First EVER Tweet from Space

First EVER Tweet from Space

Find out more about NASA’s first Massimillionaire.

Let your vote send this message: When we tweet from space, everyone listens.

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How Twitter is like Mission Control

I’m on the other side of my Door Jam Saga. Whew! Thank goodness. My Twitter buds, or Tweeps as we like to call ourselves, lived through the drama with me–offering tips and moral support. Now you too can relive the experience with me, and see how they helped.

Come to think of it, Twitter became my own personal Mission Control!

I mean really. That’s how it works during missions. Astronauts up in space have a problem. They signal Mission Control down on Earth. Teams come together to provide options to resolve the issue. Think Apollo 13…or the STS-12o mission when Astronaut Scott Parazynski repaired the Space Station solar array with an onorbit hand-crafted “cuff link.”

Yep. That’s pretty much how it happened for me with my Door Jam Saga.

Here’s the tweet that called TWission Control to action:


Door Jam Tweet

Door Jam Tweet

Let me set the stage for you. I came home from work to find the door to my study closed. How odd. It was open when I left. I tried the door, but it wouldn’t budge — as if a body was leaning against it, holding it closed.

Believe it or not, I actually called out to ask if someone was there.

You know, like the creepy horror movies I refuse to watch. That spooky scene where the woman hears a noise and goes to check it out. If I were watching the movie, I would yell at the screen and tell her to run for her life — in the other direction. But  no, here I am in my own house, asking if someone is behind the very door I’m trying to open.

Not smart! (Readers, don’t try this at home.)

At that point, I realize how silly, and reckless, I am. I head back to the front door and perform a series of escape maneuvers:

  • Open the door (in preparation for a speedy egress — NASA term).
  • Change from heels to running shoes (conveniently by the door). Also prepping for a speedy egress down the front steps.
  • Call my daughter. Think help-line live.

With my daughter on the phone ready to call 911, I approach the closed study door again. I’m wondering, upon reflection, why I didn’t pick up a baseball bat or something. But, I was wise, really. I’m faster on my feet in flight, than I am strong — for hand-to-hand combat, I mean.

Back to the story: With iPhone in hand, I announce to the person behind the door that I’m on the phone with the police (BIG LIE). I demand he come out.

Silence. Thankfully!

Next, my very wise daughter suggests I go out side and look in the window to see what’s blocking the door. I follow her advice. Luckily I’d opened the blinds before I left. Otherwise, I’d be driving blind, so to speak.

Ah ha! The culprit? Two VERY heavy Ikea frames had fallen against the door to wedge it shut.

Culprit: Ikea Frames

Culprit: Ikea Frames

I thank her, hang up the phone, and try to figure out how to dislodge the frames. Oh, and I also tweeted about it. (The screengrab at the top.)

Now here was my problem. After going down for the STS-129 launch and Tweet-up, I was almost a week behind in the race to complete 50,000 words in the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo. The clock was ticking.

NaNoWriMo Deadline

NaNoWriMo Deadline

Now what to do? I found a heavy medal ruler and tried to un-wedge the frames from under the door. Nope. Frames wedged too tight. I tried pushing the door apart at the top and slipping a wire hanger over the crack in the top for a frame-fishing adventure. Nope. I considered breaking the window, but decided against it. It’s cold…and I don’t like broken glass. I preferred a hole in the study door (which can survive the winter unfixed, should I so choose to ignore it).

The Twittersphere came to the rescue. Tweeps offered numerous Tw-ideas on how to resolve my crisis.

@Elross DoorJam TWidea

@Elross DoorJam TWidea

UK's @MDBenson offers TWidea

UK's @MDBenson offers TWidea

@Brobof's suggestion

@Brobof's suggestion

@AdamCanFly Door Jam suggestion

@AdamCanFly Door Jam suggestion

@dschwartz2DoorJam

@dschwartz2 DoorJam suggestion

@SFC_Don DoorJam suggestion

@SFC_Don DoorJam suggestion

Interesting that male tweeps told me how to fix the problem. Female tweeps offered emotional support and well-wishes. …Says SO much, don’t you think?

So Crazy It Might Work

@Elross offers suggestion

I decided to try to take the door handle off and use the hole from the door knob to fish from — like the hole ice-fishers use in winter. Mind you, the screws to the door knob were INside the room. I was OUTside the room. I needed to saw the knob off. I naively thought the lock-works would simply fall out.

I made a trip to Home Depot, planning to buy an electric saw to chop this baby off in seconds. The little man at the store didn’t want me to pay so much money for the electric version. He kept taking me back to the manual-labor wall. He insisted I could take down a measly little door knob in a matter of a few minutes — 15 tops.

I didn’t believe him. In my gut, I knew. But I let him talk me into a hand saw.

Bringing out the Big Gun

Bringing out the Big Gun

TWO HOURS I sawed.

“Saw” little progress–pun intended. I got really frustrated. My knuckles were raw from rubbing against the door. I posted this:

Home Depot Man

Not happy with Mr. Home Depot

@apacheman Power Tool Danger

@apacheman offers insight

At this point, I’m having visions of astronaut Mike Massimino on the STS-125 Hubble repair mission. If you don’t know the story, I’ll summarize for you. During a tricky spacewalk, he couldn’t unbolt one of the handles in an panel he needed to remove. That one handle stood between success and failure. During one of the periods with Mission Control loses video with the crew, @Astro_Mike broke off the handle. He knew Mission Control wouldn’t approve, so he took action while they weren’t looking. One of those “ask for forgiveness, rather than permission” moments. Hey it worked! The mission was a great success.

So about now, I’m wishing @Astro_Mike could brut-force my door handle. He’s a pretty big guy after all.

Where is @Astro_Mike?

I need @Astro_Mike to break off the knob!

I wasn’t the only one who thought @Astro_Mike could get the job done:

@negativereturn Need @astro_Mike

@negativereturn Need @astro_Mike

Thinking of how @Astro_Mike would take care of an obstacle, I finally got a hammer and broke off the knob. Yes, indeed. I credit my inspiration to the STS-125 Hubble Repair mission. The knob broke off! Yay!!! …or so I thought.

DoorKnob: Fail

DoorKnob: Fail

But, guess what? The lock-works didn’t fall out…like my grand plan. Now I just had a door-knob-less wedged-closed door with my computer inside. Fail. I decided to take the rest of the night off and travel to Lowes in the morning. I really didn’t want to meet with little Home Depot man again.

My next trick: cut a hole around what was left of the door knob, then put a larger door knob over it. So, I bought this cool gadget (below), but I encountered another problem — the door lock was in the way of where the drill bit needed to be. Fail.

To draw this very long blog to an end, I drilled a hole in the middle of the door. I snagged the frames with a coat-hanger through my fishing hole, pulled them up enough for me to squeeze into the gap in the door. I’m really thankful I cut off the door knob. Otherwise, I would have a door-knob-sized hole in my belly where the door knob once was. Yes, it was that tight of a squeeze.

Coco inspecting open door.

Coco inspecting open door.

All is well in the TWorld.

The Twittersphere is restored to order. TWission Controllers can rest now. Job well done!

Successful ending: DoorJamSaga

Successful ending: Door Jam Saga

Oh, and one more thing. I’m no closer to my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo’s November 30th deadline. But I can STILL blame the Door Jam Saga…since I’ve spent time away from NaNoWriMo to share my saga with you.

Wait. Maybe it’s YOUR fault, readers! ;)

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Filed under culture, leadership, NASA, social media, space, tweet-up, writers

Honor Past but Celebrate Future, PLEASE!

Apollo 40th Logo

Apollo 40th Logo

These next few days portend a frenzy of Apollo anniversary activities.  Let’s see what we’ve got on the agenda:

Saturday, July 18:

Sunday, July 19:

  • John Glenn Lecture Series at the National Air and Space Museum will feature the Apollo 11 crew and legendary former Johnson Space Center Director Chris Kraft. Charlie and Lori are invited, as well.

Monday, July 20:

  • Various media events for the Apollo astronauts,n and a private lunch.
  • Newseum 40th Anniversary Educational Forum featuring hunky George Clooney’s dad, Nick, as moderator. Panelists include: Apollo astronauts @TheRealBuzz Aldrin, Charles Duke and Alan Bean, along with STS-125 crewmember John Grunsfeld and Goddard’s Dr. Laurie Leshin.
  • Evening Reception at the National Air and Space Museum. Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson will MC the event honoring Apollo astronauts and former Apollo employees — of whom we have a handful still working at NASA Headquarters. Plus, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will accept the Ambassador of Exploration Award on behalf of the late President John F. Kennedy.
Apollo Employees @ HQ

Apollo Employees @ HQ

Tuesday, July 21

  • Capitol Hill Congressional Gold Medal Presentation to Apollo 11 crew.
  • Appreciation Social with NASA Headquarters employees to honor Apollo astronauts.

This list is the tip of the iceberg. I can’t begin to list all the Apollo celebration events hosted at the NASA field centers.

Yes, we have much to celebrate at NASA. We’ve done some amazing things never thought possible four decades ago. We have every right, and responsibility, to reflect and honor the courage, dedication, daring, and engineering genius that lofted humans to the heavens. How boldly incredible is this accomplishment? Really! Bravo to all who played a part in the foundation of our space program.

But, here’s my quandary: We’ve spent a great deal of time planning for this anniversary. Just like we did for NASA’s 50th birthday. Meetings, telecons, vidcons, brain-storm sessions, product prep, website creation, and much, much MORE to pull together a respectable list of things to do.

Some part of me can’t quite reconcile all this activity. Does an agency retrospective propel us where we want to go tomorrow?

I pose this merely as a question, rather than a conclusion. Believe me, I get that we need to honor those who got us here. I understand the need to look back and marvel at our greatness. It’s our culture. If reliving these momentous achievements (which they TOTally were) makes us smarter for the difficult endeavors we face in current and future programs, then YAY!

But, here’s what I’d like to see: NASA expending the same effort showcasing all the amazing things we’re doing now, and will be doing in the future. For instance:

  • Clean Water challenges to replicate waste water recycling like we practice in space. We are pioneers in sustainable living. Our technology enables crewmembers on Space Station conserve and reuse every drop possible.
  • Orbital 365 events around the globe for every additional year we live/work/play on our incredibly complex orbital outpost — International Space Station.
  • Light the Candle community celebrations held EVERY remaining Space Shuttle launch, AND for significant engine test firings for new vehicle development.
  • Light Gardens created from home-made solar collectors to remind us how delicate and fragile the balance is between creation and consumption of energy, as our international crew of six onboard Station can attest every day in orbit 220 miles over our heads.
  • Star-gazing festivals where we turn out the city lights and look to the skies together. Our brightest star might just be Station zipping across the horizon.
  • Ticker Tape Parade

    Ticker Tape Parade

    Ticker tape parades for all Earthlings returning to the home planet. (Wait! Who even knows what “ticker tape” is? At least I can show you what it looks like in this picture.) So, in keeping with the times, how ’bout virtual confetti blasts synchronized through an iPhone app?)

I’m merely suggesting ideas to spark your imagination and get the conversation going. I’m not saying these celebrations would even work. But, then again, you never know ’till you try. Right?

Let’s face it, looking back is SO much easier than looking forward — which involves peering into the unknown. Though…that whole “unknown” thing is something NASA is particularly good at. ;)

So, what’s stopping us? Come on! Let’s “pay it forward.”  Tap into that amazing creative energy we have. Celebrate NASA’s today and tomorrow, while we honor the past.

Happy Apollo 11 anniversary!

First step for man...

First step for man...

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Leadership is like a Waterfall

Watching the STS-125 crew during their (what stretched into) 14-day mission to repair Hubble, I’m struck by their camaraderie. They work hard and play hard, appearing to genuinely enjoy each other’s company — dream team!

Not all Shuttle crews mesh so well. My long-time NASA colleague, who has worked with the Astronaut Office closely through the years, told me the Commander sets the tone for the crew. She’s so right.

I’m reminded of another recent mission: STS-120 led by Commander Pam Melroy.  When the crew visited Headquarters on their post-mission tour to meet with the Washington DC establishment, we aDORed them. They were easy-going, friendly and, best of all, humble. 

For the STS-125 mission, Commander Scott (Scooter) Altman offers a case study in leadership. He gives motivational pep talks to his crew, quoting King Leonidas of Sparta in 480 BC. Spacewalker Mike Massimino predicts that Scott’s words on this mission will live on as well, “A king or commander of a spaceship 2500 years from now will quote the words Scooter told his crew.”

Scott displays calm confidence as Commander of this historic mission, the last and final human mission to the Hubble telescope. He lets his crewmates shine, allowing them to “upstage” him, as we see with Twitternaut @Astro_Mike Massimino and his wildly popular tweets from space. Scott’s leadership style allows his crewmates to bring their own unique personalities to the table – without forcing them to conform.

Did you know Scott is the pilot flying upside down in the movie “Top Gun?” He was a young hot shot Navy F-14 fighter pilot when he flew those scenes. He knows about top-down leadership – literally.

So here’s my takeaway: Leadership is like a waterfall. Debris cascades down just as easily as water, causing great damage on its way down. Take care what’s on top!

Here’s hoping we all learn a little top-down leadership from STS-125 Commander Scooter Altman. Let good things flow!

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Go-No Go and the Black Hole between

As we face the pending landing of our successful STS-125 Space Shuttle Atlantis Hubble repair mission, I’m struck by the “Go-No Go” mentality of NASA’s can-do Mission Control teams at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Think about it. “Go-No Go” translates into, “We’re going forward until we tell you to stop.” Success-oriented thinking. A “Go-No Go-er” manages risk by assessing potential outcomes and making reasoned decisions based on the probability for success. If new information comes, reassess and alter direction.

Now, let’s consider the reverse: “No Go-Go,” which means “Do nothing until you’re told to do something.” A “No Go-Go-er” is risk-averse, because risk may lead to that dreaded thing: failure.

Let’s face it: You can NEVER be wrong if you NEVER make a decision.

Think about the people around you: workmates, family, friends. How many do you know who operate in a holding pattern until they get a green light? Far too many, I expect. I call it the “Black Hole of In-Between” – the never-never-land spent waiting for something to happen or someone to give direction.

Often, I’ve observed, that we may be waiting for someone to make a decision and, all the while, he/she may be caught in the Black Hole of not knowing what decision to make. My suggestion: throw them a rope! Get busy and develop solutions to present to your leadership. Be the “Go-No Go-er” who gets things moving. Make a decision. It’s worth the risk. Really!

But then again, you take a risk following my advice. I’m the “protruding stake.” (Refer to About Beth page for Chinese proverb.) ;-D

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