Tag Archives: #sts135

Three Months

8 Oct

Am I going to do an “X Months Since STS-135” post every month for the rest of my life? Probably not. I suspect it will be something like measuring the age of a child in months until it reaches a year or so. But for now, it seems important.

I’m really good at marking milestones. In fact, it may be my one true talent in life. I recently fell in love with this website: Nerdiversary.com. Besides being the three-month anniversary of the final shuttle lunch, today marked the 8,000th day since my birth. I am nearing 12 Martian years. On the other hand, I won’t be 2 Jovian years until 2013.

Jupiter has been on my mind a lot lately, since it’s been so bright in the sky. It looks so stable from here — notwithstanding the actual state of its surface — as if it has always been there, and will always be, no matter what is happening here on Earth.

I went down to the beach today, and was reminded that when I was young and in love with the idea of moving out to the West Coast from the ocean-less middle of the country, I felt the same way about the ocean that I feel about space today. There are, of course, clear parallels between early explorers crossing the sea and modern explorers pushing against the edges of outer space.

The shores of the literal ocean.

“We embarked on our journey to the stars with a question first framed in the childhood of our species and in each generation asked anew with undiminished wonder: What are the stars? Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.” — Carl Sagan, Cosmos

The shores of the cosmic ocean (in this case, Jupiter above Los Angeles).


Speak Out With Your Geek Out, Part I: Space

12 Sep

Sometime last week, I came across this call to action against negative nerd stereotypes. My first thought was, “Oh, I’m going to have to do this.”  My second thought was “Oh, I’m going to have to do this for a lot of things.”

So this is the first part of (tentatively) a five-part trilogy. Today: NASA. I know you’ve heard it all, here and elsewhere. I know it’s easy to be positive about space exploration, although a lot of people can get pretty tetchy over manned vs. unmanned spaceflight, and the necessity of one or the other.

I’ve already written (once or twice) about the ideological aspects of space travel that made me fall in love in the first place, so today I’m going to try to do something different. On top of seeing the shuttle launch this summer, I just watched Apollo 13 and viewed last Saturday’s GRAIL launch, both of which got me thinking about the different propulsion systems NASA has used over the years. Limiting myself to just the shuttle program, Apollo, and GRAIL, we have:

The Saturn V

Might well be my favorite to see launch — it’s so slow, Atlas-like, as if it’s somehow aware of the weight on its shoulders. The Wikipedia article confirms that it’s still “the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status,” and that it “holds the record for the heaviest launch vehicle payload,” with over 7.5 million pounds of thrust. All together, there were 13 Saturn V launches, with zero loss of crew or payload.

That is one snazzy machine, and the one I’ve been physically closest to.

Like apes to an obelisk. Astounding.

Of course, reading the Wikipedia entry gives a pretty interesting picture of the history of the program. (I know that some things are just plain complicated, and this may be one of them — nonetheless, I cannot read the name of Wernher von Braun without hearing this Tom Lehrer song.)

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Two Months

8 Sep

It’s been two months since the STS-135 launch and tweetup, and this morning I woke up at 5 a.m. to watch a (scrubbed) GRAIL launch. The lack of sleep and the anniversary have led to an emotional state that finds me walking down the street to class and suddenly realizing that I am grinning like an idiot because I just remembered that I have actually met astronauts.

So far, no one has asked me to explain why I would wake up at 5 a.m. to watch a launch from ~2,500+ miles away on a small computer screen (granted, my roommates were all asleep when I left this morning), but that dopey smile and the memories of rain and pre-dawn parking lots and the last five seconds of the countdown go a long way towards explaining it.

So, dear #GRAIL #NASATweetup attendees:  you are now a part of an amazing alumni group who can understand just what it feels like to drive up to this view in the morning:

This must be the fifth time I've posted this picture; but it's so worth it.

10 Things I Learned This Summer

15 Aug

Classes don’t start for another week, but for me, leaving Chicago for Los Angeles always signals the end of the summer. I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on how–cool?  brilliant?  amazing?  rad?  ace?  brilliant?–this summer has been. So here are 10 things I know now that I did not know in May.

1) No matter what Google Maps says, this is not SpaceX.


2) Camera lenses got just as fogged-up in Florida humidity as glasses do.

Also a testament to my photography skills.

3) Elmo is sassy in person.

And astronauts are cool.

4) Ned Stark does not always make the best life choices.

Par for the course.

5) Watching an EVA (spacewalk) during a power-and-internet-outage sans car is worth a half-hour trek to the nearest Starbucks.

I couldn't dry my hair in the morning, but I could watch people working in orbit.

6) Space Corps Directive 1694 states that, during temporal disturbances, no questions shall be raised about any crew member whose timesheet shows him or her clocking off 187 years before he clocked on.

Also that it's cold outside, there's no sort of atmosphere.

7) During a shuttle launch, the heat will kill you at 400 feet away.  At 800 feet away, the sound will kill you. (Also, by consistently telling this to people as a “fun fact,” I have learned that I overuse the phrase “fun fact.”)

Obviously, we were not this close on launch day.

8) Tim Minchin is both really nice in person and really funny live.

"I mean, I think you're special, but you fall within a bell curve."

9) Embroidery is fun.

Possibly too much fun.

10) It is possible to get goosebumps in 90-degree heat.

Photo courtesy of NASA.

One Month

8 Aug

If I’ve set things up correctly, this should post exactly one month after the launch. I will probably be distracted at work and miss the moment, so I thought I should mark the occasion while it was on my mind.

Other than that, there’s not much to say. Would you believe that I still can’t quite believe it happened? Or that I have not expressed sufficient thanks to everyone involved? Both are true.

All I know is that I would get up at 1 a.m. any day to see this view again:

Honestly, any day.

And It Doesn’t End

12 Jul

A very poor screenshot of about a 3-inch screen on slow Starbucks wifi. But still a picture from SPACE.

I finally made it back from Florida (weird, weird, wonderful Florida) at about 10:00 on Sunday night.  I tried to go to sleep immediately, since I had work on Monday morning.  That almost worked well.

Until I realized:  I actually spoke to three people who had been in space.  Just talked to them like this was a normal thing that actually happened to people.  (With no more than my usual starstruck awkwardness.)

Then, Monday morning, still averaging about 4 hours of sleep per night over the past week, I drove downtown and sang along to Marian Call on my iPod.  And grinned wide enough that people on the Kennedy who happened to see the girl in the blue Element with the FSM sticker and the venti caramel macchiato probably feared for their safety.  Probably.

The thing is, I don’t think I will ever fully get over what I’ve experienced in the past week.  And that’s the best part about it.

Because I was going into space withdrawals by about Friday night, I knew I would have to watch the live stream of today’s spacewalk (EVA, extra-vehicular activity).  Of course, our power went out yesterday after about an hour of rain.

This is real rain, Chicago and/or Comcast.

(Damn it, Chicago, we had storms worse than that for half a day, and then launched a shuttle like it was no big deal.  You have an hour of storms and we lose power for going on 27 hours.  I guess everyone can’t be as efficient as NASA….)

So, as you can see from the picture at the top of this post, I’m watching the EVA on my laptop at Starbucks.  Where I walked this morning, due to my lack of car.  It took about half an hour.  Uphill both ways.

It’s amazing to me that I couldn’t dry my hair this morning, but am still currently watching a live feed of a spacewalk happening over 200 miles above the surface of my planet.  Beautiful.

This still isn’t my final wrap-up post, because I know I’ll probably tear up and laugh while writing that one, and, well, I’m in a Starbucks.  More to come when our power comes back on.

For now, I’m just glad to report that the feeling of the launch doesn’t end.

Hello up there!

9 Hours Later

8 Jul

I’ve been awake for 19 hours on 3 hours of sleep, and I am mosquito-bitten and sore.  My shoulders are sore.  I have no idea why my shoulders are sore.  They just are.  But I wouldn’t trade any of this for all the world.

That was what I thought when I walked up toward the VAB this morning:  I wouldn’t trade any of this for all the world.  I thought the same thing periodically throughout the day.

I’m so tired I can barely see straight (the three-hour drive back from KSC to Orlando didn’t help much, I am sure), and I’ve been on the computer so much that I find myself mentally hashtagging my own thoughts.  So I’ll write more, hopefully, tomorrow.  Or soon.

Did I mention yesterday that Astro_Mike and Astro_Wheels signed my geeky NASA cross-stitch?  I don’t think I did.  So I’ll leave you with this.  Really glad I didn’t have to change the date underneath the logo.  And only partially because it’s annoying to undo stitches.

Definitely requires ironing and framing.