The final space shuttle launch: Three years ago today

The anticipation that morning was high.

Everyone arrived early with a bittersweet excitement. The entire space center was abuzz. This was the last launch. The last launch. After today, never again would the space shuttle spread her wings and soar into the cosmos.

We were a part of history.

Many people there who witnessed the last launch had worked on or in support of the magnificent space shuttle for years, for entire careers. Others, like myself, only worked on it for a summer or two. The vast majority, the rest of the world, watched it with a different perspective of awe and sadness. But everyone watching was amazed. And everyone watching was sad.

I can’t believe this launch was three years ago today. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember the entire day as if it were a movie I just watched. I remember the sights and the feelings and everyone around me. It was one of the most bittersweet days of my entire life.

It was a day I’ll never forget.

Where were you this day three years ago? Did you watch the launch? Share your stories in the comments!

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NARCON 2014: “Rocketry: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

Last weekend, I got to take a bit of a break from school and attended this year’s NARCON event. 

NARCON is the National Association of Rocketry’s annual conference. This year, it was held in Cocoa Beach from February 28- March 2. Unfortunately, I could not attend the entire event, as I had a presentation the night of March 1, but I quite enjoyed my time there! 

There was a dessert reception the night of the February 28 at the Air Force Space & Missile History Center, right outside of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. They had some delicious treats and a fun quiz all about missile and rocket history, as well as fantastic music! 

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The main event was kicked off Saturday morning at the Palms Resort in Cocoa Beach. It was a gorgeous venue!

Before the talks began, I visited some of the booths set up. The Missile, Space, and Range Pioneers were there with a rocket built by Florida Tech students. There was also a room filled with model rocketry vendors; it was hard to not buy everything in the room!

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There were many different talks going on simultaneously, and it was hard deciding which to ultimately attend. The first talk I attended was “A Short History of Space Shuttle Main Engine Development and the Tribulations of Other Real-World Rocket Engines” with Dave Mohr. I learned that, unlike most rockets, the SSME was built entirely around the shuttle. Most rocket companies would purchase an engine that would suit the rocket, but the SSME was different. 

The next talk I attended was particularly fascinating to me. It was “Liquid Sloshing Behavior in Microgravity with Application to Rocket and Spacecraft Propulsion Systems”, given by Gabriel Lapilli of Florida Tech. This experiment is currently onboard the ISS. It was inspired by a Delta IV rocket launch that was delayed by two different NASA CFD models of the rocket’s fuel during launch. This experiment will be used to create a slosh database and establish a standard model for NASA to use in the future. It was a very interesting project! 

The final talk I was able to attend before the lunch panel was “Growing up with Spaceflight” by author and historian Wes Oleszewski of Dr. Zooch Rockets. This talk was brilliant. Wes is a fantastic and hysterical speaker. He spoke about his memories of growing up with spaceflight, which is a brief overview of a 6-book series that he is publishing of his memoirs. The room was packed with people reminiscing and learning about the early days of the space program. After the talk, people started coming up and taking pictures of the couple sitting next to me- it turned out to be Vern and Glenda Estes of Estes Rockets. I was sitting next to model rocketry royalty! 

After this talk, I attended the lunch sponsored by the the Missile, Space, and Range Pioneers. They had a panel discussion with local space legends John Tribe, Lee Solid and Roy Tharpe. All three had fascinating stories- from funny stories about rocket launches (and rocket failures), to sad stories about Apollo 1. Overall, it was a fantastic, fantastic event. I am so glad I went!

Missile, Space and Range Pioneers Fall Banquet 2013

Friday, October 11 was the fall banquet date of the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers. If you aren’t familiar with the Pioneers from my previous posts, they are a group in Florida’s space coast made up of current and retired space industry workers. You can join the Pioneers or check out their website here: http://www.missileers.org

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This fall’s banquet was at the Double Tree in Cocoa Beach, and was a joint dinner with the local AIAA and the National Space Society chapters. It was a very nice venue and not difficult to find as an out-of-towner.

Before dinner began, there was a social among the many attendees. I met and networked with many people involved with different areas of the space industry, including students and our guest speaker, Bob Sieck. Florida Tech student Marie McBride spoke about her work restoring and recovering data from the lunar landing modules from Apollo 14 and 15, and we had a fantastic catered dinner. We also had our elections for the 2013 year, and I was elected as the student director on the board of directors for the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers!

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Then, Bob Sieck spoke. Bob Sieck was a launch operations engineer in the firing room of Kennedy Space Center during the Apollo program, and was NASA’s former Space Shuttle Launch Director. His speech was on “Lessons Learned from Apollo 13”, a mission he was personally involved with.

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Apollo 13 was a lunar mission that was aborted due to an oxygen tank explosion during the lunar trajectory. Thankfully the astronauts made it back to Earth unharmed, but it was a major lesson to NASA as an agency, as well as to the people involved with the mission.

The faulty oxygen tank that went on the mission had a bad history, and should have never been used on a launch. Mr. Sieck told us how the tank had been dropped during testing (and was unknowingly damaged on the inside), then during a cryogenic stir test, it failed to drain properly. The temperature sensors also were not relaying how hot the tank was getting. They decided to perform, with the approval of superiors, unofficial procedures to try to drain the tank, and succeeded.

The tank ended up exploding in space because of a combination of the above events, as well as from the engineers and people working on the project not fully realizing the extent of damage done to the tank. The “lessons learned” are shown below:

  • Test as you fly, fly as you test. 
  • Most major incidents are the result of a series of events and decisions. 
  • Non standard operations should be reviewed with a “what could go wrong” approach. 
  • “…. the devil is in the details….”
  • “…there’s a difference between data and information….”

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It was a fantastic talk and event, and I cannot wait for the spring event.

World Space Week 2013!

World Space Week 2013!

October 4-10 2013 is World Space Week! Sponsored by the U.N, World Space Week is the largest public space event on the planet. This year’s World Space Week focuses on “Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth”. There are a total of 922 global events registered in association with World Space Week: check out this map and find something going on near you! (http://www.worldspaceweek.org/wsw/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=98&Itemid=166)

In honor of WSW, I will be wearing space “swag” all week long. Thanks to my awesome friend Jalieel, I have a new space shirt and necklace to wear throughout the week, in addition to the space jewelry, pins, and shirts I already have. Hoping to share some pictures at the end of the week!

On October 11, (right after World Space Week’s end), I’ll be going to the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers Fall Banquet, hosted with AIAA and the National Space Society. Bob Sieck, Apollo flight engineer and former space shuttle launch director, will be giving the keynote speech. He will be discussing “Lessons Learned from Apollo 13”. Tickets are still on sale, if you’re in the Florida area and want to attend! (http://www.missileers.org)

Even with NASA being furloughed, I am hoping you all enjoy World Space Week 2013. Let’s make it rock!

Trailblazing Space Pioneers: The Mercury 13

Working at a library, I often come across some incredible books. I came across this book recently:

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“Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream” by Tanya Lee Stone

As a woman and as a space geek, I was amazed that I had never heard of these women. I of course had to check out the book and read about these amazing trailblazers of the early space industry.

It all started in the thick of the space race, and the Mercury 7, (Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, and Gordon Cooper) were chosen to pioneer the US adventures in space. Dr. Randy Lovelace II was the head of NASA’s Special Committee of Bioastronautics, and was a bit of a forward-thinker for his time. He believed that women should be considered for astronaut candidacy. At the time, women could not get bank loans, could not play professional sports, or of course, go to space.

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Dr. Lovelace had his own firm that developed the physical testing for the astronaut candidates, and began a privately-fundedexperiment of testing women pilots for spaceflight. Pilot Jerrie Cobb, (right, standing next to a Mercury Capsule), was the first women to go through this testing. She had to have hundreds of x-rays taken, have her lung capabilities tested, have freezing water injected in his ears to induce vertigo, undergo intense psychological testing, and more. She took sensory-deprivation testing in an isolation tank. The Mercury 7 had to spend two to three hours in a dark room; two days of this testing was equivalent to fifteen minutes in the isolation tank… Jerrie Cobb spent a whopping 9 hours and 40 minutes in the tank, shattering ALL previous records. Not only did she outperform the Mercury 7 in nearly every test, but she did it without complaint and with a smile on her face. Lovelace shared his results in conference, believing it may tip the tides for women in spaceflight, and began testing with twelve other women. The thirteen women, also called the Mercury 13, are listed here:

  • Jerrie Cobb
  • Wally Funk
  • Irene Leverton
  • Myrtle “K” Cagle
  • Jane Hart
  • Gene Nora Stumbough [Jessen]
  • Jerri Sloan [Truhill]
  • Rhea Hurrle [Woltman]
  • Sarah Gorelick [Ratley]
  • Bernice “B” Trimble Steersman
  • Jan Dietrich
  • Marion Dietrich
  • Jean Hixson

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L-R: Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cage, and Bernice Steadman at a space shuttle launch, guests of Astronaut Eileen Collins

Unfortunately, due to politics, the testing was cut short when Lovelace could no longer access necessary military facilities. The fight was far from over, though.

Jerrie Cobb and Jane Hart, the oldest candidate and wife of a U.S. Senator, decided to go to Washington and fight for women’s right to become astronauts. They went up against Congress. Mercury 7 astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter spoke against women going to space (which I found to be a huge disappointment, being that I’ve always looked up to John Glenn), and between Congress and then vice-president Lyndon B. Johnson’s adamant dismissal of the program, it never came to fruition. In fact, it was later revealed long after LBJ’s political career, that his main opposition to women going to space was because then minority ethnic groups would also push to be considered. This is so crazy to me, especially because LBJ passed so much anti-discrimination legislation during his time as president. Unfortunately, as wrong as NASA and the politics were at the time, these women never did make it to space.

I am so appreciative and grateful for the great strides that previous women before me have made, and for the path they have paved for a girl like me to work in the space industry. These ladies will forever be my idols and heroes, and I hope for more to hear of their story.

For more information, you can check out these sites:

as well as “Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream” by Tanya Lee Stone, the amazing book that introduced these women to me.

Throwback Thursday

It was three years ago during the height of my first internship at Kennedy Space Center. My “other half” and fellow intern Brooke and I decided to  attend a talk about spacesuits. Boring as it may seem, we did our best to model with the parts of the mock-up suits that were floating around: 

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The awesome part, and the part I would like to make note of, was what happened after the presentation. The next day, we actually got to go and try on a actual EVA spacesuit mockup. 

Even without the life-support system, the spacesuit is very heavy. The boots alone were ridiculous, and crushed my hope of running out of the room while wearing the suit. It was also rather warm! (And if NASA ever needs a model astronaut, I’ll consider this post as my portfolio (;   )

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The Adventures of Gus Griss-bear

Meet Gus Griss-bear.

Named after Apollo astronaut Gus Grissom, Gus Griss-bear has decided to travel and see the world! His adventures will be documented here on 3…2…1… . This is the first installment of his epic adventures.

Gus explores Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. 

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Gus with the rocket garden! 

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Gus and his friend Emily in front of the Atlantis exhibit. 

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Atlantis and Gus!

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Is it just Gus, or is the gravity in here disappearing….

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Gus and his new pals Chris Had-bear and Space Princess

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Gus and friends in front of the Orion Crew Capsule. 

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Gus with Astronaut Bob Springer!

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Gus gets comfortable with the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Gus goes back to his roots with the Gemini capsule. 

Gus has a fantastic time at the Kennedy Space Center, and thanks the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers for his opportunity to go. Stay tuned for more adventures of Gus Griss-bear here on 3…2…1… ! 

Special sneak peek tour of Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit!

This past Saturday, June 22, my sister  got the chance of a lifetime to tour the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at Kennedy Space Center one week before it opened, thanks to the Missile, Space, and Range Pioneers.

It was a truly amazing exhibit. Outside, the twin solid rocket boosters and external tank, which launch the shuttle our of orbit, stand. They are HUUUUGE and are quite the site to see.

Going inside, there are quotes and incredible images dedicated to the space shuttle program. It leads up to an auditorium where an awesome (but short) movie plays, outlining the origins of the space shuttle.

Following the movie, you get to witness incredible launches, before the gorgeous ship that is Atlantis is unveiled.

I was amazed by the exhibit; you can get surprisingly close to the orbiter. There is a Hubble Space Telescope mockup, a space shuttle engine, and more.

My sister and I also got to meet to Atlantis astronauts, Bob Springer and Tom Jones. They signed autographs for us (my sister was so excited, as it was the day before her birthday), and I also got a picture of Jim Springer with Gus Grissbear (named for Gus Grissom, his adventures will be chronicled on this blog!).

After meeting the astronauts, we saw the rest of the exhibit. Several modules of the International Space Station were re-created, including the Tranquility module and C.O.L.B.E.R.T treadmill, as well as the beloved space toilet. (There’s no gravity to assist up there).

The tires from Atlantis from the last shuttle launch, STS-135, were also on display for people to touch and move! Being that these are still technically space artifacts made it a special treat.

Seeing Atlantis before its opening date was a true treat, and was quite the experience for both my sister and I. We are both so grateful for this opportunity, and send a million thanks to the Missile, Space, and Range Pioneers for the opportunity.

The Missile, Space and Range Pioneers

So I have been pretty excited to announce this, but I am officially a part of the Missile, Space and Range Pioneers, located in Florida’s very own Space Coast! Funnily enough, the Pioneers found me through this very blog. I had attended a banquet of theirs last year and blogged about it (post can be found here), and a couple months ago, they found the post. They liked my writing and asked for me to write for them, as well as work to advance their social media presence. I absolutely love working with the Pioneers.

I will be sharing a lot of what I write for them on my blog, but check out their website, like their facebook page and follow them on twitter as well for more stories and exclusives! 
 
 

Missile, Space, and Range Pioneers Banquet

So this weekend, an awesome friend of mine invited me to accompany him to the Missile, Space, and Range Pioneers Banquet in Cocoa Beach. The keynote speaker was Ron Jones, President and Chief Technology Officer of Rocket Crafters. It was hosted at the Hilton of Cocoa Beach, (the same hotel where I met Bob Cabana and several astronauts at a launch party in the summer of 2011.) It’s a gorgeous hotel, right along the beach.

We arrived around 6:00, when the “social” part of the evening was to take place. We walked in and got our name tags, and waited around for people to show up. My friend and I talked to some cool people, including a man who runs a science website. I told him about my blog, it was awesome talking to someone else who runs a site with a focus on science!

I met some students and faculty as well from the Florida Institute of Technology; they were presenting on their lunabot for the NASA Lunabotics competition. Below you can see my friend and his design partner with their 3D printed wheel design mold. Funnily enough, I knew one of the guys on the senior design team from when I interned at NASA. What a small world!

Dinner was served, and it was so delicious. (I could go on forever about the food, but that’s irrelevant.) After dinner, two senior design teams from Florida Tech spoke. The first team that spoke is trying to design a rocket that can launch to suborbital heights. The second, the team that my friend is on, spoke of their NASA Lunabot.

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Then Ron Jones, the keynote speaker, spoke. He spoke about his company, Rocket Crafters, and what they are trying to do. Rocket Crafters is developing hybrid rocket motors and a craft that has dual jet/rocket propulsion so it can fly like a plane in sub orbit to quickly transport goods and people. Their website is here: http://rocketcrafters.com. What Rocket Crafters is trying to do is fascinating, and I can definitely see it being an integral part of future transportation and logistics.

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It was an awesome banquet, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to attend. Maybe one day I’ll be the keynote speaker… 😉