Writing Together, Writing Apart September 28, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Collaboration, Writing.
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In July, Anna headed for Sewanee Writers’ Conference, where she participated in the poetry workshop run by William Logan and Debora Greger and a host of other activities. For those two weeks apart, we kept writing together here at Lofty Ambitions. Separated by two-thirds of the country, we also went back and forth via email and phone on a draft of an article about Titusville, where we stayed on our Space Coast visits.
Though we didn’t stop writing together for those two weeks, it resembled a cobbling together. Our cell phones worked poorly, so we depended on the internet to exchange ideas and drafts. We faced some miscommunication and bad timing. Because Anna was often booked from breakfast (earlier in the day than she likes to be booked) through an evening reading, and sometimes into those infamous writerly gatherings that follow, Anna revised and posted, but Doug took the lead in drafting during those two weeks. Usually, if one of us takes the lead for a post, that leading-the-charge emerges out of interest and inclination, not out of day-to-day scheduling constraints and assigned responsibility. We’ve established a rhythm over the last year and grown familiar with each other’s perspectives and voices on the page, so we managed to keep writing together just fine.
Really, though, despite our collaborative efforts, those two weeks meant writing apart. By writing apart, we mean that we each have our own separate writing projects.
These individual projects are especially challenging because we are collaborators. A book project is daunting for any individual, of course. Every writer faces obligations to, say, a paying job, family, and whatever keeps him or her from the necessary hours of writing every week or every day. In these ways, we are no different than any other two writers trying to finish books. The difference is our awareness that our writing together competes with our writing apart, that time spent collaborating on blog posts and article drafts means time not spent on our individual book projects.
We remain keenly aware that it’s all good writing time, no matter which project. But we can fool ourselves because writing together feels generous, unselfish. Collaboration skirts around the loneliness and sole responsibility that sometimes plague a writer. So, we actively encouraging each other to keep our separate hands on our individual projects every day or two. We’re leery of letting our individual selves off the hook under the illusion of being needed by and being appreciated by the other of us.
Now, as autumn opens up before us, Anna is trying to get her head around her poetry and nonfiction projects. Meeting poets Debora Greger, Mary Jo Salter, and Claudia Emerson reminded her how important poetry is to her writing life and demonstrated that other women poets are interested in some of the same seemingly odd topics, including nuclear radioactivity exposure and space exploration. Claudia Emerson recommended the book Multiple Exposures, which Anna now keeps at her bedside for nighttime reading.
Doug has his own book project. This summer, he reorganized his novel outline, refocusing The Chief and the Gadget for a start-to-finish overhaul. As never before, he knows where the draft stands and what must be done. Like any novel writer who sticks with it, finishing becomes a matter of time.
In deciding to write apart as we are also writing together, we have decided to take the long view of our writing careers. We juggle projects instead of working sequentially on one thing, then the next. Many writers do this without working collaboratively, as often a writer must have several projects in motion to see which one hits when. Most productive writers must become adept at planning, at setting and meeting deadlines, and at understanding each project’s parts and arc.
We came to these recent projects with very different project management styles. Anna has long been a deadline-oriented, daybook planner kind of gal. (In fact, her nickname by the end of college was Julie, the Cruise Director.) Doug, on the other hand, made it through several careers and graduate programs without a daybook planner. When he started his novel project, he also began to trust the organization of his life to Google Calendar. Sure, we often misjudge how long a given thing will take to draft and revise, and sometimes we forget that it’s Wednesday and scramble to pull a post together. And we’ve each had to accommodate the other’s style, benefiting from the combination of daybook and come what may.
The danger of writing together is that it makes writing apart harder to manage. Mostly, it is rewarding to move back and forth between writing together and writing apart. But when we fall behind or miss our self-imposed deadlines, it is on our individual projects, not on the blog or other collaborations. A year ago, Anna thought it would take two months to revise her novel manuscript with the pointed feedback she had received. But somewhat unexpectedly, we traveled to the Space Coast last November to see a shuttle not-launch (view that series HERE). Four such trips in eight months was great for writing together. The shuttle’s end set an external clock. As a result, Anna’s novel revision took an entire year. We see each other every day; our collaboration carries immediacy.
The reward of writing together is that it makes writing apart easier to manage. We see each other every day; our collaboration is a daily reminder that we’re writers. Anna’s workshop leaders at Sewanee are a couple. They do not write books or blogs together, but they both write poetry and are intellectual partners. According to William Logan, to make such a relationship work, “You need to revel in each other’s successes.” Not only does this advice advocate against jealousy, it advocates for a writing couple’s individual projects. We imagine astronaut couples are in a similar situation, understanding each other’s careers but not assigned to the same missions. (See Astronaut Shannon Walker speak to this in our video interview HERE).
Our approach to writing together and apart makes us feel as if it’s possible to become more than the sum of our parts. To calculate it that way means keeping track of the parts, cheering each other on, taking up each other’s slack. William Logan added that it was vital to see an individual success as “a victory for both of us.” Writing together, writing apart—it’s all shared victory when it works.
Interview: Karol J. Bobko September 26, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Science, Space Exploration, Video Interviews.
Tags: Museums & Archives, Space Shuttle
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We interviewed Astronaut Karol Bobko when we were at Kennedy Space Center for the last lauch of the space shuttle.
Bobko is a three-time shuttle astronaut, the pilot on STS-6 in 1983 and the mission commander on two flights in 1985. He’d already been an astronaut since 1969. In fact, in 1972, Bobko, along with Bob Crippen and William Thornton, participated in a 56-day ground simulation of the Skylab mission.
By proving that humans could live for extended periods in space and that science experiments could be done there, Skylab paved the way for today’s International Space Station. This past week’s falling weather satellite brought back memories of Skylab’s return to Earth. A backup Skylab workshop is currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum.
Happy Birthday, Neptune! September 23, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Art & Science
On this date in 1846, the planet Neptune was discovered by Urbain Le Verrier and John Couch Adams, then verified by Johann Galle. Galileo (the philosopher-mathematician-astronomer, not the spacecraft that orbited Jupiter) may actually have seen it more than two hundred years earlier, but he mistook it for a star. Additional controversy surrounded whether the Frenchman and the Brit should really share credit for the discovery, and recent assessment leans toward Le Verrier doing the more significant work.
Between 1930 and 2006, Pluto held the title of farthest planet from the Sun. Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombough, who was born in Streator, Illinois, and later worked at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. But Pluto was reclassified because it never cleared the neighborhood of its own orbit, and few were more devastated than the residents of Streator. In other words, it didn’t have enough planetary gravitas and doesn’t push and pull other objects in its orbital neighborhood. Neptune not only celebrates its discovery day today, but last week it celebrated the five-year anniversary of its return to ascendancy as the farthest planet from the Sun.
The eighth planet was named by its discoverer, Le Verrier, after the Roman god of the sea. The planet has thirteen moons. Neptune is seventeen times heavier than the Earth, has high surface gravity, and takes almost 165 years to orbit the Sun. None of us on Earth will live through a complete Neptune orbit. Imagine if each season lasted 40 years. What’s really mind-boggling when you think about time and how we measure it by the Earth’s rotation (a day) and orbit (a year) is that, because Neptune isn’t solid like the Earth, its equator takes about two hours longer to rotate than its poles, 18 hours and 16.1 hours, respectively.
Some of what we know about Neptune and many of the images we have of it—photos of its rings, its dark spots (storms)—are a result of the flyby of Voyager 2 in 1989. PBS based Neptune All Night on that spacecraft flyby. According to NASA, 11,000 workyears were devoted to Voyager 1 and 2 through the Neptune flyby; that’s equivalent to one-third of the work effort devoted to building the Great Pyramid at Giza. These spacecraft each carry a disc, the Golden Record, of 115 images and also many sounds, including greetings in 55 languages, chosen by Carl Sagan and his team, just in case Voyager runs into anybody else out there. Antennas are still tracking these spacecraft as they move farther and farther away, now into the Heliosheath. In fact, in 1998, Voyager 1 passed Pioneer 10 to become the spacecraft to travel farthest from Earth.
Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly the eight planet’s birthday, but discovery is worth celebrating. Unfortunately, Neptune can never be seen with the naked eye, but a telescope or even binoculars can help us make it out in the night sky. Click HERE for some information about peeking at Neptune this fall.
GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest (Part 9) September 21, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Science, Space Exploration.
Tags: GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest, GRAILTweetup, Museums & Archives, Nuclear Weapons
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“We organize information on maps in order to see our knowledge in a new way. As a result, maps suggest explanations; and while explanations reassure us, they also inspire us to ask more questions, consider other possibilities.” – Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi
Less than two weeks ago, NASA was launching GRAIL toward the Moon for its mapping mission. This Friday, just two days from now, a NASA weather satellite is expected to come hurling down through Earth’s atmosphere. All this has us thinking about what’s up there circling here and there without us taking much notice.
When Doug first applied to be a part of the NASA Tweetup for the GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) mission, we didn’t know all that much about the science objectives for GRAIL. We thought it would be another opportunity to hang out with like-minded space nerds on the Space Coast. We knew our experience of watching the last two shuttle launches couldn’t be repeated, but a rocket launch would continue to amaze us. Very quickly, we learned more about the GRAIL mission and were delighted to see that it aligned with some long-standing interests that had little to do with the rocket.
Much science proceeds by increments. An experiment confirms a theory, and that hard-won information spawns new questions, new ideas to investigate. The researchers carry out this work, passing down data and lore through laboratory lineages.
The Dean of Leatherby Libraries, Doug’s boss, was a Map Librarian earlier in her career. Not long ago, Doug earned a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from CalState-Fullerton, a move the library thought might prove useful. Even earlier, during his Ph.D., Doug had worked on a GIS-like system, a software tool that converts data into a map-based, or geographical, representation. You can’t study maps, map-making, and GIS for very long before you run into concepts like coordinate systems, GPS, and geodetics (sometimes also referred to as geodesy).
As a scientific endeavor, geodetics concerns itself with measuring our Earth. The science has moved well past its historical priority of trying to determine our planet’s diameter and shape. In 2002, GRAIL’s predecessor as a scientific tool, GRACE, opened new directions in Earth Science by producing the most accurate map of the Earth’s gravitational field ever created. One direct outcome of GRACE’s gravitational map is a much better understanding of how the earth’s ice caps and oceans respond to the gravitational field. In turn, this understanding will allow other earth scientists, in particular oceanographers and environmental scientists, to develop more accurate models of the earth’s hydrological cycle. In the same fashion, the gravity map that is created based on the data to be obtained by GRAIL about the Moon will be used to determine structural information about that orbiting mass, information such as what kind of core the moon possesses, whether it is solid or molten.
In one of those lovely coincidences that turn up time and again since starting Lofty Ambitions, the first geodetic satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 17 (LC 17), the same site from which Doug saw GRAIL launch almost two weeks ago. Even better, that first geodetic satellite was named Anna.
ANNA arose as a collaboration between the nation’s military and its civilian aerospace agency. In fact, the name derives from the initials of involved groups: Army, Navy, NASA, Air Force. As you can imagine, there’s some debate about the positioning of each group’s name in the palindrome acronym, but that’s the order that the New York Times reported on November 1, 1962, the day after its launch.
Like GRAIL, ANNA was in fact two satellites, ANNA 1-A and ANNA 1-B. ANNA 1-A was launched on May 10, 1962, but failed to reach orbit after its second stage didn’t fire. ANNA 1-B was successfully launched on Halloween of 1962, after being delayed by the Cuban missile crisis because of Cape Canaveral’s proximity to Cuba. Again, like GRAIL, ANNA was launched on a member of the Delta family of rockets, Thor. In many ways, GRAIL and ANNA serve as bookends for LC 17. Although ANNA wasn’t the first Delta-powered science satellite launched from LC 17, it was one of the first. GRAIL was the last. There will be no more Delta launches from LC 17. That launch pad is being taken out of service.
ANNA’s primary science tool was a series of four enormously powerful strobe lights (8M candlepower) arrayed on its spherical body. The lights flashed in a prescribed sequence in response to radio signals broadcast from Earth-side stations. Photographs taken of the flashes from known positions on the earth against a background of known stars allowed scientists to determine the location of new positions via triangulation.
John Finney’s 1962 New York Times article indicates that the ANNA mission was the focus of a controversy over the desires of civilian scientists to make the mission data public and the military’s requirement for secrecy: “At one point, the military established secrecy for the project on the ground that the geodetic information provided by the satellite on intercontinental distances would permit more accurate aiming of Soviet ballistic missiles.” Later, it was decided that Soviet nuclear warheads of the era were already powerful enough that the improvements made in targeting via the new geodetic data probably wouldn’t make much difference.
During the Cold War, accurately measuring distances over the skin of the earth was a significant military endeavor. We first came into contact with this project last year at an exhibit called “Mapping the Earth During the Cold War” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. We were struck by the notion of scientists whose aim was to measure the Earth’s distances—its shape, it gravity, the distance relationship of places—all in an effort to make better targeting algorithms for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. These scientists were, in effect, getting to know the Earth deeply in order that they could destroy it.
ANNA is still up there, endlessly orbiting the Earth, though she no longer flashes in acknowledgement of a received message.
To see the news story about ANNA’s launch, click HERE.
Guest Blog: Kimberly Guodace September 19, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Guest Blogs, Space Exploration.
Tags: GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest, GRAILTweetup, Space Shuttle
Doug met today’s guest blogger during his trip to the Space Coast for “GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest.” We featured her in Part 7 of our ongoing series about GRAIL (see that HERE) because we were captivated by her knowledge of the space shuttle program and her commitment, from childhood, to space exploration. But we also wanted Kim to talk about her life and career in her own words, an example of the ways we heard many space shuttle workers talk about their jobs even as they faced layoffs.
THE DREAMS THAT YOU DARE TO DREAM
Growing up as a child in Philadelphia, there was little talk of the space program. But for a young girl who saw the first launch of the Space Shuttle on the local news on April 12, 1981, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Working on the space shuttle became my goal. Over the next fifteen years, everything I did was geared toward becoming an engineer and working at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). From the time I was eight years old, I knew that working on the shuttle would require a strong math and science background. With the encouragement of my teachers throughout grade school and high school, as well as putting my own mind to it, I obtained the confidence to know that I would one day succeed in my childhood goal of working on the space shuttle.
After graduating high school, I moved to Florida to attend Florida Institute of Technology, a school founded in 1958 for the engineers at KSC to obtain their master’s degrees. I knew this was the school for me. I received my B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1995 and began my career at KSC the following year as an Avionics/Orbiter Electrical Engineer.
During my time at KSC, I became a Fuel Cell Engineer, working on the shuttle fuel cell and potable/waste water systems. In 2004, I transitioned to Launch Site Integration Engineer for Endeavour, working as a liaison between Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers to disseminate technical issues between the Systems Specialists and NASA Management. During my fifteen-year career at KSC, I was living my dream.
Today, we live in a world full of smart phones, social media, and video games. Flying humans into space became seemingly routine to the general public. It is anything but routine, as we saw with Challenger and Columbia. The engineers, scientists, and technicians who work on the shuttles have always been dedicated to flying men and women into space safely. It takes dedication and love of the job to work on the shuttles, making the shuttle workers a community, even akin to a family.
Working on the shuttle had its ups and downs, as with anything in life. When I was thirteen and Challenger exploded, I told my mom that if it was ever up to me, that would never, ever happen again. When I was twenty-three, I started my career working on the shuttle ,and, in 2003, an accident did happen again: we lost Columbia. For three-and-a-half weeks in Corsicana, I trudged through the fields, swamps, and forests of Eastern Texas searching for pieces of my beloved Columbia. To see the thousands of people from around the country who helped us bring our family (the astronauts who perished) and our baby (Columbia) home was an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Of course, there were the triumphs too. During my career, there were 54 successful launches of the space shuttle, successes in which I had a part (no matter how small or large). I met the most wonderful people in the world, who remain my family. I was able to travel to California (to support landings) and to Texas (to support missions) and so much more. As the Orbiter Element Vehicle Engineer, I was given the honor of presenting at final Flight Readiness Review for Endeavour (an honor that was given previously only to the Vehicle Manager).
With the shuttle program complete, the United States has no way to fly human into space other than to rely on our Russian partners. That being said, commercial corporations have been tasked to create the next-generation launch system. Today’s younger generation will design, build, test, and fly these new space transportation vehicles. They are the ones who now look up to the sky and dream of working on the future of spaceflight in this country, just as I did when I was a child.
My career with the United States Space Shuttle Program has been a dream come true and even more. I am honored every day to say that I was part of the greatest program in the world and to have worked with the greatest people in the world. I look forward to working with whatever the United States has planned for us to get our men and women flying again in space.
GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest (Part 8) September 14, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest, GRAILTweetup, Museums & Archives, Nuclear Weapons, Space Shuttle
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As part of the GRAIL Tweetup activities, Doug, armed with our trusty digital camera, toured Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where United Space Alliance launches the Atlas V, the descendent of the earlier versions of Atlas rockets of the 1960s. Before the Atlas V came along, Titan rockets, with payloads like the Viking probes to Mars and the Voyager probes off to even farther away, burst into the air from this complex. Even before that, the first launch at LC-41 was in late 1965. But the complex has long since been overhauled to accommodate this century’s bigger Atlas V rocket launch needs.
In addition to the launch pad itself at LC-41, the complex includes numerous buildings. The Vertical Integration Building (VIF), which stands 292 feet tall, was completed in 2000 and serves as the site where Atlas V rockets can be stacked on the Mobile Launch Platform with a huge crane. Recent practice, as also demonstrated by Launch Complex 39 used by the space shuttle program, allows for one rocket to be on the pad ready for launch while another is in the VIF getting ready for the big dance. This process, instead of assembling the whole contraption on the pad, allows launches to occur more often.
The Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) brings together various operations that had previously been spread around in different facilities. Sitting just over four miles from the launch pad, the control center manages the countdown. This building can also house rocket stages for storage or testing. Multiple rockets can be processed there simultaneously, thereby allowing for efficient scheduling of launches.
Atlas rockets have a rich history. Originally designed to carry nuclear warheads, the Atlas was adapted for manned spaceflight. On November 29, 1961, Enos, a chimpanzee, rode into space on mission Mercury-Atlas 5. The first four American astronauts to orbit Earth—John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, and Gordo Cooper—lifted off atop Atlas rockets.
Something that we enjoy about being on the Space Coast is the palpable sense of history even as we feel thoroughly in the now that surrounds a launch date. It’s one thing to watch a space shuttle launch. It’s another thing to walk where the country’s first space travelers strode and flew into the sky. Each might be merely small anecdotes, but they are not snippets of history without connections to each other and to us. Instead, in part because the physical places of assembly buildings and launch pads is there to be seen and felt, these experiences are all part of the same larger story. Some artifacts on the Cape exist on display, but many of the artifacts, some of which have been transformed, remain in use. Below, we include two videos (not our own), one of Mercury-Atlas 6, launched from LC-41 on February 20, 1962, and the other of GRAIL, launched on September 10 of this year.
Interview: Shannon Walker September 12, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Science, Space Exploration, Video Interviews.
Tags: Space Shuttle
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As we awaited the launch of STS-134 earlier this year , we interviewed Astronaut Shannon Walker at Kennedy Space Center. Here, she talks about her own career and marriage as well as about NASA’s future.
Shannon Walker was born in 1965, was raised and educated in Texas, and is married to fellow astronaut Andy Thomas. Her whole career has been spent at NASA. What’s fascinating about her is that she spent 161 days on the International Space Station, but she’s never flown on a space shuttle. Instead, she made her journey up and back on Soyuz last year. As she watched the final missions of the three orbiters, she knew that, though she’s an American astronaut, she’d never fly aboard an American spacecraft.
GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest (Part 7) September 11, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest, GRAILTweetup, Museums & Archives, Space Shuttle
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We’ve said it before (like HERE and HERE), and we’ll say it here again: Science writing isn’t only about the experiments and technology. It’s about the story and the people. The people we’ve met during our travels to the Space Coast have been amazing. Our latest geek connection is with Kimberly Guodace, a shuttle vehicle engineer until recently.
As part of the massive layoffs that mark the end of the space shuttle program, Kimberly Guodace was let go from her job at United Space Alliance just 9 weeks short of completing 15 years of work for NASA. In the current economy, nightly news reports and daily articles reveal the bitterness (with good reason) of the laid-off and the jobless. Somewhere on the Space Coast, we’re sure that there are some angry and disenchanted space workers. But after weeks of on-the-record interviews and informal chats with laid-off shuttle veterans, what we have found is optimism and pride at having worked on a program of national significance, people who fervidly believe in America’s future in space, whether it’s carried out by commercial companies like SpaceX or NASA.
Fifteen years ago, Kimberly Guodace began her career as an engineer working on the shuttle’s electrical systems and control panels. She spent half her time then near or in the orbiters. After that, she moved to fuel cells and potable water systems, including the shuttle’s potty. Her more recent responsibilities, which emerged from her years of intimate engineering knowledge of the orbiters, included serving as a go-between or translator between engineers and administrators. She beamed when telling our busload of Tweeple about helping to oversee the installation of two miles of wire in Endeavour—or 105, as the engineers refer to their orbiters by their number designation—for its wireless video system. This past year, knowing that shuttle was coming to a close, she did her best to be near or in Endeavour’s bay every single workday.
One time, NASA needed “suited subjects” for a flight safety test. Kim donned an orange Launch Entry Suit that astronauts wear. Her six-hour participation in the test ended with an emergency exit procedure during which the fire suppression system was on, dousing her with water and adding an additional twenty or thirty pounds to the suit. An exhausting experience she’d not want to trade.
Years earlier, on April 12, 1981, when she was just eight years old, Kim recalls that the first space shuttle launch, STS-1, was the third story on the local Philadelphia (her home town) news: “I said to my mom, that’s what I want to do when I grow up.” A few years later, when she watched the news about the Challenger accident, she said, “If it’s up to me, that’ll never ever happen again.”
Of course, an accident did happen again. In 2003, Columbia disintegrated as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere. By then, Kimberly Guodace was part of the space shuttle program. She did 5-½ weeks of recovery work, looking for debris of Columbia near Corsicana, Texas.
Kimberly Guodace has sat in the pilot and copilot seat on every orbiter except Challenger. We’ve heard astronauts say that the orbiters are flawless and like new, and Guodace agrees, “They are pristine.” She points out that they each have their nicks and scrapes, but she says, if she were sitting on the wing, “I would eat off of them.”
Our video interviews with shuttle astronauts also indicate that there’s disagreement as to whether all the orbiters are exactly the same or whether they are each distinct. To Kim, “Columbia was like parent. She was aged.” Discovery, she describes as an older sister and, as do many at NASA, as a workhorse. Kim says that Atlantis was the quiet child in the brood and didn’t get into much trouble.
Endeavour, Kimberly Guodace says, is “my baby.” OV-105 is the orbiter with which Kim spent the most time, in which she had fun just being in the bay. In response to a question about what mementos of the space shuttle program she and her co-workers kept, she said they took no secret keepsakes. Stealing government property like that would be a felony so she doubts any employees swiped mementos. Instead, she claims her memories. And at her NASA crewmates’ request, she shot more than 5000 photographs of Endeavour last year to document 105’s final flow.
Surely, Kim is not thrilled to have lost the job that she began preparing for at eight years of age, but since her layoff, she’s become a NASA docent. She showed up on Saturday morning (after getting up at 2:00a.m.) to serve as a guide for the NASA Tweetup participants on what was indeed launch day for GRAIL. That’s how Doug met her and heard about her lifelong dream of working on the shuttle. Evan after being let go from her job, even as the orbiters are being prepared to become museum artifacts, Kimberly Guodace is still at it.
After a decade-and-a-half career on the frontlines of space systems engineering and an education that includes a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, two M.S. degrees in areas related to space systems, and beginning a Ph.D. in Space Physics, she’s ready to shift gears. She’s making plans to transition to Public Relations, in part to engage with the public on the importance of science and engineering education.
Another tweep on the Tweetup bus asked Kim, what’s next? Kim answered that she gets this question quite a bit, and her answer is to shrug her shoulders. She doesn’t know what the future of United States human spaceflight will be. That said, she has made her own plan for the future: to visit each of the remaining orbiters in their museum homes every year. She says, “Not going to let my babies go.”
TO READ the previous segments in this series, “GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest,” click on the following links:
GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest (LAUNCH PHOTOS!) September 10, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Biology, GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest, GRAILTweetup
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This morning, GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) launched aboard a Delta II Heavy rocket at 9:08:52a.m. Doug stood across the water from Launch Pad 17B of Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. Here are our photographs to prove it!
TO READ the previous segments in this series, “GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest,” click on the following links:
GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest (Part 5) September 9, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Apollo, GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest, GRAILTweetup, Movies & TV, Museums & Archives, Serendipity, Space Shuttle
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One reason we continue to return to Florida’s Space Coast, whenever work schedules and finances allow, is that each trip is an opportunity to discover something that we haven’t seen before. Today’s GRAIL scrub gave rise to yet another unexpected chain of events that ultimately led Doug to the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum (SWOF, because who doesn’t want to acronymize things related to NASA?).
[If you want to catch up with Parts 1-4 in "GRAIL: Another Lofty Quest" before you go on, click HERE.]
Located in downtown Titusville, just a few hundred feet from the water’s edge, SWOF is housed in an unassuming downtown storefront. During Doug’s visit, museum volunteers Betty Conant and Mike Vesey (pronounced like easy) were engaging and enthusiastic about their museum. SWOF previously had been located in the Sear’s Mall on Route 1, but, as Mike Vesey related to me, the rent kept going up and up, and ultimately the museum was forced to relocate. The move was also a downsizing, and parts of the collection are now kept in storage.
And what a collection it is. The bric-a-brac display has the feeling of a small, Midwestern county historical society. Just imagine the kind of museum that one could create if your county’s history encompassed the whole of the United States’ role in space exploration. This gives a rough idea of the scope and content of the museum’s collection.
SWOF is laid out by rough eras: Mercury (with a smattering of Gemini), Apollo, and Shuttle. Two wildcard collections are included: a reconstituted Atlas launch control room and a room that includes fire-and-rescue team materials and items related to Russia’s space programs.
Some rooms contain glass-covered shelving cases with regalia such as commendation plaques, manuals of various types (control room launch procedures, systems, etc.), safety hard hats with the wearer’s names, mission patches, and signed photographs. A wonderful example of the bric-a-brac in the Mercury room is the book Exploring Space with a Camera.
Tucked away in another corner of the Mercury room is one of the museum’s more unusual items: a hatch from an actual Mercury capsule. But this isn’t just any old spacecraft hatch (as if that could ever be true anyway). This hatch is the door from Mercury capsule #4, the first to attempt to fly. Mercury Atlas 1 was launched from the Cape on July 29, 1960. Fifty-eight seconds after launch, traveling at a speed of 1700 mph, a structural failure in the Atlas rocket brought the launch to an ignominious end. The museum’s hatch is appropriately charred and battered, and, as the display script points out, the titanium (an especially tough metal) looks to be torn “like tissue paper.” The display script also tells one of those tales of loss and discovery (much like the Los Alamos limousine we discuss in our “In the Footsteps” series), the sort of tale we have started to expect and yet which continues to amaze us. The museum’s spacecraft hatch was found in a scrap yard by an artist looking for materials to incorporate into his work. In a true expression of serendipity, the artist, Gene Hummel, also happened to be a mechanical engineer for McDonnell-Douglas. And he happened to have worked on the Atlas-Mercury program. And he was there for the day of the ill-fated launch; it was his first month on the job at the Cape. So one of the few people who could identify the meaning of this particular piece of scrap found it.
The museum also contains the reconstituted control consoles from Atlas Launch Complex 36 (pads 36A & 36B). Mike Vesey pointed out that NASA had donated the consoles directly to SWOF, and, although their computational innards were removed, volunteers rewired the switches and lights so that kids could enjoy playing with them. Doug would argue that the setup isn’t only suited for kids, because, after all, what space nerd doesn’t enjoy flipping switches, watching flickering lights in response, and falling into a good daydream.
Among the high points displayed in the Fire-and-Rescue and Russian materials room are the following: a photo of a rescue worker, standing before a Saturn V on a launch pad, clad in his own silvery, spacesuit like garments; a poster of the Lockheed-Martin Family of Launch Vehicles, which contains photos of the Russian Proton launch vehicles; and finally, an item that surreally (that’s our word for the week) blends the room’s two disparate themes, a Russian children’s book about firefirefighters. Like the rug in Lebowski‘s living room, the children’s book “really tied the room together.”
The artifacts in the Apollo room were more astronaut focused than the other collection areas. On the walls hang two training life-support system backpacks and a spacesuit. Just beneath the spacesuit is a display that, in part, answers one of the more common questions asked in the early days of space exploration: how do astronauts go to the bathroom in outer space? As in The Graduate, the answer to the big questions is “plastics.” The complete answer is plastic bags. And they’re here on display.
The room dedicated to Shuttle contains some of the more complete and intricate engineering models in the museum’s collection. On display are a complete Launch Complex 39 crawler, launching pad, rotating service structure (RSS), and shuttle stack. Continuing the theme set up by the Launch Complex 39 models, nearby are pieces of the real thing: mounts that the shuttle assemblage used to rest upon; restraining bolts, thick as an arm, that hold the solid rocket boosters onto the pad; and a 220-lb slice from the crawler’s metal track, or shoe (the entire shoe has approximately the same mass as a Mustang GT, 3500lbs).
Tomorrow, another attempt at launching GRAIL. Doug will rise at 5:00a.m., reconnoiter with the remaining GRAIL Tweetup attendees at the buses at 6:00a.m., and head over to KARS park to witness the launch. The weather is trending better. There exist two “instantaneous” launch windows tomorrow morning, meaning that each opportunity lasts for just a second. Not just a second as in hold on a minute, but exactly 1/60 of a minute. When it comes to this GRAIL launch, just a second means maybe tomorrow.