You’re Wondering Now, What To Do July 21, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle, SpaceX
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Now you know this is the end—of shuttle. Today marks the first anniversary of the last-ever landing of a space shuttle, concluding that space program forever. Atlantis landed before dawn in Florida on July 21, 2011, and Anna stayed up very late in California to watch it on NASA-TV.
Click HERE for our slideshow at The Huffington Post.
If you remember that black-and-white image of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon’s surface, if you can recall images from the news coverage of the Challenger accident, if it ever crossed your mind that it might be fun to go to space, if you’ve realized that one of those bright dots moving in the night sky is the International Space Station or thought maybe there’s more to the universe for people to see, think of what this anniversary means: the end of U.S. manned spaceflight. As of today, the United States does not have, on its own, the capability to launch a human being into orbit or beyond.
A year ago, on July 8, 2011, space shuttle Atlantis lifted off right in front of our eyes at Kennedy Space Center. We saw the plumes, heard and felt the fundament-shaking roar of the engines and solid rocket boosters, and felt the heat waft over us. The orbiter rose into the cloud cover. The crew of four—Chris Ferguson, Doug Hurley, Sandy Magnus (a fellow Illinoisan), and Rex Walheim—completed the last shuttle mission to the International Space Station, spending more than twelve days circling two-hundred miles above our heads. A year ago, the crew woke to the song “God Bless America” and begin their descent. Upon landing, Commander Ferguson said, “After serving the world for over 30 years, the shuttle has earned its place in history, and it has come to a final stop.”
On the anniversary of that launch, we shared our slideshow with The Huffington Post. You can click HERE to scroll through those photos we took.
We also wrote a series of posts about our trip to the Space Coast for that launch, which included some amazing pre-launch, launch, and even post-launch activities, like a personal tour of Endeavour in de-processing, seeing SpaceX’s Dragon capsule (a possible corporate way to at least low-Earth orbit), and watching the last shuttle solid rocket booster hauled in from the Atlantic Ocean. You can read those posts HERE.
In case you haven’t watched our video of that launch, we’ve included it below, too. We’ll never again see anything quite like it in real life.
It Takes a Village To Build a Blog June 27, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Space Exploration, Writing.
Tags: Apollo, Art & Science, Museums & Archives, Serendipity, Space Shuttle, SpaceX
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Two years ago this coming Sunday, we launched Lofty Ambitions blog. This piece marks our 276th post. At this second anniversary of our work together as bloggers, we can’t help but reflect that it’s not just about us, that one thing led to another, and that Lofty Ambitions has become more than the sum of its parts.
Two years ago, not many people knew we were interested in the space program and thinking about trying to attend a space shuttle launch. But word traveled quickly, and now family, friends, and strangers refer to us as space nerds. Last fall, when we were checking in for Homecoming at Knox College, a woman behind us said something like, Look, it’s the space nerds. Although we had never met this woman before in person, she had contacted us by email during one of our trips to Space Coast for a shuttle launch. While we were momentarily taken aback by the sudden collapsing of our online world with our physical world, we were happy to be recognized for what we were trying to build and discuss. And she went so far as to suggest that her husband—a scientist, museum curator, and fellow traveler to the Space Coast—might want to write a guest blog. We can’t wait to see it (nudge, nudge).
Occasionally, in extremely thoughtful gestures, these people who’ve discerned our lofty interests give us gifts accordingly. These objects have become part of the blog and our way of thinking about who we are in the world. Even before we began this blogging adventure, our friends Lisa and Jim gave us a beautiful wooden aircraft propeller, a wedding gift and a symbol of our departure for California. Since then, Anna’s mother has passed along a wooden model of the space shuttle that she picked up at an auction. Doug’s boss brought us a rubber bathtub-worthy version of the shuttle that he picked up at an aviation museum. Most recently, Doug’s mom sent us Astro-Barbie and a Lego model of the space shuttle to build, two gifts we wrote about HERE.
Gifts work two ways, of course. One of the objects we purchased during a visit to Kennedy Space Center was a mission patch for STS-107, the last mission of the orbiter Columbia. We gave this memento to Marilyn Harran, the Director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman University, the university where we work. That patch, really just a little something we picked up and thought she might appreciated personally, is now on display as part of a tribute to Ilan Ramon, one of the astronauts who perished in the Columbia accident.
We gave the patch to Marilyn because she recognized us as space nerds early on. In fact, she invited us to a screening of An Article of Hope hosted by the Rodgers Center, and one of the producers of that film about Ilan Ramon and the Columbia accident became our first guest blogger (read his post HERE). Astronaut Mike Massimino participated via Skype in the discussion after the film showed, and we interviewed Massimino months later (see that video HERE), when he and we were at Kennedy Space Center to watch a launch. Even more recently, Marilyn invited us to the naming celebration for the Ilan Ramon Day School, where we saw Ramon’s wife speak and met astronaut-turned-SpaceX-manager Garrett Reisman (read about that HERE).
Other mission patches from the mother of Sally Ride, the nation’s first woman in space, were donated to the Leatherby Libraries by a library board member, in large part because Doug has made it known we’re interested in space exploration and the shuttle program. Doug has also worked with NASA to add several original models of satellites and a thermal tile from a shuttle orbiter to the library’s archives (read more HERE and HERE).
The most extensive collection of shuttle-related materials in the archives is the Roger and Roberta Boisjoly NASA Challenger Disaster Collection. The collection consists of boxes of documents, photos, and pieces of o-rings that Roger donated to Chapman University as a result of his long-time friendship with our colleague Mark Maier, who studies workplace ethics. Recently, Doug has worked with archivist Rand Boyd to develop a lecture and traveling exhibit, which made its debut at the Columbia Memorial Space Center earlier this month (an event that deserves its own post in the weeks to come). Roger, who died early this year, wrote a guest post for us HERE.
The objects—the propeller, the toys, the patches—represent the people and events who have shaped, cheered on, and contributed to the blog. The people, events, and objects, along with our writing here, have become a self-reinforcing process. We rack up this dynamic to serendipity, knowing full well that these happy collisions aren’t really accidental. Shared intellectual space, whether physical (Doug works across the hall from Marilyn) or virtual, creates the opportunity for these interactions. Because the blog keeps us attuned to all things space, science, and writing, we notice and can take advantage of these interactions because they’re especially meaningful to us.
We know we’re not alone in this project we call Lofty Ambitions. One of the most wonderful examples of the village that builds this blog is the email we received from a father whose son was doing a history project about space exploration and the Cold War. The boy and his research partner wanted to talk with an Apollo astronaut because such a primary source would distinguish their project in the state competition. We pointed the father to a few contacts, with little expectation that he’d get through. Alan Bean, Apollo 16 veteran and now a painter, responded to the man’s email almost immediately and set up a ten-minute phone conversation with the fifth-grade historian. Inspired by that success, the man tracked down a couple of other astronauts. The boy and his research partner became champions in California’s National History Day state competition.
Lofty Ambitions is more than the sum of its parts. It’s more than what you see on the blog each week. The reach and rewards of our work are greater than the number of hits, re-posts, or tweets. As we mark our two years of traveling and writing together, we thank our readers for becoming part of the village that builds a blog.
Lofty Ambitions at The Huffington Post June 2, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Information, Space Exploration, Writing.
Tags: Space Shuttle, SpaceX
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Yep, that’s right. We’re blogging at The Huffington Post, too.
Our co-written posts there are, of course, about the same sorts of things we discuss here. But the content is different, and we take a slightly different approach there. And if you read the comment threads over at HuffPost, you’ll see a lot of strong opinions about space exploration, the role of NASA, the future of SpaceX, and much more. We’d like our regular Lofty Ambitions readers to get involved in that HuffPost conversation too.
Here are the links to our pieces published at The Huffington Post thus far:
SpaceX: Giving Berth, Hatching, Making a Splash (June 1, 2012)
SpaceX: Future or Failure? (May 22, 2012)
In addition, Anna is posting at HuffPost on her own and also with a group of fellow creative writing teachers. Here are the links for those pieces:
The Itsy-Bitsy Book Club (May 17, 2012)
Setting the Record Straight on Creative Writing (April 12, 2012)
What Is Creative Writing Anyway? (February 27, 2012)
Creative Writing Can Be Taught (February 4, 2012)
Busy Week in Space! May 25, 2012Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Movies & TV, Space Shuttle, SpaceX
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This week marked a milestone in space exploration: the successful launch of a space capsule by a private company and its berth with the International Space Station this morning. We wrote about SpaceX’s Dragon mission at The Huffington Post; click HERE to read our piece and a pretty interesting conversation in the comment thread. We’re set to do a follow-up there tomorrow, after we see how the opening of the hatch goes.
Yesterday, too, marked an important anniversary: the second time an American orbited the Earth. As part of the first U.S. manned space program, Project Mercury, astronaut Scott Carpenter climbed into Aurora 7 atop an Atlas rocket and launched into outer space. Her spent almost five hours there. Carpenter flew this mission only after Deke Slayton was grounded with a heart problem. Carpenter was the back-up pilot for the mission John Glenn flew to become the first American to orbit the Earth, and Glenn and Carpenter remain the only living Mercury astronauts. Our personal connection to this event is that, for four years, Doug worked for a high-tech company based in Carpenter’s hometown, Boulder, Colorado. And of course, we recently chatted with Glenn during “Discovery Departure.”
Today, the day of Dragon’s first berth, is the anniversary of President Kennedy’s speech before Congress in 1961 that announced his goal for the United States to put a man on the Moon by the end of that decade. (View an excerpt HERE and the complete transcript HERE.) April had been a bad month for the Kennedy administration, with Yuri Gagarin orbiting the Earth (view the launch footage HERE) and, thereby, giving the Soviets the lead in the Space Race, not to mention the Bay of Pigs. Among the “numerous and varied” proposals designed to combat “the adversaries of freedom” was that “that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” Just one day shy of a year later, Scott Carpenter was orbiting the Earth, taking the early steps in the process of reaching the Moon.
Today is also the birthday of two cosmonauts, Georgy Grechko, born in 1931 before jet aircraft existed, let alone anyone was serious about going to space, and Ivan Bella, born three years after Kennedy’s speech. Between 1975 and 1985, Grechko flew several missions, including a repair mission that brought the freezing, inoperable Salyut 7 space station back to life. In 1999, Bella spent almost eight days aboard Mir, the Russian space station.
And of course, just a year ago, space shuttle Endeavour was in the midst of its last mission, the crew giving a variety of press interviews before some serious spacewalking the next day.
Perhaps, though, today’s most meaningful anniversary for us is the release of Star Wars in 1977. Thirty-five years ago this summer, we each saw Star Wars for the first of what would ultimately be dozens of times. Although Star Wars and Star Trek have been compared in innumerable ways, for this Lofty Duo, both franchises have been much in our minds and in the news lately. Star Trek has been a regular presence in our lives lately because of its association with the Space Shuttle Enterprise, so named because of a write-in campaign by fans of the original series bombarded NASA with cards and letters, and because the ashes of James Doohan, who played Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, were carried to and dispersed in low-Earth orbit this week. Serendipitously, Doohan’s ashes were lofted into orbit by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which is of course named after Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon.
Tomorrow will mark other anniversaries. Apollo 10, the last mission before someone set foot on the Moon, safely returned Tom Stafford, John Young, and Gene Cernan to Earth on May 26, 1969. This mission offered television viewers back on the ground the first color broadcast from space. And they tested the lunar module, though NASA did not give them enough fuel to land on the Moon and return to the capsule, probably because they knew a person that close to the Moon’s surface would be tempted to just go ahead and do it.
And Saturday is also Sally Ride’s 61st birthday. Ride joined NASA in 1978 and became the first American woman in space in 1983, on STS-7. She flew again on STS-41G in 1984. She served on the Challenger Accident Investigation Board, after which Roger Boisjoly, a whistleblower in that investigation and a Lofty Ambitions guest blogger, credited Ride as one of the few people who publicly supported his efforts. In 2003, years after she retired from NASA, she served on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the only person to serve on both accident investigation boards.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.