Browsing articles from "July, 2012"

This Week In Retrospect

Jul 8, 2012   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

This video, compiled by McLean Fahnestock, is a breathtaking reminder of the beauty of the Space Shuttle Program and the truth of whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve. All of the Shuttle launches are here including Challenger but watch the video understanding that on each of those launches human beings are in the Shuttle being carried on a large external tank full of fuel with two single rocket boosters on the side as it climbs its way into the heavens. Whatever you feel as you watch and after its over, realize that while the Space Shuttle Program has ended there is still unlimited possibilities for the United States to send humans into space and these innovations will be the next chapter in human space flight history.

This time last year I was in the company of thousands of people whose love for America’s space program echoed and cheered an engineering feat of human possibilities that allowed us to travel frequently into space to open new frontiers in discovery. For the thirty years that the Space Shuttle Program operated we were able to see astronauts riding atop a rocket in small capsules to a vehicle that looked more like an airplane and had the ability to return to Earth not by falling into the ocean but gliding to a landing time and time again. STS-135 was the last flight of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program and a year later I still have people comment to me that NASA has shut down. This is far from the truth of course but it is interesting how many people actually believe the only thing that NASA did was the Space Shuttle program and now that the shuttle will no longer fly NASA has just quit being.

NASA continues to innovate of course and for those space enthusiasts amongst us we know how much cool science and engineering is still going on but as most of my friends and I concur, there is a special thrill and awe to realizing humans are riding rockets into space, they spend time high above us during shuttle and ISS missions, and except for two untimely tragedies, all have returned to Earth to share their stories and experiences. Is it scary? All astronauts I have talked to as well as those I have heard tell their tales of Space Shuttle missions say yes. When I learned the process Shuttle astronauts go through in relation to family and loved ones it was surreal but grounding at the same time. We often don’t give much thought to how astronauts personally feel about going to space. Some of us think they are pretty lucky people while others think they are completely crazy. “You can die!” Yes, space is dangerous and when you commit to being an astronaut you also commit to the unknown and the probability that something can go wrong but you don’t dwell on the negative. I can just imagine how the astronauts who flew on STS-26 “Return to Flight” must have felt. Reading the engineering and flight preparation logs are enough to make anyone wonder why or how we kept launching Shuttles into space with so many problems. My first live launch, STS-133 was no different. There were problems that were identified and worked on, Discovery’s launch was rescheduled, and rescheduled, and rescheduled. Slips, as they are called, happen but the safety of the crew is what is most important and we didn’t mind waiting for the right and the safest possible launch.

I wish I had traveled to Florida to see more launches in my lifetime but sometimes there are things in our lives which take priority over others. I am thankful to NASA for giving me the opportunity to share with 150 other space tweeps the joy and sheer wonder of STS-133 during the NASA Tweetup event which has become known as the longest NASA Tweetup in history. I also thank all of those friends as well as the wonderful people at NASA gave us more than we ever could have bargained for in what was supposed to be a two day event but stretched into one that lasted 115 days.

To all my friends, students, parents and everyone else on the planet who shares a love for scientific discovery, education, and the ability to dream and dream big, this post is for you!


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