Browsing articles in "The Launch Pad"

NASA’s Next Giant Leap: Comic-Con 2014

Aug 7, 2014   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

It’s now official.  When NASA comes to do a panel at Comic-Con, the once geeky comic book, action figure, and superhero film convention where if you aren’t dressed up as some character, person, or alien from popular comic fiction, you’re not cool.  I didn’t make it to Comic-Con this year and missed this panel.  After watching this mix of NASA planetary science and engineering and the commentary/questions from the Comic-Con panel facilitator Seth Green, I realized that STEM has moved from the textbooks, the SmartBoards, the classrooms, and even the iPads (that can be seen in the video held high to record the panel) to a new audience of people.

OK, maybe not a totally new audience.  The people who attend Comic-Con are serious about their comics, the art, the movies, the collectibles, the celebrities, the robots, and the science.  It’s cool (yes I said cool) to hear the enthusiasm of Seth in questioning the panel that included NASA astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Fincke, NASA Planetary scientist Dr. Jim Green, and “Mohawk Guy” Bobak Ferdowsi ( (Seth) ” You landed a car on Mars!”) It’s also a great way to give NASA exposure beyond the traditional press conferences, the educational webinars, and even the NASA web portal.  The panel marked the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and it is great to see these guys talking about planetary exploration, space, dreaming of becoming an astronaut, planning the next Mars robotic rover mission, 3-D printing, building habitats on Mars, and the future of exploring the final frontier. 

The wonderful folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are the genius minds behind this. The conversation of space exploration and engineering innovation and what we can look forward to for the next 45 years is fantastic.  Questions from the children are priceless especially the little girl who asked Buzz Aldrin, “What made you want to go to space?  What inspired you?” Watch the panel, enjoy, and be inspired!
 

NASA MSL/Curiosity Landing Event Schedule

Aug 5, 2012   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, Robotics, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

Set your clocks! Live streaming on NASA TV will begin at 6 a.m. this morning and continue into the wee hours of the morning depending on where you live. It’s an event you won’t want to miss. I’ll be at the Adler Planetarium starting at 9:00 p.m.

Curiosity's decent towards Gale Crater

Curiosity’s decent towards the surface of Mars.

August 5, Sunday
6 a.m. – Replay of NASA Science News Conference – Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Mission Status and Entry, Descent and Landing Overview (8/4) – HQ (All Channels)
7 a.m. – Replay of NASA Science News Conference – MSL Mission Science Overview (8/2) – HQ (All Channels)
8 a.m. – Replay of NASA Science News Conference – Mission Engineering Overview (8/2) – HQ (All Channels)
9 a.m. – NASA Television Video File – HQ (All Channels)
10 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Replay of NASA Social for the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Landing – HQ (All Channels)
12 p.m. – NASA Television Video File – HQ(All Channels)
12:30 – 1:30 p.m. – NASA Science News Conference Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Pre-Landing News Conference – Rover Communication overview – JPL (All Channels)
1:30 p.m. – Replay of NASA News Conference to Announce New Agreements for Next Phase of Commercial Crew Development – HQ (All Channels)
2 p.m. – Replay of ISS Update (8/3) – HQ (All Channels)
3 p.m. – NASA Science News Conference Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Pre-Landing News Conference – Rover Communication overview – JPL (All Channels)
4-6 p.m. – Replay of NASA Social for the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Landing – HQ (All Channels)
6 – 7 p.m. – NASA Science News Conference – NASA Science Mission Directorate – JPL (All Channels)
11 p.m. – Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Landing Coverage of Entry Decent and Landing (Commentary #1 Begins 11:30 p.m.) – JPL (Public and Education Channels)
11 p.m. – Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Landing Coverage of Entry Decent and Landing (Clean Feed with Mission Audio Only) – JPL (Media Channel)

August 6, Monday
NET – 2:15 a.m. – Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Post-Landing News Conference – JPL (All Channels)
3:30 – 4:30 a.m. – Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Landing Coverage and Commentary – Commentary #2 – (First Post-Landing Communication Session/Odyssey Downlink) – JPL (All Channels)
6 – 10 a.m. – Live Satellite Post Landing Interviews on the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Mission – JPL (Public and Media Channels)
12 p.m. – Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Post-Landing News Briefing – Landing Recap and Sol 1 Outlook – JPL (All Channels)
7 p.m. – Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Post-Landing News Briefing – Sol 1 Mid-Day Update – JPL (All Channels)

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!

They Have to See It To Be It!

Jun 25, 2012   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

Source: nasa.gov via Pamela on Pinterest


Working with the students at Corliss High School this year has been a truly wonderful experience. Located not far from Chicago Public School’s Fenger Academy, the once home of my NASA K-12 program, the Corliss students are faced with similar academic and social issues as most of the students who attend some of our academically challenged neighborhood schools. As we look at solutions to ensure all of our students get a quality education that includes rigor and offers opportunities to develop future career skills through engaging, hands-on projects and competitions. While talking to a colleague at Corliss, our conversation turned to a philosophy that I have believed in for many years as an educator. For our children to dream to become a computer programmer, astronaut, engineer, systems analyst, web designer, and all of the other STEM careers that are and yet to be available for them to purse, they have to see people who look like them, have shared similar experiences, and can be honest in explaining that STEM is rewarding but comes with hard work and perseverance.

This is why all of us who work to increase the number of historically underrepresented and underserved populations in STEM have to have a personal, vested interest in our young people and be willing to give back. That give back doesn’t have to be in tangible dollars and often becoming a mentor or volunteer with a STEM program can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The NASA Great Moonbuggy Race was my latest endeavor and one of my most challenging but the students at Corliss stepped up to the plate and tackled the task. As I prepare for the 2013 competition, I am looking to bring more young STEM professionals to become part of my STEM efforts so the students understand that it is not an impossible dream. NASA did a feature story on me and my students and I am extending an invitation to those STEM folks out there to please join me in inspiring our young people in the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.

Space X….Launching the New Frontier of Commercial Space

May 23, 2012   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

SpaceX launches Falcon 9 into space (Photo credit James Fink)

There are some amazing sights on this planet but I still find the launch of a space vehicle to be an event that always leaves me in awe of what we are capable of engineering.  SpaceX has successfully launched the Falcon 9 with a Dragon capsule carrying supplies to the International Space Station.  This picture of the rocket taken early Tuesday morning, May 22, with the stars as a perfect backdrop is the beginning of a new era of space flight.  The goal of the mission is for the Dragon capsule to dock with the International Space Station and deliver supplies to the astronauts living high above Earth.  Keep your eyes to the sky and you might be able to see not only the ISS pass by but the Dragon as well.

It’s Official….I’m an Author!

Jan 4, 2012   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

And to think I had started to not think at all, my book and my characters had come to a stall. It’s belief in oneself and a strong self esteem that will keep you inspired and able to dream!
—- Pam Greyer

Starwhirl2012 is the year that many of my dreams will actually come true! In 2006 (it’s been a long time coming) I sat under an amazing starry sky in Arizona on a beautiful summer night. Staring at the stars led to a conversation about student misconceptions of how far away stars were, how we see their twinkle, and most importantly the fact that they are always in the sky but we need the cloak of night for their brilliance to shine! From this conversation came the idea for a book. I’ve been told for years that my strength and true talent is in writing. I realized this many years ago as an undergrad student when a professor told me I had a true gift for writing. My initial dream was to one day win a Cleo award for some phenomenal advertising copy that would surely lead to an award winning campaign. Over the years I wrote everything from print ads, to radio and television commercials, documentaries, business-to-business marketing, collateral pieces, and everything in between. I bought every copy of Writers Digest for years and decided that I would pursue a career as an author. I just had to sit down and write something!

Well I never found the time or to be more specific I never took writing a book seriously. I made some attempts at starting a novel or two over the years but my heart wasn’t in it. When I began teaching years ago I saw this as an opportunity to share not only my skill with a video camera and an editing console, but I could also teach young people how to write and tell stories. I did that over the course of a twenty+ year career as an educator teaching English, Science, and coordinating programs along the way. When I became the Director of the NASA SEMAA Chicago site I came full circle back to my first passion of science but I could also inspire students to develop a love of words as they wrote, blogged, and researched some of the coolest science content on the planet. The idea for the book came in the same year as budget cuts to NASA’s education programs were threatening the closure of some SEMAA sites. We were on that list and I was determined to do everything in my power to keep the opportunity for our young people to stay engaged with NASA.

I originally thought it would be a novel for young adults and I began crafting characters and creating an outline. Then on a flight back to Chicago from Arizona that was more bumpy than normal I caught an inspiration. I think it was really more a fear that if the plane fell out of the sky I would at least have begun my book and while I wouldn’t have it finished in a two and half hour flight it would at least be a good framework and I would know that I didn’t just abandon the idea. That night I wrote seventy-five percent of the book and it morphed from being a novel into a children’s book complete with rhymes and some really stellar characters! I shared it with my family and my son thought it was incredible. “Finish it,” was all he said. This should have been an easy task but I let other things in my life that I gave power and precedence to become more important. I embarked on a mission to move the NASA Aeronautics Education Laboratory to a new location and get the SEMAA site re-opened. Every so often my son would look at me and say, “Finish your book.”

He gave me a deadline of his birthday in June of 2010 but of course while I did go back to the story and did some editing I still wasn’t finished. I watched the principal and Chief Area Officer district shut down one of the most fabulous and unique K-12 STEM programs with NASA as a prime content provider and made a decision that sometimes a incredibly large school district may not be the best partner to effect improvement in science instruction. So armed with seven years of experience in inspiring young people to develop a love of learning about and doing science, The NASA Lady was born. Over the last year I have had some of the most incredible experiences. I was selected for five NASA Tweetups and attended three; the launch of STS-133, 2011 JPL Tweetup, and the SOFIA Media Event. I was selected too for the NASA HQ Tweetup with Astro_Wheels (astronaut Doug Wheelock) and the return of STS-135 at Johnson Space Center in Houston but other commitments kept me from these. I went to the Mojave desert with Teachers in Space and flew in a glider with former space shuttle commander Rick Searfoss and wrote up an experiment that will hopefully get me into the next class of pioneer teachers who will fly into sub-orbital space on XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft in the very near future.

I stay connected with presentations and outreach workshops as a NASA Solar System Ambassador and my volunteer work with the Stars @ Yerkes teacher program will never stop. In reflection of all the challenges I faced in 2011 I also realized that I accomplished some amazing things including the release of our 2010 Imagine Mars Student video project. Thus inspiration hit me at last and I took to the laptop and finished the book on Christmas Eve battling the second worse cold I’ve had in the last ten years but at last I am an author of a book!

They say inspiration comes in many ways and in celebrating the completion of my book there still lies another road ahead, getting it illustrated. The good thing about a novel is you only need cover art but a children’s book isn’t a children’s book without art on every page. A friend of mine and I wanted to catch the Dr. Seuss exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry before it leaves this Sunday. As we walked through the exhibit it was full of inspiration at every turn. Theodore Giesel was more than just a children’s author. He was an incredible illustrator who drew editorial cartoons, magazine covers, and advertising campaigns. While his Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas is embedded in the hearts and memories of most of us, his genius went far beyond that. I read so many of his books to my son when he was little and I always wondered how he came up with those fantastical animals and moving contraptions. The exhibit explained all that, especially the sculptures which he created from beaks, horns, and other parts of dead animals from the Springfield, Massachusetts zoo his father ran. On the way into the Secret Garden, a collection of artwork that Geisel kept away from public eyes for years, there was a large wall that had a very simple message and a series of steps to turn any aspiring writer into a published author. The writings were simple and straight to point. It started off with a huge rejection slip and mentioned the twenty nine publishers that rejected his first book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. There was no talk about finding your muse or creating a comfortable writers space to get inspiration. The philosophy was simple, just write. The same words that my son said to me over and over and over.

Dr. Seuss Quote

The big blue wall encouraged coming up with an idea, crafting your characters, and telling a story. It’s just that simple. Finish it! At the end there was a suggestion too that with the plethora of outlets available for getting your book published these days you could be on your way to literary fame just like Dr. Seuss in no time!

Of course, just like Dr. Seuss my mind never stops. As soon as the illustrations are done the book will be published for the Amazon Kindle and other eReaders. I will epublish it but I want to read it as well to young people so I will need hard copies. There is still magic in turning the pages of a book and running your fingers over beautifully illustrated pages. The book will become part of my new 2012 science literacy initiative and I am excited to share my characters with people around the world to help bring a greater understanding to often confusing science concepts. The little book that almost wasn’t has spawned a complete series that I see in my head even as I write this. I don’t know if I’ll write over forty books like Dr. Seuss but I’m on a roll and as they say, “You’re only as good as your last piece of work.”

It’s great to be alive but even greater to have an opportunity to continue inspiring people from all walks of life in every corner of the world with the wonders that are science and the beauty that space and our Universe so gladly offer up to all of us every day for free.

Peace and Prosperity in the New Year!

XOXO – The NASA Lady

JPL, David Delgado & Imagine Mars

Jun 18, 2011   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, Robotics, The Launch Pad  //  1 Comment

The 2011 JPL Tweetup was the second social media event hosted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The day was packed full of incredible presentations on four new NASA missions launching in the very near future, Aquauarius, Juno, Grail, and the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover as well as highlights of other JPL missions and a heartfelt farewell to the Mars Rover Spirit.

The last presentation of the day was David Delgado and the Imagine Mars Project which is a free online, fabulous resource for teachers, homeschool parents, communities, and students interested in space exploration and building communities. The following video is part 4 of the June 6, 2011 JPL Tweetup with David premiering “The Martians” videos of an incredible summer learning experience about Mars and how when given the tools and the expertise from the NASA JPL team, a NASA Solar System Ambassador, and the staff from the Neighborhood Network centers whose students were part of this program amazing things happen.

From the top and bottom of my heart and everyone in Chicago involved in this project, thank you David, Veronica, and the JPL Imagine Mars team for making this possible!

We Love you!

Bye Bye Earth!

Jun 7, 2011   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

Today’s JPL Tweetup was amazing! So many missions, so much science, and such cool people. Imagine my surprise when the last presenter of the day, David Delgado from the Imagine Mars team, showed this to the entire room and everyone watching NASA TV.

This video was part of a summer NASA outreach experience I volunteered for through the Solar System Ambassador program in 2010. The final cut is awesome and it’s been a long time since I became speechless.

@NASA, @NASAJPL David, @VeronicaMCG, and everyone who worked on this project, we definitely rocked this one!

STEM Girls Rock!

May 26, 2011   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

On Tuesday May 24, I had the special honor of being part of Oakton Community College’s first STEM event for girls and their parents. We have long lists of evidence and reasons why girls do not choose to enter STEM career fields or become interested in and passionate about science, math, technology and most recently, engineering. While the event was designed for parents to provide them with ideas, strategies, and tools to help them inspire their daughters towards STEM, there were many young ladies present too with lots of questions for those of us who served in a lightening round table of questions and answers. It was definitely exciting and fun and it is always wonderful to share my passion of STEM with girls as well as their parents.

This video was shown during the event and it definitely does show how STEM girls rock!

Thanks to Gloria Liu and all the staff at Oakton Community College for organizing a fabulous event. Here are a few tips on inspiring girls to rock STEM:

1. Hook them early on some cool aspect of STEM. For me it was a microscope kit in 5th grade.
2. Encourage their participation in science fairs and other STEM competitions and challenges.
3. Buy them LEGO’s. Research shows that building with LEGO’s increases spatial skills.
4. Be positive and encouraging.
5. Introduce girls to fun STEM events and programs and encourage them to participate in after school,
summer, and enrichment STEM activities, events, competitions, and programs.
6. Mentor, mentor, mentor. Locate mentoring programs for girls interested in STEM.
7. Become involved and bring your ideas on involving and including girls in STEM to your school and community.

We can all make a difference one girl at a time!

Godspeed Endeavor!

May 16, 2011   //   by pgreyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

Space Shuttle Endeavor

Space Shuttle Endeavor Launches into Space

Space Shuttle Endeavor took to the skies at 8:56 am ET this morning on her 25th and final flight.
If you missed the launch watch it here as every time we send humans into space it is an awe inspiring moment.

Commanded by Mark Kelly, husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), and carrying a total of 6 crew members including one European Space Agency astronaut, Italian Andrew Feustal, Endeavor is also carrying a quite unique and possibly groundbreaking instrument as part of the payload. The the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a $2 billion particle accelerator is Endeavour’s main payload and will search for cosmic rays that might help astrophysicists, scientists, and a few friends of mine that study dark matter, come closer to understanding not only what our Universe is made of but its origins as well.

Now, not to the top the scientific nature of the AMS and its importance to the study of our Universe, but there is another payload, one that is very near and dear to my heart, that is also worth mentioning aboard STS-134. LEGO’s! The LEGO Bricks payload is a series of toy Lego kits that are assembled on orbit and used to demonstrate scientific concepts. Some of these models include satellites, a space shuttle orbiter, and a scale model of the International Space Station (ISS). NASA launched the LEGO partnership with events at Kennedy Space Center during the launch of STS-133. Working with those little bricks in space will definitely keep the shuttle crew occupied!

LEGO kits in space!

Model of space vehicles made at KSC NASA/LEGO Event Courtesy NASA

Follow Endeavor’s 16 day mission on NASA TV and UStream and catch the excitement from lucky STS-134 Tweetup participants on Twitter hashtag #NASATweetup.

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