Thursday, August 28, 2014

Astronauts, Launches, Space Science Writing and #ISSRDC

I've never met anyone that had the opportunity to see a shuttle or rocket launch and wasn't changed by it. Most of us become addicted, lining the streets, bridges and nearby waterways to feel that rumble. 

Three years ago today, I was sitting on the banks of the Indian River, with my three sisters, hoping to see my first and last shuttle launch.
It would be the only shuttle launch the four of us would ever see in person because STS-135 was the last shuttle mission NASA would fly.

I wrote about it in THIS blog post, which I reread myself last night, had a good laugh over and shed a few tears at the happy memory. Or, you can just watch the video we posted a couple hours afterwards, so that our family and friends back home could experience what we did. I think Christine shot it with her little hand cam, but it captures the excitement in the crowd that day. 

The number of us that gets to go to space, live in low-Earth orbit aboard the ISS or train to be astronauts, is fewer, but NASA does a great job of keeping us in the loop. And for so many years, so many launches, I have watched NASATV broadcasts because it was the only option I had. 
I neglected to tell y'all about that time I was on NASATV.

Writing is my thing and space is my passion, so it only makes sense that I write more about space. Writing about space science is what I'll be focused on this year- bills be damned! 

I am a firm believer that we all have a part in the current developments that are taking place in regards to space, even if it's just in the role of spectator. I am also a firm believer that you can't just experience one launch and be done with it, even if you only ever can view them remotely. 
Photo Credit: Jared Haworth, Jared took this shot of the SpaceX3 launch from on top of the VAB!

Whenever you meet anyone that is interested in space, the first question is always "Have you seen a launch?", and anyone with a story tells it. I've been fortunate to meet and listen to many astronauts tell their stories. I had the extreme fortune, very recently, to meet NASA astronauts Frank Culbertson (passionate about rockets), Greg Johnson (passionate about education & space opps), Nicole Stott (passionate about kids and space) and John Grunsfeld (passionate about JWST) at home, in Chicago, for the International Space Station Research & Development Conference (ISSRDC).
After the SpaceX3 launch I attended and ISSRDC I noticed that the conversations are starting to change. More and more I am talking to "normal" folks of all ages, folks that are sending up rockets, equipment on rockets, experiments on rockets and accessing the International Space Station like we never have before. Yes, we are on track to send our astronauts back into space with our own vehicles again (Hallelujah!), but at the same time all of us are being given incredible opportunities to take what we know, what we want to know, in order to benefit life here on Earth. 

With each of these conversations I have, the students, educators, and medical researchers, among others, mention the launches. Not all of them have been able to see their payloads head to orbit in person, but all of them have seen their launches. And all of them agree that they would love to see it again. Whenever the opportunity to view a launch arises, I will take full advantage. But even if I can't be there I know I'll still have an awesome view. In the meantime I'll be busy coming up with a way to make my mark on history with a genius science experiment to send to LEO, and I know that everyone will line up to fund it ;).    
Retired Space Shuttle Atlantis at KSC Visitor Center, FL