Tag Archives: Max-Q

Fueling the Dream

On Friday night, Space Camp held its fourth annual Space Camp Hall of Fame celebration to induct four new members into the HOF family. After months of preparation, and in my opinion with three previous HOF events as practice, we had the best ever HOF event. While it took us a few years to get the full vision of the event worked out; sometimes it takes a little time to get the recipe right. If I can continue with the cooking analogy, the HOF Executive Chef was Mike Flachbart, he was the sole reason the event was such a success.

I arrived at work just after six o’clock. It was like Christmas morning, I could not sleep the night before and I was just ready for the biggest event ever for Space Camp. Not the largest for the USSRC or the largest in number of attendees for Space Camp, but Space Camp Hall of Fame 2010 was years in the making. It had finally arrived and was a mix of huge wedding and giant family reunion. Even the previous day was filled with buzz and anticipation as guests and friends arrived in Huntsville.  These feelings carried on to Friday morning.

Friday morning at graduation we had special guests Don Thomas and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger. Dottie is Space Camp’s first astronaut, a teacher and a really nice person. She graduated from Space Academy in April of 1990 and twenty years later flew onboard STS 131 in April of 2010. On STS 131 she carried with her two pair of camp wings. I was greatly honored to be there when they were presented back to Space Camp. Helping get the wings into space has been one of my proudest endeavors as a Space Camp staffer. I was shocked that she took photos of the wings while on the ISS. It was very kind of Dottie to fly the wings and even more thoughtful to take pictures of them on orbit.

The inductees this year were Francis French, David Hnyda, Andrea Hanson, and Danny Jaques. Each inductee is very accomplished in their field and has made Space Camp very proud. Francis was a camper and now is the director of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. David Hnyda and Andrea Hanson were both Space Camp counselors. David is currently at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Maryland. Andrea is a post-doctoral research scientist and engineer continuing her passion of Space Life Sciences. Danny Jaques is a middle school teacher in Colorado and has shared the dream of Space Camp by bringing dozens of his students to camp each spring.

There to help celebrate these worthy inductees where a large number of other Space Camp Hall of Famers. Staff, community leaders, friends, and families were in attendance. Also there was Max Q, the all astronaut band. Having Max Q there was an accomplishment that was two years in the making. We asked the band several times but schedules and shuttle launches prevented the group from attending. Sitting in with the band was one of the founding members, Hoot Gibson. Hoot is definitely a friend to Space Camp. And if you didn’t see the Weather Channel on Friday morning, Stephanie Abrams was at camp doing the weather and to be emcee of the Hall of Fame event.

Needless to say, it was an amazing night. But amazing nights require hard work and preparation. I think the best part of the preparation was during the sound check for Max Q. A dozen counselors were setting up tables and center pieces under the mighty Saturn V as a band played in the background. It wasn’t just any band.  It was the all astronaut band. Moments like that, I realize how truly lucky I am to work at such an awesome place. Honestly, I felt that way most all of Friday.

So looking back at it all and reflecting on an amazing day. I am so proud to be a part of Space Camp! I love the place. It is a camp and educational facility where kids gain self confidence as they learn what it takes to explore the world of space and aviation. Don Thomas talked at graduation about the sign above the doors at Space Camp – Through these doors enter the next generation of Astronauts, Scientists, and Engineers. But it really wasn’t completely true until Dottie visited the ISS this spring. The dream of von Braun is still alive and well in Huntsville, Alabama. Not even a dull politician can extinguish that flame. I am just thankful to be part of this great place… even if I am mean! Thanks Danny!

Space Geeks Unite

Since I was a little girl each time I traveled I didn’t get homesick or eager to get home until I began the trip home. There is something about repacking my suit case that makes want to be home right away. Once on a trip to New Mexico my father asked me on the last days of our journey what I wanted to do next. In a Denny’s in El Paso, Texas I said I wanted to go home. So we crossed Texas in thirteen hours hitting Dallas at three in the morning to end our vacation early. Call me a sucker for home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. I would not sacrifice travel just to be at home everyday. Maybe it is just being away from home that makes me appreciate home more. When I have traveled to other countries I have cherished my home country and yearned to see the stars and stripes flying over head again. I am very blessed to have traveled so much in my life. I am lucky to have had parents that instilled in me a desire to investigate the world around me. With that travel and investigation I have grown and learned about myself, my country, and about my world.

My trip to Houston is almost over and I am at the airport anxious to be back in Huntsville. The SEEC conference in Houston is a time for me to be a space geek, relax with friends, and to get way from work and everyday life. I have been to six out of the last seven conferences. And will visit again, but now it is time to reflect just a little bit. On this trip I have visited with former AC staff, old friends, and astronauts. I visited the historic mission control, JSC’s Saturn V rocket, and Ellington Field. I have listened to really great speakers and not learned the difference between yaw, pitch, and roll.

The first year I visited this conference was just after Columbia was lost during re-entry. Lots of the Space Camp gang made the trip. Kramer, Chuck, Dan, Sharon, Anderson, Kat, Rhonda, and Tony are the names that come to mind right now. We visited with friends and tried to get the word out about camp programs at the same time. I remember the huge group that crowded around Barbara Morgan. This year the only ones from that first group who attended are Rhonda and me.

In 2006, the conference organizers added a tour of Ellington Field and the flight operations for NASA aircraft. At the time JSC operated the T-38, the C-9 or Weightless Wonder, the Shuttle Training Aircraft, modified Gulfstream 2, a pair of WB-57s, and the Super Guppy. Each aircraft at Ellington serves a specific purpose to NASA. All of the aircraft had roles in the military or civilian world before NASA took them into service. I love aircraft. There is nothing like the smell of an airplane hanger, especially one that has a high performance jet in it.

During my last visit to Houston, Rhonda, Makins and I visited Boondoggles for dinner and a drink or two. This watering hole is known to many as the hangout for many NASA employees and astronauts. Since that visit in 2007 I have made a friend who told me of the Outpost Tavern. It was once known as the astronaut’s bar. If you are familiar with the movie Space Cowboys, with Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood, this is the bar where scenes were filmed. So if I visited Boondoggles, I had to visit the Outpost. Rhonda and I walked into the sparsely populated bar. It looked and smelled like a dive, but on the wall were photographs of countless astronauts and other Outpost patrons. There were photos of pilots and astronauts, mission patches and NASA signage. The place looked like it could tell stores of all sorts. There was even a tail hook on the wall. I even left something for the wall from Space Camp there. I gave them a 2009 calendar to hang on the wall.

The highlight of all my trips to Houston and the SEEC conference is the Friday night banquet. To a space geek it is a party like no other. It is a dinner with dancing. Not being a dancer I enjoyed the music of Max Q. Max Q is the band made up of astronauts. During the time they play you can socialize with teachers and other astronauts. It is a laid back event which is enjoyable for the geeks and non-geeks. Makins sister said it best a few years back, the world is in harmony that all the geeks are in one place together. I guess you could call it, Geekstock 2009.

Now I am in Dallas, on my final leg and even more anxious to be at home. I love travel, but it does get old. I miss Chris, Boo and the rabbit. Plus, I left my travel buddy at her gate, B10 headed for Moline, Illinois. Now it is just me. I am sitting on the floor near the gate typing on my laptop. For those who know about my iPhone, I am wearing it and my Dixon is tucked behind my ear. I am eager to get home to my pencil sharpener. Wherever I am and whatever I do, I will enjoy the adventure.