Tag Archives: STS-131

Looking Back at 2010

To make a tradition stick forever you must do it year after year. I am not sure if year three of this blog review makes this a tradition. However, let’s still call it my “Traditional Year End Countdown” of all the major moments in my life over this past year. This year Chris went back to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, I changed jobs and the changed again, I made it to Fourth of July on the farm for the first time in a long time and who could forget all the times I tried to give away my dog, poor Boo. While looking back I realized this year could be known as the STS 131 Year! Let’s take a look at the top ten moments of 2010 for this redhead.

Facts of Life Summer: It was one of those summers that you take the good, you take the bad, and there you have the facts of life! I always loved Jo on that show. I did have a great summer in retrospect; however it was difficult not being around camp programs. Since I was 15 years old, I have spent my summers working with children. In April I left camp operations to be the Director of Education and work with teacher camp.  Leaving that was not easy. However, I learned lots about myself, good and bad. Now that I am back where my heart is happy I just have too work hard and do what I am called for! I loved my job as Director of Education, but helping a kid overcome homesickness is more fun than teaching teachers! Sorry, love you teachers (Rhonda & Veronique).

Red Bull Racing: Driving back from the launch of STS 131, I checked my email. NASCAR driver and Red Bull Racing team member, Ryan Vickers was going visit camp the day we returned to work. I felt it was my duty as Red Bull to volunteer my services as tour guide and show our friend around camp. Ryan Vickers is such a nice guy! He was so friendly and nice. He was really interested in space and what we did at camp. The neatest thing I observed while hanging with the NASCAR driver was when I offered him a bottle of water. His assistant took the bottle from my hand, removed the paper label and then handed it to Ryan. It was not a Coke product. He wasn’t in the winner’s circle or on a race track, but the sponsors are still priority.

The iPad Revolution: I know that this may seem silly, but starting the iPad revolution at camp was monumental for me. When I started working nights at Space Camp I saw the value of my iPhone (this too was a great adventure of 2010) when answering questions and concerns by campers and staff. I have had fun teaching Marcia about the power of the iPad. It seems like a magic window that helps me get my work done more easily. With all the apps and multi-tasking tools, emailing, and fun facebooking, the iPad is one of the best and most useful gifts Chris has ever given me. I only wish that Bill Cosby would create a Picture Page app for the iPad! To all my Aerospace iPad friends, let’s have a productive 2011.

Snapper and Redbull at Oak CreekRiver Adventures: I have recruited for Space Camp at colleges far and wide for four seasons. There are two colleges I look forward to visiting each year, Embry Riddle in Arizona and my school, Delta State in Mississippi. This year our recruiting involved adventures around rivers and creeks. In Arizona, Snapper and I trekked up Oak Creek at Slide Rock where I discovered the meaning of Slide Rock. In Mississippi, I took Snapper to one of my favorite hang outs during college, a sand bar at Rosedale along the mighty Mississippi River. Both of these rivers have come to mean a lot to me. However, the adventures I had on both of them made this year’s recruiting season the most enjoyable on to date!

Yankee Adventure: Chris and I made our second trip to New York City. This time we didn’t just spend a day in the Big Apple. We adventured around the city along with watching three MLB games. Among our stops along the site seeing tour was the U.S.S. Intrepid, Chelsea Market, B&H Photography – the most amazing store in the world, the Top of the Rock, Grand Central Station, and Central Park. The great thing about New York City is that visiting the concrete jungle is totally out of the normal for Chris and me. I would much rather play in the mud or work at Pottery Barn, but visiting America’s welcome center is always a learning experience. Go Yankees!

Christmas Calendar of Awesomeness: If you don’t know me, I haven’t been a fan of Christmas for the last few years. It is a time of travel and in-laws and not much focusing on the greatest of Christmas. Christmas is a time for family and friends to remember the great gift of Christ’s birth. But for many of the past years it has worn away at me. A few years back Snapper promised to help me find the Christmas spirit again. Unfortunately that was the year of mono for her. This year she made good on that promise. She made the Christmas Calendar of Awesomeness. It was simple, each working day she gave me a small happy with a Christmas quote. It made an advent calendar of sorts. It helped me remember the coolness of Christmas. Christmas this year was great for this and many other reasons!

Alex and Luke Visit Camp: When Alex and Luke visited camp I wasn’t their escort that was the job of Charity the social network guru. I met Alex and Luke at the Astronaut luncheon with Bob Springer. Charity had chatted with them about their adventures around North America on their social media directed tour of the greatest country in the world. I gave Alex and Luke something I thought was just a simple happy, a Space Camp coin. Luke mentioned later in a road trip recap video it was one of his favorite tokens. This made me so proud of the work that has been done since Alumni Andi and the Space Camp coin first started. Alex and Luke are great people and I am envious of there road trip… I also wish I could live Red 3’s adventurous life!

STS 131 Trip: In early spring a group of Space Camp staff traveled to Florida for the launch of STS 131. This wasn’t any shuttle launch for Space Camp. Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger was a Mission Specialist on board and the first Space Camp alumni to travel into space. It was the perfect event! Night launches are the best. Hanging out with co-workers and friends was amazing. The road trip down was a great adventure. And how can we forget Doug Wheelock, “Pig on the right, Shuttle on the left.” Tears and cheers were on the balcony of the OSBII that morning as we saw STS 131 lift off with Dottie and Space Camp riding along!

The 4th HOF Event: This year we had the Hall of Fame that we all wanted and looked for since its inception. Max Q played after dinner under the Saturn V, Hoot Gibson was simply a guest, Dottie joined us for the event, and the whole family seemed to be there. Personally, having Rhonda, Veronique, Snapper, and Safety there, and others who have been there every year, made the HOF very special for me. This year the HOF event was more like a family reunion and less like a production. Thank you, Mike Flachbart!

Wings in Space: I think I was taking a shower when I thought about asking Dottie to take along a few Space Camp wings on STS 131. It only seemed fitting that she take along the symbol of a Space Camp graduate along with her. I was so honored that she agreed to take a pair of Space Camp and Space Academy wings. What was even cooler was to discover after the mission Dottie took them out and posed for a family photo onboard the ISS. She and the over 500,000 graduates represented in those wings, floating in space! The day she presented the wings at graduation was one of my proudest moments at camp. The wings currently can be found on the wall of Discovery MOCR on the MCC floor at Space Camp.

All in all this has been an outstanding year! I look forward to 2011 and the many adventures I will go on! I do hope to write more, laugh more, and have more free time… next year.

STS-131: A Space Camp Field Trip

Twenty years ago when Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger graduated from Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama she dreamed of one day working for NASA. In 2004, she entered the NASA training program for Astronaut Candidates. Yesterday, she launched into space onboard Discovery. When the crew of STS-131 launched there was nearly twenty Space Camp employees and board members at Kennedy Space Center. It was a field trip of sorts. We all felt so proud of our first Space Camp alumni astronaut we had to make the trip down.

Chris, Kerby, and I left on Friday night at eight o’clock. We felt like we were in college again driving to Florida. We drove through the night and only stopped twice before arriving in Titusville at breakfast time Saturday morning. Our plan was to rest and then go to a few pre-launch receptions to mingle with other space geeks. A shuttle launch is like a spring break trip for geeks. Rather thank going to Panama City, drinking copious amounts of Natty Light, partying until day break, and wearing next to nothing. Space geeks assemble around Kennedy Space Center, drink a respectable about of Jack and Coke, wake up in the middle of the night to see a shuttle launch at day break while wearing business casual.

We connected with space geek and Tennessee Squire Leesa and her friend Julie to venture around the pre-launch celebrations. While at the Hilton Cocoa Beach we bumped into astronaut Stephen Robinson. Hanging out with an astronaut is always fun, but he was talking with three other Space Camp alumni, all of whom are huge supports of space flight. We need more events like this to build the Space Camp alumni base. Meeting these ladies during a pre-launch party when the first Space Camp graduate was prepping for her adventure in space was special to me. The whole trip was special, it was a once in a life time experience.

Sunday morning we toured KSC focusing on the area around launch pad 39A. Discovery was prepped and ready. Our group got to go beyond the tour gates. Our tour guide and astronaut guest urged us to stay in the roped area. I love to venture off from tour groups, but this was one time I wasn’t going to disobey. I was so committed to the rule of staying in the roped off area that when the command came to reload the bus, I reminded our guide that she told us to “stay in the roped off area.” To be 300 yards from the Space Shuttle on the pad is like seeing your favorite baseball player hit a grand slam. Or since the Space Shuttle is so old, it is like seeing Brett Favre pass for the winning touchdown.

We woke up Monday at midnight. I wasn’t sleepy; I was wired like I had just finished 10 Red Bulls. I was about to see a shuttle launch. And not just any launch, the launch of Space Camp’s first astronaut and with some of my favorite people! It took us about an hour to drive to the Operations Support Building II (OSBII). We entered a big conference room with large projection screens and televisions on the walls. Astronauts, Senators, Congressmen, and members of the President’s Cabinet filed into the room. I was more interested in watching the live telecast of the white room. I heard a collective cheer on Facebook and Twitter from Space Camp graduates around the world when Dottie appeared on camera.

When Charlie Bolden entered the room, Marcia and I made our move for an STS-61C sandwich and to present the NASA Administrator with a Space Camp coin. Hoot Gibson, friend of Space Camp and astronaut extraordinaire, had flown with Charlie Bolden on STS-61C. When I spoke to Hoot on Saturday night, he encouraged me to ask Bolden for a sandwich. An STS-61C sandwich is defined as an embrace from one of the male members of STS-61C with a lady between him and another male. Unfortunately, Hoot was not at the launch to complete the sandwich. I know it might be a stretch, but at that moment I felt like I was a Space Camp Ambassador spreading world peace from our little camp program.

The time came to assemble on the balcony of the OSBII. The countdown clock was still in the nine minute hold. The OSBII is right beside the VAB and just behind the press viewing area. We were three miles from the launch pad. We could see the shuttle’s ET and some of the orbiter. The servicing structure just blocked the shuttle from view. There had been some concern with a fuel cell, fog around the Cape, and the eastern range but everything was clear and the mission was go coming out of the hold. As the clock moved toward launch everyone listened and watch like little kids waiting on Santa. When the shuttle main engines ignited it appeared like New Years sparklers on the pad, there was a flash, but we didn’t hear anything. The SRBs ignited with a bright flash but it wasn’t until the shuttle left the pad that the light from the SRBs flooded the night sky. It was so bright that you wanted to turn away, but I didn’t dare even blink. I was watching the second to last launch of Discovery and the last night launch.

As the shuttle rocketed toward space, we could see the reflection of the exhaust on the water surrounding the pad. When the sound of the shuttle made it to our ears, it roared louder than any sporting event or race car. It shook the whole building, my body, my heart. It was amazing! Tears were welling in my eyes as I flashed back to every shuttle launch I saw on TV and the one I saw a few years back. So much was connected to the launch: Dottie’s connection to Space Camp, the fourth to last launch of the only American manned spacecraft that has flown in my life time, I was their with punkin, my boss and friends, and so on.

Dreams are important things. If we don’t dream then we won’t have direction. We will amble around this world looking for something to give us happiness. Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger is a teacher and astronaut. Her mission to the ISS will inspire many to dream. In being part of Space Camp, my mission is similar: to inspire the next generation of dreamers. Our Space Camp field trip to the launch of STS-131 has inspired me more than I could have imagined. It was a magnificent sight with powerful sounds and emotions. I am thankful, lucky, and blessed to work at Space Camp!

Wild Pig on the Right

On the left you will see the Space Shuttle, and on the right there is a wild pig, wild pig on the right! As we were driving parallel to the crawler-way our tour guide Doug Wheelock (aka Wheels) exclaimed “Wild pig on the right.” In all its glory the Space Shuttle could not top the male pig we saw running through the Florida swamp land. Merritt Island is a wildlife refuge known for eagles and alligators, but you would not think of a wild pig.

This morning started with the Shuttle Launch Experience at KSC with the whole gang! We then ventured out to the OPF, the shuttle landing facility with four T-38s and a few STAs, and the mate-demate facility, oh there was the VAB and oh my… pad 39A. Yes, that was one really long run-on sentence, but even Marcia geeked out. All of this on top of the fact that Space Camp’s first alumni will be onboard Discovery for STS-131. I am so excited! I need to go to bed, but I just don’t think that will be possible!

We had a wonderful meal at Grills near Port Canaveral. Rock shrimp with our friend Jack as cruse ships passed by was wonderful! LeRoy was there dancing with Marcia, Kerby, and me as we prepared for our launch experience. Right now we are at the two hour hold and tanking will start soon. I guess I should ready for bed and watch NASA TV. Good Luck and God Speed!

Oh, I hope Haney is ok; she was stuck with a stiletto at work.

Dreams in Space

At the very top of the cork-board in my office are my wings that I received at Space Academy graduation in 1990. Wow, it has been twenty years since I was a camper here in Rocket City. My graduation wings are very dear to me. My wings are symbolic of the experience here in Huntsville that changed the way I saw education. To all who have them, the Space Camp wings should represent a spirit of exploration and a commitment to advance our knowledge of the world around us. With a set of wings, you can dream big dreams and those Space Camp wings will encourage you to follow your dreams.

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger is also a 1990 graduate of the Space Camp programs and the first Space Camp alumni to be selected for the astronaut corps. She has described her camp experience as life changing. In 2007, Dottie was inducted into the Space Camp Hall of Fame. On Monday, April 5th, her and the crew of STS – 131 are scheduled to launch on a mission to the International Space Station. This will make her the first Space Camp graduate to travel into space.

Everyone at Space Camp is excited about this launch. There is a large delegation of Space Camp staff and USSRC board members that will be watching the launch at the cape. In January, Dottie agreed to fly Space Camp wings on board Discovery. I am one of the lucky ones that will be present for the launch. I am excited to be there for the launch but I am also excited that something so symbolic of Space Camp will be flying as cargo when our first Space Camp astronaut ventures into space.

I love space flight! I hope that everyone watches on Monday morning and then writes a letter to our Congressional leaders to support manned spaceflight or sends a kid to Space Camp. I hope everyone is encouraged by this mission just as I am each time I see my Space Academy wings on my cork-board. We can do anything, we should dream big dreams!

Other Media on Dottie’s Mission:

USA Today: ‘Perfect job’ thrills teacher-astronaut

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger prepares for Space Shuttle Discovery launch