Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

A few space valentines for today.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2dayNspace: My kind of moon shot!

February 6th 1971 - Fra Mauro
 A 6-iron clubhead outfitted with a little fitting (courtesy of the Rive Oaks CC golf pro) slid onto a retractable instrument used to collect samples while on the moon.  Alan Shepard chose a six iron since the length was similar to the instrument.  At the conclusion of their activities, he retrieved the club head and two balls from his pocket.  Even with all his practice before flight he still shanked the first attempt.  Playing golf in a full-on Apollo era EVA suit surely could not be easy.  His second attempt was solid and a normal two-handed 150 yard shot went at least 200 yards - with only one hand!

Afterwards, Spalding made up limited edition boxed sets containing 12 balls individually packaged. One ball was given free with the purcahse of a dozen dot golf balls. Each golf ball has the color image from above and "First Golf Ball on the Moon" printed on it.

He gave the club to the USGA museum (where it belongs, he says) and the one you saw at the Smithsonion was a replica!

The moon club at the USGA Museum - article here
Good photos of the mission
Closeup photo of the javelin and one of the golf balls on the moon

Friday, February 1, 2013

2dayNspace - Yellow Shirts

On the 10th anniversary of the loss of Columbia, it seems like forever ago.  But as I dare to venture into my heart and remember the emotions during those weeks and months after, it seems like yesterday.  Why?  Because it changed me.  

I wasn't paying attention...  It's so easy to get caught up in just getting the work done and not enjoy what it is we do.  I was stunned how I hadn't really been following the flight as closely.

My published thoughts from 2003:
"Surprisingly, I had not really been following the flight - seems I was too busy filtering through emails to take time out and read the daily status reports. What I found out later was how much I wish I had known Rick Husband … What an incredible leader, pulling together such different people from different backgrounds, and different religions to make what has been heralded as one of the best teams ever, even outside of NASA. The more I learned about Husband and his family, the more I wanted to live my life like him. Christianity is always somewhat controversial in a science community like ours. But Rick lived large, not by being adventurous, but being so open and public about his faith … Columbia woke me up and is still teaching me to enjoy every moment life has to offer. Don't get too busy and skip over the little things, the very things that caused us to choose this career".

It's funny how within my career where God is so taboo, I found the inspiration to show off my relationship with God more publicly.

Back to Columbia - the images all around us hurt and yet comforted us - the makeshift extraordinary memorial in front of JSC, stores running out of flowers, signs in front of EVERY business showing support, the phone calls, the offers to bring us casseroles (that one always surprised me most).  But I needed something - I needed to feel something different, feel like I (not everyone else) was doing something to help.

I gained closure by joining in the search for debris - even if it was only for one weekend.  It took me seven weeks to get my way into a camp.  Off-site personnel were not asked to help and there were no avenues to do so.  So I called around until I found a operations center that would let me come.  I agreed to sleep in my tent in the area designated for the medics.  It was the most grueling 2-1/2 days I have ever experienced (and I was playing professional football at the time and quite fit!).  You walked straight through, in your line - didn't matter what was in front of you.  You climbed over trees, under brush, and even through mud and swamp.  And you did it eleven hours a day.  I found a new respect for the yellow shirts - well, I never knew who they were until I descended on the tin city built up outside Nacogdoches . I suppose this is where my love for reality show cultures was born (loggers, gold miners, moonshiners, etc...).  I am fascintaed by these completely different ways of life.  I was honored to walk along side these Americans, making the sacrifices they did on a daily basis. 

Sitting down for my first lunch out in the woods on day 1 of my search filtering through the brown bag we picked up at 5am, I was told "You don't want to eat that."  After asking why, it was explained to me that it would become a problem when I needed to use the bathroom - you just squatted out there wherever you were when walking the line.  Certain things so thoughtfully packed in those bags were just not meant to be eaten.  I cherish the sweatshirt I bought at the camp - they have one printed up at every "event".  I even have the Columbia Recovery Team ball cap - I am wearing it today.

Back to the search, though.  I needed to be a part of it - I needed to help pick up the pieces of our shattered hearts.

I asked what I was looking for.  I was told it can't be described, you will just know it does not belong there.  Almost immediately I found two large pieces of one of the Main Engines.  I knew it didn't belong.  But it was black, looked old - others said it wasn't anything.  And then I saw the fresh, raw metal exposed from it shearing apart.  As with most things I do, I knocked a grand slam at my first at bat - and it was all downhill from there. ;)  I did find more stuff and helped identify many other things we found (we didn't have a NASA liaison on our strike team for some reason).  We were required, the second we saw something, to yell "FIND".  That way there was no time to make a poor decision and slide something into your pocket - kept everyone honest. It was stunning how few steps the line took every time the word penetrated the air.  And holding those tiny watermelon seed sized pieces of Space Shuttle tile in your hand made you realize how insignificant we really are.  I didn't have travel to space to learn that one... ironic.

I have my snake chaps (they broke and I got the supply room guy to level with me and admit he would just throw them away), my walking/smacking brush stick, my hard hat, and the very gloves that touched every piece of Columbia I picked up.

I finally finished this poem a year after my stay at the Nacogdoches Incident Command Post.

yellow shirts
snake chaps
pocketed pants
hard hats

the camp
at first site
lit up like a lamp
larger than life

a massive grid
covered the walls
it takes a grip
then the heart falls

a shocking reality
I had not yet felt
such a tragedy
those cards we were dealt

at first you know
not what you are looking for
next thing you know
you continuously watch the floor

brush so thick
you must break to pass
every square inch
searching for any mass

find, find
left and right
every few feet
such a sad sight

looking down at my hands
realizing what they touched
I woke up from my trance
oh, the reality hurts so much

I keep Columbia and what I learned from it close to me every day - not intentionally, but it is part of my cratered surface.  Like the moon, things come at me, hit me - and they leave an impact that forever change me.

On the first year anniversary of Columbia, I was fortunate to be involved in the Superbowl XXXVIII Pre-game Show honoring Columbia.  You can read about it here.

 My original tribute site (a composition of the editorial cartoons published) can be seen here.

The newly released song 16 Minutes form Home sung at this mornings Day of Remembrance Ceremony at KSC.  Listen to it - Feel it - Love it -Buy it!

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Real Genius behind Star Wars worked for Boeing

Another overlooked death of 2012... March 3rd of this year a man named Ralph McQuarrie died at 82 of Parkinson's.  Who? (to quote the Cracked article I found this in) Ralph McQuarrie was working at Boeing doing technical art (aviation sketches - not space related) when George Lucas was trying desperately to get his space opera funded commissioned him to sketch some of the concepts he was unsuccessfully trying to explain. He got the job because he was an industrial artist and could make things look futuristic.

He sketched Darth Vader's helmet (and suggested the breathing apparatus) and cape,designed the porcelain armour of the Storm Troopers, C-3PO, light sabers, and TIE Fighters.
He also designed the mothership in Close Encounters and animated CBS News' Apollo Program coverage!

Sweet video of his space artwork!

The Art of Ralph McQuarrie

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Darrell Royal and the Moon?

Prior to Darrell Royal's death, and auction had been scheduled to raise money for Alzheimers.  In it were quite a few space related items that really caught me off guard. Turns out DKR was friends with several moon walkers and they had presented him with a few gifts.

Charlie Duke gave him the above  Texas flag flown to the moon and claims (on the presentation - see below) that he tried to make a Hook'em in the photo with his gloved hand. 
Texas Flag from Moon - very faded, he obviously had these in his office and ENJOYED them! Lots more close-up photos in the auction listing! (15,000-25,000=$17,000)

But the neatest thing I learned was about a single recording with Charlie Duke and Willie Nelson during one of their infamous (all night) "picking" sessions.  In the conversation they all sat around talking about what it would be like to be in space.  A conversation between a football coach, a musician/songwriter, and a guy who HAD walked in space.  I would kill to hear that recording!

The audio recording of the party with Charlie Duke and Willie Nelson talking about what it would be like to be on the moon. I so want to hear this – hope the buyer makes it public! (60-150=$425)

Apollo 12 moon flag - signed by Conrad, Gordon, and Bean (10,000-15,000=$15,000)

Apollo 8 Moon Flag - signed by Borman, Lovell, and Anders. What a steal! (10,000-15,000=$6500)

The auction website - browse through - it's fun!
Neat article about Auction - with photos.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pinball in Space - A Tribute to Steve Kordek

I received my annual Chicago Pinball Expo email today and as usual, wished I could attend but t hat weekend is taken.  I do this every year it seems, and am saddened that yet one more year will pass without me shaking the hand of my favorite pinball designer and telling him how much I appreciate what he did.  Not just him revolutionizing the pinball machine, but how he was the only one that made realistic spaceflight machines, and about my quest to obtain those machines. 

A few years ago I finally secured the hardest one to get, completing my collection, from a barn.  With only 700 of Friendship 7 ever made (and it being common practice to destroy or repurpose machines) it took years to find one in good shape.  I had only seen a couple in person and one for sale on line.  She didn't work - but of course, I got her up and running!  You can see a gallery of space related pinball machines on my space pinball page here.

Below, is a picture of Kordek in his office as he shows some of the reference material that he used for the Space Mission/Space Odyssey machine.

I would ask if he always had a love for space since so many of his earlier machines were futuristic (for then) space designs.  Would be an amazing conversation with plenty of humble nods shedding my praise.  I did a quick google search realizing it may finally be too late and my fears were realized.  After seven decades of designing pinball machines, he died back in February.  He was 100 years old - man, what a conversation that would have been!  I am greatly saddened and only hope that he can see me now and know how much he touched my life - and how much I enjoy playing those machines!

Article about his death.
Great photos with audio recordings of his Pinball Expo appearances.
An interview.
1994 video of Steve... still in the Williams factory.
Video of his 100th Birthday.
There is a tribute page on Facebook - I will link this blog post there so his family will know how much I appreciated him!

And get this... during WWII many of the Genco cabinets were made from excess birch panels from Howard Hughes' H-4 Spruce Goose!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Endeavour Full Circle

Today Endeavour, atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) #NASA905, made a pit-stop at Ellington (EFD).  A simple, but eloquent thank you for all of our hard work over the years. Flyovers at numerous Houston locations allowed her to say a small goodbye.  I chose to watch the flyovers at JSC Rocket Park because I had seen ALL my flyovers at JSC.  Of course, the benefit there was multiple passes including right over my head at less than 1500 feet!

But the moving part of this story (to me at least) was that I was here for her very first trip to Houston in 1991.  On her way to KSC from Palmdale where she was born, I was given my second up-close view of a space shuttle orbiter.  The first came soon after starting work at NASA.  I travelled to KSC and was given the rare privilege of visiting Atlantis on the pad - even stuck my head inside her flight deck from the White Room!  The Rotating Service Structure (RSS) was in place - so I had an up-close view of the cracked and repaired space "aged" tiles.

At that time, Endeavour was a far cry from her experienced sister.  She was new and shiny - a virgin.  I had a fellow Space Tweep snap a pic of me yesterday in front of the "space aged" Endeavour while I was holding my first photo taken in front of her from 1991.

My third up-close view was of Columbia and was in 1994.  We were allowed to go inside the SCA and up through the hatch below the orbiter.  It is there we saw the infamous "PLACE ORBITER HERE BLACK SIDE DOWN".  I had no camera on me that day and never got that photo - one of my largest regrets of my career...  I had hoped to get that chance again today! Because it would be the very last time... EVER.  However, with so many public visitors (reported that 100,000 people flocked to Ellington Field to see her), that option did not arise.  Which is okay - my name and twitter handle are on that very SCA and will make that last flight with her!

One last thought about my connection to Endeavour... With deep connections to Atlantis (first orbiter, most Mir flights, and been inside of her) and Discovery (um, dad's death and hence GodspeedDiscvry), Challenger (obvious), and Columbia (again, obvious - but also I helped find and pick up debris - I mean, I held pieces of her in my hand), I wasn't sure what Endeavour meant to me until this week.

She is the only existing orbiter I did not see make her final launch. Something told me not to make that drive to KSC... a rising creek and possible pending flood at Flint, and just this gut feeling - someone up there was telling me not to go.  I fought it, but eventually said "Well, if there was one orbiter to miss, it would be this one."  I ended up missing Dallas area tornadoes, all of the horriffic southeastern US outbreak of storms that I would have been driving right through - and of course, we ended up not launching on that attempt.  Having said "If there was one..." and circumstances for being away from work for the next attempt, I let her launch without me.

So I find it fitting that this visit cemented what exactly my connection was with her.  My Houston experience with Endeavour ended exactly where it started, at Ellington Field, book-ending Endeavour's 25 flight space history.