Monday, August 13, 2018

MCM - On Call

It's definitely Monday. Otto spit up on my work clothes this morning, I forgot to brush my teeth and I sat down in my car forgetting to clean the layer of sand from the beach yesterday. Whoops. But, it's also MONDAY!!!!! Which means you get a special look behind the proverbial curtain of Mission Control in a series I'm dubbing "Mission Control Monday". We all need a little "boost" (pun intended) at the beginning of the week, so why not get it from the heart of Manned Spaceflight itself - NASA's Mission Control

This week I am highlighting the little known fact that sometimes, as an ADCO Specialist, I am scheduled to be "On Call". It just so happens I am "on-call" this week! Even though we don't have a sweet 1990's pager, the ADCO on-call is a Specialist with the cumbersome responsibility of having their cell phone strapped to them at all times. Yes, even during the night. Yes, even when you have a 3 month old. Yes, just in case something crazy happens and a second ADCO is needed, or someone gets sick, or someone gets sprayed by a skunk (yes, that really happened).

You may be wondering, what could possibly happen that would require a second ADCO or an ADCO Specialist in the middle of the night? Well friends, there are so.many.things. Space is immensely  unforgiving and any seemingly small problem can turn very serious, very fast. If one of our power channels goes down we could lose multiple computers and gyroscopes that keep the station oriented correctly. If there is a water leak in the cabin, our equipment could be damaged or need to be powered off and leave us without redundancy. If there is a crew medical emergency we may need to undock a Soyuz in an expedited fashion - requiring unplanned changes to attitude control, firing thrusters, or specifically NOT firing thrusters. There could be an unforecasted solar storm that blasts radiation into our sensitive electronics and affects our navigation equipment. There could be a fire that leaves equipment or computers fried, or worse, injures a crew member. But, probably our most imminent threat is a hit from one of the millions of pieces of orbital debris. If the object is big enough to be tracked and heading our way, it is ADCO's job to move the space station out of the way - assuming there is enough time. However, there are millions of pieces that are too small for tracking, but their speed makes them more dangerous than a bullet. And, as you can imagine, a bullet hitting the side of a pressurized spacecraft is a recipe for disaster.

And, while all of these failures affect other systems as well, I have highlighted only the ADCO impacts, illustrating the incredibly complicated nature of this work.


#2 says: To always be aware that suddenly and unexpectedly we may find ourselves in a role where our performance has ultimate consequences. 


So, tonight as I sleep - baby monitor on one side of the bed and cell phone with the ringer on the other, I pray my on-call services won't be needed. But, it IS part of this unique job - I signed up to take on the responsibility to protect a billion dollar spacecraft and the precious lives she holds whether the timing is convenient or not. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Balancing Babies and Beta Angles

The day has come...to set my days of pajamas-as-actual-clothes, shower-maybe, baby-talk-instead-of-nerdy-talk, aside and return.to.work. Badge and all. Coffee at the ready. Only forgot one thing for daycare today. Already have dinner planned. Eyes may get tired after reading the 17 million missed emails.

But, overall,  life is so, so good.

My precious little baby Otto is sleeping through the night! My other precious baby Zara is bananas, but also sleeping through the night (ha!) And potty trained. All of these are huge milestones in my mommy book!

Life as a working mom marches forward, albeit a tad more planning with four of us Blackwells. Diabetes is back in my side mirrors and is holding pretty steady. Chris is still my bestest, best friend. We still have two doggos and a bad case of taco Tuesdays.

I miss my babies during the day but you guys, space is so exciting right now! The astronauts for the first US commercial missions to ISS were just announced last week (more on that soon!) and a new batch of Flight Directors too! There is no shortage of work to be done as we continue to push the boundaries of human spaceflight. In the process we are finding new efficiencies, less dependencies, and a fair amount of gremlins in our aging spacecraft - which may sound scary, but it only provides more opportunities for problem solving, my favorite part of the job! 'Do more with less' has become 'do more with that computer that launched to space before you hit puberty.' It's true. And exciting. And challenging, hooof! Soon we will be keeping track of three different vehicles bringing humans to and from the space station along with continued cargo missions, spacewalks, science, and Newton. It's easy to forget that there are so many moving parts to this whole operation and so many little-guy-Super-Heroes making it work.







Do you guys want to see another cute picture of Otto? Of course you do!

Oh, Otto, you're such a dreamy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Increment-al Return to Work

I've been sitting at home taking care of a babe for around 11 weeks now - and I think I have managed to open my work computer only twice(!). It's a miracle. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but sometimes I need a moment to soak in all the happy -other- parts of life.

But today I actually brushed my hair, put on a dress, and blew Chris a big kiss as I ran out the door (while he juggled both kids :-/ Today I had to start thinking about my increment coming up. Basically, I will be the representative for our group during my increment which starts in December and goes through April. That means any big malfunctions, meetings, dockings, undockings, EVAs, reboosts, etc, etc, I will be the voice of ADCO! A huge opportunity and responsibility all at the same time. To say I'm excited AND nervous would be an understatement.

Today we got to shake the hand of one of the astronauts that will be onboard during this time. And, he, was able to put a face to a name/discipline. It may be motivation on both sides to do the best job we can for each other. So much work coming up at, well...work, but exciting times are on the horizon! Also, I forgot to take a picture AT work, so you are stuck with one of my many loneliness-induced snapchat selfies. yourwelcome.