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Launch America: Repost from September 17, 2014

We've made it to L-1! 
Our friends at the 45th Weather Squadron predict a 60% chance of good weather tomorrow as we prepare to launch astronauts from American soil to the ISS! 
Today I'm looking back at a post originally published on September 17, 2014. The commercial crew providers had been announced the day before and while we were all excited, the anticipated launch dates felt far off. It feels impossible to sit here today only hours away from the first launch opportunity -- the countdown clock already running! Since that day I've worked really hard on products the crew will hopefully never use -- intended to keep them safe in an emergency undock scenario. It's true what they say, NASA has backup plans for backup plans! 
I hope you will make plans to tune in tomorrow! Launch is scheduled for 4:33pm EDT with NASA TV coverage starting at 12:15pm EDT. 
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"The last time we launched an American crewed spacecra…
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Launch America: Repost from July 18, 2012

I am revisiting some old posts during the lead up to the launch of DM-2! Two American astronauts are scheduled to launch from American soil next week for the first time in nearly a decade! All of us at NASA are beyond excited to witness the first new human-rated launch vehicle and spacecraft since the Space Shuttle!

Today's post comes to you all the way from July 18, 2012! At that time I worked for the Army as a Flight Test Engineer! Sometimes we would travel to locations and scope them out as helicopter testing sites (i.e. types of terrain, refuel and hangar services, proximity to hotels, etc). I wrote this piece of prose after visiting Edwards Air Force Base and seeing all of the history there. If you know anything about early NASA days (back then, NACA) you know Edwards was a common stop for the test pilots that would go on to become America's first astronauts. Now, the base holds some of the most interesting test vehicles and artifacts! My zest for the future of human spac…

Launch America: Repost from September 21, 2010

On May 27th two American astronauts will launch from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade. My role on this particular mission is limited, but the excitement around NASA (even virtually) is electric. Many of my close friends and colleagues have spent years writing flight rules and procedures, practicing calls and anomalies in simulations, and checking off verifications and requirements. I thought it might be fun to revisit some of my old blog posts in the days leading up to this historic launch. It will be interesting to compare my feelings about the space shuttle program winding down (and my place in life 9 years ago) with my incredible proximity to America's return to human-rated launch vehicles.
This post was originally published on September 21, 2010! ___________________________________________________________________________
Today, in the wee hours of the morning, Space Shuttle Discovery made it's final [planned] trip to launch pad 39A. It may seem meaningless,…

A Big 'Ol Quarantine Update

How are you doing?

How is quarantine life?

How are you not going crazy with your kids home all day?

How is that sink full of dishes doing?

I thought I would type up a big 'ol Blackwell family quarantine update. How its going, what we're doing (and not doing), how the kids are handling it and how many wine corks we have lined up on the shelf, you know, to count the days ;-)

What does work look like these days? Chris and I are both engineers so the majority of our "office" work can be done virtually. My office setup is in our bedroom and he took over our actual office. Since we both have virtual meetings throughout the day its nice to have these separate spaces to work in.

I am still scheduled for console shifts every couple of weeks, so on those days I do actually have to put on business professional attire and drive over to NASA. But inside it feels like a weekend evening shift - there are limited people in Mission Control itself and a few extra people here and there…

How THE WORLD is like Mission Control: Teamwork

In light of recent, on-going events (COVID-19 for those reading this in the future), I've modified my "How T1D is Like Mission Control" series slightly this week because these comparisons are for all residents of planet Earth - not just those with diabetes. 

If you're not familiar with the series you can click these links to read about Responsibility, Toughness and Competence. In Mission Control we live by, cultivate and hone seven characteristics essential to flight control - the guidelines are called the "Foundations of Flight Operations".  This week I am focusing on TEAMWORK. 


"Realizing that we work toward a common goal..." In mission control, our common goal is three-fold: (1) crew safety, (2) vehicle safety, and (3) mission success. This is how we prioritize discussions, formulate troubleshooting plans, and work problems. Through run after run in simulations, we practice recognizing situations where these three aspects are in conflict and w…

How T1D is Like Mission Control: Competence

Today is another installment in my series "How T1D is like mission control" - an in-depth look at how living a life with type 1 diabetes bakes in the same characteristics flight controllers practice as instructed by the "Foundations of Flight Operations". You can also read my takes on "Responsibility" and "Toughness". A recent diabetes experience got me thinking a lot about one of the more sterile flight controller qualities 'competence'. I say sterile because competence is black and white - you either have it or you don't - it's not "squishy" like 'teamwork' or 'toughness'. In the arena of human spaceflight, some of these qualities can wax and wane. For instance, on quiet weekend nights, I may never even have a technical conversation with a teammate because it just isn't necessary. In these instances, I need to be able to "turn on" teamwork, but the shift itself doesn't really require …

Surviving Shift Work with T1D

Mission Control is located in the very center of a concrete building - literally on the middle floor vertically and horizontally in the middle of the vertically middle floor. I think that sentence was confusing, but you get it, the room is in the very center of a concrete box. As such, there are no windows to the outside world - for good reason. Several critical consoles (mine included) are staffed 24/7/365 which means someone is always working, even in the middle of the night. Every group staffs their consoles differently - my group rotates shifts, so even as a specialist I have several sets of overnight shifts each year. You can probably see why the "no-windows" thing is important.


Performing shift work is difficult even for a perfect specimen adult, but navigating sleep shifts and overnight hours alongside the maintenance of a chronic disease can be tricky. I've put together a few of my tips and tricks for performing shift work and not feeling like absolute crap. Hope…
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