Skip to main content

Disco at Pad 39A

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, but to me, the act is a very symbolic representation of my life.


It may seem hard to believe that the Space Shuttle program has been my constant; it first inspired me to be an astronaut, and continues to inspire me in my work each day. Back in the sixth grade I gave speeches to space nerds like me (read: Boeing and Mesa Public Schools employees) about the "deafening roar" and "splitting the firmament" during a Space Shuttle launch, even though I had never experienced one. I knew in my heart exactly what it felt like...I had imagined it so many times, the ignition, the brilliant fire, the sound delay.

I also knew all about the preparations and the long, slow crawl to the launch pad. The next few years I experienced my own crawl, I kept my "nose to the grindstone" as mom and dad used to say, soaking up my public education and using it to my advantage. I made careful preparations (learning Russian, working at Boeing, and excelling in school) to be sure I would make it to the next step: college. The crawl had stopped, I had arrived at the launchpad.

But now I had to make the most vital preparations ever. I had to learn about subjects completely foreign to me: Thermodynamics, Vibration Analysis, High Speed Aerodynamics. And just like the engineers and technicians scurrying around the gantry next to Discovery right now, I was scurrying around too. I was trying to take it all in, experience the immensity of it, and prepare for the impending launch.

And somehow, amongst the busy preparations, I was able to set a date for the launch. There I was staring at pad 39A and her graceful bird, just like the launch I finally experienced in May 2008. I remember it being just as I had imagined, the air was electrified with patriotism and excitement. I remember being swallowed in the moment, unable to focus on anything else, almost in tears. Little did those astronauts, engineers, technicians, scientists, family and friends know how much their work impacted a little girl; how much it had shaped her entire life.

In December 2009 I was staring at a different launchpad. It was the culmination of all my years of effort. It was scary and exciting and perfect all at the same time. I was given the Go For Launch to be an Army Flight Test Engineer.

And as Discovery makes her final crawl to the pad and the technicians begin her final preparations, I am still preparing. In the short-term I am preparing for my very first helicopter ride, collecting data, and helping to ensure our troops are safe. The long term preparations are harder to pin down, but I have to be confident that I am designing myself to be adaptable for whatever mission lies ahead; Discovery sure was.

It's hard to imagine my life will be the same without a shuttle launch to look forward to; without a beautiful, impossible meet-up of the shuttle and ISS to see in the night sky (I've seen it 3 times!); without getting to meet the new crews, or hear a first-timer's story of what it was like. I just hope whatever replaces the space shuttle inspires the next generation, just as it inspired me.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The road to curing Type 1 Diabetes

From the moment of diagnosis, the road is rough, the learning curve is steep and the stakes are literally life or death. The map is less-than-helpful - paths originating from virtually every corner, coalescing at a center point (aka "diagnosis") and bursting back outwards - some paths cross and wrap around each other but others are isolated. And even with all of these roads, most of the territory is uncharted - how did we all get here and how will we all exit? Where are the obstacles we haven't found yet? Which passage holds the key to unlocking the solution? On any given day I feel pretty isolated with this disease - I'm the only T1D in my group at work, the only one in mission control, the only one in my family. I go through the logistics of calling insurance companies, ordering supplies, changing sites and troubleshooting malfunctions mostly on my own. Even those pesky carbs really only get counted in my brain, no group think for a meal bolus here. But there i

Hot OJT

Last week I had the chance to mentor a newly certified ADCO trainee - the NASA process is called "Hot On-The-Job-Training", or Hot OJT. What makes it "hot" you ask? Well, essentially I am hands off - he is sitting at the console, working all the plan reviews and updates, making calls to other flight controllers and to the flight director, reacting to anomalies and preparing material for the shift handover. My job is to act as the fault tolerance - a backup ADCO of sorts. Tuesday was his last official day and by Wednesday morning he was in the backroom sending commands to ISS in preparation for the docking of a three-person Soyuz. Controlling ISS during the 61S Soyuz docking! The beauty of this system is the gradual buildup in responsibility. There is a subtle shift from student, to subject matter expert, to fresh operations trainee to advanced trainee and finally to certification and real-time operations flight controller - the process takes two years

The Diabetes Transportation System DTS-T1

I was looking forward to the Space Shuttle launch on Monday, then it was pushed to Wednesday and now it is scheduled for Thursday due to several electrical issues from a main engine computer controller. Ironically, our little MH-47G (due to start testing on Monday originally) has been having it's own issues and it is still unclear exactly when we will start testing. And all of this uncertainty, schedule changes, and issue-working reminds me of my little friend Diabetes [come on, you knew that was coming :-)]. Even with hard work, super awesome bolusing skills [ check out Holly's blog today, the number crunching is very impressive] and constant blood sugar checks, Diabetes can still be unpredictable, necessitate schedule changes, and cause the carrier to work through the issues. I have been lucky today, even after a late-night cocktail last night, I woke up this morning at 112, and before lunch I was an amazing 113. I love being steady like that, cruising along with hardly an
01 09 10