Skip to main content

The Explorer's Ball

In case you haven't noticed, this year has been a little different for me. Chris and I are newly married, we have had house guest for about 5 months, I have been traveling way too much, and our house is in a constant state of "remodel". It's been a little hectic, ok? In fact, I'm traveling on my birthday this year (joy!  ....sarcasm) without Chris.  

So, he did something special this year; after my travel schedule was rearranged due to other circumstances he bought us tickets to a ball. Yes, a BALL!! But it wasn't just any ball, it was the "Explorers' Ball" at the US Space and Rocket Center, to welcome their new Skylab exhibit. And the VIPs? All 8 remaining Skylab astronauts!!!!!

And if you ask what Skylab is, you are dead to me.

Here are my thoughts on the experience:



Our table of 10 included an older couple, the husband of which worked with Dr. Wernher von Braun, and the wife was proud to tell us that they used to have the Skylab astronauts over for parties; an older man and his middle-aged son, he worked on the Saturn V and took his family to see most of the Apollo launches; and 3 "younger-generation" couples (us included), all of us were too young even for Skylab, the moment we were celebrating tonight, much less moon landings or Saturn launches.

But it was clear we were outnumbered. The mighty Saturn V hall was full of a 1960's era NASA family, they had gathered in commonality and were enjoying reminiscing about the "restroom situation" during the Apollo 11 launch or the swamps down at the Cape or how down-home von Braun was. We were all captivated by their stories, silently and sometimes not-so-silently wishing our own work could someday make such an impact, hoping our stories might inspire the next generation just as theirs were inspiring us tonight.

As the astronauts spoke of their time aboard Skylab, the problems they encountered, the engineering they admired, the entire room was entranced by their space-faring experiences. The nostalgia in that moment was seeping into my bones and I could hardly contain the emotions I felt about NASA and the future of our manned spaceflight programs. These men had accomplished the impossible, they had used ingenuity to design a crude space station from left over Saturn parts, and they had no reservations about employing only days-old fixes. They trusted each other, and valued each other.

It was hard for me to listen to these seasoned voices tell us all about the pace, the feeling, the ride, the experience, knowing that they are getting older and in time, won't be around to share their stories anymore. And its only hard because my generation doesn't have a moment like this (yet). We aren't even equipped to launch our own US astronauts. For a girl like me, this place, this position is absolutely embarrassing. It's a slap in the face to those eight men and the others from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo; it's a step backwards from the engineering and politics that landed men on the moon; and its in direct contradiction to everything this country boasts about and encourages - more science and engineering jobs, remaining a technology leader.

I am so thankful that I had a place in that room tonight. Maybe I and others present might be lucky enough to be a part of the solution someday. Maybe we will be the champions of a smart and efficient space program, maybe we will have stories about camping out before a milestone launch, maybe someday we will be members of a panel speaking to a room full of supporters, a room full of a 2000's era NASA family.  

Until then, Godspeed.

Chris and I with Homer Hickam, of Rocket Boys and October Sky fame.  
Me and Owen Garriott, Skylab and shuttle astronaut. 
Skylab astronaut Jack Lousma with Chris and I.
I got a chance to meet Dr. George Mueller, one of my personal role models, and previous Associate Administrator of  the NASA office of Manned Space Flight. 

Comments

  1. We can thank adventurers and engineer doers for inspiring todays engineer dreamers. It's to bad our country has to police the rest of the world and not invest and inspire the next generation of dreamers by not having a real space program. We are more worried about taking celebrities and very rich people on sub orbital lobs in backyard spacecraft instead of reaching for the real stars. If only this country could bring back that space race feeling we would have more kids going to college to be engineers than computer geeks. That's my take. Dad.

    ReplyDelete
  2. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I'm so excited on your behalf! I would have been to star struck to talk to anyone. So happy for you!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Who has two thumbs and loves comments? Nerdy April!!! Type one out and hit publish!

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 is b…

Critical Space Item: Handle With Extreme Care

Someday I want to open a box. The box will be neatly wrapped up with an excessive amount of packaging. Its contents will have been years in the making, and even though it won't weigh much, this small box will represent a huge step forward.


As most flight hardware begins, the space-rated closed-loop insulin delivery and monitoring device inside the box will be sterile and stark. But as the batteries whir to life and insulin is placed within, it will become an extra appendage, an external pancreas, for this Type 1 astro-hopeful. Bluetooth connections will be made and doctors, hungry for telemetry from my bionic body, will be at the ready. We will rely on each other - he on I for his very existence, and I on him for my continued existence. Together we will make up one whole, completely functioning, Type 1 Diabetic astronaut.

Admittedly, this dream feels further and further from reality. I have lived with this disease just under 20 years now, and the cure has always been "just 5 …

On 20 years with Type 1 Diabetes

I think it's finally time to hit 'publish' on this post, considering it's been sitting here for, oh you know, like 2 weeks now ;-) Sometimes I "April" about things too much (this is Chris's term), and with my dad here for Christmas I realized that it's definitely a trait passed down, haha, love you dad!


To be honest, I never thought the day would come when I would say, "I've had Type 1 Diabetes for 20 years."

20 years ago a cure was 'just on the horizon' and as an 11 year old kid I took that phrase to heart - I had to. My continued existence was based solely on whatever the endocrinologist said - pancreas, insulin, autoimmune, blood sugar, islet cells, shots. I didn't know what I didn't know at that point. I had never heard of an insulin pump or glucose meter. Ketones and hyperglycemia were just big, meaningless words. Carb ratios and counting might as well have been formulas for travelling at light speed. I wasn't ov…
01 09 10