Wednesday, September 17, 2014

An American Path to Space

I wrote this post yesterday, following my evaluated mini sim but didn't have the brain power to get it uploaded. Ignore the incorrect tenses...I didn't have the brain power today to change them ;-)

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Image credit: NASA

"The last time we launched an American manned spacecraft was July of 2011. There will be a planned LOS (loss of signal) at approximately 3pm to watch the press conference announcement and witness history."

He was right, the space shuttle last flew in July 2011, and we all knew from the e-mails that a press conference was expected this afternoon, but it wasn't until he mentioned halting the simulation and "witnessing history" that I realized the gravity of the announcement. For those who don't follow the NASA headlines, the announcement revealed which American company will transport US astronauts to the International Space Station. 

We learned that Boeing and SpaceX will take men and women from US soil to the International Space Station. This announcement and the work these companies have already put forward means we finally have a plan to replace the shuttle; it may sound like a small victory if your world doesn't revolve around NASA, but for us inside, it is a huge victory. Billions of dollars are promised to these contractors and Mission Control assets are already being prepared to support their teams. 

I feel like this experience could be one of those "war stories" days. "Yes, I remember when the commercial crew was announced. I was in the middle of my evaluated mini sim when the Flight director decided the announcement warranted pausing the simulation. We all looked up at the TVs and tuned our "loops" to the media coverage - the same loop system we use today to communicate with the vehicles and each other."

NASA's administrator, Charlie Bolden, said he was "giddy" with a giggle, and I was too. I was excited to finally be in the middle of some serious space action - new rockets and commercial crew vehicles were wrapped around me in a sort of symbolic embrace, right in the middle of heavy duty training to fly the International Space Station. The skills I'm learning now could prepare me to participate in these upcoming ventures, and this generation may finally get their hallowed "Apollo moment." In the spirit of complete disclosure, Chris has been working for the Boeing commercial crew team ever since our move to Houston, so this announcement was a milestone for NASA and a victory for Chris and the whole Boeing team. Lord knows I've been alone many Saturdays as he went to work and put in countless hours towards this goal.

America has a plan to get crews to ISS and beyond, three vehicles in total with at least a preliminary budget to support them. I hope these announcements move NASA past this "wallowing" stage where rockets come and rockets go, in sync with budgets and changing administrations. America deserves an American path to space, fingers crossed, we are on our way!