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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Another Pat on the Back for the Space Centers. Space and Science News. The Imaginarium

Hello Troops,
The average temperature for this week in July is 91 degrees.  What is up with this 102 degree heat wave?  I say, if we are saddled with desert temperatures, then bless us with enormous amount of oil to go with it.  Why should Saudi Arabia get the perfect heat and oil combination?

I received the following email from a long time Space Center fan, camper, and volunteer that I'd like to share with you with his permission.  

The Dale Richards Family
          Hi Victor,
I've been meaning to contribute something to your collection of stories about the Space Center for quite some time now, but was busy with my Master's degree late last year and never got around to it. 
The CMSEC gave me so much that it's hard to boil it down to just one or two stories. I'll list three main life-changing experiences that I owe to my time there:
In the summer of 1995, a group of Russian kids came to the Space Center for a summer camp. The kids were placed with the families of Space Center volunteers. Since I had studied Russian at school, I asked you for the kid that spoke the least English. Artur, who was the boy assigned to stay with my family, spoke absolutely none. During those few weeks, I HAD to find a way to communicate with him, since no one else in my family could. Because of that experience, my Russian became polished and my confidence speaking that language grew. I went on to finish a degree in Russian language and literature at BYU. Now I'm married to a beautiful Russian girl. We speak Russian at home with each other and our son, who is learning Russian as his primary language. We have ample opportunity to travel to Russia and I'm sure my career will have several touch points with that country and its emerging markets. 
 The Space Center taught me to Innovate. It was the only place where there was some application for the futuristic fantasies in my head. While volunteering there, I found myself buying up old Mac computers and creating starship control panels using Hypercard, which helped me to grasp the intricacies and challenges of user interface development while combining graphics, animation, sound, and logic. Happily, I'm only one of many young people that took an interest in these things because of the Space Center. What we did back then may not sound that special by today's standards, but for the 90s, we were way ahead of our time.
 Now I hold a Master's in Business Administration with an emphasis in Innovation from James Madison University. The program emphasis leadership and innovation through technology and people. I'm a better professional in both the business and technology sectors because of the innovative skills I learned at the Space Center. 
Finally, the Space Center taught me to overcome fear. You probably remember a night a long time ago (1992) when I was so scared of boarding parties and slime devils, that I just crouched down behind the communications counter on the Voyager's bridge so that no harmful aliens would find me. I learned something that night...something important. I learned that I was afraid. In the months that followed that experience, I also learned that I didn't like being afraid or want to be afraid and that it was important for me to beat that fear. That's when I decided to go back for another mission ... and another ... and another. I knew that every time I was to participate in a mission as a patron, you would push my fear to the edge and that is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to beat it. Later, when I became a volunteer, I would hold my head up proud knowing that I had overcome my fear. 
Later in life, the fear of shape shifters and boarding parties was replaced by the fear of failure in personal, family, and professional commitments. Not long after my marriage, I took on a new role as a project manager at Rosetta Stone and was assigned to a project with a particularly difficult group of stakeholders. Project meetings were contentious, miscommunications were rampant, and the stakes were high. I was terrified that the project would blow up in my face and destroy my career. I almost broke one morning at the breakfast table before work, but I stuck it out and didn't run away just because I was afraid. The project was successful and I grew a great deal. I hold my head up proud today the same way I did back then. 
So, you see, it's important for you to continue what you're doing, not only because it's fun and educational, but because it is character-forming. In your world of fantasy, you put us in situations where we had to make choices about who we were and how we would act that laid a foundation for our realities. For that, I am so, so grateful. Thank you so much for everything, Victor. 
Dale Richards, MBA, PMP

Thanks Dale for this testimonial. It made my day.  Character is lacking in many of our students today.  The Space Centers are excellent character teaching tools when missions are orchestrated correctly.  

Kudos to the Discovery Space Center for two comments I heard from a couple boys last night as I was getting them down for the night.  They caught up to me as I was leading the boys from the Galileo Room to the Great Hall.  
"Mr. Williamson,  do you know anything about The Siege mission?"
"I didn't write that one, so I don't know.  Why?"
"It was touching."
"Yeah, it got you right here [pointing to his heart]"  I looked for a smile to indicate sarcasm.  There wasn't one.  He was telling the truth.  
His friend wanted to comment. "It was sad.  It almost made the whole crew cry.  It was just awesome!"

The other boys in the group agreed.  Rarely do you find your average, quite normal, junior high boys admit to almost crying over anything, let alone a space center mission.  That story found its mark and did the job.  It touched a nerve and taught a lesson.  It instilled character and forcefully taught a moral through emotion.

Congratulation to the Discovery Space Center team and flight director Connor L.  for pulling off the most difficult thing to do at the Space Center - get that kind of an emotional reaction from a teen crew.   

Mr. W.  

Space and Science News

Today, in 1969 Men Land on the Moon

Two Americans, astronauts of Apollo 11, steered their fragile four-legged lunar module safely and smoothly to the historic landing yesterday at 4:17:40 P.M., Eastern daylight time.

Neil A. Armstrong, the 38-year-old civilian commander, radioed to earth and the mission control room here:

"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

The first men to reach the moon--Mr. Armstrong and his co-pilot, Col. Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. of the Air Force--brought their ship to rest on a level, rock-strewn plain near the southwestern shore of the arid Sea of Tranquility.

About six and a half hours later, Mr. Armstrong opened the landing craft's hatch, stepped slowly down the ladder and declared as he planted the first human footprint on the lunar crust:

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

His first step on the moon came at 10:56:20 P.M., as a television camera outside the craft transmitted his every move to an awed and excited audience of hundreds of millions of people on earth.

Tentative Steps Test Soil

Mr. Armstrong's initial steps were tentative tests of the lunar soil's firmness and of his ability to move about easily in his bulky white spacesuit and backpacks and under the influence of lunar gravity, which is one-sixth that of the earth.

"The surface is fine and powdery," the astronaut reported. "I can pick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers like powdered charcoal to the sole and sides of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe an eighth of an inch. But I can see the footprints of my boots in the treads in the fine sandy particles.

After 19 minutes of Mr. Armstrong's testing, Colonel Aldrin joined him outside the craft.

The two men got busy setting up another television camera out from the lunar module, planting an American flag into the ground, scooping up soil and rock samples, deploying scientific experiments and hopping and loping about in a demonstration of their lunar agility.

They found walking and working on the moon less taxing than had been forecast. Mr. Armstrong once reported he was "very comfortable."

And people back on earth found the black-and-white television pictures of the bug- shaped lunar module and the men tramping about it so sharp and clear as to seem unreal, more like a toy and toy-like figures than human beings on the most daring and far- reaching expedition thus far undertaken.

Nixon Telephones Congratulations

During one break in the astronauts' work, President Nixon congratulated them from the White House in what, he said, "certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made."

"Because of what you have done," the President told the astronauts, "the heavens have become a part of man's world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility it required us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to earth.

"For one priceless moment in the whole history of man all the people on this earth are truly one--one in their pride in what you have done and one in our prayers that you will return safely to earth."

Mr. Armstrong replied:

"Thank you Mr. President. It's a great honor and privilege for us to be here representing not only the United States but men of peace of all nations, men with interests and a curiosity and men with a vision for the future."

NASA Funds 12 Innovative Projects

NASA has granted funding to a dozen imaginative tech concepts, in the hopes that one or more of them will lead to big breakthroughs in space science and exploration.
The 12 ideas, which were selected under Phase 1 of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, are ambitious and varied. One aims to build biomaterials such as human tissue with a 3D printer, for example, while another proposes to induce deep-sleep torpor states in astronauts making the long journey to Mars.
"These new Phase 1 selections include potential breakthroughs for Earth and space science, diverse operations and the potential for new paths that expand human civilization and commerce into space," NIAC program executive Jay Falker said in a statement. [Future Visions of Human Spaceflight]
Phase 1 awards are worth about $100,000. The selected mission teams will use the money to conduct nine-month initial analysis studies, after which they can apply for Phase 2 funding of approximately $500,000 for two more years of concept development.

The 12 selected concepts, along with their principal investigators, are:   Read More

Luca Parmitano on EVA July 9.

Today's ISS Spacewalk ended early when the unexpected malfunction occurred: liquid water began entering astronaut Luca Parmitano's space helmet. In zero gravity, droplets of water could end up obscuring the astronaut's view on the faceplate, not to mention endangering the astronaut's respiratory system. In other words, if the leak continued, there was a remote chance it could interfere with Parmitano's breathing. To be on the safe side, Mission Control and the ISS commander canceled the remainder of the EVA and got the two astronauts into the airlock as quickly as was safely possible.

Inside the Airlock module: astronauts and cosmonauts go through "expedited" airlock procedures to get Parmitano into the station ASAP. 

While Parmitano entered the airlock and began procedures there, astronaut Chris Cassidy did a quick cleanup of equipment and also moved to the airlock. Both astronauts had completed the first steps of procedures for the scheduled EVA when the emergency began. 

As soon as it was safe, the hatch was opened. Cassidy radioed that he was fine, the crew should put all attention to helping Parmitano get the helmet off.

At one point the astronauts on ISS mentioned to Mission Control that Parmitano's radio had malfunctioned, and they could no longer hear him although he could be seen moving normally through the airlock window. That had to be a real edge-of-your-seat moment. Of course, around that time, a Mission Control spokesperson on NASA TV then mentioned, for the benefit of the audience no doubt, that astronaut Parmitano was in no real danger at that time. However, the urgency of action visible on the camera, and the content of the conversation, plus the knowledge of the actual situation, made it quite clear that this was an anxious situation.

First view of Parmitano leaving the airlock headfirst as other astronauts help him move forward.

I apologize for using pictures where other astronauts get in the way of a good view, but you kind of have to guess on when to make the screenshots. There's no director of cinematography up there to block moves and position cameras. I do have to say Kudos to NASA for keeping the cameras on and letting the public witness the professional way the team of ISS  worked to solve a potentially dangerous situation. As soon as Parmitano got completely into the module out of the airlock, the astronauts began working to remove the helmet. One astronaut (I couldn't tell who by voice) told another to quickly get towels to collect the water that could be released. That was definitely a clue that there was more water in there than was safe for the astronaut.

The Helmet is off, and moved away from Parmitano.

In the picture above, Commander of ISS cosmonaut Vinogradov is helping to get Parmitano prepared for removal of suit while another astronaut moves the helmet out of the way.

Beginning the mop-up of water in the helmet. You can just barely see Parmitano, still in suit with skull cap on, past the front astronaut.

While Vinogradov moves the Suit jet pack out of the way, astronaut Karen Nyberg helps Parmitano through the steps of getting out of the suit.

At one point, Commander Vinogradov uses a towel to wipe water off of the back and top of Parmitano's bald head. Certainly at this point concern was given to watch for any signs of the malfunction so it could be repaired later. Mission Control radioed to the ISS crew to document everything and take pictures of any problematic equipment.

Parmitano hands equipment to Vinogradov.

Nyberg helps remove the gloves from Parmitano's suit.

With the safety of Parmitano assured, astronaut Chris Cassidy now comes through the airlock hatch.

With the suit midsection releases opened, Parmitano slips out from the upper torso section.

Parmitano is out of the upper section of the suit.

While astronauts helped Cassidy out of his suit, Nyberg reported that Parmitano had said that the suit water tasted funny, not like the normal drinking water supplied to spacewalkers through their replenishment system. Parmitano also reported that the midsection of his body suit was dry as opposed to the wetter back torso and neck and shoulders. Just a guess, but I'm thinking a possible suit cooling system failure.

With both astronauts safe, TV coverage ended. NASA announced the ISS crew would continue with investigations and debriefings, with a press conference to occur today around 1:30 pm MDT. 

Today's EVA was part 2 of a series of walks to help prepare the station for the arrival of a new Russian module later this year. Tasks not completed today will be left to another spacewalk later on.

Parmitano OK after Dangerous EVA

Eurospace AGency Astronaut Luca Parmitano in airlock waiting for emergency repressurization procedures to conclude. By this point he could not see or hear because blobs of water had covered his eyes and entered his ears, and some was getting into his nose.

You can just imagine the frustration astronaut Parmitano must have felt waiting to get out of that suit. Water was going into the wrong holes... and not a thing he could do except remain very calm. In his debriefing he said that before he could get back to the airlock, his eyes were blinded by the water (NOT drinking water, but probably coolant water) and he had to find his way to the airlock by memory, with help from fellow EVA astronaut Chris Cassidy. He estimates there was nearly 3 pounds of water in the helmet by the time it was removed, which is about a half-gallon! He definitely showed the stuff astronauts are made of. He could have choked and possibly drowned before getting the helmet off.  More details in this article:

Meanwhile, in Mission Control... Flight Directors David Korth (L) and Norm Knight (R) discuss the dangerous situation and the best way to get Parmitano into the airlock and safety.

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