Monthly Archives: March 2012

An Awesome Week with the Awesome Students from Cyfarthfa

Well I had the best of intentions of writing all about the week but time just got away from me. Instead of trying to go back and recreate specific details I’ll give you the high-level commentary and try to do better with this next group’s trip!

 The students got to see all sorts of stuff….

  • Behind the Scenes Tour of Johnson Space Center (Sorry I don’t have the pictures of this but hopefully they will post some of theirs!) which they found amazing!
  • Toured about Space Center Houston
  • Challenger Mission at Houston Museum of Natural Science (They did amazing and had a VERY successful mission); They also toured about the Museum in general
  • A fantastic talk at Rice University from Dr. David Alexander
  • Moody Gardens – they toured the Rainforest and Aquarium Pyramids and had talks about Survival in the Amazon Rainforest where they got to see some animals from there and a talk about Saving our Oceans
  • Over the week they met lots of fantastic people from NASA including
    • 6 astronauts
    • 1 space surgeon
    • 1 engineer from the exercise hardware world
    • 1 physiologist 
    • 1 former astronaut instructor and mission controller
  • Plus they went shopping and I think they bought out Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch!!

A good time was had by all (at least I think so!) And I now have lots of new friends who I do hope to see again! 

I’ll post the rest of my pictures soon to the ISSET Facebook page….

 Stay tuned for updates about next week’s group from Portsmouth….


Recap of First Few Days of Student Trip to Houston

Well it’s been a fun-filled action-packed couple days so while I have had the best of intentions of blogging about the ISSET student adventures here in Houston every day I just haven’t had a spare minute to do so! I’ll try and get caught up now though!


The first day they arrived it was a bit later in the day (nearly 6:15pm by the time they got to the hotel) so there wasn’t much time. The luggage arrived first via courier and then the 3 vans full of students and 3 teachers showed up. We headed to Magnolia Café & Bakery for a quick dinner and were fortunate enough to have astronaut Steve Swanson (Swani) join us. Everyone was a bit tired however so it was an early night!


The first full day started off with a trip to the San Jacinto Monument – here’s the history portion of their trip! I have to admit in 12 years of living in Houston this was my first visit there. We toured the museum portion a bit, saw the movie “Texas Forever” and then went up to the top to the Observation Deck to check out what we could see.


We headed to Bayou Wildlife Park in Alvin for the afternoon. For anyone who has not ever been there I highly recommend checking it out if you get a chance. They have tons of animals who wander the grounds so you can pet them and feed them. Plus they have a tram ride through the park of even more animals (some they can’t exactly let wander the general areas – like the rhino!) many of which are endangered. There were some folks who weren’t so sure about getting up close and personal with the wildlife but it didn’t take very long for them to get warmed up to them! To start the wildlife adventure we had a picnic with some awesomely delicious sandwiches and cookies catered by Katherine’s Creations. Apparently a few of the resident wildlife decided that they wanted to partake too! We petted some goats and pot bellied pigs after lunch and then it was off to the tram ride where we got to see sooooooooo many animals! I am pretty sure everyone enjoyed it! (I know the adults did too!!)

The weather here in Houston has been quite warm (over 80 degrees Farenheit) so the students got to enjoy some pool time, which was certainly a big hit!

Dinner was at Barcenas Mexican Restaurant (cheese and beef enchiladas – Yum!) and we were lucky enough to have a member of the latest class of astronauts join us – Kate Rubins. Several of the students had lost of questions for her, which she was more than happy to answer.

You may have notices we have a “fluffy – stuffed” traveler with us. This is Shaun and he is the Cyfartha Geography Class Mascot of sorts. Shaun travels all about and gets his picture taken all over the place. He’s rather popular J

More soon about the rest of the week’s adventures!

Check out the ISSET Facebook Page for pictures (to be posted soon!) 

Michelle’s Hometown Ties

This is a little more personal of a post – hope you all don’t mind!

For those of you who have only known my in my “adult” years let me give you a little background on me that is relevant to this story… I grew up in Hobart, Indiana. (For all of you who are confused because I say I am from Chicago let me explain – Hobart is technically a Chicago suburb even though it’s in a different state. And I know no one knows where Hobart is so Chicago is the answer that makes sense when someone asks where I am from.) Hobart is fairly small in the scheme of things (less than 30,000 people) and definitely not a place one would call affluent but it was a great place to grow up. I went to Kindergarten at Foreman Elementary school but then for grades 1-5 they then switched our neighborhood to attend George Earle. I had some REALLY great teachers there… but I’ll get to that more in a moment!

While I was in Australia for Mission Discovery in January the principal of the elementary school called Joan Martin asked me if I would be willing to come and talk to the students the next time I was in town. I said sure! There are some random interesting things with that including that Joan Martin is the newest school and didn’t open until I was in high school (but I remember going into their cafeteria/gymnasium for high school cheer practice when we needed the space) and it was built to replace (in part) Foreman Elementary where I had gone to kindergarten. (It is even in the space place.) Most interesting perhaps is the principal of Joan Martin is a former classmate of mine who also cheered with me in High School – I knew her as Kacey Juzwicki but she is now Kacey Allen. 


In emails between myself, Kacey and the 5th grade teacher Mrs. Beth York we were discussing the plans for the day… it took several emails for a realization to kick in for me at which point I responded “Mrs. York… Is this Miss Jones?” Lo and behold Mrs. York who is teaching 5th grade at Joan Martin Elementary is none other than Miss Jones who taught me 5th grade at George Earle Elementary!!! (George Earle has since been turned into a school for only kindergarten students and it’s all day kindergarten. My mom probably would have loved if I’d had that!!) How neat that I was going to get see my former teacher. I also learned that Mrs. Appleton who had been my 4th grade teacher was teaching 4th grade at Joan Martin! 

I arrived at the school in the morning and have to admit it definitely felt odd to be going back to a Hobart elementary school to talk to students! But I was also excited at the opportunity. I hoped I could reach at least 1 kiddo and who knows maybe show them how many exciting possibilities are out there. I was thrilled to see Miss Jones (okay I know she’s Mrs. York but I just can’t help but call her Miss Jones!) and honestly she no kidding didn’t look like she had changed at all!! I spoke with the 5th grade students for nearly an hour and a half and I think it went pretty well. I had struggled with how to “illustrate” (if you will) that I was no different from any of them. I was just an ordinary kid from Hobart who decided to work my tail off and chase the dream of working at NASA. I know kids can frequently look at you like “yeah right” when you talk about how you are really the same as them. So I figured that a picture could be worth a thousand words and I pulled out some old pictures from my life in Hobart and scanned them in. I even found class pictures from Miss Jones and Mrs. Appleton’s class. Then I showed them some pictures of all the cool things I have gotten to do in both school (like flying on the Vomit Comet in College) and at work (working with all my crews, travel to amazing places etc.) and I think it was fairly effective  🙂

I had to use this picture as well because both Kacey and I are in it – Freshman Year of High School

Then in the afternoon I talked to the entire school for a shorter period of time. But before heading to the gymnasium I got a huge treat- Mrs. Carnahan who I had for some subjects in 1st grade showed up just because she heard I was going to be there! I felt so special that she came in to see me! Mrs. C hadn’t changed at all either!!!


Mrs. Carnahan and Me – When the heck did I grow?!

As usual I got some fantastic questions from the students. I love to get their minds working!

 It was really a treat to be able to give something back to where I grew up and to get to see some of my teachers who were so fantastic to me and always supported my dreams! I told the kids I am literally living my dreams and I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to do so! I look forward to being able to go back to Hobart (and surrounding areas) to help excite more kids from where I am from about science and math and the possibilities that are out there if they are willing to work hard! And not just to Hobart – but to everywhere in the world!!!


Mrs. York (Miss Jones), Mrs. Appleton, Me, Mrs. Carnahan – What AMAZING teachers I had!!

The British are coming! The British are coming!

I am very excited – today 31 students (of high school age) and 3 teachers are coming to visit Houston from Cyfartha, Wales as part of a program with ISSET. They will spend some days here learning more about the space program as well as more fun and interesting stuff with science and engineering and then they will head to Florida for more of the same kind of idea including a tour at Kennedy Space Center. What an incredible trip! I grew up in the US and didn’t get to have that kind of experience until I was out of University and working for the space industry!

A sampling of things they will see and do here in Houston

  • Space Center Houston
  • Behind the Scenes Tour of Johnson Space Center
  • San Jacinto Monument
  • Bayou Wildlife Park
  • A lecture from Dr. Alexander at Rice University about Space and Solar Science
  • Presentations from Astronauts
  • Presentations from other space scientists
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science
  • Challenger Center Mission
  • Moody Gardens including some amazing interactive programs

A sampling of things they will do in Florida

  • Kennedy Space Center Vistors Center
  • A Behind the scenes tour at Kennedy Space Center
  • Cape Canaveral Tour
  • Kennedy Space Center Wildlife Refuge
  • Meet the former Kennedy Space Center Director Jay Honeycutt
  • Potentially meet some astronauts
  • Brevard County Planetarium
  • Astronaut Training at Astronaut Hall of Fame (Formerly Home to US Space Camp FL 

Sound amazing? It is!! I am excited to be their “guide” here in Houston while Chris will be their guide in Florida. Interested in joining us for one of these? Check out the ISSET webpage to get more details

 We are also hoping to plan similar trips to Washington, DC as well and also to the UK! Drop us a line and let us know what you’d be interested in!!


What shall be my first Message to the Moon?

Well it’s been a bit of a boring week for me… unfortunately I have been sick so I have been confined to my couch… What it has given me though is time to think about what I want my first Message to the Moon to be. Unfortunately in all my thinking I am still undecided – I have several things that I would like to add to be sent to the moon but what shall be my first? I know it needs to be something that has importance to me but there are several of those sorts of things that I could choose.

I suppose I will have to think a bit more to come up with the perfect first Message to the Moon from me. But in the meantime – have you thought about what your first Message to the Moon should be? If not – start thinking! Then check out the webpage…

 Only a few people have had the opportunity to put their messages on the moon to this point – the Queen, some important politicians and of course the astronauts. But now you can leave a message on the moon. What a neat idea!

Back to thinking… I’ll let you know what I decide!