Monthly Archives: June 2013

Houston – We Have No Problems Here!

We began the Houston portion of the Space Center Experience just 2 days ago and I think it’s fair to say that we will not be uttering the famous line in regards to our trip! While it is very hot here (especially compared to the UK) the heat is not putting a damper on our adventure. 

We’ve had dinners and outings with a wide variety of astronauts, NASA scientists, flight controllers and astronaut instructors. I did ask the students if they’ve had too much space talk and the response was very quick…. the answer was “No Way! We are loving every minute of it!” Okay so perhaps I am paraphrasing a bit but that’s the gist of it!

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We went to see the San Jacinto Monument and they learned a bit of Texas History. 

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Today we started the day with a personal tour of part of Space Center Houston including the Lunar Vaults. Our tour guide Jeri was an engineer during Apollo who worked a lot with the Lunar Module. In addition to telling us all about the amazing space artifacts we were looking at he also told us some absolutely priceless stories about his time at NASA. We feel so incredibly honored to have gotten a tour from such an accomplished contributor to space history. During the tour we saw moon rocks (and even got to touch one!), the Mercury Capsule Faith 7, the podium from which JFK made his famous speech about the challenge to go to the moon, the Apollo 17 Command Module and more priceless space things than we can list! It was an amazing morning!

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We also headed to Moody Gardens Aquarium and enjoyed all the animals there. Image

This portion of the trip is only half over and there is so much more exciting things to come! 

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DC Was Fantastic Now onto Houston!

The Space Center student experience has been so busy and so much fun I simply haven’t had time to blog about it and for that I do apologize! The last few days in DC were filled with some incredible experiences such as a tour of Goddard Space Flight Center (including getting to see the James Webb Telescope being built), a tour of the monuments in Washington DC, a wander past the White House (unfortunately they are not doing tours of there currently) a trip to the American History Museum, a tour of the Air & Space Smithsonian that is on the National Mall, a visit to Downtown Annapolis as well as around the US Naval Academy and some more great encounters with some really interesting people including Piers Sellers.ImageImage
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Everyone realized that we could have spent a month in the DC area and still not seen absolutely everything so while we were sad to leave DC we had an incredible time there and are looking forward to our next stop…. Houston and the Johnson Space Center!

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Day 2 of the June Space Center Experience

Being in Washington DC makes for a prime opportunity to see the heart of the US Government so we arranged for the students to be able to take a tour of the US Capitol Building. 

But first to start the “events” of the day we headed to lunch near the Capitol Building with Astronaut George “Zambo” Zamka.

It was a great treat for the students to get to hear stories of his spaceflight and to get to ask him questions about how he came to be an astronaut, what made him want to become a pilot and anything else that came to mind to ask. Definitely a great opportunity!

After that it was time for The Capitol Tour where we got to see various parts of this incredible building including The Crypt as well as The Rotunda. The art and architecture of the whole place is absolutely incredible. 

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Rotunda

We learned about the history of The Capitol and how it has changed over the years. One thing of interest is that every state is allowed to have 2 statues in the Capitol at any given time. We thought it quite telling that Colorado chose this statue as 1 of the 2 allowed to represent them. 

 

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In addition to the tour we got the opportunity to go and sit in on actual sessions of Congress in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Talk about a great chance to see government in action! 

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Unfortunately the weather was not particularly cooperative today so instead of touring all of the monuments that are outside we walked to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum instead and checked out all that had to offer.

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Apparently today wasn’t a day of just 1 astronaut… it was a 2 astronaut day as the group had dinner with astronaut Ken Ham where the students got the chance to ask him even more questions about why he became an astronaut.  

All in all I think it’s safe to say that it was a day full of unique opportunities and everyone had a great time! And it’s only Day 2… there are so many more to go!! Stay tuned!!

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Space Center Experience June 2013

One of the many incredible programs offered by ISSET is the Space Center Experience where students can come and visit the NASA Space Centers in the Washington DC area, Florida and Houston. Trips could include 1, 2 or even all of these options. Additionally it’s possible to create a custom experience as happened recently with a group who wanted to see New York City. 
http://isset.org/NASA_space_centre_visits/

The latest Space Center experience is underway with some UK University students – first stop on the tour… Washington DC!

On the first full day the students started off in a stellar excursion to the National Air & Space Museum UDvar Hazy extension at Dulles Airport where they got to see hundreds of amazing airplanes and perhaps the most majestic sight of all…. Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery. While their they got an incredible tour from a very knowledgable docent who worked as a Chemical Engineer at Cape Canaveral during the Mercury and Gemini programs.Image

Love this picture
http://instagram.com/p/aqc9OGKaaX/

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After the tour the students got to partake in a flight simulator that “took them on a tour” of the International Space Station.

Next stop on the trip was Arlington National Cemetery.  Arlington Cemetery honors those who have fallen in battle fighting for their country. The cemetery was also a memorable location from war film, Saving Private Ryan.

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At Arlington the students got the opportunity to see JFK’s grave with eternal flame, the changing of the guard which is a sacred and honored tradition, Memorials to the Challenger and Columbia Crews as well as a beautiful view of Washington DC.

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But the day wasn’t done after all that! For dinner we had the pleasure of the company of astronaut Ken Ham as well as Meredith Botnick who is an aerospace engineer, Navy pilot and space flight fan. Also joining us was Aaron Botnick a meteorologist and computer scientist. Needless to say it was a great dinner with fantastic conversation!

I’d say Day 1 was a success… Hope you’ll follow along for the rest of the trip!

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Day 7 of STS-124 Memories

Well this is going to be the shortest post (sorry today is just a bit busy!) but I think you’ll still like it.

Crews take thousands upon thousands of photos in space. To be honest they take so many it’s somewhat hard to go through all of them! While there are many many great shots from STS-124 this photo I am posting in this blog is absolutely one of my most favorites. This photo was taken of Ken right after they’d reached orbit and the look on his face is absolutely priceless. He looks like a little kid on Christmas Morning! (Which is funny because the crew kept referring to the countdown of days til launch as the Countdown to Christmas.) The pure joy is absolutely magical and beautiful….

ken right after launch

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STS-124 Launch Memories Part 6

I know you may be thinking “Geez chelle keeps posting all these pictures and memories but none of them are of actual launch and Ken’s time in space yet. Why?!?!” I promise I will get to actual launch and pictures of Ken in space before too long but I wanted to show you guys the other things that go on around launch that you might not have otherwise known about. These events are a part of what makes the launch week so special for all of us family members. Don’t get me wrong – it’s very special that our loved one actually gets to go into space but we don’t get to so it’s great to have so many amazing memories that we got to actively participate in as opposed to just taking a viewer role.

There’s a beach house at the Cape that is (well at least it used to be – I don’t think it is anymore) just reserved for the astronauts. It’s a great house where you can go wander on the beach and relax. Prior to launch while the crew is in Florida this becomes an ideal place for some quality time with “your crew member.” One day we had meal there where each crew member could have 5 people in attendance so myself, our 2 boys and Ken’s parents headed out there for that event. On another day just us spouses got to spend time there. It’s a place where we could all relax without a bunch of people watching over every movement that is made (as is the case in Crew Quarters) during the week leading up to launch.

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I love this picture! All of us spouses arrived a few minutes before the crew so we took a few moments to snap a picture.

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Us with our Boys

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STS-124 Launch Memories Day 5

The day before launch each crew member gets to take 1 person to visit the space shuttle with them. (Generally it’s the spouse.) I have to tell you that amidst all the chaos of launch week it was really nice to get to spend some “quieter” time with Ken not to mention that getting “up close and personal” with the space shuttle on the launchpad is always pretty cool!

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Up at the Top of the Stack

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Walking out of the White Room which is where the crew enters the Orbiter

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Piers was willing to do whatever it took to get good shots of us. (He was one the escorts for us families for the week.)

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Yes I am most definitely a goofball! But then again many of you already knew that!!

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STS-124 Launch Memories Day 4

Upon arrival to KSC one of the things that the Commander and Pilot have to do a few times is practice their shuttle landings in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) – and they do this fully suited. Gabby and I were able to come and watch them get suited it (it’s no small task to get into these suits!) and then walk out to Shuttle Landing Facility and watch them not just board the plane but also do their flying. I have to admit that we were both kind of silly and when they flew past us the first time we waved at them like we were little kids 🙂

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STS-124 Memories Day 3… Night Viewing

One of the incredible perks of this whole thing was getting to see the space shuttle at night. She looks absolutely majestic all lit up by the Xenon lights… Each astronaut gets to bring a limited number of people to this special viewing the night before launch. While I had seen the shuttle at night from afar this was the first time I’d ever gotten to be “up close and personal” at night. To say it was a beautiful sight is a major understatement. Unfortunately my camera skills were not so good so many of these pictures were out of focus. I decided to share a few with you anyway because let’s face it… they are still pretty cool 🙂

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This is me with my Mom, Grandpa and 2 of my aunts. Everyone was quite happy to stay up rather late to see this!

 

night jeffDSC_0135                                                                                             With my dear friend Jeff. Jeff has known me my entire life!!

 

nightmelDSC_0131                                                      With my best friend Mel. We met at University and have been inseparable since!

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Mel and I hanging out with Wheels (Doug Wheelock) who was our official astronaut escort for the evening. I’ve known Wheels for a lot of years and am happy to call him a good friend.

 

1vickiDSC_0145                                                      Our friends Vicki & Craig came all the way from Australia to experience this!!

 
Then we got a special treat… since the crew’s sleep schedule lined up in such a way that they were still awake they came out for a few minutes to say Hello!
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STS-124 Memories Day 2

Going back to the beginning of launch week…..

The crew spends some days in quarantine at JSC and then they fly down by T-38. The spouses and kiddos flew down about the same time so we could be there to watch them land.

Here are a few great pictures of Ken and Aki heading to and then climbing into the T-38.
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Upon Arrival at KSC they walked by us and Ken opened his arms to give me a hug so of course I walked over to take advantage of that. Little did we know we weren’t really supposed to do that there…. Oops! Oh well!
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(Apparently it was okay when Dottie hugged Aki cuz she’s a fellow Astro.)

Wouldn’t you love to have a T-38 jet as your mode of transportation? I know I sure would!!!

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Upon arrival the crew gave a quick press conference and then they were off to crew quarters!

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