Tag Archives: Astronomy Meets Adventure

What do YOU want to see?

So as I am working on new program ideas all over the world I realized that I am certainly falling down on the job if I don’t ask all of YOU what it is that YOU would be interested in seeing 🙂

Specifically for this I am working on various ALE (Astronaut Leadership Experiences) – Astronomy Meets Adventure Programs.Recently we’ve gone to the Gobi Desert to see the Transit of Venus. Coming up in November we head to Australia! http://www.isset.org/astronomy_meets_adventure/

December information is still getting solidified for another program but if we pull that one together it will be in the Caribbean area…. So where do YOU want to go? What astronomical event do YOU want to see? Tell us! You never know we may add it to our list of trip options 🙂

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Gobii! Part 4 – Well technically Beijing

I figure I’ll finish up the full travel part of my blog before I head into the Leadership portions of it… I hope that’s okay with all of you who are following along!

After a bit of travel we landed in Beijing. I have to admit that Ken and I were thinking it wasn’t likely that we would particularly like Beijing. We were thrilled to  be going but weren’t sure we were going to love it. Upon arrival at the airport we meant our tour guide who affectionately refers to himself as Jimmy. Upon some discussion we found out that Jimmy has had some pretty amazing guests as tourists including the USA Olympic Basketball team including Coach K! I thought that was super cool because I LOVE college basketball and Coach K is absolutely epic! And apparently the Duke basketball team also came to Beijing and Jimmy got to be their tour guide as well. Personally I knew we had to be in really good hands if those guys trusted Jimmy and I certainly wasn’t wrong!

The first day there wasn’t loads of time to do much other than get settled into our hotel room and have some dinner – that said we all were super excited to get a really awesome shower after having been in the Gobi for so long.  I do have to say the Crowne Plaza in Beijing has really great showers! 

The next morning we got up and headed directly to the Great Wall of China. Apparently there are 7 separate sections that you can climb as a tourist. Jimmy very wisely took us there early so we missed the crazy rush of tourists on the way up. It certainly was a LOT of stairs to the top of the area we were at. The stairs were not at all even or standard which made climbing even more interesting. Looking at the Great Wall we all couldn’t help but marvel at the great engineering feat that it was.


Of course it is also a massive graveyard of sorts because when people would die while working on the wall they would simply be buried within the wall.  Not everyone decided to go to the top but those of us who did were rewarded with an incredible view. It was also interesting because a bunch of the teenagers (and some adults too!) wanted to take pictures with us at the top of the Great Wall. I am not sure if they were interested to see Westerners or if it was a joke of sorts – either way it was a bit amusing to us! What an amazing treat to be able to see one of the great wonders of the world!!



After that we headed to a Jade Gallery where we got to see jade being carved and we had an amazing lunch after a bit of jade shopping. It was incredible the things that they have made out of jade!


Then it was off to an elementary school where we did a presentation but we also got treated to performances from the students as well! They honored each of us with a red scarf which is something the students have to earn through hard work.

Then we headed off to see the Olympic Village.  I was especially excited about this because I LOVE the Olympics! As a little girl I remember I used to cry during the Closing Ceremonies because I was so sad it was over and the next one was so far away! I was lucky enough to have the chance to go to the Olympics when they were in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. My totally awesome Mom took me as a graduation present. How awesome! So it was really neat to get to see such iconic buildings as the Birds Nest and the Water Cube up close and personal. I wish we’d had more time there because I would have loved to have gone into the Water Cube but maybe next time! And I am hoping while in London for our upcoming Mission Discovery that I will get a chance to go see the London Olympic Park!


After Olympic Village we had a little extra time so we headed to a tea room for a traditional tea ceremony where we tried a variety of teas. Yum! Then it was off to a University for another presentation. What great students they were and obviously super excited about space especially because of the impending Chinese launch as well. That was a super full day!

Our last full day in Beijing was another fun filled one of lots of sights! We started off at The Temple of Heaven where many people come for leisure during the mornings once they’ve retired. Hundreds of people do sports or dancing or just hang out and chat or play games. It’s really delightful to see!


We even jumped into the fun and did a bit of dancing – we weren’t very good but we had fun! The Temple itself is quite striking – I really love the colors.


We enjoyed some time there and then headed off for a bit of shopping. Needless to say you can get just about anything you want to buy in China! We also toured a silk shop and saw how silk is made. 

Then Jimmy had a really amazing Szechewan lunch planned for us in a super neat restaurant before we headed to the Lama Temple. The Lama Temple is still an active temple so it was very neat to get to see people there for this reason as well as visiting as tourists. Our last stop on our whirlwind tour of Beijing was to The Forbidden City also known before as The Imperial Palace. The Forbidden City has 9,999 rooms in it and took only 14 years to construct – obviously they had a lot of manpower and motivation to get this huge project done in such time!! It’s an immense place with so much history – you really have to see it to fully appreciate it’s impressiveness!


Ken and I both discovered that we REALLY enjoyed Beijing and would happily return so I can honestly recommend to everyone to go check out Beijing if you get a chance!

We had a fun evening of dinner and a bit of karaoke (nope – no videos!) but then sadly the next day it was time to say good-bye to all of our new friends and head back to home – various places for this group! Before leaving I found out something that was pretty cool though…. I saw Michelle Hynes luggage tags and realized her and I have the same initials. I commented on this and then was shocked to find out her middle name is Lynette – my middle name is Lynn because my Mom’s name is Lynette! Crazy! Then Gillian (Michelle’s sister) mentioned that her middle name is Laureen – I have an Aunt named Laureen (she’s my mom’s sister) – Double crazy! Clearly Gillian, Michelle and I were meant to be friends!

 I can’t wait for the next adventure and I hope some of you will come along with us!!


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Gobi!!!! 2nd installment

After the Transit of Venus it was time to pack up again and hit the road. But first we had lunch, which brings me to a great point – the food in Mongolia was actually quite good. I have to admit I had prepared myself for the worst thinking it was likely stuff I wouldn’t eat but most of it was rather tasty! Generally rice and meat with some fresh veggies – overall good stuff!

We had a fairly long drive again but little did we know how worth it that it would be. We arrive at another ger camp and settled in. Our guides decided we should have dinner before seeing the “main attraction” of the evening. Some of us were skeptical about this plan but we were so wrong to be! During dinner we watched a movie about the area we were in – this area was where archaeologists first found dinosaur eggs! In addition there were many other paleontological discoveries as well.  We were at The Flaming Cliffs that in daylight were absolutely gorgeous but they became even more breathtaking with the sunset – obviously the guides knew what they were talking about! Honestly this was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. 

We all wandered around – the teams had a task to work on as well – and I wandered down to check out a lone camel hanging out at the bottom of the cliffs. He was not real sure about me and stood very still as I approached in general but then decided I wasn’t a threat and went back to munching on whatever small vegetation he could find.

We had about an hour and a half to explore but I honestly could have spent all day here – many of the others agreed! However with sunset in progress it wouldn’t be long until we wouldn’t be able to find our way out (remember we are truly in the middle of the Gobi Desert so it’s not like there are a bunch of street lights etc!) so we headed back to camp and hung out for a bit in the dining area where we were treated to some musical entertainment from some of the gals… quality entertainment I must say!!

The next morning guess what we did – if you guessed hopped back in the vehicles to drive to our next destination you are absolutely correct! The next day we headed to the fanciest of all the Ger Camps we stayed at called “The Secret of Ongi.” While there we walked to tour the old Ongi Monastery which is in the process of being rebuilt from when the Russians destroyed the majority of the monasteries in the country during the late 1940s. Even in ruins the monastery and surroundings were absolutely gorgeous and so peaceful and serene. We all couldn’t help but wonder how amazing it would have been had it not been destroyed – and also how the whole area might have prospered as well.

That evening Ken kindly gave us his STS-132 mission presentation, which everyone (including all of our Mongolian drivers) enjoyed immensely. We then spent the rest of the evening hanging out and chatting. By now we had made so many new friends that it felt like we’d all known each other for ages! When it got a bit later Rhodri was kind enough to set up his telescope and we were fortunate enough to be able to see Saturn including its rings!! That was a total bonus for me since I had never actually seen Saturn through a telescope before. Once again – what a treat!!!!

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