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Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

“Green deck for landing, conditions CAVU.”

John McCain’s son Jack tweeted a tribute to his Dad this morning – conditions are great, “Ceiling and visibility unlimited!” Jack is a Navy lieutenant, a helicopter pilot who graduated from the Naval Academy in 2009. The military is in their blood, and flying into danger was part of their family legacy. Now that the great Senator from Arizona is being laid to rest, his service to our country stands in stark contrast to the current occupant of a gold (whoops, “golf”) course in Bedminster, NJ.

As many of you know, Bob is a private pilot. Although he’s never landed a fighter jet on the prow of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean, I like to think I could trust him to land a passenger plane if needed. He likes to follow our flights around the globe on his iPad. I may be reading my Kindle all scrunched up in coach while he happily points out our descent and predicts what runway our Southwest pilot will land on, depending on the wind of course.

Flying around in his old four-seater Piper Arrow, I would breathe a sigh of relief when I saw those three green lights on the console light up, meaning the wheels were down – a very important part of the approach pattern. Kind of like having a green deck for landing!

Yesterday I asked Bob where he was on July 20, 1969 when the Eagle landed on the Moon. We had broken up in college, and he was planning a trip to Woodstock. I was living in a basement apartment in Cambridge, MA with a roomie named Alicia. His parents were away on a trip, and there were lots of friends crashing at Great Grandma Ada’s house on a hill. I asked him if he remembers calling me then, during the moon landing. It’s strange the memories our brains choose to store and those that fall away.

We were reminiscing because I’d played the first trailer of the Rocker’s new company, TOTEM. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/29/movies/first-man-trailer-ryan-gosling.html

Bob isn’t on social media so I have to keep him up to date with the millennials in our lives. Our son did the sound design and music for the trailer of the film “First Man,” with Ryan Gosling playing Neil Armstrong landing on the Sea of Tranquility, taking that first small step. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html

Flying into the unknown, into clouds or out of earth’s orbit, takes courage and training, knowing a thousand different variables could go wrong. Starting your own business today takes a leap of faith and a lot of talent. And while staying calm under pressure is a reasonable trope for men and women who choose aviation as a career, it could also be said for young entrepreneurs. An image of a Tesla in space comes to mind!

In fact, this morning astronauts on the International Space Station are having to deal with a leak probably caused by a tiny high-speed meteorite. How did they find it? By passing a finger along the wall. How did they fix it temporarily? Using a sealant and duct tape! https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-45364155

So big congratulations to my son and his partners in TOTEM. Your parents are over the moon happy and proud of you! https://www.totemmx.com

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Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, and last night Bob and I watched the “Apollo Wives” documentary on PBS. It was a fascinating trip down memory lane for anyone old enough to remember where they were on July 20, 1969.

I was in a basement apartment in Cambridge, MA with a my roomie Alicia. My own wedding was on the horizon, and the moon landing was on a small black and white TV in the corner of our apartment. I remember feeling awed and wondering if the footage had been slowed down, because the effect of zero gravity didn’t translate to my brain.

Bob called me soon afterwards, to see if I had watched. There were no DVRs or recording devices to play back such a monumental moment in time. If you missed it, you’d have to wait for the next day’s evening news show. I had to remind Bob I was marrying someone else. I wonder if he remembers?

That August, Bob had to chase his own stardust at Woodstock:

The story of Woodstock, slice it how you will, is anti-Darwinian; nature suspended her processes of selection, and everyone more or less lovingly muddled through. Such menaces as there were seem to have been collective—the dodgy brown acid, the lack of sanitation, the rain that left concertgoers huddled under (packaged in?) sheets of clear plastic. When Sri Swami Satchidananda, ochre-robed, inaugurated the proceedings on August 15, he proclaimed the imminent oneness of everything: “America is becoming a whole!”  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/woodstock-nation/307611/

America became whole when a man landed on the moon, but we didn’t know much about the military/astronaut wives back in the day. The press paraded their pretty faces in the back pages of newspapers. The drinking, the Valium and the divorces were kept under wraps. It was a watershed year for women, do you go all “Stepford Wife” or do you continue your education and put off marriage? Burn your bra, or pull up your girdle and soldier on?

Well there was a little known woman, an MIT scientist, behind the design of the software that made that Apollo mission possible. Margaret Hamilton and her team wrote the code for the computer’s guidance system on board the rocket. When NASA thought they may have to abort the landing, she figured out the computer’s memory was being overloaded with too much inconsequential data – she taught them how to prioritize! Landing went to the top of the list – isn’t it ironic?!

And this was when computers used “core rope memory” which was woven in a laborious process by hand, by women in factories…hence the male engineers called these memory programs “LOL Memory.” And it wasn’t because it was humorous. LOL stood for “Little Old Ladies.” http://www.vox.com/2015/5/30/8689481/margaret-hamilton-apollo-software

So here’s to you Margaret Hamilton! For going where no woman had gone before. And here’s to every girl who takes a science or a math class and loves it! In Catholic school, and later in high school, I was never given that opportunity. It wasn’t until college that I discovered I loved science. Back in 1969, I thought my future was secure. I’d be the wife of a Harvard lawyer and create cocktail parties to beat the band. Luckily, I woke up.

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton

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What will be happening on Monday, August 6th at 1:31 am? An Olympic archery competition, or maybe diving? Nope. A tiny 2,000 pound robotic spacecraft, the size of a Mini Cooper, will navigate its way onto the surface of Mars at a cost of $2.5 billion dollars. NASA has named “her” the Curiosity Rover, and she will be touching down “naked” (without any protective wrapping) assisted by a parachute and a sci-fi Sky Crane. The feed of course will be delayed, but you can watch the action on NASA TV http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html or follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/MarsCuriosity…Twitter, I may just have to join your tribe.

I was listening to this podcast on NPR http://www.npr.org/2012/08/03/158100726/rover-to-look-for-building-blocks-of-life-on-mars with Bob in the car. My first question was why do we always refer to ships and planes, and most vehicles with the feminine pronoun? Is grammatical gender a feminist issue? Romance languages are replete with feminine and masculine inanimate objects, but we English speakers, not so much. Then when the scientists were discussing its mission, to dig deep below the surface in search of frozen water, and possibly find DNA and RNA and proteins that might hint at evidence of life on the planet, I turned to Bob and said, “Wow, if it’s like us, we may have to re-think Scientology!”

The story only gets curiouser. Of course I had to research the whole “7 minutes of terror” theory, when the Curiosity would leave its orbit and descend to Mars – going from a speed of 13,000 MPH to about 200. And I love the personal story of the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) team leader, engineer Adam Steltzner. “He has pierced ears, wears snakeskin boots and sports an Elvis haircut.” Here is a guy who was coasting in high school, then descended into the sex, drugs and rock and roll pit that was the Bay Area of the 70s. His first car was a 69 Cadillac hearse and his dad told him he’d never amount to anything but a ditch digger, then one day he’s driving home from a gig and thinks to himself, hey, the constellation of Orion is in a different place than it was earlier. Steltzner starts taking a physics course at the local community college, and the rest is history, or herstory! http://www.scpr.org/news/2012/08/03/33644/crazy-smart-when-a-rocker-designs-a-mars-lander/

“I grew up in an era where space was revered,” he said. “So I think there’s a kind of natural ego drive to be involved in something so sexy. And I came from rock ‘n’ roll, and there’s a lot of sexy in rock ‘n’ roll. So in terms of, really, just what I would need to measure myself, it could have been waste treatment, but I also needed a little bit of sexy.” So here’s to all those women and men, rock and roll scientists and engineers out there, you’re sexy and we know it!

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