Tag Archives: NASA

NASA: A Historical View

Editor’s note: Yes, I use the more-modern “a” historical view instead of the older “an” historical view. Get over it!

I was so excited to receive confirmation (and then the press credentials!) for the upcoming STS133 #Nasatweetup…it is just a few weeks away! (Only 150 people were selected to attend…alas, @swimmerjoe was not so lucky!) He and I had a wonderful visit with @AndreaFarmer when she invited us to visit Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Center. (Well worth the trip!)

However, the last (and only time) I was up close and personal for an actual launch was when I was in middle school (think early-80’s) and I was on movie-maker and director Jesse Wolf’s family’s sailboat on the Intracoastal Waterway. And, if memory serves me correctly (since it was one of the early launches) we were able to go much closer than boats would be able to today…I still have the image of the brilliant comtrail against the blue sky burned into my memory banks!

So, when I heard NASA had released some historic photos via their Flickr.com “Commons” account, I just had to check them out. They show some of the very earliest pictures from NASA, including President John F. Kennedy touring Cape Canaveral.  My favorite? Tough to choose but I think the one of President Richard Nixon braving bad weather with the masses (under umbrellas) to witness the launch of Apollo 12.

Enjoy this walk down memory lane…

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Filed under History, Just for Me, Politics, Shuttle, Space, Uniquely Florida

Dear President Obama…

I eagerly await your Space Summit here in Florida on April 15. I suppose the significance of the date is to remind us that we are discussing our tax dollars and how you will spend them. I was most upset when you first announced that you would not be funding mankind’s mission to return the Moon and that you would be changing NASA’s budget. I wondered how any American could decide upon such a course for American engineering; how your ideas about space could be so different from mine… and then some ideas came to me.

Your Childhood
Although you are only nine years older than me, your childhood was vastly different than most American children of the time. You were born in Hawaii, which while it is one of the United States, let’s face it; it is a world of its own over 2,300 miles from the continental states. In the 1960s, just how much and how quickly did news travel from the mainland (Florida particularly) all the way to Hawaii? Then, from age 6 to 10 you lived in Indonesia, so who knows what kind of coverage man’s first steps on the Moon you even heard about?

And while I was standing outside my house watching the very first Space Shuttle blast off to go into space, you were in New York City going to Columbia…and how much attention does a typical college student–especially those who may be partying–really pay to current events?  (The space shuttle may have been no more than a blip on your radar.)

Your Work
And once you graduated from college, your focus turned to helping develop communities, a very worthy cause. You helped those in need get job training, prepare for college, work for tenants rights…these are very lofty goals and I applaud your work, but once again we differ…your eyes were looking down at the homeless man sitting on the sidewalk, while mine were looking up at the shuttle’s comtrail glowing a dazzling white against the bright blue.

And when the Challenger exploded in the skies above me, your eyes were not tuned toward the sky. How long did it take for you to learn of it in Chicago?

Your Dreams
I’m imagining that while you were growing up, space travel was little more than science fiction to you. You may have heard about it, seen a clip or two on TV, but how real could it seem to a child on the other side of the world?  While I grew up here, knowing the moms and dads whose sweat made space travel a reality. I knew teachers who were in the running to travel on the Challenger; I dreamed one day I would travel into space, too.

When my grandmother was young, she took the day-long trip by horse and wagon from Orlando to New Smyrna Beach. By the time she was an old lady, she had seen the man travel into space in less than 8 minutes.  So, I could not even dream of what mega-leaps into the future mankind would achieve during my lifetime.

The Debate
I am betting that whenever you read arguments about how we should be focusing on solving problems here on Earth before we explore space, you whole-heartedly agree with them because that makes sense to you. When I read those arguments, I shake my head thinking how ignorant these people are not to realize that exploring space IS helping to solve problems here on Earth: cell phones, medical advancements, satellite technology, etc.  (The list goes on and on of life-altering and saving achievements gained or aided through the space program.)

When I hear President John F. Kennedy challenging man to go to the Moon–not because it is easy but because it is hard–I feel the blood in my veins light on fire!  And, so I am wondering, Mr. Obama, why don’t you? Is it really because of your unusual upbringing and focus on the community?

Well, I of course believe in helping the community, too, just as many past Americans and Presidents have done. In fact, even while paying for the Vietnam War and funding the Great Societies programs, President Johnson still found a way to give 5% of the Federal Budget to make the Space Race a success. Right now, NASA accounts for less than 0.58% of the Federal Budget… how mush less do you want to give to Space?  For every $1 spent on space, $98 go to social programs. (And I haven’t recalculated this amount to accommodate for the billions just approved for the healthcare bill!)

So, in conclusion, Mr. President, I make a small request. Before you make any final decisions and recommendations for the NASA budget, perhaps step into somebody else’s shoes for a while.  Somebody whose upbringing was a bit more typical for an American child of the 60s and 70s. Somebody who had their eyes on the stars rather than on the sidewalks. Somebody who shakes her head sadly when Vice President Biden comes to Central Florida to talk up how the stimulus bill will bring a few hundred jobs to Clermont while his President’s actions will be eliminating 23,000 jobs at NASA. Please, oh please see beyond your personal experience, and appreciate the American experience… and understand why funding space exploration is so important!

Like every American President, you aspire to do great things and I hope you will… so make the right decision not only for Americans, but for mankind as well.

This editorial was written by Top 5 editor Bess Auer, native Floridian and avid dreamer.


Filed under Just for Me, Politics, Shuttle, Space

The Top 5 in Space!

The Central Florida Top 5 was invited to tour Kennedy Space Center this past weekend, and what a wonderful time! First of all, I am an Orlando native, and I am ashamed to admit I had never been to Kennedy Space Center before, and I suspect I am not alone! [Note: We Floridians tend to become immune to the theme park and attraction advertising, sending our visiting relatives to go without us, nodding our heads because we think we know what is basically there…well, I was wrong about KSC!] It is well worth the short drive down the Bee Line. From the giant rockets and life-size shuttle that greet you, to the interactive exhibits and unique artifacts, KSC is much, much more than I ever realized.

Upon arrival we were greeted by Public Relations Manager @AndreaFarmer, a Twitter friend whose updates I love reading. She graciously showed us around the visitor’s center, instructed us on “must-see” things, and then joined us for the Shuttle Launch Experience. Similar to a theme park ride, this simulator reproduces what it feels like to blast off into space, rumbling seats and all! [Note: 0 to 17,500 mph in a matter of mere seconds!]

The best thing about the simulator, though, is the feeling of weightlessness it miraculously recreates…totally mind blowing! I was joined by my husband @SwimmerJoe as well as my teenage son and nephew. This shuttle ride was their absolute favorite! [Note: The simulator magically transported me back to feeling like a teenager, remembering why I dreamed of becoming an astronaut in the first place.]  [Note 2: This dream was shattered while sitting in Astronomy 101 at the University of Florida where I learned Astronomy is basically the title of a really, really advanced math.] [Note 3: Yeah, I dropped the class after the second week.]

Shuttle Launch Experience Highlights:

  • Ultra-slick welcome by astronauts who have actually “been there, done that”
  • Quick queue for boarding the simulator
  • Realistic countdown from Launch Control
  • Awesome blast off and then that feeling of weightlessness
  • Eerie yet breathtakingly beautiful view of Earth through shuttle bay doors and then again through a giant window in the floor after the ride
  • Individual shuttle mission information
  • Signatures of those astronauts who have actually achieved Mach 25 (17,500 mph!)

Check out the video below for the video of the first part of our trip.

Next we visited a bit of a “soft opening” for the Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted, an interactive exhibit geared toward the two teenagers in tow. An ultra-cool display greeted us in the size of a giant revolving planet, so real it felt like we were standing on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. [Note: I am allowing my inner-geek to show, aren’t I?]

Astronaut Bess (at last!)

The Exploration Space exhibit also had different controls/gadgets for the boys to try as well as a neat social media aspect. We could create a post card and then email to friends and even upload it to Facebook.

<——Here’s Top 5 editor Bess standing on the moon!  [Note: Ain’t I cool?]

Finally the area had a live show where actor “Ken” told us about plans for future space exploration. The only thing that stands in the way of the Constellation Program going forward is funding. [Note: Congress, please support 40,000+ Florida jobs, the state economy, a pioneer spirit, and the survival of the human race!]

 Here’s video of Exploration Space as well as the Hubble Display:

Stay tuned for the second part of our trip…more video and photos coming!


Filed under General Info, Shuttle, Space, Tourist

It’s a Bird, a Plane, a Butterflynaut!

With the Space Shuttle program coming quickly to an end, and with NASA’s funding in jeopardy, every bit of exospheric research counts. This is why the unusual experiment by the University of Colorado makes me smile. Butterflys are being grown aboard the International Space Station…thus the term “butterflynauts!”

Here what the National Space Biomedical Research Institute has to say: “Painted Lady butterflies will fly aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station (ISS). The butterflies will spend several months in space as part of an exciting experiment to observe their life cycles and behaviors in microgravity. We invite your class to participate! The butterflies will live in a special habitat, which provides a safe environment, food and water. Photos and video will be transmitted back to Earth and made available here.”

And, what makes this fun (and educational) is the fact that we can get frequent updates via Youtube. Here’s the latest video of the caterpillarnauts.

And stay updated on Twitter!

Somehow “Butterflies in Space” doesn’t quite have the ring that the old Muppets skit “Pigs in Space” does, but still, the fact that research about life cycles in zero gravity might lead to humans finally colonizing elsewhere is exciting!

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Filed under Just Plain Weird, Out of Orlando, Shuttle

Elevator Games?

Growing up in Central Florida, one of my earliest aspirations was to be an astronaut. I believe moonwatching, supporting NASA, and reaching for the stars is ingrained in any native Floridian. My mother was pregnant with me when Neil Armstrong first set foot upon the Moon. Just twelve years later, I vividly remember being home sick from school and lying in bed watching both the opening of Epcot as well as the launch of the first space shuttle mission. Later, images of Columbia exploding 72 seconds into flight still reign in my mind, and I remember my high school teachers trying to explain to students what had happened.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was a sophomore sitting in Astronomy class at the University of Florida–and I realized how much math was involved with being an astronaut–that I was forced to give up that dream. 

Now, as NASA struggles with undetermined funding and uncertainty, everyone seems to have a strong opinion either for space exploration or against it. This is why the upcoming Space Elevator Games fascinate me so. The idea of reaching space in a new way (that doesn’t involve me having to conquer ridiculous amounts of math) seems intriguing. Here’s a short trailer for the games.

Yes, this idea seems a bit “out there” and farfetched, but so did rocketry fifty years ago. Ever see the movie October Sky? Well, one of those rocket boys lives right here in Central Florida: Dr. Robert Likens. He is living proof that dreams, however lofty, can come true. So, regardless of whether this idea will actually come to fruition, I loudly applaud the inventive thinking and never-ending dream of reaching for the stars…somehow it seems to epitomize not only the American spirit, but the Central Floridan one as well.

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Filed under Out of Orlando, Shuttle, Uniquely Florida

40th Anniversary

It seems like I keep writing about space, space, space…well, perhaps that is appropriate with all that has been happening in Central Florida lately–five attempts before the Endeavor launched successfully and now the fortieth anniversary of the Moon Landing. 

I must be honest…my mother was pregnant with me when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the Moon, so I have never known anything but the space age. I was also home sick from Glenridge Junior High, and so I got to watch live both the first Space Shuttle flight as well as the opening  of Epcot.  (I watched as fellow student Jodi Crane, who was there with his family as the first official visitors to Epcot, smiled and told reporters, “I hope my teachers aren’t watching!”)

My son, too, has grown up with humans regularly going into space. Although there have been two terrible tragedies, I would not hesitate to jump at the chance to go into space myself. (If only I was a billionaire!) I do wish I had been alive to witness the man’s first footsteps on the moon; hopefully I will be alive to see man’s first steps on Mars. After all, my grandmother watched Central Florida change from a place where she took a horse and wagon to New Smyrna Beach to a place that launched high tech rockets into orbit, so there is hope yet!

Enjoy this video recap of the Moon Landing…provided by NASA.

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Filed under History, Shuttle