Saturday, June 28, 2008

Back to Aluminum

After a week that included the highest highs and the lowest lows of the year, Jake and I are taking a break from the city and heading out in aluminum. We're taking the Airstream north for two nights.

On our agenda:

A fellow Airstreamer's first photo show at a gallery in Prescott.

A party for a dear friend in her mid-thirties who just earned her bachelor's degree in education from Western Governors University! (She chose them before I did.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Wisdom of Obama

I first became aware of Barack Obama, like many Americans, when he spoke at the Democratic convention in 2004. My neighbor at the time recently reminded me how electrified I was by this young senate candidate.

I just read the following in The New Yorker:

“It is, then, not surprising that when it was proposed that America should invade Iraq with the goal of establishing democracy there, Obama knew that it would be a terrible mistake. This was American innocence at its most destructive, freedom at its most deceptive, universalism at its most na├»ve. 'There was a dangerous innocence to thinking that we would be greeted as liberators, or that with a little bit of economic assistance and democratic training you’d have a Jeffersonian democracy blooming in the desert,' he says now."

That is an excerpt from “The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama coming from?” by Larissa MacFarquhar. It was published May 7, 2007.

That excerpt and the whole article hit home for me in many ways. First, on Iraq, I’ve come to the same conclusions as Obama after initially supporting the war. I believe now that that support of mine was idealistic, misguided, and frankly delusional.

But the quote, and other parts of the article, refers to something in my own life that is troubling. From all outward appearances I’ve been rootless. I had what Obama’s parents apparently had, a wanderlust that has left me refusing to stay in one place.

Though I love to travel, that wanderlust has manifested itself in a way that is contrary to things I’ve always believed in. To this day I love the place where I grew up. I never considered staying though because of what I perceived as the non-existent economic opportunities. So I headed out into the world from Ohio, determined to make something of myself.

I am deeply rooted in America and I am lucky to have good friends all over this great country.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Home

This morning in Florida, at the Kennedy Space Center, Mark Kelly and his crew landed the Space Shuttle Discovery--ending an almost fourteen day mission to the International Space Station.

This was Mark's third mission. I met him between his first and second, but followed this mission the closest. NASA names the missions using the official shuttle name "Space Transportation System" and a number. This was STS-124.

Even though I've known Mark for a couple of years, and personally know other astronauts as well, it wasn't until he invited me to the Kennedy Space Center for his launch that I really focused on the shuttle, and for the first time in my adult life, thought much about America's space program.

Our space program is an emblem of American pride. It epitomizes the can-do attitude of the United States. Far too many of us just take it for granted, but every time a shuttle or any rocket is launched, it's a major accomplishment and a reminder that we are living in the space age.

The investments we've made in our space program have paid off many times over in new technologies and even whole new industries.

The space shuttles will be retired in 2010--this is a good thing since they're based on a design from the 1970s and much of their technology goes back 30-plus years (of course many systems have been updated). The very bad aspect of retiring the shuttle is the fact that our next generation spacecraft is not yet ready, and won't be until at least 2015. This puts a planned gap in our human space flight program.

If we can spend and commit trillions of dollars on a poorly thought out war in Iraq, we can afford the relatively paltry sum required to keep our space program alive, strong, and moving forward. Spending money on a failed war is just a huge wasteful expense. Spending money on space exploration is an investment. As Americans, we need to understand the difference.

On Mark's mission he delivered a lab called Kibo to the International Space Station. Kibo means hope in Japanese. I hope we will jump start our space program and remain leaders in the exploration of other worlds.

Photo from NASA

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Day at the Office


Astronaut Mark Kelly, STS-124 commander, looks over a checklist on the flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery during flight day 12 activities. Photo and text from NASA

Drifting Away From the International Space Station


A view of the Space Shuttle Discovery soon after the shuttle and the International Space Station began their post-undocking relative separation on June 11. One of the Expedition 17 crewmembers recorded the photo with a digital still camera.
Photo and text from NASA

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can it be real?


Can it be? How can it be? Think of the marvel of the human mind and human accomplishment. "Here is a fan of solar arrays, a partial view of International Space Station and Earth's horizon. Photo by a STS-124 crew member on the International Space Station before space shuttle Discovery undocked from the station." Photo and quoted text from NASA

Karen Looks Home


A woman gazing at her big blue home. She is the 50th human female to venture into outer space.

"Astronaut Karen Nyberg, STS-124 mission specialist, looks through a window in the newly installed Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Discovery is docked with the station."

Photo and quoted text from NASA

Monday, June 09, 2008

Do you ever think of the International Space Station?


"With the blackness of space and the Earth's horizon as a backdrop, astronaut Ron Garan completes the third spacewalk of the mission." I never thought much of the ISS--I just knew it was there, vaguely. Here is a view of it in all of its glory--and it is so, so glorious. Photo and quoted text from NASA

Mark and His Crew

The STS-124 crew members pose for a portrait in the the Kibo Japanese Pressurized Module of the International Space Station while space shuttle Discovery is docked with the station.

Photo and text from NASA

Friday, June 06, 2008

Thirteen Months of Bliss

Tonight is my last night as a full-time Airstreamer. Jake and I are at home, enjoying our aluminumness for one quiet night--though the AC is so loud our ears are numb.

When I dreamt up this wild scheme in March of 2007 I had no way of knowing how much fun it would be to live in a trailer. Over time I've increasingly embraced my inner trailer trash and have discovered an irrational passion for Airstream living.

As I've said before in this space, the summer heat of the Phoenix sun means it isn't wise to live in the Airstream for the next few months. I found a wonderful place for the summer. We are putting the trailer in storage and moving closer in to town.

I will be scheming for a return to aluminum-living this fall. The jury is out, it may or may not come to fruition. In the meantime I remain an Airstreamer at heart.

Where we were: 2007-2008

1. Arizona
2. Utah
3. Colorado
4. Kansas
5. Missouri
6. Illinois
7. Indiana
8. Ohio
9. Michigan
10. Kentucky
11. Tennessee
12. Georgia
13. North Carolina
14. South Carolina
15. Virginia
16. West Virginia
17. Maryland
18. Washington, D.C.
19. Pennsylvania
20. New York
21. Massachusetts
22. Vermont
23. Wisconsin
24. Minnesota
25. South Dakota
26. Wyoming
27. Montana
28. Idaho
29. Oregon
30. Washington
31. California
32. Nevada

For a slightly more detailed look at where we were last year read the Airstreaming Places entry. For even more detail, read this whole blog! ; )

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Discovery at the ISS

Backdropped by the blackness of space is the forward section of space shuttle Discovery while docked to the International Space Station, partial views of the Japanese Pressurized Module (bottom) and the Japanese Logistics Module are featured in this image photographed by a crew member during the STS-124 mission's second planned spacewalk.

Photo and text from NASA

Astronauts get ready for spacewalk

Another Shuttle/International Space Station story, grabbed off the Internet. I am following Mark Kelly and his crew's time in space. -JAB

By JUAN A. LOZANO

HOUSTON (AP) — Both the inside and outside of the international space station's newest room were getting spruced up Thursday. Space shuttle Discovery astronauts Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan Jr. were headed back outside for their second spacewalk in three days to outfit Japan's billion-dollar Kibo lab, which was delivered by the shuttle.

Inside Kibo, the shuttle and space station crews were set to continue outfitting it with more equipment racks so the new lab can be fully brought to life. Some of the racks contain equipment for the lab's power and data needs while others contain scientific experiments.

The door to Kibo — Japanese for hope — was swung open Wednesday, a day after its installation at the international space station. It was a momentous occasion for Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who hung a banner over the threshold and led the procession inside.

"Enjoy your new module," radioed Japanese Mission Control near Tokyo.

The 10 inhabitants of the linked shuttle Discovery and space station took advantage of all the empty space inside the bus-sized lab and twirled, performed back flips and bounced on the walls. At 37 feet in length, Kibo is the largest of the nine rooms now at the space station. It surpasses the two other labs, belonging to NASA and the European Space Agency, by nine feet and 14 feet, respectively, and an expansion is planned.

The other good news Wednesday was that the space station's toilet finally was working normally again. Russian space station resident Oleg Kononenko put in a new pump that was delivered earlier this week by Discovery, after it was rushed to the launch site from Moscow. Flight controllers gave the go-ahead for the toilet's use once it became apparent it worked.

"We fully expect it's now fixed and we don't have to worry about it anymore," Nelson said.

For two weeks, the three men living aboard the space station had to manually flush the Russian-built toilet with extra water several times a day. It was a time-consuming job and a waste of water, not to mention an unpleasant chore.

On the Net:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My Husband, Somewhere in Orbit

ISO My Husband, Somewhere in Orbit

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, staying in touch with her high-flying hubby, astronaut Mark Kelly.
» Links to this article

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Tuesday, June 3, 2008; Page C03

After a busy weekend, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords flew into BWI yesterday, took the train to Union Station, then ran into a bar searching for a TV.

"I pleaded with the bartender, who had it tuned to some sports station, with a straight face: 'My husband is the commander of space shuttle Discovery. They're in the process of rendezvousing with the international pace station. May I please turn the channel?' " Giffords told us. "He looked a little confused and handed me the remote."

The Arizona Democrat, who turns 38 on Sunday, became a NASA spouse when she married 44-year-old astronaut Mark Kelly in November. The two have maintained a long-distance marriage ever since: she in Tucson and D.C.; he in Houston -- and for the next 11 days, 218 miles out in space. She'll watch him on the news every day, and wear her Christmas gift: a meteorite he had made into a pendant for her.

Giffords was in Florida for Saturday's launch and will return on June 14 for the landing. In between, they'll make do with short e-mails ("Obviously, he's a little busy") and calls to her cellphone. (Extra roaming charges?) Family members get to pick the music that wakes the crew; Giffords selected "A Life on the Ocean Wave," the theme of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kelly's alma mater) and "Crystal Frontier" by the Tucson-based band Calexico.

This is Kelly's third trip into space. He's shepherding a $1 billion space lab, a pump to repair a broken toilet, a Buzz Lightyear doll and two items from his bride: a flag from the National Day of the Cowboy Organization ("I just thought we needed cowboy representation up there") and her wedding band, inscribed: You're the closest to heaven that I've ever been."And he would know," she said.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Greatest Show on Earth, STS-124


"Standby for the greatest show on earth."
.........................................................................Commander Mark Kelly

Those were the words spoken by Mark just before blasting off yesterday.

Watching the shuttle rocket into the heavens was a better show than I could have imagined. Tears were streaming out of both eyes as they headed for orbit. And they get there fast, just 8 and a half minutes! They're called rockets for a reason.

My weekend in Florida at Cape Canaveral with Kim, Inge, Reed, and the Kelly support crew (friends and family), was wonderful.

Thanks Mark and Godspeed to you and your crew up there.

Photo from NASA