May I Borrow The Jet?

May I Borrow The Jet?

Remember when you were young and you asked to borrow your parents’ car for a date?  What if you could borrow something faster? Say… a jet?  When I became an astronaut, non-pilot Mission Specialists (MSs) had to learn to fly in the backseat of NASA’s T-38 jets. We had instruction in the communication and navigation systems followed by training in doing the actual flying. The T-38s were slick little planes. They could speed around at 700...

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Rocket Science

Rocket Science

“It ain’t rocket science” is often a term used to mean something isn’t as difficult as the building of rockets. For me, it meant the science that was done on rockets—like what I did on my Shuttle flights. Not long ago, I gave a talk to a group of research scientists who are performing ground-breaking studies in many engineering and science fields. I read summaries of their work…so complex I couldn’t understand it all. I began to think the...

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Top Secret

Top Secret

Before we became Astronauts, NASA wanted to make sure we didn’t have a shady past. The application paperwork was extensive. If we were invited for an interview, we had a background check. When I returned from my week-long job interview at the Johnson Space Center, a neighbor came to see me. “Did you do something wrong?” he asked. “Some guy with an FBI badge came around asking questions about you.  He wanted to know whether you hung out with...

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Collisions

Collisions

Our universe is vast—but that doesn’t mean things don’t run into each other.  Some say our moon was formed out of the debris from an Earth impact with a huge boulder named Theia. And later in Earth’s history, the dinosaurs and most life on our planet may have been destroyed by collision with an asteroid. On some dark nights, we can see meteors burning up as they enter our atmosphere. It’s no surprise then that our spacecraft sometimes get...

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Wings

Wings

To military aviators, completing flight training carries a great deal of importance.  The end of the training culminates in a ceremony to certify they’ve earned their “wings.” Military wings have a symbol of their branch of the service with symbolic wings to the side. The United States Navy wings are gold, and the United States Air Force has silver ones. (Hence the Navy boot camp marching song: “I don’t know but I’ve been told Navy wings are...

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