My Best Space Moment

My Best Space Moment

How do Astronauts keep in touch with their families when they are orbiting the Earth? Communicating with loved ones became more sophisticated over time.  In the beginning, families could send up brief messages with other NASA information to the Shuttle’s antiquated printer. Later on, those few words could be sent with packets of information to our onboard computer.  Neither of those methods were private, and so they were painfully terse: “Miss...

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Real Hidden Figures

Real Hidden Figures

If you haven’t seen the movie, Hidden Figures, you should. It is a true story, a tale of a group of African-American women hired at the dawn of NASA for their superior mathematical skills. It reminded me of so many things at NASA. People ask: do you miss flying in space? Well, yes, a little. Mostly, I miss the fine people. Like the people in the movie, they weren’t all perfect, but they learned from their mistakes and always tried to improve....

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A Disorderly Christmas

A Disorderly Christmas

Hoot’s second Shuttle flight, his first as Commander, was scheduled for 1985, but many delays in the Shuttle program pushed it later and later into the year.  His crew was a great bunch—with several good friends from the Astronaut Corps.  Three members of the crew—Hoot, George “Pinkie” Nelson, and Steve Hawley—had flown before, but it was a first for Charlie Bolden, and Franklin Chang Diaz, as well as Payload Specialists (who would only be...

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Who Are Your Heroes?

Who Are Your Heroes?

So…who are your heroes?  People you know personally, people you esteem from afar, people whose lives you admire? I have had the honor of meeting many of my real-life heroes.  One was a fellow astronaut from a different era, Neil Armstrong.  You may remember him, the first human being to set foot on the moon.  His quote that day, July 20, 1969, is famous:  “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  He came to the Johnson Space...

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Max Q – the All Astronaut Band

Max Q – the All Astronaut Band

The year after the Challenger accident in 1986 was a difficult, busy, and sad one for NASA’s Astronaut Corps. What could we do for fun?  Why not a Sock Hop?  For those who don’t remember the 1950s, high school dances were often held in the school gymnasium. Dancers had to remove their shoes, so they wouldn’t scratch the hardwood floor.  Everyone in the astronaut office was told to plan skits and wear the poodle skirts and bobby socks that were...

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A Remarkable Visit

A Remarkable Visit

On January 12, 1986, the crew of STS 61C suited up and headed for the Space Shuttle launch pad.  They had been trying get into orbit since December 18…with many grueling attempts that had worn them (and their families) out.  But this day was the right day: no malfunctioning equipment, no boats in the restricted area off the coast, no weather problems in Florida or at the overseas emergency landing sites.  The countdown proceeded, and soon they...

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