S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Catching up with the boys

NASA will do it again. Around mid-March the space shuttle Atlantis will launch into the sky with a load of astronauts headed to do more work on the International Space Station. We "space junkies" will once again collectively hold our breath, keep televisions tuned to the NASA channel, and check the NASA website . As always we are interested in who will be on board. This time it is six interesting guys.
The crew - Astronaut interviews are being replayed these days on the NASA channel, featuring extended looks and listens to the members of the current crew. They include Mission Specialists Danny Olivas, Steven Swanson and James Reilly, as well as Pilot Lee Archambault, Mission Specialist Patrick Forrester, and Commander Rick Sturckow.
Space rookies Danny Olivas and Steve Swanson revealed interesting things about themselves. I particularly identified with them both. Olivas was raised in El Paso, Texas; Swanson in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Like these two, I was raised in the West. I camped out as a child like Steve Swanson. Quoting from that part of Swanson's interview,
Q: Do you have a sense of how the place and the people there helped make you the person that you are?

A: Well that’s a good question. I think the way they did that is one, it showed you, when, the whole idea of being the outdoor type, I think, is a very good aspect for being an astronaut because a shuttle mission is very much like a camping trip. You do a lot of prep work; you’re going to live in a small confined area with a bunch of people; you’re doing, working a lot, a lot of exercise; you have to be thinking ahead, what’s going on, what’s going to happen; you have to be somewhat cautious with safety, and don’t want to go out without the right equipment; all those kind of things. I think that helped a little bit, and being up there made me endure a little bit of things not being just perfect. You know, on a camping trip, things never are. You get rained on, all that kind of stuff. And you go up and you get used to that, and it makes it a lot easier then for doing a space mission.

As a child Oliveras became intrigued with the space program. I also became interested in space very early. Our fathers both worked with machinery; they both took us on trips as kids. I quote from Oliveras' interview about his first encounter with NASA:
Q: There are hundreds and thousands of pilots and scientists out there in the world, but there are only about 100 American astronauts. What made you want to be one of them, and be one of those people who flies in space?
A: You know, my first recollection of the space program was when I was 7 years old. My parents brought us on a family vacation, and we came here to Houston. . . we came through Johnson Space Center. . . through Teague Auditorium which at the time was a museum, and I remember being just awestruck with what human beings had done. It was beyond me to believe that we could go into space. And as we were leaving, I recall my father commenting, . . . on a mockup of a rocket engine of some sort – . . . he started to explain what he used to do in California, when he was a machinist. He used to make rocket parts, and he was explaining what kind of parts he was working on. As he was explaining this to us -- I was 7 years old so I didn’t really understand a whole lot about it -- but I thought to myself, "Wow, look at all those parts on there, and, you know, how many dads are there, and moms, and brothers and sisters … For me being part of space exploration has always been being one of those parts on that rocket engine, having one small integral part.

The Mission - As we catch up with the events of this upcoming mission, we rookies will need to learn the new lingo. As a child I loved to watch my dad work on the car engine, one of his regular missions. And, if I were to be of any help to him, I had to learn the difference between a socket wrench and a regular wrench. Sixty-two years later, the word to learn for the current mission, boys and girls, is "torque multiplier."
[on STS-115] . . . It took more than 20 minutes and two astronauts to loosen one of them. So this time, Sturckow said, Swanson and Forrester, the spacewalkers who will be removing the bolts during the mission's second spacewalk, will be prepared. “They’re working out every day,” he joked.
In case that’s not enough, however, they’ll have a tool on hand that will give their elbow grease a little more oomph. “We have a torque multiplier that we’re bringing up that they didn’t have,” Sturckow said.
Every mission member stands on the shoulders of those gone before them. And the interests of childhood give hints of the adult's future. Readers of today's post might get the impression that I was a "tomboy," for example. That was not the case. It was just that I was always curious about how things worked. My dad was always working on stuff, so I watched. And he loved a campfire, so we all went along. Today I use the virtual tools of the web; tonight I'll grill.

Post Script - This has nothing to do with anything except catching up. According to Yahoo!News, astronaut Lisa Nowak has been replaced as one of the Capcoms (the word for Spacecraft Communicator) for this STS-117 mission. And finally we learn that NASA has a plan for unstable astronauts, according to CanadianContent.
I feel so much better now!
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My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about my ambivalence about eating healthy.

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