First Meh

First Meh

Disclaimer #1: Up front, this post of full of SPOILER ALERTS. So, if you haven’t seen “First Man”, stop reading now. If you have, please read on and comment below. Disclaimer #2: I can’t believe I have to say this, but please – my reaction to this film has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the ridiculous Flag Planting Kerfuffle™. If you think it does, you’re wrong. If you have issues with the actual event of planting the US flag during the Apollo 11 lunar landing scenes, then that’s your issue – not mine. The flag was clearly seen on the surface of the Moon next to the LEM. So just stop it. PRELAUNCH THOUGHTS... I wanted to like this movie… I really really did want to like this movie. When the trailers started showing up in the theaters and online… wow — this was going to be great! The buzz about the production values, the level of excitement building among my space friends, even knowing that a few of them had actually been contributors to various sections … this was going to be amazing, perhaps “Apollo 13” territory!! So, leading up to the actual release date, I had nothing but excitement and anticipatory feelings about getting to sit in the theater and watch what could be the next great Hollywood-produced space movie. Given that the subject matter, Neil Armstrong, was a semi-mythical central character of US Manned Spaceflight, I had nothing but the highest hopes walking into the theater. Center row, center seats? CHECK. Popcorn? CHECK. Let’s do this. LIFTOFF! Again, a reminder – THERE BE SPOILERS HERE....
Now what?

Now what?

So, we’ve remembered. We’ve talked about what happened, how it happened, what should have happened. We’ve talked about where we were. We’ve honored the fallen and their memories. “Now what?” Do you need to remember? ABSOLUTELY. Is it enough to just remember? OF COURSE NOT. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana There were so many things that were done after each incident… so many things that should have been done *BEFORE* each incident… so many clues that were not recognized. Don’t have a pure oxygen environment inside a closed spacecraft. Don’t launch outside of previously-tested temperatures. Don’t let high-energy debris hit critical spacecraft structures. …and so many more. That’s the beauty of 20/20 hindsight. It’s also the curse. The “what if’s?” For Manned Spaceflight, those “what if’s?” need to become actionable. If you don’t learn from those harsh lessons, you will continue to encounter those “ultimate consequences“. If you continue to have “ultimate consequences”, eventually you will not be doing what you set out to do – whether by your doing, or by external forces taking you (and your organization) out of the loop. We’ve been lucky, in that public opinion has been generally supportive of continuing the progress of spaceflight. But the public is extremely fickle. Recent support for space has dwindled. I would even hazard a guess that most of the general public isn’t even aware that we’ve had a *permanent* presence in space for almost the last 20 years on ISS. However — if the program were to have another crew loss, the laser-like focus of the critical...
Remembrance

Remembrance

For those of us who have been intimately involved with Manned Spaceflight or if you have been interested and valued supporters from outside the program, the week from January 27 – February 1 is a particularly somber time of the year. NASA has identified a single day, this year (2018) on January 25th, as their “Day of Remembrance” to honor all three events that simultaneously shocked and shaped Manned Spaceflight, the nation, and indeed – the world. January 27, 1967 Apollo 1 During a pre-launch Pad test, the crew of Apollo 1 were checking full-up spacecraft systems and operational procedures in anticipation of the first manned launch of the new Saturn flight vehicle that would, eventually, take men to the Moon. Due to a number of reasons, including a pressurized pure oxygen environment in the Command Module, wires that were stripped bare due to excessive wear and contact, and an unfortunate spark, turned a combustible environment into a deadly inferno. The crew of three, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, died on the pad. After reviews, investigations, and honest evaluations by everyone involved from NASA to each individual Contractor, they identified the root causes of the fire. Many improvements were made to the flight vehicle, and a renewed commitment to quality and performance led to ultimately meeting President Kennedy’s goal of “putting a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.” On a personal note, January 27th is also my birthday. Even though I was very very young and do not have direct memories of Apollo 1, the success that my predecessors at NASA had in...
Greater than the sum…

Greater than the sum…

“Greater than the sum of our parts…” When the movie, “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo” was announced, of course I was going to be interested. When I learned it was going to be based off the *excellent* book “Go, Flight, The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control“, I was VERY interested… as this was one of the better accounts of the inner workings and the life that was Mission Control. Unless you’re new to my site (waves hello if you are visiting for the first time!), you’re aware of my time in Mission Control during the Space Shuttle Program. As such, anything that can tell the story of the men and women that made up the Mission Control family is going to get a critical eye cast towards it. “Go, Flight” not only passed that test, but became as solid a recommendation as “Failure is Not an Option“, by MCC Flight Director legend, Gene Kranz. When the release date for “Mission Control” was announced, I placed my Blu-Ray order as soon as Amazon had it available!!! It was delivered and watched the same day. 🙂 I’ve never been prouder of my time in the MCC, and more appreciative of my fellow Flight Controllers and the shoulders of the giants upon whom we stood. There have been numerous documentaries made over the years that capture the events of the early days of the US Manned Space Program. Some of them are truly excellent… others, well… it’s obvious they were rushed out just to fill a void. I can’t say enough about this movie — there have been documentaries before,...
OV-102 and me

OV-102 and me

In April of 1995, while working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center as a Flight Dynamics Officer, the Space Shuttle Columbia made an overnight stop at Ellington AFB, just down the road from JSC. Columbia had undergone a planned nearly year-long Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP) refurbishment period at the Rockwell facility in Palmdale, California and was headed back to KSC for her next planned mission. A good friend of mine, Rusty, was the Lead LSO for Columbia’s ferry flight back to KSC. The Landing Support Office (LSO), a FDO support position that coordinated world-wide landing site status and other international site communications, also provided a key member of the team that ferried Orbiters from one location to another (often from landings at EDW back to KSC). When the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA – the modified Boeing 747 used to transport the Orbiter, piggy-back) landed at Ellington, Rusty called me at my office in Building 30 and said “Hey – come on out tomorrow before the rest of the NASA crowd gets here for open viewing, and I’ll get you a VIP tour!” Well. How could I pass *THAT* up? 🙂 OV-102 COLUMBIAShuttle and SCA at Ellington AFB   OV-102 COLUMBIAColumbia sits securely atop the SCA at three connection points Visiting Columbia OV-102 COLUMBIAMe and Columbia   OV-102 COLUMBIAColumbia's nose Arriving at Ellington, it was a brilliant and thankfully clear April afternoon in Southeast Houston. Which meant, it was lucky that we didn’t have cloud cover, rain, or nasty odors coming from Pasadena, Texas City, or the Houston Ship Channel!  Hah! Columbia sat proudly atop the SCA with several dozen people...
30 years on: Lessons from Challenger

30 years on: Lessons from Challenger

30 years on: Lessons from Challenger It’s hard to believe that it was 30 years ago, on January 28, 1986, that the crew of STS-51L were lost on a cold winter morning as the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed from an avoidable sequence of errors, both technical and human. I’ve blogged before about the events of that morning from my perspective, fresh out of college and starting my life’s dream of working with NASA. Little did I know how much that one event would serve as a springboard for so much of my life, creating ripples in the pond of my existence – personally and professionally. We don’t really need to go over the technical details of the Accident. The specifics of the design flaws, the clearly-missed warning signs, and the well-out-of-bounds launch conditions were all there, in perfect 20/20 hindsight… and, to be perfectly honest, even 30 years later, it’s really tough for me to watch those videos. At its core, though — spaceflight, and especially manned spaceflight, is an unforgiving field. The consequences for failure are immediate and often spectacular, with the results that can lead to the loss of vehicle and crew. Being a part of that recovery period and the eventual Return-to-Flight provided some lifelong lessons that still resonate today. So, let’s talk about it in that frame of reference… Foundations Outside of the Mission Control Center (MCC), from the early days of the program, hangs a plaque on The Foundations of Mission Operations (aka “The Flight Controller’s Creed”). As part of my training as a Flight Dynamics Officer, it was insisted upon each of...
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