Archive for November, 2005
Today at work I was part of a convoy to deliver a large piece of flight hardware to the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) where it will be put back on the orbiter. We took the Forward Reaction Control System to OPF Bay 1 where it will be installed on Atlantis. The piece we were transporting goes on the nose of the shuttle- you can probably sort of recognize it. Our convoy could not go faster than 15 miles per hour and we had police escorts so we got to back up traffic on the space center for miles. It was such a production, as always, and I took these pictures so you can see what it was like. We had one motorist violate our convoy and they were slapped with a $250 ticket. Ouch!
I saw a bit of a show on the Discovery Channel or something that was about some of the studies that are done to simulate the long term effects of being weightless in space. They were saying how these studies were important, especially if we are to venture farther and farther away, for the astronauts bodies have to be able to withstand the extended durations in space. Without gravity, bones get brittle, blood pressure gradients throughout the body are messed up and who know what else goes on.
The part that fascinated me was the part where they showed one of their simulated microgravity studies on healthy volunteers. The volunteers were wheeled around on gurneys and had to remain essentially motionless for months at a time. Can you even imagine how horrible that would be? Where do they even find people that would volunteer to do that? How much must they pay them to stay still for months on end? Would you ever participate in such a study for say, three months, and if so, how much would they have to pay you to get you to do it?
At work we all know that change is coming, in big ways. NASA is already in the earliest beginning stages of transitioning to the new vehicle, called the CEV, or crew exploration vehicle. We have known this for a while, but it only seems to really sink in little by little. This morning at our regular morning meeting our manager discussed some things that are coming down from upper management about the impending transition and some changes to come. He said it is suggested that we keep ourselves informed about the CEV and learn as much about it as possible. Our goals and objectives this year are to diversify our skills to ready ourselves for the change.
It is a little strange to think that all of us will probably be split up and working in different areas, but it is also exciting because it will be the beginning of something new and historic. A lot of the guys that I work with have worked together in the same area for more than twenty years, so it will really be tough for them. Changes may start very soon; at the area where I work we will be finishing up with the majority of our flight hardware work somewhere around May and some of us may be shipped out to work in other areas as early as then. I can’t wait to see what happens.