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Women in Aviation and Aerospace

I was recently asked to participate in a discussion that began here, about women in technology. I shared the story of my experiences when first entering the aviation world and was asked if it could be used to further the discussion on a site called Nerds in Babeland. I agreed, and I am also re-posting the updated version here on my own blog:

For those who don’t know me, I have worked in aviation and aerospace for the past decade. In October, I volunteered for a layoff from my job as a technician on the Space Shuttle Program, as it is coming to an end soon. I am very much a space advocate, and have been using Twitter to share my enthusiasm for space for over two years. I am also the founder of the Space Tweep Society, a growing group of space enthusiasts on Twitter. Due to that role, I am often asked to participate in interviews or space outreach activities, many with the goal of encouraging girls to pursue careers in science or technology. This has me feeling quite conflicted because I’d love to have more women in aviation and aerospace, but in my experience breaking into these fields was really rough. I almost feel guilty for encouraging them, knowing what kind of obstacles they may face.

Of course I say “obstacles they may face” because there is a chance they won’t have any issues. A certain author who was once an engineer for a contractor on NASA’s Apollo program said in a recent interview, “All of the guys were great. No problems. I was just ‘one of the team.’ I have worked for many companies for 25+ years in technical jobs. I was the only woman in many. I was treated with respect and courtesy… There is no conflict in any job if you don’t act like a jackass.” She also tweeted, “Get rid of [the] idea that guys [are] mean to gals in Space Exp[loration]. Guys [are] great friends. I worked with men in all jobs for years. Some gals [are] idiots.” While I’m very happy to hear that she had only positive experiences, for many of us this was not the case- and I don’t think it was because we are “idiots” or “act like jackasses.” My own entry into the career field of aviation was definitely rocky, and I blogged about it a few years ago. The following is an updated version of that post:

Tired of being a pioneer

Why is it that in this extremely liberated day and age that there are still so few women in the field of aviation maintenance? According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s data, only about two percent of all licensed airframe and powerplant mechanics are women, and it seems that even fewer actually work as mechanics. Perhaps many have been lured away by other careers or family obligations, but I believe most are pushed away from aviation due to the challenges they face while trying to break into this solidly male-dominated career.

Since I have been in working in the field of aviation/aerospace maintenance I have always wished that one day, when I start a new job, that they wouldn’t have to hold a meeting with all of my new co-workers before I got there telling them that a female was going to be working with them and that they had to start watching what they said and did and clean up their act. It is no fun being the pioneer, paving the way for other women to come along. In one of the places that I worked there was not even a women’s bathroom in the hangar, but there was a large men’s bathroom and locker room. That building was built as recently as 1983; apparently even at that late date the company had no reason to anticipate they would ever employ a woman mechanic. Amazing.

My first real taste of aviation was just before my nineteenth birthday. I was in college at Florida State University and I saw an advertisement for introductory flights with the FSU Aviation Club. I took my intro flight on a breezy Halloween day, 1993. My flight was in a Cessna 150, a two-seater owned by the aviation club. I was instantly hooked. I started taking flying lessons as often as I could afford. My grandmother was helping to support my interest and I was volunteering my time to keep the club’s aircraft clean and the interior in good repair in exchange for flight hours. I really liked just being around planes. I tried to get a part time job washing airplanes at the small maintenance shop where the club’s airplane went for service, but the owner told me “No, because if I hire you, none of the mechanics will get any work done.” He hired a high school boy with no experience around aircraft at all instead.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided that I was more interested in how aircraft worked than I was in flying them. At the time I thought I would like to pursue a career in warbird restoration, particularly in re-creating the elaborate nose art that made each plane so unique. I decided to enroll in school to obtain my FAA Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic’s license. There was a small school for this in Tallahassee, where I was living that had been in existence since the 1940s and had a wealth of equipment to work with, although some of it was truly ancient. I loved it. I was learning about combustion engines, gear ratios, aerodynamics, etc. I faced a little more difficulty than many of the other students in that I had no mechanical background. Many of the students knew a lot about cars, and understood the similarities, which made things easier for them. I had never really worked with anything mechanical before; my dad could hardly be bothered to take his car in to have the oil changed, so needless to say I didn’t have anyone showing me things about cars or anything mechanical. Fortunately my instructors were very knowledgeable and very good at imparting their wisdom to me and I didn’t have too much trouble understanding the things I had to learn. When my classes were all completed, I began the rigorous testing process to earn my Airframe and Powerplant mechanic’s license.

My first job in aviation was with the Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas, where I was employed as a flight line mechanic at the factory where they built their business jets. I set out for Wichita on January 1st, 2000, the day that all the computers in the world were supposed to stop working due to Y2K. Obviously that didn’t happen and I arrived in Wichita the next day.

Orientation at Cessna was an all day affair where we heard all of the usual topics such as attendance policy, rules, and benefits and we filled out all the necessary paperwork and forms. Then the Union people came in and gave their extensive sales pitch, making sure to let us know how easily we could be fired during our probation period. After that, I was shown to the area I would be working in and introduced to my shop foreman, who was pretty young and not at all scary. I was quite relieved. He took me on a quick tour of the factory and to meet a few of my new co-workers. Then my orientation was over and I was told to report back on Monday for second shift.

My first day on the job, I was assigned to work with a mechanic named Justin, a long haired, loud-mouthed young guy in the shop. He was very nice, and told me that both of his parents had been aircraft mechanics and many times he had seen his mother come home from work crying, due to various struggles on the job. Justin was born to work on airplanes; he could contort his body to access areas of them that were almost impossible to get to. He claimed that a bicycle accident at age ten had left his rib cage slightly flattened, which allowed him to squirm into very small compartments. It was a good thing that I befriended Justin early on, because he stuck up for me later when things went awry. It was not long coming.

On my third day on the job, I was told that a certain mechanic in my shop, Jim, had said some very nasty things about me in front of a group of about eight of my co-workers. No one would tell me exactly what he said because it was too horrible, I guess. The funny thing was, I had never met Jim, never spoken to him, and I didn’t even know which one he was- someone had to point him out to me. Needless to say, my feelings were hurt a lot to know that there was so much hostility directed toward me when I had done nothing to elicit such a response. I did not dare say anything to management about the incident though, because first of all, I am not a crybaby and I like to handle things on my own, and second, because the Union people had drilled into us at orientation that we had better not do anything to attract any attention to ourselves or we would be out on our asses; no one likes a troublemaker.

It seems that this was not the first incidence of Jim bullying someone. He regularly spoke disparagingly of women, youth, and foreigners; he was truly threatened by those different from himself, and spoke loudly about their inferiority to anyone who would listen. Finally one of my co-workers had enough of Jim’s crap and reported the incident where he slandered me.  After the episode was reported, it swiftly escalated through the HR department, and by the end of the shift the company lawyers were interviewing me. I didn’t have much to tell them considering that I had never met Jim. He was sent home indefinitely. Over the next few days, the company lawyers took statements from my co-workers on the current issue and a host of past issues they had with Jim that had been going on for years. To complicate things even more, he had joined the Union the day the trouble with me had started, and immediately he filed a grievance against me. The Union was forced to investigate the grievance and defend him as a member of the Union and they came to interview me about it. Considering that I had never spoken to the man, the investigation was dropped fairly quickly.

After all of the chaos, I was told that I would not have to work around Jim, if they ever let him come back to work at all. It turned out, that this was not the case. A few weeks after the fact, he returned to work, and during the shift tie-in meeting he glared at me from across the break area with a snarl on his face. I tried my best to ignore him, but I didn’t feel at all comfortable in the situation. One of my co-workers noticed that Jim was trying to intimidate me, and decided he’d had enough of the guy’s antics. He reported it and the next thing I knew, the company lawyer was back. Jim was sent home again and this time he didn’t come back, at least not to my department. Things calmed down a great deal after that, although I did have one of my tires slashed in the parking lot at work and one of my co-workers who had testified against Jim had his car’s side window smashed in the same parking lot.

Months later we heard what had finally happened to Jim. He had been allowed to return to work, only in a different department and was placed on probation. He continued to cause problems in his new area, and finally was terminated and escorted out of the building. He then proceeded to peel out of the parking lot, lost control of his vehicle and hit a couple of parked cars. The police were summoned and escorted him off the property. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!

I don’t know what it is that could possibly cause a person to be so prejudiced against someone they don’t even know that they would sacrifice their career over it. Jim couldn’t stand the idea of a woman doing the same job as he did and it eventually ruined him. I can’t imagine how someone could treat a woman he’d never met in such a manner, especially since he had a wife and daughters at home- how would he feel if they were put in a similar situation? I hope his wife gave him hell when she found out what he got in trouble for. Any decent woman would.

I would like to say that after this one hurdle that the rest of my career in aviation went smoothly and that issues like this didn’t follow me when I transitioned to aerospace, but I cannot. I faced many more challenges after this one, though I also have met many great people and had a lot of fun along the way. It is certainly not a career choice for women who are faint of heart!

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When Failure is our Best Option

Cross posted from original at openNASA

You’ve heard it many times before, “Failure is not an option.” When Gene Kranz uttered this line in reference to Apollo 13, he was absolutely right. At that moment it was imperative that the team succeed in bringing the crew home safely. If you’ve ever seen the movie Apollo 13, you will certainly remember this inspirational scene. In fact, it has become a maxim for NASA. Gift shops at the agency’s centers even carry a variety of products bearing this motto. But, could it be that line of thinking is now holding us back?

Recently I attended a training class where we learned of the practice of throwing Failure Parties. These parties are held by companies to celebrate their failures. There is no pointing of fingers or placing of blame on anyone, just food, drinks, cake, and a healthy discussion about what went right and what went wrong that allows the company to move forward. In some cases, this type of analysis can even turn a failure into a success, such as with products like Post-It notes, which resulted from a failed attempt at an improved adhesive tape. Even when a flop can’t be salvaged, moving forward is key.

If you’re still wondering why a company would want to celebrate its failures, consider this: the vast majority of ventures attempted end up in failure. For every ten products introduced to the market, maybe one or two will be successful, if they’re lucky. So, if a company takes the opposite approach and “beats up” employees for these failures, you can imagine that the ideas quickly begin to dry up. Not just the failing ideas, but the successful ones too. Smart companies have found that by celebrating their failures they encourage the kinds of ideas that lead to success. While blaming employees for failures is bad and hinders creativity, there is another option that is even worse.

When the culture dictates that failure is not an option, does it mean that we fail any less? No, of course not. It encourages refusal to admit or accept failure, even when it is staring us in the face. Then, instead of being able to move forward, we are stuck living with the failure, doggedly suffering through rather than owning up to our shortcomings. This could apply to something as mundane as a new program for submitting travel expense reports or something as critical as the design of a new spacecraft. The examples are hypothetical, but the phenomenon is real. I’m often surprised at how quickly these failures are taken up as the new way of doing business and workarounds or modifications mushroom into existence. When faced with an obvious flop, so often the reaction is to jump to mitigate it, rather than to backtrack and do it right. While there is a cost to admitting failure and going back to the starting point, I think that often this cost is less than what it takes to modify a failed design or work around a failed process.

So, what am I getting at? Failure will always be a part of everything we do that is new or innovative. It has to be; it is an integral part of the creative process. If we could just learn to accept failures and even expect them, we could begin to recognize them earlier and make fewer and less costly mistakes. As Roger Von Oech said, “Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.” If we don’t shed the “failure is not an option” culture, we’re truly missing out on these opportunities.

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The time has come: leaving the Shuttle Program

Cross posted and adapted from original at the SpaceTweep Society and openNASA

Note: I am posting this because I want people to see a realistic view of things at NASA, not a sugar-coated version. This is as real as it gets.

This week I volunteered for an upcoming layoff from my job as a space shuttle technician. I will be leaving after 8.5 years of service on October 1st, 2010. Since many people would give their right arm to work on the shuttle program, you might think I’m crazy to volunteer for this. Leaving the shuttle program is a tough decision for sure, but it really isn’t a matter of if, only when. I am not choosing to leave, I am just choosing the time it will happen. Ultimately, the vast majority of shuttle workers will be let go. So why go before I am forced? Here’s an explanation so you can see it from my perspective.

One of the biggest reasons I am taking this layoff is that it will allow me to plan for my future. It is nearly impossible to make plans or look for a new job when you have no idea when your end date at work will be or what the future holds. We hear a different story every week about what is happening with the program, or with our benefits/severance. The uncertainty is exhausting. I’m not blaming my management for this- I think they are in the same boat. By volunteering for this layoff, I now know what is going to happen to me and when. Crazy as it seems, that feels good. Now I can start figuring out a good strategy to move forward.

Along the same lines, morale was a big push for me to self-nominate for this layoff. You can’t imagine what it is like to be at work surrounded by constant doom and gloom, now with a dash of panic. It is not pretty. Once the people who are to be laid off involuntarily are notified- which will be at the end of July- I expect that it will be even worse. As far as the work goes, we are finishing up with Discovery’s right OMS Pod now, and will deliver it for reinstallation this week. After that I have a few thrusters to bench test for Atlantis, which is being processed for launch on need (in case of emergency). Once that is complete, the bulk of the work we will have left in my area is decontamination of our facility for shutdown, or Transition & Retirement as NASA likes to call it. I started working on the shuttle program because I wanted to contribute to something incredible, human space exploration. I don’t find decontamination and shutdown very inspirational. In fact, it is downright depressing. For many workers, it is just a job and they don’t care what goal they’re working towards as long as they are paid. To me, it makes a difference, and I would much rather try to find work I can feel good about again.

Other reasons for taking this layoff are more practical than emotional. Leaving early gives me a better chance of finding a new job or pursuing other options because the market won’t be flooded with thousands of others doing the same. Also, it makes sense for my particular situation, because my husband works on the shuttle program as well. He will have work to do up until the last launch because he works at the launch pad. We figure that it will be best for us to take a phased approach rather than both being laid off at the same time. This way, hopefully I can get something figured out and can carry him once his job is complete, sometime next year.

So, that’s basically it. This is the reality of the situation. It is sad to see it coming to an end, but it is also a new beginning in so many ways. I am hopeful for the future of NASA, it just isn’t quite ready for me yet, so I’ll make my exit now, gracefully. I’m not looking for sympathy; I’m not feeling sorry for myself and you shouldn’t feel sorry for me either! I am looking for my next great adventure, whatever it may be…

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Perspective

Cross posted from original at The Space Tweep Society

I frequently get asked what I think about the direction NASA is taking. I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago but didn’t post it at the time. I’m not really sure why. This post does not outline my personal take on what we should be doing with our space program; it just provides a little bit of perspective on things from where I sit.

 

Written on April 20th:

After the president’s visit to Kennedy Space Center last week where he laid out the emerging plan for NASA to go forward, I’ve noticed a fair amount of negativity in the space community. Personally, I have high hopes for our nation’s future in space. It isn’t because anything particularly revolutionary was disclosed at Obama’s Space Summit. My perspective has just changed gradually over the past year or so, and a lot of that I owe to my interactions on Twitter. I used to look at space exploration very narrowly. Like this is the way we go to space, and this is the right way and the only way. And this is how it has to be (I’m exaggerating, but just go with it). I looked at the changes to the program more in terms of how they affected me and my community.

Now, after quite some time on Twitter, I have much greater knowledge of commercial space operations, robotic missions, and international perspectives. Because of this I am able to take myself out of the equation and look at the plan more optimistically. It has made me start to challenge the traditional thinking that is ingrained in us about NASA’s role and see more of a big picture view.

Seeing Discovery land today reminded me how impressive the shuttle is as a launch vehicle, and how sad I’ll be to see the program end. That being said, if we waited another five years, ten years, or even more to retire it, would it be any easier? For me, the answer is no. The shuttle is an icon, a symbol of pride, and a treasure. It is going to be hard to see it go no matter when it happens. And there is no denying that as time goes on it would become more difficult to maintain due to issues like aging hardware and availability of spares. So, while I might not be ready for shuttle to end, I probably won’t ever be, in the same way I would never be ready for a loved one to die. It will be a time to grieve and then move on.

I have heard the argument that it would be easier to lay shuttle to rest if we had something better coming along. Ares-1 might have filled that role, but there were funding issues. So now we’re trying something different, with a greater emphasis on commercial spaceflight roles. Our destinations are different, and we aren’t quite sure what kind of vehicle we will be using to get to them. But we’re going SOMEWHERE. We have a commitment to develop a heavy-lift vehicle. These are steps in the right direction, yet they don’t seem to have been met with much optimism. Of course, people have every right to feel the way they do and to question the decisions. Personally, I’m choosing not to. I just don’t see the point.

Regardless of what I think is the the right path to take, I’m not the one who gets to make that decision. Rather than expend energy fighting it or fretting over it, I’m going to accept the new plan for what it is and be hopeful. I’m going to look around for new opportunities arising from it where I can make a difference and seize them, or create my own. I’m going to savor everything about the last few shuttle missions, and remember the program fondly.

Overall I see that there is potentially a bright future out there for NASA and space exploration, it just looks different than what most of us expected. A lot different. If we can approach the new plan with open minds, accept that there are other valid ways of doing things and embrace them, we can make the most of the situation. If, instead, we consider it a tremendous loss and spend our time wallowing in it, then it will most likely manifest as one. For me, it was a simple choice.

 

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Dreading the end of the Space Shuttle Program

Cross posted from original at openNASA

Note: The intent of this post is not to express an opinion on the path that should be taken by NASA or its future programs. It is simply an observation from someone experiencing the end of an era.

Have you ever had the feeling of grieving even before a loss?  You see it coming and know there’s nothing you can do. Your senses are heightened to every little intricacy and you want to preserve all the details before it is too late. That is the way I feel about the Space Shuttle Program. I’ve worked at the Kennedy Space Center in various areas for roughly the past eight years. That makes me practically a newbie to most of my co-workers, but it feels like a long time to me. Long enough for KSC to feel like home. It is strange and sad to think that it will all be over in a matter of months.

Many people have never experienced anything like working at KSC. The center is sprawling; it has its own gas stations, banking, barber shops, and even a US Post Office on site. People out there speak a different language. When you first start working there, it takes several months before you have any idea what everyone is talking about. They speak in acronyms and in some cases the acronyms have become the words, because hardly anyone remembers what the letters stand for. KSC is similar to a small town, where gossip travels at speeds that far exceed a launching shuttle.

With the Space Shuttle Program, there is much more to it than the end of a contract. It is the end of an era. Most of us have become accustomed to spending the better part of our waking lives there and it is coming to a close. Everything we have come to know as so familiar will be gone, never to be seen again. This will be different than leaving a typical job. When we’re gone, we can never return to the site, never visit to see how things have changed, never set foot on the property again. It is not only a loss of the program for us, but a personal loss. We will no longer see the buildings we spent so much of our lives in, working at all odd hours of the day or night, often on weekends and holidays. The orbiters & ground support equipment we shed blood, sweat, and tears over will become distant memories only to be viewed in museums behind ropes and glass. We will seldom cross paths with many of the people who have become almost like family to us; the co-workers who will be forced to leave the area to find jobs. For us, it is a tremendous loss.

Even though I feel that I am ready to move on and pursue a career in space education and outreach, I can’t help feeling a bit melancholy about the end of the program. There are so many memories, good and bad. There is so much knowledge, expertise, and familiarity. Most of it would sound silly to anyone else, but the things I will miss include long days in the test cells working on welding jobs while listening to my co-workers tell stories from the early days of the program. I’ll miss riding in convoys to deliver Orbital Maneuvering System pods after our work is complete. I will even miss driving past the Gator Lake at the end of the road where we once saw forty-eight of the giant lizards laying up on the banks- as though it was an alligator parking lot.

There are other memories as well. Memories of working on Columbia and getting to sit in the commander’s seat the summer before she was lost. Standing in the shadow of the massive Vehicle Assembly Building to view the launch. Waiting outside with binoculars ready for her to return and the horror of the silence that should have been filled with two telltale sonic booms. Attending a surreal memorial service on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway on a grey day, in a light drizzle with the missing man formation roaring overhead. Examining the wreckage, in awe of the forces that acted upon it. These are moments I’ll always remember.

Now, as we near the end, I find myself looking around a little more, noticing and trying to take everything in. I’ll miss it all: the people, the hardware, the facilities, and the wildlife. It probably seems trite, but I don’t want to forget any of it, not even the little things. Not the chip in the floor at the bottom of the stairs in the test cell that I’ve always thought looks like a dragonfly, or the sound of thrusters when I test “fire” them on the bench, or the pain of AC motor valves jabbing me in the back as I squeeze into places never designed for human occupation. Okay, maybe I could forget that last one. Heh.

Whether you are a fan of the shuttle or not, you must admit that it is iconic. It is instantly recognizable, a beautiful machine and a work of art. It is tough to come to the realization that after this year, we’ll never again see a shuttle stack rolling out to the launch pad or leaving it in a hurry atop a billowing plume. For those of us who have lived and breathed it for years, please forgive us if it makes us a little sad to see the end. To us the shuttle is so much more than the sum of its parts and we’ll truly feel the sting of losing it and the community we’ve become a part of. It is going to be very hard to say goodbye.

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Preposterous

If you didn’t see it already, our friend and fellow space tweep @milesobrien did a great job in his post defending shuttle workers today. It is just too bad that we even needed defending. Apparently a reporter at WESH (Central Florida) misconstrued the facts to make it sound as though NASA was investigating possible actions of its contractor workforce to delay the shuttle manifest. In other words, he made it sound like NASA suspected us contractors of deliberately dragging out the program to delay the inevitable end of the shuttle program in order to keep our jobs longer.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Miles’ article is a great read for explaining exactly why that is such a ridiculous claim.  The highest member of management in our company at KSC sent out an email to every employee this morning to let us know that neither our company, nor NASA was contacted for this story, and that the “facts were distorted to sensationalize a story.”

The email went on to ask us to please ignore this irresponsible journalism and not let it distract us from our jobs.  We were assured that NASA has the utmost faith in our work and that the claims in the story were completely unfounded. Nice to hear, kind of goes without saying, but still nice.

The thing that gets me is that anyone could believe that any of us out there could do anything to harm the vehicle or delay launch. Are they nuts? We want more than anything to stay on schedule and achieve milestones and have beautiful launches, but most of all our concern is with the safety of the crew and vehicle. I don’t care how disgruntled a worker may be over the thought of losing his job next year when the program is slated to end, I know that not one of us would dream of actually doing what the WESH “reporter” was insinuating. The whole thing is preposterous.

 

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How Twitter has made my job better

Okay, I know my job is envied by many, but at the end of the day it is a job like everyone else’s. It has its difficulties, frustrations, and other drawbacks. It is easy to become defeated when trying to make positive changes at work, because of the near impossible odds you are up against. Also there is a certain atmosphere of dread around the place due to the looming “END OF THE SHUTTLE PROGRAM” hanging over our heads which will mean the loss of the majority of our jobs.

When I joined Twitter last September, I thought it would be an interesting diversion, but never realized how much it could affect me and my feelings about my work. I eventually found myself in a circle of NASA employees and space enthusiasts who were tweeting excitedly about launches. At the first launch after I started tweeting, I got up to the minute updates from a space center contact, @herrea straight from the Launch Control Complex. It was so cool to know exactly what was happening and any potential delays that posed a threat. It was after this launch that Andy started to see the value of Twitter and decided to join as well. He’s @apacheman, by the way.

After that, I became even more entrenched in the space community on Twitter. I started following Wayne Hale (former NASA flight director), Miles O’Brien (aviation and space journalist), and Leroy Chiao (former astronaut). I saw that I was days ahead of my co-workers and even my upper management when it came to finding out what was happening with the US space program. I started to realize that Twitter  had the potential to help me in my career. What I didn’t anticipate is the effects that it would have on the way I felt about my job.

With this last launch, I had gained some more followers that are what I would call “space enthusiasts.” This was a really good thing because it forced me to look at my job from the perspective of other people who would give anything to be in my position. It made me more excited about the cool opportunities I had and more inclined to seek out new ones. I started posting photos I took during the day of things that seemed mundane, but was amazed to find that there were some followers that really enjoyed seeing these behind-the-scenes shots. I am happy to share these little tidbits with those that find them interesting.

I became Twitter friends with other contractor employees (some even within my own company) from Johnson Space Center in Houston that are facing the same “end of program blues” and uncertainty due to change that we are. It is somehow comforting to know that these people are dealing with many of the same challenges we are facing at Kennedy Space Center. We also can share our pride in each launch or milestone, knowing that we each had a little part in it. I also found an inspirational leader in @rikerjoe, who is trying to make positive changes within NASA and is very supportive of my efforts. 

While I have always tried to attend every launch that I possibly could because I didn’t want to waste the amazing opportunity I have been given, now launches are even more exciting. This is because I get to share the play-by-play with and from other Twitterers: some watching it in person like me and some on the other side of the world.

Last week, I was able to meet a Twitter friend that came from JSC for the launch and just happens to work for the same company as I do. Andy had given her a tour of the launch pad a couple of days earlier, and then, on her last day at KSC, she was able to come down to my work area and visit. It was a pleasure to give a tour of the Hypergolic Maintenance Facility to @absolutspacegrl because she was truly excited to be there. She did not think the hardware was mundane, but saw it with the fresh eyes of a space enthusiast. Even though she has a great deal of knowledge of the systems as a flight controller, she said that they rarely see hardware, and mostly deal with data. It was energizing to see someone that appreciates what they are seeing the way she did. She even blogged about her experience at KSC.

And finally, there is one more group of people on Twitter that help me through a challenging workday. That group is my blog friends that are now on Twitter; many of you I have now known for over four years, some of you I have met in real life, and all of you are people I feel honored to be friends with.  To @susank, @tropicalwonder, @poppycede, @nycwatchdog, @strangeafoot, @patrice108, @beth4158, @MaryKC, @Grynet, @kimsnotebook, @halo969, @felicia4774, @absentcanadian, @yoshi, @fyrchk, @sweetanne, :  I am glad to be able to keep up with you on a daily (or weekly, for some) basis and would be far worse off if not for your support. And Mel, one day you’ll make me truly happy and start tweeting again!

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Hubble Servicing Mission

 

STS-125 Astronauts, originally uploaded by Flying Jenny.

As some of you know, we launched on Monday. It was a beautiful launch, but this one was an exceptionally cool one for me. It wasn’t the first launch that I posted live on Twitter, actually I think this was the third for me. But this one was the first time that I got to meet someone I knew from Twitter. I saw a tweet from @RyInSpace that he was waiting to see the astronauts come out of the Operations & Checkout Building to the Astronaut van. I had never gotten to see that in person before, but it happens less than a mile away from where I was sitting at work. I okayed it with my manager and decided to go over to see it for myself (on my own time, of course). It was definitely cool to see, and I met my twitter friend there too!

Andy had a Twitter encounter too, yesterday. Twitterer @absolutspacegrl was visiting the space center from Johnson Space Center where she works. Andy was able to give her and her co-workers a fantastic tour of the launch pad. Click here to see some of our photos of the launch and prelaunch events.

Oh, and I almost forgot- the iPhone photo of the launch that I tweeted made the wired.com page: Link

Mine is the fourth photo from the top.

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15 Minutes

I’m famous! Just kidding.  But I am on page 4 of this publication

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Disruptive Technology

I can’t believe it, but the ideas keep flowing for me lately. It is so great to not be stifled by negativity anymore and be working with people that foster my creative tendencies. I had such a wonderful idea today- I just wish I could share, but my company and NASA own most of the contents of my brain, so it will be a while before I can do so. No worries.

Most of my inventions are related to Industrial Safety, though many have “spin-off” uses in other industries. The funny part is that you would think that the safety community in my company would be all over them and excited about the possibilities, but it seems that is not the case so much. In contrast, the new technology department is very enthusiastic about my ideas, and is thrilled to try to move them forward in the NASA reporting system.  But I think many of the dismissive attitudes from safety people became much clearer to me after I talked to the director of Technology Innovation with my company.  She said that the fact that the safety people were not excited about my inventions was likely due to the fact that they constituted “disruptive technology” or innovations that challenge the status quo.  These things sometimes make people uncomfortable, because they fear change. The fact that some people may have negative responses to my creations may be an indication that they are great ideas. She said that NASA is seeking out this “disruptive technology,” that that is what they want.

After realizing that what she said was true, I don’t let it bother me so much when my inventions are not received with the enthusiasm that I would expect. Now that I understand where people are coming from it doesn’t worry me so much and I just temper their reactions with my new knowledge. I think things are just starting to “get good.”

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