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.
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!
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.
I’m famous! Just kidding. But I am on page 4 of this publication
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.”
So, I finally succumbed to Twitter, and am giving it a try, as some of you already know. I have placed the feeds from my Twitter page on the sidebar down at the bottom, so if you want to see what I have been up to, it is all there, even if you are not a Twitterer (is that a word?).
At my work area we recently received the Alta Pods for storage, because they were in the way in the Vehicle Assembly Building due to some major work on the building’s enormous doors. I was thinking about it the other day and I realized that most people have probably never even heard of an Alta Pod. So, I decided to share.
Up until about six or seven years ago, when the Orbiter vehicles were due for a major modification or down time for maintenance, they were shipped out to Palmdale, California atop a 747. The OMS (pronounced ‘ohms’) pods that I work on and the Forward Reaction Control System, or FRCS were removed before shipping, because this major maintenance was always performed at the facility I work in. So, when they shipped the orbiters, the ‘holes’ left from the removal of these components had to be covered, and needed to be aerodynamic as well as protective. What was used in place of the OMS pods were fiberglass mock-ups referred to as Alta Pods. They are even painted to resemble the real thing. There is a dummy FRCS module as well. Chances are they will not be used again, unless they are used to ferry one of the Orbiters to its final resting place at a museum if NASA decides to retain the pods as spares for other orbiters or something like that.
Here are some photos so you can see what I am talking about. First is a real OMS pod:
Then the Alta Pods:
And then the dummy FRCS. Maybe it is called an Alta FRCS? I believe I heard it also referred to as an Alta pod, though.
In case you are interested, there is a really interesting short series on the Discovery Channel about the space program. The series began last week with the Mercury Program and goes each week to chronicle the rest of the space program over the last 50 years. It airs on Sunday nights at 9pm.
Actually, it should be a really early morning launch of Endeavour at 2:28am or some God-awful time like that. I am off to bed but I have my alarm set to get up and watch the launch. Fingers crossed.
This morning at work I had to go get something done in the OPF (Orbiter Processing Facility) area, and I arrived just in time to be stuck on the other side of the clear that was established for the roll over of Endeavour to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) for stacking. Since I was stuck waiting, I took some photos with my phone to share with you.