Posted by: illinigirl | June 12, 2008

Houston, we have a nerd alert

I have so many blog topics I’d like to write on. . . but they are LONG and labor intensive!  I will have to see if maybe I can do one this weekend.

This one will probably take a ton of time. . . but it’s a plug for a TV show that’s on now. . . and I’d be remiss if I waited too long to talk about it.

I’ve always been amazed by space.  This probably started with my first field trip to the Parkland College Planetarium as a kid.  I just LOVED this experience.  Also, my parents took us to Cape Canaveral as kids, which I thought was pretty cool.  I even got a subscription to a space magazine when I was young (granted, one of the draws to doing this was that they had a really cool section for finding pen pals, which is a whole other blog topic).

I’ve always been interested in space. . . however, as I got older, I started to wonder if it was all worth it. . . the TREMENDOUS amounts of money we spend on the space program with all the problems we have here on Earth.

I’d been to Johnson Space Center here in Houston before. . . my friend Matt from high school is an aeronautical engineer, and went to grad school with some people that work at NASA, and he asked his friend Vanessa to meet up with me when I lived here in 2003.  I met her at NASA one day, and she took me on a tour.  I didn’t have much in the way of security clearance so I couldn’t see much. . . but it was still cool, and she was such a neat person.  It was interesting to see everything from the perspective of someone working for NASA and studying the effects of space.

I still wasn’t sold though.

All that changed when my friend Jamie suggested that my parents and I go on a special tour of the Johnson Space Center this year.  Wow.  This was seriously cool, and I recommend anyone that has a chance to do it goes.  The best thing about this were our tour guides and guest speakers. . . and the fact that only 12 people can take this tour at a time.  Here are a few dorky pictures from Historic Mission Control. . . (I FORGOT MY DIGITAL CAMERA BATTERY THAT DAY.  I was charging it. . . and left it at home.  So I was stuck with some crappy, crappy disposable camera.  No stellar pictures from that day!)

We had a retired contractor from NASA as our tour guide.  She was kick butt and knew EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING.  As I listened to her talk, I realized all we had gained in the way of technology and science as a result of the space program and the International Space Station.  It is dumbfounding to me that we were able to do so much in the 70s with so little technology.  It’s positively UNBELIEVABLE that we didn’t lose more people early on.  There were so many risks and unknowns.

We got to tour the current Mission Control, where the flight director spoke to us.  So neat.  Then in Historic Mission Control, another tour guide that worked in Mission Control during the Apollo missions spoke to us.  This was so amazing.  When these people talk, you realize how close they are.  The astronauts aren’t just famous people, or co-workers, or random people. . . they are like family.  This man, who I think was named David (still researching to try and remember his name). . . had SO MANY STORIES.  He held so much history. . . He told several stories about Apollo 13.  This mirror flown on Apollo 13 was placed on a plaque in Historic Mission Control above the water fountain that the employees used every day:

It reads:  “This mirror flown on Aquarius, LM-7, to the moon April 11-17, 1970. Returned by a greatful (sic) Apollo 13 crew to “reflect the image” of the people in Mission Control, who got us back!  — James Lovell, John Swigert, Fred Haise.” 

We thought this was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done, and it really inspired me to want to learn more about each of the NASA missions and more of the history. . . so imagine my excitement when I saw this series was coming to the Discovery Channel. . .

When We Left Earth:  The NASA Missions

I DVRed them from Sunday (because I was flying home). . . and I just watched the first one tonight.  My parents and I LOVED it.  Granted, you might not be as big of fans as we are. . . but it was so neat to see the steps the space program has gone through.  I had goosebumps as they took off. . . and started to get teary with the pictures of the first space walk.  It’s just so amazing. . . you’re watching history before your eyes.  If you have any interest, check out the schedule here. . . the thing is, I think it’d be best to watch them in order, but it may be difficult unless you can catch it on reruns. . . go to the TV listings to check that out.  I have signed up for email reminders for when these shows will be on (because I’m a nerd like that).

In other news, I’m adding NASA’s website as a blogroll so you can see what’s going on with the Space Station and other missions.  Did you know that this week, we delivered the Japanese Lab Kibo to the International Space Station?  Did you know that we are phasing out the shuttles???  The new spacecraft for the Constellation Program will be Aries and Orion.  Did you know that plans are in the works to go to the Moon again???  I didn’t know any of this until I went on the tour.

Check out the launch schedule, and it describes the missions. . . There is so much related to science, weather, and climate that can be gathered in these missions.

So call me a nerd. . . but I’m all about this stuff. 🙂



  1. When We Left Earth is *AWESOME*, even though I’ve only seen the first episode. Beyond the dorkiness of the material, the HD stuff they’re able to finagle out of that 60’s footage looked completely awesome.

  2. your not a nerd. i think everyone likes space stuff. one of my best friends even went to space camp. how fun would that have been. when my boys are older i want to take them to see a launch.

  3. Hey, Illini Girl!

    Two people have sent me this blog entry so far and I really appreciate the “plug.” I run the planetarium at Parkland College. I’m so happy (and I really mean that) that you have an interest in space! Of all the kids who go through here annually, it’s nice to know that you have inspired some of them! Keep looking up!

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