Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Space & Shuttle Memories, pt 2

Continuing the making of a woman engineer. (Part 1 is here)

In fifth grade, our teacher & student teacher started out a series on the planets, by having us create a model rocket out of things like oatmeal boxes and construction paper.  My "rocket" became my new teddy bear.

My sixth grade teacher incorporated a number of 4-H activities into our curriculum, including the Blue Sky Below My Feet series.

I know these latest two seem too tiny to mention.  But for the teachers out there: these little, little things made a HUGE difference.  They helped keep me motivatedreminded me of why I was studying hard, kept me going.  There were dark nights, many dark nights, along this path.  But I'm trying to stick to the highlights as much as I can, here.  The space program has been a bright spot for most of my life.  (Challenger and Columbia are truly unavoidable lows in this saga.)

In 7th and 8th grade, we started getting visitors talking about career paths, high schools, college.  Somebody came to talk to us during those years, and I asked about studying Aeronautical and/or Aerospace engineering.  He told me to go with something more generic, like Mechanical, instead, since it was a broader field that could be applied to the aerospace industry.  I remembered that.  Between that advice, and my parent's later experiences... I did not major in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering.

At some point during this time, one of my uncles stopped by to visit.  Among the things he gave us, were photographs he had taken of launches he had seen, when he worked in Florida.  One set, was an Atlantis lift-off.  The other, was Challenger, STS-51L.  I still have the photos, most of them.

I mentioned that a lot of things changed after Challenger.  As I reached 10, 12 years old, I became old enough to babysit.  In part, that was good - I could earn my own money.  But the flip side was, at the time I was the oldest of four.  As sguth started school, Mom started to go back to work, and I started watching my siblings over summer vacation.

By the time I was in 8th grade, my parents started wanting cguthrie and kawphy to step up.  By this point, I had a cousin who was 3, and they were expecting another.  So my mom and her sister worked out a deal, for me to spend the summer with them, watching my cousin.  In Florida.

I should also mention, that most of our traveling up to this point, had been the annual drive back to Indiana.  There was one summer that we went to Rocky Mountain National Park instead of Indiana.  But mostly, we stayed close to home.  The family usually went to either Adventureland or Worlds of Fun once in the summertime.  My sister & I got to Girl Scout camp for one week each year, by selling Girl Scout Cookies and getting an Officer's Wives Club scholarship.  (No horse camp, that cost too much.  I asked.  Just one week of regular camp.)  California, Florida, they seemed like a paradise that I could only dream of going to...

Until I was going.  And even when I got to Florida, I'm sure I had that "pinch me?" feeling, for a while.

We did make it to visit Kennedy Space Center, one very long day.  Drove up in the morning, stayed most of the day, drove back in the evening.  It was amazing, I had so much fun.  There was a rocket launch as we were driving up, but not a shuttle.  Mostly my uncle saw the contrail.

We saw the crawler, that hauls the stack out to the launch pad, that was amazing.  The Saturn V rocket was the first one I had seen.   It was still outside at that time, and getting old.  I'm reasonably sure Atlantis was on the launch pad when we visited, I think I got pictures of her.  I'm not sure about the other launch pad.  I'll try to update with photos in a few weeks, when I have time to find them and scan them in.  I'm afraid I wasn't a good photographer back then.

Space art - there was an exhibit on display.  I don't think I'd ever seen anything like it before.

My uncle also gave me a sticker of the STS-38 patch.  By then I knew that six orbiters had been built, including Enterprise.  That patch inspired me to draw a series of six shuttlecraft, as if they were edges of a cube.  I tried that series several different times over the summer.  At some point, I had found a profile picture of an orbiter landing, I traced that many times too, I think by this summer I had the basic lines down.

By the time I got home, I was trying to draw that series on graph paper, testing out the proportions.  And that was what some of my high school classmates saw me doing.  A handful or less, started doing a countdown whenever they saw me.

But, on the other hand, the high school had a science club.  And the first science club meeting of the year, had a pair of students talking about their experiences at Space Camp.  It was a small group, but the teacher advising the group really helped me to feel welcome there.