Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Space connections

Some time ago, I mentioned how when I was growing up in Nebraska, the space program felt so far away, like I had not connections with is whatsoever.  I was in college by the time Clayton Anderson was selected as an astronaut, my understanding is that he's the first astronaut from Nebraska.

My classmates seemed to think that working for the space program was an impossible dream, "You have to be SMART to work for NASA!"  Sometimes it seemed like my parents agreed with that assessment.

(The truth is that intelligence is a big help, but superhuman Genius is not required.)

(Other astronauts had connections to Offutt, AFB in Nebraska.  

One year in Girl Scouts, we toured the "Looking Glass" aircraft. I was either a Junior (1985-1988) or Cadette (1988-1991) at the time.  It was probably the year our neighbor, Mrs. Hancock, was the adult leader (1990-1991).  That was the last year I was active in Scouts.)

As I think back on my father's career, his job in space weather, and my mother's siblings, I find that the reality is quite different.  I was more closely connected than I realized.

For one, there's the Ascension Island South Pacific t-shirts we used to have:

That was my favorite t-shirt for quite some time.  I didn't realize the (possible) significance of it until the island was mentioned in Shuttle retirement news last year.

They were a gift from the same uncle who gave us photographs from two space shuttle launches.  I still have most of the photos, although unfortunately they got scrambled.  For several years, I couldn't tell which of the early shots were which vehicle.  Reviewing them for this post, I realized that these unnumbered photos are from one launch, I think Atlantis:

While the numbered photos, like this:
Are taken from a different location, a different launch.  This is Challenger.  The highest number in my photo album is 33.  I *know* it's Challenger at photo 15.  I do not plan to post the entire series.  Ever.

The summer I spent with another uncle, in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.  Where I got my first Space Flight Awareness sticker, for STS-38.  Our June 30, 1990 road trip was the highlight of my summer... better than Disney World!

And this shirt, that I showed on Monday.  A gift from another aunt, who did her graduate work with LandSat data.  

The Christmas that we moved back to Indiana, that I had to change schools... this same aunt and her husband gave me a copy of the Space Shuttle Operator's Manual.  It helped.

Even though it seemed an impossible dream, completely out of reach... it never truly was as far away from me as it felt.