Thursday, February 28, 2013

My brother, the air traffic controller

"To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."
 - Clara Ortega

This past weekend, my brother graduated from Army Air Traffic Control school. I drove over to Alabama to see him graduate and to spend a day with him and our family. He was part of a small graduating class of the Army's newest and finest air traffic controllers.

My brother getting his wings pinned on him!
My family and stayed in the most comfortable little cabin on the base. It overlooked a lake, and was in such a gorgeous, wooded area. It stormed most of the time I was there, however.

After my brother's graduation ceremony, my family decided to explore the town of Ozark. We came across an old cemetery, filled with graves of former Confederate Soldiers, Freemasons, and even a Revolutionary War soldier. There were many interesting graves, so after my insistance, we went to the local library and were able to look through very extensive local documents of the families we were interested in learning about. One of the families happened to be the founding family of Ozark, and still holds influence in the town today.

My brother got one day off, so we went to Panama City Beach. We visited Wonderworks, which was a pretty cool place. Our inner devilish child came out on the 360 bike, as well as on the extensive ropes course. They also had some pretty awesome tributes to scientists, which I adored. 

We also visited Ron Jon Surf Shop, and a little local diner, where part of the new musical "East Side Story" was filmed. I'm a huge fan of "West Side Story", so it was pretty amazing! 

It was great seeing my brother graduate, and I'm even more excited that he gets some leave before he ships to Hawaii. Like the quote I put on the post, it's like time hasn't even passed since last seeing him.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Nifty Fifties

A couple weeks ago, I was driving my sister home from taekwondo, and I saw the most amazing car I have ever seen. It pulled into a store's parking lot, and I followed and asked the very sweet owners if I could take a few pictures. Check out this awesome black and pink 1956 Sunliner, "Peggy Sue Nifty 56".

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My one greatest love

First and foremost, Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your day is filled with love and joy (and lots of chocolate!). I figured today would be a good day to talk about my one greatest and deepest love. I initially wrote this post for my lovely friend Kellie over at On the Brink of Something Beautiful for her February love series, and I'm sharing it with you all today.

Before I talk about my one greatest love, I would like to define what I think love is. On the most basic level, I believe love is a deep feeling of respect and caring. Love can evolve in other ways, whether it be with a significant other, friend, pet or family member, but all love is based off respect and caring.

With that in mind, my one true love is a little bit different than what most people may think. It is not something I can hold or hug, but I love it all the same. First, some pictures:

The cosmos are my one true love. It is a bit different, but space is the one thing that I know I will always love. Ever since I was young, I have been obsessed with space. When you look out at the night sky, you see that the world is so much more than just the city you're in or the country you live in. The expanses of the universe are right beyond reach, there for us to observe, admire, study, and for those who are really lucky, explore. The universe is the most beautiful, complex, and mysterious mistress anyone could ever ask for. It is filled with gorgeous galaxies, fantastic nebulae, and countless planets that could be brimming with life. Space is a never-ending, dynamic, amazing entity. Without the death of stars, we could never exists. It's such a beautiful and poetic thought, that humans and everything that is come from stardust.

I am always humbled when I see amazing images compiled by Hubble and other telescopes, like the ones I showed above. Our entire solar system is nothing compared to these majestic giants. The size of nebulae and galaxies are almost unfathomable, and that's still nothing compared to the scale of the always expanding universe.

I know my previous definition of love may not seem to coincide with my saying that my one true love is space, but I respect and care for the universe just as you respect and care for a person. It is not the same sort of care and respect, but it is there nonetheless. The cosmos are my one greatest love, and it always will be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UAH Space Hardware Conference

Last night, I came back from the "Building and Sustaining Space Hardware Organizations" conference in Alabama. It was sponsored by NASA's Alabama Space Grant Consortium and the University of Alabama Huntsville Space Hardware Club. I had the time of my life at this conference. I was one of four students from Florida chosen to go.

Before I get into details of the conference, I have to say I really had the most amazing time in Huntsville. I love the city and the university. I met some of the coolest people there; I hated leaving! Everyone in the Space Hardware Club and the visiting universities were so nice and helpful and fun. I really hope to visit UAH and maybe collaborate with the Space Hardware Club in the future. I don't want to lose touch with the awesome friends I made there.

I flew into Huntsville Thursday morning, where I was picked up by two students of UAH's Space Hardware Club. We went to the hotel, where I met my roommate for the next few days, Mahreen. We went to campus to wait for the kickoff tours to start. Mahreen and I explored the UAH campus some during that time. I also met several other conference attendees during that time. 

The conference started by touring areas of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. We went to the International Space Station Payloads Operations Center, where they communicate with the astronauts aboard the space station and observe the experiments being conducted. Below are some pictures, including some experimentation observed in real time.

After that, we saw some of the electric and nuclear propulsion systems that Marshall is developing. This was one of the coolest parts of the tour, but I can't post pictures due to ITAR reasons. 

Finally, we toured some historic parts of Marshall, specifically, the test stands. We saw the Historic Dynamic Test Stand 4550, Static Test Stand 4670, the Historic Redstone Missile Test Stand, as well as a few others.

Historic Dynamic Test Stand 4550 
Static Test Stand 4670 (The cement goes 80' down into the bedrock)

Historic Redstone Test Site
We went back to the UAH campus and toured some of the Space Hardware Club's facilities. We saw their INCREDIBLE machine shop, and their ground station for their satellites. The machine shop was huge and had a 3D printer, a composites area, as well as CNC machines and manual machinery. 

The next day the actual conference-y part started. We had the honor of hearing from Marshall Space Flight Center's center director, Patrick Scheuermann. He was very inspirational. We also heard from Ray Perkins of Teledyne Brown Engineering and Bill Brown of the High Altitude Research Corporation. Bill Brown is the leading expert in balloonsats (balloon satellites). He and I got to talking because of my interest in balloonsats; he is an incredible guy and I am so fortunate to have made his acquaintance! We broke out into focus groups twice during the conference; I attended the satellite and rocketry sessions. I learned a ton from both sessions. 

Bill Brown with his balloonsat payload

When the conference ended, we went to dinner, where I got to talk to more students. Afterwards, some of the students, Mahreen, and I went to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. We took pictures with the Saturn V they have outside; it is HUGE! It can be seen from every area of the city. We then went back to campus to go salsa dancing. It was soooo much fun. I danced with a bunch of people there, and ran into a friend I made two summers ago while interning at Kennedy Space Center! It was so random and awesome running into him there. 

We then got the "grand tour" of campus, and went to Denny's for a midnight snack. 

The last day, before flying off, the Space Hardware Club launched a balloonsat. It was really amazing, I even got to help with the launch. I'm going to write about this in a separate post!

Overall, it was such an incredible conference. :) A special thanks goes to the Florida Space Grant Consortium for sponsoring my trip!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Off to Alabama!!

Hey everyone! I'm currently on my way to Huntsville, Alabama to the University of Alabama Huntsville for a space hardware conference. Thanks to the Florida Space Grant Consortium for sponsoring my trip! I can't wait to tell you all how the conference goes!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Remembering those who have fallen

Today marks 10 years since the horrible Columbia tragedy, when space shuttle Columbia fell apart on re-entry after a successful 16 day long mission in space. During takeoff, a piece of foam struck the shuttle's wing, but unbeknownst to the crew and NASA, serious damage had been done. Many people have lost their lives in the name of science and space exploration, and I would like to to honor them and others who have died for that cause. In the list, I include those who died in training-related incidents as well. Below is a list of those who have died in the name of space exploration. You will never be forgotten.

Those who have died in space

Vladimir Komarov
Georgi Dobrovolski
Viktor Patsayev
Vladislav Volkov
Greg Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe
Ronald McNair
Ellison Onizuka
Judith Resnik
Michael J. Smith
Dick Scobee

Rick D. Husband
William McCool
Michael P. Anderson
David M. Brown
Kalpana Chawla
Laurel B. Clark
Ilan Ramon

Michael J. Adams

Those who have died in spaceflight training:

Valentin Bondarenko
Theodore Freeman
Elliot See
Charles Bassett

Gus Grissom
Edward White II
Roger Chaffee

Clifton "C.C." Williams
Robert Lawrence
Yuri Gagarin
Sergei Vozovikov