Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : USAFA Astronauts

Today marks the 41st anniversary of "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" as it was broadcast to The Big Blue Marble from the surface of the Moon. So, I thought today would be a good time to recognize each of our Three States and their connections to NASA and/or the space program. So, what do Colorado and NASA have in common? Simply the most important single component (other than perhaps the spacecraft) to the entire space program, namely astronauts. How are astronauts and Colorado connected? Five letters - USAFA. The United States Air Force Academy . Over fifty astronauts have attended the Academy. Some of the names you'll easily recognize, like Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Or Wally Schirra - the only man to fly in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Most are not household names and, to me, there's a good reason for that. Since the inception of the manned flight space program, traveling to the Moon or watching the Space Shuttle repair a wayward satellite has become almost "routine" despite the complexity and enormity of each mission. In 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped out of the "Eagle" (Lunar Excursion Module) onto the surface of Earth's nearest space neighbor, space flight was still thought of as new, exciting and dangerous. Not so much today, even though the missions are just as new, exciting and dangerous, if not more so, as they were 41 years ago - just more "routine". :)

Maine Minutiae : The Space Glove

Forty one years ago today, man first foot on the moon. Honoring that extraordinary achievement, I am posting about the Three States (TX, ME, CO) connections to NASA and/or the space program. Even way up here we have had an impact.
Peter Homer of Southwest Harbor, Maine is an engineer. In 2007, Peter took up NASA'S call to build a better space glove for the first-ever Astronaut Glove Challenge. Boy, did he ever! He won the competition ! You'd think that Mr. Homer would have spent endless hours in some high tech laboratory, which he probably did. BUT, and that's one BIG but, Peter actually did most of the work on his astronaut glove design on his kitchen table ! With materials he purchased at Home Depot and from eBay! I. Kid. You. Not. ! For his efforts, he picked up a $200,000 prize from NASA. I guess this story (and Peter Homer) prove the old K.I.S.S. Theory - Keep It Simple Stupid. Way to go, Pete !

Texas Tidbits : Houston (and the Moon)

Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States with a population of about 2.3 million people in the city itself, and almost 6 million in the metro area. Land-wise, Houston is the sixth largest metro area in the US at 600 square miles. I chose today to make this post on the Space City because of the date, July 20. It was 41 years ago today that Neil Armstrong uttered some of the most famous words in history - "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." A seemingly innocuous quote until you consider that they were spoken from the surface of the moon! It was July 20,1969 that Houston not only became the first word spoken from a celestial body other than Earth, but also truly became an international city on that day, thrust into the limelight with one of the, if not the most amazing human accomplishment in the history of the world. Of course another Neil Armstrong quote became fairly well-known as well. I guess this post is not much about  Houston itself, but its connection to and place in this monumental event. It's that kind of pioneering spirit and can-do attitude that the Allen brothers brought to the banks of Buffalo Bayou in 1836 when Houston was founded and named after the then-President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston. A bigger-than-life city named after a bigger-than-life man. Fitting.

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