Friday, June 24, 2011

Meeting an astronaut

When any high-ranking official comes to the Weather Center, we all get to jump. I won't bore you with the topics of weather conversation. Meetings are called, visits are made, speeches are provided during meetings. This week it was Dr. Kathryn Sullivan from NOAA. First US woman to walk in Space. Was on the mission to put the  Hubble Space telescope in orbit. Flew on the shuttle 3 times. Also served as NOAA chief Scientist in the 90's.

When I read her bio, I was excited to even be offered a chance to hear an astronaut speak. Yeah, I know I sound like a kid. But I really enjoyed her stories. Being stuck in the airlock when the hubble's solar cells did not deploy, then having a tech "fix" it, thus stopping a perfectly good EVA. Especially when she casually mentioned that training for fixing anything on Hubble took 5 years! Not to mention stating that she got the same look at Hubble as we did here on Earth, being stuck in the airlock after all just in case the solar cells did not open through commands. It was also interesting to hear about the risk of that mission, running models to make sure the density calculations were correct for Hubbles' drag, since the thrusters to maintain its orbit were weak, so initial placement was critical. And, as she said, "the astronauts wanted to make sure we had enough fuel to get back", since they were headed to an orbit twice as far as the space station.

She flew in April 1992, 3 missions before I saw my first Space Shuttle launch in August 1992. Back when the shuttle flew often. A silly personal stat, but one of significance for me. It was cool to meet her and hear her down-to-earth stories. I should have asked for an autograph.