The misadventures of Commander Merlin and the crew of RV-103
Tuesday December 30th 2014

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Goodbye and GodSpeed Discovery RV-103.

Goodbye and Godspeed RV-103 Discovery. 09-2009 to 12-2011

What can I say, but that it is an end to a major chapter in our lives.  Today I turned over the keys to our great and intrepid ship RV-103 Discovery to a young family and closed an extraordinary chapter of misadventures our commander and crew had lived with great joy and wonderful exploration.  Now Discovery will be renamed and give this new crew a set of misadventures that they will share with their family and friends as we had done with you all.

It is bittersweet, but as with all good things, they must and do come to an end.  We have traveled this great nation east to west, north to south, and many points in between.  We have visited primeval forests with trees older than Christ himself, stood in awe at the night sky in the desert, walked in the footsteps of historical characters of likes of Mark Twain and Dr. Mary Walker, traveled the Pacific coastline, panned for gold where the 1849 gold rush began, and much more.  The misadventures would not have been half as good if it wasn’t for the company of the love of my life Gypsy and our fearful leader Commander Merlin.

As this chapter closes, another one comes with the turning of the page.  That new chapter will have its own series of misadventures for us all and I do look forward to it.  New careers, new paths to walk, new experiences, new goals…the list goes on, but there will always be a special place in our hearts for our great ship RV-103 Discovery.  There may be other RV’s in the future, possibly an RV-104 or RV-105, but RV-103 was and always will be our first.

I want to thank the nearly 50,000 readers who have made this series of voyages with us on RV-103.  Your emails and messages have entertained and inspired us all.  Don’t worry though, the RV-103 blog will still be here and I will still continue to post to it from time to time.  But for now, feel free to relive our previous missions starting with our first post when we went to pick her up and name her.

Farewell Discovery.  You were a fine ship to Commander Merlin and our crew.  We will miss you.  Goodbye and Godspeed.

CollisionTEC: A Review

Towards the end of Mission #2, RV-103 had a mishap with a pole, as detailed here.  Last month, I finally got an opportunity to get her fixed and wanted to write a review on the garage that did the work.

As you could tell from the pictures from the accident, RV-103 sustained damage to three doors and the wheel well.  CollisionTEC, of Clearwater Florida, was given the task of fixing the damage.  The owner, Dar Fortney, led the work team himself and did a fantastic job above and beyond what was needed.  Well done CollisionTEC!

Looks brand new!

Breaking News: Obama proposes an end to NASA’s Planetary Science Program

“Word has leaked out that in its new budget, the Obama administration intends to terminate NASA’s planetary exploration program. The Mars Science Lab Curiosity, being readied on the pad, will be launched, as will the nearly completed small MAVEN orbiter scheduled for 2013, but that will be it. No further missions to anywhere are planned.

After 2013, America’s amazing career of planetary exploration, which ran from the Mariner probes in the 1960s through the great Pioneer, Viking, Voyager, Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Spirit, Opportunity, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Galileo and Cassini missions, will simply end.

Furthermore, the plan from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also leaves the space astronomy program adrift and headed for destruction. The now-orbiting Kepler Telescope will be turned off in midmission, stopping it before it can complete its goal of finding other Earths. Even worse, the magnificent Webb Telescope, the agency’s flagship, which promises fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of the laws of the universe, is not sufficiently funded to allow successful completion. This guarantees further costly delays, with the ensuing budgetary overruns leading inevitably to eventual cancellation.” Credit

The planetary science guys cheered when Obama killed Human Space Flight not realizing they were next.  It has been Obama’s goal all along to destroy any trace of our nation’s exceptialism and that included our entire space program.  New Space will be the next ones on the chopping block.

How’s that “Hope and change” working out for everyone?

Mismatched Models

Most advocates of Human Space Flight programs always model HSF with the airplane model.  Government subsidized at first and eventually private for profit companies would take over.  Airplane companies that got too dependent on the government subsidies failed, but airlines that developed their commercial base succeeded.  But, maybe that is the wrong model to use.  Some programs will never be totally commercial and profitable, such as military defense with their submarines, aircraft carriers, etc., and Human Space Flight.

The airplane model worked because mail, people, and cargo needed to be moved from point A to point B.  That could be done for a profit.  But human space flight is not a profit making venture.  It is pure science and engineering in an extreme and hazardous environment.

America's Human Space Flight program is now for sale.

Commercial companies are in business to make a profit.  That’s the way it should be.  Commercial companies do not do pure science or human exploration unless there is a potential for a profit.  Take a look at pharmaceutical companies for example.  Millions of dollars are put into research for new drug compounds not for the sole purpose of saving human lives and alleviating suffering, but for the potential for profit.

Though I am an advocate for a limited constitutional government, there are some things that only governments can do and do pretty well.  Take the military for example.  Many military equipment and weapons are designed not for public use, but for the military’s use to defend our nation.  You’re not going to find cruise missiles or nuclear weapons for sale at your local gun shop.  Even such equipment as Humvees was designed to transport troops in all types of terrain, not sit in five o’clock rush hour traffic in downtown Los Angeles.  Built with that in mind, the manufactures did try to cross over into the commercial market with limited and diminishing success as a status symbol and eventually Humvees production for civilian use was ceased.  It just wasn’t profitable over the long run.  Even Ben Franklin’s postal service was better suited to be a government function and broke even while running efficiently until the unions infiltrated it.  Though FedEx and UPS, among others, now deliver packages for a profit, the common letter delivery is still primarily a government function that would bring no profit for a commercial company especially in this day and age of email.

Human Space Flight advocates always point to the day when it will become commercial and the everyday Joe will be able to buy a ticket to low Earth orbit or to the Moon.  Until much cheaper methods of leaving the Earth come into being, that day is very much unlikely.  Human Space Flight is a science, not tourism for the common man.  And, maybe we should be accepting that it is a science that will not necessarily produce a profit, but benefit mankind in the long run.  It is truly pure research and problem solving that would have applications here on Earth in some areas, but if a “profit” motive is added, then the science suffers.  SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed will never take up tourists unless they can make a profit.  This is not an airplane trip to a tropical destination, but a hazardous and beneficial science experiment/endeavor.   Trying to use the commercial airplane model and apply it to Human Space Flight is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  It is the wrong model and way of thinking.

But, our nation is now stuck with commercial space, correct model or not.  As a friend told me once who has worked in HSF since the Apollo days, we must “shore up what we have left.” Since the Obama administration has killed our government HSF and is working very hard to kill the Space Launch System or Nelson’s Folly, passed by Congress, all we have left are the commercial companies.  And it seems the Obama administration, through NASA, has set the commercial companies up to fail by passing the mantle of HSF to them way before they are ready and are still learning rocket science, and by preparing to hit them with onerous bureaucratic regulations such as FAR.

In the following posts, I will examine the various commercial companies that are trying to develop their own HSF programs and what progress they have made.  I will review their history, their current status, their predictions on when they will fly humans into orbit and to the ISS, etc.  Currently no commercial company has even passed the stage of sending a monkey into orbit as we did with Ham back in 1961.  I will NOT be discussing companies such as Virgin Galactic, for they are not a serious HSF contender, but a thrill ride to sub-orbital for very rich thrill seekers. (Though if I had $200,000 to spare, I would be booking a ride on their ship.)

Though the New Space Boys or commercial space are full of Powerpoint presentations and bravado, they still will have to produce for these United States of America.  And it is up to our nation to hold them accountable and expect results. It is also up to our nation to make sure that the Obama administration and NASA don’t sabotage commercial space and cause it to fail deliberately.   We are paying for them right now through our tax subsidies and that makes the taxpayer their stockholders and partial owners.  Obama has already cost our nation $9 billion dollars, thousands of jobs,  and seven years worth of work by killing Constellation.  Our nation cannot allow Obama, NASA, nor the commercial companies to waste anymore of our tax dollars.

Human Space Flight Trivia Week 7

First of all my apologies.  I had to take care of some duties at home that prevented me from posting the newest question at the regular time.  Because of that, answers will be accepted for this week’s questions until next Monday night at midnight EST.

The HSF Trivia Week six question was: How many astronauts were aboard the first launch of the Space Shuttle and what were the names of the crew and the shuttle?

The answer is: 2 astronauts flew on the maiden flight of Space Shuttle Columbia.  The astronuats were Commander John Young and pilot Robert Crippen.

The winner was Al K.  Congratulations Al!

The HSF Trivia Week 7 questions is: What time was it in Houston when the Apollo 13 mission lifted off the launch pad.  The answer has to be in military time.

You can submit your answers to me, Commander Merlin, at .  All answers must be submitted by midnight Monday to be considered.

For a review on the game rules, go here.

Commander Merlin

Two is One and One is None.

NASA and America's New Human Space Flight Logo Credit NASA

There is an old saying, “Two is one and one is none.”  It means that if you have only one critical item, and that item breaks, then you have none.  Having two of the same critical item ensures that work can continue if one breaks.  Many of you have been in the situation where you only had one car for the entire household and that car breaks down.  Suddenly you have no way to get both spouses to work, the kids to school, errands run, etc.  It’s always easier when you have two or more cars in the household in the event of one breaking down.  Life might get a bit complicated because you are suddenly restricted to one car, but life does still go on for the household.

We of course are facing that this very minute with our International Space Station.  After Obama, Senator Bill Nelson, and NASA gave up our HSF, we became dependent on our old cold war enemy Russia for all transport back and forth to our $100 billion dollar ISS.  JUST ONE MONTH AFTER THE SPACE SHUTTLE PROGRAM ENDED, Russia has had two launch failures.  One last week that involved placing a satellite in an improper orbit resulting in the loss of the use of that spacecraft, and just a few days ago when the Progress Cargo ship crashed to the ground just minutes after launch, resulting in the loss of nearly 3 tons of fuel, water, O2, and various supplies.

Russian Progress Spacecraft Credit Universe Today

Now the Russian fleet is grounded until the cause of the failures can be determined and fixed.  Not surprisingly, that also means the next crewed vehicle that was supposed to launch in September is now grounded.  Our ONE access to the ISS is now NONE.

What is surprising about this is the fact that NASA and Russia are now saying they may have to abandon the ISS in November if the fleet is still grounded.  The ISS has been continuously occupied by both American and Russian crews, along with other international members for over 10 years.  Just  a little over a month ago, the very last Space Shuttle mission delivered what was supposedly a year’s worth of supplies to the ISS providing a cushion to ensure that we would not have to abandon the stationin the event of a Russian failure.

So why, after just a little over a month since the last Space Shuttle delivery, are NASA and Russia making noises they may have to abandon the ISS?  One half of the crew, 3 members (1 American and 2 Russians) are returning in their docked Soyuz towards the end of September leaving only 1 Russian, 1 American, and 1 Japanese on board.  There is no possible way that the crew of the ISS has expended that 1 year supply in just one month.  So, why the rush to abandon the entire crew by November?

Some possible answers could be that Atlantis did not deliver a one year supply as NASA claimed, or didn’t bring up the “right” supplies leaving the ISS vulnerable.  Other reasons given are “Flight rules call for returning crews to land in daylight. Their last daylight landing opportunity in November is Nov. 19.  The Soyuz spacecraft that Volkov, Fossum and Furukawa will fly home will reach the end of its certified orbital lifetime before late December — the next daylight landing opportunity.” – source Florida Today

Credit Max Gruter

No matter the reason given for abandoning the ISS, one concern I have is the fact that since we have turned over the “car keys” to the Russians, it would be just a matter of time before they would take the “house keys” to the ISS.  If the station is abandoned, what is to prevent the Russians sending up a Russian only crew once their fleet is flying again, leaving us on the ground?  They could say that while things are so “precarious” for the ISS, and with the Soyuz capabilities in question, it might be prudent to use only Russian crews who are “willing to risk their lives” to “save” the ISS.  If that happens, then they get station by default and we are left standing on the ground with no access at all.  After that, they can find all kinds of excuses for not flying our astronauts to our station.  They would not only possess the only means to get to the station, but actually physically possess the station and the only means to supply it.  (Yes, I know that Japan and ESU both have supply vehicles, but they have only flown once during test flights.)

Russia has been a somewhat difficult but overall satisfactory ally during the construction of the ISS, but politically both our nations are still quite wary of each other.  And, politics run Human Space Flight programs.  It always has and politicians/national governments are usually more concerned about getting an advantage over their peers than being cooperative with their peers.  Politicians and governments never let a crisis go to waste.

How could we head off this possible scenario?  Well, NASA likes to make lip service that someday we may go into deep space or even on to Mars.  Since a mission to Mars would take about 18 months round trip, why not send an American astronaut to the ISS for 18 months or longer to do a “Mars Voyage Study” and its effect on the human body?  That way, though we cannot transport an American astronaut back and forth to the ISS for a long time (10 years or more), we can still ensure an American presence on our station.  We can even share the results of our “study” with the Russians and our other international partners!  Someone like former astronaut Story Musgrave, the father of the modern spacewalk,  would probably go for that type of a mission.  There would be risks for that astronaut.  Prolonged exposure in Zero G of that time length has only been done by Russia (1 year), and the astronaut might not have a way home if there are not enough seats on the docked Soyuz space craft.

The point is, we must preserve what we have left of our HSF, so we cannot give up the ISS to another country that is our partner in space, but our former enemy and current competitor on Earth.

Human Space Flight Trivia Week 6

When Humans abandoned the ISS due to no access by the USA or Russia, the Feline Astronaut Corps stepped up and took over keeping the ISS running.

The HSF Trivia Week Five question was: Which Launch Complex/Pad was used during the Mercury Program?

The answer is: Launch Complex 14 was the site where American astronauts were launched into Earth Orbit during the Mercury Program.

The winner was Abby L.  Congratulations Abby!

The HSF Trivia Week 6 questions is: How many astronauts were aboard the first launch of the Space Shuttle and what were the names of the crew and the shuttle?

You can submit your answers to me, Commander Merlin, at .  All answers must be submitted by midnight Monday to be considered.

For a review on the game rules, go here.

Commander Merlin

Human Space Flight Trivia Week 5 and the First Grand Prize Winner!

Commander Merlin draws the 1st Grand Prize Winner from her magical NASA hat.

Well last week’s question turned out to be a bit tougher to answer.  Though some got close, no one got the right answer.  Some mentioned “fruit flies,” but they are not “animals” but insects.  Some mentioned Albert II, launched aboard a captured V-2 rocket in 1949, but they were off by one generation and one year.

The HSF Trivia Week Four question was: What is the name of the first animal to ride in a rocket for the U.S. and what year? Hint: It is NOT Ham the monkey.

The answer is: Albert I, a rhesus monkey, was launched aboard a captured German V-2 rocket (V2 No. 37) on June 11th,  1948.  Albert I was also has the unlucky distinction of being the first animal to expire during his mission and was posthumously named after the ill-fated flight. Confirmation can be found here.

This concludes the first four week series of questions and now onto the drawing for the monthly grand prize!

The winner of the very first Grand Prize is Jim McDade! Jim has won his very own Go For Launch! game which will be shipped to him shortly.  Congratulations Jim!

The HSF Trivia Week 5 questions is: Which Launch Complex/Pad was used during the Mercury Program?

You can submit your answers to me, Commander Merlin, at .  All answers must be submitted by midnight Monday to be considered.

For a review on the game rules, go here.

Commander Merlin

“Don’t Cry Because it’s Over, Smile Because it Happened.” The “We Made History” Event at KSC

"We Made History" Event at Kennedy Space Center August 2011

A little over a week ago, I attended the “We Made History” event at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center.  The event was to celebrate the Space Shuttle Workforce’s accomplishments over the last 30 years.  The turnout was fantastic with over 8,000 former and current KSC employees attending.  Delaware North did a fantastic job hosting the event and my special thanks to ATK, Boeing, United Space Alliance, and the other sponsors for putting on the event.

Larry Tanner and his beloved Rocket Garden at KSC.
Glenn and Rocketman

The highlight of the evening of course was seeing my old co-workers.  Though it was a large crowd, I ran into many of my friends from TPS including Larry, Glenn Hall, Vickie, Tony, Larry T., Al, and many others.  I had not seen these people since I started my RV travels and it was great to sit with them and catch up with each other.  Most of them had been laid off, many the day after the last shuttle landed, and were working hard to find jobs.  One, had already, but most of them had not.  A couple were still at KSC working on preparing the shuttles for the museums and did not know when they would be laid off but knew it would be soon.  It was wonderful to see them all and renew our fellowship.

Mike Leinbach, former Space Shuttle Launch Director

I ran into Mike Leinbach, the shuttle launch director, and thanked him for his kind words and apology on behalf of NASA to the workers just prior to the last launch.  I asked him how much trouble he got into for apologizing, and he said he got chewed out a little bit but was grateful that NASA allowed him to stay on the job and see Endeavour off on the last launch of the program.  Good and courageous man!

Three members of the last Space Shuttle crew attended and did a presentation on their mission.  The interesting thing was, they didn’t sit with NASA administrator Charlie Bolden nor interacted with him while I was there.  I’m not actually surprised by that since they have no true future anymore as an American astronaut due to Mr. Bolden and Obama’s dismantling of our Human Space Flight Program.  They did however, interact fully with the thousands of KSC workers tirelessly shaking hands, posing for pictures, etc.

The astronaut crew doesn't sit with the NASA Administrator. Their choice or was it the pre-planned seating arrangement?

Speaking of Mr. Bolden, I finally got to face him, shake his hand, and tell him of my disappointment at what he was doing with our nation’s HSF.  It was cordial and we did not change each other’s mind in the slightest.  He was polite enough to listen though and I have to give him credit for that.  I introduced myself and gave him my business card.  I told him I had not been “kind” to him on my blog and that I was quite upset about the job he was doing for our nation’s HSF.  I also told him that I did not think we would see an American Astronaut on an American Launch Vehicle for at least 10 years.  He disagreed with me and said that we would be flying American Astronauts on American launch vehicles “within the next 2-5 years.” I expressed that I thought that was impossible since everything was in such disarray right now and that the New Space Boys were not even close yet in accomplishing that task.  Well the clock is ticking and we will find out who is right in time.  There were other people waiting to talk with him, so I moved on.  He promised to check out to see what I had to say about him, but I doubt it will happen.  At least I got to say my two cents.  My former co-workers have told me that prior to their layoffs, they also have expressed their displeasure with him in person.  But it won’t matter.  We, many of the astronauts, and thousands of other HSF employees are now unemployed while Mr. Bolden continues to hold his job along with the rest of the NASA administration.  I’m sure that fact will lend to their deafness when we try to speak.

Rocketman and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden
Where it all started for me and the Gemini Class.

One final thing, while at the KSC Visitor Center, I had the pleasure of once more seeing where my aerospace career all started nearly 11 years ago now.  The Center for Space Education was the site for the first aerospace technician courses offered by Brevard Community College and SpaceTEC.  My Gemini Classmates and I spent two wonderful years there earning our degree, taught by some of the best in the industry.  Thanks to those instructors, I have had opportunities and experiences in life that most people can only dream of.  My thanks to them and my best wishes to Gemini and all the USA people I’ve known in their future endeavors.

We truly did make history both personally and for our nation. ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’ ~Dr. Seuss

Godspeed to you all.

Human Space Flight Trivia Week 4

Above: The first feline to train in weightlessness on the Vomit Comet.

The HSF Trivia Week Three question was: Which Shuttle orbiter was first to use a drag chute and on what mission?

The answer is: Space Shuttle Endeavour on her maiden flight, STS-49.

Congrats to M. Gindes and T. Waddington.  Both winners will be entered into the monthly drawing for a Go For Launch! game.

The HSF Trivia Week Four question is: What is the name of the first animal to ride in a rocket for the U.S. and what year? Hint: It is NOT Ham the monkey.

You can submit your answers to me, Commander Merlin, at .  All answers must be submitted by midnight Monday to be considered.

For a review on the game rules, go here.

Commander Merlin

Human Space Flight Trivia Week 3

When Humans finally landed on the Moon again, they were surprised to discover that Commander Merlin and her Feline Space Flight program had already been there for years.

HSF Trivia Week Two question was, “How long are the Solid Rocket Booster recovery ships and what are their names?”

The answer is: 176 feet long and the two ships are called, Freedom Star and Liberty Star.

Congrats to J. McDade and J. McAllister.  Both winners will be entered into the monthly drawing for a Go For Launch! game.

The HSF Trivia Week Three question is: Which Shuttle orbiter was first to use a drag chute and on what mission?

You can submit your answers to me, Commander Merlin, at .  All answers must be submitted by midnight Monday to be considered.

For a review on the game rules, go here.

Commander Merlin

Human Space Flight Trivia Week 2

Commander Merlin and her fellow felines have decided to start a Feline Spaceflight Program

HSF Trivia Week One question was, “Which astronaut received the first haircut in space and on what mission?”

The answer is: Skylab 2 astronaut Paul Weitz who received a trim from Pete Conrad, who used  primitive Flowbee-style clippers in 1973.

Congrats to J. McDade and M. Gindes.  Both winners will be entered into the monthly drawing for a Go For Launch! game.

The HSF Trivia Week Two question is: How long are the Solid Rocket Booster recovery ships and what are their names?

You can submit your answers to me, Commander Merlin, at .  All answers must be submitted by midnight Monday to be considered.

For a review on the game rules, go here.

Commander Merlin

Human Space Flight Trivia Week 1 and Rules of the Game

Commander Merlin watching over Rocketman

While we wait for NASA to actually begin a Human Space Flight Program again, the crew of RV-103 and I thought it would be a good idea to find a way to pass the time.  So, Gypsy suggested we have a Human Space Flight Trivia game for all the readers.  Go For Launch! has graciously donated some of their games to used as prizes for the HSF Trivia game.

So here are the rules:

1. Anyone can enter.  You don’t have to have worked in HSF to play.

2. A question will be posted every Wednesday from the Go For Launch! game.  (All answers are provided by Go For Launch!)

3. To enter your answer to the trivia question, email it to Commander Merlin at .

4. Your answer must be submitted by Monday of the next week to be counted.

5.  All correct submissions from each week will be listed on the website and also  put in a hat to be drawn every 4 weeks for the grand drawing by yours truly herself.

6. The winner of the grand drawing will receive a free Go For Launch! game, a $39 value.

7. Anyone who has won a game previously will not be eligible to win another one, but can still submit answers if they want.

8. All Go For Launch! winners will be acknowledged on the website each month and are encouraged to submit a picture to go along with the announcement.

9. This game will run until July 26th, 2012.


Which astronaut received the first haircut in space and on what mission?

Good luck!

Commander Merlin Welcomes Our Newest Sponsor: Go For Launch! welcomes our newest sponsor, Go For Launch!  Go For Launch! is a Human Space Flight trivia game developed and sold by former Space Shuttle worker Pete Nader.

Pete Nader and former astronaut John Glen

A description of the game from the Go For Launch! website:

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to play Go for Launch!, but if your not careful you could become one! The Go For Launch! board game shows you how to prepare a Space Shuttle for launch as you journey through: Deep Space, Early Rocketry, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, Sky-Lab, Astronomy, Planetary Exploration, Space Shuttle, Mir Space Station, Space Spin-Offs and more!

This game is fun for the whole family and great for classrooms. The Go For Launch! board game depicts Complex 39 of the Kennedy Space Center as it exists today. It is designed for one to four players or teams of players. The players can be assigned as Shuttle Commanders, Pilots and Mission Specialists. Each player obtains their mission instructions from the Commander/Pilot check list. The board game consists of nearly 500 full color photo question and answer cards (T or F and Multiple Choice), four plastic Shuttle game pieces, a pair of dice, instructions and category divider cards. The game takes the players from the landing strip through Space Shuttle Processing, Launch, Low Earth Orbit and back to Kennedy Space Center.”

You can order Go For Launch! by clicking on their banner on the right side of the page.

America’s Human Space Flight Program 1961 to 2011: An Epitaph

Credit Abby LeMaster

July 21st, 2011, just 42 years and one day after the first landing on the Moon, I sat and watched America’s Human Space Flight Program come to an end after more than 50 years.  As the final “Wheels Stop” was announced by the Commander, I watched in tears as the Kennedy Space Center workers sprang into action to safe Atlantis and allow the astronauts to disembark from the shuttle affectionally known by the KSC workers as the “Penguin.”  It was like watching a old family friend die far before their time from a terminal disease, while NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and his NASA minions danced around the tarmac trying to get as much camera time as they could while not disguising their glee at the death of America’s HSF.

In the background, you could see the KSC workers dutifully and professionally tend to Atlantis though they knew the very next day they would be laid off forever from doing what they have productively done for America for 30 years.  No tears shed, but a determined expression full of emotion as they went about their tasks.  I saw a former lead of mine, Glenn Hall, briefly as the camera passed him by to once more video a jubilant Charlie Bolden.  Glenn’s face was deep with emotion, a look that showed a man full of pain but bravely going on with the task at hand, his eyes focused on his job.  I wanted to reach through the TV and tell him, along with the others, just how proud I was of them.

With the circus and celebration swirling around them, getting in their way at times, they still managed to put Atlantis back to bed for the final time.  The job was ending tomorrow, but that’s tomorrow.  There was still a full day’s work to do putting our country’s HSF program and Atlantis to rest with as much dignity and grace as the circus would allow them.  Many times NASA administration and the media got in their way as they safely parked Atlantis in the Orbiter Processing Facility, shaking each other’s hands, congratulating themselves on the treachery they had done, and ignoring the workers except in lip service during a few sound bites on TV.  NASA may have abdicated their job to our nation, but the KSC workers would not even falter on their last day on the job.

I called my friends at KSC later that evening, and spoke to them briefly.  They were busy and many times had to put the phone down to tend to a task.  The tone was quiet and hushed as if they were at a funeral.  No laughter, no banter, just a determined will to get the job done before the end of the last shift.  I am proud to have worked with them for they have all been my heros, my mentors, my friends, and my brothers and sisters.

The next day, they quietly lined up at the United Space Alliance building in Cape Canaveral and turned in their badges.  All 1,510 people in this particular layoff (Thousands had preceded them including me).  Suddenly unemployed, people who on the average made $70,000/year productively working for the United States taxpayer, now looking at living on 26 weeks of unemployment making only $550 every two weeks in a county that already had over 30,000 people unemployed and their homes underwater due to the real estate crash.  And, for every job lost at KSC, 4 jobs within Brevard County are also lost.  It should be noted that no NASA employee has lost their job and many have shown distasteful glee at the demise of the contractor jobs in message boards on other space websites.

KSC Contractor Layoffs Credit Florida Today

No future has looked more bleak for the former KSC workers yet these people, who never forgotten the old “Can do” spirit, will find a way to survive.  I wish them Godspeed in their future endeavors and think of them each day.  Never will such a group of talented people be gathered in one place again working for the betterment of our nation.  Well done HSF contractors, well done!

Meanwhile around the nation, NASA’s cohorts in this assassination, the New Space Boys celebrated.  They had spent years trying to kill Constellation, the successor program to the Space Shuttle, and felt it was time to celebrate it’s death along with the Shuttle.  But, as they are slowly realizing in their drunken party haze, NASA may had led them to believe they were partners in this travesty when in reality they were just “useful idiots.”  On July 20th, NASA proposed an onerous set of bureaucratic regulations (Which I predicted here) called Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) that will effectively ensure that the slim to none chance the New Space Boys had of sending crews to the International Space Station will not occur till at least 2017 or later (See slide nine of the presentation).  The problem is the ISS is scheduled to be de-orbited and burned up over the Pacific Ocean in 2020.  If the New Space Boys do get to travel to the ISS, it will be probably for only one trip at the cost of billions of taxpayer dollars.

The New Space Boys are partying now, but soon they will feel the knife in their back slowly start to twist.  How long before the New Space Boys seek business elsewhere?  How long before they set up operations in another state or other countries such as China and Russia and sell them their services?  Only time will tell where these “useful idiots” will go.

The other option, the Space Launch Systems, or more commonly known as the Senate Launch Systems or Nelson’s Folly, has already been ignored and disobeyed by NASA.  SLS has basically been a “jobs program” masquerading as a HSF program and was written by Senator Bill Nelson when he realized that supporting Obama on April 15th, 2010 may have cost him his reelection coming up in 2012.  Though Congress has ordered NASA to follow the SLS act, the senior NASA administration  has consistently thumbed their nose at the law and have continued to kill HSF.  They don’t fear Congress as long as Obama is protecting them.  And it blatantly shows as they continue to miss deadline after deadline.

Across the world, the Russians did not waste time gloating over our self destruction.  Declaring this to be the age of the Soyuz, they have raised the price once again for the sixth time to nearly $63 million dollars to transport just one of our astronauts to the ISS.  I can’t blame them for gloating.  Because we have killed our HSF, they are pretty much the only ride in town and can charge what they please and give rides to whom they please.  In time, it will cost more to have one astronaut ride on Soyuz than it cost for one to ride on the Space Shuttle.  In time, they will win the $100 billion ISS by default and there will be nothing we can do about it.  They already have the car keys, and soon will have the house keys too.

Elections do have consequences.

This has been Obama’s goal all along, to bring down these United States of America to mediocrity.  To diminish and weaken our nation, and Florida’s very own Senator Bill Nelson has had a large hand in this.  Elections have consequences and the election of 2008 has had extremely damaging consequences to tens of thousands of lives and their families and communities.  Obama and NASA do not want any American organization to fly a HSF and refuse to do it themselves.  To me, this has been treason of a high order done to our nation and it’s people.

How Long Has it Been Since an American Astronaut Has Flown on an American Launch Vehicle to Orbit?

Atlantis lands 07-21-2011 05:56 am EST.

More Bitter Than Sweet

The last launch. Credit Larry Tanner

What can you say?  It is the end.  The last launch of the most successful American Human Space Flight Program, in fact the most successful HSF program in world history, after thirty years.  Fourteen people have given their lives riding these magnificent birds striving to reach the heavens to work for the American people.  Hundreds others have ridden them to the heavens.  Literally tens of thousands have come from all over the nation, from all walks of life, with one dream in common, to build and maintain these ships in order to touch the heavens and make our nation and our world a better place.

A world class research center has been built in space because of these shuttles.  Planetary probes have been delivered by these shuttles which went on to visit Jupiter and other places.  The shuttles have been integral in defending our nation by delivering military satellites.  And these shuttles have rewritten our astronomy books with a wealth of new information exceeding all the previous knowledge we had about our universe in human history by delivering and servicing Hubble.  No Human Space Flight program has even come close to the accomplishments that the Space Shuttle Fleet has done.  And none will for the very long term future.

In two weeks, Atlantis will touch down at Kennedy Space Center and we will hear for the final time, “Wheels stop.”  In two weeks, Atlantis will join her sister birds being prepared to become museum pieces competing with Disney World, Universal Studios, etc. though she and her sisters still have dozens of flights left in her.  In time they will be eventually forgotten slipping into mythos.

I watched the launch with great sadness and bitterness.  There is nothing coming to replace these beautiful birds.  Nothing to spark our imaginations, make us strive for the heavens, to make our world a better place.  NASA, Obama, and our so called leaders in Congress have thrown it all away no matter how much they protest that point in their speeches and PowerPoint’s this last week.  Actions speak so much louder than words though our leaders hope that America doesn’t know this truth.

History will not judge our leaders and our nation favorably.  Charlie Bolden, the current NASA Administrator, will not be remembered for his service as a Marine, Marine General, astronaut, or Shuttle Commander, but will be remembered as the NASA Administrator that destroyed our nation’s Human Space Flight Program and destroyed tens of thousands of lives and dreams.

Currently Atlantis is docked to the International Space Station for the last time.  As her crew works diligently to load a year’s worth of supplies onto the station, I’m sure they are taking time to look outside the windows admiring the heavens, the Earth, and Atlantis for the last time.  I am sure it is bitter for them also.

To all the people at KSC, well done!  You have served your nation with pride, productivity, and unfailing loyalty. I just wish our nation could have reciprocated.

To the leaders at NASA, shame on you and may that shame always come to the forefront of your minds as you see these faithful contractors every day and as you watch other nations soar into the heavens instead of us.  You do not even deserve to walk in the shoes of those contractors who made the dream happen.  You have done our nation wrong and done the people who actually made our HSF happen a great evil.  History will not be kind to the NASA Administration deservedly so and will regard the contractors with awe and amazement for what they have accomplished.

In the next decade, Human Space Flight will be done by nations on the other side of the world such as Russia, China, Japan, and India.  In these United States of America, we will only be able to watch these accomplishments while waiting on the New Space Boys to learn how to launch payloads and humans into low Earth orbit.  For the first time since the beginning of the Space Race back in the early 1960’s, we will be behind not only one nation, but several nations.  It is a race that this time we may lose to the mediocrity that our nation’s leaders have chosen for us without our consent.

Interview Updates

The Space Show interview and parts of the CBS interview are now online.

You can download The Space Show interview here or you can download it from iTunes.

You can view parts of the CBS 60 minutes interview here.  The entire 60 Minutes interview will be broadcast later this fall.

My heartfelt thanks to the CBS 60 Minutes crew and Scott Pelley and especially CBS 60 Minutes Producer Betty Chin and Dr. Livingston of The Space Show for allowing me the opportunity to interview for both of their shows.  Your professionalism is impeccable and well appreciated.

Our “New” Human Space Flight Program Explained

Mr. Steven White, a regular reader since April of 2010, created a wonderful video explaining Obama and Senator Bill Nelson’s new Human Space Flight Program that is supposed to replace Constellation.  As you know, Constellation was to take us back to the Moon and establish a base there where we could build a space port to explore asteroids, Mars, etc, and set up other things such as observatories, mining camps, etc.  Otherwords, a base that would be eventually self sustaining, long term (it won’t fall back to the Earth like the ISS will some day), and extend our reach into deep space.  Instead, Obama wants to go to an asteroid for a one time visit to plant the flag, take pictures of our footprints, and collect some rocks before the asteroid drifts too far away from the Earth for a cost of billions of dollars.

Mr. White’s video explains it quite well and the folly of both Obama and Senator Bill Nelson’s plan.  This video is just as good as the South Park video put out in 2010 (just scroll down near the bottom of the post).

Well done Mr. White and thank you for your readership and contribution!  Godspeed to you.

We Do All We Can Do-Space Shuttle Workforce Tribute

Below is a music video (hat tip goes to Mark Bray of giving tribute to the Space Shuttle Workforce written and performed by Dan Keenan and Kenny McLaughlin who both worked at Kennedy Space Center.

I know many of the people in the video and you couldn’t find a more enjoyable workforce to be a member of.  These are good “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”  In order to accomplish these “extraordinary things” these people from all walks of life all shared in common one thing, extraordinary dreams.

Come Friday, America will see her last Space Shuttle launch and America’s most successful Human Space Flight program will fade into mythos after 30 years of flights.  These people who made this happen, who made our country’s shuttles fly, are a reflection of America’s best and have been the most productive employees of the American taxpayer ever in history.

All the people you see in this video have already been laid off or will be laid off permanently by the end of the summer.

Well done to everyone and godspeed to you all.

We All Do What We Can Do – Lyrics

Be still our beating hearts, we take another breath.
And every time we launch it scares me half to death.
And I know this, yeah I know this, you feel the same.

A sigh of relief comes over me
When we’re two minutes in and drop the SRBs.
And I know this, yes I know this, you feel the same.

And we all do what we can do
To make this bird fly on wings.
And spirits soar, yes they soar,
When three main engines sing.
And I see you feel the same.

Orbit after orbit she spins in outer space,
She is dancing through the cosmos, biggest smile on her face.
And we’re proud, loud and proud, to see you shine.

Standing by the runway they call us Convoy Ops.
You can hear the engines roar when her wheels come to a stop.
We all do what we can do to bring you home.

And we all do what we can do,
And live what others dream.
The bonds we knew,
These memories, forever they will be.
And I can see you feel the same.

When the crew comes out they wobble ’round the bird,
Our family in blue. Sweetest booms we’ve ever heard.
And I know, yes I know, we feel the same.

And we all do what we can do,
And live what others dream.
The bonds we knew,
These memories, forever they will be.
And I can see you feel the same

Safety watches out, and Quality inspects.
Engineers write the paper that’s driven by the Techs.
Have you seen the magic they can do?

Flow managers make sure the puzzle pieces fit.
Schedulers keep runnin’, they never seem to quit.
We all keep, we all keep pushin’ on.

And we all do what we can do
And live what others dream.
The bonds we knew,
These memories, forever they will be.
And I can see you feel the same.

To all those who designed her and built her piece by piece,
Pride brought her home to launch from KSC.
And I know this, yeah I know this, you feel the same.

For thirty years we’ve launched her, did the best we could.
We learned from our mistakes, think we did pretty good.
And I know this, yeah I know this, you feel the same.

We all do what we can do
To make this bird fly on wings.
And spirits soar, yes they soar,
When three main engines sing.
And I see, I see, you feel the same.

And we all do what we can do
To make this bird fly on wings.
And spirits soar, yes they soar,
When three main engines sing.
And I see, I see, you feel the same.

And I see you feel the same.

Copyright © 2010 Dan Keenan and Kenny McLaughlin

Rocketman to Appear on the Space Show After Launch Friday.

Friday, July 8th, I will be appearing on The Space Show with Dr. Livingston 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm EST shortly after the last launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis.  Dr. Livingston and I will be discussing my reflections on the launch, and what it was like to work in the Space Shuttle Program.  Dr. Livingston and I would like to invite all former and soon to be former workers from KSC and other space centers throughout the country to call in or email their reflections.  It will be nice to have as many brothers and sisters from the Space Shuttle program to call in and share their stories.  This program is your program to honor all that you have done serving our nation and working in the Space Shuttle Program.  Call in and be heard.

Listeners can talk to the guest or the host using toll free 1 , by sending e-mail during the program using .

To listen to the show live:

All of this information is at and click on Listen Live near the top of the page.  Here are the specifics.  Email David Livingston at for questions.  The toll free line only works during a live show.

1. Streaming Service:

1.  You may be required to register or to download the very simple media player.  I use their player without any difficulty and there have been no difficulties reported by users of this player or their registration process.  Use this URL:

2.  FAST-SERV Streaming Service:

Space Show listeners can now hear live Space Show programs using the FAST-SERV streaming service ( FAST-SERV uses  Shoutcast servers so you should not have to sign or log in and you should be able to use your default media player or any media player of your choice.  FAST-SERV supports iTunes, Win Amp, Quick Time, Real Audio, Windows Media Player, as well as other MP3 players.  Please follow the instructions below.   If you use WMP, it needs to be an updated version with codecks to play this stream.  iTunes, QuickTime and WinAmp are sometimes easier to work for this streaming service.

1.  Use this URL for your default media player (not Windows Media Player).  If it does not play, pick any other media player you use and manually insert this URL:

For Quick Time, you may  need to try this URL:

If this does not work, use the File menu at the top of Quick Time, select Open URL in Player, type in the URL above and let Quick Time time out.  Close the program, open Quick Time again, select File menu, then select Open Recent and choose the FAST-SERV URL.

2.  For Windows Media Player users, you can choose to download the player below:

As an alternative, open your Windows Media Player and select File, then Open URL and manually type in the following URL:

We are looking forward to hearing your stories and your thoughts!

P.S. If the launch is scrubbed, the show will still go on as scheduled.

Fading Away Into Mythos

Fading into Mythos Credit Rod Ostoski

Mythos is a Greek word meaning story or legend.  Many myths throughout culture were just that, myths.  But, sometimes, those myths actually had some truth to them.  How does a real event become a myth?  How does something that we accept today become a legend or myth to future generations?

The Euhemerism theory about myths claims that myths are real historical events that have been embellished so much over time that the characters or event reach the level of the supernatural, therefore, not believable.  This progression actually doesn’t take too much time when you look at it in historical sense.  All it takes is a generation or two before that event is questioned, ridiculed, and in time, dismissed as legend or myth.

Fred Becker, a former engineer for the space program, gave another theory as to how something becomes a myth:  “The other thing that can fade with time is motivation, such as the motivation to explore space or be the best country in the world. Thus mythology develops as a way of explaining away the greatness of the past so as not to feel so guilty about the present.”

The city of Troy, from the Trojan Wars, is a good example of mythology becoming reality again.  Mentioned in two epic legends, the Iliad and Homer’s Odyssey, historians had dismissed the city and what had happened there as a myth of ancient Greece.  It took two men, in the early 19th century, using the epic poems; to locate the actual city (in fact 9 cities buried on top of each other) before the existence of Troy was finally confirmed about 3,350 years after the Trojan War.

The existence of Jesus Christ is another example.  Non-believers of the Bible, a religious text, raised serious doubts that there was a man called Jesus the Christ that actually existed 2,000 years ago.  If it was not for the Roman-Jewish Historian Josephus who lived at that time and wrote a line confirming that a man “if he could be called a man” named Jesus did exist at that point of history in that particular place there would still be many who consider that the actual man Jesus to be a myth.  The writings of Josephus have independently confirmed in a secular way many of the events that were recorded in the New Testament and previously regarded as Jewish/Christian myths.  Did he confirm Jesus was the Son of God?  No.  He just confirmed that a man did exist and taught at that time by that name.  Until the works of Josephus had been discovered and translated for the common scholar in 1544, there was no secular confirmation of Jesus nor of many of the main characters of the four gospels such as King Herod.  In fact, Josephus writings led archeologists to the location of King Herod’s tomb in 2006 and was also instrumental in helping historians understand the context of political and religious culture of the time when the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered between 1947 and 1956) were written.

There are other examples throughout history of events or people becoming myths due to time and lack of records, until suddenly discovered anew generations later such as the possible true existence of a man we now know as King Arthur, or the great flood of Noah mentioned not only in the Bible but many other cultural myths (though it was likely regional not worldly).  I suspect there are other myths that may have a kernel of truth that will never be independently confirmed because no more accurate records exist, just stories.

Do you think that man started to fly when the Wright brothers first took to the air?  Maybe not, if you look at some of the myths in our past.  Are we the most advanced civilization of humans ever to walk the Earth?  Maybe not.  We don’t really know.  With the weathering and turmoil that occurs in our world, many records are lost to time and decay.  Matthew Brady, the famous Civil War photographer had to sell thousands of his photos as scrap to pay his debts.  Those historic photos are lost forever.  The Smithsonian has written before about having trouble accessing data from older storage devices due to the lack of equipment that was used to play them such as Thomas Edison’s phonograph.  Even NASA has had trouble accessing data from the Apollo mission due to equipment to play them being obsolete and gone or the actual tapes went missing.  Some of the oldest structures that still exist are things such as the Pyramids of Egypt which is 3,000 years old (The Sphinx is said by some to be a thousand years older than the pyramids), and they exist because they are made of stone and are in an area where the weather and decay has been slowed, but not stopped.

Things as recent (a little over 200 years ago) as the Constitution is questioned by many in our culture and government today and it’s ideas are heading towards mythology.  For an extraordinary document created and written by 50 ordinary men to help found the notion that the individual is a sovereign state and not the government, it is now not taught in the schools, laughed at, and ignored on a regular basis.  Time, ignorance, and intentional dismissal of our supreme law for this Republic have taken its wear on not only the document, but more importantly the ideas.  When the Health Care Law was being debated last year in Congress, then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (3rd in line to the presidency according to the Constitution) was asked if the law being debated was Constitutional.  She laughed and replied, “Are you serious?”  The Constitution and its role as the guardian of our liberties was the furthest thing from her mind though she had sworn an oath every two years to it since she first took office.  Time magazine recently wrote a front page article proposing that the Constitution was not relevant anymore.  Even government employees, such as TSA, routinely ignore the limitations placed on them by the Constitution and feel they have the “right” to examine an old lady’s soiled diapers.  And we, as members of this Republic (not a democracy as some now teach), choose to ignore this either due to our ignorance of the Constitution or our willingness to make it irrelevant.  The Constitution and its principals of individual sovereignty and liberty is rapidly becoming a myth.

What is this leading too and what does it have to do with the Space Shuttle?  Bear with me for a little while longer.

A new generation occurs every 33 years according to many sociology textbooks.  That generation during that time period is born, schooled, and finally takes their place in our society as adult members.

It has been 39 years since an American has last walked on the Moon.  One generation has come into being and has started to produce the next generation.  That same generation has never seen us walk on the Moon, never seen our first space station Skylab, and is starting to voice doubts that it ever happened.  All they have ever known is the Space Shuttle, which will retire in 3 weeks after 30 years of flying.

If you do a Google search on “Moon Landing Hoax,” you will find hundreds of listings advocating that the landings on the Moon was a hoax and never happened.  It doesn’t help that the baby boomer generation that witnessed man on the Moon is now retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day since January 1st, 2011 and that will continue for the next 15 years.  Eventually the boomers will die off disappearing from this world and taking their eyewitness accounts with them.  Only 9 of the 12 astronauts that walked on the Moon still live and their ages range from 76 to 81 years old.  They will soon be gone along with their firsthand accounts of what it was like to travel to another world.  The human proof and the witnesses will be gone forever.  The digital media will not be far behind it since it cannot last as long as stone pyramids.

Dozens of books, TV shows, etc. have been made in the last 30 years claiming the Moon landing was a hoax.  Though 400,000 people worked on the Apollo program and many still live, along with most of the Apollo Moonwalkers, “In 2009, a poll held by the United Kingdom’s Engineering & Technology magazine found that 25% of those surveyed did not believe that men landed on the Moon. Another poll gives that 25% of 18–25 year olds surveyed were unsure that the landings happened.”

25%!  One out of every four now does not believe that the Moon Landings happened.  One out of four!  Throw in the fact that some of this new generation, intended or not,  is now teaching our grandchildren and great grandchildren in our public schools that the Moon Landings were not real; it won’t be long before that number of disbelievers climb.  Fortunately, there are still enough people alive still walked on the Moon, worked in Apollo, and witnessed the landings to refute them, but what happens when they are gone?

Some laugh and say that our accomplishments in space can never be forgotten and even better things are yet to come.  But, once you lose something, it is hard to get it back. It’s been 39 years, over one generation, and we have not returned to the Moon nor will we in our lifetimes no matter how many promises NASA has made in the past.

“But, we still have the Apollo hardware and capsules that went to the Moon in the museums!” some would say.  Yes we do, but for how long?  Just a few short years ago, the Russian Space Shuttle Buran was destroyed in a hanger collapse, never to be seen again. Did you know they had a Space Shuttle program of their own?  I’m sure most of you didn’t and I am sure it is not taught in your schools to your children.  The other remains of the Russian Space Shuttle program are now rusting in junkyards, parts being sold on EBay, or being used as tourist attractions in the Middle East.  With the fact that our government is broke financially, it is only a matter of time that museums such as the Smithsonian will see their budgets cut drastically forcing upkeep on the buildings and exhibits to be diminished.  Possibly the Smithsonian would be forced to sell off some of their collection.  Can’t happen you say?  There is already a huge market for Russian space artifacts that are being sold.  Egypt lost a large amount of their heritage to buyers, thieves, and other nations.  It has happened in the past and can happen to us.

Russian Space Shuttle Buran prior to hanger collapse credit
Russian Space Shuttle Buran after hanger collapse credit

Metal rusts, buildings crumble, people die, space stations and satellites fall from the sky, and money runs out.  Spaceships and everything associated with them are made of perishable items.  They will rust, they will decay, and they will eventually disappear no matter how much is spent or not spent on the upkeep.  Remember, the only thing left in our human history that actually has a chance to survive long term after we are gone are the stone monuments such as the pyramids and they are showing their age.  They look nothing like they were described in the historical documents that have been found in Greece or Rome.

The only monument from the Moon landings that will be left a thousand years from now is the hardware we left on the Moon because the weathering is not severe nor like anything we have on Earth.  But, if we do not return to the Moon anytime soon, those monuments will be forgotten and not discovered unless mankind someday returns there in the far future.  What would they say when they find it?  Will they know who we were?  Will they know our nation even existed?  Will they think aliens left it there?  Will they just ignore it so they can claim they were there first?  Will they acknowledge that giants of our time once walked on another world?  Will they rediscover that the myths were actually true?

This will happen to the Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station eventually. There are many now that have spent the last few years claiming that the Space Shuttle Program has been an utter failure.  I suspect it will only be ten years or less before you see the first book out claiming the Space Shuttle program was a total hoax.   Thirty three years from now, a new generation will start to question if we ever really had a Space Shuttle.  By that time the ISS, the 3 football fields’ wide engineering marvel and world class science research facility, will have crashed to the Earth over 20 years ago.  (Most people today don’t even know the ISS has six humans flying on it and that it’s been continuously occupied for over ten years now.)  Once that is lost, it will be hard to get back no matter how many PowerPoint’s and promises New Space makes.

In a way, it already is starting.  The two most popular attractions at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center are two works of fiction; the Star Trek exhibit and the Transformers 3 movie shot at KSC using a fictional story of Apollo 11. Not the Shuttle, not Apollo, not Mercury, or Gemini.  Two science fiction series!  Imagine a young child visiting there and seeing both the real and unreal being merged together.  How long before they associate our Human Space Flight program with science fiction?  How long before they associate it with a myth?  The children of today are being taught that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin discovered a Transformer on the Moon in a science fiction story.

My children know what I did for a living.  My grandchildren will hear stories from me about it and will see the things I’ve saved from my time at KSC.  My great grandchildren will never know me and probably will not know what I did.  How long before our descendants never know nor believe that we once walked on the Moon, orbited the earth in giant structures, and flew shuttles?  How long before our HSF becomes a myth to be told around the campfire?

Orion myth now lives in the stars

A Surreal Day

Rocketman and CBS News Anchor Scott Pelley

Last Thursday I received a email invite from Brevard Workforce, asking me to participate in a Townhall meeting hosted by CBS news anchor Scott Pelley for the show 60 Minutes.  On Saturday I drove over to Brevard County and had the most surreal day I’ve had for a long time.  At least it didn’t include any makeup, not that it would have helped with my ugly face.

About 20 laid off and current aerospace workers from Kennedy Space Center sat down to have a chat with Scott Pelley about the end of our nation’s Human Space Flight program and the economic devastation that it is causing and will further cause for Titusville and Brevard County.  It was a good mix of people ranging from folks who have been there since Apollo to newbies that had just started working there in the last few years.  They came from many different parts of KSC; Ground Support, Quality, Admin Support, Information Technology, and of course Thermal Protection System.  They also came from several aerospace contractors, and just not United Space Alliance.

We were ushered into a break room and provided drinks and donuts as the crew set up the “stage.”  That gave us all a chance to “meet and greet” with each other and catch up on news with the ones we already knew.  TPS was represented by me and my former co-worker John McCoy.  It was good to see him since it’s been almost 2 years since we last worked together.

We soon were sent for and we shook hands with the crew, producers, and Mr. Pelley before being seated.  While some tests with the cameras and sound booms were being made, Mr. Pelley spent his time talking with us and getting to know us.  I asked him how it felt to walk in Walter Cronkite’s shoes, and he said that he couldn’t begin to even fill his shoes because the man is such a legend at CBS, though he did find a leftover pair of Katie Couric’s shoes under a desk that were too small for him.

It was soon time to start the interview and we first introduced ourselves on camera, then the questions began.  We were asked about our thoughts on the current condition of HSF, how the layoffs had personally affected our lives, and how we saw it affecting the area both now and what we thought for the future.

It was comforting in a weird way to find out that the people who had been laid off for over a year now were facing the same struggles to find full time work as I have.  Almost everyone of them has had only one full time interview for a full time job since they have been laid off which is the same experience I’ve had.  I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me or my resume.  It turns out that many others were having the same problem as I am.

One young woman had gotten a job after being laid off for six months, but was laid off again after 2 months on her new job and is now facing foreclosure on her home and the end of her unemployment benefits.  Many people don’t realize the quadruple whammy that the HSF community is facing: Final and career ending layoffs, the country being in the “Greatest Depression” for many years to come, age discrimination by prospective employers due to the fact the average age of the KSC worker is 45, and their homes being underwater limiting their options to move to find work.

The amazing thing was, no matter how bad the economic situation was for all of us, as a group, we still exhibited the old NASA “can do” spirit and confidence that we would overcome these problems.  Something that NASA has forgotten.  I learned quite a bit listening to these other former KSC brothers and sisters and I think Mr. Pelley did too.

The interview lasted for almost a hour and half, and once again, Mr. Pelley and his entire crew made the time to thank each of us personally and shake our hands.  I found them all to be professional and showed the utmost courtesy towards us and towards each other.

The 60 Minutes interview will not be shown until this fall, but snippets of the interview will be shown on CBS during the week of the last launch.  Atlantis is scheduled to launch on July 8th.  Once I know the air dates, I’ll post them here and on Facebook.

I spent the next hour or two having lunch with a old friend and mentor, Dr. Al Koller of SpaceTEC.  I have known Dr. Koller since I was a first year student in the brand new aerospace technology program and his wisdom has always amazed and humbled me.  We talked about the interview, the direction or non-direction of America’s HSF, and about the Space Updates blog I write for SpaceTEC in my spare time.  We also talked about the next large opinion piece I’m going to write about on RV-103 about the end of the Space Shuttle program and the future of HSF.  Dr. Koller has been involved in HSF since he was a young engineer in the Apollo launch control team, and gave me great insight and tips on the subject matter I will be writing about that will make the piece much stronger.  That post should be coming out in a week or two as I am still working on the outline and doing research.

After lunch, I drove out SR 405, crossed the draw bridge and pulled over.  From there I could see Atlantis sitting on the pad.  The last Space Shuttle being readied for the last launch.  It was bitter sweet to only be able to see her from so far away and to know it’s going to be the last time, yet wonderful to know I had one more view of seeing a shuttle on the pad.  I spent some time there just reflecting on it and pondering about what is next in my life as well as our nation’s HSF.  Then it was time to make the 2 1/2 hour drive home.  The picture below was taken with my cell phone.  The square structure is the Vehicle Assembly Building.  To the left of the VAB is the completed launch tower for the now cancelled Ares One rocket.  That tower was finished just one day after the Constellation program and our HSF program was cancelled.  Millions of taxpayer dollars thrown away and wasted by NASA admin and Obama.

Bittersweet view

LC 39 Pad B is gone now, torn down and nothing but a concrete slab.  It’s weird to not see it standing there anymore.  Off to the right of the VAB close by is the smaller structure of LC 39 Pad A where Space Shuttle Atlantis sits.  That is the same pad that the Apollo missions have taken off from to travel to the Moon and many Space Shuttle have flown from there including Challenger and Columbia on their last missions before being lost with all hands.  Now Atlantis will be lifting off soon from there for the last time and our HSF will be lost with all hands possibly never to return anytime soon.  So much history and promise and now so much soon to be lost to mythos.

I Want to Thank Our 35,000 Readers!

Today is a special day for RV-103 and her crew.  Today we have reached 35,000 unique readers to our little blog.  When we started this blog in 2009, we never thought we would have the readership that we have now.  On behalf of the RV-103 crew, I want to thank you for reading our little blog and hope you will continue to visit in the future.

Commander Merlin

Shuttle Launch Director’s Message to His Firing Room Team.

Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach Credit MSN

Mike Leinbach, the launch director at Kennedy Space Center, ran the final launch simulation the other day in prepreation for the final Space Shuttle launch scheduled for July 8th.  He took a minute or two to speak to his entire Firing Room Team and most eloquently summed up the frustrations of the entire Kennedy Space Center workforce over the state of our nation’s Human Space Flight Program and did something amazing; He apologized to the workforce on behalf of NASA!

“For the final S0044 folks, what I’m about to say would not be appropriate on launch day, and this is our last chance to talk together,” noted Mr Leinbach over the recorded Launch Director loop (transcribed from an audio recording via L2).

“The end of the shuttle program is a tough thing to swallow and we’re all victims of poor policy out of Washington D.C., both at the NASA level and the executive branch of the government and it affects all of us – it affects most of you – severely.

“I’m embarrassed that we don’t have better guidance out of Washington DC. Throughout the history of the manned space flight program we’ve always had another program to transition into – from Mercury to Gemini, and to Apollo to the Apollo-Soyuz test program, to Skylab and then to the shuttle – we’ve always had something to transition into.

“And we had that, and it got cancelled and now we don’t have anything, and I’m embarrassed that we don’t. Frankly, as a senior NASA manager, I’d like to apologize to you all that we don’t have that – so there you are. I love you all, I wish you all the best.

“We will press on through this flow and this launch in the way we always do. We’re going to play this game to the final out and then we’ll be done. I just wish you all the best, and again Godspeed to you all. Thank you.”

As the loop was opened, rapturous applause could be heard ringing around the Firing Room.

You will NEVER see NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (let alone Obama or Senator Bill Nelson) or his second in command, Lori Garver “man up” and apologize to our nation and our Human Space Flight workforce for the damage they have done.  The senior management team at NASA’s Washington D.C. HQ could learn a thing or two about honor from Mike Leinbach, but they will probably punish him instead.

Well said and well done Mr. Leinbach.  Godspeed and good luck to you too.

Here is the actual audio file for you to listen to. (Hat tip to John K.)

Launch Director Comments After Final S0044


Now the Republican Presidential Candidates Are Abandoning Our Nation’s Human Space Flight Program

Credit NasaWatch

Last night in the New Hampshire Republican Presidential debates, all the candidates were asked, “…whether they would continue Federal Funding for Human Space flight.”  Not one single candidate raised their hand.  Not a single one! You can read the story here.

Watch them change their tune when they campaign in TX, FL, AL, and other states that host HSF Centers or are connected to HSF. I’m sure they will be just like Obama and lie to the people in those states.

This does not bode well.

Update:  Congresswoman Sandy Adams wrote to me and said she talked with Congresswoman Michelle Bachman on the House floor about the matter. Representative Michelle Bachman claimed she had her hand up but was not recognized by the moderator. Since I haven’t been able to find the video yet to view it, I can’t confirm if Representative Bachman is telling the truth or not.

Update #2 December 15th, 2011.  Newt Ginrich said a couple days ago in Iowa that he now wants Federal Funding for Human Space Flight.  Since it is only about month away before the Florida primary, I’m not surprised he is now changing his position on HSF as I predicted above.  Do I believe him?  No I don’t.

RV-103 is Finally on Facebook.

Well after hundreds of invitations filling up my mailbox and several conversations with friends and family wanting me to join, I’ve finally set up a Facebook page.  You can find my page under “Gregory Cecil Clearwater Florida.”

So far I’ve found many old classmates from my high school days, and former co-workers from Kennedy Space Center.  It seems like a nice site but I still can’t get into that farm game many people are playing there.

RV-103 Ten Commandments

Recently, a family member told Rocketman that her husband and she were going to start their own form of “misadventures.”  They were now empty nesters and felt it was time to travel the country full time in an RV and wanted some advice.  After about an hour long talk and suggesting she check out our misadventures on our website, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to post our lessons learned about RVing.  Some of these lessons have been learned the hard way as the frequent readers of our site know, and some have been learned by listening to others who had done this before.

So, I had Rocketman dress in a robe, climb a mountain (which is hard to find in Florida), and risk being struck by lightning.  A few days later he descended from the mountain top with the RV-103 Ten Commandments in hand and smoke still coming from his burned robe (After all, Florida is the lightening capital of world.).


The crew of RV-103 has found that if we keep these simple Ten Commandments, life on the road is much easier and more fun.  We hope that it will be of help to you too.  Safe driving!

Commander Merlin and the crew of RV-103.

Commander Merlin

“It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop.” – Commander Mark Kelly

Those were the words spoken by Commander Mark Kelly just before he lifted off on Endeavour’s final mission.  It was a spectacular launch and a spectacular honest statement by Commander Kelly.  Many people took his statement as a plea for our nation’s Human Space Flight Program and a  “slap” at NASA for giving up on our nation after 50 years.  Obviously, someone at NASA did not like it.  So, they had him “clarify” his statement during an interview with Scott Simon on National Public Radio after he arrived at the International Space Station and had him “shill” for NASA and the New Space Boys.

“NASA is leading the way and will continue to do so,” said Kelly. “We

are the lead partner on the International Space Station and when

humans go back to the moon and on to Mars, I’m sure it’s going to be

the United States and NASA that’s leading that as well. As we move

into more commercialization of the launch vehicles and getting access

to orbit, that’s still NASA that’s leading that project and hopefully

buying those services and this is something I think that in the long

run could mean the expansion of humans accessing space. So we’re

pretty excited about the future for NASA.”

Poor guy, as with all astronauts, as long as they are in the employ of NASA they cannot speak their minds.  I sincerely hope more astronauts will speak out during the last mission.  I mean, what is NASA going to do?  Tell them they can’t fly anymore?  Oh wait, they won’t be able to since the shuttles will be gone and our nation has no vehicle or ship to fly our astronauts.  All I can say about his pre-launch speech is, “Well said Commander Kelly!”

Anyway, the launch went well and Space Shuttle Endeavour is safely at the ISS.  Below is a couple unique pictures that you might enjoy.

Endeavour's last launch as seen from a balloon at 64,000 feet launched by some young students. Credit
Endeavour approaching the ISS. Credit Astronaut Ron Garan

This is Endeavour’s 25th and last mission.  Remember, each Space Shuttle was designed for 100 flights.  Endeavour’s life is being cut short 75 flights and will be regulated to a Los Angeles museum.

The next day after Endeavour’s launch, Space Shuttle Atlantis was rolled over to the Vehicle Assembly Building for the final time in preparation for the last launch of the Space Shuttle Program scheduled for July.

Space Shuttle Atlantis rolling over to the VAB for the final time. Credit Mark Stanley

Many of the KSC employees that remain (another 2,000 got notice that same week they were to be laid off in July.) gathered to watch this sad and historic occasion.  A tradition before a shuttle launch is to have a large banner signed by all the KSC employees for that mission.  They are normally hung in the VAB after the mission or stored away for a future display at a museum.

Atlantis last mission banner. Credit

I’ve signed every mission banner while at KSC and had the good fortune of a friend signing my name to this last mission banner.  Another friend saw it and took a picture of it for me.  My name, “Rocketman Greg C.” is located near the right side of the NASA meatball on the left side of the banner.

Rocketman Greg C signature on the Space Shuttle Program's last mission banner. Photo Credit Dan C.

It’s nice to know I’ll get to be a small part of this last launch.  Godspeed to Endeavour and Atlantis.  Godspeed and well done to the KSC workers, especially the former and current employees of United Space Alliance.  As Wayne Hale, the former director of the Space Shuttle Program, once said, “These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”


Obamaville in North Tampa Florida Credit and copyright

When I was a child in school and was learning about the Great Depression of the 1930’s, I remember seeing pictures of the shanty towns called “Hoovervilles.”  Later on in life, I saw individual homes or shanties while visiting Mexico during a cruise, but I thought I would never see one let alone an entire community here in these United States of America.  Well now I have seen one and it is near my home.

If you travel south on Veterans Expressway in Tampa FL, north of the Tampa International Airport and just before the I-275 interchange, look to the right and you will see about 20 shanties with people living in them.  ( I apologize for I gave the wrong location in the post previously.  It was my mistake and I hope it did not cause any difficulty in finding it.) I have attached the picture I took with my cell phone but it doesn’t capture the entire place which is much bigger.  Note the old tires on the roofs to help keep them seated during high winds.

I do feel that we are in the beginnings of the “Greatest Depression” and that it started in 2007.  Some have argued that it is not true and they point out there are no soup kitchens, etc. as we see in old pictures from the last depression.  But, we are better at hiding our poor and downtrodden than before and much better at ignoring it.  Soup kitchens have been replaced by food stamps with over 10% of our population on them, and the “hobos” of today are now regulated to patches of woods and homeless camps well out of most people’s chosen view.

I live in an affluent neighborhood, but my block alone has two homeless camps in small patches of woods and though most of my neighbors choose to ignore it, I can’t.  Now, in plain view in Tampa Florida, I have seen and photographed my first “Obamaville.”  It’s getting harder to ignore and to pretend you just don’t see it.

Update: A good friend who I respect highly took exception to this post and wrote me some of her thoughts.

These communities have been in existence since biblical times and if  you travel much, these communes exists all over. I saw my first one in Georgia back in the 70’s. It has nothing more contributed to Obama than any other President.

She may have a point, and since I have not lived as long as she has nor traveled as much, she may be right.  I do recall that some historians thought that “Hoovervilles” were unfair to President Hoover because the economy was already slipping badly before he took office.  But, in politics, whenever a great event happens, no matter how many years of previous work went into it and no matter who did it, the current President always wants to take credit for it.  There is also a flip side to that.  When bad things happen, the current President gets the blame even if it’s not his fault, hence Hoovervilles and Obamavilles.  No matter who is in office, it is disturbing to see such a shantytown within view of affluent downtown Tampa Florida.

Update #2: There seems to be quite of bit of places throughout these United States that have been given the name of “Obamaville.”  You can find them all on Google.  Though the mainstream media, surprisingly including the Drudge Report doesn’t seem to want to cover them (maybe not enough people have submitted it to Drudge?), the internet is full of pictures and stories.

Update #3: 09/01/2011 Drove by the site of the Obamaville a couple days ago.  It has all been torn down and is now gone.  I do not know what happened to the people living there.

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