Sunday, March 9, 2014

Playing Tourist

The multi-week training session I’m currently going through included (in the first week) a fair number of tours to see the highlights of the local space-related environs.  It was fun to see places I had not visited since 2000, and there were certainly plenty of changes since then.  Others I’d not seen before, which were fun as well.  Here are some photos:

These two are in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which is the big pool used for training for space walks (EVAs) and such.  
This is an old trainer for the toilet on the Shuttle.  It's not the plumbed one you could actually use, but is the one that just had a closed-circuit camera (with a monitor facing you, just right of the picture as shown here), so you could check your alignment/aim before doing the deed for real on the plumbed one. 

In the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility you can see all manner of contraptions, including Shuttle and Station simulators and a concept vehicle for a pressurized-cabin rover, and a Soyuz vehicle.



It was interesting to be in a Shuttle trainer once again, after many long years.  For some reason the phrase "kick out the jams" came to mind.


“A gent that lives on his brain is simply turning daydreams into money.”
~Colonel Dangerfield, “Destry Rides Again” by Max Brand

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Back to work



Well, a very happy new year to us all.  It is a nice relief to have employment that won’t (hopefully) end before the end of this calendar year.  The cycle is (likely) broken!  I guess I’m (parenthetically) still not taking things for granted.  I have been doing a lot of solo research at work lately, since we are being withheld from most instructor-led training until after attending a series of classes called ISS Boot Camp that will kick off sometime in February.  I continue to walk to/from work, despite the cooler temperatures, which I have actually been enjoying quite a lot.  It is nice to get the exercise around the sedentary hours at work, and it is a nice hour of “reading” audiobooks when the weather allows.
I don’t have many exotic environs to share here, but I will try to find things of visual interest.  One of these is, I think, our simulator for the robotic workstations on the ISS.  This is in our simulation facility that is referred to as Sim City, and is used to give people a chance to use the two hand controllers (translational and rotational) and digital displays that would be available for crewmembers on ISS to perform robotic work, including the capture of the visiting vehicles that my group supports flights.  I got to grab the Japanese HTV back before the holiday break, which was a fun little escape from searching documents and taking notes.

Bill, wherever in the world you are, good luck and I’m definitely happy you’re setting off on this bucket list assault of a journey.  Bon voyage!
“To those bred under an elaborate social order few such moments of exhilaration can come as that which stands at the threshold of wild travel.”
~Gertrude Bell, “The Desert and the Sown”

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Time flies whilst gainfully employed

The weeks are already clipping by at a rapid pace, now that some sort of routine has been established at and away from work.  It has been a long while since I’ve had this out in “the world”, as I usually conceptualized non-South Pole living over the preceding years.  I have not really done anything much of interest away from work, since weekends have been made use of to attend to the necessities of living and the recharging of my own internal batteries outside of the work week.

I have regularly been walking to and from work, which is a pleasant way to begin and end the workday hours.  It ensures I am definitely awake by the time I arrive and provides a nice (active) contrast to the sedentary interval spent on base at JSC.  I have yet to start riding my bike, since the best practice of wearing a helmet conflicts with the marginally vain goal of having decently presentable hair freshly showered.  I certainly have challenge enough in that regard these days.  On occasion, I drive my car, but that is usually reserved for picking up groceries on the weekends.  As the months have progressed, the temperatures have generally cooled to a very pleasant range, and this week I had the pleasure of walking to work a couple days with temperatures in the 30-Fahrenheit range, which was a welcome contrast to the heat and stickiness I typically associate with weather in Houston.

My training at work has steadily progressed, though the pace should pick up greatly starting this coming week.  I have been reading a lot of technical documents in preparation for a lot of training, and hope to keep the progression clipping along toward official recognition that I have internalized enough information to be of practical use to the team.  I have also gotten to observe and play a minor part in a number of spacecraft rendezvous and capture simulations, which have been interesting and presage the activities I will someday be allowed to take part in with actual spaceships flying about in the heavens.  At some point I will share photographic evidence of my new activities and environs, but it has eluded me thus far, having had plenty of other responsibilities to which I have had to attend.

In conclusion, life is good, and I feel most wholeheartedly fortunate to be in the straits that I am in at present.  Though, I am at wits’ end to understand why I rendered this missive in such a stilted idiom.
“Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong.”
~Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let there be Normal!

Tomorrow will hopefully be day one of the first normal full week of work I will have in the Visiting Vehicles group since I started, nearly three weeks ago.  We got to go back on JSC property starting Thursday, which made for a quick couple days to try and settle into the new stomping grounds.  With luck I will be able to start walking to work now that the whole level of uncertainty about the situation will be reduced substantially.  A big part of this week will be my appointment on Tuesday morning to go submit my background check information to the security folks, which will hopefully get the ball rolling to get me a lot of the computer and facility access I need to be a fully-functioning employee on-site.  Other than that, I imagine I will be doing a lot of reading and training and who knows what else.  It feels good to have a job and some stability once again.
“A man doesn’t begin to attain wisdom until he recognizes that he is no longer indispensable.”
~Richard E. Byrd, “Alone”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

waiting for a GO

Since Congress passed the bill last night, I assume I am headed back to work today.  However, at this hour of the morning there is still no definitive statement that we should report to JSC like "normal".  It would be fantastic if we could avoid doing this again.  It has been great, but...
“To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.”
~Tacitus

Thursday, October 10, 2013

the slopey bit

Indeed, I'm going to have steep going to climb this learning curve for my job for a good long while.  However, I am making progress, despite the extra challenges the last weeks have held.  We continue to meet for training sessions at the library, and I’m getting in plenty of studying at home as well.  I haven not set foot on JSC since a week ago Tuesday, so it will be a little weird to do that again (at some point).

Something here that gets joked about a lot, but is a real phenomenon to which a neophyte must adapt, is the lingo.  We talk in acronyms, and even sometimes nested acronyms, that stretch to several levels of encryption.  The whole operational culture is different than that in which I worked for three years with the SOHO spacecraft.  The scale of the organization is orders of magnitudes larger as well.  Of course a lot of that has to do with the scope of the vehicles involved (a space station with an area footprint the size of a football field…hello, big!) and the added concerns about safety since human beings get to go fly on a number of those vehicles.  I have a lot to learn, and I’m looking forward to it.

On the home front, I feel pretty much settled in and continue to revise how I have my junk arrayed in my apartment.  I actually got a folding lawn chair and some new pillows last weekend, so I feel I’m living pretty large now.  But, with the uncertainties about the work situation, I have been maintaining a frugal budget.  I did get my first paycheck today (hooray!), and hopefully that will continue to be a weekly event.

My heart goes out to the researchers and support personnel of the United States Antarctic Program that are being hit hard by this manufactured disruption to normal business.  With a bit of luck the abbreviated summer season and premature redeployment of hundreds of people will come off safely and leave the stations squared away for next winter.
“Valor is of no service, chance rules all, and the bravest often fall by the hands of cowards.”
~Tacitus

Saturday, October 5, 2013

a memorable inauguration

This first week of work has been mostly me studying materials at home, with a couple trips to meet co-workers to receive training at the local library branch.  I have made incremental progress, but I think the learning for this job will probably never cease.  There is a lot to know about flying these vehicles and doing so safely.  For now, we are still being paid for our time.  I fill my time card out online, and keep in touch with my manager via email.  It certainly is a bizarre way to start a new job, but there is nothing we can do to change it.  At some point, however much further down the road, we will get to resume. 

Apropos to this ongoing situation, I got my new voter registration certificate in the mail this week.
“Beware the fury of a patient man.”
~John Dryden