Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Space-Geek-Game (SGG)

So this week I started a little game called "Space-Geek-Game". I came across some really fun, educational and interesting images and I wanted to share them. But rather just post them, I asked people to either give me their views on the picture or a funny caption.

Here is how it works. Each image I choose has a NASA and Space Flight connection and is part of our history. Some are on the fun side, some are on the more serious side. Each picture and question has a certain difficulty degree. Here is the ranking of degree of difficulty:

Cadet - This is a very easy category. Anybody off the street could answer this question.

Provisional Officer - This one is a little bit more difficult and requires some additional knowledge. But still, a Space Geek and future Starfleet Officer needs to know this.

Ensign - This is your baseline question. If you want to call yourself Space Geek, you must know the answers.

Lieutenant - A question with some added insight knowledge.

Commander - Now we are getting to the more difficult questions. This ranking means you need to have a fairly strong understanding of NASA, Human Space Flight and History.

Captain - As the Captain you need to know your stuff! From NASA, to Space Exploration, to Aerospace and History.

Admiral - Only the top notch can know just about everything. And you will have to know just about everything to answer the questions in this ranking.

To my surprise almost all of the images got answered within an hour. There was only one that was more difficult. I might continue this little game. But before I continue, here are the few I have posted so far. Look for more updates on my Twitter or Facebook site! I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoy them!

Discovery STS-33 crew walks out of the Operations and Checkout building during a practice countdown. The day was Halloween so they all wore costume hats for a joke.

The sombrero-topped hombres picture here are the Apollo 11 astronauts being swarmed by thousands at a 1969 parade in Mexico City during the world tour that followed their trip to the moon. The tour was meant to show the United States' willingness to share its space knowledge, and its space heroes. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins visited 27 cities in 24 countries in 45 days.

No, it's not Lawrence of Arabia's troop of bodyguards. The seven original Mercury astronauts used parachute pieces to make hats and clothes during a 1960 training exercise in the Nevada desert. The idea was to prepare the men to survive in the event of an emergency landing in the wilderness. Pictured here, from left to right, at Stead Air Force Base: Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Virgil Grissom, Walter Schirra and Donald Slayton.

Neta Snook Southern, age 84, emerges from the Flight Simulator for Advanced Aircraft at Ames Research Center. Southern, one of the first women pilots, was Amelia Earharts flight instructor around the year 1920. In marked contrast with what she saw at Ames, Southern said her old plane was made of wood and cloth, had no gas gauge, and the instrument panel consisted of an altimeter and a dollar watch hanging from a hook.

Noguchi was able to capture the plasma trail produced by space shuttle Endeavour as it streaked through Earth’s atmosphere. “Space Shuttle Endeavour making S-turn during atmospheric re-entry,

I call this picture "Social Media 1950s Style". What Dr. Von Braun and Mr. Disney were doing was exactly that! They wanted to use the medium of television to illustrate how high man might fly on the strength of technology and the spirit of human imagination. 

Dr. Werhner von Braun, then Chief, Guided Missile Development Operation Division at Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, was visited by Walt Disney in 1954. In the 1950's, von Braun worked with Disney Studio as a technical director, making three films about space exploration for television

Von Braun served as technical advisor on three space-related television films that Disney produced in the 1950s. According to David R. Smith, Director of Archives at Walt Disney Productions, von Braun caught the attention of Disney senior producer Ward Kimball. 

The Collier's series had appeared about the time that Disney decided to use television to promote Disneyland in California. The theme park would include four major sections: Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland. Disney producers would incorporate ideas from Disney fantasy films like Snow White, Pinocchio, and others to promote the first area of the park. The second and third areas would be built around Davy Crockett and other adventure films. Tomorrowland, however, represented a real challenge. In response, Kimball contacted von Braun who, according to Smith, "pounced on the opportunity." As a technical consultant for Disney, von Braun would join Heinz Haber, a specialist in the emerging field of space. medicine, and Willy Ley, a famous rocket historian. All three space experts had authored the Collier's series. 

Disney personally introduced the first television show, "Man in Space," which aired on ABC on March 9, 1955. The objective, he said, was to combine "the tools of our trade with the knowledge of the scientists to give a factual picture of the latest plans for man's newest adventure." He later called the show "science factual." The show represented something new in its approach to science. But it also relied on Disney's trademark animation techniques. 
For more information: Visit Marshall Space Flight Center here.  

Yes, it is Dr. Robert H. Goddard. He moved to Roswell New Mexico and in 1914, Goddard received two U.S. patents. One was for a rocket using liquid fuel. The other was for a two or three stage rocket using solid fuel.

In 1926, Goddard constructed and successfully tested the first rocket using liquid fuel. The flight of Goddard’s rocket on March 16, 1926, at Auburn, Massachusetts, was as significant to history as that of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.

Goddard's rocket after flight in New Mexico on April 19, 1932. Those carrying the rocket are (left to right): Nils Ljungquist, machinist; most likely Charles Mansur, welder; Goddard's brother-in-law and machinist Albert Kisk; and Goddard. The rocket had new guiding vanes controlled by a gyroscope which helped stabilization. In 1930, with a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, Goddard and his crew moved from Massachusetts to Roswell, New Mexico, to conduct research and perform test flights away from the public eye. This rocket was one of many that he launched in Roswell from 1930-1932 and from 1934-1941. Dr. Goddard has been recognized as the father of American rocketry and as one of the pioneers in the theoretical exploration of space. His dream was the conquest of the upper atmosphere and ultimately space through the use of rocket propulsion. When the United States began to prepare for the conquest of space in the 1950's, American rocket scientists began to recognize the debt owed to the New England professor. They discovered that it was virtually impossible to construct a rocket or launch a satellite without acknowledging the work of Dr. Goddard.

Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard is considered the father of modern rocket propulsion. A physicist of great insight, Goddard also had a unique genius for invention. It is in memory of the brilliant scientist that NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland was established on May 1, 1959.
Unlike many other early space station concepts, this design actually made it out of the concept phase and into production, though no models were ever flown. This particular station was 30-feet and expandable. It was designed to be taken to outer space in a small package and then inflate in orbit. The station could, in theory, have been big enough for 1 to 2 people to use for a long period of time. A similar 24 foot station was built by the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation for NASA test use. The concept of space inflatables was revived in the 1990s.

Today's question was about the unsung heroes from 1948 - 1950. The "Albert Series", which launched Albert I, II, III and IV. Unfortunately, none of the monkeys survived.
Pictured here is Miss Monkey Baker. On May 28, 1958 Miss Baker launched in a nose cone on top of the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile and returned unharmed. Miss Baker was given a home at the US Space and Rocket Center until her death on November 29, 1984.
For more information on the History of Animals in Space go here
Let's do one more round of our Space-Geek-Game. This is again one going back in time. It has several questions I would like you to answer. I rank this one "Captain" difficulty level.

1) we see two space flight veterans in the Soyuz Spacecraft Simulator working on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Who are they?

2) One of these two individuals set a very special record and was citied for it in the Guinness World Record book. What for?

3) The other individual in this image married who?

4) Together they had a child and why was that child such an interesting study subject to the medical community?

1) We are seeing Brig. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford on the left and Maj. Gen. Andriyan G. Nikolayev on the right. Stafford was visiting Star City and practiced several terminal phase rendezvous in the Soyuz simulator and docked with the Salyut space station. Stafford had previously flown on Gemini 6, 9 and then Apollo 10. While Nikolayev flew on Vostok 3 and Soyuz 9.

2) Thomas Stafford was cited in the Guinness Book of World Records for highest speed ever attained by man, that occurred during Apollo 10 reentry when the spacecraft attained 24,791 statute miles per hour.

3) Andriyan Nikolayev married Valentina Tereshkova in November of 1963. Just 5 months earlier Valentina launched aboard Vostok 6 to become the first woman to fly in Space. During her almost 71 hour flight she orbited Earth 48 times.

4) Valentina and Andriyan's daughter, Elena, was subject of medical interest because she was the first child born to parents who had both been exposed to Space. Elena later went on to become a medical doctor hersel

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Solar Flare - The Nutrition Bar with Spirit in it!

May I introduce to you - Shannon and Mikayla Diesch!

They are the 2009-2010 Spirit of Innovation Award Winners through Conrad Foundation's Spirit of Innovation Award. Learn about Astronaut Pete Conrad and his amazing NASA career in my previous post.

The Spirit of Innovation Award is a national competition in which teams of high school students from across the US put their mathematical, scientific and engineering skills to the test in an attempt to create new products that can change the way people live. Even though Pete Conrad is no longer with us here on Earth, his late wife Nancy is keeping his spirit a live, making sure other students have opportunities and mentorships just like Pete had when he was a student. Nancy is another of of my inspirations and if you have a chance to talk to her, or be involved with the Conrad Foundation - please do so!

So, what's so special about these two sisters from Battle Creek, Michigan, which is Kellogg's country? After months of very hard work and with some mentoring from Kellogg's reveled a granola bar filled with nutrients, vitamins and fantastic flavor. They named it - sit down for this - Solar Flare! And that's exactly what it is. A flare of sunshine goes through your body when you take a first bite. Believe me, I got a sample and it was truly a party in my mouth! That granola bar is now NASA approved.

During my travels to NASA HQ in Washington D.C., my days at NASA Goddard in Maryland, then my visit at SpaceUp Houston and NASA Johnson Space Center, and finally my stop at NASA Kennedy Space Center in February, I met several people who told me about these two amazing girls Shannon and Mikayla. I had already known about them but hearing from so many people that they themselves had followed the story of these two, I knew right there and then: I needed to meet them!

So, I put my "feathers" out and contacted my friends over at the Conrad Foundation just to learn that Shannon and Mikayla were in in San Francisco as part of the National Science Teacher Association Conference. I was scheduled to work the NASA booth anyway, so I made it a point to go and visit them at their booth and later at their special evening celebration. And let me tell you - these two young adults are exactly what inspires me!

What was so great about our first meeting was that they both had actually hoped to meet me too! So when we finally got to say our first hellos, the excitement was huge on both sides. My first question was "How are you two doing?" and they both had huge smiles on their faces. It is clear to me that the past year has made a huge impact on their lives and they love it. A year ago they didn't think to someday be here in San Francisco showing their creation (and meeting a NASA rubber chicken mission mascot).

I talked about Space Food in an earlier post and I also talked a little about the Space Food Systems Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Flight Center. NASA has some very specific requirements for space food and especially for a nutrition bar to be used in space flight.
While at NASA JSC in February I visited the Space Food lab again!
I am just so fascinated by this subject. 
- Develop a stored food system that is nutritious, palatable and provides a sufficient variety of foods to support significant crew activities on a mission of at least 3 years duration. Foods should maintain safety, acceptability, and nutrition for the entire shelf life of 3 - 5 years. Shelf life extension may be attained through new food preservation methods and/or packaging.

So Shannon and Mikalya decided come up with a nutritional bar and they came up with an initial Solar Flare bar just to learn that they had made a mistake in their calculation. And all of that right before the deadline to turn in their product for evaluation. So they had to start over again and redid their formula and got everything together. It as hard work, very last minute but they did it. Teamwork! They needed to meet the NASA nutritional profile requirement, including the number of calories coming from fat, proteins and carbs. They also had to put that "sunshine" burst taste into their bar. An astronaut's sense of taste changes in microgravity. And one other final and important component they needed to consider was shelf-life. See, until the food actually gets up to the International Space Station, it takes up to 9 months. And once on board the ISS, it won't be eaten right away. So shelf-live is important. 

Shannon and Mikalya's Solar Flare has 16 grams of protein in a 100 gram bar. It truly contains enough energy to get you through between meals without being hungry. It tastes like cinnamon apple and cranberry with a crunchy bite to it. Of course I love the fact that they named it Solar Flare. It's just so fitting. Maybe I can become their Solar Flare spokes rubber chicken!
Solar Flare - what a nutritional bar! And a perfect name for it! 

I love my job!

Learn about the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards here:

The two sister with the one and only Buzz Aldrin. 

Shoghig from the Conrad Foundation with us three wonderful girls! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Astronaut Pete Conrad - The Spirit of the Conrad Foundation

Even though I have been so very busy lately, today I want to take the time and write down some thoughts about our future workforce and how we all can have an impact on today's youth. Keep in mind, what positives we do today, will pay out in the future! There are many wonderful stories filled with inspiration that can help us to become inspirational to others.

Here is one story of a "Little Fella" who made it far. Very far. In fact, so far only two other people had made it that far before him. On November 18, 1969 astronaut Pete Conrad became the 3rd human to step foot on the dusty surface of the Moon. His story proofs that reaching for the sky is what it takes and touching the Stars (or in this case the Moon) is a goal that can be achieved.

Charles Pete Conrad was born on June 2, 1930 in Philadelphia. It was clear that Charles was an intelligent kid despite his struggles with homework. In the early 40s the Great Depression also impacted him and his family and they lost pretty much everything. It was not easy but Charles had made it into The Haverford School, which was a private academy. Even after the financial loss, his uncle continued to ensure Charles could go to school there. However, Charles suffered from dyslexia, which was a not very well understood condition at the time. And his dyslexia continued to be a distraction and after failing most of his 11th grade exams, he was expelled from Haverford.

Hi mother did not accept the view that her son was not smart and she found another school for him. And she sure found a good place - one that taught Charles how to apply a system approach to learning and he found a way around his dyslexia. This was the start of what was to become one amazing life. In 1949 he was admitted to Princeton University with a full NAVY ROTC scholarship.

In 1940 Charles had started to work at an airfield during the summers. Even though his first job duties included sweeping, moving the lawns and other ground maintenance work, he also got to fly on airplanes and even get a little piloting lessons. Later on he learned about the mechanics of airplanes and got to do minor repair jobs. As history always has it - there are always turning points. Another one of those points happened when a flight instructor had to do an emergency landing and Charles drove to the landing site and fixed the plain. That earned him a very special "payment"; lessons he needed to earn his pilot's license. All of that before even graduating high school.

In 1953 Charles earned his BA in Aeronautical Engineering from Princeton University and he entered into the Navy. He excelled in flight school and earned his call sign "Squarewave".

Charles, by now called Pete, thanks to his fiancee's father, was invited to participate in the selection process for what would become the first group of NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven. The candidates underwent several days of medical and psychological testing, which Pete didn't really care for. Unlike the other candidates, be rebelled against these procedures and was labeled "not suitable for long-duration flight".
Not long after NASA announced their search for a second group of Astronauts and Alan Shepard, who knew Pete from their time together as Naval aviators and test pilots, convinced Pete to re-apply. Pete did and he followed all the testing instruction and became part of NASA.

As one of the "New Nine" he reported to NASA in late 1962. Because of his excellent piloting skills, Pete become one of the first to be assigned to a Gemini mission. Pete, the funny guy he was, called the capsule of Gemini 5 a flying garbage can and set the new long duration flight record to 7 days and almost 23 hours. He was also named commander of the Gemini 8 back-up crew and then later commander of Gemini 11. That mission docked with an Agena target - a maneuver similar to that on Apollo required for lunar landing missions.
Astronaut Charles Conrad inside the Gemini 5 spacecraft after launch

Gemini 11 prime and back-up crews at Gemini Mission Simulator at Cape Kennedy

3rd Man on the Moon

Then on November 14, 1969 Apollo 12 launched with Pete as the commander, Dick Gordon was the Command Module Pilot and alan Bean the Lunar Module Pilot. During the launch lighting stroke, temporarily knocking out power and guidance in the command module. But the crew continued on and five days later Pete stepped onto the Moon's surface. His words were of meaning "Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me!".
Astronaut Pete Conrad and the Surveyor 3. The Lunar Module can be seen in the back. 
Skylab 2
But this was not it - there was one final mission awaiting for Pete. He was the commander of Skylab 2, the first crew aboard the Space Station Skylab. And it wasn't an easy mission. This crew had to repair some launch damage. On May 25, 1973 was launched. Their task was a difficult one. They had to repair Skylab's meteorite-and-sun shield and one of tis solar arrays. Without its shield, Skylab cooked in the heat of the sunshine. The first repair attempt was by Pete flying the Apollo Command/Service Module near the station and fellow crew member Astronaut Paul Weitz was trying to deploy the solar array from the Apollo Command/Service Module hatch, while the third crew member, Astronaut Joseph Kerwin held onto Paul's legs. Daring! The fix didn't work because they didn't have the proper tools. So they docked to Skylab and first managed to get the temperature under control. Two weeks later Pete and Joe were able to free the stuck panel and electricity began flowing to their new home. Up until then they didn't have enough power to even make coffee! Those were two long weeks!
Close-up view of partially deployed, damaged solar array

Astronaut Charles Conrad poses in shower facility in crew quarters

Skylab 2 Solar Physics Experiment. This black and white view of a solar flare was taken from
the skylab remote solar experiment module mounted on top of the vehicle and 
worked automatically without any interaction from the crew.

Skylab 2 Farewell View from the Departing Skylab Command/Service Module
A heroic NASA career came to an end in 1973 with Pete retiring from NASA and the Navy. In 2006 NASA posthumously awarded him the Ambassador of Exploration Award for his work for the agency and science. He had earned many other awards during his lifetime, among them the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, the Navy Astronaut Wings, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Harmon Trophy.

In 1990 Pete married Nancy M. Crane in San Francisco but not much later and only 3 weeks before the first moon landing Pete left Earth for the very last time. He passed away after a motorcycle accident and was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery, with many of his Apollo-era astronaut friends in attendance.

Conrad Foundation - Spirit of Innovation Awards
about imageThis brings now brings me to today! In Pete's honor, Nancy established the "Conrad Foundation" which gives talented students their moon shot. They are providing students the opportunity to design, develop, and commercialize innovative products using science and technology that solve 21st century problems.

Their vision is to have an education system where every student is engaged in and excited about learning and to engage and mentor students and their teachers in the process of creating science and technology products.

In my next blog I will tell you about two wonderful high school students who won the Spirit of Innovation award in 2010. I had a chance to catch up with them and hear their story, along with the Conrad Foundation one. This was true inspiration for me.

For now - let's nod our heads to Pete and his service and dedication. To one who never gave up and by doing so experienced what being a hero and inspiration really is.

The Conrad Foundation -

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Solar Storm - The Perfect One!

On March 7th 2011 the Sun had a fairly busy day. It was fun watching the many solar flares that day go off. There were seven M-class flares that day. I got many questions like "Is this normal?" and "Should we be worried?" My answer is "Yes" and "No!". We are approaching solar max - the period where the Sun is more active and produces more of these M and X-class flares. 
We classify solar flares according to their x-ray brightness in the wavelength range of 1 to 8 Angstroms and categorize them in 3 categories: 
X-class Flares: These are the big ones and are major events that can triggers some serious issues here on Earth. We could experience radio blackouts and long lasting radiation storms. 
M-class Flares: Just as in close, the Ms are a medium size. They can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth's polar regions with some minor radiation storms. 
The C-class Flares: Those are the small ones with few noticeable consequences here on Earth. 
A few months ago I wrote about:
Let's go back in time some 150 years - that's when the "Perfect Solar Storm" happened. 
In scientific circles where solar flares, magnetic storms and other unique solar events are discussed, the occurrences of September 1-2, 1859, are the star stuff of legend. Even 151 years ago, many of Earth's inhabitants realized something momentous had just occurred. Within hours, telegraph wires in both the United States and Europe spontaneously shorted out, causing numerous fires, while the Northern Lights, solar-induced phenomena more closely associated with regions near Earth's North Pole, were documented as far south as Rome, Havana and Hawaii, with similar effects at the South Pole.
Valentine Zhiganov, from Russia captured this aurora on March 1, 2011. During the
Superstorm of 1859 these lights appeared as far south as Cuba and Hawaii
What happened in 1859 was a combination of several events that occurred on the Sun at the same time. If they took place separately they would be somewhat notable events. But together they caused the most potent disruption of Earth's ionosphere in recorded history. "What they generated was the perfect space storm," says Bruce Tsurutani, a plasma physicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
To begin to understand the perfect space storm you must first begin to understand the gargantuan numbers with which plasma physicists like Tsurutani work every day. At over 1.4 million kilometers (869,919 miles) wide, the Sun contains 99.86 percent of the mass of the entire solar system: well over a million Earths could fit inside its bulk. The total energy radiated by the Sun averages 383 billion trillion kilowatts, the equivalent of the energy generated by 100 billion tons of TNT exploding each and every second.
But the energy released by the Sun is not always constant. Close inspection of the Sun's surface reveals a turbulent tangle of magnetic fields and boiling arc-shaped clouds of hot plasma dappled by dark, roving sunspots.
Once in a while--exactly when scientists still cannot predict--an event occurs on the surface of the Sun that releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of a solar flare or a coronal mass ejection, an explosive burst of very hot, electrified gases with a mass that can surpass that of Mount Everest.
The American painter Frank Church rendered this famous painting 'The Northern Lights' in the early 1860s, perhaps inspited by the 1859 event. (Courtesy: The National Gallery of Art; Smithsonian Institution)

What transpired during the dog days of summer 1859, across the 150 million-kilometer (about 93 million-mile) chasm of interplanetary space that separates the Sun and Earth, was this: on August 28, solar observers noted the development of numerous sunspots on the Sun's surface. Sunspots are localized regions of extremely intense magnetic fields. These magnetic fields intertwine, and the resulting magnetic energy can generate a sudden, violent release of energy called a solar flare. From August 28 to September 2 several solar flares were observed. Then, on September 1, the Sun released a mammoth solar flare. For almost an entire minute the amount of sunlight the Sun produced at the region of the flare actually doubled.
"With the flare came this explosive release of a massive cloud of magnetically charged plasma called a coronal mass ejection," said Tsurutani. "Not all coronal mass ejections head toward Earth. Those that do usually take three to four days to get here. This one took all of 17 hours and 40 minutes," he noted.
A coronal mass ejection (CME) exploded during the late hours of March 7th. It lept away from the sun traveling some 2200 km/s, making it the fastest CME since Sept. 2005

Not only was this coronal mass ejection an extremely fast mover, the magnetic fields contained within it were extremely intense and in direct opposition with Earth's magnetic fields. That meant the coronal mass ejection of September 1, 1859, overwhelmed Earth's own magnetic field, allowing charged particles to penetrate into Earth's upper atmosphere. The endgame to such a stellar event is one heck of a light show and more -- including potential disruptions of electrical grids and communications systems.
Back in 1859 the invention of the telegraph was only 15 years old and society's electrical framework was truly in its infancy. A 1994 solar storm caused major malfunctions to two communications satellites, disrupting newspaper, network television and nationwide radio service throughout Canada. Other storms have affected systems ranging from cell phone service and TV signals to GPS systems and electrical power grids. In March 1989, a solar storm much less intense than the perfect space storm of 1859 caused the Hydro-Quebec (Canada) power grid to go down for over nine hours, and the resulting damages and loss in revenue were estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Magnetic Field Lines on the Sun on March 8, 2011
"The question I get asked most often is, 'Could a perfect space storm happen again, and when?'" added Tsurutani. "I tell people it could, and it could very well be even more intense than what transpired in 1859. As for when, we simply do not know," he said.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Astronaut's Home away from Home

STS-133 Crew Walkout - thanks Max-Q Entertainment
for holding me high up to wave the crew! 
Tucked inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Astronaut Crew Quarters looks like a hotel floor, is serviced by an eager and exacting staff and includes conference rooms like a business center.

It has these amenities because the astronauts who stay there are critical to the mission and there are strict requirements to keep them quarantined from potential infections.

For crew members staying in the living area, the accommodations offer something between a chance to brush up on last-minute changes and an opportunity to take stock of life and career. 

A team of flight crew support specialists is looking forward to cheering and waving as space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 crew members exit the Operations and Checkout Building, board the Astrovan and head to Launch Complex 39 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. 
The Operations and Checkout Building

Later, many of them will watch as Discovery lifts off from pad 39A on Feb. 24, 2011. The team's thoughts and good wishes will go out to crew for a successful mission to the International Space Station. 

Lauren Lunde, with NASA, Judy Hooper, with United Space Alliance, and several others, take care of the astronauts 24/7 in the Astronaut Crew Quarters during preflight training and leading up to all shuttle launches. In this home away from home, they work in shifts, with additional staff called in as needed to help cook and clean.
 "The crew is extremely busy when they come in," Hooper said. "We could not function without all of the group's efforts to take care of the astronauts."

Those who work in the crew quarters include cooks, attendants, flight data file personnel, flight nurses and other astronauts supporting the crew.

Inside an area that dates back to the Apollo Program are facilities that have been upgraded throughout the years, including a kitchen, staff conference room, crew conference room, workout room, lounge, laundry room, computer room, suit-up room, dining room, medical facility, staff office and prime crew sleeping quarters. Lunde and Hooper said it's their mission to make the astronauts' stay in crew quarters as smooth and enjoyable as possible. 

A technician helps Neil Armstrong put on his spacesuit in Astronaut Crew Quarters before the launch of Apollo 11 to the moon. 
"Their health and well-being are very important," Lunde said. "For this reason, access to crew quarters is limited to the staff and astronaut support personnel leading up to each launch." 

Attendants Irene Hancock and Janet McCrary, both with United Space Alliance going on 10 years, are certified food handlers and provide meals for the astronauts and support personnel. 

"It feels like family here," Hancock said. "The astronauts share family stories, jokes and laughs with us."

The team's typical day begins at 6 a.m. They get the kitchen going for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Laundry and inventory are completed. Maintenance trouble calls are tended to, and sleeping quarters and the beach house are cleaned.

According to Hooper, the lights in main rooms are adjustable so that daylight can be simulated during the evening, and vice versa, to coincide with the astronauts' circadian sleep rhythms as they prepare for their mission. 

At the STS-130 Crew Walkout - the Astrovan

The STS-130 crew waving good-bye! 

And even more waiving! Bye-bye Flyboy