|The QM-1 NASA Social group and Astronaut Stan Love.|
What had been a dark and nearly solitary drive to the OATK facilities the previous day turned into a steady stream of vehicles forming a nearly unbroken line for many miles. While it was a bit heartwarming to know that interest in various aspects of the space program was still strong, I must admit that I was a bit concerned whether or not there'd be room for everyone.
|People...lots and lots of people.|
Upon snagging one of the rapidly disappearing parking spots, I gathered my stuff and headed inside to the lobby. While waiting until time to board the bus, I took a moment to take a look around at the people that were
|Colorful sunrise seen prior to heading to private|
|One of these guys is cool, funny, super-smart,|
and an astronaut. The other is me.
Love was peppered with questions, running the gamut from history...to geo-political...to deep science...and even aliens. He performed deftly, and was quite candid in some of his responses...something for which I was immensely appreciative. Some of my favorite exchanges/responses (mostly paraphrased):
- Love: On my mission, I didn't exercise. I thought it wasn't really necessary for the short amount of time I was in space. However, upon returning to Earth, I'd lost 8 pounds of muscle from my legs. People, if you go to space, EXERCISE!
- Attendee: What do you think about cooperation with what might be geo-political foes?
Love: It's cheaper than fighting them.
- <after discussing the enormous hurdle of life-support in deep space>
Attendee: What do you think of Mars One?
Love: <pause> I believe I have already answered that.
Love stayed with the group for much longer than had been arranged, even joining us on the trip up to the booster after the firing.
|Pano of the 'Media' section of the viewing area. SRB is down the road.|
As the clocked neared -01:00, I prepared my cameras - both my always-with-me iPhone and my old-but-trusty Nikon D50. The announcer counted down, and when he reached T-10 seconds, I began recording:
Just as thunder follows lightning, it took several seconds for the booster's roar to reach us (in the video, you can hear the announcer call "Plus five" just before you hear the booster). What followed was an impressive display of sight and sound. The booster's flame was so bright that looking at it for more than a short period of time wasn't recommended...and the sound of the booster was every bit as impressive as I thought it would be, counter to my earlier concerns. The burn lasted for slightly more than two minutes, right in-line with expectations.
After retiring to the trailer for lunch, the group was taken to the test area for some pictures and to be able to see the SRB from a much closer position. Stepping off the bus, the smell of spent rocket fuel was strong...but non unpleasant. OATK workers were busy securing the area, and we were restricted from approaching too closely, but there was no problem finding a good place from which to take pictures. Even though the test had occurred nearly two hours earlier, the area was still quite warm from the flames, and the aft portion of the booster was being sprayed with water to accelerate cooling. Fun fact: The deep layer of sand over the concrete structure below the booster is turned to glass from the intense heat of the flame.
All-too-quickly, we were rounded up and told to get back on the bus...thus drawing to a close the QM-1 NASA Social. I can't speak for others, but I had an exceptional time. Both NASA and Orbital ATK did an outstanding job of arranging an informative and entertaining event, and it's something I will remember for the rest of my life. I enjoyed reacquainting myself with some NASA Social alum from previous events, and loved meeting new and interesting people from this one.
I hope that you have learned something about NASA and/or the space program that you didn't know, and I appreciate the time you've taken to read this. I took a ton of pictures of the entire trip, and have shared them in a Flickr album as there was no practical way to include them in the blog entries - feel free to take a look. Until next time, thanks for reading.
|Thanks for reading!|