Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Exercise! Astronauts Do It - Do You?

Well with this blog I am going to admit that I'm writing it at the encouragement of some other friends of mine who are much wiser in the realm of social media etc. than I am. They pointed out that some of  my followers on this twitter account might be interested to learn more about upcoming run especially since exercise does tie directly to some space stuff. I'm not sure wether you all really want to know about this or not but I thought I'd give it a shot. (I do generally do my best to not post too much that's not truly space stuff.) Here's to hoping I don't lose too many followers! For those of you who want pure space stuff, don't worry, in just 2 weeks I promise this line of tweets will end!

So there I was... minding my own business.... Oh wait that's a different story ;) Let's see how to begin this one... I know - with something space!

Do you have any idea how long ISS astronauts work out every single day? 2 hours! Every. Single. Day! It is absolutely essential for their health that they do so. I won't get into the nitty gritty here (because I think many of you already know all this) but micro-gravity wreaks havoc on your muscle and bones so without exercise your body would be a total mess! (Yes that is a technical term!)


Quick version of types of workouts is that they spend half their time doing resistance exercise and half of it doing cardio. I could go into much more detail (and perhaps I will in a future blog) but for this one that info will suffice. I remember, during my days of being an Ops Plan Flight Controller in MCC, thinking that in some ways it sure would be nice to be SCHEDULED for exercise every day. Because let's face it, most of us lack the time and/or motivation to work out some days.

So here's where I diverge from space a bit... I'm a firm believer that a healthy body helps make a sharp mind. Don't get me wrong - there any many days when the last thing I want to do is exercise (and it's certainly not to say that I exercise every day because believe me - I don't!) but I also know that my mind feels sluggish if I am not keeping my body healthy and fit. So while I certainly don't work out as much as the astronauts on ISS, I do my best to work out several times a week.

So back to that lack of motivation thing - I am signed up to run the Nike Women's Half Marathon in DC on April 28th and to say I haven't trained is an understatement. It's been too cold for me to run outside and I am not a fan of the treadmill. But not only have I signed up for the run, 2 very special young ladies have signed up to run this with me and they will be traveling in from the West Coast to do so, as such, I've got to get myself motivated! So each day I've been posting to my personal Facebook page some sort of picture that I find motivational. Surprisingly, it is sort of helping! Shall I share those with you too? Here are the first 2 days of pictures:

Day 1 of Pictures: The signs I saw in the Gallery Place Metro in DC this past week

Day 2 of Pictures: My Running Shoes- As you can tell I like colorful :)

So let me ask you - what do YOU do to keep your mind and body at its healthiest? Do you Train Like An Astronaut? http://www.space.com/22714-train-like-an-astronaut-nasa-s-physical-fitness-program-video.html You may not have 2 hours a day to workout like the astronauts but who on Earth does?! Motivation comes in many forms so perhaps you can find something to motivate you... If I can be of any help let me know :) 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Women In Aviation

What a treat it was to get to attend the 25th annual Women in Aviation Conference at Disney in Orlando. This conference is always an amazing gathering of so many fantastic women! I am honored to have been part of it!

The first time I ever got to attend the Women in Aviation conference, it was as a result of a scholarship. I'm pretty sure the year was 2002 and it was in Reno. Since that initial conference I have been to 2 others before this one. I hope to make it a more regular occurrence to attend!

This year I feel fortunate that I not only got to attend the conference, but I also had the opportunity to exhibit and tell so many great people about Higher Orbits & ISSET and that I got to spread the good word about Mission Discovery!

Since I have been fortunate that throughout my life there have been people (individuals and companies) kind enough to offer scholarships to various things that I was interested in and wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise, I was extremely happy to be able to offer a scholarship to any Mission Discovery through the Women in Aviation Scholarship program.

At the conference we got the idea to solicit donations $1 at a time (because that's the kind of grass roots effort we are!) to fund a scholarship for a woman (of high school or university/college age) to attend any Mission Discovery. The idea was for this scholarship to be funded solely on the kind donations of the Women in Aviation Conference attendees. Unfortunately we got the idea a little late so while some individuals were happy to donate more than the $1 requested, we only made it halfway to our goal of $500 (which is a full scholarship).... here's where you might come in :) Did you attend the conference and not get a chance to stop by and make a donation? Well here's your chance!! Help us reach our goal of funding 1 woman who is interested in STEM to attend Mission Discovery based on the kindness of donations from WAI Conference attendees. Every dollar counts! You can make your check out to Mission Discovery and mail it to
Mission Discovery 
Attn: Michelle Ham 
32 Upshur Rd 
Annapolis, MD 21402
Make sure to put WAI in the notes section so we know to be sure to apply it to this special scholarship specifically.

Thank you so much for your support!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Once a Brickie, Always a Brickie

Well for all of you who are not from "The Region" I am sure that you are wondering - what the heck is a Brickie?! Don't worry, I will get into that more in a bit but first I want to tell you about my incredible day at Hobart High School... Perhaps it deserves a bit of background first though....

I was born in Hammond, IN but within the first 6 months of my life my parents moved to Hobart, IN (both in the Chicagoland area).  Hobart is where I spent all of my years until I left to go to Purdue University. So naturally I attended Hobart High School. Worth mentioning, I attended the OLD Hobart High School... why is that worth mentioning? Well let me tell you...

I was excited when the Hobart Superintendent Dr. Peggy Buffington reached out to me and asked me if I would be willing to come by the high school and give a talk. I was excited for 2 reasons... first and foremost I was obviously excited to get to meet some great young minds and to share some thoughts with them. The second reason was because Hobart built a new school that I have heard amazing things about and I was psyched to get to check it out!

My morning started with meeting Dr. Buffington and I have to say I immediately knew that I was going to like her! She is this force of positive energy that just draws you in. Her devotion to Hobart and the students is unmistakable - it's truly an amazing thing! After a quick stop in the school board room to drop off me coat we headed to the theater. Even before we got in the door there I could tell that this new HHS was a far cry from our old HHS. Attention has been paid to every detail and as a result the school looks amazing!

I was fortunate enough to speak to a large group of students for about an hour about space and life and well a bit about me and how I got where I am. Naturally I also told them about Mission Discovery and I REALLY hope to see some of them at Mission Discovery Valparaiso University this summer! They were such an attentive group with some great questions (including 1 question that I think I will write an entire blog about at some point.. just gotta find the time!) and I hope I left them with some thoughts to think about and perhaps a piece or 2 of advice for them to carry with them in life. It was a real treat to get to be there and to interact with some great Brickies!

After the talk, Dr. Buffington was kind enough to take me on a tour of the whole high school.... All I can say is WOW! Hobart High School has so many amazing opportunities for students that certainly weren't available when I was in school there and the facility is sincerely world-class! Clearly a lot of thought and caring went into the design, building and execution of HHS. The programs and facilities are so much more than just a school though... they have a real community feel to them.

I truly look forward to being able to do more work with Hobart High School... so be on the lookout! You never know when I will be back there!

Oh and I bet you are wondering what a Brickie is ;) Well check this out...

I am proud to say I am a Brickie!
Once a Brickie, Always a Brickie!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Announcing Our First Scholarship Winners

One of the big reasons that I wanted to create Higher Orbits was to be able to offer opportunities for students to attend programs that they might not otherwise be able to attend. One of the obvious ways to do this is through scholarships. Clearly Mission Discovery is a program that I am incredibly vested in and believe in whole-heartedly. I wish something like Mission Discovery had existed when I was a student because it truly is a life changing experience for many students. I am so thrilled to be able to pour my energy into such a worthwhile endeavor. (Just how crazy has life been in working on Mission Discovery lately? Well I can tell you that all is going great but the answer to what all I've been up to in working on it is worthy of another blog all in and of itself!)

Our First Scholarships are all being awarded to students to attend the Valparaiso University Mission Discovery in July 2014.

It is with great pleasure I announce the first winners of our first set of scholarships....

** Tara Marlow, from Indian Creek High School, has devleoped a love for the cosmos over the years and is considering becoming an astronautical engineer because, " I would have the opportunity to correlate my ideas with others and produce exceptional solutions to problems"

**Megan Mitchell, from Kankakee Valley High School, is passionate about space exploration for many reasons including that she believes it helps broaden our knowledge about the universe and creates new advances in technology. Exploring a career in aerospace has been a goal of hers since she was a little girl

**Emily O'Fallon, from Roncalli High School in Wisconsin, has always loved "new" things and has found a passion about space and hoes to pursue an education in astrophysics. She joined the rocketry team and while she loved building the rocket, launch was really what hooked her!

** We have 2 more winners but I have not heard back from them yet and do not want to publish their names without permission... I will tell you more about them when I hear back from them.

How about a big round of applause for all these amazing young minds!

I really look forward to all of these students joining us at Mission Discovery in July. Don't you want to attend too? You can register today to insure your spot! Additionally there will be more scholarships posted in the not too distant future on the Higher Orbits website (which is about to actually about to start looking like a proper website thanks to the help of some friends I think!) - check out www.higherorbits.org and be sure to click on the Scholarships page/tab.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bummed I Missed An Opportunity...

Have you ever noticed that smoke detector batteries always fail in the middle of the night? Well they do at our house at least. And the kicker of it is that when they do it starts yelling at you every minute something along the lines of.....
Then as you pull out the old battery and put in a new one, all the smoke detectors in the house (because they are all connected) sound for a minute and yell.... 
Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! Fire! Fire! Carbon Monoxide Warning? Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!
(Whoever created this system exactly this way should be beaten as far as I am concerned.....)

So yep that's what happened this morning at 3:57am. To make it worse we have a friend staying with us for a few days who is in need of some rest and needless to say this noise doesn't exactly lend itself to a restful night!

You may be wondering why I am posting about this middle of the night experience on my space blog.... well I was just realizing (as I am still trying to fully wake up because I didn't sleep so well after the smoke detector debacle) that when all that noise was going on and I got woken up - I wish I'd had the alertness to realize that I should have stepped outside to see if I could see any of the Orionid Meteor Shower since it was supposed to peak before sunrise today. BUMMED!!! Completely missed out on that opportunity :( What can I say - I am definitely not a morning person.

I hope some of you got a chance to see it and I hope it was absolutely spectacular!

Oh and for all of you who have fire/smoke detector concerns about us... don't worry the plan is to go and change all the batteries so they all have fresh ones.....

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It's Not All "Glamorous" - But I Love It!

For those of you who don't know me well let me divulge something about myself... I am a very "tell it like it is" kind of person... sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes... well... not so much :) I do my best to temper it where I can.

The reason I tell you this little tidbit about myself is that I think it will explain this post a bit....

I could tell you that everything about what I do for Higher Orbits and my work with ISSET is all fun and glamorous... but that wouldn't be realistic....  I have people say to me very frequently things like "Oh how amazing that you get to travel to all these places and do all these cool things" or "You're So Lucky" or things like that. They're right it is amazing that I get to travel and do the things I do. And they are right that I am lucky to have been able to make a career out of my passion. But I also have to give you a little reality...

It's not ALL glamorous (the word I am choosing - if you have a better word than that fill that in)...

Here's how I have spent many hours the past day or so....

We have many postcards (that look absolutely amazing thanks to the guys at ISSET) for our events that I used for the AIAA Space Conference last month. However we've had some additions to some of our programs that I want to be sure to promote. Instead of printing new cards (that would be so wasteful of what we have) I went and bought labels that I could print the new info on and then affix it to the postcard. Of course it's never quite just that easy right? I also had to go through and cut each label in half and trip the edges too in order to make it fit.

These postcards are headed to the SEDS National Conference. We have a partnership with SEDS where they get credit for referrals to our programs. (Are you interested in a similar partnership with us? Let me know!) These postcards I am working on will go into the conference bags for each participant. I wanted to make sure that if someone signs up for a program as a result of SEDS that SEDS gets credit so I've added stickers to each postcard to remind them...

All that said - this may not be glamorous work but it's work that has to be done and at the end of the day I love what I do! So I'm happy to do this along with all the stuff that people consider to be the "glamorous" portions of my job....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


The Movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney...

I am sorry folks - I really wanted to like this movie but the short answer of what did I think of the movie is....

It was bad. It was just bad.

As I said in my first tweet about this - I am not sure who liked it less... myself, Ken or the NASA HQ friend of ours who just happened to end up in the same theater at the same time....

Let me preface with a variety of things....

  • I will do my best to not give away too many spoilers. (Honestly I am trying not to give any spoilers but I think by virtue of a few of the things I am saying I may sort of do so....)
  • I will admit I am probably harder on the movie than the average person...
  • If you've seen it and you've enjoyed it I am glad! Truly! Just because I didn't doesn't mean I want you to have had a miserable 2 hour experience....

So how do I make my comments without giving too much away.... or being too Neil Tyson (since someone told me not to go All Neil Tyson on the movie).... Let's be clear - I am NOT smart enough to be Neil Tyson so I would actually be honored to be compared to him!! How do I articulate this... bear with me! 

Let me start off with if you are going to go and see this you absolutely ought to go see it in 3D. Visually it's worth the extra money it will cost to see it that way.

To say there were some technical inconsistencies would be a gross understatement. I get it that they can't get absolutely everything right. (Though that said Apollo 13 did a pretty decent job!) I get that there is some stuff you need to do to enhance the drama. However some of it was just so bad I really couldn't get passed it no matter how hard I tried. Some of the absolutely basic physics was just WRONG! And we won't even get into the Orbital Mechanics... and I am not talking difficult Orbital Mechanics I am talking basics...  Let's put it this way - in regards to that it was SO bad that I actually laughed out loud about it during the movie several times. I won't go into listing all the issues (not sure I could type that much - my hands my fall off) because I will give too much away and I don't want to go into that much detail... let's just say they were numerous and apparent. 

That said they got some very minor details correct which I was impressed with... The PCS display was pretty accurate, some of the other displays were accurate, the vehicles in general were pretty accurate, the space suit on the outside looks was very close and they had the appropriate timeline (OSTPV - Onboard Short Term Plan Viewer - software that is very near and dear to my heart) on the computer. These are just to name a few - yes there were others including using the right nomenclature for some things.

Let me set the stage in the best way I can I think... The first oh I don't know 10 minutes there's a conversation going on between the astronauts in space and the ground (don't worry that fact isn't giving anything away)... it was SO bad an irritating the way they did it that I thought I was going to have to walk out then. (Talking with Ken about it later he apparently was thinking the same thing.)

Yes many of the visuals were stunning but I tell you what - to get that go see the ISS 3D movie or something like that. You'll actually get even more stunning views.

I get that this movie makes people think about space more than they previously might and while at first blush that seems like a fantastic thing.... I am not sure this movie is a good thing for that and I will explain in a second...

Here's where I have to make a comment that may give something away about the movie that you don't want to know.... if that's the case I suggest you stop reading here and pick-up where I say Spoilers Over in big bold letters.

The reason I am not sure that this movie is a good thing is that it is overwhelmingly a negative movie. I get that it's the story of one woman's journey to get back home but set in the context of space it means that absolutely everything in space (ISS, shuttle, HST etc.) is completely destroyed. Why is NASA embracing the message of negative things happening in space when there are so many positive aspects we are failing to promote? I mean at one point the main character says "I HATE SPACE!" Really? This is the message that we the space loving community want people to go see and embrace - the idea that all our foothold in space can be wiped out quickly and it ends in tragic loss of life? Call me an idealist but that's not how I want to get people talking about space.

Add to that last point the fact that the space shuttle breaks up in orbit and there are lots of pieces of various space vehicles burning up as they come back into the atmosphere and those of us who were part of the space world when Columbia happened have a bit of a hard time with this imagery. It honestly was hard for me to watch at that point - the visuals were just a little too close to something so tragically still a very tender painful memory. 


Here's the bottom line (as if you didn't already know this) - I just didn't like it. This does NOT mean I think anyone who does is crazy! (So please don't get all offended as if I am attacking you personally by disliking this movie.) I can see how cinematically it could be good entertainment. (I can't tell you how many people I have gotten emails from who really liked it. For you Chivers out there - I don't think John will mind if I tell you that he absolutely loved it.) Cinematically they did a good job with keeping you on the edge of your seat. I will admit there were a few times they had done such a great job of creating drama and suspense that even I was on the edge of my seat hoping they came through (no matter how scientifically illogical the premise was of that given instance) so in that aspect they did a good job. 

What I would like to see is another space movie - this time one that highlights the positives... Maybe it's time for me to start writing that script....