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....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

WOW! Just WOW!!

Last night was the beginning of the "festivities" for the Naval Institute History Conference about space and to say that it was amazing is only the tip of the iceberg. For those of you who know me, you know that I can tend to talk just a little bit... well I think I may struggle to adequately find the words to describe how I felt meeting some heroes of mine so please bear with me!

To start my day of awesome we go to a little unofficial event that I was lucky enough to be invited to sit in on thanks to Ken. General Tom Stafford wanted to "pre-flight" his slides in Alumni Hall so I got to sit and watch that. I could listen to General Stafford tell stories all day long! And that's a lot of what it was.... He was going through his slides but he was just casually telling many stories... what an incredible treat to be there and to get to listen in. My crowning achievement in this hour and a half was that I was able to quickly look up where the Mercury capsule that had been on display here at the Naval Academy had gone for General Stafford - it's great to feel useful to such an American Hero!!!

The evening brought with it a reception at Buchanan House where the Superintendent resides. (On a side note - let me just tell all of you that if you ever have the opportunity to go to an event there - GO! Do whatever it takes to get there. The events are always amazing!) The hospitality of Admiral & Mrs. Miller is always impressive. This reception was so full of astronauts that everyone (not just me and the Midshipmen - all sorts of Navy Officers too!) was in awe! The sheer magnitude of spaceflight experience represented in that house was so incredibly impressive. As we all mixed and mingled I was happy to catch up with some amazing folks I already knew but I think I had the most fun introducing my best friend to some of the astronauts she had never met such as Charlie Bolden,  Bob Cabana and Bob Crippen. (I am so lucky to have a bestie who works for the airlines and can just show up at cool events with us!) Captain Lovell and General Stafford were so surrounded by other folks that we didn't get a chance to chat with them there but that was ok.... I knew there would be other opportunities! n

Miles O'Brien was the Forrestal Lecturer last night and while I already know I need to write a whole blog about Miles (and I will just give me a little time!) let me just say that he did an amazing job of being not just informative but also entertaining. Everyone truly enjoyed it. I couldn't believe my luck that I was sitting behind Jim & Marilyn Lovell for this event. WOW! I was star struck! More on that later too...

The end of the official evening was the singing of the Navy Alma Mater
I get this chills just typing this thinking of all the amazing people who literally surrounded me.... Jim Lovell, Frank Culberston, Bill Readdy, Ken Reightler, Charlie Bolden, George Zamka, and my wonderful husband Ken Ham too of course! Such a poignant moment...

Sorry folks I know this blog is containing a lot of "more of this later" comments but I just has so much more than I can quickly summarize (I warned you I might have trouble finding adequate words!) and now I absolutely must go and get dressed for the day.....

Stay tuned for more.....
As I mentioned before I will be doing my best to do some live tweets via @spacechelle
and might I suggest you become an official follower of this blog so you know when I post more?

Have a stellar day everyone! I know I plan to!!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I'm So Excited!

I'm so excited.... and I just can't hide it!!

For all of you who I've now gotten that song stuck in your head, I do apologize, it's just that I've been singing it since I woke up this morning!

I am so excited!

Every year the Naval Institute hold a big conference at the Naval Academy and this year the theme/topic is space!

I feel lucky to get to be here at the Naval Academy to be able to experience this and the fact that Ken has been kind of the "point guy" here at USNA helps get me access to some extra cool stuff!

Even though the Government is shutdown this event is still happening. Sadly the current astronauts (or anyone who technically still works for NASA wether they are a current astronaut or not)  such as Chris Cassidy, Suni Williams and Charlie Bolden will not be able to attend which is a bummer because it would be even more epic to have them here. However, there are still so many amazing folks who will be here! Astronaut speakers include Mike Lopez-Alegria, Frank Culbertson, Bob Crippen and more! While I am super excited to see those guys I must admit I am absolutely beside myself about the fact that I am going to get to meet Jim Lovell and Tom Stafford! Talk about living legends!!!

I promise I will take LOTS of pictures. I will also do my best to do some Live Tweeting from the event (assuming I can get my phone to connect while in Alumni Hall - sometimes service in there is not so good) so feel free to follow me on Twitter if you want. My handle is @spacechelle

It all begins tonight with a special reception at the Superintendent's House followed by a Forrestal Lecture ( by Miles O'Brien.

I'm so excited!!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Higher Orbits Logo

Well this blog is really a reaching out for a bit of help...

Still working on getting a logo for Higher Orbits and I have some great ideas from some amazing artists. Before I fully select a path of one to work with I wanted to ask all of you for your ideas... Don't worry I am not asking for you to actually create a logo, I am asking you to share some words of ideas/thoughts/expectations with me... If you don't mind of course :)

So here are a few questions and if you were so inclined to do so I'd love your answers/feedback :)

Remembering that Higher Orbits is a non-profit that uses space to excite students about Science Technology, Engineering, Math and also Leadership and Teamwork...

Remembering that Higher Orbits will be targeting (mainly) high school and college/university students... (That's not to say that we won't do things with younger students they just aren't the main demographic)... But also Higher Orbits will be reaching out to Industry/Business for sponsorships...

  • What kind of logo comes to mind for you? What are the elements of it?
  • What colors are used in the logo?
  • Does the logo include the full name Higher Orbits or is it just a picture logo?
These are some leading questions (for lack of a better way of putting it) to try and get you thinking. That said - if you have thoughts/ideas/comments that fall outside those questions please send them my way. 

Thanks to all who are interested in Higher Orbits!!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's a Small World

It's a Small World After All... It's a Small World After All.. It's a Small World After all... It's a Small Small World..

Sorry - now that I've got that stuck in your head :) What can I say - after having visited Disneyland and the experience I had at the AIAA Space Conference in San Diego I definitely had this in my head...

For those of you who don't know I recently returned from a trip to California - this trip was mostly work but had some fun thrown in too! So why am I singing "It's a Small World" you may ask...

I flew into LA for a few days before heading to work in San Diego. My reason for doing so was that my dear friends Gillian, Kevin & Katelin were in LA for some work. I met Gillian from 29 Studios ( on our Gobi Desert Astronaut Leadership Experience and we became good enough friends that a few months later I visited her in her home of Glasgow, Scotland. While there I met her amazing husband Kevin and exceptional daughter Katelin as well as Pappy (Kev's wonderful Dad.) When I found out they would all be in California at the same time as me, and I knew we had some business we wanted to talk about, I figured I ought to modify my travel plans slightly and make a stopover in LA on my way to San Diego. We enjoyed some fun time together (including a trip to Disneyland to all be big kids together!)

And no it was not all fun we did some work too! We had some great business talks and we are all excited about the work we can do together. I'll tell you what given that Gillian and I went from seeing each other in Mongolia then Glasgow then Los Angeles - it makes me feel like it's a small world after all!

But wait - there's more! :)

Then I headed to San Diego for the AIAA National Space Conference where I was exhibiting for ISSET & Higher Orbits. (Okay to be fair everything only said ISSET because I didn't have anything printed up with Higher Orbits because I had only just gotten the name etc. legally approved and I don't have a logo yet... but I did talk about Higher Orbits!) At this conference I was astounded at just how small the world of space is! Forget 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon - Space is where it's at!

(Don't know what 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon is? Check this out

At the conference the thought of it's a small world after all ran through my head numerous times...

  • I have been living on the East Coast for over a year as has Pam Melroy but we haven't managed to get together yet even though we live within an hour of one another... however I saw her at this conference which was held more than 2,000 miles from where we live!
  • I met an incredibly cool guy named Greg who it turns out is great friends with a few of my dearest friends (Stacey & Kevin) in Houston. We'd both heard stories about each other but never met even though we'd lived in Houston at the same time... so we met for the first time in San Diego!
  • I met several people from all over the Globe who I've gotten to know Twitter-wise
  • I saw not 1, not 2, not 3 but no less than a half a dozen astronauts who I have worked with either as their instructor for a mission or in Mission Control for their Mission (or when they were CAPCOM)
  • I met a Purdue SEDS student who is a student of my Purdue Mentor Dr. Steven Collicott (I think I may have to do another whole different blog on that!)
  • I met a guy who works in Texas at SpaceX with the brother of one of our favorite mids 
  • And literally with almost everyone I met we had a mutual friend or a mutual friend of a friend...
It's A Small World After All.....

I think that's why the space community feels so much like a family. With that said - Let's Make This Family Bigger! Let's keep spreading the good word about space and get others excited!!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Introduce To You....

Cue the trumpets..... Or maybe a drumroll... Confetti Cannons perhaps?

Anyway - give me some pomp and circumstance in your mind as you get ready to read this next bit because I am SUPER excited about it....

It's is my great honor to introduce you to a new Non-Profit Organization that will use space to get students of all ages interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math....
I give you.....
Higher Orbits

I had many many many great suggestions from folks about names and many that I liked but I chose Higher Orbits for a wide variety of reasons some of which include the fact that some names that were suggested or I liked were already taken or Trademarked, some of the names ended up being a great acronym but a mouthful to explain (Ken reminded me how much it drives me crazy to have to spell out ISSET all the time), some names appealed to some of the demographic I need to target but not others etc etc. Bottom line is I was lucky to have so many great suggestions from so many great folks so...


Thank you all for being so wonderful and helping me with suggestions or taking my surveys to see what names you like or just being a sounding board when I started rambling about my ideas. Thank you so very much. I appreciate it more than words can express.

I would be remiss to not give an extra special Thank You shout-out to a very special gal who does marketing and branding for a living and was so enthusiastic in her help with finalizing the name. A HUGE Thank you to Lisa Witzig from Ideen LLC. I can whole heartedly endorse that if you need some help with marketing branding, naming etc. Lisa absolutely should be your go-to-gal! Check out her webpage at

I still have a lot of work to do.....

  • Lots of paperwork to get my official IRS non-profit status (I won't bore you with the details but the basics is there's a general legal part to becoming a non-profit and then there's the IRS side... the IRS side apparently takes ages... but I'm ready to get to work on that!)
  • Logo - Luckily I have some amazingly talents friends who have given me some great ideas and now I just have to decide what exactly I want to have represent Higher Orbits for all entirety (no pressure to make the "right" choice or anything!)
  • Website! I've secured the domain and put a lame Coming Soon page but will be working on getting that really functional soon! Bookmark to check back there periodically
  • Fundraising! I have some amazing ideas of ways to fundraise to provide scholarships to individuals for events like Mission Discovery and I can't wait to get started on those. I know how life changing it was for me when I received a scholarship to go to Space Camp so I can't wait to return that "favor" to some students!
  • And much much more but I'll stop rambling for now :)
I will still be doing all the same work with ISSET but now Higher Orbits will become a partner to ISSET and Higher Orbits will have additional things outside of ISSET as well. (Yeah I wasn't busy enough you know how all I do is sit around and watch TV and eat bon bons. LOL!)

For now you can start following Higher Orbits on Twitter if you want @HigherOrbits
And you may have noticed this is a separate blog than my personal blog - this will be a Higher Orbits official blog so perhaps sign-up to follow this blog too :)

And I promise to keep you all posted as things progress..... as you might be able to tell I am REALLY REALLY excited!!! 

Here's to Higher Orbits!!!