When I was a little girl I wanted to be a marine biologist, as well as the typical stuff, a vet, a mom, a teacher etc. I also wanted to be an astronaut. Sure, the astronaut stint was around the time the movie Space Camp came out. I saw that movie ten times, at least.
My dreams of space faded when I found out just how much math is involved with becoming any scientific type and way back then we didn’t have computers easily available to do our math for us… “When I was a kid we had to count on our fingers, instead of downloading iPhone apps to do it!”
With that my NASA dreams faded… that was 1986.
In the year 2009 I received a call. NASA wanted me! I had arrived! No, they didn’t want me to go to space, but they wanted me to come to The Kennedy Space Center and speak at their Spring Diversity Program, “It’s About Ability!” – There wasn’t even math involved!
And… the coolest part (although there are A LOT of coolest parts in this story) was that after my presentation, I was invited on a 4 hour, VIP tour of NASA. (Move over Space Camp! You can keep your freeze-dried ice cream!)
Aaron and I arrived at Cape Canaveral. (I could bring one assistant and my current assistant (sidekick) is in school full time, AND this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so what better side kick than my spouse?) The morning of the event we checked in at security, earlier in the month we had to provide al kinds of personal information in order to obtain security clearance. Let’s just say that I now have government clearance… probably top secret too, except I am not really allowed to tell you that… so shhhh, keep it on the down low!
NASA has THE BEST dot matrix photo ID printouts I have ever seen. Not kidding, Costco has nothing on NASA. My Season Pass at Snowbird looks like a child’s scribble compared to the perfection NASA produced. The worst picture ID card is from our neighborhood Recreation Center, and no, I am not saying that only because they took the photo AFTER I had worked out. (blech!) I am just saying they could REALLY learn a thing or two from NASA!
Once we got through security (we actually had to take a paper number out of one of those dispensers, which reminds you- oh, yeah, this IS a government agency like the Post Office) Bonni (should I have changed your name to protect the innocent?) took us to our first event.
NASA has a daycare.
The Child Development Center
Luckily it says Solar System, not Planets
Yep, scientists and technicians and engineers have children too you know. We pull up to the Day Care and the fire alarm goes off. (Luckily it’s only a drill) They passed the drill and everyone went back inside. When the kids were settled again we came in. Once inside, I heard whispers “sh, sh rainbow lady shh shhh rainbow lady” and then the noise got louder and clearer. “The Rainbow Lady!! THE RAINBOW LADY!!” They shouted.
T H E R A I N B O W L A D Y ! ! ! !
Hmmm… I’ve never been called that before, but it works. I came in, talked with the kids, read some stories and then asked them if they knew any Signing Time songs… they answered by bursting into song; “DO YOU KNOW THE COLORS OF OUR RAINBOW?” –at the top of their lungs. They sang the whole thing a ca pella. I stood there grinning. Their teachers were beaming. This was awesome!
Next we went to an auditorium, where the event, for the adults, was taking place. The auditorium holds a couple hundred, but my presentation would be filmed and broadcast over NASA TV where more than 10,000 people could access it. (just breathe)
I shared my family’s story and shared with them the amazing things that Leah and Lucy have taught me about how to treat people with disabilities and how each time I meet someone with a disability I get to learn something about myself.
Half-way through my presentation the 4 year-olds from the daycare came and showed off their mad signing skills, by performing “Colors of The Rainbow” with me for all the grown-ups. They did great!
I ended the presentation by sharing part of an interview I did with Lucy. I had asked her how it is to be in a wheelchair. Lucy’s insight continually blows my mind. She has a perspective I may never have and she shares it so brilliantly! She said, “I think when people see me, they see a little girl in a wheelchair, but when I see myself, I see a beautiful little girl!”
I could only follow that up with “Caterpillar Dreams.”
Then it was time to start our VIP tour! As we started out, we were told, “Feel free to ask any questions.”… I said, “I don’t even know enough about this to have any questions!”
Serious International Space Station!
The name says it all
This is a real model of the space station, but not THE real space station
Our VIP tour took us onto THE floor of the International Space Station Processing Facility.
Holy Orbiter Batman!
One of three buildings for processing orbiters
Aaron and I were under, over and right next to the Orbiter Discovery. Too cool!
Above and facing the cockpit
The wings are covered to keep them protected
Everyone in Acronyms!
Vehicle Assembly Building
We went through the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) one of the most recognizable buildings at The Kennedy Space Center. The stars on the American flag up there are 6 feet from point to point and they say you can drive a bus down those stripes… if you could get the bus to stick at that angle.
Next we went out to the shuttle launch pads. Both the Atlantis and the Endeavour were on launch pads, it’s pretty uncommon to see two shuttles on the launch pads at the same time.
The Endeavour is ready to go
The Atlantis is also ready to go
Why Did The Turtle Cross The Road?
Move along little turtle
While driving from one launch pad to another, we stopped to move a turtle off the road… this is the sign for TURTLE. We joked that most likely, after we moved it to safety, it was snapped up by an alligator. We really did see alligators on the property too. Ah, the circle of life.
All Day and Night Crawler
This thing is massive!
Each cleat weighs 1 ton
The Crawler is about the size of a baseball diamond. It weighs 6 million pounds unloaded. It takes the shuttle and the mobile launcher platform from the VAB to the launch pad very, very slowly. One mile per hour! When loaded up with the shuttle it weighs 12 million pounds… and that is just way beyond my comprehension… too many pounds, just too many.
All I have to say is this, anyone who really believes the whole landing on the moon thing was a hoax is a complete dingbat… or else this is THE most elaborate government cover-up known to man. Who’s going to build 3 orbiters and pretend to service them for years and then fake a bunch of launches and landings? (Don’t answer that… just don’t.)
Thank you Bonni, Stephanie and Eric and all who took care of us and made this event so memorable! (Including you Tim!) Thank you NASA!
My Space Camp desire is currently quenched, with little to no mathematics. My 12 year-old self is at peace.
Who knows… maybe next year I will be invited to speak at Area 51. You know, they say it’s easier to cross a signed language barrier than a spoken language barrier. So, let me at those extraterrestrials, I bet I could teach those Aliens a sign or two!