Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shuttle Simulators and Art Cars

 I had no anticipation of an actual "weekend" last week.  Friday was a bit of a slow day because we were waiting on data we would get during the focused inspection early Saturday morning and so my coworkers and I took the opportunity to let off some steam. 
One of my coworkers had scheduled an appointment for us in the shuttle simulator for that day and luckily it fit into our schedule perfectly!  I got to sit in the commander seat and feel a simulated launch.  Then our instructor let me take the controls and I got to perform a landing!  I actually did pretty good too!  After my turn, my coworker took the commander seat and I got to feel what it's like from the backseat.  Let me say, it's a good thing I took a dramamine before hand because it's a bit of a bumpy ride...
One of the cool things about the simulator, it attempts to recreate the images you would see during a normal launch and landing in the windows.  So during launch there is an image of the launch pad out of the left window and during reentry you see the coast of Florida and the VAB as you approach the runway.  One of the coolest things we saw in my opinion was the image of the external tank floating away once we reached orbit:

While we were in the simulator, all of my other coworkers were getting some fresh air an exercise with a bit organized kickball game!  So once we got out, we headed over to the field to have a drink and watch the game.
We all went for hibachi dinner afterwards followed by an early night since the new data would be coming in early in the morning.  It was a pretty wonderful surprise when I woke up to see emails stating that the new imagery indicated that the damage was not the full tile depth and therefore would not require an on orbit repair!  When I got in to work the analysts were able to run the thermal models quickly and it turned out that not only would we not require repair, we would be able to clear the vehicle for reentry that day!  It is a tradition on the Damage Assessment Team to get a special mission polo shirt that everyone wears on the day we clear the vehicle, so we sent one guy back to all of the hotel rooms to collect the shirts and then we went down to the Mission Management Team and gave the all clear for TPS!
The following day I stuck around for a while to spend some time with my good friend B!  We went out for brunch at an Irish pub and had bloody mary's and then headed over to Houston's famous Art Car Parade!  It is exactly what it sounds like and was a lot of fun - the parade was insanely long, I couldn't believe how many different types of painted/decorated cars there were.  There were tons of crazy, original designs, but I think my favorites were the nostalgic re-creations, namely the car from National Lampoon's Vacation complete with the dog leash hanging off of the back and a School House Rock van!
I got back to Florida pretty late on Sunday night and took Monday off to catch up on my sleep :0)

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