YAWN…. I am back!

We made it! I had the best weekend of my life! I spent time with 7 wonderful women and some kids that were amazing! Soleil handled travel like a pro and enjoyed the business class seats we got on the way out! They way back was, well, a nightmare. But we got home.

I did not sleep much… But we did have a ball. Soleil and I got to share a bed, a rare treat for her and a pain for me! I did discover that she nightmares alot! 2-3 nightmares each night! She also talks in her sleep. Not surprising… I have a bunch of things to catch up on and a tile guy to threaten. If he won’t return my calls, I am going to find someone else!  Here’s a quick peak at Sylv and I on the trip. Notice her new friend, Baby Cow. I want to call him cutlet, Dr. Jay calls him De-calf. Soleil just calls him Baby Cow.

Will You Miss Me?

I usually don’t post much over the weekends, but there is a good shot you won’t see me around at all this weekend. Soleil and I are jumping on a jet plane to Sunny Atlanta! There, we will meet a bunch of Axe murderers Internet friends from one of my infertility boards. Most of these women have been my support during the times of pain and during my pregnancies. They have held my hand and my heart during the tough times. We do not all have kids. We are not all done having kids. We are still all over the place, but we have each other.

So if you never see me again, I am lost in a large margarita in the Greater Atlanta area.

OK, I promise to come back so I can go to Sparky’s the next week and meet some more Axe murderers Internet friends and see her new kitchen!

Can y’all say a small prayer that there are two business class seats together that Soleil and I can upgrade to? I would love to have the cushie butt chair so I can relax while my child watches DVDs!

Launch: Epilogue

First, I want to direct everyone to take a moment to check out these

These astronauts know the dangers of space flight, but they do it
anyway. They love their job and they love science. Our mission was
deployed from the shuttle by some of these brave people and I wish I
could thank each one of them for the hard work they do.

On July 21,2002, 2:30am; I awoke to a mess. My water had broken. I got
cleaned up and called the hospital. We spent the day there only to be
sent home with a failed launch. The next morning, we went in again,
started some serious induction and waited.

On July 23, 2002, 4:38am, we had this:


I think there is something forever special with July 23 to me.

Launch Part IV

On wake-up, July 22, 1999, I was just not in a good mood. I asked
Dr. Jay how he was and he was worried too. If we didn’t launch
tonight, we would have to move to a September or later launch. The
shuttle Columbia was going in a refit after our launch. This was the
only shuttle that could fit our telescope and once it went in for
refit, our telescope wouldn’t fit. A delay in launch would delay the
refit and NASA didn’t want that.

Back in Cambridge, our guys did some serious math and determined how
long the launch window could be. They gave a drop dead time of 2:20
a.m. Ok, that gave us a 2 hour launch window. Better than the night

We spent the day at the beach, resting, panicking, feeling sick. It
was amazing how nerve racking a launch can be. At this point, I just
wanted to see Columbia get up safely.

That evening, we went back to Cocoa Beach, got back in our
busses. There was one less bus as some people had left to go home
already. We were not ready to give up.

The weather was calm, like on the 20th. The start of the launch window
was 12:24 a.m. We were ready. Columbia was ready. Would we go?
We got past the T-9 hold, then got the camera all ready (again) at the
T-3 mark.

Down to 30 seconds…20 seconds…T-10 seconds,
9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1 We have LIFT OFF!

At T+8seconds, the control passes from Kennedy Space Center to Mission
Control in Houston. As we were celebrating on the ground, we heard
Cmd. Collins report an error. They were showing a problem with the
hydrogen sensors. There was a brief discussion of launch abort and
turn around, but that was nixed quickly. It was later determined there
was a hydrogen leak on launch. Columbia ended up 700 miles short of
where it should have because of the leak.

We watch and as we got close to T+60 seconds, we all get quiet
again. Around T+70 seconds, the command of "Throttle Up" is
given. This was the last command given to the crew of the shuttle
Challenger. We all held our collective breaths.

"Throttle up" And a good acceleration happened! Whew! We watched the
solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) fall away from shuttle (at this point,
the shuttle was a bright star and the SRBs were two points that fell

When Columbia had reached orbit some 8 minutes after lift off, we all
cheered and got back to the busses. Now the real work was to begin!


For more photos of the launch, please follow this LINK.

Launch Part III

After a day of sun, fun, rain (it was July in Orlando) and drinks at
Pleasure Island (a rip off, BTW), we got ready for another launch
attempt. It was July 21, 1999. Again, the launch would be early the
next morning. Dr. Jay and I spent a while hanging around Cocoa Beach,
had some time with my parents and just enjoyed the beautiful Florida
weather. This day, it did not rain. It was just simply beautiful.

We did a repeat of the 19th, except without so much food! The party
that we had the first night was not there. But we were all pretty darn
excited again. We got our launch passes again and our white buses to
take us to the Cape. A few of us noticed lightning in the
distance. This is not a good thing. The weather requirments for launch
are very strict about lightning.
My boss at the time, K, said he had called the weather line for launch
and it had claimed 100% chance of launch that night. We all smiled and
said good, good, but it nagged at the back of our minds.

We did discoved that the hydrogen senor had spiked for mysterious
reasons. There was no reason to assume that there would be a repeat. A
test of the system found no problems 8 seconds after the launch was
aborted. We were lucky. The launch had been stopped just before the
main engines ignited. If they had, we would have had a massive delay
in launch. It is just not possible to ready the shuttle for another
launch that quickly.

With T-20 on the countdown clock, the lightning got worse and it was
reported that there was a storm cell within 10 nautical miles of Pad
. This was not good. Check out that link above. It is not safe for
the shuttle to launch with lightning that close.

The clock went down through the normal holds and then there was a
decision to place a hold at T-5 minutes. We would try to wait out the
storm. We could hear our co-workers over the loud speakers. KSC
controlers were trying to evaluate how large was our launch window,
really. It was 46 minutes and we could extend it only to 50 minutes.
If we launched at the wrong time, then the shuttle would be in the
wrong orbit to deploy our telescope. This is very precise stuff.

We waited. And waited. And we heard our people back at the Operations
Control Center in Cambridge,MA trying to determine just how long we
could wait. We were able to extend the window by another 6 minutes
when our guys back home were frantically doing the math. It was
determined yet another 4 minutes could be added. 1:24am would be the
drop dead time. We could not launch later than that.

At 1:19am, there was a lightning strike 8 nautical miles from the
shuttle. The launch was scrubbed at that point because we would need
to wait 30 minutes from that point, and we would have passed the
launch window.

We got back on the busses, a lot more of us feeling ill. We needed to
launch and soon. We only had a few more days of this launch window. If
we could not launch within the next 48 hours, we would be delayed for
several months.

The guys back in Cambridge started to work on how long we could make
the launch window (on both ends) for the next day.

Launch Part II

The story continues…

We are all counting down together.
"10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1", BUT THE SHUTTLE HASN’T
MOVED! We are all shh’ing each other desperately trying to hear what
is going on. They are broadcasting the communication between the
shuttle and mission control over the load speakers.

This is what we heard.(Roughly, It’s been a few years)

"We have an anomaly on the hydrogen sensors" (mission control)
"Copy that" (Cmd. Collins)
"We’ve had a launch abort" (mission control)

Then everyone is dead silent. Imagine about a hundred people all
silent. We can still see the shuttle on the pad, illuminated by the
lights. A few people have radios turned on that do a play by play of
the launch. They start explaining that a hydrogen sensor spiked at T-7
seconds. The person in charge of that sensor aborted the launch based
on that.

We filed back into the buses. I felt sick to my stomach. Some of the
other scientists were trying frantically to call back to our control
center. We had 4 days of launch window and we just lost 2. Once you
get to a certain point in the launch, you must take a day to reset for
the next launch. Plus, we needed to find out what happened to the

We got back to the hotel, crashed and went to Disney the next day. Our
next attempt would be early July 22, 1999.
(to be continued)

Launch Part I

I was thinking when I was writing my post about sleep, that I have
never really mentioned our launch. I think it would be cool to relate
our launch and so here it goes!

Dr. Jay and I joined this project in 1996. He got a job first, and I
applied to everything under the sun (literally) at the SAO. I knew he
would be working here and my teaching certificate (another post in the
future) was not getting me interviews. I inquired about 10 jobs in
teaching in this area, but nobody was interested. So I tackled this
from the astronomy vantage. There were 5 jobs available that I applied for at SAO and I was called in May for an interview. I had the job in the bag by
the time I was back on Long Island. I actually started 2 weeks before
Dr. Jay.

I have forgotten when the original launch was to take place. The
issues with the Hubble mirrors set us back a few years. In 1996, there
were issues with the connections in my instrument, so we were delayed
just a bit longer. We did a full vacuum test at the X-ray Calibration
Facility (XRCF) at Marshall Space Flight Center. Those were fun days!
I could write and write about those days.

We finally got a launch date of July 20, 1999. For those of you who
know space, this is the day that man first set foot on the moon, 30
years earlier. Very very important! And our mission was the first with
a female commander. This was personally important to me. We got
special launch passes to watch at one of the remote sites. Only the
"special" people could watch at Banana Creek (near the Saturn V building). Like Hillary and Harvey.

I invited my parents to come with us. We got down to Florida all a
flutter! We were going to see a launch! And not just any launch OUR
launch! Based on where we needed to be to get to our final
orbit, we had to launch at night. A night launch is absolutely

We arrived at Cocoa Beach around 5 pm on July 19, 1999. The launch was
to be around midnight or so. We got our festive party hats on and we
smoozed with everyone on the project. The sheer elation going through
the group was like electricity. Some people had been working on this
project for YEARS. As in 20 or more years. We were informed that the
buses were ready. Imagine a large group of scientists acting like giddy
teenagers getting on these white school buses heading to Cape
Canaveral. We all talked about how much work there would be, who had
seen a launch before, what it would be like to watch the main engines
glow and watch the SRB fall to the ocean.

I think we arrived at the launch viewing area by 10pm. It was a
typical summer night in Florida. There were no clouds in the sky. We
enjoyed watching the stars and watching the guards. There were several
guards around us. They all had these amazing shotguns on them. They
were our gator protectors. I felt creepy watching them walk around and
I stayed AWAY from the water.

It was as if there was a carnival. There were booths set up with
T-shirts, people had special cards with our patch on it that you would
get postmarked by the Kennedy Space Center post office on the day of
the launch.

The waiting was tough, but we got through the T-9 hold and then we
were getting excited!(For a quick review of what happens after the T-9
minute hold,  click HERE.)
Then we got to T-30 seconds. Dr. Jay had the shuttle lined up in his
lens. This was so cool! T-20. You could feel the tension in the air!
T-10,T-9,T-8,T-7,T-6…T-6,T-6. Um, what happened?….
The launch stopped here…

If I fall asleep

I haven’t been posting much this week. I’ve been busily working on a specification for software and MAN, is it hard! I used to program software in my previous job. I never got a decent spec. Most of the time it was something that was scribbled on paper from the recycling bin. I would photocopy these and stick them in a folder as my documentation.

No, this won’t do. We are planning a major change to the instrument commanding, and I need to get this spec right. So I’ve been busy at it.  My boss will be in to review it soon, so my proof-reading minions (IE, fellow team members) are reading it up for me.

J found a ton of errors in the draft I passed out this morning. Why? let’s see. I did those edits at 8pm, while the girls were getting ready for bed and then more at 11pm when Luna woke up. After Dr. Jay had been with her for an hour, I took over. The best that we can figure, the poor kiddo had her first night terror. She was crying so much that she was dry-heaving. Unfortunately, we woke her from her night terror as we were CLUELESS as to what was going on.  She then proceeded to stay up. Until 3AM. Yes, I got to bed at 3AM. OMG. I rarely do that without alcohol being involved. We went for a drive. We discovered things: such as the traffic lights outside of the Alewife T station go on the blink at 1AM. The Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru at the Fresh Pond Rotary stays open 24 hours. And it takes credit cards which is awesome at 1 in the morning when you are driving around Greater Boston in your jammies and the only money you have is the spare credit card in your glove compartment. I discovered that I actually think of traffic circles as rotaries. But I don’t think I am a true Bostonian yet, as I still believe those IN the rotary have right of way over those ENTERING the rotary. True Bostonians believe the opposite. I learned that you should not edit a document for work at 2 am when your daughter is watching Barney. I learned that my brakes are good and I could stop 6 inches from a deer that decided to jump in front of my car when I was 1/4 mile from the house.


Please pardon me as I fall asleep now….

Happy Valentine’s Day

Ah ha! Finally, something rivaling Rod! I just got back from a workout to find a thick card on my keyboard. It was a valentine’s day card from Dr. Jay with a certificate for an hour long massage at my local spa AND he scheduled the appointment for Saturday already when his parents will be here to help with the girls.

Thanks babe, I love you!

I really want a new kitchen, but not this way!

I am jealous of Sparky’s new kitchen. Really. And Johnny is working on his construction too. So last night, I decided to move along our plans for  redoing our kitchen.

Mondays are Mommy Mondays and after a busy day with the girls, I started making dinner. I was burnt out and when Dr. Jay got home, I started nuking the veggies. When Dr. Jay came into the kitchen his first words were, "what’s burning?"

Hmm, That is a funny smell, I thought. It smells like that time in Physics lab when Salman and I had the wrong transformer and wired it so the voltage was going to the output pin and it exploded in the lab… OH SHIT!
I ran to the microwave, turned it off and took of the lid that I had grabbed to cover the veggies..It was a glass lid, but in my brain fried moment, I forgot that it had a METAL SCREW holding the handle and the METAL ring to the lid.

Oh man, Brain dead moment!!!