Monday, March 22, 2010

Thirty One Weeks!

Photo credit: NASA
This pregnancy is rolling the crawler to the launch pad. One mile an hour with an enormous effing payload. Why so slow? So the gears don't grind down and overheat under the strain.

Yeah. This is pretty much what I feel like this morning. Good news: I gained two pounds last week. Bad news: Lower back pain has me cranky. Good thing I won't have to lie about that persnickety pre-existing condition, a skiing injury from the age of twelve, any longer! Whew. That's a big load off my...err...back.

So. Thirty-one weeks down, who knows how many to go. I thought I'd do something cute to commemorate the final weeks or days remaining in the pregnancy...and since I don't really know for certain how many days remain, I'll stick with counting up, measuring my progression in the T-plus, time-elapsed sense. Since I'm a space geek, and feeling pretty geeky this morning, I'll stick with the space flight history theme. Doesn't mean I'll pick space every week, but since space flight educator and NASA historian are two hats I've worn in the past, I'll stick with what I know today. Makes me sound smarter than I feel lately; my pregnant brain is probably made of swiss cheese, just like the Moon.

Bruce McCandless. Photo credit: NASA
Ah, the ill-fated Hubble Space Telescope deploy mission. Not that the mission itself was ill-fated, but Hubble was. Launched twenty years ago, in April of 1990 on Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery, soon after becoming operational on orbit, Hubble Space Telescope was discovered to have a flaw on its mirror. The crew roster of STS-31 is filled with names in the history books: Charles Bolden, Pilot--now the present-day NASA Administrator; Kathryn Sullivan, Mission Specialist--the first American woman to perform a space walk; Bruce McCandless, Mission Specialist--the first fellow to have used a free-floating space craft that attached to his space suit, called the Manned-Maneuvering Unit. The technology was abandoned as 'too dangerous.' Should there be a system failure and the astronaut float away from the shuttle orbiter, there would be no rescue. You've seen images of his test flights of the equipment. It's one of the most iconic astronaut images there are. In fact, if you type "astronaut" into Google search, this is the image you'll retrieve first.

Back to this mission: There was a great to-do about the gaff in Hubble's optical mirror, the butt of many late night television jokes and the subject of conjecture about 'wasteful spending' on programs like NASA in a time of recession (ah, yes, that's the ring of history repeating). That's not to say Hubble was completely blind. In fact, on my first day of college in August 1993, in my very first class--Astronomy for Majors--my professor strode into the classroom at the University of Texas at Austin and announced that the first two extra-solar system planets had been discovered the night before at the university's observatory, McDonald Observatory, located in West Texas. McDonald controlled all observation time on the Hubble. In December of that year, the 'rescue' mission was launched to correct Hubble's optics package.
Hubble Space Telescope. Photo credit: NASA
Hubble Space Telescope has become one of the most beloved pieces of technology ever produced by NASA. Just this past year, the final servicing mission was sent to Hubble, after both the scientific community and the general public protested NASA's decision to let Hubble fall silent; the cost of a servicing mission deemed too steep by government bean counters. The public and scientific community didn't think so, and a massive campaign to Save Hubble successfully resurrected at least a few more good years of observation time for a unique observatory that allows for study of the cosmos above the interference of the Earth's atmosphere.

Don't you feel smarter? You can thank me when you get this answer correct on Jeopardy.


  1. haha it is funny how you compare your pregnancy with the space shuttle, by the way I gave your blog an award, visit my blog to see, have a very nice day


  2. You are funny. Hang in there. You are in the home stretch!