Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

This week I am learning the ropes in Flight Control Room - 1 (FCR-1 for short). I sit alongside ADCO specialists, watch them do their job, ask lots of questions, and help wherever possible! This session of training is called "cold on-the-job-training" because I am just observing what the ADCO specialist is doing. In a few weeks I will be working overnight to complete my "hot on-the-job-training" where I will do all the functions of my job as ADCO and a certified ADCO will be watching me to make sure I'm doing everything right. When all of that is done, including a sign off from the Flight Director, I will be able to literally "fly the ISS solo"!!!!

The fun part about working during the day is being on NASA TV (they don't normally record shows during the overnight hours when I will be working). Check out yours truly in the bottom left corner!!!


Every time I mention NASA TV it makes me think of my childhood neighbors. I used to babysit their daughter when I was in high school, which was the best gig ever because they had something I didn't - the NASA channel. When they came home to find me watching the NASA channel of all channels I never lived it down. Kelly does a perfect impression of the NASA channel's slow pace, "Annndddd theeeeennnn the astrooooonauuutssss willll beeee....." I wonder if he ever thought I would actually be ON that channel that I loved so much ;-)

The great part of sitting in the front row is being able to see some amazing video as ISS passes over Earth. Today I watched the Earth circle underneath while the Flight Controller in charge of the robotic arm moved it around the station. It was an incredible mashup of nature and machine - a perfect little Earth Day celebration! Happy Earth Day everyone!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Math:

644 days
+
47 technical classes
+
39 oral examinations
+
36 "mini" simulations
+
5 backroom simulations
+
12 front room simulations
+
1 certification qualification simulation
+
1 flight controller final simulation

=

A CERTIFIED ADCO OPERATOR!!!!!



Thank you all so much for the kind words and encouragement throughout this process. Two years ago I casually mentioned to Chris that I had applied for a few NASA flight controller positions, but, "I doubt anything will come of it." Famous last words. 

Chris had decided long before I did that applying to those positions meant we should just go ahead and reserve the moving truck. Throughout this entire process no one has been more encouraging, loving, caring, or compassionate than Chris. It amazes me everyday how much joy he finds in supporting my dreams, and believes in me even when I have trouble believing in myself. 
I'm a lucky girl. 

I'm also thankful for the incredible support from the Diabetes Online Community. By sharing my story, including successes and struggles, I have been connected to so many families that have shifted worry into hope for their T1 children. Together we can chip away at the stigma and limitations T1 inherently presents. 

And for all of you faithful readers, friends and family, of course I am constantly overwhelmed by your ability to keep me humble and support my (sometimes far-out) dreams. 

I may not be quite to my goal of being the first Diabetic in Space, but I feel absolutely over the moon about piloting the International Space Station!!!


Friday, April 10, 2015

Scenes From Last Weekend

Even though I am in the thick of training and simulations at NASA right now, it's always nice to have a break! Last weekend Chris and I traveled back home for a wedding...here are a few gems:

Chris enlisted mom's sewing help to make pocket squares for his suit!
We traveled up north to see my sister's house that she recently purchased! Proud sister moment!
Dressed up for the weddin'.
Just can't get enough of these desert sunsets. I appreciate the mountains so much more now that we live in Texas!!
Izzy was happy to see us when we returned!

Hope everyone has a great weekend! On Monday I have a final evaluation sim, so I could really use all of your positive energy!! I'm a little reluctant to publish it here on my blog in case I don't pass (which is not uncommon), but either way it goes y'all have been the best support so far and I owe it to my readers to give you the full story!

  I tell you, we got two categories of pilots around here. We got your prime pilots that get all the hot planes, and we got your pud-knockers who dream about getting the hot planes. Now what are you two pud-knockers gonna have? Huh? - The Right Stuff

Hoping to graduate from a pud-knocker to a prime [ISS] pilot on Monday! 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pre and Post

Last weekend Chris and I traveled to Arizona to attend my cousin's wedding! It was gorgeous weather and we had a lot of fun catching up with family that we only see...well, at weddings really.

Bit in the midst of Maundy Thursday, out-of-towners dinner, Easter and the wedding we took a moment to capture a tree house family photo, similar to the circa 1990 one on the right:

My grandma sent me the one on the right last year when I was collecting photos for my parents' 30th wedding anniversary, and I fell in love with it. We all look so gosh darn cute, my pouty face and all.

As I thought more about these pictures something jumped out at me...and it's not even something you can see in the photos. These moments in time represent so many "pre" and "posts"...dad pre-mustache-shave and post, mom pre-yoga-addict and post, Heather pre-walking-capability and post. But for me, I see a little girl (with ehemmm pouty face) pre-Diabetes and post. 

In the pre picture, she is probably cranky that Grandma made her stop playing and strike a pose. In the post picture, her body was worn out from a monster high blood sugar that she just couldn't shake. In the pre picture the little girl was self confident enough to kiss strange little boys in the airport, in the post picture her self confidence is hindered by needle scars. She has no idea in the pre picture that in the post she will be an expert at counting carbs and carry around bionic pancreases of sorts. That little girl is bugged by her annoying sister, but in the post she prays everyday that Diabetes doesn't take root in her sister's life.

In 25 years we have come a long way. Mom and dad have changed their lifestyle for the better, Heather is a sixth-grade math teacher, and I am an Aerospace Engineer. We have moved past pouty faces and pacifiers, now we face mortgages and motivation. Our lives have been woven with new fabric from new states and new relationships, but I'm thankful for these tree house junctions, sometimes physical and sometimes virtual, that remind us of our "roots" and inspire us to find peace and joy in the present moment. 

I can't wait to see what our next 25-year tree house photo will look like. 

Maybe it will be post-Diabetes-cure.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Simmin'

You guyz.

I asked for your positive energy for my evaluation sim and you delivered!!! I passed!!!!!!!

Since NASA is confusing sometimes, I will try to explain exactly what this means. I have a simulation about once per week. These are called "Integrated Simulations" and include all of the major flight control disciplines plus a few of the Russian mission control positions. When you have shown consistently "good" performance in all of the Flight Controller Performance Criteria categories and when your mentor and instructors feel you are ready, they will schedule a Certification Qualification (Cert Qual for short). Basically, this is an intermediate evaluation to determine if you are ready to take a "Final" simulation. After only three integrated sims, everyone agreed to let me take a Cert Qual! And this is what I passed last week!

So, if you're keeping score, I still have one more big and "Final" evaluation sim before I can start my two weeks of console on-the-job-training, and then I can fly the ISS solo!! Keep the positive energy flowing!

On a related note, tomorrow NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly is scheduled to launch to the ISS to begin a historic YEAR in space! The launch is planned for 2:42pm CDT and will be shown on NASA TV! You can view a pretty neat "trailer" by Time Magazine here. And tune into the launch for me, I will be in another simulation!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Table Space

"I feel so adult," he said as he sat across the table from me, typing away on his work laptop.

"Here we are talking about our finances and planning out America's next spacecraft. You know, just normal, adult conversations." I had to chuckle.

Even though Chris works a lot, and I am heading into a future that includes overnight shift work, there is nothing we would rather do. Contributing to America's space program is in our blood. And just those few words, a few nods to our reality, made me realize how incredibly lucky we are.

I sometimes joke about "living in a zoo" at work. Space Center Houston tours bring trams full of tourists onto the Johnson Space Center everyday, and I feel a little exposed walking through hallways near Mission Control or even walking to my car in the parking lot. I'm sure I'm the photo-bomb in many a tourist picture as they click away hoping to catch a glimpse of an honest-to-goodness astronaut.

But being here, at NASA, sort of brings it full circle for me. I was once those eager eyes on the outside, clinging to the words of the recorded tram messages, yearning to take lots of pictures to somehow relive the feeling of being at Mission Control. I proudly displayed my rocket and rocket engine pictures on the front of my Junior High binder (wow, do kids even have those anymore?!), and I always included "being an astronaut" in any and all "about me" projects. When I landed an internship at Boeing during high school I felt like a rock star, and while other kids were lucky to work a job at Target, I was driving 10 miles to the Boeing plant to work on multi-million dollar helicopters. Even in college I had to pinch myself every time I added a dream internship to my resume...NASA Space Grant, Orbital Sciences, Marshall Spaceflight Center. It felt like the universe could read my heart and put opportunities out there to meet it's desires.

And here I am. Midway through my planned trajectory - so far, mission success. I'm lucky to have a husband who challenges me intellectually and works so hard to support not only our little family, but our nation's space goals as well.

I can think of worse things than personal finances and America's next spacecraft two people could talk about over dinner ;-)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Kind of like your 16th birthday...

...well, not really.

As a PWD (person-with-diabetes) I often find myself in situations where I wish I could pull out my "Licensed Diabetic" card. You know, something that shows I can take care of myself, that I understand how to interpret Blood Glucose readings, that I know what a carbohydrate is and how to count them, that I understand how to dose and administer insulin, that I'm generally aware of my condition and make a conscious effort to control it to the best of my ability. It would act as a "get-out-of-limiting-situations" free card. [Ahem...it would also be available in your favorite color...]

It's not like its "that bad" to get a letter from your doctor, but it is just so gosh darn frequent. Every time someone mentions those words, "Yeah, I'm going to need a letter from your doctor," I imagine the boss from Office Space smearing his words over the cubical walls, "Yeaaaaaah, I'm going to need you to come in on Saturday." I feel like jumping up and shouting, "Take my blood, take my urine, shoot puffs of air in my eyes, dilate the crap out of them, look in my ears, test those too, take an EKG while you're at it!!!! But can we just skip the Doctor's note this year?! Really, I'm still a Diabetic, but things haven't changed, I still know how to take care of myself."

Ok, fine, you caught me, I'm in another round of renewing my Flight Controller Physical at NASA. And as my doctor thoroughly pointed out, they follow the guidelines laid out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Air Traffic Controllers (if you're curious check out App. B for Insulin Treated Diabetes Mellitus). Pro: Hurray for the process being a tiny bit better than getting my Class III special issuance, Con: still need a letter from my doctors (endo and eye doc). 

Don't get me wrong, I understand the importance of being healthy in this job. I am, after all, piloting a multi-billion dollar space station with 6 people onboard. I just feel like I am constantly asking for doctor's notes, and my endo is constantly wondering, "What in the world is she doing to warrant so many letters?" [Going where no Type 1 Diabetic has gone before...duuuhhhh]

Oh well, life continues, doctor's note after doctor's note. Side note: I have a big evaluation-type sim next week, so keep all that positive energy flowing!! So far it's been working great!!