Monday, November 28, 2011

An Absurd Adventurer in Space (Camp)! Part 3

Read about Caitlin's adventure to the Advanced Space Academy (Space Camp): part one and part two!

 Day 2: August 29, 2011 (part 2)
...I knew I was scuba diving afterwards and I was a bit nervous.

To get to the top of the tank we had to go up 5 flights of stairs! The pool was definitely creepy – it was really blue and on the walls, as wallpaper, were pictures of real astronauts training underwater. The tank is 24 feet deep, 30 feet in diameter, and 92 degrees Fahrenheit. We had to swim across and onto a platform where we learned how to get water out of the regulator, techniques for finding our regulator if it was knocked out of our mouth, how to hook up to an emergency air supply, and how to empty our goggles underwater. We then got to go down the ladder which takes a long time because you have to stop every few steps to unblock your ears and make sure everything is okay. Once down there, I played basketball, catch, and baseball…with a bowling ball! I built a pyramid and shot off a rocket and I also was able to lift a giant 100-pound ball over my head with one hand. It was quiet down there except when the bowling balls hit together or when someone taps on the glass – it now makes sense why you aren’t supposed to tap on the glass at an aquarium because it is very loud. After about 45 minutes down there, we slowly made our way to the surface. So far, the Underwater Astronaut Trainer has been my favorite thing to do even though I was originally terrified by it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Absurd Adventurer in Space (Camp!) Part 2

Read about Caitlin's Day 1 Adventures at the Advanced Space Academy HERE!

Day 2 (part 1) (August 29, 2011)

Today was simply amazing! I got up around 6AM and had breakfast – biscuits, bacon, and French toast (not exactly healthy, but it was good) and then we got to go get our flight suits. The guy who was giving them asked what size we were and I didn’t quite understand the fit of a flight suit, seeing as how I have yet to try one on until today. Eventually he just let us try them all on until we found our size (turns out, I’m a small) and then we took a group photo in them. We then got started on Alpha Mission.

For this mission, I was “Mission Specialist 1” which means that I was on the orbiter and would be doing repairs in the Payload Bay Area. The Payload Bay is part of the orbiter and it is open, allowing for repairs, but it can also be closed and used for storage. The area is exactly the same size as a Greyhound Bus. Once Mission Control gave us the OK for launch, my partner and I began our pre-flight physicals where we had to record our blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. Also, our blue flight suits are worn throughout every mission. Then, I climbed up to the cockpit for takeoff, which was controlled by our two pilots.

At T+5 minutes, my partner and I headed down to the middeck where we suited up to head to Payload Bay. We had to take off the flight suit, put on an ice vest, then the white flight suit, then the boots. After that we put on white cloth gloves and then our outer gloves. The headset was put on and then finally our helmet. Despite the ice vest and the fan in our helmet, it was still extremely hot in that suit. I then had to climb up the ladder and out of the orbiter to the Payload Bay. I was strapped onto a robotic arm that I controlled with a control pad and had to follow Mission Control’s instructions on how to fix the satellite. Basically I had to go up, plug in my
power supply, and follow the instructions of which buttons and switches to press. It took me FOREVER to get the plug in because you have to put it in and twist which was extremely difficult with those huge gloves on. Then I had to remove the antenna and hand it to Mission Specialist 2 who gave me a new one to replace it with. It was fun using the arm to get around but it was tricky. PS – you actually have to say things like ”Roger”, “copy”, “go”, “no-go”, and say when things are “nominal” or “not nominal.”

Then I returned to the orbiter, took my gear off and prepared for re-entry and landing. After that we ate lunch and I had some delicious grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, and sherbet. Next there was training for our Bravo mission before we got to work on the rockets we are building. We get to spray paint them so I’m thinking pale pink with black polka dots! We didn’t have much time to work on them because then we had to go to the IMAX Theater to see “Hubble.” It was awesome! The screen was way bigger than I thought it would be so it really felt like you were in space. I loved watching the rocket blastoff and seeing how graceful the astronauts manage to be even when while making repairs. After that we went to a briefing on companies who do private space flights so I made sure to take a ton of notes because I WILL do that someday. Then we ate supper and I had lasagna and garlic bread. I didn’t want to eat too much because I knew I was scuba diving afterwards and I was a bit nervous.

Come back soon to check out Caitlin's scuba diving adventure!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Absurd Adventurer in Space (Camp)! Part 1

Before Caitlin left for Space Camp, she decided to keep a very, VERY, detailed journal about everything she did and saw there which is very lucky for the rest of us who didn’t get to go and can live vicariously through her. For this series (An Absurd Adventurer in Space (Camp)!) you will read all of her own words. She has also included everything she ate because we are both obsessed with having good meals and telling each other about them.

Day 1 (August 28, 2011)

First day of Advanced Space Academy at the United StatesSpace and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama! It was a really pretty ride down, the mountains and the trees were nice, and the red dirt was too, but other than that there wasn’t much else unless I was interested in buying fireworks…

I got here around 12:30 today and…got some lunch in the cafeteria, a ham and cheese flatbread melt (the ham tasted like bacon so it was good), and then walked around a bit before orientation and this is one impressive place. It is so much bigger than I expected and I am amazed by the amount of stuff they have here. We got to see the Underwater Astronaut Trainer, which I was afraid of but it wasn’t quite as mechanic as I imagined, so it wasn’t too terrifying. We also got a sneak peek of the Multi-Axis Trainer, the 5 Degrees of Freedom Chair, the 1/6 Gravity Chair, and the Manned Maneuvering Unit. I honestly expected this week to be centered on those things alone but I can already tell that that is not the case.

Then I had an orientation where they showed us all the buildings and the way around. We also got to see where we will be doing our Flight Missions which will take place on a huge shuttle (it’s actually called an orbiter, which I learned today) with a fully functional Mission Control Room with computers, manuals, and headsets. After our tour, we gathered in the cafeteria where we began to design our mission patch. That, I think, will be worn on our flight suits. This was a little difficult because everyone had conflicting ideas and talked over each other but we’ll keep working on the patch later in the week. After that we ate dinner – pizza, carrots, Dr. Pepper, and chocolate cake (these details are for you, Kathryn.) I forgot to mention that we also went to the part of the museum that houses a partially functioning Saturn V rocket (the V represents the number of engines.) It was huge! Apparently it was built from a junkyard used specifically to story old parts of rockets.

At the end of the day we went to two meetings where they briefly discussed how space flight works, the different parts of a rocket, shuttle, and engine and they also went over our missions and the different roles and positions that are required to keep everything running smoothly. There will be more meetings/presentations that will go into greater detail on those subjects later in the week.

Then we went to the IMAX Theater and watched October Sky which was very good. It’s about a boy who no one believes in who wants to be in the space program and is eventually successful. There was also cheese and grapes to go along with the movie, which I loved, obviously! It’s pretty warm in the room I’m in but, other than that, everything is great!

P.S. There are tons of bats flying around outside!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Space Camp

Everyone knows about Space Camp, right?! It was the topic and title of a movie made in the 1980s and was often the grand prize on some great Nickelodeon game shows. It might have been on Double Dare, What Would You Do?, Nick Arcade…all we know is that we fondly remember watching many episodes and being SO JEALOUS that the winner got to go to Space Camp. It seemed so fun! You got to pretend to be an astronaut and wear a blue jumpsuit and sit in simulators and do…well, space-things. We’re not sure that we ever actually saw a contestant on one of these shows win the trip to Space Camp – which made it seem that much more mysterious and awesome. Did it really even exist? It was a lot like the trips to Universal Studios that were often offered but never won. Were these REAL places that REAL people could go to? We definitely had our doubts.

Well, guess who just went to Space Camp? 

Our very own Absurd Adventurer, Caitlin! She spent a week in Huntsville, Alabama at the United States Space and Rocket Center learning what it takes to become an astronaut, going through flight simulators, wearing that fun blue jumpsuit, trying out equipment, scuba diving, and touring rocket museums.

She ACTUALLY WENT TO SPACE CAMP! We have all the stories and pictures from her trip to show you and, since, it really was the adventure of a lifetime, we’ve decided to present her experiences in a series we’re calling AN ABSURD ADVENTURER IN SPACE (CAMP)! Make sure you come back often to read each new story, or better yet, sign up for our mailing list (on the right) to get each entry sent right to your email.

Here are two pictures to show you that this all actually happened and to get you excited for what is to come:

What do YOU want to know about Caitlin's adventure? Leave us a comment with your question!

Welcome new readers!

Well, hello! We've been getting a lot more visitors to our lil' ol' blog from a wonderful comment someone posted over at Smart, Pretty & Awkward and we would just like to say hello to all our new readers! We really hope that you like what you read and come back for more. Please, send us an email or leave a comment on a post - we would love to hear what you have to say!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stranded on an Island in a Thunderstorm (part 2)

Read "Part 1" here!

We wanted to leave at about 3:30 but didn't get everyone on board with the idea and packing up to go until about 4:30...when we saw really dark clouds start to roll in and heard thunder. Then came the heavy rain and lightening....

It wasn't just a heavy rain that we've seen before and knew would pass - we're talking a torrential downpour accompanied by lightening every 15-30 seconds, booming thunder that shook the ground, the darkest, most menacing-looking clouds we've ever seen, and no sign that it would start to pass any time soon. We all threw our towels over our heads and sat in a line on the long log bench we found, because, well...what else were we supposed to do?! Our only two choices were to shirk the traditional wisdom we've always heard and stay on the island surrounded by trees or get back in the boat to go home. We certainly were not going to go back into our little metal boat and risk the hour ride back (especially when it would have taken much longer than that on the lake which now looked like an ocean with very choppy waves) in a lightening storm - so we figured we'd at least be safer on land - despite the threat of one of the hundreds of trees around us being struck by lightening.

Even though we were all laughing at the ridiculous situation we now found ourselves in, we were started to get really scared! We were in the middle of the woods on a friggin' deserted island about an hour and a half from home during a really intense thunderstorm - of course we got scared! Every time we thought it was coming to an end, another, even worse round of rain, thunder, and lightening would pick up. As the minutes turned into a half hour, then an hour, we began to wonder if we would have to set up a makeshift camp and sleep there for the night!

All of a sudden, the winds began to blow so hard that we had to move all of our stuff behind one of the trees or we would have lost it all and the rain started to feel like little needles stabbing us. We started to laugh hysterically at the predicament we were in and also to convince ourselves that it was no big deal. We all huddled together in a circle because it started to get really cold - we were all shivering with goosebumps, we were soaking wet! We all had our towels up on our heads, which weighed a ton and were dripping. We were like a little group of witches all standing together like that in the woods in the middle of nowhere.

We finally decided to take advantage of a lull in the action and just go - even though some distant thunder could still be heard. We had to bail out the boat and then maneuver back down the (now slippery) tree trunk in our wet flip flops. We got going and our ride was very reminiscent of the lifeboat rides in "Titanic." We all had our life jackets on with our soaking wet, 10-pound towels wrapped around us, shivering (we were freezing by this point), with serious faces, no one talking or looking at each other. The hour and a half it took to get home felt like it took 8 and we had never been so happy to see a dock in our whole lives!

Once back home, it took us all a long time to get warm - we were freezing right down to our bones! Plus, with only one very low-flow shower and a small hot-water tank, conditions weren't great for the 5 of us to warm up quickly. However, seeing as how we doubted that we would ever actually be home again, we were definitely just happy to be out of the rain and off that stinkin' lake!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stranded on an Island in a Thunder Storm (part 1)

We made our annual pilgrimage to the great town of Eustis, Maine this summer and, for some reason, we were still surprised when we had one of the greatest adventures of our lives. If you've read our blog, you already know that although we vacation in Eustis every year, it's not exactly the most happening place in the world. Or in the country. Or the northeast. Or Maine. Or in the 30 mile radius between Maine and Canada. Anyway, what we're trying to say is that there is almost nothing to do in Eustis, Maine - but we have never had a shortage of fun or strange experiences while there, which is why we continue to go back and why it has become one of our favorite places in the world. (Check out our other Eustis posts here, here, and here!)

We decided to go out onto Flagstaff Lake for a nice day of boating and to have a picnic on one of the islands. And by "decided", I mean that we were told that's what we were going to do - and we weren't exactly excited about the idea. We've been on the lake many times, kayaking and boating, and we never saw any land that would be suitable to stop on. In our previous experience, we've only seen rocky shores, swampy water, downed tree branches, and overall dangerous-looking precipices not exactly conducive to a picnic. But, when you're in Eustis, Maine, any idea to do something is the idea that wins because there aren't too many ideas floating around.

So we all climbed into the little boat and set sail for about an hour, all of which was amazing. It was an overcast day which was great because it wasn't too hot and we weren't dying of skin cancer. The water was choppy, which always makes for a good time, and the views on Flagstaff Lake were absolutely beautiful. There are mountains completely surrounding the lake and and it is definitely worth going to if you ever get the chance. I don't know if we've ever seen such a serene, natural, beautiful landscape in all of our travels.

As we said, we were on the boat for about an hour until we reached our destination - which did not look like it could possibly be where we were actually stopping! We sort of crash-landed into some brush (Caitlin taking the brunt of that impact) and the only way to get up to land was to walk across a fallen tree trunk that stretched from its roots in the ground to the water.

Again, our hopes were not very high that it would be an enjoyable trip - and we were pleasantly surprised! The island turned out to be beautiful! It is actually a pretty popular camping spot, so there were fire pits and log-benches. The sun came out and we sat on rocks in the water eating sandwiches and reading books. It was windy so the bugs weren't too bad and everything just turned out to be way better than we expected!

But of course, everything eventually gets old and boring and we started getting antsy to leave. We wanted to leave at about 3:30 but didn't get everyone on board with the idea and packing up to go until about 4:30...when we saw really dark clouds start to roll in and heard thunder. Then came the heavy rain and lightening....

Stay tuned for part 2 of "Stranded on an Island in a Thunderstorm" coming soon!