Thursday, May 7, 2015

FOLLOW YOUR PASSION: What I learned at Kennedy Space Center

On March 20th I was perusing Twitter and I saw NASA had tweeted about an opportunity to attend the Space X Falcon 9 launch in April and be a part of NASA's social media team. I thought to myself, how cool it would be to see a rocket launch (especially since I'm writing a novel about space). I filled out the application, became preoccupied with life, and forgot about it. Little did I know how much filling out that application would change my life.

Seven days later I received an email from NASA Social congratulating me as an attendee to the media events and launch of the Space X CRS-6 cargo resupply flight. It was an unexpected e-mail. It was an email I had to read several times before it really sank in. And then I ran up the stairs, hands flailing, grin so wide it hurt, and told my best friend (who was trying to put a baby to sleep) in an excited whisper, that I was going to see a rocket launch.

There is so much I want to share about my experiences of being a part of the NASA Social Media Team. But today I want to talk about how an astronaut and a massage therapist inspired me.

After an exciting day of touring the Vehicle Assembly Building; standing at Launch Complex 40 and seeing the actual Falcon 9 Rocket and Dragon; gazing in awe at the historic Launch Complex 39A where the space shuttle missions flew from; we got to meet an astronaut! Director of Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, is a marine, pilot, former astronaut, and an American hero. He stood against the backdrop of the Vehicle Assembly Building (which has housed everything from Apollo, space shuttles, and new SLS Rockets) and inspired us.

There is a prevalent enthusiasm that fills Kennedy Space Center for all things space related and for NASA's next goal, which is to put a person on Mars.  Bob Cabana, said it best, "I want to see boots on Mars in my lifetime."

Mr. Cabana said that at a recent NASA meeting a distinction was made between being an explorer and a pioneer. An explorer is someone who leaves home goes to new territory, studies it, and returns home. But, a pioneer is someone who leaves home goes to uncharted territory and establishes a permanence, a settlement. 

NASA wants to be a pioneer.

I've never heard anyone make that distinction before. It was inspiring. It was exciting. 

A NASA Social member, Lauren Phillips (a champion of STEM education), told Mr. Cabana that she would be skyping with an elementary school later and asked if he had any advice for them? He told the children to do their best in school. And if their absolute best was a C, then that was ok. But to always do your best. He went on to talk about finding your passion in life and pursuing it. He talked about the importance of setting goals and never giving up. Mr. Cabana admitted that if he had given up the first time he wasn't admitted to pilot school or the first time he had applied to the astronaut program, well then he would have never been a pilot or astronaut.

Mr. Cabana's words warmed my heart and encouraged and excited me to stay focused and enthusiastic about achieving my own goals. Here's a picture of some of the NASA Social Media Team with Mr. Bob Cabana.

After the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket was scrubbed later that afternoon because of anvil clouds, a group of us decided to go to a mexican restaurant to drown our sorrows in guacamole and cheese dip. While we were there a woman who was dining at the restaurant approached us, asking if we were a part of NASA. Many of us still had our credentials looped around our necks. We told her that we were the NASA social media team. And with no explanation at first, she asked us all to touch a pendant hanging from her neck. One by one, she walked around our table so we could touch this (photo courtesy of Troy Myatt):

It was a very cool space shuttle pendant, but I honestly had no clue why she had shared her pendant with all of us. She went on to tell us how she had grown up in New York and had been fascinated with space since she was a child, and how no one in her family had understood why she loved space so much. She talked about how important it was to follow your passions and never give up on your dreams. And she told us how the little girl from New York, who loved outer space so much, ended up moving to Florida and became a massage therapist at Kennedy Space Center. How she had the privilege of meeting astronauts and NASA officials, helping them with their aches and pains, and how in her own way she was getting to be a part of the space program.

The space shuttle pendant had belonged to an astronaut who had worn it around her neck when she flew on STS-130 on the space shuttle Endeavour. And when the astronaut returned to Earth she gave the pendant to her friend and massage therapist. 

This sweet woman from New York, who is passionate about space and NASA Kennedy Space Center, never gave up on her passion, and says she ended up with the coolest job in the world. She urged us to never give up on our own dreams. Everyday she wears the space shuttle pendant, something that had actually flown on a space shuttle and been in space, and she had shared that with us. We had actually gotten to touch something that had been in space. 

I'll post more stories like this in coming weeks, but wanted to start here first, with the day there was a scrubbed a rocket launch, but an astronaut and a massage therapist told us to follow our passion and never give up.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I'm so happy for you! Thank you for sharing this. I needed it. =)