Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Mars Finding Everyone Is Talking About, But No One Quite Knows What It Is Yet...

My creation. 

According to our buddies at Caltech and JPL, Mars Curiosity has made a huge Mars discovery that "is gonna be one for the history books," according to a report to NPR by chief scientist John Grotzinger. SPACE.com has the full report on the big discovery that everyone is talking about, but no one is quite sure what it is as of yet. 

Can you guess what this big find is? Here are some of mine: 
  • Curiosity discovered Tupac and Ian Curtis hanging out, together, by the Martian DoubleTree Hilton pool and trading pop music war stories; 
  • Curiosity found that Viking 1 and Viking 2 made Viking love and had many Viking babies, who are now around my age (34 – 35); 
  • Curiosity discovered that John Young had somehow visited Mars on the sly during the 1970s when no one was looking, bringing his number of spaceflights to seven (or eight, depending on if you count him lifting off from the Moon as a "spaceflight"); 
  • Curiosity found that lakes on Mars actually contained Pepsi; or
  • Curiosity located the cast of Lost in Gale Crater, thus ending the extreme confusion over the show's hasty ending. 
Do you have any guesses as to what Curiosity discovered on Mars? Leave them in the comments. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oh S--t, Jack Attack is Back: Jack Swigert of the Week, LEM-Style

"Does this LEM come with ladies? What? It was just a question." International playboy Jack Swigert in a 1966 NASA portrait, featuring an autopen signature.

The Enduring Mystique of John Young

When smoke gets in your eyes: 1965 Life magazine photo. 

In September, John Young's autobiography Forever Young, edited by Neil Armstrong's biographer James Hansen, was released at long last. So far, the biography has received mixed reviews – there are, alas, some factual errors in the book. Memory is fallible and John Young is 82 years old. However, there was one fact Young finally admitted to in the book that piqued my interest.

In the chapter discussing his childhood, Young remembered something from when he was merely five years old, which had to have taken place circa 1935 or 1936. One night, his mother was taken from the family's home in a funny-looking nightgown. Years later, Young realized what the nightgown really was – it was a straitjacket. 

John had no idea his mother had schizophrenia, a mental illness that is not understood well in 2012, much less in the mid-1930s. His mother, Wanda, was taken to Florida's state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which at best was a grim place; it was Florida's only state institution until 1947. Despite having absentee parents (his father, Hugh, was away during most of his childhood due to World War II), John succeeded in school and would attend Georgia Tech, taking a US Navy commission upon graduation. The rest, as they say, was history; John Young ended up becoming a test pilot and one of the most iconic US astronauts. He made it all look incredibly easy, in retrospect. 

Maybe I'm reading way too much into the admission that John Young grew up without a mother, but to me, this shed some light upon the enduring enigma that is his life. Young is rather famously shy and quiet about press attention and often looked fairly uncomfortable in the spotlight, starting as early as 1962 when he and his fellow New Nine colleagues were paraded around at various NASA press conferences. This shyness persisted through his last known public appearances in the last decade, around 2009. Even his Gemini 10 partner, Mike Collins, described him as "mysterious" in his 1973 book, Carrying the Fire. Collins made it clear that despite the hundreds of hours he spent with Young, he didn't really "know" him. 

Maybe John was nervous about people knowing too much about him and making judgments based on his family history. Maybe there was part of him slightly terrified of possibly being compared to his own mother, despite his calmness and noted reticence. Or maybe he just wanted some peace and quiet away from the glare of the flashbulbs. Who knows – as far as I know, John won't be available to talk about these things. Despite the release of his autobiography, John Young is still a closed book. Perhaps that's how he would have wanted it. 

What I do know is that despite some of the errors in the book, Forever Young is essential reading for space buffs. John's memories of Gus Grissom – an astronaut whose life was even more of a mystery, due to his untimely early death – are wonderful and deserve attention. It just strikes me that in a bid to get closer to the public – and with the admission of a somewhat flawed, less-than-perfect childhood – John Young remains more of a mystery than ever, even after setting down his life story on paper. What a way to say one final "goodbye" to public life.

1963 Life magazine photo. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day

To my fellow veterans, regardless of branch...thank you for your service. Emily (Howlett) Carney, USN, 1997 - 2003

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Julie Jones: Cape Canaveral Nurse" Alternate Ending? Why Not...

Could you love a man who lived with danger? Read on. 

At the ASF Astronaut Autograph Show this weekend, Francis French had some copies of 1960s NASA nurse romance novels, which were a real thing back then. He was with Dee O'Hara, who was THE NASA nurse, and is a legend in her own right. 

I've never read these books, but I read the back blurb once...the plot detailed Nurse Jones' frustrations at being in love with some high-flying doctor who was in a dangerous position in the space program. However, of course This Space Available wasn't happy with the plot and wrote what probably really happened. Here is, for the first time since 1963, the new, alternate ending to Julie Jones: Cape Canaveral Nurse...after the jump!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

ASF's Astronaut Autograph Show...Part 2

Me talking Apollo 12 party times with Dick Gordon (left) and Sweet Al Bean (right.) Thank you, Kristen, for taking this photo!

ALAN BEAN (Apollo 12 and Skylab 3) and DICK GORDON (Gemini 11 and Apollo 12): Adorable. We talked about Pete Conrad for a few minutes, which was downright surreal. Oh my goodness. 

JOE KERWIN (Skylab 2) and PAUL WEITZ (Skylab 2 and STS-6): Kerwin was downright adorable (word of the day) and very talkative. His former crew mate, Paul Weitz, was very soft-spoken and funny. I am a longtime Skylab fangirl and I am honored to possess their autographs. They were awesome and a lot of fun to chat with. 

I also met tons more of iconic astronauts - the photos are in this album on Facebook. All in all, it was a very positive and fun experience...I highly recommend this autograph show experience to all space buffs. I also was honored to meet Francis French, an awesome author, and Dee O'Hara, NASA's go-to nurse in its golden era. It was just so much fun, gah. 

I would also like to thank my friend Jonathan Ward for taking tons of awesome photos, J.L. Pickering (in addition...the Gemini 4 Retro Space Images disc is amazing) and Tim Gagnon, space artist and maker of awesome commemorative patches. I am probably missing lots of people, but I thank you all, especially the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation for putting together such a diverse and awesome range of personalities in one place. I'll be there again in 2013!

ASF's 2012 Astronaut Autograph Show Round Up...Part 1

"What is this about space hipsters? SUMBITCH." Gene Cernan, Last Man in Your Face™, with me, November 3, 2012. 

So, I went to my first ASF Astronaut Autograph Show yesterday and had a total blast (pardon the pun). Here's my round up of all the different, ahem, personalities there. 

GENE CERNAN (Gemini 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo 17): Gruff. Showed him This Space Available on my phone and he also manhandled my copy of Falling to Earth. He's a lot like Tom Stafford (which is not shocking). However, he was very cool and very...Gene-like. BEST QUOTE: "What the hell is a 'space blog'?" (Upon showing him this blog on my iPhone.)

I AM NOT STALKING DAVE SCOTT HERE. Not even a little bit.

DAVE SCOTT (Gemini 8, Apollo 9 and Apollo 15): Dave will not pose for photos unless you purchase his autograph, which was not shocking. However, he wasn't rude. In fact, he was...hilariously flirty and winked at me. Handsome Dave Scott™ lived up to his promise as one of NASA's oddest, inscrutable, flirtiest divaz. He's still handsome, laydeez!


 JIM MCDIVITT (Gemini 4 and Apollo 9): Jim McDivitt is awesome. If Jim McDivitt ran for president, I'd vote for him each election year. If GI Joe made a Jim McDivitt doll, I'd probably own 40. He was absolutely hilarious, friendly, warm and talkative. BEST QUOTES: "Damn, look at that handsome young man." (Upon looking at a 1965 photo of himself in a Gemini spacesuit.) Also: "I'm 83. I don't remember what happened this morning...much less in 1965." 

There are plenty more hilarious, awesome moments to share, so I'll continue with Part 2 later...also, I have lots of thanks to give to tons of wonderful people I was blessed to meet this weekend!