A NASA BratPosted by RazorsKiss
As some of you may, or may not know, my father is the NASA Resident Chief Engineer for the Space Shuttle’s External Tank.
Today’s Space Shuttle launch was the culmination, for him, of over two years of grueling work to get the shuttle back into space. It involved the largest troubleshooting tree EVER created, several significant redesigns of the external tank, and an almost completely revamped way of doing business for NASA. My dad was involved in all of those, as well as the endless PR nightmare that was the days following the Columbia disaster. If you read it in a newspaper, saw a response to an allegation respecting the disaster, or saw a response to the various “theories” circulating around that disaster – my dad was probably the person that it originated with, prior to the “official” response from the PR division at NASA.
He was the “man on the spot”, and thus was very much in the spotlight for a significant amount of the investigation, and return to flight activities. He has worked some incredibly long hours, and participated in one of the largest investigations in the history of mankind, with one of the most sophisticated failure analysis schema every devised.
The result of all that work is now visible. You just saw it catapult into space today, atop it’s quintuple pillars of fiery thrust.
I’m one of very few people in the entire world who can say “my Dad is a NASA engineer”. I’m always proud to say it – but this is a day I wanted to publicly say it. I’m VERY proud of my father. He’s the son of a World War II fighter pilot, and the brother of an Air Force maintenance/aerospace technician. I was also an Air Force maintenance tech (but he was/is a lot better than I ever was). Aerospace is a family thing, for me.
This blog exists, because of him. My first video game was “Space Invaders”. I owned the first 3d space simulator – Elite. While playing that game, I came up with the “handle” I still use now as my virtual pilot’s call sign. I was 10, maybe 11. I was fed book after book of “hard” science fiction. Not the space operas – I read those on my own. Books written by physicists, engineers, and people who were closely involved with the space program. That was how I was raised to love science, the hard sciences in particular, and writing especially. Don’t get me wrong – I love Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Dickens, and Melville. Hard SF, like nothing else, gets my blood pumping.
It makes me want to write. It makes me want to read. For every “deep thinking” book of theology I read – I read 1 fantasy/gen. fiction, and at least one volume of historical literature. Then I devour a couple SF books at a sitting. My dad gave me my love of reading – my mom gave me my love of culture (including culture in reading). They both gave me a desire to learn, and taught me how to do that.
I’m SO very proud to say that my Dad is a NASA engineer. I am almost as proud to be a NASA brat – but not quite. Dad, great work – and I’ve enjoyed all the great conversations as you’ve plugged away for the last two years. How many people get to hear about the inner workings of NASA while standing in the kitchen sipping coffee, or jointly raiding the fridge?
That… is so unbelievably cool.
I know NASA is not the supreme object of devotion. Don’t worry, I really do know. It is, however, one of the coolest things humanity has done. Sending someone into space, and doing it in a vehicle that can come back – and be *re-used* is something we should never cease to wonder at.
God’s creation is, indeed, fearfully, and wonderfully made. We are drowning in our sins, this is true. We are also fearfully and wonderfully made. We’d have to be, to dream of – let alone succeed at – something so ambitious. I consider it nothing but a privilege to have a father involved in that fulfilled dream.
Imagine – your dad has a moon rock as his paperweight at work. He’s brought you to see the Space Shuttle land at Edwards. You’ve met astronauts – and they remember you. Your dad talks to astronauts all the time, and has funny (and heart-wrenching) stories to tell about them, and the test-pilot culture they reside in. Never forget – the people that fly in the Shuttle know FULL well what risks they are taking. It is only WE who forget it, and treat it like it’s just an everyday occurrence to send people into orbit in the most complex piece of machinery ever built by human hands, assembled in one of the largest buildings ever built by human hands.
They know. It’s truly a wonderful thing to see that – and realize that they retain that sense of wonder you seem to have misplaced, since childhood, when viewing the truly marvelous. that realization restores it, and brings a smile to your lips once again as you think of your mother chanting “go, baby GO!” as she has for every Shuttle launch you can remember, since the Challenger disaster. She understands. I still get a happy tear in my eye watching those plumes arc up into what seems infinity – and know that once again, we’ve shown that we are truly created in the image of God. A dim reflection, to be sure – but a certain, indisputable reflection of the Creator who gave us the faculties which enabled us to accomplish such a thing.
One final thing. My father, the quintessential engineer – is a believer in Christ. He teaches Sunday School, helps my mother as she runs our church’s music ministry, and is the father of 6 children. He too believes that our own efforts to do such seemingly miraculous things are a gift, bestowed by our Creator. I’m inclined to think that Creator is pleased with our baby steps imitating His majestic creative genius. I’m also inclined to think that He smiles, every time one of our incredibly complex tinkertoys escapes the pull of gravity, and begins to orbit the blue, green and white sphere we call home. The way a proud father delights in the accomplishments of his children. The way my father has never failed to praise my accomplishments, regardless of how infantile they seem in comparison to his.
To him, they ARE something.
To me – he’s a hero.
He’s my Dad.