Guest post by Ashley Crockett
Fast forward just a few weeks, and I’m parking a couple hundred yards away from a 363-foot tall replica of Saturn V. After managing to tear myself away from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center gift shop, I sign in and am handed a bag with a schedule and some goodies.
The #NASASocial participants converge for the first time in an auditorium for introductions, where we learn that we have been invited to the VIP premiere of “Space Warriors.” Several of the film’s child actors, as well as those central to its conception and production, were introduced and then seated throughout the theater. As the movie began, I noted how surreal it was to see Thomas Horn on the screen, only to be able to look down one row and over a few seats to see him in person.
After the film, a question-and-answer session was held, which allowed eight key people from the movie’s production, including three of the child actors – Thomas Horn, Ryan Simpkins and Grayson Russell – to share their experiences and insights from filming.
During the Q&A, the moderator pointed out the former astronaut Owen Garriott was in the audience. When he stood up to say a few words, I immediately realized that he’d been sitting two seats away from me the entire time. Suffice it to say, I and the #NASASocial participants seated near me completely geeked out over the whole thing.
The next day began bright and early with an overview of our schedule and a visit from Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Patrick Scheuerman, director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, and Jeri Buchholz from NASA HQ.
Let’s let Hollywood continue to make the movies, and let NASA continue to make the history” - Patrick Scheuerman
We were then released into the wilds of the Great Moonbuggy Race. A small group of us began exploring, and three of us (myself, Mindy Rawls and Willie Weaver, a retired NASA engineer) ended up being interviewed on NASA TV about the #Moonbuggy #NASASocial and ourselves.
I then found my assigned team, who were from the Cape Girardeau Career & Tech Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo., just in time to go through the race prep and start process. I shared pictures and information as we progressed through the compliance checks, which included very specific regulations for size and weight.
My team was optimistic, since they hadn’t encountered any major setbacks before the race. Unfortunately, they crashed and snagged on a hay bale during the race, which damaged their moonbuggy and prevented them from finishing the race. (On a positive note, one of the team members later won a book autographed by the team of original lunar rover engineers.)
After lunch, the #NASASocial participants regrouped and set out for the Marshall Space Flight Center. We were shown a newly-produced video that gave an overview of the work done at Marshall, then headed over to actually see some of it.
First up – virtual image scanning. This technology allows NASA to reverse engineer practically anything.
Next up was 3D printing and laser cuttings. Two tables in the center of the room had dozens of items that had been created using these technologies, and two machines whirred as they created more items.
We then learned about some of the life support systems used on the International Space Station and other space craft…
Our last stop featured friction stir welding. A bolt is spun around and around, which creates friction that produces more and more heat, and actually stirs together the metals of the pieces being combined. This process creates almost 100 percent joint efficiency.
Our tour continued at the ISS Payload Operations Center. We got to peek into the room where all of the real-time video and audio feeds from the station are monitored, and completed a repair activity in a replica of an ISS unit.
When we returned the the Space & Rocket Center, several of us decided to hit the gift shop until it was time for the Pizza & Pioneers event. I should note that by this point, we were all thoroughly exhausted but still loving every minute of the experience. The Pizza & Pioneers event was basically dinner and a movie with the original lunar rover engineering team. They took questions from the audience, which was composed of moonbuggy competitors and the #NASASocial tweeps, delighting us all with their recollections of their experiences.
After a few precious hours a sleep, we returned the next morning for more moonbuggy race action before heading out to the Aviation Challenge area. We had three activities available to us there: a tour of the historic aircraft, flight simulations and riding the centrifuge.
Because the centrifuge doesn’t have windows, you don’t feel like you’re going around and around in a giant circle. Instead, you just feel more pressure pushing down against you. It’s effect is similar to that of working out with resistance bands. Aviation Challenge attendees usually have a week to practice with the flight simulators. We had about 30 minutes to learn the basic controls and take to the air. I’m proud to say I only crashed twice – the first time because I was tweeting while flying (hey, it was a #NASASocial, after all!) and the second time because it was time to leave and I wanted to crash into the ocean. We took a quick lunch break, then met back at the Space & Rocket Center for a guided tour of the museum, a spin (literally) in the multi-axis trainer and a chance to explore the scale-models of various space craft.
Basically, we felt like giant kids running around playing with all the switches and communications systems. This was all a-OK our “camp counselor” Charlie, who said his favorite kind of camper is enthusiastic. As long as you’re willing to learn and are passionate about that, it’s a guarantee that you’ll love Space Camp – no matter if you’re 8 years old or 80.
To see more photos and information from my #Moonbuggy #NASASocial experience, check out my Twitter.
Joint meeting called to order. Quorum is present.
Previous meeting minutes approved.
First Commercial Bank – a resolution to change authorized signers to include Brooke Balch and remove Donnie Claxton. Two signatures are required on all checks over $5000. Motion passed.
Employee Benefit Plan Provider – a resolution to change providers from a local small company to a less expensive national provider that would include as providing a debit card for health and childcare accounts savings accounts. This will replace the old method of submitting paper forms and waiting for reimbursement. Motion approved.
Purchase Order for Estes Rocket Kits - Total cost is $132,000+ and the expenditure is budgeted. Purchase order approved.
Purchase order for center’s insurance through J. Smith Lanier (liability, worker’s comp, auto, etc). The quote is for $369,000. Questions arose around how often the center has bid this coverage in the past along with if the upward trend is due to the economy or due to the broker’s fees. Some board members think that the center should periodically go through the process of bidding out the broker services to ensure that the center is getting the best rate for future years. The purchase order was approved for $369,000.
Audit Purchase Order for Anglin · Reichmann · Snellgrove & Armstrong P.C. While the cost would fall under the CEO’s signature authority, the committee members requested to be the signing authority. The firm has committed to keep the pricing the same for three years but the board is only currently executing one year at this time. Purchase order approved.
Purchase order for State of Alabama Division of Risk Management for center buildings insurance $147,000. Center is mandated to carry this coverage through the state. Some discussion if the center could save money in the future if the mandate were to be removed and the center was able to reach out to private insurance companies. Several board members expressed interest in discussing with members of the state legislature for future years. Purchase order approved.
Space Camp Korea licensing agreement. The center recently welcomed several representives from the organization looking to open Space Camp Korea. After the visit the Korean representatives invited center leadership to visit their possible future site. The site will be near the 2018 Winter Olympics and the property is already in the hands of the investor. A draft licensing agreement has been reached by both sides. Board members were very impressed with the quality and speed in which the terms of this agreement as well as the future marketing potential. The clearance to proceed with finalizing agreement was passed by both committees.
Key items from CEO’s report.
Representives from the 10 NASA Visitors Center recently met at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The working group now has a new website (www.visitnasa.com) and is currently working on a passport program for their members.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center has established a partnership with NASA’s Intern Partnership program that will allow the center to hire Space Camp Crew Trainers from the program. This will provide the center access to a competitive nationwide list of candidates that have expressed interest in NASA’s programs..
Toyota has donated $10k to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in support of Space Camp programs. In exchange for the donation, Toyota will become the first team sponsor of 2013 season. The donation was timed to take place at the same time Endeavour was being moved to the California Science Center. See this article for more information.
New robotics program starts next year.
Bus barn improvements continue.
Shipping Wars is interested in helping with T-38 or G2 move.
United Launch Alliance exhibit now in Davidson Center.
USAMC letter of support.
Skylab hab and lab module will return to Davidson Center. Should be in place before January 31st event.
G2 will be here when center raises enough money.
Von Braun Archives.
Year end reports -
Met rolling fixed charge coverage ratio at 1.21.
FTE decrease of 13 from last year (332)
3014 sales per FTE.
Net operating revenue 1.5 million better than last year.
375295 avail, 139 outstanding.
Cash flow looks hairy in feb without any other licensing income.
- Contract status report -
2 P.O over 50k. Result of last meeting for museum and lawn care service.
Long term was 37% Short programs were 63%
Camp revenue was up $173,000 in revenue for a total near 12,500,000.
Visit to space camp turkey went well. Impressed with facility and staff. exceeded expectations and the software upgrade went well. Canada and Turkey payments are up to date.
Net change number going to be higher in order to contribute money to the center’s endowment. $95,000 and made $4,000 in interest.
Energy status – executed the TVA partners agreement, does allow the center to stay in play with the 12 cent rate. Looking possibly do a energy conservation audit. ESG has offered the audit at no cost.
Members of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission Business and Executive committees passed authorization today that will allow the center to offer early retirement packages to eligible employees. The center had drafted the plan last year when the State of Alabama was considering the effort as a way to save money. While the state effort fell through, the center decided to push forward with the plan. In all there are 16 center employees who meet the requirements for the program and center executives estimate 6 employees will take the offer. Those who accept will given $15,000 and per center policy their vacation leave will paid out while their sick leave paid out to their retirement plan. Eligible employees will have to notify the center by June 31 and be separated from the center by December 31st.
March 27 Update – > ASSEC Early Retirement 25MAR2013 Resolution