January 31, 2015


Yup this is s phone. Not any ordinary phone. This is the phone that I had my first conversation with an astronaut on. 

It looks like for our upcoming show I'm going to teach a lesson to a class about space suits. Kids will build suits to protect their potato astronaut. Then an actual astronaut will help test them. 

Can't wait to see the look on their faces when I introduce our special guest. 

January 29, 2015

A Typical Day

Filming a broadcast yesterday was anything but typical.  Today was a more typical day for me.  Here is a run down of what a typical day for me looks like.

Proof that I really have worn my sweater that Sarah got me.

7:30: Get to work, walk past the Apollo IX command module and the Spirit of St. Louis on the way up to my office.

8:00: Write script and plan segments

9:00: Call an expert on orbital debris (who is on the DVD extra’s of the movie gravity)  and plan a segment involving him.  He tells me he will send me a PowerPoint presentation that has some of the things he will talk about

9:30: Get the PowerPoint presentation and spend the next half hour geeking out about how cool it is and how we can work it into the segment.  I’m trying to get one of my coworkers to let me throw a baseball at him to simulate the force of a 1mm piece of space junk hitting something.  That’s the only one we can simulate because it ramps up pretty quickly.  A 3mm piece of space junk is like getting shot with a bullet and a 10 cm piece of junk going at 17,500 mph is like a large bomb going off.  

10:30: Go down to the production studio to talk to the director, take the long way and sneak a feel of the moon rock while en route.

11:00: Set up a meeting with the a Geographer from the Center for Earth and Planetary Science at the Smithsonian, and the curator for the International Space Programs Collection.  

12:00: Lunch with a coworker (the one I wanted to throw the baseball at) and discussed ways to grow the audience, including the possibility of including some of my SVMS students on the next show (if you are a student of mine from this year, I don’t have any specific details yet but I will let you know).  We are working on getting a STEM in 30 Twitter and Facebook account set up.  

2:00: Meeting with the two people I mentioned above.  Started by talking to the curator about the launch key for Sputnik which is on display in the museum.  She is going to talk about it on the next show.  I made the off handed comment that, “I’m sure we can’t get it out.”  WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO GET IT OUT!  We also discussed at this meeting bringing in an astronaut to talk about space suits.  The geographer is going to be discussing satellites and he had some great ideas for an opening segment that is on the cheesy side.  Right up my alley.  

3:00: Retirement party for one of the ladies in HR.  They presented her with a really nice plaque, and a Smithsonian Flag that had flown on the Space Shuttle.  I wonder how many years I have to work at the Smithsonian to get a flag flown in space?

3:30: Went with a different coworker to look for something in a managers office (we were looking for the test plates used for the Space Shuttle where they shot pellets through metal plates to see the damage it would do).  We didn’t find what we were looking for but found a bunch of meteorites including one that was a part of the meteor that formed Meteor Crater in Arizona, and one that was made up of two asteroids that had collided and fused millions of years ago.  Yup, got my geek on a little bit.

4:00: Responded to a few more emails and worked on setting up a time with a class to perform an experiment for the next show.

5:00: Worked out in the Smithsonian gym

6:00: Walked through sleet to get home and now I’m typing this.  

If this is what a typical day continues to look like, I’m way good with a lot of typical days.

January 28, 2015

That's a Wrap

I’ve officially got two shows under my belt now.  Today was really great.  The amount of time and effort and equipment that goes into a 30 minute show is staggering.  There were about 9 people doing different things jobs.  The crew was absolutely amazing.  


Part of the equipment.  This was last night before any cables were run.

I thought both shows went pretty well.  I’m still learning a lot about being on camera.  Today was my first time wearing an IFB.  That is the thing that goes in your ear where someone can talk to you.  It is truly a skill to be talking, listen to what someone is saying, and do what they are telling you to, without losing your train of thought.  I wasn't super successful with it today, but luckily Tim, the guy in my ear didn't say too much while I was talking.  The biggest problem I had today with it was that it kept coming out and was flopping around my ear.  (This is where you can insert the big ears joke . . . I’m looking at you Matt).  

I really appreciate everyone that watched today.  The next show will be on February 18th and it is on Space Junk.  That will be the first show I’m in charge of planning.  Right now I’m working on getting a satellite expert, a curator to talk about space suits, and a guy to talk about orbital debris.  It should be a fun show.  It is looking like some of it will be filmed at the museum on the mall and some will be shot at the Udvar-Hazy center.  The live show will be in the brand new gallery dedicated to space walking.  If you can’t tell, I’m kind of enjoying the job.  I miss the kids like crazy (Sarah too), but the job is living up to the billing.

Cute Kid #1
Cute Kid #2

January 27, 2015

First Show

Tomorrow will be my first show.  They are on at 11:00 and 1:00 Eastern Time (That’s 10:00 and Noon for all you Central Time Zone people).  The second show will also be broadcast on NASA TV. The links to both are below.  The link to the STEM in 30 website will also allow you to participate during the show by submitting questions and interacting with a docent.

STEM in 30: http://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/stem-in-30/

January 24, 2015

The Metro, the Bus, and the Space Shuttle

Here are some random thoughts and adventures I've had this week.

The Metro
I've been riding the Metro to and from work every day.  It is awesome.  Runs on time, takes me two blocks from the museum, and in a couple months the Smithsonian pays for all of my commute.  But every day when I ride it I see something new.  

L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station
This week as I was coming in to work I had a couple thoughts.  The Metro is where you can be like Indiana Jones every day.  I haven’t done it yet but all the time I see people sprinting to the shutting doors and sliding in sideways just as they shut.  Usually it is a guy and usually they get that same goofy grin that Indiana Jones had.  

Also today I started a new game.  I watch people and see if I can pick out who the aliens are, like in the movie Men in Black.  Today I think I spotted three.  

The Bus
I've ridden the bus a couple times and it is pretty good.  Today was a different story.  The Udvar-Hazy Center (Another branch of the Air and Space Museum) was having their open house today.  To get there you take the Metro all the way to the end (an hour ride) then take a 30 minute bus ride to get to the museum.  Driving is a far better option, but since I don’t have a car, it wasn’t an option today.  I got up early got to the Metro no problem then I got on the bus.  It was the drivers first day and she had not a clue about where she was going.  We made it to our first stop okay, then the wheels fell off (figuratively).  At the first stop she asked another bus driver how to get to the next stop.  We made that one fine and made it to the airport okay.  Then she asked the three of us on the bus where the next stop was.  I told her it was the Air and Space Museum.  That threw her for a loop and she asked me if I knew how to get there.  I told her no.  She took off driving and looking at presumably a map.  Then asked again if I knew where to go.  When I told her I wasn’t the bus driver, she quit asking.  Then I got on Google maps and watched her blow past the turn.  We headed to the next stop.  At that point she got off and talked to someone and they had us get on another bus.  No problem except this bus was finishing a route so we went back to the airport, then finally made it to the museum.  

The Udvar-Hazy Center

SR-71 and Space Shuttle Discovery

Absolutely amazing!  I had been there before but not since they had gotten the Space Shuttle Discovery.  Today was open house day so everyone could go backstage and see the refurbishment lab, the archives, cold storage, and several other places.  They had some artifacts on display that normally aren’t including the filming model of the Star Trek Enterprise.  
Starship Enterprise
While I was there I watched part of a talk about the Space Shuttle Discovery and when it was over I got introduced to the curator.  I didn't ask if I could go inside . . . yet.  

Here are a few of my favorite pictures I took today.  If you could like to see more, click on the link below.
Flak Bait: WWII plane they are currently restoring
They couldn't be there with me today, but I was sure thinking about them.
Sector 7 Badge: I wonder how long I have to work here before I get one of these?
Udvar-Hazy Open House Pictures

Challenger and Columbia
It seems like every day I have some type of wow moment.  It is one of the perks of getting to be in the museum before it is open.  I’m currently working on a show for April about World War I.  I wanted to learn more so I went downstairs and spent an hour going through the exhibit before the museum was open.  I read everything and got to see the amount of detail that they put in the exhibit.  

Friday I took my good camera to work to take some pictures of the Spirit of St. Louis.  I also took a minute to walk through the Moving Beyond Earth gallery.  This is where we will film some of our shows.  I’ve been in the gallery a lot.  As I was looking around I noticed tucked in a corner of a display case was a mission patch from the Space Shuttle Challenger.  It was mounted with a small American Flag.  When I read the plaque it was on, I was stunned.  This was a flag and patch that were recovered from the wreckage.  A few feet away was a patch from the Columbia.  

Mission Patch and Flag that Flew on the Challenger
And to finish up, these last two pictures are for any of my students who are reading this. More poop bags. The green one is from Skylab and the other one is from Apollo. If you look closely you can see the finger slot for the "plop" on the Apollo bag. It is toward the top.
Skylab Poop Bag
Apollo Poop Bag

January 22, 2015


I finally got to move fully into my office.  There were delays in getting furniture and a computer.  So today was the first day I got to be in there the whole day and hang stuff on the walls.  

I got to hang this Space Shuttle Poster up in my office.  It was the first thing I hung up.  This poster has been hanging at my parents house since I was in 2nd grade.  Remember book orders?  I got one when I was in Mrs. Decker’s class and there was a Space Shuttle poster that I had to have.  I think it was a dollar.  After much begging and pleading, Mom ordered it for me.  When it came in Dad and I made a frame for it and it hung in my bedroom for years.

My Dad is the reason I have this job.  He’s the reason I am who I am.  That same year when we went to Disney World for vacation, we also went to Kennedy Space Center and got to see a shuttle on the pad.  I also counted a whole bunch of alligators while on the bus tour.  Dad took us to Civil War battlefields and museums.  He used to have Fridays off in the summer and we would hit every museum within a hundred miles.  He found out when they had animatronic dinosaurs at the museum in Lawrence Kansas.  Him and I stood in the rain at the crater in Petersburg Virginia, and got lost in a battlefield when he let my brother navigate.  We went to air shows and he only got a little mad when I put a dirty wash rag into the cooler of cold water. Through him I learned to love science and history and museums.  
Cool kids at an air show.
Civil War reenactment at school (Dad didn't really dress up that much)
Taking pictures of Air Force One in Topeka, KS.
Kennedy Space Center
Dad has been sick for a while.  He has alzheimers.  He has good days and he has not so good days.  When I told him I was taking a job with the Smithsonian he got a huge grin on his face and said congratulations.  He’s still around, but I miss him.  I would give anything to be able to take him up and show him my office with the shuttle poster and frame he made hanging up.  
My favorite picture of me and Dad.
When I got hired for this job, one of the things I looked the most forward to was hanging that poster up in my office.  Today I did that and now something my dad made is hanging at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

January 21, 2015


Lunar Lander Selfie
Today is National Museum Selfie Day.  Seriously, it’s a thing.  

So I joined the crowd.  If you will notice I’m wearing my lovely sweater that my wife picked out.  (Lovely should be read uncomfortable and hot).  See Sarah, here is proof I actually wore it to work.  

I also decided to add a blast from the past.  While I was home over the weekend I found this picture of me at the Air and Space Museum circa 1999.  I took a selfie in the same spot today.

Model Space Shuttle 2015
Model Space Shuttle 1999
Did you take a #MuseumSelfie today?

January 20, 2015

State of the Union

Tonight is the State of the Union Address.  I’m about 2 miles from the United States Capitol.  Since I got home from work tonight there have been helicopters circling above and at work today I got an email telling me all the roads that were going to be closed tonight because of the State of the Union.  

Update: The State of the Union just started and you've got to love the astronaut right behind the First Lady.

Today I got a chance to run the robotic cameras for a webcast called “What’s New in Aerospace.”  The webcast was also shown live on NASA TV.  Next week the show I’m working on, STEM in 30 will be webcast live at 11:00 and 1:00 (Eastern) and the 1:00 show will go out live to NASA TV.  I will be on those shows teaching about the four forces of flight and teaching a lesson to a local middle school.  

Controls for the robotic cameras
Nerd at Work, Nerd at Home
Everyone that knows me knows that deep down I’m a nerd.  I was home over the weekend so what did I do?  I went outside looking for Comet Lovejoy.  I was not able to see it with the naked eye, or with binoculars, but I was able to take a few pictures of it.  It is the green blob in these pictures.  

Look to the center right for a very small green dot
The larger green dot is Comet Lovejoy
I also had some help looking for it.  Nerd runs in the family.

She loves me, and yes I'm wearing my son's Superman hat.

January 16, 2015

More Pictures

Lots more pictures from my first week.

Production Studio
Smithsonian Archives - also the view outside my office.
Cockpit of the Boeing 747
Spirit of St. Louis - first time on the floor in the last 22 years.
Random art on the walls
More random art.
View out the window from the hallway on the way to my office.
Space Toilet
Getting the shoot set up today.
Back in the classroom teaching about composite materials
View out the window of the classroom we were in (Can you see the Washington Monument?)
View from the staff cafeteria (American Indian Museum with the US Capitol in the background)
Hanging out with my new friend.

January 15, 2015

Spirit of St. Louis Selfie

Today they brought the Spirit of St. Louis down for the first time since it had been hung up. 

January 14, 2015

Days 2 and 3

Cockpit of the 747
Today was my second day at the Air and Space Museum.  What do most people do on their second day on the job?  I’m not sure, but I got to get into the pilots seat of the 747 cockpit that is on display in the museum.  

America By Air Exhibit
The next show (first I’m on) is on composite materials.  Yesterday we worked through the experiment I’m doing/filming with a class of 8th graders here in Washington.  Tomorrow we go scout the location, and shoot some of the set up for the activity on Friday.

Lesson Planning

I’m still not moved into my official office yet.  Still no furniture but I’m working in an office two doors down.  My office is on the opposite side of the building of the Mall, but I think if I leaned out far enough (No, mom, I’m not going to) that I could see the Washington Monument.  

View from my window

From left to right: Washington Monument, Hirshhorn Museum, Air and Space Museum
Each night I get a chance to video chat with Sarah and the kids.  Most nights it looks something like this.
Normal Chat
Then other nights, this is who I’m video conferencing with.
Chat that went to the dogs.
P.S.  If you are reading this through Facebook, you are missing the pictures.  To see all the pictures, click on the link to the blog.