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February 26, 2000
The Good, the Bad, and the Frantic

Happy Birthday, Jamie! (I just thought about that and I knew I had better jot it down here. How does it feel to be 21?) My mind is racing with all of the things I need to do today, tomorrow, and next week. I figured I had better sit down and write now since I may be away from my house later today and I won’t have time then. I am very proud that I have added so many entries recently, but I know that trend cannot continue considering that we are halfway through the school semester and things are going to get more complicated from now on. I guess I should enjoy this brief writing spree while it lasts. I am going to try and categorize all of the things I want to talk about in this entry rather than discuss them chronologically.

I had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour at the Kennedy Space Center yesterday with a small group from our AIAA chapter. You can break this down into two of the categories I listed in the entry title.
The Good:
The big advantage to out tour, as opposed to the usual visit, was that we were able to go inside some of the buildings where the shuttles and their parts are serviced. The first thing we did when we got there was go into the Oribter Processing Facility (OPF) where the space shuttles are kept between missions. We didn’t notice at first, but we were walking right underneath the belly of the space shuttle Discovery as soon as we walked in. It was incredible to be so close that you could touch it (but we couldn’t because foreign objects on the heat tiles could damage them). Our guide took us up one level and we saw one man washing the shuttle cockpit windows! He is probably the highest paid window washer in the world, we speculated. Also we saw the crew quarters, the empty cargo bay, and the structure that holds the three main engines (that weren’t there at the time). Discovery had just landed recently and was being “downloaded,” a term that means removing some of the systems for inspection and testing the rest of the shuttle to make sure it will be ready for its next mission. Discovery was the shuttle that worked on the ailing Hubble Telescope last year, in case anyone wants to know more about the particular orbiter we looked at.

Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) we saw the frustrams (upper-most sections) for the two solid boosters that are used to get the shuttle into orbit. They were just sitting on the ground about fifty feet from where we were standing. Our next close encounter at NASA was a visit to the Launch Control Center (LCC). We didn’t get to go inside because the doors were locked, but we did get to see inside through some windows. From there we could see both launch pads with the same perspective as the mission control specialists have during a launch. Usually the tourists at KSC don’t get close to the launch pads at all, but since we had special clearance we got to drive inside Launch Pad B one and walk around. Our last destination was the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) where most of the work on the International Space Station (ISS) is taking place. Due to the use of pure ammonia on the floor of the facility we weren’t allowed to go into the processing area, but we took the usual visitor tour where we saw a few pieces of the ISS that are going to be launched soon.

The Bad:
First of all I had to get up at 4:30 AM and then the trip as a whole was a let down. There were several things that we expected that didn’t happen and I was a bit disappointed. As soon as we walked into the VAB we were told that no tours were taking place there because solid rocket fuel was suspended inside. I understand that the fuel, if ignited or dropped, could consume all of the air in the building in less than 30 seconds, but I was looking forward to seeing where the rocket boosters are kept between shuttle missions. Our guide (his first name is Wayne, but I don’t know his last name) said that we could have touched the external tanks because they get painted before they are launched, but no such luck considering we were run out of the building pretty quickly. The next problem surfaced when we were touring the launch pad. In order to go up onto the launch structure you need a hard hat and Wayne had forgotten that. I was so excited to be able to walk where the astronauts walk as they are getting into the shuttle, but we didn’t have any hard hats. Also my camera broke and I lost all of the pictures I took at KSC yesterday. It was like adding insult to injury.

Now that I have discussed my trip to Cape Canaveral in detail it is time to move on to other subjects. “How can she have MORE to talk about?” you are saying to yourself. I have just one word for you – weekend. ( I include last night in this category.)
The Good:
I got a new camera this morning since mine broke yesterday. Believe it or not, about half of my roll of film turned out OK even though it got exposed.

When I think about it, I really lucked out this week when it comes to school. I wasn’t in class yesterday, but Stu said Dr. Fitz-Coy wants us to redo the take-home test and turn it in on Wednesday because he was disappointed with our first attempts. Apparently he then proceeded to give the class the answers. That sure makes my life easier. I knew I had gotten two of the three problems correct, but the other one was killer. Now we know how it solve it! Also the numerical analysis homework that had a due date of Friday was extended until Monday. Good thing since I had only been able to finish about three-quarters of the problems on Thursday night. Did I get lucky or what?

The time that I spent at Stuart’s party was a good time. It was a birthday party for his roommate, Howie, who turned 21 on Monday. I got to wear a favorite tank top and have my boyfriend around me without having to worry about schoolwork at the same time. “Why are you so sweet to me?” Stu asked. I simply said, “Because you deserve it,” and that is the absolute truth.

The next bit of good news concerns Alpha Chi Omega and my poor disintegrating “family.” I am taking two new little sister this semester and Katherine is taking one as well. That is certainly going to jump-start our family all over again. I didn’t find out about this for certain until yesterday, but I am very excited about it. Big/Little Sister Day is this Thursday so more news about that after the fact.

Spring Break is coming! Spring Break is coming! Spring Break is coming! One more week!!

The Bad:
I was so tired yesterday after getting up early and spending the day at KSC that I fell asleep after I had only been at the party about an hour. What a party pooper I was! Stu assured me that he wasn’t going to be mad if I went to sleep that early, but I am guessing it didn’t make him too happy either. I am not a very good girlfriend sometimes – I should have stayed at the party with him last night to show him how much I love him. I hope he knows that already and that my sleepiness doesn’t make him doubt my devotion.

Although I am excited about getting two little sisters this semester there is a lot of work I have to do for them before Thursday. Katherine. Lelaine, and I are going to buy all of our stuff this afternoon as soon as they both get back. Two little sisters means twice the work and I am going to have to get busy to have everything done on time. My parents have graciously agreed to pay for the two jerseys I have to buy since they are going to be the most expensive item. Let’s hope everything else turns out that great.

We have one more week before spring break. Another week of classes and other frantic stuff.

THE FRANTIC:
Come to think of it, I guess I already included everything that was, or is going to be, “frantic” in the paragraphs above. “Thank goodness,” I can hear you say. I am going to go work on my astrodynamics exam while waiting for Katherine and Lelaine to show their faces at my door. If you have made it this far in this entry, bless you.