This probably comes as a bit of a shock to some, but I’m a bit of a space nerd. (I’ll give you a moment to recover.)
Long before I had the honor of working at NASA, I was excited about the things the agency does. I still have my Fisher-Price space shuttle and a story I wrote about space exploration in elementary school displayed at home. It’s unbelievable that I get to be a part of it, and it’s a rare day I’m not keenly aware of where I work and what we do here.
But even so, there are the days that take that to another level. I remember a day early on when Gene Kranz came and spoke at Marshall about his experiences in mission control. This is the guy that told Neil and Buzz they were Go to land on the moon; the “failure is not an option” guy of Apollo 13. And the NASA I support is the same NASA he did those things for. Surreal.
Last week, when I received my Silver Snoopy, I didn’t actually post anything about it; I was content to let Rebecca and my family and friends share the news. But with the excuse of now being able to share the official photos from the event, I wanted to add a couple of thoughts.
Tuesday was one of those days for me. The Silver Snoopy has a long history in the agency; between the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the success of Apollo 11 it was decided that the astronaut office needed a way to recognize people who make significant contributions to “safety and mission success.” It was their way of thanking the people whom they entrusted with their lives and their labor. For almost 50 years, the astronaut office has continued that tradition, and last week they saw fit to include me in it. Surreal.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a thing I hoped for eventually; I think everyone out here does. And the thing is, you look around you at work, and everyone you see deserves one. The crazy thing about NASA is that it’s NASA. Extraordinary is the average. I am surrounded with insanely talented people. For the astronaut office, the office that has been home to John Glenn and Neil Armstrong and Bob Crippen and Sally Ride and Joe Kerwin and Victor Glover and will be home to the astronauts who fly Orion and SLS to tell you “well done”? Surreal.
As a communicator, as a liberal arts major from Ole Miss, it’s gratifying to see the work we do recognized. I don’t turn screws on the vehicles. I couldn’t put together a schematic drawing to save my life. But NASA has a mandate, going back to its original charter, to tell the world about what we do and what we’ve learned. It means a lot for the work my team does toward accomplishing that to be recognized as important to “mission success.”
My pin was presented by astronaut Victor Glover. You may not know his name yet, but you will. Victor was part of the last class of astronauts selected, and is an incredibly accomplished pilot before coming to NASA. He just became eligible for his first spaceflight, but, in the meantime, he’s supporting the team at Kennedy Space Center that’s preparing the facilities there for SLS and Orion. He’s crazy passionate about the future of exploration, and does a great job communicating both that future and that passion. I had the opportunity to put some charts together for a panel he was on at South by Southwest this year; it makes it easy when you know somebody’s going to knock it out of the ballpark whatever you do.
Each Silver Snoopy pin is flown in space; my pin was in orbit when I was in eighth grade at Huntsville Middle School. It flew on STS-27; the second flight after the shuttles were grounded after the loss of Challenger and her crew. The commander of STS-27 was the rather incredible Hoot Gibson, who two years ago was part of the book launch event we had at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for the release of Bold They Rise: The Space Shuttle Early Years, 1972-1986. It was neat having Hoot connected to another amazing moment.
I’m thankful every day for the opportunity I’ve been given, for what I get to be a part of. I’m thankful for the people I get to work with, for the amazing team we have. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be here, surrounded by people working to not only be worthy of the legacy we have inherited, but to surpass it, to learn more, to go farther, to explore as we never have before.