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*NB: Due to family bereavement, expect delays in my posts. Thank you for your understanding*

T-minus 4 days

Holiday from work, sleeping in was still not an option. Too much to prepare both for my trip and for my OMGWTFBBQ!!! in #yyc T+2 days after launch. Rain, shine, with or without me ;) A seasoned traveler, I ran through my checklist as packing ensued: Extra socks, check. Extra photo media card, check. Shuttle program pin, check. Water bottle, check. Sleep, negative. Got the propane all filled up (for the BBQ, not my spacecraft) with a few extra candles for the special event.

Still awaiting confirmation from NASA PAO on my media credentials for the Late Media Registration. Nervous.

Editor’s note: A tale here, day by day. Daily I’ll upload a portion of the story in efforts to capture the excitement of my journey to witness the historic launch of the space shuttle, which just today (July 21st 2011 at 5:56 AM EDT) sealed its entry into history books universe-wide. Please enjoy.

STS-135: A Timeless tale

So there I was, humanity’s most complex engineering achievement towering just a few meters in front of me: the Space Shuttle. Atlantis was her name and this flight the bookend of a dynasty. Gracefully rising through the air roaring her adieu to the world that watched.

I am human enough to admit that tears of joy filled my eyes.

3.6 miles from Pad 39A at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Centre amidst numerous employees of the world’s space program and their families, astronauts, 2500 journalists, 1.5 million public viewers stuffing the causeways while billions world-wide tuned in. To get to this moment would not have been possible first and foremost without the gracious invitation of Oxford Community Television, Mr. Paul Graham and Dr. Ryan Kobrick.

To really capture the essence of this pilgrimage lets starts a few days earlier.

T – weeks earlier

Job offer falls through slated for July. Literally that second I booked my package trip to Cape Canaveral. Orbitz.com – wham, bam, hotel, car and airfare. #135orbust I trend on Twitter. Sweet deal. No response of #NASATweetup entry & denied Cape Canaveral Visitor Centre/Causeway tickets. Regardless I was ready to roll and hit Cocoa Beach with swimsuit in hand to witness history. Invitation received to join a media team. This I felt was going to be one heck of a trip. Little did I know what I had signed up for.

Dear Readers,

I’m off to catch the launch of STS-135 and Shuttle Atlantis. This, the final space shuttle launch of the program, its been around as long as I can remember.

In fact, its what inspired me to chase a space career in the first place. Visiting Kennedy Space Centre in the early 90’s and meeting Canadian Astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar in 1993 in Victoria as a child, those memories have taken me around the globe into classrooms, agencies and friends lives alike. But the one thing I’d yet to do was see a manned space launch live. Now is my chance.

18 years later, I sit anxiously awaiting to board the aircraft flying me into Orlando – a third for me but a first to see a launch.

So I wish to share my experience with you as I know there are many who have had opportunities to witness a launch, but multitudes more who have not.

NASA reports indicate all is nominal for launch with the exception of the weather – a tropical storm system from the Bahamas threatens July 8th’s 11:26 AM Eastern Time launch.

Until my next check-in, safe travels! Follow along via Twitter – @kulfispace!

A beautiful sight – a rocket rising into the sky. An astronaut spins MnM’s in weightless during some mission down time. The makings of scientific discoveries aboard the International Space Station with hundreds of experiments by the crew on board.

What the public doesn’t see is the incredible wealth of human knowledge and effort that fuels the start and finish of every mission.

I share with you an article by EADS Astrium this past 2011 spring with insight into the role of the Astronaut Instructor (http://www.astrium.eads.net/en/articles/astronaut-instructor-reaching-for-the-stars.html). Credit: Luise Weber-Steinhaus

Having had the opportunity to learn and work this role at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany as a small part of this incredible team, I wish to share with you its significant impact.

Imagine your classroom – desks, chairs, chalkboard (yes, dating myself here), students and a teacher. We are taught, we learn, we practice, we develop. Regardless if you are a highschool student figuring out where to go in life, or today’s astronauts aboard the ISS – the principle remains the same.

Astronauts too go to class. They learn, they practice, they test, they progress. The instructor is responsible to communicate an enormous wealth of information from various disciplines and departments into sizeable relevant manageable chunks to pass onto crew.

Presenting Columbus Thermal Control System lesson dry-run to European astronauts Frank de Winne and Tim Peake. Credit: Aki Rahikainen

2 years, 5 countries weeks at a time, several modes of training, multiple languages. PR, office, family…balance is an incredible feat for an astronaut even with as much planning as is required. So ensuring that essential information is communicated appropriately so that it is well retained and *useful* is a challenge for an instructor.

I am going to try and provide you perspective on just how much knowledge there is… in a 3 posts.

My training focused on the Thermal Control System of the Columbus Module – the European science sector of the ISS.

TO BE CONTINUED (Part 2)….post Space Shuttle launch of STS-135 and Atlantis. Follow me for posts!

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April 7th 2011 – MEDIA ADVISORY

Canadian Student Celebrates Global Spaceflight Anniversary With NASA Course

16-year old David Cooksley of Calgary is one of three Canadian students selected to attend the 2011 United Space School (USS) in Houston this summer. The 2011 award coincides with the first human flight in space 50 years ago by Yuri Gagarin – celebrated globally as Yuri’s Night.

In sessions led in person by astronauts, USS students will learn about technologies and develop platforms for future space travel. They will be joined by 35 students from more than 25 countries.

This annual two-week summer program introduces delegates to manned and unmanned spaceflight through distinguished lectures and tours by space researchers. Their project work will be designing a mission to Mars with NASA’s resources at their fingertips. Delegates will also participate in cultural activities.

Every year since 2000, the Aero Space Museum of Calgary has had the privilege of naming a student from Western Canada to participate in the program. The For the Love of Children Society joins the museum in supporting the most qualified student.

David Cooksley, a world-class skier and brilliant Grade 11 student at the National Sport School eagerly anticipates the challenge before him. “The USS program is an amazing opportunity and I am incredibly fortunate to be able to attend it,” says David “I fully believe that it will be a life-changing experience that I will never forget.”

2011 USS Western Canadian delegate will be presented to media:

What: United Space School 2011 Western Canadian Delegate Announcement
Date: Tuesday, April 12th 2011
Time: 12:00 PM – Guests & Media are asked to arrive at 11:30 PM for check-in
Location: Hangar – Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary
4629 McCall Way NE, Calgary, AB T2E 8A5

Mr. Cooksley will be made available for media interviews after the formal announcement as well as former Canadian delegate Tahir Merali of 2002 (Ex-Officio FISE Board Director). Museum CEO Lucile Edwards, For the Love of Children Society officers, and members of the selection panel will also be made available.

The unique USS program has inspired students across the globe for over 15 years. They come from Bolivia, Russia, India as well as other parts of Europe, Asia and the Americas. The USS is operated by the Foundation for International Space Education (FISE), a charitable organization based in Houston dedicated to developing international space education, with support of the University of Houston Clear Lake (UHCL), and in collaboration with NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The Aero Space Museum of Calgary supports and encourages the development and maintenance of an Aero Space Museum in the City of Calgary, through educational activities and through collections and displays related to Canadian aviation history in general and to the City of Calgary in particular. The global premiere of the documentary First Orbit will be screened following the event.

Further information contact:
Mr. Tahir Merali
http://www.unitedspaceschool.org | http://www.asmac.ab.ca | http://www.yurisnight.net

April 12th First Orbit YYC

Mars500 crew arrive on Mars!

Mars500 crew arrive on Mars!

If an actual human mission to Mars lands on Valentine’s Day, you bet that Cupid will strike us even on Mars encapsulating us in a love for our red dusty neighbor.

But for now, we passed another milestone on Feb 14th 2011, when 2 scientists stepped out of their enclosed habitats for the first time in over 200 days to conduct groundbreaking research on how our species will react and work one day when we visit another planet.

”Europe has for centuries explored Earth, led by people like Columbus and Magellan,” said [ESA's] Diego [Urbina] at the beginning of his three-hour ‘Marswalk’ with [Russia's] Alexandr [Smoleevskiy] “Today, looking at this red landscape, I can feel how inspiring it will be to look through the eyes of the first human to step foot on Mars. “I salute all the explorers of tomorrow and wish them godspeed.” – Reported by ESA Feb 14th 2011.

Godspeed my friends! See you when you return – in the meantime, make more progress in the pursuit of knowledge, in the name of humanity.

ESA Timelapse Video

Mars500 Full Egress Video

A pause for remembrance

This day 8 years ago Space Shuttle Orbiter Columbia and her STS-107 crew perished over the skies upon reentry from orbit during their ill-fated mission. Today, please take a moment to celebrate their lives and smile upon their memory, and of all those who have sacrificed for the sake of broadening humanity’s knowledge.

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