Wednesday, September 14, 2011

GRAIL NASA Tweetup Part I–Trip to Florida

How do you tell a story? I’ve never been much good at telling stories, I’m too succinct, don’t elaborate and keep it to the point. These may be good traits when writing engineering documents, but don’t make good blog non-technical blog posts.

How do you get an agency with lots of these engineering types to tell a story? Well one way is to invite 150 Tweeters out to Florida to help get the word out and tell the story of a mission to the moon. Now the mission isn’t glamorous; there’s no footprints to be placed, no revelations that are really going to blow people’s minds. It’s just a mission to send to refrigerated sized satellites that are to orbit the moon. But I’m getting ahead of my self, with every story it’s probably best to start from the beginning.

My beginning started with a plane flight from California to Arizona to Florida. 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 002Luckily the first segments of the flight had mostly clear skies. I could spy the sparsely populated California Valley. It’s layout is interesting in that it has major collector roads in a large V shape with the grid of the lots laid out at a 45 degree angle to the the collector roads. I can’t imagine if this would work from a transportation stand point, but the County of San Luis Obispo lucked out in not having to find out. That’s because it seems like no one really wants to live out there. The County seems to always have a large list of properties that are in default in paying their taxes. Maybe one day a business person or the Bureau of Land Management (overseers of the near by Carrizo Plain National Monument) will build a fancy resort to attract visitors to the monument and workers to the hotel will need a place to live.

A few minutes later the plane was flying near one of the most important facilities for 2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 009plane flight, space flight and just all around coolness. It’s Edwards Air Force Base, home to the Air Force Flight Test Center. Now if you don’t like hot places in the summer and cold places in the winter; this place isn’t for you. If you are into testing aircraft then this is near perfect due to the 360 days of clear skies and pretty much desolation for miles. Well not total desolation, there is lots to see if you get out of your car and look. There’s desert tortoises, rabbits, foxes, flowers in the spring, if there was enough rainfall, and if you were out there in the late 90’s you would have seen me drive by nearly everyday of the week for about six months.

You’d see me driving heading to work a few miles down the road at the Borax mine. At the mine2011-09-07 GRAIL NASATweetup 012 I’d have to describe my position as a time keeper and biller. For I was responsible for ensuring that the previous days work was billed before 11 am so my foil at Borax could ensure all of my math was correct. Unfortunately in the beginning my billings were off by five cents from their numbers. Lets just say rounding does matter sometimes and it took some work to ensure I was rounding all of the numbers were rounded at the time of calculation rather then at the time of summing all of the numbers.

Near the end of the flight the darkness descended onto the world as well as dark clouds from the remnants of hurricanes obscured the lay of the land. Also as the above pictures show, taking photos from a cheap camera, from a plane don’t turn out too well.

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