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Space Camp Day 2

We went to bed exhausted but awoke refreshed, kind of. The morning for started with breakfast from room service. We wanted to make sure we packed a lot of protein in our diet before what we figured would be a long day. We suited up in our flight suits and headed over the Hab to meet the other members of the team before we headed to the dining hall, where we — if only to be polite — had “second breakfast.” We then went on a tour of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s (USSRC’s) Rocket Hall.

Space Camp flight suits

The USSRC is a Smithsonian Affiliate and the Official Visitor Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Our team leader Amanda McBride gave us the tour, offering insight into the history of the facility and the history of manned space flight. The center is known to have one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia in the world. The whole time you’re in the center you can’t help but to repeatedly gaze in awe at the 363-foot-long Saturn V rocket hanging horizontally from the ceiling.

We all then lined up from tallest to shortest, proving we could follow directions, for a portrait of Team Pioneer in front of a full-sized display of the moon lander. With the team picture taken care of we headed across campus to an open field and a rocket launch facility. We had each made a model rocket on day one and now it was time for them to fly. We watched as most of them blasted straight off, deployed their parachutes and came gently back to the ground.  Amanda and I were the exceptions. Amanda’s rocket landed on the road and got run over multiple times. Mine ended up in a tree on the far side of the field.  I honestly felt like my childhood self; I recall many encounters with kite-eating trees.

Mission to Mars

Next, we made our way down to the simulation center for the big activity of the day, the mission to Mars. I was on assigned to the expedition and Amanda was in charge of mission control. We loaded up in the command module and began our three-hour mission to Mars and back. I was the DDT or Digital Data Technician, which meant running the communication equipment. Yeah, not too far from my real life. We did a simulated launch, then had to access through a crawlspace the lander called Altair.  The pilot and the commander had most of the duties for those two parts of the mission.  We had to act like we were opening an airlock to a near vacuum and had to make sure our EVA suits were on correctly or we’d get penalized because if a suit wasn’t on right in real life that could mean death. I spent the next several hours hooking up and tearing down communications equipment. The DDTs were also tasked with the scavenger hunt that brings in supplies that have been “dropped” from orbit.

The return trip was the worst part of the whole trip. We spent what seemed like hours in Altair and the temperature seemed to do nothing but climb. The extreme heat wasn’t part of the scenario; five adults, no air flow, and extreme heat outside made the lander an oven. We toughed it out, though, and made it back to Earth in one piece.

A bus came by and carried the team to the center’s confidence and leadership course. We split into two teams and trainers asked us to solve various challenges as a team. The one that was the most interesting involved dumping three tennis balls from one bucket to another without touching the buckets or the balls. We only had three lengths of rope to accomplish the task. I take credit for leading the team and creating the plan that completed the challenge.

The day didn’t end there, either. A thunderstorm began to roll in and we had to take shelter in the large building they had the multi-axis trainers in. We were given a task of designing a mission patch for Team Pioneer.  As a team of adults we were lucky to have two professional designers in our midst. We spent the next hour working on that before braving the rain and heading to one of the classrooms to design our own heat shields. The team was broken into groups and given a list of supplies we could “buy” with points. We chose cork, steel wool, wire mesh, spackle and aluminum foil. The idea was to create a shield that would keep a raw egg from being cooked by the heat of a blowtorch in a span of three minutes. The group had some success and some failure; we were failures. We did well but the shield broke down with a minute to go.

The evening was capped off by a lecture on the International Space Station (ISS) and its operations. We learned one of the most awesome inventions ever was created for an Italian astronaut, an espresso machine that works in microgravity. The Italians even developed a special cup that lets her sip her espresso. Yes, we learned a lot of technical stuff about the ISS but dude — coffee in space is awesome.

We worked for almost 14 hours that day. It was busy. It was exhausting. It was fun.

The next morning it was time to graduate from the Adult Space Academy and head back home with another childhood dream fulfilled.

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A London Connection


Courtesy: Pittsburgh International Airport

We got some good news in Pittsburgh this past week as British Airways announced it will be re-establishing its PIT to London Heathrow non-stop flight after a 20-year hiatus.

Simon Brooks, the senior vice president for BA’s North American operation stated one of the key reasons is that Pittsburgh’s economy has really diversified over the last 10 years.

“With so many different industry sectors – there is health care, tech, manufacturing, the amount of universities you have here and the exchange programs – so many compelling reasons for us to fly here. We’re so excited,” Brooks added.

You will be able to hop across the pond starting April 2 and make the trip four days a week. You can book your tickets for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The flight departs from London Heathrow at 5 p.m. and lands in Pittsburgh at 8:15 p.m. The flight will depart Pittsburgh at 10 p.m., crossing the Atlantic overnight and arriving at Heathrow at 10:35 a.m. the following day.

The route will feature one of the newest aircraft in British Airways’ fleet, the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The plane will feature 214 seats in a three-class configuration.

The airport not only landed British Airways but got that wonderful Heathrow connection. You can fly to all of Europe and the World from Heathrow making changing planes only once a possibility on your next European holiday.

PIT currently offers service to Paris on Delta and Frankfurt on Condor, both great places to catch connecting flights, but the limited seasonal availability isn’t always convenient. There’s also a connection to Europe through Reykjavik on WOW air, but again you have to fly through Iceland. The idea of boarding the plane PIT and landing at LHR (London Heathrow) without changing planes is almost too good to be true.  I know we hope to take advantage of his London connection soon.

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Space Camp Day 1

Our day started at 5am.

We needed to get to the airport and fly to Atlanta and then on to Huntsville. The trip only took about five hours thanks to the very short layover in Atlanta. We had decided that staying in a dorm at our age wasn’t something we were interested in, so fortunatly a Marriott is directly ajcent from the entrance to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. We checked in there, changed our clothes and headed over to for check-in and orentation.

We were assigned to a group of 15 adults and called Pioneer after a series of NASA space probes. Our fellow Space Campers were from all over the U.S., Canada and the United Arab Emirates. Our ages ranged from people near their sixties those barley in their twenties. We felt right at home in the middle. We were led by Space Camp Crew Chief Amanda McBride. She was, as you’d expect, packed with knownlage about Space Camp, the history of space, and a love of NASA.

Astronaut Dr. Don Thomas kicks off Space Camp

Astronaut Dr. Don Thomas kicks off Space Camp by sharing his experiences in space.

We kicked things off by listening Dr. Don Thomas recount his experiences flying into space on three shuttle misisons. We followed that up with a quick tour of the facility and the rocket park.

The team then split up into groups and endered some of the simulators. I became the commander of the International Space Station while Amanda became the space shuttle pilot. We both learned to love checklists. You are constantly going through checklists as the simulation manager throws problems at you. I found a big part of these experiences are dependent on communication. The biggest challenge was that we were a bunch of adults who had just meet a few hours earlier, each with a lifetime of experiences to take into account. We worked that simutlation for two hours before breaking for dinner.

We continued with a model rocket building class before taking a spin in the multi-axis trainer. The device spins in various directions simulating a tumbling space capsule. The trainer was used in the early days of the Mercury program.

Our day wrapped up and after 9:30pm. Amanda and I got back to our room, cleaned up and promptly fell asleep, exhausted.


Elapsed time 14 hours

Mission Time (Space Camp instruction) approximately 8 hours 30 minutes

We  had a lot more to do on Saturday. We’ll update that post next week.

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Space Camp Highlight Reel

Check out the highlights from our adventures at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center last weekend! Click the image to get started.


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Space Camp Now Loading…

We are currently at camp and can’t wait to share the details next week!

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Caribbean National Culinary Team of the Year Goes To…

I’m not a huge fan of seafood but it doesn’t mean the food whipped up by the chefs and cooks in the Caribbean isn’t worth the trip. The Taste of the Carribean competition highlights the culinary inventiveness of the region’s best chefs and remind the rest of the world the Carribean isn’t just beaches and clear water.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) provides a space for the best of the Caribbean culinary world to shine. A dozen teams participated in the Taste of the Caribbean culinary competition in Miami from June 22 to 26. The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos selected their best chefs and mixologists for this year’s event.  Jamall Small from the Bahamas was crowned Caribbean Chef of the Year while teammate Hazen Rolle was named Caribbean Junior Chef of the Year. The Turks and Caicos won the Caribbean Pastry Chef competition and the British Virgin Islands topped the Seafood competition. The team from Trinidad and Tobago won top honors in the finale of the 2018 Taste of the Caribbean culinary competition after also winning the Bartender, Best Non-Alcoholic Drink and Beef categories. The Best Rum Drink went to Bonaire and St. Lucia topped the vodka drink category.

“CHTA applauds this year’s Taste of the Caribbean participants, their national hotel and tourism associations, team managers and sponsors for another incredible demonstration of passion, purpose and performance,” said Frank Comito, Director General and CEO of CHTA. “These participants are the future of tourism and the teamwork and camaraderie on display augurs well for a united Caribbean.”

Courtesy: Margot Jordan

Check out the full list of winners; maybe you’ll be inspired to visit one of the teams on your next Caribbean trip!

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Powder Rules

Image courtesy: Wikipedia

I came across an article the other day that said there was a limit on the amount of powder you can pack in your carry-on. I was surprised because I’d never heard of such of a restriction. A restriction like that may not be a problem for me, but, say you’re on some sort of health kick and are drinking protein powder (cough – Amanda) it might be a problem.

The TSA website says “powder-like substances greater than 12 oz. / 350 mL must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. They may require additional screening and containers may need to be opened. For your convenience, we encourage you to place non-essential powders greater than 12 oz. in checked bags.” The site also says that the final decision is up to the TSA officer at the checkpoint.

The powder-like substance not only applies to protein powder but also talc and powder-based makeup. The main exemptions are for baby formula and human remains.

If you are carrying acceptable amounts of powders you may keep them in your carry-on, though TSA screeners may ask you to place them in a separate bin for screening if they obstruct X-ray machines from getting clear images.

We hope that helps give you a heads up if you plan on traveling by air in the near future.