Space

(Still) Cruising with astronauts

I’m almost at the end of a special shakedown cruise on the Viking Orion, a new ocean ship in the Viking Cruise line family that has as its godmother former astronaut -Anna Fisher,  who was the first mother in space.

As godmother for the ship, Fisher was able to invite many friends and former co-workers along for the cruise from Rome to Barcelona, and many of those friends and former co-works are astronauts.

I’ve been conducting short interviews this week with some of the astronauts on board and last night a panel of (just) 14 of the astronauts on the ship gathered for a panel moderated by Lynn Sherr, who wrote  SALLY RIDE: America’s First Woman in Space and who you may know from her many years on TV, including 20 years as part of the ABC Newsmagazine 20/20.

Pictured: Paolo Nespoli, Charles (Charlie) Walker, Anna Fisher, Richard Linnehan, Jean François Clervoy, Dominic (Tony) Antonelli, John Fabian, Lynn Sherr (moderator), Brewster Shaw, Woody Spring, Nicole Stott, Jay Honeycutt,Mike McCulley, Jon McBride, Barbara Morgan, Rick Hauck.  (Richard Richards joined the group at the end and is not pictured here).

The topics discussed were wide-ranging: everything from what it was like to be out there in space looking back at earth to some fun stuff about the cool part of being weightless: “You can put your pants on two feet at a time,” said John Fabian, who joked that today one or two of the former astronauts might have trouble putting their pants on just one leg at at time.

The panelists also talked about what they do now to encourage others to support space exploration and shared their opinions on ‘space tourism’ (mostly thumbs up).  Several astronauts also gave their stamp of approval to some movies they say got space pretty darn right, including Apollo 13, The Martian, Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My interviews with astronauts have covered other subjects, including their tips for travelers here on earth, their memories of their first airplane rides (and how that may have influenced their choice of profession) and even their stories about the food they ate in space.  I’ll share some of those stories in the next few days.

Cruising with astronauts in Italy

I’m incredibly fortunate – and very starstruck – to be sailing this week on Viking’s fifth and newest ocean ship, the Viking Orion, during its maiden voyage with her ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher, who brought along dozens of special guests, scientists, astronomers and more than a dozen of her fellow former and current astronauts.

The 930-guest, 47,800-ton Viking Orion is named after the Orion constellation and in honor of Dr. Fisher’s work on NASA’s Orion exploration vehicle project.

I’m prowling the decks with a print-out of the photos of the astronauts and other space experts hoping to meet them all and ask them questions about everything from travel tips learned from space travel to memories of their first flights. (Getting them to sign my press release would be awkward, right?)

Their answers will appear here and in various assigned stories I’ll share links to later, but in the meantime, here are some photos and tidbits from the spectacular naming ceremony that took place in Livorno, Italy that included musical performances, tributes to Nordic mythology, a flying ‘spaceman’ who traveled over the crowd and around the ship by jetpack and fireworks.

 

 

In Livorno, the ship was docked beside the city’s historic Medici-built Fortezza Vecchia (Old Fortress) and a special interactive exhibit was set up inside to tell the stories of exploration technology throughout history – from the Vikings’ solar compass to Galileo’s gravitational and projectile motion experiments.

Among the special features on this ship is a  26-seat planetarium-like theater called the Explorers’ Dome – showing special panoramic films about exploration, such as “Journey to Space” and “Life Under the Arctic Sky” in a fully immersive environment.

Viking Orion continues her maiden season sailing itineraries in the Western and Eastern Mediterranean this summer before heading east to sail Viking’s newest itineraries in Asia, Australia and Alaska.

Stay tuned for more.

Office pods installed at New York LaGuardia Airport

For a while back in the late 1990s, when free Wi-Fi at airports didn’t exist and everyone didn’t have their own laptops, a company called Laptop Lane installed banks of small, rentable work spaces at airports with computers, printers, Internet access and, best of all, an enclosed space that offered privacy.

That company is long gone, but people at airports still seek quiet spaces to get things done.

So rentable work pods are back.

A startup called Jabbrrbox just installed eight workpods in Terminal B at New York’s LaGuardia Airport where travelers can buy increments of time (i.e. $15 for 30 minutes) and get access to an acoutically-sound work space with a desk, free and reliable Wi-Fi and a photobooth app. Additional tools for users include a camera for video conference callas and in-booth speakers.

Of course, you don’t need to use the booths for working. You can just as easily pop in for a nap.

 

See Neil Armstrong’s gloves & helmet

Neil Armstrong's gloves & helmut - courtesy Smithsononian

Image: Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

In commemoration of the 47th anniversary of the first moon landing (July 20, 1969) the National Air and Space Museum is displaying Neil Armstrong’s lunar extravehicular gloves and helmet for the first time since 2012.

The artifacts recently underwent conservation and will be on view until July 20, 2017 at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.- which is just one stop from Washington’s Dulles International Airport on the Fairfax Connector (#983) bus.

Looking forward… Armstrong’s complete Apollo 11 spacesuit will go on display in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019.

In preparation for that anniversary, the museum is asking the public for photos of the spacesuit on display when it was on a national tour back in  in 1970, or of the gloves and helmet on later tours and the spacesuit on display at the Smithsonian between 1971 and 2006.

Neil Armstrong's spacesuit. Courtesy National Air & Space Museum

Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. Courtesy National Air & Space Museum ,

On its website, the Smithsonian also has a high resolution 3-D scan of the Apollo 11 command module “Columbia,” that allows anyone with an internet connection to explore the entire craft including its intricate interior – something you can’t do when you’re at the museum in person.

 

(Replica) of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit at CVG Airport

President Richard Nixon telling jokes to astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin

President Richard Nixon telling jokes to astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin while they were in the Mobile Quarantine Facility on the the USS Hornet after their return from the moon.

July 20 is the 47th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing and, to mark the event, the Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is unveiling a replica of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit at Cincinati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) as part of the museum’s Curate My Community project.

CVG SPACESUIT

“Today is a special day for the aviation industry,” said Candace McGraw, chief executive officer at CVG. “Neil Armstrong, like many of us, was fascinated with flight. We’re honored to partner with the Museum Center to display Neil’s spacesuit exhibit for CVG travelers and the community to continue to enjoy.”

On the evening of July 20, 1969, people gathered around their televisions to watch the grainy, black-and-white footage of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon in his puffy white spacesuit.