"As of 10:28 AM, today hasn't gone too badly."

-younger, stupider me, 10:28 AM

This just in from the Typed Too Soon Department: I walked out of the office today thinking, "You know, that wasn't too bad. Sure, I've got cramps and I'm hacking up phlegm like... like a... menstruating, coughing really hard... person, but I've had worse. Really! It's been a nice birthday!"

Then I got to my car. And saw the flat tire.

AAA came. And told me I needed a very serious alignment.

I found a Goodyear. Where they told me that I needed TWO new tires.

And new breakpads.

And a re-alignment.


So I turned out of the strip mall, fretting over where the money for all this was coming from and how I was going to get off work to get it done if I did have the money and also by the way my blood sugar was at a point where I contemplating gnawing off the rearview mirror.

Then the cop pulled me over. Apparently you can't make a right on red back there.

"Not a good way to celebrate your birthday," he said as he handed back my license. "Are you upset?" NO, I'm THRILLED. This was EXACTLY what I needed less than a year after a wreck and two speeding tickets. I'm not a fan of doing that woman-thing of crying my way out of a ticket, but I cried my way out of a ticket.

Good. I guess.

But not as good as the phone call I got while waiting in the tire place, where my sister and brother in law asked me to be Taufling's godmother.

Best birthday ever.

January 15, 2004

We are just a few days from what those of us in the NASA family refer to as "dark week," that span from January 27 through February 1 that marks the anniversaries of Apollo1, Challenger, and Columbia. And this afternoon, the President will outline his vision for the future of NASA. He will most likely suggest a trip to Mars and the construction of a manned Moon base.

If done well--and I hope, I hope it will be--this could be the new-millennium equivalent of JFK's1962 Rice University speech, at which he challenged the United States to break Earth's orbit: "We choose to go to the moon," he said. "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept...."

I quoted that speech all the time when I worked in education at Kennedy Space Center. Twenty years from now, you might visit the Cape and hear what the President will say today echoed back to you. Maybe.

Listen, and dream. Then do.

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth."

-JFK, May 25, 1962

January 14, 2004

It is 3:38 PM Eastern Standard Time. It is a Wednesday. I am wearing a blue denim dress with black sandals, silver boot-and-hat earrings, and a silvertone watch. I had turkey and bacon on wheat toast for lunch. My only sister is in the sixth month of pregnancy with her first child. I live in a snug little studio apartment and make $12.75 an hour doing technical and marketing writing for an engineering firm. The temperature is 68 degrees. Tomorrow is my twenty-seventh birthday.

I was present for history today as I undertook the highly important activity of organizing contracts, straining to hear the President's voice through tinny computer speakers. We will finish the International Space Station, dedicating what remains of our tough little shuttle fleet to completing its construction and bending the science we perform there to withstanding the rigors of long-duration space flight.

And in 2010, those lovely ladies, these three orbiters, having performed their tasks so long and so well, will be retired. The "in between", this pause on interplanetary travel that has occupied my entire lifespan, has ended. Only a few months ago I wouldn't have even entertained the idea.

The Moon will serve as a launching pad for Mars. Its weak gravitational pull and helium-rich environment will make for an excellent pit stop. We're not just going because it is there. We're going because it is time, and because we owe it to ourselves, our babies, and those who blazed the trail some forty years ago.

The short-sightedness of the Apollo cutoff will at last be righted. If the Moon program's funding had not been cut, the mighty Saturn V rockets not silenced, I very firmly believe we would be on Mars right now, reaping unimaginable tangental benefits. We're going to rectify that. Nearly every single Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo astronaut, when writing of the current condition of the space program, expresses nothing but frustration over the "beached whale" state of our Moon hardware. But all those years, and all that work, will not have resulted in merely a "ta-dah!" moment.

The President recognized the presence of Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon (or, as Cernan prefers to put it, "the most recent man on the Moon") in his speech. He talked about Columbia, of lives lost and progress gained. These men understand.

We are going back.

Also, do not mock my earrings. They too are awesome.

January 14, 2004

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