As is my usual custom, I walked over to the cafeteria for my salad bar lunch. The Ames mess hall has five big TV sets hanging from the ceiling up in the corners. Most of them are set to CNN <1>, but one or two are tuned to "NASA Select", the channel which carries their feed of anything NASA-specific going on. Since the Discovery's in orbit for STS-91, this means "NASA Select"s in JSC mode, live from Houston. The live signals from orbit are always fun, but there's long hours with either the automated map tracing the shuttle's position <2> or the ceiling-mounted camera view of the Mission Operations Control Room (the MOCR, or "moaker"), central to all American manned space missions, with flight engineers working their consoles. During off-hours, long periods of silence can be interrupted (sometimes rather abruptly) by technical chatter. At lunch Tuesday they were having a press conference with the crew, which had recently undocked from Mir; although I was trying to hear the feeble audio I couldn't make out a thing. What was neat was two of the astronauts looked like they were fixing to jam - one had a regular acoustic guitar, and the other one of those modern, compact electric guitars which seem to be all neck - at least that's what I think it was. Unfortunately I missed the session, or maybe they didn't even perform for the camera; as I watched the view shifted away from the musicians to rove through the Orbiter and into the Spacehab module in its payload bay. I remember reading how long ago they'd sent up a guitar on a Progress supply rocket, which enlivened the early days aboard the Soviet Salyut 6 space station in the late 70's. The International Space Station (ISS), upon inspection, looks like it could be the next happnin' thing. Who could've imagined ten years ago the USA and Russia would be cooperating and consolidating their strengths so logically?
When I was very young my Dad would take me "downtown" to the second-floor barbershop. Back in the Fabulous Fifties, all men visited barbers frequently, so there was some competition - to make their establishment unique, this barber shop had some special chairs for the youngsters - not chairs at all, but a horse, like from a carousel; and a little car mounted on a stand. When I was six we moved to the house my parents reside in still, and at that point I started getting haircuts at the conventional barbershop over at the new and shiny mall - "the plaza" is its nickname still - one of the first malls in that metropolitan area. (Nowadays it has image problems.)
ESA - European Space Agency
JSC - Johnson Space Center
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<1> Somebody do me a favor and give me some details about the standard noon-time show of theirs with the live audience - what the hell is going on? One sees lots of dull reaction shots of audience members listening - to what? Back
<2>If somebody wants to know how to make space flight boring, I'd recommend taking lessons from Johnson. Back