Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Surprise Visit

I had a wonderful Day-Before-Mother's Day surprise last Saturday. Daughter Serena flew in for a quick visit. Very quick. We only had a few hours together, not here in Fort Collins, either. We were closer to Denver and very close to the Denver-JeffCo regional metropolitan airport. DIA (Denver International Airport) is Denver's very large main airport, but Serena flew into the smaller airport because she was in a smaller plane. A much smaller plane---a NASA jet. I've posted a cell phone photo which is small, but will give you an idea.

As I have mentioned before, Daughter Serena is a Doctor of Internal Medicine and was a NASA Flight Surgeon for a few years before she applied for the latest round of NASA Astronaut Candidate selection, and she was chosen as one of the nine "Class of 2009 Astronaut Candidates." That's a photo of Serena. The Astronaut Candidates go through an intensive two-year period of training in everything NASA related and the International Space Station in particular. That training also includes Russian language instruction from a Russian-born native speaker (Russian Cosmonauts have the same requirements for English instruction). After all, both countries are running the International Space Station together, so clear communication is vital.

And another of the requirements is flight training, which means that every Astronaut Candidate who is not already a Pilot must learn to fly---starting with simpler aircraft and progressing to jet planes. Several of the nine Astronaut Candidates are military and have jet pilot experience. That's why Serena and her fellow Astronaut Candidate pilot flew into the Denver area last Saturday. They were completing yet more hours of necessary piloting experience.

Serena has told me how much she enjoys "taking the controls" when it's her turn. The views must be magnificent. The pilot, Jack Fisher (nickname "Two Fish") and Serena both had family in the area and we were invited to meet them near the airport for a quick visit while the jet was re-fueled and readied. What a treat! I loved just watching the small jet being fueled and revved up to go. There's a special machine that's used to help start military jet engines.

That's Serena and "Two Fish" standing in front of the jet. And another photo shows them inside, all suited up with helmets and gear and strapped into their seats. Serena is in the 2nd seat. For the record, all astronauts are given nicknames by their teammates during their two year training period. Those of you who are parents and read

Dr. Seuss to your kids like I did will recognize where "Two Fish" came from. Each nickname has a story attached to it, apparently. Serena's nickname is "Bungee." And there's an interesting story behind that, too. :)

And I have to say, it is fascinating to watch that little jet take off. Wow. . .does it ever fly fast!! Whew! Zoom. . .and it was gone. Wow!

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