An Ode to The NASA Astrovan, Made by Airstream (she said)


Today is my last day working at NASA in a full-speed capacity. In less than two weeks, I will be strapping into an Airstream, where I will live out the next year of my life. As such, it is only fitting that I post today about the "Astrovan"  a modified Airstream trailer that has served as a transit vehicle for NASA astronauts around Kennedy Space Center for more than 45 years. 

In 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 were quarantined in an airtight Airstream, called the NASA Mobile Quarantine Facility, after their return from the moon. The purpose of this was to determine that the astronauts didn't bring lunar pathogens back with them when they returned to Earth. For decades, the Astrovan continued to ferry astronauts between what's now called the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility (the former O&C) to the historic launch pad 39B on the space coast in Florida. For reference, Pad 39B is where NASA's Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket will launch from in just a couple of years during Exploration Mission One, an effort I've been working on during my time at America's space agency. 

NASA's Space Shuttle program used a modified 1983 Airstream Excella. We will be towing a modernized 'Sport' model built in 2014-2015 — I'm already planning how to outfit the interior with my favorite space memorabilia!  

I can't think of better vehicle to transport me from my job at NASA into a space I've never known  a full year focused entirely on exploration, to all of the U.S. National ParksHey, if it's cool enough for the astronauts, beam me up! 

The Greatest American Road Trip Through the U.S. National Parks

 Arches National Park, Windows section, Utah

Preparing for an epic yearlong road trip is no easy task. I've been thinking and planning about this trip for a good 7 or 8 months. But now that the January 1 start is near, the planning phase has kicked into high gear, and with that the stress level as well. Sure, it is going to be a lot of fun—an amazing experience full of adventure. But right now, we are less than two weeks away with many details to wrap up. It is daunting.

We need to wrap up our entire lives, rent our condo, buy a car, finish our respective jobs, get the Airstream, plan the logistics of the route...and a million other details. But in this time of hectic schedules and mad planning, I look back at some of the photos I've shot in the National Parks (like this one in Arches National Park in Utah) and am reminded of the end goal: to breathe deep in the astounding beauty of our Nation's greatest treasure and to explore deeply each and every one of them. In fact, breathing deeply will become a standard now (as we try to pace ourselves for the workload) and over the coming year (as we are hiking mountain trails and smelling fresh pine). I hope you'll follow our crazy journey. Onward!

"I'm Going to 59 Parks in 52 Weeks"

"I'm Going to 59 Parks in 52 Weeks"

59 parks in 52 weeksthat’s fewer than one per weekand it’s all happening by road, save a few plane rides to reach island destinations. Everybody I’ve told seems genuinely excited for me. I am excited for me. And I am excited for Jon, my sig-O and better half, with whom I’ve dreamed about this project for over a year. In four weeks, we’ll be packing up an Airstream trailer and heading out on what we think will be the Greatest American Road Trip—visiting all 59 U.S. National Parks during 52 weeks to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service.

Good lord, it’s really happening. Honestly, we didn’t think it actually would. When I mount all of the obstacles that have stood between the red and green light on this project, I can’t see a clear line between the two. At some point, we became so invested in the idea that we decided that we were all in and just needed to go for it. It was then we started quietly planning.