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 Parks. Hey, if it's cool enough for the astronauts, beam me up!